Glorious Lives

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The most remarkable people in history have always been those who based their lives on principles. In the pursuit of integrity, generosity, courage they often found themselves standing all alone, but in the end they found success not so much because they were honored by others, but because they honored the ideas that existed in their hearts. Men and women like Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Mother Teresa were guided by the overwhelming belief that what they were doing was right and just. The focus of their lives was not easy or popular but they persisted in following the voice that whispered inside their souls.

It often appears difficult to find such imminent people in today’s world in which most people find comfort and shelter in joining a crowd. So many fear speaking out lest they lose their power or positions. They base their actions on polls and contests of purported admiration. They so want to be liked that they set aside the very essence of who they are for the fleeting elixir of feeling loved or appreciated. It’s difficult for us to teach our children of the dangers of such behavior when the messages and examples they see tell them that winning is more important than living for a set of values. How can we show them how to be moral when they see so much immorality being accepted in the name of seizing power? It is not so easy in a world that rewards winning and turns its back on those perceived as losers. Life becomes a constant game of striving to be number one, and unfortunately as adults we consciously or unconsciously tell our young again and again that there is no place for those who simply try.

I’m quite impressed by a young man who once played football for the University of Houston. Case Keenum was a good college quarterback but everyone seemed to agree that he was too small and that his skills were too average to make it in the heady world of professional football. Case was a nice guy, but it seemed unlikely that he would ever have much of a career in the NFL. Amazingly somebody forgot to send that message to Case. He was never willing to give up even when it appeared that he had reached the end of his dreams of making a career out of football. He worked for the Houston Texans for a time but once that team found a better substitute he was once again looking for a job. This year he is currently having a winning season with the Minnesota Vikings. I suspect that he is doing as well as he is because he was guided by a persistence that would not allow him to give up. and his willingness to make the team better has made him a good person to have around. Case is one of those people who has much to teach kids who are looking for an amazing role model.

As adults we need to be constantly on the lookout for individuals who have done things that will show our children how truly great individuals behave. Whether we agree with all of his political beliefs, everyone of us should be able to admit that John McCain is one of those people who has been guided by a moral compass founded on unbelievable courage. Whether as a prisoner of war or a leader he consistently does what he believes to be good for his country. He has often found himself being harassed either by Vietcong captors or his fellow lawmakers, but he has the fortitude to ignore the sound and fury and endure the pain all for the sake of doing what he believes is correct. We should all admire him even if we don’t agree with him. We should also use him as an example for our young who often face situations in which they must stand apart from the taunts of their peers.

When I was young I read a series of books that told the stories of individuals who faced defining moments and chose to take the high road rather than turning away from their own principles. I loved all of those profiles of remarkable people and I attempted to model my own life around their characteristics even though I understood that they were exceptional and I was a bit more ordinary. Whenever I faced difficult decisions I dod my best to truly stand for something rather than following the status quo. I learned to judge myself not so much on rewards or the opinions of others, but on how well I had adhered to my core beliefs.

Winning and being popular can be a fleeting thing. The very people who love someone one moment may turn on them the next. Opinions are fickle and when a life is based on them it can be as unsteady as shifting sands. Most of our big disappointments all too often come from the realization that someone whom we wanted to impress has moved on to the next big thing. If we are less concerned with how others rank us and more with how well we have followed our principles, we will feel personal success which is far more satisfying.

When we are working with our children it is important to help them to find the basic principles that are most important to them. Competition is not an inherently bad thing but it is far more powerful to compete with oneself than to constantly be worried about how one is doing vis a vis everyone else. Aim for a few more points on the next essay. Try to shave some time off of that one mile run. Determine to help someone in need on a given day. Remember to be honest and steadfast. Developing good habits is powerful and leads to becoming a better person bit by bit until the moral values become an integral part of our natures.

There are heroic acts happening all around us. Talk with your children about them. Help them to define what makes certain people seem so outstanding. They will soon realize that what differentiates J.J. Watt as an amazing person is his effort and his generosity of spirit. We love Mattress Mack because he has a kind heart which also happens to make him a very successful businessman. A favorite teacher is usually a person who has put forth a bit more inspiration and sensitivity than the average educator. That neighbor who always seems to be helping everyone else is special because he/she has taken the time to be so. Greatness doesn’t just happen. It takes hard work and a steadfast adherence to fundamental truths.

We owe it to our young to help them to be their very best. Winning prizes is glorious, but sometimes the real hero is the person who ran the race even though he was in pain. The person who refuses to give up is a rockstar win, lose or draw. Someone who faces the wrath of a group to adhere to truths is as mighty as the greatest heroes of all time. Teach your children these glorious ideas and theirs will be glorious lives.

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How Do We Talk To The Children?

landscape-1445910041-g-talk-555173815We turn on the television to watch a couple of football teams duke it out on the gridiron and before the first play begins we see many of our heroes kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. It angers some of us, and others appreciate that every citizen enjoys the freedom to protest. We begin a national discussion that sometimes devolves into an argument about how we should react to this development. Our president insinuates himself into the commentary using a pejorative to address the athletes that he finds offensive and suggesting that those who dare to insult the country should be fired. We line up to take sides. Some turn off their televisions and vow to never watch the NFL again. Others celebrate the rights of Americans to exercise their freedom of speech regardless of whether or not we agree with their sentiments. Many simply shake their heads and attempt to ignore the whole thing. In the midst of all the brouhaha we wonder what we should tell our children. How should we explain to them what is happening?

We live in a country that was founded with a rebellion against the perceived tyranny of a government that had lost touch with the needs of the people. At first there were merely demonstrations of dissatisfaction with the ever growing demands and limitations being placed on the colonists in America by a king and parliament too removed from the realities of daily living in the strange faraway place that seemed so rough and wild. Eventually the whispers and grumbles took on a more daring turn with rebels pouring tea into the Boston Harbor and concerns becoming more and more vocal and strident. Then came the shot heard round the world, the volley that began a war for liberty. It was a treasonous time when the leaders of the revolution risked death by hanging to create a nation far different from anything the world had ever before seen.

Perhaps it was a fluke that the ragtag band of revolutionaries somehow managed to defeat the most powerful nation in the world at that time. Whatever the case they found themselves freed from the dictates of a government that had often ruled without consideration of the people, ordinary citizens who had insisted that they it was their birth right to have a voice in how they were to be treated. The new nation needed a Constitution, a set of rules to guide the decision making and management of a disparate group of people. The document that they created was at once both brilliant and imperfect, but it held the seeds for eventually moving toward a more inclusive and more perfect union. More than two hundred years later we still have work to do. We have had to face the hypocrisy of having been a democracy that allowed humans to be held as slaves and denied that women had the same rights as men. It took us perhaps to bit too long to remedy those situations, but we eventually managed to become more inclusive. In the meantime the residue of problems not adequately addressed from our government’s beginnings continue to demand attention, and so we have protests from some of our star athletes. Just what is it that they want?

If we begin with the individual who first remained seated during the playing of the national anthem we find that he was concerned that there is still racism in our country. He believed that in spite of a civil war, a civil rights movement, and civil rights legislation there are still too many people in our country who do not receive the same level of equality as those who have held the privileges of liberty from the beginning days of our nation. He worried that many whose ancestors were once slaves are more likely to be brutalized or even murdered by law enforcement officers. He wanted to bring attention to these issues and so he remained seated. After a discussion with a member of the army after his first demonstration he changed his tactic to going down on one knee out of deference to those who have served our country in the military. His point was not to show a lack of respect for our flag, our national anthem or our veterans, but to shine a light on issues that he felt we need to address as a nation.

This athlete’s cause had lost its energy to a large extent until President Trump made remarks at a political rally in Alabama that some felt were out of line and threatening. He called out any athletes who demonstrate their dissatisfaction by taking a knee and referred to them as “sons of bitches” who should be fired from their jobs. His remarks were well received by some citizens and abhorred by others. A national disagreement has ensued resulting in ever more professional athletes joining in the revolt by kneeling in solidarity with teammates who had been quietly protesting. So what is really going on here? Who is being patriotic and who is treasonous? How should we respond?

Let us start with a bit of the history of our national anthem and our pledge of allegiance. First it must be noted that we did not have a national anthem until March 3, 1931, when Herbert Hoover signed a law deeming The Star Spangled Banner to be our national song to be sung at official gatherings. Several other tunes had been in the running and the winner was selected by a rather narrow margin. We might just as well have been singing America the Beautiful, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Yankee Doodle, Hail Columbia, or My Country Tis of Thee all of which were finalists in a contest that began with a cartoon from Robert Ripley of Believe It or Not fame. It seems that on November 3, 1929, Mr. Ripley registered his amazement that the United States was one of the few countries in the world that did not have an official anthem. He urged his readers to write Congress asking the lawmakers to rectify this omission. More than five million people sent letters and the search for a fitting song ensued. Even after the decision was finalized there were many who were gravely disappointed by the ultimate choice and others who felt that if the Founding Fathers had wanted to formalize an anthem with all of its ritualistic insinuations they would have done so. Since that had not happened many took it to be a sign that the founders did not approve of such things. Nonetheless we had an official anthem and slowly but surely it became a fixture of American life.

The Pledge of Allegiance to the flag did not happen until 1942, when some citizens began to worry that the large numbers of immigrants who had come to this country might not understand the true nature of our nation. It was used mainly as an educational tool for children rather than a symbol of patriotism. The original version was written by a socialist newspaper editor and did not contain the words “under God.” That phrase was added in the nineteen fifties, so the history of pledges and anthems is a rather recent cultural phenomenon. Many religious groups exempted themselves from participating in such rituals because they felt that they should only swear their loyalty to God and not to a country.

So here we are today taking sides or ignoring the dust up altogether when the truth is that we can’t be certain that those who wrote our Constitution ever intended for our country to enshrine such symbols as indicators of patriotism or a lack of it. The protestors themselves insist that their intention was never to be disrespectful but to take advantage of their rights of freedom of speech as it was written in the First Amendment. Perhaps when discussing all of this with our children we would do well to attempt to determine how our leaders have interpreted that right over the history of the United States. So forthwith are a few quotes of merit. I will let the words of the individuals speak for themselves.

If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. —-George Washington

Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech. —-Benjamin Franklin

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we stand by the President right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American people. —-Theodore Roosevelt

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear. —-Harry Truman

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. —-Elie Wiesel

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable. —-John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Read to your children. Look up ideas together. Discuss issues from both sides. Dialogue with them without rhetoric or preconceived notions. Teach your children to open their minds to new possibilities. That is what they need. That is how to talk with them about what they see happening.

In the Course of Human Events

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Back when I was teaching in South Houston I had unusually large numbers of students who were Seventh Day Adventists. They were particularly sweet, hardworking and respectful pupils who made my job so much easier. I always appreciated that their parents had taught them values that included being thoughtful and compliant with regard to my classroom rules and routines. Mixed in with them were a number of hardcore gang members who seemed ready by their very natures to challenge me and thus divert my time and attention from the task of conveying and facilitating knowledge to all of my young charges. The gang members stood out with their swagger and their stealth ways of showing their allegiances. The children devoted to their particular religious tenets made themselves known in another way that we teachers accepted not as defiance but as their right with regard to certain features of the Bill of Rights. Namely, they sat quietly in their seats each morning while the rest of us stood to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

It was a given that their unobtrusive gesture of belief was something to be respected and perhaps even admired, and so nobody ever questioned their right or even their intent. There were no discussions, nor judgements. Instead we simply did our thing each morning and they did theirs. For me there was something quite beautiful about the freedom of it all, and the fact that we honored their freedom without making a big deal out of it. None of those kids had to have any form of proof of their religious belief on file. They might just as well have simply been frauds who took advantage of our largesse. We understood that it was really none of our business to question their views one way or another. It simply was what it was and it all passed quickly and without incident every single morning.

Over time I worked in many different schools and there was always the accepted actuality that we would not force our own religious or political or social beliefs on our students. We were to be respectful of individual thinking one way or another, and for the most part all of my colleagues defended the freedoms of the students, mostly without fanfare or drawing embarrassing attention to students who required special dispensations. We understood the importance of being fair and impartial.

Now a huge brouhaha has been dusted up over some rather inappropriate comments from the President of the United States of all people regarding players in the NFL and other sports who choose to take a knee rather than stand for the National Anthem. It is unfortunate that our leader appears to have neglected to thoroughly read and understand the full contents of the Bill of Rights, for it is rather clear that those athletes have as much right to make a political point by refusing to stand as my students did. The President may not agree with them or even like what they are doing, but to call them “sons of bitches” and suggest that they be fired is way out of line, and all Americans should call him out for doing so, regardless of their feelings about the players’ methods or intent. The fact is that the athletes have a right as Americans to express their discontent, and instead of mocking them our leaders should be proud that the Constitution with its Bill of Rights is still working as it was intended to do.

Of course the owners of the teams also retain the ability to employ whomever they wish. Players are regularly sent packing for a host of reasons, most of which deal with their abilities to perform their duties well. In truth if one of the owners wished to require their employees to stand during the opening ceremonies of each game he/she would be well within the guidelines of employment, but they need not respond to the whims of the President in making such determinations. It was wrong of President Trump to intimidate the owners with his remarks and his tweets which were undoubtedly made to garner political capital.

The question of how best to define patriotism has been argued since the very beginnings of the United States of America. There are those whose ideas are more narrow and confining. They insist that we will work best as a republic if we all agree to always honor our country and our leaders. Others feel that what is best about America is the ability to voice concerns without retribution. They see symbolic resistance as the highest form of patriotism, for it harks back to the Founding Father’s insistence that no authoritarian government has the right to tread on the rights of the individual. Our country began with revolution against a tyrannical government. The writers of the Constitution were determined to make certain that no one individual or group would have the power to insist that we think in lockstep. In this regard President Trump has overstepped his bounds. While he too has the right to disagree with the athletes who are mounting a protest, he surely is wrong when he disparages them for exercising their rights as citizens. Furthermore, his bullying tactics with regard to the team owners are both embarrassing and questionable. He would do well to retake a Civics course before mouthing off so publicly. He might also consider reacting the way we did when I was teaching whenever we encountered individuals whose beliefs were different from ours. We always understood that it was their right to question conventional thinking, and that our duty was to provide them with a safe space for doing so.

We will each react a bit differently to the protests among our professional athletes. The Constitution provides us with the protections to do so. We may turn off the games if we feel strongly enough. We may join them in taking a knee. We may even just choose to quietly ignore the whole incident and celebrate the wondrous idea that we have the power to make our own choices regarding such things in this country. It does not defile our national honor whenever any citizen exercises his or her rights. In fact it dramatically demonstrates that we are a truly free people.

Our military has fought for liberty from the time that those first shots were fired at Lexington and Concorde. We haven’t always created a perfect form of government, but we have worked hard to make it better. We haven’t always chosen the right sides, but we have somehow been able to recover from our mistakes and improve our ways of doing things. We will never reach the goals of a more perfect union if we are unwilling to pause now and again to question the way we do things and to discuss methods for being certain that every man, woman and child has a voice and a sense of security.

Our Founding Fathers were radicals in the world in which they lived. Their ideas were audacious for the time. I suspect that if they were around to comment they would insist that the players be allowed to have their moment to shed a light on issues that worry them. They would also encourage President Trump to be less domineering and pejorative, and far more willing to stop his tirades long enough to find out why these men feel so strongly about their concerns that they are willing to endure the wrath of their fans and the leader of the nation. It’s time for all Americans to insist that our president work for the good of all, not just the few that form his base of voters. That is what our founders intended, and that is the way it should work.

Frankly I am weary and I know that most of my fellow Americans are as well. I agree with Senator John McCain that it is well past time to dispense with all of the quibbling and attempt to remember what this country is supposed to be about. It’s a watershed moment in which we must set aside our hatefulness and invective and begin again to consider the diversity of needs that we have. Most of all it should be the duty of all to protect our First Amendment rights regardless of our own beliefs, for they are far more important than pledges or anthems or routines. Sometimes in the course of human events it becomes necessary to speak out.

  

Take Another Shot

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I have a habit of watching Dr. Phil on OWN while eating my lunch. I am quite interested in the quirkiness of human nature and so I find his program to be informative and enjoyable. Recently it featured a father who was attempting to reach out to his estranged children. The man had admittedly done some horrible things to his kids in the past, but he had reached the point of wanting to repair his relationship with them. Most of his children were willing to give him a second chance, but one of the daughters indicated that she would never be able to get over his angry words to her in a letter that he once sent. Dr. Phil argued that there was no way to change the past, and that the only means of moving forward would be to start with a clean slate devoid of recriminations.

This reminded me of a meme that I had seen on Facebook. It said that life is like a camera. We should focus on what is important, capture the good times when able and develop from the negatives. Ultimately we always have a chance to take another shot if we don’t like what we’ve seen of ourselves before.

As a teacher I often encountered students who wanted to just give up and run away from their problems. They had been so battered by disappointments and failure that they thought it impossible to ever find the success that they so desired. It became easier for them to just quit expending any kind of effort. Being the class clown or a withdrawn rebel felt more secure that risking the possibility of falling short again.

We see people who appear to be doing well and we all too often attribute their success to innate abilities, luck, wealth, privilege or other outside forces. If we took the time to really get to know them we would no doubt find that they work hard at improving themselves and their attitudes. As the KIPP Charter school mantra explains there are no shortcuts in life.

I particularly enjoy a Gatorade commercial that focuses on how some of the premier athletes overcame failure. Michael Jordan didn’t make the high school varsity basketball team so instead of just resigning himself to his fate he practiced and kept trying until he managed to prove that he was worthy. J. J. Watt was a football team walk-on whose penchant for hard work eventually made him a super star.

I know a young man who loves sports but is rather small for collegiate or professional teams. Still he wanted to be on the Rice University football team. When he approached the coach with a request to try out nobody thought that he had a chance. He was dwarfed by the other players even though he was muscular. He was just so incredibly short that it seemed that he would be of little practical use to the team. Nonetheless he was persistent and proved to both the team and the coach that he was serious. He began to train and practice with the group and had soon earned their full respect. He worked as hard and long as anyone and never requested any special favors. He was willing to take the same blows and critiques as his larger teammates. The coach soon realized that this athlete was incredibly special and gave him a shot.

The moral of all of these stories is that we always have time to change and find unique ways to fulfill our hopes and dreams. We really do have the power to transform and become better versions of ourselves. It is never too late to be what we want to be, but it will take effort and concentration.

We often sideline ourselves by being distracted by life events that are not all that important. As the meme suggests we must focus on what we really want to accomplish and understand that  doing so will most assuredly take hard work and sacrifice. Very little in life comes easily for anyone, even those who appear to be floating effortlessly through every challenge. I have found that we don’t often see the blood, sweat and tears that those around us are expending. A perfect example came to me when I learned that several of my high school classmates had literally made themselves ill attempting to be outstanding students. I had assumed that they were simply way smarter than I was because they appeared to catch on to concepts so much more quickly than I did. I found out that they were working so hard that they stressed themselves into anxiety attacks and exhaustion. They had to learn how to balance their physical, emotional and intellectual pursuits just as I did.

We are often inclined to only recall the negative aspects of our daily routines. If something bad happens to us we forget the hours of delight that we enjoyed before we were beset with a negative experience. We all too often judge our lives based on what we don’t have rather than what we already possess. We forget to capture the good times and don’t always remind ourselves that our cares and woes are mostly just temporary.

Nobody among us is immune to mistakes. Every single person messes up at some time or another. We feel guilt and regret over our disasters when the correct response should be to learn from them and then move on. I have generally found that I became stronger from my failures than I might otherwise have been. They not only grounded me but also taught me important lessons. As long as we are able to grow from our misfortune, we will be able to put it behind us. If on the other hand we just dwell on the negativity and wallow in self pity we will be trapped in a state of sorrow and maybe even despair.

It’s humbling to find ourselves in situations in which we are struggling. We all want to feel good about ourselves and that is a difficult thing to do if we just can’t seem to get some task right. We worry that we are less than and our confidence takes a ding. The best among us know that this is the time to take another shot. They have learned that with determination and a willingness to keep trying they will eventually conquer even their gravest fears.

I love superheroes like Batman. He was filled with angst because of terrors from his childhood. In spite of being enormously wealthy he was unable to tap into the person that was trapped inside his soul. Not until he faced his demons and worked to overcome them was he able to release his full potential. It is like that for all of us. We have the power or the force if you will to accomplish incredible things if only we think of that camera and the many shots that we have to find our ultimate inner beauty.

Lemonade

lemonade-012.jpgWe humans love a good party and manage to find excuses for having one on a regular basis. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, new jobs, weddings, retirements. Our yearly calendar includes festivities for the New Year, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and of course the Big Daddy of them all, Christmas. We call friends together to view special events like the Academy Awards or the Grammys and we have elevated the watching of major sporting events to a form of high art in our quest for the perfect gathering.

In our efforts to find distractions from the routine of our daily lives we go to great lengths to make our occasions special. We decorate our homes and prepare special recipes. We don appropriate clothing and take photographs so that we might record our joy for all time. It’s all quite fun and plays to our natures as social beings. Mostly such times make us quite happy, but because we are each highly complex individuals such well intentioned galas sometimes also have the power of creating problems for us.

Our lives are never simply smooth transitions from one era to another. None of us are immune to the slings and arrows of misfortune. We all experience illnesses, loss, heartbreak, loneliness, fear. It is part of our destiny to be up one day and down on another. Challenges pop into our lives without warning. That special person to whom we have given our love proves to be disloyal and hurtful. The phone rings and we hear unbearably bad news. A routine visit to a doctor reveals an unexpected and frightening diagnosis. Our personal world is turned upside down from time to time as inevitably as the rest of humankind celebrates. Suddenly we view all of those lighthearted images on Facebook from a different perspective. We wonder how it is even possible for so many to be so happy when we are so down. Our pain can be quite real and disabling.

There are angels among us who notice such things. Even in the midst of their own revelry they think of people who are less fortunate. While they are buying the hot wings and beer for the Super Bowl party they also take time to contribute time and donations to the Super Bowl of Caring. These are very good people like the little Cub Scout that I know who spent his entire Saturday gathering food for the hungry in the city that hosted this year’s football extravaganza. Perhaps he has learned his generosity from his grandmother who quietly visited her elderly mother in a nursing home on Sunday night while the rest of us were cheering at parties and sports bars. Such gentle and unselfish individuals remind us to be aware of the suffering even as we have a good time.

I think of life as a joyful experience and I believe that it is good for us to find ways to celebrate. I went to two wonderful parties yesterday. The first was for a little boy who turned one. He is both a blessing and a miracle. Before he was even born doctors worried that he might have major heath problems. His parents were counseled to be ready for some rather frightening possibilities. They are faith-filled and were determined to trust in the will of God. They believed with all of their hearts that they would be able to handle whatever challenges lay ahead. Gloriously the baby boy has flourished and enjoyed good health but in an ironic twist his mother has spent much of his first year of life being treated for cancer. She and her family have approached her ordeal with the same level of hope and faith that they exhibited during her pregnancy. At this moment it appears that her treatments are doing exactly what they should and that she will one day be restored to good health again. Yesterday’s party was more than just a milestone for the little boy. It was a celebration of life and hope and never ending love evidenced by the smiling faces of adults and children pausing just long enough from their own trials and tribulations to show their gratitude for the wonders that they have witnessed in this remarkable family.

The second party was centered on a birthday for my sister-in-law Allison. Each year she invites family and friends to enjoy her special day while viewing the Super Bowl which invariably takes place right around the day of her birth. I have always suspected that Allison was born with a big smile on her face and that she filled her family’s home with laughter from the very beginning. She is one of those truly optimistic souls who bring joy and sunshine into every room that she enters. It would be easy to believe that she has somehow been immune to the sorrows and tragedies that stalk the rest of us but that would be false indeed. She has had many crosses to bear, maybe even more than most, but she manages to do so with a determination to continue her journey without becoming overwhelmed. She does whatever she has to do to stay upright and rarely allows her optimism to fade. I suspect that her secret is that she almost never focuses on herself even at her own birthday party. She is always thinking of everyone else and it is in her generous spirit that her true essence resides. It is the stalwart that keeps her from crashing into a state of despondency when her world goes awry. The people at her party all love her because she is a giver who makes each person that she encounters feel special.

It is good and right that we find reasons to celebrate. God knows that we are surrounded by much sadness and want. We don’t have to feel guilty for being happy and nourishing our souls. We need not don hair shirts and beat ourselves for being fortunate. There is a special beauty in a gathering of souls connected by a bond of friendship and love. It is from these small communities of caring that the power of all that is right and just eventually grows. The goodness that we all want for the world begins in living rooms with people smiling and cheering and sharing common bonds. If it takes a ballgame to create such moments, so be it.

For a few hours yesterday many of us forgot about our problems and our differences. We enjoyed the amazing talent of individuals who are among the best at what they do. We tapped our feet as Lady Gaga showed us how to come together by remembering who we are and what we have in common. We sat with people that we love and sent posts to friends who were with us even as they were far away. It wasn’t just about the food or the decorations or the game itself. Somehow we all knew that it was mostly about our humanity and our hopes and our dreams. Sometimes it is a truly good thing to stop in our tracks and allow ourselves to just enjoy the moment. It’s how we renew our energies and mend our divisions. Perhaps the best advice that any of us might follow is to seize the day. There is something quite lovely about making life a party in which we honor the best of ourselves and the people around us. Finding reasons for happiness is not an ignoring of reality. It is a celebration of it. So when you find yourself losing hope gather all of your lemons, make some lemonade and have a party.