remain calm

I get a choice every time I have to open my mouth: that it can be with civility and dignity and grace – or not.

Dan Perino, https://www.brainyquote.com

Civility. Remaining calm, cool and collected, my father said, when you are feeling frustrated, can help you work with difficult people, a difficult situation, or when timeliness is a factor. It is a casualty of the modern world. Often, we can be frustrated by bureaucracy made doubly difficult with technology. And often, particularly among those my age and older, talking to a “live person” trumps all the automated menu selections, voice mail, email, and FAQ website responses.

For multiple reasons in the past couple months, I have had opportunities to “lose it”. As a self-employed business person, I have performed work over multiple days per month, and multiple months without receiving contractually-promised payment for service. We have had to make inquiries via email and telephone, and have gotten ambiguous, “things are somewhat behind” responses from administrative personnel. This is becoming an issue I may need to be civil, as in litigation, to resolve.

Personally, I am also somewhat frustrated by a pension that is months behind schedule. I retired from the military as a Reservist, and waited nearly ten years to receive the promised pension when I turned sixty years old. First, was the requirement, to request payment, along with various documents I needed to submit to the Government nearly eight months in advance. And then months past the promised start of the pension, to wait till my online account indicated it recognized me as a “retiree” — but without indicating whether payment would be forthcoming. I am remaining calm but it is work.

18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,

    but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

Proverbs 15: 18 (NIV)

And then there was the change in health insurance, from an employer plan to a federally-subsidized and managed Tri-care plan. The former was really quite exceptional, but the new plan has had some ‘bumps’, one involving an authorization for a prescription I have been using for 20 years. (As I determined by a telephone conversation with a live representative today, the responsibility was on the physician’s office to correctly authorize it.)

Basically, with each interaction I have had with an individual, when the ‘aggrieved party’ (me) recognizes the humanity of all parties concerned, things go better. (A computer database is only as good as the person entering the data.) As long as I treat people (operators, assistants, customer service representatives, and doctors) politely, but resolutely, everything works out – eventually.

And when possible, get people you interact with laughing or at least smiling. I had to include this ancient clip from one of my all-time favorite movies, Animal House. When everything is going nuts, here’s the one guy trying to help other remain calm.

chasing after wind

better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind

Ecclesiastes 4: 6 (NIV)

I listen to an investment talk show on the radio Saturday mornings while driving home from my prayer-hike in the Mission Trails Park (San Diego, CA). The hosts were commenting that the House (Congress) has recently approved changing working Americans retirement savings programs (the SECURE act) to help people who put little to no money aside for their “old age”. The radio show’s hosts were remarking how consumer debt is growing again, and with workers left to voluntarily invest in company 401K plans, IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) and funding emergency savings ( e.g. six months of expenses), fewer than four in ten are setting money aside. With consumerism driving cycles of economic growth followed by downturns, unemployment, and bankruptcies since the 1970s, are we headed there again?

Perhaps it is one of the failures of a developed nation that savings and prudent investment is not taught in the K – 12 grades nor in colleges. And young adults, free of parental guidance, are heavily marketed to obtain credit and jump into the consumer lifestyle. After September 11th, our youth grew up with continual exposure to negative future images – homelessness, refugees, terrorist attacks at home and abroad, a bleak economic outlook, and hostility toward “traditional values”. It seems almost forgivable that young people are seeking to have it “now” rather than later.

For the last of the Baby Boomers, for Generation X, and Millennials, the promises of Government, particularly those seeking public office by positioning themselves as champions of the disadvantaged, should sound like a broken record of the past cycles. For those between thirty and sixty years of age, the financial missteps of the past should have served as a lesson to improve one’s financial security. Into one’s Forties, obtaining a trade or marketable skill (regardless of one’s “passion”) can still provide for one’s retirement. The traditional “invaluable employee” mentality should improve wages. If wage or employment benefits stagnate, different employment has been increasingly available.

Like Solomon four thousand years ago expressed, seeking to keep up with the consumerism of one’s neighbors, rather than living prudently leads to “chasing after wind”. Delaying gratification, investing prudently, living within one’s means, and looking to your own welfare instead of the Government’s plans for you, leads to a golden “old age”.

Rise and shine

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those (A)who are the called according to His purpose.  –Romans 8:28  (NKJV)

army authority drill instructor group
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

No Company Commander, nor Drill Sergeant ever whispered a gentle wake-up to new recruits in basic training or boot camp during my time in the service.   The whole point of basic training for recruits is to completely change mindsets and hearts to hear and obey, instantly, the calling.   It isn’t the Lord’s voice that one responds to the best of their ability,  but to His representative on Earth during that time: the Drill Sergeant or Company Commander.    The “encouragement” that a recruit, fresh off the farm, the beach, or the street  receives during the first several weeks of military service, instills instinctive responses, physical prowess, self-discipline, and a basic knowledge of the traditions, responsibilities and expectations of each member of a team.  At a certain point,  each military member makes the decision to embrace that way of  life,  engage fully, remain devoted, and give one’s best efforts to the team.   Or they part company, either expeditiously before the end of recruit training, or after three, four or more years.

 11 Light shines[a] on the righteous
    and joy on the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous,
    and praise his holy name.   –Psalm 97: 11 -12

For those who have been through the maturation process of military training,  and thrived,  the recognition of authority, wielding it,  and being instilled with a single-focused purpose of a spiritual life, is more natural.   I think that is why a lot of the imagery in the Bible, Old Testament and New, involves soldiers.  As a disciple of Jesus,  in my own life experience I understand rigorous training, discipline, and obedience to authority.  We have the tools, the teamwork, and the mission to execute.  But I am grateful that my christian missteps do not result in “marching parties”,  “demerits”,  or being found in the receiving end of some  “fan-room counseling”.

Thank God that Jesus speaks Truth in Love.  If we all respond to that,  the hurled trash can “attention-getter” in the barracks hall might not be a wake-up tool anymore.