As Valentine’s Day approaches and I realize that I don’t have a suitable gift, I thought I would share one reason why I love this woman–Vickie–the embodiment of resilience.
Written to a class of students ten years ago who had a difficult time–they complained a lot about their assignments and driving 10 miles to class.
To a Professor of Cross-Cultural Studies every destination is a new course in cultural knowledge. Every encounter is an assessment of skills. A new relationship is an opportunity to learn from others. While the sum of our experiences shapes our present, it is the significant encounter, that can change our perspective. It has been a number of years ago, but the situation is still the same. My Kenyan associate and I were invited to teach in a mountain town near Mt. Meru. It was a five-hour drive from Nairobi, a city where I lived for quite a few years. We set out one morning and drove the 200 miles. Continue reading
[About the photo: I took this at the Mt. Pleasant Pier near Charleston. This bird didn’t sing, and didn’t need to sing either–what a view!. 2014]
The other day a friend came over and asked me to go into an apartment with her. Her neighbor had gone on a camping trip with a church group and left my friend to feed her two pet parakeets. My friend is afraid of the birds (and most living creatures) and she wanted me to do the feeding while she watched. It wasn’t a big deal really. The birds politely moved to the back of the birdcage while I lifted the door and placed the seeds in the front of the cage. “That was easy.” She sighed. The experience reminded me of story about my father, a somewhat eccentric person.
When I was in the first grade we lived in Illinois in a pastorium next to the church where he was pastor. He loved animals and took every opportunity to fill our yard with an array of dogs, the garage with Persian and Siamese cats, and in that year one of the bedrooms of the house with canaries. I am not sure where my 3 sisters slept, but I remember this bedroom lined with cage upon cage of pretty little yellow and other brightly colored birds. There was one problem–other than the obvious one of crowding his children into spaces so he could have the birds–the canaries wouldn’t sing. He specifically bought the canaries so he could have bird sounds around the house. What to do? Continue reading
[Note: This was published first in Xtreme Music: Exploring Music and Spirituality edited by Justin St. Vincent]
Music has the power to transcend the mundane. Through the musical experience, one enters into the presence of Otherness; a presence that unifies outside of the boundaries of self, race, class, and difference.
Several years ago, BuildaBridge, an arts-education and intervention organization I co-founded in 1997, was providing a summer concert series in a local homeless shelter in Philadelphia. We asked a local concert pianist to provide the music, and here I begin to show my bias. Not that he was a bad pianist. He wasn’t, but I learned that his concerts where mostly in nursing homes.
The shelter where he was performing is the largest in Philadelphia with nearly one hundred and fifty homeless children and their parents in residence. The location is depressing enough. The former mental hospital is in very poor repair with one wing closed because of broken floors and ceilings. Only the resident rats call it home. The once stately gates now provide a façade of safety in one of the toughest areas of the city, surrounded by vacant houses often home to equally menacing drug dealers and gunshots. Continue reading
A number of years ago I met a man from Bangladesh. I have traveled widely and consider myself a global citizen. Unfortunately, during an evening meal I kept referring to his country as Pakistan. I had been reading a novel by Salman Rushdie on the separation of India and Pakistan and had not yet created new geographic categories for that part of the world. Throughout the evening my ignorant, unmindful, and unaware reference became a barrier to our communication. His perception of Americans as ethnocentric and ‘ignorant was reinforced. Fortunately, he was kind, and I was able to learn a great deal from him. However, most of our conversation was a geography lesson–he the teacher and me the student. Continue reading
How to have a good conversation about ideas.
My youngest daughter Laura has never had a filter on her conversations. I am sure she got that from her father.
I remember well one day, when she was about 5 years old, a close friend of mine came by the house for a visit. He was a hawkish looking man with skinny legs, a large chest, and an equally long nose that hooked across his upper lip. His broad yet thin-lipped grin was welcome enough and gave evidence to a peace with himself. Yet, his deep black eyes closely set above his boney long nose always made me think he was out for a hunt. At times, he could tear into a topic with ferociousness. Our conversations were always filled with wisdom, truth-seeking, sarcasm, and laughter.
Laura sat on the couch next to him and observed my friend for about 10 minutes as we talked about the issues of the week. Her observation soon became a stare and then she blurted out,
“Why is your nose so long?” Continue reading
Look at this picture, below. This ancient house (in the background) in Bir Zeit [pronouce: beer zite] sits in disrepair, as do many of the houses in ancient Palestine. I took the picture on a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in 2008. Bir Zeit is very close to Bethlehem where Jesus of Nazareth was born. Notice that there are 3 floors. The third floor is enclosed on top. This is very much like the house Jesus of Nazareth was born in. Christmas is in celebration of this event.
If you remember the story, there was no place for Mary to have her baby and so she and Joseph (her husband) stopped at a local inn or house and asked for a place to stay for the night. As you can see this is not like the Holiday Inn you see on the Interstate. It was very basic with no running water, electricity or indoor toilets. I don’t even think they had a microwave. 🙂 Continue reading