Confessing … October 24th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2732)

XXV.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

I was the chief “piety” officer for a crew of young swabs who also viewed themselves as aspiring artists.

We also were certain that we were better Christians because we had a “heart for the poor.” We sought out opportunities to benefit those in poverty in our community, thinking that we had become the right arm of Jesus of Nazareth.

Things went along pretty well until the little dab we were able to do was not sufficient to cover the chasm of lack that existed among the locals.

One day a woman came and asked me if she could get some help. She was in tears–nearly hysterical–as she explained that her rent was due, her children without food and her electricity was about to be turned off.

She needed $480.

We had never donated that much before, but she touched my heart.

So I decided to go see an elderly couple who had befriended me, named the O’Dells.

They had taken a liking to me and even invited me to come to their church once a month to share my thoughts and feelings. So great was their generosity that they purchased me a suit so I would be correctly attired for these visitations.

Thinking to myself that the O’Dells might not wish to finance this woman’s need without another reason, I decided to lie to them. I told them that I needed the $480 for a small surgical procedure.

I think they knew I was misleading them, but they reluctantly agreed and loaned me the money.

You see, I made it a loan because the lady had told me that she had government assistance arriving in the next few weeks and would pay me back. I believed her.

When I presented her with the finance, she fell on my neck in tears, declaring me everything possible short of divine.

I was absorbed in my own sense of importance.

Three weeks passed, then a month–and my lady never showed up. I went searching for her and discovered that she was gone.

Possessing a childish nature, I decided to avoid the O’Dells and not tell them about my dilemma. I even cancelled speaking at the church so as not to encounter them.

It was almost two months later that I was walking through the local mall and ran headlong into them. They asked me how I had been, since they were concerned about my “surgical procedure.”

I decided to come clean and tell them the whole story. I concluded my tale by apologizing for the fact that I did not have the money to pay them back.

Mr. O’Dell said that it was not about the money–they just loved me, and were very hurt that I had deceived them.

Mrs. O’Dell gave me a hug and walked away sadly.

It was ten years later that I got together a little finance and sought out the O’Dells in an attempt to pay them back for their generosity, but they had passed on to their well-deserved reward.

I learned much from that experience.

Jesus told us that the poor don’t ever go away, so we should make sure that we take care of our own affairs–and then, if we have abundance, give generously, but responsibly, to the need.

I had no right to borrow money to appear magnanimous. I hurt two people to help one.

It’s not a good trade.

 

confessing old couple

 

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Confessing … October 17th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2725)

XXIV.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

I could.

I should have.

I would … next time?

Guilt is often just acceptable self-pity.

It is a decision to appear responsible without ever really taking responsibility.

I shall refrain.

The night my son was hit and run by a car, I kept waiting for the hero in me to show up. I expected “Super Dad” or the cunning of Spirit to steer me in the right direction. I was waiting for my paternal instincts to engulf me in an adrenalin which would bark out commands, take control and become the victor.

Instead, I found myself embarrassingly self-conscious.

I felt as if everybody was watching my actions, like a movie, and they were curious about how I would escape the tragedy.

I felt insufficient and was completely convinced that everybody knew it.

So I blabbered on, bouncing between conjuring memories of better days with my wounded child, or pronouncing epithets of faith, which now fell off my lips insipid and meaningless in the darkness of my surroundings.

When they finally finished operating on my boy and told me the severe state of his injuries, and moved him to a room in Intensive Care, I noticed that there was a chair right next to the hospital bed.

It was empty.

Even though I was confused and frustrated, I knew in my heart it was supposed to be my chair. It was intended to be my place of residence for the next few days or weeks, while I waited for my son to come out of his coma.

Yet I was frightened.

Or maybe I was lazy.

But mostly, I think I was just unsure that I was suited to fill the chair.

So when the doctors and nurses told me there was nothing else I could do that night, and I should go home and get rest, I put up some passive resistance, and then left the hospital, greatly relieved.

When I arrived the next day, the morning nurse told me that Joshua had cried out in pain all during the night, and she wondered where I was. I explained to her that I was instructed to leave.

She just looked at me like she knew it was a lame excuse, given the situation.

I walked into his room, and there was the chair.

I occupied it during the day, but at night I left him.

I wasn’t up to the challenge.

And because I wasn’t, some very bad things happened to him that ended up robbing him of the possibility of new life.

I was afraid of the empty chair.

For you see, there’s always an empty chair. It is rarely filled because it demands such a level of commitment that it frightens away all sitters.

My son needed me and I was not prepared to be the man I needed to be.

I am very sorry.

But I have spent the rest of my life … looking for the empty chair.

 

confessing chair

  

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Confessing… October 10th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2718)

XXIII

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

In an attempt to avoid guilt, we have generated many words and terms to escape the responsibility of telling the truth.

It’s really lying, but now it comes under the guise of “padding your resume, misinformation, mis-spoke, you misunderstood me” or what I call promo talk.

Promo talk is when the real story is not big enough to match our ego.

So we elaborate, and in the process we end up proving that we’re ashamed of the extent of what we’ve done.

It all comes from a basic insecurity which is grounded in a deception:

God, you and that damn piece of bad luck screwed me.

Because it’s not proper or kind to be so blatant, we choose instead to embellish the details of our successes and deny the elements of our failures.

I am guilty.

I have known it for many years, and I have gradually attempted to pull myself out of the abyss of the procedure.

But it’s tricky.

  • I’ve lied about my education.
  • I’ve lied about my relationships.
  • I’ve lied about the extent of my impact.
  • And I’ve lied about not lying.

It’s all because I refuse to look at the beauty of my journey and realize that God’s grace is sufficient for me–without addendum.

I’m sorry. Yes, I am so sorry that I haven’t let the facts speak for themselves.

After all, I will not become more powerful by flexing mythical muscle.

I will not become more intelligent by claiming false degrees.

And I will not become more valuable by elaborating on my qualities.

Promo talk is lying. It doesn’t seem that way because everybody does it. It appears to be just good business.

But good business becomes bad business when we have to cheat ourselves out of the simplicity of standing on our record instead of jumping up on the soapbox and screaming to be heard.

 

Confessing barbershop singer

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Confessing … October 3rd, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2711)

XXII.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

One of the dangers of doing noble deeds is the human tendency to desire to be treated with some nobility for doing so.

Of course, it doesn’t work that way.

During my years of living in Tennessee, I was party to beginning an orchestra in our hometown. It went well. Matter of fact, doors were opened so that we could offer an entertaining and enlightening musical program to the local elementary schools using a small ensemble from the larger body.

This project was so successful that we were invited to present these programs at ten elementary schools in the Roanoke, Virginia, school district.

We were thrilled.

The first day we did four schools and everything went well. At the end of the second day, we were finishing up our program when a teacher in the back of the auditorium began to gather up her children like little chickadees in preparation to take them out to the bus for departure.

We were at the height of the most important part of our communication with the students, and in my pridefulness, I became incensed at her insensitivity. So as soon as we finished our last note and took our bows, I immediately stomped over to the young woman and confronted her over what I considered to be an egregious error on her part–ignoring our work merely to prepare her children.

I was not foul or mean, but very confrontational–and I did it in front of the students.

She was shocked, offended, and immediately went to her principal to “tell on me.”

So by the end of the day, the principal of the school had contacted our sponsor and informed him of my breach,. Meanwhile, I was being reinforced by my own team, who told me I was being “honest and brave, sticking up for myself,” in dealing with this lady.

So long story short, the sponsor of our event was so thrilled with what was going on that he forgave my indiscretion and we continued the school concerts without any further furor.

Matter of fact, to this day those closest to me would consider me to be justified. That young teacher probably marks it as the day she was accosted by an asshole.

What is the truth?

The truth of the matter is, true beauty does not need praise.

Excellence can continue to thrive minus applause.

And the message will get through without us over-promoting it.

I was wrong.

I was wrong to accost a young woman, no matter what her motivations were. My job is to work on my own motivations.

I was wrong to do it in front of her students, and I was wrong to take a pass simply because I have enough talent that people are afraid to confront me.

Have I ever been so overwhelmingly egotistical and defensive again?

I suppose I have.

But I have taken the time to put a hole in that tank of ego and let it gradually drain out onto the ground–where it belongs.

 

confessing teacher

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Confessing … September 26th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2704)

XXI.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

  • He was 69 years old and I was counting down the days to my 18th birthday.
  • He was slender and I was fat.
  • He was a veteran of World War II and I was trying to figure out how to get out from under the Vietnam draft.
  • He was an agnostic and I was “Little Charlie Church Chum.”
  • He was a psychiatrist and I, on the other hand, was impatient.
  • He loved his daughter and I was having a high school affair with her.

This man and myself shared absolutely nothing in common, which became obvious whenever we were left in a room alone together.

But despite all these differences and the fact that he did have a reputation for being a curmudgeon, he allowed the two of us to take his Corvette convertible to the prom. He gave me about three minutes of instruction, and with that exhaustive training, I went out in the middle of the night on the 3-C Highway to see how fast the car would go. When it hit 105 miles per hour, I chickened out, slowed down and went home.

I think he felt fairly confident in being supportive of his daughter’s present romantic choice because he knew that in a couple of months, he was retiring to Mexico to live by the ocean, taking his little family with him.

What he didn’t know was that his daughter was pregnant.

I wish I had been man enough to sit down with him and own up to the situation, but I was frightened over my actions and also feared that he would send her away to New York to get an abortion.

So instead, we plotted against him. And just a month and a half later, when my girlfriend was supposedly safe at the University of Arizona, learning how to be a freshman, I flew out, grabbed her and we took off to start a life together.

He was furious.

He was so upset that he called the Tucson, Arizona, police department to stop us, but of course, there was nothing they could do.

He disowned her.

Being a young foolish boy, I cast him into the role of the villain, easily fitting him with the required black hat.

I wish I could tell you that things worked out.

They didn’t.

Seven years later, he died of cancer in Mexico, having never reestablished contact with my wife nor having ever seen his three grandchildren.

I suppose I could tell you the reasons for my action or convince you of her father’s more sinister side.

But you see, that’s not what Confessing is about. It is not being apologetic while simultaneously trying to explain away your motivations.

I was young, dumb, careless and unappreciative to a man who could have used the image of a responsible Christian fellow.

I failed him.

Whatever he’s doing, wherever he is, I want him to know today that I’m very sorry that I interrupted his plans.

 

Confessing Leonard

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Confessing … September 19th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2697)

XX.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

Some time ago in a parish far away, I joined with some friends who had a creative bend and believed that art and faith were intended to be wed, and rented an H & R Block building, which had completed its taxing season and was available for occupation, gathering with these sweet folks at least twice a week to discuss the beauty of music and words, and also how we might be able to help others.

Yes, there was just enough hippie in us that we chose to have a concern for the needy in our midst.

So one day at our little headquarters, a large, cocoa-complected young man strolled through our door with an appearance that foretold his lack, possessing only a huge, toothy grin.

He wondered if we had $1.99 so that he could go to Church’s Fried Chicken, which was two doors down, and pick up their special–two pieces of chicken and a side.

We all liked him immediately.

We told him we would give him the money if he would pick up the same deal for the rest of us. Then we could all sit down, eat together and get to know one another. I think my friends were a little surprised when I pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, gave it to the big fellow and told him to purchase seven of them, come back, and bring me the change.

By the way, he told us his name was Johnnie, and I’m sure that all of my acquaintances were convinced that Johnnie was going to abscond with the twenty dollars.

He didn’t.

He came back, we ate chicken and it became a daily ritual for the next several months. We got to know him as a person instead of merely an object of charity.

So one day, when Johnnie told us that he was supposed to go into the Social Security Office and apply for disability, we took him to the local Goodwill, and after much shopping, we found a suit big enough to cover his girth.

He was so proud of it.

He went to the meeting, and then we didn’t hear from him for several weeks. I was concerned, so I went out into the streets, looking for my buddy.

I found him sitting next to a dumpster about a half-mile away. He tried to run away from me, but I was able to stop him. I asked him why he was avoiding us.

He explained that he was embarrassed because he had sold the suit so he could purchase a bucket of chicken.

I gave him a hug and explained that we didn’t love him because he was wearing a suit–it was just a gift, for him to use as he wished.

Shortly after that encounter, our little group decided to move our headquarters since the H & R Block building was no longer available. We found a place about three miles away and told Johnnie about our exodus.

He was sad.

I was bewildered. After all, we weren’t leaving town. So I made him promise he would come and see us.

He didn’t.

After about three weeks I went out on another search for Johnnie. Finally the lady at the Church’s Fried Chicken told me that Johnnie had been arrested for erratic and disorderly behavior, and that they were holding him in the mental ward on the 13th floor of the local hospital. I got in my car and went to see him.

Amazingly, since I wasn’t kin or connected to him in any logical way, they let me in to talk to him.

When I walked into the room he was sitting next to the window, staring into the distance. I was very disappointed when Johnnie didn’t recognize me.

He was heavily medicated and docile. I tried to stir his memory but was completely unsuccessful.

So I took his hands, which lay limp in his lap, and prayed for him. I stood to leave and was just about out the door when Johnnie turned his head and said, “Chicken.”

Just as quickly, he turned away and resumed his vigil of nothingness.

I cried.

He remembered.

But you see, I also learned. People are not projects. They are human, with real needs. We can’t just pick them up and handle them when it’s convenient to our charitable inclinations and then drop them off in the middle of nowhere without a map on where to go.

We thought we were so damned generous, but we didn’t realize that Johnnie needed daily care, daily love and a daily location in which to go to give him a sense of balance.

Johnnie taught me a lot.

Johnnie taught me that since the poor don’t go away, if we’re going to start helping them, we have to have a plan to keep from abandoning them.

Confessing Johnny

 

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Confessing … September 12th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2690)

XIX.

I confess so I can heal.

If I deny, I remain sick.

When I was twenty-four years old, our fledgling music group was invited to Hamilton County Catholic Youth Conference to share our tunes.

The event was spear-headed by a guy named Patrick Daniels, who was the owner and proprietor of the huge, aptly named Patrick Daniels Car Dealership of Hamilton County.

Even though our rough-and-tumble style of music was not well-suited for all the Fathers and Sisters of the order, Mr. Daniels took a liking to us.

Matter of fact, he said if we ever needed assistance in any way, to give him a call.

We did. Need assistance, that is, and also, gave him a call.

I explained to Mr. Daniels that we wanted to rent a car at a very reasonable flat rate so we could do more traveling outside our little circle of influence.

He graciously agreed to do so, and we drew up a simple contract that stated that we would pay $150 a month, or whatever we could afford.

As it turned out, we never were able to afford $150. One month we paid $40, and I think on a particularly good thirty-day period, we once paid as much as $80.

Mr. Daniels didn’t seem to care.

Along the journey, we had a bizarre little accident. A cyclist ran into the driver’s front door, leaving a dent. The gentleman on the bicycle was not hurt, but the door was obviously damaged.

So we continued to drive the car with a blemished exterior, unashamed, but never informed Mr. Daniels of the damage, figuring that somewhere along the line, God, in His infinite mercy, would grant us enough money to fix the mistake.

Before that could happen, Mr. Daniels suddenly called us and told us he wanted his car back. When I asked him why, he became infuriated, talking to me about our lack of payment and also explaining that he was no longer attending church and wasn’t interested in continuing his benevolence.

So I brought the car back and walked out to show him the damage. Upon seeing it, he became enraged, asked me why we hadn’t shared about the situation sooner, and then told me that he had decided to charge us ten cents a mile for every jot and tittle we had placed on his odometer.

We couldn’t afford to pay the monthly lease, so obviously, we could not cough up the money for the door or the added charges for mileage.

I should have told him this. I didn’t.

I led him to believe that I was going to go back home and raise the money from family members.

Perhaps a little part of me thought I might do that–a teensy-weensy portion.

I really just wanted to get out of there, escaping the fiasco.

I never contacted him again.

I heard from a friend that he was criticizing us for being phonies. I figured it would blow over.

It did.

I suppose I could tell you that he went back on the deal and therefore he was partially at fault–but that would just be another lie piled onto the transgression.

Mr. Daniels needed us to be trustworthy at a time in his life when he was doubting everything he once held dear.

We ended up giving him more reasons…to shake his fist at the heavens.

 

Confessing Monte Carlo

 

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