Who could not love this woman! A Tribute.

Who could not love this woman! A Tribute.

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.

For the second time in our married life our house was destroyed by fire.   In this instance in 1987, we were driving across town in Nairobi and saw smoke bellowing in the distance.  “That’s our house Vickie.” I shared with her, before we were even close to home.  Apparently rats had made a meal of the tattered electrical wiring in the ceiling of the old house we called home in a rather nice suburb of the city. Cross two bare wires and you get sparks.  As we arrived, scores of police encircled the house–to keep looters at bay. Fire fighters poured water on the house with blazes still reaching above the tall avocado trees that usually shaded the house from the heat of noonday sun.
Okay, so Vickie wasn’t that “together” when we arrived.  And she would have rather me hold her instead of grabbing my camera to document the fire for insurance purposes.  But, within a few short hours, she was quickly going through the cooling house collecting anything salvageable.  Who knew tupperware could survive all that heat!  What is remarkable in this photo is the ever smiling face of Vickie who has the ability to laugh in the worst of circumstances.  Humor is one of the best attributes to combat trauma, crisis, stress, catastrophe, and just plain hard times.
We are all stronger because of laughter and Vickie is an example and encouragement of a loving and resilient woman.  If there is any quality I see in all of my children, it is this ability to laugh, look for the positive amidst the worst, and to keep moving on–they come by it honest.
So maybe we will go to a movie together on Valentine’s Day, and have a nice meal.

The Spirituality of Music

[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