A Dream … 1776 & 2018

A Dream of a Tale

June 28, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

For some of us these are nightmarish times.  Usually summer is a time of dreams realized in the United States but the summer of 2018 is anything but, especially for those seeking dreams of freedom.  For many of us who still cherish the dreams of our ancestors, all of whom were immigrants to this continent, we worry and wonder what the future will bring for us all.  We must, I believe, remember that this is a nation built upon dreams.

 

The dreams that had created the United States of America were not new dreams but they had been considered illogical.  For centuries, mankind had believed in varieties of mythologies and none of them spoke of equality or independence.  In fact, most myths made it very clear that mere mortals were completely dependent upon their deities and the natural world. 

 

People had chanced an ocean voyage to the other side of the unknown seeking the right to believe as they wished.  The colonies were a collection of different groups all following different myths, different belief systems, and different religions.  How could such a diverse population achieve unity and if they did, with what could they battle against one of the strongest nations in the world?  It was the incredulous stuff that formed the plots of their myths.  It was a foolish dream.

 

They began in the early 1770’s and there were hurdles to clear.  Larger colonies wanted greater power and smaller colonies wanted equality.  Somehow, though, agreements were reached, an army formed, a war waged and battles won.  There were losses but they served much like the myths they told to their children.  They learned from their losses, became stronger from their failings, and somehow, garnered the right to call themselves an independent nation.

 

One hundred years later, the unity they had forged in declaring their independence had become a myth in and of itself.  A civil war raged on and towards the end, a man named Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that reminded them of their initial purpose, in their belief not in being slaves to immortal gods and goddesses but in being free men with equal rights and human dignity afforded to all. 

 

Three months shy of the one hundred year anniversary of Lincoln’s speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr stood up and quoted President Abraham Lincoln.  On a sunny day by a reflecting pool that makes up what is known as “the Mall” in the middle of Washington, D.C., thousands gathered to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr give a speech.  It was the culmination of the day’s events and a march for better jobs and freedoms for all Americans, particularly those of African descent.

 

 His passionate speech once again reminded those who were listening of the dreams that had become the founding mythologies of the United States of America.  I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.  I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. … I have a dream today!  I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

 

If you are a reader of this blog, you know that I believe a summer day camp in the Piney Woods southwest part of the state of Alabama Known as Sawyerville Day Camp to be the living embodiment of Dr. King’s dream.  The Dream that all men are treated equally is still an effort, both in this country and in every country in the world.  It was the very dream that we in the United States of America will celebrate in the coming week.  Known as Independence Day, it is the anniversary of the American Revolution, that epic battle between simple farmers and religious zealots and a country well-versed in battles and winning.

 

For many living on the European continent, the colonists’ efforts to be free were going to become a mythological tale.  Indeed, it seemed incredulous.  The mythology that some people deserve to be poor dates back to the myths telling of the “chosen people”.  The mythology that one’s skin color should determine one’s status or one’s religion should make one a target is the dark side of mythology.  Two hundred plus years later we have a sitting Supreme Court Justice for whom Spanish was her first language and a President whose grandparents were immigrants from a nation with whom two World Wars were fought as enemies.

 

It has been said that creativity is closely aligned with mental illness and that those who believe in myths are crazy.  We all believe in myths of one kind or another.  The children of Sawyerville, both campers and staff alike, are all worthy in their right to live, to learn, to laugh, and to be celebrated.  They are the descendants of those who wrote the mythologies of the world.  They are the reason those myths exist.

 

Most of those currently being detained as illegal immigrants I do not know but you are just like every person reading this post.  The children being held separately from their families are just like those smiling faces of the children at Sawyerville, many of whom had ancestors forcibly detained and brought to this nation as slaves.  We all breathe; we all experience joy; we all cry; we all hunger;  we all, hopefully, love.  Sawyerville is celebrating its twenty-fifth summer this year, an accomplishment that would have seemed impossible in 1963 or even 1863.  It was the dream that began a war in 1776 and the path that mankind began with its first step.

 

What some call a myth, others call fact.  What some believe, others discount.  Rice with all its different varieties is a staple found in kitchens all over the world and yet, most prepare it differently and serve it based upon ethnicity.  It is still rice and it still tastes delightful.  The different myths of the world are just as entertaining and meaningful.  We do not need to believe them all; we should just respect them and the cultures from whence they came.  Yesterday, as they have for the past twenty years at Sawyerville Day Camp, girls and boys of different races, ages, cultures, and backgrounds, joined hands to prove the best myths are those dreams that see realization.  Dreaming is believing!

 

The spirits of our mythologies reflect the spirit of mankind, the life force and mental acuity within us all.  The journey begun in 1776 is even more important today.  As we move into this weekend and a week of Independence Celebrations, I hope we remember that the battle is not yet won.

 

Racial bias is also based upon myths as are religious biases and ethnic biases.  We need to learn the truths and then build productive dreams in order to move forward.   This nation was built by the sweat of those forcibly brought to this continent and ever since we have pretended to be blind to that fact.  The current economy is suffering because all of a sudden we have decided to use legal status as a right to live.  In truth, legal status has never played much importance when it comes to those who do the real hands to the ground work in this country. 

 

The actions we take today and tomorrow will be the fodder of our mythology that the world will remember in the future.   They will bridge a divide first experienced when mortals believed in immortals – the divide of difference.  They will also speak of our humanity or lack thereof.  The spirit of the future is not based upon ignorance but upon peaceful living and respect for all. 

 

The Guilt of Missed Connections

The Guilt of Missed Connections

June 19, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

Today I saw a neighbor at the local branch library.  She mentioned that the husband of another neighbor had passed away two months ago.  The couple in question had just purchased a house on our street and had not even moved in a great deal of furniture.  It was still very sad to think that we had all seen this woman walking her dog each morning and had never really connected.  If not for a family member who lived in the next block we would never had known of the death of her spouse, a man who had only visited their new home once since its purchase.

 

When is the last time you looked at your Facebook friends list?  I mean, really looked at it and thought about each name listed.  We all have those friends whose name does not ring a bell.  “Who is this?” we wonder.  “How did I become friends with them?”  I am as guilty as anyone else in sometimes answering a friend request in the affirmative just because… it is late or you vaguely recall someone by that name having been a coworker or perhaps a classmate from decades ago.

 

Recently a post came up from someone whose name I did not remember at all.  No inkling tickled my memory whatsoever.  Curious and with some time to spare, I clicked on their profile.  The post was not something with which I disagreed, quite the opposite in fact.  Still, I really expected I would have remembered someone so insightful and yet, I did not; hence, the clicking on their profile to try to remember who they were.

 

I saw that we had did indeed have some friends in common, friends with whom I had gone to school and so I quickly determined this had to be someone I had known although not as best of pals or anything.  Then a posting on their timeline caught my eye.  It went something like this:  Recently a neighbor caught my eye.  (This is in quotations but it is NOT an exact quote.)  “A slender, attractive neighbor attracted my attention yesterday and, emboldened by a twinkle in her eye, I ventured to start a conversation.”

 

The ensuing description of their first meeting was sweet and did indeed lead to other meetings.  My forgotten friend offered to help with some yardwork and carrying her groceries inside, favors which were rewarded by a banana or some chocolate chip cookies on a table by his front door mailbox.  The somewhat intimate and yet innocent activities took up an entire paragraph and were, as I’ve described before very sweet and touching.

 

You can understand then my surprise when the next paragraph began with my friend confessing how guilty he felt.  Instantly angered at some unknown act of treason against this woman, I was completely caught off guard by his next sentence.  “Here I had lived next door to this delightful and yet frail ninety-six-year-old woman without ever noticing her for several years.”

 

The posting about this neighbor went on to encourage us all to take note of the elderly around us.  My friend explained how most recently the woman contracted a cold and he was her only contact for several weeks with the outside world.  Her spouse was long deceased as were most of her friends.  Childless, she was living an almost invisible life… invisible that is until a neighbor happened to notice a brief smile and a twinkle in her eyes.

 

We all hurry through our lives when we need to stop and take stock of the world around us.  How many times have we passed by someone without noticing them?  How often do we hasten to explain how we are feeling or what we doing without asking about how a friend is doing?  How much energy and time would it take to share a smile with those we pass in our daily walk of life?  We all live on this planet together and if we ask others to share our lives, we should be willing to share theirs. 

 

We are all guilty of being ego-focused.  We need to recognize that the best life is one lived in harmony with not only nature but also each other and to do that, we must see them.  We need a line of sight that includes others, not just ourselves.  Then we will be open to the real beauty of the world and the ordinary of our environment will become extraordinary.

 

Humanity Lost

Humanity Lost

June 18, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

It was a Friday when Frederick Lewis Donaldson said the following in a sermon given at Westminster Abbey in London, England:  “The seven social sins are…wealth without work; pleasure without conscience; knowledge without character; commerce without morality; science without humanity; worship without sacrifice; politics without principle.” 

 

Most of us freely admit to being human and by that, we imply that we are not perfect.  Mistakes are going to be made and while we are better at forgiving our own than those of others, we do allow the possibility for their being made.  What about when society makes them?  How forgiving are we when it is a collective sin?  Do we still extend a sense of humanity to such?

 

 “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten how to belong to each other.”  These words from Mother Teresa might very well be the key to making this ordinary time extraordinary.  How we think of ourselves is reflected in how we treat others.  Truthfully, though, there is no “them” and “us”.  There is only “we”.

 

Recently a group of people identifying themselves as being patriotic to their own cultures and homelands came together for an experiment.    You can watch the results here and they are far more compelling than anything I could write.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyaEQEmt5ls

 

 

A Policy of Ubuntu

 

A Policy of Ubuntu

June 16, 2018

Pentecost 2018

  

Ubuntu is, for many younger adults and hipsters, just a software platform that helps them run programs on everything from a smart phone to a laptop or tablet.  It has gained popularity because it is free and a community driven operating system that encourages sharing.  Ubuntu is much more than that, however, and much older than any mechanical operating system.

 

Ubuntu came to the world stage in 1993 in 1993 when the negotiators of the South African Interim Constitution wrote: ‘there is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for ubuntu but not for victimization.”  This passage in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 200 of 1993: Epilogue after Section 251 was specifically addressing apartheid and the racial hierarchy and segregation that resulted from apartheid.

 

Ubuntu is a word common to several African cultures and each has its own way of defining it.  It is a humanist concept and even the Interim Constitution did not specifically define it.  Generally ubuntu refers to behaving well towards others or acting in ways that benefit the community. Such acts could be as simple as helping a stranger in need, or much more complex ways of relating with others. A person who behaves in these ways has ubuntu. He or she is a full person.  Bishop Desmond Tutu explained:  “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up in what is yours”. 

 

There is a story that an anthropologist proposed a game while visiting a tribe in Africa.  He tied a basket of fruit to a nearby tree and then told the children of the tribe that whoever reached the tree first could have all the fruit.  The children quickly gathered hands and ran together.  Once they reached the tree they sat down in a circle and shared the fruit.  When asked why they did not elect to keep the fruit to themselves the anthropologist was told:  “Ubuntu!  How can one of us be happy if the rest are sad?”

 

Throughout history violence has been used as an answer.  It is not.  It is a cessation for a period of time but it solves no problem, just creates more.  No illnesses have ever been cured by violence.  No life-saving discoveries came from the firing of a weapon.  No bomb ever aimed created more beautiful life.

 

The story of the children sitting in a circle should be a metaphor for all of mankind living on this planet.  We may not seem to be sitting in a circle yet we live in a circle and what disastrous effects one experiences will eventually affect us all.

 

In 1995 the South African Constitutional Court ruled that ubuntu was important because “it was against the background of the loss of respect for human life and the inherent dignity which attaches to every person that a spontaneous call has arisen among section of the community for a return to ubuntu”.  The recent “(insert here your special group) Lives Matter” campaign is a modern day American version of a call to ubuntu.

 

All life matters.  In Zimbabwe the word for ubuntu is unhu. Unhu involves recognizing the humanity in another in order to have it in yourself.   All are respected and treated as one would wish to be treated and the concept has many rules of what many might consider etiquette or tribal law.  In Kinyarwanda, the mother tongue in Rwanda, and In Kirundi, the mother tongue in Burundi, ubuntu refers to human generosity and a spirit of humaneness or humanity.  Runyakitara is the collection of dialects spoken by the Banyankore, Banyoro, Batooro and Bakiga of Western Uganda and also the Bahaya, Banyambo and others of Northern Tanzania.  In these dialects “obuntu” refers to the human characteristics of generosity, consideration and humane-ness towards others in the community. Luganda is the dialect of Central Uganda and its “obuntu-bulamu” refers to the same characteristics.

 

Basically, though, if you ask someone on the African continent what ubuntu is they will say it means “I am because we are.”  Many Americans are experiencing much misery over recent policies requiring children be separated from their families because of their legal immigration status or lack thereof and we all have felt sad.  The time has come, though, to dry our tears and respond with humanity and positive action.  The world needs our generosity and kind treatment of others. 

 

Such policies assume that the world can be divided into “them” and “us”.  It cannot.  While evil is calling for more terror, we need to send out a call for ubuntu, for kindness, for respect, for love, for life.  Only ubuntu can make this ordinary time of Pentecost extraordinary.  Only by living ubuntu will humanity defeat evil. Only when we realize that we truly are all brothers and sisters in the family of man and treat each other respectfully will the future be made possible for us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Profitable Treasure Hunt

A Profitable Treasure Hunt

June 12, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

Going to school and writing papers has never been easier with the availability of research options that can be found on the Internet.    Many of us spend the minutes playing a game on our smart phones or tablets.  Why not use that time to raise money for a great charity?

 

SEO is a term you have seen if you spend any time on the Internet.  It is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization or the fastest way to find something.  Anyone who has used the Internet has probably utilized an SEO at some point.  In fact, unless you only open your Internet browser when you have the website address you are going to, you have used an SEO.  Some of the more common ones are Google, Yahoo, Bing….”Oh, yeah, I’ve done that” you’re thinking.

 

Search Engines make money by showing advertisements on either the left or right side of the webpage.  They then donate at least thirty to seventy percent of the advertising revenue to a specific charity.  Revenue is generated when someone clicks on the advertisement.  So you can sit back on your public transportation or car pool and search while you help a charity fill their coffers, making optimal use of your commute and feeling good about yourself.  Talk about a win-win situation!  The following are just a few of the search engines that donate money to charitable organizations. 

 

Sleio is a search engine that will let you designate which charity you would like to assist or, in other words, you get pick that they will donate the revenue you generate by click on the advertisement.  Some of their options are UNICEF and Khan Academy but there are others.

 

Ecosia is a website search engine that promotes tree planting in Brazil with eighty percent of ad revenue being donated.  By mid-2014 over two hundred thousand users had donated over six hundred thousand trees that were planted in Brazil. 

 

Everyclick is a great SEO for Anglophiles because it allows those who click to assist over two hundred thousand charities in the United Kingdom.  Simply Do Good is both a search and a shopping website that assists over one hundred thousand schools and nonprofits.  Helpuu is a Google-powered “helping website” that donates money to such charities as Feed the Children and the American Red Cross.

 

Envirosearch.org not only lets you search but also save the planet in your searching.  Just Go Search is a Yahoo search engine that donates its revenue to charities in the United Kingdom.  Freelanthropy is another Yahoo-powered SEO that shares its advertising revenue with schools, churches, shelters, scouts, environmental causes, and other nonprofits.  The Ronald McDonald House Charities are just one of the helping charities that benefits from this search engine.

 

We all look for things.  It is part of human nature to be curious.  We all also usually spend time waiting, whether it is on a commute or in a doctor’s office, train station, airport or maybe just waiting for someone to get ready to go out.  Who knew you could look for the best price on a new outfit and at the same time help provide a meal to a hungry child?  Make that search count for something and help good working charities obtain the funding they need by using one of these SEO’s.    Your looking online can mean the world, or at least a meal or a new pair of shoes, to a hungry child.

 

 

Envisioning Possibilities

Envisioning Possibilities

June 7, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

If you are reading this, then at some point today you awoke.  Maybe not completely or willingly, but you changed from a sleep state to a state of being awake.  But how awake are you?  I mean, really awake.  All too often we go through our day on auto-pilot.  We do the same things by rote; habits comprise our living.  What if we took a leap of faith and envisioned something greater?
“Hey there; I’m Brandon.  I get really passionate about things.  At some time in my life, I’ve been obsessed or borderline-obsessed with saltwater aquariums, the baritone euphonium, reading, piano, filming, financial markets, New York City, and photography.  I studied History at the University of Georgia.  During my senior year of college, I took out $3,000 in student loans and bet it on Barack Obama to win the presidency.  A friend heard about this bet and got me a job trading bonds on the Chicago Board of Trade.  I traded for three years.  It went really well for awhile.  But then it went really bad. Whoops. After I lost my trading job, I decided to move to New York City and take portraits of strangers on the street. Mom wasn’t too happy about that decision, but so far it’s gone pretty well. I’ve taken nearly 5,000 portraits and written 50 stories. And I’ve met some amazing people along the way.”

 

This paragraph is on the home page of the website for Humans of New York.  Now a best-selling published book and the subject of a highly successful blog, Brandon Stanton’s intro doesn’t really tell the whole story.  In 2010 he had a goal to take ten thousand New Yorkers’ pictures and plot them on a map.  The amazing thing about Brandon’s photography, though, is the story that each picture tells.  The Georgia native began taking pictures as a hobby while living in Chicago.  He has since traveled under the auspices of the United Nations, taking part in a fifty-day trip through ten nations.  Three years ago he did the same in Pakistan and Iran and crowd funded a project to help end bonded labor in Pakistan.

 

Stanton’s photographs are not technically perfect.  After all, he was a history major in college.  What they do, however, is bring the human condition into focus.  They capture a moment in time that is an entire book.  Not all of the minute portraits are completely candid shots. There are the critics as well.  Recently, Robert John Boyle published an article at salon.com regarding the sugarcoating of Brandon’s subjects and the presentation that Boyle called “sentimentality”.

 

In 2015 Brandon Stanton raised over half a million dollars to help Syrian refugees.    The visual content of the pictures found within Humans of New York make us listen, not only to the subject of the photograph but to the world around us.   Brandon Stanton’s pictures shake us up, and wake us up.  Suddenly we are not just seeing the same people we might pass every day.  Suddenly we are envisioning something more.

 

When all we hear is our own ego, we are unable to hear reality and the needs the world is calling us to repair.  “When my husband was dying, I said: Moe, how am I supposed to live without you? He told me: take the love you have for me and spread it around.”  This anecdote from Stanton’s blog and book is just one example of the truths found accompanying each picture.  One of my favorites is the young child Stanton saw.  Wanting to take her picture he started asking nearby adults “Does she belong to you?”  Suddenly the little girl responded “I belong to myself!”  This young girl is already envisioning her future.

 

What if we listened to the world as a potential success, and that success as belonging to each of us?  Observe a group of mothers and you will learn that each seems to know her own baby’s cry and what that cry means.  When I was single I laughed at the thought of understanding a baby’s cry… and then I became a mother.  I soon became one of “those mothers’.  Most of us dog owners can recognize our own dog’s bark and usually what it means.  (My cats also speak to me but we all know that cats merely do that to get our attention.  After all, no human is smart enough to understand cat-speak! LOL)

 

When we listen – not just hear but really listen – great things can happen.  Stephen Covey knew how often we fail to really listen: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  We each can envision the possibilities of success, not just for us but for the world, if we would just listen, really listen, to what the world is telling us, to what our neighbors are saying.  I think Leo Buscaglia, another best-selling author,  penned it succinctly:  “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

 

Envision a better today and you will make it happen.  Envision the possibilities of the future and we will have a better tomorrow and an extraordinary life.  We all can make a difference and each difference, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction.

 

Surviving Life’s Detours

Surviving Life’s Detours

June 6, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

It was Valentine’s Day – a day in which thoughts turn to love and fancy.  Teenagers arrived at school thinking more about the date than homework assignments.  Within three hours they would be literally running for their lives.  March 8, 2018 parents in another Florida school district received word that their school had averted a similar threat/attack in 2017, thanks to the diligence of a teacher’s spouse and the relationship between teachers and students that led to students informing on the two young men planning the attack.

 

It was a fun-filled, talent-delightful concert directed towards the teenagers in life.  It ended with screams and panic as concert goers prepared to leave the venue after a pop music concert in Manchester, England.  Less than two weeks later, Londoners and tourists alike strolled across the London Bridge, many only to find themselves in the hospital after being struck deliberately by an out-of-control, speeding van.  The three van drivers then fled the scene of mayhem they had created only to run into a restaurant and attempt to kill even more.

 

Life is messy and there are those who have decided their life’s purpose is to perpetuate that messiness and chaos.  Even if it is not something that will make the evening news, our lives have their detours.  For this season of Pentecost, we will discuss dealing with such and, hopefully, find a way to navigate the detours of life.

 

“Le vrai est trop simple, il faut y arriver toujours par le compliqué.”  This translates as “The truth is too simple: one must always get there by a complicated route.”  It was written in a letter to Armand Barbès on 12 May 1867 by George Sand.   I would dearly love to tell you this statement is false but I cannot; there is a great deal of truth within it.

 

This very post is a perfect example of a detour in life.  Between the  school shootings, over fifteen in the US during 2017, the suicide bombing at the concert in Manchester and those killed/injured in London, I really doubted writing about this topic.  And yet, in some ways it seemed more important than ever.  Today, though, is an important anniversary and we must continue to fight for freedom and right to honor that anniversary.

 

The morning of June 6, 1944 marked the largest amphibious military assault the world had ever seen. More than 160,000 American, British and Canadian troops battled their way along a 50-mile stretch of beach in Normandy, France to give the Allies a foothold in Nazi-occupied western Europe and a path to victory in World War II.  A massive airborne operation preceded the Allied amphibious invasion of the Normandy beaches. In the early hours of June 6, 1944, several hours prior to troops landing on the beaches, over 13,000 elite paratroopers of the American 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, as well as several thousand from the British 6th Airborne Division were dropped at night by over 1,200 aircraft. Almost 4,000 more paratroopers would later be brought in by gliders, known as Waco Gliders, during daylight hours. In total 23,000 paratroopers and glider troops would be used in Normandy. 

 

Many died during the events of this day, all which began with three words from General Dwight Eisenhower:  “Okay, let’s go!”  Millions had perished in the years leading up to this day.  Some were killed simply for being alive; others in the throes of battle.  War is chaotic.  During World War II, most of the inhabitants of planet earth had their lives affected in one way or another.  The end result was more about surviving life than in acquiring land or wealth.

 

“Odd, how life makes twists and turns. I never would have guessed that I’d end up where I am now, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I wouldn’t trade this path I’m on for the whole solar system, for that matter. If I’ve learned anything these last several months, it’s that sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take.”  This sentence by Angela N. Blount in her “Once Upon an Ever After” is how I hope we all begin to approach the detours in our living. 

 

Most of us, fortunately, will never have such a dramatic detour in our effort to survive life.  Still, we do face our own trials and turmoil, unexpected detours that life throws at us.  The truth remains that every detour brings its own amount of stress.  “We all have detours in life.  It is up to us to turn our detour into a pilgrimage of hope,” writes Lisa Copen.   If we take a new perspective on these detours, we might just enjoy the scenery and experience.   We cannot only survive life’s curves and detours  but ride them to victory.