Tag Archive: Living Buddha


Humility

As a consultant, I’ve worked in hospitals across the country for years. Every once in a while, I see a physician with a pager. For all the high-tech equipment to use, one thing seems pretty archaic: pagers. Yet, 85 % of hospitals still use pagers.

There are significant reasons hospital staff still use one-way pagers to get in touch. For one important reason is that hospitals can be dead zones for cell service. In some areas, where the walls are built to keep X-rays from penetrating, heavy-duty designs make it hard for a cell phone signal to penetrate exterior walls.

A few days ago, I was sipping coffee in the cafeteria and overheard a physician complaining that the pager’s battery drains too quick.

A person at the adjacent table leaned in and said, “Excuse me, sir.

Yes?” he queried.

Do you need your pager at night? Meaning, are you always on call?

No,” he responded.

Well, you might get better battery life if you place the battery in the freezer. This might slow the discharge rate.

Oh great. Thanks for the tip.”

Visiting Information Technology for a wiring diagram, I saw a pager laying on the table. The pager’s casing was cracked, and the screen had broken.

Pointing to the pager, “Dropped pager, huh?”

Nah,” said the technician. “Some doctor put his pager in the freezer believing it would extend battery life.”

Buddhism emphasizes the importance of service on the Eightfold Path. By serving others, one cultivates compassion and washes away past sins. Particular emphasis is placed upon service to parents, teachers, learned persons, fellow monks when they are sick or need of help, assistance to animals, friends, servants, ascetics, and others.

Fortunately, doctors, while specifically listed still make the list. In the course of assisting the physician, I found ‘humility‘ still exits. Anthony de Mellow highlighted the message.

To a visitor who described himself as a seeker after Truth the Master said, “If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else.

I know. An overwhelming passion for it.”

No. An unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.

As a young twenty-year-old fresh out of college the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), was my go-to ride. Whether by bus or rapid transit, my typical work route from the city’s north side to downtown was approximately 40 minutes. During my years as a commuter, it wasn’t out the ordinary to encounter drunks, beggars, dirty jokes, fights, thefts, robberies, drug sales, arrests and several dozen claiming to be Christ, Buddha, the Archangel Michael or superhero. I’ve seen bus drivers stop mid-route, leave the bus, get coffee, newspapers, and grab lunch. All the while, riders remained frozen in time and space, on the bus.

By the time I received a living wage, I had an established proof positive test for anyone claiming to be a deity. If (fill in the blank) ______ (God, Deity, Superhero) can fix the CTA ‘s Red Line, said ______ (God, Deity, Superhero) would have established a new church by ride’s end. Thus far, the challenge remains just that – a challenge.

One ride remains memorable.

It was late fall, and the sun began setting early. As usual, riders piled on near downtown, often mashed against one another, holding anything within reach. Rounding a corner near Sheridan Road, the train suddenly stopped and leaned right. The doors suddenly opened and one rider lost his balance and began drifting outward, sixty feet from the ground. Just before becoming flightless, three passengers reached out and pulled the man back.

Are you all right?” asked a woman.

Jesus Christ,” replied the man. “Thanks.

Damn, that was close,” said another.

Yeah,” the young man smiled. “I saw an attorney down there holding a business card.

Laughter swallowed the nearly fatal horror.

Why me?” muttered the man as the train started.

No one can ascertain why this world is destined for so much pain. At some point in time, all of us will ask, “Why me?” And truthfully, the whole dialogue about Adam and Eve, the great apple (i.e., fruit from the tree of knowledge) seems like a used car salesperson selling an Edsel. God promised a time when ‘evil’ will be defeated. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen today or tomorrow.

Other religions teach that evil is a force outside ourselves which seduces us into sin. This force is sometimes thought to be generated by Satan or various demons. Thus, the faithful are encouraged to seek strength outside themselves to fight evil, by looking to God. I take a more nuanced approach to Buddha’s teaching:

“By oneself, indeed, is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself, indeed, is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one purifies another.”

Buddhism teaches us that evil is something we create, not something we are or some outside force that infects.

