Sunday, March 31, 2013

we are an Easter people

It was just a few days ago that my mother went home to Jesus.  It has been a difficult week to be sure, but we are an Easter people.  I cannot believe in the resurrection only when it's convenient.  As I look ahead to Mom's funeral, I am reminded by the Book of Common Prayer that “The liturgy for the dead is an Easter liturgy. It finds all its meaning in the resurrection. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we, too, shall be raised."  Today I am sure will be a difficult one for my sister and I, but grief is part of death.  Indeed, the BCP also says "The very love we have for each other in Christ brings deep sorrow when we are parted by death. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend."  I have a feeling I will be showing a lot of sorrow in the days ahead, with a mixture of joy for all that Mom brought to the world.

Today, as I continue to mourn, I return to writing these daily words in the hope that they will touch someone and move them to making a difference in this world.  I am confidant that Mom made a huge difference!  As I hold her in my mind, the Easter story, the very one we celebrate today, gives me hope knowing that, as Saint Paul remind's us, "nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth , and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.  Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.  So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.  And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw , and believed For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.  Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.  But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping : and as she wept , she stooped down , and looked into the sepulchre,  And seeth two angels in white sitting , the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.  And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.  Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.  Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Let not your heart be troubled

Mom died last night at Seton Coastside in Moss Beach, California.  Never before have I seen so many loving and caring people.  I will remember the nursing staff there always, especially Herbie who melted Mom's heart when she first was admitted and who shared a hug with my sister and I at the time of Mom's death.

Mom was a very special person - a true giver.  I'm not yet ready to write my usual blog entries here.  Do forgive me if I take a bit of time off.  My heart is very heavy, but these words from Saint John's gospel do provide some comfort:

Let not your heart be troubled:
ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so,
I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Rest in peace Mom

Edna Louise Fritts, whom most people knew simply as Teddy, was born to eternal life this evening just days after learning she had lung cancer.  There was very little time to say goodbye to this wonderful woman who touched so many lives as a nurse and a teacher's aide and as a church volunteer.  She was a friend to pretty much everyone she met.  She was famous though not only for her warmth and generousity of spirit, but also for her huge collection of teddy bears.

I know this blog is NOT about me - it is really about giving back and making a difference - that pretty much sums up who Teddy Fritts was.  Teddy Fritts really did make a difference!  This blog would never have happened were it not for her.  Teddy Fritts was my mother. 

Although she was born in New York State, she traveled around the country and it was always important to her to be near my sister and I.  She had in fact just moved to California at the end of last year to be nearer to me.

Mom, the olderst of five children, was preceded in death by her parents and all of her siblings. A funeral mass will be held at Advent of Christ the King, San Francisco at 11am on Saturday, April 20. Memorial donations can be made to Good Bears of the World (a non profit organization which provides teddy bears to children of all ages and to lonely senior citizens), to the American Cancer Society, or to Saint Edmund's Episcopal Church in Pacifica, CA.

Writing this tonight is the hardest thing I have ever done.  The days ahead I know will be difficult ones for me and my sister.  I'm going to miss her so much.  Thank you for giving me life Mom and for always believing in me and my sister.  Thanks for making a difference!

What can you donate?

What can you donate? Well, the list really is endless. Sometimes when we think of giving, we divide into categories such as time, talent, and treasure. The treasure grouping is the one that gets the most attention. Give some money or canned goods (to a food drive) or a car (many charities now look for used cars or even boats). Art work might also be part of this list, and books too.

Donating your talent is a very valuable thing. This is true whether your talent is taking blood pressures or giving tax advice or reading to children.

Donating your time is another wonderful thing. Can you spend a few hours helping out in the office of our non-profit? Can you come in one day and help hand out bags of groceries?

As we say every day here, giving takes many forms. Sometimes we are speaking of the various kinds of donating. What a rewarding thing it is to do!


Sunday, March 24, 2013

the inspiring chef

The Jubilee Project never fails to inspire.  I have written about them here before and yesterday they released their latest video.  Click HERE to watch The Master Chef, the story of Christine Ha, who in 2003 was diagnosed with neuromyelitis optica, a disease that caused her blindness. She didn't think that she could move on and felt devastated and alone, but she DID succeed.

Ms Ha is an example of how we can do great thing is we just believe.  She had love and support from her boyfriend too and that can make a world of difference.  She went with her love - cooking, and she did what she had thought impossible - what many might have thought impossible.

This inspiring chef is just the latest inspiratinal story from The Jubliee Project.  I really believe in what these guys are doing and I hope you will not only check out this video, but if you don't already know about them, take a momesnt to check even more at their website http://jubileeproject.org/

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Twenty dollar bill

A well-known speaker started off his seminar holding up a $20.00 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, "Who would like this $20 bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this."

He proceeded to crumple up the $20 dollar bill. He then asked, "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty. "Now, who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air.

"My friends, we have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We may feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value. Dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who DO LOVE you. The worth of our lives comes not in what we do or who we know, but by WHO WE ARE. You are special - Don't EVER forget it."

The story of the twenty dollar bill is one of those that has floated around and I am simply retelling it here. (I do that sort of thing from time-to-time). But it speaks to a number of things. Mostly it says count your blessings, not your problems.

Friday, March 22, 2013

More on AIDS and AIDS Walk

The words from Randy Shilts which I shared here yesterday are of course only part of the picture.  Randy did an excellent job of covering the early days of HIV/AIDS, both in the San Francisco Chronicle and in his book And the Band Played On, which was also made into a movie.  Much has happened since Randy left us though.

In recent year the number of AIDS related deaths has declined, but the deaths still come.  AIDS services are needed just as much today.  That is one reason why fundraisers like AIDS Walk are so important.  I invite you to join in.  There are AIDS Walk events not only here in San Francisco but in several other cities as well.  You can get details at http://aidswalk.net
If you are not in a city where AIDS Walk takes place, consider sponsoring a walker (like me) or simply make a general donation.

Learn the facts too.  http://aids.gov/ is a good place to go if your information is limited.  Someday we will see an even to AIDS, but until there's a cure, we need to keep on trying.  We cannot give up and walk away. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Few Words From Randy Shilts

A few words from Randy Shilts, which he wrote back in 1982.  AIDS was called GRID then.  We didn't know much about it.  Randy's words were important to me.  Randy was someone I knew - in fact he was the first person I met when I moved to San Francisco.  Later he would be one of the first persons I knew who died from AIDS.  Randy was just one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, that I knew who died from AIDS, and sadly there will probably be more.  For years I have walked in AIDS Walk San Francisco.  Read Randy's words below.  Perhaps this will help you understand why I walk.
A 45-year-old San Francisco man looked at the purple spots covering his arms, face and chest and contemplated the death sentence they might foreshadow.
  
"Every time I see a new spot, I think I'm a step closer to death," said Jerry, a former waiter. "I don't even look in the mirror any more."
  
Jerry is a victim of one of a series of baffling diseases hitting primarily gay men with increasing frequency across the country.
  
Scientists have lumped the various illnesses together under the acronym of GRID -- for gay-related immuno-deficiency diseases -- and public health officials have come to view them as the most startling health problem to hit the United States since the first outbreak of Legionnaire's disease in 1976.
  
The numbers of gay men struck by the GRID disease passed epidemic proportions long ago and are now frightening public health officials for a number of reasons.
  
-- In the 11 months since the first American case of a rare skin cancer known as Kaposi's sarcoma was reported to federal authorities, the cancer and the other GRID illnesses have reportedly struck 335 Americans, almost all of them gay, killing 136 -- a higher death toll than both toxic shock syndrome and Legionnaire's disease combined.
  
-- The diseases, most of which were previously unheard of among healthy young men, offer few hopes for survival. Only 15 percent of the men diagnosed in 1979 for Kaposi's sarcoma, now colloquially known as "gay cancer," are alive now, say federal officials. Two-thirds of the reported 1980 victims have died.
  
-- The overall death rate for patients with Pneumocystis pneumonia, the "gay pneumonia," which is the deadliest GRID, now stands at 50 percent.

 -- Public health officials are also discovering that a laundry list of other strange diseases are striking gay men, apparently associated with a dysfunction of the patient's immune systems. These "opportunistic" diseases now account for one-sixth of GRID victims.

I would be honored to have you as one of my sponsors in this year's AIDS Walk SF.  To donate, just go to my secure fundraising page by clicking the link at the top right of this page or HERE - and thanks for your support!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

All lives matter

It's hard to remember when I first realized that we are not all alike. It was a gradual process, I'm sure, as I slowly discovered that we look different, speak different languages, worship in different ways, earn different amounts of money, wear different styles of clothing, and so on. Some of us have blue eyes and some have brown. Some of us are perfect weight and some of us struggle with extra pounds. We are different races and sexual orientations and religions and genders and the diversity is one of those wonderful things about life - we can celebrate our differences.

Now there will be those who think that because of who their parents are, or because of their race or their religion or even their sexual orientation, that they are superior to others. "I'm better than you," is an all too often seen expression by some misguided folks who don't realize that we are ALL equal. Yes, we are different, but differences don't mean that one is better than another. Every single one of us matters. No one person is better than another and certainly no one group is better.

As I said, I don't recall exactly when I realized there were differences. At times I wish I had NOT discovered it. At times I wish nobody would discover it. Perhaps if we could look beyond those differences, we would remember that at the core of it all, we are the same. We all matter equally.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Say what??

When someone mentions their doctor, do you automatically picture a man? If a man says he wants you to meet his spouse, do you immediately think he is referring to a woman? We need to change the way we think and they way we say things! (I prefer saying husband or wife instead of partner or spouse because it gives more information). If we really believe in equality though and really support same-sex marriage, we should think about things like this.

I remember a television commercial for a deodorant, many years ago that talked about an airline pilot. Viewers were thinking of a man flying the aircraft, but in the last frame we see that it is actually a woman. Even those of us who fight every day for equality, can't get those images out of our head that we have been conditioned to see. When reading someone's biography, when we see that they are married, most of us still assume the opposite sex.

With Pride Week upon us, I was thinking about tremonology and how we often speak with words that are outdated.  With that in mind, Pronouns that refer to gender are often misused out of ignorance.  Our transgender sisters and brothers should expect that they will be referred to with the gender they have transitioned to.  It is ignorant to call a man 'she' and just plain mean to say 'it.'

Is it conditioning or prejudice? Can we open our minds to see a bigger picture?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Goal!!

What are your goals? Hopefully you have some. Great Austrailian athlete Bill Copeland once said “The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” Indeed.

With the World Baseball Classic being played here in San Francisco and regular baseball season coming right up, I have been hearing a lot about “pursuing our dreams” and “going for the gold.” Setting a goal in life is the first step in dreaming of our future. Set the goal and then go for it! We all are capable of doing great things. How often have I said we all can change the world?

The so often inspiring Walt Disney said it so well:  “All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.” One more quote. This one is from Charles D. Gill: “There are many wonderful things that will never be done if you do not do them.”

Sunday, March 17, 2013

another animal post

Animals are a lot smarter than you may think.  Your animals just might be able to look out for you.

Most of the time though it is YOU who need to be looking out for your animals.  I have written here in the past about animal cruelty and neglect, but I keep seeing horror stories that make me want to keep reminding people. 

There is something we all need to consider when taking an animal into our home.  Are we able to care for it?  Do we have the time, the energy, the space, the money, the desire that is necessary to be guardian for a cat or dog or other animal?  (A very large dog, for example, is not going to have enough space in a tiny apartment).  If the answer is no, than proceeding with bringing an animal into your home is inviting neglect, even if that is not our intention.

Yesterday I saw a dog tied up outside a cafe while his caretaker was inside enjoying a nosh.  Poor little thing was crying and looking oh so sad.  Seems like maybe the dog would have been better off being left at home where at least he would have been in familiar surroundings.

Neglect and abandonment are the most common forms of companion animal abuse here in the United States.  Many studies have found a link between cruelty to animals and other forms of interpersonal violence. 

Think before you bring an animal home.  If you decide you cannot keep an animal you already have, look for a home where the pet will be well cared for or call you local animal shelter.  Do NOT just abandon the animal.  If you see abuse or neglect, report it!  Get involved.  Care.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why not?

Wasn't it Hillary Duff that had a hit about ten years ago with a song called "Why Not"? (Can you believe that I am making a blog entry with a picture of Hillary Duff? YIKES!) That two word sentence though has become something of a mantra to me. I am ALWAYS asking WHY NOT!

You can't possibly do that many things? There is no way will will ever change our way of doing things.  That guy will never date you! We're never going to have as many people in church as in ages past (according to some) - why not? We couldn't possibly raise that amount of money! Again, why not??! Whenever that voice of gloom and doom rears its ugly head and says that something just can't happen, I say "WHY NOT"?

Perhaps my inspiration is the late Robert Kennedy who said "Some men see things as they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream things that never were and ask, 'Why not'?" Maybe my inspiration is Blessed Paul the Apostle who was in ill health and even was imprisoned, yet he still continued to spread the Good News.

I guess my message for today then is, don't take no for an answer! Always ask "why not"?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Go inspire more

When I first met Toan Lam, he was working as a reporter at KRON4, a local television station here in San Francisco.  (Actually he might have just left the station.  I remember our introduction, but can't quite remember when it was).  I knew about his new job, or perhaps I should say "calling."  I wrote about Go Inspire Go a couple of times here, as a matter of fact.  The key word there is inspire, because that is exactly what it does.

What we do here every day in this blog, is write about giving back - making a difference in the world.  From everything I have seen and read, Toan Lam could easily be the posterboy for giving back and for inspiring others to do likewise.  What an incredible idea he had.  What incredible work he continues to do!

So, I'd like to once again invite you to check out their website.  There are tons of hearwarming stories there and ways that we can all join in.  It's pretty easy to get there - http://goinspirego.com/ - just click there and you will be sent directly to these wonderful stories.  Help Go Inspire Go continue their wonderful mission of making a difference.  You can add your own stories.  You can donate airline miles to them.  You can like them on facebook and follow them on twitter.  Tell your friends too!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Share Your Spare

World Kidney Day is celebrated on the second Thursday in March each year with a mission of raising awareness of the importance of our kidneys to our overall health.   Yes, we are born with two kidneys, but we can live with just one.  No kidneys at all?  Well, that's a problem.

Our kidneys are pretty amazing.  Each one is roughly the size of our fist, and they're located deep in the abdomen, beneath our rib cage.  Their main job is to remove excess water and toxins from our blood. Kidneys also help to control our blood pressure, to produce red blood cells and to keep our bones healthy.

Matthew Pietrzyk is a seven-year-old with no kidney. His blood type is O. His mother already donated her kidney to Matthew, but it failed. Matthew's second kidney was removed almost a year ago, so he now has none. He and his family would like you to help them find him a donor. The odds are not in his favor with chances of finding a match at 3 in 10,000.  Still, he hasn't given up and his facebook page with the above picture has been visited by thousands, many of whom have registered for organ donation.  Matthew and his family, who live in the United Kingdom, are doing some remarkable things with that facebook page (which you can go to HERE) and they are certainly helping to raise awareness.

Matthew is not the only person in the world needing an organ.  Here in the United States, nineteen people die every day while waiting for an organ transplant. That is not only heartbreaking, but it is also unnecessary.  That's where we all can help out.  If we are willing to accept an organ or tissue donation, why wouldn't we be willing to donate?  The National Network of Organ Donors is trying to prevent the needless deaths of people who need transplants, but they need donors and they need people to be informed. We're not just talking about kidney donations, but today, with Matthew in mind, I just had to mention that first.

So what can you do?  Be informed.  Get the facts.  Share that information too.  Most importantly, become a donor.  It's easy and it will save lives!  Find out more at http://www.thenationalnetworkoforgandonors.org/

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Words of truth

The great Nelson Mandela is one of those people who always inspires.  He is the very kind of person I had in mind when I first decided to write a blog encouraging others to get involved and to make a difference in this world.  Listen to the words of truth from any of his speeches and you'll see what I mean.

One very profound statement by him that I just read was about love and hate.  Read President Mandela's words below, and think about them -

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

It is no wonder the South African leader has received more than 250 awards over four decades, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

don't get mad

Did you ever find yourself behind a very slow customer at the checkout counter? You may have seen this, even if it didn’t ever happen to you. A customer has everything on the counter and the clerk is ringing it up, when suddenly the customer runs off saying “I forgot something.” The line is now frozen as everyone waits for that customer to return, and when he does, it seems he has a pocket full of coins that he wants to use first before going to the currency or even a credit card. It takes forever to finally reach the counter for your turn. Did you ever have an experience like that? Did you lose your temper?

Did you ever have one of those moments in traffic where everything has stopped for no apparent reason and cars are just sitting there? Everyone starts honking their horns. People are yelling things and making obscene gestures. Have you ever been in a situation like this?

Sometimes in our daily lives there can be stressful moments that push us to the moment where we want to scream. Most of us have had these moments, but what can we do about them? Well, if we become exceptionally mad about something and begin acting violently, then we are probably in need of some type of counseling and anger management. On those lesser occasions, it might take a much simpler solution.

My mother is now 86 years old. She doesn’t move as fast as she once did. Sometimes when I am in that checkout counter situation, I think to myself, what if that were my mother ahead of me. How would I want people to act toward her? How should I act toward her? The traffic situation can also feature Mom. How about if she was taking an exceptionally long time crossing the street and that is why the cars had all stopped? You would certainly understand if drivers were waiting for an elderly woman to cross safely.

We can all make a difference in this world of ours if we try to avoid being impatient or showing anger towards others. It isn’t always going to be easy of course, but keeping a smile on our face just might keep one on the face of others! We are already several days into January, but perhaps this can still be one of our New Year's resolutions.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sixty Random Acts of Kindness

If you read this blog regularly, you may recall that last May on his 60th birthday San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee asked for an unusual present - not for himself, but for others. He said "List 60 random acts of kindness- do one each day for 60 days." I wrote about it here back then and so many people thought Mayor Lee had such a wonderful idea! 

Well I wrote here about Mayor Lee's idea and I even gave you my list, but many of you might not have seen that and many of you might simply have forgotten.  So, here today is that list once again, in no particular order, of 60 random acts of kindness:

Volunteer to read to kids in the library.

Donate time at a senior center.

Give a pair of tickets to a concert or baseball game to a stranger.

Send a gift anonymously to a friend.

Pay for the person behind you in the movie line.

Tell your parents/children why you love them.

Make a point of finding the name of a supermarket or drugstore employee and then praise him/her through that company’s corporate office.

When drivers try to merge into your lane, let them in with a wave and a smile.

Tell your boss that you think he/she does a good job.

Give blood.

Pay for the meal of the person behind you in the drive-through.

Bring flowers to work and share them with coworkers.

As you go about your day, pick up trash.

Call or visit a homebound person.

Pay a compliment at least once a day.

Transport someone who can’t drive.

Make telephone calls in support of equality urging others to put aside hate.

Say something nice to everyone you meet today.

Send a treat to a school or day-care center.

Volunteer at an organization that needs help.

Go through your closets and find several nice items and then donate them to a shelter.

Buy books for a day care or school.

Give toys to the children at a shelter.

Volunteer to fix up an elderly couple’s home.

Buy a pack of brightly colored stickers and give them to children you meet during the day.

Let the person behind you in the grocery store go ahead of you in line.

Invite someone new for dinner, either in your home or in a restaurant.

Say nice things randomly to facebook and twitter friends.

Buy some bottles of water and randomly hand them out to strangers on the street.

Drop off a plant or a plate of cookies to your nearby police or fire station.

Clean graffiti from neighborhood walls and buildings.

Buy a stranger a free pizza.

Write “It’s Random Acts of Kindness Day! Have a great day!” on slips of paper and place them on parked cars.

Mow a neighbor’s grass or sweep a neighbor’s walk.

Offer to return a shopping cart to the store for someone loading a car.

Call an estranged family member.

Give a bag of groceries to a homeless person.

Give coffee to people on their way to work in the morning.

Be thankful for Mayor Lee’s suggestion and tell 60 others about it.

Leave a treat or handmade note of thanks for a delivery person or mail carrier.

Treat someone to fresh fruit

Sing at a nursing home.

Open the door for another person.

Leave an extra-large tip for the waitperson.

Tell a bus or taxi driver how much you appreciate their driving.

Give another driver your parking spot.

Give flowers to be delivered with meal delivery programs.

Give your full attention to someone in need and simply listen.

Stop by a nursing home, and visit a resident with no family nearby.

Have a clean-up party in the park.

Bring coworkers a special treat.

Give the gift of your smile.

Draw names at work/school and have people bring a small gift or treat for their secret pal.

Deliver fresh-baked cookies to city workers.

Share your smile generously.

Take an acquaintance to dinner.

Sponsor people in fundraising walk-a-thons.

Buy cold drinks for the people next to you at a ball game.

Spend some time serving food at a meal program for the needy.

Volunteer to be a tutor in a school.

Remember the bereaved with phone calls, cards, plants, and food.

There you have it folks.  Inspired by Mayor Ed Lee, there are a number of great places to start in making a difference in this world.  Perhaps you would like to join me in doing some of them too!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Give peace a chance!

