Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Down, but not out!


Three days a week I am privileged to drive oldsters to their endless doctor appointments.
The man in the photo, I’ll call him Jim, has been my passenger a couple of times a month for the last year or so. At 88 he is seeing his health spiral downwards rapidly.
Jim has had a heart condition since his thirties.

Recently a doctor told him his heart was operating at about 15% of efficiency. That doctor told him there was nothing to be done, as he wouldn’t be able to handle the major operation that would have a dicey chance of any measurable success. Jim is okay with that-

Last week I took him to three different appointments within a five hour window. The first doctor ran some tests for the second doctor so the third doctor could review the tests done by doctor #1 and doctor #2.
No, these were not at the same facility making it easy for Jim.
Three different facilities with plenty of walking required.
Jim moves so slowly it seems to take forever for him to get from one spot to another. We’ve laughed that he moves so slowly that he’s actually going back in time. He wouldn’t mind going back to those days of teaching at a midwest University.
He has a motorized scooter but its impossible to use considering the van challenges and the various obstacles at the hospital and at the doctors offices.

Watching him shuffle into his third appointment I wondered just what is it we’re doing to each other?
Why does he have to go to three different places when the doctors must know that the strain and stress are just pushing him closer to his final dance with that angel thats waiting to take him away on the last great adventure.
Is it too much to ask that they come together and meet with him?
Are those days gone forever?
Are we at the mercy of a system, that we have created, that acts at arms distance just when we want to be held close.
Jim and I spoke about it.
He shrugged saying its bad, but the only game in town. That he has a sense of humor about all this is remarkable.

Jim is not a rich man.
I wonder if I’d be driving a rich man to three different facilities?
Jim struggled to make it back to the van after the third appointment.  
He was exhausted!
I wish he could be treated differently. Perhaps one of those three doctors could compile all the information and make a “house call” sharing whatever news with Jim where he is comfortable.
I wish for a lot of things…

Email me at letkidsbekids@mac.com if you have any thoughts...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Standing Up for Whats Right!!

Join a protest !!
"WHEN: 2PM Friday
WHY: "In response to the dismissal of Vice Principal Mark Zmuda, Eastside Catholic, an alliance of Seattle Archdiocesan School students and LGBTQ rights organizations led by Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), will be protesting at the Archdiocese of Seattle Offices.
The Vice Principal was fired for loving and marrying another man--

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Trip to the Pawnshop! A Christmas Story.

A Trip to the Pawnshop!
A Christmas Story

A few days before Christmas I gave a ride to the neighborhood pawnshop to a man who recently became a resident of a homeless shelter in Seattle.
I met him while filming conversations with a number of teenagers who had volunteered to help a homeless camp settle in at their new location on a church parking lot in an upscale neighborhood.
While I was filming he approached me asking if I was with the local press. I told him I was there to help out and talk with volunteers and residents if the opportunity presented itself. While I was explaining why I was there I was thinking he was probably a church member or one of the a parents of the dozen or so high school kids milling about looking to make themselves useful.
I’ll admit my surprise when he told me he was going to be staying in the shelter we were in the process of constructing.
Considering the many years I’ve been hanging around the edge, my pre conceptions still surprise me.
I noticed some of the people standing near us do a double take when he mentioned his status.
George, not his given name, is not what you think of when you think homeless man. He is well groomed, well spoken and well dressed.
He’s in a pickle to use his words.
A pickle brought about by insurmountable medical debt combined with the inability to find a job. He told me his wife had recently died from the cancer that struck her five years ago when there was a ceiling on the amount the insurance company would pay. He said they flew past the million cap two years into her treatment. A number of brain surgeries, rehab, and a stroke all brought about the sale of his home, investments, stocks and bonds and his wife’s car.
He commented on wondering what would have happened to his loves stress level if she were sick now when the cap has been taken away by the changes in health care coverage.
After liquidating most of his assets he moved the two of them into a small apartment near the hospital.
George was an executive with a religious organization overseeing their IT programs statewide. He told me he had no idea that there was no unemployment insurance until he was laid off. Capital needs to settle outstanding law suits against the church apparently made him too expensive to keep around.
He shared that what little family was alive was no longer able to help. They had done more than enough the first few years and were as played out, as were many others out there-
George showed a hang mans humor to the situation making poignant remarks about the organization he had showed so much loyalty to through the years.
He actually laughed when he told me his downward spiral had one more foot in the rear to deliver before fate took a well deserved break.

After he was made “redundant” he went out with his co-workers for dinner and drinks at their favorite hangout-the Edgewater Inn.
He over did it plowing his car into a concrete barrier designed to keep cars off the rail tracks. Car was totaled – insurance had lapsed.
“Hey, the good thing was I pushed the car onto the lot near the art college for the night. If the cops had of arrived I would have been in the clink for sure!”
Amazing what we can laugh at when reality is standing within spitting distance.
George and I talked for a while before he got recruited to help empty one of the trucks bringing camper gear from their last asphalt home.
I told him I would be back in the morning.
We would meet near the camp Christmas tree.
When I returned in the morning we walked over to the church where they had set up coffee and some Danish for whoever wanted to dig into the pile of goodies.
George told me he had a small storage unit across town that he was going to visit to get a few items to hock or sell. He was down to less than ten bucks and needed to get whatever he could get before tackling Social Security to investigate what might be available to him. He told me that avenue was a bust a few years ago but he wanted to try again.
As I was thinking about the expense of a storage unit he read my mind telling me it belonged to a friend who gave him the combination. I guess he thought I was going to ask about the expense of a unit. I wasn’t going to -

An appointment I had scheduled for later in the morning had cancelled, via a text, while we were having coffee. I told him I’d run him around for a couple of hours.
When we got to the storage locker facility I waited in the car for him. He was gone about twenty-five minutes returning with a small bag under his arm.
“Got a couple of binoculars and the last of anything silver. Should fetch a couple of hundred, I hope.”
I went online on my iphone to look up the retail price of a Swift Audubon 8.5 x 44 and a Swift Micron 10 x 25 sets of binoculars. Together they were listed at a bit over $410.00 with the 8.5 x 44 valued at $359.00.
George thought he’d get at least a hundred for the two of them. His wife had given him the better set for his birthday one year so he was determined to “hock’ them getting them back as soon as possible.
Along with the binoculars he had three one-ounce pure silver bars he had given his wife on their last wedding anniversary.
They were limited edition bars with Christmas scenes carved on them.
He married during the holiday season thirty plus years ago.
We talked about nothing in particular on our way to the pawnshop. Sports, the weather and politics consumed the silent time during the short ride.
When we parked near the pawnshop we shared our surprise at how welcoming it looked from the street.
Neither of us had ever been in a hockshop so we had no idea what to expect.
My expectations were tied to Rod Steiger’s gritty role in the Pawnbroker. “His character Nazerman dealt with his war time trauma by stifling his emotions, with the result that he saw everyone around him, especially the desperate people who come into his pawnshop, as scum of the earth.”

