When I was a kid, one of my favorite shows was ADAM-12. I’m sure it had something to do with the car chases, foot chases and the gun-fire. But recently, with the dearth of quality television shows, I took the opportunity with my NetFlix subscription to revisit ADAM-12 as a trip down memory lane. I was primarily interested watching the show to see the old cars, billboard signs and store advertising, but after the first couple of episodes I was hooked all over again. But this time around, I discovered something interesting: As a child I was drawn to the action, but this time I realized how little action the show really contained.
In fact, the majority of the show explored the relationship between Officers Malloy and Reed. What I found this time around was a serious, yet fun show about co-workers who grew to be friends and in the end, brothers in arms. The humor within the dialog served to break the tension and build the sense of comradery between the older more experienced Pete Malloy and the young rookie Jim Reed. I also realized that Jack Webb was a genius who actually created the first reality television show with Dragnet and then expanded the possibilities with ADAM-12 and then took the concept even further with Emergency! Granted, the shows were all fiction, but it was fiction based on reality. LA Police Officers were paid finders fees for bringing their best real-life stories to Webb who then incorporated them into his shows. Webb wanted to bring the life of a patrol cop to the screen with all its boredom, paperwork and momentary excitement included. In fact, he was such a stickler for keeping it real, several episodes of ADAM-12 were actually used by Police Academies as training films.
The key to Webb’s success with ADAM-12 was in the casting. Back when he starred on Dragnet, he balanced his dry delivery by casting Harry Morgan as his sidekick. Morgan brought a sense of humor to the staccato delivery of Webb and Dragnet became a great success. Harry Morgan would eventually take the wry sense of humor he displayed in Dragnet to M*A*S*H as the beloved commanding officer of the 4077th. But ADAM-12 was a different kind of police show than Dragnet or any that had ever been on television before. The goal was to portray police life as realistically as possible which meant that there would be a lot of non-action sequences and if audiences didn’t relate strongly to the characters, it would not have worked.
I don’t claim to know all the details of how the choices were made, but in the end Martin Milner was cast to play the older, more experienced officer Pete Malloy, while Kent McCord was cast to play the younger rookie, Jim Reed. In a slight twist, the younger Reed was married and settled while the older Malloy was a confirm bachelor who always seemed to be dating someone different, never seeming to find that certain someone, much to the chagrin of Reed. In fact, over the course of the show, Reed tries repeatedly to sell Malloy on the benefits of marriage only to be gently rebuffed.
As I said earlier, when I was a kid, I missed all of these subtleties of the relationships between the actors, but even if I had noticed it, I would have probably not understood it.
Here’s another example of how the casting of this show made all the difference. Malloy was supposed to be the one with experience and “gravitas,” so who did Webb get to play the Sergeant who is supposed to be the senior officer?
None other than William Boyett was cast to play Sergeant William ‘Mac’ MacDonald and he did an an awesome job of being leader to both Malloy and Reed. He was tough when he needed to be and a friend when that was called for. With relatively few lines of dialog over the course of the show, Mac does a great job of projecting the sense of being the boss, and yet he clearly conveyed a close relationship with Malloy. There’s an episode where with difficulty, Mac approaches Malloy to talk about his relationship with his wife and on a previous occasion Malloy stepped in to try and mend the relationship between Mac and his son. When there is a crises that requires Mac to be at the scene of the crime, he often delegates to Malloy. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t trust Reed, but it’s made clear through the course of the show that Mac and Malloy go back a long way and have developed a deep sense of respect for one another.
The supporting characters of the show are also well chosen. Fred Stromsoe played Officer Jerry Woods, a steady officer with a great sense of humor. Gary Crosby played Officer Ed Wells who started out being an annoying, ready-fire-aim sort of guy, but gradually changed into a loveable rogue who tells really bad jokes. In a bid to be as real as possible, Jack Webb cast Shaaron Claridge (a real-life LAPD dispatcher) as the dispatcher for the show. Shaaron was only on camera in one episode, but she as much as anyone was responsible for making the show as success. Her voice is heard at the beginning of every show and at the beginning of nearly every call the ADAM-12 team were sent on.
