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Jeans

Looking around in a restaurant, I recently speculated on the eternal and ubiquitous presence of jeans. While we can call them a number of ways, they are the one fashion item that is always visible, regardless of the social context or demographic.

What is it about jeans that make them the acceptable or preferred clothing for everyone? We see them in restaurants, theatres, movies, schools, workplaces and everything in between. They are in cities and farms, small towns and large cities and on the bodies of the whole range of incomes, from rich to poor.

It was reported recently that jeans have been replaced in elementary schools by leisure or active wear. While I see these, especially where jeans are prohibited every day except Friday, they never seem to achieve the popularity of their predecessors.

In terms of history, jeans have been around since 1873 and were invented by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss. The name was derived from the city of Genoa, Italy, where jean was first produced. But what is it about our jeans (blue jeans, dungarees, overalls, jeggings, etc.) that makes them so universally accepted?

They are less expensive than most pant products, unless you opt for the high-end very glitzy versions. Jeans are comfortable, durable, versatile and can be worn in virtually any setting by dressing them up and down. We see them being worn by seniors, Baby Boomers, millennials, children, toddlers and babies. Other than underclothing (sometimes optional????), this is the only item of clothing that has been consistently popular.

My feeling is that we all feel comfortable and acceptable in our favorite pair of jeans. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I was not allowed to have jeans while living at home and the first thing I did when arriving at my college venue was journey to the local Army/Navy surplus store. In those days, it was imperative that jeans were tight-fitting and I remember lying on the store floor in order to zip the chosen item. That process has since been deleted.

We’ve progressed quite a bit since those days but I still pick my well-worn jeans for weekends and after school. There is no need to question that tradition, especially because I think it’s a venerable one. Shalom.

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Joy

Listening to holiday music, it occurs to me that not everyone finds this a time to celebrate. There are many reasons why this isn’t a happy season for some. It may be the first year without a loved one. Or it may be that circumstances separate people from those who mean the most. But having witnessed a large quantity of kind gestures, it seems that the best way to create a happy time is to give of yourself.

Maybe it’s a little late to volunteer somewhere such as a soup kitchen or shelter, but it’s a good thought to try. Most of the collections for children’s toys and coats have been completed but I suspect that some of them are still nearby. And there is always the simple reality of delivering kindness to your fellow man and woman.

Yesterday, I witnessed a couple paying for a senior citizen’s purchases. He was ahead of them in line and was wearing a World War II veterans cap so we know he must have been in his 90s. The gentleman silently paid for the bill, enabling the veteran to deliver a wide, grateful smile. Because I was there to see it all, I thanked the gentleman for his service and received another big smile.

Let someone into your lane on the road. Allow someone to go ahead of you in a shopping line. Deliver cookies to your neighbors. If you haven’t greeted your friends old and new with a holiday greeting, send an e-card or holiday email. If you see someone eating alone in a restaurant, invite him or her to join you. While you’re at it, make certain that you remember your server with something extra because he or she is required to work on this holiday.

For every interaction that you experience with a neighbor or stranger, there is an opportunity to improve that person’s holiday. As someone who is immensely grateful for my happy life and beautiful family, I always do what I can to honor and appreciate others. Maybe you can do the same. Shalom.

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Little things

There is something unique to the experience of traveling that elicits the best (and occasionally the worst) in people. Having recently completed three relatively short journeys, I had occasion to witness considerable travel behavior.

Somehow, the process of traveling provides the anonymity necessary to say or do whatever you like without fear of offending or injuring anyone who matters to you. This includes banging into others with your giant backpack, finding it acceptable to board whenever you like and spreading out across three seats in a crowded gate area.

On the upside, I also experienced numerous acts of pure kindness. Two service employees graciously assisted in relocating my suitcase with a sincere eagerness to help. And a complete stranger offered to lift my bag from the baggage claim carousel after noticing my anxiety associated with claiming it.

While airline, airport and car rental personnel are charged with the task of assisting travelers, the methods by which that care is delivered can vary significantly. Happily, most of the service I received was courteous and freely dispatched.

