Saturday, May 10, 2008

Clean out the cupboad

In the town where I toil we have an annual event held at the end of summer known as the Hood to Coast run. Billed as the longest relay race in the known universe, thousands of relay teams consisting of twelve persons each, descend from the slopes of Mt. Hood and run throughout the night to reach the sandy shores of Oregon. Along with support crews and throngs of well wishers, the seaside village of five thousand swells to a temporary population of well over twenty thousand souls.

Hood to Coast Saturday is easily the worst day of the year to deliver mail at the seashore. But the day of the National Letter Carriers Union food drive is right up there at number two. That day was today.

It really begins for your trusted carrier on Thursday before the food drive. This is when we deliver those 3x5 cards reminding that the big day is fast approaching. Then on Friday we carry with us the plastic sacks we would like for you to use for your charitable donations. Every box gets a card and a sack. Every freaking box.

Then the fun really begins Saturday morning. As we make our way along our routes we begin picking up all the food our customers have so generously left in or near their boxes. You'd be amazed at how fast the back of a standard issue mail truck fills up. Especially since there is already a load of mail to be delivered. The truth is it is a real pain in the ass.

But it's good publicity for the union. And the food bank shelves get stocked for a little while longer. I did notice that this year I picked up about two thirds of what I have for the past few years. Lots of rice and beans and off brand stuff. Ramen noodles and Prego sauce figured prominently in the bags. Draw your own conclusions.

You certainly don't have to be a rocket surgeon to figure it out.

But all the same, thanks to those of you who took the time to make room in your cupboards so you can replace it with stuff you 'll be cleaning out next year for the big food drive.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Crime and Punishment

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov believed he could justify the murder of Alyona Ivanova simply because she was in fact a no goodnik. He came to this conclusion before he committed the heinous crime. What he hadn't counted on was the untimely arrival of her somewhat simple minded sister Lizeta. After she had walked into the room to discover the criminal hunched over the bloody body of her sister, Rodya turned his axe on her.

George W. Bush believed that he could justify the removal of Saddam Hussein because he too was a no goodnik. He pitched his case for justification to the nation and the world before he committed the act. The problem for Mr. Bush was that instead of one innocent bystander, many thousands of innocents would die because of his blunder.

Rodya eventually confessed to his crime and was sent off to a frigid prison in Siberia.

The price George W. Bush will pay has yet to be determined. My guess is that a legacy of immense incompetence will be his for as long as history books are written.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Living in a micro-bus down by the Rhine

Senator Obama is being hailed in some quarters as the once in a lifetime inspirational leader these difficult times require. He has been compared to Kennedy and King in his ability to motivate people in a positive direction. I suppose it may even be true and only time will tell.

One of the more memorable characters played by the late comedian Chris Farley was the down on his luck motivational speaker Matt Foley. Foley's most significant motivation came not from personal achievement, but from his own failure and subsequent predicament of being forced to "live in a van down by the river."

When we talk of notable motivators of the past it is difficult not to mention the name Adolf Hitler. Although surely the most evil and certainly the most infamous of those to be found on the list, Hitler was arguably one of the most successful. After all, with a little help from his thuggish friends he convinced a majority of the population of one of the greatest nations on the planet to wage a world war.

I have from time to time heard people say that if Hitler had only used his powers of persuasion for good rather than evil, he may have become one of the most revered men of the twentieth century. But I think the truth lies more in the seeds of that persuasion.

Vengeance toward not only the European powers that forced Germany to sign the ruinous treaty of Versailles, but also laying the blame for the misfortunes of war at the feet of the Jewish people fueled his motivation. Without the opportunity to fan the smouldering national resentment of the German people, I doubt that Hitler would have been anything more than a historical footnote.

Unfortunately for humanity, hatred and revenge are two of the most powerful motivators of men.

Fortunately for humanity the majority of our most inspirational leaders have led with a message of hope for a brighter future.