BEFORE YOU BEGIN READING....I WANT YOU TO BE AWARE THAT I WROTE ABOUT THIS EXPERIENCE USING THE EXACT WORDS THAT WERE USED BY THOSE INVOLVED. EXPECT TO READ WORDS THAT I NEVER USE IN MY PERSONAL WRITING BUT....I DON'T EDIT REMARKS MADE BY OTHERS. I WRITE THE TRUTH.
"The thought of working in New York City sounds glamorous to some people but, speaking from experience, I found New York City to be inconvenient, crowded, and, dangerous.
In 1981, as spokesperson for the National Confectioners Association, I traveled from my home in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, to the heart of New York City. Whether I took the New Jersey train, the bus, or drove my car, nothing about the commute was easy. Each afternoon, I tried leaving my office no later than four o’clock; the commute from New York’s Penn Station to New Jersey's Little Silver Train Station took almost two hours.
One evening, after missing the bus to Penn station, I opted to take the NY Subway-- a bad decision. It was six o’clock and, by now, most commuters were off the streets; some were already home. I knew I was over-dressed for the subway wearing a silk blouse with a matching straight/slit skirt, high heels and jewelry consisting of a gold medallion around my neck, gold earrings, and gold bracelets. Although I almost- never rode the subway, it was the fastest way to connect with the train to New Jersey.
It didn’t take long to sense trouble. Within minutes of finding a bench seat, I watched two guys race from the back of the subway car to sit directly across from me. Instead of looking at my face, they were staring at my neck. Uneasy, I glanced around the train, hoping to locate another seat. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two very hippie-looking guys crammed their bodies into the small bench seat with me---one on either side. I felt my pulse accelerate; I held my breath. This was it. The enemy had me surrounded; the bad guys were across from me and their buddies next to me. I knew I was minutes away from being grabbed, raped, and killed!
The man on my left, the one with the biggest earrings and longest ponytail--- made the first move. Roughly hooking his right arm through my left arm, he whispered “Lady, get ready to stand up and move toward the doors—one—two---NOW!!!!!! Before I realize it, the other man grabbed my right arm and, when the subway doors opened, both men propelled me through the open doors and onto the platform.
Everything happened quickly and they wouldn’t release my arms. The subway doors closed, the train pulled away, and the head man--- the spokesperson--turned and shouted in my face: “Lady, do you realize you were seconds away from being murdered?!?!?” First of all, you shouldn’t be riding the fuckin subway this time of day and second of all, why the hell are you wearing expensive clothes and damn gold jewelry on the God Damn Subway?!?! Lady, do you have some crazy-ass death wish? Those guys sitting across from you were professionals! They were ready to kill you to get that fuckin gold out of your ears, off your arm, and from your neck!”
For the first time since he’d begun speaking-- I noticed the guns. Seeing me eyeing their weapons, both guys dropped my arms at the same time and flashed police badges in my face. “Lady... tonight was your fuckin lucky night! You must have brought your damn guardian angel along for this ride. My name is Lennie and this is my partner, Steno. We’re undercover cops and it’s our job to ride the subway looking for criminals, murderers, drug dealers, and thieves. Officially, we were off-duty and headed back to the station to sign out when we saw what was going down with you. The minute those bastards swapped seats we knew you were the target. Those shitheads were only seconds from grabbing you so we had to get you off the train.
Lady, those assholes make their livin by robbing and killing women like you! You wanta know how long it’d take them to get that gold necklace off your neck?!?!? It would take about three seconds for one of them to hold you down while the other one sliced your fuckin head off!”
What a sight we must have been, standing on the subway platform. Evening commuters saw two long-haired, bearded men in dirty tennis shoes, ragged jeans, wearing grateful dead sweatshirts, each holding a gun, and standing on either side of a tall, fashionably-dressed female in high heels. Together, we climbed the crowded subway stairs to the busy streets above.
Before stepping on the bus bound for New Jersey--- I listened again to Lennie’s stern warning: “Never take the fuckin Subway Train when you’re all dressed up---fit to kill!” Steno stood close by, silent and unsmiling. They helped me on the bus and, as it pulled away from the curb, I looked out the window, hoping to wave goodbye to my heroes.
Both had disappeared into the crowd."
