Friday, May 30, 2014

Reflections on a 35 Year Career Part 3 - The Third Internship

A writer writes!

After the 1977-1978 school year, I returned for the summer months (May-August) to my internship in Indianapolis.  I returned to the apartment complex I had in my first internship experience a block away from the Army Finance Center.  I believe I worked in the Position Classification department which eventually would become the job function I was assigned to when I graduated from college. The work involved applying job grading standards to a set of duties, to determine how much the job should pay. I worked with a variety of older workers.  Only one of those was African American. My future supervisor was also a specialist then.  I recall that he got into a car accident when he left work early when he was supposed to be on the job still.  The highlight of that summer was when friends came up from Evansville for a concert.  I also think my roommate to be came up for another concert that summer. Either I rented a car or I had already gotten a car from my parents to use.

I do recall continuing my effort to upgrade my wardrobe.  The years in high school of having only a few clothes to wear were still fresh in my mind.  So, I made up for those years by purchasing several outfits that made up for those years!  I also wore most of those clothes to my job, outfits which looking back were not truly appropriate for the office environment.

I met another college co-op who was coming to the Finance Center and let them stay at my apartment until they were able to find other arrangements.  Also, another student from Evansville joined the internship program and he took over my apartment.

I recall staying to myself still during the summer.  I continued having very few friends.  I may have had one or two dates that summer.  My attention was still focused on my job, finishing college, and my upcoming role on campus as the President of the Black Student Union.  I recall typing up documents related to what I wanted myself and others to accomplish during my tenure as BSU President.  But, my verbal and people skills were not sharp enough to truly be effective as the BSU President.

When I returned to campus that fall, the highlight of the year was organizing activities including a Gong show that featured African American involvement from the Evansville community.  My roommate did a reprise of  our "Commode" group act we had done the year before joined by other friends and we almost won gong show talent competition.  It was pure fun.  I still have a photo of the costume I wore that night to include a toilet seat toy guitar that I "played" during our act.

I wasn't a super academic student, but I interacted with a variety of people during my years in Evansville.  It was my first exposure to a predominantly Caucasian environment on a day-to-day basis.  Thanks to the other African American students I interacted with, I survived those years.  I recall that I was too active at times, something I learned as I got older to not do.  You only have time to devote 100% to a few causes.  Spreading yourself too thin means you are not fully engaged as you should be in an activity.  During the return to campus, I believe I met my first wife who was then beginning her Freshman year.  We started off slow as friends and became more involved as the semester continued.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Other Things Lance Stephenson Said/Did During Games Against Miami

Lance: "Bron.  After the game, let's go get some nachos!"

Lance: During game 4 in Miami.  "Bron.  Hey man.  After game I'm coming by your crib to play Xbox, okay?

Lance walking into the Heat dressing room: "Ooops!  I thought this was the bathroom.  Hey Bron!  How about an autograph for my mom?"

Lance: During game 5.  "Bron.  At the next time out, go get me a hot dog and a Coke.  Lance is hungry!"

Lance:  "Bron.  If I sign with Miami this year, can I come stay at your crib?"

Lance:  "Le Bron.  Is that French?"

Lance Stephenson was seen eating a hamburger, fries and vanilla shake on the hood of Lebron James' car before Game 4 in Miami.  Lance was heard to say, "I forgot the apple pie!"

During a game 5 time out, Lance grabbed Eric Spoelstra's water bottle and took a swig from it.  Then handed it to Eric, saying.  "It's too warm. You don't like cold Gatorade?"

After flopping in game 5 Lance told the referee, "I think I got two concussions on that fall. Call 911."

To Dwayne Wade.  "If you changed your last name to Wayne, you would be Batman's cousin."

To Lebron James. "Can you get me tickets to the Beyonce/Jay Z concert?"

Monday, May 26, 2014

Matthew 5 - An Application to Acts of Violence

A writer writes!

The latest instance of violence against innocent people occurred in California over the weekend.  A young man, caught up in what the world views as important, took out his worldly rage against several people, ending their lives.  In this case the young man apparently felt that because gorgeous women did not pay him any attention his life had no value.  Somehow he thought that having sex and pretty women was the sole determinant in whether his life had value.

This young man like so many others today are caught up in man's view of what is important in life. Those are the images presented to us via the media whether it be television, movies, advertisements, video games, etc. Those images often are of  "pretty" people engaged in hedonistic practices of self fulfillment.  The day to day world does not often present the images that God wants us to know about.  The day to day world misdirects us to live a life that often runs contrary to how God wants us to live.

