December 1, 2015

Trust: A Disappearing Commodity?

I'd suggest that a feeling of trust is essential to functioning in the world. You trust that the majority of cars will stop at a red light. You trust that every person walking past you on street isn't carrying a gun with the intention of doing you bodily harm (maybe not the best example). You trust that you dog will great you warmly when you come home. 

Trust is really the linchpin of how we operate. But, recent events in the world and certain survey results have called that statement into question. I wonder if we are moving into a time where some of the assumptions we make are no longer quite as valid.


A recent Pew Center study tells us that only 19% of Americans trust the government to do the right thing all or most of the time. That is one of the lowest figures in the last half century. During the Watergate scandal, the era near the end of our involvement in Vietnam, and period the during the financial and economic collapse of 2008-2009 similar scores occurred, but the trust in government percentage has been on a steady decline since 2003.

Trust in various institutions is no better. Many folks don't expect banks, financial institutions or the segment of society commonly known as Wall Street to play by the same rules as the rest of us. Few people think health insurance companies or drug manufacturers are bastions of honest dealings.

With the divorce rate among Baby Boomers growing more rapidly than any other age group, trust is an endangered commodity in relationships, too. A long term relationship, whether married or committed,  does not last long after trust is called into question. The number of smartphone apps that can track someone else's whereabouts has increased dramatically. 

Not only do parents want to know where junior is, but spouses want to keep tabs on their significant other. Though supposedly requiring the permission of both parties in such an arrangement, hiding an app on a smartphone is quite easy. Divorce attorneys report a dramatic increase in the use of such apps in messy relationship breakups. Doesn't speak to much trust, does it.

If all this is accurate, what is there to do about it? Do we simply adapt to a world where trust is conditional and in short supply? Do we approach all interactions with a jaundiced eye? Do we assume everyone is not to be trusted until proven otherwise?  Writing about trust and the common good is especially difficult during political season. The more outrageous the pronouncements and more provocative the claims, the better according to polls and media coverage. Truth becomes disconnected from facts. Trust is a non-factor.

Even so, I certainly hope that isn't our fate. I would not do well in a world where I had to distrust most everybody and everything. Even retreating behind a locked front door wouldn't stop the damage, since everything I do is connected to others in some way.

Trust is the foundation of my 39 year marriage. It is how I function with everyone from my investment advisers to the grocery store I frequent. I assume the gas station is selling me a gallon gas for a gallon's price. I depend on the power company to read my meter correctly when determining my monthly bill. I "know" my daughters would never do anything to hurt or cheat me. 

So, I guess my question is what can any of us do to reverse this climate of distrust that seems to be much too prevalent? Or, is this a period of man's time on earth that is based on the "only the strong survive" model?

I certainly hope not. 

November 27, 2015

A New Find on A Saturday Afternoon

Ask me what I know about olive oil and I might say that she was Popeye's girlfriend. That, of course, would be correct. But, the more common response would be an oil that is now used regularly in the majority of households in this country, and an even higher percentage in many other parts of the world.

A reader's suggestion (thanks, Mona) from a few months ago gave Betty and me a new place to explore: The Queen Creek Olive Mill, about 40 minutes from our new home. A week or so ago we downloaded a map and set out. I got lost. Or, should I say Google Map isn't always completely accurate, particularly in a rural part of the Valley. Roads that it thinks are connected, aren't.

No matter. Eventually, we figured it out and found a beautiful little corner of our area. The Queen Creek Olive Oil is the only place in Arizona that produces Extra Virgin Olive Oil. A market on site sells more types and blends of olive oil and vinegar than I knew existed. A coffee shop and fresh food restaurant are attached. On the other side of a stand of olive trees sits small stage where musicians perform on weekends. A combination grill and bar are also among the trees. serving cold beer and hot burgers. The day we were there a local vineyard had samples of Arizona wine available for tasting and purchase.

Enjoying a mid 70's, mid November day, we had a cheese board loaded with, you guessed it, olives and cheeses, roasted red peppers, honey, and crusty bread. A panini sandwich and prickly pear lemonade completed a perfect lunch while we listened to the music and watched a large Saturday crowd enjoy the setting.

Betty found a small Christmas ornament carved from an olive tree while I snapped some pictures. After an hour or so we headed back home, satisfied that our Saturday afternoon had been well spent.

To top off the day we went to dinner at an excellent Mexican restaurant in Old Town Gilbert. As we finished the meal, who comes around the corner but our grandkids with mom and dad in tow. The group spots us and rushes in for hugs and conversation.

A perfect end to a great day.

November 25, 2015

Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is four days of family, food, relaxation, and no gift-giving pressure. I refuse to participate in the insanity of Black Friday. In fact, unless it is to visit family I make it a point to not leave the house. 

My life is blessed. I know that and I thank God everyday for it. I also know it could be taken away from me, or someone I love, in an instant so I take no precious moments for granted. It is truly a satisfying journey through a retirement life.

I wish for you and your family a happy, joyous, and peaceful Thanksgiving weekend. Whatever your circumstances you have something to be thankful for. Dwell on that for awhile.

If you have a special Thanksgiving memory, or someone you want to wish an extra-special weekend, here's your chance!

November 21, 2015

Is Leaving a Legacy Under Our Control?

What is a legacy? Most dictionaries define it as a gift of money or property for someone after you die. The second way to think of a legacy is something that has been achieved that continues to exist after someone's death. That is the form of legacy I'd like to explore as you move through your satisfying journey.

It would be a very rare person who doesn't want to be remembered after he or she is gone. As we age we understand how short life really is and that there are few opportunities for do-overs.

I have one life. What am I making of it? How would I like to be remembered?  Do I know what I would like to leave behind for others? These are questions that all humans ask themselves at some point. We have a very basic need to believe we have made a difference. A legacy is just that: something that can be pointed to that confirms you were here and you mattered. A satisfying retirement is great, but a strong legacy is something really worth striving for.

There are two basic types of legacies. The first involves tangible accomplishments. If you are an artist that's easy. Your paintings, sculptures or photographs will hang on a museum wall or grace people's homes for years into the future. If you are a singer, actor, or writer you will live on in your music, performances, or words.

Maybe your financial status is such that you can create an on-going scholarship at a favorite school or an endowment at the university you attended. You might be able to donate enough money to help fund on-going research into a serious disease. Maybe you established a volunteer organization that continues to help people for years into the future.

For someone who is handy with tools, maybe you built a vacation cabin in the woods, or a canoe that cuts gracefully through the water. Your family and relatives can enjoy what you made and think of you whenever they do.

The second type of legacy is the intangible kind. You have instilled a set of moral and ethical values in your children. You have treated loved ones and friends in such a way that when people remember you those memories are full of joy and fondness.

You have demonstrated through your life the importance of giving back to others, of leaving your little corner of the world just a bit better for you having been here. You have modeled a life worth living and are remembered by your actions, big and small, your beliefs, and your steadfastness. Years after you are gone, someone will mention your name and there will be a smile, or a fond memory, or a confirmation of how you spent your life's time. Maybe there will be the ultimate compliment when someone declares he would like to be like you were.

While both types of legacies have tremendous value, I think most of us have a better shot at creating a life worth remembering when we focus on the intangible characteristics. The good news: it is not too late to start. The bad news: too many of us never start.

The goal of a legacy can't be selfish. If so, it probably won't be very long-lasting. Even the person who donates $5 million to establish a scholarship fund is doing it because she believes her money can benefit more people if she uses it in this way. Will her name be associated with something good? Sure. But, that is not the primary motivator.

If you are remembered for teaching your children how to be responsible, caring, loving parents to their kids your legacy is worthwhile. If you instill a sense of civic responsibility in a child who goes on to help others for the rest of his or her life, you have created a legacy that is worthwhile.

Maybe your legacy is the guy who always smiled, who was always there to help someone when he was down, who loved others unconditionally. Maybe you were  the first to volunteer whenever your church needed help. You couldn't take off 2 years to join the Peace Corps so you always helped restock the food bank at an inner-city school. You were confined to a wheelchair after an accident. But, instead of being bitter and withdrawn you remained positive and upbeat. You affirmed that there were others in much worse shape than you.

All of us will be remembered for something. How would you like to be remembered for what you do while on this earth? How would you want your memory to affect others? Most of the answers are within your control. A legacy is built on beliefs and attitudes that are translated into actions. Turn whatever time you have left into a long-lasting legacy. Start today.