Our Moral Compass is all Fucked-Up!

I saw something that disturbed me enough the other day that I felt the need to journal about it. My journal and what I write about in my journal is often the fodder for many of my posts.

As part of my job, I am required to be on-call for Crisis Services for one week approximately every other month. Late last night I was called to the home of a 16 y.o. who is home on a home visit with her family. The child, I call her that because that’s what she is. She’s not a “young adult.” She is a child, who had been allowed, based on my brief observation to do whatever it is she wants to do. This observation is based on the fact, that’s right, the fact that the therapeutic residence in which she has been placed for the previous 12-months had been unable to reach the child’s mother via the mother’s cell phone over the past 24-hours. The residence had been monitoring the child’s Facebook account. That’s right, the residence had been monitoring the child’s Facebook account. The child had made several statements on social media indicating her desire to engage in self-harm. Simply put, she had posted several statements indicating she had a desire to kill herself. I arrived with the police to find the parents totally oblivious…as it appeared to just about anything. I asked if there was a problem with the phone, the mother responded, “Oh, I didn’t know they were calling.” Perplexed, because I have and still use common sense, I asked where her phone was and she explained it was in her daughter’s possession. The same daughter using the same phone on which she was making posts on Facebook about self-harm. This is a head shaker for me. To many of you reading this, my head shaking is obvious, for those of you who it is not, why the Hell was this child allowed to have her mother’s phone, unchecked for the period of time which it was in her possession and why was her mother, knowing this behavior has been problematic for the past several years, at least not looking at the phone and its content? This is the parent’s responsibility not that of the treatment program.

There is/was no reason why when this child returned home for a home visit from her inpatient treatment provider, that she be allowed to keep in her possession the cell phone belonging to her mother. There is no reason why a large marijuana leaf should be allowed to be painted on the wall in her bedroom. By the way, it’s not “her room.” Neither of my kids had a room. I had two extra bedrooms in which they were allowed to live their lives when they lived in my house. They could decorate their rooms as long as they did not violate the simple norms of safety, respect, responsibility and being goal-directed. Call me old-fashioned or call me a parent who cares. The parent explained she “wanted to give her daughter her space.” Well, the parents of one of the Columbine shooters felt the same way. They chose to not go into their son’s room. Perhaps if they had, the ugliness that was Columbine would not have taken place.

I don’t understand this gender thing either. You are either male or female. Recently during a therapy session, I was told by an 18 y.o. she was a “Binary Unicorn.” What the Hell is that?! That doesn’t exist! This is what I mean by the lens of our moral compass being broken. We have developed into a society who feels people deserve the right to do exactly what they want to do regardless of the possible consequences. We are afraid to say anything to anybody because we might be violating their “safe space.” Recently I was in a coffee shop having lunch with a friend. It was Saturday so school was not in session. There was a table of four children who appeared to be no more than 12 or 13 who had become loud. Two of the children were making spitballs and spitting them through a straw at the ceiling. As their behavior grew louder and more aggravating, at least to me became more irritated by this behavior. No one, not even the management of the restaurant said anything. Finally, the manager of the restaurant did approach  their table and told them to “stop.” They laughed and the behavior continued. It took me calling the police to get these punks to stop.

I see every day the lack of respect for almost any type of authority. Especially with kids who feel they “deserve to be respected.” I was brought up understanding respect was earned and there were people in m,y life who received respect because they deserved it.

We need to fix this moral compass we have in this country!



I’ve been a Social Worker since 1985. Since that time the meaning of the holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas have morphed into something for which I no longer have the same level of joy and appreciation. Once a time of joy spent with family has morphed into frustration and a time of year I wish I could simply skip over.

I began by discussing my education and role as a Social Worker. You may have asked why this was important? It is my role which has indirectly lead me to the feelings which I now have toward the holidays. Since 1985 I have seen budget cuts rip through communities. I have seen the disparity between those who who have and those who do not increase. I recall my father saying this many times when I was younger never believing this would actually happen. I used to believe in the inherent goodness of humankind. On some levels I continue to believe we are a good and caring society. I see others everyday who give back in some way. I also believe these numbers are decreasing as the competition for the remaining resources also decreases.

Yesterday I spoke with three patients who had all made some statement reflecting their desire to end their life. Some of those statements were very direct while others were less so. One patient after hearing he had not taken his medication in one month said, “I don’t have the money for my medication.” As we spoke it was clear the finances had been present but the patient decided to forgo his medication so he could give his three children some semblance of a Christmas. This same individual has also not paid his rent for this month and will now be forced to double up on next months rent. If he cannot make that payment he could face eviction. We all face difficult decisions but these decisions and the accompanying difficulty is magnified during this time. The Salvation Army indicated their kettle donations are down 18% from this same time last year.

Difficult decisions; decisions which many of us would have easily made if they had even crossed our mind for more than a few seconds. I am sure there are readers of this post who are also passing judgement asking many questions but not knowing what I now of this family and many more like his. Unfortunately we hear of those individuals who have successfully scammed the system for years and bilked it out of thousands of dollars even as our own tax payments increase and stretch our budgets to near breaking point. There are those individuals. These are also the individuals with whom the media show as a public display overshadowing those in true need. As a result we make assumptions, assumptions which cause us to turn our backs and crawl into a shell of “Not in my backyard.” “It’s not my issue so why should I be concerned?” We vote for politicians for the simple fact that they have promised to reduce our own tax burden. This is accomplished by cutting the services the majority of us do not use. The same services none of us think anything about until the economy falters, we lose our job and and we now need those same services only to find they have been dramatically cut and they now no longer exist.

Over the years, I like many other professions have been asked to do more with less. Social Work is different from the profession where an employee is being asked to take on more projects. In my profession I cannot. I cannot make a referral for a patient to a services that does not exist. I take the phone call and listen as a patient has lost a job, cannot pay rent, is afraid to tell their spouse, cannot but groceries and medication with Christmas around the corner. As I listen I know the weather has turned cold meaning the remaining shelters are full and turning away many individuals. Food pantries are also turning away people; often the same people who have given to those same pantries are now the individuals who now need the services provided by those pantries.

My Buddhist practice and my meditation practice helps me to maintain a more even balance in my day and manage the feelings associated with the difficult stories which I hear everyday. Without my practice I believe I would have either abandoned the profession which I love so much or turned to other, unhealthy ways to manage my own stress.

As a practicing Buddhist, the practice of giving is central to my belief system. This is a belief which was ingrained since I was a small boy. I give everyday through my Social Work practice. My Buddhist practice ensures I do not exceed the balance in my “emotional bank account.” If exceed this balance I have nothing left to give. My practice allows me to give spiritually the gift of loving kindness by being present with my patients. Sometimes it is enough to simply listen. My patients know I cannot give them what I cannot find. They are simply happy because I have listened.

The Buddha taught when we give to others, we give without expectation of reward. We give without attaching to either the gift or the recipient. We practice giving to release greed and self-clinging.

As Christmas approaches I ask you to reevaluate what that day means to you and what you are teaching your children. As Christmas has morphed into a material enterprise which begins in October with sale signs telling us what we need and reminding us we should make the purchase now before its all gone or the sale price has evaporated. These same businesses now compete for the ever shrinking dollar. Ask yourself if you need a 72″ television or if your children each need a new laptop or iPad. I do not vilify these things and do not decry those who make millions of dollars even in the day of Albert Pujols whose new contract dictates he will make 70K dollars everyday for the next ten years for the privilege of swinging a baseball bat. Give the gift of time. Hold the door open for someone as they follow you into a business. Help someone shovel their driveway. Visit someone in a nursing home. Bake cookies and take them to an elderly person in your neighborhood. Helping others does not mean always giving money but give of yourself. These are the gifts which to me mean so much more. Earlier in the week a visually impaired patient drew a picture of me and gave it to me in a frame. This is a gift I will cherish for the rest of my life. When I look at it in my office it reminds of the inherent goodness of humankind. It gives me hope for our future. If we all would simply give a little…