Shifting Sands

The past week had ups and downs, and I’m trying to think on where I need to begin this post as we all leave our footprints behind for the incoming tide. Paradigms are shifting. Some ideas and issues are being conveyed and accepted effectively while others are just a mere spiral into borderless insanity. A majority of human beings should be able to distinguish the two, and for something to heal I understand it has to hurt to begin with.

I started this week by helping a friend with his small business while he is out of commission due to surgery and recovery. He has chosen to go into the lawn maintenance arts. With the Southern heat and humidity kicking in, I found myself more hot and bothered (not that way – minds out of the gutter, Planet Earth) this past week than I have in quite some time. I have discovered, the first hand hard way, that it is a lot of work for a single man to mow, weed eat, and edge an entire yard then blow (with a backpack blower that makes you look like a Ghostbuster) off every concrete surface. It does not matter if it is a quarter acre or five acres, the struggle is real and the ones that execute these jobs have my respect (even though they had it to begin with so why did I even have to admit that fact?).

I tried to remember the last time I had physically worked as hard as I did last week, and my memories instantly took me back to my adolescent days when I helped local farmers barn tobacco. That journey has already been chronicled in a past post titled Southern disComfort :

My previous job of self employment was more mental strain than it was physical, so in turn I guess it was time for the world to test me and see if I was ready for a job that was more demanding physically than it was mentally. Little did I know, the past two months of eating the wife’s baked goods was going to catch up with me and rightfully so. Some men were destined to design and draw up bridges. Other men were destined to build them. I guess I fall somewhere in between. The only important thing is the fact that the bridge is built in the first place and can hold its weight as it withstands the test of time.

At one of the job sites where I was performing the landscaping arts, an older gentleman came outside his home and conversed with me for a couple of minutes. Our conversation then carried over to his military service because I saw that he was wearing a Vietnam Veteran hat. First and foremost, I thanked him for his service, and for a second or two he silently stood in the hot, humid sun with me because my words meant a lot to him.

The Vietnam Veteran confessed that he hardly heard a congratulatory thank you come from the lips of people my age and said that it was good for veterans like him to hear grateful compliments because, upon his return from a war in which he was drafted to go, he received nothing of the such. He recalled flying back from Vietnam and into an airport in Chicago, and a majority of the people spit on him, called him derogatory names, and protested his return back to his home country. One could see that it still affected him in a certain way. We ended the conversation by chuckling about how much war has changed since Vietnam with all the modern day technological advances such as GPS, remote controlled drones, and smart bombs.

The weekend finally came, and my family was able to celebrate a very special birthday. It was my great niece’s birthday, and that alone had me thinking about the titles we carry around as we age. All of us have certain titles that we fixate our existence on. Some titles might be related to work as we climb the invisible ladder. Other titles are related to school as we dive into whichever institution we invest our money into. The military has it own system of title ranking for the ones who dedicate their time and service. The titles that had me standing still and thinking in place for a moment carry a lot of weight and are donned upon us as our family tree branches and produces fruit during our lifespan.

I was flipping the barbecued chicken breast on the grill, watching my family go through the movements like I was a bystander sitting in the seat of a non crowded theater. My mind began to process the titles, memories, and threads of time that connected all of us to that single moment. The titles flashed across the screens of my eyes like I was reading captions in a foreign language film:

I am a son. I am a brother. I am a husband. I am a father. I am an uncle. I am a great uncle. I am a cousin. I am a nephew. I used to be a grandson. I am a friend. I am a neighbor. I am a son in law. I am an intangible soul capsulated inside a human body. I am me. 

It took a second for the dust to settle after the universe shook the fabric of that moment. The thing that re-grounded me was my great niece wanting to run around and play with a squash she had picked from our box garden. With everything the world was currently going through and addressing, the only thing on her mind was playing hide and seek with a vegetable she had picked while her birthday feast roasted on the grill.

Then, the second epiphany hit.

If any of these people were hurt or killed, whether justified, unjustified, accidental, or by natural causes, I would be devastated, and there is nothing wrong with that. Welcome to the world of being a real human and not a robot. In my case, the reason my soul and world would need bandaging is because of the titles these people give to me personally.

A famous celebrity or sports star or musician or politician or news station with a megaphone is exactly that and nothing more. The more money and fame and viewers, the louder they tend to be. Most of these sensationalists tend to pop up when something big and controversial happens then they abandon the ones holding down the front lines while fading into their private poolside backdrop. These same people then float around in lukewarm liquid and rest their scrolling thumbs as their instant gratification slowly wears off. It’s okay and acceptable that they were able to gain a hundred thousand new likes at the expense of someone else’s misfortune as long as they can get back to their normal life after their statement is made.

Growing up in the rural South gave me an upbringing unlike any other, and I am glad that I have been able to experience the things that I have. People think that “Southern Hospitality” is always nice and cheery, but there is a lot of give and take when it comes to that ideal. When I help someone in need or because I want to pay it forward or because a charity worker’s heart should be genuine and unconditionally loving, I do not scan the person for an exterior checklist like the world wants me to do (the girls at the local Food Lion – testify!). I do not frame and post my good deed on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or SnapChat so the the world will give me my instant glory and bestow upon me a few thousand followers. I do not discriminate my good deeds because that could easily be my dad in need. That could be my mother struggling and in need of a pay it forward. That could be my widowed wife needing a pick me up and pat on the shoulder. That could be my son. That could be my daughter. That could be my sister. That could be my brother. That could be my grandparents. That could be my insert title here.

This past week, I did not do what Instagram told me to do. I did not do what Facebook told me to do. I did not do what CNN told me to do. I did not do what Fox News told me to do. I did not do what the celebrities and millionaires told me to do. I did not do what the musicians told me to do. I did not do what the athletes told me to do. I did not do what the politicians told me to do. I did not do what some of the local preachers and their self righteous road signs told me to do.

For the first time in quite some time, I did what I needed to do. I made myself be still. I meditated. I sincerely prayed for our nation and all our people during this time of hurt and unity. I prayed for the people who have lost someone dear to them in a tragic way. I continued to treat everyone’s soul like I would want mine and my family’s treated. I reflected. I did not cast the first stone. I put my faith in something that transcends time and space.

Then, the third epiphany hit.

This revery came out of the corner of my mind, and a cool sensation numbed my body. It took me back to the words I had written in a previous post, I Rigged the Election :

Divide and Conquer – who’s honestly winning this battle? Are we, as a nation, truly controlling the strings on our backs or are they still doing it and leading us to believe something else? What side is what and whose side is whose anymore?

The sands are shifting, and I can only hope that the dunes we build as a unified people can withstand the next big storm that comes our way. We must realize that one piece of sand cannot block the breezes and turbulent waves of life. Only a conglomerate of the best of what the world has to offer can stand a chance against a storm that rages into the void of the unknown that we collectively call the future.

Shh, shh, shh!



Can you hear and see that?

There, over the horizon!

Is that what I think it is or is it?

2 Replies to “Shifting Sands”

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