Things I Learned from R. B. (May 17th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4412)

Episode 15

I excused myself from the table, walked through the lobby and out the front door to catch a breath of the frigid night air.

It was December 18th—my birthday.

I was at Captain John Longhollow’s Seafood House, courtesy of an invitation from R. B.

He explained that it had been a tough year for him, without employment, and he wanted to honor me with a dinner, but hoped I would accept it as his entire gift to the whole family–for Christmas also.

I agreed.

I was upset with the situation. It wasn’t that I wanted anything from R. B. for Christmas, nor did I think he should scrape together nickels to get drugstore toys for the full-grown kids. I just didn’t want to know his reasoning. I didn’t want a generous act to seem like a banking decision.

I didn’t say anything because I knew it was silly and childish on my part, but as the dinner conversation drifted away from our friendship and settled in on his airplane trip back home to Rhode Island for Christmas, I just needed to get away.

So as I stood there in the night, musing my fussiness, the heavens suddenly opened and a beautiful snow began falling to Earth. It was like huge cornflakes being poured into an ample bowl on breakfast morning.

Tears came to my eyes because I had been given grace to continue my delusion. For years, I had surmised that snow was delivered every birthday—a gift of God, offered for my enjoyment from the graying skies.

I stood in the snow until its dampness chilled me. Then I strolled inside, noticing that all the patrons had their noses pressed up against the glass windows—like children peering into a snow globe.

Everyone, that is, but R. B.

He was struggling through his salad course with a frown on his face, as if saddened that he had spent so much money and depleted his funds beyond the practical.

I was so enthralled by my birthday snow—and so hungry—that I sat down with great civility and ended up enjoying our evening. It had been months since I had seen R. B., so I decided to be grateful instead of resentful.

A lady entered the restaurant and explained that the snow was falling quite heavily, and that in no time at all the Tacoma road crews would be unable to keep up.

R. B. ignored the warning and ordered a sherry to finish off his dinner. He offered me the same, confident that I would pass. After he finished his liqueur, we headed toward the car.

He wanted me to drive.  We were not far from my home—perhaps ten minutes on a normal day—but on this night, we drove for an hour-and-a-half and still hadn’t reached our destination.

There was one final large hill to ascend—which had turned into an ice rink. Vehicles were sliding and bumping all over the place.

I realized we weren’t going to make it up, so I let the car go as far as it was willing to travel before sliding backwards. I then turned the wheel to the left and went to the other side of the road. I let the car gingerly bump up against a fence, where it settled in place.

R. B. expected that I would turn around and try the hill again, but his car’s tires were too bald and there was no way to gain the traction to perform the ascent. So after sitting for five minutes in the ever-chilling car, I explained to him that the best thing to do was bundle up, leave the vehicle and walk the rest of the way—a little less than a mile.

R. B. didn’t like the idea. He kept insisting that he was certain we could make it up the hill.

I should have let him try.

I should have kept my mouth shut.

I should have given him his rightful position as owner of the vehicle to do what he wanted.

But I was cold and the lobster I had just eaten lay bitter in my stomach. I tucked the keys into my pocket, got out of the car and started walking. R. B. stumbled from the vehicle, screamed at me, but still followed.

It took a little while to get home. R. B. wanted to argue in the middle of the blizzard, but finally we arrived at my doorstep and climbed into the house, greeted by the bubbling of youthful energy from my children, screaming in delight about the precipitation.

We joined together in the living room and lit a fire to warm the house, as we continued to stare at the beautiful, heavenly flurries.

After about an hour, R. B. thought he might walk back to his car and try to get himself home. I could tell he was completely uncomfortable being with us. It made me sad and mad all at the same time.

Even when we started singing Christmas carols, he was fidgety and kept looking out the window, saying over and over again, “I think it’s clearing.”

Disgusted, he finally stood to his feet and headed to the door.

I had to make a decision. Would I let him do what he wanted to do—knowing how unsafe, dangerous or even deadly it was?

I probably should have honored his autonomy and his human choice.

But I had watched for four months while he deteriorated, lost his way, failed to get employment and acted and dressed more and more like a derelict.

Right or wrong, I made a stand, and explained that we would not allow him to leave because it was dangerous. He cursed me, became violently angry and stood over me, screaming his defiance.

My kids were scared.

I think my wife was waiting for me to kill him—because she had selected where to bury the body. But I let him yell while standing my ground.

Not only did R. B. have to sleep in our house that night, but the blizzard was so massive that the community shut down. The airport was closed, so R. B. was unable to go to Rhode Island for his Christmas holiday.

We invited him to stay, which he did—but he was really never there.  Over and over again he explained that it “just didn’t seem like Christmas” without being back home in Providence.

Our little family worked awfully hard to change our surroundings into R. B.’s childhood memory.

It got better. He calmed down.

He started singing with us.

He helped make Christmas treats.

And by Christmas Eve, it seemed like he had settled his soul and was just a little bit grateful to be safe and warm.

Realizing that we didn’t have gifts for him, on Christmas Eve morning I asked my two older boys to hike up the hill to the bus stop. I gave them forty dollars to buy “R. B.-type” gifts. I also gave them ten dollars for lunch.

They were thrilled. They returned early evening and placed their purchases into the garage, where my wife wrapped them up for Christmas morning.

About 7:40 A.M., we awoke R. B., who overnight had uncovered a fresh batch of grumpiness, but quickly changed his mind when he realized there would be presents under the tree just for him.

It was an unexpected Christmas.

R. B. laughed. I had never heard him quite as tuneful in his voice and open in his spirit.

The next morning, the roads cleared, and R. B. walked to his car.

I didn’t hear from him for almost three months. I pursued contact, but every time I left a message, he never returned the call.

Yet, that year we had a Christmas that was planned by the snow from Heaven. It was significant, it was enlightening, it was surprising, and it was God-like. As it turned out, that was the last time I got to see R. B. in Tacoma.

In May, when I told him we were moving on down the road to brighter prospects, he grunted—and wished us his best.

Cracked 5 … November 16th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4230)

Cracked 5

Advantages to a White Christmas

A. Snow-filled streets mean you can stay home without appearing lazy or racist.

 

B. On financially poor Christmas times, you can tell the kids that Santa can’t come because he’s old and might slip on the ice.

 

C. Lots of snow makes it easier to spot black folks.

 

D.  For some, if they didn’t have snowballs, they’d have no balls at all.

 

E. White Christmas gives you a chance to sit by the fire, trimming your toenails, eating grits and laughing at global warming.

 

 

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G-Poppers… December 5, 2014

  Jonathots Daily Blog

(2434)

G-Popper

Discovering that he was heading for Florida to spend Christmas with family, one of his sons asked G-Pop if he was going to miss the snow.

G-Pop: Snow is most beautiful when viewed from the window of a 72-degree, well-insulated house.

Having the full attention of G-Pop, the son continued by asking him what he felt about Santa Claus after all these years.

G-Pop: Santa Claus is the only fat man never laughed at by children. The message? The obese should always arrive with a bag of toys.

“How about winter, G-Pop?”

G-Pop: For old people, it’s the threat of a broken hip. For the middle-aged, the possibility of a heart attack while shoveling snow, for younger adults, it’s sliding off the road in your car because you have bald tires, ending up in a ditch and discovering that your AAA has lapsed. The only payoff is for kids … snow days.

Finally, the son inquired of G-Pop about his feelings concerning Christmas.

G-Pop: Christmas is our next, best chance to birth a great idea, shepherd it to newness and end up looking like wise men.

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The Best Christmas Stories You’ll Ever Read!

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Click on Santa to browse “Mr. Kringle’s Tales … 26 Stories Til Christmas”

Untotaled: Stepping 32 (January 14th, 1967) Mr. Bayonne … September 20, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2357)

(Transcript)

Two or three days of snow, then a brief warming period, followed by a frigid arctic blast, leaving the countryside glistening with ice, rendering everything precarious.

This was the winter of 1967.

It left all of us in grouchy moods, even though we insisted we were hearty “Ohioans,” accustomed to such frosty conditions. We basically just muddled through it, quietly complaining about “the winter of our discontent.”

Arriving back in my classroom after the Christmas holidays, I discovered that our female math teacher was gone. The initial explanation was that she was battling a severe bout of the flu.

But it took little time for the sour grapevine of the gossip mill to unearth the details. She had actually left town due to a pregnancy out-of-wedlock, making her the subject of great local scandal. My coach joked that considering she was a math teacher, she certainly didn’t do a very good job “counting her days.”

The whole locker room laughed, and I joined in–even though I didn’t get it.

Replacing her was a tall, lanky, clumsy olive-skinned fellow with thin brown greasy hair and a beak for a nose which would have been more suitable for the Family Ostrich. He was a tentative sort. Honestly, it appeared this was his first excursion as an educator.

Yes, he was an oddity. An Ichabod who resembled a crane. And in our community of conformity, he became a necessary target and needful diversion for our present boredom.

Especially when we found out that he was inept at discipline. We tormented him with our ridicule and teasing.

He wore the same brown suit every day with a white shirt and a brown tie with a gold design which could just as easily have been a speck of dried-on scrambled egg.

He had a hilarious tendency to point at the blackboard using his middle finger (which by the way, appeared to have three knuckles) and we always burst into laughter. He would whirl around and screech in a scratchy voice, “Silence!” We laughed harder.

One day a cheerleader inched her way to his desk, supposedly to ask him a question. He was so delighted for the kind attention that he failed to notice that she was taking blackboard erasers from their perch behind his back and softly laying them against his coat with her hand, creating an amazing chalk-dust design. After she returned to her seat and he turned around, we all once again erupted in great guffaws. He had no idea. Matter of fact, the same marks of chalk were on his suit four days later.

He persisted. So did we.

Matter of fact, it became more nasty when one student thought it would be funny to place an anonymous note in the suggestion box in the principal’s office, complaining about Mr. Bayonne’s teaching style.

Long story short, when we returned after our Easter vacation of resurrecting our Lord and chomping on Easter bunny candy, he was gone. We had successfully driven a stranger away–simply because we deemed him strange.

I often think about Mr. Bayonne. He may not have been suited to instruct the rabble of high school hoodlums, but he certainly deserved better treatment. But in our tiny world of thinking, this math teacher just didn’t add up.

  • Because he was different, he was wrong.
  • Because he was clumsy, he was mocked.
  • Because he wasn’t Nordic, Germanic or Scandinavian, he stirred our prejudice.

I have spent much of my life trying to make sure that I never “Bayonned” anyone again, and in so doing I have discovered a magnificent reality:

It takes different people to make me different. And if I don’t become different, I’m stuck … going no further than where I am.

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 31 (December 18th, 1966) One Last Time … September 13, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2351)

(Transcript)

My home was just two blocks from school, so when the bell rang, dismissing classes for the holidays, I hung around. I was in no hurry to make the trek to my house.

It was my birthday and I was vexed by a bit of melancholy.

Maybe it was the reality of turning fifteen and still not loved by any girl, and kind of shoveled to the side by a family that had more pressing concerns.

I borrowed a basketball from the boys locker room and shot some hoops. I was temporarily invigorated by the fact that I set a new personal record for free throws–eight in a row.

When the janitor came into the gymnasium, he frowned. I realized he was going to ask me to leave, so I redeposited the ball back into the slot where it belonged, grabbed my books and headed towards my abode.

Darkness was already beginning to fall on the little central Ohio community. Clouds were clumped in the sky like folded dirty towels, haphazardly stacked on the shelf, precariously threatening to tumble on the floor in the linen closet.

It was gonna snow.

It didn’t take me long to get home, although I shuffled my feet most of the way. I had never seen that little stretch of road so vacant. Everyone had settled inside, lit their fires and were preparing to endure the forecasted six inches of the white stuff.

Strangely enough, when I got home there was no one there. The house was warm, dark and certainly well-suited to my threatening depression. I left the lights off and turned on our old television set.

There was Clara Jo’s Toy Shop. I never watched it–too “baby,” too silly, too girly, too stupid. But today I was in no mood to rise from my chair, turn the dial and find something else.

All at once, she introduced Santa Claus, to come out and talk to the kids. It was like a lightbulb went off in my head, and I realized, “Oh, yeah. It’s Christmas time.”

I cried.

I don’t know exactly why–but as I watched the man on TV pretending to be the saint from the North Pole, I suddenly wanted to believe again.

After all these years of growing up, knowing that the tales spoken of the northern elf were probably not true, I desired him in my life.

I was so lonely. I tried to play the piano, but each song just made me weep. Then I fell silent–so still that I could hear the howling wind foretelling the coming storm. The window panes in the dining room were already fogging over, promising frost.

With some tears in my eyes, I spoke out loud to the television set. “Santa Claus, all I want for Christmas is to still believe in Santa Claus.”

I cried again.

For a minute, it looked like I was going to be inconsolable. Then suddenly, it just stopped. I sniffed and peered at the television set.

I thought to myself that the family would soon be here. I was frightened that they had all forgotten it was my birthday. I didn’t think I had the heart to endure it.

Suddenly Clara Jo began to sing, in her off-key alto pitch, “Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus…”

I allowed my mind to wander to Christmases years before. It was December 18th, 1966 and I was fifteen.

And as a chill went down my spine, I thought to myself, “There goes Santa Claus.”

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The Sermon on the Mount in music and story. Click the mountain!

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

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Flakies … July 12, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1941)

big snowflakesA snowflake only exists in heaven. When it falls to the earth, it is simply SNOW.

The same is true for human beings.

Our Father in heaven recognizes us and knows the number of hairs on our heads. But on earth, we’re just another “harried participant.”

Failing to realize this and insisting on specialized, individual treatment for each one of our quirks and anomalies is what creates dissension among people instead of the universal proposed utopia of self-esteem.

There are three statements which have seeped into mainstream thinking of all people in the United States of America. It doesn’t matter if you go to the First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or if you attend a meeting of the ACLU in Hollywood, these statements are simultaneously adapted and dangerously executed.

1. “There’s nobody like me.” Actually, my friend, there are eight billion and counting. Separating yourself from the herd does not make you any less a cow. The beauty of our race is in our similarities, predilections, inadequacies, intelligence and fellowship. The power is NOT in isolating our whims as curiosities.

2. “I was born this way.” You may want to go ga-ga over that statement, but you must realize that you cannot maintain the sanctity of free will and also believe you are under the influence of the elixir of your DNA. As a Christian, I must realize that the person who gave me my philosophy told me that I need to be born again.  In other words, our race does not progress if the children are enslaved to their own genetic codes instead of breaking out, by their own freewill choice, to discover personal freedom.

3. “Think the best about yourself.” I do not know why an audience applauds when someone makes an unrealisitic statement about his or her ability. Truthfully, in mere moments, the proclaimer will have to back up the statement. Humility is not a virtue, nor is it a way of lessening our potential, but rather, a means of survival. Large statements demand even larger proof. That’s right–we must EXCEED the expectation in order to convince people that we have actually met it.

On top of that, always thinking the best about yourself pretty much closes the door to repentance. And back to my friend, whose teachings I follow–he said that unless we repent, we perish–not in the sense of dissolving into thin air, but rather, by imploding–because we put a thick candy shell on the outside, when inside is nothing but hot air.

It will not be popular to change these irrational mantras even though they are constantly disproven by how our system works. After all, the race is run by many, with only one winner. But everybody gets in shape.

Snowflakes may be individualized if you can get them under a microscope. But only God has a microscope which can discern such intricacies about human beings. Basically, to each other, we are a “fellowship of snow,” trying to learn to drift in the right direction.

Rejoice.

There are many people like yourself. You are not alone. It doesn’t make you less valuable. It gives you the opportunity to set yourself apart by the fruit you bear. Even though you were born of flesh and have a particular ribbon of DNA flowing through you, spirituality sets you apart from the other animals on the earth, enabling you to be born again by your own free-will choice.

And thinking the best about yourself does not make it so, but maintaining a necessary humility which allows for repentance will keep you from perishing on the earth.

I am proud to be human. I’m not ashamed of my similarities with my brothers and sisters. And I am ready to do my part to make this world a sweeter place in which to live.

Would you like to join me?

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Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about personal appearances or scheduling an event

Never Worship Where You Vote… January 5, 2013

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sock snowmanYes, the snowman always votes for more snow–just as the surfer casts his ballot for bigger waves. Politics is the selfish game of pursuing our own ends while insisting it’s for the good of the country and relegating our dissenters as unpatriotic opponents.

It is not suited for children like you and me.

Now a worse thing has happened: political parties are being worshipped. Indeed, it seems to be a godly mission to advance the platform of your party while invoking the name of the Most High as your major contributor. So we’ve moved from the necessary to the ridiculous to the nasty, ending up in abominable. It is time to hide the children from such mayhem.

Here’s why: children need to learn to tell the truth. We insist on it. There is no greater punishment for a youngster than lying and covering up an iniquity that is usually easily exposed. If the truth “makes us free,” it is simply because we are relieved of the burden of maintaining an ever-expanding, ongoing fable about misdeeds. It is exhausting to be politically correct instead of forthcoming.

Yes, all parents want their children to be considered top-notch, but to achieve that status it is also necessary that each child of the household learn that there are seasons for setbacks and disappointments in order for us to grow more fully into completeness.

Children can’t be involved in politics because they need to tell the truth, and obviously, veracity is optional “amongst them who seek votes.” By the time we get done spinning, expanding, promoting, advertising and sowing disinformation about reality, it is often difficult to attain a clarity of thought.

Children should also stay away from politics because children must hear the truth before they can tell the truth. There you go. Lying parents bring forth lying offspring:

Parents who keep alcohol in their refrigerator should not be surprised when their fifteen-year-old comes home drunk from a party that was supposed to feature pizza and root beer.

Parents who fib on the phone to creditors should not feign shock when their dear little ones lie about their grades.

To tell the truth you have to hear the truth. There is a very intelligent word that says “faith comes by hearing.” We build up the confidence to say our individual situation aloud because we’ve heard other people do it without fear.

What is the worst atrocity about our political system? The lies of the Republicans and the Democrats will come down and crash on us for two or three generations to come. We have made it acceptable to be misleading. It is not suitable for children. It is the R-rated movie of government.

And finally, concerning those who desire a childlike faith, we must comprehend that to hear the truth, one must be willing to be wrong. Politicians are never wrong. If you don’t believe me, just listen to them. They are often misquoted, misunderstood, caught on a bad day, taken out of context, targeted by the other party’s kill committee, or they are just victims of a vicious news cycle.

It is rather doubtful in our present political climate if we will ever hear anything that resembles the truth.

Such a gift demands that someone be wrong. Until you are willing to say you are wrong, you can’t hear the truth. If you can’t hear the truth, you can’t tell the truth. And if you can’t tell the truth, you can’t be made free.

The combination of self-righteousness, combined with an unwillingness to negotiate, culminating in a worship of political ideals, has rendered our society crippled of the change which only occurs by the real truth convincing us of the error of our ways … and making us free.

I will not participate.  I have never participated, but in 2013, with my desire to have a childlike faith, I must avoid the bad boys and girls of the political system, who require that I worship where I vote–but won’t give me the freedom of truth.

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