Show Some Love

life can surprise you sometimes.

several days ago i was surprised.

here’s what happened…

i was on “solo duty” (watching the kids on my own) for the night, because my wife was out having some fun with her girlfriends. i thought about making dinner (for a second), then decided we should stop off somewhere to grab a quick bite (there were a few things on the schedule for the night–dinner, homework, showers, etc.). and, my students at the high school had been on my case about the fact that i hadn’t yet been to “cane’s chicken” (like in a relentless, merciless way, like there was no other place on earth to think of getting some chicken)–so, i thought we should try it out.

after picking up the kids at school–that’s where we headed, to cane’s chicken. and, after navigating the winter wasteland of the twin cities area, we made it there. as i approached, i could see that the parking lot was jammed with vehicles–including the drive-thru line, which wrapped around the entire establishment. and, of course, the drive-thru line was where i was headed. i mean, i’m on solo duty, here–got to get this show on the road–no time to go in, sit down, and have a normal-paced dinner with my children.

so, i pull into the parking lot and make my way towards the end of the drive-thru line. as i cruise in, i see a red car parked to my right, as if the driver is waiting for something, but it’s not clear what (at least not to me and at that moment); so i cruise by it (her) and we exchange a quick glance and i settle into to my spot at the end of the drive-thru line. within 2 seconds, i hear a horn blast from behind me and i look around. then, i look at my side mirror. i see the woman in the red car “flip me off” and mouth some swear words at me.

my kids are aware of the horn, but can’t see the woman who is upset — so, I tell them “the woman behind us is unhappy”¬† ūüôā

then, i sit back for a moment.

i pause and think.

i’m agitated and annoyed that she’s pissed off at me.

i consider staying in the spot.

it’s what i would’ve done in my younger, more immature days (a couple of years ago ūüėČ )

[but seriously, it is what i would’ve done before. i grew up fighting. but, over time, i’ve tried to work on that response, that reaction–pick my battles, you know. sometimes i’m successful, sometimes i’m not–sometimes i realize that i still need to work on that shit (but, that’s a whole ‘nother story for whole ‘nother time)]

regardless, it’s not what i do now. at this moment–i don’t escalate, i don’t fight.

[it’s not what i do now because a thousand traffic incidents flash through my mind in a millisecond–times where people have cut me off–and i see myself, my reaction. and, it’s exactly like hers!]

so, i tell my kids, “she’s upset because i cut her off, though i didn’t mean to.”

and then, i do something i’ve never done before. i pull out of my spot in the drive-thru line and slowly go around the entire building. i circle back to the end of the line and come to the spot right behind her.

well, the line moves forward (slowly). after some time, we finally get to the speaker box and place our order. two chicken strip meals for the kids and the “big box” for dad. as we get past the turn we can see the woman in the red car in front of us. she is at the window where you pay. the kids and i are talking a little bit and we’re happy to be getting closer to getting our food. then, i notice something. the woman in the red car is talking to a cane’s employee and gesturing back at our vehicle…it seems like they’re in conversation “about us”. i mention this to the kids and the kids are wondering (like i am) what this could be about. i’m thinking, now what, is she taking up the incident with the staff?!

eventually, she rolls forward to the “pick-up” window and i pull forward to the “pay window”. i roll down my window and reach out to hand the worker my cash for the order. as i’m halfway there, he stops me and says, “you don’t need to pay for your food, she did” (and he points to the woman in the red car in front of us). i’m incredulous-what?!

the worker and i exchange a brief rundown of the situation, then i immediately put my hand up and wave a “thank you” to the woman.

she waves back.

with all five fingers this time ūüôā

we get our food, head home, and enjoy some “really good chicken” (the high school students were right)–but, i’m fuckin’ jazzed–i can’t believe what just went down in the drive-thru line.

i know it’s such a little thing, but it’s fuel for life–it gives me hope, you know.

so, send out your love.

you never know what will come back.

Mentor Me

make the big time where you are.

