Sunday, December 4, 2016

How we pick the candidate we will support

So today I was watching Fareed Zacharia’s program Global Public Square (Sunday 10 AM on CNN). Not familiar with Fareed? Just think of Sean Hannity with an incredible brain, a cogent thought processes, and dark skin. Come to think of it, he isn’t anything like Sean Hannity. Anyway, Fareed was talking about the spread of populism around the world. There are elections coming in the next couple of years which may be similar to the presidential election we had here. Two important ones will be in France and Germany

This discussion referred to a study done in 2012 by Gabriel Lenz entitled “Follow the Leader: How Voters Respond to Politicians' Policies and Performance”. It was based on considerable research and data. Here is my synopsis of the concepts he presents. Voters do not select a candidate to support based on policies or positions. Voters do select who they will support based on image, performance in some arena, and charisma. Then the voters adopt the positions of those leaders. In effect, they follow the leader.

Think about this in terms of the primary election campaign, especially on the Republican party in our last election. There is no doubt that if the voters were focused on selecting a candidate based on an understanding of issues and being able (or willing) to articulate somewhat detailed plans to address them, the outcome would have been much different.

When it comes to the General Election, I don’t think this is pertinent for those who vote strictly along party lines, but for the growing list of Independents, understanding why people vote for whom they do will be critical for future elections.  

My own personal wish is that we all select who we will give our precious vote to using a fact based process and that we question everything that is said, challenge positions, and encourage open minded debate with your friends. And most of all that we give the electoral process the respect it deserves.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Watching The World Trade Center Burn - Memories of 9-11

September 11, 2001, 4 PM. I am riding shotgun in an ambulance going 70 MPH eastbound on Route 78 in New Jersey. All of our flashing lights were on but there was no need for sirens. The highway was six lanes of concrete each way – and empty. On a road know for heavy traffic and slowdowns, we were the only vehicle in sight. We are headed to Liberty State Park directly across the river from the World Trade Center. We, and many others, were tasked with treating the survivors of the attack earlier in the day.

My day started like most Mondays, lamenting how quickly the weekend passed yet glad I had a job that I liked. I performed the rituals that brought me to my office in Princeton, NJ by 8:30 AM. All life was normal until about 9:30 when Linda, my wife, called to say that a plane had hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. My assumption was that it must be a small aircraft like the one that hit the Empire State Building many years ago.

Then we heard it was a large passenger jet. All business, anything work-related, stopped. We were all consumed by the tragedy that was unfolding. We tried to get the monitor in the conference room to behave like a TV. A couple of small radios were delivering the news at a volume they were never meant to reach. We were somewhat satiated by knowing what was going on and at the same time numbed by the knowledge of the events.

When the second plane hit, everything changed again. Instead of being attacked by a sinister lone wolf, we were at war with a larger force. Later this would be verified by the attack on the Pentagon and downing in Shanksville. An announcement was made that the office was closed and we should all go home to be with our families. The few who remained long enough to hear the message quickly left.

At that time, I was an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), the Captain of the New Vernon Volunteer First Aid Squad, and a Crew Chief for a four-person response team. In the morning, as events unfolded, a single decision in Trenton put into place a plan worked out years before. The plan was revised as technology changed and threats morphed into potentially bizarre scenarios.

When the first call came in for us to send a squad to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, I was still in Princeton. Most of the available squad member had already come to the firehouse just in case they were needed. A team of four suited up and were off. By 3 PM the news was still getting worse. Images of dazed people walking away from the attack and the continued collapse of structures dominated our life. We were also concerned about fellow squad members and neighbors who worked in the towers.

At 3 PM I decided to replace the squad that had responded, or if the demand was too high, to augment it. That put us on Route 78 heading east with food, coffee and a change of clothes. We arrived at a well organized scene run by people who had studied mass casualty scenarios. There were approximately 125 ambulances, 350 EMT’s, 100 paramedics, surgical teams, ER doctors and nurses, many NJ State Police officers with their mobile communications center, and a crisis team in case any of us needed counseling from the carnage we might encounter. A city of medical professionals and support personnel was assembled in just a few hours.

The only thing that was missing were patients. Those who were in or near the World Trade Center that morning either died or walked away. Those who walked away wanted to get home, get cleaned up, be with their loved one, and if needed, see their own doctor.

Liberty State Park is on the west side of the Hudson River, the World Trade Center on the east side. I found a bench facing the fire and smoke on the other side of the river. I could have been at the bottom of that pile. Until two years ago I worked there at Tower 7 of the World Trade Center. Since I was an EMT, I was asked at the time to be on our company’s Emergency Response Team. The problem with being someone who responds to emergencies is that you learn to run the wrong way, toward the problem and not away from it. We are also taught that if we stay alive we can help others. It is tough to make the right decision when the adrenaline is pumping.

Many of us spent the evening watching the ferry dock to the east waiting for patients to be transported to us. About 10 PM we saw a ferry pull out and head toward us. We prepared for service, but it wasn’t needed. The ferry headed south and went around the southern tip of Manhattan. We were told later it was taking the bodies to a makeshift morgue set up along the East River.

In the early morning hours, we were told we could return home and await further orders. They came two days later. The medical crews of the NYFD would support the workers at the World Trade Center in their rescue and recovery efforts. Our squad and many others would go to New York City and handle normal emergency medical situations. That lasted for only about a month but the world had changed. We lost friends and neighbors in our town and all of the neighboring towns. The classes we took, our security precautions, our equipment and our “be prepared for anything” attitude changed. For those of you still on duty, thank you and stay prepared. We have no idea what will come next.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

So, Today I Am 70 Years Old...

So, today I am 70 years old. The majority of my body parts still work as originally designed, and I still have most of them. Who really needs a gall bladder anyway?

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Every once in a while it is good to sit down and look at where you have been. This can help us plan for the future. Look back at what your goals were 20-30 years ago and then examine what really happened. Praise yourself for accomplishments, forgive yourself for failures (those goals were stupid anyway), and put together a roadmap for the next 20-30 years. Sitting around and watching other people do interesting things does not appeal to me, so on to review and plan.

The Last 30 Years - I accomplished 5 big things

·        I found the love of my life and married her. After a divorce, a failed relationship and numerous false starts, it finally happened for me. Linda, my best friend and partner, accepted me as I was and who I have become. I am now content with this part of my life.
My "daughter"

      After a lifetime of lacking the ability to control my weight, I got healthy and fit. At age 60 I lost 110 pounds and changed my life. I was on the way to an early grave preceded by diabetes and a depressing existence. It is still a battle. I put back on 15 pounds in 10 years but am getting rid of it, hopefully for good.

Charlie Age 51

Charlie Age 60
Charlie 61
  Charlie 61
Charlie 62
      I figured out what I want to do when I grow up (business wise). I love technology, particularly computers. I also like teaching and mentoring people, and like most people I like getting paid well. That all came together when I and two partners started Stony Point ( We have 25 employees and are growing nicely.

          I have maintained a relationship with my little brother. Actually he is not a “blood relative”, but he is my brother. We have been together for about 45 years. John Wilson and I were the first matched pair of Big Brother/Little Brother of the Willingboro Big Brother / Big Sisters. He was 11 at the time. His son is my godson.

John & my Godson

         I learned to focus on and appreciate this moment in time. My life had always been preparing for the the next big thing so much that I couldn’t appreciate where I was. Now, things that I do aren’t just things, they are experiences to be treasured. Sitting on the back porch with Linda figuring out how we together will face a challenge is somehow relaxing. Walking with Chester, my dog, to the barn to muck stalls becomes an outing with exercise. Life seen through a different lens can sharpen your focus so you can see things more clearly.

So enough of that sappy stuff. What am I going to do until my warranty runs out? Numero uno, I am going to continue doing the stuff I enjoyed from the last 30 years for as long as my body holds up. Linda and I will take more trail rides, she on her horse Ronnie and me on my faithful surefooted mule Stony. I also want to ramp up volunteer work to give back or to give to those less fortunate, some of which will be animals. I have had the idea of creating a program like Big Brothers but for grandparents. Sometimes the grandparents of children just aren’t available and grandparents can be a valuable part of a child’s development. We need to figure out how to put the resources, older folks with available time, together with children in need. I want to read and write more, and keep in touch with old friends. And, I want to spend time in my woodshop.

Over the next couple of months, I will firm up these plans and start acting on them. Time is speeding up so it is time to work on them. I hope you take the time to look backwards and forwards. It makes life more rewarding.

Written by Charlie Sharp 7/27/2016 - Older and wiser than he was yesterday!

Friday, July 8, 2016



We, all of us, have a tendency to label groups based on the attention grabbing outliers instead of the mainstream masses.
In Dallas, the now deceased shooter said last night that he wanted to kill white police officers. This came on the heels of the deaths of two black men shot by white police officers. 
The Dallas snipers drew a straight line from those deaths to all white police officers. That logic is just as flawed as attributing the atrocities of any group of miscreants to an entire race, religion, nationality or ethnicity.
We, nor the outliers, can kill enough people to create peace. We can crush resistance for a short time but it will return bigger and bolder.
The only answer is to stop treating the masses as the outliers. Treat everyone as an individual, not blind to obvious signs of danger nor prejudiced by outlier actions.
This solution is less dramatic, creates less news content and may take years to achieve, but is the only way to a lasting peace.
This solution starts with you, the individual. You don’t need Congress to act nor for direction from your clergy. Just look at each person you see or meet as if they are part of the peaceful masses that share your hope for a better day tomorrow.
Please share this post with whatever comment you believe is appropriate.