But the majority of the show centered on Reed and Malloy and their relationship/friendship. Malloy often approaches situations with a cool exterior and Reed often gets visibly emotional in various situations. And yet, the throughout the series the tables are turned and the opposite occasionally happens. A great example of this is Episode 158, “X-Force” where Malloy and Reed are trying to find a little girl wearing a red sweater. After spending a great deal of time looking for the little girl and growing increasingly desperate, Malloy finally finds her at the home of a child abuser and gives chase when the suspect runs. After being captured, the suspect mouths off to Malloy who snaps and uses excessive force on the guy. But after the adrenaline leaves him, Malloy accepts his fate with his normal calm demeanor even though it may cost him his next promotion. In the end, he is suspended for four days and while his fellow officers agree that he should have known better, no one really blames Malloy for reacting like he did. They all sympathized and probably figured that they would have done the same thing. Even Mac seems reluctant to enforce the rules against Malloy, but ultimately, they all realize that if the police cannot be held to a higher standard, then how can anyone believe in the rule of law.
Reed is the officer most likely to bend the rules for the greater good, but Malloy often acts as his rudder preventing Reed from going too far. Early in the series, Reed is involved in a shooting and while he appears very calm and relaxed during the Internal Affairs investigation, Malloy understands that because Reed is so calm, something is wrong. As it turns out, Malloy is there when Reed cracks and Malloy helps him through the investigation that ends in clearing Reed of all wrong-doing. When Reed believes another officer is being “heavy with the badge” everyone including Malloy thinks Reed is over-reacting, until Malloy sees the abuse for himself. Once that happens, there is a great moment when Reed confronts this bully officer with more years on force and goes face to face with him and Malloy is right there backing his partner up.
Perhaps one of the episodes that stands out most in my mind is Episode 83, “The Search” where the two officers split up to chase the suspects and Malloy loses control of the patrol car and it rolls down the embankment leaving Malloy with a broken leg and internal injuries. Reed convinces Mac to bend the rules and let him continue the search only to hear Malloy using the wires to the busted radio microphone to send out an SOS in morse code. Reed hears the clicks and zeros in on his partner’s location and finds Malloy in time to get him much needed medical attention.
Malloy was the perfect choice as the driver on the show as Martin Milner previously starred in “Route 66,” another show where he spent most of his time behind the wheel of the car. In ADAM-12, Malloy drove the police car in every episode with the exception of two episodes where Reed got to drive. In Episode 75, “Vice Versa”, Malloy forgets to renew his driver’s license and has to turn over the wheel to Reed albeit reluctantly. In Episode 119, “The Beast”, the boys are having problems with their regular patrol car and are given a car almost ready for the junkyard instead. After several incidents requiring them to head back to the garage, Malloy finally has had enough and he tells Reed to drive instead. In the end, the car’s parking brake fails and the car rolls down the hill and into a tree as Reed and Malloy watch with a certain amount of satisfaction.
There were two episodes that bear discussing because neither episode followed the normal format of an ADAM-12 show. Episode 60, “Elegy For A Pig” was filmed in documentary style with no dialogue uttered by any of the on-screen actors. The show opened with Jack Webb introducing the show and then Martin Milner takes over the narration until the show ends with another Jack Webb voice over. The show has Malloy telling the story of the death of one of his best friends who was a fellow officer. It tracks the emotional roller-coaster of Malloy and Reed as they honor the fallen officer and showed how police officers deal with this kind of tragedy. Episode 150, “Clinic on Eighteenth Street”, starts normally with Reed and Malloy investigating the death of an old man wearing a strange electronic belt. But, the case is turned over to the Fraud division and the show then follows the fraud investigation all the way to the courtroom where a ‘doctor’ is on trial for selling false treatments. Ed Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Dick Haymes, and Sharon Gless guest star in this episode. The climax of the trial reminded me of some of the great Perry Mason moments when the defendant is on the stand and Mason tears the defendant’s story to shreds.
The series regularly featured new police techniques and new equipment. For example, one episode focuses on a statistical method of crime fighting, another focused attention on the SWAT teams used by the LAPD and several episodes centered on the new and expanding use of Air Support Helicopters to help police on the ground locate and capture suspects. In fact, Air Support was deemed so important that Episodes 147 and 148 make up a two-part show named “Skywatch.” Reed and Malloy go up in the chopper as part of a program to educate ground units how to better work with the Air Support Team. The idea was one that Reed put in the management suggestion box and the brass decided to implement starting with the ADAM-12 team.
With a 30 minute show, the dialog had to be snappy, but there was plenty of time for humor and in my opinion the humor was critical to making the show work and to build the sense of friendship between Reed and Malloy. I love that the guys often flip a coin to figure out who is going to be paying for a 10 cent cup of coffee. The officers at the Rampart Division spend a lot of time gambling to get out of paying for meals, coffee or snacks come to thin of it! Reed and Malloy often are ribbing each other about something. In one show, it was Reed’s squeaky shoes and in another it was Reed giving Malloy a hard time about his newly grown mustache. Milner had the perfect reaction most of the time with just a look while Reed was more likely to grin really big. When the humor or lack thereof came from someone else, Reed and Malloy just had to look at each other and as a viewer you knew exactly what they were thinking.
Martin Milner had a great way of just looking at Reed or suspect and you could tell he thought the situation was ridiculous, but he played it straight and left it for the viewer to fill in the words. Less is often more in ADAM-12 and I think that is one reason the show was so successful. The show was never afraid to tackle tough subjects such as racism, domestic violence, child abuse, homelessness, old age, and a thousand other topics that are just as relevant today as they were in the early seventies. Some of these issues they faced head on and some they presented for the viewer to judge on their own. I must say I was surprised and disappointed to find that over 45 years ago when ADAM-12 started, this Country was facing some of the same issues we are still dealing with today. For all of our advances in technology, we are still compromised by our own human condition. Perhaps that’s why I think the show has weathered time as well as it has.
As I said earlier, Jack Webb and R.A. Cinader were geniuses because they focused on what really mattered instead of the whirlwind of crime. What mattered was the relationship, the partnership and the brotherhood that developed between Malloy and Reed. What mattered was how they reacted to the various situations, not the situations themselves. These two police officers were there to enforce the law, whatever the law was. They were not to judge the value of the law, just to enforce it. They were not to judge the suspects, but to bring them to justice. Malloy and Reed constantly remind each other not to get involved personally with people and yet they constantly fail to reach this goal because at the end of the day, they did their job because they cared about the public and they wanted desperately to keep them safe from the bad guys.
The title of this article called ADAM-12 great, morally unambiguous, reality television and I believe this is a true statement. There were good guys and bad guys and the lines were clearly drawn. Webb put two humans with aspirations of living within the bounds of the law and set them loose in a world filled with bad situations and bad people and then rather than preach to the audience about the good and the bad, he simply let the audience reach their own conclusions.
There are thousands of police officers who chose the profession because of ADAM-12, just as there are thousands of fireman and paramedics who chose that profession because they grew up watching Emergency! And if every one of those officers believe in the higher principles of the profession half as much as Malloy and Reed did, then the law is in safe hands.
I highly recommend that you sign up or sign on to NetFlix and start to re-acquaint yourself with the boys in blue on ADAM-12. I think you’ll find that it will be much more than just a walk down memory lane. After just a few episodes, you’ll get past seeing the old cars and the old clothes and then you’ll see ADAM-12 for what it is worth: A great bit of television in a world where great television is getting harder and harder to find. And, if at the end of 174 episodes, you don’t agree that ADAM-12 stands head and shoulders above a lot of the drivel that is on television today, I’ll bet you’ll still have found enough to entertain you to make it worth the time.
It is fitting that the end of the series included the story of Reed saving Malloy’s life and getting a medal of valor for his bravery. I guess it could be said that in a strange way Malloy saved himself by training Reed to be the police officer he turned out to be. And, perhaps that’s really the magic Webb and Cinader created with these two characters. Their lives unfolded in front of our eyes and became permanently entangled as their friendship and mutual respect grew and in the end, we all knew that either one of them would have given his life to save the other in the great tradition of all brothers in blue. The reason ADAM-12 rises above the majority of television is that it made us care about Malloy and Reed almost as much as they cared about each other. And that is reality television that I can support and endorse.
For example, in 2008, I wrote an article called “Spots In My Eyes & Ringing In My Ears” which was a rant about the lack of manners people have when using electronic devices. I was frustrated by several specific events of out-right rudeness on the part of people more involved with their cell-phones and iPods than their environment. The funny thing about that article was how much attention it has gotten over the years from internet users but for all the wrong reasons.
When I look at the analytics for this website, I see a lot of people finding this article because they using search terms like “seeing spots” or “hearing ringing.” I can only hope that they take the time to read the piece before moving on to continue searching for their potential medical cure. Even though I didn’t know it was called “situational awareness” at the time, I think it was my first attempt at applying situational awareness to everyday life.
Many professions including the military, medical field, first responders and police departments stress situational awareness to their members. Strategic Forecasting, Inc., more commonly known as Stratfor, is a global intelligence company founded in 1996 in Austin, Texas that publishes daily strategic intelligence briefings used by Fortune 500 companies and government agencies around the world. Their briefings often reference situational awareness specifically in relation to criminal and terrorist attacks. Briefings like this one and even this Primer On Situational Awareness.
Granted, Strafor’s references to situational awareness tend to focus on threats to personal or national security, but they make a couple of great points in the Primer:
First and foremost, it needs to be noted that being aware of one’s surroundings and identifying potential threats and dangerous situations is more of a mindset than a hard skill. Because of this, situational awareness is not something that can be practiced only by highly trained government agents or specialized corporate security counter-surveillance teams. Indeed, it can be exercised by anyone with the will and the discipline to do so. Read more: A Primer on Situational Awareness | Stratfor
So, situational awareness is not a skill it is a mindset of being aware of your surrounding. And, it is something anyone can do. Not only that, but Stratfor defines five levels of awareness “tuned out;” “relaxed awareness;” “focused awareness;” “high alert” and “comatose.”
- Tuned Out – The state of awareness of most people.
- Relaxed Awareness – Similar to the state people are in when they are driving defensively
- Focused Awareness – A heightened awareness state similar to driving in hazardous conditions.
- High Alert – This state usually involves an adrenaline rush, a gasp of air and prayer all at the same time. A car pulling out in front of you or failing to stop at a stop sign can induce this state.
- Comatose – This is when you are so scared you are frozen and cannot act or respond.
Clearly the state we should all be in is Relaxed Awareness, but unfortunately, most people live their lives Tuned Out.
The Coast Guard has published a program called Team Coordination Training (TCT) that focuses on reducing the probability for human error by increasing individual and team effectiveness. Chapter 5 of this course deals solely with Situational Awareness as it applies to the safety of the team. On the first page of this chapter, the Coast Guard defines Situational Awareness as:
Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.
The emphasis is theirs not mine, but if they had not emphasized it, I would have. Situational Awareness at its most basic level is KNOWING WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND YOU! The Coast Guard points out that the success of the team is dependent upon every member of the team maintaining situational awareness when the team is in action.
There is a website called “Situational Awareness Matters” which focuses on the idea of situational awareness as it applied to first responders. The tagline on the website is “Helping responders see the bad things coming in time to change the outcome.” It’s really not about trying to see the future, but rather anticipating the bad outcomes and working pro-actively to avoid those outcomes.
I think a good working definition of Situational Awareness goes something like this: Knowing what is going on around you and proactively influencing the situation in a positive way. Now that we are all on the same page about the concept of Situational Awareness, I’ll proceed with my rant.
Recently, my wife and I stopped at the local Sam’s Club to fill up with gas and there was a line, so we had to wait. There were several lines with two pumps on each side. We chose a line and there were three cars in front of us. Car A was at pump #1, Car B was at pump #2 , Car C was the first in line behind Car B and we were behind Car C. The drivers of Cars A & B finished pumping gas and they both pulled out at the same time. Car C then begins to move forward and the driver decides to stop at pump #2 instead of pulling all the way up to pump #1. While I sat behind the wheel, with my jaw dropping, the exact same thing happened on the lane next to us. Because I assumed that Car C was going to pull all the way through to pump #1, I was too close to Car C and I had to back up and then pull around Car C and try to line up with pump #1, so I could get gas. That was better than what happened in the other lane, because someone further back in the line saw what was going on and jumped ahead and stole the open pump from the person who had been in front of them.
All of the frustration I was feeling and what the driver who was cut off was probably feeling as well, was a direct result of the lack of situational awareness of people who were more focused on getting what they wanted than on being aware of what was going on around them. Had they simply noted that the line was long and that both pumps were clear, they would have simply pulled all the way forward to pump #1 leaving pump #2 open for the person behind them. Ironically, this simple act would have been perceived as common courtesy even though courtesy didn’t have to enter their mind in order to make the correct decision.
When someone turns left from the right hand lane or cuts someone off in traffic, they are clearly displaying a lack of situational awareness. When I was taking Drivers Ed in high school, our teacher taught us the concept of driving defensively which involved paying attention to eight points on the car you are driving. We were instructed to pay attention to what was in front of us, what was behind us, what was on the left, what was on the left and what was on the four corners of the car. As well as all of this, we were expected to look ahead to pay attention to what was developing in front of us so we could react to whatever we were approaching.
A great example of this occurred to me back in 1989 when I was traveling to Meridian, MS for to interview for the job that would eventually bring me to Meridian permanently. I was heading East on I-20 and when I reached the point just outside of Meridian where I-59 North merged with I-20, I noticed a pickup truck traveling North on I-59 at a high rate of speed. The truck passed me just at the junction and sped ahead of me as I backed off my accelerator. My car slowed a bit and the truck shot forward increasing the distance between us to about half a mile.
Suddenly, the truck hit a bump in the road and the rear bumper of the pickup fell off the truck and began sliding along the Interstate. I was of course surprised by the bumper falling off, but then I quickly realized that as the bumper slowed, I was gaining on it rapidly. I needed to make a decision rather quickly to either stay in the lane I was in or move to the left hand lane. As soon as the bumper fell off, I had taken my foot off the gas so I was slowing down as well, but not as quickly as the bumper. I checked my mirror and made sure no one was behind me and then checked my left and made sure no one was on my left. Next, I assessed the direction of the bumper which appeared to be sliding straight along the same lane, so I moved to the left hand lane, hit the gas and safely passed the bumper before it had come to a complete stop. Fortunately, the pickup had stopped and the driver was heading back to get his bumper.
Now, let’s review this again, but assume I had been playing with the radio. Those few seconds of time that I had to check behind me and to my left would have been gone. In fact, I may not have even seen the bumper before I hit it. We didn’t have cellphones to text with back then, but had this happened today to a driver who was texting and driving, the outcome could have been deadly.
But Situational Awareness is not just something we should be doing just while driving. I’m convinced that we should all be situationally aware at all time. Not just because being aware keeps us safe, but because being aware makes us better humans.
When was the last time you noticed a harried mother with a two year old about to throw a tantrum in the line behind you at the grocery store? Did you take a moment to be ‘aware’ of her situation and did you consider letting her go ahead of you in order to make her day a little better? If you did, I bet it made your day better too.
When was the last time you were talking with a friend and you noticed something in their voice that made you aware that something was wrong? Were you able to spend a few more minutes with that person and offer your shoulder for them to lean on?
When was the last time you were at work and you noticed something out of the ordinary with the books and decided to dig a little bit just to make sure everything was correct? It wasn’t your money, or your books, but you might have saved your job by protecting the company.
Situational Awareness should be taught at all levels of school and at all jobs. It can help employees give better service to customers and satisfied customers are repeat customers. Moreover, satisfied customers sing your praises and refer more people to you.