One of the things that humans do, that I will never understand, is fight.  The whole idea of war just doesn't make sense to me.  For as long as I can remember, I have been hearing people cry out for peace, yet it never seems to stay for very long.  There are always wars somewhere in the world and so there is always suffering and dying.  It does not have to be that way though, and thinking about war (and peace) this morning, reminded me of a poem I first heard many years ago.  It's called The Box, and I'd like to share it here with you:


The Box
by Kendrew LaSalles

Once upon a time, in the land of Hush-a-Bye,
Around about the wondrous days of yore,
They came across a sort of box, all bound with chains and locked with locks,
And labelled, "Kindly Do Not Touch... It's War".
A decree was issued 'round about, all with a flourish and a shout,
And a gaily-colored mascot tripping lightly on before:
"Don't fiddle with this deadly box, or break the chains, or pick the locks,
And please, don't ever mess about with War".
Well, the children understood; children happen to be good,
And were just as good around that time of yore.
They didn't try to break the locks, or break into that deadly box,
And never tried to play about with War.
Mommies didn't either; sisters, aunts, nor grannies neither;
'Cause they were quiet and sweet and pretty
In those wondrous days of yore.
Well, very much the same as now, they’re not to the ones to blame somehow,
For opening up that deadly box of War.
But someone did...
Someone battered in the lid, and spilled the insides all across the floor:
A sort of bouncy, bumpy ball, made up of flags and guns and all.
The tears and the horror and the death that goes with War.
It bounced right out, and went bashing all about.
Bumping into everything in store;
And what was sad and most unfair, was that it really didn't seem to care
Much who it bumped, or why, or what, or for.
It bumped the children mainly, and I'll tell you this quite plainly,
It bumps them everyday, and more and more;
And leaves them dead and burned and crying,
Thousands of them sick and dying,
'Cause when it bumps, it's very, very sore.'
There is a way to stop the ball... it isn't very hard at all;
All it takes is wisdom, and I'm absolutely sure
We could get it back inside the box, and bind the chains and lock the locks,
But no one seems to want to save the children anymore.
Well, that's the way it all appears,
'Cause it's been bouncing 'round for years and years,
In spite of all the wisdom whizzed since those wondrous days of yore;
And the time they came across the box,
All bound with chains and locked with locks,
And labeled, "Kindly Do Not Touch... It's War".

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Guy who makes a difference

Many of you who read this will have never before heard of Guy Tang, the talented West Hollywood hair artist, originally from Oklahoma.  Even those of you who already know of him, may not know how he is doing so much good and making a difference in this world.

Besides his hair work and modeling, Guy is an outspoken activist.  He may not refer to himself that way, but everything he does helps break down stereotypes for both gays and Asians.  In an Internet site that he maintains as well as on social media, Guy Tang stands up to the racist remarks that are all too frequent and he actively engages in dialogue that helps open up minds.

Of course being a talented model, dancer, and hair artist can make a difference in the world too.  Talent should never be wasted, and Guy joyously shares his many talents every day.  It is his warmth, determination, and desire to show Asian men as they really are that made me take notice.  Love for family and friends count a great deal in my book too and again we see Guy on top.

This blog is about doing good and making a difference, and Guy Tang is most certainly a good example of that.  You can find out more about him at http://www.guytang.net

Friday, March 8, 2013

Many ways to be inspired

There are many things and many people that might inspire us.  There are also so many ways we can inspire others.  Often  I have written here about Go Inspire Go and its creator and principle cheerleader Toan Lam.  Inspiring to be sure.  In the past I have also written about Dan Choi and about President Obama and about Brother Richard Jonathan and about The Jubilee Project and so many who have inspired me over the years. 

You don't inspire by doing nothing though.  Indeed the great Vince Lombardi once said ”It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” Try.  You won't always succeed, but just the trying might inspire others.  So what if you get knocked down.  Just pick yourself up and try again!

My mother is like that.  She doesn't always succeed by the standards of most, but I think she is ALWAYS successful, because she gets involved and does things.  Recently she packed up all her belongings (with the help of my sister) and moved to another state and to a town where she knows not a single person and she is 86 years old!  That would be tough for most, but she is determined.  What an inspiration!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Athletes who stand for what is right

Sadly there has been too much focus on a few professional athletes who made some anti-gay remarks.  While we still don't see a big surge in professional athletes coming out as lesbian or gay and we also don't see huge numbers of them stepping up as allies, there are some exceptions.  Brendon Ayanbadejo, Fresh off the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory, continues to speak out.  Here is some of what he had to say:


"Being a '70s baby and growing up in the '80s and '90s, I witnessed firsthand the rise of the African-American community into mainstream America. All of a sudden when I was in junior high school and going into high school, black was the cool thing to be. Everybody wanted to be black and embrace black people. Prior to that in the '60s, my parents would not have been allowed to get married due to interracial marriage laws and today this issue is relevant once again, however, it's not about race. It is about sexual orientation and whom you choose to love, which is no different than a black person loving a white person. Same sex couples should legally marry whomever they fall in love with. So the same plight for equality that affected me in the '60s is relevant again today, it doesn't affect me this time, but it will affect people I love and care about. This isn't a fight for gay rights, this is a fight for human rights."

San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain has been an lgbt ally speaking out in the past and even posing for a NOH8 photo with his wife Chelsea. Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita filmed a video in support of Americans for Marriage Equality, part of the Human Rights Campaign. There have been athletes who have participated in It Gets Better videos too.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe is one of the more outspoken players of all. Chris has publicly defended Brendon Ayanbadejo's stand and has even gone further. He has made special appearances at lgbt events and even has appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and on The Colbert Report. On her program, Ellen even inducted Kluwe as the first inductee in her Hall of Fame for his support of marriage equality.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Red Cross Month

I'm not sure if you know it but the American Red Cross, those folks who show up and offer aid after a fire or flood, is a charitable organization, not a government agency.  They depend on volunteers and donations to perform their mission.   The work they do is legendary, but most of us take it for granted when thinking about the needs of that organization.  Well friends, this is Red Cross Month and so let us take a moment to learn more and to consider donating and volunteering.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed the first Red Cross Month back in 1943 in support of Red Cross fundraising efforts and to respond to needs brought on by World War II.  President Barack Obama followed in the footsteps of all the Presidents since and issued the annual proclamation.  In it he said "The American Red Cross has proudly upheld a commitment to service that spans generations. Witness to the scars left by civil war, Clara Barton founded the organization in 1881 as a way to lift up the suffering - from warriors wounded in the line of duty to families displaced by damaging storms. In the years since, countless service and relief organizations have joined the American Red Cross in realizing that noble vision."

We think about the blood donors of course or the volunteers who show up to help displaced families after fires, but the Red Cross does so much more.  President Obama also pointed out that "We saw the depth of their dedication just 4 months ago, when the sweeping devastation of Hurricane Sandy put millions of Americans in harm's way. In darkness and danger, thousands of professionals and volunteers stepped up to serve."

Find out more about the Red Cross by going to http://www.redcross.org/

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fireflies

I want to write to you about autism today because The Jubilee Project has made this the subject of their most recent film and I am always happy to point out the excellent work of these guys.  You might think you know about autism already.  You watched Rainman, right?  What else is there to know?

Autistic people are as different from one another as they could possibly be. In fact, the only elements that ALL autistic people seem to have in common are unusual difficulty with social communication. Autism is so often stigmatized and misunderstood. Anything that helps to raise awareness is good.  I always suggest to people who want to know more to ask questions, visit websites, open your minds and prepare to learn.

The Jubilee Project, which consists of Jason, Eddie, and Eric.  Their mission is making videos that make a difference.  I've written about them several times here and have a link to their page above.  This latest effort from them is called Fireflies and you can watch it HERE.  I urge you to take a look.  Share it with your friends too!  I have even watched in several times.  You might want to do that too.  It is a very powerful video.

Fireflies is a simple yet wonderful reminder that we all are unique and yet we all are beautiful.  Autistic people are beautiful people.  Yes, there is a difference but life is filled with differences and that is part of what makes it beautiful. Abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain is linked to autism, but the exact cause of these abnormalities is not known.  At the end of the Fireflies video, the guys give some links for more information.

The Jubilee Project, on their website, also asks to hear from you, so let them know you saw the video.  Tell them what you think.  (Make a donation to their videomaking cause, if you are able).  Most important though - become part of the autism discussion.  Do you know people who are autistic?   How has autism touched your life?  Email them at dgic@jubileeproject.org

Monday, March 4, 2013

While you're here enjoy the view

Just learned the sad news last night that one of entertainment's finest, Bonnie Franklin has passed away, after a fight against pancreatic cancer. Over the years I have enjoyed Ms Franklin on television, was fortunate to see her in Applause, and personally know her step-daughter. I've been a great fan of her positive attitude, her giving back, and her love of life, and was shocked to hear of her death.

Last year she was part of a huge fundraiser benefitting AIDS Project Los Angeles. She also founded a wonderful organization, Bonnie Franklin’s Classic and Contemporary American Plays, that brings theatre to LA schoolchildren. She also gave to various other charities on a regular basis including The Stroke Association of Southern California, Women’s Right to Choose, and The Epilepsy Foundation, and even her performances were a joyous gift.

The theme song to her hit tv program One Day At A Time, has some brilliant words (written by John and Nancy Barry) which I think most have also been Bonnie Franklin's personal theme, because it sure seems a perfect description of how she led her life: "So while you're here enjoy the view - Keep on doing what you do - So hold on tight we'll muddle through - One day at a time, One day at a time."

Thanks for all the joy Ms Franklin. My condolences to dear Julie and all of your family. May we all carry the same wonderful philosophy - While you're here enjoy the view!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Thanks to Marlena

The name Garry McLain might not be familiar to you, but for so many - even folks on the other side of the world, the Hayes Valley establishment he runs here is San Francisco is not only familiar, it is a destination!  Mclain, much better known as Absolute Empress XXV of San Francisco, Marlena the Magnificent, runs Marlena's - but only for one last day.

So many know him as a drag queen or as a bar owner, but if you have spent any time in the community or if you have visited his namesake saloon, you know him as someone who gives back - someone who makes a difference in this world.   He has given money- he has given time - he has given a stage for new preformers - he has given a place for folks with nowhere else to go.  To put it quite simply, Garry McLain  has a heart of gold.

Marlena’s has been a neighborhood institution for twenty two years and for many regulars, it’s a home away from home - a place like Cheers, "where everybody knows your name." It's also where you can play a quick afternoon game of pool or come to see one of the best drag shows anywhere. Of course the fundraisers and community events are firm in so many of our memories too.  Santas.  If you have been there at Christmastime, you know about the santas.  Marlena's has been such a wonderful part of San Francisco these past years, but it is the man at the top, Marlena himself, who made this all happen.

Today Marlena's is closing.  That does not mean that we will no longer see Garry (Marlena) McLain.  I suspect he will invent even more ways to give to the community.  Before that though, I invite you to leave a message in the comments section below telling your memories of Marlena's bar or your thanks for this wonderful man.  If you are close by, stop in and say thanks in person.  After today though, Marlena's (the place) will be only a memory.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Free the slaves with lemonade

When we first wrote about this little girl back in August, she had already received a lot of press, and for a very good reason - not only does she have a stand (lemonade) but she is taking a stand (against slavery).  Because of Vivienne Harr I learned about something that I really had no idea about and knowledge is the beginning of all change.  I don't often write about the same subject twice, but with Vivienne, I will make an exception.

Last year she  saw a picture of two children with huge rocks strapped across their little backs. They held each others hand to help them feel a little better, and give strength to each other.  To young Vivienne it was horrible - two young kids, her own age, being forced to do such enormous heavy labor.  I saw pictures.  It really is quite horrible!  Vivienne didn't let it end there though.  She told her dad that she needed to do something and with help from her parents she opened her little lemonade stand.

That might not sound like much.  That is how this all began though.  Now the story has been told and retold and more and more people are getting involved and are helping with this mission.  Her goal is to raise enough money to free 500 child slaves!  I think she will end up doing much more!  With your help of course just about anything is possible - with the help of us ALL.

Donate HERE.  That's one of the easy things.  Another very easy thing is to just share this information.  Tell your friends - get other people  involved!  Learn more about slavery too by going to this website:  http://www.notforsalecampaign.org/ and also by searching for information in your own area.  People think of slavery as something from the past or something in "those" places, but the truth is, slavery is probably right in your own town and you can do something about it.  Follow this little girl's lead and take action! 

The lemonade stand has grown.  It was originally a cup on the side of the road and now there is actually bottled lemonade (two kinds) via their website - how wonderful!  As they grow, their ability to give and to reach their goal of freeing children from slavery comes closer.  I have a feeling I will be updating you again.  There is a lot of determination at this lemonade stand!  Lend them a hand - get involved!

Friday, March 1, 2013

It Gets Better

You may already know about the It Gets Better Project, but I want to remind you.  Founded by Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller in response to the suicides of teenagers who were bullied because they were either gay, or thought to be, it was originally a YouTube channel, but It Gets Better now has its own website with more than 30,000 videos posted by individuals of all sexual orientations. Click HERE to go to their website.

If you are gay or lesbian and feel that you are alone and unloved, I know you will find inspiration from this site.  I have been so very moved by many of the video messages, some of which have been made by friends of mine.  I find them to be a good learning experience too.  Some folks just don't get it, and it helps when real people explain their love and their lives.

Last year, the San Francisco Police Department made a video, which I hope you will take a moment to watch.  It brought me to tears, but I assure you they were tears of joy!  Just click HERE to see that video.

There are so many videos - some from regular folks like me and some from celebrities.  The San Francisco Goants even made one!  There are some very powerful messages.  Take a look.  I hope you will tell your friends too, because it does get better!