We Have Become a Nation of Monitors

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I have been stewing about this notion for some time now.  I am so tired of the Monitoring Attitude of our people. The recent advertisement on TV, the flat rectangle that I rarely watch, finally brought home some truth.  Portrayed was a bank with many customers engaged in business activity. There was a security guard. All at once thieves broke into the bank. The customers hit the floor!  One looked up at the Security Guard, who had some type of weapon strapped around his waist, and his arms were folded across his chest,  and he stood with  a silly grin on his face. The customer looked up to him from the  floor, pleading, “Aren’t you going to do something?”  He smiled broadly and replied, “No, I am a security guard who monitors the situation. I am monitoring.: Meanwhile, the robbery continues.

Another example of our do-nothing nation, seems rampant across the inaccurately termed “communication lines.” It seems if I ever have a problem with my credit card, I have to go through at least 12 button pushes before I get disconnected, only to have to begin the process again, in an effort to get to someone to help me resolve my pending problem. Then when I finally do reach a LIVE, talking Human Being, which never takes less than three tries on the phone and button pushing——-the person READS A SCRIPT—-and is unable to deter from what lies before him or her. I could say to the person on the other end of the line, “Could you call 911 for me, I am bleeding to death, ” and they would respond with: “Our banking hours are from 5 to 8” or some other innocuous response!

It becomes much more serious than bank robbers and problems with finances.  The lack of response regarding our children is even greater! We can call Child Protection Services and receive no response, because it is ONLY a child who has been injured or hurt and they are just a child and their reaction or statements are NOT considered valid.  At least they are not valid, until they themselves become so frustrated that they do a criminal act. Then all of a sudden, the child is the problem!

It seems in so many situations, people react in the same, unintelligent way: “Not my monkey; not my problem.”  Really?

Whose problem is it?

We are quick to respond with fines, fail sentences, harsh treatment for anyone who does us wrong, but do we ever think that perhaps the problems could be avoided IF we only responded in a pro-active way?  There is an old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  I think we should bring back that wisdom to our lives here in this country.

First of all, we need to respond like thinking, human beings with a compassionate heart.

Secondly, let us being to do things and act in a way that brings civility back to our lives. Common manners and courtesies would be a great place to begin! Please and thank you are NOT old-fashioned.

I will continue tomorrow……I have more to say about each of the topics above and others that deserve our attention.

I have to stop to breathe…

Part IV: Tales of Bellingham: Real People NOT “Shadow People”

Copyright ©Jane H. Johann, 2016 "Bellingham"

Copyright
©Jane H. Johann, 2016
“Bellingham”

This winter, I found myself in Bellingham, a city of contrasts and beauty. Along the waterfront of Bellingham Bay, hundreds of expensive yachts dot the shores and then there are the Homeless People sleeping without comfort or blankets in the doorways of businesses two blocks away.

This is an account of my experience with the people who find themselves homeless in this city with a small town atmosphere.

Since my daughter worked during the day, I had a lot of time on my hands after cleaning the one bedroom apartment.  So I would carry my feet out the door, and begin walking.

The “Old Downtown” begins with the Lighthouse Mission, that is just a stone’s throw away from Whatcom Creek. During the day, many homeless people frequent the park, sitting on the concrete steps or on a few park benches that grace the green park. Usually, many just sit on the ground in a group, drinking the free coffee that the library provides them.

For the first several weeks, I shyly watched their activity, passed them in the early morning hours as they lay sleeping in the entrances to many of the businesses down the main street. Some were wrapped in sleeping bags, others, piled with layers of clothes and cardboard. My daughter, who works at one of the Social agencies in town, told me that there is a two year waiting list for subsidized housing in this city. The average rent for an apartment is between $650 and upwards. The average social assistance check for an individual without any financial means, is about $720. So how does a person who is living homeless, raise themselves out of that situation without an advocate?

Perhaps if we could each adopt one Homeless person, we  might succeed. How do we begin?

I thought I needed to begin to do something. And my beginning was overcoming my fear and speaking to a Homeless person and to see them as a human being.