When we walked in a young lady greeted us pointing out where various items were displayed.
The store was immaculate.
A Christmas tree and a platter of cookies on a side table invited us to browse brightly lit counters and shelves full of inexpensive goodies.
George got in line as I wandered around the store looking at treasures people had either sold or forgotten to retrieve.
I joined George when he got to the counter. A middle-aged man, who had no resemblance to Steiger’s Nazerman, who overflowed with anger and remorse, greeted us warmly.  This guy was obviously a graduate of the Dale Carnegie School. He made us feel totally comfortable and not at all embarrassed that we were at the “Bank of Last Resort.”
The man made very positive comments about the more expensive binoculars saying he would look up a value. He invited us to share the cookies as well as offering coffee if we wanted a cup. This reception was completely contrary to what I thought of pawnshops. I couldn’t hold back my expressed wish that my bank could learn a few things from this shopkeeper. The man laughed as he continued looking at his computer. After a couple of minutes he asked George if he had anything else he wanted valued. George took out the three individually wrapped ingots proudly displaying them. A number of the other employees came over to gaze at the silver saying how beautiful they were. George couldn’t help but tell them they were a gift to his wife. As soon as that came out of his mouth I could feel his regret.
The proprietor looked at the silver through a loop complimenting the engravings.
A few minutes passed before the man looked at George telling him he could give him $15.00 for the binoculars and .20 cents per gram for the silver bars. A total touching $35.00.
Can you actually hear silence or the stoppage of time? If so, I did.
The very moment George heard the offered price it seemed as if both had taken a sabbatical.
Similar to the characters starring in lame television situational dramas I asked the man to repeat what he said even though he had been very clear. He explained that he needed to have a margin to sell the items if the client never came back into the shop.
George stepped out of that frozen moment thanking the man for his time and expertise. He told him that he would consider the price returning if he decided to sell.
George reverently wrapped the silver ingots placing them back in the little bag he had laid on the counter.
We left.
On the way to the car George reached into his pocket to drop some coins into a Salvation Army bucket. He got a “God bless you” from the lady swinging the bell.
When we got to the car I asked him if he would mind if I called around to get some prices on the silver. He nodded his approval saying nothing.
I called a couple of dealers to find out that the best deal was based on silver content. Neither of the places I called cared what the pieces were as they were only interested in purity and weight. Best price was .61 cents a gram.
George sighed loudly, laughed and asked if I would mind dropping him off back at the shelter. Our original plan of hitting Starbucks after the successful financial transaction was dead-
We drove back in silence. I could only imagine what might be going on in his mind.
When we got back George thanked me for the ride saying he’d see me later. I had intended to leave straight away but got hooked into a conversation with a couple of people about some kids that were scheduled to come to camp and sing Christmas carols. I wasn’t the one who organized it so I begged off and hit the trail.
As I was walking back to my car George called out to me. I stopped and waited for him wondering what was causing the ear to ear grin on his face.
“Here, look at this.” He said handing me an envelope.
On the outside of the envelope someone had written, “my daughter wrote the note inside.”
I opened it up way too slowly for George. Inside was a note bordered by drawings of a Christmas tree and a snowman. Little birds were circling an angel perched on the top of the tree. The snowman had an immense hat with a red bow prominently displayed left of center.
The handwritten note read as follows.
Dear homeless man,
Daddy told us about you when he came home tonight. He said he heard your wife had died and you have no job. We are so sorry that has happened to you. We know you must be sad but we want you to be happy at Christmas - not sad. Daddy said you felt like a very nice man and he is usually right about such things. We will say prayers for you.
Your friends
Jennifer, Amy, Jimmy
On the bottom was written.
This was totally the kids’ idea. They decided to share what they had saved with you. We added to their gift. Merry Christmas.
I looked at George who was biting back the tears that were forming in his eyes. He showed me cash totaling $143.86, a Starbucks gift card, a QFC gift card and a sixty-day all region bus pass.
After a moment he insisted on treating me at Starbucks.
Merry Christmas.

You can help the work of Let Kids Be Kids by donating to support our advocacy.
Email us for further information.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Where are We going to go?

I think I have finally hit the wall around the realities of what the "poor" face in our city.

Up until a couple of years ago the "poor" were fairly easy to identify.
We all knew who they were, where they “lived” and the challenges they faced around feeding their families, housing, transportation and the limited choices they had with little or no disposable income.

We visited homeless shelters, tent cities and served meals at indoor shelters when we could-
We advocated for housing, medical services, education, and a open heart from the community.

Things have changed.
Changed dramatically!

I now know college grads living at home, or with three or four roommates, because they can't find a job and are trying desperately to figure out how they’re ever going to pay their student loans.

Worse yet, I know people working hard that are facing soaring rental increases that are beyond their reach.

