Friday, December 18, 2009

Arizona teacher on leave for taking choir to Hooters

An Arizona music teacher whose students performed at a presidential inauguration event is on administrative leave after taking 40 high school students to a Hooters restaurant.

Paradise Valley school district spokeswoman Judi Willis says choir director Mary Segall accompanied the students to a performance in downtown Phoenix last week, and during the outing, they ate lunch at Hooters.

Willis says Segall explained that the restaurant, known for its waitresses' somewhat revealing attire, was the only place that could accommodate a group of that size. But district officials believe there were other options for lunch in the area. Segall could not be reached for comment.

Who is out of line here? The teacher or the school district? Leave your opinion...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"A Different Christmas Poem"

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light, I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.

My wife was asleep, her head on my chest, My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white, Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe, Completed the magic that was Chris tmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep, Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.

In perfect contentment, or so it would seem, So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near, But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.

Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear, And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night, A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old, Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.

Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled, Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear, "Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!

Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve, You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift, Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right, I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line, That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me, I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.

My Gramps died at ' Pearl on a day in December," Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."

My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ', And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while, But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag, The red, white, and blue... an American flag.

I can live through the cold and the being alone, Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet, I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.

I can carry the weight of killing another, Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..

Who stand at the front against any and all, To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

" So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright, Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least, "Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?

It seems all too little for all that you've done, For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret, "Just tell us you love us, and never forget.

To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone, To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead, To know you remember we fought and we bled.

Is payment enough, and with that we will trust, That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Taxi Driver

I arrived at the address where someone had requested a taxi. I honked but no one came out. I honked again, nothing. So I walked to the door and knocked. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets..

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, and then returned to assist the woman...

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated'.. 'Oh, you're such a good boy', she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, 'Could you drive through downtown?'
'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly. 'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice'.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued. 'The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.

What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired. Let's go now'
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

'How much do I owe you?' she asked, reaching into her purse. 'Nothing,' I said

'You have to make a living,' she answered.

There are other passengers,' I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said.

'Thank you.'

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.