Time to Get Vaccinated

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.” ― Herophilus

My vaccination categories arrived. I got myself on several lists. On Friday night an email arrived notifying me that I could go to my local parking lot and get in line for the first step toward immunity. This was going to be one of the two dose immunizations. I thought I’d better not look a gift horse in the mouth and jumped to it.

I got up Saturday, prepared myself for a long wait with the “herd” and drove out to the giant parking lot. There were hundreds and hundreds all lined up, coming from every direction. Everyone (almost) was minding their manners, taking turns and waiting patiently as we inched and inched along around and around our special events center.

“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.” ― Paulo Coelho

Hours later I got to what looked like a check-in area. I had been sent a QR code the night before to use. I needed a picture ID and this code on my phone. The poor guy with his reams of paper looked and looked. He consulted others. Asked me to drive over there. Took my phone to double check. Came back and said, “you are not on the list, you will have to leave.” Hmm.  Like a good citizen I asked where the exit was and drove away.

Then the frustration set in. I had followed all the directions. I patiently waited in line, I met the criteria, why wasn’t I on the list? I ran a few errands on the way home. Once I stopped and parked, I figured out who to contact to express my frustrations. I decided it wasn’t the governor. I filled out the online contact “form” and resigned myself to having done all I could.

“Some third person decides your fate: this is the whole essence of bureaucracy.” ― Kollontai Alexandra

These magnificent bureaucracies of ours accomplish so much. Can you imagine what it’s like to identify, notify and then actually vaccinate thousands of citizens in a city, county and state? Our modern technology has made this possible – organization and people management unimagined in all of history. We could probably get a pyramid built next week.

This wasn’t really what I was thinking as I thought more about my wasted morning and decided to pick up a couple items at the store. How come on a Saturday there are no shopping carts at Target? And why does the Target lady standing there not seem very concerned? And why is the guy retrieving carts in the parking lot on his cell phone? Maybe building a pyramid is wishful thinking.

Of course, at the store those few items I wanted to get seem out of stock too often. I can’t figure this out. There are hundreds of cans of tuna and boxes and boxes of corn flakes. Why do I want what can’t be kept on the shelves at my store?

“Our frustration is greater when we have much and want more than when we have nothing and want some. We are less dissatisfied when we lack many things than when we seem to lack but one thing.” ― Eric Hoffer

I felt my phone in my pocket giving off consistent vibration. Someone was calling. Well, don’t answer it in the store, was my first thought. I pulled it out and looked. It was a number from the county seat. Hmm. I walked down an empty aisle and answered. Before me were rows and rows of canned chili. What’s happened to our society that has caused us to eat chili out of a can? I listened to a woman from the county health office who was responding to my “complaint” sent less than an hour ago.

Someone from the media had posted registration information for vaccination in my county. A terrible mistake. This caused thousands of ineligible people to sign in and show up. It royally messed up the entire system. They only had 800 doses to give out! This official who called me back was very apologetic and offered to get me back in that day through the employee entrance. I told her I didn’t need it right now, no emergency. She set me up for an appointment later in the week. I told her I was very thankful for her hard work as she apologized again. It wasn’t her fault or the county health departments’ but it was great to have her helping put out the hundreds of fires that must have been set.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ― Edward Everett Hale

What’s making you crazy with fear or frustration these days?

I stopped thinking about all those cans of chili. I’ll check back another day and locate those items I can’t find at the store. No big deal. I’m really not that worked up about getting my vaccination. It will happen. But there in the canned goods aisle as I felt thankfulness for someone working the phones in Fort Bend County I opened up my spiritual eyes and took another look.

Another reminder. They probably happen all day long and I’m too busy or full of cares to notice. God is always saying to his children, stop that worrying. Walk through your life with an unexpected calmness. If your bus is late, talk to that stranger next to you some more. Frustration doesn’t have to be the go-to response to every roadblock in your way. If life today seems to fall apart unexpectedly, imagine something new out of the pieces.

Think of all that “we” could have gotten accomplished in that long wait in the car this morning.

“So do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Living faithfully is a large enough task for today.”  – Jesus (Matthew 6:34)

What’s in Your Rear Seat?

