Congratulations!

Two years ago, my friends broke the internet and set a Kickstarter record.  They reached their $30,000 goal in just under an hour and by the end they had raised over $200,000.  Their rabid (and I use this word lovingly) fanbase saw the opportunity to not only get a new album, but to bring something that they loved dearly back from the dead.  It worked on a scale that no one could have imagined.  I wrote a post about it at the time and honestly, I may have been underselling its importance.

Two weeks ago, Engine Of A Million Plots was released to us Kickstarter supporters.  It is awesome!  I won’t try to pretend to be objective about the album, as that would be silly.  I think that it is a solid album and one of their very best.  That being said, the album became available to the rest of the world yesterday.  I’m not going to try to sell you on buying it, but you might want to give it a listen on Spotify.

If you like it, please check out their website and find our where you can buy the album.  Also, even if you just kind of like it, you should see these guys play live.  Either way, I would like to congratulate Leanor, Reese, and the rest of the band.  You guys killed it!

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Actions have consequences…well, at least this time.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well that I’m not a huge fan of organized sports.  There are two main reasons for this lack of fandom on my part.  The first reason is that I’m uncoordinated and I suck at almost every sport.  The second and most important reason is that I believe that our culture’s obsession with sports has created a group of people who are not often held to account for their actions, no matter how heinous, because they are athletes.

Before you start composing your email about how I’m an un-American wuss, please allow me to vividly illustrate my point.  I have two separate incidents that should easily accomplish that task.

When I was in college, I was a Resident Assistant, which meant that I was in charge of a floor of my residence hall.  During my fourth year in this position, I got to be a first-hand witness to one of the most deplorable events of my lifetime.  Our school had two basketball players who had been suspended from school for their involvement in a gang-rape incident.  Apparently, their skill at putting the round ball through the orange hoop was such that our basketball coach requested their re-admittance.  Unfortunately for the basketball program, however, our Dean of Admissions for our private Baptist university was a man of character and told both the players, the basketball coach, and the University President where they could put their applications for re-admittance.

That sounds like a win for character, right?  Well, it would if that was the end of the story.  The Dean of Admissions went on vacation the next week and while he was gone, the University President had one of the Vice Presidents re-admit the basketball players.  The end result of these maneuverings were that the Dean of Admissions quit and left to be president of another college and that I got to have these two losers on my hall for the rest of the year, while they proceeded violate every rule we had in the student handbook.  Every attempt that I made to hold these guys accountable hit a glass ceiling, so I quit trying.

On a side note, the University President went on to be forced to leave the university after NCAA sanctions for changing player’s grades.  Finally, a win for character, right?  Wrong.  He got his golden parachute severance package and went on to be the president for another school.  His replacement?  The same Vice President who signed the re-admission papers for those athletes.  Awesome.

Our next story will be brief, as it takes quite an emotional toll on me to tell it.  A student from my high school (who had gone to school with my younger sister) ended up at my small, private university.  His history was that of repeated drug and behavior offenses, with his parents and coaches bailing him out because he played football.  One of his last offenses before leaving town involved wrecking the car his parent’s had bought him.  They promptly replaced the wrecked car with a new Mustang, before sending him off to my school.

I remember it was a nice, new Mustang because it is the car that he was recklessly driving when he killed one of my friends after a party.  I’ll always remember the details about that jerk and his car because I had to testify at his manslaughter trial at the behest of the victim’s family.  All I heard at that trial was how he was a good boy with bad luck, who was full of remorse and had drastically changed his life because of the wreck.

That’s funny.  I distinctly remember that “good and remorseful boy” offering me drugs in local music venue and watching him carry a beer keg around at a local street festival the summer after the wreck (while he was underage).  That’s odd.  That doesn’t seem like remorse following a wreck that took the life of one of your acquaintances.

I think that I’ve firmly established my point that concerns for athletic ability often override appropriate consequences for lapses in judgement, deficiencies in character, and criminal offenses.  Now, I would like to applaud a local high school for actually getting it right with their football program.  As much as it pains me to compliment a rival high school, Erwin High School did the right thing and boy, did it cost them.

Erwin was on its way to a perfect football season, with several players being scouted for reputable college teams.  The school was going to set a record for Western North Carolina and one young man was about to obliterate several high school records for passing yards.  Coach Mike Sexton had brought new life and success to a program that had not had very much of either in the past twenty years.  The team was simply unstoppable…until a few weeks ago.

Apparently, three of Erwin’s football players (I won’t call the team members, because clearly they don’t understand the concept) were caught possessing marijuana at a traffic stop.  What are the consequences for such an activity, you might ask?  Being suspended from all athletic activities.

So, how much difference did it make to have three players suspended from the Erwin squad?  It cost them the Mountain Area Conference Championship and it put them out of the state playoffs in the first round, because two of those players were the team’s best receivers.  The suspension also ended the other young man’s attempt at setting the passing record.  The simple fact is that these three young students made choices that affected not only themselves, but their friends, their school, and their entire community.

These three young men have demonstrated exceedingly poor judgement and a serious lack of moral character.  An entire community paid the price for their actions, but I have to say that the real winners in all of this are the Erwin Athletic Department and Buncombe County Schools.  The arresting officer, an Erwin supporter, chose not to look the other way.  The folks at Erwin chose to follow the rules set forth by the Buncombe County School system and not look for some sort of work-around.  Following the offense, Erwin made some hard choices with integrity.

In the end, three athletes broke the law and threw their team, their school, and their community under the bus.  In response to a bad situation, Erwin’s administration and athletic department did the right thing and they should get a trophy for that…and they should make those three boys pay for it and present it to the school in front of a home crowd at their football stadium.

Can somebody please explain to me what Adult Protective Service’s job really is?

I am absolutely livid.  I went and checked the mail this afternoon and had a nice, cordial note from Adult Protective Services letting me know that the lady that I contacted them about is not eligible for their services.  Really?  Not eligible?

Let me tell everyone a little something about this lady.  She is one of our tenants and she is an eighty-six year old widow who lives by herself in a mobile home.  In the past, she has been super independent and steady as a rock.  She even cleans up at our biggest mobile home park’s mailboxes, for which we reduce her rent.  She hand trims her walkway and is always painting her home, but lately things have changed.

Unfortunately, this wonderful lady had her grandson take $600 out of her checking account last month, which caused her to bounce enough checks to accrue $350 in bounced check charges.  She bounced 3 checks to us in the last month; so many that we now take all of her checks to her bank and verify funds before we try to deposit them so that she won’t get charged anything.  The main problem, though, is not that she is having trouble paying the rent.

In the last 3 weeks, she has bounced several checks, had her power disconnected, and we’ve had several instances where people have picked her up walking on the side of the road in extremely cold temperatures.  She is very confused at times and shows signs of rapidly progressing dementia.  Her grandson is supposed to be helping her, but he never comes around except when he needs to bum some money.  If it weren’t for a couple of concerned neighbors, she would have no one.

She desperately needs help with her finances and the entire situation, so  I called Adult Protective Services no less than 8 times over the last 3 weeks.  My greatest fear is what will happen to her over the winter if the neighbors and I were to lose track of her.  I can’t even imagine what would happen if she took off in the snow.  Also, we can only help so much with her finances before it becomes a conflict of interest and a legal issue.

They sent somebody out and decided that although they have programs where they send people to help elderly folks with their finances that this lady didn’t qualify.  She’s losing track of time and money and can’t even keep conversations straight for 5 minutes.  She even had a neighbor drop her off at a local grocery, only to disappear before he could get back to pick her up.  She still doesn’t know how she got home that day, by the way.  All this, and she doesn’t qualify?

So, my question is this:  Can anybody tell me what Adult Protective Services does do?  Because I’m quite sure that it isn’t helping elderly people with dementia before they become another tragic story of how we neglect our elderly.

…and this, folks, is why you should discipline your children and expect others to do the same.

I was thinking about giving up on blogging.  With an infant, a four-year-old, and two parents who need a lot of my assistance around their house, I have found time to be at somewhat of a premium.  I was just going to kill the website, save myself a little money in web hosting, and let this whole thing ride off into the sunset.

That was until I got the following responses to an email that I sent last week:

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I know what you’re thinking.

I used to be a youth minister and this must be from one of my former students who is in college and making some bad decisions.  I must have written an email trying to address some bad behavior or poor choices on the part of someone in their late teens or early twenties and this is their response.

Well, you could think that…and you would be wrong.

These were the responses from a man in his forties who just ran for an elected position in city government for our town.  We had a few personal exchanges in the past, regarding a pertinent local issue and so I had his personal email address.  I could explain further about our interaction or relationship, but that might give away his identity and I honestly believe that the main point is about something much bigger than the specifics that led to the email exchange.

Now, in the spirit of full disclosure on my part, I must admit that I was tough on this guy.  He had said and done some things that were generating a lot of hurt and animosity; so much so that some of it ended up on Youtube…and in the local paper…and on the local television news.  He was reflecting badly on part of my community, he was saying very hurtful things to and about peaceful, decent people in the public forum, and I felt that his attitude was detrimental to our whole city.  I had sat back and watched all of his behavior that I could stand and I had the avenue, so I took the opportunity to punch his ticket.  It needed to be done and I was in the position to do it.  Like I said in the subject line of the email, I was trying to create a teachable moment.

Anyway, here is the crux of the issue:  I sent a private email to an adult male which expressed my concerns and the responses that I got were what I would have expected to get from a fourteen or fifteen year-old teenager with a bad attitude.  This guy is old enough to and has run for public office.  He is old enough to buy alcohol and firearms.  He is married and has kids.  He is all these things and he hits me with “whatever” and “I’m not even reading this” as his response?

That is insane.

If he had come back with a reasoned response, explaining his behavior or apologizing, I could have respected him.  If he had blasted me with anger and misinformation (which is his usual tactic in the public forum), I could have at least understood.  Any of that I could have comprehended, but not this.  This is not even truthful, as I was contacted by the head of a community discussion group because his wife was questioning my involvement the very next day.  Oh, he read it, alright.  He just couldn’t maturely address the issues and that is where the trouble lies.

As a nation, we have completely disregarded adequately disciplining our children and it is already coming back to bite us.  Just to be clear, when I say “as a nation”, I mean everyone.  I mean white, black, brown, plaid, liberal, conservative, Christian, Jew, Muslim, gay, straight, vegetarian, omnivore, educated, uneducated, rich, poor…I don’t care, you name it.  We have all dropped the ball.  Admittedly, some of us have botched it more than others, but we are all a long way from the days when I knew that if I got in trouble at someone’s house or at school that I not only had to answer for it there…I had Hell to pay when I got home.

This guy is just another product of a system where not only are we not going to discipline our kids, no one else is going to be allowed to, either.  His attitude can only have developed and survived to his current age in a system where he has been allowed to walk out on every argument or disciplinary action and he is not alone.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I heard the phrase “no one else is going to discipline my child” in the last ten years of youth ministry.  That mindset has become pervasive and it is toxic.

It is essential that all of us learn to respect the rules of not only the greater community, but also those of other individuals and families.  My kids need to learn that the rules at your house are just important as the rules at mine and I definitely expect your kids to live by my rules while they are at my house.  This is what it truly means for a village to raise a child.  It is not some easy platitude, but rather an ethic and a value that forces examination of values and principles.

The problem comes when we try to shirk the responsibility of knowing the parents of the kids with whom our kids associate.  We get nervous that our kids will be subject to some set of rules that we don’t know, approve of, or trust.  The only solution to that is to get to know our fellow parents, to engage in dialogue, to actually be a community.

I strongly believe that how we treat people in our daily lives finds its foundation in how we were raised.  I can’t help but believe that the fact that I got a juvenile response from a forty-something man is firmly rooted in the lack of discipline that this man received from permissive parents.  Maybe if his parents had bothered to teach him to respect the rules of others, then I wouldn’t have had to write my email.  I only know that if I had ever given someone a “whatever” or an “I’m not going to read this” when I was growing up that the consequences would have been firm and lasting.

Discipline breeds respect.  Permissiveness breeds contempt.