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How Amazing to Touch a Moment in History

Blog by Associate Vicky Ortega

I love old books and documents; and as a government employee, I help make records available to the public, including documents with historical value.

I recently had an opportunity to touch such a historic document. The experience was amazing!

On January 17, 1964, the City and County of Denver entered into a contract with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., under which Dr. King asked to provide lectures and question-answer sessions in the Denver community.

The Denver Commission on Community Relations, whose powers and duties included developing educational campaigns devoted to “teaching the need for eliminating group prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, disorder, and discrimination”, agreed to pay Dr. King the total sum of $200.00 at the rate of $20.00 per hour for his services.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the signatures, especially that of Dr. King.  The blue ink was still vivid on the page fifty-six years after Dr. King’s hand touched the page to sign it.

As I gazed at Dr. King’s signature, many things raced through my mind.  I was born in July 1964.  I wondered what it was like to listen to Dr. King speak in person about civil rights and equality. I tried to imagine the community meetings and lectures where he discussed his quest to eliminate prejudice, intolerance, and racial discrimination in this country.

I wondered how city and state government officials responded to his presence in Denver, especially since it was well known that some government officials were also members of the KKK in the 1920s and 30s. I thought about the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1964, and the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to Dr. King on November 11, 1964.

Returning to the present, I thought of all the things we do currently to celebrate Dr. King’s life including the Denver “Marade” which is a combination of a march and a parade where thousands of people gather on Dr. King’s holiday to remember his legacy and to continue the pursuit for peace and justice. We also pray the same prayers Dr. King offered in the hopes of opening hearts, minds, and spirits.

A few days afterward, I was in morning prayer and found myself drawn to the words in Psalm 78 where the Psalmist advises us, among other things, to stay faithful to God by teaching lessons learned from the past to the next generations. The psalm powerfully reminds us to reach out to the next generations so they will learn to place their trust and hope in God for themselves and for each other.

News reports indicate that Dr. King told the people of Denver, “The shape of our world today does not afford our nation the luxury of an anemic democracy.”  He emphasized that “We made of this world a neighborhood. Now we must make of it a brotherhood. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”  He decried “the appalling silence of the good people” in the fight for better civil rights laws.

One such article can be found here.

Yes, it was exciting to touch the same document that Dr. King once touched.

It was sobering to realize that today we face the same reality where the silence of good people will be the greatest tragedy of our times. There is little doubt that our world is at a point of historic social and environmental transitions. The clamor of bad actors seems to be as strident and as loud today as it was in 1964.

It is necessary to continue to learn from this country’s sorry history of prejudice, intolerance, discrimination, and injustices. We have made a world that desperately needs to hear a voice that inspires all of us to work for equality among all God’s people.

The psalm motivates us to keep reaching out, with love and respect, to the next generations in our communities so they too will work to energize anemic neighborhoods and to promote peace and justice for all people.

Keep Hope alive!  Keep Faith alive! Let’s do this for ourselves, the next generations, and for God.

Posted in Associate Blog

Hugs are Important

Blog by Associate Michelle Gray

Hi. My name is Michelle and I am a hugger. I always have been.

To me, a hug is the best way to say hello or goodbye, I love you, I’ll miss you, I’m sorry.

My goodbye hugs when leaving my daughters at college are a family legend; I insisted on a 30 second hug, which of course left us all laughing. But I admit I never gave my penchant for hugging much thought until recently, when I read an article on Facebook.

It began with the quote: Hugging is the most beautiful form of communication that allows the other person to know beyond a doubt that they matter.

That they matter — so simple and so easy. And so needed in these divisive times. And, quite frankly, I don’t think we hug each other enough. And I don’t know why.

About a year ago, my daughter’s best friend lost her mother. I didn’t see Annie until she came into the flower shop where I work to order flowers. I hugged her as soon as she walked in the door. Then, through our tears, we ordered the arrangements. It wasn’t until later that evening that Annie told my daughter I was the first person who had hugged her. And I admit I was shocked because a hug is my first instinct.

Current social conventions do have us conditioned not to touch others not closely related to us. I must say I really don’t agree.

And I have good company. According to a Healthline Media Inc. article, family therapist Virginia Satir once said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”  Hugs have been shown to reduce stress, pain, and fear. Hugs can make us happier and allow us to connect emotionally with others.

My job has given me the opportunity to offer hugs to grieving people, some of whom I know, many of whom I had just met. But I know without a doubt that those hugs left us both feeling a bit better.

If you would indulge me for a minute, I would ask you to place your right hand on your left shoulder and your left hand on your right shoulder. Now squeeze gently for as long you need for a hug from me. And know that you are cared for and loved.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

WHAT WILL BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

We are less than a week into the New Year and I’m wondering how many people have already failed to keep their resolutions?

I boarded that train of thought last week, after reading a tweet from the Rev. Bernice King (youngest child of civil rights leaders Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King):

Don’t make New Year’s resolutions.
Determine what kind of everyday human you want to be. And decide if that human will be for goodness, justice, peace, and love.
And envision if that human has dreams that will lift humanity.
Then the moments, years, and minutes will matter.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against making New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I am all for anything that causes us to pause and reflect on the steps we can take to better ourselves.

Studies, however, show that about a third of resolutions do not make it past the first month. Some research indicates that one factor contributing to this failure is that, on average, it takes approximately 66 days to kick a bad habit or adopt a good one. Another factor cited is that New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on substantial changes down the road – like quitting smoking, losing weight, saving more money, getting organized, finding love, getting and staying healthy, etc. — rather than on small changes in the here and now.

I think I like Bernice King’s idea of determining what kind of everyday human you want be because it forces us to deal with the present and focus on our intentions (while New Year’s resolutions are typically about a future goal). Her suggestion obligates us to engage in mindfulness – to pay attention to our inner thoughts and feelings, to become grounded in our purpose, and to make a choice about our daily intentions.

Like I said before, there is absolutely nothing wrong with establishing future goals (through New Year’s resolutions). But if we combine goals with intention, we can find balance between future and present and – perhaps more importantly – between heart and mind (goals tend to be a product of the mind and intentions tend to come from the heart).

As we are drawn by the promise of a fresh start this year, why not embrace both mind-based goals and heart-centered intentions?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

LOOK INWARD TO FIND YOUR GIFT TO OTHERS

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

As we journey through this Advent season, turning our focus to the real meaning of Christmas, it can be easy to get distracted.

If we are not careful, things like traffic, long lines, depleted store shelves, overloaded schedules, family disharmony, and other frustrations can seize control of the peace of the season.

Although things may happen to us and things may happen around us, it Is up to us to attend to the things that happen within us.

As I reflect on the divine presence born in and around us, I have resolved to live with an open, forgiving heart and to bless others with my peaceful presence (particularly during times of frustration).

As you search your inner heart and mind for the Christ spirit within your being, what gift(s) will you give to others and to the world at Christmas and throughout the year?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

We Have One Lifetime to Make a Difference

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I am always heartened when I find inspiration that motivates me to live my best life.

Thankfully, that inspiration can be found all around us – sometimes we have to look for it, sometimes it shows up unexpectedly.

The latter happened to me a few days ago, when I read a quote from the longest-living president in American history:

“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.”

No matter your politics, I think we can agree that former President Jimmy Carter has been an example of an honest man with integrity. During his post-presidency, he has remained active in public life and has consistently demonstrated his convictions, based on honesty and spirituality.

Even in his twilight years, the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, continues to provide lessons about peace, justice, fairness, honesty and integrity, while promoting and expanding human rights.

We can all learn something from his words of wisdom (cultivated by 95 years of living and 73 years of married life).

I, for one, will strive to make my life count for something by doing whatever I can to make a positive difference.

How about you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News