Not Long Tales … October 22nd, 2019

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11.

Tuesday’s Toodle

After thirty-five years of “workin’ on the railroad all the livelong day,” Gerald McCallister retired to a tiny, two-bedroom home with purple shutters, a mile-and-a-half outside the little village of Coreyville, Georgia. He was a single man with no children and no relatives who seemed to recall the “tie that binds.”

After months of going through the desperation of trying to find a purpose for his life, he was nearly on his last breath of despair. It was especially difficult late at night, when he found himself tumbling into the deep-dark caverns of depression, dwelling with deep consideration on his demise, even the taking of his own life. In those agonizing junctures of dismay, it seemed logical to leave instead of continuing the absurdity of repetition.

But each morning the sunlight offered such a cheery outlook that he sat down at a small wooden table he had made for himself years before and relished his cup of coffee and a plateful of sliced corn-meal mush he had fried to a crisp and drizzled with maple syrup.

But it was a to-and-fro that certainly could not continue. The agony of the nighttime was consuming the hope of the new day.

Finally one night his heart was overthrown by anguish, and he made a promise to all the blackened room around him. He believed it to be a prayer, though he was not sure it had the power to ascend. “If anyone is listening,” he said, “please hear. I cannot pretend anymore. I will not fake my life. I will continue to faithfully chase the weeks and months if you will do three things. Yes — just three things. Every day I will make a simple list of people, happenings or events that I wish to see, and during my walk to town, my journey through the village, my lunch at the diner, and my return to my home, if I see those three things, I promise to you — or to anyone who’s listening — that I will not grab my hunting rifle and climb into the bathtub, tuck it under my chin, pull the trigger and blow my brains into the face of God.”

Strangely enough, this petition gave strength to Gerald’s heart, for the next morning he had a true purpose — to pick his three things. He decided to call it his “Toodle List” — short for “To Do Today.”

Gerald McCallister was not insane nor was he in search of miracles. Just connection. He was never going to place anything miraculous or outlandish on his list — nothing beyond the spectrum of what was available in his community. Just three insignificant little jobs. He figured it was one task for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Ghost.

The list he made on the first morning was a request for a squirrel running by his feet, a bird singing in a tree and hearing the sound of an automobile’s honking horn. Sure enough — during the four-and-a-half hours of walking to Coreyville and back, all three were provided. This went on for weeks.

Gerald decided to do his Toodle list every day except Sunday. On Sunday he made the walk into town to attend the Glory Land Church of God in Christ. It was a black church, and Gerald was white — what you might call “china white.” He didn’t care. He loved the music, he loved the spirit, and even liked it a little bit that they stared at him, wondering why he didn’t go to the Baptist Church down the street, that was of a lighter hue.

But more than anything else, Gerald loved it when the black folks got to prayin’ and would suddenly slip out of their native tongue, into a language he didn’t understand, which he was told by the pastor was “heaven speak.”

Reverend Kepling, the minister of the congregation, told Gerald, “It’s when you get so close to God that your tongue goes heavenly and your talkin’ to just Him and nobody else.”

Gerald thought about how marvelous that sounded. He, himself, had no such dialect. But he sure loved to listen to them chat away.

There was one other white man who came to the church occasionally, but he usually showed up for the choir concerts, to tap his foot awhile to the Gospel tunes. He didn’t know about the supernal speaking that went on, from the Earthly angels.

Yet even though Gerald attended the church, he never got close to anyone, only having lunch at the Coreyville diner once a month with the pastor — more or less because they would always eventually run into each other. During one of those luncheons, Gerald worked up the courage to tell the young cleric about the deal he had made in the dark room. He was about halfway through his explanation — in the middle of describing the requests he made daily of God — when the young minister interrupted, horrified. “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!” he objected.

Gerald sat and stared at him, not certain of the meaning, but figured it was time to cease being transparent.

More time passed.

There was also an older woman at the church who expressed some fondness for Gerald, but when he finally worked up the courage to approach her about continuing their friendship outside the churchyard, she shook her head. She explained to him, “I likes you an’ all, but we lives in Coreyville, Georgia. And here I’m not a woman and you a man. Here, I’m black — and you white.”

Gerald looked at her, perplexed, but deep in his heart he knew what she was talking about, and unfortunately, he had to agree that she was probably right.

But this disappointment further fed the demon that kept trying to drag Gerald McCallister to the gates of hell. But once again, every morning came with light.

Most of the time, the Toodle list he made was so simple that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost seemed to have no problem completing their tasks. Every once in a while, the third one would be slow coming. Gerald figured that was just the Holy Ghost being new to the job.

For instance, one day Gerald asked, on his Toodle list, to see a rainbow. He thought it was plenty fair, because rain was in the forecast, but lo and behold, the weatherman was wrong. The day was brilliant and beautiful. So Gerald was on his way to leave town, a bit forlorn, wondering if he would have to follow through on his promise. All at once, he passed by the town fountain, spraying water into the air. The sun — the mighty sun in the sky — hit it just right, and suddenly there was a rainbow all around him.

Gerald felt like shouting hallelujah. He thought if he got started with it, he might even find his heavenly tongue, like the folks at the church. But looking around, he saw some children walking by. So he contained himself and instead sprouted the largest smile his face had ever known.

Today, for Tuesday’s Toodle, he had requested to see someone helping out another who was having car trouble. Secondly, he wanted the town grocer to say hello to him (which had only happened a half a dozen times over the months.) And finally, he wanted to catch a glimpse of a soul giving a donation to the homeless veteran who sat outside the hardware store. Everyone called him Sergeant Jack.

Well, the first two came quickly — so quickly that Gerald was nearly as excited as he’d been on Rainbow Thursday weeks before. But the third one — well, the third one became problematic.

Unbeknownst to Sergeant Jack, Gerald sat twenty paces away, watching for nearly two hours, as people stepped over and around the veteran, but no one gave the old soldier a single dime.

Gerald was astonished. Normally, Sergeant Jack was beloved and appreciated. Why were people ignoring him today? Was it a sign from God? Was God punching Gerald’s ticket, ready to take him home?

After three long hours, with tears in his eyes, Gerald stood to his feet and trudged his way home.

Upon arriving, he took off his shirt, removed his walking boots, grabbed his rifle and climbed into the bathtub, sinking himself deep into the tub, ensuring that most of the blood and brain matter would land inside instead of destroying the walls. He tucked his gun underneath his chin and he gently reached down to finger the trigger. He was careful not to pull it too soon — not until he was certain that the time was right.

He had one thought in his mind: A deal is a deal. He had never welched on a bet and he’d always tried to honor his promises. He could not understand why after all these months, the Father and Son delivered but the Holy Ghost was ignoring him.

Do I really want to live, he thought to himself, in a world where Sergeant Jack is ignored?

His confidence to pull the trigger was building with each moment as he realized that the only thing he had left was his integrity. After all, without it, his Toodle was just a game he played with himself, which made him not only a fool but a liar.

It was time to put up and forever shut up. He fingered the trigger, testing to see how much pressure it would take to pull it.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. The knock was so surprising that Gerald nearly pulled the trigger accidentally. He remained quiet, waiting for the stranger to go away, but the knock came again, getting louder. It was followed by a voice — a familiar one. Reverend Kepling. He shouted, “Gerald! Gerald! Mr. McCallister! Gerald McCallister!”

He kept shouting, over and over again. Gerald was stymied. He didn’t know what to do. But he knew for a fact that he didn’t want this young man to discover him, headless. It could ruin his life and scare him away from the ministry.

So holding his finger on the trigger, letting up on some of the tension to so as not to complete the deed, he called out, as loudly as he could speak with a gun held under his chin, “In here!”

In the flash of a moment, the Reverend entered the bathroom and saw Gerald sitting there with a gun to his head. Trying desperately to maintain his calm through gulping gobs of dry throat, he said slowly, “What are you doing, Gerald?”

Gerald suddenly remembered that he had told the minister about his Toodle list, so earnestly — as rationally as he could — he explained that today’s list had gone unfulfilled. Unfortunately, Reverend Kepling did not remember quite as well. “What do you mean, unfulfilled?” he asked.

Frustrated, Gerald shifted his hands on the gun and replied, “It’s neither here nor there. I asked God to do something simple and told Him if He couldn’t, I would know that it was my Judgment Day.”

Suddenly, as if struck by the memory of an angel, the minister spoke up. “Oh, I know what you’re talking about! Wait, wait. What is it God didn’t do?”

“It wasn’t God,” answered Gerald. “It was Slow Joe, the Holy Ghost.”

Kepling nodded his head as if comprehending.

Gerald continued. “I had three things on my Toodle list today — you know that. The first two came quickly and easily. But the third one never showed.”

Kepling, grasping for inspiration, inquired, “Well, what was it, Gerald? What did the Holy Spirit fail to do?”

Exasperated, Gerald responded, “The Holy Ghost — well, the Holy Ghost was supposed to show me the sight of Sergeant Jack being blessed by a donation from one of the townsfolk.”

The pastor shook his head. Gerald, frustrated, replied, “Well, goddamn it, it didn’t happen.”

With this, Gerald motioned toward the trigger again. The minister rose to the occasion. “Listen. Listen, Gerald,” he said. “My brother, my brother — you got it all wrong. This was your fault.”

This surprised Gerald so much that he removed his hand from the trigger, taking his finger and pointing at himself. “Me?” he asked. “How was it my fault?”

Reverend Kepling burst into laughter. “Don’t you see? God can’t take your job and make it somebody else’s business. You were the one that came up with the idea to give a donation to Sergeant Jack. Not even the Holy Ghost can give your job to someone else.”

“What are you saying?” Gerald asked, confused.

Kepling inched his way over to sit on the edge of the bathtub. “I’m saying, Brother McCallister, that when you bring up being kindly to one of the lost souls of God, He is expecting you to have the good sense to know that you’re the one to do it, not someone else.”

Suddenly Gerald had a burst of understanding. His faith had been tested. The problem was, he was asking somebody else to do his business for him.

No wonder.

God was sittin’ there, right next to him, watching to see if Sergeant Jack would get a donation. But not from a stranger. No. From Mr. Gerald McCallister.

Suddenly in tears, Gerald slowly disengaged himself from his rifle, set it on the floor outside the bathtub, and climbed out. Crying like a baby, he pleaded, “I’ve gotta go to town, Preacher. I didn’t do my part. And I’m so tired. I’m so tired.”

Reverend Kepling supported Gerald as they walked out of the bathroom, clear from the present danger. “Brother McCallister,” he said, “it would be my honor to drive you into town in my car, so you can fulfill your third Toodle.”

Gerald stopped and gave the young fellow a hug. “Thank you, Preacher Man.”

They made their way into the car, drove into town, and found Sergeant Jack, who was about to head to the woods outside town to settle in for the night. They took him to dinner at the local diner and talked about things that none of the three men ever knew about each other.

 

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Sit Down Comedy … September 6th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Sit Down Comedy

Everyone sing along!

He’s a racist

She’s a racist

You’re a racist

I’m a racist

Wouldn’t you like to be a racist too?

Show your faces

Come be a racist

From all places

We are all racists.

Sitting on a park bench, a dog walks by, thistles stuck in its fur, dried fecal matter on its leg hair. Our reaction? “Poor puppy.” Matter of fact, we might look through our pockets to see if we might have a snack to offer the unfortunate creature.

Same day, same park.

A homeless man strolls by—dirty pants, nine-day-old growth of beard and tousled hair. We look at him and conclude, “Goddam bum.”

You see, it doesn’t matter what color we are. It isn’t as if white people don’t hate white people or black, black. Brown folks hate the various shades of beige, Asians attack Asians, and the Cherokee nation, the Navajo tribe.

It is not a color issue.

It is not a culture situation. It’s not a religious affiliation. After all, the Baptists bicker with the Baptists, the Catholics abuse their own, the Jews pull rank on one another and the Muslim terrorists kill more Muslims than Christians.

Staying with that dog example, if we were dogs, the human race would be pit bulls, adamantly insisting that the problem is not our breed, but rather, how we were trained.

Candidly, it wouldn’t matter if we finally found a way through eugenics to come up with one, single color for all Homo Sapiens. We would still commence murdering one another over eyebrows.

It may seem easier to blame it on color scheme, religion or patriotism, but we all are human racists. Allegedly, the first murder was committed by one brother on another brother.

In other words, they looked alike.

If we don’t get rid of human racism—an ironic hatred for our own beings—we will never be able to overcome the lack of similarities accomplished by evolution.

Here’s what causes human racism, if you’re interested in actually addressing it and once and for all identifying it in your being:

1. I need to be special.

Actually, you’re not, my friend—not unless you decide to do or be something special to the world around you.

2. I need to stand out.

The chances of that happening are few, and then could always be caused by your iniquity instead of your contribution to goodness.

3. I need to withhold praise just in case…

Yes, because you’re frightened that you won’t be appreciated enough, you decide to keep focus on yourself instead of valuing the gifts of others, even when their inspiration has benefitted you.

4. I need to hurt somebody.

Perhaps you prefer to do it in a civil way, using gossip or innuendo, but if necessary—if you find others completely annoying—you are willing to kill them for the cause of your country, your family or your Christ. So please, trace racism back to where it began:

Despising others because we’re dissatisfied with ourselves.

 

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Salient … May 21st, 2018

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There are matters that are too important to ignore or leave to chance. These are salient moments.

There is no escape.

No value in running.

Certainly no place to hide.

There are nearly a billion eyeballs staring at you and tens of millions of I-Phones trained on your every move.

Privacy is a concept but never a reality. You are being viewed, and often critically. Even individuals who do not speak to you are still noting your temperament, actions, generosity or lack of compassion.

Perhaps the greatest irony in the human experience is the notion that each one of us should carry a certain amount of overwrought self-esteem, even though simultaneously, you will not tolerate it in any other mortal.

Common sense should kick in. You and I should realize that since we are a species that respects the hell out of humility, pushing our self-worth too far guarantees a backlash from those who feel we are overbearing.

You must realize that kindness, mercy, grace and gentleness are not virtues but rather, precautions–used by intelligent people to protect them from the galling scrutiny of bystanders who draw conclusions from very little evidence.

And from those conclusions they decide how they will treat you.

Case in point:

Sometimes they don’t even know why they don’t like you, but they remember how you cut someone off in traffic, and it pissed them off.

They recall being in the room when you lied to your wife or your family.

They watch as, for the fourteenth time, you walk by a homeless person who is seeking a buck.

They burn with anger over your lack of consideration, caused by your perpetual boredom with your own life. Even though they themselves wouldn’t have done anything differently, you are not permitted indiscretion. You are not allowed to be obnoxious.

Courtesy is not an adventure of the meek, trying to keep the world civil. It is a coat of armor to protect against the slings and arrows which come from the probing public, always ready to indict, prosecute and convict.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration that there may be an Eternal Creator, also watching, who happens to know the number of “glares in your head.”

If you decide to be surly, always realize that there are people who saw it. They will take that encounter and use it against you in a time and place which you do not know.

So now for our salient moment. May I keep it simple?

Be mean, be seen.

Be kind, clear mind.

 

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Good News and Better News … March 5th, 2018

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A Jesus mask: Putting the face of Jesus on things we have decided are nice, easy, positive or comfortable.

In doing this, we attempt to transform the Gospel into a social message which is palatable for our chosen lifestyle, never really asking ourselves if it has a universal flavor.

Honestly, I almost didn’t write about this today–there are so many examples that I didn’t know how to isolate them off to the number of paragraphs you would be willing to read–but I trust that you might be willing to do some investigation on your own. So let’s look at three of the masks:

1. If you work real hard, you can get whatever you want.

You hear this on every talk show. During the Olympics it became a mantra. The variations, like “dream big, get big” pepper the common dialogue of the average day.

We put Jesus’ face on it. We decide it sounds like Jesus. But Jesus spoke a startling phrase: “To those who have, more shall be given, and to those who have not, even the little they have will be taken away from them.”

2. Giving to the poor is the highest form of charity.

It makes for a great nightly news story–some individual or organization passing sandwiches out to the homeless, complete with a hygiene kit of toothbrush, toothpaste and a small washcloth.

We’re moved to tears. We put a Jesus mask on it.

But Jesus said “the poor you have with you always.” They’re not going to go away. “Do for them what you can” but don’t make it an all-encompassing mission.

Poverty is more than a lack of things. It is often a lack of understanding.

3. God has a wonderful plan for your life.

Now we’re really crying, because even though we’re going through these huge problems, in the long run God will pluck us out of our pain and place us on higher ground. Unfortunately, although we put the Jesus mask onto this concept, his message was quite different.

Jesus said, “Except ye repent, you will perish.” In other words, ladies and gentlemen, you are in the middle of an evolving situation and an evolving planet, so you’d better evolve or you will dissolve.

Jesus is not against positive thinking. Jesus just wants us to understand that thinking good thoughts and clinging to them by faith is not the same as “letting your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify the Father in heaven.”

The good news is that the Gospel is meant for humans.

The better news is, the Gospel makes us better, not things better.

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Catchy (Sitting 17) Come and See … October 8th, 2017

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Matthew stared at his computer screen which had a heading of “International Federated Mercantile Institution”–a fancy name for “bank.” He had been peering at the same page for nearly a half an hour. Actually, the same number. It read, “Balance: $248,798,565.38.

It was hard to fathom. He had mixed feelings. There was joy over having that much capital to play with, but also a responsibility to turn it into somewhat of a completed vision for what Old Man Harts had desired.

What was originally 250 million had been eaten away by legal fees, surveys, transportation and just the transactions that happen when legal and business minds collide. It was still a hell of a lot of money. A hell of a lot of money for a heavenly purpose.

Matthew remained uncertain about why he had decided to take on the project. Even a week ago his inclinations had been negative. But something happened in Vegas that didn’t stay in Vegas.

He’d had an awakening. Not so much a religious eruption, but rather, a clarity of thought. When he met Jubal Carlos, who was working frantically to assist the homeless, Matthew asked himself what was he doing to make the world just a little less crazy?

He didn’t want to be overly analytical. He was certainly basically a good person. He tried not to purposely do harm to anyone and on occasion his generosity was worthy of note.

But was it possible to do more? Especially if you were granted hundreds of millions of dollars to try?

So after the awkwardness with Jo-Jay and Soos in the suite at the casino, he decided to meet with Tomlinson, and see if he could change the attorney’s mood into a positive direction instead of the grumpiness that had ensued.

He stopped off at headquarters and picked up Sister Rolinda and Prophet Morgan, realizing that the uptight attorney with the bow tie, Tomlinson, would have no counter for such creatures.

Sure enough, when Prophet began to preach salvation to Tomlinson and Sister Rolinda recited promises and possibilities for inner healing, the barrister couldn’t wait to transfer the money and get the crazies out of the room.

It seemed strange to Matthew that in a world of emotional agnosticism, Prophet Morgan and Sister Rolinda carried the day with their passion.

But what finally sealed the deal, causing Tomlinson to loose the purse strings, was the plan. Matthew was going to get Jubal Carlos to travel the country, playing the part of Jesus–in character, in appearance, in wisdom, in knowledge and in pungency.

Jubal already had the look. He had the intensity. And he certainly had the inclination to be a helper of mankind. Keeping him out of churches and just in public arenas–colleges and even rock festivals–would create the adequate controversy that could simulate the upheaval which occurred two thousand years before in Israel, when the real guy walked the earth.

It was a plan that needed tuning, clever applications, great press releases, You Tubes and even maybe a short movie. But once again people could come and see Jesus–even though it wasn’t the actual one, but another human being, carefully crafting an image that was sensitive and faithful to the original.

The slogan for the campaign would be “Come and See.”

Prophet Morgan was ecstatic.

Sister Rolinda thought it had potential, but she wanted to meet Jubal to see if he had the goods.

All systems seemed an outrageously wonderful “go.” There was only one problem:

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Reverend Meningsbee (Part 37) Baby Talk… January 15th, 2017

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Reverend Meningsbee

Silos went high.

At least they did for Cam Collier, a gentleman in his late forties, born and bred in Quincy, Illinois.

Ten years earlier, he took a risk and purchased nearly all the silos in a four-state area, setting the price on storage and care of the farmers’ wheat and corn.

Everybody needs food. And the most important part of that process is knowing how to store and distribute it.

So Mr. Collier quickly became a millionaire.

Three months ago, he was floating down the muddy Mississippi on a riverboat, gambling away some of his hard-earned dollars, when his eye fell upon a young girl who was working bar-back on the cruise. It was a hot night. She was dressed in a little tank top with sweat pouring down her arms.

She was lonely, lookin’ for a daddy–and Cam was lookin’ for a whole lot more.

They struck up a friendship and in a whirlwind romance of nineteen days, were married and on a quest to find mystical bliss.

So today, in her glorious financial splendor, Kitty, our fortunate recently-married lass, returned to Garsonville to retrieve her little daughter. Anticipating a struggle to regain custody, she came loaded with well-purchased court orders and ten thousand dollars to sprinkle in donations throughout the community, to sweeten everybody’s will in her direction–although as often was the case with Kitty, she had no real comprehension of the situation.

Matrisse had not taken Hapsy into her home so that she could criticize Kitty, or replace her. Matrisse was like a great collector of art, who stumbled upon a precious piece, purchased it, took it home, cleaned it up and placed it on her wall, giving it the honor it deserved.

And Hapsy was deserving.

When the sweet girl had first come to Garsonville, she possessed a frenetic giddiness brought on by any introduction of gifts or sweets. But now she was just happy to sit in a corner with a box of crayons and draw pictures.

Meningsbee found himself cast into the role of the arbiter. Kitty was sure she would need him to convince Matrisse to give up rights to the child. Of course, Matrisse had no rights to the child, and knew it.

So that morning, when Meningsbee stepped out, saw Kitty and retired with her to his office for half an hour, listening to her story, he realized he had only one job: give Hapsy the best chance possible.

“Listen, Rick,” said Kitty, continuing her spiel. “You don’t mind me calling you Rick, do you?”

“Kitty, I don’t care what you call me. I just want you to understand I’m not a fool.”

“I didn’t say you were, Rick.”

Meningsbee pulled his chair closer to her and lowered his voice. “You see, right now you’re high. I don’t know what you’re on, but you’re in the clouds.”

Kitty smiled. “No, sir. I am not high. Crack whores get high. Homeless people–well, they might get high. I, on the other hand, am well-medicated. I have one doctor in Quincy, Illinois, who does nothing but provide me with needed–shall we say “pilling?”–for my various moods. It’s all legal. And it’s all stamped and approved by my local pharmacist.”

Meningsbee just stared at her. Kitty was the worst kind of dangerous. She thought everything was a game, but she didn’t know the rules.

He continued. “Call it what you wish, but I want to make sure that Hapsy has a future.”

“We got money, Rick. Matter of fact, I’ve been authorized by my husband to give your church a thousand dollar donation. Just think what you could do with a thousand dollars.”

“Just think what Hapsy could do with a mother who could walk a straight line…”

Meningsbee made sure there was no condemnation in his voice, but that his message was clear.

“You see, Rick, you’ve got no say here. When I met you in that motel, I was looking for a sugar daddy. I ain’t gonna lie to you. I quickly realized you had no money. But I thought if I followed my latest lead, it might eventually take me to a pot of gold. That was you. Now, you can’t argue with me. My little plan worked. So I’m here to collect what’s mine and blow this town once and for all.”

Meningsbee paused, took a deep breath and replied, “I haven’t talked to Matrisse about this. Honestly, Kitty, it seemed cruel to consider the fate of the little girl. But I don’t believe Matrisse is going to stand in your way. She knows you’re the mother.”

Kitty leaped to her feet, clapped her hands and said, “Well, good. Then let’s go get my sweetie.”

“Is he a good man?” asked Meningsbee.

“Who?” Kitty replied.

“Your husband. Cam, is it?”

“A good man?” She paused, musing. “Well, he’s never hurt me. He’s always willing to help me. And he doesn’t bother me too often. Honestly, Reverend, he’s in his late forties and working too hard and has heart palpitations. Need I say more?”

Meningsbee sat thinking. Kitty got impatient.

“Are we gonna go get my kid?” she finally demanded.

“Well, when we came in here to talk I wasn’t sure what you wanted, but…well, I kind of knew. So I asked Matrisse and Hapsy to stay in the vestibule just in case we needed them.”

Kitty grabbed her purse and said, “Let’s go.”

They went into the foyer, where Hapsy was perched, playing quietly with some blocks. Matrisse was sitting nearby with her purse in her lap and a small smile on her face.

As soon as Kitty came in the room, Matrisse spoke. “So good to see you, Kitty. You’re looking well. Hapsy is waiting for you.”

When the little girl heard her name she peered up from her toys, squinting her eyes as she gazed at Mama Kitty. Then, in an amazing transition of facial expressions, she went from bewildered to aware to a smile to looking over with sadness at Matrisse.

The little girl knew.

She had traveled with her Mama for years.

So she rose to her feet, walked four or five steps over to Matrisse and gave her a long hug and a kiss. She shook Meningsbee’s hand and stepped over to Kitty, saying, “Hi, Mama. Is it time to go?”

Meningsbee fought back tears. He realized that Hapsy was more aware of her mother’s wild ways than any little girl should be.

Meningsbee put his arm around Matrisse and they walked to the front door of the church, watching Kitty clumsily load Hapsy into a car seat in a huge SUV and then hop into the passenger side, close the door and zoom away.

Matrisse stared at the car as it left and said under her breath, “God bless you, Hapsy. I sent angels with you.”

 

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Ask Jonathots … November 24th, 2016

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ask jonathots bigger

How do you keep politics and religion from ruining a family gathering?

Life is truly about giving–but not merely in the sense of being generous. Rather, it’s about learning early and permanently when to give effort and when to give up.

Giving up can actually be one of the more noble steps of submission to overwhelming evidence. And giving effort is essential to achieve progress.

I bring this up in relationship to your question, because in order to have a good family gathering, you must know when to give effort and when to give up.

First of all, give up on changing people. You can’t, you won’t and you shouldn’t.

If Uncle Fred is a Republican, he will probably leave Thanksgiving evening equally as convinced. If Aunt Margaret is a Democrat, she will likewise ride her donkey out the door. And if any of your relatives claim to be atheists or insist that “all baptism must be by immersion or you’re not saved,” it is always a Godless pursuit to change those who are “all wet.”

So what can you do during a family gathering to be productive, but faithful to your own ideals? There is one simple, easy step:

Never speak in the abstract.

  • Don’t talk about doctrine.
  • Don’t talk about beliefs.
  • Don’t talk about Vladimir Putin.

Talk about your own life–your own goals, your own anecdotes–and in so doing, you gently confirm your beliefs.

In other words, if someone says “the homeless are a blight on the conscience of America,” wait until the conversation changes, and then double back and say, “I was waiting at a light at Wal-Mart, and a fellow was there with a sign, looking for money, so I rolled down my window with two dollars and I gave it to him, and he was so appreciative that it nearly made me cry.”

Then leave it alone.

When it comes to religion, humor is always your best vehicle:

“Well, I was driving down the road and I was nearly out of gas in a country setting and I wasn’t sure I would find a station. So I kept my eyes open, checked my GPS, but also–call me crazy–I said a little prayer. I’m not sure which one worked, or whether they worked together, but three minutes later I was at a gas station getting fueled up.”

Since you can’t change people, give up on that and instead, give effort into what you can change: your attitude toward people.

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