Thursday, February 23, 2017

The light of truth shines on us all.

Aspire - to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value....
What are your aspirations? What we wish to see in others must first be our own aspirations.
Then we lift others who are clearly sharing many of our aspirations.

Aspire to:

....first be humble. Accept our own frailties and tendency to blind ourselves from our own short comings. mindful that we don't know what we don't know.

....always strive to be better and do better. present in our daily encounters, however, brief.

....walk confidently toward something greater and of higher value but walk softly.

....set high standards for ourselves and those around us by inspiration not consternation. clear, honest and trustworthy.

....give more you take.

....desire for others the same benefits we wish for ourselves.

....shed jealousy and joyfully greet the good fortune of another. cautious in absorbing or creating negativity.

The light of truth shines on all of us. Be one who continues to face it, reflect it and walk toward it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What we didn't have when I grew up here...

Every once in a while there are posts about how things were "when we grew up" with a sense that kids today are missing something.  Today, I was thinking about things we now have in this area, that we didn't have when I was a kid growing up here.
In the early 70's, we tried water skiing in the river until Uncle Bill raised his feet out of the water with toilet paper dangling between his toes. We stayed away from the river after that. Today, our river is very nice and comparatively clean.
Today we have outfitters with kayaks and very nice riverfront park in Franklin. That would not have been desirable or successful when I was growing up here.
In the 70's, I loved the plays at the Franklin High School performed by the Civic Operetta - Little Abner, 1776, Fiddler on the Roof and many more. It was wonderful. But today, the Civic Operetta has a home at the Barrow Civic Theatre. That Theatre is now host for many more types of performances adding a wonderful selection of cultural entertainment experiences weekly in both the main theatre and the Little Theatre. We did not have that jewell when I grew up here.
Today we have miles of paved biking trails running in several directions out of Franklin. The trail is easy to get to and has a nice parking area with places to have a picnic if you like. I would have loved riding those trails when I was a kid, but they weren't there back then.
We looked forward to the 4-H fair and I recall 4th of July parades but the only downtown festival I remember is some kind of Centennial celebration. Dad tried growing a beard to win a competition. As I try to name all the downtown festivities today, I'll likely miss one. There's Franklin on Ice, May Mart, Taste of Talent, Stone Skipping, and Applefest. And, there are also free Thursday night concerts all summer long.
Meanwhile, year round, pubs around town have live performances on weekends featuring local talent. Our area is filled with talent! Add to that, the Debence Museum, which wasn't downtown when I grew up, features music and historical talks in their great room.
I know I'm only hitting a few of the highlights of things happening in and around town that weren't happening when I grew up here.
Yes, we miss some old ways but there are some wonderful things that have grown in their place. Let's celebrate them and help them flourish for years to come.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Patriotic Thing to Do...

Remember the story of the little boy who cried wolf? Most parents have told their children this story to try to help them understand that if they repeatedly lie, someday they may be telling the truth when they really need help and no one will believe them.
We all know someone in the community whose credibility is questionable. While their stories may work for a while - the first times they cry wolf - eventually they are known for being questionable. Their audience narrows down to the most gullible or equally questionable and those who have not learned yet that they are not credible.
Growing up. most of us heard the story of George Washington chopping down the cherry tree, which he should not have done. When confronted, the legend says, "I cannot tell a lie." That legend and the tradition of moral high ground on many issues has been the cornerstone of the "American Brand". We cherish the memory of Honest Abe.
In the history of our nation, we've had many cherry tree moments. There was the "Trail of Tears" and many injustices focused on our native american brothers and sisters. Slavery was a horrible thing. We still struggle with a wide range of civil rights and equality issues. The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII caused great harm to many of our brothers and sisters. Oppression and indifference continue to haunt us as a nation.
Deep within our national soul, there has also always been a great desire to seek truth. When indifference gave way to awakening, the lies were uncovered and we could no longer allow them. America stood for higher ground and we have always been a nation seeking higher ground. That's how we have seen ourselves and that is how we wanted to be seen throughout the world.
That "American Brand" - the very credibility of our nation - depends upon truth. We each have a responsibility as Americans to seek truth, to speak truth and to help guide our country toward higher ground. As much as credibility is the cornerstone of good personal character, it is the cornerstone of a great nation. Right now we are facing a crisis of credibility. We cannot solve any issue without first seeking truth. Making decisions based on lies will destroy us.
Liars will always attack those who expose their lies. They will attempt to silence those seeking truth. They will do it with broad strokes of character assassination while loudly proclaiming they can prove the lie but never providing credible evidence. Don't accept it! Don't respond with broad strokes of character assassination in return. Call a lie, a lie. Provide truth. Expect higher standards. Set higher standards. It's the most patriotic thing you can do.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Be the Adult in the Room

How we make our arguments, how we express our dissent, how we protest, is extremely important. Take heart in the words "when they go low, we go high'. It matters.
Over the last 8 years, I've repeatedly seen comments that pointed to a "visceral" reaction to the mere sight of President Obama and how horrible he was but never any sound reasoning behind what the "horrible" was. The closest to any specifics were that they hated having to pay for health care and food while other people were getting "free stuff'. I kept wanting to ask if they were offered health care and food for free, would they take it? If people can't afford health care and food, do you want them to be sick and hungry? What's the answer here?
They called him weak. What specifically was he supposed to do that would be considered strong? Go to war?
As we approach our thoughts about what number 46 is doing, we need to be specific. Don't use broad, sweeping, "visceral", reactionary language. Speak directly to issues and policy. Be specific about outcomes you would like to see instead. Don't insult. Don't generalize. Be specific and clear and focus on the issue.
Call lies, lies. Be specific and provide sources. If that isn't accepted, walk away. Don't argue. Don't descend into peripheral garbage. Be specific and stick on the specific issue. Don't insult. Don't generalize and don't descend.
Those entrenched in an opposing view are not the most important audience. Those on the fence are the most important people. They are watching. They are quietly watching. Your approach to the issue matters. You will be more credible if you are the adult in the room. It takes discipline and patience. It's going to matter a lot in the long run.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"Give him a chance" hmmmm?

If you see someone break into your house, are you going to stand aside and give them a chance to take things in, instead of taking things out? If that person said repeatedly that they planned to do damage, would you stand by and see if they really meant it? Of course not!
Many are saying "give him a chance" and doing a lot of name calling targeting those who are saying NO! When a person says what they are going to do, and you oppose what that person says they are going to do, you don't "give them a chance" to do it. You oppose it. You stand against it and you stand loudly against it. No one has to pay you. No one has to prompt you. You Stand!
If someone says they are going to do something you strongly disagree with, and you see them taking action to actually DO the thing you disagree with, you don't "Give them a chance" to get it done. You Stand against it. You act against it. You resist it.
If you believe what the person is doing is wrong, you do something about it. "Giving them a chance" is not an option. Wrong is wrong. You stand. You act. You resist.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Grandpa Charlie's Elks Club

Not long ago I wrote about Grandpa Charlie insisting that I take typing in high school. "I'm going to college," I told him. His response irritated me, "If that college thing doesn't work out, you'll have typing to fall back on."
In those days, typing meant you were going to be a secretary or a data entry clerk. I felt he was unsupportive of my aspirations but I took typing as he insisted I should. Of course, I've been forever grateful because it's served me well working with computers and especially with my love of writing. Thank you Grandpa Charlie!
Recently I was encouraged to join the Elks Club - Grandpa Charlie's Elks Club. In his day it was strictly a fraternal order. As I considered joining, I wondered what Grandpa Charlie might say. On Initiation day, the first thing I did was walk to the wall to find his name.
Now I've been nominated for an office - at Grandpa Charlie's Elks Club. I wonder what he would think. As I listen to the history of the club, much has changed. Much more than just women now included as full members. What has not changed is the organization's dedication to charitable endeavors throughout the region and to the community of members.
I will serve to honor Grandpa Charlie. Perhaps these typing skills will continue to come in handy.

Monday, February 6, 2017

In this my faith lies...Truth

Truth should always be our highest goal. We should always seek to be true and honorable. We should honor truth.
It's not easy. We make mistakes. We are often disappointed as events unfold differently than we envisioned. Most of us would like to re-write the difficult times in our history. But we are most honorable if we can hold truth.
We can have differing opinions concerning how something may play out in the future. But, even there, we can look to history to gain understanding. There are examples of how similar situations have played out in the past. There are truths to be found, if we seek them.
If we are faced with absolute falsehoods which we have believed, we have choices to make. Too often, our mistake is to say "yes, but". When we do that, we have been duped. We have been blinded to seeking truth.
I've been there. I've done that. And every time, I have paid a heavy price for failing to seek truth.
This nation needs to quickly seek truth and honor. We need to fact check everything and call one another on falsehoods. I want you to fact check me. I will fact check you.
We need to honorably hold one another to the highest standards. You and I! And we spread that expectation until it reaches the highest points of our land.
We need to applaud and support every journalist and every friend who does this honorably. We need to support and applaud truth. Narrow your focus to this and it will free you. "The truth will set you free". In this, my faith lies.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Thankful for the Veterans Administration in Venango County

In recent years there has been a lot of talk about the VA and a great focus on the need for improving services. As a veteran, this has been of special interest to me. I'm most concerned about the care provided to any veteran who has served in combat. While I appreciate when someone thanks me for my service, I've always felt a need to step to the back of the line in honor of those who have faced the most difficult service.
Because of that, the only veteran benefit I ever used was the Montgomery Bill. I was just a year behind the GI Bill. With the Montgomery Bill, the government matched every dollar I contributed toward my education. Thankfully, I contributed enough during my service, and the government matched enough, that I was able to complete college with no debt.
Recently, I learned that I was eligible for health care through the Veteran's Administration. With all the national news about the VA medical system, I wasn't sure what to expect. Here's my experience. In Venango County, we have a VA health clinic. I applied for health care at our local VA office. Within one day of applying, the Erie VA benefits office called to say I was accepted and that I would get a call to schedule an appointment within a few weeks. That call actually come within a few days.
My appointment at the local VA clinic was within 10 days of that call. I walked into the office and was greeted immediately. As we completed the initial intake, I prepared to sit but immediately, the door opened and I was greeted by Nurse Mary. As we completed the pre-screening and EKG, she said "I'll see if the doctor is ready," and within a minute, she was ushering me into the doctor's screening room. The doctor spent nearly an hour with me. Then, he sent me for blood work. Nurse Mary ushered me to the phlebotomist who was totally prepared and suddenly the visit was over.
The Venango County VA health clinic is beautiful and this first experience with the staff there was by far the most efficient health care screening I have ever experienced! We are very fortunately to have this resource. I am thankful!!!
Often, in reference to my career and the perspective gained from my short Air Force experience, I say it's one of the best decisions I ever made. I've always been thankful for the Montgomery Bill and the help with education. Now, I am quite thankful for the benefit of quality health care.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Context, Connection and Loyalty

One of my favorite aunts often said of our community, "if you fart, everyone knows about it." Venango County is a very close knit community. It's rural but it's not easy to hide here. Little is hidden. The transparency, exposure, connectedness, can be daunting.  A fart may go unnoticed in a larger space, but here it can become a point of reference.
Context and connections run deep and they run far. You could be sitting in a restaurant and mention a person's name in conversation believing that it's only heard by those in your booth. At a table nearby, unknown to you, is that person's cousin or uncle or best friend. Their radar is up. I've experienced that on both sides of the table.
Loyalties build over time. Context and connections run deep and they run far. To succeed in this community requires a longer list of references than the list of accomplishments on the resume. And you don't choose the references. The references come from anyone with whom you have had connection - in THIS community. You could have worked for the President of the United States and still be viewed with suspicion here. The first question would be "if you worked for the President, why did you need to come here?"
Local context and connections are most significant. As a community we struggle with that culture. We want new and fresh ideas but we are steeped in the need for building loyalty over time. The positive part of that is requiring a long term, collaborative vision. Loyalties build with time. Once built and developed they are difficult to break. It's about sustainability. Much comes and goes. Many new ideas have failed. Likely they failed because of the culture that demands context, connection and loyalty.
Like the river that runs through it, our community changes its path very slowly. We need voices that push progress. We need voices that offer greater vision. If you are one of those voices, build. Your power lies in your ability to create context and connections. Create local references that can help.
At times it may feel like you are paddling the boat upstream. Don't shoot at the other paddlers. Recognize and become a champion of those who are paddling in the same direction. You can build context and connection there. Loyalty is found there. Loyalty will be shared there.
Don't fart in public. One of my other favorite aunts would say, "if you have to fart, go to the bathroom". It's best to assume that every criticism you make is public. That's a public fart. That criticism will be shared. Context and connections run deep.
Build the context. Build the connections. Build the references. Loyalty follows.
It's a marathon, not a sprint. And once context, connections and loyalty are built, they are stronger than steel. There may still be trying times and moments of frustration but wait it out. It bridges unbelievable divides and is worth the efforts.