If these Notebook entries carried titles, this one’s would be: A holiday tribute to PNFB’s.
For seven years I worked in the national church offices of my denomination. Believe it or not, folks who work in such places are sometimes referred to by the same terminology often ascribed to government employees — bureaucrats. Some who were convinced we were up to nefarious things designed to upset folks in the pews of congregations went further and referred to us as “nameless faceless bureaucrats.”
Our staff team had four-letter, campaign-type buttons made with the letters PNFB. When visitors would inquire, we explained we were their personal nameless faceless bureaucrats. This light-hearted approach seemed to help some of our critics realize we were persons with names trying to do our best serving the needs of many throughout the nation and around the world.
I’ve noticed an increase of late in referring to government servants as bureaucrats, including by some columnists published in this newspaper. It’s demeaning and lumps together thousands who serve diligently and effectively with a small minority who may be up to no good, overreaching their authority or outright incompetent.
Oh, I’ve had my own frustrations with some government departments. After once sending a response to an IRS inquiry, a letter came back to me asking, “What do you want?” I ignored it, though sorely tempted to respond: “Just leave me alone!” I’ve chafed at other unhelpful encounters with a few government employees over the years.
But thinking back on two decades as a Pennsylvanian and especially my encounters with Adams County and other local employees of all types, I don’t recall many negative experiences. The ambulance pair who came on a dark and stormy winter night, the folks I’ve encountered in the courthouse and township halls, even the officer who issued me a speeding ticket, were all courteous and professional. And they all have names, and mostly smiling faces.
So, here’s a holiday salute and word of appreciation to all the faithful servants working in all arenas of government! And a special word of thanks to those who remain on duty, like shepherds keeping watch by night, while the rest of us huddle up with loved ones on these special days.
I have yet to decorate my apartment for Christmas, but I intend to do so this weekend.
I did attempt to bring the holiday cheer to my cubicle here at the office. While I was Christmas shopping Black Friday in York, I bought an approximate six-inch fake tree I have at my desk. It’s not decorated. I didn’t want to get anything much larger because I have a lot of paperwork on my desk. So much paperwork.
Anyway, I listen to holiday music on the way from York to Gettysburg daily. Yes, I do sing along occasionally. I enjoy the Christmas decorations in Lincoln Square and on my travels from York to Gettysburg.
Have you decorated for Christmas yet?
I had a rare privilege Monday.
I looked on as my brother, Matt Hale, testified before the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Family Law in Harrisburg.
He spoke about House Bill 1397, which would change state law to create a rebuttable presumption that equal parenting time is in the best interest of the child in custody cases.
In other words, 50-50 would be the automatic starting point. Naturally, judges would be free to change that arrangement as required by each case’s specific circumstances, but would have to state their reasons for doing so.
Matt, as an activist with the Kentucky affiliate of the National Parents Organization (NPO) and member of its national board, spearheaded the successful effort to pass his state’s first-in-the-nation shared-parenting law. It passed with strong bipartisan support, 81-2 in Kentucky’s House and 38-0 in the Senate, and led to a reduction in custody-related court cases.
I hope our local state representatives will give HB 1397 a good look. Its prime sponsor is state Rep. Susan Helm, R-104, whose district includes parts of Dauphin and Lebanon counties.
The bill’s intention is to “protect the right of children to continue to have both loving and fit parents meaningfully involved in their lives following a separation or divorce,” according to her co-sponsorship memorandum.
A link to a video of the hearing is on NPO’s Facebook page. NPO Pennsylvania State Chair Steve Meehan testified as well before an audience of about 75.
I’m proud of you, Matt.
The community’s annual performance of Charles’ Dickens’ holiday masterpiece “A Christmas Carol” has reminded me of my introduction to another of Dickens’ classics.
The first time I ever picked up “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens, I thought it was, “Great Expeditions.”
Being young and filled with wanderlust, I assumed Dickens had taken a page from another famous Chuckie D., that is, Mr. Charles Darwin, and was forgoing Victorian cobbled streets for a grandiose adventure.
Boy was I wrong.
Throughout the entirety of the 1861 coming-of-age classic, all I could do was mutter, “Just ditch the broad, Pip!” and “who cares about sophistication and high society, go explore the Galapagos.”
I think I eventually caught on when I realized grooming Pip to be a model gentleman wasn’t just a phase and that receiving a “great expedition” of wealth from a mysterious benefactor didn’t make any sense.
So, what’s the moral of the story?
Is it don’t let your expectations get in the way of the actual expedition?
Is it AR Berkley makes for a terrible title font?
The world may never know.
For most of my life, competition has been my default setting.
