My Dad was a Wise Guy

Many of you know my dad.  Some of you don’t.

He passed away on March 23 of this year after a 15 month battle with pancreatic cancer. Ironically, it was side effects of the treatments that brought him to glory, not the cancer itself. The fact that he had cancer 4 times was a lot of chemo and radiation……

My dad was a Christian Reformed minister. But he was also a teacher, counselor, friend, author, mentor and many other things. He was a wise man.

Okay, and sometimes he was a wise guy too. He had a sense of mischief and a sense of humor that kept all of us on our toes. I could tell you stories for a long time, but that’s not for now – maybe later.

You know how every child goes through the stages of thinking about their parents? First, their father knows everything. Then as they get to be teenagers, they think that their Dad knows nothing. Finally, when they grow up, they realize that yeah, guess what, Dad was pretty smart?

There’s another stage beyond that. Not everyone has a good enough relationship with their dad to get to this stage. It’s the stage when, you’re an adult, and as you are discussing things, often deep things, tough things, important things, your dad admits something to you. “I don’t know.”

Yep, my Dad didn’t know everything. He knew a lot. He made a lot of people’s lives a lot better. I love him dearly, I miss him dearly and I’m grateful for the role he has played in my life and the lives of my family members. I’m also grateful that he was free to admit he didn’t know everything. Why?

When you admit you don’t know everything and encourage discussions with others, you are all better off. You might learn from him or from her.

When you admit you don’t know everything you are providing others with the opportunity to share their opinions. That shows them respect and value and we need more of that in the world.

When you admit you don’t know everything, the person you are talking with is encouraged to discuss and search for truth while feeling important. There is so little of that trust and respect these days.

Admit you don’t know everything. Not only everything about EVERYTHING, but also admit that you probably aren’t the one who knows the most about the subject you’re talking about.

Admit it but keep talking.

And listening.

Really listening. Listening to learn.

You might be surprised what will happen.

Tom

Getting Smart

In the previous post, we talked about how it is important to push back against confusion and misunderstanding. We talked about how it’s important to push back against those because if we can clear up confusion and misunderstanding, it’s easier to push back against evil.

Why? Because evil likes to create confusion.

Evil likes to use misunderstanding to hide from the light of day.

Now I want to make it more personal. I don’t want to talk about government policies that are confusing. I don’t want to talk about how the motives behind what so and so does are being misunderstood.

I want to talk about you. I want to talk about me.

I can’t speak for you, maybe you do. I don’t.

Don’t what? I don’t know everything.

Not even close. Actually, so far from close that it’s funny to even think about.

But I know that if I get smarter, I can make more of a difference. If I ask questions, I can learn more. If I read about things, I can learn what is going on.

Most people are more afraid of what they don’t know about than what they do. If they don’t understand what is happening or why, that can create fear. It can create contempt.

I don’t understand your music – so it must be bad music.

I don’t understand your language – so you must be talking nasty about something or someone.

I don’t understand your religion so I don’t like you.

I don’t…….

The list can go on and on and on.

But if I do understand, then I can see you for you, not for what I didn’t understand.

If I do understand, then I can see the reason behind behaviors and not be afraid of the behaviors as evil or hostile.

If I understand your history, then I can appreciate your cultural festivals and respect them and you better.

If I understand the reason behind events in history, then I can see them for the impact they have on you and on me.

Most people are afraid of things that they don’t understand.

Many people will, when they understand things or people or traditions or habits or whatever, respond in a way that furthers communication and relationships.

And that makes the world a better place.

Tom

Tom

E>C + M (Part 1)

In my previous work on behalf of children in Haiti, one of the things I learned was that E is definitely greater than C & M.

But it’s a LOT easier to solve for C & M than it is to uncover E.

Huh?

