KUMBAYA

KUMBAYA

Someone’s crying, Lord, Kumbaya

There are songs I grew up with in church that will forever bring me peace. Several years ago, I wrote about another one: Let There Be Peace On Earth, (October 8th, 2017) because its message is timeless.

While the lyrics in Kumbaya are very simple and repetitive, its meaning is believed to be simple, as well as profound: Come By Here, Lord. It’s pidgin English roots would suggest the song title from the meaning.

Kumbaya, it has come to my attention, has a different meaning socially and politically. It seems this word has been adopted for use in a lighter, perhaps even in a sarcastic or disparaging fashion.

I am deep in the middle of a mammoth writing project. When it is finished, the book will tell the story of an amazing man whose resilience will inspire you, just as I have been inspired by him. He has immeasurable life experience, and lately, our discussions relate to the current state of our country, and our world.

We can’t just sit around the campfire singing ‘Kumbaya,’ and hope for all this to go away,” he said to me a few months ago. I knew what he meant, and I had heard ‘kumbaya’ used that way before, but being the word nerd I am, I wanted to know the exact meaning when it is used in this manner.

“Naively optimistic,” said one online source.

“False moralizing, hypocrisy, cockeyed optimism,” read another.

“It once represented strength and power in togetherness and harmony, but it has come to reflect weakness,” yet another source reported.

“Kumbaya” is believed to have originated as an African-American spiritual song in the 1920’s as a cry to God for help from oppressed people suffering under the Jim Crow regime of lynch mobs and sharecropping. It’s origins, then, certainly justify its original meaning.

I don’t profess to know much about politics–national, or international. I know enough to know that what we are doing now isn’t working. The divisiveness and discord in our country are unprecedented in our lifetimes, and, as the comic Lily Tomlin states, it appears that “things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get worse.”

An Average Jane citizen like myself cannot change things, neither can you. Unless, as my writing subject did point out to me, one person can indeed change the world. Maybe not directly, but because we reap what we sow, then we must believe our actions–both good and bad–are capable of beginning the ripple effect.

Perhaps naively, perhaps with cockeyed optimism, I am choosing to believe we can indeed hope for a better future. That is, if I use my powers for good and not evil, and you do the same. We all have the same free will. We all have the power to choose.

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The sun came up again this morning. It will very likely come up again tomorrow morning. We can count on this renewal, this daily reset to remind us that time goes on, and that bad times never last forever. Where I live, on top of this daily promise, God has been showing off again. I took a picture of the sunrise a few mornings ago from my porch, and I tried my best to capture the beauty:

And, as a bonus, the sunsets here in Kansas, too, are proof of hope, proof of something bigger than all of us; proof of the beauty all around us if we choose to see it:

I swear I was watching the road…I simply held up my phone, didn’t look and hoped for the best. And it was absolutely glorious. This was the sunset the day after the sunrise pictured above.

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In nearly all situations, it is best to listen to one’s mother. I still listen to mine, especially her last wish: that her children would live their lives by the Prayer of Saint Francis. Make me an instrument of peace, it begins. Me, not everyone else. Me, in every action great and small. Me, as one who can start a ripple. You, too. We all have that power to create peace. (Peace, Sister July 16th, 2017).

So listen to our mother, and your mother would likely agree from here on earth, or from Above.

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When I begin treatment with my speech therapy patients, I make sure they understand their most important qualification for therapy: they must have a sense of optimism about their potential for improvement. We may not be able to return them to their prior level, but we will both work hard to improve their abilities, and we will both remain positive about their potential. Without it, both of us are wasting our time.

The indomitable Helen Keller summed this up perfectly: “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.

I know that naive optimism, “kumbaya,” will not make our world’s problems go away. But educated, dedicated, hardworking optimism is the only mindset that will bring about positive change. I believe in the God-given ability to create a better country and a better world, but each of us must do our part.

The gentleman who is the subject of my book subject summed it up best: “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

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Someone’s singing, Lord, Kumbaya.”

BE A SPORT

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BE A SPORT

I like to move my body in some form of exercise every day.  I hope I have made it abundantly clear to you in previous posts that the ability to do so is a gift not granted.  My work has made me see that.

I exercise almost every day because it makes me feel better, and, as I age, as a prayer of gratitude for the ability to make it all work.  I am already learning that age limits that.

But let’s not dwell on that.

I have never been an athlete, per se.  I did attempt volleyball in high school, but it was not meant to be, although I do enjoy it.   My long-distance running experiences in high school track laid the foundation for me to pick it up again six years after I stopped running track.

Twenty-eight years later, I am still running.  I run because it makes me feel good.

I attempted coed softball with my husband early in our marriage.  It became quickly apparent to me and the entire team that this venture was ill-fated; I possessed skills only for solitary endeavors, such as running in a straight line.  I lacked the mental and physical coordination to be a team member of any value on the softball team.

I left that behind.

Five years ago, I experimented with yoga.  I am still experimenting, but on a more regular and organized basis.  Stretching in this fashion is good for any human body.

So, I stretch mine.  Yoga stretches my brain, too, which is good for any human brain.

Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you I am not a sports fan.  With the exception of our beloved Kansas City Royals Baseball, I have no desire to attend any professional sporting events.  I realize what I am about to say is heresy to a hallowed American institution, but if I were given tickets to the Super Bowl–the pinnacle event of sports in the United States, I would pass them on.

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I am pretty sure that in any sport’s inception, it was intended to provide a sense of fun, fitness and friendly competition.

If I were appointed Goddess of all Sporting Events, I would magically ensure that these three elements were held foremost.  I would eliminate any scandals, doping, mean spirits and underhandedness.  I would ensure that every participant in every sport had equal playing time, and that all parties had fun.

I wouldn’t be very popular.

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About five years ago, Suzanne and I attended the county spelling bee that our niece and nephew were participating in.  We were psyched and eager to watch them compete.  We sat close to the front and had to sit on our hands.  We considered painting our faces and cheering loudly for them, but we kept it subdued to save embarrassment for them.

If we’d had the time that particular Thursday prior to the 1:30 p.m. kickoff, we may have tailgated in the school parking lot.  Why not?

Then there was the Quiz Bowl.  My firstborn was a team member, traveling to several area schools.  I had the good fortune to see him in the same town I was working in.  Again, I held off on the face painting for his sake.  I had to hold my hand over my mouth to keep from blurting out some answers in this battle of factual knowledge.

Pennsylvania is the Keystone State!”  It was tough to hold that one in.   I used to live there.  I kept it together—barely.

These events are the real deal for me.  This is Fun—yes, with a capital F.  Take me to a football game, and I may pass for a corpse.  As I write this on the eve of the big match-up of the KC Chiefs vs. the Denver Broncos, the regional rival NFL teams, I know once again that putting these words in print is heresy.

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I do enjoy volleyball, likely because I understand it.  I had the pleasure of seeing Gail’s college-age son compete on his university’s men’s club volleyball team this weekend.

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I was in nearby Manhattan to meet my dear friend Shari for a fall hike through the famous Konza Prairie Trail.  We moved our bodies in this outdoor activity among the splendor of fall foilage.  I even got to see my son there as well.

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We walked and ran this morning, again moving our bodies.  Again, we found immediate reward in the payoff—we felt better.

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We even picked up the paddles and hit the ping pong ball a few times in good-natured competition inside the locally famous donut shop.

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Having already had a full weekend of athletic activities including hiking, running/walking, yoga, ping pong and volleyball, I had hoped to be able to observe a session of boxing as well.  Let me explain:

I work with many people who have Parkinson’s Disease.  This progressive neurological condition slowly and methodically attempts to rob the human body of its ability to move smoothly in good time.  It also attempts to silence the voice for most people, and affects their swallowing ability.

There is an international boxing program known as Rock Steady Boxing® that is designed specifically for people with Parkinson’s.  It helps them rebuild their strength, balance and coordination.  It also helps them strengthen their voices in the process.  Perhaps most importantly, as a by-product of all these gains, they are reminded they are still fighters in the Game of Life.

There is twice-weekly class held in Manhattan with these warriors and their trainers.  A dear friend is one of these trainers, and a colleague of mine in our small city was recently trained to work within this program as well.  I wanted to see the class in action.

It used to be held on Saturdays, but it has been moved to Friday instead, so I missed it.  I didn’t get to take in this sporting event.  I have seen videos, and it brings tears of amazement and joy to my eyes.  This is the real deal; this is what sports in its purest form can do for the human body.

If you, or anyone you know could benefit from this, please visit their website at:  www.rocksteadyboxing.org.

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Gail is a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.  Our husbands are Kansas City Chiefs fans.  Suzanne and I are not football fans.  We don’t understand what all the hype is about.  We don’t even understand the game; our brains simply aren’t wired for it.   The spelling bee is more our style.

If you are a football fan, I hope your team wins.  Most importantly, I hope it is a source of fun for you, like it was intended to be.

And if you aren’t already, get out there and move your body.  If you move it within a competitive sporting event, be sure to have fun while you are competing.  If it is a solitary venture, do whatever makes you feel best in your body and mind.

And in tomorrow’s regional NFL rivalry, may the best team win—and may every team member and spectator leave the stadium as a better person.

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I have had the pleasure of getting to know some awesome sisters through this blog who have made me a better person in ways small and large.

I wrote about Martha and Mary in Loads of Sisters (November 19th).   They are Gail’s twin aunts by marriage, and they live in Manhattan.  They came to see their great-nephew play volleyball, and I got to enjoy their company today as well.  Today, their 60-something birthday. 

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARTHA AND MARY!

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I have honored my friends Tana and Amy, two other amazing sisters in two other posts   (Swheat Girls Part Two—July 9th, 2017 and Stars and Stripes and Sisters Forever–July 8th, 2018).  While on the Kansas State University Campus this morning, we took a moment to honor their grandfather, a former Director of Housing at KSU.

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Shari and I took in the majesty of the Kansas sunset from atop a hill outside Manhattan.  Every time I take time to enjoy this splendor, I am always a winner, and I become a better person.