Donald Trump Meets The Paper Bag Princess

Twenty years ago I was a Dad with two young daughters. I knew I couldn’t protect them from all the foibles of society. What was within my control was to be the best Dad I could be. To offer them a healthy male role model. I knew that they were fortunate to have a wonderful role model in their mother. The wild card was me.

I had the power to do good or do harm. I knew my daughters were growing up in a society that too often objectifies girls, defining how they should look. I knew too that society can place limits on the dreams of girls and boys.

My hope for our two daughters was that they would grow up to be strong, confident, adventurous, curious and compassionate women. We’ve encouraged our girls to dream big, trust their instincts and have a heart for those on the margins.

Have I always been successful? No. Am I sometimes inconsistent? Yes. But I keep on trying to be the best dad I can be.

I’m grateful that we’ve raised our two remarkable daughters in a supportive church and community. It truly takes a village.

So it’s troubling on many levels to see that the presumptive Republican nominee for President is a misogynist. Donald Trump has called his fellow candidate, Carly Fiorina ‘ugly’ and dismissed Fox newscaster Megyn Kelly with crude language. The New York Times recently published an article entitled, ‘Crossing the Line: Trump’s Private Conduct With Women’. Based on dozens of interviews the article offers a consistent pattern of objectifying and belittling women who stand up to him.

I don’t want Mr. Trump in the White House. I don’t want him around my daughters. There is already to much sexism, we don’t need it coming from our nations highest office.

When our girls were little, I went to the library looking for a story where the girl was the hero. The librarian introduced me to a book entitled ‘The Paper Bag Princess’. The book tells the story of a girl waiting to be rescued by her prince. After waiting a very long time, the princess decides to rescue herself. Along the way she fights dragons and eventually meets her prince. The prince however is hapless and in need of being rescued from dragons. The princess rescues the prince. Instead of saying ‘thank you’, the rescued prince, critiques the princess for having a torn dress and disheveled hair. To her credit, the princess calls him a ‘jerk’ and tells him to ‘take a hike’.

Paper Bag Princess

I read this book many times. Our daughters grew up believing that they too were strong, smart and adventurous. The lives they are living testify to this.

This election is personal. Not only for the sake of my daughters but for all girls and boys. Children are looking to us adults to show them what it means to be a healthy woman and man. Mr. Trump, you’ve met your match in The Paper Bag Princess.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When a Hero Dies

Dan Berrigan is dead at 94. A Jesuit priest and poet whose defiant protests helped to shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison. Along with his brother Philip (also a priest) a defining point was the public burning of Selective Service draft records in Catonsville, Md. Their action inspired protests, marches, sit ins, the public burning of draft records and other acts of civil disobedience across the nation.

photo of Dan Berrigan

In 1980 Daniel Berrigan was again arrested for taking part in the Plowshares raid on a General Electric missile plant in King of Prussian, Pa. Here Daniel and Philip and others rained hammer blows on missile warheads. They then poured a vile of their blood on the nosecones and waited to be arrested. In 2006 Daniel was again arrested for blocking the entrance to another nuclear missile facility. This is but a sample of their willingness to pay a price for their beliefs.

The Berrigan brothers actions were rooted in the Hebrew prophets and the teachings of Jesus. They took to heart the words of Isaiah:

“God shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’

The witness of the Berrigan brothers fueled debates around kitchen tables and in houses of worship. My politically conservative Dad argued with our pastor, Fred Buker about the Vietnam War. Fred was a veteran who had become a critic. The witness of the Berrigan’s angered my Dad and inspired our pastor. Such is the work of a prophet.

Dan and Philip Berrigan’s activism was rooted in the pages of Scripture as it was for Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and obscure figures like my childhood pastor. The words of Scripture, when taken to heart, have the ability to transform the hearer. To take us from selfishness to selflessness, from war mongering to peace, from fear to hope.

Some years ago I went to hear Daniel Berrigan, then in his 70’s. He said: “Tonight you are going to love what I have to say. And, you are going to be pissed off by what I have to say. The words however won’t be mine. You will be both inspired and angered by the words of Jesus and the prophets. You will be equally inspired and discomforted by the places these words can take you.”

photo of Dan Berigan as old man

Daniel Berrigan inspired and offended many within and beyond his Roman Catholic tradition. He inspired and at times pissed us off. Such is the work of a prophet.

Heroes come and go. The words of faith remain. Who among us will give voice to these ancient words? Who will take up the mantle of a prophet?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Closing the Family Home

The past few days my brother Ross and I have been closing up our childhood home in Rhode Island and preparing it for sale. The process began just before Christmas when our 92-year-old mother fell and spent time in a nursing home. Over the last 16 years since our Dad’s passing, Millie, our mother, has fallen and injured herself several times and defying expectations always returned to her home. This time it felt different. One just doesn’t bounce back as quickly at 92 (as compared to being a youngster of 85). Plus the record snowfall of 2015 had rattled her confidence in living alone.

Mom made the decision to move to Florida where my brother is. As she said: “It’s time and it’s warmer there.” In February Millie moved and celebrated her 93rd birthday. She’s begun to make friends and recently gave my brother and me the go ahead to put the house up for sale.

photo of childhood home

Closing up a home brings up memories. As Ross and I put down 20 yards of mulch (for curb appeal) we reflected on our childhood. We are still somewhat amazed at how much freedom we had. The only rule we recall during the summer of our boyhood was that once breakfast was over, we were expected to return for supper at 5 p.m. (Lunch was at a friends or we took with us). This seemed to be the norm for other kids too. In between we played sandlot games, wandered in the nearby woods and wetlands (which we called Smokey Bear Land). During the winter we’d walk two miles to play hockey on a pond (in the middle of an old pig farm). I don’t recall ever having a parent with us. For kids this was great, it was a time of adventure and exploration.

But at the end of the day we always returned home. Supper was always waiting and our Mom and Dad were there, listening to our stories and adventures. Lots of good memories surround that home and neighborhood. Difficult and painful memories too that linger on. All these memories, happy and painful are part of me, of my family and the house that we are putting up for sale.

Over the past few days neighbors have stopped by. Ginny (pictured with me on the left and Ross on the right) with whom we grew up, helped us by power washing the deck. Ginny with her husband Mike moved back to her childhood home and have been great neighbors.

photo of neighbors

Our cousin Tom stopped by to lend a hand and take a few of our Dad’s tools (which would please him). Sue, Paul and Sammy from down the street, stopped by to wish our family well. Millie remained in her home for so many years after our Dad, Norman’s death, because of good neighbors and family who helped Millie know she wasn’t alone.

In 1948 Norman and Millie built this house with their own hands, raised a family and became part of the community. Now it’s time to say good-bye.

May whoever buys this house make it their home. May they too create memories that will last a lifetime.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Richard Nixon, Where Have You Gone?

Richard Nixon on Clean air

In this weird political season we have Republican presidential candidates arguing that Climate Change doesn’t exist. They seek to roll back environmental regulations put in place over nearly 50 years. It hasn’t always been this way. In fact it was a Republican, Richard Nixon, who championed the Clean Air Act in 1970 and pumped billions into a nationwide clean water program. Such vision led to a dramatic reduction in air and water pollution in our country.

Politics isn’t stationary and is constantly evolving or (devolving). In a convoluted way it offers a measure of hope that the reactionary, head in the sand mentality of many Republican leaders, may one day turn around. Perhaps a thumping over a few election cycles will get their attention. Let us remember that conservative values include conserving the health of the environment for generations to come.

This past week I paddled with my cousin Tom on the Blackstone River.

photo Tom and Kent

The river’s headwaters are in Worcester, MA and flows 48 miles to Providence, R.I. Its watershed drains 540 square miles. The Blackstone powered the industrial revolution and on its banks the first cotton mill was built in the 1770’s. Over the next 200 years thousands of factories poured millions of tons of toxins into it. The river was seen as a sewer flushing toxins and killing everything in its wake. As recently as 1990 it was considered the most polluted river in the USA related to toxins in the silt.

Fast forward nearly 50 years since Richard Nixon’s landmark legislation and you have what was an essentially dead river come back to life. The Blackstone is now home to 39 species of fish and soon slated to be safe to swim in. Along its banks is the Blackstone River National Heritage Corridor (championed by another Republican, Senator John Chaffee). Thousands now bike, jog, picnic, fish and canoe along this once hard used river. Paddling with Tom up the Blackstone I thought of how resilient a river is when people of good will come together for the common good.

President Nixon’s presidency obviously had its dark side (secret war in Cambodia, Watergate etc. ). Yet, in this political season, I want to offer a belated thank you to Richard Nixon for his vision for the sake of the earth. The air we breathe and the water we drink and paddle on, is so much better because he recognized that ‘clean air, water, open spaces is our birthright’. Politicians of all persuasions, take note.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Breaking Bread

A common denominator for the human condition is eating. Everybody has to eat and the act of breaking bread creates space for relationships to be formed. Some recent memorable meals include: Enjoying home-made potato soup with neighbors of the church I serve. Three times each week volunteers provide simple, delicious food for neighbors with tight budgets or living on the streets. I’ve gotten to know neighbors by name and those new friendships go beyond the dinner table. We bemoan another slow start by the Red Sox and sometimes go deeper by sharing our struggles. While the circumstances of life may differ we find that we have so much in common.

photo of shared meal

This past week I enjoyed gayo pinto and fried plantain in Nicaragua. I serve on the board of an organization called AMOS which empowers rural communities to improve their health care practices. Board meetings by definition are intensive and include looking at important but mundane topics like budgets and personnel policies. It is over a lunch that we renew, refuel and build relationships so essential for a healthy functioning organization.

This Friday my wife and I are invited to a table for Passover. Alison is a rabbi and our friend. Her husband Chuck is an amazing chef. Their son Leo is a wonderfully creative little boy. Rabbi Alison and family will host an eclectic group of 21 in their home. Over the Seder Meal we will tell the ancient story of Israel’s journey from slavery to freedom. In the breaking of the bread we remember our shared need and the opportunity it provides for the common good.

In my Christian tradition the Eucharist is a ritual for communing with God and with each other. When we ‘break bread’ together we remember who we are as we remember ‘the One and the ones’ to whom we each belong.

Breaking bread reminds us that too often people are excluded intentionally or unintentionally from the table by prejudice. Prejudice means we ‘pre-judge’ others without getting to know their story, learn their name and let them know who we are. Some in our political climate seek to build walls of fear and intolerance. They would have us judge and fear those we don’t know.

phot of table

The antidote to fear and prejudice is simple. All we need do is invite those we don’t yet know, to sit at our table or to look for an unfamiliar table and draw up a chair. It’s amazing what happens when we choose to break bread with others.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Public Health as a Human Right

We live in a world with a profound discrepancy between those with enough and those with little. AMOS is a faith based public health ministry that believes that access to good health care is a fundamental human right. We serve in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. AMOS has a dual meaning, it means A Ministry of Sharing and refers to Amos the Biblical prophet who said:

‘Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.’

AMOS serves in 22 rural communities and one urban clinic. Collectively we walk alongside 11,069 individuals. AMOS uses a community empowering model where each community commits to electing a health committee and a health promoter. They work with their local community to ensure basic health care and sanitation practices. The health promoter is trained in basic care of wounds and illnesses and with the health committee walk alongside community members to teach disease prevention and promote overall health. During the week they dispense a pharmacy in a clinic and make house calls, providing prenatal care and follow-up care.

AMOS photo

Health Committees and Promoters assist people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, anemia. Anemic children if left untreated after age two can result in permanent damage to the brain. By screening and treating children for anemia we ensure that each child can grow to their full potential.

Since 2010 1,121 water filters have been installed in 19 communities. As a result the dysentery rate has dropped dramatically resulting in fewer childhood deaths and healthier children spending more time in school.

AMOS simply provides a community based health model, training and ongoing support. This model empowers communities to work collaboratively for the common good. AMOS also looks for ways to collaborate with the Nicaraguan government and NGO’s to maximize efforts to improve health care.

I recently attended a board meeting and learned of efforts to respond to the Zika virus. Soon the rainy season will come and the mosquitoes will spread with the disease. AMOS is working with community leaders to educate people about this complex and devastating disease.

The needs are great and sometimes the challenges seem overwhelming. AMOS knows that heath and hope are found when ordinary people like us work together for the common good. If you’d like to know more about AMOS go to http://www.amoshealth.org If you’d like to donate online: amoshealth.org/donate

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ernie and the Babe

Sometimes a treasure is found in the most unexpected places. Last week my wife and I were exploring Cooperstown, NY the home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. We stopped by a used book bookstore which was a rabbits warren of packed shelves and heaps of books on the floor. It was a place seemingly without order, which was also part of its charm. You had the sense that hiding within each pile was a gift waiting to be found.

Being a bookstore in Cooperstown there were lots of books and memorabilia related to baseball. Over one bookshelf was a dusty photograph depicting two baseball players seated by a dugout. One was instantly recognizable, the great Babe Ruth. The other was unfamiliar. Both were young, wearing the uniform of my Red Sox. Clearly this was early in Babe’s career before being sold to the Evil Empire (the Yankees). Who was the other guy sitting beside Babe?

Babe and Ernie

The owner of the shop didn’t know. I took a photo with my phone and texted it to my buddy Bruce. Bruce knows more about baseball than I will ever know. He has kept a scorecard for the thousands of games he has attended over the course of his lifetime. He’s also a walking baseball encyclopedia. Within minutes Bruce texted me back, providing the answer to our mystery man: Ernie Shore.

Later a web search of Ernie Shore provided lots of stats on the pitchers life. I learned he had grown up and played ball in the Carolina’s, been recruited by Baltimore and traded with Babe to the Sox. One headline caught my attention:

Ernie Shore’s ‘Perfect’ Game and Babe Ruth’s Ejection in 1917

The Boston Globe covered this game with as much attention to the fracas that got Babe Ruth ejected after walking the first batter as to Ernie Shore’s feat of retiring the 26 batters he faced in relief, which, with the first batter being thrown out stealing, made 27 straight outs, if not quite an absolute perfect game. It happened at Fenway Park on June 23, 1917, in the first game of a doubleheader vs. the Washington Senators. Here’s part of the Globe’s account:

FAME FOR SHORE, SOX IN TWIN WIN
No-Hit, No-Run and No-Man-to-First Performance
Modest Ernie Shore took a place in the Hall of Fame as a no-hit, no-run, no man-reached-first base pitcher in the curtain-raiser of the twin bill with the Griffmen at Fenway Park yesterday. It was the best pitching seen in this city since 1904 when Cy Young put over a similar feat, the only difference being that Uncle Cyrus pitched to every batter, while the Carolina professor did not get into the exercises until after Ruth, who had walked Morgan, the first batter, had been removed from the pastime for striking Umpire Brick Owns. . .

The rest of the article had to do with Babe punching the ump for not calling a strike. Babe being tossed opened the door for the ‘modest Ernie Shore’ to enter the game and make history. Now this photo of Ernie and the Babe hangs by my desk. In the photo Babe seems to be looking away. But Ernie seems to be looking directly at me. Sizing me up. I wonder if he had that same look on June 23, 1917 when he pitched a perfect game, knocking back 27 batters in a row.

Sometimes you find a treasure in the most unexpected places.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments