Epiphany 53


“Engage brain before mouth in gear.”  Popular in the 60’s and 70’s, this piece of advice seems to have been forgotten in the fine art of conversation and public speaking.  And lest you think I am specifically referring to politicians, I am not.  I am referring to all of us.


Negotiation and compromise is a part of everyday life and if it is not a part of yours, then you are doing something wrong.  No one gets a free ride from the responsibility of negotiating.  We live on a planet with many others and whether it be nature or humanity, we have to learn to get along together.  That requires negotiation. 


The farmer who is successful does not simply tear up the ground and drop whatever seeds he/she wishes wherever and whenever.   Compromise is essential to insure the best yield of a crop.  Rotation of seeds planted, paying attention to the weather and available water supply, Crops which will grow in the given climate, availability of manpower/womanpower to harvest and process said crops – all of these things must be considered, compromises made, and negotiations scheduled.  Otherwise, we would not have food to eat.  Human beings would perish.


Words have power and the words we speak have consequences.  All too often it is the word we do not say that carries the most impact.  Parents play a vital role in the life of a child but it is the absentee parent that often plays the biggest role and whose presence or lack thereof carries the most weight.


Just as our actions are important, so are the words we utter.  AS we draw this series of Epiphany and words of action to a close, this being the next to last post about such verbs, I hope you take a moment to think before you speak.  Is what you are about to say really necessary?  Are you saying it effectively so as to be fully and completely understood?  Is it kind and most importantly, is it completely true?  If the answer to any of these is no, then please remember this adage:  Silence is golden.

Embrace and Tolerate

Embrace and Tolerate

Epiphany 23


Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?” He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”  He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”  “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”  Looking for a loophole, the scholar asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”


The above paragraph was in a post I received on Facebook from a young man of strength and character.  This paragraph has become the topic of the world news because of recent events occurring in the United States.  The man elected in part with the support of conservative religious groups seems to have forgotten this part of faith – all faiths.


In times where terrorism seems to occur several times a day in some part of the world and several times a year in others, fear is an understandable reaction.  Fear responses are our body’s defense system.  It serves as a reminder to act – not to hate.  We take cover during a storm because our body fears the consequences.  We use medicines productively to combat illness because our body is telling us something needs attention.  When used appropriately, fear can serve great purpose.


To hate one’s neighbor, though, is not productive and none of the world’s top religions encourage it although they all speak of it.  “Looking for a loophole, the scholar asked, “And just how would you define your ‘neighbor’?”  In other words, who do we embrace, loving them as ourselves?


We all have had neighbors with whom we were not friendly.  It is inevitable that at some point in time our neighbors will not share our interests or respect for boundaries, play loud music, push their leaves onto our yard, etc.  In some settlements, the neighbors have guns aimed at the houses.  How on earth are we supposed to embrace these people?  Surely they are not our true neighbors.  Or are they?


“Worship Allah and associate nothing with Him, and to parents do good, and to relatives, orphans, the needy, the near neighbor, the neighbor farther away, the companion at your side…”.   This quote is from the Quran, 4:36.  Islam speaks highly of the one who not only sees their neighbor and embraces them but also tolerates them and treats them with respect.


“The Scale of Wisdom” is a collection of sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and the Twelve Imams compiled by M. Muhammadi Rayshahri.  “It is to help him if he asks your help, to lend him if he asks to borrow from you, to satisfy his needs if he becomes poor, to console him if he is visited by an affliction, to congratulate him if is met with good fortune, to visit him if he becomes ill, to attend his funeral if he dies, not to make your house higher than his without his consent lest you deny him the breeze, to offer him fruit when you buy some or to take it to your home secretly if you do not do that, nor to send out your children with it so as not to upset his children, nor to bother him by the tempting smell of your food unless you send him some.”


What does the Torah say about loving one’s neighbor?  “Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am God.”   This passage from Leviticus 19:18 is important as is the Jewish definition of love.  Judaism defines love as “the emotional pleasure of identifying virtues in another person.”   It is not seen as an act of fate nor a physical pleasure but a deliberate embracing of another and a purposeful identification of their existence.


The third of the world’s largest religion is Christianity, the third of the Abrahamic faiths.  Scripture for this topic is found in many places in the Christian Bible but it appears first in the New Testament in the Gospel of Matthew, in the twenty-second chapter.  To the question at the end of our first paragraph, the man known as Jesus of Nazareth gave this answer earlier in this book.  Matthew 5:43 states: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. 


 Later in that same book, Matthew 22:36 we find this:  “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.   And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  We are to embrace all and tolerate them.  In Islam this is illustrated by not having your house higher than your neighbors so as to prevent him from the breeze.  In Judaism, it is to recognize that we are all different but those differences have value.  In Christianity it is to allow that your enemy is still your brother and sister as children of the Creator and should be treated as you would wish to be treated.


Who is the neighbor you are to embrace and tolerate?  The person who is standing beside you, the person standing halfway around the world, the person who looks nothing like you or whose speech is unfamiliar because they exist and are, therefore, your neighbor.  We should embrace and tolerate.  To do anything else is to live a lie and hasten the end.  This is not political or even religious.  It is simply good common sense.







Epiphany 18


This past weekend over two million women worldwide walked.  Called the Women’s March, many felt moved to participate because of conflicting ideals with a new administration.  Many marched because they feared the loss of freedoms and rights.  Others marched as a show of solidarity for women.  Some walked simply because they could.  They donned pink hats and walked, marched, or simple gathered to support women, wearing pink hats and carrying signs.


“In the end, our success in resolving conflict and affecting deep change is not made by focusing on the leading figure of our discontent, but rather on the much less visible number of women and men who form his or her base of support. While it may be tempting to focus our attention on the leader, waiting for and pouncing on his every misstep and falter, in the long run our most effective response will be in how well we do at the hard work of creating a new solidarity with those who see the situation so differently than we. A good reminder of this fact is in considering how we came to this crossroads in the first place; the responsibility is not the Russians alone, but our own: we got in this situation partly by overlooking the need to reassure some of our good neighbors that they were needed and valued. Taking human hearts for granted can be a costly mistake and not one to be made twice. So while we may be mesmerized by what goes on in Washington, D.C., it would do us well to be even more active in communities farther afield. Building bridges there could be the ethical and political infrastructure we need for winning the next series of crucial elections. The question is not how many in the inner circle are hearing us shout, since they will be largely deaf to our appeal, but instead how many of those who put them there are hearing us in quieter conversations all across America. Success will be measured not by how many of our own we can put in the streets, but even more importantly, by how many women and men in the rust belt will be willing to wear a pink hat the next time around.”  These words by retired Episcopal bishop Steven Charleston bring us to my point and our verbs for today.


What comes after we have walked?  What comes after we take a stand for a cause or ideal?  The answer is life, that forward progression of steps we make each day that, eventually, will comprise the journey of a lifetime.  You see, getting your dander up for a good cause is great but that can only last for a certain amount of time.  How do we live those ideals for which we marched?


Sometimes the conflict is not so much about the other guy but about our response and the manner in which we respond.  It is so much more fun and easy to get mad and stay mad but seriously, unless you do jumping jacks or some other exercise in your anger, getting mad really accomplishes very little.  Real, long-lasting action requires thought and – gulp – reconciliation. 


Reconciliation starts with understanding.  First we need to admit and understand that there are other points of view.  No matter how wrong or ill-conceived we may judge them to be, they do exist.  Generally speaking, many have as valid a right to be felt as do our own.  Those incorrect beliefs that are wrong, as in harmful or illegal, need to be understood and explained.  Appeasement does not always mean acceptance and that is something to remember. 


No one person is a god or even a demi-god.  We all are human beings and deserve equal respect and opportunity to survive and thrive.  Some of our steps need to be toward building bridges to carry us all into a productive and efficient future.  That is the best march of all.




Epiphany 4


Someone asked me to explain the theme of this series for Epiphany 2017 in one word.  My response is the title – Action.   We will revisit verbs, those words in a sentence that denote action, later this year but for now, just know that I am asking you to take part in positive action.  Another reader apparently understood the theme but asked “Why?”


Last week four young people were arrested and indicted for their attack on a developmentally disabled classmate of one of the four.  The nation and particularly residents in Chicago were outraged.  I wondered why.  When a person can mock another human being and make their disability part of the reason and justification for mocking, a person who did so in the most public venue possible, news coverage at a press conference for the candidacy for the highest elected office in the country, why, I wondered, are people outraged when young people follow such an example.


Actions have consequences, even for winners.  “We are aware of an incident tonight involving Joey Porter,” the statement from Pittsburgh Steelers’ director of communications, Burt Lauten read. “We are still gathering information as it pertains to the situation, and we will have no further comment until we get more details.” Joey Porter is a former professional football player and current outside linebackers coach for the Steelers.  He ended the evening last night celebrating the win over the Miami Dolphins in their AFC wildcard play-off by being handcuffed and taken to jail.


Also happening last night were the Golden Globe awards awarded by the Foreign Press Corps, honoring those in the film and television world for their acting and actions.  Receiving a lifetime achievement award was Meryl Streep.  She briefly identified several in her profession and their varied ethnicities and their roles playing outside of those ethnicities.  She remarked about how we are all different and yet all the same.  She also mentioned the above-referenced incident of discrimination by then candidate now president-elect Donald Trump and his performance on the occasion of his mocking a reporter with cerebral palsy.  “There was nothing good about it, but it did its job,” she said. “It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out my head because it wasn’t in a movie, it was in real life. That instinct to humiliate when it’s modeled by someone in a public platform, it filters down into everyone’s life because it gives permission for others to do the same. … Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence insights violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose.”


There are only twenty-four hours in a day but we need to use each of them for good and not waste them, letting them get lost in our own egos and fear.  We cannot do everything and instantly cure the world of all its ill but we can all do something.  Each of those little somethings will, much like the snowflakes we discussed over the weekend, come together to make something beautiful.


You effect change on this planet with each breath you take.  You matter and your presence makes an imprint on the lives of others.  Why do I encourage you to take positive action?  Julia Butterfly Hill has the answer:  “The question is not ‘Can you make a difference?’  You already do make a difference.  It’s just a matter of what kind of difference you want to make, during your life on this planet.”



Galaxies of Grace

Galaxies of Grace

Advent 19 – 21


Technically it was known as “the crawl” and when it first appeared in 1977 it immediately captured not only the audiences that viewed it but the attention of the entire world.  Officially it was an innovative opening sequence to set the stage for the science fiction fantasy that was to follow.  In reality it was the ushering in of a new era of movie franchises, connecting to the consumer in a way that none had before.  Is it possible that grace, that word found in so many ancient languages that denotes favor, charm, or thanks from to another in an equal sense, can do the same thing?


Advent 19: Far, Far Away

Forty-eight hours ago “Rogue One” the 2016 release of yet another Star Wars film garnered over twenty-nine million dollars in sales.  That is slightly just over half of what the 2015 addition to the Star Wars saga earned.  “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was the biggest blockbuster in United States movie industry history.  “The Force Awakens” was released thirty-eight years after the first opening Star Wars crawl first proclaimed the beginning of the story, the story of the main characters involved in a fight for justice and the quintessential struggle between good and evil.


The seven films of the Star Wars family were more than just an evening’s entertainment.  They told the story of mankind albeit set in a future no one had ever imagines except its creator George Lucas.  “Rogue One” is just that – a rogue film in the franchise, designed more as a stand-alone film rather than part of the seven that came before it.  The characters of the seven were familiar with new ones were introduced in the three prequel films and the seventh sequel.  “Rogue One” has different characters and no opening crawl.


By now, if you are interested, you have either seen the film and/or read the reviews.  This one is in the Star Wars family but does not bear the family name in its title.  Much like a rebellious teenager, it distances itself in both title and opening and yet, the invitation to take a chance on being both challenged and thrilled is the core of the entire story.  It may not begin with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” but no one viewing this film felt themselves to be any place else or walking into yet another chapter of any other family.  It has no opening crawl for which Star Wars films have become so popular and yet, the opening crawl is everywhere.


“Rogue One” is just that – a scoundrel in the family.  The story is simple and appeared at the beginning of the very first release in the Star Wars family.  While the characters and the treatment may seem different and new, the basic Star Wars struggle of good versus evil is very much present.  The old cliché “Everything new is old again” describes the plot, taken straight from the opening crawl of the very first Star Wars film:  “It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”


The first Star Wars film immediately captured the attention of its audience with its opening crawl – text streaming at an angle across the galaxy.  It was an invitation to sit back and be transported to a different time and place.  That same invitation is issued to all of us when the opportunity to extend grace appears.  As I mentioned in the opening piece of this series, grace is something we all would like to share but without remembering our human connection to each other, we often fall short of that wish.  Regardless of your age, condition, belief system or lack thereof, grace is still salvation from the human condition that we all need, not only to survive but to thrive.  It is our connection to the family of all human beings.  We need to see, recognize, and extend grace not only to those we know and like but to all.  Grace should not exist only in a galaxy far, far away.