I’m rarely cutthroat, but I hate to lose even more than I like to win. That’s a good position to have on an athletic field but can be counterproductive in a civil society, particularly in arguments.
During Monday’s Gettysburg Borough Council meeting, I recognized a bit of myself in my boss, Harry Hartman, and Borough Manager Charles Gable. Both men took passionate stances in support of their vision of the holiday season in our beloved town after the Gettysburg Christmas Festival, which all agreed was a positive step forward for the community.
In arguments that can be read about in this past Tuesday’s edition of the Gettysburg Times, I mostly side with my boss. It feels that longstanding, successful traditions were altered without careful consideration of the fallout. In politics and while rolling out community-wide programs, there will always be winners and losers, but its best to avoid treating those who suffered as collateral damage.
Gable’s declaration that “everyone wins,” and there’s only one option, “to get on board,” is a bit tone deaf. Even if he’s right 10 years from now, his lack of understanding, combined with the aggressive way in which he states his position all but ensure pushback from people who would make far better allies.
The execution of the events supported during the Long Dinner Party and Gettysburg Christmas Festival went far better than I ever could have imagined and made me an honest believer in the activities. If you’ve brushed up against my skepticism, you know this is not an easy sell. If I could push back against my boss’s comments in any area, it’s that Gable and company have made a substantial impact in Gettysburg and, with the right touch, can make ample positive difference in the future.
The best part of victory is the celebration, provided everyone on the team feels vital to the momentum that assured it. In a well-constructed team, the fading and rising stars all feel integral to the creation — it should be a movement with a soul that transcends them all.
A press release about rats from a state university caught my attention this week. Because the school was too distant, the release didn’t run, which turns out to be a good thing.
The university is adopting out 16 rats which were used for behavioral experimentation in a psychology lab. When I spoke with the department secretary a couple days ago the professor in charge of rat adoptions had more than 100 applications to weed through to find the best homes for the Long-Evans female rats, which are about 6 months old.
Long-Evans rats, which are gray/black and white in color and commonly referred to as hooded rats, were crossbred by a couple doctors in 1915 by pairing white females with wild gray males.
I was pleased to hear these university psych lab rats were being rehomed. Back when I was an undergrad, after we finished with rats in the psychology lab, the critters went off to the biology lab where they were used for dissection. Not a happy end to some very pleasant little creatures which were well trained.
I’d name my experimental rat Sparkle, Spark for short. She was an albino, which is what the school I attended used at the time. She was a very sweet little thing, learned all the tricks she was supposed to for my psych class, and a few more I’d added just for fun. I couldn’t bear the thought of some biology student cutting her to bits.
On the last day before the rats were to be transferred out the psychology building to the bio lab, I absconded with Sparkle. I’d been working with her on sitting quietly inside the zipper of my sweatshirt, resting against my chest. She’d already sat quietly through a few abnormal psych classes, so I was confident she would behave nicely through the upcoming classes, until I could get her home and into her new cage, a deluxe condo-type affair. As I left the lab, I tucked Spark in my sweatshirt and off we went, to a sociology class.
As I took my seat, Spark was nestled snugly against my chest. She moved around now and then, repositioning herself, but wasn’t trying to escape, or even see what was happening around her, at least for a while.
At one point she decided to stick her little pink nose out of the top of my zipped up sweatshirt, just to sniff around a little. I figured it was OK. She wasn’t that noticeable, at least not until she scurried out of my sweatshirt and onto my shoulder, which is where she frequently sat when we were working together in the psychology lab.
I wish we’d had such easily accessible digital photography back in those days such as we have now. I would love to have a video of the professor’s reaction when she saw a rat sitting on my shoulder in her classroom. Some of the other students didn’t react too well when they noticed what had caught that teacher’s attention, causing her to stop in mid-sentence and stare, albeit ever so briefly.
The professor, being a woman of sturdy composition, wasn’t about to let a mere rat rattle her. After suggesting I put the “thing” back in my sweatshirt, she continued her lecture without skipping so much as one word. A couple of the less poised people opted to scoot their desks some distance from me, and rush out of the room at the class’s end.
The professor, however, opted to check out Spark stroking her soft little head, and issuing a warning to never bring a rat to her class again, at least not without prior approval.
Spark went home and lived several more years with me. She refused to be confined to a cage, so she was a free-roaming rat who opted to sleep in my bed with me at night, explore the house at will, and rest up in a little nest she made from an old washcloth in the linen closet when I was away. She was a good, well-trained rat, always went to the cage to attend to her business; not once did I ever find a dropping outside that cage. And, surprisingly, my Siamese cats never bothered her.