14,016,000 Hours

I completely missed the news on Friday.  By Saturday morning, posts on FaceBook were furiously popping to the top of my newsfeed about the shooting.  Several were a photo of a beautiful young woman who, at 27, is believed to have died huddled over her first grade class.

I made the mistake of going to the WSJ page that profiles the victims.  Every loss I’ve ever felt seemed to rise up from some place outside my consciousness and stick in my throat.  These tiny children.  These innocent, unsuspecting children with an entire lifetime ahead of them.  All gone.  In minutes.

Another post appeared on FB.  It was a line from comedian Andy Bororwitz.  It’s too true to be funny:  “Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I wish mental health care were as easy to get as, say, a gun.”

I find myself imagining Daniel Barden going to swim practice today.  Olivia Engel twirling around in a tutu.  Catherine Hubbard swinging on a playground swing, snug in a warm winter coat.  Chase Kowalski grinning ear-to-ear while tossing a baseball.  Jesse Lewis drinking hot chocolate with bright pink cheeks, having just come in from the cold.  Emilie Parker making homemade christmas ornaments for her teacher.  Noah Pozner growing up and going to his bar mitzvah.

I read through the list of names that seems to go on forever.  I have to stop imagining the futures that will never come.

A friend posts a quote from Mr. Rogers on FB:  “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.’  To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

I adore Mr.  Rogers.  There is no one more comforting.  But I remain troubled that all the helpers in the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy–and there were many–couldn’t stop one man with 3 guns from killing 26 people in minutes.  Not just 26 people; 26 futures.  About 1600 years of future were lost amongst just the children killed on Friday.  1600 years, 584,000 days, 14,016,000 hours of future.  How many hours does it take to cure cancer, end hunger, solve health care, find a way for us to peacefully co-exist?  What did all of us lose because we collectively haven’t found a way to prevent these tragedies?

Another friend shares a post from Maya Angelou, one of my personal heroes:

“Our country is grieving.  Each child who has been slaughtered belongs to each of us and each slain adult is a member of our family.  It is impossible to explain the horror to ourselves and to our survivors.  We need to hold each other’s hands and look into each other’s eyes and say, ‘I am sorry.’”

I am deeply, deeply sorry.

Bloodroot

I don’t have photos to go with what I want to write about today (thankfully).  In looking for photos, I stumbled across these macro images of bloodroot flowers, blooming in the early spring, lasting only a few days, and then blowing away in the wind.  This seems like the perfect symbolism for the topic on my mind.

I scanned the names of the dead from the Aurora massacre, hoping not to recognize any of the names, having worked with many colleagues in the vicinity.  I didn’t.  But it broke my heart anyway.

I cannot imagine what makes a person start buying weapons for a war and then go wage that war in a local movie theater.  It’s the most troubling part of the whole thing:  Why?

There have been times when I have said I wanted to kill someone.  What I meant was I wanted to have the power to make the other person regret whatever it was they did that upset me.  Even in my fantasies this is accomplished via a stern and thoroughly brilliant speech.

I ponder this feeling for a moment.  I wonder where the line is between being angry and imagining some sort of reckoning where we are righteous and brave and we smite our enemy versus actually resorting to physical violence?

I also wonder how much the anger and frustration I unleash upon the world creates more anger and frustration in a domino effect.

When I used to ride my bike 26 miles to work and back, if I rode with the expectation that cars were going to run me over and the attitude that I wanted to “kill” them for it, I frequently got honked at, buzzed, and generally terrified by passing cars even though I did not perceive myself to be riding any differently.

When I rode so thoroughly enjoying the ride that I didn’t have any space left for anger, I realized I smiled and waved at drivers whenever they did anything considerate, feeling grateful they were thinking of me.  No one ever honked at me when I rode with this attitude.  I didn’t get buzzed and I wasn’t terrified.

Is it possible we ultimately can prevent killing sprees with something as simple as a smile?

If we can make a connection, can a potential killer see us as real?  That is, see us as they see themselves–intertwined, interdependent, beautiful flesh and blood?  Shouldn’t finding that connection, nourishing it, keeping it alive as long as possible be our top priority no matter where we are, who we’re with, or what we’re doing?

Maybe we can’t stop someone from becoming a killer, but maybe we can at least reduce the number of people who walk around fantasizing about killing people.  And maybe that will lead to more smiles and a little more joy all around.  After all, if I’m going to get gunned down by a homicidal maniac, I’d like to have spent the time I had smiling.

Riverbending

When we made the decision to move to Chattanooga, we knew about Head of the Hootch (a huge rowing event here in the fall) and we thought that was THE big event in Chattanooga.  However, it turns out Riverbend is THE big event here.

Just by chance, we completely missed Riverbend last year.  Our visit to pick a place to live was in March.  Our visit to make it official was in July.  Riverbend happens in June.

Riverbend, is a 9-day music festival that, this year, features 6 stages and something around 100 bands.  Supposedly, 600,000 people will descend upon Chattanooga (population 300,000) for this event.

The first sign that Riverbend was coming was the arrival of a stage via barge.  It was floated up the Tennessee River and parked for a couple of weeks in front of the Aquarium.  Eventually it was raised onto a huge dock (we always wondered why that dock was so big) where it had quietly remained for at least a week before the opening of the festival.

During that final week, tents started appearing followed by rides.  Soon, the riverfront looked like an abandoned carnival.  Billboards all over town advertised “get your pin at such and such place.”  Pins were $32 for entry all 9 days.  Of course, “entry” doesn’t include the lawn in front of the main stage (another $10), a program (yet $35 more), or seats anywhere.

Had we know pins at the gate would be $45, we would have bought our pins early.  We, of course, didn’t discover this until after the discounted pins were no longer available.

Finally, opening night came.  It was Friday night, June 8th.  We expected to hear the bands playing from our place, but they were drowned out by traffic noise on this side of the river.

Instead, the start of the festival was announced to us by a ridiculous amount of noise on the roof over our heads.  Some of our neighbors had apparently invited a large group of friends over to hang out on the roof deck; we’re pretty sure they spent the night.

I went up to the roof top to check out who was up there and to see what kind of shots I could get from the roof.  I left my 100-400mm lens at home since I figured I was going to need my faster 70-200mm lens in the twilight over the extra length.

Alas, the scene was far enough away that I couldn’t get very interesting shots of any details.  Plus, I couldn’t see the river from our roof, which was full of boats listening to the music.

I turned to the sunset briefly (reminding myself that I have too many shots of the sunset and it wasn’t that interesting) and then returned to shoot the skyline wide.  Sine the sky was completely uninteresting that direction, I cropped those shots to panoramic proportions.  I probably should have just put my camera away instead.

Dear USPS

English: Letters in a post office box in a US ...

Image via Wikipedia

I understand you’ve been having some financial troubles.  I admit I am not feeling sympathetic right now given that you recently started returning my husband’s mail, marking it “Return to Sender – Left No Forwarding Address.”  The only explanation we’ve come up with is a neighbor with a similar name moved about the same time you started rejecting my husband’s mail.

Ironically, had you started returning my mail, I would have been grateful.  Unfortunately, my husband is launching a new business and he actually needed to receive his mail.  This mistake has cost him two weeks in his schedule so far and still isn’t resolved.

On the flip side, I can always count on you to stuff my mailbox with credit card offers I don’t want and then must shred and recycle because I’m afraid someone will use the the pre-approved forms to steal my identity.

I have an idea for you.

You might have noticed that just about everyone has email these days.  Ask yourself this, “How can I compete with email?”  The answer is you can’t.  And what do you when you can’t beat ‘em?  Join ‘em!

Today, there are companies that offer mail scanning services that allow people who live on the road to use a physical address that accepts all deliveries (including UPS and FedEx, unlike a PO Box).  The service scans all envelopes and packages and sends an email that mail has been received.  The customer logs into a website and views the scans online. For each mail item, the customer chooses:  1) shred, 2) recycle, 3) forward, 4) open and scan content.  This allows the customer to receive the mail they want (and only the mail they want) at whatever physical address they happen to be at.

I personally would purchase this service at its current price, even though I am living at one address, except for two things.  I don’t want an out-of-state physical address and I don’t want to have to pay extra to have my mail delivered to my home address.  This is where you come in.

As the USPS, you can offer me an address in the same zip code as my physical address, preventing any confusion with entities such as taxing authorities.  You can also deliver the mail I want at no extra charge to my home address because you’ve already been paid to deliver it there.  You can still charge me if I decide to have it forwarded somewhere else.

Think about it.  You get paid to deliver junk mail by the sender and then get paid to not deliver it by the recipient!

The advantages to me, the customer, are:

  • The elimination of paper I have to shred and/or recycle.
  • The availability of my mail from anywhere.
  • A separation of my physical address from my mail address, allowing me to be mobile without having to change my address.

What do you say?  Are you ready to start offering services your customers actually want?