Thursday, September 22, 2016

What sayeth you?

So many speeches during this political campaign season. How many are saying things of substance though? Will you be able to quote anyone in a year's time, or even in a month?

A great President long ago spoke these words: "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." Who will forget these words of Abraham Lincoln?

From John F Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." He also said "A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on."

From the wonderful Maya Angelou, who always inspired me: "Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud." What an incredible woman she was! One of my favorite quotes from her is "My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style."

The great inventor Thomas A. Edison said "If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves." Sounds good to me! Let's listen to him and to the many voices that have encouraged us, and let's astound ourselves!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Life is a picnic

Have you ever heard someone say "It's no picnic? It means that something is not particularly easy or pleasant. There may be a lot of things we can say that about, but if we try, we just might be able to make picnics everyday. Seriously. Yesterday I was in the part with friends and neighbors doing all of the traditional things - listening to music, chatting with each other, playing games, and of course eating delicious burgers, hot dogs, salads, and cookies. It was a picnic indeed!

"When things are a bit tense, when life is not going at its best, when the potential for disaster is just around the corner, when your enemies are all around you - and even staring you down! - that's when God lays out the red-checkered picnic cloth and says, "Oooo, this is a nice place. Let's hang out here together for a while. . .just you and me." That's what David Brazzeal says in Pray Like a Gourmet: Creative Ways to Feed Your Soul (a very good read, by the way). Brazzeal is giving us his idea of what Psalm 23 is all about. Yes, God spreads a picnic for us - if we let him.

Not a lot of money in your pocket? Health not what you would like it to be? You don't know a lot of people? So many excuses we allow to turn us in the negative direction, and it is certainly true that every day is not as pleasant as the next, but why give up? When I look back at yesterday, I realize how simple it was. We didn't eat fancy food. We didn't have live entertainment. We didn't spend a lot of money on sports equipment. We could probably have scaled back and had an even more simple get-together, and still have had a lot of fun. Life is a picnic, if we allow it to be.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How do we live up to their example?

The deadliest day in US history - fifteen years ago today. Four passenger airplanes, bound for California, were hijacked by 19 terrorists, with two of them crashed into the Word Trade Center in New York City, one into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the fourth crashed into the ground in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, when the passengers onboard overtook the hijackers. Nearly 3,000 perished with another 6,000 injured.

Each year at all three sites, there have been memorials. Permanent structures have also been erected at those locations, and others, as perpetual memories of that horrible day, fifteen years ago. We have used film, television, music, art, and literature to tell and retell the story of that day: September 11, 2001. Indeed simply saying September 11, immediately brings up thoughts of that hate-filled atrocity.
Today at The Pentagon, President Barack Obama told the crowd "Fifteen years may seem like a long time, but for the families who lost a piece of their heart that day, I imagine it can seem like just yesterday." Later in his speech he said "The question before us, as always, is: How do we preserve the legacy of those we lost? How do we live up to their example? And how do we keep their spirit alive in our own hearts?"

Some good questions Mr President. How many of us really remember though? Do you actually recall the moment you first heard about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center? Do you remember how you spent that day and the ones that followed? Do you recall fear or a sense of uneasiness? Of the first responders, do we think of them and all they did that day? Right now, fifteen years later, I would like to not only reflect on what happened, but what it brought about, and I'd like to answer the President's questions. I think particularly of the passengers who fought back and caused the fourth plane to come down in a field. "How do we live up to their example?"

Monday, August 29, 2016

A man must stand up

Have you ever thought about the posture one takes during the National Anthem at public events?  A quick look at the crowds, and you will see some still wearing their hats or not placing their hand over their heart, or even sometimes not standing. Nobody usually is critical of these folks. When a celebrity or a star player doesn't stand, it's a different matter, and everybody is talking. In the past few days the talk has been about Colin Kaepernick. Folks have been critical in the past of his playing on the field and of his numerous tattoos, but this is different. Kaepernick has refused to stand for the Star Spangled Banner, and yesterday said he will continue to remain seated.

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," said Kaepernick. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

Most of what I am hearing about his action claims he is disrespectful. Do you agree? Is there a time when you should stand up (no pun intended) for your principles? I know a politician who would not say the last line of the Pledge to the Flag, because she said there was no "liberty and justice for all." Many said she showed no respect for her country, but was that really the case? When should you risk your reputation? When should you go against what most others do, in order to bring about change for the overall better?  ALWAYS.  A person should always stand up for what is right.  A person should always try to make positive change!

In his autobiography, baseball great Jackie Robinson told of when he did the same thing Colin Kaepernick is now doing. "There I was, the black grandson of a slave, the son of a black sharecropper, part of a historic occasion, a symbolic hero to my people. The air was sparkling. The sunlight was warm. The band struck up the national anthem. The flag billowed in the wind. It should have been a glorious moment for me as the stirring words of the national anthem poured from the stands. Perhaps, it was, but then again, perhaps, the anthem could be called the theme song for a drama called The Noble Experiment. Today, as I look back on that opening game of my first world series, I must tell you that it was Mr. Rickey’s drama and that I was only a principal actor. As I write this twenty years later, I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world. In 1972, in 1947, at my birth in 1919, I know that I never had it made."

