Life – Up & Down

12-10-2020

          The range of human emotions is wide, and they seem to shift in seconds. Yesterday was a wild ride for me. My son teaches English at a high school in Idaho. My grandson and granddaughter both attend that school. Like all schools, this year has been greatly disrupted by COVID. Half the kids are in school two days a week, the other half two other days, and a fifth day is on-line for all students.

          After waking up to read and hear that there is good and bad news about COVID, I attempted to do some writing. It was sometime after 9:00 a.m. when I got the first text from my son. He was letting me know there had been threats made towards the school. The kid had a gun, and the school was on lockdown. As the morning passed, he sent pics of a SWAT sniper on the roof of the school, and pics of his classroom door barricaded by a desk stacked with books. He sent a pic of the threat note and pics sent by the boy. The boy was holding a Glock pistol with an extended ammunition clip. After almost two hours, it was over. The boy (minus the gun) was found in a classroom three doors away from my son’s classroom.

This is the second threat of violence by a student with a gun in this school in less than two years. It was not LA, Detroit, or Washington DC where this occurred. It was small Twin Falls, Idaho. A town we have always called Twinkie Falls because it was so safe and quiet.

Children should not fear being in school. This is not what teachers should have to focus upon. This is not what parents and grandparents should worry about. And yet, it is now such a common occurrence that it only makes news when several people are wounded or killed.

Later, in the evening, Suzanne and I watched a Lisa Ling documentary. It was the story of boys from a prestigious California prep school who started visiting convicts in a penitentiary. They read and discussed Hamlet, and then they talked about life. The convicts shared their sorrows about what they’d done and the people they’d hurt. The boys shared their dreams and difficulties.

One student had transferred to the prep school from the public school system. His mother had an accident and was blinded in one eye. His father then had heart surgery and couldn’t work. Their son was going to have to leave the prep school, and then something beautiful happened. One prisoner started asking other convicts if they wanted to assist the boy by donating money. These were men who earned in most cases less than a dollar a day. One man donated a month’s wages (in his case, $100.00) to the boy. The men gave nearly $30,000 to the boy over three years. These were men who had been convicted and in some cases sentenced to life, having committed horrible and brutal crimes.

One prisoner highlighted in the film earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees while in prison. After serving twenty years, his sentence was commuted because of his exemplary behavior. He is the convict that started the goal of helping the student stay in school.

I freely admit to crying through half of the documentary. After my morning’s fear, I desperately needed to know there is still good in this country and in this world.

Daily I see cartoons, jokes, postings that 2020 has been a year from hell. And without question, it has been. Every person has been affected by the pandemic. My youngest son and ex-wife both tested positive for COVID. Both seem to be doing OK, but it is terrifying and anyone who thinks for more than a minute knows it is real. I trust we as a country and the others in the world will eventually get past this. I hope that we will have learned something about how fragile our lives and the planet are. I hope we have learned something about compassion, unity, and the need to help each other. I hope this country is as good as I have always believed it is.

I wish nothing but the best for all. Go well, David.

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” The Dalai Lama.

Louie’s Book Bark

          If you are a writer or aspire to be a writer, read How to Write Short Stories and Use Them to Further Your Writing Career. By James Scott Bell. This is a concise book that gives very pragmatic information about how to write short stories. It is a quick read from a knowledgeable writer. He provides examples of well-written stories that help to explain and show the differences in ways of storytelling. Louie gives it a 4-star rating.

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