3528 – Tuesday, September 3, 2019 — Love versus Hate:  Does Hate Trump Love?

love versus hate

God calls us to love others, just as he loves us.  We show love to others by forgiving, accepting and honoring them.  —  From a quote in a Lutheran Church Brochure

Pick up a newspaper any day of the week.  How much love do you see?  Very little I would bet.  How much hate?  Pages and pages of hate.

  • Man kills seven and injures 31 with assault rifle.
  • Woman with five DUI’s kills mother and daughter in auto crash.
  • Israeli bomb attack kills fifteen jihadists.
  • Terrorist bomb kills 35 soldiers in Iraq.
  • Trump encourages beating up protesters.

I propose that you will find at least ten times more hate in the news than you do love.  But that is not news to you or anyone else, is it?  Newspapers exist to sell advertising, and nothing sells like hate, violence, gore, mayhem and disasters.  The crème de la crème is reserved for serial killings, mass killings and family murders.  Local news is full of crime stories from places that are thousands of miles away and that no one has ever heard of.  Bad news and hate crowd out the good and love that society has.  In a way it is ironic, since so many people in the world regard themselves as Christians.  Christianity professes to follow the teachings of a man named Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ (for those of you who might be unfamiliar with him) was a big advocate of love and peace.  Jesus told his followers “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  — John 13:34.  Jesus is also reputed to have said “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  — Mathew 5:44.  Another irony, considering that numerous Christian churches have supported racism and hatred towards Blacks and other minorities.

One would think that particularly in those parts of the United States dominated by Christian churches, love would blossom like a million flowers.  You would expect that in the so called “Bible Belt” you would see evidence of love and not hate everywhere you look.  If any place was against prejudice, discrimination, bigotry and ill will towards their fellow human beings, it should be in the Bible Belt.  Another irony, since according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the South has more hate groups than any other area of the United States.  Even more confusing, are the Christian ministers who preach hate and use Christs name to justify it.  This is a recent map of hate groups in the USA.

ir166-hate-map-launch

A few Sundays ago, Pastor Joe Major of Louisiana’s Faith Baptist Church gave a guest sermon at the Philippines church of Pastor Logan Robertson.  You’ll never guess what Major talked about.  In a sermon titled “Make the World Straight Again,” Major told the raucous crowd about how all homosexuals were inherently pedophiles and that’s why they deserved to be executed.  Several years past, the Rev. Steven Anderson quoted passages from the Old Testament to the congregation of his Faithful Word Baptist Church about the kinds of people God hates in Tempe Arizona.  Anderson told worshipers he interprets these passages to include Mr. Obama and that he prays for the president’s death.  Is it ironic that Anderson believes he is a Christian and promotes hate in the name of Jesus?

But enough looking at hate, what about love?  Can we find examples of love in the world?  Do we even know what love really is?  We all know the quote about “love is kind, love is patient, etc.”  But what is the difference between love and compassion or between love and mercy or between love and charity?  What about the role of forgiveness?  Can we have love without forgiveness?  Should we forgive everyone?

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.  —

Isaiah, 58:9-10

Love can not exist in the dark.  Hate brings the dark.  Love is extinguished by hate. In order to have love, you must eliminate hate.  The two cannot go together.  Love opens the door.  Hate closes the door.  Love leads to mercy.  Hate leads to revenge.  Love leads to compassion.  Hate leads to scorn.  Love leads to forgiveness.  Hate leads to vendettas.  Love leads to charity.  Hate leads to greed.   If you want to bring love into the world, you must work to eliminate hate.  Love cannot blossom in a soil that is contaminated with the poison of hate.

I think we are love deprived today.  I mean real love.  Not love of things.  I love my car.  I love my new watch.  I love my blender.  This is not love.  This is idolatry.  It is a Madison avenue con that has been foisted on us to buy stuff and more stuff.  No where in the world do people own more stuff than in America.  Rich or poor in this country, we all have the disease of stuff.  We buy and sell and buy more stuff.  A t-shirt exhorts us to “shop till we drop.”  The midnight madness sales during the Holiday seasons are an ironic example of what it means to be really crazy.  Ironic, because when things matter more than people, we have a world that is truly mad and insane.  We have a world without love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King

 

 

Unbecoming a Victim: Or how to stop complaining and make a difference

Life’s not fair!  I never get any breaks! Other people have all the luck!  The world is crap and there is nothing anyone can do about it!  It’s not my fault. Why did he/she get the job and not me? (Listen to the Power of Responsibility as you read my blog today)  Do-You-Have-a-Victim-Mentality-at-Work

If you have ever made any of the above comments, rest assured, you are probably normal. It is called feeling like a victim or wallowing in self-pity. From time to time, we all engage in victim-hood. However, if your entire life is dominated by feelings of regret, remorse and envy, you are not just engaging in a bout of self-pity, you are embracing full-on victim-hood. We all feel like victims from time to time. That is normal. But if you are thoroughly convinced that you are a victim, you need help. The world has too many too many real victims, it does not need pseudo victim. This blog is about how to avoid embracing a victim mentality and the key factors necessary to overcome such a mentality.

First, let’s look at two key questions:

  1. What is a victim?

As I am describing it here, I am not talking about victims of torture, oppression, starvation, crime, disease, pestilence or any phenomenon that is beyond the ability of an individual to evade. I am talking about a mindset that occurs when we fail to take responsibility for our actions and the consequences of our actions and behaviors on others. You probably know some people who you would describe as having this mentality. My wife Karen says she defines a victim as “someone whose problems are always someone else’s fault. They also seem to need problems and will create them if they don’t have them.”  hero versus victim

“Your complaints, your drama, your victim mentality, your whining, your blaming, and all of your excuses have NEVER gotten you even a single step closer to your goals or dreams. Let go of your nonsense. Let go of the delusion that you DESERVE better and go EARN it! Today is a new day!”  ― Steve Maraboli

We see many people who cannot find any good in the world since they are so busy feeling sorry for themselves that they cannot see the blessings that they have. I find many right-wing Christians to be prime exemplars of this victim mentality. They are so convinced that the world is evil and will end any day. The “anti-Christ” is coming and then the world will be destroyed and all the evil in it. Such people seem to revel in the idea of an apocalypse which will wipe the entire world out and only spare the “good” people. Of course, these right-wing fundamentalist Christians are the “good” people who will be spared.

  1. Why do people choose a victim mentality?

I believe the answer to this question is that it absolves the “victim” of responsibility. They can blame God, the world, other people, nature, the weather or DNA for their failures. Never having to take responsibility is a panacea for those with a victim mentality. It is easier to do nothing when any effort is predestined to fail.

“Life is not compassionate towards victims. The trick is not to see yourself as one. It’s never too late! I know I’ve felt like the victim in various situations in my life, but, it’s never too late for me to realize that it’s my responsibility to stand on victorious ground and know that whatever it is I’m experiencing or going through, those are just the clouds rolling by while I stand here on the top of this mountain! This mountain called Victory!” ― C. JoyBell C.

Overcoming the Victim Mentality:

The antidote to a victim mentality consists of four vaccines. They are as follows:

  • Moral Courage
  • Moral Reasoning
  • Moral Universalism
  • Moral Responsibility

Anyone of these four vaccines can keep you from becoming a whining victim. Taking all four together, will help you to become independent and strong. You will be a winner instead of a victim. We need to give our children these vaccines at an early age, but it is seldom done. It seems as though we must find them on our own later in life or else we flounder through life succumbing to the victim mentality until we find one or more of them.

Moral Courage:

moral courageTo dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to go where no one has gone before is courage. To stand up for what you believe, to right the unrightable wrong, to boldly speak out against injustice. This is courage. There is physical courage as is manifested in a war or sports or extreme athletic challenges. Moral courage is of the heart and soul. Bothe moral courage and physical courage result in action. One of my favorite quotes is as follows:

“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”Ralph W. Sockman

Moral courage does not exist by just talking about it or complaining about things. Moral courage is an attempt to make a difference by taking some decisive action. You speak out against prejudice, bigotry, hatred, racism, injustice and stupidity. You do more than read the newspaper and bemoan the sad state of the world. The life of the prophet Mohammed provides many examples of moral courage:

“Before claiming Prophethood, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was well off and had a respected place among his community. However, he had to confront all kinds of hardships and persecutions after Prophethood and spent for his cause whatever he had. His enemies slandered him, mocked him, beat him, expelled him from his homeland and waged war on him. He bore all such cruel treatments and hostilities without complaint and asked God Almighty for the forgiveness of even his enemies.”The Way to Truth 

Moral Reasoning:

devil_angelMoral reasoning occurs when you question right and wrong. Moral reasoning is a cognitive action that takes place when you question standards, conventions, group reasoning, and crowd think. Moral reasoning is the questioning of social and cultural standards. Jesus of Nazereth gave many examples of moral reasoning during his life.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel (Matthew 23:23-24).” 

