Will Work for Food . . .

For years I have had the practice of trying to provide honorable work and decent wages for guys who are living near the bottom of the food chain. Today, I am really rethinking it all. Here are the things that challenge me at the present moment:

We were planning a cook-out on Saturday afternoon of Memorial Day weekend. I had had three such guys working around here last week. I told them I needed one of them for about three hours sometime on Saturday. Each one of them wanted to get the extra pay but one of the guys pleaded for me to select him . . . he “really needed the money.” He lives closest, so I agreed.

About 1 pm on Saturday he called from his neighbor’s house to report that as he was riding his bicycle to our place he was “hit by a truck” Concerned, I tried to learn what happened and how I might help him. There were no witnesses . . . he could not described the truck . . . he did not call the police . . . he did not go to the ER . . . he just rode his bicycle back home (it was fine . . . no damage)! I told him to call if he needed help or a ride to the ER, he assured me that he “would be fine after a little rest.”

A couple of hours later, I went to the corner store to pick up a bag of ice . . . and lo-and-behold . . . the dude was standing on the street corner holding a crude sign that read, “Will work for food” . . . the poor dude almost fainted when he looked up and saw me! I honestly was embarrassed for him. Sadly, he went through some motions trying to convince me how seriously injured he had been in the “hit and run.”

As a man, that stuff really bugs me; but, then the thought comes to me that I really don’t know all that has happened in the poor dude’s life that enables him to stand and hold such a sign . . . begging for kindness and sympathy from total strangers. As I think on that, I wonder what would have to die inside me to ever put me in that situation . . . I can’t even conceive that situation.

The next day he came around wanting a few bucks. I denied his request and he almost cried . . . declaring that he was out of cigarettes and simply could not go until the 3rd when his SSI check hit the bank. I ended up driving the rascal to the store and buying him a carton of cigarettes, with his solemn declaration that he would repay me “next week.”

As I watched the dude ride off on his old bicycle, I recalled a recent conversation I had with Chris. We were discussing how difficult it was to find certain people who had a particular set of skills and he said that street-people were actually smarter than we gave them credit for . . . they were always pretty quick in finding what they were seeking. He said, “I have lived around this town most of my life and I would not have a clue how to find some guy selling street drugs . . . but a street-guy can ride into town on a greyhound bus and in a couple of hours he can find him! As I watched the dude ride off . . . it struck me like a bolt of lightning . . . “they darn sure found me!” I thought about what Chris said and tried to take it to heart . . . Then the thought struck me, “Chris took the dude to the pawn shop a few months back and bought him that bicycle he is now riding . . . so he didn’t have to walk!” But I don’t want to be too quick to point the finger at Chris. I met one of the other dudes in front of Walmart Saturday morning and loaned him $150 to buy a new bicycle “so he can get to work.” He had actually called me on his “Obama phone.”

I chuckled . . . and for about the millionth time I pondered just where the line might lie between “Love ye one another” . . . and the command to be a good stewart. Hmmmm

Do you know where that line lies?

Mama’s House . . .

Last night I read about the Dallas Cowboys beginning team-activities this week. There was a heart-warming story of this year’s Cowboy #4 draft pick, Ezekiel Elliott, #21, who had just used some of his signing bonus to buy his mother, Dawn Elliott, and family a new home in the St. Louis area where he grew up. He was quoted in the article as saying, “It just feels really good to do something for my mom to thank her for all she did and sacrificed for me as a kid.” From time-to-time I hear of a kid doing this for his Mama and it tells me a great deal about both the kid and his Mama.

I suppose the first time I heard of it was when Elvis bought his Mana a house. He is also said to have bought her a different colored Cadillac for each day of the week. Elvis’ love, respect, admiration, and appreciation for his mom was legendary.

A number of years back, I was involved with the remodel and sale of an apartment complex in Cedar Hills . . . 30 minutes out of Dallas. I recall a guy driving me on the outskirts of the town where there was a two-story mansion that was easily 10,000 square feet and sat upon a well-landscaped seven- to 8-acre site, fenced with an 8-foot high ornamental metal wrought-iron fence complete with end finales, and a 12-foot electronic controlled security gate. The gate had two large initials . . . perhaps 3-feet in height . . . it was the letter “S” in English script. The guy said that was the new home Emmet a Smith, Dallas Cowboy #22, had just built for his Mama. There was a black stretch-limo in the driveway. The guy said there were a dozen household employees, four yard men, and 2 drivers, and Emmett’s Mama taught them all in an hour long Bible study every day! . . . sounded like what my own mother would do!

Speaking of my mother . . . Sandy and I, joined with my sister, Dorothy, and brother, Billo, and bought her a lovely three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the nicest neighborhood in Burnet. We bought the house from the retired bank president. That was a really sweet moment when we drove her to the house, walked her inside to look, and gave her the door key. She asked what it was about . . . we said, “We love you . . . this is your new home.” She wept tears of joy . . . both because she loved and appreciated the lovely new home and because she was overwhelmed by the love of her adult children. I will remember that day . . . and the sweet look on her gentle face all of the days of my life! Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to honor her and make her life a bit sweeter.

 

Setting Goals . . .

For much of my adult life I have worked with and under various governmental contracts, which always were accompanied with rules and regulations. Those rules and regulations were generally well-intentioned originally, even if convulsed over time by meddlesome bureaucrats trying to make their mark. One example is the requirement to develop an operating budget. To me a budget is a proposed financial plan intended to be a guide, but it certainly is not iron clad nor perfect. There is no logical way to plan for flooding, but if it occurs it must be dealt with regardless if one’s budget provides for such expenses. Tragically, budgets and most of the regulatory requirements imposed by the government today are no longer actually planning tools . . . they have simply become requirements for box checkers to report that the item is included within the file. However, through the years it has taught me to become goal-oriented; thus, I set goals. I never set goals and plan merely for the sake of planning . . . I plan and set goals to achieve a desired, specific result. I write this blog for folks I love . . . and I believe I know some things about planning that just might help them down the road, thus a few tricks I have learned about setting and accomplishing goals are as follows:

1. The difference between a wish and a goal is pretty simple . . . the goal is written down, while the wish remains in my head/heart of imagination. There is just something about taking the wish and writing it down as a goal that makes it achievable. Quit dreaming and wishing . . . write it down and start planning (aiming);

2. Each goal I set for myself ought to be accompanied by a target date (or steps) in order that as I move forward in time I am able to measure the success of the steps I am taking to reach my goal; e.g. if my goal is to have a savings account balance of $1,000, I need to decide if I want to reach that place in a one-year period or over a ten-year period. If I want to accomplish that goal in a year, yet in six months I have saved zero, I can determine what I am doing is not working, and can modify or adjust my efforts (the simple math formula is: $1,000 divided by 12 = $83.33 per month that must be set aside);

3. Goals ought to be reasonable . . . it would be unwise to set a goal to purchase a home and pay the mortgage off in one year, under normal circumstances. Remember, a person who weighs 150 pounds can only eat a 3,000 steer one bite at a time;

4. Reaching goals can be made easier if I can break them down into smaller components and smaller time frames. Example: Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player in history. In fact, he was so great that he actually managed to retire twice . . . with great interest by the fans. After 15 years of playing basketball, he had averaged just over 32 points per game . . . that is a huge accomplishment with 90+ games per year. A reporter asked him, “How did you manage to do that?” Jordan replied, “My goal was to score eight points per quarter. I did what it took each quarter to do that!” He took the bigger goal and broken it down into smaller, more manageable parts;

5. God gave each one of us an incredible ability to hit what we aim at, and oftentimes we hit nothing because that is just what we aimed at. Most kids have had a Dad, uncle, granddad, or someone teach them how to shoot a BB gun. The kid can shoot 100 rounds at a soda can without hitting it, but with some minor instructions . . . e.g. “here is the front sight, here is the rear sight, close your left eye, look along the barrel and slightly line the small ball of the front sight up above the V of the rear sight, and line them up with the soda can. Hold your breath and squeeze the trigger.” Bang . . . in just a few tries the ten-year-old kid is hitting the soda can consistently. Think about the physics involved in all of this . . . a 10-year-old kid . . . hurling a 1/16″ metal ball through space at the rate of speed of 800′ per second over a 50′ span and hitting a target of 2″ width. It almost seems impossible when considered from that perspective; yet, our Creator gifted us with an amazing ability to hit what we aim at!

I challenge you . . . develop a plan for something you have been wanting to accomplish. Establish a few reasonable steps (things you must do to make it happen), add a timeline to measure your progress (much like mile-markers along the highway), roll up your shirt sleeves, and get to work turning your dream into your reality. Keep in mind that your unwillingness to stick to the plan might prove to be the biggest obstacle.

Just a personal note: if you are my family, you know the place from which I started the life experience . . . one of eight children in a lower-income family. As a young married man with two small children, I had a dream of building and owning an apartment complex. I was plagued with problems known in the industry as Barriers to Entry . . . roadblocks established to keep the unqualified from getting into the development business. A few barriers were (the need for):

. . . a strong financial statement
. . . an established track record
. . . the required 15% down payment (15% of a million bucks is a bunch of money)
. . . strong credit history

Yet, in spite of those huge barriers, the Lord blessed my hard work and planning and actually had a government agency pursue me . . . asking that I assist it with developing a new housing program. The agency’s need, together with my ability and willingness, constituted “sweat equity” . . . which enabled the agency to reduce the prohibitive requirements. It got me in business . . . and the rest is history! I have been developing, building, buying, remodeling, selling, trading, and managing apartment complexes over about 75% of Texas for 40 years! In fact, I am within five years of having my first complex paid off at the bank . . . that is the almost perfect place to be in my business!

Planning, dreaming, and hard work are tools the Lord can use in a human’s life. Be wise . . . be prudent . . . be a dreamer . . . be a planner . . . be a hard worker . . . and set some goals! Be wise with the success it will produce . . .

 

A Strange Trip . . .

The dude asked, “Can you give me a ride to see my doctor so I can get my medicine?” He quickly went on to say, “I am getting pretty desperate . . . It has been awhile, and no one else will give me a ride unless I pay them!” He is not a guy I enjoy being around very much, but hey, I will help anyone out if I can. I told him that I would drive him to see his doctor. We agreed on a time and I told him I would pick him up.

When he got in my car, I knew instantly something was pretty seriously wrong. He told me where his doctor was located . . . an MHMR clinic about 30 miles away. As we headed out, he told me that he had been diagnosed as being bi-polar and he really needed his medication. He added that he had been out for several days and had not slept in three days. By the time we arrived at the clinic the dude has rubbed, touched, or twisted everything on the dash of my car and was banging on the windows, while talking at about 90 mph. In my line of work, I am regularly exposed to people living at the bottom of the food chain and struggling to have things make sense, but this poor fellow stood out like a 100,000 candle powered Q-beam shining across the bay in the dark of night.

I tried to talk in soothing and assuring tones to him . . .I understood the poor dude was sick. Once we arrived there, he jumped out of my car and he literally ran to the door, like a young boy pursuing the ice cream truck. It broke my heart to grasp how pitiful he is . . . prior to this eye-opener, I merely viewed him as being irritating.

Mental illness is a serious and tragic reality in our culture. There is a debate taking place questioning if mental illness is actually on the increase or if mental health professionals are just quicker to diagnose and medicate folks as such. The most frequent categories seem to be bipolar, schizophrenia, major depression, or anxiety disorder. I don’t know the answer to the question, but in my business I have certainly seen an increasing number of middle-aged folks getting either SSI or Disability Social Security. The reason I see that is such a determination by SSA makes the individual eligible for housing assistance. One side argues that an increasing number of folks are so unhappy in life and the work-place that it creates a depression. Others argue that the increase is due to quick and poor diagnosis combined with an increase in the number of individuals who have simply elected to check out of the game and go on the dole. Records show that there was an increase of two hundred and fifty percent (250%) in the number of people being awarded SSI between the years of 1987 and 2007, and the average age dropped from 29.5 years to 15 years. Of course, the truth is that could also be true, in part, due to a new definition under the American with Disabilities Act (a broad and sweeping law that has had great impact on much of society). There is certainly a new eligibility criteria . . . I just am not certain that the number of sick folks have actually increased. I do know the new ADA law has proved to be quite costly and burdensome to local school districts as they are forced to consider and offer “reasonable accommodations.”

Frankly, I don’t know the rights and wrongs of the debate. Nor do I know the answers to this dilemma, but I do know that the dude I drove to see his doctor was properly diagnosed and he really needs his meds. I hope he slept better last night . . . I prayed for him that he might.

But by the grace of God . . . there goes I (or you). The Apostle Paul in I Thessalonians 5:14 (KJV) encouraged us to be kind to those with mental struggles. I have always tried to be . . . I will try ever hander now.

 

 

What a Dangerous Time . . .

EgyptAir Flight 804 crashed into the Mediterranean Sea, killing everyone onboard. The experts are trying to determine what happened, but it seems most of them believe it was an act of terrorism. It was practically a new airplane.


It was reported that just last month some 70 employees of that airport (Cairo) were fired due to sympathies with various terror groups. My question is simply, “Why were they even hired in the first place . . . why wasn’t that discovered before they were hired and allowed access to airplanes?” The world has become a very dangerous place, but it is made even more dangerous when those in positions designed to protect people act with negligence.

Our situation in the USA is extremely peculiar in that our current President has proven time and time again that he is a sympathizer with those angry Muslims and refuses to identify them as terrorist (his order to his Administration), instead he sees them as Freedom Fighters. He views their struggle being against Western aggression (the USA, the very Nation he laid his hand upon the Holy Bible and before God and the world vowed to protect and defend against all enemies . . . both foreign and domestic). He has utterly neglected his vow . . . and has dismantled our military. A large portion of our military officers have left office as they have watched him do this evil.

Information out today reports the identities of the pilot as Mohamed Said Shoukair and Mohamed Mamodouh Assem. The question is, “What’s in a name?” Well, honestly, I am not certain about these men, their background, or political leanings, but I would like for someone . . . anyone . . . to show me a terrorist that is not named Mohamed!

It Seems to Me . . . that we are far from prevailing in this war against terror. I am not a man of war, but I do know that a prerequisite to winning a war, is that the enemy must be identified, and then engaged. We must identify this enemy! I don’t believe it is actually all that difficult . . . our war is not against all Muslims . . . only those who remain silent against these evil aggressors. The time has come for the battle lines to be drawn and folks need to get on one side or the others.

In the war against discrimination in the mid- 20th century, a great spokesman rose up and spoke to a nation. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said the greatest guilt rested upon those who remained silent as others did their evil deeds. The time has come for these supposedly “peaceful Muslims” to rise up and be heard . . . or be identified as the enemy within the camp.

I remember my brother, Willie, and friends returning from Viet Nam and speaking of our soldiers being unable many times to identify the enemy . . . sometimes women and children would approach soldiers. They would approach smiling and being friendly and suddenly throw a hand grenade into the group. They also told of military trials at various bases against returning soldiers with the charge being, “Killing the Enemy.”

This is stuff that makes a simple man scratch his head . . . I confess that I am scratching my head. Things like two mass killings on state-side military bases by angry Muslims being labeled as “workplace violence” instead of properly identified as acts of terrorism, are confusing . . . just as 70 airport workers being fired . . . who should never have been hired in the first place.

 

The Dude is Really Peculiar . . .

It Seems to Me that I have something about me that attracts peculiar people . . . but this dude takes it to a totally new level. He comes around from time to time and is always broke and looks hungry. As maddening as he is, my heart hurts for him.

He talks loudly . . . and a lot . . . I mean like every breath. He talks about anything . . . everything . . . nothing. He loves to talk about his being a Catholic and his brother being a Baptist preacher. I think it disappoints him that he is unable to create a debate with me on the issue. Yet, he talks and talks, and I have to remind him that he is being paid to perform tasks . . . not to visit. He is always recommending local business to me for services and repairs with the encouragement, “That is where I always take my stuff.” He even does that on auto repairs . . . I doubt he has even had a car or driver’s license in 20 years.

I suspect he is a heavy drinker, but he insists he isn’t. One of the indicators for my thinking such is that we will make a deal that he can work for “a while” and is to be paid only by check on Friday afternoons. In spite of that agreement, every day he asks for a $20 advance . . . and acts as if it is a matter of life and death. Most of the time, I will pull a $20 bill out of my pocket and give it to him, but he has a way of asking at the most inconvenient times . . . when I am in the pool working out, when I am dealing with other workers, when I am in the office working with someone, or even more than once per day. When he comes back the second time in the day, I remind him that he already got $20, to which he replies, “I had to use that $20 for medicine.” I suspect he just might be calling Bud Light “medicine.” One day recently I had a crew working around the yard and shop and had a welder scheduled to show up to make a couple of repairs. I had pulled a utility trailer to Corpus to pick up a couple of joints of pipe for the welder to use. As the pipe was being loaded onto the trailer, my phone rang . . . it was the dude. Thinking he was probably calling to tell me the welder had arrived at the shop, I answered the call. He said, Mr. Melton, where are you?” I was dumbfounded and asked him why he was calling, to which he replied, “I need to get my $20 . . . where is your son, Chris? When will you be home?” I chuckled and said, “The answer to each of your questions is ‘None of your business’ and you will just have to get by without your $20 advance today” and hung up.

A cold, hard truth in working with folks like him is: The giver must set some boundaries, because the taker knows no boundaries. I can have a houseful of company and this pilgrim will knock on the door to ask for a cup of water . . . in spite of the fact that we have two outside refrigerators stocked with bottle water, sodas, and Gatorade openly available to him and the other workers.

Chris is a smart, well-educated guy and we occasionally discuss the dude . . . because I want him to understand my reasoning in trying to help folks like this pilgrim . . . as well as why I hand a few bills to folks standing on the street corner holding up a sign. I want my son to know that I try to view those folks through eyes that think, “That was once a beautiful baby in a loving mother’s arms . . . and I don’t know what happened to put him or her here at this place today, so I will try to leave judgments to the true Judge and I will limit my role to being a kind-hearted servant.”

Chris recently told me that one of the ways in which God created humans and animals differently was that He placed within man the ability to think and plan. Examples:

1. It might rain tomorrow, so today I ought to build a roof to cover my family, my possessions and myself; and 2. I will need to eat again tomorrow, thus I need to do something today to help facilitate that (plant, water, fertilize, set traps, store away, put bait lines in the water, etc.) Of course, animals have no such ability to plan and reason, they simply live in the present moment, as if that is all there is. Perhaps the most that an animal is capable of is to hide away an uneaten portion of a meal for a later time.

My struggle in all of this is centers on just how did or at what point of the life journey do some people lose that ability . . . or surrender such thinking? The answer to that question escapes me, yet it also troubles me . . . and troubles me considerably. I struggle with the question of whether it is a loss of something mental, emotional, or perhaps even spiritual. Is it lost forever, or can it be reclaimed under certain conditions?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I still wrestle with them. In spite of that lack of understanding, I want to do what I can . . . where I can . . . with what I have. So, I struggle to remain focused on the person’s need and not on what might be the cause.

Whatever the cause . . . this dude is there . . . and he never even considers that he is using and consuming today what he will likely need tomorrow. He rejects any suggestion in that regard . . . he wants what he wants . . . and he wants it right now. There seems to be quite a lot of that going around. The current political process clearly reflects the troubling numbers who are at that place!

Great Expectations . . . May 14, 2016

I am a married man . . . but I have a date this morning with a beautiful young girl! Her name is Alison . . . my oldest granddaughter . . . age 8. Our date is to go fishing . . . we are taking her Dad along, too. Let me explain. Ali and her little sister, Abigayle (Abi), are here for a visit . . . the fish are biting . . . we have a volunteer guide . . . and we are going to have some fun and catch some fish for the girls to take home.

My pal . . . and Sunday school boy, Charlie, called me Thursday afternoon just delighted to announce he had caught two limits of Redfish . . . and he did so very quickly. He called back Friday morning to say he went back to the same place and was calling from that honey-hole to announce he had limited-out in 30 minutes. Charlie was excited and said there was a big school of fish hanging out there. I asked . . . and he agreed . . . that Ali should go on Saturday morning.

 

Chris and I discussed the trip and how cool it would be for us to cast out and let Ali reel in the fish. Chris is quite experienced in such matters . . . I started taking him when he was about Abi’s age. As I went into the kitchen last night I saw, prominently displayed on the center island, a bottle of sun block and a bag of Oreos . . . both are absolutely essential equipment for fishing trips with kids. Chris learned well!

Ali is excited . . . her Dad is excited . . . I am excited! It is going to be a sweet day. I hope we catch a good mess of fish! We all have high hopes . . . great expectations!

 

Pedro . . . a Man who Can . . . and Will

Pedro has worked for me for some 20+ years. He is a great old guy and an excellent craftsman. He has done some really good work for me over the years. A few years back Sandy bought the Hill Country house. I had Pedro go to Burnet, live in the house, and do a total restoration/remodel. Pedro did a beautiful job and delighted in telling me in his heavily-accented English, “Senor Melton, ju yust to be mi’ jefe, but today, Madame Melton es my beeg boss . . . she now signs mi’ checke and tells mi’ what to do!” He would chuckle loudly at his own joke. Upon completion of the house there, I brought Pedro back to the Coast where he assumed the duties of the maintenance man at an elderly apartment complex. A couple of years back, we did an extensive remodel on the bathroom in our master suite at the house. Pedro oversaw that extensive project and did much of the more-detailed work himself. It turned out beautifully and largely because Pedro was involved.

 

As I blogged a few days back, I have had the guys busy doing landscape lighting as Sandy’s Mother Day gift. The lights are terrific and adds a real charm, but as that project developed, I grew concerned that the light fixtures themselves were vulnerable to a lawnmower and weed-eater. The result was that I had the guys form around each fixture and pour concrete, which we then painted and set decorative stones. The fixtures are now protected and the concrete and stones suggest that someone cared enough to do something extra.

One area of the back yard I have never much liked and thought rather bland has been a hose-bib arrangement beside the pool slide. The hose-bib was supported by a 4″ X 4″ post about 2′ in height, which also served as a hanger for a garden hose. As I worked out in the pool and thought about it, I came up with the idea to “fix it,” so I called Pedro. Pedro is on medical leave as he had a hernia repaired a few weeks back, so he cannot work, but he can still think, plan, direct, and oversee others. Besides, he is like a tiger in a cage and being idle is driving him nuts . . . as well as his family. Pedro came down to the house and I showed him what I was thinking about and he got excited as he began to see the possibility. He suggested that the left-over ceramic tile left in Burnet be utilized here. I asked him to do the quick math and determine how much of the tile would be needed for the job, and I called Courtney . . . who just so happened to be in Burnet getting her “hair did.” As I got Courtney on the phone, Pedro walked past me and whispered that he needed to go to his truck to fetch a measuring tape. As Courtney and I visited and discussed the pending project, the tile and the burden of her having to load and haul it home, I noticed Pedro reenter the back yard from the side gate. He walked back to the work station, bent over, removed his sandal, and began measuring the thing we are going to build. I got really tickled watching this great craftsman using his sandal as a measuring devise, but then I thought about his life and it made me have even greater respect for this good man. His story is like so many others of his generation . . . born in Mexico on his grandparent’s small farm, brought to Texas by his mother at age 10, only having attended a small, primitive country school in Mexico for three years. Upon arrival in Texas, he was immediately put to work as kitchen help in a relative’s restaurant. All he has ever known is hardship, challenges, and back-breaking work, but he was committed to the notion of making his life count for something and living to his potential. As an adult with a family, he enrolled in evening classes and learned to read and write, but he did not quit there. He took English as a Second Language classes and learned to speak English quite well. He did this at night when many others around him hung out in the bars and drank. Pedro’s entire life has been about using what little resources he had available to get the task accomplished. This project at hand will certainly be the same.

My friend, Pedro, is an inspiration. He is always happy, laughing, and enjoying his life . . . and being positive about everything. As I consider his background and his challenges, and then think of some folks I know who were born in this great land of plenty . . . of opportunity . . . who settled for the scraps of life, I admire him even more. As I sat by the pool with him yesterday and saw his quick wit, basic natural genius, his wonderful can-do attitude, joyous laughter, bright blue eyes, and warm smile, it occurred to me that Pedro . . . under the right circumstances . . . could have very well been a medical doctor.

I am certain that Pedro is a man who absolutely meets the measuring stick I used in yesterday’s blog about talent. This man has some . . . and he strives to utilize it to the max. I am glad Pedro is on my team!

 

 

Talent . . .

. . . is a very interesting word. It means . . . natural aptitude or skill . . . synonyms being . . . flair, aptitude, facility, gift, knack, technique, touch, bent, ability, expertise, capacity, and faculty. In ancient times it was used as a unit of measure such as in value . . . or in the weight of gold or silver. The Bible often uses the term talent in this context (a Grecian weight), but in more modern times, its use has been more directed toward the natural endowments of a person.

I am not certain why, but It Seems to Me . . . that I have heard the word used more in the past few days than I have heard it used in the past year. The first use that seemingly triggered something in my mind was by a fellow who called to chat. He is an old oilfield guy who has been fortunate enough to find a job in this time of decline in that segment of the economy. I congratulated him on his success but he, for some reason that escapes me, tried to present himself as casual about it all. In the pause in the conversation, I thought it seems peculiar that he didn’t express thankfulness at having work when so many do not. His next statement really gave me pause. He commented that it was challenging working in an industry in which there “is no longer any talent.” It struck me that it was error . . . a misuse of the word. I suppose he was really addressing the natural transition that occurs in the work-place as older workers move on, retire, or die and younger workers replace them. I just found it a peculiar use of the word.

I typically think of talent in the context of . . . the kid on the sandlot who can throw the ball further—with a tighter spiral—than the other guys . . . the cute little girl on stage who is more poised and graceful than the other girls as they perform the dance routine. A second use of the word I heard this week was in a news article/feature story in the San Antonio Express News about the surgeon who fixed my knee. The article told of a surgery he performed on the hip of a marathon runner and the guy actually ran the New York City Marathon five months after the surgery. The article said the guy suffered an accident that seriously damaged his hip and several surgeons insisted that the only option was hip replacement, which would end his ability to run. Then he heard of the “talent” of my surgeon. My surgeon repaired the damage and the runner is back in the game. I thought the use of the word “talent” was much better and more appropriate in this context.

This is the time of the NBA playoffs and there is pretty much two games per night on TV of the teams competing for the coveted trophy and bragging rights. These teams are the very best and are led by the best players. The sports-casters and analysts use the word “talent” with pretty much every breath as they describe these very athletic guys; however, I think they often over-use the word.

As I thought of the fellow who called and what I found to be a peculiar use of the word and also of the news article about my friend/surgeon and all of this NBA activity on display, I remembered that Jesus told of an employer who called in three employees and gave each a specified number of talents . . . to one he gave ten . . . to the second he gave two . . . and to the third he gave one talent. Jesus didn’t bother to explain the employer’s selection criteria, nor how or why these three were selected . . . only that they were selected, gifted, and instructed, then the employer left on an extended trip. The focus of the story turns to what each of the three employees did, and what transpired when the employer returned. Two of the fellows distinguished themselves and returned double to the employer who had words of praise for each man. However, the third fellow said that he, motivated by fear, had buried the talent and, thus, was returning the unused talent. As I reflected on Jesus’ story, it occurred to me that just as there were no people in the story without talent; likewise, there are no people in life without talent . . . and the real issue . . . from the perspective of the One which distributes talent . . . is what I do with the talent I have been given. I must confess that I can identify with the fellow who only received one talent . . . “Wow, look at all of the talent those guys got, and I just have this one,” but I know there is danger in comparing . . . that only serves to make one become vain or bitter. I believe the real point to Jesus’ story is to remind us that a day is coming for each of us on which we will each one be evaluated on how well we used what we have been given . . . there will be no comparison of me with the fellow with the oilfield job, the surgeon, or any NBA player. The only comparison will be of what it was that I did . . . with what I could/should have done.

We know the earth is a place in which there are great deposits of hidden treasure/riches . . . oil, natural gas, coal, precious metals, gems, etc. but the thought sadly came to me . . . perhaps the richest place on earth is the cemetery . . . and who knows how much buried talent there might be.

Just a closing thought . . . a man who lived quite a number of years back did some amazing things with something quite simple. His name was George Washington Carver . . . a black man who became a botanist. A man born into such obscurity that his date of birth was unknown to him all of the days of his life . . . a man who every day faced the limitations society placed upon him simply because of his skin color; yet, in spite of those barriers, he took the simple peanut . . . and together with his God-given talent, turned his work into some 300 patents!

Think about that the next time you make a peanut butter sandwich!

The Great Cost of Silence . . . the Greater Cost of Continued Silence . . .

I am increasingly amazed at how terribly our culture seems to be confused . . . there just seems no limit to the ignorance. However, I am unable to even find one individual who seems to be confused over the issues plaguing our culture (transgender bathrooms, illegal aliens, Muslim aggression, and the list goes on and on). It Seems to Me . . . that the average person still understands the right and wrong of most issues . . . the confusion seems to reset only with our government and the media.

Over the past 50 years, as every day, average people went to work, earned a living, took care of their families, served the needs in their local communities, and served in their local Churches, elected officials and judges across the world have created some real nightmares with which society must struggle. I suspect that there has been a strong force underwriting and energizing this confusion. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus and urged them to be strong, to keep close tabs on their hearts and minds—and warned, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places . . .”

Some examples of issues that I find confusing:

. . . Supreme Court decision that prayer and the Holy Bible are offensive and must be kept from the school house . . . I have never met one single person who believed that foolishness;

. . . Supreme Court decision that it is Constitutional to burn the American flag in the street if done in protest . . . again, I have never once met one single individual who believed that foolishness;

. . . Supreme Court decision on Roe vs Wade . . . permitting the wholesale slaughter of unborn children . . . reports today allege that some 30 million babies have been murdered under this decision . . . but I rarely ever encounter anyone who publicly stands in support of this evil; and

. . . Muslim tolerance . . . and immigration . . . which is being crammed down our throat by Washington . . . yet, I don’t know one single person who stands in support of this craziness.

Yesterday, I read an e-mail that addressed the impact upon society as good, decent folks remained silent . . . while confused, misguided people in leadership played their foolish games. The focus of that email was on an article written by one, Sebastian Velar Rodriquez of Spain. Mr. Rodriquez wrote of his thoughts as he walked along a street in Barcelona and looked around. He said the notion struck him that Europe had literally died in Auschwitz . . . as that continent remained silent and permitted a crazy man to murder six million Jews . . . and then for leaders to, over time, replace them with twenty million Muslims! He wrote, “We burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who literally changed the world. The contribution of these people in all areas of life, science, art, international trade, and above all—as the conscience of the world . . . those were the people we burned! And under the pretense of tolerance and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we are cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to twenty million Muslims, who brought us stupidly and ignorance, religious extremism, lack of tolerance, crime and poverty due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with any measure of pride or respect. They have blown up and destroyed so many of our cities in this nation. We have literally traded culture for fanatical hatred; creative skills for destructive skills; and intelligence for backwardness, ignorance, and superstition. We exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jewish people and their talent for a better future for their children and their determination to clinging on to life because they believed life is holy . . . for those who pursue death, for people consumed by death for themselves and others . . . for their children and for ours.”

After thinking about Mr. Rodriquez’ article for a day, I am pretty certain that he has accurately described the current state of affairs across Europe. I read Sunday morning that London has just elected a Muslim as Mayor . . . selecting him over a Jewish fellow. That made me sad . . . for them . . . then I remembered that all of this same foolishness has crossed over “the pond” and inflicted the USA, too . . . in fact, we are well into the 2nd term of a Muslim President!

God save the Queen? . . . How about “God Help us . . . we are almost undone!”

Jeff Foxworthy, a comic who looks at life with humor and common sense, often describes the USA as “a nation created by geniuses . . . but being run by idiots.”

It Seems to me . . . both Mr. Rodriquez and Mr. Foxworthy are onto something . . .