Calming the Demons

Sometimes my mind turns on me
And it becomes my own worst enemy.
The poisonous thoughts inside my head
Just won’t let; they want me dead.

One day they may find me lying on the floor
When I just couldn’t take the thoughts anymore.
People will be wondering what went wrong
When I’ve been trying to tell them all along.

It’s not that I don’t have people who care
People have tried, but they don’t get anywhere.
You can’t help those who won’t help themselves
But I fail in my efforts just like everyone else.

“You can’t fix stupid”, is what people say
So is there any hope for me anyway?
I can’t keep a job; I’m never content
I fail every time when my thoughts won’t relent.

I’m drowning in here; it’s like I can’t breathe
I can’t sleep or think from all the anxiety.
I feel worthless, rejected, sinful, and weak
And my feelings just get worse when I can’t sleep.

So I sit at this table in the middle of the night
Knowing the thoughts in my head just can’t be right.
Now that the poem is written I can go back to bed
Because I’ve calmed the demons that exist in my head.

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The Booger

I once had a booger that tasted like sugar

I found it way up in my nose

It was ooey and gooey a little bit chewy

And it wouldn’t of looked good on my clothes

Momma said NO! Stop picking your nose!

But momma, I don’t care what you say.

I just sat in the aisle and gave her a smile

And I ate that booger anyway.

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My Morning Shower

Today I took a shower

But it didn’t last too long

I got the soap in my hair

And it doesn’t seem fair

Cause all the hot water is gone.

So I rinsed myself off as fast as I could

As I started to shiver and shake

It just seems wrong

When the warm water is gone

But hey! Now I’m awake.

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Early Memories of Music (Part 2)

Kiss_alive_album_coverI must have been about 11 years old when I was first exposed to the rock group Kiss, but I was a big fan even before I heard any of their music. It must have been the album cover of their live album which was the band’s first big commercial success. Looking at the smoke, lights, guitars, costumes, and make up these guys seemed to epitomize COOL.

Aerosmith’s song “Walk This Way” off their new “Toys in the Attic” album was getting played on the radio quite a bit. Some words that song, “Started with a little kiss like this. . .” made me think that song was a song by Kiss, but of course it wasn’t. I had no idea what Kiss even sounded like, but that didn’t matter to me. Whatever they sounded like, I loved it. Why? Because they represented everything wrong: sex, drugs, and rock & roll.

Maybe it was my birthday or maybe it was Christmas, I really don’t remember, but all I really wanted was that Kiss album. When I got it I was hooked.  I played it over and over while I jumped around playing my air guitar and imaginary drums set. I was soon reading everything I could about the band. My new obsession would last for years, and it wasn’t long before I had every album the band produced. Best of allm it really freaked out the adults in my life.

I was growing up in an incredible time of music history. The older I became I started following other bands and as I did I started realizing that Kiss really wasn’t all that good. However, what Kiss lacked in talent and musicianship, they made up for by marketing themselves to young rebellious children like myself. I’m not sure it was the music that attracted me, but I did like it and I still do but in smaller portions. What I liked about Kiss is what they represented: rebellion. I was fertile ground for their message.

Blake letterman

Blake and my younger brother Jim

I was still in elementary school when I started smoking, drinking, and smoking pot. I had three older step brothers who all smoked and did drugs. But it was the youngest one, Blake, that would have the most influence on me. Blake and I were not buddies. He was very mean to me. But he was tough, had long hair, and he did his own thing.

 

Blake must have been about 14 at the time which was old enough to get a job corn detasseling and he would buy large amounts of pot with his pay check. Blake insisted that I tried some. I wasn’t exactly in any position to say no. Like I said, he was mean. He was the one to show me how to make a pipe out of a beer can and some aluminum foil, He also showed me how to smoke the resin when supplies ran low. Me and Blake didn’t like each other, but that didn’t stop me from doing my very best to be like him.

Blake had a ton of albums that he would crank up really loud after when the adults were gone, and they were gone alot. Blake didn’t like Kiss, but he showed me the way to a whole lot of other groups that I would grow to really appreciate.

Ted_nugent StrangelholdBlake played Ted Nugent more than anybody else. Stranglehold must have been played ever day for months. He also had the album “Free for all” that was played just as much. At first I didn’t like these albums, but I grew to really appreciated Ted Nugent and I would have a good supply of his albums.

Pronounced-Lĕh-nérd-Skin-nérd-album-coverBlake also turned me on Lynard Skynard which I would really grow to love in the next couple of years.

RushThen there was Rush  & Bob Segar. bob segerBlake would wake up the neighborhood with his music. These were still the early days of Rock and Roll and I grew in my appreciation of all the bands that Blake exposed me to.

Music paved the way to my smoking and drinking days. My step father drank beer all the time. We used to have to me carry the cases in from the car and for a boy that age, that was a task. With all that beer, it didn’t take us kids long to figure out that he can’t keep track of all that beer. Naturally, I would sneak some and take to with me to school to share with a friend of mine.

One day we got caught with the beer at school. I remember the principle calling me into his office and telling me that they had to call over to the Jr. High School to find out how to punish the crime since this was a first for the elementary school.

The family started to unravel around this point. My step-sister Lisa became pregnant and her father kicked her out of the house. The oldest boy, Brent, started showing signs of schizophrenia and he couldn’t make up his mind if he was the devil or the Christ. He eventually was put in the hospital where he stayed for years.

One night I was playing cards by myself at the kitchen table when my step-father came in for no apparent reason and started throwing me all over the kitchen while he punched me and kicked me. He was always a mean man, and so this wasn’t all that uncharacteristic. Afterall, I used to measure how much I was growing by the dent he put in the wall by shoving my head into it. But every other time, I had done something wrong. This time it was unprovoked.

Mom loaded up me and my brother and we went to live in Rock Island in the apartment above my grandparents house. For just a little while it was happier times. I renewed a friendship with a boy named Albert that I knew back when I first started school. He was a big Kiss fan too. Peter Criss & JimWe both got together on a regular basis and put on Kiss make up and walked around town. Albert was always Gene Simmons and I was always Peter Criss. Albert didn’t have the family difficulties I had so he was able to have some fun things for us to do. Albert had long hair and a very long tongue just like Gene Simmons. The two would stay friends even though I was always moving around. Unlike other rock stars, Kiss marked themselves through fan clubs and the sale of all sorts of merchandise and gimmicks. We both decorated our rooms with Kiss memorabilia and so forth which went on for several years even as I was moved all around.

Mom went back to my step-father and my family life really started getting bad. Just before I started into Jr. High School, I ran away with a boy. We took his father’s pistol, some pot and a pipe Blake left laying around and we started walking up to the county park where we figured we could live off the land.

We were both caught to by the Eldridge police which was my first encounter with a police department I would come to know well. Our family moved right after I started Jr. High School to Eldridge.

Mom had a friend named Lynn who took an interest in me and somehow managed to get me into the Knights Drum and Bugle Corps over in Geneseo. Lynn was the only one who encouraged me in my musical interest. She would show me stuff on the drums. I ran into many years later and told her how much that meant to me which she had no idea.

It was short lived. I got into trouble and got kicked out of the house before the summer competitions began.  My brother and I stayed home from school one day and stole the family station wagon which was going to be Blake’s car. We drove into Davenport and as we were heading home I got nervous on a gravel road and went into the ditch which pretty well wrecked the car.

This point in my life gets all scrambled up in my mind. I was always in trouble. I was kicked off the school bus so often that they made it permanent. My sister Celia did not like my playing music so loud and one day we got into an awful fight. There was blood everywhere by the time our parents got home. I didn’t understand all that Celia was going through at the time. She was started to show signs of Schizophrenia herself, but I didn’t know it then. All I knew was she was always trying to bully me around and I resented it. I was getting older and I really didn’t like being ordered around by a girl. I was also constantly in trouble at school. My days of living with my mother were about over.

ken teen3My father’s brother, Jerry, wanted to give me a chance since nobody seemed to want me. So I lived with Jerry and his wife Sally for little while. He didn’t know what he was in for. He tried, but I was too far gone. Now I was seeking out drugs and glamorized them. My Uncle Tom and cousin George were fellow smokers. I just think I took it to a new level.

I wasn’t doing the hard stuff at this point, but I was willing, as this picture on the left shows. I would be using intravenous drugs for a few years to come, but even at that time I was willing. It wouldn’t be long before I would come across the people to show me how.

By the time I went to live with Jerry and Sally, I had accumulated all sorts of albums. However, when I left mom’s house, I didn’t get to grab all the albums I had. I had every Kiss album that had been produced at the time. I believe Kiss Alive II was the last album I bought of theirs.

I stopped following the band at this point for several reasons. They next album started sounding more like disco than rock and roll. Peter Criss left the band and he was my favorite. Plus, I was now following much better bands like Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith were getting more of my attention now.

Things didn’t work out at Jerry and Sally’s house. I think they tried, but I was always in trouble at school because I just wasn’t fitting it. One day I slit my wrist with a razor blade, it wasn’t a suicide attempt, it was just stupidity. I had to get stitches and when mom found out what I did, she blamed the influence of Kiss. So she destroyed all me albums and I’ve never re-bought any of them.

The slicing of my wrist didn’t have anything to do with Kiss. I was past that stage of my life by that time. However, Kiss did have  horrible influence on my life, but they were far from the only ones. I seemed destined to follow a long dark road throughout my young life.   I was an alcoholic and drug addict at a very young point in life, but I also turned it around at a younger point than most. I was was just twenty two when I quit the smoking, drinking, and drug use.

I look at music much different now. Now I am even able to play and make up my own. I like to read about bands like Kiss to hear their perspective as they rose to fame. I love to learn the guitar riffs and play around with the melodies.  I didn’t start playing guitar until my mid-forties. I dabble at the drums and keyboard too. I may never be professional, but I have to wonder how things could have been a bit different if I could have discovered making music earlier instead of the rebellious side of it.

If you’ve taken the time to read this, I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your memories? How has music influenced your life? What kind of music do you like and why?

 

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Early Memories of Music (Part 1)

Music has always conjured up early memories of my life. When anybody moves around as much as I have, it’s very difficult to remember the chronological order of events. A few years ago, I tried to make a list of significant events in the order they happened. This was quite difficult, but remembering the music I was listening to at the time helped a great deal.

I think music impacts everybody, but I don’t know if it does it in the same way. To me songs are tied to memories, very intense memories. I remember the way I felt. Songs can lift me up and make me happy, but some can remind me of deep depression and loneliness. When I hear certain songs, I remember the room I would sit in, the people who were around me. I may even remember smells and weather.

This week I came across a songbook and it brought me back, way back to my earliest memories of music. I’m sure I was listening to music since I was born, but it didn’t really impact my memory until I was about 8 yrs. old. From that time on though music had a profound impact.

Image 1-2-18 at 5.59 PM

I’m the child on the right. The two girls are my step sisters, the one on the left is about a year older than me, the boy up front is my only biogogical brother. This must have been take in 1973

In August of 1973, my mother married her second husband which had a devastating impact on my life. The man she married had 5 children all of which were older than me. They were tough kids, they had to be. Their mother had Schizophrenia and the kids pretty well had to take care of themselves. My family went from 3 people to 9 people all living in a little single wide trailer at first. My memories of this period of life remains quite painful, but it was here that my love for music began.

Later we moved to a two story house in Davenport, IA. I shared a room with my younger brother. The two girls shared a room, and the three older boys stayed in the basement. Neither me or my younger brother were fitting in well with the new family, so when we weren’t outside, we mainly stayed in our room.  My step sisters had several little 45 records which introduced me to the Jackson Five, Dr. Hook, and Helen Redding. Songs like The Cover the of the Rolling Stone, Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road, I am Woman. Such songs have been etched in my memory ever since.

My first album I can remember was compilation album 24 songs by different artist  called Looney Tunes with songs like, They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Tip Toe Through the Tulips, The Streak, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rubber Ducky were among my favorites because they appealed to my humorous side. These songs seemed to hype me up and I loved to sing them.

There were also some sad songs I listened to over and over again like, Knocking on Heavesn’s Door, by Bob Dylan, Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks, Ode to Billy Joe by Bobby Gentry, and Alone Again by Gilbert O’Sullivan. I’m not sure why these songs appealed to me at such an early age, but they did. I guess misery like company. I felt sad and these songs showed I wasn’t alone.

