My Opinion Only

watch-overI had  a conversation with a friend where we have agreed to disagree. This thought came to me this morning. Let’s turn off the news for a short time. There’s only one subject in the news these days. Let’s now get to the topics that aren’t taking up the news anymore such as homelessness, rampant drug use, teen and young people suicides. There are all getting lost in the Trump Twitter wars and misdirecting us from important work. We maybe can’t change what is happening with our words so we need to get back to caring for the people by our actions. And working on things we can do something about such as helping food shelves, working with the Back Pack Programs in schools, helping the homeless find housing and skills, packing for Feed The Starving Children , programs for intervention for youths so the suicide rate goes down, intervention for depression and mental health and drugs, caring for the elderly and more and teaching kids how to have respect for others and this beautiful earth that is God’s Creation. Take your eyes off the news and look around at your neighbor, what you see happening in your city. Rural is different than city. What are the needs of your area? It’s not helping us stressing out and battling each other over the headlines. Stand up for what you believe, step in to change what you can, watch your words because the person we alienate with them might be the person that needs our help or we may need theirs some day. Put the headlines back on the issues such as these. We will get through this divide together but we need to not get lost in the rhetoric and bring our focus back to what is needed, right here, right now, in our communities and with our neighbors.

Unlimited Coffee Doesn’t Pay The Bills

11048645_996381253719106_4106219762973711992_oSomething About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published the week of February 6, 2017 in The Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel

Memories light the corner of my mind. Misty water-colored memories of the way we were. Those lyrics from the song “The Way We Were,” sung by Barbara Streisand,  brings to mind all those favorite places of mine that have closed over the years but hold precious memories. I remember eating at the Canton Cafe in Albert Lea and loving their pork tenderloin dinner along with a bowl of oxtail soup. What about collecting Santa Bears from Macy’s or Hanthorn’s Store, which we called the dime store, here in my hometown? I have precious memories of my dad’s successful hometown shoe store and the whirl-a-whips at Hanson Drug Store. Time moves on and businesses change. Some go away just because of time and change, and some go away because we are more mobile, more prone to buy on the internet than to be loyal to brick and mortar stores and our hometown businesses.

My community no longer has a clothing store or a shoe store. We are down to one drugstore. Our department store closed and a chain store replaced it on the outskirts of town. Kiester lost its grocery store and the city decided to revive it, but still it struggles. Our loyalty has changed, and we, the hometown consumer, are somewhat responsible for that change.

When a business in a small community closes, we hear various opinions as to why the business could not succeed.

“They were too expensive.”

“They didn’t have enough variety.”

“The service was terrible.”

“The staff isn’t friendly.”

“It doesn’t surprise me. They weren’t open on Saturdays or in the evenings.”

“The business was better when it was owned by the former owner. There’s too many changes. It needs to go back the way it used to be.”

I must admit I have probably said some of those things a time or two about some business or other in my community or other communities I have lived in. If I did, I apologize because I wasn’t being fair. I didn’t look at it from the side of the business owner.

I grew up the child of a small business owner at a time when people stayed in their communities to shop. People appreciated the businesses in their own hometown, and those businesses flourished.

I like to have coffee with friends in restaurants and coffee houses, but I haven’t thought about the cost to a small business owner for me to sit all morning and coffee in their establishment. I may have a cup of coffee and a piece of toast or a donut. The cost for that is probably around $2.50 in a community cafe. If I have 10 friends join me and we stay all morning and are waited upon by the waiter or waitress and have endless coffee flowing, the cost to all of us would be $12.50.

Think about the cost to the establishment. They are paying the service person, a cook and all the utilities, plus the cost of coffee. I don’t think what we paid would begin to cover the costs the business shells out to be there. We could add eggs and toast or a sandwich to the mix, but still we were sitting there swigging down coffee or pop all morning, and yes, it is easy to drink coffee for hours.

Many restaurants have specials. How many $4 burger baskets must you sell to pay the utilities and help and still break even? The same can be said for department stores, grocery stores and other businesses. We all want those bargains, and if stores don’t offer them we chose to find a place they do. As a consumer, I look at what it is going to cost me and don’t look at it with the business owners point of view. What does it cost them to keep the business open?

We have a new business in our community. It costs $5 to have all-you-can-drink coffee and unlimited sweet treats. The coffee is roasted at the business and the unlimited beverages includes lattes’ pour overs, hot chocolate, tea and other specialty drinks, but yet I have heard the rumor that people think it is too expensive to have an endless supply of those items. I guess it isn’t a $1.50 cup of endless coffee. Think about it from the owner’s standpoint. How many customers do you have to have to pay for the cost of the roasted coffee and unlimited baked goods? Will $5 do that?

