Listen to Your Enemies

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If you hear them out, if you’re brave enough to really listen to their story, you can see that more often than not you might’ve made some of the same choices if you’d lived their life instead of yours.

 

~Amaryllis Fox~

 

When I was in fourth grade, I moved to a new school in Greece, New York. I never thought much about religious differences before that but quickly learned that Barnard School across the street from St. Charles School was a “Protestant school.” Eventually I learned that they taught not just Protestant students but a great variety of students with many backgrounds. Although I never heard it mentioned in the classroom, somehow it became common knowledge among us that its students were inferior to us Catholics. We would visit their playground only when their school was not in session. We also believed that Black people were inferior to us. There was little opportunity to test this belief since there were no Black students in our school, at Barnard School or anywhere in Greece as far as I knew.

 

After grammar school, I spent nine years in a Catholic seminary and monastery. Here I also had no experience with anyone of a different religion or race. There was also a complete lack of anyone of the female gender.

 

After leaving the seminary, I found myself at the University of Buffalo where I discovered a wonderful variety of people from all religions, races, ethnic backgrounds and sat next to a girl in my first university class. My college years gave me a chance to meet the world and its representative inhabitants.

 

One of my first dates was with a girl whose last name was Luther. I speculated that she might be Protestant but her beauty, charm and kindness left me with no concern at all about her religious background.

 

Now, many years later, I find myself in a country made great by its immigrants to whom we owe its survival and prosperity. Yet now many of us feel threatened by migrants who come to this country for the same reasons our ancestors did. I also feel surrounded by people who hate others with varying political beliefs, religions, race and sexual identity.

 

In trying to make sense of this state of affairs, I came to realize that the hatred I see is usually motivated by fear of others who seem different. They are seen as taking jobs or other benefits people want for themselves. Yet poor immigrants, no matter what their background, come here for a chance of survival for themselves and their families just as most of our ancestors did.

 

The same hatred extends to people with different ways of life. Why we should hate people who differ from us remains a mystery to me. Maybe some people feel they would be more comfortable if everyone around them was just like them. Yet progress never seems to arise from everyone thinking the same way. Different ideas create a challenge for all of us to find better ways to live. Yet we will never find out what others think or how they can contribute to our lives by fearing, hating and avoiding them. Maybe we need to put aside our fiercely held prejudices and learn to listen to others we have come to see as enemies. Maybe they want the same things we do and might have some good ideas about attaining them.

 

Action Steps 

 

  • Learn to understand your fear of others and of the unknown.
  • Read about others’ way of life.
  • Take the opportunity to listen to others’ life experiences.
  • Do this especially with those different from you.
  • Look for what you have in common.

 

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What Communities Can Do about Violence

What Communities Can Do about Violence

Revenge and retaliation always perpetuate the cycle of anger, fear and violence.
~Coretta Scott King~

What makes people violent? There are many contributors including poverty, discrimination, lack of respect and feeling insignificant in society. You can read more about these in my book, From Violence to Peace. I wrote recently about what individuals can do personally and what they can do in their relationships and families to reduce the likelihood of violence. Now it is time to consider what communities can do.

A community is a group of people living together in one place. Some communities can boast of people living harmoniously and agreeing on ways to keep it that way. In recent years, community spirit has been less evident and it is now fairly common to see locally the same divisiveness which pervades countries and relationships among countries. We will look at that next time.

Communities can make a difference in the quality of life for their residents. They can help see that all community members have their basic needs met: a safe and decent place to live, enough food for their families, acceptance as worthwhile human beings, and a way to feel competent and important. This is nice in theory, but does it happen in reality?

Many communities have started programs helping their less fortunate citizens meet their basic needs such as community dinners, food banks, clothing centers and free clinics. Rides are available to medical and other appointments. These are just a few examples of what some communities are doing. News programs have lately been making a point of celebrating community as well as individual efforts to make life better for their fellow citizens.

While these are great steps, much more could be done if everyone in a community decided to help everyone feel important in some way. Some contributions are not expensive and cost no money at all. How people greet each other (or don’t) makes both of them feel a little better or a little worse. You can help people feel more worthwhile by how you treat them. How would you feel if others in your community saw you as a lesser form of creature, a second class citizen or an embarrassment?

All of these are steps to creating a culture in which your neighbors can improve their standing in their own eyes and in the opinion of those with whom they rub elbows during the course of the day. People who start to feel better about themselves are also less inclined toward violence. Isn’t that worth the effort?

Action Steps

  • What can you do in your daily interactions to help improve the quality of life in your community?
  • Can you contribute some of your time, effort or money to help support a community program?
  • Can you help start a program for a need not being addressed?
  • Consider how you and your children might be more accepting to those whose lives differ from yours.
  • Think of ways you can help others feel more worthwhile.

 

 

Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life Available Again

Joe: Good morning Calliope

Calliope: Good morning Joe, What news?

Joe: I have been working hard on my book for teens which is nearing completion of this round of editing.

Calliope: Anything else.

Joe: How did you guess. I finally finished formatting Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life. Now all my books are available in paperback and e-book format on Amazon. Here is the info for Commonsense Wisdom:

Description of Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life 

Consider this! Whatever happens in our lives ripples out to affect everyone around us and sometimes people far away from us. We have an opportunity to touch the rest of the world on a daily basis. Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life offers reflection on the thoughts, actions and relationships we all experience on a daily basis. We seldom stop to consider what we think, do and share with others and how these affect our lives and the lives of those around us. This book gives you a chance to spend a little time thinking about where your life is going and whether you need to make any changes in the course your taking.

Topics include:

  •  Your personal perspective on life
  •  Agreements for Life
  • Social Relationships
  •  Family Relationships
  •  Commonsense spirituality
  •  Holiday reflections
  •  Approaching addictions
  •  Dealing with adversity
  •  Understanding Evil
  •  Personal reflections
  •  Suggested related readings

Sliding Otter News 1/28/2012

The Bessimer Process in Our Lives

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Campfire Pit

It’s not stress that kills us; it is our reaction to it

~Hans Selye ~

In case you were napping during fifth grade, The Bessimer process is a way of removing impurities from pig iron and turning it into steel. I remember needing headlights on our car to navigate through Lackawanna in the 1950’s. I also remember sulfur clouds rolling down the river towards Pittsburgh every Monday morning in the early 1960’s leaving their odor and thick layers of grit everywhere in their wake.

We don’t often think of stress as a good thing. Hans Selye studied stress at Johns Hopkins and McGill Universities. He also published a series of articles and books, notably The Stress of Life, a classic on the subject which brought stress to international attention. Selye noted the destructive effects of stress on our bodies and others elaborated on his findings.

Whole categories of drugs came into being to relieve us of stress. Yoga, meditation, exercise, dietary approaches, and psychological approaches all became part of our arsenal against experiencing stress. None of these approaches provide us with total immunity from stress. Natural disasters as well as the tragedies resulting from evil intentions compound our daily stress, affecting some of us more than others.

Stress does not upset just individuals. The Costa Concordia shipwreck sent ripples far from the coast of Tuscany. Speculation about the LeRoy girls’ neurological symptoms unsettled a community. Selye taught us that stress attacks the most vulnerable parts of our bodies. It also plays a role in heart disease, alcoholism, asthma and hypertension among other conditions. Our minds and our emotions also suffer from the effects of stress. Disappointment, dashed hopes and relationships on the rocks all unnerve us. .

But is stress all bad? Could stress do the same for our lives as the Bessimer process does for steel? Is there a way we can use it to strengthen ourselves? I think there is. I have met several people who have reached middle age with no major stressful events. They sailed along easily until life’s adversity finally caught up with them. They had no idea what to do about it and wallowed helplessly in its grasp.

Many of us have experienced varying degrees of stress throughout our lives. We learned how to deal with it and how to manage our lives better. When new stressful situations arise, learning from our past experiences quickly rebalances our lives.

Not all of us find easy ways to manage or overcome stress. Fortunately we all have people around us who have learned to cope with our particular challenges. Professionals in our communities also specialize in managing stress. If our own resources don’t resolve it for us, we can call on them for their help and wisdom.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Learn to trust your body, mind and emotions to tell you when you are under stress.
  • Find out what is causing your stress.
  • If you don’t have the necessary coping skills, ask others what they have tried or seek professional help.
  • Be patient with yourself.
  • Help others who might benefit from what you have learned.

Chats With Calliope: Sliding Otter News

Sliding Otter News

October 23, 2010

Volume 2, Issue 23

Breast Cancer’s Lessons for the Lives We Live

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience
in which you stop to look fear in the face.”

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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Five years ago I knew breast cancer only in the abstract. It hadn’t touched my life yet. I wondered how it was that so many women and a few men became hosts to a disease which started eating them up and, left untreated, could kill them. Had it always been this way? If not what has changed? I knew some cancer survivors and heard tales of a woman who died of breast cancer before I had a chance to meet her.

Then my beloved companion joined her mother and two sisters in the family struggle with breast cancer. The discovery immediately took over our relationship, first inviting panic and then survival strategies. Would she recover as did her older sister? Would she succumb to the disease as did her mother and younger sister? What was her prognosis? What should she do? What could I do?

Now, five years later, she has reached an important milestone in her recovery and survival. Each step in her treatment raised questions, challenges and fears. Eventually we tamed our concerns and made the necessary decisions. She endured treatment while I provided what support I could. Our life was different but we survived the ordeal and drew closer together in the process.

Recently I sat in a room full of several hundred breast cancer survivors, some of a few months and some of many years. They came together to raise money for breast cancer treatment and research. They dined and participated in a Chinese auction of gift baskets and a silent auction of bras elaborately decorated by craftswomen whose creations had been exhibited in a celebration of breast cancer awareness. Mostly they celebrated their courage and solidarity.

I wondered again about why people contract breast or any other sort of cancer. Mutated genes have been discovered to make breast cancer more likely. Clusters of cancer sufferers suggest environmental factors. Most likely is a combination of hereditary and environmental contributors.

Fortunately, research advances now make cancer a much less likely death sentence. Genetic testing helps make us aware of our risks. Research promises new, less primitive, treatments more in the near future. We also know more about how lifestyle such as nutrition, fitness and avoiding carcinogens can help keep us from cancer’s grasp.

In these days when we are divided politically, culturally and religiously, it is reassuring to know that we can come together to fight cancer. Think of the pink gloves NFL players wear this month. Perhaps the fight against cancer can serve as a model for better cooperation between people in other areas as well. Thank you Zonta, Pink Hatters, United Memorial Medical Center Healthy Living, Genesee County Senior Center and GO ART!

Life Lab Lessons

  • Learn what you can about what causes cancer.
  • Do what you can to protect yourself and those you love.
  • Watch for signs of cancer and don’t ignore them.
  • Support those you know with cancer.
  • Tell and show them you love them.