Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

The Dodgers: A Metaphor for Life

Posted September 11th, 2017 by Tom

The Los Angeles Dodgers are having an epic season. They won games at such a torrid pace it was possible they would amass the all-time record for most wins in a season. Sports Illustrated put them on the cover on August 22 asking whether this year’s team might be the greatest of all time.

Then the wheels came off the bus. As of the moment I’m writing these words, the Dodgers have lost 10 games in a row; swept in 3 straight series. They’ve lost 15 of their last 16 games. Interesting fact…. they became the first team in the history of Major League Baseball to win 15 of 16, and lose 15 of 16, in the same season. Yet they still have the best win-loss record in all of baseball.

The Dodgers may win the World Series this year. They may hobble into the playoffs and go home after the first round. One of the aspects of baseball I love is just that… you never know what’s going to happen.

Baseball is a lot like life that way… in many ways.

  1. What we do individually matters – both for good and for the not-so-good.
  2. What we do collectively matters
  3. Sometimes life throws us a curveball and we strike out.
  4. Sometimes life throws a heater right in our sweet spot and we knock it out of the park.
  5. Life, like baseball, requires patience. Sometimes, a LOT of patience. Just ask Chicago Cubs fans.

I could go on. But I’ll let you come up with other metaphors. Here’s the main thing I’m thinking about this morning, Monday, September 11, the morning of the day the Dodgers begin a 3-game series in San Francisco with our arch-rivals, the Giants. Will the Dodgers bats come alive again? Will our pitchers regain their confidence? Will we sweep the Giants? Will we lose 2 out of 3? There’s no telling. We can’t predict what’s going to happen, any more than we can predict what’s going to happen to us each day when we wake up in the morning.

The only thing we have complete control over is our reaction to what happens. That control over our reaction is a tremendous amount of power for doing good in the world. I hope the Dodgers win it all this year. But I have no control over that. I do have control over me. You have control over you. Let’s hit one out of the park today, shall we?

Go Dodgers. Go YOU!

Grace in the Face of Terror

Posted May 28th, 2017 by Tom

On Friday afternoon, May 26, 2017, on a MAX commuter train in Northeast Portland, Oregon, a man began verbally abusing two women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, with racist, anti-Muslim insults. When other passengers intervened, the man pulled a knife and attacked. Two men died. Another was taken to a hospital. The alleged attacker is in custody.

I live in Oregon. My daughter works in Portland and rides MAX almost every day. She posted an article, These are the Victims of the Portland Train Stabbing Attack, which shared who the two men were who stood up as allies to the women being victimized, and lost their lives.

I wrote on Facebook, “Heartbreaking. Horrific. On the eve of Ramadan. Here in my state of Oregon. Prayers for the victims; for all who are harmed by this racist, fear-fueled attack. Prayers for Peace.”

Responses ranged from people expressing horror and deep sadness, to offering prayers for the victims, to opinions about the attacker. And my friends began challenging each other’s opinions, questioning conclusions, offering counter-opinions. Emotions ran high. I f0und myself becoming emotionally charged. Why is this white supremacist with a prison record even walking the streets? How much blame can we place on the President of the United States for stoking anti-Muslim, xenophobic behavior? Why does our nation focus so little on mental health services for those who need them? And why are my friends, many of whom don’t know each other, going after each other on Facebook? Why am I tempted to delete some of their comments?

We need spaces to process our feelings about horrific events. Facebook, awkward as it often is, has become a major sight for such processing. And we try to teach, convince, change, belittle, attack, support, commiserate, and share with each other.

My invitation to myself, which I extend to all, is to be careful with my judgments. Be cautious with my conclusions about what others write. Ask myself if Facebook is the best place to share my deeply felt, emotionally-charged opinions in this moment. I invite myself, and extend to all, to be kind first, to be patient first, to offer grace first, and in this particular situation, to remember that two men have died, one man is in the hospital, two women are deeply traumatized, one man is in jail, many witnesses, bystanders, supporters, family members, friends, police, and caregivers are also traumatized to one degree or another. So is my daughter. So am I. So are other friends and family members here in Oregon. So are my friends who have only read about this incident and live very far away. Because incidents like this happen every single day in cities throughout the United States and around the world. And they impact us; our sense of well-being and safety.

