Category Archives: Responsibility

Dad Will Fix It

When I’d have a problem that I couldn’t fix, just before giving up entirely, I’d ask my dad for guidance. When I expected that he’d encourage me to surrender (and call in a professional), he would instead listen to the entire problem and even suppose the various outcomes. And finally, when I expected that he’d offer advice, he would offer to come over and show me precisely how to tackle the problem.

Now it must be said that my dad was no superhero. He wasn’t smarter than everyone else either. In fact, he wasn’t even that dedicated to a solution. Anyone who knew him would tell you that his loyalty wavered (usually in the direction of a green-bottled brew). But what made my dad unique (to me) was his desire to serve.

He knew his own limitations, but didn’t let them prevent him from trying. The mark he left on a problem would always be evidence that an interruption certainly took place. The unresolved problem was a problem that would have been much worse had it gone unaddressed.

My dad enjoyed stillness. But he could never sit idly watching anyone struggle. He was so eager to be helpful that he would help out as a simple courtesy.

In his final months, he spent his remaining fortune at yard sales and flea markets. He would often offer more than the asking price for any trinket that caught his eyes. He defended, “that there is worth twice as much…I’d be taking advantage if I haggled the price.” He was helping without being asked for help. I suppose it was a low-cost way to claim a victory.

It’s been 21 years since my dad died. Even his last day was poetic and not without purpose. He believed that he was resolving a problem that wouldn’t fix itself. For those he left behind, we’ve varied in the ways we processed our grief. Having answers to one question rarely resolved the grief. It merely provided permission to ask other questions. And the unanswered questions become the most important.

I stopped asking questions like “How did he die?” “Why did he leave us?” and “What were the circumstances that led up to his death?” I’ve grown past these questions, mostly because the answers were too uncomfortable. And the only time I could get a little comfort is to write something in his honor on the anniversary of his death.

Over the past 21 years, I’ve encountered a number of problems and wondered how my dad would have approached each one. I’d like to think that his energy in the moments might have impacted the outcome. No doubt, his input would have changed the trajectory. But for 21 years I’d led myself to believe that the outcome would have been better with his hands-on approaches.

Perhaps I should rely on the notion that the lessons that he’d taught me would provide the wisdom needed to approach any situation. After 21 years of wishing he’d been there to consult, to intervene, or to force a solution that may not have been the best outcome, I pause. It is now that I realize that no one, including my dad, has the perfect solution to every problem. It is now that I realize the fact that we often decide for ourselves how committed we are to any given problem. Finally, I must concede that how we’ve approached our problems in the past plays a large role in determining how we will handle current and future problems.

Although I miss my dad a great deal, 21 years is more than enough time to stop asking “what would he have done in this situation?”

Twenty one years is enough time to have bore another human being, watch them grow into an adult, and model for them the tools to manage a world of problems on their own. It’s enough time to ascend and descend a dozen times. Its enough time to be loved and hated. It’s enough time to be at the top and the bottom simultaneously. What would he have done in these situations? What could he have done to assist? Would he have listened, advised, or assisted, or intervened, or ignored situations entirely? It doesn’t even matter because 21 years have passed any way. It’s ALL in the past now.

I can’t be certain of anything. I know I miss him. But I also know that he’s left enough behind for me to contend with. I know that if I handled situations the same way he did, my outcomes may have mimicked his, and that’s not ok either.

Missing someone doesn’t mean that having them beside you still would be better. It just means that you wouldn’t be alone. And I never felt alone. I just felt overwhelmed.

The Other Side of Hope

As the new year begins to reveal the playbook for the coming months, I’m pondering my lesson plans. The possibility of another stint of virtual instruction looms as the actual storm clouds cloak us with snow.

We are never more than a few hours away from tomorrow. With holidays come a time of reflection and redemption. But more importantly we develop hopes that the future will be brighter. Brighter than…what?

To anticipate something greater than something else is to have at least an experience or exposure to something less great, right?

Whether you’ve thought about it or not, hope is an acknowledgment that we’ve already come through something unpleasant. Life is the acknowledgment that death has not occurred yet. Good is the proof that evil has not prevailed.

Therefore, we can suppose that on the other side of demise, there is hope. Hope is what keeps us going. In the presence of despair, hope looms in the darkness. Hope is the cousin of faith. But with faith comes denominational choice. With faith comes organized religion or the opinion to shun spirituality. You have a choice.

These are constructs that can be debated, embraced, or debunked. So in the spirit of either, let’s consider, for a moment, that hope is a drug. In the eyes of a pessimist or someone who lives amongst habitual chaos, hope is an intangible that is just beyond their reach. Hope is both a noun and a verb, where as faith is just a noun. Hope is cheap and accessible to anyone. Faith requires effort, and it’s expensive and exclusive. Hope is pedaled by politicians and producers. It’s offered to excite and motivate, manipulate and mutilate pessimism and hopelessness.

So in the next few (days) of the new year, my resolution shall be to mix and match. For every two negative situations, I will mix in one serving of hope. It will spice it up! It will taste great. It will reduce the acidity (sort of like mixing sugar in with the spaghetti sauce). I will match the energy I’m presented with with a force equal to (or completely opposite of) whatever I am faced. I will challenge adversity with possibility. I will look evil square in the eye; and offer it a hit of hope.

Why I Don’t Celebrate Halloween

I do not celebrate Halloween

The day before, after or in between

Not mischief night, nor Day of the Dead

No candy nor skulls, nor pumpkin heads

Hallows Eve is not for me

No costumes, no decor, no lights that glow orangeee

But it’s not just October 31st that I don’t like

I also feign Columbus Day which is also a lie

I don’t do Thanksgiving with indigenous feathers

Nor pilgrims’ pale faces that exploited the others

Not Hanukkah or Christmas nor Kwanza neither

If I can’t teach one in class, I won’t teach either

Not Valentine’s nor President’s Day nor Easter

I’ll happily accept the days off but won’t get off my keister.

Now Mother’s Day, that one is important

But we don’t do much for Father’s, so mothers get nuthin’

Besides, they’re always on Sunday when there is no school

To put forth the effort, I’d have to be a fool.

Flag Day, nope! Veteran’s Day? Maybe

But the Pledge doesn’t happen, so maybe…

Not!

I’d do 4th of July, that’s always fun

But we’re never in school that day, so forgetaboutit, hun.

Labor Day is the last day of summer.

No celebration there.

Forgot about Memorial Day? I’d remember if you’d care.

That’s the thing though…

It’s a ring, so…

Around a Rosie

Pocket full of…

Posie

The ashes feel down

The year goes round,

not a holiday enjoyed

Not for little girls or boys

Who want to eat candy in class

On the Friday that’s the last…

In October

Oil and Water (TikTok Challenge)

In light of the recent bomb threats in one of the biggest small towns in New Jersey, the new superintendent left messages for the parents of each student enrolled in the district. Every building in the school district will reopen after an emergency closure resulted from a threat that went viral on social media. This was not the first threat the district has endured. But this time, the adversity has directed the energy where it may be best felt—a conversation between parents and students.

As I listened to the plea for help, I prepared my mind as both an educator of ten year olds and a parent of a seventeen year old. I considered my students who confide in me how messy the bathroom has become (as a result of TikTok inspired vandalism). Their little hearts conflicted as they exchange their thrill of the chaos for their need to be exonerated. They don’t want to get in trouble for something that another student did.

I considered my son who is on the cusp of getting his driver’s license and applying for jobs and preparing for graduation. I also think about how smart he is, his potential, and his likeliness to stay out of trouble. It’s his affiliations that bring me pause.

The superintendent’s message was a call to action for parents to have a meaningful conversation with their children. There’s a need not only to prevent future occurrences, but to discuss the implications of this kind of behavior.

We must be cautious to label these acts frivolous or thoughtless! There could be nothing more contrary. A LOT of effort went into concocting these challenges. The social media mileage that it’s been getting is not accidental. Somewhere there is a proud troll. The impact ripples throughout communities across the nation. How long have we been telling our youngsters to think globally? We had no idea how that might manifest.

When I picked my son up today, I greeted him with the love that comes from missing him for a few days. I asked him his thoughts of the “day off from school” as a result of the recent threat. He was appreciative that it wasn’t a “remote instruction” day. Beyond that, it all seemed to be outside of his purview.

I replayed the superintendent’s message for my son. I cautiously approached the need to have this conversation in a way that he could “buy” into the the resolve. I watched my son’s expression fade from disinterest into something that resembled “are we done here?”

I began by reminding him of the various occasions that he thought he had things under control only to realize that situations can be cumbersome or overwhelming. I then affirmed how smart he was and how much trust I have in his decisions.

THEN…

I reminded him of my role to guide him rather than restrict him or hover over him. What happened next surprised even me. My son picked up a fruit and began to toss it into the air rhythmically. Up and down, over and over. Seemingly not paying attention, it wasn’t until I hit upon a nerve that he missed his mark and dropped the fruit.

He couldn’t focus on his toss and grasp the points at the same time. He offered little as a rebuttal as the conversation morphed more so into a lecture. Sure enough, each time I hit upon a valid point, he dropped the fruit.

Despite the easy analogy that could be made between regretful decisions and this pummeled fruit, I narrowed the talk to three points.

1) Students have some knowledge of what is happening here and may not have fully considered the consequences. Nonetheless, it does not require hard evidence to charge another student with vandalism. It merely requires a witness or mitigating circumstances to transform an investigation into formal charges.

2) Someone will speak up to either put an end to the destructive behavior or they will direct that negative energy from themselves (to ensure that they are not blamed).

3) If even half the parents had this “meaningful” talk with their child, the kids would likely steer clear of the kids that they KNOW are engaging in this activity.

I call this “oil and water.” Both are powerful, but neither wants anything to do with the other. Students who desire to be on the path to success want nothing to do with behavior that will create obstacles. For other students, misdirection will continue until they experience a consequence for themselves or until they witness someone else get caught.

I’ve asked my son to consider “oil and water” as he witnesses these TikTok challenges unfurl. From this point on, he can no longer claim that he doesn’t know any better. And as his parent, I can no longer say that I didn’t at least start the conversation.

Defining Wealth

Wealth is not exclusive to an accumulation of resources. It can be a state of mind. To be rich in health or opportunity; to have strong relationships; or to have rich dreams.

How can wealth be a goal and an asset? We can aspire to have materials or piece of mind, but ultimately what we attain is a manifestation of our efforts. It’s our ownership that inspires appreciation.

No one can give us peace. Nor can peace be earned. This state of mind is ethereal. It is the result of accepting circumstances that are beyond our control. Those who claim to have found some semblance of peace may be wealthier than others.

Much like strength, our physical and emotional health both attribute to our overall wealth. Health is heavily reliant on exercising our bodies and minds. We endure obstacles and overcome challenges. We celebrate those accomplishments. We achieve a wealthier lifestyle through our achievements. It’s not the announcements, however, of our growth. It’s the actual improvement of and/or our resilience to our circumstances that signifies our wealth.

When asked what they’d do if they gained a million dollars, a group of ten year olds revealed some interesting desires. Several students confirmed that they’d spend it on fancy cars, bigger homes, or luxurious accessories. Another group of students collaborated and conveyed that they’d give some of their new-found wealth away to charity or save it for college. But one proclaimed he’d go to his fathers job and complicate things for him so that his father would no longer work there.

This last revelation spoke volumes and warranted a deeper understanding. This student confided that this new wealth would change circumstances. With wealth, he could control the world around him. He wanted his father home. He wanted his father’s troubles at work to disappear. He wanted to contribute to his father’s happiness. Our children exude charity and noble traits. Their paths towards adulthood offer them the tools needed to attain their goals. Will this one day evolve into a healthier or wealthier life?

Wealth is ambiguous. Desire’s subjectivity is fluid and changeable. Regardless of how we attain it, how we transmit it to our loved ones in life (and in death) speaks to its inherent value. We decide what wealth is. We decide how to build it. We decide how to apply it. One might conclude that wealth is not a thing at all, but a state of mind.

Never Blame the Victim

We build our philosophies on absolutes, but life is not absolute. Entire systems are built upon rules—some of which have exceptions and exclusions. Ask any legal expert. Let’s not overlook implied meanings and common practice. Each is a component for understandings and agreements that must be adhered to. If not, there’s a result that may require all parties to revisit the original agreement.

Here’s one: never blame the victim. It begs for an addendum. “Never blame the victim…unless…” But nope! Can’t do it. Never! But then again, we never say never.

There’s varying degrees of victimhood, and each one requires a clandestine protection against retribution. We speak of justice beyond the crime. But we rarely speak of the restoration of the victim. Neither punishment nor restitution can undo the damage. Understanding and forgiveness might do the trick, but that’s not justice. That’s empathy. And empathy is too often overlooked because the victims and the witnesses and the enforcers of the rules need to feel something greater than what empathy affords them.

Depending on the severity of the crime, mitigating circumstance seem useless. Sometimes knowing “why” doesn’t ease the pain.

It hurts to be a victim. Victims need care and compassion. Victims need healing. But do you know what victims don’t need? They don’t need others pretending to be victims. Perpetrators pretend to be harmed, offended victims of injustice so that they can glean sympathy. They know that no one will blame them for being a victim. All that they need to do is claim to be hurt, shed a little tear, or share a sad story to awaken the emotions of their caregivers.

No one likes a liar. Cons are despised. There’s no dignity in betraying the confidence of others. And the true victims of this crime are the not the ones who employ this technique, but instead are the ones who fall for the fakery. It’s like dialing 911 when there is no emergency. It distracts the responders from the real emergencies.

Drive Down Memory Lane

It might make more sense to scroll all the way to the bottom, and read backwards until you come back to the beginning. After all, it’s not the destination, but the journey, that is the most important. 🧐

2021 Chevrolet Malibu

And lastly, is the first real new car purchase that will likely be my last. Purchased pre-pandemic, it didn’t track as many miles. My hopes are that my pleasure driving will replace my business driving; my desire to rest will usurp my need to capitalize; and love of cars will only fade amidst my desire to keep ONE.

2011 Chevy Suburban 2500HD

By far the most fun of all of my adult run-abouts! It was a recreation vehicle, a money-maker, a friend transporter, a mobile office, and a school bus. It facilitated advocacy, demonstrated efficiency, and inspired creativity.

2011 Cadillac CTS Coupe

By far the prettiest. It was enjoyed as an accessory, a fixture, and commodity. Like plenty of luxuries, it didn’t last as long as I would have liked. Depreciation, high-priced maintenance, low reliability resulted in a premature curbing.

1992 Lexus SC400

And then came the current project car. The first challenge was to give it an identity if it own. When, in fact, it’s become symbolic of passion that is lost and excess that is not consumed.

2008 Honda Accord Coupe

It was a classroom of sorts…
It was spotted in many places…
It served as a back drop to be more…
It served as inspiration to do more…
Memories were made…
After a round trip to Florida and becoming a hashtag king, it turned many heads. It was the one that mini-me learned to drive in, took her test in, and hoped would be hers.
This one was the hope and the promise that was never made. It’s the one that was almost paid off, but fate had other plans.

2003 Oldsmobile Bravada

When I asked either of my kids if they were interested in this one as a first car. They both replied, “ewwww!” So they both ended up with nothing.
First foray into municipal auto auctions yielded a $900 profit! It created a false sense of confidence. I registered this one to conceal the purchase price. I blew the profit on the next stratagem that never got registered. Irony?

2005 Dodge Charger POV

Elwood: “It’s an old Mount Prospect police car.” Jake: “The day I get out of prison, my own brother picks me up in a police car.”
Purchased sight-unseen, it took nearly 7 months to find a new owner who was even less profound.
And so the quest to find a project car began. This was Daddy’s failed attempt to either flip a municipal police car for profit or pickle a project car.

2005 Toyota Avalon Touring

This could not be the car that the kids learned to drive. Dad’s classiness would soon be traded for a practical trainer. Something cute and nimble perhaps?
As Dad took photos, he realized that he chronicled more than a love for automobiles. Soon the children would be driving too.
And Daddy’s princess was developing character of her own. As her character developed, daddy matured. There was reason to be more responsible. And few cars are more responsible than a Toyota.

2005 Dodge Ram SRT-10

Daddy needed a more family-friendly transport. Perhaps a peppy luxury sedan?
It had character, but remained in the driveway most of the time.
It was the fastest production truck ever made. It’s fuel economy was nearly the worst for any passenger vehicle at the time (second only to the Hummer H2) It could pass anything on the road except for a gas station!
Alas it was time to remove the old rescue squad truck from the back yard. What better way to commemorate Dad’s love of Dodges than to buy my own dream truck and name it after his old wooden sailboat Exta Sea?

2001 Lincoln Navigator

Three years later, two restless parents could not agree on one compromise. The compact car was sold to cover the retainer, but this SUV was a consolation prize for a dad who couldn’t get enough time with his kids.

1998 Honda Accord (white sedan)

But a week before my son was born, our previous Honda was pushed through an intersection and into a utility pole. Deployed airbags saved us all. The uninjured driver who disregarded the stop sign watched us take an precautionary ambulance ride. Our newborn son came home from the hospital in daddy’s newest ride.

1998 Honda Accord (blue sedan)

But it wasn’t long before my family grew and a need for another family-responsible auto. 4 cylinders for four family members only made sense when rising gas prices might prevent date nights and family outings.

2003 Suzuki Katana

Purchased with only a rider’s permit, I rode it for 7 days before my first accident. But as any dedicated rider would, I was back up and riding soon after…

1979 Honda CB650

Purchased from a fellow teacher, I was quickly schooled on motorcycle ownership. It wouldn’t be long before I stepped up to something faster.

1998 Dodge Ram SS/T

After 36k miles of spirited driving had prematurely ended the lease on the Audi, we needed a replacement. We returned the 180hp sport coupe 2+2 for a 3 seater with a lot more pep.

2001 Audi TT (180hp)

Shortly after my daughter arrived, her Daddy wanted something to develop her own enthusiasm for automobiles, or so it would seem. Rally racing and car shows were not uncommon.

1995 Ford Contour SE

The day that our baby shower was planned, I was given ONE JOB. I only had to distract my new bride while our friends and family planned the surprise. A trip to the car dealer fit the bill nicely. But when asked what my gift to the baby and mom-to-be would be, I gulped and offered this car that we were test-driving.

1940 Dodge Power Wagon Rescue Squad

Not long after I negotiated my first auto loan, I began to plan my family. I transplanted this old rescue squad truck from Salem, where my father had parked it nearly 25 years earlier.
It’s cruising days had long-since ended. But my new home became its new home, and it watched my family grow.

1995 Pontiac Bonneville SSE

My mileage checks added up to provide a down payment. Trading my stripped-down convertible covered the expense of the taxes and registration. This was the first and last time that I exploited a “push, pull, or drag your trade…”

1989 Toyota Tercel DX (5spd)

My first full time job after college graduation required me to commute 100 miles daily to Cape May. The mileage allowance alone paid for this tin can. With no radio nor carpet, the only luxury was a full-size spare. My shifting skills got some practice and I sold it six months later before the clutch revealed its ware.

1979 Dodge Ramcharger 4×4 Convertible

After an uninsured driver rear-ended my 83, my quest for a convertible Ramcharger yielded this beast! With a 2 inch body lift and a 2 inch suspension lift, the 35 inch tires fit beneath those wheel wells nicely. It too got terrible gas mileage and became more affordable to ride the bus to class.

1973 Dodge Challenger SE

I thought that every Motor-head should own a classic. In anticipation, I purchased this hot rod a few years before it became a classic. A cash advance on a college credit card was not the biggest mistake, but I think I may STILL be paying for this one.

1983 Dodge Shelby Charger (rare automatic)

My love of Dodges did not transfer into my other relationships well. This beauty was the first I bought for cash from a used car dealership. Although I bought it for my college sweetheart, her appreciation never manifested. Neither relationship lasted long enough.

1979 Ford Bronco

My best buddy nurtured a love of Fords. Despite my fondness of Dodges, I decided that if I ever had the opportunity, I’d acquisition a Bronco. I traded the pick-up for this beauty, but it needed more than I could offer. They joke that F O R D stands for something. But “on the road” it could not stay.

1984 Saab 900 Sedan

My freshman year in college, I met the Vice President Provost of the college. He became my mentor. He recognized my love of automobiles and made me a proposition: mow his lawn for the summer and this beauty would be mine. I fulfilled my end of the deal, but was never able to get it running. It sat in my yard until I graduated.

1979 Dodge Pick-Up 4×4 shortbed (5spd)

My uncle once warned me to never buy a used vehicle from a mechanic. But there were no rules about buying a vehicle for sale across the street from a mechanic. And so this beauty was my #2. A sunroof was cut into the roof and then resealed with caulking. The seats were always wet! It got 9 mpg because it was engineered with full time locking hubs for the four wheel drive.

1983 Dodge Ramcharger 2wd

My first car. I got it when I was 15 years old. My father challenged me to work hard in order to keep it. I did a landscaping job for the church for two years to earn enough money to put it on the road by my 17th birthday.
Twenty years later, my efforts to preserve it failed. The necessary disassembly never gave way to the goal of restoration.
In the end, the replaced engine got waterlogged, the rodents made their nests, and the wheels were stolen. Inevitable the junk man took what was left.

The plan is to sift through old registrations and bind all of my records (because I’ve saved them all) for each of these vehicles. Each insurance card, traffic ticket, and accident report is a story. Automobiles have lives. They are also apart of our lives.

I’ve always kept at least one key from each automobile that I’ve ever owned. I’ve created a makeshift shrine. Not long from now, a new project will begin. These autos will be exhumed. They will rise again from the ashes. They will be located and brought together, not just in spirit.

The ultimate hobby will soon begin. Their Vehicle Identification Numbers will live again. Not as zombies, but as wheeled angels. And those keys will be used not only to verify their identity, but to start their engines again.

Guilty confessions vol. x

We must read between the lines. Indignant fools will not confess. Wise men will let us figure it out. Most of us wont ask the right questions. Some will not admit their doubt.

But if we could have more conversations, and talk it through, the life quality enhanced could belong to you. Rhymes and puns are clever. Analogies are fun and games. Unasked questions are answered never…kicking ass and taking names.

We can learn from other’s mistakes, but often we choose our own. The lessons don’t count unless we improve. The safest place is our home.

Alright! Enough of the wit. It’s down to brass tacks. Let’s discuss something real. Let’s avoid the character attacks.

The nineteen was dropped from COVID because the year is now 2021. The variant is called Delta to avoid another messy one. No more talk of the region of origin because it would confirm the problem we have with racism…

capitalism…

age-ism…

The fact that the world already exploits Southeast Asia; the reality that those in the west who created the vaccine don’t have access to it, can’t afford it, can’t get away from it–so we call it Delta, symbolic of the shape.

What happened to contact tracing? It was all the rage in 2020. But now? We just show color coded maps that coincide hotspots with political affiliations. But masks aren’t political! Diseases need cures, not vaccinations. But there’s no money in the cure.

There’s money in low wage-earners who need to get back to work; to serve the people who work for higher wages (who are able to work from home). If there was any chance that the cast system could be broken, a pandemic is as good a time as any.

Minimum wages increase as the poor hear the cries of the wealthy, “Get back to work!” An individual recognition of how organized labor maximizes income, the masses show the rich that they can either EAT them or join them. The wealthy, too, reorganize.

To be still affords us the opportunity to see things for how they are. After nearly 18 months of near-stillness, why are we surprised that things would change? Lessons were learned–just not the lessons that we planned.

The manipulation takes a more aggressive tone. The oppressed push back. For the first time the entitled feel victimize and scream bloody murder as they eat their own cake.

Education IS political for the simple fact that some get it for free, some pay for it, some don’t get it at all–and those are the ones that we elect to lead us. For anything that has value will be fought for. For anything that others need, there will be war. For anything that we can’t have more, there will be battles in store.

So today’s guilty confession is simple and secure. The liars will not stop lying. The wealthy won’t stop clinching their pearls. The poor wont stop fighting for more. The perverts wont stop groping girls. The mask-less won’t stop breathing. The cops wont stop beating. The disenfranchised won’t stop marching. The virus wont stop mutating. The END.

Raised Eyebrows

What does the term bamboozled mean to you? How much do you believe when you watch (or read) the news? How long will you ingest information before you become skeptical?

For someone to present something completely ludicrous as a benefit to a broken system raises eyebrows. It’s ludicrous when the solution to a problem is extreme—either far too easy or incredibly difficult. Here’s what happened.

For the first time in 18 months, I attended a training. This annual training was for one of the many volunteer boards I’ve been asked to sit on. In my community, non-profit boards are not as diverse as they could be. My role is not so much to represent the needs of the community, but to fulfill a commitment these non-profits are attempting to make to our community. In many cases, I sit and listen. The other veteran members of these boards don’t pay much attention to me as long as I don’t disrupt the flow of their procedures.

I can’t be certain of how they view me. They don’t ask me questions. As far as I know, they don’t much care about me. They might think that I have no idea of what’s going on. Occasionally, I remove the doubt. I’ll ask a question. They’ll politely engage me. My questions are rarely answered with commitment. Instead the responses are rushed. I feel stifled. I resist the urge to feel slighted, and I never walk away until the meeting is done.

On this day, something was different. A man who has nothing in common with me pulled me aside. He asked me discretely if I wanted to know how all this works. I raised an eyebrow. I looked at my wrist where I used to wear a watch (a bad habit of mine) and sighed.

He pulled me closer. He said, “spending.”

He gestured to his fingers that he rubbed together. “Money, my boy!”

As if he were crisping invisible dollar bills in one hand, he declared that he spends money on paper, but rarely has cash in hand.

“I buy cars. I’ve always loved cars. When I was in college, I took out student loans to buy project cars that I couldn’t afford. Even though I lived at home with my parents, I had a half dozen “oldies” scattered around town. Two on campus, one at my girlfriend’s apartment, one at a buddies house, and one that I drove. My parents resented that I had access to loan money as a student they they could not access as homeowners. I had no credit, no collateral, and a minimum wage job. But my earnings were enough to pay for my college classes. To this day, I still owe on student loans that I used as walk around money thirty years ago. It wasn’t smart, but it will never be repaid.”

“That’s interesting,” I whispered, pulling away from this man.

He asserted, “there’s more! Before I graduated from college, I volunteered as an intern for a non-profit community action agency. I witnessed the CEO live lavishly while his staff earned salaries below the poverty level. He bragged that the services that the agency provided were heavily relied upon by his staff. ‘As long as there is a need, the agency will remain in business.’”

“Spending, my boy! But that’s not all. When I graduated, that man gave me a job and paid me a little bit more. I stayed for a year. I noticed how discontent his staff was. Sadly, their discontent was not enough to motivate them to do much about their own circumstance. Instead, they processed the aid applications that will financially support others in their community. This agency was run by the people FOR the people. I left after a year for a better job.

“My subsequent jobs evolved into careers. Each one serving marginal populations. The managers lived well, but the workers managed a life barely above their means.

“Everyone either had high rent or a higher mortgage. They drove expensive cars that they leased or second-hand luxury cars that they owned. So I mimicked what I witnessed and I fit in just fine.”

“What’s this got to do with me?” I said.

“High overhead!” he mumbled

“Spend money that’s not yours! Run deficits. Live beyond your means.

“Here’s what I do: I apply for high interest loans and pay every month on time. I default on the low balance loans to keep my credit score low enough that no one will benefit. This way no one will steal my identity. Because my default judgements will never be more than 10% over my gross, and my salary rarely competes with the cost-of-living, my income is never fixed. I occasionally work a job on the side (that is off the books), so my head is above water. But I drive a nice car, I eat out on credit, and no one can see my empty pockets.

“I tip well and treat my friends better than they treat me. I keep their secrets but I don’t share my own. I give to charity, as long as it’s a charity that I’m fond of. You never know when things will go sour. Only burn the bridges where adversaries antagonize you. Forget about keeping your enemies close, because your life will be too boring for them to hang around.”

“Are you done?” I asked

He said, “No. I’m just getting started…”

Unsolicited Advice

There are few things more uncomfortable than advice that you didn’t ask for. It has no value until you’ve experienced something so uncomfortable that you wished you had actually considered that unsolicited advice.

So instead of listing a bunch of “do’s & don’ts” let’s instead list a few things to consider. It’s less intrusive and more…considerate.

Value other people’s time. This should be a “no-brainer” and yet…. This lends itself to the next piece of unsolicited advice:

The Golden Rule, yes… BUT even though you may not be moved by how others treat you, you must recognize that treating others with respect spans farther than “self”. Consider Karma. The universe is paying close attention. The good that we exercise today will find its way back into our lives later and expand into the lives of people that we may never meet. Proceed accordingly.

Consider timeliness. Prepare in advance to arrive on time. Running late this time is merely setting a precedent for next time. Like anything else, if it works out this time, you’ll make it a habit. Successes are habit-forming and contagious. When you’re successful being late, others will mimic that behavior.

The next morsel of unsolicited advice is…BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. Because we can only predict (and not foresee) the future, cautiously maintain current relationships. Be willing to develop new relationships, and recognize that people are in your life for either a reason or a season. We can’t control these seasons, but we can draw from our wardrobe in case of a chilly day.

Dress appropriately and ADDress your adversaries with full consideration. When we underestimate others, we make fools of ourselves. There are plenty of proverbs we could apply, but your own experiences should drive you and not inhibit you. Confidence is attractive, but arrogance can be a repellant. No one can take your education from you, so learn as much as you can. Intelligence looks good on you.

Humility looks good too, but wear it like an accessory rather than a suit. When you look good, you feel good. Consider how you look when you step outside of your comfort zones. Consider how you look at the end of the day. A successful experience is as informative as a defeat. Both develop growth.

Grow! “Either get busy living or get busy dying” This Shawshank Redemption quote suggests that we can extract advice from books, films, or even your favorite childhood cartoon. Bugs Bunny taught us to be clever, but Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam exposed us the dangers of guns in the wrong hands.

“Know when to hold ‘Em, know when to fold ‘Em; know when to walk away…know when to run!” Kenny Rogers sang it best. The world is our classroom. Any good teacher would glean real-world experiences to use in a lesson. You can do the same. There are clues in every song, every commercial, and nuisances abound.

So take this unsolicited advice or discard it entirely. After all, you’ve read nothing new. But now you have something to consider.