Friday, November 28, 2014

Not yet Christmas

You wouldn't know it from the tv advertising and the scenes in most retail stores, but it's not yet Christmas. It's not even December! In fact Advent, the pre-Christmas period of anticipation that many churches observe, doesn't even begin until Sunday. Why the rush?
 
I hear people say it every year.  They aren't going to decorate early.  They aren't going to give in to the Black Friday madness.  Christmas is such a wonderful time, let us give it our all, but let's wait until it actually arrives.  Oh and the twelve days of Christmas?  Let's go back to celebrating that way, but the 12 begins on December 25th - that's not when it ends!
 
I love the season of giving and the emphasis that is placed on helping folks who are without.  I love the parties and the joy.  I really do.  What I am not a fan of is the rush and the early start.  Some folks begin trotting out Christmas decorations or merchandise before summer is even over!
 
So, let us continue to enjoy our Thanksgiving weekend and then let us let the season build slowly.  Let's not let any stores or businesses rob us of this great celebration and let it continue on after the sun sets on December 25th too.  Oh and happy holidays?  I have no problem wishing folks happiness for the several celebrations that happen to come near each other each December, but there is also nothing wrong with a specific wish for a happy Chanukah or Christmas or Kwanza or New Year's, but not yet!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Toangiving!

A very happy Toangiving to you all!  Huh?  You probably think I made a mistake.  Toangiving?

Today is of course Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday here in the United States and one of the most popular celebrations of the entire year.  It's a day for giving thanks and for families to gather and for folks to eat great feasts, watch parades and football on television, and begin preparations for more holidays yet to come.  It's also special for me because when I think of giving thanks, I think of this blog that I write each day and I also think of Toan Lam.
 
Probably more than any other individual, I have written here on many occasions about Toan.  My blog is about making a difference in this world, and Toan could easily be the posterboy for that.  he makes a difference each and every day.  His organization Go Inspire Go is such a feel-good group that every single thing I read about or see from GiG touches me very deeply.  Go Inspire Go does just what its name says - it inspires.  Toan Lam is behind that and he inspires both with that agency and just by being himself.  I'm convinced that the literal translation of Toan is inspiring.
 
I have so very much to be thankful for!  I have a loving family and many wonderful friends.  I have a new home and each day see new adventures.  We all have much to be thankful for of course.  Life is full of wonderful blessings.  We don't always see them though.  Some are more apt to dwell on the negative.  Toan seems to see all of the good, and just in case the rest of us don't, he freely points it out to us. He is as humble though as he is giving and will likely be embarrassed to find that I have written this.  On days when I think "oh I should skip writing my blog" or "I can't possibly keep on writing this," it's Toan Lam in the back of my mind that keep encouraging me.  I am thankful to know this kind and generous man and I give thanks that he came our way!
 
You can find out more about Toan and his wonderful organization at http://goinspirego.com/ and if you read some of his words and view some of his videos, you will better understand what I mean.  Thank you Toan Lam and thank you to everyone who makes this a better world!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sadness at a time of joy

Thanksgiving Day is a time of joy for most Americans. We gather together with family and friends and enjoy wonderful feasts while watching football and parades and preparing for a month of holiday parties. Hopefully we spend some of the day doing what the day was actually set aside for - giving thanks. There have been times though when this joyful day is also a day of sadness.

On this week in 1978 there was great sadness in the San Francisco area, but also in other places as well. Just ten days earlier 918 people died in Jonestown, Guyana and at the nearby airstrip in Port Kaituma following what they called a "revolutionary suicide." The largest number of those who died were from the Bay Area. While the nation was still reeling from this tragedy, there was another one: double murder at San Francisco City Hall.

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk. People waking up on this date in 1978 saw a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle that read MOSCONE, MILK SLAIN--DAN WHITE IS HELD.  Less than a month before Christmas, with San Francisco decorated in its holiday splendor, there was great sadness at a time of joy.

This past summer, 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot by Ferguson Police officer Darren Wilson, and on Monday of this week, a grand jury there in that Missouri city decided that it would not indict Wilson in the shooting death of Brown. Following the grand jury's announcement, there have been peaceful protests as well as rioting.  Some businesses there have been looted and other have been burned to the ground.  More sadness at a time of joy.
 
To dwell on the negative is to not move forward.  There still is goodness in this world.  There still is hope and there is much to be thankful for.  I'm not suggesting for a moment that it is wrong to remember the sadness and I am not saying that vigils or protests are bad.  We need to do more though.  We need to work toward a day when this time of joy will be only joyful and when sad events like these don't take place.  We need to work toward a day when police aren't shooting men in the street and when elected officials are not being murdered while doing their work and when cult leaders and not drawing innocent and unsuspecting people to their deaths.  When we get to that day we can truly be thankful.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Channeling concerns constructively

As you know, the grand jury deliberating the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson this summer, issued its decision last night and they decided not to indict the police officer who was responsible. Even before the announcement, protests had begun both there in Ferguson and in cities across the country. Some turned violent. Sadly, some Ferguson businesses were totally destroyed. This morning though I want to talk about another announcement that came last night - this one from the President of the United States,

Not long after the Ferguson Grand Jury announcement, President Barack Obama went to the White House Briefing Room and calmly spoke to the American people about that announcement. During his remarks, the President joined Michael Brown’s parents in calling on those who were protesting, to do so peacefully. Unfortunately, most of the protesters were already in the streets and not listening to the President.

Why was there looting? Why was there destruction of property? I would imagine that frustration played a big part. I remember the crowd in San Francisco when the Dan White verdict (charged with killing Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk) was read. People were outraged and they were frustrated. The "system" let us down again. Very much the same in Ferguson where it must have seemed like again a police officer was getting away with murder.

There things we can do. I spoke of this back in the summer when Michael Brown was killed. President Obama spoke of it last night. Political engagement and political reform were mentioned by the President, who also said he had instructed the US Attorney General to work with cities across the country to build better relationships between communities and law enforcement. The President urged people to not be violent and to not be destructive, but to make a difference and to work for change.
 
The President is correct, of course.  "There are ways of channeling your concerns constructively and there are ways of channeling your concerns destructively," is part of what he said.  All too often we are angered by events and we overturn newsracks and cars, and throw bottles, and smash windows.  Soon after it is business as usual and nothing has changed.  What President Obama is urging is that we channel our energies in to actual reforms to make sure that whatever bad thing does not reoccur.  We shouldn't move on and forget about it.  History will just repeat itself.  Let's all take the President's advice and get involved and make some positive changes for the good of all.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Toys galore

When I think of gifts for children, the first thing that comes to mind is a teddy bear. Toys of all kinds warm the hearts of kids, especially the ones who have little or nothing. The biggest gift-giving occasion of the entire year of course is Christmas and that is now just three weeks away. Toy drives for needy kids truly make a difference! Consider giving. It really doesn't have to cost a lot.
 
There are stores that each year put out collection barrels for various toy drives.  The largest and best known is probably the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots campaign.  Back in 1947 United States Marine Major Bill Hendricks got the ball rolling in Los Angeles, California, beginning with a handmade doll and continuing with a collection of some 5,000 toys for needy kids in his area.  That program continues to this day but now spreads nationwide.  There is also the Angel Tree program which gives toys to kids with parents in prison.  It was in 1983 that the Prison Fellowship started their Angel Tree Christmas toy program. There are many regional and local programs too run by fire departments or police departments or other local organizations.
 
One of the national collection points is local Walgreens stores.  Drop of your toys in their barrel (in many locations, they actually have a toy department where you can purchase toys).  Walgreens will also donate money when you write about it!  Click HERE to get all the details.
 
The website for Toys For Tots is http://www.toysfortots.org and their you can find out where toys can be dropped off and also how to request a toy for a needy child.  You can also make a secure monetary donation through that website.

In San Francisco, new toys will be accepted at the SF Pride Office at 30 Pearl Street, 4th Floor, San Francisco, through December 19. To end the drive, they will have a booth on Friday, December 19 at the corner of 17th & Castro St. (Jane Warner Plaza near Twin Peaks bar) from Noon to 4pm.  Besides toys, they will also be collecting can and dried goods donations.
 
Check with your local schools, churches, police department, and local newspaper for additional toys drives that might exist in your area.  Perhaps you or an organization you are part of, would like to start your own collection process to help out too.  Remember, a toy in the hands of a child is a beautiful thing, especially in the hands of a child who has nothing.
 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Just a perfect blendship

Some silly relaxation before going to bed last night - I watched an episode of that old series The Golden Girls.  As you may recall, the theme song is Thank You For Being A Friend.  I'm sure I was singing along in my head.

