Cloud of Uncertainty and Conflict

“For Tom, life went on as usual except for the cloud of uncertainty and conflict hanging over his home and neighborhood.” For me, 70 years later, another cloud of uncertainty and conflict are hanging over my home and neighborhood.

For Tom, it was World War 2. For me…

This is the point where I leave you guessing for a minute about what comes next.  Given the economic status of our country, you could say that the cloud of uncertainty for me is economical.  Given the political unrest in parts of the world, you could say that the cloud of uncertainty could be focused around another war.  Given the outcome of the latest elections, you could say that the cloud of uncertainty could be focused around the status of our country.  But no, it isn’t any of this.

It’s Black Friday.

So many stores, so many sales, so many choices.  What to do, where to go, how to pay for it?

At the beginning of this week I knew that I would not be participating in Black Friday sales this year.  I wanted to avoid the stress and chaos that I have felt the last few years.  So guess what happened?

No, I didn’t go shopping on Black Friday (in fact, it is almost Noon and I am still in my PJ’s).

On Wednesday my mother-in-law picked up a paper with all of the Black Friday ads included.  I rummaged around and searched every page of every ad.  Yes, there were some deals that I just couldn’t pass up…yet I still didn’t want to go out and shop at 5:00 am in the cold.  Then I saw the Walmart ad.

Gray Thursday!  Starting at 8:00 pm…and they had some things I wanted to get.

What is the justification for going?  I was feeling bad earlier in the week for all of those retail employees that would have to work on Thanksgiving because their employer wanted to get a head start on the sales.  Now I was going to have to compromise my feelings for their plight and instead offer a theoretical “too bad, so sad” attitude when I walked in the store.

Could my conscience handle it?  Was my integrity at stake?

You can see the cloud of uncertainty and conflict hanging over me.  Tom only had to worry about war.  I had to worry about post-Thanksgiving retail crowds. I think some of the battles in Walmart, specifically in the electronics section, have been worse than some of the combat skirmishes in the Europe.  And no, I am not making light of a war in which many people have died.

In fact, I am making a statement on the fall of humanity in the name of saving a buck in the pocket and making big bucks in the cash register.  And I participated in it.

There is one thing that helps me feel a little bit better about it.

On the way out the door at Walmart, a Marine stood sentry to a box.  The box was labeled “Toys for Tots“.  In his hand was a can with a slot in the lid for money to be donated.  And one of my children was with me.

The same military that has risked their lives for me to be able to participate in all this retail foolishness was passively asking us to sacrifice a little to help those children who are less fortunate and may not be receiving much for Christmas this year.  And it seemed that 95% of the people just walked by without even noticing…or caring if they did notice.

I made it past the front door and into the parking lot and didn’t feel very bad.  I didn’t have a toy to donate and I didn’t have cash on hand.  But I only made it 50 feet.  I paused, opened my wallet, and saw a $5 bill.  It couldn’t sit there, especially after I had just spent hundreds on gifts for family members.  It was all the cash I could donate, but I could still donate it.  Or save it to pay for lunch one day next week.

There was another cloud of uncertainty and conflict hanging over me.  But I was able to rationalize the shopping.  It should be much easier to rationalize the donation of a small amount of money.

I took the money out of my wallet and gave it to my daughter.  I asked her to run back in and give it to the Marine inside the door.  I don’t know how she felt doing it, and I don’t know who will benefit from it.  But the Marine said “thank you” and I felt good for giving.

As my daughter and I walked to the car, I told her that if she ever has an opportunity to give when someone else is truly in need, she needs to give.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be money.  It could be food, it could be service, it could be time.

We are all faced with uncertainty in life and we all face some form of conflict, even if it is only internal.  But when we have a difference to make, will we make it?  Will we see the selfish follies of life and forget about the needs of others?

Tom saw the uncertainty and conflict of his time.  People were in need…their lives were at stake.  Tom joined the Navy and served the USA during World War 2.  Since then he has given his life in service to his community, his nation, his planet, and his God.

I think I can do better.  I think if I do, the uncertainty and conflict will leave…or at least greatly diminish.

Can you?

Just another view from a palmtree.



Employee Appreciation Gone Awry…

Have you ever been in a situation at your job where you thought you were doing an exceptional job, probably even done something that would go above and beyond anything that you thought that you should be required to deal with?  Did you get a “thank-you” or possibly a “job well done” type of recognition?  If you were lucky, you may have even received a monetary bonus.

At the company I work for, we have a quarterly meeting called Accolades.  Part of the purpose for this meeting is to give accolades to our co-workers in appreciation for the work that they have done.  It doesn’t matter how big or small the project.  If I am grateful that my office mates took a shower on a daily basis, thus providing a better work atmosphere, I can give an accolade.  However, it wouldn’t seem like much of an accomplishment unless Pigpen from the Peanuts gang was working in my office.  Regardless, whatever is deserving of an accolade in the givers eye qualifies.  The receiver gets a certificate and $5…nothing big but it can buy lunch for the day at your local fast food joint.

Recognitions such as these do a lot for morale, and in many times helps promote the company itself as one that cares about clients and employees alike.  Maybe Wal-Mart should look into doing something like this.  Maybe they do already.  If they do, they need to re-evaluate what qualifies as a deserving recognition.

Take for example an event that took place on Black Friday this last year.  I don’t know how national this story went, but here in Utah it was widely report.

The Wal-Mart in Cedar Hills, Utah was just as busy as every other Wal-Mart in the country as people were clamoring to get the “big deal” that they just had to have.  And as happens at every store on Black Friday, there was a very heated customer on this particular morning in Cedar Hills.

The Cliff Notes version of the story is that the guy was upset about something and took it out on a female employee.  A little more detail shows that the customer was physically, verbally, and emotionally harassing…or maybe better said as abusing…the employee.  So, another employee intervened and protected the harassed employee.  Oh, and by the way, harassed employee and harassing customer happen to be husband and wife.

So the hero stepped in and protected his co-worker from harassed and assaulted and got fired for it.  Hmm, I don’t know about you but I think that an accolade is in store for the hero.  It could be a thank you, it could be free lunch at the in-store McDonalds, it could be something…and it should be.  But instead, he was told that he broke rule 194.3.2 subparagraph B3 (or whatever the policy number was) and was therefore out of a job.

Fast forward two months.  At the Wal-Mart in Layton, Utah, a shoplifter was caught by a female employee trying to steal a Netbook computer by unwrapping it and hiding it under his clothes.  He was taken to the loss prevention room, which seemed really logical since they didn’t want him to get lost in the big store.  While he was being questions, two male asset protection associates (plain clothes FBI wannabees) entered the room with a male store assistant manager.  (The story is cooler if you know the sex of the employees)

So during the interrogation the shoplifter admitted his wrongdoing and removed the computer from his clothes.  Then he removed a loaded handgun.  He grabbed one of the male employees, placed the gun against his lower back and told them all he just wanted to leave without any problems.

At this point I would be saying something to the effect of, “let me get the door for you”, but then I would be letting an armed bandit out into public.  We couldn’t let that happen.

So the other employees decided they were going to protect their co-worker and make sure that they kept this guy in custody.  How did they do it?  The other two male employees spun the shoplifter around and the female employee took the gun out of his hand and secured it.  The three male employees secured the shoplifter until the police arrived.

Now how cool was that. Quick thinking, fast action, and those “I-want-to-be-in-the-FBI” instincts diffused an ugly situation without any harm.  Even the police officers that responded to the store told them that they had done everything right.

About a week later, Wal-Mart told them that they had done it all wrong.  Oh those security-minded retailers…what do they know more than the police when it comes to disarming a shoplifter?  In fact, the foursome was told that they were fired for violation of rule AP09.  The whole rule and not just subparagraph 2A.

What AP09 says essentially is that employees are allowed to use “reasonable force” to limit the movement of a culprit that is trying to get away.  But if that culprit pulls out a weapon, all “reasonable force” must stop and they should let the culprit go.

I don’t know about you, but if I had been in the store that night, I wouldn’t have wanted them to disengage and let him out into the store where I was shopping.  Think of the potential harm.  Seriously, he comes out with his gun, and then the rival gang sees it and they pull their guns, then the common citizen that carries their 2nd Amendment card pulls out their gun for protection, and before you know it I am the only one without a gun.  I don’t need to find out that the only one in the store not packing heat.

Apparently the employees thought the same thing… I mean about someone being released into public with his weapon.  They acted as they did for the safety of those patrons that were in the process of shopping.  They were heroes that night.  And they got fired for it.

I know that Wal-Mart has a policy that was violated, but why can’t they look at the situation, look at the policy and say something to the effect of, “We know you were trying to protect people, but please don’t do it again.  This is just a warning, so go back to work.”  I can guarantee it won’t happen again now.  Nope, those employees are gone and not available to protect the public that is shopping at that particular Wal-Mart. 

I wouldn’t be surprised to see some people no longer shopping at Wal-Mart either.  Whether it is because they are protesting the treatment of the employees, afraid for their safety, or just envious that they don’t have a gun themselves, the store may lose some business.  Is that worth what they did to these employees?  No!

So on that note, I will be trying to contact these five different employees of Wal-Mart and asking them to come to my work in May so that I can present to them an Accolade certificate and $5.  And if I don’t get in touch with them, just know that I am glad they did what they did.  Maybe they can get jobs as bodyguards or security guards.  They can put down some experience on their resumes now.

Just another view from a Palmtree.