Preoccupation With The Future

25 07 2005

Does it ever seem that you that life moves quickly? Of course it does. But why are we in such a rush to move forward? Is it because we think we’ll do something better tomorrow? Is it because we want to forget today? Why do we want to rush to next weekend, next week, the next holiday?

I went to buy some sandals today for my vacation at the end of this week. I went to several stores, looking for a decent pair. Each place I went had about two pairs in the wrong size. The store managers looked at me like I was nuts. Apparently, a 91 degree day in July is too late in the year to buy sandals. I should have been looking for snow boots.

I love Christmas, but I hate the Christmas season. It infuriates me that I am supposed to be Christmas shopping while my Thanksgiving turkey is digesting. I want to enjoy the season I am in, not rush to the next one. But each holiday, each time of year, is rushed to like that. In the middle of July, stores are having “Back-to-School” sales. Valentine’s Day candy is sold as soon as the Christmas merchandise can be pushed off the shelf. Thanksgiving starts when the Fourth of July ends.

In the midst of all of this, we complain to one another about how fast the seasons are moving. Another year has passed. Here comes Labor Day already! Here comes Thanksgiving! Perhaps we wouldn’t feel that way if we would but focus on the time we are in.

We seem to be obsessed with the future and not with the present. Our eyes are always fixed on what is ahead, but never on what is happening around us at this moment. We miss so much because we are focused on something in the distance, but when we get to it, we forget about it for the next distant bauble.

Instead of ominous discussions about the future, we should engage in more badinage. This preoccupation should be replaced. We need to spend more time on the moment. To live in the present is to live a full life. It is necessary to plan for the future but not to live there.

I’d love to take the time to write a little more about this, but I need to go buy some Halloween candy before they put the candy canes out.

Inherent Tendencies

20 07 2005

I have come to the point where I can honestly say in the same sentence that people change and that people don’t change. It’s seems to be a paradox, but it’s definitely true.

People can change. They can cut their hair. They can start getting up earlier. They can get a new job and learn new skills. They can get an education. They can start smoking. They can stop smoking. Start drinking and stop drinking. They can change to where you won’t be able to recognize them.

People can’t change. They can get up ealier, but they’ll still always be late. Once they start drinking, they can’t stop, ever. They always revert back to their habits. They can cut their hair, but it will grow back.

So what do we inherently do? What can we really change? What can’t we? Does something allow us to change things that we otherwise could not?

Realization of the Call

17 07 2005

When someone tells you they know the meaning of life, it’s doubtful that they do. If someone tells you they know what your purpose in life is, you might think that they are out of their mind.

I have found a biblical call that when fulfilled, gives a satisfaction that cannot be matched. A few weeks ago, I was working at the farm, and I felt a peace that I can’t really explain. If you would have talked to me at the time and asked me how I was feeling, I would have told you that I felt like I was made to do this. This feeling stems from a decree from the Lord in Genesis 3.

The Lord says to Adam, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

It’s kind of a sad promise. One that guarantees hard work. But I think there is a hidden reward in there as well. And when you realize that you are fulfilling that promise, you find that reward.

I think it’s one of those things that you have to find by yourself, but try this one. Try working the earth and growing something. And see if you don’t realize that it’s what you were called to do.

The Death of the NHL

11 07 2005

It is not often that an entire sport commits suicide. In the past year, one did. The NHL is over. Yes, there might be a hockey season next year. There will be one person happy about, my former roommate. But no one else in America cares. Funny thing though, no one in the hockey capital of the world, Canada, cares either. If you look at today’s Toronto Star, there is not one headline about the NHL and its possible return. Yahoo! Sports doesn’t list any NHL headlines either. There are headlines for the NBA, NFL, MLB, NASCAR, Cycling, and NCAA Football. But nothing for the NHL. Looking at the NHL page, there is a claim that negotiations will end with a contract this week. But the next headline is Manny Legace claiming that they lost an entire season for nothing. Mr. Legace, you are wrong. You lost an entire season for something. You threw the season away to lose many of the few fans the NHL had.

The NHL was the first professional sports league to lose an entire season to a labor dispute. And they are also the professional sports league that could least afford to do so. Baseball, America’s game, had a tough time recovering from their strike. How can a sport that wasn’t that popular to begin with weather this storm? The answer is simple: It can’t. The NHL is dead. Yes, it might continue. It might even see a surge in attendance this coming year if they have a season. But it’s not coming back. They’re going to try. The owners are even lowering ticket prices. But there’s not a chance in the world that the NHL is going to overcome this strike. People can’t name NHL players or even NHL teams. The only player people can name is Mario Lemieux.

