Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The protests continue

The protests in Hong Kong continue and the pictures we are seeing are very dramatic. Thousands of people have taken to the streets. There a police in riot gear and there has been a lot of tear gas. I'm amazed at how little attention most media outlets are paying to this. For me this is a huge deal! But what's it all about?

It's complicated. Hong Kong is under the control of China, a communist country, but it isn't governed the same way as the mainland. They have an arrangement called “one country, two systems.” At the heart of the current protest is an election. The chief executive will be elected through the Hong Kong’s first ever democratic election scheduled for three years from now. Beijing has refused to allow open selection of candidates for that position.

As I wrote here yesterday, this reminds me very much of Tiananmen Square on the mainland back in 1989. The protesters are from various groups and are not totally united and Hong Kong is a very large city. The protesting has been pretty limited as far as where it is taking place. There is also a large spectrum of opinion in Hong Kong and not everyone agrees with these protests. I find it heartwarming though when so many people come together and stand strong for freedom.

So how will this all end?  Will Occupy Central (the main protest group) change China's mind?  Demanding full democracy doesn't seem like something China would cave in on, but think back to 1776 when a group of men and women in North America refused to pay taxes since they had not legislative representation.  We all know how that one ended!

Monday, September 29, 2014

What's going on in Hong Kong?

Have you been reading the newspapers?  What is going on in Hong Kong?  The people are in the streets!  Changes are coming!  It has happened before in other places, and it will happen again.  Picture if you will living a life with no freedom and no real dreams.  Perhaps you have money and materialism and a job but who really cares about that when your life is no longer a life but a mere robotic one, following orders from someone who doesn't care about you at all?  They want freedom.  They want democracy.
 
Visions of Tiananmen Square in 1989 are strong in my mind,  Many of the Hong Kong protesters are students and weren't even born then.  They know that the Communist Chinese government though is oppressive and they know they want freedom.  China took back control of Hong Kong from Britain back in 1997.  The seven million people who live in Hong Kong have seen gradual changes, and not for the better.  Slowly, many of the rights they once enjoyed are disappearing.
 
The pictures on television and on the internet are impressive.  People - and not only students, are standing up and saying "enough!"  Police are out in force in riot gear and using tear gas.  The specific news in Hong Kong I won't try to detail.  It is a developing story that the whole world is watching, but something big is indeed going on!

It is too soon to know how long this will last and what will be the result, but what we are seeing quite simply is people changing the world.  Through civil disobedience and marching in protest, people in Hong Kong are seeking a better life, and isn't that something we all should strive for?

Friday, September 26, 2014

He's still at it

To say that Jason Villalobos is a superstar would not be an exaggeration.  Ever since I met him (and long before that) he has worked tirelessly to find an end to AIDS.  As an activist and spokesperson, his voice has been heard on television and the radio and in large gatherings in the street.  His face has been seen in magazines and on billboards and his spirit has lit fires under many who had previously been ignoring the call.
 
There are a great many people I know who have been bold warriors in the fight against AIDS and I have been privileged to work with them on a variety of projects.  AIDS LifeCycle is one of the great annual programs that I have great respect for.  It raises awareness which continues to be important, and it raises those much needed funds.  Jason will be out there riding again next year and he just signed up, so you can get your donation in early and be one of the first!
 
AIDS/LifeCycle is a seven day bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  It is co-produced by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation and benefits both organizations.  It is a very public event gaining much publicity every year and forging new friendships among participants.  It brings much needed awareness as the fight against HIV/AIDS continues.  The ride is fun for the participants and it accomplishes some very important things, but ultimately they ride so that someday, they won’t have to.  Hopefully AIDS will someday be no more.  This is going to be Jason's sixth time doing the 545 mile trek from the Cow Palace down to LA.  I do hope you will give him your support!
 
