"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded. And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager
Monday, September 19, 2005 ARRRRRRR -- She Still Don't Make Sense!
In honor of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, we'll take former First Lady Barbara Bush's comments about the evacuees in the Astrodome:
"Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to Houston. What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."
"Almost sea dogs an' land lubbers I’ve talked t' says we`re goin' t' move t' Houston." "What I’m hearin' which be sort o' scary be they all want t' stay in Texas. Sea dogs an' land lubbers be so overwhelmed by th' hospitality. "An' so many o' th' swabbies in th' arena here, ye know, be underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) be workin' very well fer them."
...and not just because it was 75 degrees and sunny here in the lovely STL. Today we had Hayden's 3rd birthday party -- 8 days late because this was when the place we wanted to have it was available. And that place was "Whittle Short Line Railroad" -- a building out by the railroad tracks in West County that used to be a hotel back in the days where trains would stop and let you off for a meal and sleep for the night. Now it's a model train shop where the owner makes his own wooden trains and accessories for kids. And they also host birthday parties.
We kept the party small ... because Hayden doesn't know that many kids and also because it's just a lot nicer that way. When you get there, you hang out in the main store area, which has a gigantic train table.
There were seven kids there altogether -- Schroedter and Hayden, Theo and Seth (two kids of friends of ours and fellow Forsyth faculty with Robin. Theo is Hayden's age and Seth is Schroedter's, so it works perfectly), Jake (another Forsyth faculty kid), Caleb and Cormac (kids from Hayden's daycare).
It was amazing -- 90 minutes with seven kids and no fighting and (basically) no tears. Somebody call Guinness! Everyone had a fantastic time.
After everyone played downstairs for awhile, we hauled them all upstairs to the party area. First stop was a cute little room where they sat on a painted railroad track on the floor and the kids each took turns hitting a pinata shaped like a train. Most of the kids are little -- though a couple took really good whacks at it. Schroedter turned into a physicist and tried to figure out the exact point upon which exerted pressure would break the thing open.
Seth finally knocked it off the string, but not open, at which point the WSLRR party person just cracked it open and emptied it on the floor. Again, everyone had a great time. Hayden even held the bat the correct way a few times (but not in this picture).
Then it was time for cake -- you can see the cake ... actually four small cakes in the shape of a train. As we only had seven kids (and parents to match), we only made it through one cake and now have three in the freezer (come on over!).
This is one of those "roll the dice" moments of a kid's birthday party. You never know how a child is going to react when all of a sudden all the attention is trained on them and everyone is singing to them. Frankly, I thought it wouldn't be a Kodak moment because even though he really likes music, about 95% of the time you start singing around Hayden he'll yell "Stop it!" at the top of his lungs. I didn't think the odds were good for the Happy Birthday chorus.
But I was wrong! Hayden started singing along and, as you can see, had a big grin on his face. Afterwards he blew out the candles (only took two tries ... and I really think he got them all and not Schroedter) and then 7 kids proceded to cover their faces with green icing and probably ingest some cake along the way.
Then it was presents (which were lovely and reasonable and mostly train-related so Hayden was thrilled). Schroedter's favorite of Hayden's haul was Darth Tater, a Mr. Potato Head that is dressed up in Darth Vader clothes (I'd seen one on the Daily Show). Hayden isn't too much into Star Wars (though Schroedter thought a spud with a light saber was too cool), but he did like the gift well enough to shout "Mr. Potato Head!" "Mr. Potato Head!" much of the way home (for him, it's yet another member of his beloved Toy Story collection).
Then it was into another train room where the kids played and played and played. At one point an actual freight train went by the window and the engineer waved at them, which all the kids thought was just the coolest thing. The parents actually got to hang out and talk a little at this point (which was nice, because some of the parents we really didn't know).
One of the things you noticed upstairs was that the walls were covered with little painted handprints. It's a tradition there for every birthday child to put their handprint on the wall so that 26th century archaeologists can be utterly perplexed if this building is the only thing that should happen to survive the coming apocalypse. (a bizarre cult?).
Of course, it's really great ... 'cause next time we come we can sneak upstairs and see Hayden's handprint. And, as you can see, as with everything else at the party, Hayden absolutely loved it.
The party was over in an hour and a half, but it zipped by in what seemed like half that (always a good sign). Everyone left happy and full of sugar and with train whistles and train cars ... and grateful to Grandma Suzanne and Grandpa Ray, whose gift this great party was!
... and yet, that wasn't all!
A Wonderful Day (Part II)
Because today was also the day of the Great Forest Park Ballon Race. It's a fantastic event, with the sky filling with tons of hot air balloons of all shapes and sizes. We used to go into Forest Park and watch them take off, but the crowds have gotten absolutely enormous ... and we also figured out that it's more fun to get into the car and chase the lead balloon (which is a giant pink Energizer Bunny balloon) and follow it until it lands and spreads out its target and then watch the other ballons try to hit it with their dropped beanbags (or whatever they are) ... which is how you win this thing that really isn't a race, strictly defined.
So we got into the car at 4:30, which is when the Bunny is supposed to hit the air. Now, again, it's like 75 degrees and sunny, which is wonderful ... but there is also no wind (actually, the radio said 5 MPH) -- which isn't really what you want from a balloon race.
We started driving around the outskirts of the park looking for the Bunny so we could follow it Finally, we saw the ears rise above the trees -- and other balloons started to take off, too. But before we could get a bead on where it was going ... it went down again.
A quick check of the radio confirmed that the Bunny Balloon had risen about 40 feet in the air and then sank down to earth again and toppled over on its side by the Great Forest Park Tennis Courts (I'm sure Homeland Security investigators are already on site). Too much balloon and too little wind.
That wasn't a problem for the rest of the balloons, which took off with no problem. Well, they did have ONE problem -- since the object of the race was to follow the lead balloon and then drop your beanbag near the target it lays down -- the absence of a lead balloon tended to remove any sense of coherence from the procedings.
But it was still fun. We followed the general direction of the balloons and then when we got to a point (near our old house) where they were all traveling overhead -- at pretty low altitude because of the lack of wind -- we parked in a parking lot and got out and watched. We being Robin, Schroedter and me ... Hayden, already exhausted by the day's procedings, was asleep in the car.
Then, we picked one balloon (the one with the giant rat on it) and decided to follow it. This was made easier by the fact that we found ourselves directly behind the truck/trailer driven by its crew. We followed it until it went down in an area where we couldn't get near it.
Then we noticed that a lot of the balloons seemed to be drifting close to the ground. In fact, it looked like a couple of them weren't going to get over nearby power lines. On a day like this (no wind) a couple years ago, the Bunny balloon landed in Heman Park, just down the street from our old house. We figured they might be headed toward that, too ... but then they started to pick up steam and altitude and looked like they would make it further. So we got back in the car and followed.
We were heading northwest still, into an area that had a lot of cemeteries. We decided to follow a rainbow colored balloon with a Ronocco Coffee banner on it (you can see it going overhead of Robin and Schroedter on the left in this picture. (Because there was no lead balloon, it was pretty much every zeppelin for itself and really all there was to do was pick one ... so we did.) It ended up working out pretty well.
We turned into a cemetery and once again found ourselves just behind the crew truck. We drove to a stop and jumped out of the car and ran toward it just as it hit the ground (you can see Schroedter is the little speck in the foreground running toward it).
Then a bunch of other balloon stalkers who had pulled up and I ran to the basket and helped guide them to a spot that was grave-free so they could set down for good ... then helped do all the tilting and pulling and other stuff that was necessary to get the balloon down and everyone out and working on deflating it.
Schroedter had a blast. Hayden, who was awake by this point, had a good time but appreciated keeping some distance from the flames shooting up into the thing.
After that, we loaded back into the car, went out for some BBQ that couldn't be beat, and then headed home. I don't think you could pack more fun into a day like this (and I didn't even mention Robin and Schroedter's soccer practice and Hayden and I playing "Buzz and Zurg" around the bouse this morning before the party.
I imagine if you've read this far you're either family, like family, or have a debilitating medical condition that makes it impossible for you to change websites. Either way, we wish you could have been with us to share this great day!
| Mike at 9/17/2005 09:33:00 PM
Thursday, September 15, 2005 The best 80s bubble gum pop song you haven't thought of in years is...
History blesses us with moments of tremendous opportunity. These moments in time afford individuals and nations the occasion to realize destinies of greatness, to fulfill the highest potential God dreams for us, to demonstrate anew the best measure of who we are as human beings and children of God.
As a nation, we have had many such moments, and often we have risen to meet them in extraordinary ways, ways that have made this nation a beacon of hope for so many for so long.
Such a moment was upon us this week, and instead of stepping forward in hope to grasp it, we shrunk back from its challenges and the opportunity it provided to fulfill the dream that is America. A dream carried by us as a nation for the past two centuries and more.
This week, the eyes of the world, if not this country, were trained upon New York City, where people from around the globe gathered to assess our progress and renew our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The eight MDGs represent our best effort to strive as a global community to solve the great humanitarian crises of our time – eradicating extreme hungerand poverty, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and other devastating diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability – all through building global partnerships to assure that development happens in ways that benefit not just the few but all humanity.
These are not idle dreams, but measurable, attainable goals that the world has the resources to achieve -- if only we have the will.
As the greatest superpower on the planet, our nation has not just the ability, not just the moral obligation, but the great and glorious opportunity to take the dream of freedom that birthed this nation and work with our sisters and brothers around the world to assure that freedom for all from poverty, disease, and despair is realized as the birthright for everyone. The opportunity to show that we are indeed a great nation – not by the standard of military and economic might, but by the standard of servanthood, the force of compassion, and the power of generosity.
History blesses us with these moments, and we let them pass at our own great peril and shame.
This week, that is what we did.
The current administration has made significant progress in debt forgiveness and in setting up opportunities for development aid like the Millennium Challenge Account. This week at the World Summit in New York, however, it shrunk back from the opportunity to exercise the best of servant leadership and lead the way in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It actively opposed the efforts of other nations to step forward and embrace those opportunities.
In the negotiations leading up to this week’s summit, the United States continually and methodically shredded the document that was signed by all United Nations member states. Under pressure from United States Ambassador John Bolton, language dedicating all nations to the eradication of global poverty, the strengthening of the United Nations as a body empowered to address global crises, and the reversal of devastating global climate change was systematically weakened or eliminated.
At one point, the U.S. demanded the elimination of all references to the Millennium Development Goals. Under considerable pressure we backed off that demand, but still we refused to live up to our twice-made promise to give 0.7% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) toward the MDGs’ achievement – the amount it would take to make them a reality by 2015. And we did this at a time when many other nations, including the United Kingdom, have re-dedicated themselves toward 0.7% GDP giving for the MDGs as a tangible reality within the next few years.
That our stinginess comes at a time when the world is looking with compassion on our own people as they dig out from the catastrophe of hurricane Katrina adds only irony to tragedy. Hurricane Katrina gave us the bitter taste of the life one-sixth of humanity struggles to survive every day – they are hungry, without access to drinkable water or proper sanitation, they have no schools, no decent medical care, and they are imprisoned by fear in the face of violence and insecurity.
Even as we rage over the ways aid is reaching our own people on the Gulf Coast, this week we actively prevented the same aid from reaching our sisters and brothers around the world who live lives of chronic desolation every day of their lives.
As we stand in their footsteps for one painful moment, we still deny them shoes.
History provides defining moments. By our actions and inactions we embrace them as blessing, or allow them to become a curse. Dedicating the tremendous resources of this great nation toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals would have written a legacy that would assure our status as a beloved world leader for generations to come.
Instead, we write a legacy not of triumph, but of shame.
There is still time to change course. Still time to turn back and embrace the claim of a higher destiny. But despite this hope, today we have little claim to supremacy – moral or otherwise -- and little cause for pride.
As children of God and as citizens of this most generous of nations, we owe humanity, our children, and the founders of this Republic more than a missed opportunity and a fearful shrinking back from this challenge. We owe the best measure of ourselves as people of freedom, generosity, and compassion.
Greatness demands nothing less. But this week, less is what we gave.
As I watched the continuing coverage of Katrina's devastation on CNN last night, I had a powerful feeling of familiarity. As the neatly-groomed reporters described the people living in fear, hunger and squallor, the inability of the government to maintain order, the people left dead and dying because there was no one to help or even a place to put them, it became more and more clear.
I have seen this somewhere before -- many of us have. In fact, more than one billion people live like this every day -- with no food, no schools, no electricity, no access to proper sanitation or safe drinking water -- many living in political instability and in fear of random violence.
We Americans are in shock, and rightfully so. Just as September 11 was a wake-up call to a world from which we had previously insulated ourselves, Katrina has woken us up to what extreme poverty looks like up close and personal. ERD president Robert Radtke said it best when he called the devastation "tsunami-like." What previously only happened far away and (seemingly) far removed from us is now inside our front door.
Thankfully, we have a God who provides gifts of opportunity in the midst of the deepest darkness. This awakening can be such a gift -- if we open ourselves up to receiving it.
If your email box is like mine, it is full of appeals from relief agencies collecting funds for Katrina's victims. Even Google has a black ribbon button linking you to stories and opportunities to give.
Moments like this are teachable moments ... moments of great devastation and tragedy that could overwhelm us but in the midst of which we somehow grasp that one person can do something. So we take out the credit card or put sheets on the pullout sofa and say the prayers.. And what's so amazing is that at times like this when the need is so obvious and in their face, people aren't thinking twice about sacrifice -- they're just doing it. What's so amazing is that we are hearing the call for help, and we are realizing that one person really can make a difference -- and we do.
But this moment is a teachable one in another way. If the power of what one person or one congregation can do is so tangible in the face of a disaster whose coverage we can't escape like Katrina, it is just as powerful with the chronic disasters that so often get choked out of our daily news coverage by Tom and Katie and the Runaway Bride. Moments like this are moments to rejoice in God's gift of the power of what one can do ... and to remember that power and use it elsewhere.
Disasters like the tsumani and Katrina often have ancilary casualties far, far away from the storm center. They are the NGOs and other organizations battling chronic poverty, disease, malnutrition, illiteracy and other endemic and pandemic problems far from the camera eye. That's because all too often people give to relieve the highly-publicized disaster that has touched their heart instead of giving to stop 30,000 children from dying each day in places where Matt Lauer and Katie Couric are not on location. By taking what should be a both/and and turning it into an either/or, Katrina claims victims not just in New Orleans and Biloxi, but in Juba and Kamapala and Port au Prince.
The opportunity of the Gospel and of the heart that Katrina provides is to take our belief that one person can make a difference here and apply it there. To not just write that one check and say that one prayer, but to give and pray and work for those who die without making the headlines.
We've only started to see the stories of everyday heroes in Katrina's wake. In the days and weeks to come, we'll see more and more. Stories that will surprise us, inspire us and move us. We will truly be seizing God's opportunity and light in the midst of darkness if they do more than make us rejoice for what one person has done but make us dream about what one person can do wherever there is tragedy and brokenness and suffering.
Because if what has happened in Katrina's aftermath is teaching us anything, it's the power of One.
EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.
Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.
"Christ's example is being
demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy,
which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here.
If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest
of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't,
it will be irrelevant."