I happen to agree that we should no be looking the other way - that we should take a stand. I agree with Jackie Robinson and with Colin Kaepernick. In fact, I think we need to do a lot more than just refusing to stand for the National Anthem, but at least that is a start!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Good cops

So many stories this year about police officers abusing their power, breaking the law, and killing people during stops. One might begin to think that the police are all bad, but that isn't the case. As horrible as the bad stories are, we need to also look at the good, and the vast majority of actions by police are positive things that make a difference for the better.

This week, two Kansas City, MO police officers, discovered a little boy standing on a street corner waiting for his bus to school. He's been waiting a long time though, in fact he had missed his bus. They got him in their car and then found out he hadn't eaten breakfast, either, so they took him to McDonald's. Then they got him safely to his school, got him a hall pass, and walked him to classroom. I'm thinking that this little boy will long remember his help from the police this week!

I actually hear stories like this one in Kansas City all the time. It's a shame that more of them are not made public. Please feel free to share some of your knowledge of good cops, in the comments section below.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nature's Wrath

With huge flooding devastating Louisiana (which has been called by the Red Cross, the worst natural disaster to strike the United States since Hurricane Sandy four years ago), the world turned yesterday to numerous other examples of nature's wrath. Early in the morning, a powerful 6.2 magnitude earthquake rocked central Italy, killing at least 247 people and causing massive destruction, and uncountable injuries. Later yesterday, central Burma was hit by a powerful 6.8-magnitude causing more destruction and loss of life. Closer to home it was storms that would cause damage. Multiple tornadoes struck the area of Kokomo and Howard County, Indiana Wednesday piling cars on top of each other as if they were toys, as well as damaging homes and leveling buildings. Although there are reported injuries from yesterday's twisters in Indiana, no deaths have been reported.

With so much natural disaster going on around the world, it is hard to zoom in on just one. Any destruction is life-changing. When it involves personal injury or loss of life, this is even more life-changing. In times of emergency, we hear tales of heroes spring up everywhere you look, and that is indeed a heart-warming thing. Sadly there are also those who take advantage of situations like this - the price gougers and swindlers and those who loot damaged homes and businesses. Fortunately the bad guys are not the majority. Fortunately there are a lot more givers. At times when a major event happens, donations are welcome and the best place is always a known charity - the Red Cross for example. Also, sometimes volunteers are helpful. The best thing is to follow instructions that you find through local media.

We never know what tomorrow may bring. We do know though that together, we can always do better than all by ourselves. Whether we know folks in Louisiana or central Italy, or in and of the many places where natural disaster hits, or whether we don't know anyone there at all, is not important. The important thing is to remember that these are human beings - just like us. In times of trouble, would we want others to reach out and help us? Of course! Let's do the same thing for others in need. We might not all have a lot of money, but we can pray for the victims, or help collect blankets (when appropriate), or spread the word, or donate blood, or any number of things that might make a difference. When nature's wrath attacks, we should all come together and give, each in our own way - and make a difference!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Love, not hate

Rarely does anyone post a comment here, although they are certainly welcome. I will post opposing viewpoints, are long as they are stated with respect and do not contain speech that would be offensive to most people. Yesterday someone tried to post an objection to what I had written in the morning. The vile and hateful comments were totally inappropriate to a blog where I try to focus on love and making a positive difference. I deleted the comment.

The point of my post here yesterday was that Michael Brown should not have been shot (numerous times) and killed in Ferguson, Missouri two years ago. I was trying to point out that this is still happening all over our country, and that we don't seem to be learning a thing. I urged readers to "Take a moment today to remember Michael, and commit yourself to making sure this kind of thing stops." I also asked "Two years later, are things any better?" Sadly, the answer seems to be no.

We need love, not hate. That's what it comes down to. So many lives cut short simply because of hate. It doesn't make sense to me. How can you hate a person because of their race? (Or because of their age, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or ethnicity)? I don't get it. I really don't. And for everyone who wants to change Black Lives Matter to All Lives Matter, you still don't get it. Of course all lives matter! Nobody is saying that isn't true, but ALL lives are not under attack.

I'm going to ask once more, and please take this seriously, because it is important. Our future depends on it. Focus on all those who were shot and killed because of their race. Remember them. If there is any hate in your heart, let love come to take its place, and then - let's do something. Seriously folks! We need to show love, but we also need to stand up against hate. I am talking largely to white America.  It is past time that we threw away our stupid white privilege and our contempt for anyone who is not just like us.  We need love, not hate!