There are a lot of important causes out there competing for our donation dollars all the time.  Sometimes it's hard to break it all down and decide where to give.  Let me tell you this:  I would sponsor Jason in LifeCycle until I used my very last penny because I believe in him.  I have never seen someone so committed and so inspiring.  There will be an end someday to HIV and AIDS and Jason Villalobos will have been one of those heroes who got us there.  If you are able to, click HERE and sponsor him in the next AIDS LifeCycle which comes up May 31st through June 6th, 2015.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Another one going up

Just about everywhere you look in San Francisco, it seems like there is another building going up. I'm sure the same may very well be true in other cities, perhaps even where I am moving.  Progress?  Turning from traditional to modern?  The end of one era and the beginning of another?
 
Folks will look at these construction zones in a variety of ways.  Some will be happy and others not so much.  Some might even be disgusted.  Change happens though.  It is a fact of life.  For us to be fully engaged, we should be a part of the change.  I'm not talking about just going along with anything that happens.  If you don't like what you see, get involved.  Go to planning meetings.  Suggest alternatives.
 
Some wonderful things have happened around this great city of San Francisco in the years that I have lived here.  Yes, it isn't the city it once was, and I hear the frustration in many voices because of this.  Changes don't have to be bad though.  We can help shape the way things evolve.  We can make a difference!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Moving?

Yes indeed, this blog is NOT about me, but from time to time I do need to get a bit personal.  I will soon be moving to another state and to a lot of new and wonderful changes.  Changes for me will mean some possible changes here because I write about making a difference in the world from the perspective of someone who lives in a large and diverse city, San Francisco.
 
Of course we ALL can make a difference, wherever we live.  Since my readers might be just about anywhere, I always try to keep that in mind. 
 
It will still be a number of weeks before the big moving van gets packed up, but I wanted you to know right away.  During the actual day of move and possibly a day or two afterward, it is possible that nothing will appear here.  I rarely take time off from writing this, and the only time I have ever taken multiple days off was when my mother died.  I don't know about internet access and whether or not I will be able to connect though.  That really is the only thing that will slow things down.
 
So for now, we continue from San Francisco and in the very near future we move on but will keep in daily touch with you all right here!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lighting the Night Tonight

There are various fundraisers that I participate in each year and one of them comes up tonight.  A couple of months back I told you about this - it's the Light the Night Walk which raises funds and awareness for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you are in San Francisco, come join us tonight at 5pm at AT&T Park. There is still time to sign up and there is still time to walk. If you wish to sponsor me, click HERE.
 
I mention awareness, because that is a very importan part of this.  How many of you are familiar with leukemia?  What causes it?  How do you live with it?  What can be done about it.  Several times I have written here about blood cancers, because I think it's important.  Events like this are a great way to spread information and to get more people involved.  If you are not in the San Francisco area, chances are there will be a walk near you too.  Click HERE to find an event near you.
 
By the way, there is also a memorial portion of these events.  Just before the walk begins, there is time set aside to honor the survivors and to remember those who have died.  I have found it to be very comforting.

The dollars we have raised so far help give blood cancer patients the support they need and help save lives. Let's all keep working towards a world without blood cancer. You are making a difference!

Monday, September 22, 2014

birthday greetings dear Cecil

Many years ago I first became acquainted with The Reverend Cecil Williams from a weekly public affairs program he hosted on local television. I didn't know much then about Williams' past or about his amazing work at Glide Memorial Church. I soon found out.

Twenty years earlier, Williams had gone to Glide to minister to that small, mostly white, affluent congregation. It was most certainly not the Glide we know today! Williams though has stayed true and is known now just about everywhere for his radically inclusive ministry. He is a social activist, lecturer, community leader, author, and spokesperson for the poor and marginalized. It's not just his work at Glide, although that alone would take me several days to tell you about, but it is the sum of his work that makes him great. Cecil Williams loves people! You immediately realize that the very first time you see him. Isn't that what ministry is all about?
 
Cecil Williams is considered controversial and radical to many, especially considering he was one of the first clergypersons to officiate same-sex weddings four decades before today’s fight for marriage equality.  Williams has always opened the doors of his church to everyone.
 
Feeding the homeless, fighting AIDS and addictions, preaching inclusiveness, and bringing people together, this true San Francisco treasure celebrates a birthday today.  After 85 years he is still growing strong and we are all the better for it.  Happy birthday and thank you for your love dear Cecil!

