January 23, 1998 I don't really care. How often we say that. How often we say it when we most care. It's like a defense that we hide behind. A big solid wall to hide our hurt, our anger, our frustration. I don't really care.
Sometimes we care so much we could explode. Sometimes when we care so much, it really does not seem like we can do anything about what we care about. So much seems to be beyond our immediate control. Is it really for our good? I mean, haven't you heard the saying, it's for your good. I want to be the one to determine what is for my good. I want to have some say about what is good for me. I don't care what is good for me. I just want to have some say in my destination.
I have tried everything that is in my power to do what I can do to be a good person. It doesn't seem to matter. I am not qualified for anything, most especially for anything I want to do. I cannot even get qualified. I have a horrible past, a miserable present, and no future. What is worse is that I am dragging the ones I love along with me. I seem to be caught in the middle of a suffocating snowball halfway down a mountain that does not have a bottom.
What do I have to do? I accepted that I have screwed up in the past. I have tried to put the past behind me. I accept who I am today and I am doing the best I can right now. Today, this moment, I am trying to be what I think God has called me to be and it is not working. I know of God's infinite and unlimited love. I know his love has no limits to its power. I know God is in me and I know love is a big part of my being. It does not seem to be enough!
Something has got to give. I am ready to burst open. I am getting sick watching my life go past. I want to stop watching it and get back to being a part of it. I do not know how. I do not know how. What can I do?
I keep praying the same prayer. Please God, don't turn me loose. Do with me anything you want…But God, I need for you to do it, whatever it is, just get on with it. I read about lamenting. I heard the story of Hannah who lamented to her God that she had certain needs and you, God, knew her and needed to help her. I too have specific needs and I too have lamented to my God. I love you, God! I love you, God! I know you have heard my plea. I know you see me trying and trying and failing. I know you know me and I am positive of your love.
Please forgive this outburst, Lord. I am trying to hold on. Please help me and my family.
January 24, 1988 My wife is depressed and tired and hurting this day. I have so little I can offer her. My love seems so inadequate.
It is the wrong time of the month. Her allergies are running rampant. She is beginning to feel hopeless and inadequate as a mother, wife, and more important as a person. You see she has urged me, her husband, to do what we both believe our God wants us to do. It does not seem to be working, we do not have a job. Our rent is due. We agreed to try to supplement our income by doing something neither one of us wants to do but it seemed like it was our best hope to provide for our needs until we could do what God has called us to do. Maybe that is the problem. Maybe we are trying to do what we think God has called us to do and what we are trying to do is not what God wants us to do. But if that is true, then what is it we are to do?
What does God want us to do? Somehow we must be provided with a way to earn a living for ourselves. Somehow we must be provided with the means to live. We are willing to do what it is that God wants us to do, we are willing to go in any direction God wants us to. We just are not willing to continue as we are. We are vegetating. We are becoming lifeless and hopeless. We have already become observers of life rather than partakers in life. We so much want to become livers once again. Trust in the Lord. Listen to what God says. We have, we are, we do! Either we are blind, deaf, and totally ignorant, or God is willing for us to live through this time as a preparation for what we will be asked to do in the future.
We have no question as to the nature of God. We know of God's nature, we know and accept God's love. That love has been and is the only thing that has allowed us to maintain our sanity. That love keeps on lifting us up and giving us hope. When will that hope be realized? When will that hope become a reality?
Our spirit is at a very low ebb. My wife can barely lift herself much less support me. Her support has been so important to me. There were times when without her I could not have continued. Maybe I should not have continued. I keep screwing up. The point is through her love for me I did continue, I did survive, I did gain the hope and courage I needed for that moment. She did and does this for me all the time. I need to be there now for her. I want to be there now for her. I love her so much. I know she is the greatest gift God ever gave me and she was given to me as a visible gift of God's always present love for me. She has to let me be her gift of love and support. I feel I have failed her so often. She gets angry when I say this because she say's that is my point of view, not hers. It is true. I have failed her so often and yet I would do anything for her, ever.
