greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

As I indicate in the "lead-in" this article is considerably "off-topic." It is my hope however, that if you choose to read it you will find it worthwhile - tangentially "Y2K relevant" and therefore meaningful.

Y2K is afterall, about people - specifically the impact of the problem on the lives of people. Y2K may mandate many changes - many "realignments" of our values, by each of us. Those of us willing and able to "prepare" will have tended to reduce the impacts of those mandates, to both our loved ones and ourselves. Those not so able however, will be impacted to a greater degree. Many perhaps will be impacted greatly. There will also be those that will innocently suffer. It is in this context that I pose the question:


I have a 14 year old daughter. Her name is Jessie. She is beautiful. How could I think of her in any other way? As my only child, I have not had a previous "dress rehearsal" in the proper methods of trying to teach a child of life's lessons. Nor are my experiences with her to be characterized as an "opening night," the results of which I will then be able to put to good use in "subsequent performances." Jessie is my only shot. I shall not have another opportunity to "get it right."

Like most of us I struggle to discover how might I best teach her of those things I believe to be important - those things over which I anguish, that I desperately want her to clearly understand. For when she becomes an adult and is on her own, should she choose as I have taught her, if only with respect to those values of character that matter the greatest, I will then know I did well.

I have observed enough to know that the best lessons are taught by example. No matter what I may say to my daughter, if I can consistently demonstrate it to her in my deeds, not merely in my words, then one of the things life has clearly taught me is that the impact to her will be without equal. Unfortunately, "consistently" is the key word here. There can be no greater corrosive behavior demonstrated by an adult to a child, than inconsistency with regard to how one should behave. At best it causes confusion, at worst it is the calling card of the hypocrite. Regrettably, consistency is a requirement that at times can be frustratingly elusive.

Occasionally, into my and Jessie's daily mixture of excitement, joy, and the myriad of our wonderful experiences together, comes someone whose impact is felt to one's soul. An impact that makes the teaching of an important lesson, as simple as placing my hands on Jessie's shoulders, facing her in the proper direction - at the proper moment, and saying, "THERE! That is what I have been trying to tell/show you." Just such an example has recently occurred. I will call her Nancy......

Jessie's school year had just ended, but during her last semester, as I would pick her up from school and we would be returning home, sometime in early April I think, is when we first noticed Nancy. She is less than 5 feet tall, not likely to weigh 80 pounds. Her hair is black and somewhat straight; she appears to be in her late forties. Her face has the look of someone on a "runners diet." Gaunt, hollow-looking cheekbones, she conveys dire fragility.

Nancy was walking. Seeing her walking you are struck with the thought, "that must be difficult." Rather than walking in the traditional sense, her feet could more accurately be described as sliding forward rather than "walking." Bent forward slightly, with a gate that is uncertain at best, it is obviously very difficult for her to move her feet and legs. Perhaps it is because of an illness; perhaps it is remorselessly painful. In my judgment, it is likely both. In retrospect we both noticed Nancy because she is the type of person, both in her physical appearance, and the manner in which that physical appearance is engaged that you cannot simply ignore.

Walking. A seemingly simple activity, one to be taken for granted, unless you are Nancy.

That day, when Jessie and I first noticed her, neither of us spoke. We just gazed at her as we passed by in our car, and then, as if compelled by something one can only grasp perceptually, we glanced at each other so as to acknowledge what we had just seen, Jessie raising her eyebrows in silence.

I cannot say how long a period went by before Jessie first spoke of her, perhaps two weeks. We would see her almost every school day, not knowing where she began her "walk" nor where it ended. She would always be going in the same direction as were we, but we would always pass her within < mile of the same place, her head tilted slightly forward and down, her feet slowly making progress toward whatever her daily objective. Jessie spoke of her first saying "I wonder where she is going," knowing that I too was quietly asking myself the same question. "I don't know," I said, "I wonder why she doesn't ask someone to give her a ride," suspecting that there must not be anyone from whom such a convenience might be expected.

On our daily ride home from school we both began to anticipate seeing Nancy. Jessie would ask, "I wonder where she will be." If we were on time, she would always be somewhere within that < mile stretch of road. If we were early or late, we would not see her. Now that we had become aware of Nancy's daily presence, not seeing her was something that was about to change.

We had gotten home from school considerably early and I had a meeting with a client, so I left Jessie at home and headed for my appointment. As I turned out of our street and headed further up the road that Jessie and I travel when coming home from school, I approached the bus stop approximately = mile from our street. Nancy was seated there on the bench, apparently awaiting the bus. Her eyes were closed and her head was lying against the wall of the enclosure. She was resting. Her posture indicated she must have needed to be. I passed by and made a mental note to tell Jessie that I had seen her. I was to soon see Nancy again, only in a different setting.

Another week passed and it was early in the afternoon. Jessie was still in school and I had an hour or so before I was to pick her up so I went to the supermarket in the newly developed commercial area near our home. I had parked my car and was walking toward the entrance when, as I glanced to the side, I noticed a string of shopping carts being returned to the store from one of the "staging" areas to which customers are asked to return their carts. The person pushing this string of carts was bent slightly forward, their feet exerting barely enough force to keep the several carts moving. With a look of calm determination on her face, here was Nancy straining under a burden that would have been somewhat strenuous for you or I, going about her job as an employee for a large supermarket. I was dumbfounded! Nancy was not only working at a job, she was doing a job that seemed appropriate for younger men and women - certainly not someone as frail as she appeared to be - certainly not someone in her obvious physical condition.

It was the first time I had seen her up close. I tried not to stare. It became apparent from closely watching her that it was all she could do to push the carts back to the store. Not only did her feet seem not to move as precisely as she wished them to, but her hands seemed unruly as well. Whatever her "condition," it was obviously causing her difficulty in moving her extremities. With great difficulty, with an oddity of movement that characterizes muscular degeneration, Nancy was hard at work at a physically demanding job! With a determination that when observed and understood, can only be inspiringly admired, Nancy returned that string of carts to the store, and after a brief rest, returned to the parking lot for more.

As I finished my shopping I approached the customer service area and asked to speak with the manager. I asked whom the employee was that was returning the shopping carts to the store. "That is Nancy," the manager replied. "She has worked for us for a number of years. She used to be a cashier, but there are only a few jobs she is now able to do. She is an excellent worker and the store keeps her employed in spite of her illness." I asked, "what is her illness?" The manager replied that she did not know. Nancy tended to be rather private and never spoke of it. She then volunteered, "Nancy makes it difficult for other people to complain about their jobs or their work." I smiled and indicated that I understood.

I continued speaking with the manager and through the course of the discussion I learned more about Nancy. She lives with her mother who is herself an invalid. She has no children and apparently no other relatives. Neither Nancy nor her mother is able to drive, the bus being Nancy's only means of getting to and from work. Apparently, Nancy's mother receives Social Security and together with Nancy's earnings, they both manage to survive on this combined income. I found myself developing a profound respect for Nancy. I determined at that point that I would tell Jessie of what I had learned and together, we would meet Nancy.

I found an appropriate greeting card into which I placed a personal note and a gift. I picked Jessie up a little early from school and we headed for the market where Nancy worked. We found her working in the "cereal" section, replacing and rearranging the boxes on the shelves. Apparently she is still able to do this with large items but not with the smaller ones. We waited for an appropriate moment and then approached her. "Excuse me" I said, "my name is Dave and this is my daughter Jessie." With an expression of curiosity and a nod that conveyed a soundless "hello," she looked at first myself and then at Jessie. She now nodded with what had become a smile and I began. "My daughter and I see you every day when we return from school as you are returning home from your job. I have also seen you on many occasions here in the store as you go about your duties. We both wanted you to know how much we admire your attitude and your dedication/determination." She then seemed a little surprised and perhaps a little embarrassed. I remember questioning myself as to whether I was doing the right thing.

"I wanted you to know that you provide an example of something that I have been trying to explain to Jessie. You represent someone that I want Jessie to become, someone that in the face of adversity, continues to maintain their attitude, their values. You are someone that just by being who you are clearly demonstrates to both myself and to my daughter, the meaning of someone that maintains the proper outlook on life. We both wanted you to know this and to thank you for the wonderful example you provide," as I handed her the envelope. She was now more than just a little embarrassed; she seemed equally shocked and immensely pleased at the same time. Her smile had become a radiant glow. She said thank you, the words formed with difficulty, as she took the envelope from my hand.

As we turned to leave I noticed that her eyes, much like Jessie's and mine, were gathering with tears. We left the store and silently returned home.

I cannot precisely determine what has occurred in Jessie's mind in response to Nancy. I know the lesson I have been trying to teach her has in some manner been learned. There is a much greater awareness in Jessie of the fact that she has the power to decide how she will react - what her attitude will be, in response to whatever befalls her in life. I notice much less "whining" and fewer expressions of anger and frustration. She also seems less moody. I know that the effect of first watching, and then meeting Nancy, together with our speculations over what must be the affliction from which she suffers, has all combined to have a great emotional impact on Jessie.

For the first time in her life, Jessie understands to a degree not previously understood, the concept that each us must play whatever "hand" we are dealt in the game of life. While we can certainly control many of the cards we receive, there are nonetheless some that we cannot control. The game therefore must always be played with our focus on the manner in which we choose to respond to all of the cards - those that are dealt to us because of our own doing - consciously chosen or otherwise, as well as those that we do not choose and therefore may not "deserve."

Should Y2K create only a limited economic impact, Nancy will likely maintain her job until such time as her condition deteriorates to the point where she can no longer work. For our part, we have decided that we will continue to "look in" on Nancy. Over the course of this summer, when we see her in the store we always say hello but we do not linger. She always acknowledges us with a warm smile and then goes on about her tasks.

As Y2K unfolds, if need be we shall make sure (if we are able) that Nancy has the opportunity to be only minimally affected by it. I am not a proponent of "institutionalized charity." I believe charity should be given privately, with little fanfare, and only on a personal level - much in the manner provided by many religious groups or The Red Cross. When done in this way it becomes something that is personalized and therefore more meaningful. You may even say it can then be earned - i.e. "deserved." In my judgment Nancy is deserving of my help by virtue of her values and her character.

In so acknowledging this, it is my hope that Jessie will have learned yet another important lesson from Nancy. She will have learned that there is indeed a brotherhood of man. It is the brotherhood of values. Nancy's values as demonstrated by her attitude and behavior are indeed those of our spiritual "brother." As far as we can determine she is at least our moral equal - deserving of our respect and consideration. She shall have both.

I shall close this post with a reminder. Whatever it is to become, Y2K is potentially more than just a technical problem to be solved. It is a reminder of an aspect of being human of which we frequently lose perspective. It is this. We are all dependent for our very existence on economic production. It fuels our survival and because it has reached a staggering level of productivity, it seems as if the bounty of goods and services just occur "naturally." In a sense they do occur naturally. It is each mans nature to provide for his survival. Given the freedom to do so, the abundance that is therefore possible for all of us is almost without limit.

When that freedom is constrained, whether by technical glitch, or by the intrusion of those that would make that productivity either more difficult or impossible, it is those at the economic margin who will first succumb. In answer to the title of my article, we all know what shall become of Nancy as well as millions of others like her in the event Y2K is more than a BITR.

Therefore, for all of our well being, those choosing to prepare as well as those choosing not to do so - or as in Nancy's case, those who cannot do so, it remains my hope that Y2K will turn out to be an expensive annoyance. A potentially devastating annoyance that freedom and a great deal of money and hard work rectified with scarcely a murmur.

Should that not be the case, many of us will be forever changed. Nancy will be one of the first to feel that change.

With respect

-- Dave Walden (wprop@concentric.net), September 26, 1999


Thank you Dave. Your article mirrors my views, thoughts and feelings very well.

The question, "What will become of Nancy?" has a painfully obvious answer.

As you state, those on the "margins" will be hit first and hit hard. I don't think nearly enough thought is given to how much the government currently provides for so many. Right or wrong, this is the situation and social programs which are in trouble now and perhaps doomed to fail will have direct, difficult impacts on people like Nancy.

So much focus is on preps for individual families and so little thought is given to those without the means to prepare and without a clue as to what may unfold. There are going to be a lot of scared, angry people within our communities.

Maybe with 96 days to go we can finish our individual preps and start trying to get the rest of our communities involved. I'm not nearly as optimistic as I once was that this is possible.



-- Michael Taylor (mtdesign3@aol.com), September 26, 1999.

Many thanks, Dave, for a meaningful, beautifully written post. Y2k is much more than a technical problem - it is most certainly a people problem like any other crisis that effects thousands in one stroke-like a F5 tornado or a C5 hurricane or a 7.5 earthquake. The one glaring, unavoidable difference is that it threatens to hit everyone at once. This, of course, changes the reality of who will make it and who won't. So many Nancys out there. I pray for them.

Do you mind if I put this post on other forums?

-- April (Alwzapril@home.com), September 26, 1999.


-- Chuck, a Night Driver (rienzoo@en.com), September 26, 1999.

The people with Nancy's philosophy of life will at least have a fighting chance post-1999, whatever their limitations. The ones who consider welfare/charity an inalienable right, and who take offense at everything/are perpetual indolent hypochondriacs, are to put it mildly, of dim prospects for Y2K, no matter what their other attributes are.


-- MinnesotaSmith (y2ksafeminnesota@hotmail.com), September 26, 1999.

Would you listen to your own arrogance: "As far as we can determine she is at least our moral equal - deserving of our respect and consideration. She shall have both." What an utter snob you are. The upper class has descended the ladder with its child to examine the poor creature up close for the purpose of an object lesson. My oh my. And what did we come away with? Well, I'd say Nancy is your superior, not "at least our moral equal."

You liberal bleeding hearts have no true humility. I bet you thought you should have a pat on the back for noticing her. You violated her privacy. You left her without diginity. You just don't get it do you"?

"There, but for the Grace of God, go I."

-- peon (peon@peon.vil), September 26, 1999.


Thank you. Please thank Nancy for me too.

Sincerely, Stan Faryna

-- Stan Faryna (faryna@groupmail.com), September 26, 1999.


>You liberal bleeding hearts have no true humility. I bet you thought you should have a pat on the back for noticing her. You violated her privacy. You left her without diginity. You just don't get it do you"? <

I believe that you just earned yourself the very first ever digitally transmitted electronic version of the "Hawaiian Good luck Sign", in addition to the richly deserved verbal thrashing which will surely follow your rather stupid and ill-advised post.


-- sweetolebob (buffgun@hotmail.com), September 26, 1999.

Dave, IMO, I think the admiration for Nancy's life is due to her exemplification of fulfillment of personal responsibility.

-- Barb (awaltrip@telepath.com), September 26, 1999.

It appears Jessie has one terrific father. Thank you, Mr. Walden, for touching my heart.

And a special thanks for acknowledging the importance of setting an example for your daughter, and attempting to live by this simple wisdom.

Blessings to you & yours,

-- Bingo1 (howe9@pop.shentel.net), September 26, 1999.


I agree with Peon.....he saw through your moral B.S. If you would open your eyes you would see hundreds of "Nancey's" all around you. Did you ever stop to think that you may have violated her privacy and in her mind she was doing well in her world? No of course not, all you want is kudo's for being so sentivie. What a jerk you are!!

-- Watcher7 (anon@anon.com), September 26, 1999.


Thank you for your post. Whatever ails Nancy, she is a living, breathing everyday example of courage, of a type most will never fathom.

I am retired Rehabilitation counselor and administrator. I had the good fortune to meet many people like Nancy. I have learned many many lessons and have many guardian angels to lead me on my journey with MS.

Perhaps one of the most important things I have learned is we all need to have "Nancy"s amongst us. They are wonderful teachers. And Nancy, although it is not easy, she is blessed that she "is able" to work (that in itself being a gift I no longer have).

The realization that we need folks like Nancy because they inspire us with their courage, determination and normalcy, despite their challenges, is a developed realization. It is a realization many do not have. It sounds as though it is something you and your daughter have realized.

Yes, with Y2K, what will become of the Nancys of the world? For myself, I am fortunate to have someone who cares enough to watch out for me. I in turn have prepared with the thought of helping someone out as well. I have many friends that sound like Nancy. I know a few may knock on my door. I will do my part to help out, even though I need help to help out.

Do you know a Nancy in your life? Have you talked with them about Y2K so that they can buy a few more groceries on their tight budgets? I talk with my Nancys. They may be able to do nothing more that to fill their bathtubs and sinks with water and buy a few sacks of rice and beans. But, it is something they might have wanted to do, had they known.

I have heard many on the forum talk about how Y2K will be a survival of the fittest (always with the presumption that they are amongst the fittest....) But the fittest of what? Brute strength and vitality? I may have MS and am now retired, but I still have two masters degrees and four certifications in vocational rehabilitation I still use informally. Are you as fit as this educationally? Do we want survivors only of brute strength and arrogance?

Y2K will bring much trauma. I am trained in trauma counseling. Perhaps the world might need this post Y2K? Are you as fit as this training and experience? Might we need survivors with this training?

I have learned from much experience both professionally and personally; DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE the Nancys of this world, or those more vulnerable. They may be great treasures of experience and knowledge the world might need post Y2K. When you do your preps; do you ever think of the Nancys? or the more vulnerable? With any compassion? With the thought of helping them out? With any thought at all?

It is my belief that we will not survive this selfishly; if we are selfish we may survive, but not to any happiness or value to anyone else or to the world.

Something to think about, IMHO.

Y2K presents us with many potential challenges. Question; when you prepare, where is YOUR morality? How do YOU define it. Does it include anyone but YOU and YOURS?

-- Leslie (***@***.net), September 26, 1999.

Thanks for your post. We have prepped for ourselves and others, my wife is prepared to help needy folks in the county with nursing and midwifery support (no big deal, she already does this, giving away thousands of dollars of services every year), I (and some others here) work with many on this forum and off to help them prepare (and yes, some of us have been harassed noticeably and explicitly by our own government while doing so), all because we see Y2K as a "people" issue first and a technology issue second.

If I become short-tempered with some of the cold, cynical (IMO), "value-free" intellectualism of some on this forum, it is because of the casual manner in which it passes over our human neighbors with respect to Y2K.

-- BigDog (BigDog@duffer.com), September 26, 1999.

A truly beautiful and inspiring life lesson to gift your daughter with, Dave.

Thank you, with small tears in my eyes.

And believe it or not, I suspect Nancy, though initially embarassed, was touched in her heart, and remembrance of you and your daughter, probably lingers as a special moment. You acknowledged her innate dignity, and that doesn't do harm, but likely helps, on the difficult days.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), September 26, 1999.

SCORE=2 against, 8 approving. Should Y2K turn out to be more than a BITR, I hope we can retain at least this level of compassion.

THANKS Dave Walden! Tommy

-- Tommy Rogers (Been there@Just a Thought.com), September 26, 1999.

peon and Watcher 7,

As Oscar Wilde said, "There's only one thing worse than being talked about....and that's not being talked about. Would Nancy's life been the better, had no one ever told her they admired her?

Spying on her, in her house, would have been a violation of her privacy. Noticing her on the street is not.


That was a wonderful piece, and I want to add my voice to those who thank you, for posting it.

-- Bokonon (bok0non@myDeja.com), September 27, 1999.

Dave: Not off topic at all...something we should all take more time to do in our lives. Not all of us have the same types of problems, but i can tell you from a personal view that acknowledging someones accomplishments rather than their differences is like water in the desert. Even though it may be a slight embarassment at first, the wonderful warmth it sends through your body will be replayed each time the event is remembered. Job well done. Hope you will continue to be not only an inspiration to your daughter but to those of us who to often forget to celebrate the Nancy's in our own lives. Blessings to you & yours.

-- kitten (kitten@vcn.net), September 28, 1999.

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