Joy Turned to Sorrow

Joy turned to Sorrow

2019.08.03

Pentecost

 

I went to the store yesterday.  It seems like we are always out of dog food and I needed some basic groceries.  This is one of my favorite times of year to go shopping and it is more a delight than a chore.  I love organizing things so all the three-ring-binders, rolling carts, and brightly colored folders appeal to my organizing spirit.  The clothing department is full of back-to-school clothes and there are always bargains on electronics and paper. 

 

My current blog series has been about the Book of Psalms but also lessons from the Psalms and one of the most important lessons is the concept of selah or rest.  I took some time away from this blog and decided that when I returned (I’m back!), I would combine my YouTube channel which is about how I spend my rest time and my blog.  I enjoy the fiber arts and, in particular, crochet.  My YouTube channel is “n2Crochet CCLadee.”

 

I’ve had a few technical mishaps due to bad weather so there is no audio currently on the videos I have posted but – hey – quiet is a part of selah!  Today was the day for my Saturday Shout-Out.  About one hour before I was all ready to post it, a news story interrupted my rest.  People doing today the exact same thing I had done yesterday had suddenly become victims.

 

Children eagerly debating what color folder to get or what size box of crayons to buy found themselves targets of an active shooter.  The shooter reportedly opened fire at one store and then crossed a distance of almost two football fields before opening fire again.  New school clothes were abandoned as families ran for their lives.  Colorful backpacks became funeral palls for the casualties.  Suddenly the danger of a border town was from within, not from the outside.

 

It is a scene that has played out far too often.  I ask your prayers and kind thoughts for the victims of today’s tragedy.  May we come together to find a solution and keep this from happening yet again.  Buying school supplies should not be hazardous duty.

 

Gratitude in Community

Gratitude in Community

2018.11.23

Growing Community

 

Gratitude is something that crosses all and boundaries and countries, cultures, and ages.  Gratitude is something we all can do and express and should.  The impact gratitude has on a community, whether it is a community of two or two million, is amazing and vital to the growth and sustaining of the community.

 

National Gratitude Month is an annual designation observed in November.  Gratitude is more than simply saying “thank you.”  Gratitude’s amazing powers have the ability to shift us from focusing on the negative to appreciating what is positive in our lives.  Everything in our lives has the ability to improve when we are grateful. Research has shown that gratitude can enhance our moods, decrease stress and drastically improve our overall level of health and wellbeing. On average, grateful people tend to have fewer stress-related illnesses and experience less depression and lowered blood pressure.   They are more physically fit, they are happier, have a higher income, more satisfying personal and professional relationships and will be better liked. Grateful kids are even more likely to get A’s in school.

 

If everyone practiced daily gratitude, we could change ourselves and the planet for the better.  Everyone would be much happier.  Love would grow and hate would decrease.  And the world would know true peace.  People who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis have fewer physical symptoms, exercise more, are optimistic, and feel better about their lives as a whole.  They offer emotional support to others and are considered helpful. Many studies have proven that daily discussions of gratitude results in higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, energy, and better sleep quality.

 

Grateful people tend to put less importance on material goods, are less likely to judge others based upon material possessions, and are more likely to share their possessions with others.  Emerging research suggests that daily gratitude practices may have preventive benefits in warding off coronary artery disease.  Increasing positive, grateful thoughts can increase a sense of well-being.

 

Entrepreneur Deborah Sweeney feels gratitude is a necessary component in any business model.  “very morning when I wake up, I reflect on everything that I’m grateful for. I do this before I get out of bed. It only takes a couple of minutes, but this kind of inner reflection helps me set the tone for my day.

How you practice gratitude will differ for every entrepreneur, but the key to embracing an attitude of gratitude is making it a daily habit to be thankful. Where you are, how long you dwell on the thoughts, and what makes you thankful are details you can tweak to make your own. All that matters is making it a regular part of your day — and one that you genuinely enjoy taking a break to do.  Don’t just think of the things that are so obvious. Instead, try to think of mundane things that you’re grateful for. For example, I’m thankful I live in a safe environment. It may not be as obvious as being thankful for my parents or children, but I don’t take any of it for granted.”

 

Sweeney continues:  “As I mentioned before, gratitude differs for everyone but it’s important to consider the smaller details just as much as you would the bigger picture. Look beyond what’s obvious. Maybe you have a small Bonsai tree you keep in your office that makes you feel happy to look at or perhaps it’s a card you received in the mail from a friend you hadn’t heard from in a while. Take stock in the little things that happen throughout your day that makes you thankful. Who knows — your own actions might be part of someone else’s daily attitude of gratitude!”

 

This weekend we living in the USA are celebrating Thanksgiving.  It really should be a daily habit for us all.  The physical, mental, emotional health benefits are proven and being thankful serves to remind us we have a purpose, a reason to live, and a place in the universe. 

Figgy Pudding

Figgy Pudding

2018.11.15

Growing Community

 

In one week those living in the USA will celebrate Thanksgiving Day.  It will also be the official start of the holiday (i.e., Christmas) season.  In reality, though, the holiday shopping season began in mid-July as stores put out decorations and crafts ideas for gifts to be made.  Many people have been griping about seeing peppermint canes and holly wreaths while shopping for swimsuits or pumpkins but I am one of those who delights in seeing the Christmas cheer on display, even when the temperatures are over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

As we become fully entrenched in the holiday season, carols will be played and one of the more popular ones has a verse that implores…”So bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding, so bring us some figgy pudding and put it right here.”  Savory puddings are less well known than their sweet counterparts but savory puddings like figgy pudding are actually not only older but why the community of mankind survived the ages.  The modern usage of the word pudding id used to denote primarily desserts however the word pudding is believed to come from the French “boudin”, originally from the Latin “botellus”, meaning “small sausage”, referring to encased meats.  The meats were encased in animal intestines to preserve them; such preservation meant the meats could be kept longer and thus provided sustenance during hard times or when one could not go hunting. 

 

The first record of plum or figgy pudding dates back to the fifteenth century when records indicate a plum pottage or mash was served at the beginning of the meal.  Plum was a generic term used to indicate any dried fruit and the fruits were combined with meat and root vegetables.  Commonly dried fruit of the period were raisins, currants, and prunes.  By the end of the sixteenth century, dried fruit was more plentiful and the plum or figgy pudding became more sweet than savory.  Pudding cloths became popular as the concoction would be wrapped in the cloth and no longer needed to depend on animal fat to hold together.  It is most likely that such is the early beginnings of dishes like the Scottish haggis and Pennsylvania Dutch hog maw – both savory casseroles prepared in either intestines or the lining from a pig’ stomach.

 

In 1647 the figgy pudding was so closely associated with the Christmas holidays that Prime Minister Oliver Cromwell had it banned.  The Puritanical Cromwell felt such harkened back to the Druids, paganism, and idolatry.  In 1660 when the English monarchy was restored, so were the traditions of Yule logs, nativity scenes,, Christmas carols, and the figgy pudding.  The Victorian era saw the figgy pudding achieve a position of prominence, thanks in no small part to Charles Dickens.  The first Christmas savings clubs were created to help poor housewives save for the figgy or Christmas pudding ingredients.  In the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the last Sunday before the Advent season contained a prayer that began “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people” and became known as “Stir-Up Sunday”.  Family members would take turn stirring the Christmas pudding which was then wrapped and boiled and set aside to mature until Christmas Day.  By the nineteenth century the traditional figgy pudding had become more of what we today call fruitcake, a mixture of brown sugar, raisins, currants, candied fruit, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, suet, and alcohol.

 

The Victorian citizens, the Christmas pudding was an analogy for their world view.  The British Empire consisted of savory bits from distant colonies all bound together by a settled atmosphere of All that was considered to be English.  One advantage of the Christmas pudding was the time it took to season and cure as well as the lengthy time it lasted.  This meant that soldiers deployed in far-off lands could enjoy this taste of home even if it took almost a year to receive it. 

