A Simple Yes

A Simple Yes!

Pentecost 37


Alan Feinstein is an American success story that almost did not happen.  Born and raised in Massachusetts he graduated Boston University with degrees in economics and journalism.  He wrote advertising copy for a show company but felt incomplete so he went back to school and earned a teaching degree which he used to teach high school.  His journalistic roots never left him, though, and he began a weekly column in a small paper.


A visiting personage read the column and contacted Feinstein, asking for permission to publish his column in newspapers in countries he visited.  This Indian businessman felt others would be interested in the American’s economic viewpoints.  Feinstein never met the businessman nor knew where he traveled but agreed.  Soon his column appeared in papers worldwide and he had gained international attention and recognition as an international syndicated columnist.  Having recently withdrawn from teaching to begin a financial newsletter, Feinstein found success – all because of a good deed from a total stranger.


Soon after the Indian businessman unknowingly helped his newsletter become successful, Feinstein’s wife, a native of Thailand, decided to accept a residency in the United States.  Feinstein began offering a guarantee on the advice he wrote and his side business of selling collectibles became a success.  In fact, he was so successful that he began a scholarship program in 1999 for students who were doing good deeds.  This was three years after his annual one million dollar giveaway to agencies combatting hunger.  A public television program followed and school programs were begun to encourage people to do good deeds.


Today the one million dollar giveaway has been suspended but over one hundred and fifty thousand Feinstein scholars are still supported through the Feinstein Foundation in their academic and good citizenship efforts.  This is all possible because Alan Feinstein once said “YES!” to a stranger who wanted to share his newspaper column.


In the United States alone it is estimated that there are fourteen million people who do not know from where their next meal is going to come.  Over half of those once had a home and guaranteed meal but life happened and their situations changed.  Doing something good for them can be as simple as serving a meal at a local soup kitchen, donating food to a local food pantry, or hosting a dinner with some friends and then collecting donations which are then given to a local charity that feeds the hungry.


Maybe academics are your forte.  Offer to tutor a child.  Local Salvation Army organizations and Big Brother, Big Sister groups are always happy to have tutors and mentors work with their participants.  Other groups like the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts are always in need of volunteers.  Some libraries have reading programs like Reading Is Fundamental.  Thirty-four percent of all children starting school lack the language and reading skills necessary to thrive in an academic setting.  You could be the key to a child’s success.


Alan Feinstein believes “Helping to better the lives of others is the greatest of all achievements.”  We all lead busy lives but I promise you any time donated to help others will pay you back tenfold in good will, good feelings, good health, and success.  It is as simple as saying “Yes” when the opportunity arises.

The New Daily Habit

The New Daily Habit

Pentecost 36


I must admit that when I began this series I never expected anyone to ask “Why?”  Who could possibly argue with someone recommending good deeds and then giving at least one suggestion every day?  What could possibly be wrong with thinking of others and helping one’s neighbor?


We live in a world where life is not a given.  Yesterday’s bombing at the airport in Istanbul is just one example.  Over forty people were brutally murdered because of someone’s selfish motivation which, despite rhetoric to the opposite, has no basis in any religion whatsoever.  While most of us do not face such dramatic events every day, there are unknown or hidden dangers in our daily living.  Anyone could be hit by a moving vehicle.  Natural disasters occur daily and [people die from illness every hour.  We tend to take life for granted and we should not.


A good deed is, quite simply, something done for another person.  Pentecost is a season on many church calendars known as the Ordinary Time, simply because it has no special services.  It begins fifty days after Easter and ends the day before the first Sunday in Advent.  It is a season of regular living without holidays or special services.   For many people, it is that time on the church calendar in which people take personal vacations and attendance drops.  IT is not marked by anything special; thus, the name for it is the Ordinary Time.


I proposed at the beginning of this series that no time is really ordinary.  Each new day is a gift, given to us by whomever or whatever you feel is responsible for Creation.  In earlier series we have discussed the variety of Creation myths that have encouraged life on this planet but it all boils down to this one summation:  Life is a gift given freely and without reference to whomever truly “deserves” it.  I had hoped in this blog series to encourage all to make something extraordinary out of the ordinary.


If asked, most people will admit to having visions of grandeur regarding their time on this earth or, if you are an astronaut, time spent revolving around the earth.  (Pop quiz: Can you name those living on the International Space Station at this very minute?  See, even that has not become ordinary!)  Most of us would like to think our time on this planet in what we call our life accounts for something.  We would like to think that when we pass, someone will remember us.



It has been said that fame is a fickle mistress and indeed public opinion changes more often than the seconds tick on a clock.  What does not change is the good that we do for another person.  Some schools are now including this in their curriculum.  Doing something nice will hopefully one day become a daily habit.


TMS School is located in Richmond Hills, Ontario, Canada.  They recently decided to embark on a new initiative, “One School, Thousands of Good Deeds”.  Their mission was simple: “Each TMS student, family and staff member is encouraged to perform at least one good deed a day out of their normal routine to help someone else. The good deed can be for a classmate, family member, someone in the community, or a charitable organization. The deeds will embody Grace and Courtesy and our TMS Ideals. “

The school explained just how this initiative would work. “Good deeds, in the context of our initiative, are actions that an individual performs that help someone else. Good deeds should be appropriate for the age of our students. We welcome students to repeat deeds completed by other individuals and remind our students and families that this is not a competition.  Examples of good deeds may include: sharing a toy, collecting goods for a charitable cause, cleaning up a park, giving up a seat on a bus, running an event for a good cause, going on a service trip to help a community, and much, much more! No good deed is too small.”

Good Deeds Cards were passed out to each child so that they could establish a set of goals for the school year regarding this project.  Students shared their good deeds with each other in class to help exchange ideas and inspire each other.  Some were quite simple.  One young kindergarten noticed that two chairs were not pushed in under the table as he sat down to eat his lunch so he pushed the chairs in to avoid someone tripping over them.  Others organized a book drive in which unneeded books from the school as well as students’ homes were collected and then donated to towns in poverty areas without libraries as well as being taken to a women’s shelter.


One class decided to hold class at a park across the street from their school but first, cleaned the park up, picking up litter and broken tree branches.  Another student’s family provided a meal for a visiting basketball team while others shared their lunch with students who had forgotten theirs.  One student gave his birthday money to a local charity while another gave up her seat on a subway train to an elderly man.  Sometimes the good deeds were simply giving a compliment to another person while others included helping a teacher clean up after art class.  A parent told of visiting the school with her baby in his stroller.  At a stair case several young boys raced down laughing.  They passed the parent and teacher giving the tour and then suddenly turned around and offered to carry the baby stroller up the stairs for the parent.


TMS School is installing doing good deeds as a daily habit for its students.  They are encouraging their students to think outside of the box that is their own being and think of how they can help others.  Like their initiative stated, “No good deed is too small.”  No life is really ordinary and no two days are exactly alike.  It is up to us to make our lives matter, to make this Ordinary Time into something extraordinary.

My Cat the Alien

My Cat, the Alien

Pentecost 35


My cat is a rescue pet, adopted from a shelter and much loved by the family.  That does not change the fact that she may be an alien.  The word alien can mean many different things but seriously, my cat fits most of those definitions.  [Editor’s note:  My cat really is just a cat.  Do not expect pictures on some tabloid or anything like that.]


An alien is an entity that is extrinsic to things.  Extrinsic is a word we seldom hear used but it really is a delightful word.  Basically it means “coming from the outside of something”.  Having spent the first several years of her life as a feral cat, she meets that definition.  Feral refers to something living is a wild state.  Wild in animals is considered “untamed” or acting outside the social boundaries of domestication.  Some of our political candidates would qualify as feral with that definition!


Usually a feral cat is a cat that has in its heritage the lineage of a domesticated cat but, for a variety of reasons, has not lived in a domesticated setting.  The problem of stray animals can be attributed to one thing – Animals living according to natural instincts, breeding at will.  While everyone loves a cute kitten or sleepy puppy, the world cannot provide enough homes for these animals.  They live on the streets, homeless and often abandoned. 


Life is sometimes described in harsh clichés and one of this is “It’s a dog eat dog world.”  If you are a small kitten in that “dog eat dog” environment, you learn to fight for every single thing you need to stay alive.  My cat came to us distrusting of our other pets but we have made progress in the past years.  She accepts us marginally and we have come to accept her.


One of those things begging acceptance is her distrust of her next meal.  Having used feeder bowls for our pets, it has been quite the change to not be able to have food available at all times.  Cats are usually very good at eating only when hungry.  This particular cat, however, gorges herself whenever food is available.  She still has the memories of those days of hunger and makes good use of food when possible.  Of course, her stomach only holds so much and some comes back up. 


We all have things we don’t trust in our lives.  Past living leaves its mark and earning trust and having faith is hard.  Often what we need to trust is ourselves.  We allow the extrinsic aspects of life inside; we allow our basic goodness to become altered and uncultivated our belief in ourselves.


My cat’s propensity to eat everything whenever possible is not why I think she is an alien.  Quite honestly, she probably feels we are the aliens.  Remember, an alien is something or someone who is not in their originating habitat.  Conception is the body’s way of having faith in the future.  It is the continuance of life itself and yet, once we are self-sufficient, we tend to not take care of that life and the life of others.


Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”  What did you do yesterday for someone or something else (i.e., a pet or other animal)?  We seldom see aliens portrayed as helping each other.  The aliens of Dr. Who are a well-trained army but when one falls down, the others just walk right over them.  The aliens of countless other science fiction programs are similar. 


In the political world, aliens are portrayed as wanting to go to a new country and usurp all the resources for themselves.  Much like my cat, they are seen as gorging on all available jobs, housing, and amenities which leaves nothing for the natives of the area.  Candidates and politicians are constantly reminding us that the world cannot sustain everything in it and yet, somehow life does go on.


Aliens are portrayed as unsocial beings that simply are there – staring at the rest of us, saying very little.  We had been the roommates of this particular cat for almost three years before we heard her purr.  Purring is one of those great mysteries that cats like to maintain since the how and why of the vocalization is still one of the great unknowns.  We assume it is a sign of pleasure and I will confess to being troubled that this cat that had many creature comforts never purred.  Then one day she purred and anxiously looked around.  It was at that moment I realized her homeless lifestyle had relied on her silence and purring would have given away her hiding places.


Too many animals are forced to live without being able to express pleasure and if you thought today’s good deed was going to be about shelter pets and the thousands of homeless pets, you are correct – in part.  How we treat others says a great deal about ourselves and that includes these animals.  The ways to help them are easy.  Donate a bag of food to a shelter.  Volunteer to be a “petter”.  Stay aware of what your area’s laws are and become involved to make sure they are fair.  No one breed is a guarantee to be vicious or harmful to others.


Our pets are a reflection of ourselves and how we live.  My cat is an alien because never knew affection in her early years.  Her favorite television program is “Tanked” and it is not the fish that attracts her.  She actually has a crush on one of the hosts.  The fish are colorful but it is the antics of the family that own the aquarium company that really interest her.


Several have asked why emphasize good deeds.  Maybe they are aliens.  In a dog eat dog world, it might seem like we need to be cats, feral entities without any concern for others.  The fact is, though, when we care about another, we are doing good for ourselves. 


It might have taken my cat the alien a few years to trust us enough to purr but one thing she did from the day we adopted her was to care for others.  Whenever anyone is ill, that cat is sitting on the floor or bed right near them.  Her compassion has always been evident, even if it is sometimes annoying.


Many of us go through our daily schedule like aliens.  We never reach out to help others, fearful that by giving we might lose something.  The truth is we only gain when we give of ourselves.  You are just one person, I know.  You cannot solve all the world’s problems; I know.  Edward Everett Hale knew this as well when he wrote:  “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.” 


Don’t be an alien today, simply going through the world without making a positive impact on it. You can do something positive for another.  It might just be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.

Lose the Connection

Lose the Connection
Pentecost 34

As we discussed last week, more people have mobile or cell phones in the world than have access to sanitary toilets or safe drinking water. Without spending days (and we really could) on what that says about mankind’s priorities, let’s look at just how those cell phones can turn the ordinary into something extraordinary.

Recently I realized a teacher friend was wearing an Apple watch. In their advertisements, the company claims your Apple watch will tell the world who you are. Since the styling is personalized, that does make sense. I failed to realize my friend had one because hers is neither flashy nor particularly stylized. In short, it looks like a square black watch on a simple and classy black band. Because she is a teacher with children, having the instant notifications and access to call if help is immediately needed makes perfect sense. Moreover, it is practical and a wonderful safety feature. I think all classroom teachers should have one.

Of course, there is the danger of someone misusing such a device. Talking on it as a telephone when they should be working is always a good reason to ban all cell phones and smart devices from the workplace. Still, what about those people who just cannot put their smart phones down at all?

Recently I attended a dinner party and everyone placed their phone on the table besides their plate. I thought it a sign of the times that the proper place setting now included space for a smart phone. I understand their attraction. What I do not understand is the addiction to them.

In a study published two years ago, Consumer Reports found one in ten participants admitted to using their cell phones during times of intimacy. Yes, folks, I do mean when they are having sex. The old manage a trois now means two people and a smart phone. A 2013 Mobile Consumer Habits report stated that twelve percent of those interviewed used their smart phone in the shower while over fifty percent admitted to texting while driving, an action that is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.

There is even a term for that rush of panic you experience when you don’t know where your phone is or realize you left it at home. Nomophobia is the word used to describe that panic that seventy-three percent of us report feeling when we and our phone are apart. In Great Britain fifty-one percent admitted to experiencing “extreme tech anxiety”, an occurrence when one is off the grid and has no access to the technology that has become so commonplace in today’s world.

Cell phones are not the real problem. How we use them is the issue. With the technology advancing at a rate of nanoseconds, it is impossible to stay completely up-to-date and own the latest and greatest. We even experience a sense of dread in wondering what to do with old devices and most of us have a drawer that could pass as a museum for the history of the mobile telephone.

Why not turn that ordinary out-of-date telephone into something extraordinary and instead of feeling anxious, develop a sense of pride? One such way to do this is to recycle your cell phones and support US troops fighting for freedom around the world. According to the website smartphonerecycling.com, up to three hundred dollars will be donated to Operation Gratitude for each cell phone donated. “Operation Gratitude (OperationGratitude.com) seeks to lift troops’ morale, & bring a smile to their faces by sending care packages to service members in harm’s way & Wounded Warriors here at home.”

Verizon Wireless has long been a partner to the National Network to End Domestic Violence. A donated telephone will be refurbished and sold and the proceeds given to help stop domestic violence, protect the victims of such, and sponsor workshops to help those victims get back on the feet and be self-supporting. More information can be found at nnedv.org/getinvolved/donatephone.html. “With the funds raised from the sale of the refurbished phones, Verizon Wireless donates wireless phones and airtime to victims, and provides funding and other contributions to nonprofit domestic violence shelters and prevention programs across the country.”

Another great way to let your old cell phone become extraordinary is to donate it to Phones 4 Charity. This organization also aids victims of domestic violence with safe shelters. Their website is http://www.phones4charity.org/page/donate-domestic. Some telephones are refurbished and made 911 compatible so that victims have a resource to get assistance if needed. Those unable to be used will be recycled for metal and plastic components in accordance with federal and local environmental standards and laws.

Lose that connection to your old cell phone and help others in need and who are fighting to defend freedom. Make the ordinary telephone a work of extraordinary proportions and help someone in the process. You might even gain a clean drawer! What you will gain is the knowledge that you have made a healthy connection by losing that old phone connection.

Eat It!

Eat It!

Pentecost 33


If you are lucky, your day began with a meal of something that passed for it.  Breakfast is considered one of the most important meals of the day if not the most important because it helps wake up the body.  Seldom do I post things on this blog that are just for one specific group; this time it is the group of people lucky enough to have regular meals.  However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that one of the most ordinary things many people do is eat and it benefits everyone when we turn that ordinary meal into something extraordinary.


Very few people are completely satisfied with their weight.  While we could debate the peer pressure society places and how weight is intricately a part of culture, one basic fact remains.  Very few people are completely satisfied with their weight.  I do not want to encourage anyone into an eating disorder but chances are you might already have one. 


We have all heard about anorexia and binge eating.  One involves regurgitating food once it is consumed and the other starving one’s self and then eating enough for ten people at one setting.  When we are born, we tend to eat instinctively, much like animals do.  We eat to satisfy a hunger.  No infant in a crib leans to crawl at the age of ten days in order to following the smell of a bag of popcorn or hot apple pie.


As adults we also eat to satisfy a hunger but now that hunger has very little to do with a need for hunger as it did when we were that ten day old infant.  As adults, we are hungry for what is trendy so we make sure to frequent popular hot spots when vacationing.  What we eat and where has become a status symbol and people post pictures of their ordered meal on social media to prove something, not to satisfy the body’s need for food.


Food is the body’s fuel.   Very few of us would consider throwing mud pies into the gas tank of our vehicles and yet we often do the metaphorical equivalent to our bodies.  This creates dissatisfaction, poor health, and the resulting mental conditions.  The bottom line is that we become obsessed with out own feelings of poor health and are unable to care about others.


There are some basic foods that most can eat which provide health in every bite.  Refined carbohydrates like white rice and many types of pasta do not fall into that category.  Quinoa, however, does and is the perfect substitute.  One of the so-called super foods, quinoa is a true grain whose seeds are eaten.  It is a complete protein and contains all nine essential amino acids.  Unlike some foods that are said to be good for us but taste otherwise, quinoa is both light and fluffy while retaining the ability to fill a person up with single servings.


Another food in the superfood category is broccoli.  One cup of broccoli has only thirty calories but three grams of fiber.  It is also high in Vitamin C, iron and calcium.  Eating one cup of broccoli each day will aid blood flow to your muscles, increase your body’s natural immunity to ward off disease, and support healthy bones.  We all need a healthy foundation and broccoli gives our bodies just that.  Greek yogurt is also a good choice to use either as a breakfast meal or as a substitute for sour cream.  One of the oldest foods around, it is very portable.  It will need refrigeration, especially in the summer months so keep that in mind.  Many varieties contain 18 grams of protein per every seven ounces so if you are looking to invest in good health, Greek yogurt is a great option.


Blueberries and asparagus are also great foods to incorporate into your diet.  Asparagus is a natural diuretic which means that, while the Greek yogurt is helping your intestinal track, asparagus will get rid of excess fluids that might be causing body bloating.  Blueberries are just sixty calories a serving and are full of antioxidants to contribute to overall great health as well as fighting some fairly common diseases.  New evidence suggests they also are effective in getting rid of stubborn fat.  Blueberries have also been found to be beneficial to women in helping regulate body cycles.


It is not just about what we eat but also about what we drink.  Few cocktails parties are going to host a green tea bar but they should.  While you can add blueberries and Greek yogurt to a smoothie and reap some wonderful health benefits, green tea might just be the drink to have all day. Exchange it for your morning cappuccino, throw in a couple of blueberries into an iced green tea for lunch and then slowly enjoy a restful cup of steaming green tea before bedtime.  The catechins within Green tea, which are another form of antioxidants, seem to encourage fat burning within the body as well as help speed up the body’s metabolism.  Peaches and vinegar also contain forms of catechins as do apples and dark chocolate.


Life is all about making choices and you can turn your ordinary meal into a super-charged extraordinary gift to your health by making wise choices.  A cup of Greek yogurt with some blueberries and a cup of Green tea might not go viral but your body will thank you.  Living extraordinary lives might be just a matter of watching what we put on our fork.  Everyone deserves the right to eat smart and feed a healthy hunger, not give into peer pressure.  After all, charity does begin at home and by making healthy choices, we can all win these hunger games!



Thank You!

Thank you

Pentecost 32


We’ve all had them, those really crappy days in which nothing seemed to be going right.  Then, out of the blue we get a card from a long-time acquaintance or the phone rings or perhaps you even get a text.  The situations may be varied but the reason for the communication is the same.  Someone wants to tell you thank you and suddenly, the sky is blue, the birds are singing, and life seems tolerable – all because of two little words.


Regardless of whether it is a simple card or a bouquet of flowers or a hug or box of candy, an expression of gratitude brings out the happy in us all.  Those two simple words reflect the basic goodness of mankind and helps bring our own life into balance.


Being thanked is not always a positive thing for some people.  They might feel unworthy or unsure how to respond.  Often, one act may mean nothing to the person doing it but mean everything to the recipient.  All too often we simply do not know how to respond when we are being thanked.  Should we send a thank you for the thank you note?  I recently received a lovely thank you and made mention of it on Facebook since the person who had written was a friend in social media.  My public recognition of receiving the thank you also helped others see this person for the nice, grateful adult they are becoming.


Gratitude is an over-looked part of the happiness equation.  Recently it has become popular to have “an attitude of gratitude” but science proves it is much more than just a trending cliché.  Those who frequently express gratitude to others usually have better mental health and are more likely to be emotionally supportive of others. 


If receiving another person’s gratitude makes you uncomfortable, then perhaps you should take this ordinary expression and do an extraordinary study of it to determine why.  People sometimes feel unworthy of being thanks because their own sense of self-worth is very low.  Chronic feelings of inadequacy should be discussed with a professional.


Thank you notes do not have to be Pulitzer Prize-winning novels or even short essays.  A brief sincere note will suffice.  One can find countless online references and formats but often the easiest is a sincere expression of gratitude and the event for which it is offered.  Think of that thank you note you need to write to someone as a rainbow.  Seldom are they all visible in their entirety or even perfect.  Yet, each rainbow is a welcomed sign of goodness and hope.  Send someone a thank you note.  Perhaps it will be to a seldom seen friend from the past or to that neighbor who watered you garden while you were out of town.   Whether it is an actual note or a plate of cookies, gratitude is always in fashion and welcomed.  And in case you are wondering how to respond, it really is as simply as two little words:  Thank you.

Down and Out

Down and Out

Pentecost 31


Depression is not something that just happens to other people.  It is a natural reaction to life events.  Depression, because it is considered a mental illness, has gotten a bad rap.  It should be recognized as one of the ways we react to stress.  I for one think it can be a positive sign of your expectations.  For instance, if someone backs into your car, a certain amount of depression is going to occur, especially if there are arguments with insurance companies or resulting injuries.  After all, only a pessimist would have left their house expecting to be involved in a car wreck!


The key to battling depression is to recognize it for what it is and then react in a positive manner.  All too often we tend to hide.  We do not feel we can deal with life and certainly not more unpleasantness.  We isolate ourselves from future pain.  That is also one of the worst things one can do if depressed.


Now, you might be asking yourself why a blog series about making the ordinary extraordinary is talking about depression.  Isolation does not cure depression.  Volunteering, though, just might help you.  At a time when you feel you cannot take care of yourself, it does seem contra-intuitive to offer to help another.  Depression is only crippling when we allow it to become that.  By volunteering, we help another but also ourselves.


Let’s really look at what volunteering really means.  It is not giving your entire life over to an organization.  It means donating an hour or two on a schedule to help another or a group accomplish something.  One of the best things to combat depression is an improved sense of self.  So maybe you parked in the wrong slot but you were great at helping out at the soup kitchen.  Everyone had value and volunteering helps a person discover theirs.


Being a volunteer means you have a purpose.  That someone is counting on you can really be a life-changer for a person who feels worthless.  Perhaps you might have to paint a smile on your face for the first half an hour but then life takes over and the community you are helping will begin to unknowingly help you.


Depression is often called the silent killer because no one can tell you have it.  There are no bumps like measles or chicken pox.  Your hair usually does not fall out and those bags under your eyes might be from binge-watching a cancelled show on Netflix instead of sleepless nights due to depression.  Your renewed sense of self is going to make you feel better and soon you really will be better.


Depressed people often lack the vision to see their contributions to society.  None of us is perfect but we do all have something to offer. Maybe your strength is in volunteering at a local library.  Shelving books, working at a used book store, or reading to children are all ways volunteers improve their local library.  Local museums use volunteer guides or docents to help people understand their purpose and the history of the area.   Animal shelters all rely heavily on their volunteers I providing services like petting or dog walking.  Hospitals might seem an unlikely place to go to improve one’s depression but they also use volunteers.  Whether answering the phone or escorting patients or working in a gift shop, volunteers are really the backbone of many agencies.


To begin to volunteer is not easy.  It means you have to get up off the couch and get dressed.  For many people, that takes effort.  However, so does laying in bed and frowning.  It really is true that it takes more facial muscles to frown than to smile.  It also means writing your volunteer times down on a calendar and then following through.  Little by little, your helping others will help you to help yourself. 


Volunteering gives a person a sense of purpose and will provide new connections.  These positives provide benefits that cannot be found by staying home and hiding under a pillow.  You will develop new acquaintances and possibly make some new friends for life.  Volunteering is a gift that you give to others by sharing your time.  It also is a gift you give to yourself.





Pentecost 30


It was one of those annual meetings many religious places hold to elect leaders and discuss the budget, planned outreach, and in general, just let everyone know they are still around and doing things.  AS a teacher of the five-year-old class, I had been asked to watch the class while standing in the doorway and listening to the meeting.  Apparently my cherubs had revolted at being sent to the nursery with all the “babies”. 


The meeting began with a prayer and then someone read the agenda.  I was very proud that my kids had stopped their coloring and bickering to bow their heads in prayer with everyone.  As the agenda was read, they seemed to be listening.  One extrovert even commented upon each item read and the others responded.  I remember thinking my class might be paying more attention than half of the adults.


 It went something like this:

                Opening Prayer….            Boy #1: ”Well, yeah.  We already know that.  We just did it!”

                                                                Girl #1: “Some people never pay attention.”

                The MInutes …                  Boy #1:  ”Cool.  This is gonna be quick.”

                                                                Boy #2:  “Grown-ups are never quick.”

                                                                Boy #1:  “He said minutes.”

                                                                Girl #1:  “Yeah but grown-up minutes are not real minutes.”

                Finances…                           Boy #1:  “Church is not about money.  God is gonna be mad!”

                Outreach and Altruism…


At this point my group stopped coloring and fidgeting all together.  I dared to hope for a split second that my teaching had resulted in their being interested in the proposed outreach projects.  Had I really made an impact on them to care about mission work?  Then I listened to their whispering.


“They gonna eat!’  “No.  They wouldn’t do that without us!”  He said “All chew it.”  “That means they gonna do more talking.  My dad says my mom and her sisters “Chew the fat” when they get together.”  “No, he did not say “All chew it”.  He said “All trues.” 


At this point I intervened.  I explained he had said altruism and showed them the word on the printed agenda that was passed out.  Several noses wrinkled at the unfamiliar word so I explained it meant doing good for others, caring about others.  I still had confused expressions staring back at me.  I was pretty confident in my explanation so I asked “What part did you not understand?”  Finally my leader spoke up.  “Why we gotta have a meeting about what should come natural?”  Out of the mouths of babes ….


The other day I again got a comment asking why I was “wasting” the whole of Pentecost talking good deeds.  Perhaps I wondered I had found my young leader who would now be an adult himself.  Then the reader continued to explain that nobody cared about helping others and they felt I should be doling out self-help advice, not “encouraging a forgotten thing like altruism”.


In a world where people are killed for having a good time or attending a sports event or concert, in a time where political candidates are murdered for speaking for what they believe or giving speeches filled with hate and encouraging annihilation of one’s enemies instead of peaceful cohabitation, it is easy to believe that altruism is a long-forgotten relic of times gone by, much like the dinosaur.


Cooperative behavior seems to have fallen by the wayside on the journey of life in the twenty-first century.  It is, however, what got our ancestors to this point and how mankind survived the harsh reality of life in the prehistoric times.  It can either be the thing that saves us or that kills us if ignored. 


Research has proven the benefits of helping others.  Alcoholics Anonymous is built upon that principle.  Stopping drinking does not make one a recovering alcoholic.  Those in recovery who help others have a better chance of staying sober than those who do not.  People who volunteer are healthier than those who do not.


I know of no better self-help advice than to be the best you can be and to help others.  One simple act a day or week can mean the world, not only to another person but also to you.  Get out of your own head and help someone.  Even if you are homebound, you can do something for another person.  Life is a team sport, after all.  Science has also proven it really does come naturally if we just let it.  And that’s the truth about altruism1

Are You Good?

Are You Good?

Pentecost 29


If you ever watched the television sitcom “Friends”, you know that one of the hallmark phrases was the character Joey asking:  “How you doin’?”  Using the character’s Italian ethnicity, the phrase was a take-off on several phrases considered to be typical “New Yorker speak”.  Others include “You talkin’ ta me?” and the equally popular “Fogeddaboddit!”   Today the Wendy Williams daily show has claimed the phrase that made the character of Joey on Friends so recognizable as its own tagline but all New Yorkers know that they owned the saying long before television.


Foreign exchange students quickly learn that when someone in the United States asks “How are you?” or attempts to impersonate the Friends’ character Joey by asking “How you doin’?”, they really don’t want an honest answer.  These phrases are used more as a means of saying “Hello!” than as an honest inquiry into someone’s health, mental, emotional, or physical.


In many industrialized nations, it is seen as something of a lack in one’s character to have the time to ask how someone is doing in passing.  It is almost as if taking the time to show care and concern means one is lacking as a professional.  Long before Facebook created the ever popular moniker of “Friend”, industrialized nations had reduced the concept of friendship to passing acquaintance.  What if we all made an ordinary greeting into something else?  What if we all took one day to actually take the time to BE concerned about both our friends and acquaintances, maybe even strangers?


Many will say that “How you doin’?” serves to ask two questions and perhaps it does.  A popular greeting in English speaking countries is “How are you?” or “How are you doing?”  Technically, these are two very different questions.  The first is asking for a statement of one’s being or condition while that latter regards to condition of living or fortune.  The first is about presence while that latter explains that presence.


What is, though, there was a day to improve both?  There actually is.  In 2007 Sharyn Arison launched what is known as Good Deeds Day.  In 2007 seven thousand people in Israel took part in projects designed to improve conditions for others.  That number grew to twelve thousand the next year and twenty thousand in two years.  IN three years they had seventy thousand volunteers and that number doubled the next year with four countries participating.  In 2012 the idea of Good Deeds Day went global.  Fifty countries and a quarter of a million people strong participated.


This year one million and five hundred thousand people in seventy-five countries did something for others on Good Deeds Day.  Why?  “I believe that if people will think good, speak good and do good, the circles of goodness will grow in the world. Good Deeds Day has become the leading day of giving and this year individuals, school children, students, soldiers and employees from many businesses are joining in for the annual Good Deeds Day with the aim of doing a good deed for others,” says Shari Arison.


In two hundred and nine-four days it will be April 2, 2017 (give or take a few days because this post has been delayed due to our week vigil for the Orlando victims.)  On that day, the world will once again come together for Good Deeds Day.  People just like you will come together to do something nice for someone else.  Large or small, two people or two hundred people – the size of the project doesn’t matter.  The fact that someone is doing something does.


Former projects in the USA have included clothing donations, shoe donations, cleaning up local cemeteries, presenting a program at a nursing home, writing letter to and for the elderly…the list goes on.  There is something you can do.  For project ideas, go to www.good-deeds-day.org/projects.  The website will not only give you ideas, it will walk you through how to make that idea into a reality.  Turn this ordinary time into something extraordinary but planning to do good on April 2nd, 2017.  In fact, start practicing now and do something for someone else.  That way, next time someone asks “Are you good?” you can give a resounding “You bet I am!”

Two Bits

Two Bits

Pentecost 28


Our last discussion was about water and as much of the United States’ wild west has become a wildfire, many were able to relate to how precious water can be.  For many of the world’s children, food is also a very precious commodity. These children should be able to go to school and play but instead they spend they days searching for just one bite of food.  A popular children’s rhyme often used in basic yard games begins with “Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar…” so I wondered: “Just what could someone do with an ordinary twenty-five cents (two bits) to make it into something extraordinary?”


The United Nations World Food Programme or WFP answers that question.  The largest humanitarian organization in the world, WFP is the United nation’s frontline agency whose sole purpose is to combat global hunger.  In 2008 they provided 102,000,000 (one hundred and two million) people in seventy-eight countries with 3.9 (three million, nine thousand) tons of food.  [Normally I do not use numerals in writing numbers because the text translates easier but these numbers are staggering and I felt their impact greater in both forms.]


Every ninety-three cents of each one hundred cents or a dollar is spent directly on getting food to those in need of it.  That means .07% is spent in overhead and .93% of every US dollar (or equivalent) goes to people in need.  There is no overhead eating up the donations.  Four quarters equals a dollar so if you saved a quarter every day, then you could provide food to someone who is in dire need of it.


The UN World Food Programme does not just deliver food, though.  They have created a sustainable food chain.  They develop strategies to create long-term food production and work with local farmers, sometimes training them on the best ways to grow food in their region.   Your twenty-five cents, when joined with others, can feed a hungry child for a day.  The WFP is entirely supported through voluntary contributions so your “two bits” can really be much more than just a piece of a dollar.  It can be a meal for someone in need – today and tomorrow.


I really like the idea WFP has of not just passing out meal packets but creating a food chain that includes the growing of food for tomorrow’s children.  Having a sustainable food chain means an end to hunger in a region.  By the way. their ambassador is actress Drew Barrymore.  Kudos to her for getting down to basics and working with this great organization.


I have been asked how I classify this blog and that I needed to arrive at an exact definition.  Is it spiritual or theological?  Is it humanitarian or conversational?  Quite frankly, I don’t see why those items are an either or.  Why can’t something be spiritual AND theological?  Why can we not put humanitarian topics into our daily conversation?


Theology is defined as the study of the “divine”.  For some that is God; for others it is gods.  Spiritual means not material, relating to or consisting of something of the spirit and yes, that spirit can mean a God or gods.  All conversation relates to humans in one way or another.  Even when we discuss alien life forms, it is in relation to humans because, quite frankly, we define alien as something not human or of this planet.  Why then do we tend to isolate those things one from another?


If you follow me on twitter (and if you don’t, please do!), then you will have seen that today I posted a link to the Good Deed Time website, gooddeedtime.com.  We all get so many tweets and emails about so many different things, most of which we disregard.  I understand that you might be hesitant to sign up for yet another thing.  Seriously, though, this is the answer to how you can turn this Ordinary Time of Pentecost into an extraordinary time.


The best way to have more time is to use your time to help someone else.  This website will email you one specific good deed you can strive to accomplish that week.  Perhaps you will not be able to do that specific good deed but it will most likely give you an idea for another.  The result will be that more people will be focused on doing good, on creating goodness in the world, on making their lives more productive.  For me, that is the very definition of turning the ordinary into something extraordinary.  It is your opportunity to be a hero…. And it can start with just two bits.