#firstworldprobs

One in 10 children lives in a country or region defined by armed conflict. This means about 230 million children grow up in the midst of war and serious conflict, according to the 2015 UNICEF Report. Many of these children experience bomb attacks in their schools and homes. Many of them are kidnapped, raped, sexually abused, recruited as soldiers before the age of 12, if they’re not killed. MANY of 230 million children live this way.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay

From 2013-2015, at least 70,000 children were born on the floors of refugee camps. These floors are typically dirt floors.

In 1993, the UN General Assembly declared an elimination of violence against women and created an action plan. 20+ years later, one in three women still experience physical or sexual violence.

At least 200 million women and girls have experienced female genital mutilation in 30 countries, most of them experiencing infection as a result. Almost all experienced this mutilation before the age of 5.

As of 2012, according to UNICEF, 2 million children were subjected to prostitution in the global commercial sex trade. It is estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 women, children, and men are bought and sold across international borders every year and are exploited for forced labor or commercial sex (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).

I don’t always get what I want in life. My life has not always been a cake walk. Yet when I reflect on the reality of the world around me—the WORLD around me—it helps me regain a realistic perspective.

I don’t know why, but I have nothing but #firstworldproblems.

God forbid I ever forget that and unjustly spend my time focusing on or whining about problems—including politics in this relatively peaceful country of mine–which are not really problems at all.

 

Family

*Today’s post is written by friend and frequent contributor Debra Dickey. Debra is like family to me! Thank you, Debra, for sticking by me all these years closer than a sister.*

Last evening, I had the rare and lovely opportunity to get together with my favorite great-aunt and one of my delightful cousins over dinner, combined with a wonderful two hour visit.  O????????ur conversation of course began with checking on everyone’s children, asking about their lives and their jobs, bragging over their one great-grandchild, all interspersed with comedic tales of my aunt’s recent surprise birthday card party.

We commiserated and laughed and recounted memories of times, family, and events past.  We recalled fun visits at each other’s homes, vegetable canning stories, traveling up north together with the eight of us in one car–what a hoot!–and our recollections of that summer trip.  We had an emotional conversation about two of the brothers of that generation being part of two wars, our losing one to his war, and the other coming home to live with a devastation that would plague him throughout his life.

We talked about the love that is very visible in our families, and the integrity that abounds within our heritage.  We chuckled over early reputations that came from hard-scrabble upbringings and a rough living that made those good folks as we came to know them, who they were, and how those enigmatic layers added character and such great stories to our family tree, and how truly proud we are to be a part of this renowned family lineage.

We caught up on recent news being celebrated and current situations troubling us, and we ambled back in time with ‘dating’ stories and ‘movie star’ photographs that we love.  As our thoughts understandably turned to our mutual appreciations regarding our families, time and distance just slipped away as if we were all standing at the same point in our lives if only for a moment.  Extraordinary.

Our family can create these moments.  Our family has history.  People in our family take time to share these stories that we pass around.  They remind us of the legacies that we connect with, the ancestries that we define ourselves with, and the shared roots that are the light of our heritance.  Heirlooms of kinship.

As we ended our evening, we were reluctant to go — promising to do it again soon, but not quite knowing when soon may come.

I had such a wonderful time that I could hardly fall asleep. These are people of my heart and my soul, and getting to spend time with them is a bona fide adrenaline rush!  Like all of us sharing the same skin for a while in an exquisite timepiece connection.  Beautiful.

Fun times, fun people, fun family!  All of which I always look forward to, and none of which I would trade for anything.

Day 22: Dear Mrs. McGrath

*It’s hard to believe Day 22 of the Dear Gratitude project has arrived! Only eight more days of letters from eight more wonderful guest writers. Today’s post is by LaDonna Busby, a friend and fellow church member.*

This thank you is long overdue, and it is going to someone long dead.  Why do we wait to express our gratitude to those who cross our paths in this life?  We need to remember to say thank you, even if we have to send letters read by someone other than the intended person.  So here goes:

Dear Mrs. McGrath,

1ST GRADEI wonder if you ever knew what a wonderful gift you gave me – something that I have cherished my whole life long.  You introduced me to READING!  For that great gift, I want to say thank you, and I am sorry it has taken me over 50 years to express this gratitude.

Oh, the people and places you enabled me to meet and visit.  I still remember you patiently helping us to learn “Look Jane, look.  See Spot run.  Oh, look Jane, see Spot.”

