Tuesday, June 25, 2019

What do you do with Crazy?

Steven's hat

“What can I do? This is the third promotion that I have been passed over for?”

“Steven, you are doing a good job. We appreciate what you do for us, you play an important role in coming up with drugs that save lives.”

“But am I stuck? Can I ever move forward?”

“The man who got the supervisor position has a PhD and is a well published doctor in chemistry. At the end of the day he was more qualified. We appreciate what you do but I have to go with the most qualified candidate.”

“I understand.”

Steven went back to his office logged off his computer, jumped into the car and headed to his condo, both of which he hoped he'd be able to make the payments on this next month. The sun had several hours earlier given up after a long day of unsuccessfully trying to win it’s battle with the snow and ice that perpetually clung to world, keeping it as cold as Steven felt inside.

That night, sitting alone Steven turned off the T.V. and pulled out his old bible.

“Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

...if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

He saith unto him, Which?

Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and mother; and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.”

Steven had been raised in a good Catholic home but with all the work and school had not had much time for church. Suddenly after reading about this young man he found himself asking, “God is that what you want me to do?” Steven prayed in his heart. “I’m not rich, but I guess. I’m doing okay. Am I just going round and round. Am I ever going to get any further? There will always be someone with another degree more than me, always someone ahead of me, perhaps it’s time to dedicate myself to God."

And that was it. He sold the condo and everything in it. Quit his job and drove the car to San Francisco, after all Chicago has tough weather to be going without purse or script. Once in San Francisco the car was sold and he took to the streets. At 30, he was wandering the streets, attending mass every day and spending up to 5 hours a day reading from a Catholic prayer book.

“I walked to San Diego and was there for a few years, when in 2009 I decided to do a walk across the country. I walked from Pacific Ocean to Myrtle Beach. It took me a little over a year. There were too many bugs over there, and prophets always seem to wind up in the dessert, so I walked back.”

San Diego was home base for a long time but eventually he got sick of landing in jail. “The police kept sending me to jail, the judge would always let me out. If you are good and don’t cause any trouble and just tell the truth the judge knows what is going on and will give you a ‘get out of jail free card.' But you get sick of it, so I finally decided to leave. I spent a few months in Brawley and then Blythe and now Yuma.

Why not become a priest? “To be a priest you have to fill out applications and get approved to a seminary and you can’t really do that while you are homeless. So, I promote, I am a promoter, promoting the religious life style. I’d say I am like the cover page on a website. I’m there to get clicks and get people on the site, if they want to find the subscribe or donate page they can find it, but I help them get there. You don’t need to be a priest of monk but everyone should have a religious lifestyle, so that is what I promote. If you are reading prayers the way you should, 1 hour morning, 20 min, midday, lunch and afternoon, 1 hour evening and some time for readings in between you won’t have time to do the sins that can get you in trouble.”

Steven explaining his daily prayer routine

“It’s almost six so I need to get to mass.” He starts to pack up and we walk the 15 minutes to St. Frances of Assisi Catholic Church. There I get to listen to mass the way people did for ages, in a language they didn’t understand. The mass was in Spanish and Steven who is not fluent in Spanish does know every prayer, and some are quite long.

Steven and I stand out like sore thumbs, (I don’t particularly notice sore thumbs but we did really stand out). For one thing we were both under 50. The only others being a group of three teenage boys who were dragged in by the ears a few minutes late. We were the only non-Hispanic people in the audience, we were the only ones with beards, but perhaps what made us stand out most of all was Steven’s hat. This hat is a sight to behold. “I got this straw hat in Ojai California, but in time it began to wear out were I grabbed it to take it on and off, so I reinforced it with some sticks I glued. I just kept gluing things on and over time, I now have this hat. The other thing that stands out on Steven is that he is scared, on his neck, ear, chest, arms and hands from a very bad burn that he says he doesn’t recall, because it happened at age 2.

People smile and nod as they walk by Steven and I. Steven participates in every way possible, singing loudly with the songs, in a falsetto higher than mine (and that is saying something). Reciting all the prayers, standing at all the right times, except for one thing. Steven doesn’t go up to get the sacrament. Why? I am not sure. I don’t understand all the rules with sacrament and the Catholic church but what is clear from the people around him is they are not comfortable around Steven. They are unsure why he is there, unsure if he is crazy, but they are sure he doesn’t fit in. I am fairly confident one of the reasons Steven does not partake of the sacrament is he doesn’t want others to feel uncomfortable.

We enter the church, attend the whole mass and then stay after for Steven to pray for a bit. We walk by dozens of people and no one, not one tried to talk to us. One could argue that they had a valid point, we didn’t speak Spanish, but I’m not sure how they would have known that. After all, he did recite every prayer and song in Spanish. And don’t take this the wrong way. This is not to attack the many people who attended mass that day. I don’t think they are hypocrites or bad people. My guess is that church was full of wonderful people who serve others and love others and do their best to follow Christ. My point is that we struggle to know what to do with people who are different than ourselves, different race, culture, religion and probably more than any of those, different levels of sanity.

I bring this up because I am right there with these people. True, I got to sit down and get to know Steven, but I have no clue how to help him. I am not a doctor, but I think he has a mental illness of some kind. Is it an anxiety about work and religion provides a convenient scapegoat? Does it have to do with the severe burns he received before he has memory of it? I have no idea.

But whatever it is, he is kind, happy, keeps himself cleaner than most people who live on the streets and really mostly keeps to himself. What would 'help' for Steven look like? An institution? Drugs? He doesn’t want those things. The easy answer might be to just leave him alone.

If your hoping for an answer on what should be done about the Steven’s of the world, and there are more than you think, don’t ask me. Because the answer to this one is: I really don’t know. But what I do know is, we will never find it by pretending he and the thousands like him don’t exist.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Mover Moves on

My Dear Friend Troy working in the front yard, with a few helpers along for the ride.

One of my earliest introductions to Troy Selinger was the same introduction that hundreds have had to Troy Selinger, helping my family move into Boulder City. The Saturday that my family moved into Boulder City was a long one. Several men from the ward packed up trucks full of my belongings and hauled them all the way across Las Vegas. Unfortunately, one trip was insufficient to get all our stuff and Troy along with a few other stalwarts made the long trek back for a second load. It took almost the entire Saturday. But there was no complaints and rather than any irritation, all I ever felt from Troy that day was love.

Troy has quite possibly moved more people into and out of Boulder City than anyone else, and Troy really was ideal for helping with moves, for so many reasons. Not only did he show up, but he often organized and made sure the move was successful. I recall many calls and texts encouraging me to join him in an opportunity to help someone move.

Troy was strong. More often than I care to admit, I would walk into the Uhaul of some kind family that we were moving and would pick up the small box, or pillow, knowing Troy was behind me to get the large box of books, the heavy chest of draws or the piano.

His strength came not just by genes or good luck, it was from hard work and preparation. Many early mornings on my way to work or evenings as I returned home from an errand I would drive by Troy, running or biking. He kept himself in great shape and then used his strong body to serve others.

Troy was a hard worker. As long as boxes still remained to unload, or furniture remained to unpack or pack Troy was working. He not only stayed until the job was done but stayed busy until the job was done.

Troy was also a great packer. We loved it when Troy took the lead in packing the trailer or Uhaul. We knew he would find room for everything, no matter how awkward or odd it was, he found the perfect spot for it.

But despite all these the greatest reason he was the best person to have at a move was that Troy knew moving was not about boxes or furniture, it was about people. Troy had a way to put his arm around you and talk to you that made the new acquaintance feel like old friends. And a way to comfort and love his long time friends that prepared them to make the journey to a place where all they had was new acquaintances. No matter how awkward or odd you felt or how much you felt you would never fit, Troy made everyone realize that they did fit and there was a place for them.

