‘Never Judge People By Their Appearance’

I just watched the most lovely video on Facebook depicting a well dressed and serious man waiting to interviewed for a position in a law firm.  As the gentleman waits, somewhat impatiently, for the interviewer to come out and invite him into his office he has the distinct appearance of someone who is nervous and who wants to make a good impression.

When the interviewer appears he is also in a suit and tie and offers his hand in greeting and he has Down syndrome.  The interviewer is not only very friendly but is almost theatrical in his invitation to the interviewee to enter his office…where there are movie memorabilia on the conference table.  The interviewee ask if someone is going to join them to which he is told no.  The interviewer inquires as to why the person is seeking the position which is a lesser job than what he currently holds at another law firm?  He replies that the firm that he is with is only interested in making money…while he wants to help people.

The interviewer asks the interviewee if he likes a, vey nice, post modern painting that is on the wall of the office?  He replies that he does and the non-typical executive informs him that he is the painter and that there are several of them throughout the firm.

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Suddenly, a stern looking managerial figure enters and asks the interviewer what he is doing…and admonishes him that he has to quit ‘role playing’ with people seeking positions with the firm and get back to his pastry and beverage cart.

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The stern administrator asks the young man why he wanted to interview the candidate…and he replied that he had noticed that he was seeking a position with their firm that paid less than what he was currently making…and that he had understood that this man wanted to help people…and that it was not just about money.

As the gruff man sits down he begins to read the very detailed and cogent questions that the interviewer had written down for the interviewer…and he asks the young man to sit by him and continue the interview…as he is impressed with the questions.

As the interview concluded the candidate was asked by the inspired young man…what was his goal in five years?  He answered that he wanted to be working in the firm’s Pro Bono department with the young interviewer…

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I had the significant honor and great pleasure of hiring many intellectually and physically challenged individuals during my years at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale.  The joy of working with these wonderful professionals and learning from them…was the epitome of my career!

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On numerous occasions I pointed out to both chancellors and presidents that they, perhaps, were not seeing the forest for the trees…as there were many talented individuals in both the civil service and administrative professional staff…that could help them extricate the knots from the primary problems that faced them….the recruitment and retention of students.

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The video ends with the young man and the man that he was initially interviewing…interviewing another candidate…and the young professional telling the interviewee that he had been with the firm for almost fifteen years and that he, ‘knew a thing or two about what was going on.’

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Humility Is Compelling

I had a pastor in the early 90s’ whose name was John Somers.  The first thing that I noticed when I met John was that he was a humble man.  John was a man who thought of others more than he thought of himself.  He was the kind of leader that drew people to him…to work with him and help him.

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‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.’   Proverbs 11:2

In 1978 I was interviewed for a position in Building Services in the Physical Plant at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale by a humble leader, Mr. George O’Hara.  Mr. O’Hara not only made me feel at ease and comfortable during the interview but I soon understood the humble nature of this manager of hundreds of people.  I left the meeting feeling that Mr. O’Hara cared about me and that I had a good chance of becoming a member of the university community!

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A gentleman and a man of humility taught english during my high school years.  Mr. Delmar Feazel was an english teacher and a minister.  I never heard him raise his voice and I never witnessed him speak to anyone in anger.

Former SIUC Chancellor Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger had a unique and compelling humility that was unlike any that I have observed in university leadership.  Jo Ann had the natural ability to cause each person that she interacted with…feel that they were of paramount importance to her and to the mission of SIUC!  During a rally of support for her prior to her untimely termination…I saw students and faculty and staff and all members of the skilled crafts and janitors and grounds workers standing in line to express their support for her and their sadness at her firing!

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Jo Ann would walk out into the middle of a field to shake hands with a grounds worker and to express how important that they were both to her and to the University!

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There is a dynamism to humble leaders!  First of all…they are rare!  Second they attract people to their cause like bees to the honeycomb!  In a society where everyone tells us how great that they are…and how they have all of the answers…we have become jaded and our ears have stopped up and our eyes have glossed over!

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We hunger for someone to have the singularity of purpose and the purity of intent to understand that they need others to help them and we listen for their call!

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I am a friend of former Southern Illinois University President Dr. Glenn Poshard.  I was privileged to counsel with Glenn on numerous occasions.  I enjoyed his company immensely because he was not haughty or proud, although he had been a five term United States Congressman and had almost been elected Governor of Illinois.  Glenn was always looking for another way to help people.  He began his career at SIUC as a civil service employee in the Physical Plant…and he never forgot where he came from!  The university president told me on one occasion that I was the humblest person that he had ever met…and I thought I wish that were true…but I still strive to be worthy of his high compliment!

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Souther Illinois University @ Carbondale is opening wide its doors of opportunity and growth and happiness and joy!  Let all of us, both inside the university community… and outside in the wider Southern Illinois Community… welcome each and every student that graces us with their presence!  They are not the fortunate ones to be with us…we are the fortunate ones…to be chosen by them!

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Thank You For Your Service…Now Do More With Less!

We were in Macy’s department store the other day and Mary Jane and I  noticed that the items for sale had been totally rearranged.  As we surveyed the scene we deducted that the purpose of the remodeling of clothing and shoes and housewares and fragrances…was to give the appearance of more items…when in fact there were less.  As we looked further we could not help but see that that Macy’s staff were as scarce as hen’s teeth!

During my career with SIUC I spent 25 years in management of Building Services which is the housekeeping department of the Physical Plant.  We were tasked with cleaning all of the academic and office buildings on campus and including the Arena and Shryock Auditorium as well as the Airport and the Carterville Campus.  I counted every building and found that there were 200 +.  Now we took our mission very seriously and worked to achieve immaculate buildings that parents would want to send their children to and students would want to study in.

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And, so, the staffing cuts came, due to budget shortfalls around 1989…but the cleaning needs did not dissipate or receive a cut.  In fact we did not experience our paramount enrollment until the mid-1990’s of nearly 25 thousand students at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale.  Now, during those boom years and budget shortfalls I witnessed game playing and work slow downs…not instituted by unions, as the myth would portray, but lead by managers and administrators…in the effort to illustrate the need for additional staff!

Today, I see civil service staff who’s numbers have been decimated do to enrollment shortfalls and misplaced priorities.  I not only see my valiant colleagues doing more with less…but performing two and three and four peoples jobs and receiving neither a minimal raise in pay nor any effort to alleviate the work stress that these precious people undergo on a daily basis!

It has been said…many times…that they should be glad that they have a job…and that is an insulting assertion!  Anyone who has ever been without a job…is glad that they have a job!

I shop at Kroger supermarket almost every day.  It is a busy store.  Although there are several checkout lines…there are no more than one or two of them staffed.  However, there are a dozen or more self check-out kiosks that almost no one wants to utilize…because we realize that they represent a cut in staff and a reduction in opportunity for our Southern Illinois neighbors!

But, the rule of our stock market driven society is that the less employees that a business has and the higher dividends that the company can produce for it’s shareholders…the mission of the organization is realized.

There is a reason that the American workforce is becoming sicker by the day.  There is a reason that job-stress clouds the mind and dampens the spirit of countless professionals who want only to work hard and produce an excellent work product.

We tell our employees to deliver service with a smile…and to replicate the old Hertz Rent a Car commercial that had the iconic catch phrase, ‘Hertz Puts You In The Driver’s Seat’….and to treat our wonderful customers with another maximum from McDonalds….’We Do It All For You!’  And then we wonder what the morale problem is when our staff has a hollow and vacant stare out of sleepless eyes and fallen hopes for the future?

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Whether you are the janitor or the grounds worker or the cashier or the department store employee…increasing work without reward…is a prescription for disaster!

There was a day…in my lifetime…that the middle class and blue collar workers did not begrudge the CEO a good salary…because they felt compensated for the yeoman duties that they were performing.  They could pay their bills and purchase a little house and drive a decent automobile and take a week vacation each year.

Now, both the husband and wife work…often more than one job each…and they continue to slip on the ladder of success and incur the mental and emotional stress of knowing that they are one paycheck away from disaster and a few weeks from oblivion!

 

 

 

 

What If We All Focused On Our Neighbor?

We humans can be a lonely lot!  With the advent of the glorious internet and the magnificent hardware to unitize its mystery and wonders…all to often our social well being is in our head or virtual reality.  Could it be that we have hundreds or thousands of friends on Facebook and a mere handful of friends that we actually speak to on a regular basis?

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Over my 32 year career at Southern Illinois University I regularly had colleagues say to me that they loved their job and did not know what they were going to do when they retired.  Upon further investigation I discovered that the heart of what they loved about their employment was their co-workers that they were privileged to interact with each day!

This afternoon we did some of our monthly shopping at Walmart in Carbondale.  When we entered the store I spoke to the greeter at the door and he answered with a happy and hearty hello to Mary Jane and I.  Later as we were checking out I noticed that it was the same young African American man that had greeted us earlier.  As I laid the rotisserie chicken on to the check out conveyer belt he said, ‘Only if you are planning on sharing!’  Theo”s eyes twinkled and he had a mischievous  grin on his face.  Theo made my shopping experience at Walmart extremely enjoyable!

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A Sunday or two ago Jonathon and I were at church whereupon after the service and as we were visiting our fellow congregants, Lisa, patted me on the shoulder and asked how I was doing.  I immediately thought, what a nice person Lisa is!  Do not fool yourself…it has been and always will be…the little things that make the difference!

‘I know 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

I remember walking everywhere that I needed to go…because I had no car.

I remember being hungry…because I had no groceries.

I remember my pants being what we called, ‘high waters’, because they were to short for my long legs.

I remember friends telling me that I was a bit lazy…when I was working 16 – 18 hours per day.

All that I posses today is by God’s grace and I am no better than the homeless man or woman on the street!

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Some of our political leader would have us believe that those who do not look like us or who have not been a member in good standing of our tribe…are to be feared and rejected!

Mary Jane’s aunt Lauretta and Uncle Merle moved to El Paso from Southern Illinois many years ago.  We visited them on 10 – 15 occasions over the years.  El Paso was one of the safest and friendly cities that I have encountered.  Hispanic people are lovely and kind people.  They are a cultured and peaceful people.  They are a welcoming people.

Actually Juarez and El Paso are the same city divide by their countries demarcations.    We visited Juarez on numerous occasions and were treated with warmth and respect.

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I watched a PBS documentary about Woodstock which occurred 50 years ago this year.  The piece illustrated that the magic of Woodstock was the camaraderie and fellowship that those in attendance felt for each other and their mutual respect for the beautiful music that they were all consuming.  For three days they became a world set apart from the stress of the war in Vietnam and the lies of their political leaders.  They cared for each other and they loved each other and they had a brief taste of what a peaceful community of humanity could be.

 

So, for many years I have worked alongside and worshipped with many people.  Always I look for the genuine and the real and the authentic expression of another human being.  The pro-forma formalities of communication are, at times, exhausting…but the real communication from the soul of another who is sharing this walk back to Jerusalem…is profound!

 

 

Autumn Is On Its Way

We were driving yesterday when we noticed that the leaves are beginning to change.    Now it it still in the high 80’s and low 90’s…but it is a start!

I have said it before but it is worth repeating…I love the fall!

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I throughly enjoy seeing my University, Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, gearing up for the Fall semester.  Each autumn I reflect on the opportunities that SIUC offers to our wonderful students and university community.  I have referred to the entrances of our school having a very visible, if you have the desire to see it, sign that states, Opportunity, and that it exists for all those who enter the gates of learning and understanding!  The University is transformational.  It can take a person with a dim view of their future and of their life road and transform them into a person who  is clear on the direction the they are traveling and their mission as they traverse the road of life!

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Two primary outside influences transformed me into a happy person with a renewed desire each day to attempt to make a positive difference in someone’s life and help where I can.  One would be the Christian philosophy which I began as a youngster and I was subsequently amazed at the doors of happiness and purpose that it opened for me.  The other would be my fortunate affiliation with SIUC over 41 years ago.

Southern Illinois University took a young man, little more than a boy, and transformed him from a person with limited life options and a narrow view of the world to a person of purpose and a citizen of the world community of humanity!

Fall has my favorite things.  Being born on October 24th I have a natural affinity for the season!  I like Halloween more and more each year….especially the Turner Classic Movies’ running of the old monster movie classics!  The cooler temperatures are my cup of tea and the natural majesty of the leaves changing colors is resplendent in Southern Illinois!

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Aaron’s birthday is in November!  I recall, like it was yesterday, his birth on a unusually warm November 16th.  His mom and I were so excited and mystified by the challenge of a new life in our little family!

Thanksgiving is a major event in the Brooks home!  As a child our Thanksgiving festivities consisted of my watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television and nothing more.  Thanksgiving was the day that mom began her Christmas preparations.  But, Mary Jane takes Thanksgiving seriously and has hosted our family for the past 30 years for a joyful feast and revelry and, for the past several celebrations some wine and spirits to make the convocation complete!  When  we lived in Elkville we had a four room house and many Thanksgivings we had over twenty for our magnificent dinner.

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The majority of the Christmas season is in the fall!  It is, ‘the most wonderful time of the year!’

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For many years I marked the beginning of my favorite four months of the year with Jerry Lewis and the Muscular Dystrophy telethon over Labor Day.  I must confess that Labor Day being the close of summer in many people’s minds…is a joy to me!

So,  autumn really begins for me…in August.  While the temperatures are still scorching and the children have a few more days of freedom…and an old man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of fall and it’s multitudes of joys!

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We Are All Temps

So many experiences in our daily lives help to foster the allusion that we are employed full time in the human species game of life.  Our childhoods go on for an interminable amount of time and it seems that from Christmas to Christmas takes about five or more years!  Then we are focused on our education and the successful completion of it can take 20 years!  Then there is the student loans to pay and the starting of a family and the mortgage and taxes and insurance and food and transportation and all of the rest!  We look up one day and we are in our middle years.

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When I began at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale I was at the end of my 20th year.  Joe Ragsdale, a counselor,  at what was called in those days, Personnel, told me that I could elect to stay out of the state retirement system for up to three years if I chose.  The annual retirement contribution was 8% and I made $11,000.00 per year.  I was sure that I was making a brilliant move by stating out of the retirement system for as long as I could as I did not think that I would ever retire!

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After 32 years and three months at SIUC I was standing at my retirement reception and it dawned on me that my career had gone by like the blink of an eye!  So many of my friends were there and when it came my time to speak I could do little more than give into the tears that welled up in my eyes!

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I had a heart condition from birth and I remember a team of doctors in Chicago talking to my parents as I sat on a table.  I can still see my dad’s eyes full of tears.  At times I wondered if I would see adulthood and at other times I worried that I would get my boys raised.  Both have happened and I have enjoyed almost nine years of retirement…and hope to enjoy many more!

As I walked the Campus today I reflected on the many vagaries and challenges that the University that I love has undergone!  I have witnessed it at it’s enrollment zenith and at the lowest enrollment that it has had in many years.  I have confidence that it will rebound and return to the glory and mission that has been it signature and hallmark!

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‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stones them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered they children together, even as a hen gathered they children together, even as a hen gathereth her chicken under her wings, and ye would not!’    Matthew 23:37    KJV

‘My days are swifter than the weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope.’    Job 7:6 KJV

I have likened this life as the audition or the foyer for eternity!  As my grandmother Askew often said, ‘if you live to be 100…life is short!’

There are countless shiny baubles that distract us from our brief time on life’s stage.  The procurement of money is one of the big ones!  Also the nativism and prejudice and bias and xenophobia and misogyny that we are taught!  We are easily distracted by faux fame and fortune and notoriety!  Petty jealousies and personality differences can seem to be all important, at the time, and a few years later it is difficult to remember what the disagreements were even about.

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While all of the distractions are happening before our eyes and assaulting our ears and keeping us awake at night as we plot and scheme and plan our enemies destruction…our limited time on the stage…our audition…is coming to a close.

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‘If we could look into each other’s hearts and see the challenges each of us faces I think we would treat each other with more love, kindness, compassion and patience.’

 

 

Rye Whiskey and Life on Mars

A possible future!

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The evening breeze was pleasant.  Phobos and Deimos were full, and shown brilliantly in the dark night sky! Anna was listening to the rain music that had been playing for the last hour or so.  The music was so captivating that it was difficult to put into words the feelings that it engendered and the emotions that arose from listening to it.  Anna often thought that without the soothing of the rain music she could not endure her new home.  As she peered out of her window wall she was amazed at the transformation that the landscape took.  First it was a desert and the sand dunes were resplendent in the light of the afternoon sun.  Then it was the coast of Maine and the waves of the Atlantic Ocean were rhythmically beating against the rocky shore.  Finally she witnessed with amazement the depths of the Pacific Ocean and the…

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We Are Sick…And We Need A Doctor!

We have been to the Cielo Vista Mall in El Paso many times.  We have also shopped in the Walmart that is next door to the mall.  Yesterday morning 20 people were killed and more than 24 were injured when the shooting suspect, Patrick Crusius of Allen, Texas entered the Walmart at 10:39 A:M: Mountain Time.  Mr. Allen is white.

‘The gunman’s sister was one of nine-people killed in a shooting early Sunday in downtown Dayton, Ohio, police said.’

‘At least 27 others were injured when Connor Betts, 24, fired in a popular nightlife district about 1:00 A:M:, authorities said.’    CNN

Twenty-six people were injured and the shooter was apprehended in less then one minute…Dayton was the 250th mass shooting this year!

I recall being admonished by friends and family through the years to be careful about traveling to certain countries…as they were dangerous.  It had not occurred to me until my last visit to the United Kingdom where a middle Englander told me that he was afraid to visit the United States due to the gun violence!

I remember when a mass shooting would captivate all of the major television networks and dominate our news media for days on end due to the horrific tragedy and rarity of the occurrence.  On the networks the regular Saturday night fair continued uninterrupted and many Americans thought how tragic and sad… and offered their thoughts and prayers.

The constitutional right of the second amendment does not say the the right to bear arms is the right to endure two mass killings in one day and 250 in one year…and the year is far from over!

Why is it that so many of our elected political leaders are speechless and mute when it comes to speaking out against gun violence?  How can it be that the NRA has hamstrung the Senate and the House of Representatives and the President of the United States in such a complete manner that they have no answer to the carnage…but to offer their thoughts and prayers?

Our current Administration often points to terrorism being a product of Muslim extremist…but the majority of gun violence in our country is perpetrated by causacion men who are white nationalist.  It is not brain surgery to deduct that a successful mass killing begets another mass killing.

Now, the powerful legislatures and President and Governors…area quite certain that they are insulated from the ‘American Carnage’, to borrow a well worn term from former presidential advisor Steve Bannon…and from the President himself, but the randomness and evil of the plethora of mass shootings in our beloved country can happen anywhere at any time?  Perhaps I can speak philosophically regarding my ‘God given rights to bear arms as set out in the second amendment to the Constitution’…until my family is murdered while they are shopping for school supplies!

Social media has aided in the proliferation of Hate Groups in our country.  Disenfranchised and lonely white men have found a group to identify with and they aspire to be a star of the white nationalist movement!  The President of the United States constant hate filled speech toward brown and black people as well as Muslim people has enhanced the hidden hate that many… quite…prejudice and bias people have held in their hearts for years and has emboldened them to take action on their fever dream of violence as the answer to their ‘straw man’ upon which they blame their lack of success and failure to achieve economically in our capitalist dominated society, that honors those who make a lot of money…and discounts those who do not.

When you are poor…you understand the poor!  When you are marginalized…you understand the marginalized!  When you are the victim of bullying…and misogyny…and prejudice…and xenophobia….you understand the abject feeling of alienation and suffering and loneliness that these assaults…bring!

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Guns…in and of themselves are not the answer to the problem….political speech and action for the people that elected the leaders to represent their interests…is!

We should begin today with a study of gun violence in this country and what are the root causes for the Armageddon…that we are experiencing!

 

A Wrestling Match

Another Jonathon Brooks literary 💎!

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For many years now I have loved the New Testament Bible idea of fighting the good fight. Fighting isn’t always senseless or unnecessary. Fighting can be a good, or great, pursuit. I have fought for every ounce of happiness I have ever enjoyed throughout my adulthood. I have fought to follow Christ. I have wrestled with God. I have fought to become a good man. I have fought to say farewell to the devil. I have fought to live a life full of light and to share this light with friends and strangers. The good fight is a high aspiration and noble pursuit!

If you are fighting battles for the right reason I sincerely hope you win the wars. It is easy and tempting to say the words, Woe is me. The stuff worth having in life is attained often through wrestling with difficulties. Perhaps many are close to achieving…

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Life Among The Ruins

Have you ever felt like Sisyphus of Greek mythology who, ‘was made to role a huge boulder up a steep hill.  The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for King Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus himself.’    Wikipedia

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Much of the daily work of humanity is maintenance and up-keep.  In the housekeeping industry we learned that no matter how immaculate we left the campus buildings…the next day they would require our services again!

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The Grounds staff at SIUC does an outstanding job…but if they took a month off…the University would need several billy goats!

We purchased a new home in 2001 and I thought there goes our house maintenance worries for the foreseeable future!  Now we do one maintenance project and two more are waiting in the wings!

Our democracy and our government and our way of life, in the United States, is likened to taking care of our school or our home or our church…it requires constant diligence and remodeling and maintenance to keep it in good working order.

Humans must fulfill the mandates of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence…they do not self-maintain!  Though we faithfully quote the Constitution, that there are three equal branches of government…that does not happen magically…it requires blood and sweat and tears!

Everywhere you go you will see life among the ruins of peoples dreams and hopes and desires.  To live a life that rises above the reality of entropy requires work and a serious dedication to striving for the good and better and best!

Many of us give up just before we are about to achieve a breakthrough!

‘When things go wrong, as they sometimes will’

‘when the road that you are trudging seems all uphill;’

‘when funds are low and debts are high,’

‘and you want to smile, but you sit and sigh;’

‘when care is pressing you down a bit,’

‘rest, if you must, but don’t you quit!

 

‘Life is queer with its twists and turns,’

 

‘As everyone of us sometimes learns,’

‘And many a fellow turns about’

‘When he might have won had he stuck it out.’

‘Don’t give up though the pace seems slow -‘

‘You may succeed with another blow.’

 

‘Often the goal is nearer than’

 

‘It seems to a faint and faltering man;’

”Often the struggler has given up’

‘When he might have captured the victor’s cup;’

‘And he learned too late when the night came down,’

‘How close he was to the golden crown.’

 

‘Success is failure turned inside out -‘

‘The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,’

‘And you never can tell how close you are,’

‘It might be near when it seems afar;’

‘So stick to the fight when you are hardest hit -‘

‘It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.’

Edgar A. Guest