Friday, June 30, 2017
Insight: Freedom is just another word
For those fans of Janis Joplin, I can hear you humming the tune right now and ending the five words above with, “for nothing left to lose.”
As July 4th approaches and we celebrate our independence as a nation this Tuesday with family and friends, I have wondered what independence means to others. Much like the Joplin song, independence is just another word or a certain feeling for a myriad of things. Each of us, with our own perceptions of what that might be, have different ways of expressing that word.
I have heard people describe independence as the ability to be self-reliant, to determine one’s own life schedule, living fully and without restraint and not having to answer to anyone but to one’s self.
However, the one description that has made me stop in my tracks is a sentence I read recently. That sentence was: “Not having to ask for permission to live my life.”
Wow! I don’t know about you but I like the strength and truth in that sentence.
Although it is true that most of us dream of being in total control of our lives without accommodating tight and hectic schedules that, at times, feels like shackles. And we certainly wish we didn’t have to answer to the needs, demands and wants of others on a daily basis. But the fact is, with a few exceptions, the majority of us don’t live (and perhaps don’t want to live) in that reality.
To be free and independent of schedules and needs of others would mean that we would have no loved ones who rely on us - or us on them. Yes, there is the subject of a job that supports the life we want, but the reality of the “dream-like” independence is probably something, if we had it, we would not want.
But, I would think it is safe to say, that we would like to live our lives without asking permission to live it the way we deem to be true to our being. A life that is independent of the opinions, both good and bad, of others - now that seems like real freedom and independence to me.
So, with that being said, remember this: When you take your favorite dish to a 4th of July gathering with family and friends this Tuesday and it turns out not to be the most popular, and you end up taking a full dish back home with you; think “independence.” Who cares about their opinion? Now, that’s freedom!
We sometimes meet a stranger or an associate for a short time, but yet in that brief encounter, one feels the inception of a spirit. Be it a need or a need to fulfill a need. We are often touched by another’s feelings.
It reminds me of a the story of a little shoemaker. The shoemaker lived a mile or so out of town. Each morning he would rise before dawn and put a sandwich together for his lunch. On his way to work the little shoemaker wished that Jesus would come and pay him a visit.
When he reached his shop, he started the little stove and went to work. As he repaired a sole on one shoe and a heel on another, his mind kept saying, “I wish Jesus would stop in for a visit.”
It was nearly noon when a knock came at his door. When he opened it, there stood a tired looking wayfarer. He invited him in. The wayfarer asked the little shoemaker if he could repair the heels on his shoes, as he had been walking for many miles.
The little shoemaker asked him to sit down and then went to work on his shoes. As he handed them back, he noticed the clock pointed to noon time. The little shoemaker went to his desk and got the sandwich he had made for his lunch and asked the wayfarer to share it with him. “You have been travelling a long while, you must be hungry,” the shoemaker said.
So he shared the sandwich. As the wayfarer got up to leave he asked the shoemaker, how much do I owe you? The little shoemaker said, “There is no charge.”
The wayfarer left. It was late in the afternoon when the Widow Brown came into his shop. He knew her well and that she had 10 children to care for. It was a day before Christmas and she asked him if he had some used shoes, as she wanted to give something to the children for Christmas.
He went to the back room to look. Sometime later he returned with a bundle of shoes. The widow Brown asked, how much do I owe? The little shoemaker said, "There is no charge.”
At the end of the day, as the little shoemaker walked home in the dark he pondered, why Jesus hadn’t visited him today. The only ones that came to his shop were the wayfarer man and the widow Brown.
No one knows in what manner Jesus will appear. Perhaps he will appear as a wayfarer or as the widow Brown. I often think that Jesus would be pleased with the little shoemaker for his kindness.
Friday, June 23, 2017
Now that the graduation ceremonies are behind us and summer is in full swing, we can slow down a little and enjoy the long and hopefully sunny days of Maine.
When I slow down, I get more of an opportunity to read, hike, kayak and spend time with family and friends, for daytime picnics or evenings around the fire pit. But I also get more of an opportunity to be quiet, watch the sunset and reflect on things for a while. I get to take a moment and re-evaluate where I am heading in life - which seems to be that of the meandering, twisting, roaming and nonconforming variety.
The subject of an atypical journey brings me to the Windham/Raymond Adult Education graduation that occurred last Thursday (see the article on the front page.)
Although I graduated in the typical high school fashion, my ability to be traditional in the world stopped there. As a result, I am always moved by these students who graduate from the Adult Ed Program and who discover a path that doesn’t necessary look like the norm.
When I was their age, I don’t know if would have had the confidence nor the perseverance to go that route, even if I wanted to. To do things differently takes a little courage; sometimes, a lot of courage.
I used to be critical of myself for not being able to “fit in” and be “normal.” I judged that perhaps I was deficient in some way. But I have discovered, as I get older, that to walk in life a little differently is something to be proud of. Somehow, I learned what the quote on the editorial page attributed to Albert Einstein, clearly expresses (see quote below). We are all geniuses in our own unique ways and we always get to where we need to go. There are many ways you can get to your destination, your goals and your dreams. There are countless methods to personal success.
It took me a while to figure that out and that’s the reason why I admire the Adult Ed graduates so much. Although, by some standards, they may feel they are running behind in reaching their goals; but by taking this first challenging non-traditional step, I would venture to guess they are ahead of the game.
“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb and tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” Albert Einstein
Don’t Kill the Golden Goose
If you’re a gainfully employed fifty to sixty-four year old, thank you. But this letter’s not really for you; it’s for those of us who may not see the ax falling on your neck. And forgive us for fleeing the political brouhaha and turning on a Lifetime movie (it’s not that we need to see the good guys win; we just want to know who the good guys are for a change!).
We’re talking American Health Care Act (AHCA) here, in case you didn’t guess. Yes, you’re a Mainer, so you already know the Medicare and Medicaid impacts would be real tough here. And pre-existing conditions? Don’t even go there. We’re not going to talk about those (and other problems with AHCA), but the Age Tax piece, let’s think about that—because it would hobble our good breadwinners.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says forty-five to fifty-four year olds average the highest weekly earnings; but those earnings stay right up there for the next ten years, as well. These 6.1 million fifty to sixty-four year old Americans are out there working hard, but often in small companies—which puts them in the individual (non-group) health insurance market. Insurance companies will be able to charge these productive folks five times (or more) what others pay for the same coverage. Huh?
AARP (a non-partisan group) put together figures that show a fifty-five year old Mainer earning $25,000 a year, could have a premium increase of as much as $7,602. And a sixty-four year old Mainer earning $25,000 annually could see an increase of as much as $12,701.
To siphon big chunks of income from these folks into insurance company pockets does not make good sense. Those of us who’ve retired—and those under fifty who’ve not reached peak earning years—need older workers to help shoulder the tax bill. Why would we single out this group for discrimination? Why not find a more equitable distribution of health care costs?
Let’s insist on new legislation that not only reconsiders cuts to many critical health programs, but also eliminates a discriminatory Age Tax. The Age Tax would hurt a lot of productive Maine people, so don’t support it. We don’t want those folks to get discouraged, retire early, and turn to the Hallmark Channel.
Rev. Dan Lakeman, M.Div.
I heard a fellow say the other day, that having faith didn’t matter one bit to him in the war years! I beg to differ on that matter.
You see, I’m living proof that it is in the eye of the beholder; that faith is a shield in times of trouble. Oh, faith is not new to me. I accepted faith when I was a wee-lad. Faith was my strong arm throughout my life. I don’t believe for a moment that having faith prevents one from being harmed. Faith states, “I have a calling for you.”
Since I was very young, faith interceded in my life. I am 91 years old and to state all the benefits would take too much room in this article. This past Memorial Day brought back many thoughts. It was the year of 1945. I was 16-years-old. I just stepped on the beach of Iwo Jima, a Japanese island in the Pacific, as a Marine. I had no idea what to expect.
I was suddenly introduced to the rudiments of war! Tiny eruptions in the black volcanic sand caught my eye. They were all around me. Small holes appeared in my comrade’s head, between the eyes and we were told that the Japanese wore glasses and couldn’t see well!
I glanced upward and said, “I think I could use your help.” The bullets continued to break the sand all around me as we advanced.
In the course of 36 days, I felt the warmth of the bullets as they past my body. Even in the valley that I traversed, puffs of exploding mortars were all around me as I helped the wounded. There was little to protect the body, you see all we wore was utility jackets and pants. The strong arm of faith was my shield.
Those of you that came home: There were and are reasons. My thoughts are that you were spared to pass on faith for the benefit of your fellow man.
These are my thoughts on this memorial time of year.