A Deadly Silence

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Everybody has a story.

Each story is different, but most are the same. In reality, the only ones that are different are the ones that you stop for a few moments to listen to.

The problem was that I was not a good listener. My story had interacted with that of others for over 30 years now. At first, it was just with my sister and my parents. Then a couple of siblings joined the story circle and we created our own chapters with each other.

Five years later, my storybook interacted with Ms. Williams. She was really the only one that I remember from my Kindergarten class. Every year after that is now but a blur and I never really expected that my story would ever stand out.

All of that changed when I went off to college, but that in itself is not quite true. The first year or two covered the basics and a few elective classes until I finally decided what I wanted to do with my life. I would go into nursing, then maybe into pre-med with my sights on eventually becoming a doctor.

I graduated with my B.Sc. in Nursing before making the decision that I did not want to become a doctor. Instead, I would become a Physician’s Assistant, or a PA as they were called for shorthand.

After graduating with my degree, I passed my exams with flying colors and was now a fully licensed PA. I felt that I had reached the best that I could be.

Sadly, my biggest obstacle to being the best ended up being me.

Like many nurses and doctors, what I did was just a job. It was a career, but my people skills and bedside manner could be abrupt. It was not that I did not like my job, but something was missing and I realized that it was compassion.

I could sympathize with the pain that my patients endured, but I could not really empathize. For the most part, I had lived a sheltered life and I had also been blessed with good health. Ultimately, the difference needed to build a true rapport was to have an understanding of the patient. It was not really something that I had been taught in school. Oh, there were plenty of quizzes, exams, and papers that showed I knew the material, but none of those items ever told my instructors whether I was endowed with compassion or not.

However, I will never forget the summer of 1997 when my storybook took a turn I could never have seen coming. Like most young people, I enjoyed times when I could party, but I also liked my precious moments of solitude. When I was in my little zone, I didn’t want music being played and I always insisted that my housemates kept quiet.

To try and block out any extra noise, I had splurged in my sophomore year of university and bought an expensive pair of noise-cancelling earphones that I saw advertised on a flight back home. Strangely, I have yet to use them to listen to a single bit of music. Now ten years later, they were only used to enhance the silence.

My grades did not put me at the top of my class, but I would consider myself to be better than average. Despite what the admissions counselors had told me, maybe the nursing field was not as diverse for males as I had expected. With that as a caveat and despite the supposed shortage of male medical staff, it was another couple of months before I was offered a position as the resident PA for a large nursing and rehabilitation center in upstate New York.

Being the only PA on staff, my hours were long with some weeks requiring me to work six or seven days in order to keep up with the patients.

Every person in the medical profession will tell you that there are some aspects of the job that you love and some aspects that you hate. The one thing I hated was the nights I was stationed on the Delta Wing of the facility. It was noisy and it did not seem to matter what time of the day or night I worked.

At times, I would sneak into a room thinking my patients would be asleep and turn down their stereo or the television that blared out another set of obnoxious infomercials. The first few months that I tried this, I remember being sternly reprimanded by some of my patients. It appeared that the only way they could sleep was to have the tv or radio on. While on evening shift, I could even wear my headphones that helped to reduce the noise to a bare minimum. I justified wearing them to anybody who asked by saying that I had sensitive hearing.

As for me, I enjoyed getting off and going back to my home where I could relax and listen to silence.

Winter was definitely coming and the crisp breezes of evening were joined by chilly mornings and late afteernoons. I knew that snow was coming, but I also loved the snow because it brought a new level of quiet upon the countryside.

I will never forget that first year in my new job. Thanksgiving came and went with many of my patients never getting a visit from family. That was hard for me to see, but I knew Christmas was coming and thought that everybody would receive gifts or a card in remembrance of the season.

For the most part everybody did with the exception of Yosef, Leona, and Michael. When it came time to have the Christmas parties, each patient was invited to join, but these three remained in their rooms or sat together watching their tv’s as they blared in full volume.

I asked my colleagues why no family ever visited them, but few seemed to provide a qualified answer. Walking into Michael’s room one evening about a week before Christmas, I noticed a small emblem on his dresser and realized that it was a Star of David.

That certainly explained a great deal, I thought to myself as I ran my fingers along each edge of the plain trinket. Over in the corner, the television was trying to convince parents to buy just one more “must-have” gift for their spoiled children, but I had tuned those out long ago.

Continuing my rounds, I walked into Yosef’s room followed by that of Leona. Taking an extra moment, I looked around and saw the same emblems that Michael had displayed.

Turning to go, I felt a soft touch on the sleeve of my lab coat. It startled me as I thought the old lady was sound asleep. Pulling off my headphones, I took her withered old hand in mind.

