Monday, July 30, 2007

They're Among Us

What I thought was an urban legend was proven otherwise today. I was dutifully sitting at the back table in a large conference room at Dallas County Schools headquarters getting recertified to drive a school bus. Sitting to my right were two other bus drivers, one of whom I recognized as being the lady whom I had discovered last year could not read. She drives at my lot and I had to read some extremely simple instructions to her from some paperwork we had to complete.

Immediately next to me was a stranger, a gentleman about my age. I engaged him in conversation. He wanted to talk about fishing and I told him I didn't fish, but I asked him to tell me about fishing. He told me he was from Arkansas and that fishin' was real good up there now. Unfortunately, however, it was soon evident that he was a few lures shy of a tacklebox. But I enjoyed sharing stories with him and we were getting along nicely.

The fun began late in the session when the instructor passed out some simple forms for us to fill out. I thought they were self-explanatory, but the instructor had a dry-erase board up front and she drew an example of the form on the board. She added several horizontal lines. On the first line she wrote "Your Name" and then "07/30/2007" and finally "3SWB", the number of the conference room. She told us to be sure and use the name on our drivers' license.

I jotted down "Timothy Paul Perkins", "07/30/2007", "3SWB". Then I glanced over at my neighbor's paper. He had written (ready?),"Your Name", followed by the other two items. Not believing what I was seeing, I blinked hard and sure 'nuff, that's what he had written. Then he leaned back in his seat. I got to watch as the aforementioned lady, obviously not wanting to anything wrong, carefully, slowly, deliberately, wrote "Your Name" on her paper.

I couldn't bear to see them be embarrassed by anyone who would look at their forms. I gently told the gentleman to cross out "Your Name" and write, uh, "Your Name" in its place. Eventually, the lady also made the correction.

They are truly among us.

But we're all God's children. I hope that a miniscule bit aid helped them a bit. I really do.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


We all have to do stuff we don't wanna do. Since I retired from teaching, there is far less of that in my life now and for that, I'm immensely grateful.

Monday, I have to get up early in order to drive to the far side of Dallas for bus driver recertification training. Has to be done every three years and this will be the 9th time I've sat through 8 hours of old safety films and first-aid tips. At this time in my illustrious yellowhound career, I feel I could teach the class. I'll handle the boredom as best I can and try to remember that every school day, I've got the most precious cargo one can have. That I've got young children whose parents trust me with delivering them safely.

I'll get paid $50 for my time.

Friday, July 27, 2007

35 and Counting

It was a sultry Thursday night in 1972 on this date. I believe the temp hit 100. We started the wedding at 8:00 so the auditorium would be dark enough for pictures. It was a Thursday night because the Cowboys were playing the College All-Stars on Friday night and we didn't want an all-female turnout for our big ceremony.

Mercy, it's been a great 35 years. It always helps when you out-marry yourself and I certainly did. Now we have 3 grown kids and 4.5 grandkids. It's such an endorsement of God and faith and prayer that we sit here tonight perfectly content. Through every trial (and there've been some, of course), God got us through it. There were times when we thought life had tossed us an insurmountable hurdle, only to have God pull us through it and provide an answer.

The product of our union is family...and nothing brings us more joy these days than our kids and g'kids. They dominate our conversations, and not just because we've covered every other subject worth discussing in these 35 years. Our three children love God and serve Him with diligence. And that brings us deep, deep contentment. We've not had to face the discouragement of unfaithful children that many couples our age have faced. Not that we were brilliant parents, but because of them and their commitment to the Lord.

Our kids do give Carole and me a tough time every year because we rarely celebrate anniversaries in exuburant style. I think last year we went to the Cheesecake Factory and then (hold your breath), I took my bride to Love Field where I took a few airplane photos. This year, we've moved back our "celebration" one day to Saturday because Carole has been sick with horrible sinuses. She got an allergy shot yesterday and should be good to go tomorrow. Current plan is to go to Jefferson, Texas on a day trip and enjoy the small town atmosphere. Yeah, I know. We're weird. Have been for 35 years now.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Airport Security

The infamous 9/11 attacks had horrid results; loss of lives, devastation to the airline industry, and shaking our sense of national comfort. But about the only tangible trickle-down effect on me (other than having to work harder for photos) occurs in the security check at airports.

Here was the procedure I went through on my recent trip to Tampa. (Not that I'm unique...I'm just trying to make a point.) I've got a couple of dozen folks behind me when I reach the conveyor belt. I take off my shoes and put them in a bucket. I take off my belt, keys, key-clip, and phone and put them in a tray. I remove my laptop from my carry-on suitcase and put it in a tray. I also remove the toiletries (all under 3 oz. per the law) which are in a 1 quart baggie and place them in a tray. I put the suitcase on the conveyor. I put my camera bag on the conveyor.

Sound simple? It ain't, because the early trays get ahead of you and start to mix with the stuff of the people just ahead of you. It is impossible to do so many acts smoothly, and yet you're trying to hurry because of the folks behind you. Getting flustered is easy. The TSA personnel are nice enough, usually, but they seem to expect everyone to be an old pro at the routine, and some people don't fly enough to have the routine down pat.

And this is if all goes well. What if there is something suspicious in your bag? Or your back? I've had the metal rods in my back set off the metal detector. On my first trip after 9/11, the titanium knee brace I wear set it off. I had to step behind a screen and drop my drawers to prove I wasn't a first sergeant in the Taliban. There I shoes, no slacks, no belt, no dignity anymore...being checked out by a Middle Eastern TSA agent. Wow.

I believe the solution lies with the dogs of America. I would much rather be sniffed in dark places by a smiling bloodhound that is trained to detect dangerous contraband. That pooch should be able to ascertain my political leanings in 10 seconds, given the nature of their nostrils.

I'm serious. Let's start the movement!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Good news about Peter

I hope you've read the previous blog about young Peter. It's now late Monday evening and he is still in surgery. However, the major work is done and a plastic surgeon is closing him up (a one-hour-plus job). But the news so far is great! His vitals are good and they don't even expect him to go to ICU tonight.

Pray, pray, pray for this wonderful, brave young man. Also for his parents, who must be exhausted, but relieved.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ewing's Sarcoma

Aren't disease names scary? Usually when you hear one for the first time, you know two things - it was named after the scientist who discovered it is bad news.

There is a boy in the Austin area who has Ewing's Sarcoma. He's facing a 13-hour surgery next week. I just today found out about his fight with this particular form of cancer. He's a super kid from a marvelous family. I beg you to commit to pray for him and his family from now until he is pronounced absolutely well.

His story is here and is worthy of your time. God is omnipotent and will heal him!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Phillipians 2:3

I sometimes fall into a trap of trying to earn my salvation (mistake #1) by looking for grandiose things to accomplish for God (mistake #2). The truth is that we will have a constant, never-ending supply of opportunities as long as other people show up in our daily walk. So unless I become a hermit, I will be given scores of chances to "consider others" better than I. And it really takes very little effort to do something nice, say something nice, or go the extra mile.

I came across this story today...I hope it's true because it illustrates someone who carried out this great commission. Enjoy:

Listen to these words of a taxicab driver: Because I drive the night shift, my cab often becomes a moving confessional. Passengers climb in, sit behind me in total anonymity, & tell me about their lives. I encounter people whose lives amaze me, ennoble me, make me laugh & sometimes weep. But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.

Responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town, I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory in the industrial part of town.When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, then drive away.But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

So I walked to the door & knocked."Just a minute", answered a frail, elderly voice. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress & a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos & glassware."Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she asked. I took the bag & then turned to assist her. She took my arm & we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. "It’s nothing", I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated". "Oh, you’re such a good boy", she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?" "It’s not the shortest way," I answered quickly. "Oh, I don’t mind," she said. "I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice." I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don’t have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don’t have very long." I quietly reached over & shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she & her husband had lived when they were newlyweds.She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner & would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I’m tired. Let’s go now."We drove in silence to the address she had given me. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous & intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.I opened the trunk & took the small suitcase to the door.

The woman was already seated in a wheelchair."How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse. "Nothing," I said. "You have to make a living," she answered. "There are other passengers," I responded.Almost without thinking, I bent & gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Afraid of Heaven?

