Category Archives: People Profiles

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: A Tale Of Two Felons

A Tale of Two Felons

Tom

A few years ago, my next-door neighbor, Mark, decided to buy another house and rent the one by us. After a few months of living next to an empty house, Mark finally found a renter, Tom. From day one, Tom was a great neighbor and we became friends. We would watch his two little dogs when he was out of town. He would drop stuff off for the kids from time to time. We had some great talks in one garage or another. The only thing my wife and I worried about was when Tom would someday move, since he was just renting. That day came 3 weeks ago and now the house next door is empty again except for the visits from Mark’s handy man Lonnie, who can’t fix a fence to save his life. Just sayin’.

Tom moved over to Fort Worth near 7th and University. He loves that part of town so even though he had a falling out with Mark (because Mark is a tightwad, but that is a story for another time) he was ecstatic about making the move to his favorite area. We will still keep in touch and maybe grab a meal or a drink from time to time but I will miss him as a neighbor.

Tom used to live in Houston many years ago. He led successful but very busy life. He was married and had 3 kids; 2 boys and a girl. All his kids are adults now and Tom is single. He is really enjoying his single life. But 20 years ago, Tom was a regional manager for a national athletic store. He also spent an enormous time as an umpire for AAA baseball. When he wasn’t umpiring, he helped develop and run competitive youth baseball leagues. Tom knew everyone in the baseball world in Houston and he loved what he did. He went to church Sundays with his family and had a great life, almost. You see, Tom was over-committed. He didn’t have enough time for all the components of his life. He was out of balance. Tom started to develop anxiety and depression which slowed him down in an already taxing life schedule. He started to drink alcohol more and offset that with energy drinks and coffee. As things started to get tense at home, Tom started unravel even more from the mounting pressure. One night, he was out for drinks and a friend (drinking friend) offered to let Tom try meth. Tom was feeling desperate and suffering depression so he thought, how could it hurt?

In an extremely short period of time, Tom became addicted and as he put it, “I lived for meth and nothing else.” He lost his job, his standing in baseball, and he lost his marriage. After that, he became homeless and wound up in prison on drug related felonies. His life was over. Tom attempted suicide 3 times in prison. Once he got out, he was still homeless and he returned to drugs. He ate from a dumpster behind the Four Seasons hotel in Houston. Conveniently, that is also where he slept. Tom had no future, no present, and the past was nothing but shame. Meth had taken everything away. He remembers many days just walking around thinking of ways to end his life. He said he was arrested again and from there, he somehow managed to get into a drug rehab center.

Tom finally got clean and started learning how to stay clean. He lived in a halfway house for awhile until he could find work. Slowly, he started building his life back from the ruins and learned how to maintain balance. Tom is now self-employed for the last 10 years. He remains clean, keeps himself healthy and minimized any activity that would put him at risk. If he goes out, he is always home before dark. His business is thriving and so he can afford to do some getaways. He likes going to Vegas and Miami. I was surprised thinking he might have extra temptations in both of those cities. He told me that he does still like to have a drink or two but never never anything else. Tom has managed to repair his damaged relationships with both his adult sons. He reaches out to his daughter on a regular basis but she still won’t return emails or calls.  Nevertheless, Tom keeps sending her updates and greetings. Tom is somewhat selective about who he shares his story with. He does have a kind and giving heart. He has helped many people who have dealt with setbacks in their lives, including addiction. But he is cautious about who and where he shares his story because he now has contractors and employees to think about and would never allow his personal story to compromise the company. Not all customers will see his story as one of redemption but rather they would just see a felon. That is not the kind of thing that looks good on a Google review. This is also why I am not giving to many details.

I can tell you that once every month or two, Tom goes to the Four Seasons in Houston and always books a room that looks down on the alley where he ate and slept by that dumpster.  It helps remind him of all that he lost when meth took over his life. He said it also reminds him how far he has come and to remember that there were people along his path that helped get him back. Looking down at that dumpster reminds Tom that his success now isn’t of any real value in life unless he can help others. Tom is a Kindness Warrior now. He has a mindset that keeps him looking for ways to help anyone and everyone. He jokingly said that this approach hasn’t always worked well in his dating life. He has met a few women that really took advantage of his generosity and willingness to help.  He is trying not to use “fix you” as dating criteria moving forward. He says he doesn’t want to remarry and that he does really enjoy his bachelor life. He also knows that he blew a marriage to a woman he truly loved and cared for, and he never wants to be in that situation again. She remarried a few years after she and Tom were divorced, while Tom was in prison, I think.

John

I met John at Lowe’s, where I currently work. He had just been hired on as a part-time stocker. John is about 6 ft 2, and has a kind of rough look about him. But when he talks, he can be pretty friendly. John and I hit it off pretty well and he was well liked as a hard worker by his supervisor. Unfortunately, after only 2 and a half weeks, John was terminated because he failed the background check.  See, John is a felon. He has been in prison twice. And he had only been out about 2 months when he started working at Lowe’s. Before that he was working at Jack-n-the-Box making minimum wage.

John had started going to school to become an HVAC technician. He lived in a two-story house off Brentwood Stair and Sandy lane in Fort Worth. This was a halfway house for men. He didn’t have a car when I met him, so he walked, caught the bus, and occasionally got a ride from a coworker. My shift ended the same time his did so I took him home a few times. I continued to be friends with him after Lowe’s let him go and would give him rides to school as well. I figured this guy was really trying to better himself, so who am I to say no to a ride request.

First, let me say that John didn’t lie on his application. He filled out everything properly and as he was told to do. He was given the idea that he could be hired with his record. Apparently, there are some specific stipulations that disqualified him. He went back to work at Jack-in-the-Box. John was disappointed but undeterred.  He knew he had an uphill battle. But he felt like he was doing quite well compared to his previous life. And so, for a couple of months he went to school and worked at JITB.

John is 41. As I said earlier, he has a kind of rough look about him. Sometimes when he is animated, he gets this kinda crazy eye look. We laugh about it but if you didn’t know him, yeah, it could be kinda scary. He has some teeth missing on the right side of his mouth because he got shot. He still has some bullet fragments in his head. John keeps the x-ray images on his phone like a war wound. He doesn’t have an education beyond high school and his home life was kinda rough. His parents fought all the time and both liked to drink. So, he spent a lot of time outside with other kids who had similar homes. John had a temper, no real foundation, and became influenced by the wrong people (my words, not his). John assumes responsibility for all aspects of his life. But back then, he didn’t and he became a criminal. He was a thief and a robber. In his words, “I didn’t care who you were. I would hold a gun to your head and take your money. And if you looked at me the wrong way, I might beat you. I didn’t give a fuck. And I was usually drunk or high when I did it.”

John was in his mid-twenties when he finally got caught on something bad enough to put him away for years. He continued to have an angry heart in prison and got into many fights. Before he was arrested, John had amassed a number of misdemeanors and fathered 2 girls who he had no real relationship with. It was in prison where he started learning how to control his anger and start taking responsibility for his actions. He began to communicate with his baby’s momma and his daughters. When he got out of prison, he visited his daughters but didn’t quite step into the dad role. There were still some wicked turns coming that John didn’t see.

After getting out of prison, John was surprised when his father asked him to come live with him. His parents got divorced while John was away. So, John took him up on it. He said he thought maybe his father was different now that his parents had split up. John laughed when he was telling me about his parent splitting up because they were living just down the street from each other. But he hadn’t really changed and he and John began arguing all the time. John was working at a place in Marshall, TX close enough to his Dad’s place, he could walk home at night. He developed a little routine so he could delay getting back to his dad’s place and minimize any interaction. After work he would stop by a nearby convenience store and buy some beer and cigarettes. He said he would enjoy walking down the dark road by himself, drinking his beer and smoking his cigarettes. It was the only time in his day he didn’t feel hassled by someone else.

John’s mother would often drop by his dad’s place to check on him (dad) but they always bickered about something. One night, right after john got home and had argued with his father, his mother dropped by like she does and she got into a really bad fight with Dad. John decided to intervene and his father immediately threw John out telling him he wasn’t welcome there anymore. His mother let John come stay with her. Now about this time, John lost his job. So, while he was with his mom, he spent some time looking for work and occasionally did some things on the side to make some cash, which he promptly spent on beer and cigarettes. He was growing desperate and hopeless. John didn’t have any real plans or ideas for the future and he had little to no resources. One night, a guy he used to work with but now would drink with, offered a very drunk and depressed John some meth. John had never tried it before but knew that it was a dangerous drug.  But the state he was in, he just wanted to escape, even for a little bit. John said it was like nothing he had ever experienced. He said his mom found him on the back porch surrounded by empty beer cans and cigarette butts. She threw John out. It was a short trip to addiction to meth after that for John.  Which meant, he needed money for drugs. He didn’t really get a chance to steal any because he failed his drug screening at his parole officer check in. And guess what, he went back to prison.

Once again, John got clean and prepared to have another go at life.  This time when he got out, He chose to go to the halfway house and not depend on his parents or anyone else. John had turned the corner and began to feel like things were finally going his way. He even got engaged! John made a few visits out to Marshall to see his daughters. One of those times was to see his oldest daughter graduate high school. Things seemed to be getting better.

John didn’t much care for working at JITB. He worked with a bunch of kids who would goof off, call in sick all the time, quit with no notice, etc. John had developed a work ethic of getting the job done and being reliable, which he was while he worked there.  He also worked several day-labor gigs through various agencies. That paid better than Jack but it wasn’t as reliable.

When he finally got some grant money for school, he was able to finally get a car. I remember how proud he was of that accomplishment. But his joy was short-lived. John was getting more work through day labor and made the decision to leave Jack-in-the-Box. Shortly thereafter, he got kicked out of his halfway house due to a miscommunication about days away from the house. They have rules set that all living there must abide by and if there is an issue, you can be voted out of the house by the members. John was voted out.

His fiancé lives in Red Oak and he would go there on weekends.  Upon hearing that John needed a place, she allowed him to come live with her. She was reluctant as first but realized she wanted him to stay. John was careful not to push her. He had respect for her comfort and didn’t want to make things uncomfortable. Well, the “honeymoon period” ended rather quickly. John had stopped getting day labor work. His fiancé almost immediately when he moved in began to complain and belittle John. He was getting pretty stressed.  John and I met the day he got kicked out of the halfway house. He was surprisingly optimistic. He told me not to feel sorry for him. He pointed to his car and said, “Chris man, I got a car! I even have insurance on the mother fucker. I got a fiancé; I got my girls! ME! I got this stuff. Man, I ain’t never had a car, that I didn’t steal. Most people take that shit for granted. Not me man. This is a big goal I have accomplished! Nobody knows how that feels. Ain’t nobody walked in my shoes. I’m gonna be just fine!

About 3 weeks after John moved in with his fiancé in Red Oak, I got a call from him. He said he got a job working for a cabinet maker and would be working 6 days a week. He said he was really happy about it because his fiancé was getting kind of abusive because he wasn’t bringing any money in.  He asked if he could borrow some money until he got his first paycheck the next week.  I didn’t have much to lend but I met him last Friday and gave him $40. He was in sad shape when I saw him. He also told me that he and his girl had been fighting. Then he proceeded to tell me he lost the job with the cabinet maker and he had fallen behind on his insurance. John explained that the cabinet maker position promised 6 full days but he was hired as a temp and temps get cut every day first, before the permanent employees, so he wasn’t getting nearly the hours he was promised. He also missed one day because he ended up in the ER. This cost him 2 points with the temp company. They only give 3. He lost the 3rd point for being 10 minutes late the day I met up with him. His positive attitude was gone. He seemed rattled and beat down.

Two days later, John was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge after he and his fiancé got into a heated argument.  She hit him and he pushed her down causing her to hit her head. I didn’t know about it but I started getting collect calls from the Desoto jail, and then from Dallas County Jail. I finally realized it had to be John so I took the call. John cried when he told me about the story. He said the worst part was he started using again. He said he was on meth when they got into the fight. John began to say how bad he fucked everything up. “I was weak, Chris. Things got tough and I messed it all up!” John said as he chocked back tears. “Are you disappointed in me, Chris?” he asked. I told him I was. I told him he broke his trust with me and he did the one thing that truly hurt himself by using meth again. The assault charge was of the lowest kind. John’s mother bailed him out and has allowed him to stay with her for a few days. But his fiancé now has a restraining order. John said the one bit of good news is that he got a job at a car wash in Waxahachie.