One person's situation is bothering me the most.

A single mom, in her thirties, has just been notified that her rent will increase by $800.00 a month! Her rent will now be $2,000.00 a month for a two bedroom apartment, in an old building, not worthy of this rent increase.
She works more than full time, for a local school district, in a first grade classroom dedicated to special needs kids.
Her income does not allow her to ever consider $2,000.00 a month rent.
In addition to her paid job she coaches special needs adults, mentors and supports the imprisoned and is a stellar mother dedicated to her son’s success.
She is the role model we all applaud when given the opportunity.
We applaud as we allow her to frantically look for a place to live in a city that no longer seems to welcome those who earn a real living doing the work we so honor.

Where will she go?
Where will I go?

What have we done to ourselves?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Give Peace a Chance

Dear cynics, and those dedicated to a failed American president-
The rapprochement with Iran is a good thing for us, and the people of Iran. It is a good thing for the world---
To quote Ronald Reagan, "Trust but verify." Thats exactly what STEP #1 of this agreement calls for---
C'mon, Give Peace a Chance.
We truly deserve it!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hey Republicans - Why?

Hey Republicans. 
Why do you constantly target the poor, homeless, kids, the elderly, women, immigrants, the terminally ill, veterans, gays, low income workers, recipients of food stamps, early education, the middle class, special education, infrastructure funding, a farm bill, a jobs bill and of course, health care for all?

Please, Affordable Health Care is not a BILL-its a law! Stop trying to rope in those who remain willfully ignorant thinking you are doing god's work--
You arnt! Good people don't hurt people given the choice not to---
You should be ashamed of your collective selves. No truth, no courage, no ethics and no moral net beneath you---
You have not passed one single piece of legislation since coming in to office in 2011. Shame on you!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Angel in the Sky!!

Say hello to Captain Art Godjikian of Airlift Northwest (Critical Care in the Air). 
This afternoon he safely delivered a little girl into the hands of doctors at Seattle's Children's Hospital. 
His emergency flight took forty seven minutes, carried two nurses, the patient and the little girls mom. (These choppers fly 24 hours a day in all our challenging weather). 
Art brought his passengers from high desert, over the Cascades, to this landing spot east of the University of Washington campus.
We had a nice visit as we waited for the nurses to return from the hospital. As the ambulance returning the nurses to the chopper drew close, one of the nurses put his hand out of the passenger side window and gave a thumbs up. 
A good day for all. 
Thanks Art.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dear Americans

Dear Americans,
13 more shot dead!
Wasn't the slaughter of children in Sandy Hook suppose to be the moment when we said ENOUGH!!??
How is it possible that the bully, the NRA, crushes rational policies to keep all our "kids" safe. 
All those that died yesterday were someones kids...
We all deserve better!!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dear Republicans

Dear Republicans, 
Why do you continue to denigrate the president, and us? Is it because we want peace as a first option, the money we contributed to Social Security, health care for all, quality education, rebuilding our infrastructure, rational gun controls, women's rights, gay rights, voters rights and a secular government???
Please, focus on what you can bring to the country versus what you can take from it...
We all deserve much better!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

This is not a MODEST proposal!

The original Francis was unable to broker peace in the Middle East.
Maybe Pope Francis could put together a coalition of religious leaders to lead their flocks on a massive march to Damascus, Teheran, Jerusalem etc. etc. to end killing.
Stop killing 
as an acceptable option!!
Gandhi's fast stopped the killing between Hindu's and Moslems, at least for a while.
Imagine the Pope leading a march from Rome to Damascus followed by every Cardinal, bishop, priest, nun and believers to join masses of Moslems, Jews, Hindus etc etc- 

It's going to take more than talking about peace to actually bring it about.
Yeah, I know- who is going to take that kind of risk for peace??

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Kids Needing Your Help!!

