# Control and Determination

Control and Determination

Epiphany 2020

02.19.2020

Ask any student that has ever taken a mathematics test. Simply answering the question is not giving a complete answer. One must be able to show the work to explain how the answer was obtained. In other words, the student cannot simply guess; computations must give evidence of how the answer was determined.

In 1956 Kurt Godel wrote a letter to John von Neumann and, basically, asked if he thought a computer could determine answers to certain problems from scratch. Computers had already proven quite successful at verifying answers; Godel wondered if they could posit the answer all on their own, especially regarding those problems that were easily verified but not so easily solved. This question was put into mathematical terms fifteen years later by Stephen Cook who wrote “P versus NP”.

The questions involved in the P versus NP debate are, simply put, questions whose answers cannot be determined without testing every possible answer. In 2000 seven mathematical problems were named Millennium Prize Problems by the Clay Mathematical Institute. Anyone solving one of these seven would win a million dollar prize. To date, only one of the seven has been solved; six are still unsolved.

These are not the only unsolved problems that exist, however. Even in mathematics, there are still a host of problems in each specialty that continue to challenge mankind. One of my favorites is found in Discrete Geometry – solving the happy ending problem for arbitrary . The problem itself has nothing to do with marriage. It states “every set of five points in general position contains the vertices of a convex quadrilateral.” There are quite a few theorems but none have been proven and proving is what solves the problem. In other words, the work must be shown. By the way, two mathematicians met while studying the problem and married; hence, the name.

The Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009 was a gentleman named Stephen. A prominent theoretical physicist and often called one of the greatest scientific minds of all times, Stephen illustrates a great deal of unbelievable control for many people. He served as the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology, was a most successful author and a fervent supporter and fan of quantum mechanics. He was also an avid supporter of SOS Children’s Villages in the United Kingdom.

The SOS Children’s Villages support vulnerable children who have lost their parents or have parents that no longer reside with them. The agency provided family strengthening programs, health, educational, and psycho-social support. Emergency relief programs are also available and the organization works within the intention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as working with the UN Economic and Social Council.

For me, though, one of the most astounding things about Stephen was his own lack of physical control that so many of us take for granted. Those that knew him claimed he had an incredible amount of determination or obstinacy, the perspective being determined by whether or not one agreed with him. He serves today as an example for us all in what hard work can accomplish since he did not come from a background of wealth or privilege.

For many just the fact that he was still working illustrated the P versus NP issue. You see, Stephen was Dr. Stephen Hawking, a man who in his mid-20’s contracted ALS and lived much of his life in a wheelchair and unable to communicate naturally. As he lost control of his muscles and movement became limited, his geometric insight seemed to increase and he began performing equations in his head that most people could not solve with pen and paper/chalk and chalkboard.

All too often we write people off based upon their background. This is especially true for children who have grown up in deplorable conditions without a proper mentor or example set for them. We consider those that manage to become successful as anomalies, not the norm. We assume the children of Poverty will never Negate Poverty, that these People will not ever be Noticed People. They are the P versus NP problem of the world and by simply continuing to do what he once set out to do, Stephen Hawking has proven that life can be lived.

We seek to control so many things in our lives and yet, we often become our own enemy, our own handicap. Dr. Hawking let nothing prevent him from being and by doing that, he maintained control over his handicap. So how can we follow his example and how do we help the children he so proudly supported in his own humanitarian efforts?

I cannot imagine someone ever rushed into the building that housed Dr. Hawking’s office and complained about too much, especially if he was rolling into the building in his wheelchair at the same time. He served as a role model simply by being present.

Each of us does the same, although certainly not to the extent of Stephen Hawking. We can help children in our own areas by being a mentor or role model for them. So many children, especially those living without a great deal of positive parental involvement, need to simply see an adult being a functioning adult.

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do to and succeed at.” Those are the words of Dr. Hawking. They are words that you can help a child discover by manifesting your faith and living your beliefs. We each put forth an image every time we encounter another. Six days ago Stephen Hawking turned 74. His life was the proving of a theory he proposed at his graduation from Oxford over fifty years ago: “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

We might think control and adaptation are two different things just as five points might not seem like they would make a four-sided figure or quadrilateral. Yet, though not yet proven, the happy ending problem in Discrete Geometry exists. When teach control when we teach children how to adapt and we do that by helping them. This is something you can do. Be a hero to a child and you will help yourself in ways no computer could ever count. Charity really does begin at home.

# 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!”

# A Policy of Ubuntu

A Policy of Ubuntu

June 16, 2018

Pentecost 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# A Profitable Treasure Hunt

A Profitable Treasure Hunt

June 12, 2018

Pentecost 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# The House on the Hill

The House on the Hill

Detours in Life

Pentecost 173-182

Mega Post 15

In Anytown, Somewhere Country, there sits a big house on a hill.  We’ve all seen it – columns that support multiple floors with large windows boasting of opulence and grandeur.  And at this time of the year, such a house is usually blinged out with twinkling holiday lights that beckon us to dream and drool.  For many, the house on the hill represents their fondest dreams.

In a season that has brought about many detours and even the passing of a loved one, I should not have been surprised to have one last detour.  I postponed this posting out of respect for those 200+ killed in an earthquake and then, apparently lost it in cyberspace for two weeks.  A computer that seemingly reads my mind to suggest corrections had lost its ability to retrieve saved data.  In my moments of frustration and refusal to just give up and write a new post, I realized something important.  Life’s illusions often are just a detour that leads us to new realizations.

It was about twenty years ago that I came across a detour one night going home from a meeting.  My children had been great through their meeting but then the parents’ meeting ran long and well, even McDonald’s French fries were not keeping peace in the backseats of my van.  Everyone was tired and cranking and the beginnings of winter colds were evident.  Amid the sniffles and bickering, I subconsciously cried out for some quiet and peace.  Every house we passed seemed to be perfect while the environment in my car was anything but.  It was then that I came upon a road crew and the detour sign.  There had not really been a great deal of traffic and yet, soon I was stuck in a line of cars, all following the sparsely labeled detour.

It was still three weeks until Christmas and Hanukah, both occurring within a couple of days of each other and many houses did not yet have holiday displays.  My kids noticed we had taken a different road and were not interested in the detour.  “When are we gonna get home?”  “Did you get us lost?”  Suddenly the arguing in the back had stopped.  My kids had joined together in thinking I had gotten them lost and I confess, I was beginning to wonder myself.  My only comfort was that we had plenty of company because the line of cars continued both in front of me and behind me.  We had just slowly driven up a rather steep hill and then around a curvy, slight descent when we saw the house on the hill and suddenly I understood why traffic was going so slowly.

The sign was simple with its white paint and black lettering.  “Welcome to Green Acres and Tall Trees” is read.  What lay beyond was two acres of festive holiday lights, celebrating the Christmas season, Hanukah lights, and even a peace tree with yin-yang and peace symbols.  Clement Moore’s holiday poem about Santa Clause was displayed in a series of vignettes, all brightly light and some with animation.  There were boxes where people could donate canned goods for the local food giveaway pantry as well as the familiar kettle for loose change of the Salvation Army.  At the end of the drive, visitors were offered cups of hot cocoa and a candy cane.

A decades-old tradition in this small community, the detour had opened it up to all who normally would just pass it by, hidden amongst the hills and trees of the area.  Normally, there was an admittance fee but with the detour, the owners had decided to forego the charge.  The fee of \$4 per car was given to the local ministry council for use in helping the less fortunate.  At the beginning of the drive, visitors were advised of this and many insisted on paying for the drive even though it was free.  As a result, that year the display brought in ten times its normal contributions.  This was one detour that literally paid off!

The following year my children eagerly waited for the holiday season and going back to our “Detour House” as they called it.  I spent several days driving around trying to find it during daylight hours to no avail.  Trying to retrace the detour was difficult and finally I shared my frustration with a friend who had grown up in the area.  “Get your car keys” my elderly friend requested.  We got in the car and she proceeded to tell me how to find this house on a hill that had brought my children and myself such delight.

We drove around and my friend suddenly pointed out a rather plain looking house set back from the road.  “This is your holiday detour house” she said.  I looked at a two story house that seemed rather drab and plain.  The barn behind the house was a need of a good painting.  In fact, the house looked empty and I remarked about that.  I tried to explain to my friend and neighbor how the house had looked but she just smiled, positive this was our house.

I asked a friend who worked at the newspaper about the house.  Surely, I thought, someone had written a story on it.  She sent me a link to a story written ten years earlier.  It was an obituary about a woman who had escaped Nazi Germany as a child.  She had been sent to distant family in America.  The only surviving member of her family, the child spent her teen years depressed.  She worked for a farmer and lived in a small cabin on the farm, seldom speaking, mourning her lost childhood and family.  One night the farmer’s child became lost in the woods amid a snow storm but when daybreak arrived, the child was found at the woman’s cabin.  She had always lit a candle in the window at night for her family in heaven and the child had followed the light in the window of her cabin.

The farmer tried to pay the woman for saving his child but she refused everything.  When the child grew up, he inherited the farm.  The woman was very old by this time but each night he helped her light a candle in the window.  One Christmas, as she lay near death, he put up a display for her outside her bedroom window since she no longer could go into the front room and light her candle in the window.  The woman’s health improved and the next year the display grew.  The woman died three years later but the family continued to grow their holiday lights.

The young man had tried to move the woman who had saved his life into a batter cabin but she refused.  In her mind, her little three room cabin was a mansion.  The last holiday season of her life, the man and his sons had built a false front for their house, decorating it as if it was a huge mansion.  The woman smiled and said love made any house a mansion.  Her cabin provided for her and gave her peace and security as well as love.  It was enough.

When they were older, I drove my children pass the holiday house in the summer and, like me, they did not recognize it.  We had been making the holiday tour for several years at that point so they knew I had taken the right road.  The magic of the season – love – became very real at that moment, all because of a detour and a young child’s wish to leave a light burning so her family would know where she was.

Sometimes detours show us what had been there all along. The trappings of success are not what make us success.  It is what we carry deep inside that truly counts.  Pretty twinkling lights attract and are beautiful but real beauty lies deep inside the soul.  Sometimes a detour leads us just to where we need to be in order to learn.  We need to learn to recognize the love that is around us and do what we can to create more.  We might always wish for more but usually what we have is enough for us to spread some love and peace, making our own world a little brighter and helping us all find our way home.

This ends a most unexpected “ordinary time” of Pentecost.  In Advent we will wrap up this calendar year but combining all of our topics this year, starting on Wednesday December 6th.  Until then, may the light of your life shine brightly and be a beacon of hope for others.  We all can be a house on the hill for someone.

# Investing in Life

Investing in Life

Pentecost 182

Recently someone replied to me that government should not be in the business of helping people.  That is a most interesting comment.  If government is NOT in the business of helping people, then why is it in business at all?  Why does it exist at all?  Government does not exist to complicate lives nor to be a powerhouse of rules.  Certainly there is enough need to utilize all available help, regardless of where it comes from and/or to whom it is sent.

There is an old saying: “Put your money where your mouth is”.  There is an old scripture that says “Where your heart is, so will be your fortune.”  George Soros is an example of both.  Born in Hungary, he survived the Nazi invasion and World War II.  He escaped the Communist-led regime in the later 1940’s and found his way to England where he graduated from the London School of Economics.  He then made his way to New York City and began his life as a financier.

George Soros was listed in 2012 as the twenty-second richest man in the world.  However he did not simply make money and then live lavishly.  He also shared his wealth.  In fact, a list of charities and causes his foundation supports can take up to five hundred pages when printed out.

As a student in London, Soros read a book that has influenced his humanitarian efforts.  Karl Popper’s “The Open Society and Its Enemies” explores the philosophy of science and is considered a critique of totalitarianism as seen by Popper.  What Soros took from the book is that no ideology owns the truth, and societies can flourish only when they operate freely and openly and maintain respect for individual rights.

Soros has benefited from some trade transactions that greatly hurt others and his critics are many.  Is he simply very good at his job or does he profit while thousands of other traders perish?  Soros maintains he simply sees trends in the market and acts accordingly.  It cannot be disputed that while he trades heavily on futures and marketplace trends, making calls that others fail to see, he also invests in mankind.  Over two years ago the International Rescue Committee, first formed to help Jewish people during World War II awarded its Freedom award to George Soros, describing him as a “democracy and human rights supporter, philanthropist, and businessman”.

In his acceptance speech, Soros discussed the crisis of humanity in Syria.   “Right now we are witnessing a major unresolved humanitarian crisis in Syria,” he said. “People are starving. Soon they will be freezing, children are malnourished and the first cases of actual starvation have been observed.”   Today the world is struggling to deal with this crisis as the flood of Syrian refugees washes into every country in Europe.  Strict rules have been imposed in many countries and ongoing debates are held in the United States with many state governors refusing any Syrians in their states.  While many are wallowing in the fear, Soros has acted.  In 2013 at his awards banquet he pledged over one million dollars “to encourage the IRC to step up its efforts with the dual aim of activating global public opinion and mobilizing a meaningful response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.”  To date Soros has donated over one billion dollars to humanitarian causes.

So what can the average person struggling to make ends meet do to help such causes?  First, act with your heart and your brain instead of running on fear.  Fear can be a good response when used appropriately.  Fear is what keeps us from driving our cars off cliffs or trying to kiss a rattlesnake.  However, when we allow fear to blind our vision, then we fall victim ourselves.

We should not allow the exaggerated rhetoric of the greedy determine our own responses to our fellow beings in need.  We need to ask ourselves how we can help intelligently.  Perhaps Soros is not a saint; few of us are.  Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker once described him thusly:  “George Soros has made his mark as an enormously successful speculator, wise enough to largely withdraw when still way ahead of the game. The bulk of his enormous winnings is now devoted to encouraging transitional and emerging nations to become “open societies”, open not only in the sense of freedom of commerce but—more important—tolerant of new ideas and different modes of thinking and behavior.”

Investing in people is investing in our future.  We can do that by supporting local agencies and programs that help others.  The International Red Cross is a worldwide organization that operates on donations and helps all in times of personal and global crisis.  By donating money but also food and clothing, each of us can assist those in need, refugees from their countries and lives in crisis.  There are countless other programs like Good will Industries, the Salvation Army, that assist people in need.

We can all invest in another being and by doing so, we invest in our own future.  When government provides for the people, then the people are in a better position to provide for themselves and others.  Imagine a world in which people invested in each other instead of their stock portfolios.  That would be a beautiful world.

# Grace in All Times

Grace in All Times

Pentecost 181

The world can be a tumultuous place at times.  How we respond determines what we really believe. Maintaining grace in all times is not easy but very necessary.  While others are ranting and raving, someone needs to carry on the good fight, do the good works.  A good person is not the one with the loudest voice.  A good person is the one that does the most good.

Sometimes people are just good people.  In 2015 the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award was awarded to John and Tashia Morgridge.  John became a part of Cisco Systems as president and chief executive officer in 1998 and quickly led the company into becoming a publicly traded company that was known as a technological powerhouse.  Tashia had studied at the University of Wisconsin and was a special education teacher.  As a couple, they became known for their charitable giving.

Quoting from The Tech.org website which announced this award, given each year by the Tech Museum of Innovation, the Morgridge’s philanthropically have sought to improve education worldwide, “and they have done much of that giving through the TOSA Foundation, named after the high school where they met. The Morgridges have supported the University of Wisconsin’s research facilities, special education programs and scholarships, founding the Morgridge Center for Public Service and establishing the Morgridge Institute for Research, a biomedical institute. They are also generous supporters of literacy programs in East Palo Alto, Calif.; Tashia has long devoted herself to improving educational opportunities in disadvantaged neighborhoods.  Internationally they donate principally through CARE, an organization dedicated to fighting poverty, and The Nature Conservancy.”

Other people need a wake-up call.  Jon Huntsman, Sr. is well known as the founder of a global chemical manufacturing company.  What might not be as well known is that he gives away a great deal of his income.  He became a serious humanitarian in 1992 after a diagnosis of prostate cancer.  En route to the hospital, he wrote a one million dollar check to a homeless shelter, another to a local soup kitchen feeding the homeless and poor, and half a million dollars to the clinic that first diagnosed and discovered his tumor.  He later began his own cancer foundation at a cost of over one billion dollars.

This humanitarian has long been giving away his money, which totals well into the billion dollar range. Founder of a global chemical manufacturer, his serious giving days began in 1992 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. On his way to the hospital, he gave a one million dollar check to a homeless shelter, another million to a soup kitchen, and \$500,000 to the clinic that first found the malignancy. Huntsman would go on to found his own cancer foundation, which cost him more than one billion dollars alone. His donations have even gone so far as to knock him of the Forbes list of wealthiest individuals.

We have already discussed ways to help with local educational projects.  Volunteering to be a mentor or, if you do not feel academically capable, volunteering to help behind the scenes at such locations, is a perfect start to living your beliefs and helping your local community.  Baking or providing cookies is an easy first step.  Being a Big Brother or Big Sister is another and these programs have training sessions to help you get started.

If making hats or weaving plastic bags into water proof mats is more your style, your local homeless shelter would be happy for donations of your handiwork.  One of the easiest ways to make a blanket is to purchase a yard of flannel and then fringe each end.  That is done by cutting slits five inches long on either end.  The strips become fringe and the blankets is an easy yet warm addition to any homeless person’s bedroll, lightweight yet a good layering insulator for cold nights.

Hopefully, you will not wait until you have a diagnosis of a life-altering or possible life-ending disease.  It doesn’t take a million-dollar paycheck to become a humanitarian.  We all have the ability to help another and when we live grace, we receive grace.  Life is really just that simple and we all should exercise the grace to go whatever good we can.