Drowning

Hand with word "Help" written in red ink sticking out of the water

Twenty-five years ago a band from South Carolina released a song that talked about racism and wondered aloud “Why is there a rebel flag hanging from the state house walls?”

The song writer then goes on to insist that he’s “tired of hearin’ this shit about heritage not hate.” Instead, he argues it is “Time to make the world a better place.”

The song is Drowning by Hootie & The Blowfish. When it was released in 1994, five years before the massacre at Columbine, the song was tackling the racism that men and women of color had openly experienced for generations in the South and through institutional constructs in the North.

Now, after the two most recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton (not Toledo, Mr. President) this song takes on a whole new meaning for an entirely new audience.

This is particularly evident in the song’s chorus:

Drowning, in a sea of tears
Hatred, trying to hide your fears
Living, only for yourself
Hating, everybody else ’cause they don’t look like you

The shooters in El Paso and Dayton were driven by fear and hatred for those who were not white like them. The evil bore deep holes into their psyche and mutated their worldview so much that the only way they could live in this world is to end the existence of others. The hated them so much that they shot and killed them.

They were drowning in their hatred. Lost in themselves. You know the results of that way of thinking.

So, how do we stop drowning? We communicate. We talk to each other. We find out what makes us different while also building on the commonalities that we all share. The songwriter asks “Why must we hate one another? When the people in the church, they tell me you’re my brother.”

You are my brother. You are my sister. And I will watch out for you so you don’t succumb to the hate in this world. Will you do the same for me?

Two Rules

We’re all human. We’re not perfect. We all make mistakes. We all have the capacity to forgive. There are so many things happening in this world today that are examples of the evil that exists and can corrupt the hearts and minds of humans. These deeds make us all question our humanity. And we should. We should always be looking in the mirror at ourselves doing what we can to be better humans.

When I look in the mirror at myself, I don’t always like what I see. That is when I remember to take a breath and I contemplate the two rules that all other laws are based on.

“What are these two rules?,” you may ask. The answer can be found in Matthew 22:37-40.

Matthew 22:37-40 NIV

Remember that God is in charge and that we are to love Him with every part of our being. Then also remember that we are to love others as though they were us. To paraphrase: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

Follow these rules and we will be the best humans we can be.

I know it is easier said than done. That’s why we get a new shot at working toward that goal each and every day. Learn from the past, make positive changes, and move forward in love.

Love God and love one another. Two rules to a better world.

Amen.

16 Years Ago Today

Groom and Bride in church doorway after getting married
May 24, 2003

16 years ago today, it was overcast with rain off an on, but it couldn’t dampen my spirits for what was about to happen.

16 years ago today, I watched the most beautiful woman in the world walk down the aisle toward me. We stood together before our family and friends, and before God, and vowed to love one another in sickness and in health, until death do us part.

16 years ago today, I was amazed at how love had filled my heart. I looked forward to the future with my wife.

16 years ago today, I could only imagine how great my life, with my wife and our little family, would become.

16 years ago today, I said “I do” and my life changed forever.

Thank you my love for 16 of the most amazing years. Walking with you, side by side, holding hands, on this journey has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m so happy that you took a chance on me. I love you!

An Opt-in Melting Pot

Image by Miss Vine from Pixabay

“Hey! Where are you from?”

“I’m from New York.”

“Oh, I love New York City!”

“Well, uh, no. I’m not from New York City. I’m actually from Upstate New York.”

“Oh. But you can go into the city anytime because you’re close, right?”

“Well, if by close you mean six to eight hours away, then yeah. I’m close.”

This is a conversation anyone who lives where I’m from has had numerous times. People who live outside of the state of New York often don’t remember that there is an actual state and not just New York City. And it’s okay. Every time we have a conversation like this, it gives us the chance to talk up the great things that come with living where we do.

And sure, there are negatives. There are any place you live.

I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that more and more people are leaving New York each year. And this is going to pose a real threat to the upstate economy sooner rather than later.

As the “Boomer” generation ages out of the workforce, there are fewer people waiting in the wings to fill those jobs. This makes businesses and investors all the more willing to flock to the coasts and the big cities where the people are. And the areas that are left behind trudge ever further down the slope into demographic decline.

Take for instance that 48,510 residents of New York (the state) in 2017 were not residents of the state in 2018. They left. And they aren’t coming back.

Can this be fixed?

Interesting question.

Is this just a natural progression of things. And if it is, does it require “fixing”? Business ebbs and flows. There are boom times and there are bust times. This has been the case throughout most of American history.

