Choose Faith or Choose Fear

It’s a cold, cold night. The winter storm is coming. Tomorrow is supposed to be -35 degrees. I am warm inside the house. I let my dogs out for 5 minutes and then bring them back inside. They whimper because the ice is frigid. It hurts their paws.

The storm is coming.

I could worry about everything. Will my car start? Will I make it through the snow and ice? What about the storms at work? What if someone else gets Covid? What will we do? What about this? What about that?

What if…What if…What if…

2022 is not starting out well. We are stuck in a bad, bad approaching storm. Think about the economy, think about Covid, think about the supply chain shortages, think about this, think about that…..think about all the bad stuff on the news…….get all filled up with anxiety and fear. Get all angry and frustrated and all worked up.

Or…..

choose to stay calm. Choose faith. Not the crazy blinding stupid faith that totally ignores the potential dangers. No the kind of faith that informs the serenity prayer.

Lord, help us to accept the things we cannot change and give us the courage to know the difference between what we can and what we cannot do.

I went to Galilee when I was 21. It was a study abroad for a summer. We took a rickety old metal bus up to the Golan Heights for the day and then on the way back, we stopped at an outside cafe. We got the wild notion to swim in the Sea with our clothes on. I still remember the joy of that moment swimming in the Sea with friends.

It really wasn’t that big, the Sea of Galilee. You could see the other side….much like a big Missouri lake. I wondered then what the disciples were so afraid of when the storms tossed their boat around and the waves threatened to come over the sides. Why did they panic? Jesus was asleep in the boat and they came to him and asked him to save them. Now, I realize that they probably didn’t know how to swim. That would be scary for sure.

Anyway, he got up and told them to have faith and then he calmed the waters to ease their minds.

We’re all kinda stuck in a Galilee boat and we don’t know what to do and we’re worried that this dang disease is gonna drown us. But remember what JFK said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Fear causes anxiety and procrastination and arguing and in-fighting and endless stupid drama which only serves to compound our problems. It causes the blame game and finger pointing. People stop fixing things and looking for solutions. Instead, they just throw shade and throw each other under the bus in an attempt to save their own hide. Every man for himself like we’re on the Titanic and there’s only one lifeboat left.

Admit it. You’ve done this. I’ve done it too. But this time…

Relax. Stay calm. Stay the course.

We’ll get out of this.

The man who wrote the song Amazing Grace was once in a storm too off the coast of England. He tied himself to the boat and he asked for mercy. He came through the storm and gave up his profession of slave trading. He went on to become a prolific preacher and hymn writer and we still sing his songs to this day.

It’s getting colder and colder outside. I could sit here and worry myself to death about the endless possibilities of what could go wrong. Or I could sit here and write something encouraging.

I choose to write.

The Opportunity to Help Heroes

I just work HR. It’s not very glamorous. All day long I help the company process paperwork. Today, I did 3 leave forms, payroll, helped with tuition reimbursement for 2 nurses, put in schedules for traveler nurses, and filled out lots of forms for helping medical staff with work comp in case of Covid quarantining. I help to ensure they get paid and get their benefits to support their families. Sometimes I screw up. But sometimes I am glad I am there to help.

All across America and the world, the medical staff are getting hit hard by the pandemic. It is not just the disease. It is the long hours, the double shifts, the struggles between work and family. It’s working extra to make sure the patients are okay. It’s holding hands. It’s not just meeting medical needs but psychological needs and basic needs like feeding and hygiene for the people they care for. It is wearisome to say the least.

I see it everyday. I see the exhaustion. I see the burnout and frustration. But I also see how hard they are working. I see how much extra they do with no thanks. I see the risks they take every day. I see them gowning up and getting N95 masks on that are really uncomfortable to wear. I see them working together to keep patients safe and bringing food trays to rooms and locking down facilities and screening visitors endlessly to try to keep the covid out. I see them getting through the winter snow to work. I see them playing music for the patients to cheer them up or doing all sorts of activities to keep the patients happy.

It’s not the big things. It’s the little things. It’s the little choices they make every day that make the medical personnel and medical admin heroes. It is getting up in the dark in the morning and getting scrubs on even though you want to call in. It’s showing up and clocking in and going through all the testing requirements from upper management. It’s showing care and compassion when they could easily turn a blind eye because they are overwhelmed. It’s a thousand little decisions made over and over day after day after day after endless day to stick it out for better or in this case, worse and worse and far worse.

It is an endless battle with an invisible enemy that keeps morphing over and over again and again. It would be easy to give up hope….and so many have. But I see in my own workplace, folks that just keep going and keep hoping and keep scheduling and keep administering and keep nursing and keep feeding patients and keep watching over them at night.

In Batman, the Dawn of Justice, there is a scene when Batman runs towards trouble while everyone around him is fleeing. You can watch it here if you want. I think medical people are like that but on a grander scale, a longer time scale. There is no fantastic explosion. Instead, it is decision after decision after decision to treat and maintain and prevent.

The choice to be a medical hero is not that simple. Watching it from the sidelines, it’s way harder than I had any idea of.

It’s countless endless decisions to not give up even through Delta, even through Omicron, even through this new Florina. It’s the internal decision to soldier on. It’s the decision to stay positive amidst adversity, as one of my colleagues said to simply, “Take one day at a time.” He said the key is to not look at the big picture but just focus on the day, getting through the day. That is the best advice I’ve gotten since working this job.

I’m honored to help them. I know I make mistakes sometimes with the paperwork and sometimes the procedures and processes can frustrate or seeing the medical staff burdened can make you feel god awful. But overall, I am glad I took this job.

I work with heroes. Real heroes. Not the kind that wear spandex and capes. And that’s not just rhetoric. It’s true. These are the real kind. I wonder what stories we will tell of them many years from now if we all make it through this pandemic.

Tonight, if you just google hospitals, you will read countless articles about the hospitals and other nursing facilities under siege. My own cousin came down with Covid in Kansas. All the hospitals were full up and they were considering life-flighting him all the way to New Mexico to a hospital there. That is how bad it is for the medical facilities right now.

If there was any time the medical staff in America could use your thoughts and prayers, it’s now.

Heroes run towards trouble even when others run the opposite direction. It’s a gut decision, a split second decision. They just do it. That’s how you know someone is a hero.

As they say in the St. Jude’s hospital commercial, “Hope is when you never give up.”

Remember, the stars shine brightest only on the darkest of nights.

2 Writing Publishing Opportunities

There is a new climate change-focused website that is publishing prose and poetry. It is called XR Creative and can be found at https://www.xrcreative.org. I got a message from the Joplin Writers’ Guild about the new site so I submitted a story called Golden Child about a young boy during the climate crisis. If you want to submit prose or poetry, they are accepting entries. Check it out! Great stories and great opportunity to get published and share your ideas.

Also, I submitted 2 stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Remember these fantastic books in the 90s? I had several of them and I still have the Mother edition today. Love these books. I wrote a story about Christmas and one about dogs. The submission deadline for most of the Chicken Soup books is around March or May 2022. The website is super easy to use. Check it out at http://www.chickensoup.com/story-submissions/submit-your-story.

The Locket

By J. Speer

Photo by Bruno Castelli on Pexels.com

(This story was written for a dystopian writing challenge. The short story had to be 600 to 2,000 words and involve a silver heart locket.)

Part One


It wasn’t supposed to happen like this…


That was the last thought entering Dawn’s mind as her shocked eyes pulled away from the rearview mirror. In the reflection, she could see the slow pool of blood flowing out from her sister’s abdomen. Liz was crumpled in an unmoving heap on the ground 15 yards behind her. That was as far as Liz had gotten before the robots fired lasers at her fleeing the vehicle.


LIz was dead for certain. Dawn knew this already in her shattered heart. The shadows of drones flew overhead targeting her renegade F390 truck.


Her eyes darted to the glove compartment briefly and then drew back to the gathering robot border patrol guards. Dawn thought of the only weapon she had, an ancient Colt 1911 that had belonged to her father before he was euthanized by the People’s Republic in 2064. This was 17 years prior to this moment….her Dad euthanized at 50 to fertilize soil for the republic crops……euthanized by state mandate like all the other 50 year olds that surrendered their bodies for the greater good. State survival…it was necessary.


The laser sights flickered briefly to show the robots were on to her movements, armed and deadly. Dawn swallowed harshly.


A brief text appeared before her.


“You know what to do.” scrolled the incoming message left to right above her briefly on the digital windshield.
There was another pause as she considered the weight of the silver heart locket on her heaving chest.


“You know what to do.” the message repeated only this time it was followed by a slight command strong enough to stop her beating heart.


“Remember your family back here in Teyhanna.”


A solitary tear fell down Dawn’s right cheek as she continued to stare at the border crossing now filled with reinforcing robotic sentries. No more messages appeared.


Dawn reached quickly for the heart-shaped locket with her left hand. The laser lights flickered again. Four robots forcefully came forward.


“Halt!” They ordered. “You are in violation of ordinance 517.”


She thumbed open the tiny clasp on the locket. Her eyes were glued to the robots coming forward now, fast approaching the vehicle.


She felt the small pill fall into her cupped hand. She remembered what the cartel man had told her. You can’t allow yourself to be captured. If you do fall into their hands, you will wish you were dead anyway. They’ll never let you go. Slavery…prison….fertilizer….worse. You know what to do.


The robots slammed their fists into the hood of her car. Dawn closed her eyes and brought the little pill to her mouth. Then, she swallowed it down. Cyanide. He had said it was cyanide. It will be quick he had said as he had handed her the lockets and walked away from her little brother’s graveside in Teyhanna, the brother that was executed by the same cartel. He had gotten in over his head with the wrong sort of people.


Minutes later, robots yanked open the locked driver side door of the truck. Dawn’s limp, lifeless body fell in a crumpled up heap onto the dry, parched desert ground. When her head hit the ground, her soulless eyes stared towards her sister. A sort-of bluish foam pooled out from Dawn’s breathless lips.

Part Two


One week prior, Dawn was heading out the hatch door of her apartment flat in Drose. She was going to be late for work if she didn’t hurry. She activated her truck from her watch and noticed an emergency alert intercept from her older sister, Liz. Liz – the wise and strategic one who had married into wealth and fortune despite her upbringing…..despite the days of their youth trudging illegally across the desert wasteland between Drose and Teyhanna to reach the promised land. Days without food and barely any water…..days they survived by each holding tight to the hands of their father who kept the little girls safe, alive, and kept them going.


Drose, or rather The People’s Republic of Drose established in 2036 after the nuclear wars and eventual climate change desertification of 3/4 of the Earth’s top soil, depletion of the fresh water sources, and final death, destruction, plague, and general famine of the Great Eradication of 2041 through 2043. It took 3 years for nearly 7 billion people to be wiped off the planet.


Gone.


Drose had survived and so had the badlands of Teyhanna, south of Drose through the searing hot desert. Anything goes in Teyhanna…so they say. It was the wild, wild west of drugs, prostitution, murder, mayhem, black market deals and so on. Teyhanna fueled the abundance of Drose. Drose, for its part, drove the decisions of the overlords of Teyhanna.


Drose, The People’s Republic of Drose, on the otherhand was a model of thinly veiled democracy underlined by totalitarian extremism. There were no families, so to speak, in Drose….not according to the state. Bioparents birthed children who were sent immediately to boarding schools of advanced technology, science, and medicine. Rules were strictly enforced. Slavery and debtor prisons were re-introduced. From the age of 10, all were expected to work together for the greater good of survival and all were expected to help the crop cultivation and soil/water conservation through all means necessary…ALL means necessary.


It was a harsh reality but one much better than life in Teyhanna. Dawn knew this, so she grew up to service the plant industry cultivating seeds in labwork. She was a hard worker…like her father. LIz, on the other hand, due to beauty and charm…caught the attention of one of the higher class. She was not completely like Dawn, a proletariat citizen.
Dawn checked the message. Liz seemed upset which was rarely her outright nature, given that she was quite guarded emotionally.


“John has……I’m sorry to say this, Dawn……John has passed away.” There was a pause on the line. “Mom…she wants us to come home, to come back to Teyhanna for the funeral and to see the family. The funeral is Wednesday.” Another pause on the line followed.


“He was executed by gunshot. Bullet to the head. I’ve decided to go….to go back. I know it’s dangerous. I know this already. I’m going anyways. It’s been years. We need to be there for Mom and the others.”
Liz sighed. “Dawn, I want you to come with me. I need you to come with me.”

Part Three


She could see them from the graveside, the men in black. Everyone was dressed in black at the funeral but they stood out from the rest, these men that had murdered her brother. They had pulled up their entourage of vehicles 100 yards away from the little service among the crowded tombstones of the clustered graveyard. The preacher gave a brief sermon. Others cried tears of hardship and loss feeling the injustice of a life taken violently and too soon.
But Dawn watched the men quietly.


They eventually approached. They offered their condolences to the grieving mother and family. Dawn and Liz looked cautiously at each other as the leader of the group motioned them to follow him to a more distant spot to converse. Knowing this was Teyhanna, knowing the way of life here…..they reluctantly followed. The others from the family were leaving group by group back to their little homes and little lives in the barren, crowded wasteland slums of Teyhanna.
“My condolences to you for the loss of your brother,” he offered in feigned respect. “We had concerns regarding this situation…your brother’s allegiance and fealty to our….operations.”


Dawn felt a rising anger inside herself that she knew not to expose. Without missing a step, the two women fell in line with the overlord’s assistant. He walked a ways in silence and then turned abruptly.


“Our needs have not been met yet,” he said deliberately, cocking his head to one side. “When you return to Drose, you will be required to carry something onward for us….a gift for the magistrate….a package. Do you understand?”
The women said nothing.


“Consider your brother’s debt to the organization cleared when and if you cross the border successfully,” he stated.
He continued to walk and they followed.


“This package will come to you,” he said in a low voice as he motioned to one of his bodyguards holding an assault rifle near the vehicles.


Then he smiled. “You will deliver. Your family here will be counting on you. Understood?”


“It’s simple really. Just deliver the item. If however, you face….opposition…,” his voice trailed. “We will need you to wear these.” He gave the women each a silver plated locket. “There will be no compromising of the course of action. Come, follow me further and we will discuss in more detail.” He motioned once again to his men.


Liz and Dawn continued to listen quite carefully as was to be expected in a violent, notoriously black market place like Teyhanna. A few days later, the package arrived at their mother’s house. Shortly afterwards, the two said their goodbyes and made their way with the package to the border of Drose. Both women had a deeply unsettling feeling of fear but they did exactly as they were told.


They just didn’t anticipate what would soon occur. The package was hidden carefully in the truck undercarriage. But it was not secret enough to avoid exposure to the vehicle imaging scans of those silent, deadly drones overhead.

Part 2: The Importance of the Redneck

I’ve been watching news in India of the farmer protests with some concern. India is one of the big four producers of food for the planet: China, India, Brazil, and the United States. We should be watching what happens more closely as it may impact the world quite a lot.

Although agriculture represents a very small percentage of our GDP, here in America food producers make a large portion of the total world food supply, enough to feed approximately 10 billion people.

Wait a sec. The current world population is 7.84 so why are there famines all over the place?

I’m not sure. There are probably a myriad of reasons including a need for better food systems that prevent spoilage.

The U.S. is first in the world in corn production, third in wheat, fifth in potatoes, tenth in sugarcane, and twelfth in rice production.

Why is the U. S. such a powerhouse for food supply? The geographical and atmospheric conditions for farming here are some of the best in the world and we have the quickly depleting Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest groundwater resources in the world. It lies under 112 million acres of land and under 8 states: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska and Wyoming. Nebraska has the bulk of the aquifer and the deepest areas. The aquifer can go as low as 1,200 feet. About one third of U.S. agriculture is irrigated by this great aquifer. Once depleted, it will take 6,000 years to restore. We are taking way more water out for irrigation than is sustainable at this rate. Expected complete depletion year for the aquifer is around 2060.

America used to be plagued by dust bowls and drought or even severe flooding in the Midwest. Two adaptations after WW2 fixed some of this: dam systems to control flooding more and also central pivot irrigators for better irrigating of crops. Many of these dams now are very old, at least 50 years and were created under the great infrastructure plans of FDR and Eisenhower.

Maybe the answer to our joint economic and environmental concerns here is to initiate another set of infrastructure improvements that will hire many men and women to build or repair civil engineering and environmental engineering projects.

When you look at Kansas, my state, it is still called the bread basket making 400 million bushels a year with two thirds of this shipped to other countries. Kansas is ranked third in cattle and produces the majority of the grain sorghum. In 2017, Kansas produced 5.69 billion lbs. of red meat.

Texas leads the states in number of farms with around 247,000. Missouri is next with 95,000. Iowa is third with 85,300.

When you think of farming, you imagine the Midwest probably. But the top supplier of a whole lot of farm food is California.

The U.S. makes 139.5 billion in food exporting but, as I said earlier, is just one of the big four: China, India, Brazil, and United States.

We should really watch what is going on in India with the farmer protests because it may impact us all. Also, the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is a major issue. 2060 is only thirty-nine years away.

How do we sustain a growing world population of 7.84 people with depleting resources, older dams and infrastructure in need of repairs, and political strife involving our food producers as well as our food pickers? This topic involves labor issues in regards to immigration policies too. How do we take care of these immigrants that work in agriculture? How do we create more efficient food systems? These are important issues for the upcoming years.

Listen to the Hillbilly Redneck Moron

I got called a hillbilly redneck moron today for saying people should work together, a centrist narrative. At first I was upset. But then I realized this was an oxymoron.

I am 42 years old. I am the granddaughter of two farmers I greatly respected and admired because they were actually some of the smartest folks I ever met. Why? Because they grew things and conserved things on a large scale for others. Do you know how hard it is to grow and sustain things? Once, in college, I killed a cactus cause I overwatered it but I was taking Calculus. Book smart does not equal real world smart. Farmers are real world smart. They know when to water. They know when to not water. They know all sorts of fascinating and essential details about growing thousands upon thousands of crops or raising cows, or chickens, or whatever for our mass human consumption. Farming is real hard work plagued by all sorts of variables. You cannot be lazy and be a farmer.

So hillbilly redneck is, in fact, in my book synonymous with genius. But genius without reward or adulation.

What is the most fascinating thing I learned lately about farmers?

Farmers are generally usually conservative probably by nature of their work close to nature and their constant need for resourcefulness. They have to fix things themselves, survive things on their own. They just can’t run to town to fix the tractor so the crops can be taken care of. They rely on themselves and their network of neighbors.

Do you know in the history of mankind, what follows revolution?

Famine. Massive famine.

Why?

Because the conservatives who produce the food disappear (through various means). This happened after the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution. The revolutionaries wiped out the one group in society they so critically relied on.

What is my point?

It is important to respect the farmer hillbilly redneck. He is the weathered and worn hand that feeds without much recognition or reward.

That hillbilly redneck is the best damn human I know. And yes, you may not like his beliefs or views. He may be old school. But you get rid of that guy at your own peril.

Great Article

I like this short article by Jackie Gingrich Cushman. I think it expresses the sentiments of many Americans at this time. It is not overly one-sided but reaches across both aisles of the debate to shake hands. I like that part. It also delves into our past and the thoughts of previous presidential leaders such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Barack Obama.

I tried to embed the link to send you to the article. It is an opinion piece titled, “A More Perfect and Lasting Union.” Well worth the read. And, I agree 100% about the exceptionalism part of it. I agree with Obama too that Americans are capable of “exceptionalist” behavior without being preachy, arrogant, narcissistic, or vain. Exceptionalism as defined this way is working towards a better common good and opening ourselves to a capacity of change/correction if necessary to improve life for future generations. Through introspection and discussion, we celebrate where we went right and recognize where we went wrong and strive/endeavor through positive action within our communities to improve.