20:  The Grace of a Hero of the Stars

When he died earlier this month, John Glenn was remembered as the first man to orbit the earth and truly live, for a brief moment, amid the galaxies far, far away.  John Glenn was the realization of the dreams of so many who sought to break free of the gravity of the earth and explore the unknown.  Piloting a spaceship to the ends of our imaginations was simple, according to Glenn.  Getting his wife to use a telephone was much more of an impossible hurdle to overcome.


“A telephone was an invention of the devil” Glenn explained once when discussing his wife.  Annie Glenn was like over six million in this country who stuttered.  Unlike some who were institutionalized or others whose speech difficulties are misguidedly ignored, Glenn recognized his wife’s condition and treated it with grace.  As we conclude this week long viewpoint of grace from a subjective standpoint, I looked for heroes of grace, those people who worked with reality to break the bonds of public opinion.  John and Annie Glenn are one such story.


Bob Greene, a CNN contributor told their story earlier this month.  He described how Annie Glenn was a stutterer who had difficulty getting words out eighty-five percent of the time.  She never used a telephone because the person on the other end would not know if Annie was caught in a stutter, a blockage of air going over the vocal cords to make sound, or had simply been disconnected.  Annie Glenn herself has described what living in the twentieth century with a husband in the military and then the space program was like.  “Can you imagine living in the modern world and being afraid to use the telephone?  “Hello” used to be so hard for me to say.  I can remember some very painful experiences — especially the ridicule,” Annie recounts.


Few people extended to Annie Glenn the gift of grace, grace in believing what she had to say was worth the wait.  “Even as a boy he was wise enough to understand that people who could not see past her stutter were missing out on knowing a rare and wonderful girl,” Bob Greene wrote of John and Annie Glenn.


John Glenn has been heralded a hero ever since he broke the barrier of gravity and circled the earth.  However, his own hero is his wife.   “I saw Annie’s perseverance and strength through the years and it just made me admire her and love her even more,” John wrote of his wife. “I don’t know if I would have had the courage.”  Perhaps the most heroic thing John Glenn really accomplished was extending grace to the woman he chose as his wife. Maybe that is his legacy and an example we should all strive to live.


A Lesson in Grace

Born right before the turn of a century, he loved history.  He grew up with those who remembered when they were not considered real citizens, though they had tilled the soil and built buildings for the future.  His color defined him in so many ways but he was determined to help create the history of the new century.  He became a teacher and poured into his students his love of history and the government that gave him rights and status as a person.  While so many of his color saw the laws of the land as a challenge, he saw them as a gift and used his sense of humor to explain their complexities and advantages.


Professor Wilson, as his students knew him taught at the same school for decades.  He taught the children of his first students and then their grandchildren.  He loved living in the capitol city and walked the halls of the ancient state capitol now a museum.  He never shied away from the past of those of color but delighted in the advancements each person made in their own lives.  History for him was thrilling and not a subject about the past.  “Fess” saw history as a prequel and the future was an invitation to create new galaxies, always embellished with an ever-present sense of humor.


As he celebrated his sixty-fifth year of teaching, change came.  The federal courts were rewriting the boundaries of the school districts in an attempt to integrate existing systems and enhance the freedoms of all.  This time, however, the students were not the only ones changing schools; teachers were also reassigned.  In a city that thrived on family loyalty to schools, people were suddenly adrift in new environments and this time the teachers were also castaways.


Fess Wilson bravely met the challenge most balked at and he left his school of sixty-four and a half years to walk new halls with new students.  He had already been told this would be his last year.  Most people were retiring at the age of sixty-five, not celebrating a sixty-fifth year of teaching and the school administration was letting him retire or be fired.  He bravely walked into the last six months of his teaching career, leaving his distance galaxy of the well-known to forge a new path with new students.  He would become the first history and government teacher of color at this new school and as he walked the halls, all saw not just color but a brilliant smile.


Professor Wilson spent little time complaining but rather introduced himself to his new students and, as he encouraged them to open their textbooks, also warned them he had a “never-defeated sense of humor”.  You see, Fess Wilson’s number one hobby was pulling practical jokes on those around him.  He proudly boasted to his new classes that no one had ever gotten the best of him.


