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Posts Tagged ‘Good works’

Caught an interesting article in the Detroit Free Press.  I was shocked that Nancy Pelosi was not also attending because this sorta thing seems to be right up her alley — or squarely in her playbook, depending on how you look at it. 

Seems the faithful Christians in the Episcopalian, Methodist and United Unitarian churches here in Detroit are making sure that Conservatives aren’t hijacking Jesus’ message.  That message was apparently not about the Kingdom of God, or the Way to the Father or eternal salvation.  Apparently, Jesus’ message was all about establishing perfect social justice here on little ol’ earth:

Saying that social justice is at the heart of Christianity and other religions, activists gathered today in a Detroit church to say that faith can play an active role in fighting for change.

The meeting at Christ Church Detroit, among the day’s events as part of the U.S. Social Forum, illustrated the role of religious groups in political and social movements.

Three years ago in Atlanta at the last U.S. Social Forum, there was little religious participation, say organizers. But this year, a number of forums, workshops and services are focused on religious organizations and faith. And a Detroit church, Central United Methodist, has been the center for organizing this year’s forum.

“Faith is about justice,” said the Rev. Ed Rowe, pastor of Central United and a social activist. “Without justice, faith is living a lie. If your faith is just about helping only the people who are inside stained glass windows, we ought to quit.”

The U.S. Social Forum is attracting thousands of activists from across the U.S.

Today’s church gathering, which attracted 100 people or more, featured a re-enactment of a parable about laborers in a vineyard in the Book of Matthew in the Bible. In the story, it seems that the “land owner equals God,” said Lily Mendoza, associate professor of culture and communication at Oakland University.

It led to a discussion about the nature of labor, immigrants and power in the modern world.

Jesus started a “peasant resistance movement,” said Jim Perkinson, professor of social ethics at Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit. “Is the CEO of GM or Chrysler … God?”

Local religious leaders with Detroit-based Interfaith Worker Justice are helping organize a number of events at the forum, including a 9:45 a.m. rally Thursday in front of JP Morgan Chase Bank to protest working conditions of some farm workers and to urge that the bank stop foreclosing on unemployed homeowners.

The Free Press also says that Jewish, Hindu, Muslm and Buddhists are also participating.  No word on whether they are planning to join Jesus’ peasant resistance movement.

I am not sure if the Free Press attempted to contact Nancy Pelosi for her comments on St. Joseph the Worker, or her commitment to communist-ecclesiastical dialogue.

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For our Holy Week, an uplifting story of a selfless conversion. Here is a story of a grandmother who has decided that 15 years of cancer treatment is enough, and that it’s time to distribute her wealth to those in need around her. 

After 15 years spent battling oral cancer, Washington resident Sonya Beard is giving up her fight — in order to give back to her community.

Fifteen years. That’s how long 74-year-old Sonya Beard has been fighting oral cancer. But now, after multiple surgeries and treatments, she says she has had enough. While her doctors wanted her to start radiation therapy, Beard is instead enjoying the time she has left, and making a huge difference in her community. She has already donated hundreds of thousands of dollars from her life savings to several organizations near her Mount Vernon, Wash., home, and she’s not done yet.

 Giving Back

A lifelong reader, Sonya’s first donation was $500,000 to the Mount Vernon City Library. In an exclusive interview with Tonic, she says that reading made her “the cornerstone of what I am today. I wouldn’t have been able to travel or do the things I have done without my love of books.”

As a child, Beard and family would go to the library on Saturday to get their books for the week. “I got to the point where I was obnoxious with my mother about trying to get my nose out of a book.” She has since instilled “a passion for books and reading” in her four grandchildren.

Beard couldn’t attend the library meeting when her donation was announced, but she finally made it down there on Monday. “I went this afternoon and I’m just thrilled to death with what they’re going to be able to do” with her donation, she says. The library is planning a major expansion that might not have been possible without Beard’s donation.

Thinking Forward

Beard has also donated $165,000 to Skagit Valley Hospital, also located in Mount Vernon, so they can purchase hyperbaric oxygen therapy equipment to help patients recover from surgeries like the ones Beard has endured. Until this, the closest hyperbaric equipment was in Seattle, more than 60 miles away.