           Kids Being Kids Photo by M Barrett Miller
While the focus of my friends at Avivara is primarily on education and working with schools, Guatemala often challenges them with needs that go beyond education. Such is the case with the village of Xeatzan Alto. A little over two years ago a slow moving landslide developed underneath the village, and since then large crevasses have opened up, destroying the foundations and walls of houses and in the school. 
Avivara has met with the village elders about their situation, and have taken film crews, civil engineers and other visitors to the village to see and document the ongoing destruction (see photos and powerpoint below). Unfortunately, it is likely that the situation will only get worse as the rainy season here continues to erode away the ground. 
The village leaders have met with local and national government officials, but so far there has been no response from them indicating that there would be any assitance forthcoming to the village. So, the people of Xeatzan Alto have asked Avivara to help publicize their plight as well as help them raise money as a down payment on other property where they can move their entire village. (Their current property is owned communally and they would like to keep their families together and their community intact.)
Because this is a slowly developing disaster, there won't be coverage on CNN, the BBC, or even in the local Guatemalan media. But, the danger is immanent and the need is there.

Article 25 of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights states:

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing,housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livlihood in circumstances beyond his control."
You can help the children of Xeatzan Alto not be denied this basic human right. 
If you would like more information regarding the situation in Xeatzan Alto, please feel free to Avivara or Let Kids Be Kids.
Thank you
M Barrett Miller
Let Kids Be Kids 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Stepping out of Homelessness

See Seattle actor Dan Niven playing Atreus (video), a man temporarily broken by life events.
Atreus bounced around Seattle living in Tent Cities for three years.
Mr.Niven has focused on when Atreus starts to step out if his own shadows to once again embrace life. Dan has accurately portrayed Atreus's reluctance,stammer and stuttering as he breaks out of his internal world. (The words Mr. Niven is sharing are Atreus speaking to me via the notes he passed on-)
      Dan Niven Photo by M Barrett Miller
 When I first encountered Atreus he did/would not speak or interact with any of us who visited the homeless camp. After some time we exchanged notes with him eventually giving me stories of others in camp.
Starbucks plays a big role in the story, as their employees volunteered a number of times to help with camp moves.
Starbucks ( Mermaid ) is always generous and supportive of those on the margins. 
Mr. Niven has based his presentation on "View from the Tent" a book about Atreus compiled by M Barrett Miller.
It is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu and via the website Let Kids Be Kids or on our advocacy site.

"Love Wins"

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"This Class Changed My Life..."

Last night I attended a Seattle School Board meeting in support of returning funds to Special Education programs.
Special Education is 
experiencing Draconian cuts! 
These cuts impact those who are unable, for the most part, to speak up for themselves. 
I also attended to show my support for a teacher who has been transferred from a Seattle High School, Center School, to a Seattle Middle School because of the complaints of one family about the content in his curriculum. 
Here is a very short video of a young lady pleading with the School Board to re-instate a teacher "that changed her life."
If you are interested in signing the petition below you may do so on the following link.
We strongly urge the Seattle School Board to reallocate funds to Special Education and to re-instate Jon Greenberg at The Center School. 
M. Barrett Miller 
Managing Director 
Let Kids Be Kids, Inc.

“Seattle School District forces out Race and Social Justice teacher
Confronting racism is a great idea in theory at the Seattle public schools, but when put into practice the Seattle School District and Board shutter at the idea of allowing teachers to confront issues that might make people politically and socially uncomfortable.
Last week the Seattle School District announced its intentions to transfer Jon Greenberg out of The Center School due to a parental complaint. Jon Greenberg has taught Race and Social Justice at Center School for ten years, this is the first and only complaint he has ever received.
So what is the School District’s response to a teacher stepping outside the normal 12th grade Language Arts and History curriculum and challenging his students to look beyond themselves and at racial inequality that exists in the world? Well in the case of Jon Greenberg, they investigate him and transfer him a Middle School.
Jon Greenberg teaches 12th grade Humanities at The Center School, a small arts focused public school that exists above the food court at Seattle Center. Jon has taught race and social justice for 10 years and through that time has inspired many student to pursue social activism in the community, not to mention the recipient of many awards, including the recent Seattle Human Services Coalition Mayoral Proclamation. It is also worth noting that out of all the teachers in the Seattle School District school district, Jon is one of the few who has an established curriculum addressing racial issues.
In March, Jon’s curriculum came under review as a result of one student and their parent's complaint that the curriculum was “intimidating”. The resulting action of the complaint was an investigation into how the curriculum was taught. Once the District concluded their investigation, they found the class created an intimidating educational environment for a student, even though they failed to gain context interviewing other students who were present during the alleged intimidation.
The curriculum review process caused a two-week suspension of discussing social justice issues in the class and led to the removal of Courageous Conversions (which the district itself used to educated teachers on issues of racial inequality) and content deemed age inappropriate for 17 and 18 year olds. More information can be found at http://seattletimes.com/html/education/2020515075_bandadecisionxml.html
During the suspension many of the students rallied behind Jon to help reinstate the curriculum. Then complaining parents of the student who filed the initial complaint, filed a second complaint claiming alleged retaliation against their child. They claimed that Jon Greenberg had prompted the students to fight the curriculum suspension and review. This was not the case, the concerned students of the Center School put up the petition and contacted the press.
Nonetheless, the second investigation by the School District found Jon Greenberg guilty of intimidating the student because his students had mounted a defense. On June 1st, Jon received a letter confirming his transfer to Hamilton Middle School. More information can be found at http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2013/06/03/seattle-students-protest-popular-teachers-transfer/
Jon Greenberg’s transfer for teaching a curriculum that received overwhelming support from the Seattle Education Association. It sends a chilling effect to all of teachers within the District. It effectively shuts down any curriculum that effectively incorporates discussions of race and social justice, and sends the message loud and clear that we as a district don’t talk about difficult or controversial subjects.
We are asking for your help. Contact the district and school board and ask that Jon Greenberg not be transferred and that his Courageous Conversations curriculum be implemented across the district
Concerned Students of The Center School”

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Giant Prepares to Depart...

                Matt      Photo by M Barrett Miller
Rather than having a memorial, after the inevitable, Matt Barrett agreed to have a celebration instead.
It was held last night in the parish hall at St Joseph's, in Seattle.
The end is near for Matt.

Watch his long time friend Brooke (video) telling one tale, of many, about how Matt has made the very best of a lousy hand.

See the following article sharing some background information on Matt.

I've Had a Great Run.

 Matt has been a courageous role model for so many over the years. He was recently recognized by Invisible Disabilities.org for his generosity of spirit, and his dedication, to reaching out to the sick, lonely,  homeless and others in need of a kind word.

Here's a little story.

Back when Matt was hired by the circus one of his jobs required he lead a grizzly out of the arena when the trainer gave him the high sign. This all went very smoothly until one day when the trainer got ill towards the end of the performance. What Matt didn't know was the trainer always gave "Bruno" a couple of peanuts before turning and handing the lead to Matt. Well, the assistant trainer, worried about the other two bears gave Matt the lead line to take Bruno out. He either didn't know about the peanuts, or forgot due to the anxiety of the moment.
Bruno didn't want to move.
Matt gently pulled on him.
Bruno struck out leaving Matt's left ear dangling by a thread of flesh.
When the dust settled, and the bears and Matt were attended to, he was told that policy was that any animal that "attacked" an employee would have to be put down.
Matt sat there for a moment before replying, "Then I quit. If I don't work here there is no reason to punish Bruno for dong what comes naturally to a bear."
Bruno lived.
Matt went on to new adventures.

We'll all miss you Matt.
Safe journey.

M Barrett Miller
Let Kids Be Kids, Inc. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Good Neighbor

Photo by M Barrett Miller

A good neighbor.

The other morning I couldn’t help but hear an elderly man, who was sitting next to me at Starbucks, lament that courtesy, respect and service were gone in this country.
He was speaking loudly enough to draw in patrons from half way across the room who were more than happy to shake their collective heads in wonder to what he was carrying on about.
Since I was unintentionally roped into the conversation I countered his whinging by sharing the following with him, after determining that he was a neighborhood resident and knew the service station I was going to tell him about-

I began my tale with…
A few weeks ago I was driving north on 35th Avenue NE (Seattle). When I crossed 125th the pickup truck that had turned on to 125th in front of me dropped most of his higgledy piggledy load on to the street right in front of me. The nearness of his trespass, and oncoming traffic, forced me to drive right through the mess.
At first it seemed I was delivered unscathed.
A block or so later the thump under my front left told me life was not going to remain so simple.
I turned around and went back to where the fella was loading his treasures back into his truck. I walked across the street and told him I had found a four-inch rod sticking out of my tire. My thought at that moment was to enlist his help and hit him up for the price of a new Michelin.
Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to understand and kept shaking his head in a “who me” kind of way.
I knew this was going nowhere so I crossed back to my car to begin the jacking up and changing the tire nightmare.

I’ve had minor servicing and assistance from Bill Waters, the owner of the Spirit Service station on 35th Ave NE & NE 95th in the past, so I called him to see if he would have a tire I could buy when I finished changing my tire.
I was amazed by his response. “I’ll close the station and come down there and help you with the tire. You can then drive up here in an hour or so and we’ll put on the new one.”
He was there in a heartbeat.
As only a professional can manage, he had my car ready to roll on the mini tire within minutes.
As promised, I rolled out of his station two hours later on a brand new tire.

The old digger was about to reply to my little story when I went in for the kill.
I told him I was at the Spirit station one Sunday evening. When I rolled into my aisle I saw a little old lady standing staring at her designated pump in the most lost of ways. I could tell she was way out of her comfort zone and asked her if I could help. She told me she always came into Bill’s station, as he always had someone there to help her buy gas. She was a bit embarrassed that she hadn’t bought her gas when the station was open or ever learned how to pump her own gas.
I thought of my mother and how she would have been totally lost when most stations went to self-serve.
After a few laughs she was on her way with a full tank.
I recall thinking at the time that it was a real shame that the kind of service some of us had experienced as we grew up was disappearing.
When Bill came to my rescue he renewed my faith.
Bill’s station may be pennies more expensive but you’re getting way more for your dollars than you’ll ever get at the kiosk only joints.
Oh, the old boy at Starbucks said he’d buy a tank at the Spirit gas station.
Hope he does-
Thanks Bill.

M Barrett Miller
Let Kids Be Kids, Inc.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Looks Like Love to Me!

              True Love  Photo by M Barrett Miller

Looks like love to me!
For years we went from home to the barn and from the barn to home.
I could always feel Danielle’s anticipation growing as she headed to her riding lessons.
I well remember that very first lesson she ever had.
I recall giving her lessons as a Christmas gift way long ago.
She did great up on the big old horse that was gently introducing her to what would become a vocation she chased for years.
There was the first time without a lead, the first time trotting, cantering, galloping and god forbid, the first time over a rail.
The first time she was thrown is etched in my memory.
The first broken bones, painful sprains, wins and losses!
Barn horses came and went as she grew and became more skilled.
Most of the kids were hoping to have their own horse so they could show and compete with whom they loved above all else.
Enter a frisky Morgan willing to give his all for her in the park and “A” rated shows.
Later on she outgrew him and his abilities to challenge the hot bloods in the more competitive categories.
He moved on though she never stopped loving his nosy kisses.
A courageous Appaloosa, carried her to many wins and to more than a few championships.
Just before we kicked off for Ireland she rode him in a jump-off against one of her coaches.
It was one of the scariest, and most exhilarating rides, I have ever watched. She gave him his head and he took the course like the champion he truly was.
She and “Little” took the N Y Seltzer championship! 
Later, in the college years, she was unable to compete though she held the dream alive.
After graduation she bought a green horse that had never trotted into a competitive ring.
Within a year he was ready.
In his very first show he placed.
He continued to place until she sold him.
Looking back it seemed like we lived at the barn and that we would always be at some show or another.
I would always be holding some horse while it was groomed, tacked, braided, inspected.
Now, it all seems like a dream.
Time has fogged the particulars leaving a wonderful memory of time spent with Danielle, some great kids, and some mighty fine horses.
All in all not a bad view in the rear view mirror.
Thank you all.
Particular thanks to Phyllis, Bunny, Mike, Cathy, multiple horses, zany Jack Russells, all the supportive parents, for some of the very best years-