When I wasn’t in my room I was getting into trouble. I was a little theif always stealing candy from stores and seaching through garages for bottles to turn in for money. Of course you can only be a thief for so long before getting caught, and I got caught quite often.

In an attempt to stop my stealing, my step father told me if I was caught stealing again he was going to cut off all my hair. When I was caught again my step father didn’t seem to remember the threat, but my mother did. She promptly took me the barbershop and ordered a butch for her little thief. I was devastated and cried for the rest of the day. My mom knew she crossed a line and has always expressed regret for doing that, but the damage was done.  When I went to school the next day, I tried to wear a hat to cover up my nearly bald head. The teacher wouldn’t allow the hat and when it was removed the whole room erupted in laughter. I ran out the door and down the street.

I kept walking with no particular place to go, but I wasn’t willing to go home. I walked into a little cafe at some point and I remember hearing a song by The Eagles song, Best of my Love that is forever a vivid memory. In that song are the words, “Every morning I wake up and worry, what’s going to happen today. You see it your way and I see it mine, but we both see it slipping away.” This was how I felt towards my mother. I knew she loved me, but our relationship was slipping away. I guess we could never really understand each other’s hurt. Of course, now I realize that the song was about lovers and not a mother and son relationship. But situations often interpret the meaning of songs for me regardless how they were intended.  I had know idea who sung the song back then, but whenever I hear it, I remember that little cafe and how lonely and scared I felt back then.

I ran away a number of times after that. Sometimes I would walk over to Rock Island, IL where my grandparents lived hoping I could somehow live there. Sometimes I would sleep under bridges or under porches. I’d steal my food from anywhere I could.  I was only about 10 at the time and my mother wasn’t sure what to do, so once my mother found me, she sent me to live with my father in Ohio.

I did not know my father at that time, so going to live with him was like living with a total stranger. He was married again and had a little boy with his new wife. I stayed with him for a while. We lived in Cleveland at first, but my father put me in school in Olmsted Falls about 30 minutes away. It was at my dad’s place that I discovered Cat Stevens, Another Saturday Night, and a little tune called Summer Breeze by Seals and Croft. It was the theme song for Hawaii Five O that brought about my love for drums. I even started taking drum lessons at school, but it was tougher than it looked and I never really got the hang of it even through I have always loved the drums.

We eventually moved to Olmsted Falls just down the street from my grandparents. I wasn’t getting along so well with my father and step-mother, so I usually hung out with my uncle at my grandparents. He was only about a year older than me and we became childhood friends/enemies depending on the moment. My grandparents had a stereo in the front room of their house and it was there that I discovered Elton John and I have been a big fan ever sense. They had a couple albums of his that I must have wore out: Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

The song Daniel reminded me of my own brother back in Davenport even though I was the older brother and I was the one traveling. I would wonder, “Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal. . ” I loved the song Crocodile Rock, but what I really liked was his softer and sadder songs like, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Candle in the Wind, Don’t let the sun go down on me, and Rocket man, It didn’t matter what the songs were really about, to me they applied to me in a very person way.

I wasn’t any more accepted by father and step-mother  than I was by my mother and step-father.My father eventually sent me back to my mother. I found myself without a family from a fairly early age. I think both my parents tried to help me. I was tossed back and forth between them for a while,  but they both had new families and I would never really fit into either one.

The older I grew, the more I turned to music for my comfort. I didn’t want to be around people who didn’t want me around so I learned to keep to myself very early on. Unfortunately, avoiding people who I felt rejected me became a lifelong pattern that I still struggle to overcome. Music was my solace and it also became a source of rebellion. It was now 1976, and there was a new band gaining popularity that would influence my thinking for years to come. But that’s a story for part two.

What early memories do you have of music? I would love to hear from some readers.

 

 

 

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The Christmas Flu

Today is finally Christmas
But we’re not sure what to do
The guys are just sitting around
Cause the women have the flu.

There’ll be no turkey dinner
And no football on TV
Nobody’s opening presents
And it’s quiet as can be.

I’m just sitting at the table
Writing a poem all alone.
Did the Grinch finally steal Christmas
Or is it just postponed?

It’s not so bad
I shouldn’t complain
But Christmas with the flu
Is really a pain.

But Merry Christmas to all
Each and every one of you
I hope everyone has fun
But don’t catch the flu.

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I Don’t Know Why?


Why do I feel so worthless?
Why do I feel so sad?
My problems are no worse than others,
So why do I feel so bad?

People are all around me
Still I feel all alone.
People try to include me
But I don’t feel I belong.

It’s wrong of me to feel this way
I have no right to complain
I have much that I should be thankful for
But all I feel is pain.

I feel unwanted even though I am not
I feel ugly, stupid, and broken
It’s like the door to happiness is locked
And I can’t seem to get it open.

Physically everything is good
My health is doing fun.
The things that torment my life
Are only in my mind?

Shake it off! Think good thoughts!
That’s what people have said.
But I can’t seem to change the way I feel
Or correct the thoughts in my head.

I don’t know why I feel so low;
Or why I can’t fit in down here
But sometimes I wish I didn’t exist
And I’d like to just disappear.

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Kids & Songs

One of the greatest ways to bond with an infant or toddler is to sing to them.

My wife and I just started has relief houseparents which means our job is to watch the kids for a week while the regular houseparents get a break. But when we take care of babies, I imagine it can be hard on them when all of a sudden there is somebody else taking care of them. But singing really seems to break the ice especially for me because I think I must look pretty scary to the little ones.

Sometimes I just make up little songs like, other times I sing VBS songs. It really doesn’t matter. Kids are intrigued by the guitar and the weird looking man that starts signing to them.

This little song was inspired by a poopie diaper.

The Poopie Britches Song

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You got poo poo in your britches

You got poo poo in your pants

It’s running down your legs

And it’s smelling really bad

I guess that I should change you

But I just ain’t had the chance

So I’ll just sing a song

And you can stand and dance.

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It Ain’t My Fault

It Ain’t My Fault by Brothers Osborne

My wife and I just heard this song for the first time and instantly thought of it as the perfect theme song for our cottage at the children’s home where we work. But then again, the song’s popularity testifies to the fact it is a very common tendency to anyone or anything for our own woes. In my world, for the last couple months there has been a lot of blaming going on. Yes I jumped on the bandwagon too.

I have a job that I am very passionate about. I have a great deal of compassion for children are, for one reason or another, estranged from the their families. They’ve had some tough blows in life. I have a similar background to many of the kids in our care, so there is a strong desire to want to help them succeed. I think all the adults who work here are equally passionate, but there are some very different perspectives and philosophies on how to handle misbehavior.

We all do our very best to be sympathetic and patient with such children realizing they are not always going to display the best type of behavior. Our aim is to build relationships which will be persuasive and influential on the children in our care. We shy away from heavy discipline recognizing that it may be perceived and humiliating and discouraging and other methods maybe more effective. The hope is that if we show children respect and love, they will respond in a positive way.

However, this has lead to some very unfortunate and mistaken assumptions.

  • If a child misbehaves, it is because a felt need is not being met. Though this is true not all felt needs are on the same level. It is one thing for a child to have a felt need and confidence he will have enough food; it is quite different to feel the need to knock somebody upside the head. Felt needs are the reason for every harmful crime that has ever been committed. It should not be taken as an excuse nor tolerated when it is harmful to the child or others.
  • If a child misbehaves, it is not the child that is at fault, but the adult that is caring for him/her. The older a child gets, the greater they become responsible for their actions. I agree if a two year old runs out into the street, there is a problem with supervision and the child is not accountable to know better. However, when a teenage girl gets angry at one of her peers and decides to take a pair of that girls jeans and slash holes in them; well that is a different story.

Every parent, sooner or later, faces that judgmental glare from others over actions taken to correct his/her child’s behavior. The fact is that not even a husband and wife can be completely unified in their response to a child’s behavior. The more people that get involved the greater potential there is for the child to triangulate the adults. This is where the blame game gets started. In a children’s home you have houseparents, case workers, assistant directors and directors all looking out for the children. When decisions start getting overturned conflict ensues.

