Evolution

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December 5, 2021- There was a lot of sameness about today: Breakfast at Post 6, the Sunday paper, and getting the laundry done, for another week. That set me to thinking, though, about what has changed, over the years, in a “then” and “now” fashion.

Then, I knew only people who looked, more or less, like me. I had little sense of how people of different backgrounds, who lived in other places, really thought, felt and acted. There was always a curiosity, though, and while interacting with people of other backgrounds, as I grew into manhood, was sometimes tough, we made it through to the other side as friends.

Now, I am blessed with so many people I love, our respective backgrounds, beliefs and affiliations mattering little.

Then, I knew the small area of Saugus and the surrounding towns and cities. Up north was New Hampshire, where we went on the first part , if not the entirety of every vacation. Down south was Cape Cod, which saw the second part of vacation, when times were good. Places like Providence, Rhode Island and Stamford, Connecticut were rare to our family itinerary, as was Martha’s Vineyard. Now, I have seen parts of all fifty states, have lived near, and walked all over, our nation’s capital. I have lived in Maine, during one of the worst blizzards that New England experienced during the late ’70s. My home, from 1978-86 and again, since 1992, has been Arizona. It was here, in the Southwest, that I met my darling wife, found my true Faith, and came to grips with the state of mind that set me apart from others, for so long.

There have been other places that made me grow. Jeju, Korea taught me the value of looking at life, through other cultural viewpoints. It was there that a son came into our lives, and where he would be hard-wired to seek his own helpmate, thirty years later. Life among Dineh and Hopi further expanded my sense of looking at the world through different lenses. Travels to places like Israel, the West Bank, Guyana, Taiwan, England, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany showed me, time and again, how much we can all learn from one another.

There was a time when I was of a warrior mindset. People abroad could only be saved by us mighty Americans. Then, I went to Vietnam, and found out differently. There was a time when I was of a very exclusive mindset. It was best for others to assimilate into mainstream American culture. Meeting people who are Black, Brown, Indigenous to this continent, East Asians, speaking Spanish, Navajo, Apache, Korean, Mandarin, Creole and yet, going about their lives in ways that taught me volumes, and showed how much assimilation is a myth. There was a time when I had little use for homosexuals. Then, I kept meeting people whose sexual orientation differed from my own, and found they are, in many other ways, the same as I am. Then, too, I saw how some friends underwent the hard process of gender reassignment, and I saw just how these steadfast and forthright friends of mine, one of whom was my rock, when I was at the low point in the grieving process, struggle in very fundamental ways, with aspects of life that those of us who are straight and cisgender handle in de rigeur fashion. I see that no one is pressuring me to adapt to a lifestyle to which I have no attraction; nor should I exert pressure on those who are not drawn to mine.

There remains one “blind spot” of sorts: Grifters, beggars, takers.. Is it true that, being “kind to all who cross my path”, and “if someone asks for your coat, give him your trousers, as well”, should be taken at face value? I am generous in prosperity, and yet, I do not see that having limits to largesse, lest I become a ward of others, means that I lack trust in the Creator. The Prophet Muhammad spoke, “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” I have been homeless, albeit briefly. I have been destitute, also for a very short time. The key to rising out of penury has always lain in being proactive, open-minded and resilient.

Thus have I evolved.

Ruling Myself

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April 20,2021- Today was essentially a good day-for my own self-control, in accepting the reality of a friendship’s nature. It was a good day for widening the scope of justice in our struggling nation. It was a good day for the Baha’i community, as we observed the First Day of Ridvan, the twelve-day period that celebrates Baha’u’llah’s declaration of His mission.

It was also a challenging day, in which someone on the edges of my circle told me, very bluntly, that he regarded himself and his children as my personal responsibility. To some extent, I have my own efforts to help him contact aid agencies to blame. I also recognize that he is an orphan, and as such cannot help but latch onto anyone who shows him kindness-demanding more and more, until the cord ends up being cut. I am playing out my endgame here, with a GoFundMe campaign and a continuing effort to match him with financial entities that are far better equipped to help, than is any lone individual.

I have waited a long time to be the ‘captain of my soul”. My actions will remain rooted in service to humanity-but NOT to anyone who barges into my space and expects fealty. I am involved in a far more global long game. Perhaps this is just another case of my holding someone, who wants to get close to me, at arm’s length-as another such individual told me, just before I blocked and deleted her from my life, nearly three years ago. More likely, I am figuring out how to handle someone who MAY be a grifter (most people who hound others for money ARE grifters). More likely, I am standing up and saying that my primary duty is to the Lord God; that my secondary duty is to my (biological) family and not to any interloper, no matter how many years he/she has been seeking my help.

As I said, today was a mixed bag-and this month, or next, may well end with some very emotional volleys being made.

The Road to 65, Mile 256: Desert Wildfire, Day Two

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August 11, 2015, Mohave Valley-  When a crisis overtakes a community, many people come together and work to address the challenges that have arisen.  There are a few outliers and conspiracy theorists who show up, and stage drama.  Then, there are the grifters, who show up and just want, and take.

We had all three types of humans at the  shelter, yesterday.  Several people, who had lost everything, including pets, came, stayed until the evacuation order was lifted, and left at that time.  Others stayed until morning.  Two who felt the world was against them, stayed the night and left at least with the feeling that our corner of it was not so out to get them.  Two others came in, filled their duffel bag with food and toiletries, and left around 10 PM.  (They were technically eligible to stay with us, but chose to go back to their powerless, water-less house, for the night).

Today, I was part of a three-person tam that went out to the neighbourhoods of Mohave Valley and took stock of the damage.  I was the spotter, assessing the current state of the properties.  Another man had computer images of the properties, as they were before the fire.  By comparing the two, we were able to make a realistic assessment of actual damages. These will be useful, when claims are filed.  It may sound like we’re insurance adjusters, but Red Cross uses these assessments to determine how much in emergency aid should be given.  Most people are just grateful that somebody cares and is there for them, at a very bad time in their lives.

It’s hot here, very hot, though the cloud cover from a northern low pressure system mitigated the temperature a bit.  We were glad to let the few who remained this afternoon, stay and rest.  A couple of people were comforted by the staff and made to feel more human than they had in quite a while.  Some ladies helped a badly-shaken young woman, who was disabled, to have a mini-makeover, which probably made her year, not to mention her day.

This is the true depth of what we do- to let people know that, at their core, they are important, and valued.  The fire is mostly out, and the first responders are on hot-spot duty for 48 hours.  Tomorrow noon, we will head back to Prescott, and the local team will continue helping the fire victims, in their recovery process.