Mad Respect. Thanks Mom.

The other night I was pumping gas at the local Exxon station. As the 87 octane was flowing from pump to Honda Civic tank, in my proactive attempt to avoid the annoying television screen that pops on when you start filling, I stared off into the night. It was not long before I noticed a dark-haired woman of about 50 years of age foraging through a trashcan just a few feet from my car. This is not at all an abnormal occurrence, but, for whatever reason, I seemed to take extra strong notice of this activity on this evening.

As I watched the dumpster diving unfold, it appeared she was looking for recyclable goods, such as plastic containers and cans. I noted her shopping cart, left at the station entrance, was full of both these things as well as blankets and clothes, so it was pretty much a dead giveaway she would soon be off to the recycle bin. We caught a quick glimpse of each other as she looked me in the eye for a quick millisecond creating the briefest of gazes. Then, without the remotest hint of wanting anything from me, looked down in her continued quest for a few dollars’ worth of trade-in goods.

I was actually very impressed with this “apparently-but-who-knows” homeless woman. She did not have a dirty homeless look about her, rather a perhaps “recently homeless” look as if a homeless “newbie” or a woman on the verge homelessness. However, what impressed me about her was, during our millisecond gaze, having the greatest of opportunities to ask me for a handout and not doing so.

As the prepaid $24 worth of gas continued to pump, I realized what this woman was doing. In addition to perhaps providing the few dollars for a meal that evening, she was actually performing a public service. Her trash activity was making all our lives an environmentally better one. She was helping herself yet she was also indirectly helping you and me as well. I wanted to reward her so I reached in my wallet and took out a $20 bill. By this time the woman was on her third or fourth trashcan and now about 30 or 40 feet from my car.

I was thinking: What do I do? Should I approach her? Would this be insulting and demeaning? Dangerous? Is this a really bad idea? A really good idea? If I do approach her, what do I say?

I really just wanted to get in my car and drive off, though my impulse was strong on this cold and very rare, rainy Southern California night.

To better understand my inner conflict, know that I am very big believer in not enabling panhandlers and the like. When I see people giving money to street beggars and such, I am repulsed, as I believe providing money to those seeking handouts only perpetuates the problem and, in turn, creates a much larger one.

This anti-handout position in no way, shape or form applies to those wanting to provide some type of service for a handout -in which case it is no longer a handout rather a payment for services rendered. I will frequently drop a few bills in the tip jar of a street performer or give the guy at the red light a buck for washing my windows as I am stopped.

I also refuse to give because, well, I frankly believe many of those seeking handouts are compulsive liars and are not using the money for basic necessities.

Just a few weeks ago in the city of Redlands, CA, at another gas station (this time an Arco) a man came up to me and asked for some money for gas. I would normally just walk away, though, for whatever reason (am I changing?!?) I told him to pull up to the pump and I would fill his car up for him. He said that was not possible cause the car was several blocks away and he did not even have a gas can. He just wanted the cash.

I politely told him, “good day.”

Now at Exxon, I fought my instinct to drive away as I watched the woman continue to forage. I slowly began walking toward her, still not knowing if when I arrived I would follow through with my giving her the cash.

I was now a few feet from her,

“Excuse me, do you need some help?” I mustered the courage to ask.

She smiled and said yes.

I handed her the $20.

She smiled and said, “God bless you.”

That was about it. Not a lot more to write. Not a lot more to say. She accepted the money and I walked away and she continued in her recyclable endeavor.

However, I must say that, in addition to giving her the money making me feel really good, I realized how much I respected that woman: for both what she did do –recycle otherwise landfill refuse- as well as for what did she did not do –ask for a handout.

As a young teen, my mom once told me that there is never any shame in earning an honest dollar. Of course she told me this as she was getting ready to begin her afternoon cashier gig at the McDonald’s across the street from my high school. Pretty amazing words coming from a registered nurse who was taking some refresher courses to get ready to jump back in the nursing game.

I would take my dearly departed mom once step further…not only is there no shame, there is some mad respect. Deep mad respect. I love you mom.

And thank you woman. Thank you.

Respect The Race

(Full disclosure: I wrote this blog entry shortly after the November election. Now that today is Inauguration Day and, for better or for worse, people are accepting -I use this term loosely- of our new political reality, I would like to offer up my sociological perspective on the election. That said, I am quite certain I will have my fair share of  disagreement. By way of introduction I want to share with you a recent social media post I shared that reaffirms my sentiments from November. “I find it affirming when really intelligent people, with whom I may overall agree or disagree with on certain issues, articulate (far more eloquently) sentiments that I have been espousing for years. As a balance theorist, I love former global Islamist Maajid Nawaz idea that, ‘The easiest way to hand a victory to your political opponent is by doing in excess the very thing that is going to fuel their rise, providing them to things to point to, to say we told you so.’ Welcome to the planet, 2017.” Now to the blog…)

What does a marathon, the 1969 Super Bowl and the 2016 Presidential election have in common?

Before this article begins sounding like a bad “Freakonomics” chapter, let me explain.

I was never much of a runner until I hit my mid-20’s, and my weight hit the mid-200’s, when I realized that running was the most expedient and easily accessed exercise ever invented. With only a good pair of running shoes necessary, there was no fancy equipment, gym membership or uniform needed. Hell, you did not even have to rely on anyone to make this sport happen, just an open road and an agreeable, operable set of legs.

