A Golden Calf
‘Now when the people saw that Moses was delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.’
‘So Aaron told them, ‘Take off the gold earrings that are on your wives and sons and daughters, and bring them to me.’
‘Then all the people took off their gold earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from their hands, and with an engraving tool he fashioned it into a molten calf. And they said, ‘O Israel, these are your gods, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ Exodus 32:1-3
And so it goes…
There is something in our, human nature, that seeks to; believe in and follow…and even worship…a tangible god that we can see and feel and hear.
There is an easy, foxhole, to fall into…and that is the search for the extraordinary or divinely called…leader. A person with a little magic sprinkled on them. Someone who is above the rest of we, poor, mortals.
There are leaders who have a ‘god complex.’
This complex can exhibit itself in a variety of forms.
A supervisor or a manager can be, adept, in the, art, of manipulation. In other words they manipulate members of their staff to fulfill their needs or goals…and not the staff member.
Often, managers are proficient at pitting members of their staff against each other in order to facilitate all members, looking only to them for direction and amelioration of disputes.
A minister or pastor may demonstrate the, complex, by instructing their congregation that, ‘they are hearing from god…and therefore they must be obeyed when it pertains to your life!’
I saw a photo of a, faith healer, demonstrating his, god given gift, in a large arena that was filled with thousands of people. The caption read…’why do we never see this minister healing people in the hospital?’
I admire leaders who inculcate, some, ‘gut feeling’ or empathy…or who take a chance, this is a mark, in moderation, of a good leader and a, calculated, risk taker.
However, to believe that you gut instincts are better than the considered study of a majority of scientist…is folly…
The greatest leadership that I have found is the leader that endeavors to lead by a consensus of logical opinion.
The day that I was asked to be a supervisor, of a crew of 12 people, I was humbled and honored and, knew, that I was but a steward of SIU and not an owner of my crew or their allegiance or abilities. I, always, found that I learned much more from the staff that I was assigned to lead or manage…than they ever learned from me.
Remember, God talks to all of his creation and supervisor and managers and administrators and ministers and presidents…are working under…designated authority from a higher authority.
In the case of the President of the United States…the higher authority is the American people and the Constitutionally mandated checks and balances from the other, co-equal, branches of government…the Congress and Senate and the Judiciary.
In the case of a minister or pastor, there should be a church board of Elders and or Deacons that manage the individual. This, governmental group should represent the congregation of the church…not the minister.
A supervisor should have a manager…who should have an administrator…who represents the good of the organization and the well being of all employees that are under their direction.
‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad-men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency, or the certainty of corruption by authority.’ John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton
Effective and Hard…Communication
During my thirty-two + year carer at Southern Illinois University, I was honored to have been a manager/administrator for over twenty-five years.
I had noticed, over my work life, that what a, supervisor or manager or administrator or boss…said to me and my colleagues had influence over our happiness and well-being.
If you are not independently wealthy….you have a boss that you are attempting to please and have a, working, relationship with.
I witnessed, others, and, at times, myself, having our carer influenced by a supervisor, who had the manager or administrator’s ear…and subsequently were lying to that person about our job performance.
The, common, or most utilized management team philosophy, was and still is, whatever the supervisor or manager said about an employee…was, good enough, for the administrator.
In all of my management positions…I had an open door policy. This, simply meant, that anyone in my organization could feel welcome to come and have a meeting with me. Not with their supervisor…but alone. If the evidence supported that a; student employee or a BSW or a Sub-Foreman or Foreman… had been wronged…I would support them.
At times, I have been told that an employee; ‘was trouble’ or that they ‘were lazy’, when upon examination of the empirical evidence…I found just the opposite.
I have been told that an employee, ‘had a bad attitude’, when after my inspection of the work and, attitude, of the person in question, I discovered that they simply were, guilty, of speaking up for themselves, when they were being, grossly, mistreated!
When you are a leader…your staff seeks one element more than any other from you.
You staff seeks consistency in what you say and in your policies that you implement.
Many times I have counseled an employee and did not tell them what they wanted to hear. I told them…what I, truly, thought about the issue we were discussing. Candor is not, always, pleasant but it is a reality that everyone will mark as to your management style and your truthfulness.
Fairness…is vital to the health of a manager and the organization that they manage.
When a manager looks at candidates for promotion they must use the same criteria for each candidate…and the criteria must equal the most qualified. To, cherry pick, reasons for promotion or the lack thereof is demoralizing and wrong.
During my management years…I promoted, many people, who had criticized me…but who exhibited the qualifications necessary for the upgrade.
Seniority is not the, controlling criteria, for upgrades or promotions…but it should be considered when, ‘lifting up, staff who have little time with the organization…and little demonstrated ability.
The time served with an organization is an important component when the employee has demonstrated, faithful and effective, service.
I promoted a woman, years ago, that had not experienced many breaks, come her way. I saw her colleagues ignore her and make, snide remarks, behind her back. This woman was a faithful and effective, workhorse and not a show horse, and I upgraded her…and she was an excellent supervisor.
When I became superintendent of Building Services…my first promotion was an African American woman, who, managers and supervisors, told me was; ‘nothing but trouble!’ This, wonderful woman, was one of the greatest foreman that I had the privilege of working with…she was wise and just and I sought her counsel…on many occasions.
Look beyond what people say…and examine the empirical evidence…for yourself!
Old Memories on a Campus Stroll
We were enjoying a terrific Thanksgiving dinner at Kokopelli restaurant in Marion, Illinois. The food was delicious…and they had wonderful, Dirty Martinis, that were, poured, by a bartender who knows the nuances of a, fine drink.
I noticed that someone had messaged me…and when I looked, I was so pleased to see that my former colleague and friend, Mark Wetstein, had asked if I would like to join him for a stroll around the SIU campus on Saturday.
I was delighted that Mark had reached out to me and wanted to spend sometime, walking and reminiscing about our, employment, at SIUC.
Mark and I, first met, when he was the associate director of Shryock Auditorium and I was the assistant superintendent of Building Services. I noted, quickly, what a professionalism that he exhibited and his, tremendous work ethic. Mark worked around the clock.
For a few years, during the 25 years that we have known each other, we were both members of the Civil Service Council. At one time, Mark was the vice president of the group and I was the president…and, just, prior to my retirement…he was the president and I was the vice president.
We spoke of the wonders of retirement and how much we enjoyed it…and many of the interesting occurrences that we had experienced during our SIU careers.
Southern Illinois University has been the beneficiary of dedicated professionals, like Mark, and has not always know how to best utilize their strengths and, sadly, at times, taken them for granted…when they needed them desperately.
It was pleasant and rewarding to reflect with my friend on the glories of our campus and to speak with a colleague that loves our school.
SIUC is a beautiful and serene and majestic location. There are so many, brilliant ideas that are awaiting a leader to have the courage and foresight…to implement.
Many, wrong turns have been made in the steering of the great ship of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. The first, Chappaquiddick type, wrong turn that we made was the giving away of many of our associate degree programs in the 1990’s…when they were the most popular courses at SIUC. The vision of, leaders at that time, was to create a…second University of Illinois. The mission of SIUC and the vision of it’s formation is totally different than U of I. Our campus enrollment dropped, precipitously, at that time…and it has never recovered; but rather continues to careens off of the, winding and narrow cliffs of Monte Carlo!
Many years ago, Physical Plant administration, thought that they were spending the State’s money effectively when they hired consultants to evaluate the Building Services operations. Now, these, (experts), did not know anything regarding our housekeeping operation…and they did not see the need to ask anyone’s opinion regarding what could make our, cleaning business better. The day that the, several thousand dollar plan for cleaning our campus, was revealed and was to be implemented, was my first day as foreman in the department. I, quickly, noticed that the, area assignments for my staffs, in all of the custodial areas that I was responsible for, were either much to large or…extremely small. When I asked our, new, assistant superintendent, what I should do…he responded that I should remake the areas to fit my crews. In other words…the costly housekeeping plan…was useless.
The day that I became the superintendent of the department…I threw all of the, Georgia Plan, in the trash…and my entire staff…rejoiced!
Mr. O’Hara, the superintendent of Building Services at the time of the, high dollar consultants visit, said that for the price of a cup of coffee…Physical Plant and University administration could receive all of the ideas and information that the required to facilitate the improvement of the department.
And, so it goes. We abdicate our, profitable and high sought after and students standing in line for…classes…to obtain our dream of academic nirvana. We seek leaders from across the country…who have the expertise and the credentials and curriculum vitae…that our school requires…when there are leaders in our midst…that would love to be asked….
