Friday, November 25, 2011

And so it begins...

Thanksgiving has officially passed in the USA, which means the Christmas season is upon us.  It's no secret that Christmas is not my favorite holiday.  That honor goes to Easter, which is 134 days away. I couldn't tell you how many days it is until Christmas, just that I have to endure Christmas before we can get to Easter.  Christmas is important.  Without Christmas, we couldn't have Easter.  I get it and I appreciate it.  But I struggle with Christmas.  To my knowledge it is a holiday fraught with more controversy and consumerism than any other holiday.
In North America, consumerism is a problem in general, but come Christmas Season things get even more out of hand.  The very thought of "Black Friday" gives me shivers.  I purposely stay away from all places of retail on the Friday following Thanksgiving.  I don't want to brave the crowds for a possible deal.  It's not worth it.  Nearly every year I read about people being injured or even killed in the melee.  Is it really worth it?
And then there is "Christmas Controversy" or perhaps it is better named the "Seasonal Controversy" even though that doesn't sound as nice (no alliteration).
What is the appropriate way to greet someone during this season between Thanksgiving and December 25?  It seems that no matter what you choose to say you run the risk of offending someone, even if that is not what you intended. I'm a Christian and I tend to say "Merry Christmas", because for me, this season is Christmas.  I have friends who are Jewish.  For them it is Hanukkah season.  I have friends who have no religious affiliation.  For them, it's simply the holiday season.  There are many other groups that have specific holidays this time of year, I just don't know them.  It's not that I don't care to know them, I just don't know them yet.  I'm forever learning and I'm okay with that.
If someone where to say "Happy Holidays" to me, I'd smile and reply either in kind or with "Merry Christmas".  I would take no offense and would hope that they would take no offense, for no offense would be intended.
What bothers me and even offends me at times is people who insist on only their view being accepted and refuse to accept others.  I speak both of people/groups who are in the "Merry Christmas" camp and of those who are in other various camps such as "Happy Holidays" and "Seasons Greetings" and "Happy Hanukkah" and everything else.  Both sides can be insistent and insistence on either side bothers me.  Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and their own way of celebrating the season as long as it does no harm to others (I'd hazard a guess that entitlement ends if it involves damage to another or to property of another).
It bothers me that people can live peaceable with one another throughout the year only to come to irreconcilable differences from the end of November until the end of December.
This post was spurred by a video sent to me by a well meaning family member.  I love him dearly and don't intent to speak poorly of him, but I could not agree with the message in the video. It was called "Say Merry Christmas".  The video is here  and it has lyrics on the video.  The basic message of the video is to avoid merchants who don't post "Merry Christmas" in their stores and who don't greet people with "Merry Christmas".  From their website (  they say "patronize only the stores that celebrate the true meaning of Christmas." The creators of the song complain about how the "Every Christmas, the media and PC police tell us, the Christian majority, what we can do and say to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. If you've had "enough" of this biased propaganda and believe in the true meaning of Christmas…now's your chance to fight back and bring Christ back into Christmas."
If that's how they feel, then fine, they may feel that way.  What bothered me most was their hypocrisy  They complain about being told how they can celebrate this season, and in their song they sing "Please don't tell me what to say or what music I can play", yet the entire song is telling people how they think this season should be celebrated. If the song was in first-person all the way through, it wouldn't bug me, but it's not. It's in a form whose name I can't remember right now that is more instructional or command like.
Sometimes I wish people like this would take their own advice. Live and let live.
Maybe I'm too passive, maybe I'm too pluralistic, but it's who I am. There are bigger battles to fight and better ways to go about them.
Just my opinion, which of course is naturally biased by me being me rather than a completely impartial third party.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Leave it Home!

A Toronto district school recently sent home a letter (and follow-up ) banning playground bars on the basis of a couple injuries and near injuries. Children were asked to leave their balls at home.  It made me think (one of my pastimes).  Playground balls are required to be left home because of injury they might cause or have caused.  But what else are children bringing to school that can cause injury.
Maybe these are things that ought to be banned:
Bullying - It hurts upfront and in the long term it can be very damaging.  Almost weekly we read reports of students who have been driven to suicide because of prolonged bullying.  As someone who has survived a fair bit of bullying, I can personally attest to this.
Homophobia - really, homophobia gets no one anywhere.  You don't have to agree with everyone and not everyone has to agree with you.  That's just the way things are. But you do have to be kind.
Peanut Butter and Nut Products - Mostly because these things are not allowed in most Ontario schools and because I understand life with nut allergies and how hard it can be to be in a lunch room surrounded by PB&J sandwiches and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
Racism - Racism is old fashioned, but it still run rampart in many places.  Leave it home and look beyond skin color.  You might be amazed at what you find.
Hate - do I really need to elaborate?
Pets - Although pets can be fun, the can also be really distracting at school.
Mean names - As many of these things are, mean names are a subdivision of bullying.  They have no place at school.
Bad attitudes - the bad attitude of one student can have a large impact on the whole learning environment.  Bad attitudes are contagious, just as good attitudes are.  Yeah, sometimes school sucks.  Sometimes we don't want to be there.  But for every student that doesn't want to be there, there are many more who do want to be there and can't be.

That's only a partial list, but it's what I have for now.  What do you think students should leave at home?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Don't Point!

