You, Too, Can Be A Banker To The Poor ~ Early Morning Thoughts

I decided that I wanted to expand on this original post from earlier this evening. I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head. When I was growing up my parents were very giving to many people – some who had no idea where the “help” had come from. I enjoy helping in any way I can. When I had nothing a short time ago, it was amazing where help started coming from.

I had read about the concept of micro-lending to ordinary people overseas. The statistics of pay-back for instance have been phenomenal. Most of the micro-loans are paid back. As in, the 95+ percent range. I then ran across this article which shows how anyone can make a difference for as little as $25 dollars at at time. Nicholas D. Kristof wrote this article for the New York Times and also put it on his blog. I must have read it a dozen times – getting more intrigued and excited each time. After I post the original recap, I went to the Kiva site and have now decided where I am going to “lend” some money. I’ll post more information on that Tuesday or Wednesday.

As a “lender” there will be some expectation of being repaid. However, as a “lender” I have to realized that the business might fail … but that’s part of sharing in this unique way. There is another website that accepts donations, but I decided that I liked the Kiva approach – much more business-like.

Welcome to Pottersville: Nicholas D. Kristof: You, Too, Can Be a Banker to the Poor

KABUL, Afghanistan

For those readers who ask me what they can do to help fight poverty, one option is to sit down at your computer and become a microfinancier.

That’s what I did recently. From my laptop in New York, I lent $25 each to the owner of a TV repair shop in Afghanistan, a baker in Afghanistan, and a single mother running a clothing shop in the Dominican Republic. I did this through, a Web site that provides information about entrepreneurs in poor countries — their photos, loan proposals and credit history — and allows people to make direct loans to them.

So on my arrival here in Afghanistan, I visited my new business partners to see how they were doing.

On a muddy street in Kabul, Abdul Satar, a bushy-bearded man of 64, was sitting in the window of his bakery selling loaves for 12 cents each. He was astonished when I introduced myself as his banker, but he allowed me to analyze his business plan by sampling his bread: It was delicious.

Mr. Abdul Satar had borrowed a total of $425 from a variety of lenders on, who besides me included Nathan in San Francisco, David in Rochester, N.Y., Sarah in Waltham, Mass., Nate in Fort Collins, Colo.; Cindy in Houston, and “Emily’s family” in Santa Barbara, Calif.

With the loan, Mr. Abdul Satar opened a second bakery nearby, with four employees, and he now benefits from economies of scale when he buys flour and firewood for his oven. “If you come back in 10 years, maybe I will have six more bakeries,” he said.

Mr. Abdul Satar said he didn’t know what the Internet was, and he had certainly never been online. But Kiva works with a local lender affiliated with Mercy Corps, and that group finds borrowers and vets them.

The local group, Ariana Financial Services, has only Afghan employees and is run by Storai Sadat, a dynamic young woman who was in her second year of medical school when the Taliban came to power and ended education for women. She ended up working for Mercy Corps and becoming a first-rate financier; some day she may take over Citigroup.

“Being a finance person is better than being a doctor,” Ms. Sadat said. “You can cure the whole family, not just one person. And it’s good medicine — you can see them get better day by day.”

Small loans to entrepreneurs are now widely recognized as an important tool against poverty. Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his pioneering work with microfinance in Bangladesh.

In poor countries, commercial money lenders routinely charge interest rates of several hundred percent per year. Thus people tend to borrow for health emergencies rather than to finance a new business. And partly because poor people tend to have no access to banks, they also often can’t save money securely.

Microfinance institutions typically focusing on lending to women, to give them more status and more opportunities. Ms. Sadat’s group does lend mostly to women, but it’s been difficult to connect some female borrowers with donors on Kiva — because many Afghans would be horrified at the thought of taking a woman’s photograph, let alone posting on the Internet.

My other partner in Kabul is Abdul Saboor, who runs a small TV repair business. He used the loan to open a second shop, employing two people, and to increase his inventory of spare parts. “I used to have to go to the market every day to buy parts,” he said, adding that it was a two-and-a-half-hour round trip. “Now I go once every two weeks.”

Web sites like Kiva are useful partly because they connect the donor directly to the beneficiary, without going through a bureaucratic and expensive layer of aid groups in between. Another terrific Web site in this area is, which connects donors to would-be recipients. The main difference is that GlobalGiving is for donations, while Kiva is for loans.

A young American couple, Matthew and Jessica Flannery, founded Kiva after they worked in Africa and realized that a major impediment to economic development was the unavailability of credit at any reasonable cost.

“I believe the real solutions to poverty alleviation hinge on bringing capitalism and business to areas where there wasn’t business or where it wasn’t efficient,” Mr. Flannery said. He added: “This doesn’t have to be charity. You can partner with someone who’s halfway around the world.”

Here is the link to read the entire blog post: Welcome to Pottersville –

And here is the link to Kiva:

I have decided that I am going to lend $25 dollars to three businesses. I won’t be as fortunate at Mr. Kristof and be able to travel to see each business, but just knowing I have had a part will be wonderful!

Anyone else up for some grass roots banking?

Perhaps At Area 51? ~ A Small Thought

March 18th on Face The Nation Bob Scheiffer offered the following observation. While I don’t always agree with him, this one was worth a second look:

I have a travel advisory for visitors from outer space.

If you’ve been following the news lately, you can be excused for believing that government service is harder on human memory than Alzheimer’s.

As the recent trial of Scooter Libby showed, White House work left him unable to remember anything.

But his problem was nothing compared to the epidemic of memory loss at the Justice Department, where federal prosecutors got fired. The Attorney General couldn’t remember talking to his own staff about the reasons why, where as lower officials couldn’t remember whose idea it was. And nobody at the White House could remember anything except they didn’t do it.

Among the prosecutors who got fired was one who sent a Republican congressman to jail on corruption charges, another who did not push corruption charges against Democrats fast enough – at least not fast enough to please the Republican senator who complained.

Pressuring federal prosecutors to play political games is serious business. The president says he’s not happy about it, and the attorney general says mistakes were made. Well, of course they were. But confirming the obvious is not enough. From the top down, the word must go out this will not be tolerated, and those responsible must be held accountable.

Even an alien from outer space can see that or smell it, because this one stinks to high heaven.

Another Triplet ~ Early Morning Thoughts

I interrupt the scheduled posting to bring you these stories from a collection of stories that I quoted from the other morning. Having spent a little more time with the collection today, I wanted to offer one more triplet.
Any resemblance to current affairs, or current activities is purely coincidental.

Pleasing everyone ~

A man who decided to take his donkey to town to sell it, started off with his son and himself walking alongside the animal. they had not gone very far when they met a group of young girls returning from town. “Look at that old fool!” one of the girls cried out. “At least one of them could ride the donkey but there they are walking.” So the father put his son on the donkey and continued the trip.

Presently they passed a group of women who stood chatting outside a house. “There, that proves what I’ve been saying,” said one of the women in a loud voice. “Look at that young brat riding the donkey while his poor father is walking. We’re spoiling our children!” When the father heard this he thought perhaps he had better avoid further criticism by taking the son’s place on the donkey’s back.

As they neared the town they met an aggressive young woman who stopped and denounced the father as being cruel. “How can you ride the animal while your poor little boy has to grudge along beside you in the dust and heat!” With a sigh the poor man told the son to mount the donkey, too, and thus burdened the poor beast struggled along toward town.

When they entered the town a bustling citizen dashed up to them and cried out: “You ought to be reported — two big healthy people sitting up there on that poor animal’s back. Why you two should be carrying the donkey instead of it carrying you!” The alarmed father dismounted with his son and they tied the animal’s legs and with a pole across their shoulders struggled along with the donkey, until they came to a bridge, where a number of people began laughing uproariously at them. This noise frightened the donkey and he fought to free himself. this increased the uproar of the crowd and in the midst of it all the animal slipped off the pole and over the bridge into the river below and drowned.

