Expect

Expect

2019.01.05

12 Days of Kindness

 

Someone once asked Michael Jordan to what did he attribute his success on the basketball court and in life.  Jordan answered:  “You have to expect great things of yourself before you can do them.”  While most of us can never achieve what Michael Jordan has, his advice is excellent advice for us in this new year of 2019.  Michael Jordan lived his career in the present tense and we need to live our lives the same way.

 

“I don’t expect you to except me, but I do expect you to accept me.”  This quote from Jarod Kintz may seem like a perfect example of how confusing the English language is but it also is a great example of  how most of us should live.  Life is the quintessential on-the-job training experience.  No matter how hard we try we cannot fully prepare for tomorrow because it is always something of a surprise.  Each hour offers a chance to succeed or fail. 

 

Why expect anything other than success?  In a world where our differences seem amplified, it has become commonplace to expect the worst.  We do not turn to the news expecting the program to be full of happy thoughts and joyous happenings.  We have become slaves to depressing expectations.  What if we expected goodness?  What if we expected greatness in ourselves and then realized it when it occurred?

 

Few of us will ever win the championships Michael Jordan won but he can’t cook my special breakfast gravy like I can.  In that, I am the great one.  We all have talents that make us special.  The other day I sat in front of a toddler, an adorable baby only five months old and together we listened to a guest speaker.  The baby understood little about the speaker but gurgled at all the right times and smiled throughout.  She made me happy I was present and her smile still brings a smile to my face several days later.   In expecting a great time of life, the baby was as much a pro as Michael Jordan.  For sure the baby was great at smiling.

 

Perhaps your talent isn’t cooking but it is in cleaning a house or repairing an engine.  Some of us are loving caregivers while others are detailed researchers.  We all have a uniqueness that makes us great.  Perhaps yours is in expressing joy or gratitude, organizational skills that keep things rolling, or maybe you are a dreamer that envisions great projects.  Everyone has something to offer the world. 

 

Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing our supposed faults, what if we looked in the mirror and expected to see our greatness?  William Shakespeare advised “Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.”  The actress Judy Garland summed it up best:  “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”  Expect to be you and expect that you are not only a person of value but greatness.

 

This ends our twelve days of kindness and, if you have been paying attention, you will have figured out that each day’s title was a clue.  The titles, in order of the twelve days, were Generosity; Respect; Acknowledge; Clemency; Envision…  Accept; Need; Dare …. Laughter; Open; Veer; Expect.  These are ways to experience and live kindness:  G-R-A-C-E … a-n-d … L-O-V-E.  When we are generous, show respect, acknowledge one another with forgiveness and clemency, we are then able to envision a better life.  We should accept and need each other, daring to laugh, be open, learning from life’s detours when we veer off course, and expect good things.

 

The Christmas season has reached its end with the twelfth day of Christmas being today.  Tomorrow begins Epiphany, a season of revelation, expectation, and presence.   It is a good lesson for us all to expect ourselves to be present in each moment, reveling in what life offers us, and expecting to make today great and tomorrow even better.

Respect

 

Respect

2018.12.26

12 Days of Kindness

 

There are five days left in this year and, if you haven’t already been overrun with flashbacks, consider yourself lucky.  It is the time of the year when it seems like everyone and every media outlet are talking retrospectives – the best of the year in everything from fashion to electronics, music to toys, etc.  It is that time of year when it seems As though we should worship “the good ole days”. 

 

We seldom think about the concept of retrospection having anything to do with the word “respect”.    Its history or etymology dates back to the Latin “respectus” which translates as “looking back”.  The more modern definition dates back to the late sixteenth century.  It was probably the result of someone’s retrospection and consideration of another’s past behavior but somewhere around the late 1580’s, the word came to mean a feeling of regard or esteem based upon the actions or attributes of a person rather than a way to look back or reflect on days gone by.

 

The term respect is a subject of great debate among philosophers and psychologists.  A teenage driver respects the speed limit while also respecting his/her parents.  Surely one is not exactly the same as another.  Most agree that how we respect ourselves often determines the lives we lead and the choices we make.   

 

It is most important to have self-respect but it is also important to respect others.  The relationships we have in this world revolve around the respect we show others and how we live is based upon the respect we have for ourselves.  In other words, the kindness we live towards ourselves is mirrored in the kindness with which we treat others.  The person who dislikes him or herself will probably be equally as critical to those around them and being critical does not take one down a path populated with friends.

 

One of the first steps for respecting others and ourselves involves losing assumptions.  When we let life teach us rather than assuming we have all the answers or know what another is thinking, then we open ourselves up to being free and create opportunities to learn.  Sometimes the greatest way to be kind is to let the person be uniquely themselves without insisting they conform to our own ideas or standards.  The lack of assumption usually leads to a heightened sense of dignity.  When we let people be themselves, we give that which they are dignity.  Feeling that you are entitled to have dignity is the foundation for a healthy self-esteem, both in us and in others.

 

When we show dignity to another we are also usually being fair.  Injustices occur every day based upon someone’s assumptions and more times than not, those assumptions are flawed and faulty.  Letting go of assumptions also means fairness will rule the day.  We need to take the time to treat everyone equally and meet out the same justice to all, regardless of their position, race, creed, financial status, etc.  Such fairness and dignity extended to all comes under the heading of good manners and correct etiquette.  The use of derogatory language is again based upon flawed and ignorant assumptions which lead to discrimination.  No one feels dignified or respected if they are the victim of discrimination. 

 

Consideration is also a part of good manners as is punctuality.  Sometimes we think our time schedule is the most important in the world.  Insisting others follow our schedule is permissible every now and then.  It is not respectful to make everyone dance to our own tune and nothing else.  Letting people explain themselves is also a great kindness.  When we listen to others, truly listen to them, we are giving them our attention, our time, and letting them know they are valued.    

 

You might have noticed that nothing I have mentioned as a way to show another person respect costs money.  To show kindness to someone by respecting them requires no financial outlay at all.  It is not only a gift of kindness that we share with others; it might just be the very best gift we can give ourselves.

 

Life coach Steve Maraboli explains it this way:  ““How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”   

 

Yesterday I challenged you to share a smile.  Today’s challenge in this the twelve days of kindness is to live two acts of kindness – one to another person and one to yourself.  It might be letting go of some guilt or simply being on time for a movie date.  Whatever it is, remember that respect is a two-way street.  It is a gift we give ourselves whenever we look back and give respect to another.

 

 

Similarities

Similarities

June 5, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Living the Spirit

Living the Spirit

March 6-7, 2018

 

In 2011 author Judith O’Reilly decided to do one good deed every day.  In an article written for the London-based Daily Mail’s online publication fittingly known as “Mail Online”, columnist Bianca London interviewed O’Reilly.  ‘I didn’t realize when I made the resolution that New Year what I was taking on,’ she says in the epilogue to her book.  “I’d made resolutions before… but the idea of doing one good deed a day morphed into something else again.  ‘This year made me question what a good life is, how we give our lives meaning, and what it is to love.  ‘It also taught me that people don’t always want the good you want to do, and that doing good – believe you me – is harder than it looks.”

 

The season of Lent, the current lliturgical season, is a time for doing something that results in making one better.  Traditionally it has involved sacrifice but more recently, the trend for a lenten discipline has been to take on something.

 

I recently got called out by a person regarding my “seemingly liberal views” in a comment.  I always enjoy feedback and often answer direct questions.  I respect everyone for having a point of view because I also have a point of view.  However, this person asked me to apologize and explain my stance so one of my Lenten disciplines this year  is to show others respect.

 

Recently I attended a lecture series having five parts.  The last speaker talked about the environment and said several things that were, scientifically, not factual.  Did I stand up and scream “Liar!”?  No, of course not.  This person has the right as an invited speaker to say what they wished.  I deeply regret that some people walked out of the meeting thinking erroneous facts but respect for another required that I say nothing.  There were several courses of actions I could have taken afterwards.  One would have been to engage the speaker in some polite chatter and asked for their references, casually mentioning what I felt might have been said in error.  Another would have been to send them a letter comparing my references with theirs and asking for what clarification or reconciliation they knew.  A third would have been to accept that the series was more about gathering together than about academic learning and that others probably realized this as well.

 

I elected the third course of action, out of respect.  Was it a pleasing choice?  No, not really but I do believe it to have been the best.  I could, of course, be entirely wrong about that and would love to hear your thoughts.  I sincerely hope no one left the meeting and became a vegetarian because of the speaker’s comments that beef cattle are ruining the atmosphere with the amount of methane gas they discharge.  The truth is that dairy cattle produce twice as much methane gas as beef cattle.  Becoming a vegetarian may be the best health choice for someone but such a decision should be based on health and religious reasons, not a misspoken statement given in a speech.

 

Was I disappointed that the speaker gave out erroneous information, this being just one example?  Naturally I was but again, that is the decision this person made.  We all make such decisions, whether it is to jaywalk or pull into a parking place someone else had their eye on or even to short tip a server for their services.  These decisions reflect on our being and illustrate our own spirit of living.

 

I cannot apologize to my reader for being a liberal because I don’t think of myself that way.  Reminding that the person screaming about one man’s infidelity also committed infidelity in his own marriage and did so in his multiple marriages does not necessarily make me a liberal.  It means simply that I have a brain and memory and am putting both to use.

 

I firmly believe if we put eight people in a room and ask them one question each regarding the topics of religion, faith, lifestyle choices, or even just fashion preferences, for each question we would probably receive at least twelve difference answers.  We should insist everyone think exactly the same as we do.  We must respect another person’s right to their own opinion, even when it contradicts their own actions.

 

It is that contradiction that I hope to illustrate and, perhaps, cause us to consider.  I firmly believe most of us are good people and try to live good lives.  We sometimes just don’t stop to think and yes, that includes me.  Never think I hold myself up as a sterling example.  I am, as my bio states, a struggling wandered on the road of life and I have fallen into more than my fair share of pot holes and taken wrong turns in life.

 

Life is a journey and I hope, in this blog, to offer a few ways to make that journey a little more pleasurable and effective.  “You were ordered to obey to Allah, and you were created to perform good deeds.”  While I do not identify as a Muslim, I really do appreciate this quote.  The author  of it is considered to be the first person to convert to Islam, being a cousin to Muhammad.   As a collector of quotations, he is among my favorites.  Respect today that wisdom knows no labels or sectarian divides and do yourself a favor by reading up on this man and some of his quotations.

 

William Shakespeare once wrote “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”  To do something good certainly helps the world but it also helps us be better citizens.  I hope you will join me during this season in extending respect to all you encounter.

 

We can, however, do our little part to make the world a better place.  It is, in every religion and spirituality, part of the credo for living.  Whether liberal or conservative, non-religious person or devout, doing good bu offering respect to all just makes good sense.  It doesn’t take a lot of money to create a smile.  In fact, tomorrow’s tip for better living just takes seven minutes.   Richelle Goodrich sums it up very succinctly:  ““Every sunrise is an invitation for us to arise and brighten someone’s day.”

 

Taking a Stand

Taking a Stand

Detours in Life

Pentecost #66-80

Mega Post #2

 

If you live in the United States, then it was very hard to escape the detour in concentration regarding nationally televised professional football games recently.  The focus has, quite simply, been detoured from sports and centered on actions, taken or not taken, during the playing of the National Anthem.  The speed with which this occurred, stemming from the actions of one player almost one year ago, would give a marketing specialist reason to take notice.  Rather than it being something that occurs without much forethought at the start of each game, those ninety-four seconds of the national Anthem  suddenly became the most talked about action of the games.

 

The National Anthem of the United States should, if played and sung in its entirety, take over five minutes but seldom are all four verses sung.  Most deem it too lengthy and so, only the first verse is played or sung at games.  At the time he penned the verses of his poem, Francis Scott Key was aboard an English ship during the War of 1812, attempting to broker a peaceful resolution.  As he stood on board in the harbor of Baltimore a prisoner of war amid the ammunition being volleyed by both sides, he wondered which flag would be waving victorious at dawn.  He called his poem “Defiance of Fort McHenry”.  The words were later put to a tune composed by John Stafford Smith.  Most people only know of Francis Scott Keys and few, if any, know of John Stafford Smith. 

 

John Stafford Smith was a British composer and church organist.  His song “The Anacreontic Song” became the melody for the new nation’s anthem which was not officially adopted as the national anthem until 1931.  You might be curious as to the irony of a song of spirit to encourage independence being composed by a member of the enemy country.  It is a rather interesting detour.  John Stafford Smith belonged to the Anacreon Society, a group of amateur musicians who were bonded by their love of music.  The name of their society came from the name of a Greek poet known for his drinking songs and hymns.  The young nation was a group of amateur politicians – many simple farmers elected by their neighbors to defend their rights.  Few had served in the British Parliament so the appeal of another amateur group is certainly understandable.

 

In the fourth verse of Francis Scott Keys’ poem is the line “free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.”  It should be noted that only someone white (Caucasian or of European descent), male and over the age of 21 could be considered a “free man”.  This is the only place in a legal document that mentions standing in connection to the National Anthem, by the way.  There are codes of conduct and protocol for the playing of the anthem as well as showing respect for the flag of the USA but standing is never nor has it ever been a requirement.

 

During the 2016-17 professional football season a player became distraught over the way he perceived people of color were being treated and how the disproportionate number of their deaths was being ignored.  He wanted to pay tribute to these American citizens that he felt were being forgotten.  Out of respect he did what many in Congress do at official meetings during the playing of the National Anthem – he sat down.   A team player noticed this and after much discussion together, the player decided to kneel instead of sitting.  His sitting was never noticed but his kneeling was and it created a media storm that has escalated over the past ten months to the past ten days, in part because of a politician who needed something to get a crowd interested.  In a state with more football championships than most and no professional teams, he highlighted this player’s actions in a negative light.

 

To fully understand the rights of the American citizen and just who is considered an American citizenship who would be expected to show respect to the National Anthem, we need to look at a timeline of citizenship.  In the beginning a citizen had to be male and own property to vote.  In 1791 this was changed to all white males so that they could vote even if they did not own property.  In 1795 free white persons could become citizens after living in the U.S. for five years but still only men could vote.  In 1848 approximately 80,000 Mexican residents of the Southwest were granted citizenship after the Mexican-American war.  In 1857, because of the Dred Scott v. Sandford case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that African Americans who were brought into this country as slaves could never be citizens.   Please read that last sentence again because many do not realize a specific law denied forever these victims of slavery from becoming US citizens.

 

In 1868 the 14th Amendment overruled the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision, giving citizenship to African   Americans.   Citizenship did not, however, mean they could vote.  Still only white males could vote.  In 1870 laws were changed to say that white persons and persons of African descent could be citizens and the 15th Amendment gave African American males the right to vote.  In 1913 California and other states enacted the Alien Land Laws which prohibited non-citizens from owning property.   In 1920 the 19th Amendment allowed women to vote.  Then, in 1924, all Native Americans were granted citizenship; most states prohibited them from voting, however.  During the 1940’s, all laws banning Asians from becoming citizens were overturned.   In 1947 Native Americans were given the right to vote but many states put obstacles such as literacy tests in their path and many were unable to vote. 

 

In 1965 Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march to protest lack of voting rights, and the Voting Rights Act was enacted to get rid of all barriers to voting (literacy tests, taxes, etc.).   The last change to citizenship and voting laws occurred in 1971 when the voting age was changed to 18 by the 26th Amendment.  It should be recognized that the Voting Rights Act did not just benefit African Americans.  Finally, all people of color were to be treated as equals.

 

Corrie Ten Bloom once asked:  “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?”  Many consider the most devout evidence of prayer to be kneeling.  In the earliest churches, prayer was done most solemnly when the person praying was prone.  In mosques worldwide, men pray in a semi-reclining position, on their knees with the torso laying outward and down.  Many churches of a historic episcopate use kneelers in their churches and people pray as a sign of devotion and obedience.

 

Last week many teams took to their knees; others stood solemnly with arms joined.  It was the first time in my life I had seen entire teams show respect while the National Anthem was played.  It should be noted that no stadium closes its concession stands during the playing of the National Anthem.  Public restrooms remain open as do ticket agents and sports memorabilia stands.

 

Showing patriotism is much more that simply wearing a red, white, and blue outfit or combining stars with stripes.  Wednesday we will discuss Corrie Ten Bloom and how a respectful Christian came to be detoured to a concentration camp during WWII.  For now, I ask you to ponder her query.    I hope the respectful action of one professional football player has become your own personal steering wheel in thinking about your own patriotism and how it is displayed.  Loyalty to the concept of freedom for all and those who teach it, protect it, and live it certainly deserves much more than merely being derailed by some politician’s spare hot air.

Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

Detours in Life

Pentecost 30

 

Some of the hardest detours we travel are those that require us to rethink what we thought we knew.  This past weekend, three people died because of feelings about the subject of race.  The topic of race is a social force and anyone claiming it isn’t has been living deep down at the bottom of the ocean. 

 

For centuries the human race has debated the divisions of, the identification for, and the correlation between the various races, their impact on intelligence, physical potential, genetics, and disease.  It cannot be denied that certain cultures are prone to specific illnesses while others seem to have no susceptibility at all.  This should not be interpreted as a weakness, though.  It is simply a characteristic of a great many things.  Genetics has proven that certain cultures – i.e., races – have a particular connection to various healthcare concerns.  This does not mean there is a correlation to potential or intelligence.

 

Throughout history the body of humans inhabiting this planet has been organized into racial groups, sometimes as few as three and other times as many as fifty.  In 1998, the American Anthropological Association issued the following statement on race:  “The idea of race has always carried more meanings than mere physical differences; indeed, physical variations in the human species have no meaning except the social ones that humans put on them.”

 

Race is not a biological fact and it has no true scientific importance as a means of division.  It should not be used to segregate or discriminate.  This may be a new detour in your thinking but it is fact, based upon pure scientific data, not greed, fear, nor baseless rhetoric.

 

In 2002 the American Anthropological Association published a paper remarking on the social foundations of race: “Although racial categories are legitimate subjects of empirical sociological investigation, it is important to recognize the danger of contributing to the popular concept of race as biological.”    Please take a moment and reread that last sentence.  Race is not a biological fact.

 

The completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 had as its purpose a way to better understand genetic components of disease.  A detailed map of humankind’s DNA sequence was constructed which allowed exploration of the various genetic differences across our vast planet.  Their findings were a huge detour from what many of us believed and/or have been taught.  We all are genetically 99.9 percent alike.

 

Within our specific DNA there are six billion bases of DNA with a .1 percent difference representing six million locations that differ between two individuals.  Most of these differences are “neutral” which means they do not change the function of any genes.

 

Before your eyes glaze over, take a minute to think.  A genome is nothing more than the genetic material of something, the complete set of the DNA that an organism has.  In humans, the nuclear genome comprises approximately 3.2 billion nucleotides of DNA, including genes and chromosomes.  So while having six million different sounds like a like, it actually is less than .1 percent.  Imagine having one hundred pieces of tiny chocolate candy like M & M’s on a plate.  Would you really argue if someone took just one?  Of course you wouldn’t because the amount left is much greater and overrides that one piece.

 

Race is a social construct, a way of organizing people by culture and yes, sometimes by skin color.  However, race itself is misleading.  Those deemed Caucasian are of European descent while the term actually comes from the Middle East and referred to people from the Caucus Region, a mountain range in Turkey and Russia.  Asian is a racial term to signify people of Chinese, Japanese, and Indian descent but Russia is also on the Asian continent.  There are many natives of Bermuda which, technically as a former English colony would make them of European descent and yet, these people appear African because they are descended from slaves.  If we assume most people from Bermuda are African, what do the descendants of the British pirates do?  There would then be Caucasian-skinned Africans which is contradictory to the racial separation itself.

 

Racial designation is not a biological fact and will always be misleading because the human race did not remain living in just one place.  Such descriptions and their resulting divisions are a social construct, a harmful collective construct.  Certainly people should take pride in their ethnicity and the culture of their ancestors.  However, this pride should not seek to silence or harm others. 

 

There is no biological division of the races.  We are human beings.  Hatred based upon race is much ado about nothing.  We are all part of the human race and it is time we started treating each other with humanity and respect.

 

 

Nurture

Nurture

Epiphany 7

 

Nurture is one of those words seldom used and yet envied by all at some point in their lives.  Although they both come from the same Latin root word, “natura”, nature and nurture have seemingly been at odds since the late nineteenth century.  I think this fact to be sad and perhaps one of the root causes of the problems we face today.

 

“Natura” as a Latin word referred to not just the natural way of the things but that which exists from birth forward.  A form of the Latin word “natus” which means birth, “natura” was used in the context of all things in the universe which were a part of the natural order of things. It referenced one’s natural character, both of humans but also of the universe itself.  The innate disposition of all of creation was thought to be one of a nurturing disposition.  Somehow, with all of man and womankind’s advancements, we seem to have forgotten that one fact.

 

There is great debate on the topic of nature versus nurture but, for me, the best discussion comes not from psychologists and sociologists but from a faction author, the entertaining and seldom-considered overly deep Mark Twain.  “When we set about accounting for a Napoleon or a Shakespeare or a Raphael or a Wagner or an Edison or other extraordinary person, we understand that the measure of his talent will not explain the whole result, nor even the largest part of it; no, it is the atmosphere in which the talent was cradled that explains; it is the training it received while it grew, the nurture it got from reading, study, example, the encouragement it gathered from self-recognition and recognition from the outside at each stage of its development: when we know all these details, then we know why the man was ready when his opportunity came.”

 

The environment we create and decide to plant ourselves in determines a great deal about us, not only who we are but our hopes and aspirations.  Suzy Kassem explains it most succinctly:  “Empathy nurtures wisdom. Apathy cultivates ignorance.”  We may inherit a certain amount of DNA from our heritage but we alone control our future, in spite of whatever circumstances to which we were born.

 

“While genes are pivotal in establishing some aspects of emotionality, experience plays a central role in turning genes on and off. DNA is not the heart’s destiny; the genetic lottery may determine the cards in your deck, but experience deals the hand you can play. Scientists have proven, for example, that good mothering can override a disadvantageous temperament,” maintains Thomas Lewis, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of California in San Francisco.  I think those of days gone past knew something when they made nature and nurture from the same word. What if we lived as if they were truly the same thing?

 

If we lived in this natural world and considered to the need to nurture each other just as important as sharing the air we breathe, if nurturing became a natural order of our living in our relationships with each other, what type of world would we create?  If when we opened our mouths, what might result if we did so with the intention of only uttering that which would nurture our audience and not alienate or judge?  Would we perish from the effort or would we reap a more beautiful, productive world without the need for alienation and terrorism?