Spared by Courage

Kathleen

When my mom was teaching high school in Nashville in the 1970s a kid in one of her classes brought a gun to school. He was planning to shoot another student.

A girl in class told her what was going on and my mom, in her fierceness, walked right up to the boy and demanded the gun. He yielded and handed it to her.

Later she said that was the craziest thing she had ever done as teacher. She realized she could have been shot, but in that moment she did not hesitate or doubt what needed to happen.

I wonder where the girl who told, and those two boys are today. What became of them? What of their families?

How fortunate they were to be spared that day some forty years ago.

“Love’s Austere and Lonely Offices”

This evening, I’ve been reflecting on the last two lines of the poem “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden. The character in the poem is an adult looking back at the cold winter mornings of youth, recognizing the lack of gratitude shown towards the family patriarch in what the author calls a house of “chronic angers.” The poem concludes with the lines:

“What did I know, what did I know of Love’s austere and lonely offices?”

The line “Love’s austere and lonely offices” is so pathetically true. Love is simple in nature yet there is a tendency to make it something glamorous, something beyond its scope. Something it cannot and should not be. At times, love is austere; it is stern and unadorned. It is silent, hidden behind the scenes.

A friend edits the ending of every fairy tales she reads to her children, adding; “and they worked really hard on their marriage, and lived happily ever after.” She is opening their imaginations to the story between the pages. The real life story of the silent heroes we call mom and dad.

For a child, love’s lonely office includes not understanding why “no” and “not now” mean “I love you.”

For a married couple love’s “lonely offices” are they places they stand without regard to personal pleasure. Because of love, friends and extended family never come first. Because of love, time and resources are sacrificed for things that hold little interest. Because of love, both will fret over whether or not they have done the right thing.

It is love that allows them to disagree passionately without fear that an opinion held too strongly will break them apart. It is love that allows conflict and love that keeps all other opportunities for romantic interest out of sight and out of mind.

Love’s eye is not blind. It is selective. It weighs truth in the balance and understands that no collection of flaws and quirks are superior to the man, woman, or child they have chosen.

Certainly “love’s austere and lonely offices” are not the only offices held in marriage, but they are the sacrificial offices required to keep the flame of love’s temple alive.

Recreational Criticism and the Shelter of Anonymity

We live in an era of recreational criticism. For many, being critical of nearly everything and everyone has become an acceptable form of entertainment. This is nothing new for government officials and others in the public eye. They have long been targets of criticism. Rightly so, in many cases, yet the rush to find and magnify less developed or unrefined areas within organizations and individuals typically serves no purpose.

What is troubling is the tendency among critics to continue to criticize long after the events of their angst have passed without looking back, evaluating the current situation, and determining if their criticism is still valid. As if the critic reserves the right to dictate who can change and progress and who cannot.

Nowhere is this more prevalent than among those who post comments online anonymously. The temptation to throw rocks from behind the shelter of anonymity is intoxicating. The thrill and vanity of being a faceless voice in the public square keeps the critic from recognizing that the gift anonymity has become a cloak of hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy never looks back at its own shadow. It has no rearview mirrors. It expects but never offers apology. What power is there in an anonymous apology? The shelter of anonymity eliminates the need for the critic to account for anything.

In a day of increasing transparency, perhaps it’s time for the critic to reevaluate the point of aimless words and find a more constructive hobby.

There is no shame in admitting the present is not the past. Everyone has the right to change. Even the critic.

“As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”

Lonesome Road by Cory Voglesonger

Years ago as my grandparents were driving through the mountains of North Georgia, my grandfather at the wheel and my grandmother at his side, my grandfather made a series of wrong turns before he realized he was lost. After trying several different routes he was not only unable to determine where they were headed, but he was eventually unable to get back to where they had been.

After all attempts had been exhausted he turned and said, “We’re lost.” My grandmother replied, “I’m not lost.” “What do you mean you’re not lost?” he asked. She said, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost.”

The recognition that being together means never being lost is a profound truth. It was a characteristic of their marriage of over sixty years.  Location didn’t matter. Time didn’t matter. Being together, side by side, patient with each other, and knowing that those we travel with are far more important than when or how we reach our destination was what mattered.

After making a few course corrections they eventually found their way back to familiar roads. Throughout the rest of their lives together they continued to travel across the back roads of Georgia with their children, grandchildren, and other family members, occasionally getting turned around but never lost.  Their travels are a metaphor for their life together.

Are we truly lost when those who matter to us most are close by? My grandmother didn’t think so. Her nine little words, “As long as I’m with you I’m not lost”, speak volumes. They are also a reminder that kind words, spoken well, can last forever.

“The Official Sponsor of Birthdays”

morebirthdays_blogbadge3The American Cancer Society has branded its self, in part, as “The Official Sponsor of Birthdays.”  Here at the National Home Office in Atlanta, Georgia we’ve known this was coming since December 2008 and many of us have anxiously awaited this launch with sealed lips. A new website, morebirthdays.com, went live yesterday and a few new ads were uploaded to YouTube.


So what is all of this about? For some people birthdays are a struggle. I have a family member who has been celebrating her 39th birthday for at least 15 years. Despite the challenges of aging, as we morph into something far different than a twenty year old body, I hope we can all agree that birthdays are a good thing. A very good thing. A birthday means you’re here. This may appear trivial, it’s no revelation, and I’m not saying anything new. What is important to know is that there is an organization that exists to ensure that you and I and everyone else continue to live healthily lives year after year.


Our vision is a world free of cancer. I’ve never worked for an organization that is as focused and driven to fulfill its mission than the American Cancer Society. From the epidemiologist here in Atlanta to our National Cancer Information Center in Austin, Texas the commitment to help people stay well and get well, by finding cures and fighting back is at the heart of everything we do. The same can be said for the volunteers and employees I’ve worked with across the nation. Their commitment is tangible.


I have found no other organization with the resources, knowledge, and skill that can compare to the American Cancer Society in this field of work. As a fully entrenched social networker I’ve been please to see that the Society has kept up with the new media of a web 2.0 world.  We’ve integrated ourselves with Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Second Life and we will continue to reach out where ever people are to share our resources and our message of hope.


Our sister organization The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) in Washington, D.C. has been successful working with lawmakers to fight against Big Tobacco in the United States. It was no coincidence that in his February 24, 2009 address to Congress President Obama called for health care reform to include a “new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time” (April is National Cancer Control Month, by the way).


Nor is it a coincidence that a Bill was passed by the US House of Representatives granting the “Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the manufacturing, marketing and sale of tobacco products”. These things don’t happen without the voice and support of the people, and many organizations are coming together to ensure that our voice, your voice, is heard.


Living a life free of cancer is something for everyone to celebrate. Eleven million cancer survivors are celebrating birthdays because of our progress. Countless others have avoided cancer for the same reasons. As the old saying goes “knowledge is power.” Knowing how to get well and stay well is priceless.


So… Now that my lunch hour is coming to an end, it’s time for me to get back to work.

Facebook vs. MySpace and Breaking the Sex Barrier

In full discloser, I’m a Facebook fan. For me there is something a bit dark about MySpace, yet I have an account with both. Where do others stand in this battle between these two social networking giants?

According to Google Trends Facebook passed MySpace in the number of Google searches in the first quarter of 2008 and has continued to rise surpassing YouTube searches in the final weeks of 2008.

facebook_vs_myspace

So what is “the sex barrier” and how does it relate? The Sex barrier is represented by the green line in the second graft. If you have more people googling for your product than are googling the word “sex”, you’ve broken passed the sex barrier. Searches for the word “YouTube” passed the word “sex” in the first quarter of 2007, searches for “Facebook” passed it in the second quarter of 2008. MySpace has yet to break the barrier.

sexbarrier

The word Obama did it briefly in November 2008. More people world wide, according to Google, were looking up stories about Obama winning the U.S. Presidential election than were searching for sex related stories, products, etc. However searches for sex did not decrease as a result of the Obama searches. I’m not sure what this data indicates other than marketers have done an excellent job of selling sexuality online. This shouldn’t be a surprise.


The next barrier to pass is the word “free”. In Google searches the word “sex” is no where close to the word “free”. People want free stuff. However, in 2008 both YouTube and Facebook surpassed the magical word “free”.


Compared to these four words; free, YouTube, sex, and Facebook, searches for words like god, war, church, health, cancer, bush, give, and beer hardly register (Sadly, more people and googling for “beer” online than “peace”, but not by much).


So what does all this mean? Several things. First, since I’ve included the words sex and free in this post several times, I will probably get a number of online visits from people who won’t find what they are looking for. Second, using Google Trends is great for getting a ball park idea of search terms people are using. And third, I still like Facebook better than MySpace and I recommend it to everyone, unless you’re a musician. If you are a musician or a singer/songwriter use both. Searches for “MySpace” passed searches for “Music” in mid 2006 and it doesn’t look like it will to change anytime soon. For music, MySpace is on top.

Why we know less than ever about the world

I watched a brief yet revealing TED talk this morning by Public Radio International CEO, Alisa Miller, titled “Why we know less than ever about the world.” Sadly, American news media spends most of their resources focusing on myopic issues, like personal tragedies in the lives of pop stars, while ignoring the rest of the world. Watch this four minute and twenty nine second clip to see the statistics and hear Alisa Miller in her own words.


Note to news media: Next time you’re tempted to report on something relatively trivial, like an athlete turned actor running from police in his white Ford Bronco, chances are high that something of true importance, like the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, is happening at the same time. If you don’t tell us, how will we know?