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.



Giving thanks for…

It’s Thanksgiving 2010. This year I am spending it in Montana at my wife’s sisters house with our families. Their mom, dad, grandma, and youngest sister also came to share in the festivities.

This is a different experience for me. Normally I only come to the farm in Montana for the 4th of July holiday. It makes a great family vacation that the kids love to take in the summer. Riding horses, four-wheelers, tractors, mosquitos (yes they are that big…and if you are too heavy, they will gang up to help out), and playing in the pond with the trout. Yep, it is summer camp without the expense and with relatives. The only thing that makes it better is having fireworks…because nothing is illegal in Montana. I am thankful that my family has those opportunities.

So this year instead of going to my wife’s parent’s house in Meridian, Idaho, we chose to come to Montana. The trip was going to start out on Tuesday afternoon. It is normally about a 7.5 hour drive. Well, my daughter made the girls basketball team at her high school and the first game was scheduled for Tuesday night, so we postponed the trip for a day. (By the way, I am thankful that my daughter made the team, especially after she dislocated her knee after only a few minutes of stretches on the first day of tryouts.)

Tuesday came and with it a blizzard…one that was supposed to be so bad that the ballgame was cancelled for the safety of the visiting team that had to travel. We checked the weather conditions for our route of travel and found out that the road we needed to take was closed for the main stretch that didn’t have any alternatives. The areas that were still open were covered in snow and ice. We were supposed to be on the road at 6:00 am the next morning and suddenly it looked like we weren’t even going to be able to make the journey. We decided to wait until the morning and see if there were any improvements.

I figured there would be no point in getting up as early as we had planned. After all, how much work would be done on the roads during the middle of the night? 7:30 am came around and the roads were open with a lot of caution warnings. We got all packed up and were on the road by 10:30 am. At that time we figured we would be at the house in time for dinner.

Just before 8:00 pm we arrived. Yes, our journey took us an extra couple of hours and in some ways we were lucky it was that short. I have never driven on worse roads. I take that back, I have…but I didn’t have any passengers, I wasn’t married or a parent and definitely didn’t feel responsible for any other lives. This trip, however, was definitely different as I was now responsible for six other lives inside my vehicle, and wanting to make sure that we stayed safe and they all got to live long lives. I am very thankful that we traveled in safety and arrived without incident. We hardly even slid on the ice patches. The only problem with the trip is that I got a major case of TB…and no, not tuberculosis. My dad would especially appreciate it as he didn’t have much of a gluteal muscle to provide padding when he sat.

It was nice to relax the rest of the evening inside the warm house. I was definitely thankful that we had shelter…it was forecast to get below 0 degrees overnight with the wind chill factor supposedly getting to -30 degrees. I don’t know if it really got that cold because I was inside and I slept really well.

Thursday morning, Thanksgiving Day, and the kids were raring to go. Remember, we are used to riding horses and four-wheelers when we come here. Add in snow with that fun. Plus, everyone was hoping that the pond was frozen over so that we could ice skate. However, using four-wheelers on the pond while pulling a sled would be even more fun. Unfortunately the ice wasn’t thick enough, but the hay field still had plenty of snow. I was thankful for that.

All of this is fine and dandy, and I am definitely blessed to be able to have such fun times, but an added measure of gratitude came after I came in the house from riding four-wheelers and got on the internet to read some news stories from around the world.

I have much to be thankful for. I don’t have to go through the ordeal of being adrift in the ocean for 50 days like three teenagers (two 14 year olds and a 15 year old) were in the South Pacific. They survived off raw fish, a bird they caught, and rain water (sea water when it didn’t rain). Their families figured they were gone for good and had already held memorial services for them. Imagine the gratitude they all feel…and I feel it for them.

I don’t have to go through the ordeal of being stuck in my bathroom for three weeks like the lady in England. No, she wasn’t stuck on the toilet. I think that would have made it worse. The door handle somehow broke and she was not able to get the door open. And there was no window in the bathroom. She survived and was found. She got out of the bathroom and had to recover in a hospital, but she is grateful. I am glad for her too.

I don’t have to feel sadness at this time for the loss of an infant child due to a rare disease like a friend of my wife’s family. I am grateful for that and even more grateful that this little child is still saved in the love and grace of God and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

This Thanksgiving Day I am blessed. I have a meal to eat until I am sick and for that one reason I am probably richer than at least half of the world population. I have family to be with, unlike many who will spend the day alone. I am in a warm house, which many people can only wish for…today and many more still to come.

And for all of you that have a chance to read this, I am thankful that you have that opportunity. Hopefully you are thankful too, because how many more people don’t have computers, don’t even have access to the internet or can’t read?

We are all blessed to different degrees and we are all probably thankful to different degrees. I hope we are thankful. If you can’t find reason to be, start counting your blessings. List them one by one. Start with life. The turkey on the table doesn’t even get to count that one.

Just another view from a Palmtree.