By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City Paper, 7/2018
“When I close my eyes, so I would not see / My Lord did trouble me / When I let things stand that should not be / My Lord did trouble me / Did trouble me / With a word or a sign / With a ring of a bell in the back of my mind / Did trouble me / Did stir my soul / For to make me human, to make me whole”
– “Did Trouble Me,” by Tom Jones
For the six years I worked in Boston, I encountered many homeless people.
The City of Boston is one of my favorite photographic subjects. This past week with a few welcome vacation days and the forecast of (finally!) blue skies and 60 degree temps, I made my plans to spend two days taking my walking tour of Boston, photographing what found me along the way. These are “Bobby” days, I go alone, I leave the smart phone in the car, I walk at a brisk clip, and it’s my time to decompress, unplug from the computer and World Wide Web, connect with humanity without a screen, and recharge my batteries.
by Robert Gillis Published in the Boston City Paper, 3/2018
While Op-Ed pieces are by their very definition a personal opinion, I hope you will indulge this oddly self-serving personal piece from me.
Recently I have been doing some soul searching (as part of one of my countless mid-life course corrections). When you reach my age (ahem, mid-twenties, give or take) you realize that your TIME is precious. I’ve been bouncing around the idea in my head of what to stop doing, what to say no to, or, as advised by Henry David Thoreau, “Simplify, Simplify.”
For the last months I’ve been considering stopping the op-eds (no one suggested that but me, to myself) but I began to consider, should I stop doing it? After all, it’s been 22 years.
by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 3/2018
Sunday morning, after nearly 3 days, the electricity was restored to our street.
…And I found myself feeling contemplative.
Friday, like everyone, I was following the unfolding intensity of the predicted nor’easter. The meteorologists and newscasters had told us for days – this one was going to be big and impact the entire East Coast of the state, and the flooding would be astronomical across three high tides.
by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City Paper, 3/2018
Because some humor is desperately needed right now… Because I just CANNOT bring myself to address the tragedies and scandals facing this nation — Every. Single. Day… Because I need a break… And we all need a little distraction and absurdity, and in response to your millions of cards and letters [not so much] I once again present my SLOW NEWS DAY, RANDOM THOUGHTS!
By Robert Gillis Published in the Foxboro Reporter 1/2018
With a brief but welcome respite from the Arctic temperatures of the last two weeks, and most of the snow melted, we used Saturday morning to begin deconstructing Christmas outside the house. That was followed by catching up on some computer work.
A little after 2 o’clock, my wife called me from downstairs. The last few years both of us have become serious news viewers, so it’s not unusual for one of us to call the other about some breaking news — more often than not about the current administration and goings on in Washington, which we follow closely.
by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City Paper, 12/2017
Three stories. All of the same message.
One of my closest friends from high school – also named Bobby – has been sending me messages through Facebook to call him. All these years later were still close and he is one of my compasses in my life. He knows me well; he knows when something’s going on — even when all the Facebook posts are happy ones. He knows me well and knows what worries me, what keeps me awake at night. So I call last Friday night, and we have one of our marathon conversations as we do several times a year. Near the end, I apologize for once again turning the call into a therapy session. He laughs and reminds me that he is always encouraging me to call, that I also listen a lot, and I only talked about the things going on in my life right now for about 10 minutes before we were laughing and joking and talking about all sorts of other things for the next hour or two. Talking to him was cathartic – he knows me. He knows what’s REALLY going on at any given time. I’m grateful to have him as one of the people in the “support group” in my life.
Recently, I bumped into a friend I have not seen in some time. She is always so friendly, so kind, always smiling. Running into her was serendipity, one of those 30 seconds later and we would’ve missed each other moments, and we ended up talking for over 20 minutes and caught up on each other’s lives. And she asked me to pray for her and the people around her and told me about some of the problems they face. I had absolutely no idea. She has always been one of these people that I thought had a so-called perfect life. While I understand no one has a perfect life, I never, ever imagined what she was going through, and what her family is going through. I will be praying for her and talking to her more.
For the next few weeks, the news magazines will run pictures of vigils and lit candles. “Experts” from all sides will debate every aspect of what happened. We will get to know the children, the adults, and the shooter and his family. People from all walks of life will get into a war of words about gun control. There will be hearings, investigations.
by Robert Gillis Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper, 8/2017
Checking into FaceBook on my lunch break and I see that a few friends are going through rough times and some, just by the tone of their posts, are hurting…
And I get to thinking: Our words matter and we can make a difference.
True story, a month or so ago, a Facebook friend posted a video and explained she was actually contemplating suicide the night before — thankfully for all of us and for her, she made the calls, talked to people, reached out, realized she was not alone, got the help she needed — thank God — she is still with us and feeling better.
“For anyone who has ever loved a senior citizen, this book will touch your heart.”
“In the 1930’s, being a single mother was not only shocking, it was a challenge overcome by only the strongest of women. Anne Gillis was such a woman, and with her stubborn determination she managed to take care of her and her son’s financial needs, and went on to leave an indelible imprint on the next generation as well.
By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 8/2017
“The truly literate and involved American should be reading the local newspaper. Weekly newspapers and the internet are also vital to maintaining an educated citizenry. We must ensure that they continue to flourish because they are all important resources for maintaining a healthy democracy.” — John W. Whitehead, “Why Local Newspapers Are the Basis of Democracy,” Huffington Post, 5/14/2009
In this digital age, it is very likely you are following everything that’s going on in Washington right now.
by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper 7/2017
In June, I decided I wanted to run a column for Independence Day and started working on it two weeks out. Then, the writer’s block set in. The problem – balancing a “feel-good” piece about the celebration of our independence at a time when it seems disingenuous to be celebrating anything.
This Independence Day feels different, doesn’t it? Sure, the country changes every day — and has since the start — but the changes this past year have been dramatic, blindsiding, and seem to fly in the face of what America is SUPPOSED to be all about.
by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 6/2017
If you have lived in Foxborough for any amount of time, you are probably familiar with the Founders Day schedule. Founders Day begins at 10 AM as the first blasts of the fire engine trucks announce the start of the parade. About an hour later, the parade has made its way to Booth Field, and for the next four hours or so Foxborough-based community service organizations, churches, fraternal organizations, schools, the scouts, and all Foxborough-based groups who help make Foxborough a better place run games, contests, make incredible food, and offer fun for everyone.
by Robert Gillis Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City Paper, 4/2017
In a recent Saturday Night Live sketch, the President of the United States (played by Alec Baldwin) faces off against the three judges who stopped his executive order travel ban – in, of all places, “The People’s Court” TV show. It’s an over-the-top, silly skit, but also topical. Cecily Strong, who played the TV judge, said these words which were not only hilarious, they RESONATED:
“I want one day without a CNN alert that scares the hell out of me.”
And suddenly, a political comedy sketch became real.