the take away of hope and hopefulness

“Hate corrodes the container its carried in”
Senator Alan Simpson during his eulogy of President G.H.W Bush


(image of Senator Simpson offering a eulogy during the funeral of G.H.W. Bush)

One thing I learned as an educator is that we are always learning.

When we are a part of or exposed to various learning moments, those moments
which are both known, and even most often unknown,–moments throughout our
lives, we inevitably are given gifts of the ‘take aways’…

Those nuggets and morsels of wisdom that we glean…
glimpses of that which speaks deeply to our souls.

They are the things we ruminate over…chewing on and pondering over.
They are the small gifts we receive from both moments and individuals…

If you’ve read any of my posts this week, you know I’ve been trying to take
in what I can from the life, death, mourning and now funeral of our 41st President
George H. W. Bush.

I’ve been watching the state funerals of our presidents since John F. Kennedy’s funeral
as my parents instilled that sense of duty and respect in me…
a respect extended to our presidents for their service to us, the people.
It mattered not the party, we gathered for each one—that is until I was on my own,
And I still watched…just as I did today for our 41st President.

It was never about party or politics…but it was about respect and service.

President Bush 41 was just finishing the first year of his presidency when my son
was born.
It’s one of those things written down in a baby book…” who was the president
the year you were born”…with his being Bush, mine being Eisenhower.

Most who know me, know that I was a huge fan of President Reagan.

And if you’ve read many of my posts over the years, you’d then know that the tandem
working relationships between President Ronald Reagan,
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and
Pope John Paul II all played a significant role
in my life at a time when I was just coming into my own…
coming into my own thoughts and conviction about the world around us.

They fed my keen interest and love for our democracy, freedom as well as the importance of
having a working Christian faith within that very democracy and freedom—
as the cost for each comes at a very high price.

They taught me that hope remains even when things appear hopeless…that
a Cold War could be broken, a wall could be torn down and people could taste freedom
after living a lifetime under tyranny.

The presidency of George H.W. Bush seemed to serve as an asterisk to those
four world giants and the ture gifts they offered our world.

So it comes as no surprise that I’ve been quite taken with much of what I’ve learned
throughout the course of this week regarding the life of our 41st president.

Some things that I had known and some things that I had never known.
Some things about The President, some things about his cabinet and some things
about his lifelong friends.

It has been, however, from his death that I have actually found a surprising sense
of hope—hope for this oh so divided Nation of ours.
A deep-ceded, hate-filled division that I have anguished over now for
oh so many months.

Look at these two images.

The first image of this group of American movers and shakers is at the
beginning of the President’s funeral.
It is an image of past and present.

And within that past and present is a great deal of visible stain.

This was a gathering of people who we all know don’t exactly care much for one another.
Some in the group are better at hiding their real feelings in public than
some of the others.

This historic picture shows four presidents, along with one hopeful want to be,
along with spouses gathered together, seated side by side,
in order to pay homage to one of their own.
The mood is somber yet the tension on this front row is palpable.

The second image appears to show that humor can be unifying emotion.

Humor seems to be one of the small final gifts given by the 41st President to
this group who have followed his footsteps.

And it was Al Simpson, the former senator from Wyoming and lifelong friend of
President George H. W. Bush who, in his eulogy of his dear old friend,
offered many of those stories which provided a thankful amount of humor.
A gift freely offered to all those gathered and particularly needed by those gathered on
that front row.

But it was what Senator Simpson said toward the end of his eulogy that
I found most telling of which I could only pray that those seated on that
first row would each digest in his or her own private way.

Senator Simpson noted that President Bush never “hated” anyone…

Meaning this age-old friend never heard his very important friend ever
express vehemence or disdain…for anyone…not publicly nor privately.

Not even after a difficult and challenging campaign and defeat.
Not even after the dealings with aggressive and difficult world situations.
Not even after a life spent in the often ugly and petty business of politics.
Not even despite the trials of living life after losing a young child.
As this approach to life and living was something instilled in him at a young age.

For the Senator noted that both he and Bush had learned this particular lesson
early on in their young lives as each of their mothers carried what they
called velvet hammers.

These men learned hard lessons at the knees of their mothers with one of the most important
lessons being that “hate corrodes the container it is carried in”

That container being one’s heart.

So I was now curious for a little more background behind Al Simpson…
curious because he was much funnier delivering this eulogy than I had remembered
him to be during his days in the Senate.
So I found this little bit of his background story…

Another offering of hope found in a now elderly man’s earlier life…

The story is about a one-time youthful holy terror,
who almost, and most certainly would have in today’s time, served jail time for his
life of running wild, yet who, with time and redemption, actually grew up to become
a leader, a senator and dear friend to a president.

So the first of the takeaways that I want to share from a seemingly sorrowful event is
that of hope and hopefulness.
Other takeaways will be shared later.

I want to offer Alan Simpson’s backstory regarding how this now 87-year-old survived
to come out on the upside of what was nothing more than a selfish reckless youth…

The story is a reminder that if there is hope for a youthful hellion who
no doubt seemed to be a hopeless cause, so then surely there is hope for
a group of politicians who find great disdain for one another…
The same Hope that remains available for a deeply divided Nation.

A lasting gift offered even in death by a President to his grateful yet divided Nation.
A gift that our 41st President always knew came from his faith…
that being the faith and Hope found in and freely given by Jesus Christ.

There has been a great deal of this notion of hope that I have found in these
rapidly disappearing members of this Greatest Generation…

I even read of it coming from Barbara Bush.

Just a few months ago she herself was now dying,
her son Jeb asked her if she was afraid to leave their dad behind.
Barbara unequivocably told Jeb that she will miss her husband and his father
but that she believes in Jesus Christ.
She knew that George would be okay without her as she would be home with her
Savior—all the while waiting on George to follow.

Bereft as he was when his wife of 73 years died, George senior, knew where Barbara was,
that she’d be waiting on him as his hope also rested in his faith—
faith in a Savior who would also bring him home when the time was ready.

So I offer the back story to a once difficult young man who put his trust in
the notion of hope and hopefulness as he grew to be a man who also chose
to serve others over serving self.

According to Wikipedia:
In Simpson’s words to this Court, “I was a monster.”

In that brief, in support of the claimant in the Supreme Court case,
Simpson admitted that, as a juvenile, he had been on federal probation for shooting mailboxes
and punching a cop and that he “was a monster”.

One day in Cody, Wyoming, when Simpson was in high school,
he and some friends “went out to do damage.”
They went to an abandoned war relocation structure and decided to “torch” it.
They committed arson on federal property,
a crime now punishable by up to twenty years in prison if no one is hurt,
and punishable by up to life in prison if the arson causes a person’s death.
Luckily for Simpson, no one was injured in the blaze.

Simpson not only played with fire, but also with guns.
He played a game with his friends in which they shot at rocks close to one another,
at times using bullets they stole from the local hardware store.
The goal of the game was to come as close as possible to striking someone without
actually doing so.
Again, Simpson was lucky:
no one was killed or seriously injured, or caught by their parents.

Simpson and his friends went shooting throughout their community.
They fired their rifles at mailboxes, blowing holes in several and killing a cow.
They fired their weapons at a road grader.
“We just raised hell,” Simpson says.
Federal authorities charged Simpson with destroying government property and
Simpson pleaded guilty.
He received two years of probation and was required to make restitution from his own funds –
funds that he was supposed to obtain by holding down a job.

As he [Simpson] has described it, “The older you get, the more you realize . . .
your own attitude is stupefying, and arrogant, and cocky, and a miserable way to live.”

Simpson stated “I was just dumb and rebellious and stupid.
And a different person.” and then added,
“You’re not who are when you’re 16 or 18.
You’re dumb, and you don’t care and you think you are eternal.”

And so the state where this young hellion would cause so much trouble would eventually
vote him in as their United States Senator.
Setting his life on a path to becoming dear friends with the 41st President of the United States.
A man who remembered yesterday in the Nation’s National Cathedral.

There is always hope…

irrational ideology vs logos

“Meanwhile I will continue to use your platform to undermine your hateful
and irrational ideology.
And I will do it by using logic and love – the love of the Logos.
We don’t need Twitter (or Facebook, or government or the media) to be able to speak of Christ.
And you will never silence us.
Though you kill us the very rocks would cry out!

David Roberston


(detail of Christ from Michaelangelo’s Final Judgement / The Sistine Chapel)

λόγος
Logos

According to Writingexplained.org, the Greek word Logos is a rhetorical device that includes
any content in an argument that is meant to appeal to logic.

In other words, Logos equates to a logical discourse when opposing sides engage in conversation
regarding the difference of opinions.

The explanation goes on…
Logos is one of the three Aristotelian appeals.
A writer utilizes the three appeals in order to convince his audience of his argument.
The other two appeals are ethos (ethics) and pathos (emotion).

Appeals to logos are those that involve or influence the logical reasons an audience
should believe an argument.

Logos often shows up in an argument in the form of facts and statistics.
However, any logical statement could be an appeal to logos.

According to Wikipedia…

Ancient Greek philosophers used the term in different ways.
The sophists used the term to mean discourse;
Aristotle applied the term to refer to “reasoned discourse “or “the argument”
in the field of rhetoric,
and considered it one of the three modes of persuasion alongside ethos and pathos.
Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading
the Universe. Within Hellenistic Judaism, Philo of Alexandria (c. 20 BC – c. 50 AD)
adopted the term into Jewish philosophy.
The Gospel of John identifies the Logos,
through which all things are made, as divine (theos),
and further identifies Jesus Christ as the incarnate Logos.
The term is also used in Sufism, and the analytical psychology of Carl Jung.

There was a time in the educating of children when the classics were the common line
of curriculum.

According to ARISTOI Classical Academy, a classical education consisted of the following:

Truth –
Classical education values knowledge for its own sake,
which is to say that the body of knowledge under study itself helps students to
discern that which is true and good and beautiful,
rather than having an external definition of these things imposed upon it.

Guidance for Modern Life –
Classical education holds that the study of the liberal arts should yield the
perspectives that ought to inform and provide direction to the sciences and to
social constructs, not vice versa.

Western Civilization –
Recognizing that “American Civilization” is the product of the
millennia-long project known as Western Civilization,
classical education teaches the standards of moral virtue and character that
created Western culture, and which allow students to assess and understand other cultures.

Civic-Minded –
Classical education upholds the value of responsible contribution
toward family, community, and governments.
Students are able to connect the civic life and political experiences of historical
societies to present-day cultures.

Eloquence –
Classical education teaches standards of excellence in communication
that are embodied in the great literary works of the Western canon.
For generations, these works have exemplified greatness in that they present important
events and persons, and interpret these events and persons through abiding values and concepts
in language marked by precision, beauty, and power.

Unity of Knowledge –
Classical education trains students to recognize the relationships between the various fields
of inquiry and knowledge (such as history, science, and literature)
and to organize these varied fields into an integrated,
logical and systematic framework.

And as a former Art teacher, it should be noted that the Arts…be that music,
the visual arts, drama, as well as classical languages such as Latin and Greek
which were also included in a well rounded “classical” education.

Then at some point during the educational course of children, something happened…
we dumbed down the curriculum while we convinced ourselves it was greater, broader
and grander.

Yet in this fallacy, which we sold ourselves, over the expansion and re-do of education,
we actually dumbed down our curriculum which in turn lessened the learning and in turn
shortchanged our kids.

And in so doing we now have a culture that has no idea how to converse regarding their
thoughts or ideas…nor do they even have the whereto all to have original thoughts let
alone the knowledge of how to defend them with logic versus their go to brute force of
bullying and intimidation.

I say all of this after having read the latest offering by our friend the Wee Flea,
the Scottish pastor David Robertson and of his being recently banned by Twitter.

My other favorite across the pond, tell it like it is cleric, the former Church of England
Bishop Gavin Ashenden has also been banned from Twitter…
each for their Christian hate-speak.
Did you read that…Chrisitan hate speak…
If ever there was an oxymoron that is it…Christian + Hate + Speak…

Oh those Christians…they’ll get you every time.

As I am not one to tweet nor foray out into social media other than this little blog,
I say be glad and don’t look back…
brush the dust from your feet as you press forward fighting the good fight.

As David reminds us in his open letter to Twitter…
he will go forward…forward in both love and logic—and the love of Logos…

Dear Twitter – Why Have You Banned Me?

Lunacy followed by the real story of Rudolph

“The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think,
and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know…
Do justly.
Love mercy.
Walk humbly.
This is enough.”

John Adams, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams


(one of my most treasured items from childhood…my Rudolph snow globe/ Julie Cook / 2018)

I love today’s quote.
It is from one of my all-time favorite presidents.
And it is a powerful reminder of what is really important and what truly matters in
this upside down world of ours…
especially during these surreal days and time.

I needed to read and heed such wisdom today after reading the following story
that is linked below.

It’s a story about an article that was offered by the liberal media outlet
The HuffPost.
It seems that the HuffPost and their minions of readers
(or is that ‘bloodthirsty’ followers??),
have recently set their wreckless sights on finding fault with a beloved Christmas
children’s classic story and cartoon.

It seems that even poor ol’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is not exempt from
the attacks of a rabid progressive liberal society that is riding chaotically on one
rail while careening rapidly out of control.

This quasi-news outlet offers a story, along with a video, explaining why Rudolph is
not the long thought moral tale that we have all loved and known since 1939.
Rather it is their opinion that this children’s classic is subversive and is totally
out of step with the current mindset of liberal’s everywhere.

I was 5 years old in 1964 when the animated version hit the airwaves.
It was an integral part of our family’s annual gearing up to the Christmas season.
Mother made certain we had had out baths and were dressed in our pjs while
Dad found the right channel on the television console as we settled in as
a family to watch this iconic Christmas classic.

However, the HuffPost is now telling us that Rudolph is not as we thought.
It is not a tale of overcoming a perceived handicap while rising above
life’s obstacles only to become the hero of the day,
but rather the HuffPost offers a twisted view of this classic children’s tale of
both innocence and Christmas…

They’ve twisted innocence and something for children into something sinister.

Then they add insult to injury…they provide the hate-filled and bizarre remarks
made by their readers.

Read the following words carefully.

“Among those observations was the suggestion that the TV classic was a story about racism
and homophobia, while calling Santa Claus abusive and bigoted.

“Yearly reminder that #Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a parable on racism and homophobia
w/Santa as a bigoted exploitative prick,” read one comment shared by HuffPost.
“Santa’s operation is an HR nightmare and in serious need of diversity and inclusion training.
#Rudolph,” read another.

The video also suggests it was problematic that Rudolph’s father verbally abused him by forcing
him to wear a fake nose to be accepted by others.

Some eagle-eyed social media critics also said the cartoon is sexist because Rudolph’s
mom was snubbed after she wanted to help reindeer husband Donner to search for their son
after he goes missing.
“No, this is man’s work,” Donner says.

But HuffPost’s effort to highlight the perceived bigotry of the beloved movie attracted
tens of thousands of negative comments, most of them mocking the video.

And if I were one who tweeted, or facebooked, or opted to read the HuffPost, then I would join
those thousands who offered negative commentaries.
I would stand on a rooftop and shout how this is nothing but a bunch of dribble.
Ridiculous idiocy and anyone who buys into it is so totally lost and oblivious to reality…
Because obviously there must not be enough really important news if they’re resorting to
writing about the ills of a classic children’s tale.

And dare I say I saw another lead-in story to the ills of Charlie Brown’s Christmas…
does this culture of ours, a culture that has lost its mind, not have enough lunacy
already on its plate before it sets into attacking Charlie Brown???

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/liberal-outlet-mocked-for-saying-classic-rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-is-sexist-and-bigoted

However, according to the History Channel—there is actually a “real” story behind Rudolph.
A story of real human perseverance.
A story of overcoming the depths of sorrow and difficulty while finding real hope.

Perhaps if the HuffPost had actually bothered to read the back story of Rudolph
and that of Rudolph’s original creator, Robert May, they may have opted to back off…
as Rudolph has always been a tale of hope…despite their now post Christian,
post Christmas spin.

Balsam wreaths and visions of sugarplums had barely faded in the first weeks of 1939,
but thoughts inside the Chicago headquarters of retail giant Montgomery Ward had
already turned to the next Christmas 11 months away.
The retailer had traditionally purchased and distributed coloring books to children
as a holiday promotion, but the advertising department decided it would be cheaper
and more effective instead to develop its own Christmas-themed book in-house.

The assignment fell to Robert May, a copywriter with a knack for turning a
limerick at the company’s holiday party. The adman, however,
had difficulty summoning up holiday cheer, and not just because of the date on the calendar.
Not only was the United States still trying to shake the decade-long Great Depression
while the rumblings of war grew once again Europe,
but May’s wife was suffering with cancer and the medical bills had thrown the family into debt.
Sure, he was pursuing his passion to write,
but churning out mail order catalog copy about men’s shirts instead of penning
the Great American Novel was not what he had envisioned himself doing at age 33
with a degree from Dartmouth College.

Given the assignment to develop an animal story,
May thought a reindeer was a natural for the leading role
(not to mention that his 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, loved the reindeers every time
she visited the zoo). As he peered out at the thick fog that had drifted off Lake Michigan,
May came up with the idea of a misfit reindeer ostracized because of his
luminescent nose who used his physical abnormality to guide Santa’s sleigh and save Christmas.
Seeking an alliterative name, May scribbled possibilities on a scrap of paper—
Rollo, Reginald, Rodney and Romeo were among the choices—before circling his favorite.
Rudolph.

As May worked on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” through the summer,
his wife’s health worsened. She passed away in July 1939.
Now a widower and a single father, May refused the offer of his boss to give the
assignment to someone else.
“I needed Rudolph now more than ever,” he later wrote.
Burying his grief, May finished the story in August.

The 89 rhyming couplets in “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” borrow from
Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” right from the story’s opening line:
“Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the hills /The reindeer were playing…
enjoying the spills.”
Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling”
also inspired the storyline as did May’s own childhood when he endured taunts from
schoolmates for being small and shy.
“Rudolph and I were something alike,” the copywriter told Guideposts magazine in January 1975.
“As a child, I’d always been the smallest in the class.
Frail, poorly coordinated,
I was never asked to join the school teams.”

Those familiar with only the 1964 animated television version of
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which remains the longest-running Christmas special
in television history a half-century after its debut on NBC,
might not recognize the original tale.
There is no Hermey the elf, no Abominable Snow Monster,
not even the Land of Misfit Toys.
While Rudolph was taunted for his glowing red nose and disinvited from reindeer games
in May’s story, he did not live at the North Pole and was asleep in his house
when Santa Claus, struggling mightily with the fog, arrived with presents and realized
how the reindeer’s radiant snout could help him complete his Christmas Eve rounds.

Montgomery Ward had high hopes for its new 32-page, illustrated booklet,
which would be given as a free gift to children visiting any of the department
store’s 620 locations.
“We believe that an exclusive story like this aggressively advertised in our newspaper
ads and circulars,” the advertising department stated in a September 1939 memo,
“can bring every store an incalculable amount of publicity…
and, far more important a tremendous amount of Christmas traffic.”

The retailer’s holiday advertisements touted “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
as “the rollicking new Christmas verse that’s sweeping the country!”
That wasn’t just hype.
Children snapped up nearly 2.4 million copies of the paper-bound book in 1939.
Plans to print another 1.6 million copies the following year were shelved
by paper shortages due to World War II, and Rudolph remained on hiatus until
the conflict’s conclusion.
When the reindeer story returned in 1946,
it was more popular than ever as Montgomery Ward handed out 3.6 million
copies of the book.

In the interim, May married a fellow Montgomery Ward employee and became
a father again, but he still struggled financially.
In 1947, the retailer’s board of directors, stirred either by the holiday
spirit or belief that the story lacked revenue-making potential,
signed the copyright for “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” over to May.
In short order, May licensed a commercial version of the book along with a full
range of Rudolph-themed merchandise including puzzles, View-Master reels,
snow globes, mugs and slippers with sheep wool lining and leather soles.

In 1949, songwriter Johnny Marks, who happened to be May’s brother-in-law,
set Rudolph’s story to music.
After Bing Crosby reportedly turned down the chance,
singing cowboy Gene Autry recorded the song, which sold 2 million copies
in the first year and remains one of the best-selling tunes of all time.

The song and merchandise sales made May financially comfortable, but hardly rich.
After leaving Montgomery Ward in 1951 to manage the Rudolph commercial empire,
May returned to his former employer seven years later.
He continued to work as a copywriter until his 1971 retirement.
By the time he died five years later, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
had become a piece of modern folklore and a metaphor for overcoming obstacles,
embracing differences and recognizing everyone’s unique potential.

May we, the rational and sane who still find the magic of Christmas that is so entwined
with the everlasting gift of Hope that was offered so long ago to all of mankind in a
simple stable in the tiny town of Bethlehem, continue to seek the truth rather
than the sensationalized mania that heavily blankets our current world.

Here’s the Rudolph and to all the joy he has inspired since 1939
and here is to the Christ Child who continues to offer Hope and Salvation
to such an ailing world….

the saint of the outcast…a martyr of charity

“Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who
seek to please Him.
His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures
as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations,
to tell Him of your miseries, fears, worries, of those who are dear to you,
of your projects, and of your hopes.
Do so with confidence and with an open heart.”

St. Damien of Molokai


(two images of the priest, now saint, Damien of Molokai—images both with and without leprosy)

Are you aware that one of the most dreaded diseases, a centuries-old disease,
that being leprosy, continues to affect people around the world to this day?

At least 150 people yearly, just in the United States alone, are still diagnosed
with Leprosy otherwise known as Hansen’s disease.

Did you know that there are actually 700 functioning leper’s colonies still in operation
in India alone?

Are you aware that there actually remains a leper’s colony in Hawaii?

Yes, on those beautiful tropical islands of Hawaii there is actually an active leper’s colony
which has existed for the past 145 years.

There was a time, much like with the plague, when those affected with leprosy were
forced to wear warning bells announcing their proximity to others…
Upon hearing the bell, all those within ears reach, knew to avoid the oncoming individual.

Leprosy, being highly contagious, eventually forced officials to isolate those afflicted—
hence the colonies of the lepers.
Yet thankfully today, caught early, Leprosy is treatable and is even curable.

Today’s quote is by a man who spent his entire adult life caring for those afflicted
individuals on the island of Molokai who were suffering from the ravages of this horrific
disease.
Not only did they suffer physically, knowing death would be slow, deforming and painful,
they also suffered from the social stigma that went along with living with leprosy…
that being a life of total isolation and expulsion from society.

Father Damien offered those who suffered a sense of belonging,
importance and unconditional love.

Looking past the fear, the deformity, the stigma…
Fr Damien offered the gift of humanity as well as dignity back to those who had been
looked upon as less than.

There is no greater pain to a human being than to be stripped of one’s humanness.
To be regarded as less than…even less than that of an animal.

Father Damien saw past the disease and saw human beings…who were hurting.
He brought back to these individuals the gift of hope…

After 11 years of caring for the colony, Father Damien also contracted the disease.
Yet despite his growing illness, Fr. Damien worked even harder on behalf of his
charges procuring recognition by the Hawaiian government to provide basic
services for the colony.

Father Damien died at the age of 49.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II and was later canonized by Pope Benedict 2009

He is honored to this day not only by the Catholic Church but also by the state of Hawaii
for his service to her people.

Father Damien reminds me a great deal of Mother Teresa…a woman who also spent a life
of caring for and tending to those with leprosy as well as other debilitating
and isolating disease.

These two saints took the example of Jesus literally by living and giving their lives
to the service of those in the deepest of need.

And so it only seems natural during this season of gifts and of giving that we recall those
who have given their all for the betterment of others…

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

Saint Damien de Veuster of Moloka’i’s Story

When Joseph de Veuster was born in Tremelo, Belgium, in 1840, few people in Europe had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease. By the time he died at the age of 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him. They knew that human compassion could soften the ravages of this disease.

Forced to quit school at age 13 to work on the family farm, Joseph entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary six years later, taking the name of a fourth-century physician and martyr. When his brother Pamphile, a priest in the same congregation, fell ill and was unable to go to the Hawaiian Islands as assigned, Damien quickly volunteered in his place. In May 1864, two months after arriving in his new mission, Damien was ordained a priest in Honolulu and assigned to the island of Hawaii.

In 1873, he went to the Hawaiian government’s leper colony on the island of Moloka’i, set up seven years earlier. Part of a team of four chaplains taking that assignment for three months each year, Damien soon volunteered to remain permanently, caring for the people’s physical, medical, and spiritual needs. In time, he became their most effective advocate to obtain promised government support.

Soon the settlement had new houses and a new church, school and orphanage. Morale improved considerably. A few years later, he succeeded in getting the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, led by Mother Marianne Cope, to help staff this colony in Kalaupapa.

Damien contracted Hansen’s disease and died of its complications. As requested, he was buried in Kalaupapa, but in 1936 the Belgian government succeeded in having his body moved to Belgium. Part of Damien’s body was returned to his beloved Hawaiian brothers and sisters after his beatification in 1995.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the US Capitol. Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.

Reflection

Some people thought Damien was a hero for going to Moloka’i and others thought he was crazy. When a Protestant clergyman wrote that Damien was guilty of immoral behavior, Robert Louis Stevenson vigorously defended him in an “Open Letter to Dr. Hyde.”
Franciscan Media.

Later in 1889 Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his family arrived in Hawaii
for an extended stay. He had tuberculosis, then also incurable,
and was seeking some relief.
Moved by Damien’s story, he became interested in the controversy about the priest
and went to Molokaʻi for eight days and seven nights.
Stevenson wanted to learn more about Damien at the place where he had worked.
He spoke with residents of varying religious backgrounds to learn more about Damien’s work.
Based on his conversations and observations,
he wrote an open letter to Hyde that addressed the minister’s criticisms
and had it printed at his own expense.
This became the most famous account of Damien,
featuring him in the role of a European aiding a benighted native people.
(Wikipedia)

the gift of the miraculous

“There are many going afar to marvel at the heights of mountains,
the mighty waves of the sea, the long courses of great rivers,
the vastness of the ocean, the movements of the stars, yet they leave themselves unnoticed!”

Saint Augustine


(The Mayor has discovered she can drive her limousine up under the kitchen table in order
to investigate what makes the table tick / Julie Cook / 2018)

I’ve been marveling recently.

Marveling at the development of a wee small person.
No surprise there I would imagine.

Yet this marveling of mine, however, goes beyond the mere grandmotherly marveling over the
leaps and strides made by a baby who appears to miraculously change and grow,
if not day by day, but more like minute by millisecond…

As each new moment brings a brand new advancement.

To roll,
to sit,
to pull,
to stand,
to eat,
to chew,
to taste,
to utter sounds,
to express likes and dislikes…
to demonstrate joy and anguish,
to recognize pain and self-satisfaction.

The discoveries made of both self and surroundings are each incredible to behold.

Quite amazing really.

I think back to the time when I was once a new parent myself.

I was so caught up in what that responsibility entailed…
coupled with my working outside of the home while just trying to get us all from one day
to the next, in one safe piece…
so much so that all of that overrode my ability to actually marvel.

Of course, there were glimpses and revelations that would leave me without words but life
would demand its way…leaving me running at such a frenetic pace that basking in the
minute by minute miracles was only afforded in increments of breaths.
Life called for a family to step up to the plate and I had to answer…
no luxury found for stopping to marvel…albeit fleetingly.

It is only now in my older age…an age that gives way to both collected knowledge and wisdom,
that I can thankfully step back from the moment while blessedly stopping to take it all in.

And I am left speechless.

What we take for granted, or rather what we merely assume as we are just too busy to
acknowledge anything else, is truly nothing less than spectacular.

And so no, I am not the first nor will I be the last grandparent to marvel over a grandchild…

And yes, there have been countless numbers of psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists,
doctors, and psychiatrists over the past millennium who have all closely
studied child development…

So this marveling of mine, as it were, is really nothing new nor even very special…

But…

This marveling, this wonderment, of which I speak is not found in the science of
human development…
It is not found in the measurements of statistics or in averages…
It is not found in numbers or sequential advancements…
But rather it is found in that which makes no sense…
found in that which is beyond comprehension.

Because what I am currently witnessing taking place, day by day, breath by breath,
within one small person, over the course of these past nine months, is nothing less than
miraculous.

So I suppose we could say that her first nine months were hidden from view…
yet were no less amazing.

The fact is that I have been given the opportunity of actually viewing the past nine months
a bit more up close and personal as those first nine months were watched not only by doctors
but moment by moment by the One who breathes life into all that is…

I suppose we could say she has actually lived both seen and unseen now for 18 months…
all of which have been cemented in my heart.

And so as the calendar prepares to give way to a new season, we find ourselves standing
before the door of the impending season of Advent.

A season that brings humankind together–
offering the heightened sense of anticipation as we prepare to both watch and wait…

Is it, therefore, a coincidence that as I watch and marvel over one growing baby,
God so chose the same miraculous gift of a baby?
A gift that has been freely given to anyone who is willing to receive it?

A baby who grew both seen and unseen…
A baby who was formed in the miraculous…
A baby whose family marveled, just as I marvel, over his milestones.

Explanations will always fall away when given the gift of the miraculous…

And Mary said,
“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

principles found in an oddly shaped black hat

Great ambition is the passion of a great character.
Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts.
All depends on the principles which direct th
em.
Napoleon Bonaparte


(one of only a handful of Napoleon’s hats that remains / Le Proccope Restrauant /
Julie Cook / Paris, France / 2018)

Well, after a week of here and there babysitting, I’ve finally, however painfully
and reluctantly, returned The Mayor back home to Atlanta.
She was returned home in one piece albeit with her nagging cold still intact.

And so slowly I am now literally picking up the pieces while working on regaining
my thinking brain.

So on Saturday our local news offered the latest breaking state news that has me more
than simply thinking…

But before I get to that story, let me offer up a tiny precursor…
a tiny tale that reminds me of this particular current news situation of ours.

The hat in the image above is but one of a handful of the remaining famous bicorne hats
worn by France’s most famous leader, Napoleon Bonaparte (Marie Antoinette aside).
The last known hat of only 19 that remain, went to auction earlier this year.
It was a hat that was supposedly recovered from the battlefield at Waterloo and
fetched a whopping $325,000 at auction.

History offers us the small tidbit that, whereas most military leaders of the day
wore their hats with points facing forward and back, Napoleon,
on the other hand, preferred wearing his hats sideways.
This allowed Napoleon to be readily identified when on the battlefield.
A rather bold stance given the fact that many military leaders preferred blending in so
as not to be easily “picked off” by the enemy…
because what’s an army without its leader?

But given Napoleon’s ego, it is no surprise that he would prefer to be noticed
rather than not.

And I must confess, I have always had an affinity for France’s most famous,
or perhaps more accurately, infamous little general…
And so since I’ve previously written about that attraction before it should come as no
surprise of the level of excitement I experienced when recently given the opportunity
of seeing one of his earliest bicorne hats up close and personal.

On our recent visit to Paris, we opted to enjoy an evening’s meal at Le Procope, Paris’
oldest consecutively operating restaurant.
Le Procope has been serving discerning pallets since 1686.
They also boast having one of the most synonymous items associated with one of Paris’
most well-known individuals.
One of Napoleon’s earliest bicorne hats.

The story goes that Napoleon would often frequent Le Procope.
But so did Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Rousseau, Robespierre, Marat,
and George Sand to name just a few
But the story goes that as a young soldier, Napoleon would come to eat and in typical
fashion, brood night after night…running up quite the tab.

As payment for his escalating bill, Napoleon paid with what he had…that being his hat.
He informed the proprietors that one day his hat would be world famous because he would,
in turn, become famous.
And obviously, the proprietor took him at his word and accepted the hat.

And so now the oldest restaurant in Paris boasts owning one of the earliest hats
worn by what many consider to be France’s greatest and most brilliant tacticians and
military leaders.

Well, that is how they feel now as we all know that France has had an up and down,
love-hate relationship with her dearest yet height challenged leader.

I say all of this because as an up and coming soldier, Napoleon was like any young
soldier, woefully strapped for cash.
Acknowledging that he needed to pay his debt, he did so by giving what he had, his hat…
coupled with the guarantee that the hat would indeed suffice as payment as it would
certainly, cover his expenses given that his future was on track for fame…

And so this not so modest offering has indeed become quite rare and somewhat priceless
while in the end, Napoleon’s guarantee had come to fruition and then some.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about life in ‘the middle’—
as in our nation’s recent proclivity for being pretty much split down the middle given
our voting persuasions.

There are no clear-cut winners anymore because it’s now a matter of an almost equal tug of war
with an opponent’s toe barely crossing the line when suddenly the other opponent, who’s still
pulling, is proclaimed the victor…

So with more near miss victors than ever before…
a wealth of those having won by only a toe’s length or the proverbial skin of the teeth,
the losing side has taken to the ugliness of temper tantrums.

The problem in all of this is the growing numbers of near-miss victors and their equally
determined tug of war partners unwilling to surrender—despite their toe having crossed
the line.

It just seems there are simply no real clear cut winners any more—no full out right bodies
that come flying over the line after being jerked over by the formidable foe—
rather it’s come down to a constant stream of photo finishes.

Take for instance the recent race for Governor here in Georgia.

The numbers told us that the Republican Brian Kemp won.
The numbers were simply not there for his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams.
Although the numbers were indeed close.

Brian Kemp is a what many consider to be a typical good ol’ boy, Southern politician
while Abrams is a single black woman who was poised to be the first black woman
to hold such a prestigious office here in the deep south…
putting her on the edge for making monumental history.

Lots of unspoken thoughts and opinions are now floating and flying around about both of
these tug of war opponents and their collective sides.

So in typical ‘in the middle’ mindset of this nation…Abrams whose toe was pulled slightly
over the line…obviously over the line…refused to let go of the rope despite
the arms raised of the victor Kemp.

Two weeks have now passed despite Kemp claiming the victory in the wee hours of the vote counting,
as Abrams has now dug in and refused to give up her end of the rope.

Mathematically it has been clear that it would be impossible for her to call for a re-count
let alone a runoff.

So finally yesterday, two weeks after the fact, Abrams emerges to make a statement.
She announces that Kemp will be governer but that she will not concede…
in fact, she will file a lawsuit over Georgia’s voting irregularities…
Irregularities for a state that proudly boasts that its voting practices have been on point
for the past oh so many years.

On the one hand, we have someone admitting their opponent has won the prize while they in turn
refuse to admit that they have lost.
A refusal to concede while skirting around the obvious.
A win and a loss…no tie.

No longer do we as a public witness any level of magnanimity between opponents.
There is no graciousness between opponents let alone between one party to another.
No sense of decorum.
No extending of the hand from the vanquished to the victor noting a race well run…

Rather there is refusal.
There is denial.
There are claims of foul play.
There is the stomping of the tantrum’s foot.

No more is there a “may the best man, or woman, win” mentality.

No longer are there lessons of fair play or the lessons of how to win or lose graciously
being offered for our youth.
No examples of taking the high road.
No living with the numbers…
Rather its a matter of refusing to acknowledge defeat.
No more selflessly throwing one’s support behind the victor in order to work together
for the betterment of “the people”…for the sake of both sides of voters.

This current sort of mentality and poor sportsmanship leaves me, a voter, resentful of the
tantrum makers.
It makes me angry.
I am discovering very quickly that I have no tolerance for obstructionists.
Those who are the stalematers, the momentum breakers, the saboteurs of our own successes.
Those who wish to stop the good of the entire nation for the good of themselves.

And so I think of Napoleon.

But not so much for reasons one would assume.

Yes, he was a man who was small in stature but huge in ego.
A man who even I admit hated the notion of losing.
His was a life of battle and conquest with the ultimate goal being his own rising to the top.

Not the most magnanimous of mindsets.

Humility was not a word ever used to describe Napoleon.
No self-deprecating in his corner of the world.

The question of his true motives and his real concern being either for France and her people or
simply for himself…well…only history can help us pick that apart…

And yet here in this tale of an obscure little black and oddly shaped hat,
we learn of a would be great man acknowledging his being in a bit of a tight spot.

We hear the acknowledgment that even those
with great expectations of self can still recognize and even own up to stumbling
while being, in the end, at somewhat of a loss.

In this case, the loss of enough cash to pay one’s bill.
Living fast, loose and large and not being able to afford to do so.
Just like so many in our society today.

And yet we know Napoleon did not run out on his debt…something he easily could have done.
Yet there was the matter of honor and of principles.
Honor and principles that many of us lack today while preferring to live loose and large…
We assume that someone else, such as the government, should come to the rescue
and excuse or even pay for such wanton living.

But here, an otherwise self-centered egotist owns up to owing…
and pays his bill with the only thing he really owns at the time, he pays with a hat.
A hat along with a promise…
All while a gracious proprietor, who at the time, probably rolled
his eyes as he’d heard his fair share of grandiose dreams from one dreamer too many,
in turn, graciously accepted this pitiful payment none the less.

A simple act of give and take.

As we learn that a truthful acknowledgment, albeit hard truths, actually give way to a glimpse
of humility.
And there must always remain humility if there is to be any sense of hope in our society.

So when even just a hair of that toe crosses the line, admitting we’ve been defeated is not only
the right thing to do, it is the only thing.

