Archive for December, 2007
Or should it be the long “tale”? Last spring Tim and I lost a long time friend Gordon Findlay. Actually, my friend Rick and I had known Gordon longer than anyone else in our immediate circle of friends. In fact, Gordon had stayed with Rick for a short while before the reality of his situation set in and he accepted a move to a nursing home which probably prolonged his life by at least two years. He ate regularly, took his medication on time, and no longer became engrossed in his ‘project of the moment’ to the detriment of his health.
At the time, we had no clue on how to contact Gordon’s family. We had bits and pieces of information but nothing that would have helped us locate anyone. We knew his former wife -an MIT alum like Gordon- still lived in the Cambridge area. I knew that she had been the alumni fundraiser for MIT but we all figured she had long since retired, and no one had a clue to her married name. We knew he had two children, Jim and Heidi, both engineers that lived on the west coast. Heidi in Washington, Jim in California. But that was all we collectively knew. It wasn’t nearly enough information to help us find anyone who might want to know that Gordon had died.
So we all did the best we could and called everyone we could think of here in Cleveland and we had a nice little turnout for Gordon’s send off. He loved enormously extravagant parties but he never was much for the small inimate gathering that ended his stay here on earth. He never let his emotional side take over his analytic engineering personality. Better to analyze and probe without ever going too deep. He always particpated in the rounds of holiday parties but never committed himself to a “Merry Christmas”. His toast was always to Saturnalia.
Tim posted an online notice of the passing of our friend and we thought that that would be the last we would hear of Gordon except in stories when our group got together and began “a remember when” until today. Tim received an email from Gordon’s daughter. She had found the post about her dad on Tim’s website and she had written to thank him for the nice words and for the closure that she, her mother, and her brother would now have about her father. She wondered if we would be willing to talk to her more about her dad since she had not been able to locate him and he had not contacted her in many years.
Gordon was a scientist. An only child who had an inventor’s spirit, but an unwillingness to let those closest to him know much about his whereabouts and such. He always thought he would live forever so he probably never envisioned a day when he just might run out of time. In the eighties, he told me that some day that we would do all of our shopping on line even our groceries. That we would never have to venture out of electronic cottages to do the everyday tasks that take so much of our time. He felt that we would truly be able to create, innovate, and invent because we would be freed by the internet. He talked about fiberoptics long before anyone else ever mentioned the word to me. He talked about light rail allowing us to move about freely when Peak Oil happened. He was a man of ideas who envisioned much of what we are experiencing today long before others noticed what was happening.
He had a strong distrust for the government due to the fact that he and other MIT grad students were asked to combine their studies with a classified government project during World War II. Gordon was suspect of the plan because he was afraid that none of them would be able to publish their work and therefore, not receive doctorates. The other students and the scientists convinced him that he was worrying for nothing and that this project was HUGE. I remember when he called me in the late 90’s to tell me that he had just been notified that his graduate work was no longer classified and that he could publish his thesis. He was well into his seventies, and his doctorate no longer mattered. He laughed at the irony of how time had flown and how something that had meant so much no longerhad any importance.
Gordon was a man of dreams-some of them broken, some of them realized. I think that he would be pleased that his beloved internet brought his daughter and two of his friends together over many miles after much time had passed. He told me many years ago that our definition of time would some day shift. I wonder if we are approaching the day that Gordon talked about with such passion.
Music conjures up great memories for me at all times of the year, but Christmas and music are tangled together just like a string of twinkling lights. George’s link for Chris Butler about favorite Christmas music got me thinking about some of my favorite Christmas music. Actually, the list is almost endless. One carol begets another carol, and then, there are the old standards that remind me very fondly of my mother and father, and then there is…snow, snow, think of all of the songs that owe their existence to the word “snow”.
I am sure you are getting the drift at just how difficult honing down a Christmas list of favorite music was for me. I finally chose these six as my “favorites”. Of course, if I was asked tomorrow the list might shift and change but these songs will still be a part of any Christmas memory of music.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas. This song signifies the beginning of the Christmas season for me. When I was little, my dad would begin our Christmas season by bursting into song. This song could have been considered his signature song. Now, that he is gone I use the first time I hear it on the radio as the beginning to my Christmas season.
Up On The Housetop. My aunts years ago began performing this song with appropriate hand motions for all of the little kids in our family. After a certain age, the kids become part of the performers. Strangely enough, All of the kids are the audience, but the performing cast is all female. Hmmm!
O Holy Night! My mother loved to play Christmas Carols on the piano. She loved to play all kinds of carols and songs, but this one was one of her favorites. When I hear this song, it reminds me of family get togethers when my mother played and we sang.
The Christmas Song. Hearing the velvet voice of Nat King Cole giving the perfect description of an idyllic Christmas reminds me that aspiring to perfection is an admirable goal but that each and every Christmas becomes “the best Christmas ever” for varied reasons.
What Child is This? I have an incredible affinity to traditional caroling fare. This is probably due to the six years that I spent singing with the other teenagers in my hometown. The Sunday evening before Christmas we would gather at one of the area churches and start on our trek to sing and bring cookies to the “shut-ins” in our community. These folk were those of us who could not make it to church to participate in the festivities of the season. We would take the festivities to them.
Many of the spouses of these older folks greatly appreciated our efforts and we would be quite full of egg nog, hot chocolate, fruitcake and other goodies by the time we headed back to our cars. One old man sticks in my memory to this day. He was a World War I veteran gassed in one of the battles in Europe. He was bedridden for as long as I can remember My father and other veterans had enclosed their front porch years before with huge windows that let in any available sunshine but more importantly, the view of the world beyond his house.
During the winter, he moved farther into the house, but on the night that we were expected he insisted on moving back to the porch so that he could watch our approach. One year he greeted us with candles to carry candles as we strolled down the streets. He said that the older people who looked forward to our visits would appreciate knowing that we were on our way.
As the years progressed, we saw the detrioration of his health, but he always insisted on ladling the egg nog into our cups. Here was a man bedridden who could barely lift his head at times, but he appreciated our feeble efforts at harmony so much that he would rally each year to show it by sharing a cup of cheer with us. i wonder if he ever realized that he gave more to us than we could ever give to him.
Happy Christmas (War is Over) And to someone who came of age in the seventies, this song by John Lennon wraps it up quite approriately.
I caught a snippet of the glitch that caused double billing to some Giant Eagle customers if they had the misfortune of shopping for groceries on December 14th last evening on TV, but learned more from the on-line Crain’s Business article today. I experienced this SAME thing years ago, and am rather amazed that it still happens. I guess though in this world of electronic dispatching of funds it is feasible. What I found more disturbing was my encounter with the employee who shrugged her shoulders, said “these things happen, we will credit your account”. No apology, no smile, no thanks for doing business-NOTHING! I VERY seldom shop at Giant Eagle nowadays. I am a firm believer that customer service can make or break a business. I was a bit disappointed to hear that again it was shoppers who had to tell the store they had a problem, and that there was no public apology released by a Giant Eagle Official. I guess some things never change.
Well, like I said I don’t shop at Giant Eagle, but when I heard yesterday that there was a display of Great Lakes Christmas Ale sitting on the floor in an UNREFRIGERATED display I had to see it for myself. Sure enough, there it sits on display with no refrigeration. Do I care? Not at all. My local beverage store was the recepient of additional cases of Christmas Ale because Giant Eagle doesn’t seem able to sell it, and they didn’t want or need any more. So, I have plenty of Christmas Ale for family and friends. I do feel sorry for unsuspecting buyers who do not realize that the ale will not be at its best if not continually chilled. In my mind, just one more reason to BUY LOCAL.
Last night was our final Cleveland Weblogger Meetup for 2007. George has been a bit flummoxed about the erratic attendance at these events lately, but last night is a testimony to the value of these meetups and how they enhance our Northeast Ohio blogger community. There we were fourteen of us gathered around a grouping of four tables at the East 185th Street Arabica trying to be heard over a music system which wasn’t quite used for background. More importantly, all of us tried to hear every word said by the others because we had ALL had a very interesting 2007. As usual, we started off with short introductions of who we were and a short description of our blogs. Of course, some of us have more than one and so right away George told us we needed to pick one. He asked how many blogged in more than one place. Almost half the hands were raised high.
Then we moved on to the highlights of 2007 for us with the intention of discussing 2008 as our next topic, but many of the things started this year are moving right into 2008 so that was a bit hard to do. Everyone should expect another stellar year in the blogosphere of NEO. Jack and George are writing a book. Molly has started a women’s group. Jill has had quite a few opportunities appear. Tim’s and Joel’s businesses have both moved to another level. Rick Pollack is working diligently to bolster entrepreneurship in NEO. Interactive TV, No More WalMart, new blogs, enhanced adolescent blogs, and much, much more is on tap for NEO. Mike Fiegenbaum had some really interesting insights on the local economy and how internet sales increase for Lucy’s Sweet Surrender when a televised segment he did SIX YEARS AGO airs again.
Two new guys appeared-Pat and Matt and I hope they continue to show. They came after introductions and I didn’t get a chance to chat so I am deficient on info. Can anyone help me out here? Anyway, it is always good to see new faces in the crowd. New perspectives, new thoughts, new stories to share enhances the conversation. At one point, the music just became too distracting-I am sorry to say I don’t think I heard one word Bob Rhubart had to say, and that is a shame because he has such good content. George suggested we break into smaller segments to discuss the topics we had brushed on lightly. He suggested we mix it up a bit and move to other tables and talk with other people. I am always amazed that we ACTUALLY accomplish that. Time and time again, in other groups, the same suggestion is made and we still stick with the comfortable. Our group dynamics are such that we want to leave one comfort zone and go to another.
Here is a snippet of the topics that Will, Jeff, Derek, and I talked about in our group-Wal Mart’s declining market share which morphed into women in politics and then into business and then we jumped to education, and probably to the more interesting part of the conversation, for me at least, Will’s fiction book which then began a discussion of 1984. I shared the story about my daughter’s perspective being different than mine when she read it. Katie brought the book home in high school and I commented “That is one of the scariest books I have ever read.” Later, when she was finished with the book she asked my why I thought it was so scary because she couldn’t agree. I reread the book and realized that much of what I found so scary she had experienced in her everyday life. We then talked about changing perspectives and Jeff suggested that reading lists had not changed much from the 1960’s. We all agreed with that perception-Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace-Derek groaned at that one-A Scarlet Letter-we all groaned at that one. Derek then suggested that you would think that nothing significant had been written since 1960. We all nodded our heads, and realized that we had just found another reason that education has fallen behind.
But, Jeff left us with one of his nuggets of wisdom and hope-the internet is changing things and the reader has now become the gatekeeper and people are reading many different novels and newspapers and online journals and bloggers are sharing the information and knowledge is exploding. And then I moved on to another group, and there is just not time or space to discuss where Molly, Jill, Joel and I went with our conversation. All in all, the two hours went by incredibly swiftly. And I can only hope that we continue to get together periodically in 2008 to see how our year is progressing and so we can continue to cheer each other on to new heights. As Joel said, the face-to-face meetings build the trust we need to strengthen the on-line community. I couldn’t agree more.
And finally, thanks, George, for giving your time, energy and commitment to all of us. Because when it is all said and done, I wouldn’t have any one of the friends I have mentioned in this post if it were not for you. So Thank you for your wonderful gift to all of us. I greatly appreciate it.
