Wednesday, December 31, 2014

More to Come

One of my memories from childhood is sneaking those moments from Johnny Carson's late night program, when I was supposed to be in bed.  I always enjoyed Johnny both as a comedian and as an interviewer, but the odd thing that stand out in my mind is that whenever they broke for a commercial, it would say on the screen More to Come.  A lot of people look at New Year's Eve as an end time, but I prefer to think about more to come.
 
Yes, in a few hours 2014 will be gone.  The very moment it leaves though, 2015 is here.  It happens like this every year.  The world keeps on spinning and anything you were doing at 11:59, you can continue doing at !2:00 and 12:01.  Some people get all bummed out that things were neglected and goals were not met.  I'll be the first to admit that things don't always go the way we plan, but sixteen hours before the year ends, is not a good time to lament our failings.  The next year will give us new opportunities and new chances to do wonderful things and take another crack at those goals or even come up with some new ones.
 
I could take this time today to look back on the bad things that occurred in 2014, but enough other people are doing that.  I could also like at the wonderful things, and may still revisit some of them in the days ahead - it was after all a pretty good year.  I want instead to look at all of our days yet to come.  How many days we have will of course vary.  How we use them will vary too.  We can sit all alone and think about all of the negativity in the world, or we can add our own positive spark to it.  As I say all the time, WE can make a difference.  WE can do good things for others.  WE can be the heroes that our world needs.
 
What will you do in 2015?  The possibilities are enormous!  Let's change the world for the better.  Let is spread justice, equality, peace, and love.  We don't run out of time at midnight tonight.  There is still more to come!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What are you doing the rest of your year?

Last December were you one of the many who many resolutions? How did that work for you? Did you follow through?  How about other plans?  Was there some big project you wanted to do in 2014 or somewhere you wanted to go?  You're not out of time yet, but the clock is still ticking.
 
I'm not a big believer in New Year's resolutions.  I think it's much better to resolve to do good things every single day of your life, but not force a specific list upon ourselves that often is unrealistic and simply sets us up for failure.  I also believe that we should all seize the moment and that whole "change the world" thing that I am always talking about - I think that is an ongoing project that should never end.  Any day is a good day to give back to our communities and to make a difference.
 
It's lovely to see folks get all excited around Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and other holidays and make plans to help others.  The campaign that I've been talking about here for several days, where Josh started and online fundraiser to help the homeless man Thomas is another example of holiday giving that really warms my heart.  I hope it continues (and you can just click HERE to find out more about that and to donate and help Thomas too), but I would love even more for that spirit to be alive in February and in June and in times when there is no "holiday season of giving."
 
But for the rest of 2014, do you have any plans?  Do you agree with me about the giving?  Do you agree about resolutions?  Let me hear from you!  We don't get many comments anymore and I would love to end the year with a whole stream of thoughts from you who read this!  Now, let's get out there and enjoy these last few days before 2015 comes running toward us!

Monday, December 29, 2014

The making of a hero

It takes all kinds of people and it takes all kinds of actions.  Very few of us actually set out to be a hero.  Last week Josh Paler Lin did something that got a lot of attention, including mine.  On Christmas Eve I even wrote about those actions HERE.  Josh's video about helping a homeless man has gotten a lot of attention.  I've mentioned it every day since and the originally online fundraising goal of $10,000 has been blown out of the water!  As of this morning they have raised $122,763.  So is Josh a hero?
 
Well there is much more to the story than that.  Josh has also picked up Thomas from the shelter where he was staying and put him in a motel room.  He's taken him out for meals too.  A bigger thing though I see is that Josh has shown us all how easy it is to make a difference.  People all around the world have been donating, some as little as one dollar, and because many worked together as one, something good happened.
 
Josh made another video about helping a homeless man.  On Thanksgiving last year he gave a homeless made $100 and then had an actor pretending to be needy, ask the homeless made for help.  You can watch that video HERE.  Josh has made other "awareness" or social experiment videos too, including a very serious one about child abduction that you can watch HERE.  Motivating people through his videos, it would seem to me that Josh is spreading a message of hope.
 
