REMEMBER THE DUCK AND COVER DRILLS FROM THE SIXTIES?

Do any of you remember the “Duck and Cover” exercises from the sixties? As I listen with alarm to the news coming out of Ukraine, the heartbreaking devastation the Ukrainian people have suffered, and Putin’s threats of nuclear war if NATO implements a “no fly” zone over Ukraine, my mind takes me back to images of elementary school children huddled in fear under their desks with their hands over their heads.

Ironically, the drills were intended to give people hope, to help them think that there was something they could do to defend themselves against a nuclear attack. In reality, however, they did not do anything except terrorize young children. They certainly would not have saved my friends and me, living as we did right across the river from Detroit.

They did, however, leave a lasting legacy. As historian Dee Garrison argues, “these civil defense drills in schools would later fuel antiwar and antinuclear activism, on the part of outraged parents and the students themselves.”

But what do we do in the face of a madman who will do whatever he can to get what he wants, which today is Ukraine and which tomorrow could be much of Europe?  In such frightening circumstances, we must pray and pray hard.

Today I invite you to visit our United Church website and meditate on the prayer provided by Rev. David Sparks.

In prayer lies our true hope.

BREAKING THE BIAS: THE INSPIRING STORY OF STAR TREK’S NICHELLE NICHOLLS AND THE GREAT CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER WHO AFFIRMED HER CALLING

This month marks the beginning of Women’s History Month. Plus tomorrow we celebrate International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is “Breaking the Bias”. So for all you Star Trek fans, here is a story to warm your heart as we remember a woman who broke through the biases of gender and colour.

You may recall that black actress Nichelle Nicholls played the role of Nyota Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series. She was much beloved but, after a while, she decided that it really wasn’t for her. Understandably, she resented the racial jibes she often received from some of the cast and crew. So she handed in her resignation. However, her boss Gene Roddenberry begged her to take the weekend to reconsider. “Don’t you see what I am trying to do here< Nichelle?” he asked her.

That weekend she chose to go to a major rally. She hoped to be able to meet the famous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but soon she was interrupted by someone who told her that she had a fan who really wanted to meet her. Nichelle did not want to shake hands with any more Star Trek fans. She wanted to meet the great man himself. Well, you can imagine her surprise and delight when the adoring tan turned out to be King himself! He said that he and his wife were her biggest fans. In fact, they would not allow their children to stay up to watch any other TV program but Star Trek.

It was then that Nichelle told him that she had turned in her resignation. King was shocked. He urged her to reconsider and even echoed her boss’s words: “Don’t you see what he is trying to do here?” He told her that what she was doing was vital to the cause of Black Emancipation. By creating a character with “dignity and knowledge”, she had given young black girls an important role model. He then added: “When we see you, we see ourselves as intelligent and beautiful and proud.”

The following Monday Nichelle went back to Roddenberry and told him she was staying. If her presence on television could provide her people with a positive image of themselves and inspire them to reach for the top, then she had no other choice but to remain and fulfill her calling.

Because King believed that Uhura’s presence on the Enterprise’s bridge was crucial to the greater Civil Rights Movement, Nichelle knew that there was nothing else she could do. As a black woman her role was an early step in breaking the bias.

What Do You Really Know About Being Black in Canada?

How have you celebrated Black History Month this year? I would love to know!

Some of my friends and colleagues have made an intentional effort to support Black-owned businesses. Others have made donations to charities that support Anti-Racism Equity and Equality. Still others have purchased, read, and shared books by Black authors. Then there are the wonderful online resources that I personally have found helpful because they have introduced me to noteworthy Canadian Black Figures and their contributions. Some of these we shared in our worship service at Siloam on Sunday, February 13th.

Here is a wonderful video about the founder of Black History Month in Canada, the Honourable Jean Augustine, about whom I have written before. Her story is especially inspiring. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wGRWtSMq3s

Here is a powerful video about a young Canadian Black woman named Anne who talks about how the failure to lift up positive images of black girls in her elementary school led her to want to straighten her hair and bleach her skin – so that she could fit in with all the white kids in her class!

Here’s a link to one video in a series on Black History in Canada, that I encourage you to watch:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZvGmSuqiKw

Perhaps the best way to celebrate Black History Month is to commit to learning more about what it means to be black in Canada and how you can support efforts that lead to greater equality for all people of colour, not just during the month of February, but all year long!

Remembering Archie Bunker on Family Day, February 21st, 2022

Today is Family Day and my mind takes me back to how families were portrayed when I was growing up in southwestern Ontario. As a second-wave Boomer, I remember watching re-runs of Father Knows Best, Leave it to Beaver, the Donna Reid Show, and Ozzie and Harriet. They were all a very idealized version of my own family – Dad heading out to work in the morning; Mom looking after the kids and caring for the home, with supper on the table when Dad got home; and having my grandmother back for Sunday lunch after church each week. Nothing terrible ever happened in these shows, the woundedness that many real life families experienced was never touched upon, and the episodes were full of feel-good, homespun wisdom.

But then in my second year of high school a new kind of family show aired, one that was not afraid of dealing with the realities and prejudices of most North American families: All in the Family. Most of us had never seen anything like it before. Apparently CBS was so worried about viewers’ responses to the patriarch of the family, the foulmouthed bigot Archie Bunker, that they actually hired extra phone operators to field any complaints that might come in to the station.

Few individuals or groups of people were spared Archie’s insolence. There’s even a scene from one of the early episodes where Archie and his wife Edith are returning home from church, and Edith tells Archie how horrified she is that he has just cursed the minister for his sermon. Daughter Gloria , whom Archie condescendingly calls “Little Girl”, and son-in-law Mike, try to lighten the mood with an anniversary lunch they have prepared for the couple. But, as Daniel S. Levy has written in Time Magazine,  “as the four sit down to celebrate, it takes no time for Archie to complain about the “Hebes,” “spics,” “spades,” “pinkos,” and atheists who have co-opted society, all the while tarring Edith as a “silly dingbat” and spewing his bile at Mike by calling him a “meathead.”

Little wonder, then, that a few weeks ago my middle son John, who had happened upon some old re-runs of the show, came to me to express his shock and outrage that such things were allowed to air on TV.  Yes, I said, it was terrible to hear those things on public television, but it was not the first time that satire had been used to highlight evils of society like racism, homophobia, antisemitism, religious bigoty, and misogyny. As Rob Reiner, who played Mike, noted, its purpose was to make North Americans see how racist and bigoted they were. The creator of the show, Norman Lear, who had himself suffered from discrimination in his childhood because he was Jewish, had a vision, and according to Reiner, that “vision was to get people thinking and talking about the issues of the day.” It worked. People talked about the show at work, over the back fence, and in the grocery store. Many of those who found the show so humourous, also recognised  themselves in the bigoted Archie and began to question their attitudes and prejudices. Teachers began to incorporate lessons in their curriculum that taught their students about bigotry in all its ugliness. In many ways, as Levy has written, this “foulmouthed bigot named Archie charmed and changed [North] America” for the better.

Today, as the extreme far right threatens to gain ground and our world grows more and more racist and intolerant, maybe it’s time for another Archie Bunker, someone who can shake us out of our ingrained intolerance and the dogmatism of small-mindedness and hatred.

DOES LOVE MEAN NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU’RE SORRY?

What’s your favourite love story? There are so many of course, both in history and literature. Anthony and Cleopatra. Heloise and Abelard. Napoleon and Josephine. And of course the fictional Romeo and Juliet. My favourite is the story of Catherine and Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights. Richard and I visited the Bronte home in Haworth, Yorkshire, when we were in England a few years ago and got to see where the story was penned.

If you are a Boomer, you will of course recall another memorable couple: Jennifer and Oliver, played by Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal in the 1970 film version of Erich Segal’s novel, Love Story. If nothing else, you will remember its haunting tune and the famous line spoken first by Jennifer to Oliver and, later by Oliver to his father following Jennifer’s funeral: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

I was too young at the time to know what this line might mean, but when I did fall in love, I came to the conclusion that it is both true and false. It’s false because we know that, due to the frailty of  human nature, we often make mistakes that sometimes wound those we love most. In these instances it is important that we apologize. On the other hand, as many of us have joyfully discovered, there are times when we have been lovingly embraced fully and completely and unconditionally, without saying a word, even when we did not deserve that love. The love of a parent or dear friend come readily to mind. Think of the story of the Prodigal Son. I have also known spouses to share this special kind of love.

What do you think?

Does love mean “never having to say you’re sorry?”

I would be interested to hear what you think about this famous catchline from Love Story. I would also enjoy hearing what your favourite love story is.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A PRAYER FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Today is the first Sunday in Black History Month in Canada. Those of us who are Boomers well remember the Civil Rights Movement and the powerful witness and sacrifice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His powerful “I Have a Dream Speech” made a deep impression on our generation, but sadly today we must acknowledge that there are still too many places where systemic racism persists and too many instances of racial discrimination.

This is the lament of black Canadian Andrew Johnson, whose powerful prayer poem I share below, with permission from the United Church of Canada. Can we learn from our horrific past? How can you and I begin to build reconciliation in our own communities?

Prayer in Poetry for Black People in Canada

By Andrew Johnson

Here I am in a mosaic of cultures, not a melting pot,
Yet, my Blackness is not seen or given too much thought,

While it is true I have other identifiers that can have me talking for days,
Now is not the time or place as peoples continue their racist ways,

The course of time continues to play back echoes from long ago,
Gaps, secrets, lies, coverups, and parts of our history we’ll never know,

An ongoing narrative of trauma, ongoing stress, prejudice, and discrimination,
But, folks who never have to think about it won’t fully understand my fatigue and agitation,

In the Northern Hemisphere of the Americas, we call Canada our home and native land,
Black history and experience is shoved under the rug with some of it left untold, unspoken, and banned,

People say you can look it up on the Internet in an age of information,
We should be advanced now and know so much more,
But, that is only the tip of the iceberg and leaves us standing at the door,

When you open the door to lived realities you will see there are higher truths, and find the capacity to feel for other living, breathing people,
It shakes the status quo including those who pray underneath the churches’ steeple,

Empower us! Allow us to feel Joy! Let us share our lives and wholehearted “isness”!
Hold that thought for the swarms of devil’s advocates, and personal identifiers being part of everyone else’s business,

We’re caught in learning cycles, and aware of the world’s problems without good policy or sensible action,
There is no vocal power here for persons with Blackness, since the good cause doesn’t have enough bells, whistles, or dignified media traction,

Say my name, say my name! But, you don’t know me well,
We’ve only just begun to name real lived experiences after recognizing how humanity has been so mentally unwell,

Why did the man uproot, enslave, dominate, violate my ancestors, and turn around to make a mockery and think it’s funny?
It seems to boil down to a massive transfer of wealth, power, resources, and money,

The trauma of this atrocity is left stored in my DNA memory,
I await for issues of apologies and statements written carefully and cleverly,

It would be wise if we could learn from our past in all its horror, twists, grit, and grime,

To your average citizen, the events of these racialized heightened days are like an impossible puzzle or mountain we cannot climb,

As though there isn’t any thread to follow for each sickening act of violence, hatred, and crime,

If you know your history well, there are no surprises under the sun here in our place in space and time,

I regret to think that maybe, if I play “the game” well, I can possibly see the day of reconciliation and reparations,

But then, I am but a person with Blackness in Canada with a hope for seemingly healthy, feel-good race relations.

AMEN.

WHAT KIND OF MUSIC ARE YOU GROOVIN’ TO THESE DAYS?

What kind of music do you like to listen to? If you are part of the Baby Boomer crowd, my guess is that you love the music of the sixties, seventies and eighties. A few of us also enjoy the fifties. But guess what? We are not alone! Many people under the age of forty, and many even under the age of thirty, are listening to the same stuff!

According to Ted Gioia, music and culture writer for The Atlantic,  old songs represent 70% of the music market today. As he writes, “The song catalogs in most demand are by musicians who are in their 70s or 80s (Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen) or already dead (David Bowie, James Brown).”

Apparently I am like many Boomers who feel that the older tunes had more melody and more interesting harmonies, not to mention words that we could actually understand. When Gioia asks his Boomer friends why they prefer the old music, they often tell him, “There will never be another Sondheim….Or Joni Mitchell. Or Bob Dylan. Or Cole Porter. Or Brian Wilson. I almost expect these doomsayers to break out in a stirring rendition of “Old Time Rock and Roll,” much like Tom Cruise in his underpants.” What could be wrong with that? “Old Time Rock and Roll.” “Tom Cruise.” “In his underpants, no less!” Sounds good to me.

What do you think? What are your favourite songs? Do you find yourself going back to your old playlists or are there newer songs you’re “groovin’ to” these days? Would love to hear from you!

Happy Birthday to my son Lachlan who turns 32 today! One of his very favourite songs is “Bat Out of Hell” by Meat Loaf, a favourite also of his Boomer Dad.

Now back to that “Old Time Rock and Roll!”

How Gratitude Can Improve Your Health

Have you noticed how COVID is making you grumpy? My Boomer friends who are still working complain that they are tired of staring at a screen all day and the many zoom meetings they must attend every week. Boomer friends who have retired are telling me that this is not the retirement they had hoped for and are upset they have had to ditch all their travel plans. Boomer grandparents miss seeing their grandchildren. Add to this the worry that many of us have about adult children who cannot find steady work or frail, elderly parents who need our care, and you have a recipe for a very stressful life. The only one who is benefitting from this horrible virus is the family dog, who gets to see a lot more of its now working-from-home human family and way more walks.

It is easy to see why many Boomers are feeling dispirited and why our lives are now often given over to worry and complaining. I see this in my work too. People who were normally positive and optimistic, always full of praise for others, now only seem to see the negative in situations. They are worried, understandably, about budgets and ratings and whether we are going to make it or ever be the same again.

Alas, it turns out that all this negative thinking is not good for our health, creating stress both emotionally and physically. According to psychologists Maier and Watkins, the stress caused by negative thinking can actually make us much more susceptible to colds and flu — and perhaps now Covid as well? Stress can also lead to greater inflammation, which may result in cardiovascular disease, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders.

So what to do?

Believe it or not, one of the most effective ways to deal with stress and avoid ill health is by practising the art of gratitude. In fact there is an abundance of scientific research that shows that positive emotions, like reflecting on what you are thankful for, can undo or potentially reverse the harmful impact of negative emotions. (Fredrickson, 2001).

That is why I was delighted to receive this you tube video from a friend the other day. (Thanks, Bruce!) It reminds me of another song — a wonderful, old hymn which I remember my grade 4 teacher singing to our class (in the days when we could still sing hymns in public school): Count Your Blessings. Here is another one that has much to which to commend itself. Counting one’s blessings can produce increases in positive emotions and thereby reduce one’s chances of serious illness.

Why not give this song a listen and sing along!

How to Honour the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Most of us who are Boomers can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when it was announced that, tragically,  Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. While I was just a young child at the time, I do remember how devastated people were by the news. Yet, inspired by MLK’s dream for a better world, people continued to fight for equal rights for blacks and all people of colour. If the horrific events of the last couple of years have anything to teach us, it is that now more than ever we must renew our resolve to work for justice for everyone who suffers from discrimination, whether it be because of the colour of their skin, their race or religion, their gender or sexual orientation, their age or differing abilities, their economic or social class.

As Boomers and older adults we still have a role to play in this fight. We can act as witnesses to the powerful legacy that Martin Luther King Jr. left us. We can share our stories with the young people in our lives. We can read aloud his “I Have a Dream” speech and invite them to consider how together we can carry on the work of this great man.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service relationship to humanity.”

Now in the second half of life, many of us are in a unique position to give back to our churches and our communities. If MLK were among us he would be the first to remind us that there is something more important than bread and cars and air-conditioned rooms and that the world needs us. It is never too late to think about what our legacy will be to the generations that follow us. Not sure where you can best serve? Check out Volunteer Canada.   In London, Ontario, you can also check out Volunteer London. But wherever you live, you can find information from your local municipality about the various organisations that desperately need your help. Don’t forget that churches and faith communities need good volunteers as well, as does your local school.

Remember: You can make a difference. Why not honour the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. and start today!

Let’s Try to ELIMINATE THE ‘AFTER’S’ FROM OUR LIFE!

A friend sent this to me the other day. The author is unknown but the words are so powerful I have decided to share them with you in today’s blog post.  Hope you find them as helpful as I have!

 “Barely the day started and

it’s already six in the evening.

Barely arrived on Monday

and it’s already Friday.

.. and the month is already over.

.. and the year is almost over.

.. and already 40, 50 or 60 years

of our lives have passed.

.. and we realize that we lost

our parents, friends.

.. and we realize it’s too late

to go back.

So.. Let’s try, despite

everything, to enjoy

the remaining time.

Let’s keep looking for

activities that we like.

Let’s put some color in

our grey.

Let’s smile at the little

things in life that put

balm in our hearts.

And despite everything,

we must continue to enjoy

with serenity this time we

have left.

Let’s try to eliminate the

afters..

I’m doing it after.

I’ll say after.

I’ll think about it after.

We leave everything for

later like ′′ after ′′ is ours.

Because what we don’t

understand is that:

Afterwards, the coffee

gets cold.

afterwards, priorities change.

Afterwards, the charm is

broken.

Afterwards, health passes.

Afterwards, the kids grow up.

Afterwards parents get old.

Afterwards, promises are

forgotten.

Afterwards, the day becomes

the night.

Afterwards, life ends.

And then it’s often too late.

So.. Let’s leave nothing for

later.

Because still waiting to see

later, we can lose the

best moments, the best

experiences, best friends,

the best family.

The day is today. The

moment is now.

We are no longer at the

age where we can afford

to postpone what needs

to be done right away.”

It Looks Like An Eternity,

But It’s A Short Trip,

Enjoy Life And Always

Be Kind. 

  • Author Unknown