Kindness Amidst Chaos

Tebow

There were two news stories yesterday about air travel. One was about the terrorist attack at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey. The other was about a man who had a heart attack during a flight he was taking with his wife and her friend. Which one would you guess had the most emotional impact on me?

It was the one about the man who had the heart attack.

The reason is that the man’s fellow passengers on the plane tried to help him. In particular, the former football player, now sports broadcaster, Tim Tebow, left his seat in business class and came to the man’s aid. He led prayers for the man along with other passengers around him while the man’s wife and her friend cried on his shoulders, picked up the family’s luggage when the plane landed and went with them to the hospital, staying until the family was told that the man had passed away.

You might think that it’s insensitive to not have a more emotional reaction to the terrorist attack. In fact, I thought that to myself after reading both stories. I think the reason the Tebow story impacted me more is because the terrorist attacks have become routine and have numbed my senses. Also, because there are so few positive stories that make the news. Indeed, I wonder if this story would have made the news were it not for the fact that a celebrity was involved. I suspect that there are many such occurrences every day that go unreported because the people engaging in such acts of kindness are regular, ordinary people, doing the right thing in obscurity.

That’s a shame, because I think that reading about acts of kindness promotes that type of behavior, just as the terrorists think that media coverage of their doings recruits some people to that type of behavior.

I wish the media would run a story about an act of kindness every day, not just when it involves a famous person. Maybe doing that would balance out the negative stuff and encourage the type of behavior the world desperately needs right now.

My thoughts, prayers, and condolences to all affected by the attack in Turkey.

The Frog Sings

Michigan J Frog

When I was a kid, I saw a cartoon premised on a frog who lived in a cigar box. The frog would only sing and dance for the person who found the cigar box and opened it. The person unfortunate enough to find the frog would, inevitably, try to make money presenting the frog in theaters, but the frog would never perform in those conditions. The person who found the frog would thus be humiliated and take the frog home, at which point the frog would continue it’s act.

I imagine that people who claim they’ve been abused by the police might feel a bit like the person who found the frog, trying in vain to convince others of their experience. I remembered the cartoon when I saw the video of the police in New York trying to arrest the guy accused of selling loose cigarettes, who died of a heart attack due to his mistreatment.

For once, it seems, most everyone saw the same thing, regardless of race. There are protests going on and the protesters are a diverse group. Also, the protests have been peaceful, which lends added legitimacy.

This is progress. Let’s be happy that the frog is finally singing for a wider audience.

Peter Kassig

I’ve had to think awhile to be able to write about the latest victim, Peter Kassig, shown in the beheadings that have been videotaped and posted on the internet. I’ve questioned whether to write about it at all, but this is on my mind, and it’s an important topic.

My understanding of Peter Kassig is based solely on media reports. I didn’t know him.

He was honorably discharged from the Army Rangers and then created a non-profit to provide assistance to victims of the civil war in Syria. He was abducted by terrorists while providing aid in Syria, held for over a year, then murdered. The evidence of the murder is a video recording, showing his severed head on the ground.

I haven’t viewed any of the beheading videos, and I encourage others to avoid them. Why? Because the terrorists are putting them on the internet, so, obviously, they think they gain an advantage by doing so. I make an exception for government officials and reporters. Someone has to watch it. I imagine it’s a terrible burden.

The stuff that should be on the internet is the work that Peter Kassig did before he was murdered. There are many more acts of courage and generosity that occur on a daily basis than there are acts of brutality and cruelty. I encourage the media to consider this going forward.

What if the media used the same approach as the terrorists; understanding that content has an impact? Tell Peter’s story, and people like him. By that I mean celebrate and magnify good people. It’s crazy that there are so many people who do good works, struggling in obscurity. Meanwhile, murderers have a large audience, presenting material that would, just a year ago, be unthinkable. And it should be free on youtube, as was the video created by the terrorists.

The terrorist video of Peter Kassing should not be the last comment on his life. Someone needs to produce a film about his life that lionizes him as a hero.

I’ll speculate here about the fact that the video, which I have not seen, varied from the previous videos. There is no video of him submitting to his captors and making anti-American statements prior to his execution.

One of the things that has forced me to think about Peter is the possibility that he resisted his captors, perhaps to spare his parents from the real-time act of his submission and the horror of his murder being posted on the internet.

Think, for a moment, the role his memory might play in the battle between dark and light. He is a hero.

Loving on Oakland

Oakland Lake

I have a co-worker who is originally from Chicago. I told him that I visited Chicago and thought it was a great city. He told me that he likes Oakland better, because in Chicago people are divided into ethnic enclaves, even if you’re caucasian. There’s an Italian neighborhood, a Polish neighborhood, etc. Since I’ve lived in California my whole life, that’s hard for me to imagine. At this point I’m going to share a somewhat non-sequiter funny picture of a concert poster.

Cake Poster

It’s a bear in sheep’s clothing. A riff on the California State flag.

Anyway, if it’s hard to imagine ethnic enclaves in California, it’s even harder to imagine them in Oakland, California. Oakland is eclectic. How eclectic?

I just went out for a coffee break. Down the street from where I work is a place called the Brown Coach Cafe. It is owned and operated by Muslims and the women behind the counter are wearing traditional headscarves. At one of the tables is a Caucasian woman conversing with an African American woman, next to a table with an Asian couple, next to a table with a Caucasian guy working on a laptop. The Brown Couch is right next door to an Afghan restaurant, run by Afghanis, which is across the street from a Japanese restaurant, run by Japanese, which is kitty-corner to a surf shop, run by a Caucasian surfer dude with blond hair. Two blocks away is Oakland’s Chinatown, which is as close as you can come to an ethnic enclave. People live there by choice, though, not because they aren’t integrated into the rest of the city. In fact, the current mayor of Oakland is of Chinese heritage.

Here’s a picture of a painting of Oakland’s shipping cranes that is hanging in the Brown Couch Cafe.

Cranes

It was painted by a local artist named Dave Platford.

The thing is, everyone gets along just fine. As my co-worker and I walk back to the office (we’re both Caucasian) an African American lady who we don’t know walks past us and greets us and says good morning. If you lined up various cultural niches along a spectrum, Oakland would be at the far opposite end from the words “sectarian violence.”

I’m posting this today because my last post mentioned the tragic situation in Syria and Iraq.

There is hope for this world and for humanity. Oakland is one of the places on Earth where that hope resides in warmth and comfort, nurtured by people who have come here from all over the planet.

When you are feeling down and wonder what the world is coming to, visit us. It will make you feel a whole lot better.