Category Archives: history

Forces of Nature

I’ve never been one of those parents who wants to keep their kid home from school whenever possible. I operate on the theory that school is preparing young people for the world of employment, which doesn’t stop every time there is bad weather.

So yesterday, as high school students were already on school buses and a few were even at school when they got the text that our school system had changed its status from two-hour early dismissal to closed for the day, I rolled my eyes.

I had, after all, been closely monitoring the weather situation. I had heard all of the dire predictions that we would get a big snowfall on the first official day of spring. But only 14 hours earlier, I had been out on my bike enjoying spring-like weather. Not only that, but I’d had my eye on the National Weather Service forecast believing that, unlike for-profit weather companies, it would give me accurate information without all the hype.

And, the last time I checked, it was calling for a mix of sleet, snow and rain until 2:00 in the afternoon when the temperatures were supposed to drop below freezing. The sun hadn’t even risen when I took the dog for a walk while our cat trotted behind. That cat hates snow, ice and cold temperatures, so I trusted her more than any weather forecaster.

I shouldn’t have.

As I got ready for work, I put on clothes intended for looking good rather than for battling the elements.

I shouldn’t have.

I left for work after texting a couple of co-workers that the roads were fine and they didn’t have any worries.

I shouldn’t have.

By the time I drove the eight minutes from my house to my office, the temperature had already dropped two degrees. And I had only been in my office for a short time when big, heavy snowflakes began to fall.

By the time I was on a 9:00 conference call, I was watching a truck slip and side in front of the office.

And by the time I got off my conference call, the National Weather Service forecast had changed.

Needless to say, I closed the office, went home, shoveled the driveway and sent a text complaining about the weather to my friend.

But here’s the truth. There’s always something enjoyable about unusual weather. Maybe it’s how it breaks up the predictability of our lives. Maybe it’s because it brings us closer to neighbors, friends, co-workers and even the paper delivery guy as we collectively fight the elements. Or maybe it’s because these moments create memories that last a lifetime.

Yesterday afternoon, I sent a message to a group of college friends telling them about the local weather and reminding them of another freak snow storm.

It was April 1987 at Ohio University, and we were all looking forward to the warm days on South Green where we lived. When the temperatures rose, barely dressed  students would sunbathe on towels while groups of guys played hacky sack nearby.

I had taken all of my winter clothes to my parents during spring break, so I didn’t have a coat, or boots or even any warm sweaters.

Which means,  I wasn’t prepared to walk around campus in 17 inches of snow in tennis shoes:  April 1987 Snowstorm

But I was 20 years old, so I did.  To keep warm, I borrowed  highly stylish 1980’s big, bright sweaters from my roommate Amy, who was from Rochester, New York. She knew spring didn’t necessarily mean it was time to pack away the sweaters.

She also knew where the best parties were. And so a group of us tramped through knee-deep snow to go to a party where, for some reason, we took photos.

Today, those photos hold so many memories. They don’t just represent a snapshot in time during a freak snowstorm. They represent a part of me that used to be… that part that only still exists only because I can share it with the people who were there with me.

Mother Nature may be temperamental, but Father Time is as predictable as he is relentless. His march forward stops for no one. He leaves his footprints on our relationships and our circumstances while etching wrinkles on our faces. But in each of those footprints, he also leaves a memory that can be taken out and enjoyed in any kind of weather.

Life is short. Snowstorms are even shorter. But friendships and memories? With the right people, they can last forever.

What Would Dr. Martin Luther King Do?

On Thursday, the man who currently lives in the White House asked a subsequently well-publicized question about why people from certain poor, non-white countries should be allowed to come to the United States.

The very next day, he said the following as he signed a proclamation marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, “Today we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth Americans hold so dear, that no matter the color of our skin, or the place of our birth we are all created equal by God.”

My first reaction was, “That’s our Hypocrite in Chief.”

My second reaction was, “That’s the difference between words that have a direct path from his brain to his mouth and ones that someone else wrote for him to read.”

My third reaction was to wonder how Dr. King would expect us to react. I can guarantee it wouldn’t have been to make excuses for Trump or to accept the horrible things being said about people from other countries.

I was just over a year old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed in April 1968, so I have no memories of him. Everything I know is based on what I’ve read or seen on television. I don’t remember ever studying him as part of my public school education, and I was in college by the time a federal holiday was established in his honor.

Maybe the fact that I didn’t get a school-book version of his life is a good thing. I never thought of him as just the guy who gave a bunch of great speeches or even as just a civil rights activist. To me, he was someone who always put people first. And in doing that, he called all of us to think about and respond to the problem of privilege: who has it, who doesn’t, and the role we each play in making or changing that reality.

Being privileged isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Generally, most privileged people aren’t responsible for their own circumstances – they have it because of birth, or marriage, or appearance, or the assistance of someone else. It becomes a problem when privileged people believe that being privileged means they are better and more deserving than others.

Which is exactly the problem with Donald Trump. He thinks money and status and appearance are more important than anything, and he thinks if other people don’t have these things – and lots of these things – aren’t as important or valuable as those who do.

In other words, his belief system is the one Martin Luther King Jr. spent most of his life fighting.

Which brings me back to my question about how Dr. King would expect us to react to Trump. And while I can only speculate, I imagine he would ask the following of us:

  • Speak out often and loud against any words that belittle another person or group of people: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends” and “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
  • Take action. Write letters. Make phone calls. Talk to your friends. Write a blog.  Whatever you do, don’t ignore what is happening in our country right now. “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  • Help someone who isn’t as privileged as you – however you define privilege. Learn about our immigration system and the conditions in some of the countries Trump denounced. Find out how adverse childhood experiences can impact a person’s entire life. Find out the facts about programs that help the poor. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?”
  • Don’t waste time worrying about or fighting with people who will always see the world from only one perspective – theirs. “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
  • Never, ever give up or lose faith in humanity but don’t expect circumstances will improve without you. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” and “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” 

The Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday is always observed on the third Monday of January. This year, it falls on Dr. King’s actual birthday.

Please, please, please  find a way to honor his words and his actions on what would have been his 89th birthday.

It’s not only the least we can do – it is what we absolutely have to do.

In the Bushes

Amid the multitude of facts, opinions and news stories whirling around Donald Trump’s latest bizarre, unprecedented and seemingly self-serving action (that would be the firing of FBI Director James Comey if you aren’t even sure to which of his latest actions I am referring), one piece of the story has lingered with me.

I just can’t shake the image of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer hiding in the bushes to avoid a direct confrontation with reporters seeking more information.

I have no doubt my obsession is linked to a memory from my childhood and my need to uncover the truth.

My story begins when my parents purchased our house in a rural, Central Oregon town  As part of the transaction, they had gotten a history from the seller, whose family had been the original owners. According to my mom, the seller’s father had “died in the bushes.”

I was six years old at the time, and the line of ornamental bushes that spanned the front of the house ran directly under my bedroom window. For months I was obsessed with the fact that a man had died in those bushes.

I would crawl under them trying to find any sign of either a dead body or, at least, some indication that a man had spent his last moments there. Even though I got nothing, I kept searching in hopes that some clue as to the man’s fate would emerge.

Then one day, my mom found me in the bushes and asked what I was doing.

“You said the man who used to live here died in the bushes,” I told her with all of the solemness that first-grade me could muster.

She had no idea what I was talking about. Only later did I discover that she had used the term “in the bushes” as a euphemism for alcoholism.

I’m now fifty years old, and I’ve never heard anyone else use that term in that way. But that doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that the term “in the bushes” has stuck with me for 44 years because it represents my passion for always pursuing the truth.

Which is why Sean Spicer ducking into the bushes to avoid facing reporters is not only completely ironic, it is more revealing than any lie Donald Trump could ever tell.

