You’re Damn Right there’s a Santa Claus

As a child, as a very young child, I struggled in many ways, but mostly academically. By grade four I was labeled and placed in a class for special needs children. My classmates that year were among the most disadvantaged and challenged of children, those you would call severely handicapped, or retarded. It was not taken in to account that I had hurdles and obstacles to overcome that your average child did not, like not speaking until I was almost six because I had a tube in my throat. No, I don’t think I was ever slow, or mentally handicapped, like I was labeled over the years, I think I was late out of the gate. I was playing catch up from day one.

Why am I telling you all this? Simple, I am telling you this to tell you why we should foster in children the belief that they can become whatever they want. I am telling you this because I think you should know what happens when the opposite is instilled in a child.

I was told from a very young age all the things I would never be. I would never be an oceanographer, I would never be a paleontologist, I would never be anything that required an education. That’s right I would never be a Writer either. Teachers, family members, friends, everyone was so damn sure I would never amount to anything. Thing is, as a child I began to believe this garbage.

I was returned to mainstream education in grade five. The Special-Ed teacher, (Mr. Cooper) was perhaps the first adult to show any faith in my ability. He recognized that I did not belong in his class. Unfortunately the damage had been done. I never saw the point of getting an education. Future teachers continued to doubt my abilities and not expect very much from me. I dropped out of school. I never became any of the things I could have been. As much as I accept the blame, there is also a finger to be pointed at all those people that applied labels and crushed those early dreams. All those people who called me stupid, made fun of my slow speech and my deep voice, all those people that said I couldn’t, I’m here to tell you I can and I could have probably done it sooner if I didn’t believe you.

You see that’s the problem, if we are told something and it is reinforced it becomes an accepted fact in our minds. We start to believe the crap other people say about us. Negativity begins to infect our thoughts. This is especially true for children who look to us adults. There is a big difference between preparing a child for the realities of the world and crushing their dreams.

Naysayers be damned to the darkest corner of hell if you ever crush a child’s dreams. Doesn’t Life do this enough to us, do we really need to assist it. There will be time enough to crush the hopes and dreams of a person. Leave children alone. Let them believe. The magic of being a child is in believing anything is possible. Once we’ve taken that away, they are just sad adults in small bodies.

A short man can’t play basketball- Muggsy Bogues might dispute you. He was only five foot three and he played in the NBA. If Muggsy listened to all you people out there that would say he couldn’t play basketball the NBA would have been deprived of one of its most exciting talents.

If an immigrant wants to be President, it’s not that they can’t ever be President; it’s that they would have to overcome certain barriers, hurdles and obstacles before they did, which might include constitutional reform. It’s unlikely, but it could be done. The only place anything cannot be done is in your own mind and that is the best place for it to stay.

All things are possible, they just have to be scaled by probability and a realistic dose of what is required in achieving ones goals.

You know what anyone can amount to something if we don’t discourage them from doing so. It took me forty years to get over the damage inflicted by all those early naysayers and those who negatively impacted my life through their own inadequacies. It took me forty years to get over their opinions of me and to relegate their opinions to the scrapheap of worthless opinions. Negative people project their own inadequacies on others. Just because you couldn’t, or you can’t doesn’t mean someone else can’t, or would you have your children live your own failures.

You know, I wish people would let children be children. What’s the hurry to make them grow up? Are we that unhappy in our own lives that we need someone to share our misery with?

Choices; a Tale of Two Roads

This journey, my friend is life,
This road we walk is one we pave,
This fork in the road is of our making
And we are forced to make a decision,
Do we take the high road, or the low road?

We can give in and take the easy way,
The one that offers the least resistance,
The one that avoids the difficulty of doing the right thing,
Or we can take the high road,
And trudge as gravity tries to push us back down

If you are not conflicted and entangled
In a jungle of emotion,
That sometimes chokes off light,
Then, my friend, you have chosen the low road
And that road leads no where

If on the other hand, you slog through bog,
Are caught in thick undergrowth
And shadows cross your path,
Then my friend you have chosen the high road
And though your efforts might not be recognized,
You have made the right choice,
Your reward will be a clean conscious
And a friend found in the man in the glass

T J Therien

Curriculum from the School of Hard Knox

When I was young, around fourteen, or fifteen, I was sitting in the mall having a smoke, because we could smoke in the malls in those days. You could pretty much smoke anywhere in those days. Anyway, I was sitting in the mall, outside a music store, smoking a cigarette.

I was sitting there smoking, when I saw this guy. He was a few years older than I was back then. He was your average looking rocker dude, with long greasy hair and the Led Zeppelin t-shirt. I didn’t know the guy from Adam. He walks into the music store and picks up a guitar and starts playing. The guy could play.

So he plays a couple of little rifts and then he proceeds to stroll out of the store, strumming away on the guitar, completely natural and nonchalant. I watch as he walks calmly by me. He smiles and nods and winks in my direction. He knows I’m in the know.

I put out my cigarette and lit another. I had a habit of chain smoking back then. I was almost done my second smoke when the salesman from the music store came running out all frantic, looking this way and that. Obviously he was looking for the guy that just stole the guitar.

“Did you see anyone run by here with a guitar?” The salesman asked me with panic in his voice.

“Nope, didn’t see anyone running while I’ve been sitting here,” I said honestly.

I did not lie. The guy that stole the guitar was not running, he walked, nonchalant, through the mall, playing the guitar as he went. The salesman went back into the store. I put out my smoke and went back down to the pool hall in the basement of the mall. That was where I hung out back then.

This memory has stayed with me for the last thirty odd years. I have gleaned a great many lessons from this incident. Initially I learned that acting casual is the best way to get away with something. Act as if you are doing nothing wrong and everything is as it should be. This was an important lesson for a thug that straddled the law. I also learned you can tell the truth without being honest.

Later, as I would recall that incident, I gleaned other truths, mostly about honesty, because while I did not lie, I did not tell the truth. As I got older, I wondered if that sales clerk was on the hook for the price of the guitar and if so how that could have impacted his life. He lived off commission, so not only wouldn’t he have had a sale, but would have been saddled with the cost of a guitar, which was still in the $300-600 range, even back then. I am relatively sure the thief did not steal a low-end guitar; he seemed to know a thing or two about guitars.

Thirty odd years later I still remember the guy that stole the guitar because it was an important life lesson for me and continues to be. It still befuddles me why someone thought it would be a good idea to put a high-end music store in a mall that was in a low-income neighborhood?

T J Therien