Monday, December 5, 2016


My favorite time of the year is the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year.  During that month and a half, most of us gather with family for laughter, shared meals, memories, gift-giving, celebrations, and setting goals to improve ourselves for next year.  Some of us visit friends, family, or places that have previously been sources of joy or memories. A few of us will find someone who thinks s/he has little to be thankful for, and make a difference to that one person, if only for a few hours. 

In October, I had occasion to visit the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Post 4, located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street North.  For those of you unfamiliar with Birmingham, that is probably the center of the poorest, most underprivileged, homeless, hungry population in Birmingham. At first, I was reticent to even visit this organization. It isn’t in a section of Birmingham I drive through, but AROUND.  But I had agreed to share my time and my “talent”, so to DAV Post 4 I went.

I won’t bore you with the details of my visit, but at the end of the hour, I had discovered something: First, I’m a life member of the DAV, but I discovered that I am a member of none other than Post 4! You guessed it -  I’ve never been to a meeting. The Commander was thrilled when this discovery was made, and insisted that I start attending, the 4th Thursday of every month.

“Next month, Thanksgiving falls on the 4th Thursday,” I pointed out, hoping for a reprieve for at least a month. “Do you have an alternate meeting day?” He looked at me with a furrowed brow.

“No. We will meet Thanksgiving Day,” he smiled. “We will be serving Thanksgiving dinner, so bring your family!”

I was a little confused. “Then you will meet at noonish?”

“No,” he smiled. “We will be here at 8am to start cooking, and will start serving around noon, and will serve until everyone has eaten. We will pause at 6pm, our usual time, for a short meeting, and continue serving and eating until everyone is through.”

“Well, what if people come in off the streets?”  I was thinking there are at least a couple hundred homeless people within a few block area. His reply was so kind, and so unselfish:

“It’s EVERYONE’S Thanksgiving,” he said. “We will serve our members and their families, as well as the 400 or so homeless people we usually serve. We will also have blankets and goodie bags for anyone that wants or needs them. That will take most of the day and evening. We will pause at 6pm for our meeting. I hope to see you and your family here for a delicious meal and some camaraderie.”

I’ve digressed here.  It’s just that I was totally blown away by this little organization’s unabashed and unselfish gifts of time, talent, and money… just as Jesus said.

This is the time of year that we celebrate our blessings, but also the time we start to look forward to a new year, a new beginning of sorts. (Some of us are also planning for our upcoming income tax issues.) Most of the people I work and play with are some of the most generous people I’ve ever known. And I mean this in every sense of the word! 

There are those that give hours upon hours of time in service to missions too numerous to mention: The American Legion, the V.A. Hospital, cleaning stoves and refrigerators at a huge warehouse in Norwood, Avondale Samaritan Place, their churches. There are those that give freely of their talents, and it is those who keep the “doors “ of the various organizations open, and who facilitate roof patches, stove repair,  grounds upkeep, and plumbing issues, to name a very few of their talent gifts.

There are those who give very generous monetary gifts that provide food  for the hungry and shelter for the homeless, and support Children and Youth services, and keep the power and water on down at the VFW, and so much more!

So, in this time of Thanksgiving, I ask you to think about your many blessings, pray about them, and see what of those you can share. Can you spend an hour on Wednesday serving soup to the homeless in Avondale Park? Can you vacuum the VFW once a month? Can you deliver a bicycle to some little one who needs a smile for Christmas? There are myriad ways to give of your time and talents.

And while you’re thinking, think on this: Can you skip one Starbucks every week for someone for whom $5 is a meal? Or for an organization that will match your gift? That would be $250/year. When you go out to eat, can you eat chicken instead of steak? Or go to McDonalds for their delicious grilled chicken salad instead of Chuy’s?  In a year, that’s a savings of another $300 or so.  (I could skip Mario’s pizza and eat Publix pizza, for example.)

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Well I’m issuing a “Coffee Cup Challenge”. It works like this: Look at your weekly habits. Find something you can do weekly to save the cost of a Starbuck’s coffee (about $5), and drop that in your offering plate every week… or put it in the “cat can” at your VSO meeting, or donate it to Wreaths Across America, or to the Overlook project  for the Support Committee for the Alabama National Cemetery, or any way you want to do it, add that $250 to your Christmas gift to your favorite charity.

