Have you ever heard someone say that they hate where they are? I have. Growing up as an Air Force brat, I realized that the family would move every few years. Whether I liked where I was living or not, in a few years I’d be gone, and there was nothing I could do to change that.

Some of the people in the military I met were perpetually unhappy with where they were stationed. They would sing the praises of their last assignment, but their current location was either too cold, hot, dry, rainy, crowded, quiet, or whatever, to suit them. It is certain that when they were next transferred, their new station would be the worst, while their previous assignment would be viewed as being better, regardless that they had been spending many months before complaining of that same place that they would now praise. These people lived in a state of perpetual annoyance.

Rather than do that, my family decided that it would be better to focus on the good aspects of wherever we lived. We were twice stationed in North Dakota, and the winters were harsh. Rather than dwelling on the weather, which we couldn’t affect, we relished the hunting opportunities and the wonderful people we found in North Dakota, and we liked being there.

Are you finding that you are saying, “I hate this place!” more and more? What can you do? Well, you basically have four options before you, so let’s list them.

Do Nothing

That’s right. Just grit your teeth and learn to bear it. It may help if you keep reminding yourself “this too shall pass.” But this is a solution that may work for you if the time frame is short, and you can bear being there for that long. You’ll only be sitting in the dentist’s office for a short time, regardless of how much it feels like an eternity. Gritting your teeth will annoy the dentist, however, so in that case you’ll just have to bear it. If you dislike your in-laws, and you are stuck with them for a week vacation in a tiny houseboat on the lake, remember that this too will pass. And be nice to them. The police will find the bodies eventually, and prison will be even worse than hearing your father-in-law telling that story about the huge fish he had to let go. Again.

Change Yourself

If you hate where you are because you don’t fit in, then change and adapt to better fit. If you don’t speak the language, it’s no wonder you feel like a prisoner in your own home. Put forth the effort to learn some simple phrases, attend some classes, go out of your comfort zone, and speak with some people you meet. You may be surprised just how nicely people will treat you if you smile and say hello. Maybe you should also learn to say “I don’t speak [language] much.” Most people will be happy to help you out as you trip over their language. Well, maybe not the French, but what can you do?

What if you speak the language, and you still feel like your home is your prison? Have you gone out to visit the neighbors? Have you invited them over for a barbeque and some soft drinks on Memorial Day? Have you placed yourself in situations and locations where you can meet others if you are feeling lonely? Are you doing anything to make yourself interesting to others? Find out what you can do to change your situation, and then do it!

Change Your Environment

Do you live in a crime-ridden area? Contact the local police and get to know them. Organized a Neighborhood Watch program. Clean up the yard and paint the house. Fix that broken window in the front. You will feel better if you are not surrounded by filth. Don’t like the local politics? Then get involved! Write the newspapers or people directly. Organize. No matter your cause, you are sure to find others to join you and help to make the changes you want or need.

You can’t force everyone in the foreign country you live in to speak English, but you can encourage other English-speaking people to gather around, and you may even succeed in getting local businesses to cater more to the English-speaking people. If you don’t like where you are, then put forth the effort to change it into something you do like.

Move

Sometime you just have to get up and get out. The Pilgrims didn’t like their situation in Europe, so they set out for an entirely different continent. Do you think that was easy for them? Could it be easier for you today with cars, trains, and fast-traveling planes? It will be most certainly easier for anyone today to move across town, the country, or the globe now, but that doesn’t mean that this will be an easy thing to do. Nor will this move be done without sacrifice on your part, and possibly on the part of your family and friends.

People live in slums in the inner city where crime, drugs, and violence may rob people of their lives as well as their peace. You could grit your teeth and wait it out, but that’s only worth doing if you will be there a short time. You could change yourself into a tough street hood and dominate the neighborhood, or you could motivate the people to clean up the slums and drive out the unwanted criminal activity. But it is probably more realistic to flee the scene, and that won’t be easy. Where to go? What to do when you get there? How to get the money together to finance the move? Well, the last is probably the easiest to answer — sell or leave whatever you have, and then go some direction, any direction, out of the inner city, and make sure you don’t stop in another slum.

It takes courage to uproot yourself and head into the unknown. Family and friends can make the transition easier, but there may be times when you may have to forge ahead and break trail for others following behind. There is no shame in leaving behind a situation you do not like and seeking for a better future ahead of yourself. But you need to make sure that moving away isn’t your first instinct when you don’t like where you are. In a situation like that, the problem may not be the place where you live — the problem may be you.

There are basically four ways to respond when you don’t like where you are. So choose already.

I spent the last week away from home, and since internet access was very limited, I decided to take a short break from publishing anything. But as I was driving over 2,000 miles in a week, I had some time to think about some subjects. Writing down thoughts as you are driving is a bad idea.

While I was away, I was happy to know that my friend Podkayne was stopping by to get some rest on her own long journey. I knew no one else would be at the house, so I made sure she had a key to the place. She was a welcome guest in my home, and I could trust her not to run off with the good silver. Better than that, she even did some dishes for me! Thanks, Podkayne!

I hope you have family and friends whom you trust enough to use your guest bed if they need it, whether you are there to watch over them or not. But how would you feel if a non-invited person were to enter your home, sleep in your bed, and eat up your food? Whether this unwanted person used a key to unlock the front door, entered through an open window, or used a brick to smash open a lock, there is a name for someone who enters your home uninvited: intruder!

Our nation is our home, and we should be just as concerned about people crossing our borders as we would be about people entering our home at will during the day or night. This is why I’m upset to see how President Bush is failing to fix the issue of illegal aliens in the United States. President Vincente Fox of Mexico made a statement recently that Mexicans (read that as illegal aliens) do work that not even Blacks would do. While this is an offensive statement to Blacks, it also shows Fox’s belief that it is both just and right for his countrymen to break laws to cross illegally into the U.S. And it’s no wonder — the wages that move from the U.S. to Mexico are the second largest money-making industry for Mexico. Fox isn’t going to cut off his national gravy train by stopping Mexicans from crossing into the U.S. Yet it is interesting that the Mexican government is not so lax on its own southern border.

Mexico is not a country starved of resources or filled with lazy people. In the two years I lived in Mexico, I saw hard-working people, but they were prevented from doing as much as they could because of government corruption. When a country offers freedom and protection of people’s rights and property, economic success will follow. Can you point out any country where this is not the case?

Don’t expect to see much from the U.S. government to stem the flood of illegal aliens crossing into the U.S. There is a perception that doing anything against illegal aliens will be seen as an attack on Hispanics who already live in the U.S., but if I were someone from Mexico who had entered legally into the States, I’d be both ashamed of how other Mexicans are illegally crossing into the country and angry that their illegal actions are reflecting negatively on myself. Why is it that the legal immigrants are not policing out the illegals who are crossing into the States?

Could it be that this isn’t happening because the legal immigrants are not identifying themselves as Americans first? There is a very simple reason why Mexicans — or any other group, for that matter — don’t feel like they fit into the larger society, and it isn’t because of skin color. It is language.

English is the common language here in the United States, but it is possible to enter enclaves where Spanish is the only language spoken. In a situation like that, you could spend your whole life never needing to learn English, but there is a limitation to living that way — you are stuck in that enclave. Leaving the enclave requires learning a new language, and choosing not to learn English means you are limited to certain jobs, certain places to live and shop, and certain opportunities you can provide your children. Do you really want to place limitations on your children? You will, if you never learn to speak English.

Before I visited Singapore for the second time, I spent several months studying spoken and written Chinese. I never got very good at it, and I realized that it didn’t help me all that much since I was practicing Mandarin, and all the friends I met in Singapore spoke either Cantonese or Hokkien at home. Also, the traditional characters I learned to read and write were different from the simplified Chinese used in Singapore. This island nation has four official languages: Chinese, Malay, English, and Tamil. It was fun watching the same commercial on TV done in four different languages. Because Singapore is as polyglot as it is, I didn’t feel as bad that I didn’t learn the right version of spoken Chinese, but at least I made the attempt.

I lived in Germany for three years. We could have lived on the military base with the rest of the Americans, but we preferred to live in a small town away from the base. Frau Roch spoke excellent English, having lived in the States for several years. Our landlord had a working English vocabulary of about 400-500 words, and it is amazing how much information you can communicate with that many words. Frau Fuchs didn’t speak a word of English, but over time we were able to talk with her in halting sentences. Frau Roch confessed that even she had a hard time talking to Frau Fuchs because of her old-fashioned accent. While I never became perfectly fluent in German, I got good enough to travel about, and I didn’t have problems buying items in the stores. People even stopped me to ask for directions, and assuming I knew where the place was, I was happy to direct them. My main limitation to learning better German came from spending most of my time in my own English-speaking enclave. High school was all in English, my family and friends all spoke English with each other, and my job was in English. But notwithstanding all that, I made a good attempt at learning the language of the land.

I spent only two years in Mexico, but my Spanish became much better than my German ever did, even with the extra year living in Germany. Since I didn’t live in a little English-speaking enclave, I had to learn Spanish as fast as I could just to be understood. It took much study and practice, but I became very fluent in Spanish. I remember visiting a cement tile factory and talking with the head craftsman there. He thought that I, with my blond hair, was a native-speaking albino rather than an American gringo. I knew I was really speaking Spanish well when the people stopped noting how good my Spanish was and just talked with me. At one point I was so immersed in Spanish that speaking English became very difficult. I had to really think hard to speak in English with the occasional Americans I encountered, or I would just lapse back into Spanish.

If I had to depend on people speaking English to me while I lived in Mexico, I couldn’t have traveled through the northern states as I did. I would have been stuck at home with books and whatever English TV or radio I could find. My opportunities would have been very limited, and I probably would have been frustrated to tears being stuck in my little area. It was very hard work for me to learn Spanish, but the effort was well worth the time and the struggle. And since I was the minority in the country, it was up to me to learn the people’s language.

I don’t care where you emigrated from; now that you are here in the United States, the first thing you should do is learn English. It’s the best thing you can do for your own future and for the future of your children.

Our whole society runs on trust. We trust the light will come on when we flip the switch. We trust the bus will pick us up when we are waiting at the stop. We trust the surgeon will do his best when he has his hands deep in our body. We trust that pilots are alert and have been properly trained to fly the airplanes.

We trust the restaurant to fix our food right. We trust that the fried chicken we buy from McDonald’s will arrive chicken head-free. We also trust that the people going to the restaurant won’t stick a home-fried chicken head in the food and claim that they found it there. In the case of Katherine Ortega and the so-called “McNoggin,” the jury is still out whether the head she found was actually cooked by McDonald’s or brought in by Ortega. At the time, Ortega threatened to sue, but no further news has come from this.

Sometimes people will violate our trust. In March of this year, Anna Ayala claimed she found a human finger in her bowl of chili at Wendy’s, but no one at Wendy’s turned up as a good Frodo lookalike with nine fingers. Wendy’s has offered a reward of $100,000 for information about this case, but the damage has already been done to Wendy’s bottom line as sales dropped. In late April, Ayala was arrested for attempted grand larceny pertaining to the Wendy’s case. It also seems she has a history of suing food companies. While we don’t know all the facts in this case yet, since it hasn’t gone to trial, I’m pretty confident we will discover that Ayala planted the finger in the chili.

If this turns out to be the case, how much will Ayala be trusted in the future? When you cry wolf too many times, people will stop believing what you say. When a President shakes his finger in America’s collective face and lies to them, claiming he didn’t have sexual relations with “that woman,” he proves himself untrustworthy. And when a person has become untrustworthy, how can we believe or trust anything else that he says? In the case of a boy I know, nearly everything he ever said to me was a lie. He lied when he didn’t have to do so, and he lied when he knew that I knew he was lying. And yet he’d keep on lying.

Like almost everyone, I have had my trust broken at times, and it has affected how I trust others. I refuse to rent movies from Blockbuster Video because a simple business trust was broken. And I don’t see the need to spend money at a business I can no longer trust. Do you?

I find that I start out initially trusting people, but as I find they are not very trustworthy, my trust in them will decrease. Have you ever worked with someone who promises he’ll have that time-critical business report done and on your desk the very next day, only to walk into your office the next morning and realize that he never finished it? What do you do when someone has violated your trust and proved himself to be untrustworthy? While he is untrustworthy, I obviously can’t trust him at all, so it means having to make back-up plans to cover his empty promises. If he is assigned to bring the soda to a picnic, I need to have some chilled two-liter pop bottles in the trunk of my car, ready to bring out and keep his failure from ruining the picnic for everyone else. At what point does he realize that he no longer needs to be responsible, if he knows that other people are around who will step up and cover things for him? Does this lead to him being even more untrustworthy?

If someone has violated your trust, is it possible for that person to earn it back again? My faith tells me that I am to forgive, and I do believe in forgiveness. In the case of Blockbuster, I no longer harbor them any ill will, and thinking about what happened doesn’t make me angry any more. I have done what I can on my side to put that behind me, but I still don’t do business with Blockbuster because they have done nothing to earn back my trust. Having been bitten by them once, I won’t put myself in a position to be bitten again while things promise to be the same. I prefer to pretty much leave them alone, and that’s why I go to Hollywood Video. If Blockbuster buys out Hollywood Video, I’ll go to NetFlix.

But Captain Midnight, it’s not forgiveness if you won’t do business with them again!

You can think that if you wish, and depending on how you define forgiveness, you might be right. But forgiving the person who stole my car doesn’t mean I need to park my car in his driveway with the keys in the ignition.

So then how do people actually earn back your trust?

Now that’s a very good question! A person can earn my trust by being trustworthy. The catch is that there may not be an opportunity to be trustworthy if he isn’t being trusted. When people wrong me, I will do my best to forgive them, but that is all on my side. If Hypothetical Harold steals my car, I will forgive him over time. But for me to trust Harold again, he will have to come to me and show that he has changed his ways. Harold will have to show himself to be trustworthy in small things, and gradually earn his way back into a position of trust again. In a situation like this, I may even be willing to loan Harold my car.

I was once treated very poorly by Qwest. When I complained about the piss-poor customer service, I received an official apology from the head of customer service and things were done to make the situation better. Qwest worked to earn back my trust, and I stuck with them for two more years until I moved. I would be using Qwest DSL right now if it were available in this area. Because they made the effort to earn back my trust, I placed them in a position of trust again, and they proved trustworthy. Because Blockbuster did nothing to earn back my trust, I have not placed them in a position of trust again.

Up to now, all of this has been about trusting other people. But if I have been the one to break someone else’s trust, what is it that I must do? There are three things to do: first, apologize to the person(s) I have failed; second, replace or undo the damage I have done, basically cleaning up my mess; and third, prove myself to be completely trustworthy from then on.

That’s the only way I can hope to earn and re-earn the trust of others.

Addendum (9/9/2005): The Wendy’s finger couple have pleaded guilty to sticking a human finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili and claiming they had found it there. Anna Ayala and Jaime Placencia now face 10-13 years behind bars for their false claim and attempted grand theft.