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Did He Deserve Better?

Photo by M Barrett Miller

Did He Deserve Better?

Last Monday, a man, driving while intoxicated, ran down four people crossing the street a half block east of a Seattle Middle School.
A couple died on the spot leaving behind, on the street, a daughter in law and grandchild who are presently fighting for their lives in the critical care unit of a local hospital.
He was arrested.

The week’s news has been all about his previous DUI’s and how he was driving drunk, without a license or ignition lock on his truck.

Everyday the Seattle papers have investigated the mans record, present state law on DUI, other state laws, penalties, technological remedies, and the open question on what can be done to curb driving while intoxicated.

I haven’t seen any articles about the man.
The man who was driving, that is.
There have been a few anecdotal comments about his coaching, his battles with booze, his divorce, what a good guy he is etc.

What I’m wondering about is why he was unable to tame the monster inside telling him he needed to drink to feel better.
Of course, I don’t know if that’s really his internal question but I’ll risk it based on others I have known who literally drank themselves to death.
Some couldn’t leave the jungles of Vietnam.
One couldn’t cope with the loss of his wife and kids.
One never got the message that she was intrinsically okay.
Some will never shake the smells of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lots of messaging pushing one towards the door to oblivion!

No, I’m not justifying any behaviors.
I’m just wondering what went so wrong that this driver showed up for a previous DUI hearing only to be charged with being drunk at the hearing.
Why would anyone do that?
You’re saying, “Only an idiot would show up at his DUI hearing drunk.”
Perhaps not an idiot, but one so broken there were no other good options on his table of choices.

So, what do we do?
Crucify him!
Throw away the key!
More laws with stiffer penalties!
Better vehicle technologies that will recognize an inebriated driver?

Perhaps, we need to see this man as someone who needs what is the hardest thing for us to offer-love.
Not all forgiving love, but the love that tells us, when we are young, that we are valuable and worthy of love.
That this journey is enough by itself and we can, with help, take a sword to the demons that call for our self-destruction.
I hope he, and the injured families, find some kind of peace in this maelstrom of sorrow.

* Homestreet Bank –Wedgewood Neighborhood, Seattle, 98115, has a medical fund you can contribute to for the two in critical care. Acct #5322733430 Routing #325084426 

M Barrett Miller
Let Kids Be Kids, Inc.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sassi, You Deserve Better!

           Sassi Photo by M Barrett Miller

Say hello to Sassi.
She lives on the streets of Seattle. 
Well, in doorways, under the freeway, in the greenbelt. 

She's been on her own since age nine and has experienced about everything your mind can come up with-

Sassi has lots of challenges, though retains a sliver of humor about her abilities, and inabilities, with herself and others in society.

Dumpster diving to find treasures that can be can be turned into art brings her a few coins an hour from people passing by where she’s hanging out.
She doesn’t have a license to sell, or to solicit donations, so she hopes what she creates will please enough people to keep her going.

I told Sassi about my videos entitled “Am I the Face of Homelessness?’ I showed her a couple so she could see my approach.
Funny, she knew one of the ladies I recently interviewed.
Small homeless world!
She was fine with me shooting some video as I asked her a few questions.

I deleted the video I shot, as it was just too hard to watch.
Sassi asked me to come back and visit with her some more.
Maybe I will-

M Barrett Miller