It was not surprising, then that one of his classes decided to rise to the challenge and put one over on their new teacher.  Nor was it surprising that a national news syndicate wanted to interview the octogenarian about his new position and his long career as a teacher who taught about freedom but had his own struggles with equality as a reality.  What was surprising was that the challenge was met on the very day of Fess’s nationally syndicated interview.


The students convinced another student to over-play her ethnic heritage.  They introduced her to Professor Wilson who was delighted to meet a member of his country’s first families.  She pretended to not speak English and another student served as her interpreter, the story being that his family knew hers and this was the reason for her visit from the northeastern environs of her heritage and the country’s first celebrations.


Fess was delighted in and in his interview proclaimed it to be the culminating highlight of his long illustrious career.  His welcome at his new school and the lack of bitterness about not completing his career at the school where he lived it was negligible compared to the chance his students had given him today.  Life was about moving forward and living history, he told the interviewer.  The past became his present today and it foreshadowed the future, a future he felt would be as bright and as exciting as the last eighty-five years had been.


Fess Wilson’s smile at the day’s events took up most of the picture that accompanied the front page spread printed across at least twenty-five national newspapers the next day.  It caught the attention of his new principal who wondered why he had not been told of such a visitor at his school.  The story also caught the attention of the students who had pulled the prank on their teacher.  Suddenly their harmless practical joke had gone national.  Obviously an apology was in order.


The two students mainly involved in the practical joke were at school bright and early the next school day and sought out Fess Will.  Coming out of a staff meeting, they also caught the eye of their principal who quickly put two and two together and came up with an angry answer.  He approached Professor Wilson and the two students who were finishing up their apology and confessing their guilt.  The principal informed them of the possibility of suspension and worse, expulsion.  Then grace stepped into the conversation.


As Professor Wilson explained to the reporter in a follow-up story, the students had risen to the challenge he had put before them and won.  He could not have been any happier to end his career having finally “been gotten” with a practical joke.  He told both the principal and the reporter that is was the best compliment he could have ever received and it touched his inner core deeply.  “These students cared enough about welcoming me to take my challenge and beat me”, he explained.  “What greater gift than to be accepted in such a way?  They made me feel not only welcome but at home.”


Fess Wilson was the epitome of grace that day to those two students.  He treated them as equals and friends by extending the hand of grace.  He accepted their efforts as a compliment, preferring to see only goodness in their faces.  What greater lesson can there be in the history of humanity than to live grace?


Whether it is in your own living room or in a distant galaxy far, far away, in the battle of good versus evil, a battle which unfortunately will always face each of us in our daily living, we are invited to respond with grace and when we do, the future becomes possible and bright, almost as bright as the smile on Fess Wilson’s face.  It takes courage, courage like that of Annie Glenn to walk in grace but when we do, the impossible becomes reality.




Pentecost 157


St. Francis of Assisi reportedly said:  “Start doing what’s necessary and then what is possible.  Suddenly, you will then find yourself doing what is impossible.”  What if we cannot agree on what is necessary?  How do we move forward?


In the Declaration of Independence one can find an often-quoted phrase written by Thomas Jefferson:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”  Jefferson went on to describe these rights as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  Are these necessary?


We cannot help others is we do not agree on what is necessary.  How can we ever seek to make ordinary time extraordinary if we cannot agree on what should be ordinary or common in one’s life?  This is an important issue because if education for all is ordinary, why do people have to go to such extraordinary lengths to obtain it and why do others go to such terroristic lengths to prevent it?


Recent aid organizations have requested assistance in helping those areas devastated by Hurricane Matthew.  Many in those areas have asked that people donate to local charities rather than the international organizations.  The problem is that many times the local groups are fraught with malfeasance, even more so than the larger groups.  Local officials prefer to build their personal coffers rather than distribute the aid received because their idea of what is necessary is skewed and narcissitic.


In my humble opinion, it should be necessary for a nation to provide food for its citizens as well as availability to health care.  That health care should include mental and emotional health as well as physical, dental, and vision.  Currently, a national healthcare program in one country for the elderly will pay for an eye examination but not for any required reading apparatus such as glasses.  Most people know when their eye sight in waning.  Why bother to have a doctor verify it if the program will not correct the vision problems?


The education of women is a hotly contested debate in many Islamic countries and yet, in others where Islam has existed since its infancy, many women are renowned scientists and mathematicians.  The Quran emphasizes personal growth and achieving what one is capable.  Why then are young girls abducted from their schools and sold into slavery?  Why is it not necessary for the gender of the human race that brings life into the world to be afforded a full life themselves?


Maybe it is because of the root of the word “unalienable”.  The word comes from the Latin “alius” which means “other.”  There are many words in the English language that use this word as their root.  They include alien and alias.  Say the word “alien” to many people and they began to think of little green beings from another planet.  The legal definition is not even in agreement on exactly what an alien is except to describe it as “other”.  This might be one Latin word whose derivatives actually are quite close to the root word.


In Great Britain, legally an alien might be a citizen of the republic of Ireland.  In the USA they are legal aliens and illegal aliens.  In common law they are “friendly aliens and enemy aliens, with the latter comprising not only citizens of hostile states but also all others voluntarily living in enemy territory or carrying on business there; enemy aliens are subject to additional disabilities.”


This concept of aliens having authorized disabilities was of great interest to me.  It refers to their not being able to own property but they can amass what is called a personal estate which means they can have personal possessions.  Another disability is that they are subject to taxation of all earnings and wages, cannot be a member of Congress or elected to President (in the USA) or, in many states, serve as governor.  They also cannot vote, fill any office, or serve as a juror.  For this reason, all illegal aliens found to have committed a crime are sent to their home county and not prosecuted here.  It would be necessary to have a jury of their peers if such prosecution occurred and one could argue that they would be impossible since their peers would be other aliens who could not serve on a jury.  In this case, necessary would mean deportation.


Is food and proper clothing necessary?  Certainly medical science has proven that it is for one to have a healthy life.  Why then, are there not programs that guarantee such for all, especially our children?  One of the most stable ways to store food is the canned food industry.  While other industries have suffered in the past fifteen years, the canned food industry has reported a steady increase in production and revenue.   The canned food industry is involved in the retail sales of canned ready meals, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned pasta and noodles, canned desserts, and canned seafood and meat products.


What if each of us donated a can of canned good for every can we purchased?  Even if we donated one can for every three purchased, we could go a long way in providing necessary food for those who have none.  Canned vegetables represent the leading market segment, generating $1.2 billion in 2010, accounting for almost 31% of the overall market in the United Kingdom.  The Asia-Pacific canned food industry recorded yearly growth in excess of 4% between 2006 and 2010, reaching almost $15 billion in 2010. Canned meat products represented the leading market segment at close to $7 billion, accounting for 48% of the overall market.  Canned vegetables represented the leading market segment in the USA generating $4.5 billion, accounting for over 31% of the overall market.  Last year this number was expected to rise to $16 billion. These figures, by the way, are from the canned food industry, not arbitrary estimates.


Given the above statistics, if one third of purchases were matched by donations, the hungry of the world would have $5 billion to eat in the Asia-Pacific market, $400 million in the UK, and $5.3 billion in the USA.  For the cost of one canned good item, we could give to the world of hungry children almost $6 billion worth of food.  Is feeding the hungry necessary?


In 2002, Abby Adams-Silvan wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times.  In it she wrote: “Food for the starving should be a major priority in the war against terrorism. The survivors of today’s famines and the diseases of starvation may well be the terrorists of tomorrow. This is not only because of sociological consequences, but also because nutritional deprivation, before as well as after birth, causes brain as well as body deformation.  The failure of the rich countries to place a high priority on efforts like the World Food Summit, and the startling drop in global aid, reflect a dramatic lack of self-interested foresight as well as of altruistic humanitarianism.”


We can do batter in our fight for a better living.  We do have to stop defining those who are the ‘other” as sub-human and realize we are all in this living together.  When we address the ordinary and make it possible for all to experience it, then we will have made life extraordinary.



Hummingbirds and Pineapples

No Hummingbirds Allowed

The Inverted Pineapple

Pentecost 93 & 94


Note: This post was originally supposed to be two posts but I feared one would get read without the other so today you have two posts combined.


We’ve all heard the old saying about a “fish out of water”.  It is a figure of speech used to describe something or someone that is out of their element.  A book entitled “A Fish Out of Water” was written by an author as she completed a six-week stay at a hotel while her home was being renovated.   Many thought this was the impetus for her book until she jokingly referred to her final draft as the 9, 373th version of the book”.


This book was actually based upon a short story written by the author’s husband, published eleven years earlier as a short story.  With written permission from her husband, Helen Palmer Geisel published her book eleven years later, expanding on husband Theodore’s original premise of a fish that is fed so much it grows too big for its fishbowl in his short story “Gustav the Goldfish”.  Most of us know her husband better by his pseudonym – Dr. Seuss.


In the book format, the fish is purchased by a young lad who received instructions for his care and feeding from the pet store owner.  The young boy overfeeds his fish, however, and soon must call the fire department to assist with his fish that has grown much too big for not only his fishbowl but also the family bath tub.  The fire department takes the fish to a local swimming pool and the pet store owner is consulted.  He dives under the water with the fish and eventually surfaces with the fish its original size. He again tells the young boy not to feed his fish improperly and this time the young lad listens.


While people have assigned morals to many of Theodore Seuss Geisel ‘s works, those of Helen Palmer seem to stand on their own for what they were published, beginning children’s book that encouraged young readers.  On most of the book jackets of her writings, Helen Palmer is said to be married to an eccentric writer listed as “LeSeig”, the name Geisel spelled backwards.


Theodore Geisel said he wrote to entertain but many of his own books have been used in educational contexts.  The lesson of Gustav, as the fish is called in the original story, or Otto, the name given in Helen Palmer’s book, illustrates the dangers of taking a fish out of its natural habitat, giving it something more than what it needs.  Nature is precariously balanced on such a premise.  Take for instance, the hummingbird.


Hummingbirds are delightful to watch as they “hum”, beating their wings up to fifty times each second.  They originated most probably in Europe and Asia about forty-two million years ago. Considered a New World bird, they migrated to the Western Hemisphere and found themselves firmly established in South America twenty-two million years ago.  As they evolved, a taste receptor developed which allowed the hummingbird to locate nectar.  Within the past ten million years over one hundred and forty different species of hummingbirds have developed.  Three years ago, a fifty-million –year-old fossil was discovered in Wyoming which is considered to be a predecessor of the hummingbird so obviously history on hummingbirds continues to be written,


One place they are not found, however, is in Hawaii.  It is illegal to import them to the fiftieth state of the U.S.A.  There they are not only considered to be a fish out of water, they are not wanted.  Most of us, if we are honest, would admit to feeling like that at times.  Whether it is at a party or other event or just because we are new, we feel we don’t fit in.  Sometimes it is something as simple as wearing an outfit that did not fit in but sometimes, we feel it is because of who we are, who we truly are.


So how does this relate to pineapples?  Pineapples are the reason one cannot import hummingbirds to the Hawaiian Islands.  Hummingbirds drink the nectar of flowers and by doing so, they have changed pollination of these flowers forever.  Sometimes we meet people who want to be social but are afraid of people.  Many breeds of dogs suffer anxiety issues when their owner leaves although the dogs themselves are not particularly cuddly animals.  The pineapple is a bit like that.


You see, pineapples seeds need pollination but the presence of seeds can harm the quality of the fruit of the pineapple.  A herbaceous perennial, one pineapple can produce as many as two hundred flowers.  Then the individual flowers join together to create what we call the pineapple.  The hummingbird can disrupt this cycle so it would definitely be a “fish out of water” in Hawaii.


The fruit of the pineapple is protected by its thorny exterior which is how it got its name.  Early explorers from Europe came upon these plants in the Americas and thought they were pinecones due to their similarity to the seeds of pine trees.  As people we too can create for ourselves a thorny exterior to protect ourselves.


We need to realize that we each should soar in our lives.  Much of this series discussing how to make the ordinary extraordinary has been about helping others.  When we help others we also help ourselves.  Some of it has been about showing thankfulness, expressing gratitude.  We do, at times however, need to look inward and take care of ourselves.  There are elements of that that no one else can do.


In order for us to soar, we should not continue to seek what makes us uncomfortable just because it is trendy.  We need to seek out what is right for us and then do it in such a way that no one else is harmed but all benefit.


Earlier this week the skin of an anaconda was discovered in Maine.  Anacondas are not native to Maine and if one is around in the forestation of the area, it will not survive the brutal cold of the winter season fast approaching in the area.  At first it was thought to be a prank but experts have verified that the skin is indeed that of an anaconda, recently shed as they are wont to do at this time of the year.  The large non-native, fish out of water reptile is most likely a pet that someone has abandoned.  Wildlife authorities are searching for it in order to save its life. 


We need to follow our own path and not just follow the trends.  No friendship is worth losing ourselves.  Ralph Waldo Emerson explained it best how not to end up a fish out of water:  “It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”