Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Number 13

What's Good Customer Service?

I went into a convenience store for a soda pop today (Diet Pepsi, if you're interested).  It's one of those places where they scan a little card and you earn points.  I've cared very little about these points until today, when my curiosity got the better of me, so I asked the woman behind the counter about the program.

I imagine most folks, if they're really honest, would think about a job in a convenience store somewhat disdainfully.  If we're even more honest, we've probably allowed ourselves to feel just a little bit superior to the folks that work in these establishments.  We probably don't even mean to,  but sometimes it hard to stop those thoughts from popping into our heads.  (Or, maybe it's just me, and my pathetic attempt to generalize my awfulness demonstrates a weak character.)

In any event, I asked about the points program, and the woman behind the counter couldn't have been more helpful or pleasant.  I was embarrassed by the fact that I was surprised by her kindness.  But more than that, she made me realize what real customer service is.  It's all about making the effort to connect with the person being helped, and I thank her for opening my eyes to that fact.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Number 12

My Gift to Mark and Greg (for what it's worth)

     I'm not a brave person.  I know right from wrong, and I do my best to live up to that standard.  But if it comes to making a public declaration, I'm often silent.  I don't really know why - maybe I'm afraid of disappointing a friend.  This blog not withstanding, I'm reluctant to give my opinion on many important issues.  (And even on the blog, I usually bend over backward to ensure that both sides of the story are presented).  Now, it's time for me to walk to the edge, peer over the side, and jump.

     There is no reason, other than prejudice, fear, and ignorance, to oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage.

     Don't talk to me about the "historical" definition of marriage.  Don't talk to me about Biblical imperatives.  Don't talk to me about "slippery slopes".  Those are all hollow arguments and they are easily exposed.  What has constituted a marriage has changed over the eons many, many times.  Heck, the Christian Bible doesn't have a single definition itself.

     "But, Hugh", you say, "If we allow same-sex marriage, we'll have to allow for polygamists, pedophiles, and folks involved in incestuous relationships to get married."  No, no, and no.  Polygamists make the choice to involve themselves in that type of relationship, and homosexuals do not - at least in terms of the sex of the person they are attracted to.  (We bring you this parenthetical announcement to state:  "C'mon people, do you really still think that somebody 'chooses' to be homosexual or lesbian?  I know I never chose to be heterosexual:  I just always liked girls/women in 'that way'.  If you still feel, in your heart of hearts, that people choose to be gay, stop reading now.  Just remember that denial is not just a river in Egypt.")  Pedophilia is morally reprehensible and justifiably illegal.  It has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with exploiting the less powerful.  With incest, there exist compelling health issues which allows the state to legally ban the practice.  Also, none of those situations center around two adults, both on an equal footing, consenting to the relationship.

     In every state where it has not yet been legalized, there is a group of people who are being denied a basic right that others are able to take for granted.  That is unconstitutional.  This doesn't mean you have to like it:  It's okay to think it's "icky" if you want to.  But that's not a reason to legally codify discrimination. As I said above, there is no compelling reason, other than those based on prejudice, fear, and ignorance, to deny the right of marriage to two consenting adults.

      If nothing else, let me leave you with this.  My former church, Hammond Street Congregational Church, called an openly gay pastor about ten years ago.  I supported this, but I remember thinking at the time:  "I hope this means we won't become 'the gay church'"  Well, to a certain degree, we did.  A number of gays and lesbians (many in committed relationships), began attending.  And I began to hear stories of being ostracized and denied by former churches and family members.  Stories of searching for a place where they could be loved and accepted for who they were.  Being a part of a place that would do that, I found I didn't care about being the 'gay' church.  Though I'd always been an ally, it wasn't until these folks put a human face on it, that I understood how utterly unfair (and illegal), the denial of the basic right of marriage was.

    I met Greg and Mark at Hammond Street Church years ago.  I want to thank them for their part in my evolution.   They are getting married on Sunday.  I wish I could be there to help them celebrate, for I know there will be much love in that building.  Congratulations you two.  It has been a long road, but I know the reward will be sweet.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Number 11


The few thoughts on this emotional subject from a man who's had a vasectomy.

1.  Facetiousness aside, I say to the folks who believe that men should not be participating in this debate: "You're wrong."  I understand that it is the woman who becomes pregnant, but it still requires two ingredients to make the baby.

2.  Life starts at conception.  People who wish to protect abortion rights only tie themselves in knots when they challenge this.  I understand the baby cannot survive outside of the mother's womb for much of the pregnancy, but to deny that the "fetus" is a living, growing entity is just silly.

3.  The labels make me nuts.  "Pro-choice", "anti-choice", "pro-life", and worst of all "pro-abortion."  As far as I know, nobody is pro-abortion.  I believe this should be the starting point for the entire discussion:  "Nobody likes abortion, so what can we do to lower their numbers".  Bumper sticker debates are tenuous at best, but a recent one from folks who would outlaw the procedure says: "Pray to end abortion".  I may not support the way they would enforce this sentiment, but a goal of no abortions is a noble one.

4.  I've been a little belligerent towards people that support keeping abortion legal thus far.  Now it's time for me to focus on those who would make abortion illegal.  Sex happens, folks.  Stick your fingers in your ears, and shout "nah, nah, nah, nah" all you want, this fact will not go away.  Abstinence education is a farce at best and dangerous at worst.  The best way to prevent unplanned pregnancy is sex education that includes information about birth control.  In fact, this is the crux of the entire issue.  Abortion is the ultimate "closing the barn door after the horse has escaped" debate.

5.   Social conservatives can't have it both ways.  The demand for abortions will always be high as long as folks continue to deny the efficacy of realistic sexual education.  It's time for the ostriches to take their heads out of the sand.

6.  To all those people who would make abortion illegal, there's more to being "pro-life" than just mandating that a woman must carry a child to term.  I've noticed that many of these same people are in favor of limiting access to healthcare, limiting access to public assistance, dismantling public education, and limiting funds for social service agencies that would assist a mother and her newborn.  There's a difference between "pro-birth" and "pro-life".  Which one are you?

7.  Putting a child from an unplanned pregnancy up for adoption is worthy of praise and support.

8.  For many women (and men), dealing with an unplanned pregnancy there are no "right" answers.  For many of them, an abortion is the "least wrong" answer.

9.  It would be wonderful to live in a world where every baby is healthy and planned for.  As I said above, that's a noble goal.  It's also (sadly) unrealistic.

10.  As I've gotten older, any "wisdom" I've achieved can be traced back to the development of empathy.  Instead of continuing to vilify one another, I believe we'd do better if we tried to understand one another.  I think we'd realize we have more in common than we think we do.

I hate apologies that start with "if", but...  if I've upset or angered you, I'm sorry.  That was not my intent.  It was, rather, to start a more honest dialogue between the various points of view.

P.S.  I was about to publish this when I realized I hadn't stated my position on whether access to abortions should be legal or not.  I think I'll leave it like that.

Number 10

Everyone's Favorite Kenyan Strikes Again

I recently read where the President is taking a lot of criticism from some folks for the state of race relationships in this country.  Isn't that a little bit like blaming your thumb when you hit it with a hammer?