I pulled into the terminal A parking lot, the designated staging/waiting area for Uber and Lyft drivers. Both apps running. The queues for Uber and Lyft were 253 cars and 151 cars respectively. But it was Thursday night, the heaviest night of the week for business travelers coming home and between 9 pm and midnight, the highest number of arrivals. Nevertheless, I had some time to kill. So, I started walking the perimeter of the parking lot, left foot stepping on the faded red fire lane stripe.
Uber 240 cars ahead of me, Lyft 141.
So many people, so many cars. Up ahead I see Jeremy. He is always on his phone, alway very busy. At what, I’m not really sure. But, if I went over to say hello, I might be there awhile. Best keep walking. Jeremy usually has lots of drama to share. One night I watched him roam the parking lot on the phone with his ex-wife for almost an hour, arguing. He drives all the time but likes the flexibility of the work so he can spend time with his kids, the subject of the long call with his ex that night.
Uber 189 Lyft 127
There is Amir by his Lexus. He can’t seem to get his cigarette lit. Amir is from Qatar, I think. I know he works 3 jobs. Besides driving, he works at his uncle’s convenience store and also at a restuarant in Irving. He is saving up money to bring his family over. He says driving is really helping him learn the area and learn english better too.
Uber 137 Lyft 104
I see Sherry standing outside her Dodge Avenger. She loves her car. I ordered a Lyft ride for myself not too long ago when my car was being repaired. Sherry was the one who picked me up. She didn’t have a holder for her phone so she held it in her hand the whole trip and kept looking down. She is fairly new to driving and kind of a mess. I offered her a little advice and told her where she could get a phone stand. Hope she got one. Sherry drives as a second job too. She is using the extra money to pay down her credit card debt so she can qualify to buy a house to raise her two boys.
Uber 74 Lyft 68
Still walking the circuit. Cars keep buzzing in and out of the lot. Oh, there’s Willie. Willie is pretty cool. He drives an extended cab F150. Willie always has funny stories to tell about his riders. He constantly draws an audience in the parking lot. Willie is retired but needs the extra income to help support his grandson. He is talking with Brad, from Denver. Brad is retired Army. Brad sold everything he couldn’t fit into his Mitsubishi Endeavor and moved to Dallas to be closer to his adult daughter. He has zero debt and low living expenses so he lives off his military retirement and what he earns driving. Brad can tell you anything you ever wanted to know about army helicopters. After twenty minutes with him, you could practically repair one yourself. Brad has lots of strong opinions, some of them contradictory. But he always seems to respect others. Brad says while he doesn’t like it much, it’s every American’s right to be stupid and uninformed. For the record, I don’t agree with that sentiment.
Uber 31 Lyft 47
It’s time to get back into my car. About to get a request. Lots of cars, lots of drivers. Lots of dreams. Lots of hope. This parking lot is the perfect place to see the American dream in action. It ain’t easy. But it is still alive. Everyone here is here to better their lives or to better the lives of their loved ones.
Next time you hop into an Uber or Lyft, ask your driver why they do it. I bet you get an interesting and maybe even an inspiring story.
We are all connected. We each have our own unique story but we are all on this journey together. Be kind to each other. I wish you all a very happy Independence Day.
From his Daily Meditation, April 4, 2021, Easter Sunday…
Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which allows faithful Christians to trust that, indeed, all will be well. I like to think of the resurrection as God’s way of telling us that God can take the worst thing in the world—the killing of the God-Human Jesus—and change it into the best thing: the redemption of the world.
To believe that Jesus was raised from the dead is actually not a leap of faith. Resurrection and renewal are, in fact, the universal and observable pattern of everything. We might just as well use non-religious terms like “springtime,” “regeneration,” “healing,” “forgiveness,” “life cycles,” “darkness,” and “light.” If incarnation is real, if material creation is inspirited, then resurrection in multitudinous forms is to be fully expected. Or to paraphrase a statement attributed to Albert Einstein, it is not that one thing is a miracle, but that the whole thing is a miracle!
If divine incarnation has any truth to it, then resurrection is a foregone conclusion, not a one-time anomaly in the body of Jesus, as our Western understanding of the resurrection felt it needed to prove—and then it couldn’t. The Risen Christ is not a one-time miracle but the revelation of a universal pattern that is hard to see in the short run.
– Fr. Richard Rohr
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 3 years ago, named Winston.
As I drove Winston to his destination, a church in South Dallas, he told me an extraordinary story.
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. In other words, he died 3 times that night and once again, the next.
Winston had lost much of his bodily 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 reminded me how important it is to live in the present, to be humble, and to be thankful for every day.
There are days when we feel lost in life and wonder what our purpose is. Here is the answer. You wouldn’t exist if God didn’t have a purpose for you. You may feel your calling in life very clearly. That purpose can and will change. The important part is to get up and live each day in service and thanks, with love and kindness in your heart and every action. One way or another, God will reveal his purpose for you.
Winston, rise again my friend. 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 in the lyrics, “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.
Agreement 1: Be Impeccable With Your Word
Agreement 2: Don’t Take Anything Personally
Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions
Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best
His book, 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 throughout our lives 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 again for the book recommendation Mindy Lee Carlson.
In reposting Winston’s story this year, I am grateful to have met him on the day before Easter. The timing, then and now, is not lost on me. He is risen! Be safe in this extraordinary moment in time. Be love. Be kind. We are all connected.
For the full meditation from last week or more of Fr. Richard Rohr’s writing click the link below.
StreetLights On A Saturday Night: Rerun from 2019. The Uber Machine is still garaged due to Covid19.
When Oscar was 11 years old, he suffered a traumatic accident. Oscar was leaning on a shotgun when it suddenly went off, destroying his left arm below the elbow. He lost his left hand and part of his forearm.
Oscar grew up in South Texas. He lives in Fort Worth now, but Harlingen was his childhood home. He laughed a little and said the two major pastimes where he grew up were drinking beer and working on cars. He and his friends also spent a considerable amount of time shooting beer cans, junk cars, and occasionally a pesky bird or two.
When I picked Oscar up, he had one of his 4 prosthetic arms on, with a metal pincher on the end. Oscar said he also has one with controllable fingers and thumb. He wasn’t shy about telling me all about his experience missing one hand.
I told him about a friend of mine named Allen, who had the same thing happen to him when he was nine. That didn’t slow Allen down either. In fact, Allen became a pilot; a pretty good pilot. I flew with him once. He was more proficient than most of my other flying buddies. Oscar thought that was “outstanding!”
We talked about when bad things happen, like his shotgun accident. Oscar was quick to tell me when things happen, “you adapt and overcome! Ain’t nobody gonna feel sorry for you a week later, so you better figure it out.” Oscar said most days he actually is glad it happened. I was caught off guard with that one. But, He said he gained an appreciation for many things two handed people take for granted. And, that humble sense of gratitude has dominated his extremely positive outlook on life.
I wondered how many of us, including myself, spend way too much time focused on what we don’t have, rather than celebrating what we do. Oscar also told me he always uses the pinchers, rather than the full prosthetic hand when he coaches boys soccer, because he can flip off the ref and get away with it after a bad call.😉.
As he was telling me about his team, a song called Easy As It Seems, by The Mavericks played from my Spotify playlist. Oscar stopped talking for a second and just listened. “Dude! You like The Mavericks? I love these guys.” He said with a big smile on his face. He saw the band in Austin once.
Oscar had such a positive outlook and attitude toward life. It was infectious. I am always amazed by how influential positive people can be. And, Oscar reminded me how important it is to find joy in the moment. Bad things happen. But grace is always there too. Don’t spend too much time worrying about stuff you can’t control. Take a deep breathe. Look around. Find the joy of life around and within you. And there you will find grace.
Keep the faith. Be kind. Be loving. Be in the present.
