the king

So who cares Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is Monday?
I didn’t send a card, but neither did everyone. We’re all too busy making plans for an extra long weekend we did nothing to earn to get out of town, party longer, harder or just get stuff done. Ask the younger crowd and most don’t even remember the guy. Fewer will actually celebrate the life of one who refused injustice, abhorred inequality and remains the outspoken icon from a world and a time when virtue and purpose were more important than life itself. He was a black man in a white world, making his battle even more unthinkable and a quick and easy target…which tragically it became.
Fortunately, our society has evolved. Injustice and inequality no longer being social issues, outspokenness is just the unnecessary rockings of a boat for those whose ignorance means another paid day off on the calendar or an extra night to drink away what remains of our deep social ills. Wishful thinking.
To actually remember the achievements of a dead black guy and the world today had he not stood up and spoke out might be buzzkill for the plans of most. I do hope some will wake up Monday morning with prayers, dreams and hopes for which they might willingly die, or at the very least, pause to send up a thank you for one who did.

politics

There was a time when peoples’ politics defined much of who they were—morals, character, virtues, fund of knowledge, their understanding of complicated world events and their personal empathies. Their beliefs weren’t always agreeable but were at least well-defended by deep roots and informed convictions.
Disagreements were conversation points revealing sharp differences yet with respect for the other person and a craving for depth and understanding of their opposing view.
Discussions were exited without driving wedges or assaults on character. They were deliberate, genuine attempts at bridge building though neither one might admit it in the moment.
To understand another’s fundamental politics was a desire to understand the entirety of the person. Conversations weren’t punctuated by sound bytes, innuendo or irrelevant periphery. They weren’t permitted hiatus on vague or shallow arguments and were always less about the party and more about the mind and heart of the person.
The end game was to evolve new ideas and solutions for all rather than digression into single issues of personal preference with feet dug in.
They embraced ‘what-ifs’ not as threats but as the creative bridges they were and ‘why-nots’ as opportunities to lay new stones for a unifying path, not for casting at one another across their divide. Indeed, they were dialogues of dream-builders engaged in the pursuit of a better life, a better world and prosperous opportunity for the all versus the one.
It was a hot day in August 56 years ago when a man spoke “I have a dream” and unified a sharply divided nation of a lesson that had yet to learn. That dream can still come true in this polarized world if people want it bad enough. Meaningful change waits for those who firmly grasp the fact that under the veneer, what we all want has more in common than not, and in many ways, is much the same thing.

immortal

Whether strokes on a canvas
Or words paragraphed,
A scurrying white cursor
Or notes on a staff.
Some paint life in colors
Some write it in ink
In every medium
They create what they think.
Art is their freedom
The songs in their skies
Their creations immortal,
Art never dies.

my little mommy

I spent 10 days with my daughter over the holidays and left for home a very proud dad and grandpa. I wrote this on the plane…

She hears every breath
And smells every smell
Sees front and behind
Months ahead just as well.
A Jill of all trades
A mistress of none
Not a moment she fades
Not even just one.
Her life is a calendar
Planned down to the minute
With dates for all others
But herself not in it.
Earns nothing in wages
But paid daily in love
Working harder and faster
Than we’re aware of.
Laundry playtime and dishes
And all tasks in between
She meets everyone’s wishes
While hers go unseen.
She’s a mother and wife now
First my little girl
Making good on her vow
She’s everyone’s pearl.

into a new decade

Our home is now spotless
The clutter is gone
Cupboards in order
The laundry is done.

Mortgage is paid
Budget prepared
Bills are all current
With a little to spare.

Goals are in sight
With changes to make
More this, less that
More give and less take.

Just hours to spare
Before the big hap
We enter prepared
And this year’s a wrap!

Don and Butch have left the building.

a buck and change

Went for coffee yesterday morning. Eric was there as he is every dark early morning of the overnight shift. I spent a buck and change and got an earful in return. It started with my share of delight that I’ll be spending the holidays with my kids and grandkids in Florida. He smiled and teared up a little. I asked him his plans since we’ve been on a first name basis for over a year now. He has a grown daughter and granddaughter in L.A. he’d like to see but hasn’t in many years. No bad blood he’s aware of, just her disregard and disinterest in a very lonely dad and grandpa. He makes attempts to contact at any shred of opportunity, sends cards, gifts and cash on every occasion without acknowledgement. He is at a loss of what more to do but accept the loneliness despite how desperately he wants to give of himself.
There are lots of Erics out there this time of year while the rest of us are rejoicing and rejoining with loving families. The most I could do was a warm loaf of my banana blueberry nut bread left for him at the counter with a card that read: “In this world, Eric, we are all family. I enjoy spending a little part of each morning with you over coffee, my friend and brother. Merry Christmas.”
If you want to leave an unforgettable mark on someone’s life this Christmas, opportunities like this are right in front of you to take every day, for a buck and change.

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.