Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving With Family

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been posting, and it certainly isn’t because there hasn’t been much to say. Last week was a pretty event filled week, and after a bit of travel in the first part of the week, I spent some wonderful time with family.

My aunt Rosemary was in the hospital after a pretty intense back surgery, but thankfully she was able to be released to go home in time for Thanksgiving. She is one of the strongest women I know, and the love that she and my Uncle Bill share makes storybook romance look pathetic. They have been by each other’s side in sickness and in health for over 50 years!

As the week moved forward, I was able to spend some extended time with my fiancĂ©e Jamie, along with the children of my best friend in the whole world, Willie. And then, on Wednesday evening, Willie, his wife Sue, and my nephew, Nick all arrived at Papa Williams’ Homestead in Parkersburg.

We were able to spend the morning of Thanksgiving together before Jamie had to leave to spend time with her family, and we made our way across the Little Kanawha River to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner with my sister, and her husband Ray.

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving with Family, but we were missing a couple of people in the mix. My brother Chuck, and his wife Susan were isolated in California, but I was thankfully able to see them a week before the holiday. Maybe next year they will come out to join the rest of us for at least a day together.

The photo above is an iphone photo of the LCD image from the back of my dad’s camera. It was the only way I could get a photo on my phone with me also in the image.

Hope you had a wonderful thanksgiving, and didn’t eat too much. If you did, it’s not too early to start a New Year’s Resolution toward a healthier diet and exercise!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day and Jake's Story

The End (Jake's Story) from Nuru International on Vimeo.

Today is Veteran's Day, it's a day when we honor those who have fought in the past, and we look toward a time when war will end. Veteran's day actually started as Armistice day and commemorates the end of fighting in World War I on November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m., known as the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

The video above tells the story of a veteran and long time friend named Jake Harriman. After experiences he had in southern Iraq while he served as a platoon commander in Force Recon, his life has taken a radically different direction. He saw a link between terrorism, insurgency and extreme poverty. Rather than telling his story in written words, I'll merely suggest you watch the link. Suffice it to say that Jake's experiences have led him into a daily battle to work toward the eradication of the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation, extreme poverty.

Here's an ugly truth. If we don't do something about the issue of extreme poverty that makes a sustainable difference, not only are we choosing to ignore our neighbor instead of love them, but we are setting ourselves up to reap consequences through providing breeding grounds for terrorist organizations. We really need to stand up and do something about this issue. Personally I believe that extreme poverty can be linked to several other issues in our world including trafficking and slavery. People need an opportunity for basic choices in life, and for many, there are no choices, and no hope.

And that's really the good news. We can actually do something about this issue. On this Veteran's day, will you join Nuru's efforts and get in the fight to end extreme poverty? What if we were able to say that our generation was the one that brought an end to extreme poverty?

I'll close this post with a quote from my friend that was featured on the ONE campaign's website last year.

There is hope for those without choices. We can end extreme poverty in our lifetimes, and in so doing, answer the cry of the desperate, give a voice to the voiceless, and provide choices to impoverished men and women who have been struggling for so long.

A revolution has begun…a revolution to wake up and mobilize a generation to end this fight once and for all. There is no room in this fight for egos, partisan politics, or ideological differences. One sixth of humanity cries out to us today – asking you and me to simply put our differences aside and use our talent, skills and resources to empower them with choices. This Veteran’s Day, I ask you to step forward and get in the fight with us. In so doing, you will ensure that thousands of brave veterans and countless global citizens have not sacrificed their lives in this war in vain. Join the revolution. Be hope. Be light. Be Nuru.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Speaking Words of Potential

I was six years old and in the first grade when Steve Swisher came to my school to speak.  He was the only major league baseball player I know of that came out of my home town of Parkersburg, WV until his son Nick Swisher got picked up by the Oakland A’s.  And now, Nick is playing for the Yankees, but I digress.

I don’t remember a lot about Steve Swisher’s visit except that he signed some people’s baseball cards (I didn’t have any), and he shared some motivational words that have stuck with me ever since. 

It’s kind of wild to think about the things that saturate a young person’s mind.  I can’t remember a lot of my gradeschool experiences, but I remember being in the McKinley Elementary School Cafeteria sitting on the speckled tile floor when Steve encouraged all of us to “Strive to be the best!”  I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant, but I knew from everything he shared, that it takes effort and hard work to be the best at anything, and that our number one competitor isn’t other people, but rather ourselves. 

You see, when we strive to be the best, we are striving to become the best version of ourselves that we could possibly be.  And it could just be that the best version of ourselves we could possibly be also happens to be the very best at a skill or a virtue anywhere. 

I don’t really know what prompted Steve Swisher’s visit to McKinley, but I know that his words had an impact on me.  I’ve never met him or his son face-to-face, but his simple phrase has been a source of encouragement in all that I do.  And his words are a reminder of the power of our words in the lives of others around us, both young and old.

When you speak, you can speak words of life or words that tear-down others.  What would happen if each of us chose to speak life-giving words to others, and we sought to inspire others to “Strive to be the best!”?  I have had an opportunity to speak in a few schools during my life in spite of my lack of playing major league (or even high school for that matter) baseball.  Many times when I think about these opportunities, my mind goes back to Steve Swisher, and I think of the possibilities in those classrooms.  I’m potentially speaking to the next MLK or Gandhi, and perhaps someone in the classroom will look back on my visit as a catalytic moment.

We all have these opportunities though.  If you have children, or if your life intersects with another person’s ANYWHERE, you and I can speak words of life that may be a source of strength and hope for others when times get difficult. 

As you go about your day today, be mindful of your opportunities to speak life and hope into the people who are around you. 

May your words be instruments of life and hope, and may they help others realize their potential.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Autumn Beauty

It's amazing that autumn seemed to wait for a bit this year. I woke up this morning, and saw what I believe is one of the first frosts of the fall. It's November, and the leaves are in full peak color here in West Virginia.

I've been on the road for a couple of weeks, and to be honest, I had felt that I would miss the emergence of fall color in the state of West Virginia. As I pulled into my driveway last Wednesday, I was greeted by all of the trees in my yard, and they were peaking in yellow and red. The trees along the highways were also looking as if set ablaze with intense yellows and reds glowing amid a sea of brown leaves.

While the sun may not be seen nearly as much in the coming months, I can't help but feel these fall colors are a gift from the Creator of the Universe. What a wonderful treasure! Where there was once bright green, a series of gold and crimson hues have emerged. Soon the forests of Appalachia will be filled with the evergreen and grey that tell us that it is deer season, and winter is fast approaching, but for now, there is color, and I am filled with gratitude that the leaves lingered for a little while longer this year and I could enjoy their beauty.

What's even more beautiful about this gift is that this masterpiece of artistry that is created before our eyes each and every year. It costs us nothing, but the moments that we take in the fullness of this wonderful treasure seem restorative to one's soul.

May you also take a moment of gratitude today for the wonderful and free art exhibit on display in the cathedral of the wilderness, and may it's momentary beauty bring healing and refreshment to your life.