‘Waiting For Godot’

‘Waiting for Godot is a play by Samuel Beckett.’    Wikipedia

”The play is a typical example of the Theatre of the Absurd, and people use the phrase ‘waiting for Godot’ to describe a situation where they are waiting for something to happen, but it probably never will…’    Wikipedia

So, I often say that I am, ‘waiting for Godot!’

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Aren’t we all waiting for many things in our lives…that have not exhibited themselves ever…or at least not on a semi-regular basis We wait for Godot when we seek justice and fair treatment for all peoples…not just the majority or those who are favored by the political class.  We wait patiently for our elected leaders to care more about their constituents than their own interests.  What a treat it would be to witness a concerted focus to address global warming!

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We live in a country that, by all available measurable criteria, live in multiple realities.  There was a famous book, many years ago, that was entitled, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.  This book demonstrated the difficulty in men and women communicating with each other and understanding and empathizing with each others point of view.  Today points of view are dictated by the television news network that you receive your news from.

When I was a teenager, men simply understood that they were going to be drafted and be sent to Vietnam.  My cousin, Billy, was drafted.  The only reason that I was not drafted was due to President Carter abolishing the draft before I became of age to go!

We all watched Walter Cronkite on CBS or Huntley and Brinkley on NBC and we basically received the same news.

We wept when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm, central standard time.  Somehow, we understood that we would never be the same…and we have not!

We are told by our parents and our elders to work hard and ‘pay-our-dues’ and seek to excel in our careers!  We are assured that if we will apply ourselves…we will climb the ladder of success…and we will be another example of the American Dream!  We are told that anyone can be President of the United States and anyone can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company…the Horatio Alger story of rags to riches…is ours for the taking….

But, what if the person who is doing the hiring…does not play by the rules?  What if it is not…what you know…but who you know….?

Institutions agonize regarding their low morale.  They engage is studies….and consultants….and large committees…too investigate and conduct in depth research into the quandary of ebbing excitement about the work-place!

The answer is simple….we all wait….much as our Jewish friends wait for the Messiah…or justice and equity and fairness…and recognition of consistent hard work and a passion for the job….and someone who has placed their heart and soul into their career….being recognized for their efforts…rather than being passed over for a friend of the boss!

We are still, ‘Waiting for Godot!’

 

 

A Christmas Present

Around this festive time of year I reflect back, nine, years ago when I retired from Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale.  I had been employed for 32 years and 2 months and 3 weeks.  I was so happy to have finally reached a milestone that I, sometimes, thought would never happen.  But, I was sad to leave a department that I had put my heart and soul into and the members of the department that I had cared for, like family, for my 25 years in management/administration.  When I looked at the nice crowd that had gathered to tell me goodbye…I feared what would happen to them, once I was gone.

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Now, I was not worried because that I was extraordinary in management skills or any particular abilities that I had, rather on the contrary…my meager abilities would not make a good short story!  My concern was regarding the dangers that lay ahead for my colleagues that I had identified myself with for over 32 years.

I understood the place that the housekeeping department has in the university community and the team work that we had accomplished to raise that profile.  I knew the professional motivation of the Building Service department and the dedication that each member had for the success of SIUC and our most precious citizens, our students.

I understood that the wolves of budget shortfalls, poor management, and the insidious proclivity of Departments, and Schools and Colleges consuming each other in order to save themselves.

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I feared that some would compromise their principles and sedate their moral code…to facilitate their advance.  I worried that leaders would stand silent while people were abused and intimidated and cowed down by fear and a hostile work place….

Principle should be more important than; profit, or patronage, or promotion,  or the peace of those who lack courage.  There are janitors that love SIUC as much as chancellors….And both are equally important to the success of the institution!

One of the most difficult hurdles that many managers have to jump is the ability see past personalities and peccadillos, and focus on people.  I was extremely wary to not crucify a co-worker for a slight infraction that I had been guilty of!

There is macro/management and micro/management.  In good management…’Less Is More!’  When you illustrate and model and empower members of your staff and embolden them with your candid confidence in them…’the sky is the limit,’ as to how high they will fly!  If you sit on them like a mother hen…you will demoralize them and both the person and their work performance, will suffer.

When management philosophy is clear for all  to see that, some people can do no wrong….And others can do no right…everyone that can….Will flee the work-place!

I have spoken to thousands of people in my life.  One of the peculiarities of the university setting was that, more often than not, I found myself speaking to their representative, rather than the real person.  I do not mean their assistant…I mean the person with whom I was speaking was tailoring their words to fit, either what they thought that I wanted to hear. or what their vision of their position dictated for their speech, or they spoke ‘down’ to me as an individual of low culture or education or position in life.

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The key to what little success that I enjoyed in speaking with chancellors and presidents and university elite…it that I never brought my representative…they always heard Jay Brooks…unvarnished.

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What if as a Christmas Present to each other, that we vow to recognize excellence wherever we find it?  What if we forget the past and and little hang-ups that have caused us to see others through a distorted prism?

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To this day, when someone asks me what I did at the University….I answer that I worked in the housekeeping department.  I was, simply, the janitor that was honored…for a time….to perform the management duties.

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Story

A Chicago Christmas Story.

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The wind was especially chilling along Michigan Avenue.  December the 5th was winter in the Windy City.  Billy Bump and Carl and Steve and Susie, were on their way to see the new release of the Disney movie, Lady and the Tramp.  The bright lights of the city and the Christmas Carolers along with the Salvation Army workers and their kettles, at every store front…created another worldly atmosphere that was compelling and unique!

As they entered the massive theatre and walked under the strobing lights of the marque…Billy and Carl were a bit overwhelmed.  As the movie played, Billy fell in love with Lady, and felt good about it!  There were intricate carvings on the walls of the movie palace, and ornate sconces and angels and gargoyles and mystery.

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Billy became sleepy and sat on Susies lap, who was 15 years old…while he was 6.  The combination of being close…

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Do You Feel Forgotten?

Yesterday I had the opportunity to play Santa Claus.  It was not only extremely enjoyable and enriching but educational.  Our, elected, church government, called the Session, in the First Presbyterian Church, has the tradition of collecting donations for our staff and then giving them a Christmas gift at the conclusion of the year.  One of our staff told me that she had not received a gift, recently, and that this year’s gift meant so much to her!  She asked me if she could give me a hug…and I replied that she certainly could.  Her joy at being included and not forgotten…was palpable and it made my day!

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How many of us feel forgotten?  Whether it is in the workplace where our opinion is never sought, or in our community, where we feel invisible…or in the church….Where we seem to be unseen?

Our country applauds  financial success and the perks that it brings.  We see the fine home or the stellar resume…or the smooth and dulcet tones that the leaders of the community or the church…communicate with.  We know our friends….Our social circle and our colleagues.  But, do we see those who do not fit the paradigm?

I have the distinct life-story of experiencing both the abased and abound components of a 62 year old life experience.  I lived poverty!  I understood, clearly, what it was for the CIPS gas worker to knock on my front door and tell me that he had been instructed to shut my gas off, for the heating in my home, if I could not pay him…immediately!

I know what it is like to be hungry.  I do not mean enjoying a McDonalds cheeseburger at lunch and awaiting a steak at dinner.  I am talking about nothing to eat other than potatoes and Cremora, at work, which I consumed by the spoon full!

I understand what it was like to walk…while all of my friends were driving their new automobiles.  I know how it felt to live on one sandwich a day…from a vendor at the church that I was helping to build.  I know what it was like to be the goat at the garden party!

God blessed me and helped me…and I became a success at SIUC.  I began as a Building Service Worker I and was promoted to the Superintendent of Building Services.  I was able to obtain an  upper middle class lifestyle  and the blessings that are associated with the moniker.

