Latest entries

11 children left orphaned by plane crash remind me how fickle life is

by David McElroy

Watching the view

It was just a routine news story. Accidents happen all the time. People are killed all the time. But still….

A plane crashed late Sunday morning in Tuscaloosa County, not far west of Birmingham. Three Mississippi couples were returning to Oxford, Miss., from a dental conference in Florida. Four of the six — including a husband/wife pair — were dental professionals. The plane had engine trouble and radioed the Tuscaloosa Regional Airport that it was going to make an emergency landing — but it crashed violently just short of the airport, leaving no survivors.

The news stories identified the six dead passengers and said they left a total of 11 children behind. Dr. Michael Perry and his wife, nurse Kimberly Perry, had three children. Dr. Austin Poole and his wife, Angie Poole, had five children. Drs. Jason and Lea Farese (in the photo below) had three children. And then I noticed what the story said about the youngest Farese child:

“The youngest just started kindergarten this week.”

For some reason, that hit me hard and it’s left me sitting here in a daze thinking about those 11 children — and somehow it left me thinking again about my own mortality and the uncertainties of life.

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Learning to love and accept yourself can be your first step toward healing

by David McElroy

Really messed up

“I’m really messed up, aren’t I?”

As my friend said these words to me, her big blue eyes looked at me searchingly. It felt as though half of her needed me to confirm this terrible thing she knew, but the other half needed me to tell her she was really OK.

Laura had just spent the last half hour confessing her sins and trying to understand why she was doing things she didn’t consciously want to do. She was confused. She was angry with herself. And she was hurting.

She has a boyfriend who she assures me is wonderful. (I haven’t met him, so I can’t say.) He’s perfect in every way, she says, both as a man and as someone who she would hope to marry. She admits that he doesn’t understand her (and never will) and that he makes her uncomfortable at times, but he still checks all the “husband material” check boxes in her mind.

What she doesn’t understand is why she’s pushing him away — and she doesn’t understand why she cheated on him.

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As we enjoyed the sunset together, language and borders didn’t matter

by David McElroy

Gerardo Alvarez-Chavez

As the red Honda pulled up behind my car, I was afraid I was blocking the road. Lucy and I were at my favorite sunset spot Tuesday evening and I had been taking pictures, so I decided I’d leave rather than be in someone’s way.

But as I opened the door to get back into my car, a heavily accented voice called out, “You don’t have to leave. It’s OK.”

I wasn’t sure at first what he meant or what he wanted, but he pointed to the sunset. And I understood he had come there for the amazing natural beauty being painted in the sky toward the horizon.

I find few people who make an effort to come watch sunsets, so we struck up a conversation about the beauty and about other spots nearby where there was a good view. He was clearly just as passionate about beauty as I am.

Gerardo Alvarez-Chavez is originally from Mexico City. He said he hadn’t had many opportunities for his future back in Mexico, so he had come here seeking a better like. He owns his own painting service, according to his business card.

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A muse is a crutch for an artist, but some people need a crutch to walk

by David McElroy

Artist and muse

Motivation should come from within. That’s what everybody says. You can read it in self-help books and on motivational posters. It’s what every well-meaning friend tells you.

Needing motivation from someone else is a crutch.

Ideas have always been easy for me, but being able to execute on those ideas has been trickier. I start projects and I can even know that a piece of work would be good if I finished it, but I lack the motivation to finish.

I end up staring at a blank page that never turns into a script. I look over old notes from a book project that never made it. I look at ideas I love — projects stillborn yet still full of possible life — and I feel powerless to breathe life into them. I crave a flesh-and-blood motivation — admiration, love, approval, passion — to inspire me to make my art.

I long for a crutch to help me walk.

For many years, I had wanted to make a film. I had ideas and I talked about making a first short film for a long time. But for years it was only talk — until something changed.

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Loving heart, willing spirit can turn burdens of parenting into happiness

by David McElroy

Father and son

The little family stood out because of the mixed skin colors but mostly because all three children were so young — enough to keep both parents constantly dealing with one or another as they ate dinner at Chick-fil-A in Birmingham on a Saturday evening.

The parents were both white and appeared to be early to mid 30s. A boy who appeared Latino was about 4 years ago. A black boy and girl were both about 2 or 3, I’d guess.

The table was a constant buzz of talk — children asking questions and wanting help, parents correcting and guiding. But it was all orderly and the tone of voice was always loving and kind. One of the boys seemed fascinated by my MacBook and he had trouble understanding his mom’s explanation that it’s impolite to stare at strangers.

After they ate, they pulled out little books and read together. Each child had a different book. I couldn’t tell what the books were all about, but I saw the younger ones pointing to cows and dogs and pigs and correctly identifying each. Both parents worked with each child from time to time.

It was like controlled chaos, but full of love and happiness.

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Being treated with respect changed black teen’s racial beliefs in 1974

by David McElroy

Bank lobby-70s

Larry was 17 years old in 1974. He had lied about his age to get his first job, working at a steel fabrication shop. As he approached his 18th birthday, he had been working for nearly six months. Getting a loan to buy an inexpensive used car changed his life.

Race relations weren’t great between blacks and whites in Birmingham in 1974. Larry had started his education in all-black schools and then been part of integration, something that had been very controversial and at times confrontational. It was a time and place when many black people and many white people were suspicious of one another.

Larry’s attitude toward white people was guarded and suspicious. Who can blame him for feeling that way? He knew that many white people around him didn’t want him as part of their society. His attitudes hardened because of small battles, too. When he was in high school, the principal told him he had to shave off his afro or leave the school — so he transferred to a vocational school rather than comply.

By the time Larry had that first job, he was wondering whether a young black man could get a break from a society that had been dominated by racist white men. And then he needed to buy a car.

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Political systems built on coercion will always produce cheats, liars

by David McElroy

Ted Cruz speaks at RNC

Ted Cruz broke his promise to support whoever won the Republican nomination.

Hillary Clinton lied regularly about the circumstances surrounding her private email server (and many other things).

Somebody on the Donald Trump campaign lifted some ideas and phrases from a speech which was performed by Michelle Obama four years ago.

Bernie Sanders spent the last year telling us what an evil candidate Clinton is and now he tells his voters to support her.

In all four cases, I say, “So what?”

I hear some Republicans today screaming bloody murder that Cruz didn’t endorse Trump when Cruz spoke at the convention in Cleveland Wednesday night. On the other hand, people who hate Trump and are eager to see him embarrassed are calling Cruz principled for telling Republicans they ought to vote their conscience. Almost everyone seems to see the matter through the lens of what he wants to happen in November.

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What if we’ve completely missed the entire point of loving other people?

by David McElroy


I don’t really know how to love human beings.

Not really. I can love those who are a lot like me and those who treat me well. That’s easy. I don’t know how to love those who seem unlovable to me.

It’s easy for me to condemn people with hateful attitudes, especially those among them who call themselves Christians. It’s easy for me to look down on them and say, “You have no idea how to love other people. What’s wrong with you?”

But when I’m honest with myself, I realize it’s easy to love people in theory. It’s easy to read the words of Jesus and realize very clearly that it’s my responsibility to love everyone — those who aren’t like me, those who treat me poorly, those who are my enemies, even those who cut me off in traffic and leave me seething like an idiot with bad priorities.

What’s not so easy is putting love for others into practice. I realized recently that I’m still not certain what it would look like for me to genuinely love those I’d rather not love. I’m not even certain I always want to love the all-too-real people around me.

But I had an epiphany recently about loving the unlovable — and it’s left me wondering whether we’ve missed the entire point of loving others. What if the people who are changed for the better by our loving other people isn’t those others?

What if we’re the real beneficiaries of learning to love? What if real transformation of the heart and mind isn’t even possible without learning that kind of love?

What if learning to love others is what saves us from ourselves?

• • •

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As world descends into madness, back away and guard your heart

by David McElroy

Descending into madness

I fear the devil has lit the fuse on a long-dormant stick of racial dynamite.

And now the shadowy figure with a red suit and a tail is in the shadows chuckling as outraged people on both sides of an ugly divide prepare to go after each other — completely uninterested in why the other side sees what it sees.

As the anger builds, more and more people are pulled into the maelstrom. Everybody is suddenly an expert. Everybody knows who’s to blame, but they all disagree with each other.

I’m no different. I have my own narrative. I place the ultimate blame on the idea that any group has the right to use violence or threats of violence to achieve their purposes. But even though I have my favorite explanation, I know it’s complicated and there are many historical factors — and that other people see things in very different ways.

Many books could be written on how we got here and who’s to blame, because the causes are tangled and go far back into human history, even though almost everybody tries to oversimplify the problem. I think it’s a tangled web of centuries (or more) of wrong thinking involving race, class, slavery, tribalism, populism, fear and the continuing desire of some people to control other people. (No matter what I include, I’m failing to include other factors.) They all blend together in a toxic stew — and whichever part happens to be nearest and dearest to you, that’s the part you tend to see and assume is the cause.

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As I grow and learn, I have to leave more and more of my ideas behind

by David McElroy


Almost every day, I find myself disappointed about things I wrote four or five years ago — but I think that’s a good thing.

Even though I don’t publish many new articles anymore, my old ones are read hundreds and hundreds of times each day. The software I use tells me which articles are most popular each day and how many times each was read. The idea is that writers can see which things are attracting an audience and write more things like that.

In my case, though, I feel as though the numbers — and the old headlines — mostly serve to mock me. I certainly don’t shape my writing by what people want to read. Instead, the old titles serve as a roadmap showing how my ideas and my priorities have shifted radically since I started writing here.

The old things I wrote remind me how shallow my priorities once were.

Old articles frequently become popular again for reasons I’ll never know. Someone presumably finds something through an online search and then shares it on social media, where it will sometimes be shared enough to attracts tens of thousands of readers in a brief period.

There are times when it’s not so bad. Other times, the title jumps out at me and makes something inside me ask in an accusing voice, “Why did you ever bother to write that?”

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Start over here

When this site launched in 2011, it was intended as a way to find others who were sick of partisan politics and wanted to connect with like-minded people who were ready to go beyond politics and find ways of escaping. It has shifted focus in ways that reflect my own shifting thinking. I’m less interested in politics and more interested in looking at the things that make life worth living, such as love, creation, self-understanding and connecting with others. Every article I have posted since 2011 is still in my archives, but everything I write is a reflection of my current thinking. Sometimes I’m wrong — and that’s fine with me — and I don’t always end up agreeing with what I wrote five years ago. For now, you can still read what I wrote about the site’s purpose in 2011, but I should rewrite this. Read more.

Contact David

David likes email, but can’t reply to every message. I get a surprisingly large number of requests for relationship advice — seriously — but I don’t always have the time to respond. Besides, with my own romantic track record, maybe my advice isn’t worth taking. I’d like to find a wife one of these days, so maybe I should add an “application.”
I’m currently taking a break from Facebook, but I periodically use Twitter, although I have very little to say that takes 140 characters of fewer.
On Twitter, it's @David_McElroy.
You can check out pictures of my cats by following the McElroy Zoo on Instagram. I rarely post to my other account on Instagram, but if you like shots of nature, follow this account.

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We're the Government — and You're Not
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