UP with DOWNton!

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t watched the “Downton Abbey” Series Finale, DO NOT read this!
OK? Let’s discuss the last episode of this great PBS show.
We LOVED the finale. I know to some, the idea of pretty much everyone having a Happy Ending seems unrealistic…even fanciful, but after watching and being disappointed by so many of the “big” shows lately, We were thrilled to experience a a 2-hour storybook fantasy for once. Consider these shows and where they’ve taken us, the loyal fans over the last few years:
“Sopranos”- This iconic show started what I call the “unsatisfying ending” trend for viewers with it’s closing scene. As much as we loved this show, I don’t know anyone who enjoyed they way the show concluded…leaving everything up in the air and die hard fans discussing every little scene detail to this day on the web. Remember how you grabbed the remote or thought you lost power during that last 20 seconds?


“Deadwood”- It ended without ending. We were all expecting another Season and we never got it. Creator David Milch supposedly gave it all up to do that awful show “John from Cincinnati”, which barely lasted one season. Every couple of months we fans hear rumors of a “Deadwood” movie or reunion…but it’s not likely. It was enough to make you curse like a Cowboy. The second example of a show not giving good “Fan Service”.


“Mad Men”-This “must-see-TV show” continued it’s abuse of the fans who made it a success,when they started taking TV’s most handsome anti-hero, Don Draper…a virtual American James Bond, and slowly and steadily breaking him down, piece by piece. We all know Madison Avenue and the Advertising World has been selling us things we don’t really need for years…but consumerism is as American as we get. From the mutiny of his co-workers (many of them HIS employees) to his humiliating fall from Grace and all the unmanly crying scenes, the unexpected death of his ex-wife, Betty. His failed marriage to the sexiest French Canadian ever seen on TV (Zou-bisou-bisou!), the all too obvious 60s Pop references (“Hey! Who’s up for going to Sharon Tate’s house for a party?) to the WTH? half-season split at the end of the show…they took the coolest guy on TV and turned him into a member of a California Cult. Mathew Weiner must really hate us.



“Game of Thrones”- Author George R.R. Martin has never apologized for shocking and bumming us out, when it comes to the GOT books. Considering his genius…I think it’s acceptable for a writer, his privilege. But the show “runners”, Dan Weiss and David Benioff have taken it one painful step further. They went WAY out of their way to bring an unprecedented weekly “torture-porn” element into our living rooms week after week this past Season. From Sersi’s naked “walk of shame”, Kaleesi’s dragon getting his butt kicked and leaving her in the hands of a tribe who hates her, to Arya going blind and of course the repeated sodomizing/rape of one the most innocent characters, Sansa…it has many of us wondering if we were ready to bail on our favorite show. And then to kill off the only real hope for peace in the kingdom, Jon Snow….it was just all so unnecessary and pretty much the choice of the two MEN who are in control of the script, to make the show so brutal to the women of Westeros. The worst case of “hating your viewers” in TV history.



So when “Downton Abbey” goes the distance to make sure every major cast member is happy…or at least has the promise of happiness in their future…well, I know I’m not alone in saying it was refreshing!

-Lady Edith gets her Bertie back and they wed.

-Mary and her new husband are having a child and he and Tom are starting a cool business together.

-The Bates’ finally have their baby and no one had to die or go to prison.

-Thomas feels the much needed love of his “family” and gets his dream job, even though Carson’s gig is about to be re-invented.

-Cousin Isobel ends up marrying and saving the life of her devoted Lord Merton, despite having the worst son and daughter-in-law in British History.

-Lord Grantham and even The Dowager didn’t have to die.

-Even Mrs. Patmore and Daisy have a chance at romance with The Pigman and Pigman Jr.

I don’t care if it borders on being “child-like” to enjoy a happy ending all the way around…we needed it. Lord knows, with everything going on in the world today, we needed this! 


I have to admit to you though, we were holding our breath during the unusually long pause after the Reverend asked “…speak now or forever hold your piece…”. And I was half-expecting Lady Edith and Bertie to say “So Long”after the wedding and then head-out for their honeymoon which would start by boarding The Hindenburg for a flight to New Jersey. Thanks to the other shows listed above, I was conditioned to have the rug pulled out. Thank you “Downton Abbey” and PBS for giving us some great Fan Service…it was lovely.





A MadMan’s guide to HOT Pizza

Steaming Pizza

I LOVE pizza. It has been my all-time favorite food since my first bite of my first slice when I was 4 yrs. old. This was in Hamtramck back when the favorite deep-dish pizza was cooked in a pan that was lubricated with bacon-grease. (now THAT was great pie!)


Over the years, pizza has become an obsession in my life. I admit that my pizza preference borders on compulsive behavior, and I’m fine with that. My insanity regarding pizza has caused many awkward social situations and people close to me know that when I order a pie, it’s like a military operation. It’s not a casual thing and over the years, I have perfected a way to make sure my pizzas are enjoyed the way God intended: HOT.

Now if you don’t care about your pizza being hot…or if you’re satisfied with putting it in the microwave (which to me totally RUINS pizza) then you might get a laugh out of this article, but you won’t find it useful. If however, you agree that the best way to send your mouth to Heaven is with hot pie, then read on and feel free to follow these steps.

#1. I Never order a pizza to be delivered. Please remember, this advice is for people who value hot-pizza over any other consumable. However, if you’ve got a house full of kids to feed, or a party going’ on, or  you’re just not into enjoying pizza like a communion of pleasure…you’ve probably never even given this any thought. So by all means, make it easy on yourself. I say this with all due respect to the pizza places that do deliver, some of them do that vey well. But that just out of the oven-burn your tongue experience is very unlikely to take place if it’s being delivered, UNLESS that store really makes hot delivery a priority…and i’m sure some do. In fact, this post was inspired by a new TV commercial I recently saw which featured a new, pizza delivery vehicle with a built-in warming oven. That could be promising…I’ll have to try it…But I used to be a delivery guy for a big pizza chain. Even with a metal “hot box” that we would plug in at the store and then unplug and put the hot-box into the car, it was almost impossible to deliver pizza that had steam trails coming out of the box when you opened it at home. When I delivered, there were two reasons for this:

  1. It took a while to find an address you’ve never visited before.
  2. You NEVER left the store with just one pie. In my time, the pizza guy made an small hourly wage and the rest was made on tips. So you would wait for two or three pies to come out of the oven before you packed up and headed out. Therefore you could make more money on one run. And since everyone orders at a different time, they come out of the oven at different times. The time between pizza #1 and #3 coming out could be as much as 10 minutes. Even using that hot box, there was a quality difference between #1 and #3 based on time out of the oven. And, as I recall, you didn’t necessarily take the first one out of the oven to the first house you drove to. You arranged the route based on what you thought was the easiest route. So…the first one out of the over could be the last one delivered. Needless to say…I never got made a lot on tips. (also…on a side note: the pizza delivery guy’s ultimate fantasy never came true. The one involving a woman in lingerie who didn’t have enough to pay for the whole bill…you can imagine the rest. )


Obviously with GPS on every phone and in most cars, reason #1 above is no longer an issue, so your chances of getting a hot pie have increased a lot. I don’t know how they arrange deliveries these days, but I can’t imagine a guy heading out with just one pie at a time, and I can’t remember the last time I got an actual hot pizza delivered with one exception: Primo’s in Birmingham. I’m not sure how they do it, but I always get a hot pie when they ring our bell.

#2. Invest in a couple of pizza hot bags. There’s cheap, reusable and they do a great job of keeping your pie warm. Locate them BEFORE you order your pie on the phone or web.


#3 When you order your pizza for carryout, leave to pick it up as soon as you hang up your phone. You read that right. As soon as I hang up, I’m out the door. The reason for this is no matter how early you arrive, it’s the only way to make sure you’re ready to head for home, as soon as it comes out of the oven. Getting there early will also give you time to pay for it in advance, and buy any pop or extras you may want. So as soon as they put your pie in the box, you’re out the door. (Needless to say, I won’t patronize a store that makes your salad, AFTER your pie comes up.)

