Saying Goodbye


October is a month of goodbyes. Summer has left, the calendar turns to another school year, leaves are turning, and people are getting back to their normal lives after the vacations and activities of another season. The warm sun has left and the rains have returned, with shorter days and colder nights, reminding me of the wheel of life.

This year, there are other goodbyes. Two of my young men I’ve been mentoring these past five, six years are packing up and moving on with their lives. One is going back to his home town, eager to find a job and begin the next chapter of his life. The other is soon off to adult prison, to serve four more years.

Today was our last day in the garden and greenhouse together. Their leaving was the elephant in the living room, and we were all beyond saying goodbye and making speeches around the fire. I was close to tears, and I sensed we were all just beyond words.

Our five years or six years together is a long time, especially in the lives of these young men. I’ve seen them mature, and gain insight and wisdom. They’ve become much better gardeners, and grown into healthy, productive young men.

They look at me and the other adults working in the garden as teachers, but they have both taught me so much about life and about courage and determination. We are friends and have been since almost the beginning of our time together.

Once again, I have learned the lesson of enjoying each precious moment with a good friend, and not assuming that good times together will just keep happening. Time has a way of cutting things short, reminding me that each day is a gift, something that is precious and cherished.

I’m often the doting parent, fussing over my kids. I worry that they are not yet ready to leave the nest and move on. But, they must. My task is to teach them how to fly and then let them go. I have done what I have needed to do, and now they must fly.

I say goodbye, and I will watch them flap their wings and soar into the sky and the next chapter in their young lives. I will cry, too, and I will miss their smiles and curiosity the next time I come to the garden, knowing that they are now strong young gardeners, able to tend their own gardens and keep growing strong and true.

Making A Difference: Eduardo Hernandez


   Eduardo Hernandez was a high school kid who was lost. I had the pleasure and honor of mentoring him and watching him grow into a successful, ambitious young man. He finished high school, and went on to earn his associates degree in criminal justice. Today, he is an up and coming juvenile probation officer, changing lives.

 

In this video, he talks about his life, and the impact he has had on youth at risk.

 

Eduardo Hernandez’ interview

Restrung and Resurrected


The old acoustic guitar hung on the back of the guitar rack in the all-purpose room at the prison camp. It was a “state guitar” as the boys called it, looking every one of its years, the wood dull and nicked up by all the young hands that had held it over the years. It looked out of place next to the fancy shiny electric guitars that some of the boys had, their “personal” guitars.

I would pick it up and play a little accompaniment when one of the guys was showing me a riff he had learned, or was playing a song he’d written. And, sometimes, when I was waiting to meet with one of the guys, I’d take a few minutes and play it. But, it was usually out of tune, and often, one of the strings had broken. It wasn’t as banged up as Willie Nelson’s “Trigger”, but it was moving down that road.

In the last few weeks, I noticed it looked sadder, more neglected than ever. All of its strings were missing, along with four of the six bridge pins that held the strings in place. Of course, no one could play it anymore, and it was getting dusty, and moved over into the corner of the room.

I was afraid someone would toss in the garbage. It deserved more respect than that. It was, after all, the “senior guitar” here, and had a long history of providing some joy to the lives of the incarcerated youth who’ve come through this place, year after year.

The guitar was here when I first started coming, six or seven years ago, and it has been well used by perhaps more than several hundred young men who have held it in their hands, and picked out a tune or a chord or two or three. Young guitarists of every range of talent here have enjoyed its decent, respectable voice and have had it bring some joy into their lives. Perhaps it has saved some lives, as well.

I wasn’t going to give up on the old guitar, a “Johnson”, not a trendy or fancy name in musical instruments. It had earned my respect, though, for being its stubborn self and for bringing joy to many a young man. I wasn’t going to just let it slip by the wayside. I was determined to bring it back to life. “Mr. Johnson” deserved better.

I was in the city a few days ago and decided to stop at the guitar store, to see if they had some extra bridge pins. They did, for fifty cents a piece, and I invested in a good set of strings, too.

Today, I was back at the prison camp, and brought the strings, the pins, and my tools for changing strings and tuning up the guitar. A few of the young men gathered around as I went about my tasks, asking questions, and offering a hand as the strings and pins began to provide us with a guitar with actual strings and the beginnings of some notes.

“Mr. Johnson” was coming back to life, and he had attracted a growing fan club.

Our flash mob guitar string changing class attracted others, followed by a robust discussion of string replacement theory and whether each string was properly tuned.

At last, we reached consensus. I clipped off the ends of the strings, and handed Mr. Johnson to the first young man who had come to help. He hesitated, claiming he didn’t know how to play, and others soon were standing in line to test our work. But, he gave it a tender strum and grinned from ear to ear.

Smiles appeared, as the guitar made its way around the circle, and a few stories were told, of how they enjoyed playing it, the quality of its sound, and the good times that centered around the old guitar. They enjoyed hearing Mr. Johnson being resurrected, returning to their lives as tool for some personal joy and satisfaction.

I put away my tools, and headed off to my meeting with a young man, as the guitar was carefully taken outside, to be played by our flash mob guitar restringers.

Near the end of the day, I came back to the prison, meeting with some other young men in another part of the prison. Where I parked was close to the work camp and their outside recreation area. When I walked out to leave, I heard a guitar and young men singing, and saw them gathered around in the twilight, playing the old acoustic guitar.

Their voices filled the prison camp yard, a freshly written song being sung in earnest, filling my heart with joy. My eyes watered up, too. It must have been the dust in the air.

Yet another story was being created tonight, of young men and songs, and friendships being forged around the playing of that guitar, reborn and doing its work once again.

When I got into my truck, I came across the receipt from the guitar store. Six guitar pegs, $3, and a new set of good strings, $14. It was the best money I’d spent in a long time, small change for the price of some big smiles on the faces of those young men, and resurrecting Mr. Johnson.

–Neal Lemery, July 13, 2016

Becoming Worthy of Himself: Reflections on the Master Gardeners’ Class at OYA.


“Tim” is fully engaged. His hand flies up; he’s ready with the answer. This newest Master Gardener apprentice shares his observations, his conclusions, and where we should go next with our work. He’s read and re-read the text, and answered the homework questions with confidence.

Today’s topic in our Master Gardeners’ class is soils. Our teacher gets into it quickly, leading us through the various dimensions, the biology, the chemistry, the geology, and the mystery of it all. And Tim is in the middle of it, soaking it up, loving the complexity, and engaging in the thinking our teacher is calling us to do. His mental wheels are turning fast.

I’m Tim’s mentor, and today, a tutor, a teacher’s aide. My work is easy, a few words of encouragement, an occasional observation. I sit back and just enjoy him for who he has become.

A few years ago, he was lost. He’d done his required work in the youth prison, even finishing high school and then helping others. But, nothing fired up his passion, and life here was becoming just a matter of serving out the rest of his sentence.

Then, he discovered the garden, and the mystery of cultivating that is the joy and the passion of gardening. Wonderful things happened here, and he could be a part of that. He could be the magician and the scientist, the expert on various bugs and herbs, growing into a nurturer and a teacher. Tim was becoming the plant, sending out roots, spreading his leaves, and thriving in this newly discovered soil in his life.

Knowledge and the ability to be a part of the wonders of nurturing life, and exploring the unlimited world of plants and bugs touched his heart. He belonged in this work, and it fed his soul.

Now, the Master Gardeners class is his focus, and he has embraced it with everything in his being. He is in the midst of this class of questioners, deep thinkers in the ever expanding world of common, every day dirt.

I help him work through the math formulas and problems for the fertilizer questions. I watch him realize that the dull, abstract work in his math classes is nothing like the excitement of learning how best to fertilize his garden, and make his plants grow.

“This is fun,” he says.

He laughs then, shaking his head.

“I never thought I’d say that math problems are fun.”

We look at the slides of plants with various deficiencies from their soil, and talk about how to correct that, improving the plants by improving the soil and the nutrients, applying our newly found knowledge and thinking. He is becoming the botanist, the chemist, the scientist, the better lover of life itself.

He smiles, he scribbles notes, he’s totally absorbed in what we are doing, and where this class is taking him.

Tomorrow, he’ll be out in the garden, working his magic, growing his roots, growing into a healthy, complete man.

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” –E E Cummings.

–Neal Lemery 4/19/2016

Speaking about Mentoring…


Tillamook Kiwanis Banquet Speech

Neal Lemery

September 30, 2015

Thank you. It is a pleasure to be with you on this special evening, as you honor your organization, and your service to our community. This is a sweet and special celebration of good works.

Kiwanians have always been known for your service and your dedication to improving the lives of others. You make a difference.

You bring about change, and you are people who change other people’s lives.

The famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead, said, “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have.”

I believe that each one of us is a powerful instrument of change. When I worked as a judge, I saw that people were hungry to change their lives, but many people simply didn’t know where to begin. Life was too overwhelming, and they had been told throughout their life that they were failures, and weren’t good enough to achieve success and realize their dreams.

And, most people don’t have anyone to believe in them, who believe that a person can take those few hesitant steps forward in the right direction, and start changing their life.

You and I don’t accept that model of how the world works. We believe in making a difference, and bringing about change, one person at a time.

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I’m a strong believer in teaching by example, and the power of mentoring.

Every one of us needs a strong person in our corner, someone who is our champion, our cheerleader — someone who believes in us, and where we are going.

When I was growing up, and, indeed, throughout my life, I had the benefit of strong, compassionate people — people who believed in me, and believed that I could achieve great things, and realize my dreams. My mentors weren’t Superman, and they didn’t have magical powers. But, they believed in me, and took the time to encourage me, to support me, and to give a nudge now and then, during the times when the going got tough, and the road ahead was rocky.

It is astonishing to me that there is such great power in a few kind words, and some time spent over a cup of coffee, offering the hand of friendship and a little push in the right direction.

I had the benefit of good parents, and growing up in times when there were strong families and vibrant, caring neighborhoods and communities. I grew up with a sense of optimism and hope, in a time when our nation’s leadership challenged us to travel to the Moon, and to “think not what our country can do for you, but what you can do for the country.”

Leaders challenged us to dream, and to declare war on poverty, racism, and ignorance.

Today, our country faces great challenges, and, once again, we are rising to the challenge of making a difference, and improving lives.

Our tasks are not easy.

I work with young men in prison who are fatherless. Most of my kids haven’t had a visit from family in over a year, and most of the time, its four or five years. In their world, anger and disappointment, and living without hope has been the norm.

The national statistics are shocking:

85% of youths in prison come from fatherless homes.

90% of homeless and runaway kids come from fatherless homes.

85% of the kids who have behavioral problems come from fatherless homes.

71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.

And, 63% of kids committing suicide come from fatherless homes.

Not having a strong, healthy father figure in a young person’s life has a huge impact on their life. That’s not rocket science, by any means, but society in general doesn’t seem to get too worked up about that. But I know I can change those statistics.

I’m all about change. You’re all about change. How does each of us make that happen?

I believe it starts one person at a time. And, that means one cup of coffee at a time, one chat with a kid in your neighborhood, one handshake, a few kind words to someone who is struggling. Its taking on the work of a father or a mother with a kid who needs a healthy adult in their life, someone who takes an interest in them, someone who cares.

It truly takes a village to raise a child.

I go to prison every week, and visit some kids. I spend time in their garden, helping them with their plants, teaching them something they didn’t know about gardening. And, there are so many other lessons to learn there, not only for those young men, but for me.

I meet with young men one on one, too. I drink coffee and talk with some kids about their school work, and how they are changing their lives. I try to be a consistent, positive role model, someone who cares about their lives and where they are going.

I don’t do this work by showing up as Mr. Expert, or putting on the black robe of a judge and lecturing them about the law and responsibility. Instead, I show up as just me. I meet them on their own terms, and become their friend. I listen, I support them, I cheer them on. And, most importantly, I believe in them.

We are fortunate to have the Youth Authority in our community. It is a place of healing, and a place of great change. The teachers there set high standards, and, every week, I see young men getting their lives in order, and making the changes they need to make. It is a place of hope and a place of courage.

Most of the guys out there tell me that being in that prison is the best thing that’s ever happened to them. It’s a place where someone cares about them, and where they are safe, and can make the changes they need to make.

You do this work, too. You are out in the community, meeting kids and other folks on their own terms. You’re out there volunteering, doing service work. And, people see that. They see your example, and they know that you care. You are people of action, people who are changing the world, one person at a time.

You listen, you encourage, you help them light their candles, so that they can find their way in life. And, they find their way because they know you are there, that you care about them, and that you are willing to spend the time with them that they need.

You are the builders of this community and you are the builders of the men and women of the next generation. I commend you for that, and I congratulate you on doing the hardest job there is to do. You care about someone, and motivate them to feel that they are worthwhile human beings.

In that, you change the world.

Thank you for all that you do.

Growing Our Garden


 

 

On Fridays, I garden. I drive down the road to a community garden, ready for a morning of planting, weeding and, often, harvesting.

I join a group of young men, and we set to work. Together, we tackle our list of chores and get the jobs done. I work up a good sweat, my muscles get tired, and we add a few smudges of dirt to our faces. We laugh, sharing the simple joys of a day in the garden.

We take a break and look at what we’ve accomplished. Every week brings new projects, and fresh results.

We surround ourselves with all the elements of a healthy garden.   We make sure we use substantial and complex soil, rich fertilizer, fresh air, sunshine, water, and tender care. Each plant gets its own place in the garden, and is encouraged to flourish. If there is a need for water or fertilizer or a little pruning, we are quick to respond, doing our work in nurturing and care taking.

The plants look great, but we’ve really been growing healthy young men.

And these young men flourish. They get the attention and care they need. They find their place in our work, and are encouraged to send their roots down into the soil. They open themselves to the warmth and sunshine we all share. They are hungry for this work, and eagerly take on their roles in raising chickens, planting seeds, in the designing and building of raised beds, compost bins, and trellises. They learn to plan their projects, to plant and harvest. Over the fire, they cook a meal from the vegetables they have grown, tasting and savoring what their hands have grown in the dirt, nourishing themselves with what they have grown.

They become connected to the earth, and the food that they eat. The garden sunshine brightens their lives and feeds their souls. They build community in their work and by their conversations around the campfire.

For many of them, this is their first experience at growing things, and in being caretakers. They become gardeners, not just of their community garden, but of their own lives. In their work, they make the connection between this work and the work they are doing to rebuild their lives, growing into healthy young men.

We do this work behind a prison fence, yet there are freedoms here these young men have never had. They grow here, encouraged to find themselves, and to see themselves as more than men scarred by the traumas and poisons of troubled, directionless childhoods. This is a place of new beginnings, new opportunities. Old wounds are healed and they can move ahead, becoming healthy men.

I treasure the simple moments, the quiet, one-on-one time with a young man, as we plant a flower box, or weed the potatoes, slice some tomatoes, or pick and shell some beans. Just a couple of gardeners, but so much more goes on here, more than the eye can see.

Sometimes, we sit around the campfire, cooking some food, toasting a marshmallow or roasting a hot dog, or just reflecting on what we’ve done in the garden. Soon, stories are being told, experiences shared, observations made. Guys being their true selves, deepening their friendships, and talking about their growing strengths and talents. They are farmers talking about their crops, and how they are making some improvements, tending their crops, growing their lives.

I’m the old man in this crowd, the guy with the gray hair, who just shows up and offers a helping hand, maybe a word or two of advice. I like to be quiet, taking it all in, letting them take the lead in whatever we are working on, watching them ask their questions and talk out the solutions, finding answers.

They need to be in charge here, the gardeners of their own garden. Part of our harvest is growing strong leaders, people who can take charge of their own lives, and make their own way in life.

They come up to me, wanting me to notice their work. They ask me questions, seeking my advice, and not just about gardening.

They are hungry young men, hungry for attention, for someone to affirm them, and recognize them for the goodness they hold inside of themselves. I show up, say good morning, and ask them how they are doing. We work together, as farmers and as life long learners of how to live a good, productive life. The other adults at the garden do that too, and the young men respond with smiles, their eyes sparkling with enthusiasm.

We take time to measure our harvest, counting and weighing our produce, admiring the beauty and abundance of what the boys have grown.

Yet, there is more to the harvest than all the tomatoes and corn, chicken eggs and dried herbs. I count the smiles and the looks of pride and confidence I see in their faces. These young men have grown this summer in so many ways than what we see in their vegetables and flowers.

Their strength and their resilience shine in their faces today, and their newfound abilities to grow their own lives is the real essence of the harvest of our garden.

 

 

–Neal Lemery 9/14/2015

Taking Flight


 

Proud young eagle
healthy at last, eyes keen
for all that lies ahead. He
looks back at chains he has broken,
today the beginning of his new life,
ready to
fly.

Strong now, ready in all ways
he dreams of taking flight,
stretching, flapping his wings
under his own power,
gaining altitude, able to look down
over his world, choosing where he will
truly live, flying on his own,
eyes focused on his dreams.

Taking off, wings long, catching the wind
gaining height, every muscle ready,
focused on what is ahead, what will come
in his airborne world,
ready, finally to
fly.

Today, the door will open and he will go,
wings outspread, flapping strong,
his young heart filled with purpose,
knowing what is right,
at last, believing in his true self.

No longer broken, no longer afraid,
at ease in his own soaring
high above the ground,
living his dreams, knowing his
purpose, and where he will
go.

—-Neal Lemery 4/2015

Gathering At The Tree Stump


 

He knelt down by the fresh stump, his finger counting the rings.

“Thirty seven,” he said.

The group of young men talked about the tree that had stood in the small grove of pine trees in the prison yard. I asked them to look at the tree stump, and the story it told about the life of the tree, planted when this youth correctional camp first began, the tree a witness for all the young lives that had been transformed here.

They were astonished that tree trunks had rings, that the rings could tell the story of the tree, of winters and summers, good years, and lean, of the fertility of the soil, the amount of rain.  Other young men reached out, too, touching the rough wood cut by the chainsaw, feeling the sawdust, the ooze of the pine pitch.

“Smell it, taste it if you want,” I said.  “You can taste the freshness of pine.”

Only one man was brave enough to take me up on my offer, touching his finger to the fresh gob of pine pitch, his eyes widening when his tongue confirmed my opinion.

“This is where turpentine comes from,” I said.

His puzzled look told me he had no idea what I was talking about.

“Turpentine.  Paint thinner.  It comes from pine trees.”

He nodded, taking in the new concept, gaining a new appreciation of the trees.  Until now they just offered shade, where young men could gather for a conversation, maybe a visit with family on a sunny day.  Three times a day, on the way to chow, they passed by these trees.

These trees were just familiar things, ordinary pine trees, until we stopped to count the rings and stick fingers into pine tar.

We talked about the pine tree’s story, how it had thrived its first five years. Then, the other trees started to shade it and compete for nutrients.  We looked, seeing how the growth slowed, the rings tight in its final years.  History was being told in a new way.

We had spent the morning talking about plants and gardening, how to think about designing a place of beauty in the world, a place of quiet and growth, places of new beginnings.  Their questions of their teachers showed their eagerness to learn new ways of nurturing a garden, to make something more beautiful through their work.

In the greenhouse, they had repotted young seedlings, making way for tender young roots to grow bigger, helping the coming summer’s vegetable garden prosper by their early spring work on the  potting bench.

With cut down cardboard boxes and potting soil, and bits of plants cut from the teacher’s garden, they fashioned their visions of what their own gardens and yards would be.  Pebbles and colored stones became rock walls and paths, and tiny paper cups were ponds and pools. Their dreams came to life. Proudly, they showed the rest of us how they wanted their homes would be, how they would bring beauty and nature into their lives.

While we made labels for seedlings, and chose the plants that needed repotting, several young men and I talked about our own lives and why we were gardeners, how that job fit into our lives, of pruning and weeding, and choosing the right soil and fertilizer for our journeys.

Looking at the stumps and the remaining trees, we talked about the planters of the trees, what they envisioned, how they planted the trees, what they wanted to accomplish.  We talked about why we plant trees, and how we care for them.

When someone mentioned nurturing young lives, the young men silently nodded.

As rain moved in, we left the pine tree stump, and the rest of the pines, having new answers for how the trees came to be there in the prison yard, and how the remaining trees were going to grow.  One man turned back, looking at the stump, his hand rising to his mouth for one more taste of the pine.

He smiled, and stood just a little taller.

4/4/15

A Review from Tom Bender


This review is from: Mentoring Boys to Men:: Climbing Their Own Mountains (Paperback)
“Neal is amazing, and his story is a wonderful and important gift to us all. I’d never thought of jail as a safe and secure place for healing and growing, but his stories of what these young men had lived through as children – wow.

“And here is a guy – a judge – who doesn’t close the door and go home at 5pm. He goes and visits those kids in jail – giving them support, a birthday party (something they’ve NEVER had), giving them someone who believes in them and their possibilities, someone who can help heal hearts from the heart. He shows, and lives, the power of GIVING to change our world and heal the pain passed on from generation to generation.

“He shows the power of living with an open heart, willing to share, question, listen to all without reservation. What he offers in this book is simple, but incredibly powerful.”

Purging Violence In My Life


I think it is time for a break.
I spent a day this weekend at an environmental summit, in the presence of the Dalai Lama, along with 10,000 other people, people who cared enough about their spiritual lives and humankind’s impact on the environment to spend a gorgeous spring day inside, listening and absorbing wisdom and spirituality not only from the spiritual leader of Tibet, but also other wise and thought-provoking leaders.
I came away invigorated, stimulated by the sheer simplicity of their wisdom, and their ideas to change how we live, and what we are here on this planet to accomplish.
A week earlier, I had gone to the movies with my wife, sitting through a showing of the latest superhero blockbuster, nearly two hours of loud explosions, terrorism, weapons gadgetry, and death. Oh, the good guys “won” in the end, and all was right with the world, and all the violence and death was just “fantasy”.
I’m not sure my mind could really tell the difference, and during the next few days, I felt disoriented, out of sorts, not in tune with who I strive to be, and how I want to live my life.
Now, the contrast from watching the movie and listening to an inspiring talk about compassion and one’s purpose in life, and how we can serve others, churns inside of me. The two experiences, a week apart, have left me feeling incongruent, conflicted, not easily reconciled.
I visit our local youth prison quite a bit, mentoring young men who are locked up for six or seven years, men who have worked on their addictions, their anger, their rage, and the abuse they’ve experienced, and inflicted on others, men who are trying to move on with their lives, trying to find some peace, and some purpose for their rejuvenated, rehabilitated lives.
Violence and rage hasn’t suited them very well, and they are paying the price. Our society has come up with the simplistic solution of locking them up in prison, with a mandatory prison term, and no incentive to earn time off for good behavior, for truly changing their lives. Such thinking does its share in contributing to anger and rage, and feeling separated, distanced from the community.
I suppose there is the argument that society is being protected, and they are being punished. Yet, there are a lot of costs that we are all paying, and will pay in the future, for such an approach to dealing with kids who’ve been neglected, abused, growing up without parents, in households ravaged by addiction and violence and indifference.
Does the possibility of seven years in prison really become a factor in the twisted insanity of drugs, neglect, abuse, and sexuality in a fourteen year old, whose brain has yet to achieve any rational degree of processing and controlling emotion? Somehow, deterrence doesn’t seem to be an effective argument for mandatory prison time for these man children, not in this highly sexualized and drug promoting culture.
A friend of mine often says, “what we permit, we promote.”
I often wonder what we could accomplish in their lives, if the $200 plus dollars a day taxpayers spend to keep each one of these young men in prison had been spent early on in their lives, so that we invested in their childhood, and offered hope, and opportunity, and emotional support, that they may not have ended up here, watching the calendar, a bit fearful of how they are going to cope with being out of prison, how they are going to manage their lives.
Not having a father in their lives is the norm with the young men I visit, and they feel physically abandoned, emotionally cut off, flawed. That hunger eats into them, into their souls.
During family visiting time on Mothers’ Day, only eight youth, out of the seventy five imprisoned there, were visited by their families. As I visited with two young men, hearing more about their lives, their hopes, and their dreams, and hopefully instilling a little emotional support and healthy values as we sipped coffee and played a game, I looked at the empty tables, thinking of families not being there for their sons.
And, that is a form of violence in our world, not being there, not being involved in the lives of young men.
Such violence is not that far removed from the senseless Boston Marathon bombings, or the gang-related shootings in New Orleans during their Mothers’ Day parade, shootings that injured nineteen people out for a day with their families, celebrating a bit of parenting, a bit of maternal love and nurturance.
There is a simple reason we have gangs in our country. They offer the feeling of family, the belonging that young men crave.
And that blockbuster “super hero” movie, it remains the most popular movie on Mothers’ Day weekend.
I can understand why all the ticket-holders for the super hero movie may not be as eager to spend their time listening to an elderly Tibetan monk share his thoughts about human compassion, and how we can change our intentions and our attitudes, and thereby change how we live, and how our community functions. After all, there aren’t any robotic fantasy gadgets and special effects, no exploding bombs and crashing planes, and bullet defying armor to keep up on the edge of our seats. There aren’t any computer animated soundtracks, and a plot where the good guy destroys the bad guys in a burst of light, and color, and noise, loud enough to shake my seat.
Instead, there is a calm, thoughtful voice, and a thoughtful soul-feeding discussion about who we really are, and what we can truly be capable of, if only we use our brains and our hearts.
I’m going to spend my time now a bit differently, more of thinking about compassion, more about living my real values, and a lot less time in the movie theatre, or keeping up with the latest headline news shows.

Neal Lemery, April 13, 2013