Saying Good Bye to a Friend

This afternoon at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Winter Springs, family and friends bade farewell to a good and decent man.  I know how much Chuck McLaughlin loved his wife Betty, his kids and grandkids, his late brother.  He not only gave them life but made sure they understood what it meant to be a faithful person.  Truth be told, I had not seen Chuck since Higgins and Heath Real Estate went away in 1999.  We all went our separate ways.  My regret was not staying in close touch with Chuck and Betty.  They were both such lovely people.  Kind, generous, loving to not only family, but to those they didn’t know.  Chuck played Santa Claus at all kinds of functions over the years.  He enjoyed making children happy.  Hey, that is Santa’s job, right?  He took that seriously, but he did not take himself too seriously.  Today we witnessed an outpouring of love in recognition of his passing.   I have faith that Chuck is either sharing a hearty laugh with God…or perhaps God is giving him a tour of the most heavenly golf course ever. (Chuck liked to play golf.)  We will miss him, and his laughter and kindness.  Betty, may his spirit keep you company.  To the rest of the family, keep his lessons close to you and continue to live out the dreams he had for all of you.

And if you never met Chuck McLaughlin, you probably have someone like him that you miss–a grandparent,  parent, sibling, or friend.  Their spirit does live on, so just because they are not able to speak with you or give you comfort, keeping them close and remembering their care for you should allow you to more easily comfort a stranger…or give encouragement to a child…or just smile more often.  We all create a better world by keeping the light of Chuck and others like him burning and giving hope.

Feel free to share.

6 More Days Till Election

This will be one of the most critical elections in our nation’s history.  I am not going to tell you who to vote for. I will give you insights that will help you in your decision-making process.

1. The system is broken.  When our president attacks our allies and stands up for dictators like Vlad Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, it is simply not right.  When Democratic leaders fail to provide specific ideas of what they will do, that is not right.  Our election has become one PAC commercial after another harping on how criminal the opponent is.  It needs to stop and we need to force our elected officials to come up with solutions, not attack the opponents.

2. We must harken back to the days of 1970’s Silent Majority.  Most of us feel afraid to speak up because we will be called out on social media platforms and criticized for our beliefs.  People can have, and should have, different beliefs.  God created all of us, and He made no junk.  But some things we need to stand and defend.  When Donald Trump says he will write an executive order to basically overturn the 14th Amendment, he no longer stands for Constitutional government, which he is sworn to uphold.  The right of everyone born here to be a U.S. Citizen was established in the 1860’s when African slaves were given citizenship.  It was the right thing to do then, and taking offense at mostly Hispanic Americans who were born here is just wrong.  He knows he cannot do it, despite his windbag speeches and tweets.  The deluge of lawsuits will eventually stop such an executive order, even if it is written. It would be overturned by courts concerned about actually protecting the rights of citizens.  I would assert that the majority of Americans believe in diversity. As a white Protestant male, I am ashamed of those who think blacks, Hispanics, and Jews do not deserve their rightful place in our society.  And I call on all non-racists to stand up and cry out “Enough is enough.  These are our brothers and sisters, do NOT deprive them of the right to vote, earn a living, and protect our nation in our armed services! And do not go into their churches and synagogues and kill them with semi-automatic weapons, rifles and handguns.”

3. Turn back the efforts of the Kansas and Georgia secretaries of state, who happen to be running for governor in close elections, to suppress the votes of minority citizens. They have the right to cast votes, and making it more difficult for ANY citizen to vote is simply wrong and needs to be rooted out and corrected!

4. Bring mental health to the front of the medical care systems in America, because there are way too many folks out there who need it.  I’m not just talking about the mass murderers and would-be mass murderers.  I am talking about regular citizens who are faced with impossible choices–do I buy groceries for my family or do I buy them the live saving medications they need?  That decision is enough to make you go over the edge.

5. Bring universal health care to the nation.  It should be a right when we live in the richest nation in the world that no one has to make the decision “Do I have enough money to afford a doctor?”

6. Start making peace wherever it is possible.  Instead of stirring up divisions by taking money out of the budget to pay for help in Central American nations.  By taking away the aid, you drive more caravans to our country.  Let those people enjoy a standard of living that does not involve poverty, drug wars, and health hazards.  It is cheaper to do that than send 5200 American troops to the border…especially when so many of the folks in the caravan are looking for jobs and a life in Mexico and will never reach the American border.

7. Stop the tariffs.  The main effect is the expenses for so many things that we buy in America is going up because of it.  Re-establish trading partnerships, and realize while we do it that having a trade deficit or surplus is not that important. When you buy a Japanese car, you pay a Japanese company $30,000. That puts us at a $30,000 trade deficit.  BUT YOU STILL HAVE A CAR!  And considering that most things made in China have parts made in a variety of countries including America, is it really even a deficit?

8.  Stand up for justice.  To say that we are a trading partner of Saudi Arabia does not give their leaders the right to jail and kill their own people, nor ours!  If we are such a strong country, stand up when human rights abuses take place and sanction the violators till they clean up their act.

9. Clean up our act.  Every time people are murdered here in America in the name of race purity, it drives us back to the cleansing of Nazi Germany, when a very bad man decided that Jews should not live, or be free to do work that actually benefited the country.  Every time we defend neo-Nazis and self proclaimed nationalists who are being encouraged to kill or deport everyone who does not match our skin color, it brings shame on the people who have fought for democracy around the world and saved us from the depravities of Nazis, fascists, communists and brutal dictatorships.

I could go on all day, but these are my 9 rules for truly making America great.  Anyone willing to make it happen?  You have the right to stand up for what you believe.  I have already cast my vote.  If you have not already done so, please do, because if you remain in the shadows, our democracy and our republic will remain there as well.  Thank you.

That Was Exciting…If You Stayed Awake

The past two nights, Major League Baseball has staged two highly competitive, exciting, action-packed games.  Two nights ago, the Milwaukee-LA Dodgers struggle took 13 innings and 5 hours.  Last night, the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros traded punches till the last out when Andrew Benentendi made a circus catch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th inning to preserve an 8-6 victory.

So what is wrong with this picture?  The games ended long after midnight Eastern Time. I realize for those of you on the West Coast this is no big deal. The National League game mentioned ended around 11 PM.  But for those in the East, the clock was striking 2 AM!  Those of us who have jobs cannot stay up that late.  Start the games earlier, and some of us might have been able to watch the ending.

It was great entertainment, something MLB struggles to provide during a 162-game regular season that starts with 20 pre-season games here in Florida and in Arizona.  So the players work out in February for real, then the season goes March through September, and finishes at Halloween.  Kind of tough for the fans of all those teams who stink, because they are eliminated around May from reasonable contention.  But baseball thrives in October, when days get shorter, and colder in the north.  And the play is reduced to the best of the best.  But who is watching?  Marketwatch reported that the average age of a baseball fan in America is 57.  Young people cannot watch when the games go till 2 AM.  It might never go back to the way it was when I was a kid, and World Series games were staged in daylight.  In fact it won’t because the advertising dollars are much higher for prime time telecasts.  But with everything going to online streaming, the networks are overpaying for the product, and hoping to simply capture a bunch of 57-year-olds who are still willing to watch.

But clearly, baseball, as good as the product being displayed, has an image problem.  Has anyone seen Mike Trout play a game?  He is probably one of the generation’s best players, but his team stinks and he plays on the West Coast.  Outside of Red Sox fans like me,  anyone of you ever heard of Andrew Benentendi?  Raise your hands, seniors!  I am not the first to plead sanity and want baseball to be played in the daylight this time of year.  But the reality is that most folks do not care.  Basketball is over in 48 minutes…2 hours of actual time.  Football is a 3:15 exercise and you notice they keep interest high by playing daylight games except the Monday and Thursday night spectacles.

Baseball will keep losing potential fans if the fans tune out before the magic happens.

As always, your comments are welcomed!

 

HOAs make me sick

Anyone have this experience with their homeowners association? We paid bill a few days early in March and payment was returned. Same thing happened in June. Trying to pay online but they charge extra for using a credit card. I called for the third time today but even though they say their “business hours” are 9-5, they warn that you might have to set an appointment to make sure someone is in the office. They send bills, but change mailing addresses and don’t notify and tracking them down has become a nightmare.  I am certainly not refusing to pay.  But trying to pay via e debit, credit card, and even dropping off a check does not appear likely.  The only way to get it there might be Fed Ex, but that seems a shame, seeing as how their office is about two miles from our home.  If they are not in, though…

Another of customer service gone horribly wrong.  Any comments on Community Management Specialists are invited.

Has America Changed?

 “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

That is what is inscribed on a plaque inside our Statue of Liberty.  Now flash forward more than 100 years to what is going on today on our southern border.  I will not flash the images you have no doubt seen of a toddler crying and looking up into a stranger’s face.  It makes me weep.  She was torn away from her mother.  Ironically, the reporting of much of this happened on or around Father’s Day…a day to celebrate the sacrifices that real men make for their children.  Most of the people flocking to our Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico border now are not MS-13 criminals.  The overwhelming majority are not even Mexicans.  They are fleeing El Salvador, Guatamala and Honduras…Central American nation wracked with infighting, violence and political instability.  (Sounds kind of like what America has turned into, right?)  But most of them just want to bring up their children in a land of opportunity that made the above promise to millions of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island and other outposts for hundreds of years.  Imagine what would have happened if the political climate had been like it is now, and when our ancestors arrived on a ship from Europe…they had been separated from their children, processed in a quick deportation hearing and sent back to wherever they came from?  No Albert Einstein…no John F. Kennedy…no Irving Berlin or Eddie Van Halen…no Ronald Reagan…none of us except the original Americans, native tribes who saw their lands taken.  You and I would not be here.  And instead of trying hard to make America great, we probably would have either not existed or made Germany great, or Japan, or England, or France, or Russia.  How about Roberto Goizueta, CEO of a little company called Coca Cola, who led that firm to global wealth and dominance?  He also personally had a habit of donating large sums of money to his new country’s charities.  I’m not saying all the folks showing up on our borders now are going to become philanthropists down the road.  But our new habit of being afraid of immigrants, while knowing that our not-so-distant relatives were the exact same thing, fleeing poverty and corrupt regimes and hopeless areas to come to the Land of Opportunity…that is just ignoring our own history.  So today, despite my general nature of trying to stay completely out of the political arena, I am shocked by the actions of our President and Attorney General and Department of Homeland Security, whose leader in a press conference expressed uncertainty when she was asked “Where are the young girls being held right now?”  “I don’t know but I will check into it.”  The government of our country is not ready to house thousands of small children and babies, and that is why they are being held in facilities that resemble jails, even though their crime is that their parents wanted what America promises…an opportunity to make life better for their children.  I am personally going on a campaign to make sure our present elected officials step in the way of the President, and determine a method for those who simply want to live in America, work hard (often in jobs that businesses are having trouble filling) so their lives and their children’s lives can be productive and happy, can do so.  And if our current elected officials cannot take reasonable steps to do so…I suggest we elect some different people who believe in the creed of that statue.  “Yearning to breathe free” not “ripped apart by cruel and oppressive government”

If you do not know who your Congressman and Senators are…you can find them and their contact information at http://www.congress.gov.  Take action, or we will descend into the kind of country our Founding Fathers were escaping.

Prayer Breakfast

Kudos to Cong. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)  for putting together a wonderful prayer breakfast as part of a national day of prayer throughout our nation.  This was at the Winter Springs Civic Center, and brought together people from the surrounding community, including the 3 Wise Guys from 90.7 FM, Rev. Coffin, the director of the Interfaith Council, and the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Cedric Richmond (D-LA).

It was fascinating to hear them all talk about faith in a time of strident division.  It was obvious that they were more than faith leaders and preachers of a specific faith, but also listeners.  The overriding message was this–no matter your background, your upbringing, your variety of faith or lack of faith, your political affiliation or lack thereof–there is more than binds us than tears us apart.  You ask any individual in our society–black, white, Latino, LGBT, straight, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Hindu, atheist, gun owner or gun control advocate, rich, poor, middle class.  We all want pretty much the same things–a good life for ourselves and our friends and families, peace in our country and our neighborhoods, opportunity to be whoever and whatever we want to be, to love and to be loved.

So, in the continuing dialogue in our nation’s web space, I paused for a moment today to pray for those basic ideals to be sought and fought for, no matter who is arguing in the halls of government about blue states and red states and deep states.  The ideals that founded the country are still present today, and reflected through the different prisms of faith expressed by the faith leaders and followers.  I challenge myself and all of you reading this to put aside differences and come up with new ways to express compassion for those who are suffering the loss of a child to cancer, the loss of a child to gun violence, the loss of hope, overwhelming loneliness and sense of helplessness, for the homeless and those who are unsure of their next meal.  Reach a helping hand wherever you can, and give a smile, a meal to the hungry, clothes to the naked, shelter to the homeless, and in those actions, our ever-loving and ever-present God will smile on your actions…and bring you peace.  Amen.

Remembering Virginia Tech

Eleven years ago today,  April 16, 2106, I was working away in the midst of another busy real estate day when I got a call from my wife, who said she got a surprising phone call from my daughter, Stephanie.  “I’m okay now, coach got us off the field and we are locked inside the VT Coliseum and safe.”  Which made us wonder, “Safe from what?”  Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and other social media were either not invented or were in their very early days.  That meant the way people got news was from a news outlet, and since we were working, we had not learned that there was a shooter loose on the Virginia Tech campus.  Steph was a freshman going through a morning training session in the off season, but the word spread there was a shooting on campus, prompting response from campus and local police.  It was only hours later that word spread that a 23-year-old English major from South Korea had killed 32 students and faculty before turning a gun on himself.  We were eternally grateful that my daughter and her soccer team avoided the gunfire.  But the third most deadly mass shooting was surpassed here in Orlando during the Pulse shootings.  49 died on that horrific day.  And then there was the  all-time mass murder at the Mandalay Bay country music concert.  I have attended conferences at Mandalay.  It is a huge complex, and while some of you have never been near to mass violence, it is becoming an all-too-familiar narrative.  Dozens of victims, a day of prayer, promises to “do something” and then still another headline.  Because my own daughter’s proximity to the violence made me more aware of such tragedy even more deeply, I reflect 11 years later that not enough has changed to prevent the tragedies.  Semi-automatic weapons have proliferated…mental health is at an all-time low…conflict is all around us…and concerns have been raised.  But it is up to all of us to help pitch in a prevent the “next time.”  Common sense background checks, a ban on assault weapons which should only be in the hands of military personnel on missions in wartime, bans on bump stocks, and a far greater emphasis on mental health.  Just as with infrastructure deficiencies in our nation, there is a huge need to make sure people with violent intent can be intercepted instead of simply issuing them more weapons and ammo.  Schools need to be more places of collaboration to impart knowledge, and while some of that knowledge unfortunately needs to be in the form of what to do in active shooter drills, a great majority of the time needs to be spent in how to build friendships, how to work with others in work and play, and team sports have a role in all of this.  Members of team sports tend to learn ways to get along.  It ought to be a requirement, because the lessons my kids learned on the soccer, volleyball, and lacrosse fields and gyms are things they carry forth in each day of their lives.  They are lessons every child can gain, perhaps especially the loners who often go off on these killing sprees.

Eleven years later,  I use this platform to grieve again for all those lost at Virginia Tech…but also for those lost in school massacres over the past 11 years…and pray that our country will come together to not only pray and mourn, but also to find better ways of getting along with each other, and reaching out to positively touch each other with a word of kindness and compassion, and hope that will help in turning hardened hearts of stone into hearts of love and respect.