Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Posts tagged ‘Perception’

Small Drops Make an Ocean

*tap*tap*tap*

Anyone still out there? Somehow, I got busy doing other things and blogging took a backseat to life for…um…almost 6 months. But I made an new discovery that I have to share with you, so my blogging haitus has to come to a close!

Just so you know, I believe that one person CAN make a difference.

I believe that the entire world is my neighborhood.

I believe in helping others to help themselves.

I believe that I am truly blessed and therefore have a responsibility to share my blessings with others.

I believe that the distribution of my two most precious resources – time AND money – shed a spotlight on what I truly value.

So…here’s the problem. I like to help others, but I am usually reluctant to give money because of the potential for misuse and abuse. And, too, a large percentage of cash donations is too often used for program administration and doesn’t directly benefit the intended recipient. The solution to this problem is to give of my time and talent, but it feels hard for me to make a difference in the wider world community with my time and talent alone. But I found a website that solves my problem.

Kiva LogoIt’s called KIVA and it helps willing lenders make loans as small as $25 to entrepreneurs in need in developing countries. Notice, I said LOANS – not gifts – so the money comes back to you. It’s called microfinancing. This person-to-person small scale financing is neat, but the site also allows you to browse the stories behind the funds requested and select your own loan recipient. So as a lender, I get to pick the entrepreneur I help to fund!

Here is one entrepreneur who got funded recently: “Mrs. Song Sron, 38, lives with her husband and five children [in Kampong Cham Province, Cambodia]. She raises pigs at her house and also owns a plot of farmland where she grows rice, making around $1.50 a day. Her husband, Mr. Chai Thu, 38, works as a palm juice collector. Everyday he climbs the palm tree to tap the palm juice, refines it to sugar cane and sells it in the market, earning about five dollars a day of income. Two children work in a factory earning $60 each per month. The others are students and help the parents work at home when they are not attending school. Mrs. Sron is requesting a loan [of $600] to purchase a cow to plow her field. This will help to reduce the family’s expense as she has been hiring a tractor to do this work.”

And here’s another: “Sonia is a beautiful woman who works breeding sheep and chickens in her home [in Tarma, Peru]. By selling the animals Sonia is able to keep up with her house expenses and her personal necessities. In her picture she is showing us a chicken while she waits for her sheep to return from their monthly visit to the veterinarian. She would like to build a better space for her animals and therefore is asking for a loan [for $150] to purchase the necessary materials.”

I think what I like about this site is that 1) you really feel like you are making a difference in someone’s life and 2) the money actually comes back (98% of the time) and can be reinvested, so it doesn’t feel like a bottomless pit of need.

You can also browse the profiles of lenders where some talk about why they participate in this site. One striking response: because small drops make an ocean.

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Neither Judge nor Jury

Obviously, the Dumbledore revelation has the world plugging its ears and shouting at the top of its lungs – again (still?) – about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of homosexuality. It is interesting and sad to me that so many religious people who have strong opinions on this issue (either way) have not taken the time to study for themselves what the Bible says nor to pray for the wisdom to interpret the scriptures with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Several years ago, my husband and took a class studying what the Bible says and doesn’t say about homosexuality. Or more precisely, we took a class that discussed how various interpretations of the Bible apply – or not – to homosexuality. The intent of the class was to present, in as balanced a way as possible, the views and arguments on most sides of the issue. I personally did a 360 in the class – I ended up with the same opinion I had when I came in, but for a totally different set of reasons! These were my conclusions from the class after 6 weeks of study:

1. There are just a few versus in the Bible that even obliquely reference what we know as “sexual orientation. ” None of the passages explicitly references homosexuality – a term not even coined until the late 1890’s – and condemnation of that particular sexual orientation (whether genetic, as I believe it to be, or chosen) doesn’t seem obvious based on the text when Biblical textual context, historical/cultural context, and nuances of the original Hebrew language are considered.

2. At Baptism, we are adopted as children of God. Although we may turn from God, God will never “unadopt” us.

(I think all people do, by virtue of our human nature, turn from God. I believe this is a consequence of the free will with which were were endowed by God.)

3. ALL sin is regarded equally before God and that ALL people fail and fall short under the Old Testament law. No one can redeem him/herself in God’s eyes by adherence to the law or through actions taken on earth.

4. Jesus’ life shows and the Word tells that the most important commandment is to love: God first, yourself next and your neighbor as yourself. Over and over again, when the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with questions of law, he responds in love, regardless of the law, for the people affected. Love truly is the answer!

Generally speaking, Lutherans believe that to go to heaven, you must believe and be baptized. Since faith itself is considered a gift, and baptism represents God’s adoption of us into God’s family, both “belief” and “baptism” are really acts of God, not acts of humankind.

gavel.jpgPersonally, I am at peace with my current stance on homosexuality, though I will continue to seek input from others who disagree or have differing nuances of opinion.

I am so thankful that I do not need to judge for myself who is or isn’t going to heaven! I am so often wrong at unimportant things that I would never trust my own judgment on something so important. I feel that my job is to do my best to reflect Jesus’ love for me by loving and showing love to everyone through word and deed (more than enough work there to keep me busy for the rest of my life) and leave the judging to God.

Dumbledore: Does it Matter?

In the most earth-shattering Harry Potter news since book 7 was released this past July, author J.K. Rowling revealed at a reading at Carnegie Hall last night that she “always thought of Dumbledore as gay.”

harry-potter-7-release-night-in-hudson-oh.jpgAs a devoted Harry Potter fan (albeit a relative Johnny-come-lately since I didn’t catch on to the pheonomenon until 2002, several years after book 4 was published and before book 5), I must admit that I was shocked by this news – but mostly because that possibility had never really entered my mind! I regularly read The Leaky Cauldron for all news Potter, but I don’t read or post on Potter chat boards or read fan fiction where Dumbledore’s sexual orientation had apparently been questioned before.

I knew immediately that this news would cause a huge uproar, so it’s been interesting to watch the comments on Leaky and in blogs across the ‘net.

There are two sad things happening. First, that SO MANY people are saying that this news will give “Christians” another reason to hate the book. Those folks are very wrong. I believe that people who oppose the content of the book in the name of Christianity are misappropriating the title (of “Christian,” that is). The central message of the series isn’t witchcraft or homosexuality, but the power of pure, selfless love. And that’s the ultimate message Christ was sent to earth to reiterate to humanity.

The second sad thing I see is people questioning their own love of the character based on this new information. What has changed about Dumbledore? Not one thing, really! So why would someone who loved the character before feel any different today?

When I was in college, a dear friend of mine revealed that he was gay. I was taken aback at the time, and unsure how I would – or should – interact with him. But after much thought, I realized that not one thing had changed. Everything I loved about him as a person and a friend was just the same. He hadn’t chosen to be this way – no one grappling with the pain of denying who (s)he is for years upon years would choose that struggle – but even if he had, I don’t think it would have mattered.

Some people are criticizing Rowling for revealing this information about Dumbledore. I’m seeing comments like, “If his sexual orientation was so important, why didn’t she make it more apparent in the books?” The answer is that it WASN’T important! In fact, she revealed this aspect of the character for the same reason she has been revealing so many deeper aspects of so many of the characters – in response to direct questions from fans who, like me, have been so drawn into the multi-dimensional characters she created and fleshed out that we just can’t learn enough about them. (Thank heavens they are only characters in a book because it’s positively voyeuristic the way we crave more details about their lives!)

I’ve also seen some comments now criticizing Rowling’s humanization of Dumbledore in book 6 and 7, questioning whether she is somehow stereotyping homosexuals by making him more human. This is just patently ridiculous. In contrast to the first 5 books, when the character is less developed and more single-sided, the Dumbledore we know and love by the end of book 7 is revealed as more human, more capable of human failings and frailties, and yet more heroic and beloved in spite of – and possibly because of – them. In this age of flat, one-sided fantasy t.v. characters, Rowling’s devotion to very imperfect human characters is admirable.

[By the way, please don’t misunderstand me. I do NOT think homosexuality is an imperfection. Dumbledore’s human frailties, as discussed in the books and by Rowling herself, include an early lust for and potential to abuse power, a desire to manipulate and control people around him, and the tendency to trust people who perhaps should not be trusted.]

Invisible Women

I don’t know where this story originated. If anyone finds (or is) the author, please let me know and I will happily give credit where credit is due! The piece was emailed to me and I thought it was too good to keep to myself. (For the record, I did correct a few grammatical mistakes in the original sent to me.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’ Obviously not. No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: “Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?” Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Pick me up right around 5:30, please.’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude — but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going … she’s going … she’s gone!

One night, a group of us was having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that was clean.

My unwashed hair was pulled up in a banana clip and I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: ‘To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

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In the days ahead I would read — no, devour — the book. And I would discover what would become for me four life-changing truths after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals — we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.’

And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’ely4.jpg

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder, as one of the people who shows up at a job that she will never see finished, to work on something that her name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand-bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Less is More

If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it still make a noise? If I write blog posts and no one reads them, is there a point?

I love reading Alvin Trusty’s blog posts, which are posted frequently, often short, totally eclectic, and usually helpful or interesting. Since most of my previous blog posts have been long, wordy, opinionated, and time consuming to write (a prime reason that it’s been over 3 months since my last blog post), I’ve decided to give Alvin’s “formula” a try.

By the way, my husband says there IS value in a reader-less blog because someone in the future could search, find, learn from, and/or respond to my comments. I’m still not convinced…

Knowledge is Power

My husband John makes an interesting observation on the dilemma of internet filtering in schools (http://staff.bbhcsd.org/schinkerj/archives/2007/03/23/protecting-our-students/).
He notes that, “Our schools are supposed to provide adult supervision in all areas where students are using the Internet.”

But what does “adult supervision” mean – an adult simply present in the room (completely ineffective) or an adult actively engaged in looking over kids shoulders as they are online (completely unrealistic). How does this “rule” apply in an age where school campuses and other public areas are increasingly wi-fi enabled and internet devices are increasingly smaller and more convenient? If a student could use her cell phone to access the internet in the bathroom, could the school district be held liable if there is no adult present there at that time?

John also writes, “It may be time to stop relying on the technology to protect them.” I would argue that technology cannot really protect them. One of the most critical roles technology plays in our society today is expanding and organizing our access to data, information, knowledge, and opinion. Filtering software on an institutional level makes no sense because members within a large group of people will rarely agree on what should be filtered.

I access the internet every day. With my filtering limited to pop-up blockers, I very rarely “stumble” across what I consider to be inappropriate sites. In fact, I’m more likely to be surprised by inappropriate content in my email in-box (despite the use of Popfile to filter incoming messages) than online. I think the problem of inappropriate material coming in from outside is exaggerated. The larger threat may be students from seeking out this content from within and sharing it with other students. It’s very difficult to stop the spread of knowledge.

From an administrative perspective, I will admit that it is difficult to address the issue of appropriate content in a blanket way for all age groups. As a parent (essentially a family administrator), I do not ultimately want to limit my children’s access to or discussions of knowledge on any topic. However, since they are currently only 5 and 7 years old, there are definitely some issues to which I do yet not want them deliberately exposed by others. Interestingly, I am not worried one bit about what they might encounter using the internet at their school. I am, however, somewhat concerned about what their teachers might do, say, or model. And I am greatly concerned by what they learn from contact with other students.

My mother has said that we should have taken greater care to live in what she considers a “better” school district, implying that somehow a higher percentage of college-educated parents, greater monetary wealth, or less ethnic diversity makes a school district “better” and would eliminate my concerns. Obviously, there is no place we could move where everyone would agree with my specific views on what is appropriate.

Even though exposure to a large variety of ideas and values could be considered one of the downsides to living in a society with human contact, I personally consider it one of the upsides! As much as we want to protect our children at all costs from all “evil” influences, such contact ultimately works for good by testing and strengthening their character, their sense of self, and their personal ideas of right and wrong.

John writes that, “But maybe it’s time to stop worrying so much about what someone might post online, and start teaching our students how to behave responsibly — as both information creators and information consumers — in this environment.” Ah…the true power of education! On the whole, knowledge is freeing, and attempts to limit knowledge usually indicate an underlying insecurity and/or an attempt to wield power over another. In so many areas of life, we’d be better off acknowledging what we each perceive to be reality and discussing it, rather than trying to ignore, deny, or hide from it. It is a worthwhile exercise to consider why any particular subject is considered taboo – and to realize that such subjects will always be the ones that young minds eager for knowledge of any kind will seek out.

Reality Revisited

Yet another example of perception – in this case influenced by hormones – creating reality mentioned specifically in the first two sentences of this article.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/01/10/peri.menopause/index.html

So here’s more interesting food for thought. If perception is reality and perception is controlled by chemicals and hormones, then everyone’s reality really IS different since no two people have the same chemical make-up. Thinking about it this way, everyone does, in fact, live in their own universe!

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