Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Afterthought People

alone

Are you the first person on anyone’s list?

Do you have a lover, a significant other, or a spouse?

Do you have a child or two?

Do you have a friend or two who calls you as much as you call them?

Do you have family close by?

Are you included in holidays and weekend activities with others?

Do you have someone to go to the movies with?

If you have *any* one of these things or a few of them,

Then count yourself lucky and loved.

And if you know someone who doesn’t have any of these things – and I bet you do if you think about it for a minute – try to remember them.

They are Afterthought People. The Alone Ones.

They sleep alone. They dine alone. They walk alone.

Probably through no fault of their own, they are standing by the wall while everyone else is dancing.

They hope the phone will ring.

They are weary of always reaching out; their arms are tired from being empty.

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My Easter Meditation

Père Henri: Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lord’s divine transformation? Not really, no. I don’t want to talk about his divinity. I’d rather talk about his humanity. I mean, you know, how he lived his life, here on Earth. His *kindness,* his *tolerance.* Listen, here’s what I think. I think that we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do; by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude.  I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we *embrace,* what we *create* … and who we *include.* ~ Chocolat

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The House that Glowed – A Christmas Story

This story is one of my childhood favorites. It was published in Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, 1950. Let it warm your heart.

It was Christmas Eve, and poor little Johann, driven out of his home by an angry and brutal stepfather, was trudging wearily through the snow. His coat was ragged and sodden with melted snow. His shoes were worn and split at the seams, so that his feet were numb with cold. His quaint cap, pulled well down over his ears and forehead, had a gaping tear that let in the biting wind.
winter_in_the_forest

Night was falling, and the gathering darkness found the little boy still plodding on his sad and lonely way. “If only I could find some shelter, some place where I could get warm, and the wind would not chill me so,” he thought to himself. “If only someone would give me some food to eat and something hot to drink!”

Coming to the edge of the forest, he caught sight of a little village nestling in the valley below, with several fine, large houses dotting the hillside all around. Lights were already twinkling in the windows, while the smoke from many chimneys, curling upward, blended with the murky sky.

A great new hope sprang up in little Johann’s heart. Here at last, among so many lovely homes, he would find someone to care for him. He walked more quickly, so sure he was that his troubles were almost over.

Soon he came to the entrance of a fine, big mansion. There were many lights in the windows and a very bright one over the front door. “Surely,” he thought, “people who could live in such a house must have lots of money and would be only too pleased to help a poor, hungry little boy.”

Very bravely he walked up to the front door, and by standing on tiptoe, managed to reach the bell. He pushed it hard, and there was such a noise inside that it frightened him. But he was more frightened still when the great oak door was thrown back and a big man dressed in the finest clothes looked out at him.

“Did you ring that bell:” asked the haughty butler, frowning.
“Y-y-y-yes,” stammered Johann, “I-i-i’m very cold and hungry, and I thought you—–”
“This is Christmas Eve,” snapped the butler, “and the house is full of guests. I’m sorry, but we haven’t time to bother with the likes of you just now. Good night.” And the door was shut.

“Oh!” said Johann to himself, “I never thought anyone would do that. But perhaps they are too busy here. I must try somewhere else.” So he walked on down into the village itself, passing by the other big mansions for fear the people inside might also be too busy to care about hungry little boys on Christmas Eve.

From the first house he reached there came sounds of music and laughter, and feeling sure that there must be very friendly people living there, he knocked gently on the door. But there was so much noise inside that he had to knock again and again, each time louder than before.

At last the door swung open, and a young man wearing a funny paper cap looked out. “Excuse me,” said Johann, “but I wondered if you could—–”
“Sorry,” cried the young man, “we’re having a Christmas Ever party in here, and we can’t stop now.” “But please, please!” pleaded Johann. “Sorry; good night!” cried the young man. And Bang! the door was shut.

Terribly disappointed, Johann went next door, but the people there were making so much noise that they didn’t even hear him at all, loud as he knocked. At the next house a crabby old gentleman looked out of an upstairs window and told him to run home and not bother the neighbors. Run home, indeed! At another house he was told to call another day. They would help him then, perhaps, the people said. But he needed help now!

So, going from house to house through the entire village, he sought shelter and food and found none.
Almost hopeless and heartbroken, he trudged out into the night, leaving the twinkling lights behind him. He felt he could lie down and die in the road, he was so tired, so hungry, so discouraged.

Just then he happened to look up and found himself passing a tiny, tumble-down old cottage, so dark and dismal that he probably wouldn’t have seen it at all but for the white carpet of snow on the ground showing it up. A blind covered the one little window, but faint streaks of light gleamed through cracks in the wood.

Johann stood still and wondered what he should do. Should he knock there? What would be the use? Surely if the people who lived in all the big houses – who had money for lovely parties and things – couldn’t afford to help a poor boy, how could the folk in a house like this? No, it was of no use. Better not to bother them. Better to just give up.

Then he thought again. He had knocked at so many houses, there could be no harm in trying one more. So he turned from the road up the snow-covered garden path and tapped gently at the door. A moment later, the door opened cautiously, and an elderly woman peered out. “Bless my soul!” she exclaimed. “Whatever are you doing out there in the cold tonight?”
grandmas-kitchen1

“Please — ” began Johann. But before he could say another word, she had flung the door wide open and dragged him inside. “You poor little child,” she exclaimed. “Deary, deary me! You look so cold and hungry. Half starved, or I’m mistaken. And wet through. Let’s get those things off at once to dry by the fire. Wait a moment while I put the kettle on.”

Johann looked about him and saw that the little one-roomed cottage was as bare as could be, without even a carpet on the floor. The light he had seen through the cracks from one lone candle set on the mantelpiece. But he hadn’t time to see much else, for the kind woman was soon stripping off his wet rags, wrapping him in a blanket, and setting him up at the table before a bowl of steaming soup.

Then she went back to stir the pot on the stove. As she did so she suddenly noticed that something strange was happening. She looked up. Was it a dream, or were her eyes deceiving her? The candlelight had given place to a warm and lovely glow that seemed to be getting brighter every minute, filling every corner of the cottage with a heavenly radiance. Every drab piece of furniture seemed to be shining and glistening like burnished gold, as when God filled the temple with His glory.

And the rich man, looking down from his mansion on the hill, suddenly exclaimed, “There’s a strange light in the valley. Look! Widow Greatheart’s cottage is on fire!” The news spread swiftly from house to house, and soon all the parties were abandoned as the people, wrapping themselves up in their coats and shawls, rushed out to see what was the matter.

They saw the light too, and running toward the widow’s cottage, beheld the poor tumble-down old building glowing like an alabaster bowl. Very excited, they gathered around it. Peering inside, all they could see was the dear old woman caring for the same little boy who had called that night at all their homes. Then, as the light faded, they knocked on the door to ask anxiously what could have happened.

“I really do not know what happened,” said the Widow Greatheart, with a smile of wondrous joy on her face. “I just seemed to hear a voice saying to me, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My children, ye have done it unto Me.'”

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Making a Difference ~ A list of helpful organizations and their websites

The nice folks at Credo put together this list of organizations that you may be interested in checking out, participating in or giving time and resources to. Pass this list along! More people, more power, more change.

There are so many ways we can all make a difference!!
Peace & International Freedom

Acción International

Provides microloans, business training and other financial services to poor men and women who start their own businesses.

Americans for Peace Now

Campaigns for a nonviolent political settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Amnesty International

Takes action to prevent and end abuses of human rights and to demand justice for those whose rights have been violated.

Center for Victims of Torture

Works to heal the wounds of torture on individuals, their families and their communities and to stop torture around the world.

Doctors Without Borders

Delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics or disasters in over 70 countries.

Global Fund for Children

Advances the dignity of vulnerable children and young people worldwide by supporting and strengthening grassroots groups.

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Gives a voice to the many active-duty service people and veterans who are against the war but under pressure to remain silent.

Oxfam America

Creates lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice.

Pathfinder International

Provides women and men throughout the developing world with access to family-planning information and services.

Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights

Supports women’s rights activists working to create cultures of justice, equality and peace.

Environment

Alliance for Climate Protection

Works under the leadership of Al Gore to persuade people around the world to immediately address global warming.

American Rivers

Protects rivers and raises awareness that they are vital to our health, safety and quality of life.

Center for Biological Diversity

Advocates to secure a future for animals and plants on the brink of extinction and for the wilderness they need to survive.

Earthjustice

Serves as the law firm for the nation’s environment, litigating critical cases to block environmental destruction.

Environmental Working Group

Uses investigative skills to demonstrate the health risks of damaging environmental practices to consumers.

ForestEthics

Holds accountable those corporations that distribute and manufacture products that destroy forests.

Greenpeace

Employs nonviolent action to expose global environmental problems and encourage solutions essential to a green and peaceful future.

NRDC

With the support of members and online activists, NRDC works to solve the most pressing environmental issues we face today: curbing global warming, getting toxic chemicals out of the environment, moving America beyond oil, reviving our oceans, saving wildlife and wild places, and helping China go green.

Ocean Conservancy

Promotes healthy and diverse ocean ecosystems and opposes practices that threaten ocean life and human life.

Organic Farming Research Foundation

Expands availability of organic food by supporting research on best practices in organic farming.

Sierra Club Foundation

Funds projects that promote a safe and healthy environment, clean air, clean water, open space and a healthy, diverse ecosystem.

Economic & Social Justice

America’s Second Harvest

Provides food assistance to more than 25 million low-income hungry people, including 9 million children and 3 million seniors.

Campaign for America’s Future

Challenges the conservative agenda through campaigns such as fighting against the privatization of Social Security.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Conducts research and analysis to inform public debates on budget and tax policy and to ensure the needs of low-income people are considered.

Corporate Accountability International

Campaigns challenging corporate control of water, tobacco industry interference in health policy, and watch-dogging corporate abuses.

Media Matters for America

Monitors, analyzes and corrects conservative disinformation in the U.S. media.

Mother Jones Investigative Fund

Produces journalism that informs and inspires a more just and democratic world.

Ms. Foundation for Women

Creates opportunities for women and girls and encourages investment in them to help them develop their voices and skills.

Physicians for a National Health Program

Engages doctors in the effort to create a universal, comprehensive single-payer national health program.

Project On Government Oversight

Investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct to achieve a more accountable federal government.

United for a Fair Economy

Raises awareness that concentrated wealth and power undermines the economy, corrupts democracy and deepens the racial divide.

Civil Rights

Alliance for Justice

Leads efforts to block confirmation of right-wing judges.

Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Campaigns to create an America free from gun violence, where all people are safe in their homes, schools, jobs and communities.

Center for Constitutional Rights

Defends the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions.

Center for National Security Studies

Works for control of the FBI and CIA and to prevent claims of national security from eroding civil liberties and constitutional procedures.

Equality Now

Documents violence and discrimination against women around the world and mobilizes action to stop these human rights abuses.

Family Violence Prevention Fund

Takes action to prevent violence in homes and communities and to help those whose lives are devastated by violence.

Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation

Promotes accurate media reporting to help eliminate discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

National Center for Lesbian Rights

Advances the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families.

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Works to end the death penalty.

Planned Parenthood

Improves women’s health, prevents unintended pregnancies and advances the right of individuals to make choices about reproductive health.

Voting Rights & Civic Participation

AlterNet

Creates original journalism and amplifies the best of independent media sources to inspire citizen action and advocacy.

Center for Independent Media

Creates independent online investigative journalism in key states where the mainstream media is failing to cover political corruption and progressive issues.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

Promotes ethics and accountability in government by exposing political malfeasance and cover-ups of official corruption.

Democracia U.S.A.

Increases the participation of Hispanics in the democratic process through large scale voter registration campaigns and leadership training around progressive issues.

League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

Strengthens the environmental movement’s ability to mobilize voters and advocates for sound environmental policies.

New Organizing Institute

Trains young, technology-enabled political organizers to work for progressive organizations.

Project Vote

Registers millions of Americans in low-income and minority communities to vote each year.

Rock the Vote

Engages youth in the political process by incorporating the entertainment community and youth culture into its voter registration and advocacy activities.

USAction Education Fund

Works to take our democracy back from the corporate elite and special interests that dominate the political process today.

Wellstone Action

Honors the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone by continuing their work to educate and mobilize a vast network of progressive people and organizations.

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Yes We Can

Oh, yes we can people!

Robert F. Kennedy said, “Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation… It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man (or a woman) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he (or she) sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. {And elsewhere he said} Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws–but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us. Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted–when we tolerate what we know to be wrong–when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too frightened–when we fail to speak up and speak out–we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.”

And ~ We are the Ones! Anne Lamott reminds us that Martin Luther King Jr. said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward freedom.”  Molly Ivins said “freedom fighters don’t always win, but they’re always right.”  Our road has been long but we are moving once again towards freedom, and together we can make the difference that brings hope to all of us and to the world.  Sí Se Puede. It’s our time to win.

There is hope, and it is US.  Lift up your voice!

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.
Yes we can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom.
Yes we can.
It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.
Yes we can.
It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballots; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.
Yes we can to justice and equality.
Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.
Yes we can heal this nation.
Yes we can repair this world.
Yes we can.
We know the battle ahead will be long, but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change. (We want change.)
We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics…they will only grow louder and more dissonant ……….. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.
But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.
Now the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea: Yes We Can.

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Forgiveness

What does forgiveness really mean? I’ve been thinking about this for several years and struggling with the implications of what forgiveness includes and what it doesn’t include. After much reading and discussion, here’s what I’ve come up with:

What forgiveness means:

  • Forgiveness means you don’t act in retribution or vengeance to the person who has wronged you. You don’t punish or retaliate.
  • Forgiveness means you do (or can) wish for the person who has wronged you, “May the Lord give you Peace” – this is the stance you take toward the person in your heart.
  • You realize that forgiveness is a gift you are giving yourself in the sense that you are only responsible for *your* own behavior – you are not responsible for how someone else acts or responds. Letting go of your own anger and hatred sets you free.
  • You may open the door to the person to restore the relationship.

What forgiveness does not mean:

  • Forgiveness does not mean you are saying what the person did is OK.
  • Forgiveness does not mean you have any obligation to continue in the relationship with the person. You can forgive and also protect yourself from toxic people and toxic relationships by no longer engaging in those relationships. Really, its ok. Even if it’s your mother or your brother or your son, you can say to them – or just in your own mind – that “I understand your behavior and I wish no ill to come to you, and (as Bishop Tutu said) I am not going to let you victimize me and hold me in a position where I have an anger against you, a resentment, and [in which] I’m looking for the opportunity to pay back.”
  • You may decide to continue in the relationship, and “turn the other cheek”- but I recommend being watchful for patterns of behavior that continue. Destructive behavior is not acceptable, even if it is forgivable.
  • Forgiving someone does not necessarily mean that the pain of the situation will go away – this usually takes time and is not usually an act of the will.

What does the person being forgiven need to do?

  • If you offer someone who has wronged you the gift of forgiveness, the person being forgiven must open herself to it in order to receive it. They can do do this by confessing, apologizing or by seeking atonement. (see Bishop Tutu’s remarks on this below)

What is the spiritual element of forgiveness?

  • Rob Brezsny says “The 17th-century surgeon Wilhelm Hilden had an interesting theory about healing. He developed a medicinal salve that he applied not to the wound itself but rather to the weapon that inflicted it. Though today we may sneer at such foolishness, the fact is that Hilden’s approach has great potential if used for psychic wounds. Jesus understood this when he articulated the revolutionary formula, “Love your enemy.” More than any other action, this strategy has the power to cure you of the distortions your enemy has unleashed in you. Try it out.”
  • In Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen describes love and forgiveness as unconditional. “Though this is not a novel idea, Nouwen’s approach is arguably unique as he approached this theme from the angles of the younger son, the elder son, and the father. Each captures the unconditional quality of love and forgiveness in their own way. The younger son’s life shows how the beloved lives a life of misery by thinking he can be loved only by meeting certain qualifications of the lover (which he fails to meet). The elder son’s actions shows how the beloved can be depressed because he thinks he should receive greater love because he has done all the right things (i.e., that he has met these qualifications). The father alone understands how to love and forgive and is able to do so and be happy. Nouwen explains that we are the younger son at times (when we think we don’t deserve love or the forgiveness) and the elder son at times (when we think we deserve love or that another doesn’t deserve it more than us), but that we are all called to be like the father (and that only by being like the father can we come closer to being loved as we should be loved).”

Here’s what Desmond Tutu has to say about forgiveness, from Bill Moyers Journal, 12/28/07

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: I would hope that the world would realize that there is no situation that is not transfigurable, that there is no situation of which we can say, ‘This is absolutely, totally devoid of hope,’ because that is what people thought about South Africa. And that the star turns of this report are those we wrongly call just ordinary people. There are no ordinary people in my theology, but it is the small people, the ones who used to be nonentities, they are the stars and for the world to know that those called-so-called ordinary people are incredible.

BILL MOYERS: What do you actually do when you forgive someone?

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Well, basically, you are saying ‘I am abandoning my right to revenge, to payback. I mean, I have… By the fact that you have abused me, you have hurt me, or -whatever it is that you have done, you have wronged me. By that you have given me a certain right as – over you that I could refuse to forgive you. I could say that I have the right to retribution.’ When I forgive, I say, ‘I jettison that right, and I open the door of opportunity to you, to make a new beginning.’ That is what I do when I forgive you.

BILL MOYERS: But the Buddhists talk of letting go of the past, dying to the past, when you forgive, of letting loose of the sorrow that you have brought with you from the past. Is that what you’re talking about?

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: Yes. The thing is, of course that I don’t know that you yourself are able, by an act of will, as it were, to let go of the pain. The will part of it, where your will is, deliberately to say, ‘I am not going to let you victimize me and hold me in a position where I have an anger against you, a resentment, and I’m looking for the opportunity to pay back.’ I am saying. ‘I want to let go of that-that right, and begin to work for the possibility of restoring the relationship.

BILL MOYERS: Do I have to do anything – the person being forgiven?

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: For your own sake, the only way you can appropriate forgiveness is by confessing. That opens you to the possibility of being able to receive it. It’s like, it’s like opening up a window. You see forgiveness can be likened to the fresh air that is outside or the sunlight that is outside and you have a room and the windows are closed and the curtains are drawn. The wind is still out there, my forgiveness is still available to you, but it won’t find access until you open the window and the light streams in. You draw the curtains apart and the fresh air comes in. You by your contrition and confession, say I am sorry, forgive me, open and my forgiveness enters your being.

BILL MOYERS: We’re talking here about genocide, torture. Are genocide and torture forgivable?

ARCHBISHOP TUTU: As a Christian, you have to say, ‘Are there things that are unforgivable?’ I’m afraid we follow a lord and master who at the point when they are crucifying him in the most painful way can say, ‘Pray for their forgiveness.’ And we follow the one who says, ‘Forgive one another as God and Christ forgave you.’ That is for us the paradigm. We may not always reach to that ideal, but that is the standard.

For further inspiration, see No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu

No Future Without Forgiveness

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Hope, Reasons to Live, and Suicide Prevention

A friend of mine that I grew up with recently died by suicide. JC felt he had been in too much emotional pain for too long and he didn’t see it getting any better. This was so crushing that I want to share hope with others. I want you to know there is help, there are people who love you and care for you, there are ways to cope with and lessen emotional pain and grief, and that your life, however painful at the moment, is a gift and you can use it to bring help and joy to others and to yourself. These are some things that have given me hope, and I want them to give you hope, too.

Flight of Hope #1 – My favorite movie is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” wherein George Bailey realizes at the end just how much of a difference he has made in the lives of others, and how many people love and care for him. That lesson has always had a profound effect on me because I believe that much of the good we do and love we engender is unknown to us. Frederick Buechner said, “The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.” We are all here together. Separateness is an illusion, for we all touch each other in ways we cannot fathom.

Flight of Hope #2 -I also believe that when we are sad and can’t find a good reason to live, we can focus on helping others. Turning compassion outward sometimes helps us have it for ourselves. If you can find the sacred part of yourself and live from there, you’ll touch people in positive ways. One little flicker of light is all it takes to light a dark room – find that light within yourself and share it.

Emily Dickinson wrote,

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Flight of Hope #3 – When I saw Under the Tuscan Sun, I had just gone through a terrible divorce and was reeling emotionally and financially. My life had been overturned and I lost my love and my home. I had thoughts myself that it would be easier not to go on. But after seeing that movie, I realized that many lives are available to us. It is possible, for instance, to sell off everything I own, move to Italy and work as a waitress!! I didn’t do that – what I did was move far away, and in with some friends, and worked in a flower shop. I healed through the support of my friends and the willingness to change my life. It is possible to get a new job, a new home, move to a different part of the town/state/country/world, cut your hair, get a makeover, meet new friends, get a pet, go to social events, learn new skills, read new books, etc. In other words, when your current life is unbearable, death is not the next step. The next step is to reinvent yourself, and reinvent your life. You are not stuck. You are not trapped. Another lesson from that movie is that the future is built by what you do now – Martini tells Francis, “Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.” Believe that your train is coming! Build the tracks…

Flight of Hope #4 – Many people are on anti-depressants, and when properly diagnosed, that’s a good thing. But another part of emotional health is recognizing your feelings and being able to cope with them. Expressing our feelings is what keeps them from exploding. What if, when we feel sad, we could validate and express our feelings in these ways? I think we’d find that the sadness dissipates.

  • Vocalize sad feelings – cry, yell, wail, sob, moan
  • Draw yourself in a sad situation that you remember
  • Find music that reflects your sadness
  • Express your sadness through dance if you feel like it
  • Write about your sadness – keep a sadness diary
  • Watch a movie that you know will allow your tears to flow
  • Think about who you wish you could share your sadness with and picture yourself talking to this person
  • Share your sad feelings with someone

Flight of Hope #5 – Perspective is also important to think about when you are very sad. Everyone experiences suffering and pain. Every single person in the world will experience loss and grief. You are not alone in feeling the way you do. It is our courage in these circumstances – to remain free inside our hearts and not to let suffering smother our spirit – that makes us the hero of our own journey.

Norbert Capek composed this poem in Dresden Prison in 1941, shortly before he was transferred to Dachau concentration camp, where he died in October, 1942 ~

It is worthwhile to live
and fight courageously
for sacred ideals.

O blow ye evil winds
into my body’s fire
my soul you’ll never unravel.

Even though disappointed a thousand times
or fallen in the fight
and everything would worthless seem,

I have lived amidst eternity —
Be grateful, my soul —
My life was worth living.

He who was pressed from all sides
but remained victorious in spirit
is welcomed into the choir of heroes.

He who overcame the fetters
giving wings to his mind
is entering into the golden age of
the victorious.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond tells his son, Albert, “Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome, ‘Do your worst, for I will do mine!’ Then the fates will know you as we know you: as Albert Mondego, the man!” It is the courage you muster, and the courage you have in the worst moments that make you a mature human being. If you look for that courage, you’ll find it. Don’t give up!

Flight of Hope #6 – Start simple. There are many things to open your senses to that may bring you back into an appreciation of life. Go outside and let your senses awaken. Walk on the beach – feel the sand, smell and taste the salt-air, hear the waves and the gulls, watch the sunset. Walk down the street or walk in the woods, drive to the desert or sit on a park bench, and pay attention to each one of your senses. Close your eyes and experience. Anne Frank wote, “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.”

Flight of Hope #7 – There is someone available right now to listen and help.

The most important step is to talk to someone. People who feel suicidal should not try to cope alone. They should seek help NOW.

  • Talk to family or friends. Just talking to a family member or a friend or a colleague can bring huge relief.
  • Talk to a befriender. Some people cannot talk to family or friends. Some find it easier to talk to a stranger. There are befriending centers all over the world, with volunteers who have been trained to listen. If calling is too difficult, the person can send an email.
  • Talk to a doctor. If someone is going through a longer period of feeling low or suicidal, he or she may be suffering from clinical depression. This is a medical condition caused by a chemical imbalance, and can usually be treated by a doctor through the prescription of drugs and/or a referral to therapy.

Call the National Hopeline Network at 1-800-784-2433 (TOLL FREE Nation Wide)
Website: www.timesunion.com/communities/samaritans/
Website: www.suicidepreventioncenter.org

The experts say suicide is rarely a spur of the moment decision and is not so much about wanting to die, but about a powerful need for pain to end. All types of people die by suicide: men and women, rich and poor, old and young, straight and gay, rural and urban. What suicidal people share are feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and isolation, a desire for a solution to their problems, and deep uncertainties about living and dying. The more you know about suicide, the better you will be able to help someone struggling with these issues.

In the days and hours before people take their own lives, there are usually

Warning Signs:

The strongest warning signs are verbal: “I can’t go on,” “Nothing matters any more,” “I’m thinking of ending it all.” Such remarks should always be taken seriously.

Other warning signs include:
Becoming depressed or withdrawn for > 2 weeks
Behaving recklessly
Getting affairs in order and giving away valued possessions
Showing a marked change in behavior, attitudes or appearance
Abusing drugs or alcohol

What do people who feel suicidal want?

Someone who will take time to really listen.

Someone who won’t judge, or give advice or opinions, but will give their undivided attention.

Someone to trust.

Someone who will respect them.

Someone who will say, “I care.”

Someone who will make him/herself available; put the person at ease and speak calmly.

Someone who will reassure, accept and believe.

What do people who feel suicidal not want?

To be alone. Rejection can make the problem seem ten times worse. Having someone to turn to makes all the difference. Just listen.

To be advised. Lectures don’t help. Nor does a suggestion to “cheer up”, or an easy assurance that “everything will be okay.” Don’t analyze, compare, categorize or criticize.

To be interrogated. Don’t change the subject, don’t pity or patronize. Talking about feelings is difficult. People who feel suicidal don’t want to be rushed or put on the defensive.

Have hope – we are all children of God, we are all made of stars.

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America: the Beloved Community

Bill Moyers states the true and profound yet again in his speech “A Great But Broken Promise.” One part of his speech was especially affecting:

Reverend Michael Waters got it right a few years ago when he was a student here: “Martin Luther King became the symbol not only of the civil rights movement but of America itself: A symbol of a land of freedom where people of all races, creeds, and nationalities could live together as a Beloved Community.” Not as an empire. Or a superpower. Not a place where the strong take what they can and the weak what they must. But a Beloved Community. It’s the core of civilization, the crux of democracy, and a profound religious truth. But don’t go searching for the Beloved Community on a map. It’s not a place. It exists in the hearts and minds – our hearts and minds – or not at all.

Creating the Beloved Community in America is the right goal, and it’s what I’m for. I already know what I’m against; the current administration, it’s worldview, its lack of humanity and ethics, etc. Amnesty International states, “The U.S. administration remains deaf to the worldwide calls for closing down Guantanamo. It is unrepentant about the global web of abuse it has spun in the name of counter-terrorism. It is oblivious to the distress of thousands of detainees and their families, the damage to the rule of international law and human rights, and the destruction of its own moral authority, which has plummeted to an all-time low around the world while the levels of insecurity remain as high as ever.” I have read about these failures with soul-numbing chagrin, been angry, continued to vote, persistently written to my senators and reps, campaigned, prayed and done volunteer work in an effort to being balance to the force (as it were). I’ve done everything I can think of to counter the negative. And it’s right to not go quietly in the face of injustice – “Who can protest and does not, is an accomplice in the act.” ~ The Talmud

When I think of the current war and it’s leader, GW, this Einstein quote comes to mind – “He who joyfully marches to music rank and file, has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

But a focus on negativity can lead to hopelessness and cynicism – two qualities I hope never to have. Even under duress, my heart must remain strong and positive. For, as Dorothy Thompson said, “Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.” I still have a dream.

So, part of the fight for good, for democracy, for truth and humanity is to talk about what we stand for, not just about what we are against. RFK may have said it best –

Let no one be discouraged by the belief that there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills — against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation… It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man (or a woman) stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he (or she) sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. {And elsewhere he said} Laws can embody standards; governments can enforce laws–but the final task is not a task for government. It is a task for each and every one of us. Every time we turn our heads the other way when we see the law flouted–when we tolerate what we know to be wrong–when we close our eyes and ears to the corrupt because we are too busy, or too frightened–when we fail to speak up and speak out–we strike a blow against freedom and decency and justice.

So I’ll continue to speak up as so many others are also doing. I’ll continue to believe. Creating a Beloved Community is an act of love and hope, not of fear and anger. It is a positive response to a negative series of unfortunate events. It’s a glorious affirmition of what is good in the human soul, reawakened with new enthusiasm after seeing the darker side.

“In an age of nothing, at a time when we stand at the brink of our own destruction,
Strengthen your belief in yourself, in the future of humanity, in the things of this world that cannot be easily perceived.
Awaken that which lies dormant now within your soul. Re-ignite the flame of your consciousness, and measure the strength of your conviction.
Reveal the lie.
Renounce your hatred.
Seek, find and embrace the truths you are fortunate enough to discover. Cherish them. Use them to anchor you in the sea of chaos that is the world we live in.
When twilight draws near, when you are pushed to the very limits of your soul, When it seems that all you have left are the dead remnants of the fabric of your life? Believe.”

~ David Draiman

 

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The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In 1946, Eleanor Roosevelt began drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You can read and listen to her address to the UN here.

About Eleanor: “As chair of the subcommittee that drafted the UDHR she played a critical role in the creation of the declaration skillfully creating an atmosphere that permitted blending the ideas and norms of different cultures together in a document nations around the globe could assent to while marshaling U.S. support for swift passage of the declaration by separating it from a legally binding (and more problematic) covenant . Later as chairman of the Human Rights Commission, she presented the document to the General Assembly and was instrumental in its passage. Today, more than 50 years after its passage, the UDHR remains the touchstone of the global Human Rights movement and a key component of an international system that provides for international scrutiny of the way in which a nation treats its citizens.” (http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/abouteleanor/erbiography.html#yr1945)

The United Nations passed the declaration in 1948. As we approach the 60th Anniversary of the Declaration, it is clear that the America run by the G.W. Bush administration is not currently operating under these principles. However, Mr. Bush’s current approval rating is hovering around 30% , indicating that perhaps about 70% of us would prefer different Executive representation. There is hope that we can rebuild our nation into one that is ethical and humanitarian, lawful and tolerant, fair and honorable, free and just.

Gladstone Murray said: “The central fact is that man is fundamentally a moral being, that the light we have is imperfect does not matter so long as we are always trying to improve it … we are equal in sharing the moral freedom that distinguishes us as men. Man’s status makes each individual an end in himself. No man is by nature simply the servant of the state or of another man … the ideal and fact of freedom — and not technology — are the true distinguishing marks of our civilization.”

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly Resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948

Preamble

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedoms,

Whereas member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now therefore,

The General Assembly

Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2

1. Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

2. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11

1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14

1. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

2. This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15

1. Everyone has the right to a nationality.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16

1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

2. Marriage shall be entered into only with free and full consent of the intending spouses.

3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17

1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21

1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

2. Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.

3. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23

1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

2. Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

3. Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27

1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29

1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

2. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

3. These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

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If you’d like to be more involved in making a difference in Human Rights, visit Amnesty International.

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“Peace is the paramount interest of everybody.”

Written in 1967, these comments by Bertrand Russell ring true today:

“The powers must learn that peace is the paramount interest of everybody. To cause this to be realized by governments should be the supreme aim.”

“What can private persons do meanwhile? They can agitate, by pointing out the effects of modern war and the danger of the extinction of Man. They can teach men not to hate peoples other than their own, or to cause themselves to be hated. They can value, and cause others to value, what Man has achieved in art and science. They can emphasize the superiority of co-operation to competition.”

“Consider for a moment what our planet is and what it might be. At present, for most, there is toil and hunger, constant danger, more hatred than love. There could be a happy world, where co-operation was more in evidence than competition, and monotonous work is done by machines, where what is lovely in nature is not destroyed to make room for hideous machines whose sole business is to kill, and where to promote joy is more respected than to produce mountains of corpses. Do not say this is impossible: it is not. It waits only for men to desire it more than the infliction of torture.”

“There is an artist imprisoned in each one of us. Let him loose to spread joy everywhere.”

From Bertrand Russell’s last essay “1967”

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What to do during war…

Children, everybody, here’s what to do during war:

In a time of destruction, create something.
A poem.
A parade.
A community.
A school.
A vow.
A moral principle.
One peaceful moment.

~ maxine hong kingston

peace.jpg

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Rochelle’s Campaign to End World Hunger

Please join me this holiday season and together we can make a difference in the lives of needy families around the globe. I’ve pledged to help Heifer International plant the seeds of peace by ending hunger and poverty. Please help me reach my goal!

Heifer International will use our donations to provide livestock and training to families around the world helping them feed themselves and earn money by selling milk, eggs, and wool. In return, these families promise that they will give the offspring from their animals to other families in their community. It’s a path out of hunger and poverty, and it begins with us.

Make a donation today! Give the life-changing gift of a Heifer International animal.

 
  Heifer International. Ending Hunger. Caring for the Earth.
Donate

Today, millions of people who were once hungry will be nourished by milk, eggs and fresh vegetables.self-reliance

Families who for generations knew only poverty will be building new homes and starting businesses.

Children who once headed out to the fields to do backbreaking work will be heading into schoolrooms to learn to read.

And people who never thought they’d be in a position to help someone else will be experiencing the joy of charitable giving.

How is this possible?

With Heifer’s proven approach – almost 60 years in the making – to helping people obtain a sustainable source of food and income.

Cornerstones guide our efforts to end world hunger and care for the earth.

Long-Term Solutions emphasizing community involvement distinguish our work from that of global relief organizations.

Passing on the Gift
means recipients agree to share the offspring of gift animals with others in need, making them equal partners with Heifer in the fight to end world hunger.

Environment and Sustainable Development is taught to our project recipients to help them achieve sustainable agricultural production.

Improved Animal Well-Being guidelines are strictly reinforced with professional veterinary training staff.

Disaster Rehabilitation, with long-term, sustainable development the goal of Heifer’s rehabilitation projects.

How We Measure Success shows how people’s lives have permanently changed since Heifer came along.

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Remember John today….and Imagine!

“If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliche that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal.” –
John Lennon

Today is the 26th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. He’s still with us in so many ways though, and his vision and beliefs ring true today… just see the film The U.S. vs. John Lennon. John’s messages of peace, of questioning war and governments, and of promoting critical thinking, understanding and communication are as compelling now as they were during Vietnam.

So take a moment today, as I am, to remember a brillant man; a peacemaker, a music maker, a leader.

“The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.”

John

 

 

We should remember those possibilities now, and act on them. Get involved! Read about it!

Some great pictures, quotes and other items of interest about John can be found at the official website and a well done and comprehensive biography can be found at wikipedia.

“It just was a gradual development over the years. I mean last year was ‘all you need is love.’ This year, it’s ‘all you need is love and peace, baby.’ Give peace a chance, and remember Love. The only hope for us is peace. Violence begets violence. You can have peace as soon as you like if we all pull together. You’re all geniuses, and you’re all beautiful. You don’t need anyone to tell you who you are. You are what you are. Get out there and get peace, think peace, and live peace and breathe peace, and you’ll get it as soon as you like.” – John Lennon

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