Let this be a lesson to professional sports. If you can’t sort out your financial differences and play the sport you love, you might just kill the very thing that supports you: the dollars of the fans. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see who’s pitching in the All-Star game.

Finding Good Customer Service

7 07 2005

I am a loyal customer. I go out of my way to give repeat business to retailers who go out of their way to make my day. It’s not often this occurs, but when it does, take note. In today’s society of twenty minute hold times and unhelpful teenage employees, it’s great to find places that still will take the time to do things right.

Surprisingly, I’ve had some great customer service recently. Last weekend, I went to Joseph A. Banks to buy a suit. Not only did I get a better deal than I was expecting, the salesman walked me down to another tailor shop to have it fitted since his tailor was on vacation. He could have pointed in the general direction and said, “Take it down there”. But instead, he took the time to walk down there, introduce me to the tailor, and make sure that I was taken care of. Last week, I wired some money to a friend of mine using Western Union. I called the company to send the cash but was graciously told by the customer service associate that I could save about $15 doing it online. After going online and placing my order, I received an email saying that my transaction had a problem and that I needed to call an agent. I did, worried that I’d spend the evening on the phone fighting to just send the money. However, my problem was resolved within 5 minutes. Last night, I was at Big Lots. I saw a watch that I liked, but the battery was dead and the watch band was too large. I asked my sales associate when I was checking out if I could get a discount on the watch because of this. She gave me one that almost covered the cost of having the jeweler replace the battery and fit the band today.

I certainly have my fair share of crappy service, but I’d rather not bore you with the stories of these instances. You probably have your own stories that could rival or top mine. But there must be a reason for the deterioration of service. I think it lies with the attitude of those in customer service and also the relationship they have with the product. With the advent of voice-over-IP service, companies can affordably outsource their technical support and call centers where they please. Many times this is in India or other foreign nations. In theory, I don’t find anything wrong with this. Companies want to save money and it’s cheaper to buy labor in India than it is to buy labor here. Except when you have English speaking Americans buying the company’s product and needing customer service, problems arise. After watching a television documentary on call centers in India, it is apparent that there are problems with the system. Employees are given exact things to say because they don’t know any more English. Employees are instructed to lie about the location of the call center and are given the weather for their false location in the United States. This sort of thing really doesn’t foster the kind of relationship that breeds repeat customers.

I pay more for good customer service. I’ll shop at Joseph A. Banks instead of Sears because the guy I talk to at Joseph A. Banks knows what he’s talking about. I’ll buy paint at Sherwin Williams instead of Lowe’s because the kid I’m buying paint from at Lowe’s never even painted his red wagon. I’ll shop at the local grocery store instead of Walmart because the guy at the local store will cut my meat the way I like it without me having to explain each week how it’s done. But most American consumers are not willing to pay a few extra pennies for the care and attention of good retailers. This is why companies are able to get away with hiring people who are fluent in English and have never seen the product before to troubleshoot it.

Maybe Americans as a whole will never again have a relationship with the people who sell them things, but I think the number will grow as they become increasingly dissatisfied with the way they are treated by the companies they do business with. And when that occurs, there will be some who can sit back, smirk, and say, “I told you so.”

Why I Didn’t Go To Live 8

5 07 2005

I didn’t go to Live 8 this past weekend. I didn’t watch it on television. To me, it was pathetic. Their purpose, at it’s heart, was good. But good intentions only pave the highway to hell. Or in this case, poverty and AIDS in Africa.

I’ll be honest. I was wary and suspicious from the very beginning about all these millionaires getting together. When I heard it was for a charitable cause, I was interested. But then I began to think about it and began to read about it just a little bit more. This concert was not to raise money for starving children in Africa. It was not put on to save the lives of countless people in Africa who have AIDS. There are 24.5 million people in the sub-Saharan world that have this disease. But this gradiose concert bash was not about finding a cure for that disease or for developing ways to prevent the spread of the disease. No, this concert was meant to spur me and you to write letters to our legislators and ask them to send money to Africa. The United States already sends $4.3 billion dollars to Africa. That’s right. In 2004, the USA sent $4.3 billion dollars to Africa. But Paul McCartney wants you to send more.

Germany has already rejected doubling their aid to Africa but the United States is already pledging to double their aid by 2010. The United States and Europe are both subsidizing African crops as well. It’s truly ridiculous that all this money, aid, and food that is sent there is not making a difference. But we continue to send more. Why? Why do we continue to throw money at something that is not working?

It would not be right to forget about Africa and hope that they somehow figure out a way to stop the epidemic of AIDS and to also grow enough food for themselves to eat. No, as a nation of plenty and of excess, we should look to assist those in need. However, just dumping billions of dollars on their doorstep and looking the other way while this money pays bribes, funds unplanned projects, and corrupts the government structure shows even less compassion. It’s time we were wise with the way we dole out our aid.

Africa should be looking to increase its world exports and decrease its dependence on foreign nations. The individual nation and the continent as a whole will never thrive if the cord is not cut. Each African must find that desire. But there are daunting problems with civil war, AIDS, disease, and famine. But to these problems, there are solutions. To curb AIDS, Africans must stop having sex with more than one person. That’s all. Abstinence until monogamous marriage. That will stop the spread of AIDS. Next, stop killing each other. Find civilized ways of resolving problems instead of declaring genocide on an entire group of people. Finally, spend the time that was previously spent on having unprotected sex with mulitple partners and killing other Africans on improving the infrastructure and growing food.

For some reason, they haven’t figured out this simple plan to success. Apparently, billions of dollars of foreign aid didn’t lead them to this solution either. Perhaps it’s time that the aid went elsewhere or is distributed in a different fashion by those who think my outlined plan is a highway to freedom. Orgainizations like World Relief think like this. So instead of writing a letter to my Senator, I think I’ll just write a check to World Relief or an organization like them. And then I’ll hope that Snoop Dogg will go back to making music that I don’t listen to like “Let’s Get Blown” from his latest release. The lyrics go something like this:

I’ve been looking at you, from the corner of my eyes
Checking out your hips, lips, tits and your thighs
I’ve been wanting to do you, for a mighty long time
You make a pimp wanna sing I – I – I
We’ll head to the hills, your dreams I’ll fulfill
We could do it how you want, cause I’m oh so real
Tell me you, naw I won’t squeal
You wit Da Big Bo$$ Dogg so seal the deal
Pharrell got the Babyface and Snoop got the Whip Appeal, so name the place
This love I bring to you, on the real baby girl
Won’t you do me a favor and sing for Snoop

You know you want some more girl, so come on
Let’s get blown.. let’s get blown..

Yes, I’m glad that he’s trying interested in foreign policy. But somehow, I don’t think he’s going to get the job done for Africa or “seal the deal”.

The Worth of American Lives

1 07 2005

As of today, 1,746 Americans have died in Iraq. 1,746. This might sound like the start of an article against the war in Iraq. It’s not. It also isn’t an article written in support of it. It’s just an article.

I was home during lunch one day this week and had turned on the television and was watching FOXNews. The anchor was discussing President Bush’s evening speech about the war. The woman who was being interviewed was complaining that about 2 Americans were dying everyday in Iraq. She wanted to know for what good those lives were lost. I pondered that question and have come up with some thoughts.

By some estimates, 25,000 colonists died in the American revolution. Colonists who were starting the United States of America. But it wasn’t just the colonists fighting to be free. There was another country fighting with and for us. Now after doing some research, there are no reliable numbers on how many French troops died fighting for American freedom. However, there are some estimates on how many troops they sent and what kind of other support they gave. It is substantial. Perhaps you can see already where I am going with this, but I think it is a valid argument with as many holes as every other argument out there. What if the French had not helped us win the War of Independence? It is very possible that we would not have won that war.

Remember a man named Adolf Hitler? He took control of France in 1940. Now France and Great Britain had both declared war on Germany at this point but were having no luck. Britain was not invaded during the war, but France was defeated. And who came to their rescue? It was the United States of America. A fledgling young country 160 years before, but now was coming to the rescue of the most established nations in the world.

Do you think the French were glad that we came to liberate their nation? How many of them were waving American flags when the Americans rolled into Paris in 1944? Perhaps some of them thought back in history to the time when they had sent their men, ships, money, and armaments across the Atlantic as well.

I don’t want to suggest that the reason we are freeing Iraq is to have them liberate us 150 years from now. But the French had their political, financial, and social reasons for helping to free us, and I think we have our reasons for going to Iraq. But France probably didn’t think that we would ever come to their rescue. Look what happened!

Freedom comes at a cost and sometimes that cost cannot be borne by the nation seeking the freedom. Sometimes that cost must be shared by those who can afford it. How many lives were lost on the European front in WWI and WWII? A estimated 525,000. Those lives were lost to protect our freedom and guarantee the freedom of others.

You couldn’t find an American who enjoys hearing about the loss of American lives, but those lives that are lost are not lost without a purpose. Their worth comes in the freedom of nations. The peoples who are freed are the worth of the life. The cost may seem high, but our freedom was not free. We should not expect other’s freedom to be free.