Free Hugs

I’m sure there might be more to say about this one, but I guess today for what ever reason I found it pretty touching.

From the site:

How it all started:

I’d been living in London when my world turned upside down and I’d had to come home. By the time my plane landed back in Sydney, all I had left was a carry on bag full of clothes and a world of troubles. No one to welcome me back, no place to call home. I was a tourist in my hometown.

Standing there in the arrivals terminal, watching other passengers meeting their waiting friends and family, with open arms and smiling faces, hugging and laughing together, I wanted someone out there to be waiting for me. To be happy to see me. To smile at me. To hug me.

So I got some cardboard and a marker and made a sign. I found the busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and held that sign aloft, with the words “Free Hugs” on both sides.

And for 15 minutes, people just stared right through me. The first person who stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug. I got down on one knee, we put our arms around each other and when we parted, she was smiling.

Everyone has problems and for sure mine haven’t compared. But to see someone who was once frowning, smile even for a moment, is worth it every time.

It takes a village to raise a child

If you don’t know my friend Rachel, you probably should. You can read some her blog about her teaching adventures in Chicago, and might catch a glimpse of the heart and love she puts into the children that she serves. I was reading a recent entry of her’s and was touched by how much she cared for the kids she worked with, and wanted to pat her on the back with a nice little comment: “it’s so great the work that you do and that you have such a heart for those kiddos.” And then I realized I was slipping into the dangerous place of vicariously serving, and also missing the whole point of Rachel’s heart.
What I’m trying to say is that way to often in our society, and particularly in Christian churches, there is a tendency to sit back apathetically and do pretty much nothing, and not do much of anything to address the social injustices (actually doing more to contribute to them). And the worst thing is we don’t even feel guilty about it. Instead we watch a movie like Dangerous Minds, Lean on Me, or Coach Carter, and we shed a tear and say things about how wonderfully selfless those teachers are. We give front line teacher’s like Rachel and Nate pats on the back, and we do nothing to address the cries of injustice that pour out through their experience.

Rachel writes:

why has no one helped danisha before now? why has she not received counseling for the death of her brother, the death she witnessed? why has no one been listening to me about the letters she has written when she says she is ready to die? why has she been in our school for five years without anyone doing anything about the fact that she obviously exhibits signs of sexual abuse? why am i the first teacher to realize that she has a boyfriend who is in and out of jail, who beat her, and that this might be a problem? why was no one available to take her in the office an hour earlier when i had tried to prevent something like this fight from happening?

And that folk’s is where you come in, because of a lot of the answers are: The reason nothing was done is because nobody who can really do something about it (you and I) really bothered to. We’re too busy telling our friend’s to check out Gridiron Gang. We should be going to school board meetings, voting for election candidates that actually care about addressing our unjust school system, and demanding the discrimination, racism and oppression that exist in this country be changed.
I’m all for tutoring programs and summer programs for kids, but the churches need to stop putting mediocre bandaids on this injustice and start addressing it.

That’s my rant. Please help.

Nothing But Nets

(reposted from Mark Leon Goldberg at UNdispatch)

It’s not often that a story in Sports Illustrated can have a direct impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in sub-Saharan Africa. But with an 815 word column in April, writer Rick Reilly kicked off a grassroots campaign to do just that.

Reilly’s pitch was straightforward. Every thirty seconds, an African child dies from a malaria infection transmitted by a mosquito bite, making it the number-one killer of African children under five. So he implored his readers to send $10 donations to the United Nations Foundation to purchase mosquito nets to help protect families when most of the transmissions occur: at night when families are asleep.

The pitch was simple, and it worked. It really worked.

In a few short months, SI readers, little league teams, high school clubs and community groups began sending donations to the United Nations Foundation. Soon, some $1.2 million – much of it raised in $10 increments – had poured into UNF. As a result, some 120,000 insecticide treated bed nets were purchased.

The success of Reilly’s campaign was, quite literally, overwhelming. So to help organize the incipient movement, and collect and distribute the donations, the United Nations Foundation, in partnership with Sports Illustrated, the NBA, and the People of the United Methodist Church, established a non-profit to handle the donations and keep the momentum going. Nothing But Nets was born.

Here’s how it works: One net is durable enough to last as long as four years. The nets themselves cost about $7. A $10 donation covers the cost of the net, delivery, and installation. In some cases, parents and children may sleep under one net. Importantly, there are no overhead costs for Nothing But Nets – the United Nations Foundation pays for that.

The first nets were recently delivered in Nigeria. Reilly is traveling there to visit families and with staff from the World Health Organization and the Measles Initiative to check out how the nets are used.

In the meantime, you can click here to donate ten bucks.

Listen to the Podcast from your Cell Phone!

I know, I haven’t done a podcast in about a week, but I’m ready to start doing them more frequently. The plan is to do one daily podcast, somewhere between 1-5 minutes. Currently there are a great many way’s to get the podcast, which you can find on the Podcast page. I did want to share one exciting new way to catch up on the latest podcast: Call in!

Sitting bored at the bus stop, waiting room, work, rush hour traffic? Call +1 (818) 688-2764 and listen to the latest Thoughts on the Journey Podcast from me!

It works and sounds great, and hopefully it’ll be a worthwhile little tidbit to get you thinking and challenge you a little.

Let me know what you think of the new feature.

Oh, and really, there’s more blogging to come too.

Why I would have voted for Ford

Let me start by saying briefly that I did not vote for Ford or Corker in the Tennessee Senate race. I think the bi-partisan government is horrible for the people of this country and given the opportunity I’ve decided not to vote for Republicans or Democrats.

