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Finding the Right Tool for the Job

It’s been maybe two years ago, maybe three; that I was involved in a community discussion of charitable works. It stemmed from a topic I covered on my Blog of Helios and while we discussed the various means that we could be of service to others not so fortunate, one individual sought to find a way out of the discussion. “Well, I don’t know any poor people.”

ToughbookHuh. He doesn’t know any poor people he says. Well “what a coincidence”, I told him. “Neither did I until I started looking for them.” That was the last I saw or heard from said person, and it’s all for the better. We didn’t seem to have much in common.


For reasons of political and socio-economical origins, I’m not here to discuss who is “poor,” why they are poor or how they became poor. Some would argue that being poor is generational in many cases. Given my experience, I tend to agree. But that doesn’t disqualify them from our attention and caring. Being poor is sometimes learned via modeling within the family structure. When the most significant people in a young life exhibits behaviors, they are most often perceived as the model for the structuring of life for the next ten to fifteen years.

And Geek please. Don’t get all analytical on me and try to score points by asking for citations. My information is based on ten years of empirical data. I’m not here to present a professional thesis. I’m here to share with you what I’ve observed within that ten years.

The in-home observed behavior/modeling that young people see daily? That’s hard to defeat. Judging a person as “lazy” and “worthless” simply shows a lack of empathy and understanding on our part. Sure, some people will mistake kindness for weakness and try to play you for everything they can get, and I will admit that kind of stuff can poison the well for others, the majority of people who need our help. Getting played sucks, so early detection can mean the difference between walking away from helping anyone at all, to learning to recognize those types, calling them on their behavior and advising that no further assistance will be rendered from or by you. Period.

Learning the difference between chronic beggars and those legitimately needing your services can be extremely difficult to do.

One of the ways we gain access to people who truly need our help is to take referrals from teachers and public service workers. We even have a contractor working for Time Warner who shovels us candidates every now and then. One such referral came to our attention via a police officer here in Taylor. The family included Monty, a high-functioning autistic boy of 12 years. He is extremely intelligent and inquisitive, but his curiosity knows no bounds. Monty is perfectly cool with opening up your briefcase and rummaging through it.

To Monty, if it’s in open spaces, it’s fair game for his inspection. He does not understand the sociological rules and limits most of us know inherently. That includes personal spaces. When Monty talks to you, he insists on standing uncomfortably close, and in my case, his older brother had to put his hands on his younger brother’s shoulders to pull him away. It can by unnerving. However, that’s not nearly as unnerving as Monty’s “moments,” the buzzword his family uses for the times when Monty flies into unbelievably destructive fits of rage…rage that defies prognosis and origin. It can be best described as an orchestrated epileptic seizure. Epilepsy in Monty’s case has been ruled out.

Monty’s moments do not happen often, but when they do, he is capable of doing unbelievably extensive damage in the 30-45 seconds they last. Every member of Monty’s family bears scars and some of those scars are terrible. His 17-year-old brother, Reggie, carries a number of scars, including a large one at his hairline that was left by the surgeon who sewed Reggie’s scalp back onto his head. He also is missing half of his right ear lobe, an injury he received when pulling Monty off of his mom.

The only thing that can quell these violent episodes is a specially made taser. Other medical means of “turning Monty off” that would require a transplant are now being discussed, but justifying such methods are hard to do. The thing that will most likely make this a reality is that it will limit the damage Monty does to himself. The fact that he has these moments only three times a year does not mitigate the damage he can inflict on his immediate environment or to those around him.

These were things I was told prior to meeting with Monty’s mom, Melissa, who is a single mother whose husband left her to parent the two boys when Monty’s behavior became increasingly violent. Her oldest son was offered an accelerated plan of studies so he could graduate high school early and help his mom with Monty’s care. “Assisted Care” hasn’t worked well for Monty or the staff at the facilities that care for people with psychological disorders where he’s been accepted. Plans for his older brother’s college education are on hold until decisions can be made pertaining to Monty’s care.

I’ve worked around individuals on every scale of the spectrum, so meeting Monty wasn’t surprising in any way. I realize he does not respect personal space and I am fully okay with that. At one point, he seemed surprised when I put my hand on his shoulder and pulled back from me sharply, but with a word from his brother he put his hand on my shoulder and apologized. It was cool.

What hasn’t been cool is the destruction of expensive things that occur when Monty has one of his moments. The 42 inch TV donated by Melissa’s church has a plexiglass shield in front of it, and the last two computers we’ve placed in Monty’s home were destroyed as well. The first computer was a fairly powerful quad core desktop with a 22 inch monitor and built-in speakers. Monty broke his left foot trying to pick the computer up and smash it onto the floor. After Melissa and I spoke about it, it was decided that a laptop would be more practical, as it can be placed out of harm’s way when not in use.

That is, of course, unless it’s in use when one of Monty’s moments occur.

So far, medical science has been unable to diagnose these outbursts. Medication that is normally reserved to stop or lessen most known seizure disorders have been ineffective. A couple of months ago, Monty’s brother walked into the Reglue shop and inquired as to what type of computer would be best for his home, given the increased chance it would be damaged or destroyed. I told him I didn’t have any suggestions, but I did offer the advice of keeping the computer in a room that had little to damage. Reggie offered that they did have a spare bedroom that was being used for storage of his dad’s stuff. I sent him home with an exceptionally nice Lenovo 230X Thinkpad against my better judgement, but mentioned that we were running short on decent laptops and to try and keep this one out of harm’s way if possible. I could not assure him of any type of replacement, should that one run foul of the physics of unbrokeness.

Then came Joe to the rescue.

I’ll call him Joe, mostly because that’s his name, even though it sounds like it could be fake. We don’t like to introduce our donors without their permission and I won’t make an exception in this case. Joe emailed me a couple of weeks ago and asked if we were still taking-in donated computers. I replied that, indeed, we were, as long as they could be returned to a usable state and were not too old. Joe assured me that I would have to come look and see what he had to offer. He lived 60 miles away and a 120 mile round trip shouldn’t be made on a whim, but I decided that a couple of the notebook/laptops were of interest.

Joe and I share some things in common. Joe has the bearing and appearance of what’s known in the military as a Special Operator. Since I had the absolute honor of washing out of a particular SO training center at the end of my third week in the Delta Force training program, I have a pretty good idea what a Special Operator looks and acts like. Once you’ve been in the military for a number of years, SO’s are easy to spot. So was Joe, but he would neither confirm nor deny any such affiliations. He had recently returned from an extremely hostile and sandy place and he brought with him three laptops. Two of them were Panasonic ToughBooks and the other was an HP 2140 in a specially built shell that kept it from bumps and bruises.

Joe and I spent twenty minutes talking and he helped me down to my car with the box of laptops. “Could I put them to use?” I told him that I most certainly could, and that I had a pretty good idea of just where the newest of the ToughBooks would go (circa CF18). I’m sure Joe will smile when he reads this. That Panasonic has been toughguy-tested and toughguy-approved. Tested by one of the best. I will make sure Monty understands the lineage of his latest laptop. He hopes to join the Navy some day. Here’s hoping that wish becomes a reality.


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  1. stig atle steffensen stig atle steffensen January 19, 2016

    Very nice story, and inspiring.

    I’ve been thinking about collecting in unused equipment and install them to give away to children who needs it.
    This inspires me to take that thought a bit further.

  2. FOSS Force Staff FOSS Force Staff January 20, 2016

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