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Sophia Grace LeBlanc is recognized for her heroism by Premier Stephen McNeil at a Medal of Bravery Award ceremony. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Congratulations! You’ve won an award. For your efforts, you’ll receive:

  • A pat on the back
  • A piece of paper, and,
  • An uncomfortably close, cringe-worthy photo op with an elected official you’ve never met before!

Did I mention that the “you” in question is six years old? Sophia Grace LeBlanc, who bravely climbed from the wreckage of her family’s crashed car to get help for her injured mother and siblings, received an award for heroism. When she learned that the “award” was just a piece of paper, she spoke her mind.

“I thought because I was so brave, I thought I would get something a little better,” said Sophia.

She had done a wonderful, brave thing, and probably would have liked to receive some toys, or to be taken out for pizza with her friends. A piece of paper? A hug from some random (presumably unintentionally) handsy man? No thanks!

When do we unlearn honesty? Should kids be taught to be quiet, be polite, and tolerate the strange man huddling in for a cuddle? Is it rude to say, “Thanks, but no thanks”?

Setting boundaries is humane. That way, the person who is offending you won’t have to apologize later, and will be educated since they didn’t know they were crossing a line.

Saying what you mean is compassionate. That way, everyone knows where you stand and eventually, the people around you will re-calibrate and reciprocate.

Saying it right at the moment of impact, when someone commits an infraction, is an act of kindness in every direction. That way, you won’t have to bear the weight of that grudge you would have been holding, and your relationships will become more meaningful.

After hearing about the nationwide Romaine lettuce recall due to e. coli contamination, I called the grocery store and asked if the produce I’d bought had been affected.

“No, ma’am, we were told that the Romaine we sold wasn’t part of the recall,” the man said. “That’s a relief,” I said, and hung up.

It was lunchtime, so I decided to have a nice salad. I put the lettuce on the counter. 

Before I sat down to eat, just out of curiosity, I took a look at the CDC’s website to see where the tainted lettuce originated and found out that it was Salinas, California

Where have I seen that name before, I wondered? Oh yeah, it’s listed here on the bag of Romaine on the counter: “Growing Region: Salinas Valley.”

Uh-oh!

I looked back at the CDC’s website again, and found this dire warning: “If the label says ‘grown in Salinas’ (whether alone or with the name of another location), don’t eat it. Throw it away.”

Well then! 

I tossed the lettuce into the trash bin from across the room, gave myself three points for the fade-away jumper (and yelled “nothin’ but net!”), and opened a can of soup instead.

Fact-finding doesn’t end at what you’ve been told by someone with a vested interest, whether it be the grocer, a politician, or the clergy. The second part of the process of finding the truth is to look into it for yourself. 

On my local newscast last night, the anchor seemed to be delivering the news in a way designed to stress out the audience. It was one awful story after another, with no break in the tension.

Even the weatherman was all hyped up, warning us about the impending cold front. Not blizzard, mind you. Cold front. Sheesh. All I really needed to know was: sweater or coat? 

Does everything have to be turned into a crisis? “Far from being better informed, heavy newswatchers can become miscalibrated,” according to cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker. “They worry more about crime, even when rates are falling.”

Just once, I’d like to hear, “This just in: there are good things going on in the world and we’d like to focus on them.”

I’d love to see a news show about people extending compassion, like Karla Denny, who took over an animal shelter in Taft, Texas, with a nearly 100% kill rate and brought it down to zero percent, finding homes for 565 dogs and cats. 

Or the customers at an Alabama Waffle House who pitched in to help an employee who was working the overnight shift alone.

Then there’s the 14-year-old girl who noticed her mother struggling with blind spots while driving, so she invented a way to virtually eliminate them. 

There are always good things happening in the world, but you might not know it from what you see on the news. Give yourself a break from negativity, and focus on the good today. 

Pluto in True Color - High-Res.jpg

Is it possible that everything we’ve been taught is just somebody’s best guess? Even facts can change, like the fact that Pluto is no longer called a planet. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) determined that there are three criteria that define a planet, and Pluto failed one of them: keeping his block tidy. 

“In the end it was decided that to qualify as a planet in orbit around our Sun, a chunk of rock must have been made round by its own gravity; have cleared its neighbourhood of other debris; and not be a satellite of another planetary body,” wrote Jenny Hogan in the Journal Nature.

This change has been controversial, with NASA’s Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, stepping into the fray: “Just so you know, in my view, Pluto is a planet,” he said. “You can write that the NASA Administrator declared Pluto a planet once again. I’m sticking by that, it’s the way I learnt it, and I’m committed to it.”

If experts can’t agree on the truth, what can we ever really know? Even when it comes to eternal truths, religions disagree.

We do know that it’s possible to belong to a religion and still voice questions about its practices, as Lori did recently. 

We also know that it’s possible to value the opinions of your church group but not be swayed by peer pressure, as SueBE wrote about in her last post.

Speaking up when things don’t seem right isn’t just a way to express yourself; it’s another way of honoring the One who created you, the world, and all the stars in the sky.

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 NIV

“Mouthwash Cancels Out Benefits of Exercise.” Even before reading the article, it was clear the headline was misleading. Sure enough, hours later, it was revised to: “Mouthwash Cancels Out Key Benefits of Exercise, One Study Finds.

These old newspaper headlines show the importance of word choice:

Amphibious pitcher makes debute funniest newspaper headlines

funniest newspaper headlines

funniest newspaper headlines

Of course, sometimes, the editor is just having fun with wordplay, as in the case of the psychic who couldn’t predict her own arrest.

Choosing just the right word is an editor’s job, but it’s just as important for you and I to give consideration to the impact of the things we say to one another.

With all the negativity in the news lately, it’s more important than ever to choose your words carefully. You never know what someone’s going through as you encounter them in the course of a day.

So if the cashier should have said, “Thank you, have a good day,” but didn’t, maybe she just can’t wish you what she doesn’t have herself. Maybe her baby wouldn’t sleep last night and the dog wouldn’t stop barking. Perhaps when she got to work two minutes late, the boss read her the riot act. It’s possible she can’t find the energy to have a bad day, and at the same time, wish someone else a good day.

If you’ve been there yourself, try to find it in your heart to forgive these minor infractions. Your kindness could be the catalyst that enables her to have a good day, and in turn, wish a good day to others.

When I saw the headline “I will not declare a state of emergency in Newark over lead water crisis, (NJ Governor) Murphy says,” I realized that it’s probably for the best that I’m not governor of New Jersey. I’d end up doing things unilaterally based on my conscience. No doubt I’d be kicked out of office for going around all the roadblocks, like apathetic politicians and reams of red tape. 

First, I’d declare the obvious state of emergency for Newark, a city of 285,000, that hasn’t had safe drinking water since lead was found in city water lines. Next, I’d declare a state of emergency for Camden, a city with a population of 74,000, that doesn’t have a supermarket, forcing residents to rely on corner stores for their food. 

It’s a good thing I’m not governor of Arizona, either, because I’d call for a dedicated tax to establish infrastructure for the Native Americans who live on reservations and don’t have electricity, the internet, or indoor plumbing. Some even have to use flashlights to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night and haul drinking water in buckets.

I’d probably end up being a benevolent despot, trying to right all the wrongs in society in one term since I’d never be re-elected. Sure, I’ve got no experience, no crony-connections and no idea how to do the job, but my qualifications are: 

  1. I’m a human being, and,
  2. I’ve got a heart, and it’s telling me: something’s not right. 

If being denied access to food and water isn’t an emergency, what is? May those in power be hounded by Heaven until they do the right thing.

Every once in a while, it’s nice to put the spotlight on people who were caught on camera doing the right thing. So much of what goes viral these days is about bad behavior, but there’s a lot of positive news out there if you shift your focus.

Like the young man who saw his six-year-old neighbor being attacked by a pit bull, so he ran toward the dog in an attempt to make it chase after him, which it did. He got attacked by the dog, too, but was able to get away after being bitten on the hand. Both the young man and the boy are recovering. Click here to see the video, but please be aware that it is disturbing. When I saw this video, I thought, That’s not just a Good Samaritan. That’s a great one. 

Or the group of random drivers who saw a car flip over on the highway, so they got together to push the car onto its side. Amazingly, the driver escaped the wreck with only minor cuts and bruises.

Then there’s the tractor driver who was startled when a mother bird stepped in front of his moving tractor to protect her eggs. Just in the nick of time, the driver stopped when he realized the nest was in his path. He even got down off his tractor and gave the bird some water.

Focusing on the positive is like building up your soul’s immune system. And with everything going on in the world today, we all could use a little inspiration.

A piping plover photographed at another beach (National Park Service photo)

National Park Service photo

Here in New Jersey, we never say we’re going to the beach. We say we’re going “down the shore.” Not down to the shore, mind you. Just “down the shore.”

An endangered bird was found on a beach in our state recently, so officials canceled a free summer concert series. The bird in question, the Piping Plover,  is a beach-cleaner, controlling the population of insects and small crustaceans down the shore. Apparently, they don’t like noise, especially during nesting season. I can relate to that!

I was impressed that the National Park Service took steps to protect this endangered bird. Some may complain that the concert series was canceled, but the silver lining is that we’re doing something positive for the planet. 

Wouldn’t it be great if we took care of each other in the same way? Let’s form a Silver Lining Committee to focus on the positive in unpleasant situations.

There’s a neighbor who has taken to riding a very loud motorcycle at 3 AM lately. The Silver Lining Committee reminds us that his sudden revving, which extricates us from REM sleep, is actually an opportunity to take a bathroom break. Very considerate! 

A few blocks over, a family has a pet rooster. I assumed that roosters only crow at the crack of dawn, but apparently, they crow at any time, day or night. So, one might say, I learned something. The Silver Lining Committee reminds us that one is never too old to learn.

It’s encouraging that someone remembered that we have a moral obligation to protect endangered species. That must mean we still have the capacity to extend compassion to one another. The Silver Lining Committee reminds us that that’s reason enough to have hope for the future. 

We designed this blog as a sunny, positive place to reflect and pray. That does not mean that we turn a blind eye to the darker things of this world. Take the situation at the border: Children are being torn from their parents’ arms, placed in overcrowded “shelters,” sleeping on concrete, not being provided with even the most basic care. They are getting sick. They are dying. Have no doubt — we will be judged on our response to this crisis. And that judgment will come sooner than we think.

Be warned:
We are writing on the most fragile of pages
in ink that breaches the veins, burning
blood, leaching poison. They will remember us
as the stuff of childhood nightmares,
as the monsters their mamas swore
did not exist. (Sometimes parents are wrong,
and monsters wear a human mask.)
We are imprinting a world on their skins,
a world of screaming terror, filth and misery.
We may forget, but they will not. Not ever.
The dark thing we’ve unleashed will come
to roost in our own pretty homes,
soon, soon. It will swoop and smother.
No nation can stand with a millstone
round its neck. Judgment is coming.
Do not look away.

A thank you letter from the residents who escaped without injury because of the local MuslimsImagine that you haven’t eaten much for days. It’s the end of long night, and you’re exhausted. You look up and realize there’s a building on fire! By the time you call for help, it might be too late. What would you do?

A group of young Muslim men who had just left their mosque for Ramadan service ran into a burning building, risking their lives to knock on every door until all the residents were safely outside.

One of the residents told the press, They made sure everyone got out. They knocked on each door until someone opened. If it wasn’t for them we would never have got out.”

I saw this news story on Reddit, and was puzzled as to why I couldn’t find it anywhere else online. It’s a feel-good story with heroes and a happily ever after. People of different generations and faiths coming together in the midst of a crisis.

The conspiracy-theorist in me is wondering: Why isn’t this in the headlines? Is it because it’s a story about Muslims that doesn’t feed into the negative, erroneous view some may hold?

Most people are peaceful and want to do the right thing. If only we’d see each other as relatives in the human family, labels and misconceptions would be a thing of the past.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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