People in the public eye want to tell their side of the story. They want to share their opinions and the opinions of those they represent. They want to show evidence of what happened in the bushes and why it happened.

Unless, of course, the bushes are just a way of hiding the truth… be it the ugly truth of an addict who succumbed to a disease or that of an unqualified businessman who bedazzled voters with his wealth, his double speak, and his complete disregard for the truth.

But here’s the thing: when six-year-old me finally got the real facts from my mom, I stopped wasting my time under bushes and decided to devote more time to climbing trees.

Because when you climb trees, your perspective is so much better than the one you get crawling under (or hiding in) a bush.

And not only can you see what is actually occurring around you, you are also putting yourself out in the open for everyone else to see.

And that is what truth is all about.

 

There is a Monster in the White House

thomas-mannThere is a monster in the White House, and I refuse to sit back and let him implement his hateful and xenophobic agenda.

That means I’ve gone outside of my comfort zone and called out his minions

And yes, I’ve paid the price.

This weekend Facebook reflected the battle being waged against a President who appointed white supremacist Steve Bannon as national security advisory and implemented an executive order that hurts good, honest immigrants and refugees.

For the past eight years, I have believed that people have the right to post what they want on their own Facebook page. Even when people made nasty comments on my posts, I held firm that people have the right to say what they want on their own page.

tutuBut that changed this weekend. I can’t let evil prevail.

I started calling out people who posted “alternative facts” or hate speech under the guise of news. I called out people who slammed credible news sources while posting propaganda.  And I noted that people who obviously aren’t well-versed or well-educated  shouldn’t be spewing hate against others.

For the most part, I did this with facts. Not mean words, Not name calling. Facts and an occasional comment about people’s ability to discern truth from alternative facts.edmund-burke-quote

One particular person kept deleting every comment I made on her posts of unwavering support of President Trump.

Again, I wasn’t being rude. I wasn’t name calling. I was posting facts and information. I also noted she deleted any comment by others who called her out.

As my husband well knows, the more you ignore me the more I push back. I am the proverbial dog with a bone.

einsteinSo when she kept deleting instead of acknowledging my posts and instead of private messaging  me politely asking me to stop, she tagged me in a post calling me rude. Then other people starting liking that post.

So I unfriended and blocked her.

She is so blinded by the need to justify who own beliefs that she can’t even acknowledge that there may be a reason so many people in our country are protesting.

So now, her Facebook friends think I’m rude and inappropriate.

Let them. I’d rather be considered rude than to sit back and watch an evil man destroy our country.

There is a monster in the White House, and I’m going to do everything I can to fight it.

Even if it means offending his minions.

The Day We Marched

On Saturday, some friends and I decided to make a trip into the city.this-is-what-a-protestor-looks-like

It was no ordinary outing, and it was no ordinary day.

We were going to Washington, D.C. to join the Women’s March on Washington and express our concerns about newly inaugurated President Trump.

I’m tired of people telling me that I might as well be wishing the pilot of the plane I’m on to fail. I’ve tried to explain that the pilot doesn’t even understand the control panel, that the ride is already quite bumpy, and that he’s threatening to throw some people off without a parachute. We need to find a way to steady the plane and correct the flight pattern. But that message seems to fall on deaf ears.

I’m saddened by people who belittled the march or claim that our country already ensures we have equal rights. This muslim-registrymarch wasn’t about what some of us already have. It was about what so many individuals are at risk of losing. This was not a march about traditional women’s rights or even reproductive rights (although some people chose to advocate for these issues.) It was a march about human rights for all people – people of different skin colors, people of different sexual orientations, people of different religions, and people of different countries of origin.

Most of all, I’m frustrated with people who claimed the marchers were out of line and disrespectful to the office of the President. First, the Constitution gives us the right to protest – it is vital to a healthy democracy.  Secondly, the new President ran a campaign based on disrespect and hate. I cannot respect an individual who has belittled women, put white supremacists and racists in positions of power, selected a vice president who threatens the rights of the LGBTQ community, img_4640called Mexicans rapists, mocked a disabled reporter, spoke of grabbing a woman’s genitals, and called those who disagreed with him “enemies.”

And so, my friends and I put on our pussy hats, and we marched.

There is so much I can say about the experience. I could describe the signs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes that lined the streets where we walked from RFK Stadium to the U.S. Capitol. I could describe how march participants were constantly thanking the police assigned to keep everyone safe. mlksign And I could describe how everyone was supportive, polite and loving to each other.

But there’s an old saying that pictures speak louder than words. And so, I share a few of the photos my friends and I took during the march and hope they not only show why we marched. It will show that this was not a self-serving protest proclaiming concerns about how polices will affect our bank accounts.  It was about tolerance, acceptance and support for individuals and groups who are at risk of losing their dreams.

 

Don’t You Dare Tell Me How To Feel

get-over-itI admit my emotions are still raw after Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States on Tuesday night. And yes, I’ve cycled through the stages of grief: disbelief to sadness to anger to acceptance then back to anger.

And then more anger.

I’m not angry with people who voted for Trump. Even though they voted for a man who used hate to garner much of his support, I understand they had various reasons for voting for him.

I’m angry because I am forced to accept their vote while most Trump supporters have shown absolutely no interest in understanding why I’m completely heartbroken for an America I thought existed. I truly believed that Americans could value the common good over money, dogma, single issues, self-interest and even the truth. And I was wrong.

I’m even more angry that I’ve been told to “just get over it,” “find something else to occupy your thoughts,” “accept God’s will,” and “stop being a tool of the liberal media,”

During my entire life, I have never, ever told anyone who was grieving to “suck it up and just get over it.”

Grief isn’t just about losing someone you love. It’s about losing something that you value and hold close to your heart. It’s about trying to get through a day in a fog when other people are acting as if nothing has changed. It’s about having to re-wire your brain to live in a different reality.  Worst of all, grief harshly rips open old wounds and scars that some of us have spent decades trying to forget.

Which is why I was in tears this week when a friend asked the six women in the room “How many of us have been groped by a man we didn’t want?” Five of the six of us raised our hands. I was not the fortunate woman who didn’t raise her hand. I was the adolescent girl who had never even kissed a boy but was groped by a middle-aged man at church. I was wearing my favorite sweater on the Sunday when he grabbed my breast and told me I was developing nicely. I shoved that sweater to the back of closet and never wore it again.

That old scar tore open the day I heard the now infamous recording of Trump talking about “grabbing pussy.”

But grief isn’t just about the past, it’s also about losing hopes and dreams for the future. On Tuesday night, my hope for the future dimmed the second I received a text that my son, a college freshman, sent to his dad and me.

“Guys,” it read, “I’m terrified.”

And I knew exactly what he meant.

My son is a journalism major following in the footsteps of journalists on both sides of his family tree. His dad is a journalist. My mom was a journalist. His great-grandfather published a newspaper. And yet, my son’s professional aspirations were belittled and threatened by the future president of the United States. My son recognized this threat when, on the day his father and I visited the National Press Club, Donald Trump banned the Washington Post from covering his campaign.

Like me, my son completely understands that some media sources, both liberal and conservative, are truly biased. But he also knows that many journalists have dedicated their lives to uncovering and reporting the truth – whether or not they like or agree with it. All of their hard work is being completely disregarded and even threatened by a significant percentage of the American population. And he is scared.

I completely understand his fear.

A week before the election, I finished reading two books. The first, Lilac Girls, a historical novel by Martha Hall Kelly. Although it’s a work of fiction, the book follows real events, real people and the real tragedy of World War II when too many people were willing to blame, ridicule, persecute and ultimately kill people of a different faith because they believed in a leader who told them to hate.

In the second book, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, a French Catholic girl is sent to a concentration camp because she has Jewish blood. Despite her prayers, her entire family is killed, and she begins to doubt the power of prayer.

That story is so fresh and so painful that I can’t believe this election is “God’s will” any more than I can believe the rise of Hitler was “God’s will.”

I will never believe that God favors one group of people or one set of beliefs over another. The God I know encourages love and acceptance.

And if you tell me I’m wrong, I’m going to get angry. Just like I’m going to get angry when you tell me that I simply need to “get over” this election.

I won’t hate. I won’t belittle. I won’t even tell people they are misguided or wrong.

But I won’t get over my anger.

And don’t you dare tell me I should.

Beneath the Surface

mlk beggarsEarlier this week, a colleague stomped into my office expressing indignation about an injustice.

That unto itself wasn’t the least bit unusual. Someone is always stomping into my office to complain about something.

I work for a social service agency with a mission to alleviate poverty. My co-workers and I comprise a group of passionate people who won’t accept that the odds are simply stacked against some people. We try to change those odds.

Often, we feel as though we are tilting at windmills, and we even get discouraged.

But we don’t give up. After all, our heroes didn’t give up.mlk hate

And the treatment of one of those heroes is the reason my co-worker was upset as she stormed into my office.

 

“I can’t believe that the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday has become just another day for sales for some people,” she said. “The day is supposed to be about honoring of one of the greatest men in history. He changed the world.”

Indeed he did.

I was a just over a year old when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, so I never knew a world that hadn’t been impacted by his actions, his words and his ability to change the system. But for years, what I knew about him was limited:

  • He was a Civil Rights leader.time is right
  • He made a speech about having a dream that all people would someday be treated as equal.
  • He believed in using peaceful tactics instead of violence.
  • He was shot and killed at a hotel in Tennessee by a guy named James Earl Ray.

Those facts paint a picture of a great man who made a difference in the world. But those facts never really inspired me because I couldn’t relate to the charismatic leader. His ability to make such a huge difference in the lives of others had absolutely nothing to do with my potential.

At least, it wasn’t until I learned that he, like the rest of us, struggled with imperfections.

He apparently tried to commit suicide when he was 12 years old. His grandmother passed away after a heart attack while King was off disobeying his parents by going to watch a parade after they had prohibited it. When he got home and learned that his grandmother had died in his absence, he jumped out a second story window.

Martin Luther King, Jr., the man who delivered one of the most iconic speeches ever, received a C in a public speaking class during his first year in seminary.

King is rumored to have had numerous extra-marital affairs, which  even resulted mlk2in his becoming a target of the FBI.

On the day he was killed, King was out on that now famous hotel balcony because he was smoking. He tried to keep the fact that he was a smoker hidden, so he didn’t want cameras around when he had a cigarette in his hand. According to Rev. Kyles, after King was shot but before he was taken away by the ambulance, Kyles removed the package of cigarettes from King’s pocket and got rid of the cigarette butt. This was an attempt to hide the fact that King was smoking at the time he was shot.Lifes most persistant

None of these facts minimize the accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, in my eyes, they make them even more impressive. Like all of us, Dr. King struggled with being imperfect. But despite that, he changed the world.

He is my hero not just because he acted on the same beliefs that I hold dear. He is my hero because he didn’t let his imperfections get in the way of  taking action and changing the world.

This Monday, when the United States celebrates the federal holiday that honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that’s what I’ll be thinking about.

I’ll be remembering that evif you can't flyery person who makes a difference in the lives of others has a personal story lying just beneath the surface. These are the stories that involve failing from time to time but persevering anyway. They involve making mistakes or saying the wrong thing while we still attempt to do the right thing. And even though many of us feel like we are trying to lead when no one is following, we have to keep trying to blaze trails anyway.

These stories sometimes aren’t visible to those around us because we try to hide them just beneath the surface. But these are the stories that make us strong enough to take on the world and try to make it a better place.

Just like our heroes did.

Patterson’s

PattersonsSometimes, the history that captivates us most isn’t the one that has shaped who we are but instead is the one that has shaped others.

I didn’t grow up in the town where I now live, and no significant life events have occurred here (yet). Despite that, I can’t shake the nostalgia that often hits me at the oddest times.

Take, for example, my daily mail run during the work week.

My office is located two blocks from Patterson’s Pharmacy, where a mailbox sits just outside of the picture windows.

Almost every day, when I am dropping off the office mail, I glance in at the patrons sitting at the old-fashion soda fountain.

For the most  part, these individuals are, at a minimum, a couple of decades older than I am. Most are at least 30 years older.

Sometimes they wave at me, but often they don’t because they are too engrossed in conversation. Despite their general camaraderie, there is always at least one person who hides behind the daily newspaper, with his head stuck in so far that I’m not sure he’s reading or using the paper as a shelter from the outside world.

I’ve never noticed what or whether people are eating or drinking, but my guess is they are generally sipping cups of coffee rather than the homemade milkshakes, malts and sodas that interest the younger generation. These are the  treats that my children and friends enjoy despite, or maybe because of, the old-fashion counter, historic photos and the general slow pace of the place.

Last Friday, my daughter and her friend asked me to take them to Patterson’s. We took our seats on the soda fountain stools, even though no one was behind counter.

The old woman next to me in the knitted cap didn’t say anything. The two elderly gentleman on the stools at the end of the counter were quiet for about five minutes until I asked the girls if they were willing to wait or wanted to go elsewhere.

“She’s at the bank to get some cash,” the one man told me. “She’ll be back soon.”

No one said who “she” was.  Everyone knew it was Ginny, whom I also see daily and has worked at Patterson’s since I moved to town.

No one seemed concern about Ginny’s absence. That’s the slow pace of business at a place like Patterson’s.

No one is worried about following the rules of corporate America in which money is often more important than people. Patterson’s is a local business in a small town. It caters to older people as well as 13 year-old girls who want a genuine root beer float and are more than willing to spend time chatting with each other at a old-fashion soda fountain rather than demand that their drinks are available immediately

At Patterson’s, people are important.

I know this because they are one of very few pharmacies that provide services to the people whom Catholic Charities, where I work, helps. These are people who often can’t even afford the $1.00 co-pay needed for a prescription. But Patterson’s works with  us to ensure that people who need help get help.

And sometimes that help doesn’t come in a bottle but instead comes in the form of a safe place.

Last Friday, as my daughter, her friend and I waited for Ginny, the old woman in the knit cap on the stool next to me finally began talking.pattersons2

“How old are your girls?” she asked me.

“Thirteen,” I said.

“Thirteen? They are awful big for 13!”

I looked at my daughter and her friend. Neither was wearing makeup and both were wearing t-shirts and Converse tennis shoes. To me, they looked exactly 13.

“In my day, kids were a lot smaller,” she said.

“When was that?” I asked.

“Back in the 1950’s,” she said, “I had kids in the 1950’s when Martinsburg was still Martinsburg.”

“Hmmm,” I responded. Ginny was back, and I ordered the root beer floats.

“I grew up here,” the woman in the knit cap said, “but you wouldn’t know it. I don’t know anyone here now. I don’t even know what happened to the bars. Back in my day, there were bars here but there wasn’t the traffic we have today. There’s too much traffic now.”

“Hmmm,” I said as Ginny filled glasses with root beer and added a scoops of ice cream.

“What is that?” the woman asked looking at a glass with a bit of suspicion.

“A root beer float,” I answered.

“I can’t drink that anymore,” the woman said. “It does something to my stomach.”

“Hmmm,” I said.

“I don’t like this town anymore,” the woman in the knit cap said. “It’s full of people I don’t know doing things they shouldn’t do.”

She shrugged then looked at my daughter and her friend.

“What are they drinking?” she asked.

“Root beer floats,” I answered.

“I can’t drink those anymore,” the woman said again. “It does something to my stomach.”

And so are conversation went. She asked me the same questions and when I answered, she gave me the same responses and the same complaints.

When the root beer floats were gone and the girls were ready to go, the woman said goodbye then struck up a conversation with Ginny behind the counter.

“How are you feeling today, Shirley?” Ginny asked.

“Not good,” said Shirley. “I don’t know anyone in this town anymore.”

“But they know you,” I thought as my daughter and her friend smiled at her and said goodbye as we walked out the door.

“Sometimes, the history that captivates us most  isn’t the one that has shaped who we are,” I thought. “Instead is the one that has shaped and is shaping others. And sometimes there is noting more magical than watching it shape very different generations at the same time.”

A Simple Reminder

mlk4 While I was growing up, my mom was never one to lecture. Instead, she believed the way she lived her life spoke for itself.

Because of that, I will always remember those times she actually used words to teach my brother and me a lesson.

We were having a discussion about religion, and Mom was trying to explain why a strong proclamation of faith is not enough. She shared a story about a group of villagers who raised sheep. They herded the sheep from field to field to graze on the grass. But, over time, the grass stopped growing and the fields grew brown. The villagers could see that on the other side of the river was land with more green fields than they could imagine, and they complained that they had no way of reaching those pastures.

One day, a stranger came to town and told the villagers he could teach them how to access the green pastures. When they excitedly asked for his help, he agreed to stay and teach them to build a bridge. They were eager for his assistance, and he was more than happy to  help ensure a brighter future for them.

martin luther king jrOnce the bridge was built, there was a great celebration. The villagers even had a portrait of the stranger painted, and after he left, they celebrated the portrait and the stranger.

Years passed, and the celebrations continued. But the villagers spent  so much time and energy honoring the stranger that they generally failed to use the bridge.

That was the end of my mother’s story, but even as a child I understood it. Some people spend their time and energy worshiping the idea of Jesus, but they don’t follow his teachings.

I’ve been thinking about my mother’s story in a somewhat different context recently.

The United States now celebrates a federal holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, a man who not only made a life of martin-luther-king-quotes-sayings-3advocating for minorities and the poor but who encouraged others to do the same.

Some people celebrate the holiday by sleeping in. Others don’t get the day off work and complain about those who do.

There are people who recognize a day of service and those who remember the eloquent words of Martin Luther King Jr.

But none of that matters if we aren’t following his advice or in his footsteps.

The story my mother told so many years ago still applies.

Our country is doing a great job of celebrating MLK’s life and remembering his words.

I only hope that we don’t forget to also follow his teachings.

365 Reasons to Smile – Day 76

My daughter's favorite quote from one of her favorite books "The Fault in Our Stars."

My daughter’s favorite quote from one of her favorite books
“The Fault in Our Stars.”

I can’t say I was ever a fan of high school life.

I didn’t have a bad time during my own high school years. In fact, I have great memories from that time.

I just never really got “it.”

I didn’t get why so many of my peers’ conversations revolved around clothes, makeup, appearance and other people’s relationships.

I didn’t get why so many didn’t like learning – or at least pretended they didn’t.

And most of all, I didn’t get why most people defined themselves by the groups with which they associated.

I always feared that when my own children were teenagers, I would have to re-live some of those issues.

But, so far, my children have surprised me.

Neither seems particularly worried about what other people are doing nor about whom they are doing it with. Neither do they seem concerned about what other people think of them.

And I don’t think they are pulling one over on me.

They are both content to pursue their own interests with people who they genuinely like, with no concern about where anyone falls on the social ladder.

Like most parents, I am constantly second guessing myself, and I know there will be plenty of difficult moments ahead.

But for the moment, I am simply content to enjoy kids who think for themselves and are comfortable in their own skin.

That always makes me smile.

Day 76: The Rewards of Parenting

Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions  Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness    Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart  Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green Lights Day 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious   Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer   Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs     Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s Victory Day 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His Masculinity Day 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of Hay Day 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still Remember Day  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessons Day 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment     Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles   Day 3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street