shooting each other

Each known for their frequent fervor, the two surprised me this past week. In a good way.

The conversation began on Twitter — and consistent with said venue, that was neither the surprise nor the good. (Twitter is also not a “conversation.”)

Unsurprisingly, it began with a passionate topic. And isn’t that the reality? The more passionate we are about an issue — the deeper our conviction — the more likely we are to succumb to the societal lure that respect is not only no longer necessary, but not even wise to employ. This conversation, friends, began with gun control.

Let’s face it. It’s a tough topic. Proponents of more gun control legislation believe the 2nd Amendment was intended for militias and that gun violence would be reduced. Opponents believe the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to own guns and that gun ownership deters crime rather than causes more.*

The interaction began when actress/activist/active-tweeter Alyssa Milano posed a question regarding the existence of any Biblical passage stating that gun ownership is a “God-given right.”

Attorney/Senator/equally-active-tweeter Ted Cruz responded with a lengthy series of tweets.

After Cruz’s response, Milano challenged him specifically: “I’d love to come in and meet with you on the gun issue and many other issues that include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, @tedcruz and also, 1 Peter 4:8. I’ll be in DC next week. We can live-stream the meeting so the American people can hear your bullshit 1st hand.”

Fascinatingly, Cruz then welcomed the idea. The two sat down on Tuesday.

Afterward, Milano shared about her experience through a CNN op-ed [Note: all emphasis mine]:

“… Cruz and I agree on very little. He is a stalwart conservative; I am a committed progressive… On issue after issue we have fundamentally different views on freedom and humanity and our government. 

So why did I agree to meet with him? What could we possibly accomplish when we have such diametrically opposed views on, well, everything?

… I met with the senator because we can’t fix the problems that face this nation unless we talk with people who disagree with us. The truth is that no matter what happens in the 2020 election, there will always be two parties in the Senate which will be close to evenly divided. If we keep living solely in our echo chambers, we will only hear what we ourselves say. And our nation will continue to suffer.

I know we didn’t change his mind on how we fix gun violence in America. And he didn’t change ours. But maybe we understand one another a little better. Here’s what I came away with that I wasn’t so sure of before the meeting: Ted Cruz is a human being. He is a real person. He isn’t a villain in a movie. He cares when these shootings happen. When people on my side of this fight say he doesn’t, they’re wrong.

I hope he came away with the fact that we are caring people, and supporters of the Second Amendment, just not unlimited gun rights. I hope he recognizes a little bit more the fear parents have throughout the country…

Ninety percent of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, agree that we need a fix to the problem of gun violence in this country. Maybe by talking to each other as humans, with open hearts and listening to each other with open ears, we can inspire our leaders to do the same.

Isn’t it worth a try? For your children. For my children. For us all.”

Here are two people who truthfully, have not been known for their consistent expressions of respect. Here are two people who could have remained hidden behind their keyboards, where — let’s face it — disrespect is always easier. And here are two people — representative of most of the rest of us — who probably felt like the other person was worse, lesser, bad, evil, amoral, you-name-it primarily because they disagree.

Then they met face-to-face; they listened to one another; and things changed.

Want to make progress on this issue and more?

Perhaps we surprise ourselves by stopping the judgment, stopping the disrespect, and quit hiding behind our keyboards. As Milano said, “We can’t fix the problems that face this nation unless we talk with people who disagree with us.” They are real people, too.

Respectfully…

AR

[* For a non-partisan perspective on the gun control debate, check HERE.]

18 years later…

I wonder what they woke up thinking…

When they grabbed their cup of coffee, threw last minute items in their briefcase or purse, headed out the door… I wonder if they felt any different…

I wonder if they said the same words parting with their families that morning… kissed their spouse or their kids once more before they arose…

I wonder if they knew anything different… if they felt anything different… if they had any sense somehow that this day would be different…

I wonder…

As survivor Michael Wright wrote, one year after, “UP TO THAT DAY, I’d had a Brady Bunch, cookie-cutter, beautiful life. I now know what it’s like to have a 110-story building that’s been hit by a 767 come down on my head. For better or for worse, it’s part of my life. There are things I never thought I’d know that I now know.

It was as mundane a morning as you can imagine. Tuesdays are usually the days I go out to see clients and make sales calls. I get to my office at a quarter to eight, eat a bran muffin, drink a cup of coffee, and get my head straight for the day.

I was actually in a good mood. A couple of us were yukking it up in the men’s room. We’d just started sharing the eighty-first floor of 1 World Trade Center with Bank of America, and they’d put up a sign telling everyone to keep the bathroom clean. ‘Look at this,’ one of us said. ‘They move in and now they’re giving us sh*t.’ It was about quarter to nine…”

Then… “All of a sudden, there was the shift of an earthquake…”

The first plane — American Airlines Flight 11 — hit the northern facade of the North Tower of the World Trade Center at precisely 8:46 a.m… 81 passengers… 11 crew members… Captain John Ogonowski… First Officer Thomas McGuinness…

As we soberly pause to remember, it strikes me that all those people — from on the planes to in the buildings to the brave, brave first responders — that when the day began, they didn’t know it would be any different. There were no warning signs that their earthly life was coming to an abrupt end.