The weather this past winter was moderate, not 70 degrees but survivable outdoors. While I was there the temperature lingered around 40 degrees F (4.4 degrees C). Still, I could not imagine lying on the cold concrete all night long, with the usual morning fog precipitation, and waking up feeling invigorated.

Each day, I would leave the apartment and say to myself, “Today is the day I will speak to a Homeless person.”

I walked with fear and my usual shyness among them. Obviously, Mother Teresa I was not!

Maybe that is one of the reasons of WHY she is so admired. She stepped out of her comfort zone and did for thousands of people what so many of us fear to do for one person.

I have been away from city life for the greater part of the last 29 years. I read about the Homeless people and do NOT like addressing them as shadow people–as someone graciously corrected me, because if we call them shadow people, we are stripping them of their reality and situation, making them less human to ourselves. We are removing them one more step from ourselves. So, yes, I have read about the Homeless, on occasion I have handed out dollar bills when going into the city. Quickly being admonished by others for giving out money. But then I think, “Hey, once in a while it is nice to have some real money in my hand and make my decision as to what to buy with it.” I have also handed out McDonald’s bags—not too sure about that nutritional value. I have handed out fruit—but more often, dollar bills.

Now I found there were many Homeless people all around me. Every day I walked among them. And in the four weeks that I walked through Bellingham City, NOT once did a Homeless Person approach me or ask for money.

I felt very uneasy…guilty that I had a place to stay…and they had none.  I had food to eat everyday, and most of them had none.  I was working up my courage to approach one of them and help them in any way that I could.  I guess, in truth, it is part of my underlying issue of having a purpose myself, of wanting to stay involved in the human struggle and make a difference.

I thought, “They are people and deserve recognition and dignity. Any one of us could find ourselves in this very situation.”

So one morning, I spotted this young lady, about in her 40’s, sleeping in a door entrance on West Holly Street,  not far from Whatcom Park. She had about three blankets piled high upon her, in addition to disheveled hair and layers of clothes.  I began walking towards her and was determined I would speak to her and buy her breakfast. I was about three feet from her, when she suddenly jumped up from her sleep, and literally went  dancing into the streets, screaming and waving her arms and continued at an incredible pace down the street. My initial  reaction was being startled by her behavior and then I thought, “Oh my God, I frightened her!” Then, I did not know what to do because by that time, she was quite a distance from me.  She disappeared from my sight and I was left with my thoughts.  I didn’t know what to do or to whom to speak to about my experience.  And, she also had to no one to talk to…no one to share her experience with…socialization is a missing component when one is homeless. It was obvious to me, that this woman needed medical assistance.  This is another missing component of our society–many of the mentally challenged are not helped. Why are they not taken care of by us? Is our neglect born out of fear, born out of legalities of the law, born out of the complacency in our society that these things are NOT our personal issues and we do not have to get involved?

That day passed with no resolution.

The next day, Christmas Eve morning,  as I was walked a bit further East and down Cornwall Street, I spotted this very tall lady, wearing sweatpants that were just below her knee, leaving a good 12 inches bare to the wind, an oversized jacket, and some tattered gloves on her hands. She appeared to be about 70ish and had long white hair neatly tucked under the red tuque that donned her head. She was also carrying a trash bag. Then I later heard from another acquaintance that I met there, who has since become a good friend, that Marta makes the rounds throughout the neighborhood and collects all the aluminum cans that she can carry, every Tuesday.

I passed Marta and then stopped myself. I turned around, and returned to her and said, “Excuse me. I know you don’t know me. I am just  visiting the city and was wondering if you could give me directions.”  It was not that I needed directions, but I didn’t know how else to begin the conversation. Marta responded very politely to me and we talked a little, and she told me where she lived and then we parted.  I walked a bit further, and then I called back to her. I said, “You know, tomorrow is Christmas. I want to share something with you. I handed her some money.” She said, “Are you sure?”  I said, “Please, it isn’t much but you are working so hard to help keep this city beautiful. You deserve it.” She finally accepted it and went on her way.

I don’t know what she did with the money, but I thought she would put it to good use. I don’t know if it helped or not—what I do know is, that I make contact with another human being and recognized her as a person. I am sure I benefitted more from the encounter than she did. I do suppose it was more for my growth than hers.

The week continued, and I made more conversations with more Homeless people.  My uneasiness was beginning to evaporate.  Eventually, I carried with me a bag of apples, and would offer a piece of fruit to those I met along the way.

During one of my final weeks in Bellingham, I encountered a man named Chuck, seated on the steps of Lara’s apartment building, under the overhang, and he was nursing a cup of brew, and reading a book. As I was entering the building, I said, “Hi, what are you reading?”

Chuck told me about the science fiction book by Philip Pullman, and I recognized the author from my teaching experience. We spoke for a bit. He told me he was waiting for a ride to a day job, painting and helping a carpenter contractor. He said he didn’t get much work since his stroke, had been in Vietnam and was a vet. He was planning to marry this summer. Chuck was about 60 something, grey-haired and a friendly fellow. Our conversation ended and I entered the apartment. I put some food together in a bag, and took it out to him. He thanked me and then I returned to my warm apartment, thinking, “…this man has done so much for so many. He is trying to do the best he can for himself.”

We met a few more times, and then I told him I would be leaving Bellingham soon to return to Wisconsin. Chuck then said this to me, “I am so happy we met. You didn’t judge me. You stopped to talk to me. You treated me like a human person. I can just feel it when people are judging me, thinking I am nothing. Thank you.  Thank you for making me feel like a worthwhile human being.”

I returned the favor to him, saying, “You made my daytime less lonely. It was good to talk with you. Thank you!”

Later that day, I went downtown to a book store, looking for the sequel to the book he was reading. I found the next two books to THE GOLDEN COMPASS and decided to purchase them for Chuck. I created a card, wrote him a note, stuck a few dollars in it, and wrapped the books.

I didn’t see him anymore before my departure…and felt sad about that, but then Lara surprised me and said, “Mom, I will watch for Chuck and give him your gift.”

I was so happy to hear her words!

And last Friday, more than a month since I left, Chuck reappeared on the doorsteps. Lara saw him and gave him the gift. She said he was so happy!

I received so much more than the very little I gave to these people, who are sleeping and living on the streets of Bellingham.  I am very blessed to have what I have but I also know I need to do more for others. Now I am again in my cornfields, and I have to find a way out of the maze.

The Homeless People of Bellingham made me feel welcomed to their wonderful city!

 

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I have found several very good suggestions on Facebook about little ways people can help the Homeless People. One suggestion is to get some sandwich bags, put a healthy grain bar inside, a piece of fruit, perhaps a toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers,  a wash cloth…any small item that would be useful to a person who has no home.

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DEFINITIONS

tuque: Canadian term for woolen hat

Part I: Tales of Bellingham, Washington

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During the past  six months, I had the opportunity on two separate occasions to travel to Bellingham, Washington, with my youngest daughter, Lara, who just returned from two years in Togo with the Peace Corps. She was offered employment there and so we went together to go apartment hunting, along with her Aunt Kathy. I returned at Christmas because this old mother did not want her to have a third Christmas in a row without family.

I love the Pacific Northwest! It is beautiful and the weather not as extreme as I am now experiencing in Wisconsin. The Cascade Mountains, Mt. Baker specifically, and the trees and plants are just a sight to behold! Beauty beyond description!

"Mt. Baker" Photo Credit: Jane H. Johann, c.October, 2015. Taken from "Artist's Point" on the slopes of the Cascade Mountain Range.

“Mt. Baker” Photo Credit: Jane H. Johann, c.October, 2015. Taken from “Artist’s Point” on the slopes of the Cascade Mountain Range.

The people are warm and friendly in Bellingham. The city has a small town atmosphere and I felt very comfortable ambling through the streets during the day, while Lara was at work. I think I averaged three to four miles a day, walking through the city and taking in so many different expressions of life. I was careful not to walk to far West!  A far cry from the quiet soybean and cornfields that surround me here in southeastern Wisconsin.

Lara’s apartment is just two blocks from the view of Bellingham Bay as seen in the enclosed photo in this writing piece. It is also only a half block from the several train tracks.

"Trains of Bellingham" Photo Credit: Jane H. Johann.c.2016, January.

