“Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.” Aristotle

I’ve been a loner most of my life. Up until the end of high school I had several friends, all from the neighborhood, but no close friends. After high school we each went our separate ways, never seeing or hearing from each other again.

For the next twenty years I’ve had friends here and there. These were acquaintances that became friends who enjoyed each others company. As before, we parted ways never to talk again.

The next fifteen years were different. We settled down in one place and I formed several close friendships with two people at work. They became more like sons to me rather than just friends.

On the home front new friendships developed that seemed to last the test of time. It helped that we didn’t move away. The friendships, which began as family as a result of our marriage, grew and for once I began to experience a feeling I never had before towards others: a warmth that develops when friends are there.

We had many a barbeque at the house, entertaining almost every week. These were good friends who stood by us. In fact they counted on us. When one needed to renovate part of his house I gladly answered the call for help. As we prospered, so did our friendships. It is something that everyone needs to experience in order to truly appreciate life.

No matter who called, we were always there to help anyone in need. When a friend’s car died, I was there with tools to get it going again even though it meant missing some important meetings. When a baby was born, we were there from the time they went into the hospital until the baby was born and everyone was safe and sound. When someone needed company, and a car, for a four hour car ride we were there.

During that time we never really needed anything from our family and friends. When I was admitted to the hospital for chest pain, I understood that a 90 minute drive was too much for anyone to make and the three days in the hospital went by quickly enough. When I was held in jail overnight for an outstanding traffic violation warrant that I knew nothing about, I understood when no one was able to bring bail money on a Sunday night, since they all had work the next day.

When I got laid off from work after 28 years, they were all there with words of advice. As the unemployment continued, their visits began to lessen. They’d call and give us words of sympathy but that was about it. When our son needed help fixing his house, no one answered the call for help. No one even showed up to his home coming celebration. As our situation got worse, the friends became scarcer and scarcer, not even making an attempt at false sincerity.

So now as I sit here, a month away from giving up this house we made our home of 15 years to the bank, I’ve come to realize they were never really friends. Oh they were good friends when I could do things for them, but when I had nothing to offer and needed their help, they were nowhere to be found. It hurt my wife even more because they are her family.

I know we’ll survive this, that I’ll find another job eventually, but in a way I’m glad this happened. Its made us realize who our friends really are. It’s made us realize that we have each other, and our children, to count on and that’s about it.  

It’s made us realize that misfortune really does show those who are not really friends.

Parents are responsible for how their children turn out

“Blame or credit, does not belong to the child alone. Parents, those who raised the child, must be given equal credit, or blame. That does not change, when the child is one, twenty or ninety years old.” Omar Kiam

How a person develops as an adult is directly tied to how that person is raised. It is not enough to simply give birth, feed and clothe a child. What a parent does and says have a direct impact on how a child develops, just as much as what is not said or done.

Studies have shown that children who are not held and shown love within the first two years after birth never fully develop the parts of the brain that control emotions.

Once the damage is done, a parent can’t simply walk away from that child. A parent can’t be held blameless for how a child turns out. The law does not find someone innocent whose defense is ignorance of the law. The same is true with raising children. It is the parents responsibility to provide a loving and nurturing environment for their children. For all of their children and not to their favorites. It is the parents responsibility to learn what is required to properly raise a child.

I can speak this way because I grew up in an environment where children were seen as objects. Children were a means for parents to better themselves. More children increased their chances for being taken care of in their old age. Attention was given to the children who showed the most promise.

It is difficult for a anyone to grow up normal in this type of environment. For children who require special care due to mental illness, this type of environment is dangerous.

As an adult, I have walked away from those who gave birth to me and raised me, no longer acknowledging their existence. They are not blameless, nor should they be.

Writing my biography caused me to question if it was time for forgiveness. It is not. Maybe if this was done to me alone I might, but they had ten children, most of whom carry scars to this day.

For those who care to learn more, you can read my story in Coming to Astoria: An Immigrants Tale. If after reading it you think it was a mistake to call myself parent-less, while one of them is still living, I would grateful if you share your thoughts with me.

Too often the parents are looked at as victims, when it is they who should be held accountable.

Flags are for people who stand united for the common good of all

“Let the watchwords of all our people be the old familiar watchwords of honesty, decency, fair-dealing, and commonsense…. We must treat each man on his worth and merits as a man. We must see that each is given a square deal, because he is entitled to no more and should receive no less. The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us.” Teddy Roosevelt

This is a message to every person who lives in a land with a flag. The flag represents unity of all the peoples in that land and the pride each person carries in being part of that land.

What each one of us does is a reflection on that flag. When we act like fools, it is a red mark against the flag we are all so proud of. We must give each person in the land, who proudly calls that flag his own an equal chance, a square deal. We must give everyone  equal opportunity to raise their head high, to proudly call that flag their own. Each person is entitled to be treated the same as everyone else, no more and no less.

A person does not love his flag and country more because he is rich, nor does he love it any less because he is poor. The health of the entire nation depends on us treating everyone the same, giving everyone equal opportunity.

Unless you live on an island which does not have a flag, you have an obligation to treat everyone with honesty, decency, fair-dealing and to act with commonsense. You are entitled to be treated the same way; with honesty, decency and fair dealing. Do not expect more because you run a large corporation and employ thousands, and do not expect less because you are poor and need help to feed and educate your children.

Give me the opportunity to get wealthy rather than a handout

“It is less important to redistribute wealth than it is to redistribute opportunity.” Arthur Vandenberg

This quote is similar to the fishing quote, do you give someone a fish or do you teach them how to fish? Redistributing wealth is fine and would provide immediate relief to many people, but only temporary relief. It is much more important to ensure everyone gets the same opportunity to accumulate wealth. As with the fish, by giving people a fish today, you fix their hunger problem for now, but tomorrow, they will be hungry again. If you give them an equal opportunity to gather wealth, over time, wealth will end up being distributed evenly on its own.

By giving everyone the opportunity to acquire wealth, they will be able to have money now, and in the future. If you distribute the wealth by giving everyone money, you will have to keep giving them money each time they’ve spent what you gave them.

What’s also inferred by distributing wealth rather than opportunity, is that people would become dependent on you, or the government, the rest of their lives to keep doing it. With opportunity, people become self reliant, and you, the government, become irrelevant in controlling who becomes wealthy.