wrong

I know this day is coming.

One day, what is left of my brain is going to say to my body—“You can’t go out for a run anymore.”

And when that happens, I will be sad.

When I run, my neighborhood hits me. I see things that I might miss when passing by in a car. 

For example, that asphalt road surface appears to be fine as a car rolls over it. 

But when I run, I often see a different road surface. 

That seemingly smooth surface is sometimes fractured. It has cracks and fissures running in multiple directions. 

With more exposure to weather extremes and weight of vehicles, those imperfections will expand. At some point, this will mean a repair or a complete repaving.

Over the last few years, but particularly this year, I have come to view America like that road surface. 

We are fractured in multiple ways. This has created a division, a division that appears at times to be almost unrepairable.

Perhaps during COVID-19, you have heard the name Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

Dr. Fauci is the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He was appointed as the Director in 1984, and Dr. Fauci has advised six presidents. It seems that during a pandemic, Dr. Fauci’s experience and expertise would have been sought by our country everyday.

But, as Dr. Fauci attempted to do his work and advise to the best of his ability, in August, he announced that he had received death threats. Also,  his daughters had been harassed. 

Dr. Fauci stated:  “Getting death threats for me and my family and harassing my daughters to the point where I have to get security is just, I mean, it’s amazing.”

Dr. Fauci and his family do not deserve this type of treatment. Quite simply, this is wrong.

Maybe in the aftermath of the presidential election, you heard the name Christopher Krebs.  Mr. Krebs was the head of the United States government’s cybersecurity agency.

Mr. Krebs, who is a Republican, also received death threats as he made statements defending the work of the agency he oversaw. This critical work was to insure that the election was free from fraud. 

One attorney who disagreed with Mr. Krebs’ assessment spoke the following words about him through a national news outlet:  “class A moron” who “should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.”

Mr. Krebs does not deserve this type of treatment. Quite simply— this is wrong.

I’m going to guess that Gus Malzahn, Will Muschamp, and Kevin Sumlin aren’t daily topics of conversation around your house. But, they have something in common.

 Each are former college football coaches, and thanks to buy out clauses after they were dismissed from their coaching jobs, all on paper are millionaires.

From Auburn University, Malzahn will receive 21.5 million, Muschamp from the University of South Carolina, 15.5 million, and Sumlin from the University of Arizona a paltry 7.3 million.

Once again, quite simply receiving millions of dollars when you have been dismissed from your job—this is wrong.

Here’s what I want to know—how did we lose our way? 

How did we get like this? 

Who flipped the switch?

 Who reworked the wiring in our brains, hearts, and souls?

 How can these situations be acceptable?

Here is the scary part.

 A fair number of Americans think there is nothing wrong in these three situations— absolutely nothing wrong. They find these situations to be acceptable. 

How can this be?

I always look forward to Rick Bragg’s monthly column in Southern Living. In the November 2020 issue, Mr. Bragg wrote about nurses during this pandemic. He particularly recognized their call to duty and sacrifice. This was in sharp contrast to Americans who have downplayed the virus and refused to follow the recommended protocols. In the last paragraph of his column, Mr. Bragg wrote:  “I wish we were smarter.”

Amen!

I think we can be smarter, I just hope we understand the urgent need to be smarter.

The entrenchment of this stubborn division isn’t how we are supposed to be. We can’t continue this way.

Deep inside us, I think we know this. But, I sense we are reluctant  to admit it.

America has always been imperfect. What we need to be doing is figuring out how to improve our imperfections for all Americans.

When I think about Dr. Fauci and Mr. Krebs, if in my career I had threatened a superior or questioned their intelligence, I would have been canned. And guess what, there would not have been a buyout clause in my teaching contract like the three college football coaches experienced.

These words from an environmental report issued by the United Nations caught my attention today: “This new era means that we are the first people to live in an age defined by human choice, in which the dominant risk to our survival is ourselves,” writes Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator.

While this report focuses on the environment, I’m pretty sure those last eight words cast an accurate snapshot of our struggles at this very moment.

Our selfish, non-compliance of simple protocols has helped the COVID-19 virus to spike out of control, we shamefully disrespect our freedom of speech by boldly threatening those who are trying to help us, and we are seemingly unable to comprehend  that the salaries for college football coaches are not rational compared to the real world.

Yes, we are a risk to our own survival.

