Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

What happened to our “Hallmark” values?

Each Christmas season my wife and I look forward to days we spend watching one Hallmark movie after another; hopefully a snowy day with a fire in the fireplace.

We just finished watching Hallmark’s “Have a Little Faith,” which I taped earlier this week. As the first commercial began, I realized I was not fast-forwarding through it as I normally would. Instead, I wanted to watch the Hallmark commercial.

Why? Their commercials are as good as their movies and they still bring tears to my eyes. They remind me of our faith, our values, our traditions, of what we were, and of what we could again become.

Christmases past

December 26th my wife and I celebrate our 28th anniversary.  The year we married I was a single father with a three-year-old son, whom my wife later adopted.  And, this year is the first Christmas it will be just the two of us.  After cutting down our 28th Christmas tree, we reminisced about some special Christmases past.

Our son’s eighth Christmas was difficult.  He was having doubts about Santa Claus.  He was too young to lose that belief and he desperately wanted his friends to be wrong.

What do we see in our flag? – Fourth of July, 2009

A high school social studies teacher took a unique approach to teaching her classes the value of being an American.  She had all the student desks removed from her classroom. And, as each period’s class arrived, shocked there were no desks, she said to them, “I want you to have a desk, but before you can have one you have to tell me how you earned the right to sit at one of these desks.”  

The best man I ever new – Father’s Day 2009

When the call came that August day, I was working at Safeway, stocking grocery shelves to earn money for college.  My dad was dead; a heart attack.  The family anchor was gone.

Dad was 60, I was 19, and too young to lose my dad.  I was at the age when you know the least, convinced you know the most.  The age when you are pretty sure your dad is outdated, out of touch, and not too bright.  The age when you cannot fathom the possibility you might be wrong.

Sand and stone – NEW YEAR’S

There is a story about two merchants in ancient Persia, Mussah and Nagib.  They were traveling together in a caravan and one evening set up camp near a river’s edge.  Nagib accidentally fell into the river and Mussah, without hesitation, jumped in and saved his friend.  Nagib immediately had his servant carve on the face of a nearby stone, “Traveler, in this place did Mussah heroically save the life of his friend Nagib.” 

Finding your way home – CHRISTMAS

Several years ago, I wanted to find more trails for mountain biking near our cabin because they are scarce in Targhee National Forest.  I remembered seeing game trails while riding the few available trails and decided to ride game trails and also cross-country to connect trails, creating longer bike trails.  But doing this would require something I had not done before, riding cross-country from one trail to another. 

With my normal optimism and my ability to severely underestimate what I was about to undertake, I decided to do it.  I didn’t worry about getting lost because I had a good sense of direction and a newly purchased GPS mounted on my bike. 

We ask them to kill – VETERAN’S DAY

We ask our military to do the unspeakable, the unthinkable.  We ask them to kill fellow human beings.  We ask of them what we are unable to ask of ourselves. Moreover, we do not want to see or know what they do.  We are appalled when we see a television image of a marine killing an Iraqi who is “faking dead.”  We condemn that marine.  We must or else we feel we are condoning it.  It doesn’t matter that he did nothing wrong.  We saw it.  We saw him kill that man.  We are not supposed to see that happen.  How dare he make it real. 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident” – July 4th

The birth of a nation, the realization of a dream, an eloquently simple statement:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”  During June and July 1776, the Continental Congress was debating the future of the Colonies.  King George III continued his abuse of the Colonies with over a year of armed conflicts between the British army and the Colonists’ militias.  The King seemed deaf to the Colonies’ concerns. For the first time in history a people were considering creating a new nation with the people designing their own form of government.  This new government would get its power from the people, not vice versa.

