What If Perhaps You Can?

Another week of this year of “+2” has come and gone and I hope you are all doing what you can to “Resurrect Positivity”.

As we began to explore the week that was, it was so busy around here I missed a few things including the fact there was something to celebrate every day. That’s where our conversation begins on this weekend edition of “Becoming Today”. 

Today is St Joseph’s Day. One of those that I only really knew about from the mis-education of my youth. Like St Patrick’s day, the inner city public school I attended taught us that we had to wear red and it was celebrated by Italians. 

Then around seventh grade they suddenly added, oh yeah, the Polish people celebrate it too.

Anyway that was all I really knew about the day that is recognized by many as a feast in honor of Joseph, the husband of the “Virgin Mary” and often footnoted as “the legal father of Jesus Christ”.

It’s interesting as we were taught of its importance to Italians, which I have personally witnessed, Joseph is noted as the patron saint of Poland and Canada.

Oh Canada, how come we were never instructed about that? So maybe instead of Italy or even Poland, we were wearing red to represent the maple leaf? Anyway if it is an observation of yours, Happy St Joseph’s Day. 

I mentioned there were “holidays” declared for every day of this past week. Some we spoke about some we missed. I’m particularly surprised that I didn’t know about yesterday’s observance and I’m doing my best to make up for it today.

As we look back at our shared path over the past week, I’ll note the things we did or could have celebrated along the way. 

Our week began as it usually does here at “Becoming Today” on Monday which I failed to remember was Pi Day. Perhaps I would have given it more thought had it been Pie Day, but no that did compute exponentially. Pi Day on the 14th of March is because mathematically the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, which has been calculated to over 50 trillion digits beyond its decimal point, is usually simplified to the digits of 3.14.

The celebration includes such frivolity as reciting the infinite digits of Pi, talking to friends about math, and eating pie. Oh! See I did miss out… Probably because we were discussing flaky, crusty things of another degree.

What if….? It Has! Was a departure from our usual format.

Sometimes things are occurring that I can not in good conscience remain silent on. 

Several of those issues have combined and are pointing towards some very dangerous trends that have included targeted assaults on individuals, human rights and the very definition of freedom.

Whether or not you have an opinion on the issues that so-called leaders are trying to criminalize is not the main rationale behind our discussion. It’s the bigger implications of what might happen to you, for anything “they” may disagree with in the future. 

As I alluded to in today’s headline, these things have happened and are happening not just in  a single location, but all across our nation. Before you dismiss the news as ‘that doesn’t relate to me’, realize once a precedent is set, it can then be adapted to fit precisely you.  

So what if I told you government officials have been ordered by an elected chief executive to go  into people’s homes and demand medical records? 

It’s not a what if. It has happened.

Not in a small remote village. Not in a country ruled by a tyrannical despot. “It has” right here in America, where the United States is supposed to stand as a symbol of enduring freedom for all the world to see, and possibly aspire for.

I’m not talking about a township commissioner three-weeks on the job in a remote rural community of less than 150-people. I’m talking about the highest ranking leader of the second largest state in the nation issuing “Executive Orders” allowing for directives to target children and their families. 

Texas ranks second in both geographic size and population in the nation. Nearly 1 in 10 Americans reside in Texas in an area that is larger than 150 countries in the world, including every single one in Europe. A fact they acknowledge and promote as a selling point to tourists with their slogan, “Texas, It’s Like A Whole Other Country”.

Governor Greg Abbott acting in accord with the full confidence of State Attorney General Ken Paxton, directed the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate nine families for alleged child abuse, because it was believed they sought gender-affirming medical care  for their kids.

Rules are being made outside of the proper regulations to target a small, small minority of the state’s population. The US Census Bureau indicates there are close to ten-million families in Texas, so focusing on just nine certainly seems out of character with the assurances citizens are given under the state and federal constitutions. 

Even more egregious is the fact that under the guise of “protecting the children” Governor Greg Abbott should order this. He is the same person who has within the past year publicly stated quote, “Texans, not government, should decide their best health practices…,”

So therefore if he believes Texans, the individual people. The families, not government officials, should decide what is best in regards to their healthcare and individual needs. Why is he now issuing directives in direct contradiction to that.

His beliefs, by the way, were part of another “executive order”.  Another directive he issued “prohibiting governmental entities in Texas — including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials — from requiring or mandating mask wearing”.

In response to the COVID pandemic, this same governor decreed the citizens have the ultimate authority as to the extent and needs of the healthcare of themselves and their families.

So why in that case and not this? Why is he so fixated on such a small, micro portion of his state’s population.?

In Texas there are approximately 3 point 2 million children between the ages of 10 and 17 years old. Of those, it’s “guesstimated” that maybe 14-thousand are transgender. That would be, let me spell it out, point zero, zero, zero, four, three, seven, five percent of the state’s overall population. Numerically that is .004375%. 

Remember following the decimal point, the first two zeros equal zero percent. The third is one-one thousandth of a percent, so rounding a bit, even using fuzzy math, the Governor is allocating funds, personnel, resources and the full weight of the state government, in an attempt to regulate approximately four ten thousands of a percent of the population. 

Oh I haven’t mentioned this yet. The Governor’s decree also seeks to send the parents and medical providers who assist the children to prison. Furthermore, for the protection of the child, it directs they be removed from their homes, seemingly making them ‘wards of the state”. 

That by proof of past performance and documented history exposes them to the further traumas and long noted abuses prevalent in state run foster care systems across the nation.

This Gubernatorial decree certainly appears to be the very definition of government overreach. 

Worse yet it’s not only happening in Texas… Idaho representatives advanced legislation to sentence  parents and doctors to life in prison for similar reasons. 

But WAIT one minute…. Since we reported this Monday, on Tuesday the Idaho Senate stopped the bill. Upon further review it was determined that in the rush to push it through the language would have also allowed for parents to be imprisoned for life for seeking any medical care for their child.

Only time will tell if this is the end of it, or if they’ll rewrite and try again.

Tuesday was what has traditionally been marked as the “Ides of March”. Something I can’t recall being mentioned anywhere this year. Back in my youth we learned, it was a day to “Beware” because some backstabber was probably going to sneak up behind you with a knife. Shakespeare is actually responsible for the term that marked a day to believe was cursed. 

Though at the time Jim Peterick’s “The Ides of March” were much more relatable so us they were our “vehicle, baby…”.

I guess I forgot this observation because our discourse involved “The Responsibility of Leadership”.

When we last spoke, our discussion centered around issues of a government designed to be “by and for the people”, being used to target micro-minorities across the nation. 

Our conversation then, as well as one I’ve had since, reminded me of another voiced nearly 80-years ago. Then also there  was a call to step up and take responsibility by not remaining silent. I’ll share those thoughts in a moment, plus we’ll delve into my call for us to make better decisions when selecting leaders to represent us, our beliefs and values.

What character traits are necessary for an individual to serve as an effective and just leader? That’s our focus now.

Attacks like the ones I shared Monday, can be overcome. It all begins with us. Each one of us.

We must decide to take action . Stand up for what is right. Shine light onto the darkness that is attempting to restrict us. Then we must take that action. Do it. Publicly.

We all share in the responsibility of being the change we want to see. Of co-creating our world for the better.  It’s at the very heart and soul of our shared path. It’s also something that Martin Niemöller, a German theologian and Evangelical Lutheran Pastor, sounded the rally cry for during World War II. 

His famous words still echo true:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

The responsibility to have your voice heard and hold those we elect to have a leadership role in our lives, lies solely with us. 

I’m not just talking about voting either. There are others we select to lead us. Whether this is a pastor, a mentor, teacher or someone we choose to do business with, by selecting to follow those individuals we are electing them, giving them authority to represent us, remaining hopeful they will serve by reflecting the shared values they claim to stand for. 

Responsibility is something required of all who are capable of it on this planet. We have no rights without taking the responsibility for our roles in ensuring them. 

So what is the difference between rights and responsibilities?

A right is a privilege granted by an authority. Be it elected or appointed bodies of governance or by supernatural means, of an inherent nature bestowed upon us by the Grace of God.

A responsibility is a duty or obligation that is accepted, and put into action.

In order to fully accept your reality, you must take ownership of any role you may have played, good or bad, in leading you to where you are. Only when you choose to accept personal responsibility then can you work on decisions for the next steps.

So once you commit yourself to being responsible, what then is the most basic principle that needs to be embraced? What should be at the very foundation of our beliefs and values?

That Integrity Is Integral

Integrity. 

What is it?

Why is it so important? 

How do we ensure we are living with it? 

Where to begin?

Let’s start with a common understanding and craft our definition of integrity.

Integrity is a foundational aspect of our personalities. It is a deeply held belief that we should be and are adhering to a strict moral code. This oath we voluntarily undertake includes being honest with both ourselves and others; living consistent with values that are above reproach and that we must choose to be incapable of being corrupted accepting that living by these  standards in an uncommon manner increases not only our lives to new levels, but also the quality of life for all we encounter.

Without freely embracing integrity we are limiting our lives. 

It’s why far too many people experience simply existing rather than being rewarded with a fulfilling life. 

In order to be living with integrity each of us needs to be living by aligning your conduct with excellence. Displaying a firm dedication to our values and beliefs. Never wavering in adhering to higher standards and pledging to always attempt to do the right thing regardless of circumstances.

Being authentic is also very important. To ensure we are living with integrity our internal character must be consistent and well developed.It means walking our talk.

Making integrity an integral part of our essence we can not claim to be perfect. Honesty involves being quick to acknowledge and own our mistakes and faults. Our integrated sense of sincerity should come from a pure motivation to do what is right, always. Above all, being honest.

No one wants to be lied to.

Period.

 It’s true.

Just as there are three things that all people want and desire.

It doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from or who they may be “Becoming”, all want to be treated with “C D R”.

That’s my acronym for three simple words that you should immediately recognize, because after all I know you want them all. And you want them all the time. 

So in terms of our focus today, we should also be demanding them from those who lead.

C.D.R. stands for:

Compassion

Dignity

Respect

All are elements of common need and desire. Plus beyond yearning for, we should feel inherently deserving  of them. 

The trouble for some is that in order to receive these basic harmonious elements of life, we must also be giving of them freely not only to others but also be treating ourselves with each.

All of our lives have an intrinsic, inalienable God-given value. We are designed to live a life of service. To use our talents, gifts and abilities to make life better for others.Doing so freely and with kindness, shows that maybe we have something someone desperately needs.

In order to lead one should live a life that is their sermon. Their actions, not just words, define that they embrace the qualities of a true servant and leader.

Their lives should reflect openly that integrity is at their core, that they embrace the serving of others with compassion, dignity and respect and that they are truthful. Not just reciting a prescribed, rehearsed and highly edited mantra, but living the values and beliefs they espouse as having affirmed, adopted and accepted.

Are the leaders in your life, living up to their obligations?

That brings us to midweek, where on Wednesday we did delve into the holiday of Purim. 

Perhaps For A Time Such As This”, turned our attention to the story of one particular young woman, who against all odds, personified a life of achieving, exceeding and leading in ways that she was uniquely created for.

This is not a modern tale, it’s been retold around the world. In fact some even honor this woman with festive meals and acts of charity, teaching their families and others about her brave and selfless acts.

In fact she is the foundational reason for a Holiday. Which just so happens to be celebrated today. 

As the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews explains, “Purim is one of the most joyous holidays on the Jewish calendar.

The reasons they do so are because of the brave, selfless, truly death-defying actions of Esther, that are found also in the Christian Bible. 

While Purim is considered a joyous time, the rejoicing comes from the overcoming of evil. As our heroine and her people were facing an imminent purging, it was Esther who saved the day and the generations of families to come. 

So how did  an orphaned refuge girl from a disenfranchised minority single handedly lobby a king to stop an ethnic cleansing?

In my sharing of a “Ro-notation” version of the Book of Esther, in keeping with the boisterous spirit of the holiday, I colorfully related how this occurred and the lessons we can still draw from it today.

We need more Esthers and Mordecais. Those willing to step forward into the light of day and lead based on their values and beliefs. 

Despite all odds, even at the risk of losing their lives, they were steadfast, forbearant and firm in resolve sustained by hope and faith, seeing through to the end that all could continue to be guaranteed the opportunity to live out their inalienable rights endowed by the Creator… life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Perhaps you are “Becoming” one.

Perhaps For A Time Such As This it’s your turn to rise and shine. 

I then woke up Thursday morning and I made sure I was wearing green as the day and our conversation revolved around the fact or fiction of St. Patrick’s Day

Myth and the truth were often confused in my younger years. 

My knowledge of St Patrick and his holiday came from misinformation taught within the halls of public elementary schools. Now remember this was a time when you could talk about saints, religions, plus the differences in culture in school and the pledge we recited daily still included the phrase “indivisible under God”.

In those old iron and wood desks secured to the floor, still with long unused ink wells, each year we were faced forward with a “history” lesson that I later had to unlearn. 

Much of the “facts” we were coerced to memorize actually were the creation of advertising executives and beer companies. It was initially only in America that people celebrated by overindulging in massive amounts of green beer. Though to pander to tourists many pubs in Ireland later adopted the “tradition”. 

After all, who wouldn’t want to raise a pint to the man that drove the snakes out of Ireland? Which of course never happened. Scientists now say the Ice Age was responsible for that, though as our story unfolds, it appears to me Patrick did battle a few serpents in his time. 

But back to my misinformed youth. I think these items were more amplified because of where I was raised. On the South Side of Chicago…Back in the USA, back in the bad old days…, where there was a significant Irish population, we were taught then, it was second only to Dublin Ireland itself, and the culture was very much intertwined with daily life.

On the 17th of March each year, we were instructed not to go to school without wearing green. If you didn’t you would be pinched. Yes physically, groped and grabbed, by today’s interpretation I believe what some, especially the girls endured, qualifies under the law as at least third degree sexual assault – unwanted touching. 

Then when we started to reach a certain age of development, the harassment intensified, as the chanting of “Erin Go Braugh” was altered by the boys. Now I remember the teachers telling us the expression meant ‘Happy St Patrick’s Day” in Irish. It doesn’t, more widely accepted as translated “Ireland Forever”, with hindsight it really was quite a political statement as back in the day the I R A and their battles against English rule were quite active and bloody. 

Something we knew even as children, because there were I R A recruiters and “fund raisers” in the neighborhood, many openly tied to organized criminal activities to finance their efforts.

Anyway back to the boys like the O’WIŚNIEWSKIs, O’Müllers and O’Balchunas, who when they began to notice we were endowed differently than they were, began their own terrorizing chant of ‘Erin- Go- Bra-l ess”.

So green it was each year for self protection and then you’d spend part of your instruction time, cutting shamrocks out of green construction paper, so you could write your family name, with an added o – apostrophe in front of it, because on St. Patrick’s Day everyone was Irish.  The only ones exempt from altering their identities were the Irish kids, who actually had names like O’Shaunessy, O’Connell and O’Brien. 

And perhaps the Daley’s. I’m sure I had classmates with that surname, but I don’t remember any O’Daleys. That‘s probably due to the fact that the “Boss” Mayor Daley was still leading the city, proud of his Irish roots coming from the neighborhood enclave of Bridgeport where the Irish ruled. Just ask the neighboring Italians… but those stories of segregated neighborhoods and passing as different ethnicities on different streets are for another day. 

Anyway in my youth as a person of mixed Bohemian, Scottish, British, hillbilly, Choctaw roots, in mid-March I was expected to be Irish. And the myths lived in my mind for a long time afterwards.

I now know, among the many other differences I’ve shared, that Patrick was not assigned that name at birth and he wasn’t even Irish.

Accepted as a saint in varying degrees by the Anglican, Catholic,  Eastern-Orthodox and Lutheran Churches, and noted as both the Patron Saint of and the founder of Christianity in Ireland Patrick, whose birth name was Maewyn Succat was actually British. Or possibly Scottish, maybe even Welch. But definitely not Irish.

Born late in the fourth century, researchers say he was raised by a Christian family, however believed himself early in life to be an atheist. 

At the age of 16, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and enslaved to work livestock.  He escaped his captors six years later and returned to his family, however he could not get the people of Ireland off his mind.

Not seeking recompense, retribution or vengeance, Maewyn in the English translation of his fifth century autobiography, Confessio of Patrick”, writes of his capture and time in slavery:

“We deserved this, because we had gone away from God, and did not keep his commandments. We would not listen to our priests, who advised us about how we could be saved. The Lord brought his strong anger upon us, and scattered us among many nations even to the ends of the earth. It was among foreigners that it was seen how little I was. It was there that the Lord opened up my awareness of my lack of faith.”

He continues with an explanation of why he understood he must return to Ireland, 

“That is why I cannot be silent – nor would it be good to do so – about such great blessings and such a gift that the Lord so kindly bestowed in the land of my captivity. This is how we can repay such blessings, when our lives change and we come to know God, to praise and bear witness to his great wonders before every nation under heaven.”

After his great escape, he began 15-years of study to deem himself worthy to preach the Gospel.

This came only after much self doubt in his lack of education and worthiness, when he had a dream.

In this nighttime vision, a being he identified as “Victoricus”, which does come from the root of victory as “having achieved a victory; conquering; triumphant”, delivers him a letter with a heading of “The Voice of the Irish”, urging him to again walk among them.

Feeling an overwhelming call of the Lord, he overcame his doubts, stepped out beyond his fears in faith and complied. His perceived shortcomings were something he did not keep secret as he shared in his memoir:

“Although I am imperfect in many ways, I want my brothers and relations to know what I’m really like, so that they can see what it is that inspires my life.”

During his studies in a monastery in France he changed his name to reflect who he was “Becoming”. Maewyn chose from the Latin, Patricius, which meant “nobleman”.

Though he struggled with doubt, by the time Patricius set foot again on Irish soil, he quickly embraced an empowerment “Becoming” one fully dedicated and unafraid to do the work of the Lord.

So man and myth separated, and thales of my misinformed youth shared, we are all now free to choose to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in our own way, or not.

It’s up to you.

For me I’ll skip the boiled beef this year, have you seen the prices!?!

I guess motivated by a long entrenched idea of self protection I am wearing green, but more importantly I’ll be meditating on the lessons that St Patrick brings to our shared path today.

We can overcome our doubts. Feelings of lack are just thoughts that need to be reframed, refocused and refined. We all have the potential to do more. The strength to persevere and fulfill our purposes and callings come from within. 

As the Scripture says, “I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.

We are all gifted with the ability to always be “Becoming”.

That brings us to yesterday and I want to know why nobody told me about this one!

Apparently this has been national or international Chocolate Chip Cookie week! I’ve got some catching up to do. I deserve a little indulgence because I’ve been busy as I told you I would be meditating on the lessons that St Patrick brings to our shared path.

Among those are proof we can overcome our doubts.

Yes, you too, can do it  and are possibly even created for more.

So how do you take your first step toward “Becoming” that”? 

With “that” being whatever you have imagined, dreamed or are personally be called to do? 

It’s really a simple step that  we discussed yesterday: “Step One: Decide”.

Doubt and fears you are not enough are unnecessary. Feelings of lack are just thoughts that need to be reframed, refocused and refined. We all have the potential to do more. The strength to persevere and fulfill our purposes and callings come from within. 

As the Scripture says, “I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.

We are all gifted with the ability to always be “Becoming”.

St. Patrick we shared yesterday, like Queen Esther we spoke of on Purim, was perhaps the right person for the time, lived with the integrity and characteristics of leadership we discussed Tuesday, and personifies the opposite of the so-called public servants we began our week examining. 

It all is “Becoming”once you take the first step. You have to choose to do something. It’s up to you to make the choice that leads to making a decision.

I know I said it was a simple one. That’s because in the state of my personal “Becoming” I am comfortable in deciding. In making choices in accord with her purpose. Though I realize that’s not the case for everyone. 

Decisions are something that apparently more than a few people have trouble with. As I often have shared, I belong to the schools of thought that teach,….

What happens when you make a decision?

Either it works. Or it doesn’t

Makes perfect sense to me, but even here in my own household we have been dealing with some significant struggles on this topic. My sister, GiGi, whom I love dearly and as her big sister I can be a bit ( well maybe a lot more than a bit ) overprotective of; is constantly at odds with her ability to make a decision. Large or small. Meaningful or not, she gets caught in “analysis paralysis” goes down every rabbit hole she can, stops, has a cup of coffee with Bugs Bunny and then returns exhausted  crying, “I can’t get started!”

Admittedly too often the conversations have gone something like this…..

“Dammit GiGi, just make up your mind already!”

“ I can’t…..”

“Just do it. Just do something, please!”

“It’s too hard….”

“Quit whining, pull up your big girl panties and just take care of it!”

At this point GiGi is now sobbing and those tear filled eyes are telling me this conversation is not only not working, it isn’t helping either of us, the household or the situation in any way. So I have to make a decision to seek a new approach.

So I sought outside assistance and learned of these seven steps to decision making:

  1. Identify the decision
  2. Gather Relevant Information
  3. Identify the Alternatives
  4. Weigh the Evidence
  5. Choose among the alternatives
  6. Take Action
  7. Review your decision and its consequences

In this final step, consider the results of your decision and evaluate whether or not it has resolved the need you identified in Step 1. If the decision has not met the identified need, you may want to repeat certain steps of the process to make a new decision. For example, you might want to gather more detailed or somewhat different information or explore additional alternatives.

I would also add to step seven. Review your decision and ask, is it worth the risk? Consider the rewards. Oftentimes we must step outside our comfort zone and take a chance in order to receive a significant return on our investment. 

Every decision we make. Every action we take are all investments in our “Becoming”. Conversely every action delayed or decision not made have their consequences and those costs can and will compound greatly.

I never said “Becoming” would be easy. I never said “Becoming” would not be uncomfortable or require some risk taking. I do say that “Becoming” is worth it.

So go ahead, try it. I believe you’ll really like it. Make a decision and put it into action.

Decide to improve yourself. 

Decide to help and serve others. 

Decide to no longer remain silent.

Decide to select better leaders.

Only you know what you need to decide to advance. So decide to decide, then live and learn as you continue positively along our shared path of “Becoming”.

Have a safe and blessed weekend. Come Monday, we’ll start to look at how we can continue making everyday a significant day, that’s on our next edition of “Becoming Today”. 

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