A Wonderful Thanksgiving Story

Editor’s note:  A wonderful story from The Washington Post about one person’s effort to help people at Thanksgiving.  And if we have ever needed reminding about such things, it is now.

“Rob Adams is a successful real estate agent in Utah. But when he was 11, he and his family experienced homelessness and lived in the back of a pickup truck.

Adams’s parents had only enough money for him and his siblings to stay in a motel room one night a week, he said, so for the better part of 1982, they spent the other six nights in the covered bed of their pickup truck in Porter, Tex., just outside Houston.
 
“My big meal of the day was school lunch, and many nights, there was no dinner,” recalled Adams, now 49. But just before Christmas that year, a local family from their church offered up their house for two weeks while they headed out of town for the holidays. They left presents under the tree for Adams’s family and filled the fridge with food, including a turkey and homemade pies.
 
“I cried when I opened that fridge,” said Adams, who now lives in Riverton, south of Salt Lake City, with a family of his own.

“Unless you’ve been hungry, you can’t imagine how I felt,” he said. “I told myself, ‘Someday, if I have money, I’m going to do this for somebody else.’ ”

Adams made good on that promise and started Thanksgiving’s Heroes, a nonprofit that this year gave away 2,500 boxes — each filled with a Thanksgiving feast weighing 53 pounds — to homes in the Salt Lake Valley.

Thanksgiving’s Heroes began in 2015 when Adams raised enough funds to give away turkeys and all the trimmings to 755 families in need. The initiative has grown each year since and, this year, even expanded outside Utah to Tampa, Dallas and Cleveland.
 
Adams’s wife and four daughters helped him deliver the food boxes in Utah last weekend, with assistance from about 800 volunteers.
“It’s important to make that personal connection,” he said. “There are some people who might feel embarrassed to stand in a line for a box, or maybe they don’t have transportation to get one. With covid this year, we knocked on the door and left everything on the porch, but we know that people are smiling when they unpack their boxes.”

This year’s 53-pound box includes a 20-pound turkey, 10 pounds of potatoes, a package of butter, a gallon of milk, a veggie tray, cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, gravy, olives, a pumpkin pie, whipped cream and ingredients for Adams’s favorite side dish: green bean casserole. It costs the nonprofit about $80 to make each box.

Adams spent his early years in Las Vegas and said that his family’s troubles started with his dad’s job as an air conditioning repairman in Texas. When his parents moved the family to Porter and bought a plot of land with the intention of building a new home, Adams’s father learned that his new job entailed selling customers parts they didn’t need, he said.

“So he ended up without a job, and during the recession of the ‘80s, it was hard to find another one,” Adams said. “My mom cleaned hotels, but there wasn’t enough money for rent. That’s when we parked on our property and camped out in the truck.”
Adams said his parents tried not to let on that the situation was bleak.

“They tried to make it like an adventure and were always looking on the positive side,” he said. “Now that I’m a father, I know the weight my father must have felt on his shoulders each day.”  The lunch ladies at his elementary school knew that he was hungry and always loaded his tray with extra food, Adams recalled.  “I was a growing boy with a big appetite, and those sweet southern ladies always made sure to fix me up,” he said. “I was very grateful.”
 
The two weeks he spent in a local family’s home over the Christmas holidays was one of the most memorable and happy times of his life, Adams said.

 “We pulled up in front of their house, and there was this big Christmas tree shining in the front window,” he said. “And nobody told us, ‘Don’t do this,’ or ‘don’t do that.’ Instead, they handed us the keys, told us to enjoy the holidays, and they’d see us in two weeks.”
When he became successful in real estate in Utah (his family moved to the state during his senior year in high school), Adams put his Thanksgiving’s Heroes idea into motion after a conversation with his mother in 2014, shortly before she died of brain cancer.

“I told her that I’d wanted to give back for many years, and she told me, ‘Please, you need to do it,’ ” he said. “So my first year, I set out to feed 10 families, and it quickly grew. Everyone wanted to donate to help, and we ended up feeding hundreds.”

Weeks in advance of the Thanksgiving holiday, Adams accepts applications and nominations on his website for the free meal boxes. He buys the food himself every year from a local grocery distributor, then he recruits volunteers to help him load everything up and distribute the food the weekend before Thanksgiving.

 “It makes my Thanksgiving,” said Sela Kauvaka, 41, who delivers boxes every year with her sister, Emma Lomu. “This year especially, a lot of people are hurting. To see their faces light up — there’s nothing like it.”
Another volunteer, Kallie Tueller, 23, said she was surprised last year to come home after her deliveries and find a Thanksgiving’s Heroes box sitting on her own front porch.

“I’d been having a hard time, but felt I didn’t deserve one because I have no children,” she said. “But somebody had nominated me for one. I felt such gratitude — that box fed me for a week and a half.”
Single or married, children or no children, it doesn’t matter, Adams said.
 
“We don’t want anyone to go without,” he said. “Nobody should go hungry in this country.”

Adams gets choked up, he said, when he reads the messages of gratitude left every year on the Thanksgiving’s Heroes Facebook page. This one in particular touched him:

“Thank u — I needed the box,” wrote a new mother. “We will have an awesome Thanksgiving. The turkey alone enabled me to buy baby’s milk and diapers. Big hug, much love.”
“What we’re doing is about hope — it’s the reason I’ve kept this going year after year,” Adams said. “You never know how you might touch someone.”

They Say It Is Time For The Iron Bowl. Really?

While the most celebrated holiday of the year is probably Christmas in most places, I would argue that in Alabama it is the Iron Bowl.  The late fall day when the football teams at Auburn University and the University of Alabama play each other.

For all intent and purposes, the state grinds to a halt.  Shopping centers are not crowded, traffic is light on roadways and weddings are not scheduled.

The game is hyped as the most intense interstate football rivalry in the entire world and I am not one to argue differently.  The two teams have played 84 times, going back to Feb. 22, 1893.  In fact, they played twice that year, in Birmingham in February and Montgomery in November.  (They took a 39-year break after the 1907 game and didn’t play again until 1948.)

I’ve seen more than half of these games either in person or on TV.

Traditionally it is the last game of the regular season.  It will not be this year.

But then, nothing seems traditional this year.  Covid-19 has seen to that.  There were questions in the summer if there would even be a college football season.  Then the Southeastern Conference eliminated all non-conference games and cut the schedule to 10 games.  Coaches were forced to pay as much attention to health protocols as to linebackers and quarterbacks.  Some games were suddenly postponed.

Which brings us to this Saturday, Nov. 28.  Auburn and Alabama will kick off at 2:30 p.m.  CBS will broadcast the event across the land.  Players on both teams will give it their all.  But it won’t be natural.  There will only be a handful of fans in the stands.  No one will be tailgating.  “Crowd noise” will be played on stadium audio equipment.  Cheerleaders will jump and bounce and exhort empty seats to scream and yell.

In a sense it will be like one of those contests where people impersonate Elvis.  While it may be close, it won’t be the real deal.

Auburn fans measure this series in relationship to Bear Bryant’s 25-year career at Bama.  The teams have played 37 games since Bryant coached his last one in 1982  Auburn has won 19 of them, Alabama 18.

Alabama is ranked as the No. One team in the country.  They are expected to win by three touchdowns or more.  I will pull for Auburn, but my expectations are not high.

Let’s pray that more normal days are ahead.  Days when we will know the Iron Bowl when we see it.

In the meantime, I may go on YouTube and find Elvis.

 

 

Let’s Talk About Love

Well alright.  But what does love have to do with this blog?

My knee-jerk reaction is that since this is my blog, any topic is fair game.  In addition, since we are so bombarded by news that dwells on hate, belittlement, lies and insults, why not talk about something more uplifting that turn our thoughts to better things?

Besides, I am an emotional, sentimental kind of guy.   Always a sucker for a good love story.  Which doesn’t mean I keep the TV on the Hallmark channel, though I have strayed by it a few times. but I have certainly teared up at the movie or watching TV.

I’m not talking about the all-to-common expression, “I just love him/her.”  Which might very well mean you are talking about a co-worker who is basically a good person whom you admire and trust.

I’m speaking of something far deeper and meaningful.  Something you will only encounter a very few times in your life.  The feeling when a special person is always just a thought or two away..

Here are three of my favorite movies about love, going back almost 50 years.

And they all have something in common.  They did not end well.  No one rode off into the sunset locked arm in arm.  Instead, some circumstance prevented that, which is why I cried.  I know that some loves are rare and special feelings.  They can be gut-wrenching.  They are all mysteries, quite hard to explain,  We don’t go looking for them, they just find us..

The Way We were came out in 1973 starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand.  They were from opposite sides of the tracks so to speak.  They met in college, but did not date.  He was the prototype college guy.  He was Protestant, she was Jewish.  She was a vocal activist, he was concerned about other things.  He was intrigued by her conviction.

They go their separate ways after college.  He served in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II.  She worked for a radio station.  They meet again and fall in love but their opposite views of the world cause problems.  They marry and move to Hollywood where he is a successful screenwriter..  They have a daughter.  They divorce and she moves back to New York with her daughter.

Years later the two meet by chance in New York.  He is a writer, she has married and is still an activist.  They exchange small talk then moves on.  She wistfully watches him disappear.

And my heart aches

The Prince of Tides was released in 1991,  Pat Conroy wrote the book.  Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte played the lead roles.  He was a football coach in South Carolina, she was a psychiatrist in New York City treating his twin sister  At his mother’s insistence, Nolte goes to NYC to meet Streisand’s character and help with his sister.

This leads to him revealing deep secrets from his youth.  Both he and Streisand are married.  After a number of twists and turns Nolte is able to deal with his past and his sister is released from the hospital.

But along the way, he and Streisand have an affair and fall in love.  However, he returns to his life in South Carolina while a piece of his heart stays in NYC.  He thinks of Streisand every day when he reaches a certain bridge on his way home.

The Bridges Of Madison County.  Released in 1995, Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep played the lead roles.  She was an Iowa farm wife, he was a photographer for National Geographic on assignment to take pictures of covered bridges.  He stopped by her house seeking directions.  Her husband and two children were gone for several days to attend the state fair.

She took him to the bridge.  They had a whirlwind romance for four days.  They considered running away together.  She decided not to.  But he was in her heart the rest of her life.  When she became a widow later in life she tried to locate Eastwood, but with no success.

Her ashes were scattered at Roseman Bridge, the bridge Eastwood was looking for the day he met her.

These are beautiful, but very sad, stories.  For a twinkling, all these characters found something so deep and meaningful that words can not adequately describe it.

It’s sad they did not open the door to something lasting, instead of just memories.

But better a memory than nothing at all.

 

 

 

Looking At The Joy Of Aging

Editor’s note: unfortunately I am at the age where dealing with the process of getting older occupies too much of my time.  I can’t help it.  Which means I can definitely relate to what is below:

I changed my car horn to gunshot sounds. People get out of the way much faster now.

I didn’t make it to the gym today.  That makes five years in a row.

I decided to stop calling the bathroom the “John” and renamed it the “Jim”. I feel so much better saying I went to the Jim this morning.

Old age is coming at a really bad time.

When I was a child I thought “Nap Time” was a punishment.  Now, as a grownup, it feels like a small vacation.

The biggest lie I tell myself is, “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.”

I don’t have gray hair; I have “wisdom highlights”!  I seem to get wiser every day.

If God wanted me to touch my toes, He would’ve put them on my knees.

Last year I joined a support group for procrastinators.  We haven’t met yet.

Why do I have to press one for English when you’re just going to transfer me to someone I can’t understand anyway?

Of course I talk to myself.  Sometimes I need expert advice.

At my age “Getting lucky” means walking into a room and remembering what I came in there for.

Actually I’m not complaining because I am a Seenager. (Senior teenager)  I have everything that I wanted as a teenager, only 60 years later.  I don’t have to go to school or work.  I get an allowance every month  I have my own pad. I don’t have a curfew.  I have a driver’s license and my own car. The people I hang around with are not scared of getting pregnant.  And I don’t have acne.
Life is great.

Pros And Cons Of The Electoral College

Editor’s note: While we hear a lot about the “Electoral College,” many of us don’t really know much about what it is and how it works.  Here is a quick review. There are a total of 538 Electoral votes.  Each state gets one for each senator and one for each congressional seat.  Alabama has 9.  The largest states are California (55), Texas (38), Florida (29), New York (29).

To the best of my knowledge, this system is unique to the U.S. presidential election.  All other elections are based on which candidates receive the most popular votes.  However, this is not the case with the electoral system.  For instance, while Donald Trump won the 2016 election with 304 electoral votes to 228 for Hillary Clinton, she received 2.8 million more popular votes than Trump.

This is because under the Electoral system, winner takes all.  In Alabama, this means that whoever wins the popular vote (Trump or Biden), will get all 9 electoral votes  In other words, if you vote for the losing candidate in your state, your vote does not count.

When you go to the polls to vote for a president every four years, you’re participating in an indirect vote. Why is it indirect? Well, because of the electoral college. Some say the electoral college is key to maintaining what’s good about U.S. politics, while others want to abolish the institution in favor of a more direct system. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the electoral college in the context of modern American politics.

Imagine a U.S. presidential with no electoral college. If only the popular vote mattered, candidates might concentrate their energies on densely populated metro areas like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Depending on your perspective, that might sound like a change for the worse. It would mean candidates would have little reason to consider, say, the state of farming in Iowa or the opiate crisis in New Hampshire.

One reason that some analysts support the electoral college is that it encourages candidates to pay attention to small states and not just get out the vote in big, populous states and cities. The electoral college gives small states more weight in the political process than their population would otherwise confer.

Pro #2: It provides a clean, widely accepted ending to the election (most of the time). 

The electoral college, proponents say, makes U.S. presidential elections less contentious by providing a clear ending. There’s no need for a national recount when you have an electoral college.

If one state has voting issues, you can just do a recount in that state rather than creating national upheaval. And to win, a candidate must garner the support of voters in a variety of regions. That means whoever wins the presidency must build a truly national coalition. This, in turn, helps promote national cohesion and the peaceful transfer of power between presidents and helps keep the nation’s political system stable.

Pro #3: It makes it easier for candidates to campaign. 

If you’re a Democrat running for president, you don’t have to spend too much time or money wooing voters in left-leaning California. The same goes for Republican candidates and right-leaning Texas.

The fact that certain states and their electoral votes are safely in the column of one party or the other makes it easier and cheaper for candidates to campaign successfully. They can focus their energies on the battleground states. Some argue that getting rid of the electoral college could make American presidential elections even more expensive than they already are, exacerbating what some see as America’s campaign finance problem.

Pro or Con: It keeps the two-party system strong.

This one is either a pro or a con, depending on your point of view. The electoral college helps keep the two-party system strong. It makes it very hard for a third party to break through at the national level and increases the risk that a third party could spoil a candidate’s chance of winning, which in turn discourages people from voting for third-party candidates.

Some analysts credit the two-party system with keeping American politics stable and driving candidates to the political center, while others would like to see a multi-party system takes hold in the U.S. So, depending on where you stand with regard to the two-party system, you’ll probably have corresponding feelings about the electoral college.

Con #1: It can make people feel like their votes don’t matter.

In the electoral college, it’s true that not every vote matters. A Democrat in California who gets stuck in traffic and doesn’t make it to the polls probably shouldn’t beat themselves up. The same can’t be said for a voter in Florida, Ohio or another swing state.

U.S. voter participation rates are already quite low. Some argue that eliminating the electoral college would be an easy way to raise them and boost Americans’ engagement in the political process.

If you follow U.S. federal elections and you don’t live in a swing state, you might find yourself grumbling that some voters get all the attention. If you don’t live in a swing state like Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc., you probably won’t see as many ads, have as many canvassers come to your door or get polled as frequently. The electoral college means that swing states – which aren’t necessarily the most representative of the country as a whole – get most of the attention.

And even within swing states, certain counties are more competitive than others. That means voters in those counties are courted particularly hard. If that offends your sense of fairness and you think that candidates should fight for the votes of all Americans, you may oppose the electoral college.

Con #3: It can clash with the popular vote.

Remember the 2000 election when Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the electoral college, and therefore the presidency? That was enough to turn some Americans off from the electoral college forever.

If the U.S. eliminates the electoral college, that scenario would never happen again. The potential for the electoral college to conflict with the result of the popular vote is one of the most commonly cited arguments against the electoral college.

Con #4: There remains the possibility of “rogue electors.”

Many states have no law requiring electors to vote the way their state has voted. Electors in these states are “unbound.” Therefore, the electoral college is based on a set of traditions that electors vote the way their state votes.

However, there’s always the possibility of “rogue” or “faithless” electors who could give a vote to a candidate who didn’t win the elector’s state. This also worries critics of the electoral college.

Bottom Line

Will the U.S. decide to eliminate the electoral college? It’s hard to say. There’s a movement to encourage states to split their electors in proportion to the percentage of the state vote that each candidate gets. While that wouldn’t eliminate the electoral college, it would change the winner-take-all nature of our system and the way candidates think about state campaigns. Time will tell whether that reform – and others – come to pass.

There Is Goodness Around Us

The avalanche of bad news bombarding each of us takes its toll.  The steady drumbeat about 1,000 Americans a day dying of Covid-19 and the incessant tsunami of political lies and misinformation are ample reason for anyone to question their sanity.

Then, like the needle in the haystack, we come upon news that lifts our spirits and make us once again realize there are decent people among us, people committed to making this a better world, people trying hard to bridge the differences between us rather than use them as a wedge to advance their own agenda.

One of these is Tom Landis of Texas who got in the ice cream business in 2015 in hopes of providing employment for people with special needs.  As you can imagine, it’s been a struggle with more than a few setbacks.  But thanks to Tom’s perseverance and the help of many who believe in his mission, the venture is alive and well and hoping to expand.

Here is the article from The Washington Post that details this uplifting story:

“Tom Landis was 46 when he gave all he had to open a business he felt called to run. On Dec. 26, 2015, the ice cream store Howdy Homemade opened in Dallas, employing mostly people with special needs, from servers to cashiers to managers. “Howdy,” as Landis calls it, thrived as locals praised the store’s mission and liked the ice cream, too.

And then the consequences of the novel coronavirus pandemic almost wiped out Landis’s creation.

The store began operating at a loss in March, when stay-at-home orders decimated sales, and it continued that way through the hot summer. By September, Howdy faced the possibility of closure, so Landis closed the original location and moved to a nearby, cheaper spot.

On Sept. 1, a supporter named Jaxie Alt set up a GoFundMe page to save the shop. Within six weeks, the page raised $100,000 and kept Howdy in business. As a bonus, Landis acquired a truck so that Howdy could serve ice cream more safely.
The store is now open again and appears poised to become a national operation. Potential franchisers have popped up in Asheville, N.C., El Paso and Las Cruces, N.M. Landis and his vice president, Coleman Jones, who has Down syndrome, took a road trip last week for meetings in San Antonio about putting Howdy ice cream in the massive H-E-B grocery chain and in Austin about opening a Howdy store on campus at the University of Texas, Landis’s alma mater.
Landis grew up in Bethesda, Md., with a mother who battled polio. He attended Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and had a part-time job delivering The Washington Post in the mornings. He now has two children, neither of whom has special needs; he said he felt moved to serve the special-needs community in part because of his ailing mother, in part because of inspiration from a former football coach and in part because of a calling from God.

“When you have someone with special needs, it takes a little bit longer to train them, but when you train them up, they’re fired up, and they put smiles on customers’ faces,” Landis said. “There are days I walk into the restaurant and the employees are in better moods and are happier to be there than me. They’re more proud of Howdy than I am.”

Landis’s store became one of Texas’s top employers of special-needs workers, and his hope was that Howdy’s success would change the way companies thought about hiring people with special needs. But when the pandemic sparked an unemployment crisis, Landis saw his cause pushed to the back of the line.

Landis was undeterred. He remains proud of five years in business with zero employee turnover and knows his employees with Down syndrome and autism have a place in the economy, in any industry.

“It doesn’t matter what your paygrade is — up and down, the worst part of our job is doing anything with repetition,” Landis said. “We don’t want to do the same thing over and over and over and over again. And then God designs people with special needs, and they actually thrive on it.”

In 2015, soon before Howdy opened, Jones met Landis at a banquet for the football team at Highland Park High School in Dallas, where Jones was a senior at the time. Landis told Jones about possible hiring opportunities, and the next day Jones called Landis to follow up. Jones, now 24, started as a bus boy at one of Landis’s Texadelphia restaurants and said he “started at the bottom and worked up to the top” — he’s now the vice president of Howdy Homemade.

“We really think it’s heading in that direction,” Landis said. “We think the writing is on the wall on that one.”