The day before the attack, I participated in a Guided Meditation Community Conference Call sponsored by Coming to the Table, the anti-racism, peacebuilding community to which I’m blessed to have been a part for more than a decade. These meditation calls are offered by CTTT twice each month, organized by a Working Group focused on Meditation as a Healing Resource; specifically on racial healing. The facilitator utilized a recording of “Black Lives Matter Meditation for Healing Racial Trauma.” We came together by phone from locations throughout the United States; sat together as a small community of people focused on healing. Anyone reading these words is welcome to click on the links above to check out the many resources the Working Group has gathered, and to join us for future guided meditation calls. The next two are June 17 and June 25. My additional invitation to myself, which I extend to all, is to focus first on healing myself. When I am healthy, I am most able to be of service in the healing of others.

The facilitator of the guided meditation call on Thursday shared the following, which I share here, with hope and faith…

May we all be filled with compassion;

May we all be well in body and mind,

May we all be safe from inner and outer dangers,

And may we all be truly happy and free.

 

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Collateral Beauty

Posted April 13th, 2017 by Tom

This film took my breath away. Literally. I found myself short of breath toward the end. I highly recommend Collateral Beauty.

Yep, it got a score of 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was savaged by critics. It died at the box office. I don’t watch movies that receive such a horrible, cumulative score on Rotten Tomatoes. I made an exception this time because of the recommendation of a good friend whose judgment I trust when it comes to matters of the heart and spirit. Gretchen and I are both certified trainers for Infinite Possibilities, a network of people who share a program on living life deliberately; about life’s beauty and our power.

So what is it about Collateral Beauty – a film about a dad caught up in the depths of despair over the death of his 6-year old daughter – that inspired me to write such glowing praise; in contrast to pretty much every film critic on earth? Howard, the character played by Will Smith, pulled me in right from the start when he said…

We’re here to connect. Love, time, death. These three things connect every single human being on earth. We long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death.

This is an “Infinite Possibilities” film, if ever there was one. It illustrates that we each have the ability to shape our lives and live our dreams through understanding, and working with, our thoughts, words, attitudes, beliefs, and actions.

Just be sure to notice the collateral beauty. It’s the profound connection to everything.

Yes. That.

And this: I wrote this post because there is someone who needs to read these words. I don’t know who you are, but you do. Pay attention.

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Dear “White” People – I Am Not Your Negro

Posted March 12th, 2017 by Tom

Photo Credit (c) Bob Adleman

Dear “White” People,

For all of us who consider ourselves “white” – we who have immigrated [or our ancestors did] to the United States from Europe [primarily]. I have a hope and a request that we will watch the film, I Am Not Your Negro.

I was recently in Seattle for the Celebration of Life for Susan Hutchison, the co-founder of Coming to the Table who recently passed from this life. Coming to the Table envisions “a just and truthful society that acknowledges and seeks to heal from the racial wounds of the past—from slavery and the many forms of racism it spawned.” Susan (a “white” woman) embodied this vision in her words, heart, and actions.

When I arrived in Seattle to stay with my cousin Elly Hale (from Traces of the Trade) and her husband Brad, she suggested that we go see this new documentary. How appropriate it was for us to see I Am Not Your Negro the evening before we gathered with friends and family to celebrate Susan’s wonderful life. Read the rest of this entry »

Edward Snowden and the Times in which we Live

Posted February 19th, 2017 by Tom

I watched the new Oliver Stone film Snowden a few weeks ago. It gave me the creeps. I recognize it’s a Hollywood/Stone version of a story about a guy people consider either a traitor or a hero. It still gave me the creeps. Though Stone’s version of JFK is considered by some to be a whacky, paranoid conspiracy buff’s dream, I have no doubt there was a conspiracy to murder JFK and a conspiracy to cover up the truth of who was involved. I’ve read 1984. It also gave me the creeps, along with a healthy skepticism about government and unscrupulous people with lots of power. The U.S. government has done some horrible things throughout our nation’s history, including to its own citizens. If you disagree, you may as well stop reading now and go to another website because nothing else I’m about to write will resonate with you at all.

