Friday, October 24, 2008

Soldier on, soldier.

Amidst all of this week's madness with the financial markets and trying to determine which of the politicians is telling the biggest and most outlandish lies, I had a moment of pure sanity. I attended an event at the VFW post in Crawfordville on Wednesday evening. The event was to welcome home one SSG Stephen Simmons, who was recently discharged from the army after 4 tours of duty in Afghanistan.

I helped Sgt. Simmons purchase a home prior to his deployment on his last tour. He elected to purchase that home in Wakulla County. He then went to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, (and Al Quaida), watch numerous of his comrades get killed or wounded and, oh, by the way, won himself a Silver Star. He won the Silver Star for commanding a Machine Gun installation that had been abandoned and in so doing saved numerous members of his division's lives.

I have no idea what it must be like to put on the uniform of one of our military divisions and go off to war. I recently read an article written by Ben Stein entitled " Guts, Glory, Honor". It had to do with his addressing a group called the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. He describes this group as mostly occupying eternity as most CMH's are awarded posthumously. There are only 171 of these recipients alive today. He said " These are men who have faced fear on a scale most of us would find unbearable, and have faced it down and defeated it with their lives."

Quoting Stein further, " We all read day and night about the billionaire speculators who have mansions bigger than the White House by virtue of their adroit minipulation of pieces of paper. They are nothing. The society could run forever without any or all of them. We read all day and see on TV all day about the spoiled , bratty movie stars and drug addicted comedians who do not even know the word gratitude, and we are supposed to care about their miserable lives. Their lives are as insignificant as the life of a roach. But tell me the last time you read a story anywhere at all - in the newspapers, in magazines, on your computer - about men who offer up their lives for our country and our freedom under law. This is disgraceful, but it really cannot touch these men."

It is touching to know that there is a community nearby that holds our heroes in high regard. Sgt. Simmons was escorted from the Northern Wakulla County line to the VFW by a police escort with sirens blairing and blue lights flashing. Following them was a cavalcade of motorcyclists who called themselves " Patriot Riders ". They all motored up to the VFW. They all stood at attention as Sgt. Simmons stepped out of the passenger side of the Florida Highway Patrol car, driven by his proud, big brother Mike. As Sgt. Simmons made his way to the hall, people applauded his return. Many went to him and shook his hand, or hugged his neck and said simple thank yous. These were people that held this the place to be. Not in front of the TV for the opening game of the World Series, not glued to FOX or CNN wringing their hands over the erosion of their 401-k's. I was proud to be there with them.

Sometimes we are allowed the opportunity to transcend the silly little worlds that most of us live in and gaze into the eyes of someone representing something good, clean, really worthwhile and singularly purposeful. I thank Sgt. Simmons and his big brother, Mike, who served as well, for giving me that opportunity. It was wonderful to forget about the sticky wicket that the economy has become and focus on something representing country, freedom and patriotism.

Our economy will hold and repair. The housing market will correct and continue on its way. It will do so because we have a lot of smart people running this country of ours. They are able to function because of the willingness of the Sgt. Simmons of this world to stand in a desert far away from home and fight the forces of evil who would destroy the very core of the greatest country ever conceived. While those of us back here watch our reality TV shows, get fatter and some even burn our flag in protest, there are soldiers willing to lay it all on the line to assure us of those freedoms.

Thank you Sgt. Simmons for touching my life this week with a pure infusion of sanity and purpose as to what is really important.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Trust is the Issue

I had an interesting experience this morning. My sweet little wife and I made an early morning jaunt to a place that rhymes with Stall-Cart. This place is a branding and advertising anomale to me. You ride by this place's parking lot 24 hours a day and you cannot count the people going in and out of it. Yet it is practically impossible to find two people who will say to you " I love shopping at this place.". You can find a plethora of people who will tell you, "I despise shopping at this place."

We made our purchases, $102.76 to be exact. I was using the Self Check out aisle, which is always an experience. We had 2 or 3 dozen items to scan and bag. As I was concluding my purchases an associate came up to me and said " Sir, I believe you forgot to scan this one item. Sure enough, she was correct. We scanned it and we were on our way out the door.

Some sort of alarm went off. The "greeter", who totally ignored us on the way in was now all over us demanding to see our receipt. We produced the receipt and I told her that I assured her that we were not thieves. My wife, the most timid creature on the planet, looked at me and said "Calm down!". Knowing me as she does she recognized that I was getting a bit put out. So to keep from causing an incident I bit my tongue.

The greeter in her best "sea hag" impression slammed her pen on her little podium that she stands behind and said in some sort of broken english " You are free to go !" , after pouring over our receipt. She seemed genuinely put out and disappointed that she had not found something that she could have us placed in the "Stall-Cart" brig until we could be summarily hung by a rope until we were dead.

I mused on the way out. Here were two examples, first of the clerk watching the self-checkout lane to make sure we scanned all of our items a minimum of once. ( Scan them twice and you really get a liberal education in getting them to give you a refund.). Then the sea hag doing her best to catch us leaving the store with something we had not paid for. Now I understand that pilfering is a billion dollar issue and merits close scrutiny. But good grief, is there not a little trust in order? Why on earth do I and millions of others patronize this place?

Trust is the issue. Is there not some old fashioned trust on the table any longer? I remember a merchant here in Tallahassee, Shaws Tennis Shop. My son was freezing to death on one of these cold, cold days in January, on a soccer field while at practice. I had run to this store to try and find him some sweats to wear. I could not find his size and as I explained to the owner my circumstance, he handed me a set of sweats and told me to go put them on him just to keep him warm and come by after practice and we would see that we got him fit. "PAY ME WHEN YOU COME BACK.", he said. I went out the door, suited up my son. The sweats were enormous on him. I went back and found him some that fit and paid the $75 for them. I walked out the door with all sorts of warm fuzzies towards this place. Why? Because the owner "trusted" me to come back and pay him. Amazing.

I lost a client this week because of the trust issue. He has his house on the market in the worst Real Estate market in over 50 years. He moved out of town and bought another home. He now has 2 mortgage payments. He called me a couple of weeks back and told me he now wants to rent the house. I explained to him that we were under contract for 6 months to sell the house. He signed a legally binding contract to that effect.

Having compassion for the fellow I told him that I would post up his house in our MLS for rental to see if we could get him a tenant. He then began to inquire as to when I was going to do that. I finally got around to it at half-time of a football game around 10:30 at night. It took an hour of my time to post it up. When you load property into the web-based software you have to satisfy certain required fields. One of the fields was an amount for a referral fee to be paid to the agent who brought us a tenant. I put a number in the blank space, knowing it was required. The fee is really my obligation, as a fee can only be paid Broker to Broker.

This client shot me back an irate e-mail about the fee. The e-mail was very offensive to me. Here I am trying to do him a favor and he obviously doesn't trust me. We had a nice discussion and determined that we would coexist a little better if he went his way and I went mine.

If you are going to employ the services of a Realtor, then get you one that you know and trust above all else. Once you accomplish that goal you can rest easy and move forward with the marketing of your home or the purchase of a home. If you cannot trust one another then you are wasting one another's precious time.

A very wise man, who called himself the Christ, many years ago said, "Trust one another. Ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another." What a world that must have been to live in. Free of " Sea Hags."

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