At various times in life, everyone needs someone to talk with, someone who will listen and offer advice. Sometimes, our friends or family are all the help we need… But, other times, we need the help of a medical professional. In the late sixties, toward the end of my marriage, I unloaded my fears, frustrations, and anger on a Little Rock Psychiatrist. He was a kind and sincere gentleman who was respectful of my heart--someone who listened as I cried through every word. My psychiatrist understood when to stop listening and start sharing the hard facts I so desperately needed to hear.
It took less than twelve visits to regain my confidence…to understand that my accomplishments far-outweighed my failures. The psychiatrist guided me through a simple process that opened my eyes to basic facts: My children and I deserved more from life than living with a bully, a womanizer, and a selfish-heartless narcissist.
More than forty years later, when my two children abandoned me—walked out of my life forever-- I tried to work through my shock and sadness, alone. Realizing my sadness was beyond my control, I called the Arkansas Psychiatric Center. When I arrived at the center for my first appointment, I was concerned that too-many patients, including me, were forced to stand in the hall. The staff told us that the doctors were running far-behind and—as a result-- the waiting room was full. I waited almost two hours for the nurse to call my name before being ushered into the doctor’s office.
The Center’s lead psychiatrist was short, fat, completely bald, and wore open-toed sandals with a suit and tie. Without a hint of a smile, the Doctor directed me to a straight-back chair before dropping—or should I say flopping-- noisily, into an over-stuffed recliner across from me. “What medicines are you taking?” he asked and I proudly replied, “Nothing.”
The doctor picked up a prescription pad and, without looking in my direction, replied: “Before I treat you, you must first start taking the three medications I’ll be prescribing. I see you have Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Medicare so…your costs shouldn’t be over-whelming. Also, I see that you’re still working and that will defray expenses, too. Now, are you allergic to any medicines?”
Puzzled to hear that I must take prescription drugs, I said: “Doctor, I don’t need drugs or medicines. I’m here to discuss my depression, to find ways to cope with my devastating sorrow. Can’t you help by--” The Doctor interrupted, abruptly standing up. “I do not talk or listen to patients until they are totally medicated. Ms. Miller, if you don’t agree with my terms then we have nothing to discuss.” And, hearing that rude declaration, I left the doctor’s office.
One of the nurses behind the check-out desk, spotting my tears, said: “You should make an appointment with Dr. Johnson. She's very kind and, because she’s a psychologist, her patients aren't required to take drugs.
Two days later, I returned to the Arkansas Psychiatric Clinic to see Dr. Johnson. I was a little surprised that Dr. Johnson seemed older, shaky and fragile, and—she was wearing fluffy-white-rabbit house shoes. If she noticed me staring at her feet, she never acknowledged it by offering an excuse or an explanation.
Dr. Johnson motioned me to a particular chair then sat down across from me. Her first words were: “Tell me why you’re here.” I began talking, sharing my heartbreaking story, crying at times, feeling emotionally crushed until-- I happened to glance in the Doctor’s direction and realized her eyes were shut, her mouth was hanging open because…she was fast asleep!
When I spoke her name….she quickly opened her eyes, shut her mouth, and—clearly confused--- woke up. The psychologist fought to make a few comments-- looked at the clock--- and said: “Your time is up. Stop at the receptionist desk on your way out and make an appointment for next week.”
The next week was exactly like the last week except this time-- Dr. Johnson was wearing fluffy bedroom “booties” in a Tiger design. I had barely begun describing the details of my daughters’ abandonment when Dr. Johnson’s snoring interrupted my train of thought. Rather than wake her, I made the decision to leave….permanently.
On the way out, I stopped at the scheduling desk. I cautioned them not to charge me for either appointment since Dr. Johnson slept through both of them. I made sure they knew I was ready to contact the National Psychiatric Licensing Board.
Soon after this experience, I began talking out-loud to the mirror; I spent hours at the computer, writing endless volumes about my unhappiness; I took longer-more vigorous-walks with Cubby-Dog and….I carried my sadness to God. I activated years of Strength Training and began my Walk of Faith.
When it’s apparent that the so-called medical professionals lack respect for you... when money and drugs are more important than you--the patient-- then turn your back on all of them. When it's clear that a psychiatrist or psychologist has more "hang-ups" than you--besides lacking professional manners and all sense of "style"---it’s time for Strength Training.
Fluffy-Animal-House Bedroom Slippers on an over-medicated doctor-in a Professional Office….REALLY?!?!?!