#4. No extra stops on the way home. Not for gas, groceries or anything else. You can go out for those items later.

#5. Have a co-pilot if possible, to secure your pizza  in the hot-bag and to keep it from bouncing around in the car and to keep it LEVEL. You’ve gone to all the trouble to make sure it’s traveling home hot and that means it’s warm enough to slide to one side if the box isn’t level. And since your car seats pitch backwards, you’ll need to be careful to avoid the cheese and sauce avalanche. If you don’t have a co-pilot, you MUST prop up the shallow side of the car seat. Bring a book or in a pinch, use your giant owner’s manual you never read from your glove box.


pizzaCarseat copy

Do I even have to MENTION there will be no “peaking” or nibbling on the pie. This lets heat escape and ruins the whole operation, and quite possibly a relationship.

When you get home, immediately turn the oven on to 200 degrees. Take the pieces out you wish to put on a plate and put the pie, box and all into the oven. At that temperature, it will stay nice and warm (even hot) until you’re ready to proceed on this scared journey.

By the way, if something goes wrong and your pie is cold…the BEST way to re-heat is to wrap it in tin foil and put it in the oven at about 250 degrees. The foil will keep the surface moist and the crust from getting too chewy. Putting pizza in the microwave turns the crust gummy and soft.

So there you have it…my step-by-step process for enjoying hot pie. Italy’s gift to mankind. You may think I am indeed mad, but ask yourself this question:

Isn’t pizza almost always much better tasting when you have it in a sit-down restaurant  compared to one that’s been delivered?  When you have to use a fork to get the pieces apart and there are gooey strings of cheese when you lift it off the pan?

Uh-huh…I thought so.



Get your ass to Mars!


Did you know that JFK originally wanted the U.S. to go to Mars?

Buzz Aldrin explains: President Kennedy approached NASA in the early 1960s, he said, “I want to go to Mars.” The NASA people spent a full weekend studying that, went to the president and said they had done the calculations and we were in no position to get to Mars. They told him they thought they could get to the moon.

I consider myself luck enough to have been alive when our country has a national shared goal and interests. The Space Program for one. Consider the fact that in the early 1960s, we were still facing all matter  scary threats like we are now. We didn’t have to worry about being shot at an office party, but as kids we were playing “duck and cover” under our desks in case the Russians nuked us. This was no joke. As a kid I remember being mildly concerned about WWIII, but I wasn’t obsessed by it…no kid was. We actually thought it would never happen and if it did, if we hid under our 3×3 foot desk, we’d probably be OK.


Our parents had to go to work every day and tuck their children in at night, worrying about the US and the Russians coming to the brink of a world war. I never asked my folks about it when they were alive, but I wish I had. I honestly don’t know if it caused them the same anxiety our present threat from Islamic militants causes us, today. I can’t imagine how it didn’t.

But back to my point: In the 1960s, we had The Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of our President, the start and expansion of the Viet Nam war, riots in dozens of American cities over Civil Rights, inflation, recession and a long list of other problems, but we still had a common goal and National interest: The Space Program. We talked and learned about it in schools…every TV network has actual science reporters who helped us understand how Apollo worked. We watched every space-shot from The Cape, live on TV…often in school.

We had issues…we had problems…the world seemed fragile…but we still found room in our collective frame of mind for a great American project: The Space Program and a Moon landing. 

I don’t want to be the one to tell Buzz the sad news…we’ve changed so much as a country we don’t have any more “national-shared-interests”…with the exception of Kim Kardashian telling us how big her boobs got during pregnancy. (please finish my blog before you look it up)

I long for the days when we still had something that was bigger than our individual selves, to work toward. I miss living a daily life that wasn’t full of frightful news about terrorism and political nonsense.

We might just have to join Buzz and get out of here…


Buzz has a great website and some wonderful things to read if you still have enough room in your mind for a little imagination. God Bless him for that. -Jim


Finally! a way to end Santa-Fear.

san3Maybe you were never afraid of Santa when you were little. That’s great! But none of us can deny that for some reason…some kids are absolutely terrified to be put on the lap of Ol Kris Kringle. It’s hard to figure out “why” this happens with some children and not others. There’s really no way of predicting it. But if you’re a parent who’s been waiting all year to get that ‘Santa-Selfie”, only to watch in embarrassment as your kids scream their heads-off…well it’s just impossible to understand. Kids during a certain age love Santa when he comes on TV or they see him in a parade or in a movie. They write him letters…leave him cookie and milk and even make sure they are “good for goodness sake” during the last months of the year. But it’s like trying to figure out why your dog barks at some dogs and wags it’s tail at others. There’s no figuring this out.


It’s not like you’re abandoning them to a stranger’s lap forever…you’re two feet away! If kids take their cues from Parents, why would a child freak-out when you are obviously thrilled to see Santa after waiting in a long line? And even if you have more than one child, and you think they’d feel “safe in numbers”, the panic of one kid is often overwhelming to the other, and you have a duet of screaming.


But I think I’ve discovered an answer: Behold Hipster Santa Claus!


That’s right! Hipster Santa is here…no more 300 pound stranger in velvet and fur. Hipster Santa is well dressed…well groomed and has washboard abs.


I’m guessing he smells like Cinnamon mixed with Musk Oil.

Now I make fun of the “hipsters” all the time…every generation has had them. In American Culture we’ve had The Grundge-hipsters, The Mods, The Greasers , The Hippies, and if you’re anywhere my age, you might remember The Beatniks. And before that, there were the precursor to HIPsters, who were called “Hep-Cats”from the 40’s and 50s. The words “hep” and “hip” battled it out in the early 60s…”hip” won that contest and HepCats took their BeBop records and went home.


At first glance I thought Hipster Santa was just a Madsion Avenue gimmick to sell wool clothes and beard-oil…but after giving it a thought you might agree that your little ones might be less afraid of Hipster Santa:


Than they are of Old School Santa:


Hipster Santa doesn’t much care if you’ve been naughty or nice…he has other, more contemporary rules:


Old School Santa demand cookies and milk…two items that many Moms would not let their own kids have on a regular basis. The cookies might have nuts in them and the milk must be soy. Why does this fat old stranger get to chow on things we all know “are bad for you”?  Hipster Santa has a more modern appetite :


Old School Santa may be jolly, but he isn’t in very good shape…he obviously doesn’t do yoga or even belong to a gym:


Hipster Santa probably drives an electric-sleigh but ties to walk or ride his bike because it’s better for the environment.


And Old School Santa might be kind of boring to today’s kids…(when he’s not scaring them into wetting their pants.)


Hipster Santa would discuss North Pole-Climate Change and make sure the Elves aren’t being taken advantage of by Wall Street and The 1%.


Yes…the solution to making sure your little ones aren’t traumatized by Santa at Christmas (which is of course embarrassing to you and a wasted photo-op) might be as simple as giving St. Nicholas a Merry Makeover.

Old Santa might not like it at first…


But he may have to just learn to change with the times…like we all have done.


“Siri…get me names of all the single Moms in town…”

Merry Christmas!-Jim Harper

(p.s. In case you don’t recognize it in this post…it’s satire. I love old Santa just the way he’s always been, and I know exactly what he looks like!





Everything I needed to know about Life is taught in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”.


Jimmy Stewart was a True American War Hero in WWII. Stewart’s draft number came up in 1941 just as his Hollywood star began to really shine. He reported for duty, but at 6’3” and only 138 pounds, he was five pounds underweight. Think about that for a minute…almost a million men a year were being drafted at the time to fight in a World War. There’s a chance you might not come home. If you’re Jimmy Stewart, you’re on top of the world as an American actor.