-frosty westering, football coach, pacific lutheran university (1972-2003)

several months ago, i had the privilege to spend some time with some young men and women who were mentoring other young people (teenagers) through a local faith community (one of the most amazing faith communities i’ve ever had the blessing to be a part of — upper room community, minneapolis).¬† the young people they were mentoring were adolescent boys and girls.¬† for my part, i spent the majority of the time with the male leaders.¬† we talked about what it means to be a man in our world today, specifically in american society, and how to teach and guide young boys–so that, they will be great men one day.¬† it was a really great opportunity, to sit with these male mentors–to hear from them and to talk about doing life together in this way (they are a really awesome group of committed men, i can tell you–and the boys they work with are lucky have these kind of guys in their corner)!¬† as a part of the time together, we viewed the first 25 minutes of the video, tough guise 2–it’s about the challenges and struggles that men face today, the expectations and pressures imbedded in our society, and what it means to be a man in america–and what we teach all boys and men in our society.¬† what is the core message of the video? to bring awareness to mainstream society’s ‘tough guise’ posture–which teaches boys and men to never back down, to never show weakness, to be able to dole out verbal abuse at a moment’s notice, and to use violence as the “go to” for resolving just about any problem or conflict–shtuff that can be really damaging to the world at large–trust me, i teach criminal justice for a living ūüėȬ† the video is based on research done by sociologist jackson katz and it is very thought-provoking, to say the least.¬† all in all, good things to think about if you are teaching, raising, or guiding boys today.¬† especially, in a faith community, where the emphasis and importance in how you live your life can and should challenge the expectations and¬† goals of each individual–as well as the very fabric of our society--to the good!

after we watched the video clip and discussed some of the challenges of being a man in america–and being a christian man at the same time–one mentor asked…

how do we teach this stuff to the kids we mentor?

well, you’re probably doing it already.¬† by showing up every week, hanging out with a teenager, spending time talking to them, that’s huge right there…how many men do that every week?!¬†

then, i told them three things:

1. teach from what you know. in your twenty plus years of life, you’ve had experiences that can be meaningful to these young men.¬† you know the pressures and expectations that our society puts on boys and men–because you’ve lived it (at least in some way, shape, or form).¬† now, technology has changed the game.¬† because of social media and phones and instant messaging–the stakes are higher for these boys.¬† the pressure is more intense and unrelenting today.¬† kids can’t escape the shtuff that they once left behind at school (peer pressure, bullying, harrassment, etc).¬† it follows them, everywhere.¬† that makes what you’re doing every week even more important.¬† your ‘being here’ is big time.¬† and, the fact that you (a young, cool adult) are showing up in these kids’ lives every week is most likely because you know that there’s more to the story than what the world gives us, at least you hope there is.¬† so, you’re already heading in the right direction. run with that.

[teacher’s note: in my opinion, every single man in america should watch the video ‘tough guise 2’ (and read everything they can by jackson katz).¬† it gets at the core issues of how we teach some really harmful things to men in our world today, while still giving men room to think about things without thinking the worst about themselves.¬† importantly, to know that you can still be a tough, gritty man–without harming those around you.¬† from a faith perspective, a lot of what the world teaches boys and men, is pretty much the complete opposite of the life of Jesus–and in that space and tension, understanding and change is waiting to happen.]

2. don’t lie.¬† one of the quickest ways to undermine the rapport you are building, and ultimately, your own self–is to lie.¬† hard to recover from that.¬† be as honest as you can be within the bounds the experience–share as appropriate.

[teacher’s note: most kids can sense bullshit before most adults do.¬† and since we’re all human, we’ve all lied.¬† some of us are really, really good at it.¬† but, it can be really destructive.¬† so, tell the truth–as much as you can, as often as you can.

and, to be honest, some kids want to know more about you and your personal shtuff than is appropriate–just tell ’em: no comment, or that’s personal to me,¬†or some things are just for my family — because, get this, they don’t get to know some things.¬† gotta have those boundaries.¬† at the same time, honesty and directness go a long way with kids.¬† especially, when there’s already so much bullshit floating around out there in the world.]

3. spend time around men who are older than you on a regular basis.¬† older than me, too, for that matter;)¬† i’m talking grandfather types. if we’re only relying on each other, people who are our peers, then we’re in trouble.

[teacher’s note: one of the ways men get into trouble is by just relying on themselves or their friends/peer groups for guidance.¬† if we are just around other guys who…look and act like us, who are the same age us, who just have the same experiences as us–then we reinforce those same things–and some of these things aren’t at all healthy for ourselves and the world at large.¬† and, because of that, we can mislead the young men we’re working with because we ourselves have been misled.¬† unfortunately and nowadays, we often think that our peers are the best ones to lead and guide us.¬† that is wrong thinking.¬† today, we are not often enough around our elders.¬† we intentionally and deliberately abandon and sequester them away in rest homes and care centers.¬† and, in isolating them–and us–we are missing out on some of the most important generational learning and wisdom that can be passed down and exchanged.¬† honestly, these people need to be around and among us–and we need to be around and among them, regularly!]

Last, I finished off by telling them that this job doesn’t require that they are perfect, that they are doing a really good thing for these kids–and that most of what we’re talking about with ‘men in the world today’ is about awarenessso,¬†keep doing the good job you’re doing, but keep ‘what we talked about’ on the forefront of your minds as well!

Honestly, speaking with these men about this stuff was one the of the highlights of the past year.¬† Kudos to them and to the church staff for the chance to have this kind of conversation!¬† I wish communities everywhere could have these kinds of discussions–they’re big time!

*A special thanks to my friend, the Rev. Katie Sanders, for her great leadership of these mentors and for inviting me into this time and topic–thank you so much, it was an honor and a¬†privilege!!!¬†¬†How many years have we be talking about doing this?!¬† At least three?!¬† Additionally, it was a pleasure to team with my friend, Jeannette Vickman, a strong woman and professional counselor, who led the breakout time with the women (which, based on what I saw from the puffy-red eyes of the women in the crowd…was a success!;)–great to work with you!!!¬† Cheers!!!

Student Teacher

for seasoned teachers, it becomes easy to demonstrate mastery over their subject matter, answer any type of question, come up with lessons at a moment’s notice, and more…often times, their passion about the material drives their own continued curiosity about their field of study, and that is what keeps them sharp (and what inspires their students, too)…and over time, the mastery of their craft may even exceed their own wildest imaginations–to really know more than you thought you were capable of (and then) learn something new–again and again and again?! after all, it is absolutely crazy how much you can learn about one small part of the world!

at the same time, veteran teachers may find the opposite is true for their¬†emotional mastery among their students…almost as if the interpersonal and ‘soft’ skills are worn and weary–brought down to the ‘bare bones’, if present at all–and, as the intellectual expertise and curiosity grows and thrives, this other force works inversely and develops along another trajectory.¬† it moves in this way…in silence and in shadows…until it doesn’t.¬† then, it arrives, brutal and raw and visible for all to see.¬† almost as if the time and energy teaching students has robbed the teacher of understanding, compassion and patience–or, to be truthful…it’s almost as if the teacher has intentionally and willingly handed these things over, through the years…

what then, shall a teacher do?

a teacher must become, once more, a student teacher.

[with emphasis on student]

how then, shall a teacher do this?

a teacher must leave the warm comfort of what they know.

and do something unknown to them.

only when a teacher leaves the safety and security that they have built can they become a pupil again. and only then can they see, hear, and feel what it is like to be a tenderfoot, a greenhorn, a first-timer once more.¬† this is true for me (and maybe it is true for other teachers as well).¬† this is the path that i am seeking–renewed compassion, patience, and understanding.¬† and the first steps are the hardest, because the only way to go forward is to submit, to bow, to acquiesce and to admit that you know absolutely nothing.

recently, i have started taking karate classes with my children.¬† it is awesome, difficult, and very, very frustrating (at times).¬† the other day, i watched one of my instructors show me a punch–and he gestured, now you.¬† i did what he did.¬† i felt good about it.¬† for a minute.¬† until he said, that was completely wrong do it again (and again and again).¬†¬†in that moment, i was frustrated and impatient with myself and my instructor provided correction and encouragement.¬† he showed patience, compassion and understanding to a complete novice–as i fumbled along, my karate ugly, looking like a stumbling and clumsy oaf.¬† but, he stayed with me.

the process is humbling.¬† but, it can bring you back.¬† i think it’s doing just that for me–i can feel the start of it, you know…

maybe, it can stir something in you, too.

so, what will you do? what new thing awaits you on the horizon?¬† will you…

learn how to swim? paint a portrait? speak a new language? learn how to dance? write a book? take a trip? build a shelf? cook a meal? repair a watch? volunteer?

whatever it is and whenever it happens, i wish you good speed.

Another Revelation

one of the most profound observations from the book, “dark star safari” was on my mind as the 84 year-old master (sensei fusaro – 9th dan) was schooling us in karate this week. he had to sit down once or twice, but no one was bellyaching about having to work too hard or being tired or being frustrated with our inability to do what he was doing–not with that guy out there, no way! gall dang inspiring!

what all older people know, what had taken me almost sixty years to learn, is that an aged face is misleading. i did not want to be the classic bore, the reminiscing geezer, yet i now knew: the old are not as frail as you think, and they are insulted to be regarded as feeble. they are full of ideas, hidden powers, even sexual energy. don’t be fooled by the thin hair and battered features and skepticism. the older traveler knows it best: in our hearts we are youthful, and we are insulted to be treated as old men and burdens, for we have come to know that the years have made us more powerful and streetwise. years are not an affliction. old age is strength.¬†¬†

-paul theroux

A Revelation

as a teacher at an alternative high school, i regularly find myself critical–or worse, cynical of young people and the choices they make every day. but, over the last couple of months i’ve seen something that is truly astounding–young people discovering their voices and finding their true power — standing up and speaking up — for what they believe in — their right to life. it is inspiring. and, no matter your social or political leanings, you’ve got to be moved by that, you’ve got to respect that. for me, it’s been a while, if ever, since “i looked up to a teenager”–but, that’s exactly the way i feel today. good speed and carry on, youngins! cheers!

my hero

a month or so ago, i got word that eric olsen was leaving his position…as the camp pastor/director at luther heights bible camp…after 30 years!!!

in honor of his work and service, i would like to re-post this dedication to him…

Godspeed, eric!

outside of my father, there are a handful of men that have been and continue to be (in some cases) mentors to me…i consider it an honor and a privilege to have known these men…because they are…

men who have made me a better man…

iron sharpens iron, and so one man sharpens another…

one of “my guys” is affectionately known as “big e”…his real name is rev. eric olsen…and he runs luther heights bible camp in the sawtooth wilderness (in central idaho)…he’s been the camp pastor/director there for more than 25 years…i was fortunate enough to have worked closely with eric over the span of 6 summers…a short, but highly potent and influential time in my maturity…

the term “big e” is fitting because he is a big guy…nature made him that way…he’s the kind of guy who can crush boulders with his bare hands and pull fully grown pine trees out of the ground without breaking a sweat…

ever hear of paul bunyan? this guy trained paul bunyan, folks…

no, but seriously…

you won’t see him on the front cover of a magazine or hear about him on twitter…but he’s the kinda guy you should see and hear about there …because he’s a good man, a man who has dedicated his life to the service of others…and when you’re around him this is unmistakably clear…

you won’t know what he’s about by what he says, he speaks sparingly after all…

you’ll know it¬†by what he does…

by his faith…he lives it out every day…

by the way he treats people…the kindness and love he shares with his family, the staff, the campers, the supporting congregations and individuals from those churches…

by the way he works…whether balancing the books, repairing a leaky roof, rebuilding a trail, building a new cabin, recruiting and guiding staff members, raising money for the camp, navigating relationships with the forest service, or digging out the composting toilet…(yes, he’s the big boss…but, he doesn’t leave the gritty, grunt work to someone else…he doesn’t shy away from the dirty jobs…he shows up–every single day)…

working alongside big e is a lesson unto itself…if you can keep up, you can learn a lot…

so, thank you, eric…for everything…you made a difference in my life…you gave me trust, responsibility, and most of all–grace (and there was more than one time when i needed that;)…for a ‘gentle giant’…you were a powerful presence in my life and in the lives of many other people…and i know i’m better for knowing you…

cheers! peace. dett.

we go through

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song

How long to sing this song
How long to sing this song
How long, how long, how long
How long to sing this song


how did the year go???

that is probably the question i get asked most in june…by friends and family…who want to know how the past year of teaching went–and how, exactly, it measured up to past school years…

in those moments, there are usually other people around, and it’s summer, and the sun is shining, and it’s over…so, usually i don’t mind talking about it–but at that moment, i didn’t want to talk about it at all…at least not in regards to the 2016-2017 school year, anyways…

because even though it was 80+ degrees out and i was standing next to the community pool (watching my kids play without a care in the world) on a bright and sunny summer day…when a friend asked me that question…i could feel the clouds coming, i could feel the temperature dropping…

i could see the shadow again…

here’s what happened last school year…

from november to january (within 8 weeks), at my work, shit went down: multiple types of hate-motivated harassment (primarily along racial and religious lines) between students occurred, serious online bullying and harassment took place, drug abuse was rampant, one student was raped by another student, one of our principals was charged with child porn (fired and charged), and one of our teachers was shot and killed by the police.

many of these things, and more, kicked off right after the election…

then, there was a little lull, a little bit of quiet…before the next wave hit…

in the spring, four of my own students were on short-term placements at mental health facilities…for wanting to take their own lives…young people, teenagers–for whom life had become just too much…thankfully, none of the students were ever successful in their attempts…in one case, i got word from a school social worker that my student was going to be gone for several days while at a placement after attempting suicide…when he returned, i got the chance to tell him, “i’m glad you’re back. ¬†you know, there are a lot of people around here who are, too–there are a lot of people around here who care about you. ¬†i do, too.” ¬†even though i meant it, and even though it was the right thing to say, i couldn’t help but feeling like my words were feeble and lame and weak.

it’s safe to say that, by june, i was sick and tired of seeing people being hurt. ¬†it’s also safe to say, that i’ve never seen a school year like the last one…never. ¬†and that’s saying something, given that i’ve seen some things in my time. ¬†the sheer level of emotion–especially, fear, anger, and sadness–was unimaginable…these emotions were laid bare, raw and exposed…and it took it’s toll on all of us. ¬†to say that i was in over my head this past year, would be an understatement–i don’t think i’ve had a year where i’ve felt more at a loss or powerless to do anything helpful in response to what i was seeing than i did this last year…the pain, the suffering, the brokenness–were overwhelming…never mind, trying to teach a class and go through lessons when all this shit was going down–in fact, i remember going to administration several times during this onslaught for help because i was drowning (and because, i’m not a social worker or counselor) …but, the party line was “keep doing what you’re doing”, “keep teaching” — their posture seemed ridiculous and impossible, if not laughable (were the situation not so serious)…especially since, the shock waves from the above incidents seemed to be knocking everyone down (again and again)–especially the kids…

to be fair, none of us saw this year coming…and nobody was prepared for it…

well, the school year ended and the summer began…personally, i was grateful for the reprieve and the rest…and now, it’s august and there’s a new year on the horizon…and i can say, wholeheartedly and humbly…that i am very, very thankful to the friends and family who helped me come out of the darkness of the past year…your great embrace of kindness, generosity, mercy and love have brought me back…thank you!

at the same time, i’m not foolish enough to think that just because i have found my smile again that that’s the same for others–the students, their families, and other staff members…i know well that some of these people remain in pain, i know well that some of these people haven’t been able escape the shadow…and may not be able to do so for months, years, or decades to come…

these people, these precious souls…are still on my worry list…

so, i hope and pray, that someday and some way…the storm will break, the tide will turn…and they will make it through…





our last day with our day care provider…

yesterday, we said goodbye to one of the most important people in our lives…our day care provider…

given the impact this woman had on our lives, i am re-posting (below) a post i shared more than 3 years ago…

everything in this post is still true today…or, more true…meaning, you just need to “times” all of the good shtuff i said below by ten thousand (x 10,000) and then you’ll be close to just how much my wife and i love and appreciate her, our day care provider…

note: in the first version of this post, i didn’t give out her actual name–for privacy reasons–but i’m gonna do that now…because if you’re out there (in the twin cities)–looking for a place for your kids–look no further, sign up today!!!

thank you, stefanie berge/sharon (owner/operator of¬†tender heart childcare) you’re the best around!

to see what i’m talking about, please keep reading…

before i¬†was a teacher, i worked with kids in many different settings…coming through¬†a gauntlet of years¬†in¬†youth work &¬†(now) teaching, it takes a lot¬†to impress and inspire¬†me in this field…

but, i¬†have been¬†truly impressed and inspired over the past 3+ years…

with our in-home day care provider…

and yes, i said in-home daycare provider!¬† …in-home daycare programs are often regarded as marginal, “fly-by-night” operations that may be alright in an emergency….but not as a “serious long-term¬†consideration”…because people think that “they’re just not as good as centers” or a mom/dad staying home with their children…nor are they viewed as “safe places”–you get the feeling that this is one of the most horrific decisions you can make for your children–tantamount to sending a kid cross-country on an orphan train (esp. from my parent’s generation) …like your kids will end up abducted, abused, neglected, abandoned, in the emergency room, dead in the street and on the nightly news if you leave them there!!!¬†¬†i heard the world saying, please report to the shame corner and turn in your parent card, now!

…this is not the case with our person, sharon–yes, her name has been changed to protect the innocent–or in the many cases of parents who use amazing in-home daycare providers each and every day…anyways, my wife did the first drop-n-go routine, through a river of tears (mind you, this is a person who cries over ¬†the voiceūüôā and i did the job three days later…and this is what happened…

i¬†entered the house, took off my shoes, and proceeded¬†downstairs to find my children…i¬†was excited to see them…arriving downstairs, i¬†made eye-contact with my son and daughter…they recognized me and smiled…but, they weren’t that excited¬†to see me…they stayed where they were–by the side (son) and in the arms (daughter) of sharon…i thought, what the hell is this?!¬† i’ve¬†been your father for nine months–you think that was a piece of cake–i¬†was there when you were colicky, when you wouldn’t sleep, when you had that “projectile shit”–the rapid fire,¬†.50 caliber shtuff that ‘took out’ the nursery room door–and this is how you repay me…how dare you?!¬† i¬†mean, i had envisioned my children¬†running from sharon, bounding towards me–their father–with outstretched arms (press play on can’t hold back¬†by survivor)…but, it didn’t happen…so, i made funny faces, talked to them, waved for them to come to me…but still, they stayed¬†with sharon…so, i hiked back upstairs, put my shoes on, went out to the¬†van and grabbed the wonder bar…so-to-pry my children off of their in-home¬†daycare provider!

…since those early days, we’ve seen and heard¬†all¬†about¬†the amazing things they’ve learned from sharon…sign language, “how to wear a helmet with style”, music, how to pronounce their “t’s”, please and thank-you’s, “how to help”, potty training–you name it…she is unbelievable …so, let me just¬†take this moment to say…thank you, thank you, thank you, sharon…for teaching our kids, for loving our kids like that…i am impressed and inspired…you’re the “+1” to my wife and i, you’re the best around…

remembering hurricane katrina (10 years later)…

i’d like to dedicate the following poem (which i wrote in the fall of 2005) to the victims of hurricane katrina…the hurricane formed on august 23, 2005 and hit¬†new orleans on august 29, 2005…nearly 2,000 people died (and thousands more were affected) as a result of this natural disaster…


New Orleans



Crossing space, the natural acceleration

Wind and wave, the environmental devastation

Landscape, dismantled, in dislocation

Earth, uprooted, severed evisceration

Showcased, the city’s pulverization

Neighborhoods beat down, in dilapidation

Out of place, structure and foundation

House and home, decapitation

Everyplace in ruin, needing restoration

Storefront and business, vandalization

Music erased, quiet, no intonation

Silenced, sax and trumpet harmonization

The bone case, flesh annihilation

Corpse drifts by, in lifeless flotation

Displaced, parent-child relation

Friend and acquaintance, affiliation

In a footrace, to find family formation

Search lists, for personal identification

Misplaced, relative and kin location

To other states, through dissipation

Hungry-faced, with hand held out in expectation

Food and water, out of circulation



Poor and down-faced, forgotten aberration

Brought to national elevation

Black race, viewed in amplification

Human beings, seen living in marginalization

Collective conscious abased, alive at evocation

Inner sense, awakened at painful provocation

Though no trace, of official coordination

Authority, guidance and evacuation

Underestimated, government consideration

No help, from agency or organization

Disgraced, president on ranch recreation

This neglect, reason for confrontation

To save face, rushed to late visitation

Weak, the delayed amelioration

Worst-case, the historical ramification

Stories, passed on in passionate oration

God’s grace, breathed new life, resuscitation

Healing touch, sparks human regeneration

Tomorrow–make space, for return population

Residents start fresh, with new determination

Someday replace, this story of desperation

With hope, restore the soul of a nation.

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