If everyone I know took on my Coffee Cup Challenge, 2017 would be an UNBELIEVABLY wonderful year for so many who don’t have as many blessings as you have.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

AT&T: The Definition of Customer “Service”

If you’ve ever dealt with AT&T, you may have had an experience similar to mine. The definition of “service” here is the one that means “mating”, as in “the stallion serviced the mare”. Just letting you know before you read this.

Let me give you some background: Last September I received a disconnect notice from Uverse. When I called, they said my debit card had expired, so my (automatic) payment request had been returned from my bank. OK. Fair enough. How much was my bill? $139. WOW! My monthly charge is $60. Why so high? Well, I was told, there is the $60 account fee, plus $50 equipment charge, plus a late fee, plus a reconnect fee, plus a $5 convenience  fee for now paying my bill by phone. So I gave them the new expiration date, and paid the outrageous bill.

Thinking this would be the end of that, I settled into complacency, knowing there would be no more problem until 2021, when my debit card expires again.

Today I get a message from AT&T that my internet service has been disconnected again, and I owe $132. WTF? So I call, go through the infinitely long recorded menu, which informs me I just made a $132 payment on November 20, and finally reach a customer “service” representative. 

She explains that, once again, my payment has been “reversed” by my bank, so I owe the $132 again. She also explains that the bill is high because of yada yada (same as in September). She also informs me that the bill for November will not be “posted” until tomorrow (Dec. 1).

“Why did my payment get reversed?”

“We don’t know. I suggest you call your bank.”

So I make the payment, and immediately call the bank. They tell me they have received no request for payment from AT&T in months. So, of course, I call AT&T back.

Recording:  Is this regarding the payment you made today? Do you wish details?


Recording: How can I help you? I can understand complete sentences.

ME: I want to speak to a supervisor.

Recording: I’m sorry.  I don’t understand.


Recording: Is this regarding the payment you made today? Do you wish details?


Recording: I’ll  connect you with someone who can help you with that.

Jay: Hello. My name is Jay. How can I help you?

ME: You can connect me with a supervisor.

Jay:  Can you tell me what this is in regards to?

ME: Yes. My Uverse account.

Jay: Maybe it’s something I can help you with.

ME: I seriously doubt that. Just connect me with a supervisor.

Jay: All our supervisors are busy helping other people.

ME:  I’m not surprised. If all your customers are as pissed off as I am, I’m sure they’re ALL busy and will be for a LONG time!


Jay: Can you tell me the problem, so I can let the supervisor know, as soon as he is available?

ME: Yes. I can. I want to know why I’m paying $132 a month for piss-poor service, that works about half the time, and I have to use my personal hot spot the rest of the time, and why you say my payments are being “reversed”, but can’t tell me why, other than to call my bank, which I have done, and the bank says your payment request never came through the bank in the first place, and why I’m not informed of a payment reversal until you have disconnected, so there is a reconnect fee, PLUS a $5 inconvenience fee for paying my bill over the phone, when I have an agreement to autopay every month. I also want to know why your automated recording tells me I made a payment on November 20, but your live representative tells me I didn't.  I also want to know how to reach you people, when your auto-recording says they don’t understand my complete sentences, after it has just said it DOES understand complete sentences, because I don’t stutter.

Jay: Thank you for that information. What is the phone number associated with this account?

ME: Do you people not have caller ID? My number is 205-999-9999 (I gave him my number)

Jay: Is that 215-998-8892?

ME: NO. It’s NOT.

Jay: Can you tell me slower?

ME: 2-zero-5-9-9-9-9-9-9-9

Jay: Our supervisors are all still busy.

ME: Of course they are!

20 minutes later, I get a supervisor.

John: Thank you for waiting. I hope you’re having a great day!

ME: No. Actually I WAS having a great day until I had to interface with AT&T. It has been steadily downhill since then.

John: Well, I’m gonna make your day great again!

ME: We will see…  (and I tell him the same thing I told Jay).