“I found it necessary to undergo the treatment after one of my surgeries, but I was not able to travel,” she says. “I had to rent an apartment down there for six weeks. It’s a terrible handicap for a person to have to move themselves to another area. A lot of people in Mount Vernon don’t have the means to relocate themselves down there. I knew we had patients that needed it here and they couldn’t afford it.”

Beard has been pushing the hospital to get the new equipment up and running quickly. “I was just down there to see the progress on the oxygen chamber. They’re moving fast. They’re remodeling the wound center now, and we’re hoping for an opening in June.”

More to Come

Her battle with cancer has also inspired her to create a foundation, which will be established where she had her surgeries at the University of Washington Medical Center, after her death. “You may not know this,” she says, “but people with oral cancer are not reimbursed by insurance for dental prostheses. I set up in my will that they’ll have a foundation that will be able to pay for people who need these prostheses.”

Beard was able to purchase her own prosthesis, but it had to be removed just five months later when her doctors found more cancer. “I spent over $20,000 for a prosthesis I only had for five months. That was very discouraging to think that this might happen to someone else. It’s not right to say that this is cosmetic when it’s the only means you have for eating. There’s way too many people walking around without teeth because they won’t be able to pay for it.”

Beard’s charitable contributions don’t end there. She just paid off the mortgage at Bethany Convent Church, her church of the last ten years, and she is considering additional donations in her town. “My way is to help as many as I possibly can,” she says. “And if that helps future generations as well, that’s even better.”

A Positive Outlook

Despite her cancers, which also includes a battle with breast cancer eight years ago, Beard remains a positive person who enjoys her life. “It’s become a way of life,” she says of her cancer. “But really, other people have it worse. So we won’t dwell on that,” she laughs.

“I have been extremely fortunate with my life,” she says. “I never thought I would be in a position to do something like this. I don’t have the education, but somehow I did it.”

But Beard did learn from the people she met in her life. She learned how to invest when she worked as secretary for stockbrokers and bankers, a talent that has made these current donations possible.

In an interview with local KOMO News, Beard said, “I’m not a wealthy person, I’m not a famous person — but I feel like if I can stimulate one person to get the ball rolling then we can make a difference.”

Beard’s husband passed away 11 years ago, leaving her with three step-sons she considers “her wonderful boys.” “They’ve given me four wonderful grandchildren,” she says. “My life is complete with them.”

I would be very interested to know how much faith played a role in this woman’s decision.  I bet alot.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t something the writer covered. 

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From Forbes magazine via Black Christian News:

Warren Buffett did it. Bill Gates did it. Now a little-known billionaire from Britain is doing it too.

 Albert Gubay has fulfilled a divine pact he made at the start of his entrepreneurial career and put his business empire, worth around 460 million pounds ($690 million) into a charitable trust.

The 82-year-old British retail entrepreneur made a “deal” with God several decades ago, when he barely had enough capital to get his business ideas off the ground, to share half his fortune with the almighty in return for some divine help with his finances.

Five decades later nearly all of his fortune is going into a trust from which half of all the funds will be spent on projects connected to the Roman Catholic Church. The other half will be given away to whomever the trustees deem appropriate. Gubay, a lifelong Catholic, will keep 10 million pounds ($15 million) to tide him over during his old age.

read more here

British Billionaire Fulfills a Pact with God; Pledges Most of his Fortune to Charity – BCNN1.

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St. Benedict by Herman Nigg

Fr. Tom, showing his love for his sheep, had parts of the Rule of St. Benedict published in today’s bulletin.  I think it is edifying for my parish and me.  In this Year of the Priest, I pass it on for your edification, too.  :-)    

  • Help those who are in trouble.
  • Console the afflicted.  
  • Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.
  • Speak the truth from your heart as from your mouth.    
  • Attribute the good that you find in yourself to God, and not to yourself.    
  • Desire eternal life with all the ardor of your soul.    
  • Listen willingly to the Holy Scriptures.    
  • Daily confess your past faults to God in your prayers with tears and groans, and in the future correct them.    
  • In all things obey the instructions of the Abbot even if, God forbid, he should go astray in his works, remembering this precept of the Lord: Do what they say, but not what they do.    
  • The struggler must be patient, enduring all things that come to him.    
  • We should not seek to be different from others; we should do only what is needful, following the example of the saints.    
  • Our words to others should be few and covered with gentleness.    
  • Honor those who are old.    
  • Love those who are younger.    
  • Pray for your enemies in the love of Christ.    
  • Make peace, before the setting of the sun, with those from whom you have been separated by discord.    
  • And never despair of the mercy of God.    

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Scientists have once again proven a common wisdom.  That is, being exposed to goodness helps us to be good ourselves. 

Witnessing Uplifting Behavior May Spur Good Deeds

SATURDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) — Seeing someone else do a good deed appears to inspire you to do the same by making you feel uplifted, new research suggests.

In an experiment, researchers recruited volunteers who watched a “neutral” video clip of scenes from a nature documentary or a clip from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in which musicians thanked their mentors. The participants then wrote essays about what they watched, were paid for their time and asked to indicate whether they’d want to take part in another study.

Those who saw the Oprah Winfrey clip were more likely to volunteer to take part in another study.

The positive, uplifting emotion that makes people feel good and may inspire them to help others is known as “elevation,” the researchers explained in a news release about the experiment from the Association for Psychological Science.

In another experiment, participants watched one of the previous two clips or a third clip from a British comedy. Afterwards, a research assistant said she was having trouble opening a computer file connected to the study, and told the volunteers that they were free to leave, but as they exited she asked the participants if they would be willing to fill out a boring questionnaire for another study.

Volunteers who watched the Oprah Winfrey clip spent almost twice as long helping the assistant as those who watched the other clips, the researchers noted.

The study authors concluded that “by eliciting elevation, even brief exposure to other individuals’ prosocial behavior motivates altruism, thus potentially providing an avenue for increasing the general level of prosociality in society.”

The findings are to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science.

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Important reminder:

Please keep praying for Haiti. 

Since the situation on the ground does not allow us to jump on a plane to Haiti, roll up our sleeves and do our Christian work in a hands on fashion, to do charity work there means to find reputable charities and donate good hard cash.  United in Prayer that Cory Heimann at Likable Art is involved with is supporting Catholic Relief Services.   Watch his video here. And you can download a great cd of Catholic musicians for your donation at AfterMass, too!  Please support this great cause by clicking here now.  The album is fantastic!  I support Catholic musicians; you should too.

Another truly fantastic charity is Food for the Poor.  One of their priest missionaries came to our parish and in a moving and sometimes very funny ways, painted a grim picture of the need in Haiti even before the earthquake.  Food for the Poor is an ecumenical charity, though it appears that it is mostly Catholic and it has the astronomical efficiency rate of 97%–meaning that 97 cents of every donated dollar goes into food, shelter, education, etc. for the poor the charity serves.  Those Christian missionaries all have vows of poverty and unlike SOME charities, the head of the charity isn’t making 6 figures and flying from one big fundraising black tie event after another.  (No, I’m not looking at UNICEF, what gave you that impression?  there are …so many from which to choose, sadly.)

On a related note, the Detroit Free Press recently published that Michigan Catholics have donated over $1 mil dollars to Haiti.  Way to go, fellow Mitten Catholics!

Catholics in southeastern Michigan have raised more than $1 million so far for the victims of Haiti’s earthquake, officials said today.

The Archdiocese of Detroit has been collecting donations from local parishes in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Lapeer and Monroe counties. As of Monday, the total passed $1 million, said Archdiocese spokesman Joe Kohn.

“After the earthquake happened, Archbishop (Allen) Vigneron expressed his confidence that the people of the Archdiocese would offer their support by way of prayers and financial support,” Kohn said today. “His confidence was well placed. Given the economic situation we’re in, it’s encouraging to see people step up and show this kind of generosity.”

The archdiocese has been collecting donations on behalf of Catholic Relief Services.

Haiti, which has a Catholic-majority population, suffered enormous losses in the Jan. 12 earthquake, in which Port-au-Prince Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot died.

Haiti’s government said today 230,000 people died.

To donate to Haiti through the Archdiocese, visit:
https://www.gifttool.com/donations/Donate?ID=1516&AID=780

 

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Death and tragedy.  So common and yet, we are seemingly unprepared to handle it, or help others handle it.  How are we dealing with grief these days?   This news article from the Globe and Mail (reproduced below) raises questions about the predominance of ‘grief counseling’ in our modern world.  I think it is thought-provoking, or at least it was for me.  It brought to mind a couple experiences I’ve had, and I wanted to share the article with you.

Do you remember the Love is Kind article from Catholic Exchange that I made a page last fall?  Well, I was reminded of the story that author Christi Derr related about the shoe-shining minister’s wife in the article.   The story goes–when there was a death in a church family, the minister’s wife visited the house to shine the shoes for the grieving family to help them prepare for the funeral.  Her reasoning was that it probably needed to be done, but her ulterior motive was that it gave her an excuse to be on hand as a presence for the spouse and family in their grief. (Read Love is Kind is you haven’t–click the tab at the top of the blog!)
 
The Globe and Mail article on grief counseling also puts me in mind of one of the best movies I have seen in recent years, Lars and the Real Girl (a quirky independent movie that may not be everyone’s cup of tea but is the only movie I know in which the phrase “what would Jesus do?” is asked sincerely).  In a quiet scene showing the main character Lars dealing with tragedy, several older church women come over and sit with him.  They bring casseroles, place themselves around on the chairs, and calmly knit while quietly waiting with him.  He wants to do something for them but they assure him–this is what people do when tragedy strikes: they come over, and sit.  It’s a comforting thought, and a very touching scene, and like the whole movie makes important points about the meaning of community, Christian love,  acceptance and kindness.

In a wider sense, I believe modern Western people and especially Americans are losing our Christian values.  We are opting to be “nice” instead of choosing to be “kind.”  What is the difference? As individuals, we no longer reach out to people who need, are hurting, are poor or homeless.     Instead, we look to the government and say, you should be doing something about that!  We assume that the Red Cross, or FEMA, or Catholic Charities or the mental health community will “do something” for our hurting neighbors.  We are diffusing our responsibilities to each other by handing them off to the greater body.  Let’s reconnect with the our individual responsibility to alleviate sickness, poverty, and grief in the lives of the people around us; Christ calls us as his followers to do just that.

I am repeating myself but remember:  Jesus didn’t teach us to “go vote for the politicians who will go vote for projects to do good on your behalf with your tax dollars.”  Jesus didn’t say, “Come to me, all you who labor and are weary and I will send you Social Security and Fair Labor laws. He didn’t say, when I was sick, you asked casually if I was seeing a mental health professional.  When I was hungry, you donated to a food bank from time to time.  When I was thirsty, you thought it was a real shame that the United Nations hadn’t gotten clean wells built in my part of the world.

There are people in each of our lives that is hurting.  Family, friends and neighbors.  What a shame it is that we do not see it.  What a sin that we do not respond personally.  Most likely our parents or grandparents did, at least in times of grief and tragedy, with casseroles and their comforting company.   If we can’t quite live up to WWJD?…why not try asking, What Would Grandma Have Done

January 15, 2010

Grief industry to the rescue

By Margaret Wente
From Saturday’s Globe and Mail

Not long ago, we had other ways to cope with loss: community and casseroles

Help is finally trickling into Haiti, the scene of such unfathomable suffering that the TV news reports are almost unbearable to watch. The people need everything – water, food, medicine, shelter, doctors, rescue specialists and, of course, psychologists. Many of the medical teams sent to Haiti include psychologists. Perhaps they plan to hold group counselling sessions so mothers who have lost five children will be facilitated to freely express their emotions in a safe and nurturing environment.

Psychologists everywhere are offering their insights into what Haitians are likely going through. “In every moment, the level of emotional anguish ratchets up,” says Russell Friedman, who ought to know. He is the director of the Grief Recovery Institute, a counselling organization in California that helps people deal with death and natural disasters. It offers “the highest level of training in the area of helping grievers complete the pain caused by significant emotional losses” – whatever that means.