I am good at complaining and my friends will tell you that. I don’t always shop in my community, but I don’t shop much. I stay hunkered down in my house, and if I do buy groceries out of town it is items I cannot get in town. The same can be said for our hardware store. We use it frequently, but for those items I can’t find there I do need to go out of town. So I do admit defecting from community businesses from time to time.

We had a wonderful department store for years, but a chain store was built in our community and people seemed to prefer that to a store that was established, and had the same variety and items if they would have taken the time to check it out. The store closed.

I am going to make more of an effort to support my local businesses and to be aware of the costs owners shoulder to keep their businesses running. I am going to try and complain less and not listen to unsubstantiated rumors. Rumors can close a business whether they are true or not.

We want businesses to be here when we want what we want, or when we feel the need to indulge ourselves in town. We complain when the businesses are gone because we miss them, even though we visited them on a sporadic basis. We can’t have it both ways. Which way will win out?

The Courage Of A Leader

Something About Nothing published in the Albert Lea a Tribune January 16, 2017

Today is the day we honor a great man, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In case you don’t know, Dr. Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister and a leader in the Civil Rights movement. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was awarded posthumously the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was declared a federal holiday in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan, and it began being observed three years later.

In 1963 at the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech in which he stated his wish that our nation would rise and live out the creed that we would hold our truths to be self evident and all men would be created equal. He wished for all to sit down in brotherhood and that his four children would live in a nation where people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. He wanted people to pray together, work together and stand up for freedom together. In spite of the oppression he felt over his lifetime, he loved this nation.

I was a senior in high school in 1968. That is 49 years ago. I never thought when I was a teenager that we would still be fighting the same race wars in 2016. I can only imagine what Dr. King would say if he would be able to speak today.

I grew up in a white community. I remember the first time I met a black person. It was in the early 1970s, and he was the husband of my best friend from childhood. It was the first time I was confronted with choosing whether I might be accepting of someone of another race, and I was. My friend made a smart choice in her husband. My children who were 3 and 5 at the time didn’t notice color — they noticed kindness. I had been sheltered from the violence and race wars where I lived and was relieved to know that I could look at a person and see the person not the race.

I think the reason I questioned how I would react to the meeting was because of what I had seen on television and heard in the media. Living where I lived I didn’t understand what the rest of the country was going through because I didn’t experience it, and so making judgements just by what I heard did put a little fear in my heart of those that were different.

I had a little taste of understanding earlier in 1968 when I read a book called “Freedom Summer” published in the ’60s. I don’t know the author, but the book had an impact on me. I read it for a book report my senior year. It highlighted white college students volunteering in Mississippi during the riots to register voters. I read it, went back to my nice life, but I never forgot that book.

I can’t imagine having the courage of Dr. King, speaking out and leading against hatred and violence that was directed at him. Yet he kept going and it cost him his life, but in doing so he left a legacy to aspire to. He believed in nonviolence and he preached nonviolence, yet violence took his life because he had the courage to stand up against those who were intolerant.

Here we are in 2017 fighting the same injustices. I don’t remember a year in my life since those early days when I have felt the fear I have been feeling. It is a fear we are going back to those early days of intolerance of those who are different than us. I don’t remember a year when I have felt hatred running out of control again.

And I don’t like feeling that fear because for me, if fear takes over, the lashing out begins. The rational thinking goes out the door and my mind fuels on what might happen and is focused on things which might never occur except in my own mind. When that happens I take it out on those I don’t understand, and it leads to family against family, neighbor against neighbor and judgement and repercussions. The blaming begins and we never blame ourselves. We always find a scapegoat for our feelings.

I read the story of the life of Martin Luther King Jr. today. He deserves our honor. He gave his life so others could have a better life. He didn’t stay silent about oppression out of fear. I find others doing that today, staying silent out of fear, bowed down by those that are louder. Staying silent because they don’t want to be targeted by those that think differently. I find myself doing that or apologizing to those that are the loudest and don’t like my viewpoint, because I don’t want to offend them even when they are offending me or I don’t want to be their target. Where is the fine line between swallowing our pride and our beliefs and our conscience and still staying friends with those who bully our opinions so we don’t speak out?

We learn from the past. Soon we will be the past. What will our children learn from us? Will it be the same as we learned from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Will it be an education of courage?