C = Confusion

M = Misunderstanding

E = Evil

There is definitely more evil at work attempting to hurt and destroy. Abuse, trafficking, corruption, government malfeasance (a $64 word for – bad stuff), illness, poverty, greed, let alone things like kidnapping, robbery, murder – it’s a long list of things that are really evil in this world. I’ll be talking more about this and spiritual warfare going forward.

Oh, and then there are places like Haiti where, in addition to all of those, there’s also this thing called voodoo. All I’m going to say about that is the stories that some of my friends in Haiti have told me, well, they make the TV show “Criminal Minds” seem tame.

But it’s easier to solve for Confusion and Misunderstanding than evil. How’s that?

Let me quote Donald Rumsfeld when he was the Secretary of Defense during the first Persian Gulf War (yeah, I’m old enough to remember that). He said, “There are known knowns. There are known unknowns. There unknown unknowns.” He said these in terms of the military action against Iraq. In the fight against evil.

There are things we know we know. If there isn’t confusion and misunderstanding, then it’s a lot more straightforward in terms of fighting evil. If we know that something or someone is evil, it is easier to fight against them.

There are things we know we don’t know. There is confusion and misunderstanding – and we know there is. We don’t know what we’re dealing with – even though we know that it is evil. Before we can truly fight against that evil, we need to remove the confusion and the misunderstanding so that we can truly understand the evil.

And then there are the things we don’t know that we don’t know. Those things that you don’t realize have an underlying problem. But then, as you learn more, you realize that something that appeared to be neutral or even good for some ended up having really bad outcomes for other people. Outcomes that, if the person who originally made the decision knew it, they might have done differently.

What’s an example of that? A former US administration thought they were doing a really good thing for US farmers and implemented a series of tariffs and subsidies on rice that made US rice much more attractive. It was actually so attractively priced that the US farmers could export that rice and sell it in Haiti.

What’s wrong with that? The US government subsidized US rice so substantially that US farmers sold it in Haiti – for substantially below market rates and below what Haitian rice farmers could afford to sell rice. Suddenly, the Haitian farmers had no one who wanted to buy their rice – because they could pay less to buy the US rice.

An entire industry in Haiti was decimated. Thousands of farmers went out of business. Fields were left abandoned. People starved to death. All because a former US President didn’t know that his actions that supposedly helped US rice farmers had actually wiped out the livelihoods and actual lives of other people.

I’m going to spend a lot of time working through, writing about, talking about things that we probably don’t understand. Things that I don’t fully understand. Things that appear to be one way. Things that when you dig into them further, show that they are actually a different way.

When we eliminate confusion and misunderstanding, it will be easier to see and then fight evil.

That’s what I plan on doing – I hope you will too.

TJV

Understand…..

There’s a saying….

It’s hard to know who really said it first – it’s been attributed to many different people all in slightly different forms.

We studied it in college. Well, it’s about history and I was pursuing a history minor, so that’s not a big surprise.

What was it?

“Those who fail to understand history are destined to repeat it.”

I could bore you with a history lesson about the various people who, throughout history, neglected to learn from the mistakes of the past. And it came back and bit them in a big way.

Napoleon

Julius Caesar

Those are just two – I could give you many more. But instead, I want to share two assumptions that this saying makes about human nature and two reasons why it’s important to learn from the past.

Thing #1 – this says that, in many ways, human nature hasn’t really changed that much over the centuries. There are things that have changed, the tools we use, the housing we live in, the surroundings have changed, but the nature of human beings hasn’t changed that much
⁃ We’re still more likely to do the evil and the bad thing than we are the good thing.
⁃ We’re still more likely to put ourselves ahead of others.

Thing #2 – that we are a pride filled and frankly rather obnoxious bunch. What? How does it say that? It’s pretty simple.
⁃ If we, as a people, did a really good job of learning from the previous generations, then this saying wouldn’t need to be. It’s sort of like saying, “Make sure you breathe.” Well, of course, there isn’t the need to say that because with the exception of seriously ill individuals, we do that automatically. If we, as a human race were consistently attempting to look back at the past and learn from it, we wouldn’t need to mention it.
⁃ But we don’t. How does the saying go, “When I was two, I thought my Dad knew everything. When I was 13, I thought my Dad knew nothing. Now that I’m 33, I know that my Dad is pretty smart.” (Excuse the paraphrase but you know what it means.). As a country, we are doing a pretty impressive job of acting like the past means nothing and of saying and acting like it’s different this time.

With those being said, let me share with you two brief reasons why we should learn from the past:
1. The Wheel.
2. The rear view mirror.

What?

Do you know the person who first invented the wheel? No, me neither. But I’m really glad he did. It would be a lot harder to do life if someone hadn’t already invented the wheel. But they did and now we can get around a lot easier in many ways and many places..

Don’t reinvent the wheel – look back at history, learn what was done well and imitate it. Learn what screwed up and learn from that too.

The rear-view mirror – in order to know where you are going, it helps to know where you’ve been. Knowing the environment you are in, the roads, the type of traffic, these are some of the many things that help you understand where you are going. These are some of the things that you learn while looking in the rear view mirror.

I wish I could say that I felt that people who are “movers and shakers” in today’s world have learned from the past. I can’t.

I wish I could say that I was confident that they would learn from past mistakes. They don’t appear to be doing so.

Those who fail to understand history are destined to repeat it. As things move forward on here, we’re going to do a fair amount of looking back to attempt to learn from the past.

I hope you’ll join me.

Tom

Imagine This…..

You live in a very poor “neighborhood” in a very poor country.

If you’re doing well, you make $3 a day selling things at the market.   What kind of things?   Pretty much anything you can think of –food, art, you name it.

You barely have enough money to feed your family and to have a 10 x 12 shack to live in.

You are fortunate enough to have been able to save up some money and buy a “moto” for you to get to the market.   But it’s hard to fit all of your family on a “moto.”  

The trip from your shack to the market usually uses a gallon of gas per day.  Between traffic, hills and poorly running engines, that’s a reasonable estimate.

And then, the government announces yesterday that they are raising the cost of gas (no longer subsidizing it) by $1.25 per gallon.   Suddenly another 40% of your income goes to buying gas so you can go to the market and try to sell the art and jewelry and stuff you’ve made.

So, which meals do you skip?   Lunch?  Nope, can’t skip that one- because you already are.   You and your family are already used to living on two meals a day.   That leaves a total of 14 meals left in a week.   You could barely make enough for that – and now your costs are going up. 

So, do you skip 5 meals a week?

Do you skip two days at the market?  That’s going to hurt your income even more.

Ugh, this is not fair.   Why does the government do this to me?

I don’t know how I’m going to feed my children.   I don’t know what to do!

That is why people in Haiti are rioting this weekend.   They were hanging on to life literally on the edge and suddenly their costs are going up substantially – and they don’t have the ability to absorb that increase.

As Martin Luther King said it:

“A Riot it the Language of the Unheard.”

Right now, literally as I’m writing this I’m talking to friends in Haiti who are saying this is some of the worst rioting they have ever seen and they are being told (I don’t know by whom) to expect it will be worse on Monday.

Please join me and pray for peace in Haiti.   Pray for protection – for all lives, but especially for the lives of children and those who care for them.

There are many people in Haiti who have reached the end of their proverbial rope and feel like this is the only way they can be heard.   Pray that God would open up other ways to resolve this.

Thanks for praying,

Tom

P.S. There is hope that a rainstorm that is predicted for Tuesday will help cool people down and reduce the rioting.   Tuesday is a long ways away.   Oh and that rain storm – might actually come in the form of a hurricane.

Which brings the potential for a whole additional set of problems – flooding, crop damage, house damage, job loss, sickness, and the list goes on.

As a friend of mine told me about an hour ago,  #lovinghaitiisexhausting