Friday, December 1, 2017

The Greatest Gift of All: Hope




It’s been a rough year for many of us. Our country, as well as many others across the globe, has been ravaged by fierce political and social divides, unprecedented mass violence, and natural disasters from fires to hurricanes with the unfortunate promise of more to come.

As the Holidays roll around, it may be challenging – if not impossible -  to feel the Holiday Spirit of peace, good will toward all, and the joy of a year well lived. 

And yet . . . we have available to us, always, the greatest gift mankind has ever known - hope.

Hope is what keeps us keepin’ on. Hope is what motivates us to rebuild shattered lives, to reconnect with what’s most important to us, to dream, once again, of “peace on earth, good will toward all.”

Hope is not just an airy-fairy New Age platitude designed to mask whatever misery you’re in. Hope is real, and is supported by the many ways in which we humans stubbornly, persistently, work toward a better life for all, even if at time it seems that idea is ludicrous.

For example, did you know that Google's parent company, Alphabet, launched stratospheric “Project Loon” balloons over Puerto Rico to deliver Internet service where such service had been destroyed or severely impaired? The Internet is beamed from the balloons in a way that extends wireless networks without having to install fiber optic cable or cell towers. The project is still in its experimental phases, yet Alphabet was willing to make it available to a community sorely in need.
That’s hope made practical. Hope made real. And it’s just one example out of many ways in which various companies, organizations, and caring individuals brought hope to Puerto Rico, and other hurricane and fire devastated communities.
You can’t change the past. What happened, happened, whether in your personal life, or in our society’s life at large. What you can do, is offer hope – to yourself, to others, to your community, in whatever practical way you can think of.
Hope is real. Let it be that for you and yours this Holiday Season.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Holidays: A Time to Remember That The World is Wide Enough




As we gather with family and friends on Thanksgiving, the divisive political situation in our country shows no sign of abating. It seems there’s no end to the conflicts and confrontations that divide rather than unite us.

Some Thanksgivings are harder than others. What I mean by that is that sometimes, our world may seem at such odds with itself that we’re hard-pressed to feel the gratitude we wish would come naturally, especially around this time of year and around the people we love who may not think the way we do.

There is a lesson found in the musical “Hamilton” that we should all take to heart. There’s a profound truth that runs throughout the play, which was brought out in one of its final scenes.

That scene brings to life the famous duel in which Aaron Burr, Vice-President under Thomas Jefferson, kills his political rival, Alexander Hamilton, one of our Founding Fathers and first Secretary of the Treasury. In the musical, at the end of the duel, Burr sings these lyrics:

            “I was too young and blind to see
            I should’ve known
            I should’ve known
            The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”

I hear in these words a call for us, as best we can and with all of our hearts, to find ways to negotiate, resolve--whatever your word for it is--our differences. Choose a world that's wide enough for all of us to co-exist in peace, if not in agreement.

A great place to start is with family and friends. I certainly have my share of ornery family, folks I don’t understand, yet here we are, at Thanksgiving together. I remind myself that I don’t have to agree with their opinions on everything from our president to the cranberry dressing, but I can acknowledge their right to their opinion. I can make the effort to value them, to look for something to appreciate about them, because there is, in every one of us, something (usually many things) to appreciate, if we just look hard enough.

We should remember that “The world is wide enough” for all of us, even when it seems that could never be. During the holidays, it certainly is worth a try.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Special Thanksgiving “Thanks” to Our Amazing Emergency Responders



Driving through one of Los Angeles’ many canyons recently, I came across an unfortunate accident. A car had crashed headlong into the side of the mountain. It was awful. First responders were already on the scene: half a dozen firefighters were maneuvering stretchers down the gully to the injured people. It was nothing like on TV. It was ugly, laborious, the firefighters had to sweat and strain to get the injured up and out. Paramedics arrived shortly thereafter, affixed tubes and breathing apparatus and other necessary life-saving equipment to the injured as they were loaded onto the paramedics’ truck. Traffic was held up what felt like forever until sufficient police back-up could arrive to safely manage the necessary detour.

Once again, I was reminded of how amazing our emergency responders are, be they police officers, firefighters, paramedics, or members of our armed forces called out for such duty, as in the case of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. For example, the unexpected sight of a convoy of Arkansas Game and Fish officers driving down to Florida with fuel, coolers, boats and ATVs for Hurricane Irma victims.

It may seem strange to dedicate a Thanksgiving post to emergency responders, but that is exactly what I am doing. For as easy as it is to forget about emergency responders when there isn’t a crisis going on, they are miracle workers when there is.

Without a word of complaint, emergency responders dive into situations that would terrify most of us, and often at the risk of their own lives. In doing so, they rescue countless individuals who would otherwise perish in flame, flood or other disasters.

The Federal response to current crises is staggering. Take a quick look at the FEMA website if you’d like an idea of the magnitude of the humanitarian response. There is far too much for me to include in this brief post.

But beyond the response to major events, our emergency responders are there – morning, noon and night – for whatever, whenever and wherever they are needed. Which is why thinking of them at Thanksgiving, being grateful, whatever your political persuasion, for a governmental system that has made possible such life-saving efforts, is so important.

Personally, I take cookies to my local fire station every Thanksgiving. It isn’t much, I know, but it’s what I can think to do to express my gratitude for their “being there” in every sense of the term.

So in addition to my thanks this Thanksgiving for the many blessings in my life, for my friends, family, and furry “kids,” I will give thanks to these courageous individuals who give so selflessly of themselves that we may – hopefully – live, even when life goes terribly awry.