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.

the club

Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.

Groucho Marx

I am pretty fortunate to live in my neighborhood. We may have different ideas about American priorities in foreign relations, policies, or social issues and can respectfully disagree without hating one another. We still hold to the principles that America is a pretty good country and its system of governing.

Many here are military veterans, and others are on Active Duty or have kids that serve or served in the military. Retired and working Union members, carpenters, welders, businessmen and teachers. Here you are likely to see far more “Trump”, “Don’t Tread on Me” and American flags visible than “Coexistence” bumper stickers. But it doesn’t mean “white nationalism”, racism, or bigotry lives here, but it identifies a multi-cultural, (immigrant and native-born), multi-ethnic neighborhood, that respects certain values and rejects much of the change politicians have brought about. Here is a pretty safe neighborhood compared to a half-mile farther south where the incorporated city begins. (Lighted municipal signs there warn residents to lock their vehicles and not keep valuables in view, though politicians brand it a “sanctuary” community.)

All our children grew up with kids coming from other parts of the county to join in Trick or Treating (Halloween). Ours made some pocket change selling hot chocolate to visitors enjoying our “Christmas Lane” lights. Boys played together while grownups held “Survivor” television night parties. All supported school athletics and Little League. We still buy candy bars from the high school student athletes going door-to-door. We chat with the postal carrier and garbage truck driver. Neighbors share tools and trash cans, bring vegetables and fruit from our gardens, watch out for each other, and may enjoy a beer and a football watch party together now and again.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

your Mission Statement

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

What is a “mission statement”? I recall the first time I understood what it was, without hearing the actual term used, was in the Navy. “America’s Navy: a Global Force for Good”. A decade later, I was committee member in our local church determining a “mission statement” to capture what our specific purpose. Christian churches, as a matter of Whom we serve, are about the purpose of introducing people to the spiritual essence of the life of Christ, and creating followers of Christ. I think we started with, “To glorify God, Love and teach people, and build His church”. But the “mission statement” we were crafting that month was a little more “how” to implement that in post-millennium America.

While you may operate a long time without a common focus or purpose simply by hiring skilled people, it is the most successful enterprises that have a common vision. Everyone from CEO to the custodian knows, and embraces, their company mission statement. When my wife and I began a new venture this year, together, to administer state certification exams for Nursing Assistants in California, we brought individual skill, personal values, and organizational ideas. We were fairly fortunate in that we meshed fairly quickly. But how to capture our particular enterprise in a short “elevator” speech to potential employees, vendors and clients? It was actually almost a month in business, as we were wrapping up a test day with a new client, that the idea gelled. The client and I were chatting as I waited for the last candidates’ results to be transmitted back to me, that I mentioned what we do.

“We bring Integrity, 
are focused on Quality, 
and deliver Results”

“That sounds like a ‘mission statement’ to me”, the school director remarked. “It does, doesn’t it, ” I smiled.

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”.

domestic tranquility

The basic needs of any person are food, shelter, and clothing.  In modern society, people have expectations that needs include healthcare, education and sanitation.  But people also have emotional needs: safety, security, comfort, and significance.   In the Twenty First Century,  many people are willing to sacrifice personal freedom for the sake of “needs” provided by Government.  Of course,  people who demand a king  and assume “their side” will benefit,  have historically been oppressed.

When the American nation’s founders established the basic framework in the Constitution,  they knew their history: those subjugated by a king had little control in how they lived (general welfare); little experience of equity or fairness between the governing and the governed (justice); and few limits on role of Government in people’s lives ( safeguard of domestic tranquility and common defense).  Because they understood that people given a taste of power and access to others’ money, always want more,  they were deliberate in creating a balancing act.

In the third decade of the third century since the Constitution was established, the nation is losing the respect for the differences that made it unique in world history.   Unity as an American, with a common language, culture, and history is all but extinct.  Respect for civil authority, freedom to worship as one pleases, and hold differing opinions, is rarely exhibited today.   Contempt for opponents, and ever-increasing Government control is common.  Worse still, officials who have publicly-stated intent to abrogate the fundamental balance provided by an Executive, Legislative and Judicial separation of powers, and personal liberties guaranteed in our Constitution –  have been appointed (not elected),  elected and re-elected.  As Benjamin Franklin once said, the USA is a constitutional republic, which he understood, to keep in check,  its citizens would have to be informed and involved in its affairs whether local or international.   In contrast to other forms of government,  the citizens can (when exercised) direct our representatives to compromise and cooperate to get things done.   

One can only mentor, teach and ultimately, hope,  people who now believe that anyone who arrives – by whatever means –  in the territory should be a citizen, that “socialism”  despite many aspects that indicate fallibility, is superior to capitalism, and in distribution of other’s wealth, will pause to reflect.  No social construct is perfect.   And those who achieve power, wealth and influence, in the post-Constitution world, may not tolerate any disruption to “domestic tranquility”.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble, United States Constitution ( reprinted in https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/preamble