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Essays on Wisdom and Avoiding the Pitfalls in Life
Real stories from those who have walked the path before you.  Get clued in on what can go wrong!


I invite the general public to submit short to medium sized essays on their personal life experiences about something that happened to you which may have resulted in a very bad outcome.  You may have done something that resulted in a permanent injury or disability, a disease, lost something you loved, or realized that if you had to do it over again, you certainly would "never do that again!"  These essays can be anonymous or they can have your name attached as the original author.

My intention is to provide a source of information to anyone interested in avoiding real pitfalls in life.

Often in my life, I have said to myself (and others), "if only someone had warned me".  Now you can be that someone with a real-life personal experience who cautions the readers to avoid the negative experience or outcome that became your reality.  I will be taking your stories/essays from now up through this summer.  Please submit them via email to me at:
Please write, "Wisdom Essay" in the subject line and advise me as to whether I may use your name as the original author or if you prefer the essay to be posted here anonymously.  Let us hope that your essay may serve to help someone else avoid going through what you went through.


There is no agony like
bearing an untold story inside of you.

~Maya Angelou ~

I don't want to live in the kind of world where we don't look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody that needs a helping hand.  I can't change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit.   ~ Charles de Lint

You have not lived today
until you have done something for someone
who can never repay you.

~ John Bunyan ~

The story behind my poem (below), "Bakery Beggar"

      Quite some time ago, I owned a very successful bakery in downtown Philadelphia.  The store was open only during the day but we worked around the clock.  Often, I would work the night shift which sharply contrasted in just about every way imaginable from daytime work.  Night time was for production and the working environment was often very warm with the ovens on and no air conditioning.  The only relief was to keep the exhaust fans going and keep the back metal door opened but the wooden screen door closed (and mostly locked but not always).

      Downtown Philly was a haven for homeless people wandering the streets at night and often they would come to the back screen door and just stand there peering into the work area where we were all hard at work making cakes and pastries.  One of the work areas was not but three feet from the back door. Of course we knew what they were there handouts!  But many times, no one wanted to stop what they were doing to find some leftovers to hand out and so the homeless would just stand there peering and leering in at us. There were those that would start ranting and often it would be gibberish.  At this point, we could stand it no longer and handed out some pastries to make them go away.  The entire bizarre scenario prompted me to write this poem about it.

Bakery Beggar
© 2000 by Andrew Christen

Once upon a night so dreary,
while I wrote this poem leery,
Hoping you would find it eerie, from my soul
this poem did outpour.
Nothing further seemed to matter, not a cake mix
nor a batter.
Only sounds of keyboard patter, inspired by
the words of Poe’s forgotten lore.
Inspired by this long forgotten lore.
Only this and nothing more.

In a flash, I heard a swearing,
deep in  shadow someone staring,
Wafting pungent odors airing, blowing on a breeze
of germ and spore.
Someone who with hunger hurting, with demonic
eyes alerting,
Stood a man who’s now diverting, every crumb
of my attention to the open door.
A somber figure stood where no one stood before,
Cloaked in grimy rags and nothing more.
.…Cursing in a way one can’t ignore.

In this moment I was fearing, that he
could be standing peering, posted stuck
And persevering, like a scary specter
rearing up the dread within my core.
In the murky midnight hour, reeks this
man who needs a shower, dumpster diving,
Caked in flour, rants before me,
just outside my bakery door,
With a need that wasn’t needed just before.
Was it only this or something more?

Was this beggar seeking haven, with grizzled
form and face unshaven,
Wearing almost what God gave him, dying
to get in my bakery door?
Or could it be he only wanted, food from
haunts he often haunted,
Walking in the night undaunted, roaming through
the city store to store?
I wanted him to leave my bakery door.
I needed this and nothing more.

Quickly I must force decision, for within
My line of vision, stood a man
I could envision, shoving
every cake creation to the floor.
Wanted he some food for eating, so that
death he would be cheating.
Wanted I, this moment fleeting, motivated by
a stench that I abhor!
I know his kind, because I’ve seen his kind before.
It was only this and nothing more.
Only food he needed nothing more.

Here Lies Common Sense
© 2009 by Andrew Christen

 “Fear” and “Doubt” were born with the ancients of men,
Who planted their seeds with the strokes of their pen.
Weaving their tales with great passion and tears,
Which passed between minds for thousands of years.

“Fear” is emotion that’s gripping and cold
And “Doubt” is a seed that, on touch, can take hold.
Powerful magic that mystics know well,
Which trigger blind “Faith” when they cast their spell.

 Not on Olympus nor Zion nor Valhalla in Sweden,
“Faith” got its start in a Garden of Eden.
“Common Sense” was stubborn when asked to believe
That God needed Adam and a snake talked to Eve.

 Now “Judgment” had needed a friend who’s not blind,
When he sought to improve on the presumptuous mind.
A call went out and someone responded,
“Common Sense” was that friend with whom he had bonded.

 “Common Sense” offered up all his “Logic” and “Reason”
And made “Judgment” bloom; like the birth of a season.
Would a true maker lie? Would he know in advance,
That he loaded the odds and to Eve gave no chance?

 Seems there’s always a foe who will strike unexpected,
With those seeds of “Doubt”, “Common Sense” got infected.
“Faith” has that way with its glassy-eyed trance;
To stop “Common Sense” with only a glance.

 Yet up to the pulpit stepped our friend “Common Sense”
Whose fervor of spirit gave a stirring defense,
In harmony with nature, and totally composed,
Watched hopelessly silent as “Faith’s” eyelids shut closed.

 With a need to prevail and always the sleuth,
“Common Sense” found his way to the genuine truth!
But “Faith” was the one who was richly empowered.
While “Logic” and “Reason” were slowly devoured.

 With our “Faith” we are happy the churchgoers said,
And we’ll offer you rapture till you wish you were dead.
With unknowable’s known, and unseeable’s seen
“Faith” buried our friend like a paving machine.

So today mourns the passing of our friend “Common Sense”,
With his heart impaled on a Biblical fence.
A lucid debater with reasoning of sound,
Was found out-of-place on divine holy ground.


My Car Buying Experience

This may not be exactly what you are looking for but it does teach a lesson that others may want to be aware of.

I owned a business and went into a car dealership to look for a new delivery vehicle (mini-van). Finding one that I liked, I asked about the price and thought it was too high. The salesman went back to the manager and came back with a new price which was more in line with what I had in mind. I still was not totally convinced and I said I would come back later because it was getting late. Obviously the salesman did not want me to leave and said that the price would probably be higher if I came back another time but if I would sign an agreement now saying that I would agree to buy this car with these options, etc. and at this price, I could come back and still get it at that price. At first, I did not agree to sign it but after a lot of back and forth, I said okay. After all, I did want the car and the price was right.

So I signed it and came back in a couple days to make the purchase. I was stunned when, after walking in to actually buy the car, the salesman said that they would not honor the agreement that I signed. I asked him, why not, and he would not tell me. We bickered back and forth for over two hours and I even threatened to take them to court for not honoring their own agreement. The frustration was building in me because I couldn't understand why they didn't want to honor the price they told me a few days ago.

Finally, after they could obviously see how angry I was getting, the salesman told me why they would not honor it. It was not the reason I expected. He told me it was because I signed it but THEY didn't sign it. I should have walked out at that point but, by now, I had invested literally 4 hours of my time on this issue including both days. I believe that they were "playing" me but, in spite of that, I really wanted the car and didn't want to waste any more time at another dealer.

The end result was that I did buy the car with some extra options (floor mats and undercoating, etc.) for a few hundred extra but the whole experience soured me on buying cars from dealerships for the rest of my life. Many of them are dishonest. The lesson here is that if you do decide to sign an agreement with a business, any business, make sure that they sign it as well. Otherwise, you are just wasting your time.

I know that there are other less than stellar techniques that dealerships use to get you to buy a car. I've heard of one that kept the keys to your car while you went out on a test drive, and would not give you the keys back to let you leave without making a deal. One friend of mine who told me this story had to actually call the cops to get his keys back. Obviously not all car dealers are this bad so no names were mentioned and you have to do your homework before you decide to visit one. Good luck!


Tax Season Scam

Beware of this tax-season scam. For years, unsuspecting taxpayers have lost millions of dollars to scammers who pose as IRS agents to steal their hard-earned money. The scheme goes like this: The IRS imposter calls claiming you owe taxes and demands your immediate payment by prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Refuse and you're threatened with arrest. Here's what you need to know. The IRS does NOT:

  • Call to demand immediate payment for taxes owed

  • Ask for debit or credit card numbers over the phone

  • Threaten to send local police or other law enforcement to arrest you for nonpayment!

     One fraud that combines the fake sheriff and the IRS scams is when a call comes in claiming to be a sheriff claiming that the family member (many times it's a grandchild) has been arrested and they need you to buy 'X' amount of gift cards as bail for the relative in jail.  They want you to do this and when they call you back, you are to give them the numbers off of the gift cards so they can use the money for the bail.
     I used to work in a call center that took customer service calls for credit unions.  We got way too many calls from credit union customers that fell for this and wanted us to help credit the money back to their accounts and/or file a fraud case over the transaction/s.
     The problem is:
1) You will NOT get that money back, no matter what you do.  It's gone!
2) Unfortunately this is NOT FRAUD!  At least as the customer/victim thinks it is.  The customer made the purchase him/herself, the criminal didn't.  You cannot file a fraud case on a purchase that YOU performed yourself, and that is another terrible facet to this crime.  The criminal knows that they are using the victim in this way.
     It's very sad that this happens and that there are no laws to help get the money back.  The best thing I can personally think of to help curb this, would be for companies to create, and make mandatory, that their employees are trained to question customers when they are attempting to purchase large dollar amounts of gift cards.  If the companies are afraid of allowing this, then put visible signage with large print stating that such purchases will be questioned and the reasons why.
     Also, if the customer still wishes to continue with the purchase, then they should sign a relinquishment of liability if the cards are involved in a criminal act.