Submitted by 
Charlie Sharp 
Forever Young Farm

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Wheelbarrow

About 15 years ago, my Uncle Henry died. He had moved from New Jersey to Tennessee about 1960. This is story of the impact we can have on others if we only dare to care.

The Wheelbarrow
By Charlie Sharp
Copyright 2/2000

He was not the only one who cried at the funeral. But his tears were different. In a day of reserved civility, he unabashedly mourned. In this small Southern town tradition dictated how people would live, marry and even die. Cowboy was not bound by their expectations. Even if he had known what tradition would mandate, his love for Henry would have prevailed.

Cowboy had a real name, given to him when he was full of hope and yet to embarrass his family. Some of the locals knew it, most did not. On reflection, one would, at first, be perplexed that they could know someone for so long and not even wonder about his given name. But then again, it was only Cowboy.

His clothes, his total appearance, was of little importance anymore. Any hope he would become a model citizen was long gone. Little was expected and less realized. From his matted hair to worn boots, nothing met the standards reserved for the rest of the town. The teeth that remained were darkened. His skin showed the abuse of harsh weather and hard living.

On that day, not all of Cowboy’s clothes were threadbare. His blue jeans had the stiffness of new, unwashed denim yet they were covered with the debris of several nights in a barn. His large red handkerchief, probably purchased with the jeans, had also not been touched by soap and water, and might never be.

There had never been enough money saved from the bars to buy a complete new outfit. Pieces were replaced only when absolutely necessary. That they were bought at all was due to Henry. A few dollars saved from this lawn mowing job or that house painting, held by Henry, kept from the bartender, till enough was accumulated to go to the Army-Navy store for a replacement.

Everyone who knew Henry was genuinely fond of him, even loved him. The funeral parlor was full of them, those who knew him in passing, and those who’s life he had touched more deeply. But it was the most disheveled who would miss him the most.

Henry had been his only friend. The rest of the world knew Cowboy as a drunk, someone who would drink till he could not stand and then drink some more. Then he would crawl into the closest barn, find a soft place and succumb to the whiskey.

It was there Henry would find him and rescue him from the cold. And if Henry didn’t get there in time, an irate farmer moving his cattle from the barns to the fields at daybreak would discover Cowboy. More times than either of them could count, Henry had drug Cowboy from some empty stall, taken him to breakfast at the Spinning Wheel, and put him to work on a project Henry could have done more easily himself.

Henry had a wife, Nell, who gave him love and structure to his life. Cowboy had no love, no structure, and no future to prepare for. When Nell died 8 years before Henry, he and Cowboy were both stunned. She had given Henry direction, which he continued to follow. Cowboy never had a path to trod.

 Nell had accepted the relationship between Henry and Cowboy, and may have even understood it. Cowboy was not accepted at their dining room table, but Nell often gave him lunch in the kitchen.

Henry also had a house, a car, a truck, and a good reputation. Cowboy had none of these. But Henry had a number of jobs, even careers, each not spectacular by the standards of those on the North side of town.  In his mid-fifties, the mill had closed and the town tried to move into the next century, but Henry was part of the last, the time when we cared for each other, even for those everyone else had written off.

When the funeral ended, Cowboy disappeared, perhaps to a bottle and a barn. Two months later I came to town for the estate auction of Henry’s home and possessions. We, the family members, had taken the memorabilia, given the clothes to charity, and arranged to have the rest sold.

Cowboy was the first to show up. He asked if Henry had remembered him in the will. Henry had not, but then he was not good at such things. I thought he expected money or the old truck they had used. His goal was something much more important.

As the auction continued, piece by piece Henry’s legacy disappeared. Suddenly Cowboy rushed to me for help. He was both despondent and alarmed. The treasure he sought had slipped away. The auctioneer had moved so swiftly that the wheelbarrow had gone to the highest bidder before Cowboy could signal his intention. He had saved the money for the purchase by doing odd jobs by himself. He wasted none at the bars since Henry’s death. Now all that seemed fruitless.

The one object that would forever tie him to Henry was gone. He had toiled with Henry. Together they hauled rocks, dug trenches. The hickory handles of the wheelbarrow were worn smooth by their rough hands, his hands and Henry’s.

Cowboy pointed out the lucky bidder. Together we went to him but Cowboy did the talking, which was not his style. He blurted out that he had to have the wheelbarrow. He offered to buy it and give the new owner a profit, whatever it would take. He saw the passion in Cowboy’s eyes and without hesitation gave him the auction ticket. All Cowboy had to do was pay the bid price and it would be his. Cowboy shed tears just as he had at the funeral.

For the rest of the day, he never let go of the wheelbarrow. He sat below the willow tree in the back yard as if he were with an old friend. As the auction ended, I saw him load his treasure into the truck of one of Henry’s friends, someone with a heart nearly as big as Henry’s.

Cowboy is on his own now. But every time he grabs the handles of the wheelbarrow, his chapped lips can’t help but smile. He’ll cry no more, for Henry will always be with him.