Jesus is making an important distinction here between convention and morality. We often confuse justice with legality. The inability to understand the difference and its moral relevance is a failure of moral reasoning. Throughout his ministry Jesus gave many examples of moral reasoning.

Moral Universalism:

Hans Kung was a Roman Catholic priest who was stripped of his license to teach theology by the Catholic Church for criticizing the concept of papal infallibility.

“In the early 1990s, Küng initiated a project called Weltethos (Global Ethic), which is an attempt at describing what the world’s religions have in common (rather than what separates them) and at drawing up a minimal code of rules of behavior everyone can accept. His vision of a global ethic was embodied in the document for which he wrote the initial draft:, Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration.”Wikipedia

responsibilityKung’s life demonstrates a strong moral believe in the universal principles that underlie all religions. My religion is not better than your religion and all of the worlds’ great religions have a core of morality and ethics which are admirable and worth following. When we find one religion fighting with another religion or one advocate maintaining the superiority of their religion over another, we have a counter example of moral universality.

Moral universalism is an important element in overcoming victimhood. One cannot believe that their religion is superior to another religion without eventually succumbing to the rampant persecution complex that seems typical of so many religious people. I was taught when I grew up that I would go to hell if I ever stepped in a Synagogue or Temple.   Karen was taught that as a good Lutheran she should never date a Catholic. Baptists denigrate other Protestants while Muslims and Christians act as though they were worshipping different Gods. Jesus and Mohammed had a deep respect for all religions because they were wise enough to perceive the universality of religion.

Moral Responsibility:

moral responsibilityThe famous poet John Donne is perhaps best known for one of his lines that goes: “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”   Donne well understood the idea that we are all interconnected and we all have an incomprehensible interdependency such that anyone’s death affects us all. The same is true with morality. A key tenet of Buddhism is the moral responsibility that everyone on the earth faces for social and political actions.

 “Today we have become so interdependent and so closely connected with each other that without a sense of universal responsibility, irrespective of different ideologies and faiths, our very existence or survival would be difficult” – (Dalai Lama, 1976)

Of the four vaccines that are critical for overcoming a victim mentality, it is my opinion that a sense of moral responsibility is the most important. If I could only receive one vaccine, I would choose to be vaccinated with moral responsibility. A sense of moral responsibility allows us to help others who are in need. Charity, love, compassion and kindness are all nurtured by a sense of moral responsibility. As they say: “what goes around comes around.” When we do “good” for others, we do good for ourselves. By identifying with the pain and injustices that others suffer, we forget our own problems and we understand that we can make a difference in the world. No one who believes in their ability to make a difference in the world can suffer from a victim mentality.

Time for Questions:

Are you a victim or a hero? How often do you feel hopeless? What do you do about your feelings of hopelessness? How do you overcome feeling like a victim? Do you think people have a choice of how they feel? Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“Most things, even the greatest moments on earth, have their beginnings in something small. An earthquake that shatters a city might begin with a tremor, a tremble, a breath. Music begins with a vibration.”  -― Lauren Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joy to the World

joy-to-the-world

Tis the season to be jolly, but for many people there might seem little to be jolly about.  In one of the most famous holiday stories of all time, the central character Ebenezer Scrooge gave what has become an iconic line about the holiday season.  Scrooge said:

“What’s Christmas but a time for finding yourself a year older and not a day richer?  There’s nothing merry in that.  If I could work my will, nephew, every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Not exactly a fan of Christmas, Scrooge may have echoed sentiments that lie dormant in many of us.  Over the years, it seems the holiday season starts earlier and earlier.  There is more pressure than ever to buy the right gifts and to spend increased amounts of hard earned money on presents for friends and loved ones.  The airwaves and pulpits bemoan the crass commercialism that accompanies so much of the holiday season while at the same time making sure that all commercial breaks are properly inserted between the “holiday messages.”

Our churches are full of giving trees, toy drives and Christmas shoes boxes.  Perhaps giving more at Christmas to some mysteriously perceived needy children in dire need of more toys will make us feel better about ourselves for ignoring the poor and needy for the rest of the year.  Even at church, the message that Jesus meant for us gets diluted with the drive to fill the toy box.  Do we even know any more what message Jesus wanted us to hear?

the-gospelJesus talked about the three classes of good people.  The first class hears his message but has little time to do anything about it.  The second class hears the message and when convenient they try to help others and spread the message of Jesus.  The third class commits their body and soul to sharing Jesus’s message.  The third class of men/women make a commitment to doing this year round and 24/7.  For the third class, it is not a onetime thing or something to be done when they have time or are not busy.  It is a lifetime commitment to share his message with the world.

“The title, Three Classes of Men, stands for three kinds of persons in any walk of life. They might be three classes of religious or priests, husbands or wives, workers or professional men.  However, classified, they represent three levels of volitional disposition to sacrifice whatever is less than God and stands in the way of His more perfect service and love.  Viewed from another aspect, they are three states of spiritual detachment which in ascending degree dispose a man for the reception of divine grace.  Implicit in the meditation is the belief that no matter how entangled in secular pursuits and impeded in the way of perfection, a person can rise above this condition if he takes the trouble to recognize these impediments and is humble enough to pray for help to overcome them.” — Three Classes of Men by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Most of us will watch at least a few moving holiday stories before December 25th.  From Miracle on 34 Street to the story of the Christmas Truce during the fighting of WWI, we will hear many heartwarming tales of kindness and love.  Most of these stories are similar in theme to the Christmas Carol.  An individual who has utter contempt or callousness for the Christmas message somehow finds redemption through the love and compassion of others.

quote-the-life-of-jesus-christ-is-a-message-of-hope-a-message-of-mercy-a-message-of-life-in-max-lucado-90-79-19The Joy of Christmas is a state of fulfillment, contentment and gratitude.  Through the love of others who give selflessly of themselves, we can all be free to experience a Joy that cannot be bought or traded.  It is one of the reasons that giving and not receiving is said to be the true path to happiness.  During the holidays, we are excited about the chance to give to others.  And nowhere is that feeling of giving more delightful than in watching the face of a young child receive something that we know they really wanted.  However, Joy to the World should mean more than just giving toys to tots.  There are physical gifts which we can give but there are also emotional and spiritual gifts as well.

thank-you-fatherI am frequently critical of all the toy drives that I see going on at Christmastime.  Not just because I think most kids in America have more toys than they know what to do with, but because of the message that this sends.  Why not I ask, have a “books for tots” drive?  Why not give books for a present?  Why is it always about toys?  We become so narrowly focused that we lose sight of the larger picture.

Christmas is about Joy.  But Joy does not just come from toys.  Joy comes from learning.  Joy comes from sharing.  Joy comes from helping others.  Joy comes from being present when needed by others.  Joy is not just a physical phenomenon; it is a spiritual and emotional phenomenon.  The Message of Joy that Jesus wanted to bring into the world was a message about peace and love.

I see a lot of talk these days about putting the Ten Commandments up on scrolls and even billboards.  Here in Arizona City, they have erected a billboard with the Ten Commandments printed on it.  To the best of my knowledge, Jesus said

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:17-20

acts-kindness-inspiremoreThus, Jesus did not come to replace the commandments but he did come to go beyond the commandments.  God brought the commandments to Moses but the message that Jesus brought to us is in addition to the commandments.  Jesus extended the Ten Commandments with a list that has come to be known as the Eight Beatitudes.   A beatitude is something that gives one both happiness and blessedness.  Jesus gave these Eight during his famous Sermon on the Mount:

THE EIGHT BEATITUDES OF JESUS

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10

message-to-the-worldI am continually surprised by so-called Christians who seem to revel in the Ten Commandments but treat the Eight Beatitudes as though they were bastard children of Satan.  When was the last time you heard anyone wanting to put up a statue or sculpture or sign with the Eight Beatitudes on it?  The Message of Christmas is the Eight Beatitudes.  The Joy that Jesus wanted to bring to the world can only come by following the Eight Beatitudes.  If you call yourself a Christian but you do not practice these in you daily life, then you are not spreading the Gospel of Jesus.

