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The ending of a year

This year, 2009, the beginning of a new year was a little different.

I ended last year in a violent way and in a very spiritual way. The violence was done on my body, a 9-inch incision and the removal of a tumor inside my stomach and another one outside the stomach.

The spiritual experience was the experience of a hospital stay and the reaction of the world around me to my individual ordeal.

I believe that every single member of my church wrote me, called me or visited me. (OK, so all 256 folks might not have, but 240 sure did!). I know that every relative I have who was able called and wrote me more than once.

I was inundated with love! I was totally unprepared for this outpouring of affection.

I try to be a nice guy but I know quite well that I am not a warm, loving individual. I am typically a little hard around the corners and I don't go out of my way to be polite and loving.

I tend to be a crusty, old man with a whole basket of opinions, gripes and complaints ... and I'm not the most patient individual with others who see the world differently than I do.

Still, somehow, I got showered with goodwill. Maybe I should use this situation to reassess the way that I live my life. Dare I try to make myself better or softer or more approachable?

I have friends who are much better people that I am. They truly care for other folks and constantly are doing good deeds for others. I feel way too self-conscious and awkward doing such stuff ... and besides, I'm a natural critic.

I always used to help a friend pick up charitable contributions for a variety of programs. What I noticed was that most of this stuff was junk and, in fact, most of it went to the dump -- and my friend paid the dump fees. The donors took their receipts and deducted these items as charitable contributions.

This wasn't the way things were supposed to work! I didn't want to perpetuate this system.

It's not that I do nothing. My dad and my early bosses were stern taskmasters. If I agreed to do something, my implied promise was to do the very best job that I could do. I've always tried to do this.

The problem that seems to arise is that my understanding of what needs to be done seldom agrees with the boss's idea of what needs to be done.

Most of my working life was spent teaching school or being a federal civil servant. There always were vast expanses of disagreement about what children needed and what federal programs were designed to do between my bosses and myself.

Usually, we were able to reach a workable compromise. Sometimes, the boss was as hard-headed as I was and things didn't work so well. I always seemed to manage an exceptional performance rating, although I also changed jobs often.

I agree that I have too much "I" in me. I have never really found out how to get around this problem.

In fact, it has been a wonderful asset to me. I've been able to charge in with fools and actually accomplish things while my wiser contemporaries waited for situations to change.

Of course, by the time situations change, so do the necessary corrections. Being brash and honestly expressing my opinions has, in the long run, been a plus.

And yet, at times it has caused me pain and suffering. But, let's face it, pain and suffering are a natural part of life ... can anyone totally escape pain and suffering?

So, I think I'm stuck with the facts of my imperfections, my rough edges, my intuitive nature and general distrust of facts and logic. I'll continue to stick my foot in my mouth at times ... and I'll endeavor to be truthful, if not wise.

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