Saturday, November 18, 2017

Volunteerism Unites a Divided Nation

Volunteers in California serving food for a community fundraiser
to benefit veterans, children and yout

If ever there was good news, it is this (edited for space) letter from the CEO of Points of Light. Take a second to read and The Daily Prism hopes that these positive words will inspire the reader to take action and volunteer to do something that makes life better for us all.  All highlighting in this post is by The Daily Prism.

By Natalye Paquin, CEO, Points of Light

There is a steady drumbeat of stories that focus on our differences. No matter how you consume your news, you’ll see or hear stories about intolerance in our daily lives and political stalemates at every level of government. At the beginning of the year, the Pew Research Center released a poll and said that Americans predicted the country’s deep political divisions to persist – with 86 percent saying the country is more politically divided than ever.

Shortly before that poll was released, however, Points of Light affiliate New York Cares reported that, just a week after one of the most divisive national elections in our country’s history, there was a 137 percent increase in people who came to them with an interest in volunteering.

As we approach the end of 2017, the two sides of this story continue to play out. Yes, we are still seeing rallies of hate and intolerance and our elected officials still don’t agree on solutions to some of the toughest challenges we face. But on the other hand, people are seeking out ways to do something that makes their community better or helps an individual in need. It’s the inclination to help in times of need. It’s what Americans do. And it binds us together as a nation.

The recent series of natural disasters has offered a striking visual – a national story about the power and impact of volunteers. Communities darkened by flood damage ultimately shine with the bright light of neighbors helping neighbors.

Some people walk out of their front doors to help others in their community. Some drive across the country to volunteer. And those who aren’t able to deploy, organize relief efforts from home.

The truth is, people committed to serving others unite around our common humanity.

When it comes to helping – whether it’s rescuing people from flooded homes or pulling up damaged floors after a storm – it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican; rich or poor; black or white; religious or not. Volunteers unite in service. And, strength, resiliency and generosity flow from those simple acts of service.

Friday, November 17, 2017

St. Francis, Wealth, Poverty & Democracy

The Daily Prism's final posting of essays and thoughts from difference sources about the various elements of maintaining a democracy comes from the Center for Contemplation "Depth and Breadth" by Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM. We could post essays on this subject for weeks. The center message to this research is that compassion remains the key to a healthy democracy. 


One reason so many people have lost heart today is that we feel both confused and powerless. The forces against us are overwhelming: consumerism, racism, militarism, individualism, patriarchy, the corporate juggernaut. These “powers and principalities” seem to be fully in control. We feel helpless to choose our own lives, much less a common life, or to see any overarching meaning. The world is so complex, and we are so small. What can we do but let the waves of history carry us and try to keep afloat somehow?

But maybe we can at least look for some patterns, or for those who found the patterns. Let’s turn to a thirteenth-century Italian who has one of the longest bibliographies of anyone in history: Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). His simple wisdom has attracted many cultures and religions and continues to resonate eight hundred years later.

Saint Francis stepped out into a world being recast by the emerging market economy. He lived amid a decaying old order in which his father was greedily buying up the small farms of debtors, moving quickly into the new entrepreneurial class. The Church seems to have been largely out of touch with the masses. But Francis trusted a deeper voice and a bigger truth. He sought one clear center—the Incarnate Jesus—and moved out from there.

Francis understood everything from this personalized reference point. He followed Jesus in at least three clear ways. First, Francis delved into the prayer depths of his own tradition, as opposed to mere repetition of tired formulas. Second, he sought direction in the mirror of creation, as opposed to mental and fabricated ideas or ideals. Third, and most radically, he looked to the underside of his society, to the suffering, for an understanding of how God transforms us. In other words, Francis found both depth and breadth—and a process to keep him there.

The depth was an inner life where all shadow, mystery, and paradox were confronted, accepted, and forgiven—and God was encountered. The breadth was the ordinary and sacred world itself.

Francis showed us the process for staying at the center: entering into the world of human powerlessness. In imitation of Jesus, he chose “poverty” as his honest and truthful lens for seeing everything. Francis set out to read reality through the eyes and authority of those who have “suffered and been rejected”—and, with Jesus, come out resurrected. This is the “privileged seeing” of those who have been initiated by life. It is the true baptism of “fire and Spirit” with which, Jesus says, we must all be baptized (see Mark 10:39).

For Francis, the true “I” first had to be discovered and realigned (the prayer journey into the True Self). He then had to experience himself situated inside of a meaning-filled cosmos (a sacramental universe). Francis prayed, “Who are you, God? And who am I?” Finally, he had to be poor (to be able to read reality from the side of powerlessness). He realized that experiencing reality from the side of money, success, and power is to leave yourself out of sympathy with 99% of the people who have ever lived.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

16 Ways to End Racism in a Democracy

Racism is ugly. We likely all have a touch of racism within -- even the most liberal minded among us. Regardless of race, culture or faith, racism exits -- an unfortunate element of being human. It is, however, an aspect of being human that we can rise above. And in a democracy, all citizens are equal.  

From the series on democracy from Spirituality and Practice

Recent outbreaks of racial bigotry and violence have jolted Americans and people of good will around the world. Social critics, scholars, and cultural commentators have explained this revival of prejudice by pointing to a social justice system in need of repair; police brutality; parental abdication of the responsibility to teach respect for others to children; unemployment among people of color; and widespread feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness of those who sense that they have been denied equal opportunity.

Although these factors shed light on the divisiveness afoot in our world, they do not really get at the heart of the matter. Racial prejudice is a disease of the mind in which we project our self-disgust, anger, alienation, and paranoia upon others whom we perceive to be different from us.

This sickness of mind creates "the hostile imagination," a term coined by freelance theologian Sam Keen. It has already perverted community loyalties and threatens family solidarity. It is eating away at respect for the ideals of ethnic diversity which traditionally have animated our pluralistic society.

One way to lessen racial prejudice is to replace the hostile imagination with "the moral imagination." Here is where qualities and spiritual practices of the Alphabet of Spiritual Literacy hit the road and provide antidotes to the fears and resentments which at the root of racism. Among them are:

  1. Compassion
  2. Connections
  3. Hope
  4. Hospitality
  5. Imagination
  6. Justice
  7. Kindness
  8. Listening
  9. Love
  10. Meaning
  11. Openness
  12. Peace
  13. Reverence
  14. Shadow
  15. Transformation
  16. Unity

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Find Solutions to Poverty for a Strong Democracy

Poverty impacts democracy. We can observe the current circumstances of homelessness, hunger, and impoverished families within the American society, and a  evident separation of the wealthy and the impoverished. The key phrase in the following abbreviated essay is " will take the commitment of compassionate individuals willing to learn about this issue and do what they can to help their neighbors.

From Spirituality and Practice:

Poverty destroys the bodies, minds, and spirits of people. It savages and ravages their hopes and dreams and puts them in a prison of fear, danger, and despair.

According to September 2017 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau provided by the Federal Safety Net, 40.6 million Americans or 12.7 percent of the population live in poverty — that's one of every eight people. The child poverty rate is even higher — one in five children — disturbing because children can do little to influence their living conditions.

(Editor's note: The U.S. poverty rate dropped to 12.7% of the population in 2016 from 13.5% in 2015.)

There is no quick-and-easy solution to poverty. It will take a concerted effort on the part of government and socially engaged institutions (churches, synagogues, mosques, sanghas) to tackle the problem and change the structures and systems which fuel and perpetuate poverty in all its virulent forms. And it will also take the commitment of compassionate individuals willing to learn about this issue and do what they can to help their neighbors.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Healthy Society Boosts Democracy

Healthy citizens are more likely to vote in elections.

Today's post on democracy comes from the University of Wisconsin. It focuses on being healthy and how that can impact democracy.  

Excerpted from the University of Wisconsin:

Factors that facilitate social environments and health are varied and span far beyond medical care. Politics has a hand in most factors in one way or another. “Nearly everything we experience is touched by government,” says Barry Burden, a professor of political science and Director of the Elections Research Center at UW-Madison. “Roads, air, taxes, medications, movies, cost of textbooks, and the moped speeding limit are some examples.” While these may not immediately impact individual biology, they do impact the social environment we find ourselves in, subsequently impacting our health status. Tom Oliver, a professor of population health sciences in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, says, “broadly speaking, how we improve public health has to come from a lot of areas, and we have to look beyond just health care.”

...The impacts of voting and political decisions touch nearly every facet of daily life, from safety, to housing, to education, and even our health.

...The relationship between health and voting is both well-researched and reciprocal. “Research shows that the healthier you are, the more likely you are to cast a ballot,” says Burden. In turn, there is also research that shows voting can actually make people healthier. “When a person is involved with civic life, they are social, efficacious, and participating,” says Burden.

Participation in civic life is one way to improve social wellbeing. Feelings of connection and belonging change the way individuals interact with the world around them. Oliver speaks highly of the importance of participating in community life as it relates to health. “Social connectedness is really important for physical health, because they are active when they’re getting out and doing things, and also mental health, because social capital relates to an underlying ideal that can determine health status.”

The Social Ecological Model of Health is one way to visualize this idea. The model suggests that an individual’s health is determined not only by their biology and individual choices, but also the community they live in, the systems they interact with, and the societal norms that shape their realities. “Health begins with the genes you inherit from your parents,” says Oliver, “but it grows into how you are affected by your social environment.”

... "We have to decide where we’re going as a country morally, economically, and politically,” says Wells. And this certainly has an impact on wellbeing. “A lot of people talk about a right to health,” says Oliver. “And while we can’t ensure that, we can support it.” No matter what this support looks like, whether it is directed to health policy or otherwise, the people have the power to facilitate not only their personal health, but the determinants around them that can shape it. This is the foundation of a healthy democracy.

Monday, November 13, 2017

7 Virtues for a Democratic Society

The birthright of being a citizen in a democratic society is something of which one should find gratefulness in being.  Democracy is a gift and a gift that all citizens share with each other. The next few posts in The Daily Prism will feature essays and thoughts on democracy in America, and ways to help end the current divide fueled by fear and anger. 

From the Fetzer Institute:

Americans are people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, united by a powerful idea: we are all created equal. We believe everyone deserves the freedom and opportunity to pursue our own happiness and purpose in life.

But fear and anger are tearing at the fabric of America. Division and suspicion threaten our very survival as a democratic nation.

We, the people, have the power to shape our democracy. Working together, we can transcend the labels that polarize us and develop a fuller understanding of what unites us. We can cultivate sacred connections with our neighbors and build a shared vision for our communities and our country.

An inclusive America begins with each of us, as individuals. We have the responsibility to practice spiritual and moral virtues that enable us all to flourish as members of a democratic society:

  • Love in the face of hatred and division
  • Respect for every person’s sacred dignity and worth
  • Commitment to the greater good
  • Humility to admit we might not have all the answers
  • Openness to having our minds changed by those with whom we disagree
  • Courage to compromise
  • Wisdom to see that we’re all in this together—and that none of us can truly prosper unless we all prosper

These are simple rules we can live by every day. They can help all of us open our hearts, find a common purpose, and make our democracy work for the greater good of all.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans and Cats--A Natural Kinship

Thank a Veteran for their Service.

Veterans Day is a time for us to pay our respects to those who have served our country in the armed forces.

 For one day, we stand united in respect for our veterans.

Veterans and Cats, what do they have in common?  People often think of dogs as providing comfort and therapy for our Veterans, but cats also provide comfort and ease the pain for Veterans too.
Here is a video that honors the relationship between veterans and cats.....