Honesty, openness, caring. Encouragement in spades, I hope. Hang in there.

**PLEASE NOTE: I have again made this the “sticky” post (i.e. the first post anyone sees when coming to the page) because I believe that, if you read no other posts, this one is the one that is most important and has the most impact in terms of message and encouragement. All new posts will appear below it and thank you for understanding! 

I was thinking of different things to blog about, today. Some were cheery, some were silly, some were entirely too close to the Sunshine and Rainbows Coming Out of Your Backside, now that I look back at them, to be honest with you. I started this site as a way of posting thoughts and ideas, but above all as a vehicle to offer encouragement. It wasn’t until this morning that I realized that encouragement comes in many different packages. Not all of them are trite, smiley faced emoticons or pictures of cute kittens that say “Hang in there!” Sometimes, they come wrapped in tragedy, whether they be ours or someone else’s. Seems incongruous, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. If I may ask a favor of you, the reader – if you never have read another post on this page; if you never read another one, please read this one. I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason, and I believe this blog post may be the most important one I ever put on here. Why? I have no idea. I can’t see the future – but I believe someone, at some time, will read this and it will speak to them. It will be a message of encouragement, but there are going to be some bumps along the way. Hang on.

I was trying to find an image from a graphic novel that I have, entitled, “JLA : Liberty and Justice.” To make a long story short, rumors of a plague are spreading and in one panel a girl decides to end it quickly by jumping from a bridge instead of suffering alone. The final image on the page is Superman holding her in his arms and the caption reads, “But on this night, no one was forgotten, least of all by those who had promised to save others from despair.” I couldn’t find that one. I am glad I couldn’t actually, because I found this one, instead. It’s a section from another story in which Superman deals with a young girl who has decided to end her life by jumping from a building ledge. I don’t know if it’s considered good form or poor to post a link rather than the image itself, but the images were long, so please forgive me and don’t be put off by having to go to the actual page and read it. Just read it. The post won’t make much sense if you don’t. I’ll wait. I promise.

http://imgur.com/gallery/Ijdxh

Wasn’t that something? As I finished reading it, I suddenly realized that I had my post. See, I could easily identify with both people in that story. I could identify with the Man of Steel, and I could identify (God knows I could identify) with the girl on the ledge. I’ve been in the position of raging at the unfairness of life and being the one whose only answer to give was “Because life isn’t fair or unfair; it just is.”  In the Bible they call that “The rain falls on the just and on the unjust.” 

I probably dreamed of saving the world at one time; heck, as a lifetime fan of Superman I KNOW I did, but I started out truly believing I would save just one person. In this case, it was my niece, Rebecca whom I loved dearly; whom I played with, watched and re-enacted “Superman II” with about a bazillion times, re-enacted episodes of The Munsters with (strangely enough, I always had to play Herman)  and who ultimately ended up dying of cystic fibrosis at the age of 8. I always knew she was sick, but that didn’t matter, you see. I was her smart “Uncle Clark” (She really did call me that – a privilege none of my other nieces or nephews were allowed to enjoy) who promised her that I was going to grow up, find a cure for her disease and cure her so that she could play and not have to go to the hospital for breathing treatments, not be sick, and be able to play like all her friends. I didn’t tell her I’d try, I didn’t tell her I’d give it my best; I promised her, in all my youthful ignorance, that I’d do it. Period. She believed me. I can still see her smiling.

Yet she died. One day my brother Jeff came and got me from school. When we got in the car he said “Jame, Bec died this morning.”  My entire world self-destructed. it was only years later, when i finally started to come apart at the seams, mentally, and went to counseling in college that I realized that from that day on, I carried the burden of believing I had lied to her. I LIED. Not only had I not saved her, I had lied to her, and I never forgave myself for it.

As I read the comic and saw the pain on Superman’s face when he spoke of wanting to save the world; when he said “…and sometimes…we don’t.”  I felt that pain again. When he spoke of his friend who “checked out early,” I saw again a girl I watched, literally, grow up in a time when coming from a home of mixed parentage (white and black), as well as a home with an absent father was a curse in my little home town and who was roundly ostracized for it and called about every racial slur you could come up with. A girl who used to come on the bus still eating her breakfast (usually something like toast) and who would sit by me because I was pretty much the only one who would allow her to. (They lived right down the road from me; I knew she and her brother well)  A girl who in all probability I wasn’t half as good a friend to as I needed to be and who decided one night that her life was no longer worth living. At the age of 16, she hanged herself in a girls’ home in Schenectady. I remembered coming home and being told of it and having to literally put a plate down so that I didn’t throw it into a wall in a blind fury. She never got a break, that girl, and in the end, she decided there weren’t going to be any more good days for her, I suppose.

