My Country, ‘Tis of Thee

What does it mean to be patriotic? It really depends, quite often, on the unique experiences that an individual has in the country he or she calls home. The word “patriotism” is used quite often in ways that seem to suggest that it can and should mean the same for all citizens of the United States. Yet, how is that possible? For some citizens, love of country prompts them to wear a flag pin or proudly display a U.S. flag near the doorsteps of their homes. While these are indeed honorable ways of expressing pride in country, for some citizens, given their experiences and circumstances, expressions of patriotism must be in addition to or go beyond the displaying of flags and the wearing of pins. Many of these citizens are part of an economic class who, despite working every day, find it impossible to obtain quality housing and education. Many others are citizens who, because of their ethnicity, find themselves repeatedly targets of police suspicion. And still others are citizens who struggle to rise in their professions, but because of their gender, run into one glass ceiling after another. For these citizens, patriotism means advocating for institutional change, advocating for quality housing and education, for justice, for equality in employment. These citizens do not wear or fly “Old Glory.” Yet, they are true patriots. They want their country to make them proud by living up to its ideals and standards.

Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 1:40 am  Leave a Comment  

Trash Tossing

Last week, a British woman was caught on closed-circuit television petting a cat and then tossing the animal in a trash bin.  When the cat’s owners came home, they started looking for the cat but were unsuccessful.  Approximately 15 hours later, when they heard a faint cry coming from the outdoor trash bin, they looked inside and discovered the cat.  Needless to say, since the incident, animal lovers throughout the world have suggested almost every imaginable punishment for the woman who, in offering an excuse for her actions, simply said that she thought tossing the cat would be funny.

While I am no real fan of cats, I have to admit, it seems cruel that anyone would treat an animal like a common piece of trash.  It seems even worse that someone would think that tossing a living animal in a trash receptacle was humorous.

Yet, as difficult as it may be to believe, there are times when we are just a vulnerable as that cat.  We face circumstances and even individuals who seem safe, who “pet” us, who lull us into believing that all is well.  Then, before we realize it, those same circumstances or individuals have plopped us straight into a trashcan of sorts. We find ourselves in a dark place, crying to get out, wondering if the lid will ever be removed, allowing us escape.  This is why we cannot afford to be naïve.  Not everything or everyone who starts out stroking our fur means us well. Sometimes a kind stroke is really an attempt ultimately to turn us into tossed trash. This is not to say that we should assume the worse of anyone or that we should expect the worse in circumstances that we face.  Yet, we must always be alert, ready to take off running the minute we detect that a kind stroke is about to turn into a trashcan- tossing event–with us as the object of the toss.

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 11:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

On and on and on. . . . . . . .

Sometimes a task or an experience is like a never-ending road, seeming to go on and on and on . . . .

If the task or experience is a good one, we want it to continue.  Yet, if it is unpleasant, even painful, we quite naturally want an end to it—a quick end.  But isn’t it through the challenges, through the things we find painful that we become strong and wise.

Bodybuilders press against weights to build muscle. We as human beings must press against our personal challenges to build the necessary muscles for negotiating in and navigating through this world. Political divisions, fractured friendships, dashed dreams, sudden loss—all of this is mixed in with the parts of life that we enjoy.  Yet, our ability to embrace this joy is a result, in part, of how willing we are to persevere through those weighty challenges that we sometimes feel will never end.

But how do we do that?  How do we persevere? Though the question is complex, we might at least begin answering it this way: The ability to persevere is found in our willingness to learn: what can I learn in my difficulty that will improve my life and help me better relate to others.  This seems so simplistic, so easy.  Yet, it is not. Often, we are so busy trying to escape the unpleasant things in life, in whatever form they come, that we never sit for a moment and wonder what our circumstances may be teaching us.  This is not to suggest that we sit passively and do nothing to improve unpleasant circumstances if we can, but it is meant to suggest that, as we are trying to make life more pleasant, more tolerable, that we take the time to learn, to comb through our unpleasantness for knowledge? What we learn can enable us to more wisely and graciously embrace the joy that will eventually and surely emerge if we will but persevere.

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 2:02 am  Leave a Comment  

Claiming and Naming

DSCN0620It is the Sears Tower no longer.

Before noon on July 16, 2009, the largest building in the United States, known for over 30 years as the Sears Tower, was renamed the Willis Tower. Willis Group Holdings, Ltd., a London-based insurance broker leased a portion of the building and obtained naming rights.

Many throughout the States, including Chicago, the location of the Willis Tower, are having difficulty adjusting to the name change.  After all, it is not easy rethinking something, especially a name. Names are usually permanent, especially first names.

So, what does it mean to change a name, to disassociate a name from a thing known for its grandeur? In one sense, renaming can signal a change in future prospects of the thing renamed. With the Sears name gone from a building admired internationally, the future of SearsDSCN0621 seems to be wrapped up now more in maintaining a business presence than in arriving at a point of massive expansion. Sears’ offices have been relocated.  The building that once bore its name now carries the name of another.   Indeed, Sears’ future seems a little–maybe a lot–less than it had expected.

How did things end up this way? Maybe some of it has to do with Sears failing to remain competitive, not being strong enough to rise above or keep up with competitors, not knowing the condition of its flock in order to adjust its operations accordingly. If this is, in part, the case, it suggests how very important it is, not only for institutions, but for us as individuals, to  stay competitive, to stay abreast and keenly aware of all aspects of  our lives—our families, our friends, our jobs, our finances, our bodies, our country. Failing to do so may mean that all those glories, all those opportunities for growth that could have been ours may gradually slip away, only to be claimed and renamed by others.

Published in: on August 25, 2009 at 6:35 pm  Comments (1)  

Secure Faith

Do you see it?

DSCN0189A bird’s nest sits in the midst of a thick-leaved tree that stands beside my porch.  The nest has been there for a little over two weeks.  Despite heavy wind and rain recently, the nest has remained securely tucked away within the tree’s leaves and branches.  Can we say the same of ourselves, of our faith?  Is our faith secure, being so thickly covered and wedged  in the knowledge of God’s word and His character that nothing can rattle it?
Published in: on August 9, 2009 at 4:12 am  Comments (1)