Fair and square losses…
losses with no amount of whining, fussing and cussing, challenging, foot stomping
or threats of lawsuits can turn a loss into a win…
and if it could, in the end, would the win by hook and crook be worth the cost of our
humanity?

I worry that our society has lost all hope for the glimmer of her principles, those being
foremost graciousness and humility.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but
each of you to the interests of the others.

Philippians 2:3-4

Scrutiny, reviews, restrictions… I get it… but…

We seek for truth in ourselves; in our neighbours, and in its essential nature.
We find it first in ourselves by severe self-scrutiny,
then in our neighbours by compassionate indulgence, and, finally,
in its essential nature by that direct vision which belongs to the pure in heart.

Saint Bernard


(ariel view of a portion of the American Cemetery in Normandy, image courtesy of the White House)

For years, long before it became chic or before it became social or before it launched its
commercials with its very own spokes-owl and long before it was pitted against a growing
plethora of similar agencies…I had been writing reviews on Trip Advisor…
way before travel sites were “a thing.”

I have relied on Trip Advisor and its review offerings for everything from restaurants
to hotels to worldwide attractions as well as to the vast array of travel services,
all of which they’ve freely provided…
for,
you guessed it,
for years.

I have been in the top 1% of all Atlanta area reviewers…once again, for years.

I am well aware that each review written and submitted is in turn reviewed by a
TripAdvisor team member before it is allowed to be published…
just as it should be.

Integrity and truth are the driving forces behind companies such as TripAdvisor
that supply the general public with much needed and honest information.

I’ve never had a problem…
that is until yesterday.

I had written a review yesterday regarding the tour group we had used for our D-Day visit
while in Normandy.

I had written the review regarding the guide we were assigned along with an overall
review of the group we had used for this most memorable tour.

I sang the praises of our guide.
I sang the praises of the tour service…and…
here is where I ran into a glitch,
I also included a personal observation…

I wrote why I thought it was important for every American to visit Normandy.
An improbable probability yes, but still something I felt to be very important.

I wrote in my review of how a self-absorbed younger generation…
a generation that seems bent on division, socialism, anthem protests, violence,
all-inclusiveness, etc…
why a history lesson ‘in the raw’…
one such as walking through the American Cemetery in Normandy, would and could be beneficial.

One youthful generation looking out over thousands of crosses and Stars of David of
the sacrifices made by a previous youthful generation.
The lessons from those who went before…
lessons long lost on today’s youthful progressive generation.

TripAdvisor sent me an email about a need for ‘action request’ regarding
my review.
They told me not to include other URLs…
Yes I confess that I did have a link to my D-Day post that I had written here at WP
as I thought it could offer further, and some more in-depth
information, for those who might be seeking more or who were curious about such a tour.

“Okay”, I thought…they’re telling me to cut and paste what I wrote, edit it,
then reload and resubmit.
Okay, I’ll cut out my link.
No biggie.
I get it.

Yet a bit of a problem arose when I figured out that they had only sent me a small portion
of what I had previously submitted. Actually only about 1/3 of what I’d written.
And I quickly discovered, much to my frustration,
that there was no way, not even by going into my history, was I to find the full body of text.

So as I cut out my link, I had to rewrite, as best as I could remember,
what I had previously written.

I cut, edited, rewrote and resubmitted.

10 minutes hadn’t passed before I received the same ‘action request’ email with an added note
that they did not want reviews to include “personal opinions on politics, ethics, religion,
or wider social issues.”

Is this about those so-called trigger alerts?

Okay, I thought…
I’ll try to rewrite it again…rewriting again because they hadn’t provided
the full body of text again…
so I’d be relying on my fading memory, one more time…

But as I thought about this, I said to heck with it!

I opted to write just a bit more in order to finish out the first thought..the portion of the
text body that they had sent back in the email before I proceeded with my new thoughts.

I then proceeded to write that TripAdvisor had asked me to keep my personal observations to myself.

I continued my review by asking how does one write about visiting such powerful places
as the beaches, the various locations, the churches, as well as those overwhelming cemeteries
of that fateful June day in 1944 and not offer thoughts that include “wider social issues?”

Normally I would have kept my review informative with a general sweeping overview…just like
all the hundreds of previous reviews I’ve written…
however, for this particular review, I chose not to do so.
I couldn’t do so.

I didn’t know how I could.

How could I be simple and concise given the sacrifices freely made by all those thousands
of individuals who died that fateful June day?
Those individuals who, unbeknownst to them at the time, died for both you and me?
Do they not deserve more than some simple, generic, sterile, and broad sweeping travel review?

Maybe it’s the impending Veteran’s Day remembrance.
Maybe it’s the craziness currently sweeping our Nation.

No matter what the reason…I just couldn’t keep it simple when talking about
what I saw and what I experienced there in Normandy.

Something very powerful happened that June day in 1944.
Something that greatly affected how each of us lives our lives to this day.
Keeping one’s personal opinion quiet when taking in the raw emotion while visiting
those beaches and those cemeteries is…well…an injustice really.
An injustice to each one of those crosses and stars.

So I suppose it’s all a matter of context…or maybe its a matter of perspective…

No matter what it is…there are just some things that deserve our full attention and our
full voice.

(images from the National Gaurd Memorial of Omaha Beach / Julie Cook / 2018)

We, too, born to freedom, and believing in freedom, are willing to fight to
maintain freedom. We, and all others who believe as deeply as we do,
would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

Franklin D. Roosevelt