You proudly go down to join up but are told you’re too skinny…you’ve got a 4F classification and a legitimate excuse to “sit this one out” and go back to making millions and having women adore you. But you don’t…just like George Baily, the character he played in “It’s A Wonderful Life”, James Stewart knows deep inside what he must do. He goes home…eats everything he can find for a couple of days, and goes back 5 and 1/4 pounds heavier and enlists in the Army Air Corps as a private. He becomes the first Hollywood actor to join up before or during WWII. He flew 20 combat missions, most of them in dangerous areas over Europe.


. When he got out of the service he had reached the rank of Colonel. He went on to serve in The Air Force Reserves for years, eventually becoming a Brigadier General. He received many medals including The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985. When he got out of the service, his old friend, director Frank Capra told him he had a part for him in a new film that would change his career and his life. It was origibally called “The Greatest Gift”. You and I know it as “It’s a Wonderful Life.” But it has the power to be The Greatest Gift to you and me.


If you are an aging Baby Boomer like me, you’ve probably seen this film at least 30 times. It’s on TV every Christmas. If not…if you are a bit younger and never seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it. I know young people have an aversion to movies in black & white (this baffles me) but it’s worth your time. For in “It’s A Wonderful Life” you’ll find a guide to everything you need to know about living a purpose-filled life. If you are religious, your faith will be strengthened…if you’re not, but used to be…your faith will be renewed. If you are agnostic, you’ll find it spiritual. Regardless of your creed, you will find something to learn about yourself and how to deal with this thing called Life. For example:

  1. Life is HARD. George is faced with raising kids, being a husband, running his own small business while constantly being professionally attacked by his enemy (Mr Potter).
  2. Sometimes, the dream you have of how you want your life to turn out, doesn’t come true, but you are entitle to more than ONE dream. (George is constantly getting pushed and pulled back from his dream to see the world, and create great things).
  3. Your biggest “asset” in this life is your FAMILY. George kept his word to his father, and kept the Baily Building & Loan alive, and refuses to turn in Uncle Billy for losing $8,000, despite the fact that it means prison and ruin for George himself. won12Dad
  4. It’s perfectly normal to get frustrated with life and take it out on the people you love most. It’s wrong of course but it happens. Witness George’s anger and frustration with his wife and kids when he’s faced with the pending doom coming his way after his business is showing a unexplained loss.won10KidsCry
  5. Everyone deserves a second chance…even those we know who have made mistakes. George gives Violet some cash out of own his pocket to help her make her way to NY, despite the fact that most people in town think she’s a bit of a whore.won25Violet2
  6. Angels are real and they walk among us. I’m sure there’s been a time in your life when some stranger was at “the right place at the right time” and saved you a bad-turn.won18Clarence
  7. Sometimes the “greatest job offer in the world” isn’t the best thing to take right now. (Potter’s offer to have George come work for him, IF George will let him destroy the building & loan.)
  8. You should never look to hard to find love…sometimes it’s right in front of you. (Mary having a crush on George since they were kids.)won13Crush
  9. Just when you think you’re at the end…that there’s no way out…the people who love you will come to your rescue…IF you share your troubles. (The townspeople coming to George’s financial aid)won5Lonely
  10. If you have just ONE person in your life who truly loves you…and has your back, you are truly blessed. (Mary, George’s wife)won14WifeBack
  11. Some of the people with all the money and power are actually evil.(Mr. Potter keeping the poor down and in perpetual misery.)won16BankerEvil
  12. Having money and being “rich” are two different things.“To my big brother George…the richest man in town,”-Harry Baileywon6Toast
  13. You’ll never know how your friends might turn out, if you hadn’t been there to keep them cool. (George going to his favorite resturant only to find it turned into a nasty dive-bar.won2
  14. We have to have faith in one another, and we’ll all be OK. (George explaining to customers at the Building and Loan (a credit union) that their money was in actually each other’s homes, not in a vault.won15Bank
  15. Make a hard-working teacher cry, and her husband WILL punch you in the mouth.won3Teacher
  16. No man will ever have trouble finding a girl if he’ll just lean to dance.won8Dance
  17. No matter where you live…no matter what shape it’s in…even if your house is falling apart…it is your HOME.won26House
  18. You never really know the affect you have had on other people’s live and you NEVER will.won1
  19. And finally…noManIsaFailureAll the BEST for Christmas…and I sincerely hope you have A Wonderful Life.-Jimwon21TheEnd

My Cousin, John Pawlak recently posted a great original song he wrote called My Christmas Memories, (you can hear the song on my FB page) and he posted it online with an edited video of some of our Chistmas parties from many years ago when we were kids.