I did not forget where I came from… nor where I am going.  I am headed to Jerusalem…along with the broken and the beaten and the besmirched!

I recall walking in Elkville, Illinois while, it seemed, everyone passed me by.  I, vividly, remember my teenage friends telling me about enjoying steak and ribs and pork chops…while I had potatoes to eat!  I know what it is like to believe the no one sees me!

Also, I know what it is like to be called Mr. Brooks.  I understand how it feels for my opinion to not only matter but be the construct for my department’s operational policy!

I have had university chancellors and presidents as my personal friends.  The encouragement and mentoring of the university community was an immeasurable gift!

When I see the poor…I remember my mother not having enough money to purchase milk…and saving my pennies until I had a dime to walk to the local restaurant and buy a glass.

When I see the hungry…I remember not having the 20 cents a day for the grade schools hot lunch…and being the only student in the first grade to bring my lunch in a brown bag.

I have been honored and humbled to have the title of elder or trustee in almost every church that I have been a member of.  I think titles have an insidious affect of separating work and faith communities.  When someone asks me what I did at the university…I respond that I worked in housekeeping.

‘I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.    Philippians 4:12   KJV

 

 

And Keep Spinning Joyfully

A great Christmas Blog from Jonathon Brooks!

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This season I’ve begun to send out Christmas cards and buy presents and spin holiday vinyl records. I gave thanks on Thanksgiving like I do every other day of the year. It was tremendous fun to catch up with family recently. And four day weekends are always a great time. This afternoon I have relaxed at home after breakfast out with a friend and then church following breakfast. I am in love with life and the true spirit of the Christmas season.

Christmas cards and presents are best when given out of a joyful spirit. I give them out because I want to do so. I’ve been giving out pop-up Christmas cards since Christmas 2008. These pop-ups are by Robert Sabuda who also creates pop-up books. One of my favorite elements of this season is passing out the pop-ups. Honestly, I give out more cards than presents around Christmastime. Friends…

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And Keep Spinning Joyfully

A great Christmas Blog from Jonathon Brooks!

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This season I’ve begun to send out Christmas cards and buy presents and spin holiday vinyl records. I gave thanks on Thanksgiving like I do every other day of the year. It was tremendous fun to catch up with family recently. And four day weekends are always a great time. This afternoon I have relaxed at home after breakfast out with a friend and then church following breakfast. I am in love with life and the true spirit of the Christmas season.

Christmas cards and presents are best when given out of a joyful spirit. I give them out because I want to do so. I’ve been giving out pop-up Christmas cards since Christmas 2008. These pop-ups are by Robert Sabuda who also creates pop-up books. One of my favorite elements of this season is passing out the pop-ups. Honestly, I give out more cards than presents around Christmastime. Friends…

View original post 195 more words

The Christmas Pipe

IMG_9848After a lovely Thanksgiving diner with our family from Salem, Illinois, we set out for our annual journey to St. Charles, Missouri to experience Christmas…from many years ago.

IMG_0669Rain was in the forecast for the later afternoon, therefore we left early to get ahead of mother nature.  When we arrived we found the usual, Black Friday, Christmas revelers.  I soon noticed characters representing the USO from World War II.

IMG_0748Aaron was in search of a flat-cap and we searched, on both sides of the cobblestone street, to find the Irish Store that I had purchased my Irish hat at many years ago.  Sadly, we did not find it and fear that it may have closed.

Suddenly, there was the Tobacco Store…and I entered before MJ could dissuade me.  When what did I see…but gift boxes, already made up, of a corn cob pipe and all of the accoutrements to facilitate a Christmas Pipe!

IMG_0467 2Our favorite restaurant, Braddentons, was full to the brim!  When we entered and made our way, slowly, out of the entrance of the establishment…my friend and excellent Grand Mariner pourer, asked how many…to which an angry woman retorted…’We Are Next!’  My friend replied, ‘ ok..ok..ok!’

We had been told to expect and 30-40 minute wait…we were seated in 10.  I tried the pork tenderloin and asked the waitress to have it prepared the way that she liked hers prepared!  It was delicious!  The Grand Mariner was excellent…and a Manhattan was even better!

IMG_4155There were chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Finally the rain began to fall…and I was sitting outside a Christmas Store…in the rain.  Mrs. Claus walked up to me and asked if my family was in a restaurant or shopping.  I replied that they were shopping and she looked concerned that that the old man in front of her was getting wet.  I would have been concerned, as well, but I had on my REI raincoat that MJ had suggested that I purchase prior to our Maine vacation this past spring.

IMG_3872Back to Thanksgiving Day…it was such a pleasure to have Ron and Ira Kaye along with Tara and Mike and Paige and Tyler!  They had the distinct opportunity to observe my valiant and messy efforts to carve the turkey and ham…and spill some glaze from the ham and subsequently mop it up!

I so enjoyed watching the wonderful adults that Tyler and Paige have become!  I remember them when they were babies…but then again I recall their mother when she was very young.

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St. Charles Is Coming!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and MJ has been preparing for days!  Jonathon and Aaron and I have been her little helpers, I would say elves…but that is more appropriate for the day after tomorrow.

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Black Friday will mark our annual trek to St. Charles, Missouri to revel in the, Dickens, Christmas celebration.  Last year MJ was in such pain from her mis-aligned spine that we had already chosen to forgo our St. Charles visit, and had chosen a comedy show called ‘Martin and Martin’ with, Steve Martin and Martin Short,…and we were unable to attend that as well due to the debilitating pain that she was suffering.  Fortunately Aaron and Jonathon along with Jonathon’s good friend, Dawn and a friend of hers, were able to attend, and according to reports they throughly enjoyed the performance!

When I am in St. Charles…I suspend disbelief and subsequently I am swept away in time to the land of the famous Charles Dickens story, ‘A Christmas Carol,’ where, before my eyes there are, Tiny Tim and, his father, Bob Cratchit, along with Mr. Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas, past, present, and future.

There is such a variety of Santa Claus and his ancestors that the mystique is mesmerizing!  Little children collect a card from each of the Christmas characters…and so do I!

Through the years I have had the tradition of purchasing, one, handmade Latvian miniature building, with a candle inside of it.  This is from a Polish shop where an elderly lady, probably my age, and her granddaughters work.  I fear that there will be no more houses or schools or barns or churches to buy this year, as she told us the year before last that the manufacturers were going our of their family business.

As you will recall, I love the, generous pour, of the Grand Mariner at the restaurant that we have our Reuben Sandwich at each year.  Aaron and Jonathon love the Trailhead Brewery, and have invited MJ and me to join them…but we are afraid that we might not be able to keep up.

I enjoyed a quality cigar, one year, from the cigar store…I may again?

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St. Charles has Chestnuts roasting on an open fire!

I have observed for over 20 years that the feeling of holiday and family and friends that I receive from our visits to St. Charles, exceed, by a lot, the feeling of being rushed and crushed by our former Black Friday visits to the Malls of St. Louis!

It dawned on me, many years ago, that the, allusive, search for happiness is found, at your own front door!’

The same could be said for working your fingers to the bone…once you retire from your employment and the well wishers are gone and the retirement cake is eaten…your name will soon be forgotten!

I heard a wonderful illustration that described the void that will be left by your retirement.  Fill a paid full of water…and place your hand in it and then withdraw your hand….Observe the hole that remains in the water?

Work is insidious and a fickle companion!  You may feel that it demands the lion’s share of your time and efforts and strength.  You may know that so many people are counting on you and your efforts and that they cannot make it without you.  But, at the end of the day, as my colleague John Hill told me many years ago, it is just a job!  The real purpose of life is to enjoy your family and loved ones and friends!

‘We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute.  We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race.  And the human race is filled with passion.  And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life.  But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.’    Dead Poets Society

Thanksgivings….Past

The day after tomorrow is MJ’s favorite holiday of the year!  From our first Thanksgiving together, in 1978, until this weeks model, I have understood the importance of the celebration!

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Over the past 30 + years we have been hosting the event in our home.  For many of those years we celebrated in our four room house in Elkville.  There were years that we had upwards of 25 people…we were close…both in fellowship and physical space!

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I vividly recall getting a new camcorder in the late 80’s and recording video of the events for posterity.  Now, I need to have the tapes transferred to DVD in order to watch them.

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I remember our niece, Tara, riding with Aaron, Jonathon, and me to the theatre, after dinner, to see, Father Of The Bride, and Tara talking about how excited that she was to be, soon, turning 16.  She was so happy and jubilant that it made my holiday complete!

On another Thanksgiving, Berl, MJ’s father came to enjoy dinner with us in our new house in Carbondale.  As he was walking to his car to go home…he fell and gashed his head.  The blood flowed!  We were all frightened!  We rushed him to the hospital and they quickly put him into a hospital bed.  A few minutes later Jonathon and Aaron and I went in to see him.  There he sat, upright in bed, with a big grin on his face and talking a mile a minute!  When the, young, nurse entered to check up on him…he told her that she was beautiful and that it was a shame that he had a ring on his finger!  He then reared up to peer at her hands and noted that it appeared that she had a ring on her finger, as well!  Soon, Fernie, Berl’s wife entered the room and Berl became much more sedate and circumspect!

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As the nurse exited the hospital room she commented, ‘he is a ;pistol!’

We have had turkey for most of the 30 + years of our annual feast.  Our first year in Carbondale, 18 years ago, we had a massive bone to discard when the picking was concluded.  I had the bright idea to place the bone with a little meat hanging on it…by our pond…and let the numerous animals, that cross our yard, have a turkey feast!  I thought that the bone would be taken away by a grateful four legged diner?  After some time, I had to retrieve the, gross and neglected, remains…and dispose of them.

When we moved to Carbondale and the’ big house’…we vowed to purchase a live Christmas Tree.  Thus, the day after Thanksgiving…we visited the local nursery.  We purchased a lovely fir tree and the special stand to sit it in.  We also bought holiday regalia to make the upcoming Christmas special and had the tree delivered the next day.  The first thing that we found out was that we had obtained our live tree about two weeks earlier than appropriate….Because it is…live!  And so, we bought a wash tub to place the tree in and watered and waited…until 10 days before Christmas.

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After Christmas was the coup de gras when we took the, live, tree into our front yard and  planted it…into the very hard soil!  MJ watched from the window as I placed the new member into the natural wonder of our yard…and she said…it is a little cooked…don’t you think?  I responded that it was not the planting that was crooked, but the tree.

‘A. Tree Grew In Carbondale,’  and it was more crooked each year!

Mrs. Moore attended almost all of our Thanksgivings.  Her face radiated her enjoyment and pleasure!  When I think of Thanksgiving…I think of Mrs. Moore!

One Thanksgiving Eve, it came a serious ice and snow storm.  It was early in the last decade, not long after we had moved from our four room house to our 10 room house.  As I slipped and slid home, not able to distinguish where the road ended and the massive ditches began, I thought of the many times that I had braved the elements in pursuit of holiday cheer!  My foreman called me not long after I had arrived home to ensure that I was safe.  They had heard that a Toyota, Camry, which I drove at that time,  had been involved in an accident and the passenger rushed to the hospital.  I was grateful to be home and I was moved that they were concerned about me!

This Thursday the food will be delicious and the feast sumptuous…but it is the people that sit next to us….That make the difference!

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We All Need Love

I was involved in a performance review, recently, where the person being evaluated commented, that it was so nice to hear that she was appreciated.  Indeed, I have never experienced a person that I, sincerely, complimented, become angry or not joyfully receive recognition of their efforts.

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So often we feel that we are living in a vacuum.  We are working diligently and foregoing vacation time and working when we are ill…or donating time to the job…and no one seems to notice or care.

Often we sit on the sidelines while others are applauded, perhaps rightfully so, and our worry and labor and striving…appears to not create a ripple in the placid sea?

A plant will die from lack of attention.  If we cease to water it and neglect it…and trust that it will be all right, we may find that it has withered and passed away.  The same can be said of we humans.  When no one seems to care about us or what we are doing…or what we are thinking…our world may take on a distorted view.

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I wonder if the many individuals who have resorted to gun violence, in our nation, could have been dissuaded and set upon another path…if they were not been bullied or marginalized or had they not become members of a hidden society!

I watched the movie, ‘Us,’ over the weekend.  The flick illustrates a society of humans who live in unground tunnels and unused facilities.  Those living underground and not having the benefit of the sun to shine on them and the opportunities of their identical counterparts in the above ground world are stilted and stymied and stunted in their growth as human beings.

I have often told Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale chancellors and presidents that they should seek input  from their civil service staff as the remedies for the on-going problem of recruitment and retention of students.  When a church or work-place or society pigeonholes individuals…that organization is in the midst of  it’s decline.

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And, so, Thanksgiving is this Thursday.  We will eat hearty and rejoice in the blessings of capitalism and opportunity and being in the right place at the right time…and having the right friends and a quality education from the right schools…

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Others, a lot of others, will huddle in their makeshift tent or scrounge some discarded food from a dumpster or warm their ill-clad bodies over a heating register that is outside a Macy’s Department Store window…as they look, longingly, at the Christmas Display….

5 Days Until ‘T’ Day!

I was out and about today and it dawned on me that the holiday season is upon us!  I have been saying, for weeks, that Thanksgiving and Christmas are getting close…now the revelerie is here!  I purchased a book, The Golden Compass, earlier this week and the Barnes and Noble Bookseller’s attendant, asked me if I was purchasing a Christmas gift.  I replied, joyfully, that I was…for myself.

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Winter is less than a month away.  The first day of the season of snow and ice is, December 21.

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The Brooks Christmas Tree goes up tomorrow.  We will plug in the lights and seldom turn them off, accept when we leave the house, as we enjoy their festive and warm glow.

MJ and I enjoyed a lovely dinner with several members of our church, last evening.  I marvel at how much more I appreciate my fellow congregants, when I break bread with them!

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A group of us were discussing what draws people to church.  Our pastor, wisely observed, that since Watergate, there has been a significant distrust in institutions.  I pondered what he had said, and agreed.  I know what brought MJ and our family to First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale, and that was because her co-workers invited us to a Sunday morning service.  When we arrived we discovered a friendly and welcoming group of people.  Many people greeted us and the minister, at that time, seemed very happy to see us.  Aaron was 17 and Jonathon was 14.  MJ and I were younger as well.  Later that Sunday afternoon, two, sweet, people, Evelyn and Harold Engilking, drove to our little village of Elkville, Illinois…to bring us homemade cookies and tell us how happy that they were that we had visited their church.  I was both touched and impressed!

We attended First Presbyterian for nearly a year prior to joining it.  We are noted for thinking about decisions for a long time.  Yet, we joined because we loved the worship service and the preaching…and the, non-judgmental, family atmosphere that we felt each Sunday.

We were amazed at the missionary outreach that the little Presbyterian Church was engaged in.  Everyone seemed to be doing something to demonstrate their faith by action!

President Kennedy was assassinated 56 years ago today.  I was in the first grade at Hillcrest School in Eldorado, Illinois.  We had recently moved from Chicago.  In those days each of the classrooms had a large intercom speaker hung on he wall.  Suddenly, our principal announced, over the intercom that our President had bad been shot in Dallas, Texas…and that school would be dismissed.  I walked home to find my mother watching the news coverage of the assassination on television and she was weeping!  When I asked her why she was sad…she said the President Kennedy was dead!  I thought that he must have been part of our family?

President Kennedy said:

‘Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.

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