Posts tagged ‘Love’

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?

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August 24, 2010

At the mercy of the system

Glenn Beck

This man likes pie (Image via Wikipedia)

This morning, I went to court to take care of some traffic issues. I knew I was guilty and I pled the same, yet when my punishment was handed down, I felt like it was unfair. After all, I hadn’t meant to break the law so that had to be taken into account right? This got me thinking; what exactly do I deserve? And while we are at it, what do you deserve?

Glenn Beck’s answer; “I want all of my pie.” I can understand that philosophy. I mean it is his pie. I am sure though that Mrs. Beck probably taught little Glenn, just like my mother taught me, to share. No word on whether little Glenn yelled “socialist!!!” at her. Anyway, I digress.

I spent the first 15 years of my life in Africa. People there work just as hard for a lot less than we do here. A pie is definitely out of the question there. However, Africa is a world away. Here in the United States, there are lots of people who cannot catch a break. They work hard, they put in their time, what do they deserve?

According to the founding fathers, we all deserve “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Herein lies their genius. They created a system which although flawed, could be corrected from the inside out. It remains our place to keep the system honest, to challenge it and by challenging it to force it to grow. When nothing is done, we run the risk of having the system start to decay and come apart at the seams. Everything else is a privilege that we ought to be grateful for. Things like the running water, electricity, indoor plumbing etc. And when we remember to think this way, it’s easier to help others less fortunate than ourselves.Flash back to this morning. I thought about all the times I had broken other traffic laws and hadn’t gotten caught. I didn’t immediately drive over to the nearest Police station to turn myself in.  I thought about how lucky I was to even have a job and be able to pay for my car. I thought about all the people in the world who would kill to trade places with me. And I reached my hand into my pocket……

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 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.

January 19, 2008

Why there needs to be change

Some say that America has lost its brain. I’d like to submit that we have lost our hearts. Sure, one could pull out statistic after statistic to show that we are getting lower test scores, our teenagers are disconnected from the real world, college students don’t even know the basic tenets of history and grammar anymore, etc. but that isn’t what is wrong here.

The real problem I believe can be summed up in one phrase; “we just don’t care anymore”. Notice I said we. I am including myself in this conversation. We have buried our heads in the sand of circumstance and refuse to see what is going on around us.

To illustrate this point, consider this; a majority of the population especially young people do not believe that any politician is honest or is trying to serve the people. Let that sink in for a second. Then remember that this is a democracy. This is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We’ve taken the people out of the equation and now its a bunch of politicians just doing their thing.

This same apathy can be seen in our everyday life and not just in politics. Yeah katrina was bad but the government ought to have done something about it. Yeah there is racism still left in the world but someone ought to do something about it. And so on. That someone is me. I want to do something about our problems.

But I need you. I need your honesty. I need your help. I need your heart. I want you to care. I want you to ask the right questions with me. I want you to pick me up when I am down. I want you to feel with me for the homeless guy on the street corner. I want you to feel for the little boy in the hood whose hopes are going to be dashed because he has no avenue to survive. Change needs to happen because the way things are going now isn’t going to cut it and its up to us to do something about it. I can’t do it alone and neither can you. So join me.

January 9, 2008

Consciousness

“We gotta make a change…It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes. Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live and let’s change the way we treat each other.You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do what we gotta do, to survive.” (Tupac Shakur).

Science has come a long way from what it used to be. I would argue that it has come full circle. Once an institution that had no time for the soul, mind, spirituality or any such notions it is now turning over a new leaf. Science started this whole concept of “if I cannot see, collect or measure it then it doesn’t exist”. This school of thought argued that the concept of the soul or consciousness was myth. We are basically higher thinking computers or robots controlled by our brains.

The issue at hand was that science wanted to be able to have man fit into its concept of the natural world. One that could be calculated and explained by mathematical equations, to translate loosely. Thus, science abandoned the concept of the soul or consciousness because it just didn’t fit. The greatest irony in all of this is that to be human one had to have choices and decisions, fall in love or even hate. In other words to study the human, science tried to destroy the very thing that made us human.

Thankfully, this ridiculous notion is being abandoned and the result is that scores of scientists are meeting with religious leaders around the world to try and come up with other concepts of trying to study and understand human beings. Good luck with all of that.

The point I am trying to make is that human beings have always historically tried to be in control. All the ugliness of past wars, racism, sexism, slavery, and even in sports, the prevalent concept has remained control. Adolf Hitler wanted to control the world, Osama bin Laden wants to control Israel and the United States, the Enron executives wanted to control more money, even Roger Clemens wanted to regain control of his fastball at 40 (okay maybe I went too far but you see where I am going with this).

This is why most people refuse the concept of a God or a maker. We would rather have that God show himself to us on our own terms or else He doesn’t exist. This control is what science craved so badly that they wrote goodness and love out of the script.

Some things just don’t need explaining. When you close your eyes and you get that certain feeling inside you, maybe you should just take it for what it is. We don’t need to know why we feel very protective of little children or why we prefer certain kinds of music over others or why flowers are so pretty. Or maybe we already know and we just don’t want to accept it.