My ‘why me’ point came after a back injury. Strapped to a body board, I underwent various medical tests, poking, prodding and other indignities of the medical world. Why? In essence, to keep me from having to ask that question for the remainder of life. After a year of therapy, I was able to walk. Eventually, I ran. And now, later in life, I return to pain. The cycle of my life nears its end.

Fortunately, the sum of those I know does not experience trials experienced in my life. Every life has a story receives their form of tests, moments marked by pain, loss, and sorrow. What connects us to god is our humanity. Jesus, suffered, and died. Near death, Jesus offered a question, “My God, my God? Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus question, much like our own, is not a sign of faithlessness. Instead, the problem comes from the soul of humanity. And that humanity is like a version of iMessage.

Working in hospitals, I’ve seen a lifetime of pain. But I’ve seen enough of life to know that where there are scars, there’s love and compassion. It’s the same love and compassion that reached for the man in the rain. It’s the same love of clinicians that restored me.

Nothing in this world brings us closer to ‘why’ – I stopped asking decades ago. Instead, I ask what do I choose to love and how can I positively impact others?  Now that I reflect upon it, that might be my own personal ‘why.’

Accessibility

It’s been announced our company is moving to the cloud. How’s your fear of heights?

~ CloudTweaks.com Cartoon ~

As suggested by CloudTweaks, technology hits everyone.

Several years ago, I read an article in Digital Trends indicating Buddhism was embracing technology with by installing a Buddha-bot. In hopes of luring a younger generation, a Buddhist temple in China welcomed a robot monk to its order. Xianer was designed to promote the wisdom of an older order. Xianer has a touchscreen that helps answer 20 questions. On a humorous note, if you’re the one person requiring 21 questions, this monastery is far too advanced.

The theme of it all centers upon the notion that Buddhism and technology are harmonious. According to the creator, there are plans for future expansion. In the past year, the electronic monk has learned English, established a WeChat account that was reportedly acquired 1.5 million followers. It also likes ice cream. “Wish I could have 100 ice cream cones at one time.” Me too, Xianer. Me too.

Pay no mind to the fact the Chinese government monitors WeChat. One wrong chat Xianer, and you’ll likely be hacking foreign governments, implanting ransomware and gathering secrets, including wqho really shot J.R., what’s really in that beautiful Bush bean recipe and is there an ancient Chinese secret to Calgon? Wait … the ancient Chinese secret was Calgon.

Sorry, I digressed.

All this made me ponder how Xianer could assist me. Like a company purchasing carbon offsets to balance carbon emissions, maybe Xianer could offset uneven meditation days. For instance, I usually perform forty-minutes of meditation per daily. Should I only get thirty-minutes, Xianer can offset my footprint. Fail the abstention from intoxication? “Xianer, come here please.” Maybe Xianer could answer the client who writes at 3:00 AM in the morning asking why I haven’t responded to his email at 2:00 AM.

Inevitably, women will daydream of Xianer. So many questions: Can Xianer cook? Can he cuddle? Or better yet, can he listen to any conversation longer than three minutes in length? Will he leave the lid up? Seriously ladies, there are easier things in life than trying to find the perfect man … like nailing jelly to a tree. Maybe – just maybe – Xianer is your guy.

The Longquan Temple introduced Xianer in 2015 in hopes of using cutting edge technology to spread Buddhism. Companies volunteered their expertise for the unusual project.

Developing Xianer wasn’t for promotional or commercial purposes,” said Xianfan, the head of the temple’s animation studio.

We only wanted to explore how to fuse Buddhism with science better, to convey the message that Buddhism and science aren’t contradictory.

And the tactic works well with China’s younger, digitally savvy generation.

It’s super cute…I feel it is like a temple mascot, making Buddhism much more accessible,” said Liu Jiyue, a college student who went to the temple to meet the robot.

What? A robot making Buddhism more accessible?

Technology has been available for years. A cursory review of the Apple Store has apps such as Breethe, Buddha Quotes, Buddhist Scriptures, Chill, and iDharma to name a few. If you’re Catholic, there are apps such as Abide, Laudate, Catholic Daily Readings, and Daily Bible Verse Devotional are available. Likewise, if you’re an Atheist, one may find apps such as Atheist Pocket Debater, Atheism, and American Atheist Magazine may be helpful.

The point being, technology isn’t new. And almost every religion has been, quote, ‘accessible.’ Buddhism has been accessible for hundreds of years. The problem is that many are too obsessed with celebrity teachers and practice validation. There’s nothing wrong with having a specific technology, a teacher who isn’t famous, or just practicing with a group of fellow travelers on the path. It’s about commitment: commitment to a group, commitment to keep showing up, and commitment to keep trying even when there is no financial incentive or approval of a famous teacher.

Simply put, if you want to make Buddhist (or any religion for that matter) more accessible, do it.

In Memoriam: Tony

A former colleague called. My fingertips deeply massaged my forehead listening to the news streaming through the phone. Tony was dead.

Tony wasn’t a longtime friend. We never hiked nearby rivers on summer afternoons, traversed local cliffs or watched football on lazy Sunday afternoons. Not once did we grab a beer, eat lunch at a local pub, or shoot the sh** while sitting in bleachers as our favorite baseball teams lost for the umpteenth time.

Our relationship was, um, complicated.

An ash-burnt sky added to the misery. Rain pelted the windshield and my hands tensed when I gripped the wheel. Once off the elevator, the heavy wooden entry door swung inward, and I eased into the living room. I flung my laptop to the couch, caring neither if it landed adequately or not, powered up the stereo, and inserted the CD ‘Rent.’ An ice cube skidded across the floor after bouncing off my shoe. I stared momentarily before plopping the remainder into a quarter-sized glass. Southern Comfort oozed over the clear cubes of frozen water and a passing whiff of steam ascended then disappeared. Frozen in thought, I sat looking outward, unto the ceaseless rain. “Seasons of Love” echoed in the background.

I met Tony in February 2018. An accountant by trade, he spent several years in internal audit. He loved baseball, and dutifully charted his favorite team throughout each season. Pictures of his wife and kids dotted along desk shelves and stacks of audit samples sat on the floor in checkerboard format. By all accounts, he appeared happy.

I began a two-month company audit in February. To say the company had financial control issues would be an understatement. All-in-all, he knew the results wouldn’t be positive. The firm struggled, often chartering its boat to the prevailing wind of the day versus destination. And while that alone is a common mistake by most firms, Tony knew he would be under siege; he would be responsible; only he would be accountable.

Two-and-one-half months later, he died.

I learned of his death by coincidence, from a friend of a friend of a friend. I Googled his name plus the word ‘obituary.’ A summary of his life followed: “beloved husband … ; loving father of … ; dear brother of … ; brother-in-law, uncle, cousin, and friend: will be greatly missed—he already is!” The story of life – crammed into two paragraphs of an obituary page.

Hauntingly, I ask, “Had I known, could have I done anything?” More so, “Would I have done anything differently? Did I fail him, God or both?

Ethically, no. Spiritually? Most definitely.

My failure is that I discovered only a handful knew anything about Tony. Like most, I reduced many of those around me to ‘just acquaintances’ – just another person, not someone special. And harder still is the fact I’ve used humor as a defensive weapon to remain emotionally detached from almost everyone. I’m unsure if Tony acted similarly. Yet, I feel profoundly connected.

In singing “Five hundred and twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes,” the cast of Rent asks listeners how to quantify the value of a year in human life. The song concludes with the most effective means – “measure in love.”

Love” was the spiritual connection missed. Love was the only connection that mattered. When physically alive, I could not feel or respond to his love. Now that he’s dead, only now do I realize the abundance and capability of the love he had. He was an untapped treasure I failed to grasp and call ‘friend.’

As daylight faded, I am reaffirmed by faith that all existence will fade into God’s love. And therein, will be Tony. A friend whose soul and memories will merge with the tapestry of life I continue to weave. As such, I am assured Tony’s death will not go in vain.

I will carry forward the lesson that relationships go through seasons and we all always be finding ourselves looking for signs of growth, signs of life and symptoms of renewal. “Eternal possibility,” a mentor once claimed. Tony helped bring an understanding of myself and allowed me to ponder the desire for a deeper understanding of others. As such, life is not measured in time alone, but in the moments spent with others. It’s about little moments in life; the coffee and the hugs; the tears and the laughter. Don’t remember a year as merely gone. Rather, remember each year for the time spent in the company of good friends that love you.

Measure your life in love.” Measure the people you love in love.

Without love, life is death.

Thank you, Tony, for sharing. Thank you for your life.

The Power of Love

Remember when I said you never know what tomorrow will bring? Or as Tom Hanks charater in cast away said:

“… keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise, and you never know what the tide will bring.”


Bob Boilen of National Public Radio wrote this piece.

The story of Bernie and the Believers is the most powerful I’ve ever come across at the Tiny Desk. It’s about a beautiful act of compassion that ultimately led to this performance, and left me and my coworkers in tears.

I discovered the music of Bernie Dalton among the thousands of Tiny Desk Contest entries we received earlier this year. The band’s singer, Essence Goldman, had submitted the entry and shared Bernie’s story. You can hear her tell it in her own words at the Tiny Desk (and I choke up every time I hear it) but she said that a few years ago, Bernie — a father, a songwriter and a musician in his mid-forties, and an avid surfer with a day job as a pool cleaner — answered an ad Essence Goldman posted offering voice lessons. In addition to being a singer, she was a performer trying to manage her own career as a single mom, and Bernie was trying to improve his talents.

Bernie drove 90-minutes from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, eagerly showing up early to his voice lessons with Essence. But not long after they started working together, Bernie lost his voice. They didn’t think much of a it at first, but then things got worse. He had trouble swallowing and eating. Essence encouraged Bernie to see a doctor and after some tests Bernie Dalton was diagnosed with bulbar-onset ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He began to lose the use of his hands and, along with it, the ability to play guitar.

With a prognosis of only one-to-three years left to live, Essence offered to raise money so that Bernie and his daughter could travel together. But what Bernie wanted more than anything was to make a record. So he asked Essence to not just be his voice teacher, but his voice. From there, they got to business. Essence pulled together a team of producers, engineers and musicians, while Bernie guided the creative direction through gestures and a dry-erase board. They wrote and recorded a new song every day. Their first single, “Unusual Boy,” was the one they included in their 2018 Tiny Desk Contest entry.

Now Bernie’s friends have gathered here in Washington, D.C. to perform his songs. All the while, Bernie watched and listened from his hospital bed on the West coast, communicating with us in a live video feed through his eye-gaze device. What you are about to witness is the ultimate act of love: Essence sacrificing her own musical ambitions to fulfill the dreams of Bernie Dalton. Through tragedy there was beauty.

I don’t know Bernie or Ms. Goldman, but after watching this, I believe they are worth helping. If you can, watch the entire piece. Ms. Essence Goldman told the story at the 9:02 minute mark.

Here are the key links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPQsEoYHekg

Band Page: https://www.bernieandthebelievers.com

To bring Bernie: https://www.gofundme.com/sendberniehome

This group of talent artists understand the power of love. Beautiful.

Belonging

Passing a nursing station, I overheard a nurse say, “He has no one.”

Who?” I inquired.

Startled, she turned, “Oh.” Quizzically, she perused up and down. Whatever she thought, I’m positive an old, bald, fat man was not expected. “Oh,” she murmured again. “409,” her shoulders shrugged. “The guy in 409 has no family. His time nears.”

So, he’s alone?

Yes.

No one?

Nada.”

May I sit with him?”

Her eyebrow raised slightly, “Sure.

I sat with him until near dawn, sometimes in silence, sometimes lightly speaking, letting him know he was not alone. He whispered, “Why?

Standing to stretch my back, I glanced out to the street below. Raindrops angled across the window pane. My breath echoed against the glass as colorful hues light refracted through the early morn by drops darting downward.

Know what?” I said. “Earth is old. The sun is old. But do you know what may be even older than both? Water. It’s a mystery how the world became awash in it. Maybe water originated on our planet from cosmic ice specks. Some claim distant meteorites or comets as they bombarded the earth.

A slight momentary silent filled the room.

Kaboom” and “Smash,” I reemphasized.

A slight smile, “Ha,” he whispered.

The most accurate answer is: I don’t know ‘why?‘ My limited theological training offers little in any way to account for the unexplainable. And after all these years of walking with Christ, then Buddha, questions linger. Regardless of belief, the world reminds me death is not the end, that we carry forward in the glow of love.

Turning from the morning rain, I sat near, “Are you close?

Leaning in, he whispered, “I come and go.”

There was nothing I wanted more than to bring out a suitcase full of proof, saying, “See? You can be confident.” But there is no absolute proof. Heck, some days I have trouble even convincing myself. There’s just us. Instead, I stayed.

In the small moments of life, a bridge of faith is lived in-between the “back and forth” by both believer and witness. God’s faith glides in between moments life and for whatever reason, which remains foreign to most, joins our world through others, and through us.

Glancing at the man, I stroked the soft fragile gray hair, mirrored his peaceful rhythmic breath, and saw myself. While there are stories of miraculous interventions, lightning-bolt moments, and sudden cures, more often than not, in the final moment, the God of unconditional love will arrive in human form – just like his Son.

I whispered, “The ‘Kaboom and the ‘Smash’ were for you. In those very moments He created you. He loved you then. He loves you now. That same love is here for you. The same air that Christ breathed, you breathed. His breath is in you. His love encompasses you just as he encompasses me. And as your friend, I am with you always and will remember you always.

His lips quivered lightly. A tear dotted his eye. I cupped his hand to my heart. He never spoke again.


The real beauty of Christian and Buddhist faith is that faith is lived and experienced moments. As such, in a time of need, God comes to us in physical vessels, where love and grace join to feel His spiritual presence.

Through all my years working in healthcare, I could never explain “why.” Even if I could, it wouldn’t have brought anyone back. Still, even in my own days of difficulty, many have reached out to me to let me know that I was not alone. They were the presence of God to me. They held me up to, guided me to return to this world, brought me back and consoled me. Suffering isolates us. Loving presence brings us back, makes us belong.

Make someone your life know he or she belongs.

My last post stayed with through much of Saturday. The question, “What am I about?” What on earth gives me meaning?

One writer who had an imprint upon me is Viktor Frankl. Man’s Search for Meaning was written in nine successive days. Having a keen sense of human behavior, wrote a most profound observation:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Frankl noted any man, under such circumstances, can decide what shall become of him – both mentally and spiritually. And truth be told, I am by nature, one of those ‘hut guys‘ – those who comfort and help.

Like most, I spent an awful lot of time searching for meaning. As a kid, I used to believe a variety of positions would provide meaning I longed. First, there was a police officer. A fireman was next, followed by a football player, baseball player, preceded by a preacher and humanitarian.

Nothing settled.

Instead, I melted into unimaginable. My life’s resume included Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery to government trained sniper, college kid, investigator, auditor, consultant to governance. I married, then divorced. I married again, later experienced a beautiful true love (but not the physical affair). I managed to blow that and divorced again. Became homeless and lived out of a car. Through a friend, I regrouped and learned to relive. And now, at 58, I still can’t quite define what gives me meaning.

After posting yesterday morning, I called my mother. In the course of our conversation, she blurted:

Have you started your book yet?”

Ah.” I paused, as I always do when broaching the subject. “Not yet.”

Oh. You’re such a good writer.”

I realized at that moment, therein lay my meaning. I was meant to write. That’s what I do.

My blog is interconnected with my life, my career, and readers. I’ve written nearly 570 posts and have approximately 180 followers. I am proud of that. True, my blog does not generate an income. As such, I never considered myself a super blogger that posts on anything or everything. It’s just not my style. And honestly, I’ve never charged for access or asked for profit.

I started this blog to write, to share ideas. Like most writers, I experience periods of mental blocks. Other days, words flow freely, as if channeled by a spiritual force. Yet, I understand writing takes work, as each post can quickly absorb several hours.

So, how does writing fit with my position at ABC Inc.? I can only say that everything in my life is interconnected. Woven like tapestry skills from ancient artisans, my job provides the opportunity to interconnect – to see stories, pain, successes, and failures.

We are likely to find our unique meaning based upon our circumstances, our relationships and our experiences. The Buddha might say, “everything is interconnected.” As such, you, my friends and coworkers, are my canvass, for, without you, I would not have written a single word. And just as I, one is more likely to find meaning hidden in the relationships of others.

I’ve come to believe that life essentially tests us. Frankl noted we need to stop asking about the meaning of life each day and hour. Therefore, the meaning of life is not on some remote mountaintop or exalted from gurus living in a cave. Instead, it is revealed daily and hourly, in our choice to take the right action as we perform our duties and responsibilities. It is found in the ability to love others richly.

So, have I found my meaning? Yes. I am meant to write. And I do.

I’ve work at ABC Inc., for the last five years and get paid $8.75 an hour. I room at the YMCA for $61 a week. I get to do my own laundry. I wish there were more places like it.”

~ Response from someone being asked what they do ~

Remember all the internal conversations where you kept asking yourself why am I working here, doing this job or that job? Friends have asked me similar questions since March 2018. You see, since March 2018, my biggest challenge was trying to find something to do. There are the usual morning routines: in by 7:30 AM. Grab a cup of coffee, flip the computer on, check email. Cruise over to MSNBC, then to CNN, then to USA Today. Later, peruse Google news, smoke some tunes at Jazzradio.com, then open an Amazon book via an online reader and knock out a few chapters.

At this point any number of friends would say, “Why exactly are you working there?”

I always respond something to the effect, “I know I was supposed to take this job. Not sure why at the moment, but maybe tomorrow will be clearer.”

Yesterday, I attended a morning meeting of senior management. Our Director of Physical Security attended. He humped over, holding his right arm, saying he cannot move his arm and has trouble breathing. After watching him throughout the meeting, I forced him to go to company’s onsite medical team. I walked with him to ensure he made it there. He kept saying this was a waste of time.

Turned out he was a having a ‘heart event.’ Had I not interacted, he might not have been properly treated. This is not a statement of self-congratulations. It’s just one interaction of one person helping another. Many people, just like me, have similar events everyday. And maybe, just maybe, this event was just one reason why I was meant to be here.

In other ways, my job has left me an ability to help others in need. Alecia Lane, the furloughed government worker I wrote of in my last post, exceeded her GoFundMe goal of $5,000. Without our help, she may not have made it. In fact, at 10:22 AM yesterday, Ms. Lane posted an update:

“Thank you!!! I’m amazed at all the help provided to my family. There are no words to express how grateful I am to you. With your help I was able to bless 3 of my coworkers.”

If her words are true, our effort not only assisted MS. Lane, but positively impacted three others.

Turns out, our assistance was not unique. City of San Angelo offered assistance to furloughed federal employees during the government shutdown. Restaurants offered meals. People donated to GoFundMe requests. The American Bankers Association has a list of more than 100 banks offering special help to furloughed workers (regardless of whether you agreed with the interest rates or not). The list of assistance is endless and reached every state.

A lot of us search for our own meaning of life. And for most, such deep meaning remains elusive. However, maybe we’re here to assist others. Maybe, just maybe, clarity can be found in those little moments when helping a person in need.

We aneed to be generous with our time, and have self-discipline, patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom. The practice of generosity is largely entwined with the mind. The focus must be upon assisting others, not validating oneself. But, one can receive validation from effort. Far more important than the gift being given is the intention and state of mind when giving. I try, as much as possible, to give with a pure intention. This means giving from a place of compassion, conviction, attentively, and without negatively affecting others. Buddhists believe that what is given is not lost, but is actually returned to the giver in the form of karmic rewards.

And this my friends, is my purpose in life. Maybe, that’s what all of us are called to do … help. So, if you’re still searching for meaning, hang in there.

You never know what tomorrow may bring.

