Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Outrage over the death of an innocent man or the burning of a CVS?

I totally agree that I don’t understand the rage that is being displayed over the last few days in Baltimore! I didn’t get the WHY behind the police brutality and murder of young Freddie Gray. I just listened to a post by one of my African American Teens on Facebook of a very articulate young African American gal that defended the rioting and violence in Baltimore. Her point, which was very well stated, was that no one understands the hurt and outrage that is part of this community. She truly believes that peaceful dialogue and protesting haven’t accomplished anything. Her point is that only violence gets the attention of the ‘White’ Community.

Last night in a mentor group we talked about the crisis on our doorstep. We talked about a young teen gal who ran a stop sign and ultimately lost her life, another local teen collapses at school and dies.  Next we talked about the death of Freddie Gray and the rioting in Baltimore and then lastly the devastation of an earthquake on the other side of the world where over 4000 have been killed. We finished our mentor group discussion talking about what it takes to become a peacemaker where reconciliation can happen.

Is it really the case that those in power aren’t capable of hearing any type of peaceful dialogue or protest? Does it always come back to creating a mob scene with more suffering, loss of life and loss of property? Is this totally about racism being exhibited in the worse way through the domination of one race over another? I continue to struggle with why retaliation and getting even seems to be the unwritten code in my under resourced neighborhood. My hope is to see life transformation happen in the lives of young Hispanic and African American teens. Is it possible for today’s youth to choose to step back and seek non-violent means to restore their broken relationships and see peace potentially be brought to their community?

The challenge, which many have sighted, is the complex nature of the history behind the suppression of any people group by another. It is almost impossible to comprehend what it would be like to be racially profiled if you haven’t ever lived in this context.  What steps have to happen to see reconciliation begin between the police in Baltimore and the local citizens of this fractured African American community? Another friend of mine honestly said that it’s too easy for those of us in the upper crust ‘White’ community to put our focus on the rioting and the burning down of a CVS instead of the death of Freddie Gray. Sadly most in my peer group will remember the torching of the CVS and won’t know the name of the young man that lost his life.

Most don’t like to live in the middle of tension, unrest and a sense of hopelessness. Yet, sometimes the path to peace and restoration in our community is to have restless nights wondering the WHY question.  What is just as key in the ongoing struggle is considering my role in seeing peace restored? I totally agree that Black Lives Matter but just as important is to also express that ALL LIVES MATTER!

Yes be outraged at the death of a 25 year old ‘Black man’! You can build another CVS but you can’t bring Freddie Gray back in this life!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Protest or Help?

The last few days have been overwhelming with the world scene being on your iPhone, iPad or big screen T.V. In my city we are mourning the death of a teen who collapsed at school, still mourning for an accident that didn’t have to happen that left one teen dead, another hanging on for life and another that will recover. Yet, the real news is focused on the protests or riots taking place in Baltimore after the funeral of a young man that was killed by the local police. What stands out the most in the world news is the devastation from an earthquake in Nepal where over 4,000 have been killed. Who knows the ultimate devastation in that country?

What helps the most in these circumstances; protesting or doing something tangible to help those who are suffering and struggling in their life circumstances? I just read a post from a good friend who lives in Baltimore talking about her youth group cleaning up after the riots and looting. The group debriefed afterwards to understand what was happening and why? I had another friend who was quick to caution everyone from being too quick to judge those who had destroyed 144 vehicles and burnt down a large CVS store. Another post was a reflection from the family who had lost their son asking for the rioting and protesting to stop for the day of the funeral.  Their prayer and request was unfortunately ignored!

Around the world in Nepal the devastation will continue for years to come. The death toll won’t be known for months if not a year. I have a friend whose niece was in Nepal a week before the quake. She has been given a quick intro into doing triage and first aid at the age of 19.  She mentioned to her family what it was like to see family members bringing arms and legs from their loved ones into the hospital.  The stark contrast between what we seeing happening in our city or Baltimore are imposed by our actions whereas the devastation of the quake in Nepal deserves the attention of the world and their help.

So what will do the most good in these circumstances? Does protesting, rioting, looting, burning down buildings or cars really accomplish anything of value? Maybe we should instead be helping those who are hurting and suffering? I struggle with the choice to use violent actions to express a point that ends up taking more lives or causing damage and destruction to property. I applaud the rescue workers that will make their way to Nepal but the reality at home is that we have to choose to be different in the way we view those around us that are different. We must rethink how we respond to the evil in the world. It’s complicated but we must do something different than what is happening in Baltimore!

Protest or help or maybe both?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Worry doesn't stop the bad stuff from happening!

I have always loved the common sense wisdom of Charlie Brown thanks to Charles Shultz! How often do you toss and turn at night because you have allowed worrying to cloud your common sense side only to live a life of hyper anxiety.  My mom would always tell me that throwing a pity party or allowing worrying to paralyze you doesn’t accomplish anything! The end result of worry is that it stops you from being able to enjoy the good in life.

Is it really possible to stop the bad stuff in life from happening? I know one of the life lessons my parents taught me wasn’t to pretend that life is always good but learn how to face each day with courage, common sense and a sense of excitement.  The sad fact is that too many people wake up each morning thinking about what will go wrong.  The tragic side to worry is that you end up wrecking your day causing not just yourself heartache but those around you. So why worry and not instead see each day as an opportunity to experience life even as you face what might seem to be the impossible.

I believe that it is possible to face what seems to be the impossible as you choose to live one day at a time and make today count! My mom’s battle with cancer over a decade taught me volumes about seeing all life as truly a gift from God that we must cherish. I agree that often the why of life circumstances is a normal reaction to the bad news of cancer, a tragic accident or the unthinkable nightmare. I can’t control any of this but what I can control is my response. Yes, it is my choice to face the bad stuff in my life and not ignore it or pretend it doesn’t exist. My mom’s constant pain and reaction to chemo should have shut her down totally but instead she was the one reassuring me. She became the one to feed into my life in the midst of her battle with cancer.

What shall it be? Enjoy life or fear the bad stuff by choosing to allow worry to consume you! I admit that this isn’t an easy lesson to master but the sooner you start the less worry will consume you and you will be enjoying your life so much more as you do something that counts!

Injustice is personal!

The injustices of the world typically don’t get our attention until it becomes personal! We are surrounded by racism and prejudice, yet too often we look the other way until someone shares a memory of their life story. It’s the power of a personal life story that unfolds our emotions and we cry out in rage, WHY? It was this feeling that I had last night as my wife and I watched the movie, ‘Woman in Gold’. This is the story of Maria Altman (Bloch-Bauer) who was an Austrian born Jew whose family were attacked and murdered by the Nazis and their incredible art works were plundered.

It was the painting of Maria’s aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer which was dubbed, ‘Woman in Gold’, that became the center of Altman’s battle with the Austrian Government. Maria’s passion was to see paintings that had been stolen by the Nazis Austrians be returned to their rightful family owners.  The challenge was that this incredible picture of her Aunt Adele had become the national image of the country.  It was clear that any real talk of the government allowing the reclaiming of her families’ stolen prints was never going to happen, especially in regards to the ‘Woman in Gold’.

The incredible aspect of this movie is when Maria’s close friend’s grandson, Randy Schoenberg her attorney, visits Vienna and discovers the names of his relatives on a memorial wall from WW II. All of a sudden what had been very impersonal becomes real to the young lawyer who now takes on the Austrian government to pursue justice not just for Maria but also for himself!  Until I’m personally touched by my own injustice the injustice of others doesn’t really matter. It was through the gift of Maria’s memories from her childhood with her parents and her aunt that pushes her never to stop pursuing justice for the war crimes of the Nazis.

It’s so easy to stand on the sidelines in life and not allow the heartache and tragedy of others to touch you! We all live in the midst of racial injustice, sexism in the workplace, continued exploitation of the poor, educational inequality and ongoing collapse of Third World Countries. It’s time today to be a voice and bring a hand to standing against the injustices in and around you! One of the ways to do this is to ask your grandparents and older friends to tell you about their life stories.  

I know that it is so easy to shield yourself from the injustice of the world in your own city by isolating yourself and making the false assumption that none of this has little if anything to do with me! It’s the ongoing silence of the masses that allows racism, terrorism and other injustices to be ignored and allow the murder of individuals and genocide of races to continue.  What if Maria Altman had chosen to be silent and make the false assumption that she could never win against the Austrian Government?

The only thing necessary of the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing!

Friday, April 24, 2015

The real deal! Why settle for less?

Why is it the case that most marriages end up in divorce court or separation? What is missing in today’s society when it comes to a true understanding of commitment? Why is there such confusion between love, lust and having a casual sex partner? Why are most twenty-somethings fearful of commitment and now see themselves with multiple partners over most of their life? Why is marriage no longer popular or even a topic of conversation? How is it possible for someone who has been married longer than 25 years to walk away for a fling type of relationship with someone twenty years their junior?

I have been surrounded by a few in my life who have exemplified the ingredients for having a healthy vibrant relationship that weathers the storms of life. I was privileged to have parents that loved each other in real tough situations. My dad cared for my mom over a decade as she struggled with her cancer battle. My mom loved on my dad regardless of the stage of his memory loss as she was dying. I learned early in my marriage that it takes energy and planning to grow together and not grow apart. Regardless of socio-economics, education or life pursuits you can never take your partner for granite. Yes it isn’t easy to juggle life in the fast lane, with a young family, career, friends and commitments to nurture friendships.

I can remember recently having a conversation with a teen that grew up in a broken family. He struggled with his own sexual identity and questioned whether there was any hope to have a committed relationship with anyone. I watched my amazing wife give real credence to the fact that is always a potential for having a lasting relationship that has substance and real meaning. Yet, the reality was that our young friend had already become collateral damage from a failed marriage. He saw little reason to take a risk and assumed he would be single or just have numerous partners over the years.

I had a heated discussion with one of my older interns about the real basis for a relationship. I totally agreed that there has to be a physical attraction in a relationship for it to work.  Yet, the reality is that too often that’s all there is and the relationship is based upon sex not heart to heart communication. He agreed that there needed to be shared values, vision for life pursuits and the ability to enjoy the other person. The challenge is that too often we allow the culture around us to define the ingredients of a relationship. It’s not too long before we become bored with our partner or see a more attractive replacement to be confused about the mechanics of making a relationship work.

I confess that as an aging male there is an attraction to the pursuit of other females. Lust, temptation and sex are so much part of our social media that it is difficult not to be drawn into the confusion. Yet, after being married for over 41 years I’m still in love and in lust with my beautiful Anne! I have just as many wrinkles or signs of aging as any 60 something but her pull and attraction continues to draw me to her! I’m always amazed at her wit, heartfelt passion and willingness to put up with me, love me and be available to do crazy things during all hours of the day or night!
So is it possible to reverse the tide of divorce and ‘bad’ mouthing of marriage? It goes back to the basics of what makes a relationship work. It’s more than physical attraction, mental sparing or shared interests! (These are important.) It takes a willingness to flex, bend and walk with another through all of life circumstances and be able to reflect at the end of the day that love is about mutual commitment, understanding and willingness to clean up each other’s mess. My mom taught me that it was just as much my responsibility to do the dishes, take out the trash and change diapers, as it was Anne’s.

So I truly believe it is all about finding someone who you can’t live without! I’ve found my soul mate in my Anne. I couldn’t fathom life without her! I agree that at times marriage looks old school to my kids growing up but my hope is to be a living example that it’s worth pursuing.