A World of Laughter, a World of Tears

A World of Laughter, a World of Tears

2018.07.20

Pentecost 134

 

“There is just one moon and one golden sun and a smile means friendship to everyone.  Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.”  This second verse of one of Disney’s most recognizable songs worldwide really hit home to me yesterday.  The world of laughter and a somber world of tears came together as two friends and I realized just how small a world it really is.

 

A friend posted that a much loved spouse had returned home from a business trip to a small country halfway around the world.  After my first “Wow!”, I realized I knew someone in that small country so different from my own.  The population of this planet is growing.  At the turn of the century the population stood at 1.65 billion.  Today we are seven billion, seven hundred and forty-five million and growing.  Agriculture came into being around 8000 BCE and the world census was an estimated five million strong.  By the first year of the new common era (1 AD or ACE), the growth rate of people on earth was .05% per year.  Today it is 1.13% with over one million births expected during 2016.  In spite of all this, it is still a small world.  Insignificant me realized that I knew someone halfway around the world living in a small nation where another friend’s husband just spent a week – a connection between four people, four out of seven billion.  It is a small world.

 

Two years ago I wrote about the New York City Fire Department helping police investigate a suspected drug laboratory at a house in Yonkers.  Battalion Chief Michael Fahy led his men into the structure which exploded.  Michael Fahy was born and raised in New York City and became an attorney.  He had one brother and two sisters, one of whom was his twin.  They were not surprised when Michael left his law practice to answer what he described as a “higher calling” and became a NYC firefighter. This past week the world became aware of this heroic man who lived every day in an extraordinary way when he died in that explosion.  I became aware of Michael Fahy when a friend realized she had purchased her home last year from his parents. This friend lost her own mother two years ago due to a distracted driver who took his eyes off the road and stared at his mobile phone for just five seconds.  In that five seconds he took a life almost as quickly as the explosion from the illegal drug activity ended the life of Michael Fahy.  My friend is a college professor and native of Colorado but she knows too well the grief of losing a family member in an instant.  “A world of laughter, a world of tears’…It’s a small world after all.

 

It is election season in the United States and volunteers are trying to help register people to vote.  Few states automatically do this when people obtain driver’s licenses or state sponsored Identification cards and often people fail to make that extra trip to register.  A year ago another friend was helping register people and found himself volunteering to do so at a homeless shelter.  Suddenly he saw a familiar face, someone with whom he had worshipped.  This friend is a humanitarian and yet even he was surprised to realize that the theory of “Anyone can become homeless” was now a reality in this woman standing in front of him.

 

The world of economics is not just for a chosen few and the effects of financial woes can and do happen to anyone.  “It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears” and being unable to maintain a certain lifestyle will probably be experienced by many, especially those who are female in gender.  Until there is euity in payroll, it’s a small and unfair world after all for women.

 

“There’s so much that we share” the lyric goes but I wonder…Do we really share?  Are we really living with a thought making and seeing the connections we all have or do we simply go about our lives getting as much as we ourselves can personally garner?  “That it’s time we’re aware” is perhaps the most telling way to describe this past week for me.  I realized awareness that even though I myself have never traveled to some exotic locale, I know people in many such settings and we are connected.

 

Death, finances, and inequality are unfortunately a part of life.  “A world of laughter and a world of tears” describes one’s overall living for almost all of us.  What makes it extraordinary and even bearable is that we share both the good times and the bad.  We need to create connections in a positive way so that we make our living count for something. Whether someone is an attorney, a firefighter, or a volunteer, we all have the opportunity to make the ordinary process of living extraordinary.

 

Pentecost is called the “Ordinary Time” but it really is not so ordinary after all.  No single day is.  They may all blur into a sort of oneness or sameness but they shouldn’t.  We can make them count for something but showing kindness, concern, and realizing that “There’s so much that we share”.  We have the power to make these ordinary times spectacular and meaning and by doing that, we gain strength to get through the tough times.  We are in this thing called life together and we need to connect and help each other.  Community makes heroes out of all of us when we participate and honors those for whom life is a struggle they meet as best they can.

 

 

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A Mother’s Love

A Mother’s Love

2018.07.15

Pentecost 2018

 

We often think of “separation of church and state” as a means of keeping politics and religion separate.  Recently in India it has become a way of one faction’s campaign of lies being used to usurp power and gain control.  West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted on Thursday, July 12th, that the religious order founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta – more popularly known simply as Mother Teresa – is being targeted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is affiliated with a Hindu nationalist group.  Although the state government is run by the BJP, the state has a large proportion of India’s marginalized tribal people, who exist outside of Hinduism’s traditional caste system, and many of them have become Christian as the Christian church has done much to improve their quality of live, standard of living, and educational opportunities.  Jharkhand has a Christian population double the national average.  The BJP has even gone so far as to accuse nuns of the Missions of Charity of illegal and wrong doing.

 

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was born August 26, 1910 was an Albanian-Indian descent in Skopje (now the capital of Macedonia), then part of the Kosovo Vilayet of the Ottoman.   After belonging to many different empires throughout history, Skopje today is the capital of an independent Madeconia.  After living in Macedonia for eighteen years Anjezë, then anme’s English equivalent being Agnes, moved to Ireland and then to India, where she lived for most of her life.

 

The youngest child in her family, Agnes’ father died when she was eight years old.  He had been involved in local politics but the young girl was fascinated by stories of the lives of missionaries and their service in Bengal.   She decided by age 12 that she should commit herself to religious life and this resolve strengthened in 1928 at the shrine of the Black Madonna of Vitina-Letnice, where she often went on pilgrimage.

 

Agnes left home in 1928 at age 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland, to learn English with the view of becoming a missionary. She never saw her mother or her sister again.  She arrived in India in 1929and began her novitiate in Darjeeling, in the lower Himalayas.   She learned Bengali and taught at St. Teresa’s School near her convent.   Teresa took her first religious vows on 24 May 1931. She chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries, opting for its Spanish spelling (Teresa).

 

On 10 September 1946, Teresa experienced what she later described as “the call within the call” when she travelled by train to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling from Calcutta for her annual retreat. “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.”  Joseph Langford later wrote, “Though no one knew it at the time, Sister Teresa had just become Mother Teresa.”

 

Teresa wrote in her diary that her first year was fraught with difficulty. With no income, she begged for food and supplies and experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life during these early months: “Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. Today, I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then, the comfort of Loreto [her former congregation] came to tempt me. “You have only to say the word and all that will be yours again”, the Tempter kept on saying … Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard. I did not let a single tear come.”

 

Teresa received permission to start her order from the Vatican in 1950.  In her words, it would care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone”.[43] By 1997 the 13-member Calcutta congregation had grown to more than 4,000 sisters who managed orphanages, AIDS hospices and charity centres worldwide, caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless and victims of floods, epidemics and famine.[44]

In 1952, Teresa opened her first hospice with help from Calcutta officials. She converted an abandoned Hindu temple into the Kalighat Home for the Dying, free for the poor, and renamed it Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart (Nirmal Hriday). Those brought to the home received medical attention and the opportunity to die with dignity in accordance with their faith: Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received extreme unction. “A beautiful death”, Teresa said, “is for people who lived like animals to die like angels—loved and wanted.”

 

She opened a hospice for those with leprosy, calling it Shanti Nagar (City of Peace).  The Missionaries of Charity established leprosy-outreach clinics throughout Calcutta, providing medication, dressings and food. The Missionaries of Charity took in an increasing number of homeless children; in 1955 Teresa opened Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart, as a haven for orphans and homeless youth.

The congregation began to attract recruits and donations, and by the 1960s it had opened hospices, orphanages and leper houses throughout India. Teresa then expanded the congregation abroad, opening a house in Venezuela in 1965 with five sisters.  Houses followed in Italy (Rome), Tanzania and Austria in 1968, and during the 1970s the congregation opened houses and foundations in the United States and dozens of countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.

 

The Missionaries of Charity Brothers was founded in 1963, and a contemplative branch of the Sisters followed in 1976.  Lay Catholics and non-Catholics were enrolled in the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa, the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, and the Lay Missionaries of Charity. Responding to requests by many priests, in 1981 Mother Teresa founded the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests and (with priest Joseph Langford) the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in 1984 to combine the vocational aims of the Missionaries of Charity with the resources of the priesthood. By 2007 the Missionaries of Charity numbered about 450 brothers and 5,000 sisters worldwide, operating 600 missions, schools and shelters in 120 countries.  In 1982, at the height of the Siege of Beirut, Teresa rescued 37 children trapped in a front-line hospital by brokering a temporary cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian guerrillas.

 

A friend of mine from India told me of meeting Mother Teresa as a boy of eight years.  His class was on a school trip to one of the orphanages for which they had donated goods.  At one point during the tour, he said, he heard someone approach him from behind.  He thought it another student since the person was not much taller than he.  “I felt a hand on each shoulder,” he said “realized the strength and weight of those hands.  I thought surely it must be a giant because they were so strong.  I dared no move or squirm.  Suddenly a sweet voice spoke and I turned.”  Mother Teresa was standing with her hands on my young friend’s shoulders. It was over thirty-five years later that he told me this story and still, he assured me, he could feel the imprint of her hands on his shoulders.

 

Mother Teresa resigned as head of the Missionaries of Charity on March 13, 1997 due to her failing health and died on September 5th of the same year.  At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters and an associated brotherhood of 300 members operating 610 missions in 123 countries.  Teresa once said, “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.” According to former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, “She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world.”

 

In the 19 years since Mother Teresa’s death, the Missionaries of Charity have not only grown in faith and service, but in numbers around the world.  Teresa of Calcutta once described the reason for her being to accomplish what she did:  “My secret…I pray!”

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.

 

Similarities

Similarities

June 5, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

Founded in the mid-3rd century B.C.E., Berenike was a thriving Roman port on the Egyptian Red Sea. Artifacts prove that the Romans traded with lands we now call Yemen, Pakistan, India and peppercorns were worth more in their weight than was gold. Emeralds and gold, spices… the list of treasures is lengthy. 

 

To me, though, it is a rolled up piece of papyrus that is the real treasure. Berenike was a place where more than eleven different languages were spoken, where different cultures meshed in harmony. And on the rolled up papyrus is a clue as to the key to such harmony. People are people – no matter the dress, the ethnic physical characteristics.  We really are the same.

 

On that rolled up piece of papyrus was written a letter…. from a mother to her trading sailor son. “You never visit. It has been too long since we have seen you.  You owe your mother a loving visit so I can see you are well.”

 

The word that unites us is respect.  This mother wanted some respect from her son.  Our neighbors want respect from us.  We want respect from the world.  No matter the country or century, we really are one.