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Every Experience A Lesson

Posted by djingodjango on Saturday, January 7, 2012

I'm sure the above title is an axiom, somewhere - uttered by someone, perhaps even me,  and said when things have collapsed and you are drowning in sorrow, grief, shame, supply the misery.

I had intended, at the start of this year, to write a memoir dedicated to my life experiences, good or bad; shameful, sad or joyous.

And so I begin with shame.

In the early 1970's, I was a disc-jockey and morning radio personality in the town where I lived. 6 days a week; rain ,snow or heat, I suited up and began the day for many folks in that community.

I had been bedeviled for years by rheumatoid arthritis, and, at one point, I had been hospitalized with feet that were swollen like 20 pound hams and pain that was indescribable.

With cortisone shots, hydro-therapy and pain killers, I eventually returned to a normal life. And one day, with-out so much as a nod to our station manager, I announced to anyone who was listening that morning, that I would hold a "Stay-awake Marathon" to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation. 

The object was to see how long I could sustain myself without rest, and folks would pledge so much money an hour - the proceeds going to the Foundation.

It began with a bang. Many town businesses jumped on the band wagon, there was a place in the front window of a local ambulance service that would provide the space and even donated the cost of running a land line from there back to the station.

Once the wheels were set in motion, everything came together and one Monday a few weeks later, I keyed my mic and off we went.

It was quite successful and after about two and a half days, and careful observation by health personnel, I tottered out of the building, seeing things, hearing things, forgetting things. You know. The usual stuff that happens in sleep deprivation.

And we had made over $1500 dollars.  Back then, that was a good chunk of change.

I had my picture in the paper, and later more photos of me with the local chapter president of the Arthritis Foundation.  I even received an award from the local Lions Club for civic advancement and, months later, recognition from the state governor who, at the time, was  Walter Peterson.

I also had the job of counting and depositing all the cash.

And that's where the trouble began.

At the time, I had two children with a third on the way and a salary of $156.00 a week. And many bills. We had, as a family, been asked to move at least twice because we were in arrears with our rent. Electricity had been cut off at least once for the same problem, and we had gone without heat because we couldn't pay our oil bills. (And that was when it was twenty nine cents a gallon.)

Now - to be honest - this was my fault because I had no concept of a budget, or what constituted my responsibility as a father and husband. These lessons took at least another 20 years to find a foot hold in my life.

It was an afternoon in late spring when I went to the local bank where all the money gathered from the "Stay-awake-athon" was stashed in a safe deposit box. The amount had not been precisely counted, but it was around the sum I mentioned earlier.

When I counted it, it came to fifteen hundred ninety-eight dollars with some change.

Without even thinking, I pocketed forty-five dollars of some folks contributions and wrote down the final figure of fifteen hundred fifty three dollars and change, and handed it to a bank official as I left, who would, in turn, add it to the coffers of the Arthritis Foundation.

There were numerous reasons I gave myself for doing what I did.

We needed to pay the rent that week, (I had missed it, again), Shouldn't I receive some compensation for the large inflated flowers, that only I could see, dancing on my front lawn?

What about the lost time at work when I was in the hospital? Oh the list could go on and on; down the river of denial.

The fact was, I stole money. No one knew. But I did.

It was many years later when tallying up my life during those awkward moments when I thought I was going to loose it, that I faced that fact that I had done something that was not right.

And so I sent them a check for forty-five dollars. It was not a feel good thing to do, because I was not a good person at the time I did it.

Yes. There is a lesson. Most people have a conscience and most people, even wooden-boys, will respond to it. 

In my case it took a little bit longer.

(C) 2012 George Locke






1 comment on “Every Experience A Lesson”

Paul R Says:
Tuesday, February 7, 2012 @10:46:49 PM

George, you've jogged my memory.

In my third year at university (1965-66) I was on Student Council. Another member, who was chair of the committe I sat on, resigned. Then he changed his mind. But I moved that we accept his resignation. Result: I became chair of that committee. Then I asked my dad (who had lots of experience with procedure) about it and he said that, if he asked to return before a formal acceptance, we couldn't accept it. Oops! How ambition can cloud judgement.

I got my comeuppance shortly thereafter. I was running for an appointed seat, but one of my supporters decided that he'd run for it instead, with the support of the various society presidents, so I was out, stabbed in the back. You might call it justice. Then I started to run for Council chair, but decided I'd had enough of student politics and withdrew from the race. It's most likely that I'd have won, but I didn't trust the system any more.

That summer, the Student Council president, elected by a wide margin that spring, failed his year. He'd been an outspoken opponent of the administration, so, either they "got him", or he spent too much time with politics and not enough on the books.

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