Opportunity Awaits

Opportunity Awaits

January 5, 2018


For many people, today will be the actual last day of the Christmas season.  Today is the twelfth day after December 25th.   Many will have already taken down their holiday festive decorations while others will spend the weekend putting away Christmas.  The true meaning of the holiday should never be put away and the joy and charity of the Christmas season is, I fervently hope, just beginning.


Irony sometimes seems like it is my middle name.  Without getting into the age-old discussion, often loved by English instructors, about the difference between irony and sarcasm or any other of a number of words, let me clarify which definition to which I am referring:  “incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result”.  On the day that I planned to write about Bill Gates and his work in making technology available to the masses, my technological connections seemed to revolt.  Someday this week will make a really humorous anecdote. 


I first became aware of the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation when working at a public library.  I had prior computer experience and was picked to write training manuals for the staff.  The Gates Foundation had gifted the library a computer lab so that inner city children could have access to computers and the Internet.  Only three people on a staff of thirty had a personal computer so I ended up mentoring and teaching computer usage as well as drafting manuals.


The local library had, as most do, a foundation that provided monetary support.  At an unveiling of the new lab several days before it opened to the public, members of the foundation were invited to a reception and the computers were on display for the foundation members to try and appreciate.  I had been paired with the oldest member of the foundation, a 96-year-old architect who was not overly impressed.  He saw no need for computer educational support when we had three stories of books and were part of a national and international book exchange program.  Computer screens to him were blank nonsense that would not inspire nor provide opportunity or anyone.  In fact, he was certain they “would suck all opportunity from the children who sat in front of them”.


I walked over to the front desk and retrieved a blank piece of paper.  I then gave him a pencil and asked him to draw a simple outline of a three-story building or, for that matter, any object he saw on the paper.  He gave me back my pencil and proceeded to make a building using the ancient Japanese art of origami.  It took him about two minutes and we were all fascinated.


I then took his old, gnarled hands obviously showing signs of rheumatoid arthritis, in mine and said:  “I gave you nothing and you created wonderment.  With the resources available to a child on the Internet, just imagine what he or she could create.”  This stately, elderly gentle man then smiled and said: “Oh, you should then call the computer what it is – a box full of opportunity and potential.”  He served as a volunteer in the computer lab for two years until his passing, and then we learned of his bequeath to the computer lab which provided support for the computers long after the original grant had expired.


We all can create opportunity for another person.  The Gates Foundation has moved on to things beyond computers.  In 2016 they have made three resolutions or promises to serve as goals.  The first involves their continued efforts regarding vaccines for some of the world’s most deadly diseases, especially in underdeveloped countries in Africa and the Far East. 


They also have women and girls in their “hearts of our endeavors”.  They plan to invest time, funding, and efforts towards empowering women.  Better healthcare and wellbeing for girls and women means a better world.  Third, they plan to invest in innovation.  The future is all about science and technology and that includes drug therapies for such things as elephantiasis which alone affects over one hundred and twenty million people.


The world today is a world with poverty and the future will be dim until we all take steps to do our part.  We can do better.  “You never know how far reaching something you may think say or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow.”  B. J. Palmer’s words are very true and they are speaking directly to each of us.  We need to make poverty an opportunity for success by taking action.  This planet is our home and everyone living here needs you and me in order for us all to live a bountiful life.

A Disappearing Act

A Disappearing Act

Detours in Life

Pentecost 8


They are one of the oldest legumes known to mankind.  They grow along the Rocky Mountains and were a staple of the tribe for which they are named.  Along with a blue maize or corn, they are all that remains of a most interesting group of indigenous people to live in North America.


The tribe is known as the Anasazi Tribe and they lived and then disappeared between 550 and 1300 ACE in an area now called Mesa Verde, Colorado.  IIN 1870 a photographer accidentally discovered remnants of the Anasazi civilization, a most sophisticated culture for its day and time.  Their life was based on agriculture and they invented innovative and creative ways for irrigation as well as constructed hundreds of miles of roads.  They did not have the wheel nor do we believe they had the means to transport animals except by foot.  Their homes literally hung on the hillsides and mountains and even today are accessed only by the most skilled of mountain climbers using modern ropes and pulley systems.