For example, a city close to me was once the flour capital of the world. Then production moved to the Midwest and so did that title and the jobs at the mills. The city reinvented itself. And it is at the point, given demographics and economic conditions, where doing it again is becoming necessary.

One way to reinvent is to have an influx of new people. Where would they come from? People are moving away, not moving in. So one think tank’s idea is what they call a “Heartland Visa”.

The idea is that “place-based visas” would be given to skilled immigrants to come live in the United States in these demographically and economically strapped areas. And unlike forced immigrant locations of the past, this idea would require the economic development to be a dual “opt-in” where the community and the immigrants would agree to do it.

It’s almost as if this idea would be the reverse of the Emma Lazarus poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty. It is not the tired, poor, huddled masses that we would be accepting. Instead it would be those that want to invest and give a shot in the arm to stagnating economies.

There is something intriguing about the idea of these cities and rural areas around the country becoming smaller versions of the New York City “melting pot”.

And if that happens, then I guess we can all be from New York.

DeVos is Devoid of Compassion

US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

Can someone please explain to me how US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos still has a job in the federal government overseeing the education of our children?

During a House subcommittee review of her department’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) asked DeVos if she knew how many kids would be impacted by the $17.6 million cut to the Special Olympics Education Program in the proposal.

Like a student who blew off studying for her final exam, DeVos answered: “I don’t know the number of kids.”

She didn’t know how many people would be impacted by a proposed cut. She. Didn’t. Know.

Rep. Pocan knew. I’m sure that the people who put together the budget for her knew. It’s 272,000. Did they just not tell her when they were prepping her for the questions that would come after her typed opening statement?

It was obvious that there would be questions. In her opening statement she said: “We are not doing our children any favors when we borrow from their future in order to invest in systems and policies that are not yielding better results.”

Looking at the proposed cuts, the Special Olympics cut stands out to me based on what DeVos said in her opening statement.

I don’t think there is anyone who can say with a straight face that the “Special Olympics do not yield results and help a child’s future” and believe the words they are saying.

If there is, then that person is devoid of compassion.

Image by InspiredImages from Pixabay

My younger sister was a Special Olympian. She loved it. Her time in the program was positive and it helped her with her mobility. So, my sister and all of the other Special Olympians stand in stark contrast to DeVos’s statement. It produces results. It creates a better future.

This type of cut has been proposed in the last few Education Department budgets and it never passed. And that was with Republican control of Congress. Now, with the Democrats in control, this type of cut has a snowball’s chance in Hades of happening.

So why propose it again?

Is it the old adage “All press is good press, even if it’s negative press”? I hope not. I would much rather discuss education funding that is meant to better our children’s education. Instead we have to talk about taking funding away from programs that actually create positive results.

Maybe what we need to fund is someone to sit Betsy DeVos down and teach her about compassion and that we need to treat others how we want to be treated.

Now that is some proposed education funding that I would support.

Spring’s Sprung

Robin in tree

Yesterday was the last day of winter. Today is the vernal equinox, or first day of spring.

Typically where I live spring doesn’t really come until May. But there is always a sign that we look out for that will tell us for certain that spring is actually here. That sign is the robin.

And wouldn’t you know it that as I was out walking Hemingway yesterday I didn’t just see a robin, I saw at least 3 of them!

Why So Excited?

You’re probably wondering why I was so excited. I love spring. I love the rebirth that happens. I love that the cold goes away and the warm breezes come. It’s not too hot like summer or too brisk like autumn. It’s just right.

And there is the green of the grass and the leaves. It is just so bright and triumphant. It has conquered the bleak, the brown, and the whitewashing of winter.

Seeing the robin was wonderful, but also hearing their songs made the stroll so much more enjoyable.

It made me grateful for this new chapter of the year and our lives.

The Miracle of Rebirth

That little natural reminder also got me to thinking about this time of year and what it means for Christians.

In winter there is so much focus put on Christmas and what it means. And rightfully so. I mean the miracle of Jesus’s birth — that the King of Heaven would come to earth in the form of a baby — there is just so much praise God for.

However, the miracle that happens during the spring at Easter is what inspires Christians. It is when Jesus overcame death. He was sacrificed by his people, crucified by those who ruled over them, and was dead and buried. Three days later, he rose from the dead to sit at the right hand of our Father, the Lord Almighty. It’s so miraculous that this happened that just writing those words gave me pause.

Jesus died.

Jesus rose from the dead.

It’s miraculous!

Each and every spring, we get to reflect on it again. We get to connect to this miracle through our faith. It is a great gift. And it is a great reminder that we are forgiven our sins through Jesus by believing in him.

When our sins are forgiven, we are reborn. We are able to start fresh.

Like spring.