On Auschwitz I and II (Poland)

Forgetting them means letting them die again. (Elie Wiesel)

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Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana)

 

Night, night without end, no dawn comes. (Tadeusz Borowski)

 

We have to remember, always, but it’s never easy. (Alberto Israel)

 

Auschwitz cries out with the pain of immense suffering and pleads for a future of respect, peace, and encounters among people. (Pope Francis)

 

Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity. (on a plaque)

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It happened, therefore it can happen again. (Primo Levi)

 

Any denial of the facts is a denial of the truth (A. E. Samaan)

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Personal note: Everyone should visit Auschwitz I and II at least once in their life. I never realized that the two are a 5-minute ride apart. At Auschwitz I, exhibits as hair, suitcases, shoes, and belongs can rattle the soul – but the size of Auschwitz II (aka Birkenau) is staggering. For me, I’m glad we didn’t have a guide – therefore, at the chance to move and contemplate on our own.

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Next stop: Eger

Click here for past posts of this tour.

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On a Beach Walk: No. 32

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I like walking the beach. It’s good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

Today is my birthday – February 17th – which is a good day to reflect on my life. I think about different people.

I think about my mother. A kind, gentle woman who came to America at age 26 with a 3-month old, knowing only my dad, and not knowing English. In time she learned the language well enough to converse with customers, visitors, friends, family, and neighbors.

I think about growing up in a small town in the rural Appalachian part of Ohio. Different times there then than today. I had wonderful friends in that isolated, small world. Good times with good people in a good place at a good time.

I think about my college days – a four-hour drive from home – a place that providing great times and a beginning for my career. The place that I established many long-term friendships. The place where I met my wife of 40+ years. Yes, we are called Falcon Flames.

I think of my teaching career – such an important, challenging, difficult, frustrating profession. My career was one of two halves – time when I thought I knew how to teach and times when I knew how to teach for learning. (past post?)

I think about my years in training development. Wish I could have done more of it – then again – I needed the last half of my teaching career to guide it.

I think about 40+ years of marriage – the ups and downs – the travels, hobbies, events, and friends – the love, support, growth, and challenges.

I think about all the people I’ve encountered in 65 years – family, friends, neighbors, classmates, co-workers, professionals, fellow church members, medical professionals, my students, dancers, cruisers, and many more. I’m steadfast in my belief that the most important decision people make in their life is the people one chooses to be around.

I think about the new world of the cyber-connections I’ve made with fellow bloggers. Many wonderful people from most US states (if not all), and from all the world’s continents. You have confirmed my belief that the majority of the world is good.

I think about those who died during my journey. From Effie, a fellow third grader, and (of course) family and friends. Those from accidents, natural causes, illness, and violence – and now I am 6+ years older than my mother when she passed.

Reflecting is an important thing to do. My birthday is a good occasion for looking at life – and the beach is as good as place as any for it. After all, walking the beach is good for the mind, body, and soul – and refreshing on my feet.

On Christmas 2017

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For much of the world, December is the season. A season of joy and light. A season of warmth and kindness. A season of spirit and belief. A season of renewal and hope. As those thoughts are with Christians and Jews around the celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah, I contend this is the season not just for these two religions, but this is the season for all of humanity.

Santa Claus is the leading spirit of the season. He’s is the one of binds joy, light, warmth, kindness, spirit and believe not just to Christians, but for all of humanity. Santa is a positive spirit for all humans across the globe to embrace. Santa is the one that reaches into everyone’s childlike heart to touch an anticipated goodness. It is in this spirit that Santa crosses the barriers of culture, gender, skin color, religion, language, sexual orientation, nationality, and politics.

Santa carries the spirit unlimited goodness to all humans for them to embrace. No – embracing Santa does not carry an automatic endorsement of Christianity. I know those proclaiming “Put the Christ back in Christmas” shutter at my thoughts and banish me to the fires of Hell, but Santa is powerful spirit and symbol that allows humanity to pass goodness among itself – to pass goodness across cultures.

Yes, I am a Christian – and I understand why some believe the over-commercialization of Christmas is too secular – thus less religious. Yes, it is important for me to remember the religious aspect of Christmas. However, Christmas has also evolved into a secular holiday – and the Spirit of Santa leads the way by transcending all people in all cultures regardless of religious or non-religious beliefs.

Merry Christmas to those who accept Santa as the spirit of Goodness. Happy Holiday to those preferring that greeting. To those embracing the Winter Solstice and Yule, may the quiet, fire, and calm of the night lead you to a positive returning sun that will bring peace, joy, and love in the days ahead. To my Jewish friends, my the blessings of your light bring you happiness. To my Christian friends, a blessed Christmas wish to you.

My season gift to you is for you to enjoy at least one of the music selections below. Which did you enjoy?

Enya’s And Winter Came celebrates the winter solstice

The Piano Guys playing a song of the season

Manheim Steamroller’s Silent Night with glories skies is a personal favorite

On Leadership

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Leaders treat people the way they want to be treated

Leaders build themselves up by building up others

Leaders surround themselves with the best people

Leaders give the team credit for success, and place failure on themselves

Leaders are not afraid to take risks and make mistakes

Leaders are aware of their leadership style and learn how their style comes across to their team

Leaders are effective communicators

Leaders respect others

Leaders care about the people involved

Leaders are honest and demonstrate integrity

Leaders are able to get people engaged and leverage the strength of others

Leaders empower people

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Leaders building competencies and focus on the right things

Leaders are able to tolerate frustration and stress

Leaders deliver results

Leaders are active, expressive, optimistic, and energetic

Leaders have a sense of duty and carry a high standard of excellence

Leaders are thick-skinned

Leaders are practical, logical, and to-the-point, yet flexible and open to change

Leaders are secure – no need to seek approval

Leaders are socially aware and careful in their social interactions

Leaders envision the future and convince others and lead them in a new direction

Leaders are alert and focused

This man is not a leader

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On a Forced Possession

People buy things on credit all the time. Credit cards are the natural way of buying now and paying later. This plastic money is actually a less-formal version of a loan. Then again, instant plastic money can also lead to an inability to pay the bill – especially with mounting interest – and then the credit card becomes what it always has been – a formal loan.

People also make big purchases with bank loans. Cars and houses are the biggest purchases, but not the only. An unfortunate aspect of most new motor vehicles is that they automatically decrease in value over time. That brand new car is worth less as soon as one drives off the dealer lot for the first time soon after signing the papers.

Many banks and credit cards departments of companies have their own collections department dedicated to getting the money owed to them. Other companies hire a collection services company to do the same. I can’t imagine the difficulty of having a job like that – but people do – and like all work positions, some people are very good at it.

This story is about a forced possession – a repossession. Seemingly a sad tale, but not this one because this story is about goodness – about kindness … a story worth the 2+ minutes to watch.

On Humanity

RLHumanity

“Burger” on trumpet with his band, TBC, at a second line on St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans

The majority of the world is good – I’ve written those words on past posts here because I believe it. Even when the news constantly reminds us about all the evil, I continue to believe the majority of the world is good.

Humanity is a term that refers to all of us. All … not all with a but or except … simply all. Regardless of skin color, ethnicity, religion, gender, age, location or any other qualifier or disqualifier, humanity includes the characteristics human beings have in common.

Acceptance
The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance. (Brian Tracy, author)

RLAcceptance

Men in support of the Lady Buckjumpers second line in Central City, New Orleans

Compassion
Mama was my greatest teacher, a teacher of compassion, love and fearlessness. If love is sweet as a flower, then my mother is that sweet flower of love. (Stevie Wonder, musician)

RLCompassion

Sammy Eubanks comforts his wife Corrie after he was notified that his band did not win the blues competition in Memphis, TN

Cooperation
The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually – to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul – harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life. (Gary Zukav, author)

RLCooperation

Members of The Stooges brass band rehearse prior to a second line in Central City, New Orleans

Goodness
Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people. (Dennis Prager, journalist)

RLGoodness

Three generations of Mardi Gras Indian queens on the most important of all nights — St. Joesph’s Night — in Central City, New Orleans

Humility
Humility, that low, sweet root, from which all heavenly virtues shoot. (Thomas Moore, poet)

A discussing of who to trust on the street, which is basically nobody. La salle Street, Central City, New Orleans

Mr. Otis gives me a little advice about life on the street in Central City, New Orleans

Integrity
Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not. (Oprah Winfrey, entertainer)

RLIntegrity

Coming out in Treme – the neighborhood, not the HBO series

Kindness
A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. (William Arthur Ward, writer)

One Giant Smile.

Sometimes we celebrate. The world’s biggest smile at Uncle Lionel’s Jazz Funeral in Treme, New Orleans

Love
Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. (Ann Landers, journalist)

RLLove

Two second line walkers greet each other in Central, New Orleans

Patience
Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting. (Joyce Meyer, author)

RLPatience

Taking pictures requires a little patience at Mardi Gras, Uptown, New Orleans

Respect
I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being. (Jackie Robinson, athlete)

Respect is what we owe; love, what we give. (Philip James Bailey, poet)

RLRespect

Mardi Gras Indians greet the elders during Downtown Super Sunday, 7th Ward, New Orleans

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Ray Laskowitz is a photographer in New Orleans. I can’t recall how we found each other, but I find his photos capture many aspects of humanity. Fittingly, he describes his blog as “about pictures and their backstories.” My experience told me he is the perfect artist for this collaborative endeavor. I gathered the text, then he supplied the images.

I encourage everyone to visit Ray’s blog for his stories and his website to see his photos, where images are available for purchase. I’ve invite Ray to respond to comments when he can, so feel free to ask him questions.

All photos are copyrighted by Ray Laskowitz @ Laskowitz Pictures

On the aFa U.N.

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I have written the following words on these pages on more than one occasion – The majority of the world is good.

I believe it. Even though the daily news across the world challenges that thought, I still believe it.

Think of all the conflicts across the globe centering on race, gender, religion, and ethnicity … yet, I still believe that the majority of the world is good.

Think of the areas with armed conflicts at the moment: Syria, Afghanistan, Cameroon, Iraq, Niger, Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mexico, Ukraine, Central African Republic, Yemen, Myanmar, Burundi, and more … yet, I still believe that the majority of the world is good.

Think of the current challenges between groups as Sunnis and Shiites, Christians and non-Christians, Catholics and Protestants, Whites and Blacks, Males and Females, Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, the rich and the poor, and more … yet, I still believe that the majority of the world is good.

Many, if not all, of the conflicts above center on power, greed, selfishness and getting people to conform to the ideals of others … yet, I still believe that the majority of the world is good.

My belief in humanity because of the interactions that I’ve encountered. I think of my dance friends from Vietnam, Lebanon, China, Guatemala, Romania, Ukraine, and the United States. They ground my hope in humanity and that the majority of the world is good.

I think of my English Second Language (ESL) students that I help from China, Mexico, Guatemala, Syria, Senegal, Italy, Palestine, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Vietnam, France, Poland, Kuwait, Germany, Japan, Mauritania, Russia, and the United States. They strengthen my hope in humanity and that the majority of the world is good.

I think of the many bloggers who have participated on these pages from Canada, UK, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, South Africa, Argentina, Malaysia, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Italy, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Finland, Norway, France, Lithuania, Ecuador, Pakistan, Ireland, United States, and others. They help fortify my hope in humanity and that the majority of the world is good.

I think of the many nice people I’ve encountered in Italy, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Estonia, Finland, Russia, Portugal, Canada, Croatia, various Caribbean islands, and across the United States. They reinforce my hope in humanity and that the majority of the world is good.

It’s all these people demonstrate the goodness of humanity … and it’s these people who would make a wonderful United Nations.