We get what we deserve

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

 

This quote, attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, graced the entrance of a high school I entered recently. It’s a good reminder for all of us in these days of political firestorms.

President Trump is an easy target for finger-pointers these days. He’s making dramatic policy changes, including The Wall and an immigration ban, two related decisions in an attempt to keep potential terrorists out of the United States.

There’s collateral damage. Innocent people are affected. That’s all the rage these days.

Explaining Trump

The questions for me are: Why does Trump feel these decisions are even necessary? And if his policies are so bad, why did we elect him president in the first place?

The second question has a deeper answer than most of us are willing to admit. All of us are responsible for Trump, whether we voted for him or not. All of us created the atmosphere that has allowed him to take charge. Even those among us who oppose him.

The role of the media

One of Trump’s first actions as president was to attack the media, saying he would control the information that comes out of certain government agencies. His tweets bypass traditional media outlets. These are two separate but connected issues. He’s our oldest president, but also the most social media-savvy. He’s changing the rules.

As a (former) journalist, this worries me. The media are a necessary watchdog on government. But the media are among the groups that have created the atmosphere that allows Trump to thrive.

Television newscasts are little more than political commentary and reports on extreme weather, with an occasional feel-good story thrown in for good measure. Newspapers have – and continue to – gut their staffs to the point where they aren’t able to attend local city council or township board meetings, or ask the tough questions even when they do. The last newspaper I worked for is more concerned with winning peer-driven plaques and trophies than it is in writing and editing news that matters to its readers.

Beyond the fatal crash

On Jan. 24, a Cleveland police officer was killed while directing traffic around two previous accidents on Interstate 90 on the city’s west side. Once the officer died, emotions took over and that’s all the media – and everyone else – has talked about.

There’s nothing wrong with memorializing a fallen officer, of course. He was killed by a hit-skip driver who was arrested several hours later in a city west of Cleveland. If this driver faces trial and is found guilty, I hope they throw the book at him. Officer Fahey died a tragic, untimely death.

But no one talks about the beginning of his end.

There was a single-vehicle crash on westbound I-90 near Hilliard Road reported at 5:04 a.m. Jan. 24. Police responding to that accident requested medical assistance, so a Rocky River fire truck was dispatched to the scene.

At 5:33 a.m., a Chevrolet van crashed into the fire truck, killing the driver and sending a passenger to a nearby hospital.

Officer Fahey was setting up traffic flares around the fire truck at 6 a.m. when a white Toyota Camry hit him and fled west on I-90.

I saw one brief newspaper article naming the Chevy van driver who died. I never saw anything on the original crash, the single-vehicle wreck that started the whole thing.

And that’s my point. Details, people. No one cares about details any more. Including the media.

Once Officer Fahey died, that became not only the main story, as it should have been, but it became the only story, which it wasn’t. There were two other crashes that preceded it.

If either did not happen, Officer Fahey most likely would still be serving among us.

Because (presumably) no one died in that first wreck, no one cared about it. Even though it started an escalating sequence that culminated in the death of a police officer.

Small things often lead to big things.

Distorting facts

Not only does the media miss details, sometimes it misrepresents them. Sports Illustrated in its current issue wrote an article about “The Super Bowl sex-trafficking myth.” The magazine presents evidence that sex-trafficking statistics have been skewed to showcase a problem that isn’t nearly as severe as the manipulators want it to be.

Sex trafficking is a major issue in this country, but it’s year-round in numerous cities and places, Sports Illustrated argues. It’s not a one-time problem that goes away once the Super Bowl hoopla ends. By misrepresenting the issue, proponents are actually undermining efforts to stem sex trafficking across the nation.

Why does President Trump attack the media so hard? Because the media, in general, is no longer doing well the job it’s supposed to be doing.

Instead of getting all emotional about Trump’s actions, how about a focus on details and accuracy?

Terrorism was a major issue in 2016. There were a number of attacks around the world, including on U.S. soil. Trump campaigned against this. We elected him. Here we go.

How do terrorists get into the United States? Is Trump targeting the wrong countries? Would a different strategy work better?

Instead of soundbites and one-liners, how about a little research to make your point?

Since the media aren’t doing much of that research now, and since the Internet has opened up the world of information to all of us, we each do our own research. Nearly all of it is slanted. We pick the sources that make the points we want to make. The other side picks the points it wants to make. Trying to sort it all out is a difficult game.

Rise above the firestorm

In this information overload and fact vacuum, enter Trump. He’s the result, not the cause, of what this nation has become.

Instead of firing off hateful one-sided diatribes, perhaps we should take the advice those high school students offer. Be the change.