And so 18 years later, as I think about how maybe to honor the 2,996 persons who died that day, a few varied thoughts run through my head and heart…

… to simply remember… to pause long enough to acknowledge that the September 11th attacks are not just some distant memory… this isn’t just any other day…

… to pray for their families… no matter the 18 passing years, their emotion may be less prominent, but the grief remains. Indeed, one of life’s most prudent practices as we grow older is learning how to cope with grief and joy, often felt at the exact same time… 

… to never take evil lightly or to act as if it doesn’t exist on this planet… men motivated by evil is who/what killed the near 3,000 that day. An awareness of such seems wise…

… to teach our children well… let me add that I laid in bed with my youngest son last night, attempting to concisely explain the tragedy, trying to share the account in a way appropriate for his level of comprehension. Interestingly, I found the retelling and remembering to be moving for me, too…

… and lastly, to live our days with contagious delight but also to live with an awareness that any day could be different… any day could be our last… any day our lives could change.

Then, going one step further, let us ask… if we truly realized that any day could be our last, what would we do differently today? What would we change?

What would we be sure to say? What would we be sure to not?

What relationship would we finally work out?

What would instantly become unimportant?

I wonder… 

Respectfully…

AR

we are back!

And just like that, we are back!!

Greetings, friends! What a treat it’s been to sit back, read and digest the opinions of our excellent Guest Writers! It is always insightful to sincerely listen to someone other than self. (Did I mention it is wise, too??)

But thank you, too, for the respite. I find myself returning to the pen and the post with a renewed energy and commitment to do this well. By “this” I mean to discuss all things respectfully… to recognize that none of us have life all figured out… and to articulate with a raw humility, well aware that there is always more to learn.

I was affirming one of my bright young nephews recently — one who shared that he was approaching a select topic with an open mind, knowing that the great big God of the universe could always teach him more — and I said, “How wonderful! If only we adults could be more like that.” 

Yes… to realize that we can always learn more… that we don’t have life all figured out…

I’m struck by the inherent humility such a realization would bring to our every conversation.

So on that note, what should we converse about?

Much has happened in my absence…

… Andrew Luck left the NFL… Colin Kaepernick hasn’t been invited back… A hurricane kind of came and went; granted, it decided to be really, really slow… oh, the Bahamas… my heart breaks for the Bahamas… what can we do?

… the Pan Am games concluded; they were held in Lima, Peru this year with 41 nations included… U.S. led the medal count, with Brazil and Mexico following… bodybuilding made its debut (with El Salvadoran athletes dominating), and also, the daughter of Apple’s Steve Jobs came in fifth in an individual equestrian competition…

… cable news maintained its not-so-quiet deference to a lack of objectivity. As has become my routine, in my multiple weekly trips to the gym, while on one of the machines equipped with TV capabilities (oh, the beauty of technology), I devoted 10-15 minutes circling back-to-back-to-back-to-back between Bloomberg, CNN, FOX News, and MSNBC. Allow me a quite crude (but accurate) analysis… CNN and MSNBC hate the President… FOX likes the President… and Bloomberg tries to focus less on the President… Once again on respite, my concerns were renewed that so many actually think this is “news”… just imagine… if every story is influenced by said angle…

… Pres. Trump did something with a marker — or maybe not… Joe made something else up — or maybe not… is it a gaffe? Is it a lie? Is it misspeak? Does it matter who says it?…

… more presidential promises were made, some spending billions and trillions, especially on climate change… climate conversations brought talk of bans, too — from straws to meat to even people, thanks to Bernie… Beto also seemed to decide utilization of the “F bomb” may infuse new life into his campaign…

… gun control… ah, yes, call me naive; call me an optimist… I believe our leaders (and us) are capable of crafting a sensible approach. It seems Democrats and Republicans are actually — at least somewhat — meeting together on this… what can be done… what can’t… what’s actually effective… and what’s more emotional speak… I pray they can make some progress — and resist, too, the temptation to denigrate the other — or — to fall prey to the (in my opinion) arrogant ideology that they are the ones that have it all figured out (see above recognition, please)

… the squad came back… trying to decide do they play overseas, not play overseas, and/or whether they will wear the appropriate attire. What? Ah, yes, I’m speaking football, friends… New/now-ex/Oakland/LA/Las Vegas/whatever-for-now Raider Antonio Brown was arguing about his helmet (and more) as both the Saturday and Sunday squads are back on the college and profession gridiron… how exciting!… are you ready for some football?!

And just like that, we are back… ready to converse, ready to play, ready to learn, talk, and even embrace a little tongue-in-cheek.

What a joy and privilege to share this journey with you. As our country too often divides and conquers, we will not. We will always converse… always respectfully so.

Respectfully…

AR

the easy way of anger

[Concluding our annual Guest Writer Series is none other than PH, aka Guest Writer #12 (of 12). I have not known PH long, but I have quickly gotten to know him well. He is deep. He is thoughtful. He makes people think and makes them laugh… typically at the exact same time … ]

* * * * *

Don’t act like you’re not impressed.

