Whether BBQ’s or fireworks, friends or quiet time I want to wish you a Happy 4th of July!
Today is Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for everything. Good, bad or indifferent. I realize that I am because of God. I have had an incredible year and can’t complain. My mom said we’re having a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal complete with pizza and wings. I said cool. My friend asked, “How do you feel about that?” I said, “I’m blessed regardless. I understand that some won’t even eat today or have family or friends that they can see. Whatever the meal, it is a blessing.” He smiled and said, “I love watching God’s favor over you.”
So, let’s remember that this day is more about the abundance of things that we should be thankful for. No matter what your situation, there is always someone in a worse situation than you. Be thankful for everything and know that I am thankful for you.
It was a warm day. I was a new transplant to NYC having only lived there for the last three months. I was still naive and afraid of the “big city” so I would wake up every day and make my fiance look at me to confirm that he knew what I was wearing when I walked out the door. You know in case, I got kidnapped and murdered on the way to or from work? Naive right?
I was wearing a red light weight sweater and navy blue pants that I had just bought from the mall inside of the north tower of the World Trade Center that weekend. I woke my fiance up to look at my outfit and hurried down the steps of our fifth floor walk up apartment to catch the #6 train downtown to Brooklyn. I was working for a company in Metrotech, downtown Brooklyn, right over the bridge. I walked in the office with a cup of coffee and began to check my messages.
As I began to work, I received a call from a billing agent for one of our health plans about the erroneous billing for terminated members. I was frustrated. We got off the phone and I walked to find my boss to tell him the news. He was walking towards his office as I was approaching him. His head was down with tears in his eyes. I began talking and I stopped and asked “Keith, what’s wrong? Is everything okay?” He said, “No, a plane just hit the World Trade Center.” I asked, “Someone, can’t fly?” He responded, “New York City has a no fly zone. This wasn’t an accident.” He told me to look out the window of the executive conference room.
I walked to the executive conference room and stood there with three other co-workers and saw the north tower on fire. It was just before 9 am and I stood there in shock. Five minutes later I saw the second plane hit. I screamed. People started yelling, “This is not an accident”. I was in shock and said, “I need to call my fiance”. I ran to the phone to try and call my house.
There was no dial tone. I kept pressing the button on the phone by the receptionist’s desk over and over. Trying to get a dial tone. Finally, I heard the dial tone and called home. My fiance answered, “Are you okay?” I responded, “Yeah, I think so. What is this?” He yelled, “I don’t know. Get out of Brooklyn now. Get home.” I responded, “How can I come home?” He responded, “I’m going to call Muhammad to try and get you to his house.” I replied, “Okay, I will try and call you back. I need to call my mom.”
I rushed back to the window to see what was going on. With tears running down my eyes I looked at the TV that someone had cut on in the conference room. Chaos. What was happening? I rushed to my desk to call my mother. I knew she was worried. I couldn’t get a dial tone. I pressed the button on my phone repeatedly praying for a dial tone. I heard the familiar tone and called my mom at work. She didn’t answer the phone. I left a message saying, “Mommy, it’s me. It’s chaos. They’re saying we’re under attack. I’m okay. I am at work. I don’t know how or when I will get home, but I’m safe. It’s hard trying to get a dial tone. But, I love you. I’m okay. Please tell everyone.” I hung up.
I called my sister and my brother-in-law answered. He was asleep. He had just gotten off work two hours prior. He worked overnight. I said, “William, it’s me. Please wake up. Please tell my sister that I’m okay. Please tell her I’m safe.” Sleepily he replied, “Okay.” I hung up. I ran back to the executive conference room and continued to watch with horror the burning towers. I looked at my watch. It was 10 am. Five minutes later, the second tower where I saw the plane hit collapsed. More screams and chaos.
New York City had already been shut down. Flights grounded. This was not happening. This was America. We are the strongest country in the world and we are under attack. I didn’t know about terrorism. It was a foreign concept. Terrorism was crazy militant folks killing kids in Oklahoma not bringing down planes on Wall Street. The fire, the debris, the sounds of sirens. The MTA buses that drove down the streets empty with passengers but filled with armed military men and women with machine guns. The dust, the smoke, the reality.
I will never forget the events that occurred on September 11, 2001. I witnessed history. What was meant to break us, made us stronger and we are survivors. So, say what you will about a country that has it’s faults, but in times of crises we become one family. United. New York taught me that I can overcome anything. You can rebuild. You will survive and you will be stronger because of it.
As I was returning from a restful vacation with my girlfriend, I looked into my bank account to discover that I had been a victim. A victim of folks scamming my bank card and making fraudulent charges. Shopping and making purchases to stores that I don’t shop at and taking my money. Money that I worked hard to earn to be able to buy school supplies/clothes for my munch. They took it. So, yep…sometimes I hate technology.
I had dinner with my cousin, Friday night while in Tampa and his card got declined as he paid for our dinner. I offered to pay and he said, “No.” His wife covered the bill and then he discovered that someone had made a clone of his card and was making fraudulent charges in California. He posted this on Facebook the next day:
“To whoever stole my identity…I hope those couple of transactions were worth it!!! I don’t wish bad on anyone but I hope and pray that you receive the same profiling, racism and horrible customer service that comes with being a black man!!! Middle finger to all those who would rather steal than to work hard and make money!!!”
As I arrived home Monday night and was perusing Facebook, another one of my Facebook friends reported that they had been a victim too. It was this post that had me wondering what happened:
“Today I wish that the person who keeps hacking my online bank account will see his entire family die in a fiery ball of twisted metal and glass leading him to a failed suicide attempt that will leave him suffering miserably alone and in pain for the rest of his useless life.”
Today, I can truly say that I understood their pain. Looking at my empty bank account and wondering what did I do to deserve this? I had to pay bills, buy school supplies, pay before and after care tuition and buy food. I wanted to cry. You know that deep down earth shattering wounded animal type cry? The cry that wracks my body as I try to pick up the pieces of my life after being violated. But, I didn’t. I let the tears slide gently down my face and do what I do best. Research and write.
In February, Fox Business reported that every two seconds someone becomes a victim of identity theft in the U.S. That is ridiculous! I guess it’s no wonder why I was chosen. Every two seconds? That’s 30 people a minute. Unbelievable! What is going on people? I’m sure the money you spend to scam hardworking individuals can be better used to enroll in college and get a job than shopping at Lord and Taylor and Victoria’s Secret.
So, I’m calming down and I am thankful that it wasn’t a credit card too. I monitor those just as closely. Minor inconvenience aside, I’m fortunate that it wasn’t worse. But, here’s what the Department of Justice is recommending should you become a victim of identity theft.
To reduce or minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud, there are some basic steps you can take. For starters, just remember the word “SCAM”:
S Be stingy about giving out your personal information to others unless you have a reason to trust them, regardless of where you are:
1. Start by adopting a “need to know” approach to your personal data. Your credit card company may need to know your mother’s maiden name, so that it can verify your identity when you call to inquire about your account. A person who calls you and says he’s from your bank, however, doesn’t need to know that information if it’s already on file with your bank; the only purpose of such a call is to acquire that information for that person’s personal benefit. Also, the more information that you have printed on your personal bank checks — such as your Social Security number or home telephone number — the more personal data you are routinely handing out to people who may not need that information.
2.If someone you don’t know calls you on the telephone and offers you the chance to receive a “major” credit card, a prize, or other valuable item, but asks you for personal data — such as your Social Security number, credit card number or expiration date, or mother’s maiden name — ask them to send you a written application form.
3.If they won’t do it, tell them you’re not interested and hang up.
4.If they will, review the application carefully when you receive it and make sure it’s going to a company or financial institution that’s well-known and reputable. The Better Business Bureau can give you information about businesses that have been the subject of complaints.
1.If you’re traveling, have your mail held at your local post office, or ask someone you know well and trust another family member, a friend, or a neighbor to collect and hold your mail while you’re away.
2.If you have to telephone someone while you’re traveling, and need to pass on personal financial information to the person you’re calling, don’t do it at an open telephone booth where passersby can listen in on what you’re saying; use a telephone booth where you can close the door, or wait until you’re at a less public location to call.
C Check your financial information regularly, and look for what should be there and what shouldn’t:
What Should Be There:
1.If you have bank or credit card accounts, you should be receiving monthly statements that list transactions for the most recent month or reporting period.
2.If you’re not receiving monthly statements for the accounts you know you have, call the financial institution or credit card company immediately and ask about it.
3.If you’re told that your statements are being mailed to another address that you haven’t authorized, tell the financial institution or credit card representative immediately that you did not authorize the change of address and that someone may be improperly using your accounts. In that situation, you should also ask for copies of all statements and debit or charge transactions that have occurred since the last statement you received. Obtaining those copies will help you to work with the financial institution or credit card company in determining whether some or all of those debit or charge transactions were fraudulent.
What Shouldn’t Be There:
1.If someone has gotten your financial data and made unauthorized debits or charges against your financial accounts, checking your monthly statements carefully may be the quickest way for you to find out. Too many of us give those statements, or the enclosed checks or credit transactions, only a quick glance, and don’t review them closely to make sure there are no unauthorized withdrawals or charges.
2.If someone has managed to get access to your mail or other personal data, and opened any credit cards in your name or taken any funds from your bank account, contact your financial institution or credit card company immediately to report those transactions and to request further action.
A Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report.
Your credit report should list all bank and financial accounts under your name, and will provide other indications of whether someone has wrongfully opened or used any accounts in your name.
M Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.
Even though financial institutions are required to maintain copies of your checks, debit transactions, and similar transactions for five years, you should retain your monthly statements and checks for at least one year, if not more. If you need to dispute a particular check or transaction especially if they purport to bear your signatures your original records will be more immediately accessible and useful to the institutions that you have contacted.
Even if you take all of these steps, however, it’s still possible that you can become a victim of identity theft. Records containing your personal data — credit-card receipts or car-rental agreements, for example — may be found by or shared with someone who decides to use your data for fraudulent purposes.
Now that we all know what to do and I have calmed down, I realized this fundamental truth:
I choose to become a VICTOR. How about you?
This week I read an article on Huffington Post titled “Children Exposed To Religion Have Difficulty Distinguishing Fact From Fiction, Study Finds” and was taken aback at some of the comments that I read. It wasn’t a relatively lengthy article, but it had amassed over 757 comments in just two days. Disclaimer: I know I shouldn’t read the comments, but I can’t help it. I like to know what other people think about a particular article and well I was floored.
I was floored because people were saying that they found the church stuff skeptical. I understand not everyone subscribes to a religious view, but how can we not have faith in light of everything that we have seen or experienced in this world? I’m not trying to convert you to Christianity or make you subscribe to my point of view, but what I am saying is that my faith is the foundation for everything I believe and I how I raise my son. The article said that of the 66 children who were between 5 and 6 (same age as my munch) who went to church or were enrolled in parochial schools were “significantly less able than secular children to identify supernatural elements, such as talking animals, as fictional.”
I’m not surprised, but I’m not offended. In my house we serve God. That is what I am teaching my son. The end and that’s all. That is exactly what I posted in the comment section of the article and another commentator replied to me asking “How could you teach him to believe in a God who would allow Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to be shot down? Does God really do that? How does God allow all those children to die?” I sat there and said a prayer before I simply responded…”Was it God or Evil? Aren’t we taught that there is a balance to everything which creates the understanding of harmony? A battle between good and evil? The fact that we believe in God and teach our children about God doesn’t absolve them of bad things happening. Bad things will happen, but God will protect your mind and spirit while the enemy may try to destroy you. It is simply faith.”
I went home that night and really thought about how important it is for me as a mother to teach my son about God and faith. It is an important lesson that has to be taught, one that I have never regretted, because it is one that was taught to me by my mother. My mother was taught by her mother and she taught her children that our God can handle it all and will never stop loving you. We didn’t grow up with a happy life absent of trials, tribulations or death. We just knew to never stop believing and that prayer changes things. Faith of a mustard seed is what she said. Belief in God was the greatest gift she gave me.
Even when life knocked me down and I ran from God believing that He didn’t love me, want me, understand or could hear me, she prayed. People prayed. When I hit rock bottom, I prayed and I knew at that moment that He had never abandoned me. Nothing would make Him leave me. So, it is easy for me to teach my son to love a God that has always protected me even in my darkest hour because it is embedded in the very fabric of everything that I believe and go through.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
There were 298 passengers and crew members that were killed on that flight and 80 of them were children. This is a horrible tragedy and we must continue to pray for the families of the victims and this nation as a whole. Longingly and truthfully because we need God now more than ever.