Fred’s a Close, Personal Friend

It was our second meeting with the leaders of a Dallas organization and, since the first went so well, we decided to recreate the ambience by returning to the same location.

Photo Credit: Featurepics.com

Fred’s Texas Cafe. The Original Fred’s. Fort Worth, Texas.

Garry and I decided to stick with our choice from the first lunch from over a month ago — the Fredburger. As he was ordering, Garry quipped, “You can’t go wrong with a Fredburger since it is, after all, named after Fred.”

The rest of us laughed, even as the rest of the group settled on The Diablo which is, in essence, a Fredburger lavishly dressed with ingredients guaranteed to light up your mouth — and perhaps the rest of your day.

The server didn’t laugh, but commented drily, “Yeah, well you know, Fred is a dog.”

We actually found that funny and laughed again. To which she noted, “You’d be surprised how many people come in here and try to tell us that Fred is a close, personal friend.”

And, not to be daunted in our merriment, we all laughed again.

Name-dropping. It’s a big temptation. But you have to wonder about the reasoning of people who do it in a setting where there’s a fair likelihood that their charade will be exposed. I mean, if you tell people you know Fred and you’re at his restaurant, wouldn’t it follow that word would get to Fred and he would come out to greet you — a total stranger? How embarrassing. Unless, Fred is a dog. Even at that, there would have to be some embarrassment. Of course, Fred’s serves adult beverages. So, maybe not all that much embarrassment.

We all want to be known. We all want to be recognized. We all want to be somebody. Even at the risk of stretching our credentials just a little too far.

As I finished my Fredburger and fries, I couldn’t help but think, “I’d like to meet Fred someday.”

Matching Outfit

I don’t want to make a big deal out of this because, after all, some day I may have a matching outfit.

I’m a member of a local fitness club. The difference between a fitness club and a gym is that members of a fitness club don’t feel obligated to reenact the slower moments from the original “Conan, the Barbarian” movie every time they work out. No yelling, tossing weights, or flirting with members of the opposite sex at the water fountain.

All of that to say that we’re a civilized lot.

I exercise early mornings most of the time. We have a regular crew who show up in the 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. shift. And we have pretty much juggled our routines so that we can minimize any interaction with each other whatsoever.

Our world was turned upside down recently when a new guy showed up. He came in and started acting like he was . . . I don’t know . . . a member or something. With reckless disregard for the rest of us, he just inserted himself into everything. As shocking as it may seem, he has even dared to venture on to my elliptical machine from time to time.

He looks like a nice enough fellow. You can tell that he was in shape at one time in his life. Unfortunately, his workout outfit is obviously from the glory days. It’s a little tight and comes up a little short in a few places. And don’t get me wrong, he’s always very neat — even down to the little triangle of hair emerging just below his lower lip. (Intensive internet research has revealed that such facial hair protuberance is called a “soul patch.” A fancy, spiritual name doesn’t move it up on my personal favorites list, however.)

And notice that I’m speaking of his ensemble in the singular. He either wears the same black shorts, black shirt, and black hat — or he has several identical sets of ill-fitting sportswear. It’s like he’s the Johnny Cash of sweat.

Normally, I don’t spend a lot of time obsessing about what some other guy is wearing. But the other day, the man in black cut me off as I was headed toward the assisted pull-up apparatus and then proceeded to tie up the machine for ten minutes.

I was forced to go on to other parts of my workout. Every minute or so I would glance over and all I could see was black. And it was then I noticed that no other male in the place was wearing matching clothes. I mean, most of us (I’ll emphasize here, MOST of us) had on matching socks, but no one color-coordinated beyond that. For example, I primarily wear greyish t-shirts. Some were darker at one time, some were white at one time, and some actually started out grey. A quick survey around the weight room verified my hypothesis. Guys who work out at 5 a.m. don’t wear matching outfits.

But here, disrupting my schedule, was one man who dared to swim against the current. What would motivate someone to do such a thing as this?

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/kansir

Then it hit me. He is a victim of circumstance. Each day when he gets home, he dutifully launders his clothes. Once dry, he folds them neatly and places them in the drawer, ready for the next day. In the darkness of the early morning, he — like the rest of us — simply gropes around in the drawer and grabs the first thing he finds. In his case, it’s the matching black outfit.

In my case, the selections are a bit more eclectic. But what is important is my understanding that the new guy is pretty much just like me, except for that soul patch thing and the fact that he’s 30 years younger. He’s just a regular guy . . . wearing black.

And I wonder why discrimination still eats at the heart of who we are.

 

Photo Credit: Creative Commons/kansir

Yesterday’s Vision

As I  look at myself today and whisper, “I can’t,” I wonder how my view is distorted by the clouded lens of yesterday.

  • The obstacles are too large . . . the road is too long.
  • I am too small . . . my strengths too few and puny.
  • Those who are against me are too many . . . my allies are too few.

Staring down at the emaciated figure I fully expect to see, my eyes pull away quickly and, in an instant, I catch a glimpse of tomorrow.

  • The obstacles are really stepping stones . . . the path is long to allow me to gain speed.
  • I am small because I need to be no bigger . . . the worries about what I can’t do fade as I focus clearly on what I can.
  • My fiercest foe is me . . . God is the champion in all things.

Glancing down again, I understand the importance of yesterday’s vision for what it is — a part of the past. I learn from it and I leave it. For if I do not, I can never grasp anything more than yesterday. Tomorrow’s view and the day it brings are enough to pull me forward today.

“I can.”

Two More Balloons

A lot of things change in a week.

Today, as I left to go home, I saw storm clouds building in the east. My first thought  was to get home. Foster Dog would be coming inside.

But things have changed.

When I pulled up in the driveway, I slowed to look for her through the fence slats. For the past three years, she waited there, eager for her walk.

Things have changed.

A week ago today, Zoe (also known as “Foster Dog”) left us. After years of a heart murmur that robbed her of oxygen, last year’s near-fatal spider bite, and the more recent arrhythmia, the big, white dog went to her rest. Nancy continues to peek out the windows to catch a glimpse of her and we both fight the urge to carry out fresh ice water to her every hour or so.

Things have changed.

Nancy took a walk in the neighborhood this morning — her first stroll down familiar streets without Zoe. Each step was more difficult than she imagined.

Not unlike many pet owners, we talked to Zoe – a lot. And even when it became apparent that she was completely deaf, we continued to talk to her. Nancy even sang to her. Not just any song, but one that she created for Zoe. I may have even hummed a few bars myself from time to time.

And, if you follow me on Twitter or FaceBook, you also know that there is some thought out there that Foster Dog talked to me. I would be hard pressed to deny that.

Things have changed.

So about this time last week, Nancy and I made our way to campus and sat for a while at the feet of a massive sculpture. This was one of Zoe’s favorite places.

Nancy brought two balloons — one white and one blue. We released them to the West Texas wind and they flew up and over the trees. White for Zoe’s beautiful fur coat and blue for her amazing eyes.

In some ways we thought it would be a fitting goodbye to a faithful friend.

Things have changed.

As we grow older, we are learning that the best things in life never truly leave us. Good friends, true love, and faithful souls surround us, even as their earthly presence spin away like two balloons in the wind.

Blessings on you as you remember those who have blessed you. Family, loved ones, and those special creatures God sent to comfort us.

Things have changed. But good, like God, always remains.

 

See also, “Two Balloons.”

 

And justice prevails . . .

I have to admit, I turned on CNN as soon as I received the newsflash on my phone.

The jury in the Casey Anthony trial was coming in with a verdict!

Moments later, millions of us watched as Ms. Anthony was found not guilty of all of the felony charges against her.  The four misdemeanors are largely insignificant at this point. With time already served, she will probably be free on probation immediately after her sentencing hearing.

Now I’m not writing to give my opinion on whether or not the jury was right. I honestly don’t know. In fact, I have an aversion to following cases that the media hypes to a frenzy and don’t know enough about the case to form an opinion.

What I am wanting to highlight is the feeling we all get when we watch justice in action.

If you believed Casey Anthony was innocent in the murder of her two year old daughter, Caylee, then you’re feeling pretty good about justice today.  However, if you’re one of the hundreds or thousands who have shared their opinion that Ms. Anthony is guilty, you may be thinking that this is a case of injustice. You point to a flawed system, a bad judge, biased jurors, a brilliant defense, or an inept prosecution team.

Justice prevailed in that court room in Orlando. Justice is a system that requires clear winners and losers. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the verdict, justice was done. Unless you were one of the jurors, your opinion doesn’t count.

The judge and the lawyers watched the system closely and followed very technical rules so that justice would be done. Jurors were watched closely and their lives were controlled and disrupted for weeks so that justice would be done. The laws that govern criminal trials were carefully crafted so that justice would be done.

My point is this:

A society that relies only on a system of justice to make things right
is rarely satisfied.

A justice system is a necessary element for order in our lives.  The tools of justice must be employed to guarantee our personal rights and for our personal protection.

But justice isn’t enough.

We must model and teach personal responsibility. We must build a desire in our hearts to love others and do right things. We must not lose sight of our hope that this world can be a better place.

There has to be more than justice for those moments when we believe that justice has failed.  For while justice is a great tool, it cannot ultimately satisfy all of our needs.

What fills the gap?

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more on this topic.