Archive for April, 2013


April 28, 2013

While I’m fighting for my quality of life against cancer, TV commercials offer a fascinating juxtaposition of one man’s isolated life versus the broad spectrum of American life and values.
I’m wide awake, uncomfortable, at 3 a.m. I turn on the TV, where they’re telling me how to whiten my teeth. I click channels and see that I am not buff enough (and 40 pounds under weight battling malnutrition) but this amazing new exercise regime will fix that.

Another cable channel promises me intimate conversation if I dial a 900 number and have my credit card ready. Still another wants me to keep up with the upper-class Joneses and buy the right car. Then there is the plethora of pharmaceutical “ask your doctor about…” commercials that promise relief for everything troubling the human mind and body, with a caveat for some devastating side effects, and the provocation for you to Google and self-diagnose, and then call the doctor and ask for the RX by name!

TV commercials are a microcosm of society that paint a picture of who we are as a people, what we need, what we value, and how we spend our money. It must work or the price of a TV spot would not be what it is. What it is to me is sad.

The vulnerable among us, educated or not, wealthy or not, are easily targeted. One TV commercial that strikes me as a ploy and appeal to the vanity of the upwardly mobile, is a Lowes commercial. In it, the home improvement center has beautiful answers to your gardening needs. A youngish couple in their first home, goes all-in to quickly make their yard look like an arboretum, and with great success thanks to a well-conceived landscaping plan by the good people at a local Lowes, all the right supplies for the project, the flora and the fauna, and the couple’s own sweat equity.

Then comes the vanity, the Jones effect: the wife snaps a photo of the new look and the husband instantly reminds her to “post it”. “I already did,” she says, facebook-loaded for the world to envy and admire, and for “friends” to start making their own shopping lists.

Cynical? Perhaps. But at 3 a.m. with cancer, you tend to think more about your family’s future security than your garden; about your struggle not to feel helpless to do menial tasks (like get dressed, bathe, or takeout the trash) rather than about six-pack abs; and about your mental attitude rather than the shade of your teeth.

Cancer isolates you (if only for a moment until you glance at your spouse asleep at your side, as totally vested in your journey as you are, or you think of your routine first-light coffee with your daughter). And it creates strange juxtapositions. You think about things you never really thought about before.

And you fight, never never never, as Churchill said, giving up. If you or a loved one should find yourself inside my world outside the world of TV commercials, and you need some moral support, please don’t ask your doctor; just ask me. I’ll try to help you through this blog.


So Real — Community

April 18, 2013

On The Porch

So Real

A community reveals its true character when it celebrates a holiday or landmark occasion; or when times are good, yet the needy are not forgotten or set aside; and especially when one of its own citizens faces a sudden need or crisis.  How Fredericksburg responds is a shining example of a godlike character.

We have seen it all before -– how we jubilantly take to the streets for our nation’s major holidays; how we volunteer for the great local cause organizations, be it Habitat for Humanity, the Food Bank, or EmpowerHouse, to name a few of many.

But an off-the-radar cause is the one that truly epitomizes a community’s heart and soul in such an organic grassroots way, it makes you think beyond good neighborliness, friendship, family support, and community quality.  It reaches your core beliefs in humanity, goodness, and even one’s concept of God.

In seeing responses like this unfold many times in my past 21 years here, I have come to truly believe in man’s goodness to man, despite world-wide news of man’s inhumanity to man.  I have come to believe that good will conquer evil every time.  My mindset on this is not just some defensive belief in order to avoid despair about the human condition but is truly so real that it takes on an aura, a healing energy, a soul-soothing almost tangible quality about it.  It is real love and community fellowship at its best.

Please indulge my vagueness, but I am talking about how friends and family and neighbors are responding to a crisis that I am viewing from close-up.  It is the essence of Fredericksburg’s good people.  It is proof that people are your best medicine, the tonic that lifts the human spirit and helps in so real a manner to heal all wounds.  It is the latest personal reminder of why my wife and I have lived here for longer than any single place that either of us has ever lived before.

So real is their goodness that my ever-evolving concept of higher power or godliness has come to a simple but real definition for me.  If you were to take all of the good in all of our people, cast away our flaws and banish all evil, then assemble that goodness into one shining light of energy, then you would have God.  The signs are all there and all so real in the neighbor who helps you take on a daily task, the friend who sends a sweet thought your way, or the compassion of a loved one.

Little acts of human kindness add up, for me, to my conclusion.  Fredericksburgers – along with many good people from afar who are enamored by our community (and maybe yours, too, wherever it is) – make it real, so real.  It is a wonderful, jubilant human feeling to either receive or contribute to that essence of goodness.  It is an abstract blessing that becomes as real as the comfort of a good meal, a soft shirt, a task completed, or an outreaching hand offering assistance.  And we – people who need people and who have that kind of network — are truly the luckiest people in the world.

So I think about these things and share them with you with a purpose -– to point to those who have needs but may have no one to turn to:  the homeless, the traumatized war veteran, the gravely ill, the abused child.  Their suffering is so real, and we, the entire community, have a moral duty to them…