Archive for ‘The Mind’

May 5, 2011

Do something

Via Google

Since I was a child, my mother always told me to change the world. Alright, maybe she didn’t quite put it that way. Instead, she would always say: “if you don’t like it, then do something about it.” Well mom, it stuck. I heard you all those years ago and I still hear you now. Loud and clear. And you thought I wasn’t listening. You thought I threw your advice out like the stale milk you used to pour down the sink. You should never ever have worried. I know it’s what mothers do but come on now……I’m your son.

No one understands that fact better than you. When I started keeping a blog about how we all could make the world a better place, I was channeling you. When I tell any of my students to stand up for what is right, it is your voice that I hear. The recycling idea, the Catalyst idea, soccer for the kids at Minnie Street……you, you and yup……you. Perhaps it was the fact that you were always so generous, thinking of everyone else and yourself last. Or that you single-handedly fought to bring our family to the United States, all five of us. It definitely could have been that you never let failure define you. You achieved a Ph.D. with 4 kids and a husband, kept trying your hand in entrepreneurship despite some false starts and rebounded from tragedy after tragedy.

With mothers’ day quickly approaching, you’re on my mind. Then again like I already pointed out, you’ve been on my mind all along. I am going to do something thoughtful for you on Sunday but my biggest way of paying you the respect you deserve is by continuing to take your advice and “do something” about what’s wrong. After all, I am your son.

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September 13, 2010

Tired of all the hate

One thing that bothers me more than most things is close mindedness. It gets my blood boiling and I find myself taking it almost personally. There is something inherently wrong about it, something unfair and unjust. So let me just say that I have been very angry of late.

This anger stems from the current discourse surrounding muslims in this country. It has been very ridiculous, totally irrational, yet amazingly mainstream.

The idea that muslims living in America do not deserve the same rights afforded other Americans is flat out unAmerican. This is precisely why people come to this country, to have an opportunity to succeed. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me…” Does this sound familiar?

I do agree that building a mosque at ground zero would be insensitive. However, most of the people opposing the mosque don’t come up with an alternative solution (The Imam has offered to move it). This is because they don’t care about that. There just appears to be a concerted effort to turn this into a political issue in an election year. Never mind that it is not even a mosque or at ground zero. Or that muslims already go to that spot to pray for the 9/11 victims.

Let’s also remember that some of the people that died on that awful day, were muslims. There was a prayer room on the 17th floor of the South tower. If you’re keeping count at home, terrorism is a disease that afflicts muslims, christians, atheists etc. No one is immune and to find a cure, we must all work together.

Lady Liberty

Image by Don Sullivan via Flickr

August 18, 2010

Adversity Wrapped in Hope

The past few days, we had some pretty atrocious weather here in Chillán. At night, I would lay in bed bundled up in my sleeping bag and with the wind howling at the window beside me and the rain rattling the roof above me, I found myself thinking about the families, who lost their homes in the earthquake and now live in temporary shelters, referred to by Chileans as “mediaguas.” I thought about my complaints of being cold or inconvenienced during our time here and suddenly it all paled in comparison to the plight of these people.

Angry clouds promising the threat of rain rolled in on Sunday, while I stood over a pot of boiling hot chocolate. After stirring the hot chocolate to perfection, we poured it into thermoses to deliver to families in mediaguas along with the chocolate chip cookies and brownies that we had spent baking and packaging the day before.

Rain tapped on my hood as I stood at the front door of the first home. We knocked on the front door and suddenly every insecurity that I’d been intentionally ignoring rushed to the front of my mind like the cold wind blowing at my back. “What would they think of these gringas showing up at their door? Would they understand my Spanish? Would they be blessed by our gift or would they find it impractical and possibly even insulting- the door opened and we were immediately invited in to take shelter from the weather.

I stepped into their home and all my fears melted away with the warmth of their greeting. Like typical Chileans, they proceeded to offer us food and drink. I couldn’t help laughing at the irony. The plan was to bless them, not the other way around. Overall, everyone seemed to be receptive. Most families were pretty open about their circumstances. One family in particular, a single mom with her aging mother and ten year old daughter, touched our hearts though.

With every family, the children were always eager to immediately try a chocolate chip cookie or brownie, but despite repeated encouragement, this little girl continued to decline. I could see it in her eyes. She didn’t want some sweet that would soon leave her yet again in want. She wanted something more.

As her mom was sharing about the hardships of caring for her family, while having no job for the past few months, the little girl began to cry. Feeling the weight of the burden this family was carrying, tears streamed down my cheeks. Trying hard to keep from sobbing, I wondered, “What am I doing here? Who am I kidding? We can’t fix these people’s problems.”

One of our friends, who came with us, circled everyone around the three of them and began to pray. I’ve been wrestling with God a lot these days and lately I’ve been finding prayer with other people to be a bit strange and often uncomfortable, but in this moment it couldn’t have felt more right. When our friend finished praying, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Though the burden was still there, it now felt lighter and a sense of peace was greater.

At that moment, I realized what this little girl wanted and every one of these families we visited are in need of is hope. I wish I could rescue them from their problems, but I can’t even rescue myself from my own. I think I know someone else, who can though. Someone, who often for reasons I never seem to understand, doesn’t always rescue us from our troubles. Yet I can’t deny the grace I’ve always seen given in the midst of those troubles or the times that I or others have clearly been rescued from unwanted circumstances. Some days it’s harder than others to believe that Jesus Christ is our only hope, but I guess it wouldn’t be faith if it was easy.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” Hebrews 10:23 (Holy Bible, English Standard Version).

August 12, 2010

La belleza de la humanidad

It’s been a week since we arrived here in Chile and I still can’t seem to believe that I’m actually here.  Memories flood my mind with every familiar sight, smell, and sound.  Friendly faces greet me with warm hugs and kisses asking, “Te acuerdas de mí?  Me acuerdo de ti!”  (Do you remember me?  I remember you!)  To be honest, there are some individuals that I don’t remember, but I have never forgotten the Chilean people as a whole.

Anyone, who knows me today, knows that I have a border-line obnoxious love for Latinos.  However, this wasn’t always the case.  In fact, the first time I came to Chile, I didn’t really want to be here – for many reasons that would take far too much time and detail to explain, but my heart just wasn’t here.  I didn’t completely hate my experience, but I clearly remember counting down the days until we finally got to leave.

Sitting in the Santiago airport waiting to board our flight back to the US, I remember staring out at the massive Andes before me wondering whether I had squandered my time.  In that moment, as clear as the marvelous view before me, I heard God say, “Yes, this is a sight to remember, but you will soon behold it again.”

Ever since my feet left the land of Chile in 2005, my growing passion for the country has confirmed the common saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder”. Never in a million years, would I have wished the devastation of the February earthquake on my dear brothers and sisters, but in a way, I’m thankful that it motivated me to return.  My love for Chileans is so strong that I can’t help, but let it overflow.

When I was asked to contribute to the roundtable during my time here, I wondered, “What could I possibly have to contribute?  I’m just a crazy white girl with an unexplainable infatuation with Latinos.”  However, in the presence of my Chilean friends these last few days, I’ve been humbled by both their strength and contentment despite the many adversities of this year.  In only a few days, I’ve already been challenged to consider what really matters in life.

I am reminded of a quote from Mark Twain, which is my mission statement for traveling. “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  For those of you, who may never make it to this beautiful country and those, who still may, it is with this new perspective during this experience that I intend to share my thoughts with you – thoughts not merely about Chileans, but about the beauty of humanity.

July 27, 2010

Handcuffed by skepticism

Skepticism is a dreamer’s worst enemy. It lies awake with you at night, reminding you that you’re just one man. It tells you to “be real, get real, you can’t possibly acheive that. Resize your dreams to fit in this smaller box. You can’t possibly be expected to change the world and who are you to think that you can?”

That’s a great question actually. Who am I to tell people to do things differently than they have? What are my qualifications? Am I some expert whose life is all together and complete, lacking nothing? If some dude like me walked into your living room and asked you to stand for some cause, why should you listen?

You should listen because that’s the point of life. I believe that our purpose on this globe is to leave it better than we found it and not worse. I firmly believe that world hunger is curable and that poverty can take huge casualties with the right people in place. I strongly believe that is what God wants from us. I don’t forsee this world ever being devoid of problems, it’s not heaven. However, we can keep moving forward and not backwards.

That has always been the point of this blog and two years later, I’m still here. Still recruiting, still gently reminding myself and others to be the best they can be. We’ve lost sight of all the good around us. Skepticism continues to rear its ugly head as we believe that everyone has an angle and is out to get us. Nothing can be further from the truth. Good isn’t losing the battle to evil. Take a second look and join in the fight. We shall overcome.

July 15, 2010

Uncomfortable

I wrote this right before I went to bed one night….

I am not comfortable, I have a lot on my mind. My pillow is soft and my bed large. My stomach has more than enough food in it and I am not wanting. This is precisely why I am uncomfortable. Tonight, there is a child who is going to bed hungry. There is a woman who will lie on her back giving up her dreams in exchange for the lies and promises of love. She was once a girl who grew up with a father who never appreciated or related to her so tonight she will seek that attention in empty places.

Tonight, a husband has left his family to seek juicy, forbidden fruit elsewhere. A young wife lays awake, alone, tears staining her pillow wondering what she did to deserve her fate. I want to speak to her of faith and redemption, of sacrifice and love, to swear that she is not alone. However, I cannot do all of this tonight.

All I have to offer on their behalf is my discomfort and my prayer. Thank you Lord that you never sleep and are taking care of the helpless. So tonight before I close my eyes, please comfort the uncomfortable. I leave them in your hands until tomorrow.

June 6, 2009

A Letter to the Baby Boomers from my Generation

Dear Baby Boomers,

We would like to take the time to thank you for all that you have done for my generation. You gave us the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr., Women’s Rights, Hippies etc. You taught us a lot of lessons that no doubt will be useful for years to come. Lessons like “All you need is love…..” and you spoke out for the downtrodden. Which is why it saddens me to say this; with all due respect, you’ve lost your way.

Where did it all go wrong? When did you become fine with being the same establishment that you loathed all those years? Was it too much self love or were all those things fake? Is this who you really are or did you just get fat off the nicest piece of the pie?

It certainly appears that way when you consider the huge National debt that we have right now and the current state of the economy. I find it ironic that while you were spending and mismanaging the money, you never once thought of us. Now all of a sudden your big bubble has burst and now you don’t want to pass on “this huge debt to our children”. A little too late for that isn’t it?

Well don’t worry, we’ll be just fine. We are going to change things and they will be for the better. We still remember those lessons and we know that money isn’t everything. We still remember that what made America great was not her government, rather it was her people. People who were willing to sacrifice and to share. People who were willing to give and yes, to love. So while you argue over policy, we’ll still be here. Look up the statistics, we are mentoring people younger than us more than ever before and we are taking up causes like you used to a long time ago. When Katrina happened, we were there to help and we’ll continue to go where we are needed.

There is a revolution coming and it won’t be legislated. You won’t be able to call it “Socialism” or “Capitalism” or put it in a box. We are going to change the world and we are going to do it by affecting one person at a time.

So thank you for the final lesson you have taught us. Greed and selfishness never pays. Money comes and goes but people remain.

February 17, 2009

I am not political

I am spiritual, I am moral, I am social but political I am not. And there is a method to my madness. I am not here to claim that I refuse to vote. That part is my right as a moral American. What I am more interested in is how to change for the better on a social level.

I take that back. I suppose that I am political to a certain level. On the level that the vote can change things for the better, I am there. But the part about repping a party or relying on my congressman or congresswoman to make my life easier, I am not waiting. I see it as my place and my birthright to not just be about myself.

I believe that if we fixed our morals, then our politics will follow. The revolution I speak of is not one of war, but one of a change in understanding. Call it a “Moral coup d’etat” if you will. I dream that people will become empowered enough to seek the truth. I dream that people will constantly seek to be better as human beings and not to own more. That we will appreciate what we have more and as a result, give more. That we realize that the unemployment rate is not just a number but that they represent people. That we spend more time asking questions like “who are we” and “why are we here?” and less of “what is Britney Spears up to” and “is Alex Rodriguez with Madonna?”

Thus I laugh when people insinuate that I should be happy that Barack Obama is now the President because I am black. They act like my battle was one of politics all along. I am glad that Obama is president and all but that doesn’t fix our deeper issues. Like the one about all the homeless people, or the one about the poor who can’t have access to a decent education. Obama can’t even pay my bills for that matter. No my friends, I am happy when I talk to people and share my vision and the lightbulbs pop on in their head. When their eyes light up because they realize that their life can have purpose. That’s my life. That’s my fight and that fight may never ever be won.

March 5, 2008

Today

I have a confession to make. Today, I don’t feel powerful. Actually it had been going on for a few weeks now but I don’t feel strong. Today, I feel quite normal. Like I can’t make a difference. I feel like there are only a few of us and we are like water drops in the big ocean. My God today, I need your strength, your grace and your mercy.

Today I feel very much like I am just a college student and not a man with a big, bright future. After all, I have bills to pay and I am not making enough to offset them. So I am broke and this changing the world thing doesn’t pay a dime. Therefore today, I want to focus on the green and forget about everything else wrong with the world. I promise that if I make money enough I would be able to give more back and I would focus more on others. Or would I?

I don’t care. Not today. Today is all about me. My needs, my tears. My fears, my way. The highway is yours for this is my world and being good doesn’t come with a credit score. So talk of what is right is becoming a bore.

Today, I need you the most because my cross is getting heavy and my loss has kept me weary so stay with me. Today, be my voice and carry on what we started because I feel more ghetto than philosopher and the fight has not been won. But I won’t stop my roll for therein lies my soul. Again I have to ask you; where is your heart?

February 28, 2008

The “Twoness”

W.E.B. Dubois once said that the african american or black man or you can input woman if you so choose had to deal with a concept of “twoness”. His point was that not only does he have to be American but he also had to maintain his blackness or his African side if you will.

Over the years, more intelligent people than me have tackled this, hefted it and come out with different results. Some have called it a blessing to have two sides or be multidimensional while others think it’s a curse because it is very confusing and is hard to come up with an identity.

Here is my take: “Twoness” isn’t something that pertains to African Americans. It is something every immigrant minority has to face. Blacks who migrate from Africa or another country might have to deal with it but African Americans or Blacks who have lived here all their lives do not even have that luxury. To illustrate my point, I’ll tell a story:

I was at work the other day when a black man came in. He started to chat me up and while we were talking he notices the slightest hint of an accent on me so he asked where I was from. When I responded, he asked my name and then asked what it meant and from there we started talking about Africa. I asked his name and he told me. Then he wanted to know if I could tell what part of Africa his slave ancestors had come from when they were brought here just by looking at him. Of course I couldn’t. I saw how disappointed that made him so I told him to figure out his ancestor’s names and we could go from there and trace. He couldn’t do this as his ancestors had been given what he called “slave names”. So he stood there visibly disappointed that he couldn’t even point to what part of Africa he would have been from. In other words, he had no clue of his heritage because it had been totally wiped out. He didn’t even have a real name that was African. As he left he would turn around and ask me more questions about Africa and I’d gently and patiently answer. He was amazed. He told me he was going to buy some African music because he liked and enjoyed it.

Thus is the dilemma of the African American. He or she supposedly comes from Africa but Africa is a continent with thousands of tribes. What part? Which tribe? All of that history is gone and it was removed on purpose by other people. So they are cut off and floating. There isn’t much of a history here for them and there isn’t any history elsewhere. No other ethnicity has to deal with this loss of history and identity. The brief history they do have here is not even focused on properly and celebrated but continue to be distorted by other people’s agendas. For instance, we celebrate Martin Luther King (and he deserves it) and Rosa Parks (so does she) but our kids aren’t taught of Marcus Garvey or Malcolm X. I mean even Hitler gets a history lesson but we won’t even mention Paul Robeson?

I wish I could have told that man the great stories of his tribe. About the brave African Kings, the wonderful sculptures in Igbo Ukwu, how democracy and civilization really started in Africa (and Mesopotamia) but the Greeks get the credit, of the beauty of the land he sprouted from, the love his tribe would have for him even after all these years and so on. But I couldn’t. He couldn’t even give me a name.