The Great Divide..

I apologize in advance if my viewpoints do not match the viewpoints of the readers who read this article. Please read this with an open mind and hold responses of a negative tone. Thank you. 

I’m amazed at the talk that has been had this election cycle over the building of a wall that would allegedly serve the purposes of protecting our borders and hindering illegal entry into our country. While many of Trump’s supporters were in favor of building a wall at our southern border and Clinton’s supporters rejected the idea as a hilariously infantile suggestion, something happened that perhaps none of us were ready for – A wall was built. It didn’t require hundreds of thousands of man-hours to build this wall. It almost seemed as if it spontaneously appeared on the scene without even as much as a hint of its construction recognized by the people. It is amazing that we didn’t see it growing because it was our very people who were laying one brick after another onto the mortar that was spread by the masses. By the time an announcement was made alerting the American people of who won the election, the wall was already built. This wall didn’t serve the purpose of dividing us from the threats or attacks of outsiders. It was built to separate us from one another. So much for stronger together. So much for great again. Just look at where we are now.

This may be the first time in my life that I have actually watched on as friendships were destroyed over politics. I saw it in my very community and I saw it online. It’s happening everywhere. People are rioting over Trump’s election. Like it or not our system gave us Donald Trump. Accept it or not, that system did not give us Hillary Clinton. So here we are standing on opposite sides of a great divide. We are a people damaged by the separation we have placed between ourselves. It’s easy to blame the politicians, but their race has ended. We fueled their fire. We scoff at a physical wall, which can be scaled by some, while building emotional fortifiers that no human can ever cross. Shame on us, America. So we have some philosophical differences between us. Who doesn’t? Were there not many Republicans who rejected Trump in the primaries or many Democrats who fought for another popular candidate rather than Clinton? But when those races ended, look at how the parties came back together and worked to make a difference for what they believed in. People began to work with others from their own party again. It seemed as if nothing could divide them or rip them from their candidate. Now another race has ended. It’s time for more assimilation. No matter what happens with a wall being built at our southern border, we all have a responsibility to one another to tear down the wall we have built in this election cycle. Our passion is what keeps us going but it should never keep us from opening ourselves to the reality that we are stronger together and that we can be great again.

This election has opened my eyes to many things I had not realized about our country. First of all, our system works. You may be happy with the results or you may not, but our system works. Believe me when I say that people who feel they were overlooked in this election will be out in force in the next one to ensure their voices are heard. Their votes will change the dynamics of our government. This cycling process has worked for many years and I refuse to believe this one election is the end of that. We have a divide in this country, and we should recognize it. But we don’t need to separate. We need to stand together. Today, this statement may be truer than it has ever been. I’m calling out to society with this blog post. I’m not an avid writer and I rarely post to this blog so it’s possible no one will even read these words, but I beg of you all to take the time to hear the voices of those who stand opposite of you. Quit listening to their shallow words of where their allegiance lies. Instead, open your hearts and find depth in the why question. Why do they feel the way they do about this issue? Ask what they can teach us about our own stance. Let’s look to ourselves and ask what is it about our choices or stances on issues that makes others want to separate themselves from us. It’s time to grow up. If we don’t we are leaving a real mess for our children and those who come behind us.

I am a white man from a very rural community. I have a very limited view. In my studies, I look to other cultures. It is important for me to understand the inner workings of these cultures so I can work in a professional capacity. But while I try to view things through the lenses of others, I truly only have one lens of my own. I can tell you my experience. I know nothing of yours. I can only attempt to empathize and understand what I haven’t experienced myself. I have not lived the struggles of those in the LGBTQ community as they seek equal rights. I’ve not faced life as an African-American or experienced how society responds to them as I have experienced society responding to myself. I have never been a pregnant woman placed in the terrifying position of deciding how to respond to news of an unexpected pregnancy when life’s plans were leading in an opposite direction at the time. For that matter, I haven’t been a woman at all – experiencing the gender bias that may exist against me in a world that in some cases are dominated by an opposite sex. I haven’t been one of the parents of a young person murdered by an illegal immigrant who was scheduled for a deportation that never happened. I have not had to fear the loss of a Social Security check in my later years of life. I don’t own a gun so I haven’t had to fear losing the rights to owning one. To some this is viewed as a form of protection. Obviously, this list can go on and on. My point is: why are these people fighting for their cause? Why do any of us hold to our political beliefs so strongly? Do we even want to know or are we so self-absorbed that we refuse to even open our eyes to it?

It’s like this. I vote for the issues I care about. They may not be the same as yours. Yours may not be the same as mine. I trust that you have good reason to vote the way you do. I don’t think people are naturally bad. I think people are good. Maybe that is just wishful thinking. Maybe I’m the one who is blind here. But I refuse to look at anyone on either side of the aisle and see something that disgusts me. What disgusts me is what we all have built – A wall that divides us. Because I am only me, I need you to help me see life from your perspective. The keys to each of our destinies are locked up inside of one another. It’s time we quit spewing hate and division and begin to pull together and find some common ground and a place we can work from. It is my opinion that our viewpoints of both of our main candidates were weakened as time went on in this election season. It is probably also true that our views of one another have descended as well. Let’s get back up. Let’s work together. Let’s make a difference for this world and tear down the wall that separates us. It’s a horrible divide. It’s a great divide. It needs to go so we can join one another once again in unity as a big family that loves and respects one another.

Can we do that? I suggest we at least try. If you can’t, well, you are hurting yourself. But not only yourself. You are hindering a great process for your community. We need a healing. It’s time to let go of the rhetoric and position ourselves in a place where we can truly grow no matter what our personal politics are. We can’t hate one another over any of this. We all say things we shouldn’t. We all get caught up in moments of negative regard toward specific ideas that don’t tend to match our own system of understanding. but for the most part, I believe we are good people who would truly do anything for one another if we could. My hand is out. Will you offer yours too?

 

 

 

When the storm rolls in…

I was watching television with my youngest son yesterday when I heard a grumbling in the sky – indicating a storm was about to roll in. I quietly stood to my feet and made my way to the front porch to await the approaching weather and watch it as it drew near. At first, it appeared the storm was already passing by and that I was sitting too far south to get the experience I was expecting. The sky was a dark shade of grey to my north and I could see flashes of light toward the east. The clouds appeared to be moving in an eastward direction. When I saw this, I allowed my expectations to change. But I remained in my seat with the thought that I would enjoy the peacefulness of my surroundings. Then, I felt a cold steady wind. I looked up and saw that the clouds were, in fact, now heading my way. Within moments the bright shine from the sun had disappeared and the darkness had overtaken area surrounding me. Before I knew it, the heavens had opened up and a heavy rain began to pour from above. Lightning flashed seemingly only a short distance away before a crack of thunder sent rattling chills up my spine. I began to stand to my feet to re-enter the safety of the home, but before I could muster the strength to lift myself, I felt myself easing up and relaxing back into my chair as if I knew I had nothing to worry about after all. It wasn’t but a matter of minutes before the storm had rolled on and left the area allowing the sun to once again peak through the clouds and remind me that all is well on the other side of the storm. I must say: It felt good to ride out the storm. It truly was a beautiful process to be a part of.

I’m not sure exactly what has sparked my fascination with storms. Some people fear them, some chase them and some just sit and ride them out. The truth remains: Storms are scary. They carry a power with them that cannot be thwarted by man. Whether we fear them or not, they have the power to take us. This is quiet the humbling thought as I realize there is more to this world than me. I am only a small part of a much larger existence. Even though the storm left me a little unnerved, I couldn’t leave. I could only stay and watch as it revealed its power to me.

In life, storms come and storms go. There isn’t much more we can do than simply watch and hope for the best. It’s amazing how one moment in life we feel safe and it may look as if our location exceeds the reach of the storm, but then it turns, and in the next moment we are watching as it wreaks havoc on our very existence. This begs us to run and take cover. We want to hide and pray it away, but storms are a necessary reminder that we are small. We are powerless. Life is bigger than we are. It didn’t start with us and it will not end with us. It’s a beautiful process and all we can do is watch and wait while we ride out the storm.

