Tuesday, March 31, 2015

ITDoV

Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility (or ITDoV) and it is a commemoration that has been around now for the past six years to advance the rights of all transgender individuals.  Now, it's too bad we have to do this.  In a perfect world there would be no hate and no prejudice.  People are people.  Sadly, there still are huge amounts of hate toward the transgender community and so we have this day to hopefully bring about some change.

Last year was the biggest ITDoV so far and this year should be even bigger with a number of events happening, especially in larger communities. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram are all abuzz with selfies, messages and news posts.  It's the perfect time for you to tell all your trans friends that you support them and will always be there for them.  Trans people often feel isolated with a high chance of being victims of various crimes.  Unlike the Day of Remembrance, which is for remembering those who have died, today is for celebrating life and a perfect time to highlight the accomplishments of trans men and women.

Hate so often comes about from lack of knowledge.  If you are not trans, open your mind.  Meet new people.  Learn.  See how rich the world is thanks to so many of our trans sisters and brothers.  Share this knowledge too and take a stand against hate.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Two Dollar Kindness Dessert

KHOU-TV Channel 11 in Houston is one of several media outlets that reported this, so you may have already heard the story, but it's the kind of thing I love, so I just have to tell it again. It's about Travis Sattler, who was working the counter at Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers in Katy, Texas, when a young boy came up to buy a dessert. It was almost the end of the day for Travis and he could easily have been impatient with the boy, who thrust coins and wadded bills into Travis' hand, and who didn't even have enough - he was a couple of dollars short, but Travis told the boy not to worry, it would be on him!

Yeah it's not a lot of money we are talking about here, but it's the simple act of kindness. That's the kind of thing I talk about here all the time. We can change the world one step at a time! Oh and the story doesn't end there. When the boy left, he had a note for Travis - a thank you note. Oh and there's still more! Apparently the boy got a little help from his mom because the note for Travis had a $100 bill enclosed, which Travis says he is putting toward nursing school.

According to the news reports, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is going to match the money and give Travis another hundred dollars. They say they want to also give a gift card to the boy and his mom.

Travis was being nice. He wasn't looking for a reward or even a thank you. All he wanted was to see that boy smile. All he wanted was to give the boy a dessert he thought the boy couldn't afford. What he got, and what we all got, was a glimpse of the goodness that still exists in our world. How wonderful!


Friday, March 27, 2015

prejudice rears its ugly head

I'm waking up this morning to a lot of news about the so called religious objections bill in Indiana, which Governor Mike Pence signed into law yesterday. What many are saying is this could lead to legalizing discrimination against gay people.

I'm not a fan of excluding people and I can remember the days when the "no Blacks allowed" signs were in store windows. I remember reading about so many other groups that have been discriminated against over the years. It seems to me that all too often prejudice rears its ugly head.

Sadly, the Indiana law isn't all by itself. A similar bill in Arkansas, supported by their governor is advancing in that state's Legislature. Last year a bill in Arizona, that would have permitted businesses there to deny service to gays and lesbians for religious beliefs, passed their legislature, but was vetoed by the governor.
 
This morning I am hearing many religious leaders condemn this new Indiana law.  Religion should not exclude, is the message I am hearing from so many.  Hollywood celebrities and big business also have spoken against the law and some have called for a boycott of Indiana.
 
"We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" is a sign most of us have seen on store walls.  Anyone?  For any reason?  When you open your doors for business, it seems to me you should be happy for anyone with money to come through your doors.  Oh I know, some customers aren't as easy to serve as others, but that's just part of doing business.  Another part of doing business is to treat everyone alike and the only thing that should get excluded is that ugly prejudice.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Springtime thoughts

Passover and Easter are just ahead. Natures colors are becoming more glorious! Springtime in many places is a time of beauty and rebirth. The cold of winter is gone (for most of us) and now the first flowers are sticking their heads up from the ground. It is a beautiful time to be sure.

When I was younger, I recall the hyacinth plants (in all different colors) that lined the pathway to church on Easter. How appropriate that these plants are often associated with rebirth. Hyacinths are used in the table settings for the Persian New Year celebration held during the Spring Equinox. When I smell a hyacinth, I think of Easter and of spring.
 
There are so many traditions associated with this time of year and they all seem to be happy ones.  Do you have any springtime thoughts you wish to share?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Our kids matter

Most folks will agree when you say that "our kids matter," but how many will actually show that on a daily basis? Yesterday, watching The Ellen DeGeneres Show, I had the joyous opportunity to see a woman who not only believes that our kids matter, but she apparently shows it ever single day. Sonya Romero, a teacher at Albuquerque's Lew Wallace Elementary School, was sitting with her son in the studio audience, when she got the surprise of her life!

It warms my heart when I hear stories of hometown heroes. This woman is one of those true heroes. Her students (both past and current) and her colleagues, gave her quite a thank you, in the form of a video that had been secretly recorded by Ellen's staff. Ms Sonya, as her kids called her, was in tears. Soon it was apparent that her son in the audience, was also in tears, and so was Ellen. It was indeed a very moving story.

Ms Sonya told Ellen that each morning in her classroom, she begins by asking her students if they need anything to eat or need clothes to wear, and she pays for things out of her own pocket. She explained that they sometimes spend up to an hour getting ready for the day and then she told Ellen "I feel like, as educators, we're sort of the first responders." What a wonderful way to look at things.  It wasn't just the giving of her money too - it was very obvious that she gave a lot of her time and her talent as well, and you could tell that she did so joyfully!

Watching all the praise, you could tell that she did indeed deserve it, but she seemed embarrassed too.  Watching Sonya Romero sit next to Ellen DeGeneres, I had tears in my eyes too when they presented her with two checks, one for her and the other for her school and both for $10,000.
 
Schools are often in financial need as are teachers.  How wonderful to spotlight this generous teacher and how great that both she and her school received such generous donations.  The Lew Wallace Elementary School principal Anne Marie Strangio, put a statement up on their website, if you would like to help them further, just click HERE.  I'm sure they would all be grateful! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

What is a hero?

Yesterday I quoted the wonderful words of Jason Chu here saying "We become heroes because of what makes us human." I could easily go on and on about his lyrics, not just from the this week released Marvels, but from all of his work. Yesterday, I said here that Jason was my hero. Why? Well for one thing, he makes us think.
 
To me, a hero is someone who changes the world - for the better.  I've written here about all kinds of heroes over the years and about ways that we all might become heroes. Some of our heroes become well known and others are known only to themselves or to a few close friends.  My mom was a hero of mine.  She did so much for me and for my sister and for so many others that knew here.
 
How about the guy who regularly donates money to the poor anonymously - is he a hero?  What about the woman who goes to read to children at the library every week?  Do you think those people who fight so hard for equal rights are heroes?  Do you think the single father raising for brand new babies, after his wife died during childbirth, is a hero?  Just what is a hero?  There is no one answer.  Heroes come in all different shapes and sizes.
 
Don't think you have to do something huge to be a hero.  If we all do our part, there can be a ripple effect.  Actually Jason Chu said it so very well, and if  I may quote once more from his Marvels: "one small spark can light the whole night/So one small life can fight the good fight."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

We become heroes because of what makes us human

How many of you have been moved by art? How many of you really listen to the words of songs you hear? Do you listen as closely when it's rap? For some reason, rap has gotten a bad rap (if you'll pardon the pun) and that's too bad - people are missing out on some great art. People might miss out on Jason Chu for example.

This is a man that I have never met, but since he is out in the public, I want to tell you what I know. His videos are available on youtube so I hope you will check them out and also share them with your friends. The one released last night kicked my butt. Seriously. The video was well done with the familiar face from a hit tv comedy, but it was Jason and his words that really spoke to me.

I'll say more about that in a moment, but I've been listening to Jason for a while now.  It seems there is something that speaks to me in all of his tunes.  One very powerful video (HERE) is dedicated to people who have felt alone and who have wanted to hurt themselves.  Listen to the words. 

"None of you can save me from myself
I look strong but I'm far from perfect health
Red lines, red lines
Red lines, red lines
Everyone knows I'm a cry for help
Locked doors and I'm cuttin everybody out."

Going back to this newest video about heroes and hope, it's called "Marvels." You can watch it HERE.  As you know, I write about heroes here every day. I think I just found another one - perhaps the greatest hero yet: Jason Chu. "We become heroes because of what makes us human."

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

You should not have to fight for love

The Supreme Court of the United States declared back in 1967 that Virginia's "Racial Integrity Act of 1924," was unconstitutional, as a violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. When this case, Loving vs. Virginia, was decided, seventeen states, had such anti-miscegenation laws. Mildred and Richard Loving had to fight for their relationship - had to fight for their love. The Supreme Court said they shouldn't have had to.

This is the most famous case based on race, but it certainly isn't the only one. There have been instances of discrimination based on ethnicity or religion too. The big one, which still continues in many places, is discrimination based on gender or on sexual orientation.

Love is love. It should not matter who is loving who. Of course the usual requirements for a contract should be in place - adults of sound mind, but race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, or financial status should not be part of the equation. If a man wants to marry another adult man, he should not have to fight for that right. The same of course is true if a woman wants to marry another adult woman.

It breaks my heart when I see couples fight for years and years only to keep being turned down. Thankfully much of the world has discovered equality. It's time for the rest of the world to follow!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Blogging in the morning

Those of you who read this regularly know that I have been writing this blog every weekday morning now for over seven years. The past couple of months, I slowed down a bit to get healthier and work on diet, exercise and some lifestyle changes.  I'm happy to say I am like my old self once again.  Actually I am better than when I moved from San Francisco.  (I know it's NOT about me, but wanted to give that update).

In this ever-changing world of ours, there is a never-ending supply of material for me to write about, but I stick to one subject: how each of us can give back - how we can help make this a better world. Just like in the beginning, this blog is NOT about me. I really love passing on positive ideas and telling of folks who do good deeds. Despite all the bad news we too often hear, there is a lot of good news too!

There is something very energizing about jumping out of bed and sitting down at the keyboard to prepare these daily messages.  I hope that all of you enjoy reading them and I hope that from time to time you find something inspiring here.  Do feel free to tell me about it!  At the very bottom, you are always welcome to add your own comments and that can include suggestions about people or events I might write about in the future or suggestions about giving back to society.
 
Yes, there are bad things happening every day.  Sometimes it is almost overwhelming, but please take note of all the good.  There are wonderful positive good things happening every day too.  Of course, we can always add to that by doing some good deeds of our own!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Getting rid of prejudice

"Prejudice and contempt, cloaked in the pretense of religious or political conviction are no different. These forces have nearly destroyed our nation in the past. They plague us still. They fuel the fanaticism of terror. And they torment the lives of millions in fractured nations all around the world."  President Bill Clinton spoke those words in his second Inaugural Address back in January, 1997.

Mr. Clinton went on to say "These obsessions cripple both those who hate and, of course, those who are hated, robbing both of what they might become. We cannot, we will not, succumb to the dark impulses that lurk in the far regions of the soul everywhere. We shall overcome them. And we shall replace them with the generous spirit of a people who feel at home with one another."

It has been eighteen years and yet the prejudice and contempt that former President Clinton spoke of are still around.  He said that we shall overcome them, but when?  Are we working on it at all?  Are we even trying?

What do YOU think?

Monday, March 9, 2015

We

Saturday, watching the President of the United States lead the crowd that gathered in Selma, Alabama was quite moving. I'm old enough to remember that original march and, as moving as that was, this touched me more, especially the President's words.
 
The title of this blog is "It's NOT about me."  Of course I am part of the package, but so are all of you.  Instead of me then, it's we.  From time to time I think we forget the importance of acting in concert with our sisters and brothers.  President Barack Obama give us such a wonderful reminder over the weekend, as he led the group and also in his address to the crowd.
 
"The single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word 'we.' We the People. We shall overcome. Yes we can. That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone," the President said.  "Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours."
 
I want to always remember that it is NOT about me, but about every single one of us.  It's all about WE!


Friday, March 6, 2015

embrace equality

Should women be allowed to vote? Should a Black woman be allowed to marry a White man? Should two people with the same education and experience, and doing the same job, be paid the same amount, regardless of their sex? Should two adult females be allowed to marry each other? The questions I am asking here deal with equality. There are many more examples of course, but you get my point.

Time after time most polls show that Americans believe in equality and time after time the courts have ruled in favor of equal treatment, so what's the problem? Why don't we actually HAVE equality. Why to some people still refuse to treat others fairly?
 
"My personal conviction says I shouldn't do that," some are saying, or "It's against my religion."  What religion preaches discrimination?  When will we stop with the excuses and just embrace equality.  Let's be fair.  My personal conviction tells me that's the way to go.  My religion says so too!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Conversation On A Bench

Can you remember the film Forrest Gump, where Tom Hanks' character sat on a park bench and told his life story? Picture yourself doing the same thing. It's a beautiful day and you are sitting on a nice comfortable bench. Think about that for a moment.

Sometimes the stories we share can make a huge difference. Sometimes the people we interact with can make a huge difference too. If you could sit down on that bench with anyone at all, who would you choose? If you are picturing a large bench, perhaps you should choose two people to share your conversation with.

Now most of us don't have the luxury of sitting down to chat with whomever we might wish, but we do have the power to make a difference. The next stranger you encounter, just might be someone who has that special something to share. Don't be afraid to meet new folks and to say hello to strangers. You might end up in a life-changing conversation on a bench.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A helper gets some help of his own

The name Shelby Hudgens might not mean anything to you - it might not even mean anything to the people he has helped, but Shelby Hudgens is one of those people I really like hearing about. Not only does he willingly help others, but he hasn't exactly had an easy time himself. Fire destroyed his house a few months ago and he has been living since then, out of his car.

Now I'm sure you have heard about the severe winter weather that much of the country has been having. In Colorado, they really got belted. Shelby could have stayed huddled in his car, but when he saw other cars getting stuck in the snow, or spinning on the ice, he sprang into action and helped those other drivers. A video of this (everybody shoots videos these days) went viral and some tv stations reported on Shelby's numerous good deeds as well. Shivering in the cold and helping push people up the hills in snowy conditions, Shelby was just there to help, but this man who lost everything deserves some help too!

Yes this is a story with several happy endings. Someone who saw the tv report, setup an online fundraiser and within just a few days, over $22,340 has been raised.  If you would like to donate, just click HERE.  All of that money will go to Shelby.  There is so much good in this world and it is truly heartwarming to see folks helping this guy who so generously was helping others!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Marching to a brand new month

Well the shortest month of the year has ended and now March is here. Was there that special something you wanted to do in 2015? Well, why wait? This is as good a time as any! Of course there are a few celebrations that come up this month. Christians are observing Lent and the last Sunday of the month is Palm Sunday. A bit earlier we have Saint Patrick's Day, which is a really big deal in major cities with large Irish populations.

On a serious note, March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, Red Cross Month, Women's History Month, and Endometriosis Awareness Month. You will be hearing more about this as the month progresses.

There are fun observances too. This is Irish American Month, National Frozen Food Month, National Peanut Month, and Music in Our Schools Month. Later in the month we have National Pi Day (it's the 14th because 3/14 is the value of Pi).  The following day is the Ides of March.

I'm a little confused about today, because it is National Pig Day. Should I bring home a pig as a pet, or should I enjoy pork products all day long? (Who can say no to bacon?)

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Expresso Priest is now in Jesus' arms

When Malcolm Boyd’s Are You Running with Me, Jesus? was published back in 1965, my mother was one of the first to purchase a copy. It was a favorite book of hers throughout the rest of her life. When I heard on Friday of Malcolm Boyd's death at the age of 91, I thought of Mom who died two years earlier, and I thought of a prayer from that book:

It’s morning, Jesus,
I’ve got to run all over again.
Where am I running?
You know these things I can’t understand
So I’ll follow along,
OK? But lead, please.
Now I’ve got to run.
Are you running with me, Jesus?”

Boyd had a very colorful life. I wrote about him here before, because he was one of those wonderful people who truly made a difference. It's hard to imagine anyone having such a varied life - from his Hollywood days and friendship with icons like Mary Pickford to his lgbt activism and friendship with other icons like Harry Hay to his priesthood which also stretched wide and included coffee house appearances (in fact he became known as the "Expresso Priest") to the wealth of recordings and books which he created.  He also shared his love with the man who would become his husband, Mark Thompson.

His books include Gay Priest: An Inner Journey; Go Gentle Into That Good Night; Simple Grace: A Mentor's Guide to Growing Older; Crisis in Communication; Christ and Celebrity Gods; My Fellow Americans; Am I Running with You, God?; If I Go Down to Hell; The Hunger, the Thirst; Free to Live, Free to Die; Malcolm Boyd's Book of Days; The Fantasy Worlds of Peter Stone and Other Fables; and As I Live and Breathe. His bestseller Are You Running with Me, Jesus?, which I already mentioned had a special 40th anniversary edition ten years ago. Oh and this is only a partial list, in addition to which are the numerous books he edited.

Although I read his books and saw blurbs about Malcolm Boyd on television and in the newspapers, my only opportunity to see him face to face was a few years ago at the Main San Francisco Public Library. I will always cherish that moment - he was just as kind and gentle as I would have expected.

This past week there came news first that he was very ill and might not last the night, and then that he was moving into hospice care and prayers were requested. It was not a big surprise then when I learned late yesterday that he had been born to eternal life, but sad nonetheless. Now the Expresso Priest can continue running with Jesus, perhaps he has joined my mom in that running, and both of them now are in the loving arms of Jesus.