She died, too, despite all my high sounding words and good intentions.

When the girl spoke of burying her mother, I could identify with it. I’ve buried a mother, a father at 17, a brother, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, and friends of friends. It seems, sometimes, in my 44 years of life that it’s been one long funeral. In the words of the poet, Thomas Moore, “I feel like one who treads, alone, some banquet hall, deserted. Whose lights are fled, whose garlands, dead, and all, but he, departed.”  As a home dad with two special needs sons and who was diagnosed epileptic about 2 years ago, I could readily identify with the times of hopelessness that come upon you when you look around and say things like, “Really? Is THIS the life I expected?” “Is this all there is?” Back in the days when I dreamed of being a nuclear physicist, a meteorologist, or even just “too busy helping other people to ever be married,” I would have laughed at anyone who told me what my life would turn out to be, too. I could identify with those feelings, that she expressed.

I can even identify with suicidal thoughts, as I am sure all of us can, from one time or another in our lives. I have had days when my life has nosedived and crashed, HARD, into the ground.

Yet, in that story, there is hope, and there is encouragement, just as there is in MY story. The hope and encouragement comes not from Superman swooping in, solving the problems and saving the day, all while lecturing the person on how suicide is “no way out” and showing them being led off to a better life by helpful doctors, as it would have been once upon a time.  It comes, instead, from Superman doing what we all can do; being human, being vulnerable, and caring enough to help. Caring enough to listen. Caring enough to care. He doesn’t lecture, he doesn’t push, he doesn’t anything except care. He gives the girl room, and he doesn’t try and downplay what she’s feeling. The encouragement that he gives, the hope that he gives, I have received a hundredfold from my friends and my family. I have been blessed beyond words to have had friends who cared enough to listen, and to be there; family who have cared enough to listen (my sister, my brothers, my mother) and an unshakable faith that, in the end, this is not all that there is.

I don’t know where you are right now. I don’t know what you are facing, have faced, or may face. To you, all I can do is offer this: you are not alone.  If you are in pain, or you are suffering, you are not the only one who is. There are those who care, and those who will listen. Don’t give in, and don’t give up. Superman said “If you think there’s a chance that there may be one more happy day out there, take my hand.” I’m here to tell you that there IS another happy day. DON’T GIVE UP.

I’m also here to say to you, the reader, that if you are not going through these things but you know those who are, don’t be afraid to be the one who steps up alongside them and offers to listen. We live in a world that is rapidly becoming faster and faster paced, and with the advent of so many electronic gadgets and ways of keeping in contact with one another over electronic mediums, is also becoming less and less human. We live in a society where people are “afraid to look foolish,” or “afraid they may misunderstand.” Don’t let that stop you or make you be distant from others. You may not be able to save everyone; indeed, no one can – but you never know what difference YOU may make with just a word, a smile, or a kind gesture. It may mean nothing to you, but it may, literally, mean everything to someone else.

I should know – I’m living proof of what a difference it can make, and I’m eternally grateful.

God bless today, my friend.

Wow! Where does the time go? :) A thought for today on choice vs. “making”

Hello again, and thank you to those who have stayed around to see when The Takedown would once again have a post put to it. Things have been a bit crazy on this end as I have been looking for work after getting my EMT certification, as well as dealing with some personal issues and life in general; but on the whole I won’t complain because I still have a home to live in, a family, and not the least of which, I woke up this morning!

My post today deals with something that we commonly do as people; namely blaming others for “making” us feel/act a certain way. I do it, I’m fairly sure anyone reading this does it – it’s a facet of our being human. It’s also something that is, at its base, untrue. Now before I go on, let me make one thing clear – I do not believe, and I believe it has been shown, that you cannot help your initial reaction to something. We don’t have that precise of a control over our emotions. You can, however, choose how you continue to respond to what was said or done, and that is where the distinction truly lies.

People don’t “make” us angry. We choose to be angry at what they’ve done, or what they’ve said, or how they’ve acted. They don’t “make” us anything, when it comes down to it. The responsibility for our choices, our ongoing feelings, and our reactions and responses to what happens around us lies with the one who looks back at us out of the mirror every day – US. (Or in my case, ME, since I don’t see any of you when I look in the mirror!)