I hadn’t seen much of this video (actually 16mm film) for some time and it was a wonderful way of remembering what it was like to be a kid at Christmas. Also, because it was from the 70s, it also showed the images of so many people we’ve lost over the years. It was so great to see my Mom passing out big glasses of milk at the big-person’s table, and Nana, being the life of the party, as usual.

Because I hadn’t seen many of these images for such a long time, it gave me an idea for our family, and maybe your family too.

We all have stray boxes of old snapshots of the family. Maybe some are actually IN a photo album…but the problem is, as we age…we tend to hang onto the ones we have, and other families have a similar collection in their homes.

I got to thinking, wouldn’t it be a great Christmas gift for everyone to bring whatever phots they have, to the annual Christmas or Hannukah parties, and designate one or two family members to be the “family historian”?


Then they could organize, scan and burn copies for anyone else in the family to use. They could put them on CDs…flashdrives or even upload them to a website like DropBox. Then anyone who wanted to, could enjoy this BIGGER collection of photos and videos, and do whatever they’d like with them.

I remember my good friend Rick’s Mom told me a few years ago that she had done that…it took a while but she actually printed them and made family photo albums for her adult children. That’s an awful lot of work, the kind only a Grandmother would do, but just to get them all in one place and make them available for everyone would be just about the warmest Holiday gift you could give your family.

I’m going to suggest this to MY family…I’ll even volunteer to organize it, since I’m retired and have the time…No matter how it works out, I think it would be something you’d cherish and hand-down for years.


If you’re anywhere near MY age, you remember seeing pictures of your parents…usually black and white snapshots, from when they were dating or first married…many of these pictures involved old cars..picnics and almost always a bottle of beer…When I look at these photos I can’t help but imagine what was going on in their lives so long ago….they were almost always laughing or goofing around..they were having fun…full of life and all kinds of possibilities… as time goes on, things change, people pass away…so I think it’s especially helpful to keep our families memory alive about the happy times…when everyone was young..healthy and full of love.

So that’s my suggestion for you…I’ve noticed all of the younger nieces, nephews and grandkids these days are very curious about family history…it’s only natural…so now that WE are the “elders” of the group…it seems like a shame that they’d never know how rich and colorful the family they are a part of, truly is.

I’ll let you know how this works out…my thanks to my cousin John Pawlak for doing that video and you should check out his song “My Christmas Memories” on Youtube and my Facebook page.

And if you have any suggestions on how to make this idea even better, please feel free to let me know..share it with everyone else reading or hearing this. There probably is “an app for that”…something that organizes family phots, that I just haven’t heard of.


I’ll have another fireside chat soon… in the meantime: be good to each other…be good to yourself…and try and do the next right hing…that’s what I’ll be doing.

The Gift you get from Giving.

IMG_0756Who said “Tis better to give than receive.” ?

We’ve all heard it…or at least those of over 40 have heard it. I’m not so sure it’s a common saying today. But do you know who is credited with saying it?

I did not remember… I admit I had to look it up. St. Paul tells us that those were Jesus’ words. Verse 35 is part of St Paul’s sermon in Ephesus “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

Wise words, indeed. For me the wisdom comes from the indisputable fact that the act of giving makes the giver feel like they’re getting the gift. I’m sure you’ve experienced it. Whether it’s making your kids smile on Christmas or a Birthday, or finding that “perfect something” for someone you care about…the look on the recipient’s face makes you feel a warmth and happiness that is impossible to describe. Anyone who has done charity work will tell you they always end up feeling like the lucky ones in the equation.

It’s a very genuine, organic feeling that I don’t think any other living creature is capable of experiencing.