I’m no stranger to being surprised at my own age and stage in life. Seems like just yesterday I was in college, feeling good, engaged, looking sexy as ever and was on top of the world. And by on top of the world I mean I was graduating then going on to grad school with zero US dollars and no job… but on top of the discovered world nonetheless. I had hopes and dreams and I was taking my first steps to accomplish them with excitement and confidence! I was about to start living my dream! Now I’m in sales in an industry I never thought I would be in. I’m older, still in shape (round being that shape), have a mortgage, home-improvement projects and regular maintenance, three kids, regular back pain, headaches, sinus problems, work stress, utility bills, and since my kids refuse to stop growing I’m constantly buying clothes for little humans that like to ruin them on the first day. By day two my son’s new shoes look like a homeless man has been wearing them for 35 years.

It’s not uncommon to get to a midpoint in life and look back wondering where the time went. On top of that, you’re not where you thought you’d be at this point. Perhaps you’re in a job you don’t like or on a career path heading somewhere you don’t want! Maybe you’re in a relationship that has been less than satisfying. That dream of a six-figure paycheck has come true… but you have to include the figures after the decimal point. Maybe your health has taken a turn that you didn’t anticipate and you’re now getting used to your “new normal.”  Family, bills, mortgage, kids, life, can all be overwhelming. I love and appreciate my life, but it certainly doesn’t look like I thought it would at this point.

It’s easy to get angry and stay angry. It’s easy to settle for mediocrity. It really takes little effort. It’s the easiest thing to do and yet it’s the hardest thing to live with. To filter our experiences, learn from them, stay positive, and grow as a better person is difficult. It is, however, a better path. It’s healthy. It’s happy. It’s fulfilling and rewarding. The alternative is just misery.

We’ve all met miserable people or been miserable. To constantly feel angry and bitter at life is miserable. Miserable people attract other miserable people. You’ve heard it before, “Misery loves company.” It can be exhausting to be around miserable people and it’s exhausting to be the miserable person. It’s miserable reading the word “miserable” that many times in this miserable paragraph! Seems like there’s no relief. No peace. No end to the grief in sight.

So young…and only one chin!! (2001)

One thing I have learned is that the fight is worth it. To put the effort in to renew your mind is never regrettable. I have never heard of a person saying, “I was miserable and frustrated and I changed my outlook and focus on life, getting myself to a better place, and now I wish I hadn’t. I’m happy and fulfilled, and it wasn’t worth the effort.” No one would say that.

The hardest part is taking the first step. Choosing to no longer have the chip on your shoulder. To choose to not look over the fence at what someone else has and become envious. To choose to leave the bitterness and anger behind and look forward. To stop playing the comparison game.  To choose to forgive. To choose to let go. To choose to begin being the person you’ve always wanted to be.

You know what’s funny? Many times this doesn’t require a major life change. I won’t be angry anymore if I get that new job. I won’t be angry anymore if I find a new spouse. I won’t be angry anymore if I can get my finances in better shape and live in a nicer home. I won’t be angry anymore if justice is served to those who have wronged me!

When we believe that simply changing our situation or surroundings will make us happier, then we have unfortunately chosen to believe a lie. It’s amazing how many times I’ve said to myself, “Once I get that new TV in the basement, then I won’t have to look at the old broken one and I’ll feel more satisfied and content.” Guess what? I was watching my 60-inch HDTV last night and I still wanted new rear speakers for the theater system. “Die Hard” never looked better, but there were still things I wanted. I wasn’t completely satisfied with my experience. Such is life. If you think that your anger and frustration will go away or that you will find contentment by simply changing your situation, then you’ll be on a lifelong journey in search of something that you’ll never attain.

The hard thing about choosing to move forward from anger and bitterness is that it starts in the mirror. It requires you to change, not your situation. It requires you to choose to move on without a guarantee that things will change. Peace, happiness, and contentment all come from inside, not outside. Joy can be found in the worst of situations because the source of joy is found within.  It’s a choice and a mindset.

Being angry is easy but it’s in no way worth it. Find the joy within. Seek it from something greater than your situation. Then you’ll see your situation completely differently.  Perhaps your life isn’t so bad. Perhaps you’re right where you need to be. Perhaps this is precisely the part of the journey you’re supposed to be on right now. This part won’t last forever. Make the most of it. Learn, grow, and enjoy it. Maybe this is the launching point for the next big thing that you’ve been dreaming of. 

Perhaps you have everything you want… you were just focusing on all the wrong things.

Enjoy the Journey…
PH


questions, 4 year olds & fastballs

[Nearing the conclusion of our annual Guest Writer Series, allow me to introduce LJ, aka Guest Writer #11 (of 12). LJ has been a sweet friend for so many years… being silly… being serious… but also, always being authentic … ]

* * * * *

Did you know that the average 4-year old could ask at least 300 questions a day? The first time I heard this stat I could hardly believe it!   remember thinking to myself: “Hmmm… whoever did that study apparently did not have a 4-year old named Aden in their test group.” Because if they did, they, too, would be keenly aware that my three very over-achieving man children could put that number to shame… rather quickly and easily.

