Care Package

Hand out or hand up?

He could be lying. That’s the thing: we just don’t know.

In the two and a half weeks we’ve been driving to and from a city 150 miles from where we live, we’ve seen him less than half a dozen times. A small, worn man on the shoulder of the highway ramp holding a sign that says “Homeless Vet. Anything will help.”

There are four ramps at the intersection where we see him: two eastbound, two westbound, two exit, two entrance. He rotates among all of them to better his odds, I suppose, and because there’s a lot of construction in that area.

I’d guess him in his 60’s, maybe older, his beard is white and I can’t see his hair because he wears a cap with a hood pulled up over it. He’s hunkered down on the gravel, his gear on his back, his sign out in front, his gaze stoic.

“What’s the story on the homeless vet?” I ask at the gas station where we stop every day.

All of the regulars acknowledge they’ve seen him but nobody knows anything because none of them have stopped to ask him.

“Do you think he’s really a veteran?” the clerk asks me.

It bothers me that we don’t believe him. I’ve heard the stories same as you have about unscrupulous grifters conning sympathetic do-gooders out of their hard-earned money. My husband and I discuss it during our daily trip.

What kind of proof would make a person believe him? His military service records? An eviction notice? An empty wallet with a faded picture of him in uniform? Who would really ask him for it?

Is he making a statement? He doesn’t wave the sign or shout anything or directly approach any vehicle. He stays away from the traffic lights (a good idea because the intersection is always busy) and he must not be bothering anyone because even law enforcement drives right past him.

Why would he do it if he didn’t actually need help? It’s getting colder in South Dakota and on several recent days, the winds have been gusting over 50 miles an hour. He’s out in the open, on the side of the road. Aside from the weather, he could get run over or have things thrown at him or even be dragged into a vehicle and robbed of what little he has. Why take the risk of being out there if he didn’t have to?

On today’s drive, we made a decision. If he was on our ramp today, we’d stop next to him, thank him for his service to his country, and give him something.

We saw him but not on our side. The construction crews were grading the shoulder by the overpass and he was across the intersection on the eastbound entrance ramp, the opposite direction of where we were headed.

We have four more trips to make and if he keeps his usual rotation, he’ll be on our ramp one more time.

Yeah, he could be lying. And here’s the thing: how much does it matter?

Would you stop and give him something? Or look the other way and keep going?

Advertisements
press-creds-small-0317

What I am is what I am…

Minutes after meeting legendary CBS newsman Bill Plante, I was throwing up in the opulent bathroom of the Michigan Avenue Hilton.

It likely had more to do with the several whiskey waters I had tossed back that evening (a little rugged for a 20-year-old Coors Light drinker) than the excitement of meeting Mr. Plante but still, I’d just shaken hands and exchanged pleasantries with a reporter I’d watched on the national news for years.

It was the 1980’s and I was in Chicago for the Society of Professional Journalists (then Sigma Delta Chi) convention. Three of us officers of our university’s chapter made the trip to learn about journalism ethics, meet leaders in the industry and find out if we had what it took to be journalists. We did and all went on to have careers in the field.

The Society of Professional Journalists is our country’s oldest journalism organization, promoting ethics and freedom in journalism for 108 years. It was an honor to belong to it because its members represented the reporters people trusted to tell them the truth.

I grew up during a time of great journalists. Walter Cronkite, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Ed Bradley, David Brinkley, Helen Thomas, Ted Koppel, Peter Jennings, Charles Kuralt, Dan Rather, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Walters. We tuned into their broadcasts and read their articles to find out what was happening in our world. They had access to people and places we didn’t so they could go in and ask the questions we wanted to but couldn’t. That was their job – to be our eyes and ears and voices and we trusted them to do that.

I’m proud of the years I spent as a reporter and news director and hope during that time, people regarded me as an ethical journalist who reported the facts.  

Once trusted news outlets and reporters are taking a big hit in credibility these days and President Trump decries “fake news” on a daily basis. In the old days, you could back up your facts with film footage or audio clips or photographs. There was always the chance those materials could be tampered with but the technology wasn’t as readily available to do that as it is today. Now anyone with Photoshop or a video editing app can turn out altered imagery and post it online in minutes for the world to see.

So when it comes to news, if you can’t trust what you see, hear or read, what can you trust? 

Your common sense.

Fake news reels you in because it usually contains just enough truth to make you think it MIGHT be plausible and that little bit of doubt makes you overlook the misinformation and inaccuracies. We’re in such a rush to know, know, KNOW everything that we don’t take the time to step back and use our common sense. 

It’s your right to believe what you want to believe. But wouldn’t you rather believe something that was TRUE?

There are still good, ethical journalists out there who are doing their damnedest to tell us the truth. We just have to be open to hearing it.

Where do you get your news? What media outlets do YOU trust?

I’m reading the Bible from start to finish for no other reason than that I’ve never done it before.

bible-fountain-1115

The Good Book ready for reading

Between attending Catholic school and being a lector at Mass, I’ve read parts of it. But never the whole thing.

I’m just over 500 pages in and if you’ve read the Bible, you know that’s not very far. Some thoughts on what I’ve learned to date:

·         I have no concept of Middle Eastern geography.

·         In biblical times, gold and silver were apparently lying around in big heaps everywhere.

·         It was a difficult period in which to be a woman.

·         In the Bible, people have huge families and live for abnormally long periods of time.

·         The Bible would be a lot shorter if it didn’t tell the same stories over and over.

·         There are many excruciatingly painful ways to die.

Since I’m approaching reading the Bible in the same manner in which I read any book, I didn’t go into it looking for hidden meanings or life-changing lessons. I’m just reading it. But since it IS the Bible, you sort of expect it to teach you something.

The version I’m reading is a study Bible which means in addition to the scripture, along the margins are interpretations of how biblical lessons can be translated into modern life. Some of these seem a little far-fetched but others are shockingly simple and make obvious sense.

I asked my best friend, who incidentally gave me this Bible many years ago and now works for a church, whether I could use a highlighter and write in it without being sacrilegious.

“Of course,” she said. “In its physical sense, it’s just a book, like any other book. It’s the words themselves and what they mean to you that make it spiritual.”

Since then I’ve highlighted a few verses and turned back the corners on a couple of pages I want to refer back to.

I haven’t experienced any epiphanies while reading the Bible but the exercise is making me more thoughtful in the sense that I’m thinking more about the world around me, my place in it and what I’m doing with my time on Earth.

Since I only read a couple of chapters every morning, I won’t be finishing the Bible any time soon. I figure there’s no hurry; it’s been around a LONG time and however long it takes me to read it is how long it takes. Like any Good Book, it’ll be worth it.

Have you ever read the Bible? What did you get out of it?

kel-112316

And a new tradition begins…

I was never sure if the Christmas sweatshirts were meant as a joke or if my mom was just being festive. She had both a quirky sense of humor and a great love of the holidays so it could have gone either way.

Nearly 20 years ago, she bought herself, my sister and me Christmas sweatshirts on sale at Kmart. They’re exactly what you’re picturing: jaunty red, green and white sweatshirts with plaid appliques of Christmas ornaments or trees or presents. We wore them every Christmas morning through brunch and opening the presents and sometimes for the rest of the day if we didn’t have a need to change. She died 11 years ago this year but I still faithfully wear the sweatshirt every Christmas. Until this year.

This Thanksgiving, I’ll be sporting an ordinary gray t-shirt, plain except for a simple declaration across the chest: “Thankful for: REMISSION! 11/24/16”.  On Christmas Day, it’ll be joined by another declaration: “Blessings for…”.

Some people consciously search for something to be thankful for or someone to bless every day. I’m not one of those people. I’m thankful in the moment, seek blessings on the fly.  I’m not a prayerful person. I did eight years of Catholic school, went to Mass six days a week so I figured as an adult, maybe I was “prayed up” at least until my 50’s. But while my circumstances of the past three years haven’t made me a more religious person, I’ve become a more spiritual thinker.

So starting this year, my 50th on this crazy spinning sphere, each Thanksgiving and Christmas I’ll add a phrase to my new “holiday” shirt. Something I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving, someone I think needs an extra blessing for Christmas.

This year was a no-brainer for thankfulness but it won’t be so easy every year and I’m glad about that. Because it will challenge me to really look at how the year’s gone and give some serious thought about what I’m truly thankful for. And to look outside myself at the people and world around me, take clear note of the trials others are facing and ask the man upstairs to please give them a little help.

I’m interested to see how this project goes for the next 10 or 25 or 50 years. What will a 92-year-old Kelly be thankful for? Who will a 67-year-old me see struggling and in need of a hand?

And the fate of “Jolly Red, the Christmas Sweatshirt”? We’re not totally parting ways. I’m hanging it on my front door instead of a Christmas wreath this year so anyone stopping at our house or driving by will see it. If it makes you laugh or crack a smile, great. If it gives you an extra boost of holiday joy, awesome. I think that’s what my Mom intended all along.

voter-instrux-1116I’ve voted in every general election since 1984. As a registered Independent, those are the only elections I can vote in but I never considered that a limitation to having my voice heard. I appreciated being able to vote for the person I truly thought could do the best job regardless of their party.

But Tuesday, for the first time in my voting career, I’ll be voting for the person I think will do the least amount of damage.

Clinton and Trump have definitely made the 2016 Presidential race one worth talking about. People I’ve never heard discuss politics before are talking about it now…loudly. Friends who haven’t been registered to vote in years, if ever, will be casting ballots on Nov. 8.

There’s a multitude of reasons why we vote for who we vote for. But there are a few I just can’t accept.

I’m only voting for Hillary because she’s a woman.

It’ll be an historic moment if we finally elect a woman president. Other countries have long had female leaders; it’s crazy that it’s taken this long for our country to get on board. The first woman president of the United States will be under tremendous scrutiny and face a lot of criticism if they screw it up. Plenty of people are waiting for that to happen. Don’t vote for Hillary just because she’s a woman; vote for her because you believe she’s the best PERSON for the job. History will write itself on the gender issue.

I’m only voting for Trump because we need a change.

Change is coming no matter who wins. Trump’s appeal is that he’s the anti-politician and Americans are tired of the typical politician. Don’t vote for the Donald because he’s promising to “change” America; every politician runs on a platform for change. Vote for him because you believe he’s actually got a plan – a viable, specific plan – to change America for the BETTER.

I’m only voting for Clinton/Trump because I don’t want Trump/Clinton to win.

Leave that kind of strategy to high school homecoming elections where the winner’s biggest duties are riding on a parade float and posing for a yearbook photo. The person who’s elected on Nov. 8 will spend four years making important decisions that affect all of us – our families, our businesses, our financial stability, our future. They’ll have a lot of power and if they don’t know how to use it, we’re all in trouble.

Most of what we’ve heard about our presidential candidates in the last few months are reasons why we SHOULDN’T vote for them. Is Hillary Clinton the first political candidate who’s made questionable decisions, acted in secret and has blood on her hands? No. Is Donald Trump the first political candidate who’s groped women, insulted minorities and run an entire campaign without detailing what he’ll really do once he’s in office? No.

In South Dakota, we’re limited by law (SDCL 12-18-15) to no more than 10 minutes in a voting booth on Election Day. I’ve read the Secretary of State’s pamphlet on the ballot measures and marked my sample ballot already. When I walk into that voting booth on Tuesday, I’ll spend about 3 minutes actually voting. Which leaves me 7 minutes to stand there and wonder if I’ve made the right decision.

Are you nervous about the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election? Why or why not?

 

Feeling pretty proud of yourself, are you, Cancer? So you kicked my ass today. I don’t know that I’d say you did it fair and square but it happened and I’ll give you that.

Maybe now you’re sitting around, tossing back a couple of cold ones, laughing about how you gave me the shakes, had me so lightheaded I was staggering into walls, and blurred my vision to the point where I had to take the back streets at 10 mph to make it home. Go ahead. So you beat me today. Big deal.

It’s one day. One day in a long succession of days fighting you. It’s not a winning streak. You didn’t knock me out. One day. Big whoop.

Tomorrow’s another day. And guess what, Cancer? It’s going to be MY day, not yours. Some days having cancer is about hope and prayers and positivity. Some days it’s about anger and fear and frustration. Either way, it’s about one day. The day you’re on and doing whatever it takes to make it through that day.

To my friends and co-workers who helped me today, thank you. For popping into my office to check on me. For offering to give me a ride home so I wouldn’t kill anybody. For saying “we’ll make this work” even if it meant doing something you didn’t plan on doing. Thank you for doing that today, without making me feel weak or helpless or sick or less than the person I was before I got cancer. One day I’ll be that person again, and you’ll have helped make that possible.

One day, Cancer, I’m going to kick your ass for good. Maybe you’ll see it coming, maybe you won’t. But it’s coming. One day. Soon.

sonic shadow 031316

They lurk in the shadows, waiting to rob you blind…

 

I have nothing against people who buy useless crap at discount outlets. Unless they’ve stolen my bank information to do it.

You know who you are. So do I. As do the people I’ve reported you to.

“Don’t share your bank information with anyone – EVER!” said my mother, who worked at a bank, when my sister and I got our first checking accounts as preteens. And I never have. But somebody got it anyway.

About 15 million Americans are victims of identity theft every year. While many of them take responsible steps to protect their information, the world is making it increasingly easy for thieves to get it. Swipe your card, scan a code, sign a screen with your finger. Convenient for us, a new way in for thieves.

So what do you do if your bank account is compromised? My first step was to freak out and message a friend who works at my bank who reassured me the bank knew what to do. You can skip that step and do this: 

Notify your bank immediately. Give as many details as you can – how you noticed it, the amount that appears to be gone, dates, unknown names on your statement. 

Close the affected accounts. The longer the account is open, the more you stand to lose. 

Report it to authorities. Include check verification companies and make it a national/international alert. The Federal Trade Commission has helpful resources at IdentityTheft.gov

Be vigilant with your accounts. Check them daily; it’s not paranoid, it’s proactive. Use all the security features your bank offers. Be careful about using third party vendors to order checks and other materials.

Though I hope my situation is resolved, I’m still wary. Is that really just an impatient fellow customer crowding me at the self check-out lane or a would-be thief eyeballing my passcode? I’m not taking any chances. Back up, buddy, while I cover the keypad with my hand.