“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they suppress.” (Frederick Douglass)

As we gather together today for the Fourth of July parties we all enjoy so much, I sincerely hope we all take a moment to appreciate the historical significance of this great day in the history of the world. Here’s a list of some of the people who made this celebration possible…Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton, Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll, Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean, Robert Paine, Elbridge Gerry, William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn, Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton, George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton, William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris, Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery, Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark, Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott, Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross, Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, and Matthew Thornton.

How many of us recognized those names as some of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence? I left out the famous ones we all know because I wanted to make a larger point about American history. The men I listed weren’t famous then and they’re not famous now but they made the same sacrifice as John Hancock, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Samuel Adams.

There were fifty-six men who represented the thirteen colonies who all agreed to attach their names to a document that effectively declared war on Great Britain and King George III. Here’s an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence that lists all the grievances the colonists had with the King.

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

When you read these charges you have to remember King George III was one of the most powerful people in the whole world at the time. No one had ever brought charges against the King, and lived to talk about it, before 1776. When this same document got printed in England how do you suppose he reacted to fifty-six colonists calling him a tyrant? His reaction was completely tyrannical because he sent more mercenaries to quell the rebellion. Every grievance they had became much worse and they all became enemies of the crown. These were ordinary people who risked everything they had to create something so extraordinary that it changed the world forever.

Tyranny was and still is a real threat for most of humanity. Since none of us alive today, who were born in the US of A, have ever experienced real tyranny it’s easy to forget the sacrifices the founders made on our behalf. The Declaration of Independence followed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation are the two most important statements about the rights of humanity ever recorded and both of them are the product of the American people. That’s our legacy for all of human history and, I would argue, the greatest achievements of mankind ever. America gave the world liberty and the unfettered opportunity to rise above the darkness of despotism. Lincoln gave this testament to the value of the Declaration of Independence…                                                                                           “I think the authors of that notable instrument intended to include all men, but they did not mean to declare all men equal in all respects. They did not mean to say all men were equal in color, size, intellect, moral development, or social capacity. They defined with tolerable distinctness in what they did consider all men created equal—equal in ‘certain inalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ This they said, and this they meant. They did not mean to assert the obvious untruth that all were then actually enjoying that equality, or yet that they were about to confer it immediately upon them. In fact, they had no power to confer such a boon. They meant simply to declare the right, so that the enforcement of it might follow as fast as circumstances should permit. They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society which should be familiar to all, constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even, though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people, of all colors, everywhere.”

I’m proud to be an American and I always will be because freedom is worth everything I have to give. I would rather be dead than give in to tyranny and I suspect that most Americans feel the same way. The fact that so many people are trying to come here is all the proof I need to believe that we are the greatest country on Earth and as long as we hold on to the same values declared by the founders we will overcome any obstacles that come our way. America will never be perfect but it’s a damn sight better than any other place on Earth because we keep trying to make it better. Freedom isn’t easy, liberty takes all we’ve got and a true democracy requires everyone to pull their own weight. The founders laid the foundation and we just have to keep building on it.

So please, by all means, enjoy the Fourth of July with your family and friends. It is the most significant day in American history and the day that changed the whole world for eternity. It doesn’t get any better than that. And just remember, even ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things.

©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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“We all need somebody to lean on…” (Bill Withers)

I need a new challenge. Nine years of working in the foster care system was challenging but it was pretty much the same sad story over and over again with no end in sight. That was hard work but it only really tested my patience, not my problem-solving skills. I need a job that makes me think and pushes me to test the limits of my ability. It would also be great if it helped people in tangible ways. Most of the work I did in foster care was unresolved and I never knew what happened to those kids. I gave it my all but I have virtually nothing to show for it.

I need a new mission. I’m old, so my days are numbered for making a difference in the world at large. I would like a job that serves a purpose and still leaves me time to serve the community. Being on-call 24/7 for nine years left me with no time for community service or just being a good neighbor. Now, when I’m out walking the dog, I pick up trash around the neighborhood and at the grade school down the street. I want my street to look nice so I try to do my part but I could walk farther and explore new streets. Regular hours would also give me more time to stop and talk to people when I’m out for a walk.

I need a new cause. I’m getting a grandson in August. I would like him to grow up to be President of the United States some day so I have a lot of training to do with him. He needs to hear about the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Founders and the history of the U.S. since 1776. He needs to learn how to bring people together and the art of compromising to achieve the greatest good. He needs to learn the importance of kindness and compassion and that we are all our brother’s keepers. He needs to sweat and get his hands dirty so he understands the value of hard work and discipline. He needs to not be a politician who only cares about himself. I’m going to make him understand that public service is about serving others first.

I need a new goal. It’s never been enough for me to just keep living. I would rather be dead if all I had to look forward to was breathing and watching television. I think it would be great if I could help the next generation become successful by helping them get through the school of hard knocks. I’ve crashed and burned so many times that I’ve lost count but all those experiences are still with me and they would make great lessons for  the young people out there who are just starting their careers. I’m pretty good at telling stories and making a valid point. I hope I get the chance to share my experiences.

I need your help. If you are an old friend or just a fan of this site, please help me by leaving a comment. Given how often social media is used as part of the vetting process by employers and this is the only form of social media I use, it would seem likely that whoever might consider hiring me will end up here. I’m not asking for high praise, just honest reactions to the things I have written about here on WordPress. If you know me personally, then go ahead and share your experience. If we worked together in the past, then tell that story and please be truthful.

I need to work. I am happiest when I’m engaged in something difficult. This blog has kept me motivated for many years now but it’s still not enough. Aside from comments and new friends I have made, there’s nothing really tangible I can take from this career. I need to see my ripples of effort become waves of benefit to some new organization. That’s what makes me happy and gives meaning to my life.

In short, we all need each other to lean on.

©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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“Good for the body is the work of the body, good for the soul the work of the soul and good for either the work of the other.” (Henry David Thoreau)

So, it turns out, I suck at something most people think of as their greatest achievement, early retirement. Mine lasted four days. The first day I was just tired. On the second day, I was just tired all over again so I guess that’s the definition of retired. By the third day, I was not looking forward to being retired anymore. It was more like panic at the realization that retirement was the antithesis of everything I had ever done.

As I pondered my fate, I wondered if retirement was good for me. I started working when I was ten. I looked forward to going to work for every day of my life. Having something important to do has made me happy and hopeful even when life was hard. I don’t believe God put me here to do anything less than whatever I can. I exist to serve others because to do any less would be a wasted life. Then I prayed. All I said was, “Show me the way Lord and I will follow.”

My prayer was answered by two old friends who both needed help with their small businesses. Now I’m busy five or six days a week cleaning houses and mowing lawns. Some of you might be wondering why someone of my age would ever want to do those jobs but to me all work has meaning. It’s not what we do that matters, it’s how we do it. I take great pride in cleaning things like refrigerators and stoves or trimming a nice lawn. The importance of hard work as it applies to my self-esteem is immeasurable. I spent nine years working with foster children and I have virtually nothing tangible to show for it except my own conviction that I did all that I could.

I work for myself and everything I do has value. It doesn’t matter to me whether anyone else ever recognizes it. If that makes me the odd man out then so be it but conformity has never been high on my list of goals. This blog has value to me even though it has never generated one penny of profit. I write to inspire myself and to push my brain to keep expanding.  If I didn’t go out every day and experience the world firsthand, I wouldn’t have much to write about and then retirement would be a death sentence of monotony. I fear boredom more than a heart attack.

Jesus only lived thirty-three years and every minute of His existence was spent serving others. He had no real possessions but every word He spoke has been cherished a million times over. He left an inheritance that far outweighs all the billionaires who ever existed. He had nothing but He gave everything. He is the standard that I live by and why I keep working. When I breath my last breath, then my work will be done. Between now and then, there are a whole lot of stoves that need my help.

I just have one great failing and I’m sorry Jesus but I don’t do feet.

