Friday, October 30, 2009

The Social Movement of our Times

Throughout our nations history there have been periods of social movement. Many struggles for social justice peaked. The abolitionist movement, the union movement, the suffragist movement, the civil rights movement. If you are like me, you see these times in history as exciting and important.
Those days are not gone. The movement for equality and justice continues. As long as injustice and inequality remain, our voices must rise to speak against them.  Always our goal should be to build a better society for all.  Sadly, it appears to be human nature to identify and separate people based on some form of "otherness".  
Today marks a wave toward social justice for LGBT people.  I urge you to be part of it.  Do not sit on the sideline and later wish you had been there.  It is now.  It is here.  And you can have a voice.
And know that social justice will not stop here.  Let this wave continue.  Let this wave move toward a greater understanding of fairness and equality for all.  
We all share some kind of "otherness".  If not today, you could be the "other" of tomorrow.  The true test comes down to how we, as individuals, care for those around us - irrespective of our "otherness".  Truth.  Honesty.  Respect.  If I am different but am truthful, honest and respectful of you, I can expect the same in return - even if you are different from me.
That old Golden Rule.  That old Golden Rule.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Our Darkest Hours

There are times in our lives that we face many roadblocks. Everywhere we look, it seems there is devastation in the pathway out. In those moments we can feel most alone. I am certain we land in those situations for many reasons - and we land there due to our own failings.
Those failings are not nearly as important as what we do to overcome them.
In those moments, what makes the greatest difference is in whom we choose to listen - really listen! The wisdom comes in our willingness to hear.
I have been most fortunate to have strong and trusted friends and family who are able to not only hear me, but also to tell me what I need to hear. They have reminded me of my strengths and weaknesses. They have lifted to me and motivated me to be more - to do more - and to keep doing better. I am able to be most honest with them and, as a result, get the best and most honest advice. Their advise is sometimes difficult to hear. But I can trust them and know that I will have to sift through what they say.
They are my board of directors. I know, and they know, what they tell me will be filtered through their own experience with me and with other personal situations. They keep me honest and true to the values they believe we share. They are a great gift. I do not always follow their advice. When I am wrong, they find a gentle way to tell me "I told you so" quickly followed with continued support. When I am right, they are the greatest cheerleaders.
In addition to my personal board of directors, I have advisors. Typically, they do not have the longer range of view with me or not the keener insight based on experience, but I believe they add great value. Often, I know, these advisors will one day rise to board status. In any case, their voices matter to me.
They all matter because they keep me on a truer path. They lift me up. They inspire me to be better - to do better - to be more.
In your darkest hour - look to your board of directors - your advisors. Be certain they are not excusing you but rather lifting you to better places.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

About God

As a child, my mother took me regularly to a solid and very loving Christian church. I loved it. The church was just up the road so I knew everyone and where they lived. They were friends and neighbors and I adored them. I wholeheartedly believed all that they taught me.
At 8 years old, I learned that it wasn't always right. We were taught that if we prayed a certain way with the total and complete faith of a child, our prayer would be answered. One fateful night, that teaching was tested. With total and complete faith and conviction, I took my little brothers hand, assured him that everything would be all right and prayed exactly as we had been taught. I believed it so completely, that when adults tried to tell me my prayer had not been answered - my mother had died - I refused to believe them.
In the months that followed I struggled to determine which truth was wrong. Did God really operate the way we were told? If so, my mother was out there somewhere and adults were lying about it. I was angry either way.
My aunt started taking me to her church where the preacher talked a lot about hell fire, damnation and the wrath of God. That brought on a whole set of internal questions. What a horrible girl I must be that God could not hear me.
So, decades later, what is my view about God?
I believe God is very different and much simpler than is taught in most Christian churches. And yet it is more complicated perhaps because the focus is not on what God will do for us, but rather getting in tune with God and what God is. God is all the energy of everything combined. God is everything and everywhere. There is a natural flow and our energy is part of that.
It's like learning to surf. There are multiple waves continuously coming. Choose the right wave, at the right time, and get your energy flowing with it, and you have a great ride. The person next to you can try the same wave and it can knock them down. It's not the waves fault. It's all about developing the right skills and getting in line with the wave.
God is not going to intercede and put us on the wave where we want or need to be. And God is not going to purposely knock us down. It is simply about our getting ourselves in line with the energy force that is "God". Simply, I say. Well, as simple as developing any skill. Put me on a surf board with some big waves and you'll see me knocked around a lot. And as I work on this simple spiritual skill, I still get knocked around a lot. Still searching for that perfect wave.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Choose your battles

There's a cool show I like to watch when I think of it called "What Would you do?" It's an odd twist on the old Candid Camera show. Situations are staged that cause on-lookers to make a decision to intervene or not. Situations like a blind person given the wrong change in a store, at an open house visitors steal things, an upscale store is obviously racially profiling, or gay men are openly affectionate in sports bar. Sometimes no-one stands up to defend the victim. So, they ratchet up the actor bully role until someone simply can't stand it any longer and intervenes. I feel bad for the person who is duped in the story - the one who speaks up. It's always emotional. It kind of bothers me that they were tricked.
But it does pose a lot of questions for me beyond what I would do in the given situation. I wonder, is it easier to stand up for strangers in a situation that appears clearly wrong? Somehow, it seems so. We can speak up. Feel good about it. Walk away and never see those people again.
The battles that rage among our friends and family are much more difficult. We all see one another a lot. We will cross paths again and again. The context of the battles are so much larger. And the lines are much less black and white.
Perhaps the battle then should be to find a way that lifts all parties up. How do we do that for the person who is purposely giving the blind person the wrong change? What if the person doing that misdeed was your brother or your friend? Would it make a difference in how you handle it?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


All voices need to be heard. Even when it is difficult, we need to hear the dissenting view. That's important. But typically, the person yelling loudest is not going to be the one to roll up their sleeves and get the real work done. And more often than not, the person yelling the loudest is creating a cloud of dust that everyone else has to try to clear in order to find real answers.
People willing and able to take leadership positions in our community are tough to come by. Yelling loudly is not leadership.
Listen to - seek out - those calmer voices that are talking about getting real work done. They are talking about building the trails and clearing the pathway to something more.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chip Away - "Out in the Silence"

Anyone who has faced injustice, especially repeated injustice, knows how difficult it is NOT to wear a chip on your shoulder. Bitterness and fear are strong emotions. They are ugly emotions which cause us to pre-judge. Then it's a vicious cycle of self fulfilling prophesies.
How do we get past that?
I watched Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer's documentary, "Out in the Silence" for the second time last night, at Pitt Titusville. I have deep respect for these two and the work they are doing. The greatest message is one of hope. Hope is the answer to overcoming bitterness and fear.
There are times our hope is misplaced. There are those, like Diane Gramley of the AFA, whose lies and beliefs are so entrench that they cannot work toward solutions. Confrontation only energizes them. They become more entrenched and spin bigger lies. Their objective is solely to silence their "enemy". There is little hope that they will rationally seek solutions.
How do we get past that?
We realized they are not part of our hope for progress. We carefully, patiently and rationally expose their lies. We open dialogues with good people who are willing and able to understand. We place our hope in telling the truth as often as we can to as many as we can. We have to maintain a healthy level of optimism that the truth will ultimately be accepted. Otherwise, all the person sees is the big chip on your shoulder.
Finally, there must be legislative and legal protection. Without it, hope wears thin. Injustice cannot be allowed to thrive.
Overlook it - it will grow.