Friday, September 19, 2014

still NO PLACE FOR HATE

If you think I was fired up yesterday, just wait for what I have to say now! Folks, there is still no place for hate in my life. I'm hoping the whole world will someday agree and put an end to fighting and killing and hating.
 
Do I think it is going to stop today?  Of course not.  I can hope, but unless people stand up and speak out against all hate, nothing will happen.  It won't simply disappear by ignoring it. 
 
First, let's realize that love is the better choice, but not everyone is going to begin overflowing with love.  Instead, we must all stand up to hate in all of its ugly forms.  If you hear someone calling people by pejorative terms, tell them you don't appreciate such language.  If they insist, leave them.  Seriously.  Separate yourself from the haters.  If you see an act of hatred from a stranger, stand up and call them on it.  Now, safety is an issue, and I don't want to see anyone placing themselves or others in jeopardy, but sometimes a call to the police from a distance is better for safety's sake.
 
Every situation is a little different and there is certainly no set of rules that will always work, but I am convinced that is we all took a stand against hate, we could effect change.  I'm not saying that you should think that every single with in the world is wonderful and people should do whatever they want wherever they want, but people should be allowed to be themselves and to live freely and responsibly and not have to worry about someone attacking them because of their religion or race or gender or sexual orientation or any other reason.
 
Enough hate!  Let's get rid of hate crimes and discrimination now and for all time.  There is nothing good about hate!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

No place for hate

There really should be no place for hate. Seriously. I prefer writing about positive things. How can we change the world? Let's do some random acts of kindness! Let's change for the better. That's what I like to write about. I really don't like saying that this is bad or that is bad. It is so much more uplifting to say what is good and to talk about that. Love is good.

Today though I am not going to talk about love though and I'm going to be negative because as hard as I try, I cannot find anything positive to say about hate. I really fail to understand why there is so much hate in the world and with it so much fighting and so much crime. How may people have been injured or even killed because of hate?  Does hate come about because we are all different from one another?  That would seem to be more of a reason to celebrate.  We should rejoice in those differences rather than fight over them
 
Yesterday I was reading about the marriage of two people that was interrupted by an intruder yelling hateful messages.  Minutes later I was reading about a state that just began same-sex weddings and the comments under the news article were mixed with not only hateful but downright disgusting messages.  Of two women exchanging their vows, someone wrote "I hope they die an early death."  Someone else wrote "This makes me puke." 
 
As a youngster I remember when President Lyndon Johnson worked so hard on civil rights and I remember all of the racially negative things I heard.  It may seem hard to believe, but in some parts of this country, it's almost like we haven't changed at all since then.  I still hear people slinging pejorative terms at those who may be different from them.
 
There should be no place for hate in our society.  We shouldn't put up with it.  We have the power.  We can make it end.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Human Race

As David Letterman might say, "this is not a competition, so please .   .   . no wagering."  The human race, despite the way the name might sound is not about running.  It's not a contest of speed or to achieve superiority.  We can stop trying to show that we are better than the next person, because in reality, we are all equal. 
 
Now, don't get me wrong.  There are certainly people who do great things and we might not all do those things, but we all can aspire to greatness!  We all can make the attempt.  Along the way we can learn a lot from other people.  We can appreciate them and be inspired by them, but it is a complete waste of time for us to compete against them.
 
Competition is not a bad thing, but we should be competing against our self, or at least our younger self.  Can I be a better person than I was yesterday and the day before?  The answer of course is yes and we can aim higher and higher each day.  An old slogan for the US Army said "Be all that you can be."  That should be the goal of all of us.  The human race is the course that each one of us travels in our quest to do good and to make a difference and to be the best we possibly can.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wiping out hunger, one stomach at a time

Hungry kids do poorly in school. Hungry adults are slowed down too. We all need to eat to survive. Sadly, hunger is a problem, not just in poor countries, but right here in the United States as well. Just look at the lines at Glide Memorial Church and you will see what I mean.

