Saturday, July 27, 2013

Life, Education, Motivation, and the smallest of good things...

Jean Purcell
Thinking about motivation

What drives us deserves careful attention, examining why we make certain things or people top priority, what gives satisfying purpose, reason, and connection to others. It's a cliche to say what is true, but how else to say it: Money and/or power cannot solve life's major problems; money, for example, is needed only to a certain level. Also, education does not make us smarter or wiser than others who are less educated; yet it does help us to learn how to think...or at least it used to do that. 

I recently learned that the schools in my small hometown in North Carolina were among the best anywhere. We went into old, unimpressive, and shiny-floored buildings to learn from old, worn textbooks. We had many teachers that were professionally dedicated, prepared, and morally nice, aware, and sharp...making a huge difference in our learning. Our families wanted us to be confident, not too flashy, and to finish what we started. With all of that good stuff, we learned to read, write, and do math better, faster, and earlier than the majority of U. S. public school students today.
The more I read facts, not fiction, about what is happening all around me, I am amazed at the brave and the horrible things that are going on at the same time in areas small and large, rich and poor. Less and less do I care to impress anyone, and more and more I care about being able to live with myself and be peaceable with others. 
These days I'm most attached to what someone wrote in a letter long ago. He said that people, together, should love those they know and not to forget to be kind to those they don't know. He expected it to happen as a central part of Christian community, which is believers together, not each one going forth unconnected and completely alone.      
May you notice the smallest of good things along your way today and tomorrow with others, wherever you may be.  

Copyright (c) 2013 Opinari Writers.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Helping Children in Dire Need

Jean Purcell
Remembering the Good Samaritan..."In reply, Jesus said, 'A man was going...'" 


I saw on today's news a powerful report about Syrian children displaced by war. They fled to Lebanon, where they exist in bare shelters as unwanted visitors—refugees. The news reporter said, “There is no light in their eyes, no smile on their faces.” 

How many years have we been hearing about Syria being torn apart by war? How many children have been awakened in the early night for a flight to safer Lebanon soil, hoping one day to return home? 

Neighboring Lebanon now speaks at times of a dislike for Syrians—adults and children—fleeing for their lives for shelter in Lebanon. Small, struggling Lebanon feels overwhelmed by the numbers needing refuge from a huge Syria. It seems that little more than geography connects the two mid-east countries. On a map, Syria takes up a lot of land and Lebanon, southwest, also borders Jordan, another refuge for war escapees.  

War thrusts survivors into life on an edge sharper than poverty and more deceptive than wealth. One Syrian girl of about 11, when asked by a reporter “What is life like here (the Lebanon camp where she lived)?,” answered, “Life?” Life seems to have disappeared into something else...exile and being unwanted. That is very different from life once safe at home, in her neighborhood, among friends.  

We hear such stories, and we want to do something. People that help children’s charities are able to carry hope and good news across their region and the world. Among groups rated by Charity Navigators*, you might consider these, to begin or to add to what you are already doing, from your heart:

*Charity Navigator has financial and management ratings and other information about hundreds of helping organizations

Copyright (c) 2013 Opinari Writers.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Intolerance

Jean Purcell

I admit that I have a streak of intolerance. I grew up in a household where cursing and hateful speech toward other people never happened. That rubbed off on me, and I am, whether silently or not, intolerant about profane and hateful speech, right and left. My parents, grandmother, and older brothers never commented on their ways of minding their own business. However, I suspect that their lack of anger or hatred came from quiet spiritual influences. Their kind of intolerance of wrongs affected how they lived.     

My parents lived for several years within a tough business environment where dishonesty sometimes reared its head, including through otherwise-trusted people. Mom and Dad, and my brothers, were intolerant of prejudice. They did not like words or actions against innocent people considered to be 'different.' 

For example, my dad employed people of different cultural, religious, and racial backgrounds, in the 1940s and '50s, in a small southern town. One summer, I heard at the dinner table that Dad had hired a young man with severe epilepsy. That was before improved medical treatments we know about today; epileptics had a lot of trouble getting or keeping jobs. 

The new employee had given assurances that his condition was under better control, and Dad hired him to be an announcer as a summer replacement at the radio station (which later, for a while, was an ABC affiliate). (WWGP has been sold and re-sold since Dad's time.) In those days, Dad's decision meant that an epileptic man would be "live, on air." Members of the staff learned what emergency action to take if a health emergency arose. Thankfully, no emergency ever happened.  

