A Fun Trip to St. Louis
Mary Jane and I have been visiting St. Louis for 39 years. Last Friday was our 39th anniversary. We were pleased to be with Ron and Ira Kaye, who are members of our family….And more importantly our dear friends.
Friday just started off grandly, with Mary Jane receiving great news from her doctor. This was followed by a celebratory lunch at our favorite restaurant on the Hill…Cunetto House of Pasta.
Friday evening we enjoyed the Broadway production of Motown the Musical at the Fox Theatre.
This expert performance and outstanding music transported me back to my youth…and the turbulent 1960s…and the Vietnam War.
To hear the performer portraying Dianna Ross or the songs of Marvin Gaye… disbelief was simply suspended…we, the audience, were there…in the moment…with the original performers.
When Dianna sang the Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson song, Reach out and touch (Somebody’s Hand), and began to walk through the audience asking for volunteers to sing with her…racial strife…hate…and all malice was dissolved into a complete spirit of unity and love.
As we exited the Theatre to return to our car…we passed an African American man and a white man arguing in a vehement manner. The African American gentleman appeared to be homeless. I could not help but think that suddenly I was in a different environment than the one that I had just experienced during the Motown performance.
We spent Saturday night at the Cheshire Inn. This is a unique boutique hotel that is of a total English Immersion theme. This includes when driving into the Hotel’s garage you are directed to drive into the facility on the opposite side of the street that we Americans are accustomed to . The thermostat is in celsius. Each of the rooms are named after an English author and there is a book by the author in the room named after him or her.
We were greeted by the most friendly and engaging African American women who made our stay so wonderful. Her ready sense of humor and genuine compassionate spirit enriched our experience.
We enjoyed the most leisurely after breakfast coffee and champagne in the closed English Pub that was adjacent to the front desk. We found the door unlocked and walked in for an hour and a half of conversation and camaraderie…where I am sure we were not authorized to be. The Pub reminded Mary Jane and I so much of our recent visit to the United Kingdom and especially Oxford. When our friend discovered us in the closed Fox and Hound…we asked if it was all right…and she assured us that it was.
As we checked out of the Cheshire, the warmth and affection of our Cheshire Friend….Was palpable. She told her boss that we were her babies…he smiled.
I think that I will try henceforth to ‘Reach out and Touch Somebody’s Hand and make this world a better place if I can.’
A Southern Illinois Icon’s New Role
I was privileged to attend a meeting of my church, First Presbyterian, this evening and hear my friend, Dr. Glenn Poshard, speak of his new adventure.
Dr. Poshard has recently been named the President of Morthland College. Morthland is a Christian College and is located in West Frankfort, Illinois.
Two intriguing things that Dr. Poshard told us was that about 45% of the student body, of 110, is African American. He spoke glowingly of how these students are welcomed and accepted in the almost totally white southern Illinois town of West Frankfort located in rural Franklin County.
He noted all of the students at Morthland dedication to public service in the community.
Also, my friend, spoke of his vision to create a ‘Christian Political Institute.’ This institute would focus on a carer long vision of his to combine being a politician with christian values. This is a goal that he began when he first became a member of the United States House of Representatives. During this time fellow House members and others met in his Congressional Office one morning a week to discuss how their vision of Christian Politicians could be implemented.
I first met Dr. Poshard when he was competing for the Southern Illinois University’s administrative position of Vice Chancellor of Administration. He secured the job and held it for a few years before retiring.
Not long after Glenn’s retirement he was appointed to SIU’s Board of Trustees and shortly thereafter he became the Chair of the august group.
Dr. Poshard finished his carer at SIU as the President of the University for eight years.
To hear President Poshard’s excitement and vision for Morthland College was inspiring. Hearing the academic requirements for Morthland, such as several credit hours of both Greek and Latin, was not only impressive but hearkens back to the beginning of the Ivy League Schools on the East coast.
Dr. Poshard noted that the primary requirement of a successful leader…is humility.
Dr. Glenn Poshard, my friend for many years, is donating his service to this new and vibrant Christian College.
Naaman and Me and You
‘ Now Naaman, Captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! He would recover him of his leprosy. And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel. And he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.’ II Kings 5: 1-5
So, it is apparent that Naaman had a lot going for him in the world. He was powerful and rich and a man who did not suffer fools gladly…and a leper.
Naaman traveled to the land that the maid had spoken of and he brought plenty of his fine clothes…and plenty of money. He also came with the introductory letter of the King of Syria. Surely if there was anything to be done for this rich…powerful…esteemed and feared man…it would be done.
When the king of Israel read the letter from the king of Syria, regarding Naaman, he tore his clothes and exclaimed, ‘Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send me to recover a man of his leprosy?’ II Kings 5: 7 KJV
‘And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean? Then he went down and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.’ II Kings 5: 8-14
How often in our faith life have we encountered the still quiet voice of God asking us to do something that seemed to not be logical or commensurate with our perceived rank and position in society?
When the refugee cries out for relief from starvation…war…genocide…do we say that this type of work is better done by their peers…who understand them…perhaps refugee camps in their own country…that they are attempting to flee from.
When the homeless person comes to our church door…perhaps dirty and emitting an odor…and disabled…not someone that we would take with us to a nice restaurant…or ask to enjoy a holiday meal in our home. Why, aren’t their trained professionals to care for these challenged individuals…people who understand their needs and how best to provide for them.
When our church solicits volunteers to go on a missionary journey to Africa…do we say that there are others who are uniquely qualified for this type of outreach.
Do we readily agree with our current Presidential Administration that there is no evidence that the Meals on Wheels program is producing the results that it was designed to?
Do we agree that the after school programs and food programs have not demonstrated that they are increasing the educational accomplishments of the poor student that are partaking? Perhaps these families and students will just ‘pull themselves up by their boot straps’ and ‘get theirs… like we got ours.’
Have you ever been truly hungry?
Do you think that God is a capitalist?
Is it all right…and just…and good… that millions go without health insurance. Perhaps they decided that they do not want health insurance? After all…they have access to it.
And, so, our health fails us…way before we thought that it would.
And, so, we are lonely in a crowded room…
And, so, we take pills to make us sleep. We feel a general malaise and discontent…and illness…and leprosy.
But, then again…our pools are much better than the muddy Jordan!
Avengers in Edinburgh
‘The timeworn streets of the Old Town are about to be transported into a superhero-studded world of action as explosive scenes are filmed for the next installment of the Hollywood blockbuster The Avengers,’ according to Fiona Pringle of the Edinburgh Evening News.
Since visiting Edinburgh last summer, I am intrigued by any event that is transpiring in the historic city.
Edinburgh has such a unique personality and character… it gets into your soul. We traveled with our dear friends Jeff and Margo and spent five days and nights in a lovely flat that was located within the city and easy walking distance from the Castle, that was just up the hill, and the Royal Mile.
The City emanates its’ colorful, and sometimes, dark history. The Scottish people are lovely, welcoming, and friendly.
Our ‘Ghost Tour’ was a highlight of our time in Edinburgh and enriched us with the shadowy side of this great City.
I have seldom been in a city that the palpable…spiritual essence of it…stuck with me long after my leaving of it.
Our tour of the hidden vaults under the ancient cobblestone streets of Edinburgh was spooky and undeniably real.
Edinburgh…I think is a lifestyle…and it has the dynamic draw on your heart…to compel you to return.
There is an ethereal component to Edinburgh…it is a haven for writers, J. K. Rowling wrote much of the Harry Potter series in a local restaurant, the Elephant House, and it is a place for theatre, as the Fringe Festival so aptly illustrated to us, and it is a place for the Arts.
I want to return to this magic place…I hope you do to?
The Lost Art of Customer Service
The excellent service that we just received from Woods Basement Systems has caused me to reflect on the lost art of customer service. Seldom have I seen a more dedicated staff to the professional and expeditious performance of their job duties. Four young men who did not waste a moment or a movement in performing they’re waterproofing task, while all the while…friendly and mannerly and courteous.
I was asked to be the Superintendent of Building Services at Southern Illinois University…many years ago. I immediately decided that we must return to a singular dedication to customer service. Being a Housekeeping organization, I wrote in our Handbook that , no one wants to hear why the cleaning person cannot clean.
I quoted, to the wonderful members of the department that I had been asked to lead, two of the old commercials that exemplified our dedication to customer service. The first would be from the car rental company Hertz, where the television commercial showed the prospective driver of the sleek Hertz vehicle floating into the driver’s seat of the car with the motto, ‘Hertz puts you in the driver’s seat.’
The second commercial that I often sited was for the world renowned fast food restaurant, McDonalds, where their motto was, ‘We do it all for you!’
Mary Jane and I were frequent shoppers of the now defunct department store, Famous Barr, where the attendants were dressed in suits and formal dresses…and where they actually knew me by name and greeted me every time I entered their store.
Have you ever gone through a check out line at you local Walmart and not only not been greeted…but also when you say thank you to the attendant…they respond…no problem?
Have you ever felt that the store employees that waited on you had the distinct impression that they were doing you a favor?
Customer service and professionalism are a breath of fresh air and a ray of sunshine in a world that has coarsened.
I regularly told my Housekeeping Customers that if I did not have someone to address their custodial needs…that I would do so myself. I often did just that!
There is a dynamic that occurs when we encounter excellent customer service. We are reminded of the dedication to quality and outstanding performance that is still available…when those people that serve us…care about our experience…and the results of their dedication.
Southern Illinois University is once again dedicating their institution to the most precious asset of their community…their students!
I am expecting an influx of hungry humanity…looking for that spark of excellence…that drawing to the light…that separates the mediocre from the excellent!
Southern Illinois University = Service to Southern Illinois
‘ Big Things Are Coming’
‘ What happens when hundreds of Salukis come together for a cause? Big things happen!
It happens thought the year because it’s what we do and who we are! In fact, more than 3,000 students contribute more than 30,000 hours of community service on average each year. What could we accomplish if we came together for one big day,’ according to the Big Event at Southern Illinois University.’
An integral and vital component of SIU has always been service to the Southern Illinois region. I remember fondly McLeod Theatre’s student performers coming to my Grade School, at Eldorado, Illinois, to perform the most engaging performances. I knew, at a young age, that Southern Illinois University was a special place.
Former SIU President Delyte Morris came to Southern Illinois Normal University, a Teachers College, in 1948. ‘ He basically worked night and day for 23 years to promote SIU’s development,’ Visiting Professor Stephen Katsinas with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute said.
‘ It was his life-and a manifestation of good social works embedded in his Methodist faith,’ according to Codell Rodriguez of the Southern Illinoian.
From agricultural assistance with the Southern Illinois Community to help with Clean Coal Technology for the deteriorating, one time great, Coal Economy of the region.
SIU was in the forefront and one of the first Universities to offer handicapped access and disability support services.
The popular comedian and political activist, Dick Gregory, speaks of President Morris’s lack of prejudice, ‘ He was one of the first powerful white men to not call me boy,’ according to Gregory. Mr. Gregory goes on to talk of having breakfast, after he ran track, with President Morris and his wife Dorothy in their home.
‘That’s exactly what we’ll do for the inaugural The Big Event: A Saluki Day of Service, the largest one-day, student-run service project in the history of SIU Carbondale. We want to show our new and long-standing community partners how much we appreciate their support of our University,’ according to the Big Event.
Current Projects for the Big Event, to be held on April 1, 2017, are:
‘Carbondale Main Street – Volunteers will help beautify downtown Carbondale! They will participate in a large cleanup and planting day initiative.’
‘Green Earth, Inc. – To preserve natural areas for the benefit of Carbondale, Illinois and to make these areas available for education and non-consumptive recreational pursuits.’
‘Touch of Nature – Camp clean up and preparation and trail building. Volunteers will pick up trash an debris around the two camps as well as weather protect some of the outdoor wood structures. Volunteers will also work with staff to clean and build trails.
‘Keep Carbondale Beautiful – City-wide clean up. Volunteers will be assigned to locations across Carbondale to collect litter and recyclables.’
‘Autism Society of Illinois-Southern Illinois Chapter – Kick off Autism Awareness Week at Kroger and Walmart.’
‘Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale – Volunteers will help with 5K. Duties will include set up/registration, water stations, activity stations and clean/up.’
‘Humane Society – Animal care, painting, yard work and cleaning.’
SIU’s Leadership Development Program – Volunteers will help move the tree saplings to correct location, dig the hole for the tree, plant the tree, or reseal the hole around the roots.’
‘For Kids Sake – Volunteers will help prepare for the 17th Annual Art Auction. Responsibilities will vary.’ All listed on the Big Event at Southern Illinois Universes Web Site.
