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The Crap Shoot

diceI am fortunate to have a job in which I am constantly reminded that I won the lottery of life and which gifts  me with examples of my luck on a daily basis.

Recently, my co-worker rushed to clean the seat of a chair where a schizophrenic homeless man sat unaware that his pants were so low they were no longer covering what should have been covered. When she gently told him to pull up his pants, he apologized and pulled the up. My organization’s ability to serve this young man is limited, and he walks the street every night. Several people are working with him to try to find adequate services that will address his needs and provide him with a safe place to sleep. In the meantime, he has nothing more than what he can carry in his arms.

At the beginning of the month, I spent hours trying to find a way to get a young man back to his family. He had lost his job and with it the income that allowed him to pay rent or buy food. While on the phone with his mother, the operator broke into the conversation with a call from a prison. The prisoner was the young man’s father, who proceeded to tell me what a loser his son was. He also told the woman with whom I was talking that she should not travel the hour to pick up her son because he didn’t deserve it. Sadly, the mother listened, and the young man remained stranded with no support system or resources.

This week, a woman with six children called our offices asking for help. The electricity at her house, a run-down shack, had been shut off, and she had no hot water for baths or showers and no way to cook or heat up food. Her husband, who had lost his job a few months ago, had recently found  employment but wouldn’t be receiving a paycheck for several weeks. Since the family had no electricity, and therefore no fans or air conditioning, they leave their windows open in hopes of a breeze. Because of that, the children’s bodies are covered in mosquito bites.

Every day, I hear conversations I cannot understand. My office is right next to that of our immigration attorney, so I listen daily to conversations in foreign language. Occasionally, I understand what is being said, and it is never heartwarming. I listen to families who came to the United States for political or humanitarian reasons and have no place to go. Just the other day, I witnessed a six-year-old child translating  for her mother. She was telling our outreach worker about the eviction notice her family had received.  At the age of six years, this little girl should be playing with dolls, taking dance lessons and swimming with her friends. Instead, she is doing all she can to prevent her family from being homeless.

Perhaps most controversial and yet most heartbreaking among the clients I encounter daily are the hundreds of people who live in generational poverty in the United States. Of these individuals, some were raised in families in which violence was a norm. Others lived in homes in which education wasn’t a value and in which routines such as dinner and bedtimes were foreign concepts. Some were born to parents who abused drugs and who neglected their children during the most crucial years.

Even though I come face to face with such poverty very day, I am also reminded that for every person who walks through our offices seeking assistance, there is another person who is pointing fingers and placing blame. I’ve heard it all:

“If people tried harder, they would have an education and a job.”

“Our country already has too many problems. Why should we help people from other countries?”

“If I can make it, anyone can make it.”

“I’m tired of my hard-earned dollars going to support woman who had kids just so they could live off the system.”

What many people don’t realize is that, as my co-worker says, “Life is one big crap shot.”

We don’t get to choose who are parents will be or where we will be born. We don’t get to choose how intelligent we will be or whether we will inherit a mental illness. And we certainly don’t get to choose whether we will be raised in an environment that values good judgement or in one where children are  just lucky to get through childhood alive.

There are days when I wish I could yell to the world. I want to say that I completely agree we should all do our best and we should all make good decisions. But I also want to yell that some of us are fortunate to have been raise to understand cause, effect and consequences. Some of use are lucky to have been raised with values on which we make good decisions. Some of us were raised to think about the future rather than just the moment at hand. And some of us were raised with people who want us to excel rather than pull us down.

If life is truly a crap shoot, then I was lucky enough to roll a good deal. I may not have a lot of money or the biggest house on the block, but I am an intelligent woman surrounded by people who support me. Even better, I am  surrounded by people who will do the same for a stranger who was never handed the same odds that I was.

My real fortune comes not just from having a job but  from having a job that allows me to witness people who truly understand that their skills, knowledge, education and general good fortune aren’t just good luck. They received these gifts so they could use them to help and provide for others.

Getting to witness such acts to benefit the less fortunate  on a daily basis makes me one of the luckiest woman in the world.

Nellie Oleson and Other Monsters

Nellie OlesonThere is nothing worse than realizing your childhood nightmare is actually a reality.

As a child, my monsters were people who thought they were better than others because they were attractive or had money.

As an adult, I’ve discovered that I actually live among such monsters.

Growing up, these monsters were portrayed as fictional characters like Nellie Oleson from the television show Little House on the Prairie.

To most people, that show was about family.

To me, it was an epic battle of good and evil.

Good was represented by the hard-working Ingalls family, and evil was represented by Nellie Oleson and her mother. The ambivalence of society was represented by Nellie’s father who rarely stood up to his wife and his manipulative and self-centered  daughter, Nellie.

Nellie thought she was better than others because her family had money and other families didn’t. Not only that, but she actually looked down at people who didn’t have the same resources.

As a child, I never understood how anyone could actually like Nellie, who never did anything to earn her pretty dresses and easy lifestyle.

As an adult, I am amazed that I still have to battle such monsters.

These monsters rear their ugly heads in the form of  women who have never had to work to support their family. They have married men with good jobs and depended on their husbands for money. (And for the record, living on a budget in college or in early adulthood isn’t poverty). At the same time, they belittle the working poor and call them lazy. Here’s my advice: If you have never had to support a family on your income alone, you have no right to judge others.

These monsters bear their teeth when their beliefs about social status are challenged. Here’s my advice: Don’t open your mouth about poverty unless you have either experienced it yourself or have spent time with those who have.

Finally, these monsters avoid people who struggle as though they carry some type of disease. Here’s my advice: Surround yourself with people who are different than you. Not only will you become a more well-rounded and educated person, you might discover others have a great deal to offer.

This week, I had a realization that I can never slay the monsters I feel as though I am always battling.

But I did realize I have every right to walk around these monsters and keep going.

And if enough people join me, we can show the monsters how we really feel.

 

I’m a Social Worker, Not a Stereotype

I'M A SOCIAL WORKERBack in the early 1990’s when I worked for the WV AIDS Program, some people assumed I was a lesbian.

Now that I work for Catholic Charities, some people assume I’m Catholic.

Neither assumption ever bothered me even though they were wrong.

But when people make assumptions about social workers, I have a deep-seated desire to say “Dammit Jim, I’m a social worker not a stereotype.”

I don’t believe that giving handouts will save the world. I don’t believe that I have to hug and empathize with everyone I encounter. And most of all, I don’t believe anyone with a good heart can do my job.

In reality, most social workers I know don’t believe in just giving handouts. We also know that if we don’t provide people with the basic resources they need, they certainly aren’t going to be able or open to making tough decisions that may help them improve their circumstances.. What social workers do believe is that people can change and that we should never give up on anyone. We also believe that no one is more important or more “worthy” than any other person. Most of all, we believe that people are responsible for their own lives. Sometimes. they simply need more support to accomplish their goals.

Also, in contrast to popular opinion, not every social worker has a warm and fuzzy personality. We don’t see life through rose-colored glasses and we don’t always see the best in people. We realize that some people survive by scamming others, that there are individuals who will do their best to “manipulate” the system and that there are people who are just plain lazy. We also know that not everyone had the advantages of growing up in a family that treasured children, respected boundaries and believed in delayed gratification. Poverty isn’t just about lack of money but about lack of support. Being able to provide that support is what motivates us.

Most of all, not just anyone can do our jobs. This past week, I was in a meeting with an individual who helps low-income families. As she gave her report, the fact that she is not a social worker became obvious. She was discussing a situation in which an individual didn’t want to complete an application for assistance without his friend.

“Maybe he couldn’t read,” I suggested.

“Oh, no,” she said. “I’ve had people tell me they couldn’t read. He didn’t say that. He just said he wanted to wait for his friend before he completed the form.”

I wanted to scream. I’m pretty sure the other social workers in the room also wanted to scream but didn’t. That’s  
because social workers try very hard to be non-judgmental. And sometimes we fail miserably. I should know. T
here have been so many times over the past few years when I’ve wanted to scream at people who think doing nice things for poor people is social work. Being nice to low-income people has nothing to do with social work, which requires a college degree and a license. Many social workers help low-income people, but their job is not to be nice (although most are). Their job is to help individuals and families help themselves.

So instead of screaming, I strategize. I think about how we can engage low-income, middle class and wealthy individuals in supporting those who are struggling. I think about how we can educate all people about inequality. Most of all, I think about what I can do to convince everyone that all people matter.

And then, I act.

Because that’s what social workers do.

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 154

selflessIn a meeting this week, I was unusually quiet as I listened to well-intended individuals talking about what they could to help the homeless in our community.

One man, who is still homeless but also conducts outreach to help others, took my breath away.

“I had a few dollars and I bought her a coat. It wasn’t my money anyway. All money is God’s money.”

I’m generally a person who strives to change systems because I know the work of one person is  limited. But then I look at the accomplishments of Nelson Mandela and of Scott, the homeless helper, and I realize the power of one person.

There is something absolutely inspiring about people who live to serve others.

That always makes me smile.

Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela

Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 153

nelson mandela 2I was picking my daughter up from dance and my husband was waiting for my son’s holiday concert to start when I received the text.

“I didn’t even know the guy, but I am still in tears.”

I called my husband to ask what had happened.

“Nelson Mandela died,” he said. “And it’s not just that. It’s what everyone is saying about him.”nelson mandela 3

I got it.

Our generation doesn’t have a lot of heroes. Constant media attention exposed the mistakes and faults of  leaders, athletes and politicians.

But my generation actually got to witness what Nelson Mandela was willing to endure for social justice. And we got to witness his redemption.

His words will stay with us forever.

And even though we mourn the loss of Nelson Mandela, one of our only true heroes, we also celebrate his accomplishments and all the good he leaves behind.

His good works will always make me smile.

Day 153:  Nelson Mandela

Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

Despicable

Last offensiveTuesday was a V E R Y  L O N G  day.

I left my parents’ rural home and drove more than an hour to a day-long meeting. When that meeting was over, I drove five more hours home.

The drive got longer after a received then ruminated about a phone call from an angry friend.

“Trina,” she said. “I have to talk to you, because I know you’ll understand.”

Even though I’d been talking to people all day, anyone who strokes my ego always has my attention.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I just got the worst phone call I have ever received. It was absolutely horrible.”

At first, I was really concerned for my friend, but as she continued to talk, my concern turned to anger.

The Sheriff’s Association had called asking her to donate to a program to conduct drug education in the schools. Since my friend and her husband had previously supported the organization, she let the man on the other end of the phone talk.

What he said was absolutely despicable.

“We have all these kids whose parents don’t care about them,” the voice said. “All they want to do is sit at home and collect their welfare check. They don’t want to talk to their kids about drugs. They just don’t care enough. That’s why we have such a drug problem.”

According to my friend, she pulled a Trina Bartlett. (I have to give myself a little credit in this story).

She asked the man on the phone if he knew whom he was talking with, gave him an earful and then hung up.

‘I don’t know if he was following a script or if he was just expressing his own opinions,” my friend said. “But either way, the fact that he was trying to raise money by blaming people on welfare for drug abuse was absolutely offensive.”

I agreed.

I was not only offended by the sweeping judgments about anyone who receives public assistance but also by the fact that he was literally preying on the prejudices of other people. Public servants shouldn’t be perpetuating stereotypes. The should be countering them.

Ironically, the man making the fundraising call targeted the wrong person.

She is a parent who knows drug abuse is not an income nor a class issue. She knows that no matter how much parents care, their children sometimes still make poor choices. And she also knows that blaming people is not the best way to approach drug prevention.

The day after she received the fundraising call, my friend called the county sheriff, whom she knows personally.

He has yet to return her call, and something tells me he probably never will.

Yet that’s not the end of this story.

This story only ends when other people also call him and complain. It only ends when other people have the guts to stand up to stereotypes and prejudice. And it only ends when people stopping blaming and simply join together to help and support each other.

I can only hope this story ends sooner rather than later.

Picking My Battles Part 2: Validation, Lessons Learned and Being a Role Model

how you teachYesterday evening, I walked my dog through a section of the public park near my house. Children screamed with joy as they chased each other and played on playground equipment. Youth shot basketballs as parents watched from benches, and individuals waded in the creek. A young man with an accent rested his bike against the pavilion and joked with me about my dog.

And I smiled.

Had I not followed my gut and taken a risk of making a lot of people mad at me, none of those individuals would have had the opportunity to enjoy their evening in the same way. They would have been prevented from entering that part of the park by caution tape and overly eager volunteers.

But because I instinctively knew that no one had a right to prevent the public from enjoying that space, these people enjoyed a beautiful Friday evening.

But they didn’t enjoy it without a price – a price I paid.

There’s no need to recap my story of the Boy Scouts telling me I couldn’t walk in a public park since I’ve already written about that (see blog here). But if anyone is interested in the epilogue to the story, here’s a condensed version:

After being told by a staff person with our local parks and recreation office that the Boy Scouts had not received permission to section off and prevent others from entering that area of the park, I once again attempted to take my dog for his usual evening walk. And I was once again confronted and told I wasn’t allowed. After basically being accused of being a liar, I walked through the marked off section of the park anyway. And (shocker), I didn’t bother anyone or provoke any tragedy. In fact, the only tragedy that occurred that evening was all of the people who were once again chased away.

I later ran into the director of Parks and Recreation who apologized and reinforced that the group had not been given permission to close off that section of the park. In fact, groups were never allowed to be close that section of the park. In other words, my instincts were correct, and my resistance was justified.

When I told the director that the caution tape was still up and that bright orange signs proclaiming the area to be off-limits had been added, he promised he would address the issue with the group.

Unfortunately, the whole situation was a result of miscommunication. The local parks and recreation office had booked the Boy Scouts for the wrong park, and, because of that, the Boy Scouts really did think they had permission to seize control of that area of the park.

But, despite that, I have to question where the common sense was in this whole situation. Why would anyone think that particular section of the park was appropriate for an event that the organizers believed required a great deal of security? And why hadn’t other people who had been chased off spoken up? (I’ve since heard from plenty of other people who were angry but didn’t question anyone.)

If I hadn’t asked the tough questions and pursued the matter, the people I saw enjoying the park last night wouldn’t have been enjoying it.

The situation is resolved, and I finally received an email from the Boy Scout executive with whom I had been trying to communicate. He didn’t apologize but neither was he rude, and since I was becoming increasingly rude with the group, he deserves credit for that. He did emphasise that safety of their scouts was a top priority.

I understand that. Over the years, I’ve had responsibility for thousands of young people. I just didn’t bully others to ensure their safety.

Which goes back to my question about why a group so concerned about the safety of young people would hold an event in such a well-used and public section of the park.

I, and many others, use that part of the park as a point of entry, and hundreds of others enjoy it every day.  It is also the only area that provides access to a public stream (although the stream wasn’t roped off by the Boy Scouts, and people could still use it if they walked around the park to get to it.)

The bottom line is, if security were such a concern at the park, the Boy Scouts should not have chosen that particular location for the event unless they had another purpose, such as training volunteers to be guard dogs. The only other obvious benefit was the visibility of their recruitment signs.

But, regardless, the whole situation is now behind all of us, and the boys who were participating in the event weren’t hurt or prevented from enjoying their activities. In fact, as I walked my dog by (not through) their new and much more appropriate spot in the park last night, I was stopped by one young camper. (Just for clarification, he was outside the roped off area.)

“Is that your dog?” he asked. “He’s really big.”

“He is,” I said. “He also gets really excited so you don’t want to get too close because he jumps.”

“O.K.” the boy said, and then he changed subjects. “Hey, do you know what I’m doing here?”

“No,” I responded. “What are you doing?”

“I’m at Twilight Camp. And the Webelos get to spend the night.”

“That’s awesome,” I replied as the woman with the boy looked at me skeptically, as though I were lying and really didn’t want the boy to have fun.

‘Yeah,” the boy said. “It is awesome.”

“Well, have fun and be safe,” I said.

“I will,” he responded, then he and the woman in the orange vest walked away. But I was fortunate to hear the rest of the conversation.

“Do you want to know who that was?” the boy asked.

“Yes, I do,” the woman in the orange vest responded.

“That,” he said with obvious pride, “Was my Sunday school teacher.”

And I couldn’t help but smile. In the same week I had been labeled a security risk, a young boy was proud that I was his Sunday School teacher.

And that made all the trouble of the week completely disappear. It also reminded me that I am a role model, and sometimes being a role model doesn’t mean succumbing to the pressure or demands of others. It also doesn’t mean I have to be perfect or always use the exact right words.

Sometimes it simply means following my heart and doing what I know is for the greater good, even when people get angry with me or question my methods.

In the end, the smile and respect of a child is simply worth it.