Lord God, surely you must see and hear that we are trying to put old ways aside and become new people in you. Surely you must know how difficult it is to leave the old and become new. We are trying so very hard to be what you want us to be. Maybe our trying is enough for you, but, Lord; it is not enough for us. Please understand and help us.
Lift up my wife and in the lifting up of her I too will be lifted up. We love you and we accept your love. Amen!
January 25, 1988 November 22, 1963, I was a freshman student at Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, Georgia. Statesboro was in far south Georgia and like so many other people I remember exactly what I was doing and the experience I had on the day President John Kennedy was shot and murdered.
I didn't fit in at Georgia Southern. Although I was born at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, my father was a career Air Force sergeant. I lived everywhere from Oklahoma to Mississippi to Japan and back to Michigan. I really did not think people were different. I always attended Catholic schools where available and we had black neighbors on the air base we lived on. I heard black jokes, but I guess I just didn't pay attention to them. I was very naive.
Georgia Southern was a party school. Everybody left for the weekend to go to Augusta or Savannah. Certain clothes were in. You can imagine how a young Catholic man with no money and a Yankee sounding voice fit in. I didn't. My first roommate went to the dorm mother less than a week after meeting me and got permission to change rooms because I just wasn't from the same background as he was. You see Georgia people have their own peculiar sense of what make a person acceptable. Whatever it was, I didn't have it.
The second week of school or so, I stood up to answer a question from a professor. After everyone finished laughing at my ignorance for standing up, the teacher said, "you must be Catholic Mr. Flakes." It seems only those students that had attended Catholic schools and therefore were Catholic, stood up to answer questions. I replied I was very much Catholic and was proud of my religion. After another round of derisive laughter, the teacher went on calmly to inform me that he would straighten me out before the end of the semester. Funny thing, that teacher was the only teacher I ever respected from that college. He was honest and he cared.
I remember the only blacks allowed on campus were the cleaning women and janitors, and one more. An old "nigger" man who brought pork bar-b-cue and sold it at night.
I absolutely hate and abhor the word, "nigger." I used it because there were no black people in Statesboro Georgia. There were no negroes in Statesboro, Georgia. There were only "niggers."
I did not understand it then and I was so very uncomfortable with it and I guess I thought I would grow to understand it. I did not and I pray God I will never.
Even then I saw people as people. A person was a person. It was how a person treated you that determined how you treated them. I thought people were basically equal. There were signs in Statesboro, Georgia that told black people what side of the street they could walk on. There were places where they could go and I could go and they were not the same. Even the bathrooms were different. I questioned that once and my classmate explained that if you drank after one of them you probably would catch a serious disease. If you sat on the same toilet, well, you were sure to catch the most serious venereal disease of the time, he went on to tell me just what use black women were. He described in every detail how a black woman could make a white boy so very happy. I never spoke to him again after that day.
I remember getting on a public bus in Savannah, Georgia and just because it was empty, going to the back of the bus and sitting down. There was silence. The bus stopped and pulled over to the side of the road. The bus driver walked slowly back to me and said "Yankee boy, you must be visiting down here. White folks sit in the front on my bus, that's the law. So get your ass up front or get off right now." I moved up front conscious of all the stares from black passengers and white, sure enough I looked up and there was a sign that clearly said "niggers in the back".
I never really cared much for John Kennedy. At least not in 1963. I was a Richard Nixon man. But once Mr. Kennedy was elected, he was the President. I mean I did not think of him any other way. I liked Jackie because she was young and beautiful. I thought it was pretty neat that a man of my religion was president. Never once did I imagine that his being a Catholic would interfere with his being president. To this day I don't think it would have or did interfere. Since his death I have read just about everything I could about John Kennedy. I believe that through his death he accomplished more for his country that he ever could have in living. I am still deeply saddened by his death. Like most Americans, I hope, I was completely taken unawares that such a thing could happen. American presidents did not get murdered. I was so naive that I believed that America was one country made up of one people. After the black and white experiences I have described to you, I know you must wonder how I remained so naive. I think I wanted to be that way.
On that terrible morning I went to the shoe repair shop in downtown Statesboro to pick up a pair of shoes I had left to get repaired. I walked downtown and I was feeling fine. Inside the shop, an old black man, with a face I have never forgotten, stood there. I asked him for my shoes. He did not respond. I asked once more. I suddenly looked at him. As strange as it sounds white people didn't ever look at a black person. We talked to them and used their services but we didn't look at them. I think that is because if we did look at them, we would have to acknowledge that they were indeed a human being. When he did not answer me, I was compelled to look at him. There was a timeless anguish on his face and tears were streaming down from both eyes. There was such controlled anger and so much uncontrolled sorrow. "They killed my president." I could not understand and I did not want to hear, yet I knew what he said was true and I was overwhelmed with reality. I looked at the clock on the wall. Until now it never occurred to me the meaning of why the time stuck in my mind as it has. The clock said it was just 12 noon. Later I would know that no one knew for sure in Statesboro, Georgia at 12 noon if the president was dead. That man knew Mr. Kennedy was dead and I knew he was dead.
I turned in a crying stupor and began to walk back to the campus. I was in shock that any president would have been killed in America. The significance of this president being killed was brought home to me in a hurry.
"Thank God. They finally killed that nigger loving son of a bitch, about time." I looked up not believing what I heard. The gas station owner went on loudly, "One less nigger loving Catholic to worry about, praise God! The world would be a lot better place if we got rid of all of them." A tall man in a suit stood listening and approving. I heard him say something about Catholics, Jews and niggers being the ruination of America. I ran crying and stumbling back to the campus. I sat in a day room and watched the events of the next few days unfold. I sat quietly and kept my views to myself. I was afraid that they might want to get rid of me. I was a Catholic. I was so very much aware I was Catholic. I had always loved and been so proud of my religion. Now I was afraid. In retrospect I had no real reason to be afraid. Yet I know now I was afraid that if the people of Statesboro were so glad our Catholic nigger loving president had been killed; they might want to kill me. Not very rational but very real fear was what I felt. I was so stunned and sorry that a president, any president could be killed; and, I for the first time in my life was afraid because of what I believed. Even then I was proud to be a Catholic, scared and not understanding, but proud of my religion. Proud of what I believed and angry at where I was. I made a promise to myself to never go back and to never forget. I have gone back. I have never forgotten.
The tributes and processions on the school campus that took place, were almost mandatory. It was expected. They took place and I was a part of them. I could not understand how they could publicly stand up and praise Mr. Kennedy and express outrage publicly about his dream; yet as soon as the ceremony was over laugh about how the world was better off with one less nigger loving Catholic. I remember with horror at recognizing the tall man leading the candlelight memorial for Mr. Kennedy as the same man listening and approving what the gas station owner was proclaiming. The same man who complained about all the damn niggers, Jews, and Catholics.
Years later in 1986 to be exact, my wife and two of my daughters had occasion to stop at a motel in south Georgia. It was a hot day and we went swimming. We were the only ones in the pool. My youngest daughter, Jamie who was about 8 then, saw some young children in bathing suits holding towels and standing on the motel balcony watching us. She yelled to one of the kids, a little black girl I imagine was about the same age, come on in, the little girl did not respond. As soon as we got out of the pool, the black family got in. My family was offended. We could not understand why they had not joined us. You see the black father explained to me, it just wasn't done in South Georgia. He asked me not to make a scene because you see he lived there or close by and we were just passing through. Just go along with the customs.
I guess some things and some places never change. I guess I am still naive. You see, I still believe in the equality of man and woman and race to me just means the Indianapolis 500. Yes we do have different skin colors and we do have different heritages. I guess maybe I just think I am trying to be a Christian. Christ said "love your neighbor as yourself." Maybe he meant so long as they were of the same race. I don't think so.
January 26, 1988 I prepared an income tax return for a young self employed couple today. I came away deeply discouraged.
This young man and wife were trying to earn their living and make their fortune working for themselves. Forty one cents on every dollar they earned went to pay interest on their indebtedness. They owed a large sum for the previous years' taxes and an even larger sum for this year's tax. They were almost a year behind on their real estate tax, and they chose me to prepare their tax returns because I was the least expensive preparer they could find.