I’ll leave you with this last example from my own life. When I was a teenager, I worked part time at Fred’s Discount Store as a stock clerk and sometime cashier. One Saturday, a lady came through my line with about 30 cans of dog food in her buggy. I realized as I was ringing up all the cans that the paper bags we had would not hold up and that she really needed a cardboard box in which to haul all these cans. So, after we completed the sale, I asked her to wait for a moment and I ran to the back, found a box and filled it with her cans of dog food and she left happy as a lark. The next Saturday, the lady returned and I happened to be working in an area near the dog food aisle, so when I saw her, I went and got her a box for the cans. For the next two years, every Saturday this woman would come to Fred’s to buy 30 cans of dog food and every Saturday, I met her with a box. That works out to over 3,000 cans of dog food that Fred’s sold this woman because someone offered her a box that was going to be thrown away. Sadly, I never asked her for her name.
I think that being aware of what is going on around you is really just a means to an end. Learning to be aware can make you more courteous to the world around you and keep you safer at the same time. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m only learning how to be aware of my surrounding at all times and I still fail a lot. But as Stratfor points out, it is a state of mind rather than a skill and I believe that if I continue to try to be aware, it will become easier and easier going forward.
So, maybe I am becoming that old guy, but at least I’m trying not to yell.
I don’t forward a lot of emails, in fact, I could comfortably say that I forward less than 1/2 of 1% of the viral emails I get, but every once in a while, I get something that is good enough to save and share. Forwarding an email is very ephemeral and often is missed as people drudge through their inbox to find the important stuff, so if something is really, really good and needs to be saved for future reference (on my part at least) and if I think there might be one person who would find this in the time they need it, I consider posting it on this website. Now, granted, most of the material on this website was written by me, but there are some things worth reading no matter who wrote them and I think this is one of them. I don’t know who the author is and when I tried to find the author, I found no one else who seemed to know. So unfortunately, I can’t give proper credit, but suffice it to say that if I discover the author at a later date, I’ll be sure to update this post to reflect that information. Enjoy!
When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you hang my
First painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately
Wanted to paint another one.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you feed a
Stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make my
Favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little
Things can be the special things in life.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you say a
Prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always
Talk to, and I learned to trust in Him.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make a
Meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I
Learned that we all have to help take care of each other.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you take care
Of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have
To take care of what we are given.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw how you
Handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t
Feel good, and I learned that I would have to be
Responsible when I grow up.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw tears come
From your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things
Hurt, but it’s all right to cry.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw that you
Cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be..
When you thought I wasn’t looking I learned most of
life’s lessons that I need to know to be a good and
productive person when I grow up.
When you thought I wasn’t looking I looked at you and
Wanted to say,’ Thanks for all the things I saw when
You thought I wasn’t looking.’
Written in 1941 by a music teacher, The Little Drummer Boy (originally titled “Carol Of The Drum”) has become a favorite Christmas carol around the world with over 220 different versions having been recorded in seven different languages. Over the years, I’ve listened to the song and enjoyed it, but I can’t say it was one of my favorites.
I mean Christmas would not have been the same without hearing at some point the arresting thump of voices replicating the sound of the bass drum, but for me, other songs like “O, Holy Night”, “Silent Night” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” were more likely to stand out in my mind and signal the Holiday Season. That changed this year for some reason. Perhaps it is age that makes us see things in from a different point of view. Perhaps it is just a realization that we achieve after adding more information and experience to our knowledge base. Either way, I’d like to offer up a few thoughts I’ve recently had about “The Little Drummer Boy” and see if perhaps you might see the song in a new light as well.
First, before we discuss the song in detail, perhaps we should listen to it. Here’s a live recording of the song by Jars of Clay. It is now one of my favorite versions.
Next, in order to parse this song properly, here are the full lyrics:
Little Drummer Boy
Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.
Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?
Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.
Before I get into the points I want to make, I want to make it clear that the story of The Little Drummer boy is in no way a Biblical story. There are no verses in the Bible that refer to this event ever taking place and yet I suspect there are those out there who haven’t read the Bible or in particular the Christmas story who might assume that it is since it refers to events that were depicted in the Bible. I want to also make it clear that I do not believe a story has to come directly from the Bible to make Biblical points. This song has become so ingrained in the minds of so many people precisely because it speaks to values and images that resonate with each and every person whether they realize it or not.
The Kid Had Faith
The song is told from the point of view of a little boy who hears from the others around him that a new King is born and he believes in the new born King, otherwise we would not have the story of The Little Drummer Boy at all. He believed all he heard about the baby and his King-ship. He heard the people talk about gathering up their finest gifts to bring to the new King to honor him. The boy believed in this King and he believed this King was different than other Kings. The proof is in the fact that as he heard the stories, the boy began to make a plan to go and see this King. Those in power around an Earthly King would never have allowed a lowly street kid to have the opportunity to see the new born. It just wasn’t done. But our hero never doubts that he will get to see the King and so he makes his plans to go.
The Kid Had Humility AND Confidence
The little boy knew his station in life. He knew that he had no material goods as he was not a wealthy child. He knew that he was poor. Which makes the fact that he believed he would get to see the King even more amazing. In those days as in these, the caste system was firmly in place. The Romans were at the top of the food chain while Jews were at the bottom and this child was at the bottom of the bottom of the socioeconomic structure of the time. And yet, he decides that he has one gift that he can bring to the King which is his talent to play the drum. We don’t know if the boy could actually play or not. He might have been a terrible drummer. But if you’ve ever seen a baby sitting in the middle of a kitchen surrounded by pots and pans banging on them with a wooden spoon, then you know that skill doesn’t matter to the baby. The baby will confidently be striking the pots and pans generating as much noise as possible and laughing at the loudness of it all. Ability and capability are often in the eyes of the beholder. To the baby, the racket she is making is music to her ears and the fact that mom is probably nursing a migrate after about 30 minutes of this doesn’t even figure into the baby’s perception of the performance.
Perhaps the kid was really good at playing the drum. I mean if we assume that the boy was telling the truth that he was very poor, then perhaps he played his drum on the streets for a few pennies here or there and that’s how he ate. We don’t know if the boy had any parents as they are never mentioned, but I imagine if he were an orphan, his life would have been very hard indeed and his sole means of support might well have been the pennies he earned by playing his drum. That seems to be a hard way to make a living as drums in generally walk the fine line between sounding like wonderful rhythmic beats and noise. But the Bible makes reference to making a “joyful noise” and in our story, it really doesn’t matter whether the boy was any good at drumming or not. What does make a difference is that the boy believed that his drumming was his best talent and therefore his best gift to give to the King.
The Kid’s Faith, Gift & Effort Pay Off
In the end, what the boy believed was true: He got to see the new born King and with the Virgin Mary’s approval, the boy begins to use his talent to honor the King. He actually must have been a pretty good drummer as the animals even joined him and kept time for him. And the little drummer boy played his best and he believed it was his best effort and he gave his all in his performance.
Then He smiled at the little drummer boy and confirmed for the boy all that he believed. The smile confirmed that it was good. It confirmed that the sound was pleasing to the King. It confirmed that the King was pleased that the boy came to honor him. It confirmed that the King was pleased with the drummer boy’s effort. It confirmed that the new born was the King for in that smile, the drummer boy found favor with God.
So What Does All This Mean?
I don’t know if the writer of this song thought about all these things while writing the song. Normally, when I hear about symbolism and allegory in literature, there is a small part of me that wonders if an author might write something just to write it and then secretly laugh at all the critics when they read about what they “intended to say with their story.” What really matters that for some reason this year, this song spoke to me in a way it has never spoken to me before and here is what I heard:
God doesn’t care if you have wealth. God doesn’t care if you have lots of talent. God doesn’t care if you have fame. God only cares that you do the best you can with what you have to honor and glorify Him.
And, when you do that, He smiles.
God Bless and Merry Christmas!
One day, my dad decided that he would bring home a gift for me when I was about 11 years old. I don’t know where he got it, but it was a large, chrome light that was supposed to be mounted to the handlebars of my bike. It looked alot like those aerodynamic lights that you used to see mounted on the fenders of old hot rods with graceful lines curving backwards to a point on the back. I thought it was just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen.