There’s a popular post on Facebook that says “Clients don’t come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.” The statement is attributed to Richard Branson. It’s nice, it’s simple, but it’s not true. It all comes down to the choices each one of us make, every day. If the reason you treat people “well” or “take care of clients” is because your company treats YOU well, may I respectfully submit that there’s a problem? (Consider my work as an EMT – if I only treated my patients well because whomever I worked for/volunteered with treated ME well, I would think there’d be a REAL problem, and right quick, too!)

I prefer this thought, myself – and I believe it’s much more realistic (although I would substitute the word “nice” with “kind,” because “nice” is a social construct – but I digress:

Kindness and Peace

It’s something to think about.

God bless today, my friends!

 

August 6, 1945

On this date in 1945, a B-29 named the Enola Gay dropped the first of two atomic bombs used to end World War II. Since that time there has been endless agonizing over everything from how “inhuman” it was to use those bombs (somehow, those who experienced the Rape of Nanking, lived through the Bataan Death March or saw/learned of the atrocities committed on Japanese prisoners of war and others might disagree with you, but I digress) to how we didn’t “really” need to use them because “Japan was already beaten,” or how many people were killed by the bombs (the over 200,000 killed by conventional bombing might have something to say about that as well – the ones never spoken of in history, as a general rule; analogous to the 4+ million non-Jews killed by Hitler and his ilk, or the 30+ million people killed by Stalin prior to his becoming part of the Allies)

This article, written in 1946 for The Atlantic, was a real eye opener for me. I hope it is for you, too. Even at that time, people were saying many of the same things we hear now – and I believe the author, through his information, does an excellent job of proving those arguments fallacious.

Thank you, Colonel Paul Tibbets and crew of the Enola Gay for being willing to put your personal feelings aside and do what you felt would bring the quickest end to the war and save the most lives on both sides. I, for one, will not sit in the comfort and freedom that you, and others like you, bought for me some 70+ years later and criticize you.

Had the Atomic Bomb Not Been Used

God bless today, my friends.

WOW! And here we are again, with news!

Hello, friends! My apologies for the length of time since the last post, but things here have been quite busy with the school year ending, and my finishing up my EMT classes. I am happy to say that as of now I am qualified as an EMT, having successfully passed all of my courses and written exams, and this has not only been a source of great joy for me, but also a source of great relief as the classes are over and I can begin on the next leg of my journey.

It’s a good lesson in not doubting yourself, as well, as I was sure that had NOT passed, and ended up not only passing, but passing WELL.

Tomorrow is July 4th here in the States, the day on which we celebrate our independence from England. As I will be serving at our local ambulance corps, I want to take the opportunity to wish any and all of my readers a happy and safe 4th of July, and thank all those who have served or are serving for securing and protecting the freedoms we enjoy. THANK YOU!

And on a humorous note, here’s a 4th of July card for all of you – hope you enjoy it!

Captain Punches Hitler for 4th

God bless, my friends!

An item of remembrance, and one of rage that should motivate us all

As the title suggests, this is going to be a two-fer, today. As one item is a note of remembrance, I’ll start with that.

On June 9, 2017, we bid farewell to a man who I believe can properly be called an icon; Adam West. Whether you know him from the Batman series from the 60’s, or his MANY roles and voice work in television and movies since then, the man truly took his popularity and embraced it, parlaying what originally was seen as typecasting into a rollicking career in the years that followed. (Everything from the Mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island, in Family Guy to the part of a superhero called The Gray Ghost in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series) Rest well, Mr. West. You will be missed, and thank you for the memories and laughter you gave us over the years.

Now on to the second point. I had the great misfortune to read a news article detailing charges being brought against a mother for having left her two toddlers in a closed, locked car for a number of hours while she spent time with her 16 year old “male friend.” The children, unfortunately, died but what is worse, even than that, is that  people in the apartment knew DAMNED WELL WHAT WAS HAPPENING and even went so far as to repeatedly tell the mother she should do something because they could HEAR the children crying, and yet did nothing further than that. Yes, you read that right. From the accounts thus far, no one called the police, no one smashed out a window on the car, no one did anything further than keep encouraging the mother to actually take care of her children.

The children were in the car, overnight, for a total of FIFTEEN HOURS.

No one did anything to help those children. No one.

Friends, if this story doesn’t leave you shaking with rage, I honestly don’t know what to say. Sad enough that these two children died from such neglect, but to think that the people around knew what was going on but did nothing to help simply boggles my mind.