©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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“Seen my share of broken halos…” (Chris Stapleton)

Nine years, six months and twenty-two days. That’s how long my career in foster care lasted, but it ended yesterday. It hurts to admit it, but I gave up. The light at the end of the tunnel, that I fervently believed in for so many years, never got any bigger or closer and the darkness defeated me. I don’t know for sure that I achieved anything except moments of temporary relief for thousands of kids. That’s not nearly enough for someone like me.

My goal was to make a difference for kids who were given a very bad deal in the game of life. I wanted to be the one they could turn to when it was really sad and everything was going against them. I thought it was going to be my next mission in life and a great way to spend my later years. I have some wonderful memories to take with me but my mission never had a chance. I was trying to bail out the boat with a teaspoon while in the middle of a hurricane. I kept bailing for nine years. Only Noah would understand.

Now I’m left with regret but not remorse. I gave it all I ever had but I failed to complete my mission. I can live with that reality because nobody ever tried harder to help these kids. Some times it’s the effort that counts, not the outcome. And yes, I know positively there are some kids walking around today because my driving skills actually saved their lives. You don’t want to know those stories and I’m still trying to forget how close we came to a tragic ending.

After all the emotional turmoil I went through on my last day with the organization I was blessed to have my granddaughter to turn to for comic relief. I spent the evening with her and she always makes me laugh. When I told her I brought her favorite chocolate chip cookies she got very excited and said, “That’s great but can we hide them from mom and dad?” I assured her that we had plenty and I could always make more. She had a huge smile on her face when she said, “You’re the best, grandpa.”

I’m never going to give up on my mission to help children. In fact, I’m lobbying the state legislature to change the judicial system so that these kids can use video chat to make their court appearances whenever possible. Taking children all over the state so they can be reminded how little they matter when their parents don’t bother to show up is not a good practice and I’m the guy who is going to fight the system to get that changed. I’m going to keep asking that question until the legislator’s ears bleed. We already do this with adult criminals so somebody needs to find out why our innocent children aren’t given the same treatment. That would be me.

Here’s the summation of all that I learned from foster care. Thousands of kids are desperate for OUR help. Every state government is overwhelmed with too many kids and too few resources. It’s a Band-Aid, for a gaping wound, approach. WE ALL have to do more. WE should ALL be ashamed to call ourselves mature adults if WE allow this travesty to continue unabated. OUR money and OUR time are absolutely critical to the mission of foster care and broken families. WE have a choice to make and the deadline is looming. WE can either rise to the occasion and help these kids or WE can start building more prisons and shelters for the future when the tsunami hits because WE didn’t do enough now. WE live in America. WE always rise to the occasion. WE can do this.

I think I feel better now.

©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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“Help me if you can, I’m feeling down…” (Lennon & McCartney)

In all my years on this planet, there is one thing I am absolutely certain has never happened. No one has ever used the word extrovert to describe me. Writing this blog is the most extroverted thing I have ever done and it still surprises me how much I enjoy it. On the other hand, I’m not really introverted either because I love to talk to people. Maybe I should clarify that statement. I love to talk to strangers.

How this happened is still a mystery to me but I could offer a theory. As the youngest of three children in my family, I was the low man on the totem pole when it came to family discussions around the dinner table and I was competing for time with two older sisters who were extremely bright and communicative. If that wasn’t bad enough, my sister Karen took it upon herself to see that I never uttered an opinion that wasn’t tested for its validity and usefulness to the family. I quickly learned that fewer words were better around the queen of speech. It just wasn’t worth the effort to defend every last word against the monarchy. I’m just glad flogging was outlawed in the nineteenth century.

I think my parents were smart enough to see that this family dynamic wasn’t particularly good for my development and they looked for ways to encourage me outside the family circle. When I turned sixteen, my dad gave me the keys to the car and told me to go make deliveries for his printing business. I was getting paid to drive so I jumped at the chance but the hardest part was meeting new people every day. He sent me to all the clients offices and expected me to keep every customer happy with my winning personality and his good work. His work was way better than my personality but I slowly improved with a lot of encouragement from some very nice customers, who were mostly women as it happens. The one I remember the best was Jean Jones at Dodson Insurance. She was the office manager and the office was filled with women who were all moving papers from one side of the desk to the other. The first time I walked into this huge room full of females, they all stopped and stared at me like I was a lost puppy. As I recall, the only word that seemed totally appropriate for that moment was, “Help?” They all laughed and returned to their typewriters with big smiles. Jean came over immediately and shook my hand like she had known me all her life. She walked with me and introduced me to all the people who might need me in the future and everybody made me feel better about my choice of words. The lesson learned was that one well-chosen word is better than a long speech any day. That made a lasting impression on me and I will always be thankful to Jean Jones for her kindness in my most desperate moment.

As I think back on the thousands of meetings I have attended and strangers I have had to connect with, I am struck by the friendliness people have shown me. The wonderful people far outnumber the disagreeable ones and most of those initial greetings turned into friendships. I realize now that I was blessed with the ability to find the right words for the moment more often than not. That has certainly helped me develop the creative writing skills needed to blog with any degree of success. I’m not famous by any stretch of the imagination but people keep coming here every day and I keep finding new thoughts to share with a worldwide audience. I’m lucky to have finally found my voice.

I am concerned, however, that really good communication skills aren’t being taught any longer anywhere. Social media feels like an oxymoron to me because it’s anything but social. Internet enabled anonymity is antithetical to good communication and frankly it seems anti-social. I meet kids in foster care every week who are suffering from hurtful comments that someone they don’t know made about them. When I suggest they look elsewhere for validation and affirmation they just shrug their shoulders in resignation. Social media has become an addiction for these kids and the negative side effects are beyond my imagination. The worst day I ever had as a child pales in comparison to every day these kids suffer through.

In ten years of working with foster kids I have come to the realization that human contact is the most critical aspect of positive childhood development. Those of us who belong to the older generation owe it to the younger generation to reach out to them any way we can. Every kid that spends time with me gets my full attention and my ability to find the right words. They see my face and hear the tone in my voice and they know I care about them. Words on a screen can’t do that. Facebook algorithms are great at making people money but they are lousy at making people happy. Nothing can replace the human heart when it comes to real humanity. All of the effort we put into keystrokes needs to be replaced with an equal number of touches on the souls of children. There is no greater need in the world today than to help children grow into loving and kind adults. So the next time you get the chance to engage in conversation with a child please try to remember these great lyrics from John Lennon and Paul McCartney….

 Help me if you can, I’m feeling down

And I do appreciate you being round
Help me, get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me

This is how every child alive today feels and only you can be the help they need so much. Just put down your phone and smile at every child you meet. I promise, you will be amazed by how many likes you receive.

©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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“Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.” (Eric Hoffer)

In my work with foster children I spend most of my day dealing with people who aren’t happy and that’s putting it nicely. The system exists to help children and their dysfunctional families but achieving that goal is a painful process for all concerned. I’m not part of the case management side but I am directly involved in the pain mitigation aspect of foster care. I get to deal with children at their lowest point in life. It’s tough.

Yesterday, I was scheduled to take a teenage boy to court two hours away for his probation hearing. I took him to his last court date and it was a long drive home that required my best counseling skills to keep him from making it even worse. Yesterday was much better for him and for me. He’s in a much better place now and we had a good day together, all things considered.

The part I want to focus on in today’s blog is the amazing person I met yesterday. Her name is Kim and she works at the local high school where I picked up the boy. I’m not going to give out any other information about her because I don’t want her to be overwhelmed with people trying to become her friend. She’s too valuable just the way she is and I wouldn’t want her to have to change anything about her life because I happened to make her famous. If you know her already, you know why I’m trying to protect her. She’s one in a billion.

In my fifty years of work experience I have encountered literally thousands of people who could be called receptionists, if that’s still an acceptable description. Kim is the best one I have ever met. If there was a Receptionist Hall of Fame she would get my vote. This woman has more positive people skills than anyone I can think of and she made me feel great on our very first encounter. The boy I was with confirmed everything I thought was true and he said she’s that way with everybody all the time. That’s amazing.

Meeting people for the first time requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. I always look for clues about that person that might help me start a conversation. Things like family photos on their desk, their speech pattern, the way they dress and other trivial information is important to me because I may need their help and I want to earn their faith in me. Kim and I instantly connected. Her smile was all the information I needed to reassure me that I was with the right person. We just started talking like long lost friends and fifteen minutes later we were still sharing. I can count on one hand the number of people in my life who have had that experience with me. I even married one of them.

The most important thing I want my readers to realize about Kim and all the other wonderful people out there in the real world is this – she makes herself happy by putting others first and her kindness is contagious. That’s a choice she makes every day. It’s not an act, it’s her belief system and she genuinely cares about everyone she meets. Her positive nature is reflected back to her by the many positive reactions she gets in return. That’s the simplest formula for a wonderful life, just smile and be nice. She made my day and now she gets to be added to the Grhgraph Hall of Fame. Congratulations Kim, I hope we meet again and soon.

©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 best servant does his work unseen.” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.)

In my work with foster children I occasionally team up with police officers. My part usually starts long after the 9-1-1 call was made that instigated the police presence. I’m called on to take children away from the scene of the crime and help them begin their journey through the foster care system. From my perspective, law enforcement officers have the toughest job on the planet and I have nothing but respect for everything they do. We should all be grateful that these kind people exist to help the rest of us.

I can barely imagine what it’s like to do a job that is a disaster waiting to happen. Every day, these men and women put their own lives in harm’s way for the chance to help someone they don’t even know. They experience everyone else’s pain on a level that would make most of us run the other way and for their efforts they get threatened, spat upon and vilified by people who have no firsthand experience with the world they work in. The underworld of criminal behavior is a terrifying place filled with people who reject every rule and do whatever they want without regard for consequences. And the scariest part, for me at least, is that these bad people have children.

Police officers who deal with domestic abuse have to be deeply affected by the crimes against children that are becoming more and more common. I have never been to the scene of the crime but I’ve heard their stories about the conditions the children were dealing with at home. I don’t ever want to see that. I couldn’t handle that much brutal reality and I don’t know how they process those emotions, especially when it comes to their own children. Working in foster care for ten years has weighed me down emotionally more than any other experience I have ever had in my life but nothing I have done compares to the daily horrors of police work. I couldn’t do that job.

I try to put myself in their shoes when I hear the stories but it always hurts too much. Law enforcement is an occupation that requires dedication, extreme perseverance and emotional neutrality like nothing else. That’s a balancing act on the head of a pin and occasionally they fail to live up to our standards. The sad part is the reality that 99% of the time they do their jobs so well that we never hear about them because they actually prevent a lot of crimes from happening. If nothing bad happens because law enforcement did their job perfectly, that’s not the news the media wants to report but when they fail it’s all over the headlines. How would you like that kind of job? You do your job extremely well for years and get no recognition but on your worst day, when circumstances overwhelmed you, you get lit up like a Roman candle on the 4th of July.

The expectations the public places on law enforcement are beyond ridiculous. Perfection doesn’t exist in any occupation anywhere but these people are expected to get as close as possible every single day in a world where nobody else is playing by the rules. Criminals hate the laws of this country and they spend their days looking for ways to break the rules no matter what the penalties might be for their crimes. So, on the one hand we have a group of people who have zero interest in behaving in acceptable ways and another group who has to manage their bad choices with total perfection. The probability of that ending badly is off the charts. And then the rest of us get to voice our uniformed opinions of how it went down, after the fact. What other job comes close to that level of impossibility?

Every time there’s another school shooting or tragedy where law enforcement looks bad in retrospect and the media is interviewing some bystander who did something heroic, I’m always dumbfounded by the inevitable question they ask the latest hero, “Why did you do it?” Just once I would like one of these instant heroes to give credit where credit its due by saying something along these lines, “I only did what had to be done. I am not a hero in the truest sense of the word. I did something heroic one time. All of these police officers are heroic every single day. Maybe we should ask them why they do it? But the real question to ask is this. Why are there so few people like them who are willing to sacrifice everything they have to help others and so many people like the rest of us who aren’t willing to sacrifice much at all? That should be your headline.”

©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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