During their early years, with their gears constantly turning, you could always see when the firestorm of questions was going to hit. At first the questions were rather easy to answer, and I felt pretty good that maybe this parenting thing wasn’t a hard as everyone said it was. There were questions like: 

“Can I have a drink?”  

“Are we having peanut butter and jelly for lunch today?” 

“Can you read me this book?”    

Or… maybe it was just that whole concrete thinking phase that children go through.  Either way, the mastery of answering those questions of the early years did wonders for my ego and confidence.

As they got a little older, the number of questions did not become fewer; it was just the depth of the questions asked that changed. The questions have gotten trickier to answer.  

“Mom, what does it mean when the weather man says the clouds have rotation?”

“Mom, did you know that a snowflake is a frozen fractal?” 

“What happens when you die?”

“Why is Thomas Jefferson only considered the 3rd president when he was actually the 3rd and the 4th president?”  

I’ve come to realize rather quickly that this whole child-asks-a-question/mom-answers-that-question thing is a bit over my head, and I may need to call in the reserves.  Thank the Good Lord for dads and that amazing one-liner: “I think you better go ask your father.”

Now as I stand on the doorstep of the teenage years, you can well imagine just how grossly ill-prepared I feel to field the questions that are yet to come. It also makes perfect sense in my mind that it would be my almost 13 year old who should be preparing me for these life questions — right? He does his share of asking. However, from time-to-time, it is my 8-year old who will throw me the zinger.  

“Mom, what does it mean — that saying on your cup — ‘Life’s too short to take FASTBALLS down the middle?’ ”

I am silent as my old-soled man-child sits waiting for my response the whole time repeating his question over in his mind. I am not silent because I do not know what to say. I am silent because I am trying to decide the best way to communicate the heart of the message in the best possible way for his 8-year old heart and mind can grasp. 

After much thought, this is what this baseball loving, boy mom has come to…

We are given one shot in this life we are blessed with. There are no dress rehearsals, but sometimes, we are given second chances. In all the hugeness of this world around us, it would very easy to let the “hugeness” swallow us whole. We could so very easily stand there at the home plate of life watching the pitches whiz right on by. 

I don’t want to let that happen!! I want my life to be a statement of going down swinging, making the most of every second, of every minute, of every day.

Batter UP!!!

Respectfully…

LJ

myth busters

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet DG, Guest Writer #10 (of 12). DG is a conscientious, articulate father and professional who I’ve known to be a good listener and communicator. He is respectful and always makes me think … ]

Ever since my younger days, I observed our neighbors having to prove to their youngest daughter, who was 5 years-old, that there was nothing under the bed or in the closet spaces that resembled a boogeyman before bed. As we all have heard, you can’t prove a negative. However, in this child’s mind, Mom and Dad had just emphatically proven there were no boogeymen in the house. At least not for that night. Because the next night the hunt would restart. I could understand why a child’s mind would need to be reassured continuously, but it seems our modern adult minds are doing just such a game. 

It seems there is a never-ending quest to seek out and exaggerate all things we consider negative. These things are either real or imagined. It seems facts really do not matter for us. Recently my wife and I picked up her sisters from the airport. My wife’s license plate on her car is a specialized Nevada plate that identifies her as an Organ Donor. One of her sisters noticed it and insisted that she needed to replace the plate. Her premise was that by having an organ donor plate in an accident, someone would accelerate her demise so they could harvest her organs. My question to her was, “Do you mean to tell me that all 50 DMVs across the US and all emergency room staff and ambulance drivers met to put this all together?” Her response was, “Well, that’s what I heard.” She further said that since my wife is black, it was even more dangerous for her. I knew then it would be an interesting weekend with this particular sister-in-law. I love all my wife’s family as I do my own, but sometimes even they try my patience. 

The conversation later that evening at my home moved to what was for dinner. I had bought some tilapia, thawed it out, and was then going to grill them. Just then Boogeyman #2 for the day raised its head when my daughter who is a chef said, “You know tilapia is bad for you, right?” So now I’m both curious and furious. She started to tell me how harmful tilapia is, being farmed and the toxic things that are done to it. Meanwhile, the day before she ate some Gulf Shrimp –  caught from the Gulf of Mexico, the site of several oil spills in the past few years. She continued, saying it all comes from China (implying that it must be bad). I went and retrieved the package from the smelly garbage and looked on the package of the fish; it was, in fact, from Indonesia. So the “it all comes from China” myth was busted. I also looked at their website, which it made me feel better.  After reading through the site, no boogeyman was there for me to see. We all enjoyed the grilled tilapia, and none of us were glowing afterward except with the glow from a satisfying meal.  

The social media sites while informative are the some of the worst myth purveyors. They attempt to find boogeymen where none exist. Back in 2012 when the world was supposed to end on December 12th because it did not appear on the ancient Mayan calendar, I had the greatest time teasing my many colleagues who believed this latest horse pokey. Somehow having ancient Mayans as guides for our future seemed more logical than believing established science. There was even a movie “2012” that grossed approximately $770 million. So nearly a billion dollars was spent by consumers to reinforce their fears. To be clear, my psychological training is zero. But I am intelligent enough to know that this is the same mentality that makes us go through haunted houses and roller coasters. The only difference is our modern day adult often gets lost in the myth of these boogeymen and gets so caught up that they can’t wake up from the bad dream they are having. 

