Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Illegal immigrants aren't all bad

Mamoudou Gassama, 22, comes from Mali. He has papers to reside in Italy, but wants to live in France with relatives. Recently he got his wish. Here's how it happened. While in Paris, he noticed a four-year-old boy dangling from a 5th floor balcony on the front of an apartment building. Claiming that "God helped me," he began climbing up the building from balcony to balcony until he saved the boy as crowds screamed  at the foot of the building in Paris' northern 18th district.

A few days later, he was invited to the Elysee Palace to meet President Emmanuel Macron. He was awarded a medal from the prefecture for "courage and devotion," a job as a firefighter, and French citizenship. "Bravo!" said President Macron.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Blessed are the peacemakers

The problem with this beatitude is that we sometimes think peacemaking is about making things look good -- plastering over cracks and avoiding conflict. Instead of peacemaking, this is called peace-faking. How can you tell the difference between a peacemaker and a peace-faker? In Jesus' words, "by their fruits ye shall know them." For peace-fakers, truth is just delicate embroidery on the outer edge of daily life. Rather than exposing mistakes, peace-fakers conceal them. They pacify where they should challenge. They forgive cowardice which shrinks from exposing evil and condone ignorance which refuses to acknowledge mistakes. By comparison, peacemakers have a calculated recklessness in their commitment to truth. They kiss the cross of confrontation with evil, suppositional suffering, and ultimate victory.

It's common to think of peacemakers as mediators who bring reconciliation between persons and groups. But this is only the beginning. The vexing conflicts that perplex our day; the rankling strife that sets man so far apart; the monumental problems broadcast on the news can all be resolved in a peaceful heart. A peacemaker might put it this way:

"The mighty drama we see acted here, with crime and greed and nations much afraid, is but a shifting background atmosphere in which the plot of human life is played. A simple role is ours on this vast stage. Our lines are few; our cue is from above. But all our deeds climactically presage the grand conclusion of triumphant love. Our part well-played, the ages will applaud, and peacemakers be called the sons of God."

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

An example for us all

James Grice, 86, of Georgetown, Louisiana, lives on a fixed income. He was in Walmart recently when a $100 bill fell out of his wallet. He never expected to see it again, and he couldn't buy groceries that day after losing it. He prayed, "Lord, let somebody that really needs that money find it," He added, "When I turn things over to the Lord, I don't fool with it anymore."

Enter eight-year-old Jaron Johnson. He found the $100 bill and gave it to his mom. The next morning he reminded her to call Walmart to see if anyone lost it. The store put Jaron in touch with Grice and the money was returned. Jaron's mom says, "He's a great kid. He has an amazing character. He does the right thing even when no one is looking."

Monday, May 7, 2018

The stranger...

When I was in first grade, my Dad met a stranger who was new in town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated by this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with us. He was quickly accepted, and as I grew up I never questioned his place in our family. My parents were a good team: Mom taught me right from wrong and Dad taught me to obey. But the stranger...he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours with his adventures. If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers. He even seemed able to predict the future! He took me and my family to our first major league ball game.He often made me laugh, and sometimes cry. He almost never stopped talking, but Dad didn't seem to mind. Now and then, Mom would get up while we were shushing each other to hear what the stranger was saying. She'd go into the kitchen for peace and quiet.

Dad ruled our house with firm moral convictions. We were never allowed to swear, but our long-time visitor got away with four-letter words that made Mom blush. Dad wouldn't let us smoke or drink, but the stranger made cigarettes look cool and encouraged us to sample some liquor. He also talked freely about sex. These comments were often suggestive and always embarrassing. But let me be honest. I now know that all my early concepts about relationships were influenced by our stranger. He taught me what it really means to "be a man" or to "be a woman." Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked and NEVER asked to leave.

More than 50 years have passed since he moved in with us. He's not nearly as fascinating as he once was. But if you walk into my parents' den, you'll still see him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to talk to. What's his name?

We just call him TV.

Did I mention that he got married a few years ago? His wife's name is Computer. They just had a baby named Smartphone, and she's even more fun than her parents.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

"purpose that is great"

Meet Nia Mya Reese of Birmingham, Alabama. Her name (pronounced nee-AH) means "purpose that is great" and fits her well. She's nine years old now, and when she's not playing with dolls, she's writing books. It all began in first grade, when her teacher asked everyone to write about something they were expert at. She felt she was expert at managing her annoying younger brother. Her essay was so insightful that her mom, Cherinita Ladd-Reese, urged her to improve it over the summer. "Work on the spelling. Work on the sentences. Work on the way it's worded," she encouraged. Nia Mya agreed to make the essay a summer project at the end of first grade. Long story short, a publisher accepted her slim book and soon it became a best-seller on Amazon's Parenting section.

The book contains universal lessons on patience, kindness and love. But the best lesson, according to the author, is to disguise learning as fun -- something she's managed to do with her entire elementary school. Nia Mya has now written a second book, and travelled across the nation doing book signings. She's been featured on the CBS Evening News. Asked how she accomplished all this, she replied, "I learned to follow my dreams."

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Have you found yours yet?

"JEDER KANN SEIN LAMBARENE HABEN." (Anyone can have his own Lambarene)
Albert Schweitzer

A few years ago, I received a letter from Albert Schweitzer's daughter, Rhena. She shared fond memories of one of her father's most faithful assistants, Erica Anderson, who I met in 1973.

Everyone knows Schweitzer was a writer on theology and a master organist. But he's best remembered as the physician who founded a missionary hospital in 1913 near the town of Lambarene in French Equitorial Africa, now Gabon. His first consulting room was a chicken coop. Patients often paid him with produce or livestock. Generous support from abroad was always needed to keep the hospital open. "Something must happen in someone's heart before anything happens in Lambarene," Schweitzer said.

Something happened in Erica Anderson's heart. A New York filmmaker, she asked Schweitzer's permission to visit Lambarene to make a documentary. He invited her to come, but bring no film, since he would rather "burn in hell" than have a movie made about his life. So Erica set sail for Africa, with all her camera gear. "I expected to remain with the doctor only a few months," she told me. "Instead, I stayed 19 years."

Rhena was hospital administrator when Erica arrived. She recalled how Erica "changed from a strong-willed business woman to a person dedicated to my father and his philosophy of reverence for life. Erica supervised maintenance crews, helped with the doctor's correspondence, and took care of hospital garbage disposal. When my father visited Europe, Erica was his driver."

After ministering to Africa's weak and infirm for almost 50 years, Schweitzer died in 1956. Erica inherited many of his books and letters, as well as a $10,000 bequest. She'd completed her motion picture, Albert Schweitzer, and it won an Oscar, but now she had a higher ambition.

Following the doctor's promise, she set out to find her own Lambarene, her own way to help mankind. With his bequest, she bought a small farm near Great Barrington in western Massachusetts where, in 1966, after converting the barn into a small theater and library,she opened the Albert Schweitzer Friendship House. Rhena visited her there, as did I. Erica welcomed a steady stream of guests, including busloads of school children who came to watch her movie and learn about reverence for life. Erica told them how a visitor at Schweitzer's jungle hospital was about to swat a pesky fly. "Please don't do that," said Schweitzer. "You see, that's my fly."

Before leaving, boys and girls stood in a circle around a long rope which hung from a bell in a cupola atop the barn roof. Each was allowed to step forward and pull the rope, ringing the bell, but only after promising aloud, "I will do all I can never to harm any living thing." Some teachers later wrote Erica, telling the great length pupils went to, to keep their promise.

Erica died in 1979. Her friendship house remained open until 1994, when it closed for lack of funds. The barn bell has not rung since then, but Erica's spirit lives on in hundreds of remembered promises.

"Like my father, Erica enriched many lives," wrote Rhena. Most important, she found her own Lambarene, which was Schweitzer's wish for all of us. Have you found yours yet?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Pawficcer Badges sworn in May 11

It happened in Troy, Michigan, where the police department pledged to get a police cat if they could hit 10,000 Twitter followers. They accomplished this in eight days, and then called the Michigan Humane Society which brought five felines to the station for auditions. After selecting the cat they held a name contest on Twitter. Names with the highest votes were Pawficcer Donut (34%) and the winning name, Pawficcer Badges (40%).

Sgt. Meghan Lehman tweeted, "We love the name. The cat will start her duties on May 11. She will be officially appointed by Judges Hartig and McGinnis of our local District Court. We thank everyone that supported this initiative, and look forward to getting the cat involved in many outreach projects." She will also be in charge of supervising the K-9 unit.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

These girls are no longer disadvantaged

Lynn Kelley's heart was broken in 1995, when she saw so many  young disadvantaged girls struggling with self-confidence in her gym class. She wanted to help them, and one day while teaching jump rope, she had an idea. Jump ropes could become lifelines to empower girls! Soon she started a performance team called the Firecrackers -- 24 girls in grades four through eight from the Warren County Kings School District near South Lebanon, OH. The community rallied behind the Firecrackers, who use light-weight beaded jump ropes during their seven-minute shows. They began performing during half-time at local high school basketball games. Since then they've performed at college basketball games, in presidential inaugural parades and on the Dave Letterman Show. In 2009, Kelly was named by USA Weekend as one of America's ten "Most Caring Coaches."

"One of our slogans during practice is the six W's," said Kelly -- 'WORK WILL WIN WHEN WISHING WON'T.'" The girls practice two hours a day, six days a week. In addition, they must take a four-hour etiquette course and learn public speaking. One of the team's core values is community service. "We do a lot of things at Christmas for disadvantaged families," Kelly said. "We try to educate the whole child and develop character more than just jump rope." But their jump rope skills are truly astonishing. To meet the Firecrackers and see them perform last year at Indiana University's legendary Assembly Hall visit http://www.kingsfirecrackers.com/  Be sure to watch "full screen" and wait for the standing ovation at the end. Their performance will take your breath away.