Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Family Story

I don't think that Cubmaster was lazy. He was just worn out trying to handle a large group of kids with more energy than he had.

Meanwhile, a bit about me and my family. My wife, Mary Ann, and I celebrated 50 years of marriage last August. We raised two sons, one a Downs Syndrome son named David and the other an Afro-American adopted son named Todd. We have one grandson Cyle, age 7 (Todd's son). He has been in Children's Hospital in Seattle for over 7 months with a rampant form of leukemia. Our children have been brought up members of the First Congregational Church here in Bellingham. Mary Ann is active in church affairs. I am not.

Four years ago in a function at the Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, I was presented with the "Crown of Peace" award for "demonstrated exceptional dedication to promoting reconciliation and unity beyond the boundaries of race, religion and culture toward a new era of peace for all humanity." The award was presented to me by the Interreligious and International Peace Council. The following morning at breakfast as members of the gathering were saying good bye speakers went to the microphone and commented on the proceedings the evening before when about 1,000 persons were assembled to honor the new "Ambassadors for Peace" from around the nation. The man at my right was the world-wide head of the Druze religion. Rev. Al Sharpton sat at my left. Finally I went up to the microphone and introduced myself. I said that I was in awe of the assembly of ministers, reverends, rabbis, priests, shamans, imans, and religious leaders from all religions and from all over the world. I then commented that I found that I accepted virtually every value expressed by all these religions leaders and appreciated being invited to join with them in that event even though I did not subscribe to any of their faiths. I told them my sense of the spiritual does not come in a box with a name, It has no scripture, no leadership hierarchy, no membership requirements, no dues. I told them that I loved them all and respected their diverse beliefs but most of all I appreciated that they had room for me whose sense of the spiritual has no name. I thanked them and sat down. A few moments later two women came across the room headed for me and I thought "Oh, no. Here come the Baptists to bring me into their box." How wrong I was. Those two ladies had been recognized for their work on behalf of marginalized youth in urban settings in America. They merely wanted to say "Thank you" for saying what they wanted to say but did not have the guts to do so.

By the way, one anecdote: I was recently asked to give the eulogy for an incredible woman who died at age 94. When I stood behind the pulpit I asked the assembled friends and relatives of the deceased to glance heavenward. There, I said, you will see Lorraine laughing mightily at this scene. She is probably saying "Many Ann could not get George to church. I not only got him to church, I got him behind the pulpit!" The congregation joined Lorraine in laughing at this scene.

Another thought...if you ever want a gathering to have a deeply significant and emotionally moving spiritual element to it call on our Native American friends. Their drums, their songs, their body language and their prayers touch the religious "button" in everyone who is witness to the event. I have been close to the spiritual leaders of the local Indian tribes for many, many years and have often called on them to participate in public ceremonies that I organize.



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