I started running circa 1992, started competitive racing a couple of years later, dropped around 40 lbs., and firmly self-identified as a runner. It was circa 1997 that I decided I was going to attempt my first marathon; that is, 26.2 miles of foot pronation (supination?…its been a while) as I dysfunctionally struck pavement for well over 3 hours. Prior to this I went and asked an old friend of mine, Dave Delong, a marathon runner himself and an esteemed track coach, what his advice would be for a new marathon runner.

He never skipped a beat:

Simple. Respect the race.

“26.2 miles is a long distance. Respect every mile, every inch,” he told me, “Or the race can eat you alive.”

He meant that you might feel great at mile 21 or 23 or 25 and think that you got this…that you have beaten this race into submission.

Bad idea.

Respect the race, he told me. Respect that 26.2 miles is a very long distance. Respect the last few miles, respect the last few feet as at any time, the race can come back and bite you in the ass as one could hit the dreaded wall at any time. It is only then one realizes the nature of the foe you are attempting to defeat.

I never better understood the concept of respecting your opponent better than after my first few marathons. Dave was so absolutely correct that it taught me one of the best lessons I could have learned in life, let alone racing: Always respect the nature of your opponent….no matter how superior you think you might be.

I could not help but think of all the times in sports history when the David killed the Goliath due to this lack of respect, yet I will not bore you with sports trivia…though trust me, it is  common. Be it the 69 Super Bowl, Ronda Rousey or the 2016 Warriors in the finals…one must unrelentingly respect the race till it’s over.

So, alas, fast forward to the 2016 Presidential election.

Apparently some never have learned the simple value to “respect the race,” in this case, the presidential race. Please understand I am not suggesting you must respect the person, just as much as I am not suggesting you must respect the particular landscape or city of a particular race; rather, respecting the race is to respect the nature of the race, respecting the competition of the race, respecting the importance of the race, and to humbly realize the race is greater than you and to succeed begins with humility towards the race. After all, the goal is to win -nothing more, nothing less.

If ever there was a time in political history where the overwhelming favorite entirely disrespected its opponent, to its own deficit, it was the 2016 presidential election.  Trump’s chance of winning usually hovered around 25%, pending which poll was taken after which ill- advised statement was made Trump.

Among those who utterly dismissed and disrespected their opponent (if you have a few minutes please watch this video…it is fascinating) and who should know better include President Barack Obama -the guiltiest of all parties as his disrespect set the tone for a Trump victory; Bernie Sanders –and Bernie is so much better than this; Nancy Pelosi, the house minority leader who needs control of her tongue; Ron Reagan Jr., Harry Reid, Mark Cuban, Bob Beckel and nearly every leading political pundit in the soundbite world.

Some of those who stuck their egotistical foot in their arrogant mouths who are well known, yet whose only qualification is popularity, include George Clooney, Tom Hanks (“That man will become president of the United States the day space ships come down with dinosaurs and men with red capes”…whoops), nearly every late night comedian and the loudest of mouths on The View.

Anyone who even remotely suggested that Donald J. Trump would be our next president was laughed out of the building (please see Anne Coulter getting mocked and scorned at 2:00 in the linked video above, on the Bill Maher show, Politically Incorrect). Please watch as we can learn a thing or two about hubris gone wild.

Donald Trump was not only predicted to lose, he was mocked and laughed at by a, quite smug, untold millions more…in a strange twist, he was absolutely bullied and humiliated by those who should really know better. I suppose it was ok to bully the bully….but, then, you can see where that got us. The point the smug left forgot is that when bashing Trump you were bashing his supporters, calling them ignorant idiots—problem is their votes count just as much as anyone else’s.

If the American electorate could teach ANY politician just one critically important lesson, it is that the American public always finds and locates the middle ground…and stays there. If one side pushes too hard in one direction, the public will overcompensate in the other direction. The left bully pulpit, led by 8 years of Obama, just got a little too big for its political britches.

Did it seem odd to anyone, other than myself, that those who were anti-Trump felt free and safe to be mean, disrespectful, and outspoken (the President very much included…see President Obama on the Jimmy Kimmel “Mean Tweets”… bad choice Barack) while the general Trump supporters, sans those diehards at political rallies and few extremists, remained generally quiet and reserved to openly express their support for fear of being ostracized via social media and otherwise?

It seems those who were bullied quietly went to the principal’s office (the voting booth) to report the bullies…and they won.

It seems the left forgot the very important lesson to respect the race…to respect the office of the opponent…to be gracious until such time there is something to gloat over, namely victory.

A few days after Trump’s infamous secret recording came out about how he just grabs women by the, ah, “kitty,” a presidential debate commenced. Not realizing Trump’s words were obviously offensive, inappropriate, and quite unpresidential all on their own accord, Clinton felt the need to explain, as if we did not know already, just how wrong those comments were…thanks Hillary, yeah, we get it.

I was so hoping, when asked about these comments, she would take the high road and respond that those comments speak for themselves and the American public will decide how to interpret those lewd comments, now let’s get back to the issues.

You all tried to beat a bully by being a bully. Damn…don’t ya hate when hubris bites you in the ass?

As we adjust to 4 years that will bring a new meaning to the term, “bully pulpit,” I will be out on a run, respecting each step I am able to respectfully take.