James Foley

I know that I am not alone in mourning the tragic and senseless death of New Hampshire’s James Foley, killed by ISIS. I am sure that many others share my shock, anger, outrage and sorrow over this brutal and savage attack on an American citizen. Whatever your political views are, this is a tragedy of immeasurable proportions.

In this blog, I am careful not to air my personal political or religious views; that’s for each person to decide for themselves. Personally, I am saddened for James Foley’s family, friends and community, especially for his mother. To have given birth to a child, raised that child with love, care and joy, watched his progression through life, shared his accomplishments, successes, life milestones and more–only to lose that child in such a heartless, savage and brutal way has to be pain beyond comprehension.

My first reaction in hearing this news was typical of what many Americans must feel–a combination of rage, grief and helplessness. What can I do about events such as this? How can I help? How can I make this better? How can I live my life to honor people such as James Foley? What I have chosen to do is to write this post and continue to live my life as best I can and use all the considerable gifts I’ve been given to their highest and best purpose. I will not and can not waste time raging powerlessly against forces I can neither control nor stop. I will stay grateful for each moment I draw breath. I will not give in to acts of rage and fury. As an American, I will not give in to fear of these people.

Some say that members of ISIS are already in this country. Some say that they wouldn’t dare come here. Some say that this incident is none of our business. Some say that we should go to war right now against these people. Some say that ISIS will not stop its atrocities until we all submit to their demands and become part of their religion. I certainly don’t have answers for any of this.

All I have is the ability to put my talents and gifts to good use, mourn and remember James Foley, and not make his death a reason to be hateful or fearful. As with 9/11, this event is carved deep into my heart, and I will not forget. I will honor James Foley and all the others and make them part of my family. I will not let the horror and outrage break me or make me give up on living the best life I can and using my gifts to help those I can.

My hope is that we do not lose our humanity and good intent, or our hopes and dreams. This isĀ  how I have chosen to wage war on those who threaten our country and our way of life.



A Nice Lady

After work today I stopped at a popular discount store to pick up a few things. As I waited in line to pay up, there was a man and his little girl, about age 4, in front of me. The cashier waiting on them was a nice older (older than ME, that is) woman, who was talking cutely to the little girl. The little girl beamed up at her, and as she and her dad walked away, she said to her father, “That was a nice lady.” And to a little girl, she was indeed a very nice lady.

I put my few items on the conveyor belt and prepared to pay. The nice older woman flashed a big smile at me and asked, “Well, how are you, sweetie?” I sighed inwardly. It had been a long and frustrating day and I just wanted to pay for my things, and go home. But I smiled at her and said, “I’m just fine, thank you, and you?” She gave me a big smile and assured me that she was just as fine as she could be. Great–all pleasantries done and done.

When everything was totaled up, I asked if I could use my debit card for credit, and she grinned and said “Sure! Just go WHOOOP! with your card and select Other.”

‘WHOOOP?’ I remember her saying that to the little girl ahead of me when her dad let her use his card. I just smiled and WHOOOPED. Then she merrily walked me through the rest of the steps. When she printed the receipt for me, it obviously was at the end of the roll; it was striped with pink. She giggled and said, “Ooooh! You get the candy-striped receipt! You must be SPECIAL!!!” I gamely smiled and thanked her, gathered up my things and left before I came down with diabetes.

Look, I have been in customer service and it’s no picnic. I remember well how I had to arm myself mentally to deal kindly and patiently with people even when they were screaming at me. I’ve also been on the other end of customer service and been frustrated and angered when getting someone on the other end who obviously could care less about helping me. So, when faced with a dear old thing like this lady, what can I do but admire her unique way of dealing with her customers?

When I was a lot younger and a LOT more arrogant, I would have been fresh and insolent to a woman like this. I would have missed her obvious effort to be kind in the face of what has to be one of the most thankless jobs under the sun. This woman had to have been close to 70 (but at 63, I’m not all that far away from 70 myself!), she must have been on her feet all day, and who knows what her circumstances must be? All the way home I wondered about her. Was she alone? Was she caring for an elderly parent? Did she have her children and possibly grandchildren living with her? Was she having a hard time making ends meet and had to take whatever job she could to get by? Or was she just lonely for human contact and perhaps really loved working with people?

Well, I’ll tell you–I walked into my house with a great deal more humility and gratitude than when I left in the morning. I wished I had played along with her about that stupid pink and white striped receipt–what would it have hurt to do so? I wished I had the sense to see the greatness of spirit in this woman. How many opportunities have I missed by letting my own ego get in the way of my better self?

In other posts I’ve mentioned “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The last two agreements are “Don’t make assumptions,” and “Always do your best.” Today I made an assumption that this woman was silly and frivolous, and I did not do my best. I’m not proud of this, but I did learn something important–grace and kindness come in unexpected packages. We miss so much by being in our own heads and letting ourselves be consumed with our own cares.

Lesson learned: next time I’ll be genuinely thrilled to get that pink and white striped receipt.

Those Who Serve

On this Memorial Day, let’s all take a minute or two to imagine what America would be like without our freedoms. These freedoms we enjoy and often take for granted were won with blood and tears.

So many of our heroes in the armed forces chose to put themselves directly in harm’s way for the sake of preserving everything we cherish in this country. I am old enough to remember the draft for Vietnam and how frightening it was. Imagine being a young person with your whole life ahead of you–suddenly plucked out everything you know, to have to pack up and go to war in a place you’ve had never heard of.

When September 11 happened, many decided to sign up and go to war. Many were headed for college, or marriage, or the trades, or traveling for their own pleasure–but they chose to put all that on hold and join the service to defend our country. I am well aware that there is much controversy about war in general, especially in the Middle East. But how easy it is to complain and point fingers without putting your very life on the line.

After this latest atrocity to our country, people chose to go fight. Their hearts would not allow them to do otherwise, and they deserve our respect, our gratitude, our love and every help and service this country can provide for them.

As for our veterans, let me say this purely and simply: they deserve every kindness, service, program and benefit we can offer them. Period.

I owe my freedoms to the sacrifice of many. I owe my way of life to the blood of men and women I never met. From the stories told by those who served in my family, I am keenly aware that my freedom didn’t come without a price.

Today, like so many of us, I am going to enjoy a cookout with my family. In all our festivities, I will spare a moment to remember those who have and do serve. I am going to let my dad and my step-daughter (now in the reserves after five deployments) know how much their service means to me.

If there is a special place in Heaven for warriors (and I’m sure there is), I hope they can feel our gratitude, love and appreciation. They deserve it.