“Heroes are created by popular demand, sometimes out of the scantiest materials or none at all.” (Gerald Johnson)

Apparently, today’s younger generation is easily impressed. They seem to love the whole notion of superheroes but I’m still amazed by how little it takes to earn their respect. I came to this conclusion recently when I was given the nickname of Superman, at the grocery store where I work now. Several things are working in my favor to make this possible. A big part of my job is to come running whenever the cashiers get into trouble at checkout. I come to their rescue with my knowledge of the computer codes, known only to the management staff, that are needed to void transactions, make refunds and generally clean up any mess caused by inattention at the register. I also get to help bag groceries and retrieve our motorized carts for the elderly customers who need them. All the while, I am expected to smile profusely, engage the customers in polite chat and generally do my best to make them happy before they leave the store. And all of that is on top of answering the phone and taking care of every other problem at the customer service desk. If you haven’t done this job before, it ain’t easy but I like a challenge.

I guess when they found out I was doing all this at 65 years old, that was the clincher. I’m old enough to be the grandfather of many of these kids and I take great pride in showing them just exactly what old folks are capable of doing. I seem to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time more often than not. A few weeks ago, after an ice storm, I was just getting out of my truck when I heard my name being called in an urgent voice. One of our cashiers had fallen on the ice and needed my help. It was an older woman who had fallen and she couldn’t get back on her feet while trapped in the middle of a sheet of ice around her car. I carefully walked over to her and cautiously lifted her off the ground and helped her into her car. Then we drove up closer to the store and I helped her into the building. We went to the HR department and they took her to the ER where they determined she had broken her pelvis and wasn’t able to work. Later that week on my day off, I came back in the store to shop and my manager was kidding me about being out in such bad weather. I told her it looked like a good day to try picking up women in the parking lot again and it was just nice to know I haven’t lost my touch.

The legend of SuperGuy grew a little larger last week when the latest secret shopper customer service report came out and my name was spelled out for all to see, along with a critical evaluation of my skills. I got a perfect score but I’m still not sure who they talked to because they described me as Guy H., a male in his fifties who readily smiled and gave good service on a very busy Saturday in February. I remember the day vividly and I was overwhelmed for most of my 8 hour shift. God must have been watching over me and prodded me into smiling at just the right moment. Either that or I was just laughing at the sheer insanity of my situation, which I do quite often when I’m trying to wait on five people at once and keep the phone from ringing off the wall. This job is the multi-tasking Olympics and my manager has set the bar so high I may never get over it but I come to work every day just itching for the chance to try again. Just like the real Superman, I will never give up.

To the younger employees I must seem pretty talented because I can do math in my head faster than most of them can pull out their phones. It’s not really that amazing to know $3 is 10% of $30 but to some of them it seems supernatural. I’ve even had to interpret cursive handwriting for them when shopping orders come in from the retirement home. (I should probably put that on my resume – working knowledge of archaic hieroglyphics.)  A retirement aged Superman should have skills that are in keeping with his many years of experience.

I need to add my thanks to my young friend Bianca for starting this whole Superman thing. She’s one of our younger cashiers who always makes me smile. She came up to me one day, not long ago, and told me I reminded her of Superman because I stand straight up with my hands on my hips as I scan the store looking for those who need help. Little does she realize that I’m just massaging my aging hips as best I can to relieve the stress on my 65 year old joints. I guess what she doesn’t know will just add to my mystique. Standing for 8 hours a day on a concrete floor is Herculean at least but I’m sure Superman could do it too. After she confronted me about my secret identity, I thought it would be best to play along so I got myself a Superman T-shirt for my recent birthday. I wear it under my work shirt and whenever I see her stressing out I open it up enough for her to see the giant S. We laugh about it and it helps pass the time, especially when it’s all hands on deck with too many customers at once, which happens several times a day.

Frankly, after six months behind the desk at customer service, in the biggest and busiest grocery store I have ever seen, I think they should issue Superman T-shirts to all employees who survive those first six months. It would be a nice gesture and a subtle reminder of what it takes to give great customer service every day. In my case, my new nickname has given me a whole new goal in life. I want to be the oldest guy who ever worked in customer service at this store and I want to keep working till I’m 70 so no one will ever beat my record. I plan to show up every day and keep working for truth, justice and the American Way. Feel free to stop in some time and see how I’m doing.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

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“An object that is at rest will stay at rest unless a force acts upon it.” (Sir Isaac Newton)

I’m paraphrasing Newton with this title but it serves my purpose so bear with me. What I always found to be amazing about Newton’s Laws of Motion were how much they reminded me of the laws of emotion. An object (or human) who is at rest (or settled) will stay at rest unless a force (or change) acts upon it. This perfectly describes the world of today. Most people settle into a comfort zone of beliefs and behaviors that are best suited to their needs and those beliefs will continue in a very linear fashion until a force changes their path. I’m not saying this is good or bad, it’s just human nature and the laws of physics still apply. I think that’s fascinating and reaffirms my belief in a universe brought about by intelligent design.

I’m not here to debate the merits of intelligent design or creationism or evolution. What I would like to examine is the way we view the universe and each other as fellow travelers. We’re all making the same journey from birth to death. We all breath the same air and drink the same water but only for a short time in the context of eternity. What we do with the days, minutes and seconds of our lives is extremely important to ourselves and to those around us who are making the same journey. Everything we do, every day, matters. For better or worse we make decisions and take actions that greatly impact our families, friends, strangers and other living creatures that inhabit our corner of the planet. That’s an awesome responsibility that I think we underestimate in our rush to just live.

The realization for me on my 65th birthday this week is that I want to be a positive force that changes others path. I have so many chances to meet people and affect them in some meaningful way that I need to try harder with everybody. The other day at my job, I was helping one of our young cashiers solve a problem and when I started to walk away I heard her say, “Hey Guy I need you again.” As I turned around and headed back, the customer spoke up and said, ” I didn’t realize that was your name. I just thought you were some guy.” I definitely don’t want to be remembered as some guy and that is a possibility given my generic first name. I would much rather be remembered as THE Guy. The one who was a positive influence on everybody I encountered and the one who changed your path in some small way. Even writing this blog has that potential.

As much as I want to leave a positive impact on the people I meet, I also want to do more for other living creatures. As I was doing my paperwork to get rid of some dog food that was too damaged to sell, it occurred to me that the dog food was still good even if the packaging was torn up. I went to my boss and asked permission to save it from the trash and take it to the local animal shelter. She immediately gave her blessing (Thanks Karla) and granted my wish to maintain this practice going forward. All I have to do is get it there. Tomorrow I will make my first delivery with 40 pounds of Grade A food and one slightly used dog toy that came back for a refund. I can’t wait to be a positive force for a bunch of dogs who are down on their luck. That’s my kind of birthday present.

The funny thing is – as happy as those dogs might be when I get there, they can’t come close to how great it will make me feel. That’s the magical part of serving humanity. My life gets better every time I do something good for someone else or even animals. Joy is meant to be shared and as often as possible. It does no good to hoard it. I would argue it doesn’t even exist except when two people discover it together. I might even take a photo at the shelter and let Karla post it on social media even though it would break my longstanding rule about no self portraits. That’s right, of the thousands of photos I have taken in my life only a handful are of me. This would be one time when that rule needs to be broken. I will gladly share a photo with happy dogs at the shelter. Thank you Lord.

Listen to me closely, I know this much about the meaning of life. If we don’t spend it making other people happy, then we will miss the best part. We get one more chance with each new day and what we do for others will ultimately determine how great our own lives really are today and forever. Let’s not miss the chance to be a positive force that changes the world in wonderful new ways every day with everyone we meet, dogs included.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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“For the sake of old times…” (Robert Burns)

This title is actually the loose translation of the Scottish poet’s famous poem, Auld Lang Syne, or more accurately, old long since. As with most things spoken in Scottish and translated to English, this song gets slurred and mumbled by most people every New Year’s Eve. According to Wikipedia, only 3% of the British people know all the words and the Scots don’t fare much better at just 7%. There are actually five verses in all but the first verse and chorus seem to be the most famous and the only ones sung at midnight on January First. So, for the sake of old times and drunken revelers everywhere, here are the words to Auld Lang Syne.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

Chorus:
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

II
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Chorus

III
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

Chorus

IV
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

Chorus

V
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Chorus

Now let’s talk about the meaning that Robert Burns was trying to convey in this folk song. Should old acquaintance be forgot? This appears to be a rhetorical question that we should all know the answer to, of course not. True friendships are the most valuable relationships we will ever have in our short time on Earth and every great memory should be cherished. When he writes about a cup of kindness, he’s expressing the most essential ingredient of human relationships that we all need to be happy. Kindness is mutually beneficial and the world would be a dark, dark place if each act of kindness was ever forgotten. In the third and fourth verses, he talks about the shared joy of picking daisies and paddling in the stream together long ago. Those are the memories of the best days of our lives and they bring us happiness every time we share them again. In the last verse, he offers his hand in friendship and they make a toast together for Auld Lang Syne.

The sentiment here is clearly about friendship and the joy we bring to each other every day of our lives. Every day in the past is the foundation for our happiness in the future. By cultivating our friendships and building good relationships, we are assured of more happiness in the future. This is the firm belief that keeps me going at all times and makes me want to keep working as long as I can.

In my new job at my neighborhood grocery store I have an unlimited opportunity to meet new people every day. I get to work with about 400 individuals who all have life experiences that are different from mine and then there are thousands of customers who cross my path and each one of them makes me even more curious about humanity. Not every interaction is fun but I do learn something new each and every day and for that I am thankful.

What I really enjoy the most is working with teenagers. For many of these kids, this is their first job and they are struggling to balance teenage immaturity, work, school and relationships. The ebb and flow of their emotions is amusing to watch for someone as old as I am because I can still remember all those dilemmas quite well. The role I get to play now is the wise old man who makes them laugh with amusing observations and a keen sense of humor. And when I see they’re struggling, I make it a point to encourage them in some small way. Laughter and kindness are my gifts to this generation and they all seem to enjoy having me around in spite of my grey hair and wrinkles. In a very stressful environment, I get to be the one person they can all count on when things aren’t going well, just like my dad did for me.

My advice to everybody for this new year is to resolve to be happy and to share your joy with as many people as you can. Take a cup of kindness with you every day and give it away to whoever needs it. If we all do this consistently and with love in our hearts we will have many, many great memories to cherish in days of auld lang syne.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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“Willful waste makes woeful want.” (Unknown)

I spent the first thirty of my working years trying hard not to waste time, resources or money because every penny mattered. I still fervently believe in this old axiom but my devotion to this cause is being tested every day in the work I do at a large retail grocery store. I spend eight hours a day giving refunds and throwing food away. At the end of my shift, I haul away twenty pounds or more of produce, meat, bread and assorted commodities to the dumpster in the back. It breaks my heart, especially because I know so many kids in foster care who are there because their parents couldn’t feed them properly.

I wish, with all my heart, that I could stop the waste and end the want but I understand the reason this business practice is necessary. All it takes for the company to be held liable is for someone to get sick from a product that we gave away and the costs associated with such a lawsuit are far too prohibitive to take that chance. That’s not the company’s fault, that’s on us as consumers. During the week before Thanksgiving, we tossed out several turkeys because they had left the store and we had no way of knowing what happened to them while they were gone. I gave the customers their refund and promptly dumped the turkeys in the trash. Several people wanted refunds just because they had bought one that wasn’t big enough. Only one person elected to keep her purchase and rejected my refund offer when I explained the situation fully. They were all shocked to hear my explanation but only one of them made a choice to waste not, want not.

Given that we are just days away from Christmas and the true reason for the season, I sincerely hope we all take a moment to appreciate what the Christmas Spirit is all about. Jesus was born to give up His life for others. His destiny was fulfilled by His death. He made the ultimate sacrifice and His life story is the epitome of one who never wasted a moment of His existence. He gave everything He had so that the rest of us would not want for anything.

The Christmas Spirit is alive and well in the vast majority of people because I see people buy bags of food that are being delivered to the poor. I see families take turns ringing the bells for the Salvation Army red kettle outside, even on the coldest days. I see the huge bin being filled in front of customer service with products for the local food bank. Americans are, by nature, a generous and kind people but we could do so much more if we just took the time to think about our actions in the moment and if we kept this faithful spirit always.

No child in America should ever go hungry. We have more than enough resources to make sure that never happens but if we don’t make a conscious effort to fill that need we are leaving it up to a government bureaucracy to make it happen. I saw how well that works and it was not good. I spent nine years working in foster care and now I know full well how big the problem really is and why we all have to do something about it. Let’s all make a concerted effort to not waste food and to consistently give donations to all our local food banks. If we can’t do that much, then none of us deserves to celebrate Christmas as a day for giving. Please, please do your part to make a difference every day. The Christmas Spirit is the most meaningful when it happens all year long. Let’s celebrate the birth of a miraculous baby by making sure that children everywhere are given the nourishment they need every day. I want children everywhere to firmly believe in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” (Robert Heinlein)

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving meal and more importantly I hope everyone found a new reason to be thankful. For me at least, I have been blessed with a new grandson and he has already attached himself to my heart in ways I am only now beginning to appreciate. Just this week, after an extremely stress-filled day at work, I went straight to my son’s house to babysit his kids while they both worked their night shifts. Grandma did her part first but by nine o’clock it was all on me to carry on alone. I got my granddaughter to bed first and then it was time to bond with Granger.

In just three short months, his personality has already started to develop in very obvious ways. He never cries unless he’s hungry but he’s constantly squirming and looking around. Sitting down and rocking with him in my arms is not working like it should so we have to walk around the house to keep him happy. I think he wants to explore everything and movement is his most essential need, even at such a young age. I can only imagine what he will be like when he starts crawling. When the baby gates go up, his grandpa is going to have a whole new set of obstacles to navigate.

After an hour of walking him and giving him another bottle, he finally fell asleep in my arms and we sat down together to rest. I kept trying to find a good position for him to sleep and for me to relax a little but he was only content when his right ear was resting on my heart. I believe that he could hear my heart beating and that was the reassurance he needed to feel completely safe. After another twenty minutes I put him in his swing and he slept there for an hour while I dozed off right next to him on the floor, just in case he needed me. I was dead tired by that point but something about watching him sleep renewed my energy level and kept me going till midnight, when my son got home.

I wouldn’t trade that night for anything else in my life. Bonding with your own flesh and blood is so special and so memorable that nothing else matters at that moment and all the pain of another long work day went away with a small one hugging my chest. Now I realize how much I missed with my own kids thirty years ago. I really wasn’t there for them because I had to work so much to make ends meet and make it possible for their mom to be there for them all the time. They both turned out great so I don’t regret that decision but now I know what I missed.

I only have a very short time to enjoy the moments I will ever have holding Granger and resting him against my heart. We are making a lifelong connection and that rhythmic heart beat is his reassurance that I love him unconditionally. Just being thankful doesn’t begin to express how I feel when I have him in my arms and our eyes meet. The bond of trust is being strengthened with each interaction and I will do anything to live up to his expectations of what it means to be a grandfather.

I will count this Thanksgiving as one of my all time favorites because I have never been more thankful than I am right now. God has given me another chance to experience the love of a child and I’m not going to miss a second, this time around. For that, I am truly happy and thankful. May God bless all of the little ones in our lives and those who take good care of them.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)

I spent nine long years working in foster care trying hard to find something to smile about so the kids I was with would have at least one person in their life who was happy. I failed most of the time because the reality was too painful. Now I work in a grocery store where smiling is considered job one and I still struggle with this goal. I consider myself to be a mostly positive person but outward displays of happiness have never been easy for me because I focus too much on fixing problems, which is inherently negative. I only allow myself the privilege of happiness after I have solved the problem.

I can trace this personality trait all the way back to my childhood and the hours I spent with my dad working at his printing business. My earliest recollection is this imperative he taught me from the very beginning, “Don’t ever make the same mistake twice.” He was adamant that only a fool would ever allow a problem to continue unabated and the person who was most responsible for fixing every problem was the one whose name was on the letterhead. There were many Saturdays when we went to work specifically to fix a mistake or solve a problem. We spent hours testing and making sure that the solution was the best practice and would work consistently from then on. Only then would he smile and say, “Let’s go by the Country Club Dairy and get a hot fudge sundae.” Then I had a great reason to smile and a huge sense of accomplishment for having been part of the winning team.

It has become painfully obvious to me now that I don’t smile that often because I see so many problems that need to be fixed and I feel like it’s my duty to do something about them. Smiling is the reward I get only after the problem has been solved and to do otherwise would be less than honest on my part. When people come to customer service, they can clearly see my name on the badge I wear and that makes me feel responsible. Unfortunately, there are far too many requests that are completely out of my control and I am left with an empty feeling.

Solving problems and helping people has always given meaning to my life but the older I get the more I realize the odds are against me in my quest. The world of today is a struggle for so many people and it saddens me to to see so many problems caused by a lack of kindness and commitment to making the world a better place. I meet elderly people who struggle with technology that makes every transaction a chore and young people who are great with technology but struggle with communication skills. I try to help them in any way I can but the speed at which I am asked to work means that my chances of giving them what they really need are almost nil. That is the curse of the modern world – unlimited opportunity with no time to take advantage of it all.

In the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, Cain questions the most important moral imperative of all time, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” That thought is antithetical to everything I have ever known and I thank my parents for teaching me the most valuable lesson of all time, we are all our brother’s keepers. The quality of our lives is inextricably connected to the world at large and we are all responsible for making the world the best it can be for everyone. Selfishness and isolation have created more problems than any disease in history. We have to help each other and no one is exempt from this imperative.

Sometimes it is all I can do to smile through the pain but I know it helps. Every act of kindness brings me closer to humanity and to God. Happiness and fulfillment aren’t guaranteed for any of us but the opportunity to make a difference is endless. I still look forward to each new day and a hundred new problems to solve. I may not be smiling every minute of the day but my heart is in the right place and eventually I will get my reward when God smiles at me. I sincerely hope He does the same for all of you because you accepted His challenge to, “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

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“This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” (Elmer Davis)

Now that I have a grandson to nurture, I spend more time thinking about the future he will inherit. His world will be a world much different from mine and I sincerely hope it’s much better. I was born in the fifties, when the Cold War was so bad my dad built a bomb shelter in our basement. Years later I kidded him about that decision and how the thought of being cooped up in a bunker with my sister Karen was a fate worse than death, so I wouldn’t have gone down there even if the sirens went off. I was fully prepared to watch that mushroom cloud rise above the house while shooting hoops on the driveway. He would never admit it but I’m pretty sure he would have joined me.

I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Viet Nam War, the Oil Embargo, the Disco Era, the Aids Crisis, the end of the Cold War, the Gulf War, Y2K, the booming economy of the nineties, 9-11, the second Gulf War, the Great Recession, smartphones, social media, the death of journalism, nine years in the service of foster children and now I’m watching the final act from behind the counter in customer service at a huge grocery store. It’s been pretty much one struggle after another but in spite of all that, I still look forward to each new day and every new challenge.

In my estimation, that’s the American Dream that the Founding Fathers wanted everyone to have, the chance to keep trying no matter what the odds are against us. I know that sounds crazy but it’s not. Freedom is a choice we make each day with every decision. I am free to have whatever life I want but I have to work very hard to make it happen and there will always be difficulties. Nothing is guaranteed in a free society except opportunity. It’s the promise of opportunity that draws people from all over the world to come to America and give it their all. We are a nation of immigrants but historically we came here to become Americans and give up some of our ancestry. Many immigrants have changed their names upon arrival so as to minimize their foreign-born status and better assimilate into American culture. Again, freedom requires self-sacrifice more than anything else. We don’t get the former without the latter. How many sacrifices we are willing to make determines how much freedom we will continue to enjoy. It takes courage to achieve freedom but we have always been the home of the brave.

My grandson, Granger Thomas Horst, is going to grow up in a world where more people have the chance to be free than ever before in the history of the world. We must make sure that his chance isn’t taken from him by corrupt government, political dishonesty or extremism of any kind. I will do all I can to teach him to reason and be reasonable. I will do all I can to make him appreciate other people who seek the same basic things he does. I want him to always be willing to work with anyone to achieve the greatest good for all. I want him to have the courage of his convictions and be brave in the face of tyranny. I will teach him the lessons of history and the importance of learning from our mistakes. I will teach him to be kind to all of God’s creations and never waste His blessings. I will show him the value of the Golden Rule and the importance of self-sacrifice. I will teach him to disagree without being disagreeable. He will learn the importance of showing respect to others in spite of their differences. In short, I will teach him what it means to achieve the American Dream – freedom for all in proportion to the sacrifices we make together every day. The more he gives to the cause of freedom, the greater his freedom will be. Maybe, if he’s lucky and really listens to his grandpa, he might grow up to be president some day. That’s my American Dream, what’s yours?

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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