What would have happened if this young man had been exposed to the principles in Matthew 5, specifically the Beatitudes?  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  He would not have felt like he was some type of failure.  "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."  He would have understood that his earthly feelings can be overcome if he put his belief in God, not the customs of a world that relies on physical attraction as an important component in life. "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."  He would surely have felt important had he applied this principle to his life.  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."  Had he been exposed daily to these principles he would not have killed innocent people.

The father of one of those killed spoke passionately about the policies surrounding access to guns. Yes, giving gun access to those with mental problems is a problem.  What the world also needs to understand is that overcoming the world's views and replacing those views with the word of God is something that also needs to be done.  The foundation thoughts of our hearts and minds needs to be changed.  We all need to be educated from birth about God and his plan for us.  Otherwise we are sidetracked.  As in the case of this young man and innocent others, being sidetracked often leads to deadly results.

Reflections on a 35 Year Career

A writer writes!

After my initial journey into the world of office work and the federal bureaucracy, I returned to college for what was then another quarter.   I continued being active in student activities such as Student Congress and a student activities organization.  The small group of African American students at the University of Evansville still stayed together and we planned social activities to fill the cultural void that existed at the college.

After the fall semester in 1977 I returned to my college co-op job in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I was back at the apartment that was one block away from my employer.  I still did not have a car and walked to work in all types of weather.  For awhile a co worker in the office would give me a ride to work in bad weather.  He was an older man who worked in what was called the Non Appropriated Fund part of the Recruitment and Placement Office that I worked in.  It was during this college co op stint when I went through the blizzard of 1978 during that winter.  It started to snow and kept on snowing.  I had enough food to survive.  Once the snow ended I did venture out one day and saw that the streets were covered with snow in huge piles.  Of course my employer was closed for several days as the city dug itself out of the after effects of the blizzard.

During that second college stint I started to express myself regarding some of the policies at work.  One policy involved some type of affirmative action rule I commented on.  I do recall writing that some people were not born with a golden spoon in their mouth and needed to have doors opened to them so they could demonstrate their skills.  Several people complimented me on my writing and others of course had differing opinions regarding my comments.  I do recall praying before I wrote that piece for clarity in what I was going to write.

Other than the blizzard, not much sticks out in my mind regarding my second college co op experience.  I think I did apply myself more to the job, and found the work more challenging.  One thing I recall is that I was somewhat shy still and purposely avoided being at work the last day to avoid a cake celebration being planned for me.  Somehow I got back to campus but don't recall if my parents gave me a ride or how I got back to resume my studies for the spring quarter.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Veterans Hospital Crisis - A call to a new standard of Public Service

A writer writes!

News reports have surfaced regarding poor and sometimes non existent services being provided by our nation's Veterans hospitals.  Although I am not sure of the reasons for the lack of proper services it does lend attention to one need.  Working for the Federal government or any governmental entity requires an employee dedicated to providing superior services. Working for the Federal government should not just be considered a job from which you gain income to pay your bills.  Public servants should be held to a higher level of expectations solely because their is no substitute for anything but excellence when you in fact work for the public.

Public servants who knowingly do not provide service that is helpful do not need to be employed by the Federal government.  Plain and simple.  In my 35 year career as a public servant, I became aware of employees caught and fired for stealing government funds; improper behavior in the workforce; and selfish behavior where the employee's goals were more important than their public service responsibility.

Sometimes employees who really care attempt to expose bad practices in the Federal government.  Whistleblowing is supposed to be a protected practice, but sometimes those employees who attempt to expose wrongdoing may suffer from coming forward.  There may be a need to further protect whistleblowers so more employees step forward to expose illegal or poor customer service practices.  As in the case of poor services to veterans, those who come to the Federal government for help should expect to receive the best response and services possible.

A Retired African American Male - Reflections on the Beginnings of a 35 year career

A writer writes!

I retired at age 55 after serving 35 years in the Federal government as a public service.  My entry into public service was through a college internship program in Human Resources (then called Personnel) while a sophomore at the University of Evansville.  At Evansville I was one of the 100 or so African American students who attended the school which at that time had about 3,000 full time students.  The environment at the University of Evansville prepared me somewhat for my entry into the work force as an intern working with Caucasian employees.

Initially I shared a furnished  apartment with two other African American interns one of whom worked at the same government location as I, the U.S. Army Finance and Accounting Center.  The apartment was a mere one block from our employer.  That made transportation to and from work being a non factor in our employment.  At the age of 19 I had my first office job!  After working the prior summer at an Uncle's Burger King restaurant, I was glad and felt lucky to have an office job to work at.  No more frying burgers on a grill and mopping floors at the store's closing.  Now I had an office job which seemed to fit the reasons why I was going to college in the first place.

My initial work assignments involved mundane clerical work.  Preparing files and doing whatever the specialists in the office told me to do.  My supervisor was an African American, the only one in Human Resources.  There were several older African American females in the office, but I only saw one other African American male in all of Human Resources.  I mostly stayed to myself at work to include breaks and lunch. My lunch often consisted of purchasing cookies and peanuts from a vending machine and sitting in a large break room.  The building at that time reflected the Army military style.  There were green steel partitions in offices and the cement floor was a grape/purple color.  An intercom announcement daily stated when it was time to start work and when it was time to leave for the day.  Workers lined up at the doors awaiting the announcement that the day was over.

Typewriters still ruled the day then, and carbon paper copies of letters and documents were filed in filing cabinets to record actions taken.  Microfilm was then the latest technology to look up information on microfiche readers.  We sat at steel gray desks lined up in rows. A semi private office was only for managers.  The age of computers was just in it's infancy with a personal computer still years away.  Training and Development was the title of the office I was first assigned to.  The function of the office was to facilitate employees going to training.  I don't recall being involved with the important side of the mission of the office.  I only recall assisting with clerical tasks.  Regardless, I was making good money to me for what I was doing.  I would rent a car on occasion to go to a mall, a drive in movie by myself, or take a bus "downtown" to go shopping.  One of my roommates moved out and the remaining roommate and I did not get along very well. I recall we had an issue about him not paying his share of the phone bill.  The phone was in my name. I also recall finding a magazine he had that seemed to infer he was gay. After awhile he left and I had the apartment to myself.  Somehow, and I don't recall how, I sent one of his paychecks to the phone company to pay for the money he owed me on the phone.  Luckily the apartment manager either let me out of the lease  when my summer internship ended or we had all signed a month to month lease.

I don't think I took my first job very seriously in terms of the work I was assigned.  I even recall one occasion when I left my job and took a public bus downtown to purchase tickets for an upcoming concert.  Yes, the wildness of youth.  That first internship lasted from late May until late August.  I think my parents gave me a ride back to Evansville to start the Fall semester.  Since I didn't have many clothes in those days, I believe purchasing nice clothes was something I did that summer prior to my return to college.  My main recollection of that summer was that after work I spent my time around the apartment watching TV and preparing for the next work day.  I may have been picked up by a friend one time to attend a concert or church, but otherwise it was a lonely experience.  I do recall having to carry two bags of groceries about 7 blocks due to not having a car.  It was a grueling experience and my arms got tired several times to the point where I had to stop and regroup.  But, that summer I wound up having my own apartment for the first time and started my journey towards learning all of what goes into being an adult.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Family Matters

A writer writes!

I just came back from visiting my parents in Dallas, Texas.  They are both in their mid 80's.  The original plan was to have a family reunion gathering all the grandkids, and great grandkids together for the first time.  Since mostly everyone is in Texas, I thought it would not be too hard to pull together.  An older brother was my primary contact and tentative plans were made.  But, apparently there wasn't much buy in from the grandkids to participate in the event.  So, it was canceled.

 I had already made airline flight arrangements to take my family party of five to the event.  So, I quickly prepared a backup plan to head to San Antonio for a day of tourist activity to salvage the trip.  Those plans were further supplemented to give my oldest son and wife a chance to visit an Aunt's family in Dallas for a day and a half instead of going with us to San Antonio.   Those plans worked out well.  We all still gathered to visit my parents for a day.

The demise of the family has been talked about for years.  Especially in the African American family.  It was my attempt to gather the family together so we at least could meet each other in some cases for the first time.  I have at least 20 nephews and nieces I have not seen in over 14 years.  In order to bring families together we need to make efforts to gather and spend time together. Unfortunately my attempt did not work totally.  The nucleus of our family, mom, dad, brothers and sister were able to gather for awhile.  So, from that foundation future efforts may occur that will slowly but surely bring more communication and closeness in my family.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Images Presented to African American Males

A writer writes!

Yesterday I saw a "news" report regarding the NFL draft.  The report covered the St. Louis Rams drafting the first openly gay player being drafted.  The report included a video of the player kissing his male partner twice.  The images of two men kissing was reminiscent of a scene in an R or NC-17 rated movie.  My immediate thought was yes the player has the human being right to be "gay" and live his life as he chooses. Whether his lifestyle is in line with God's plan for how a man should be is another story.

My second reaction was why was this intimate image of two men kissing being advertised for the world to see?  The image being presented could have been cut short of the scene where the men are kissing.  But, instead the video purposely showed the images of the men kissing, not once, but twice.  I do wonder what was the rationale of the news report to include these intimate scenes?

For some reason I thought, maybe because the player was an African American male was a reason for the prolonged kissing scene being shown.  Was the news outlet purposely attempting to display an image of an African American male being gay and kissing his Caucasian partner?  Was the news outlet thinking that these scenes might influence young African American males to copy such behavior?  The media must be aware that images presented to youth can influence our youth to copy what they see.

On the local news almost daily are reports of people being murdered through black on black crime.  These images are displayed in micro bursts to the community influencing the thoughts of the community.  The images often reinforce thoughts that African American people are violent and should be avoided.  On a recent airline flight, a Caucasian gentlemen sitting behind me was relaying the tale from his wife about how some "black guy" had gone on a high speed flight from police.  The fact that the person was black was not essential to the story.  But, the man for some reason felt compelled to say it was a "black guy".

The media needs to be more responsible in displaying images to the public.  I rarely see images that feature African American males overcoming odds to obtain a job, graduate from college, or performing charitable acts for others.  Are not those accomplishments newsworthy?  Especially in an environment where African American male lag behind others in employment, and college attendance.  Yes, an African American gay male college football player was drafted. Good for him and hopefully if he makes the team's final roster he will do charitable acts not limited to the gay community.  But, don't ignore the struggles of "straight" African American males who like the gay black player already have to deal with negative stereotypes.

The media needs to think about the images it presents to the world and how those images influence our youth.  In the meantime, parents of African American males need to take more control over what images are presented to your sons.  Present the images that you feel are positive.  You are the parent, not the media.  Instruct your child as you would want them instructed.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Making Time to Reflect

A writer writes!

I am back after a 5 day getaway to Florida.  It was mostly quiet time to call time out from life, reorganize myself and re energize my thoughts.  I feel much calmer and re focused.  The key is that I was under no pressure and I had time to just observe others and just think.

In our everyday lives, we are pulled in many directions from the time we awake.  Preparing to go to work, interacting with a spouse, friend, children or partner.  All those interactions involve thoughts, actions, and on the spot decision making.  We don't always have time to call time out to reflect on some comment or question directed our way.   Others often want or need our response immediately.  Sometimes we have the luxury of delaying a response until we have had time to think about a reaction. That mostly happens on our jobs, at work.

Otherwise we are expected to respond on the spot with some type of answer.  Whether we are prepared to respond immediately is another issue.  It would be great to have time to reflect before we answer a question.  But, often questions come to us and we are not prepared to answer.  Maybe we should then just say, I don't know or give me time to think about it first.

Having time the past few days to reflect about various issues in my life was simply great.  But, others around us are still seeking on the spot answers.  To take some of the pressure off yourself, ask others seeking your response about their view on the topic.  Then together maybe you both can answer the question.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

5 seconds to care

A writer writes!   On vacation at Disney World. I noticed that cashiers were surprised when I asked them how they were doing (in response to their question on how I was doing). Some even thanked me for asking how they were doing.

That made me wonder if guests normally ask them how they are doing.  If people are not asking them, that seems sad.

Yes they are working to provide services to guests. Buy, that does not mean people should not be courteous to others.  Just take 5 seconds to ask someone providing you a service how THEY are doing. It's just 5 seconds out of your day to ask another human being how their day is going.

It shows that you care. It shows that you care about their welfare. It shows how they feel does matter. It shows they are important too.

The next time someone providing you a service asks you how YOU are doing, return the favor. Just say "fine, and how are you?"

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Writing Minus Forced Distractions

A writer writes! On vacation. Can a retired person like myself have a vacation?  If so, a vacation from what?

In my case, since I retired I have worked on my writing most days. Some days household errands consumed the bulk of my day. But whatever I do or don't do is based on my making a decision. In that respect I have freedom from being directed by others during the day.

After 35 years of following rules,  regulations and norms for expected behavior,  it is refreshing to have that freedom.
During a work day I rarely had a chance to be innovative.  I was always directed towards thinking and reacting in an expected fashion.

When we have day to day jobs, we really don't have freedom to do as we wish.  Now I have that luxury.  If I am distracted from my primary interest of writing, it is my fault that I get distracted.

It is up to me to produce the quality of writing products that I would like to produce.  I like the challenge. Now, do I have the ideas and skills to produce writing products that people will find interesting?