Each Saturday Tim and I slow down the pace a bit and attend Mass at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. We usually ride the bus and have a quiet supper at one of the stops on the way home, but before that happens we have a long wait at our bus stop on Public Square. Recently, the silence has been serene there. People stroll through the colorfully lit quadrants on their way to dinner after shopping at Tower City. Families with children laughing are at the square. The sense of peace is very comforting. The people waiting for their buses are quietly talking or silently winding down from a day of work.
But then, I realize that there are characters missing from the scene. The young man who waves his arms wildly talking to unseen people who refuse to let him alone is nowhere to be found. The young couple waiting with us this week is not accosted by the countless drug dealers who weave in and out of the bus stops asking the younger ones in our midst if they need anything. Believe me, these youngsters have learned how to say “no”. The scratching sound of skateboard wheels no longer assault the senses and the lumpy piles of blankets and sleeping bags with “the least of us” inside have been shuffled to other sites.
And then, the converation in my head begins. Where are the homeless? Is it so wrong that when a young man comes up to ask me for “23 cents” so that he can buy a 99-cent chicken sandwich at KFC I give it to him? (This incident was over on Carnegie but still proves my point) Or, the older lady who asks us for the rest of her bus fare so that she can go to her sister’s to spend the night because she has nowhere to stay? Or that someone outside Starbucks asks for a cup of coffee and I buy it for him. Why can’t I give my dollars and cents directly. But then, I realize that because they are not on the square it is SO peaceful and that people who have worked long days and young people who use the bus for transportation are no longer agitated as in the past and neither am I. And most of all, there are new faces among us.
But then, I am concerned that “the problem” has just been shifted off site. That when “they” are no longer seen, we can pretend for a few moments at least that “those people” don’t exist, but they do exist. Some say that the homeless were shuffled over to the mall by the County Administration Building. I can’t imagine this being much more than a “temporary fix” and it will probably work until after the holidays because so many downtown workers save vacation days for the end of the year. I did it when I worked downtown. It just made sense. But where will they be shuffled to in 2008?
Too often, we give money to agencies that “deal with charitable concerns” and then, we can say “there ,we have done our part”. But, have we? When we are given absolution by an advertising campaign that tells us “It’s all right to say ‘no'” is that enough? I have never had a problem with saying “no” to someone panhandling if I didn’t want to give to him or her. I don’t think anyone does. Now, in essence, we have been told by others that we have moved them from your sight, and that’s okay, don’t feel a sense of duty to these people who are “the least of us.” Giving to others makes us feel good, and maybe the few dollars that we were giving to the homeless made us feel better more than those who received did. I still feel that the five dollars or so I give periodically directly did more good than giving it to an agency.
Again, I am left with how beautiful Public Square is now, and I again felt a twinge of guilt. Then, my friend Dick Clough sent us an invitation to his “birthday party”. Dick’s reason for his birthday bash was not for himself, but to stoke the coffers for the yearly “Tour of Good Cheer”. Dick and a group of friends started demonstrating the true spirit of the holidays in 1984. For twenty-three years, they have rented a bus and/or vans to deliver the presents to needy kids, seriously ill chilldren and adults, and the homeless. Our part in all of this was to bring slightly used sweaters, coats,hats,gloves, cash and/or checks. Right now, the Tour of Good Cheer partners with eight different shelters.
The finishing touch is Christmas Eve when Dick and his friends visit each shelter dropping off the gifts and sharing a bit of Christmas Cheer in the form of cookies and punch with those who receive the gifts. Dick invited all who attended his birthday party to join him when the gifts are distributed. Unless we sit down and have conversations with people who need someone to listen how do we know if the money we give to a charitable agency actually is doing the good that we think is happening. Dick and his friends have made giving a bit more personal and that is a good thing.
How appropriate that when Dick thanked us all for coming and giving that he mentioned ‘It’s a Wonderful LIfe’ He said that many would think that he is not a rich man but looking out at the group of people who had come to his party and had given made him probably one of the richest men alive. I would have to agree with Dick that he, indeed, is wealthy because he certainly has a large circle of friends who honored him by delivering when he asked.