The continuous myth I want to finally uncover is Global Warning/Climate Change. I wrote about this in last year’s Guest Writer Series, sharing some facts and opinions with which not everyone agreed with me. The conversation has now reached a crescendo with some of the new politicians and entertainers. According to them, we have about 12 years until the next doomsday unless we make some drastic changes now. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Al Gore told us we had 10 years until Climate Change doomsday. The timeline continues to move so that it fits any timeline such advocates seek. Again, I believe we should do everything to keep our Earth clean and conserve energy and resources. We have been given stewardship of this 3rd rock from the Sun; this is truly Mother Earth. But some of these measures such as zero carbon emissions, no fossil or nuclear energy are not only ridiculous but almost impossible to achieve. The impracticality of having 7 billion people redo the way they live is a myth because we will always be chasing and hunting for something that is not there.  

Respectfully…

DG

One more thing…

Recently, after the death of the infamous criminal, Michael Epstein, his suicide evoked a lot of myths. Many Clinton supporters were implying if not outright saying that Trump and his people had something to do with Epstein’s death. Many Trump supporters were saying that surely the Clintons had something to do with it. Are we in a place where everything has a conspiratorial aspect to it? Can some things be just what they are at face value? 

We are better than this. Epstein was obviously an evil person. Could this not just be his final act of evil? I recently posted this on Facebook and some couldn’t help themselves, still continuing with the myths. So it has become clear to me that myths are here to stay. We just have to learn to take more deep breaths… WOOSAH…

my thoughts on climate change skepticism

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Up next is JM, Guest Writer #9 (of 12). JM is one of my favorite people. A thoughtful college senior, I can’t wait to see what he does next! … ]

_____

 (To keep this blog concise, human-induced climate change is referred to simply as climate change. I recognize there is a difference but didn’t want to berate you with my wordiness.) 

When you think of teachers, you probably assume that their greatest fears stem from misbehaving children and low test scores.  However, as a future biology teacher, my greatest fear is being accused of brainwashing people’s children.  I currently go to a conservative Christian college, so I’m already used to the question: how do you feel about public schools forcing you to teach [insert any controversial scientific theory]?  My answer?  I usually just shrug and tell them I have no issue with it because I teach facts, not opinions.  

It saddens me to see the skepticism that religion and politics have created towards science.  Somehow, the rise of individualism in our culture has made us complacent with small snippets of a personalized reality over one based in reason, community, and faith.  As soon as we hear a statistic we don’t like, it is immediately cast aside as biased, politicized, or inaccurate.  

While I could point out how scientific facts are dodged in a variety of topics today, I’d like to focus specifically on the one I believe is most criticized and abused: climate change.  Growing up, this was the topic I was told to shut down at all costs.  No matter how much my teachers crammed it down my throat, it was my job to trust in the system, live carefree, and trust the Earth to straighten itself out on its own.  I was told to see climate change as hog-wash for a variety of reasons, but I’d like to specifically call out seven that I feel are most predominate today.

1. Human-induced climate change is a theory and lacks proof.  

Yes, climate change is based in theory, but it is what I like to call a “Capital-T” theory.  That meaning, it is backed by a significant amount of evidence and is supported by the majority of the scientific community.  I’ve often heard that climate recordings haven’t been documented long enough to be reliable.  However, it would be impossible to live at all if every missing puzzle piece was required of a topic before putting our trust in it.   The positive correlation between industrialization, population growth, and unstable climate is clear as day, and correlation is the foundation of possibly every decision we make as human beings.  I get being hesitant, but to put off believing in statistics purely because of a factor we can’t fix without time travel isn’t rational. 

2. If we are supposed to care about climate change, God would have told us in the Bible, Torah, etc.  

I know not everyone here is religious, but I’ve heard this enough times that it must be included.  I would hope that most people can see the problem with this statement without me commenting.  After all, even though religious doctrine doesn’t talk directly about contemporary topics, that doesn’t mean it can’t be applied. Unfortunately, the need for application allows certain people to apply doctrine inaccurately. I was once told believing in climate change was prideful because humans don’t have control over the Earth; God does. If anyone has this thought, please re-read Genesis 1 and 2. I don’t mean to be cold, but as a Christian, I know the Bible is very clear in humanity’s role to protect the Earth.  How we treat the Earth matters. And yes, God is okay with your pastor using a Sunday to talk about God’s call to steward the Earth instead of heaven for a change.  

3. Even if climate change is real, there’s nothing we can do to fix it now.  

As much as we love to empower individuals as a culture, it’s strange how quick we are to shut ourselves down when faced with a challenge. I’ll be straight up. No one person is not going to fix the damage we’ve done to the Earth. But one person can make huge changes in their home and community, so it’s wrong to think your actions don’t matter. My advice is to focus on the small impacts you can make and inspire others to do the same. With time and persuasion, perhaps we truly can work together to build our small actions into a movement.  

4. Why should I care about climate change if it’s not the biggest problem?

The ‘biggest problem’ in the world today is a hotly contested category that most of my age group tends to fill with climate change. This tends to be where I stray from the pack. While I recognize that climate change is a serious concern for my generation and all those following, I fail to see how it takes precedent over the violence and devastation shaking the world presently.  All that said, waiting for climate change to become more problematic before acting, especially when it’s one of the most preventable issues we’re currently faced with, is something we can no longer allow to occur.

5. Believing in climate change is a liberal stance, and I can’t fight it without looking crazy. 

I’ve been given my own share of eye rolls when discussing environmental activism, so I get it. I can’t say much to deny the reality of judgment. People don’t take kindly to tree-huggers. That’s just reality. But I can say that being proactive towards climate change should not be a political issue. Politics gets involved when it comes to alternative energy, job creation, budgeting and taxes. Cutting down on your pollution is what is going to make the difference at the end of the day, and it doesn’t make you any more/less of a Democrat or Republican; it just makes you a better human being.  

6. I don’t have the money necessary to fight climate change.  

The idea that living ecologically is more expensive than a wasteful lifestyle is a misrepresentation. Global warming boils down to energy usage. The less you use, the more you help. So don’t use your iPhone 24/7, take shorter showers, don’t leave lights on when you’re not using them. BOOM. You just saved the earth AND your monthly bill. Yes, it costs money to recycle or buy organic, but beyond that, it’s not hard to choose items with less packaging, bring your own bags to the grocery store, or shop locally before searching the web.

7. Do you realize how difficult it is to live an eco-friendly lifestyle?  

Yes. A million times yes. Throughout this post, I’ve probably hid behind the façade that I’m an amazing person with no environmental baggage. The truth is, outside of having a catalytic converter on my car, I’m not doing much for the Earth. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had my success streaks, but being an activist for the Earth is the same as working towards a six pack (which I also don’t have). You don’t master a routine overnight. But just because a skill is difficult or takes time to develop, doesn’t mean we should put it off. Living for the Earth is an amazing opportunity and something I truly believe deserves more attention.  

Sincerely,

JM

P.S. For more posts like this one, consider visiting www.justinnoahblog.wordpress.com

should I let it stay or let it go?

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Up next is AT, Guest Writer #8 (of 12). AT is always transparent… always makes me think… and often makes me sing along to the latest tune… ]

Letting go means different things to different people. To Buddhists it means the practice of non-attachment. To Christians it could mean turning the other cheek or offering forgiveness and mercy. To a minimalist it is the practice of refining and removing of all that does not serve us well. We can let go of stuff and we can let go of baggage. We can let go of anger, resentment, a grudge, a dead relationship, a dead end job, guilt, anxiety, control, or whatever is weighing us down. Over the course of the last decade I have begun to expand the list of things, attitudes, behaviors, and feelings that do not serve me well.

What I have found is that the more closely I identify with an object, a person, a place, a group, or an idea, the harder it is for me to detach and let go. What is required is a ruthless examination of the attachments I have and a relentless questioning of does this serve me well, does it serve me now, does it serve me best, or does it no longer serve me at all. Like a person who physically hoards things, we can also build philosophical walls which close us in and others out. We need to be just as ruthless in questioning those walls as well. Sometimes walls offer us security and protection and sometimes those walls do nothing more than divide and separate us from others. 

Google will return a huge number of essays explaining the hows and whys of letting go. For simplicity’s sake, I am going to focus on why letting go might help to practice humility and kindness.

“Always be humble and kind,” wisely sings country singer, Tim McGraw. What does letting go have to do with humility? It’s hard to be humble when your ego is in the driver’s seat. Charlotte, the lovable spider in Charlotte’s Web explains to Wilber the pig that humble means not proud. In order to be that you have to tame your ego. You have to temper your emotions. You have to consider the needs and feelings of others. You can’t be self absorbed, angry and insensitive to others and be very successful at being humble. Wanting the best for others helps. Forcing your way of thinking on others, trying to manipulate others’ behavior, insisting that you are right and everyone else is wrong, being a know-it-all, never listening to other points of view, feeling the need to vanquish others in an argument or a comment thread on social media doesn’t fall under the heading of humility(and makes you unpopular at parties.) I had to let go of the need to be right, the need to prove others wrong, the need to win the argument, the need to point out others’ faulty logic, the need to respond to every bait, the need to control others and make them see my way of doing things is the correct way, the need to prevent my children’s mistakes by insisting that my wisdom is superior to theirs. It’s certainly an exhausting “to do” list. By changing it to my “not to do” list, my life became easier to manage, not harder. And those closest to me, both physically and virtually, benefited from it as well. Humility has nothing to do with being a doormat. It has to do with letting others be themselves right or wrong. The flip side of not having to be right is not having to worry about what others think of me. Egotists need to win at everything. Nothing is more threatening to the ego than losing and being wrong is not an option. When ego is sent packing, I am free to be me and you are free to be you.

Once you become humble, kindness just flows out of that. You begin to help when asked rather than offer the correct way to do it. You start noticing what is right rather than being consumed by what is wrong. People begin to be vulnerable with you because they are no longer fearful of being shot down. Relationships improve because you are listening and seeking win-win solutions. When you are focused on supporting positive outcomes for others rather than seeking to dominate and destroy, compromises stop being seen as weaknesses and start becoming part of a joint solution to community problems. Cooperation begins to replace competition. Peacemaking is easier once accusatory anger is replaced with kindness and compassion.

Every day I hear people bemoaning the divisiveness in our country and blaming other people. May I humbly suggest that we do some soul searching and question whether we are contributing to that divide by identifying so strongly with either group think or me think that we feel the need to be right and make those who think differently the enemy? Humility and kindness could be one way to begin to heal what ails us. I would apologize for not being perfectly humble and kind yet, but I let go of trying to be perfect, too. All I know for sure is that I feel a lot lighter since I decided to let go more.

Respectfully…

AT

pride check

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Introducing Danny, Guest Writer #7 (of 12). Danny is a recent college graduate and no doubt a naturally born leader. I can see why…]

Pride check. 

I heard this phrase often when my friends noticed that my sarcastic humor often involved my pride pretty heavily. With sayings like:

“There is no way _____ could have spoken better than me.” 

“How on earth did he get asked to be a speaker at this conference?!”

“He is just soft.” 

 “Did you hear how well I preached last night?”

“I bet you I could preach in front of 20,000.”

… or any other phrase that was a sarcastic way to elevate me or belittle others…

Now I know that when sayings like this are said, most of the time it would be out of good fun and sarcasm. For me, on the other hand, it showed the tendency of my heart. It wasn’t like every other week that these comments would be made; it was more like every other time I opened my mouth. One of my closest friends said “check your pride, dude,” and I brushed her off, but then my friends would start saying, “pride check” every time I made one of these comments. At first I would argue that I was kidding, but after what seemed to be like the 900th time, I began to honestly assess my sarcasm. 

Now I am not saying that all sarcasm leads to defects in your inner most being, nor do I think sarcasm is bad; again, I personally really enjoy sarcasm. I think it can be a great source of humor, but for me — for me — it led to re-evaluating my heart behind it. 

Why were a lot of my comments revolving around me either praising myself or belittling others?  This led me to attempt to identify where all of this pride was coming from. I say “attempt” because at first it did not go as planned. 

“It’s not pride, it’s just a fact,” my pride would tell me. “You’re not wrong; they’re wrong for thinking that your intentions are bad.”

My pride put up a lot of resistance to this inner assessment. I actually had to go around pride to get to the real cause. I had to go to the outcome of my pride to discern the real issue. 

Anger was a result of my pride. I would stick my chest out and get loud and prove to you why I was right!! That’s when I asked myself one of the biggest questions I have had to face in my life… 

“Why am I so angry?”

My first reaction was to respond with “because I am right, and they’re wrong,” but I couldn’t let pride answer for me anymore, and as I let the question marinate a little longer, it hit me. I wasn’t getting angry because I knew I was right; I was getting angry in fear that I wasn’t.

I let the idea of being wrong eat at me long enough to build a wall of pride. This wall of pride was built with stubbornness, ignorance, a façade of self-confidence, the belittlement of others, insecurity, and left me with no respect of other people’s opinions and a terrible leader. 

I still remember the moment when I realized that I had a problem with pride in my heart. Even after all the “pride checks” I got from my friends, I started to change the way I talked — not because I thought it was a real issue but because I knew it wasn’t the best attribute for a leader in ministry. Then one night it hit me, I would either be a humble servant to God and build His kingdom, or I would be a servant to my pride and build mine. 

About 6 months after the “pride check” became a common saying for me to hear, I was leading a ministry with my best friend at college. By this time, I thought that I had beaten pride… I thought since God was blessing this ministry that I was no longer full of pride. Then one night my best friend gave the sermon, a week after I gave what I thought was one of the better messages I had ever given, yet no one responded to a prompt at the end of my message. 

I wasn’t even thinking of my pride. I was encouraging my best friend that he did a pretty good job. Then as I am sitting in the back of the room, and he closes with the question of taking your faith more seriously and asking if any in the audience wanted to make some significant, life-giving changes; multiple people immediately said “yes”!!  You would think that I would be elated with joy… 

Nope. I felt nothing but jealousy. I also convinced myself that it had nothing to do with his message — but everything to do with mine. 

I was so caught up in my pride that I couldn’t celebrate my best friend giving a life-transforming message. 

Looking back now on the time I was able to steward that ministry in college, I am filled with great memories of crazy cool blessings, but I can also see that my pride led to people getting hurt. My pride led me to speaking almost every week; my pride led me to hurting what could have been great leaders, because I wanted the spotlight. My pride took me from praising God to praising myself. 

Pride will convince you that it’s all about you. Pride will rob you from celebrating in someone else’s victory. Pride will lead you to hurting others. 

From someone who has had to make more apologies than I care to admit, I would recommend assessing whether or not your pride needs checked.

Respectfully…

Danny

the right to (not) vaccinate

[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet Zack, Guest Writer #6 (of 12). A proud parent, trusted friend, and one always willing to dialogue… even about the uncomfortable…]

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On May 3, 2019, Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson introduced HR 2527 “Vaccinate All Children Act of 2019” to the 116th Congress. If passed, this bill would eliminate all non-medical exemptions (philosophical or religious) for immunizations and require all children who attend public schools to receive every vaccination approved by the CDC. Any state that fails to comply would have federal education funding withheld from their budgets. 

Serving as the Congresswoman’s deputy chief of staff and senior health policy advisor until 2015, when Wilson began attempts to legislate vaccine mandates, was a woman named Keenan Austin. Her previous job, prior to her role as a policy spearhead for the Florida legislator, was as a senior pharmaceutical sales representative for GlaxoSmithKline, who as of 2015, was the sixth largest pharmaceutical company in the world.  In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline plead guilty to the largest health care fraud in United States history, that included the “unlawful promotion of certain prescription drugs, its failure to report certain safety data, and its civil liability for alleged false price reporting practices,” resulting in a $3 billion settlement.  International authorities have also discovered that, since 2013, GlaxoSmithKline has spent $4-$5 billion dollars on financial kickbacks, gifts, and prostitutes to provide sexual favors to doctors who would prescribe the company’s drugs to their patients, crimes for which they were fined $489 million in China alone.  As of February 2018, the company had been under further investigations by British and American authorities regarding third party adviser connections with China’s bribery scandals. Forbes has labeled this company, quite astutely, a “leader in pharma fraud.” 

I am not ordinarily a conspiracy theorist, but can you be surprised if I question the motivations of my government officials?

Recently, I saw a picture of a child advertising a shirt that read, “I am vaccinated – because my parents aren’t morons.” Not that I have never been guilty of name-calling, but it might not get you very far in persuading an anti-vaxxer of the reasons to vaccinate. But, despite the news and social media’s claims that the anti-vaccination movement is misled and ignorant , research done by the Institute for Vaccine Safety demonstrates that anti-vaxxers are, in fact, often well-educated and simply more informed on alternative means of medicine (though such means are not universally approved by most American medical associations).    

The United States government classifies vaccines as “unavoidably unsafe,” a term which essentially means that a product cannot be made completely safe for its intended purpose. This is common in the prescription drug market as evidenced by lengthy commercials that advertise for medications that will change one’s life for the better but could have an unlimited number of side effects on one’s body, up to, and including, death. Examining risk vs. utility is standard for government approval of any product and in the case of vaccines, the benefits outweigh the dangers.

Are vaccines going to hurt more people than they help? No. Can they hurt somebody? Yes. As with any medication, everyone’s body reacts differently, and the responses can vary. Vaccines are not 100% safe.

Under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund has paid out $121 million per year in awards over the last three decades to American families that have suffered from sickness, injury, and death resulting from vaccines. A meaningful admission that vaccines can produce adverse effects on the human body, this legislation was created specifically to protect vaccine manufacturers from litigation by people who have suffered from these induced injuries. Likewise, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is operated by the CDC and the FDA, was originally developed to determine safety issues with U.S. linked vaccines and receives systematic reports regarding their harmful effects.  Stories about children who suffer life changing effects upon receiving vaccinations at the recommendation of a regulatory authority are not difficult to locate. Additionally, multiple studies, including one conducted by the Institute of Medicine, sanctioned by the United States Department of Health and Human services, and research demonstrated by the Journal of Developing Drugs, have also concluded that many of the ingredients in vaccines, either animal based (chicken, soy, etc) or adjuvants (aluminum, cytokine proteins, etc) undeniably contribute to the development of food allergies in those that receive them. In the United States, food allergies have increased by 50% in the last twenty years — as have the number of recommended vaccines. In 1983, the CDC recommended 23 doses of 7 different vaccines be given to children from age two months to six years. Today, the recommendation is 50 doses of 14 different vaccines.  

Those who do not vaccinate are not stupid. They are cautious about questionable products.  

And so, the foundational question about vaccines in American society is not about their effectiveness. It is this: who has the right to make the final decision of risk vs. utility in one’s life?  And in this case – one’s children.

I will not make the decision to vaccinate based on the advice of my government, who will assume parental responsibilities for my children over my literal dead body. Go read about the parents who lost custody of their child in Florida, in May, because they desired to pursue alternative treatments to chemotherapy for their three-year-old’s leukemia. I will not make the decision based on the opinions of other parents, who feel it is my responsibility to protect their child. If I want the polio vaccine for myself, or my child, because I believe that the utility outweighs the risk, then I will consent to the vaccine. If I believe that the risks of the chickenpox vaccine outweigh the utility, then I will not get the vaccine for myself or my child. My decisions regarding mine or my child’s health is not up to you or government. And simply because I choose not to does not make me ill-informed or uneducated.

All Americans consider their civil rights as precious. Just ask an abortion activist about the importance of personal autonomy over one’s body. The day that we allow the United States government to legally mandate what we put into our bodies, well… I hope I’m gone.

Respectfully…

Zack