Hope Is Still Alive!

Last week my 8 year-old granddaughter said, “My friends at school say that President Trump is going to build a wall around Mexico.” “Pawpaw, does that mean you can’t go to your office in Mexico City anymore?” “Or if you go there, you won’t be able to come home?”

anna-meNot exactly sure how to explain the situation to her, I said, “No Anna, it means something different.” I told her that I would be fine and my friends and work-mates from Mexico could still visit here. My words seemed hollow and I could see the fear in her eyes and felt certain that my explanation fell short of reassuring her.

Fear. What an ugly experience. And now, so many are living in fear. Fear of deportation. Fear of being denied immigration. Fear of separation from loved ones. Fear of banishment. Fear of death.

What about the fear of terrorism? Fear of unknown or unwanted persons who could do harm to our nation; our cities; our homes. Do we build walls and create borders and more restrictions to keep out anyone who is deemed a threat? And what is the criteria for exclusion? Religion? Skin color? Language? Dress? Who decides?

I think of my own great-grandmother who made the perilous journey alone from her homeland, at only thirteen years of age, to build a better life for herself. My very existence depended on her acceptance into this great nation. Today because of her lack of education and inability to prove herself worthy of finding gainful employment, she would doubtless be denied access.

How can I have hope for a future that seems so dismal? How do I tell my beautiful granddaughter that her unbridled love and pureness of heart may not be enough to cure the evils of this world? I can’t. I won’t.

I need her to believe that good conquers evil; that justice is for all; that hope is still alive. And I will follow her example by loving without question and always looking for good in everyone. I will pray, not just for my friends but for my enemies as well. I will stand up for those who can no longer stand. I will speak for those who no longer have a voice. I will fight racism and sexism at every opportunity. I will respect ALL life.

And I will face another day. A better day. Hope is still alive. I know this because Anna tells me so, without ever speaking a word.





Old Man Walking

On the journey with a companion

On the journey with a companion

I walk a lot. I try to get up each morning and walk 4 miles around a nearby lake. When I’m traveling or on vacation, I’ll walk the beach or in a park. Not bad for a 61 year-old I suppose. I do it to stay physically fit but lately I find that it probably benefits my mental and spiritual fitness even more than my tired, old-ish body.

What I have discovered on my sunrise walks is that other walkers (and runners, and cyclists) aren’t likely to make eye contact. I know that we live in a world of fear; we’re afraid of terrorists; we’re afraid of violent crimes; we’re afraid of sexual predators; we’re afraid of identity theft; we’re afraid of yet-to-be-named diseases; we’re afraid of immigrants; we’re afraid of other religions; we’re afraid of other cultures; we’re afraid of people who don’t look (or act) like us. Some of these fears are legitimate; some I believe are heightened by political interests and hatred.

But I live (and walk) in the squeaky-clean suburbs. And there should really be very little to fear. My fellow walkers should certainly have no fear of me. I’m startled by the occasional bunny rabbit or squirrel that will dart across the trail. And I might cringe if I see a snake slither past or if a frog jumps out of the weeds but other people don’t make me afraid. And I will do no harm to them.

Recently I’ve tried to say “good morning” or “hello” to anyone who dares to make eye contact with me on my morning jaunts. The reactions and responses have been interesting. Some will offer a downcast or sideways glance with a feeble “hi”, as if to protect themselves from whatever evil may be lurking behind my benign-looking, grandfatherly exterior. Others look away quickly with no response at all. Some will actually return a friendly “good morning” or “hello”. The runners and joggers are usually very serious about their business, as if pausing for a quick glance might somehow throw off their body rhythms. The cyclists are often struggling to keep their balance or speed (or whatever) and seem incapable of the multi-tasking required to say anything while riding – I might get a nod. Older folks like myself are twice as likely to smile and acknowledge me. Young women (and perhaps rightly so) often avoid eye contact and stay focused on their exercise (and I suppose keep a ready hand on their can of mace). Young men are the least likely to speak or even look at me (probably dreading the likelihood that they might be staring at their futures).

Walking has given me the opportunity to S L OW  D O W N and appreciate the sunrise. To thank God for creation. It helps me clear my head and prepare for my day. It allows me quiet time to pray and be thankful for this journey of life. I like to see the flowers (and weeds) along the trail. I enjoy seeing the squirrels and rabbits and frogs and yes, even the occasional snake. I would never notice those things while driving. But mostly I’m grateful for the few friendly human encounters I have each day.

Some of us who are regular walkers (or runners) have now also become regular “smilers” and “hello-ers”. I’d like to think that this ‘old man walking’ has had some small part in that. I’ll keep smiling and hello-ing. Who knows? The smile that I share might be the only smile that one of my fellow walkers will receive the entire day. Kindness given is always returned.

And none of us is a stranger to God.



Fear Not

In his first Inaugural address Franklin Roosevelt said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That was nearly 80 years ago and sadly today our nation seems to be more fearful than ever. Shouldn’t life in America be better than it was in Roosevelt’s day? Advances in medicine alone should make life today less fearful – no Polio or Rubella or Small Pox. Technological improvements make communication instantaneous – my mom will tell you about writing letters to my dad 60 years ago while he was overseas and not getting a reply for months. My blog is free but you might have spent 5 or 10 cents on a newspaper in the 1930’s to read drivel like this. So life is better today! Then why do so many people live in fear?

Politicians seem to be great fear mongers. So are media personalities, insurance sales persons, and some clergy. Fear can be a powerful tool; just look at any political ad. Listen to any talk radio loud mouth or attend a church service and you likely be warned about some impending evil – life is scary but if you vote for me, buy my product, or follow my religion you will be safe (or safer anyway). Fear is an excellent marketing tool.

Fear has fuelled hate and prejudice. Fear has gotten us into wars. Fear begets fear. Be afraid – be very afraid!

But I for one refuse to be ruled by fear. I will not vote for you because you want me to be afraid of your opponent. I will not buy your product, listen to your propaganda or read your book because of some vague threat of evil or danger (despite your warnings). I will not buy into your fear game. And I will not follow your religion (and your rules) because of some fear of hell.

Instead I will hold my head up high and embrace the good in this world. I will take an active role in promoting peace and justice (if only in my small circle of influence). I will love God and be thankful for life in all its forms.

I want to be a role model to my grandchildren. I want them to explore the world and all its wonder and be forces for good. I want them to be ambassadors of good will; agents for positive change; lovers of justice and protectors of our planet.

Sometimes we have to stand up for what is right. And shout down the hate and inequality in our lives. Some of us will take the lead, some will follow and still others will stand silent.

But fear should never motivate us. Love should.



P.S. Emeli Sande’s song speaks to triumph over fear – give it a listen or better yet, let it be your anthem.