I've heard that some folks actually don't look forward to heaven. Reasons? They tend to think that an eternity of doing anything would get old rather quickly. Kind of like overdosing on apple pie here on this side of eternity.

I think we need to give God some credit here. (Funny statement, eh?) I prefer to believe that God has got that boredom problem solved. Sometimes we need reminding that nothing is too hard for God. He has fashioned an existence that will be eternal bliss. That's it. Case closed.

I enjoy reading about near-death experiences. Of course, many doubt their validity...and whether they indeed give us a glimpse of heaven remains to be seen. But I do find it fascinating that many "return" to this life after having experienced, albeit for just a moment, a profound peace, a joy beyond measure. If these NDE's do pull back heaven's curtain a bit, then it seems that God really has covered this base.

So much of our journey is yet to be lived. I don't know much about heaven, such as what "state" we'll be in or how we'll relate to our current spouse given that there will be no marriage there. But I'm exceedingly anxious to be there and to see what He has in store for me. Even if it takes forever.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Top Five Days of my Life*

*With tongue planted firmly in cheek.

1. The day cable TV arrived at our house, sometime in the 80's. For some reason, Dallas was slow to get on the bandwagon and we were chained to a handful of OTA (over-the-air) channels. I had heard about ESPN but never experienced it. Then cable arrived at 5126 Breakwood and a new day dawned. I simply revelled in the luxury of watching a William & Mary/Weber St. basketball game or the 10 PM Sports Center. Nowadays, I have hundreds of channels and I've weaned myself from sports addiction. But trust me, it was huge when it happened.

2. The day I discovered I had always loved aviation and now I could look at pictures of planes to my heart's content. Little did I know that I'd ever post pix there.

3. The day I discovered that people would pay to have to their yards mowed. There was a guy who lived half a block down from us in the 70's. He and his wife had no kids and both were well-compensated at their jobs. He drove a Porsche and they had the only swimming pool in the neighborhood. Don asked me one day if I'd be interested in mowing his yard for twenty bucks. Sure! Little did I know that this would unofficially start an underground landscaping company loosely known as "Perkins and Sons", and would provide a stream of income for two decades, helping us put our kids in Dallas Christian.

4. April 26, 1976, the day I walked out of the National Guard armory on Northwest Hwy in Dallas for the final time. I had given our country six tough years of my life; it always seemed that my "Guard weekends" were on the best weather weekends of the month. And I never really enjoyed the Army. They begged me on that Sunday to re-up and give 'em 14 more years. Not a chance.

5. The day I dunked a basketball. I've been severely afflicted with white man's disease since birth. It was truly embarrassing going through life being 6'4" and unable to dunk. But one day in 1968, Terry Hawkins and I had just finished a tennis match at ACU when we wandered through old Bennett Gym on the way to our cars. I grabbed a basketball, dribbled toward the goal and leapt with all the albino genes I could muster...and cleanly dunked the ball. What was great about this was that I had a witness.

Of course, none of these compare to the REAL important days. Maybe that's another blog.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Quick Trip

I've returned home from spending 30 hours in Tampa, the humidity capital of the world. It must be a natural reaction of tourists to go places and exclaim, "How do folks live here?". I found that I could not stay dry when I left the gelid confines of the rental car. So anytime I wanted to eat indoors at a restaurant, I needed a shower first.

It also impacted my photo-taking. Yesterday morning, I arrived at my "spot" atop the airport parking garage and was immediately blessed with a great photo-op. I quickly got out my camera, attached the lens, stepped out into the damp air...only to have the lens to fog over upon contact with the outside air. Since you can't wipe a lens off with your shirt or a paper towel or somesuch, I was reduced to holding it over an opening in the hood of the car, where hot air was escaping with enough force to act like a blow-dryer. It took about 3 minutes but it worked. Of course, the shot I had wanted to take was long since history by that time.

Ironically, Tampa and the rest of Florida is in a drought. That, to me, is as puzzling as a lack of snow in Siberia. But as I awaited the flight home yesterday, a Dallas-like monsoon hit the area, causing perfect strangers in the airport to be embraced by giddy Floridians. Guess I brought them a taste of home.

Anyway, the reason I went there was to capitalize on the extraordinary photography conditions. It's hard to beat a silver plane on a deep-green background.