Importance of Community

The Importance of Community

2018.11.26-28

Growing Community

 

Good health is a positive thing and we all know at least one thing we should change in order to improve our health.  For instance, most of us could improve our diet.  Eating right, that is to say eating a balanced diet helps to combat disease and weight gain.  We all should have at least one hundred and fifty minutes of moderate physical activity each week.  When we opt to walk instead of drive, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or even pace while on the telephone, we make positive changes for our personal health.

 

Fitness is not just a personal thing.  It improves with community.  Those one hundred and fifty minutes of physical activity improve our mood and cognitive function and that makes us more productive members of our community.  This means we are better able to be useful, offer assistance and guidance to those around us.  It also means we are more likely to form connections with those in our neighborhood, professional and personal networks.  This increases the opportunities for positive relationships. 

 

Communities, by their very nature, contain a diversity of opinion, ideas, and knowledge.  IN the early twentieth century, there was a group of men who called themselves to “vagabonds.”  This diverse community of businessmen and politicians forms a camping community.  Membership included Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, the occasional US President and leading scientists.  The Vagabonds were a perfect example of how communities, large and small, are beneficial. 

 

It is impossible to do everything by yourself.  A community offers the prospect of meeting others who can render skills that you might have lacking.  It is not wrong to utilize the skills of others.  A community offers a quid pro quo or an exchange of abilities that benefits everyone in the community.  To quote the Centers for Disease Control:  “Designing and building healthy communities can improve the quality of life for all people who live, work, worship, learn, and play within their borders—where every person is free to make choices amid a variety of healthy, available, accessible, and affordable options.”

 

In her book “Second Chance”, Jodi Picoult writes: ““Heroes didn’t leap tall buildings or stop bullets with an outstretched hand; they didn’t wear boots and capes. They bled, and they bruised, and their superpowers were as simple as listening, or loving. Heroes were ordinary people who knew that even if their own lives were impossibly knotted, they could untangle someone else’s. And maybe that one act could lead someone to rescue you right back.”  This sentiment is echoed by Kurt Vonnegut in his “Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage”:  “What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

 

“The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”  This quote by Jane Addams is just one of many used by the initiative Do One Thing.  This is funded by the Emily Fund.  Emily Rachel Silverstein, of Roosevelt, was tragically taken from us on April 9, 2009, at the tender age of 19. Born in New Brunswick, NJ on June 27, 1989, for most of her life Emily resided in Roosevelt, NJ, in Monmouth County. From an early age Emily was a creator. She was a skilled artist all of her life and most recently displayed her talents in her creative writing. Her sensitive and caring nature leant power and meaning to all of her works. At twelve years old she decided to become a vegetarian. She wrote her first letter to the president when she was in sixth grade. Her academic prowess followed her through high school as a member of the National Honor Society, and graduating with honors. She continued her success as a member of the Dean’s list at Gettysburg College, where she was an Anthropology Major, with an English Minor. She also participated in several extracurricular activities like the Hightstown High School Marching Band and swim team. Emily was a dedicated activist in all of her causes, which included Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). At Gettysburg, Emily lived in the Peace House, where she also served as the co-president, whose mission was to create awareness of world peace issues. She was involved in Amnesty International, Free the Children, Adopt a Holocaust Survivor Program, among many others. She was planning to participate in a week-long event, called Tent City, to help bring awareness to the homelessness crisis.

 

Emily lived in a Gettysburg College residence called Peace House with construction-paper flowers covering the windows and world music filling the hallways.  She died a death more violent than her friends care to imagine in her ex-boyfriend’s apartment a quarter-mile away, in a yellow clapboard house that neighbors say was always quiet.  Authorities said Kevin R. Schaeffer, also a Gettysburg College student, choked Emily early Thursday morning and then stabbed her in the neck with a steak knife. He sat with her for 15 minutes before putting her in a bathtub, according to a police affidavit.  Kevin confessed to the crime, according to the affidavit. He told police he had been drinking that evening but was not intoxicated. He said he had recently stopped taking Zoloft, an anti-depressant.  Kevin Schaeffer was arrested that morning and charged him with homicide, aggravated assault, possessing instruments of crime and tampering with evidence.