The solution? Well, it might seem pretty obvious - we need to wipe out hunger. It isn't something that can be done quickly in just a single day or with just one simple program. Hunger is pretty widespread and it is going to take a lot of resources. It is going to take all of us, but that's why we will succeed. We can wipe out hunger one stomach at a time - we can ALL pitch in.

Volunteer. Donate. Get involved. There are so many ways to do something about hunger and each one of us can be involved in a variety of those ways. I mentioned Glide Memorial Church here in San Francisco. That's just one of many places with programs already in place. If you are somewhere with no pre-existing program, start one of your own. Donate food or money. The money can be used in a variety of ways as needed. Canned goods are always a help. Volunteering is also a big help. It takes many hands to prepare and serve a meal.  Now is such a good time too.  September is hunger action month.
 
Churches and other charities often run meal programs - check around and see if there is one you might get involved with.  Also, online check out http://feedingamerica.org/ or http://www.feedthechildren.org/ and another great resource is the San Francisco Food Bank HERE

There is one more organization that I want to mention, because it was a favorite of Joan RIvers, who's funeral is today.  Go to https://www.glwd.org/ to find out about a New York organization called God's Love We Deliver.  You might even want to make a donation in Joan's memory.


Monday, September 15, 2014

The leadership of Mrs Carter

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go, but ought to be.”  I don't know how many would say that Rosalynn Carter is a great leader, but she is a very wise observer and a wonderful person.
 
Some say her husband Jimmy Carter is a better former President than he was a President.  Mrs Carter though has always inspired.  Some of her work as First Lady that stands out is the welfare of senior citizens, her mental health advocacy, and her sponsorship of both a poetry festival and a jazz festival.  She has authored several books, makes public appearances speaking out for social justice, and is one of the most famous Habitat for Humanity volunteers.
 
There are so many quotes of Mrs Carter's that continue to inspire me and this morning I was particularly thinking of one thing she said about making a difference.  “Do what you can to show you care about other people, and you will make our world a better place.”


Friday, September 12, 2014

Touching my all

So many times I have written here about Go Inspire Go. Words are really not enough. You have to check it out for yourself. Part of it is Toan Lam. He is a force! Part of it is a movement which Toan inspired. All of it is brilliant positive energy that makes your spirit soar.  I can go to their website - http://goinspirego.com/ - and immediately I feel warmth. 
 
When Robin Williams died last month there was great sadness here in the Bay Area, Robin's home.  Toan wrote about him saying “I may not have known him personally, but I will always remember how he made me feel.”  He then continued by recalling the words of another great San Francisco hero whom we also recently lost.  “A quote by the late author and poet Maya Angelou comes to mind. 'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'”
 
He actually seems to quote Maya Angelou a lot.  Why not?  I seem to quote Toan Lam a lot.  The reflections of his own experiences and thoughts and the wonderful true stories he shares are the same kind of encouraging and inspiring thoughts that Dr Angelou was known for.
 
Toan isn't just the Chief Inspirator at Go Inspire Go, he is my chief inspiratory too.  I don't think I have ever met someone who so inspires me in everything he does.  It's not just stimulating for my brain or a warm fuzzy feeling of doing nice things.  It's about touching my all.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thirteen years later

People are waking up this morning to memorials all around the country, to those who lost their lives thirteen years ago when terrorist attacks claimed so many lives in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.  We are reminded to never forget, but how could anyone not remember the horror of that day?
 
Every year I have written here about the 9/11 attacks.  A couple of times I have quoted the former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and his memories of that week back in 2001. 
 
Each year I have woken up to news coverage of the anniversary.  In New York City at the site where the World Trade Center stood, the names of the victims who died there are read out against a background of somber music. The President of the United States attends a memorial service at the Pentagon, and asks Americans to observe a moment of silence. There is a remembrance too in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  hat latter one has special meaning to me.  It was a San Francisco bound flight that was being deverted to Washington to be crashed into a government building.  Passengers became heroes that day when they forced the plane down in a field.
 
