THE MORAL IMPERATIVE

EBOLA—the mere mention of it brings on waves of panic, fear, and anger. The onslaught of the disease also vividly highlights the failures of governments throughout the world to combat the disease. What we’re left with is a scary, uncertain situation.
Most of us in this country hadn’t heard, nor had we much cared, about the disease until the last few months. Only when Americans fell ill with the outbreak did our ears perk up even a bit. The two individuals returned home and were cured; that’s what all expected, and so, unaffected, we returned to the more important things in life like  paying the mortgage, planning football parties for the weekend, and looking forward to our next “toy” purchases.

This Ebola thing proves to be a stubborn disease that seems to enjoy tormenting us humans.  To recap, it is defined by the World Health Organization as “is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is s transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.. The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.”

The world has sat by as the disease has raced across borders with not concern for the age of its victims. Guess what: there is as yet no proven treatment available for EVD. This present outbreak is the largest one to occur since the discovery of the virus in, surprise, 1976! How can that be? This disease is projected as more deadly than cancer or heart disease. It claims an average of 1 out of every 2 persons infected. So, if this virus spreads throughout the world as an epidemic or pandemic and wipes out 50 percent of the population, 3.5 billion people will die. That’s effective population control. The Black Death of the 1300’s killed 20 million, about 3 percent of what this disease could kill.

Readers might be sufficiently scared now. Let’s hope for a few things that must begin now. First, we can keep our fingers crossed that the leadership of this country proves itself more effective in dealing with a possible epidemic than it has been in dealing with a sick economy or dragging war. This is the time for political ideology to take a back seat to the health of the country and the world. Arguments over healthcare might become moot if they don’t make decisions that can save the population of our country and planet.
Second, send prayers up that our best minds can come up with a cure and immunization to combat this disease. Maybe pharmaceutical companies will forego the opportunity to cash in on the current crisis and, instead, provide medicines at break-even costs so that people can be safe. They can look at doing so this way: saving folks now will keep them around to buy billions of overpriced drugs in the future.
Last, let us hope that the “civilized” world finally decides that it is its brother’s keeper. Much of the cause of deadly diseases is the result of living conditions that are abysmal. We who have much must make sure that every person is this world has access to clean drinking water, adequate disposal of garbage and sewage, and basic healthcare. Our failure to provide such fundamental things for all people will eventually lead to an illness that might wipe humanity from the face of the earth.

I worry about Ebola, but I worry more about the people who live in conditions that promote disease, starvation, and death. The US cannot be policeman of the world, but those countries that have much must accept the moral imperative to make sure the minimum essentials are available to all people. If that much can’t be accomplished, perhaps we deserve the catastrophic effects of a killer disease. Let’s just hope we’re not too late. 

BAD COMMERCIALS

I’m an old television fan who’s spent plenty of time watching programs over the years. Some have become favorites, a fact that seems to doom them to cancellation. What I’ve also viewed are some ridiculous commercials. They challenge the patience and intelligence of we who sit in front of the screen.
One of the first goofy ads that I remember is a bra commercial. Back then, the “cross your heart” bra aired on television. It was displayed across a woman’s chest. She wore a long-sleeved turtle neck top. The viewer was supposed to get the idea of what the article would do without having to seeing how it
would actually look. I can only laugh when I remember those commercials, especially when Victoria Secret commercials air. Models spill from their bras in a sexy ad that tries to convince women that they can look the same if only they buy bras from this company.
Other commercials today suggest that people will celebrate wildly when they choose certain products. One shows office workers eating candy and then dancing wildly on desktops and around cubicles. Another shows how a person changes from a celebrity to himself with just one bite of a life-saving candy bar. Of course,
M&M’s talk, and Reese’s becomes the product of a steamy relationship between chocolate and peanut butter. I like candy, but these commercials are enough to stop me from buying any.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m OVER insurance commercials. Flo might be a fine person, but I am not amused by her endless commercials and silly behaviors. Her company isn’t one that has the best of
reputation with some customers. Perhaps the business should spend more money improving its coverage and less on annoying commercials.
The insurance commercials that always drive me to distraction feature gecko. On top of that, the darn thing talks and has an Aussie accent. How does that figure with a company that is the “Government Employees Insurance
Company?” I’ve yet to find one person who finds these wastes of television time funny.
Some things are better left off television. Once upon a time, discretion was used when sexual relationships were topics in programs. Things might have been suggested, but nothing else happened. Turn on any of the hundreds of stations available now, and before long, commercials abound about sex. Some discuss female concerns, but the most often aired ones discuss the blue pill and end with a man and woman holding hands while
sitting in bathtubs and viewing some beautiful vista. You know the ones.
Of course, medicines for every malady are advertised on the tube. They promise wonderful results; however, the warning labels should scare any person from taking them. I don’t want to take the risks of terrible side effects to cure my problem. It’s safer to stick with aspirin.
While I applaud the creative efforts in commercials of a local lawyer duo, I suspect the general public is tired of others that tell how they can be helped to win personal injury claims or to receive their social security benefits. Many lawyers prey on the public as they scare the hell out of them in regard to some medicine they’ve taken. Don’t get me wrong; I know some excellent attorneys who work hard and help their clients, but most of the television ambulance chasers only further smear the profession.
Maybe the worst commercial of all deals with toilet paper. The fact is we all need a little paper for special jobs, and yes, we want the product to be soft and several plies thick. However, I don’t want to watch toilet paper ads where bears are always excited about how well their paper works. It’s also disgusting to see baby bear appear on the screen with bits of toilet paper stuck in the fur on his
bottom. Good grief, how much more ridiculous commercials be?

It’s time for companies to do a better job of promoting their products. That means they no longer have to pay wads of money for terrible commercials. If this happened, two things would occur. First, more time could be devoted to the programs we want to watch. Second, we’d once again be sure exactly what bears do in the woods, and it wouldn’t be accomplished with a roll of toilet paper. 

DIVVYING UP

The other day a friend told me that her dad’s house was up for sale and that the hardest part of all was divvying up the contents between brothers and sisters (I refuse to use the word “sibling”). It’s a job that most of us never want to undertake, but because that’s the way life’s course runs, we must complete it at some time.
My mother passed almost twenty years ago. She’d fought the good fight against the cancer that ate away at her body until she just grew too tired. In the end, she let go when she knew that her children would be okay without her. The Saturday before she died, the six of us sat around her bed at home and sang some of her favorite songs while my brother Dal played the guitar.
She was gone, but her house was still there. Daddy and she built the house in the early 40’s. After work each day, they traveled to “the country” to make the blocks for the house. Inside that house were more than 50 years of treasures and other things not so special. Not a single argument between us three boys occurred. Mother had given most items to us throughout the years and had taped our names to the backs of most things. With reservations, we moved those pieces to our own homes. Doing so made our hearts ache because we realized the house was being emptied for the last time by our family.
A few items were harder to divide. A large box held years of photos of our family and other relatives. We managed to share them so that each of us had some pictures of times when those we loved were all still alive. Other special items were distributed according to whom they were most important. We now use some of them and put others on display on shelves.
What was left was an assortment of things. We decided to hold an estate sale on our own. Actually, the sale was more like a garage sale, but tables of things were lined up along the driveway. Some larger items were left inside, and interested buyers were welcome to browse.
We sold a large armoire that was located in the bedroom upstairs. The buyers and I worked for a couple of hours but never figured out how to get the bulky item down the stairs and through the door on the right. Disappointed, they toted the piece back up the stairs and left it there. I also sold a metal building that could have served as a small home or office for someone. It was hauled off and converted into a concession stand at a high school football stadium. 
My family still laughs at my actions that day. They swear that every time someone asked the price of an item that I held up three fingers and squawked “three dollars.” All I know is that things that looked to be nothing more than junk were bought, loaded up, and hauled away.
Not everything was sold, however. Mother was a packrat, and she squirreled away things that no one wanted. Stacks of National Geographic magazines filled one corner in the attic. She also kept piles of school materials from her years of teaching. A mountain of fabric, most of it polyester, was heaped in her sewing desk and in drawers of other dressers. We worked up a sweat as these loaded the unwanted things for a trip to the dump.
Noting is much harder to do than pack up the place that we called home as children. It’s difficult to admit that the time has come to let go of the old home place. However, what my brothers and I discovered through the process of closing down the house was that we had a chance to remember good times and become closer. Today, Rick and June live in Mama’s house. They love it and have made it their own. I’m glad to know that the place has undergone a rebirth and will house another family’s wonderful memories.

So, to my friend I can say I know the hurt that comes with closing down your dad’s house. However, I also know that you and yours will have the chance to “REMEMBER.” That alone can bring plenty of smiles and sighs and tears. Embrace the task; it is another wonderful part of life. 

FRIENDS

I know that most of us have few friends but many acquaintances. However, for the sake of argument and the development of this piece, I’m going to talk about “friends” in a larger context. It’s been my good fortune over the years to have come into contact with plenty of folks whom I consider friends.
School brought many friends. Especially in high school, I enjoyed being with lots of teenagers with whom I had a common interest. Sometimes that shared interest was the music of band and choir. At other times, the bond existed around a case of beer and a drive-in movie. In all cases, we lived out our high school years and enjoyed some events that are still glowing memories after several decades.
I didn’t think I’d made friends in college. My efforts were turned toward making good grades while competing with two brothers and a sister-in-law who also were taking classes. I also wanted to make sure I didn’t screw up and get drafted into a war where I surely would have been killed in a relatively short time. Upon thinking back, I recalled that I had made at least a few friends. Two girls, Sandra Denny and Sharon Phillips, were also English majors, and we developed a close relationship. A student named Jamie Cotton and another named Paul Godwin were pals that I liked much.  No, I haven’t seen any of them in years, but I still think about them every once in a while.
During my teaching years, I developed some strong friendships. At the old Doyle High
School, a band of us teachers stayed close. Jim Pryor, Bob Shoemaker, Ray Garner, Jim Talley, and Bill Rickman used to walk to the baseball field during lunch to smoke and “chew.” Rob Howard and I became good friends as we coached freshman football. John Gilbreath and I were good friends who carpooled from West Knoxville for some time. We sang two-part harmony to songs on the radio and talked about every imaginable subject. I also had female friends in the English department, and they helped me through plenty of times.
At Karns High, more friends came. Dwight Smith, Glen Marquart, Geoff Davis, Spencer Riley, Dowell Bales, Rick Cathey, Lee Henson, and a bunch of others made my years easier as we enjoyed a variety of topics that hand nothing to do with school. Mona Beverly, Marilyn McClain, and Terry Runger were pals as well. For just a few years, Amy Jennings was as close as any friend could be, and she was also like a second daughter.
At church, I’ve met so many wonderful folks who have made my life fuller and happier. At First Christian Church, people accepted us and included us in all things. We not only had a church home but also a family that shared years of our lives. Then we moved to Beaver Ridge United Methodist Church. Once again, people took us in, and in no time, we felt that same kindred spirit that we’d shared at FCC.
Over the years, the closest friends still are present. Doug Meister and I have been tight for about 30
years. We’ve played softball together and discussed religion and philosophy over that time. When we touch base, it’s as if nothing had separated us over the last 20-plus years. Billy Hayes is another special friend. How could he not be
after we spent all those years coaching our sons in baseball and reliving each and every game and play under the carport at my house? Today, Joe Dooley and I are good friends who enjoy working together on yard projects or mission trips. It’s funny how we taught in the same school for so long but didn’t become friends until Amy and I
moved to BRUMC. The last good friend is probably Catherine Nance. She and I sort of understood each other the first time I met her for an interview for a news story. I suppose we just connected, and to this day, I consider her a close confidant and fantastic minister with a special gift of delivering a message that we all need to hear.
These days, my new friends are found in a bunch of older guys with whom I work. The definition of a friend includes the qualities of being nice and being helpful. Both fit these men who have taken me in and explained how things are done. They make each day a work a pleasant one, and I enjoy their company.
Friends come and go out of our lives, and it’s true that only a handful are truly close friends. Still, I feel fortunate to have been in touch with so many good people over the years. They’ve all made my life a little better.