The fabric of Southern Illinois is inextricably woven with the fabric of Southern Illinois University. You cannot untangle them!
We in Southern Illinois rely upon our beloved University as the Beacon of Hope for our entire region. To speak of underfunding the brightest light in our area of relative economic darkness…is to turn your back on a significant portion of the Sate of Illinois.
The positive good…that SIU provides for the southern section of the Illinois…is a bargain!
Spring Cleaning and Time Travel
Over the past week Jonathon, Aaron, and I have been preparing our basement for waterproofing. This preparation included the disposal of many items that had not been seen in at least sixteen years.
It is amazing the things that your save. Many times possessions that seemed extremely valuable in one decade…have apparently lost some value in the ensuing decade.
We uncovered my first Bible…that had been purchased for me by my Mother on my thirteenth birthday. In those days I wrote in my Bible…a lot. My carer aspiration, as a young man, was to be a minister. The handmade leather cover on my first Bible was made by my old friend Michael Topple. Reading my thoughts and impressions, at that time, transported me back to my life in 1970.
We also found some black and white polaroid photos that I took in the sixth grade. One of my classmates and good friends at the time, Jeff Colmeyer, was in one of the photos. Also, a lovely picture of my Mother…in her thirties…healthy and happy and not afflicted with Alzheimers Disease.
We happily discovered some little figurines called ‘Old Salts’ which are nautical in nature. They provided happy memories…from long ago.
We found many of my work-life items from my carer at SIU. I recalled fondly my great years with the University and the intrinsic part that it played in my life for over thirty-two years.
Who we are…our identity…our life experience…our memories…provide our uniqueness.
Life contains chapters…that often are good to re-read for their richness and value and the context the they give to our present and future.
Also life brings us experiences that need to be placed in the rubbish bin. The decision is ours to make.
‘Now is the Time for all Good Men, and Women, to Come Aid of Their Country’
The great patriot, Patrick Henry, is attributed with first uttering the phrase, ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party.’
The Washington Post calls, ‘the new Republican health-care plan is awe-inspiringly awful.’
The first cost analysis of the Republican Health Care Plan is that it will be the most costly to rural Americans that are 60+ years old and have an income of 20 – 40 thousand dollars annually. The analysis also illustrates that Americans making 75 thousand plus annually are the greatest beneficiaries of this Obama Care replacement.
The majority of President Trump’s supporters, who’s votes carried him to the White House, are age 60 and over and are rural Americans who’s annual income is 20 – 40 thousand annually.
President Trump and his staff insist that, ‘there is nothing to see here,’ as facts continue to emerge regarding the Russian connection with the President’s Campaign and his Presidency… persist.
President Trump woke up last Saturday and accused former President Obama of taping his phones in Trump Tower during the Presidential Campaign…and that perhaps, President Obama, was, ‘sick.’
Governor Bruce Rauner tells the citizens of Illinois that he wants a state budget but that the Democratic Senate and House must agree to some of the concessions that he demands before he will sign a budget.
The Grand Bargain, crafted by the president of the Illinois Senate, seemed to hold out at long last hope for the millions of Illinoisans who are suffering under the weight of not having a state budget for almost two years.
It appears that hopes are dimming for this ‘savior’ plan due to the intransigence of both the democrats and republicans to compromise…which is the entire theory and construct that our government is built upon.
‘Nero fiddled while Rome burned!’
The damage being done to our beloved Southern Illinois University is almost irreversible…now!
In our governing officials quest for a leaner budget in Illinois…they have succeed in balloning the budget by billions of dollars and lowering our credit rating to Junk Bond status.
During the political Inquisition, that the United States is currently undergoing,…would it not be refreshing to have elected statesmen and stateswomen that would tell us the truth? I am not referring to ‘my truth’ or ‘your truth’…I am referring to the truth.
Are you weary of hearing our politicians speak ‘double talk’ to us when we ask them questions that often are life and death issues that deserve plain and constructive speech.
How do our political leaders utter their complete contempt for someone they are running against…only to later enjoy dinner with the contemptible person…who is now the President?
We, thus far, still live in a representative democracy. Perhaps now…we must become involved in our government…before it is to late?
The Transformative Power of Southern Illinois University!
I have been an especially strong mood to write about the greatness of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. The University is under severe budgetary pressures due to the lack of a state budget, in Illinois, for the past nearly two years. This is the result of intransigence on the part of our Republican Governor and our Democratic Legislature. Higher Education, as well as many other worthy state institutions, are suffering from the dysfunction in our political family.
The blog that I wrote yesterday, ‘Where is the Opportunity,’ has received comments from other career employees of SIU…who relate their wonderful stories of the transformation and carer growth that they received at Southern.
It was my privilege to witness the metamorphosis of many great individuals…who simply needed someone to believe in them…into confident professionals.
My colleague, Jamie, who is deaf, transformed from a person who found opportunities few…and not consistent with her abilities…to becoming a respected supervisor in the Building Services department.
My friend, Brad, went from a student employee…to the Director of Plant and Service Operations. Brad is a man who cares about people along with being extremely qualified to manage this diverse and complex area of responsibility. His departed father…who I knew…would be so proud of him!
My friend, Glenn Poshard, was a three degree graduate of SIU. He was a member of the Civil Service Staff…early in his career. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives for many years. He was the President of Southern Illinois University for nine years.
SIU is an agent of positive change…for all people.
I listened to my friend, Dr. Seymour Bryson, speak of what it was like to be African American during the days of Jim Crow. He spoke of life in Carbondale during Jim Crow. At that time African Americans were forced to set in the balcony area of the local Varsity Theatre. He was a graduate of SIU. He was a Basketball Star at SIU.
Dr. Bryson..as well as many African Americans benefited from the non-biased and forward vision of Dr. Delyte Morris and SIU as regarding African American admittance and inclusivity. Dr. Bryson is a famous figure on Campus…the circle drive in front of the Student Center is named after him. Dr. Bryson was a tireless advocate of racial equality and was a Vice Chancellor for many years.
My friend and former colleague, Cyndy, is a two degree graduate of SIU. She is a Civil Service employee. I have not see anyone that cares more about helping people…than Cyndy. She works tirelessly…often without pay both to ensure that her job is performed in an excellent manner and to assist those who are less fortunate.
Southern Illinois University is a miracle worker…hidden next to the Shawnee National Forest and in the midst of the villages and hamlets of Southern Illinois. We must preserve it…as the job that it performs incapsulates the beauty and wonder of life.
Where is the Opportunity
Yesterday I wrote of my affection for the Civil Service Community at Southern Illinois University. As a young man of twenty years old…with a high school education…and often being admonished that I was not cut out of college; I wondered where the opportunity was for me?
When I began at SIU…I knew no one…and was sure everyone ‘was my better.’
When I encountered Professors I did so in reverence. I knew that somehow they had ascended to a lofty position that I probable could never aspire to.
The thought of even seeing the Chancellor or President of the University…was similar to encountering the President of the United States.
Slowly, I understood that the opportunity of SIU was available to me. I began taking a course or two each semester…and found the most encouraging Professors…and it seemed that perhaps…I was cut our for college.
A wonderful Professor, Dr. Carol Burns,encouraged me to study for anything that I desired as she knew that I had the ability to succeed in whatever field that I chose.
As the years progressed my Director, Duane Schroeder, told my supervisor that he believed that I had the unique qualities to be named to the Employee Assistance Program. This Program was designed to direct employees having emotional or mental struggles to the resources that could assist them. I loved serving on this Board and was sad when it was discontinued.
I then placed my name in the voting for a seat on the Civil Service Council…which I was sure that I would loose. No one was more surprised than I…when I won a seat on this important Board representing Civil Service Employees.
The Council opened the ‘Global Understanding’ of the University to me. Through the years I was asked to serve on two Chancellor Search Committees…and became good friends with one of the Chancellors that resulted from the Search that I was a member of.
Towards the latter years of my carer I was friends with the President of the University and he asked me often for my thoughts on Campus issues.
I began my time at SIU as a rather unfamiliar person with people from across the world…I left as a lover of all humanity…and with respect for all diversity.
Southern Illinois University is an Oasis in Little Egypt. It is a miracle in the midst of a very rural…poor…lack of opportunity…climate.
I was a member of the Civil Service Staff…but I ‘lived SIU’…and I still do!
SIU has enhanced every facet of my life…I cannot give back what it has given me!
My experience is instructive and indicative of the Civil Service Community at SIU.