Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain,
but for the heart to conquer it.

- Rabindranath Tagore

Inspirational Music

Thursday, April 17, 2014


I recently started dating an amazing girl Hannah. This post is not about her. It's about the amazing little boy that she nannies. His name is Thatcher. He has very significant developmental challenges that most children do not have. He wears braces on his legs and walking doesn't come easy for him. He cannot communicate using speech or in many ways with ease. But, he has a smile that melts you and a laugh that uplifts you. I met him a few weeks ago and have had the pleasure of his company a couple more times. In only these few times with him he's grabbed a bit of my heart. I naturally empathize with people who do not have normal lives or challenges, but this little boy has captured my attention. I can't help but think about the difficulties he lives with each day or wonder what's going on in his mind as he responds to his challenges and the people who care for and about him.

I first met him when Hannah and I picked him up from his speech therapy session. They were working on the sign language sign for "more" when we arrived. I instantly remembered when my niece, Alivia, learned that. She's now talking and doesn't use it anymore, but it instantly created a little familiar feeling. I have spent very little time with young children as they are developing up to this point in my life, but I'm amazed by her and by Thatcher. Thatcher is a different child with different challenges as I said. It is a much larger hurdle for him to learn to use that sign to communicate, but I've seen him use it and believe that he will continue to grow and learn more ways like that to communicate.

When we left that session, Thatcher was challenged by his Nanna and Hannah to walk on his own to the car. He would try to hold onto their hands or onto a wall but for most of the trek he held his own and walked completely independently. This too struck a common thread with me. I still remember learning to walk again. I remember the uncertainty and learning to trust my balance again. I remember the pain and the challenge of it. I imagine those feelings are very present for Thatcher as he strives to walk on his own each time.

The most memorable thing about my short time with Thatcher has been two other things though: his smile and his laughter. He can often have an expression that tells you very little about how he feels. When he does, it is very hard to gauge whether he is upset or content. Other times when he is certainly enjoying himself, he will crack a smile. Then there are the times that he is really enjoying himself and his unique laugh will come out. Both of these expressions of his joy are impactful. They are genuine.

This brings me to a point I suppose. It's a point I've learned but will never fully grasp. There is joy to be had in any situation and difficulty. If Thatcher can smile and laugh and play then so can I. I forget that sometimes. I can get overwhelmed with my situation or my pain or my challenges. They are things that distract me from joy and being joyful. They can distract me from living a life that recognizes joy where it can be found. Thatcher has reminded me in a big way with his struggles and joys that I need to face my own with a smile and joy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Magic in Music

I have been through a fair bit of hellish situations. I have scars and even still open wounds from them. My heart and my body are riddled with somewhat filled-in holes. My home, my family was torn to tatters when I was a boy, just becoming a young man. I have a menagerie of scars all over my residual limbs from so many sores that some scars are right on top of others. When I was still in Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, I actually had such terrible scar banding in my left armpit that I could not raise my arm above 90 degrees for a few weeks. It wasn't budging; it was painfully obstinant in is lack of flexibility. One weekend, it just "released" and I could get my arm to close to 180 degrees. I had this thought today that music, in that it is incredibly cathartic to me, is similar to occupational stretch/massage therapy for my hearts scars. I use it to find my way to the source of the pain and to stay there a while. I feel the hurts and painful scars and try to just let them be expressed. I could look at it like I'm just opening old wounds, but I see it has keeping them open until they heal from the inside out. That's what I have to do if I have a infection under the skin on one of my legs. I have to pack it with this cotton wick-type thing that keeps it from closing and creating a void where infection can incubate. Doing this allows it to heal fron the foundation of the wound all the way to the surface of my skin. But, this cathartic experience is also like massaging old scars sometimes. I massage them with melody, knowing that whether I can see any change or not, at some point they will soften. At some point, they won't keep my heart from loving more fully and from being graciously flexible. In this way, I think there is a little magic in music.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Real Men Don't Buy Girls

I saw a random post on my Facebook news feed; well, I saw the photo and it captured my attention.

This is the photo:

The post was for an organization called StreetLight USA. The first page I went to on their website was called "The Issue." The first thing I noticed was the scripture quoted:

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" - Micah 6:8

This is one of my favorite passages of scripture. It covers so much with so few words. We are not asked  simply to think or vote justly; we are required to DO JUSTICE. This scripture also says, "O man," but it certainly is not limited to only half of the human race. It is talking to each of us. I take the perspective that men and women are completely equal in their measure of humanity, and in my eyes that means that we are all equal in our responsibility to humanity. To buy a girl, is to put a price on the liberty and dignity of a human being.

I met a few people who in my estimation are doing a great deal of justice when I was in Calcutta in the summer of 2009. The first was Mother Theresa, who I did not meet literally, but who I met in her writings and in the caring homes she helped to establish. The others were this band of Americans working to rescue women, and their families, from "the trade," as it is referred to. This trade being the trade of human beings as goods or commodities. It is most usually expressed as the sex trade because most of the "buyers" demand that. So, the trade supplies it. These people worked with more than one organization and business in order to create the opportunity for freedom for women caught up in the trade. They teach women skills that they can use to make a living in a different way. They help these women create a better life for their children in many ways. They break the bonds of slavery and imprisonment in both these women's lives and in their hearts. They embody what I understand as the second highest (but a darn close second) commandment: love your neighbor.

"Jesus replied: '"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments.'" - Matthew 22:37-40 NIV

They are doing justice as well. It is one thing to "not buy girls." It is a completely different thing to rescue them. We have a list of commands as to what to not do. This one is about what we must do. It requires proactive action. Mother Theresa decided to build homes for the dying just so they wouldn't die alone and unloved. 

I am challenged as to what it means for me to do justice. I think of myself as having the opportunity to become someone equipped to do justice. I am unsure of whether that means being a doctor or not right now. I do not intend to stop growing or becoming a person who is equipped to DO JUSTICE better than I can right now.