 

Emily Rachel Silverstein’s compassion, passion and creativity touched many lives. She shared many deep friendships and accomplished many amazing things. But there was so much more that she wanted to do to make this world a better place. There are so many more lives that she would have touched, inspired and empowered to join in the struggle for a more peaceful, just and sustainable world. The Emily Silverstein Fund (emilyfund.org) has been set up by her family to continue Emily’s legacy of hope and action for a better world, and her strong conviction that every act of compassion makes a difference.  By creating a community for caring and helping, the Emily Fund uses education, mentorship, inspiration, and leadership in building communities of youth for a better world.  Legendary activist Dorothy Day sums up the importance of community.  “We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”

 

Thoughts on Tradition

Thoughts on Tradition

2018.11.24-25

Growing Community

 

It is that time of year in which traditions seem to take on a higher priority.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or something else, almost every community has its winter solstice-time traditions.  These traditions are generally passed from one generation to the next, and they provide a very important connection to the past.  Thus, these traditions are a direct link from the past to the future.  They give us direction, personal relationship and serve to honor the culture from which they originated.  We receive our core values from our traditions. 

 

Traditions and core values are important because they provide the framework of a community.  Within a family traditions serve to provide us identity.  Most of our traditions are based upon our history and they provide the framework for who we are today or in the present.  Our traditions reinforce the values we hold dear, the core values that help define us.  Through our traditions we celebrate those things that are dear to us and that we consider important.  By such celebrations we honor our role models, the tenets of our religious and/or spiritual beliefs, and the structure upon which our communities are built.

 

What happens when we stop honoring those traditions?  Award-winning author Frank Sonnenberg cautions that if we stop honoring our traditions, “our beliefs will get so diluted, over time, that our way of life will become foreign to us.”  Within the modern-day community, though, there are often differing traditions.  Our traditions do provide us a forum to show what is really important to us but what if our neighbor does not celebrate in the same way?

 

In the past culture is what brought a community together.  Culture referred to a pattern of human activity and the symbols which gave significance to tradition. Culture is represented through the art, literature, costumes, customs, and traditions of a community. Different cultures have always existed in different parts of the world. The natural environment greatly affected the lifestyle of the people in that region, thus shaping their culture. The diversity in the cultures around the world was also a result of the mindsets of people inhabiting different regions of the world.

 

Today, however, we have a far more mobile society and a community is often the home of varying cultures.  Culture has served to link people and their value systems.  Have we lost that in the 21st century?  Can we create culture among so many different behaviors?  At a time when people are shouting “remember the reason for the season”, have we forgotten how to be civil towards each other?  Traditions serve to unite us but at this time of year, they also serve to divide us.  Lawsuits will be filed to determine what symbols can be placed in public locations.  People will decry the “happy Holidays” that encompasses the complete community to honor a man who advocated love for all.  Can such a traditional saying meant to show support for all really be so divisive?

 

Traditions developed as a way to continue the family unit, to illustrate identity and for celebration.  Unfortunately, there are many who fear embracing the whole community.  Rather than our traditions promoting empathy and the engagement of citizenship, too often they serve to be contentious. 

 

I hope this year as we celebrate the core values behind our traditions we remember to let those traditions evolve.  We have a few traditions in our family that have developed from less than perfect times.  On a day where most people in our community and country eat turkey, we include hot tamales on our table.  We do serve turkey as well as ham, green bean casserole, corn pudding, stuffing, filling, dressing (the last three being very similar but each representing all sections of the cultures from which family members have been raised), potatoes (usually two kinds), etc.  A prominent spot on the table, however, is reserved for the hot tamales.  They represent a Thanksgiving gone bad but yet, at the end of the day when all we had to eat was one can of hot tamales, a day in which we truly appreciated our blessings and togetherness. 

 

It is wonderful to have the picture-perfect traditional dinner or holiday tree, etc.  Nonetheless, we should not consider the holiday ruined if it is not impeccable or flawless.  In our communities we need to strive more for inclusion and smiles rather than a movie-set depiction of any holiday.  I think the best way to keep our traditions – all our traditions – is by remembering their reason.  Most traditions are based upon love and strength.  This year I hope we find the strength to honor those who are different and share the love of life with them.  We build stronger communities through the tradition of community – the coming together, the engaging of others in a shared experience called life.

