Friday, January 12, 2018

REMEMBERING MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.---A PERSONAL STORY


I was a doctoral student in religious studies at Boston University and, as such, an assistant to Professor Paul Deats. In spring of 1968, my professor said to me:

Darrell, I’d like you to walk over to the Mugar Memorial Library rare book collection. They know you’re coming. I’d like you to get the draft of Martin’s Why We Can’t Wait. Bring it back to the theology library and put it in the display case. We’ll use it in our library as part of our King display for a month.

Deats used King's first name, Martin. King had studied with Deats and other professors in the School of Theology. They referred to him often. This sense of familiarity with the famous figure of King was a comfort to me. 

Mugar library was just a short walk down the sidewalk of Commonwealth Avenue. I walked back from there with a cardboard box in my hands. The box contained King’s manuscript.

The faculty at B.U. told many first-hand stories of working with their graduate, "Martin." I was told that one of Martin's favorite theologians was Mahatma Gandhi. King was inspired by Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence.





King delivering the "I Have a Dream" speech at Lincoln Memorial

  Photo in the public domain as a work of the United States Federal 
Government under the terms of 17 U.S.C. § 105 via Wikimedia Commons

King was an amazing American. He raised the standard for spoken English. His rhetoric was moving. Read his Lincoln Memorial speech for an example of what I mean by elevating the language.

Also, King raised the standard for religious belief. If one believes, one should act on those beliefs with consistency. That was a core message.


Why We Can’t Wait lay in a case in the School of Theology for a month. I let my gaze fall on King’s manuscript every time I walked past the case. I remember having concern for its safety.

At the end of the month I took the manuscript back to Mugar Library. I felt very much enriched for having had close contact with Why We Can’t Wait and, I felt, with the book's author. It was as if King’s spirit had emanated from the book. I’m grateful for the experience and the memory of it.  

King, Jr.. left a legacy of the reality of the moral universe and of meeting the standard of justice.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

THREE THINGS FROM HERE ON OUT. . .


The holidays are past. It’s time assess and plan ahead. What are we (individuals, families, cities, nations) looking to decide, to do, to be in 2018?

The United States is no longer the leading country. It itself has proclaimed that by pulling out of treaties and planning to build a wall. No longer accepting huddled masses to enjoy liberty, but trying to keep them out instead. The fortress nation.

The rest of the world is adjusting to this. The voluntary weakening of the U.S. means freedom for new empires to arise. Just as the U.S. builds its walls against the foreigner (physical and legal), China is building its trans-Asian rail and road system to enhance its access to Western Europe.

But we live at the local level. Let’s shift our thinking to neighbor-to-neighbor. What can we learn from the story of four neighbors? 

First, a certain woman loves to transform her home into a fairyland for the holidays. She’s known for this. So, a few weeks ago, three neighbors volunteered to help her unpack her many decorations and get them in place.  This weekend the neighbors are teaming up to help her store the decorations until next Yuletide.

Learning #1: one thing we can all do: pitch in to help the person/the family next door. Nothing new here, but just a reminder.

Moving beyond that lovely story: two other learnings for 2018.

Learning #2: vow to tend to your own mental and spiritual life. The way to survive in our new environment is to hold on to your ability to think critically. That means maintaining your spirituality and your sense of values, looking at the evidence, making up your own mind, and developing your strategy for moving ahead in life. A big order, indeed. Desmond Tutu did it in the 1980s. Women who've been harassed are doing it now.

Do you know how to do this? Do your family members?

To make sure, encourage your student family members to enroll in history and social science courses, philosophy/religion studies along with science and technical training.

Third learning: express yourself to your elected representatives, state and national. American readers, you can find your U.S. senator contactinformation here and your U.S. representative contact information here. 


I’ll bet you have your own additional coping mechanisms. Share them if you wish. Make a comment. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

THREE THINGS STUDENTS ARE TALKING ABOUT FOR 2018

Know any kids? Yes? Well, what are their fondest hopes for their country this year?

"Young people--what are their fondest hopes for their country for 2018?” I wondered about that so I decided to interview three kids. What I heard surprised me.

First, I turned to an 11 year old boy, a swimmer, a student in grade 5 in public school in a Pacific Northwest city. "'What is the most important thing for your country in 2018?" I asked.

He replied immediately. No pause needed. The speed of his answer amazed me. His answer itself encouraged me: 


“The best thing to happen would be to change the balance of chemicals in the atmosphere to control warning!”

The vocabulary and the global concern in his answer blew me away. 

I asked, “How did you get this idea?”

“From talking with my friends and from an experiment in school.”

He went on to tell about a history class project: “Chasing Crows.”

“Chasing Crows? Well, what was that like?" I asked.




.Kids Care
Photographer Phil Konstantin. 
Photo in public domain via Wikimedia


He described how his class adopted the identity of the imaginary MaKah Tribe of Indians. The kids went into a pretend “wilderness” and came back to their normal life as adults! Wow!

This imaginative project reminded me of the Poro society (men and boys) and Bundu society (women and girls) of Sierra Leone, West Africa. Both girls and boys at the beginning of their adolescence go into the secret society “bush,” an enclosure near their village, receive instruction about their people, and come back into the village with great celebration. From the time of their graduation from the bush school they're regarded as adults. 

I don' want to call the junior high kid an adult. But it seemed to me that he clearly had an adult opinion.


Next I went on to a 16 year old, a boy attending high school in a Pacific Northwest city. “What is the best thing that could happen to your country in 2018?”

Immediately the 6’2” long distance runner said, “No nuclear warfare.”

“Well, do you think that’s a real possibility?”

“Yes.”

“How did you get this information?”

“From research in school and World History and reading it in the news,” he said.

This answer really saddened me. Youngsters have to worry about this? At his age he should be worrying about getting his driver’s license. What a load he carries. He carries it secretly--stoically--unless you ask.

I went on to a 15 year old girl. Swimmer, learning to drive. Typically she converses about her aspiration to become a film producer, and her forthcoming trip to film studios and a university film department in Los Angeles.

But I asked her about the best thing for her nation in 2018. She immediately answered, “Trump impeached!”

I asked, “When did you get this idea?”

She replied, “The day he was elected!”

These three young people part of a built-in social correction system. Perhaps the world, so besieged by money-blinded autocrats, will correct its headlong rush toward derailment. Perhaps young realists will activate the environmental and social braking system and save the planet.  

Personally, I was amazed--heartened--at the global nature of their answers. 

Why don't you try the experiment. Aska millennial, "What is the most important thing that can happen to your country or the world in 2018?

 You'll probably get a surprise, like I did, just for asking. I'd be very interested to get a report on what you hear.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

FAMILIES CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS TWICE WITHIN TWO WEEKS


Christmas Tree and Christmas Market, Dresden, Germany

By SchiDD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commonshttps:



Over the past few years, I’ve been treated by a nurse who’s an immigrant to the U.S. from Ethiopia, her land of nativity. Now she lives in Portland, Oregon and practices in a big hospital there. This week I had an appointment with her this and as the blood draw and examination  continued we talked a bit about Christmas.

I asked her, “When do Ethiopians celebrate Christmas?”

Do you know that Orthodox Christians, including Ethiopian Orthodox, celebrate on January 7?  I did not know that. But she said so, and then continued, “Actually, I have two Christmases every year.” In Ethiopia itself, Christmas is a lively family and community day of celebration, including a ball game that's played on only Christmas.

Getting back to America, we talked about:
  • listening to holiday music. 
  • rushing to buy or order last minute gifts. 
  • the stock market closing early so that traders can get to really important business—last-minute preparation for December 25. 
  • Cooks preparing special treats: nut breads, cookies, ginger bread men. 
  • Decorations that you see only once a year come out of storage: tree decorations, strings of lights. 
  • Christians crowding churches to hear the magical music and listen to the old, old story. 
There was more: on Christmas morning, kids creeping out of bed early and checking on what they can see under the tree. Families gathering, gifting each other, filling up on the cookies and relaxing.

Lots of good, fun stuff every year!

But the nurse’s family celebrates twice. I imagine that holds true for many Orthodox Christians living in many countries that officially celebrate on December 25, as well as Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians living in orthodox lands. Lucky are the kids in such families; they get presents twice!

Christmas is about giving. And, as President Calvin Coolidge said, it’s about an attitude. It’s about desiring peace, actively caring for other others. Above all, it’s about celebrating Jesus, who gave the biggest gift.  

Updating to 2017: Christmas is about giving the gift of goodwill to all and giving the gift of a a healthy planet to the next generation. That's the state of mind this blog-site, "Growing Green," recommends this Christmas.

If you celebrate twice, like the Ethiopian Orthodox Christian family I introduced above, you double your opportunity to give intentionally. 

Whether your family celebrates once or twice, keep that Christmas state of mind active all year, every year. That's the best gift you can give.


P.S.: a Christmas gift you can give: ask someone (a nurse?, a friend) about their favorite Christmas memory.)



Saturday, December 16, 2017

SLEEPING ON THE HARD, COLD CITY SIDEWALK: A TRUE CHRISTMAS STORY OF HOPE

Have you ever learned that the gift you ordered for someone duplicates the gift someone else had purchased for the same family member?

Well, meet Hugh, an old teacher who does Tai Chi for fifteen minutes and exercise walks for thirty minutes every day. 

This past week Hugh realized, since this mail-order Christmas gift duplicates what someone else in the family has ordered, we'd have to return it. Never done that before. How to do it?
He explored the vendor’s website and found instructions on how to return a purchase. Just box it up, print out the return-purchase form, paste it on the box top and deliver the box to a certain address downtown. Easy, Hugh thought.

He drove to the vendor’s downtown store from his home in a suburb. An immediate problem: no place to park on the street. He steered his old Camry into the unsightly parking lot of a dismal-looking convenience store. Then he walked a half-block to the vendor’s store on the other side of the street.

What did he see in those three hundred feet? A man lying motionless on the sidewalk, apparently asleep, just as anyone else would do in pajamas in a warm bed. But this man lay there, his left cheek resting on the cold concrete, no pillow of any sort, dressed in a heavy coat.



Homeless

By The Photographer [CC BY-SA 4.0 
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)] 
Via Wikimedia Commons

The old teacher avoided the sidewalk sleeper and scooted into the vendor’s store. The bright, shiny“store” was devoid of merchandise, of people and of any sign of instruction. To the left he saw six pull down doors about two feet high and three feet wide. What are they for? he wondered. He saw a counter at the rear of the room, so he waited there for a clerk. In a few minutes an employee appeared. He explained that Hugh could stand before one of the six small pull-down doors on the wall, scan the return-purchase form, and then place the box in a door. The purchase price would be returned to his account automatically. 

Hugh marveled: so fast, so simple, so high-tech, so much in contrast to the street scene he’d just walked through.

Exiting, he noticed a woman to her right, dressed in a warm coat, sitting maybe thirty feet to his right on the cold concrete sidewalk. He paused to watch as a second woman, older, a hand on a shopping cart filled with bags of groceries. From the convenience store? The shopper seemed to be offering the street person something, possibly a roll. The two exchanged glances and some words. The street person reached out a hand and accepted the gift.

Hugh turned left to retrace his steps to his Camry. Things had changed here: he saw an older man, fully awake, sitting on the sidewalk by the street-sleeper’s side. The newcomer seemed to be giving the sleeper protection from any disturbance. Quite a gift.   

Back in his Camry he turned on the heater and gratefully drove away from the downtown.


Hugh had a saving thought. He remembered the centuries-old story. A young woman in labor was turned away from shelter in the inn. She endured her travail in a cold barn. A huge lot of good had come from that cold birth episode. The woman just now seen giving another a piece of bread, and the man protecting the sleeper—perhaps they like the angels of the first Christmas. That gave Hugh some hope.

SLEEPING ON THE HARD, COLD CITY SIDEWALK: A TRUE CHRISTMAS STORY OF HOPE


Have you ever learned that the gift you ordered for someone duplicates the gift someone else had purchased for the same family member?

Well, meet Hugh, an olsleeping d teacher who does Tai Chi for fifteen minutes and exercise walks for thirty minutes every day.

This past week Hugh realized, since this mail-order Christmas gift duplicates what someone else in the family has ordered, we'd have to return it. Never done that before. How to do it?
He explored the vendor’s website and found instructions on how to return a purchase. Just box it up, print out the return-purchase form, paste it on the box top and deliver the box to a certain address downtown. Easy, Hugh thought.

He drove to the vendor’s downtown store from his home in a suburb. An immediate problem: no place to park on the street. He steered his old Camry into the unsightly parking lot of a dismal-looking convenience store. Then he walked a half-block to the vendor’s store on the other side of the street.

What did he see in those three hundred feet? A man lying motionless on the sidewalk, apparently asleep, just as anyone else would do in pajamas in a warm bed. But this man lay there, his left cheek resting on the cold concrete, no pillow of any sort, dressed in a heavy coat.



Homeless

By The Photographer [CC BY-SA 4.0 
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)] 
Via Wikimedia Commons

The old teacher avoided the sidewalk sleeper and scooted into the vendor’s store. The bright, shiny“store” was devoid of merchandise, of people and of any sign of instruction. To the left he saw six pull down doors about two feet high and three feet wide. What are they for? he wondered. He saw a counter at the rear of the room, so he waited there for a clerk. In a few minutes an employee appeared. He explained that Hugh could stand before one of the six small pull-down doors on the wall, scan the return-purchase form, and then place the box in a door. The purchase price would be returned to his account automatically. 

Hugh marveled: so fast, so simple, so high-tech, so much in contrast to the street scene he’d just walked through.

Exiting, he noticed a woman to his right, dressed in a warm coat, sitting maybe thirty feet to his right on the cold concrete sidewalk. He paused to watch as a second woman, older, a hand on a shopping cart filled with bags of groceries. From the convenience store? The shopper seemed to be offering the street person something, possibly a roll. The two exchanged glances and some words. The street person reached out a hand and accepted the gift.

Hugh turned left to retrace his steps to his Camry. Things had changed here: he saw an older man, fully awake, sitting on the sidewalk by the street-sleeper’s side. The newcomer seemed to be protecting the sleeper from any disturbance. Hugh considered donating a dollar but decided to avoid getting involved.  

Back in his Camry he turned on the heater and gratefully drove away from the downtown.


Hugh had a saving thought. He remembered the centuries-old story. A young woman in labor was turned away from shelter in the inn. She endured her travail in a cold barn. A huge lot of good had come from that cold birth episode. The woman just now seen giving another a piece of bread, and the man guarding the sleeper—perhaps they like the angels of the first Christmas. That gave Hugh some hope.

Friday, December 8, 2017

BABY BUST, BABY BOOM: The birth of the greatest generation

What gives you an adrenalin boost? Reliving great moments?


For me, it's remembering:


  • Remembering my generous parents, 



  • Remembering my younger brother, as a kid.





  • Memory flashing on my pets,



  • Recalling my mountain and ocean adventures.


How about you? If you prize mountains and oceans, friends and family, the American Puget Sound country, you'll really love this book. These stories will bring back your own fond memories.



Baby bust and the birth of the greatest generation--1940's to 1960's. 


Find your memory prods in this acclaimed book.   Deals at Amazon Books. Click here:   $0.00 to $13.95 at Amazon Books.

Forward the page to your friends. Thank you! and a blessed holiday season to you.