Tuesday, December 30, 2014

As we start a new year perhaps one of the things we should be doing is developing a new respect and appreciation for the elderly in this country.

We live in a world where their opinions are denigrated as “out of touch”. They are the “old white males” or “ women who never had a real job”. Previous cultures cherished their elder populations for their experience and wisdom and the sacrifices they made for family and society. Their knowledge of history and tradition was integral to the welfare of the community.

Now they are widely discounted as burdens. One of the drafters of the Affordable Health Care Plan recently actually had the audacity to write a lengthy piece in which he advocated that our country would be better off if citizens just killed themselves when they reached age seventy-five so they wouldn’t be such a weight on society. And many in the media totally ignore our seniors because they don’t buy enough “stuff’ to be considered a worthwhile advertisement segment.

Perhaps these views shed a little light on why our culture is gradually imploding.
Too many in our population are without the benefit of the guidance and love that comes with a cherished familial structure. As a society we make the same mistakes over and over because we lose touch with the history and the traditions that were so essential in our development. We no longer honor those who have made the sacrifices and worked to make this country what it is.

I have worked with the elderly for several years ( and am gradually becoming one). I have spoken in a wide variety of community and retirement centers. I am often amazed at the perspective and common sense that many of them bring to discussions. They have run great corporations, taught our nation’s children, fought on the beaches of Normandy, and often taken a lifetime to provide values and love and attention to their children.

I wrote Remainders (Riding in Boxcars, 2006) after visiting one of these centers. I was overwhelmed by the beauty, love and intelligence that seemed to rest just below the surface of these citizens. Their bodies were worn but they offered so much from within if someone was willing to look past the surface.

It is a shame that we waste such a wonderful resource.

Glenn K. Currie


They wait for their
Ready to be opened.
To share secrets
Of  life.
Fresh and young,
Now, burdened with age.
Cloaked in the dust,
Of yesterdays.

Lined up on shelves.
They rest,
Stories hidden,
Beneath their covers.
In restless desperation,
For someone,
To see,
The beauty within.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

We have all been blessed to live on this beautiful planet. Whether we view it from Earth or as the glowing colorful jewel that is seen from space, the size and value of this gift is irrefutable. Yet as our population grows, we seem to be creating more damaged souls who have no greater objective than to destroy this beautiful planet.

Whether they use the crutches of religion and social engineering, or are simply motivated by greed and the search for power, they work every day to create a planet where diamonds will be turned back to coal.

We are a world in turmoil, capable of creating wonderful things and yet also of developing the means for a few individuals or small organizations to turn us into a barren place where beauty, love and freedom can be erased from the world in a few careless moments.

I wrote “A Christmas Prayer” (In the Cat’s Eye, 2009) at a dark time in our world. Unfortunately, the same prayer is still applicable. I offer it again this Christmas in the hope that a merciful God will help us find a way out of this wilderness.

Glenn K. Currie

                       A Christmas Prayer

We exist in a dark age.
A time where horrible things
Are done unto each other
In the name of religion.

Help us to find passage
To religions’ true teachings.
To end the hatred,
The explosions of hearts and minds.

Let quiet words create a gentle breeze
That blows away
The acrid scent of burning anger,
The smoke that blinds the soul.

And in this season
 Where presents are exchanged so freely,
Help us to begin to find
That gift born within each of us.

Give us the vision to see the light
That shines in the body electric.
That glow emitted by the human spirit
That can reach the farthest stars.

Give us the wisdom
To use that internal flame
 To find our way onto a new path,
And into a new world.

To that promised land
Where lions lie down with lambs,
And there is Peace on Earth
Goodwill to Men.


Friday, December 12, 2014

A lot of people are still struggling in this very slow economic recovery. Many no longer show as unemployed because they have given up hope of ever finding a full-time job similar to what they lost.

It is a cold world out there if you have been laid off and you are over fifty, were in a labor-intensive manufacturing job (now moved overseas), or are without the computer and internet skills that are so necessary today. Even new college graduates in many fields, loaded down with debt, are having trouble finding employment comparable to their skill sets.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in the mainstream of American life with a car, house or apartment and a steady job, can’t imagine the terror that comes with suddenly losing these things.

I wrote The Storm (Granite Grumblings, 2011) a few years ago but it is just as applicable today.

I hope you will think about it as you pass the Salvation Army bell ringer or get ready to make your year end charitable contributions.

Glenn K. Currie,  www.snapscreenpress.com

The Storm

I got a call the other day from an old friend. He had been laid off from his job. He was another casualty of the broad epidemic of downsizing that has been going on for several years.

Shortly after he lost his job, his wife, a fairly senior employee in a state agency, decided to divorce him because he was, in her words, a loser. He had then escaped to a consulting job in Spokane for a few months, but couldn’t stand being away from his kids and had moved back to southern California.

When he called, he had no job, no wife, no assets and very little access to his kids. He had almost no hope. He had been dropped into that vast chasm that seems to have absorbed so many in recent years. A formerly successful individual suddenly becomes a non-person in our society. As I listened, I could feel the terror. I could envisage a man on a space walk who suddenly finds the umbilical chord to the ship severed. As he spins into the darkness, he sees a world of incredible beauty: a silent planet disappearing into the distance.

He had called me to find a little warmth and to see if I knew of any job opportunities. We talked of old friends, now scattered around the world, and of places to start over. I couldn’t offer much real help, only sympathy and a couple of suggestions. We tried to fill the silences with a discussion of the weather. New Hampshire was in the middle of a major snowstorm combined with near zero temperatures. It was sunny and 73 in Newport Beach. He won a tiny victory in that exchange.

As I hung up the phone, I looked out the large floor to ceiling window in my study. The outside flood was on and I could see the snow dancing through the night. The flakes glinted like mica in the cold night air: sparkling chips from a black-granite sky, gleaming just out of reach and then disappearing into the night. The wind played with them, pushing them against the glass and then screaming in rage as it carried them away from the alien warmth.

By morning, about eighteen inches of snow had accumulated. A few flakes still drifted down but the storm was over. The trees, the land and the pond were all covered with a fresh white layer that made the world seem pristine. Plows were actively working the otherwise deserted streets. But then, as I watched, a lone man with a shovel came down the road. He stopped at two homes, trudging to the doors and then slowly making his way back to the street. To my consternation, he then began the long trek down my driveway. He was quite thin, unshaven and moved stiffly.
He rang the bell at the side door and when I answered he dispensed with any niceties and simply said, “Do you think you might want to have your walk or driveway shoveled?” I nervously, reflexively, declined. He said “thank you, anyway” and began the long walk back up the driveway.

It had caught me by surprise. I regretted that I hadn’t even explained that I have a man contracted on an annual basis to plow the driveway. I also realized that he was the first shoveler I had seen out trying to make money after a storm in probably twenty years. Even the kids don’t do it anymore. And then I thought about my friend and his struggles.

I also remembered the old car beside the garage that sometimes sits under snow for a week or two until I get around to digging it out.  I chased him down as he was being turned away from another home up the hill. We agreed on ten dollars for him to shovel out the car and the breezeway.

I asked him what he did for a living. He was a house painter who was trying to make a little extra money to see him through a difficult winter. He said he hadn’t had much luck.

After I paid him, he walked to the top of the driveway, turned left, back towards town, and disappeared. Shortly behind him came one of the big city plows, its yellow lights flashing a warning. It flipped snow and rocks and clumps of dirt into the building banks, clearing a path for the rest of the world to do its business.