And yet, I have hope. 

On Tuesday afternoon, December 15, I was out for a run. Just as I made a left turn on to Rock Creek Road, I noted six young women, probably high school age, running. They had turned on to Rock Creek off of Forest Avenue.

It didn’t take long for them to catch up to my old sack of bones. Just as the pack was passing me, I shouted out to them: “Hey, thanks for making me feel a lot older than I am.”

And you know what they did, they laughed.

That laughter was priceless. It meant they understood my demented sense of humor.

Then I said, “Enjoy your run, and be safe.”

Without any hesitation, they wished the same for me.

Why did I share that encounter with you?

Well, here’s why.

If we have any chance of surviving ourselves and moving forward, we have to be able to talk, we must also be willing to listen, and we must understand the fractures of the stories inside each of us.

Yes, someday, my brain will say to my body: “Your running days are done.”

As worried as I am about our country, I don’t believe America is done running.

But those fractures, that division have the potential to stop America’s run. America must commit to talking, listening, and understanding.

And there is one more piece to those urgent needs.  

 Think about this quote from Thornton Wilder:  “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

I wonder if we can find in our hearts the ability to reasonably talk, listen, understand, and love?

I pray we can.

If Mr. Wilder is correct, we have no choice.

Photo by Bill Pike

Author’s note:  Reuters, NPR, Southern Living, and newspapers in Alabama, South Carolina, and Arizona were reviewed for this posting.

“But, it’s Christmas, zoomies.”

My guess is you have never heard the name Frank Tarloff.

 In 1953, Mr. Tarloff was blacklisted. This happened after he was categorized as a hostile witness when he appeared before the House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee.

For the next twelve years, he lived with family in England where Mr. Tarloff continued his craft as a screenwriter working under the pseudonym of David Adler.

During the eight year run of the Andy Griffith Show, one Christmas episode was developed and produced. Simply titled “The Christmas Story”, this show aired on December 19, 1960. That was the first year the Andy Griffith Show appeared on television.

Working in England must have rubbed off on Mr. Tarloff. The framework of the script for “The Christmas Story” is similar to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Christmas in Mayberry is disrupted by local department store owner, Ben Weaver.

Ben comes across as mean, ornery, and insistent that Sheriff Andy Taylor lock up Sam, a local citizen of Mayberry who is in possession of moonshine. 

As Sheriff Taylor tries to persuade Ben to put these charges on hold until after Christmas, Ben will not budge. 

When Deputy Barney Fife chimes in “But, it’s Christmas,” Ben expresses his contempt for Christmas—it means nothing to him.

Reluctantly, Sheriff Taylor complies and puts Sam, a family man in one of the jail cells.

At this point, Andy, Barney, and Sam realize that Ben Weaver has succeeded in crushing the spirit of Christmas. Their traditional plans, the normal celebrating, and all of the trimmings have been dashed by one miserable individual.

But, Andy in his own unique way ponders the situation and exclaims:  “No by dogged, there is more than one way to pluck a buzzard.”

At that point, Andy cleverly works to counter the meanness and contempt of Ben Weaver.

Andy saves Christmas in Mayberry. But, he also unknowingly will eventually see through Ben Weaver’s contempt of Christmas. Andy sees that Ben is looking for the same thing we are all looking for— love.

Right now, in America and around the world, we have learned quite a bit about disruptions. This is thanks to COVID-19 who unlike Scrooge or Ben Weaver doesn’t understand anything about love.

In John Feinstein’s book A Civil War: Army vs Navy, he writes about football related to the rivaled competition between the two military academies in their annual meeting. The book is an exceptional behind the scenes look at the longstanding traditions of this game. But, Feinstein also tells the story in real time which adds even more to the passion and emotion.

One chapter in the book is titled Zoomie Warfare. Zoomies is the nickname given to the cadets who attend the United States Air Force Academy. This name was bestowed upon them by their rivals at West Point and Annapolis.

Presently, that nickname appears to have some relevance in our current time. 

Since March, how many Zoom calls have you been a participant? 

I have lost count, but lots of us now could probably be called “zoomies.” Not because we have been trained to fly supersonic jet fighter planes, but because we have used Zoom technology to keep us connected.

During these months of disruption, my wife and I have a group of zoomies who we Zoom with twice a month on Sunday afternoons.

These zoomies are our college friends.

They are an exceptional group of people.

I learn something from them every time we Zoom.

For example, citrus farmers in Florida think a blast of cold winter air adds to the sweetness of oranges, not all guitars are made of wood, there are lots of different types of sheets for beds, selling an airplane requires an extra dose of patience, avoid ladders, we’re getting older, and when your wife wants a peace sign in her yard as a Christmas present—you make one.

That’s what our college pal, our fellow zoomie, Steve Boone did for his wife, Kathleen, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

We learned about this project a few weeks ago, and of course, all of the zoomies on the call had advice along with a dose of encouragement.

If you are interested in the recipe, here are the basics.

You’ll need at least 8 feet of 3/4 inch PVC tubing. 

Next, you must create a jig, a device that holds a piece of tubing in place so that it can be curved. 

To curve the PVC, hot water is needed. This allowed Steve to shape the PVC to get 1/3 of a curve. 

No glue is required. Steve mechanically connected the pieces so he can break the symbol down at the end of the displaying season. 

He used 160 feet of LED “fairy” lights.

Along the way, you will need the patience of Job, the brain of Albert, two huge oak trees, a bit of luck, and a wife who really loves you. 

Steve has them all.

The completed peace symbol is almost 8 feet in width, weighs close to 20 pounds. and is displayed prominently in their front yard between two timeless oak trees. 

Steve’s only worry is an ice storm, but he devised a quick release system in case of uncooperative winter weather.

Yes, our zoomie pal is a genius, but more importantly he has a kind heart.

In Frank Tarloff’s script, Ben Weaver needed a kind heart to disrupt his unkind heart. He needed someone to counter his drive to make others miserable during Christmas. That person was Sheriff Taylor. He figured out what Ben’s heart really needed—love.

For the life of me, I do not know how the very gifted guitarist and songwriter, Eric Clapton is still alive. The mental and physical abuse he put his body through via addictions and poor choices is unbelievable. Yet, he lives.

In one of the many pivotal points in his life, Mr. Clapton worked to kick a three year addiction to heroin. Mr. Clapton learned that the professionals treating him gave him something very important—“They gave me love, and I found that was the medicine I needed far more than the actual treatment.”( Slowhand Norman 269)

“But, this is Christmas.”

Thank God it is.

And while this Christmas might be the most disrupted one we have ever experienced, we can’t forget its key ingredient, the medicine for all our souls—even for Ben Weaver, Steve Boone, and Eric Clapton—love.

“But, this is Christmas.”

And as improbable as that time worn story might be, we can’t let go of Christmas because that story is love.

If we truly want peace on earth and good will toward us all, then somehow, someway, we must find the way to love.

“But, this is Christmas zoomies,” and we need to remember Christmas every day of the approaching new year. 

We need to use its love to disrupt our lives and the lives of the people  we encounter every day too.

Love + Will = Peace

Go disrupt zoomies. 

Use your love and will to change this world to bring us peace.

In our hearts, we know this is long overdue.

Merry Christmas!

*Author’s note Wikipedia, John Feinstein’s A Civil War, and Philip Norman’s Slowhand were sources for this piece. Thanks also to Steve Boone for his technical notes and this photograph of the completed project.

COVID-19: Not at your bedside

On the evening of Friday, December 18, this email came from my cousin Alice:

“Received a phone call from personnel at Duke Hospital tonight—Mom passed  away at 9:18 p.m. She was peaceful and not in any pain.”

This end of life for my Aunt Hedy came courtesy of COVID-19. 

For all you knuckleheads out there who refuse to validate the vicious nature of this virus, Hedy, even with an exceptionally strong heart, lasted a week. The virus smothered her lungs.

Sadly, this scene has played out across America and across the world too many times.

Time and time again, I have read about the challenge for families who have a loved one suddenly isolated in a hospital room. This COVID-19 patient is sealed off from the care, grace, and love of family. I can only begin to imagine how difficult that is.

During Hedy’s brief battle, she did rally. That rally through the magic of technology video allowed the family to see and interact with her. Even in her weakness, Hedy was amazed at the capacity of technology to do this.

But after that one rally, the email updates from Alice took a different path. The virus like a hurricane that gains strength from an extra helping of warm tropical air revved up its assault.

With the sudden downturn, the doctor, with an abundance of safety protocols in place allowed two family members to visit. Alice and her brother, David were able to see their mother. I’m sure that was tough for their brother, Stuart, who resides on the North Carolina coast near Wilmington.

After that visit, the doctor working with Hedy and the family thought she might last another three days. I wonder how many other families the doctor has delivered that same countdown?

When I think about the life that Hedy and her husband, my Uncle John, carved out with each other, one thing is crystal clear—love.

I don’t know that I have ever seen such an influential love. 

Their bond, their strength was grounded in so many things, but especially their love of family. And always, always embedded in their love was their faith in the good Lord. He was never absent in their journey, and they were never shy about proclaiming this.

With their love, Hedy and John were seed planters. 

Their three children Alice, Stuart, and David took the love of their parent’s template and built their families with the same love foundation. 

That love can be felt and seen with their children and grandchildren. It is one of those powerful generational links that I don’t believe can ever be broken with this family. The lessons are practical and strong with a dose of stubborn endurance.

But when I think of Hedy, one word comes to mind—sweet. 

I don’t think God made a sweeter person. She was as sweet as sugar cane, honey, and molasses.

That sweetness was her friendly smile, sparkling eyes, and I always felt she was a gentle listener. She wanted to know your stories, the stories of your children, and grandchildren. And like Santa Claus patiently listens, Hedy patiently listened too.

After my mother passed in 1992, our oldest daughter, Lauren, noted that Hedy became like a surrogate grandmother for her, and her siblings, Andrew, and Elizabeth. 

Hedy took them under her wing providing them with gifts and thoughtful cards. And, Hedy even knitted hats for Lauren’s two children. Just one more example of how sweet Hedy was to all of us.

For the rest of my living days, when I see Alice’s daughter, Erin, I will see Hedy. To my old eyes their is an uncanny resemblance.

I’m sure that Alice, Stuart, and David wanted to be at Hedy’s bedside, in that hospital room. 

It would have been part of the pay back for nursing them through measles, mumps, chicken pox, ear aches, flu, and stomach bugs.

There is no comfort in this, but right now, you were not alone in your inability to hold her hand, and to speak your last words of love to her. That’s what COVID-19 does—it robs us of normal.

And while it might rob us of normal, that demon can never steal the love that Hedy and John imprinted in you and on you. That is your DNA.

In the whirlwind of what lies ahead, revisit those cherished family stories, their bond, their commitment, and let the love in each of those sustain you and your families. 

And in the end, when you can’t be at the bedside hold on to the love from which you were molded. 

That love will keep you going.

And as that love keeps you going, don’t forget to find some laughter in your tears. 

Post bedside gatherings need humor too.

Thanks Aunt Hedy for your sweet love, say hi to Uncle John for us in the blue yonder.

*Author’s note: The photo included here is courtesy of our oldest daughter. It features our first granddaughter, Caroline, curiously exploring my cousin Alice’s face. Perfectly angled between Caroline and Alice is Aunt Hedy with her gracious loving smile. This photo was taken at the Saxapahaw General Store in Saxapahaw, North Carolina.

Early Christmas present, thanks Commissioner Swofford

Compared to all of the challenges in our world at this time, the announcement on Tuesday (11/24) that the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) Mens Basketball Tournament will be held in Greensboro in 2021 was an insignificant blimp on a radar screen.

But, as a rapidly aging and increasingly more grumpy geezer, I loved Commissioner Swofford’s press release. It was like an early Christmas present.

 Now, of course, we all know that demon— COVID-19 could once again cancel the entire tournament for a second year. But, hopefully, we will wise up and not let that happen.

However, if the tournament had remained as scheduled at the Capital One Arena in  Washington, D. C., there was another high disruptive risk— the ghost of Ernest T. Bass. 

Sources in inside ACC offices in Greensboro acknowledged that security personnel had expressed significant concern about Mr. Bass breaching the security perimeter at the Capital One Arena.

 Some security personnel view Mr. Bass’s ghost as harmless as thermals drifting around Mt. Pilot on a summer day. 

But others were concerned that if Mr. Bass found his way into the Capital One Arena, he could have inflicted an array of disruptions.

Additionally, there were unconfirmed reports that the ghost of Mr. Bass was training in the hollers of northern Virginia for such an intrusion. 

Some reports indicated that Mr. Bass had developed a paranormal stealth shield. If these stealth shield reports are accurate, then Mr. Bass could enter the Capital One Arena without detection.

Apparently, these unconfirmed reports were unsettling to Commissioner Swofford and his staff. The potential of this unpredictable risk from Mr. Bass is what led the ACC to quietly reach out to the management at the Capital One Arena.

Regardless of the ghost of Ernest T. Bass, returning the tournament to Greensboro makes good practical sense.

As I have stated and advocated for in the past, the ACC Mens Basketball tournament should only be played in one city— Greensboro.

In fact, before he retires and leaves office, I would encourage Commissioner Swofford to make his final declaration as commissioner to simply be this: For the next million years, the ACC Mens Basketball Tournament can only be played at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro.

One exception to this decree would be for improvements to the Greensboro Coliseum. If this occurs, the tournament will temporarily switch sites to Charlotte or Raleigh.

Clearly, the league’s heart, character, and soul are grounded in North Carolina. Four of the original founding schools are located in North Carolina with Clemson and Virginia both an easy drive to Greensboro. 

The quality and competitiveness of the ACC was well established before expansions of the league occurred.

 Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that the most recent expansions of the league were not grounded in geographical logic. No, those expansion decisions were grounded in pennies—lots and lots of pennies.

Some might say, Bill, you are just an obstinate old guy who wants to hold on to the past for all of the wrong reasons. Heck, you are still enamored with the Andy Griffith Show that first aired in 1960.

Well, I agree with your assessment of my stubbornness.

However, I would argue with my last breath from my Alamance County roots that the tournament should only be played in Greensboro and at the very least within the state of North Carolina. 

It took bold hearts on May 8, 1953 to leave the Southern Conference and form the Atlantic Coast Conference. That courage built a league of quality, dedication, and tradition.

Yes, it will take strong leadership to keep the tournament in Greensboro for a million years. But, playing the tournament in other arenas in other locations will not sustain the quality, dedication, tradition, and heart of this league. 

The founding heart is Greensboro—the future heart should be Greensboro too.

Greensboro has proven they have the capacity, energy, vision, and heart to sustain the tournament.

In this upside down world that ought to be worth something.

So, Commissioner Swofford before you leave office, do some good heart work— make that decree. 

The hearts of the people of Greensboro and North Carolina deserve it.

In your heart, you know it is right thing to do.  

And one more reminder, any cardiologist will tell you— riling up the ghost of Ernest T. Bass isn’t good for a heart.

Greensboro!

You are not my friend.

You are not my friend.

You never have been. 

You never will be.

And this might be very un-Christian of me, but I hope and pray everyday that someone, somehow will figure out the path to finally squeeze every breath of life out of your lousy, stinking, good for nothing, unscrupulous, mean, sneaky, intruding cells.

Yes, you know I’m talking about you— robber of life, disruptor of families, stalker of the young, the old and everyone in between—you with no conscience.

You are a disgusting, despicable demon, and what is sad is that you enjoy every minute of your work. 

And I bet you pout like a big baby when a person you invaded punches back. I imagine you really get annoyed when they punch and punch and punch at you with all their might. This would be especially true when your victim is a child or a mother. 

Heck, in 1992, you took my mother. I have never forgiven you. I never will. That’s why I pray everyday for your last breath.

You took my favorite, Beach Boy, Carl, the youngest Wilson brother who had the voice of an angel.

And my first and only principalship was because your cancer forced the resignation of the principal who I had the honor to try to replace.

I could rail against you everyday, but here is what set me off this time. 

On Tuesday, December 1, a co-worker sent out this e-mail. It is in reference to kind hearted human being that we both had worked with at our church:  

I saw on Facebook today that KM has metastatic breast cancer (she had breast cancer last year).  It is now in her lymph nodes and her bones.  She says although it’s not curable, it’s treatable.

National Cancer Institute Stress Fibers and Microtubules in Human Breast Cancer Cells. Created by Christina Stuelten, Carole Parent, 2011 unsplash

KM is a wife, and mother with two young daughters.

She doesn’t deserve a second round of your vileness.

What a Christmas present you delivered!

You should be ashamed, and I bet you’re not.

Ted Williams was a gifted baseball player. 

He understood the science of hitting a baseball. Mr. Williams was blessed with extraordinary vision. 

If you can see the seams of baseball that has been hurled at you at speeds over 90 miles an hour—you have remarkable vision. Ted Williams did. 

Image courtesy of Thomas Park unsplash

Perhaps, that is one of the reasons Mr. Williams served America as a jet fighter pilot during the Korean War.

Mr. Williams still holds the record as being the last player whose batting average was an astonishing .406 at the end of the 1941 season. As a person who loved baseball as I kid, I hope that record is never broken.

In Leigh Montville’s The Biography of an American Hero: Ted Williams, I don’t believe the author missed any part of Mr. Williams’ life. Like me, Ted Williams was imperfect, and like me, but with a different approach—Mr. Williams questioned God.

Here is a sample:

“God was an everyday character in Williams’s life—an inhibitor, who did bad things. Why couldn’t God be good? Better at least? If God knew everything, then how could He allow all of that suffering in all of those hospital wards? Couldn’t He see all of those little kids at Dana Farber with their shaved, bald heads and their dull eyes? If a baseball player could see and feel, why couldn’t God?”(page 422 Montville)

How many times in your life have you had that internal conversation with yourself and asked of God similar questions?

I know I have annoyingly asked that a lot of God.

Later in his life, Ted Williams suffered a stroke. A part of his recovery was taking physical therapy. Through this rehabilitation, Mr. Williams met Tricia Miranti, a 17 year old girl in a wheelchair. Their therapy sessions were at the same time.

At the age of five, Tricia experienced a cerebral hemorrhage. This medical event almost took her life, but it altered forever how she would live her life.

For whatever reason, this old, unhealthy former baseball player,Ted Williams who could be grumpy, cantankerous, and difficult to understand and to be around at times, befriended Tricia. 

And at the same time, Montville points out that Tricia became “exhibit A in Williams’s discomfort with God.”

And yet, Mr. Williams was so enamored with Tricia that he and a friend set up a foundation for her. A fundraiser was put together. Money was raised to send her to college and to cover other life expenses. Amazingly, Tricia graduated from the University of Central Florida.

Tricia’s mother stated:  “I never saw Ted Williams as a great baseball player, I saw him as a great man. He was my angel.”

But for Ted Williams, the questions still nagged him according to Montville:  “If he was the angel, where were the supposed real angels? How could God do this to Tricia? What had she done to Him?”

And that is my question for God related to my friend, KM. 

What has KM done to God to allow the cancer to return to her life?

Does a wife, mother, daughter, friend, who would not hurt a flea deserve such a burden as a second encounter with cancer?

All of our human hearts know the answer—No!!!!!!!!!

I was blessed in my career to have worked with many outstanding teachers. I know to name one is dangerous.

Without question,  I was an imperfect principal. 

But, at Lakeside Elementary School, if the superintendent walked in unannounced for a visit, some staff members would quickly and quietly go to every classroom and let them know the big enchilada was present.

During one of those walk arounds with the superintendent, we stopped in at Cathy Brennan’s class. Mrs. Brennan was a first grade teacher. As we were walking away from her class, the superintendent said to me, “You know, Mrs. Brennan always finds a way to handle the deck dealt to her.”

His observation was correct. She always did.

As discouraging as life can be at times, I guess we find ways to deal with it—even when what we are asked to deal with is beyond comprehension.

In those situations, when life is beyond our grasp, beyond our understanding, that’s when prayer angels must go to work.

Venting my anger at God is a temporary relief. 

Channeling my energy into prayer for KM is a better option.

Maybe, Psalm 130 verses 1-2 are appropriate for pondering here:

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord. Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”

Lord, hear our prayers for KM and everyone in the same rotten struggle.

As for you cancer—go to hell!

You are not my friend.   

9:17 a.m. Is nothing sacred anymore?

It was Thursday, November 26, 2020, Thanksgiving Day.

Overnight, rain showers had pelted down more leaves. On my morning run, the sky was still gray.

 But even with the cloud cover blocking the sun, I saw rich colors of leaves on trees that were too stubborn to let them go. Golden yellows, bold scarlets, and shades of orange caught my attention.

I was on my 3-28-11 route. A neighborhood trek named after the date I first charted that run. Mileage wise that course is probably in the 3.5 range.

 But, I’ll tell you what else caught my attention on those rain dampened streets—in terms of pace and quickness I am officially a turtle.

The slow, old legs got me back to the house. I did my usual post run stretching, and then I started to think about breakfast. No big breakfast this morning, I had that Thanksgiving spread on my mind.

At the kitchen table, I was skimming through the newspaper that was like a stuffed turkey full of ads for shoppers on Black Friday. I wonder if shoppers will ignore COVID-19 and hit the stores?

And then around 9:17, I heard an unmistakeable sound—a leaf blower.

I’m thinking to myself who in their right mind would fire up a leaf blower on Thanksgiving morning? What is this world coming to? Is nothing sacred anymore?

I pinpointed the sound. It was coming from one of the neighbors behind us. Because of their fence,  I couldn’t see who was operating the leaf blower, but I sure could hear it.

For whatever reason, I was annoyed. Plus, all the yards in the neighborhood and the fallen leaves were wet from the overnight rain. Why would anyone want to mess with a wet lawn, wet leaves on Thanksgiving morning?

My irrational self thought about going into my tool shed, grabbing the sledge hammer, climbing over the wooden fence, greeting my neighbor with a smile, taking the leaf blower from his possession, placing it on the ground, and then pounding it without mercy.

I’m sure the news media would have fun with headline—Retired educator and church employee pounds neighbor’s leaf blower with a sledgehammer!

I am an imperfect human being. I have the capacity to annoy people— even loved ones with irritating habits that don’t register on my radar.

But, as I rapidly age, some of the details of daily living—like  disregarding reasonable expectations unravel me. Yes, I’m officially a grumpy old geezer.

Let’s start with turn signals on automobiles and trucks.

 I’m beginning to wonder why manufacturers put them on vehicles. My unscientific observation is that lots of drivers don’t use them. I’m beginning to wonder if some drivers even know their car is equipped with turn signals.

Keeping with the car driver theme, I will toss into the mix— yield signs, stop signs, and stoplights.

 At some point, a wise person decided—hey, we need some rules for driving on our roadways. Maybe we need some signs and stoplights to remind and guide us as we drive. Those signs will help to keep us safe.

Again, I am an imperfect driver, but easily on any short distance drive in my community, I note drivers totally ignoring yield signs, stop signs, and stoplights. 

Why is that? 

Don’t drivers realize those signs have the capacity to prevent accidents, injury, and death?

In those moments when I observe drivers totally ignoring those guiding rules of the road, I want to be like Gomer from the Andy Griffith Show and shout out to them: “Citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest!”

Sadly, in today’s world if I did that even with good intentions, I would probably run the risk of being shot at, or at the very least arrested for disturbing the peace, or maybe whisked off for a mental evaluation. 

Again, I can see the headline: Retired educator and church employee detained for screaming at traffic violators—“citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest!”

Occasionally, our three children and even my wife, the Commander Supreme, give me grief from our collective past. 

Aside from goldfish and maybe a hermit crab or two, our children never had a furry pet in our home. An exception might be granted for the couple of wayward squirrels who once found their way into our attic space or the squirrel who fell down the chimney into our fireplace.

Now, I have nothing against furry pets, except they can be very expensive. This is especially true with veterinarian bills. I’ve heard the horror stories from friends. 

But, I have recently discovered another furry pet related detail that really plucks my nerves.

At our church we have two dumpsters—one for trash and one for recycling. 

We had to put locks on the recycling dumpster. Despite the church’s effort to be good neighbors, sometimes our neighbors dumped items into the dumpster that could not be recycled. 

This would make the company who supplied the dumpster very, very unhappy. Of course, I think you would feel the same way if you found tiny plastic bags of overripe dog poop in your recycling dumpster.

Now, that we have the locks on the recycling dumpster, we have a dog walker who is leaving the poop bag at the base of the dumpster.

I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to have a conversation with this person.

So, what do a leaf blower, yield signs, stop signs, stoplights, and dog poop bags have in common?

Nothing.

Except this.

When we shirk our responsibilities, not only do we potentially impact other people, we increase our own selfishness.

And perhaps in those moments in life when I become the biggest whiner of all time about the imperfections of others, I need to keep this reminder in front of me from Luke 6:42:

 “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Clearly, I need to go to my tool shed.

I need a crow bar.

I have a 2×4 to pry from my eye.

Sometimes, I need a reminder from sacred words to help my perspective.

A parting gift Bill Pike