Posts tagged ‘Change’

May 8, 2011

I wish I could quit you

via Google Images

I want to stop watching professional football. I feel that this is something a principled man would do. I think I am a principled man ergo I want to give up on professional football entirely. This is no mean feat and I am not sure that I can pull it off. What with fantasy football every week and all the highlights of big men making big plays. Or the amazing hype surrounding super bowl Sunday, I am just not sure I have it in me. Especially when I keep coming back to the fact that I am just one man and my attempt at a statement will not make a dent in the National Football League’s pocketbook. However, I don’t see how any man with a good conscience can know what I now know about the dangers of football and continue to watch it without guilt.

According to a 2009 article by Malcolm Gladwell, most football players are at risk of ending up with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), “a progressive neurological disorder found in people who have suffered some kind of brain trauma. This disorder shows some of the same symptoms as Alzheimer’s: beginning with personality and behavioral changes, “followed by disinhibition and irritability, before moving on to dementia”. What’s worse is that CTE manifests later because it takes some time for the original head trauma to become nerve-cell breakdown and death. Gladwell goes on to talk about two researchers, Ann McKee and Bennet Omalu who have studied ex-athletes’ brains and have found evidence of CTE backing up his assertions with research. Basically, most football players during the length of their careers bash their heads with other players repeatedly. This can result in concussions but since the sport has a tough guy code, getting your “bell rung” is often not a reason for extended time off the field. So these players continue to play risking continued damage to their brains. They may not pay for this in the interim but ultimately this will catch up to them.

Gladwell tells the story of Kyle Turley (one of my favorite players when he played), Andre Waters, Terry Long and a few others. Long killed himself by drinking antifreeze while Waters pleaded for help before shooting himself in the head. Turley is still alive but suffers from multiple episodes. The NFL is starting to take the issue of concussions seriously and insists that players be cleared before returning the field post-concussion but is this enough? It is hard to say and no one seems to have any answers yet on how to combat this problem. Better helmets are not the answer because the better the equipment, the more the players employ them as some sort of weapon.

Which brings me back to my dilemma. My background in Psychology tells me that these players are causing great damage to their futures since it is difficult for the brain to heal. Continuing to watch this spectacle makes me an accomplice of sorts. How can I hold the NFL accountable when the players are pandering to fans like myself by doing what they know we enjoy so much? I desperately want to stop watching professional football but I do not know if I can pull it off. For more on this subject, go here

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.

March 2, 2011

Inspired by Solutions

In the media. From my friends. A random conversation I just happen to hear while passing by. Often, I hear comments about “those” immigrants in our communities.

Why don’t they want to learn English?
Don’t they know they’re in America?
If I lived in another country I’d learn the language!

We have a serious problem here, and it’s not that immigrants don’t speak English. The problem is with our attitude. First, it is void of any true experience with the group that is being stereotyped. Every single immigrant has a name, a story, and a struggle that, more often than not, dispels the myths our society has constructed about these communities. And even more, we’re complaining about a situation and doing nothing to be a part of the solution.

This year I signed up to volunteer as an English instructor at a local community center down the street from my house. I was feeling guilty. Hundreds in my community do not speak English, yet I had never lent a helping hand. Worse, I’d been galavanting around the world trying to help those in need abroad without giving the needs of my neighbors a second thought.

While training to become an instructor, I met a man named Bill who has committed his life to helping immigrants in our communities learn English. He doesn’t call it ESL or TEFL or TESOL or even just simply “Teaching English”. Rather, he is committed to challenging the English speaking population to SHARE their English. His classes have a ratio of one English speaker to one English learner. They are wild, funny, enjoyable, dynamic. He has an army of volunteers who are willing to put aside their stereotypes to be a part of the solution instead of just complaining. And people learn English because of it!

More than giving back to the community, more than helping people create a better life for themselves by giving them the skill of speaking English, Bill is helping every day Americans set aside their stereotypes by giving them opportunities to interact with REAL communities, REAL situations, and REAL lives.

I want to live like that!

Bill’s example of a life dedicated to change makes me ask myself a difficult question: How can I be a solution to the problems I complain about?

February 28, 2011

Deconstructing the American Dream

Image via Google

The American Dream is a term that is very common in American culture. Turn on the news on any given night and you might see a politician or three relying on it to drum up support for their policies. On the other hand, it has also been used as a way to attack opponents or political rivals. For example, Mitt Romney, a prominent Republican in an upcoming book accuses current President Barack Obama of trying to stifle the American Dream. He claims that the president’s policies will lead to the death of the dream. But what exactly does this mean? What is the American Dream?

According to Arnold Schwarzneggar, the former governor of California, the American dream is that “a once scrawny boy from Austria could grow up to become governor of California and stand in Madison Square Garden to speak on behalf of the president of the United States”. Yet David Abrahansen felt that “the American Dream is in part, responsible for a great deal of crime and violence because people feel that the country owes them not only a living but a good living.” Obviously, this simple phrase has taken on a complex meaning. However, for the man who coined the phrase, it’s meaning was much simpler.

In his book, The Epic of America, James Truslow Adams wrote that the American dream is a

dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.

Simply put, the American Dream was intended to mean equality and opportunity for all.

This idea that America is a land of opportunity often brings immigrants into the country. These people come with the hope that they can make something of themselves by taking advantage of the resources that are available. Instead, they find that this notion is just a dream.

Perhaps, it never existed the way that Adams pictured. For one, America is not a land of equality. Back when Mr. Adams was coming up with the phrase in 1931, Black Americans could not even vote. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Civil Rights Movement helped secure that right. And even in the 1960s, the dream still didn’t exist. Martin Luther King Jr., the most prominent Civil Rights activist of that era had a dream that “one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal'”. His use of “one day” implies that in those days, America had not risen to those heights.

That day never came in the 1960s and it still hasn’t come today. The American dream is a pipe dream. It doesn’t exist in the real world and the fact that it is pursued keeps the American public hostage. As Florence King once said; “people are so busy dreaming the American Dream, fantasizing about what they could be or have a right to be that they’re all asleep at the switch. Consequently, we are living in the Age of Human Error.”

February 22, 2011

Change is inevitable

Recently, change has been on my mind. Not the change that Barack Obama promised, but something a lot more personal to each of us. There is the time worn cliche that; “change is a good thing” yet I find that most people are afraid of change. Why is that? I think it’s because change for us represents something new, an X-factor of some sorts, an unknown. And fear of the unknown is one of the more common fears out there.

However, change should not be an unknown. Change is a reality and is consistent and a constant. Almost nothing is permanent but we like to pretend that our favorite things are and we make our decisions accordingly. Let’s apply this to the recent financial meltdown. It has been blamed on greed and rightfully so, but it is much more than that. A majority of the population did not imagine a world where things could be different. Tragically, we believed that the economy would always boom but the truth is where there is a boom a bust soon follows. What goes up will eventually come down. Had we been cognizant of this lesson, I believe we might have acted differently.

The world is changing. Democracy is spreading in places where we traditionally believed that it was impossible. The most amazing thing is that it is happening without direct American influence. We didn’t invade Tunisia or Egypt to set up democracy. Instead, these people are choosing it for themselves. In turn, this is sending shock waves throughout Africa and the Middle East. It is also forcing countries in the West to re-evaluate their foreign policies.

This is of course an oversimplification of a much more complex situation but remains a valid point. We need to embrace change and include it in our planning. Relationships evolve, the Stock Market goes up and down, jobs are gained and lost, and above all opinions change. Approach life with an open mind, challenge your assumptions constantly and do not be afraid to stretch yourself. Change is inevitable, and that is a good thing.

February 14, 2011

The World’s newest Country facing new problems

On January 9, 3.8 million Sudanese turned out to vote on a referendum. The issue at stake was the fate of the people to the South of the country. Much of the nation’s resources, with oil being king, is found in the South. In spite of this, the region has largely remained poor and underdeveloped as the government in the North diverted most of the benefits to their own ends.  In 2003, this friction between the Northern based administration and the Southerners boiled over into war in Darfur. This war has been very controversial with much of the casualty unclear and Human Rights Groups calling it a genocide.  It ended with a cease fire in 2010, about seven years after it had begun.

The aforementioned referendum was to determine whether Southern Sudan should secede from the rest of Sudan. According to the results, 99% of the voters were in favor of the South being its own country. Surprisingly, the Sudanese government accepted the results and Southern Sudan was born. However, the Global Post reports that this new nation is facing some health issues. Hopefully, the United Nations and the rest of the West can come to their aid.

August 22, 2010

The “N” Word and Dr. Laura

Earlier this week, Dr. Laura Schlessinger announced that she will not be renewing her contract. This means that she is effectively ending her radio show. Dr. Laura, as she is more famously known, said that she is ending her show so as to regain her First Amendment rights. This comes on the heels of an incident two weeks ago, where she used the n-word 11 times in a five minute span. A black woman who was involved in an interracial marriage, called her for advice on how to deal with the occasional use of the word by her husband’s relatives. Instead, Dr. Laura went off on her own personal tangent.

Let me preface this by saying that I do not listen to Dr. Laura. Therefore I believe that this disqualifies me from making general statements on whether she is racist or not. What I am going to do is respond to some of the issues she raised.

Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO and listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n****r, n****r, n****r. I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing.

I agree that this is very confusing. The black community is not united on how to deal with this word. There are people like me who will not use it but I have friends who do use it. A lot of comedians and rappers use it for various reasons. Some feel that by using it, they’re taking what was a negative and turning it into a positive. This is something we’re still wrestling with. Dr. Laura is allowed to comment on this but could have done so without uttering the offending word. It is not her place to figure out how black people should deal with the n-word.

My dear, the point I am trying to make … we’ve got a black man as president and we’ve got more complaining about racism than ever. I think that’s hilarious.

The premise here is very faulty. The issue of racism has nothing to do with a black president and is definitely not hilarious. Dr. Laura here is showing a lack of understanding that considering her job, scares me a little. She should have known better but frankly, she doesn’t. To be fair, this train of thought did not originate from her. I’ve seen it used elsewhere and it was also wrong then.

It really is simple Dr. Laura, black people want respect just like everybody else. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. When you use that word the way you did, you aren’t being respectful.

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 17, 2010

Uganda and the Invisible Children

You may have noticed by the banner to the right of this page that we support Invisible Children Inc. I had assumed that everyone knew exactly who they are but it has dawned on me that this might not be true. Who am I to determine where you’ve been or what you have experienced? So, let’s start from the beginning shall we?

There was a civil war in Northern Uganda from the early 80’s to about 2008. It started as a rebellion against the Ugandan government in 1987, when a rebel group was formed; The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). No one is sure exactly what the LRA’s motives are since they seem to change from month to month. On one hand, they claim that their beef is with the Ugandan government and that they’re seeking to remove dictatorship and end the oppression of the Ugandan people. In reality, most of their atrocities were visited on the Ugandan people. The leader of this group, Joseph Kony is as mystical and mysterious as the group itself. He has been described as everything from demon possessed to Christian to Muslim. One thing he is though is cruel, heartless, evil personified etc.

The LRA has made a habit of using children as soldiers. Their modus operandi is to raid villages, killing adults and kidnapping children to be forced into battle. Along the way, they’ve raped, maimed, pillaged and so on. Their rationale is that children can easily be replaced by more raids on schools, villages etc. This is where the Invisible Children comes in.

In the spring of 2003, three young filmmakers traveled to Africa in search of a story. What started out as a filmmaking adventure transformed into much more when these boys from Southern California discovered a tragedy that disgusted and inspired them, a tragedy where children are both the weapons and the victims.

After returning to the States, they created the documentary “Invisible Children: Rough Cut,” a film that exposes the tragic realities of northern Uganda.s night commuters and child soldiers.

The film was originally shown to friends and family, but has now been seen by millions of people. The overwhelming response has been, “How can I help?” To answer this question, the non-profit Invisible Children, Inc. was created, giving compassionate individuals an effective way to respond to the situation.

Joseph Kony and the LRA are no longer in Uganda but have moved on to neighboring areas such as Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The movie “Blood Diamond” shows an accurate picture of the kind of horror this group has inflicted and is inflicting. The good news is that the Ugandan Army, the Republic of Congo’s Army and the Sudanese Army are hot on their trail. Meanwhile, in Uganda, the Invisible Children Inc. is part of the healing process. You can find more information on how to help here.

Social Vibe has also made it easy to help. By clicking on the badge to the right of this page, you can do a few quick easy activities to help raise money for the cause.

August 13, 2010

Rio 2010 Homeless World Cup

Jacked from Homeless World Cup site

I love soccer. It is one of my favorite things to watch and I thoroughly enjoy watching the World Cup. The idea that every four years, people around the world get together, plop down in front of a television set and watch the same spectacle always amazes me. There is truly nothing like the World Cup. Battles have actually come to a stand still as warring factions agree to take a break to go watch a match or two. That’s how powerful soccer can be and that power is now being turned towards fighting homelessness?

Yes, you read that right. Doing some reading, I stumbled upon this article on former College soccer star Lisa Wrightsman, who is now homeless. She had succumbed to addiction and ended up finding herself in a very bad place. She checked into a shelter to find a job and get her life back together but was also recruited to play for the soccer team there.

While I was excited to read about the positive changes she was making, what caught my attention was the tournament she was playing in; The Street Soccer USA Cup.

This was not the style of free-form street soccer played in many places around the world. Instead, it was an Americanized version, a fast-paced four-on-four game with referees ensuring adherence to rules and walls confining play on a 52-by-72-foot field, the goals being 12 feet wide and 4 feet high.

Apparently, “About 200 players came from teen shelters, refugee resource centers and recovery houses from across the country, as well as one team from St. Petersburg, Russia. The Russian team won the title, beating a team from San Francisco in the final, 6-1.” I also couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw there was indeed a World Cup which would be going down in September in Rio. 64 nations will be participating and I for one will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings. More to come but for now I’ll leave you with this….