FullSizeRender-3      A couple of weeks ago, my thoughtful Wife, Lynn announced “I signed up to be a Salvation Army bellringer…do you wanna come with me?” I was rather surprised by the way she made this commitment without me…she obviously wanted to do this, whether I came along or not…and I was somewhat ashamed that I hadn’t thought of it myself. To be honest I haven’t thought of doing much charity work at all since retirement. I spent 44 years in Radio and every one of those years included charity-work. With your help we collected a million toys for Toys for Tots, we sent kids to college, we helped schools, fought breast cancer and collected thousand of pieces of clothing for needy Detroiters. It was easy for me to justify “having done my part”. I am retired. But then I thought about it and realized, you simply can’t retire from being a thoughtful human. 

I LOVE working with organizations like The Salvation Army. Today, while standing in the cold, ringing that bell by their kettle, I recalled my first real introduction to the great work they do and why I think it’s so important. Over 20 years ago, I was at a luncheon/fundraiser for them at the old London Chophouse in Detroit, when that iconic restaurant was on it’s last legs. WOMC’s Gene Taylor was there as emcee. To my surprise, he was wearing a Salvation Army uniform…full dress jacket and pants with hat. He actually was an officer in The Salvation Army. I soon learned that he took his work with that group very seriously. He told me about a very basic, street level program they were doing called The Bed and Breakfast Club. Since my Radio show was called “The Breakfast Club”, I was curious about this program…”how does it work?”, I asked. “Well, it’d be easier to show you than just talk about it. You should come with us on a run.” he replied. “Yeah…I’d love to.” I said. “Great! meet me at the Salvation Army building tonight at 7, we’ll go out.” Gene said.

geneTaylorNot wanting to seem like a person who was “all talk and no action”, I agreed…I went home and hours later put on my long johns, my Carhart overalls, heavy boots and hat. We met downtown and loaded up an old food truck, the kind with the fold-out side that has a serving counter, with big cans of boiling soup and boxes of sandwiches. Twenty minutes later we turned down a very dark Detroit street in a part of town I’d never seen before…no working streetlights…a burned out car in the middle of the street…abandoned building with no sign of life. Gene Taylor was driving…I was standing in the back. He cut the engine and we sat there with the lights on. Within minutes people started wandering out of those buildings like slow moving zombies. Layers of old clothing for warmth, plastic bags tied around their shows, rags wrapped around their hands in place of gloves. They slowly lined up single file at the truck and we stayed until we’d given away ALL of the food. I’ll never forget the one man who said “Is it OK if I take an extra sandwich for Dan up there? He can’t walk very well.” It was that night I learned about The Gift of Gratitude. On the drive back I asked Gene why he didn’t engage any of these people in conversation about The Lord…or The Salvation Army…or anything, really…just treated them all with great respect and kindness. Even the ones who spit and swore at us. Especially those who did that. Gene told me that a basic principle of The Salvation Army was you can’t begin to touch a person’s heart and mind if their stomach is empty.  That gave me gift #2…The gift of selflessness.


Today, my wife and I had a blast collecting in Downtown Birmingham. We made up songs…developed a choreography for ringing two bells in unison and I got to see what real giving is all about. Teenagers who are making an hourly wage, going to work but finding a couple of valuable dollars to put in the kettle…Moms and Dad teaching their kids their first lesson in charity by having them put the money in the kettle themselves…people who drove up to the curb, rolled down the window and offered some cash..construction workers who dug out a dirty, wrinkled $20 from their jeans, and even local business heroes like Link Wachler who was taking his 88 yr old Father out for lunch. Everyone was generous…no one was on their cell phone…no one was texting. People wanted to look another human being in the eye and without saying much…make the connection we all need so much…the connection of caring and love. Now…today…especially this week.


So Merry Christmas, America.

No one can take that away from us…helping each other out is part of our nature…it’s who we are…it’s one of the many things that makes us great.

Sometimes we just need to be reminded how we are a part of this connection of kindness…it’s a birthright…and even if you lost it, you can get in back in a second.

It’ll be the best gift you get this year.-Jim