Sunday, September 28, 2014

We Are All Beggars

"Are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
-Mosiah 4:19

Recently, the Angry White Loner asked if any of you readers out there had questions that he might attempt to answer. In return, he received a number of queries. So many so that he nearly required four fingers to count all of them.

Tonight, he attempts to answer one of your questions for the first time. (It will require nearly four blog posts to get to all of them, as you might have guessed, so please be patient with me.)

Angry White Reader Erik asked:

"Giving to the beggars . . . do it? Don't do it? Does it reinforce their behavior? Is there an alternative? Again, I have my opinion, but I would be interested in your thoughts."

Thanks for your question, Erik. This topic has been on my mind today because of our Gospel Doctrine lesson this afternoon on the Island of Misfit Toys, in which we covered in part the Old Testament book of Amos. Not only is Amos famous for the cookies and also for the oft-quoted (by missionaries) scripture about God not doing anything save he does it through His servants, the prophets (Amos 3:7), but I learned that, at this particular point in time, the people of Israel as a whole were in deep doo-doo for, among other things, not taking care of the poor and needy.

Like you all, I've come across many panhandlers in my travels. I am not wealthy. After all, I studied journalism and English literature in college, and I pretend to be an actor on the weekends. I am of the opinion that those who have been richly blessed (as in, big bucks) are under the obligation to give more where they can.

I do not give money to most panhandlers, but I have given a buck or two to the occasional person. And, as long as I have cash on me, I always stop to buy lemonade or Kool-Aid when kids are selling it on the curbside on hot summer days.

Always.

Once, I met a young man on my way out of Wendy's, asking if I had any change to spare. I honestly didn't (I rarely carry cash these days and make most purchases with a debit or credit card) and told him so, but instead I offered to go back into the restaurant with him and buy him a hamburger. He gladly accepted and seemed genuinely grateful for the gesture.

Earlier that day, in fact, I had landed a new job after looking for one for quite a while. I was feeling particularly blessed, and this young man gave me an opportunity to "pay it forward" to someone.

That's just one example from the AWL's life. So, are people asking for money really in need, or are they conning us?

My answer is: Yes. To both.

Panhandlers fall into both categories. Some are genuinely in need, while others are not. Only God knows the heart and soul and is qualified to judge which is which, in my humble opinion.

I have a testimony of the blessings and the benefits of paying tithing, of giving fast offerings or to the Perpetual Education Fund, etc., to the Church. On countless occasions, I have witnessed the Church use these funds, infinitely more wisely than I ever could endeavor to do, to save, to lift, and to heal people of any and all faiths. To help all of Heavenly Father's children.

Angry White Dad worked for the Church for many years, during which time I got to volunteer and/or tour various canneries, bishop's storehouses, farms, and so on, and I saw it all in action. On a trip to the east coast that the two of us took together when I was 18, just prior to leaving on my mission, we got to see the Richmond, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Boston, Massachusetts storehouses in action. It's the real deal, folks; it's not just here in Utah. Later on, when the PEF was created in the early 2000s, AWD got to work with that program, too. We got to see even more lives being blessed with a newfound opportunity to obtain an education.

Above all, I love that the Church teaches us to be self-reliant. It's the old adage of "teaching a man to fish" rather than giving him a fish, so that we can help ourselves and then, in turn, help others who cannot do so due to chronic illness, injuries, death of a spouse, loss of employment, natural disasters, and so forth. Because I have faith in the Church, I have faith that my contributions are being put to the best possible use.

Of course, the LDS Church does a great deal, but it does not have a monopoly on helping the poor and needy. More than one Angry White Brother performed an Eagle Scout project collecting clothing and other items for the St. Vincent de Paul Catholic charity in Salt Lake City, a rock star of an organization if there ever was one. In addition, Angry White Mom (prior to her recent accident, anyway) volunteers at the local food bank run in the back parking lot of a Bountiful Protestant church, giving service and helping customers feed their families. Yours truly had the chance to volunteer time there a few times in my previous ward. If you live in Davis County, I highly recommend paying them a visit or giving them a call to see what you can do. Odds are, they need you.

Many people may view charity as "a coat you wear twice a year," helping out at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. While this is a worthy and an important cause, I believe charity is really more of a way of life than a check mark that you make on a list as a task to be completed. It is both in giving the bare necessities like money, food, and clothing but also in the small things, such as giving friendship, a listening ear, love, time, and genuine concern for those around us.

That little stream that said "give"? As in, the Primary song? That's what I mean.

And that is something we can all afford to do.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Love Poetry for Dummies: "An Autumn Night's Dream"

"An Autumn Night's Dream"

It's 1:30 a.m.;
And I must be lonely.
Or perhaps I'm just lonely
Without you.
Am I in your thoughts? Even once in a while?
Are you the tiniest bit lonely, too?

You said you needed some time to think;
Well, you've now got all of the time that you wanted;
But the thing about time is, it just keeps on ticking,
You're alone with your thoughts, and I'm here,
Feeling haunted.

I hoped, in vain, that we'd grow old together,
But, so far, we are just growing old.
One out of two isn't bad, I have heard,
Or it seems that is what I've been told.


Don't confuse the message
With the messenger;
I'm not trying to make you feel bad.
You made the choice for things
To be this way;
Then why has it all made you so sad?

We are all busy, and we each have the time
To do what we really want to do.
You've got all of your stuff together,
Just don't forget to choose
A happy life, too.

I'm rambling again, but my point,
If I have one,
Is this
Here is the crux:
I don't enjoy this feeling I'm left with;
Frankly,
This sucks.

Nevertheless, I try each new day
To get this vile poison to vanish;
This isn't meant to just be a lover's lament,
And I'll record "That Thing You Do!" in Spanish.

And so, the season changes,
And the leaves change their colors,
But peoplethey can change most of all.
Take your time with your thoughts,
Take, if you need it, all autumn;
Just don't expect me there waiting
All fall.

And I'm out of space, and I'm out of time;
But all of this is true
Because it rhymes.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Legal Advice

Today's unlikely voice of reason comes from Fletcher Reede, played by Jim Carrey in the movie Liar Liar. Due to a wish made by his son at his birthday party, Fletcher, a lawyer who is also a compulsive liar, cannot tell a lie for one 24-hour time period.

The scene I refer to here takes place when Fletcher is in the middle of this 24-hour day, and one of his clients, who finds himself frequently in trouble with the law, calls up Fletcher on the phone to ask for help.

"He knocked over another ATM," Fletcher's secretary explains. "This time, at knife point. He needs your legal advice."

Fletcher grabs the phone and shouts, at the top of his lungs: "Stop breaking the law!"

**Disclaimer: Liar Liar is certainly not a family movie. Don't go around telling anyone that the Angry White Loner recommends it for a date night, either.

Nevertheless, I love Jim Carrey's facial expressions in the film, because he is more shocked than anyone else is at the truths he is forced to confess when he can't lie. I also love this particular scene of legal advice because, well, it applies to us all on so many levels.

Stop breaking the law! It's good advice both legally and spiritually. The laws of the land, for the most part (with the exception of such things as abortion and, oh, say, the "Affordable" Care Act), are meant to help maintain order and harmony in our society, to prevent people from injuring or harming others or from infringing on their God-given rights. Likewise, God has given us commandments to help us to progress and to also keep us on a path that will bring us joy. Unfortunately, these commandments are increasingly seen by many in today's society as a means of controlling us, making us blindly obedient, and limiting our choices and/or happiness.

In reality, the converse is actually true.

"Wickedness never was happiness," the prophet Alma wrote (Alma 41:10). When we obey, we have peace of mind and conscience, and we feel joy. It's not an easy choice to make, but it is the one that matters. When we disobey, we feel guilt and regret. Continued disobedience can lead to bad habits, addictions, and, above all, misery. Indeed, this is when our choices and our happiness are truly limited.

It's a crucial but also a tough lesson to learn in this mortal experience, and an important one nonetheless. Looking back on many learning experiences from the past, I can't think of one experience in which I knowingly broke a commandment or law that I achieved any sort of lasting happiness or felt good about myself.

In other words, the story checks out.

I'm no Fletcher Reede, nor am I George Washington. About this, though, I cannot tell a lie.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Best You Can Do Is Forgive

"Well it's all right, remember to live and let live;
Well it's all right, the best you can do is forgive."
 -The Traveling Wilburys, "End of the Line"

Currently, I travel up to Layton a couple of times a week. It's not personal; it's business.

While driving up there along I-15, I always pass under the Burton Lane Bridge in Kaysville. This is one landmark I always look forward to seeing in my travels because, much of the time, someone has spelled out a message with plastic cups in the holes of the chain-link fence.

It's a thing we do here in Utah, often to welcome home returning missionaries, to ask/answer requests for local high school dances, and such.

The Burton Lane Bridge reminds me a little bit of the movie L.A. Story, in which Steve Martin's character receives a number of messages with advice particular to his own life from a roadside sign on the L.A. Expressway. The sign ends up playing something of a major supporting role in the film.

Anyway, the message spelled out across the bridge last week consisted of only one word, but it is nevertheless a very important word:

"Forgive."

It would turn out that I would really need that specific message on this specific day. My family would, anyway.

At work, I received a phone call from Dad in which he informed me that Mom had, unfortunately, tripped over a piece of twine or string that was left hanging over the sidewalk at a neighbor's while out for a walk. She had been hurt very badly in the process. It turned out to be not one but two broken elbows, leaving Mom wearing a cast on each arm for the next several weeks. Said injury will also require her to be attended by someone else at nearly every waking hour, as she now needs help eating, scratching itches, and doing several other ordinary tasks that you and I often take for granted on a daily basis.

"Mommy is a mummy," Dad said.

This is the kind of accident that can turn some neighbors from friends into mortal enemies. Again, it was all a result of a neighbor carelessly leaving string or twine hanging over a public sidewalk.

Mom decided to take the high road. (Like moms do.) She visited this neighbor, a member of the parents' LDS ward, upon returning home from the hospital to let the neighbor know what had happened, one intent being to hopefully help prevent additional injury to other neighbors. Another intent was to forgive, to not hold any kind of a grudge. (Of course, it also doesn't mean said neighbor's insurance might not still have to cover some medical expenses.)

Neighbor lady's husband was away on a business trip, but neighbor lady took full responsibility, burst into tears, and apologized profusely. I think we may be able to save this friendship after all.

Forgiveness is always a good option. It's really the best one.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sharing Goodness in a Dark World

It's relatively easy to become cynical, frustrated, jaded, etc. by all of the bad things we see not only taking place in foreign countries and across our nation but also in our communities and in our daily interactions with others. The Angry White Loner is certainly not immune from it and, admittedly, has shown it from time to time here on his blog.

Passive-aggressivism has long been one of my defense mechanisms. As I look back, it began to develop when I was bullied not once but twice in two different grades at two different junior high schools. Though I sometimes feel as if the compulsion or tendency is leaving me, I am reminded on occasion that it is still very much with me. This is not an excuse but rather an admission that it is a demon I still have to fight.

We all have them. They come in many shapes and sizes.

We are living in difficult timessome might even call them the "latter days." Prophets have both warned us about these days but have also reminded us that those who have faith and who are prepared shall not fear in the face of it all.

Just yesterday, I had a conversation with Angry White Brother in which I expressed a degree of frustration at some of the negativity I had encountered during the course of the week.

To attempt to make a long story short: Five years ago, football player from local university AWB graduated from and which we both support made some unfortunate comments about the arch-rival's school and fans. During the week, the news broke that said football player, currently retired from playing football himself and an assistant high school football coach in Arizona, had been arrested for shoplifting and had also been found in possession of illegal, addictive narcotics. The fallout from this breaking story included a number—not most, but some—of rabid fans of arch-rival school jumping on the opportunity to again label this person the devil incarnate and to use such words as "karma," "just desserts," and (I'm paraphrasing here) "neener neener." Some of the fans of the school AWB and I support, in turn, engaged some of these people in a battle of words.

Not a war of words, but most definitely a battle.

We men and our sports rivalries. We take it far too seriously—myself included. For some, it is a matter as serious as the Ebola virus or world hunger, which sadly are two very real problems faced by certain corners of the globe.

On behalf of my entire gender, ladies, I sincerely apologize for what utter dweebs we make ourselves look like sometimes.

Well, I couldn't make that long story short after all. To quote Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, however, "let me sum up" by stating that, in concluding our discussion over my frustration, AWB was the voice of reason and shared with me two simple words:

"Share goodness."

There's always going to be people who take trivial matters such as sports far too seriously, he said. There's nothing we can do about them. They're always going to be there. Both cockroaches and people who take sports far too seriously are the two species pretty well guaranteed to survive a nuclear holocaust (that last part was the AWL's editorial comment).

Nevertheless, AWB continued, we can combat all of the negativity swirling around out there by, much of the time, not even addressing it at all and instead heeding a recent call by a man I hold to be an Apostle of the Lord, Elder David A. Bednar, to help flood social media with positive messages about things that, rather than tear others down, instead inspire, uplift, and enlighten.

We can #ShareGoodness with the people around us.

Earlier today, a friend (thanks, Steve) posted this tweet on Twitter, which he retweeted from Scott Hanselman: "Other people's success does not diminish your own. Help people, don't hold them back."

Conversely, I might add: Other people's failures, mistakes, or sins do not elevate you nor anyone else. Forgive, just as you hope to be forgiven. After all, we are all beggars in the sight of God. Give others the benefit of the doubt.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Chucking It

I spent part of Labor Day afternoon with Angry White Nephew, who is not only related to me by blood but who is also one of my best buddies. Autumn is nearly upon us, and with the weather still warm but yet also gradually cooling down a few degrees here and there, we made another venture over to the Splash Park in Kaysville for some fun in the sun.

Afterward, we went over to one of the local greasy spoons to pick up some ice cream, like you do when you're an amazing uncle like the Angry White Loner is . . . ladies. *wink wink*

AWN said that he was craving something Oreo-flavored, and that sounded good to me, too. So, we ordered a large shake, presumably for the two of us to share. I knew he wouldn't get through it all, and I figured I would help him finish when he got tired of eating what his little tummy could. All of this was implied, at the time, which is probably my fault in the first place.

As the time came for us to leave, I dumped the contents of our tray, napkins and such, into the trash can and turned around to see that AWN was standing by another trash can, also empty handed. He had chucked the contents he was carrying into the trash. In other words, the still mostly full milkshake.

After taking four or five bites out of it, he had chucked the whole thing. "I didn't want to eat any more," he explained.

Granted, AWN is just six years old and is in the first grade. He doesn't yet understand too much about the value of money nor the reasons why we don't waste food (first-world problems, huh?). We could have very easily also taken it home and put it into his freezer for him to finish later had he not let me help him finish it up. Either choice would have been acceptable, I told him.

I'm not angry about The Chucking, though I tried to calmly explain to him on the way home why we don't throw away that much food. I don't love the kid any less, and I don't hold grudges about things that insignificant.

The English literature minor in me, of course, has, in the three days since, read a little bit more into the Chucking incident. Like when we give a family member or a friend or a co-worker or a member of our neighborhood or ward or even a significant other something that we feel is of great worth because we want to share it, they then take a few bites and realize they don't like it, and they chuck it.

These "milkshakes" we give them might be another kind of food but might also be such things as our time; cooking, cleaning, or a number of other household chores; a book, TV show, movie, even a YouTube clip we think is worth sharing; a simple act of service; going out of our way to do something nice or complimentary; and, in the dating world, giving our very hearts and souls to someone . . . only to see them tossed away nonchalantly as a thing of little or no value to the person receiving it.

Sadly, a Chucking of one sort or another of the type mentioned above, or any number of other possibilities, probably happens to each of us far more than we'd prefer it. It's disappointing, and sometimes it can be downright heartbreaking. Some would respond by simply refusing to give anymore if that is that sad result of giving.

I understand that. I don't think anyone would blame someone who believes that no good deed goes unpunished this way.

Nevertheless, I'm still of the opinion that giving is good. That the people who receive what we offer with gratitude, and who give something of their own in return, are the people worth hanging onto and not letting go of. We may grow a little wiser and/or a little more selective, over time, about what we give out and whom we give it to, but it's still a great choice to make: to give.

Especially to AWN. Because we have an understanding now.