That’s been my situation lately, but we all face the same problem in different ways. It’s always the other person’s fault for what is going wrong. Such situations are not likely to ever change until people are willing to accept their own responsibility. We can’t change others, nor can we count on others to do what we expect, but we each can do our own part. I can admit my own fault and aim to fix that part of the problem. That is the only way things can ever really get turned around.

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Measuring Character

   Cafe on the Corner by Sawyer Brown

I was thumbing through some old CD’s the other day and came across one that I could really relate to. I hadn’t listened to a Sawyer Brown CD in years, but one appealed to me and when I put it in the song, Cafe on the Corner started playing. This is a song that was written by Mac McAnally back in the early 1990’s and later recorded by Sawyer Brown. The song describes a middle aged man who lost his farm and was now working at a cafe on the corner just to survive.

At a cafe down on the corner
With a lost look on his face
There ain’t no fields to play
No reason to now
He’s just a little out of place

They say crime don’t pay
But neither does famin’ these days
And the coffee is cold
And he’s 50 years old
And he’s gotta learn to live some other way

These days success is defined by a large bank account and lots of big expensive possessions. We glorify the people who live in the big fancy places who have made their living off the backs of others.

There is a popular idea promoted by a great deal of television evangelist and big business tycoons that if you work hard enough you will be successfully wealthy. On the contrary, if things don’t go right, that’s taken of as a sign that you’re a lazy, stupid, good for nothing failure, and your situation is your fault.

It seems to me that we are looking at things all wrong. Every person who has managed to stand on the hill of success with celebrity status has only done so on the backs others. This is not to say that these people did not have anything to do with their success, many are very hard workers, but it is to say that they did not achieve their success by their efforts alone. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SELF-MADE MAN.

It is not the financial success of a person that determines his character; it’s what he does with that financial success if he achieves it. Anyone who achieves wealth by and for selfish tendencies is not an admirable character. Therefore wealth is not a determinant of success. In many cases it’s quite the contrary.

On the other hand, many of the true heroes in life never make their way into the spotlight. I have very found memories of my grandfather on my mother’s side. He and his father built a business they called Foster’s Ornamental Iron Works. They made fences, railings, door, etc. It started in a garage and eventually moved into a nice sized shop.

The business never grew all that large, and by the 1980’s it was going bankrupt. Even in his aged condition I can remember my grandfather working long hours by himself when he could no longer afford employees. I will never forget the day when the auctioneers came and a large crowd gathered looking for great deals as each piece of equipment was sold off for much less than its worth. It broke my heart then, and it still breaks my heart now. I was only 17 at the time, but it made an indelible impression.

Was my grandfather a failure? At business, perhaps. But in life, he was a hero. I was only a child then, but I’ve heard so much of what my grandfather did with that business. My father used to talk of all the people he gave jobs to. Most took advantage of his trusting nature and ripped him off every chance they got. He had a secretary for many years that ripped him off incredible amounts of money. Yet it broke his heart when her deeds were discovered and he had to fire her.

Grandpa worked hard. As a little child, I used to go with him to hang up doors and so forth. One day, I asked him who his boss was, and he jokingly responded, “Everybody.” That statement in itself says so much about the man. I didn’t learn till I was much older that he owned the business. He didn’t act like an owner, he was a worker. I think he worked harder and longer than anyone there.

Yet my grandfather was also a family man. There was 6 children who are all still alive today and still a close family. Grandpa was not wealthy. But when he saw somebody in need, he would do what he could to help. Even if the person wasn’t worth helping. The old church building where he attended and taught Bible class was also adorned by the things he made and gave to the church.

Maybe my grandfather wasn’t all that good in business. We can debate on what he could have done or should have done to make the business better. But as a man, he was such much more than others.

There used to be a time when people respected hardworking people who served their whole life on the bottom of the economic ladder. We admired their sacrifices, their selflessness, their service, their kindness, and their loyalty. Now people seem to promote those who have money regardless of who they stabbed in the back to get it.

True character cannot be measured by wealth. The fact is true character will often sacrifice wealth for a higher calling. Those are the real heroes rather we ever know their names or not.

 

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