Rising, and Being Raised


May 13, 2023- The objections offered by the woman sitting in the next room, to the Disney versions of classical children’s stories, which her child, grandchildren-and yours truly were watching, were cogent and well-taken. A woman does not need a dashing man of means to swoop in and solve her problems. A human being does not need another, more “superior” human being to decide how life’s difficulties may be overcome.

Those problems and difficulties are best solved by the person facing them, though they are NOT always to be resolved by one soul, singly and alone. There are reasons why we have issues to overcome and there are reasons why we encounter the people we do, including the parents, children, siblings, friends and adversaries in our lives. Each person has something of value to impart, even if it comes in the form of a challenge or setback.

A couple of times today, I found myself admonishing the little boy in the house I was visiting-a place where I am regarded as a brother and as an uncle. His well-being, and that of his sister and cousins, is of great importance to me. So, I speak up, sharply when needed, and calmly the rest of the time. My lesson, though, was to remind myself that his understanding of life is limited-he’s only f our years of age, and controlling impulsivity is a work in progress. Still, keeping the little one safe from physical harm is a duty of every person older than he. Guiding him to not harm others is also a major concern.

There is a further consideration here. Each of us, in addition to (hopefully) raising the young people around us, is also raising self. Parents and nearby adults (again, hopefully) do the best they know how in raising us. The job is not complete, however, when one reaches the age of 18, 21 or 25. Most of the heavy lifting, from those milestones of maturity onward, falls to the individual soul. We can, many times, consult our elders on a continuing basis, but the final choice is our own.

I learn something new about my remaining challenges, both ongoing and novel, each and every day. How I deal with them, what I choose to do, is not on anyone else. I’ve never been Prince Charming, and have never known a Fairy Godmother, or a Sleeping Beauty. The joys and sorrows that have come from each of the friendships and familial ties I have known, though, are more than enough to inform what I need to do, going forward.

If I can offer the same to the children in my life, that is all that is needed.

Takeaways from Last Watch, 22-23


May 9, 2023- The call came fairly early, yesterday, as I was en route to Sedona, in caravan with Yunhee and her mother following close behind. The need was for someone to cover three or four classes, for an hour or so in each. Much of the work would be transitional, getting the children from one class to another-and some light monitoring of work in between. With today being unscheduled for anything else, I said yes.

There were no “bait and switch” elements involved. I have a reputation for not taking kindly to such tactics, though being reasonably flexible is part of any substituting activity. So, when asked to help the playground staff for part of the three hours I would have otherwise been idle, I put on sunscreen and went down to the field and the fun zone. A little girl showed me her rather well-executed cartwheel, which generated others to do the same. A mixed group of 5th and 6th graders played kickball, with rules that were quite a bit looser than I remember, but it was all peaceful and I saw some strong displays of athletics. All in all, the kids did what was expected of them, and most of the staff were appreciative.

I will be off on other pursuits, during what remains of the academic year. Autumn will see me back, for as many days as I can be available-working around Mom’s birthday milestone (September) and a visit to a teenager whom I am sponsoring, in the Philippines (October). The latter was approved by the agency, this afternoon. One must not depend on investment income and retirement funds alone. Besides, it’s mostly enjoyable to be with the children.

Tomorrow evening, the train will depart Flagstaff, for Los Angeles, then point north. Life continues on a most even keel.

Straight Lines and Circles


May 5, 2023- In the back room of yet another blessed, beloved coffee shop, Williams’ Brewed Awakenings, I joined a study session on “Participating in Public Discourse”. In it, we consider what is the most productive and ethical means of encouraging and promulgating civil, spiritually-nourishing public conversations on a multitude of issues.

A key premise, that occurred to the participants this morning, is that linear thinking can be disrupted, in and sent off into tangents- “Us vs. Them”, in so many words. Such a dichotomy is surely tempting. It is, after all, an outwardly reasonable means to make sense of a world in which there are so many different choices. It allows for such concepts as spectrum, continuum and degrees of influence. It allows for a beginning and an end. Linear thinking also allows for “Games of Gotcha”, “Cat Have Your Tongue?” and all other systems that let human beings sit in judgement of one another-as individuals and as groups.

The circle is a symbol of unity. When I was challenged by another member of the group for having said that love is the foundation of all virtues, while she held that truth is actually that foundation, it helped to note that love and truth are part of the circle. Neither really has prominence over the other, and the two are actually one another’s basic companions. So it is with the round, enclosed entity; nothing that nourishes, that fulfills, really exists separately from anything else that provides sustenance and affirmation. The ending of one cycle is the beginning of another-as is shown in everything from the Mayan calendar to the 1998 pop song, “Closing Time”. Indeed, when Baha’u’llah wrote “This is the Changeless Faith of God, eternal in the past, eternal in the future”, He was pointing out that the Creative Force (God, if you will) is quite capable of having set about a Universe, before the one we know now, and is quite capable of bringing this Universe to an end, many eons from now, or next week, and bringing a new Universe into being.

I have lived a life that seeks understanding, unity and harmony. It seems that is more attainable using the inclusiveness of the circle, rather than the separation suggested by a linear model-though some are sure to say, “Well, a line does connect.” Fair enough, and the circle that heals, does have to be permeable.

Casting the Burden, and Grasping It


April 24, 2023- The intrepid boy sang his way through five pages of three-digit addition problems, doing two pages, then taking time for his Specials class (Music, of course) and returning to work the rest of the lesson. He hit upon a method, which I’ve seen people use in “Swing Mode”-the approach to working through a given task by using rhythm and movement-that engaged his whole body in accomplishing a task that might otherwise have been seen as drudgery. Indeed, his regular teacher was amazed at the progress, initially crediting me with inspiring the child to work in this manner. In truth, I had nothing to do with it. Whatever unseen influence prompted his motivation, it was a godsend. There are many ways to cast a burden and the way that works best for an individual should be decided by him or her.

Conversely, another child has held onto his issues and setbacks, as if they are a perverse security blanket. This child accomplished little, despite an intellect that is outwardly superior to those of many of his classmates. There are, I am told, concerns with the apathy of his parents, which would certainly raise a red flag. None of us enjoys being ignored, especially by those whom we should expect to trust the most. Getting attention by clutching onto negativity is behind far too many of the issues that bedevil our communities. Then, too, there are all the intrapersonal dynamics that inhibit or dissuade the seemingly oblivious adults, in the life of a troubled child, from taking up their inherent responsibilities.

This was the last day of my assignment, and once again, I was thanked by the team for not charging in and rearranging the system according to my own predilections and whims. I do prefer to let established teams continue with what works, whether the group be a Red Cross operation, a Farmers Market activity or a well-oiled team of educational paraprofessionals. Treating people, of any age, as dignified beings who have a fair idea as to what they are doing, tends to have a good effect on their operation. The mentally ill or abused/neglected tend to need more structured support, and for a longer time than others, but it is still advantageous to note what they are doing successfully and build upon it.

Only by increasing the circle of security, can a person reasonably be led to cast a burden and free the self. That requires attention and discernment.

A Calming Effect


April 20, 2023- The second day of my present four-day assignment found the disconsolate soul from yesterday’s session still a bit on edge, at day’s end, but at least willing to get on the bus for home. I credit the gentle lady who substituted for one of the paraprofessionals and had the kids’ hearts-and attention, by mid-morning. Her demeanour had very much a calming effect, and it’d be nice to have a room full of people like her. I could focus on directing the activities, and on providing a steady, fairly gentle flow of classroom management, with her calm voice as a backdrop.

Today saw the actual New Moon solar eclipse, felt but not visible from here. Whatever energy it unleashed, over the past two days, was diminishing during these 24 hours. It is also “celebrated” in some quarters for its association with 4:20 p.m., which is supposed to have a connection with marijuana smoking..I never really paid attention to the back story on that one, or to the part about today being the birthday of Adolf Hitler-a fact that I think ought to be relegated to Trivial Pursuit, especially coming as it does the day after Holocaust Remembrance Day-which deserves to be honoured.

I am now halfway through this assignment. Tomorrow and Monday will be focused and well-ordered. The calm and self-assured lady will be back tomorrow, and the seasoned paraprofessional for whom she is covering will return on Monday. Being responsible for keeping order is not difficult for me, anymore-especially with reliable crews that get on well together. Life, and Spring, are turning out rather nicely right



April 19, 2023- As the tall child lay on the floor, screaming, it was abundantly clear that going home was not on the agenda. It was all about playing with a classmate’s toy, and that was that. Eventually, one step at a time, two team members and a bus monitor got the child on the bus-and the toy that was out of reach was likely forgotten. It is the moment, and only the moment, that matters.

Tantrums are hard, for those of us who have become inured to life’s challenges, to understand-until we become tired, and a bit cranky. Then, we let loose with plaints of our own, though hopefully, not by lying on the floor, or the steps of a bus, and wailing in full voice. That we continue to fall into a flailing cycle at all, even verbally, is sad-but it’s part of being human.

Last week, while managing the Red Cross shelter, I felt discomfited by what, in retrospect, were mild criticisms coming from both above and below. Once those complaints were addressed, to the extent possible, it was clear that much of the outcry was based on opinion, not on actual threats to the well-being of residents and staff. Those above me issued a warm card, which I received in today’s mail and those alongside me were uniformly clear in their satisfaction with how the operation had gone during my tenure -and was continuing to flow, under my successor, It is the system, properly applied, and not the personality of the middle manager, or of any other staffer, that makes the operation flow smoothly.

No demand can ever bear fruit, unless all aspects of the situation that brought it into being, and all possible outcomes and consequences of its posting, are considered. This is a fact lost on a flailing child, but one that should never be ignored by a disconsolate person of maturity.

Pushing Back On The Mud, Day Five


April 7, 2023, Aptos, CA– It was, to many people, a day suitable to their mood-rainy and a bit cool, reflecting the feelings of many people about the Crucifixion of Christ. Yet, throughout the day, the sun shone through the clouds, periodically. There is, in fact, progress being made on the determination of water potability, which is one of the factors that will affect the return of people to their homes. The bigger issue, of course, is the presence of mud in and around those homes. Finally, there is the issue of accessibility to the houses.

To many people, the ordeal feels like a crucifixion, of sorts. Most will recover, to a greater or lesser extent. The lessons learned from this inundation may not be immediately clear to the victims, yet there seems to be a very strong sense of “We will go on and show our children that these kinds of events are not the end of life.” This is much in the spirit of what Christ was telling humanity, by submitting to the ignominy of the Cross.

The best of parents deliver this message to their children, both verbally and by example, on a daily basis. The ethic of picking oneself up and going forward is also what will carry human civilization and sense of community.

“And still we rise”.

Pushing Back On The Mud, Day One


April 3, 2023, San Jose- The three giddy teens had no qualms about running into the street, but seemed surprised when I stopped and let them finish crossing. This was about the only blip on the calm radar screen that has been playing out, in this economic hub, of the Tech Hub that is Silicon Valley.

The day started early enough, 5 a.m., and after the usual routine of shower, shave and devotions, I got packed, loaded the car and started out around 7:50-then the zipper on my Vietnam Vet jacket separated, from the bottom. I managed to get it fixed, then headed over to True North, where I was initially mistaken for the owner, who is also my weight reduction coach. He came in a few seconds later, took my figures and found no significant change from last week.

Next up was the shuttle to Phoenix. I got to Groome’s terminal in plenty of time-to find we were waiting until nearly departure time, letting anxiety rear its head, ever so slightly. Never fear, though, the driver was merely picking up a disabled woman at her home. Five more stops later, we were en route to Sky Harbor, and made it to the airport on schedule.

It’s been a while, since I last flew Southwest Airlines-with all but one flight having been seamless. Today’s short hop, Phoenix to San Jose, started with me being mildly upbraided by a ticket agent for not putting the tag on one of my bags neatly. I made the mistake of checking the departure board-and ending up in the wrong Gate Area. Fifteen minutes later, with a delicious jalapeno-cilantro hummus and grilled chicken in tow, I got to the actual gate-with another fifteen minutes to spare.

The flight was typically smooth, spent in the company of an interesting couple who were headed to Palo Alto. only a minor gust of wind, which rocked the plane, just before we landed, interrupted our discussion of modern education. We pretty much concurred on the consequences of inconsistency and “faddism”, and breathed a sigh of relief when the wheels hit the tarmac.

Getting the bags was fairly swift, and catching a ride to Red Cross-San Jose took a few phone calls and texts, but the driver, while surly, showed up within ten minutes and got me to the headquarters building-where I learned I was going-not to Visalia, as planned earlier, but to Watsonville, home of Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds. That will be my assignment until at least April 11. I am also working day shift, much easier on my constitution.

The evening drive around San Jose was in search of a pair of reading glasses, following a Zoom call during which the soft light of my hotel room rubbed the need for such eye wear in my face. I can read full well in good light-but the converse is not true. I can, however, see to drive perfectly well-and no random pedestrian in the middle of a road is in any danger-even when putting self in harm’s way.

Thus did a long day pass, and end perfectly nicely.



March 28, 2023- The young man was quick on his feet, pointing out that I had used a complimentary adjective, in reference to a woman of colour- only minutes after another member of the group had cautioned against combining references to mental prowess with a subject’s ethnicity or gender. Point taken-and I simultaneously wonder if pinpoint concern over the fine points of speech may not have the unintended consequence of turning people away from the mental process of refining one’s thought.

Thought refinement has to precede the elevation of speech. I can readily see how “She was a feisty, articulate young Black woman” must sound to a person who shares those qualities-or to anyone who is sensitive to such cloying language. I remember wincing, years ago, when a colleague reported that someone had “complimented” her for being an “educated Indian”. The person who used those words may, or may not, have entertained a condescending view of First Nations people, but the effect was obvious.

Truth be known, I was, and still am, in awe of the woman to whom I referred. I hope she has only become more articulate, and retained her fire, over the years-and that these have helped her realize her goals. The world needs, if anything, more people who are resolute and who won’t “mind their place”, when it comes to seeking justice. In that regard, I hope the young man at tonight’s meeting likewise keeps prodding the rest of us to stop and elevate our thoughts, so that the resultant speech is of the highest order.

Correct must come to truly mean right.

The Fallacy of Coercion


March 25, 2023- Once, after Penny’s funeral, when I found a modest, but pliable, insurance deposit in my checking account, I got a call from someone who used the fact, that I had only myself to support, as a springboard to ask that I help fund a surgery that was needed. In those days of some confusion and recovery that accompanied the grieving process, I did not project ahead to the expenses of the ensuing four months before the final life insurance settlement would find its way to me. It felt like it was my bounden duty to help this individual, who had little. The choice was made to proffer a substantial amount in that direction. Fast forward three months, and I received a proposal from my handyman to renovate the house. Without giving it the proper amount of thought, I initially agreed to his offer, only to do the math afterward-and to end up cancelling the project, thus burdening him with returning the materials-and burdening myself with the loss of a friend.

I have come to the realization, these many years later, that there really was no coercion from anyone. I made both decisions, conflicting as they were, out of a desire to make someone else happy. To what extent the first person achieved happiness is a matter of opinion. I have not been willing or able to continue to dole out money in that direction. It goes without saying, that the second person is just as glad if he never sees me again.

In life, there are relatively few matters that are imperative. A parent must do the best to raise any child, who is birthed or adopted, to adulthood. A pet owner must see to the animal’s well-being. A citizen must contribute to the support of community, state and nation-both financially and civically. A worker must do the best to fulfill the basic requirements of a job. Communities must provide for the education of their young and for the basic care of disabled and elderly residents.

All else, however, is a matter of choice. In the 1970s, the comedian Flip Wilson had a routine, on his television program, in which he played a character whose retort to being chastised was “The devil made me do it.” We Baha’is know the “devil” to be the ego of a person, when it entices one to overindulge base instincts or desires, acting against the better nature. It was anthropomorphized long ago, in the days of Babylon-and has had a physical image ever since. This has the effect of allowing a person to deflect any blame for actions-which was exactly Wilson’s point. That such self-indulgence can generate negative energy, which can and does harm self and others, does not change the essence of its nature.

There is much that I take on, both paid and volunteer work. In each case, I have come to the understanding with myself that my choices are made strictly in consulting with my conscience, and not because of any pressure from outside. Guilting, whining or yelling and screaming have only made me turn away from the supplicant. There is no such real thing as coercion, when you give the matter some thought.