Thursday, August 9, 2018

Finder’s keepers? Never!

This last week while ordering my normal round of coffee from my Starbucks I saw some cash on the floor. A question which I’m sure some of the Baristas might of thought was whether I would have pocketed the $45. No one saw Jose’s cash that had clearly fallen out of his pocket. Yet, I would never be comfortable with taking the cash. So, I gave it to the lead Barista who figured who might have lost it. A few days later I asked the manager, a good friend, about the lost funds. She, first thanked me for turning it in and then said strangely that Jose hadn’t come to claim it. 

I know that there would be a debate amongst even adults as to whether this was some type of divine blessing I should use for one of my needy single moms. So, what pushes a person to choose not to be a keeper but instead weep with the person who has lost the cash, wallet or keys? I will never forget an episode of my wife’s where her phone accidently fell out of her possession when she was doing a gate code to see our daughter. It took her a little while to figure out her phone had vaporized. What shocked me after putting a message on the phone to text me was an actual call from a Good Samaritan who had it and was willing to deliver it. 

I would hope in today’s crazy world where morals seem to be rather absent that all would have a sense of wanting to be a helper instead of someone who is too quick to take what isn’t theirs. I’m always taken back by someone who will argue about their latest find as being their trophy. The Biblical story of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10:25ff, should help remind us of the call to love, help and care for our neighbor even when they’re a stranger. Imagine what the world would be like if more were quicker to understand the bigger impact of what happens when we choose not to practice finder’s keepers as the ‘law of the land’.  I know that the past generation of leaving cars unlocked or doors open today seems rather short sided and foolish. 

I hope that Jose does come back soon to retrieve his cash that fell out of his pocket. Unfortunately, he might have assumed that someone would have taken the cash and not sought to return it. I also hope that my Barista Friends would see their need to promote giving back regardless of the context. 

Finders who keep never win but eventually are those who will weep when the same happens to them!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Baby steps make life happen!

I know as a teen and twenty-something I made the erroneous assumption that I was invincible and could do anything perfectly the first time. As I have aged I have come to embrace the fact that this isn’t real life. I laughed all the way through an old movie, “What About Bob”, because it promoted the simple fact that life happens best by taking ‘baby steps’. There isn’t any short cut to learning, understanding place of failure in life, trying a tenth time and then ‘God forbid’ I have to actually be humble enough to ask for help. 

I have had such a thrill in life watching younger kids, teens and young adults do something new for the first time. The big picture is that a few are good at lots of first time things but the majority, myself included, who are normal people require baby steps to figure out new things. Over the last couple of weeks, I have watched a few do indoor rock climbing for the first time. Most, struggled doing free climbing because it required both brain power and upper strength. Yet, by the end of the day most were able to make it to the top with the rope because they listened to their trainer. Yes, there were a few that only made it half way. Yet, the good news is that they were able to do more than when they arrived at this incredible indoor facility. 

Yesterday I took a group to Bartlett Lake where we went tubing on the lake. Yes, getting into boat for some is a rather scary life experience. Forget, jumping into a lake that is rather different than going swimming in the backyard pool. Once someone is bold and brave enough to get on the tube it’s not ‘rocket science’ to stay on. The difficulty is when either the driver, me, chooses to go too fast or make bizarre turns or the rider decides to do something wacky like either stand up or choose not to use hands to hold on. The clear life lesson is that most anything can be learned by taking little steps to master what’s before you!

It has been so rewarding being a grandparent who has watched our grandson go from just smiling to crawling, climbing up, kind of walking to now being able to run, do flips and be a little helper. I know that doing swim lessons will be more a challenge for me then for Hudson. Yet, the real message in life is that a new relationship, new job, new pet, new house or doing something totally different requires an adventurous spirit and willingness to learn through failing. 

I know that it’s not easy for adults especially to take a step back and be a little kid when it comes to facing new things in life or trying something that they have ‘bombed’ a second or third time. Time to start taking more baby steps to see your life go somewhere different and be adventurous!

A Giant Chooses to Adopt a Bug in a Bush!

 A giant, in the minds of many in the Valley, Nick Dugus, chooses not to smash a bug in a bush but instead adopt this little 12-year old. Yes, Mr. Dugus stands six feet six inches and noticed something rather strange as he was driving and noticed a child hiding in a bush. As he got out of his car and interacted with this young, lost child it was clear that this little guy was a run away and struggling. The child who had been taken into custody often was fearful of adults turning him back in and typically would run away. Yet, as the Giant talked to this little ‘bug’ he gave him his cell phone number and said call me when you need help. The story unfolds as the little guy within a minute calls Mr. Dugas. 

This story which was highlighted in the Arizona Republic this Sunday showed the impact that one person can have on the life of an at-risk youth. Clearly, this little bug could have been left to fend for himself in the bushes of the Valley. Mr. Dugus drives back and gets the youngster. He had to promise to not call the police. Initially, the Giant takes him into his home and helps the youngster take a shower and get new clothes. The sad fact was that Mr. Dugus found the evidence of this little one being beaten with 63 lash marks from the dad hitting him with an antenna from a car. 

The following two-year journey and battle to adopt this little bug came back to a revolving door of case workers, like a total of 11. The reality is that too often single men are viewed as an unviable option for adoption. The nickname ‘Bug’ came about as the Giant interacted with this little guy. He actually had the judge make ‘Bug’ his legal middle name. I applaud Karina Bland for making this her story and highlighting the journey of these two unlikely characters to become the heart felt story for the AZ Republic front page on a Sunday. 

The sad fact is that we live in a society where too many are complacent in life and not willing to ever consider the impact that becoming a foster parent or eventually an adoptive family can have on someone like ‘Bug’. I also understand the journey of adopting where we fought between different counties in California and the all too common revolving door of changing case workers. Now 30 years later I can’t fathom what my life would be like without my daughter and son! 

The lesson of the story is that the forgotten who are both fatherless and motherless need your help! Please stop and consider, regardless of your age and marital status in life, how you can help a child or teen who is lost in the system. I too am outraged by the babies, children and teens that have been separated from their parents at the border. It’s past time to speak up and do something that will make a difference. 

I know that as Bug grows up he will continue to brag about his new Dad that literally saved his life. Yes, the little bugs that hide in the bushes need our willingness to first notice them and then choose to do something and not wait for someone else to step up!

Trash pandemic – pick up your trash!

Headlines! After the Japanese Soccer team played in the World Cup their fans immediately brought out trash bags and gloves to clean up the stadium. Just as amazing the team actually cleaned up their locker room and left a THANK YOU note. (Realize they lost the game and were out of the World Cup!)  What an incredible example! have a crazy wife who has this thing for picking up garbage wherever we are regardless of what’s happening. A few days ago we’re on a hike with our dog herd and she found a large trash bag and proceeds to fill it. 

I admit that I get rather irate when I see someone toss a couch or large household item on the side of the road! What’s crazy is that there is a Goodwill less than a mile away. Bigger picture is that our oceans are filling up with garbage which is killing our Whales and other ocean life. I can’t fathom that a Whale recently died and washed up to shore with a stomach full of plastic bottles and plastic bags. How is it possible that we claim to be a civilized world but yet don’t think twice about leaving or tossing our left overs all over the place. 

What’s incredible is that our city has a monthly big trash pickup. So regardless of where you live it’s possible to deposit your old couch, fridge or stove on the sidewalk in front of your house. I’m always amazed to see the few who do this leave gigantic piles of tree trimming, old furniture or whatever out. The fact is that the city attempts to control the trash pandemic but too many are lazy and don’t care enough to toss their trash into a trash receptacle. 

The fact is that the average American throws away enough food and clothing to seriously help the world hunger crisis. I know that one person’s trash can become another person’s treasures. So why is it the case that few are teaching their kids and family to recycle, share what’s left over and clearly get away from tossing stuff on the roads or trails of our incredible country. 

It’s time to for everyone to carry with them a trash bag and gloves to help stop the ongoing trash crisis. 

Why the continued stigma with mental health?

 Over the summer I had the privilege of taking a group of four Autistic kids to the lake to go tubing. It’s was such a thrill to see the smiles, the woohos and sense of accomplishment on all of their faces. I marveled at the level of compassion and understanding that the group of care givers exhibited during our adventure. Yet, I know that sadly when this group would visit any fast food place or do something else crazy that there would be odd looks and even comments. Why do we as a society still ignore the mental health needs in our community. 

I recently did a sermon on the myth of the ‘Happy Christian Life’ with a look at the why of the false premise that being happy is the ultimate goal in life. The reality is that over 25% of all people struggle daily with some type of mental challenge. Tragically there are more than 45,000 suicides a year. Our future generation growing up struggles too much with anxiety and a sense of lostness when they attempt to understand the big questions about life and who is that person they see in the mirror each morning. 

I learned first-hand over a decade ago about the impact of memory loss.  (Dementia) I walked with my dad over 7 years as he went from being a former Air Force Radar Navigator who literally flew all over the world to someone that would get lost returning from the Walgreens around the corner. He sadly became someone who faced constant paranoia and chose to live in a dark world with all the blinds and doors always closed. I have memories of strange looks even from medical staff in his doctor’s office when he would struggle with anxiety or say something totally off. 

I experienced quickly that my role with my dad wasn’t to correct his incredible stories of traveling all over the world with my mom but to sit, listen and smile. It was a fascinating journey for me to watch him over a period of 4 years. I became his special friend and advocate or as he would say rather suspiciously his boss or his dad. My father had the means to stay in an incredible memory loss home where he received the best care and more importantly the freedom to be himself. I can remember taking him for walks or rides in my truck to get ice cream, milkshakes or fries. He loved being out and treated like a real live person and not an invalid. 

Why isn’t it possible for most people to step back and learn from friends, family and even strangers about those that have Autism, Asperger syndrome or struggle with anxiety and panic attacks? I have memories as a kid and teen with a few friends who were different being taunted by my peers with slurs or actually abused. Why do we have to label each other? It should be clear in today’s society that there isn’t such a thing as normal that everyone is unique and has special gifts to contribute to the world. 

I have close friends who have taught me so much about the importance of listening, loving and learning about their spouse, child or parent who has mental health issues. I was thrilled to hear a friend share how they had met someone at work who too had a unique child and they were able to listen and learn from each other.  I recently made a new friend who is teaching me that mental illness isn’t a crime. He has humbled me often with his intellectual astuteness and wide range of knowledge on all topics. My arrogance has been hit hard as I realize that what’s important isn’t my ability to answer all questions but  at times be quiet, listen and learn from this friend. 

It’s past time for our society to see the urgent importance to learn more about mental health issues and show real empathy. We face a crisis that is impacting all families and communities. We can no longer make snide remarks and slurs about those who face constant threat of break downs and each day is a decision about whether they choose life. 

Let’s choose life by intentionally being around seniors who struggle with Dementia or find a group home where you can be a friend to a special kid or teen. My dad has been gone almost 5 years and I miss his big smile and simple way of saying thanks and telling me that he loved me!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Passionate silence turns into ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Isn’t it possible that the youth of today, even the 9-year-old granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr, can speak truth into the lives of adults? I was taken back by the articulate speech of an eleven-year-old at the Washington DC March for Our Lives who definitively made the point contra the conspiracy theorists that she was capable of speaking on an adult level. The real message that came across even in downtown Phoenix with 15,000 marchers is ENOUGH is ENOUGH!

Regardless of the labels that have been placed upon Parkland High Student, Emma Gonzalez, she spoke out LOUDLY and with SILENCE about her passion to see change take place in our country! Her silence, according to David Hogg fellow survivor, made the people in power who are owned by the NRA to take NOTE. We are not going to stop until change comes into our nation when it comes to common sense gun laws, better school protection for us students and then to see the incredible funds given to politicians from the NRA STOP. Imagine what would happen if the funds given even to our local congressmen and senators would have gone to buying books instead of promoting bullets?

How was it possible a month after the school shooting that there could be such a wide movement of young adults standing up and speaking out against gun violence in our nation? I have memories of the Vietnam marches and protests. I know that with the birth of the internet and social media it only takes days not weeks or months to see a movement unfold. I was offended and confused by the comment of one that all of these teens would not be know if there hadn’t been a mass shooting. The reality is that the Emma’s, David’s and Lauren’s were going to speak up soon.

The question left before us is whether our president will continue to cave into the power of the NRA or on a local context that our legislators will see the clear path of common sense gun laws, real background checks, address mental health and the need for resource officers in schools. It’s time to start working together instead of fighting.

How is it possible that we live in the greatest county on the face of Planet Earth and we have the most mass shootings and continued gun violence?  

Passion now turns into action! The massive crowds that appeared across our nation yesterday will soon be of voting age and will become the leaders of change for the near future!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Why am I Black and you’re White? Does that mean we can’t be friends?

I was having fun with giving my sun glasses to my little guys, Zion and Frank. As we were messing around my friend Zion came out with a rather philosophical and ethical question. Why do you have White skin and I have Black skin?  Zion asked this profound question in a rather straight forward manner. Then after asking the obvious question he gives me this look of sadness and says can we still be friends? My response was of course we can be FRIENDS. I said we’ve been friends since you were a little, little kid.

Little Zion is your rather active, nonstop and inquisitive type of kid that will drive you crazy if you don’t keep up with him. As we are driving around he’s belted into the front seat and continues to change the radio station, mess with the various controls for the heater and then moves the vents for the warm air coming out. I wondered what got into him to ask the ‘race’ question and then make an assumption that because I wasn’t Black, or he wasn’t White I didn’t want to be his friend or couldn’t be his friend.

I attempted to explain to him that our skin color or race was something that we had no control over and thus it shouldn’t stop us from hanging out or being friends. The difficulty is that he’s being raised in a world where sadly it does matter what your skin color happens to be and whether someone would allow their kid to play with my little friend. I attempted to explain that what mattered most was that we cared for each other, treated each other fairly and realized that people are people regardless of their race, size, gender and whether they liked to play basketball instead of football.

I know that the release of the ‘Black Panther’ Marvel movie recently has given a new face and sense of hope to many of my ‘Black’ friends. I know even though Zion and Frank are definitely too young they will most likely be taken to the movie by an Uncle or Aunt and will love the action but more so the fact that everyone in the movie looks like them. I know that Martin Luther King’s statement about what’s more important isn’t the color of our skin but the content of our character and how we treat each other.

I’m thrilled to have these little guys be part of my life and jazzed that they have a friend who is different from them that intentionally spends time with them.  I can’t fathom my life without these little high energy friends.