The idea that crisis counsellors have anything to offer Haiti strikes me as the most astounding hubris. Yet, the underlying assumption of their trade – that anyone who goes through trauma needs a therapist – has become conventional wisdom. There’s even help for us. Are you traumatized by the news from Haiti? The American Psychological Association offers this advice: Maintain your daily routines. Get plenty of exercise and rest. And turn off the TV. If symptoms persist, consult a licensed health professional.

The grief industry is bigger than ever, even though it’s taken lots of knocks lately. A new study by researchers from Dalhousie University concludes that psychological debriefing after a traumatic event does little good and, in fact, can do harm. “When people are put into a situation and then asked to relive, remember and sometimes even re-enact their feelings and thoughts, it actually makes things worse for them,” says Stan Kutcher, co-author of the study.

Yet, the ethos of therapism is so embedded in our culture that psychological counselling is routinely recommended for disaster survivors, for students who have lost a classmate, even for people whose dogs have died. Psychologist Sally Satel says that, days after the tsunami struck Sri Lanka in 2004, U.S. mental health workers were dispatched to the scene. “Psychological scarring needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible,” one psychologist told The Washington Post. “The longer we wait, the more danger.” Sri Lankan health officials disagreed. “We believe the most important thing is to strengthen local coping mechanisms rather than imposing counselling,” said one.

The foundation of the grief industry is something called Critical Incident Stress Management, a technique that was developed in the early 1970s for paramedics, firefighters and other professionals who regularly witnessed traumatic events. It was thought that, if they talked out their feelings and reactions immediately after the event, they’d be less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder later on.

This thoroughly unscientific idea soon spread to ordinary people, including people who had only heard of (not witnessed) traumatic events. Soon the grief professionals began descending on schools any time a child died in some awful way. In the workplace, onsite debriefing services became a standard feature of employee assistance programs. Today, tens of thousands of people are trained in Critical Incident Stress Management and related techniques. Because of the spread of “war, terrorism, school shootings, and natural disasters,” says the CISM Foundation, “the need for trained crisis responders has never been greater.”

Obviously, some people are unhinged by trauma and loss, to the point where they permanently lose the ability to cope. But most of us are actually quite resilient. The grief industry is built on the premise that human beings are much frailer than they really are. On top of that, it assumes that trained professionals are much better than untrained ones – friends, neighbours, colleagues, family – at helping people cope with terrible events, including those that will eventually affect us all.

Here’s part of the career profile for a bereavement counsellor, a profession that now has its own academic degrees, associations, conferences and licensing bodies: “Often when people die, the feelings of grief, anger and dismay of those they have left behind become overwhelming. Individuals or whole families can fall apart as a result of a death, and it requires an outside party to come along and see them through this difficult time.”

Not long ago, we had other ways to cope with tragedy and loss. We had community and casseroles. We had friends to sit with through the night. They weren’t experts and they didn’t have degrees. They didn’t pester us to talk about how much it hurt, or how bad we felt. But they kept us company, and they allowed us to share what we wanted with people we knew and trusted.

“Tincture of time,” my grandma would counsel when someone had suffered a terrible loss. But what did she know anyway?

As British writer Frank Furedi has observed, the relentlessly expanding role of expertise into the private sphere conveys the message that individuals are unable to manage important aspects of their lives without professional guidance. This holds true not only for grief and trauma, but for parenting (especially parenting!) and relationships in general. “Today every aspect of life from birth [actually, from well before birth] through to school and career to marriage and mourning is subject to professional counselling,” he writes. “We live in an age of personal trainers, mentors and facilitators.” Some of what they tell us is nonsense, and some is painfully self-evident (see American Psychological Association). But we’re supposed to trust it all because it’s scientifically based.

A wonderful New Yorker cartoon from 10 years ago shows two cowboys gazing across a canyon, looking at some tiny dots in the distant sky. “Could be buzzards, could be grief counsellors,” says one. “Can’t tell from here.”

As we rush to help the Haitian people, perhaps we ought to keep in mind our limits. We can treat the trauma to their bodies. The trauma to their lives is another matter. Their pain and loss are unimaginable. Yet, despite their devastating losses, they may be more resilient than we think.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/grief-industry-to-the-rescue/article1433336/

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