In this present climate of fear, bigotry and uncertainty engendered by the recent US Presidential race and outcome, the message of Jesus needs to be repeated and spread as never before.  If there was no Joy in Muddville when Casey struck out, there certainly will not be any Joy in the World until all of us, Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Baha’i  and others start believing in and following the Eight Beatitudes.  I am not saying this to try to convince anyone to be a Christian.  The kindness-quotes1words of the Beatitudes go beyond any one religion.  They speak to a way of being in the world and a way of treating other human beings.  Just as I have found valuable teachings in other religions, I think more Christians should be willing to share the Message of Jesus in the Eight Beatitudes.  Keep in mind though, that sharing this message will never work unless you also live by the message.  You must be the change you want to see in others.  Do you know what the famous Indian Chief Sitting Bull said when asked what he thought of Christianity?  Chief Sitting Bull replied: “I have read your Bible and the religion seems good but I do not see many White people practicing it.”

Time for Questions: 

  • When we denigrate people on welfare and refuse to support the poor and needy what Beatitude are we ignoring?
  • When we want to wage war on other countries to support our lifestyle, what Beatitude are we breaking?
  • When we have no time for immigrants and refuse to shelter those needing respite from tyranny and injustice, what Beatitude speaks to this?
  • When we practice racism and discrimination towards those who are different from us in thoughts, words or deeds, what Beatitude are we not following?
  • When we fail to speak out against bigotry and hatred, what Beatitude would challenge our behavior?
  • When we fail to treat others with honesty and integrity, what Beatitude are we disdaining?
  • When we fail to give compassion and comfort to those in need, what Beatitude should we be thinking more of?
  • When we practice narcissism and think we are better than others, what Beatitude would Jesus tell us to look at more closely?
  • Which “Class” of people do you belong to?

Life is just beginning.

“The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of love and of generosity and of goodness.  It illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than in things.” — Thomas S. Monson
happyholidaysbanner1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith:  The Fifth Most Important Virtue for a Good Life

Faith-of-a-childFaith is number five of my seven essential virtues for leading a happy and successful life.  Every Friday I start my day with the following prayer:

  • “Help me to be as well as to do and to have Faith in the future by living today the best that I can.”

 Please listen to Pete Seeger’s rendition of:  “You Gotta Walk That Lonesome Valley” for a musical version of what Faith is really about.  Read the comments about Pete Seeger.  He was a prime example of a man that had Faith. 

Faith is the first of the three major theological virtues.  As I thought about preparing this blog, I asked myself the question, “What is the difference between Faith and Trust?”  Or perhaps there is no difference?  I wondered if one has to be religious or have a religious affiliation to have Faith.  Most people think of Faith in terms of a belief in God or some other deity.

faithI decided that I must first understand what Faith really means.  To do this, it is helpful to deconstruct how we think about Faith and how we use the word.   I thought about how we use both Trust and Faith in common language.  For instance we use trust in English as follows:

  • Trust me!
  • Do you trust yourself?
  • Have a little trust in me.

Now if you try substituting the word Faith for Trust, it is obvious that in the first two instances, it just does not fit:

  • Faith me!
  • Do you Faith yourself?
  • Have a little Faith in me.

You will notice that in the third instance, you can substitute the word Faith for the word trust.  A grammarian would quickly note that the word Trust can be used either as a noun or a verb whereas the word Faith is primarily a noun and cannot usually be used as a verb.

It might be interesting to compare dictionary definitions of Faith and trust.

Faith: http://www.merriam-webster.com

  • Strong belief or trust in someone or something
  • Belief in the existence of God : strong religious feelings or beliefs
  • A system of religious beliefs

Trust:  http://www.merriam-webster.com

  • Assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something
  • Dependence on something future or contingent :  hope
  • Reliance on future payment for property (as merchandise) delivered : credit <bought furniture on trust

mountain climbingI think you can readily see that there is a certain degree of overlap between the two concepts. However, Faith generally seems to convey a more sectarian or theological concept of belief whereas Trust is generally used in more secular terms.  Thus, we don’t “trust” God but we have Faith in her.  Faith seems to be a term that is not contingent upon any kind of physical or logical proof.  We might not trust a person with our money without proof that they are “bonded” or trustworthy, but we would not expect such displays of material evidence when it comes to having Faith in God.  So what is the relevance to this in our lives?  What good is Faith if we can substitute trust for faith and have more security in the long run?

He replied, “Because you have so little Faith. Truly I tell you, if you have Faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” — Matthew 17:20

childThe answer seems to be (IMHO) that sometimes we can trust without evidence but generally we are better off trusting with some element of surety that can mitigate the risk of our trust being unfounded or mistaken.  Whereas, there is little or no evidence that can prove your need or desire to have Faith.  You must have Faith like a parent has love for a child.  It is unconditional.  You have Faith simply because you want to believe.  You have Faith because you accept something without conditions.  You need no proof or evidence to support your Faith.  Is this a good thing or a bad thing?   Should you have Faith without proof?  What would a life without Faith be like?  Would we be safer or happier with less Faith?

“On a long journey of human life, Faith is the best of companions; it is the best refreshment on the journey; and it is the greatest property.”  — Buddha

Buddha thought that Faith is a companion that we cannot ignore on our journey through life.   There is a story about Mother Teresa that when she was visiting Iowa many years ago and was being interviewed by a somewhat cynical journalist; she was asked if she really thought she was making a difference to the poor in India.  Her reported reply was “I am not called upon to make a difference.  I am called upon to have Faith.”  If that sounds somewhat evasive, consider the following professionals who toil diligently and with great dedication:

  • Teachersblack couple
  • Doctors
  • Psychologists
  • Writers
  • Philanthropists
  • Artists

There are no doubt dozens of other professionals who toil in areas that are not readily amenable to evidence that they are “making a difference.”  As an educator and consultant, I can readily attest to the fact that seldom if ever is there “evidence” or concrete proof that my actions and thoughts have made a difference on my students or clients.  Most of us work on day after day, motivated by one force and one force only.  That force is the power of Faith.

You must not lose Faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Each time I write a blog, I write with the hope that something I say will help someone have a better day or lead a better life.  I have now written over 800 blogs and I have received about two dozen or so letters or emails telling me how much they appreciate my writing or how much it has helped them.  The percentage of letters received is about 3.4 percent of the blogs I have written and whose readers have been moved to write to me or drop me a comment.  And that is fine.  People are busy and many times the thought of writing to a writer is something that readers never think of.

big-challengesFortunately, the 3.4 percent of respondents have been more than enough to help me keep my Faith.  (Should I really need such sustenance if I have Faith?) Yes, I have Faith that my writing is making a difference to the world but alas, I have no proof for the empiricists, the materialists or the skeptics.  I have to ask you as well as myself to believe that I am.  It is Faith that keeps me motivated.  Without Faith, life would appear to be a futile waste of time.  Faith helps us to carry on when everything and everyone is saying to quit.  The woman in the life raft, the athlete with a severe injury, the parents with a disabled child, the poor fighting hunger, the righteous fighting injustice are all sustained by the power of Faith.

19176-Have-FaithFaith can believe everything
That we say.
Belief can increase the strength
Of Faith.
Belief is pure,
Faith is sure.
Belief looks around
To see the truth.
Faith looks within
Not only to feel the truth
But also to become the truth
.  —- Sri Chinmoy

Time for Questions:

What do you have Faith in?  What helps you to maintain your Faith?  Where would you like to have more Faith?  Do you think we have too much or too little Faith in the world?

Life is just beginning.

“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.” —- Saint Augustine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Time for Charity and a Time for Michelle (Shelly) Skow

Have you ever had one of those epiphanies or sudden feelings that the world is a wonderful place to be?  A time when you felt guilty for all of the pessimism, cynicism or negative thoughts that you had about humanity.   One of those days when you know that Sartre (“Hell is other people”) was terribly wrong.  At this moment, you know people are special and you would not want to be in any other possible world.  Well, yesterday Karen and I had one of those days.  Saturday the 29th of June. 

The day started out more or less inauspiciously.  I had received bad news from my biopsy the day before that my Gleason Score (A measure of the virility of cancer in the prostate) had gone from 6 to 7 or from mildly aggressive to moderately aggressive.  My doctor wants me to move out of “wait and see” to some other treatment mode “to be determined.”   I was not in the best of moods as the day begun. 

A few weeks before, I had noticed a flyer in one of the town store windows for a benefit or fund raiser for some local resident who had some problems.  Apparently the fund raiser was to help defray medical costs.  I see many more of these type efforts today that I have seen in the past.  Fundraisers for veterans, for animals, for sick people, for sick children.  They all tug at you heart but there are so many needy people today and one has only so much money to go around.  You give to any charity and your mail box is deluged with requests from other charities everywhere from Venus to Neptune.  I supported Obama during the last campaign and now I am get campaign fund requests from every Democrat in Congress, the Senate, the House and the Moon who is running, planning to run or has run for office.  It’s enough to make you switch parties except the Republicans would probably be no better.  Everyone asking for money, more money and even more money!

Nevertheless, my thoughts about Michele (Shelly) Skow the subject of the fundraiser here in Frederic were sympathetic and I thought “Heck, let’s go to the fundraiser and help out with whatever we can.”  I mentioned it to Karen and she was receptive.  I should add that I had no idea who this woman was nor I have ever met anyone who was related to her or who even knew her.  I put a note on my calendar to remember the date.  Saturday afternoon (The fundraiser started at 3PM) I reminded Karen we had planned to go to this fundraiser.  She asked me what it was for.  The paper that I had given her with information was nowhere to be found and I had to admit I did not remember.  I only knew it was a good cause.  I told Karen we could find out when we got there.  We briefly discussed how much we could afford to donate and off we went.  To Hackers Bowling Alley and Restaurant for a fundraiser for a woman I had never heard of before three weeks ago. 

When we got to the parking lot, we were quite surprised.  It was packed with cars and people were parking across the street.  I noted “Wow, she must really know a lot of people.”  We walked in and looked in the hall.  There were a number of tables set up for wristband donations, food with a donation box, raffle tickets for a large number of prizes and a silent auction.  We looked for a box to put a check in and decided to put it in the box with the wristbands.  We passed on the bands but left our check in the box.  We then headed to the food area. It looked like most potlucks one encounters in our area.  Rolls, Sloppy Joes, beans, and lots of the usual deserts, brownies, cookies and coffee were in abundance.  We picked up plates and each grabbed an assortment of edibles.  I had to remind myself that this was not about food but about helping Shelly.  

We took our plates to some tables which were occupied but not as full as some others and found a couple of seats across from an elderly looking couple.  I think everyone looks older than me.  Somehow I never grew up mentally.  I asked Karen what she wanted to drink and I headed to the bar.  The selections were to be expected.  I ordered a light beer for Karen and a regular Bud for myself.  Now if you know me, there is almost nothing I loathe more than the standard domestic Bud except a Bud light.  I am a fine connoisseur of small batch beers hand made with love and thought.  Of course, knowing that such beers did not exist at Hackers, I was okay with swilling down a Bud.  I just hoped none of my legions of fans would see me drinking a Bud.  The bartender (I noticed a sign next to their tip jars that all tips would go to the fundraiser), passed me two cans and popped the tops for me.  I handed him my credit card which he handed back. “We don’t do plastic he said. There is an ATM across the street.”  With some mild irritation (Who doesn’t take credit cards these days?), I headed to the Holiday Station.  I was suddenly conscious of how kind and thoughtful the bartenders were that they would give up their tips to help add to the fundraiser.  Probably someone they did not know either.

When I entered the Holiday, I said “Hi,” to the young woman who was at the cash register. I see her a lot there and she is always friendly.  She said “What are you up to today?” I replied “I am at this fundraiser for Shelly Skow, do you know her?”  She said “Nope.”  Then a very funny thing happened, she said, “If I give you some money would you put it in the donation box for me?”  I said of course and I took some cash from her hands.  I finished getting my money from the ATM and headed back to the bar at Hackers. I paid the bartender for the two “beers” and left a dollar tip.  I then took the Holiday Station clerks’ money and put it in one of the donation boxes. I must admit I peeked to see how much she had given me.  I was quite surprised at the amount.  She had given me 8 dollars. Now eight dollars might not seem like much to you but I know that this woman is a single mom raising a child on a Holiday Station clerks’ pay.  Eight dollars is not a small amount to donate to someone you do not even know.  And she was not even getting any Sloppy Joes.

Back at the table, I found Karen talking to the two people we knew from town (the only two people we had seen that we knew at this point) and she had asked if they knew Shelly.  Another surprise, they did not.  They simply saw the notice and wanted to help out.  Shortly after, another friend from town came over to our table and upon asking the same question, we received the same reply “Nope, never met her and do not know her.”  I started a conversation with the “elderly couple” across from us, thinking they might know of Shelly.  I thought perhaps they were grandparents or even great grandparents.  But no!  They did not know Shelly either.  They came for the simple reason of helping someone out who needed help. 

After finishing our gourmet dinner of chips, beans and Sloppy Joes, (Did I not mention the Buds?) we decided to go over to the silent auction table.  There were a surprisingly large number of items and Karen decided to bid on a potting chair.  She put a bid in slightly above the last bid.  She remarked on how nice the chair was and how nice she thought it would look in our garden.  I thought, “She will never win with a bid only five dollars above the last bid”, so I upped the bid when she was not looking by about 10 dollars. This meant that anyone wanting this item would have to go up 20 dollars more than the bid before Karen.  I thought this was good strategy.  I did not tell Karen at the time that I had “outbid” her. 

We left the fundraiser and headed home.  We both took a short break at home and then we headed up to a place called “Log Cabin Hollows.”  It was too nice an evening to say inside and we wanted to see if they were going to have a Saturday night music jam.  About 15 years ago, a brother of a man I know in town started these music jams out at this resort and campgrounds.  We attended one about two years ago and it was fun.  Not quite like the music jams at the Minnesota Bluegrass Festival or the ones in Mountain View, Arkansas, but still some good music you could listen and dance to without your eardrums breaking.  As we drove up to Log Cabin Resorts, Karen and I discussed the fundraiser. 

I was already quite surprised at the number of people we met who did not know the recipient.  I was also very surprised to find so many nice objects that were donated by the local merchants and townspeople.  These merchants are not Wal-Marts or Costcos.  They are small town local stores who have been suffering from a poor economy and the competition coming from “Big Box” retailers within a few miles. There is a joke that every store in town is for sale and has been for several years.  This is not just a joke but reflects the hard economic conditions up here and how difficult it is for local merchants to make a living.  Many of our local stores are for sale.  Nevertheless, places like Daeffler’s (our local meat market) who donated all of the meat for the Sloppy Joes and a “basket” of food as well for the auction gave more than generously.  Karen and I were touched by the compassion and kindness exhibited by people for someone many of them did not know and had never even met.  And when I think of the Holiday Clerk who also wanted to help out and would give a good portion of her income to do so, I can only be grateful to live in a world full of such kind and generous people.  

The newspapers give us a daily diet of evil and mayhem.  The Tele adds to the store of menace and murder that we are endlessly confronted with.  Serial killers threaten us from the pages of most novels that litter the NY Times best seller list only to be replaced by an even more twisted and malevolent killer.  A new trial replaces the last gory trial that dominated the news for six months or so.  Everywhere we turn, we see evidence of the depravity and inhumanity that the media must want us to believe is the world we live it.  However, it is all a mirage.  We are living in a fantasy world of carnival mirrors that reflects a reality that does not exist.  The illusion we see shows us a depraved, destructive, disastrous, execrable, foul, harmful, hateful, heinous, hideous, iniquitous, injurious and loathsome world that no one in their right mind would want to live in. 

I have never been nor probably ever will be accused of being a Pollyanna.  I have no rose collared glasses and I grew up in Brooklyn NY.  I am Italian and Irish and my father was a Post-Man back before we had Post-People.  Nevertheless, I believe that 99.9 percent of the world is good.  I might even be low in my estimates.   If you think of a world with this much good and this little evil, then what would this world really look like?  I think this poem by Aileen Karg sums it up:

A World of Wonderful People

We live in a world of wonderful people
throughout the universe.
We live in a world of wonderful people
where friends are friends with us.
With “hellos” here and “hellos” there
and “How are you today?”
“I hear the stock market’s down,
but there’s plenty to go around
and there’s health and happiness we see,
in the likes of you and me.”
We live in a world of wonderful people,
who love and work and care,
for beauty, strength and honor,
we find it everywhere.
We find just what we look for,
we find it every day,
in this world of wonderful people
God gives to us along life’s way. 

By Aileen Karg

Well, this morning I got a call.  I won the potting chair at the silent auction.  I told Karen and she was excited.  I said she can place it in the garden but I get to pick the flowers.

Time for Questions:

How can we see the real world when we are bombarded daily with images of evil and depravity?  What can we do to help others see the real world?  How can we fight the cynicism that surrounds us?  How can we make a difference in the world?  What if we rejected all of the pessimism and turned off the TV and News and never bought another serial killer novel or movie?  What does it do to our children?  What will they believe about the world when they grow up?  Is it what you would want them to believe? 

Life is just beginning:

PS:   If you would like to send funds or donations to help Michelle (Shelly) Skow, send a check in her name to me and I will make sure it finds its way to her.  She has a Facebook page at

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Prayer-Chain-for-Shelly-Skow/115295908661959

My address is:  John Persico, 202 Peake Avenue South, Frederic, WI:  54837

 

 

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