Be careful of your thoughts
for your thoughts become your word.
Be careful of your words
for your words become your actions.
Be careful of your actions
for your actions become your habits.
Be careful of your habits
for your habits become your character.
Be careful of your character
for your character becomes your destiny.
Jane sees John. Jane likes John.
John has been seeing Jane for a few months.
They met at the ice cream shop where Jane works.
Jane is 20. John is 17.
John is an “A” student and wants to be an engineer. Jane barely finished high school and didn’t like college or working very much. She might like to be a wife and a mother, but not necessarily in that order.
John’s parents are sad.
They tell John to stay away from Jane because they fear she will steer him away from all the important things they taught him.
But John really likes Jane and doesn’t want her to marry somebody else.
John visits colleges with his parents and finds a good school for engineers.
When John comes back, Jane is sad. She tells him college will split them up, but John promises it won’t. Jane says that’s good because she is going to have John’s baby.
John doesn’t tell his parents and leaves for college. Jane calls him every day. The baby will arrive soon.
John comes home almost every weekend to see Jane, and stays at her mother’s house, but doesn’t tell his parents he is in town.
One day John’s mom sees John and Jane at the store, and begins to cry when she sees Jane’s big belly. John screams at his mother, who runs out of the store. People from the neighborhood watch and whisper.
John goes to his parent’s home and tells them everything, including that he is failing all his classes because he is never at school. He loves Jane so they must understand.
John’s father calls him filthy names and says he never wants to see him again. John’s mother cries some more. She spends most nights awake, worrying.
John quits school and comes home to get his job back at the department store. He and Jane live with Jane’s mother because they cannot afford an apartment. John and Jane receive governmental assistance for the baby and buy their own food the same way.
John and Jane ride the bus because they cannot afford a car. John’s parents have separated because of all the tension John actions have created. John’s mother comes to Jane’s mother’s house at night and leaves diapers on the doorstep because she still loves her son, but does not know how to handle all of this.
One time Jane sees John’s mom leaving the driveway in the dark, and calls her a terrible name. John’s mom calls her all the terrible names she has been thinking for the past year. Jane tells her she will never see her grandson.
When there are layoffs at work, John is the first to go, and he finally loses his job. He sees about getting back in school, but his parents’ support is no longer there. He gets a job parking cars at night at a fancy restaurant.
One night he arrives home early, and there is a strange car in the driveway.
When he goes inside, he finds Jane on the couch kissing an older man John has never met before. There is much yelling and swearing, and the two men fight. The police are called and John is arrested. When he is in the squad car, Jane comes to the window and tells him she loves Hank and not to come back when he is released from jail.
John’s parents have disowned him. His friends are away at college or getting on with their lives. His only friend is Jane, and she doesn’t want to see him anymore. John has to serve time because he can’t make bail.
Later, John, out of jail, has nowhere to live and no one to call.
Jane and he were never married, so he has no legal rights to his son unless he can prove he is the father. His name is not on the birth certificate, a secret Jane kept from him. He cannot afford an attorney, so he must do without seeing his son--his only happiness in life.
Shock And Awe
John wanders into a homeless shelter and takes a lukewarm bowl of soup and bologna sandwich to a corner table and begins to cry.
(Now the lament of the truly clueless begins.)
John wonders why God did this to him. God? He wonders why there are no jobs for people like him. He wonders why this darn government doesn’t help him more, forgetting they kept his child alive when he had nothing and barely worked. John curses his parents for splitting up when he needed them. And most of all John hates Hank, who has taken his beautiful Jane from him. Of all the things John needs to concentrate on now, he chooses getting even with Hank as the most important. Jane wouldn’t want anyone else--it had to be lies told to her by Hank. John thinks about buying a gun.
Years pass. John is in and out of jail for various crimes. Jane has another child by Hank and a third by a fellow named Artie, who works at a butcher shop. She now gives John visitation through a court order, but every time he picks his son up at the door, Jane calls him a lot of bad names and makes the exchange difficult. Many times John’s son is crying even before John arrives because the child knows there will be conflict, and 5-year-olds don’t like to see their parents fight. They don’t like to see anyone fight. They’re not supposed to see anyone fight.
It is no surprise John’s son is a bed-wetter and noted as “despondent” on his kindergarten report card. It is also no surprise that no one reaches out to help John’s son. He doesn’t know his grandparents, rarely sees his dad, and is living with his mom and her new boyfriend. Will the warmth of a gang possibly appeal to him in the future?
It is no surprise John’s parents do not reconcile, or that John never sees his father again.
It is no surprise that John’s mom moves in with her sister in later years and rarely, if ever, speaks to another man again.
It is no surprise that Jane doesn’t care about any of her children or the various men in her life. She does, however, love the buzz of a good crack pipe, which Artie obtains from his butcher-shop connections.
These are some of the people who live in our country, folks. They make mistakes which are compounded by more mistakes. Most of what they do occurs because they are lazy about their habits, and their habits become their lives, and then they refuse to listen to those who once cared about them, but then gave up. But look how many people they take down with them, including a 5-year-old child, who has probably seen more strife in a year than you and I will see in a lifetime.
What is ruining this country, my friends, is us--our lazy, procrastinating, careless, disrespectful way of life! No governmental program is going to give that back to us until pride becomes a factor again, and the need to hold our head up high becomes equally as important as providing for the family and situations we created, and take responsibility for them.
Yes, the example above is extreme, and brings into play every stereotypical character at once. But is it really that far from possible? Don’t we all know someone who has many of the same traits and makes the same errors in judgment? The inconsiderateness to others? The constant whine that someone, somewhere, ought to be doing something to help? What a mess!
You want answers? You want the truth? Give a mirror to those afflicted by this senseless, expensive and damaging way of life, and ask them to look deep into their own eyes. Have they realized the hopes of those who wanted the best for them? Are they living a life respectable enough that, if they did meet an old friend or family member, that person could say, “Wow, you’re giving it your best”? If not, there are two questions left:
1. Why not?
2. What the heck are you going to do about it?
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org