I woke up this morning to the sound of Dionne Warwick singing That's What Friends Are For on the radio.  Shortly after that I accidently clicked a youtube link and went to an old clip of Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance singing about friendship.  There must be a theme here! 

What a wonderful thing friendship is.  It can actually make you sing!  I started to sing along with Lucy and Ethel.

"It's friendship, friendship,
Just a perfect blendship,
When other friendships have been forgot
Ours will still be hot!
Lahdle-ahdle-ahdle-dig-dig-dig."

The wonderful Dutch priest Henri Jozef Machiel Nouwen had some good thoughts on the

"Friendship is one of the greatest gifts a human being can receive. It is a bond beyond common goals, common interests, or common histories. It is a bond stronger than sexual union can create, deeper than a shared fate can solidify, and even more intimate than the bonds of marriage or community. Friendship is being with the other in joy and sorrow, even when we cannot increase the joy or decrease the sorrow. It is a unity of souls that gives nobility and sincerity to love. Friendship makes all of life shine brightly. Blessed are those who lay down their lives for their friends."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

food for everyone

Seeing folks drop canned goods in the many collection barrels at this time of year, always warms my heart.  There are actually places that have year round collections and how wonderful is that? The need certainly doesn't only exist in December.  We hear about canned food drives around Thanksgiving and Christmas, not the need seems to always be there.
 
It would be wonderful if nobody ever had to go a day hungry.  There are obvious health issues if you don't eat regularly and your over-all personal feeling is certainly affected by the food you consume.  Think about how that delicious plate of pasta made you feel last night, or those warm cookies that had just come out from the oven.
 
While those collection barrels at your local stores and churches and organizations are certainly helpful, they are not enough.  This rich country of ours needs to do more to address the issue.  There needs to be food for everyone and there needs to be ways for this to happen.  Government assistance is part of it and there are a number of wonderful organizations out there stepping up.  One such organization is called No Kid Hungry, and I urge you to take a look at their website at http://www.nokidhungry.org/ and check out Feeding America at http://www.feedingamerica.org too.
 
There is a lot more we can talk about and there is something each of us can do.  That can in the barrel is certainly a good beginning.  We are not going to solve the hunger problem in the United States today, but at least we can make a start.

Monday, November 17, 2014

kindness is not weakness

Today's message is a very simple one. In life sometimes the most simple messages are the most profound.   I don't know who wrote these words, but I believe them and wanted to share them with you.

"Only a fool mistakes kindness for weakness. There is the heart of a lion within the spirit of a lamb. Grace is selfless strength."

Indeed, kindness is not weakness. A message you might wish to share with others.

Friday, November 14, 2014

whatcha gonna do?

So you don't like what the Mayor had to say yesterday afternoon. What are you going to do about it?  The US is spending way too much on war and not nearly enough on poverty.  Are you just going to grumble?  Hate crimes and discrimination are still such a part of American life.  Will you just sit by and watch the hate grow?
 
The whole reason I began this blog over five years ago was to encourage people.  I don't have all the answers, but I do know that we have the power to do some pretty incredible things.  I see great changes every day and it is heartwarming to know that people do can and that folks do want to get involved and make a difference.  Being dissatisfied with how things are does not bring about change.  That's just the starting point.  From there we need to get involved.
 
There are tons of good positive productive things we can all do every day.  This is our world!  We can get rid of the bad and we can build up the good!  How about it?  What are YOU going to do? Will you help make the world a little better?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Be the light

The things that light up someone else's life aren't necessarily complex things. Walking down the street and bring greeted by a hearty hello is a sure way to give me a smile.
 
When I first began writing this blog about six years ago, I thought that I might possibly run out of things to say about making a difference in our world. Nope. That is not going to happen! There are so many ways! Having recently moved into a new community, I can see clearly the multitude of differences in my new town and of course, all the similarities as well. The really big and wonderful thing is that we can always help to light the path for others.
 
Now as you know, this blog is NOT about me, but nevertheless, I do from time to time sneak in little references to things I do and things folks do around me. This morning I just have to mention the friendliness of all these folks I have encountered in the past several days. "Welcome to town," I keep hearing people say to me. A kind lady at the bank told me about various parades and celebrations that take place here. Folks in the coffee shop have been telling me about local museums and galleries. I think I am learning something new every day.
 
I could walk about in darkness. Where is the closest drugstore? Are there any good sushi places in town? Is there an ATM anywhere close? I could ask a lot of questions and hope I find my way around. The thing is, I've mostly encountered people who are already friendly and helpful. How is it where you live? Do you ever take the time to be the light for others?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

all smiles

Did you ever notice that a smile isn't just the position of you mouth? When most of us smile, we use our whole face. We smile with our eyes, even if they aren't wide open. When I see someone smile, it makes me happy. How about you? Do smiles brighten your day?

When I see someone who isn't smiling, I try all the harder. I smile every single day. Why? Because it really is contagious. You'd be amazed at how many smiles will show up as a result of yours!

Now I am not saying to be cold and uncaring about someone's bad moments. People you encounter might be going through financial or health difficulties or may have just been touched by the death of a loved one. You can still smile a kind of loving and caring smile.  Let the world you encompass shine!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Always a good holiday gift!

Making out your holiday list yet?  Well a year ago I wrote here how sponsoring my friend Jason in AIDS LifeCycle makes a great holiday gift, and it's still true!  He did wonderful last year, but each year he tries a little harder to make a difference and each year he has an impressive fundraising total for this important cause.
 
By no means does Jason Villalobos do this alone though!  He needs me and he needs you and he needs his hundreds or thousands of supporters.  Every single donation makes a difference.
 
At this time of year we are bombarded by requests for money.  Many very worthwhile causes are hitting us up.  If you are like me, there is not a never-ending supply of funds and so choices have to be made.  Supporting Jason is a choice I make every year. 
 
As he once again hops on his bike for another 545 mile trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for HIV/AIDS services in California, can he count on you? Click HERE to go to his secure fundraising page to find out more and to donate. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

I can almost smell the turkey!

November is the favorite month of the year for many, and Thanksgiving Day is a big reason why. Since I was just a kid I have always loved Thanksgiving and while I know it is still a couple weeks away, I can almost smell the turkey now! I thought I'd take a moment to talk about what it all means.

First of all, as much as I love turkey, I really don't like the nickname "Turkey Day." Thanksgiving is so much more of course. (Not to mention that not everyone eats turkey, although I don't know why). As much fun as the football games are, and the huge feast, and the preparations for Christmas, the big thing is coming together and giving thanks. Some other countries do similar observances, but only Canada does pretty much the same customs as in the US, except that theirs is a bit earlier, in October.  The holiday has traditionally been a celebration of the blessings of the (agricultural) year, including the harvest. More recently a lot of folks have included all blessings that have come their way during the year (and some folks, during their lifetime).  Families generally gather to celebrate and often in larger number than at any other time during the year.
 
So giving thanks and being together with family and friends is what it's all about.  Now of course we don't have to wait until then.  If you know me, you know that I would suggest that we have Thanksgiving every single day of the year!  Wouldn't that be great.  Let's always be thankful, not on just one day!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Get involved

Election Day was this week and I am very happy to report that most of the people I supported were elected.  There is still a race that is too close to say for certain, but I am keeping my fingers crossed.  I was not nearly as involved in the contests this time around as I usually am.  I did a tiny bit of work for a couple of candidates and donated a modest amount of money.  Still, there was some involvement, and there will continue to be, even though I now live in another city.
 
The City Council meets at night here - I already checked.  It would seem to me that it would be extremely easy for folks to attend these meetings!
 
Attendance isn't all that involvement entails.  There are a lot of ways to be involved it what is going on around us.  Awareness is one of the really important things in the mix.  If you know what is happening and where it is happening, it is much easier to get involved in the whole process.  Don't like what your mayor just did or the way a legislative vote went?  Get involved!  Speak out.  Write some letters.  Perhaps it's even time for you to file papers and run for office yourself.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Picture cooperation

Well the trip to Arizona went well and I'm sure I will have stories to tell as I get to know this community.  Of course some of my stories really have nothing to do with where I am anyway.  This blog is NOT about me!  Anyway, I've told you this particular story about cooperation before, but I really like it, and since cooperation is such a great thing (and I'm pooped from the trip and don't want to think too much), I thought I'd share this story again.
 
It's about a man who was taken on a tour of both heaven and hell. In hell he was shown a banquet hall filled with diners seated at a table that was covered with all kinds of delicious food. Each person’s back and left arm were tied to the chair so that bending at the waist was impossible, and the left arm could not move. The right arm was stiffened so that the elbow would not bend. The people at the table could gaze at the delicious spread and they could smell the aroma of the food, but they were starving.

In heaven, the picture was exactly the same – backs and left arms shackled, right arms stiffened – but the diners were feasting and rejoicing, because each diner used his stiffened right arm to feed the person to his or her right. It was a picture of people working together – a picture of cooperation. Working together as a team, we can do so much more!
 
Think about it.  How wonderful this world would be if we all worked together!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

on the road

Getting up extra early to get in one last San Francisco walk before hitting the road. Oh and of course I wanted to make sure this was done, largely because there might be a gap after today.  I hope that the upcoming road trip is nice and smooth, but the matter of internet access is not something I am sure of.  If nothing new shows up here for a day or two, it is likely an internet issue, not my laziness.
 
Oh wait a minute!  It's possible that I will simply be exhausted.  That's not the same as being lazy.  (I'm a bit tired already and we haven't even loaded the truck yet!
 
So, thank you San Francisco for all the love over the many years.  I hope the good folks in Arizona will be as kind.  Of course this blog has little to do with where I live because after all, it's NOT about me!  You can make a difference in the world wherever you live and I will continue writing in the same manner, just from a different venue.  Until the desk is set up in that new spot, why not talk amongst yourselves.  Leave some comments below so I'll have something to read.  Oh and by the way, I will hopefully go back to writing this every single day once again (so weekends will return), just as soon as I am settled.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

bits and pieces

Writing this blog only four days a week has given me the extra time I have needed for packing and preparing to move, but I have also gotten behind and missed a number of things I have wanted to say. This morning a few bits and pieces of various things to catch up a little. I think I should also resume writing this every single day!

So, just in case you haven't noticed yet, today is election day. I know it might be a big yawn for a lot of you, but did you know that midterm elections effect your life a lot more than Presidential elections? Get out there and VOTE! (Oh and there are some people I particularly believe in that I hope will get your vote today. I hope the good folks around Campbell, CA will be sending Evan Low to the State Assembly and I hope the people on the east side of San Francisco will do likewise with David Chiu. Also, someone I have written about here many times, Dan Choi is running for the San Francisco City College Board of Trustees and deserves your vote).

Yesterday I mentioned a new video by the Jubilee Project here.  My goodness!  Those guys are so popular that I had double the number of readers!  Maybe I should write something here about them every day.  They really do make a difference in this world after all!
 
Over the weekend a young woman with brain cancer ended her life on her own terms.  There has already been a lot said about this and People magazine and some other publications are devoting a lot of time, not only to her specifically but also to the matter of end of life decisions.  Oregon's Death With Dignity Law is getting a lot of attention because of Brittany Maynard, who died just short of her 30th birthday, and this attention can only be a good thing.  Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it is something that is seldom discussed and it needs to be.  Thank you Brittany for showing us the way.
 
Oh and one more thank you and this to the Wong Fu Productions guys.  I think they make a difference too.  They might not be trying to change the world.  I actually don't know if they have any kind of mission statement, but they have fun and they spread laughter, and that is certainly a good thing!  Click HERE to check out their attempt at putting together some puzzles (which reminds me of my quilt puzzle above).
 
Many important things in the news these days.  Stay on top of the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong.  Stay on top of the other things I have mentioned here.  Oh and most importantly, don't forget to VOTE!

Monday, November 3, 2014

what's going on this month?

We all know about Thanksgiving, and next week we have Veteran's Day, but what else happens in November?  You might be surprised at all of the observances. Here are just some of them:

It is Aviation Month, Good Nutrition Month, Hunger Awareness Month, Latin American Month, National Georgia Pecan Month, National Long Term Care Awareness Month, National Novel Writing Month, Vegan Awareness Month, and National Peanut Butter Lover's Month. It's also National Pepper Month, National AIDS Awareness Month, National American Indian Heritage Month, National Diabetes Awareness Month, National Epilepsy Month, National Stamp Collecting Month, and National Raisin Bread Month.  I can even celebrate "Getting to know my new town day."

Some are more fun than others of course and the purpose of all of them is to raise awareness, so now you know!