And I decided that this type of giving- a bit more up front and personal-is how I want to continue to give my dollars so I am going to talk to my circle of friends and see how we can achieve this type of giving on a smaller scale. So for now, I am a bit more focused in how I intend to move forward. These words first uttered by Hubert Humphrey are swirling around in my head and I believe are appropriate to close this post:
It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
And since, we are a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’, isn’t this a moral test of us?
Curling up with a good book has always been a favorite pastime of mine especially when the weather turns colder. Years ago, a cup of hot chocolate was my sidekick but more recently it is a good cup of coffee. At Christmastime, I revert to the hot chocolate stirred with a peppermint stick. My daughters always requested it served this way, and I became an aficionado as well.
The holidays are usually too hectic for much reading so I always bring out my collections of short stories and revisit some of my best friends. Below are five of my favorites that I believe signify best the “spirit of giving” which for me embodies the yuletide season, because after all, isn’t the giving of yourself the greatest gift of all?
The Gift of The Magi by O. Henry
A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote
Little Women Chapter Two: Merry Christmas by Louisa May Alcott
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Story of The First Christmas Luke 1-20
But then I remembered being young surrounded by other young people who seemed to want attention just a bit more than the rest of us.
Today when I signed on to gmail, I checked out my google page for the temperatures I keep track of throughout the country, and then, my eyes were drawn to the sidebar that suggested that I could learn how to break out the bottom of a beer bottle in four easy steps from wikihow. Go here, if you would like to see how to achieve this “party” trick as well as these other wondeful attention getters-opening a champagne bottle with a sword, crushing a beer can with your bare hand, oh, and the ever present, breaking boards with your bare hand.
I especially love the break the bottom of the beer bottle supplies-a kitchen sink, the beer bottle and safety goggles.I can just imagine the scene at a holiday party, first asking everyone to gather around the kitchen sink where you stand outfitted in safety goggles with beer bottle in hand. I think I might even be tempted to use those rubber gloves at the side of the sink as well, but that is just the cautious female in me. Is it chauvinistic of me to think that these party tricks were for the weaker sex who thinks tricks are the name of the game?
Since the holidays are the time for memories, I remember two such party tricks that still remain vivid in my mind and really did not end so very well for the enactors. The first one happened in a BGSU cafeteria where I worked during my college years. One of my fellow workers was into karate in a big way and was always breaking dishes with his bare hands. It was an inticrate process with just the right height, the correct number of dishes, and the chop executed oh so correctly. The execution of this trick was always done the same way, with the same numbers, the same height, and at the same time (when the supervisor had stepped out of the kitchen for her cigarette) until that fateful night before winter break. One of the other guys suggested that the trick was old and tired and that the karate king couldn’t break ten dishes so what was the big deal. And so, the stage was set.
We’ll never know whether it was the added number of dishes or the sudden appearance of our supervisor four minutes early from her break, but the blood and the cuts to the hand were immense causing a rush to the emergency room for two of us and the injured one leaving the rest of the crew behind to explain the mess on the dishwasher’s conveyor belt.
The stars must have been aligned just so for emergency room visits that year because the second incident happened during winter break that same year. This incident happened at the local watering hole where all of us college kids and those of us out of school with real jobs back home to visit the ‘rents would meet on a regular basis. One of our crowd was a high school teacher whos party trick was taking a huge bite out of a “pony” glass and then chewing up the glass. No one ever knew exactly how he did it, so the upshot was that he didn’t pay for a drink the rest of the night because everybody thought if we could tip him over the edge he would just have to tell us.
Well, this night, something went terribly wrong because he ended up with a mouthful of glass shards with grotesque amounts of blood oozing down the sides of his mouth. It was reminiscent more of Halloween than Christmastime. Needless to say, the bar lost money that night because we all looked at our glasses in a different way, set them down, and went home for a long winter’s nap. Lucky for him, school was out of session and by the time that he needed to report back to school, his mouth had healed to the point where it wasn’t as noticeable, but he did talk like he had a mouthful of marbles. He never did reveal how the trick was done, and as far as I know never attempted it again.
So why am I relating all of this here and now ? Because, first of all, those parlor tricks are not very profitable in getting admiration from anyone, certainly aren’t great for getting a date, and if they do go wrong, just think how many years your friends and acquaintance will relate these bizarre twists of your fate. Secondly, you will not benefit but your friends will get a few laughs at parties when the conversation gets around to the funniest “how to” you ever saw or maybe how quickly it can all go so, so wrong. And finally those aren’t jingle bells you hear, but the laughter of mean little elves that cause things to go bump in the night and can turn “nice into naughty in a twinkling of an eye.
So this holiday season, learn from your elders, be yourself and let the crazy parlor tricks on the wiki page where they belong.
For quite some time now the question of “what is a blogger?” has been swirling through the blogosphere. Is a blogger a journalist? If not, who or what is a blogger? The comparisons to traditional journalists abound, but none of the defiinitions that other bloggers and journalists have offered seemed to fit me. Now, if you use a strict definition of journalist which would be one who writes a journal that could be me, but I probably would be more like a diarist, but you see that isn’t quite right either because recording the daily temperature and weather as so many diarists did throughout history just isn’t my style Am I a journalist in the news media genre? Probably not. I am much more opinionated than a writer who is fascinated by the facts and figures of a certain subject and although I may report on participatory events I too often add color commentary to be considered any kind of reporter. Neither do I purport to be an expert on any one subject. So journalist, no. But then I am still left with “blogger”. And just what is that and how do I fit?
A year ago, bloggers were compared to the early pamphleteers during the Revolutionary War years. Now, that appealed to me, but with the end of that war and the issue at hand those pamphlets and pamphleteers died out. Of course, Tom Paine and “Common Sense” still live on today and still have historical merit that can still be applied. I don’t want to burn brightly, and then, die out.
And that, dear friends, is where I find myself today. Last February, Judith and Bill Moyers, he being chairman of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy and an independent journalist with his own production company, were presented an award by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Go here, to read the excerpt from his acceptance speech that gave rise to this post. It is well worth the read even though it is quite long. But I have excerpted two quotes that fit with my definition of what I blog, why I blog and how I perceive my role as a blogger.
The gist of Mr. Moyer’s remarks focused on the role that history and literature play in our lives and how and why they are important. This quote hit me like a ton of bricks:
“Some members of Congress got it. They realized that we were talking not only about how to improve our lives as individuals but how to nurture a flourishing democracy. Wouldn’t we have been likely to deal more effectively and quickly with pollution if we had thought about where we fit in the long sweep of the Earth’s story? Could we better tackle our spending priorities as a society if we were prepared to acknowledge and confront the pain of conflicting choices, which the ancient poets knew to be the incubus of agony and the crucible of wisdom? Might we better decide how to use our wealth and power if we have measured and tested ourselves against the greatest things a human being ever uttered? Are we not likely to be more wisely led by officials who have learned from history and literature that great nations die of too many lies?
I believe that truth is necessary today more than ever. Recently, someone told me, “but the public doe not want to know the truth”. I disagree. I think that, given the truth, the collective wisdom of the public will shine through and we will not repeat the mistakes of the past but be able to learn from our history and be better for it. In fact, I think that the public is disgusted that an elite few have decided that the public can’t handle the truth, and that it should be left to think tanks and experts–those who know better. I say “poppycock”.
And then there was this quote that really spoke to me because I have never felt that blogging should be the last stop but rather the starting place of new conversations, new thoughts and ideas, and leaders emerging where we would not expect. We stand at a horizon that may be even more exciting than the ones that the pioneers surveyed during the manifest destiny years. We may truly be experiencing our manifest destiny now. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? And here is the quote:
“The public is no fiction, Carey said. The public had no life, no social relationships, without news. The news was what activated conversation between strangers, and strangers were assumed to be capable of conversing about the news. In fact, the whole point of the press was not so much to disseminate fact as to assemble people. The press furnished materials for argument—“information,” in the narrow sense—“but the value of the press was predicated on the existence of the public, not the reverse.” The media’s role was humble but serious, and that role was to take the public seriously. “
And as a blogger, I related to these words as though they had been written for me. So am I a blogger? Yes, but I think from now on I will consider myself undertaking the ancient, critical task of the public intellectual. I am constantly amazed at how many things come full circle with the internet. Tim and I took a trip in early October and ended up in Staunton, VA, the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson. Then, I came home to a plethora of emails that I needed to sort through, but didn’t. The other day I was searching my mail on the word “morrison”, stumbled on the email from a friend that included the excerpt about Bill Moyers, saw the name Woodrow Wilson, stopped and took the time to read it, and suddenly, the answers about blogging became clear.
I do it because I want to share thoughts and ideas with others. Do I always succeed? I don’t know, so few people comment here, and I refuse to be dominated by numbers so I stay away from my stats, but I do know that stimulating discussion and thought and adding a viewpoint that is not as narrowly focused as some others to me is enough. Maybe, it’s enough that what I write has made me think about things. I really suggest that you click thru to read the entire excerpt located at http://www. tompaine.commonsense.com because these words were spoken by a true journalist.
After all, I am just a woman with a veiw who lives by the zoo. But today, and until further notice, I am a public intellectual who blogs and that, folks, is my definition of a blogger.
Tim and I have had some of the most interesting conversations at the #79 Bus Stop at the Corner of Ontario and Superior . Saturday was no exception.
We were WAY too early for the next bus so we took the opportunity to walk through the square and look at the Christmas lights. There are bundles of them on each tree. I observed that the Christmas tree was leaning to the west and Tim said he hadn’t noticed until I mentioned it. I said that someone else had mentioned that the orange lights on the trees were more reminiscent of Halloween than Christmas. Tim said he liked them and I observed that they certainly added a new color into the mix, but I liked the tradional red and green the best.
An older black gentleman nodded to us as we hustled into the shelter to get out of the bitter cold. We all settled in for the long, cold wait for our buses. The first couple to leave our little group was a young black couple. As they hopped onto their bus, the older man turned to me and asked “why are we so destructive? Why are we so destructive in our criticism of others?” He then recounted that the young couple had been talking about acquaintances but they had described each and every one of the people with derogatory comments-the guy with the big nose, the girl with the big behind, and so on.
He then asked if people “don’t know that others carry those labels throughout their lives”-the guy with the big nose, the girl with the big behind”. He said, “the guy with the big nose might end up with a nice house, a wife and kids, and a good job, but he would always remember that people called him ‘the guy with the big nose’. People think that words don’t stick, but they do. And many words hinder people from being all they can be. “We shouldn’t do that to each other”, he said. As he got on the bus, he shook his head still asking “Why aren’t we more accepting? Why aren’t we more positive? Why don’t we show others we love them instead of destructively criticizing them?”
None of us left at the bus stop had an answer for him. I don’t have one now but, as I thought about writing this post, I realized that I had been guilty of the “take away” syndrome, too. Not with people but with the Holiday display on the square. Instead of focusing on the thousands of lights on the pine, I noticed that it just wasn’t quite plumb. I even brought in someone else’s criticism to the conversation when I mentioned the post I had read that didn’t like the orange lights. Instead of basking in the beauty of the moment, I played the “yes,but…”game. And then, I realized that I received words of wisdom from a chance meeting at a bus stop.
There is no better time to form a new habit than at the holidays when we strive to show others peace and goodwill. So starting today, I will look at the moments I have with others and myself from an appreciative viewpoint and put the destructive, negative thoughts behind me. After all, they are more destructive to the one who voices them than the one who may not even know they have been said.