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My granddaughter is a middle schooler having just entered eighth-grade. She is very athletic and focused her talents on dance for many years, but last year she discovered volleyball. I was thrilled personally because I can now go and watch her play. But it also started me thinking about the importance of team sports for our young people. In volleyball , you need someone to dig out the opponents’ serves, a setter to put the ball in just the right place so the outside player can finish off the play. If one of these players doesn’t do their job, it puts real strain on the whole team.There is something incredibly healthy about being part of a team. A player is not on the court for her own glory, she is there to help the team succeed. This is a model that carries over into other facets of life. We are responsible for how our actions affect those around us. Each person must put the interests of the team ahead of her own individual needs. That’s how it works in team sports. That’s how it works in life.Team sports can also have some downsides. Good sportsmanship can be sacrificed for winning at all costs. Pressure from overly competitive families can rob athletes of the fun of competing. As far as deciding how important winning should be, I know two things for sure. One, winning is not everything and two, losing is not the end of the world. Somewhere in between those two extremes lies an acceptable level of importance that you must find for yourself. Whether you are athletic or not, you will still have the chance to be a part of a team in school and beyond. It is a great way to raise the quality of your life. Enjoy it! ... See MoreSee Less
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More on the importance of self-esteem for Middle-schoolers:One of the most popular words in education and in psychology is self-esteem. Sometimes I hesitate to use it because it is used so often. But, the truth is that self-esteem is the most important goal we can have for ourselves, our friends and our family members. Lots of good things happen if we are feeling good about ourselves. The opposite is also true. We can send waves of destruction based on our own negative self image. You will make many choices today about how you will act. Each will raise or lower your self esteem. Take the time to notice how you're feeling after you act. If you feel better about yourself after you do it, the action increased your self esteem. If you feel like you want to crawl into a hole, you have lowered your self-worth. Rochester’s Frederick Douglass said, “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” In other words, your value is determined ultimately by you. A friend of mine told me the other day that the thing she regrets the most about her youth is that she gave away her own value to the opinions of other people. She said she let them determine, in her own mind, her worth as a person. Now, she says, she doesn’t allow anyone to decide how she feels about herself. The bottom line is: do estimable acts and you will have good self esteem. ... See MoreSee Less
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As a follow-up to my message on self-worth to Middle-schoolers:As middle school students you are beginning the most important battle of your life, a battle that will literally last for the rest of your life. You should not expect to fight the battle perfectly, but you need to spot when you’re off the trail and get back on. I am talking about the battle for control of your value. First, let me tell each of you that you are of tremendous value. You have your own set of skills. You can love others and you are lovable. The trick for you, and for all of us, is to keep in touch with that value, to behave in a way that raises your own value and to avoid actions that diminish your value in your own eyes. What are some right ways and wrong ways to approach the battle? Here are some right ways—embrace a life style that makes you feel like a good person. If you love music, develop your musical abilities. If you love words, read and write and express your ideas in a way that makes you happy. If you love to exercise, take every opportunity to use your body constructively. If you feel a sense of spiritual purpose, do everything you can to develop a relationship with your higher power. Do not give away your value to anyone or anything. Do not let the opinions of others dictate how you feel about yourself. I know this runs counter to what you’ve been told–that adults have all the answers, but your value lies inside of you and you are in charge of how you feel about yourself. Finally, don’t give your value away to drugs and alcohol. As soon as you start letting foreign substances make decisions on how you behave, you end up the big loser. I hope you’ll fight the good fight for your own value. I know for sure that you’re worth it. ... See MoreSee Less
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As I have grown old and my memory has gotten worse, I find myself increasingly forgetting whom I told what. Fortunately, since I’ve given up lying, my worst fear now is becoming redundant and boring and not getting caught in a lie I don’t even remember. ... See MoreSee Less
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A message for incoming Middle-schoolers:Welcome Back to School! When I entered 7th grade many years ago, I was anxious and a bit afraid. I was young for my grade and I was entering a new school a lot further from home. I only knew that I was leaving the comfort of sixth grade and heading into the unknown.Years later, when I taught seventh and eighth grade, I helped youngsters make the transition to middle school. It was really a passage from childhood to adolescence. It was a challenge even in the best of times.This year is anything but the best of times. Covid-19 has made a mess of planning and preparation for back to school. As a middle school student, what should you do to stay safe, happy and actually learn something?My advice is pretty straight forward. Do things that make you feel good about yourself. That may mean spending time with your friends, reading a book that you really like or exercising. When you have a choice whether to do something that will make you feel good about yourself or bad about yourself, choose good every time. This new school year, make conscious decisions. Don’t give up your peace of mind to anyone. There are enough things you can’t control in the world. Don’t let your mind be one of them. ... See MoreSee Less
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Tomorrow, most middle school students in my local school district will return to full-time, in-person education for the first time in more than 14 months. I wondered how students are feeling about the return, so I asked a seventh-grader who I know well what her feelings were about it.I asked her two questions: 1) What are you most excited about going back for and 2) What are you most worried about returning to? I was surprised to hear that her answer to both was, “Seeing my friends.” That’s correct—“seeing her friends.”She said she was excited because it has been so long since she has seen all her friends in the same place, together in school. She says she has missed that a lot.She said she was worried about seeing her friends because her “friend groups” now aren’t the same as they were 14 months ago. She now has two distinct groups of friends and,, she added, “they don’t really like each other very much.”What do you do when you’re caught in the middle between quite different groups? This can be a tough situation especially when friends are as important as they are to middle schoolers. My advice would be to plan your behavior in advance. Know exactly what you’re going to do if one group starts bad-mouthing the other. For sure, don’t take part in the name-calling. Observe who is modeling the behavior that most closely represents the things you believe in. You may well be able to preserve all or most of your friendships, but you may not. The most important thing is that you remain a good friend to yourself. ... See MoreSee Less
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Paige Bueckers is a freshman phenom women’s basketball player who plays for UConn. She led her team to a berth in this year’s Final Four with 28 points in a comeback win over Baylor. Immediately after the game, Paige was interviewed and asked how she was feeling about their come-from-behind victory.Paige was off, saying, “I have to tell you this story.” She recounted a coincidental occurrence she had had prior to the game which featured the Justin Bieber song, “Never Say Never!” She said that was the message she needed to hear when her team was behind and sinking fast and that there aren’t any coincidences.My point in bringing this up is not to debate whether Paige was right or whether she was just being a naive19-year-old. My point is that living with a sense of wonder leads to a life of joy. Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life—as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle.” The choice we make will determine, to a large degree, the quality of our lives regardless of outside circumstances. Socrates observed, “Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” I have no NCAA basketball championships in my future, but I do have events that can bring joy and wonder if I choose to believe that I live in a miraculous world. ... See MoreSee Less
