Children – Our Most Valuable Asset – How Can We Protect Them From Gun Violence?

 

kids-girl-pencil-drawing-159823.jpegNo matter where one stands on the gun issue, one fact will always remain true. Those who intend to commit a crime will find a way to obtain a gun. They can always find a source, albeit illegal, that will provide them with weapons for the right amount of money. It’s true in this country and it’s true in every other country in the world.

School administrators need to take a look at inner-city schools and learn a lesson from them. They have analyzed their threat, i.e. drug dealers and gang members, and have allocated funds to provide resource personnel in order to protect their students while they are on school premises. The students of inner-city schools still have safety issues, but their issues lie with getting to and from school safely.

Students in suburban school districts can get to and from school safely. Their parents may drive them or they may drive themselves to school. The threat to their safety lies within the student body itself. Any one of the students in their school could, at any point in time, decide to commit a horrific crime. School districts need to allocate funds for adequate resource personnel in order to protect their students. Money cannot be the issue, as the life of just one of their students has to be worth more than any dollar amount.

School districts also need the media’s help in order to prevent these kinds of crimes. A psychologist needs to explain to the media that they are giving the perpetrators of these crimes exactly what they are looking for, notoriety. For a few brief days, the perpetrator gets to be the center of attention from the media. They will analyze his social posting and make him, in some sick way, famous. These individuals preplan their crimes and know what will happen to them. They want to have the highest body count possible in order to make the media focus on them for as long as possible.

There are lots of reasons we have gun violence in our schools: mental health issues, bullying, gratuitous violence in movies and games, and the breakdown of the family. We cannot solve all of these issues at once, but we can at least allocate the funds in order to protect our children, our most valuable resource, from the negative consequences of them. We can also refuse to name the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes , and not give them the notoriety they are seeking.

Note: These ideas are not original to me. They have been suggested by various people in their quest to prevent school violence. This post was written after a discussion with my son, Shawn who is on the Safety Team. His team manages threat assessment and protection of large groups of people. These are just two areas that could be worked on in an attempt to protect our children. There are many more. We must take seriously the threat to our children and start somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

A Love For The Ages

 

moon-3059324_1920This being the week of Valentine’s Day, it got me to thinking about love. When most of us think about a love for the ages, we think about Romeo and Juliet or Helen and Paris. Both tales envision star-crossed lovers, whose love ends in their own deaths or the deaths of hundreds of others. These couples’ stories, famous in literature, may or may not have been founded on real people. We look at them and think, now there is a love for the ages. But is it? Their love burned brightly, was short-lived and had tragic consequences. 

There is another kind of love, though. After the heat of passion has cooled a bit, this love is based on commitment and understanding. Can we find that kind of love among people we know personally or people we see in the media? Indeed, it is hard to find  in this selfish self-centered world.

When I think of that kind of love, a real love for the ages, I think of our friends, Peg and Dave. We first met them about thirty five years ago when they moved from California to our small town in Oregon to start a franchised business. We walked into their shop one day and ended up becoming life-long friends. Peg worked with Dave at the shop and I had the privilege of taking care of their son. Many Friday nights, we would get together, have dinner and laugh until our sides hurt. 

The economy made a down-turn and they were unable to keep the shop. It was a great economic loss for them, but they continued to stay together as Dave looked for another job. They had to leave their friends and move to a bigger city where Dave found a job with a well-known corporation. When we traveled there, we were able to visit them and see how they were doing. About twenty years ago, Dave told us he had a numb feeling in his legs and that when he ran, he couldn’t feel the lower half of his body. These symptoms forced him to go to a doctor, go through a multitude of tests, and find out he had M.S.

Dave continued to work at his desk job until he was past retirement age, and when he was ready, he quit. Dave’s symptoms became worse and worse until eventually he moved into a care facility. That was several years ago. Occasionally, I would call Peg and ask her how Dave was. She always told me Dave was well, and that she would make the thirty mile round trip to visit him daily. She said Dave never complained, that he was kind to his attendants and always said “Thank you” when they helped him. 

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I called Peg to see how they were doing. She said Dave can no longer talk but he is just the same on the inside. He gives her a big smile every day she goes to see him, and she was taking him a piece of pie for Valentine’s Day. 

After I got off the phone with her, I reflected on their love. A love that is filled with courage, compassion and commitment. I am in awe of that kind of love and I would call that truly “A Love For The Ages.”

 

Here’s to Authors….of Every Kind

 

pexels-photo-958164.jpegI owe a great debt to authors…of every kind. First, I owe a great debt to literary authors. They have educated and entertained me for decades. The first author that gave me a love for reading was Dr. Seuss. I started reading “On Beyond Zebra” and when I couldn’t pronounce some of the words, my father took over and read it to me until tears ran down my face from laughter. Because of that author, I was hooked. Reading could be fun, entertaining, and heaven forbid…educational.

had a screened-in porch, and during the hot summer months, I spent a lot of afternoons reading. When my parents went to the World’s Faire in New York, they dropped me off at my aunt and uncle’s place in Washington. Far from any library, the only thing to read was the Encyclopedia Britannica, which I did in my spare time. I think I only got through C, as I remember having a hard time trying to figure out how to pronounce Czechoslovakia. My aunt’s favorite line was, “Get your nose out of those books and go outside and play!” There was no one to play with in the country, so it was kind of a mute point. After a few minutes doing cartwheels on the front lawn, I would come back in and continue reading.

As I grew up and went to high school, authors took me to far away places and made me think deeply about issues. Nevil Shute’s “On the Beach” left a lasting impression on me as did Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet.” Throughout college, I didn’t do much outside reading as the college professors kept me busy with their list of required reading (Ugh!).

As an adult, I continue to read for pleasure and information. I love historical fiction where I can kill two birds with one stone, i.e. be entertained and learn a bit more about history. Every author has become a passing friend to me as I read their books and got to know them a bit in the process. Some authors are literary giants and others are those who expanded my mind and allowed me to see into their different worlds.

There are other kinds of authors who have affected my life. My five brothers for example, whom I would have called “The Authors of Chaos and Confusion” during my childhood. There are “The Authors of Domesticity,”  those poor souls who were tasked with teaching me to clean and cook, no matter how unwilling I was. There are “The Authors of a Disciplined Mind,” those unappreciated nuns at Sacred Heart Academy who forced me to do homework and pushed me to learn more than I ever wanted to…a belated thank you, wherever you are.

Then, there is my favorite author, Jesus Christ, the “Author and Finisher of my Faith.” He took an unwilling, undisciplined adult and through no virtue of her own, placed in her the gift of an Eternal Faith. I shudder to think of where she would be without Him. I’m sure she would be long gone, since she was bent on pursuing many worldly avenues, without much regard for social mores or her own safety, for that matter. 

So to all the authors who have enriched my life…you have my deepest appreciation! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t let the Bean Counters Determine Your Value or Worth

accountant-accounting-adviser-advisor-159804.jpegHave you ever worked in the corporate world? Then you know who has the final say on most decisions…the Bean Counters. They will be in to let you know how the company is doing financially: assets vs. deficits. When your group has a great innovative idea and wants to implement it, they will also be there ultimately to tell you if it is feasible. Great ideas and innovations are lost many times because the Bean Counters won’t take the risk of trying something new. They quantify everything, and it’s always about the bottom line.

Maybe you haven’t worked in the corporate world, but you do live in a society where everything is quantified in a numerical sense. You go to a school. You are administered an IQ test, have a grade point average and are judged in your college admissions by your SAT or ACT score. You want a loan. You fill out a form and you must put all of your assets are on one side of the sheet and your debits are on the other side. Then a Bean Counter will decide if you qualify for the loan based on the numbers.

A Bean Counter will assess the value of our house, but isn’t its real value in the warmth, protection, and security it provides as a home? Does your car only have the value it provides as a status symbol, or is its safety and reliability worth much more than that?

It is easy to let Bean Counters determine our value and worth. But should we? Don’t we all have an intrinsic value that cannot be quantified numerically? We know we do, but many times we accept our value based on the Bean Counter’s evaluation of our assets, i.e. our economic net worth. How can we get away from such a cold, crass evaluation of our own value and the value of everything around us?

We must choose a different paradigm in order to evaluate our worth. Many people let their religious beliefs help them determine their intrinsic value or worth. For me, I try to see myself and others through a Christian world view. Christianity holds a high view of humanity and of each person’s intrinsic worth. We are taught that God Himself sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins in order to purchase our ticket to heaven. If God would pay such a high price for us, we must have great value to Him.

That thought makes me want to love and value my neighbors, whether they live next door or on the next continent. Their needs affects me: their hunger, thirst, or lack of medical care affects me because God values them highly. 

That goes for you, too. Don’t ever think that you don’t have much value. You are worth more than you can ever imagine. You are precious in God’s sight and He paid the highest price so that you can live with Him forever.  In other words, you are priceless, so don’t let anything or anyone, especially a Bean Counter, take that away from you.

 

 

 

 

 

Living a Black and White Life in a Full Colour World

pexels-photo-1002691.jpegThe other evening, I watched a segment on the nightly news where a man received a gift from his family. He had not been able to see colour his entire life, and his family had gotten the money together to buy him special glasses that allowed him to see colour. It was a total surprise to him. He opened the box and stared at the glasses. He put them on and looked around, then he started crying. I was very touched by the man’s reaction as he saw what he had been missing all of his life. 

It got me to thinking, how many times have I lived a black and white life in a full colour world? Like everyone else, my life has had its share of difficult times and heartbreaking losses. These seem to be the times the colours around me have dimmed and I was unable to see them clearly.

I remember when I was about twelve, my father and step-mother decided to get a divorce. My father was unable to find a suitable place for us to live on short notice  and so we moved from a beautiful home into housing that had been built during the second world war. My world was turned upside down with the loss of my step-mother and step-siblings together with being forced to move into an entirely new neighborhood. For several months I tried to adapt to my new surroundings. At first the world did seem black and white, but as I met the people I lived around, the colour began to return. They seemed to have a great sense of humor about the neighborhood we lived in. When we moved out six months later into our own home, I missed those people and the laughter and love they brought into my life. 

The next time I couldn’t see colour in my world was when I was twenty-four. I moved away from my husband and filed for divorce. I took my six-week old son, a diaper bag, my purse and purchased a plane ticket. My hopes and dreams had been crushed and I was now starting a new life as a single parent. For several months, my world was black and white as I began to make a life for myself and my son. I opened a business and after a few months began to think about the future. The colours returned to my life slowly; they were like pastels, very faint. It wasn’t until a young man came into the gallery and introduced himself, that the vivid colours began to return. After several months, I could finally see the full spectrum of colour again.

For twenty years the colours remained bright as my children grew up. There was lots of activity but unbeknownst to me, I was getting my identity from them in my role as a mother. When they left to pursue their own dreams, my world turned to black and white again and the colour left. It took a while to find the colour again as I  looked for meaning and purpose in the world around me. The colours returned as I began to look for another place to give my time and energy. Eventually, I volunteered with a women’s group and found new meaning and purpose in my life.

I had four or five full colour years after that and then the colours in my life began to dim again. My father, who had been both mother and father to me, died and I had to process that loss. The colours didn’t stay dim for long as I kept remembering his joy for life. He had the capacity to enjoy everything and find humour in it all and I tried to follow his example. I knew he would not want me to grieve long; so I forced myself to look for the bright colours around me. Again, they returned and I could see fully the colours in my world.

For the next decade, the colours grew bright and dim depending on the losses I experienced. All of my elderly relatives passed and with each loss I had a time where I couldn’t see the full colours of the spectrum. With all of the losses, I began to learn a new lesson about how to live seeing clearly in a full colour world. 

You see, the world is always full of colours. Many times I have to choose to see them, will myself to see them, and even pretend to see them when I don’t. I must make the choice. If I will keep choosing to see the beauty of the colours around me, I will eventually see them, no matter what is going on in my world. 

 

 

Are you a Populist or an Elitist?

pexels-photo-1002222.jpegLast week, I took a survey from the Harvard Digital Lab for Social Sciences. The questions were about how I viewed politicians. I didn’t rate them very high and didn’t think that just because they were politicians, they had a better grasp on a lot of the issues than the average person. (This weekend, I am watching the government shutdown and quite frankly, it is confirming my opinions.) At the end of the survey, possibly because of my answers, the last question was, “Are you a Populist?”

I didn’t really know how to answer that last question. I have never thought of myself as a Populist, but what is the antithesis of a Populist? An Elitist? In order to better formulate my opinion, I checked Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary and looked up the two definitions: “Populist – a believer in the rights, wisdom, or virtues of the common people,” “Elitist – one whose attitudes and beliefs are biased in favor of a socially elite class of people.” There was also a quote by Michael Barone under the Elitist definition that stated that a Populist “believes that people can make better decisions for themselves than Elites can.”

Certainly, by those definitions, I am a Populist.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a person’s education and won’t seek out a doctor or other educated professional to help me when I have a need. I don’t look to my neighbor for help when my appendix is hurting, and I don’t ask my girlfriends questions about my taxes. I do look to those with more learning and experience than I have when I am dealing with a subject that I don’t fully understand.

Back to the subject of politicians, I certainly do not believe they are an elite group of people. They may have more education and experience than I do at their chosen profession, but I don’t view them as any better than anyone else. For the most part, from what I have observed, their main focus is on becoming re-elected. Solving the problems of our society seem to come in a poor second to playing to whichever base they need for their next run for office. Whether a politician is educated at Harvard or a state-run school, I believe the greatest quality we need from them is integrity. I want a politician to be concerned about the needs of the people and have the integrity to work for the good of the people he serves. I want him or her to work with the other party, if needed, in order to achieve the best outcome for whatever problem they are dealing with. 

I know our founding fathers did not trust the common people of their time to make good decisions for themselves. They were better educated than the average citizen, many of whom could not read or write.  They were the Elites of their day. In today’s society, the average citizen can read and write and has the opportunity to enhance his education as much as he or she wants to. So I have come to a conclusion about my question, “Populist or Elitist?” I am a Populist. What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

Why Blog?

pexels-photo-273222.jpegI had been blogging about a month when I sent a blog post to a magazine that publishes them. The editor sent it back stating that they only publish blog posts from bloggers that have been blogging for at least six months. I could understand her reasoning and thought, “Great, no problem, I will send one in about five months.”

At the end of five months, I was thinking, “Why blog?” Does it actually make a difference or impact anyone’s lives? Sometimes there are likes, sometimes comments, but mostly people just read it. At the point I was thinking about quitting, the readership doubled and it encouraged me to stay with it.

Since then, I have been thinking about “Why blog?” and I came up with a few reasons that seem to work for me:

1. Blogging helps me express those feelings I care deepest about.

Before I started blogging, there were several areas that I felt strongly about. Yes, I could express my opinions to my circle of friends and family, but the thoughts went no further. Once I started blogging I could share my thoughts with others, many whom I had never met and some who are from different parts of the world.

2. Blogging makes me organize my thoughts and put them in a logical order.

I blog once a week and when I decide what to blog about, I begin to organize my thoughts and frame them into a cohesive whole. I have to examine my thoughts and see if they make sense and are driving me to the conclusion I think they are.

3. Blogging allows me to share a “Now Opinion.”

This summer I decided to start writing magazine articles. The process is a slow one, and by the time a piece is accepted and published it could be three or four months down the road. If I feel the need to express my thoughts about something that is going on “Now”, I can do it. If I write an article about it, it may be obsolete by the time it gets published.

4. Blogging allows me to connect with people I would otherwise never get to meet.

My favorite part of blogging is getting to connect with people I have never met. It is fun to share ideas and opinions with people that I would not have the possibility to connect with any other way. The blogging community is a large and varied one, and it is great fun to get to read other people’s blog on the WordPress site and get to appreciate their input. I feel I am part of a world-wide community.

5. Blogging is a great exercise in writing.

The only way to get better at writing is to actually do it. If I have a busy week, I know I still must sit down and write. Every time I blog, I am putting into practice what I am learning about communicating with others through the written word.

So, I am staying with it with a glad heart and a positive attitude. I like blogging and will continue to do it. I like the sense of community it brings and I like being able to connect with people around the globe.

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Flea Market Flipper

pexels-photo-179959.jpegMost of us like the show, “Flea Market Flip.” We love to see the contestants take old furniture and make the pieces into something beautiful. We are amazed at the creations, and can’t believe that something that looked so broken and distressed could be transformed into something people will pay hundreds of dollars for.

When I look at some of those discarded pieces in the flea market, it reminds me of what my life was like years ago. Early on in life, I had a spirit of adventure. I loved to travel and meet new people. Naively, I trusted people and could not imagine that someone would desire to use me and do me harm.

That’s exactly what happened to me. In my mid-twenties, I found myself in the flea market. I had been cast aside and was on the shelf. Most people who walked by probably thought I didn’t have much worth. After all, I had been through so much, how could I be of any use to anyone? I was one of those broken, distressed pieces that looked like it didn’t have much value.

It was at that time in my life that the Ultimate Flea Market Flipper showed up. His name was Jesus, and instead of walking by, he stopped and took a long hard look at me. He saw in me promise and potential that no one else did, and he decided to purchase me on the spot.

He took me into his workshop and the first thing he did was clean me up. I needed a good wash and soak in his special cleaning solution in order to get all of the dirt off of me. I had been out in the world for years, believing its lies and trying out what I thought would be fun and exciting things. These things began breaking me and destroying me from the inside out.

He then began the long process of remaking me into something he would eventually be able to use. He began to sand old attitudes off of me, and he replaced them with new attitudes that would give me a more desirable sheen. He saw the mechanical parts inside of me that were broken and didn’t work, and he replaced the “broken heart” of the problem with a new one. The new heart could feel new things and looked for a new way to live and be of use.

After a while, he took me out of the workshop and put me to use. When he finished his original transformation, I was unrecognizable. That broken discarded piece had been repaired to a point where it had could be used in places that previously would have been impossible to imagine.

I then began to meet people who had also been purchased by him at the flea market. They had a new spark and hope and were glad they had been rescued from disuse and abandonment. People like us know what it is like to be broken, and then given new life and usefulness by the Ultimate Flea Market Flipper.

Expecting the New Year to be full of JOY

pexels-photo-775779.jpegA New Year is starting, and it is full of the breath of promise of things to come. The past year is almost gone, and takes with it the successes, failures, blessings, and trials that came with it. I don’t know about you, but I am thankful for its passing and hopeful for the year to come.

I’ve been thinking,  what do I want this year to be like? I decided that I would like this year to be full of JOY. If it is full of JOY, then everything will turn out well.

J – Jesus. Let this year be full of Jesus. Let me make pleasing him the priority, and may I keep my eyes on him.

O – Others. May I think of others before I think of myself. May I put the needs of others (especially my family) above my own. 

Y – You. Help me to live this year intentionally. Let me keep my goals in the forefront and persevere even when I don’t see the end in sight. 

I want to find joy in the small things and be able to look and see the beauty of nature that surrounds me. I can hear the call of geese in the morning as they go to their feeding grounds. I see the Mallards along the creek bank and look for their little ones in the late spring. The Juncos are at my feeder all day long and provide entertainment for me. The sky is usually blue (except in January and February) and is filled with beautiful clouds.

There are a hundred reasons to find joy in and around me. I want to see them, experience them and be full of the joy they bring. This is my hope for the New Year.

 

 

 

“For unto us a child is born,”

pexels-photo-51524.jpeg“For unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given,

and the government shall be upon his shoulder;

and his name shall be called Wonderful,

Counselor,

The Mighty God,

The Everlasting Father,

The Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,

upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it,

and to establish it with justice and with righteousness

from henceforth even forever.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”

Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)

 

Lord Jesus, as we reflect on your first advent, we await your second advent when you shall truly bring peace to the earth and the restoration of all things. Amen