What’s within your reach?

March 17, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”  – Clarissa Pikola Estes

How often inaction is driven by thinking too big. We think about the problems of the world and they become too big for us to tackle ourselves, so we do nothing. We cannotescape provide food for the millions in Africa who are starving, so we do nothing. We cannot stop the genocides that are on going in the Middle East, so we do nothing. We cannot stop human trafficking, so we do nothing. Doing nothing is the easy choice. We fail to see what we can do right in our own back yard. What’s within your reach?

If we really took the time to stretch out and see the needs right close to us, we would be able to do plenty to reduce hunger and suffering and human exploitation right in our own towns and cities. How often do we scurry by that homeless beggar on the corner asking for our help? How easy is it for us to look the other way when we see a teenage girl selling herself on the streets to support a drug habit? How many times must we tune into the nightly news and do nothing as we see and hear about another massacre in our schools or churches. These things are happening within our reach. Stretch out and try to mend what you see every day. What’s within your reach?

We tend to let ourselves generalize the problems that we see and let them grow into homeless manseemingly unsolvable huge things that we are incapable of solving alone. It’s not just that homeless beggar, it’s all homeless people. It’s not just that one teen prostitute, it’s all people hooked on drugs. It’s not just that one crazed shooter, it’s all of the disturbed people in the world.  If we let that happen, we become paralyzed by the enormous size of the problems than we see. What’s within your reach?

But, what if you could help that one homeless person that you meet get back on their feet and become a productive member of society again? What if you could save that young girl from a life on the streets? What if your efforts to alert authorities about an unstable person who is headed towards becoming a shooter could prevent that from happening and stop the carnage before it happens? Do you see how taking action, even with only one person in need, can change things in the world? If you can see it, what is stopping your from doing it? Look around. What’s within your reach?

Maybe you just can’t bring yourself to act alone. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable tryingsewrving soup to approach the homeless person or the street walker with your offer to help. Maybe fear keeps you from saying anything to (or about) that unstable person. There are still ways that you can help. There are organizations that you can join and work for that provide that help and intervention. Groups like Community Sharing are here locally, within your reach. Groups like the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force exist and run hotlines that provide help. They need people to do the work that they do. They are within your reach. And there are crime tip hotlines like the Safe School Helpline in every state that provide an anonymous way for to alert the authorities about a potential problem person. That phone call is within your reach.

So, don’t become paralyzed by thinking too big. Think about what is within your reach and then take actions to do something about what you can see. If everyone, everywhere just did that the big national  problems would fade away one local solution at a time. What’s within your reach?

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Live your faith; be a sermon today… 

August 19, 2017

A couple of quotes that I’ve had lying around for a while seemed to jump out at me this morning…

“If you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you’ll end up not doing anything for anybody.”  (Malcolm Bane)

and

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” —Ronald Reagan

Be the somebody who helps somebody else today. The who is unimportant. The how is unimportant. The what is unimportant. It’s the doing that’s important. The need is all around you.

helperDon’t just say that you’d like to help. Opening your wallet to help is good; but, opening your eyes and heart and jumping in to actually do something is better. By your actions, those in need shall know that you are a Christian. By your actions, you shall know that you are a Christian. By your actions, Jesus shall know that you are a Christian.

In James 2: 14-17 we read – “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

Edgar Guest out it this way – “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.” Let the world see your sermon in the good works that you do for others.

Be a sermon this weekend. Find a need and fill it. Find someone wanting and be their giver. Do something for someone.

Can I get an Amen to that?


Do you care enough to actually do?

March 21, 2017

“You can lift the weight of caring by doing” – from a recent State Farm TV ad.

The TV ad that State Farm has been running lately is really heart tugging, which is what it was designed to be. It shows an average Joe is several settings with people and animals in obvious need around him. You can see that he sees their need and feels bad about it, but he doesn’t do anything in the ad. Watching the ad, the viewer can see the growing weight in his heart of caring but not doing. Point taken that it is not enough just to be aware of and care about the plight of others and of animals; you must also do something. Do you care enough to actually do?

We all carry the weight of caring. It is not possible to pass the man on the corner holding man with cardboard signup his ratty cardboard sign that asks for help for him and his family without caring; yet few stop to offer help. We may feel good about holding the door open for someone else somewhere, but too few make the effort to open the door to an animal shelter cage and rescue a lonely dog or cat. It feels good to drop a dollar into a donation bucket outside the local superstore; but only a few actually go to the homeless shelter to volunteer to serve food or offer services. Do you care enough to actually do?

At the end of the day, we may pray and thank God for all that he has given us; but do we think back on all of the opportunities that he gave us to serve others that we chose to ignore. We may even say “there but for the Grace of God go I”; but hold back on saying praying“God, please give me the courage to go there and help”. It’s easy to hurry past the needy or ignore those in pain or despair by looking the other way; after all we’re busy people with lives of our own to lead and mouths to feed. Someone else will provide for those people you may think; or, you can adopt the saying that the University of Michigan basketball team has been using in the NCAA Tournament – “Why no us?” Do you care enough to actually do?

The keys to actually doing something other than just caring are focus and prioritizing. You can solve all of the problems of the world nor meet the needs of everyone that you might encounter in life; however, you can focus on one or a few needs and prioritize them in your life. That may mean finding one person sitting alone in a care home and befriending them. depression4It may mean volunteering for Meals on Wheels and delivering meals and conversations to a few elderly shut-ins. It may mean adopting a pet or volunteering to work at a n animal shelter on weekends. It could mean volunteering to work on a house for Habitat for Humanity or bringing food to your church and then delivering food baskets to the needy at Easter. Maybe it’s befriending that lonely kid at school that nobody seems to like and who seems so down all the time. You know lots of things that need to be done and which you could do; but, do you care enough to actually do?

The point of the TV commercial and of this post is not to send you off on your day with a big guilt trip; but rather to start you thinking about what you can do to turn the care that you have in your heart for other into actions. Many people wait until they are older and helperperhaps retired before they get into volunteer work. It’s great that they eventually did do something about their caring, but it is not necessary to wait. Earlier in life most of us think that we are too busy with work and family to take the time to do work for others, but that is just rationalization. Make your volunteering a part of family life. Take the family with you to do that work. Let your children see and participate in the work that you choose to do in service to others. It is a great life lesson for them and it shows them that you really do care enough to actually do?

Have a great and caring day doing for others!


In search of classy…

December 17, 2016

Recently Jack Freed posted this on his blog, Jack’s Winning Words – “Anyone can ride in ajohn-glenn spaceship or serve as a politician, but class is rare—something lacking in this crassest of American eras.”  (Ted Rall in Forbes)  Jack went on to write – John Glenn was classy!  He was humble, well-mannered, intelligent, who never tried to build oneself up by tearing others down.

I grew up in an era where there were classy role models in Hollywood and in Washington. These days one would have to search long and hard for actors or politicians that one could call classy. It seems sometimes like crass has replaced class in both places.

From the Urban Dictionary comes this definition of classy –

An adjective

1) meaning very stylish and elegant.

2) not crude or disgusting or dirty or depressing

2) a deeper, more meaningful word for ‘cool’

Yes, we also used the word “cool” a lot back then, too. In today’s political and entertainment gregory-peckworlds it seems the second definition is getting harder to find. George Clooney is often mentioned as a modern classy actor, although the ultimate classy Hollywood actors will always be Carey Grant and Gregory Peck; and actress Meryl Streep might be called classy today, though not on the level that we used to think of Katherine Hepburn.

One must really work at trying to find a politician that one could label as being classy, especially when using the second definition as the measuring stick.  In fact the term classy politician may be an oxymoron. I suppose that many people would say that JFK was a classy politician. He certainly met the requirements of the first definition and many thought him to be cool; however, history has revealed cracks in his classy facade that some find disquieting. I tried to find current political examples, but even Google couldn’t turn up a classy current politician or even an honest one. Maybe John Glen was one of the last of that classy era. Both John Kasich and Bernie Sanders rank fairly high if you just search for an honest politician.

I suspect that there are many politicians at the local levels of government who might deserve the label classy, but it appears that those who aspire to higher levels of government (even county or statewide positions) quickly abandon the traits that one would use for that label in their pursuit of political power.

At a local level, from what I’ve seen, there remain classy people in the school systems, the business community and in the clergy (Pastor Doug McMunn leaps to mind in Milford). While many of these people don’t make enough in those jobs to afford to be called classy in the sense of the first definition, they certainly meet the requirements of the second definition and most are considered to be “cool” people in the local community.volunteers You see them in the local newspapers doing good deeds and helping out in their communities. They run or work at non-profit volunteer organizations, like Community Sharing or the Village Fine Arts Association. They support local civic projects. Many are leaders in youth organizations like the boy or girl scouts or in organizations focused upon youth, like the Optimists Clubs. Without these “classy” people our local communities would be dreary places indeed.

The good news doesn’t stop with being able to find classy people in your local neighborhoods. The really good news is that you too can be thought of as being a “classy” person by jumping in and helping, too. There is no shortage of needs at all local volunteer organizations, so pick one or two and volunteer. Soon people will be talking about what a classy guy or gal you are, because you care and give of your time and effort to make a sewrving soupdifference. It’s not enough to just send in a check. No one ever said, “what a classy giver his is”. They appreciate the donations of money, but they see real class in the donation of time and effort.

We may be in for more politics at almost all levels that lack class, but that doesn’t mean that we can,t find class all around us or that we can’t be thought of as being classy ourselves. So, be cool. Jump in at your local level and do the right things to help. It’s the classy thing to do.


Get help – give help…

December 12, 2016

“All of us, at certain moments of our lives, need to take advice and to receive help from other people.”  (Alexis Carrel)

Of course that little quote came from the Jack’s Winning Words blog that I get 5 times a week. Jack went on to write – Sometimes the advisers suggest “consult a pastor.”  There truly are problem situations out there in the real world.  Fortunate are those people who have someone “to lean on.”    😉  Jack

Jack is the retired pastor of the church that I attend and I’m sure many people have found him to be a comforting pillar to lean on over the years. I have always found Jack’s calm, yet warm, presence and reassuring words to be a comforting touchstone to which I could look for reassurance that things would be alright if I continued to put my trust in God.

Asking for help or advice for others is hard for some people. They were probably told not tohelping-2 be a cry-baby when they were growing up and to “suck it up” and face things themselves. They may be embarrassed to be in a position to need help. Many want help, but just don’t know how to ask for the help they need. There are also people who seem to decline help of any sort from anyone. They push away those who are seeking to help them or stubbornly refuse to ask for the help they need, even in the face of certain failure. Of course there are also people who are so blissfully ignorant of their situation that they don’t realize that they need help.

We live in an interconnected world and it is important to realize that our problems do not occur in a vacuum, nor will the solutions to those problems be found in a vacuum. Problems may be caused by, or may impact, others around us. We are not alone in thishelp-me problem space and we may be able to get advice or help from others, based upon their experience with the same problems. It is also important to share our problems with loved ones, so that they understand what may be causing us to act as we are and not think that they are the cause of those actions.

In Jack’s post, he mentioned a couple of the advice columnists in our local paper and, certainly, that is one way to seek advice. A quicker way is to turn to those around you that you know and trust and just ask, “if this happened to you, how would you handle it?” For those problems that are too big or too embarrassing to discuss with casual friends, one may need to turn to trusted sources, often a relative or very close friend and sometimes a pastor, priest, rabbi or imam. Keeping problems that are gnawing at you inside just makes them seem bigger and scarier. The key is to get it out there and ask for their advice or help.

Sometimes, just summoning up the courage to share your problem with a trusted friend is being kind 1enough to release the pressure that had been building up inside of you. Even if that friend doesn’t have a whole lot of advice to give you, the fact that you got it out there and found a way to verbalize what has been bothering you many time allows you to take a whole new look at the problem yourself. You may realize that what you thought was the problem wasn’t what was causing all of the anxiety or concern, so much as how you were reacting to the problem. Stating the problem clearly also may allow you to take the step of saying to yourself, “So what?”

Years ago I wrote a post here about being able to say “So what” to life’s problems. That post was based upon some advice that I had received from a friend and neighbor, John Hussy. John often used the phrase “So what” when dealing with many of life’s issues and he advised me to stop and look at things the same way. If you can look at what has happenedso-what or what may happen and say, “So what? Did (or will it) it kill me?” Then you can put the problems into perspective. So what if I got turned down for the date or that new job. So what if I had a meltdown in public or at work? So what if I’m not in the “in crowd” at school or at work? So what if some people see me as “different” and don’t understand or accept me? Did any of those things kill me? If not, then why am I letting them dictate my life now? You may realize that it is not the perceived problem that is causing you the pain; but, rather your reaction to it. It’s time to say “So what” and move on. You’ve got better things to do with your life than worry about those “So what” problems.

The take away here is not to keep things bottled up. Seek help or advice from others. Then listen to their advice and sort through what makes sense to you to try or accept their help and get on with the task. Many times the path to a solution will become apparent just because you had to explain to someone else (and in the process to yourself) what you woman-prayingperceive the problem to be. Don’t forget God in your search for help, since talking to Him is often the best way to resolve things. I have written several times here about the calming and healing effect of the simple prayer, “Not my will but thy will be done.” Try it some time. Give God your problem. You may discover that giant weight is removed from your mind after saying that little prayer and believing that it will happen.

