Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In a Month

February comes and goes; invested, not spent

A bit like my resolution to commute to and from work on my bicycle at least 100 days in 2014, I also resolved to blog more frequently. My excuse for not commuting via cycling is pretty sound: lots of snow and ice and zero-range temperatures. My excuse for not blogging? I have none.

I've started a few rants since my last blog post, but they lost steam before I could arrange a coherent post. That's typically a good sign to me that the rant was more steam than substance. But, just as likely, it could mean that I'm either too busy or not disciplined enough to complete the thought and make the post.

I intend to return to the rants about barriers to reentry, income inequality, and worker justice. They deserve more than passing rants. I care deeply about the issues, and they relate directly both to community building and faith living.

It's been a busy month. Beyond my day-to-day work of guiding a nonprofit community development corporation (CDC) that works to restore abandoned houses and build community opportunities in an urban Indianapolis neighborhood, I invest volunteer energies in Freewheelin' Community Bikes and Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ).

This month, as Chair of the Board of Directors for Freewheelin' Community Bikes, I facilitated a new board member orientation and board retreat, as well as participated in interviews for a new bike shop manager/mechanic.  Related to IWJ, I am helping to form a local Worker Justice Center and planning a 600-mile fundraising and awareness raising bike tour.

Additionally, this month I prepared and presented a one-hour presentation of my 600-mile bike ride through Kenya for the Speaker Series of Central Indiana Bicycling Association (CIBA) in the downtown Central Library. That was fun, but took good chunk of spare time.

In lieu of cycling to work, I've picked up running 5 K's on a treadmill at LA Fitness every other evening or so. Becky and I go there together for the sake of fitness. It's also a good way to beat the physical inertia of midwinter.

And then, there was (were?) the Winter Olympics. That was enjoyable and inspiring to take in over two weeks.

So, that's how a month has been invested. Not spent--invested. I'm privileged to have these capacities,  opportunities, and relationships. I intend to steward them and this time as creatively and renewingly as possible.

Here's to March!


John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
www.indybikehiker.com
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sochi: Beyond Politics

I will be looking for my Russian neighbor in the eyes and faces of the crowd during the Sochi Olympics



Before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, begin, let me just way that I’m looking forward not only to an awesome festival of international sport, but to learning something—beyond typical, shallow, divisive political rhetoric—of the heart, soul, and wonder of Russia and it’s people.

I read what the American mainstream news media is saying, I know their storylines and the predicable trajectories of their storylines. Yes, we’re all cynically primed to filter and discount Vladimir Putin’s propaganda. Yes, we know there is always wool that is attempted to be pulled over the viewing world’s eyes. Yes, we are aware of persistent obfuscations and justifications and rationalizations. Give us some credit and give us a break.

In the face of this, NBC and other news media sources have the opportunity--and responsibility, it seems to me—to go beyond the Olympic Village perimeter, to drill beneath the propaganda--their own and Russia’s--to explore further than what is expected in order to give the world a fresh insight into the lives of Russians and into a land much of the world has been conditioned to suspect and disregard.

Many of us were raised to despise and fear the Soviet Union. We are children of the Cold War and the constant specter of nuclear holocaust. We readily recall fallout shelter drills, Bay of Pigs brinksmanship, and President Ronald Reagan calling the USSR the “evil empire.” Reagan ramped up an arms race with the USSR, sending our federal budget into deficit with massive defense spending on falsely hyped-up fears.

It was during Reagan’s rhetoric on the Soviet Union that I had something of a mystical experience that changed my perspective on the USSR and what has since become Russia and the cluster of nations in its orbit.

A married young adult with small children, one day in contemplation after one of Reagan’s tough-guy speeches, had a palpable sense that there was in the Soviet Union a young father just like me—a young man who cared for his family and this country and who wondered about the truthfulness of what his leaders were saying about America, just as I wondered about my leaders’ truthfulness about the Soviet Union.

Without seeing him or having a name, I instantly recognized his reality. He was not evil, no more than I was evil. He did not desire my obliteration any more than I desired his. He loved his family as I loved mine. He suspected his government’s version of the story just as I did mine. He was human as I was human. While I knew then—and know now—that I will never meet this man, whom I have come to refer to as my Russian neighbor, his reality changed forever how I regard Russians—and people of any culture outside my own.

Two decades since the breathtaking breakup of the Soviet Union and the emergence of fledgling democratic-style leadership in numerous nation states in the East, it seems that old patterns are being reasserted. Putin’s reign is widely considered little more than a dictatorship—with the Sochi Winter Olympics a choreographed grandstand for his desire to be regarded as legitimate. Predictably, cynicism and stereotyping now prevail in the West’s perspectives about Russia.

But, as I watch the Winter Olympics, I won't be analyzing Putin and the politics of it. I will be looking for my Russian neighbor. Maybe he is in the crowd at an Olympic venue. Maybe her child is an Olympian. Perhaps he is in a village on which NBC will shine its light for a human interest story. She may be in the Olympic protest zone, or far away in Moscow or St. Petersburg. I will be scanning the eyes and faces of the Russians the news media choose to show us, looking for him--trying to see, to understand, to connect, to believe that, despite all who would divide us, we really are one.

I hope you, too, will be making such a search during the weeks ahead.

John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 
www.indybikehiker.com 
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker 
indybikehiker@gmail.com

Monday, February 3, 2014

Listen to Your Life

Frederick Buechner encourages us to pay close attention and anticipate the holy in each moment 

“By examining as closely and as candidly as I could the life that had come to seem to me in many ways a kind of trap or dead-end street, I discovered that it really wasn't that at all. I discovered that if you really keep your eye peeled to it and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it, even such a limited and limiting life as the one I was living on Rupert Mountain opened up onto extraordinary vistas..."

"Taking your children to school and kissing your wife good-bye. Eating lunch with a friend. Trying to do a decent day's work. Hearing the rain patter against the window. There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly..."

"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”


 -- Frederick Buechner, Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation


John Franklin Hay 
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA 
www.indybikehiker.com 
www.twitter.com/indybikehiker 
indybikehiker@gmail.com