I saw this LinkedIn post the other day:

 

Apart from the ballot box, philanthropy presents the one opportunity the individual has to express her or his meaningful choice over the direction in which any society will progress. (author unknown)

 

My comment on that post:

 

Philanthropy is throwing money at the problem, which is good. A better word is volunteerism, which is actually doing something.

 

We’re good at pointing fingers. Those of us who have money are good at spending it.

Let’s get off our rear ends, myself included, and get back in the game. Whether it’s through traditional media or other means, we need to discover the truths about life, why things happen as well as how. Let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s be more objective. More open-minded. More sensitive.

If Trump is a bull in a china shop, it’s because we are, too.

Too much destruction going on. Time to build up.

And I don’t mean a wall.

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The journey and the destination

Is it about the journey or the destination?

A friend posted this scenic saying the other day about the journey, and I questioned it. I said life is about both – the journey and the destination. If there’s no destination, what’s the point of the journey?

My friend’s response:

 

So can you tell me what your destination is? And once you get there, then what? I know I have goals set to get me places, but the goals will never stop; otherwise I wouldn’t feel like I was growing as a person. Therefore, I don’t really have a destination because it’s so much bigger than that.

 

I see what she’s getting at. I have goals as well that will never stop. Even if I achieve a goal, others will remain. That’s how we grow as individuals. I’m with her 100 percent on that.

But the destination is the big picture. We need to think big thoughts sometimes. What is our purpose? What are we doing on this Earth, anyway?

A goal is a desired outcome. A destination is a place where someone is going.

We can have many goals. But where are we going?

John Maxwell, a leadership expert I respect greatly, offers this perspective:

 

What matters more, the journey, or the destination? If you only focus on the journey, you lack direction and motivation, and if you focus solely on your destination, you can miss the life lessons and memories along the way. Plus, you often discover through your journey that your final destination isn’t exactly the same as it was when you started.

 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-journey-you-john-c-maxwell?trk=v-feed&lipi=urn%3Ali%3Apage%3Ad_flagship3_feed%3Bhg6PJcNa16FIVgVp5FKDOQ%3D%3D

Interesting. The destination of our lives may change as we continue the journey, Maxwell claims. As we experience life, we discover new paths and journeys – and perhaps a new place where we want to go.

For most of my adult life, my journey was smooth and relatively easy. I had a secure job that paid the bills with money left over, my wife and I raised three healthy and active sons, we all were involved in a few extracurricular activities – life was full, fun and worth living.

Then, as our boys were heading off to college, my job was eliminated. Since then, I’ve held six jobs in seven years in three states.

The journey got bumpy.

god's plan

I never would have met the friend I quoted at the start of this article if my life had not taken those unexpected twists and turns.

 

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. (1 Cor. 9:24)

 

Every runner runs to win the race (unless you’re in the Boston Marathon, in which case you’re just trying to finish – when the finish line becomes the destination).

My friend poses an interesting question: Once I get to my destination, then what? When I reach the finish line, what comes next?

Her first question gets to the heart of the matter: Can you tell me what your destination is?

I can.

My destination is heaven. As long as I am alive on Planet Earth, I won’t get there. So there’s no chance of reaching my destination while I’m still on this journey.

Why, then, pursue an unattainable place?

Because the destination is attainable. Just not in this life. And if I don’t pursue heaven, I won’t get there.

 

Therefore, my dear friends … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

 

This doesn’t mean I have to earn salvation. No, salvation is a gift from God. But if I am “saved,” then my life will reflect it. My goals will change. My journey will take a different – and better and more meaningful – course.

I have to pursue God continually.

 

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? (Romans 6:1)

 

This earthly life is not about me. I’ve written about that previously in this blog. I am a tiny piece of the puzzle that God is putting together. But God thinks I’m an important piece, worth having around.

This is true for you too.

The least we can do in response to God’s love – even when those closest to us hurt us, or even when we don’t feel worthy of God’s love – is to say thanks and try to do things He would enjoy. That’s the way we treat those we love on this Earth, isn’t it? We try to do things they enjoy.

This is the journey.

The destination is to live not only for God, but with God.

The alternative?

To live without God. Ever.

There’s no middle ground. We might think there’s a purgatory or something like that, but there isn’t. God is tapping on our hearts. We say yes or no.

That determines our ultimate destination.

We can’t pursue anything bigger than that. Destinations we pursue here on Earth will end someday. Each of us will die one day. That’s a guarantee.

We don’t like to think about that, but the end is coming. Hopefully later rather than sooner, but …

Maxwell profiled a husband and wife who spent a lot of time studying their purpose in life. They offer this conclusion:

 

To those starting out on their own personal journey to find their purpose, the couple gave this advice: “Know that this is your journey. It’s a path to follow, not a destination. Once you realize that you are on a journey of your own, you can stop comparing yourself to others and celebrate their wins, knowing that yours are coming. Someone else winning helps you, it doesn’t take away from you. There is more than enough for all of us to win.” Are you winning in your life right now? Or are you too busy comparing your life to others and feeling let down? The journey, and the destination, are yours to choose.

 

Enjoy the ride. Pursue your destination. See you at the finish line.

A day in the life of …

Driving in the middle of three lanes on the Ohio Turnpike the other day, I was coming up on the exit before the one I wanted. Semi-trucks filled the right and middle lanes as we approached the exit. The trucks in the right-hand lane left the turnpike, then one of the semis in the middle lane slowed down, crossed two lanes and also exited. I braked to 35 mph on a 70 mph highway.

I’ve seen cars do that a number of times, always because they were driving too fast before cutting in front of me to exit. I hadn’t seen a semi do that before. He probably just couldn’t move to the right lane because of the traffic already there.

Last night I avoided the highway because it snowed during the day and the roads were bad. I heard reports of numerous wrecks. Some roads I traversed were clear; others were snow-covered. Keeping alert, I reached my destinations without a hitch.

As I’m typing this, I’m thinking I need to make my picks for this weekend’s NFL wild-card playoff games. I’m in a family football pool; during the season, I finished in the middle of the pack. I got some picks right, and missed badly on many others. If I was a fanatic, maybe I would have done better. No biggie. It was fun.

A Monday vacation

I had Monday off this week for the New Year’s holiday. My wife did not, so I got a day to myself. I went for a jog in the morning. I don’t have an exercise plan; I just go when I feel like it. I like the fresh air, and it energizes me when the blood starts pumping.

On Wednesday morning, I was tired and had a headache. I get time off midday, so I went for another jog. It felt good. I still was tired afterward, so I downed some aspirin and an extra cup of coffee. Something worked, because I felt better that afternoon and evening.

Oh yeah, back to Monday. After the jog and a shower, I headed to Crocker Park in nearby Westlake to spend a gift card I got for Christmas. Bad move. It was a holiday. I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere, even in a four-floor garage – with dozens of other drivers looking for a spot in there too. I never did spend the gift card. I’ll go back another day.

In the (not) bleak mid-winter

I saw a Facebook post that nothing good happens in January. It’s cold and snowy in the upper Midwest. I like the cold and snow, although 10 degrees is a little much to be outside for long.

But January is not all bad. I started my last two jobs, including my current one, in January. We moved to Elyria three years ago – in January. During a polar vortex, by the way.

A couple of days ago, I took a package to the post office. There were seven or eight of us in line, and only one clerk. She buzzed the back for help, but none came. The line kept growing. The clerk worked quickly, but professionally and efficiently. When it was my turn, I told her she was doing a great job. I worked in a call center for 2.5 years; compliments are one in 1,000, literally. A little encouragement goes a very long way.

I hope the clerk was encouraged.

A typical day

I start my mornings in a La-Z-Boy with a cup of coffee and my Bible, often with one cat on my lap and the other cat on the headrest. What a great way to begin the day. It’s quiet and warm. Definitely worth setting the alarm a few minutes early for.

At work, I drive a wheelchair-accessible van to pick up several individuals with special needs and bring them to our “socialization center” for the day, then drive them home late afternoon. I have a wide-ranging route that takes me into the next county. Most of my folks are non-verbal, so I talk to them and they don’t talk back.

The first guy I pick up likes to empty the storage bin above where he sits. There’s an umbrella, ice scraper, two rolled-up blankets and couple of other things up there. He likes to play with them while I’m driving. Whatever. Except that sometimes he’s slow getting out of the van when we arrive because he won’t let go of what he’s playing with at that moment.

The next guy I pick up most days is verbal, so we’ll talk about his family, the Browns or Cavaliers, or whatever is on his mind that day.

I also regularly pick up two non-verbal ladies, one of whom likes to unzip her coat and take off her shoes in the van even though there’s snow outside.

These folks are my second family, and I enjoy being with them. My co-workers at the center are wonderful to work with, too.

Picking (a very few) battles

Why am I rambling on like this? To prove a point, actually. My life does not revolve around Donald Trump or Barack Obama. I suspect this is true for most Americans.

We can argue politics all day long and may not ever agree on the major issues. Or the minor ones. Or which issues are major and which ones are minor.

I value your friendship, and I’d rather not ruin it by getting dogmatic about things I can’t control. I can vote and write letters if I’m passionate enough; if that’s your thing, go for it. We each do have our issues.

I have a life to live. I pick my battles. My battles may or may not coincide with yours. If they do, I may or may not agree with you.

Ultimately, each of us will have to stand before our Maker and defend who we are, what we’ve done and what we’ve stood for. I’m not your judge. You are not my judge. Let’s not play that game.

