An Encounter…

My wife and I recently went to our local Whole Foods store for our bi-monthly shopping excursion. On the way out of the store just inside the door, I passed a very frail-looking, elderly gentleman who looked to be not a day younger than 90 years old. It appeared that he was speaking with an employee of the store, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. He was wearing a hat that said “SECURITY” on the front (that made me chuckle to myself) and his pants were hiked up well over his stomach. He had a very hunched frame and I thought that he was all of about 5’6” tall, but may have been much bigger and taller in his youth. He was just the most delightful looking gentleman and there was a part of me that wanted to engage him in conversation. I wondered, “Who was he?”…”Did he serve in the military?”…”What was his life like, where had he been and what had he seen?”…”What had his vocation been?” These thoughts all passed through my mind in the split second I walked by him. Our eyes met and I gave him a smile…and, he looked at me as if to say “Hey, kiddo…what’s your problem?” I again chuckled to myself as my wife and I walked out of the store and I thought “what a blessing to have just seen that man and having crossed paths, even if only for that moment”.

We put our groceries in the car and as I started walking the cart back to the front of the store, I heard a commotion. I looked over and saw a man who appeared to be in his 40’s, heavy and about 6’3” tall, yelling at the elderly man I just seen in the store. It looked like he, his wife and the old man were walking to a car. The younger man was calling him “Dad”, but screamed the “F” word expletive at him at the top of his lungs many times as apparently his father had done something that greatly annoyed him. It stopped me in my tracks. My mind and body immediately reverted to being a police officer again, (I’ve been retired almost 12 years) and I stood there glaring at the younger man. I watched from about 20’ away and thought how wonderful it would be to walk over and relieve this guy of his Adams apple so he couldn’t yell at his elderly father anymore. I waited. If he touched the old man, I was willing to get locked up to put this guy in his place. It was then that our eyes met. It’s amazing when a coward has been caught in the act and the bodily posture that results when they’re not sure if they’re going to have to defend themselves. It’s also interesting to watch a spine loses its rigidity as this guy’s tall frame lost about 6 inches. He scurried into the driver’s seat and quickly started the car. I tried to look at the old man in the passenger seat to tell him it was OK…but I don’t know if he saw me. They drove off…

I was quiet on the ride home and couldn’t get the encounter out of my mind. I thought of my Dad who had a major stroke many years ago and whom I delighted in taking care of before he passed. Just before getting home, I mentioned to Randi that the incident was stuck in my head.   And, as she always does, she brought it back into proper focus and said all I could do was pray for them. I had already done that.

After calming down and now sitting here putting this to paper, I want to see them again…all three of them. But, not in the context of what occurred in the Whole Foods parking lot. I wanted to talk to them, but more specifically the son.   I wanted to find out what had occurred to him in his life that brought him to the place of treating his father like that. What could his Dad have possibly done to him that he felt the need to elicit such behavior? I kept thinking that if this was the son’s behavior in public, what was it like in private…was it worse or even physical? I knew that the incident wouldn’t soon leave my memory. I badly want to speak to this son.

From a biblical perspective, we’re called to love, honor and respect our parents. But, I do know that a parent’s abuse of a child can certainly hinder that in many ways. Years of parental abuse can have an incredibly devastating effect on children.

But as a son, it brought me back to how much I loved and still love my father and how I dearly wished he were here so I could tell him that.  And, as a son of my heavenly Father, I know that God loves me too…no matter what the circumstances.  This realization brings me much peace and joy.

I would love to cross paths with this elderly man again.

I just want to tell him that he is loved…no matter what the circumstances.

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Saying Goodbye…

Saying Goodbye…

We all probably say hello and goodbye thousands of times throughout our lives. Hello’s are usually pleasurable and goodbye’s, well, not very often so. Sometimes goodbyes are followed by “catch you later” or “see you tomorrow” or even “see you next year”. There’s an expectation of renewal and the anticipated enjoyment of seeing that friend or acquaintance again, whether it’s just overnight or even a year from now. We simply rest in the knowledge that, God willing, we’ll meet again.

It’s when the goodbye being spoken is to someone that has passed is what carries the most pain. Saying goodbye to a family member, friend or acquaintance that has passed away is an incredibly painful and hard thing to do. You know that you’ll never have that person in your life again and will never, ever, in this life, cross paths to again say hello. I’m sure most of you know this from personal experience and can relate to what I’m saying.

