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Archive for November, 2011

I had decided to pick up the late volunteer shift, 8 to midnight, on Thanksgiving Day at the USO, Palm Springs airport.  Sometimes it is a busy night but the holiday travel was over the day before, so I took along a great book I am reading, Kickstand Down, my cousin Arnie Swift’s autobiography, including his life journey in Vietnam.  Sure enough, I only had one guest, Jorge, a Marine who was flying in the early morning up to San Francisco, then on to Okinawa.

We have a guideline in the USO that the big TV is there for the guests, not the volunteers.  So the guests watch what they want.  Holy cow, I am now a captive audience for this young cultural icon, Lady Gaga in her holiday special!  Oh my.  For those who ignore pop culture, Lady Gaga is a young and outrageous singer/entertainer who is pretty far out and folks my age might even call weird.  However, judgementalism aside, she should be respected as a musician who left Catholic school and has become an international star in her own right, not a minor accomplishment.  She writes her own music, dresses somewhere between a sophisticate from the 1930’s to an avant-garde hippie.  I am not sure how to even describe her.  But one thing for sure, you have to be really smart in this age to make it big in the entertainment business.  She has done so by being shocking, fascinating and odd.  You have to respect brilliance even though it isn’t in one’s taste or style.  Then we also got to see her real self: her tears when talking about her father for whom she was able to purchase a restaurant business, a Catholic sister from her high school who gave her guidance and her disdain for “personalities” who put their personal life out there for the public to either admire or despise.  Gee, a real person here!

I like people that I respect, not people who are like me necessarily.  I call it “not being monochromatic in a Kodacolor world.”  I thought about folks I like because I respect them.  What a joy to not discard folks who are different.  For one thing, they are all God’s children and the Creator didn’t plan for flowers to be all the same color or to have the same smell.  This appreciation of Lady Gaga led me to meditate on others that are different and whom I respect.

Let’s see–my cousin Norma, a Unitarian in Los Angeles who visits and counsels women in jails; my cousin Debbie, a Mennonite in Wichita and social worker; Damon, a Quaker and university administrator in Michigan who guides students through their college lives; sister Bonnie in Pennsylvania who helps in the City Mission food bank in spite of having a bad back; brother Norman in Phoenix who works in a Nazarene food bank in spite of serious arthritis; an old friend Greg in Portland OR who has survived 20 years while being HIV positive, both working and enjoying life; niece Evi in Ohio who is a great writer and thinks Occupy Wall Street folks have a role to fill in society; niece Donna who makes me smile every morning with her witty and pithy comments on Facebook; Jim a homeless guy where I serve lunch on Mondays and is now six months sober; cousin Arnie in Kansas City, a “Bible thumper” and motorcycle mechanic who does prison ministry and rides his motorcycle out to CA and then across country with hundreds of other Vietnam vets annually to pay respects to the fallen at The Wall in Washington.  What a wonderful bunch of folks that I know!

I realize that the list could go on and on but will be brief:  Herman Cain whose father was a janitor, got a college education, became a successful businessman and is a black Republican running for the Presidency; Bill Clinton, who in spite of personal weaknesses, understood that true leadership includes knowing how to work with the other party to get something accomplished; Elvis Presley, poor country Southern boy who became an international figure; and then Harry Truman, small town lawyer who found himself President after the death of FDR, governed for years and all the while finding Washington society distasteful.  Last but not least, Mom, a plain old style Christian who visited those in nursing homes, took in kids who had been thrown out of their homes and wrote letters to criminals on Death Row, a true Blessed Memory.  Great folks all.

And now we have Lady Gaga!  You just have to love someone like that, even though you couldn’t pay me to put her onto my Ipod.  I am thankful this day after Thanksgiving, that the Almighty created such a colorful universe.  Also, am thankful that I am not colorblind, like those who cannot appreciate the variety of creation, not just the flowers but also the humans.

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