My father-in-law once convinced his young bride that she was a terrible cook. She was so inept in the kitchen, she couldn’t even make Jell-O. After mixing up a batch, she’d stick it in the fridge and later discover a panful of colored water.
“You’re going to get shot at your coffee meeting,” my oldest son, Ben, texts me.
“Maybe,” I reply.
He’s been following my dialogue with a stranger on Twitter. I fired off a snarky comment about a local news story that was getting national attention, and this guy challenged my knowledge of the situation.
“This is my hometown,” I shot back at him. “I know everyone.”
He immediately returned my volley (like any dehumanized bot). “Mine too, big deal.”
At that point, I had him. He couldn’t be a local—I just knew it!—so I called his bluff.
My family is rich with the world’s beauty. Among my loved ones, you’ll find that Native America, Europe (East and West), Asia, Africa, Central and South America are all well represented. And I LOVE that.
That’s why I was taken aback when Lin-Manuel Miranda called me out for my racism. He didn’t realize it (he wouldn’t know me from any other subway stranger), but that’s exactly what he did.
The worst part? He was right.
After 2017’s Las Vegas shooting, my 20-year-old son texted me: “If your generation doesn’t do something about this, we never will. You guys still freak out every time there’s a shooting, but this is normalcy for us.”
His words shot me down.
I had a high school history teacher who was a Vietnam vet. He once informed us, “Just so you know, I did tours in ‘Nam. Tick me off and I might pull a gun and kill every one of you. And I’d get away with it, too. Just shrug and say, ‘Sorry. Flashback. I thought they were a bunch of gooks.’” His head bobbed up and down when he spoke as if pounding the words in like nails. A matter-of-fact expression on his face. Left eye pinched into a half-wink. Just like someone taking aim through rifle sights. Continue reading
A friend and I were grousing about ignorance run amok.
“Americans get their information from internet memes,” I laughed. “And in the true spirit of democracy, dullards who have never cracked a book will cancel the votes of people who actually have a clue. What could go wrong?”
“You know what the problem is?” Tim challenged. “Our country’s a mess because teachers suck.”
Although I’ve been out of the classroom for a number of years, once a teacher, always a teacher. Plus, I have family and friends still slugging it out in the trenches. I know their battles and the wounds they carry.
“Dude, do you know what teachers endure on a daily basis?” I asked Tim. I found that, no, he didn’t. I fear most Americans might be as clueless.
David is dead.
If I could write that with more poetic flair, I would, but it would be no less piercing to his mother.
His obituary celebrates a theatrical whirling dervish who “loved all he met, cheered on the underdog,” and brightened the world with “an incredible smile, an infectious laugh,” and “the best bear hugs of anyone.”
On the scorecard, however, David is just another tally mark in the Overdose column. We say that addiction killed him, but that’s not true. The drugs, like most addictions, were just self-medication for deeper wounds. They always are. I heard someone say that we live in a world at war, and nobody gets out of here unscathed.
Anyway, David is dead. As Dickens proclaims, that must be acknowledged should anything wonderful come of this tale.
I want to share a painting that hangs on the wall where I do most of my work. When I look up from my desk, this is what I see:
Study the picture for a few minutes. (Okay, give it ten seconds. I know—you’re busy. We all are.)
Now tell me, what happened here? What’s the story?
Whatever yarn you spin will reveal nothing about the painting, but it will suggest a lot about your life, your place in the world, and the impact you’ll have on others.
Friends, is yours a story of destruction and despair, or one of beauty and adventure?
More importantly, how thankful are you for the story you’re living? Continue reading
(This piece was shared by CBS News, among other various news and social media outlets.)
Well, the post-election protests have finally made their way to my hometown of Huntington, WV.
We’re always behind the times, but what took so long?
For you out-of-towners, I know that you’ve heard of our little neck of the woods. Just yesterday we observed the bitter anniversary of the Marshall University plane crash—everyone seems to know about that. We recently made national headlines by having nearly thirty drug overdoses in a single four-hour period. The whole Kim Davis / gay marriage saga played out about an hour from here (sorry, Kentucky, that’s your headline, but we’re close enough that we had to suffer through it). It also became national news yesterday when two Clay, WV officials (also about an hour from here) were goofy enough to show themselves on social media, one calling our current First Lady an “Ape in heels” and the other applauding the sentiment.
To the outside world, I bet we don’t look like the mecca of hope. In fact, we get so used to reading our own press that it’s sometimes hard for us to imagine that a ray of light could shine out of our backyard.
However, the first protest has begun. Continue reading
*Author’s note: I almost didn’t post this today as I feared it might not be appropriate on Veterans’ Day. However, after attending our town’s parade and ceremony this morning, hearing the bands play our patriotic songs, seeing representatives from every military branch, and paying our respects to the courageous men and women who have served our country with dignity and honor, I realized it was more than appropriate. Thanks to the sacrifices of these men and women, we live in the greatest country in the world, where we continue to be free to disagree and wrestle our way through some hard discussions.
God Bless America!
About a quarter-century ago, I was preparing my first student teaching lesson for a West Virginia history class. I remember it well.
Often theatrical, I was rehearsing quotes from John Brown, the crazy-eyed, self-proclaimed instrument-of-God abolitionist whose band of ruffians stormed the armory at Harpers Ferry. Though really not that big of a deal in and of itself, the raid was a spark that helped ignite the powder keg of division that became the American Civil War.
“I am now quite certain,” I quoted Brown in my best gruff, indignant, mountain man voice, “that the crimes of this evil land will never be purged away … [lengthy pause for dramatic effect] … but … with … BLOOOOOOD!” I poured that final word all over the students who were half-amused, half-terrified. Continue reading