Car manufacturers begin implementing back seat reminder technology

“A number of years ago I had some experience with being alone. For two succeeding years I was alone each winter for eight months at a stretch in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Lake Tahoe. I was the caretaker on a summer estate during the winter months when it was snowed in. And I made some observations then. As time went on I found that my reactions thickened. Ordinarily I am a whistler. I stopped whistling. I stopped conversing with my dogs, and I believe that the subtleties of feeling began to disappear until finally I was on a pleasure-pain basis. Then it occurred to me that the delicate shades of feeling, of reaction, are the result of communication, and without such communication they tend to disappear. A man with nothing to say has no words. Can its reverse be true- a man who has no one to say anything to has no words as he has no need for words? … Only through imitation do we develop toward originality.” ― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

I’ve got one of those rear seat reminders in my vehicle. Each time the back door is opened it triggers a warning when I stop the vehicle to check the back seat. For me, it’s usually stuff from the grocery store or my school case. I don’t have any quiet children in my life who might be forgotten in the backseat. But this safety precaution is a great idea!

This has got me thinking about other reminders in my life – or lack of reminders. I used to have someone living with me who would remind me how to drive. Have you got one of those? You don’t know how important this feature is until it’s gone. One of my favorite comedians said the other day that when the music was too loud in her car (kids playing it in the back) she couldn’t see well. Maybe I need to turn the music down.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ― George Bernard Shaw

My daily routine has been sent spiraling out of control – like it has for many people. It was filled with dozens of subtle reminders about how to order my steps. Seeing people on a regular basis never fails to remind me about how important they are in my life – even people I don’t really know. It helps me to realize, again and again, that I’m not the center of the universe. Keeps the pity party clown away from the front door.

Reminders help me to do the right thing. When I keep a list of names going, it helps me to stay on track and to prioritize my thinking. Being around other people, even if it’s a phone call or text, nudges me to think about the cares and worries that my friends and family are shouldering. Maybe there’s something I can do to help? Even a kind word might be just right. I’ve started keeping visual lists (post-it notes) around me so that I can remember the people that need care and prayer.

There is so much of life and living that is out of order right now. Taken-for-granted reminders can seem lost in the fog. So many routines are gone, new or changing:

  1. Going to work or staying home?
  2. Wearing pants or not?
  3. Familiar people missing from your life?
  4. Church services on or off?
  5. Not much in the way of casual entertainment – dining out, movies, events?
  6. Live sporting events are just weird now, right?

That rear seat reminder got me thinking about all of the ways I am having to be more intentional with my social connections – speak to each person in your day; the grocery sacker, the girl in the fast food window, the neighbor passing across the street, wave a lot more to strangers, anyone who delivers to your door.

If you could have a warning light go off to remind you to think about or do the most important things in your life these days, what would the indicator read?

Take a minute and make a list of your life right now. Chart your progress. Pinpoint where you are on the map. What’s getting done and what’s not? Who are you becoming each day? Who are you supposed to be everyday? Who do the people in your life need you to be? I hope this time of isolation will one day be known (among other accomplishments and bitter failures) as a golden age of reflection.

  1. Be sure to listen to what your spouse is saying (and not saying).
  2. Go back and look at your pre-COVID goals, the big ones. What can you adjust and tackle?
  3. Spend extra time with your children (after asking them to put down their phones) in their rooms, doing what they want to do. You might have to get on the floor.
  4. Establish new routines while working from home. A time to yourself, writing and reflecting before you jump into your day. Can you walk “around the block” and get a cup of coffee? Schedule regular times to get out of your cave. Meals around the table instead of the TV?
  5. Weather permitting, go sit in the backyard and watch that evening screen up in the sky while talking to the real people in your life.
  6. Doesn’t sound like much fun, but I’m cleaning out cabinets and closets, Feels better once it’s done. Who really needs a 6-year old can Raid? There may be some spiritual cubby holes that need dusting as well!

As Steinbeck noticed in the quote at the start, human beings need to be around other human beings on a regular basis – to remind us how to keep being human. We learn how to be human from our parents, teachers and friends. We keep learning from others how to stay human the rest of our lives.

“Isolation has carved me in its image and likeness.” ― Fernando Pessoa

Remember when God created the world, each time he made something, he declared each was good. When he made man, he said, “It’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

209 Tie A Ribbon Around Your Finger Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free  Images - iStock

Look for reminders in your life to stay connected and help others to keep connected. Post some in any way that you can. Otherwise we may all lose something that keeps us human, keeps us civilized.

Your Country Needs You, I Need You

2020, So Much We’d Like to Forget!

How would you describe your 2020 so far? I’m sitting just a little west of Houston right now with Hurricane Laura barreling down on the  Texas/Louisiana border late tonight. We just started the Fall Semester this week at HBU.  Like most colleges and universities in America we are doing a hybrid model with students attending and online. Well, once the hurricane predictions got more accurate, it was decided to go completely online (remote) for the rest of the week. We have students commuting from all over the region. Much better to play it safe!

Have you had time to make a list of what 2020 has really been like for people in our country (not to mention the rest of the world)?

  • Pandemic forces the closing of businesses and an economic shutdown.
  • Quarantining at home keeps people safer. Most of us have been in lock down for six months.
  • Childcare has shut down and parents have had to scramble to find other solutions – that is if they themselves haven’t lost their jobs or were furloughed.
  • Online education replaced public and private school last spring and is happening for many this fall. That means an adult at home is having to supervise what once took place in classrooms.
  • Healthcare and even deaths have dramatically changed our experiences with healthcare professionals and hospitals. You can’t be with loved ones in the hospital!
  • Veering away from the COVID crisis, have you been paying attention to the political circus? This is really the best that the greatest nation on earth can put forth?
  • For so many, the year has brought about loss in one way or another. Dramatic changes in employment, benefits, childcare, and school have created catastrophes in every social class.
  • Well of course, we’ve become increasingly disconnected from one another over the past six months. We took the physical presence of others for granted. In quarantine we only had a text or email. Even now, trying to communicate past a mask while distancing doesn’t do away with all the frustration. It doesn’t bring enough solution to our deeper problem.
  • What has your life been like in lock-down? Too much TV? Not enough church? Have you reached your togetherness limit? Who do you think you’ve become after this much change in your normal routines? Are you finding out what you’re really made of? (Considering posting some homemade music videos?)

Anyone can put together a bad news list. How depressing.

What’s needed are some old fashioned heroes.

Normal, everyday folks like you and me.

Even under the mask, someone who will carry a smile into every frustrating situation, and keep it no matter how deep the fear and anger gets.

“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.” ― G. K. Chesterton

Someone who will think first and speak second. Who listens carefully and tries to hear what’s behind the inflamed words and withdrawn quietness. People have been cut off from others in lots of ways. Listening is an urgent first step to helping and healing others.

We need everyday heroes who will pick up the slack in our broken political and social culture right now. That means you might have to sit on your opinion, no matter how mad you are. As uncomfortable as it makes you, loving others who are from the opposite end of the spectrum may be just what the doctor ordered.

“It’s a civic virtue to be exposed to things that appear to be outside your interest. In a complex world, almost everything affects you – that closes the loop on pecuniary self-interest. Customers are always right, but people aren’t.” ― Clive Thompson

This virus that has struck the whole world has provided an opportunity for each one of us to see what we’re really made of. It’s a crisis for each of us individually but it’s also a crisis for our family. It’s a crisis for our neighbors and our city – even though we are locked away and socially distant we’re still citizens with a responsibility to others. It’s a crisis for America. Who do you think this will turn us into?

“Democracy gives us citizens a measure of political power. That power comes with a responsibility to foster a culture that makes it possible to live and work well together for the well-being of all.” ― Diane Kalen-Sukra

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I am late with posting on my blog.

Trying to get ready for the semester has had me all in a fog of panic. All my courses have to be filmed with a new laptop while I’m teaching all medically sealed up and safe for my half class each day (the other half comes on the next day). I just knew I’d fumble the ball. I went to training demonstrations and watched film clips online. When Monday arrived it seemed I knew which buttons to press. Tuesday was a different story.

On Monday, the problem was I had inserted the wrong textbook in the class syllabus and everyone was mixed up about how to launch with their assignments due that week. Ugh!  Then, that afternoon I went to my second class, got all the wires plugged in and waited and waited, no one showed up. Once the time was almost over, it was made clear to me that I had gone to the wrong room. My class had been waiting for me in the right room. Ugh!

So, I had cleared up the fog but remained lost. In the past, I never worried much about instructional technology. My wife’s EdD is in that field. I just always took it for granted that I would have someone to help me over every obstacle. She’s gone to heaven now. In two weeks it will be a year. Every day it has seemed to me as if she just walked out the door.

This has probably been what has slowed me down from blogging. It’s also what has increased my stress about jumping back into this new routine at school. I’m so glad to be back out of my hostage crisis and back with people again. But I think I’m not really aware of my constant broken heart. I’m so thankful for all the heroes in my life.

“We have no reason to mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” ― Rainier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet