I had the privilege of closing our online service on Palm Sunday by offering a blessing to my church community. You may want to fast forward through my comments, but don't miss the video at the end...
As I sit at a gate at DFW airport, already delayed by several hours on my journey to ISTE19, I reflect on the irony that my one word for this year is Gratitude. I will miss the Leadership Exchange activities this afternoon - one of my highlights at the conference - and probably the opening general session as well. This has been a month where being grateful has not been easy; never the less, I am grateful.
My dad died on June 2. Upon retirement, my parents moved to Mountain Home, AR. I am grateful they lived a fulfilling and happy life for nearly 20 years until health issues impacted them both. They loved living in Mountain Home, but it is not an easy place to get to. Over the past couple of years I've made that journey at least once a month, and sometimes more frequently. I'm grateful for having made that effort for the time it has allowed me to spend with them. I'm grateful that I saw my dad shortly before he died. And while I grieve his loss, I'm grateful that his physical pain and suffering has ended.
I was born and raised in the northern panhandle of West Virginia, where my ancestors can be traced back to shortly after the Revolutionary War. I've been in Texas since graduating from college nearly 40 years ago, My parents lived a life full of good relationships in Wheeling, WV, until my dad had a job transfer a few years before he could retire. I am grateful for the power of social media to bridge time and space. The love and support from friends and family in WV, where my parents haven't lived in more than 20 years, has been overwhelming. I am grateful to have been able to gather reflections from family in a shared document and share those to a private Facebook group of friends and family from their earlier life.
I am grateful to my parents' friends in Mountain Home for their support of my sisters and me during the week that we spent in Mountain Home making arrangements and holding a service. I am grateful for the cards, thoughts, plants, gifts, and support from my own circles in Texas - my church family, my work family, and especially my Digital Learning team at Region 10.
The day after I returned from Mountain Home a major storm hit the Dallas area. We were without power for nearly 36 hours (others were out longer) and I lost limbs from a couple of large oak trees. I am grateful to have not lost the trees. I am grateful that what damage we had was not significant. I am grateful for the group of neighbors that almost immediately began helping each other clean up. Within a few hours of the storm's passing we had gone from house to house on our street, cutting limbs and dragging brush and branches to the curb. I am grateful that the temperature was relatively pleasant for June in Texas during the hours that we were without power.
And, as I sit here disappointed at missing parts of the conference that I've been looking forward to, I am grateful that the airlines value safety enough to take not one, but two planes out of service after boarding. And I am still grateful to be heading to ISTE19.
The most important thing that a father can do for his children is to love their mother...Theodore M. Hesburgh
My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me...Jim Valvano
My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it...Clarence B. Kelland
It is easier for a man to have children than for children to have a real father...Pope John XXIII
My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You're tearing up the grass." "We're not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We're raising boys."...Harmon Killebrew
By profession I am a soldier and take pride in that fact. But I am prouder – infinitely prouder – to be a father. A soldier destroys in order to build; the father only builds, never destroys. The one has the potentiality of death; the other embodies creation and life. And while the hordes of death are mighty, the battalions of life are mightier still. It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle field but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, 'Our Father who art in Heaven.'...Douglas MacArthur
When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years...Mark Twain
Another occasional re-post that continues to be relevant today - From July, 2006...
The following excerpt from yesterday's Dallas Morning News Viewpoints section contains a profound insight into the challenges faced by many in our community in attempting to achieve the American Dream...
On Sunday, The Washington Post ran an extensive poll delving into the experiences of black men and their attitudes toward themselves, as well as other Americans' attitudes toward them. Here, two employees of the Dallas-based Foundation for Community Empowerment – an African-American man and a white woman – mull the implications of the sometimes surprising findings on this highly charged subject.
Victoria Loe Hicks: So, Marcus, what jumped out for you in the poll? For me it was that black men are their own toughest critics. For instance, a majority of all respondents said that black men are too focused on sports and sex and not focused enough on getting a good education, but black men were much stronger in those critiques than black women, white men or white women. Of course, no one knows us as well as we know ourselves.
Marcus Martin: I think what surprised me most is how many black men have internalized the obstacles and hardships that many black men across America face. They blame themselves, just as others blame them, for not overcoming those obstacles and hardships.
Hicks: So what I interpreted as self-awareness, you interpret as something more like internalized oppression?
Martin: Exactly. And part of this, I believe, is rooted in the way we measure whether a person has achieved the American dream – typically, we look only at the end result. I believe that is a flawed measure.
Hicks: But what is there to measure, other than the end result?
Martin: Well, I as a black man and you as a white woman have the same goals: a good education, good job, nice home, etc. However, because of my starting place – poverty, single-parent home, racism, etc. – I have 50 obstacles to overcome, where you have five. You manage to overcome those five and achieve the dream. I manage to overcome 30, but if the other 20 leave me by the wayside, society is ready to tell me I did not try hard enough. The African-American single mother who manages to get her three kids to graduate from high school has been just as successful as the upper-middle-class family that managed to get their three kids through Harvard – although society won't agree.
There is a lot to think about in this short excerpt, but a couple of thoughts come immediately to mind:
First, starting place, while not the only factor, is one of the most significant factors in determining one's opportunity to achieve "success".
Second, we need to reconsider our definition of success, and remember what is truly important in life.
Another occasional re-post that continues to be relevant today. According to the latest USDA report, 14.3% of Texas households (one in seven) experienced food insecurity in the years 2014-2016. Texas was one of just fifteen states with higher food insecurity than the nation during this period. In raw numbers, 1.4 million Texas households were food insecure, more than almost any other state.
For the sake of context, I had my knee scoped in August, 2006...
One of the benefits to sitting with my leg propped up is that I have time to get caught up on some reading. One of the drawbacks to getting caught up on some reading is that the content can be troublesome. One of my catch-up books is Loretta Schwartz-Nobel's Growing Up Empty - this month's selection for the Urban Engagement Book Club.
Growing Up Empty is a series of stories of people in America who face hunger on a daily basis. The author tells their stories in their own words - from the wife of the doctor who left her and 3 children for another woman to the soldier's family living in military housing to the janitor working for minimum wage - These are the stories of people who cannot afford to feed themselves and their dependents.
Some fast facts about hunger (from the Center on Poverty and Hunger - Brandeis University)
Food insecurity occurs whenever the availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways, is limited or uncertain. As we talk about politics, education, or religion, somehow feeding the hungry must be a part of that conversation. "For as you have done to the least of these, so have you done to me also."