John did make my day a little better, informing me that the debit card number they have “on file” isn’t mine, nor is it even close to my actual number. No wonder my payment is being “reversed”. So far, so good, until…

John: I’m going to make your day even better. We can bundle your TV, phone…

ME: I’ve already got ONE AT&T service that works half the time, and charges a FORTUNE for that half time. Why in the world would I want to have TV and telephone that also work half the time, and furthermore, that I can’t get help with when I need help, because the customer “service” people don’t know anything, and supervisors are always busy, because customers get so upset that only a supervisor can help them? What y’all apparently need down there are more supervisors. NO. I do NOT want to bundle ANYTHING with AT&T. I wouldn’t have Uverse in the first place if there were any other single service in my area. When there is, rest assured, I will be OFF your books entirely.

John: So I’ve made your day better?

ME: (sigh) Yes. I guess so. Slightly maybe.

John: Thank you for using AT&T.

Customer SERVICE. At its BEST.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Rest In Peace, Sailor

Every December, when the ‘Wreaths Across America' program is presented at the Alabama National Cemetery, Col. Bob Barefield reminds us that beneath each marble marker is not just a faceless VETERAN, but a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a mother or father, or a friend. He challenges us to write down the name from the stone where we place our wreath, and when we get home, research that veteran. Find out who he really was.

I received an email that had dozens of recipients listed, requesting that if I am able and available, I attend an interment service at the Alabama National Cemetery for a “homeless veteran, who has been in the morgue since last October”.  Apparently this Navy veteran was estranged from his family, and had no friends either. It would be up to his fellow veterans to pray for him, bid him Rest In Peace, and to thank him for standing his watch, assuring him that he can now “Stand down. We have the watch now.”

The Patriot Guard Riders (PGR), as always, unhesitatingly answered the call. Besides providing a motorcycle honor guard for the final leg of the journey, they also stood an unwavering flag line for this veteran that none of them knew personally.  Six of them solemnly carried the coffin to the committal shelter, and one of them accepted the triangular folded flag. At their own expense, the PGR stood in for family and friends. Not only patriotism, but camaraderie at its very best.


The two sailors who folded the flag were uniformed in immaculate, crisp white uniforms,  and performed that honored duty with precision.  

The bugler played TAPS.

As I witnessed this solemn final goodbye, I wondered why. This sailor was a Vietnam veteran, so he was somewhere around my age. Why was he “estranged” from his family? Who had his family been?

Did he have a wife that he had wronged in some way? Children? Brothers or sisters? What in the world could he have done that nobody will even come to his funeral? I have to think his parents are deceased, because I can’t imagine a mother not loving her son, no matter what he has done.

He was once a baby, whose parents and grandparents marveled at his first smile, his first word, his first step. He was taken to Olan Mills and photographed as the most beautiful baby ever born. They put his picture in a frame and proudly displayed it on the mantle.

Once he attended elementary school, cleaned blackboard erasers, played baseball, flirted with a little girl. He had friends on the playground. Once he attended high school, played football or basketball, or played in the marching band.  Maybe he drove a beat-up old Ford Falcon with no hubcaps. He took a girl to a movie, bought her popcorn, and kissed her goodnight.

And once he  visited a recruiter and took that oath... signed that line... that check, “made payable to the United States of America, for an amount up to and including his life”. He endured basic training, and served – HONORABLY -in Vietnam. He shared the “watch”. He had buddies. He laughed and he probably cried. Maybe he played penny ante poker or Bid Whiz with his shipmates. For sure he missed someone back home. And for sure we didn't say, "Welcome home, Sailor."

Then, sometime in the last 50 years he did something so horrendously terrible that he alienated everyone except God. Maybe he had PTSD. Many Vietnam veterans did, and were not given treatment. Maybe he was subjected to Agent Orange. Many Vietnam veterans were, and were not given treatment. Maybe he became addicted to drugs or alcohol. Many Vietnam veterans did, and were not given treatment.

After the ceremony, I asked 3 different people what the veteran’s name was.  Nobody knew.  So I went to the main office and asked there.

When I got home, I tried to research this faceless, forgotten, unloved, friendless, homeless veteran. Nothing. Except the PGR, who also took on the job of obituary.  On their website is the announcement of  the passing of  PO3 George Schenck,  US Navy, Vietnam..... but that's not all...

Following that announcement are dozens of condolence messages – all from Patriot Guard Riders, including this one:
I am forever grateful for your service to our country. Your service and sacrifices will not be forgotten. You are a TRUE AMERICAN HERO. May you Forever Rest in Peace. Stand Down. Your mission is complete. U.S. Army Retired,Airborne
The PGR once again serves the USA and this veteran who served her. His stand-in “friends”.

Semper Fraternitus!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Surviving Loss

When I learned Brandon and Jennifer Harris were leaving Avondale UMC, I felt a genuine and profound sorrow deep in my gut. If you know me personally, you know I don't handle goodbyes well at all. I don't even say, "goodbye" on the phone. I've been known to stay at a job I hated for years because I couldn't bring myself to say goodbye to my co-workers. For me, GOODBYE means LOSS.

On some level, I know the intense sorrow I feel now will gradually fade, but I also know that will take time. It's the nature of the "grief process" that I have to endure until time (and some effort on my part) heals the hole left in my heart by the absence of someone I love.

Helen Kubler-Ross spent her whole life studying grief. She interviewed thousands of dying patients and their families. While her research involved death and dying, her findings are applicable to any loss, whether it's the death of a family member or a beloved pet, or loss of a limb or eyesight, or loss of a job or loss of mobility. It also applies to temporary or minor losses, such as children moving away, or going away to college (more commonly referred to as "empty nest syndrome"), divorce, or even losing a pastor you've come to love.

So, in an effort to help myself through this grief process, I'm revisiting Kubler-Ross's "stages of grief". Like back to nursing school.

Stage 1 is DENIAL. It's the stage I was in for several weeks when I learned Brandon might be leaving. I thought, surely not. He has been there only 6 years, and we are in the middle of a Capital Campaign. Surely the bishop will leave him there at least until that's over. Besides, Brandon has been responsible for so much growth and rejuvenation there. We NEED him, so It just can't happen.

Stage 2 is BARGAINING. I went through that too. BIG TIME. I prayed. "Dear Lord, If you let Brandon and Jennifer stay here, I'll never miss church again. I'll give more money to the church. I'll stop making excuses about why I can't sing in the choir. I'll 'greet my neighbor' with joy instead of reluctance. PLEASE let him stay here." I tried bargaining with the District Superintendent. That lasted about 3 seconds. So it was back to, "Dear Lord, please soften the heart of the Superintendent and the bishop. I'll do anything." I'm human, not Jesus. I couldn't bring myself to say, "Not my will, but THINE be done." Well, I might have said it, but I didn't honestly FEEL it.

Stage 3 is ANGER. For me, anger was mixed with the bargaining. I was angry at the District Superintendent, angry at the bishop, but also angry at myself. What did I personally do to cause this event? What could I have done different? Why couldn't I find the words or the actions or the prayer to make a difference? It's not fair! How in the world can this happen? Why NOW? The helplessness I felt in not being able to change the decision made me angry. I HATE feeling powerless!

Stage 4 is DEPRESSION. Depression is something I don't do well either. It's too painful. But it seems like that's the stage I'm moving into now. During the depression stage, I know I will be sad and discouraged. The plea in my prayers was useless. All the emotional investment and all the trust and all the faith and all the expectations I put into the relationship with Brandon and Jennifer is disintegrating. Disappearing before my very eyes. I am heartbroken. Hopeless... well, DEPRESSED.

Stage 5 is ACCEPTANCE, and Kubler-Ross adds INTEGRATION INTO A NEW LIFE STYLE. As I participate in the transition, I know action will help. It's hard for me to be depressed if I am active. Acceptance will happen when I can truthfully say to God, "I'm sorry I didn't trust You to know what is best. I relinquish my stubbornness and put my faith in You. Please continue to bless me and Avondale UMC." I know depression won't change the facts. And it doesn't help me or anyone else. If I'm to help myself, I have to accept the change and move forward. It doesn't mean I won't miss Brandon and Jennifer acutely and deeply, but it does mean a healthy transition.

There is a new pastor on the horizon, and I owe it to her (and frankly, to myself) to offer her my love and support. I'm sure it's difficult for her to leave the congregation she has loved the last 3 years and come into an unknown environment at Avondale UMC. That goodbye is probably just as hard for her as this one is for me. But fortunately for me, I have a loving and supportive church family, and I know God will help us help each other through this goodbye, and move forward with that same love and support for Malinda and Disney Weaver. And most importantly, move forward WITH JOY.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Goodbye Wildflowers

I just rid my front yard of its wildflower garden. Violets, clover, marjoram, dandelions, and some purple flower that grows on a little stalk. According to my health app, I walked 1.5 miles around the yard in the process.

Many people look forward to Spring, so they can do what I just did. I don't. I don't particularly mind mowing the lawn, especially in this weather, but I definitely don't find it ENJOYABLE.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I have 2 grown sons. Well, that's an entirely 'nother story, and besides, last year, for Mother's Day, one of them  bought me a marvelous self-propelled, key-start mower. I really DO love my mower... if only I didn't have to walk around the yard behind it.

So, speaking of grown sons... two of their childhood friends now own landscaping companies. What a great opportunity that might be to get my lawn mowed by one of the boys that spent many of his childhood years at my table, in my car going to movies or to the lake, or in my basement, playing music.

So I called one of them. The conversation went something like this:

C.W. : HEY, Miz B! Geez, it's been a long time! How in the world are you? 

Me:  I'm great! I was sorry to hear about your divorce, and I've been thinking about you. I hope you are well also.

C.W.: Yeah. The b*@*h took me for everything I had. I'm having to work seven days a week now. 

Me: Oh that's sad, C.W.. I hear you're in the landscaping business.

C.W.: Well, sorta. When I can get that work. Mostly I just mow lawns, but hey... it buys groceries!

Me: That's actually what I was calling about. What would you charge me to come mow my front yard? 

C.W.: Oh, Miz B, I couldn't charge you, but I am booked solid through the weekend!

Me: What about sometime next week? How much?

C.W. I really couldn't charge you anything to mow your yard. Not after all you did for me and my brother when we were kids.

Me: Awww. That's so sweet of you to remember. Those were some hard, but good times, weren't they?

C.W. Yes they were! Got some great memories. 

Me: Anyway, I would be glad to pay you to mow the yard. I will have to pay somebody. Might as well be you.

C.W. Nah. I wouldn't feel right charging you.

Me: OK. well, come over and mow it for free. I'll cook you dinner.

C.W. I wish I could afford to do it, Miz B, but I can't mow for free. Just can't pay the bills that way.


And THAT's why I mowed down the wildflowers myself.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself

can  be one of the toughest commandments to follow, especially if your "neighbor" has Alzheimer's Disease, or another form of dementia.

From the neighbor's point of view, research shows that dementia is THE MOST FEARED illness of people over 65, because it threatens the person's identity as SELF and his role as a productive, contributing member of the community. In Jesus' time, those with leprosy were not allowed into the temple, and were isolated from social relationships. Sadly, the shame and stigma often associated with dementia can lead to the same sort of isolation. We refer to the person with dementia as "a burden on his son", or "an empty shell". In our society, ceasing to be a productive member of society marks us as a "failure" at successful aging. Too often we fail the test of loving our neighbor by treating the neighbor with dementia as someone who has already passed away.

We don't bring them to church because "he doesn't get anything out of it anymore". We don't visit, because "she doesn't know who I am anymore", or "I don't know what to say to him". We leave him alone with his daughter until she is too exhausted and isolated to go on anymore, and then put him in a nursing home, where he can be "properly cared for".

I'm through preaching, because I'm preaching more to myself than to you. In researching what I intended to be an article on the medical aspects of Alzheimer's, I realized there is not much we can do about developing the disease; but there is VERY MUCH we can do about our attitude and loving behavior toward our neighbor with dementia.

Let's think about "friendship", and how we form friends. Our friends are those with whom we have years of shared experiences. Over time, the shared experiences become shared memories. A community is a web of friendships. How can I be a "friend" to someone who no longer remembers the story of our friendship, or who may not even recognize my name or my face?

We are unwilling to give our friends permission to enter into the world of memory loss. We greet them in a loud voice with a string of questions. "Do you know who I am?"  "What day is it?" " What did you have for breakfast?" Consciously or not, we are attempting to pull them back from memory loss and orient them to the cognitive universe they formerly inhabited.   John T. McFadden, M. Div.

