Nation of “Fraidy Cats”

Are We Becoming a Nation of “Fraidy Cats?”

I was having a beer with my old friend Max the other day and he was on a rip.
“Everybody is scared of hi own shadow these days. Did you read in the paper about a fireman who saw a woman in danger of drowning but wouldn’t jump in to save her because he did not have an up-to-date blikety-blank certificate? The poor s.o.b. was afraid that he would be liable for a lawsuit if the woman was injured.” “Yea, we live in a litigious society,” I said.

“That ain’t the half of it,” continued Max, warming up to the subject. “It’s not just the lawyers. “We’re all becoming scardy cats. I took my kid to an A’s game the other day and I see this lady almost dragging her boy (he looked about 11 years old) into the ladies room. “Mom, I want to use the guys restroom,” the kid argued but mom was adamant. “No. It’s safer with me.” “Can you beat that?

There were dozens of guys going in and out of the men’s room. Did she really think some pervert was waiting inside to abuse her kid? And even on the 1000 to 1 chance that a weirdo was waiting inside, didn’t she have enough trust in men in general to know that at least one of those guys, most of them dads, for god’s sake, would have intervened?” I had to agree with Max, going to a public rest room with my mom when I was eleven would have been a nightmare.

“That ain’t all,” said Max, “not only are we seeing a pedophile behind every bush, we’re over the top when it comes to germs.” “Germs? I questioned. “Yea, didn’t you notice all these sanitize dispensers around? So help me, they even have them in churches. Wouldn’t you think religious folk would have more trust in God than in a squirt from a germ killer? We live in fear, I’m telling you.”

Max had another beer. “The problem is, there are way too many lawyers in our country. Know what I mean? There are thousands of them out there writing warning labels on everything from milk to medicines to plastic bags, to kids pj’s. First, it was just cigarette packages with a warning from the Surgeon General. Now, you can’t buy anything without being warned about its danger.

“You think we’ve gone a little overboard?” I asked Max. “A LITTLE overboard? We have lost our freakin heads. I opened a can of Campbell’s soup the other day. Sure enough there was a caution written on the can. Know what it said?” “No, what?” I replied. “Caution: Product and container will be hot. Use potholders and handle carefully to avoid burns.” Max was beside himself. “Is that the dumbest thing in the world to put on a can of soup or what? OF COURSE THE SOUP WILL BE HOT WHEN YOU PUT IT ON THE STOVE TO HEAT IT. We need to be warned that it will be hot? Oh, Man!”

As Max went to open another beer, I couldn’t resist pointing to the label on his brew:
“Consumption of alcohol impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery and may cause other health problems.” Max gave me a disgusted look “Yea, I know.” He muttered. “It’s enough to make a grown man cry.”

Father-Daughter Relationship Transcends Passage of Time

Father-Daughter Relationship Transcends the Passage of Time

The young administrative assistant at the office where I worked until recently was intelligent, professional, organized, definitely a woman on her way up in the business world. It would not surprise me to see her some day as a top executive in one of the Fortune 500 companies. But one day I saw another side of Linda that charmed the shoes off me.

Linda’s father came by the office to drop off a computer he had repaired. My admin. assistant bounded from behind her desk and greeted him with an exuberant “Daddy!” She proceeded to give him a big hug. For the moment, the cool, competent professional gave way to the little girl who loved her Dad and didn’t mind if the whole world knew it.

The incident got me thinking of how special father-daughter relationships can be and how they transcend the passage of the years. Linda’s Dad was obviously very aware and proud that his daughter was on her way towards being a successful professional career, but a part of him would always see her as the little tike who rode on his shoulders, the girl he taught how to ride her first bike, the kid who sat on his lap while he read her “The Little Engine Who Could.”

As for Linda, we may have seen an older, gray haired senior citizen before us, but to Linda, he was strong, youthful and capable of doing almost anything. I could see the little girl in her as she proudly introduced her father to us. “This is my Daddy.”

In many intangible ways, the parent-child relationship does remain with us through the years, for good or ill. I have worked with enough father-less kids to know personally of the harm that can be done by an abusive or absent Dad. The hurt can last a lifetime. The positive effects of a Dad on his kids can live on, too. Girls and boys both profit from the presence of a mature, caring role model in their lives. Judging by the smart, confident and warm human being Linda has shown herself to be, I think she was blessed with a good Dad.

Despite all the bad press about deadbeat Dads in the media, I believe that the majority of fathers are doing their best to do what’s right for their kids. It’s these Dads, and their numbers are legion, that I salute on Father’s Day. And take it from this old Poppy, for every ounce of effort you give to your vocation as a father, you will be rewarded many times over. There is nothing in this world quite as touching as hearing “I love you, Daddy” from your kid, whether the kid is four or forty.

Coming Out of the Closet

Coming “Out of the Closet” Not Just for Gays

It’s not only the gays who struggle to come out of the closet. Many of us are in closets of our own making, closets that have nothing to do with sexual orientation but everything to do with owning our real self.

We are afraid to be real, not so much that we have secret faults to hide, but because down deep we know that we are more than the persona we show the world. All too glibly, we mouthed the words we heard in catechism class or Sunday school, the ones that said, “We are created in the image and likeness of God,” but we didn’t take them seriously. That was a leap of faith that was too scary.

We accepted instead an image of ourselves based on our success in a professional career or on the money we made or the model car we drove or on the recognition we received from others. That’s who we are; the way other people see us. Right? Wrong!

We know better. We really do. In the 6o’s a group called “The Seekers” came out with a song called “Georgy Girl.” Remember? The lyrics speak to a girl who is afraid to be herself. In part they say:

“Hey there Georgy girl
There’s another Georgy deep inside
Bring out all the love you hide and oh, what a change there’d be
The world would see a new Georgy girl.”

We’re a piece of work aren’t we? Born to scan the heavens, we muddle through life with our eyes cast down on the ground beneath us, The gifts within us atrophy because we would rather tamp down the fire that burns in our soul lest we accept the greatness to which we are called. Whoa! Quick, turn on the mindless TV sit-com or do something that that takes our minds off this pesky call to be something more. Nobody is better at dumbing us down than the person we see in the mirror every morning.

We let ourselves get overwhelmed by the photos of poor emaciated children in Biafra, or the Sudan, throw up our hands and act as though we are helpless, forgetting that making a difference in even one life has its importance.

What’s the Jewish saying, “By saving one life, you are saving the world. ?” Wow! That’s powerful stuff. I get goose bumps, too, whenever I think of the butterfly effect, the fact that even the tiny butterfly flapping its wings makes its presence felt all over the world.

We are connected, mates. Our smiles count, so does our acts of compassion and our forgiveness. But first we have to get out of our closets of fear and timidity and be the lover, the friend, the parent, the kid we were made to be. Don’t you think?