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Oprah Winfrey has said that “Caste,” by Isabel Wilkerson is her most vital Book Club selection yet. "It explains why we are where we are in terms of racial injustice and inequality.”I am in the midst of reading this landmark book. Already, it has changed and widened my view of race and social classes in this country. Things that I have taken for granted, or completely ignored as a white person, are examined and rediscovered. Ms. Wilkerson relates a conversation she had with a Nigerian woman after speaking at the British Library in London. The woman said to her, “You know, there are no black people in Africa.” “Of course, there are,” Wilkerson thought. “There is a whole continent of black people in Africa.” “Africans are not black,” the woman replied. They are Igbo and Yoruba, Ewe, Akan, Ndebele. They are not black. They are just themselves. They are humans on the land. That is how they see themselves and that is who they are.”Wilkerson was stopped short by their conversation as I am when I’m forced to view familiar things in new ways. I have been so immersed in the artificial constructs of caste and race that I need to force myself to see things as they really are. “Caste,” is a deeply disturbing book that I wish everyone would read. It might help us treat each other as fellow humans. ... See MoreSee Less
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There’s a Buddhist saying which offers, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” I felt that way Thursday when I got my second Covid shot. I was immensely relieved, but I asked myself the question, “What now?”Nothing had changed in the world. People were mostly wearing masks and would be for quite a while. We are still facing immense problems as a nation and as a world. Where do I fit into the daily equation of living? I’m still chopping wood and carrying water.I asked some friends for their ideas on the subject and they were very helpful One said, “Be willing to live today bravely. You are not the same person you were as a child, teenager, or young adult. You bring wisdom and strength to your daily challenges that you didn’t have before.”Another said, “Keep it in the present. Do today’s work today. Let tomorrow take care of itself.”A third added, “You’re not in this alone. Keep us in the loop.”I’m thinking about their remarks as I try to move toward a post-covid existence in a positive way. ... See MoreSee Less
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Today is Valentines Day, a day when thoughts turn to romantic love. That type of love the Greeks called Eros. But, there is a much larger type of love—the love that connects us to a Higher Power and to each other. The Greeks called it Agape.One of the most famous passages in the Bible talks about this kind of love. It is the love that all of us need to heal the tremendous pain we have inflicted on each other. I Corinthians 13 New International Version1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ... See MoreSee Less
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I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up I felt like everyone but me had gotten a playbook on how to solve the most mysterious parts of adolescence. That isn’t to say that everything was a mystery. I was athletic and a decent student because both required following set rules, which I could do. Where I got confused was handling personal relationships, especially with girls, where there seemed to be no rules or, if there were rules, I sure didn’t know what they were.The idea of having a playbook is tantalizing. But, the truth is, no-one had any more of an idea than anyone else growing up. Some people were better at faking it than others. Some people didn’t even try. Those that did try often times put a lot of energy into avoiding being, “found out.”I think that becoming a balanced, happy adult relies on the ability to look at oneself with honesty and compassion. It is important to note that you were doing the best you could growing up and that you were and continue to be a worthwhile, lovable person. It is vital to maintain your positive self-image by establishing a life-style built on Honesty, Openness and Willingness. (Note the acronym—HOW). If you do that, you’ll be able to write your own playbook for living that will serve you well no matter what your age or challenges. ... See MoreSee Less
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I saw a movie when I was a senior in high school. It actually came out in 1957, but I saw it in 1964. It’s called, The Bridge on the River Kwai.” If you haven’t seen it, Spoiler Alert! It’s about a company of British soldiers being held in a Japanese POW camp.The British commanding officer is played by Alec Guiness who went on to fame and fortune as Obie Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.Anyhow, his character is incredibly strong and dedicated, but somewhere along the way, he decides that his men will build the best bridge the Japanese have ever seen, which they do. At the same time, the British command is trying to figure out a way to blow up the bridge so that people and supplies will be limited on that route.The climactic scene has Alec Guiness’ character finally realizing how misguided his efforts have been and his last words before falling on the plunger to detonate the explosion of the bridge are, “What have I done?”The point of the story is that some of the most important times in my life have been when I have realized I was on the wrong track and needed to change directions. It was scary, blowing up everything I was used to, but worth every bit of positive change that it allowed. ... See MoreSee Less
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Today, on MLK day, his words from Montgomery, AL in 1965 , speak directly to what we are witnessing in our country today.King said, “If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. (Yes, sir) He gave him Jim Crow. (Uh huh) And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, (Yes, sir) he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man. (Right sir) And he ate Jim Crow. (Uh huh) And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings. (Yes, sir) And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, (Speak) their last outpost of psychological oblivion." My prayer is that, even little by little, we can recognize our common humanity and our common interests and that together we can change the landscape of America. ... See MoreSee Less
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There are two values which I rely heavily on in living my life—honesty and gratitude. The practice of honesty for me means taking a daily inventory of my actions, identifying my highlights and my mistakes and making amends for any misdeeds. If I do this faithfully, there is no reason for me to lie or to try to be someone I’m not. I am earning my own self-esteem on a daily basis, becoming more comfortable in my own skin.Why gratitude? Because choosing to be grateful is the single most important thing I can do to improve my quality of life. Every decision I make to be grateful eliminates a possible chance to be hateful. If you think I’m exaggerating, try it for a week.A surprising byproduct of honesty and gratitude is compassion. Really knowing who I am, and being thankful for it, makes it easier to understand what others are going through, even those I don’t agree with.So, how do these value choices help me to deal with the horrendous events that seem to be built on falsehood and selfishness? To be honest, my first emotions around recent events were not self-reflection, honesty and gratitude. They were anger, hatred, fear and outrage and I totally allowed myself to feel them.A very wise person once told me, “When you head into the swamp of negative emotions, don’t go alone and don’t pitch a tent.” I followed that advice. I was able to experience those very real negative emotions without staying in them because I have positive values that my life rests on.There will be trying times ahead, but I am convinced that I know how to get through them without contributing to the damage. I plan to live with honesty, gratitude and compassion. ... See MoreSee Less
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Here is my New Year’s Message from 17 years ago. Some truths are timeless:At the beginning of every year, I look forward with hope, hope that things will be better in the future for me and all across the world. The word for hope in Arabic is “Amal.” The word also means imagination, which I find interesting. Only by imagining a better future can we create one. That is the whole purpose of New Year’s Resolutions. We force ourselves to conceive of a better us than last year’s version.Martin Luther King Jr., whose life we will celebrate in two weeks, said about hope, “We must accept finite disappointments, but never lose infinite hope.”Monroe Forester said, “Hope is always available to us. When we feel defeated, we need only take a deep breath and say, ‘yes,’ and hope will reappear.”And one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, wrote, “The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is to live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”It’s a new year. Wrap yourself in your own vision of a better you.BEST WISHES FOR 2021! ... See MoreSee Less
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I’m in the middle of trying to clear away some of the clutter in my basement. I came across an English and French version of Antoine de St. Exupery’s, “The Little Prince.” I opened it to one of my favorite parts, where the fox explains to the Prince the value of “allowing yourself to be tamed” by another human being. Another way of saying that is, making yourself vulnerable to be known.Those that are willing to be known are immensely blessed. They can give and receive love as equals with all sorts of different people who are equally open.I’ll give you a real-life example. I have a close friend who has been undergoing chemotherapy for the past six months. From day one, she chose to share her journey with her many friends. She shared her physical pain, her fear, her doubt and her hope. It was painful to hear her at times, but now there is light. Her pet scans are, “consistent with remission.” There was never any guarantee of that, but she was willing to be known. What a blessing for her and for us.It’s scary to be really vulnerable, but it is worth it. Just make sure you choose your friends carefully. You’ll know who they are because they are willing to share themselves with you as well. ... See MoreSee Less
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I came across this short message of 5/7/04, written the day after the final “Friends” episode:“Last night many of us shared the common experience of saying goodbye to our friends—the friends on the TV series of the same name. After 10 years, we said goodbye to Ross and Rachel, Chandler and Monica, Joey and Phoebe. I’ll miss them.In real life, friends do come and go, but I believe one thing to be true. Real friends that we make by being real with each other will be friends for the rest of our lives. Dare to be who you are. Your real friends will love you not in spite of your faults, but because of them—because we are all imperfect and we all need friends. ... See MoreSee Less
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As many of you know, I started writing these value messages in 2003, for the school community at Churchville-Chili, a suburb of Rochester, NY. A sample of some of the 900+ messages is on my website: mrnixonwordsofwisdom.com. These messages were written for middle-school students as well as the teachers and staff. After all, values are values no matter your age, no matter the date.. Here’s a message from 9/15/03.“I want to talk about honesty. I’m pretty sure that you will be tempted to lie today, or at least to stretch the truth. Probably, you’ll be tempted to lie more than once. What is the single biggest reason for lying? In my opinion, it is to try and impress someone. The belief is that if I can make someone think better of me than I actually deserve, then I will feel better about myself. The only thing wrong with that theory is that it works just the opposite. The Talmud states, ‘If you add to the truth, you subtract from it.”Abraham Lincoln was an incredibly wise man. In talking about telling the truth, he said, ‘I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.’Andre Gide came right to the point when he said, ‘It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.’So, today, when you are tempted to try to appear to be something you are not, be proud of who you are, live up to your light and tell the truth.” ... See MoreSee Less
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I received the following comment from my older brother in Minnesota. It was written by Ron James and it sums up how I’m feeling this holiday season. Peace!Ron James12 hr agoToday I received a Christmas letter from my cousins in Iowa. I thought this forum would appreciate the first paragraph: “We hope for, we long for, peace and understanding among all people. We hope and pray for a time when truth, compassion, honesty and character are the benchmarks by which we measure worth. We look to a time when the least among us, the marginalized, the powerless, the “other” are treated with respect and compassion. With that thought, may our hearts open to the spirit of the season.” I share this with the acknowledgment that adoption of this perspective requires acceptance of the understanding that IT STARTS WITH ME. ... See MoreSee Less
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During the pandemic, I’ve spent a lot of time at home. Today, I decided to pull out one of my old DVD’s—the 1990 super successful movie, “Ghost.” The film grossed $505 million on a budget of $22 million. It stars Patrick Swayzee, just off a hugely popular performance in “Dirty Dancing,” and Demi Moore, an up-and-coming young actress. Whoopi Goldberg adds great comic moments as a psychic.Although critics were lukewarm on the movie, audiences loved it and it received two Academy Awards. It’s easy to see why people loved it. It offers a generally optimistic view of what happens when we die, unless we’re really bad guys. The most effective scenes in the movie involve Molly (Demi Moore) coming to believe that Sam (Patrick Swayze) is really there. Who of us has not wished we could hear, touch and share love with someone we’ve lost?For those wishing to read a scholarly examination of the afterlife, I would recommend the book, “The Last Frontier,” by Julia Assante, Phd. at Columbia University. She takes a multi-cultural look at beliefs about the afterlife and reported experiences of those who have died and come back. Assante concludes, “Each person is born with a spiritual and biological faith that is personal, intimate, and optimistic. Real faith springs from innate awareness of our connectedness with all living beings, with nature and All That Is. It requires only that we retrieve that child part in each of us that knows the universe is good. Not good and evil, not even good and bad. Just good.” Or as Sam puts it at the end of “Ghost”—“The Love Inside You, You take it with you.” ... See MoreSee Less
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”Joy to the World!” Is there Joy in our really troubled world? Yes, but it doesn’t appear by accident. Henri J. M. Nouwen writes, “Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose it and keep choosing it every day.” What exactly is joy? Dr. Robert Holden says, “Joy is the soul of happiness. Like pleasure, it can express itself through the body, but it is not of the body. Like satisfaction, it can be felt emotionally and appreciated mentally, but it is so much more than just an emotion or a state of mind.”If you’ve experienced joy, you have a sense of what it is. Brene Brown calls it “the good mood of the soul.” The thing about joy is that it is not dependent on outside forces. People in really trying circumstances can still be joyful. It is closely linked with gratitude. It is aided by a belief in, and a sense of, a spiritual reality. Connection and closeness with others are catalysts for joy.I choose joy when I help my 12-year-old granddaughter with her French. I choose joy when I share the positive test results of my friend battling cancer. I choose joy when I meditate on the goodness of the universe.This holiday season and during the days beyond, choose to live joyfully. Choose it every morning and give thanks for it every night. As Three Dog Night sang in 1972, “Joy to You and Me!” ... See MoreSee Less
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If you’ve seen the movie, “Up“ you’ll understand the significance of the word, “Squirrel.” It’s what the dog’s collar translates his bark into whenever he sees a squirrel. It’s a very funny on-going joke which demonstrates how easy it is for the dog to get distracted.I was thinking how challenged I am in a similar way. I can be with my wife or on a Zoom meeting when a “Squirrel” pops up. It can look like a pandemic or another national situation totally out of my control. The common denominator is that it takes my thoughts and attention away from what I’m doing and diminishes my presence in the moment.It may not seem like a big deal, but if I am trying to live a purposeful life, chasing “squirrels” can’t help. Sometimes, I just need to talk to myself by saying something like, “Come back,” or “Stay here!”I believe my time and attention are important. When another person is gifting me with their time, the least I can do is to try to be present. “Squirrel” is funny in the movies, not so funny when it’s me chasing them. ... See MoreSee Less
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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, this year more than ever. It gives me a chance to focus on what I’m thankful for. David Stendl-Rast wrote, “The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful. It is gratitude that makes us joyful.”This year I learned something about myself when I took inventory of my gratitude list. I already knew that I am grateful for my wife of 50 years, my two grown children and seven grandchildren. I knew that I am grateful for my health, with survival of a heart attack eight years ago leading the way. What I didn’t realize is that at the top of my list is gratitude to be willing to change for the better.I had a conversation with friends on this subject and we agreed that such willingness requires keeping an open mind, but, more importantly, it requires keeping an open heart. I am willing to let people into my heart, to share space with them at the most basic level of human existence. This is not always pain-free. In fact, taking on other people’s suffering can be challenging and difficult. But, it’s worth it, because, when I do, I can live on an entirely different level.A rabbinical tale talks about a student asking a rabbi why learning lessons is so often painful The rabbi replies that God places lessons on your heart and when your heart breaks, they fall in. On this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the joy and support that I give and receive when I live with an open heart. It’s what helps me change for the better. ... See MoreSee Less
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The most emotional part of the post election period for me came Saturday night, Nov. 7th when the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect addressed a crowd of supporters in Wilmington, Delaware. Kamala Harris’ remarks were particularly moving, not because they were exceptional in content, but because of the reaction they drew from the thousands of women in the crowd. Smiles and tears were everywhere. Young girls beamed. Their mothers sobbed.I am currently listening to Melinda Gates read her book entitled, “Moment of Lift.” It is about empowering women around the world. She sites the case of the Mousselar caste in India whose girls are told from birth that they are the lowest of the low and have no value. That self-image is changed for some through education and the establishment of a girls karate team. The group, ultimately, wins the national championship and goes on to compete in the world competition in Japan where, for the first time, the girls are treated with respect and honor. They realized, according to Melinda Gates, that their place in society was not due to their own deficiencies, but to a basic flaw in society. I put these two examples together, taking place worlds apart, because they both represent the critical importance of the self-image of girls and women. Men have constructed rules to keep women in their place. You can see it in unequal pay for equal work. You can see it in laws to control women’s reproductive choices. You can see it in the huge gap in unpaid labor. Until now, you could see it in the absence of a woman from the nation’s highest offices.But now, at least, the last one is off the list. Girls can see that. Girls of color can see that. Daughters of immigrants can see that. That’s why women, and many men, are feeling new hope for the future of women in this country. In the face of Kamala Harris, girls can see themselves sharing equally in the American Dream. ... See MoreSee Less
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October 31, 1970, Halloween and the wedding of Kathy and Ted Nixon. 50 years ago. ... See MoreSee Less
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I had the privilege of taking part in a two-day, on-line discussion presented but the Urban League in Rochester, NY entitled, “Interrupting Racism.” The CEO of the Urban League, Seanelle Hawkins, told a story which beautifully illustrates the problem with the current way that we are dealing with racism.She described several women swimming in the river when a baby comes floating downstream. One of the women grabs the baby, drys it off and hands it to another woman to take care of. But then, another baby floats down and then another and another. The women are soon calling for help for more women to help with the flood of babies coming down the river. They are so busy saving babies that they don’t have time to ask the most important question, “What is causing these babies to be coming in the first place?”We are concentrating on saving the victims of our racist society, a necessary and valiant battle, but we need to look upstream and attack the ongoing, underlying causes of these social casualties. It is up to each of us to find out what they are and to insist on a change toward equality and justice for all. ... See MoreSee Less
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I watched a new documentary last night, available through thelittle.org. It’s called, “River City Drumbeat.” It examines a youth drum corps in Louisville, KY. The program has been running for thirty years and demonstrates the importance of community in the Africa-American culture. The movie starts with band members shouting a pledge over their drumbeats. In part, it says, “I pledge to my ancestors, whose names I may not know, to respect your many struggles…” They also pledge to their families, their community and to themselves.Near the end of the film, one of the corps’ members, giving a commencement speech as Class President, quotes a poem fromTupac Shakur. The poem is, “The Rose that Grew from Concrete,” and here it is:"Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack
 in the concrete
 Proving nature's laws wrong it learned 2 walk
 without having feet
 Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams
 it learned 2 breathe fresh air 
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
 when no one else even cared!"It’s hard, as a white man who grew in an environment full of sunlight, rain and fertile fields, to know what it has been like to grow up as a black man in this country. But, I am listening and trying. ... See MoreSee Less
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A friend and I were discussing the effects that emotions have on our energy level. She identified three emotions which she said provided us the biggest boost. They are love, hope and gratitude. I identified the three emotions that are the biggest drain—fear, anger and hatred. Let’s talk about the good things first.Love—I’m talking about the love that holds us together, the love that connects us to our fellow humans. It is the biggest source of energy and power that there is.Hope—Our mood level is tied directly to our expectation of how things are going to turn out. Expecting the best is an empowering way to live.Gratitude—When things are good, be openly grateful for the gifts. It is the most effective way to avoid negative projection into the future.Now for the drains on our humanness.Fear—If you are living in fear, you are giving away the power of the present. Everything looks like a threat and your energy level plummets.Anger—This is the most deceptive of the negative emotions because the initial rush of feeling angry appears to boost our energy, but the aftermath, the crash, is often dramatic and separates us from others and from our positive emotions.Hatred—Nothing is more exhausting than hating someone or a group of someones. It focuses our attention negatively on other people and keeps us from taking responsibility for ourselves.The good news is you have a choice. If you find yourself tired all the time, you might want to start embracing and living in your positive emotions. You’ll have a lot more energy to enjoy the things that really matter in your life. ... See MoreSee Less
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1 years ago

Pax Anderson
I am going to say something that should be no surprise to any of us.He was a crook. I will never call Nixon a bad President. ... See MoreSee Less
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I’m sure you’ve heard a flight attendant say, “In case of loss of pressurization, masks will automatically drop from the ceiling compartment. If you’re traveling with small children, please put your own mask on first before attending to those around you.” Whether you’re traveling through life with or without small children, this is good advice—“Put your own mask on first.” That may sound selfish, but I think it’s really self-care. Mandy Hale says in “Country Living,” “It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.” On a practical level, here our five ways to care for yourself. First, Eat right. Second, get enough sleep. Third, get regular exercise. Fourth, reach out to friends and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Finally, do something that brings you joy, what Brene Brown calls, “The good mood of the soul.” It’s not selfish to put your mask on first. It’s a matter of survival for you and the people around you. ... See MoreSee Less
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Best-selling author Tony Campolo tells this story. Years ago, a man placed a personal ad in a major metropolitan newspaper. It read: “Raul, All is forgiven. Meet me at 3rd and Vine at noon on Friday and I will take you home. Love, Dad.” The father went to 3rd and Vine at noon, but he was not prepared for the scene that greeted him. Crowded at the intersection were about fifty young men, each of them named Raul, each of them hoping that it was his own father who would come and find him and take him home again. The Democrat and Chronicle ran a front-page story, a number of years ago, of a man and a woman, he 51, she 48, who had not had any contact in nearly 34 years. Their last meeting was a nearly tragic one. The young man, Peter Cafarelli was 17, and had borrowed the family car to go to the Greece Hockey rink. Anita LaRoque, 14 at the time, was struck by Cafarelli’s vehicle, causing permanent physical damage. Anita LaRoque, now a Hilton resident, took the time to find and contact Cafrarelli and to ask him to meet her and her family. In the D & C article, its author, Mark Hare states, “Now, nearly 34 years after that night, his (Cafarelli’s) burden has been lifted—or at least eased. Forgiveness is a tonic for the soul.” The details differ, but we all long for forgiveness from those we’ve wronged. We can’t make anyone forgive us, but remember what a gift we can give by forgiving others. If you take a step like Anita LaRoque, and forgive the person who has wronged you, you’ll find out what a great gift you’ve given yourself. ... See MoreSee Less
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On May 1st, 1969, witnesses from PBS appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, chaired by Sen John Pastore of Rhode Island. President Richard Nixon was urging the Senate to defund PBS. Judging by watching Sen. Pastore, he was ready for the hearings to be over. But, there was one final witness left to testify—Fred Rogers, host of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.I urge you to watch this stunning example of decency winning out as part of the documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” or you can see the 7-minute clip on Youtube.Mr. Rogers is kind and genuine and when he finishes his presentation by reading the lyrics to one of his songs, Sen. Pastore says, “I think it’s wonderful. It looks like you just earned your 20 million dollars.”I love this sequence because it shows that, sometimes, lawmakers, or even regular people, can change their minds when confronted with love and compassion. Here is a portion of the lyrics that Mr. Rogers read that day.“What do you do with the mad that you feel, so mad you could bite? When the whole wide world seems oh so wrong and nothing you do seems very right…It’s great to be able to stop when you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong and do something else instead…I can stop when I want to, can stop when I wish. Can stop, stop, stop anytime and what a good feeling to feel like this.And know that the feeling is really mine. Know that there’s something deep inside that helps us become what we can. For a girl can be someday a lady and a boy can be someday a man.” ... See MoreSee Less
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Demands for racial justice increase with yet another police shooting of a black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In a heartbreaking video, Blake is shown being shot seven times in the back as he tried to get into his car. Blake somehow survived the shooting, but is paralyzed from the waist down recovering in the hospital.Outrage has spread to the NBA which postponed playoff games for at least two nights. The WNBA followed suit as did some MLB and Major League Soccer teams.Doc Rivers, coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, spoke out in a story in the USA Today of August 27th. Outraged by the use of fear tactics in speeches during the Republican National Convention, Rivers said, “We’re the ones getting killed. We’re the ones getting shot. We’re the ones that are denied to live in certain communities. We’ve been hung. We’ve been shot. All you do is keep hearing about fear.” Rivers continued, “It’s amazing why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”Ray Allen, former NBA player adds, “What do we have to do? We need to speak out all together.” Capitalize ALL. You, me, everyone of us needs to do something to bring about change.If you need more motivation, watch the shameless attempts of those in power to hang on to their positions by turning black people’s suffering into white people’s fear. Doc Rivers nailed it. Nothing but net! ... See MoreSee Less
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I just watched the documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” on PBS. I wish everyone in our country could watch this movie. Fred Rogers stood for everything that is good and kind in all of us. He recognized that, “All of us long to be loved and to know that we are lovable and capable of loving.”Mr. Rogers built his reputation in dealing with children on his PBS program, “Mr. Rogers” Neighborhood, but his lessons for us as adults are just as poignant and just as powerful today. In one of his final commencement speeches, he asked everyone in the crowd to picture someone who, “smiled you into smiling..who loved you into loving.” Take a minute to do that. Remember how special you are because of that person. We all have someone like that. That’s why we are more alike than we are different. ... See MoreSee Less
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I was speculating with my therapist yesterday about the evidence for God in the world. Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life, as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle.” In my life, I have had many experiences that have left me believing the latter. My therapist laughed when I said that and I asked her what she was laughing about. She told me this story.“My son-in-law was skiing the glacier in Northern Sweden a while back,” she said. “A storm came up quickly so he headed for a tow-rope to take him up to safety. Unfortunately, as he was heading up, he was struck by lightening, knocking him unconscious and sending gloves and helmet flying. He woke up some time later, looking into the face of the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. As it turns out,” my therapist explained, “it was because she was a German model. But, he thought he’d died and gone to heaven and said so. ‘No,’ the woman said, ‘you’re very much alive. What’s your name?’ “Adam,’ he said. ‘Welcome back,’ the German woman said. ‘My name is Eve.’’”True story. Or maybe her son-in-law was delusional after being struck by lightening. As Einstein said, “Nothing’s a miracle or Everything’s a miracle.” It’s our choice to believe what we want. ... See MoreSee Less
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Oprah Winfrey has said that Caste by Isabel Wilkerson is her most vital Book Club selection yet. "It explains why we are where we are in terms of racial injustice and inequality.”I am in the midst of reading this landmark book. Already, it has changed and widened my view of race and social classes in this country. Things that I have taken for granted, or completely ignored as a white person, are examined and rediscovered. Ms. Wilkerson relates a conversation she had with a Nigerian woman after speaking at the British Library in London. The woman said to her, “You know, there are no black people in Africa.” “Of course, there are,” Wilkerson thought. “There is a whole continent of black people in Africa.” “Africans are not black,” the woman replied. They are Igbo and Yoruba, Ewe, Akan, Ndebele. They are not black. They are just themselves. They are humans on the land. That is how they see themselves and that is who they are.”“They don’t become black until they go to America or come to the U.K.,” she said. It is then that they become black.”Wilkerson writes, “It was in the making of the New World that Europeans became white, Africans black and everyone else yellow, red or brown. It was in the making of the New World that humans were set apart on the basis of what they looked like…identified solely in contrast to one another and ranked to form a caste system based on a new concept called race.”It is both humbling and empowering to realize that the roles I play in my life are arbitrary, part of a larger script and, yet, subject to change. I believe as I continue to read, “Caste,” that I will grow in my understanding of racial injustice and discover ways I can change the script to help make a difference. ... See MoreSee Less
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Bruce Jacobs begins the 2011 version of his book, “Race Manners,” with a quote from Buddha—“If we see ourselves in others, whom can we harm?”Likewise, James Baldwin is quoted as saying,”It is a terrible and inexorable law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one’s own: in the face of one’s victim, one sees one’s own.”These are two short but profound comments on empathy, a form of love that binds people together. Not doing others harm is vital, but doing positive good is also important. The Bible states the concept this way—“Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Love of yourself, of who you are, is tied directly to your ability to love others. Said another way, You can’t give away what you don’t have in the first place, so if you don’t love yourself, you’re likely not going to treat others very well.It sounds so simple, but where do you enter the loop? Do you do something that builds your own self-esteem or do you help another? The answer is, yes! Jump in anywhere you like. Find something that touches you that will make someone else’s life better. Then, do it. Don’t let your fear of the unknown get in the way of beginning to make changes in your life that will widen your world-view and deepen your empathy.There’s no better time than now to realize how connected we all are and to take action to bring us closer together. ... See MoreSee Less
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It’s official. Kamala Harris will be VP Joe Biden’s running mate. I’m excited. She is a rare combination of brains, empathy and practical experience. I have listened to her autobiography twice, “The Truths We Hold.” I recommend it as a quick way to learn what she’s about. She ran the California Justice Department as AG, so she is used to big jobs with large responsibilities.You’ll hear all sorts of lies about her, but I take that to mean that her foes are really afraid of her. Congratulations, Joe Biden, on picking the best person for the job. ... See MoreSee Less
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I just finished reading the 25th Anniversary Edition of, “Race Matters,” by Cornel West. In it, he devotes an entire chapter to Malcolm X, whom he identifies as the first Black leader to effectively identify and connect with Black Rage.I first became aware of Malcolm X in college with, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” published after his assassination. It was, at its heart, the story of a spiritual conversion. He rose to prominence as a spokesman for the Nation of Islam, arguing for a separate Black Nation, but was transformed into a believer in the possibility of equal justice in an integrated United States. What fascinates me most about Malcolm X is that he represents both Black Rage and Spiritual Conversion over a very short period of time. It gives me hope that we, as a nation, can make that same type of swift transition. How do we start? First, admit that Black Rage is alive and well in today’s America and that it is justified by the American Black experience. It does seem that, for the first time in many years, white Americans are becoming aware of and connecting with this reality. The killing of George Floyd made it impossible to ignore. Then, we have to pursue our own spiritual or psychic conversion. That change requires an Honest, Open and Willing reexamination of our beliefs about how race operates in this country. That is the essential first step in converting talk into action. Malcolm X was right when he said, ““I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”We are at an important crossroads in our history. We must each personalize the black rage that is boiling over in our country and we must do our own spiritual work to bring about the changes that America so desperately needs. ... See MoreSee Less
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A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through a list of people who had “liked” one of my posts on Facebook. A familiar surname leaped out at me, “Kielty.” I sent off a, “Are you related?” message. Today, I got an answer. “Yes, He was my dad’s brother. A nice man.”Mr. Ken Kielty was way more than a nice man in my life. I met him as a tall, skinny 11-year-old at Jefferson Jr. High school in Minneapolis. He was new to the school as well and he took me under his wing. He recognized my basketball ability, but, more than that, he saw my potential as a human being. Mr. Kielty could be tough with some of my teammates, but he recognized my sensitivity and never once yelled at me. Under his tutelage, we went to the finals of the State Baseball tournament my senior year.Over the years, I kept in on-and-off contact with Mr. Kielty. At an important crossroads in my life, he encouraged me to go back to school and to pursue a second career in teaching. Oddly enough, I ended my professional career teaching 7th and 8th graders for 13 years.Ken Kielty and I did not agree politically on everything, but I made the conscious decision to continue our relationship because I valued his friendship far more than I demanded his agreement. Ken died this past year in his late 80’s. I felt his loss deeply. He helped me to become the person I am today. ... See MoreSee Less
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I saw this lawn sign on my neighborhood walk. ... See MoreSee Less
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I was a history major in college. I guess I thought that by gaining an understanding of the past, my generation and I would have a better chance of avoiding past mistakes and creating better solutions looking forward. What I didn’t realize at the time was that, ““History is always written by the winners.” In our case, the history of the United States has been written by white people to perpetuate their power. Being white, I am a daily recipient of this privilege. But, the history I learned is limited, at best, and downright false and misleading in many ways.I can’t know, first hand, what it’s like to live in a black person’s skin, but I can try to visit their experience through the writings of Black people of the past and present. That’s what I’m attempting to do by reading, “How to be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X Kendi or “The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell,” or, for a historical perspective, “Race Matters,” by Cornel West.Knowledge is important. It can ignite empathy. But, Action taken as a result of that knowledge is what really matters. The Serenity Prayer asks for Acceptance of things I can’t change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference. Really exploring the history of other people’s truths, trying to understand them as best I can, makes it easier for me to make wise choices and to be more courageous trying to change what I can. ... See MoreSee Less
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These are really challenging times. I was telling a friend yesterday that I was struggling to stay on an even keel. She told me something I didn’t know. She said, “I’ve done a lot of sailing and my least favorite time was when I was on an even keel.” “It meant,” she said, “that all I was doing was staring at the arrow, trying to keep the wind behind me. The best part of sailing,” she added, “was using the existing winds to my advantage, adjusting to shifts, deploying sails, moving quickly towards my goal.”The life-lesson in this description was clear to me. My purpose in life is not to rest on an even keel, to single-mindedly fight change that could, if allowed, improve my life and the lives of those around me. My purpose is to skillfully ride the winds that are blowing, opening myself up to growth and opportunity.John Augustus Shedd wrote, “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” It’s time to leave the harbor and use the winds as best I can. I can always head back in when I get tired and start again tomorrow. ... See MoreSee Less
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Researcher/storyteller Brene Brown talks about one experiment she performed early in her career. In it, she showed a video of a family happily driving in a car, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. At some point, she stopped the video and asked the observer, “What happens next?” The most popular answer—“Car crash.”What is your answer? “The family goes home and has a great rest of the evening?”“She wouldn’t be asking if it weren’t bad?”“Nobody knows and it doesn’t matter because they’re happy now?”The last answer captures, to a degree, a tool for living a happier, more joyful life—stay in the moment and be grateful for it.When I get ahead of myself, as I have done the last few days, I can profit from remembering this lesson. Be grateful for what I have and live One Day at a Time. ... See MoreSee Less
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I just finished listening to the author, Ibram X. Kendi, read his book, “How To Be an Anti-Racist.” It is a complex, layered book and I would recommend that you read or listen to it as soon as you can. It is impossible to summarize in a few words, but one of the main points has to do with the urgency of attacking racism. We have an opportunity to really make a difference, NOW. If we don’t take advantage of our chance, we will regret it for a long time and our country will be the worse for not having pushed for meaningful change when we could.It comes down to this—we need to focus our anti-racism on changing racist policies. Some of that effort is local, but some of it is on the state and national levels. Racist policies perpetuate racism, but it is possible to change those policies and that is where our efforts need to be. Realize that you are not going to change everybody’s mind. You don’t have to. In a democracy, all you need is a majority to replace a racist policy with an ant-racist policy—a policy which promotes racial equity. We have an election coming up in November, but don’t wait. You can start today. ... See MoreSee Less
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Rev. Valerie Austin, Associate Pastor at Mt. Rise UCC, delivered a sermon on June 28, 2020, on Divine Hospitality. Within the biblical tradition, she asks the question, “How do we welcome the stranger, thereby welcoming the Divine?” Rev. Austin says, “It is our responsibility, as white people, to do our own work, to honestly confront our own privilege.” It’s not a question of being shamed by past behavior, it’s a question of being willing to strive for justice, even if it makes us uncomfortable. Here are a few of her remarks.She says, “Be open to receive ‘the other.’ When you receive the other, you receive the Divine. Receiving means welcoming as an equal—listening more than talking.” Rev Austin urges, “Step into each other’s space. Be vulnerable. Be willing to take a risk. Sharing yourself and your space is the beginning of sharing your power.” “For those who say, ‘I’m too old to change,’ Rev. Valerie says, “No, that is not acceptable!” “If you are still breathing, God’s welcome is still working to move within you and through you.” ... See MoreSee Less
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I am tempted sometimes to focus on the scary, hateful events that take place all too regularly in the world. It is easy to give in to hopelessness. It can be overwhelming to believe that chaos rules. But, you know what? I don’t give in to the negative because I believe there is another more powerful, positive force at work in the world. There is a spiritual reality, some call it Love, that holds the world together and keeps its tribes from destroying each other.I call it Spirituality. I’m not alone in this belief. Great thinkers from every religious tradition around the world have believed some form of the same thing. They see it through the lens of their own experience, but they agree that it exists and its existence drives the arc of history in the right direction.Brene Brown defines the force in this way. “Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.”Mar 27, 2018.When you’re feeling overwhelmed or defeated, realize that we are, literally, all in this together and that we will grow in each other’s “Love and Compassion.” ... See MoreSee Less
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The death of George Floyd, in my hometown of Minneapolis, changed the perception of many white Americans. My wife, Kathy, and I decided to display a “Black Lives Matter,” sign in front of our home. Unfortunately, some white people’s hearts have not been changed. Within days, the sign was stolen under the cover of darkness. So, we began taking it down at night, placing it in the underbrush and redisplaying it the next morning. After several days of that routine, a young woman felt strongly enough to drive by, do a u-turn in the middle of a busy road, go into the woods and throw the sign further in. A neighbor heard her yell, “Black Lives don’t matter.” We were angry and we felt violated, but then Kathy observed that this is a minor example of the way Black people feel every day. As a white person, I can put the sign back up and move on, but Black people don’t have that choice. They are black and they continue, every day, to be the object of this anger and hatred that are not of their making.On the same day, I was listening to an interview with Country Artist Mickey Guyton, who is Black and a woman, a rare combination for that genre of music. She has a hit song now, titled, “Black Like Me,” and she has chosen to speak out about the racism she has encountered in her life. It started when she was in elementary school and has continued every day of her life. She is Black.I’m so used to being comfortable that when someone steals my lawn sign, it seems like a big deal. But, it’s not. I’m White. I have the privilege of being able to choose to put up another sign or go to a protest or choose to invite our new Black neighbors over to visit. Black people are black and they face hostility every day. It’s the least I can do to try and understand that. ... See MoreSee Less
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Since my last post, I’ve had 2 more “Black Lives Matter” signs stolen from in front of my house—one in the middle of the afternoon. My neighbor across the street had their BLM sign taken from five feet from their front door. Several other residents on Whalen Rd and Panorama Trail have also had their signs removed. There are some really angry, desperate people out there. I’ve also had my Facebook account repeatedly invaded, the most recent at 1:35 this morning. It wasn’t too hard for me to tell Facebook it wasn’t me. I merrily go through the authenticity procedures each time, verify pictures of Friends and create new passwords. A pain, but I’m a stay-at-home retired teacher, so I’ve got plenty of time.Something good happened. Our new (not so new as it turns out, almost a year) neighbors came over for a driveway get-together with some of our other nearest neighbors. They are African-American and about the age of our children. It was a friendly, relaxed evening with each person sharing some of their life background. It’s a first step to getting to know people, literally, where they live.So, that’s me. How was your day? ... See MoreSee Less
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When George Floyd was murdered in my hometown of Minneapolis, my wife and I decided to display a “Black Lives Matter,” sign in front of our home. Within days, the sign was stolen under the cover of darkness. So, we began taking it down at night, placing it in the underbrush and redisplaying it the next morning. Last evening, a young woman felt strongly enough to drive by, come back, go into the woods and throw the sign further in. A neighbor heard her yell, “Black Lives don’t matter.” We were angry and we felt violated and then we got to thinking, this is a minor example of the way Black people feel every day. As a white person, I can put the sign back up and move on, but Black people don’t have that choice. They are black and they continue, every day, to be the object of this anger and hatred that are not of their making.Also today, I was listening to an interview with Country Artist Mickey Guyton, who is Black and a woman, a rare combination for that genre of music. She has a hit song now, titled, “Black Like Me,” and she has chosen to speak out about the racism she has encountered in her life. It started when she was in elementary school and has continued every day of her life. She is Black.I’m so used to being comfortable that when someone steals my lawn sign, it seems like a big deal. But, it’s not. I’m White. I have the privilege of being able to choose to put up another sign or go to a protest or choose to invite our new Black neighbors over to visit. Black people are black and they face hostility every day. It’s the least I can do to try and understand that. ... See MoreSee Less
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I believe that we must change if we are going to survive and prosper as a nation and world. But, HOW? Honesty. Openness. Willingness.Honesty— I’m not talking about “cash register honesty,” where you give money back that isn’t yours. That’s nice, but not the kind of honesty that leads to real change. I’m talking about honesty that is dedicated to making sure that my behavior outside matches my values inside. Openness—I have to be open to other people’s experiences and perspectives. I have to be open to the possibility that other people of different backgrounds and experiences may view the world differently than I do.Willingness—No meaningful change can take place without my being willing to be part of that change. To the degree that I resist change, the positive end result will be diluted or prevented. How can you help? Be Honest, Open and Willing. That’s HOW. ... See MoreSee Less
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I was listening to Connections on WXXI Friday, June 19th, and I heard Evan Dawson’s guest, Eddie Moore Jr., comment on the fact that, “lack of privilege, white or black, is not a competition.” In fact, 140 million people of all races are living in poverty or are classified as low-income in the United States. “The Poor People’s Campaign, A National Call for a Moral Revival,” is seeking to unite all poor people, cutting through the divisive rhetoric that the rich and powerful are using to separate and subdue. As one person says, “As long as we’re divided, they are the conquerers.”White privilege addresses something else entirely. It addresses the societal rules that benefit whites and discriminate against blacks disproportionately. One of the most egregious examples is the post -World War II practice of red-lining which led to a huge disparity in the creation of real wealth between the races.On Connections, Mr. Moore added, “There are a certain number of people who do not wish to learn or to be persuaded to change their views, and I decided I can’t spend a lot of energy on those people.”I was watching the news last night and a man was holding a sign above his head that read, “I’m Selfish and I’m Proud! “ No amount of reasoning or discussion is going to change that person’s mind. Fortunately, there are a lot of people of good will with a sense of shared responsibility who recognize that we are all in this together. We have the chance to unite in our humanity and not to be divided by our fear. It’s our choice. ... See MoreSee Less
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I just finished watching the “Teen Empowerment” of Rochester, NY Annual Luncheon. This was their 10th Annual Luncheon, their first Virtual Luncheon. Last year’s edition, held in person at the Rochester Convention Center, was attended by more than 900 people from throughout the community.Teen Empowerment has a unique model for change. They recruit and pay Youth Organizers from their neighborhood in the city of Rochester, who then go into the youth community to promote positive change. In addition, they work closely with Rochester City Police to promote better understanding between the two communities. Teen Empowerment has made a significant difference in the Genesee Street neighborhood of the city. Now, they are looking to expand into two additional parts of Rochester. One of the messages in today’s presentation struck me particularly. A young man said, “We need the wisdom of the old and the energy of the youth.” I could add, “the love, support, compassion and hope of everyone in between as well.A link to today’s luncheon will be available soon on the TE website. I urge you to check it out. This is one concrete, real answer to the question of, “What can I do to help?” You can get behind TEEN EMPOWERMENT in Rochester, NY. They are truly a force for change every single day. ... See MoreSee Less
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My friend told me he watched “Family Feud” the other day. One of the “Survey Says” answers was, “Live…” The # 1 answer was, “And Let Live.” Not surprising. We’ve all heard it a million times, but what does it mean?Some would say it means, “Mind your own business. Leave me alone. I’m not bothering you.” The phrase can be and is used to distance yourself from other people and your responsibility to them.Some would put the emphasis on the first word, “Live.” In other words, “Live your life to the fullest, live bravely and deeply and spend less time worrying about what others are doing or what they’re thinking about you.”Or, some would say, “Recognize that each person’s life is a miracle. None is any more or less special than any other”s and each has the right to live it to the best of their ability.” You may have your own interpretation of “Live and Let Live,” and I would urge you to think about it. It’s a short phrase with lots of possibilities. For me, I feel It is my responsibility to make it easier for each of us to have an equal chance to live our life in the most complete way possible. Maybe there should be a comma at the end of the phrase, “Live and Let Live,” followed by, “but be kind, gentle and compassionate and help others whenever you can along the way.” ... See MoreSee Less
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Our country, more than most, celebrates the value of the individual. The highest achievement is the attainment of material things, public adoration and individual success. NY Times Columnist David Brooks calls this,”The First Mountain.” It is the mountain we try to climb when we seek to accumulate material wealth that will supposedly make us happy. I spent many years, myself, climbing that first mountain. The problem is that happiness is fleeting. There is always something else to chase to give us temporary happiness.“The Second Mountain,” according to Brooks, is pursued on a deeper, more spiritual level. Its goal is not so much happiness as it is joy, what Brene Brown calls, “The good mood of the soul.” The road to the top of the second mountain is paved with connections with other people and with a deep spiritual truth. What does this have to do with what’s going on now. A lot, really. Racism and hatred are lived on the first mountain, grounded in fear. It is a fear that we won’t get what we want or that someone will take away something we already have. Add to that fear the fact that we’ve been told, all these years, how dangerous black people are and you have the makings of a divisive, us-versus-them world where there is neither happiness nor joy.The good news is, you don’t have to keep trying to climb that first mountain. Your ticket to a new way of life is recognizing the basic humanity of every individual. There are lots of places to look for that truth. Try the face of George Floyd. Try greeting your new neighbor of color. Try visiting a Head Start class of young city children. Try realizing that Black people are watching their loved ones die from Covid-19 at twice the rate of white people. That’s a lot of people dying who are loved just as dearly as you love your friends and family.Only you can decide when you’re willing to change. It’s your choice. It may seem scary to you, but once you take those first few steps toward connection, you’ll find your life changing in ways you couldn’t have imagined. ... See MoreSee Less
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CAN YOU IMAGINE if every white person recognized the shared humanity in the face of George Floyd? CAN YOU IMAGINE if every white person recognized the shared humanity in the faces of young black children who run and play and giggle in pretty much the same way as white kids? CAN YOU IMAGINE if every white person struggling to make ends meet recognized the shared humanity and shared economic interest of every black person fighting the same battles? CAN YOU IMAGINE if white people and black people recognized their shared humanity and mutual interests and banded together to really change this country? CAN YOU IMAGINE what our country would look like? IF YOU CAN IMAGINE IT, you can help to make it happen. IMAGINE THAT! ... See MoreSee Less
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My mother used to tell me that Hope is what kept her going through tough times. A friend shared with me today that Hope requires three things: First, a Belief that things will get better, but that is just optimism. Second, that there will be a Path that will take us there. And Third, that there is a Means for each of us to be on that path. As those of us who enjoy special privilege, we need to work together to provide real hope for equality and justice, but not just with optimism. We all need to work together to create the Path and to provide the Means for everyone to realize the Hope of a just society.Hope starts Now. ... See MoreSee Less
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Some people believe that life is a “zero-sum game.” In other words, if one person gets ahead, it is always at the expense of someone else. I believe the opposite. I believe that we are all connected, that, literally, when one person is diminished, we are all diminished. Also, when one person, or group, gets ahead, we share in that growth. To me, that is the only world-view that makes sense, that explains our innate need to help other people we don’t even know. Watch the peaceful protests sweeping our nation and realize we are all part of it. ... See MoreSee Less
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Change is on my mind. I grew up in Minneapolis. Lake St, where George Floyd was killed is just 2 blocks from my high school. But, Chicago Ave. is 2 miles East of Hennepin Ave. and as in Rochester, NY’s Monroe Ave, those 2 miles meant everything. I grew up in white privilege. My only contact with black kids was on the athletic fields or basketball courts. I am the lesser for that, but I have a choice, every day to do something about my lack of this part of my education as a youth. I have the choice to be WILLING to change. Change may take time, but willingness is a state of mind and a daily commitment and can become a way of life. I urge all of my white friends or people I don’t even know, to make the decision today to be willing to change for the better. It’s the only way real meaningful change will take place. ... See MoreSee Less
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