Through the Eyes of a Child

Through the Eyes of a Child

2018.07.08

Pentecost 2018

 

New York City has always been a port of entry for those immigrating to the United States.  Even in the midst of the War Between the States, five ships docked carrying those hoping for a better life in the New World at least every three days.  In the middle of a civil uprising, this country has always seemed to offer new hope.

 

Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the U.S. as the United States’ busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years from 1892 until 1954. Ellis Island was opened January 1, 1892.  Two years after its closing, a six-year-old child stepped onto American soil for the first time.  The week-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean had been made on a personal troop carrier with several families sharing a room.  Our young girl slept in one bunk bed with her two sisters while her mother slept in another.  The men were in the enlisted quarters and slept in hammocks stacked three or four high.  Rather than excitement, seasickness colored their days.  The quest for freedom, though, was the ultimate prize because even a small child knows a life lived without fear is worth some discomfort.

 

It is an often overlooked advantage but those born in the United States are automatically considered American citizens.  This is not true in many countries.  Our young child had parents who had met during World War II in a relocation camp.  She herself was born in a part of Germany controlled by Americans after WWII but her nationality lay with that of her parents, natives of Estonia.  German was her language in public and at school while Estonian was spoken at home.

 

Her first impression upon arriving on US land was the strange language she heard spoken.  “It sounded like bees buzzing”, she once remarked.  Arriving at a time that saw many immigrants arriving, her school system assigned her one-on-one tutoring with a teacher to learn English.  Her mother would pretend not to understand store clerks so her children would have to translate for her in an effort to facilitate them learning the language of their new home.

 

Our new arrival grew up in a community of immigrants and valued her ability to move around her neighborhood freely.  While most of us have grown up never thinking twice about running down the street, many immigrants relish such an opportunity.  They have lived in restricted environments and under fear of disobedience that often results in jail or death.  Something as simple as walking to a corner store for many became a new adventure, something to be treasured and enjoyed.

 

An immigrant child is seldom allowed to forget they were not born here, though.  Even in a community of immigrants, some discrimination can exist.  We all, regardless of national origin, tend to fear the unknown and different.  We tend to look for the two percent of our DNA that denotes ethnic differences instead of seeing the ninety-eight percent we have in common.  Our young Estonian was called a Nazi even though her family had been victims of them rather than supporters.  A neighbor’s son even threw a rock at her head in the name of patriotism. 

 

When an immigrant becomes an American citizen, it is always day remembered.  At a time when our young high school coed could not have enlisted or been asked to serve in a combat military setting, she was required to swear allegiance to “bear arms” to protect the United States of America.  She became a US citizen one morning and later that day, graduated high school.  Like most immigrants afforded the opportunity, she excelled in school and earned two college degrees.  Over eighty percent of all US Nobel Prize winners have, in fact, been immigrants.

 

I once asked the heroine of our story today what she valued most about being an American.  It was at the end of a long day and I had spent most of the day running errands.  Her answer humbled me.  Without hesitation, when asked the best thing about being an American she replied:  “Freedom of movement.”

 

The country of Estonia was under Soviet rule after WWII for almost half a century and the parents in this story were uncertain of the life they faced if they returned home.  They braved a transatlantic crossing with strangers to give their three young daughters a better life.  Today the families seeking to cross our borders are doing the same exact thing.

 

It is indeed ironic that today, many immigrant children will be taken out of their cages to eat and then return to them to spend the rest of their day.  They have been brought here just as our little girl was by their parents.  Some are seeking opportunity, but most are braving the relocation in order to survive and give their children the same chance to survive.  Hopefully, one day, these children will be able to say they experienced freedom of movement in a country that eventually welcomed them as it has everyone else who ever lived here.

 

We are a nation of immigrants. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants.” We should not forget that.  Just like the little girl in our story, someone in our family underwent great struggle and trials to afford their children (who eventually became us) a chance at freedom.  The American dream, Declaration of Independence, and US Constitution can be summed up in this quote from Senator Robert F Kennedy.  “Our attitude towards immigration reflects our faith in the American ideal. We have always believed it possible for men and women who start at the bottom to rise as far as the talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances.”  Hopefully the children of today will continue to live and experience that belief.

 

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Them Should Be Extinct

“Them” Should Be Extinct

2018.07.07

Pentecost 2018

 

 

The World Health Organization defines violence as “the intentional use of physical force or power against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”  There is nothing constructive and certainly no answer found in the words injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.

 

Violence occurs when someone believes in the concept of “Them versus Us”.  That concept exists only in some depraved fairytale land.  It does not exist in the real world.  We are one in this thing called life – we, not them or us.  Life is a group effort, a team sport, and right now, the sportsmanship of life has been lost.  The American Heritage Dictionary, edition published in 2011, defines sportsmanship as “conduct and attitude of participants in sports, especially when considered commendable as in fair play, courtesy, and grace in losing.”  Please read that last part – fair plays; courtesy, and grace in losing.

 

We need to stand up for things that are right and certainly the unexplained death of someone complying with an officer’s instructions needs to be investigated.  However, randomly targeting innocent people is not fair play and it accomplishes nothing except the expenditure of ammunition.  We also need to proceed with intention and forethought in a manner designed to accomplish something positive.

 

Every group on this planet has been a target at some point in history.  There is no “them” – we are them.  “Them” is the objective form of “they” which signifies a group of… us.  Them is the collective “we” and means more than one of “you and I”.  This singling out of people and calling them by name or being fearful of them is the same as looking in your mirror and being afraid of yourself.

 

Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno is a Latin phrase that translates as “One for all, all for one”.  While many believe it originated in Alexander Dumas’ “The Three Musketeers”, it actually goes back two hundred years earlier.  Considered the unofficial motto of the country of Switzerland, this phrase dates back to 1618.  Two hundred years earlier there had been killings due to clashes between Roman Catholics and Protestants.  The action led to the death of the king of Bohemia and ultimately, the Hussite Wars.  Compromises were made and princes were allowed to determine the religion of their subjects.

 

Power is a thirsty mistress, however, and movement was made to gain more power over the ensuing years.  A struggle began between King Rudolf II of Bohemia and his brother Matthias.  Rudolf increased the rights of the Protestants but was deemed unfit to rule and the crown passed to his brother.  Matthias, however, was unmarried and had no children so he made a cousin named Ferdinand king.  Ferdinand was Roman Catholic and ordered no further building of Protestant churches could continue.  This resulted in a meeting in 1618 between leaders of the Bohemian Roman Catholic and Protestant communities.  During the meeting, the Protestants issues a statement:  “As they also absolutely intended to proceed with the execution against us, we came to a unanimous agreement among ourselves that, regardless of any loss of life and limb, honour and property, we would stand firm, with all for one and one for all… nor would we be subservient, but rather we would loyally help and protect each other to the utmost, against all difficulties”.

 

In November 2016, then candidate Donald Trump disdained the administration’s policy to allow immigrants from Syria.  In 2016 Candidate Trump asked who was emigrating from Syria and said the men coming were terrorists.  Statistics prove that 78% of all Syrian immigrants have been women who were escaping death and body mutilation.  Recently the US Supreme Court up held such the ban on anyone emigrating from Syria.  How many women will now lose their lives because the ability to escape had been blocked based upon fear and in disdain of the facts?

 

Today our featured women making a difference are two PBS reporters showing us what life is like for the over two thousand children who have been detained and separated from their families.  Filmed two weeks ago, this link shows us what life is like for those children.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JelgiJJ0oY

 

The act of separating children certainly fits the definition of violence described by the WHO: “the intentional use of physical force or power against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, which results in psychological harm or deprivation.”  There is nothing constructive and certainly no answer found in such an action that has been justified because it is against “them”.

 

We need to make the concept of “them” extinct.  We need to reaffirm that which was proposed in 1618 to “loyally help and protect each other to the utmost, against all difficulties.”  What is a “them”?  It is you… and me… and your neighbor and my neighbor and the guy on the corner who doesn’t look anything like you or me and the lady across town who wears different clothing.  We are a large diverse group, much like roses or grasses or trees.  There are many different sets and subsets of mankind but we are all parts of the whole – one for all and all for one.  Make the concept of “them” extinct”.  It begins with each of us seeing each other as a part of ourselves.  You want to really know who “them” is?  Look in the mirror.  Let’s make “them” extinct and begin to focus on “we”.

 

 

No Limits

No Limits

2018.07.06

Pentecost 2018

 

“Power, as human beings exercise power, to me means the ability to change: the ability to change oneself, the ability to change one’s community.  And the positive use of power is transformation of self and community toward a high ideal, toward a healed world.”  This quote by Katherine Jefferts Schori speaks to the topic we are exploring this month of personal power and to the needs of the world today.

