Dave and I were at dinner last night with some friends of ours (former co-workers of Dave's ----you know, in the days before life was more than golf every day and he actually knew what day it was), and we began to have a conversation about the state of our lives and the lives of others. Since Dave and I began working with the Gospel Rescue Mission in Tucson to help find solutions for homeless folks (we have our first official Peanut Butter and Jelly Ministry on March 1st, in which some members from our church will make 100 PB & J sandwiches and take them down to the mission to give to those in need), we have changed in many ways. We see people differently; we view issues differently. Don't get me wrong---Dave and I still have spirited disagreements on political issues, but more and more, we find ourselves in conversations with people who want to find greater solutions than handing out a dollar or two to people on the street corners.
What do we do for the mentally ill who cannot work? What do we do for homeless vets who cannot afford even one good meal a day? What I know to be true is that the answer is not found in saying what is wrong with our "system" or what is wrong with "those people". The answer is going to be found in working together to help create community operations that systemically help larger numbers of people and do more than put a band-aid on the problem (or worse yet, ignore it or gripe about it).
Have I changed? Immensely. Yes, I'm still giving up something silly (sweets) for Lent, but I am also working with a dear friend of mine on giving up something really bad for Lent---gossip, judging others, resentment, lumping all people I think are "alike" into one group, and the hits just keep on coming. I'll pick one of those "bad" things to start giving up, and I pray that it will spread to the others. I kinda see it as a domino-effect. If I can either speak my truth in a way that is palatable for others to hear and not gossip, that may trigger a lessening of resentment on my part as well.
In the way God works in my life, there are no coincidences, and I have just recently been asked to work on a focus group to add Character Education into the teachings of our Educational Leadership courses at Grand Canyon. Talking with the group on Friday solidified my feelings that, while parents are certainly the child's first teachers, our teachers are also spending 7 hours (sometimes more) with students, so we have a duty, I think, to instill integrity and respect and love for humankind into our students. I remember, many, many years ago when Dave and I first moved to Florida, and I became involved with some pretty amazing people who wanted to help our youth have character brought into the lessons that were taught in schools (not changing the curriculum, mind you, but simply acknowledging when courage came up in a lesson on World War II, or when integrity came up in a class chat on being honest about taking something from someone, etc.). I will never forget going to the local college to have a panel to talk about Character formation in schools. One man stood up and pointed his finger at us and said, "Nobody is going to teach my kids any other religion but our own. Don't you dare!!" Wait, what??? When did kindness, trustworthiness, and respect become something that would defy anyone's religion? We were stymied. But, lo and behold, soon I was a guidance counselor, teaching lessons on character to middle school and elementary students for the next 9 years. After that, I was a principal at the best elementary school in the world, where we focused on Stephen Covey's seven habits of highly effective people. We taught the students (kindergarten students talking about "synergizing" and truly understanding the concept will not EVER be forgotten) that these traits help us become leaders.
What are we doing in our own lives to transform not only the students and children with whom we work, but ourselves as well??
All I know, for today, is that on Sunday, March 1st, some children and adults from Church of the Apostles Episcopal Church in Oro Valley, Arizona are making sandwiches to take to people who might be less fortunate than ourselves. I can't wait.
Have a blessed day! I can't wait to hear your thoughts about what you are doing to grow in your faith and character formation! Who knows? You might just inspire someone else.