You Never Know

My apologies to ghost-writer Lynn Vincent for omitting her name on the author list for Same Different As Me. Many-talented Lynn put the story together. Every non-literary notable leans on a professional writer/editor. Turning an idea into a book is complex, with marketing the hardest part of the process.

Back in the 50s, I became Muskegon’s best book peddler. It was my week to do he devotionals on WMUS, a God and Country station. WMBI (Moody Bible Institute) of Chicago filled morning hours, the rest of the day  was local. One day after my stint the station manager–who knew I’d had radio experience—said, “Lloyd, we’re in a bind. WMBI is dropping us. I need help while we reorganize.

I agreed to cover for a week or two, teaming up with Roy Williamson, a fellow pastor with a flair for radio. The station provided a log, slotting commercials and taped broadcast. I read commercials, spun records, and cued tapes.  While tapes played, I ripped news off the clattering teletype and phoned police and fire departments, putting together news casts. The biggest challenge were fill-in segments.

About that time, by Dale Evans Angel Unaware came out. I created a Book Nook, blending music with snatches from the book. The author employed her challenged mongoloid child to tell the charming story. Soon listeners began to call. Where could they get the book? Every local bookstore had sold out!

I often sat at the microphone wondering if anyone was listening. These days, I stare at the computer screen and wonder if anyone will read me.

You never know.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Same Different as Me

Long-time friend John Ashmen, President of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), put me onto Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. Its closing words grabbed me. Denver speaking:

“Even though I’m almost 70 years old, I got a lot of learn to learn. I used to spend a lot of time worryin that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them we wasn’t gonna have no kind of future. But I found out everybody’s different—the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us.The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this world ain’t no final resting place.  So in a way, we is all homeless—just working our way toward home.”

The authors tell the story in short, alternating chapters, each telling how they view the same event. Ron is a white, wealthy art dealer; Denver, a black, poverty-ridden homeless vagrant, feared by all. The heroine is Ron’s wife Debbie, a rescue mission volunteer. The theme: love’s power to soften the hardest heart.

Some critics will decry the book’s overt spirituality, but it is a heart-wrenching, compelling read for everyone concerned about the homeless today.  The story is true, contemporary. The ministry it reports continues today. A movie version will be released in October.

Ask for Same Kind of Different as Me at your bookstore, or order online. For more information, Google the title.

How I wish I had found a book like this 74 years ago, when I began my three-year stint with the Union Gospel Mission of St. Paul.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Groaning in the Winter Darkness

On Friday, Norma and I spent a delightful afternoon at Kathy Gustafson’s home that stands on the site of our old Scout cabin. A five-foot stump is all that remains of the ancient pine that stood just outside the door. The tree succumbed to last summer’s big wind.

I loved that tree, and weekends at the cabin 80 years ago. As we toured Kathy’s yard, memories bounced about. Neatly trimmed lawns have replaced the dense woods. Ducks and muskrats swim in a reed-fringed pond, where deer and an occasional bear stop by to drink.

The site is sacred to memory. Though the years have robbed me of easy mobility, but my mind remains nimble, filled with memories enriched like aging wine.

A few years back, Kathy invited me to tell stories to Cub Scouts and their dads who would be re-roofing the log outhouse built during early cabin years.  I looked into kids’ sparkling eyes and wondered what they would remember 80 years hence.

Scouting kindled my love for God’s other book and equipped me to organize wilderness treks from Maine to Alaska. Outdoor adventure stories filled my books. I plead with parents and youth leaders: build outdoor memories in your kids.

I thank God for Lester Park Methodist men who took me to the cabin and told stories around the red-glowing barrel stove as wind-driven snow filtered through holes in the log chinking. Gone are the ancient birch that, leaning one on the other, groaned in the winter darkness. Last Friday, I heard them again

Old Grandpa Lloyd

The POTUS and the Boy Scouts of America

I’m about to lose friends. So be it.  My goal in life is not friend-making but truth-speaking, and I can only speak truth as I see it.

Speaking the truth in love does not require us to soft-peddle ugliness, whether in low places or high, and the POTUS’ speech before 40,000 Boy Scouts and leaders was about as ugly as it gets. Yes, there were occasional proper moments, but the rants between besmirched the whole.

I’ll not belabor the details—you can read the speech. If you reach a conclusion different from mine, I’ll honor that. We can still be friends. But please don’t whitewash the ugly, and please don’t come at me with What about so and so.

If you wonder at my umbrage, Scouting shaped my life. Measured by my Baptist church, not all our Scout leaders were sanctified Christians. Some smoked. Some took an occasional drink. Occasionally a hell or damn popped out, but never an off-color story. They cared for us and enabled us to do the things we loved. The holy church men of my family church were far too busy serving God to spend time with boys in the woods.