 

I don’t mind the appearance of Christmas in July simply because I think it is always time to spread Christmas cheer.  Sadly, too often today our Christmas puddings are made in molds rather than the more organic shapes of the past.  While I admire the beauty of such molds, I do wonder if they serve to divide us instead of bringing us together.  We grow a community with the sharing of Christmas cheer and yet, if we expect that community to be perfect or everyone to fit in a mold, then we are self-defeating.

 

In growing a community we need to stir-up our diversities and celebrate our common denominators in solidifying our future.  The 1848 satirical cartoon once entitled “John Bull Showing the Foreign Powers How to Make a Constitutional Plum Pudding” seems sadly appropriate for our

modern times.  The cartoon illustration revealed a person preparing to carve a bulging, holly-adorned pudding labeled “Liberty of the Press”, “Trial by Jury”, “Common Sense”, and “Order”. 

 

Stir up, good people, the wills of your faith, so that they will bring forth the fruit of good works and therefore richly reward us all.   When we grow community we help ourselves to hear the call of goodness and practice such service as will benefit us all.  Whatever the weather or season, we need some figgy pudding, that combination of different things brought together for preservation and continuance of us all.

 

 

My Neighbor’s Faith

My Neighbor’s Faith – A Collection of Essays on Diversity

2018.08.26

Literature and Life

 

We live in a diverse world.  That is a statement no one can refute.  It is a fact.  What is also true, sadly, is that many fear diversity.  Almost every single minute part of creation, of our world, is unique.  Diversity is not just a trendy term used about by politicians.  It is a fact.  No two snowflakes are exactly alike, no two roses, people, etc.  Recently I saw the word diversity explained this way:

Diversity means:

D – ifferent

I – ndividuals

V – aluing

E – achother

R – egardless of

S – kin

I – ntellect

T – alents or

Y – ears

 

Diversity leads to growth and a better world.  Instead, history has shown that it often leads to hatred and violence.  Writer and television executive Gene Roddenberry once said ““If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”

 

The featured book for today is “My Neighbor’s Faith: Stories of Interreligious Encounter, Growth, and Transformation”, edited by Jennifer Howe Peace, Or N. Rose, and Gregory Mobley.  The book is a collection of fifty-three essays, divided as one might a travelogue.  I think this is fitting since these essays invite us to embark on self-exploration in celebrating diversity and our neighbor.

 

Dr. Thomas Szasz, doctor of psychiatry wrote “The Myth of Mental Illness” and he had some strong words about diversity.  ““The plague of mankind is the fear and rejection of diversity: monotheism, monarchy, monogamy and, in our age, monomedicine. The belief that there is only one right way to live, only one right way to regulate religious, political, sexual, medical affairs is the root cause of the greatest threat to man: members of his own species, bent on ensuring his salvation, security, and sanity. ”

 

I have written about this book over the past four years of this blog and I still read it at least once a year.  It encourages me to continue to encounter a new neighbor, look with fresh eyes upon my own home and those of others,  to consider redrawing the maps of my comfort zone, unpacking and trying on new beliefs and new ways to live my treasured tenets of faith and living, to step across the lines of my comfort zone, to seek out fellow travelers, and do whatever I can to repair the brokenness in our world.

 

At a university commencement speech in June of 1963, then President of the US John F. Kennedy spoke his truths on diversity.  “If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

 

This series has been more for the writer than the reader and how reading can broaden one’s knowledge and talent.  I seriously encourage all to read this book, published in 2012.  Perhaps essays are not quite your cup of tea.  I still encourage you to read this book.  Albert Einstein once remarked:  “Somebody who only reads newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else.”

 

 

 

 

Eat It – Part Three

Eat It – Part Three

2018.07.10

Pentecost 2018

 

This is the third and last segment of my post about eating and how we can make a difference by eating.  The first part centered around how we can help ourselves, be our own hero in our own lives by eating responsibility.  The second featured a wonderful organization called Dining for Women.  Today, we are going back to college  and focusing on a college pre-med student.

 

Columnist Jillian Kramer wrote about today’s woman making a difference in a January issue of Food and Wine Magazine.  “Fourteen-year-old Maria Rose Belding skirted past the block-deep line of hungry people, and launched another box filled to the brim with expired macaroni-and-cheese into the dumpster. It wasn’t the first time she’d tossed food into the trash at this particular food pantry—Belding had begun volunteering at the Pella, Indiana location when she was just 5-years-old—but this time was different: this time, she was really, really, really angry.  “I remember really thinking: how have we not done better than this?” [Belding explained to Food & Wine writer.] “And it was really frustrating because it was very clear there wasn’t someone to be mad at—it didn’t appear that someone had screwed up and that’s why we were in this situation. The donor who gave us all of that macaroni-and-cheese had done so out of the very best of intentions. The food pantry director had worked incredibly hard trying to move it and place it within other communities and organizations. The volunteers had done everything they could do. I was so angry, but there wasn’t an easy person to get mad at.”

 

The fourteen-year-old knew there were other hungry people who would have jumped at the chance to eat the food being discarded.  She wondered at the lack of communication between food pantries serving this demographic and was frustrated by it.  Kramer’s article continues:  “The tech-savvy teen figured there had to be some sort of online communication system on which food pantries could communicate with one another about their stock—a system that her local pantry simply had to sign up for. She searched and searched—and found nothing. 

 

“I thought it was real because I would watch [the pantry director]—who is a saint of the woman—make so many phone calls to landlines, and she would get calls back weeks later to try to move this macaroni-and-cheese,” recalls Belding. “It was so incredibly inefficient, and I remember standing there going, but we have the Internet. But we have the Internet.”  Five years later  a fellow college student Grant Nelson, Belding helped her create MEANS, a nonprofit communications platform for emergency food providers and donors.

 

After three years, MEANS has reached people in 49 U.S. states and territories, and boasts some 3,000 users and partner organizations. The organization has recovered 1.6 million pounds of food, food that has reached hungry people instead of over-crowded dumpsters headed for the garbage dump.  Let those numbers sink in and think about how they have impacted living, breathing people and crime statistics.

 

“We get everything from fresh vegetables to 5,000 pounds of pizza sauce in individual one-ounce packets,” Belding says. “There are so many stories where you just go: what? How did this happen? But we are so grateful that it ends up with us [MEANS] and more importantly, the people who need it.”  They even had a donation of 42,000 pounds of milk that MEANS staff had to help relocate.  They were successful and the milk went to grateful recipients.

 

Quoting again from Jillian Kramer’s article:   “Belding, now 22, runs the organization full-time—while attending American University to one day become a doctor. Her staff is also impressively young: “We are 16 to 25 [years old], we’re from a host of different backgrounds and gender identities and races and religions and socio-economic backgrounds,” says Belding. “But one of the things that we all have in common is the same kind of sense of …  a collective dumbfounding that hunger is still such a prevalent problem and how we have so much food waste, when this is so, so solvable.”  If you are interested in joining MEANS—or know someone else who is—you can visit the program on its website, call the staff at 202-449-1507, or email hello@meansdatabase.com.”

 

Pentecost is a season during which the ordinary can become extraordinary.  As I mentioned in Part One, one of the most ordinary things many people do is eat and it benefits everyone when we turn that ordinary meal into something extraordinary.  Maria Belding and her staff, like the members of Dinging for Women we discussed in Part Two of this blog post are using food to offer a hand up, not just a hand out.  Life is all about making choices and you can turn your ordinary meal into a super-charged extraordinary gift to your health by making wise choices and then turning those choices into effective actions.  That will make you our hero for tomorrow!

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.

 

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. 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.