IMMIGRATION: CAN GOOD PEOPLE BECOME TERRORISTS?

Another thought on Malala’s story . . . which has been running through my head a lot, what with the controversy surrounding Trump’s so called “Muslim Ban”.  Her perspective during this time and context is interesting and enlightening.

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The life Malala describes in Pakistan is not easy, even without the terrorists and bombings. It blows my mind that I had good friends who lived here. When I lived in the Caribbean, several of my close friends were from Pakistan. They saw these things. Bombings and death and lawlessness – nothing new to them. I remember seeing a news bite that a bombing had occurred in Lahore, Pakistan, where my one friend was from. When I told him about it, he was completely unfazed. He laughed at me! “Brit, that happens all the time there.” How can we in America even conceive that kind of life?

Something I found very interesting was Malala’s father considering becoming a suicide bomber. The way Malala describes him, her father seems to be a compassionate and good man. He rose out of poverty and never stopped pursuing his dream of building his own school. He had a terrible stutter, but he wanted to make his father proud. So, he entered a speech competition, and practiced his speech for hours upon hours while walking in the valley. He managed to become a great and charismatic speaker and leader, and created a great school, despite numerous financial difficulties, natural disasters, family problems, and Taliban and religious persecution. A great man, it seems. And yet, at one time, he considered becoming a suicide bomber, because he was taught the great honor and holiness such an act would bring him (he later rethought the validity of that). It really shocked me that seemingly inherently good people would consider something that seems so horrible, just because they are taught that it is right. It makes me want to be more understanding and compassionate for these people we call terrorists and fanatics and evil people. Would we be any different if we were taught as they were?

REFUGEES: COME RIGHT IN vs. STAY AWAY

What really struck me was how horrible it was and still is in Pakistan. The bombings, the death, the murders, the rape, the corruption and chaos in the government and community. I can’t imagine how anyone could ever feel safe there. If I lived there, I thought, I would pray to come to North America. I can see why refugees want to leave. And yet, many don’t. Even with all the horror and carnage and chaos and lack of safety, these places are still their homes. They don’t want to leave to a foreign and unfamiliar place. Yet, oftentimes, they are forced to leave. It gave me greater compassion for refugees and immigrants. If they are capable and willing to work and cooperate with new laws and lands, shouldn’t they be able to come to North America? We have so much space, why shouldn’t they be able to come to a place that is free and safe, so long as they pay taxes and follow the laws?

refugee

And yet, I can see why people here don’t want refugees and immigrants to come. As I listened to Malala’s story, I felt an overwhelming gratitude to live in North America, with a whole ocean between my family and the Middle East. Even if I lived in the first-world countries of Europe, I would feel nervous having the Middle East so close. It scares me to think that such lawlessness and misguided thinking exists today. And, I am grateful I live far away from it! And I think, don’t bring them here! We don’t want that here! We have a Garden of Eden, a place of amazing peace and safety. Don’t take the chance of bringing these crazy fanatics here to pollute it!

Of course, most Middle Eastern people are not crazy killers. I know that. Most are just like us. But, there is some twisted teaching there – the twisting of the teachings of Islam. And, people in the Middle East seem to have been brought up disliking America, even hating them. And I can see why. America has meddled and manipulated many nations for their own gain. Of course, the Middle East doesn’t have a monopoly on twisted minds and evil deeds. North America has her fair-share of messed up people too. So, what leads to the serious chaos and terror that exists in these countries? Perhaps it isn’t Islamic religion that makes it that way. Perhaps it is their system of government. Perhaps it is the poverty, the natural disasters, or thousands of years of complicated religious and racial tension. Who knows . . . I just can see why people are afraid of the problems we see there coming to the comparative Eden that is North America.

So, on that end, I think it’s right that America carefully consider who they allow into the country. It is every country’s right and responsibility to defend its borders from threats. We should be protecting our land from terror and violence. But, North America IS immigrants. It was founded on the shoulders of immigrants from all over the world – Europe and Africa and Asia and Russia, and all over. Why should the bounteous blessings of “the promised land” be denied to those who have no home left to go back to, who would be a strength and a blessing to this country? Yes, there would be a risk of allowing some bad eggs in, but that is the risk of every child born in America. Most American babies grow up to be normal, law-abiding citizens, while a few go down bad paths. And yet, it seems to me that many refugees would prefer being in a safe place more like their original home, in culture and locale – if there is a place available. America is the superpower of the world and has set itself up to be the world’s caretaker. But, it shouldn’t be that way. America doesn’t have to take in everyone, nor does it have to solve all the world’s problems.

So, America shouldn’t be the world’s caretaker. But, we are a people of incredible peace and prosperity. As such, we should have compassion for those born in less favourable circumstances.

If I were a refugee, I would want someone to care.

love-brit

 

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DOES AMERICAN PROSPERITY MAKE US COWARDS?

I just finished listening to Malala Yousafzai’s audiobook – that’s right – I finished a book! An honest to goodness book for the first time in months!

(Leland discovered this app called Overdrive that allows you to rent and listen to audiobooks on your phone! (He only shared it with me in response to my grouchiness at having to drive nine hours without stopping by the library for an audiobook). I love it! I’ve been up the last couple nights just cleaning and organizing till the early morning – and enjoying it because I could listen to a book! Fantastic discovery.)

One of the final thoughts I had coming out of Malala’s story was about courage. Here are these fairly ordinary people, Malala and her friends and family, standing up and speaking out for a girl’s right to go to school. Malala and her father continued to speak out (loudly), even though they knew there was a high chance of being harmed or killed because of it.

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I came out thinking what a coward I am . . . It’s rare for me to speak out loudly about anything. How often have I silently shook my head at something and said nothing? No one is going to shoot me in the face for speaking out and defending things I know are right (at least . . . the possibility is minute compared to Pakistan). No one is going to kill my family, or bomb my home, or kill me in the night for standing up for what’s right.

It’s so easy to stand for what’s right in America, so why don’t I do it?

Is it because life in America is so good? Sure, there are things that aren’t right, but nothing bad enough for me to stand up and do anything about it. If something really bad happened, like kicking girls out of schools, you bet I’d stand up and speak . . .

But would I?

Malala and her family are remarkable because, despite how wrong things were in Pakistan, many other people just let it happen. They didn’t do anything. So, is it just personality? Malala and her father seemed like strong, commanding people. If you’re not like that, maybe you’re not meant to stand up? Is it just coincidence?

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Malala’s story reminded me a bit of Katniss in the Hunger Games series. Katniss wasn’t anyone extraordinary. She had the courage to stand up for what she believed in when she took her sister’s place in the games, and that action somehow resonated with people, and she became a symbol to them. Malala seems the same. I’m sure there are many other people in the world like her, who courageously stand up for what’s right – but never gain the kind of influence she did.

abraham-lincoln

Maybe it’s just coincidence who falls into the role of a nation’s symbol and hero: people like Mother Theresa and Abraham Lincoln. You can see that Lincoln could have easily lived and died a man (albeit a good one) very few would have remembered. But, one thing after another happened, and he became President of the United States. Even then, would he have been as famous if he hadn’t been leader during such a tumultuous and pivotal time in American history? Perhaps not.

But, the point, I suppose, is: I need to be more courageous. Here, in America, I am SO blessed. I have incredible freedom and opportunity. I can stand and fight for so much good and against all sorts of evils and wrongs. My life is very easy and safe. I have been so blessed. But, the world is still full of “wrongs that should be righted”, and I need to have the courage to speak out and fight for right with the courage Malala shows in her story.

I heard a story once of a two men who attended a friend’s funeral. The preacher at the pulpit went on and on about how the diseased man never offended anyone. The man in the pew leaned over to his neighbour and said, “That’s because he never did anything!”

That hit me hard. I was the type who liked to slip in silently and listen, nodding along with whoever I agreed with, and creating arguments against the ones I didn’t – but only in my head. I hate conflict with a fiery passion, so speaking up against anything is scary for me…

But the question for all of us, I guess: When the time comes when something truly important comes along, will you have the courage to do what is right?

We shake our heads at the cowards in history and our novels – but what if we are the cowards in our own life – in our cushy, cozy part of a world that still has so many “wrongs that should be righted”…

So, finally:

to-avoid-criticism

love-brit

GANDALF IS IN YOUR NURSING HOME

Can we talk about old people for a minute?

In all the old stories, it’s common to find a wrinkled old sage, directing the young hero on to victory. These characters always fascinated me. Where did they gain all their wisdom? I always thought the sage’s story might be more interesting than the hero’s. They must have gotten their wisdom somehow. But how? What incredible stories led to the deep lines in their face, their hobbled walk, their profound wisdom?

