Democracy works as it’s meant to?

Here is something I wrote November 8, 2016, the day after the presidential election. I’m just now posting it. As you read it, think about how you feel, and whether your opinion has changed since then.

We live in a country called the United States of America. Is this a perfect country? No. There are some things this country stands for: freedom, liberty, justice and a few more lauded principles that are often connected to something called inalienable rights. These principles come late in the game for some, and there are some who feel they never arrive. However, these principles are etched prominently in the documents that sat this country on the road to better. This road has experienced better during my years on the shared journey. I’ve gone from worse to better; better than what my parents and grandparents experienced, and I’m hopeful that my children and grandchildren will experience even better.

There was a presidential election that took place yesterday in our country, our United States of America. The result of this election was cause for celebration for many and mourning for many more. Today we see protests from the losing side, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. That side was in utter shock that such a thing could happen. That side couldn’t fathom how the electorate could choose such a candidate for service in the loftiest position of leadership in the so-called free world. Acceptance, by that side, of the outcome will be a hard row to hoe, if they ever do accept it. But, accept it they must, for what happened is how it’s supposed to work.

Yes, what happened yesterday is a perfect example of how the democratic process is supposed to work. Or, is it? It worked that way because so many who didn’t want the outcome that we got chose to stay away from the polls. They chose to do something else. They chose to not exercise their right to participate in a democratic process that has been bought and paid for by the blood, sweat and tears of countless Americans and in some cases, non-Americans who have gone on long before us all.

The democratic process isn’t perfect, but it works as it should. Some would argue with that assertion. They might say my side won the popular vote. But they must realize there’s this thing called the Electoral College, which, for me eradicates all notions of us living in a democracy. In a true democracy, the popular vote would have allowed the one who walked away with the most votes to claim victory. It’s November 8, 2016, a somber day in America, for some. Just remember, one great thing about America is we’re given a chance to fix things. We can begin to do that by coming out in good numbers and voting our choice every two years. Yes, that’s right, two years. Important national elections take place every two years. If you don’t like who occupies the White House, you can begin the process of putting the brakes on that person’s political power by changing the landscape elsewhere.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Daily Prompt: Broken

I had a conversation with someone recently, whom I shall not name. This person reads my blogs, so there’s  a better than good chance they’ll see this piece. The Daily Prompt: Broken moved me to write what I’m feeling at the moment. I’m feeling strongly about the word “broken” as it relates to relationships.

Humans do a variety of things that result in brokenness. Often, there’s no consciousness that the actions they take might result in broken relationships later. A young girl, who is stressed beyond her capacity to make important life decisions at the time, might choose to give her child up for adoption. This action isn’t taken lightly at all. It’s the only option that makes sense (now). An option that might provide a better life for the new-born. Later, the child all grown up, by the occurrence of unforeseen circumstances,  discovers her biological mother. Contact is made, the biological mother experiences reserved excitement, only to realize this contact was to make it known her actions from years ago were unforgivable. She’s faced with wondering why was she contacted? Unforgiveness served upon a platter of judgment no one should be asked to eat. The chance of a good relationship developing is broken before it gets started.

Brokenness in relationships can developed via intentionality, misunderstanding, or due to any number of circumstances. It can happen on a one-on-one basis, as previously mentioned, between groups of people, even between nations. The citizens of America are currently experiencing a sense of brokenness. Political events of the past year have resulted in friends, families and communities assuming hard positions on certain ideas. Entrenched in their positions, people aren’t always having civil conversations at the dinner table, in town halls, on social media.

Brokenness resulted in a civil war in our nation. Brokenness is the antithesis of what we all need, and what most of us desire. It’s remedy starts with listening earnestly, talking across lines of division and respecting each other like never before. It’s not easy  to do this. It will hurt; however, as the old adage goes: There’s no gain without pain.

I’m old and blessed…hope you’ll be too.

A father: Is it always a man and “his” child or children?

It’s June 16, 2018, the day before Father’s Day. I just finished some reading, but while I was doing so, I sensed my mind wandering off into the topic of fatherhood. We all know that words have many meanings. One of the more basic meanings for the word father, I just Googled is: A man in relationship with his child or children. I was struck not only by the sheer economy of phraseology used in this definition, but also by what seemed to me the objectivity of it. There’s no qualitative measure assigned to it. It simply states a man is in relationship with his child or children. We all know something else, don’t we? There are excellent fathers, good fathers, all the way to men who one wonders why they were  blessed with the ability “sire” (not father) a child?

Let me return to the statement about my mind wandering. My mind was wandering because of my situation. Somewhere amongst the journaling, blogging and other chronicling of my thoughts, I’ve mentioned that my dad died from a terrible accident when I was eight-years old. I have also mentioned that I remember very little, first-hand, about him. The fact that I don’t remember him is something that emerges from all my thoughts about fatherhood every year about this time. Often, I feel it would be somewhat liberating if I remembered something, be it good or bad. I now wonder was there a relationship between my father and me? There must have been. He was in the home. He provided for us, and my mom has never spoken in terms that were derogatory about him in any way.

I’m the oldest sibling in my family. This carries with it, not only a position, but also an unofficial role and responsibility, at least it’s been my experience that many oldest siblings think so. We’re the one child in the family who provides extended protection to the younger ones and explains things about the world in which they have been deposited. Oftentimes, I think it’s something parents do to make us feel we’re making a major contribution to the good of the order. If being the oldest child came with an assigned job description, I would say I have failed miserably with sharing information to the ones who came after me about our father.  Unless someone reading this thinks I’m being disrespectful, I’m not in the least bit. The facts are the facts, at least as I perceive them.

Tomorrow, I ‘ll sit in church listening to a sermon about fatherhood. I have no idea from where in God’s book the text will come, or how the minister will frame it, but I’m sure it will be appropriate for the occasion. As I sit and meditate on what’s being delivered to me and the rest of the congregation, I’ll think about my dad, and how I’m blessed to have had him. There are many kids who have never been granted the blessing of knowing the legacy of a father, a biological father. I’m happy also to say that I’m glad to have been blessed with a maternal grandfather, who loved and cherished me and taught me lessons about fatherhood that have passed the test of time. My relationship with him answered the question: A father isn’t always a man and the relationship with his child or his children.

To all fathers biological, adoptive, uncles who take on the job, much older brothers, whatever: Happy Father’s Day in this the year of our Lord 2018.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

A bad employee can make a fine mess

This is a follow-up to my last blog post titled “Will we ever make it to Spain and Morocco?” If we do, it won’t be anytime soon. One thing I’ve done for a long time is keeping a journal. I’m a long way from being any kind of professional writer; however, I discovered sometime ago that writing is a way to get frustrations off my chest.

If you’ll recall, my wife, two daughters and I went excitedly to the airport early this past Sunday morning, to be dismayed by the fact that there were no tickets available to us. We went back home, waiting to hear something from the travel agency, which I won’t mention. The agency is not open on weekends, but there was an emergency number for leaving messages. Someone did call us early the Monday morning. My daughter said the person, who called, was bending over backwards with apologies. It seems my daughter was rendered service by an employee, who had made a debacle of more customers travel plans than ours. She’s no longer with the agency. A review of her work indicated that she hadn’t finalized the flight bookings.

The agency spent the better part of Monday morning trying to reschedule things. Their efforts, though appreciated, weren’t convenient. Of the four of us, I’m the only one who’s retired. Flexibility with daily activities is almost like a mantra for me. Anyone who does international travel knows there are certain cultural happenings that can create scheduling challenges for Americans. We were trying to take this trip during Ramadan. In addition, the summer vacation season is upon us. The travel agency couldn’t get all four of us on the same plane to Europe. They also couldn’t get all four of us to arrive at our initial destination at the same time. These scheduling changes would also have moved our travel itinerary ahead to times when both my busy daughters, and wife would have work commitments.

I found myself not having many good things to say about the travel agency; however, my oldest child, who footed the bill for this trip, told me this agency had done a marvelous job coordinating a trip to China for her and a friend before. This caused me to think, the agency must have had some real challenges planning a trip to a country, of which we’re not on the best of diplomatic terms. My daughter’s friend was going to China to adopt a child. Everything went well. This disappointment resulted from the actions of a bad employee. Do I blame the employee or the agency, who hired her?

I’ve been retired now for over four years, and I do remember how one employee can ruin it for a customer and the team who has vowed to grant excellent service. Imperfection is a human frailty that sticks its head out ever so often, and when it does, it can make life miserable for somebody. Believe it or not, I’m doing fine, and I think Chris is too. Felicia, my loving daughter and the bank roller for this trip, is quite disappointed. She saw this as an opportunity to spend some high-quality time with her dad, step mom and sister. Cecily is highly disappointed too. Disappointment is a hard pill to swallow, but it passes, leaving room for more exciting things to come.

As unfortunate as our experience has been in this situation, there are no doubt innumerable more, of a similar nature, occurring as I write. One good thing that has resulted from this “bad employee” saga is the travel agency is going to refund Felicia all her money (lots of money!), and they’re going to give $500.00 travel vouchers to each of us. Gaining from misfortune?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Will we ever make it to Spain and Morocco?

One of the greatest things a parent can experience is to receive a wonderful gift from one of your children. My oldest child, Felicia, from my first marriage, asked me last year if her step mom and I would be interested in taking trip to Seville, Spain and Morocco, Africa. Believe it or not, I didn’t answer right off. I wanted to check with Chris, my wife first. I’m retired, so taking off on a major world jaunt would prove no challenge for me. Chris, on the other hand, has a scheduled hardy with various work activities and a host of volunteer commitments. Well, let me be honest, I had to think about it a little myself. I’ve always been a bit of a home body, and the thought of taking such a trip was something I had to get my head wrapped around. Fortunately, good sense was quick in arriving. I hadn’t given much thought to seeing where the Moors traipsed across Southern Europe and the area in North Africa where Humphrey Bogart uttered the famous words, “Play it again Sam.”

With Chris’ review of her calendar for the period of February 8 through 18, I was excited to let Felicia know that we were all “go.” For you to appreciate the value of this gift, Felica was paying for it all: travel, rooming and all expense related the trip. Let me not forget, she was also trying to coordinate the trip, so she would be in Spain on her birthday, February 9. A little self-serving motivation is fine in this case. Felicia was also picking up the tab for one of here college buddies to accompany us on the trip. Everybody’s excited, ready to fly off into the wild blue yonder, to sites thus far unseen by all. Then, a few days before we were to leave, Felicia came down with a horrible case Flu. It was so bad, it required her to go to the hospital for fluids because of severe dehydration.

As soon as Felicia started her journey back to this side of bad health, she started planning the trip again. The travel agency would allow rescheduling within a year, without any loss of funds expended. We had everything rescheduled for June 8 through 18th. I’m even more excited now than before, especially since the weather would be considerably warmer. Chris and I found ourselves practicing packing again, trying to get all we needed for ten days in one carry-on bag. I had been Googling to find out from every travel expert known, how to pull off such an accomplishment. Then, a few days before we were to leave, Felicia called and said the dates for the trip had been changed to June 10 through 20 because of Ramadan. That made sense. Business operations, tourism included, are affected by this holy time in Islamic areas of the world. Okay, we’re all set and ready to go. By the way, Felicia’s college buddy has been replaced by her sister, my daughter, Cecily. That makes it even more exciting, because it’s now a family affair.

It’s now, the early morning of Sunday, June 10. Felicia had come up from her home about two hours away to spend the night with us. We were flying out of Little Rock, Arkansas to Chicago, where we would board and international flight to Spain. That’s right, we were flying out of Little Rock at 6:55 AM, or so we thought.

I’m writing this at my laptop, at home. We still haven’t started our trip to the old world yet. When we arrived at the airport this morning and tried to be secure our tickets at the airport kiosk, there were no tickets on record. After spending time at the check-in counter and being politely informed that there was no record of tickets purchased for us, we stood with dumb looks on our faces like characters in a TV soap opera closing scene. Felicia presented the kind calmness that would probably be exhibited by someone who has over dosed on Ritalin. We finally left the airport. On the way to have breakfast at a local Ihop, Felicia and Cecily were able to reach someone at the travel agency that planned and booked the trip, by way of an emergency number. They aren’t open on weekends, but there is a number to reach someone if there’s a problem. I would say we had a problem. The person answering the phone said all things on their end indicated we had a flight booked and electronic tickets confirmed. The airline says no.

We’re all hopeful that things will be cleared up and we can try again at least by tomorrow. It’s been said by many that this is a small world in which we live. Oh, but it’s not that small if you can’t get on a plane to get from point A to point B.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.