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California, Land of Great Opportunity
 by Frank Shortt
       In the minds of most Easterners, California is a land of nuts, hippies, and anything else not in the normal tradition. California, in spite of some opposition, has been the place that has spurred my growth, spiritually and materially.
       When I first came to California, I was a poor airman, with about twelve dollars left in my pocket. The remainder of my meager savings was confiscated by an unscrupulous Marine, in Los Angeles, who took advantage of several traveling GI’s who were as green as grass! We never forgot that hard lesson! It is a good thing that I had my prepaid ticket to travel from Los Angeles to Mather AFB in Sacramento!
       Upon arrival, and until this day, I still possess a Southern twang! Although I have been around others who spoke differently, I still have not been able to shake my first eighteen years of hearing, what is termed now, as being the Elizabethan influence, (spoken somewhat slower). Because of my accent, I have been termed, white trash, Okie, Arkie, Southerner, stump jumper, ridge runner, and a multitude of other epithets not worth mentioning. Too many times we judge the book by its cover and are somewhat disappointed later that it was a best seller!
       I have lost jobs because I did not have a regional accent, especially remembering one as an insurance salesman. I found out later that it was a policy of the company not to hire those with a southern twang supposing that folks would not buy insurance from someone whom they considered below their status! 
       Bringing all this up to date, I have noticed, since Trump took office, that I am shunned by acquaintances, thinking that I am a Trump man. Why? Because I am an old, bald headed, blue eyed, white man with a slight southern accent! I have been told that I have improved from the deep Southern drawl with which I arrived in California. Isn’t it funny how God will change things around to better benefit Him and those associated with Him?
       As I said before, California helped to spur my growth both spiritually and materially! I saw the opportunity to grow in my many jobs offered by different avenues. Also, I believe I grew spiritually by having the opportunity to direct some poor people of East San Jose to better lives. This has, through a very capable interpreter, allowed me to come in contact with many families who otherwise would not have benefitted by the things I had to offer. (This was in the course of the last 50 years, and all free to the recipients!) I taught them that they did not have to be in bondage to organized religion. I taught them how to save, how to keep their houses clean (I was once a professional housecleaner) and how to be better inhabitants in order to stay solid citizens in a hostile environment! I could teach these things because, since a little child, I have had to battle the elements of bigotry, enslavement by organization, and my own ego! Even with working, sometimes three jobs, I was blessed to be able to devote, sometimes, three sessions a week to helping others! All this came about in spite of severe opposition from so-called friends, even some family, and the outside world in general. Don’t get me wrong, I have also gained a world of knowledge and experience that I would never have gotten had I stayed in my home state.
       California offered all the opportunities that I have taken advantage of, even being able to go to college at 70 years old in order to learn better creative writing. The reason most people do not take advantage of these opportunities stems from becoming dependent on governmental agencies at an early age! Among the people, whom I have come in contact in the last fifty years or so, I have found a laxity to educate themselves properly for the road ahead. There has not been a tendency to ‘save for a rainy day’ or even a warm day for that matter. One family in particular that my wife, and I, took under our wing had a tendency to spend like a ‘drunken sailor’ while they had money, then become dependent on others the rest of the time. The husband made very comfortable wages, but never saving any, as a heavy equipment operator working for asphalt contractors. As soon as he got his paycheck, he would go to the market and buy the most expensive steaks, any/or all fruit in season, the most expensive clothing for his family, (making sure he got his first), and insisted on buying the best of vehicles! My wife and I could not afford all those amenities, but nonetheless, we ended up feeding his children during the winter months when he was out of work for the season. One time I came into the possession of some wonderful hunting rifles and shotguns. He could not live another day until talking me into selling them to him, with a promise that he would pay me on payday! Payday came and went, as did later his marriage, and I was left holding an empty bag! I, afterward, forgave him the debt as he returned with a repentant heart and confessed to me that he had made an awful mistake in leaving his family. (It did not take him long to end up with a younger wife, one that he said, “I stole’ her from her husband!”) This is only one of many stories of people who took the wrong road to life. Just a few months ago I received a phone call in which he blamed me for all his woes and accused me of always siding with his first wife! Such are the lives of the unrepentant!
       California still offers some of the greatest opportunities to grow spiritually and materially! All it takes is a little effort, taking the opportunities, as offered, and educating oneself, through experience and schooling. How long will these opportunities still be offered? Quien Sabe?