Several days ago, a friend asked a favor and requested if I could take her to the airport on the way to work.  “Of course,” I replied. I agreed to pick her up at 7:30 AM. At 7:40 AM this morning, she stumbled out of her condominium. I carefully placed her luggage into the back of my vehicle and off we went.

I checked TSA wait times just before picking you up,” while navigating my car through a series of curves before entering the main thoroughfare. “The current wait is 11 – 21 minutes. I don’t believe you’ll have a problem today, but you should be cognizant of wait times on your return.”

Why?

Well,” I explained. “Due to the shutdown, if TSA agents aren’t paid this week, many may call in sick or become unavailable. An absence of TSA Agents could delay your processing time through TSA lines.”

Exasperated, she muttered “I don’t get these TSA Agents. They’ll all get paid. When the shutdown ends, they’ll get paid.

Yeah,” I momentarily fumbled. “But the agents need to pay landlords, car payments, medical bills and other items today. So, at the moment, they are not getting paid and have to make ends meet.”

“No,” she countered. “TSA Agents are not working for free. When the shutdown ends, they’ll get paid. If that can’t handle that, then they need to find another job.”

Driving 65 miles per hour, I sat stunned. Coming from a Christian educator, her response was dismissive, as if to say, “Tough toenails, toots.”

I guess Trump would be proud.

For many of us in the world, it doesn’t matter what position you have, going without two paychecks, especially families with children, food, rent and other necessities becomes critical. These are people who never imagined that they’d have to stand in line for food. Imagine what that’s like — for someone in uniform to come through a food pantry door … and say, “My children are hungry.”

Like my friend, many US Legislators are clueless. US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross expressed confusion at reports that many unpaid federal were having such a tough financial time during the government shutdown, suggesting instead that those people could take out loans to survive the partial government closure. Likewise, Lara Trump, Eric Trump’s wife, had a different message for the more than 800,000 federal workers going without pay, it’s “a little bit of pain” but your children will thank you later.

In other words: suck it up. Uh, yeah sure.

Is this the price these workers have to pay … for an idiot president who won’t give in for fear of looking foolish?

In my heart of hearts this morning, I personally wished my friend would lose her job. Then, I could say, “Find another job.” Or, maybe the TSA would strike and she would have to rent a car and drive back. I said neither. Instead, I quietly dropped her off and drove to work.

So, here’s what I did.

I read of one impacted government worker today – Alecia Lane. Ms. Lane’s story is as follows.

“I am single mom with 2 boys (ages 12 and 8). We have been impacted by the government shutdown, I thought I was prepared but I wasn’t prepared for it last this long especially so soon after Christmas.  It has taken me days to ask for help through GoFundMe.  I haven’t struggled like this since I was growing up.  My kids don’t know the kind of life I had cause I never wanted them to grow up the way I did.  I’ve never wanted to tell my kids we can’t do this or eat this because I don’t have the money.  This shutdown became really real when we missed my first paycheck and we are about to miss the next one.  I am retired Navy and blessed to at least get a retirement check, but I still have bills to cover.”

I donated (click on picture).

Ms. Lane’s story is not unique. A quick search of the term “Government Shutdown” in GoFundme revealed 3,978 results. From here on, until the shutdown ends, I will donate to a needy family or organization.

As a Buddhist, Christian, Atheist, or whatever, donating to those in need is the right. It’s just. Donate anything. Any amount will help.

Selfishly, totally un-Buddhist like, donating is my way of saying ‘F*** You’ to the “Tough Toenails, Toots” naysayers.

Six months before he was assassinated, King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967.

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life’s blueprint?

Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you–doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, “If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”

This hasn’t always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don’t drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you’re forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

— From the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the Seattle Times noted, Martin Luther King Jr. lived an extraordinary life. At 33, he was pressing the case of civil rights with President John Kennedy. At 34, he galvanized the nation with his “I Have a Dream” speech. At 35, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. At 39, he was assassinated, but he left a legacy of hope and inspiration that continues today.

But does it?

In a nation of shutdowns, disingenuous protests and moral superiority, many speak of King’s morality – few live it.

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