Saturday, May 15, 2010


I have been thinking a lot about help, what it means to help someone, or to be helped by someone. Here is just some of what Webster's dictionary defines help as:

1. to make things easier or better for (a person); aid; assist, a) to give something which is necessary, as relief, succor, money, etc. b) to do part of the work of; ease or share the labor of c) to aid in (getting up, down, in, out, etc.) 2. to make it easier for (something) to exist, happen, develop, improve 3. to keep from, avoid, prevent

And this is just the verb portion of the definition! I know I am helped daily, often in ways I am unaware of, and I am immeasurably improved and enriched by the efforts of others in my life. I am also one that is unlikely to ask for help, I am loath to ask anyone to do for me that which I am perfectly capable of doing myself. But sometimes, when I've done all I know to do, I seek out help. I'm sure my friend Bob gets tired of my requests for help with my computer. He should probably tell me, "No, figure it out, learn and develop your own skills". But he doesn't, and I don't know why. Easier to fix it than to answer a thousand ignorant questions? Allows him to showcase his superior computer knowledge and skills? Just a darn nice guy that enjoys helping others? Probably all the above, and more.

Bev and I were watching an episode of Lost (we tend to lag 5-10 years behind popular cultural phenomenon), in which the mysterious John Lock was explaining to the lame drug addict Charlie what a double edge sword help really is. The analogy is a moth cocoon, the struggle the emerging moth goes through to free itself of the cocoon, is exactly what strengthens it so it can fly away and fulfill it's moth destiny. Helping it in any way weakens it, and the emerging moth would be incapable of flight. The Walking Moth, sounds like it could be a rock band.

So, this is my question, what is appropriate help? When is one making a difference for the good of another in need, and when is the helper just being co-dependent?

I ask this question for obvious reasons. All of my life I have been led to understand that helping others is a good thing, a moral imperative. The only instances in nature where one animal will help another is symbiotic relationships. There is always a one hand washes the other, so to speak, each animal reaping benefit from the other. But not with humans, we help one another constantly, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. I now struggle with this question, with my own motivations for helping others, with the apprehension of weakening instead of strengthening. This line of thought reinforces my aversion to asking for, or accepting help. But I also know that I don't have control over anyone but myself. Others will pray on my behalf, and offer help, and do things for me out of love.

So, I move forward, a seeker of truth and enlightenment. Sometimes a seeker of help, sometimes a giver. Wondering if I'm a walking moth, huddled up with other flightless bugs waiting for the bus.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Against my better judgement

Politics is something that shouldn't be discussed in polite company. I have spent the last couple of hours reading from the website: It's a website full of articles from different writers, all thoughtful and thought provoking. I enjoyed several articles by Thomas Sowell and Cal Thomas, I consider them wise and rational. Then I read an article by Mona Charen, about Greece's economic problems.

Greece is a small country, 11.3 million people. Seems that one in three Greeks works for their government. There were riots last week in Athens, Greece, over government austerity programs. The people rioting, government employees. Three are dead from the rioting. Greece is a nation on the brink of chaos and disaster. Why were they rioting? Because they don't want to sacrifice any of their benefits. The Greek government employee has a higher wage, better benefits and an earlier retirement than their private sector counterparts. It's impossible for a civil servant to get fired, even in light of gross incompetence.

All this news didn't much bother me, that's all Greece's problems, and we have enough of our own to worry about. Then the article moved on to problems much closer to home.

More than 50 percent of union members in the United States are public sector employees. There is a quote of an economic historian that points out, "Federal workers now earn, in wages and benefits, about twice what their private-sector equivalents get paid. State workers often have better health plans and retirement benefits than the private-sector average: 80 percent of public-sector workers have pension benefits, only 50 percent in the private sector." Then this article makes a statement that brings everything into acute focus (this is a copy and paste quote from the article, my apologies to Mona Charen if this offends her).

"It's no coincidence that the states with the most powerful public sector unions — New Jersey, California, and New York — are facing the most severe budget crises."

Oops! I only thought I was reading about Greece's problems! But these should be considered Spain's or Italy's or, yes, the good old USA's problems. We are facing a crisis that has been a hundred years in the making, our economic and government models are at odds, and our current political system appears inadequate (or impotent, you can chose the adjective). Mr. Obama and his administration seem to feel that growing our government is the answer to our economic problems. He is doing this at a time when industry and service sectors are struggling. This being the only portion of our economy that actually provides wealth, and therefore tax revenue, to pay for governmental services. This appears like the same approach that FDR used during the depression of the 1930's. It didn't work then, it's unlikely to work 80 years later in a larger and much more complex economic/politically diverse world.

Now we get to the really depressing stuff. Mr. Roosevelt's economic policies didn't fix the depression, know what did? Mr. Obama's economic policies aren't looking to good either, know what's gonna happen? Do a Google search on: What is Chaostan? You will find an article by Richard Mayberry. A pre 9/11, twelve year old article that is eerily accurate.
A wise man once said, "the worst time to be a parent is 18 years before a war". I have a nephew in the Marines, I wish he's get out, right now!

But I have a plan, a way to fix this problem. I need to be benevolent dictator of the world! Well, maybe just the USA for right now. Once I get the USA straightened out I can move on to Chaostan and the rest of the world. Be of good cheer! All I need is everyone's complete cooperation for the next 5-10 years....

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Repton, AL

Today's newspaper had an article in the travel section about Monroeville, AL. My mother's hometown claims to be the "Literary Capitol" of Alabama, which is what any article about Monroeville would be quick to point out. But to those with roots in L.A. (lower Alabama) there are always expeditions to places off the beaten path. I beat my path down I-65 south to exit 93, turning right onto US 84. 15 miles closer to Monroeville, you pass a sign declaring you are in Repton, AL. The first right hand turn past your welcome to town is Burnt Corn Road. How could anyone not want to drive on a road named "Burnt Corn"? Actually, traveling on this road takes you to Burnt Corn, AL. But that would be someone elses story, because I'm talking about Repton.

Repton may not be the bustling metropolis that Monroeville is, but it is just as firmly woven into my heritage (and my heart), as any place in the universe. Not far up Burnt Corn Rd, on the right hand side of the road is the William Carter Hospital. My mother gave birth to her first child in that hospital. Not even Monroeville, the soon to be literary capitol of Alabama, had such modern conveniences as hospitals in the mid 1940's. A little further up the road on the left hand side is Alabama Rut and Strut. I'm certain that taxidermy has its place of importance, but for me the Rut and Strut is a landmark. Directly across from the "Strut" is the front gate to Daddy Bill's farm. My mother's younger brother, William Lee Hendrix, is and has been my favorite uncle for as long as I can remember. My first cousins, Babs and Jacque, have called their father "Daddy Bill", also, for as long as I can remember.

Last year, and again this year, we have held our family reunion on DB's farm land. Turning off Burnt Corn Rd, through the gates, you have little choice but to follow the path made by the tractor as it heads toward the fields were Pensacola Fescue is grown for livestock feed. Passing through what was once a marvelous pecan orchard (severely damaged by hurricane Ivan), you enter the first large field. At the far end you turn to the left and head slowly (I don't drive a Jeep) down toward the pond. The pond could well be the center of the universe, a nexus of Louisiana Iris and Pear tree. A place where worry and stress float away, for they have nothing to hold on to. There could be no better place for a family gathering, and cousin Babs and her husband Jeff have added to natures perfection. An outhouse complete with hand wash station, and a fire pit so fine I think it should be patented. An adjacent field provides room for dueling clay launchers, where the men folk can embarrass themselves with their lack of marksmanship. This allows us to work up a healthy appetite, so we burn animal flesh over the fire pit and talk about how next time those clays won't be nearly so lucky. For those with an aversion to shot guns, there is always the pond itself. One can fish it, and probably be just as challenged as shooting skeet, or one can walk all around it, which will provide a more sublime satisfaction.

I wish I could understand exactly why I feel such a strong connection with this place. Why do I want to repair that pecan orchard? There is no doubt it is to some degree the peace I feel while I'm there, but it's more than that. Some people want to belong to something larger and more important than they are individually. The fields are large, but they are only important to a handful of people. It's said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Maybe it's the beauty my eye perceives, a simple elegance that only nature can provide. The way the fescue waves in the wind, and the divine color scheme on a perfect Saturday in Autumn. But it's something more, beyond the beauty and the yearning to belong, a secret element to this equation which defies definition.

I am a believer, and I will make my pilgrimage to the temple that is DB's farm land. I will worship at this temple, with the other believers, my cousins and their husbands and other family members that may be in attendance. I seek enlightenment at this temple, because it is here that my perception of God is clearest.