The word “Anasazi” exists in the Navajo language and translates as “ancient ones” when spelled Anaasazi.  However, it is also very similar to the Greek “Anasa” and “Zi” which translates as breath lives.  Some believe the name was the name of their queen and literally meant “Long live the Queen!”  Archaeologists have found evidence of the Anasazi in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, the “four corners region” as it is now known.  Many consider the tribe disappeared due to drought and a subsequent lack of food.  However, then the question is asked – Why not simply move elsewhere?  Others believe the tribe became disenchanted with their deities, the gods of their mythology and, once angry with the gods of their culture, they left, disappeared to…?


Today the closest neighbors of what would have been the Anasazi lands are the Hopi Indians.  Theirs is a culture very different from the Anasazi and no one believes they are descended from them.  It is very interesting that, while the Anasazi people have disappeared, one of their most prominent deities has not.  The Anasazi were the first to have myths about Kokopelli, the god of harvest, fertility, and plenty.  The Anasazi believed that a visit from Kokopelli would bring a bountiful harvest and good luck.


Kokopelli is claimed today by most American Indians and indeed many tribes have myths about him or a similar character.  Most described him in like fashion:  “ . . . everyone in the village would sing and dance throughout the night when they heard Kokopelli play his flute. The next morning, every maiden in the village would be with child.”  In modern times Kokopelli was compared to A Shakespearean character from “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, Puck.


With these myths from the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, the newest lands of mankind’s living, we can see the similarities between all people.  Whether named for a Greek Queen or being used for a Shakespearean character, the history of myths and cultures follows similar paths.  Sadly, what does not disappear are our less than admirable traits – discrimination, fear, jealousy, and greed, among others.


What legacy has remained of the Anasazi includes their beans, a legume similar to the pinto or kidney bean and their blue corn.  What remains of the American Indians, even those extinct tribes are their words and names.  Almost half of the fifty states within the United States of America have American Indian names.  Other words, though create their own mythology.  American Indian words are often used to evoke images of might and strength.  A four-wheel drive vehicle originally created for military use became popular with the general population and one of their first models was named after a southeastern tribe – Cherokee.  Another model used mainly for off-roading was given the name of a southwestern tribe – Apache.  The military also appropriated American Indian names for one of their helicopters, the Chinook, and a missile, the Tomahawk.  Currently sports teams of all levels use American Indian names and the National Football league is embroiled in a dispute of such regarding the Washington Redskins.


For many, such appropriation of words from these indigenous peoples ensures that they will not be forgotten.  History sometimes is written for the victor and, in many cases, these indigenous tribes were not victorious in maintaining their lands or the ability to continue their culture.  Colonization sometimes becomes annihilation.


We can face that same dilemma when we are confronted with societal pressures ourselves.  Maintaining a lifestyle that adheres to one’s beliefs is not an easy task.  Remembering that faith is the strongest weapon is sometimes forgotten when we see the stories that terrorists create.  Nonetheless, faith is strong and it becomes stronger when we live it.


Life offers us a chance to detour from the heat of arguments to be vessels of peace.  We can either give in to the hysteria of fear or elect to be calm winds.  Faith is to be used, exercised, displayed, illustrated, and renewed each and every day.  We and we alone are responsible if our faith disappears.  It isn’t a magic act to live one’s beliefs.  It just takes doing it and that is the strongest force of all.  Sometimes life throws us a curveball and we must take a detour.  When we travel that road with faith, we ensure we will not disappear but make a lasting impression.



Easter Seven

Easter Seven
April 26, 2014

Prince George, two Popes, the NRA, measles, tornadoes, – Oh My!

Tomorrow is special for several different reasons. First of all, Sunday morning the young, bonny Prince George will awaken after sleeping his first full night in 19 days in his own bed. Of course, as the parent of any young toddler knows, that does not guarantee that he will actually sleep all the night or that the parents will get any sleep. Children are amazingly resilient and adjust quickly to new situations. Odds are that young George will need to get reacquainted with his home, his bed, and the lack of photographers around every corner and adoring fans and wooing grandmothers in the crowd.

Sunday also marks the canonization of two Popes at a ceremony which will have two other Popes present. History will be made for any and all of the above-mentioned Popes, by the way. Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII will be honored at this step along their journey to becoming saints. Unlike the future king of England who heard many say “Isn’t he just an angel? Isn’t he a saint?”, the two Popes had to meet certain criterion. It also affords some the chance to review their lives and renew any and all disapproval of their tenures as Popes. The vocational call to be Pope must be received with some joy but a fair amount of trepidation. Certainly, the man who first feels God leading him in that direction must pray “Are you sure? Really sure?” a goodly number of times. Whether one is a member of the Roman Catholic Church or not (and I am not), the historical bearing and significance is such a call is an awe-filled thought. Sainthood denotes for me a life dedicated to God and certainly these two men – yes men, not perfect but human – lived such a life.

Sunday will also see the close of the National Rifle Association’s national convention. I do not plan to debate the second amendment, not at this time anyway, but I would prefer that they did more actual association business and less name-calling and posturing. The young Prince George would be a good example for them, I think. He goes about his duties being himself and being honest, in spite of the million photo ops to be less drooling and more smiling. He was, simply put, a baby. The two Popes also took care of business with more thought to their business than themselves. The NRA claims their right to own their guns, which include far more than the rifles their name implies, is based upon their being Americans, their rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America. They are, they shout, law-abiding citizens. Well, that might just not be true.

According to the Constitution, no one has the right to speech that inhibits another’s speech. Ever try to argue with an NRA member? You will seldom get a complete sentence out without being interrupted. Their right to bear arms, a right I support in case you are wondering but I support it when it is done intelligently, does not give them the right to override another’s rights. According to the Constitution, we are all equal and entitled to certain rights but those rights must be to the benefit of all Americans. A gun in a locked case cannot kill another if it has been cleaned properly, is unloaded, the case is locked and put in another locked gun vault. Allowing someone to carry a gun, loaded, into a bar is not protecting my freedom. Mankind does not make good choices when inebriated. Even in the Wild West guns had to be checked before going into a bar.

Also this week we learned that measles are on the rise with a 20% increase this year alone. Hopefully, Sunday will begin a new week and new era of parents investigating their vaccination options and discussing them with their doctors instead of relying on Hollywood to make these decisions for them. It may be the right of my neighbor to decide what is best for his or her children but it is not their right to decide for my child. When it comes to communicable diseases like measles, other people must be considered. There are always some, adults and children, who should not take a particular medication including certain vaccinations. These decisions, however, should be made with rational thought, not based on trendy fads or because they are favored by the star of the month.

Sunday will be the mid-point of a three-year anniversary of one of the most deadly tornado outbreak across the south, Midwest, and northeast, with the states of Mississippi and Alabama being hit the hardest. In total, 358 tornadoes were confirmed by the National Weather Service and Canadian meteorologists in 21 states from Texas to New York to southern Canada. Widespread and destructive tornadoes occurred on each day of the outbreak, with April 27 being the most active day with a record of 211 tornadoes touching down that day from midnight to midnight CDT. Four of the tornadoes were classified as the strongest possible, EF-5 and three hundred and forty-eight people lost their lives.

The trip by Prince George’s parents reflected the one made by his father’s parents and showed the continuity of the British monarchy and its strength. The canonization of two Popes and the presence of two others is making the statement that not only is faith alive but the followers of the first Pope, chosen by Jesus as the first bishop of Rome and thereby the first Pope are alive. They will celebrate the canonization and lives of two believers but also their faith tomorrow, April 27th. The convention speeches of the NRA are meant to signify their determination to continue their fight and their lobbying in Congress. Parents make a statement with each decision regarding their parenting. In Alabama two hundred and thirty-eight people lost their lives on April 27th, 2011. Mother Nature definitely made a statement that day in Alabama. Making a statement is what all of these events have in common.

What statement will you make this day? What will your actions proclaim? Will our actions match our words and will both of those reflect our faith? One of my favorite prayers is this: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord.” It is quite possibly the hardest thing to live, though. How do we reconcile our beliefs with our rights and how do both of those protect and support our neighbors without imposing upon them our own faith which may or may not be theirs? Tomorrow will be a renewal of their heritage; a renewal of faith; a renewal of rights; a renewal of hope; a renewal of life. The sun will dawn tomorrow just like any other day and the thing is, with all these anniversaries and news stories, tomorrow will be just like any other day. It will be the day we have to make a statement, to reaffirm life and our beliefs about it. Just like any other day, we have that to do – today and tomorrow. With each breath, our life is statement. What will you say today?