Monday, December 30, 2013

2013's BEST & WORST

    Since this blog's inception three years ago, the final  days of the year always call for pause and reflection on the previous 12 months - the good, the bad and the ugly in human behavior and social graces. Again this year, there were plenty of candidates for all three categories. There were remarkable displays of kindness and human spirits worth celebrating. And sadly, there were also crass and vulgar acts we'd just as soon forget. 
     ItMannersAlot has always been about much more than the butter knives and salad forks. Moving into 2014, it will continue to shine a bright light on the importance of social graces and civility. And with that, here is one last look back at the Best and the Worst of 2013!


1.  Dignity Health's Humankindness Campaign.  The national health care organizations's multi-million dollar marketing campaign served big doses of the simplest of medicines: Be kind to one another. Genius. Countless studies already show the health benefits of being nice to each other.  Dignity hopes humankindness will  become a household word. Already, its massive billboards are giving motorists some food for thought and employees within the organization are putting the call into action and encouraging others to share their random acts of thoughtfulness on

2.  Our Community's Trash Detectives.  The dumping of trash and litter remains an epidemic in Kern County, despite the availability of garbage receptacles big and small at every turn. And the debate continues on what lies at the root of the growing problem - cultural, education. Regardless, it persists, and thankfully, there are those in our midst who are fed up and refuse to tolerate it any more. The woman on her morning walk tossing a discarded diaper BACK into the offender's vehicle. The shopper in the parking lot reminding a litterbug that there is a trash can nearby. The volunteers who regularly pickup trash near the bike path and river banks, without compensation or fanfare. Their reward is knowing their part of the community is a little neater and nicer.

3.  The Bakersfield High School and Bakersfield Christian High School football teams.  Bravo to these two teams of athletes who reached the pinnacles of their game in division contests. Bakersfield Christian lost, and BHS took their state title, but both teams epitomized the very best of our community and good sportsmanship. Professional athletes could learn a thing or two from these terrific young players!

4.  Bakersfield Symphony Conductor John Farrer.  In his 38th and final year as Musical Director of the beloved arts organization, Maestro Farrer will wave his baton one last time as director at the end of the 2013-2014 season come May. His relationship with the Symphony will continue, but it will be hard to imagine a concert without his masterful direction. A hallmark of Bakersfield's arts community, Farrer has exuded class and elegance with every nod, especially during BSO's period of transition. We are all the richer for it.

5.  The Volunteer.  From the animal lovers in our community who try to fill in the gaps between the animal shelter services and connect people with their lost pets through the use of social media, the many people who helped launch the inaugural, and wildly successful Nut Festival, those green thumbs who helped the Tree Foundation plant trees in the downtown Arts District, and the many people who cooked and donated for St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center's first BBQ, attended by some 800 community members raising upwards of $70,000 for the center - astonishing by anyone's standards - the volunteers in our midst underscored why Bakersfield is truly beautiful.


1.  The Trash-a-holics. Despite ambitious local public service campaigns, many people still don't get the message. Their disregard for the community is evident alongside highways 58, 99 and 178 and in parks and parking lots from one side of town to the other. Shame on all of them. It takes but a second to properly dispose of garbage. This is the 3rd year in the row the Litterbug has landed on this list of the best of the worst. Hope springs eternal. May it be the LAST!

2. Congress.  The stubbornness among politicians on Capitol Hill reached a new low this past fall with the government shutdown. Non essential workers were furloughed, staying at home twiddling their idle thumbs while congress argued and bickered over the budget and debt ceiling. And we constituents payed top tax dollars for this pathetic customer service. Really. bad. form.

3.  Anthony Weiner. Just in case there were disbelievers the first time the disgraced New York politician professed repentance after his sexting scandal, Weiner returned with more embarrassment for his supporters and family. This time, wife Huma blamed herself. Women's eyeballs could be heard rolling backward 'round the world. Thankfully, voters denied him another seat in office.

4.  Kern County 5th District Supervisor Leticia Perez.  Elected in 2012 to represent the district, Perez almost immediately began looking for greener pastures in a special election race to fill the 16th California Senate seat vacated by Michael Rubio. Whoah! In high school there was a term for girls like that who moved on to the next best thing faster than you could say gym class, and it wasn't flattering. It seemed like really bad form to sincerely court the voters of the 5th District, rake in thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, and then just a few months into the gig have a sudden change of heart when a better looking 'suitor' came calling. In announcing her run for supervisor, candidate Perez said the voters of the district should not pick a supervisor who used "political loopholes", a reference to her opponent, Karen Goh, who was appointed to the seat by former Governor Schwarzenegger. Perez argued that voters should judge the candidates “by how deep the roots of a candidate reach into the earth of the district.”
   Political loopholes looked a lot like rungs on the ladders eager politicians like Ms. Perez couldn't keep from climbing. And it appeared those roots in the 'earth of the district', didn't run deep enough. But Christmas came early to the 5th District. Perez lost the special election, and in her defense, she appears to be settling in nicely into the role as county supervisor. I predict she'll do admirable things in the coming year, as the experience no doubt left a lasting impression.

5.  Celebs Behaving Badly. Again.  They keep social media tabloids like TMZ in business, but I for one am exhausted by the never-ending train wreck of celebrities behaving badly. Alec Baldwin joins the list this year. His foul-mouthed angry rants at anyone who looks in his direction are creepy scary. No wonder his much-anticipated talk show was canned.  Then there was once sweet Miley Cyrus, twerking her way up the most-talked about list for all the wrong reasons. She's too old to be spanked and put in time out for the next year or so, but I for one would like to see her expand her repertoire into more ladylike fare and keep her Gene Simmons-esque tongue in her mouth. And finally, Lindsay Lohan can't get off this list to save her life. This year her escapades included fibbing to law enforcement and arriving late for court appearances. Big no nos in anyone's book. No one has thrown the book at her yet. Here's hoping Oprah can help put this once-promising young actress back on the right track in 2014.

Thank you for your continued readership of this blog.  Best wishes for a new year filled with health, happiness and heaps of civility. Afterall, ITMANNERSALOT!

Monday, December 16, 2013

HUMANKINDNESS: The Gift That Will Keep On Giving!

There is a giant billboard facing eastbound motorists on Rosedale Highway that has Bakersfield drivers doing a double take.
No, not the one with the bicycle begging to be recycled.
"Kindness Has Zero Carbs."
This one had me at the word 'Kindness'.
Those four simple words strung together on the Dignity Health sign west of Costco are catching people's attention in a big way, which is exactly what the San Francisco-based health organization is aiming for. Towering advertisements enticing us to move to a new residential development or attend an upcoming concert, we are used to. But kindness? 
It may take some motorists miles before the message sinks in. But I for one think it is brilliant and wish i'd thought of it. Save me a seat on this bandwagon.
More than just a catchy media blitz, Dignity is taking the ambitious $11 million dollar advertising campaign seriously by putting, what they say, is humanity back into health care. Whether it ever left, or if so, where it went, is subject to interpretation. But in the midst of a national discourse on the dollars and cents and tech missteps of Obamacare, the novel campaign highlighting acts of kindness, however grand or slight, through stories shared on its website –, hopes to start a conversation prompting people to behave better and connect with one another in a more compassionate way.
And the effort doesn't come a moment too soon. According to a survey on Civility in America, 86% of responders say they have been on the receiving end of some sort of incivility. Is the decline of good manners the new norm? Dignity says no way and I can't stop applauding. Bravo!
Besides, countless studies have already told us that being nicer, kinder and more gentle with each other can be a potent dose of medicine in lowering blood pressure, warding off illnesses and aiding in the healing process.
The stories shared on the movement's website are inspiring: A rescuer who braved choppy waters and risked his own life to save another, a good Samaritan who helped a stranded stranger in need, and a surprise for a family shopping at Target whose entire cart full of items was paid for by someone else.
There have been calls to acts of caring before, most notably Bakersfield's Dr. Chuck Wall and his Random Acts of Kindness campaign launched 20 years ago. Dignity hopes humankindness will become a household word.
But why not just plaster billboards with boasts of shorter ER wait times, fancier delivery rooms and cutting-edge medical equipment? “Some have questioned what this campaign has to do with health care,” says Dignity's local Director of Strategic Marketing, Robin Mangarin Scott. “We are proud to say 'it is different'. If we can use a human connection to inspire a stronger and healthier world, then what is the harm in that?”
Already, officials with Memorial and Mercy Hospitals say they have seen the call to treat one another nicely within their hallways and among their employees. “Something special is happening. The people who work here are listening and holding themselves accountable to the brand,” Mangarin Scott says. “We all know that sharing humankindness is great on paper, but when it is shared through actions, it can hold the power to heal and help others in ways that extend beyond health care.”
While modern medicine will always hold the ability to cure, let us all become more attune to the human conditions and opportunities that present themselves every day to extend compassion and reconnect with humanity, not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year. Perhaps Desmond Tutu said it best: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Humankindness will truly be the gift that keeps on giving.
Best wishes for a Christmas rich in time spent with loved ones, and a year ahead filled with health, happiness and all that 'MANNERS A LOT'!