I also know that saying goodbye to a family pet can be just as painful and difficult.

Just the other day, my wife and I had to put our little Chihuahua, Rascal to sleep. We had him for 14½ years and he was just an absolute delight to us.   He filled our lives with such incredible happiness and joy and we looked forward to coming home to him each and every day. His animated doggie personality was just so funny and he and I had our own little love language between us. I could say something ridiculously stupid to him and he would know exactly what I was talking about. I would often laugh out loud at him and he would look at me quizzically as if to say, “what are you laughing at, you’re the one who said something stupid!” He could bark or growl or whimper or whine and I knew exactly what he wanted. The wagging of his tail and the brightness of his eyes filled my life with pure joy. I loved him so much…

He slept next to our bed on top of a hope chest all snuggled in his little dog bed. I think he had about five or ten thousand small blankets littered throughout the house, (well, it certainly seemed like that many). If I woke up at night, I would always reach over and rub him, then make sure he was covered up. Then Randi would do the same thing, but she would take the covers off thinking he was too hot. We did this little dance with him throughout his life. He didn’t care…he just wanted to be with us.

At the moment, it’s just too painful for me to write about his illness and the decision we had to make in the wee hours of the morning that it was time. And, to be honest, the tears come as I write these words. Walking back in the house after being out is the worst. I expect to see and hear him at every turn and seeing the emptiness of the room where he stayed while we were out is just excruciating.

I tried going to work in the hopes that being with my clients and friends at the gym would ease the pain. It didn’t. I lasted an hour. And, my sincere apologies to those whose sessions I had to cancel.

Cherish each and every moment with those whom you love, because they can be taken away from you in an instant. Please re-read that last sentence and allow it to sink in to your very core. I know this life is temporary, as I’ve written about it before. But, it doesn’t for one moment negate or ease the pain for those who are left behind after a loved one passes.

I miss you terribly my little buddy. But, I know that where you now dwell, there is no pain and suffering. Only love…

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Giving…

I work with a lovely young woman whose husband is in the Army and was just deployed to Afghanistan a few months ago. He will be there for many months to come. When I walk into the gym in the morning to get ready for my day, I greet her knowing that she woke up alone and prepared herself to come to work without the familiar love and companionship of her husband beside her. I can only imagine how many times a day she must think about him…a hundred, a thousand? What must make it worse for her is the additional stress of wondering about his safety. Is he OK now? Will he be OK today? Will he be OK tomorrow? What about next month? What about next year? I know I’m only skimming the surface, but her thoughts must often run wild with the uncertainties of a military spouse left behind at home…to wait. She is a very strong young lady, but I’ll bet there are times in the quiet of her home that she just loses it. I know I probably would.

There are still tens of thousands of our military men and women currently stationed overseas. They’ve left husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, parents and children waiting for them here at home who I’m sure are continually concerned about their comfort as well as their safety. The living conditions in some of the places where our troops serve aren’t fit for farm animals. Yet, they serve, work, fight and often die in these places. When you sit down and think about it…I mean really think about what our troops are experiencing on a day-to-day basis, it’s very sobering.

And, as they always do, here come the holidays. Is it added stress for these families here at home? You bet it is…

I’m humbly asking that you take some time during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season to think about how you might help our men and women overseas. There are a ton of great organizations, locally, regionally and nationally who have wonderful ways in which to help our troops. Whether it is financially or sending much needed resources (foodstuffs, personal items, etc.), please consider helping in any way you can. Just Google “how can I support our troops overseas” or reach out to a local VFW, American Legion or other local military or civic organization in your area and ask how you can help. I’m sure with a little creativity, you’ll be able to come up with something you may be able to do. Anything.

Buy one less holiday pie, one less gift or one less latte or cocktail this year and put that money aside for those who aren’t going to get any of these things anytime soon. Better yet, take the money you were going to spend on a night at the movies (it’ll be out on Netflix soon) or out to dinner and do the same thing. Believe me, you’ll be glad you did.

And, so will someone’s loved one sitting in some lonely, frozen outpost halfway around the world…

Our personal freedoms and liberties are so very often taken for granted in this country. But, realize that it is on the very backs of these incredible and selfless men and women that these very freedoms and liberties are born.