 

 

I – not in team but in community

“I” – absent in TEAM; present in COMMUNITY

2018.11.15-17

Growing Community

 

Many of the rules for living in a community are faith-based so this post (which is being posted late due to illness – my apologies) is combining the week’s wrap-up and thoughts about faith.  This blog is spiritually based but can someone live and grow a community without spiritual or faith-based doctrines?  For the large number (and growing daily) of atheists in the world, the answer is a resounding “YES!”

 

In the Bible, the title of chapter 5 of 1 Timothy is “Rules for Living with Others”.  The chapter goes like this:  “Do not speak angrily to an older man, but plead with him as if he were your father. Treat younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, and younger women like sisters; always treat them in a pure way.  Take care of widows who are truly widows, but if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to do their duty to their own family and to repay their parents or grandparents. That pleases God. The true widow, who is all alone, puts her hope in God and continues to pray night and day for God’s help; but the widow who uses her life to please herself is really dead while she is alive. Tell the believers to do these things so that no one can criticize them.”  This passage from Timothy sounds like great advice but then it gets very specific about younger widows, giving extra honors to church leaders, and to criticize those who sin.  Suddenly this does not sound very loving but rather quite dictatorial.

 

I get the general drift of this passage and it sound advice.  Basically, we are to care for those who are alone, immature, or destitute.  The purpose of living is to care for others and put them first.  This goes along with the age-old axiom:  “There is no ‘I’ in TEAM.”  Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest football coaches of all times and certainly a practicing expert in the field of teamwork once said “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.”

 

It is true that there is no “I” in the word team but… there is in the word “community”.  So how do we recognize our own needs and reconcile them with practicing teamwork in our community?  This past week there was a great need in the USA for teamwork as the aftermath of a synagogue mass killing, the murder of two at a grocery store and wild fires seem to eat away at our piece of mind and our communities.  A community of faith was attacked because of their faith.  Two were killed in what was considered a racist act.  Nature and most likely human error has resulted in the devastation of hundreds of thousands of acres, entire towns reduced to ash, animals and human life lost.  In the light of such, it is hard to keep one’s faith.

 

Can a community exist without faith?  Frank Zindler, past president and current board member of American Atheists, when confronted with the question “Can an atheist commit a crime?” responded: “Absolutely not!  The behavior of Atheists is subject to the same rules of sociology, psychology, and neurophysiology that govern the behavior of all members of our species, religionists included. Moreover, despite protestations to the contrary, we may assert as a general rule that when religionists practice ethical behavior, it isn’t really due to their fear of hell-fire and damnation, nor is it due to their hopes of heaven. Ethical behavior – regardless of who the practitioner may be – results always from the same causes and is regulated by the same forces, and has nothing to do with the presence or absence of religious belief.”

 

Zindler speaks of the principle of “enlightened self-interest” as an excellent first approximation to an ethical principle which is both consistent with what we know of human nature and is relevant to the problems of life in a complex society.  Mankind is a social animal and whatever is good for the larger tribe is most often good for the individual.  Zindler feels atheists do not need the added emphasis of a list of ten rules to realize this.  He makes valid arguments and uses the science of botany and analogy to make valid points and yet … At the end of the day, very few lions share their meals with stranded fawn. 

 

The “I” in community is vital when we recognize our assets to the community.  Right now, people donating by text on their telephones are spending less than they might at a coffeehouse.  It might seem like a pittance but when combines, that ten dollars (USD) becomes the beginning of a new life for thousands.  Whether you donate because of your faith or because you realize that one day you might be the one in need really has little importance.  We act as a team and build a community together.  Helen Keller, a woman once thought of as being unable to do anything at all grew up to show the world what not only she could do as a world traveler and motivational speaker but also what each of us has the potential to do:  “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

Lexi Rees

Lexi Rees

2018.08.31

Literature and Life

 

I must admit that, when going to visit someone, I am always a bit bothered when I do not see any bookcases in their rooms.  To be sure, I seldom go into every room, especially if it is merely an acquaintance or my first time visiting but still, as someone who has bookcases in practically every room, yes even the dining room and kitchen, I sort of expect to see a book case in every room.  My living room, den, previously mentioned dining room and kitchen, as well as every bedroom and guest rooms…well, we have a few bookcases overrunning with books.  So when this author said she went to her bookcases to find a favored but perhaps forgotten book…. I was delighted!

 

I asked Lexi Rees what was her favorite book.  Her answer:  “That’s an impossible question. My favourite book has changed over the years from when I was aged four, “Ernest Owl”, to aged ten, “Nancy Drew” and “The Hardy Boys”, to the wildly eclectic mix I read today. It could be Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” or Terry Pratchett’s “Mort”, depending on my mood. Of course I loved “Narnia” as a kid (it was pre Hardy Potter) and “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” still makes me laugh. 

 

“So I scanned my bookshelves for a book that surprised me, that was still fresh in my mind even though I had read it years ago and there it is – “A School in South Uist”, about an Englishman who is persuaded to take a job as headmaster on a tiny, remote island in the Outer Hebrides in the 1890’s. It’s survived numerous charity shop culls of my overflowing bookshelves, although I don’t know why since I’ve only actually read it once.

 

“It’s not a best-seller, although it ranks well enough in the fairly niche Amazon categories it’s listed under. I don’t have any family connection to the author. I’m not even sure how or where I first stumbled across it as I don’t recall a friend recommending it. I assume I bought it whilst route planning a trip. I’ve travelled extensively in Scotland (and around the world) and try to read a book set in every place I visit, but I’ve never made it as far as South Uist.  It’s an autobiography, but it’s one of those that could easily be mistaken for fiction – it’s got an interesting story, great characters, a fantastic setting, perfect pace and a wonderful voice.

 

I’ve just realized that the barren, windswept island where the elders have their gathering in my book, Eternal Seas, was probably inspired by the image this book conjured up of South Uist, even though the ruined castle I describe is Castle Gylen, near Oban.  I’ve put it back on my TBR pile. It deserves a re-read!”

 

Lexi Rees grew up in the north of Scotland but now splits her time between London and West Sussex. She still goes back to Scotland regularly though.  Usually seen clutching a mug of coffee, she spends as much time as possible sailing and horse riding, both of which she does enthusiastically but spectacularly badly.  Her first book, “Eternal Seas”, was written on a boat; the storm described in it was frighteningly real.

 

Lexi writes action packed stories for children, and will be publishing a non-fiction book for grown-ups in 2019.  She also has a blog about her family’s adventures, which seem to include lots of kids’ activities, travel, horses, boats, cars and crafting.  You can connect with her at any of these links:  Website https://lexirees.co.uk/; Facebook https://www.facebook.com/LexiAuthor/; Twitter https://twitter.com/lexi_rees; Google + http://bit.ly/Lexi-on-GooglePlus; Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lexi.rees/

 

[Please go to my Facebook page for pictures that accompany this post.  https://www.facebook.com/n2myhead/?hc_location=ufi]

 

Writers are not perfect people although some do manage to construct perfect endings.  What they do is connect the written word to the living we all do – whether it is a book for children or adults.  I thank all whom I have featured this month.  They make our living immeasurably better and turn an hour into an adventure when we read their efforts.  What I hoped to illustrate this month is that we all have an effect on each other.  After all, as one of my favorite writers and actual distant relative John Donne, once penned:  “No man is an island.”

 

 

Jane Austen

Jane Austen

2018.08.09

Literature and Life

 

In 2014, writing for “The Guardian” Alison Flood reported that a survey reveals that 54% of traditionally-published authors and almost 80% of go-it-alone writers made less than $1,000 a year.  Over nine thousand writers took part in the 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey, presented at the 2014 Digital Book World conference.   The survey group was composed of beginning writers to highly acclaimed, well-published authors and then divided the 9,210 respondents into four camps: aspiring, self-published only, traditionally-published only, and hybrid (both self-published and traditionally-published).  More than 65% of those who filled out the survey described themselves as aspiring authors, with 18% self-published, 8% traditionally-published and 6% saying they were pursuing hybrid careers.  Just over 77% of self-published writers acknowledged they made $1,000 or less a year, with “a startlingly high 53.9% of traditionally-published authors, and 43.6% of hybrid authors, reporting their earnings are below the same threshold.  A tiny proportion – 0.7% of self-published writers, 1.3% of traditionally-published, and 5.7% of hybrid writers – reported making more than $100,000 a year from their writing. The profile of the typical author in the sample was ‘a commercial fiction writer who might also write non-fiction and who had a project in the works that might soon be ready to publish’,” according to Flood’s report.

 

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that this is one of my favorite quotes about writing: “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”  It was said by today’s featured author, Jane Austen.   Jane Austen is a world- renowned English author who completed just six works during her time.  Few have such a small portfolio that have managed to command the legion of fans around the world that Jane Austen has. Her timeless stories have been turned into a plethora of movies, television shows, and modern adaptations in addition to being translated into multiple languages to cross cultural boundaries. Today she remains as popular as ever and is revered as much as any literary figure in the history of the English language.

 

During her lifetime Austen wrote approximately 3,000 letters but only about 160 survive.[6] Many of the letters were written to Austen’s older sister Cassandra, who in 1843 burned the greater part of them and cut pieces out of those she kept. Ostensibly Cassandra destroyed or censored her sister’s letters to prevent their falling into the hands of relatives and ensuring that “younger nieces did not read any of Jane Austen’s sometimes acid or forthright comments on neighbors or family members”.  Cassandra believed that in the interest of tact and Jane’s penchant for forthrightness, these details should be destroyed.   Ironically it is the humor and wit of Austen’s characters that have made her writings so popular and timeless.

 

Austen lived a relatively short life, even for the time period and yet, she read many books, volumes of poetry, and plays.  Some of her favorites included “The Corsair” by Lord Byron and “The Mysteries of Udolpho” by Anne Radcliffe.  Her all-time favorite was reportedly said to have been “Sir Charles Grandison” by Samuel Richardson.  Austen endeavored to incorporate Richardson’s epistolary style in her own writing, but found the flexibility of narrative more conducive to her realism, a realism in which each conversation and gesture carries a weight of significance. This narrative style utilized free indirect speech – she was the first English novelist to do so extensively – through which she had the ability to present a character’s thoughts directly to the reader and yet still retain narrative control. The style allowed her to vary discourse between the narrator’s voice and values and those of the story’s characters.  Jane Austen is considered one of the best authors to have used syntax and tone in the presentation of not only the characters but also the plot and storyline progression.

 

Critic Robert Polhemus once said “To appreciate the drama and achievement of [Jane] Austen, we need to realize how deep was her passion for both reverence and ridicule … and her comic imagination reveals both the harmonies and the telling contradictions of her mind and vision as she tries to reconcile her satirical bias with her sense of the good.”  Austen herself proclaimed:  “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!  How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! … but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.”

 

 

No Limits

No Limits

2018.07.06

Pentecost 2018

 

“Power, as human beings exercise power, to me means the ability to change: the ability to change oneself, the ability to change one’s community.  And the positive use of power is transformation of self and community toward a high ideal, toward a healed world.”  This quote by Katherine Jefferts Schori speaks to the topic we are exploring this month of personal power and to the needs of the world today.

 

Of Irish ancestry, Katherine Jefferts Schori was born in Pensacola to Keith Jefferts and his wife Elaine Ryan. Jefferts Schori was first raised in the Roman Catholic Church. In 1963, her parents brought her, at the age of eight, into the Episcopal Church (St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, New Providence, New Jersey) with their own move out of Roman Catholicism. Her mother converted to Eastern Orthodoxy a few years later and died in 1998.  She attended school in New Jersey, then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Stanford University in 1974, a Master of Science degree in oceanography in 1977, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1983, also in oceanography, from Oregon State University. She is an instrument-rated pilot.  Both her parents were pilots.  She married Richard Schori, an Oregon State professor of topology, in 1979. Their daughter Katharine is a captain and pilot in the United States Air Force, continuing the family tradition.

 

Jefferts Schori earned her Master of Divinity in 1994 from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific[3] and was ordained priest that year. She served as assistant rector at the Church of the Good Samaritan, in Corvallis, Oregon, where she had special responsibility for pastoring the Hispanic community as a fluent Spanish communicator, and was in charge of adult education programs.  In 2001, Jefferts Schori was elected and consecrated Bishop of Nevada. The Church Divinity School of the Pacific gave her an honorary Doctor of Divinity in 2001. Seabury-Western Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois awarded her an honorary degree in 2007, as did The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee the following year. (Most Episcopal seminaries award an honorary doctorate to alumni who become bishops.)

 

The Episcopal Church met in General Convention in Columbus, Ohio, in June 2006.  Bishop Jefferts Schori was elected to serve a nine-year term as Presiding Bishop by the House of Bishops, on June 18, from among seven nominees on the fifth ballot with 95 of the 188 votes cast. The House of Deputies, consisting of deacons, priests and laity, overwhelmingly approved the House of Bishops’ election later that day. She was the first woman primate in the worldwide Anglican Communion and the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church as well as the 963rd bishop of the Episcopal Church.

 

For the past thirty years, Presiding Bishops have traditionally served a fifteen year term, presiding over three General Conventions which are held every three years.  Jefferts Schori announced on September 23, 2014, that she would not seek another term as Presiding Bishop. On June 27, 2015, the General Convention elected Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina as the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.  In 2017, Bishop Katherine began serving as assisting bishop in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego.

 

Diana Butler Bass, an independent scholar and expert on U.S. religion and author of eight books, including “Christianity After Religion” wrote of Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori:  “In the 21st century, with declining numbers who identify as part of mainline religion, church elections are mostly a matter of inside baseball and of no great consequence to American society. Yet this cannot be fairly said of Jefferts Schori’s tenure as the head of the Episcopal Church. In the last decade, the denomination became a sort of a laboratory in which to observe cultural and religious change.

 

“The first and most obvious fact about Jefferts Schori’s tenure is that she is a she. As the only female head of an Anglican national church, she was subjected to innumerable indignities, the most noteworthy of which was a 2010 order by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that she not wear a mitre (the hat worn by Christian bishops to symbolize their spiritual authority) when preaching in an English cathedral.”  [It should be noted that most recently when giving the homily at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markel, the current Presiding Bishop Michael Curry did not wear a mitre.]

 

Bass continues:  “Jefferts Schori proved a tough leader, determined to protect the church, employing her resources to quell dissent and maintain church law. As a result, the Episcopal Church lost far fewer members than had been predicted and won almost every court case brought against it.”  It should be noted that the Episcopal Church is one of the oldest religious institutions in the U.S.A.

 

The basis for the gospels included within the book known as the Holy Bible is that love has no limits.  The tenure of Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori proves, as Bass concludes, that finding such on earth is difficult.  “Jefferts Schori’s tenure also points to the complex and intertwined realities of women’s and LGBTQ rights. Her opponents exercised the same tactics of discrimination against both her and Gene Robinson. Each was (often grudgingly) recognized as a bishop, but faced constant challenges to their leadership on the basis of gender or sexual identity. They were excluded from meetings whenever possible, sometimes forced to sit separate from groups, forbidden to wear symbols of their rank in certain places, and disallowed from performing the sacraments – practices of segregation resembling those often employed against African Americans – and functionally intimating that Jefferts Schori and Robinson were somehow unclean or spiritually unacceptable.

 

“Such overt discrimination demonstrates that while sexism, homophobia and racism are not identical, they prompt the same response from those who fear losing power or privilege, including within the religious community. In a comment that applies to too many American organizations, Bishop Susan Goff of Virginia said the Episcopal Church continues to suffer from “deeply ingrained structural and institutional sexism.”  Having a woman presiding bishop does not eliminate sexism – and electing a bishop who happens to be gay does not end homophobia. The Gordian knot of equal rights for all has to be untied as a whole, not as its individual threads.”

 

As we move forward we need to see the world as “we” and not a competition between “them” and “us”.  There can be no limits to our efforts to make the world a better place for all.  To quote Bishop Katherine once said:  “See the encounters of Jesus’ life as windows into possibilities for yours.  Accept the invitation to go or strive to go through the narrow door.  Choose between life and fear, for the unengaged life is truly not worth living, and has no possibility of salvation or abundance.”

Flip, Flop, Fantastic – Empowering Women

Flip, Flop, Fantastic

2018.7.1

Pentecost 2018

 

It is now July and during this month we will be discussing women, past and present, who have made a difference in their world. Some contributions are large; others are living up to their very highest potential.  Some will be named and others will remain anonymous.  They come from all walks of life and I hope you find them as inspirational and fascinating as I do.

 

Our first story is about a mother and daughter and since we in the USA are in the middle of summer, features commonly seen footwear for the summer – flip flops!  What, you might ask could someone do with these rubberized sandals?  After all, most of us scurry around in them near water.  How could two straps attached to a sole impact someone’s soul?

 

It looks like an ordinary house from the outside.  Walk into the living room, though, and you might very well see boxes of rubberized sandals known as flip flops.  The mother living there is collecting them to send to her daughter, an Air Force technician.  But surely one young woman cannot possibly need these many pairs of flip flops you might ask.  She does and happily asks for more.

 

While there is a type of electrical switch known as the “flip flop”, let me assure you that is not what this blog post is about today.  I am talking about the open-toed footwear that gets no respect for being, in spite of it having been around since 4000 BCE.  The oldest pair of flip flop sandals can be found in the British Museum and dates to 1500 BCE.  That pair is made of papyrus but the material used for these shoes has varied just as the cultures wearing them have varied.

 

Thought to have originated in ancient Egypt, the flip flop, aptly named in modern times because of the sound one makes while wearing them, was probably first made from papyrus or palm leaves.  In Africa the Masei tribe used rawhide for their sandals.  In India wood was the material of choice but China and Japan made them from straw.  As mankind advanced, so did the materials used in making flip flops and they began to be constructed from leather and other materials as well as stronger fibers that made them more lasting, durable, and wearable.

 

Servicemen returning from the Far East, especially Japan, after World War II brought back the Japanese zori and the flip flop gained popularity in the United States.  Americans added their own flair with bright colors and adornments.  The wearing of flip flops especially caught on in the surfing culture of southern California.  One company began in a garage but today makes and sells over two million pairs of flip flops each year.

 

So how can wearing flip flops become more extraordinary and less ordinary?  And why would one woman collect them to send to her daughter?  Servicemen in hospitals often do not have shower shoes or shoes that allow them to easily walk.  This Carolina mother collects the flip flops for her daughter to distribute to servicemen so that their feet are protected.  These are new flip flops donated by area people and family.

 

Recycled flip flops have a purpose, so don’t throw out your used ones.  The Flip Flop Recycling Company will happily accept them!  The FFRC is a business based in Kenya and began because a woman observed children picking flip flops out of the trash that washed on shore from the surrounding waters and ocean.  The children were making toys out of the discarded flip flops but the woman saw beyond their efforts.

 

Kenya is among the poorest nations in the world.  Throughout the world, the ocean has become a very large and often under-patrolled garbage dump.  The dumping of trash in the ocean not only endangers the wildlife living there, it also contributes to world pollution.  In Kenya, however, the FFRC is buying these flip flops from the women who collect them.  This gives the women some disposable income to help support their families.

 

Artists then use these flip flops to recycle into household products as well as other household products and art.  Some of their work has been made into fashion accessories that have been used in Parish runway fashion shows.  Other companies such as Ocean Sole are also using the trash of old discarded flip flops that end up as floating garbage to create new things and better lives.

 

Next time you go to throw out a pair of flip flops, think.  Next time you purchase a new pair, pick up a second pair for Operation Flip Flops, and then check out their Facebook page to get details on how to donate your new pair.  There is also another Facebook page called Operation Flip Flop that sent new shows/flip flops to Iraqi children.

 

Whichever charity you decide to help, and there are several in your own home town (Contact the Salvation Army, Boy and Girls Clubs, or the American Red Cross) I am certain, please do not forget that something as commonplace as a pair of flip flops can mean the world to someone else.  Make the name “flip flop” synonymous with the words “good deed” today!