I woke up to tv coverage of memorials.  If you missed any of it, it will be available online throughout the day and on tv tonight and in tomorrow's newspapers.  Never forget.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

grateful

Are you grateful for anything?  Is your life pretty fantastic and you are so very thankful for that?  Lately I have seen that question pop up a lot on social media and usually there's a "list three things you are grateful for every day for the next week and nominate three of your friends each day to do the same."
 
Well, getting 21 people to join you in making lists of things you are grateful for might be a pretty huge challenge.  I'm not going to shoot quite so high.  How about a smaller exercise?  Spend a few minutes each day thinking about things you are grateful for.  You don't have to write a list or tell your friends - just think about it.  If you like, you can do more.  You can send out some thank yous for example.  Let people you are grateful for, know about it.
 
One thing that always is nice is when you share any of your thoughts with us here too.  Write below in the comments section some of the things you are grateful for.  If you like.  No pressure.  You won't even have to involve 21 of your friends!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

archair activist

Someone called me an "armchair activist" the other day.  "All you do is sit in front of your computer."  Well, since this blog supposedly is NOT about me, I won't protest too much.  Believe me, there are many things that I do, but I don't want to list all of my shortcomings here. 
 
An armchair activist though has a nice ring to it.  It might not have been meant as a compliment, but to me, any activism is good.  It's all about getting involved and making a difference.  Some people might not be physically able to climb up and down stairs or walk a picket line or march in a procession up a crowded street.  For some people sitting in front of a computer is a big deal and they can certainly connect with as many people, perhaps more, in that way.
 
Making positive changes happens in a variety of ways.  We can write letters or send emails or even write a blog to get our point of view across.  Sometimes we might even be successful.  Sometimes we might even do it enough so that someone refers to us as an armchair activist!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chocolate squirrel

Any thinking person would have realized that the waitress had offered us chocolate swirl, but somehow I heard chocolate squirrel.  I'm not sure whether I was thinking of an Easter sort of chocolate animal or an actual squirrel made somehow into ice-cream.  This was years ago, but still when I hear someone say chocolate swirl, I think chocolate squirrel.  It's much the same with the word ripple.
 
For some reason I don't think first of the ripples we all make in the world when we do good.  Oh I think of it all the time, don't get me wrong, but when someone just says the word ripple, the first thing I think of is chocolate ripple.  Perhaps I have some sort of chocolate fixation.
 
Did you ever stand on the banks of a pond or lake and throw pebbles into the water?  What happened?  Ripples, right?  That's the kind of ripples that would come to mind for most people, I would think.  Every time you hit the surface, this ripple effect occurs.  It's fun to watch.  As I said though, there is a kind of ripple effect in the world when we do something good.  Sharing information, doing good deeds, challenging people in acts of charity (like the ALS bucket challenge huge started as a tiny ripple and is now huge) - these are all things that can grow from a tiny ripple.
 
When information is shared from person to person, it's impact becomes greater.  This ripple effect can go on and on, just like in the water, with each circle getting larger.  If each person continues to share, there is no telling how big this ripple effect can be.
 
I really love this idea!  Within social interactions, these ripples can be seen with situations not directly related to the initial interaction.  What one person does can effect another person, even if the two have never met.
 
Do something good for someone and watch them in turn do something good for someone else.  If everyone continues to pass it on, imagine those ripples as they continue to grow.  Now let's celebrate with some fudge ripple or maybe some chocolate squirrel.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Eye of the beholder

An early morning run through The City is a beautiful experience. Most days I simply have to stop along the way. It's not so much that I am tired. I just have to look at all the beauty.
I have to smell the flowers. I have to experience the wonder of this place. Some think that city life isn't all that great. I guess it's in the eye of the beholder.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

let's make some good news

There has just been too much bad news lately. I'm tired of seeing so much hate. I am very tired of seeing innocent people dying. I am saddened by the recent celebrity deaths. There seems to be nothing but bad news. But, it doesn't have to be that way!
 
First a couple of things:  there ARE good things happening in this world, we just aren't hearing enough about them.  For some reason, the mainstream media tends to pay more attention to the negative stories than the positive ones.  We need to speak up and let them know we want ALL the news, especially those good stories.  Secondly, when we see bad things happening, let's all work a little harder to turn things around and get a more positive outcome.
 
Now I am not so na├»ve as to think that everything can be turned around overnight, but if we don't try, we might never know how much good we can do.  Of course we cannot put an end to the deaths of famous people.  Death is part of life.  We can work toward a world without suicide though.  We can have better resources available so nobody every has to think that is the only alternative.
 
There might not ever be a day when every single story in the newspaper is upbeat and positive, but I sure as heck want to work toward that day.  Don't you?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's a fundamental right

If I hear someone say "gay marriage" one more time, I'm going to scream!  Really folks.  It's marriage.  Just marriage.  You can pretty much bet that if a woman marries another woman or a man marries another man, they are gay.  We don't need to announce it any more that I say I ate my gay breakfast this morning right after I took my gay shower and in a little while I am going to gay mass.

Oh and another thing about marriage:  it's a fundamental right!  Did you always approve of who some of your relatives or friends married?  It doesn't really matter though because it's about love.  It isn't up to us.  We don't get to pick and choose who can marry whom.  Two people decide that for themselves and if they are legally able to consent, it is nobody else's business.  It is a right - a basic fundamental human right.

I cannot say that an Asian woman cannot marry a Black man and I cannot say that a while man cannot marry a Black woman.  It's none of my business.  Most people finally get that.  The tough one still for a lot of people is same-sex relationships, but it's the same thing.  The couple decides, not the folks down the street.  One person asks another to marry them and they say yes to each other.  That's really what it's all about.  It isn't anyone else's business!

The United States Supreme Court has, since 1888, ruled in at least 14 cases that marriage is a fundamental right. In Maynard vs. Hill, back in 1888, the High Court said that marriage is "the most important relation in life."  Courts all across the land are saying the same thing.  There have been so many rulings in support of marriage equality this year it is hard to keep up.
 
More and more people are realizing that it is a matter of justice and fairness.  Slowly things are changing.  Nobody should have to wait though for equality.  It's a fundamental right!


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

This is about AIDS

The second of September, and I'm talking about AIDS?  That usually only happens on December 1st or possibly just before AIDS Walk.  Well, not here.  AIDS doesn't only exist on December 1st!  AIDS is with us every single day and that means we should be aware every day and should be doing something.
 
If you were born after 1980, you have grown up in a world where AIDS exists and don't remember those days before it was part of life.  For those of you who are forty or older though, you may be longing for that pre-AIDS time.  Well, research is part of what is needed and education too.  Aide to those living with HIV and AIDS is also important.  There isn't a lot of talk, like there was twenty years ago.  It's almost as if people have forgotten. 
 
Yesterday was an unusual day for me.  Someone stopped me on the street and asked if I would participate in a sex survey.  I did.  Afterward we chatted for a few minutes about the various AIDS organizations and about the lack of basic information that so many have.  We also talked about the importance of knowing your status.
 
Awareness. That's what it all comes down to - awareness.  We are need to be more aware and to work for the day when our world will be AIDS free.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor is Life

Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish philosopher, essayist, teacher, and historian during the Victorian era and the man who gave us the wonderful quote that appears on this stamp. Today is Labor Day in the United States and Canada. The holiday did not exist back in Carlyle's day, but a day set aside to honor the worker is something I think he would have approved of.

Too many people these days don't get the significance of this holiday. It isn't about that last summer picnic or the day before school begins and it isn't about sales at the mall and your favorite department stores. Today is about the worker and about the unions that have made our laborers strong. (I intend to go and walk a picket line with hotel workers a bit later on and to see up close the importance of our labor movement).

Labor is something that every single one of us does at some point. Labor really is life! We need to work to earn money and we need to work to keep our bodies active and strong. While those picnics and sales are fine, take a moment and pause to think about the real reason for this day and be thankful for our strong labor movement.

Quoting Carlyle: "Labour is Life: from the inmost heart of the Worker rises his god-given Force, the sacred celestial Life-essence breathed into him by Almighty God; from his inmost heart awakens him to all nobleness; to all knowledge, 'self-knowledge' and much else, so soon as Work fitly begins."