Your Choice

“ ‘Accounts are not quite settled between us,’ said she, with a passion that equaled my own. ‘I can love, and I can hate. You had your choice. You choose to spurn the first; now you must test the other.’ ”

— Arthur Conan Doyle (May 22, 1859-July 7, 1930), Scottish physician and writer of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries

I am an introvert; accordingly, it is not intuitive for me to ask personal questions of people unless I am reporting a story, and it has been a long while since I have done that. But I have fallen into this rabbit hole called blogging; and well, now I need something to blog about. That means going out and doing more, talking, and, most of all, watching and listening more. Consequently, I have chosen to train myself to inquire more of others beyond commenting asking that generic “how’s it going?” question that rarely elicits a substantial response.

What started off as an experiment from a dubious social scientist is paying off. In recently talking to a student and employee at a local diner I frequent, I learned a few things:

  1. Her hair grew down past her bum in just one year. Because it grows so quickly, she cuts it yearly and donates her hair to oSONY DSCne of those places that makes wigs for children with cancer.
  2. She needs to figure out what to do with her hair this year because she discovered this venture to which she has been donating does not gift the wigs but instead sells them. Should she a.) Donate anyway? Or b.) Find a venture that gives away the wigs? And,
  3. Her family may soon disown her.

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”

— Wayne Dyer (May, 10, 1940- ), native Detroit author, and teacher

“Given a choice between grief and nothing, I’d choose grief.”

— William Faulkner (Sept. 25, 1897-July 6, 1962), American author (“As I Lay Dying”)

In my practice conversation, I asked the woman—we’ll call her Amy—how medical school was going. Turns out, she just finished her first year but found it far too stressful to continue and dropped out. Unfortunately though, her parents have given her a mandate: Become a doctor or be disowned.

Before settling on getting a bachelor’s degree in English I had a few (ahem) college majors: Marketing, criminal justice, psychology, sociology, journalism, and eventually English. Those were the official majors. I also “focused” on film, anthropology, and art history. The problem was I enjoyed nearly every elective I took. As a result, I delayed making a decision about my major and graduated with considerably more than the minimum number of credit hours.

Even if a long list of other degrees have pingponged around Amy’s brilliant long-haired head, it it seems Amy has only two choices: Become a doctor and maintain a relationship with the parents that raised her and the cousins, uncles, and grandparents here and abroad whom she calls family… or not. Tough choices.

“Character is the sum and total of a person’s choices.”

P.B. Fitzwater, author and theology professor (birth dates not available)

While Amy’s action items are limited, she has an abundant of choices when it comes to attitude. She can select to fret, get angry, or to dwell in a positive state. Choosing joy should not be a tough choice but for some of us, joy does not seem like an option. Instead, we cherry pick and wind up with a basket of bitterness, unforgiveness, worry, condemnation, and so on.

Upon recently making the difficult choice to change not only jobs but also industries, I afile0001944359944m now working with a new team. One person on my crew—let’s call him Ralph—is probably the happiest adult I have ever encountered. Being a grizzled, jaded former journalist, I at first thought something was wrong with Ralph. He is so incredibly gleeful that he bounces when he walks, often walking through the office on his very tiptoes. What I have learned, though, is Ralph just chooses to be happy. He is quite intelligent and knows what he likes and does not.

Because Ralph has made the choice to enjoy life and because I made the choice to learn how to talk to people, I have made a new friend.

Me: I am not much of a conversationalist; I am not good at talking to people I don’t know.

Ralph: That is the most important thing in life! That’s how you learn!

When people are being more negative than he prefers, Ralph plainly turns away from them, choosing not to participate. When Ralph finds a funny joke, photo, or video to share—even if the time may not seem appropriate to others—Ralph shares, because it makes him glad. As a result, he spreads that gladness.

Now that is a choice worth making.

© Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cracking that hard shell

Credit Marvel Studios

Credit Marvel Studios

“Raise shields!”

I’m not sure there is an episode of “Star Trek” where Captain Kirk doesn’t over-dramatize those words, a man under his command doesn’t strongly suggest likewise, or Scotty doesn’t declare that getting the Enterprise’s shields up and running just is not possible.

Nearly 50 years after the debut of the iconic sci-fi series, students from the University of Leicester in England have published a paper in the student Journal of Special Physics Topics reporting they have discovered the key to building real-life deflector shields. Shields are everywhere. There’s the pizza joint, Shields Up is the second mission in the video game Borderlands 2, and the Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:16 to put on the whole armor of God: “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”

So let’s talk about shields.

I began pondering the subject, word origins, societal definitions, and whatnot of shields this weekend while watching the flick “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Something about the way Steve Rogers, aka superhero Captain America, stored his shield on his back like a turtle made me wonder about the deeper meaning of the word and the action. Then, of course, there is the bigger picture with him working for the agency S.H.I.E.L.D.

Let me say a couple of things before I go further: First, I realize the movie is (ultimately) a work of fiction; second, and most important to some, there are SPOILERS here so stop reading if you have yet to see the film and may be interested; and third, we need to get a few definitions out of the way:

“SHIELD,” an Old English word of “prehistoric” German origin, is derived from the words “divide,” “split,” and “separate.” Those words, in turn, evolved from “scale,” “shell,” and “shelter.”1

Etymologists suspect the word “TURTLE” has French origins. But there is little else found regarding the reptile with the hard-protective shell1. At the same time, considerable symbolism surrounds the creature. For instance, for some it represents quiet strength and the possibility of refuge from an attack. According to Chinese cosmology, turtles cart the world on their backs. On the flip side, turtles to some cultures represent a lack of morality as they are thought to reproduce only by mating with snakes.2 This latter part is particularly curious considering the word’s possible evolution from “scale” to “shield.”

Turtle from the Belle Isle Nature Zoo in Detroit. Credit Leslie Green

Turtle from the Belle Isle Nature Zoo in Detroit. Credit Leslie Green

Fascinating how something that protects can also divide. Captain America’s strength and shield set him apart from other men. With his shield, he not only did battle but he also kept himself from harm—from suffering irreparable damage from attacks that would kill an ordinary man—not once, but time and time again. He also works for S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division), an organization that claims to protect and serve when really the “anti-terrorism” group turns out to be in bed with snakes bent on destroying all who get in their way.

Consider the deflector shields theory. Overly simplified, reports ExtremeTech.com, it works like this: “Essentially, if you can wall yourself off with plasma, it can be used to deflect electromagnetic radiation, like a directed energy weapon (a laser or something similar). … However, the shield works equally well in both directions, so you can’t return fire either. In fact, since the plasma blocks all frequencies at or below the threshold dictated by its density, you probably won’t even be able to see past your own deflector shield.”

Let us look deeper. What are the implications of sealing off whole populations of people? What about one person? Would someone feel the need to test the shield? You know: If your bully big brother knows you have a bruise, isn’t it likely he will press on it to see if it still hurts? Does this sound like a snake-skin turtle to anyone else?

The more I think about this, the more questions I have, like: Who is The Enemy? Perhaps it depends on which media outlet you listen to or your definition of “treaty” (an entirely different discussion) if you are talking about the Cliven Bundy story. Too, what are the implications of failing to protect ourselves from The Enemy? What if we neglect to take up the shield of faith? What happens then? In the case of Steve Rogers, I suspect “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” would have been an awfully short film had he not jumped from the elevator without his trusty shield.

 

  1. Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto
  2. Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons & the Meanings Behind Them by Hans Biedermann, translated by James Hulbert

© Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Roadside Assistance

roadside2

My job has been in a persistent state of  hyper-drive since about 2008. Having a day off work means working longer hours in advance and never really unwinding when you’re gone. (At least, that was my excuse)

Shortly after arriving to work one day, my friend “Bill” came to my desk in need of help. After discovering he had a flat tire, he wondered if I would follow the tow truck from the office lot to the service station a couple of miles away and give him a ride back.

Proverbs 3:27, 28 (ASV) came to mind:

“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, When it is in the power of thy hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbor, Go, and come again, And tomorrow I will give; When thou hast it by thee.”

Still, I said “No,” explaining I was overwhelmed by the many tasks before me. He looked stunned but he moved on and found someone else to assist. That was Monday morning.

Exhausted, I went to bed early that night, awakening around one a.m. with an overwhelming need to pray. I did and kept praying off and on all night until I finally drifted off shortly before my alarm clock rang at six.

When I awoke I was fixated on the workday—on what stories I needed to edit and assign, projects I needed to plan, meetings I needed to hold. As is my habit, I ate breakfast while I read a bit of the Word. That day’s lesson came from James 3.

“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” James 3:13-18

But I read swiftly, interspersing verse readings with periodic checks of my work email, rationalizing that I had little time for an in-depth study or meditation because I had slept little and needed to be at the office by 9:30. Already it was 9. Yet rather than encountering post rush-hour traffic, I found myself in the thick of things. Construction was underway on a small strip of road on the express lanes of I-96.

Then  the SUV in front of me swerved, avoiding a large metal cylinder that was rolling across the highway. I swerved too. Boom! The back of my car lifted from the road and then fell with a thud. I held my breath, pulled the vehicle to the side, and turned on my blinkers. When a semi whooshed by inches from my vehicle, I realized I wasn’t in the breakdown lane. In fact, on this stretch of road where there was construction there was no breakdown lane. With every passing vehicle, my SUV vehicle rocked. My hands shook.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut I didn’t pray. I didn’t thank God for keeping me alive. I didn’t ask for wisdom. Instead, I called my friend for advice, and he talked me to the breakdown lane a few hundred yards away. There’s a reliable tow company I usually call in rare times of need but it never came to mind. Instead, I called my insurance company for roadside assistance. The woman on the other end said a tow truck would be there within 30 minutes. Again I talked to my friend, then my brother, and then my job.

Nearly two hours later, after I managed a way to relieve myself on the side of the road without being arrested for indecent exposure, a truck pulled in front of me. The young man—he kept calling me “sweetheart”—said I just needed my tire changed. He did so swiftly, had me sign papers, and got in his vehicle. I sighed in relief as his truck inched away from mine and I put my car in gear. But when my car ground against the road like a pestle against glass, I choked back sobs.

Still, I didn’t pray.

I honked my horn in a desperate attempt to get the tow driver’s attention. And he heard me, despite the whiz of traffic and the nearby construction. He pulled over and loaded my car as I loaded my belongings into the well-worn (half the seat was missing) cab of truck. And then the rain started… Except it wasn’t raining on the road to the left or the median to the right. This dark cloud only soaked his truck.

“I have to call my boss. My hydraulics are leaking!” he announced as he jumped in. “I have to unhook your car. You need to get out of the truck.” He gestured wildly not waiting or wanting my response. Someone, he said, would come get me in about ten minutes.

An hour later, I listened and I licked tears from my lips as Roadside “Assistance” said they would do everything in their power to get a tow truck to me. They, however, were encountering problems. The tow drivers, the woman said, didn’t seem interested in helping out.

Let me mention here, there was no war in Detroit, no zombie apocalypse, no truck driver strike or mass towing of illegally parked vehicles; and the tow truck industry, to my knowledge, had not collapsed.

But neither was I incapacitated. I’m a Word-taught Christian, meaning I know what the Bible says about the power of prayer, loving your neighbor, and God’s infinite mercy. Throughout the ordeal, my editor texted she was praying for me, my brother told me to trust God.

Another thirty minutes passed before I thought to ask God for help.

Shortly afterward, I watched through my rear-view mirror as a tow driver changed the tire of a car about a quarter mile behind me. I waved and honked furiously as he drove past. The truck stopped. The driver asked what I needed. I told him, trying to hide the quiver from my voice.

“I can’t help you,” he said. “We go by our phones, what the boss sends us is where we go. If I stop, I’ll get in trouble.”

I didn’t want to get him in trouble and told him so.

He pulled off.

I cried.

And then he pulled over. He backed up the 100 yards or so to my vehicle and got out.

“Get in my truck,” he said said. “I can’t leave you here. That’s wrong.”

Sitting in the cab of his truck, I asked God what to do. He told me not in an audible, earth-shaking way but in that quiet voice a friend uses when whispering a secret. I felt his warmth speaking to my heart.

And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, roadside3walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21

 Surreptitiously, I took some money from my wallet and slid it in my pocket as the young man drove. He told me about moving from Philadelphia to Detroit for a woman, about racism in Philly, about how Detroit isn’t as bad as the rest of the country thinks it is, and about how he wasn’t going to come back for me. I thanked him again. He shook his head.

“I came back for you, but I usually don’t. I usually keep going,” he said. He looked at me and shook his head again. “Today, I don’t know, I had to come back. I couldn’t leave you there.”

Then we heard a loud pop.

He pulled over to check my car. All was stable and we were back on the highway. Still, something seemed amiss. The overhead light flickered. After a beat, I realized a door was open. I checked mine. I glanced at his. It was open, I told him. He laughed and closed it. It popped open again. He laughed again.

“You have to laugh,” he said. “If you can’t laugh, you have nothing.”

Silently, I praised God.

Four hours after leaving home that morning, I arrived at the dealership leaving my driver with gift that did not match his kindness. Nothing could.

After some time at the dealership, the service rep said, “There was a hole in the tire and in the wheel and neither could be repaired. The flap that covers the gas tank was somehow ripped off, too.  You were lucky the car didn’t flip over or worse.”

I knew it wasn’t luck, so I praised God.

I’m still praising God, for He is good and His mercy endures forever.

© Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC [2016]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is to Leslie Green and Wildemere Publishing LLC with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.