 

Of Irish ancestry, Katherine Jefferts Schori was born in Pensacola to Keith Jefferts and his wife Elaine Ryan. Jefferts Schori was first raised in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1963, her parents brought her, at the age of eight, into the Episcopal Church (St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, New Providence, New Jersey) with their own move out of Roman Catholicism. Her mother converted to Eastern Orthodoxy a few years later and died in 1998.  She attended school in New Jersey, then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Stanford University in 1974, a Master of Science degree in oceanography in 1977, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1983, also in oceanography, from Oregon State University. She is an instrument-rated pilot.  Both her parents were pilots.  She married Richard Schori, an Oregon State professor of topology, in 1979. Their daughter Katharine is a captain and pilot in the United States Air Force, continuing the family tradition.

 

Jefferts Schori earned her Master of Divinity in 1994 from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific[3] and was ordained priest that year. She served as assistant rector at the Church of the Good Samaritan, in Corvallis, Oregon, where she had special responsibility for pastoring the Hispanic community as a fluent Spanish communicator, and was in charge of adult education programs.  In 2001, Jefferts Schori was elected and consecrated Bishop of Nevada. The Church Divinity School of the Pacific gave her an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2001. Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois awarded her an honorary degree in 2007, as did The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee the following year. (Most Episcopal seminaries award an honorary doctorate to alumni who become bishops.)

 

The Episcopal Church met in General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2006.  Bishop Jefferts Schori was elected to serve a nine-year term as Presiding Bishop by the House of Bishops, on June 18, from among seven nominees on the fifth ballot with 95 of the 188 votes cast. The House of Deputies, consisting of deacons, priests and laity, overwhelmingly approved the House of Bishops’ election later that day. She was the first woman primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion and the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as well as the 963rd bishop of the Episcopal Church.

 

For the past thirty years, Presiding Bishops have traditionally served a fifteen year term, presiding over three General Conventions which are held every three years.  Jefferts Schori announced on September 23, 2014, that she would not seek another term as Presiding Bishop. On June 27, 2015, the General Convention elected Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina as the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.  In 2017, Bishop Katherine began serving as assisting bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

 

Diana Butler Bass, an independent scholar and expert on U.S. religion and author of eight books, including “Christianity After Religion” wrote of Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori:  “In the 21st century, with declining numbers who identify as part of mainline religion, church elections are mostly a matter of inside baseball and of no great consequence to American society. Yet this cannot be fairly said of Jefferts Schori’s tenure as the head of the Episcopal Church. In the last decade, the denomination became a sort of a laboratory in which to observe cultural and religious change.

 

“The first and most obvious fact about Jefferts Schori’s tenure is that she is a she. As the only female head of an Anglican national church, she was subjected to innumerable indignities, the most noteworthy of which was a 2010 order by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that she not wear a mitre (the hat worn by Christian bishops to symbolize their spiritual authority) when preaching in an English cathedral.”  [It should be noted that most recently when giving the homily at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markel, the current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry did not wear a mitre.]

 

Bass continues:  “Jefferts Schori proved a tough leader, determined to protect the church, employing her resources to quell dissent and maintain church law. As a result, the Episcopal Church lost far fewer members than had been predicted and won almost every court case brought against it.”  It should be noted that the Episcopal Church is one of the oldest religious institutions in the U.S.A.

 

The basis for the gospels included within the book known as the Holy Bible is that love has no limits.  The tenure of Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori proves, as Bass concludes, that finding such on earth is difficult.  “Jefferts Schori’s tenure also points to the complex and intertwined realities of women’s and LGBTQ rights. Her opponents exercised the same tactics of discrimination against both her and Gene Robinson. Each was (often grudgingly) recognized as a bishop, but faced constant challenges to their leadership on the basis of gender or sexual identity. They were excluded from meetings whenever possible, sometimes forced to sit separate from groups, forbidden to wear symbols of their rank in certain places, and disallowed from performing the sacraments – practices of segregation resembling those often employed against African Americans – and functionally intimating that Jefferts Schori and Robinson were somehow unclean or spiritually unacceptable.

 

“Such overt discrimination demonstrates that while sexism, homophobia and racism are not identical, they prompt the same response from those who fear losing power or privilege, including within the religious community. In a comment that applies to too many American organizations, Bishop Susan Goff of Virginia said the Episcopal Church continues to suffer from “deeply ingrained structural and institutional sexism.”  Having a woman presiding bishop does not eliminate sexism – and electing a bishop who happens to be gay does not end homophobia. The Gordian knot of equal rights for all has to be untied as a whole, not as its individual threads.”

 

As we move forward we need to see the world as “we” and not a competition between “them” and “us”.  There can be no limits to our efforts to make the world a better place for all.  To quote Bishop Katherine once said:  “See the encounters of Jesus’ life as windows into possibilities for yours.  Accept the invitation to go or strive to go through the narrow door.  Choose between life and fear, for the unengaged life is truly not worth living, and has no possibility of salvation or abundance.”

Two Notable Immigrants

Two Notable Immigrants

2018.07.04

Pentecost 2018

 

“Give me your tired, your huddled masses yearning to be free…”  Many believe this to be the beginning of an inscription when it really is the ending.  A sonnet written by Emma Lazarus to raise money to pay for the base of the Statue of Liberty, the sonnet declares the statue to be the Mother of Exiles.  This statue is as American as the flag and both the poetess and the women whom we will discuss today are shining examples of what this country has stood for throughout its history. 

 

Emma Lazarus was a Jewish poet born in New York City.  While some of her ancestors were from Germany, most came from Portugal, being some of the very first Jewish immigrants in the New World long before the American Revolution.  They came as many did seeking religious freedom and the chance to live their faith.  Her first book was published while she was in her mid-teenage years.  Lazarus was a prolific writer in her thirty-eight years on earth.  Her most notable series of articles was that entitled “An Epistle to the Hebrews” (The American Hebrew, November 10, 1882 – February 24, 1883).  It might seem as it was published more recently since in it she discussed the Jewish problems of the day, urged a technical and a Jewish education for Jews, and ranged herself among the advocates of an independent Jewish nationality and of Jewish repatriation in Palestine. 

 

Today is known in the United States of American as Independence Day, being the Fourth of July.  While the current debate centers on the right of people to emigrate, it should be noted that all humans living on the North American continent can trace their ancestry to immigrants.   Whether those known as American Indians, colonists, or refugees, everyone came from somewhere else on the globe before living here.  The settlement of this area is relatively new compared to the bones of those discovered in the Asian and European continents.  The first human settlement dates back to 9000 B.C. in Estonia and yet, science is convinced the history of man is much older.

 

Marie Jana Korbelová came to the USA at the age of eleven.  Her father was a diplomat in their native Czechoslovakia and the family settled in Denver.  At the age of twenty she became a U.S. citizen in 1957. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1959 and earned a PhD from Columbia University in 1975, writing her thesis on the Prague Spring. She worked as an aide to Senator Edmund Muskie before taking a position under Zbigniew Brzezinski on the National Security Council. She served in that position until the end of President Jimmy Carter’s lone term.

After leaving the National Security Council, Albright joined the academic staff of Georgetown University and advised Democratic candidates regarding foreign policy. After Clinton’s victory in the 1992 presidential election, she helped assemble Clinton’s National Security Council. In 1993, Clinton appointed her to the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She held that position until 1997, when she succeeded Warren Christopher as Secretary of State. She served as Secretary of State until Clinton left office in 2001.

 

The first female ambassador, Madeleine Albright as Maria is now known, is a prime example of the determination many immigrants bring with them to this new home of theirs.  At the time of her birth, her father was serving as press-attaché at the Czechoslovak Embassy in Belgrade. However, the signing of the Munich Agreement in September 1938 and the disintegration of Czechoslovakia at the hands of Adolf Hitler forced the family into exile because of their links with Beneš.   In 1941, Josef and Anna had converted from Judaism to Catholicism.   Madeleine was raised in Roman Catholicism and spent the years of World War II in Great Britain, never knowing many of her family perished in the Holocaust.   

 

Madeleine Albright’s first view of the United States was the Statue of Liberty as the family landed at Ellis Island.  Requesting asylum, the family moved first to Long Island and the Colorado.  Albright is now an Episcopalian. Further example of the religious freedoms promised and cherished by the US Constitution.  Her accomplishments were not without hard work but she is a great example of what someone can do if they apply themselves, regardless of where they were born.

 

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”  Those who expected the first female ambassador from the USA to be docile were very surprised with the pint size, ball of energy that is Madeleine Albright.  “We might have the right intentions, but instead of acting, we decide to wait.  We keep waiting until we run out of “untils”.  Then it is too late.” 

 

The future is ours to write and we need to embrace all of humanity in order to do so successfully.  The best celebration of any country’s Independence Day is a dedicated effort to move forward with peace and diplomacy for all.  “We have a responsibility in our time, as others have had in theirs, not to be prisoners of history but to shape history.”  These words of Madeleine Albright fit perfectly with the words of Emma Lazarus that we should extend to all a “world-wide welcome”.  It is, after all, the reason we sought to be independent.

 

 

 

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. 

 

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

 

 

Living the Spirit

Living the Spirit

March 6-7, 2018

 

In 2011 author Judith O’Reilly decided to do one good deed every day.  In an article written for the London-based Daily Mail’s online publication fittingly known as “Mail Online”, columnist Bianca London interviewed O’Reilly.  ‘I didn’t realize when I made the resolution that New Year what I was taking on,’ she says in the epilogue to her book.  “I’d made resolutions before… but the idea of doing one good deed a day morphed into something else again.  ‘This year made me question what a good life is, how we give our lives meaning, and what it is to love.  ‘It also taught me that people don’t always want the good you want to do, and that doing good – believe you me – is harder than it looks.”

 

The season of Lent, the current lliturgical season, is a time for doing something that results in making one better.  Traditionally it has involved sacrifice but more recently, the trend for a lenten discipline has been to take on something.

 

I recently got called out by a person regarding my “seemingly liberal views” in a comment.  I always enjoy feedback and often answer direct questions.  I respect everyone for having a point of view because I also have a point of view.  However, this person asked me to apologize and explain my stance so one of my Lenten disciplines this year  is to show others respect.

 

Recently I attended a lecture series having five parts.  The last speaker talked about the environment and said several things that were, scientifically, not factual.  Did I stand up and scream “Liar!”?  No, of course not.  This person has the right as an invited speaker to say what they wished.  I deeply regret that some people walked out of the meeting thinking erroneous facts but respect for another required that I say nothing.  There were several courses of actions I could have taken afterwards.  One would have been to engage the speaker in some polite chatter and asked for their references, casually mentioning what I felt might have been said in error.  Another would have been to send them a letter comparing my references with theirs and asking for what clarification or reconciliation they knew.  A third would have been to accept that the series was more about gathering together than about academic learning and that others probably realized this as well.

 

I elected the third course of action, out of respect.  Was it a pleasing choice?  No, not really but I do believe it to have been the best.  I could, of course, be entirely wrong about that and would love to hear your thoughts.  I sincerely hope no one left the meeting and became a vegetarian because of the speaker’s comments that beef cattle are ruining the atmosphere with the amount of methane gas they discharge.  The truth is that dairy cattle produce twice as much methane gas as beef cattle.  Becoming a vegetarian may be the best health choice for someone but such a decision should be based on health and religious reasons, not a misspoken statement given in a speech.

 

Was I disappointed that the speaker gave out erroneous information, this being just one example?  Naturally I was but again, that is the decision this person made.  We all make such decisions, whether it is to jaywalk or pull into a parking place someone else had their eye on or even to short tip a server for their services.  These decisions reflect on our being and illustrate our own spirit of living.

 

I cannot apologize to my reader for being a liberal because I don’t think of myself that way.  Reminding that the person screaming about one man’s infidelity also committed infidelity in his own marriage and did so in his multiple marriages does not necessarily make me a liberal.  It means simply that I have a brain and memory and am putting both to use.

 

I firmly believe if we put eight people in a room and ask them one question each regarding the topics of religion, faith, lifestyle choices, or even just fashion preferences, for each question we would probably receive at least twelve difference answers.  We should insist everyone think exactly the same as we do.  We must respect another person’s right to their own opinion, even when it contradicts their own actions.

 

It is that contradiction that I hope to illustrate and, perhaps, cause us to consider.  I firmly believe most of us are good people and try to live good lives.  We sometimes just don’t stop to think and yes, that includes me.  Never think I hold myself up as a sterling example.  I am, as my bio states, a struggling wandered on the road of life and I have fallen into more than my fair share of pot holes and taken wrong turns in life.

 

Life is a journey and I hope, in this blog, to offer a few ways to make that journey a little more pleasurable and effective.  “You were ordered to obey to Allah, and you were created to perform good deeds.”  While I do not identify as a Muslim, I really do appreciate this quote.  The author  of it is considered to be the first person to convert to Islam, being a cousin to Muhammad.   As a collector of quotations, he is among my favorites.  Respect today that wisdom knows no labels or sectarian divides and do yourself a favor by reading up on this man and some of his quotations.

 

William Shakespeare once wrote “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”  To do something good certainly helps the world but it also helps us be better citizens.  I hope you will join me during this season in extending respect to all you encounter.

 

We can, however, do our little part to make the world a better place.  It is, in every religion and spirituality, part of the credo for living.  Whether liberal or conservative, non-religious person or devout, doing good bu offering respect to all just makes good sense.  It doesn’t take a lot of money to create a smile.  In fact, tomorrow’s tip for better living just takes seven minutes.   Richelle Goodrich sums it up very succinctly:  ““Every sunrise is an invitation for us to arise and brighten someone’s day.”