You Were Abused, too??

Abuse, much to my surprise, seems to be everywhere.  At one point a few years ago I was employer to 5 people, a third of my staff, who confided to me that an immediate family member had sexually or physically abused them when they were young.  I was suddenly a confidant in a position of authority, and as I heard each of these confessions privately, unexpectedly, one at a time, I felt dumbfounded.  Then, sadness, with a sense of undefined responsibility.  I also gave repeated thanks for my own good fortune.

What was I supposed to do with this information?  I’m good at lending an ear, and giving a hug, but then what?  Those things won’t erase the scars these people are carrying.  They won’t unfetter them of the burden of shame and allow them to soar off into the future.  I think the worst part of gaining the confidence of these poor victims who I’d grown to like so much, was also the best part as it related to me, personally.  That is that the concept of being victimized by a family member is totally and completely alien to me.  I simply couldn’t relate and therefore couldn’t offer any sound advice.  I felt helpless then, and I feel helpless now, as I know that there are more unlucky souls like them all around me.

The broken or dysfunctional family is in my estimation one of the gravest threats to our fine country.  How can future generations be given the foundation they need when so many of their parents didn’t receive such a thing?  It is much easier to let down your own children when you yourself were let down by the people charged with giving you unconditional, safe, love.

As I contemplate this topic, I don’t feel as if I’ll ever know how to handle such a thing.  Which is frustrating, because it’s so easy to spot bad propagating bad.  It’s all around me every day, frankly.  I feel sad to think of what these people who confided this horror to me might be like, what they might be accomplishing, if it weren’t for the ugly, evil acts of their brothers, fathers, or step fathers.  We will never know.

All I do know is that the only course of action I feel as though I can take to address this terrible phenomenon is to thank God every day that I was born into such a miracle of a family and wish that others might be as fortunate as I am.  Maybe doing so will lead to a snowball effect of some kind.  Others who share my blessing should join in.

For more information on adults abused as children please click here.

Compassionate Conservatism: Of Course.

American conservatism is by nature more compassionate than it’s political counterpart, despite propaganda to the contrary.  Businesses, big and small, and neighbors of every community can better identify the needs of those around them and match them up with private resources to apply relief, with great satisfaction, with snowball effect, and without the aid of the government monstrosity.

In this current age of American politics,” social justice” is high on the priority list of our national government.  Many of those

currently in the highest positions of power believe that government should be used to provide to the less affluent or less fortunate as a way to “level the playing field” or, to right perceived wrongs that lead to the existence of the less fortunate in the first place.  It is “justice” they want.

As a conservative American, I reject this thinking.  But one doesn’t have to be a conservative to know that a government as vast as ours is wrought with bureaucracy, inefficiency, waste, and at least the possibility of corruption.  It’s also easy to note a government’s lack of a truly human quality.

I am a small business owner who cares deeply for his employees and many of the customers I’ve gotten to know over the years.  These relationships have become personal, and not business, in nature.  So that being said, is it not possible that businesses, big and small, and surrounding neighbors, can identify the needs of those around them and match them up with unused or inexpensive resources to apply the relief that the government monstrosity is attempting to do, only cheaper and with more sincerity, and less political agenda?  I believe the answer is an emphatic yes, and that we can call this thinking compassionate conservatism.

Examples of this happening are endless.  But three come to mind.  One employee of ours, who was on the schedule to close the bar four nights a week, had no transportation of her own.  Buses are next to impossible to find at 3am and cab fare is a good way to blow a significant chunk of a day’s pay.  Safety concerns, and Oregon weather, made walking home a bad idea.  However, by simple discussion of the matter, we as her employer found someone who had an old Honda scooter just sitting in their garage, taking up space.  Hadn’t been used in years.  With a little simple negotiation and an advance of her pay to cover a tune up, this valued employee became mobile and free from the quagmire of paying $30 in cab fare on a night she made maybe $90 in tips.  Problem solved.

Yet another employee got married and was going to have a baby.  (It should be noted that this traditional route to parenthood is indeed a rarity in this particular universe.  Therefore, positive reinforcement was certainly on our minds.)  As the baby’s due date approached, it became known that since neither half of this young couple had any family on the west coast, hand-me-down baby clothes were not an option.  Disposable income, especially in the hospitality industry circa 2008, to spend on such things was hard to come by.  Again, by talking and learning it wasn’t long before we found another young couple who had recently had a baby girl of their own, and they had too much family in the area.  No one else was waiting for their child’s hand-me-downs.  An introduction was made, a soon to be new born got a wardrobe, and the problem was solved.

Ours is a highly residential, urban area.  One of our regulars, whom all the staff loved despite his ornery nature, was an old man of 80 something who was rapidly losing his mobility, and as a result his entire social regiment.  He needed an electric wheelchair and had been waiting for one from the government agency he applied to forever.  Waiting was something he couldn’t really do.  Being that he lived solely on Social Security, a lump sum expenditure to buy it himself wasn’t an option, either.  However, should he find a used chair at a decent price, he could make payments each month.  He just needed someone to front him a few hundred dollars.  This is an amount that our establishment could afford to loan to a long time patron who would be missed if he weren’t around.  So it came to be.  A chair was found, and on the 5th of every month I could expect Dean to hand me his $30 payment, sitting in his chair.

In each of these instances, there was no government involvement.  The public’s money wasn’t spent.  There were no inflated prices due to endless middlemen.  We needed no authorizations.  There was no waiting list.  No applications.  Rather, there was only friendship, recognition, a little effort, and significantly less money, all of which was paid back to it’s originator.  There was also a lot of humanity.

There are many businesses doing many things in this country.  There are many neighbors who see many things in this country.  There are lots of things in many garages.  When pooled together and not stolen by tax obligation, there can me significant money in this country.  Imagine if this kind of thinking were applied to more social ills, all over.  Hmmmm.

Write It Down

Writing, in whatever capacity, is spawned by many things.  With me it was personal discourse.  You know when you catch yourself in mid-dialogue in your own head, and realize that the back and forth has actually made perfect sense?  (Janet Conner clearly did, before she wrote Writing Down Your Soul.)   If so, you probably also know that such a moment is often fleeting.  One’s own personal truth is sometimes a real slippery thing to try and capture.  Especially the kind that is sparked by complex or confused issues.  I live and work in the underworld, which is to say that I own and operate a bar, (used to be two, but I dummied up) so issues and instances that provide confusion are as abundant as Oregon rain.  There have been many, many times in these moments of clarity when I’ve asked myself, “should I be writing this down?”.  The very existence of this blog means the answer turned out to be yes.

By any measure, I’m a very lucky man.  I was born in a great country, to a loving, traditional family who taught me well.  I’m able bodied, educated, was never abused, and have no significant emotional issues.  I appreciate my good health, because I learned first hand about poor health.  And all of these things, along with many others, make me an extreme minority in this underworld.  The majority is made up of staff and many, many patrons who simply aren’t as lucky as I.  There are broken homes, abuse, drug use, unfamiliarity with common decency.  There’s ignorance and misplaced anger.  Bars tend to attract those that need answers.  Sadly, they’re likely to find numbness and more questions.

Along with my business partner, I am the boss.  I am also the face of the establishment.  In the almost 13 years I’ve been there, my story has become known.  This tenure, and my fair dealings, have reinforced my leadership qualifications and allowed me to gain the trust of many.  I also keep my eyes open, always, because this existence is about as far from boring as any.

So I’m involved.  In the business, of course, but also in much of the personal chaotic goings on of employees and customers.  Some of this involvement is of my choosing.  Some certainly is not.  But either way, I am charged with providing advice, direction, support, discipline, and a kind of shelter to those who are experiencing a myriad of personal dramas that I was only able to dodge by blind luck.

I can’t avoid this.  I wouldn’t if I could.  It comes with the territory.   But the toll it takes is real.  It’s exhausting.  And it brings forth many questions of my own.  Often, that question is “how is this possible?” or  “what should I do this time?”.  As I talk to myself in search of the answers to these questions I know will never come, I decided I better write some of that discussion down.

What follows in this space will be this discussion, and more.