Tom and John have both gone through some troubles in life. So many factors play into how an individual does after they get out of a prison term.  One thing I know to be true, it ain’t easy. The other thing, Methamphetamines WILL absolutely ruin or end your life. These two men both attested to that fact saying meth was the only thing they had experienced that had them needing it more than they need food and water.

Prison is tough, life after prison for many is tougher. Ask John.  He tried to work hard, go to school, and be good. He also began to question his faith. He knew he would have a tough time getting out of prison and felt that now that he was clean and living his life according to Christ, he would make it. He still might. But the odds are clearly against him. He paid his debt to society with his prison time. But you never really stop paying. Everything in his life is harder than someone who hasn’t been to prison. Has must check that felon box every time he applies for a job, a bank loan, a rental agreement. One big difference between Tom and John, Tom knew what it was like to be successful. John has never had that and so he has never had a chance to really develop the life skills needed to succeed.

God bless Tom and John. And God bless all the kindness warriors out there who make life just the tiniest bit easier for others. There are certainly many people out there who could use even the smallest break.

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: Holly From Green Mountain

Next Saturday, August 22 will be one year to the day since I met a woman who changed my outlook on life. Her name was Holly, from Colorado. Her name came up earlier today in a conversation with my mother-in-law about some of the most interesting stories from my experiences driving Uber/Lyft.

Driving over the last 3 and a half years has given me so much inspiration and purpose. For those new to StreetLights, my name is Christopher Carlson. I have clinical/chronic depression. This is something I have dealt with all or most of my life but didn’t realize or understand it until a very dark rock bottom moment in December of 2017 that almost took my life. God intervened.

Since that moment of clarity I have chosen to share my experiences and my story because I know it helps others who suffer this lonely internal battle. My decision to be open and share my struggle has been validated more times than I can remember in the last few years. As a part of my own therapy but also as a sort of safe space for others, I have interacted with many incredible people through my 6,000 plus Uber/Lyft rides given. The other objective behind this blog and the stories I share is to promote kindness.

I haven’t driven Uber/Lyft since March 17th, due to Covid19. I am in the high risk pool and just can’t risk that much exposure. I have begun working full time in a position at Lowe’s which limits my exposure to the public and I really enjoy my work. But I truly miss driving and hope to someday feel safe enough to resume that inspiring activity, part-time.

As for now, like many of you, I have been anxious and angry. There are dark forces working in this world and the voices of fear and hate are very loud. Driving would often help me when I felt like I often do because it always helped restore my faith in humanity. Just a few riders is all it would take; sometimes just 1.

I don’t have that connection right now, so I thought I would look back to get some comfort and perspective. Holly’s story is a reminder that we can’t let the anger and fear of today overwhelm us and dictate our lives. I needed to regain that perspective. Holly has a simple life mantra. “Life is love. Anything else is a waste of time.” Here is her story…

StreetLights On a Saturday Night

People Profiles, Driving Away Depression

Holly From Green Mountain

I got the request in Grand Prairie. Uber XL. Thinking it would be a group of people and at 245am, most likely drunk and rowdy, I prepared myself for the worst. Shortly after I started working my way to the pickup address, I received a text from”H,” my rider. “Please come to the front office. I am in a wheelchair.” I was relieved it wasn’t a group of late night drinkers.

When I arrived at the semi-circle drive in front of the retirement home, two women were waving at me, smiling. Holly was my rider. She was in the wheelchair. Her 92 year old mother was standing with a walker. Holly had several bags and a small dog. I began to load the car as she said goodbye to her mother. There was some laughter mixed in with some emotion as I helped Holly into the front seat and loaded her wheel chair.
As they made their final goodbyes I began to realize this was more than just, until the next time. Once the door was shut, Holly began fumbling for the window button. I hit mine as we slowly started to move. She waved to her mother again calling out to her. I stopped. But Holly said no, let’s go, and she burst into tears.

Holly regained her composure and apologized saying “It’s just tough. I am saying goodbye to my mother for the last time. She has congestive heart failure. In the morning she will be moved into a full care facility.”

Holly comes from a big family. She has 13 brothers. Not one of them have visited their mother in these final days. Here was Holly, with serious health issues herself, bound to a wheelchair, traveled from Colorado to see her mom.

Holly returned to what seemed to be her normal disposition, cheerful and positive. She was warm and friendly, even when she spoke of tough, even tragic experiences in her life. When you look into her eyes you can see this almost childlike joy.

Holly’s mother was given something called DES when she was pregnant with Holly.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of the female hormone estrogen. It was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and related complications of pregnancy, incuding nausea. It was determined to cause cancer in the mother, the child and could even reach as far as a grandchild genetically. Holly is known as a DES daughter because she, like many women born from exposure, developed cancer or other significant health issues.

Holly fought cancer twice. The first time she was only 9. And then again, in her late 20s. She beat it both times. But the genetic abnormality remained.

Holly and Bill married young. Bill is a disabled Vietnam War Veteran. They had a baby boy. He had a rocky start and passed away at 15 months old.

Eventually they tried again and she gave birth to a little girl. Her daughter was healthy. She grew up, got married and began having kids of her own. That’s when the cancer finally showed up. Holly’s daughter had inoperable, terminal brain cancer. Holly said after the news, her daughter freaked out, dropped everything and left. She left her 3 children and her husband. Holly never heard from her again.

Now another predicament. By this time, Holly and Bill had significant health issues and couldn’t take on the kids. Her daughter’s husband was in a car accident and suffered traumatic brain damage. So he couldn’t be a father anymore. They were forced to turn to the state. All 3 children were put into different foster homes.

In 1985 Holly and Bill, along with their daughter were living in Houston. There was a severe storm one day that had Holly concerned about the lightning. She called Bill on the phone and while expressing her concerns to him lightning struck the tree just outside the kitchen window. The strike went into the ground, splitting the tree, and found its way up the ground cable for the phone. And then, as Holly described it, the lights went out. She was cooked!

It took her over a year to learn to speak and walk again. That strike left her with a damaged nervous system, constant headaches, epileptic seizures, and a bone disorder that prevents calcium from being absorbed, making her bones weak and brittle. Calcium builds up on the outside of the bone. Apparently she has numerous surgeries to go in and essentially scrape it off. Holly jokes about a few other side effects, including a slightly tighter right side of her face that makes her look a bit like a pirate smiling. She said she can scratch her left shouldet and feel it in her right leg.

She underwent leg surgery not long ago where they used a cadaver bone for her right leg. It didn’t work, which is why she is curently in the wheelchair. Upon returning to Colorado, they will remove her leg below the knee. She joked about being mad at the doctors because she wanted to keep the leg, only to bury it. But they said no. I told her she should then at least ask for a core charge refund.

Holly’s little Terrier is named Christine. She is actually a service dog and lets Holly know when she is about to have a seizure.

Holly continued with her story. ” I am so grateful for little Christine, here. But I haven’t had a seizure in almost 2 years since we moved to Lakewood, Colorado and my doctor started me on CBD. My overall pain is lower. Apparently they fixed my voice too well, according to Bill because I won’t stop talking now.”

She had this childlike, innocent joy about her. All that pain. And her eyes are lit with joy and appreciation for life. She paused in her story long enough for me to ask how she copes. She smiled and said there are good days and bad days but everyday I am alive is a blessing.”

She commented on my music choice. Louis Armstrong and Elle Fitzgerald were singing a duet on my Spotify. What are some of your favorite music artists? I asked. She said she really liked John Denver.

Ohhhhh, like Rocky Mountain High?

She laughed a little and said ‘Well I like that song but it isn’t my favorite.”

What is?

“Annie’s song.” She said peacefully.

Her three grandchildren were found separate permanent homes. All three were adopted by wonderful families. Holly gets to communicate with all of them and occasionally gets to see them. They are all in Utah.

We got to Love field at 330 am. Nobody was there. But she insisted she would be fine to be dropped off. So, I unloaded her stuff onto a cart, got her situated in the wheel chair and we made our way into the terminal.

Holly you seem like such a happy person, I said. You have had a tough life.

Holly replied, “I have had a blessed life. I have been happily married for 39 years, traveled. I Live in a beautiful place by Green Mountain. Life has been good to me.”

I told her how much I appreciated her telling me her life journey. I told her I really admired her strength and resilience.

“You should visit Green Mountain. You should visit Colorado. You seem tired. It will rejuvenate you.” Holly said.

I told her now everytime I think of Colorado I will think of her….

With that pirate smile, hoppin’ around Green Mountain on one leg…

We both burst out laughing.

We hugged and said goodbye. I felt like I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. It was a strange moment as I walked away, while she sat with Christine and her luggage next to the check-in kiosk, smiling and waving me bye. She was happy. She was returning home to her steadfast companion of 39 years.

Oh Holly. You smile for me. I cry for you.

I played that song on the way home. I cried the whole way. I cried for Holly’s loss. I cried for the desperation I have felt. And, I cried for joy, because Holly reminded me that I am alive, still. She told me something else I am sure to never forget.

Life is love.

That’s it. Everything else is a waste of time.

Once again, God has given it. He sent a most interesting woman to deliver it. And, I have received it.

Grace.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #StreetLights #TheKindnessClub #Grace #drivingawaydepression #Peopleprofiles

For Holly and Bill. And, for the love of my life, who continues to lift me up, Mindy.

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: For Dad

I wrote this post below on March 4, 2019, not long after I had a heart attack and received 2 stents. I got a third a few months later. Now, as I write this update to the story, my father is in the hospital in Carson City. He and his wife live in Reno, but they chose the Carson hospital because they thought they would receive greater care for his heart issue. My dad is currently in his procedure now; Angiogram to see what is happening. I found it remarkable when Debby (my father’s wife) told me the Doc who is performing the procedure used to actually play backup guitar for Bob Seger. Well, there you have it. God’s grace through healing hands and, well, Rock-n-Roll!

My father, Lloyd and my son, Jacob during a family trip in 2011.

I am praying for good news. In the mean time, I am sharing this post again for Pop. He too, is tired and worn, but still running against the wind...

The Longest Trip.

Lord, I’m tired. I wonder, Lord, if you might give me shelter from the storm. The wind is blowing and I’m getting older. The wind is blowing and I am still running against it, as I have always done. But I’m tired and worn. I need some help. I need some hope. I just can’t shake this and I have lost a step or two…

Lately, I have been struggling. I have been questioning. I have been confused. There are days, more lately, where I find myself trying to reconcile God’s will with my own. I feel like I can’t find that balance. There is this nagging fear that I am failing, going nowhere, no matter how hard I try. There have been too many days where I forgot what it feels like, to feel good. Sometimes it feels like pushing on the ocean. Buts its just running against the wind, and I am not failing. And, I am not forsaken.

I haven’t written much lately. I haven’t found my voice again. At least until now. But this has taken me weeks to write. I have been in a bit of a fog, feeling weak, feeling like I have been knocked down and I am still coming to my senses. I feel incredibly mortal, fragile. And, that will pass. But nothing comes easy. There is a cost to everything.

We all struggle. If you look around and think about it, every person you know has struggles. That’s life. We all get knocked down. We all deal with difficult times. We are all still running against the wind. At least now that we’re older, we know we are stronger together. And, we are stronger through God’s grace.

Still, I am struggling.

Sunday, March 4th, 2019

Last night I picked up Steve and Susan from DFW airport. We hit it off before we got out of the terminal area. I am very glad too, because it was a 2 hour trip down just southwest of Waco. They live in McGregor, TX.
I actually took them to the municipal airport where they have a hangar that keeps their 1961 Beechcraft Bonanza. Their car happened to be there as well.

