Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mother Teresa

One of my heros is Mother Teresa.  Last summer (2007) I went to Rwanda and visited an orphanage she started.  The Sisters of Mother Teresa give their lives so that others may be more comfortable, may find solace and perhaps love.  When the big doors of the compound open each morning they never know who will be waiting there.  They do not turn anyone away. That visit to Rwanda with Immaculee Ilibagiza and an eclectic group of new friends changed my life forever. There is so much goodness in the lives of the selfless women who live there, who only live to serve others who are less fortunate.  

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.  Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.
-Mother Teresa-

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Big Yellow Dog

Speaking of dogs, here are the lyrics to a tune I wrote a few years back about Sasha.  If you have a dog, you might connect...

I've got me a big yellow dog, and my dog she's got me too
There are some days when I work so hard
And I come home feeling restless and blue
But my big yellow dog she's sittin' there 
With that dog grin on her face
Her tails a waggin', she's comin' up to greet me
And I know I'm in the right place.

Now the time I spend with my big yellow dog
Might be considered wasteful to some
Sittin' on the porch, scratching her belly 
Getting licked by her big old tongue
She sniffin' all around trying to catch some smell
To try to make sense out of my day
And I'm sittin' here with a dozen things to do
And all she wants to do is play

I don't know if she'd rescue me from a burning building or not
But when I think of that pretty yellow dog
I know my love will never stop

Now my big yellow dog, she doesn't need much
Just some bowls with some water and some food
And a dusty rug at the bottom of the steps
Where she guards us when she's in the mood
And a bath sometimes when she's been a bad girl
And she's rolled in some stinky old thing
But the love she gives back in return
Is worth more than anything  (CHORUS)

The time I spend with my big yellow dog 
I don't grow any older it seems
I don't watch the news or answer emails
Or read any magazines
I don't pay the bills, I don't talk shop
I can't get much of nothin' done
But I can mow the grass and water the flowers
We like to hang out in the sun (CHORUS)


Now I can't say I haven't smacked that girl
When she's done some bad girl things
But I feel bad when she feels bad
And it comes back to haunt me it seems
And when her time to go has passed 
And she's buried at the bottom of the hill
I'll think of her and that big yellow face 
And I know I'll love her still  (CHORUS)

Things We Can Learn From a Dog

This is a little ditty I picked up recently.  Author Unknown.  It's not philosophical rocket science, but I have a big yellow dog who loves to hang her head out the window of a fast moving car.  She looks ridiculous with her tongue hanging back, her ears folded inside-out and her jowls flopping open and closed, dog spit flying.  She doesn't care how crazy the whole thing looks.  What could be more exciting to her than blasting wind through her nose at 60 mph?  I have seen it dozens of times and it still makes me laugh uncontrollably.  Ridiculous?  Sure.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
When it's in your best interest, practice obedience.
Let others know when they have invaded your territory.
Takes naps and stretch before rising.
Run, romp and play daily.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
Be Loyal.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
If something you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit nearby and nuzzle him or her gently.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
When you're happy dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout.
Run right back and make friends.
Delight in the simple joys of a long walk.

Friday, September 26, 2008

We Pray for Children

I read this poem a bunch of years ago.  I don't know it's history but I use it often when I speak to teachers about what our job really is.  I am a teacher of little kids.  I don't just teach math or reading or social studies.  I teach children.  This poem by Ina Hughes reminds me.

We pray for children
who put chocolate fingers everywhere
who like to be tickled
who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants
who sneak popsicles before supper
who erase holes in math workbooks
who can never find their shoes

And we pray for those
who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire
who can't bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers
who never "counted potatoes"
who are born in places we wouldn't be caught dead
who never go to the circus
who live in an x-rated world

We pray for children
  who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions
who sleep with the dog and bury goldfish
who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money
who cover themselves with band-aids and sing off key
who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink
who slurp their soup

And we pray for those
who never get dessert
who have no safe blanket to drag behind them
who watch their parents watch them die
who can't find any bread to steal
who don't have any rooms to clean up
whose pictures aren't on anybody's dresser
whose monsters are real

We pray for children
who spend their allowance before Tuesday
who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food
who like ghost stories
who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub
who get visits from the tooth fairy
who don't like to be kissed in front of the carpool
who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone
whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry

And we pray for those
whose nightmares come in the daytime
who will eat anything
who have never seen a dentist
who aren't spoiled by anybody
who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep
who live and breathe but have no being

We pray for children who want to be carried and for those who must
for those we never give up on 
and for those who don't have a second chance

For those we smother... and for those who will grab the hand of 
anybody kind enough to offer it.
                     Ina J. Hughes

At school we have a moment of silence every day.  "Please pause for a moment of silence," says the child who reads the announcement.  It used to mean nothing to me.  It was just this little moment where I would mentally prepare for the school day ahead.  Now I pray for children.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just Ordinary Thoughts

The other day a cool thing happened.  I guess it isn't just ordinary.  My wife and some new friends and my son and his sweetie were helping a friend in distress.  She was moving her things out of her estranged husband's place.  It was hard.  Not the work, the situation.  She was incredibly sad.  She and her husband had fixed this beautiful place up.  It took years of backbreaking work.  Yet, as our friend explained, it was all a labor of love.  

It was a big old building.  They had to tear it apart before rebuilding.  Sweat.  Tears.  Years.  The estranged husband was there while we were organizing, collecting dusty boxes, emptying out closets, getting fire ant bites.  He was there sort of creeping around.  Playing his symphonic music REALLY loud.  We would catch peeks of him lurking.

Our friend was in pain.  She took us on a lengthy tour of the place.  It was magnificent.  The work was brilliant.  While there was still a lot to do, her work there was finished.  She was not only saying good bye to this home, this project, the years of labor and love she put into it.  She was also saying good bye to years of marriage and commitment to a guy who wasn't nice for a long time.  There were lots of tears.  While the morning became afternoon I became more and more angry with her husband and sadder and sadder for her.  It was wretched.

In the early afternoon three guys came from Two-Men-And-A-Truck.  To me they were sort of faceless.  I'm embarrassed to say it but I was so absorbed in my friend's pain, and my anger at her husband, that I never even looked these men in the eye.  While we had sort of organized things and pulled some of the boxes together, these three men did the real work.  Dressers, wardrobes, stuffed dusty boxes.  They did the physical work and I didn't even say a word to them.  These strong young men were putting their backs into the real labor, while we sort of huddled around our friend.  We were doing our job.  They were doing theirs.

After the truck was loaded we were getting ready for the long ride back to her new place.  Three cars and the moving truck.  One of the young movers said, "We need to circle up."  I wasn't sure what he meant at first.  "C'mon, man.  Why don't you go get the lady?  She needs a circle."  I went to get our friend.  As I walked up to the door she came out into the sunlight with red-rimmed eyes and wet cheeks.  She had just been saying good bye to her dog who was staying behind.  The rest of our group were standing in a semi-circle.  Waiting.  When she came over, we all held hands.  The Three-Men-And-Truck guy took off his hat.  His head was shiny bald.  He tucked it under his arm and held hands with one of the other guys.  The Three-Men closed their eyes and bowed their heads.  

"God," he said reverently.  "Please send down your love on this good woman.  She's goin' through some hard times and she needs some of your love right now.  Thank you, God, for these good friends who have gathered 'round to give her comfort.  Please be sure that she sees some of your kindness and mercy real soon."  Long pause.  The other Three-Men guys nodded their approval.  

"Thanks," our friend said quietly.  "That was beautiful."  

I was crying and I think some of the others were as well.  The words were perfect.  The sentiments exactly what were needed.  The blessing so pure and sweet.  Of course these good men had seen the pain and sorrow there.  They were tired, probably not all that well paid.  And yet they gave back to all of us in a way that nothing else could.  

We left that place soon after.  It was one of those real times, one of those lessons about human worth and dignity that just jumped out at me.  When I shared this little story with some friends it occurred to me that there are small important moments that happen all the time in my life.  I work with small children.  I am married to my best friend and have two wonderful sons to fill my life with joy.  

It was this bright little moment that made me think I should start another blog.  This one will be a combination of Just Ordinary Thoughts and stories of a life.  It will also contain short stories and bits of fiction that I have written over the years.  Since I am a teacher, it will probably contain stories of wonderful children and the lessons they teach me.  

So, here is the start of my story.  I hope that it has some light for you.