It has been said that people might not remember what you said, or what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel. Never is this truer than for the person with Alzheimer's. We should interact with them in ways that bring them comfort, joy, and freedom from anxiety.

When we visit our friend with dementia, we should  greet her gently and positively. Do not ask, "Do you know who I am?" but rather announce who you are. "Hello. It's your friend [Ginger]. You look good today." Even these few words may not be fully understood, and she might not recognize you either, but you have established a positive emotional tone.

It is pointless to try to discuss world affairs or politics. On the contrary, because of your years of friendship, you know your friend's interests, passions, and things that bring her joy. You probably know many things about her she no longer remembers about herself.

One article suggests that we listen to a piece of music the friend liked, take a walk together, or look through photos or a family album. Do NOT engage in a game of twenty questions, because that can cause great anxiety. So, when you point to a picture, do not ask, "Who is this?" Rather ask: "What do you think he is doing?"

Will your friend with dementia know who you are? Perhaps not, at least by name. But this does not mean that your friend does not know you as one who cares, and who brings comfort and pleasure. The soul continues to know those it cherishes, even if the brain can no longer supply a cognitive context.  --John T. McFadden, M. Div.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pastor John's Great Medical Journal

Until about 100 years ago, the church was inextricably involved in health care. From the time Jesus healed the sick and cared for the infirm, down through the ages, Christians have taken care of their flocks. 

As recently as 50 years ago, many hospitals were still owned and run by church organizations. Here in Birmingham, there was Carraway Methodist, St. Vincent's Catholic, Baptist Princeton and Baptist Montclair, and Holy Name of Jesus Hospitals. Almost every large hospital was church-owned. So involvement of the religious community in healthcare goes 'way, 'way back. When medicine became too expensive for the churches to support, private companies and conglomerates bought out the hospitals, and today very few church hospitals remain. But there was a time...

In the mid-1700s, a certain young preacher rebelled against doctors and modern medicine. While he was involved with saving souls, he was just as concerned with healing bodies. He was to become one of the most renowned healers of his day.

Preacher John rejected the "doctors" of his day, and looked to Nature and natural cures for most diseases. A writer as well as a preacher, he published many papers and books, but his best-selling book was titled, "Primitive Physick or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases".  He spent years gathering  remedies and treatment methods from people who had used them. Remedies that were tried and true. 

John looked upon doctors as "Men of Learning", but who inverted healing. John thought the doctors laid aside experience and relied on theories. More concerned with how the body and its parts worked than in healing the person, the doctors of his time speculated and mixed herbs and used exotic treatments, "'til at length Physick became an abstruse science, quite out of the reach of ordinary men... They filled their writings with abundance of technical terms, utterly unintelligible to plain men" (which might be even more true today). John saw the person as more than a broken bone, or a kidney stone, and felt one's first aid kit should contain natural and readily available medicines that everyone could obtain and use. His idea was that wellness meant more than just absence of illness. It involved the "whole" person.

"Primitive Physick" contains numerous natural remedies for almost every known malady of the time - from BOILS (Apply a little Venice Turpentine; OR, a plaster of honey and wheat-flower; OR of figs...) to CORNS (Apply fresh every morning the yeast of small beer, spread on a rag; OR boil the juice of radishes, 'till it is thick enough to spread as a plaster. Shift it as it grows dry; OR apply fresh ivy leaves daily, and in fifteen days they will drop out.) to VERTIGO (Take a vomit or two; OR use the cold bath for a month; OR on a May morning, about sunrise, snuff up daily the dew that is on mallow leaves; OR take every morning half a dram of mustard seed.)

To cure convulsive asthma, "dry and powder a toad. Make it into small pills, and take one every hour until the convulsions cease." To cure baldness, "rub the part morning and evening with onions, till it is red; and rub it afterwards with honey." In fact, Primitive Physick actually includes 18 cures for baldness.

The book includes instructions and cures  for "An Easy and Safe Vomit", "Involuntary Urine", "To Increase Milk", "An Old Stubborn Pain in the Back", "An Easy Purge" and "A Stronger Purge".  It gives child-rearing instructions (Move over, Dr. Spock!) "No child should ever be swathed tight. It lays the foundation for many diseases." "Tis best to wean a child at about seven months old. They should lie in the cradle at least a year." "Parents should dip their children in cold water every morning, until they are three quarters old." "Milk, milk porridge, and water-gruel are the proper breakfast for children."

John also  became interested in the curative powers of electricity, and his shock treatments were the forerunner of some of our modern electrical medicine: electroconvulsive shock therapy (EST), and maybe even cardioversion (the defibrillator)... but that was another book, and it didn't sell as well.

This turned out more a book report than an article, but I was so fascinated with what I read about it that I bought the book. Couldn't put it down. As a Congregational Health Nurse, I found the concept of healing the body along with the spirit and the soul right down my alley, so to speak. Furthermore, it was fascinating that this young man of faith would be so keenly interested in healing physical and mental illnesses, not to mention that this book, of all the books he wrote, was his very best seller. 

"Primitive Physick" by John Benjamin Wesley... and, as Paul Harvey always said,  now you know the rest of the story. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Poor Homeless, Hungry, Helpless Veterans

This will not be a popular post, so be forewarned. My disclaimer, as always, is that the opinions herein expressed are MINE, and nobody else's. Reading is your decision.

Everyone who knows me knows I'm a bit of a nonconformist. But I'm a peaceful sort, and if I don't agree with you, I tend to just keep my mouth shut. You are entitled to your opinions, even if they're bigoted, biased or downright absurd. I don't like arguing.

The other thing everyone knows is that I'm a U.S. Army veteran. In my spare time, I advocate for, work for, and volunteer for  veterans organizations and for veterans. And aside from veterans, I work with "the homeless" in various places and for several organizations that serve the homeless here in Birmingham.

I also hate public SOAPBOXING, so am doing that here, in my little blog rant world.
Now then... 

For the last 60 or so years, the Call of the Union has been, "Everything that hasn't been handed to African/Americans, and everything any of them hasn't accomplished, and any unemployment or hunger they suffer is MY FAULT." ("MY" refers to any WASP, but mostly to us Southern WASPs.) Well, black lives DO matter. As do white lives, blue lives, yellow lives, and all other human lives, whatever the color of their skin or uniforms. As Forest Gump said, "THAT'S ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THAT." 

Suddenly, or maybe gradually and I just missed it, the Call of the Union has changed to, "Everything that hasn't been handed to veterans, and everything any of them hasn't accomplished, and any unemployment or hunger or homelessness they suffer is YOUR FAULT." (This "YOUR" refers to anyone who is a non-veteran; OR any veteran who owns an eating establishment who hasn't opened it up for free to any hungry  veteran, an apartment building who hasn't opened it up for free to homeless veterans, or owns a business who hasn't hired veterans whether they're qualified  or not, and whether they have any work ethic or not.) I don't fit any of those categories, so it's not MY fault this time.

I can't speak for the whole United States, but I CAN speak fairly knowledgeably about the veterans and the homeless in Birmingham. And there are many. As some of you know, I've had conversations with the homeless in and around Avondale Park, and with the homeless around the downtown area (Church of the Reconciler neighborhood). THESE are the truly homeless. There are various circumstances that caused it, and a few of these are veterans, but not many. 

WOAH! WAIT! "...a few of these are veterans...?" Yep. VERY few. Why? Because Birmingham has about a dozen resources for homeless veterans. All of these resources provide the honorably-discharged veteran (with a legitimate DD-214) a clean, warm place to live, 3 meals a day, and job training. They also provide transportation to and from the V.A. Hospital when needed.  

So, why aren't ALL veterans NOT homeless here? Well, there are several reasons, and here are the most common I've run across in the last couple of years:

1. They aren't veterans. They are pretending to be, or saying they are, because VETERAN is an emotional buzz-word,  and appeals to people who then feel patriotic and sorry for them and give them money.

2. They were dishonorably discharged and don't qualify. They stole stuff, they lost their temper and  injured somebody on our side, they did drugs and failed rehab 3 times, they failed to go to work (AWOL), or went to the job site, but sold supplies or equipment or vehicles that weren't theirs to sell, and were kicked out. (Just like a civilian job would have done.)

