Saturday, January 27, 2018

Face Reality. Take a Stand. Make a Difference.

Lighting a Candle in Frauenkirsche, Munich, Germany
In Memory of My Father Who Fought in WWII
to Free the World of Nazi Tyranny

January 27, 2018
International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust

Indifference manifests itself in ignorance, silence and acceptance. Turning our backs to the injustices suffered by the marginalized, vulnerable, and victimized in our local communities and around the world is a weak and heartless admission that the status quo is just fine with us when it doesn't affect our lives directly -- at least not yet. And that's a very big "yet" because unchecked turmoil can arrive anytime at our doorsteps regardless of who we think we are.

Let's face reality. The other, the stranger, the not-of-my-kind are real people, not abstractions. Each has a story -- a personal story of a real life, filled the with the kinds of hopes and dreams most of us share in wanting to be accepted, and allowed to live in peace and pursue a purposeful life.

The challenge is to move us from uncaring indifference, or gratuitous caring with no commitment, to making a genuinely positive difference, large or small, however we are able. We must move from ignoring today's reality to facing it head-on by taking a stand, and turn ignorance into awareness and action.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel fought relentlessly against the force of indifference. It's dangerous. It's deadly. In his December 10, 1986, Nobel Prize acceptance speech Wiesel said,

"We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe." 

Let's face reality. Let's take a stand. Let's make a difference. Today and always.

A version of this post was published in CT Viewpoints on January 30, 2018.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Photograph by Don Shaw, Jr.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Faith is a Verb

Sign on Bike & Build trailer in the
First Congregational Church of Granby, CT parking lot

“To have faith in something is an inducement not to dormancy but to action. To me, faith is not just a noun but also a verb.” – President Jimmy Carter

I’ve had the good fortune and honor of meeting President Carter a few times including being invited to sit right beside him at lunch on a Habitat for Humanity work site in Haiti, as well as, to attend one of his Sunday school lessons at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. What has always impressed me is his true interest getting to know a person as an individual -- you, me, whomever he is with. As his friend Rev. Eloy Cruz taught him, people need “to love the person who happens to be in front of  [them] at any particular time.” That is, it's vital to deal in specifics (what we actually will commit to doing) in our relationships with the people around us -- those we know, those who are strangers, those we serve, those who serve us, those who need protection from injustice. It led Carter to a question he continues ask himself to this day, “What shall I do?” It’s a question we should ask ourselves always, individually and as a group.

President Jimmy Carter welcoming the congregation
before teaching his Sunday School lesson
at Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains, GA

To help keep me focused on President Carter’s question, I frequently listen to These Hands a song sung by one of my favorite singers Dave Gunning of Nova Scotia. It’s a song I’d like my church to sing. Here are excerpts from the lyrics by Dave Gunning and George Canyon:

Dave Gunning performing at the
Salmon Brook Music Series in Granby, CT

Some hands have held the world together
Some hands have fought in wars forever
Tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine
Some hands have blessed a million people
Some hands helped free the world from evil
Tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine 
The world could use a hero of the human kind
So tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine
Some hands can stop a life from dying
Some hands comfort a baby crying
So tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine 
The world could use a hero of the human kind
So tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine
I want to sing it from my heart, I want to hear it in the wind 'Til it blows around the world, and comes back again All that we can ask, is for ours to be free To use them when we want, for whatever the need
Some hands give voice to a nation
Some hands wrote "The Times They Are a-Changin'"
So tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine
The world could use a hero of the human kind
So tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine

To fulfill our individual and collective responsibility to build a better world, we must answer the question, What shall we do with these hands of ours? Faith is a verb for all of us.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Photos by Don Shaw, Jr.