If you take nothing else away from this, please – I beg of you – take this with you. Determine, right now, this moment, to not be a bystander. If you’ve never considered it before, let this article shake you out of that mindset and make you realize that there is real, tangible evil in this world. Determine that you will not stand for it – you will not simply turn your head and say, “Nope. Not my problem. I’m not getting involved.”

I leave you with this quote from Yehuda Bauer, which I have quoted before. It was made in reference to the Holocaust, but applies whenever any of us encounter a situation in which we have to make a choice to do something, or turn away and do nothing:

“Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”

15 hours of suffering. Two children dead at the end of it. Was the mother to blame? The courts will determine that.

I can say, absolutely, that the ones who KNEW what was happening and yet did nothing, carry guilt as well, as surely as if they’d locked the car and left those children there.

God go with you today, my friends. Please – DON’T be a bystander.

 

Memorial Day – and what it means, no matter where you are

Here in the States, today is Memorial Day. It is, as I have mentioned in previous posts, a day that we set aside specifically to remember all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice; those who have given their lives to secure the freedoms that we, as Americans, enjoy. In peace or in war, in battle or behind the lines, those who gave their lives are remembered and honored, today.

That doesn’t mean, though, that this is something that is particular ONLY to the US of A. No matter where you are, no matter where you may be reading this blog from, stop and think of those who have died to secured those liberties and freedoms you enjoy – and remember their sacrifice for you today. If you’re IN the States, don’t let it just be a day off from work and a day to drink and barbecue.

Remember them – and never forget – today, or any day.

God bless, my friends, and thank you, Father, for such men and women as those we honor today!

Hello all! I’m still here! A thought for today, and something to ponder.

Hello, faithful readers! I am still here, though I have been more silent as of late because my EMT classes are rapidly coming to an end, and I am down to the wire as I approach the dates at which I will test out for my certification.

I trust and hope everyone is well and I appreciate the fact that not only do you still come to check the Takedown, but I see new people are coming as well! That is a great compliment to me, and I truly hope that things are found here to encourage, uplift and make people smile.

I want to leave you with this thought, today, that I am sure has shown up in other places on the Takedown, but that I ran across and it struck me just as it did the first time I saw it. The quote is from Yehuda Bauer, and is also the image that accompanies this post. It says, simply:

“Thou shalt not be a victim, Thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but above all, Thou shalt not be a bystander.” 

The quote speaks of not standing by and allowing injustice (TRUE injustice, not the manufactured “What can we be enraged about today” stuff we see on TV) and evil to be done while we do nothing. That same idea is referenced in a poem by Maurice Ogden called The Hangman. A remarkable video was done of the poem, and I include it below.

“…I did no more than you LET me do.”

Think about it, long and hard. God bless today, my friends.

 

YOU ARE IMPORTANT. BELIEVE IT!

Today’s post is a serious one. It stems from having read of two recent suicides in the news, and the thoughts that came to me after reading of them. As many of you who have been readers of The Takedown know, I have lost friends to suicide and it has had a great impact on who I am and what I believe. The sticky post – the first post anyone sees when they come to this blog, in fact – is a post of encouragement to one who may be feeling alone. It’s that important. I’ll open the blog with one of my all-time favorite quotes from the original series of Star Trek. In the scene, the Captain is expressing doubts about his course of action and Leonard “Bones” McCoy, says the following:

“In this galaxy, there’s a mathematical probability of three million Earth-type planets. And in all of the universe, three million million galaxies like this. And in all of that… and perhaps more, only one of each of us. [pause] Don’t destroy the one named Kirk.” (Italics and bold added by me)

It’s a powerful statement. Think of it and refer to it as I continue. I mentioned suicides in the opening of the blog but before I begin, let me make a couple of things clear. It is not my intent to, in any way shape or form judge the person or the action, and I won’t tolerate comments that do. I know I’ve been there and have had those thoughts but, by God’s grace never went through with it.  I can’t imagine what must finally be the breaking point that causes a person to take that final, fatal step. I just know that all too often, it happens, and all too often, I don’t believe it needs to.

The first being that of a student in Texas named Thomas Klocke. Amid allegations that he had harassed a gay student, after apparently being denied due process in the most egregious fashion, and faced with what he perceived as the end of his career and/or ability to continue his education, he took his own life. He was set to graduate, had no prior mental health issues or problems on campus – and now is dead.

The second is the death of Aaron Hernandez, convicted of murder and serving a life sentence without parole. Whatever we may think of him or his crime, whatever we may believe or not about the rumors of why he did it, one inescapable fact remains. Something drove him to such despair that he ended his own life.

