Finding Strength and Inspiration In The Life and Words of Leaders Worth Looking Up To

“I know that my country was not made to be a land of hatred.  No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin,  or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  -Nelson Mandela

Just days after my country honored the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who devoted himself to the abolishment of segregation and discrimination against people of color, we will be handing over the reign of power to a man who would prefer that we go back to those times when “America was great”; that is, when certain people were not regarded as human beings with inalienable rights, but as ‘things’ that could be dishonored and dispelled of.  That includes not only people of color, but anyone who is ‘different’ or unfavored; that is, not white, cisgender male, heterosexual, Christian, American, monetarily well off, and physically able.  Members of society have fought long and hard to force those with privilege to see the humanity in each and every person and therefore, to share what for them has never had to be earned but has merely been freely given.

It is a battle we are still fighting.  And now, with the new presidency, it seems we will have to contest even harder to ensure that the victories hard won by the likes of MLK, Jr. and countless others are not overthrown in the name of hate, fear, and ignorance.  But hear this: hate begets more hate; that is, hateful people do not respond to hate with love.  Hateful people, like the one elected to be Head of State, only respond to hate with more hate.  If those of us on the other side want our values of equal rights and respect to prevail, we must put those ideals into practice even when our adversaries decide to take a dump on them.

If we are to continue along the path of progress, we must ask ourselves: what can this presidency show us?  What can the government teach us about ourselves even when it doesn’t care to represent us or show compassion for its people?   How can we, mere citizens, become leaders of our own lives, our own families, our own communities?  If we cannot depose the regime, perhaps we can affect change on a micro level and thus be the change we wish to see in the world.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”  -Mahatma Gandhi

Sometimes people we don’t agree with can be like a mirror put in front of our faces, forcing us to see what we don’t like about ourselves.  How can we use that reflection to become a stronger, more consolidated nation?  How will we grow to become better having been put through the worst?  Will human kind ever evolve to see only the spirit that unifies us all, making us one; not the skin, or the body parts, or the body type, or the clothes, or the sexual preferences, or the beliefs, or the language, or the money, or the abilities that serve only to make us seem not of the same?

Nelson Mandela began his leadership on a very different path.  Initially, he thought the only way to vanquish the tyranny over his people was to conquer violence with violence.  But after 27 years in prison, Mandela came to the notion that the weapon needed to end the war against South Africans was forgiveness.  And sure enough, a peaceful resolution was finally brought about.  Similarly, as Americans, if we are to win the fight against racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, homophobia, social injustice and discrimination of any kind, we –the people– cannot use the same ammunition employed by the new majority of leaders of this great country.    We must err instead on the side of love, peace, and hope.

At the same time, we must also be courageous and vigorous in the face of bigotry.  We must make our voices heard.  We must stand united against those who try mercilessly to divide us.   We must march in the name of what is right and just.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Man or Woman, how do you measure?  Black, Brown, or White, how do you measure?  Straight, Gay, or anything in between, how do you measure?  Rich, Poor, Young, Old, Able, Disabled, Native, or Immigrant…. how do you measure?  We cannot allow ourselves to become or remain complacent.  The time to act is now.  The place to start… is in your heart.

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Another Underdog Story the World Won’t Get Over

cubs

I am not a Cubs fan, despite residing in their home state all my life.  I’m not even a sports fan.  While I can watch a game and appreciate the strategy and athleticism that goes into it, I can walk away completely detached.  If I were to choose a team to root for, it’s most likely going to be whoever the underdog is in a particular game.  And maybe that’s why the Chicago Cubs winning the 2016 World Series has me so choked up.

Because seriously, why am I crying just watching the highlights of Game 7 and hearing the crowd go wild?  I didn’t watch a single game of the World Series or any other game this year for that matter.  Because I DON’T CARE.  But there’s something about their story that has made their victory feel especially meaningful.  There’s also something about a bunch of dudes hugging and loving on each other that, well, tugs at my heart strings.  As a spectator, I can feel what it’s like for them to have failed time and time and time and time again.  And that to me is what makes the reward of their championship title all the more significant even to me, a non-Cubs/sports fan.

All good stories, the ones we internalize and cherish the most, include an underdog.  It seems most people tend to identify with those individuals who have been on the bottom, but after copious defeats and perhaps even because of their recurrent struggle, rose to the top.  And I have to wonder if that would ever be possible if they didn’t have at least someone in their corner who believed in them to cheer them on and defend their honor even when there is no success in sight.

The Cubs team has had a lot of people in their corner for many, many years despite having been on a losing streak for more than a century!  So who would the Cubs be without their devotees?  It is the ultimate test of loyalty when the support one receives is not contingent upon a particular outcome; when the worth and potential of a person or team is never diminished in the eyes of their votaries.

But today, the Cubbies and their tried-and-true fans are feeling vindicated after several decades of being hated on for being the dark horse of baseball.  Today, their story gives hope to all underdogs everywhere that if we believe, we can achieve.

Dust Yourself Off Again

We try and we fail.  This is our constant sorrow, our never ending struggle, no matter where we are at in our progress or what we happen to be doing.  There is effort and yet over and over again, there is failure.  The longing to at last succeed is what unnerves us but it is also what drives us.  And this is how we are able to grow, ceaselessly and undaunted by the challenges in our lives.  In this way, meaning can be found in our mistakes.  In this way, we learn to love the process rather than cling to a desired outcome.  Because not everything worth doing is always done right.

renegade

I have been in the belly of the beast,
I have braved the greatest of storms;
both spat me out, sodden and worn.
I suppose my flesh wasn’t quite the feast
they were looking for–
Too tough, perhaps, not enough chew
in their bite;
it comes from being hung over the fire
and left there to die.

Many a time I have sat and I’ve waited;
night after night
I have cried and I’ve cried.
Overwhelmed by fright but certainly,
not overcome.

For here I stand before
my darkest hour,
face to face
with the death it assures me of.
Ready for another fight
because it’s my only option
as long as life
still promises the light
of day.

Intentions: Bringing Us One Step Closer Or Taking Us One Step Back

Good intentions don’t always yield the results we had hoped for. I found myself spouting this tidbit to a fellow comrade this morning, realizing the relevance it has had in my own life lately.

Rejection tends to leave one feeling broken, weak, and powerless. Instinctually, out of the pain and betrayal I feel, I want to hide behind my fear and anger. And I have done this. But once the dust has settled, once the storm is passed and I am back in touch with the deeper meaning of my life, I choose instead to express love, kindness, forgiveness. Because I believe those are the only things that last; certainly, they triumph over every misguided or ill intention I may have at one time harbored. And unquestionably they are what give my life meaning. I could choose to remain bitter, I could choose to disown those I feel betrayed by, to cast them out of my life like a thorn in my side. But all that does is increase the likelihood of eventually stepping on said thorn, creating more agony and turmoil for me down the road.

Ignoring someone who has hurt us isn’t facing our fears; it’s running away from them, especially when that person is trying only to show us the healing power of love and forgiveness. When we run from fear we run in circles, ending up always right where we started. Progression, growth, these things imply a linear movement forward or upward. They are also impossibilities unless we relinquish our fears and reach towards the light that is the extension of someone’s merciful hand.

Some motivations to express kindness are self-serving. Behind these acts there is a desire to get what we want, to feel better about ourselves, to feel less rejected. I’ve been rejected in love plenty. I now have what you would call a thick skin. You could set me on fire and I’d probably not bat an eye. And yet, to those who I have been hurt by and regardless of whether the same generosity is rendered to me, in the end I will always choose to extend graciousness and benevolence, not with my ego, but with my heart where the purest of intentions coexist often with the deepest well of sorrow and discontent.  And in this way, I’d like to think I am destined for growth and for true love.

Throwback Thursday #3

Happy Thursday y’all! Time to throwback to 1997 once again…

******

Angel Falls

Look upon a sea of doubt;
of pain,
of fear,
of sorrow that lingers even after the tears–
Not one being lives without.
Nestled inside us each
there is a struggle within reach
awaiting a stronger hand
to carry all we hold.
For we’re bound by intimidation,
needless to say,
searching in darkness
without any light to help us grow.
What must there be
then to at last be free?

There are so many angels wandering around
hoping through life’s miracles they will be found.
To see them, you must look up high
for angels do not fall, they fly.
If ever you get discouraged by all of life’s mistakes,
just look to an angel for greater strength.

******

Whoever holds the key to her heart knows the depths of her soul and the inescapableness of her beauty that resides there.

today’s quip

Let love be your only intention.

I suppose that’s not enough to be blog worthy perhaps. But it’s enough to fill your heart with an exuberance of warm fuzzies. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Life is hard.  We are all trying to overcome it in some way. Let the love in. Let the love out. Feel the warmness.