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Mahatma Gandhi, (attributed)
Indian ascetic & nationalist leader (1869 - 1948)
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950), Man and Superman (1903) "Maxims for Revolutionists"
You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, "Why not?"
George Bernard Shaw (1856 - 1950), "Back to Methuselah" (1921), part 1, act 1
Don't let fear convince you that you're too weak to have courage. Fear is the opportunity for courage, not the proof of cowardice.
McCain, John (2004, September). In Search of Courage: Finding the Courage Within You. FastCompany, 51-56.
In the search for character and commitment, we must rid ourselves of our inherited, even cherished biases and prejudices. Character, ability and intelligence are not concentrated in one sex over the other, nor in persons with certain accents or in certain races or in persons holding degrees from some universities over others. When we indulge ourselves in such irrational prejudices, we damage ourselves most of all and ultimately assure ourselves of failure in competition with those more open and less biased.
J. Irwin Miller, Chairman of the Board (1951-1977), Cummins Inc. From 1983 letter about diversity at the company.
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November 22, 2007
"Thanksgiving" is an action word
This morning I gave the sermon at our Thanksgiving Service. I decided to post it for posterity. Hope you enjoy it.
When I was a kid I would have told you that Christmas was my favorite holiday for two reasons – music, and presents – not necessarily in that order. Nevertheless, looking back, I think that Thanksgiving was actually my favorite holiday – Christmas was too focused on who got what gifts and was the amount spent on everyone exactly equal, and Palm Sunday and Easter were often confounded with my birthday, which is in April. No I think Thanksgiving was my favorite with it’s focus on those we care about the most and on food.
I was blessed to have wonderful women in my life…women who showed their love with their hands when they cooked. My father’s mother’s angel food cakes were legendary…having spent her life on the farm with fresh organic free-range eggs and whole unpasteurized unhomogenized milk she could take those wonderful wholesome ingredients and whip up a cake with frosting that would set my pre-teen heart a flutter. Sometime you should ask my brother or sister about the Angel Food cakes with Carmel Icing we loved to have as birthday cakes.
My mother’s mother, having been a farm girl who became a town wife, didn’t have her prime ingredients immediately at hand, but none the less, her yeast rolls are to this day a family legend. As the only bread baker of my generation, not that I actually bake it all that much, I am assailed with requests to make “Aunt Annie’s” rolls whenever I am to attend a family gathering in Indianapolis. A request I have yet to fulfill.
You see, I can make yeast rolls. I make good yeast rolls, even ones that look like Grandma’s rolls - since she taught me the secret two-handed flip that made them come out so smooth and rounded on the top. However, while they look like Grandma’s rolls they don’t taste like them.
Part of the reason my rolls don’t taste the same as hers is that the ingredients I buy in 2007 just don’t taste like the ones she had in the 1960’s. Store bought butter isn’t as buttery now, flour seems to be old and sort of off even when you open a new package that you bought only minutes before.
However, that’s only part of the reason mine taste different. Mine taste different because I am different. I was a farm kid in the 1960’s not the 1910’s. I’ve spent my life around cars, and manufacturing machines, and books, and computers; not raising kids and primarily taking care of a home and a family. Therefore, while I can mix the ingredients – there is no secret recipe here; Grandma’s yeast roll recipe is straight out of the old Betty Crooker Cookbook. I can knead the dough, form the rolls, and do all the proper raising and proofing required…the essence of me that the rolls absorb from my working them adds something different than the flavor she gave.
Oh and there was one other huge difference between my Grandmother’s baking and my own. You see my Grandmother did the baking for me on Thanksgiving, not to keep me feed since Thanksgiving in the U.S. is not, for most of us, about daily sustenance. Rather, Thanksgiving for most of us is about abundance. No, she did it for me…to show the love she could not have then expressed any other way. And I ate at that fountain, and would do so today if the opportunity were available to me. Because as William Jennings Bryan said, “On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.”
On Thanksgiving Day, we acknowledge our dependence on each other for emotional support when we are in trouble. We acknowledge our families and our friends who support us when we cannot support ourselves.
Did you know that Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” at a time when Puritanism had forced a decline in Christmas celebrations? The Industrial Revolution, in full swing in Dickens' time, allowed workers little time for the celebration of Christmas. Dickens' describes the Christmas holiday as
a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of other people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.
This was what Dickens described for the rest of his life as the "Carol Philosophy". Somehow, we’ve turned Christmas into a “give me” season rather than the purer celebration of Christ’s Birth that Dickens envisioned.
Many years ago, I spent a Christmas Season working backstage at Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT). That year was one of the seasons were “A Christmas Carol” was performed. For that month of eight-shows-a-week, I handed props to actors as they went on stage and gathered the props back once they were no longer needed. For eight-shows-a-week I was surrounded by Dickens’ world, and what I remember most is the turkey. It was a huge bird, the size of your average 7-year-old child. Moreover, while it looked like a real turkey to the audience, it was in fact a hollow bird…a wireframe wrapped in paper and covered in latex, then painted to look like a perfectly baked turkey. I will always remember my father’s mother’s reaction after she saw the play that winter. “I wouldn’t want to try to cook a bird that big it would never get done.” However, you see that was in fact part of the point, the bird was for show not for a real family’s celebration.
Like the apostles in our gospel reading today [John 6:25-35], it is easy to miss the underlying meaning of things when we have a full stomach. You see first “thanksgiving” is an action word, something we do toward our Lord and other people. Like the manna the Bible refers to, our Thanksgiving should go beyond providing sustenance to our bodies…it should feed our souls as well. Without the food for our souls, our Thanksgiving is as hollow as the IRT turkey, or as unfamiliar as comparing my yeast rolls to my grandmother’s. However, you can’t – in fact - compare that big-ole-fake-bird to either of our yeast rolls, since the rolls were, and are, made with love.
As my grandmother aged the life she had lead took its toll on her, as all our lives have or will take their toll on us. She became fixated with what she ate and blamed food for all her troubles. Nevertheless, even when she was in that dark place and would not eat bread believing herself to be allergic to wheat, she still made yeast rolls for us. Lovingly mixing, kneading, forming, and proofing those future brown balls of goodness…because and only because, my brother, sister, and I loved to eat them so much.
You see my grandmother got it, at least in part, Thanksgiving is an action word. She gave thanks for her grandchildren, not through words – which are often as hollow as that huge turkey – but through actions. And as we all know, actions are what show our real thoughts and our real feelings.
By way of a prayer will you join me for two short poems – the first from George Herbert and the second from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Thou has given so much to me,
Give one thing more – a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything, Thy goodness sends.
Posted by prolurkr at November 22, 2007 06:44 PM
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