I stood singing in church one morning, my hands moving as much as my mouth.  The church-provided FM system hung over my right ear, the wire snaking down to the box clipped to my pocket.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw the little blonde haired blue-eyed girl in the row behind me pointing at me.  I turned to smile at her and watched her ask her mommy why I had the funny thing on my ear. I watched her mommy pull her hand down from pointing and saw the words "don't point" as they came out of her mother's mouth.  The rest of the reply was lost as the mother and the child turned away and we moved into a time of prayer.
My heart wanted to yell at her or at least offer gentle advice, since I'm not exactly the yelling and screaming type of person.  I wanted to tell to let her daughter point, to let her daughter ask questions, to let her daughter ask *me* questions.
Some of you mind think that this sort of response encourages rudeness or impertinence and perhaps it does, but that's not how I see it.
The genuine, inquisitive, questions of a child who doesn't yet understand the world around her are not offensive.  Neither are the genuine inquisitive questions of an adult who does not understand the world around them.
What *is* offensive though is people who assume they know the answers without asking.  The people who don't asking can't really know.
If we hadn't been sitting in church and I had the opportunity to interact with the child, I would have taken my FM system off and handed it to her and let her listen.  I would have shown her my hearing aids and explained that my ears were broken and that hearing aids were like glasses for my ears.  I would have told her that I use my eyes to "hear". I would have asked her what her name was and then shown her How I would fingerspell it.  I would have answered her questions. And I would have answered the questions that her mom was too afraid to ask.
And I would have told her them that pointing was okay, as long as they weren't laughing as me when they pointed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I have a dream...

I have a dream.  The problem is, I'm not quite sure what it is or what it's going to look like.  That might not sound like much of a dream to you, but it is just as real and solid as any other dream.
Fredrick Buechner, a kind of important guy, once said "The place G-d calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet."  That's my dream.  To discover that place, the place of deep gladness and the world's deep hunger.

It seems easy, but it's not.   That place is hard to find.
I want to find the place, I want to know where it is.  That place, the place where my deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet, that place is the place where I will find peace.  If I could find that place on my own, I would do it in a heart beat.  I would talk to people who need talked to (school, family, the Man that I really am quite smitten with) and head to that place, the place where my call is.
But I can't.

A week or so ago a dear friend of mine shared a quote from a devotional with me.  It's about waiting and trusting G-d.  The whole devotional that she sent me was wonderful, but especially these last two paragraphs:

"Well, when you say that you're "waiting", that means you are accepting God's timing and the wisdom of it. You're confessing this: "I'm not fussing. I'm not fuming. I'm not fixing." You're not thinking in the back of your mind, "Oh, I could do a few things to get me out of this situation. I've got some insights. I could say some things. I could get some balls rolling. I could take hold of this if I had to.

Waiting means you're no longer relying on what you can figure out or even understand. It is deliberately relying on God through prayer and flat-out trust. "This is way beyond me, Lord. I'm leaving it in Your hands. I know I don't have to understand in order to trust You. I'm waiting on You for my salvation; You have to get me out of this narrow place." --James McDonald

That's where I am right now.  I'm in that place were there is nothing more I can do.  Except wait and trust, even though I don't understand.  Am I good at it?  No way!  I'm awful at waiting, I'm awful at trusting, but right now, I don't have a choice.  There is nothing more that I can do, and perhaps, that is right where G-d wants me right now.  I don't understand it, I don't even like it most days, but for now, I will trust.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A time to fight, a time to acquiesce?

***Keep in mind that I'm writing this post while on Benadryl and Prednisone in large amounts. Anything I write should be taken with a grain of salt and any glaring errors should be overlooked.***

There was a time when someone telling me that I couldn't do something served to raise my hackles and make me try even harder.  I remember one time when we were at the feed store picking up some rabbit feed.  We ordered our feed in the building and then took the car around to the loading dock.  I must have been about 12 or so. It was Mom, Ben and I there.  We pulled up along side the loading dock and Ben and I got out of the car to start loading the feed.  I reached for a bag of feed so that I could put it in the car.  As I did so, one of the mill workers told me that I couldn't do that because I was a girl.  I don't remember saying anything, Mom says fire burned in my eyes. I remember picking up that bag of feed and putting it in the back of the van.  I was so determined to do it.  The mill hand told me to come back when I was older and get a job.
It wasn't a big deal.  Loading a bag of feed isn't hard work or important work.  My intense desire to do so was largely caused by being told I couldn't because I was a girl.  Now, I don't mind letting the guys do the work, but they all know that I can.  And my brothers know that if they ever tell me I can't do something because I'm a girl, they'd better watch out.
But things are changing.  Maybe it's just because I'm tired of it all, maybe it's because I'm learning to accept my limits,  maybe it's something else, but now, someone telling me I can't simply hurts and makes me angry.  It no longer stirs me to try and prove a point.
I experienced this recently.  Someone outright telling me that I couldn't do something for a not great reason.  My initial response wasn't my normal, "oh yes I can!  just you wait and see", but just anger and pain.  And then maybe even a little bit of acceptance.  Not full acceptance, but some.

I could fight it.  I could do what it is that they said I couldn't because I know I can if I'm given the chance.  But I'd be doing it just to prove a point and it might not be worth it.  I wonder how many of the battles I have fought have been to prove a point, either to myself or to someone else. I wonder how things would change if I stopped fighting to prove a point, stopped trying to measure up and simply accepted that I don't have to prove my worth to anyone, myself included.