There have been tons of news accounts of Josh helping Thomas in these past few days.  It's a nice Christmas "feel good" kind of story and it is wonderful to see so many helping out.  What strikes me though is that Josh Lin on several occasions has gotten the ball rolling and that Josh has been the spark to ignite the flame of generosity.  That to me would make him a hero and one that all of us can so easily follow!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Habari Gani?

The second day of Christmas each year also happens to be the first day of Kwanzaa, so there is plenty of reason to keep on celebrating. (Of course we just had Hanukah and New Year's is next week, too). The greeting for each day of Kwanzaa is "Habari Gani?" which, in Swahili, simply means "How are you?" or "What's the News?"

So, just what is the news on this unity day, the first day of Kwanzaa? Are we united? Can we strive for and maintain unity in the family, the community, and in our nation? Kwanzaa was established in part, as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their culture and heritage. The bumpy race-relations in this country, which seem to have gotten worse in recent months, can not be a part of any kind of celebrating, but the coming together of people for the better good, should always be embraced. People have taken to the streets in many parts of the country and cried out "enough!" There needs to be true equality, which we get from unity. Perhaps we will truly have it one day.

It is a good sign when people work together for a common purpose.  The fundraiser I have told you about the past two days is a great example of all kinds of people working together.  They originally sought to come up with $10,000 to help a homeless man, but in just three days raised over $103,500 and the funds keep pouring in!  There is no separation of race here either because it was an Asian man who began the campaign to help a Caucasian man and the donors have been of all races and the media coverage (which is growing rapidly) has been from all over the country and the world.  People can work together and be unified for good.  What a wonderful way to celebrate!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

On the first day of Christmas

Despite what many stores will tell you, Christmas doesn't end today.  No, today is actually the first day of Christmas.  In this twelve day celebration I do hope you will take a moment to think about the good things in your lives and the good you can bring to others.  We could even get going and finally extend the spirit of Christmas to every single day of our lives!

Yesterday I told you the incredible story about Josh, a young video maker who brightened the life of Thomas, a homeless man by giving him $200 and then posting a video online telling the story.  An online fundraising goal was also begun (click HERE to contribute), with an original goal of $10,000 to further help this homeless man.  When I told you about this yesterday here in my blog, $64,752 had been raised.  Right now the total has increased to a whopping $90,027!

Think that the spirit of Christmas is gone? Think that people don't care anymore? Think again!  Josh's campaign to help this one person has proven that there are a lot of wonderful caring people out there.  Just look at how quickly that total keeps increasing!  Campaigns like this one can be started on indiegogo or other similar sites and all kinds of money can be raised to help others or to help out in a variety of circumstances.  Of course fundraising isn't the only way to help out and make a difference, and so many people today are volunteering a hot meal programs.  This day and Thanksgiving are the two biggest days for folks to turnout for those free meals and they are the largest days for volunteering.
 
On this first day of Christmas I won't give you a partridge in a pear tree, but I will give you my home that every single one of us will be inspired to make a difference in the world and I wish you much joy and peace!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Oh Night Divine

This is the night the angels sing about. This it the wonderful night that every kid anxiously awaits. It's my favorite night of the year - always has been. I know many who celebrate Christmas, put the emphasis on tomorrow, but my family is one of the Christmas Eve families. It's only morning right now, but I still feel as if I could burst into song!


Fall on your knees O hear the
Angels voices.
O night divine O night when Christ as born


Whether you celebrate tonight, tomorrow, for the full twelve days of Christmas, or not at all, my wish for you is happiness and joy - not just on this night, but always!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Amazing Story of Thomas and Josh

The story I am about to tell is amazing on a number of levels. This time of year has been referred to as a season of miracles, and this is certainly evidence that miracles do exist.  It seems that a young filmmaker named Josh spotted a man named Thomas, panhandling near a freeway entrance.  Josh approached Thomas and briefly chatted with him before handing him a $100 bill.  What Thomas didn't know was that Josh had a hidden camera and both that meeting and the trip to a liquor store that Thomas took minutes later was all recorded.
 
That Thomas received one hundred dollars from a stranger is pretty good, even if his tale was being put into a video, but what warms you heart is that Thomas, who minutes earlier had nothing, went and bought food and gave it to other poor people - folks he didn't even know.  Josh reentered the picture at this point to tell Thomas he was being recorded and to praise Thomas for being generous in his own poverty.  Josh then gives Thomas an additional hundred dollars.
 
