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The Heart of Life

The Heart of Life: October 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Bacon Man

Last summer my dad did a high-endurance off-road motorcycle race in Idaho City.  This race is notorious for being incredibly long and difficult.  At first my dad was doing well, but after a while he hit a huge mud hole.  His bike got stuck.  After what seemed like an eternity, he finally dug his bike out of the mud and got going again.

Because he'd spent so much time and effort working to dig his bike out of the mud, he soon grew tired.  The longer he rode, the more tired he got.  Soon he was so discouraged he seriously considered quitting.  Just then he rounded a corner and came across something unusual along the side of the trail.

Next to the trail stood a man frying bacon on a gas grill.  This man greeted my dad and invited him to have some bacon.

"Bacon?" my dad asked.

"Have some.  It will give you energy," the Bacon Man replied.  "You look tired.  How are you doing?"

My dad candidly told the Bacon Man that he was struggling.  My dad told him he was tired and wanted to quit.

"You know what?" the Bacon Man said to my dad.  "You have the hardest part of the course behind you and you don't have much further to go.  Have some bacon and then go finish the race."

My dad did exactly that.

My dad is not ashamed to admit that without the Bacon Man he would not have finished the race.  All he needed was a little encouragement and the reassurance that the last of the race would be better than the beginning.

At some point or another, we all need a Bacon Man.  We all need that random person to show up in a random place and give that extra support we need in order to keep going.

Today I sat in a room full of teenagers who have seen a lot of hard things in their lives.  We talked about some of the emotions they feel as a result of some big changes in their lives.  Several admitted that their dominant emotion was anger or frustration.  One girl voiced that she did not feel special.  One boy feels as though he has to constantly watch his back to avoid being beat up at school.

As I considered their struggles, I wondered to myself, "Where is the Bacon Man when you need him?"

Then I realized that perhaps I am meant to be the Bacon Man.

I don't have much to offer.  I don't have a magic tool that will improve their relationships with their families.  I don't have a special potion that will make a twelve year old girl feel loved and special.  There is no procedure I can perform that will implant hope in their souls.

But then again all the Bacon Man had to offer was a greasy slice of bacon and simple words of encouragement.

And that I can offer.

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Saturday, October 23, 2010


Yesterday morning the bus was filled to capacity of tired and quiet passengers heading up to campus for class.  Those of us getting on at the last stop found ourselves standing in the aisle.  As we reached for the overhead bar I heard a young man ask someone, "Would you like to sit down?"  The woman he had spoken to looked slightly surprised and responded with a somewhat hesitant, "Sure."

When he stood up to give her his seat I understood why she had seemed surprised.  Based on his appearance, he did not seem to be the type of person willing to give his seat up for a woman in her thirties.  In all honesty, he looked like a gangster.  Of all the men sitting down on that bus, I never would have guessed that he would be the one to give up his seat.

Although I don't mind standing up on the bus and I don't expect men to give up their seats for me, I couldn't help but wonder what stopped the other men on the bus from offering their seats to the women standing up.   In my three years of experience with the Aggie Shuttle, I've found that most people on the bus are nice.  And yet, seeing a man give up his seat for a woman is somewhat rare.  At first glance, this appears to reflect badly upon men--that there aren't enough gentlemen.  However, it's more of a bad reflection on our society.

There are two kinds of people in our society.  The first kind (and most common kind) are those people who sit down on the bus and can think of no reason why they shouldn't be sitting.  They got there first and it is fair.  The second kind of people sit down, but can think of no reason why they deserve to be sitting there.  They find someone who needs that seat more.

There is nothing wrong with the first kind--I am one of them.  For the most part we are good people.  We try to not cause trouble and want things to be fair.  However, we have a skewed definition of the word fair.  We think it's fair to sit down on the bus because we got there first, even though it is unfair to the girl standing in the aisle who is too short to reach the overhead bar.

Those of us who are the first kind of people often have a hard time separating fairness and entitlement.  We think because something is fair, we are entitled to it.  If good fortune happens upon us, we congratulate ourselves and collect the reward.  We never ask if the good fortune is something we deserve, and we never wonder if someone else needs it more.  We got it and it is ours.  We are fair, but inconsiderate.  There are far too many of us who belong to this first kind.

I admire the second kind of people.  I admire the person who lets the mother with a million groceries and three screaming children cut ahead of him in line at the store so that she can get out of there as soon as possible.  I admire the person who purposely halves the cookie unevenly so that the person she's sharing with gets more than her.  I admire the young man who gives up his seat on the bus for someone else simply because he thinks it's a nice thing to do.

I admire every person who realizes that he or she can get by with circumstances that are less-than-fair if it makes someone else feel good, and I want to be like that.


Friday, October 15, 2010

I Know the Heart of Life is Good

When I tell people I'm going to school to become a social worker the reactions vary.  An all too common response is, "That's a hard, sad job."  In a way, they are right.  There are a lot of hard, sad things going on in the world.

In 2007 a 17-year-old Iraqi girl was stoned to death in an honor killing because she had a boyfriend who was not of her faith.  Look here if you want more info.

For the past several years a Minnesota man has been logging onto a suicide chat room posing as a suicidal female nurse and has successfully coaxed several people to commit suicide. The whole story is here.

Members of an anti-gay church picketed against gays at the 2006 funeral of a U.S. marine (who was not gay) saying that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan were God's punishment for America's tolerance of gays and lesbians. More information can be found here.

A mother from Logan, Utah locked herself and her two daughters in her car for two days back in August.  She cut one girl's wrist with a box knife and began to slit her own throat with the same box knife when police broke into the car.  The mother begged police to shoot her.  To read more about it look here.

The list of terrible things that happen in the world seems endless.  It's discouraging.  How am I supposed to make a positive difference in a world bound and determined to inflict sorrow on other members of the human race? 

But in the song The Heart of Life, John Mayer reminds us, "No, it won't all go the way it should, but I know the heart of life is good."  This has become somewhat of a motto for me.  Bad things will happen.  People will die, children will get hurt, and things will be unfair.  But at the end of the day, the heart of life is good!

I know the heart of life is good because I saw it in the sparkling eyes of a sweet three-year-old girl.  When I gave her an underdog on the swings, she laughed like she'd never been taken away from her home in the dead of night by the police.  She smiled like she hadn't spent the night sobbing uncontrollably on a bed that was not her own.

In my occupation I will be reminded daily of the sour and rotten parts of life, and it will be hard and sad.  But each day there are also reminders that the heart of life--that hope that sustains us through it all--still beats strong.