Good evening, Kindness Warriors. I hope you all had a good weekend. As I have been taking inventory of my life these last few days, I am reminded of finding the right perspective and appreciating so much when I once thought I had so little. It occurs to me that, while I use many tools and checklists to control my chronic depression and anxiety, those same tools are helpful to anyone, not just headcases like me.😜
We are still in difficult times. Many of us have struggled, dealt with loss or tragedy. It seems overwhelming and we can find ourselves out in the wilderness alone. Many of us feel “lost in the woods.”
Here are some items to remember as you start your week:
Your checklist for the week.
Life is better with a soundtrack.
We are all connected.
Life is love. Everything else is a waste of time.
The world is a better place because you are in it.
Keep kind on your mind.
Everything is gonna be alright.
In case you didn’t know it, I love you.
The Light Of The World is within each of us. Let it out. Let it shine for others to see, as they too need help out of the darkness.
One last reminder for those feeling lost in the woods…
“Getting lost in the woods” is a phrase often associated with dark or troubled times in life.
If you are lost in the woods, take a moment. Take a deep long breath. Then look around you. The trees that surround you are not your enemy or your obstacle.
Look close and you will see, God has put those trees around you. They are there to protect you, to give you sustenance. They help form and define your path. Those trees are life giving and life saving. They offer you love and joy. Those trees are your friends and family, and safe spaces.
If you ever feel lost in the woods, take a breath, look around and know, you are not alone! Trust me, I’m an Oak…
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.
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.
Blowin’ In The Wind has been one of the best known protest songs which asks the questions of a society struggling to understand and better itself. It was released in 1962. 58 years later and we are still struggling to find our way and answer those questions, when the answers are still, blowin’ in the wind.
In 1962, “the space race was heating up and the Cold War was freezing over. Soviet missile bases discovered in Cuba triggered a crisis that brought the U.S. to the brink of war with the U.S.S.R. Civil rights activists won hard-earned victories against segregationists in the American South, and John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth. Meanwhile, the U.S. slowly escalated its involvement in Vietnam.”
The time was filled with change, innovation, growing fears and a society that seemed incredibly polarized.
The answers to our continual questions may be blowing in the wind, but they all start and end with love and kindness.
What question are you struggling with tonight? How can you diffuse the tension? How can we create hope instead of hate?
We are all connected. Life is better with a soundtrack.
#TBT The Rose I want tell you that I love you. I want to tell you, you matter. You have value and purpose. I know you are sad. I know you are lonely. I see you. I know where you are. I have been there many times myself. I even carved my initials on the cold dark walls that surround you. There are others. They too left their mark. And like bread crumbs we hope you will see our scratched cries for help. If you look closely, you will see cracks in that wall. Through the cracks you will see a very dim light. You can get out of there. I am going to keep shining that light.
Driving Away Depression I know you hurt. I know your heart breaks. And in the dark cold winter of your soul, there is a seemingly unbearable weight holding you down. “Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.” That seed is love and joy. You WILL feel the spring. You will feel the warmth of the sun on your face. You are not alone. Your journey isn’t over. If that seems improbable or hopeless, reach out to me. Reach to God. Reach to the light. I know how that feels. Turn to the light. Getting up is the hardest step. If I can, so can you. We are all in this together. You will feel love and happiness again. You will feel hope. “Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed It’s the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance It’s the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance It’s the one who won’t be taken, who cannot seem to give And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows Lies the seed, that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose” Bette Midler recorded The Rose in 1979. It still stirs every emotion in me when I listen to it. This may be the toughest year many have ever faced. Keep kind on your mind. The world needs more, many more kindness warriors like each of you. One small (or big) act of kindness could be life-changing for someone. Kindness can be the nutrient that seed needs to grow and bloom.
Be love. Be kind #kindness#purposefulkindness#drivingawaydepression#WhatAWonderfulWorld#hope#peace#joy#love#streetlights#grace#TheKindnessClub#weareallconnected
Despite all my rage… I was discharged from the hospital today. Including today, 9 days is a long time stuck in a 10 by 12 room where your only connection to, well, anyone is the call button. It changes your perspective on life. All of the sudden a cheap plastic remote becomes this mighty conduit.
I had 6 separate hospital stays last year. None were as challenging as this one. But, nevertheless, where there is darkness, fear, pain, and anger, there is also hope. I found a few meaningful elements to my journey in those little lonely moments, in the dark cold isolation of my hospital room; in the still.
I am still processing and look forward to sharing more about that. But for now, I am letting the anger and frustration out. And, there is plenty of frustration with facing what seems to be neverending health challenges that force me back into a 10 by 12 cage.
Makes me want to smash something. More to come, more peaceful thoughts. But for now…
My rage isn’t any less real. My fighting resolve is intact, still.
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.”
“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.
StreetLights On A Saturday Night: The Color Of Kindness
Kindness comes in all colors. Shouldn’t freedom, equality, and opportunity come in all colors too? It has been some time, March 17th actually, since I have given any Uber/Lyft rides. I miss meeting people in those rides and hearing their unique life journeys. That experience always helped restore my faith in humanity. With all that has happened and is happening in the world, that faith in people has been challenged again. More than any issue, and we have plenty to choose from, I am focused tonight on race. One of the benefits of being an Uber/Lyft driver is the diversity of my passengers. I often felt like the United Nations on wheels.
These last few years have been especially difficult for issues of race. We have seen much hate and fear. We have seen our own president spew hateful and racist language on an almost daily basis. Worse yet, black and brown people in this country have been marginalized and disadvantaged in ways we thought were being put behind us in the story of America.
A conversation, a true national dialogue is occurring and has been long overdue. We are in a unique moment for our nation. We, ALL OF US, need to use this moment for good, for progress. White people, we MUST work harder to understand the true racial inequities in this country. That means stepping outside of our belief system, our ideology. That means listening to black and brown perspective, learning black and brown history. It means honoring both the sacrifices of black and brown Americans, but also acknowledging current plight for people of color.
We cannot help or be a part of this conversation from our own white space. I am speaking now to my white friends and family who are outraged over people who kneel before the flag or protest systemic racism and police brutality.
That flag IS a symbol for our freedom, our national identity, 50 states united, and it IS something we honor as representing all those who have given their lives to defend it, to defend us. But when that freedom isn’t the same for all Americans, then the American flag isn’t living up to its promise. That means America isn’t living up to Its promise.
We cannot fly a flag that we hold so dear, because it represents free and equal Americans, if some of those whom we expect to honor it at ballgames and events don’t feel as free and equal as we do. Black and brown people love this country every bit as much as white people. I would argue they love it more because people of color have suffered so much more for the stars and stripes since before we even declared our independence.
We cannot continue to express outrage over flag kneeling, protesting and even the rioting (which is usually as diverse in the color of the agitators as the color of our citizens) and not continue the conversation as to why.
This is where white America is failing. We cannot be a contributing part of the conversation if our first comments are to express outrage and disappointment with how people choose to stand (or kneel) and be heard because they have and continue to suffer racial injustice, racial bias, police brutality, and feel marginalized under the banner that is supposed to symbolize equal freedom, justice, and opportunity.
My conservative friends and family continue to be unapologetic about being white and Christian and flag loving Americans. OK. You are in your white space and you refuse to give it up or step out of it. But why are you so offended by the idea that others, who don’t feel they have the same American promises as you should ask for it?
Show me a flag that truly represents a free and equal America, for people of all color, and I will show you a country free of protest.
We have a chance to change that. We, our generation, I mean those of us who are here now, we can and must find solutions together to end racism, racial inequalities and the gross imbalance of opportunity in this country (which goes well beyond race).
If you want to see an end to kneeling before the flag, to protests, to people feeling they must organize under a slogan that actually says black lives matter, yelling at them in outrage or condemnation about how, where, or when they should choose to be heard is not the answer. That is just white people living in their white space with their unempathetic white ideology.