It’s a funny thing about moves. Moves at times come during great times in our lives, new jobs, beginning a new family, or an upgrade in a home. But sometimes moves come during the challenging time in our lives. Foreclosures, bankruptcy, job loss, or breaking up of families. Such moves may come due to winds and waves beyond our control, but at times they come because of our own poor decisions and mistakes. No matter the reason, Troy was there. There to love and there to support. He was as void of any judgement towards others and he was full of love.

Troy at this time has made a move. And just as he was always there to help, love and support others I know that there is someone there to support him. A master at helping us through the moves of life, good or bad, his brother and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jeffery R. Holland said, “However late you think you are, however many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you think you have made, or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home or family or God you feel you have traveled. I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”

I know that the atonement continues to play a part in Troy’s life just as it does for each of us. I know that he is blessed to feel the divine embrace of our Savior as he goes through this trying time in his life just as he helped all of us feel it when he was here with us. I know that because of our Savior Jesus Christ, I will be able to once again embrace my friend and brother, Troy Selinger, and I say these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

When did you get out?

Allen and I at Arby's
“We will go in and collect the weapons, you watch him. One false move and you know what to do. We’re counting on you Allen.”
The Commander took several of the men into the small house that had been used as a weapons stash, leaving Allen staring into the face of a young man, a boy really, he couldn’t have been more than 10 years old. Allen kept his machine gun pointed at the boy. He wasn’t much of a threat to the marines except in his ability to run off and warn others. They had no desire to take any prisoners, so the mission was simple, get the weapons out of this small home and once on the road allow the boy to run off. The plans changed with one small movement as the boy reached for his pocket.
“Keep your hands out of your pocket.” Hadn’t they searched him for weapons? But as his hand continued into the pocket Allen realized that the others hasty search could have missed a small detonator. Every-man on this mission except him was potentially about to be blown to bits and there only hope was for him to act quickly. Most shots would still allow for muscle movement and even a slight movement would allow for a detonator to be triggered, only one shot would guarantee the men's safety, Allen took it.
“I’m fine, let me go out.”
“I’m sorry Allen, you aren’t ready to go out on patrols yet.”
“It’s been three days. You expect me to just sit hear all day and go crazy.”
“I’m your commanding officer, you will go when I say you are ready.”
“Worried I’ll shoot up a village of innocent children.”
“Allen, that’s enough.” His voice was stern, but softened as he said, “Allen what you had to do would have shaken up any of us. And it was the right call even though it wasn’t a detonator, you didn’t know. But I need you to get it together, I will send you out as soon as I think it’s right.”
Allen walked off. His three closest friends died that day when there vehicle triggered an IED. “I am not proud of what I did. It haunts me to this day. And the fact that I did it ended up saving my life a few days later only makes it worse.”
He came back from the Gulf War and went back to doing exactly what he did before the war, construction. “My dad was a general contractor and I worked for him both in Washington before the war and in the Phoenix area after. We built custom homes. I can do everything on a home from the ground up. Framing, sheet rock, tile, stucco, plumbing. You name it.”
The company did well and even survived the great recession but what it couldn’t survive was the death of his Father. “He died seven years ago and my brothers didn’t want to keep the business going, so they sold all the equipment.”
Shortly after that Allen found himself on the streets for the first time. And once on the street he learned a hard truth. You are under a lot more scrutiny of the law once you are homeless. He had smoked marijuana for many years. “It keeps me calm when I have episodes about the war.” Smoking, buying and using pot had never really been an issue for him, but once on the streets he began to have run ins with police and they found the pot. Soon he was cycling in and out of jail. It was the same pattern, they would let him out, he’d search for work and every decent prospect would find out about his record and it would fall through, he’d sleep on the streets and at some point they’d catch him with pot again and he’d be back to jail. “They follow me around and tell stores that I am going to steal from them. I have never once stolen anything in this town, but the police feel the need to tell people I do. The only charge I have ever had is for marijuana.”
“I refuse to steal, can’t find work and have to eat, so I sit on the corner with my sign.”
This pattern allows him to survive, barely. “I usually get $15 to $20 a day. It’s enough for food and I save a little so that I can go to the truck stop and shower for $11, at least once a week.”
Today you can see him on the outskirts of town far enough out into the dessert that temperatures might actually drop below 100 degrees in the Yuma nights. “I stay further out because I don’t really get along with people. I refuse to stay in the shelter because I am prone to get violent in my sleep. I don’t want to wake from a dream only to find I have hurt someone.”
I realize as I speak with Allen that twice I end up asking him the same question. “When did you get out?” First as I learn about his military service and again when I learn that he has been in jail. Funny, that we move from town to town, or leave one job to another but when it comes to the military and jail, we “get out.”

Generally, we use the term ‘get out’ to describe a situation we didn’t want to be in. War and prison would likely both qualify. Both are experiences most of us wish to never have, both are very different than most of the lives we live. They are hard, they can leave us wounded and scared. Sometimes the scars are physical, sometimes mental and sometimes they are scars on our record. Funny things about scars, they make people different, and we don’t always accept people who are different. What I realized about Allen is that he may have gotten out, but I’m not sure we are ready to let him back in.

Election Results (How I did)

As always I promise to tell how I did in the final election results. So, here I go.

  • Prediction #1- Both pool questions will go down. I think this town wants a new pool and I think the yes on 1 and no on 3 strategy is a smart one. Basically give the money for design so we have better plans and numbers without giving the $40 Million dollar check. But they will go down together. As much as we want a pool, $40 million is a big ask, and people feel, I think justifiably so that Council and Staff really have not done enough to explore other options besides bonding for the full amount. The idea that they will bond for $40 million but then use other funding does not fly with most people. They simply don’t have that kind of trust.

Result- I was correct on this one. Question 1 to give $5 million for design definitely out performed the $40 million dollar pool, going down with basically 60-40 vs. the dismal 70-30 split for the pool. This will put a tough situation for the current council. They have an electorate that wants a pool but doesn't want to pay for it. I think there is some good ways to get there and I think real leadership can find a way to use other funds besides a direct increase in property taxes but it won't be easy.

  • Prediction #2- Question 2 will go down in flames. What is question #2? You don’t know and that is exactly why it will go down in flames. It has to do with restructuring debt and those type of questions need a champion and someone to clearly explain the benefits to voters. This question doesn’t have one and will therefore bomb.
Result- I am very pleased to say I was wrong on this one, it passed. Not by much, only 100 votes, but this is great news. It really made sense to allow the council to refinance debt but I didn't think without people pushing for it that it had a chance. But people of Boulder City proved me wrong, they made the right choice and passed this one.

  • Prediction #3- Question 4 on off road vehicles will pass. There is a lot of people who love these vehicles in our town and while there are those who worry about the noise, the yes side is definitely more passionate about this. In fact, this may be the question that improves voter turnout more than anything else.
Result- I was wrong again. There was a lot of people who really wanted this to pass and they ran a good campaign but clearly there are more people who worry about noise. I missed judged this one.

  • Prediction #4- Rich Shuman will loose his bid for reelection. Rich did too little too late for his reelection. Personally I think Rich will enjoy the break and having his Tuesday nights and other time back. He has served us well but others have been more engaged in the election process and that will hurt him. I think he will be in the bottom of the four running.
Result- I was correct. I think Rich has done a great job and we owe him a debt both for his time on council and his time on the planning commission. I wish him the best. In the end his level of effort simply felt like less. I don't think people saw him as engaged and he got almost 700 votes less than #3.

  • Prediction #5- Peggy will win reelection. She was so close on the primary and while she may not pick up large amounts of votes from those that are no longer running, she has to pick up so few to win, she will do it. What the primary really showed me is that Peggy is really loved in the community. I figured she would do well but how much better she preformed compared to the Mayor and Rich Shuman really surprised me. It shows that many people who may not align with the incumbents have a positive view of Peggy and that will pay off for her.
Result- I was wrong but it was close. Peggy lost, but by the razor thin margin of 39 votes. Goes to show you that every vote counts. I too think Peggy deserves our gratitude. I think she has done a wonderful job and I was surprised to see her loose, but she did have some great competition, which leads me to:

  • Prediction #6- Claudia Bridges will be elected to the city council. In the primary she and James Howard Adams were only separated by 35 votes. I think again they will be extremely close. But ultimately I am not going to underestimate Claudia again. I think she will get the second slot and win. I think she connects well to the city and has been running a really good campaign.
Result- Mostly correct. Claudia did win and outperformed James but also out performed Peggy. Claudia has run a great campaign worked hard and really connected with voters. I think she will do an excellent job on council and can't wait to see her in action.

  • Prediction #7- That leaves James Howard Adams not making it in. I cannot say how impressed I have been with James Howard Adams. I think he has run a good campaign. I have not been to every event but largely what I have seen, he has been very positive. But I don't think he connects as well as Claudia and others to those in the community and I think he will loose. However, I think he will be positioned well to run and win in the future.
Result- I was wrong. Again only by 39 votes but James did it. The times I drove by during early voting I saw that he, Claudia and Kiernan were out at the credit union. And that extra face to face push, I think really helped. I think James will bring a unique perspective to council and I am excited to see him in action.
  • Prediction #8- Mayor Woodbury will win a second term. As close as it is, he has good name recognition and the moral victory of winning the primary (some people really want to back a winner). Again, I don’t feel very strongly about this one but in the end that is my call.
Result- I was wrong and not only that Woodbury lost but I thought it would be much closer. In the end, I assumed the Harhay votes going 60-40 to Kiernan's favor and new voters that didn't vote in the primary going to Woodbury with similar 60-40 split. I think Kiernan got more Harhay voters than I predicted and also beat Woodbury on those that hadn't voted in the primary. In the end, we got a Mayor McManus by over 400 votes almost a 10% victory.

I have always like Rod and still do. I think he did an excellent job as Mayor and deserves our gratitude. But I think this change will be good for him and for our city. If he was a good mayor why would it be good that he lost? The truth is, as the vote showed he was not able to garner the trust of the people. Rod has always come off as somewhat snooty (I hope this is the right word). I don't think he is and the more I have gotten to know him the more impressed I am with him, but due to his more shy and reserved nature he doesn't come off as that personable. I think this has led to many mistrusting him and therefore the need for a change.

I also always like it when you see that money is not everything in politics. Rod way outspent McManus and Rod made some significant blunders during the election in my mind that really hurt him (in some ways because he spent too much and sent out too many flyers). He was more negative than he needed to be and should of focused on his accomplishments and not tried to drag Kiernan down. I never like negative politics and while I didn't see everything I would argue that from face value Kiernan ran a cleaner campaign. (And I mean Kiernan himself, there were many who supported him that were very negative, but you can't control what others say.) Also Kiernan, defiantly ran a more grass roots face to face campaign. A wise man once told me when I originally didn't think Harhay had a chance at city council, "I have seen him face to face, with people, and he makes sure to get face to face with people. You can't underestimate that type of campaign." Interestingly enough, the person who told me that was Mayor Woodbury. I think the Mayor may have had things on his plate that limited his face to face campaigning but for every flyer, I think Kiernan had a hand shake and that, in the end made a big difference.

What about Mayor McManus? I think he will do a good job. I think he ran a good campaign and I think he is honest about his love of this city. I don't always agree with him, but he is well thought out and seems to be very fiscally conservative with city money. I think he has a chance to build some trust with the citizens given that many of those that are most distrusting of the city are very supportive of him. That should give him a lot of room to accomplish some good work. I look forward to seeing him do well and will happily support him any way I can.

A big thank you to everyone who ran, helped others run, and got out and voted. Here is to a great next four years.