I know I should just fill out the forms with their figures and not give any advice, yet, I found myself compelled to offer them strong advice on how to get out of debt. You see, the wife told me they had a plan. They would borrow more to pay what they owed.
I know that this is what they will end up doing.
What do you say to such a young family?
What would you say that they would listen to? Looking back you wish someone would have talked to you they way you talked to them. I don't think I would have listened and I know I would not have liked what I heard.
This young family was missing something. I tried to figure out what it was. Once the answer came to me, I still did not know how to bring it up. What was missing from their hope was God. They had not included God in their plans. They were so very nice and seemed to be such good parents. It was their second marriage and they seemed to be working so very hard to make everything succeed. I could not help but think that if they were a part of a Christian community, there would be strong support for them. Then it occurred to me that indeed they were supposed to living in the greatest of all Christian communities, the brotherhood of man.
I helped them prepare an honest return. I spoke openly and honestly to them about their financial problems and I acted in a Christian manner toward them.
And still I felt I had not done enough.
What would you do? If you were me, what would you do? How would you act? My family needs money to pay our rent and the money from this return will go far toward that end. I charged them fairly and I treated them honestly . Did I do enough?
January 27, 1988 Dreams are so very important to each of us. In a special way, dreams are an important part of what makes each of us unique. You see, your dreams are very real to you. Your dreams offer you something special that only you know about and hope for. Your most private and special dreams are those which you have shared only with the God who created you. They may be far out, unrealistic, and even impossible in the quote real world to attain; but they are real and possible to you.
It is a sad and unfortunate thing when a dream is shattered into the reality of never. Special dreams die hard. It takes a special person to dream a special dream. When that special dream is broken into reality, a special person loses something unique and special to his or her being.
Some people will. Say when this happens, it is about time. These people often say that you need to live in the real world and come down out of the clouds.
When you take away the dreams of a dreamer, I think you destroy a most vital portion of that human's ability to live.
You see every person on earth needs to be able to dream. I think this is why the loving Lord Creator God gave each and everyone of us this special ability. And be sure, each of us have this ability° 0 I know, some of us seem to have forgotten how to dream" sometimes it seems some of us have even forgotten that we ever had a dream. But it is a truth that each of us have had our share of dreams.
And just what is a dream? Easier to know than to explain , a dream is that special hope that each of us has felt when there was no reason to hope. A dream is that special vision that filled our being and allowed us to escape from the very real and sometimes hurtful and almost always binding world we live in. A dream is the vehicle by which we looked into our future and what we saw made us not want to return to our present. A true dream is what we hope so very much will happen while knowing the chances are it will not. A dream lifts you up and fills you with hope and makes you feel so good and so special that you just know nothing else in the whole world could make you feel that way. A dream is all I have said and still more. Perhaps you alone know what the more is.
One of the most wonderful feelings one can ever have is when a dream comes true. And as I have said, when a dream is shattered, there are no feelings quite as low or desperate.
We are God's dream. When we finally accept God's love for us, God's dream comes true. We can never be God's shattered dream for God never stops loving us. In God's always continuing love for each of us is God's continuing dream. This continuing dream is that each or us will someway ,sometime, somehow, on our own, find our way to accept God's love for us.
God is the ultimate dreamer for none of God's dreams are ever shattered. You see, even when we reject our Lord God, we are never rejected by our Lord God!
If you think you cannot dream again because all your dreams have faded into broken reality, think again" you see, you were created by and from the loving Lord God. The creator God is the essence and core of each of us" as long as God's love is a part of our being, which is as long as our being is, we have the ability to dream" you my friend can dream. I know it takes courage to allow yourself to dream. I know your dreams have all been broken and ruined. I know for you it is time for a new dream, a better dream, and I encourage you to let it happen.
So don't be afraid to dream. Close your eyes and lift your spirits to the heavens and let the impossible become possible. Relish in enjoying what you alone have the vision to see" soar away to a world that hold happiness and hope for you.
When you come back down to earth, I promise, everything though still the same will somehow be different. The difference will be that though the world is not different, you will be different" the knowledge that 8 special dream is there just for you can be more than enough to help you through the reality of today.
January 28, 1988 AIDS is the most terrifying word in the whole vocabulary of man. There is no one who is not afraid of AIDS. It seems to be an incurable disease. Complete and total celibacy is the only absolute way to avoid AIDS and even that may not be enough. You can be born with it. You can contract it by inadvertently getting the AIDS virus through someone else's blood simply by having a cut on yourself and accidentally rubbing up against someone with AIDS and a bleeding cut. There is no way to know if your partner has AIDS. Even people who try not to spread this horrible disease may spread it inadvertently because they do not know they have the disease.
Who indeed even wants to find out if they have it. Even the testing procedure is not foolproof. One day you can test negative and the next day you might test positively.
At first AIDS was thought to be the exclusive disease between homosexual men. Then we learned it can be contracted by sharing needles. We learned it can spread through the transfusion of AIDS infected blood. A man who once in his life may have slipped through unaccustomed use of alcohol and violated his marriage vows with a prostitute, may have contracted AIDS and gives it to his unsuspecting wife who passes it on to their unborn child. It seems AIDS knows no boundaries.
Most of us are scared. We are haunted by indiscretions of many years ago and every time our wife or our self shows any sign of any sickness, we are scared to death of AIDS. What if because of a stupid interlude I have regretted ever since, I contracted AIDS?
Because of the fear of AIDS, casual sex is on the decline. It is not on the decline because of a new and better understanding of the marriage commitment. It is not on the decline because of a new Christian attitude. It is on the decline because of the real fear of contracting AIDS.
There seems to be some proof that the wearing of a condom or rubber shield during the sex act offers some protection against AIDS. Nobody for sure knows just how much or how little protection it offers. If it offers any protection at all it seems to me that those who decide to partake in sex should have this knowledge. Sex is going to happen. Sex is a vital part of the makeup of man and woman. It is too pleasurable and too psychologically satisfying, yes, too physically satisfying to ever be completely eliminated. It does not seem likely that sex will ever be confined to one man and one woman joined together in marriage.
We are not talking about what is right or wrong, just what is. In today's world this means AIDS is going to continue to spread. Anything that offers any protection against this terrible disease must be used and made available.
The major obstacle to the spread of the use of "rubbers", is the stance rightly taken by the Roman Catholic Church. This position is that the use of condoms prevents the conception of life from happening during the sexual act between man and woman. The rubber shield can and often does prevent the man's sperm from joining the woman's body. In that case no conception is going to take place.
I am a Roman Catholic and I love and respect my church. I understand her position. I offer the following personal observations.
Man and woman do not create life. God is the only one that creates life. If God does not will it, no life will take place under any circumstance. Often conception will take place no matter the form of life prevention used by the people involved. Women having intercourse with men using condoms sometimes, fairly frequently conceive. New condoms break. This may be why they are not fool proof against AIDS.
Women with their tubes tied or cut entirely in two have had babies. There are fertile men and women who have sex at the quote right time every day for ten years and do not conceive. The same woman may be raped in the middle of her monthly period and conceive. God alone knows when life is to happen.
God did not create AIDS to punish man. There is nothing in the whole of creation that the loving Lord God did not create. If God created it, there must be good in it. Because of AIDS, men and women are examining their attitudes toward marriage and yes sex. Maybe because of this new attitude forced on mankind by AIDS, family will once more become central to mankind. Perhaps marriage will once again be held in the high esteem that it once was.
Maybe man will have no choice but to accept God's all powerful and infinite love. Maybe because of AIDS, man will finally turn to God. It seems right now at least, man may end up with no one else to turn to.
Now I know that this isn't what God envisioned when man was first created. I guarantee it is not what man would seem to want to do normally. Probably it is the quote wrong reason for man to turn to God and throw himself on God's mercy.
The one consolation is that whenever and for what ever reason man finally turns to God it will not matter. You see, God will be there then as he is now, with arms open wide and love outpouring. Maybe the answer to AIDS is for man to skip being driven to no choice by AIDS. Perhaps if man quickly and wholeheartedly accepted God's love unconditionally and right now, just maybe, in God's loving mercy would be found the answer man is so desperate to find. Maybe the answer to AIDS is to be found in the unlimited love and mercy of God.