Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

30 July, 2010

HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND!

There's more to life than the Internet guys!  Turn off your computer and enjoy the Simcoe Holiday weekend with family and friends.  That's what I'm going to do.  See you next week sometime! 

28 July, 2010

ALL JEFF PRESTON NEEDED WAS A CHANCE TO GO TO SCHOOL LIKE THE OTHER KIDS

In a previous post this week I elaborated on the merits of special needs education in our school systems and it is a perfect segue to a story about a young man from Port Elgin that I greatly admire.

Photo:  Jeff addressing a town council meeting during London to Ottawa "Mobilize March" last year.

Jeff Preston was diagnosed with Congenital Muscular Dystrophy when he was only three months old.  Were it not for a remarkable set of parents, a supportive community and a school system that accepted the little fellow in a wheelchair, the world would be missing out today on a productive citizen with a brilliant mind and boundless energy.

 "While my parents acknowledged there would be challenges, they truly believed life with a disability did not have to be a life of no ability," Jeff recently stated.  "They raised me to be a fighter!"

  Throughout his still short life Jeff has advocated for the needs of himself and others with disabilities hoping to live an independent and barrier-free life.  In doing so he has overcome his physical limitations and established himself as an effective spokesman and role model.

 Some 20 years ago all his parents, Gail and Dave, ever asked was for Jeff to be given a chance to be immersed in a regular school environment where he could learn and develop along with all the other kids.  And learn and develop he did.


 Jeff proved to be a good student who always tried just a little harder.  His determination and enthusiasm was catching and he proved to be popular with  classmates and teachers alike.  He so impressed the local Rotary Club that an annual golf tournament was organized in his honour with proceeds going to medical research at the University of Western Ontario.  Now in its 15th year, the Jeff Preston Celebrity Golf Tournament has raised in excess of one million dollars.  The event regularly attracts celebrities from the world of sports, business and politics.

 Small and frail in stature but blessed with a booming voice to match his outgoing personality, Jeff was active in many school and community activities and a popular public speaker.  His chief of police father once laughingly told me that he was no longer known in town as "Chief Preston", instead he was commonly referred to as "Jeff Preston's dad".

 And high school sports?  You'd better believe that Jeff was always on the sidelines in a supporting role, even serving as water captain for the football and basketball teams.

 Leaving his very nervous parents behind, a determined and courageous Jeff branched out on his own and began his post-secondary career at the University of Western Ontario in London where he completed an undergraduate degree in Media in the Public Interest. Upon graduation, he continued his education, enrolling in the Masters in Media Studies program offered through the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, also at UWO, where he wrote about disability and the body in his Master’s thesis entitled “Augmented Ability, Integrated Identity: Understanding Sapienism, Adaptive Technology, and the Construction of Disability.” Having successfully completed his MA, Jeff has returned to the university as a Doctorate Candidate in Media Studies, where he is continuing his work on understanding the construction of disability in the community.

 Here is just a sampling of some other accomplishments by this young man once considered to have special needs.

 •Received the Ontario Graduate Scholarship from 2006 to 2009.

 •Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Scholarship from 2007 to present.

 •Dean’s List 3rd and 4th years (2005 & 2006); Outstanding Achievement Award as an Undergrad (2006).

 •Recipient of Graduate Teaching Assistant Award in 2007 (based on the number of nominations received and the quality of comments from the students).

 •Raised $26,000 by organizing “Mobilize March” marathon from London to Ottawa.  Organized and operated a 47-day wheelchair marathon to advocate for accessible transportation. Spoke to municipal and provincial government officials, wrote press releases, conducted media interviews, and completed an hour-long documentary. Recognized by the prestigious London Mayor’s New Year’s Honours List in 2009.

 •Over 20 years of award-winning public speaking experience. Written and delivered thousands of motivational and inspirational speeches that have raised more than $5,000,000 for various charitable organizations.

 •Previous Vice-Chair of Easter Seals Ontario’s Board of Directors and a current member of the board and the Services Committee.


 •Member of the Accessibility Advisory Committee and Transportation Advisory Committee of London City Council, helping to overcome accessibility and transportation obstacles in London.

 •Member of the Accessibility Standards Advisory Council for the Minister of Community and Social Services, Ontario Government, advising on the development of accessibility law in Ontario.

 •Received the Rotary International Paul Harris Fellow Award in recognition of his work on the Jeff Preston Celebrity Golf Tournament.

 And he's only just getting started in life...What next for this 25-year-old, politics?  Don't count it out...You are going to hear a lot more about Jeff Preston in the future...There is simply no holding back this young man with his ever-present baseball cap and electric wheelchair which he operates with amazing dexterity.

 He's a "fighter" you know, just in case you hadn't arrived at that conclusion before now.

 It makes you wonder just how many other Jeff Prestons have been overlooked in the past because they did not fit conveniently into a regular school system -- or society too, for that matter. 

27 July, 2010

SIGN GUY IS OKAY AND ON THE JOB

A half dozen posts ago (July 16) I ran a story about Ralph "The Sign Guy" in Southampton and promised to include a photo of him at the first opportunity.  I began to get concerned because for the past two weeks I have not seen him sitting at his adopted location outside his apartment building on Hwy. 21 .  Finally this morning we connected.  "Oh, with the heat the past two weeks I've been picking my spots," he explained, "but I can't stop now because I've become somewhat of a tourist attraction".  You sure have Ralph...It's a tough job but somebody has to do it!  (Scroll down to see Ralph's story.)

SPECIAL CHILDREN'S ED IS A GOOD THING

"Children with special needs don't have an illness, so they are not contagious. They want what we all want (and deserve),which is to be accepted..."

The above statement is an excerpt from several email and Facebook messages that I have received in recent days.  The comment actually originated from a response to a national special children's education awareness week in the U.S.A. several months ago.  I am not sure if there is a similar "week" in Canada but I thought it might be timely to take a closer look at the subject.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, I found the following very long sentence which nonetheless goes a long way toward explaining this very important issue.


"Special education is the education of students with special needs in a way that addresses the students' individual differences and needs. Ideally, this process involves the individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, adapted equipment and materials, accessible settings, and other interventions designed to help learners with special needs achieve a higher level of personal self-sufficiency and success in school and community than would be available if the student were only given access to a typical classroom education."

Common special needs include challenges with learning, communication challenges, emotional and behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, and developmental disorders. Students with these kinds of special needs are likely to benefit from additional educational services such as different approaches to teaching, use of technology, a specifically adapted teaching area, or resource room.


Intellectual giftedness is a difference in learning and can also benefit from specialized teaching techniques or different educational programs, but the term "special education" is generally used to specifically indicate instruction of students whose special needs reduce their ability to learn independently or in an ordinary classroom, and gifted education is handled separately.

In most developed countries, educators are modifying teaching methods and school environments so that the maximum number of students are served in ordinary educational environments. Special education in developed countries is often regarded less as a "place" and more as "a service, available in every school."  Integration can reduce social stigmas and improve academic achievement for many students.

I have watched with interest, teachers and students in classes attended by special needs children and have always been impressed with the rapport that is developed.  I am convinced that everyone (teachers and students) gains from exposure to the special education environment and invariably come away as much stronger individuals with a unique perspective on life.

On March 11, of this year, the Government of Canada ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention ensures that persons with disabilities, about 14 percent of the Canadian population, are given equal opportunities throughout their life. The Convention calls for an inclusive education system that is not only accommodating, but respectful, and supportive.

It sometimes takes a while, but eventually we Canadians do get it right.

This is my personal salute to the educators who facilitate such a worthwhile initiative.

25 July, 2010

IN DRESDEN EVERYONE ENJOYS A PARADE, ESPECIALLY WITH TRACTORS INVOLVED



On Saturday, July 24, the community of Dresden held the world's largest-ever tractor parade, setting in the process what is hoped to be a new entry in "Guiness Book of Records". A total of 1,239 farm tractors participated in the event and raised more than $70,000 for cancer research.  View this video to get a feeling for the massive expanse of tractors gathered on the Glasgow family farm, just west of Dresden.  A wonderful example of the remarkable community spirit that exists in my good old home town.  Congratulations to everyone involved! 

24 July, 2010

TEACHER STOPPED TEACHING SUBJECTS, INSTEAD SHE "TAUGHT" CHILDREN

I recently heard the following story.  I think it is worth passing on to followers of this site.  It substantiates my theory that a child never forgets someone who has paid special attention to them.

Jean Thompson stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first day of school in the fall and told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her pupils and said that she loved them all the same, that she would treat them all alike. And that was impossible because there in front of her, slumped in his seat on the third row, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were unkempt and that he constantly needed a bath. Teddy's attitude and personality were unpleasant too.  It got to the point during the first few months that she would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then marking the F at the top of the paper biggest of all. Because Teddy was a sullen little boy, no one else seemed to enjoy him, either.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s records and put Teddy’s off until last. When she finally opened his file, she was in for a surprise. His first-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright, inquisitive child with a ready laugh.” “He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.”

His second-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”  His third-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy continues to work hard but his mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.”

Teddy’s fourth-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class. He is tardy and could become a problem.”  By now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem, but Christmas was coming fast. It was all she could do, with the school play and all, until the day before the holidays began when she was suddenly forced to focus on Teddy Stoddard.

Her children brought her presents, all in beautiful ribbon and bright paper, except for Teddy’s, which was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper of a scissored grocery bag. Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents.  Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of cologne. She stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume behind the other wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed behind just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my mom used to.”

After the children left she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children (there is a difference).  For starters, she applied her new teaching philosophy by concentrating particularly on none other than problem student Teddy himself.  The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. On days when there would be an important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember that cologne. By the end of the year the backward boy had become one of the smartest children in the class and…well, he had also become the “pet” of the teacher who had once vowed to love all of her children exactly the same.

A year later she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that of all the teachers he’d had in elementary school, she was his favorite. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy.  He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still his favorite teacher of all time.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was still his favorite teacher.  Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still his favorite teacher, but that now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.

The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that Spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years before and he was wondering…well, if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the pew usually reserved for the mother of the groom. And guess what, she accepted and wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. And I bet on that special day, Jean Thompson smelled just like…well, just like the way Teddy remembered his mother smelling on their last Christmas together.

There is no telling what type of impact we may have on another person’s life through our actions ... or lack of same.

22 July, 2010

A MIRACLE SUNFLOWER THAT SURVIVED WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM A FRIEND

Okay, I know.  I should get a life!

But enough with waxing eloquent on serious subjects of the day...I want to share a story about a miracle sunflower that refused to die.

The story began in late May when I noticed a delicate little green plant poking through the black mulch surrounding a  couple of cedar trees in my back yard.  Resisting the temptation to pluck it out of the ground as I had with a couple of nearby sprigs of clover and a dandelion, I decided to let it grow for a while just to see what it might turn out to be.  In a week or two, the long tender stem with its two broad leaves, had developed enough to reveal itself as a sunflower, its seed deposited no doubt the previous fall by a chipmunk, squirrel or blue jay.

By this time, I did not have the heart to remove it.   "It's come this far.  I'll give it a chance to grow," I reasoned.  And grow it did, adding new leaves almost daily. 

It was approximately three weeks into my vigil when a rabbit took a liking to the young seedling one evening and reduced it to an eight-inch stick protruding forlornly from the ground.  I was devastated as I pondered its fate, but something seemed to tell me that if I left it alone it may bounce back.  And sure enough, after a couple of days several new leaves began to appear on the bare stem.

Almost miraculously, the plant seemed to thrive over the course of the next week as I gave it a liberal dose of Miracle Gro plant food and regular waterings.  Mother Nature, however, was to deal another blow to the determined little plant by flattening it during a heavy rain storm in mid-June.  "That's it...It's a lost cause now," I thought as I gingerly lifted the fallen patient and propped it up with a piece of wood from my garage.

Two days later and history repeated itself during another storm, this time toppling not only the plant but the stake that had been holding it upright.  There appeared to be a break in the stem a few inches above ground level so I decided to wrap it with masking tape and secured it to an iron planter rod which I inserted into the ground at the base of the plant.  I also added further protection by placing the top of an old cement planter around the rod and plant itself. 

The rescue mission proved successful and against all odds the sunflower continued to flourish.  As it has grown to its present height of 39 inches, I have had to continually secure it to the rod with more masking tape because it has become so top heavy.  Several buds began to appear this past weekend and today (Wednesday) one opened up into a beautiful full sunflower bloom, deep orange at the centre with yellow at the tips of the petals.

We made it!...A remarkable wayward visitor that was given a chance at life, and an old timer who should get one of his own.  We will live vicariously for the balance of the summer, many times bent but never completely broken. 

20 July, 2010

HAVE YOU HEARD SOMETHING BAD ABOUT IT?...I BET YOU HAVE!

"I've heard some bad things about it...!"

For some reason, I have heard the above words expressed in recent weeks more times than I can count.  Politics, religion, food, entertainment, consumer products, computer programs, diets -- you name the topic and I swear someone has heard something bad or negative about it.  As hard as I try, I am unable to even come close in balancing the judgemental scales with the few times the words "I have heard some good things...!" were stated.

I can only conclude that the key word in all of this is "heard" (or unstated, "read") and how influenced we are by the media and people we come in contact with on a daily basis.  It kind of tells us, too, a bit about the world in which we live. 

In the last 50 years media influence has grown exponentially with the advance of technology.  First there was the telegraph, then radio, the newspaper, magazines, television and now the Internet.

We live in a society that depends on information and communication to keep moving in the right direction and engage in our daily activities such as work, entertainment, health care, education, personal relationships, traveling and anything else that we have or care to do.  The average person usually wakes up in the morning, checks the news on TV or in the newspaper, goes to work, makes a few phone calls, eats with their family when possible and makes decisions based on information received from co workers, the media, friends, family and, yes, overhearing the conversations of others.

What we need to be aware of is that most of our decisions, beliefs and values should be based on what we know for a fact. Our assumptions likewise, should come with first-hand experience.  In our work we usually know what we have to do based on direction, experience and studies.  In on our daily private lives we rely on the media to get the current news and facts about what is important and what we should be aware of.  We also tend to place maybe too much stock in the dangerously biased opinions of others in our lives when coming to conclusions on the pros or cons of certain things.

I think that all too often we are quick to jump to conclusions, or assumptions, based on unbalanced reports that do not give both sides of the story.  We need to have the benefit of not only the controversial bad, but the sometimes less spectacular good as well in weighing the true value of a particular service, product or issue.  We need to ask more questions about the things in our lives, arrive at conclusions based on our own research and experience, demand more balanced reporting in our media, and take the opinions of family and friends under advisement.

Almost seems like too much work, doesn't it?...All this having to process and evaluate outside influences.  If only we could afford the luxury of good faith in today's society -- and truth in advertising.

16 July, 2010

A SIGN GUY WHO MAKES PEOPLE SMILE

Away back when, I had a baseball mentor cum philosopher who constantly reminded me that "things are not always as they seem".  Some 65 years later, the wisdom of that expression continues to be reinforced through the experiences of my life.

For the past year, I have noticed a rather large, ruggedly-hewn man sitting on a roadside bench in front of a seniors apartment complex at the approach to the Saugeen River bridge in Southampton.  Lately, he has taken to holding up  cardboard carton signs with messages scrawled on them.  For the most part I have ignored the wording on the signs, just as I have the man himself.  "Just another oddball charater, with time on his hands," I thought.

I was right on one count.  Ralph Dymer, a retired construction worker, does have time on his hands.  He explains it this way: "I like to fill in some of my time each day by sitting on the bench in front of my building, but it can get boring so on the May 24 weekend I made a sign that said 'Happy May 24' and the response I got was unreal.  People waved, honked their horns and smiled.  Some even took my picture on their cell phones or stopped to have a chat."

Since the Victoria holiday weekend Ralph has made up signs saying "Have a nice day" and "The HST sucks!" and as before, the reaction from passersby has been gratifying for him.  "I am having a ball with a piece of cardboard and paper," he states enthusiastically.

He even dressed in red and white for Canada Day and chokes with emotion as he recalls a busload of First Nation children who waved at him and shouted "Happy Canada Day, Santa!" back at him.

"It feels real good to make people smile," says Southampton's Sign Guy..."You should try it some time!"

One thing for sure Ralph, you've made my heart smile now that I know your story.  Sorry I misjudged you in the beginning!

Indeed, things are not always as they seem.

Note:  I have been looking for Ralph the past three days with the intention of taking a photograph of him, but his bench (with its two Canadian flags) has been unoccupied.  I hope he is okay.  I'll  take his picture the first time I see him and attach it to this post.

14 July, 2010

HAVE YOU LOST MOST OF YOUR MARBLES?

I subscribe to the Daily Kindness Newsletter which offers forums on spirituality, family matters, general life advice and, of course, kindness.  I was particularly impressed this morning by a young family man who submitted the following story that I think has a message for all of us.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the kitchen, with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time.


Let me tell you about it. I turned the volume up on my radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning talk show. I heard an older sounding chap with a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business himself.

He was talking about “a thousand marbles” to someone named “Tom”. I was intrigued and sat down to listen to what he had to say. “Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital. ” He continued, “Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities.” And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.”

“You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.” “Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime.

“Now stick with me Tom, I’m getting to the important part. “It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail”, he went on, “and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. “I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. “So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles. “I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in my workshop next to the radio. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.

“I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight. “Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday then God has blessed me with a little extra time to be with my loved ones…… “It was nice to talk to you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your loved ones, and I hope to meet you again someday. Have a good morning!”

You could have heard a pin drop when he finished. Even the show’s moderator didn’t have anything to say for a few moments. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to do some work that morning, then go to the gym. Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. “C’mon honey, I’m taking you and the kids to breakfast.” “What brought this on?” she asked with a smile. “Oh, nothing special,” I said.  "It has just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. Hey, can we stop at a toy store while we’re out? I need to buy some marbles.”
            -----------------------------

How many marbles do you have left? 

12 July, 2010

Jaron And The Long Road To Love - Pray For You (2009 Video & Lyrics)

Jaron And The Long Road To Love - Pray For You (2009 Video & Lyrics) 


I don't know if this song qualifies under the "hypocrisy" label, but it kind of ties in to the subject of the last few posts -- in a fun sort of way.  If you are open-minded and enjoy music that reflects life and the understandable emotions of a young man who has been jilted, click on "Pray for You" and watch and listen to the video.  Excuse the advertising! --Dick

10 July, 2010

A FINAL LOOK AT HYPOCRISY IN OTHERS... AND IN OURSELVES

The words "hypocrisy" and "hypocrite(s)" have been sprinkled liberally throughout the last two posts on Wrights Lane.  I feel compelled to write on the subject one final time but I have no idea where I am going to end up with it.

Initially, I dislike hypocrisy in others...and I dislike hypocrisy in myself.  That, in a nutshell, kind of sums things up; but why is that?

There are two aspects to the hypocrisy phenomenon, one being the deceit of others and the other equally harmful trait -- deceit of self. 

Deceit is called hypocrisy when there is piety in the mouth, and impiety in the heart; or when there is charity in the mouth, but hatred in the heart; or when there is innocence in the face and gesture, but cruelty in the soul and breast; consequently deception by a show of innocence, charity, and piety.

We tend, by nature, to deceive ourselves too. Our natural inclination is to choose to be deceived rather than to face truth that is painful and unpleasant. If you need proof of that, just look at the political process. It seems to be the consensus today that it is impossible to get elected to national office by telling the truth. Instead, politicians poll their constituents to find out what they want to hear, then, depending on the results of the polls, say things calculated to leave a certain impression. The way to get elected is not to cast ideas in the clearest, most forceful terms, but in ways that will massage the hopes and interests of people. Even attempts to take a strong position for the truth are perceived to be part of the old sincerity ploy: "Be sincere whether you mean it or not." Is it any wonder that voters are apathetic over the political process?

Fortunes are made today on people who buy diets, beauty and health aids that purport to make their users svelte and beautiful without the need to make critical changes in their lifestyle. Our natural human inclination is to prefer pleasant lies in place of difficult truth.  Choosing to be deceived with regard to diet may be a fairly innocuous decision, but as far as our spiritual life is concerned it is very, very dangerous to choose to be deceived.  We do well to recognize that life is built in the same manner as a building is erected, i.e., one brick at a time. Choices are made one at a time. By our individual choices we put in place one brick after another, and the kind of life that results from our decision-making depends on the hundreds and thousands of individual choices that went into it. 

Whether we try to deceive ourselves about our behavior, the nature of God, or sin, it tells us something deeper about human nature.  "…the phenomena of self-deception testifies that we human beings, even when we do evil, are incorrigibly sold on goodness. At some level of our being, we know that goodness is as plausible and original as God, and that, in the history of the human race, goodness is older than sin" (Alvin Carl Plantinga, professor/Christian philosopher).

So, let's not kid (deceive) ourselves...We are all hypocrites by nature.  Thankfully our intuitive sense of goodness balances the scales as we make our way through life.  When we see hypocrisy in others, more often than not we are looking in a mirror.  We should not throw stones from our delicate glass houses!

There is a fine line between virtue and insincerity.  We walk it every day of our life.

I'm not sure that this was where I was going when I started this post, but this is where I end up.

08 July, 2010

SHE OPENED HER HOME IN A CHRISTIAN WAY

It is very rare that followers of Wrights Lane take me up on my invitation to provide comment.  The previous post "A Strange Church Attendance Analogy...", moved Wanda Pellerin of Dresden to respond with the following very personal submission.  While the former Wanda Grey is not a current church adherent, I well remember her, brother Larry and sister Karen attending St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church Sunday School in Dresden more years ago than any of us care to acknowledge.  I cannot help but think that something from that formative era rubbed off on her.  This is a story from her heart that deserved to be told. 

GUEST POST BY WANDA PELLERIN

I have said many times over the years whenever questioned about my beliefs and why I do not go to church, that "I do not have to go to church to be a Christian or a good person".  I have seen a lot of Christians who were hypocrites and sit in church in all their finery every week but would not help another human being in need unless they were related to them, and even then with hesitation.


I have always made it a point to help people whenever I can in practical ways.  Among other things, I have provided free lodging in my home for people who had no other place to go. I have done this on four occasions (so far) and have been severely criticized at times, but did it anyway! I did what any GOOD Christian or Jesus would have done.


One was a young man who had been sleeping in the local park, under a picnic table in rainy weather for three days before he came to my door. He had hitchhiked all the way from Quebec alone, looking for work but showed up in town too early for the tomato harvest. The child of migrant workers, he barely knew me as someone who had given his family used clothing and my husband had paid him for some small chores during the harvest season three years before when he was just 12 years of age.  I remembered him as a good little worker who helped my husband around the yard at the time.  His family knew us as the people down the street who spoke French.  So, out of desperation and on his own, he turned to me three years later because he still spoke very little English.


My husband and I had recently separated, so it was rumoured in town "she's living with a 15-year-old boy now".  I had three children, the oldest of which was 12, and they were consulted and approved of my decision which was the important thing to me.


The young man stayed with us for more than two months and we had agreed that when he found a job he would pay me $15 a week for room and board.  I helped him find odd jobs and arranged to pick out some new inexpensive clothing for him with the first money he earned.  A friend of his from Quebec arrived in town eventually and convinced him to hitchhike back home as suitable work was still not available in town. He stayed long enough, however, to collect his pay cheque.  He owed me $90.00 for the time he had worked and his final pay was for $97 and change.  He insisted that I take it all but I refused, saying I would take only what he owed me.  As much as I hated to take any of his money, I took it with the explanation that I wanted him to learn responsibility by paying what he had promised.  I packed them a lunch and they were off on their journey back to Quebec.


The boy could have left town with his full pay cheque and not even said goodbye, but he did not do that!  We had an agreement.  I felt very privileged and proud to explain to my children how responsibly he had acted.


We were all better for having had the experience.

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NOTE FROM DICK:  You are right Wanda.  Yours was an act of Christian kindness and I'm sure the young man (where ever he might be) still remembers that nice lady in Dresden who opened her home to him. 
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*Wanda is a volunteer driver in her community, taking people to doctors and out-patient hospital appointments in neighbouring Chatham, Wallaceburg, London, Windsor and Sarnia.  She even helped a certain starving author sell a few copies of his books last year.

07 July, 2010

A STRANGE CHURCH ATTENDANCE ANALOGY THAT NEEDED SOME RESEARCH

A Facebook friend of mine and a respected pillar of good old Dresden, indicated recently that he "liked" the unattributed statement:  "Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, not anymore than going to a garage makes you a car."


My knee-jerk reaction was to be offended by the statement and I dashed off a reply to the effect that I agree that going to church does not necessarily make you a Christian, but it "sure as hell helps remind us of how to be one."  My point being that in striving to live decent lives, we all need the positive reinforcement and motivation that church attendance can/should give us.

My Facebook friend was unable to immediately lay his hands on the source for the controversial quote and I was quick to tell him to not go to any trouble in trying to find it.


In the past couple of days, however, I have continued to be haunted by the statement that initially seemed to me to be none other than a silly analogy. This evening I decided to do a little research in the hope that I might discover the authenticity of the words and better understand the context in which they were uttered.


To my complete surprise, a similar statement has been attributed to one of the great thinkers of the 20th Century -- the scholarly C. S. Lewis.  The following is an extract from his Mere Christianity


“The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual. The pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting; the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me [...] they are the animal self and the diabolical self; and the diabolical self is the worst of the two. That is why a cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But of course it is better to be neither.”

Ah, that certainly casts light on a fellow blogster/poet/thinker Michael Andreyakovich of Scottsdale, Arizona, who I discover is responsible for the "...not anymore than going to a garage makes you a car" statement to give weight to his disdain for the "sheer number of Christians who fail to understand that hypocrisy is the greatest sin of all sins."  He too refers to the Lewis quote to support his thesis.

Andreyakovich (that's a real mouthful) maintains that it is "hypocrisy" that has driven him from his church.  Some of his respondents have suggested that perhaps he was going to the wrong church.

So there you have it.  Things are not always as they seem on the surface.  We do ourselves a favour at times when we dig a little deeper for true meaning in all things.

It was Tennyson who said:  "I dreamed that stone by stone I reared a sacred fane, a temple, neither pagoda, mosque, nor church; but loftier, simpler, always open-doored to every breath from heaven, and Truth and Peace and Love and Justice came and dwelt therein."

Adequacy for everyday life here and now, must be the test of all true religion.  We go to church because we are imperfect humans striving to be more Christlike in our everyday living.  Our minds require regular maintenance in order for us to keep our spiritual motors running, in order to be adequate enough to be called Christians.    

Bottom line:  Don't go to church if you want to avoid associating with sinners...That's where we all congregate.

04 July, 2010

SOME THOUGHTS FROM A FORGOTTEN FILE


I have a computer file set aside solely for the purpose of saving ideas and snippets that I may find useful at a later date.  I tend to forget about the file and when I do remember to refer to it, I am always surprised by what I have tucked away.  A few hundred words labelled "Live in the Heart" is a case in point.


I honestly do not know the source of the brief essay nor what there was about it initially that made me save it. Regardless, it seemed to speak to me a few minutes ago when I stumbled across it.  Maybe because I am getting long in the tooth and lack tolerance at times, I find myself increasingly critical and suspicious of people and events and I have to consciously look inward to rationalize and balance thinking that, if left unchecked, can fester into resentment.


Unfortunately, it is the nature of the mind to invariably remember the one bad thing that a person does and to overlook the 99 good things.  We tend to knee-jerk and jump to conclusions when we hear about the discretions of our politicians, star athletes and entertainers in particular.  We are often agitated by the mistakes of friends and close family members. That was exactly the point of the "Live in the Heart" piece that I filed away some time ago.  True enough, if we allow ourselves to be drawn into highlighting the mistakes of others we invite a negative personal mindset.  However, if we live in the heart we are not drawn to the faults of others (even the minor ones). It is in the heart that we can have a true sense of oneness with others, their faults seem insignificant and we can feel a sense of identity with their achievements.


I also highlighted a sentence:  "The worst thing for a negative frame of mind is to mope around feeling sorry for ourselves."  I think that at the time I had several acquaintances who were struggling with the Patti Page Syndrome (Is that all there is?) and I thought there might be merit in reminding them that, ruminating on our bad luck, worries, fears and lack of accomplishment, will not diminish them in any way. Exercise, it was suggested, can be a powerful way to bring about a new consciousness. Negativity is often associated with boredom and lack of purpose. The sentence: "Stop endlessly checking emails and surfing the web, look instead for something good to do with your life" seemed to address directly those of us who experience mid, or late-life anxiety and look to the new world of Internet quick fixes for help.  In other words, get busy, get out and do something -- make a contribution to society, no matter how small.


Strangely enough, the tendency to be critical and suspicious can sometimes be turned on ourselves as well.  Our own mind can be our worst enemy in this regard and very self critical. Again, as I have said many times in previous posts, it is important not to lose a sense of balance.  For the various bad things we too may have done, we have also done countless good things. 

Sometimes a little personal two-way inventory is all that is required to improve our stock in life.

02 July, 2010

BON APPETITE, LITTLE VISITOR FRIEND

Baby bunny having lunch in my back yard, feasting on succulent new grass that I seeded last month...Oh well, anything for nature, I always say.