They deserve not one iota less from us.

Gun Control (and, Authority…)

It is with a bit of reservation that I essay on the issue of gun control.  Not that I’m hesitant to wade into a shark tank, but I have mixed emotions about the subject and to me it’s only part of the matter.  Over the years, we’ve all heard the various little catchphrases to describe how folks feel about gun control…”Criminals love gun control…it makes their jobs safer”  or “Gun control means proper breath control and trigger squeeze”, and my personal favorite…”A gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone”.  The subject is a passionate one from both sides, as each has relevant points.

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As I briefly touched on in my blog about evil, I believe criminal activity cannot be legislated away by acting as legal deterrents.  It’s part of the fabric of human nature.  Sure, we need rules, regulations and laws…as that’s what makes us a civilized society (please don’t ask me to define a “civilized society”).  No, I’m referring to the knee jerk reactions by some who feel that controlling the access and ownership of firearms by law abiding citizens is going to make the general populace safer and less susceptible to a tragedy occurring.  It’s like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound, (please excuse the comparison) as the bleeding is not going to stop.  Listen, I certainly believe criminal background checks that include some form of a national mental health database screen should be a precursor to purchasing a firearm.  You should not be able to walk into your local gun shop with a library card as ID and purchase a firearm.  But, banning outright the purchase of this or that type of weapon or certain types of ammunition and limiting magazine capacities is not going to stop someone from waltzing into a school and committing an act the likes of what happened in Sandy Hook.  Whether someone wants to get their hands on a BB gun or an assault weapon, they’re going to do it.  There are just too many avenues available outside the legal processes of purchasing a firearm if someone is bent on getting one.

In New Jersey, you stand a better chance of crossing the Delaware River blindfolded while walking on a tightrope than you have getting a permit to purchase a firearm.  In Colorado however, all you need is a driver’s license.  But, conversely and according to the national UCR (Uniform Crime Reports), New Jersey ranks 24th in homicides per 100,000 people and Colorado ranks 35th.  So, what does that say about one state having stricter gun control regulations than another and their respective crime rates?  I’m really not a statistics type of person, but to me, it does raise an eyebrow.

From the national sound bite stage, it appears the belief is such that if we enact more gun control laws and regulations, criminals and those with mental illnesses will be more apt to abide by them.  That statement alone should give one pause…

To make the circus even more festive, look around and you’ll see the gun control hypocrisy flourishing in this country.  Take for example Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, one of the biggest gun control proponents in the nation.  Anytime he leaves his home, he has no less than two to five armed bodyguards with him at all times.  Yet, his platform is as such that it would greatly diminish the ability for you and me to defend ourselves and our families in our own homes.  See the subtle incongruity?  Then, there are those who believe we should have the “right” to possess any type of weapon we desire, (i.e. rocket or LAWS launchers, .50 cal. Sniper rifles, etc.).  And, when you see some of these people interviewed on TV in their living rooms, (the media’s best choice) they’re apt to be wearing camouflage and surrounded by no less than a dozen weapons while their children are walking around unsupervised.

Look…I know the argument and understand it.  If guns are made less “available” to the general public, then they’ll be less apt to be stolen in a home burglary, used in a crime by someone in a household where they’re present or played with by children in a residence where the firearms aren’t properly secured.  But, I also believe that responsible gun ownership is something sorely lacking by some folks who own guns and could be one of the keys to preventing many types of violent circumstances.

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As a Christian, I realize that acts of violence are things we should and do abhor in the majority of life’s circumstances.  However…that doesn’t mean we are to be doormats.  I will fight for my life and the life of my family at every turn should violence present itself as a threat.  And, I’m sure those on the other side of the aisle would understand even that logic.

Now to my point and I’ll put it to bed.  I respect and yield to ALL authority as it stands in our great country, from the President all the way down to the local council person.  As I said, this is what makes us a civilized society.  Take a look at Romans 13:1-7.  Verse 1 (NIV) states; “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God”.  It’s pretty clear and succinct.  God appoints all authority.  Now, those in positions of authority may not always make the right decisions or have the purest integrity and honor, and I may not understand or even like their decisions.  But, they were placed in their respective positions for a reason.  And, I’ll continue to pray for them that they have sound minds and exact wisdom as the Lord would lead.  I may not win any popularity contests with my thoughts on this subject, but it is what I believe.

So, do I believe that there are some in authority who want to remove ALL firearms from our homes and restrict private gun ownership? Yes, I do.  But, this is when prudence and sound judgment should prevail over rash, impulsive and ill-informed decisions made to appease an uneasy public with regards to gun control.  And, I’m not quite sure that’s happening.

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The least we can do is pray for those people in authority, all authority….as theirs is not an easy job.

Heroes…

This is a word when used out of context, very often bothers me and it is also a word that has been written about ad nauseum.  It’s been used so many times that we’ve become desensitized to it as just another banal description of someone who does something “good”.  But, for purposes here, I’d like to embody it in what I believe is its most proper association.  Webster defines “Hero” as “an illustrious warrior, a man (or, woman) admired for their achievements and noble qualities, and, one who shows great courage”.  The problem is that it is a term so often thrown around in reference to a person or persons by others who haven’t the slightest inclination of its true meaning.  We normally hear the word hero casually used by the media when describing a perceived noteworthy act by some politician, sports figure or Hollywood icon…usually on a slow news day.  We’ll be inundated with things like “Senator Pufnstuf is a hero for his work in improving the rights of the people”, or “such and such sports figure or actor is a hero for their work with charities and those less fortunate”.  While efforts by a politician working for their constituents or a public figure’s work for charities are commendable and respectable, they DO NOT define a hero.  Not by a long shot.  And, while the mainstream media swoons in their love affair with the so-called glorious exploits of such people, it is really those working tirelessly behind the scenes, everyday, that deserve this acknowledgement.

Once in awhile though, the media does get it right.  Case in point; Brendan Marrocco.  You may not have heard of Brendan Marrocco between the news reports of the designer who made the ill-fitting dress worn by an actress attending the recent SAG awards ceremony, or the exciting and electrifying preparations by candidates for the 2016 presidential race, or even the reporting of a 5-year old facing expulsion from school for drawing a picture of a gun in crayon.  But, Brendan Marrocco outshines them all.  Brendan Marrocco went to Iraq in 2008 as a soldier with the United States Army.  He travelled halfway around the world to help the people of a country occupied by some who would rather spit on him with a hatred born from an abhorrent religious belief than they would give him the time of day.  Then, he returned home, to a sometimes ambivalent, but mostly grateful country.  Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he did so without his arms or legs.  On April 12, 2009, while returning from a night mission, Brendan’s vehicle sustained a direct hit from an EFP (explosively formed/fired projectile).  As a result of this attack and in addition to the loss of his arms and legs, his other injuries were just as catastrophic.  He was kept alive and from bleeding to death by his platoon’s medic and fellow soldiers, and by the grace of God, he lived.  (Above info is from news reports and his website at:  www.brendanmarrocco.wordpress.com)

I came across the story about Brendan while looking at a TV in the gym.  I literally had to stop what I was doing as I was mesmerized by what I saw.  I was watching a true hero.  The news account was of a young man who had lost both arms and legs in Iraq and had received one of only a very few successful bi-lateral (double) arm transplants ever performed.  Brendan now had two new donor arms.  He was sitting in a wheelchair sans legs, but with his new arms and he exclaimed, “It’s given me a lot of hope for the future, I feel like it’s given me a second chance”.  God does that.  He gives us second chances…and sometimes in very different ways.  Brendan is looking forward to swimming and driving and I pray that he is blessed with all that God has for him.  In scripture, Matthew 5:9 (NJKV) says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”.  I know God is looking down with incredible anticipation of the plans He has for Brendan.  I wish I could look into the future and see the awesome impact this young man will have on the lives of others.  I feel in my spirit that that he will touch others in such a way as to change them forever.  This is what a hero does and he did it to me.  Brendan is an “an illustrious warrior, a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities, and, one who shows great courage”.  In a word…he is a hero.

Our military service members…these are the men and women our children and grandchildren should look to as examples of heroes.  Those who put their lives on the line every day in some hostile, unfriendly and unforgiving environment so that we back home can experience the freedoms and luxuries we now enjoy.  I stand in awe of theirs and Brendan’s service…and, I am proud to be part of a humbly grateful nation.

Thank you Brendan, you are a true hero…