I grew up during the Vietnam War. As I watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, and his nightly reporting of how many Americans were killed that day…. I expected to be drafted…when I became of age. My cousin, Billy, who is a bit older than I, was drafted upon his graduation from high school. My father was a World War II veteran, and served in the Pacific Theatre. MJ’s dad was a WW II Vet. My step-father, Earl, was a veteran of the Korean War. We owe all of the men and women who have served our country a profound debt of gratitude!
My uncle, Bill, served in Germany during WW II. Aunt Wanda, Bill’s wife, said that when Bill returned from the conflict…that he refused to speak about it…as the memories were painful for him. During my time with Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, I had several members of our team return from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. They came back home…being the bearers of terrible burdens. We speak of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in our current vernacular…but it has always existed.
‘Shell shock is a term original coined in 1915 by Charles Myers to describe soldiers who were involuntary shivering, crying, fearful, and had constant intrusions of memory. It is not a term used in psychiatric practice today but remains in everyday use.’ Psychology Today, Stephen Joseph Ph.D.
Our freedom was purshased by many of our fellow citizens; pain and suffering…and blood and their future! Many that have never served…speak in glowing terms about our nation’s might and ability to vanquish any foe…while those who have served…sit silently as they gaze into their past…and remember their fallen friends…
This is the long awaited day of our departure…to Maine. A family vacation that we planned, beginning, last summer. During that time a pandemic was a historical event. I vividly recall being in a constituency heads meeting with SIU President, Glenn Poshard, and his passionate description of the potential for SARS to spread throughout the United States, and its ramifications for our University. When one of the group asked him if the danger might never happen…he replied that the epidemiologists that he had spoken with had told him it was…’ not a question of if…but when.’ During the ides of March, I remember that when MJ or Aaron or Jonathon asked me if I thought that we would still be able to take our May Maine vacation…I said that I though we had a 50/50 chance. Little did I, fully, realize that the ‘when’…had arrived!
I have heard it said that the only thing that is certain about life…is change. I have been watching with great interest the animated discussions regarding the closing of churches and synagogues and mosques and all religious houses of worship, where people congregate. Many people appreciate the, temporary, closing of their building to facilitate their health safety. Although it may not seem like it, the wishes of a vocal minority do not represent the majority of human beings who believe that COVID-19 is real and that it has killed nearly 100 thousand people in the United States of America. When we make our 2020 pandemic political…we are cavalierly playing with the lives of others…as well as our own life. For instance, it would be incredible to believe that if your church building was blown away by a tornado…that you were no longer a member of a church… It is accurately pointed out that there is hypocrisy in both the Democratic ranks and the Republican faithful. I heartily agree…and it is irrelevant to surviving a pandemic which has no idea which political party that you belong to…as you draw your last breath… Many of our churches have a preponderance of senior citizens. People over 65 years old are particularly vulnerable to the virus. What do you think is the responsible thing to do?
My little friend, Wallace, passed away a year ago Thursday. He was a brown Boston Terrier. I have had the custom of a nap in the evening for the past 30 years. Often he would jump on the bed and stand on me until he thought that he had given me the message that he needed a constitutional visit outside. If I played, ‘possum,’ he would jump off…and then return in a minute or two. He had stopped his wake-up calls for a few weeks before he died. On the last evening of his life…I felt a little paw tapping me…and there was Wallace…saying goodbye…
Parallel universes are believed to exist by several Quantum Physicist. The concept is intriguing! I think that most of us would have enjoyed another universe…when our lives are particularly difficult. Perhaps I am sitting in a jet plane wafting my way to Maine…and there is no Coronavirus…in an alternate arena? However, this is our life and our journey. I was talking with Aaron the other day and we agreed that the christian life is supposed to be lived…in deed and action and purpose.
‘Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thous shalt love they neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ Matthew 22: 37-40. KJV.
