Monday, March 24, 2014

The Sweet Taste of Vindication And Burgers and Butter

I want to scream, “Boom!  In your face!”  I’m a freak when it comes to movies where the bad guys lose and the good guys are vindicated.  In games and in life I get a perverse pleasure in being vindicated.  That is how I feel about the new study released this week that states that, “a large and exhaustive new analysis by a team of internationalscientists found no evidence that eating saturated fat increased heart attacksand other cardiac events.”  For all you that told me I couldn’t enjoy my BBQ or that chicken on a bun was a better choice than a hamburger I say, “Please pass the catsup!”

Remember in the eighties when they told us not to eat eggs?  Than around 2011 they backpedaled saying eggs were a healthy part of your diet.  My mother lived to eighty years old smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and eating everything with butter.  All those Europeans that live to be over a hundred years old; they still eat their sausage and butter their toast.  There is some chance that Schnapps was a key ingredient to the mix as well though the proof is strongly anecdotal at this point.

I’ve heard it said, “All things in moderation,” but if I’ve made you a grilled cheese sandwich you know this isn’t the case.  First you butter the bread than layer the cheese, next you melt butter into a pan and toast the sandwich.  It’s delectable and slides down the gullet like pancakes slathered in syrup.

This study is the freedom cry for those of us who love our burgers and fries!  It’s the Magna Carta and the remedy for foodie legalism!  Studies show coffee is good for you, as are saturated fats.  I await proof that Oreo’s are nature’s energy food.  The perfect trifecta of taste.  Oh vindication how I love the taste of thee!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Joy In The Stages Of Trial

What if our trials were categorized like stages of cancer?  The initial premise seems to make sense; Stage One if the trial is of the ankle-biter variety, Stage Two if it’s fixed with money or time, at Stage Three things look grievous and Stage 4: see Job.  Upon delving deeper one realizes we are too complex for this type of simple definition. For instance some simple childhood trauma like being called names or having the friend next door move away; these things could scar you well into adulthood.  The tendrils of early trials, coupled with our own brokenness, will touch down over and over again compared to a trial that is harsh, quick and free of scarring.

As complex as the trial is the heart that hopes.  Hope too isn’t weighted equally to each trial; at times we feel overwhelmed at the slightest thing—say a flat tire on the way to work.  In the face of severe hardship we may find that we have grown deep roots after all and that hope is there to sustain us and it’s richer and more tangible than ever imagined. 

I heard Dennis Prager say that he wouldn’t know how to offer hope to those in the direst of circumstances; a Jew in a concentration camp, a nun in a gulag or a saint being tortured for their faith.  I understand the sentiment but still deep in my gut a shout went up: there is always hope!

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that as the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God…,” So Job states that God will vindicate him and Job will see Him in glory.  Though we go through the worst of trials the splinter of hope we have will be enjoying God in Heaven.  Habakkuk sees a “day of distress” when his people are invaded by a foreign army leaving them nothing and his final song is “still I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.  The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on high places.” 

I have not experienced a Stage 4 trial.  Still I believe that as complex, bruised and broken as we are God will allow a ray of joy to fall into whatever darkness we face.   

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bullying Is Not The Problem

Telling people to “Quit bullying” is like giving cough medicine to a woman with pulmonary edema.  It treats the symptom and not the problem.  Two problems that exacerbate bullying are a decline in morals and a societal move away from community.

David Stuck and Deborah Greenbaugh were fellow students in my elementary school class.  Both were bullied.  David stuttered and had a last name that fit too well with his trademark handicap.  Deborah was lanky, nerdy and Jewish and just-didn't-fit-in.  I knew that this bullying was a bad thing.  My parents wouldn't have approved and a voice in my soul said it wasn't appropriate.  See how I remember their names even today.  Still I said nothing though David and I had sort of a fellowship.  He called me every Monday night for the weekly spelling words (he missed class for speech therapy); always interrupting an episode of Davy Crockett.  I'd get mad for the interruption but I felt bad about the bullying. Contrast that with the soul of today’s culture in which Snark is the status-quo and points are given for satire and innuendo.

“Since time immemorial, etiquette has been used to establish the principles of social virtue, as well as the rules, symbols, and rituals of civilized life,” but this etiquette Judith Martin speaks of is a lost ideology.  “…such virtues as compassion, respect, and toleration are shared by morals and manners, and hence form the basis of imperatives of ethics, as well as of etiquette.”  Generation X-ers have tossed out these virtues with the bathwater as have their parents before them.  If virtues such as respect and compassion are not bedrock values then there is no reason bullying is wrong.

As a teen I belonged to a Boy Scout troop.  In our troop there was a pecking order.  The highest ranked and the older boys were expected to pick on the younger and lower ranking.  Whoa to you if you were outside the troop and picked on any of us.  We were a solid unit, part gang, part family.  The same guys that would pick on the young and weak would carry their packs a mile for them if necessary.  It was a safe place to belong.

Service organizations, churches and synagogues were previously safe places to belong.  Yet in current years, “the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace.” “In his book, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," Robert D. Putnam said that attending club meetings, such as those held by Rotary and Kiwanis groups, has declined by 58 percent in the past 25 years; and that we have 43 percent fewer family dinners and fewer friends that drop by our homes to say hello. We are much more likely to sit in front of our X-Box or I-thing than we are to be integrated into a safe community such as Girl Scouts or the local Rotary club.

Bullying is only wrong if there is a moral imperative.  If we no longer hold to a Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) or simple etiquette than picking on another is simply showing off one’s wit and society rewards that behaviour.  Too it is easier to do in the privacy of ones’ home as opposed to a group or club that has some values for the group and the individual members. 

We can make Public Service Announcements all we want about the wrongs of bullying.  We can enact laws that bully people into not bullying.  We can even create huge advertising schemes that focus on beauty not bullying.  Telling people it is wrong when there is no standard or benchmark to measure it against guarantees failure.  You can keep giving the coughing woman Codeine but it doesn't get to the heart of the issue.

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Remember It As A Safe Place

I remember it as a safe place.  Now there are probably high barbed wire fences and bright yellow signs screaming “Danger keep out, Peligroso!”  A trip to Chatsworth Park meant hours of adventure when I was a child.  Minutes from our house it was an escape to a different world. 

Everything slants upward from the parking lot.  To the left there is a baseball field.  Above the parking lot is a large expanse of green grass with a picnic area; we cared for none of that.  With friends or family we ran to the rock hills beyond the grass and climbed upward.

We scramble up and up and never take the same path twice.  Though eager to scramble as everybody else, I rarely leap over large chasms but prefer to find alternatives.  It’s a chance to face internal monsters but still be brave.  External monsters may be out there too!  It is one of my early encounters with adventure.  I am usually last in line.  Being last gives opportunity to linger.  I am thrilled to discover various pools of water where earlier rains have filled earth and rock.  Scuttling quickly I would have missed it.  Don’t know if being last means slowness or reluctance to follow. 

I’m a kid which makes it feel like we go up and up for hours.  The rocks must be miles high!  A railroad track leads through a tunnel atop the rocks.  A coin souvenir is obtained by placing penny or nickel on the rail and waiting for the train to flatten it.  I know other kids that go inside the tunnel.  We never do.  This is why I suspect fences.  In those days there wasn’t the need for fences.

There was a time when life was a safer place with fewer fences.  Now I’m old and grown up.  I’m certain now that I like being last or alone out of a reluctance to follow.  Last night I looked up at the night sky; the world is still a big place full of wonder.  The adventure awaits.  It’s still about facing down the monster within and the smaller beasts outside.  Some things never change.

Friday, March 07, 2014

A Barista Gets To Hear Peoples' Stories

One blessing of being a barista is the relationships you develop.  A barista gets to hear peoples’ stories though usually in thirty second snippets.  Tom shows up for coffee every morning.  Straight up when we open he orders a large black decaf.  Then we spend two to three minutes talking.  We’ve talked about everything from Putin to sciatica.  This morning he shared about his mother’s last years and how he fed her through a tube.  He shared that his mother never complained about her plight but was always more interested in what was going on with him.  Just as I was going to ask another question the next customer got in line.

The money-spenders are a number of individuals that have the same trait.  They’ve made a lot of money-or like to have people believe they have.  They are always telling me how they are spending it, “We’re going to Australia and New Zealand next week on a cruise.  I’m meeting with some guys to discuss the new development we’re building.  I gave the toast at a big Italian dinner in New York.  We are remodeling the house and putting in solar.  If you go to Temecula you’ve got to visit my friends’ winery.”  I’d Google these guys but people don’t give you their last names when ordering their “half-caf one scoop of vanilla.”

Often the stories are poignant.  An older wonderful woman customer’s body shakes and twitches twisting her head in a pronounced movement.  It doesn’t seem to bother her.  It must take some courage and back-bone to spend one’s days fighting that kind of battle.  James has only a hole where his ear used to be.  He had some form of cancer so they cut off his ear and side of his face.  He orders his large Iced Latte and tells me that the whole milk is one of many things that he hopes will help him get his weight back.  He shares about the chemo and being forced to take daily trips down to Loma Linda hospital---more than an hour away.

Working with the public has its difficulties.  There are days I think I would like to just sit at a desk and write.  But I’d miss the stories; the ones that I know and the ones that I wonder about.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Being Reminded: Daily Bread and Proper Perspective

If my life was a cartoon a huge ACME weekly planner would drop out of the sky, hit me on the head and smash me, bump-by-bump, into the ground.  That’s what life does when I think all my ducks are in a row. 

My work goes well as does that of the wife.  So we take a deep breath and start making plans.  Then one of my employees goes out on disability.  Next we learn that what we thought was a secure position for the wife isn’t secure.  It’s open to someone transferring into her position and bumping her to a different location or no job at all.  Add to that looming rumors of strikes and downsizing and the row of ducks no longer seems solid.  We begin to fret.

Fretting causes me to realize that I’m off course.  I went from trusting in God for security to believing that the Dillo household was making it happen.  “Hey God, thanks for the help but we’ve got it from here!”  Somewhere in the mix I remember the prayer that every church member knows, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  I forget that there’s a Wile E. Coyote out to do me in, a lion seeking someone to devour.

Isn’t that how it goes though?  Trust for daily sustenance isn’t so important when the fridge is full and there’s money in the bank account.  The forgiver is forgotten.  It is just the gifts that are celebrated.  Saying ‘grace’ at every meal becomes ritual not heartfelt.  The silos are full; God wouldn’t say to me “tonight thy soul is required of thee.” 

These little bumps and ankle biters are reminders that our sweat and scheming didn’t open the doors for job security and providential care.  We are reminded that anvils and large rocks fall from the sky and threaten our well being.  Difficult tests will come.  Grace will sustain and God will bless. Give us this day our daily bread for we know not what tomorrow brings. 

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Relationship Building In Business

There are benefits in ones’ business and personal life to establishing trusting and respectful relationships.  The vendor that delivers the cups and coffee to my shop delivers to many other shops.  There have been numerous times when he only had enough product for one store.  He chose to deliver them to my store.  The reason is because I respect him as a person.  I respect him and try to work with him in whatever capacity I can.  I give him thanks.  I wish him many a “good weekend” and “happy holiday.”  Valuing and respecting him has had its rewards.

Keying a car is a serious act of vandalism.  Working at 7-11 in my twenties my associates’ cars were keyed and subjected to all forms of violence.  My AMC Hornet never was.  The gang that keyed the cars frequented our store.  My coworkers had only adversarial relationships with the gang members.  I respected them as people but they knew that I also was responsible for protecting and operating the store.  This positive relationship provided me with benefits---which included the safety of my vehicle.

Businesses to business relationships ebb and flow according to trust and valued relationships as well.  The franchise I work for is little respected by the organization where it is located.  It is not promoted nor treated as a significant profit making enterprise.  Therefore the relationship has broken down.  As a result vendors care little about keeping us supplied with their products which affects the customer that can’t get that same desired product.  Neither side profits in such an adversarial relationship.

I can look back over forty years of employment and see numerous times this focus has paid off.  When working in insurance companies would trust my word over the phone before obtaining signed contracts because they trusted me—and I valued them.  Vendors made certain I had product.  Customers kept coming back.  Simply because I made a commitment to valuing another human being.  Perhaps that’s why “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is called ‘the Golden Rule.’