“Trains of Bellingham” Photo Credit: Jane H. Johann.c.2016, January.

The first night, after my 26 hour journey (who knew it would take that long from Wisconsin~ another story!) to Bellingham, I fell asleep very quickly, only to be startled awake at 11 PM with a train running over me! Or, so I thought! Then there was another at midnight and so on, until 3 AM. It was an adjustment, but I did get there by the end of the month and quickly learned not to complain about the noise of the trains to Bellingham residents. They take pride in living close to the tracks and the trains hold a deep connection to them — I am not quite sure what that is yet–will let you all know once I figure it out. However, the trains are delightful to see and appreciate–especially the art work on the various freight cars.

 

 

"Art on the Rails" Bellingham, WA, USA. Photo Credit: . Jane H. Johann, Jan. 2016

“Art on the Rails” Bellingham, WA, USA. Photo Credit: . Jane H. Johann, Jan. 2016

 

 

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Everyday I found something new to appreciate in the city of Bellingham.

World’s Petitions…just a few

I signed one petition for Care2 Petitions and then I received a deluge of petitions.  Overwhelming.  Overwhelming to see all the needs that there are on Mother Earth.  Petitions for justice, healthcare reform, respect for women, care for children, care for the homeless, fairness, economic equity, gender fairness, proper treatment of animals, respect for Earth —- the list below is a small sampling of the needs of humanity. It is overwhelming.  

Provide support and funding for local Texas shelter

VA Stop Sabotaging  TBI tests. Offer all veterans proper evaluation and treatment

Harshest Charge for blowing up fireworks in dog’s mouth and ban of future animal ownership

Reject the 20 week abortion ban

Support Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary to avoid closure

Save Wild Arizona Horses from Banishment

Revoke Licenses of Vets who euthanize pets without permission

Tell San Francisco Not to Crack Down on Bicyclists

Urge Lawmakers to Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act

STOP putting dyed chicks in plastic bags to be sold as TOYS on Thai island Koh Lanta

Urge Yum Foods to Offer Paid Sick and Vacation Days to Workers

Drop case against mother who provided daughter with abortion medication in Northern Ireland

Stop the Dehumanizing Gender Testing of Women’s World Cup Athletes

Congress –Investigate American Hate Groups’

Get the Toxic Trio out of Nail Care Products

Send Magnus Hustveit, who raped his girlfriend, to prison!

Tell Harvard University to divest from fossil fuels

Harper:  Don’t Let Your Big Oil Friends Run the National Energy Board!

Urge Nestle to Help Stop Slave Labor Used to Make Pet Food

Stop Scott Walker’s Weekend Elimination Plan

Congress to Increase the Federal Minimum Wage

Tell Republicans Reject Racist Donations

Tell Congress to Increase the Federal Minimum Wage

End the Travel Restrictions Placed on Disabled Australians!

Who is Burning Black Churches? Bring back the Church Arson Task Force

Urgent! We need a shelter for homeless women in Vancouver, Washington!

Tell Hong Kong to Crack Down on Ivory Smuggling!

Demand Universal, Automatic voter Registration

Tell the UN— Women and Girls and Deserve Equality

Zimbabwe: Don’t bring back the death penalty after ten years.

Save Torrent Frogs in the Ivory Coast

I am only ONE person. I can choose to help with one or several and give it my attention, and that I all I can do.  I can see we need EVERYONE to pitch in and do what they can.  None of us can do it alone. We all need to help each other with whatever we have to offer.  There certainly is much to do to alleviate suffering in this world.  We live in a world community and what we say and/or do affects one another.

If each person does ONE thing, it is already something. I think being a person of peace and praying is something everyone can do and be. Yet that might be difficult if we do not believe in ourselves or our own goodness…and that could be the result of someone not ever believing in us or trusting us to change. Yet, change is the only constant.

I believe in the positive power of prayer and putting forth good thoughts to each other and out into the universe. I see what bad thoughts to do harm others—so why wouldn’t good thoughts produce good reactions?   One would think that is a simple thing to do. However, it is not.  Sometimes my own suffering gets in the way–my own inability to forgive and forget and move on. However, if I do not do it, I am not living in peace and I am not extending peace to anyone else.   I look at the list above, and think even the rapist needs forgiveness and healing.

Yet, forgiveness is difficult, but without there is no movement forward. I think every person deserves a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance…when do we stop giving each other opportunities and forgiveness?  I firmly believe that IF we believe in the other person, that person can grow and change.  Believing in each other produces change. We are human beings. We are all imperfect.

The recent murder of Cecil the Lion brought forth reaction from around the world.  There was complete dismay and outrage over the killing of this wonderful animal. Yes, it was sad and I have never understood why  anyone finds pleasure in hanging a dead animal’s head on their living room wall.  People were so angry, that they even wanted the dentist executed for his killing of this animal! I could not believe that! That is extreme. I have never understood retaliation or revenge. How does that help anyone?  People were very willing to express their hatred for this man who killed Cecil, the lion, yet, they, in turn would be ready to kill him for what he did. Would that be justified?  As Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind.”

As human beings, we have a long road to travel to become understanding and forgiving of one another. And that great distance is the furthest within ourselves. The more we accept ourselves and our imperfections…the more we can forgive ourselves…the more we will understand and forgive others

Oglala Lakota Holyman

 

 

 

 

Roger Joseph Johann (July 24, 1934–May 5, 1955)

Sixty  years agIMAG3657o today, my oldest brother–

Roger, left this world for another

He and eight others, in a fiery crash

Died as the plane exploded in a flash

I was five..,just barely alive

Waiting and wondering why my Mother cried

All somber and sad, the small box was placed before the pews

Draped in black, in front of the commuion rail, my only view

My brother– who the winter before–

Carried the Christmas tree through the door

I had waited for him snug in his bed

He would not come home again, for he was dead

Still I recall the chalkboard and colored chalk

He carried me down the stairs to see in his gentle walk

He no longer would sit me upon his knee

And light the cigarette and give me a puff, would he?

He joined the Air Force at seventeen

To be free and fly …his only dream

Now he wanders the sky above

Living with the God of Love

the quiet of an August evening

Sitting here in the quiet of the August evening with only the song of the cicadas surrounding me, I wonder WHO are we?

The cicada  nymphs who have lived underground for seventeen years are maturing and sending out their love call–their tymbal muscles specifically honed to bring home their mate.  Early this morning, the birds were flocking and whistling their message to one another, announcing that there would be an early Fall.  The birds flock together for safety and protection. The ocean tide responds to the gravitational pull of the moon.  All of nature is present to their surroundings, while signaling to us to do the same.

We humans are calling out to each other for justice and dignity. We humans need each other, just like the flock of birds need one another for safety and protection.  Just like the ocean responds to the pulls of the moon, so are we pulled from the conflicts, injustice and battles around us.

“to BE…for this Yahweh created all…” Wisdom 1:14…

When I read these words, I think of the message James Foley  was trying to send to us. He died trying to expose the barbaric results of war and to elicit compassion from the human race…from all of us…that war must stop. Everywhere people are dying and suffering. We each have a right to BE.  I am also thinking of the racial tension in Ferguson, and the fact that it is 2014 and we are still so racist as a nation.  I think of the many horrible racist statements made against President Obama. I read them on Facebook and I think how can we, as a nation, survive when we have so little respect for the person chosen to lead our country?

When are we going to realize that we all have the same color of blood? We are all human beings who want to belong, to be productive, to offer life and receive life to and from each other.

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Additional information can be found about the cicada using the following links: 

http://animals.howstuffworks.com/insects/question733.htm

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/noisy-cicadas-come-back-to-life-after-years-underground

http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/tides-wordd/

http://abcnews.go.com/International/government-threatened-foley-family-ransom-payments-mother-slain/story?id=25453963

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2754339/They-got-way-James-Foley-s-brother-backs-mother-attacking-Obama-administration-failure-save-photojournalist-beheaded-ISIS.html

http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/marquette-professor-recalls-james-foley-as-bright-light-83661/

 

This photo is dedicated to James Foley, the American Journalist who died to alleviate the suffering of others. "The Beauty of an Iris." Photo credit; Jane H. Johann, c. June 2014

This photo is dedicated to James Foley, the American Journalist who died to alleviate the suffering of others.
“The Beauty of an Iris.”
Photo credit; Jane H. Johann, c. June 2014

 My heart goes out to the parents and family of James Foley.

 

* I realize it is now September, and the cicadas have stopped singing. However, I hope we continue to sing and live in hope and not give up!  The need for LOVE in this world is needed even more today!

 

Give it ONE more try!

 

Isn’t this is what LIFE is all about?

if you do not try, you will never know

even if you do not succeed the first time

try again…

again …

again…

again…

again…

again…

again…

again…

again…

until your last breath

do not ever give up

give it one more try!

I cannot tell you how many times I have begun something and then it flops. I have had more failures than successes. On those dark days, I remind myself of what I did accomplish. I have to believe in myself, because it all starts with that inner conviction that I can and will do it! I must take my dream and live it.

Regardless of the naysayers and all those who tell me it is not possible.  I have had acquaintances say to me, “past behavior is a pretty good indicator of future behavior.” Then therapists express these words,  “Well, this is a pattern in your life. It is very difficult, if not impossible to change”  and even religious people who thrive on the conviction that with “Jesus, all things are possible”– then tell me, “You have low self-esteem and that is impossible to change at your age.” So, I think, what happened to the power of Jesus?  I have had people call me a “sucker”–as one friend said to me, “The S-word is emblazoned on your forehead–this will always be your situation because you love too much.” How can anyone love too much? I also have people tell me that I do not love myself enough. That phrase really gets my goat. It is an easy cliché that people love to throw around.  If I did not love myself, WHY would I keep on trying? Because I am willing to risk and love, that does not mean I do not love myself. And if I was such a loser, I wouldn’t even try …I would not try to go out of myself and risk loving others.

If I listened to all of those naysayers, I may as well fold up the game of checkers and call it a life.

Guess what I say to all of those naysayers?

“I am going to give it another try!”

I love this quote by Martha Graham: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”   Martha Graham

I have to believe in myself and in my abilities and do it! I begin to think of all the people who helped me this far. Those who have helped me return to my balance are those who have taken the time to listen and not label me or pronounce final judgment on me. Then I begin to think of all the things I still need to do and can do!

I like the story of Thomas Edison when asked by a young reporter if he was about to give up on inventing the electric light bulb. Edison replied something similar to that he now knew 9,000 ways that the light bulb would not work! Imagine that? And it was only after the 9,001th time that Edison succeeded in inventing the electric light bulb!  Maybe the numbers are not accurate but the point is right on target.  No matter how many times you fail, the next time may be the success!

Spread that news when someone you know is about to give up!

I cannot find the poem, but I remember the title from 1968, “Don’t give up! Give it one more try!” I do not know who the poet was but that line has never left me through all these many years. I have had great personal losses. I have not been that successful at relationships. I have had my life’s dreams altered. I have ended up in a completely different direction than from where I began my life. The changes have not come easy and because I am the kind of person where my passion runs deep, I have felt the loss deeply. I am sure I have disappointed people along the way and sometimes I have disappointed myself. But I would always come back to that line: “Don’t give up; give it one more try.”  That is all we can do…is try and hope for the best.  We are humans. We make mistakes…but we should never, ever quit. We are all in this together.

Sometimes we just need one person to believe in us!  One person to say, “Give it one more try!”

When I was a teacher, I would try to encourage the students to give it one more try. I would encourage them onward! I do not know if I always succeeded at saying at the correct time or not, of doing that or not, but I tried more often than I didn’t. I know that sometimes people get really annoyed with me, because I am urging them forward. But then I remember that sometimes I thought and felt that way too–thinking “Why don’t they just leave me alone! Why don’t they just go away and let me crash and burn!” But, really, deep down I did not want them to give up on me. I was pleading in my own stubborn way, “prove to me that I am someone, because at this moment in time, I do not feel like I am. ”

When we think we have nothing to offer the world, we can offer this simple phrase to someone: “Give it one more try!”  It could change a life! Not only that, it could save a life.  This is how important one person is to another!