Speaking of games, time to make those NFL playoff picks, then get some lunch. Then relax for an hour or two before returning to work.

Have a nice day. Let’s keep in touch.

A day in the life of …

Driving in the middle of three lanes on the Ohio Turnpike the other day, I was coming up on the exit before the one I wanted. Semi-trucks filled the right and middle lanes as we approached the exit. The trucks in the right-hand lane left the turnpike, then one of the semis in the middle lane slowed down, crossed two lanes and also exited. I braked to 35 mph on a 70 mph highway.

I’ve seen cars do that a number of times, always because they were driving too fast before cutting in front of me to exit. I hadn’t seen a semi do that before. He probably just couldn’t move to the right lane because of the traffic already there.

Last night I avoided the highway because it snowed during the day and the roads were bad. I heard reports of numerous wrecks. Some roads I traversed were clear; others were snow-covered. Keeping alert, I reached my destinations without a hitch.

As I’m typing this, I’m thinking I need to make my picks for this weekend’s NFL wild-card playoff games. I’m in a family football pool; during the season, I finished in the middle of the pack. I got some picks right, and missed badly on many others. If I was a fanatic, maybe I would have done better. No biggie. It was fun.

A Monday vacation

I had Monday off this week for the New Year’s holiday. My wife did not, so I got a day to myself. I went for a jog in the morning. I don’t have an exercise plan; I just go when I feel like it. I like the fresh air, and it energizes me when the blood starts pumping.

On Wednesday morning, I was tired and had a headache. I get time off midday, so I went for another jog. It felt good. I still was tired afterward, so I downed some aspirin and an extra cup of coffee. Something worked, because I felt better that afternoon and evening.

Oh yeah, back to Monday. After the jog and a shower, I headed to Crocker Park in nearby Westlake to spend a gift card I got for Christmas. Bad move. It was a holiday. I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere, even in a four-floor garage – with dozens of other drivers looking for a spot in there too. I never did spend the gift card. I’ll go back another day.

In the (not) bleak mid-winter

I saw a Facebook post that nothing good happens in January. It’s cold and snowy in the upper Midwest. I like the cold and snow, although 10 degrees is a little much to be outside for long.

But January is not all bad. I started my last two jobs, including my current one, in January. We moved to Elyria three years ago – in January. During a polar vortex, by the way.

A couple of days ago, I took a package to the post office. There were seven or eight of us in line, and only one clerk. She buzzed the back for help, but none came. The line kept growing. The clerk worked quickly, but professionally and efficiently. When it was my turn, I told her she was doing a great job. I worked in a call center for 2.5 years; compliments are one in 1,000, literally. A little encouragement goes a very long way.

I hope the clerk was encouraged.

A typical day

I start my mornings in a La-Z-Boy with a cup of coffee and my Bible, often with one cat on my lap and the other cat on the headrest. What a great way to begin the day. It’s quiet and warm. Definitely worth setting the alarm a few minutes early for.

At work, I drive a wheelchair-accessible van to pick up several individuals with special needs and bring them to our “socialization center” for the day, then drive them home late afternoon. I have a wide-ranging route that takes me into the next county. Most of my folks are non-verbal, so I talk to them and they don’t talk back.

The first guy I pick up likes to empty the storage bin above where he sits. There’s an umbrella, ice scraper, two rolled-up blankets and couple of other things up there. He likes to play with them while I’m driving. Whatever. Except that sometimes he’s slow getting out of the van when we arrive because he won’t let go of what he’s playing with at that moment.

The next guy I pick up most days is verbal, so we’ll talk about his family, the Browns or Cavaliers, or whatever is on his mind that day.

I also regularly pick up two non-verbal ladies, one of whom likes to unzip her coat and take off her shoes in the van even though there’s snow outside.

These folks are my second family, and I enjoy being with them. My co-workers at the center are wonderful to work with, too.

Picking (a very few) battles

Why am I rambling on like this? To prove a point, actually. My life does not revolve around Donald Trump or Barack Obama. I suspect this is true for most Americans.

We can argue politics all day long and may not ever agree on the major issues. Or the minor ones. Or which issues are major and which ones are minor.

I value your friendship, and I’d rather not ruin it by getting dogmatic about things I can’t control. I can vote and write letters if I’m passionate enough; if that’s your thing, go for it. We each do have our issues.

I have a life to live. I pick my battles. My battles may or may not coincide with yours. If they do, I may or may not agree with you.

Ultimately, each of us will have to stand before our Maker and defend who we are, what we’ve done and what we’ve stood for. I’m not your judge. You are not my judge. Let’s not play that game.

Speaking of games, time to make those NFL playoff picks, then get some lunch. Then relax for an hour or two before returning to work.

Have a nice day. Let’s keep in touch.