Better Than Nothing

By Nathan Payne | pablosmoglives | 20 Dec 2023

"They came in with green vests and goat horns.  They blasted everyone."
Survivor of the Salvatierra Massacre


On the night I moved into my apartment on 18th and Racine in Chicago in 1999, I was shaken down by the Latin Kings.  A stoned, drunken gangbanger walked into the apartment and asked to use the bathroom.  I was paralyzed with indecision, if not quite fear.  Obviously, I wasn't not going to let him any farther in the door than he was already standing, but how to get rid of him was a mystery.

Fortunately, God had an angel on the scene.  I had an upright piano at the time, and had hired 4 guys to help me move it.  One of them was an angel.  He walked over to the gangbanger and started preaching to him, telling him that Jesus loves him and he didn't have to live his life like this anymore.  The gangster was frozen on the spot.  Whatever demons were driving him had been rendered powerless.  He turned around and walked back into the street.  I never had any problems of that kind in that place ever again, even though I was still a long, long way from repentance.  You can read the story in more detail in the article This is a House of Warship, if you're interested.


Something similar happened this weekend at a private party north of Salvatierra, Guanajuato.  Apparently, there was a disagreement between the organizers of the event and some drunken gate crashers.  Instead of respecting the private gathering, the demons of rejection took over.  Decked out in green vests and goat horns, proclaiming their intention to kill everyone, the demoniacs returned with their own private assassination squad and opened fire on the gathering.  A dozen people were slaughtered, including a former beauty queen, and a musician.  Eleven people are still in the hospital recovering.

It's like Hamas, without the paragliders.  Is Mexico just a giant Gaza Strip, a monarchy of drugs and exploitation ruled by dick-wielding sadists for whom the wine of overbearing power is simply not enough?

An argument could probably be made.

It's important to note that I'm not writing this to flaunt my feathers in your face, to pretend I'm all hardcore because some bad things happened within a couple dozen thousand map units from where I may or may not live.  The world doesn't need any more narcissistic clout-chasers, slumming their way to fame on the backs of other people's misery.  I have no connection to the families of any of the victims, and to use this story as a way of inflating the helium balloon of my own ego to impress "the people back home," would be beyond patronizing.

I'm writing this to remind us all that we never know when our time may come, and to appreciate what- and whomever God has blessed us with, while we still can.  The Christmas season at least as much as any other time, since it tends to be the most difficult for people who are abandoned and alone.  Maybe you don't have any friends, no family, and if it wasn't for the crow you were nursing back to health, you wouldn't bother to get out of bed in the morning.  Or get up off the sidewalk, where you still haven't frozen to death in spite of your best efforts, as the case may be.

Cuz who knows when the gangster viper squad will come a-knockin'.  Maybe at your wedding rehearsal, or while you're moving a piano.  Maybe it will hit you head-on while you're driving your son home from the pet store.  If you survive the encounter, chances are you'll never be the same.

I'm talking to myself, y'know.  I am grateful for whatever's left of whatever it is I used to have, even if I have taken it for granted on occasion.  I'm going to have a good Christmas this year, I can already tell.  I'm going to have a good Christmas this year because I'm already grateful for what I haven't lost, for what's still here, knowing that I will see those who have gone on ahead of me soon enough.

Very soon, I'm inclined to think.  God's timing though, not mine.  It wasn't my time in 1999.  If it had been, not only would I have most likely gone to hell, but my mother who is in Heaven right now, would perhaps not have made it.  It took another 20+ years for us to find repentance.  I want to tell this D.U.I. survivor that his son is definitely in Heaven, and if he hadn't been taken earlier than is naturally capable of being accepted or understood, perhaps none of them would be saved.  It's harsh.  Beyond belief.  I'm not sure I'm qualified to say it to his face.  But, as bad as it is, it's better than hell.  It's hard to know when to show somebody Isaiah 57:1.  I think it's usually best to just throw it out there, so that whoever needs to see it, can find it on their own.  But it applies to this guy, for sure.

It's easy to curse the evildoers and say, "the hell with the Latin Kings, the drunk driver who ruined my life, the weird, narcissistic abusers, or the Mexican Hamas."  And, of course, it's okay if you do.  Because you will.  But once you're over that initial hump, do your best to let them go.  I'm not going to judge you if you don't get an A+ on that exam.  But do your best.  They've already cursed themselves to hell.  Their curse is eternal.  There's no way to add to it.  Look around this Christmas, and instead of seeing the vacuum, all the things that have been stolen or taken, the beloved family and friends you no longer have,

Look at the one thing you do have, and be grateful for that.  Even if it's nothing.

Being grateful for nothing is better than nothing.

Merry Christmas, if I don't talk to you sooner.

God bless, and thanks for listening.

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Nathan Payne
Nathan Payne

I am a songwriter and bandleader who travels the world in search of the golden ticket.


Replacing my blog at

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