3. They were honorably discharged, but aren't willing to conform to the rules of the resources - ie, no drinking, no drugs, 10:00pm curfew, get up every morning, be willing to "help around the house" - chores such as cooking, cleaning up, mopping, etc., be willing to train for a job of some sort, and no overnight guests in the home. In other words, they trade the security and comfort of a home for the freedom that homelessness provides. It's THEIR DECISION! (Just like a disgruntled spouse might have done.)

Since we also have many homeless shelters here that don't require veteranship, number 3 applies to most of the rest of the homeless. It's essentially their choice. More than once, I've offered to give rides to a shelter to some of the homeless in Avondale Park, and to a man -and one woman- they would rather sleep in the bitter cold pavillion than have to go somewhere they can't drink and have to "work". And one of them told me, when I tried to give him a can of vienna sausages, "Ms Ginger, anyone hungry here is by choice or lying. There are 3 places within walking distance that serve meals 7 days a week. Don't fall for that. They're looking for booze money."

But I digress...

Let me address the jobless veteran  problem:

The veterans who don't work, or don't want to work are, by definition, unemployed. Veterans are citizens like everyone else. They are human. They are... well... like YOU. The only REAL difference between you and me is that I signed the line and went to war for my employment. I was very lucky in that my wartime "job" was much like my civilian job. I was a nurse, and when I got back, I was still a nurse. That fact doesn't apply to all veterans. For example, if Sgt Smith was a munitions expert in the military, that job isn't usually available in the civilian world. So, if he chooses to leave military employment, he will probably have to retrain for a different job in the civilian workplace. If a military member plans to quit her or his military job, he or she needs to think seriously about what job the future holds. My daddy always said, "It's easier to GET a job if you HAVE a job." Maybe one should see what is available out there BEFORE he/she quits the current job, just like most normal civilians do.

In and around Birmingham, we do have several job fairs every year. In 2015 there were 6 that I know of and 5 I was involved in. Those five job fairs had 30 or more employers that wanted and targeted veterans for employment. Some of them said that the work ethic of veterans, along with the general physical fitness of veterans, made them very desirable for their job openings. These job fairs were advertised on, on the radio, and in local veterans newsletters. Before 3 of those job fairs, I went to various places that veterans hang out and posted signs, talked to people, talked to spouses, emailed veterans I know are looking for jobs, etc... and it was a total waste of my time. For those 3 job fairs, we had less than a dozen veterans show up, and most of those  were from the veteran shelters that provide job training.  

Folks, YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE TO WATER, BUT YOU CAN'T MAKE HIM DRINK! At what point do people take ANY responsibility for their own situation???

So it comes down to this: 

I am SICK to PUKING of some people USING their veteran status to glean sympathy. I am even SICKER of some people using their veteran status as an excuse for homelessness, hunger, unemployment or dishonesty. The V.A. and other organizations (Wounded Warriors, Three Hots and a Cot, Operation Wounded Warrior, Homes for our Troops, No Excuses Charitable Fund, etc) gone OVER and ABOVE in providing veterans with all kinds of benefits civilians don't get. They can get free health care, and then whine about how long it takes to get an appointment. They can get a free college education (G.I. Bill), and whine about unemployment. If their "disability" is legitimate, mental or physical, they can get free money for the rest of their lives, and whine about being hungry. They can get free housing and meals but prefer the freedom to whine about "poor me. I'm homeless."

And while I'm ranting, I might as well rant about all the employed, retired, homed in suburbia, and well-fed veterans who aren't interested in knowing what is going on in the rest of the veteran world. The ones who go about their civilian jobs, their lawns, their health clubs, their lives, but don't want any part of the numerous veterans organizations that DO keep up with what is going on, and that help veterans and their families  in so many ways I can't even begin to list all the ways: The VFW, the American Legion, Amvets, etc. 

Let me reiterate that I'm talking Alabama here. I don't have any information about other states, so if you are living in Oklahoma or somewhere reading this, it might not apply to veterans in your state. I'm sorry. I'm not accountable for the rest of the U.S.

OK. I'm done. For now...