I have been a student of leadership for the majority of my life. From our presidents, both past and present, to leaders across the world such as, Gold Meier, and Winston Churchill, as well as religious leaders…and of course University managers and administrators. The concept of how a person has either the natural skills or learned processes…to be able to motivate and inspire others to follow them, is fascinating! I marveled, as a child, at the ability of former president John Kennedy….To inspire a nation to service and altruism. When he said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you…but what you can do for your country,’ thousands of Americans joined the Peace Corps. My mom spoke of president Franklin D. Roosevelt as if he were a member of our family. He took office in the midst of the Great Depression…and that was followed by World War II. Through the brilliance of his natural charisma and his fireside chats…the, suffering, people of the United States understood that their president cared about them and that he was working in their best interest…and they were inspired to join him in the herculean effort of recovering from the Depression and the wining of WWII!
I have witnessed great leaders and some who were not so great. When I see a leader who relishes their, perceived, position of authority over other members of the human family…I am taken aback! Another perplexing proclivity of some leaders is they’re, mental separation from the group that they are supervising. Somehow…there is an, us and them misperception by many who have been asked to take on the duties and responsibilities of being a leader of both small and large groups of people. These are people that were a member of the group…but now feel that they have been elevated in understanding and wisdom…and that they know, inherently, what is best for the, ‘lower class,’ who do to have the ability to think for themselves….
I have been a member of more than one church over the past 51 years. On more than one occasion I have felt that my opinion did not seem to matter…and that the news of changes that leadership was making…never trickled down to me and my family. Now these are churches that I worked hard in and was faithful to and gave money for…yet…I have been struck with more than one leadership surprise that felt as if that I was being told, ‘like it or lump it!’ I have been an; elder or a trustee or a deacon, in every church that I have been a member of, since 1969…but it has always been so on a reluctant basis. Why, you might ask? Well, it would be because I am convinced that I have little to offer in the way of leadership. Both of my management positions at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…I had to be talked into… I firmly believe that the precious members of a church congregation that never feel the calling to serve as a leader…are more important than…we leaders…
I heard a minister say, years ago, that if you have been entrusted with a leadership position…you should hold it with a loose grasp! I quoted the admonishment to the members of my staff…many times over my 25 years as a manager/administrator. It has been my lifelong experience and my heartfelt conviction that God calls we members of our church congregation to specific missions and goals and defined needs. When the, temporary, leadership assignment has been completed…we should joyfully return to the congregation…which is….God’s Heart!
I saw more deer today. They watched me…and I watched them. They were peaceful and so was I. I considered that our mutual interest and acceptance of each other, was a good lesson for life in the human family. My mom told me, on numerous occasions, that everything that happens…has a reason. When she told me that statement, I thought that her assertion could not be possible. I could not fathom how our hardscrabble life could possibly have any benefit for either of us. I did not understand why I had to eat, split pea soup or drink powdered milk…or take my lunch to school in a brown paper bag, when my classmates consumed a hot lunch in the cafeteria….Lunch was only 20 cents per day.
I heard the wonderful jazz musician, Wynton Marsalis, answer an interviewer on the BBC, that he was not overwhelmed by the many awards that he has earned for his virtuoso musical accomplishments. He went on to state that if when he gives a young person a musical lesson and they thank him and shake his hand…he has received an award. He spoke of his deceased father, Ellis Marsalis a famous Jazz pianist, who felt the same about official awards and that he had taken that lesson from him. Really, we are receiving awards daily by being members of this wonderful life!
So often we forget our shared humanity. We marginalize those with whom we disagree. We speak cutting remarks or we ignore large segments of people who experience this human life that we have been given…differently than we do. Wynton, spoke of the prejudice that he has faced throughout his life, and his determination to not be victimized or pigeon-holed by his race. I have reflected on our insatiable desire to engage in war with each other. Over 58 thousand Americans were lost in the Vietnam war. Did you know that over one million north Vietnamese lost their lives and 741 thousand south Vietnamese were killed during the multi-year conflict?
Our 2020 pandemic is real…and like most facts…magical thinking will not cause it to vanish. I was talking with a friend, recently, and we agreed that many times the humanity, of a person who has offended, is overlooked. Do you see many facebook posts that express the danger that our many incarcerated, fellow human beings, are facing from the Coronavirus? Or what about our grandmothers and grandfathers and moms and dads who are in nursing facilities…
When we disagree with another…in this time of stress and worry and frustration…why not see how we can help the person that we are at odds with? Perhaps they are desperate for money for their rent, or food, or are being forced to live in a home with a domestic abuser… Love is always the answer. I identified with Wynton Marsalis when he said that his awards happened in the every day process of living. I have always felt the same way! If you are nice to me…I am taken aback by your kindness. When I receive a compliment…I am not only grateful…but I seek to be worthy of the kind remarks! When I became the superintendent of Building Services…I told the director of Plant and Service Operations that my goal was to cause our enemies to become our friends…and to cause our friends…to love us!
It is chilly in Southern Illinois. An intermittent rain is falling and the sky is overcast. I think that the weather probably reflects the way in which a lot of us feels with the knowledge that we are in our 2020 pandemic for the long haul, as Pastor Kerry reminds us. Zoom church, which I thoroughly enjoy, is to be continued, as the old television serials told us at the conclusion of each weekly installment. It appears that many of us are hoping for the final episode of the…Pandemic Limited Series. It appears that no matter what we want or believe is the, true, reality of the situation that we find ourselves in…the COVID-19 virus is not influenced. Is the present distress different from anything that any of us has ever imagined for our lives…you bet it is! We Baby-Boomers were raised to believe that the world was our ‘oyster,’ and that we could achieve whatever we desired…and to not accept no for an answer. Now, we are setting in the cheap seats and watching a devastating illness kill over 80 thousand of our fellow citizens and 294 thousand deaths worldwide. The virus has not asked my opinion and insists that it does not consume the television news programs that I watch…nor is it affected by the most magical of thinking… To use a computer analogy…our motherboard is getting hot and our circuits are fried! This happens when we are confronted with an unknown and unimagined occurrence that appears to have come from the Twilight Zone! This is why it is time to calm down and take several deep breaths and believe that we will come out on the other side of this dark tunnel…if we obey our doctor’s scientific advice.
I have been attending church for 51 years. The concept that captivated my young mind in 1969, was that Jesus loved everybody. His compassion extended to both the rich and the poor, every ethnicity, every culture and creed and tongue, and he did not sit in judgment of the variances of his creation. The miracle of church is a celebration of diversity! Christ is the great equalizer of the human family.
‘The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified of her children.’ Matthew 11:19 KJV
‘Early in the morning He went back into the temple courts. All the people came to Him, and He sat down to teach them. The scribes and Pharisees, however, brought to him a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before them and said, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law of Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. So what do You say?’
‘They said this to test Him, in order to have a basis for accusing Him. But Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with His finger.’
‘When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.’ And again he bent down and wrote on the ground.’
‘When they heard this they began to go away one by one, beginning with the older ones, until Jesus was left, with the woman standing there. Then Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?’
‘No one, Lord,’ she answered.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared, ‘Now, go and sin no more.’ John 8: 2-11
The popular singer and actor, Frank Sinatra, sang ‘I did it my way!’ I have conducted much of my life according to Frank’s advice. It feels good to be the captain of your own ship! I have found that when I agree with a leader’s admonishments for my wellbeing, I think…what a smart woman or smart man. But, when I have another idea…I doubt what is being said by my elected representative and I may even fear…conspiracy…
There is an oft put question that is; if a tree falls in the woods and no one sees it…did it really fall? Quantum Physics has verified that there are very small elements of matter that behave in one manner when they are being observed…and in a contrary manner when no one is looking. Also, there is a hypothesis that each of our brains assign meaning regarding the constant movement of matter…that comprises our physical surroundings…our reality.
Have you ever played the old game of, telephone? This is a game where you sit in a large circle of people and the first person whispers into the ear of the second person…until the message is shared, one person at a time, throughout the complete circle. Invariably the message will start out as one statement…and conclude as a completely different set of words.
Police tell us that if they take more than one eye witness statement, at the scene of an automobile accident, that the eyes of each witness…saw a different accident.
We had a lovely Mother’s Day, yesterday. We enjoyed not one, but two, Curbside Family Chicken Dinners, and there are leftovers today. I snapped some Polaroid photos, with my Christmas gift from Jonathon. Then, we enjoyed a pay per view movie…and I almost thought that we were at the theatre!