I don’t watch TV so I didn’t see much of the smear campaign that occured back and forth between Ford and Corker before the election. From what I’ve heard though, both the gentleman seem like pretty poor candidates. But if I had to choose between the two, I would have voted Ford. And here’s why: Because he is black.*

“But, what if he’s not as good of a candidate? Race shouldn’t matter anymore! Isn’t that reverse discrimination?”
Those are just some of the things you might be thinking in response, and you might be right (I haven’t totally settled my mind on this).
The reality is media, I’m beginning to realize, is ten times more powerful then our government and senators. The reality is that even if Ford wasn’t the best candidate, A hundred more young black youth will rise up behind him with aspirations to be a senator. One reason I believe there are so many great athelete’s of color, is that sports was one of the first places young children saw heroes that looked like them.
With Nancy Pelosi becoming the first female speaker of the house, thousands more young girls will grow up with aspirations to be politicians, and they’ll be darn good ones too.

If 2008 brings us a President that is not a white male, I think it will be one of the best steps in our history. And if they don’t do the best job in the whole world (can you do much worse?), so what? The impact it would have on the youth of this country would change our world. I truly believe that.

*Harold Ford, Jr. is actually mixed race, but for the purposes of this discussion, I’m going with the word that most people, including the youth that I am concerned about will describe him as: black.

Why Christian’s Should Vote NO on 1 Tuesday

How do we truly love our neighbor? If I may contextualize a bit: Jesus says do as the homosexual prostitute did when he, not judging or condemning, had compassion and cared for the needs of the church-goer who had been left for dead in the alley outside of the ministry she worked at, even after a fellow church member and a pastor drove by. (LUKE 10:30-37).
Some in our community feel that loving your neighbor is best done by voting yes on Amendment 1, I’m fearful of that action. We must be very clear that Amendment 1 is NOT a stand against homosexuality as sin, but a political statement concerning the rights of those already practicing homosexuality. It is already illegal for same-sex couples to marry in Tennessee, the amendment merely attempts to change the wording to directly prohibit. This is not a definitive statement, only a few thoughts.
Jesus’ public condemnations where almost always directed to the Religious authorities within the religious community that he was a part of. In the early church we see most rebuking and moral standards being dealt with within the church, not to non-Christians. Paul even says, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?” (I Cor. 5:12)
The Support for Amendment 1 is coming primarily from churches. The loudest statements being made by churches in Tennessee are a statement to oppress homosexuals (it’s not to “support family,” just ask a homosexual what they think). If this is passed it will define in many minds a view of Christianity and Church in direct relation to this issue. Literally using a secular governments physical force and laws to mandate religious views.
How did Jesus address the idea of using physical punishment to uphold morality? He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone.” (Jn. 8:7) We are not to use the law as a means to force adherence to our moral standards. You want to love your neighbor who is a homosexual? Go hang out with them, be with them. Work with One-in-Teen, sit at the bedside of someone dying of AIDs whose family has disowned him or her. That is where you can share Christ love.
Before we try and take the speck out of others eyes (and I think by “brothers” Jesus meant other believers), have we made sure there is not a plank in our own? I’m not sure exactly how we go about doing that but I have some ideas of statements that we could make to the greater community that would at least be a step in that direction.
I have two suggestions for possible proposals and resolutions that I think we can as a Christian body collectively pass and send to every major organization that is fighting for gay rights. First as it relates to the support of marriage. I think we can be humble and admit that Christians have not been a very good example of the sanctity of marriage. We can let the world know that we know that we too are sinners and fail to live up to God’s ideals. We can explain to others that God is and will forever be the one who has defined marriage, and no matter what we the church or the rest of the world does we cannot change that. And we can commit to being an example in years to come of what true marriage is, as a union before God.
The second statement I think we can make, relates to the homosexual people who this impacts. We, the church, have been a horrible example of Christ love to the homosexual community for years. Christ would have sat by the bedside of dying homosexuals in the height of AIDs in this country, yet we stood outside with signs saying they would burn in hell (or we passively stood by while those statements were made). We can beg forgiveness from the homosexual community for the hurt and hatred that has been dealt to them by members of the Christian community. We can commit to spending much more time personally showing and spreading the love of Christ in genuine ways to people who practice homosexuality.
If you believe it is best and most loving to vote Yes on Amendment 1, then I pray you are doing equally as much to assure the that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons know the love of Christ. I fear the repercussions of living in this state if the Marriage Amendment is passed. How will I remain in this community? How will I tell my homosexual friend that I chose to remain a part of a community that voted in a way that to her shows so much hate? Lord help me.

(edited from a previous writing)

Building homes in Nashville

Nashville Habitat for HumanityIt appears Habitat for Humanity in Nashville is right in the midst of a major building project. This week they are building ten homes in the Providence Park neighborhood, “the nation’s largest contiguous all-Habitat community.”

First of all, let me say that I think it is wonderful that these families are having homes provided for them. I think Habitat is doing some amazing things through out the country and for that they should be commended.
I’m also curious about the “all-Habitat community.” I wonder what sort of implications that type of development has. From my understanding Habitat primarily builds home for lower income families who wouldn’t otherwise be able to become home owners. That seems to translate into a low tax base for that community (i.e. a low income neighborhood). Once the Habitat spotlight leaves the neighborhood, will it be faced with all the extensive problems that typically face low income neighborhoods?
I really don’t mean this as a critique. Rather, I’m just curious about if those sorts of aspects have been thought about in regards to this project or others like it. In the past I’ve tried to research a little about gentrification, housing and location and I haven’t come up with many clear answers on any of it.

Tomorrow I’ll post about another Nashville area project that is going on and the troubling things it acknowledges about our geographic layout.