Reminders in Troubling Times

Every Monday morning at Acumen, in all of our offices, we hold a staff meeting. It starts with context from the last week and ends with “Aha’s,” reflections from the previous week relevant to our work and to our mission.

These past few weeks have been a drumbeat of global news going from bad to worse, of fear taking center stage. At some point it gets hard to even find the right words.

Here are some of the reminders I heard from colleagues yesterday that I needed to hear.

That if you’re paying attention to the world right now, you are probably hurting.

That if you come across someone who is hurting, they could use a sign of love, of warmth, of kindness, maybe even a hug.

That we can express care and connection through actions big and small.

That how we act in each of our daily interactions has ripple effects for us and for those around us.

That the world desperately needs the people who are fighting against evil, against injustice, and against division to remain hopeful.

That these same people need support from people who, today, are sitting on the sidelines.

And that being part of an organization that is working to make positive change in the world puts us in a leveraged position to be a force for good, and that this in itself is a reason to redouble our efforts and redouble our hope.

Please, let us keep at it. Let us keep fighting the fight.

Please, let us keep listening to each other and holding each other in our hearts.

Please, let us show each other, and let us show those that are angry and frustrated and tired and hopeless, that what unites us is stronger than what divides us.

There really is green grass under the snow

No matter how many feet deep you have to dig to find it.

Not just metaphorically. Actual green grass, just waiting there for the spring.

Helps to remember that every now and again.

Mega Millions Jackpot Hits $586 Million

And 70 percent of the hundreds of millions of possible number combinations will be purchased.

Did you ever need more proof that what you’re selling is hope and possibility and not facts and figures?

Landfill Harmonic

In Cateura, Paraguay, in a slum build on a landfill, a community has come together to make classical musical instruments out of old oil barrels, meat cleavers, even forks.  From trash they have made cellos, violins, violas, clarinets.  And they play them beautifully.

If ever you doubted even for a second the power of dignity or the grace of every human being, everywhere, this trailer is for you.

I promise it will light a fire in you, will fill you with joy and hope and holiday spirit.  It will help remind you how easy it is to take things for granted.  It will, I bet, make you smile and maybe even shed a tear.

If you’d like to learn more about the upcoming documentary, check out the Landfill Harmonic Movie Facebook page.  They’re even starting to accepted donated musical instruments.

Real Heroes

The other day I was talking to a guy who, among many pursuits, is heavily involved in an inner-city charter school.  He said that his dream is to build, around the school and in the neighborhood, a Heroes Project so that the kids have real, local role models of folks they can look up to, folks who are not athletes or rock stars, since almost no one ends up as a professional athlete or a rock star.  (Any takers to make that happen? Let me know.)

And then today someone told me about Julio Diaz’s story on NPR’s StoryCorps.  Julio got mugged at knife-point coming off the subway in New York, and it turned into a story with a very surprising, very inspiring ending.

I hope someone starts the Heroes Project, and if they do I officially nominate Julio as the first hero.

Click on the image to hear the story – it’s less than 2 minutes long, and I promise it will make your day.

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The other day my six-year-old son talked me into an impromptu weekend trip to Grand Central Station.  The ultimate destination was (obviously) the new Lego store at Rockefeller Center (it’s fabulous) but we made the requisite stop at the MTA NYC Transit Museum/Shop at Grand Central.

My son’s three-year long obsession with trains has recently abated, but the Train Museum is still a favorite stop, even if visiting now has just the slightest tinge of nostalgia.

It’s as much store as museum, but on the way out my son tugged at my sleeve and pointed at the glass donation box they have set up by the door.

“Should we leave them some money?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“This place is great, and we want it to be here forever, don’t we?”

Sometimes the answers are just that simple.

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Over a bowl yogurt and granola

Here’s a conversation I had this morning with my five-year old son over breakfast.

Him:     Daddy, we’re eating the same breakfast today.

Me:      Yes we are.  It’s delicious, isn’t it?  The yogurt is creamy and the granola is crunchy and a little sweet.

Him:     Yes.  It’s delicious…..Daddy, do you like everything for breakfast?

Me:      Well, I like a lot of things for breakfast, but I’m not sure if I like everything

Him:     Does anybody like everything for breakfast?

Me:      I don’t know.  I’m sure somebody does.

(Thoughtful pause)

Him:     Does God like everything for breakfast?  Because God loves everything?  He loves trees and flowers and he wants people to be happy?

(Side note for context: ours is neither an exceptionally religious nor exceptionally un-religious household.)

I couldn’t help but wonder – when in life do we lose our sense of the profound, our sense that every moment is just a turn of phrase away from beauty?  Is it a natural progression, or something we’re taught in school or in life – the victory of logic and cleverness and cynicism over wonder and imagination?

And how do we get it back?

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