Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Month: November, 2014

A Heart to Serve

Silicon Valley

“God designed us for something greater than just the people in our home and in our employment,” said Pastor Aaron during Sunday’s sermon. “When God looks at us he sees a beautiful thing that He wants to shine in its beauty.”

Listening to these words, I could not help but think of Ron, the man whom I bought a computer from the night before. He told me his story. About ten years ago, Ron was the general manager of a wholesale business. He was living a “normal” life when one day he read in the Detroit News an article that explained Southeast Michigan alone sends over two billion pounds of electronic waste into our landfills, every year.

“Those last two words – every year – really grabbed my heart,” he said, demonstrating by grabbing his shirt. “I thought, oh my God, something has to be done.”

The idea that two billion pounds of electronic waste was sent into our landfills every year kept bugging him to the point where he gave into “The Calling.” In less than two years, he quit his job and began Silicon Alley Recyclers, a non-profit charity computer and electronics thrift store in Warren, Michigan, where you can find super bargain priced electronics like computers, printers, and TVs. Most of the equipment at Silicon Alley is commercial grade, with very few consumer products.

“What most people do not know is that there are two grades of electronics – commercial and consumer, which is like Mercedes and a Chevy,” said Ron.

Ron credits Focus Hope for being his mentor, helping him turn Silicon Alley into a non-profit. He also has a hard-working and loyal volunteer staff that helps him dissemble the equipment for recycling, and then package it. These products are then reintroduced into needed and useful hands through various charity and marketing methods. Hundreds of computer systems have been donated to schools and churches.

Ron has loved the process. But his biggest challenge is funding.

“I’ve loaned everything I have in the world to keep it alive,” he said. “It owes me a salary for 8 years but I’ll never see it,” he added laughing. Then he asked, “Do you have a good heart?”

I was confused.

“You know, like Sanford and Son – when Fred was always having those heart attacks?”

“That was my dad’s favorite show,” I reminisced, and told him that yes, I had a good heart. He led me to a door that opened to a huge room with gigantic aisles of equipment.

“You have your work cut out for you,” I said.

But it was easy to see that this man, who has four children and four grandchildren, was shining in his work. While I was in the store, two of his “board members” walked in, one a minister and the other, Professor Wesley Arnold, a historian who made DVDs and wrote books about Macomb and distributed both for free. The warmth, laughter, and character in that place was as rare as finding a genius heart-felt show like Sanford and Son and no doubt, their service to this earth will be as timeless.

For more information, visit http://www.siliconalleyrecyclers.us

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An Arabian Wedding in America

While I love weddings, anyone who knows me (or who has invited me to their wedding) will vouch that over the years, I’ve grown too tired to last the entire night of fun, dancing and eating – especially since Chaldean weddings tend to occur on a monthly basis, often during the middle of the week.

One thing I never tire from, however, is the main entrance, when the bride and groom appear hand in hand as a married couple for the first time.  My husband’s niece had a most beautiful and vibrant entrance. She looked so elegant that she reminded me very much of a Princess Diana (with a Middle Eastern touch). The welcoming heartbeats of the Arab drums, the colorful dancers, the light surrounding the guests and the exotic and passionate dancing on stage will cause me to not tire of watching this video  – in the comfort of my own home.

Sally's Wedding

Writing To Change The World

       IMG_2734Writing Spirit called for me to pick it up like a child off the store’s bookshelves. It was an odd-looking book about writing. On the cover large palms came halfway out of the water, and in the table of contents, the chapter headings had words like power animals, shamanism, alchemy and baptism. None of it made sense to me, and the last thing I wanted was a book on writing. I had been writing for over twenty years, and the journey had proven so futile, I wanted to bury the pits of this desire into someone else’s backyard and start a new garden, one that resembled those in One Thousand and One Nights stories, where the hero ends up with breathtaking trees bearing pears, apples, figs, pomegranates, and apricots made of real gold, diamonds and rubies.

Yet the book stuck to my hands like glue.  I bought it, even though I barely had any time to eat a meal sitting down let alone read a book. I was raising two young children and doing a lot of freelance work, as well as trying to write a book. The moment I read Writing Spirit, however, the fragrance of that Arabian treasure garden raced out of the pages, and I remembered all the reasons I’d become a writer in the first place – the calling, the sacredness of storytelling, the freedom this profession provides, in my case allowing me to raise my children without having to abandon my career. Shortly afterwards, I enrolled in Lynn’s school, The Mystery School.

The Mystery School is a spiritual school that has, for over 25 years, passed down Native American shamanic teachings of 44 women known as the Sisterhood of the Shields. These women are healers from various cultures such as Panama, Guatemala, Australia, Nepal, North American and the Yucatan. Their teachings have been passed from one generation to the next for over 5,000 years. They initiated Lynn as a member of The Sisterhood and appointed her as their public messenger. Lynn’s study began with Agnes Whistling Elk and Ruby Plenty Chiefs, Native American healers in northern Canada. Lynn wrote about her own experience in Medicine Woman, and later, as she met with more of the women of the Sisterhood, wrote over a dozen more books. Her website describes her “as a major link between the ancient world of shamanism and modern societies’ thirst for profound personal healing and a deeper understanding of the pathway to enlightenment.”

I recently met Lynn in person and I discovered that the majority of her apprentices and graduates, who are from all over the world, were first introduced to the Sisterhood teachings by reading one of her books. Something in her books resonates within people the ancient healing and magic of long ago, thus bringing to life, through experiential learning, a connection to spirit and the earth.

  “You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it.”   —  James Baldwin

Falling in Love with Political Matters

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During Saddam’s era, if you were interested in politics you had to either join the Baath Party, be neutral or, if you wanted to start a new party or movement, risk imprisonment or death. Today, the situation is ten times worse. You risk losing your life (in a most brutal manner) no matter what you do or believe in.

In America, it’s quite the opposite. You get city officials who actually have an interest in establishing a relationship with your diverse community – something the City of Sterling Heights has been known to do over the years. You can even get rewarded for your efforts. That was the case with my colleague Nick Najjar last week when he received an award as Commissioner of the Year for the City of Sterling Heights. Over the years Nick has fostered civic virtue and political awareness, promoted active participation in political changes, and helped citizens identify policies that would benefit them. He is an example of someone who truly understands and honors the privileges this country has to offer.

Americans frequently expect the government to do something about their problems. But, how does the government know what these problems are unless members of the community address them? Some think that getting politically involved would not make a difference. Others, like Nick, have the attitude that it’s easier to act and create than it is to complain and be pessimistic.

It’s easy to complain. It’s rewarding to act – with love. We fall in love with tourist destinations, religious institutions, restaurants or foods, fashion trends, television shows, celebrities, or a new hobby.  But we rarely fall in love with politics and government matters, even though they impact our everyday life and will affect our future.

If we expect the government to do something about our problems, we have to look at how we can help them do just that, even if it simply means becoming better informed and passing that knowledge on to our neighbors. Even if it simply means treating our community with love and appreciation.