August 22, 2009

Return to Sender

Last Friday I stopped by the main branch of the United States Postal Service here in Abilene. I had just finished playing basketball, so I was extremely sweaty. I needed to be home in 30 minutes to take Grant to his guitar lesson. All I needed to do was mail one letter.

Now the letter I was mailing was not just any piece of mail, it was my tax return. I filed for an extension because this year our taxes were even more confusing than normal. I finally had completed it. So understand, I was at the Post Office to send mail to our government about my taxes.

When I got inside there was a long line. I thought this unusual for a Friday at 1:20. Then I noticed there was only one person helping customers. And the customer he was currently helping had a lot of different types of mail to send. So I waited. After several minutes this customer was done and another stepped forward with the largest box I have ever seen someone attempt to mail. The line crept forward.

Now I noticed that the worker behind the counter wasn't alone. There were two other people behind him. Supervisors. But all they did was stand and watch. (Let me say now that this is not a diatribe against the postal service or its' employees. I know many good people who work for the postal service.) I kept waiting for one or both of them to open a window to speed things up. They never did.

I was in line for fifteen minutes and moved forward only one spot. I found this annoying, but not as much as the person in front of me. An elderly woman turned around, looked me right in the face, and said very loudly, "Well, I guess this is what our health care is going to be like pretty soon." She spoke with a little anger, but mostly resignation. Everyone looked at us. I simply nodded and smiled at her. Then we all went back to waiting.

A few observations:
1. If you know me well, then you know my Libertarian leanings. As my wife said when I relayed this story to her, "That lady had no idea who she was talking to." Yes, she was preaching to the choir.

2. Imagine that instead of the post office, I was at McDonald's. Have you ever waited 35 minutes at Mickey D's? I don't know why the two supervisors made no move to help (perhaps there are regulations that keep them from doing it), but I do know that at McDonald's the manager would have stepped up and opened another register and run it themselves. Why do I know this, because I have seen it. And because McDonald's is a successful business. The reason: they thrive on serving the customer. Any business that routinely treated its' customers like I was treated at the post office would quickly go out of business. But government is not a business. If they do something poorly or without cost-effectiveness they do not go out of business.

3. I don't really like the government handling the mail. I think a business could do it more efficiently and probably cheaper. I certainly don't want the government taking over the computer industry. Can you imagine if you were forced to get your computer from the government instead of Dell or HP? How much would one cost? And how long would you have to wait to get it? Yet, the government continues to worm it's way into taking over. Banks. Automobiles. Health Care.

4. Lately we have seen the yelling and complaining at the town hall meetings. The government seems baffled by this. While I prefer a less heated discussion, I understand the anger. People feel like the government is not listening. That its' taking over. Yes, most people say they want changes in the health care system. That does not mean they want the changes the government is pushing. I want changes. But what I want is the government to get out. Not get farther in. But that option is apparently not on the table.

5. Let's remember the irony in all this. I was at the Post Office to pay the government to mail a letter to the government about my paying the government. Couldn't this all be done a little more simply.

August 9, 2009


Have had some technical difficulties with sermons. Those are sorted out. The sermons that were missed will eventually be posted together.

This sermon is the first in a series of three on Faith, Hope and Love.

8-2-09 Faith.mp3

August 6, 2009

Happy Meal

I have to comment on something I just witnessed.

Was at McDonald's earlier, taking advantage of the McPlayplace since it is 427 degrees here in Abilene. It was pretty much a madhouse. Every mom in Abilene apparently was there with their kids. It was loud. It was kinda messy. It was McDonald's playground in the summer.

All this was to be expected. But I watched a mini-drama while at McDonald's that I found fascinating. While it was very loud, there were a couple of kids screaming at fighter jet takeoff levels. Now, I am a selective hearer, so I blocked them out. Not everyone there apparently possesses this spiritual gift. There were many long looks from moms to see if it was their child, and even longer looks when they realized it wasn't. A couple even said rather loudly something like, "Hey Billy, don't scream like that other kid." An obvious attempt to bring parental action.

Finally, a mom stood up and snapped at a screaming kid who ran by, "Hey stop screaming like that _____ . (name withheld to protect the innocent) The child never even looked over, just kept running. And screaming. Next time by, the mom literally snapped her fingers and told him to stop screaming. There was a brief moment of recognition, then the kid continued on his way, running and screaming.

At the third attempt, I began doing nothing but watching the kid. The mom attempted to make him stop 5 more times. Only once in the five did he even acknowledge her with a look. Never did he actually change behavior. The screaming finally stopped when his grandmother brought ice cream to the table and he sat down to eat.

Now, I am not dogging on parenting styles or saying I am a perfect parent. And I don't mind kids running and screaming at a playground. Had she never even made an attempt to correct his behavior, it wouldn't have bothered me. But basically, this little boy directly disobeyed his mother eight times, and got ice cream.

Now, I know sometimes we all parent in ways that aren't the best. There are times when I am tired or stressed and don't handle things like I should. But I was right behind this woman and her mother. They talked and laughed. The mother mad small talk with another mother she knew. The only stress was everyone else wanting to throttle her kid.

All I can say is it is doing your child a huge disservice to ask for obedience and do nothing when you are blown off. It teaches your child that you are nothing, and that you think of yourself as nothing. It teaches your child that they run the world. It teaches your child that rules and obedience are merely optional. And it teaches your child that they and their behavior are not worth any serious time or effort. Good luck when this one turns 14.

By the way, after the ice cream it was time to leave. Kid didn't want to go. Guess what he did?