Rarely Proud to be an American Anymore


How did our country become so selfish?
An interaction that left me Grumpy – and it’s not even Monday!

© Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, ACT, MCC, SCAC
in the Monday Grumpy Monday Series

Walkin’ my Dog

As someone who moved around a lot throughout my life, I am currently living a considerably more isolated life than I would prefer because I have landed in a town I can’t really understand – Cincinnati, Ohio.

From my experience, at least, Cincinnati seems to be one of those towns I’ve come to call “passport towns.”

An introduction from somebody who’s grown up here – or lived here for most of his or her life – seems to be a prerequisite for even so much as a welcoming smile many days, and certainly the passport needed to develop a community of true friends. Since my move here several years ago, I have found myself quite lonely as a result.

True friends share each others’ lives, not merely conversations in passing or occasional calls for help or understanding in times of trouble. Most of my friends are scattered across the nation, so I frequently get a hankering for a a bit of face-to-face interaction, even though, since Kate Kelly’s passing, I no longer know anyone in Cincinnati I could count among my true friends.

Enforced isolation is something I have not experienced since, many years ago now, I first moved to New Orleans, Louisiana for grad school – another passport town. That surprised me, by the way. I’ve always made friends easily, and it’s extremely rare to need a passport in the South. But I think I finally figured it out.

Commonalities

I’ve observed that the two towns I mentioned are alike in this way: people who grow up there tend to stay put or move back “home,” perhaps because they finally tire of living in some other passport town where they couldn’t develop a community of friends either. In any case, a great many of the residents of these towns seem disinclined to widen their circles to include a stranger without the requisite introduction from a local.

Taking my own advice (from the Series I have been writing on loneliness and isolation), my little dog TinkerToy and I get out several times a day – and I smile warmly at everyone I pass on our walks around the neighborhood (even if they don’t return my smile). I engage anyone who seems the least bit friendly in a passing conversation.

“Hi, how are you?”
“Don’t you just love (or hate) this weather?”

When I notice an expression on a face that seems to indicate that they are about to bring our little chat to a close, I wave them on and tell them I hope they have a nice day.

Related posts:
The Importance of Community to Health
When You’re Longing for Connection

But passport towns are not the central point of today’s post.
Walking my dog is how I came to meet Staff Sergeant Brown.

Some actual connection

My little Shih Tzu TinkerToy and I frequently pass a small cigarettes-snacks-and-beer store that serves the many college students in this section of the walking neighborhood I currently call home. Staff Sergeant Brown was sitting on a stoop out in front, keeping watch on two large garbage bags bulging with cans.

Do you know what he can get for those cans these days?  A whole thirty cents – per pound.

And that’s how this courageous, 63 year old veteran of FOUR wars is currently supporting himself – because he is too proud to beg.

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How we met

I have long been in the habit of attempting to interact with veterans – ever since the shabby treatment the American public extended to returning Viet Nam vets, in fact.

It’s seldom difficult to identify the warriors who made it home. When they are not in uniform, they are frequently wearing old army jackets, those pants with lots of pockets, or those baseball-looking caps with something written on them that indicates that they are (or once were) serving in one of the branches of our armed services.

I always extend my hand to shake theirs – once confirming that they are, in fact, veterans – after I thank them for their service, of course.

It both warms and breaks my heart that the initial wariness on their faces in response to my question turns into a grateful smile when they hear why I want to know.

This particular vet took the time to take his wallet out of one of the many pockets in his pants, to make sure I could verify his name and status on his Veterans I.D. card. ADD/EFD Coach that I am, I made sure he remembered to put that wallet back into his pocket.  He will most certainly need to show it if a bed in that veteran’s housing facility ever becomes available.

Lessons in Perspective

A perfectly clean and sober Staff Sergeant Brown was about to pop open a can of beer encased in a paper bag when we came walking by — which he didn’t even move to touch during our entire conversation, by the way. He did offer to share the sandwich he was eating with my puppy.

When I demurred, he insisted on breaking off a big piece for little Tink, who had been keeping a close eye on that sandwich. When I protested that it was too much for my little pup, Staff Sergeant Brown’s reply astonished me. “I’ve never been able to eat in front of another creature who looks hungry without offering to share.”

Isn’t it amazing how those with practically nothing are almost always willing to share what little they have?

And it’s a crying shame that those who will most assuredly die before they can exhaust their monetary supply are frequently so guarded about extending the smallest of helping hands – even when it would barely represent a droplet in their second-home buckets.

As we continued our conversation he disclosed, without the slightest hint of a bid for sympathy to be found on his smiling face, that he was currently living “practically under the stadium.”

He’s on a waiting list for housing, you see – and a treatment program for residual PTSD, which he admitted only after I asked him if he were ever still troubled by what he witnessed during any of those wars.

But so far there aren’t any beds to be had “at this time.”

He checks in weekly – on foot, which is also how he drops off those garbage bags full of the cans he collects so that he can exchange them for money to pay for his sandwiches.

No money in my pocket

By the time we made it home, my little dog TinkerToy and I, and by the time I rummaged around to locate ten one dollar bills in various stashes around my apartment, it was no longer possible to offer them to Staff Sergeant Brown. Nobody was sitting on that stoop down the street . . . and Staff Sergeant Brown was nowhere else to be found as Tinker and I walked this way and that.

I’m not sure if I could have convinced him to take them, in any case. He seemed to be a very proud man – and with good reason, I have no doubt.

But, but but . . .

Many people would probably attempt to caution me that, if he had been there to accept my meager offering, he would only have used it to buy another beer or two at that little store.

And you wanna’ know what I would have said in response?

SO WHAT?!
After what he’s lived through,
how could anyone begrudge him the pleasure of a few cans of beer?

What’s WRONG with people anymore?

Actually, what’s wrong with America
that Cincinnati can’t find him a BED?!

© 2016, all rights reserved
Check bottom of Home/New to find out the “sharing rules”
(reblogs always okay, and much appreciated)

Click below for a heat-warming story of a small gift that changed several lives,
on the fascinating blog of a man who really talks to the animals – in sign language!
The Fear of Giving?

Don’t forget to check out the next post in the Loneliness Series,
The Unique Loneliness of the Military Family
… and the isolation of returning vets

Catch up with Part 1 HERE (The Importance of Community to Health)
Part 2 HERE (Sliding into Loneliness)
and Part 3 HERE (When You’re Longing for Connection)

Let’s hear it from YOU

I invite you to dump YOUR Monday grumps and gripes
in the comment section below each of my own – related or NOT.

As long as you don’t make individual people wrong, and do your best to avoid the dreaded “should” word, I will approve all comers (link-spammers shot on sight, however).

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IN ANY CASE, do stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

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About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

21 Responses to Rarely Proud to be an American Anymore

  1. i would not be alive and well today had it not been for my “Top Kick,” First Sergeant Cunningham. As a young officer in the 101st Airborne in 1967, this man took me under his wing and steadied my practice. I will always be grateful to this man. I can’t imagine a man like this collecting cans without a rack. Excellent post, Madelyn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Homeless Vets always break my heart – although it’s America’s disgrace that *anyone* lives on the street in such a rich country as ours.

      May 2017 be the year that we finally make sure everyone looking for housing and PTSD (or mental health) treatment FINDS it!

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. God Bless First Sargeant Cunningham.
      xx,
      mgh

      Liked by 1 person

  2. swamiyesudas says:

    A few more thoughts on Our Excellent Master Sergeant, whose: “I’ve never been able to eat in front of another creature who looks hungry without offering to share” should be enough to get him to heaven.

    The reason I returned to comment is that I got this thought later: In India, all our retired Soldiers get pensions. Does it not happen in the States?