I KNOW ABOUT DISCRIMINATION; I SAW IT, FIRST-HAND, IN MY HOMETOWN OF PINE BLUFF, ARKANSAS.
Pine Bluff’s Jewish Community operated most of the successful businesses on Main Street….including such names as Cohen’s Fashions; Baim’s Department Store; Bram’s Jewelers; Rosenzweig’s; Kahn’s Jewelry Store; Selma Schloss Jewelry and Gifts; Henry Marx Men’s Store. There were other Jewish Stores on Main Street that chose not to carry the family-name.
Everyone shopped on Main Street; People of all Faiths worked for the Jewish Merchants and everyone who lived in the Pine Bluff area--- shopped at the highly-success businesses owned by Jews….yet…outside of business, Jews seldom mingled with gentiles. Most shocking of all…. Jews were not allowed to belong to Pine Bluff’s Country Club. I don’t know when Pine Bluff’s wealthy white families decided that Jews were “different” and could not be part of their well-established and highly-selective Country Club. That meant Jews were not allowed to play on their golf course, compete on their Tennis Courts, swim in their private pool, or eat-drink-and-be-merry inside the wealthy white-folks’ elaborate clubhouse.
Growing up in Pine Bluff, none of this affected me until Valentine's Day, 1949, when I received a red, heart-shaped box of Russell Stover Assorted Chocolates from a classmate named Sydney Bilsky.
That Valentine’s Day, every student in Ms. Hinson’s fifth grade class at Gabe Meyer School brought hand-signed paper valentines for each one of our class mates. It was fun receiving so many valentines…and some were even handmade. The valentines had been distributed and the class party had just ended when……Sidney Bilsky suddenly stood up and asked the teacher if he could give his heart to his girlfriend. Immediately, the room became shockingly-silent. The teacher---with a puzzled look on her face--nodded okay to Sidney--a student who hardly-ever spoke one word.
With everyone watching, Sydney pulled a very-large and very-red... heart-shaped box from inside his desk...and walked over to place it on my desk. Sydney then leaned over-- kissed me on the cheek—and loudly-announced “I LOVE YOU, SALLY”---before returning to his desk.
At Recess….no one could talk about anything else! The candy, the kiss, the words---and Sydney---of all people! The entire school was overwhelmed with the shocking news. Of course…days later…. the PTA, the Principal, the Teachers, most all of Pine Bluff….was involved. The Kiss was considered a serious offense for a fifth grader but more-so because it was a little Jewish boy kissing a little Gentile girl. An “example” had to be made and Sydney was temporarily expelled from school. When he returned to class after a three day suspension, Sydney was his usual, quiet, unsmiling self. Occasionally he would look my way and I would “daringly” smile back. Sydney needed to know that--Jewish or not--I appreciated his thoughtfulness. Love isn’t easy for some; Love must be encouraged for all.
I recognized—very early in life---that I couldn’t possibly “love them all” but I could certainly appreciate every kind word, each kind deed, and all-loving gestures received from those of the opposite sex.
DETAILS AND FOLLOW-UP: Sydney lived with his family in Pine Bluff’s more exclusive area known as Linden Circle. In fact, his family’s home was the most-impressive and most-beautiful of all the homes in the Circle. My family lived on Linden Street just one block from the Circle and I often rode my bike there. Homes in the Circle were more expensive, larger, prettier, and most were owned by Jews.
I knew Sydney as an extremely-shy boy who seldom smiled. He was always alone…either walking or riding his bicycle. We were schoolmates from the fifth grade until we graduated high school in 1956. After graduation, I never saw or heard about Sydney again. But I never forgot Sydney’s gesture of love. I always hoped he’d find true love and happiness.
A few years ago…wondering about Sydney, I looked on Google and, sadly, found his obituary.
Sidney M. Bilsky, 76, of Harbour Heights, Florida, passed away May 23, 2014. He was the son of William W. and Sarah R. (nee Bram) Bilsky, born July 10, 1937 in Pine Bluff, AR. Sidney was a builder for many years in Memphis, TN before becoming a wholesale jewelry salesman. He came to this area from Sarasota. Sidney was of the Orthodox Jewish faith. He had a big personality and enjoyed life, and loved to cook gourmet meals. Sidney will be greatly missed by his wife, Dulcinea; sons, Wayne Bilsky and Russell Bilsky; and stepson, Andre Frieden.
The family will receive friends 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. Monday, June 2, 2014, with the service in celebration of Sidney's life following at 2:00 p.m. To express condolences to the family, please sign the online guest book.
For centuries, the lack of money has challenged most Chinese, limiting their lives to endless struggles. I’ve traveled China’s back roads, alleys, into remote villages and know that, for centuries, little has changed. Primitive lifestyles appear frozen-in-time and there’s no promise of a better future. Only those Americans who lived during the great depression could, conceivably, identify with the meaning of the word “poor” as it relates to China’s poor.
That explains why many poor country people travel to large cities like Beijing, hoping to find work, believing they will somehow improve their lives. Sadly, the rural workers are untrained, unskilled, and too-soon have no choice but live on the streets.
It doesn’t take long before sickness, starvation, outside elements, or the ever-alert military police, forces these pitiful souls back to the countryside, back to the poverty they’ve always known. The few who remain become street beggars.
China’s large numbers of street beggars survive in underpasses, in ditches, even in the city’s many dumping sites. Some of the beggars are severely disabled and many are young children. Chinese Tour Guides discourage tourists from donating money to street beggars, insisting that the government provides for them. But, in fact, that is a lie.
As a self-appointed spokesperson for China’s street people, I spent months with government leaders discussing solutions to the tragic lifestyle of street beggars. Over and over I heard “China has no money; beggars have money and should take responsibility for themselves.” I argued that many of the disfigured children didn’t have families and were forced to beg—to survive. Most of the children, some merely babies, had been abandoned…left alone on the streets… because of their multiple deformities.
Uncomfortable with my directness and my facts, China’s leaders politely, but firmly, disregarded all my suggestions. Their final answer: “Today’s solutions won’t solve tomorrow’s problems.”
Just like leaders in America, China’s leaders have money but their money is targeted for investments to create more wealth—to provide more power. In almost every country I know, there is a relentless circle of poverty/beggars/ disabled—and the circle is ignored by leaders. The endless circle keeps revolving, continues to grow, and it has no hope of ending.
Feeling frustrated but believing that one person can make a difference, I established The Great Wall Society. I created a nonprofit agency to target the needs of disabled street people----starting with the children.
As you read the following story, one I’ve never shared--- a story about just one of the millions of China’s poor, disabled, and medically challenged---I ask that you remember these classic words: “There but for the grace of God— go I”.
“Out for my morning run, I was forced to ignore the many street people aggressively begging all-around me. Then, running across the Walk-Over covering one of Beijing’s major highways, I quickly stopped. Instinctively, I knew the situation in front of me was serious.
The dirty, unkempt woman sat on the cold concrete, her thin, weather-worn fingers holding a small, empty bowl. It was a chilly, damp morning, and almost hidden on her lap-- covered with a ragged piece of burlap--was a small, sleeping baby. Without a word, the mother pulled the dirty cloth away from the young child’s face. I was shocked to see her baby’s severe lip and cleft palate.
I approached three taxis before my offer to pay-double-fare, produced a willing taxi driver. Even then, the driver insisted I hold the baby and sit in the front seat. Before allowing the mother to sit in his taxi, he ordered her to wait while he pulled an old rug from his trunk, and covered the back seat. The beggar woman was being treated like an outcaste by other Chinese. They considered her nothing more than a worthless stray animal, infected with the mange.
I instructed the taxi driver to take me to the nearest hospital. It was a gamble on my part because I didn’t know anything about Beijing’s Hospitals, didn’t have a doctor’s name…. spoke only a small amount of Chinese BUT…I knew how to lead with my heart.
From the outside, the hospital looked like part of an apartment complex. It didn’t look like a modern American hospital. Walking inside, I found an empty bench near the main hall, motioned for the mother to sit, and quickly placed the baby in her arms. Looking around, I saw that we were the center of attention which….was exactly what I needed at that point.
Being a tall, blonde, older Female… dressed in red running tights and a matching red Coca Cola Shirt… definitely had its advantages. All I had to say, in Chinese, was “Can you please help me? My name is Sally. I’m the American Woman who ran the length of The Great Wall”. Instantly, I was surrounded by Chinese in uniforms and ushered into the office of the Hospital’s Doctor-in-Charge.
OKAY--- are you ready for this?!?!? The Chinese Doctor spoke English. She was a medical expert who’d studied medicine in America! More specifically, this outstanding woman had medical degrees from Harvard; she had spent her internship at Johns Hopkins. Most specifically, Doctor Li was hand-picked to train as a surgeon-specialist in severe facial deformities at The Mayo Clinic.
NEVER under-estimate where God will lead you when you ask him to direct your path!
The Beggar-Woman was allowed to stay in a special housing unit while her little boy received the finest in reconstructive surgery. Because the medical team needed to make certain his surgery was a success, the little patient spent more than five weeks at the hospital. He soon became the “darling” of the hospital staff and was showered with gifts of love, toys, clothes, and money. The staff located his father in the family's remote village and sent him a train ticket. He was excited to join his wife and son at the hospital.
I visited the hospital every day. What a miracle I was blessed to experience. I soon learned that leaders had contacted a wealthy Chinese woman in Hong Kong who was happy to pay for the Beggar Woman's stay at the hospital as well as her baby's surgery.
When “Ching Ching” (the nick-name nurses gave their little miracle patient) was released from the hospital, it was a full day of celebration. He and his parents were being returned to their village where life would be far-better than before. Not only did they have a newly “healed” child, but they also had ample money in their pockets.
Tears covered the many smiling faces of those at the celebration while Chinese newspapers and medical magazines took endless photos and wrote copious notes. I was overwhelmed with the many hugs I received from the baby’s grateful mother, Mae-Mae; with the multiple handshakes I received from Ching Ching's father; and with the loud applause I received from hospital employees."
If you know me--- you know I don’t believe in chance meetings, luck, or coincidences. I simply believe in God."
Yes, Chocolate makes everything better. In the early eighties, while hosting a talk-radio show in Little Rock, Arkansas, I accidently found myself in a "sideline" business that introduced Black Popcorn (a hybrid corn that's black in color but pops up white). Many businesses asked me to sell the tasty popcorn in large containers for gifts. Loving Chocolate, Pecans, and Popcorn….I decided to merge my three favorite snacks into an original popcorn that would be uniquely different and also...a fast seller! As a result, I created an amazingly-decadent and successful treat that proved irresistible!!!!! I’m sharing it with you now:
SALLY'S ChocoPop-Pecan Decadence.
12 cups popped corn. (I only use white popcorn and always pop it in real butter.) Yellow Popcorn is coarse and has too many husks, hulls, and “hard tacks.” After popping, put the popped corn in a large, open roasting pan and set aside.
Mix the following ingredients for Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup, white Karo syrup
1 six ounce package of semisweet chocolate pieces (1 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions: In a 2-quart saucepan, over medium heat, mix together-- Karo syrup, butter, and sugar to boiling, constantly stirring. Only boil for 1 minute before removing saucepan from heat. Stir in chocolate pieces and vanilla extract until the chocolate melts completely. Now stir in 1 cup raw pecan halves.
AND NOW: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Pour hot chocolate mixture over popped corn, stirring to coat well. Bake popped corn mixture for approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove mixture from roasting pan and place on waxed paper to cool. Break into bite size pieces then…it’s ready to eat!
This wonderful mixture can be stored in tightly sealed containers but…it’s been my experience that the First Batch never last that long!
Yum! Yum! Just thinking about it and...I’m ready to eat some more---- chocopop-pecan-decadence!
PS—I believe certain treats serve as motivators. As a teacher of children with special needs, I often shared chocolate with my students and they loved singing the song I wrote especially for them: THE CHOCOLATE SONG.
My students were so proud they could eat, sing, and also spell the word Chocolate:
C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E…CHOCOLATE, THAT SPELLS CHOCOLATE.
C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E…CHOCOLATE, PLEASE, FOR ME.
OH, I LOVE IT IN THE MORNING AND I LOVE IT AT NIGHT.
I LOVE IT WHEN IT’S BLACK…OR BROWN…OR EVEN WHITE.
I LOVE IT IN A SQUARE… OR SHAPED LIKE A BUNNY… BUT,
MOST OF ALL I LOVE IT WHEN IT’S SITTIN IN MY TUMMY….YUMMY-- YUMMY!
C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E…CHOCOLATE, THAT SPELLS CHOCOLATE.
C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E…CHOCOLATE…............. PLEASE.................. FOR ME!