Monthly Archives: December 2013

Twas the day after Christmas and all thru the house…

I’m always a little sad by Christmas afternoon.  The tree will stay up another week, the same with the lights outside, but I have to be honest; rather than serve as low wattage, multi-colored beacons for the hope that Christmas brings, they become reminders that the day has passed and won’t be around again for another year.

For me, a divorced father, it is particularly hard to come home after delivering my young sons back to their mother after Christmas dinner.  When I re-enter the house and see the carnage of paper and boxes, strewn every which way, my heart sinks for a moment as I remember the excitement of the children that occupied that very space only an hour earlier.

Even though they got under my skin at one point (seriously, why is it my fault that they lost the power cord?) and I thought to myself, “I can’t WAIT to take you back to your mother!” my true compass always points back to my other-worldly love for them.

My blue funk was compounded when I noticed the stockings, hung by the chimney (with care) and I thought to myself, “No point in leaving those up there.”

So, I took them down, only to realize that stuffed into the bottom of the middle one, belonging to my son Alexander, was a gift card to Target that he never discovered.  In a flash was a mixture of melancholy and mischief.  I missed the excitement he would have shown for a $25 spending spree, but simultaneously I had a devilish idea.  He doesn’t know about this…I could buy razors….and The Bourne Legacy…(Okay!  I’ll give it to him!).

In the past month we have seen the one year remembrances of the tragic loss of Lyric and Elizabeth from Evansdale and the Sandy Hook horror.  I’ve been searching for hope and I’ve welcomed the discussions many of us have had concerning the state of America and where we are heading, and which ways we should.  The climate of sorrow greatly affected my view of the holidays again this year, but as the year draws to a close the purpose which should unite us becomes clear.

I may be sad that my children are not with me right now, but I have my children in my life.  They are happy and safe.  I am lucky and rich beyond measure in that regard.

Lyric and Elizabeth, and the 20 children of Newtown were happy and safe once too, and circumstances that none of them, their parents or their teachers could have foreseen or controlled, robbed them of those precious rights- but therein lies the purpose I have been seeking as 2013 ends and I look for resolutions for 2014.

We can resolve to commemorate ALL of our children, those who have been taken from us and those that we can hold in our arms, by creating new standards of awareness concerning respect and how we, as adults, treat each other.  Think back on the anger that results from politics-  Can we really be surprised that America creates violence when we can’t even disagree on where the public sewer drain should be located without calling each other names?

We don’t want armed guards in schools, we want schools where we don’t need armed guards.

We don’t need more households to buy guns to feel safe, we need to divert violence away from innocent people and diffuse the energies that create it.

Easier said than done, right?  This is not going to be easy; it is hard work, just like marriage, just like our careers, just like raising our children.  But those are things that we are all willing to do to reach a better end.  It is work we seek even when there are heartbreaks, hurdles and hell to deal with.  Having a more rational and reasonable discourse is going to be that kind of work, but we must have it.

There are sources out there with sound statistics and we need to be sharing accurate information about firearms, the good and the bad of them.  If we want to be idealistic we need to start by being realistic.

And there’s good news!  There are people and organizations already in place who want to help.

The NRA isn’t going away, so I ask my friends who stand against them (as I have), to learn more about the National Rifle Association, its past and present and its original purpose.  The NRA has the most extensive instruction programs available for the use and responsibilities that come with guns. http://training.nra.org/nra-gun-safety-rules.aspx

Also, investigate facts about gun violence.  http://www.bradycampaign.org/?q=about-gun-violence

Mental Health America is an organization that deserves our attention and needs our help.  They are working to improve our understanding of, and to alleviate, mental health afflictions.  Go to http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/mission-vision and I think you’ll be impressed.

So…I come back to where I began…I’m sad as I stand in my foyer looking back to where my children played only a few hours ago, but I am full of a new resolve to bring in the New Year with a deliberate mission to make us stronger, wiser, safer and more full of joy.

Happy New Year, Friends!

The Intention of Good Intentions

We, humans (at least the ones in Western Civilization) have a tendency to take a good idea, implement it, then forget its purpose and finally betray its intention.  One of those good ideas was brought forth by the American Disabilities Act of 1990.

ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disabilities and it also ushered in a really thoughtful ordinance to create Handicapped Parking.  These spaces are located closer to entrances of businesses, shopping centers, churches, banks and just about anywhere people park.

handicapped-parkingEvery state differs in their application of this national ordinance, but essentially all follow the guideline of “parking a vehicle carrying a person whose mobility would be otherwise significantly impaired by one or more of age, illness, disability or infirmity.”

But, this is what has happened, as it does with nearly everything we get our hands on:  We expand the parameters, partly from our desire to be inclusive, but also because of our nature to be included, and by doing so we often facilitate abuse.

That is not to say that everyone using a placard who’s mobility isn’t significantly impaired is abusing the system, but it is to say that the system now works to its own detriment and if we don’t understand and enforce the original parameters the stage is set for abuse.
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Abuse-of-disabled-placards-free-parking-persists-3684755.php

This essay started after I observed something and shared it on Facebook.  I was walking from the grocery store to my car in a crowded lot and as I walked by a car in a handicapped parking space, a mother and her daughter jogged to the car, carrying bags, and jumped over a puddle toward the doors.

I have a friend in a wheelchair who has voiced his frustration when all the spaces are filled (“I hardly ever see other people in the store who can’t walk,” he notes), and I’ve heard several people share their disgust over clear cases of “Placard Fraud” and so I shook my head at the mother just as she glanced up to see me.  She then pulled her placard off of her rear view mirror and said, “I have a handicapped tag, so there!”

I received her tone to be that of someone who was caught in the act of cheating.  Should someone who can run and jump really be all that surprised if they are questioned in a handicapped parking space?

She called me a jerk and sped off through a lot crowded with pedestrians.

I posted this experience on Facebook, because I like using social media to start a conversation, and quickly received several “Thumb’s Up.”

But soon the tables turned….

“I am appalled by your insensitivity!”

“How can you judge that she didn’t have an affliction you couldn’t see?”

Great people, all of them, but they were incensed by my “insensitivity” and couldn’t believe that I hadn’t considered a possible “invisible” handicap.  Some included me within the spectrum of discrimination against people with disabilities because, in their view, even circumstances that do not include challenged mobility should be entitled to parking convenience.

Or, perhaps, they believe that abuse is insignificant and should be overlooked in order to allow for the latitude.

If that were true, I may have conceded, but it isn’t.  Even when I pointed out that this use of the space could be causing someone in a wheelchair, an elderly person, or someone at risk when walking, to have to park farther away, they did not buckle.  Nor did they when I pointed out that it was the athleticism of the mother and daughter that caught my attention.  Nothing I offered was compelling enough to consider that the intention of handicapped parking was for people who can’t run and jump to their car.

I genuinely understand the cause of their generous and inclusive nature, but I, too, did not move from my premise:  By extending this to everyone who may fall under the umbrella of a helpful ordinance, we lose the original intention and open the door for misuse and fraud; which, in turn, hurts the people the law was designed to help.

There are many kinds of disabilities, some are obvious, some are not, some are physical, some mental, some both or none of the above.  All should be given equal attention from a compassionate society, but no progress is made if we offer the same solutions to different challenges.

Handicapped parking was an effort to shorten the distance from a vehicle to an entrance so that people who cannot walk without pain or without assistance would not have to walk as far.

There is another aspect to this, as well, and it reverberates at the core of this “controversy.”  That is the fact that it is undeniable that people abuse the handicapped disabled-parking-abuseparking ordinance.  Criticism of those taking advantage of convenient parking by using the placard of someone who legitimately possesses one, does not deny the struggle of those with challenges that are not evidenced by wheelchairs or with canes.  Rather it supports appropriate actions so that the intentions of one provision don’t compromise another.

The arrogance of selfishness when people think that rules only apply to others, galls me, and I will take the these lumps for the times when I may be wrong.  What I will not be is passive and look away from abuse just to avoid the conflict.  That has far more sinister consequences.