Thus began my adventures with some sweet characters, some not so sweet.  Many are like dear friends when I think of them.  Amy, Beth, Meg and Jo from Little Women – each one a different personality woven into a story that young girls can enjoy even today.  I still have a treasured copy of that book.  There were so many others – The Bobbsey Twins (Bert and Nan, Flossie and Freddie); Laura Ingalls;  Hester Prynne from “The Scarlet Letter”, Jane Eyre; David Copperfield; Romeo and Juliet; Tom Sawyer, and the list could go on and on.

Not only did I get to know some wonderful characters, but I also got to travel without even leaving my cozy chair. Through reading I have traveled the world over, learning many interesting things, seeing so many beautiful places – even if only in my mind and imagination.  Of course not all places are wonderful, but I traveled where the books took me.  Nowadays, a lot of my reading is about places of trouble and sadness.  Places of war, poverty and cruelty – but I read on filled with hope that some time I will read that things have improved for some country or its people.

Your gift has blessed my life in so many ways.  Reading is so important to me.  I have been able to read the letters sent by my brother when he was in Vietnam.  There have been cards – birthday, anniversary, get well, thank yous, invitations, and notes of sympathy.  Just think what I would have missed if I had not been able to read.

I am able to read the Bible.  Through my reading of scripture, I have become stronger in my faith.  My faith is so important to me, and I cannot imagine being unable to read the Word of God.  The Bible is filled with stories, characters and places.  You can read it over and over, each time getting something new and powerful from the reading.

I passed on this gift to my daughter, Susan, who loves to read.  I don’t quite like her choice of books – she loves the author Stephen King – but I am happy to see her read.  Now we are passing this love along to her sons.  The oldest had quite a struggle learning to read – but thanks to a compassionate and caring teacher, like you, he conquered that mountain and now loves to read.  So, you see your gift to me just keeps going and going.

I wish I had gone back to Mitchell Elementary and thanked you.  When we are young, we don’t think to do things like that; it is only as we begin to mature that we realize what has been given to us.  Thank you, Mrs. McGrath, for being my 1st Grade teacher.  You were a kind and gentle woman who helped many children to begin a journey that will last their whole lives.  Please know, there is at least this one student who will forever be grateful.

Fondly,

LaDonna Wittke Busby

Day 11: Dear Peacemakers

*Big thanks to my friend and former college roommate, Sarah Donaghy, for sharing her grateful thoughts on Day 11 of the Dear Gratitude project.*

The hardest part about being a guest blogger this month was deciding to whom or what I should write my letter of gratitude. I dwell in gratitude. Even in times when nothing is going right, and I see challenges on every front, I still feel grateful. When I choose to sit in disappointment, anger, pain, or sadness, I still feel grateful. Living in gratitude is a choice, and it’s a practice that works for me. So, as I looked forward to writing this post, I’ve spent the last few days with lots of ideas rattling around my head… dear hugs, dear change, dear Mom, dear adventure, dear garden full of weeds, dear Mary Oliver, dear loss, dear name of friend, dear name of another friend, dear body, dear education, dear Louis CK, dear pets, dear modern appliances, and so on.

Over the past few days I have also received a number of reminders that Veteran’s Day is coming up. The first was when a member of the local food club asked if the Monday pick-up would be rescheduled due to the holiday. I looked at him blankly. “What holiday?” I thought. He read my mind. The second was when an aunt let me know that a package she mailed to me would arrive on Tuesday since the USPS won’t be making its rounds on Monday. The third was the cover of the Sunday newspaper’s magazine section promoting a special report inside titled, “What Did You Do in the War, Mommy?” about the challenges servicewomen who are mothers face in coming home after a deployment.

It then occurred to me that Bethany would be publishing my letter on Veteran’s Day. Thus began the second hardest part of my task… how to address my letter and what I would say in a letter expressing my gratitude.

 

Dear Veterans – Thank you.

 

Or

 

Dear Grandpa – You talked about “the war” like New Yorkers talk about “the city”… sure, there are other cities, but none of them compare to your city. The war defined you, and the war never really ended for you, and thus, the war is something that defined and never really ended for my mom and her siblings as well. A generation removed, the war – your war – certainly impacted my life as it was a major influence in the way my mother lived and parented. While I remember many an afternoon sitting on the blue sectional couch in front of the picture window looking at the Bridger Mountains and listening to your war stories, the first things that come to mind when I think of you as my grandpa are your grilled cheese sandwiches, the way your jeans hung on you, your love of ice cream, riding in your truck to check on the cows, your hugs, and your incredible generosity – to me and to complete strangers. I hope there are no wars wherever you are now.

