A Few Words on Blasphemy Day

September 30, 2016


Today is Blasphemy Day, an international “celebration” of speaking up against religion and religious laws. I am all for the separation of church and state. I’m against any laws based on religion — laws are made to protect citizens, not promote any agendas. I’m also very glad I live in a country that allows people to stand up for what they believe in, whatever those beliefs may be. However, I don’t like any religious ideologies being shoved down my throat. Similarly, I don’t need to have non-believers shouting about how ridiculous religion is, which is what Blasphemy Day has become in many cases.

Religion is probably the world’s leading cause of war, hate, fear, guilt, and anxiety. I can’t imagine a God who would willingly put His creations through the suffering that we humans are suffocated by on a daily basis. Are we all just some school project that the Lord is working on? Are we rats in a cage being tortured by a Master, seeing what lengths we will go to in order to receive a piece of everlasting cheese? I don’t think so, but it isn’t my place to criticize those who believe. It’s counter-productive. I have better things to do.

There’s a thought that’s been regurgitated by philosophers for thousands of years, which basically states: a wise man realizes he knows nothing. This belief is paradoxical and somewhat self-deprecating…and pretty damn perfect. Count me in.

Today, like every day, we have a choice. We can criticize those who believe differently, or we can accept it and move on to fight more useful battles. Some will put their faith in religious texts, some will put their faith in science. Both of these leave plenty of room for error and modification. I will choose to put my faith in those of any religion, or lack thereof, who use their energy towards making the world a bit better for everyone living in it. If there is a God — and I can’t say that there isn’t — I think it’s what He would want; taking care of each other and our world. Let’s be good to each other. Anything else seems like blasphemy to me.

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Today is International Day of Peace. This year’s theme is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace,” and emphasizes ending poverty, protecting the planet, and creating prosperity for all. These are nice, lofty goals, and I hope significant progress is made in each area.

However, today — and every day — I think it’s important to focus on what peace really means. What begins the process of ending poverty, protecting the planet, and creating prosperity? What makes people want to be better as a whole? What can you and I do on a daily basis to make a difference?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Mother Teresa: “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” In other words, teach those close to you the importance of loving our families, our neighbors, and ourselves. Show kindness and respect to everyone. Take responsibility for our neighborhoods. If we all did this on a local, personal level, it would naturally start to take hold globally. Perhaps this sounds naive and over-simplified, but to me it makes perfect sense. Some are doing it already, and seeing results. But not enough.

When we tune into any news source, we are bombarded with stories of violence and hate. It’s true that the good news — and there is good news — doesn’t get the airtime it deserves, but there are a lot of bad things going on out there on this planet we must share. If everyone had been brought up being taught the need for kindness and generosity, would we have different newscasts today? If criminals had a parent or someone else tucking them in at night, saying “I love you,” would the world be a better place? If you and I made an effort to simply genuinely smile and say “hello” to the many different people we encounter each day, would it make a tiny impact? The answer is definitely yes.

If you find that these things are difficult for you to do, I have to think that you may need to make peace with yourself. It took me many years to figure it out, but I can promise you that being kind will not only make a difference to those around you, it will also change your own life in ways you can’t imagine. Forgiveness is a breath of fresh air. Positivity trumps negativity every time. And, most importantly, loving feels so much better than hating. To any naysayers rolling your eyes and assuming I’m some kind of tree-hugger, I assure you that peace has nothing to do with being a hippie. Peace is about being happy, and happiness is damn nice.

So on International Day of Peace, please go home and love your family. Make it a priority to teach — and show — those around you the importance of love, kindness, respect, and generosity. These are truly sustainable goals. Spreading love in our own home is the first and best building block to peace. Pass it on.

 

Photo Credit: Audrey Bowers

There’s a good chance that you haven’t heard about today being National Teacher Appreciation Day, which is a shame and a bit ironic. I’ve been working as a substitute teacher all school year. I’ve been to a number of different schools, and have interacted with many teachers. What have I learned? We are so lucky to have teachers, and should never take them for granted.

The majority of uninformed people seem to think teachers have it pretty easy. They mostly babysit all day and get summers off. Sure, they don’t make much, but why should they? If you fall into this category, let me try to enlighten you a bit.

Being a teacher is a largely thankless job. A teaching degree with a state teaching certification usually requires more than four years of college (without a Master’s Degree, which is highly recommended), classrooms are typically too full, resources are almost always very limited (many teachers buy classroom supplies with their own money and are not reimbursed), oh and yes, the pay is not very good. So bad that many work a second job in the summer.

Teachers are educators, mentors, and friends. Sometimes they are more involved than parents in their students’ lives. They spend evenings and weekends planning lessons and grading papers. They deal with bullies, offer a shoulder to cry on, break up fights, inspire our next generation, and get vomited on. Teachers are expected to keep students in line and well-behaved, yet routinely get harassed by uninformed parents for mistreating their kids. It’s all in a day’s work. Oh, and the pay is not very good.

How bad is the pay? Depending on the source, an average elementary school teacher makes about $44,000 a year. To put that in perspective, let’s look at the average pay of a few other professions:

Accountant – $66,000

Physical Therapist – $82,000

Chef – $53,000

Computer Systems Analyst – $86,000

Podiatrist (yes, a foot doctor) – $121,000

Cartographer (correct, a map maker) – $61,000

Teachers are largely responsible for preparing our children for adulthood, yet they make significantly less than a cartographer. By the way, no one with a cell phone uses a map anymore.

I ask many of the teachers I meet if they like what they do. Almost all of them say yes. Not one has ever said they like their job because they get the summer off. They don’t usually mention that they wish the pay was better (although I know they do). Most admit it can be very frustrating. However, I can’t think of an instance where a teacher hasn’t mentioned that their job is rewarding.

I was talking to a younger, male teacher about a month ago. “I could go make a lot of money and probably still enjoy my job — maybe even like it more,” he said. “But I’m doing this because I have a chance to make these kids’ lives a little better.” I believe this to be how most teachers feel, and think it helps define the type of person that most teachers are. As a father of two school-aged children, it certainly makes me feel a little more at ease.

Teaching may be an underpaid, largely thankless profession, but teachers seem pretty happy to me. They should be, they have the opportunity to genuinely make the world better. On National Teacher Appreciation Day — and every other day — I’d like to offer a very sincere “thank you.”

  
September is one of my favorite months. It’s a time when a lot of good change is taking place, like the kids going back to school, cooler temperatures, leaves changing colors, and the start of football season. My wedding anniversary is in September. I can get away with wearing shorts and a sweatshirt in much of September. And, this year, the Kansas City Royals are poised to clinch a division pennant for the first time in 30 years…in September.

We also have a national holiday this month. Everyone is aware of Labor Day, you know, when we celebrate having jobs by taking a day off, but how many Americans are aware of the many “unofficial” national holidays that fall in September (or any month, for that matter)? Let’s take look at a few of the highlights:

September 2

National V-J Day — This of course means “Victory in Japan,” and celebrates the surrender of Japan in WWII. This is not to be confused with B-J Day, which in my house usually falls on my birthday. Sometimes. September 2 is also National Blueberry Popsicle Day…what a coincidence.

September 4

National Lazy Mom’s Day — No comment.

National Hug Your Boss Day — As a former “boss,” let me just say that I never (ever) wanted a hug. I didn’t want anyone coming in my office, let alone anyone providing a loving embrace to my torso. Not a good day.

September 8

National Pediatric Hematology Day — I know this is one day we never fail to celebrate in our house. So much fun!

September 10

National Swap Ideas Day and National TV Dinner Day — “Hey pal, I got an idea, you might wanna consider eating healthier.”

September 12

National Day of Encouragement — I like the idea behind this one, and feel like our nation has what it takes to make it happen. “C’mon, we got this.”

September 13

National Defy Superstition Day and National Fortune Cookie Day — “Hey Larry, that was some damn good Chinese food, huh? Don’t forget a fortune cookie. It’s bad luck not to eat them.”

“Forget about it, Bob. Today is National Defy Superstition Day, so I’m staying away from those!”

“Whoa hang on there, Larry. It’s seriously bad luck not to at least read your fortune, plus it’s National Fortune Cookie Day.”

“Oh crap, yeah okay, lemme have one.”

September 14

National Eat a Hoagie Day — Does anyone outside of Philadelphia actually use the term “hoagie” anymore? It just sounds creepy.

September 18

National Double Cheeseburger Day — Much better than hoagies.

September 19

National Big Whopper Liar Day — Say wha?

September 20

National Wife Appreciation Day — “Honey, I love you so much and am so sorry for lying to you yesterday.”

September 21

National Alzheimer’s Day — Sadly, this one is often forgotten.

September 23

National Bi-Sexuality Day — “Hey Larry, what are you doin’ this afternoon…”

September 25

National Math Story Telling Day — Because only the best stories include some mathematics.

September 26

National Pancake Day and National Family Fitness Day — Visit an IHOP and a park, and it’ll be pretty obvious what families are observing which days.

September 27

National Crush a Can Day — “Who else is a freakin’ bad-ass like me (crushes can)?”

September 29

National Attend Your Grandchild’s Birthday — “Um, today’s not my birthday, Grandma.”

“I know, Timmy, but I’m here and happy birthday anyway.”

Living in such a heavy world, it’s good to have a little fun. Have a great September, everyone.