Thursday, December 31, 2015

Changing more than just a year

Tomorrow we begin writing 2016 on all of our documents, but at midnight tonight, we can be changing a whole lot more than just a year. Has 2015 been less than you had hoped for? All the more reason then to make 2016 even better. No, we don't control the world, and we certainly don't even control much of what goes on around us, but we do control how we will react and what we will contribute. We can moan and groan about everything going to hell in a handbasket, or we can get involved and see some real change happen.

Again, I'm not going to say there is some kind of magic answer. There have been a lot of negative things in the news this year, but there has been a lot of good too. We can celebrate that good and let it inspire us to work for more.

Time magazine always comes out with a Person of the Year. Some television programs do that too. How about if each of us does likewise? Was there someone who got you motivated in 2015? Did somebody really inspire you this year? Think about it. Choose your own Person of the Year, in your mind, and then, following their example, see what change you can bring about that might make you someone else's Person of the Year in 2016. If we all live our lives in a way that inspires others and encourages people to contribute and to make a difference in this world, imagine all the good that can come from that.

Yes, in just a few hours we will be changing the year, but let's change a whole lot more. Let's change the world .    .    . for the better!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hats off to Lacuna Giving Circle

The year is almost over. People trying to take advantage of tax deductions, are making last minute donations to worthy organizations. One that I can suggest is Lacuna Giving Circle, because they really are more than just an organization and the circle is a key. It's been almost two years since I said anything here about Lacuna, so I think now is a good time.

Lacuna Giving Circle is a collective action fund, so when you give to them, you are really giving to more than just them. How much do you want to do in this world? Are you doing all you want to do? What if a like-minded friend joined you? Could you then do more? How about if two friends joined you, or three, or four? That's the basic idea here. When something is missing, let's fill that gap - let the circle be unbroken. More can be accomplished this way. This particular circle is for the Asian American/Pacific Islander communities.

You can click HERE to go to their website and find out more. You can see the organizations that have benefitted from them and you can even donate yourself.   This is a model I would love to see others follow.  Hats off to Lacuna Giving Circle.  What a great concept.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Be happy

Remember that Bobby McFerrin song from about 28 years ago called "Don't Worry, Be Happy"? It was a nice uplifting tune with a beautiful message about being happy. In fact it was happy enough to become the very first a cappella song to ever reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, a position it held for a couple of weeks. This morning I woke up thinking about it.

Being happy, to me, is one of the most important things in life.  It is so important in fact that the founders of the United States, listed the pursuit of happiness as one of three "unalienable rights."  It's something we can easily share too.  Want to make someone's day?  Smile.  Have a positive upbeat mood.  Make them feel worthwhile.  Even if someone is depressed and feeling blue, it's possible to cheer them up and make them happy.
 
Not having the greatest day?  It's Tuesday between Christmas and New Years.  Many are off from work or school, but many have to work today and parts of the country are  socked in with a huge blizzard.  Not fun.  Any of us might have reason why today is the best, but if we dwell on it, does it get better?  Nope.  Usually that make it worse!  Going back to Bobby McFerrin's song, "In every life we have some trouble, But when you worry you make it double - Don't worry, be happy."
 
Take his advice.  Happiness is pretty wonderful!  Be happy, and share your happiness.  Make Bobby McFerrin proud.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy holidays?

It seems to me that an awful lot of folks are complaining about the greeting "Happy holidays!" But, why? I hear people say that this is taking the place of "Merry Christmas," but actually that isn't true. Wishes for specific holidays are nice, but the all-encompassing "happy holidays" seems so much more comprehensive.

Just a week into this month, we began the eight day celebration of Hanukkah at the same time we observed Saint Nicholas Day. Pearl Harbor Day came next. There is also Advent, Saturnalia, Festivus, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa, and New Year's Eve. Oh, and that's just a partial list. Don't celebrate them all? No problem! Very few people actually observe every single holiday, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. When you say "happy holidays" to someone, you are hoping they enjoy the days that they do commemorate.

Midway through this month, I have been thinking a lot about various holiday traditions. It's amazing how varied things like Santa or a wreath or even a menorah can be from one family to another or from one part of the world to another. Varied, and wonderful too! Think of how much extra joy there can be with so many different traditions and so many different holidays. Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas is coming, but not yet

It's almost time, but still not yet. The familiar tale of a bright star in the heavens that led a group of wise men to Jerusalem to visit the newborn Jesus over 2,000 years ago will be told again this year, but not yet. That story comes at the end of the season. It is on the last day of Christmas that we celebrate the three kings. Before that we tell of the birth, but not yet.
 
I know I wrote about this just a few weeks ago, but we are still rushing!  It's amazing to me that every single year we seem to get earlier and earlier. I think I have mentioned at an old department store used to have Christmas displays up on my birthday - which is in August! I like Christmas a lot. It's perhaps my favorite time of the year, but not yet.
 
I think that every day is special.  We can help the poor and we can give toys to needy kids and we can make a difference in the world, every single day.  We don't need to pretend that Christmas is four months long (or more).  Now please don't misunderstand.  I love Christmas a lot, so I'm not saying no to it.  What I'm saying is not yet.  Let's take each holiday and celebration in turn.  When December 25th rolls around, we will have plenty of time to celebrate - twelve days, as a matter of fact.
 
One of the reasons people often get so depressed at this time of year is that there is such a rush and such a big demand for a celebration, before it's even time.  Then, when the time comes, people calmly walk away and say it's over.  No!  Don't do that.  Let the celebration continue.  Don't put your Christmas tree out on the curb on December 25th.  Celebrate those twelve days, even if nobody else does.  There will be an after-Christmas period, and it might be a little blue, but don't rush to it.  There is going to be some good in January too, but not yet.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Brighten a little girl's Christmas

Yesterday, the incredible dancer/entertainer Harry Shum Jr tweeted the story of a little girl in Upstate New York who suffered severe burns two years ago, and lost her family at the same time, during a horrific arson. Harry's tweet said that he and his wife Shelby Rabara were sending a Christmas card to this girl, Sa'fyre Terry - now eight years old, and suggested that others do so too.

Well, this morning I searched for some more information Sa'fyre, and found dozens of stories from numerous news outlets. How did I miss this before? There seems to already be an outpouring, and that warms my heart! This little girl has gone through so much, and apparently still needs additional surgeries. Despite all the damage done to her young body though, she still manages a smile, and from all of the reports, doesn't seem bitter at all. When asked what she wanted for Christmas, she had one simple wish: to "fill her card tree with cards from all across the world."

One simple wish.  Cards.  How about that!  I'm heading out right now to pick out something unique. I hope you'll take a minute or two to send her a card too! Such a simple gesture can mean so much. Brighten a little girl's Christmas, The address is Sa'fyre Terry, P.O. Box 6126, Schenectady NY, 12306. Share this with your friends too. (Remember, that's how I found out about it - because someone shared).

Thanks to Harry and Shelby for making this known. Thanks Harry for so often making a difference. The world needs more people like you!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Getting to Zero

Waking up on this World AIDS Day, I'm remembering those days when I went to a funeral five or six times a week, or made trips to Ward 86 at San Francisco General Hospital, or stood in the cold night air with hundreds of others, holding a candle. I'm remembering the rallies, the marches, the speeches, the quilt panels, and the meetings. I'm also remembering the work of Vito, Kelly, Cleve, Jason, Bill, Brownie Mary, and so many that don't come to mind immediately. Energized by how far we have come. Determined to make it to zero!

Reading a lot of online posts leading up to today, I noticed that a lot of people were asking questions. A very good thing. Information and education is so important. I have seen a number of people ask about PrEP (which means Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), and what it is briefly is the use of anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV negative people from becoming infected. Testing? Yes indeed. It's still very important. Know your status!

Today is also #GivingTuesday when donations to non-profits are encouraged, and because it is also World AIDS Day, I would suggest that AIDS-related organizations would be a good place to begin.

Reporter and writer Randy Shilts is also on my mind on this World AIDS Day. Randy was one of the very first people I met when I moved to San Francisco. At the time he was working in television and later moved on to the morning newspaper where he covered GRID, later called AIDS. Randy gave us the book and movie, AND THE BAND PLAYED ON.

Toward the end that film, Matthew Modine's character says "This didn't have to happen. We could have stopped it." Ian McKellen's character then asks "Can you still?" The answer is of course a resounding YES! And, we must keep at it. We can't waste our time on what should have already happened, but we must move forward and make sure it does happen.

I'm recalling one more thing this morning - the words of another activist who battled this disease and then lost his life to it. Vito Russo was one of those wonderful people I like to talk about, because he truly made a difference. His words should urge us onward:

"Someday, the AIDS crisis will be over. Remember that. And when that day comes, when that day has come and gone, there'll be people alive on this Earth, gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free. So I'm proud to be with my friends today and the people I love, because I think you're all heroes, and I'm glad to be part of this fight. But, to borrow a phrase from Michael Callen's song, "all we have is love right now. What we don't have is time."”