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a haunting thought, isn’t it – that he’s willing to share what little he has, even with an obviously pampered pup.

      American Vets are eligible for benefits of various types – the enhanced VA health care benefits are most well-known, even though the wait for care is unfortunate – underfunding leads to understaffing.

      There is $0 downpayment VA mortgage help (if they can land a job to make the monthly payments), other lower cost loans are available to Vets – and certain Vets are eligible for disability payments. The government page makes it sounds like the government takes great care of them, post deployment – and some Vets are able to jump through the hoops to take advantage of many of the benefits available.

      The problem is the lack of adequate *mental* health benefits and the lack of understanding of PTSD (especially how long it takes to recover from C-PTSD) is still seriously. There is still quite a bit of stigma around reporting it, although the VA (and others) are trying to change that through education.

      Statistically, Viet Nam vets were hit the hardest, following the public’s lack of respect and support on their return from that unpopular war. Many have been homeless for years. The fact that they are still not “over the war” is taken to believe that they are scamming somehow – “malingering,” they call it.

      With so many Americans willing to put a hate-monger like Trump in office, it’s not much of a jump to conclude that they are a good example of the level of empathy for the less fortunate in this country – and it seems to extend to our politicians as well. Look at the laws supporting corporate capitalists and how they respond to raising the minimum wage.

      xx,
      mgh

      Liked by 1 person

      • swamiyesudas says:

        Thank You for all that, my Dear Madelyn.

        It is all very Heart Rending. I am one of those who gets very emotional. That is one of the reasons of my Tiredness, and Delay in responding to comments, as in this one.

        My Heart goes out for these Brave Soldiers. Love and Blessings on them.

        I must also mention that Trauma and Stress seem to be much Less in the Indian Army.

        Yes, ‘corporate capitalists’ Are a cursed lot. Christ Jesus did not a very long time ago, when He said that it is harder for a Camel, etc.

        Much Respects and Regards to You in this Your Good Fight. Love and Blessings.

        Like

        • I could tell from your writing that you get emotional – I do too. My stomach is in knots many times.

          About that camel’s eye: I know that most religions believe that reward and lack thereof come after death – and that some believe one comes back to go again based on what one did not learn in the prior life. But I yearn to see the “black hats” suffer the consequences of their actions in this one. Maybe fewer would ply their “cursed” trades if they didn’t work so darned well in monetary ways, and life would improve for the rest of the world.

          Meanwhile, bloggers like you and I speak out for the many victims of their actions. Sometimes, I fear, in vain. And still, I cannot join them – even in thought.

          xx,
          mgh

          Like

          • swamiyesudas says:

            Thank You for that Sympathy vote, my Dear Madelyn! I knew We are Kindred Souls!

            Whatever relegions teach, I have come to see and Believe that People Suffer for their Wrongdoings Right in This life.

            The Misery they Feel, the Loss in Hunger, Sleep and Everyday Happiness, the Tensions in their Families, all show that they are Suffering.

            The bad thing is that YET they go about their way. But it is like a toxin. Like the Drunk hating Drink, Yet Not able to give it up.

            And, …Our Efforts are Not in Vain. I have noticed time and again that People not only Remember what I have said, they Change their lives according to my Suggestions. Very Gratifying!

            Am Sure Same is the Case with You, too!

            Regards. 🙂

            Like

            • How wonderful to see change in response to what you write – and your comment gives me some hope.

              I remain disheartened to note that mental healthcare in America seems to be getting *worse* since the “war on drugs” has been initiated. It breaks my heart that protecting addicts from themselves is put forward as justification for refusing medication to many who are suffering needlessly – and that doctors and psychiatrists are so afraid of the DEA that they are reluctant to prescribe appropriately. I hope that’s the reason, actually. It’s even worse than I imagined if they truly are not aware of the difference between recreational and medicinal usage.
              xx,
              mgh

              Like

  3. swamiyesudas says:

    How to give a like? That Staff Sergeant Brown, at 63, has to collect cans and sell them, is for me is Tragedy Extreme. Sergeants are such ‘Big’ people. They hold a company together. The officer gets things done through them. And this for those kinds of People. I suppose this is not just in the US. As such, World, hang your head in shame. Mine is already down. …My Salutations and Love to Veterans like these. …The next time You meet him or someone like him, tell him another old man, a civilian, sends Love and Respects. …Regards.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for this comment. I haven’t seen him again since that day, but if I do I will tell him that someone from a country far away cares about his well-being more than the country he risked his life to serve.

      SHAME is the only word appropriate.
      xx,
      mgh

      Liked by 1 person

      • swamiyesudas says:

        Thank You, my Dear Madelyn.

        Liked by 1 person

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  5. Pingback: The Unique Loneliness of the Military Family | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  6. janetkwest says:

    I hate how rushed we are. Or maybe it’s just how I feel myself. It’s difficult to connect or say hello to people even in line at a store without feeling you’re slowing down the line. Kindness takes time. It’s something I have to remember. I have to slow myself down daily.

    Like

    • Good point, Janet! Those little connections do take more time, but not really THAT much more time.

      I always wonder how well those terminally rushed people USE those few minutes they save. (Like those idiots who honk and zoom by angrily when you’re waiting for the light to change to make a turn, blocking “their” lane).
      xx,
      mgh

      Like

  7. Dizzy Chick says:

    As the Dali Lama said in a speech last year, we need more ethics in our lives.
    Well that isn’t his exact words but this made me think of the speech.

    He actually said that ethics are more important than religion.

    People get so caught up in our differences and we don’t pay attention to what we have in common.
    We all need compassion, we all want happiness, we all want love….

    We let politics and religion and all kinds of things separate us and we don’t think about what we can do to help each other find the things we all want.

    We need to focus on ethics. We need to know more about what is right and wrong and not get so caught up in how to get there. Not get so caught up on labels.
    We need to give compassion.

    I’m honored to know someone like you who will take the time to have a real conversation with a man who is sitting on a bench and who looks like a beggar. He deserves to be treated with respect and compassion.

    Like

    • You GO girl! Your comment would make a great post – you write it and I’ll like it and link to it!

      I got the photo of the man from the Times online – link to article in which it appeared under photo (and in the Related Content: Handyman of Greenwich Village) According to the article, he is well known – and liked – by his neighbors — in NYC – imagine that!). So not EVERYONE is fearful of befriending folks who look like beggars.

      I didn’t have a photo of Staff Sergeant Brown (nor would I have used it if I did), but he actually looked rather clean cut and sort of jolly. He was also very sociable and polite. I will admit that I’ve talked to some rugged looking characters, but it was an easy decision to chat up this particular man – especially since he was great to Tink, who thought HE was great (even more so after that bite of sandwich lol).

      Like I said at the top – I don’t UNDERSTAND folks who aren’t willing to talk to the people they see on the street! (and I don’t even think I look like a beggar ::grin::)

      xx,
      mgh

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dizzy Chick says:

        I think if I wrote that post I’d be simply quoting most of that speech. I just read it, so I need to digest it a bit before I can put my own words in there. However, his words are what I wish I said.
        I’m stuck on a post I’m trying to write, don’t know if I’ll ever publish it.
        I’m afraid it may cause some harm, but some good too.
        About stigma within the mental health community.
        Don’t want to scare people off.
        Maybe more than 1 part.
        Hmmm.
        My sounding board again.

        I love the photo, Ned to read the article.

        If we were just closer, I’d love a face to face friend chat too.

        xo
        w

        Like

        • Well, since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, this is certainly the right time to write about stigma within the mental health community.

          I know what you mean, tho’. I struggle with how to write about things that stick in my craw without driving readers away with my anger or personally attacking anyone publicly — with the exception of authors and speakers. They are already public & stood on THEIR soapboxes, so IMHO, they are fair game for those of us who don’t agree or were offended.

          Is the harm you fear causing personal/emotional — or more like harm to a professional reputation? If the people you are afraid of hurting are part of your personal life, that’s a tough one. Those discussion are usually best in private, but that’s not always possible. Can you fuzz the identity without losing the point of the post?

          If the harm might be to the professional reputation/career of a mental health professional who is hurting others, my main concern would be libel – so you can’t name names unless it happened to YOU, and even then it’s iffy. HOWEVER, if you use identifying details without naming names, even if they could be identified by others from your description, you are relatively safe (check out how I handled Top Ten Stupid Comments by Supposed ADD Pros for examples of what I mean.

          Anyway, I know you’ll work it out. Keep slow cooking that ethics post, tho’ – I think it would be a good one. Nothing wrong with doing it in parts, either.

          xx,
          mgh

          Like

          • Dizzy Chick says:

            I did a short little post on the stigma and mental health. Nothing like the one that is digging in my craw. I’ll have to get that out somehow. I just touched on it briefly.
            The hurt I’m afraid of causing is making someone out there afraid to get help because they hear about how hard it can be.
            We can preach about stopping the stigma, but the more we talk about some places it occurs we may bring more attention to the fact that there is so much stigma.

            Like I want to talk about the stigma within the mental health community. How there is so many hurdles one has to jump through to get help, when they are barely holding themselves together. Or in some instances they aren’t holding themselves together and still can’t get help because they can’t fill things out to satisfy the system.

            Okay so I’m writing the post here.
            I’m sure you get the dilemma.
            But I need to speak up and advocate. Not shy away.
            I only feel that people come to my blog for hope and I’m not sure that post will give any.

            I’m thinking about doing it in parts yes. One will be my story. How I had to jump through so many hoops to get help. How I had the stigma. How I over came.

            The next will be how so many people fall through the cracks and can’t get help.
            How some people do everything they can and the treatments aren’t enough.

            well, that’s the thoughts.
            maybe I’ll get there.
            It’s a tough subject and I want to do it justice.

            as always, thank you for your sage advice.
            xo
            w

            Like

            • You are so great! Always thinking about keeping up the spirits of anyone lucky enough to come across your blog. Your outline above sounds like a wonderful way to attack this topic – and I can see now what’s giving you pause.

              I read an article on LivingwithHearingLoss recently where the author talked about prepping for a vacation by making sure she located a tour guide that understood what she needed.

              It has very little to do with stigma (or your comments above), and you may already have read it, but I’m mentioning it because thinking about how she attacked the subject might give you a bit of a different perspective on your own article that might make it a bit easier to write? This blogger wrote about it from the positive side – but she must have had (or heard about) some truly frustrating experiences to be able to come up with her suggestions (and to figure out the best way to go about making this particular vacation better for everybody on the trip).

              I thought of it when reading your comments about falling through the cracks. It struck me that you never give up, despite the stigma and your dismay when you have repeated experiences with doctors and/or programs that are – shall we say – not AT ALL up to snuff.

              Perhaps you could share a bit about how you DO it. Not just how you keep getting back on the horse, but what you’d do differently – what to ask, what to look for to find a knowledgeable doctor – questions to ask, comments to make TO them when they fail to listen – how to ask for a referral to a different doctor (and how to explain to them why you are leaving, so that maybe the next guy will get better treatment).

              Anything in what I suggested that was helpful? If not, throw it in the garbage and go with your “yes, but” thoughts. Sometimes the advice of others helps us clarify a completely different direction. Like when a waitress makes a suggestion of what to order that doesn’t sound appealing, but helps you decide what you DO want to order.

              Anyway – I’ve added a couple of links if you want to jump over to take a look.

              But you’re right about it being a tough subject. However you attack it, I’m SURE you’ll do it justice!
              xx,
              mgh

              Like

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