Sunday, January 15, 2017

There Is A Stark Difference Between A "Handout And A "Hand-Up."

Blog posts similar to sermons and other messages can come from anywhere and at anytime. In fact, the creation of this post is one such example. Ironically, speaking of sermons, this one came to me while in church and listening to the morning prayer offered by a childhood friend who referenced both the "handout" and the "hand-up" in her petitioning on behalf of the congregation. As I connected with the spirit of the prayer, a voice spoke to me saying "There is a difference between a handout and a hand-up," and I immediately knew that before the day was out, I would write the post you are reading now. 

While both phrases start with the word "hand," over time each has taken on different connotations. Handout generally is connoted negatively, while Hand-Up is thought to be something positive. Oddly enough when researching the definition of  Hand-Up, I found that the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Hand-up as, to deliver (an indictment) to a judge or higher judicial authority.  For the purposes of this post, we will use the English Oxford Living Dictionaries definition which is as follows:

1 An act of assistance provided by one person to another to help him or her climb on to something, or move to a higher place or a standing position, by using a hand or hands to pull up and support his or her weight. Frequently in to give (a person) a hand up

2  An act of assistance or aid (typically in the form of practical advice or support) given to a person or persons in order to help them improve their circumstances; a helping hand.

A handout on the other hand (no pun intended) is thought of as something given free to a needy person or organization with the keyword being "free." The person or organization do not have to do anything for what is given other than to receive it. In both instances, it is assistance given in one form or another to someone in need.  If you've read this far, stay with me as I am going somewhere with the definitions, as herein lies in my view, the issue.  In far too many instances what was initially meant to be a "Hand-Up" became a perpetual "Handout."  The hand-up was never designed to be an eternal handout and yet for far too many it became just that. The system was not initially designed for generations to pass the assistance along as if it were an inheritance or right. It was supposed to be a temporary provision to get one back on his or her feet. Partially to blame is the original design of the welfare system (Man-In-The-House Rule) which cut its own nose to spite its face resulting in consequences opposite of intent.

So what's the point?, you say.  The point is, as I heard a news reporter say the other day, this is not the most "Entitlement Friendly" group that is coming into office in 2017, meaning the possibility of a significant amount of  government assistance being reduced or done away with altogether. Which means it is incumbent upon us to always be preparing ourselves to support ourselves whether government assistance is given or not. It is imperative that when we do fall on hard times that we use the system as a true hand-up and not see it as a handout for life. We must prepare ourselves with education and beyond, continuously retooling to keep pace with the ever changing skills market.

Grassroots alternatives such as the Medi-Share program and other hand-ups like it covering all facets of life must continue to be developed in order for everyone regardless of demographics to move to a higher place.  We must all work together to prevent the hand-up from becoming a handout way of life.

Below are some statistics provided by Statistic Brain (http://www.statisticbrain.com/welfare-statistics/ ) citing the US Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Commerce, CATO Institute as its source for the information. Review information for what it is worth carefully and you will understand why we must keep a hand-up, a hand-up and not allow it to become a lifelong handout.

As always, something to critically think about.

The welfare statistics below represent anyone who receives any of the following government subsidies:
– Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps
– Housing assistance
– Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
– Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), or cash benefits
– General Assistance
– DOES NOT INCLUDE the 70.5 million people enrolled in Medicaid
Welfare StatisticsData
Total number of Americans receiving welfare government assistance67,891,000
Total number of Americans on SNAP / food stamps –  41,170,000
Total number of Americans receiving (UI / EDD) – unemployment insurance10,200,000
Total number of individuals living in a home that receives housing assistance7,676,000
Total number of individuals who received TANF during the past 12 months4,306,000
Number of individuals receiving some type of general assistance welfare not listed above4,537,000
Percent of the US population on welfare programs21.2 %
Total Federal government spending on welfare programs annually (not including food stamps or unemployment)$158,200,000,000
Annual size of the Federal grant given to states for TANF$16,489,000,000
Welfare DemographicsPercentTotal Number
Percent of welfare recipients who are white / caucasian16.8 %11,405,000
Percent of welfare recipients who are black39.6 %26,884,000
Percent of welfare recipients who are Hispanic21.2 %14,392,000
Percent of welfare recipients who are Asian or Pacific Islander18 %12,220,000
Percent of welfare recipients who are Other / Mixed4.4 %2,987,000

Welfare StatisticsData
Total amount of money you can make monthly and still receive some form of welfare$1,000
Total Number of U.S. States where Welfare pays more than an $8 per hour job39
Number of U.S. States where Welfare pays more than a $12 per hour job6
Number of U.S. States where Welfare pays more than the average salary of a U.S. Teacher8
Average Time on AFCD (Aid to Families with Dependent Children)Percent of Recipients
Less than 7 months19%
7 to 12 months15.2%
1 to 2 years19.3%
2 to 5 years26.9%
Over 5 years19.6%
 
Statistic Sources & References
 Sources: US Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Commerce, CATO Institute
Content Author: Statistic Brain
Date research was conducted: September 2, 2016
Welfare Statistics
Financial

Saturday, December 31, 2016

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Well as hard as it may seem to believe, we are once again at the close of one year and on the precipice of another. In accordance with the Gregorian calendar, we are moving quickly towards the sixteenth anniversary of our beginning the century of the Anno Domini era, (Latin for after Christ); in layman's terms, the Twenty First Century.

As Christmas has swiftly passed and Kwanzaa is coming to an end, many ask each other the question, "What are you doing New Year's Eve?." so much so that a song was composed using that question as its title. I fondly remember hearing Lou Rawls in his unmistakable voice belt it out on my stereo during each holiday season as if on cue as it was a part of the discography on one of the holiday albums I played each year.

This very same question has been asked of me several times this year as we look to close out 2016 by friends, family members and sometimes even strangers in the holiday spirit.  My answer........ "I intend to go to Watch Night service at my church and make a beeline for my or possibly a friend or family member's home. New Year's Eve like several other holidays in the year are not times I choose to be moving about too much because too many use holidays such as New Year's Eve, Halloween, and even July Fourth as excuses to be stupid. What I mean by "stupid" is, one drinking/drugging excessively in the name of the holiday. Many lives have been lost because someone celebrated too much and felt capable to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. On Christmas Eve of 2015, my wife's car was totaled while sitting parked during the night because someone decided to celebrate and then get behind the wheel. This occurred while we were at home and sleeping. The driver lost control of the car and careened into my wife's parked car. I had a similar experience with my car on Thanksgiving of 2010 as it was totaled while parked by an inebriated driver. In that instance, the driver took out five cars and left his overturned in the street. Thankfully in these instances, we were not in the cars or moving about the vicinity when these accidents occurred.

While I was not able to interview either driver, I would be willing to bet that when asked what happened? or why did you do that?, the answer would be, "Because it was Christmas," "Because it was Thanksgiving."  Similarly, all types of heinous activities occur on Halloween in the name of "fun."  Why did you do that?  "Because it was Halloween."  It's as if special licenses are granted to act foolish and irresponsible because it is a holiday. Countless lives are lost and property damaged, all in the name of "celebration."

I write this post as an encouragement for us all to be safe and sensible, particularly on what could be considered a higher celebratory holiday such as New Year's eve and any holiday or day for that matter and not drink and drive. The same holds true for smoking marijuana or any other sense altering drug. Do not get behind the wheel, weapon or action under the influence of anything. There is not that much celebration in the world that someone needs to lose his/her life or property.

So whatever you choose to do this New Year's Eve, please enjoy responsibly. As for me, I will be going to Watch Night Service at my church and then making a beeline for home. HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Be grateful for 2016 and have an awesome 2017! 

You are invited to hear me live each Saturday at 6 a.m. ET as I host my book talk radio show, The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. It can be heard around the world on gobrave.org and locally in northern NJ on FM radio WP88.7 FM. My first guest for 2017 on January 7th will be Dr. Steve Perry followed on January 14th by Dr. William Pepper. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What Do You Give When You Have Nothing To Give?

It's that time of year again when many stress over what gift to give and who to give presents to. Folks scurry to and fro moving from store to store and mall to mall spending even money that they do not have (aaaahhh..MasterCard, Visa, Discover, American Express, etc. etc. etc.). For those who have decided not to deal with traffic and shop online, the concern is still the same.....what do I get for "So-and-So?" Added pressure comes when you receive a gift from someone who you did not purchase a gift for or have on your original "gift list." When that happens, what do you do? Do you run out at the last minute and buy something to give to that person even though you had not originally intended to give that person a gift? And then when all is said and done and all is done and said, comes the day after Christmas where far too many people are standing in the "Return" lines at the stores because they did not like what they received. They return the gift for a store credit or refund. Stores even give "Gift Receipts" now in anticipation of the gift possibly being returned. After someone stressed over giving that perfect sweater or other trinkets, at the end of the day, the gift winds back up at the store in the return pile like the gifts on the Island of Misfit Toys seen in the Christmas television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

But, what do you give when you don't have any gifts to give? Your financial resources are maxed out? You cannot exchange a material or physical item? What can you give? I have written in the past how the story and song about The Little Drummer Boy is my favorite Christmas story because of the answer to the very questions I've asked in this post.  If you are familiar with the story there are many people gathered around a long open box or trough where horses or cattle eat from in a stable where the baby Jesus was just born. History has it that everyone in the huddle had come prepared with gifts to give to the newborn King. All except..... you guessed it, the little drummer boy. 

Like us, the little drummer felt bad that he did not have a gift to give, but then it came to him. He did have something. He would give the best that he had, which was himself........his talent. The only thing he had with him was his drum and his ability to play it and play it he did (I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum). He admitted that he was a poor boy (I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum) and that he had no gift to bring (I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum), but he asked permission (Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum), to play on his drum. The baby's mother nodded yes (Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum) and before it was all over the animals were keeping time (The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum) and the baby smiled (Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum). I could be wrong, but I don't think the gold, frankincense or myrrh or any of the other gifts for that matter garnered a smile like the smile depicted in the lyrics of the song.  

My point in the writing of this post is, sometimes the very best gift(s) are not monetary or material. Sometimes, even when we think that we have nothing to give, we do.  How can that be you say? How about we start with a smile, as you never know just how much a smile can mean to someone who is having a bad day. A hug. A short hand written note/card. A random act of kindness without looking to be repaid. Your talent like in the story. Finding a way to show you care about what matters most to that person. Something hand made. The list can go on and on. 

So this holiday season, if you feel that you are limited financially, come up with a list of ways you can deliver a message of love and joy that remains with the recipient long after the gift has been consumed, returned, used or put away. Something to critically think about........

You can hear me live each Saturday beginning at 6 a.m. ET as I web stream around the world on gobrave.org and broadcast locally in northern New Jersey on FM radio WP88.7 FM as host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.  Have a Happy Hannukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and New Year!


Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Airline Baggage Scales of Life

Well folks, I'm taking this opportunity to play Wednesday morning armchair quarterback. As you know Election Day was last Tuesday, November 8th and the results, for the most part, was made public by Wednesday morning, hence the Wednesday morning quarterback versus the Monday morning quarterback we usually talk about in football.

My last post in this blog [The Critical Thinker] questioned whether a vote for Donald Trump really was a vote for the person or for the spirit that this person represented during the campaign. A lawless say anything about and to anybody persona that could lead one to believe that anything goes; no rules, no boundaries. Insult whatever group you choose, use a bully pulpit, and talk locker room talk all in the name of not being politically correct. While I do believe political correctness allows one to tap dance around and skirt the truth in too many instances, what we witnessed verbally and behaviorally out of candidate Trump ought to have been seen as unacceptable even for those of us who do not necessarily agree with political correctness or pussyfooting around (no pun intended Mr. President-Elect). Oddly enough, the verbal free for alls were not viewed as unacceptable, at least not enough not to be elected President of the United States.

The constant verbal assaults were Mr. Trump's baggage. And then there was the baggage of Hillary Rodham Clinton and the reason for my using the metaphor of the scales at the airport where we weigh our luggage before it being accepted onto the plane. The scales that let you know whether or not the weight of your luggage will be acceptable for you to pay your luggage fee, have your bag checked underneath the plane and you get on board. For those of us who fly, I'm sure you can relate to the feeling of not being sure if your bag is overweight or not as you approach the scale. Usually, the maximum for each bag is anywhere from 50 to 70 pounds with the former being most common. Travelers oftentimes witness fellow passengers with bags that are deemed overweight, taking out items to get down to the accepted weight. Literally throwing away items in the airport in order to get that bag on the plane.

Metaphorically speaking, Hillary Clinton's baggage was just too heavy for the American people's baggage scale. Mr. Trump had a lot of baggage too but somehow it was weighed in at 49.9 pounds compared with Mrs. Clinton's 50 plus pounds. Let's be clear, both candidates had heavy baggage, but I do believe that the American people viewed Mr. Trump's baggage to be just a tad lighter and therefore chose him as the 45th President of our country.

Without a doubt, this was one of the worst if not the worst political campaigns ever waged in America and is likely symbolic of where we are as a country. Anything goes........  In my last post (10/23/16), I highlighted the fact that society has gotten to the point where everybody has a RIGHT, but nobody has a RESPONSIBILITY; this race epitomized that.

Now that President-Elect Trump will be taking office, we as the American people must hold him accountable to do what he promised that he would do. According to him, he will be "the greatest jobs president that God has ever created," so we will need to see some jobs created. The same holds true for businesses no longer leaving the country and all of the other promises that were made that is supposed to make America great again.

Personally, I think Mr. Trump is in for a rude awakening of how Washington and the world runs. It will be interesting to watch this saga continue to unfold. I don't think Mr. Trump will be able to Tweet his way out of the many challenges ahead. As always in The Critical Thinker, agree or disagree, it is something to critically think about.

Hear me live as I webstream around the world on gobrave.org and on FM radio WP88.7 FM in northern New Jersey as host of The Reading Circle each Saturday beginning at 6 a.m. ET. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

What If I Were To Tell You That A Vote For Trump May Not Really Be A Vote For Trump?

What if I were to tell you that a vote for Trump may not really be a vote for Trump? I've ruminated and marinated long and hard before penning this post as I really struggled coming up with an angle to write about concerning the bizarreness of this presidential campaign. It seems as if the longer the campaign has gone on and the closer that we've gotten to Election Day, the stranger the events surrounding our final two candidates have gotten. Truthfully, this post is not really about either candidate, but a possibility of why Donald Trump may be receiving the support that he is receiving. It is a personal theory; a personal opinion; a personal hypothesis if you will. 

Truthfully, for as long as Hillary Clinton has been on the political scene and not unbeknownst to anyone on the planet, one would think that she would have been winning by a landslide from the onset of Donald Trump being named the Republican nominee. He's a political outsider, a businessman with no formal political experience whatsoever, an entertainer. Sure, in business, one must be political to get things done, so from that standpoint, I am sure Mr. Trump knows how to play politics, yet, for the most part, the numbers are still relatively close especially considering Hillary's long-term presence in the political arena, hence my theory. It dawned on me when I heard Newt Gingrich say the following: 
"You know, presidents have to be disciplined, and in that sense Hillary is probably better trained to be president, just because she's the most corrupt person to ever get the nomination of a major party."
The light bulb went off for me. I knew at that point the angle to take for this post, the notion of discipline or in too many instances in 2016, lack thereof.  I was cruising through my timeline on FaceBook and came across this post that served as further confirmation of my theory. The post read:
"Society has gotten to the point where everybody has a Right, but nobody has a Responsibility."
Could it be that the numbers for Trump are where they are because those resonating with his behavior like the idea of not having to be disciplined? They love the name calling and no holds barred commentary and actions displayed by Mr. Trump. The bully tough talk and the throwing of people out at rallies are cheered. The same cheering takes place when Mr. Trump rudely interrupts his opponent or the moderator during debates. Even with this latest revelation of his conversation with Billy Bush eleven years ago, many of his supporters still cheer, after all, it's just "locker room talk." While I must agree with Mr. Trump's position on political correctness, it does not give him a license to be crude, rude, disrespectful and condescending. Though I must admit his quick-wittedness can be funny, we are not seeking an entertainer, we are looking for our next leader of our country.

We have seen over the decades the deterioration of  our society and her values.  Vulgarity on the radio; slightly less than full nudity on television; the showing of underwear by sagging pants; bodies fully covered in ink; the constant rise in gun violence; and the list goes on and on and on. All signs of a society that has become undisciplined. Too many of us have embraced the do and say anything you want to anyone you want in any old manner that you want philosophy and Donald Trump has personified it for us on the worldwide stage. It is this personification that caused me to wonder if the support for Donald Trump was really for Donald Trump or for the personification of being undisciplined? The relating and resonating with behavior that is representative of what so many wishes to be, wayward, unrestrained, ungoverned, disorderly and downright naughty.  

If by chance Mr. Trump becomes our next president, no one will be able to say that he fooled us. To his credit, he did not. He ran true to form. He ran as himself, so if we were to put someone in the seat who we know is not disciplined based on his own behavior and words, then there really would be nothing that we could say when that same behavior is exhibited in the White House. Something to critically think about.

You are invited to join me live each Saturday at 6 a.m. ET around the world on gobrave.org and locally in northern NJ on FM radio WP88.7 FM as I host The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.



Saturday, September 10, 2016

Bored In 1st Period by Obasi Davis


Asia comes from repossessed dreams
and nightmares that last as long as 
the absence of her father
I think that the reason her clothes are always so Boa
Constricting any amount of longing she might have felt
for him to me
Daniel spent his childhood running
from Richmond bullets and the ghost
of his dad
Daniel is a thug
He brags about seeing grown men
ground to dust under heavy boots for
their iPhones and their wallets
He rocks a long gold chain, and two
diamond earrings with
every outfit
Daniel only cares about money
but I can see genius bursting
from his pained skin
It is the deepest black, pure
like Earth's blood
but for some reason, most
seem to see it as an impurity.
He paints himself a gangster
to cover what they call ugly
Jonathan chooses to come
to class once a month
or whenever we have a sub
He shoots dice in the back corner of the
classroom with Duma and Daniel
When I ask them why, they
tell me money is everything.
It seems they are the products
of a broken society and a torn home
My home is not broken
My parents are divorced but
they get along
I haven't known death to 
come close,
and violence hasn't found me
vulnerable
And then, while sitting in
1st period pretending
to read Macbeth, it 
clicked for me
My classmates and I are different
In the words of Dr. King 
our elbows are 
together yet our hearts
are apart
I'm not asking for some all
holy savior to come and 
coddle us into equality
I'm asking for you to 
understand our struggles and
our hardships
To understand that if we have to 
learn with each other we should also
learn about each other so we can
bring each other up

This poem by Obasi Davis is certainly something to critically think about. It is taken from the book written by Christopher Emdin, FOR WHITE FOLKS WHO TEACH IN THE HOOD AND THE REST OF Y'ALL TOO: REALITY PEDAGOGY AND URBAN EDUCATION and after reading it, I felt compelled to share it with my Critical Thinker audience. 

Join me live as I host The Reading Circle with Marc Medley each Saturday beginning at 6 a.m. ET on gobrave.org and on FM radio WP88.7 FM in northern New Jersey. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and readingcircle01. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Franchise and Store Managers Beware

The sagging pants phenomenon has never and still does not make any sense to me at all. My mind just does not process the concept. I've heard people try to justify it by saying "It's the style," as if by saying that or it being the "style" makes it any better. The truth of the matter is, it's and ignorant style. I've even had some try to compare the sagging of pants to Black people wearing Afros in the sixties and seventies. Let me be clear on that one, the Afro was meant to be a powerful political symbol which reflected Black pride. The intent was to reflect pride. Which brings me to the question that I always have when I see anyone walking around with his/her pants sagging and exposing his/her underwear; what message are you trying to send? What is it that you want me the receiver to receive about you when I see you walking down the street or riding a bicycle with your pants half way down your thighs showing a part of your boxers, briefs or thong?  I can tell you what I receive it as. It tells me that I am looking at a slack individual who does not care about him/herself or anyone else. It tells me that I am looking at a person who does not give a damn. It tells me that I am looking at someone who is saying screw you and screw the world. It tells me that the person is not very intelligent. In short, it tells me he/she is saying the two words that rhyme with bucket. Yes, that's right, the "F" word in front of the word "it." That's what it tells me. It tells me that the person has given up and all hope is lost for him/her.

This issue has been around a while now and I am sure most if not all of us have heard the variations of its beginning in the prison population, so I won't waste the time to go over it again in this post. My reason for writing about this issue from a different perspective, is that I've noticed that the sagging has made its way into the business community. By business community, I am speaking specifically about the retail franchise industry such as McDonald's, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, etc. etc.  An industry that for one, serves food and two lives and dies by image, messaging and professionalism. Sagging has become so pervasive that it has entered this arena and I question if store managers are aware of it or have become immune to it?

On two occasions over the last couple of weeks, I was in such aforementioned franchises and noticed some of the employees behind the counter with his/her franchise uniform pants sagging and showing me and every other customer his/her underwear. As I walked out of the store, I could have kicked myself for not saying something to the young men or their managers on both occasions. In one of the scenarios, an individual in a manager's uniform was standing right next to the employee who was serving and sagging. Needless to say, he did not notice it or did not care. That did not give me the warmest or fuzziest feeling about the food I was going to receive given that I had just viewed the employee's gray BVD's, Hanes, or Fruit-of-the Looms. You notice, I remember the color. After the second occurrence at a different establishment, I told myself that if I enter another store and see this, that I am going to take it upon myself to speak to the manager and point it out to him/her.

You read above of what I perceive the message that sagging sends. Can you imagine that message now being sent by a representative of one of the franchise's. In sales, professionalism and image are the life blood of the business. People will not continue to purchase or patronize a store or company that sends the wrong messages. That's why companies have such large public relations and advertising budgets.

If you are reading this and you are a manager at a store, particularly in the food industry, but it is not limited to that, I hope this raises your antenna to the dress of your employees that you supervise. If sagging continues to invade the work place, I predict that sales will begin to drop as customers become turned off to seeing the underwear of employees behind the counter. If you are not the manager of one of these establishments, but know someone who is, I encourage you to share this post with him/her and I also encourage you to join me in speaking up when you are being served by someone at an establishment of business who is sagging. Something to critically think about...............

I invite you to join me each Saturday at 6 a.m. ET, as I host The Reading Circle on gobrave.org and locally in northern NJ on FM radio WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to visit my website at thereadingcircle.ontrapages.com and thereadingcircle01.com.  You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and readingcircle01.