On the Power of Telling Our Stories

 

storycorps

Some stories leave me speechless. Alex Landau in his StoryCorps sharing with his mother in Traffic Stop is just such a story. In Traffic Stop, Alex recalls a horrendous encounter with a three police officers who pull him over, find some weed on his white passenger friend (Alex is a 19 year old African American) and because Alex has the nerve to ask for a search warrant is beat up by the officers and then asked: “Where’s that f#*@& warrant now you nigger”?

Yes, I’m speechless, but I can’t remain silent. I believe silence is the problem. I also believe it’s not my job to place blame. What I can and must do is recognize and identify not only with the victim (that’s easy), but also with the perpetrators. That’s not easy. It is necessary if any healing will take place. I, like the officers involved, often treat others terribly. Worse than that, I ignore them and don’t even admit to their existence.

In the September 28th Chicago Tribune’s Commentary, “I’m a 78 year-old racist—Mel Novit tells his story. Mr. Novit courageously identifies where he needs to grow. and gives me a powerful example of how I can learn and grow, no matter my age, by recognizing my mistakes, owning them and then most importantly do something to make up for them. Often, as in Mr. Novit’s and Mr. Landau’s cases, I can simply tell my story.

Thank you Mr. Novit and Mr. Landau for your bravery and willingness to share so that I can grow.

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Learning and Growing by Doing

ubudehe

After graduation, architect Michael Murphy met Bruce Nizeye a local builder in Rwanda, who he calls a brilliant engineer and a healer. (I usually don’t think of those two images together) Nizeye teaches Murphy about “Ubudehe,” which means “community works for the community.” Nizeye also introduces him to lo-fab (locally fabricated way of building with: “…four pillars: hire locally, source regionally, train where you can and most importantly think about every design decision as an opportunity to invest in the dignity of the places where you serve.” WOW! Places have dignity.

What an amazing concept! I wonder what our U.S. cities would look like if we practiced Ubudehe (community works for the community), and lo-fab building, i.e. hired locally, sourced regionally, trained where we can and most importantly think about every design decision as an opportunity to invest in the dignity of the places where we serve? Michael Murphy in his February 2016 TED Talk “Architecture that’s built to heal” shares how after completing an architectural degree in the U.S., he ended up in Rwanda and learned this new vision of architecture from the poorest in the world, often I believe, our best teachers.

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Making Peace

Zack Beauchamp in hisYouTube video, Three big reasons war is going away, admits that there are many reasons but then gives us just three as to why we are living in the most peaceful time in history*:

  1. The Democratic Peace
  2. Nuclear Deterrence
  3. Sovereignty

I suspect Mr. Beauchamp is onto something here, but I think there is another, and I would add, much more significant reason. I think we are living in the most peaceful time in history of the world because of people like Mahatma Gandhi, (1869 – 1948), Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968) who taught us how to respond to violence, marginalization and oppression with love and service. Also, people like Ethel Percy Andrus, Jane Addams, Dorothy Day and a whole host of others who may not have had the experience of marginalization or oppression, chose a life of love and service as well. Thanks to people like these and oh yes, Jesus (c 0 – 33). They taught us not only by their words, but more especially by their actions, how to make peace.

P.S. Happy Feast Day to all my Passionists friends around the world and all those celebrating the joyful memorial of the Passion of Jesus tomorrow, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

*Mr. Beauchamp is not the only one who thinks this. The Human Security Report “…an independent research centre affiliated with Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada.” gives a similar assessment.

The Secret to a Happy Life

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Some people need no introduction. Mother Teresa is one of them. Her message to the world, though thousands of years old, strikes me as new and earth shattering and more refreshing today than a hot loaf of bread just out of the oven. Thank you Mother, now Saint Mother Teresa for pointing the way. I will try to follow.

 

What is Real?

If I watch television today (I do this less and less) I get bewildered. Viewing programming like the news, I see and hear about a world full of murder and mayhem. Then I watch the advertising which seems to take up more and more of the televised time, and I get the impression that life is good—good that is if you drive a particular car, live in the right neighborhood, take the right vacations, have that “certain” look, none of which do I have or do nor frankly want.

With apologies to all the great teachers in my life, I believe that television is not only the best educator around today, but I’m afraid for many the only one in their lives. Schools and churches continue to pretend to teach, but they can’t compete with these screens we’ve allowed to take over our time and lives.

What’s missing in television, especially in what is hyped as “reality TV” is just that, the real. Margery Williams in her Velveteen Rabbit asks: “What is real…” I love her answer (you can read the book or watch the Youtube video) just as much as I like Justin Graves’ in his TEDxYouth talk above, Living with Purpose nails for me what it means to live an authentic life. He does it with no apology or cover up. In short he is everything I want to be. Thanks Justin.

Dan O'Donnell
Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey