Things I Learned from R. B. (May 31st, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 17

R. B. deeply enjoyed Chinese food, even though he hated ordering it off the menu because he was unable to remember the names of the delicacies that enticed his flavor lust, and ended up having to ask the waitress what the various terms meant, and then ended up nodding his head as if he understood, only to reveal upon her departure that he was clueless as to what had been explained to him—and just a little bit pissed that she was “so damn foreign.”

About two weeks after arriving in Nashville, R. B. requested that we begin what he called “sessions.” Having been unemployed for well over a year and spending most of his time alone, he was very reclusive, and a bit fearful to share his feelings in front of others, even if he knew them well.

So he saved my family for “fun times.”

He asked me if I would be willing, once a week, to partake of a meal and help him with his plans. Thus, the “sessions.”

I suggested we choose a Chinese buffet that had become our family favorite, where we also taped a weekly broadcast of a radio show, which I purchased time for on a local station. It was a five-minute-a-day newsy, comedic and sometimes musical presentation on an outlet which, according to a respected survey, seemed to have no listeners.

We didn’t care much. The show was for our glow. We gathered at the Chinese restaurant on Saturday mornings, taped the show and then over-ate the MSG.

I told R. B. that he might like the place because he wouldn’t have to remember the Chinese dishes but could just stare down into the buffet until he could visually identify a favorite. So it was agreed that we would meet once a week—the day and time changing based upon his whimsy.

R. B. knew how to talk.

Apparently saving up lots of energy from lonely nights, he could fill three hours of conversation better than any man I’ve ever met.

The situation was simple and perverted. R. B. wanted to present plans he’d made, which, as time passed, proved to be theories he had no intention of pursuing. And I got to pretend that I was using my skills as a teacher, a reasoner and a counselor, to help another human being. In the process, both of us got high blood sugar and weight gain.

Since I had not seen R. B. for some time, the first “sessions” were a little bit startling. He had settled deeply into habits. I suppose some people would call them bad.

It is certainly safe to call them questionable: smoking, staying up late, drinking, over-sleeping, temper tantrums and having a diet which consisted of anything that fit concisely into a Styrofoam container.

The sessions were not a healthy situation. I knew if I aggravated him by making contrary suggestions, he wouldn’t want to meet anymore, and I would lose my buffet appointment and ability to claim that I was in the midst of counseling.

He also did not want to become aggravated because the sessions were his red-letter day of the week—when he could spring for $6.99 to have a pair of ears listen to him ad nauseum.

Looking back on it now, I see how easy it is for us to get involved in meaningless and perhaps even dangerous entanglements. I can tell you three unchanging ideas that came out of R. B. during the sessions:

  1. The industry was changing and that’s why he was unable to get a job.
  2. In some way or another, he was smarter than me and he didn’t even know why he was seeking my counsel since I was basically a nobody-nothing.
  3. It was made clear to me that I could be encouraging, supportive, complimentary but needed to avoid espousing any idea that he didn’t appreciate. Otherwise R. B. was likely to pout.

Working within this framework, we maintained what could be loosely considered a friendship.

But I did maintain it. I had selfish reasons which were bolstered by a couple of selfless aspirations.

One of the selfless thoughts was that if I didn’t talk to R. B. and commiserate with him, who would?

Of course, a case could be made that if he wasn’t being pandered to by a Chinese-gobbling friend, he might have been able to get some real help.

The fact of the matter is, I, myself, was too needy to help the needy. I didn’t realize it at the time.

But every session always ended with the same speech.

“This was good,” opined R. B.  “Let’s follow up on some of the ideas and meet again next week, and I certainly will try to work up the energy and hopefulness to go out and apply for a job or two.”

Sit Down Comedy … May 22nd, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

I was a fully grown, on-my-own 34-year-old man before I held three thousand dollars in my hands that was mine and mine alone.

I mean, ours and ours alone. For the entire family had traveled for a year all across the nation—sharing our talent, our hearts and our simple message of common sense, to land in the month of December with a nest egg which we were about to crack open and turn into individual omelets.

But before we did, I decided to take my young sons to a halfway house for recovering alcoholics, where those whose “down and out” had finally brought them to the point that they needed human care.

I let my kids sit with these gentlemen and listen to their stories, messages of redemption. I was hoping my sons would understand how blessed they were to surpass survival and be granted bounty. It was an amazing experience.

Everyone was thrilled because one of the occupants, who had been hooked on liquor for years, was finally going to get to go home to Mississippi to see his family. It had been five years.

His name was Herbie.

He was mentally challenged—but still able to maintain a conversation and make sense.

I shared. I told the whole room about our magnificent year and how much God had sustained us and endowed us.

Unfortunately, I was carrying our whole financial bonanza in my wallet, simply because it made me feel good and I was obviously not cleared for prosperity.

So when I went to the bathroom, my wallet slipped out the back end of my pants, and one of the inhabitants of the house found it and brought it back to me. He was praised for his honesty, and I gave him twenty dollars for retrieving my wallet.

That was before I counted the money inside.

I knew exactly how much money I had. So when I counted it, and it was $810 light, I faced a problem. Aggravating the situation was that my nine-year-old son overheard a conversation between Herbie and his buddy, in which it was made clear that Herbie was our thief.  My boy had found a corner where he was unnoticed and happened to listen in on Herbie bragging to his bunk-mate.

I didn’t know what to do. I am much more comfortable being human than trying for sainthood.

I was pissed off that I had been pilfered.

I didn’t want to attack Herbie or hurt him in any way. He had much work to do on his journey, escaping addiction. I didn’t want to be the reason he returned to the bottle, but I also didn’t want this fellow to think he could receive kindness and give back evil.

So I asked Herbie to join me in a room—just the two of us. I talked to him for a good half-hour, opening the door for him to admit what he had done. I even offered to pay for his bus ticket to Mississippi and give him a hundred dollars to buy presents for his family.

Never have I seen a man so totally divided between purity and holding onto what he had stolen.

By the end of the half-hour, he had wiggled and squirmed all the way down into the “hog-squaller,” where repentance usually brings about mercy.

But he just couldn’t do it.

I have heard rumors that in hours of confusion, God will provide the grace to be gracious. Apparently, this applies to everyone but me.

I was infuriated. I was defensive.

I took every one of my childhood prejudices against the poor and spilled them out in my heart, trying to decide what accusation to pursue next.

The worst part? $2,160 is not $3,000.

Yes—the numbers bothered me. I was enraged that this fellow was going to get away with his crime simply because he appeared to be helpless, weak and beaten up.

We finished our visit at the mission by singing a song. Before we sang, I commented, “This was an amazing day. Amazing because I got to meet all of you. But also amazing because one of you stole money from me.”

There was a gasp. The chaplain of all the chaps turned white in horror.

It was a cruel thing I did.

It could have been done differently, and I suppose the next time (or at least the time after) when I have eight hundred dollars snatched, I will be more polished and organized.

But on this day, I was deflated and out to hurt someone.

It was three days later, when I was wrapping presents for my children, that I realized how much we had and how comfortable we were. I finally gave myself permission to consider a different ending for my story.

For the truth is, having good cheer means sometimes maintaining the cheer when the good runs away.

I’ve told this tale many times.

I’ve never lied and said I believed it was God’s will or that there was some good done with the money that was better than what our family would have chosen to pursue.

I don’t believe any of that.

But each time I’ve shared, the spirit of hope lights up a different part of the tale, making me think deeper about myself, money and Herbie.

Today’s revelation was that my son, who must have been terrified to hear the man confess to the thievery, trusted me enough to report instead of nervously hiding the truth for fear of being wrong.

Everything doesn’t work out.

Everything certainly doesn’t work out to the good.

But everything, in its own way, does work out.

3 Things … (May 14th, 2020)

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That Can’t Go Away

1. Faith…

For we need something to believe that congeals our sanity with our talent.

 

2. Hope…

We require a dream to chase that sometimes chases us back.

 

3. Love…

Our yearning for a heart of affection is greater than our fear of affliction.

Sit Down Comedy … January 10th, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

About a week ago I woke up grumpy.

I don’t do it often, but every once in a while I set aside the time, just to stay in practice.

Usually during these grumpy mornings I am well out of my mood by the time I enter into the actual work of the day. But on this particular occasion, I languished in my self-pity and remained grumpy well past the noon hour.

When I finally emerged from my dark cloud, a thought came to my mind. I realized that I had luxuriated in my vice of “cranky,” never considering that if my reaction—my temperament—were multiplied by eight billion, we would be in a helluva lot of trouble.

What would happen if the entire world woke up grumpy?

Certainly by nightfall—and I do not exaggerate—we would be involved in a thermonuclear war. We would blow everybody’s ass to Kingdom Come for daring to be grumpy on the morning we had reserved for the privilege.

Think about it.

We’re always so critical of life—and even one another—yet fortunately, we don’t all decide to go nutzoid at the same time.

There’s always someone who, when the idea of bungy jumping comes up, frowns and expresses some negative points that eventually bring the room to sense, which prevents us from jumping off a bridge head-first, at the mercy of an exaggerated rubber band.

Moving on from grumpy…

How about hungry?

If every person in the world woke up hungry—all eight billion of us—we’d have a situation.

Because the truth is, everyone in the world does wake up hungry. But fortunately, most of them don’t complain because all they have for their bagel is unflavored cream cheese. If the whole world woke up hungry and fussy over the choices provided, by nightfall the entire face of this planet would be overrun in terrorism.

How about horny?

Would we be dealing with rape and incest, not to mention a proliferation of babies conceived that we might not be prepared for?

Just simply this: if everybody in the world—all eight billion souls—decided next Tuesday to wake up sleepy (as I oft contend to be) how many airplane crashes would there be?

It is fortunate—even divinely inspired—that the human race does not destroy itself merely by sharing common vices at exactly the same moment.

Can you imagine four hundred people going to the DMV on Magnolia Street on the same day, who all arrive in a murderous rage?

It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Yield to Oncoming Traffic.”

Don’t you find this significant?

Stop—let this change your life.

We are not alone. If we were alone, we would find a way to line up our bad attitudes in agreement, point them at one another and destroy all that we are.

In the midst of every grumpy, hungry, horny and sleepy human gathering, there are some souls who have have chosen to wake up

…kind.

Yay-yay!

Sometimes it’s a choice. There are special occasions when the pillow is exceptionally soft, and the mercy of a good night’s sleep turns us almost angelic.

But every single day, if four billion people wake up nasty, then, in order to balance things out, we are required to have four billion waking up kind.

And these kind people provide three essential gifts:

  1. They water down the hate so it’s not so poisonous.
  2. They spice up the boredom, so it doesn’t cause us to have a cranial meltdown.
  3. And they sweeten the disposition, so we do not aggravate one another.

The world is not without hope.

Every day, it is basically a numbers game.

The S Word … June 11th, 2019

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THE

Image result for gif of letter s

WORD


The S word that should never be spoken or written again, in my determined opinion is:

SARCASTIC

To me it is the blending of the words “sour” and “caustic”—sour meaning a terrible taste, and caustic referring to poisonous.

Sarcastic is when defeat tries to be clever.

It is disappointment, insisting it is entertaining.

And it is despair, deciding to be inviting.

I am told there are only three things that truly abide: faith, hope and love. If this is true, then any attempts to hinder the trio is nothing more than  being sarcastic.

At one time, maybe sarcasm was just satire with a bitter edge. But now it seems to have become the way we communicate—how everything in our world seems doomed to sameness or failure. Anyone who speaks against this sarcastic attitude is considered unlearned, a snowflake or maybe even a prude.

I, for one, believe that nasty deeds begin with nasty attitudes, and nasty attitudes are birthed in the soul of a discouraged hater. And discouraged haters are cloned from other malcontents who just refuse to believe that good has the power to win.

Sarcastic is a horrible condition we find ourselves in.

Sarcastic should be abandoned.

We desperately need artists, politicians, ministers and schoolteachers who will take the time to have their creativity born again, so that they can make faith believable, hope conceivable and love attainable.

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1 Thing You Can Do This Week to Chase Your Fear Away


Speak it out loud

Fears prefer silence.

Fears love to hide out and pretend they don’t exist.

Fears love to control our internal hope and choke out the faith we require.

Just speak it out loud.

You will be astounded how many people share the same apprehensions that you do. You will be equally amazed at how many allies you rally to your side simply by making it clear that the fear that once ruled you is now being exposed and “ratted out.”

Some fabulous things happen:

First, hearing your fear actually builds your faith because faith comes by hearing. It is the silent terror inside us that keeps us from believing.

Secondly, there is the fear that inhabits us and the fear that controls us. Once fear is brought to the forefront, it may hang around for a while, but it no longer has the key to your choices.

And finally, without sharing your fear, you never really have fellowship with anyone else—because simply trying to disguise your nervous energy prevents you from offering your true heart. And because you are never known, you cannot truly know.

It’s up to you–but if you’d like to chase your fear away, speak it aloud.

It’s always beneficial for a fresh cleansing of your soul, and many times a good hearty laugh.


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Drawing Attention … November 14th, 2018

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Hope

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art by smarrttie panntts

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