Don’t we all have, so much to be thankful for?
For over thirty years, Mary Jane has hosted Thanksgiving, at our home. For many of those years; we lived in a four room house in Elkville, Illinois…and, often had over twenty guests to the feast!
Mrs. Moore, my sister-in-law’s mom, attended every year…and enjoyed the gathering, immensely! I woke up this morning…thinking of Mrs. Moore.
I can remember, Mary Jane and Ron coming with their, beautiful, daughter Tara. Mary Jane, so enjoyed watching the, annual Thanksgiving Dog Show, and she smiled, broadly, as she watched the many breeds of performing canines.
I think of Mary Jane Hickam…often…and recall her kindness to me.
In, more recent years, we have enjoyed traveling with Ron and Ira Kaye. We have had many adventures…including Ira Kaye and I standing by the submarine that was filmed in our favorite show. Lost, in Hawaii.
I can shut my eyes and see, my precious mom, and my stepfather, Earl…and hear their laughter as they listened to Earl’s ‘tall tales!’
Berl, Mary Jane’s, father, and Earl…had to, always, be called to the table…more than once…as they so enjoyed swapping stories and reminiscing about their, glorious youth!
So, this year, we are unable to host the celebration…but there will be many around our table…as we think of our loved ones.
‘Keep On The Sunny Side’
I had a great compliment from a fellow blogger when they said, ‘that my blogs were always so positive.’
Being positive, toward life, is a decision that I made when I was a youth.
My mother and father, divorced when I was 6 years old. I loved my dad…and could not understand how he left mom and I. Mom suffered from the separation…for years…and really…church and a dedication to the christian life…was our salvation.
I found myself, during my childhood years, being able to think quite negatively about an abundance of subjects; including the lot that life had dealt mom and I.
I remember, distinctly deciding, to focus my attitude on the positive outlook of life and to ignore the negative occurrences that trouble all of us…along the path of life.
I am a worrier. I worry about everything. However, it has occurred to me on numerous occasions, that God is in control of our lives and we really need not worry about anything.
We did not request entrance to this world…and our opinion has not been sought as to our time of exit…and so…enjoy the ride!
At one time…I was hungry…and now I understand and empathize with my brothers and sisters when they do not have enough to eat.
At one time…I could not pay my bills…and I was working…18 hours per day.
At one time…I was lonely…and God gave me a wonderful family.
At one time…people made fun of my clothes…and thought me less than capable of their achievements.
Through keeping an upbeat and positive attitude I have been able to trust God and work for; food and clothing and housing and land and positions of respect in the work and, general, community.
I learned that there is more that unites us…than divides us.
I have learned that my; Gay friends and my African American friends and my Jewish friends and my Latino friends and my Muslim friends…are true friends…and I am honored that they consider me their friend!
I learned that hard working, hard scrabble people, have some of the largest hearts!
I worried about my sons…but they have turned out to be, stellar, adults…and professionals…and gentlemen.
I worried about my, dear, wife and various health issues that she has battled…but she has always came through in good shape and with her, inherent, dry sense of humor.
I worried about, SIU’s Building Services, and the fear that we would be contracted out or that a member of my team would not be treated properly…but, we made it through…and I hear that some of my former colleagues…miss me.
I was asked to speak, a couple of Sundays ago, regarding Stewardship…and what it means to me.
The governing body of the First Presbyterian Church is called the Session. I was a member of the Stewardship, area, of this group, for 3 years. I was asked to speak regarding the subject, what the church means to me, and I reflected on the many, precious, parishioners, that have passed away…since my, first attendance 20 years ago.
If I speak in church, which I have done seldomly…for many years, I ask God to help me and speak through me…as I am convinced that my, simple, words will have little meaning to the congregation.
We, humans, seek meaning for our lives…and assurance that someone is watching and that someone cares.
It has been said that you find out who your friends are…when you are down on your luck.
I have, often, heard people proclaim how good God is to them because they do not have a health issue that some of their friends or family has. Does that mean that God is not as good to the sick members of your social circle?
Have you known individuals that have, by being in the right place at the right time, or inheritance or…pure good luck…are financially secure? These, well-to-do, human beings,…tout their hard work and discipline and, sadly, their zealous christianity, as the rationale for their wealth.
What of the; hard working and pure hearted, salt-of-the-Earth workers that strive and slave…all of their life…and just make a living…or just get by…who read their Bible each day and pray and help their neighbor when they are sick or in need?
Perhaps we are guilty of fashioning a god that is carved in our image and after our likeness…and who fits neatly…on our end table?
I have a balsa wood carving of Buddah, that I purchased in Aruba, and I find his beatific face and large pot-belly…some what reminiscent of my visage.
What if our mission in life is to look at our fellow member of our human family…and see ourselves?
What if I look at your child who is ill…and I see my child?
What if I see the family who does not have enough to eat and I feel pains of hunger?
What if I witness my; Jewish brothers and sisters being threatened, by hate groups, and I feel threatened…and I speak out in their defense?
I have noted that most of us hope that there is a life after this life…and we want to go to Heaven…but…do we believe that it is going to be sectioned, or zoned, for the; wealthy, and the white, and the privileged, and that the hate that governed our earthly existence…will be the governing factor in a perfect world?
Elitism is born in our ignorance and the ignominy of a narcissistic existence.
When we feel better and superior and ‘ahead of the pack,’ we are compensating for a large black hole in our soul.
‘ There is nothing permanent in this troublesome world, not even our troubles.’ Charlie Chaplin
‘ A Psalm of Life’
‘Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not the goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long and time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,-act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God overhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and a shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Happiness is…Truly…A Warm Puppy!
We purchased our first Boston Terriier puppy in 1990. I had dreamed of owning an English Bulldog…but my supervisor, at the time, talked me out of it when he noted the Bulldogs’s, inherint health problems, and their…drooling!
He went on to tell me of the Boston Terrier breed and that they had the, bulldog face, but not the health problems or the…drooling.
Bruiser was born in Benton, Illinois…and he had trouble fullfilling his, macho, name.
After Bruiser came, Abigail, and she was purchased at a Pet Store in the mall at Cape Girardeau, Missouri. She joined our family on the day that George H.W. Bush declared war on Iraq.
Now, Abigail, was a tough girl from Missouri! When she arrived at her new, Illinois home, she, immeadetly scratched Bruiser’s nose…and produced blood. She bloodied his nose!
Bruiser, forgave her and they produced a family of Boston Pups…and we sold; one to a, apparent, Mafia Don, and gave others away, and kept one called Rolly Bud.
Rolly Bud was larger than his father…and his dad was afraid of him…so after a year with us…we gave Rolly away.
We had a six foot privacy fence, for our back yard, in Elkville. Abigail could jump over it!
When we moved to Carbondale in 2001, Bruiser and Abigail came with us.
Bruiser passed away from an enlarged heart…and Abigail kept on living.
In 2004, a Boston Pup mamed Brody, came to live with us…and he bit Grandma Abigail’s legs…and she snapped at him…but could not see him well; due to her advanced age.
Now Brody is almost 15 years old. He still enjoys opening the houshold trash cans and pulling the refuse out of the cans and spreading out on to the floor.
He has alwasy enjoyed jumpoing on to our bed and snuggling with his mom. So, when he became to old to, consistently accomplish the jump on to the king size bed…we purchased him a set of doggy steps. Brody does not like the doggy steps and refuses to use them…so when he jumps for the, soft landing, of the bed…and misses…he blames us!
Now, Wallace T., came to us by a unique set of circumstances surrounding an eye problem that Mary Jane was having. We were travellling to an eye surgeon, in the Fairview Heights area, and had some significant concern regarding a, possible, detached retina. When it turned out that all was well…we knew a celebration was in order. We chose to celebrate at a resturant called, Lottawatta Creek, and they had Long Island Ice Teas…on special!
Jonathon and I…each had one, along with another drink, while Mary Jane had two…and felt no pain!
Afterward, we decided to go the the Fairview Heights Mall…to facilitate our sobering up…a bit…before making the drive home to Carbondale.
Mary Jane, announced, joyfully, ‘why don’t we go into the Pet Store to see if there are any doggy Christmas gifts that we can purchase for Brody?’
When I inquired as to whether or not they had any Boston Terrier Pups for sale…they answered that they did and that they had two. One was the traditonal black and white whild the other was, seal colored, and rare.
I proclaimed that I wanted to see the, seal colored one, ….and out came Wallace T.!
Wallace, was brown and white…with a, significalntly skrunched up face, even for a Boston. He had the sniffles and a, concerning, cough, and he was adorable! We placed, half of his purchase price of $700.00 down on him, on the spot, and returned to retrieve him in a few days…after the Pet Store’s Vet had given him a clean bill of health.
So, when we retrieved Wallace T. and brought him home and took him to our Veterinarian…we discovered that he was on the verge of Pneumonia and that he must not be taken outdide, in the bitter cold December weather, and we did not mention that the two days before we took him to the doctor…that we had been taking him outside to to do his business.
We were in PetCo in Carbondale…during the holiday season…and they had rescue dogs that needed to be adopted. I saw a, beautiful Collie dog, that, seemed to have my name written on it. I spoke to the Collie…on several occassions during the, magical time, that is between Thansgiving and Christmas…and Mary Jane went to St. Francis Resucue Center and did not find the, Coly, but did find a, black labrador, that had been thrown out of a moving vechcle and had her jaw, subsequently, broken, and had surgery and three teeth removed…and was…simply…and little black ball of fur with sharp…little teeth and a, pronouced bark!
Parker is the possesor of the most health problems that we have encountered in our 30 years of pets. She has, severe allergies, and must receive injections, monthly, for the alleviation of the allergic symptoms.
Between her first and second year of life, I believed that she was dieing one morning at about 3:00 A:M:…and I awakened Mary Jane to say goodby to her before her passing.
We telephoned an emergency Veternarian number for Parker…and were ready to drive her the, 60 miles to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to have her seen by a professional…when she…suddenly became quiet and docile…and went to sleep.
Parker is a large dog…that thinks she is a Boston Terrier!
Wallace T., named after the Long Island Iced Tea, that facilitated his purchase, stands on my chest, when I am napping…to communicate to me that he wants to go outside to do his business.
Our, three dog family, understands when we are not feeling well, and they empathize with us…when we are sad. They also rejoice with us…when we are happy!
When I come home, after being away as little as an hour, Wallac and Brody and Parker, greet me as if I have been on a long journey and that they feared that I might never return!
Dogs love us…unconditinally!
They, illustrate and model, the love that we should, strive for, for each other.
There is nothing more special or inspiring than a living creature that loves you…no matter your faults…no matter your flaws….blind to your mistakes and foibles and shortcomings….unconditional…pure love!
Our Puppies illustrate to us…how God loves us!
Sons and Restaurants and Friends and Memories
Yesterday was my, first born son’s, birthday.
Aaron is now 37 years old..and that is a neat trick when I am only 50, LOL!
We traveled to St. Louis, Missouri and shopped and saw a movie, about Nazi Zombie Creatures…and I enjoyed every minute because I was with Aaron and Jonathon and Mary Jane!
We visited a new resturant that is located on, The Hill, in St. Louis called, 58Hundred.
The, adult beverages, were delicious, and the apptiezers were both, savory and plentiful, and the entrees were to, ‘die for!’
As we were siting at the, packed, restaurant…I was reminded, once again, that it is the, special, moments of life, that make it unforgettable.
We had, a delightful waiter, who made our experience…exceptional. At the conclusion of our, nearly three hour feast, when he retrieved our payment for the, culinary delights, he inquired if we needed change, and we replied that we did not…or as he stated…’I have always believed that change comes from within.’
There are moments…when all is right with the world…and they are meant to be savored and not hurried and remembered…long after they are completed.
We rush and hurry through each, waking hour, of our existence. We worry regarding how we are progressing on the ladder of success, and how much money are we making.
I recall a, Black Friday, visit to Cunettos House of Pasta, which is just a couple of blocks down from 58Hundred, a few Thanksgivings ago. The restaurant was so full that I was standing, statuesque, in the cloak room…awaiting our drink order and my dirty martini. After about 30 minutes I caught the, nice, waitress’s eye and inquired if our order had been lost…to which she replied that the bartender was a bit overwhelmed and that he had not forgotten our order. Soon, the drinks came…and we had a memorable, Cunetto’s, meal.
Cunettos holds many memorable and pleasant memories for me as it has been our primary resturant for over 20 years.
Cunettos is the resturant that we had dinner in, with Mary Jane’s brother , Ron, prior to our flying out for a trip to Jamaica. Now I was anticipating our Jamica stay, as I had, just retired, at the end of December, 2010…and our Jamaica Vacation was in the second week of January, 2011.
I, still, could not conceive that I had, indeed retired and was, ‘free as a bird on the wing!’ It was trerribly cold that evening…and we spoke of the fun that we were going to experience and I noted…the great pleasure that I had in seeing Mary Jane with her brother and our happiness in being together!
Although, we lived in Elkville, Illinois…we often traveled to the St. Clair Square area, in our younger days, and enjoyed a, brunch, at Casa Gallardo. Not only did Casa produce a, memorable, brunch that was worthy of driving 80 miles for, but they had the most, unique and memorable, Cadillac Margarittas.
One Christmas Eve, I annouced that I was going to travel, by myself, to the mall in St. Clair Square, near St. Louis, for the express purpose of purchasing, suprise Christmas gifts for Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon. I, subsequently, did so…and I spent a lot of money. There was no one to tell me….no…and it was a Christmas Miracle!
For many years we travled to St. Louis to attend the animated Christmas Bears Display at the Famous Barr headquarters…in the city. The animitroninc miracle took up most of the seventh floor of the, massive store, and it was, throughghly, enjoyed by Aaron and Jonathon and me!
Mary Jane’s mom, Fernie, often attended the event with us. I think that she enjoyed it as much as the boys.
We made a St. Louis Safari with our friends, Jo Ann and Peter, in the early portion of the last decade. We stayed in the Hilton Hotel that is next to Plaza Frontenac and had dinner at our, then, favorite resturant on Hill, Leonardos. We were celebrating Jo Ann’s and Mary Jane’s birthdays…which fell, just, a few days apart in February. Jo Ann, wept, and stated that there was no place that she would rather be than with us on her birthday…and we had Aso Bucco…and, wonderful beverages. We spoke of the future and our hopes and dreams and the sadness of what had happened to, Jo Ann, at our University, SIU.
Our waitress, was so nice to us, although she had not been assigned to us that night…that I tipped her $20…out of respect for her consideration of us.
We had a champagne breakfast, at the Hilton, the next morning…but I had to drink all of the champagne.
Life is, chock, full of; wonder and mystery and mysticism ands sparks of joy…that occur, seemingly randomly, and, lifetime, memorable moments…that you do not realize are happening…until you look back on them!
We have 4 – 6 inches of snow forecast, beginning this evening and continuing until tomorrow evening. Jim Rasor, our local meteorologist, has said that some areas in Southern Illinois could receive, as much as, 8 – 10 inches. Now, this is a major, winter in the fall, event, for us! There are years that we receive little more than a few, dustings, of snow. There are other winters that we receive 2 – 4 inches…once or twice…and we call it a, hard winter!
I remember the blizzard of 1978. I was, extremely, interested in a girl named, Mary Jane, and when it snowed 20+ inches…I proceeded to the trailer that she and her friends, Faye and Robbin, shared…and I began to shovel their automobiles out of a snow…like I had never seen!
I worked, most of the day, and they had me inside for hot chocolate and praise of my accomplishments…and then I proceeded to shovel some more. I was 20 years old.
My buddy, Steve, and I worked for June’s Janitorial Service. One of our housekeeping customers was Ziegler Coal Company’s headquarters in Johnston, City. As the snow, dumped several inches per hour, on us…Steve asked if we should chance driving the, nearly, 20 miles to Johnston, City, and I answered that I was certain that we could do it and that it would not be a problem for us!
As we drove through the, total white-out, I could not ascertain if I was on the road…or where the road was? I asked Steve if he could stick his head out of the passenger side window and see if we were, still, on the road…or in a field?
Steve began to give me navigation instructions…turn left…turn right…hold her straight…and Oh NO…we are in the ditch!
I asked Steve if he could push us out of the ditch…and I would steer…and if we could succeed…we would head for home…and not look back! He pushed us out with his, herculean strength, and we subsequently turned around and did not look back.
I began working at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale in October of 1978. In January of 1979…we had another, massive snowfall, that obliterated roadways and traffic and closed…virtually everything.
Faye heard that SIUC was closed…but I was so appreciative of my, new job, at SIU…that I was afraid not to show up for work. So, I proceeded to drive to the University…which was 20 miles from my home in Elkville.
There were no, demarcations, for highway #51. You simply had to trust your instincts. It was like driving in an open field!
When I, finally, arrived at SIU Building Services, I proceeded to attempt to enter the office, and discovered that the door was locked and that there was only a night light on. I, finally, understood, that, indeed, we were closed.
My colleague, Elbert Covington, drove up…and I was pleased that someone, besides myself, had made the, peril fraught trip! Elbert, walked to the front door of our office and pulled on the door knob and began to shout, ‘hey…hey…Brooks and Covington are here and ready to go to work!’
Elbert, was, finally satisfied that there was no opportunity for he and I to work…that evening. He, subsequently turned to me and invited Mary Jane and I to his house, in Desoto, Illinois…for hot chocolate. Now, DeSoto was 7 miles closer than my town, Elkville, and I thanked him but assured him that if I could make it back home…I would not be venturing out, again, that night!
Steve and I were the, on-call Sextons, for our little church in Elkville. I recall, vividly, being requested to shovel snow at our church to facilitate attendance at an evening service on Thanksgiving. Neither of us liked it…so much. After all…it was Thanksgiving and we thought that church should be canceled to facilitate families being together for the entire event. There was a lot of snow…and we wondered what the other, young men and young families, of the congregation…were doing…were they eating turkey…and mashed potatoes…and dressing?
Cody, the fine young man who, expertly, cuts my grass, has asked me if I want him to plow my driveway and shovel around my porch and walkways…and I…enthusiastically answered…yes!
A Few Kind Words…Make a Difference
I was honored to be asked to deliver, a few remarks, regarding what our church meant to me, yesterday.
As I thought about what to speak about…I was reminded of the kindness and kind words that many members of our congregation, who have now passed on, spoke to me in my early days at First Presbyterian.
I recalled how, Tom and Carolyn Jefferson, were so kind to greet me and Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon, as well as my mother, Neva June, in the early days of our church attendance. They were so loving and it seemed that they had known us for years…and they were always glad to see us.
David and Mary Rendleman, always had a welcoming word for my little family. Dr. Rendleman had been the surgeon that had operated on Mary Jane’s aunt Lauretta, and, years after Aaron and Jonathon had achieved adulthood, they continued to inquire about them and remarked, with wide smiles, that they had watched them grow-up.
On our first visit to First Presbyterian, Betty Darling, greeted us so warmly and when she heard that out last name was Brooks…remarked that before her marriage…she had been a Brooks!
Joe Cash, was one of the friendliest and considerate people that I have met. Joe went out of his way to make us welcome…and seemed to never tire of joking with Aaron and Jonathon and causing them to be included in the activities of the church. His deep and resonate base voice…I can still hear…during the singing of hymns on Sunday morning.
When, I was consumed with worry about Mary Jane and her diagnosis of Breast Cancer, Sarah Milford spoke to me and told me to tell Mary Jane…not to worry as she had experienced her first diagnosis of Breast Cancer, when she was a young woman, and that she had lived to, senior age, and was still going strong.
Sarah, ultimately, succumbed to the disease, but she never failed to have a smile and a word of cheer and a positive attitude regarding life.
Jonathon is working with Dede Ittner and she is an inspiration to him and to all she encounters. Dede treats him like a mother would treat a son.
Barbara Bennett has been an inspiration to me since 1998. I had no desire to serve on a church board, after having done so in every church that I had been a member of over the past 49 years. However, after her visit to me, along with our pastor at the time, Karen Star Terada, I accepted a position on the board of Trustees.
The chair of the Trustees, when I became a junior member, was Dorothy Baker…and her welcoming of me and her friendly demeanor…made me feel at home.
Even when I have not attended church, for some periods of time, Barbara Bennett…never forgot me.
Rob Jensen is such a cheerful and up-beat individual…he rubs off on all that he meets. He was my colleague during the three years that I served on the Stewardship Committee and his mentoring was invaluable to me.
I mentioned that one of my first impressions of First Presbyterian in Carbondale, Illinois was there dedication to doing, ‘Christmas right!’
From the midnight Christmas Eve service to the candlelight portion of the service to the, dynamic and dramatic, speaking of the minister, at that time,…the entire experience was a bit like being with Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit!
Our church building is beautiful and historic…but it is not the Church. The Church…is the people that attend!
When attending church…and someone reaches out to you…with a kind word…or a smile…or demonstrated concern for you…it is as the scripture admonishes;
‘ A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.’ Proverbs 25:11 KJV