Don’t be inert – speak up, act up…

December 22, 2015

“Not to speak is to speak.  Not to act is to act.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) – from the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack went on to write that Bonhoeffer was a Christian who spoke out about the Nazi atrocities in Germany and lost his life because of it. You can read more about him by clicking here.

There is a line in the marriage ceremony (at least those shown in movies) that goes something like, “If anyone here know why these tow should not be joined in Holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.” In the movies there is more of a likelihood that someone will speak up or listenerthat something will happen. In real life, most seem to follow the rule that “silence is golden”. However, silence in the face of injustice is not golden, it is shameful. Not taking action when your heart tells you to is just as bad.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we live I a time when dash-cams and body-cams and people’s cell phones document many of the egregious events of our day. It is perhaps telling and a mixed blessing that the individuals who choose to document the events did not choose to step in and change those events. We spend an inordinate amount of time after the fact reporting and analyzing the coulda, woudlda, shoulda’s of those tragic events.

Some might look at Dietrich Bonhoeffer and what happened to him because he had the courage to speak out against what Hitler was doing to the Jews in Germany during WWII. I’m sure that a considerable number of other German Christians must have felt the same way, but they chose to remain silent and do almost nothing. There are enough stories about German Christians hiding Jews in their homes (see The Diary of Anne Frank) that we know that some others did take what action that they could or thought that they could do without being detected. They also took great risk and faced certain punishment if caught.

The news of today is full of examples of injustices, shootings, persecution and discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, religion or sexual preferences. It is also full of scenes of protest and violence sparked by
many of these events. Seldom reported is the reaction of the general population, those people sitting at home going, “tsk, tsk, that’s terrible”, either to the event itself or to the reactions by those protesting. The “Silent Majority”, as the Republicans like to call them can be counted upon to do nothing and that is sad.

Perhaps our inertia is because of a “them vs. us” mentality tpredjuiceshat has gained foothold in America. “Them”, of course, are all of “those people” who are not like us – the foreigners, people of color, and people with religious practices or lifestyles that we do not understand. “They” almost always belong to one of those groups on the citizenship form that fall under non-white. “They” are different from us and that is scary.

Another thing that is scary is the number of perpetrators of atrocities who claim to have acted in the name of their faith.  It is alright to disagree on topics like abortion or sexual orientation, but it is not OK to go to a family man mad at himselfplanning clinic and shoot people with whom you disagree and say that you did that out of religious conviction. There are few religions that condone killing in the name of the religion. Certainly those who claim to be Christians may peacefully protest those things with which they do not agree or they may pray for the souls of those whom they consider to have wandered away from the teachings of Christ, but they do not harm others in the name of their religious beliefs. Nothing could be further from the teachings of Jesus than those types of actions taken in His name.

Tis the season of giving and not acting on the urge and the need to give is indeed an action – the action of not caring enough. “Gee, I meant to give something”, is not enough. ”I’ll give next time”, won’t help. Even, “I gave at church”, won’t meet the needs that are all around us. While I don’t discourage giving to the big national causes, there are lots of small, local causes that neseerving othersed your help, such as food pantries or homeless shelters. Many are run mostly or entirely by volunteers, so more of your money goes directly to impact the cause and fill the needs. Every one of them, if you check into them, is run by people with a true passion for the help and services that they provide.

One such service that I’ve been supporting here with posts is the Supportive Alternative Living (S.A.L.) organization, which provides services to adult special needs people living in our area. Many were the cute kids that you saw and cheered for in Special Olympics, when they were younger (some many still compete as adults). What happened to them? They grew up and now they live in our community as adults, many with jobs at local businesses. They still need help with day-to-day living; and, even though there is some money available through government programs at various levels, someone has to be there to perforin the services that are needed, from simple things like driving them somewhere to helping them with their bills and finances.

S.A.L. staffers perform those services in our community. S.A.L. used to be funded by Oakland County under the Mental Health budget, but that budget was slashed recently (another tax saving move with unintended consequences), so now they need the help of donations fro the community to be able to continue the program that allows these special needs adults to live independently and not in group homes somewhere. To learn more about S.A.L. and their programs for adult special needs people, go to their web site. You can help by clicking on the Donate button below to make your donation.  If you don’t live in or near Milford, Michigan, donate anyway; I can assure your that this is one of the more worthy causes that you can choose to support this Christmas. Now is the time to act. Give today and have a Merry Christmas knowing that you acted.donate

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Have the courage to listen and to speak and don’t be a dead fish…

October 20, 2015

“Some people should use a glue stick instead of Chapstick.”  (Pinterest) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Today’s little quote is somewhat judgmental about others, but makes a good point about shutting up and talking-2listening. Sometimes the best thing that we can do is to listen, to hear out the other person, before we jump in with our own comments or thoughts. One of the hardest human traits to break, or at least control, is the tendency to be so wrapped up in your own thoughts and opinions that you don’t really listen to the opinions of others. We just can’t wait to get their own thoughts into the conversation and, in so doing; we ignore or miss the thoughts of the other parties. Does that ever happen to you? I know someone like that and after she starts talking to express her thoughts, she often stops and says, “No wait. What did you say?” It’s as if her brain is on a 10-20 second delay about what you said somehow and it only catches up after she has started talking.

I like the way Winston Churchill put it – “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

I think what Churchill was getting at is the courage it takes to really listen and understand the other person’s point of view on things. Taking the time to listen might also better equip you to make a more appropriate response or,listening even better, to realize that sometimes no response is really needed. Is it more courageous to lash back at someone who has just made a hateful remark towards you, or to quietly say “I’m sorry you feel that way”, and go on with life? What do you gain by lashing back at that person? Maybe both you and they need some more time to think about the situation before anything else is said.

Sometimes, when you sit down and listen, you realize that the person making hateful or racist or homophobic remarks has no basis other than hate or fear for making the remarks, even if they try to mask them in the context of religious beliefs. Once you recognize the underlying ugliness for what it really is, your anger may quickly turn to pity. If you realize opinionatedthat something in that person’s life has happened to bring them to this hateful state, you might think, “How terrible it must be to be filled with such angry and hate; I’ll pray for you.” You’ll have to be the judge on whether saying that out loud would help or just further inflame the situation. Either way, say the prayer for them.

Many times, especially early in life, incidents may happen when you are among those whom you consider to be your friends. It is during those times that the advice of J. K. Rowling comes to mind –

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

It is not only the brave thing to do, but the right thing to do to stand up and say something, even to your friends, if what is happening is wrong. That is especially true in situations of bullying in school or invitations to do things thatfriends at school you know just aren’t right. It is true later in life when you decline to be drawn into gossip about others or to join in hateful talk or actions. There is great peer pressure at all ages to join others who may be for or against certain things or people or who are doing things that are wrong. The old phrase “go along to get along” was invented to describe the easy (cowardly) way to deal with those situations.

Many times the topic of conversation or of the actions at hand are not something that you may not have formed an opinion about one way or the other. Rather than having the courage to sit and listen and then make an informed decision; you just go along with the crowd, sometimes as much as anything on a dare. It’s as if someone has said to you, “What, are you afraid to cast the first stone?” So you go along with the crowd, even if it is going in an uncomfortable direction. At times like that, perhaps the advice of Jim Hightower will help –

“The opposite for courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow.”

dead fishHave a great day and have the courage of your convictions. If you don’t have convictions in any situation, have the courage to admit that to yourself and listen and think before you act or join in the action. Don’t be a dead fish going with the flow.