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Ramblin' Guitar Man
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 by Frank Shortt
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C

He slept in the bushes near a large California freeway. His name on the street was Gus. He liked to help as many people as he could, but he somehow failed to help himself.

Gus loved to hang out at the Seven-Eleven, playing his guitar for whatever anyone cared to donate. He knew most of the popular tunes and could play them pretty well, when he was sober. He was known and well-liked by all who knew him. He had a well-paying job for almost twenty years at an up and coming electronics plant. Too bad he allowed alcohol to overtake him and he was fired from his job. This happens to more than one of us human beings.

Gus was known far and wide because of his good nature. It was said that he gave most of his donations away to help others. The local policemen all knew Gus and sometimes simply used him to gain information about what was happening in the neighborhood. Had he known this, it is certain he would not have been so free with his tongue. He did not wish to be a rat! Alcohol somehow loosens our tongues and we sometimes forget what we tell others.

Gus’ children now have to live with the fact that Gus will never come home. Because of his alcoholism, he never supported his family. His only legacy, “He was good to all the street people around him! He put everyone ahead of himself!” But what about his family?

Gus now lies in a plain grave purchased by donations from well-wishers. He was killed as he tried to cross the freeway in busy traffic. He held his guitar in such a way as if trying to protect it. The driver of the vehicle that struck Gus was devastated by the deed he had done, but he was not faulted as Gus had run directly into the path of the oncoming traffic. Freeways and pedestrians do not mix very well. What must have Gus been thinking?

Is there a lesson to be learned from this story? One that I can think of is, we all make decisions in life. We have to live with those decisions. We have the right to choose to do right. We have the right to choose to do wrong. What determines whether we will choose right or wrong? Some say it is our raising. Some say we are shaped by our environment. One school principal said, “Some children are just born bad and remain bad the rest of their lives. Some are born good and remain good the rest of their lives!” Is it that simple?

Psychologists have gone insane trying to figure out human nature. There have been volumes and volumes of advice written to try and assuage the tide of bad behavior and to encourage good behavior. So what will the final outcome be? The best advice I can give is this: Inside each of us there are two dogs. One dog is evil, the other is good. Which dog will win out? The one we feed the most, of course!

Gus lived and died with his decisions! His rambling days are done. It is too bad Gus did not seek help. It is too bad no one could seem to help him.