The sky may be grumbling and growling in our lives. Flashes of light may be setting us on edge. A cool breeze may be blowing in while tree limbs begin to dance in the distance. Concerns may crop up in our minds: “Are our garden crops okay?” or “Will a tree fall on our house?”. Maybe we will want to run and hide from it all. I know I wanted to yesterday, but only for a moment. Then the storm passed and it was almost as quickly as it came. Suddenly, it was gone. I survived. I couldn’t control the storm. We can’t control the storm. It’s bigger than we are. But when it rolls in … Maybe we should just relax and ride it out. That way we don’t make any storms in our lives bigger than they already are.

 

Through a cracked lens…

A little more than two years ago, I dropped my new cell phone on the gravel in the parking lot where I was picking up my children from school. The screen cracked. Since then, my phone has never been the same. It still works and I use it for certain purposes, such as checking my email, posting news, playing games or such. I no longer use my cell phone for phone calls but it is still very useful to me, even with the cracks in the lens. Now, obviously, over time the crack has gotten much worse and now some of the glass is missing. I keep telling myself that maybe it’s time to remove my pictures and other data from the phone and just recycle it. Still, for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to let go of it. My phone is broken, but it is also useful to me. Rather than paying hundreds of dollars to purchase a new one, I will probably just hold onto this one until it finally quits on me. This doesn’t mean I’m happy with what I have. My pictures are not as easily viewed as before, I scratch my fingers when I run them across the glass so on. Needless to say, this phone has become a real problem for me, but I am attached. I can’t let it go and I plan to keep using it. Until further notice, my mobile experience will simply have to be viewed through a cracked lens.

When bad things happen to us in life, we can be cracked. It can damage us. Still, many of us continue to hold on and we refuse to let go regardless of damage done. We view the world through a cracked lens. Nothing is as pretty as it used to be and every time we attempt to get involved and put our hands to something, we are hurt. This may cause us to throw up our hands and cancel the service that connects us to the rest of the world. We may feel that it simply not worth attempting to pay the price to fix the lens we view the world through. When this happens, everyone is affected. We are not the only ones to feel the hurt. We are not the only ones to experience the results of our altered view. Because of this, I think it is important for all of us to understand the distortions of our own views. If we know where the flaws are, we can try to get around them. Better yet, if we simply pay the price, we can once again find a way to view the world the way it was meant to be viewed — through a lens that reveals the truth. It is a lens that doesn’t view the world through brokenness, or heartache and pain. It reveals a picture of the world as it is supposed to be viewed.

I can’t tell you if you need to let go of that cracked lens. Perhaps you feel the price you paid for it is too high. Perhaps you think a new lens will only experience the same fate as the first. We can never truly tell what the future holds, but I can say that holding onto an old cracked lens isn’t very profitable at all. I have very little use for my old phone, but I keep it anyway. It won’t take good pictures anymore, the screen keeps fading out and it no longer gives me the use I desire from it. Today is as good a day as any to look in your own lives and see if there are areas where the lens has been cracked. Has your lens cracked? Has it distorted your view? Don’t let it continue to hinder your life. Your personal view is one of the most important perspectives you will ever hold onto. Do you really want a cracked lens? Do you want to hold onto the pain of the past? Personally, I think we should all have a clear view. We should work from a clean slate. I know it’s difficult to let go of old things, but just like my old cell phone, there is truly no benefit to holding on. If your lens is cracked, I can’t tell you how to fix it. I can’t change your lens for you. All I can do is share with you the importance of a clear view. It affects everything we know about the world around us and how we react to it. Get past the old cracks and find the beauty that can only be seen through a clear lens. You can do it. Keep moving forward. It’s worth it. You are worth it. Your life is worth it. Let go of the past and open your eyes to a whole new world.

Give with all your ‘mite’ …

I was out of town recently and found myself walking slowly on a sidewalk behind a woman who inched her way along. She slightly wobbled as she walked and she took up most of the sidewalk. Because of this, there was no room to get around her. I had no idea where she was going or where her destination was, but I just continued behind her slowly as patiently as I could. I didn’t want to be rude so I simply slowed myself down and allowed her continue at her pace. As rushed as we are as a society today, I have to admit, it pained me a bit to slow down for her. I think that slowing down is exactly what I needed to do in that moment though. You can learn a lot when you change your pace. I know I did.

As I walked nearly the entire length of a city block behind this slow moving woman I couldn’t help but notice her clothing was not very desirable. Her hair was a mess, as the clip she was using to hold her hair down appeared to be broken. Her shoes were old and I’m guessing she either walks a lot or she hasn’t purchased a new pair for many years. I’m guessing by the way she was dressed that when she got those shoes they probably weren’t even new then. I’m not saying all of this to run the woman down or give a negative portrayal of her. I’m simply wanting those who are reading this to understand that this woman didn’t appear to have anything. For all I could tell she lived there on the street somewhere. It was what I saw next that made me realize that this woman had more than most people ever will have.

The woman moved over out of our way, grabbed a windshield wiper blade of a car on the side of the street and lifted it to place what looked like a bookmark bearing the words ‘God is Joy’ under it. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I can’t stand getting that stuff under my wiper blades. I usually have to pull my car over to remove it so it doesn’t blow away while I’m driving. Not only is it annoying in that sense, it may really upset someone who do not have certain religious beliefs. Regardless what you or I believe, though, I was very impressed with what I saw. Here is a woman who has nothing but she is giving what she can to make someone else’s day better. Although we may see litter on our cars, in her mind, she is trying to brighten someone’s day. Suddenly I felt like no matter what a person’s religion is, I would be happy to know they care about me so much as to give me the only thing in this world they have to give. It doesn’t matter who you worship or if you worship no one at all, it’s good to know someone cares. The woman could barely walk but she walked that block for someone.

I’m guessing the person who owned the van probably rolled their eyes when they looked on their windshield that day, but they’ll never know about the woman who took all day (it seemed) to walk to their vehicle to brighten their day. I’m guessing if anyone at all who had anything at all would do the same for this woman, she wouldn’t have looked the way she did that day. I would never have noticed her if I wouldn’t have slowed down. We should all slow down and notice the sacrifices of others. This woman didn’t have to be out in the hot weather walking to reach others with her cause. She could have sat at home and hoped that someone else would do it. How many would walk a mile for her? I doubt very many at all. I realize that some who are reading this will only look at the religious part of this story and will over look the effort the woman made to make someone else’s life better. I will apoligize to you if you are offended. Suddenly, though, I find myself much less offended by these people. I don’t care whose name you do it in, if you want to show me love, I’ll take it. Hopefully someone will read this and decided to give the best of themselves to others as well, especially those like the woman on the street that day. These people could really use it. Some people hold out their hands. Others hold out their hearts. This woman held out her heart. Sadly, I’m not sure anyone will ever reach theirs back to her. We all need to slow down and take notice so we can give back to those who give so much of themselves for us.

Stepping off the path…

Last night I went for a long walk in McArthur. In some parts of town that means I walked in a well lit area and had no reason to be concerned of finding obstacles in my way. In other parts of town, however, the streets were very dark and I had to rely on the small amount of light that was shining from other areas to provide me with enough lumination to know where to put my feet down with each step I took. I did have my cell phone with me and could have used that to provide a guiding light for myself, but instead I was Facebooking, which means the light wasn’t shining on the road, it was shining in my eyes and making it even more difficult to see where I was going. Instead of walking in a straight line I was all over the road. I stepped of the sidewalk into the street or into the grass on the other side. I learned that texting and driving is far easier than texting and walking, especially in the dark. I think next time I go for a walk at night I will leave my phone in my pocket so I don’t get picked up for public intoxication.

It seems like the older I get the more my walk in life becomes like my walk through McArthur. I have one set direction – a set path I want to walk in, but I find myself distracted by other things that throw me off course and make me step off the path. The road is darkened by the night and the distractions are too heavy at times for me to find my way. I’ve stepped off the path far too many times, it seems, and I wish I could just get to where I’m wanting to go. I can’t. I’m intoxicated by the world around me and my fullest potential cannot be reached this way.

I want to walk a straight line. I want to walk tall and bold. I want to stand above the crowd. Somehow, somewhere along this path I got off track. I stepped off of the course and my walk led me astray. I’m just a simple man and I don’t know much, but I know this: It is so much easier to work to build someone else’s dream than it is to work on building your own. I’m going to keep walking. I’m sure I’ll step off of the path again..and again, and again, and again. I may never even get to where I’m going because of my inability to walk straight, but I’m going to walk. I’m sure most people who are reading this have stepped off the path in their own lives at times. Some may have their foot in the grass right now wondering how they ever got away from where they were wanting to go. I bet we all get this way sometimes. Let’s all continue to fight through our distractions and keep our feet moving one right in front of the other. I think death may be the only destination we ever actually reach in life and the only thing that should matter to us is the steps we’ve taken all along the way. Sometimes I feel like people are critical of my walk. To those people I would like to say this: I don’t walk this road for you. I walk it for me. If you don’t like where I’m going, watch out, because you’re probably going to put your foot in a ditch. You should probably be focused on your own steps, not mine. Get back on the path.

Interception of a dream

I understand that at the mere mention of football, many of you may navigate away from this page, but I should tell you, this is not about football. This is about life. Let me start by saying I have loved the Oakland Raiders since I was a young child. As a matter of fact, I can’t tell you why I love them or how that love was inspired. I can only say, It is a love that has always been. After watching the team share a horrible display during the last ten years, that love has not changed. This year, for whatever reason, has been a year I hoped to see some change. The team has been very strong and has had a great ability to score and stay in games until Sunday’s game. The Raiders lost their quarterback to an injury in the previous game against the Browns and was forced to make some changes at the position. With only one week to properly prepare, none of the quarterbacks on the roster were prepared for what was to come against their division rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs. The team played two quarterbacks in the game, each of them finishing the game with three interceptions and no touchdowns. The Raiders could not get into the end-zone at all in the game and lost 28-0.

I’m not sure what kind of a setback the team will face after Sunday’s loss or how they will come back when they play again, but this game had to hurt. After a decade of not being able to win, they finally seemed to be on track, only to be humiliated against a division foe who came into the game with a worse record than them. It didn’t matter that the Raiders actually played pretty good on the defensive side of the ball and that it was the interceptions that made the difference in the game. They lost. You come out with a ‘W’ or an ‘L.’ That is how it works in football. It is also how it works in life.

I can say, in my personal life, I feel very much the way the Raiders probably do. After many years of feeling like a failure¬† in various aspects of my life, I feel like in the last couple of years I have really started to grow up. I felt like I could put a few ‘W’s’ on the board and move away from the past that has haunted me. Everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. I was holding a winning record for once, but then I recently ran into my division foe. Interception after interception has kept me from reaching a score. I feel like I did when I was watching the Raiders play Sunday. I know that I may lose this game, but I would like to see a touchdown, a field goal, a saftey, I didn’t really care. I just wanted to put something on the board to maintain some respectability. That did not happen for the Raiders Sunday, it may not happen for me.

I’m sure many of my readers are aware that I recently lost a job I loved having. I was proud of that job but in the end, that job wasn’t proud of me. Interception. Just when you think you are on track and you are ready to score, someone steals the ball. I have been working to give my kids a better future. They deserve the very best. I want to provide them with a good home a healthy family life, and the best that can be offered. I feel like I have been intercepted. The older they get, the more I realize they may never know what it is to be a part of a real family…¬† In school, I have maintained straight A’s in all of my classes. It was my goal to continue that, but I was intercepted. I was doing so good, but when I scored 88 points in one of my classes at the end of my last term, that goal was ripped away from me like the Chiefs ripped it out of mid air from the Raiders… I finally found someone in my life who I cared about deeply and was given the same in return. I had finally grown up. Everything else was immature. Now I was ready to love real. I was ready to be loved. It’s time to put some points on the board, but wait, just when I throw a pass into the air, Interception. It wasn’t meant to be. Doesn’t matter how bad you want something, if that dream is intercepted, you lose possession. It’s just not my turn anymore. I’ve thrown plenty of interceptions recently, that I wish I could have back, but we can’t turn back time. We can only wait for our next chance. I’ve done that consistently. I have held on for another set of downs. I’ve waited to have another chance, only to throw another interception. Suddenly, I know why I like the Raiders so much, They are who I am. After so many turnovers and no score on the board, I feel like I have lost this game.

It’s a good thing life isn’t played in a single game. This week the Raiders have a bye week and will have some time to prepare for their next game. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a bye week, but I could sure use some rest. My heart hurts, both literally and figuratively and rest may be needed to prepare for future games. Why still play? Because I know that while I’m here, I can always suit up again and keep taking the field with the intent to win. I don’t just want to score. I want to win – not just one game. I want it all. I want the championship. Maybe my interceptions have displaced me temporarily from the dreams and goals I have in life, but I can’t give up. There is a championship on the line. I want to win it. I need to win it. I deserve it. I’ve played hard. I’ve been focused. Maybe I’ve been a little unprepared at times, but I’ve been focused. Please, please, please.. let me win. I don’t want to lose anymore.

Out of Control…

I rushed out to the scene of an accident a few days ago to find a young man standing next to his smashed up vehicle. He had rear-ended the lady in front of him on his way home from school. He had told me that he hit his brakes to stop before hitting the car in front of him, but it was too late. He had lost control of his vehicle. The impact not only affected him and the driver in front of him, but it affected another driver as well. Three cars in all were damaged because of the accident. I felt sorry for the young man as he explained what had happened. We all have moments in which we momentarily lose control. Unfortunately, some are not as lucky as others when it comes to the time and place those moments take place. I noticed that the young man was very respectful when he talked to me, even though he had just encountered a crisis. I wish more people would be so open to make you feel welcome in their lives in spite of what condition they may be in.

The wreck with the young man is not the only wreck I have been on the scene of here recently. I have been to several, and most of them are the same story. The driver momentarily loses control, for whatever reason, and is unable to keep the vehicle on the road. Some of these wrecks looked like they would be impossible to have brought about a different outcome no matter who was driving. Even though these drivers may be listed as being at fault, I think we all understand there are circumstances that can always cause us to lose control, if even for a moment. It is very humbling to consider the lives of the people involved in these accidents. Whether they were injured or not, they are all affected by something that I would say is very devastating. I don’t think a person can ever be prepared enough for the life changing events that take place in these types of situations.

Maybe, in some way, I do understand what these people are going through. I feel like I have lost some control in my own life here recently. To be honest, I don’t know if there is a stopping point. I don’t know if I will be able to correct the course that I have taken, or if I will have to crash and view the results later. It is one thing to lose control behind the wheel of a vehicle. It is quiet another to lose control behind the wheel of a family. Both can cause devastating consequences. I only hope that my loss of control doesn’t break me or injure me in such a way that I can’t recover. I’m not going to lie. I fear the unknown. I feel like my wheel has went off the berm and I can’t get it back on the road. Where will I hit? I fear the impact of what will happen next.

I know most people try to keep a positive attitude, and I do too. My fears do not extend to my knowledge or understanding of who I am as a person. I trust with full confidence that I am good enough to travel any road. But so are these vehicles that I find busted and dented up on the side of the road. I don’t think anyone understands how difficult my tragedy is. In the same way, I don’t understand how difficult the tragedies of these people in these accidents are. We all face our own struggles. Mine are overwhelming me right now. I don’t know if I can keep my head above water. I’m drowning here. Is there hope? I don’t know. What I do know is I need a crew to rescue me when I hit. I feel like I’m almost there. I try to prepare for the best, but still, I fear the worst. I lost control. I’m not used to not having control. Like the rescue crews I see on the scene of these accidents all the time, I hope someone is there for me when I hit.