 

Or

 

Dear Grandpa – I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing you directly but I know it was a pleasure for those who did, particularly your family. You were also in the war… the same war and yet, it seems it was an entirely different experience for you. You rarely, if ever, spoke of your experience. In fact, one of the few “war stories” recounted on that side of the family is about your wife, my Grandma Lulu, taking the train across the country – from New York City (the city) to Seattle – to see you when you were stateside, a visit during which, I think the story goes, my father, your first child, was planted. So while I’m sure the war had more of an impact on your life than you spoke about upon return, it’s not what comes to mind when I think of you as my grandpa, and I’m confident saying it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when your children think of you as their father. I hope that you and my dad are enjoying each other again, and I hope there are no wars wherever you guys are now.

 

Or

 

Dear Man I Met in a Bar a Few Months Ago – I only met you once, but you have the honor of being someone I will likely always remember because I was celebrating the launch of RadSab that night. I only remember a handful of things you told me about yourself, and I don’t recall if it was Iraq or Afghanistan or with what branch of the military, but you said you were there a few years ago. I couldn’t help but think of how that must have been for your daughters – I remember you have two of them, girls old enough to have known you were away and likely why you were away and how hard that must have been for them… how hard that must have been for you.

 

Or

 

Dear Couple I Recently Had the Opportunity to Reconnect With – You were amazingly open and honest with a group of mostly strangers, and having your participation was my favorite part of our discussion course. You guys are a reminder to me that people’s stories don’t start at the point where I meet them. Something I didn’t know about you, Mr., was that you were a Marine, and I appreciate what you shared about that experience. I’m not sure if that was before or after the Mrs. became such, but I couldn’t help but think of how that recent part of your young life must factor into your marriage. I love how brave you are with each other, and I look forward to knowing both of you more.

 

Those are all important things to say, especially thank you, to people who have touched my life in one way or another. And thank you is always enough, but it’s simply too short when Bethany the Blog Boss has asked for a page.

Drawing on some loosely planted Quaker roots, I’ve decided to go with…

 

Dear Peacemakers,

Thank you. You have my gratitude.

I think peace begins within each of us. For me, dwelling in gratitude, practicing mindfulness, and cultivating joy are essential.

 

The Peace of Wild Things

by Wendell Berry

 

014When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

With our voices, our wallets, our votes, and our service, we each have opportunities to sow seeds of peace in our communities, in our country, in our world.

Thank you, Peacemakers. You have my gratitude.

Love and good wishes,

Sarah

Finding the funny

Yesterday, as I wandered about the dim kitchen, attempting to tidy things up minus electricity in the middle of a thunderstorm, I heard a solid knock at the back door. I jumped and wondered who it could be since I wasn’t expecting any company. I glanced around the corner and saw my father-in-law, who I like to call Big Jim, standing on the back porch, investigating our tomato plants.

I let him in and took a break from cleaning for a while as we sat in the semi-dark living room talking. He’d stopped by to deliver a half-gallon bucket full of freshly picked blackberries, which he’d spontaneously decided to gather while fishing on the White River. Our conversation meandered around the weather, small-mouth bass, berry picking, stories from the weekend, and church and religion. I’m not sure how we arrived, but somehow we landed at the Vietnam War.

“You know, you hear all these guys who’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan talking about how bad it was, but I guess I just don’t think of it that way,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked. I was waiting for a joke of some kind to slip out since Big Jim is notorious for his pranks and wise cracks.

Big Jim hamming it up on Independence Day 2011

“Well, sure, when I was in Vietnam, I saw some bad stuff, and some bad stuff happened. But I guess I just don’t think about that stuff. I think about the funny things that happened. There’s humor in every situation. Even in a war, when guys are shooting at you, some funny stuff happens, so that’s what I like to think about instead,” he explained.

He then proceeded to tell me a somewhat off-color but hilarious story about some of his wartime buddies. The story was set in the middle of a battle, while digging foxholes on the beach in Vietnam. Amidst all that, what he remembers and likes to tell people about is the bit of funny he found while hunkered down for the night, dodging bullets.

I gained more than just blackberries for my first-ever homemade blackberry pie yesterday. I gained a greater understanding of who Big Jim really is and a deeper respect for him as well. And I was reminded that in every situation, we ultimately choose our focus. I need to find the funny more often.