Good Where You Least Expect

How to discern good, how to find it, especially during difficult times? How to hear the truth above the din of naysayers? The reading from the Gospel of John 7, one of the phrases stands out for me: “…no prophet arises from Galilee…”, said the Pharisees of Jesus. This was in response to some saying, “Listen to how he teaches,” and others saying , “perhaps he is the Christ.” In other words, good can’t come from there. You’re mistaken: what you think is wrong. I find the exact opposite to be true from this excerpt. I find instead this lesson: maybe Good reaches us, maybe God speaks to us, sometimes from the least expected places. We’re in the midst of a life-changing pandemic right now. Even if we don’t get sick ourselves, even if our loved ones stay healthy too, most everyone’s life is turned upside down right now. We don’t know how it’s going to play out. We have to wait and see. Even in the dark, in the dirty, the dull and bland and difficult, we might find a bit of wisdom, some unexpected beauty, a splash of color. In the midst, let’s look for the lessons about how to cope, what changes we can make, to the what and how of the moment, and let’s cope and support each other and learn the lessons. We’ll be better for it.

COVID-19: Listen to the Science, Stay Home

I live in one of the so-called “hot-spots” for the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States: Santa Clara County, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Depending on where you draw the boundaries, we have about 5 million people in the are; there are more than a million in our county alone.

Our kids have been at home since they were furloughed from school on 03/13/2020; we’ve all been home since the county (and area-wide) order to “shelter in place” was released.

It hasn’t been easy, but it could be a lot worse. A LOT worse. My whole family is heathy, my wife and I can still work and get paid, our kids are doing ok overall with the sequester regime; we’re really blessed, given the circumstances, I say.

All that said, this pandemic and the crisis it’s created…it will fully be a defining time for multiple generations of people; here in the US, and around the world.

We are still on the front-end of events where I live; the same goes from coast to coast, Pacific to Atlantic, and North to South too. We really don’t know how many people have been exposed, or infected. Thousands have died already around the world; hundreds of thousands more have been stricken.

Here in America, there are cases in all fifty states. Nearly a thousand people have died already, and tens of thousands have become sick with COVID-19.

It’s VITAL that we all work together, all follow the orders and protocols that have been established, to slow the spread (“flatten the curve”), as the experts are saying, and save lives.

So let’s stay home, listen and trust the science.

Let’s work together, to help our communities get through this difficult time.

Lean into the difficulty, the changes, the hardships big and small.

Make it so, and thus, make it GOOD.

“Be Like the Irish, and…”

As some celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day today, a little different take to share.

For me, the obvious thoughts first go to the Irish People; weird maybe, but that’s what comes to mind initially.  I’ve got some Irish Blood in me, I suspect that’s why.

Then I think about the man himself, Patrick.  Who was he, exactly?

With these two ideas in mind, and given the current global public health crisis in Coronavirus and the COVID-19 illness it inflicts, considering a basic, pick-me-up on this particular St. Pat’s Day.

Fundamentally, it’s a common theme I keep coming back to:  PERSEVERANCE. 

A long while back in America’s history, before other ethnic groups were in the spot light as both key to our economy (as workers, etc.), and as parasite on “Natives” to the United States, the Irish people, the immigrants from this land, filled this hole.

And the Irish, like the Mexicans, and Guatemalans, and Hondurans,, and El Salvadorans, and Vietnamese, and Thai, and Indian, and Iraqi and Turks, and Palestinians, and so many others,

the Irish found a foot hold in America, established themselves for a future different than they might have had in their original homeland, and contributed much to our American culture and society.

And the Irish, like so many other peoples, have survived famine and war and violent political strife.

Let us apply the timeless human lessons that have propelled us forward, regardless of the difficulty.

God Bless the Irish, and all peoples that have taught us perseverance; those that have come to America looking to make a better life. In fact, expect for the peoples native to this continent, we are ALL immigrants.

That’s what comes to my mind…what comes to yours on this Saint Patrick’s Day?

More on Saint Patrick’s Day found here.

More on Irish-Americans found here.

More on America’s Immigration History found here.

Prez Day

Honoring George Washington’s Birthday, that’s the idea behind this federal holiday we have the third Monday in February. More that just Washington, it’s become a day to honor the current president, and all presidents that have preceded.

Well, I’m glad to have the day off work so I can hang with my family. Beyond that, I’ve got a mixed bag of thoughts otherwise around the idea of honoring all presidents that have lead our country.

As an institution and given our model of government, we need an executive to run the day-to-day operations of our government. Along with the legislative branch and judicial branch, and with the rule of law as our guiding principle, the president’s administration should lead the agenda as set by the majority, and hopefully beyond that, the will of the people in the whole electorate.

It doesn’t seem that our current president leads in this manner; but then that’s probably been said of others who’ve sat in that high office.

Our founding president was guided by fundamental values of decency and doing the right thing. As an example from his youth, consider “rules of civility” in circulation at the time that young Washington copies into his school notebook. Rule 1: “Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.” Rule 110, the last one: “Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Ce[les]tial fire Called Conscience.”

We’ve had the whole range of presidents in our country’s history; depending on your preferences and politics, your perspective on any of them, including the one currently in office, might differ.

In the end, and at this particularly divisive time in our national political discourse, it would be refreshing, and maybe healing too, if we could agree our president should lead by an ethos of the whole collective: drawing others together, inspiring, providing a voice for the vision of what is possible, and for the vast majority, and do so in an honest and forthright manner.

Happy Birthday, George, Happy Presidents Day.

For Three Peoples, for All Peoples, I Pray

Most mornings part of my prayer is for other people; I pray for family, for friends, for those who have passed on.

And then I pray for people who suffer illness, and are effected by war and other armed conflict; there’s plenty of suffering in the world to go around.

The following three groups come to mind most days. In no particular order I think about these people; though you might be able to rank by how many displaced, how many mamed, how many murdered.

Pray for them. Pray for us all.

Rohingya are a stateless, persecuted Ethnic minority in Myanmar. Hundred of thousands have been forced to flee ethnic cleansing, to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

Uyghurs are a ethnic group that are persecuted in western China. Tens of thousands have been forced into re-education camps by the Chinese government.

Yazidis are a ethnic/religious minority in the general area thought of “Kurdistan”: a blended region of Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. They were particularly targeted by The Islamic State.

Continue reading “For Three Peoples, for All Peoples, I Pray”

“The Birth of the New Negro”

Who was this man?  What was his time?  I didn’t know.

I didn’t know until I listed to this particular Code Switch podcast recently.  I didn’t even finish it.  But I knew I had to share it, capture it, finish it later. And then listen again.  And again.

Three voices tell the story:  the first two, regulars hosting Code Switch:  SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, and GENE DEMBY.  And then a special guest to provide the lead narrative, BILAL QURESHI.

So much to learn!

Bei Bei, Giant Pandas, Diplomacy, and Mother Earth

I heard this piece recently on the radio driving to work.  If you like animals and conservation, then this one is right up your ally:  it’s about the lengths we humans have gone in effort to save the Giant Panda from extinction.

Bei Bei is the name of a panda cub born in 2015 to two parents at the National Zoo in Washington DC.   He was recently flown to China to his new home, as per agreement between the governments of the two countries.

This story reflects one of the best aspects of good diplomacy and cooperation between two nations.  Sometimes we are rivals, many times we are partners (as in the many companies from the two countries that do business together), our history is long and complex, but working together is the only way forward, in my view.

The humble story of a panda and all the people that have worked to make his existence possible, and continue in effort to see he had his species thrive, THIS is the best of what diplomacy can do:  create and sustain hope and good work.

More on Bei Bei, here.

The podcast is worth a listen it can be found here: