Over the past couple of years, the partisanship and resulting animus between political sides has increased to a level that makes me wonder if our country will ever be all right. Politicians have managed to fracture the very fabric that makes American democracy so wonderful. They’ve managed to so polarize us so that we no longer can be civil to one another. I don’t care about the politics any more. The most important thing is for the American people to be kind to one another and to join forces for the common defense and good of the U.S.A. Therefore, I’m challenging each person who reads this and asking them to challenge at least one other person.
Each of us needs to find someone to help. These days, that shouldn’t be such a difficult undertaking. The individual that we search out shouldn’t be a family member or friend. Instead, the subjects for our projects should be folks we either don’t know at all or only know in passing. Yes, co-workers that are not well known can be included.
We don’t want to announce to them that we are about to help them with some situation. No, our goals are to get to know our choices well enough to know what they might need. Doing that will require a great deal of work. We have to spend time with folks enough to discover what areas of their lives need our help. Now, by help, I am not at all suggesting that we interject our opinions on what person should or shouldn’t do or what that we impose our values on them. No, we simply need to find people that we don’t know well and change that situation.
Once we’ve become familiar with those people, our goals are to find ways to offer help to them. Oh, yes, some people won’t need anything, and if that arises, we should choose someone else. For a block of individuals, financial help might be the key issue. Others could possibly need emotional support as they struggle with some area in their lives. Perhaps the most important help for others is simply having someone who will listen.
What is most important about this exercise is that each person who initiates it should observe the differences that his actions make. Does the one helped feel better? Does a friendship blossom? What things are learned by both people involved? Finally, has the act of reaching out to another person made a difference in how he is perceived?
This exercise takes a little effort and time. The benefits might be unmeasurable. In either case, I hope that we all might learn to be a bit more patient and empathetic with those whom we try to help. Who knows? We might help heal the great divide that now eats away at our country.
If you are brave enough to accept this challenge, let me know how it turns out. You can remain anonymous, but send an email to joerector@comcast.net to let me know how things went…good or bad.


Ah, young love thrives in the halls of high schools around the country. I’ve seen so many couples in the hallways and common areas. Their actions aren’t much different from those of generations that preceded them.
Back in the day, boys discovered females who would pay them brief moments of attention. Freshmen boys still struggled with that awkward physical time when their bodies were growing and their voices were squeaking. Most of them had just recently realized that the other sex existed, and their
fascination and preoccupation with them was intense.
Newly formed couples walked the halls of school tightly holding hands. Females looked comfortable with boyfriends in tow. However, those males traveled on stilted legs and with heads bowed and nerves on edge. They feared that a group of their friends would spy them and begin the teasing. Yelling at them or catcalling were common acts intended to embarrass. In reality, those who harassed were simply jealous of their friends who’d found girlfriends.
Boys walked their honeys to each class, and they were willing to be late for their own and to suffer the consequences. They ate lunch together and sat so close that one seat was all they needed. The couple looked cow-eyed at each other. Girls patted the boys’ legs and males made clumsy attempts to softly brush back locks of hair from females’ faces. Anyone who might catch a glimpse of them was subject to feeling just a bit nauseated at their actions.
In past generations, punishment for PDA (public displays of affection) was swift. Only the bravest of souls dared to exchange hugs. Rarely did a couple kiss goodbye between classes. Teachers tolerated not even a minute of such foolishness.
Sock hops gave young folks the chance to legally hold each other tight, and if the lights were turned down low enough, they might even kiss. They looked forward to slow dancing to such songs as “My
Girl” or “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” and the dance ended with “Stand by Me.” Because they were too young to drive, they stood in front of the school and draped themselves around each other until parents came to pick them up.
What stands out most about young couples was the power dynamic. Females definitely ruled the roost. The boy was so thrilled to have a girlfriend that the acquiesced to whatever she desired. In fact, the boy always seemed to walk a step behind her, and others instantly commented that the male looked more like a whipped puppy following its master than an equal in a relationship.
At some point, these romances faded and then died. The girls usually grew tired of the immaturity of the freshman boys and looked in greener pastures for upperclassmen. To their surprise, even older boys displayed the same streaks of immaturity. The females decided that they “could change” their boyfriends into individuals who were more to their liking. That tactic rarely worked as older boys just didn’t have any desire to be “whipped into shape.”
Decades later, women are still dealing with males the same way. We men still have a bit of immaturity inside, and our partners work tirelessly to rid us of it. They are still in charge in the relationship; men have seen the job of being boss and want no part of it. However, the spark that appeared so long ago is still present, and we men experience the same awkward feelings about those special girls whom we have loved so long. It’s an older, deeper, more comfortable love, but it burns just a brightly as ever.


Anyone who catches even a glimpse of me immediately recognizes the fact that I’m not much of a dresser. Neither am I in the least bit interested in the latest fashions. So, it would surprise no one that I balked at the wearing the pair of jeans my wife brought home the other day. She told me to try them on, and when I did, they were so tight around the legs that I felt smothered. Amy explained that the
pair was tight-fitting in the legs. My legs are so skinny that folks have made jokes about them for years, so it was not surprise that I wasn’t at all interested in wearing them to accentuate that characteristic. The truth is I’ve never been able to wear the nicest, most popular clothing items.
My brother was nearly four years older, and when he was in high school, guys wore peg-legged pants. They were so tight in the legs that just pulling them over feet was a difficult task. However, the look was stylish, and Dal wore them. Jim and I, on the other hand, had no chance of owning such a pair. We both possessed round body shapes, and mine was more so than his. To get a pair of jeans or pants big enough in the waist required buying “husky” cuts.
That term was code for “fat boy” jeans. Wearing them with such skinny legs would have made us look like lollipops. Our pants were big, and the seats and legs were baggy.
Only during my senior year did my body change. Some of it was due to maturity; the other part was the result of surviving on a diet of cigarettes, cokes, and peanut butter, mayonnaise and mustard sandwiches. Even though I lost several pounds, I didn’t buy new clothes. Instead, pants that were too large were cinched up with a belt. The look wasn’t good, but I survived.
In college, I owned a couple of trendier items, and my shoes were in style, even though they hurt my
feet. Jeans were the rage, and most folks wore earth shoes. I sported a bush jacket with a belt that always hung loose. No girls came rushing up to me because I was dressed so well, but that was all right since my pursuits were aimed at studying to make sure I earned a college degree and to perform better than I’d done in high school. Okay, I suppose it would have been nice if I’d made an impression, but I lucked out my senior year when I met Amy, and by then, I wore regular stuff without regard to the latest fashion demands.
Since Amy and I married, she has become the one who chooses my clothes. Left to me, my wardrobe would consist of sweat pants, t-shirts, and tennis shoes. My wife thinks that, on occasion, a better mode of dress should include a pair of slacks that aren’t so old that the ends are frayed and, at the minimum, a polo shirt that hasn’t faded to a color different from the original. She’s given up on my wearing a tie or a suit. I reserve the right to wear those things only for the most special occasions and for funerals.
So, Amy returned the tight-legged jeans without bringing home a different pair of slacks. That’s fine with me. The pairs I already have are comfortable and plenty good enough to wear most places. On my return home each day, I rush to once again put on my shorts and worn out t-shirts. It’s only then that I am suitably dressed. Oh, and those items are from places like Walmart or Costco. I’m not trying to make an impression on anyone these days. Comfort is more important.


I walked into the workroom early the first day of school after Labor Day because I like to arrive early to find out what I’m supposed to do for the day as a substitute. Some teachers were already present and readying their rooms for students in 7:00 a.m. classes. Others arrived a bit later until all were on hand by 8:00. So began another day of educating the young, but these teachers today have much more piled on them than just a few years ago.
No, this isn’t a piece that bemoans the salaries we pay our teachers. Yes, they are underpaid, but most of them knew the low wages of the job before they went into the profession. That doesn’t make it right, but I see other things that are discouraging.
One is the expectations of teachers to perform extra duties. Bus duty has long been something that teachers despise. It required them to arrive even earlier than normal and to stay until the last bus
arrives to pick up students. If a bus breaks down, those teachers must remain with the waiting students until another type of transportation can arrive. On many occasions, administrators might have already headed home as the teacher hangs around with bus riders.
Some teachers are expected to serve lunch duty roles. They make sure students don’t act up and that
they clear their tables of all trash and trays. It’s shocking how many students will walk from the table with the expectations that someone else cleans their messes. I always wonder if they do the same thing at home but know that the answer is “yes.”
In some schools, teachers are required to stay in touch with parents about a variety of things. When students miss a set number of days, the teacher is required to call the parent to inform them that the
child has missed days. Yes, parents need to know when their children miss excessive numbers of days, but calling after three or four takes more time from teachers. It’s a redundant task since most schools have programs that automatically call home when a child misses a school day.
Teachers are also expected to call homes when students’ grades become D’s or F’s. Parents’ knowing about poor performances of their children is important. However, they have access to the grades of students through the school’s computer platform. All that is necessary is for them to get on line and look. If they have questions or concerns about the grades, then they can contact the teacher for a meeting or conversation. The onus of responsibility for the child’s maintaining a passing grade should fall upon the parents, not the teachers.
Most teachers have large classes. For a high school teacher, that can mean 120 or more students per term. Tests and essays and worksheets must be graded. A single planning period is not enough time to complete the grading, especially when teachers must sometimes meet with administrators or cover other classes. That means they spend hours marking those papers at home.
The fact is that teachers work hard. Oh sure, some are lazy and rarely hit a lick, but for the most part, teachers put in plenty of energy and time to make sure students are exposed to concepts of classes. When additional duties and tasks are added, the job can become overwhelming. Again, most teachers knew what they were headed for when they accepted a job. Still, it would be nice if they could teach classes without having to complete so many other assigned duties. Give a teacher a thank you for the work that he or she does. Then make sure your child takes advantage of the opportunities to learn and be ready to face the college or technical school that waits in the future.