What if Gandalf was in your town’s nursing home?

gandalf-in-a-wheelchair

I started volunteering at a nursing home this week. Everyone was in having dinner when I showed up, so I wandered to the Long-term Care unit. I poked my head into a room and, after waiting till a terrible, hacking cough ended, asked for Ellen.

A nurse introduces me to Ellen, and I wheel her to her bed. I awkwardly try to wedge her wheelchair into the cramped space by her bed so we can talk. It’s dim. I ask her if she’d like the light on.

“Well, what do you want?” she asks, “I can see fine”. So, we sit in the semi-darkness, crammed between her bed and the curtain, and talk.

She looks at me, sort of confused.

“Why do you want to talk to me?”

The question catches me off guard. I fumble through an answer. Why do I want to talk to her? Well, I’m new to the area, and I want to meet people. Which is true. Is it appropriate to tell old people that I just like old people? Is that rude?

Later, another nurse directs me to Ginnie, who’s sitting with another lady by the communal fireplace. I ask if I can pull up a chair, which the other woman enthusiastically nods to. Ginnie is sharp, I can tell that immediately. She looks at me a bit critically.

“So, you want to talk to me, eh?” she asks, clearly, “What for?”

I have to talk loudly and close to her ear. She’s taken out her hearing aid already. Again, I awkwardly stumble through my answer. I let it slip that I like old people, and (thankfully), she says “Eh?”, and motions for me to speak closer to her ear. I talk about being in nursing before, in geriatrics, and how I loved working with the people there. She catches onto that, and seems to approve.

Driving home, I thought about their question though. Why did I want to come talk to these women?

dentures

I’ve volunteered in nursing homes since I was in High School, and always loved it. I decided to go into nursing after High School so I could do geriatrics. When I told my nursing instructor, she thought I was crazy.

“Well, that’s the first time I’ve heard that before,” she said, raising an eyebrow. Apparently, most get into nursing for pediatrics or med-surg – something like that. Then, there’s me. That odd one who likes old people.

I hadn’t ever thought why until today. Why do I want to talk to them?

You walk into a nursing home and see an ocean of white hair and wheelchairs. But, those eyes –drooping with wrinkles – have seen incredible things. Annie? She married a doctor and raised her children in the backwoods of the Panama Canal. Ginnie has gummy dentures, but still wears red lipstick, and tells me about her flashy, metropolitan life in San Francisco. Rosie’s wrinkled hands tremble as we shake hands, but those same hands created the beautiful paintings in her room, which once hung in Chicago galleries.

We don’t tend to see the elderly as wise sages anymore. They sit in nursing homes, often in silence. All those stories – surely, some wisdom – quiet, silent inside these wrinkled old remnants of the past.

love-brit

THE GIDDIANHI IN MY HEAD

The other day, I sat down with some other moms and discussion turned towards kids, like usual. As time went on, I felt my eyes get wider. I drove home that night, and wondered, who am I to think I can raise my kids to be leaders, or thinkers, or saints? I should be glad just to keep them out of drugs and porn! My dreams of how I wanted to raise my kids suddenly seemed grandiose and unrealistic.

I thought about this a lot this week. Are my dreams for my kids too big? Am I just setting us all up for frustration and disappointment?

I was washing dishes yesterday, and listening to a talk by Orrin Woodward. “It takes courage to have a dream,” he said. Many don’t want to dream, he said, because they are afraid they’ll fail. If they don’t have a dream, and don’t accomplish it, they’ll have no embarrassment. No disappointment. It doesn’t take any courage not to dream.

it-takes-courage-to-have-a-dream

But, I’m certainly no great thinker, leader, or saint, I tell myself. How on earth do I expect to teach my kids this, if I’m nowhere near there myself?

But, people have done it! I read an article this morning from a 16 year old, who says “I am hungry for greater knowledge and understanding. I am beginning to see some of what our world is facing, and I am determined to be among the heroes who save it.” Isn’t that awesome! I want my kids to be like that!

But how?

So, I’m reading some scriptures this morning, and come across Lachoneus and Giddianhi in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 3). They’re in the middle of a huge war between a band of robbers and the Nephite people, and Giddianhi, leader of the robbers, sends a letter to the Nephite governor, Lachoneus. In it, Giddianhi tries to make Lachoneus doubt himself.

“I care about you and ‘feel for your welfare’,” Giddianhi says, “but you aren’t powerful enough to destroy my army. Furthermore, you may think your cause is just, but really you are just harming yourself and your followers. Give up this crazy dream. You will never succeed.”

I think I have a little Giddianhi in my head, telling me I can’t, and I shouldn’t, and I won’t.

negative-voices

Oliver DeMille talks about the voices in our heads in the book The Student Whisperer. We have positive and negative voices, he says, and they run our lives. Negative voices include the Critic, the Judge, the Victim, and the Rebel. “Negative voices criticize us and tear us down, leave us feeling despondent, futile, defensive, complacent, and inactive,” says Oliver (p. 219).

Lachoneus wouldn’t listen to the little negative Giddianhi though. He was a just man and “could not be frightened by the demands and threatenings of a robber; therefore he did not hearken” (v.12). He then goes to work: gathering his people together, creating strong fortifications, setting up constant guard against the enemy, and praying to God for strength. And, you know what? He finally defeats Giddinahi and his robbers!

How awesome is that? Lachoneus shows us just how we should deal with the negative voice in our head. Don’t be frightened. Don’t listen. Then, go to work and overcome.

It’s ok to have big dreams for your kids, I realized. There’ll be that little Giddianhi voice in my head, telling me I’m not good enough, that the opposition is too strong, and that I should just give up.
And I just have to stick up my nose and say. “You don’t scare me,” and ignore him.

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Here’s to big dreams!

(La la la, Giddianhi. I can’t hear you!).

love-brit

BLANK PAGES ARE SCARY

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A brand new, blank journal always intimidates me. Something about beginnings in general seem to be intimidating. Everything is all clean and fresh. Every page is fraught with potential.

I’ve filled about ten journals so far. I have a fairly disorganized mind, and something about writing my thoughts help give them order and meaning. I think on paper, and my best ideas come out of a pen.

Every time I begin a new journal, that first page stays blank for some time. For some reason, I feel that that I have to start things off right – even if many of the following pages are less than stellar – you have to get the beginning right.

Perhaps that’s why we don’t ever begin pursuing our dreams – the first page intimidates is too much. We have to get it just right, after all. So, shouldn’t we wait to begin for when we are a little bit smarter, a bit more wise, until we have a bit more time, or a bit more money?

Of course, with that mindset, that first page would stay blank forever, and so would the rest of your book. Your entire life story (your real story: the one that’s filled with the deepest desires of your heart), that will stay unwritten. You will forever wait for that perfect beginning – because it will never come.

The only way to begin is to start. Start right where you are – with all your flaws, bad grammar, and empty bank account.

blank-pages-are-really-scary

I think perfect beginnings really only exist somewhere in the middle of the story: never on the first page.

A planned on being the perfect wife before I got married. First, I’d become a brilliant cook and perfect homemaker, and then the perfect guy would come by. Fortunately, life doesn’t work that way (and thank goodness – I’d be single till the day I’d die). I’ve been married for almost two years to my studly-stud Leland, and – whaddayaknow – I’m still not the wife I’d like too be (cue microwave dinners because every pot and pan in the house is dirty . . .), but I’m closer now than I was when I was single – because Leland and I decided to forgo a perfect beginning and start our marriage with two very imperfect people and work toward that very-far-off-perfection, together.

But, the most frightening blank page came with the discovery that I was pregnant. My family cheered, and I cried. I wasn’t ready to start a Baby book! I knew the kind of mother I wanted to be. She would be eternally patient. She would be saintly and lovely and a wonderful cook and brilliant homemaker. I was so far away from this ideal, I just cried, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to become that woman in nine short months.

As baby grew in my swelling tummy, so did my anxiety. What kind of a mom would I be? How could I ever be worthy of this precious spirit? Six more months, I reasoned. I’d have time to figure it out . . .

And,

Suddenly.

He arrived.

There he was, “trailing clouds of glory” just like Wordsworth said.

And I realized, my parenthood Story had already begun. And no matter how much I might have tried to prepare, I never could have been prepared for this beginning – this precious, miraculous, sacred, but far from perfect beginning.

 little-bits-of-excellent

So, here’s my new beginning – my foray into parenting and homeschooling and education. The journey won’t be perfect. I haven’t great stores of wisdom to share; I’m nowhere near the perfect wife and homemaker; I stink at DIY, crafts, and sewing; and my dishes pile up faster than I’d care to admit to. BUT, I’m sure we’ll find little bits of wisdom along the way – because little bits of excellent exist in every ordinary life,  if you only look for them.

love-brit