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Friday, May 20, 2016

Sympathy from a Bulldog

Today was the first day I manged to walk the 3 mile loop around the neighborhood that Daisy and I used to walk for exercise. I tried to do it a couple of times before, but always turned back. It just didn't feel right without Daisy snuffling along by my side. It was just too sad and I couldn't stand it.

Today I made the loop successfully and as I came down the last stretch, someone came out to meet me. I'm not sure what her name is, Princess or something, but she'd come out of her yard before when Daisy and I walked by. She is overweight, old and infirm; an American bulldog as sweet as you could ask for. Just getting down the hill from her yard left her panting and exhausted. But she was a game little thing and always wanted to follow Daisy and I on our walk. I used to keep a spare leash in my pocket in case we met her and had to walk her back home when she inevitably followed us. I'd return her to her family so they could take her in so she couldn't wander off after us again. I was kind of afraid she'd have a heart attack if she tried to keep up. She certainly wanted to go with us, though.

Today she spotted me and came waddling down the hill to meet me. I stopped and the two of us sat down in the little drainage ditch and I scratched the back of her head and talked to her. I explained about Daisy not being with me anymore. She rubbed her big slobbery head against me and seemed to be offering me her sympathy. I walked back to her front door and got her safely home, then I turned homeward again. I felt lonelier, but in an odd way better.

My hands smelled pretty doggy and when I got home I washed them, almost regretfully. I have this feeling God nudged the old girl out to drainage ditch because this lonely old guy was missing his friend today and needed a sweet old doggy head to scratch. It would be just like God to do that.

© 2016 by Tom King

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Here's What a Real Superhero Looks Like

Irena Sendler and one of the children she saved.

Half the TV shows these days are about people running around in capes and tights and constantly ruminating on what it means to be a "hero". I have to laugh. What's so heroic if you are invulnerable and can shoot fire out of your eyes?  I mean really. Here's, in my opinoin is a real hero!


Irena Sendler didn't wear tights. She had no cape. She possessed no superpowers - just a hero's heart. She was up for the Nobel Peace Prize, but they gave it instead to Al Gore for his fraudulent global warming slide show. Here story is incredible. She died shortly after Gore won his Nobel, tended at the end by a nurse she had once smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto when she was just six months old. She did it under the nose of the Gestapo, carrying the little girl in a tool box. She had trained her dog to bark to cover up the sound of the baby crying. She and her dog deserved a Nobel Peace Prize. I do believe God can hardly wait till the moment when he can take these loving, kindly and courageous people home to be with Him.  

Someone needs to come up with a way to honor people like this - true heroes, not pretend ones in colorful costumes, but real ones with toolboxes full of babies.

© 2016 by Tom King

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Puff Was NEVER a Pot-Head!

 © Gorbash - Flight of Dragons by Zoonar at Deiviant Art
Did you know that Puff the Magic Dragon was NOT about drugs? Someone asked me about that and I happen to have firsthand information on the origins of that much-maligned children's song. It turns out that There never was any other meaning than the obvious one. I can say that with certainty, because I met the Dragon's father (author of the song, Peter Yarrow) in person. Peter assured us that it was just a children's song. Jackie Paper represented the pages of a children's story, nothing more and the song was about the loss of childhood innocence.

We went to a Peter Paul and Mary concert in Fort Worth in the middle of the controversy. Peter added the following verse for that performance.

Together we can sing it
It's just a children's song

"And there never was any meaning other than the obvious one
and you can say you heard it from the dragon's father!"

Then they went  back to the chorus.

Everyone in the place just roared.

We took all three of our kids, to that concert where PP&M, Tom Paxton and Josh White all performed.  Sheila and I wanted to see PP&M just as much if not more than the kids did. The kids were raised on the Peter, Paul and Mary's children's songs and my goofy interpretations thereof, including Puff and The Boa Constrictor Song. We came early to the concert and were surprised to find Peter Yarrow out front greeting people as they came in.  He introduced himself very politely to my daughter who hugged him. He planted a kiss on her cheek. She was greatly impressed. 

Puff was written in 1958 when Yarrow was in school and before he even knew anything about marijuana. The story is really cool and can be found at this link (below). You should look it up. In any case, when the author, himself, tells me what the song means, I, for one, tend to believe him..

So you can mark Puff the Magic Dragon* "Safe" for summer camp and youth groups with confidence. You heard it from a man who heard it from Puff's daddy.

© 2016 by Tom King

*Peter does a more expanded version debunking the drug meaning mythology in this link from their 25th anniversary concert

Friday, May 06, 2016

The Trojan Horse Lesson

Does anyone else see the irony in a condom maker calling its product "Trojans" given what happened when the actual Trojans allowed that big wooden Greek horse to come in through the gate?

I just think of things like that when I'm unsupervised. It's not good.