Friends – it’s as simple as this, and something that we all need to hear and be reminded of. YOU ARE IMPORTANT. YOU ARE THE ONLY “YOU” THERE IS. There is only one thing in this world worth giving your life for – and you can find it in John 15:13 (“Greater love has no one than this; than someone lay down his life for his friends.”) There’s nothing – NO THING – on this planet worth your life unless it is the life of another person. No job, no relationship, no amount of money, no anything is more important than remembering that you are the only you there is. You are important because you ARE. Because you EXIST.  You can’t know what effect you have had or can have in the future. Have you made mistakes? Welcome to the club. Have you screwed up relationships? Join the human race. Committed crimes? Done bad things? Welcome to being human. It doesn’t define who you are, or what you can be. 

Thomas Klocke’s career wasn’t worth his life. What an example, an inspiration he could have been had he stayed and fought – stood his ground and refused to be silenced.

Whatever remorse or secrets or anything else that Aaron Hernandez may have felt or may have had weren’t worth HIS life.

Take the above quote – the one from Star Trek – and insert YOUR name instead of Kirk’s. “Dont destroy the one named…” 

Remember that you are important!

God bless, my friends!

 

A PSA today because here at The Takedown, you’re cared about.

Whatever you may think about the news site itself, I saw this article today and thought it worth passing along. Even though the article specifically says “..the Mommy Juice,” take it from someone who had an uncle who died a literal wino; this can apply to ANY gender.

The link to the article follows below:

http://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/2017/04/07/7-signs-youre-hitting-mommy-juice-too-hard.html

Friends, let me say this as I close out this article. If this article spoke to you, please do yourself and those you love a favor, even if you don’t think you need to. Get it checked out and get some help. YOU CAN DO IT. 

If you know someone who is an alcoholic, or whom you may suspect is one, do everything you can to try and help them get the help they need. You can’t make them get it, of course, but you can do all you can to help and support them, and show them you care.

Please note that “caring” does not mean “don’t say anything,” “cover for them,” “make excuses for them,” “allow myself to be abused because of their dependency,” or “help them deny they have a problem.”

Sometimes, the truest form of compassion is the ability to show tough love when God knows you’d rather take an easier way. It won’t be easy – but it will be worth it.

God bless, my friends.

 

Labels, “identifying” and the danger of both

So, in case any of you missed it, Barry Manilow (a singer who was most famous, as memory serves, back in the 70’s/80’s) has suddenly found it necessary to come out and admit he is gay.

The man is 73. Seems a bit late for whatever it was you thought you’d be doing in your admission, Barry, but I digress.

I saw a comment on the story (or non-story, if you feel as I do, simply because I don’t care who someone chooses to give their affections to, so long as it’s not an adult and a child) which said, simply, “Barry Manilow has come out as gay. Am I supposed to be surprised?” 

My reaction was much more direct and pithy. “So what?”

Friends, The Boot of Truth is that by “identifying” as gay, all Mr. Manilow has done is pigeonhole himself. He’s affixed a label to himself that, to a great many people, says “I have value because of this.” We see it a great deal. You constantly see labels affixed to descriptions of people. Michael Sam wasn’t an NFL player, he was “an openly-gay NFL player.” You see descriptions like, “the noted black/Hispanic/female” added to a person’s job or name, as though that somehow makes them better, more qualified or somehow a special person because of it. Oddly enough, these same groups are the ones who have so many members who so loudly proclaim that they “just want equality” or “just want to be accepted.”

You don’t obtain equality by labeling yourself. That gets you separation, especially when it’s so glaringly obvious that it doesn’t go both ways. (Black Music Awards? Women’s History Month? Don’t hold your breath waiting for the opposite) Your quality comes  because you are. You have it because you exist, and you’re a human being. No label gives that to you. Labels only serve to keep us separated. They allow the “us vs. them” mentality to stay alive and well and keep us fighting with one another. No matter how “good” or for what “good” purpose these labels are used, they are still labels and they still separate us.

Barry Manilow, like Michael Sam and countless others, have that quality. What a shame that either they or others felt that they needed an additional qualifier, an additional title to somehow make them “more” special.

They didn’t – because they already were, just like each of us are.

Just like YOU are.

Remember that the next time some of the PC Thought Police come along and tell you what’s “proper” to say or how to say it and insist you use their labels.  In other words:

“Beware of anyone who describes a human being as something other than human being.”
― George Monbiot

God bless, my friends.