Learning how to seek and accept help is just part of learning how to live in our interconnected society. Another part is learning how to give help to those who reach out to us. So many times we get off on the wrong foot by starting out with some statement like, “I know how you feel”. No you don’t, so don’t just say that and expect a good reaction. It is better to say, “I don’t know how you feel, but I accept that you are in pain; how can I help.”

Acceptance is the foundation to being a good source of help. Start with the mentality thatlisten says I accept you as you are, not like I would like you to be. Then ask them to share the source of their pain and listen (don’t talk). Being a good listener is the key to being a good helper. Sometimes you will hear things that the speaker doesn’t even realize that they are saying. It may be in how things are phrased or emphasized that gives you the clue to the real root of their problem. It’s hard to listen that intently if you are talking or thinking about what you will say next.

Another key to being a good advice giver is not to offer advice only within the context of opinionatedyour own life experiences. If your advice starts with, “Well, if it was me, I’d…” it is likely to be ignored. It’s not you and the person who you are trying to help isn’t going to react as you think you might. If you start off with, “Wow, I can’t imagine how that must feel”; but maybe here are some things you might try; at least you’ve gotten off on a better foot.

Having the ability to be a good listener and offering good advice only works for the other person if they perceive that you are willing to help. It’s hard enough for them to ask for help, much less trying to seek that help from someone that they perceive to be self-centered, aloof or uncaring. Being perceived by others to be a caring and open person, withhandshake whom they can discuss things, takes work. It means greeting others as if you are happy to see them and are interested in their lives. It means asking about then before telling them about things in your life. It means listening when they talk, instead of focusing upon what you want to say next. It means picking up on what they are saying and how they are saying it and asking follow-up questions. It means opening up your shell and dropping your shields first, so that they feel comfortable doing the same with you.

Being there to share their pains and to give help or advice is not for everyone and not for every situation or person that you may encounter, but it is critical for those in your life with whom you share bonds of love or true friendship. There is no greater calling or responsibility than to become a trusted adviser to your friend or loved one. Treat the role with the respect that it deserves.

praying-togetherSometimes the little prayer that I referenced above is a good way to bring both of you to a humble, open starting point from which to honestly discuss a solution to the problem. Nothing exposes your own vulnerability and honest concern for them more than asking the other person, “Will you pray with me?” If they cannot or will not respond positively to that request, then perhaps they are not yet ready to accept your help.

So, my friends, as we venture into a new week ahead; don’t be afraid to seek the help you need and be ready and open to give the help that you can to others. In either role, never be afraid to bring the power of God into the conversation. That may be the best advice of all.


Give to fill the needs, but volunteer to fight the causes…

November 21, 2016

“Charity sees the need, not the cause.”  (German Proverb) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to add, “Compassion for the poor, whatever the reason for poorness, is a value worth teaching.”

Americans are, for the most part, compassionate and giving people who are quick to give when they see a need. Americans also tend to let the temporary good feeling that they get about that giving be enough and then move on with life. In our healthcare world, it seems that we are told (and believe) that there is a pill that we can take to make things all better, no matter what the problem. In our day-to-day lives the “pill” that we take to make thedonation-can needs that we encounter better is throwing that dollar in the red kettle or handing it to the homeless man on the street. We take our giving pill and get on with life.

Certainly, there is nothing wrong with showing our compassion through our spontaneous giving; however, that same homeless man will be back at the same spot tomorrow, again begging for help, unless we do something different and focus some of our energy on the causes for his condition. Is it an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Is it a lack of education or job training? Does he have an homeless-beggaruntreated mental health issue? Is he/she unable to work because they have no way to get to work? Is she begging for food and clothing for her family because she can’t afford child care and can’t work?

In addition to the knee-jerk reaction of compassionate giving, we need to be asking questions. What are the causes? What can we do about those causes? If we do nothing about the causes, how can we expect things to change?

If you dig into the causes, you might be surprised to find that there are many grass-roots organizations already in existence to provide things like educational and tutoring services, job skills training, transportation services, addiction counseling and help, mental health counselling and help and much more. You will probably also find that all of those organizations are run on a shoestring and could use your help, both financially and your volunteer time. In my area there are several groups that do more than just giving someone a buck or two. Community Sharing in Highland, MI, runs a food bank both for people and for their pets; but, that’s just a part of what they do. They also run counseling programs designed to help break the cycle of poverty and to help people get back on their feet and back into the mainstream of society. The Salvation Army is in most communities and runs job training programs to help people re-skill themselves and get into the job force. There are also many local transportation options being offered to help get people to work or to doctors’ appointments.

If you look for these groups and services you will find them and you will find that they volunteersalways need help – volunteers or paid positions to actually do the work of the programs that they run. You can sign up and probably work as much and as hard as you wish helping them fight the causes of poverty, homelessness and hopelessness in your community. Will you solve the world’s problems by doing that? No, but you will make a difference that you can see in the lives that you touch. You might be there to share in his joy when he collects his first paycheck from his new job. Maybe you’ll be able to help him carry in some furniture for his new home. Those are feelings will be a whole lot more meaningful for him and for you than the temporary feeling of good that you get as you drop your dollar in his hat and hurry on down the street.

In most communities there are hundreds of volunteer opportunities for those who wish to give more than just money. One way to find out what the needs for volunteers are in your community is to go to VolunteerMatch.org and check on your community. When I tries it to see what might be available around my area 558 volunteer opportunities came up. Try it for your community and see what needs are right around you that you may be able to help with.

seerving othersSo, the next time you reach for your wallet to throw a buck into a beggar’s hat, stop long enough to consider what he/she really needs to get back on their feet and then find a way to volunteer to help with that cause. There is an old proverb that is really an appropriate analogy – “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Volunteer to become a teacher of men and help make lifetimes better.


Putting another leaf in your table…

September 9, 2016

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog featured this quote – “If you are more fortunate than others, it’s better to build a longer table than a taller fence.”  (Unknown)

Jack went on to write – Battle Creek, MI was once known as the city with the longest breakfast table.  It stretched several city blocks with room enough for all who wanted to come…and the food was free.  In today’s world we talk more about fences than about long tables with room for all. 

It is unfortunate that we hear so much during this political silly season about building a taller fence (a wall, actually) to keep people out, rather than about finding ways to build introducing friendbigger tables to include more people. Today’s quote is about inclusiveness and sharing and not about just trying to protect what is ours and keep it away from others. It’s about inviting others to share the bounty that you enjoy that helps you in putting another leaf in your table..

It is not hard to find people in need. One doesn’t have to look to foreign countries; there are plenty of people in need, right here in America. One has to look no further than the local school systems to see that need. In our local school district over 50% of the children in many of the schools qualify for the free school meals programs. A national program called Blessings in a Backpack was created to send these children home on weekends with enough food in a backpack to feed them for the weekend. There is a local Blessings in a Backpack group that is trying to provide that service and food to the students in need within the Huron Valley School system. . Contributing to that program is like putting another leaf in your table.

helping handsThe message of caring and inclusiveness is not restricted to just sharing food; it is really about helping other whenever and wherever you can, with things other than food, such as clothing or furniture or counseling services or housing. There are many opportunities in every community in America to be a part of efforts to help others, whether they be church related groups or just volunteer community organizations to provide helps and services for the less fortunate. In our area we have a group called Community Sharing that provides a wide variety of support to those who may need a little help. It is a group; that you could join if you are interested in putting another leaf in your table.

Those opportunities to serve are great and very worthwhile; but there is another opportunity to share something other than bread. One’s faith also provides the elca-godswork_ourhandsopportunity to share, rather than to hide or safeguard the blessings that we enjoy because of our belief in Jesus Christ. Evangelism is often considered something untoward and to be avoided. We live in a secular world, where public displays of faith are to be avoided and speaking of one’s faith best left for Sunday’s. Yet silence about the Good News seems somehow to be contributing to the height of the walls around us rather than like putting another leaf in your table.

It would seem to me that one doesn’t have to drop to their knees and begin loudly praying in public to be displaying their faith. Doing the right things, helping others, displaying compassion and inclusiveness are all ways that we can display the faith that we share and being kind 1that we want to extend to others. Doing the little things to help each day when we interact with others and see needs in others is just as important as volunteering once in a while for one of the many charitable groups in our communities. Each of those little acts of kindness and compassion is putting another leaf in your table.

So, I ask you; how long is your table? Have you put the leaves into your table to be inclusive and caring and compassionate? Are you sharing the bounty that results from your belief in Jesus with others? What are the little thigs that you can do today that will result in you putting another leaf in your table?