I do think the story of the Trojans should serve as a warning to young people though. Kind of a cautionary tale. I have way too many millennial friends for someone who reads history and actually retains some of it.

 One of my millennial buds described Trojans as "protection" in a conversation recently. My brain immediately thought, "Trojans weren't a lot of 'protection' when they let that big wooden Greek thing in through the gates, now were they?"

My problem is I read too much history.
Dang it. Now that story reminded me of Donald Trump's presidential candidacy and I was trying so hard to get off that hobby horse. 

© 2016 by Tom King

Thursday, May 05, 2016


I had an unusual experience today.
It's been a terrible week. Our beloved dog, Daisy, passed away on my birthday. Sheila and I have been grieving pretty hard over it for more than a week now. Our beloved son, Matthew, received terrible news about his situation a few days later. We are both of us emotionally exhausted.

So, today, we had to take Sheila to see the doctor in Tacoma. We were sitting in the pharmacy afterwards and a lovely older woman came up and started a conversation with us. The lady, it turned out, was a grant-writer and nonprofit veteran like me.  She and I got to exchanging war stories about life in the nonprofit sector and our struggles to do a little good in the world. Apparently she'd gone up against the bureaucrat machine like I had and we evidently shared much the same history being forced to fight for the folks we served.

A short while later an elderly black man who had apparently been listening to us talk came up to me. He held out his hand and thanked me for what I'd done. I shook his hand, kind of puzzled and thanked him for his kindness. He said not many "people" would do what I had done. I think he meant not many white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Men. I'm not sure. He seemed shocked to find somebody "like me" who actually cared about seniors, people with disabilities, abused kids and low income families enough to give 40 years of his life to trying to help.

I didn't have the heart to tell him or the lady we were talking to that I was a conservative. As with most of the motley collection of assorted liberals I've had the privilege of working with over the years, the idea that I'm a conservative never quite seems to sink in with these guys. It's just too far outside their paradigm to register.

I did tell him I was a Christian. I told the gentleman that when you give your heart to God and promise Him that you will go where He leads you, there's not much else you can do other than go where He sends you. It doesn't make us better people because we sacrifice a little effort to do what's right and needful. We're better people; just people who have been made better. It comes from hanging out with Jesus all this time.  He rubs off on you. You can't really help following his example. And Sheila, my sweet wife, has been with me every step of the way. She's never let me down in all the long years we've been together and she leaves behind her a lifetime's work of her own, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and lifting up the down-trodden and weary. I am blessed that she is my partner in life.

People who try to make a difference don't hear a lot of thank-you's from the folk they work for and with. You'd think they'd be showered with accolades, but beyond a few quick thank you's on the way out the door the accolades generally go to the people that donate hard cash to the cause. Two things nonprofits and hard-working volunteers don't get a lot of is (a) profits and (b) thank-you's. Fortunately, people like me and Larry, my grateful black friend, Sheila and the grant-writing lady we met at the pharmacy don't do what we do for recognition or for profit.

It was nice to hear a spontaneous "Thanks," though. There are a lot of people out there working quietly and tirelessly to help solve problems in their communities. It's tough work, but as somebody once said, "Somebody's gotta do it." I became a conservative because in my experience working with the system, I found that big bureaucracies that run the system can be cold, cruel and self-centered. I saw very quickly that church-based ministries and community-based nonprofits are far more efficient at solvingproblems where you live instead of depending on people thousands of miles away in Washington to somehow guess how to fix your problems for you.

It never works out well that way.

It was nice to hear a little thanks though. The Apostle Paul once said, "All things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose." He was also beheaded by the emperor of Rome. Like Paul, you may be trying to do the right thing by your friends, your family and your community, but most times it feels like you're not doing any good or getting anywhere even if you are trying to do the right thing. The good old boy networks are entrenched. The politicians are too powerful. The system is resistant to change. And most of the time it seems like the bad guys win.

That's the sinful world we live in. All that's decent seems to be opposed by greed, corruption and lust for power. Because of Christ's influence on us all, however, the world is also filled with lots and lots of people working as hard as they can to make the world a better place.  You may not see them very often, but they're there working along quietly unnoticed for the most part. The Scribes and the Pharisees, the criminals, the crooked politicians, and the crony capitalists hate people like that. Jesus said they would and He was right.

Do me a favor though. Even though every where you turn there are rotters, cads, bounders and more than a few monsters, once in a while, if you catch someone doing something good, stop and say thank-you. Those who resist the dark side and who toil away valiantly, mostly out of sight, trying to make things a little better in their towns, communities and neighborhoods probably feel a little alone. It would be nice if you would take the time to stop and say, "Thanks." I can tell you from personal experience, that it makes you feel like you're actually doing some good out there.

It's particularly nice to hear, once in a while, that someone notices and appreciates the effort.

© 2016 by Tom King