Saturday, April 30, 2016

Has He Reached a Milestone?

My son recently sent me back-to-back text messages that made me wonder if finally THAT day had come.

Text message 1

This great podcast I listen to where John Hodgman "judges" funny domestic disputes between people had on a kid and his mom. The kid wanted to get a motorcycle and kept making all these arguments  that were true in some regard, because he was clearly smart, but entirely missing the greater point. And misunderstanding what he deserved from his parents. Reminded me of myself in high school so much...

Text message 2

Also, when I was shopping with my girlfriend the other day, I pointed out to her where Game X Change used to be. I never thought about it until now but I didn't realize how lucky I was that you would take me there on a semi-regular basis and stand around while I tried out Gameboy games for an hour LOL.

Perhaps all those parenting hours were worth it? My oldest daughter hit that day of maturity and understanding a few years ago. Two down and one to go ...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Of course, it was one heck of a week, u see ...

There are some weeks of your life that are likely never to be forgotten. Although I cannot see into the future, I have a decent idea that this past week will be one of them. It was mostly a somber week, with one huge exception.

On Monday, a thirty year battle ended as a former student of the first school at which I worked passed away. John H was just a regular guy as best I can remember. Unfortunately, at the tender age of 20, he suffered a stroke. Who gets a stroke when they are 20 years old?

I remember seeing John in the hospital. It was a pitiful sight to see a young guy look so terrible. He was disabled for the rest of his life. I had pretty much forgotten about him, but actually remembered him a few weeks ago and wondered whatever happened to him. What a terrible lot in life he was given.

On Wednesday, I was saddened to learn of the death of my all-time favorite college basketball player, Dwayne "Pearl" Washington. Pearl was a flashy guard for Syracuse University at a time when Big East basketball was the most entertaining in the country. Pearl was unique looking -- dark, black skin, an olive-shaped head, and, frankly, had kind of a big butt for a primo college basketball guard. I was such a fan that I -- a guy who boasts of being frugal -- PAID an art student at the school I worked to paint the word "Pearl" and a picture of a pearl on my basketball shoes. Dick Vitale once proclaimed that Pearl was the second best point guard in all of basketball behind Magic Johnson. Heady praise indeed. I even went to Pearl's first NBA game in Chicago.
Rest in Peace, Pearl
However, Wednesday was also an important day for my family as we remembered that exactly six years ago, my son Rick was operated on due to a rare form of cancer. I can't possibly describe what a horrible day that was. I posted several times that week and received great support from my blogger friends. For that I will always be grateful.
Imagine, if you can seeing your child looking like this:
And this is the good picture. I will spare you the fun or seeing the gory picture with the huge scar.

However we are celebrating six years of Rick being cancer free! I guess things are all a matter of perspective. Rick had a cancer that only 3 out of 100,000 people get, which he certainly thinks is unfortunate. However, he was able to avoid radiation therapy and chemotherapy and has had an almost 100% recovery. He was extremely lucky in that sense. Today, he is just a regular guy trying to finish his college degree. We are very thankful.
My hipster son
And finally, the news of the week closed on a bad note as musical legend Prince passed away. I was actually surprised to see the outpouring of love after the news broke. I, like many, loved his music, especially when he was on top of the world with Purple Rain. I didn't expect to see that so many people has been affected by his music. He was a talented soul, indeed.
I, for one, would be more than happy to see next week be just a boring, uneventful week.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

To Give or Not To Give?

I recently read an article that had been featured by a Chicago Tribune columnist regarding a relationship between a panhandler and a benefactor. In this article, we learn of the life of a panhandler, how he hit bottom, and of the generosity of a radio host whose contributions helped keep the panhandler going during his rough times. It made me think about my experiences and the conflicts I have felt many times.

My background is that I grew up in a blue collar household. My dad worked a skilled labor day job and worked several evenings a week at my uncle's gas station. During summers when I was an undergrad and in grad school, I worked 60-80 hrs/week working in places/jobs like an electronics factory, working for an electrician, security guard, and as a cashier at a 7-Eleven. I began my first professional job right after grad school and have been employed full time ever since. As I look toward retirement in the relatively near future, I know I will need some sort of job or obligation to keep me busy. I really don't remember what it is even like to not work.

Anyway, I mention all this because it leads to my conflict. What do you do when confronted with panhandlers or others basically begging for money? I am in a position to be generous with these people if I choose, but I think back to how I have always busted my butt working no matter what and therefore feel less giving. However, I also realize that I have been extremely fortunate in many ways in my life, having skills and personal qualities that have helped make me successful.

I have made an attempt to give more to charitable organizations the past few years, and that is always good. However, when seeing people begging on the street , I wonder what the money will really be used for. Food? Alcohol? Drugs? Gambling? And if this person seems to have any type of mobility skills, can't he or she get at least a minimum wage job somewhere?

I feel much better buying a meal for anyone. After having dinner at a local bar/restaurant, I once was confronted at my car by a guy asking for a quarter to buy a McDouble. Huh? Who asks for a quarter? I told the guy that I wouldn't give him any money, but would go inside with him and pay for a meal for him if he was hungry. We went inside, and the waitress was pissed off that he was there, saying that he had been bothering customers all day and had already gotten two or three free meals there that day. Instead of feeling angry or used, my first thought was "How hungry did that guy have to be to continue to beg meals after already having had a few that day?" She told the guy he could get take-out, but the boss didn't want him inside bothering customers. I made sure that he got food to go before I left.

So I feel caught when I see people panhandling. My Catholic upbringing (and Catholic guilt!) make me want to help, yet I question whether or not my generosity will really be helping or only perpetuating alcohol or drug addiction. I have been tempted to do things like go to a fast food joint and hand out some free food, but I have also heard horror stories about people doing so in Las Vegas and catching grief from the panhandlers who were a tad picky about what food they would accept!

Hearing some of the tales of panhandling from Tony Bigcharles, who used the money to buy in at poker tables, and reading about how some panhandlers actually make more than one would think only makes the whole issue more murky in my mind.

So I ask you -- what do you think?