It doesn’t mean I’m a self-identified Republican nor a Democrat, rather simply that I view myself as part of a very large group of diverse people that inhabit this land called America.

Here is the article:

https://magicvalley.com/opinion/columnists/cushman-a-more-perfect-and-lasting-union/article_71c2d6c4-8381-514b-b0ca-38a8725507fc.html

E Pluribus Unum

This was the official motto of the original 13 colonies during the American Revolution. It was proposed in 1776 by three men to become the Great Seal motto. These men were Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. Later on, this saying would be replaced in the 1950s by the words, “In God we trust.” I’m not sure where the Latin phrase for “E Pluribus Unum” originated. It really reminds me of the phrase of the French Four Musketeers. That phrase was “All for one, one for all.”

E pluribus unum simply means “out of many, there is one.” It means we stand together as a union, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, through tragedy and through celebration. We recognize our unique qualities and diversity yet also lean on our human bond as together we pursue life, liberty, and happiness. This is not a revolutionary idea. It is a motto for all friendships and relationships and it’s loyalty is the fundamental cornerstone of our foundations in life and as a nation.

We need to bring back this motto.

Can We Just Talk?

By J. Speer

No one knew what caused the green algae to spread across the pond, threatening the lives of the turtle pile.  It happened rapidly.  Some turtles suspected it was the rising temperatures.  No one really knew for sure but what they all knew for certain was that they could no longer stay in the pond as the green algae spread out like tentacles seizing nearly the whole habitat of the pond. 

The green algae were first spotted from the top of the turtle pile and orders were directed down amid the ranks of the turtles to watch that portion of the pond more carefully.  It was also ordered from the top that each turtle, one by one, must climb down from the pile and evacuate to the safety of the embankment.  At the embankment, the turtles assembled into groups based on familial connections.  Meanwhile, Yertle the Turtle at the bottom of the pile in the mud was feeling the pressure of trying to balance the turtle pile as they came down one by one.  He too was looking forward to escaping from the green algae that even he could see now from his low vantage point. 

Yertle had stayed at this low level most of his life.  He was used to the mud and over time he accepted it as his lot in life even as the other turtles shifted up and down all along the turtle pile all day every day.  Yertle really didn’t move up nor did he expect to.  His expectations had grown exceedingly low.  He was used to taking orders and he complied with little resistance. 

When the final turtles had climbed off his back and moved to the embankment, Yertle was happy to perhaps join them as well.  He felt an enormous pressure had been lifted for a time being.  He eyed his family of turtles happily as he trudged forward to the embankment. 

But the top boss stopped Yertle.  He said to Yertle that he needed to stay in the pond.  It was essential to the safety of the other turtles.  They needed food to continue feeding the turtle community and Yertle needed to bring the lilly pads from the pond one by one to the embankment for the turtles to eat. 

Yertle looked reluctantly back at the pond and the lilly pads near the spreading green algae.  He eyed the algae with concern and looked back to the top turtle. 

“Are you sure?” he asked hesitantly. 

“Yes,” said the top turtle.  “They need you to stay in the pond.”

Yertle was used to taking orders.  He looked again back to the green algae and then to his own family of turtles waiting on the embankment. 

“Ok,” he said and he slowly turned around to face the pond and wade back in. 

“You won’t be alone,” said the top turtle and he designated two other turtles from the middle of the turtle pile to also go into the pond.  It was a male and female turtle and they were designated the heroes.  They were told to find a way to stop the spread of the green algae on the pond.  The two nodded that they would do the task and then the three turtles went back into the pond together. 

The two turtles got to work right away.  They devised a smart plan to haul old and broken limbs from the nearby forest to the pond.  Using their teeth and working together as a team, they would drag the limbs across the green algae in the pond.  The green algae would then collect onto the limbs and leaves.  Carefully, they would work together to lift the green algae on the broken limbs out of the water and dispose of it far away from the pond in the forest.  They worked tediously day in and day out on slowly gathering limbs and clearing the algae and then disposing of the limbs in the forest.  The hot sun beat down of them as they worked but they never gave up.  They really were hero turtles. 

Meanwhile, Yertle was working just as diligently.  For being a turtle at the lower end of the pile, he was proving to be remarkably resilient and smart in evading the spreading green algae.  He swam about the pond all day long gathering lilly pads in his teeth to slowly take back to the turtle community.  He would get one lilly pad and drop it off at the embankment keeping his distance from the other turtles so he would not put them at risk of the green algae.  Then he would swim back into the pond and move around the green algae to get to another clean lilly pad. 

At first, he was greatly concerned about the threat of the green algae.  But as he worked and worked, he became quite tired and worn out even to the point he almost didn’t care if he got green algae on him.  But he was a smart little turtle and kept trying to be cautious and kept going. 

The three turtles would spend the nights on the embankment but away from the turtle community.  They looked often at their family during these times and their family looked back at them.  Sometimes, during the day, the three turtles would see the turtle community relaxing on the embankment and sunbathing.  They would get a slight twinge of envy but all three turtles kept going without much complaint. 

Things went smoothly until one day as the male and female turtle were dragging a limb across the green algae, the male turtle slipped and fell slightly into the pond very near to the green algae.  The female turtle called out for help as she gripped the end of the limb hard with her teeth.  The male turtle also clung on hard to the limb as best he could and kicked his little turtle legs rapidly to propel his shell away from the threatening algae.  She called again for help through her teeth but the other turtles in the community could not hear her. 

Yertle stopped collecting a little lilly pad and looked up from the pond to see the predicament.  He moved as quickly as a turtle can, which isn’t very fast at all, towards the two turtles.  Together, he and the female turtle backed up and pulled the heavy limb out of the pond. 

“Thank you,” said the little turtles and Yertle just nodded.  Then all three got back to work again. 

It took quite a long time to finally clear most of the green algae from the pond.  In the end, there was a great deal of disposed sticks deep in the forest away from harming the community.  The turtle community and top turtle applauded the three turtles for their effort.  They were all three rewarded with much praise although secretly they each would have preferred an increase in food rations for their families. 

The two hero turtles had erected a dam to hopefully contain as best they could the green algae.  It was not a permanent fix but at least the turtle pile could perhaps return to some semblance of normalcy.  The top turtles indicated to the others in the turtle community that they needed to return to the pile so the top turtles could scout the horizon for predators and other threats.  All the turtles, particularly the ones at the lower end of the pile, grumbled some but reluctantly agreed to go. 

Yertle the Turtle sighed to himself.  He was not ready to go back to the life he had before holding up the turtle pile while he sat in the mud.  It was not much fun and quite heavy and burdensome.  But, Yertle was used to that life and to taking orders so he headed out first from the turtle community to his place in the mud.

The other turtles from the community slowly one by one started to ascend the pile and Yertle could already feel the weight upon him.  He looked down dolefully into the mud. 

“Wait!  Please stop!” said the little hero female turtle and the male hero turtle beside her joined her.

“We’ve been talking an…we don’t think…..” and she looked at the other hero turtle for confirmation and he nodded.  “We think maybe we should talk and find another way to restructure the turtle pile.   And,” she continued slightly hesitantly, “Maybe we should work harder on protecting the pond.”

She looked down at that moment.  The other little turtles were in shock too.  They had always lived in the turtle pile.  They had always done things the way they had done them.  That is all they had ever known and they had never even considered a life beyond the turtle pile.  Nor did they know really what to do or how to start to protect the pond better.    

“I’m just saying, well……I don’t know for sure what to say or how to start this even.”   And she looked again at Yertle.  He nodded back from the mud. 

She cleared her throat and said finally what she was really thinking in her mind. 

“Well, can we just talk?”    

8 Traits of a Wise Leader

This is a short presentation I put together a few years back for a university concerning leadership skills. It discusses various topics like General George Washington, the Human Genome Project, NASA, etc. Here are the slides and speech material: