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Peace on Earth?

Peace on earth?
We wish it in greetings of prose and song this time each year but is it really still possible or just a relic of holiday grammar; an empty, outdated hope from simpler safer times of long ago? Giving up on peace would be a resignation of hope and I don’t think most of us are ready for that just yet.

Nowadays it seems more believe in Santa Claus than believe peace on earth is genuinely attainable. It sounds warm, lovely and hopeful like many season’s greeting cards but is just as quickly quashed by the next hostile news report, shooting, act of war or other global mayhem across the pond or more recently in our own backyards.
I, for one, believe peace on earth is still possible because peace on earth isn’t static but rather a movement.

Abandon the seemingly impossible thought of global peace and view it as a series of individual efforts, consistent and connected, moving the cause forward, if but an inch with each deliberate effort. By definition, movements move. They seek momentum. They don’t stop and can’t stop. Those who pay it forward do so in small, imaginable, deliberate ways, not because of a season or words on a greeting card.

Peace is the easing of pain, the healing of wounds, the comfort of the afflicted. Peace is a warm coat, a hot meal, a ride to the store or a touch for the untouchable. We can do peace. Each of us can be peace to another. Peace on earth is the selfless sacrifice of effort. Selfish people rarely have it because they rarely give it, leaving it up to the rest of us to keep the ball rolling.
At this time of year of more selfish indulgence than any other, peace-full people make the extra effort not to just give it away but to pass it on like the gift it is. Stories of individual and family gives, abandons of conformity to the holiday commercialization and spontaneous ensembles of strangers uniting for the purpose of sharing with the impoverished abound.

Peace on earth is deliberate.
It doesn’t ride in on political coattails. It doesn’t take up residence in a heart of good intentions. It can’t be legislated, mandated or lightly accommodated and rarely arrives in waves of mass conviction. Peace on earth is a deliberate movement beginning with a single act of goodwill never bound to a time of year.

Peace on earth is a commitment.
Truth is, when the holiday season ends, so does much of the giving. Corporate giving reduces when PR opportunities are fewer and drops in individual giving follow, justifying their inaction by any excuse. But authentic movements of peace don’t slow or stop simply because the season is over. It never lacks resources. It doesn’t take a break. It continues to move. It has to.

Very soon, the celebration will be over, but the cause of peace will go on, feeding the hungry, warming the cold and serving the neglected—with or without you—albeit with less momentum, but never lacking intention or purpose.

At this time and at all times, our wish must be: Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Don’t give up the hope. We can get there. Vow with me to do your part to keep the momentum of peace going all year long and well into the new year.
Peace is a verb looking for you, we and us, the pronouns needed to keep it going.
It’s much too soon to give up on this world of ours or this season of peace.

a little bit of Christmas

They woke us at daybreak from what little warmth our lightweight nylon tent provided, promising what was about to occur would be unforgettable.

It was to be the thrill of a lifetime for little boys like us. In a few minutes, we would experience the climax event of our fifty mile summer backpacking trip through the high sierras at the hands of our fathers who always made life fun and memorable. What could possibly be so exciting at daybreak above the timber line, halfway into two weeks where we’d seen no one but each other on the trail the entire time?
But they promised. And all three dads were looking to the sky, grinning in anticipation.
We were their young men. They thought we were unaware of the flasks stowed in their backpacks for times like this. We had spent the last eight days in blistered boots and full packs across grueling snowy switchbacks on summer vacation to arrive here. Along the way, they’d taught us how to fall in love with mountains and mornings, though we’d fallen asleep early the night before exhausted after a dinner of freeze dried somethings.
But we were awake. Out in the cold at 8,500 feet, Thousand Island Lake’s shimmering surface stretched out before us reflecting the morning sun and the majesty of Banner Peak glowed rising like an orange God on the horizon. Even at 12 years old, it was a breathtaking view. Behind us were the many miles during which time we’d been becoming men, having traveled together to this glorious elevation alone, seeing no other soul for many miles or days.
Irritated at the surprise awakening, too young for coffee and too cold for Tang this early, still, we stood there in the frosty morning air, gazing up as men, awed and beholden by beauty.
And then…far behind us beyond the horizon and what seemed miles away on fast approach, we could hear it. Three grinning dads glanced our way, sipped their scotch and coffee and returned gazes upward as if anticipating the second coming of Christ right there our midst. We were increasingly awake, a huddled group of little boys, alarmed at what we were hearing but strangely comforted by the smiles of our dads. A loud rumble at first, it gained deafening high frequency and intensified our way. I feared a bomb or a meteor shot from space and we were to be sacrificed at ground zero.
From behind, the lake shook, we vibrated, and with hardly enough time to turn to look, the F-15 fighter jet raced in front of our team across the surface of the lake and trajected perpendicular up the face of Banner Peak. And as quickly as the deafening noise broke the silence, it disappeared and faded into the rays of the blue sky and in unison, our gasped breath.
We weren’t quite sure what we’d just experienced but something had flown into our lake valley and disappeared as quickly over the mountain ahead. It was an incredible sense of awe as if God himself had paid us a very loud and spectacular morning welcome.
Our three dads had made prior arrangement with a family friend on a fighter pilot cruise for a surprise fly by that very morning in this most unlikely place of all.
A rite of passage, that morning, we became men.
If we’re not careful, the frenzy of the holiday season can steal from us the most lasting of all gifts. Memories of our childhood, recollections of times past when we were young, innocent and impressionable. Times when big things happened that made us marvel at the hands of parents who wanted nothing more than to see our surprised faces and smiles.
For older men, nostalgia is a wonderful gift. It entertains, it brings stories of joy and takes us to simpler times and nearly forgotten experiences with people who now only exist in our ability to remember them as they once were.
I may have lost my dad, but I’ll never lose the memories he made for me as a little boy. They are wonderful gifts that give forever and make me smile like a twelve year old even now.

This is a little piece of Christmas I carry all year long.

Tragedy begins at home

Our republic is in flames, but Megan is on the bus home from her second job at 2am and hardly knows today’s world news. She’s thinking about what she can make for three school lunches that need to head out the door in a few hours, how she will pay her overdue rent and if she can get just three hour’s sleep before leaving to her other job.
Important things are happening in the world tonight.

I know John has been up most of the night not because he’s a night owl, but because he’s an 81 year old vet whose gas was shut off last week. He’s cold and can’t get a warm meal until next week sometime when his $700 check arrives to pay the bill, the rent and a ride to the food bank to pick up leftovers others have donated.
Important things are happening in the world tonight.

And here I sit in shiny black shoes and suit at 430am in my office, because I know they’re awake and they are the important things and because our daily task is crafting plans that might help their tragedies.
Important things are happening in the world tonight.

I’m always in the office at this time of the morning. It’s quiet and I’m alone to think about these important things. Not always wearing a suit and shiny shoes, but tonight I will be speaking to a group of people who need to hear about what’s important.

While I care about the possibilities tonight may bring to our little non-profit in old Henderson and how, if translated correctly, important people may take pause to hear about people like Megan and John and 10,000 more like them, I care mostly for things more important than if maybe they’ll offer a dollar to help as I tell my stories.

People don’t like sad stories, but sad stories can move the right people to do the right things that help make fewer sad stories. And I believe that’s important.

People need to know the important things that are happening in this world, right here at home. And tonight past my bedtime, taking off this suit and uncomfortable shoes, I can sleep well knowing I went to bat for the tragedies which begin at home and end with charity.
#mygivingstory #thankfulness

from someone on the inside

A couple days before the holiday is probably the worst time to ask what you can do to help. The best charitable efforts to assist and serve the least fortunate among us are usually conceived, funded, orchestrated and staffed months prior. You wouldn’t decide to throw a birthday party for your kid a couple days before the big day, would you? Nonetheless, everyone wants a piece of that good giving feeling this time of year. Still, nonprofits and soup kitchens, struggling ten months straight for consistent help and support, often have many last minute offers to place and fill during the holidays to help families and kids learn something more about how other families and kids live. Every parent strives to find a teaching moment this time of year but sometimes walk away disappointed when there’s no room for them at the inn because everyone else also wants to use this time as a teaching tool.
You know what would help?
Choosing another month during the year for your family. How about March? Or September? Maybe sign up to serve in the heat of mid-July when the kids are out of school and can see first hand what it’s like to be homeless and hungry in the desert heat or cold of winter? Bring money you and the kids have saved for this experience all year long. Every other month longs to be a November or December for those who need a roof, a meal, good cheer and some hope.
Just an idea from someone on the inside. And not a bad one, methinks. But hey, anytime you’re willing to spread the love is a good time, sooner or later.

Happy Birthday to me!

One more revolution ‘til I’m fresh out of fifties,

And enter the decade of Medicare sixties.

A little less hair, a little more fat

But by now I’m totally okay with all that.

No one to impress me, no one to undress me

I’m a solitary man with myself.

Not lonely, not desperate, nor ready for respite

Not ready to be put on a shelf.

Fifty nine? Who’d have thought?

The farm I’ve not bought

By now I should be six feet under.

So bring on this year

If God still wills me here

Or snatch me up into glory and wonder!

Reunions

Ain’t seen nor spoke in many years and here we meet again,

Reunion weekend’s at our door, it’s good to see you, friend.

So many things on which to chat and follow up with you,

Like kids and family, where you’ve been and how life’s treated you.

Let’s talk of old and reminisce and laugh out loud at stuff,

Swapping stories, jokes and pics we’ll never get enough.

The hundred bucks we paid for this is worth it all for sure

No talk of pains and politics for which we have no cure.

We’ve a history that unites us and memories to upend,

Our weekend here together so glad we all can spend.

And when we part, say our goodbyes and vow to keep in touch,

Our takeaways of high school days again will mean so much.

a good disposition

It started with my cheerier-than usual “good morning” and ended 30 minutes later late to work but with a new best friend.
Miyisha was working graveyard on just two hours sleep as fill-in for a sick coworker, but our last magical half hour in the empty convenience store where I went for coffee left us bonded like reunited siblings. I don’t usually click with people less than half my age , but we shared details of our years without edits, sang together to a song on the radio and showed how badly we could dance to the surveillance cameras.
We vowed to meet again without too much passing of time and hugged a happy Friday to one another before I drove off to start my workday while hers was ending. The power of a good disposition and a genuine interest in the life of a stranger reminded me of how church should feel, with free refills.

Travel

Visit places you can’t live, in hotels you can’t afford, eat foods you never would, do things you never should, with money you don’t have, on time you had to borrow, for pictures you won’t forget, of times you’ll always remember, with those you’ll always love.

youth

I returned bottles for coins, did yards for dollars and cleaned windows and sat young children to save for the better things in life. I’ve since realized that doing things for others were the better things in life and money is now a much weaker incentive. A little hard work in my youth taught me the most about what it means to be a decent adult.

What will matter?

When you die what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured? What will matter is not what you bought but what you have built. Not what you got but what you have given. What will matter is not what you learned but what but what you taught others. What will matter is your every act of integrity and compassion, your courage to sacrifice, to enrich and empower others by your example. What will matter most is not your confidence but your character. What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel the insatiable loss of your departure. What will matter is not your memories but those that live on in the ones who loved you. What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom, and for what.
A life lived significantly is not by circumstance but by the everlasting gift of the choices you made while you were here.