Steve and I swapped flying stories. I have a little flight time in the same make and model as his Bonzana. Stock photo below.

1961 Beechcraft Bonanza

They haven’t lived in Texas very long; less than a year. I asked Steve what brought him to Texas and he answered, Chip and Joanna Gaines. Seriously? I asked. Apparently, they watched the show Fixer Upper and decided Waco seemed like a nice place to live. It definitely has a lower cost of living than their previous home of 30 years, in Seattle.

Originally, they planned a retirement in the Caribbean, spending all their time on a catamaran. But their son was diagnosed with cancer. He is good now. But they say the next 5 years are the greatest risk of it returning. Steve and Susan decided to stay landside in case their son needed help. He lives in Houston.

So they came down and met the Gaineses. Joanna helped them find a house in McGregor. Their house in a Seattle suburb sold for $450 per square foot. Their new home in Texas cost $97 per sq. foot. They doubled the size for less money. Susan said they love being here and wish they had come to Texas 20 years ago.

As we continued to talk about aviation we started getting into the history of both our families. It turns out, Steve’s dad flew F4U-4 Corsairs in WWII. He was based in Guadalcanal, Henderson Field for a bit as well as the carriers, Lexington and Enterprise. While it was a completely different ship and in the 1970’s my father was an air traffic controller on the nuclear version of the Enterprise, CVN65.
Besides the F4U-4 Corsair, Steve’s father also flew Wildcats and Bearcats off the deck of a carrier. My favorite aircraft of all time is the F4U corsair and it just happens to be Steve’s dad’s favorite as well. Especially since he flew them in combat, dogfighting Japanese Zeroes.

F4-U Corsair

Dropping Steve and Susan off at McGregor airport was a real treat. It has been a while since I have been on an airfield. I enjoyed following the taxi lane to his hanger. It definitely brought back some memories.

Dropping them off completed the longest trip thus far in my 2 and a 1/2 years of driving Uber and Lyft. I think it was 123 miles. We had such a great time talking along the way, they offered to take me to dinner in Waco at their favorite burger place called Freddy’s. I had to gracefully decline and get back up to DFW. But it sure was a nice gesture. Steve and Susan, you guys are true kindness Warriors. Correction, Kindness Aviators!

Talking about our experience flying brought back so many memories. Thinking back on those days, I was so confident, so ambitious. I didn’t play by anyone elses rules. I thought I could do anything. But I was always running. I was running to or from something. Heartache, depression, loneliness, who knows exactly. But when I flew, I was at peace. Up there with the deep blue sky and the lofty clouds, I had no fears. My demons were left on the ground below. Up there it was just me and God.

Now, here I am, ragged and worn, still trying to re-engage. Still trying to find that place of grace that seems lost. I am running on fumes with no end in sight. But, I am still running.

Bob Seger was in town Saturday at the Ford Center in Frisco. I think his song, Against the Wind represents it best.

I know I am not alone. We are all struggling. We all keep running against the wind. It’s what we do. Sometimes, it’s all we can do.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #TheKindnessClub #StreetLights #Grace #drivingawaydepression #Peopleprofiles

StreetLights On A Saturday Night: Phoenix

Facebook Memories is a great feature. I am constantly reminded of the many wonderful people I have met and posted about, through Uber and Lyft. Yesterday, that reminder was about a man I met 2 years ago, named Winston.

In 2005, Winston Norton suffered a burst aneurysm of the brain. He was taken to the hospital but was expected to die within 24 hours. The aneurysm caused a severe stroke. When the doctors went in to try and fix the aneurysm, they found over 40 more.

The chance Winston would live was becoming smaller and smaller. In fact, he coded (heart stopped) more than once.

He lived.

Winston had lost much of his body function and control. He couldn’t move half his body. He spent 9 months at Baylor University Medical Center. 9 months!

Winston is a man of faith and determination. You can see the trauma he suffered in his walk, but you couldn’t tell from his outlook on life. He lives to serve now, thanking God for every precious, beautiful day.

He knows God still has a purpose for him so he works everyday to fulfill that purpose. His recovery/survival is nothing short of a miracle.

He believes it is important to tell his story. He and I both agreed we didn’t cross paths by chance.

Winston, rise again my friend, and keep inspiring people through your story and your dedicaton to spreading kindness and love.

Winston’s story got me thinking about the mythical bird, Phoenix. Like the Phoenix, Winston rose from the ashes. That led me to a Dan Fogelberg song of the same name that I listened to often, in my youth. When I listened to it again today, I found a particularly powerful line from this excerpt, “Like a Phoenix,
I have risen from the flames
Like a Phoenix,
I have risen from the flames
No more living
Someone else’s dreams.”

Someone else’s dreams…

In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz describes our lives as dreams. “What you are seeing and hearing right now is nothing but a dream. You are dreaming right now in this moment. You are dreaming with the brain awake.”

We make many agreements with life, with God, with ourselves. In doing so, we submit to the dreams, or the influence of others, in the way we think, we perceive, we act. We live someone else’s dreams. The Four Agreements teaches us how to break old agreements and make four agreements with ourselves to create our own dream, free of influence from others. In doing so, we are filled with love and peace.

Our lives are like the life of the Phoenix. There are periods, even days when we die and are reborn. As Christians, we attach this life experience to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each day is a renewal. Each day is an opportunity to become a better person, to give and receive love, to enjoy God’s creation and grace. Each day we rise like the Phoenix.

So RISE! Get up, get out, and feel God’s love. Share that love, so that others may find their way out of the dark, out of someone else’s dream.

Thanks for the book recommendation Mindy Lee Carlson.

Happy Easter, my friends. He is risen! Be safe in this extraordinary moment in time. Be love. Be kind.

streetlights on a Saturday night 2 of 3 April 1st, 2020

StreetLights on a Saturday night

Part 2 of 3
Last Ride


Occurred March 25th, 2018

It was late Saturday night, after midnight. Okay, early Sunday morning!

I am exhausted. My whole week went sideways. It seems to do that often. I haven’t slept well in days. My restless legs have kept me up. It’s a nice bonus every time I get one of those steroid injections in my neck for a collapsed disc. My goals for the week were on the horizon but now have completely vanished. A few more rides like the last one and I am just done.

It is day 110 of recovery from depression rock bottom back in early December. I have managed to keep clear of the fog, for the most part. That nasty shadow has been chasing me, but hasn’t been able to catch me. I have been keeping it under control.

I am so tired. No way to hit that bonus. I think it may be time to head home. I will start again in the morning. Means, I miss church again but, need to work.

I was on highway 114 coming back from the west and looking to make the highway 121 exchange to head home.

The Lyft app began chirping with a request. Wow, its 17 minutes away. I accepted it. It turns out it was coming from the airport. I guess there is a real shortage of drivers in the queue at the airport. It isn’t common to get an airport pickup 17 minutes away. So, I headed in. I didn’t get far before the rider cancelled. I guess he didn’t like the wait time.

Well, I am headed toward the airport anyway. I will take just one more rider. I will make this one count and then head home to try again tomorrow. Just one more trip. Just then, the app started chirping again, 11 minutes away this time. I accepted it. Wow, another airport request. Bet they cancel. But I am going that way.

This request wasn’t canceled. It was a pickup at DFW Airport Terminal A. Really late for activity there. I was exhausted and feeling beat down. I could feel that shadow starting to move around me. I was feeling sorry for myself and I was feeling like a failure, my mind was getting dark. But I am going to get this one last rider home.
As I approached the Terminal I saw my passenger, looking at me. Man, this guy looked worse than I feel. You could tell he was running on empty just by watching him move as I pulled up.

Just this last ride. Just one more ride and I will head home. I feel like I haven’t seen or spent time with my family in weeks. I have missed church and my friends there. Now I am going to miss everyone again. I will GET UP and keep fighting again tomorrow, I guess. Starting to wonder what the point is. I am so tired. Just one more ride tonight. Just one more Saturday night drive. Ok, time to put on a smile and get this guy home. Clearly he needs to get there. Got to keep movin’. Got to keep fighting. Else, who am I?

Hello James. Welcome back to DFW. Let’s see where we are headed…

#kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #StreetLights #TheKindnessClub #Grace #drivingawaydepression #Peopleprofiles #weareallconnected #lifeisbetterwithasoundtrack


streetlights on a Saturday night 3 of 3, April 1st, 2020

StreetLights on a Saturday night
Part 3 of 3
Silver Linings

Occurred March 25, 2018

In the struggle of life, especially those long stretches of time when we try to change, to improve, there is a strong counteracting force. It will knock you down, kick you, and steal your lunch money! You get the idea. Change is hard. When we attempt it, we often fail, and then fail again.

There are often times of sorrow or sadness. We are emotional, loving beings. When we are away from our loved ones it takes an emotional toll. When we lose someone, it takes a toll. When we become sick, it takes a toll.

When we must isolate ourselves at home, it takes a toll.

Something I know to be true, God is active in our lives. God puts people in our lives when we need them. God won’t give us more than we can handle. And, God has a purpose for each of us.

Last Saturday I was run down. Last Saturday I was feeling depressed. I was driving late, and I was exhausted. I picked up James from the airport and took him home to his house in Frisco. James seemed to fall into the car feeling exhausted himself. We got through the introductions and started the trip. I asked him if he had been traveling all day and he smiled and said he had a horrible trip. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. He said he desperately just wanted to make it home with no more issues, problems, or delays.

“I’ve got you covered!” I said. “Now tell me what happened on this horrible trip.” So James began telling this remarkable story of bad hotel rooms, broken rental cars, setbacks at work, and crazy flight delays. When he was done, I told him we needed to get him home as fast as we can so he can get out of my car and take that bad mojo with him! He laughed, but said the odds were against us. He was tired of travel and sad because he missed his family. I could certainly relate to that.

“James, your story alone is hilarious. Yes, it was all troubling and difficult to endure, but that was one of the worst travel experiences I have listened to, which makes it funny! And here you are on the final leg of your journey home. I will get us there!”

James asked me how my week went. I told him, not so well and explained all the things that went wrong with my week. After each of us had a chance to tell our stories to each other we both began to look for the silver lining, and we found it!

James ended up closer to his headquarters as a result of an issue with his first hotel room in Denver. He got upgraded when his rental car broke down. He could have been on the flight when the raft was triggered. It could have happened in the air. As far as his phone goes, well, stuff happens. But how cool was it that the trunk was triggered, sending his coffee mug right to him. That must have been quite a site. I told James I thought he now has a great story to tell his family in the morning to make them all laugh.

My week wasn’t the worst. Sure, I was tired. But I had so many wonderful interactions with people. I picked up some job leads and received help from numerous friends. James asked me what was most important in my life. I told him, my family. He said forget driving in the morning and get to church. He was right! I needed to be with my family. And I needed to recharge spiritually.

Sometimes, we need help gaining the right perspective on things. God is active in our lives. Meeting James was God’s doing. James was his messenger. And I was God’s messenger and delivery service for James. I delivered him to his doorstep at 1:58 AM. No issues or problems occurred.

Two weary travelers offering each other kind words and an ear. Just what each of us needed at the time. And our journey continues…

April 1st, 2020

Easter is almost upon us. I can’t think of a better time to use kind words and to listen. In doing so, we can alter the trajectory of someone’s life, in a very good way!

We can do even do this from home.

We are all connected.

Be safe. Be love. Be kind.

#Kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #StreetLights #TheKindnessClub #Grace #weareallconnected



Crossroads part 2 of 3

As I reviewed the stories from 2019, the one that stood out the most for me, and certainly the most amazing person I met this year while driving Uber/Lyft, is Holly from Green Mountain. Holly inspired with her story and reminded me how important it is to be present, not regret, be appreciative of life. There is always someone who has a greater struggle.

For me 2019 was a crossroads. I faced some difficult challenges that could have set me back from all the progress I have made. I met Holly at a time when I most needed. I am so grateful to God for putting people in my life like Holly, right when I needed them. Holly’s message, her story inspired me to choose the right path and keep moving forward.

Holly’s simple message to all of us is, Life is Love. Anything else is a waste of time.

We are all connected!

The more we acknowledge that idea and follow Holly’s simple advice, the more we will change this world for the better through love and kindness. So if 2019 was a tough year, it only has a few hours left. It is time to reset. It is time to renew hope. For all you Kindness Warriors out there, gear up! 2020 will give us plenty of opportunities to bring peace, love, joy, and Kindness to the world.

Here is Holly’s story from August of this year. Oh, the music is here favorite John Denver song. The 2nd one is mine.

StreetLights On a Saturday Night

Holly From Green Mountain

I got the request in Grand Prairie. Uber XL. Thinking it would be a group of people and at 245am, most likely drunk and rowdy, I prepared myself for the worst. Shortly after I started working my way to the pickup address, I received a text from”H,” my rider. “Please come to the front office. I am in a wheelchair.” I was relieved it wasn’t a group of late night drinkers.

When I arrived at the semi-circle drive in front of the retirement home, two women were waving at me, smiling. Holly was my rider. She was in the wheelchair. Her 92 year old mother was standing with a walker. Holly had several bags and a small dog. I began to load the car as she said goodbye to her mother. There was some laughter mixed in with some emotion as I helped Holly into the front seat and loaded her wheel chair.
As they made their final goodbyes I began to realize this was more than just, until the next time. Once the door was shut, Holly began fumbling for the window button. I hit mine as we slowly started to move. She waved to her mother again calling out to her. I stopped. But Holly said no, let’s go, and she burst into tears.

Holly regained her composure and apologized saying “It’s just tough. I am saying goodbye to my mother for the last time. She has congestive heart failure. In the morning she will be moved into a full care facility.”

Holly comes from a big family. She has 13 brothers. Not one of them have visited their mother in these final days. Here was Holly, with serious health issues herself, bound to a wheelchair, traveled from Colorado to see her mom.

Holly returned to what seemed to be her normal disposition, cheerful and positive. She was warm and friendly, even when she spoke of tough, even tragic experiences in her life. When you look into her eyes you can see this almost childlike joy.

Holly’s mother was given something called DES when she was pregnant with Holly.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES) is a synthetic form of the female hormone estrogen. It was prescribed to pregnant women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage, premature labor, and related complications of pregnancy, incuding nausea. It was determined to cause cancer in the mother, the child and could even reach as far as a grandchild genetically. Holly is known as a DES daughter because she, like many women born from exposure, developed cancer or other significant health issues.

Holly fought cancer twice. The first time she was only 9. And then again, in her late 20s. She beat it both times. But the genetic abnormality remained.

Holly and Bill married young. Bill is a disabled Vietnam War Veteran. They had a baby boy. He had a rocky start and passed away at 15 months old.

Eventually they tried again and she gave birth to a little girl. Her daughter was healthy. She grew up, got married and began having kids of her own. That’s when the cancer finally showed up. Holly’s daughter had inoperable, terminal brain cancer. Holly said after the news, her daughter freaked out, dropped everything and left. She left her 3 children and her husband. Holly never heard from her again.

Now another predicament. By this time, Holly and Bill had significant health issues and couldn’t take on the kids. Her daughter’s husband was in a car accident and suffered traumatic brain damage. So he couldn’t be a father anymore. They were forced to turn to the state. All 3 children were put into different foster homes.

In 1985 Holly and Bill, along with their daughter were living in Houston. There was a severe storm one day that had Holly concerned about the lightning. She called Bill on the phone and while expressing her concerns to him lightning struck the tree just outside the kitchen window. The strike went into the ground, splitting the tree, and found its way up the ground cable for the phone. And then, as Holly described it, the lights went out. She was cooked!

It took her over a year to learn to speak and walk again. That strike left her with a damaged nervous system, constant headaches, epileptic seizures, and a bone disorder that prevents calcium from being absorbed, making her bones weak and brittle. Calcium builds up on the outside of the bone. Apparently she has numerous surgeries to go in and essentially scrape it off. Holly jokes about a few other side effects, including a slightly tighter right side of her face that makes her look a bit like a pirate smiling. She said she can scratch her left shouldet and feel it in her right leg.

She underwent leg surgery not long ago where they used a cadaver bone for her right leg. It didn’t work, which is why she is curently in the wheelchair. Upon returning to Colorado, they will remove her leg below the knee. She joked about being mad at the doctors because she wanted to keep the leg, only to bury it. But they said no. I told her she should then at least ask for a core charge refund.

Holly’s little Terrier is named Christine. She is actually a service dog and lets Holly know when she is about to have a seizure.

Holly continued with her story. ” I am so grateful for little Christine, here. But I haven’t had a seizure in almost 2 years since we moved to Lakewood, Colorado and my doctor started me on CBD. My overall pain is lower. Apparently they fixed my voice too well, according to Bill because I won’t stop talking now.”

She had this childlike, innocent joy about her. All that pain. And her eyes are lit with joy and appreciation for life. She paused in her story long enough for me to ask how she copes. She smiled and said there are good days and bad days but everyday I am alive is a blessing.”

She commented on my music choice. Louis Armstrong and Elle Fitzgerald were singing a duet on my Spotify. What are some of your favorite music artists? I asked. She said she really liked John Denver.

Ohhhhh, like Rocky Mountain High?

She laughed a little and said ‘Well I like that song but it isn’t my favorite.”

What is?

“Annie’s song.” She said peacefully.

Her three grandchildren were found separate permanent homes. All three were adopted by wonderful families. Holly gets to communicate with all of them and occasionally gets to see them. They are all in Utah.

We got to Love field at 330 am. Nobody was there. But she insisted she would be fine to be dropped off. So, I unloaded her stuff onto a cart, got her situated in the wheel chair and we made our way into the terminal.

Holly you seem like such a happy person, I said. You have had a tough life.

Holly replied, “I have had a blessed life. I have been happily married for 39 years, traveled. I Live in a beautiful place by Green Mountain. Life has been good to me.”

I told her how much I appreciated her telling me her life journey. I told her I really admired her strength and resilience.

“You should visit Green Mountain. You should visit Colorado. You seem tired. It will rejuvenate you.” Holly said.