Are you still with me?  This is pretty incredible stuff so far, right?  Of course some might shrug it off as a stunt by Josh to build some publicity for himself.  Helping out someone with $200 isn't that high a price to pay to become famous.  It seems though that Josh already is famous to internet watchers.  He makes funny videos that are available on youtube.  It was from the posting of his video that most people first heard this story.  Then a huge miracle occurred.  Josh created an online fundraiser to gather more money for Thomas and really get him back on his feet.  Using indiegogo and setting a $10,000 goal, Thomas set this all up on Monday (two days ago).  Well, they made that goal within a few hours!
 
The picture you see above is from this morning when I woke up.  As you can see, the fundraising from Thomas already had 2,887 funders and even if each of them had only donated a dollar, that would be pretty remarkable.  The donation amounts have varied though and the total then was $51,881 and it continues to grow.  I just checked, and right now the total stands at $64,752 and who knows how big it will get?  Click HERE if you want to give too or even if you just want to check out the fundraising site or want to share it with others.
 
I'll definitely keep you updated on this.  It is an amazing story and it's so perfect at this time of year.  It shows that there are a lot of caring and generous people in the world who do indeed make a difference.  It seems to me with this momentum that we could feed all of the hungry if we really put our minds to it!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hello! I'm Michael

Hello!  My name is Michael.  I'm not here to tell you about my upcoming vacation or to exchange recipes or to moan about the politicians in Washington.  Actually I only mention my name because I am the one who writes this stuff every day.  If you have been here before you already know this is NOT about me.
 
What the blog is about is making a difference in our world.  I write here about hometown heroes who do great things (do tell me about some folks you know in the comments section below) and I write about various ideas of how I can be a better person and how we all can give back to society.  This really has no end.  Making a difference is a lifelong process and I hope you will not only join me in reading this daily chapters, but will join me in doing the deeds we need to do.  There is certainly something good for all of us to do!
 
Oh and since I certainly don't have all the answers, I invite your comments and suggestions as well!  Tell people about the blog, but also participate by letting me hear from you.
 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Do you need a compass?

Tomorrow would have been my mom's 88th birthday.  She died in the spring of last year, so this is the second December without her and I miss her just as much as the day she died.  She was always my compass, when I needed one.  That's what made me write about this today.

What do I do? Where shall I go? What comes next? Does my life have any sort of purpose of direction? Well, if you are asking yourself these questions, it's a good thing. Every once in awhile it is important for each of us to take stock of ourselves and look not only at where we have been, but where we are going. Sometimes change is a good idea. Do you need some help? Do you need a compass? There is nothing wrong with reaching out to others to try to decide your path.
 
Family and friends can be a great resource in helping to determine with way to go.  When a loss within your family has gotten you asking these questions, it might be even more important to lean on each other, so to speak.  They are not the only resource though.  Some of us have tons of friends and great big families.  Others are a bit more alone.  There are professionals who also can be of great benefits.  Counselors, clergy, health care workers, attorneys, teachers, and others might help guide you when you find yourself questioning what comes next.  Getting involved in support groups can sometimes be of benefit too.
 
The library used to be a great place for finding information.  It still is, of course, but now we also have the internet where we can find answers to our questions in seconds.  Sometimes these answers are all we need as our compass.
 
Nobody should ever have to go through life feeling lost or confused.  Life is more than just being alive and we all have a purpose.  Find yours.  Life will be so much richer once you know the path you are taking!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Heartwarming moments of the holidays

There always seem to be more heartwarming moments during the holiday season and while I often hope for that wonderful spirit to expand to the entire year, it is important to look at the good when it comes.  I keep hearing about folks who give up their own Christmas in order to brighten other people's holiday.  I'm actually talking about people who give every minute of December 25th volunteering at a shelter or food program.  There are tons of examples.
 
Izzy Bradley is the cute little girl pictured here in this week's Target ad.  Izzy has Down Syndrome and while using her in the chain's circular shouldn't be a bit deal, it is because not many businesses have really recognized inclusiveness.  Hopefully this will also help raise awareness.
 
Then there's the story of little Addie, a six-year-old who might not see another Christmas.  Folks from all over are helping to make this Christmas bright by sending her cards and stuffed animals and warm wishes.  The complete story about this little girl is at http://www.pgcity.org/police/little-addie
 
Every day I come across more and more heartwarming stories of people doing kind and generous things - making a difference in the lives of others.  How wonderful!  If you come across some of these inspiring folks, let us know about them in the comments section below!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Tea With Toan

Here in this space I write each day about making a difference and I have written more about Toan Lam than any other individual. A mutual friend introduced us a few years ago, for which I will always be grateful.  It wasn't long after that Toan created Go Inspire Go, which usually is something I tell you about when I write about him.  He also has a recurring Tea With Toan feature where he chats with someone of interest.  The most recent of those video conversations deals with grief.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is difficult.  Just last year I went through a difficult time following the loss of my mother.  I remember that Easter, Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were particularly tough for me last year.  It was actually some of the kindness and wisdom of Toan that helped me back then.  In this latest Tea With Toan, which you can watch HERE, there is even more help. Being There for Someone in Grief: Essential Lessons in Supporting Someone Grieving from Death, Loss and Trauma, is a book by Marianna Cacciatore, who in this chat with Toan tells the story of her own childhood trauma and grief.  She mentions generosity and love several times, which is certainly appropriate because they are the very words I would use to describe Toan Lam.

Good stuff here and I highly recommend watching the conversation (which lasts just over twenty minutes). You can also find out more HERE and more about Go Inspire Go in general HERE.  Oh and the author has a website too at http://www.mariannacacciatore.com/
 
Grief isn't just when a person dies, and I am grateful to learning a lot of new things and new ways to cope with various kinds of loss.  Thank you so much to Marianna and Toan for this special awakening which is so good at this holiday season.  I have not yet picked up the book, but I just ordered it!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Martina makes a difference

As any tennis player will tell you, Martina Navratilova ruled that sport back in the 70s and 80s. She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles and reached the Wimbledon singles final 12 times. For so many, Martina is a hero. She is for me too, but for other reasons. She could have devoted her life to her sport but keep quiet about her private life. Martina could have spent time in a closet. Instead, she publicly came out as a gay woman in 1981, and she has been an advocate for LGBT equality ever since.
 
Coming out does so much good for so many, but it is a difficult decision and I don't for a moment mean to second guess those who chose not to.  In some cases it just isn't safe.  Sadly, there are places where your honestly could cost your life.  I'm always pleased though when people are visible and that's why back in September, Martina warmed my heart when she got down on her knee between matches at the US Open, and proposed marriage to former model Julia Lemigova.  There they both were up on the Jumbotron for all to see.
 
Yesterday was their wedding day.  Congratulations and much happiness to both women.  Your act yesterday makes a difference.  People have more and more positive role models now.  This can only be a good thing.  As people continue to fight against marriage equality, we can only hope that someday folks will realize that love is all you need.  Thanks Martina for helping to lead the way.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rejoice!

The word "rejoice" means to show or feel that you are very happy about something. The last part of December, is traditionally the happiest time of the year. Church-goers might recognize the Scripture verses from yesterday that contain the word "rejoice." Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice (Philippians 4:4) and Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16).  The common greeting in the malls and restaurants we frequent even urges happiness.

When I see people sleeping on the sidewalk because they have no place to call home, it's hard to rejoice.  When I see people being shot by the police because of their race, it's very hard to rejoice.  When children are taking their own lives because they are bullied and left to feel worthless and unloved, I find it very difficult to be happy.  When students carry guns on to school campuses and open fire on their fellow students, how can I even think of rejoicing?

We each have free will and we each have an opportunity, I think even a responsibility, to get involved and to do good things.  That's the whole theme of this daily blog.  Each one of us can make a difference.  Is the world perfect?  Of course not!  It's so easy sometimes to see all the gloom and doom that it easy to throw our hand in the air and give up, but change doesn't happen that way.  Sometimes making things better requires a little work.  Amid all the bad there is always some good too.  In that good, we should rejoice, as we build on it to make more good.

Ask yourself this question: Do you consistently look for reasons to rejoice, even when your own circumstances or events in the world make it difficult to endure?  Perhaps that could be a starting point.  Look for the good and work to create more good, and then .   .   . rejoice!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Our pathways

It's often difficult to put ourselves in someone else's shoes to appreciate their journey in life if we haven't experienced the same things as they have. It is very kind though to find compassion for their situation and lend a listening ear when needed.

There is an old saying "Don't expect everyone to understand your journey, especially if the never has to walk your path."  How very true.
 
We don't all travel on the same road.  Our pathways are different.  Some of us go in different directions but still end up in the same place.  Some of us go around in circles or walk paths that seem to lead nowhere.  When we encounter each other along the way though, we should stop and meet and share our common stories.
 
The pathways of life are varied but they are best enjoyed when shared with others.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The answer is YES

Can I change the world? Someone actually questioned me about that. After reading this blog for a while, they sent me an email asking, "do you really think you can change the world?"

The answer of course is YES! I can and you can and all of us can if we get involved and if we do something and if we simply TRY to make a difference. Will sitting alone in a room and moaning about the things we don't like change anything? Probably not.

This blog does not give you all of the answers. I certainly don't have all of the answers. Nobody has all the answers. I never have pretended that to be the case. I don't think I am the authority on change or involvement or making a difference - I am just one voice. I do hope you will join me though. Some 6,000 people have already joined Josh in his efforts to help Thomas proving that together we can do so much more! (If you have no idea what that last sentence meant, you have been reading this recently.  Just click HERE and you can read the whole story and also donate if you wish).

I would love to hear your comments too. Occasionally I get an email, but you can comment right here too so that other readers can easily read your thoughts (and you can even do so anonymously). Changing the world for the better is something all of us should be interested in doing! Join us!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Human rights

All lives matter.  No exceptions.  This isn't really an original thought.  I wrote here in March of last year that All Lives Matter.  Lately I have gotten a bit of grief saying I was moving away from the injustice that is directed toward black people, particularly black me.  Well certainly black lives matter - although from the actions of some police departments and some grand juries, one would certainly see why that would be questioned.
 
Whether or not me words from nearly two years ago connect with anybody, the point is, I wrote them and I did it 21 months ago, so despite those who say I was changing the wording of a sign, that is not the case and I am still not trying to deny a huge problem that exists within our society.  I'm saying though the very same thing I said back then (click HERE to read my original post).  It is a message which I have always given, that ALL lives matter.  I have stood in the street many times and on the steps of government buildings and in protest marches and said quite clearly that ALL lives matter.
 
Now, quite often I was speaking out about a particular issue or for a particular group, but regardless of who is being discriminated against, we are all a little bit less because of it, because we should ALL be treated fairly and equally and with dignity and justice.  That's what today is all about.  Today is International Human Rights Day and we need to respect every single individual here in this country and in every single corner of the world.  In 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  We still have a long way to go to recognize and make those words a reality.
 
Human rights are for everybody - no exceptions.  There is no superior race or religion or gender.  We all matter, or at least that's the way it should be and this is what we should be striving for.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

If it's cold to you

The temperature outside where I live, has been rather chilly lately, especially at night. I know there are parts of this country where snow and cold has come with a fury already - Western New York was especially hard it.  With all of my complaining, I just had to be glad I was able to come indoors and turn on the heat.  If it's cold to me though, imagine what it's like for those who cannot come indoors.
 
Some people have pets that stay outside all of the time.  There are also farm animals that generally stay outdoors of course too.  Think about these animals on cold nights.  Is your barn heated?  Does your horse have a blanket?  The dog can go outside briefly for his potty break, but inside he must come right afterward.  If it's cold to you, it's cold to your animals too!
 
The homeless people you encounter when you are out shopping or doing errands often don't have the warm clothing you might have.  Countless people die every winter due to the cold conditions.  I know you can't house everyone you come across, but those winter coats that you no longer wear because you have gotten new ones, give them away!  Trust me.  A warm coat can make a huge difference.  More shelters need to open up in cold weather.  Big cities do a fairly good job with this, but help spread the word on the importance of this.  If it's cold to you, it's cold to them too!
 
The past several years I have been a part of a memorial service for people who have died on the streets.  (This Thursday in San Francisco, they are doing it again).  Not all of them died because of the cold weather, but we need to do whatever we can to keep people safe from the elements.  The cold of winter effects us all!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sometimes silence is better

When I first wake up in the morning, often before even brushing my teeth, I think of what I will say here in this place. Sometimes I write a lot, but usually it is just a few paragraphs. The theme of course is making a difference in this world - giving back - doing good. There is so much I can write, but sometimes I am almost at a loss for words. Should I some days be quiet and say nothing?  Late yesterday, I was listening to a sermon by Father Bill Rhodes, and it hit me that what he was saying, would be perfect for me to write about today.
 
Father Bill is an exceptional preacher.  He is an exceptional human being!  I first met him over thirty years ago and, although I seldom see him (we live in different cities), will always have a special place for him in my heart.  Whenever possible, I read or listen to sermons he preaches and I am never disappointed.  Today he was at Trinity Cathedral, an Episcopal Church in the city of Phoenix. 
 
I wish I had the text of his sermon.  It could be quietly read.  Sometimes silence is better.  Wait!  Those were his exact words - "Sometimes silence is better." Perhaps a little silence from me would be appropriate and instead, we can listen to him. 
 
Click HERE to listen.  I really hope you will.  He speaks about AIDS and those who have died and of his early ministry in San Francisco.  His message really touched me.  I hope that it touches you.  Oh and thanks Father Bill for making such a difference in my life!


Friday, December 5, 2014

Good old Saint Nick

Yes indeed. There certainly was a Saint Nicholas. It's not like the Santa Claus that most Americans know and associate with Christmas. Also called Nikolaos of Myra, the 4th-century Christian saint whom we celebrate tomorrow was a bishop of the church and also a giver of presents. Well in his case it was usually coins, but there are a lot of customs that grew in his memory.

Now most of us in the US think of Saint Nick and Christmas, but in many parts of the world, there is a separate celebration today.  Americans who keep the feast today most likely think of it only as a church commemoration.

Good reason for remembering him. Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children, students, archers, sailors, pawnbrokers, pharmacists, merchants, repentant thieves, and various churches, institutions, cities, and countries. Church-goers may find it interesting that he was one of the bishops who signed the Nicene Creed. I'm not certain why but he is also the patron of broadcasters.

There are numerous legends surrounding him including my favorite one about three theological students, traveling on their way to study in Athens. In the tale, a wicked innkeeper robbed and murdered the students, hiding their bodies in a large pickling tub. Bishop Nicholas it seems was traveling along the same route and stopped at the very same inn. While sleeping, he dreamt of the crime, got up, and called out to the innkeeper. As Nicholas prayed to God, the three students were restored to life and wholeness.

His name in Dutch, Sinterklaas, is where we got the name Santa Claus, but that is another story.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Busy December

Oh this just might be the busiest month with Christmas and Kwanza and Chanukah and New Year's Eve. There is a lot of associated shopping and a lot of parties. There are end of year observances and there is also the beginning of the winter season.

That's not all though folks! Today for example is also National Cookie Day, National Dice Day, National Salesperson Day, and World Wildlife Conservation Day. Tomorrow is Bartender Appreciation Day. This Saturday is Saint Nicholas Day. Sunday is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

There is at least one special observance for every single day of this month. In addition there are weeklong celebrations and several month-long observances as well. December is Universal Human Rights Month, Worldwide Food Service Safety Month, Safe Toys and Gifts Month, Bingo's Birthday Month, Tomato and Winter Squash Month, and National Write A Business Plan Month. It's also Buckwheat Month, National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month, Spiritual Literacy Month, World AIDS Month, and National Tie Month.
 
Oh and don't forget the birthdays!  Busy month, huh?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Saint Dorothy's Rest

Yesterday, I mentioned here three organizations that I think are worthy of support. One of those is Saint Dorothy's Rest, which is a camp and retreat center run by the Episcopal Diocese of California. The oldest camp in California, Saint Dorothy’s Rest is located in the midst of a redwood forest in Sonoma County, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Summer camps are held there for kids. There are hospital camps and retreats there as well. It's a special place where you can get away and reconnect with your faith.

Individuals can go there for a day or for a weekend and find refreshment. It's great for meeting too or for a conference with your youth group.  Saint Dorothy's is really many things, but most of all it is a special place that you never grow tired of.  Katie Evenbeck has served as Executive Director there for the past ten years and certainly is one of the many reasons that Saint Dorothy's is so great.
 
As a youngster in upstate New York, I was an annual summer camper at a wonderful place that I am reminded of when I think of Saint Dorothy's Rest.  My summers as a camper and then later on as a staff member, bring some very special memories, and that's just what happens at Saint Dorothy's.  You build memories of a lifetime.

I'm writing about them because it's a place that deserves to be known.  If you live in Northern California, you may wish to participate in some of their programs.  They could also always use your support.  There are many ways of giving, and if you click HERE you can find a list.  Please take a moment too and click HERE to watch a four minute video all about them.  It will warm your heart.  More information is also available about this special place on their website at http://stdorothysrest.org/

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Giving Tuesday

We have had a day for giving thanks for a long time and the days that immediately follow for getting good shopping deals. For the past couple of years though we have had #Giving Tuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. It's the Tuesday right after Thanksgiving, which is today. We're talking big time giving here folks. Many organizations are hoping for some hefty contributions today and I hope that some of you can oblige.

A little bit more about it all. First, the US website is at http://www.givingtuesday.org/ and gives you a lot of information. Canada is going it too and their website at http://givingtuesday.ca/ tells you a lot as well. UNICEF is a major partner in Giving Tuesday and you can get to their website by clicking HERE.  Of course you can donate to your favorite charity.  It doesn't have to be any particular organization.
 
Because yesterday was World AIDS Day, I have a number of AIDS organizations in my head, but as I said, the charity you give to is totally up to you.  Don't have a lot of money?  Perhaps you would like to take some of the funds you would normally use for gifts and instead donate it in the name of the people you would have bought gifts for.  Now some folks might be more materialistic and moan about that, but I can tell you that I would be thrilled if you made a donation to one of my favorite charities (API Wellness Center, Lacuna Giving Circle, or Saint Dorothy's Rest) in my name.
 
If money is really tight, you might also consider today as a wake-up call to get involved and perhaps, instead of giving money, you can give some of your time.  Many non-profits can always use volunteers.
 
So today, think about giving in a very special way.  Make a difference this Giving Tuesday.  Tell your family and your friends about it too!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Do not surrender

Today is World AIDS Day, first observed in 1988, dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic and mourning those who have died of the disease. Today is also the anniversary of Rosa Parks' arrest for her act of defiance when she refused to obey the bus driver's order that she give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger.   The disease of prejudice was faced head-on by Miss Parks.  She refused to surrender and as a result, the United States Congress called her "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement." People had been dying of AIDS, but the government wasn't paying any attention. In fact, many were ignoring this huge health crisis because in the US it was largely gay man and drug users who were effected. James Bunn and Thomas Netter at the World Health Organization didn't surrender, but instead created World AIDS Day.
 
The heroes that I write about here and the unsung heroes, of which there are many, are people who stand up for what is right and make a difference.  Sometimes it looks pretty bleak.  Sometimes it is so tempting to turn around and walk the other direction.  Life is full of difficult moments though and we need to stand up to them and do what needs to be done.  Do not surrender though because when you do, you most certainly end up losing.
 
Racial prejudice is still with us of course and so is AIDS.  We've come a long way.  We have made a lot of progress.  Most people at least know what is right and just these days, even if they do the opposite.  On this December 1st though I would like you to take a few minutes to think about Rosa Parks and the difference she made.  Although she was honored many years later, the immediate result wasn't good for her.  Not only did she go to jail, but she also lost her job.  Many people with AIDS have lost their jobs too.  While medical progress has reduced the death sentences we used to see, we still see stigma attached to the disease, especially in rural areas.  Yet, it is necessary to keep going forward and to not surrender.
 
Support equal rights campaigns.  Support AIDS research and patient care.  Talk openly about our past and look forward to a brighter future.  Do not surrender.