I covet for those 40,000 boys at the national Jamboree all that Scouting meant to me. Surely they deserved better than the POTUS poured out on them. I’m ashamed.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

Fun at Woodland Garden

The fun began Thursday evening. Kevin drove Noma and me to Bridgeman’s for supper then to Sam’s Club for a shopping spree. I had joined Sam’s online, naming Noma Leskela to receive the second member card.

The girl in 313 and I enjoy a happy relationship. She does the grocery shopping, feeds me suppers in her apartment, and sends me home with leftovers for the next day’s lunch. I help pay the grocery tab.

I figured bulk buying at Sam’s good prices would more than cover the $45 annual dues. Kevin found me a power scooter with a huge basket and we headed for the service desk to pick up member cards. An affable young man took my computer print-out, dabbled on his computer and pointed a small camera at us. A machine whirred and spat out two wallet member cards bearing our names and photos.

Retaining my card for check out, Norma dropped hers unread in her purse. We shopped most of an hour, filling the scooter basket. Norma did the check-out honors. Loading Kevin’s car, we headed home. We stashed our booty in my fridge and Norma sought out her apartment, weary.

Friday morning, Norma showed up for our daily what’s-for-supper discussion wearing a grin. She handed me her Sam’s Club card. The photo was fine, but the name: Norma Mattson! The clerk goofed and we hadn’t caught it.

All morning we watched eyebrows rise as friends read the card. I explained Sam’s Club’s new service. A couple could step up to the counter, place four quarters in a machine, and a pontifical voice would say, “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Bingo, they were married.

Life is never dull at Woodland Garden.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

All the Gold in California

A recent Writer’s Almanac featured Henry David Thoreau , one of my boyhood heroes.     Born in Concord, Massachusetts on July 12, 1817, Thoreau became a restless young man. He attended Harvard briefly and taught school a few years. After a  stint in his father’s pencil factory, he finally found his niche.

In 1844, Thoreau’s friend Ralph Waldo Emerson bought land on 61-acre Walden Pond two miles from Concord.  Thoreau built a small cabin on its wooded shores and there pursue a simple life, living alone. During his two years on the Pond, Thoreau kept a meticulous diary, which he published in 1854 calling the book Walden, or Life in the Woods.

One summer day, Elsie and I visited Concord touring famous authors’ homes and Walden Pond, paused long at the replica of Thoreau’s cabin. In summers to come, I would have memorable adventures in Thoreau’s Northern Maine haunts, paddling the Allagash and climbed Mount Katahdin with boys.

I’ll never forget the lesson I learned one scary night on the Allagash; or the words of a lad around a campfire the day lowering clouds drove us off Katahdin. You can find those stories on the  Story Tree at www.lloydsstorytree.com.

Thoreau’s transcendentalism and civil disobedience aside, I like way he closed Walden, or Life in the Woods: “I learned this, at least, by my experiment (ed. living alone, in the woods) that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

We would do well to ponder Thoreau’s insight and live out our dreams and imagination. I wouldn’t swap my memories for all gold in California.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

Chance Encounter Two

A few days after my 18th birthday, I registered at Bethel Junior College. I was probably the greenest, least-prepared freshman in history. I was on my own; no financial support. I has just enough for the first quarter’s tuition, used textbooks, and a month’s rent in a private home, where I would share a bed with a stranger.

Three days after registering, I rode a University Avenue streetcar to the state capitol and headed back on foot, hitting every business that might hire a student part time. Two miles later, Lexington Tire and Battery hired me for weekday afternoons and evenings at 35 cents an hour. Simple math told me I couldn’t possibly save enough for next quarter’s tuition, but I took the job.

Three months later, a new Mobile station walking distance from school opened. Same pay, but I’d save almost a buck a week on streetcar fare, and the hours were better. I switched jobs.

In early January, a note on the Bethel bulletin board gave the phone number of a blind man looking for a live-in companion to cook breakfast and supper. Compensation: board, room, and unspecified cash. I signed on, though I knew little about cooking. Turned out, the cash barely covered car fare to school, but I would have more study time, free rent, and all the food I could eat.

In February, classmate Ken invited me to visit the  Ober Club for Boys where he worked. The club was a neighborhood outreach of the St. Paul Union Gospel Mission. Ken introduced me to club director Glenn Dewey. Upon hearing my name,  he said, I knew a Duluth policeman named Mattson. Officer Mattson was a friend of my father, Duluth’s mission superintendent. Small world: Officer Mattson was my dad.

Three weeks later, Mr. Dewey offered me a job.I would live in the Mission Hotel, eat at its commercial restaurant, work weekdays in the boys club and Sundays at the Mission.That spun off into a three-year life-changing adventure.How I wish I had known then what I know now!

Bethel Seminary gave me a Bachelor of Theology degree. The Union Gospel Mission gave me an education. All because of a chance encounter. So it appeared.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

 

 

Chance Encounters

The Sage and I reflect often on the life-changing, chance encounters that keep cropping up. We long ago concluded more than chance is a work. Then there are just plain fun encounters.

Last Wednesday we betook ourselves to Sunshine Café, our favorite philosophy haunt. The owners, Young A and husband Steve, have become good friends. Steve cooks. Young A serves as hostess.  She gave me a hug and produced my cushion–hard booth; long sessions.

Sunshine Café is unique. Guests actually talk to each other! Thumb-twitching is rare. After the lunch crowd thinned, Young A brought a tourist couple from Belgium to our booth, Alayn, a banker; wife Petrice, a dentist. They were doing the Lake Superior circle tour.

We enjoyed a warm, lively visit. I gave them my Hole News card– our international reader list keeps growing. We will remember these delightful new friends from Europe, and they will remember the two geezers they met in a cozy Midwest America café.

Their visit turned our thoughts to the impact other chance encounters have made on us and on the persons we met. Three or four years ago, Clyde befriended a young coffee shop barista. He learned she was working through difficult issues. Life looked bleak. Today, under Clyde’s caring guidance, the sun shines. Adventures beyond her dreams have appeared on the horizon.

I recalled five years back, in the midst of the most frustrating period of my life, a chance encounter led me to my geezer nest at Woodland Garden, just down the hall from the girl in 313.

I thank the Lord of chance encounters. Then last night’s reading rewound my mind 75 years to a chance encounter that set the course of my life.  I’ll tell you about that next time.

Old Grandpa Lloyd

 

 

 

Shakespeare, Solomon and Me

Sitting around this afternoon, gloating over two new books, I got to thinking how how rich were my 93 years. Back in the dark ages, I aspired to write a book called The Seven Days of Man. It would trace life in seven parts beginning with birth and pre- school years on Sunday, wrapping up Saturday evening in the crematorium.

Then I discovered William Shakespeare beat me to the idea, casting life as a seven-act play. In As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7 He wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. At first, the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms. Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school. And then the lover, sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier, full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel, seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice, in fair round belly with good capon lined, with eyes severe and beard of formal cut, full of wise saws and modern instances; and so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts into the lean and slippered pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side; his youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide for his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice, turning again toward childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

King Solomon also took a stab at old age: Ecclesiastes 12:3-5: “Then the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets.”

I’ve had a lot more fun life than Shakespeare or Solomon’s guy. I’m awed at the adventures life brought. I know Saturday evening is gaining on me, but I plan to enjoy every minute that remains, sans nothing.

Grandpa Lloyd

 

America’s Sunset: Part Two

 

Professor emeritus Bernie Hughes’ thoughts in his June 6 Duluth News Tribune op-ed piece in no way diminishes the contribution America has made to the world in its relatively brief history; nor does it reflect unpatriotic pessimism. It does question America’s continuing viability. Here is the conclusion:

The U.S. appears close to also concluding that being the world’s leader is more than we can afford. We have troops stationed in several hundred countries of the world and have sent war supplies, advice, and means of support to many countries. This has contributed to a national debt that has become more than we can bear, especially as it has meant ignoring basic needs on the home front, including the maintenance of infrastructure.

At the end of his term, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex, which has become the real boss of U.S. governmental expenditures. His warning hasn’t been heeded. Very expensive military equipment is manufactured; and nothing, it seems, is too expensive. Corporations and Wall Street have come to expect those funds. Our days are numbered. We need to take on our other needs that haven’t been adequately met.

At this point, President Trump seems to speak for our entire nation, and his plans to make us great again may be a dream only. We can’t continue to expand wealth inequality. We presently have a growing list of 537 billionaires in the U.S. We lead the world in our number of billionaires.

We need to reduce our military, especially with regard to troops stationed around the world. We need to provide for all the American people: plain and simple democracy. We talk a lot about our democracy; but, in fact, we have become a plutocracy. As one example, our elections have become contests of money. Look today at our country’s leaders.

Our wealthy elite need to pay taxes like everybody else. They can’t be allowed to hide their money in places like the Cayman Islands, as activist Ralph Nader detailed in his book, “Getting Steamed to Overcome Corporatism.” Has Congress become another thief of tax money when it cripples government regulations or underfunds the departments with the responsibility for developing and enforcing those regulations?

Fewer voters is wrong. Gerrymandering is wrong. Limiting polling places and increasing voter credentials restrict voters. Most important is our need to get more Americans to the polls. Polling numbers do not illustrate our claim of democracy.

Old Grandpa Lloyd