Homecoming @ SIUC

The Kickoff to the Homecoming week at Southern Illinois University was outstanding!  Interim chancellor John Dunn spoke and I was reminded of my many enjoyable conversations with him during the last decade…when he was the interim chancellor for the first time.

SIUC has undergone numerous challenges through the last twenty years, but with the enthusiasm that I witnessed today…we are on the road to recovery!

There are such wonderful students at SIUC!  Jonathon and I enjoyed a beer with Vlad and his wife Kayla yesterday at the Chicago Underground restaurant that is within walking distance of the campus.  They were such engaging people that I took courage that, all is not lost, but rather we are at the beginning of a renaissance of our university!  I was honored to spend time with them and enjoy their positive ‘can-do’ attitude!

I continue to be amazed at the maturity and clear-headedness of todays generation.  They know what they want and they set about obtaining their goals.  I was amazed when I saw, Vlad and Kayla’s name on the menu board of the Restaurant.  I did a double-take and marveled that the beers that they were drinking, in real time, were being displayed for all patrons to see!  Jonathon, later, told me that they had an application on their phones that facilitated the Sunday miracle!

As I watched the serious minded students today at the Homecoming festivities…I knew that our university and our nation is in good hands!

The Joys Of Fall!

A camping adventure with Billy B. and Carl and friends!

The Jazz Man

Billy B. and Carl had decided that they wanted to go camping.  It was mid-October and the nights were chilly and the days were cool.  The relished the idea of camping under the stars with no more than sleeping bags and a campfire and Smores!  But, first, they had to purchase some sleeping bags…as they had never been camping before.  About the same time as the planning commenced…Jeff L. and Jeff D. and Doug D. and Steve L. and Jimmy D. decided that they wanted to join them in the adventure!

The camping excursion, in the midst of the Shawnee Forest…had become a group effort.  When Billy B. and Carl entered the local Wall-Mart in DuQuoin, Illinois to find the perfect sleeping bags they were undecided when they were confronted with no less than 20 varieties.  There were thermal sleeping bags and canvas sleeping bags and sleeping bags for two…

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The Hero in this Story Enjoys Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwiches

Here is a great story, from a skilled storyteller!

jonathonbrooks

The boy was instructed to write a one page essay for his English class. He was sweating exclamation points because he did not believe he had it in him to write a page about anything ever. The theme could be any subject matter of his choosing. This young gentleman was in the fifth grade. He had yet to experience all of life’s beauties and wonders. In his heart, he knew if he was a twelfth grader he would be able to write the greatest essay ever created. At age ten he lacked confidence or moxie.

Alas the clock on the back wall was ticking like a bomb. No man or child has yet to beat the clock in a fifth grade English class. Not even Superman has skills to defeat time. Tick tock.

With a silent burst of inspiration the boy’s imagination caught fire. It started to burn the page…

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The Cold Front Has Arrived!

A few days ago it was in the 80’s…now it is 49 degrees and falling!  I sat on my writing porch with both the ceiling fans on and an auxiliary fan on the deck floor, yesterday.  Today I have my sweater on and my Tilley Hat…and it is chilly!  This is my kind of weather, but not all at once!

I read that the other day in Denver, Colorado, the temperature dropped over 60 degrees in a matter of hours.

 

Just now there was an audible announcement from my phone that a frost advisory has been issued for my location.  Could it be that we are transitioning from summer to winter with no fall in-between?

The extreme in the weather has caused me to reflect on the extreme in political opinion.  Having considered myself an independent voter for many years, I am amazed at the extreme polarization that has transformed our elected political representatives.  Many of the Democratic contenders for the nomination to be the Party candidates for the upcoming presidential election, describe to us a panacea of benefits that, it would seem that by the uttering of their efficacy, we can have for the asking.  Now, I do believe that health care should be available to all in the United States of America.  We are one of the last…if not the last…to not have this necessary consideration as a core of our governmental structure.  But, we must remember that all governmental benefits come from the taxpayers.  The government does not provide any programs or services that are not paid for by someone.  There really is no free lunch!  However the difficulties of affording health care is exacerbated by a broken system that has no consideration for the working middle class and the poor.

The Republicans and their president, especially of late would have us believe that it is alright and a normal way of doing business, for the president,  to seek assistance from foreign countries…in the process of digging up dirt regarding a Democratic candidate that he perceives as his primary rival for the 2020 presidential election.  After the release, by the president, of notes taken representing his telephone conversation with the president of Ukraine…shortly thereafter he publicly called on China to assist him in he same dirt digging endeavor!  Finally the president has withdrawn the support of the U.S. troops in Syria and left our allies who fought by our side in the defeat of ISIS…the Kurds….to die…and they are doing so as I write this blog!

The president contends that the Kurds were fighting for their land.  During World War II…when we fought alongside the English…they were fighting for their land!  As we fought with the French and the English and all of our allies…would it have been acceptable too, suddenly, withdraw…and leave our friends to die?

I have been associated with christianity and four communities of faith over the past 50 years.  All groups agreed on certain fundamentals that included, morality, and the precept that a leader should strive to lead by example.  All agreed that being repeatedly lied to…produced disqualified leadership!

I remember Watergate and the Watergate hearings…I watched them throughout the summer that they were telecast in 1973.  President Nixon would not have dreamed of saying or doing the things that our current president is doing on a daily and an hourly basis.

 

We must not buy into the irrefutability of a fellow human being.  That is why our governmental authority is shared equally among our three branches.  I have witnessed honest hearted people that accepted the cultish believe that their leader was always right.  When in reality their leader was a con man and cared little about his followers accept for what they could do for him!

‘When the people saw the Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us.  As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what happened to him.”    Exodus 32:1.   NIV

brown calf inside barn

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

I witnessed religion become politics/religion and the morphing of people who are not of a certain political party being referred to as;  devils and evil!

If our Constitution means nothing…we are witnessing the beginning of the end our our country!

If the golden rule and the bedrock precepts of the Holy Bible…mean nothing….future generations will look back to us and ask…what were they thinking…and when were they blinded?

When our political leaders care more about their next election….than the people that elected them…we are in a disintegrating nation!

‘Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil, that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!   Isaiah 5:20.   KJV

I have learned that the same christianity that served my grandma Askew for the entirety of her life…is the same christianity that I ascribe to..  Tell the truth and follow the teaching of Christ that we should love each other as he loved us!

 

Note: Photos of Nixon are courtesy of Google search.

Wake-Up! I Am Not Making $5.05 per Hour…I Am Making…$5.54!

So, if you read my last blog, this is part II.  Forty-one years ago, today, I was offered a position at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…and I joyfully accepted!  This was not just exciting news, it was earth shattering news for the Brooks, nearly, newlyweds!

When I received the telephone call that I was being offered a position with Building Services I was so overjoyed that I did not bother to ask how much the job paid.  I rushed over to our churches parochial school, where Mary Jane taught, and shared the good news with her.  Her eyes got as big as saucers and she was ready to calculate our new operating budget.  At the time I war earning $2.50 per hour and she was working on a volunteer basis for the church school….and had been doing so for several years.  We understood that we had been admitted to the ballpark and were finally in the game!

When MJ inquired as to what I would be earning per hour…I responded that I thought that superintendent O’Hara had told me that the pay was $5.05 per hour on an eight hour work shift.

That afternoon I met with the custodial supervisor, Harold Young, and he spoke with me for an hour.  He told me that if I wanted to be a success I should strive to produce a clean area that I was assigned to, each evening.  He also said that the successful Building Service staff not only were prompt in attendance…but many arrived early for their work assignment.  He mentioned that I would be earning 12 sick days per year and 12 vacation days per year and that I should not abuse either benefit.  He noted that it was wise to save both sick and vacation time to ensure that I had enough in the event of illness or a week or more vacation.  At the conclusion of the orientation meeting I asked Mr. Young what the job paid per hour and he responded that it paid $5.54 per hour.  I was thrilled with the immediate pay raise!

When I arrived home, I soon awakened MJ and told her the good news that we had already secured a 49 cent per hour pay increase!  She grabbed her pen and paper and commenced restructuring the budget.  Suddenly we had money for groceries and gas for the car and, a little, recreation money.  We also had $150 per month for the purchase of a new automobile as she had a credible Maverick and I had a dilapidated, 1962, Ford Fairlane….with a hole in the front passenger floor board that your could toss a a good size cat through!

I quickly noticed that many of my colleagues worked at getting out of work.  I set my cap to achieving excellent housekeeping and accomplishing more than was asked of me.  I saw that we were members of an elite organization…but we often acted like that we were not.  Many sought creative maneuvers to ensure that they would not have to work a full shift.  Others sought ways to circumvent the rules.  All too often the intricate machinations were more difficult than simply being dedicated to producing an excellent work product.

I pondered and considered it well that if I ever had the opportunity to hire individuals for the golden chance of working at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale….I would seek those candidates that were hungry for a chance to better themselves and and appreciation for the opportunity that had been afforded to them!

I heard, yesterday, that more of the deaf staff that I had the pleasure to hire have achieved  supervisory status!  I am so happy with the news of this necessary and right….development!

Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale has always been a trailblazer and a trend setter!  When it was not fashionable or politically correct…SIUC was a leader in diversity!

When physically disabled students had difficulty in finding a university that could accommodate them…SIUC was one of the first and a leader in disability access and an active welcome to this community.

SIUC needs to renew its intrinsic desire to be the cutting edge university in Illinois!  The university was grown out of cornfields and coal mines.  It was, ‘The University That Should Not Have Happened, But Did!’

I am a member of the board of elders at the First Presbyterian Church of Carbondale, and we are discussing what the church is going to look like in the future.  We are asking what direction is God leading us and does that leading remotely mesh with out mental image of his plan?

I was seeking an inspirational moment for my 41st anniversary of being affiliated with Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale.  As I was walking by the statue of President Delete Morris, on Old Campus,  I noticed a clutch purse on the ground.  I started to walk on for fear that someone would see me and think that I had taken the purse.  But I could not ignore it.  I retrieved the lost item and looked through it in a cursory manner and saw that it was full of credit cards and some cash and I, subsequently, turned it into the chancellor’s office at Anthony Hall.  I considered that 41 years ago today I knew nothing of the university….and today….perhaps I was able to help someone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Less Is More

Forty-one years ago tomorrow I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime.  I had interviewed for the position of Building Service Worker I, which is a janitor, and had some hope that I might be chosen for a vacant position.  I had interviewed with Building Services Superintendent, George O’Hara, and had felt good about our meeting.  During the interview Mr. O’Hara had asked me what shift I would prefer to work as he had several 11:00 – 7:00 work shifts and two, 5:00 – 1:00 shifts to fill.  Immediately I deducted that the 5 – 1 shift must be 5:00 A:M:  to 1:00P:M: and that the department probably had difficulty in filling such an early shift.  Therefore I happily announced that I would love the early morning shift as I enjoyed getting up before the crack of dawn and heading to work!  George hung his head and began placing my files from Personnel back in their folder and sadly announced that he was sorry as the day-shift positions all went to the senior employees and that all new employees were hired on either evenings, 5:00 P:M: – 1:00 A:M: or 11:00 P:M: – 7:00 A:M:.  I began to cough and, stutter…a bit, and proclaimed that there was only on thing that I enjoyed better than working early in the morning…and that was working…late at night!

 

And, so, George hired me on October 10, 1978.  I began in Thalman Hall on Greek Row on the campus of SIUC.  I knew during the first week that I was there…that God had opened a carer opportunity for me!  As I watched supervisors and managers and administrators, through the years, I noticed who was effective and who was not.  Those supervisors that felt that the more hands on supervision and criticism of their staff that they could produce…the better the operation flowed….were counterproductive in their desire for excellence.  My supervisor, Don Stonum, was a broad strokes type of leader.  He outlined for me what he expected and I proceeded to exceed his expectations.  I saw little of him….and he was happy and I was ecstatic!  Don, as well as my foreman, Jim Walls, would regularly reinforce me with positive comments regarding my work and encouragement that I could go far in the department!

I observed the quiet and solid leadership of superintendent O’Hara.  One evening he came for a tour of the Engineering and Technology building, that I was responsible for the cleaning thereof.  To me…this was like President Carter, coming to grade my housekeeping prowess!  Now, I had been extremely short of staffing for some time and the building, with my best efforts, was lacking in cleanliness…yet the superintendent told me what a good job that I was doing and how he appreciated my efforts.  I was not only humbled…but I re-doubled my efforts to return the area to its former pristine condition!

When I entered management and ultimately management/administration…I had a tool that served me well through the 25 years that I was honored to be a leader in Building Services.  Each time that I made a decision regarding one of my colleagues….I asked myself how that I would feel if that same decision was being made by one of my leaders for me?

‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.    Proverbs 25:11.   KJV

 

When I became a supervisor of others…and then a manager of others…I had been humbled by many cruel words and actions towards me.  I lived what it was like to be the ‘goat’ or the laughingstock or the person who was ridiculed and made fun of.  I determined that if I ever had the chance to lead others….I would treat them like I wanted to be treated.  I determined that the doorkeeper job that I had been entrusted with would be a door of opportunity of all!  All ethnicities were welcome…all physically and intellectually challenged seekers were welcome….Gay and Lesbian seekers were welcome…..

My friend of many years…chancellor Jo Ann Argersinger…said of me…that I had created a house for all peoples….and I was humbled and tears came to my eyes…as I knew that I was not worthy of such a high commendation….but I tried.

Leadership is really the heart of the gospel of Christ.

‘A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so must you love one another. ‘  John 13:34.   NIV

 

The Gentle Clicking of the Keys on the Keyboard

Another great blog from Jonathon Brooks!

jonathonbrooks

It can be difficult just to sit down and relax at times. Life can be busy with work. Then it can be busy with social events. Yet then when I am not busy I might think, Wasn’t there something I was supposed to be doing? It is a good thing to sit in the silence for a while just to think or to create or to think about creating and then sit down to do the hard work of creation.

The world around us is a noisy one. Televisions are on in the other rooms. Cell phones keep beeping away. Somebody is shouting out chores to do to the boy who just wants to read a good book in peace. I grow weary of the noise sometimes and I long for the silence or merely the clicking of the keys on the computer keyboard.

Peace is something a soul can…

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Theatre Is Good Medicine!

Last evening, Mary Jane and Jonathon and I were privileged to enjoy an event that I had never experienced before, in church.  Our pastor, Rev, Kerry Bean, had written a play for members of our congregation to perform.  The donated proceeds for the free event were given to the Good Samaritan Food Pantry and the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

 The first thing that I noticed when we arrived is that patrons were flowing into the Fellowship Hall as soon as the doors were open.  Smiles were in abundance and there was free popcorn and coffee!  We brought along a bottle of red wine…as the play was entitled, Murder by Malbec, and the set was an extraordinary rendition of a winery!

macbook pro

Photo by KML on Pexels.com

 

The sheer joy of seeing your friends and fellow congregants acting their hearts out in an uproarious murder mystery farce…is a unique pleasure!  It dawned on me that I was experiencing good medicine for an old christian who often seeks inspiration for the journey back to Jerusalem.

The cast contained doctors and teachers and lawyers and college deans and physical therapist and professors…and all were immersed in the moment of the comedic farce!  We really are much more alike that we are different.  So many of the artificial walls that separate us…are walls that we have constructed in our own minds!

I watched many visitors to our church as they relished the great performances, and I understood that a fundamental hunger we all share is meaningful human connection.

Aren’t we all seeking others who will warm our hearts when we are lonely and who will understand us and love us…when we are difficult to understand and when we are un-lovable?

When we humans are provided with a strict set of rules that are to be followed from birth to death…we balk and become weary and our inspiration flags from exhaustion.  But, when we are are shown a faith walk that can be integrated into our daily lives and is relevant and alive to our life challenges…then we have a Christianity that can be lived for  50 years and more!

The Magic Beans Sold Out Before Noon Today

A great post from Jonathon Brooks!

jonathonbrooks

An old collection of short stories from Ray Bradbury is titled, A Medicine for Melancholy. I find it to be one of the most intriguing titles I’ve yet to discover. What if there was a magical medicine that could make an individual forever happy? Would we all try to get our paws on the stuff? Perhaps some would be skeptical and refuse to take their medicine. Yet others might take more than their prescription. What would the results of that look like? The idea of a medicine for sorrow or melancholy is fascinating.

There is medicine of course for depression, manic-depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder, schizophrenia and anything else under the stars that is considered to be a mental illness or mental health issue. But are these medicinal pills magic? Do they provide joy to the individuals who swallow them down with a large glass of water?

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The Haunted House

A Halloween Tale!

The Jazz Man

Billy Bump and his mom and dad moved to El Dorado when he was five years old.  The house in Sauk Village, near Chicago, had been a delight to him.  It was on Peoria Street and he had wiled away many happy hours with Danny and Pauly and Steve and Susie!  Billy had loved to have Steve come over and be the master puppeteer of his marionettes.  There was Punch and Judy and Pinocchio and Blackbeard and Frankenstein and Dracula.  Billy was hypnotized by Steve’s expertise in maneuvering the arms and legs of the stringed performers…and his multitude of voices for the actors was extraordinary.

multicolored marionette doll Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

At times, Billy would experience a bit of a waking/sleep as he sat with his eyes glued to the puppets performances.  He became a member of the theatre troupe and was a member of the performance.  When Count Dracula…

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