I told her now everytime I think of Colorado I will think of her….

With that pirate smile, hoppin’ around Green Mountain on one leg…

We both burst out laughing.

We hugged and said goodbye. I felt like I was saying goodbye to a dear friend. It was a strange moment as I walked away, while she sat with Christine and her luggage next to the check-in kiosk, smiling and waving me bye. She was happy. She was returning home to her steadfast companion of 39 years.

Oh Holly. You smile for me. I cry for you.

I played that song on the way home. I cried the whole way. I cried for Holly’s loss. I cried for the desperation I have felt. And, I cried for joy, because Holly reminded me that I am alive, still. She told me something else I am sure to never forget.

Life is love.

That’s it. Everything else is a waste of time.

Once again, God has given it. He sent a most interesting woman to deliver it. And, I have received it.

Grace.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #hope #peace #love #joy #StreetLights #TheKindnessClub #Grace #drivingawaydepression #Peopleprofiles

For Holly and Bill. And, for the love of my life, who continues to lift me up, Mindy.

March 6, 2018

People Profiles

Mark

So Last night, my first passenger was Mark, who needed to get to DFW Airport. Many of you may already know Mark. But, for those who do not, Mark is a member of my church and also the leader/teacher of my Sunday school class known as the Ragamuffins.

I can truly say my life changed when Mindy and I, along with our children, joined Broadway Baptist Church. All of our lives did. I never thought I would find a church where I felt fully accepted or fully respected, until Broadway. Last night Mark was describing when he and his wife Aubin found Broadway. He described a moment, being in the sanctuary for the first time for service, and having such a powerful spiritual feeling that connected them to the church. “There is no other place quite like Broadway Baptist Church.”

That is how Mindy and I felt the first time we attended Broadway. We instantly felt at home; like this is where we belong. And much of that is because of the wonderful friends we have made there, the immediate acceptance and love we received from everyone we met there. And, the incredible leadership in the church, including Mark and Aubin.

Mark is truly a kind and generous man. He doesn’t judge (unless you speak ill of the Baylor Bears:)) and he offers great leadership and support.

Thanks Mark for being a great leader, teacher, friend, and continually shining your light brightly so that others may find their way through the darkness.

Broadway Baptist Church is an incredible place of love, diversity, acceptance, and joy. Broadway challenges old ideology. It is unlike any church I have ever known or attended. And it is wonderful. Below is an excerpt from the last Ragamuffins weekly email that Mark sends out. He describes how the class got it’s name. Peace be with you.

#kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld Broadway Baptist Church – Fort Worth

“Fellow Ragamuffins,

Aubin and I had the opportunity to share our story with a class at Brite Divinity School this week. In my portion I shared about our class and the wonderful community we have become. In sharing, I recalled the source of our class name, Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel. This is from Manning’s introduction.

The Ragamuffin Gospel was written for the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out.

It is for the sorely burdened who are still shifting the heavy suitcase from one hand to the other.

It is for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it altogether and are to proud to accept the hand-out of amazing grace

It is for the inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.

It is for poor, weak, sinful men and women with hereditary faults and limited talents.

It is for earthen vessels who shuffle along on feet of clay.

It is for the bent and the bruised who feel that their lives are a grave disappointment to God.

It is for smart people who know they are stupid and honest disciples who admit they are scalawags.

The Ragamuffin Gospel is a book I wrote for myself and anyone who has grown weary and discouraged along the Way.

[“The ragamuffin church is a place of promise and possibility, of adventure and discovery, a community of compassion on the move, strangers and exiles in a foreign land enroute to the heavenly Jerusalem. Ragamuffins are a pilgrim people who have checked into the hotel of earth overnight, bags unpacked and ready to go. Regrouping and retrenching, squatting and debating, are not their poses and postures.”]

This is the basis for our class. Thank you for who you are!!

MARCH 6TH, 2018

People Profiles: Virgie

Monday morning I was fortunate to meet Virgie. She needed a ride to pickup her glasses. She was so excited she was getting them. Virgie wants to get to know the streets of Dallas better by driving around with her daughter

Virgie is a devout Christian and through her own journey to Christ has come to know the bible well. She now serves as lead teacher at Reconciliation Outreach Dallas. She is passionate about helping 4th and 5th graders develop a relationship with God and biblical teachings.

We had a great talk about God’s calling and kindness. Virgie you are doing incredible work and making a difference in the lives of those kids. Keep it up! It was such a pleasure to meet you. Good luck exploring Dallas!

People Profiles – Armando

This is my friend Armando. Or as most of his friends call him, Mondo. Mondo needed a ride this morning at 3am to DFW Airport. We had a great conversation along the way about his work, his passion. He has been a teacher for over 16 years and is a strong advocate for at risk or underprivileged children. Five months ago, he accepted a position as Director for The Fellowship Initiative in Dallas. This program was created through JPMorgan Chase.

“The Fellowship Initiative (TFI) provides intensive academic and leadership training to help young men of color from economically-distressed communities complete their high school educations and better prepare them to excel in colleges and universities. TFI is part of the firm’s broader ongoing efforts to provide adults and young people with the education, skills and resources that contribute to greater economic mobility.
To date, more than 200 JPMorgan Chase employees have worked with TFI Fellows as Mentors, coaches, role models, speakers, or volunteers in various capacities. Since its launch in 2010, the program has been expanded and will recruit new classes of Fellows in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York.”

Mondo headed up to Chicago this morning to learn more and share knowledge with the director of TFI for that area. Mondo is tasked with developing the program in Dallas and currently has 40 boys in the program.

As a long time friend of Mondo, I can tell you he is incredibly passionate about his work. He is definitely being called by God to do this. I hope you will take some time to read about the organization. I have attached a link.

https://www.jpmorganchase.com/corporate/About-JPMC/the-fellowship-initiative.htm?fbclid=IwAR2_Q2r-MLh3uMoh78u3-WT4WIByJIHOSrFJWdBTVKo66hiyn6GL6bECVRU

Changing the world! #kindness #purposefulkindness #Whatawonderfulworld #StreetLightStories

Great job Mondo! You are making a difference!