Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter is about HOPE. Here's what this means to me.

Every faith has high holidays where people come together and celebrate. This is Easter weekend for the millions of people who share the Christian Faith. It's a time for reflection for all of us, not just Christians. What do these religions, and these celebrations mean to us.

I think it's all about HOPE.

We live in a savage world where there is much suffering. To think that the human animal is superior to other creatures who fight to survive everyday, may be one of the follies that make us different from these other life forms. Some of us have been more blessed by where we were born, who our parents are, and what genes we have. But we all live in the same world, and are affected by the struggles of those who are far different, or far distant, from us.

I was raised in the Christian faith and every day I say The Lord's Prayer as a way of giving myself hope and energy to face my day. I think that the middle stanzas of this prayer offer universal hope.

Give us this day, our daily bread.
To me this request is not a "home run" pitch. I'm not expecting my God to make me rich, or cure my son of a disease, or end hunger or warfare. I'm asking for the ability to deal with these struggles. I'm asking for more energy, more wisdom, a better able to communicate, and just enough money to pay the bills, at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, and in my own home and family life.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
I think this is one of the most important parts of this prayer. I can't tell you the number of times I've criticized myself for a mistake I've made, or something I did not do as well as I wanted to. I think in this part of the prayer God is giving us the power to forgive ourselves. In the movie "The Lion King" there is a scene when the monkey hits the lion over the head and says "It's in the past. Forget it."

We need to learn from our mistakes, but not dwell on them, which leads to the second part of this stanza. If we spend time getting revenge, or being angry about what someone else did to offend us, or hurt us, what good does that do? There are too few hours in each day to spend them in this way. If I don't spend time agonizing over my own faults, or the faults of others, I have much more time to work on solving the problems that I can solve with the "daily bread" that I'm given each day.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

To me this reflects the daily urge to yield to all sorts of things that might get me into trouble. This may be eating the wrong food, spending time on something that is not going to benefit my work, or my family, or doing something that hurts someone else or breaks one of the laws of our land. We all need a little help to avoid the things we do to ourselves.

We also need some good fortune to avoid the accidents of life we cannot control. I could walk out of this building today and slip on the ice and be injured or killed. I could live in a part of the world where crazy people are shooting guns and killing each other. Just yesterday a 12-year old Chicago girl was shot in the back by a 15-year old that was aiming at someone else....and missed. Each day I pray to my God that such an accident does not claim me, or someone I love.

So how are these prayers answered?
As the leader of a small non profit, and parent of a 10-year old and 17-year old, I'm constantly asking God for three things. Give me more time, give me more talent, knowledge and wisdom and help me live longer. With these I can be a better parent, and a better leader. I can do more to help make this a world where God answers the prayers of all who ask for help.

I realized recently that my God has been answering me for the past 30 years.

I get more time by involving volunteers who use their own time to help me with the work of Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection. Each year more than 100 volunteers are directly involved, and countless others are indirectly involved. I get more time when my neighbors help me raise my own kids. More than 2000 people have sent contributions to support CC, T/MC since 1993.

I get more talent, knowledge and wisdom from the same resources. By unleashing the talent of other people, and the Internet, I expand the wisdom and abilities needed to build the type of programs and non profit support infrastructure that I'm trying to create. We have volunteers helping us in all sorts of ways, from building web sites, creating maps and databases, to hosting workshops at our conferences, or leading sessions at our tutor/mentor program. We have the potential of being joined by millions of others as we focus attention through our web sites and our maps on all of the places in Chicago and other cities where people were born into poverty or have fallen into distressed situations.

I live longer by sharing my ideas with others who adopt them in their own work. I use a variety of web sites (see links at left) to share my thinking with thousands of people who visit my sites every month. I can live forever through these ideas and the way people keep them alive in their own actions and in places throughout the world. Maybe this is one reason so many people are sharing their own ideas on the Internet. With so much information, I think what gets used, and what gets remembered will be that which helps those who are disadvantaged, and that which helps solve some of the complex problems that face our planet.

I have not become rich through the work I do, and Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection has been short of money many times over the past 15 years. Yet, when everything has seemed hopeless, there has always been some company, foundation and/or donor who have stepped forward with just enough money to help us weather that storm and continue our work.

To me this is the HOPE that keeps me going everyday. It's what I'll be thinking about as we move through this holiday weekend. I hope you can unleash this HOPE in your own lives and community services.

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