Category Archives: Takes (and retakes) on morality

Incidental Anger Management 2.0

I had a blog all ready to go entitled “Incidental Anger Management”. It was all about those people in the world that just seemed to go through their day . . . mad. Their P.O.’d pistol is all cocked, locked and ready to unload on the next person that crosses them with even the most insignificant “wrongness”. And, as many of you know, I work within the wild jungles of retail customer service, so this type of subject is near and dear to my heart. I was all up in their grill with my self-righteous piety and “respect” this and “patience” that. I felt gooooood writing it. I felt all high and mighty in my condemnation. Then I looked at it after I’d finished and thought . . .

That’s not right.

So I worked on it . . .

And worked on it . . .

And worked on it . . .

Then, after I’d worked on it some more, I stepped back, looked at it again, and I thought . . .

That’s still not right.

Then Sunday came and I’m sitting in church listening to Pastor Mike talk about “community” and it hits me . . .

He’s talking to me! He’s talking about community. My community. Not just a community of believers, but the real, honest-to-goodness community around us: our friends; our neighbors; the people we work with; the people we work for. And in doing so, he’s rewriting my blog.

He says, “In community, we learn how to love.”

Honestly, there are days when I go to work and I genuinely don’t feel like loving my customers: Especially the ones that come in already mad and looking for an outlet—not a resolution, an outlet.

And you know who you are.

He says, “In community, we learn that love is a choice, not a feeling.”

So, in spite of (or sometimes because of) circumstances, I have to choose to love you. Yet, there’s also another choice I’ve made; the choice to follow Christ. So that, in choosing to love you, I can enter that choice neither alone nor unarmed:

1 Corinthians 16: 13 Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 14 And do everything with love. 

1 John 3: 18 Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 19 Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. 20 Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.

To me, there’s something calming within those words. I don’t know of too many people who have spent a majority of their employed lives working within the public sector—whether in retail, teaching, public safety, support services, etc.—who don’t have a definite opinion on . . . humanity; people; “them“.  But love is a choice, not a feeling. You don’t have to be a Christ follower to understand that. Still, it’s something we have to learn how to do, and it’s something we have to continually practice. There are times that we’ll feel we’ll never master it. That’s not the point. The point is to choose . . .

And choose again . . .

And again . . .

That choice may not matter to them . . .

It’s not for them anyway . . .

Our Nosy Neighbors

Do you have one of those neighbors who are always keeping one eye out the window, watching you, watching your kids, knowing their every move?

Yeah, we’ve got one of those, too.

Don’t you hate that?

Our daughter Emma was six years old at the time. One early morning, Emma shuffled out the front door in her little, pink footy-pajamas to pick up the morning paper that she’d spotted from the window. She was out there just long enough to pick up the paper, and for the door to shut (and lock) behind her.

Our neighbors, nosy as they are, were looking out their window and just happened to see her. They watched as she picked up the paper. As the door shut. As she knocked. As she rang the doorbell.

And they watch as nobody answered. And nobody answered. And nobody answered.

So my nosy neighbor watched as his meddlesome wife comes out of their house and asks if our daughter is okay. He watched as she knocks and rings the doorbell for herself…

And he watched as nobody answered. Again. Still.

So my nosy neighbor and his meddlesome wife take my daughter back to their house, where they have a granddaughter that’s a year younger than Emma. And they feed her breakfast. And they talk to her. And they let her play with their granddaughter’s toys. Until later, as they’re looking out their windows again—nosy as they are—and they finally see movement inside our house. That’s when they came over to let the panic-stricken parents know that they have our child. And she’s safe. And happy. And fed. And safe. (Did I mention safe?)

Don’t you hate that?

Our lovingly innocent six-year-old li’l girl would’ve been just fine in that span of time. It’s not like anything bad would’ve happened, right? Right?!

Yeah, right. Between her knocking on our front door and all the time spent at our neighbor’s, she was gone for AN HOUR AND A HALF!

And for the record, I think our neighbors are absolute saints. Thank God they were looking out the window at just the right time to see Emma in her predicament. Thank God they have a granddaughter of their own who is one of our daughter’s best friends. Thank God they have the caring demeanor to take her in, feed her some breakfast, and let her play with her friend’s toys—even if that friend lay sacked out on the couch due to the early hour. Thank God they have the patience to wait for an hour and a half while we obliviously wake ourselves up to whatever the day unfolds.

So…

Do you have one of those neighbors?

Thank God if you do!

P.S. Just so you know, my wife and I are not horrible parents (especially my wife . . . hi honey!) and our daughter does not go wandering off on a daily basis. Usually, she’ll go down to the end of our block, round the corner and look back, a) to see if we’re really watching her (We are), and b) to see if we’re still going to stop her (We do).

In fact, since this little episode with the neighbors, she won’t even go out the front door without one of us or her big brother tagging along, “C’mon mommy, let’s go!!”

Ya gotta love that!

Open Letter to a Young “Retard”

re·tard [ ri tard ]

  1. slow something down: to slow or delay the progress of something
  2. slowing of tempo: in music, a slowing down of a previously quick tempo
  3. offensive term: an offensive term that deliberately insults somebody with a learning disability or somebody regarded as unintelligent

I was doing a little research on Facebook the other day; actually typing the word “retail” in just to see what came up; if there was anything close to my own blog name out there. As I started to type, R . . . E . . . T . . . A . . ., imagine my surprise at the “suggestions” that started to pop up . . . in several different languages. Yay!

A friend talking about a mistake she made: “Sometimes I can be so retarded.”
A Facebook post a friend of my wife’s friend wrote: “I was playin’ outside in the snow and built the most retarded snowman.”
Fans at a local football game: “C’mon ya retards!!”

Did you slow down? Delay your progress? Can a snowman be slow? Did the referees slow a previously quick tempo? If not, that only leaves one other definition.

Look, those of you who use such wording, I’m not going to ask you to stop using the “R” word; I’m not even going to tell you that it’s wrong. I liken it to telling a blind-drunk alcoholic that the booze is killing him: It’s not going to do anything at the time but piss him off even though, deep down inside—somewhere—he already knows.

And so do you.

The difficulty with the drunkard is simply that he’s not at a point in his habit, his addiction, that he’s willing to hear it yet.

And neither are you.

Suffice to say, that even though this is the twenty-first century, I still have to use that term to describe my daughter—born with Down syndrome—to be able to give her the financial, physical and cognitive aid she needs to be an effective, functional member of a society that you are helping to create. And you see, the more “help” you give, the more she’ll need. I don’t like it any more than you do, but I don’t make the rules.

“What a ‘tard!”
“She can be such a retard!”
“You’re so retarded!”

I’ve heard all of these and more. You probably have too, and you’ve probably thought nothing of it. I can’t think nothing of it anymore. A term that you think is flippant and that you “don’t mean anything by it” I’m forced to use to describe my daughter. I know it, and more importantly SHE knows it. Anyone with a learning disability knows what retard means, how it’s used, and knows it’s not a positive thing.

It means SOMETHING to them. To me.

Someday maybe you’ll understand. Someday maybe you’ll have a daughter or son; a brother or sister. Or, if the diagnosis comes early enough, you or your family may choose to abort an otherwise healthy, potentially happy life because, even though this is the twenty-first century, this still happens all the time; silently, shamefully, needlessly. Not that I have an opinion on the subject.

But regardless, you’ll still be a part of the “family”.

Our family.

The family with the sons and daughters, brothers and sisters that are called retarded both by the powers that be and by people like you.

Then you’ll know . . .

Then you’ll be ready to listen . . .

. . . And that word will have a whole different meaning.

Un/Entitlement

I had an interesting exchange at our church’s food bank today. Of the foods we intended to drop off, we included several boxes of cereal that were a part of our “stash” as we like to call it. Yes, it would be safe to call my wife an “extreme couponer” (not the shelf-clearing kind . . . that’s just rude) and she’s gotten so good at it that we’ve built up quite a little stockpile of items; sauces & condiments, chips & chilies, soaps & shampoos, etc. Our stash!

Well, after the wake-up call the other day (Stepping Away From the Self-Righteous Abyss) I felt obliged to put our stash where my mouth (or, at least, my keyboard) is; and that included these several boxes of cereal. However, what we had done was remove the UPC code from the bottom of some of these boxes to be included in a rebate towards future purchases. (See, that’s how extreme couponing works!) As it turns out, the kind volunteers at the food bank said they wouldn’t be able to take the boxes because the people who use the food bank “won’t take it because they think it’s been opened.”

Okay, fair enough. Honestly, that was a concern we had before even going in but we thought we’d at least try. It was the next comment that actually caught us out of the blue.

“You’d be surprised at what we end up throwing out around here.”

Really? A food bank has food that actually goes to waste? That people actually don’t want?

Really??!!

That opened up a whole Pandora’s Box of questions swirling around my overactive imagination: Most obviously, “why?”

My trusting/hopeful self would then ask, “Could the food bank, like any other store, have food that spoils or goes past expiration date?”

Well sure, it’s possible.

My cynical/jaded self would then ask, “Has our society developed such an entitlement attitude that there is even free food that is not good enough for those impoverished to the point they find themselves with no other means of providing for their family?”

I’ve been on this earth long enough—and worked in the public sector long enough—that I have a definite opinion on the subject. I would like to think I’m wrong. But I can’t escape the thought that this gentleman wouldn’t have made that comment to me about, say, fresh produce or other perishables as he was handing me back my box of “opened” cereal. Was that just a hint of frustration bubbling underneath the words he spoke?

Again, I’d like to think I’m wrong, but right or wrong there’s something I think we, as a society, as a culture, as Americans—born into the top 2% of all the world’s wealth, whether we feel “rich” or not—need to see. Something we need to understand . . .

Other people don’t live like us. Other people don’t have a sense of entitlement that we do. They would love to have food, ANY food. Yet there are people in the world, GENERATIONS of people, who live like this . . .

I would like to think that, like any other “store”, the food bank occasionally does have food that spoils or goes past expiration date. But even that seems far-fetched given the amount of relative poverty I know is in this area I live; the amount of families, kids that miss meals or that thank God for the public school lunch program so they can have at least one healthy meal today.

I would like to listen to my trusting/hopeful side. I would like to think the best of people. I really would.

I just know too many of them . . .

Including myself . . .