Sunday, June 27, 2010

The "Big Ben" minute

During World War II, W. Tudor Pole, an English author, adventurer and businessman campaigned for what came to be called "The Big Ben Silent Minute." The chiming of the Big Ben clock in London at 9:00 PM took about a minute. The chimes were broadcast each night on BBC radio at the beginning of the 9:00 news. Pole suggested that the hearing of the chimes, either in person, or on the BBC should be accompanied by one minute of silent prayer for those who had been killed that day in battle as well as remembering all who had been killed in the war. Churchill supported the idea, which became known as the "Big Ben Movement."

Recently something similar has been occurring around the world. People of all faiths are taking a minute at Noon to pray for our service men and women. Praying for those who were killed or injured. And, most of all, praying for peace.

Regardless of how you feel about the war, regardless of which faith you follow, please take a minute each day and pray. Many people are setting alarms on their watches, cell phones or PDA's to remind them. Imagine the power of a few words of humble prayer coming from each of us. Please pass this along to anybody that you think would be interested.

Monday, June 21, 2010

32 Minutes or "The Bystander Effect"

32 minutes.

Try something. Scream. Scream for 32 minutes. See if anybody does anything to help. Heck, see if anybody even notices. Would YOU notice if someone was screaming for help for over a 1/2 hour? Would you try to help?

Not everybody would. Time was, you couldn't get the words asking for help out of your mouth and your neighbors, your friends would be right there. You couldn't swing a dead cat by the tail without hitting someone who wanted to help you. If they couldn't help, they knew someone that could or they would at least comfort you while you dealt with your troubles. Hold your hand. Give you a hug. Shed a tear with you.

32 minutes.

How many times have you been sitting on the bus or walking at the mall or supermarket and observed someone in need? Someone dropping a too big load because they didn't grab a cart or a basket. A lady walking down the isle at Ace Hardware with one arm full of wooden stakes and the other arm trying to handle 4 eight-foot lengths of wood that have decided they want to go anywhere but with her. Did you do anything to help? Did you try to wrangle the oranges that were heading for all points of the compass rather than go home with them?

32 minutes.

Is it too easy to think that someone else will help or that you "don't want to get involved" or might get in trouble for helping? Do you want to grant them their anonymity in their trouble as you don't want to embarrass them? Because that young mother with her infant in a carrier and the requisite diaper bag, spare clothes, other sundry equipment used to raise and feed a baby might feel threatened by the big fat guy in biker leathers with the scowling face and growling voice?

Why? Why don't you help?

32 minutes.

Kitty was born in New York and moved to Connecticut as a child, but moved back to New York when she was old enough to leave home. Living on her own in a two-floor walk-up and working late nights set the stage for what happened to her. Coming home from work one night she was assaulted. Stabbed, strangled, raped, robbed and murdered. Kitty suffered a horrible fate begging for help. Begging and screaming for help. For 32 minutes Kitty was brutally attacked not once, not twice but three times. For 32 minutes Kitty Genovese died a slow, painful death. And nobody helped her.

32 minutes.

Kitty Genovese was coming home from work, walking across the parking lot from her car and was attacked. Her attacker was once scared off, but then returned to resume the attack as she tried to run for help, seeking people in a bar that had closed early. People in her apartment building and the one next to it shut their windows, closed their blinds and would yell at her killer to "leave the girl alone" but wouldn't get involved. One lady wouldn't let her husband even call the police because "someone" must have already. Scared away a second time, Kitty was able to get to a vestibule where she tried to hide from her assailant. He returned a third time and and found her, her own blood trail leading him to her, where he then cut her clothing away with a knife, stabbing and strangling her while he raped her.

32 minutes.

The talking heads tell us that this is called the "Bystander Effect". This is where nobody wants to or is afraid to help someone in need. "Someone" will help. "Someone" will call. "Someone" will do something.

Whatever they call it, it is wrong. Courtesy? Manners? Chivalry? I don't care what you call it but it is lacking in our society. Catherine "Kitty" Genovese died March 13, 1964 beginning at 3:15 in the morning. 46 years ago, this was a newsworthy, noteworthy event. Now, it is a daily event. Shame on us. We can do better. Do we teach our children to do better? Do we live as an example to our children?

32 minutes.

Take a minute and look at your child or children. Take a look at your grandchildren, your nieces or nephews. How many of those 32 minutes are you going to let them scream for help? I believe that we have a stewardship to not only our family, our friends and those we know, but I believe we also have a responsibility to help those we don't know.

Yeah, I know that there are those that would prey on the very people that would offer them help. And I wouldn't put anybody else at risk while I helped someone, and I would certainly protect myself and offer assistance warily, but I try to help.

We owe it to Kitty Genovese.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Because it feels GOOD!

I belong to a web-forum of bike riders that, literally, has members from around the world. The
camaraderie, friendship, and even family that we have become is amazing. One of the members is currently teaching his son how to ride and took him for a ride one day. After a few hours they stopped for lunch and his son told him that he liked riding. When he asked him why, the only answer that he could come up with is "Because it feels good." Several forum members have chipped in with their answers and here is mine:

The alarm goes off and I groan; I'm still a little stiff and sore, but most mornings I am. As I lay there trying to wake up, I rotate my ankles and listen to them pop and snap as the bones re-align. Once they settle in, I can stand on them again. My back is stiff and pains race up and down my spine. Compressed vertebrae in my neck, healed rib fracture, and three more healed fractures in the lumbar region remind that I haven't always been nice to myself. Knees are OK so far, but I haven't tried the stairs yet. They'll remind me when I start that.

When I make fists, people can hear my tendons as they pop, the carpals and metacarpals in my hands grind audibly now. I tell myself brake- and clutch-levers are good exercise. I can usually straighten my fingers all the way on a good day. Stormy weather limits that sometimes. Some days I have to pull my fingers straight or twist the joints enough to get them to pop and unlock. Yeah, it's like that.

I slide the choke lever, turn the key on and hit the starter. The bike comes to life and I let the idle settle for a little before I twist the throttle enough to get the voltage display to start to show a charging state. She warms a little while I pack my crap into the trunk or panniers. Jacket, helmet, chin-strap, glasses and gloves. It's my starting mantra. Helps me to remember them all. By now, the bike is running smoothly and my pulse has quickened to the point that I start to feel alive again. I start to feel good again. Memories of David's Honda 125 that I really learned to ride on. The '73 Kawasaki Z1a that was my first bike. Then the Gold Wings: the 83i, 85a and now the current 90 1500.

I am settled into the saddle, now a part of something larger than I am; truthfully feeling that the sum of the two of us is greater than the whole. A reminder, to borrow a quote, "I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was." This bike, this machine, this extension of my desires and wishes, helps to make me feel better. "Because it feels good" is a great quote.

I get physically tired riding a bike, I don't get drowsy as I might in a car. Music goes with me: perhaps a Broadway soundtrack (Chicago, maybe Rent). Molly Hatchet, any of the Mussel Shoals groups, or Bob Seger can get me into trouble. Maybe I'm feeling Celtic today and it's Silly Wizard, Old Blind Dogs, Dougie McLean or the Wicked Tinkers. Could even be the Nickleback or Rush this time.

As with the ears, the nose gets a workout as well. Broken three times, I'm surprised sometimes that it stays with me, let alone lets me experience that wonderful scent of fresh mown lawn. The freshly baled hay in the field I rode past. The fall foliage assaulting my eyes at the same time that I can smell the leaf mast in the fall air. Or a sudden gust of apples ripening in the orchard, the late-night ambrosia of Honeysuckle, here and then gone.

Because it feels good says it all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What would YOU say?

What would YOU say?

Although I like to look back and share fond memories with friends and family, I’m not real big on living in the past. You can’t change things and you can drive yourself into fits of anxiety playing “What if?” A friend of mine once commented that “If is one of the biggest words in the world.” I find myself in no position to argue the point.

Earlier today I found myself thinking about a friend from high school. Really, for some odd reason I found myself missing her. We managed to grow quite close, close enough to start thinking “serious” thoughts about after high school. We didn’t make any great plans, just imagined the situation. I met her because we worked together and I really liked her because she had such a great sense of humor. (Admit it, if someone laughs at your jokes, you like them.) We dated some, and would hang out together. We learned some things together and we taught each other some things about life. Although, if I were to be truly honest, she taught me more about life than I ever taught her. Not the touchy-feely kind of things, but things that probably made me less of a social retard. (Some who know me now would argue that the lessons took hold, but just imagine what I was like then.)

Of course there was a physical attraction - we were living in a high school environment fraught with hormones and lust! But I am glad to say that we had something more than that. Intimacy in the true sense of the word, not just talking about lust and physicality.

We grew quite close and shared a lot of thoughts, wishes and dreams. I have to say that I grew to truly respect her opinions and values. She taught me more than she will ever know. At one particular point in my life, a turning point if you will, she helped me make a decision that was brutally hard. A decision that was hard in a way that I knew that things were changing in me. A door once passed through, would close behind me and thrust me into a new world, a world of unknown circumstances to me and, without trying to sound overly-dramatic, possibly cost me friends and family. I have her to thank for talking me through this decision, with no thought of what this decision might cost her one way or another.

She gave me a gift that day that I couldn’t hold or touch, I couldn’t really see or even feel it, but know that it is there. I owe her a titanic debt of thanks and I doubt she knows to this day that this is how I feel.

All right, back to “What would YOU say?” Would you tell your friend thanks? Would that thanks ever be enough? Think back to when you were 16 years old. Think of the person that you were then. Would THAT person tell their friend thanks? I wish I had.

I regret to this day not telling her even the most humble “thank you” for what she did.

Things change. One of my favorite aphorism is “Life happens.” It does. Life is what happens while you are planning it. It slips right on past you. Sometimes, it slaps you right upside the head. Been there, done that. Well, life “happened” to us. Within a few months, life happened enough that we went separate ways. Mostly gracefully, but occasionally with emotions bent and feelings hurt. One night I handled something poorly and childishly. It wasn’t a situation that called for the reaction I gave it. To put it bluntly I over-reacted and lost a friend that I wish I had had the luck to keep.

So much for not being a social retard.

We lived on. We grew up and, I’d like to think in my case, matured. She went on with her life and met and married the man that she deserves. She has lovely children and a wonderful husband; she has a family that loves her in word and actions. She looks happy and I literally, in the true sense of the words, pray to God that she is happy.

Our paths haven’t crossed much. Once by accident, a freakishly awkward moment where we both pretended to not see each other, and a second time when I tried to reach out and tell her thanks for what she did for me. It was at a time that I happened to have a particularly meaningful, spiritual awakening. Sort of a growing or learning development. However it started, whatever the cause, I wanted to tell her thanks and hopefully apologize for being who and what I was way back then. An attempt to atone for myself. I was scared. I’ve been on the wrong end of guns and knives, I’ve found myself in places where it was fight or flight more than I want to think, with flight not much of an option. That happens sometimes with the type of jobs I’ve had and the locales I’ve been to. This was worse. Worse by far.

Disaster? Not even close. Apocalypse? Getting warmer…

Apparently, my efforts were less than well received. After a short, terse telephone conversation, we disconnected with no misunderstanding whatsoever how she felt about me. I don’t blame her, not the tiniest bit. Not one iota. This is totally my own fault and maybe if I had made a more timely effort it would have been better received. I don’t know. By the time I did make the effort, I had moved several times, to other states and back, and she had moved on herself. Emotionally and physically. I regret that by the time I did try, it was too late and caused her grief. That was never my intention.

Would I try to tell her again? Most assuredly yes! However, it’s her turn to make contact. Could I find her? With the knowledge I have now, and with the resources at my beck and call, yes I could find her within minutes. Could she find me? I think so. I’m not hiding and I think that I’ve left enough tracks for anybody that wanted to find me to do so.

I don’t expect her to reach out; I doubt there will ever be the bond of friendship between us. I don’t expect her to even think about me at this point. Although, if she and I were to sit down and compare coincidences in our lives, there are too many to disregard. She won’t call or write, and I will be the poorer man for that.

Given the chance, I would tell her thank you. Most graciously, and heartfelt, thank you. Literally from the depths of my heart. You gave me something I cherish and treasure, and you helped me be a better person. Most of the people I deal with today benefit because of the things you gave me. Please accept my gratitude and my respect, and know that I miss you. What can I say, I worry.