Wants vs Needs

Recently, a friend told me a story about a good deed by his Sunday school class in Shreveport and it got me to thinking.

I’ll get back to this shortly.

I have so many funny stories from working at Kroger Pharmacy.

Young Fulla at Kroger

Young Fulla at Kroger

A lady once asked for “Soybean Jr.” That’s called Absorbine Jr. to you and me.

One Christmas, a lady asked me where the ointments were. After taking her to the ointment section, she sighed and said, “No, your Christmas ointments.”

I’ll never forget one particular day when the power went out. Whenever this happened, we had to lock the doors to the store. One gentleman, wearing an Alabama hat, almost walked through the automatic door when it did not open. He then failed about three times in his attempt to open the door. Finally, he aggressively knocked on the door like he was running from a serial killer.

I mouthed to him through the window that the power was out. He looked confused (remember the hat) so I opened the door and told him the power was out and we couldn’t let anyone in. He then proceeded to ask me, “When’s it gonna come back on?”

“A quarter after nine,” I said. We closed at nine.

I love this and so many other stories involving odd customers; however, not every story makes me smile.

One day, a guy threw a six-pack of beer on the counter along with just enough money to pay for it. He also laid a bottle of Kroger brand baby aspirin up there. Before ringing up either, he asked me if he could borrow (have) a couple of bucks to pay for the baby aspirin. I inquired about the beer and his reply has stuck with me for nearly a quarter of a century.

“Oh, I have enough money for the beer. I need money for the baby aspirin,” he said without blinking an eye.

So that brings me back to my friend’s friend from his church in Shreveport…

She was down on her luck and asked members of her Sunday school class to help her out with her monthly bills. Without hesitation, they helped their sister in need.

Two weeks later, she posted pictures on her Facebook page of her soaking up the sun on the beautiful shores of Panama City Beach, Florida.

Last year, Amanda Clayton, a Michigan resident, won the lottery. She was, however, receiving food stamps and other welfare benefits at the time, which created a national outrage among many.

I include myself among the many.

Ms. Clayton had enough disposable income to play the lottery, yet needed help from the American taxpayer to make ends meet.

My friend’s friend from church had enough money to go to the beach 580 miles from home, yet needed her friends from church to help her pay the bills.

The guy at Kroger had enough money for the beer but not enough to purchase the aspirin for his sick child.

All good hearted people want to help those who are truly in need. It’s the decent thing to do. The problem is that many, not all but many, of those who are down on their luck have enough money to make ends meet but choose to spend it on their wants and not their needs. Prioritizing does not seem to factor into the equation.

I’ve been poor through much of my life, so I know what it’s like to struggle.

There were times in my life that I was so broke that I considered Hamburger Helper to be a delicacy; a delicacy that lasted a few days.

One time, I was a couple of months late on my phone bill, so it had been disconnected. I went to pay the bill but after handing the clerk the check, she informed me that the phone had not been cut off; they were doing some work on the line. Naturally, I asked for my check back.

It was cut off a week later.

So, I know what it’s like to be broke, and I know what it’s like to go without.

I quickly learned the difference between wants and needs. I learned to prioritize.

Tough times build character; asking for handouts from good-hearted people does not.

Just imagine how much more efficient we could be in helping the needy if some of these folks could simply remove their head from their 4th point of contact. If you don’t know what that means, Google it.

For the record, I let the guy at Kroger have the money (have, not borrow, because no Kroger borrower ever paid me back a dime.) Kids shouldn’t have to pay for the sins of the father. Besides, it was only a couple of bucks.

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

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The Teacher that Changed my Life…Forever

This week was Teacher Appreciation Week, so I want to share a story about the teacher who had the biggest impact on my life.

In the first grade, my bus was late on the very first day of school, so I got to class late.

1st grade

1st grade

The education of Jody Fuller was not off to a good start.

In the second grade, I played hooky for seven straight days. The nurse called my mother to ask if I was ok, and I was just fine when the nurse called; however, when my mother had to leave work to come home to get me, well, I was no longer fine.

I have three tours in Iraq and I am fine but I still get flashbacks from the beatdown I got that day.

I remember standing in the hallway at Jeter Primary telling Mrs. Floyd how sorry I was for skipping school. We were both crying. It would not be the last time I cried with a teacher.

I was runner-up in the spelling bee in the fifth grade at Pepperell. I misspelled the word goalie. I’ll never forget that. At the time, neither hockey nor soccer was big in Alabama, so I was clueless. My friend Adam was crowned the spelling bee champion by spelling the word goldbrick.

I never really enjoyed school the way I should have. In fact, I always missed the maximum number of days but somehow managed to maintain decent grades up until my sophomore year.

When I tried, I did fairly well. If I remember correctly, I had a 3.2 GPA going into my junior year. Unfortunately, the older I got, the less I tried. I was more concerned with having fun and doing whatever I could do to make people laugh.

My GPA dropped faster than Manti Te’o’s draft stock after the revelation of his fake girlfriend.

I had Mrs. Mount my sophomore year for biology and again my junior year for anatomy and physiology. She was such a great teacher. One quarter in biology, I had the second highest grade in the class. It was just one quarter but still…

I had so much respect for her that I still performed satisfactorily in her class my junior year.

During my senior year, I took chemistry. I never did grasp it and never learned the periodic table of elements. I knew salt and potassium but that was about it.

Class of 90

Class of 90

When final exams came around, I rolled up into class with a number 2 pencil and a pillow. I quickly filled out my Scantron form with the number 2 pencil by spelling out the words A BAD BAD CAB DAD three or four times before turning it in.

I thought I was cool. In hindsight, I was an idiot.

I then laid my head down on the aforementioned pillow. The plan was to sleep for the next couple of hours.
At least that was the plan but those plans quickly changed when Mrs. Mount entered the room by happenstance.

In the Army, we call that a FRAGO.

She noticed that all the other students were deeply engaged with their final exams while I was deeply engaged in dreamland.

After a quick chat with my teacher, Mrs. Mount snapped her fingers and instructed me to come with her. She walked me back to her classroom and then into her office in the back of the room. At least, I think it was an office.

She lit into me but did so in a caring and concerned manner. I told her I wasn’t overly concerned with school because I planned on staying with Kroger after high school or getting on at one of the local plants.

All those local plants are now closed. All of them.

She told me how smart I was and that I would be wasting so much potential if I followed through with that lackluster plan. She encouraged me to go to college and to chase my dreams.

Before it was over, we were both crying like we’d just watched a marathon of Little House on the Prairie.

I’ll never forget that day.

She didn’t have to do that. Technically, she wasn’t one of my teachers that year, but once a teacher, always a teacher.

I attended Opelika City Schools all the way through and was very fortunate to have been taught by so many wonderful and caring teachers. Dr. Hannah, Mrs. Davis, and Mrs. Leonard are three that immediately come to mind but there can only be one favorite and that was Mrs. Mount. More importantly, she was the most influential.

I did go on to graduate college and I continue to chase my dreams.

College graduation with wonderful and supportive friends (from L-R...Adrian, Eloy, me, Dr. Curry, Brad, Shea)

College graduation with wonderful and supportive friends (from L-R…Adrian, Eloy, me, Dr. Curry, Brad, Shea)

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I guess I’ll have to change that online security question.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week to all the educators out there. Thank you for what you have done and for what you will continue to do. You are making a difference each and every day.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

Life isn’t Burger King…You don’t always get it your way.

When I was in junior high school, all my buddies had name brand BMX bicycles such as Haro, Mongoose, and Diamond Back. Many of these were purchased at The Bike Shop in Auburn.

I wanted nothing more than to get one of those “high dolla” bikes for Christmas.

When I walked into the living room on Christmas morning of 1984 and saw a red dirt bike from Sears next to the tree, I was less than enthused.

I was a good kid and deserved better, or so I thought.

I remember removing every Sears and Roebuck sticker I could find from the bicycle itself.

When school reconvened in early January, I proudly rode my bike to school and chained it up at the bike rack. I recall telling my buddies that it came from The Bike Shop in Auburn.

One of my more snobby acquaintances decided to inspect my ride, and in doing so, found an isolated Sears sticker that had somehow eluded me. I played it off and told them it indeed came from The Bike Shop, the bike shop at Sears in Auburn.

That dude moved a year or so later. No one liked him anyway.

Sometimes, we simply do not get what we want and that is a part of life. Life is not always fair. We have to adapt and overcome, which is oftentimes easier said than done.

A few weeks ago, I was passed over at my first look at being promoted to Major in the Alabama National Guard.

I'll have put this patrol cap away for another year...

I’ll have to put this patrol cap away for another year…

We’ve all had that feeling of getting kicked in the gut. Well, I felt as if I was kicked in my gut, head, shin, and hind side, followed by multiple slaps to the face and another kick to the gut.

I won’t go into detail because the last thing I want to do is burn any bridges. I’ve never been a bridge burner, but I always keep a can of kerosene in my garage just in case I need to do so at some point in the future.

During the War on Terror, our military was promoting soldiers, officer and enlisted, at unprecedented rates. In the National Guard, there were two officer promotion boards a year, but that was scaled back to just one a couple of years ago.

Unlike the Active and Reserve components of the US Army, there are only so many slots within the ranks of a state’s guard.

There were approximately 50 of us vying for less than a dozen of those slots, and I know that those selected were highly qualified and deserving.

Be that as it may, I’ll put my qualifications up against any of them. I was not a happy camper.

It appeared to me that most of those selected were able to do more push-ups and sit ups than me. They could run faster, too. Yes, that’s what I look for in a leader. Too bad there’s not a sarcasm font.

I contemplated transferring to the Reserves or to the Georgia National Guard. In a brief lapse of sanity, I even contemplated getting out. I didn’t feel they deserved me.

I speak to thousands of people a year and often talk about the great honor of serving in the Alabama National Guard. It doesn’t take a marketing major to see this as great marketing for the guard. By the way, I did major in marketing in college.

I was upset, disappointed, frustrated and hurt.

During many of my speeches, I harp on adapting to and overcoming the challenges we all face in life.

Many of us are very good at giving solid, sound advice to others but sometimes find it difficult to apply that advice to our own lives.

In the past couple of weeks, I have spoken to several high ranking officers, active and retired, who were also passed over at some point in their career but went on to get picked up at subsequent boards.

As we say in the Army, “This isn’t Burger King, so you don’t always get it your way.”

No matter how hard we work and no matter how deserving we may think we are, we don’t and won’t always get our way, but that doesn’t mean we should quit or give up. It means we keep fighting; we keep doing the right thing.

When Uniroyal was hiring in the late nineties, I put in my application. I was incredibly disappointed when they never called, but I didn’t give up on life because of that setback. I continued to work at Kroger and continued to go to school.

A few years later, Uniroyal was closed, while I was a college graduate and an officer in the United States Army.

I often thank God for unanswered prayers.

I’m not planning on leaving the Alabama National Guard anytime soon, because I take no greater pride than wearing our nation’s uniform and will continue to do so for the next three years, eight months, and nine days. But, who’s counting….

PS. Thank you for the bike, mama. I know how hard you worked to pay for it, and I can’t thank you enough.

UPDATE: Two months after writing this, I was picked up for Major by the Department of the Army, which opens the door to many opportunities, but for now, I’ll remain a Captain in the National Guard.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.

The Power of Prayer…a Soldier’s Journey

The Power of Prayer…a Soldier’s Journey

In honor of this National Day of Prayer, I’d like to share with you the Power of Prayer.

I graduated from college in August 2001. A month later, the tragic events of 9/11 unfolded and changed my life forever.

Before attending college, I was an enlisted man in the Army. In the wake of such a catastrophic event, I felt the need to serve once again; however, that didn’t happen right away.

Foolishly, I’d quit my job at Kroger six months prior to graduation with the rationale that I’d have no trouble finding employment upon graduation. In fact, I anticipated having a job prior to graduation. Both were miscalculations on my part.

I’d saved enough money to make ends meet as long as no monkey wrenches entered the equation. Unfortunately, the monkey wrenches kicked in the door and brought baboon hammers with them.

To say times were tough is like saying Harvey Updyke likes Alabama.

I experienced everything from an eviction to a blown transmission to harassing phone calls from bill collectors to strained relationships with loved ones. If it was negative, there’s a good chance I experienced it.

My credit got so bad that I got turned down for a paper route. Times were tough.

Along this dark journey, I’d often find myself in prayer, simply asking the Lord to help me make it. At the time, I thought it meant I was asking Him to absolve me of the challenges in my life. In hindsight, He did exactly what I asked of Him. One day at a time, He helped me make it.

I reported to Officer Candidate School (OCS) at Fort Benning, Georgia, on September 11, 2002.

OCS

As my luck would have it, I was assigned to Alpha Company, notoriously known as “Alphatraz”, for a grueling 14 weeks of training.

I’m not exactly sure when, where, or how but sometime early on I injured my right knee. What initially began as mild discomfort would eventually become unbearably excruciating pain.

I was hesitant about going on sick call, because an extended profile, which restricts physical activity, would cause me to miss training and to likely be recycled to another company.

The culminating event of this ordeal took place in the wee hours of a chilly Fort Benning morning as we started what was to be a relatively short road march fully equipped with ruck sacks and training weapons known as rubber ducks.

Within a matter of minutes, I was using the rubber duck as a crutch as tears streamed down my face. I was forced to abandon the march and take refuge in the truck that was following our formation.

Make no mistake about it; the pain was immense but the tears had more to do with the trials and tribulations I’d experienced over the past year coming to a head combined with a real sense of hopelessness.

By the time I got to sick call that morning, my knee was about three times its normal size. I was given an initial 10-day profile and would indeed be recycled. I was devastated.

I prayed that night. I mean, I really prayed. I felt connected in a way in which I have only experienced on one other occasion. Perhaps one day, I’ll share that story.

As usual, the lights were abruptly turned on the next morning at “o dark 30.” Upon first call each day, we had only five minutes to be standing outside in formation ready to start the day.

As I readied myself to jump down from the top bunk, I grimaced while anticipating the agonizing pain that would soon follow, but much to my surprise, I stuck that landing like Mary Lou Retton at the ’84 Summer Olympics in LA. There was no pain. Zero. Nil. Nothing. The swelling had disappeared, too.

I was astonished by what appeared to be a miraculous healing but wasn’t completely convinced so I maintained my profile for the remainder of that day.

The next day, however, I returned to sick call and convinced the doctor to rescind my profile. Although there were other speed bumps along the way, none of them involved a bum knee.

I went on to graduate from Officer Candidate School and was sworn in as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army on January 10, 2003.

The pinning ceremony with my mother and my "grandpa."

The pinning ceremony with my mother and my “grandpa.”

I can’t believe it’s been 10 years.

The day I raised my right hand and stated the oath of office is undoubtedly the proudest moment of my life, and without blinking an eye, I can say that it never would have happened without the power of prayer.

The power of prayer got me to and through OCS and has allowed me to serve admirably as a commissioned officer for the past decade, which includes three tours of duty in Iraq.

Prayer fuels me daily and is a whole lot cheaper than that stuff you pump into your vehicle.

Without it, I hate to think where I’d be.

Jody Fuller is a comic, a speaker, and a soldier. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit http://www.jodyfuller.com.