On The Importance Of Remembering That All People Are Important, All The Time


Recently, our president and some Republican congress people have tried to use the fact that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a bartender and waitress, to imply that her work as a congress woman can’t be taken seriously. It’s meant to be demeaning. To say that certain people who hold certain jobs are “lesser than” others. All this has done for them is to reveal the ugly classism they partake in. They couldn’t be more wrong in my not so humble opinion and as usual, I’ll tell you why.

When you really want that after work drink, after a hard, stressful day of doing what you do, a bartender becomes an important person. When you have to use a public restroom, a janitor becomes an important person, making sure the restroom is clean. When you need someone to pet sit for your dog because you’ve been called away suddenly, the pet sitter suddenly becomes an important person. At those moments, those people become important to you. You become thankful for the jobs they do. Jobs that you may have never done. Jobs that you wouldn’t want to do. But think about this. For the two minutes it takes for a bartender or a barista to make your drink, that person is important to you. But that mixologist makes many drinks every day. That person wiping the spilled drinks off the bar is an important person to many people, not just you, throughout the day. The janitor who keeps the restrooms clean is as important to me as they are to you when we both need to use that restroom. Whether they think about it or not, all those who use a clean restroom find the janitor to be an important person.

The point is this: All people are important to many different people for many different reasons every day of their lives. This makes us all important. As soon as you leave the coffee shop with that drink you love so much, mixed by the only barista who gets it just right, that same person is now mixing another drink for another person who appreciates the work they’re doing also. That barista is an important person, all day long. When they go home at the end of their shift, they’re important to their family. They’re important to their dog or cat. They are important. To think of someone as “lesser than” because you feel that your job or position is way more important than theirs shows a complete lack of empathy and compassion and a hugely inflated ego. Try using a filthy public restroom sometime and see just how important a janitor becomes.

Realizing that all people are important, not just for you but for others as well, opens up your heart to a much more compassionate way of seeing the world. Knowing that a janitor or a former bartender or a plumber can think and feel the same as you can, even if you’re the CEO of a large company or a congressperson makes you more human. We’re all on this planet together, all trying to make our way, in our own way and we need each others help. Looking down on someone for who or what they are creates division and harm. So try to remember that when you deal with others. We are all important.

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Ramblings about nothing, or maybe…


Today, is one of those days. There are times when I can go for days, weeks or even months without having any desire to write. I go about my life, doing whatever I choose (a benefit of being retired) and have no need or desire to write about anything. I like to write because it’s expressive. Normally I have myriad thoughts rambling through my head and suddenly one will set off an alarm and it becomes like putting out a fire. I have to write about it. I have to get that thought out and record it and share it. It’s an urgency. But not always. Some times I don’t have that. Thoughts pop in and out, going along their merry way and I don’t give a hoot about writing any of them down. Today however, the bells are clanging like a four alarm fire but they’re not connected to a thought. It’s maddening because I really want to write, really want to express myself in this way but there’s nothing to express. There’s no world shaking theory, no life or death idea screaming at me from inside my head. And yet something is telling me to write. “Write, damn you! Write now,” it screams! So I’m writing. But I have nothing to say.

It’s a strange world inside my head. Loads of ideas all hanging out, expressing themselves to me, to each other, as if they have a life of their own. Sometimes one idea will give a sideways glance at another idea and yell, “Sod off, you!” And that’s it, the second idea will slink off to sulk by itself and lick it’s wounds. And the first idea, now crowned Kind of Ideas, will scream, “Get to your computer fool! Write me down!” And so, impulsively, I rush do just that, before it gets tired of waiting and disappears around a corner. And then other times, all the ideas get together and have a party all by themselves, leaving me completely out of it. Ignoring my pleading for something witty and wise to write about. “Look at that fool,” they say. “Begging us to present ourselves to him so he can have his way, twisting us into his idea of something we are not. Nuts to him! You’re not getting us!” And they shake their tiny fists at me in defiance. Then they set off the alarm. “Write, Write, Write!!! clang the bells, and then the ideas hide and snicker to themselves as I search in vain for what drove me to the keyboard. It’s a wonder I don’t drink. Is this normal, I ask? Do other writers suffer so? And what does one do, when you have a desire to write but nothing presents itself? Make up farcical crap about the inside of my head, I suppose.

I was never a brilliant child. Never had great or lofty ideas about life or love or anything, for that matter. I played with toys and friends when I was young. Got interested in music and girls as a teenager and basically frittered most of my life away, looking for a good time. It’s only been in the last twenty years or so that I have become interested in the world at large. But that having a good time thing, keeps pulling at me like a long lost lover, wanting me back. I guess I’m kind of selfish. I do things I like, I have fun. I do what I enjoy and avoid what I don’t. I stick my nose into the real world long enough to write some crass crap because I like to pretend I know what I’m talking about and then fade back into my cloistered rendition of reality. (Wow, I’m starting to open up here and I’m not sure I like that.) What the hell? Where is this coming from? Guilt, perhaps? My age creeping up on me? Am I thinking I should have done more with my life? Or maybe I should do more now? I don’t like where this is going. So I’ll stop. You know, a funny thing happened to me on the way to the post office….

She


And now I sit alone,
with reminders of her everywhere;
rocks and pictures and paintings.

And now I sit alone,
not lonely, but sad.
Sad at the loss of her,

who shared my life
and sang with me in the car.

She who shared my bed,
and my most intimate moments,
is gone now, forever.

She, who’s laugh made me laugh,
who’s tears made me cry,
is gone now, forever.
I don’t sing in the car, anymore.

The First Time

There has never been anything
quite like a boy’s first slow dance
with a girl. The feeling of her breasts,
pressed against your chest.
The warmth of her body, held close.
Her breath, tickling the hairs on your neck.
And the lovely smell of her freshly washed hair
filling your teenaged senses
with indescribable feelings.
The song you danced to didn’t matter,
and it was over way too soon.
And the only thing you could
think at that moment was that
you wanted to do that again.
And again, and again.
No, there has never been a feeling
quite like that.
And there never will.

Four Minute Meditation

Having a busy life is something all of us seem to share. For those of us who practice meditation, it can be hard to set aside time to do it. I did a four minute meditation a couple weeks ago (I steep my tea for four minutes) and it was really nice. I posted this on Facebook and got a few good responses. If you’re a tea drinker, give this a try some time. I turned it into a poem.
tea cup
While steeping my tea this morning,
I remembered the tea field workers who
pick the green leaves on mountain sides,
two leaves and a bud
in China and India and Africa.
I thought about the people who work the
magic turning the green leaves
into my favorite tea.
And the buyers and sellers and
truck drivers and ship captains and
their crews, store owners and cashiers that are all
involved with my being able to enjoy a cup of tea.
And I thought about the bees that pollinate
the tea plant flowers and the workers who
harvest the honey that I use to
sweeten my favorite tea.
No worries about money or politics
or anything else. And I enjoyed my tea
more than usual for having thought about
the hundreds of people it took for me to have it.
We are all one. Black, White, male, female, gay,
straight, religious, non religious. All the same.
It’s a beautiful world. Let’s work to keep it that way.

Another Year

candleEvery once in a while I fall into the trap of reflecting on my life. This usually happens at the end of the year. The Gregorian calendar, the calendar which most of the world uses, says that today is the last day of 2015. Named after Pope Gregory XIII and introduced in 1582, the Gregorian calendar was a “fix” of the Julian calendar, named after Julius Caesar to add 0.002% to the year to keep Easter at relatively the same time every year. The year end is just a date however, and one would think that a better time to start a new year would be to coincide it with the beginning of a new season, like Summer perhaps. But I wasn’t in on the making of the calendar so my ideas don’t count. Anyway, reflecting on your life is something uniquely human. My dog Sophie, couldn’t give a hoot what happened yesterday, or last week for that matter. The only thing that matters to her is what’s happening right now. Which, if I was following the Buddhist teachings I’ve learned, should be all that matters to me. Ah well, no one is perfect.

It is amazing to think about how things change. Falling back on Buddhist teachings I find that everything changes. The human body has somewhere between 50 to 75 million cells which are dying and being replaced all the time. So technically, you are not the same person you were yesterday. Everything changes, all the time. Especially feelings, thoughts, likes and dislikes. We are not the same people we were when we were 20 years old as we are today. When I was twenty I would be preparing for a night of drunken partying on December 31st. Today I am lounging around my house in sweat pants and thinking about getting pizza for dinner. Woo Hoo! And I want to make sure I get back home before the crazies go out drinking and partying. Hey wait, that was me once!

I know for a fact that I have done and said a lot of crazy things over the years. I don’t regret any of it because it has all come together to make me who I am and I kind of like who I am. There’s always room for improvement however, but I seem to be doing alright. Would I change some things if I could. Undoubtedly. For like everyone else I know, I have made mistakes. I’m not going to list them here because I don’t dwell on past mistakes. What happened, happened and there’s no going back. There is only today, and so far today has been pretty good. Buddhism embraces reincarnation and the idea that what you do in this life affects how your next life will be. I’m not so sure about that because I’ve seen no evidence of past lives that I may have lived. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try my best to live a good life however because I do believe in the saying, “What goes around comes around.” I think if your life is filled with hate and fear, that’s what you’ll see and experience. If you are a good, decent and happy person, that’s what you’ll see and experience.

So generally for me, reflecting on my life is not unpleasant. I have lived and loved, laughed and cried. I have gained and lost and gained again. Many people have passed through my life. Some of them are still with me and some are gone. I know what happened to some and wonder what happened to others. I’m sure that what I’m describing is typical for most people but I like to think about it. I’m not living in the past, just remembering what was and wondering at how it has changed. Life really is amazing. There have been times when I didn’t have enough to eat, and times when I didn’t have my own place to live. I’ve slept on peoples sofas, and went through a day eating only a can of soup. And then there have been times of plenty. I’ve never been in a war or had my life threatened. The people in Palestine and Somalia live lives I couldn’t imagine and I’m grateful that I haven’t. But I do my best to bring awareness of these things to others like myself who don’t really have a clue.

So on this last day of the year I am sending out good thoughts and blessings to all the world. (Why limit myself?) I hope that everyone thinks about the good and bad things that have happened and I hope that the good has outweighed the bad. Please remember those whose lives are not as good as they could be and do something (even if it’s just writing about it) to help make a change for the better. Peace.
Mr bean

Becoming

tree person
The rocks and the earth they speak, in
a voice as quiet as a windless night.
The water and the wind call out,
beckoning me to become like them.

Walking in the grass with bare feet
my toes press into the dirt and grow
down in the ground like roots.

I stretch out my hands and branches
and leaves sprout from my fingers
and I become a growing, living thing
of the earth. I am.

I become beauty and love and give
these things to the longing world
and birds alight on my limbs.

today

mexico border wall
this is our country
god’s country
we’ll build a wall
keep them out
i’m not paying for that

dead child on a beach
what’re those people doing
i wouldn’t let them in either
who could feed all them
why don’t they go home

take an oath
break an oath
your rights end
where mine begin
i believe

what’re they saying
plotting planning
why can’t they speak english
this in our country
god’s country

why should we be the
caretaker of the world
why do we have to pay
i pay my tithe
i pay my taxes

wait a minute
why are taxes and tithes
and language and rights
and gods and countries
more important than people

why are the things
we have made
the barriers we have wrought
more important
than loving one another

why don’t we love each other?

A Moment In Time

My hometown, Northfield, Minnesota, is famous for stopping the Jesse James Gang from ever robbing another bank. We celebrate “The Defeat Of Jesse James Days” every September. Another reason for fame here, but less so, is that Northfield is the home of the Malt-O-Meal cereal company. I went to work there in 1975 at the age of 18. I did a variety of jobs there but one in particular I remember with fondness. I was part of the cleanup crew. Now you might think, “clean up crew?” Doesn’t sound like much fun right? What that job did for me was to allow me to wander all over the plant cleaning up cereal spills. The plant had a vacuum system and I carried a long flexible hose into the various departments, plugged my hose into the vacuum outlets and sucked up the cereal that had spilled onto the floor. In doing this job I was able to chat with just about everyone who worked there. It was there, and at other jobs I had as a kid that allowed me to start collecting stories that I can tell now as a relatively mature adult. Relatively.Ames Mill Malt O Meal sign
The Ames Mill Malt-O-Meal plant

Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice were the two original cold cereals that Malt-O-Meal began producing in the early Seventies. It was discovered somehow, (there are various stories as to how) that rice and wheat, when super heated and pressurized and shot out through a small hole into a cooler and lower pressure area would puff up into what people know of as “puffed wheat and rice.” This is how Malt-O-Meal made their early puffed cereal. There were four “Batch Guns” (see the picture) that sat half way into the floor. Rice or Wheat was introduced into an internal chamber in the “gun,” the cap was sealed and the gun was rotated while heated. A gauge kept track of the internal pressure and when it was ready the gun was stopped and a sledge hammer was used to hit the “trigger” which would open a small hole in the bottom of the gun. The rice or wheat would blow out of the hole, puffing the cereal grains as they fell into a hopper below. This process was repeated many times throughout a work shift and that’s how you get puffed cereal. Today of course, the process is all automated.
Batch Gun
Batch Gun

The point of my story is not to tell you about cereal or bank robbers however but about a moment in time that took place while I worked there. There were four batch guns and two operators. Both of the guys who did this job were large men who drove down from Minneapolis every day (about 50 miles one way) to swing sledge hammers all day and collect their pay. And they were both black men. The younger guy was about 25 or so, smiling and jolly and easy going. The older one was about 60ish and mostly kept to himself. As the clean up guy, I went to their floor a couple times a day and talked with them while we worked. I mention that they were black because I grew up in small town white America and had little interaction with people of color except for a couple of black students in high school. I often wonder what they thought of me.

One day as I went into the locker room at the end of my shift, the older batch gunner was getting dressed after showering. He hadn’t put on his shirt yet and I noticed two long and rather ugly scars on his abdomen and chest. It was obvious that he had been cut by something and sewed up badly. He saw that I was looking at them, looked down at himself and back up at me and said, “The knife do it’s work.” I said, “Yes sir, it sure did.” He smiled and put on his shirt. He clasped his hand on my shoulder as he left the room, giving it a little squeeze. That an elderly black man who had obviously seen some darker sides of life and a young, dumb white kid like me could share a moment of understanding was important to me and I have never told this story to anyone until now. That moment was pivotal in that it helped me learn that beneath our clothes, beneath our skin, we are all just people. Take away what we wear and what we believe and we are all the same, seeking love and understanding.

All I knew of this man, I have written here. I doubt that he ever knew what he did for me and how it has helped shape me as a human being. And he really didn’t do anything at all except show kindness which helped shape my life. I would thank him, if I could.

An Evening

Fluttering leaves of Aspen trees,
applause to the wind.

Ripples of water sparkle and flash.
Cigar smoke keeps the bugs at bay.

Memories of a girl, a long past love affair,
torrid and short.

A smoky room, mattress on the floor,
the smell of us.

Evening light with spirea in bloom
and shadows long upon the ground.

Grocery Store Chatter

hands of color

Overheard in the grocery store checkout line: “I don’t know why those Somali’s can’t learn English. How do I know they’re not talking about me?” Since I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut under certain circumstances, I said, “Do you think that Somali people have left their war torn country, left famine and torture and death, left their families and friends and everything they have ever known to come half way around the world and stand in a grocery line just so they can talk about you? Do you really think they don’t have anything more important to say than that?” To which I got a scowl and no reply. I guess I should be thankful that I am not so jaded that I am still surprised by the idiocy of some people.

My online blogger friend Audrey Kletscher Helbling wrote a really nice post about Somali and other people of color on her blog, “Minnesota Prairie Roots” which I re-blogged a couple of days ago. I could not agree more with what she has to say. Everyone in this country except Native Americans either came from, or has ancestors who came from some other country. We cannot blame people for wanting to come here and start a better life. If we have an issue with our government immigration policies then by all means we should be going after our politicians to change them. But to hate, dislike or despise people who come here just because they are different is wrong. I think the biggest issue is that a lot of people have a hard time with change and with accepting people who look, dress, talk or worship differently than they do. I think this would be a pretty boring world if we were all blond haired, blue eyed English speaking Lutherans. Or dark haired, brown eyed Spanish speaking Catholics.

Diversity is what makes our world great. I love meeting and talking with people from other cultures and counties. I grill them with questions about their homeland and customs. As soon as you ask a Mexican or Somali person about their respective countries they open right up and tell you all about it. In my line of work I meet people of other nationalities every day. I try to engage them in conversation as often as I can. I hope that it makes them comfortable around me. We all live together in this increasingly small world. We need to get along.

Remembrence

Daisies

“It’s too windy to read,” she say’s,
as the pages of her book flutter by
before she can stop them.

He, staring across the courtyard,
and she,remembering how romantic he
was in his plaid sport coat and
fresh picked daisies from her own
mothers garden, the first time he
came courting.

“Do you remember….” she starts
to say, but he doesn’t.
He doesn’t remember much these days.
Mostly, he just eats and sleeps and rages
once in awhile because he can’t remember why
they live in this God forsaken place
where he doesn’t know anyone.

“Where are my friends?” he asks, “You know,
my friends, like….” but he can’t remember their names.

She reaches over to take his hand and
he jumps a little in surprise.
She looks down at her lap and a tear
forms at the corner of her eye, falls to her
dress and spreads a little.
And she realizes that she’s wearing the dress
with the daisy print.