In spite of or maybe because of the fact that you will never again see the people you encounter, I make it a priority to be a helpful, personable colleague. This involves smiling at most people, quickly offering information when asked and liberally offering a seat when I believe that one is needed. Travel is often stressful and it seems only fair to make a small contribution toward mitigating that stress.

My best guess is that none of what I do will be remembered for more than a minute or two after the event, a reality that doesn’t bother me at all. We all have the occasion to make minute enhancements to the lives of the people around us. If we choose to be nay-sayers or curmudgeons, we lose as much as the people whose days we could have brightened. Shalom.

 

If I may assist you with any of your writing endeavors, it is my privilege to do so. You may reach me at csbutts19@yahoo.com.

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Memories

One of the worst realities of aging is what that process does to your memory. Somewhere I remember reading that there’s a part of the brain that is affected by age, resulting in memory loss. My experience suggests that this condition is irregular, unpredictable and beyond frustrating.

It’s not a lightning bolt realization that I am getting older.  As I point out to people who incessantly complain about aging, it’s much preferable to the alternative of not aging. Here’s the problem. While it’s difficult wanting to recall something, important or otherwise, what makes it worse is when those around us exacerbate the problem by prefacing the process with, “Don’t you remember?”.

If I could remember something, I definitely would. Part of what consoles and replenishes us is the ability to recall and celebrate the bright spots in our pasts. Usually, the births, graduations, weddings, anniversaries and other festivities are more easily recovered than the less significant events. Many of the rest of our recollections require a struggle. Sometimes we recall after a while but occasionally, it’s fruitless.

Of course, memory loss is not specific to the process of getting older. Some diseases result in multiple compromised processes, including memory. Having a loved one in advanced stages of dementia, I am certain that she will never know me again, a reality that is beyond tragic for me.

My recommendation is that you spend time with an older member of our society, it’s much more useful to say, “Do you remember?” than “Don’t you remember?”. It sounds minor but it’s much kinder. In addition to having trouble with memories, that person may also have the reminders of aching joints, a variety of ouches and discomforts and a general sense of inability to complete many tasks.

Love and kindness always work, with young or not so young. Baby Boomers are no longer the majority population, but we have many of them to thank for the many achievements for which they were and are responsible. Shalom.

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Come on in

It was about 6:30 am and we heard a persistent tap, tap, tap, tap on the bedroom window. No electronic devices could have issued that type of noise. The coffee wasn’t yet made, and the sun had just risen and was shining through one of our cabin windows.

We finally spotted a rather small bird with dark yellow feathers who was relentlessly trying to enter the cabin, discover food or simply make his presence known. What a remarkable and refreshing wake-up! If we hadn’t yet appreciated the joys of waking in a forest full of critters and birds of brilliant plumage, this alert was the best punctuation of all. Bird continued his concert, eventually leaving for another landing spot.

As I thought about what was truly important about our natural surroundings, I pondered how much time we spend in pursuit of less gratifying pursuits. Our social sophistication with its high speeds and gigabytes is ultimately less real, genuine and magnificent than the world that doesn’t include electricity.

Driving through the rural world that we encountered, we were amused and exhilarated by local venues dubbed Snappy Mart and Uncle Woody’s Flea Market. Ahead of us was the Dragonfly Trailhead, towns called Socorro and Deming and a world of history.

Thankfully, we are close to this non-technical, slow-paced civilization that has much to teach us about what matters. Every restaurant we visited had patrons greeted by, “How’re y’all doing?” and we were immediately persuaded that the locals regularly visited this diner or saloon. That didn’t matter to those of us who were visiting. We were greeted and warmly received by every server we encountered.

We can’t reverse the metropolitan clocks to the days of Monday night bingo and rummage sales. Visiting will have to suffice and at least one of me will be grateful for a life that is full of pecking birds instead of horn-honking rush hour commuters. Shalom.

 

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Good taste

It was breakfast at a familiar restaurant where we have enjoyed numerous meals. We were seated in a somewhat reserved area and prepared to enjoy a meal. Not long thereafter, a man was seated just behind me and he was joined by a younger man a few minutes later.

None of this was exceptional until the third young man arrived. This was the trigger for man number one to launch a diatribe that lasted throughout our meal.

He spoke in a loud voice (there was no other indication that he was hard of hearing) and went on an on and on pointing out everything that he could identify that was wrong with someone who apparently was one of his staff.

The recollection of a manager in my past undoubtedly occurred to me. But beyond that, this very unpleasant human was totally unrestricted in his castigation of the younger man. He (the employee) was accused of being an alcoholic, was told that he was sloppy in his appearance, was unsuccessful in hiring and training staff and had violated a confidence by discussing company business with an uninvolved third party.

Why did I hear all this? Unquestionably, I had no choice in the matter. Our conversation was nearly impossible due to the booming boor voice in the rear. Among other reactions, I felt very bad for the man who was listening to all of this criticism.

Several things are wrong here. For one, lower your voice so that the entire room doesn’t need to listen to your insults. Another reality is that he had not one pleasant thing to say to the man next to him. I believe in you; you’re going to be successful; you have great potential; let’s see what we can do to focus on your many strengths and the difficulties you’re having will vanish.

While I’m not involved in any of this except by proximity, I was required to listen to it. It occurred to me thereafter that had my dad been present, he might well have said, “Hey look, creep. Why not take your nastiness someplace where I don’t have to listen to it.” Dad was pretty direct.

Of course, I didn’t say anything at all. But we all have something to learn about not airing grievances where anyone and everyone can hear. The recipient of his abuse certainly deserved some privacy. And I can watch R movies if I want to listen to endless swear words. Give us all a break. Shalom.

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Rabbit, rabbit

Although few people in my life, past or present, are aware of the habit of saying “Rabbit” or “Rabbit, rabbit” as the first words on the first day of a month, I find it a peculiarly satisfying tradition. Maybe I should call it the Rabbit Habit.

If you’re not familiar with the superstition, a check on the Internet will provide numerous references and examples. One of the sites I visited suggested that the trend has become popular with young people and the “Rabbit, rabbit” message appears frequently on social media. My wonderful son and I have used the habit as a friendly competition, and I’m positive that he beats me to issuing the “Rabbit, rabbit” message one the first of every month.

Here’s the data behind the process. It appears that during World War II, British pilots were issuing the words, “Rabbit, rabbit” or “Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” in order to wish themselves and their cohorts the best possible outcomes on the day’s flight or bombing missions. Other sources trace the habit to early 20th century Britain, where children were accustomed to issuing the phrase or word as the first word of a new month, also to ensure good luck. There are also indications that the superstition traces much farther back.

If you’re asking yourself, “Why rabbits?” instead of toads or emus, the fact that bunnies reproduce prolifically is cited as the primary reason. And of course, people have been known to carry a rabbit’s foot for luck instead of the appendage of any other creature.

The idea of wishing yourself and those around you a day or month or year of good luck is indisputably a good one. One source indicated that issuing these words should be teamed with walking backward down the stairs – strictly out of concern for safety, I’m not recommending that addition to the custom.

My suggestion is to embrace the usage, wish good luck for as many people as you reach and perpetuate something intrinsically positive. Maybe it will ultimately displace road rage if we issue the words, “Rabbit, rabbit” to dumb drivers instead of our usual expletives. Shalom.

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Giving

Being in a new city after living elsewhere for thirty years has its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, it’s fun to find new restaurants, hiking trails and local shopping meccas. But on the minus part of the equation, it’s a bit strange to be somewhere where it’s extremely unlikely to encounter someone familiar.

That will change over time, I suppose. In the interim, I joined a local choral ensemble and was elated and surprised to discover that the process of becoming part of a venture was unusually satisfying. Seeking a common outcome and working toward that reality became enjoyable, both in the belonging and the active participation.

Last week, I experienced a similar gratification as I joined the local school system. Retirement is enjoyable and relaxing, but it was missing something that I wasn’t quite able to identify until last week. When I belong to an organization in which I believe, I am able to do what I call depositing positive energy into the universe.

Reading the news or watching it on television, we all become aware of the volunteers who champion one cause or another and dedicate hours, dollars and heart to that cause. Thanks to my recent commitments, I fully understand that being part of something honorable makes for a sense of community that is incomparable.

Some of the unhappiest people I’ve known were entirely self-absorbed and disassociated with everything. If I were a (full-time) counselor, my first recommendation to this profile is to get out and do something for someone or something else.

While I am compensated for my educating, that sum is entirely disproportionate to my passion. In my past, I committed the same enthusiasm on a purely volunteer basis. But as I grow into my new community, I hope to find valuable, lasting methods by which I can grow that environment.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, a great theologian and philosopher, once stated, “Knowledge – like the sky – is never private property. No teacher has a right to withhold it from anyone who asks for it. Teaching is the art of sharing.”

As we share with others, in the food bank, the shelter or the classroom, we give much more to ourselves. Shalom.

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People priorities

As a non-federal employee who is observing the consequences of the federal shutdown, I am outraged by the obvious inability to see the tragedies of those impacted. While I understand the political positions on both sides of the dispute, it becomes clear that those who are suffering from a lack of income are always those who have everything to lose and nothing to gain in the arguments that apply.

Our news networks are filled with stories about people who are standing in food lines or have to choose between insulin and eating. They have nothing to do with the border wall and whether it is established or not. But until all of our blustering politicians finish with the dialogue and diatribe, they will not be paid for their work.

Unfortunately, most of us have absolutely no ability to impact any of this. While I can contribute to a food bank or shelter, I can’t reach the lady in Maryland who is physically challenged and can’t pay for her meds. Do we have the power to effect change? It appears that we don’t and yet we are collectively disheartened to see all of the people who serve us and are compromised by the inability of a few to reach some form of compromise.

Is the world as black and white as this political debate would lead us to believe? The balance of life is rarely that distinct. Those who are dedicated to serving the greater good fail to do what is necessary to feed and shelter those who elected them.

My most sincere hope is that border wall or not, the federal employees are paid, working and free of the current political tension that immobilizes them. We support you, work to assist you and hope with all of our hearts that your economic hardships are soon remedied. Come on, politicians! Let’s take care of our citizens and work out our immigration issues without causing so many to go hungry. Shalom.

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When you take the time

If you’ve been in the customer service or sales business for any amount of time, you know that it can be gratifying, frustrating or a host of other adverbs. This has been the majority category of my career and I have always seen customer interaction as a method of delivering best care to benefit everyone involved.

Not so long ago, we received extraordinary care and service from a wait person. The young man who attended to us was kind, attentive, polite and interested in any and all methods of making us comfortable. At the end of the meal, I asked to speak to the manager so that I could compliment him on the hiring decision and extraordinary characteristics of our server.

The manager appeared grateful for the input and appeared to pass the compliments along to our young man who returned to express his thanks. Because this wasn’t the first or last time that I have elected to compliment management on a particular person, I find it surprising to hear how infrequently it happens.

Just as it is our responsibility to report problems with food or wait staff to management, isn’t it as much an imperative to deliver accolades? Chances are pretty good that this young man won’t experience a promotion or additional income because of my appreciation. But who’s to say how it will translate into improving his day, enhancing the care for future diners or generally benefit the atmosphere?

My suggestion is to take any opportunity to celebrate someone else. Leaving a tip is great but tell that person how much they contributed to your enjoyment of a meal. Tell your dental hygienist that he or she made your trip to the dentist much less stressful or painful. Advise your babysitter that her kindness to your kids cheers and improves you. Along the same lines, take a moment to help someone who appears to need that help. Several days ago, I paused to help a lady put her walker into her car and she was quite grateful for the small action.

The results of a few minutes of commendation or consideration are indescribable. Just as you want to hear that your life improves that of another in some way, people around you generally want to know the same. Shalom.