White people, it is time to change the conversation. It is time we stopped requiring all these conditions of our brothers and sisters of color before they can stand and be heard. Moreover, we need to do more than just shut up and listen. For a brief moment after George Floyd was murdered it seemed like the whole nation was focused and listening. But that didn’t last more than a split second in our time and soon the familiar cacophony of racial division overtook the conversation again.
Even that moment fell short. More than just shutting up and listening, we need to understand. We need to engage. We need to recognize that to make this country live up to the ideals and promises, the freedoms we so greatly represent in our national identity, in our symbology, and in our flag, we must acknowledge that it will require white people to change. And therein lies the true issue at hand. We have a racial problem and it is white people who caused it, perpetuate it, and continually deny it. We need to acknowledge this. This is a difficult thing to do. But it is the kind thing to do and kindness comes in all colors. So life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should come in all colors as well.
I want to add a few words to this conversation from the Christian perspective. Christ was an incredible teacher. He gave us a path to follow. But Jesus was also a very good listener. As Christians, as white Christians, it would behoove us to first listen, second acknowledge and respect our brothers and sisters of color. 3rd, only assume they love America too. Protests are the proof, not evidence to the contrary. 4th, with no caveats or criticisms, we need to ask how we can help. We need to be willing able to change our own beliefs, even just a little.
I began looking to the Bible for guidance on this. I believe I found it. Not surprisingly it all comes down to effective communication and not prejudging. Guess what, white America, we can do better. We must do better. We must be better listeners. We must find a way to get out of our own white spaces and stop first requiring others to come to us and act through our societal lense.
I found this excerpt as part of a story online about proverbs 18, written by:
Steve Watkins, Pastor
Trinity Bible Church
“Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” The Hebrew word that is translated opinion in the ESV is leb – which simply means, “heart”, “mind”, or “the inner person.” In other words, verse 2 of Proverbs 18 ascribes to the fool the quality of neglecting and despising objective truth in favor of believing what he wants to believe. His opinion may or (most likely) may not be based on any kind of fact or evidence. More likely, the fool’s “opinion” is a conclusion that is convenient to his own inner, self-serving feelings and desires.”
Let us not make conclusions driven by our own selfish, prideful, and myopic sense of what we believe we deserve. Otherwise we won’t see past our own “needs” and “rights” to even imagine what others might be going through. How hurtful our selfish, prideful foolishness can be.
“Verse 13 of Proverbs 18 reinforces this wisdom and points to the damage it causes, saying, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Jesus surely taught us, in the Sermon on the Mount, that the wisdom and Law of God’s righteousness applies not only to the outside of the cup of our lives, but most importantly, to the inside. Proverbs does not only condemn as foolishness the impulsive words that come out of our mouths, but first and foremost the impulsive conclusions of mind and heart that drive those words. The folly of verbalizing an answer before hearing comes from the inner arrogance of believing a conclusion before having all the facts, which is precisely the sin that verse 2 exposes. How often we give ourselves permission to do this! How often we elevate our own inner perceptions and instincts (formed by our own sinful tendencies toward self-justification) to the level of inerrancy, and then allow ourselves to form conclusions that become the basis for accusations that have no basis in fact, reality or truth.”
We said goodbye to John Lewis this week. He has been a true Kindness Warrior throughout his life. His kind and peaceful leadership came in all colors. He has given all of us a blueprint for peace and equality, as well as our marching orders to continue improving America and the promise of freedom and equality. Contrary to popular belief, kindness can be very difficult and challenging. But that kindness is forever remembered in living color. We are in a critical moment in our country. My prayer is that love and kindness should win the day…
For John, for allof us.
Peace be with you, Kindness Warriors. Keep the conversation going.
Checkout Byron Sanders
Byron Sanders is the President and CEO of Big Thought. He says he sees more people willing to engage than ever before and knows that real change and improvement can happen if we don’t shrink away from this moment. MORE: wfaa.com/equality Subscribe to WFAA: https://bit.ly/subscribetowfaa