My dad told me that when he got a chance, he would help me mount it my bike, but after several days of holding it in my hand and turning it over and over, I became a little impatient because we hadn’t even gotten a battery for it yet and I really wanted to see it shine. I thought it would probably shine like a spot light and I knew that when I rode my bike at night, it would surely light my way. I didn’t really stop to think about the fact that I was required by law to be inside by the time the streetlights came on, but that didn’t matter to me then. The light took one of those big, square six volt batteries and you installed it by opening the front cover and inserting the battery inside the chrome case.
I found this posted while looking for Christmas Stories to feature on The Morning Show on WMOX. I liked it so much I decided to post it here. Enjoy.
Three Christmas Gifts
By Mildred Goff
The wise men brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
This Christmas, try adding three gifts to your list. Yes, I know your Christmas gift list is already overly long, that you have neither time nor money for extra gifts. But these will cost you little in time, and less in money, and they will capture for you the true Christmas spirit so often lost in the rush and flurry of the season.
Memorial Day, 2009 – As I sit in my recliner in my air-conditioned home looking through the glass sliding doors on to my back yard watching the rain come down, I think the time has come for a little bit of self-examination. Just to the right of the glass doors stands my “entertainment center’ where my flat-screen television quietly waits to provide me with “entertainment” from my digital cable, my DVD player, my Blu-Ray player, or my Wii. To the left of the glass doors is one of two built-in bookcases that frame the massive corner fireplace that warms my home anytime I desire, but is not necessary since all I really have to do is turn on the central heat. On the bookcases are color photos of loved ones, small ceramic pots and urns. Oh yeah, there are books on the shelves as well. Books of all types and sizes and at least three different translations of The Bible.
Just like the rest of my home, my “living room” is dry, comfortable and safe just as is Magee, my favorite dog, who is currently sacked out on the couch next to my chair. She raises her head as my wife passes through. She is curious to know if Pam is headed to the treat cabinet that holds her favorite treat, meat-stuffed rawhide. Her ears perk up as Pam opens the fridge but when the familiar crinkle of plastic that might indicate other potential “treats” isn’t heard, she turns to look out into the yard pretending that she really doesn’t care. But she waits until Pam returns and sits in her own recliner before giving up hope and lays her head back down and with a sigh dozes back off to dream the dreams that dogs dream. Later, Magee will give me even less attention as I rise to take advantage of one of the multiple in-door plumbing facilities scattered through-out my home. Apparently, she is acutely aware that there are no treats stored in those places and her feined interest wanes even faster with me than it did with Pam.
For the third year in a row, I’ve joined Bill Smith and Dumpster Dog to honor our fallen military. Since the beginning of our great country, freedom has been paid for and guaranteed by the blood of those willing to defend and die for us. No greater gift could have been given to each and every one of us and this show is our opportunity to say “Thank You!” (more…)
The following is a copy of a paper I wrote in college for a World War II History class. I interviewed my great-uncle, Powell Magee about his experiences as a POW of Japan in the Pacific Theater. With the exception of a few grammar corrections, it is presented here exactly as it was written. I have added multiple photos and maps to help readers understand the story more thoroughly.
Born March 2, 1920, Powell Magee died as a Child of God, Loving Husband, Beloved Father, Air Force Veteran and United States Hero on July 7, 1995.
This is his story.
We all called her “Grandmother.” In reality, she was my father’s grandmother and my great-grandmother. Anne Matilda McCaleb (née Farrar) was born on May 8, 1887 and died February 3, 1983 at the age of 95, just a little over four years shy of her 100th birthday. There was never any confusion among the family when speaking of Grandmother because both of my parents’ mothers were called “Grandma” and only Anne McCaleb was afforded the full-blown honorific, “Grandmother.” I’m not sure how that happened and I’m not really sure it matters.
What I am sure of is that I was a lucky young man because until I reached the age of 18, I was fortunate to have both my maternal and paternal grandparents and a great-grandmother still alive. More fortunate still, I was able to grow up with ample opportunies to get to know and enjoy all of these wonderful people. In light of the fact that tomorrow is Mother’s Day, I thought it would be appropriate to share a funny story about my Grandmother that happened when I was about 11 years old. (more…)