“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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“You will know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (Jesus)

I just finished reading an article about Tim Berners-Lee who is widely credited with creating the internet in 1989. Apparently, he’s not too happy with the way it turned out and the fact that so much power is concentrated in the hands of a few companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook. He is currently working on a new platform called Solid, that will effectively give individual users control over their own content and data. I sincerely hope he succeeds because what we have now is being corrupted by bad actors whose business model consists of selling aggregated user data to the highest bidder without any constraints on how that information will be used. In my opinion, the internet as it exists today has done more harm than good, especially when it comes to children. I applaud Mr. Berners-Lee for his continuing efforts to make the internet something good for all of mankind. When the interviewer asked Mr. Berners-Lee whether he was talking to Facebook or Google about his plans that would upend their business models he made this most historic declaration, “We’re not asking their permission.”

This has given me more hope for the future of the world than anything I have ever read, except the Bible. Here is a man who clearly understands the value of an internet where the ability to control our own individual data and communicate directly with others would be placed in the hands of the greatest number of people possible rather than being a device that primarily benefits a few companies. The ability to share information equally among all people would be the greatest invention since the printing press and it could lead to a second Renaissance period of enlightenment that the world desperately needs right now. We should all support his efforts on our behalf and spread the word that this is what the people want, regardless of how it affects Google and Facebook.

The more we rely on direct communication with people across the world, the more likely we are to achieve compassion and understanding. When people finally realize how much disinformation and propaganda is being distributed by the ruling class in every country then we will be able to free ourselves from the rich and powerful who see the rest of us as useful idiots. I have long believed that the vast majority of people all over the world would get along fine if not for the hatred that is fomented by the ruling class to keep themselves in power. Fear based on ignorance is the best way to make people into sheep who can be herded in any direction at any time. If we had the ability to reach across international borders and speak clearly with each other, I’m sure we would find people who only want the same things we all want – to live in peace with our families close by and have a roof over our heads. Fear of the unknown would be very hard to maintain if we had control over our personal information and we weren’t subjected to the commercial demands of the service providers.

Now that Mr. Berners-Lee has announced his intentions, it will be interesting to see how the major players on the internet react. I can promise you they will not give up control without a fight and we will hear all kinds of disinformation from them about how well the current model already works and why there is no need for anything else. They will circle the proverbial wagons and do whatever it takes to maintain their dominance over us. Then we will all know for certain just how big the deception has been all along. If I was Tim Berners-Lee, I would hire a bodyguard because these players are ruthless and a truly free internet is their existential threat. The last human being who tried to free people’s minds and inspire understanding was Jesus. He only preached His gospel for three years before He was put to death by the ruling class for telling the truth about humanity. I only hope we have learned our lesson once and for all.

©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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“The dog’s name was Indiana.” (Dr. Henry Jones)

Anyone who is a fan of the Indiana Jones movies will remember this line from The Last Crusade. My son used it as inspiration when he named our dog Indiana. No dog ever lived up to his reputation better than our beloved family pet. I’m very sad to announce that Indy was put down today after a six month battle with cancer. He was probably around twelve years old but we don’t know his birth date because he came to us from the shelter after someone else gave up on him when he was very young.

I  can still remember the first time we met. He was quiet but alert and anxious around his new family. We suspected that he had been abused as a puppy because he was extremely aggressive and territorial. The first time I hugged my wife, as I was leaving the house, Indy came after me in no uncertain terms. He growled and nipped at my leg until I separated from her. It makes me think he had been in a home where there was domestic abuse and he thought it was his job to defend the woman from the man. That’s probably why they wanted to get rid of him. It always amazes me how people can treat animals so poorly and yet it’s somehow the animal’s fault when they act out. Whenever you combine the natural protective instincts of a German shepherd/collie mix with mistreatment and little socialization, the end result is fairly predictable and always the owner’s fault.

Indy was the most aggressive dog we have ever had but with his immediate family he was as lovable as a dog could get. Even at 65 pounds of muscle he fancied himself a lap dog and constantly tried to worm his way onto the couch to be close to his family. He never was more than three feet away from one of us at all times and even when he seemed to be asleep we couldn’t get past him to go outside or to another room without his prompt attention. He also hated it when I left for work and would guard the front door to keep me from leaving. If I tried to walk out the back, he would sprint to that door and bark at me as I left. His separation anxiety must have been contagious because we became inseparable and I looked forward to our evening walks after work with great anticipation.

With Indy’s intense nature and protective instincts our walks were always an adventure. He hated squirrels and cats and other dogs, especially the little yippy ones who always wanted to challenge him as we passed their yards. He almost killed a dachshund one day when that little idiot actually took the first bite. The fight was over in ten seconds with Indy pinning him to the ground and the dachshund crying for help. Indy even bit me as I tried to untangle them while the other dog’s owner stood by helplessly. At least she knew her dog had started the fight so she didn’t complain too much about the injuries he had suffered. I got Indy back on his leash and out of there as fast as I could and when we were out of sight, I gave him several treats for his decisive victory. We passed that house many times since but luckily that dumb dachshund survived and learned his lesson the hard way. Unfortunately for Indy, that was the day I decided he could never be off his leash and we had to use a choke collar to manage his aggression.

The only place Indy was ever allowed to roam freely was at the lake in Minnesota. The place was big enough and there were no cars so we felt safe giving him some freedom up there. The biggest danger there was from wildlife like skunks and bears. I really didn’t want to see him tangle with a skunk because I knew how that would end but he was great at keeping the bears away. He was plenty loud enough and fearless beyond words so I think the bears just kept their distance till he went home after a week. His personality really changed when he was at the lake. He was much more relaxed and all that freedom made him sleep better at night. The cold water and cool nights probably had an effect on him too because his thick dark coat was always hot in the summertime. He never wanted to leave the lake, but then again neither did we.

I don’t know what it is about dogs that I love so much but Indy was one of a kind. He loved to fight and wrestle but one time when he pinned me to the ground and stood there hovering over me he had the look of a predator. Two seconds later we were back to snuggling and he was licking my face but I never forgot what he was capable of doing. He was much closer to being the master but he willingly relinquished that title in favor of being part of the family. His willingness to place himself second always reminded me of the way Jesus lived His life and I think most dogs are closer to being genuinely faithful companions than many people I know.

If it’s true that all dogs go to Heaven then that’s where I want to go when I die. Give me an afterlife filled with faithful dogs and plenty of fields to run in and I will be eternally grateful. I really don’t think it’s just a coincidence that dog is just God spelled backwards. Dogs are the most forgiving creatures God ever created and they serve humanity in so many ways. And they do it all so willingly and with very little expectation. Isn’t that the way we should all behave towards each other?

I’m sad that Indy is no longer with us but 11 great years far outweighs one really bad day and we did not want him to suffer one more day than he had to, we owed him that much. For those of you who share my love for canines, please take a moment to give your mutt a hug and maybe an extra treat.  I sincerely hope that all dogs go to Heaven and we will all be together again in the Hereafter but for now let’s truly enjoy each day we have to spend with our pets. God bless all of them for the joy they bring to humans everywhere.

Thanks for everything Indy, you were the best friend any man has ever had.

004REST IN PEACE

©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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