“Leona, are you not feeling well? You should be asleep.”

“Dr. Macomb, do you have time to sit with me for a few minutes?

Glancing at the television, I noticed it had shifted from infomercials to another Christmas movie that really had nothing to do with Christmas.

I sighed and replied, “Yes, for just a few minutes.”

Leona nodded her appreciation and I sat down beside her bed and together we listened to the incessant drone of the bad actors on the screen.

A slight squeeze caused me to turn my attention back to my patient.

“Dr. Macomb, may I ask you a question?” Without waiting for an answer, she continued, “Why do you wear the headphones all the time? I can tell they are not connected to anything, so you cannot be listening to music.”

“Leona, that is a great question. I will answer but I get to ask you a question. I wear them because I love silence. I do not want to listen to music or noise all the time, and even when I am at home, I can wear them for hours and enjoy the quiet.”

A brief nod before she replied, “What is your question, Doctor?”

“I do not want to be rude, but why do you, Yosef, and Michael all like to play your radios or televisions loudly every hour of the day?”

A range of emotions crossed her face and she turned away from me toward the opposite wall. It was a few moments before she spoke again.

“Dr. Macomb, the reason is simple. All three of us come from the same little town. We went to school together, played in the streets together, and even skated together on the rivers when they froze in the winter.”

“But one day, our whole lives were turned upside down. War had been declared and although we did not really understand what that meant, the look on the faces of the adults made us afraid.”

“Every week, things grew worse and before long we were no longer allowed to play outside. The electricity would often go out and we ate many meals cold instead of being cooked, and I soon forgot the taste of hot oatmeal.”

“At night, the darkness would fall upon our town and we learned to have a healthy fear of the silence that surrounded us.”

“If we spoke too loudly, our parents would scold us and sometimes might even give us a quick smack in order to remind us to keep silent. I hated the long nights, but what I hated the worse was when we would be woken up and had to go and hide behind the extra wall that Papa had built in the early days of the war. The silence would be deafening. Sometimes soldiers would come. We could hear them, but they never heard us.”

“However, all of that changed one dreadful night. The moon was hidden and winter was quickly approaching. We never heard music any more, and I had not seen Yosef or Michael in two or three months. The silence seemed to overwhelm us as we hid behind the wall that night. And then it happened.”

“What happened, Leona?” I asked this intriguing old lady.

“My sister sneezed. She tried to hold it in, but it just slipped out. In just a few moments, the wall was being torn down and the soldiers pulled us out. As we turned to go, the night reverberated with the sounds of the solders’ boots on the cobblestones.”

Leona shuddered repeatedly as she recalled the nightmares of that night. She told me of the blackness being broken by bursts from semi-automatic weapons. If anybody screamed, they would also be shot.

“That was the last time I saw Papa and Mama for the soldiers left them lying face down on the street along with several other neighbors. I whimpered and bit down hard on my lips so that I would not cry. I looked around the truck where they had seated us and in the flashes of light from the torches carried by the soldiers, I saw Yosef and Michael.”

“Dr. Macomb, by now, you have probably guessed by my story and by my accent that I am not from America. The three of us are from a small village in Poland. We managed to survive the death camps together, and I think it is only because we were young, but old enough to help with certain chores.”

Leona’s lips began to quiver and tears coursed down her cheeks as she continued her story.

“Every night, the lights would come on and silence was required. If we were caught speaking, the solders would kill several of the children. We soon learned to endure the silence. There was no more laughter. If we cried, we cried into the crook of our arms so we would not be heard.”

“Rumors began to circulate that the Americans were coming and before long, the big bombers would fly over the camp. I had been in the camp for about two years and I began to understand more of what happened throughout the week in other parts of the camp.”

“Trains would come into the prison and thousands would fall out of the cattle cars. Their luggage would be piled into great heaps and each person had to take all of their clothes off. There was no modesty and anybody that protested would be immediately shot.”

I had read enough history to know where Leona’s story was headed, but I could no longer speak. My head and heart were already condemning me for my callous thoughts and actions.

“Dr. Macomb, at the far end of our camp, each new load of prisoners would exit the train and be marched to the brick buildings at the end. When the building was full, we could hear the screaming, but soon there was nothing but silence. Nobody spoke as the guards demanded help in removing the dead bodies from the rooms. Yosef and Michael were required to help move them and they would whisper to me later about what was going on.”

“You see, Dr. Macomb, in the end, our families and friends were killed because of the silence. Nobody said anything about the others disappearing until they came for us. When they came for us, it was too late and there was nobody left to help or listen.”

“So, you ask why we do not turn our televisions or radios down. Doctor, it is because we fear the silence. We fear that if it is too quiet, we will hear the cries of those who died around us. We fear that if the silence comes again that more will die because we do not ever seem to learn from history.”

Tears streamed down my own face as I pondered the hell that these three loud patients must have endured. I patted Leona’s hand until she fell asleep.

The rest of the night passed but I never lifted my headphones back to my ears. I had learned a valuable lesson in the art of knowing the pain of others.

As my shift came to a conclusion, I made one more set of rounds just as dawn broke over the eastern sky. Returning to Leona’s room, I realized that she had passed quietly in her sleep. Her face radiated a sense of peace and I knew that somewhere in the dark that she had crossed into a place where she no longer had to fear the silence.

Returning home, I savored each bite of my hot oatmeal, turned the television on, and promptly fell asleep.

Written in response to Warrior Writers Prompt #27

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Catch Me If You Can

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alley

A jack-of-all-trades, but a Master of only one!

That was me and my life.

Blending in had never been a problem for me. Obnoxiously plain, I would never stand out in a crowd and that makes it even harder for others to notice where I fit in the grand scheme of things.

I take great pride that I can be right in front of you, and you would simply look right past me. This is true no matter where you might see me. Some thought they had spotted me in the country, while others insisted that I never left the city. A few tried to find me while thinking that my flashy wardrobe would let the authorities capture me, but they were all wrong.

My prowess at escaping and hiding would have made Frank Abagnale, Jr. jealous. The movie about his life called “Catch Me If You Can” pales in comparison with the life I lead.

Some have tried to find me for years, but I quickly give them the slip. My ability to disappear so easily has frustrated old and young alike, and I am certain that when I pull a Jason Bourne and disappear that not even Sherlock Holmes would be able to locate me.

I have a team of individuals that I work with and they are just as good at their jobs as I am. We used to have a much larger organization, but some of our numbers preferred to live life on the edge. Without one exception, they all got caught. We tried to warn them that living a straight life would make them vulnerable, but they refused to listen.

Tonight was just another job for me, but I knew it required a high degree of stealth. It was probably my most dangerous job that I had ever undertaken. Surrounded by individuals of all shapes and sizes, I found myself staring right into the eyes of an enemy. I was certain that he had not seen me, or that my disguise was just too good. He and his partner looked like rank amateurs and I was shocked that they had been sent to do the job of trying to bring me in. Others far better than they had tried and failed.

As casually as I could, I leaned back further into the dark recess of my hiding place. It was the best I could find for the night yet it seemed that I was totally exposed to the elements. If I could just remain still for a little longer, then I was certain they would forget about me and move on to their next target. Watching their eyes flick back and forth, at times I thought they hovered briefly over me, but there was no recognition. I knew I was at the top of my game.

But I should have known better. One day, I knew my cockiness was going to bring me down, just like James Bond brought down each of his enemies.

However, I was certain that tonight would not be that night. Both of my hunters disappeared and I took the opportunity to slip out of hiding. Staying in the shadows, I carefully chose a path that would allow me to turn the tables on the two amateurs.

Two more blocks and I would be free.

Rage permeated the air as they realized they had been duped. I expected that their bosses would call them on the carpet after letting me disappear, but that was not my problem.

Once again, I had slipped from their grasp like a greased banana in the hand of a monkey. But, wait…

These two would not give up. Spotlights split the night and I knew they were on to me. They had called in reinforcements and exhausted, I could go no further. I tried to pull myself together and gather enough strength for one last-ditch effort to hide, but it was to no avail. The lights methodically covered each strip of land as they narrowed their search and I knew it was only a matter of time.

I slunk down and tried to get as flat as possible. Maybe, I would get lucky tonight.

I never heard the steps that led him to my hiding place as I had been too focused on the lights. My mistake cost me dearly and I felt his cold, sticky hand close around one of my joints. I froze in abject fear as I became stiff as a board.

No amount of struggle made a difference as my captor pulled me into the light. It was over and I had finally lost. With my capture, everything simply fell into place as I became a part of the big picture.

“Hey Mary, look here! I found the last piece of the puzzle that we have been looking for.”

Written in response to Warrior Writers Prompt #26

Failure in the Box

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You probably have no clue, but you have a problem. In fact, it is the same problem that I have. It is not a new problem, but one that has existed for quite some time.

If you think you know what the problem is, then you are probably mistaken. Very rarely will you find a person who even knows how to correctly identify the real reason why the problem exists. This problem is not just an isolated case though. It causes continued failure practically every time that it makes an appearance.

At this point, I should probably give you fair warning that the real problem is going to shock you. Therefore, I will wait until you are sitting down comfortably. Grab a coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or a stiff drink.

Ok, here we go.

The real problem is YOU!

If you are thinking inside the box, then you are the problem! If you are not developing a mindset outside of the proverbial box, then you are the problem.

Before you get upset, please let me explain.

When we started our lives in kindergarten, certain things were expected of you and I. We followed along with the plans from the establishment. At the end of the year and with much pomp and circumstance, we were graduated to First Grade. Woohoo! Parties, ice cream, cake, and presents made us feel special, but we were just like everybody else.

Each year a new grade came and went. Elementary school finished and moved us into junior high, and then into high school. Each milestone produced another graduation and we again felt special. However, more likely than not, we were just like all the others. We were NOT different.

12th Grade — Senior Year — Class of ???? — Standing there in cap and gown, you and I insisted that we were going to be the graduating class that changed the world. But, we were all the same.

This has been drummed into us all of our lives. Are the teachers at fault? Yes, they must take some of the blame, but at the end of the day, they face the same problems that you and I face. They are a product of what they were taught to believe, namely, that everybody else is the problem.

Our lives in front of us, we either go to learn a trade, go to university, or begin a menial job. Each day, we continue to add to the reason why we are a failure.

Business school, success seminars, #1 best-selling books all contribute to the sad reality that YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. You have allowed yourself to buy into what we are spoonfed every day.

Still not sure what I mean. Let me give you a few examples.

“Be like Mike!” — The problem is that YOU will never be Michael Jordan. YOU will never even be like Michael Jordan. YOU cannot be Michael Jordan. YOU cannot play like Michael Jordan. Why? YOU are NOT Michael Jordan.

Take a person like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, Barack Obama, Mahatma Gandhi, Princess Diana, Mother Theresa, or any other famous person that you can think of. YOU will NEVER be any of these people.

So, why get stuck in the box of thinking you can be? If you think that YOU can succeed by becoming just like somebody else, YOU will fail miserably. YOU will remain the real problem. YOU will continue to lack the strength to stand out from the rest of the crowd who are doing the exact same things that you are doing.

Even in your talents or skills, YOU will never be like somebody else. There was only one Beethoven. One Michelangelo. One Buddha. One Julius Caesar. One Michael Jordan. One Bill Gates. One Princess Diana. One Michael Jackson. One Will Smith. One _______________ (fill-in-the-blank).

To the delight of my adoring fans, there will ONLY ever be one ME.

Ultimately, there will ONLY ever be one YOU!

Stop being the problem and locking yourself into the boxes that you have built. NO matter how hard you try, and no matter how long you try, you will never be somebody else.

If you going to be successful, you need to break free from all the boxes that you have allowed yourself to be put into down through the years. You need to remind yourself that your talents and skills are yours alone.

However, there is a danger that YOU must avoid. If you follow this simple principle, you must work diligently to encourage others to do the same.

Personally, I hate “How I Did…And How You Can” type books. The real reason is because I do not act, think, speak, listen, or behave like the person who has written the book. Even if you and I followed every single step just like the “successful” person has done, we will ALWAYS reach a different conclusion.

The entire point of this blog is this –

If you want to write, then write, but don’t try to write like everybody else.

If you want to play sports, have a career, whatever you want to do, then just do what you have set your heart and mind to do. However, don’t imitate others because you are TOLD that is what you MUST do in order to be successful.

You have the freedom to choose your path. You have the availability and the responsibility to think outside the box. You have the choice to blame others for your failure or to accept that you are not where you want to be because of YOU.

Relish your new freedom.

Be different.

Be unique.

Let the real you shine in a way that NOBODY else can duplicate, because nobody else is JUST LIKE YOU!

The Bonfire

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From what I had heard in my short life, John Steinbeck had written a book about mice and men.

I hated both. Mice and men had sought to ruin my life, and it was for that reason that I was on the run.

Leaving my brief stint in a factory in upstate New York, I fled in the middle of the night for parts unknown. Without realizing it at the time, I instinctively knew that I would never return. Family and friends were forsaken and the only way that I felt I would remain safe was to never look back.

The decision had been made for me and yet I could not recall how or where the danger started. It seemed in my early life I was destined for greatness. Not meaning to appear puffed up with pride, I was however proud of the fact that I was at the top of my class in school.

Catching a ride with a few truckers, I finally arrived to where I thought I would call home. There was no way, even in the modern internet age, that my enemies would ever find me here. However, I also knew that I would need to remain extremely vigilant. If the mob came after me here, I would not be able to hide a second time.

Thinking back about that fateful day, I knew I should have contacted the Witness Protection Program. But what good would that have done, I reminded myself bitterly. All the alphabet soup organizations in America were out to bring me down just like the mob I had left behind.

Blending in, I found a new home in suburbia. The place was a little small, but at least I started making friends almost as soon as I had moved in. Most of my neighbors were sweet, while others I tried to stay away from. Regretfully, I had to learn the hard way that most of them were trapped in the existence of their own self-importance. I chose to remain as anonymous as possible.

Ominous clouds began to overshadow me late that fall when I remembered that Halloween and Thanksgiving were right around the corner. Something was wrong and I just could not figure out what the problem was. It started when some of my neighbors started disappearing. In the midst of the all the turmoil though, nobody bothered me.

For a short time things began to calm down, and some of my friends called one evening with an invitation. It sounded like what I needed to relax. I agreed and a week later, I went outside to find a roaring bonfire already keeping the night warm. Not being much of a drinker, I declined the offer of a free drink and just stuck with some of the food that others had brought. I must admit that I felt a little guilty not bringing anything myself, but I also knew that not everybody liked my kind of food.

It was a split second look, but I knew that I had been made. I thought I knew all of my neighbors, but this particular fellow had a wild look about him and the more I stared I realized that murder was on his mind. Thinking back over everyone I had met, I realized that this was not a neighbor at all. Shocked, I realized that the man had somehow already killed some of my friends.

If I tried to leave, I would just bring attention to myself, so I stayed as still as possible. In my mind though, I was already planning my next escape. How could they have found me? Why could I not escape the carnage of my past?

Shuddering, I recalled the flashing knives as they had brushed against my skin. Some of colleagues had not made it out alive that fateful night, and now it seemed that mayhem was going to return to my new quiet neighborhood.

Across the flames, the man stood to his feet and stretched. His nonchalance may have fooled all of my neighbors, but I knew he was coming for me. I turned to run, but I could not seem to find the necessary strength. With resolute abandon, I turned to face my foe, and noticed that my neighbors had fled into the darkness.

Picking up a weapon, he grinned menacingly and spoke in a haunting manner.

“My friend, you thought you could escape, but there is nowhere you could run where I would not have found you. You should never have tried to escape!”

Resigned to my fate, my life flashed before my eyes. He raised the weapon and with a quick lunge, its point ran right through the middle of my body. Collapsing, I caught myself falling toward the fire as my strength failed me completely.

My foe looked toward one of his friends and I heard him speak one last time as I descended into the abyss that never ends.

“Hey Trenton, these huge marshmallows are really tasty. Would you like one as well?”

Written in response to Warrior Writers Prompt #25

A Drudge First?

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Ignacy Paderewski is not a name well-known in many households today. He was born in a city now located in Ukraine.

However, he was hugely instrumental in seeking the favor of President Woodrow Wilson to help Poland became an independent nation that was not part of the Russian Empire.

However, for those who know music well, the name Paderewski is synonymous with the playing and composing of classical music.

At just 18 years of age, and as a mark of the skills he had particularly in playing the piano, this man was offered the opportunity to become a teacher at the Warsaw Conservatory, which is one of the largest and oldest music schools in Europe.

Over the course of his life, he gave many concerts around Europe and the United States.

It is said that at one concert, a woman was enamored with him and his playing. After several minutes of this unwanted attention, the great pianist is said to have stopped her and said, “Madame, before I was a genius, I was a drudge!”

Each of us has the ability to do what we want with our lives.

However, many of us do not avail ourselves of the opportunities that present themselves. We might want to take advantage of them, but we are not willing to be a drudge first.

For example, I might say that I would LOVE to expertly play an instrument, or that I would LOVE to speak fluent Mandarin. The reality is that I do not play an instrument with a great degree of skill, nor do I speak fluent Mandarin.

The question is not whether I have the ability to do either of those two things for I have the ability to take lessons and learn how to play.

The real question is this

What am I willing to give up in order to become good at what I say I love?

A person who wants to be the best in their business will spend time researching and studying the lives of those who have been successful.

A person who wants to play an instrument must be willing to turn off the television and spend hours mastering the scales and arpeggios.

A person who wants to become fluent in a different language needs to find others who speak that language and learn the nuances of the language as well as the culture.

The truth is this. While I say that I would LOVE to expertly play an instrument, I do not really WANT it bad enough to make the necessary sacrifices.

I am not willing to become a drudge in order to be considered a genius in the field of music.

It is particularly true in the West that we live in a fast-paced society and culture. We want instant gratification. Why take years to learn scales and arpeggios if somebody could wave a wand and magically impart such a skill to us?

I am glad that there is no such wand for we would not have great appreciation for the skills and years required to become a genius.

If we want something bad enough, we MUST learn to make sacrifices. We MUST be willing to learn from others. We MUST stop trying and thinking that shortcuts will still allow us to become a genius.

Squibble Squabble

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Call me old-fashioned.

I’ll wait.

Ok, do you feel better now? What’s that? Oh you want to know why I am old-fashioned?

Well, I am glad you asked. Allow me to share a few thoughts that I had while shopping at Sam’s Club earlier this afternoon.

After avoiding some classically rude drivers who were either in a hurry or who had run out of blinker fluid, we arrived at our destination. Signaling that I was turning down one of the parking lanes, another individual coming from the other direction seemed upset. They had the wrong turn indicator on, tried to speed up, and then almost rear-ended a pickup truck. Speeding past me, I lost sight of them as I turned down the parking lane and found a place to park.

Going inside, the normal noise associated with shopping in a warehouse greeted the ears of my son and I. For the most part, I hate shopping — with a passion. Sometimes, I choose to go to the store though so my dear wife does not have to always face the maddening crowds.

Today would be no different. Two people took a cart from the lady at the front without a word of greeting or a thank you. We had been inside the front door no more than 3 or 4 seconds when she pulled a cart up for us and apologized for the delay! Wow, that is some service. We thanked her and wished her a good day.

A quick shopping excursion and we use the Sam’s Club app. This app is so cool. It allows you to scan EVERY item (including produce) as you put it into your cart. Then, when you are finished, you can pay right on your phone with your credit or debit card and walk right out the door.

Have I ever told you how much I hate shopping? Well, if more stores had apps like the one I use at Sam’s Club, I might just have to change my mind. However, I digress.

Stopping at the Deli though is an inevitable delay. After all, no son in his mid-20’s would EVER contemplate walking out the door without making a stop for a hotdog, a polish dog, an ice cream, a soda, or whatever he felt he needed to tide him over between “second breakfast and elevenses.”

And this is where the problem started.

Walking around to find an empty table, there were only about 3 out of 20+ tables in use. I planned on going to the far end. Skirting the outer edge, a handful of kids almost ran me over. One of them pushed my cart out of his way as he held a small puppy in his arms. There was no parent with any of these children. The next few minutes involved one of the older kids on a pair of shoes that have roller wheels on the heels. None of these children were more than 8 or 9 years old.

The puppy let out a few squeals and squeaks as his holder squeezed him, almost dropped him, and then placed it off and on one of the tables. Did I forget to mention that these are the tables located in the Food Court?

My son brings some food and the couple sitting next to us makes several loud comments about the dog being in the food area while the little boy’s older brother continues to skate around the front of the store. Not once did he say anything to the workers or to the customers that he almost ran over. Incidentally, one of the managers stood at the front and never said a word to the boy even when he almost hit her at least once.

The children finally sat back down and a woman showed up with cups and food. The next conversation is not repeatable or printable in my estimation. Together, the mom and her children engaged in a rather foul conversation peppered liberally with vulgar swear words. The puppy just sat on the table and looked sad.

On our way out, I asked the cart-checking gentleman about the store policy regarding pets. He informed me politely that while he could not do anything about it, Sam’s Club has rules that clearly state pets are not permitted in the Food area. In fact, if you do not have a service animal, then the animal is not permitted in the store at all. I asked him why he could not and he replied that only management can say something, but only if they feel like doing so.

This brings me to the main point of my post.

Our society has degraded to the point of ridiculous foolishness. Rules and principles of decency are no longer upheld. The parents have no control of their children because they have no control over themselves. Parents, like the mother in question, have zero tolerance for anybody but themselves. Her attitude and potty mouth reflect a lack of respect for others including her own children. Hearing F-bombs from the lips of children, including one who was only three or four, is abominable.

The managers of the store refuse to say anything though because we live in a society where many do that which is right in their own eyes. If you confront a problem, you are liable to get cursed at or berated or maybe on a really bad day, you will be threatened with a lawsuit for daring to uphold the rules of the store.

However, the problem does not end there. Those who refuse to obey the easy rules or the common decency guidelines of life will eventually have no problem breaking bigger rules and even the law. Parents who think they are entitled to say and act however they want in public with zero regard for others is teaching their children to do the same and worse.

When I was growing up, if my siblings and I (at that age) had dared to be so disrespectful to others, at least half a dozen adults would have called us on the carpet, the manager would have been called to give us a good talking-to, and then we would have been disciplined when we arrived home for disrespect to others and for bringing disrespect to our parents.

One of the reasons that I hate shopping so much is not just because of the crass commercialism that inundates every aspect of the human mind and spirit. However, that is another reason that may just get a new blogpost soon.

The real reason I hate shopping is because I get sick and tired of seeing mamby-pamby, lazy parents being hit, mocked, or berated by children who have never been disciplined.

Part of the problem with the latest generation is that they have never learned the meaning of the word — NO!

We have taught our children through the years what we were taught as youngsters. When a child is told “NO”, it is their little spirit that is rebelling because it is what is in their hearts. When a child is 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, and sometimes even older, they are not bringing any wisdom or coherent debate to the table when they are told “NO!” Further, when a child does not learn what “NO” means before they can walk and talk, then the parent will be in for a rough ride.

However, the reason why the latest generation does know the meaning of the word “NO” is because most of the Gen-X and Millennial generation that has given birth to the latest generation never learned what the word “NO” meant. They feel entitled. The world OWES them, and sadly, when the world delivers a hard lesson that nothing is owed, then the child/adult takes it out on those around them.

History will reveal that this is probably one of the saddest generations in modern existence. Niceties, pleasantries, and good manners are almost as extinct as a two-humped Bactrian camel.

Is it possible to turn this around? Yes, but it will take a long time. People will have to stop being afraid that they are going to offend everyone and anyone by what is said. Common decency still requires us to look out for others.

In fact, for being a so-called Christian nation, we fail miserably for Christ Himself gave two commands. First, love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and body. The second is like the first, love your neighbor as yourself.

There is no third commandment to love yourself. That is a worldly philosophy that is driven by a selfish, worldview that no longer has God in view. An extension of the problem seen in the world today is the playing out of this humanistic philosophy. The world keeps telling you to love yourself more before you can do something for others. In turn, this destroys the responsibility each human has toward others.

To conclude, I was not upset at the children. I told my adult son that I felt sorry for the children for the way they were being raised. I told him that I was sad that their mother had no control over her own little children because she obviously had no control over her own life. As a selfish, self-centered individual, she is raising her offspring to be just as selfish or worse.

More to come…

My Cabin in the Woods

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HT – Cabin in Bavaria, Germany

Mine!

All mine!

The path led straight to the door of the cabin that I had built with my own hands. Years in the making, the outside of the cabin was smooth while the interior was elaborate. Yet, the smoothness of the exterior hid the truth of how much work had gone into making it what it was today.

Each log was meticulous, but it had not always been that way. For that matter, neither had the interior. With not much effort, I could remember the day that I started building.

The day was dreary and snow lay all around me on the ground. My fingers numb from the cold, my heart though was warm and content. However, the feeling changed the moment I started down my path for the day. Every step became a burden on what should have been a sun-drenched journey.

The path was ordinary and plain. Each stone looked as though they had been worn smooth by those who had walked before me. Yet, as I admired the trees and flowers that graced each side of the path, I could not help but wish for a smoother walk. The look of the stones was deceiving for they were hard against the feet. If the truth were told, the stones were painful and I longed for a place to rest.

That first journey on the path was not without its dangers, but I could not see anything that would have required hesitancy on my part. Onward I walked toward my destination. I was but a few steps into the woods, when I realized that I could not return the way I had come. Vines had grown up behind me and pressed me forward. Reluctantly, I took my next steps toward the unknown.

The further I walked, the more I longed for respite. One day, the pain became unbearable and I stepped off the path into a clearing that seemed to miraculously appear. It was the right size and instinctively, I understood that it belonged to me. I am not sure how I knew that, but the growing darkness that threatened to swallow me alive forced me to make a decision. In some ways, it was made quickly, but it had actually been a long time in the making.

Grabbing my tools, I cut my first tree. My inexperience in building created an almost instant dilemma. The logs I tried to fashion were worthless. The wood was too soft and it had not been treated correctly. Every attempt to notch the logs and build a wall only frustrated me. The cold wind blew and my logs blew over with little effort. They would never serve to offer protection or warmth on the cold nights of the winter that lay ahead of me.

I would eventually learn the right way to build my cabin. In the beginning, I did not see the need to spend time building it for occasionally the sun would come up. I soaked up its warmth like a sponge in water, but the days became darker and longer and I knew I must hurry.

Before long, my building progressed at an amazing pace and the results were astounding. Regularly, I would look at my hands and ponder what they had created. My long-term goal was not to live permanently in my cabin. Yet, the more that I completed, the more I longed to remain at the end of each day.

Finally learning which trees were of the right building material, I hand-crafted every log. As each piece was moved into place, I began to consider how I should design the interior. What furniture should I construct? Should there be pictures on the walls and trinkets on the bookshelves?

Just as another winter storm began to pummel my cabin, I placed the finishing touches on the last wall. Just in time, I mused as I sat content in what my hands had built. Anybody looking from the outside would not have thought the cabin was a masterpiece, but it was to me.

Strange as it may seem, I had but two windows to look out. From my vantage point, I could watch the path in both directions. My clearing was big enough to even observe the skies for coming storms. Those who walked the path might find my cabin, but I had taken this into consideration. From a distance, you could not see my new home. Truthfully, if you were on the path that ran just outside my cabin, you would still not see it. The only way to know that it existed would be to take time to observe and examine the oddities of my clearing.

Should a person walk past, they might have noticed the light in my windows. Only by looking inside would they have even noticed where I lived. It was not a thing of beauty to anyone but me, and I loved it.

The storms raged day after day, week after week, but I remained secure and warm. Each day I would start a new fire with the kindling and logs that I had cut and stored meticulously. Looking from my windows, I began to realize that the storm would never end. Darkness descended and I was startled to the reality that I had forgotten to build a door. Or, had I?

Inside my cabin for the long winter, I could not remember each phase of my building going up. How could I have forgotten a door? The walls were firmly in place, and every day I spent that winter was spent arranging all of my belongings to the point where the cabin was comfortable.

Looking out at a nearby path, I tried to remember the walks in the sun and the warmth on my back. My memories struggled though to recall the wonder of Spring and I thought that I would never enjoy life with those who walked by me. They seemed uninterested in building their own cabins, and rarely did I see anyone that might have been interested in visiting me. Nobody seemed to want to get close to my clearing, much less my cabin, so in my cabin I remained.

As winter progressed, I still looked out my windows, but I did not care for what I saw. All that I needed was in my cabin. Sadly, I never noticed that the lights I had built were growing dim with each passing day. The fires I built no longer produced the warmth that my body needed. I grew colder and I knew my days were numbered.

My cabin had long become what I thought was a safe retreat, but I longed for more. My tools lay dull in the corner and I could no longer remember how to use my hands to build otherwise I would have tried to build a new door. I wanted somebody to come visit, but nobody would. My cabin was well-hidden, built as a way to escape the hard, rocky paths.

Lying on my bed, the storms raged around me. Closing my eyes, I slept through the night never realizing that the fire and the lights in my house had gone out. There was no fuel left for in my time spent looking out the windows, I had not seen my supplies dwindle to nothing.

When I awoke, maybe I could invite somebody over for dinner. It would not be easy for them to look through my windows for time had already brought dirt to their surfaces. If a person had walked by, they would have seen the lights flicker beckoning for somebody to come by and visit.

The long night beckoned and I accepted the call. It was not what I wanted, but I no longer had a choice. There was no escape for what I had built for the doors of opportunity had long been sealed over.

As the night grew longer, I felt sleep coming to my eyes and body. For too long, I had struggled to stay awake, but tonight would not be that night.

*****

“Mr. & Mrs. Jones, I am afraid I have some bad news. Your son has been racked with depression for years. The authorities found a number of medicine bottles scattered throughout his home. We found a note though that you may read when you are ready.”

Harold finally spoke up, “Officer, do you know how he passed?”

“Mr. Jones, the medical examiner concluded that he seemed to give up on life. The depression that he battled simply destroyed him and he died of a broken heart.”

That night, together, the older couple sobbed as they read Joshua’s final words.

Dear Dad & Mom,

My path began like any other person. You cared for me and protected me, yet I recall the day that I was called to step out by myself. From my first day at school, I was the smallest. I was never popular no matter how hard I tried. None of the other children probably meant to be cruel, but they were. The rides on the bus were agony, and the playground was a place of torture. At first, it was not every day, but it soon became a problem. The teachers never stopped them and I was too afraid to tell you.

Each day that passed required an incredible effort to wake up and take the walk again. I longed to return to the beginning, but the clock on the wall does not permit backward movement.

One day, I found a place that I could escape. Nobody ever bothered me, and the longer I stayed in my retreat, it became easier to build the walls that now surround me. There no longer remains a door to escape, and if there is, my eyes cannot see it.

Now that I am an adult, the bullying and the depression remain. I thought that high school and college would be different, but the windows to my soul simply clouded over as each storm battered my life. It seems that there is no escape but to the cabin I built in my heart and mind.

Soon I will sleep and I will no longer fear the storms. The storms will be behind me forever. I know that this knowledge will devastate both of you, but know that this is not a personal attack on you. I just wanted somebody to find me, to hold me, to love me back to the reality that is the world around me. There is so much that I could have seen, but all I desire is to sleep.

The fire is growing dim and the lights in my windows no longer light the path to my door. If you are reading this, you will know it has been forever extinguished.

Goodbye with all my love,

Joshua

****

Written to those who battle depression and the pain of bullying every day. You are not forgotten. Don’t give up. Allow others to see the real you in your eyes which are the windows to the soul. Welcome change and help others to see the beauty of the life cabin you have built.

Originally for Writing Prompt #23 at Warrior Writers on Medium.Com