It is the interim between classes at SIUC…but I saw more people out and about than I had during the semester. I am persuaded that the ability to go outside and enjoy the beauty of spring, has enhanced my ability to endure the stay at home restrictions due to our 2020 pandemic.
I was listening to a virologist this afternoon who said that the idea of protecting the American people’s health…or…the reopening of our economy, is not an either or decision. There is a systematic and logical approach whereby both can be achieved simultaneously. How about that for a practical plan? It is easy, when we are suffering…to look for a scapegoat, or a dastardly enemy, or a master conspiracist…when our enemy is a virus. The virus does not know, or care, about our station is life…or our ethnicity…or our political affiliations! COVID-19 wants to replicate in as many host humans as it possibly can…and the closer that they are together facilitates its viral logic.
When I was a manager I had a colleague tell me that I should, come down on certain people that, in his opinion from the cheap seats, had transgressed. Later that person committed a serious lapse in judgment. When I met with my friend and explained what the penalty could be for his error…his face fell…and the enormity of his mis-step became very real to him. I then told him what my decision was, and that his error would be documented for our office file and if there were not any additional occurrences within one year…that I would shred the documentation. He was visibly relieved and thanked me, profusely. So it is with our pandemic…God help us that we do not have to have personally proven to us…that the threat is real…
It was Commencement today on the campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. As I walked along the quiet paths of the beautiful surroundings…I heard the sounds of joyful people. I looked around to see a family and their graduating child. There, the new alumni of SIUC was in her cap and gown, posing for photographs to commemorate the special day. They were snapping photos near the fountain that is in front of The Student Services Building. As I was taking a picture of a resplendent tree, along the side of Anthony Hall, I could hear the same jubilant banter…that I enjoyed a few minutes earlier. When I looked around…the same family was on their way to take additional shots near Anthony. As I walked toward Morris Library I witnessed another, happy, family as they beamed their approval and love and pride in their graduate!
So, I was traveling toward campus woods, who do I see but my friends, the Cheek family. They had been out chronicling their mom’s wonderful accomplishment of finishing her Bachelor’s degree. They were smiling, broadly, and glowing with pride in their mom…who is an extraordinary person! I recall Elizabeth and I speaking regarding her plans to return to class and finish her degree…she is a brilliant person and now has the satisfaction of accomplishing a worthy goal! As I have heard….most of my life…education is something that no one can take from you!
Of course we are in the midst of our 2020 pandemic…SIUC was unable to have a public commencement ceremony, at this time. But it did not stop the wonderful gradating seniors of our university. It will take more than a pandemic to stop the dogged determination of people who have a vision and a clear goal and the willingness to engage in the struggle that it takes to achieve that goal!
When my step-father passed in 2001, I did not know what we were going to do. Mom had suffered with Alzheimers Disease for several years and was unable to care for herself…and especially in the country home that she and Earl had enjoyed for 30 years. MJ told me that she wanted us to take mom into our home. This is something that I would not have asked her, because I knew what a sacrifice that it would entail!
It is almost Mother’s Day. Mary Jane is the greatest mother that I have ever known. She returned to university, when she was 40 years old and earned a Master’s degree, and cared for my mom, who lived in our home and suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease! MJ lives for our sons, Aaron and Jonathon, and thinks of them and cares for them and loves them…
MJ home schooled Aaron and Jonathon in order for them to have time with me…as I had a position with SIUC that necessitated me working evenings…for many years. During those years she often made home made bread and home made pasta…and we helped by eating…faithfully! She is a woman of strength, and an inspiration to all that know her!
We had to cancel our visit to Boothbay, Maine due to the Coronavirus. Did we hang our heads in despair…no! We are planning on the end of September…and if not then…spring 2021!
We have adjusted…and we are daily continuing to adjust to the new normal of living in the midst of a pandemic…but we will not be defeated…we will not raise the white flag of surrender…we will persevere and come out of this long and dark tunnel…into the light of a new day!
I am convinced that if each of us will reach out to just one person that we know could use our help…we will feel better and our spirits will improve…and we will become addicted to the rise in endorphins and subsequently…we will be looking for people to help…to continue the euphoric feeling!