Of elephants, prisons, and fathers – FATHER’S DAY

Several years ago, our pastor told a story about a men’s prison that provided free Mother’s Day cards to inmates who wanted to send cards to their moms. Nearly all the inmates asked for a card and sent to someone they identified as “mom.” It may have been their mom, someone else’s mom, their grandmother, etc. Even so, they sent it to a woman they saw as the woman who cared for them, raised them, stayed with them, and was there for them.
Mother’s Day was so successful, the prison administration decided to build on that success, offering free Father’s Day cards. They were shocked when hardly any inmates showed up to get a free card to send to their father. Sadly, this confirmed what statistics had shown – 90 percent of incarcerated men lacked a loving relationship with their father or someone they could identify as their father figure.
As our pastor pointed out, you need look no further than this story to understand the cause of many, if not most, of the ills in our society.
This story suggests how critically important fathers are in the family, how critically important they are to the health and growth of their children. Are we dads doing our job? No, we run away, we disappear, we leave single moms scattered all over the country. The reality – mom odes the best she can, alone. Moms are paying our dues as well as their own.
Isn’t it time we pay our own dues and do our job?
Now, how do elephants fit into a column about Father’s Day? It starts with the murdering of rhinoceroses in Africa. Interestingly, whoever was killing the rhinos was not killing them for their horns because the horns were still present when the carcasses were discovered. Equally confusing, there were no bullet holes in the rhinos. Instead, the rangers found several large wounds they could not identify. If poachers were not killing the rhinos, then who was? The loss of rhinos was becoming critical, with an average of one white rhino murdered each month in the Pilanesberg national Park in northern South Africa. The rangers learned the exact same thing was occurring in another African park, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Park. The rangers at both parks were baffled, unable to determine who was killing the rhinos and how they were killing them. In all, nearly 10 percent of their prized rhinoceros population was dead, a population they had brought back from near extinction.
It took some time to solve the murders. To everyone’s astonishment, the rangers discovered it was a gang of local juvenile delinquents murdering the rhinos. Moreover, they were doing it for sport, killing just for the fun of killing.
These juvenile delinquents hunted the rhinos and indiscriminately murdered them. But these juvenile delinquents were not humans. They were teenage bull elephants.
This problem had its origins in another South African park, Kruger National Park, which was dealing with the overpopulation of its elephant herd. Rather than culling the herd, killing the excess elephants, they decided to relocate young, orphaned elephants to other parks wanting to establish elephant herds. This seemed like a reasonable, even progressive idea. Moreover, it was rather uncomplicated to do because young elephants were reasonably easy to transport and relocate because of their smaller size.
These orphaned elephants suffered two major traumas, the first from the loss of their parents and the second with relocation to unfamiliar territory. These young bulls and cows grew up without “adult” supervision and, as they grew into their “teenage” years, the murdering of rhinos started.
What do you do? You have out of control teenagers with out of control hormones, murdering for sport. How do you rehabilitate an elephant? How do you place a teenage bull elephant in a juvenile detention center? How do we teach an animal values when we cannot even teach values to fellow human beings?
Following lengthy debates and deliberation, an older ranger proposed a unique, unproven, never tried idea. He suggested getting a truck large enough to haul a full-grown old bull elephant, something that up to that time had never been done. Not wanting to kill these young bull elephants, the parks reluctantly agreed to the experiment.
What happened when they transplanted the old bull in with the young bulls? The old bull immediately established a new hierarchy and from the day the old bull arrived, all rhino murdering stopped.
Dad was home. Dad was in charge. Dad would teach you how to behave. Dad would make sure you grew into a good adult.
We have a profound responsibility as fathers. We have a profound impact on the adults our children become. We have a solemn responsibility to our wives, the mother of our children, and to our children. They deserve our best. Remember the prison inmates and the elephants – bother are in need of dads.

Taps for the fallen brave – MEMORIAL DAY

Today we remember those who died in our nation’s service. Today we proudly display the American flag, a small flag in the living room window or a huge flag on a flagpole, the size is irrelevant. The flag is flown at half-staff until noon to honor the fallen brave, and then flown at full staff the remainder of the day. At 3:00 P.M. offer a moment of silence, remembering those who died for us. Memorial Day is the day we are not republicans or democrats, we are Americans, united honoring our war dead.

A thank-you to mom for all she did – MOTHER’S DAY

The Sunday is Mother’s Day.   I would like to remember my mom, the woman dad often referred to as ‘Mother,’ rather than by her name, Alice.  He used the term ‘Mother’ when he was referring to her with admiration and respect.    

Recalling my childhood, I can now appreciate how difficult those years were for us, but especially for mom and dad.  Dad was a school teacher and in later years a principal and superintendent of schools.  But the income was meager.  I read one of his teaching contracts from the 1940s; he was paid $600 a year.  They were raised during and lived through the Depression.  And like many others of their generation, they had known hunger and difficult times.  They watched pennies like they were $100 bills.  Everything mattered.  Everything counted.  Nothing was wasted. 

Perspective – NEW YEAR’S

We are facing another new year, the time to reflect on the past while anticipating the future.  This is the time of promises of changes we wish for the next year.  This is the time to remember the good and the bad of yesterday.  This is the time to remember the successes and failures of the past while maintaining optimism for the future.  How wonderful was yesterday?  How great may tomorrow be? 

Thoughts of a soldier’s father – VETERAN’S DAY

How do I write about the people willing to do what so many of us are not willing to do?  How do I write about heroes?  The ones “ready to pick up a rifle, ruck up and close with the enemy.”

How do I write about Veteran’s Day when I am terrified because I have a son who joined the Army at age 27 in the midst of a war?  A son who was determined to enter the Special Forces?  A son determined to do his part?  A son who joined the Army because he wants to help people?

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