I, too, sing America.

When I was young I sang loudly.
I learned what they wanted, minded my manners, recited the pledge.
My white friends and I pedaled our bicycles through suburbia, swam the summer away, and sat in our air-conditioned homes watching MTV when the heat was simply too much to bear — sometimes it was so hot.
Just living the American dream…

Two decades passed and I wasn’t sure what had happened.
I had a wife and a mortgage, two kids and two cars.
My pockets were full but my stomach felt sick.
I was sleep-walking through life,
Just living the American dream…

Then, one day, I turned into the wind and woke with a start.
Dirt stung my face as I walked our gritty streets.
I saw people with dreams of their own —
Like living in that big house on the hill,
And driving that big fancy car,
And wearing those nice clothes that the pretty people wear in the magazines left in the trash cans.
Like finding a bite to eat and a way to make their children warm again — sometimes it gets so cold.
Yes, we all have an American dream…

So while I lost my faith, I found some purpose.
And tomorrow I will continue to trudge along, singing my song and trying to make some tiny difference.
Because I, too, sing America.
And I’m wide awake.

Amelia’s Wish 

February 28, 2016

 

Litter is a big problem. Amelia Meyer is part of the solution.

I just spent the morning picking up trash. I’ve actually done this twice in the last year, because I felt like I should — it was never something I looked forward to. This morning I did it because I wanted to. I was truly inspired.

I hope by now you have heard of Amelia Meyer. If you haven’t, you need to. Amelia is an eight-year-old girl who happens to go to my daughter’s school in Kansas City, Missouri. She is battling brain cancer, and was given a chance to make her dreams come true by Make-A-Wish Missouri, the local chapter of the wonderful foundation that helps children with life-threatening illnesses.

Most children might wish to travel to Disney World, meet a famous person, or do something similar that sounds fun and exciting. Obviously there is nothing wrong with this — it is what I would expect any kid to want, including my own. After all, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so any typical kid would be licking their chops. Amelia’s wish was quite different, however. She decided to “take care of the world” by picking up trash at local parks. Saying this is not your average child’s idea of fun is a huge understatement.

Amelia was originally inspired to pick up trash during walks she took with her grandmother. Now her selfless wish has inspired countless numbers of others — not just in Kansas City, but reaching far beyond. I have read about people cleaning up litter in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Louisiana, California, Oregon and Washington, as well as in Germany and Dubai. It’s simply amazing, and new reports continue to come in.

Something else that’s amazing is how Amelia — someone who might have wished to meet a celebrity — has become quite the celebrity, herself. Although I’m sure she isn’t very interested, the amount of news and social media coverage that this event received yesterday (I had to work, which is why I partook today), and continues to receive, is remarkable. In fact, actual local celebrities joined in and are talking about her. Sly James, our mayor, declared February 27 as “Amelia Meyer Take Care of the World Day.” I applaud the declaration, but would rather see people continue to be inspired to do their part for the world every day — which I believe is all Amelia really wants.

The cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” I have no doubt that we will hear from Amelia Meyer again in the future. Like her wish, she will live on and will someday change the world. Indeed, she already has.

For anyone who doesn’t have access to the internet…or television, or radio, or newspapers, or any other form of media, I should inform you that today is National Doughnut Day (and also World Environment Day, but that’s apparently much less important).  Ever wonder how or why this fattening tradition got started?  I assumed it was created by some struggling baker who wasn’t making enough “dough” (sorry, I couldn’t resist).  You know, kind of like a “Hallmark holiday;” a day that was invented as a marketing ploy.  So, I did a little research.

It turns out that National Doughnut Day got its start in 1938 as a fundraiser for the Salvation Army.  They decided on “doughnut” day because female Salvation Army volunteers had handed out doughnuts, among other supplies, on the front lines in France during WWI.  (These “Doughnut Lassies,” later more commonly referred to as “Doughnut Dollies,” continued to supply troops with doughnuts until the end of the Vietnam War.)  Today, nearly 80 years after its inception, the Salvation Army still uses the day to raise money, and many local and national doughnut shops donate a portion of their sales.

It’s nice to know that there is a good cause behind National Doughnut Day, or Day From Hell, as it’s probably referred to by those in the industry.  I feel like less of a sucker for taking my kids to get doughnuts today, regardless of whether or not our local shop was donating.  I hope they were, of course.  I’m quite sure, based on the line out the door and the depleted supply of dunkable delights, that the shop could afford to help the cause.

I will probably decide not to participate in the upcoming “national days,” including National Russian Language Day (June 6), National VCR Day (June 7), National Donald Duck Day (June 9), National Ballpoint Pen Day (June 10), and National Beef Jerky Day (June 12).  I will just wait until the more widely known, but still in need of attention, National Father’s Day (June 19, by the way).

Now you know that today is a national day worth supporting, so grab a doughnut and hope that some of your money is going to a good cause.  If nothing else, enjoy indulging a little on a Friday.  My kids certainly did.