As I grew up, I took my parents' actions for granted; I thought everyone thought as they did. Eventually, I framed my intolerance in similar ways, after trying to think through what I observed as I moved out into the world more.  

That early influence in family surely affected how I see events and feel about them. I reserve others' and my own right to express opinions, beliefs, or views different from the PC or generally popular, without worry of being personally attacked. To debate points of view, however, is another thing, completely acceptable as part of communicating ideas. But over-hearing personal vitriol against peaceful individuals or groups stirs up my instincts to speak my mind. I believe that silence is not always golden; it can be dangerous. 

"A soft answer turns away wrath." That helps me. It says that a person may answer the anger of others; however, if they answer, they are wise to answer calmly. Think about it. That's the message that helps the most. Another saying: "Be sure your mind is loaded before you shoot off your mouth" is good advice!    
On a lighter-serious side, I have a highly personal intolerance for: sulfa drugs, full-strength aspirin, and rabid mosquitoes!
Just in: Try not to charge a mobile phone's battery for more than four hours. Charging for more hours, including overnight charges, can reduce battery-life. 

Finished reading: The Racketeer by John Grisham, now in Jean's Hand-picked Books. Copyright (c) 2013 Opinari Writers-Jean Purcell

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Claiming Tolerance

What does it mean to claim to be a tolerant person? What do tolerating or being intolerant require? 

Webster says that tolerance includes (1) the "capacity to endure pain or hardship" (synonymous with endurance, fortitude, stamina); (2) "sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own"; (3) "the act of allowing something" (toleration); (4) "the allowable deviation from a standard" (as in machinery tolerance). 

A familiar form of intolerance occurs when adults impatiently tell very young children:  "Your behavior is totally unacceptable!" For example, I saw a woman and young boy, a normal, not-yet-civilized, toddler. She expected him to grasp a complicated concept by telling him, "Your behavior is totally unacceptable." What would that phrase mean to a very young, toddling child other than gibberish that does not inform him as much as a gentle, firm "No" could do, I wonder.  

The kind of tolerance or intolerance most often seen happens during discussions of societal norms or changes, along with a form of self-congratulatory Intolerance, which can be slammed against one disagreeing with a prevailing or emerging view. 

Public, family, or social occasions increasingly give rise to ironic dramas of us against them in these matters. Many tolerant people, on the one hand, honestly do not realize how personally intolerant they sound unless they hear themselves, and a light dawns or a burst of realization occurs. 

All of us need a little help "to see ourselves as others see us," as Bobby Burns put it, and with a large sprinkling of tolerance...if so lucky.
Playing for Pizza by John Grisham (2012; fiction category) is new in Jean's Hand-Picked Books at No.1.
Copyright (c) 2013 Jean Purcell

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Fourth of July

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.  

Since the last July the Fourth holiday, hundreds if not thousands of new laws and declarations have appeared, along with new wars and rumors of wars.    

When Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, Independence Day, we glimpse again the story of that hot summer day in 1776 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, PA. We say of ourselves, "We remain a democracy" and "the strongest democracy on earth. ..."    

C. S. Lewis wrote in Screwtape Lettersin the epistle called "Screwtape Proposes a Toast," about Democracy and them--those who value the word Democracy, who due to that value could be among the most vulnerable for exploitation. They were, therefore, among Screwtape's list of intended converts to his devilish philosophy. He is teaching one of his new disciples to use the word Democracy to "lead them by the nose": 

"It will never occur to them that Democracy is properly the name 
of a political system, even a system of voting, and that 
this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what 
you are trying to sell them. ... You are to use the word 
purely as an incantation...for its selling power. 
... it is connected with the political ideal 
that men should be equally treated." 

Screwtape, a chief of hell's fictional angels in Lewis' work, further advised on the work of converting "them":  

"As a result you can use the word Democracy to sanction in his thought 
the most degrading...of all human feelings*. You can get him to practise, not only 
without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, 
conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, 
would be universally derided."

The feelings* that Lewis said that he meant were "... that which prompts a man to say I'm as good as you." 

You can read the full Screwtape Proposes a Toast in the Screwtape Letters excerpt "Lead Them by the Nose" in A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works reading for July 1. 

Copyright (c) 2013 Opinari Writers.