Because I was so intrigued by the story of Edward Snowden, I went to the library and checked out CITIZENFOUR, the 2014 winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary Film. I figured it would be less “Hollywood” and more the straight stuff. It is. CITIZENFOUR was directed by Laura Poitras and features journalist Glenn Greenwald, along with Snowden. It was Poitras and Greenwald that Snowden contacted to help him make public the classified information he had chosen to release: evidence of massive, indiscriminate and illegal invasion of privacy (spying) by the U.S. government, via the National Security Agency (NSA) on virtually all its citizens… you and me. Read the rest of this entry »

Kubo and the Two Strings

Posted February 8th, 2017 by Tom

One of the byproducts of living with two young granddaughters is we tend to watch more animated films in our home than we might otherwise. One of the benefits of this reality is that many such movies are teaching some important life lessons that are often missing in what grown-ups often encounter in many adult-oriented films, not to mention the national news, political discourse, and the other stuff we encounter in everyday life.

Kubo and the Two Strings is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film in this year’s Oscars. Kubo loses his father and his mother and unleashes a couple of evil spirits determined to destroy him. He embarks on a quest, accompanied by a monkey and a giant beetle, to solve the mystery of his fallen, samurai father, and along the way, discover his own magical powers.

Particularly in these challenging times, when so many people believe there is so much going wrong in the world, Kubo reminds us of the power of sharing our stories, the power of family, and most important, of our own power.

In the event you’re a grown-up reading these words, and you think you’re too mature for animated films… trust me. You aren’t. Embrace your inner child, or snuggle up with your grandchild on the couch, and join Kubo on his grand adventure.

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What I Told My Granddaughters the Morning After the Election

Posted November 9th, 2016 by Tom

I awoke this morning to the realization that a man who has loudly and regularly proclaimed racism, sexism, xenophobia, white/male supremacy, and general intolerance has been elected President of the United States. I, along with so many others, feel various levels of shock, disbelief, and sadness. My first conscious thought as I rose from bed was of two granddaughters who were getting ready to go to school in the living room. They, ages 8 and 9, their mother, and my wife and I, have lived together for the past four years. I fully expected that I would speak with them today about the election of the first woman in the history of the United States to become President.

Instead, I walked into the living room for quite a different discussion. They understand that Donald Trump has said some very mean things; that he uses words that are on the “Bad words we should not say” list they wrote up for me a couple years ago; words their mom taught them not to use: hate, stupid, jerk, among others. They understand bullying. They get it when people are not nice. Make no mistake, children pick up on racism and intolerance.

2016-election-collage

My granddaughters paid close attention as I told them what happened in the election. I told them even though Donald Trump will be the president, and that the president is supposed to set a good example, that it is not okay to be mean to other people or to hurt other people. It is still not okay to use bad words.

I’m scared,” said the younger of the two.

It’s okay to be scared,” I said. “Lots of people are scared. And I want you to know I am here for you. So are your Mommy and Daddy. We will protect you. And no matter what happens, it is important for us to be kind and to help and support each other and other people.”

We talked for several minutes about intolerance and kindness, about fear and love. I told them I loved them several times. Our conversation was the best I felt I could do for them in our brief time together this morning. They soon walked out the front door with their grandmother for the short walk to school.

I think often of what Frederick Douglass said,

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

There are many men and women who understandably and justifiably feel broken today. And this is nothing new. I want to repeat that for myself and others: This is nothing new. This election is a reflection of the consistent, historic foundation of systemic racism, sexism, and injustice upon which the United States was built, and sadly, continues to perpetuate. I’ve communicated overnight with many friends; people of color, people in the LGBTQ community, and women. People who are afraid because they live in the marginalized communities specifically and directly targeted during this election by the man who has been elected, and by many who supported his candidacy.

I’m also reminded today of words spoken by Dr. King:

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

cttt-logoUndoing and replacing deeply embedded systems of injustice is long, hard work. The results of this election are a powerful reminder of how much work remains to be done, and the urgency of this work. The Vision and Mission of Coming to the Table, the organization I’ve been involved with for more than a decade, is needed now more than ever.

Those who feel sad and angry, go ahead and feel sad and angry. Mourn. Honor what you’re feeling and work through it. Talk about it. It is through difficult and challenging times that we often learn how strong we are. This is clearly a time to be strong and to recognize the opportunity we have: to build peace, to seek justice, to honor and practice Love. Systems will change when attitudes change. Be that change. You are needed now more than ever.

We have a responsibility to remain committed to the long arc of the moral universe.

We have a responsibility to help build strong children.

We have a responsibility to support and care for the most vulnerable among us.

We have a responsibility to be compassionate voices for equality, justice and peace.

We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren, to ourselves and each other, to remember that Love prevails over fear… always.

No matter how you voted in the election, let’s reflect on where we stand today as a nation and as individuals. Let’s support each other. Let’s work for justice and peace. Let’s embrace Love. There is nothing – nothing – stronger than the power of LOVE.

That’s what I’m telling my granddaughters today.

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A Choice Between Yoga and the Presidential Debate

Posted October 10th, 2016 by Tom

I awoke leisurely this morning; thankful for another day, for my fortunate life and my healthy body, for my family and friends. When I checked Facebook one of the first items that came up was a video of musicians playing Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I closed my eyes and listened… a lovely way to begin my day.

I checked a news site. My high spirits began slipping downward. Presidential and Senate candidates dominated the top of the page… he said… she said… I say… he’s this or that… he needs to withdraw from the campaign… she’s lying… what a debate this is going to be tonight

Like many people, I’m drawn in by the spectacle of the 2016 election; by the potential for dramatic, explosive events. Like an accident on the highway, we slow down to look. Is there blood? Is someone hurt real bad, or dead? I shake my head at others slowing down for such spectacle… and I turn my head to look just like the people ahead of me did. Read the rest of this entry »

Beethoven’s 9th – my reminder today of Oneness

Posted August 28th, 2016 by Tom

I’ve now lived more than six decades in this lifetime and am grateful to still experience things for the first time. Today, it was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Opus 125 (“Choral”). I appreciate classical music, yet I readily admit and embrace the fact that I’m a Springsteen and Dylan rock & roll kind of guy; a child of the 60’s. So this is a departure from my normal routine.

Our kids and grandkids have gone to a lake for the day to paddleboard and swim and play with frogs, leaving Lindi and me home alone in a very quiet house. I pulled out the double album featuring Beethoven’s 9th – it covers 3 sides – and placed them one by one onto my trusty turntable, cranked up the volume on the amplifier, lay on our bed, closed my eyes, and let the music take me. Read the rest of this entry »

Be Kind to Strangers

Posted August 21st, 2016 by Tom

“That’s Tom,” said my daughter from the kitchen, pointing toward me as I walked in.

A tall, thin, balding and bearded young man reached out his hand to mine. “Nice to meet you, Sir. I’m Parker.”

“He’s hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I invited him over.”

“Great!” I said. “Welcome.”

“Thank you for having me.”

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(pics from the pct)

There’s a biblical verse from Hebrews I’ve always deeply appreciated. It goes something like, “Be kind to strangers; you may be entertaining angels unawares.”

IMG_8492Our daughter Jolie has always been exceedingly kind to strangers. She met Parker while volunteering for the Bend Brewfest. Parker told us how he began hiking the PCT in early June; starting near Lake Tahoe with a goal of arriving at Cascade Locks on the border between Oregon and Washington by the end of August. He shared lots of pictures on his phone. This past week he developed shin splints and needed to take a break to recover before hiking any further. He was camped at Odell Lake, about 65 miles southwest of Bend. On Friday he hitched a ride into Bend to check out our little slice of heaven and learned he could volunteer for the Brewfest on Saturday, which he did, where he met our daughter, which in turn led to her inviting into our home for the night. Read the rest of this entry »

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry