Wednesday, May 31, 2017

You are a child of the universe

Last night I kept hearing the words of this poem in my mind, and so I decided to write about it today - The Desiderata. Early in 1972, Les Crane's spoken-word recording of this poem (a poem with a very confused history, but I won't go into that), peaked at #8 on the Billboard chart. I can still remember listening to it over and over back when I lived in Nashville. As you all know though, this is NOT about me.

The words are quite inspirational. "As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons." Who can argue with that? "If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself." Certainly this is another good thought. The poem is full of them! The words - the ideas - the list of things to be desired (the actual translation of desiderata) here are so uplifting!

My favorite part of the poem, is a section that was used as a refrain in the recording: "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Welcoming

One of the most wonderful things we can experience is the feeling of belonging - the feeling that we are truly welcome.  The first day at a new school or a new job or a visit to a church you have never been to before or even a family reunion where most of the relatives are distant ones that you don't know, all have something in common.  You can feel alone and uncomfortable, like you don't belong there.  There are many other situations where you can experience the same feeling.  It isn't nice at all.  Churches will sometimes say they are "welcoming," but are they really?  Do they make you feel comfortable?  Do people say hello and introduce themselves and make any kind of effort to make you feel welcome?
 
Did you ever go to a bar or restaurant where it seemed that everyone was a regular and that you were the odd one?  The employees were super friendly to all of them, but hardly even acknowledged that you were there.  Does that make you want to come back?  Of course not!  It is an easy thing to change though.  Making people feel welcome just involves caring and showing it.  Smile.  Be friendly.  Introduce yourself.  Make the visitor or the newcomer feel that they belong there.

I was thinking back this morning to a church event a few years ago that was for clergy of a particular race.  There had been an open invitation to the worship service and so I went, only to be shunned the whole time I was there.  I was the wrong race and I wasn't clergy, so what was I doing there? 

The opposite happened several times last year though when I attended various events sponsored by the transgender community.  I was made to feel totally welcome.  How wonderful that was!
 
We all make a difference in the lives of others when we show them a friendly and welcoming attitude.  Try it!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Ask what you can do for your country

One hundred years ago on this date, the man who would become the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born. How fitting and proper it is that today also happens to be Memorial Day, a federal holiday on which we remember the women and men who died while serving in our country's armed forces. Fitting because whenever I think of Kennedy, I think of giving back and the ultimate service.

JFK gave us encouragement to give back and is one of the factors in my decision to begin this blog years ago. I love the idea of contributing, and Kennedy was such a good cheerleader for that - I only hope I can do a tiny bit of what he did in reminding folks that we are not alone, and it is important to think about others.

In one of his first acts as President, Kennedy asked Congress to create the Peace Corps and his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, became its first director. I'm sure he would be proud of his creation.

Kennedy also pushed us to go further in space exploration, he pushed our cooperation with other countries, and in his most famous speech, he pushed us all when he said "Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

Today, I'll be thinking of all those women and men who gave their lives in active duty, and I'll be thinking of our great President who encouraged us along the way, and who too paid the ultimate price.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Before you kick it

I've always felt that having goals is a good thing. Lately I hear more and more people talk about their bucket lists. Are they really such a good idea though? Some people say we are rushing death (the term "bucket list" coming from kicking the bucket, a popular expression meaning to die) and others say we are creating lists with difficult to fill ideas. I'm thinking though that having defined goals, can't be a bad thing.

Some folks list very simple things and some come right out of a thrill-seekers guide. What about you though - are there places you would really like to visit or people you want to meet of see perform or maybe some special things you want to do?  How about this:  don't just make a list, but include other folks.  There are organizations that help fulfill the wishes of dying people, but how about if we all did something really special before someone else passed away - a shared bucket list if you will.  I think I could really get behind that idea!

So how many of you think that is a good idea? How many of you have a bucket list of any kind? Before you kick the bucket, is there something special you want to do for others?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

it takes all kinds

We often hear it said that it takes all kinds.  Indeed it does!  I am so fortunate to know al kinds of people - people who serve, people who lead, passionate, talented, committed people, those who are seeking, those who have heard a call, innovators, givers, people who make this world so much better.  Making a difference in this world for the better, is the theme here.  All I have to do each day is look around and I find so many people and so many ideas to write about.
 
Yes, there are some who are only takers.  There are people who are more inclined to destroy than to build up.  These are not those folks who make this world so great and thankfully, these are not the majority of folks I know.
 
It takes all kinds - even the ones who don't want to contribute.  They help inspire us to do good instead of following them.  When we see bad, we are not inclined to follow it.  The positive wonderful things in our lives are the things that inspire and lead us forward.  Thanks to all of you who serve and who lead and who give!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ten Years of Blogging

Ten years!  Oh my!  It's hard to believe but I have been blogging continually now for ten years.  I do this five days a week (originally I wrote these entries on the weekend too) and for the past eight months, I have also been writing a seven-days-a-week blog about kindness. 

Yes, I still remember that this is NOT about me, but allow me a moment to thank all of your for reading both of these blogs and the odd musings from before, that this grew out of.  I appreciate you taking the time both to read and to offer your comments.

Oh and if you thought this was a goodbye message, it's not.  I'll still be writing both blogs (between the two, that's about fifty entries per month) and I hope you will continue reading.  Your comments are always welcome too, and please feel free to offer suggestions also.  Tell me about some folks that you know of who are making a difference.  Tell your friends too!

If you haven't checked out my kindness blog yet, what are you waiting for?  Click HERE and kindly share that one with your friends too!  Thanks everybody!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Are you happy?

What makes you happy?  Are there material objects that bring you happiness?  What about music or art or food?  Are you happy because of the work you do or the people you associate with or because of your hobbies or because of some great past memories? 
 
What?  I'm assuming you ARE happy.  Perhaps I should have first asked if you are.  Well, what's the answer?  Are you a happy person?  Do you share that happiness with others?  (Sharing happiness can also bring you happiness).
 
I think that happy is one of those wonderful things that is very easy to share.  If you are smiling it invites others to smile as well.  If you seem to be happy and pleasant, I'll bet you will find others picking that happiness up from you!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Never give up

On this date back in 1930, not far from where years later I would be born, Harvey Bernard Milk came into this world. His early years were on Long Island, and even after a stint in the Navy, Harvey returned to Long Island to teach. We remember him more for the short time he spent in San Francisco, and for the encouraging words he spoke, and for his tragic death.

I've written here a lot about Harvey - more than any other person. People need to know who this man was and what he did. His famous "Hope speech" is so often quoted, but there was much more encouragement than that. In a taped message that wasn't heard until after his assassination, he urged gay people to come out. "I cannot prevent anyone from getting angry, or mad, or frustrated. I can only hope that they'll turn that anger and frustration and madness into something positive, so that two, three, four, five hundred will step forward, so the gay doctors will come out, the gay lawyers, the gay judges, gay bankers, gay architects ... I hope that every professional gay will say 'enough', come forward and tell everybody, wear a sign, let the world know. Maybe that will help."

Today is designated as a "day of special significance" for public schools in California, after the legislature there in 2009, passed a bill, which Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger signed. Special observances will take place today, not only in classrooms, but at events all around that state, particularly in San Francisco. Hopefully folks in other parts of the country will remember Harvey Milk as well. His political career was short and he didn't accomplish many of the things he would have, but he became a symbol - an icon. He gave us hope, and he continues to, 39 years after his death.

Once, in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle, Harvey said "If I turned around every time somebody called me a faggot, I'd be walking backward - and I don't want to walk backward."

Harvey Milk led us forward. I recall those days in San Francisco, and the energy and the enthusiasm still exists. There may be difficult moments and our country may regret some political decisions, but we must continue to move forward and never give up. Recalling a portion of Harvey's most famous speech, "The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us'es, the us'es will give up." Let's remember Harvey, and never give up!

Friday, May 19, 2017

who

Who makes a difference in your life?  What person comes to mind when you think of love and kindness?  Who is changing the world for the better? 

One of the things I write about here every day is how we ALL can make a difference, and I hope that same of the things we have said have encouraged you.  I also sometimes write about specific people who are doing great things for our communities and our world.  Sometimes I stumble across inspiring stories or hear something in the media, and sometimes folks suggest names of people they think are making a difference.  Today I am asking the big "who" question because I would love for you to give me some of those suggestions.

Down below there is a place for comments, and while you are always welcome to say something there, today I hope you will help me out and tell me about someone you know who is a hometown hero.  Who is making a difference in your neighborhood?  Who is making a difference in our world?  Let's hear from you!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Life After Birth

This is one of those stories that circulates and nobody knows who the author is. I've posted before things that I didn't write, and I want to do it again today because this one can really make you think. This one is about faith -

In a mother's womb were two babies. One asked the other: "Do you believe in life after delivery?"

The other replies, "Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later."

"Nonsense," says the other. "There is no life after delivery. What would that life be?"

"I don't know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths."

The other says "This is absurd! Walking is impossible. And eat with our mouths? Ridiculous. The umbilical cord supplies nutrition. Life after delivery is to be excluded. The umbilical cord is too short."

"I think there is something and maybe it's different than it is here."

"No one has ever come back from there. Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery it is nothing but darkness and anxiety and it takes us nowhere."

"Well, I don't know," says the other, "but certainly we will see mother and she will take care of us."


"Mother??! You believe in mother? Where is she now?"

"She is all around us. It is in her that we live. Without her there would not be this world."

"I don't see her, so it's only logical that she doesn't exist."

To which the other replied, "sometimes when you're in silence you can hear her, you can perceive her." I believe there is a reality after delivery and we are here to prepare ourselves for that reality."


As I said at the beginning, these words are not mine, but I wanted to share this beautiful perspective on faith with you. Of course we all know that there is indeed life after delivery from the womb. How many of you believe in life after delivery from our earthly journey?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Grassroots campaigns work

Do you like what is going on in Washington, DC these days?  Are you happy with the workings in your own state or local governments?  How many of you can name your mayor or your representatives in Congress?  When things are going like the people want them to, and when justice and equality fly out the window, it's time to get involved!

I actually think it is ALWAYS good to be involved.  Congress this week is voting on a health care act, and I think every single American should be concerned.  Turn on the evening tv news or pick up the morning newspaper.  Stay aware, and then get involved.

It's amazing what a simple grassroots campaign can do.  Seriously.  The folks who say "You can't fight City Hall" are wrong.  You can write letters, send emails, make phone calls and you can make a difference.  To begin though, you need to know what you are doing.  Inform yourself.  A good way to find out about government bodies, is to look at their websites.  Head on down to your local city hall and see the city council in action.  Know about it, and then do something.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Boy and the Starfish

All good stories begin with "Once upon a time," right? Well here's one, that was adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977). You might find it reminding you of a similar story I recently told about a dog, and the message is really the same, so read on.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a little boy, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" said the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the boy replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

Indeed. It made a difference for every single starfish the boy threw into the water. The message this morning is clear, and it's one I have I shared over and over. WE can make a difference. WE can be superheroes. WE can do some pretty incredible things. If we throw our hand up in surrender and don't even try to make this a better world, of course we won't be giving back, but each of us can and should give back in our own way. If it seems overwhelming and that our contributions won't make a bit of difference, remember the story of the boy and the starfish!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Giant winners


I've been a fan of the San Francisco Giants baseball team for most of my life, and living in that city back in 1994, I was especially proud of the Giants when they teamed up with the Until There's A Cure Foundation and become the first professional sports team to host an AIDS benefit game.  It was something that needed to happen, and the Giants came through.  Over the years I have written about this event, which tonight will be happening for the twenty-fourth time.

I'm sorry to say that the need is still there.  A lot of folks have forgotten about HIV/AIDS.  Many are too young to remember when there was no such thing.  Many are also too young to remember all the suffering and all the deaths.  Yes, things have improved - in fact they have greatly improved, but there is still no cure.  That's why the Giants and Until There’s A Cure Foundation keep raising awareness of prevention education, care and services, in an effort to help find that cure.

I have probably written here about HIV/AIDS more than anything else.  It's important.  That's why I do AIDS Walk San Francisco every year, why I support other fundraisers and why I think education and testing are so important.  I support the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).  I support the many organizations who are working to remember our past and fighting for a better future.  Of course I also support my baseball Giants for this annual effort and all the other ways they give back to the community. 

Tonight, a portion of your ticket proceeds goes directly back to the Until There’s A Cure Foundation, plus you get to see the Giants take on the division-rival Dodgers.  I hope we win the game of course, but more importantly, I hope we soon win the fight against AIDS.  This is a fight we must win.  I'm so glad to see that the Giants are still giant!  Let's all do our part too.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

more ways to brighten the day

Remember those lists we have begun here before?  Well let's see what else we can add to make a difference in the lives of others. In no particular order, here are a number of additional ideas. 
 
Give another driver your parking spot.  Give your full attention to someone in need and simply listen.  Stop by a nursing home, and visit someone who has no family nearby.  Have a clean-up party in the park.  Bring coworkers a special treat.  Buy cold drinks for the people next to you at a ball game.  Spend some time serving food at a meal program for the needy.  Volunteer to be a tutor in a school.  Remember the bereaved with phone calls, cards, plants, and food.
 
Volunteer to read to kids in the library.  Donate time at a senior center.  Give a pair of tickets to a concert or baseball game to a stranger.  Send a gift anonymously to a friend.  Transport someone who can’t drive.  Make telephone calls in support of equality urging others to put aside hate.  Send a treat to a school or day-care center.  Volunteer at an organization that needs help.  Go through your closets and find several nice items and then donate them to a shelter.  Buy books for a day care or school.  Give toys to the children at a shelter.  Volunteer to fix up an elderly couple’s home.

Invite someone new for dinner, either in your home or in a restaurant. Say nice things randomly to facebook and twitter friends.  Buy some bottles of water and randomly hand them out to strangers on the street.  Drop off a plant or a plate of cookies to your nearby police or fire station.  Clean graffiti from neighborhood walls and buildings.  Buy a stranger a free pizza.  Mow a neighbor’s grass or sweep a neighbor’s walk.  Offer to return a shopping cart to the store for someone loading a car.

Pay for the person behind you in the movie line.  Tell your parents/children why you love them.  Make a point of finding the name of a supermarket or drugstore employee and then praise him/her through that company’s corporate office.  When drivers try to merge into your lane, let them in with a wave and a smile.  Tell your boss that you think he/she does a good job.  Give blood.  Treat someone to fresh fruit.  Sing at a nursing home. 
 
Let's let this list keep on growing!
 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

butterfly

Butterflies are beautiful. There are so many different species and so many different colors. Did you know though that it can be a picture of your soul? Well, according to Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, by Lafcadio Hearn, a butterfly was seen in Japan as the personification of a someone's soul; whether they be living, dying, or are already dead. They have been pictured as symbols of the recently departed on television and in movies.  It seems to me that makes them even more beautiful!
 
Every morning I go for a walk to begin the day.  Most of the time it is dark out when I begin and sometimes it is still dark when I finish my walk.  It's amazing how many beautiful things you can see even before the sun comes up.  During that time of year when the sun is rising earlier, I listen to the chirping of the early birds and I look for flowers and even butterflies.  I'm not sure when they sleep, but I so the most amazing butterfly the other day.  It would pause for a moment and just as I was about to take its picture, it would flutter away to another tree branch.
 
Butterflies seem so free.  Even their eating habits are beautiful.  They survive most on nectar.  Wow!  One of the lovely images of nature.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Babies don't hate

This is a baby. Yes, I know that is obvious, but there are a few other obvious things about babies that I would like to point out.

Babies don't hate you because of your skin color and they don't hate you because of your sexual orientation. Babies don't hate you because of your gender or your weight or your religion or your sex. Yes, it may be obvious, but in fact babies don't hate you for any reason at all! Do you know why? They don't understand the concept. They don't know how to hate.

A wonderful article a few years ago titled See Baby Discriminate said that children as young as six months could judge others based on their skin color. Where are they getting these ideas? Who is teaching our children? The answer of course is we are. We are teaching discrimination. We are teaching hate. We are taking away the innocence of our children.

Parents and teachers are not bad. That's not my message here. What I am saying is that babies come into the world without any notion of hate. Let's not give it to them!

Friday, May 5, 2017

To do good and to distribute

From the book Hebrews in The Bible:  "To do good and to distribute, forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." What exactly does that mean?  Well, the message is for us to not forget to do good and to share what we have because God is pleased with these kinds of sacrifices.  Actually the word "sacrifices" might not even be the best translation.  We might better say that God is pleased with those kinds of offerings.
 
Doing good and sharing - such a simple thing, huh? This pleases God and let me tell you it pleases a lot of others too. What though should we share?  How should we do good?  Of course there is not just one answer and it will likely be different for every one of us.  That's what makes it so wonderful. 

I have a coworker who brings fruit every day and she always offers me some.  It's part of who she is.  I have something and I will offer part of it to others.  It's like when you go to someone's house and they offer you a beverage or perhaps even a snack. You came to see them - nothing more, but in their charity and in their hospitality, they offer to share more than just themselves.
 
Think about this today. What does doing good mean in your life? How do you share what you have? (One really helpful kind of sharing is if you give us some feedback in the comments section below).

Monday, May 1, 2017

Forgive and Forget

Forgive and forget?  Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa has a few things to say about that.

“Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.”

The archbishop further says “Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering - remembering and not using your right to hit back. Its a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don't want to repeat what happened.”