The Speckled Ax ~

My scheme of order gave me the most trouble. order with regard for places for things, papers, etc.,I found extremely difficult to acquire….I made so little progress in amendment, and had such frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty character in that respect, like the man who, in buying an ax of a smith, my neighbor, desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge.

The smith consented to grind it bright for him if he would turn the wheel; he turn’d, while the smith press’d the broad face of the ax hard and heavily on the stone, which made the turning of it very fatiguing.
The man came very now and then from the wheel to see how the work went on, and at length would take his ax as it was, without further grinding. “No,” said the smith, “turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright by-and-by; as yet it is only speckled!”

“Yes,” says the man, “but I think I like a speckled ax best.” and I believe this may have been the case with many, who, having for want of some such means as I employ’d, found the difficulty of obtaining good and breaking bad habits in other points of vice and virtue have given up the struggle, and concluded that “a speckled ax was best”
— Benjamin Franklin

Appointment In Samarra ~

A merchant in Baghdad sent his servant to the market. The servant returned, trembling and frightened. The servant told the merchant, “I was jostled in the market, turned around, and saw Death.

“Death made a threatening gesture, and I fled in terror. May I please borrow your horse? I can leave Baghdad and ride to Samarra, where Death will not find me.”

The master lent his horse to the servant, who rode away, to Samarra.

Later the merchant went to the market, and saw Death in the crowd. “Why did you threaten my servant?” He asked.

Death replied,”I did not threaten your servant. It was merely that I was surprised to see him here in Baghdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
–W. Somerset Maugham
(retelling an even older story – 1933)

Have I Lost My Mind~ Late Night Rambling (ranting?)

Based on the news I looked at over the last several days, one would have the impression that the only things that truly mattered in the world were: 1) Anna Nicole Smith and/or 2) Britney Spears. I was absolutely stunned to realized that while some major events and a scary event were occurring…people were concerned about why Britney cut her hair (Lice? (ewwww) Her soon to be ex-husband’s threat to use it for drug analysis? Because she wanted to make a statement?) and whether and why she’s been in and out of rehabs – usually lasting only 24 hours.

In the meantime – seeming unnoticed by most news organizations:

Remember when Republicans ran Congress and everybody was so corrupt and then the midterms happened and the Democrats swept in with a bold plan to have ethics and all that? Well, they were just kidding.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has a great vacation planned for May: He’s going to a fancy golf & beach resort in Puerto Rico where people get “sensually awakened.” And he’s taking a planeload of lobbyists … enough to fill 137 luxury hotel suites. Doesn’t that sound nice?

But unlike Tom DeLay’s unethical golf trip to Scotland with Jack Abramoff, Steny’s seaside lobbyist orgy is completely okay because the lobbyists aren’t paying Hoyer himself — they’re paying Hoyer’s PAC

My local stations started their newcasts with extensive coverage of the battle over Anna Nicole Smith’s body and baby. There seems to be great concern over the fact that her body seems to be deteriorating sooner than expected. Personally, I always thought that’s what bodies did – but based on the news reports, I could be wrong.

However, in the meantime – no one except PBS seems to have noticed:

Innocent Americans’ data is being swept up and stored thanks to the use of the “full pipe” data gathering technique. Second, that the government’s Total Information Awareness Program – which was “killed” but never defunded – was being used to build domestic spying facilities around the country.

I caught PBS’s NOW program last Friday by chance, and I’m glad I did. They have resources not available to this lowly blogger. What PBS discovered will chill your bones. Yes, data on innocent Americans is being intercepted and stored. Additionally, more whistleblowers have come forward to establish the existence of another secret spy room on AT&T’s network, built post 9-11.

The key findings in PBS’s report:

–The government is intercepting most emails sent domestically.

–AT&T is collecting most emails and sharing them with the government, specifically the NSA (this is backed up by Klein’s documents).

–The NSA spy room at AT&T’s San Francisco facility is only accessible to the NSA and AT&T employees cleared by the NSA.

–The NSA’s interest seems to be in MAE WEST, *the* major hub of American and international internet traffic on the West Coast.

–The device installed in San Francisco is capable of intercepting 10 GIGBYTES of data per second.
In layman’s terms, that means it could go through all the information in all the books in the Library of Congress in 15 minutes.

At least, after digging through a lot of news blogs/sites, I know I haven’t lost my mind – I just, perhaps, have a different outlook as to what is important. Or what I feel I should be concerned about.

I Am A Self-fulfilling Prophecy ~ Early Morning Thoughts

As I work more and more with integrity, I’m reminded (sometimes by that 2X4 kind of thought that “hits” with great force) that when I allow negative messages to invade my mind, I create self-fulfilling prophecies that not only slow me down – but make achieving success almost an impossibility. Rather than reacting to situations by facing each situation as it is – I react to my perception of the situation, and those mysterious “tapes” that run as some of those website that have the music player embedded – and the music simply starts (and I sometimes have difficulty finding the switch to turn it off). This does not mean that I have to have a full scale mental intervention with every negative thought that passes through my mind. After all, I am NOT responsible for what drives through on the highway of my mind – I am ONLY responsible for what I let pull over and park .

As I’ve said before, a self-fulfilling prophecy can occur when I accept something that is not true, and let it rule my life, thoughts, actions, beliefs. When I was growing up I accepted some really negative ideas about myself that were untrue. I think all of us probably did at one point of another. The difference is what we do with those ideas.

If they become the truths that I never question
– then they are truths that will govern my reactions. And, it becomes negative truths that draw other negatives into my life. Really? Yes – negative attracts negative. Positive tends to attract positive. What I “hug” will be the predictions that my life will fulfill. It’s taken awhile, but I have chosen to live out the positives that will allow me to be happy and free. I have to make the decision to ignore or, in a sense, kick out the negatives. They have had their parking permits revoked and I try to get them towed soon after they park in my mind.

Whatever you think about creates what you experience. In this respect, we are all living out self-fulfilling prophecies, because whatever your perception of reality, whatever thoughts you accept as true, will lead you. You attract negative “energy” by focusing on the negative– that is part of the law of attraction.

Now that I have said the phrase: Law of Attraction, I immediately want to take it back, and try to find another one. The reason for my hesitancy is frankly the terrible use and overuse of that three word phrase. I think that most of the religions of the world have a similar view of it – “as a man thinks – so he is”(Judisim) – “If a man’s mind has evil thoughts, pain comes on him as the wheel comes behind the ox…but if one endures in purity of thought, joy follows him as surely as his own shadow.” (Buddhism)

Unfortunately, there are people that take something that has personal value and “run” it to the extreme. These are the ones that firmly believe (and want to convince me to believe it) that NOTHING bad can happen unless I think it and thereby attract it. My reaction to that is less than kind or positive, so I’ll leave it at that.

Let me give you an example of what I mean by extreme. JO visited an acquaintance’s home for the first time. These people were not wealthy by any means, but were getting by – and doing quite well with what they had. He was shown around the house, and then (surprising to him) taken out to the garage. Their car was parked in the driveway – but the garage was empty except for a large white X that had been painted on the floor. “That,” said the man, “is where the BMW we’re going to receive will be parked.” Now, these folks were simply taking something to the extreme. There were no plans as to how they were going to achieve the goal of a BMW, no plans on how to pay for it and certainly no plans as to how they would keep it once they “received” it. As a very wise man once indicated: “don’t ask [the universe] to give you a Cadillac if you can’t keep gas in your VW bug.”

Keep your feet on solid ground. Know who you are, how to handle the storms of change and adversity, and attract the good and create the positive wherever you do have control. You can be at peace in the uncertainty knowing you have the tools necessary to handle life’s tides, and you know where to turn for strength.

You were created with a mind and a will to determine what you embrace and what you eliminate from your thoughts. A child repeatedly told horrible things usually internalizes the messages as true. At some point, that child will grow up and learn there are other messages available. You must decide what to believe.

Keep remembering the term I’m (supposedly) talking about it “self”-fulfilling. What messages have I accepted that STILL control my life and its outcomes? What kind of people do I accept as part of my life – and allow what they think or say to effect my life and outcomes.

Maybe these sound familiar:

you are stupid, you will never amount to anything, you can’t make it, how could you have even thought you could succeed, you should have known better, why did you even try, what an embarrassment you are, you are ugly, worthless, unintelligent, incapable, and a failure, you are unlovable, no one cares what you think, no one believes what you say.

These cut deep wounds, and it takes intent (and, I’ve discovered) a lot of work and thought to replace them with positive truths.

The determined intend success and keep going despite obstacles.

They dwell on positive thoughts, and attract the truth they believe. If you are determined, you find a way to make it happen because you believe that you CAN.

If you believe that you cannot, you will not. (It may be difficult, it may be different than you had originally planned, you may have to adapt to the unfamiliar, but if you are focused and think positively, you can achieve your goals.)

If dandelions were rare and fragile,

people would knock themselves out to pay $14.95 a plant, raise them by hand in greenhouses, and form dandelion societies and all that. But they are everywhere and don’t need us and kind of do what they please. So we call them weeds
and murder them at every opportunity.
–Robert Fulgham

More on this later ~

Dandelion painting by Gundula Jacobs Jacobs

Be A Grape – Not A Raisin ~ Early Morning Thoughts

Yesterday as I was around various groups of people (at/on the bus -stores-waiting for a friend to get out of work) I was struck by the various attitudes and behaviors. I realized how much people seemed beat down, giving up and incredibly unhappy with themselves and the world around them.

It’s not hard to understand. A simple look at the news that besieges us almost on a minute by minute basis is far from anything that allows time to digest, process and deal with in a way which creates a safe haven to allow life and joy to work through all that is out there.

And much of it seems to create even more divisions than are already there. An NBA star announces he’s gay, another NBA star says he hates gays; someone announces their candidacy for public office, others immediately announce why that person is unfit for public office. Hundreds get trapped on airplanes frozen to runways for hours. And it seems so much that should be harmless suddenly becomes deadly – peanut butter, who would have thought? And fear can grip like a viper and spread its deadly poison.

When I had given up all hope and had lost the meaning of even living…I too felt that nothing matter, there was nothing to go on for and certainly nothing that I could/would be able to do.

In making the journey back from the edge of nothingness, I have my return to childlike enthusiasm, hope, joy and personal responsibility.

I have more on this topic, but let me state as I have in previous posts – I have no intention of advocating a “Pollyanna” outlook on life (I have always wanted to slap her when either reading the book, or choking my way through the movie). Nor do I advocate the “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better” school of thought advocated by Emil Coue. Mine is not a perfect journey, but a personal journey.

For now, I have gathered some quotes that reflect directly on what has made differences in my life – and those around.

So many people are using up their precious moments of life striving for a bigger house, newer car, college for the kids, and many additional outer expressions of the so-called necessities of life. How many moms and dads are overwhelmed just trying to keep up with their notions of what is called for to be a successful family? Being too busy trying to manage a career and a family and not having fun and joy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Some people born as ripe, plump grapes have become dried up old prunes. Why be a raisin when you can be filled with juice?
–Stan Smith

Nothing is lost upon a man who is bent upon growth; nothing wasted on one who is always preparing for … life by keeping eyes, mind and heart open to nature, men, books, experience … and what he gathers serves him at unexpected moments in unforeseen ways.

The work of an individual still remains the spark that moves mankind forward…
–Igor Sikorsky

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked; it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
–Franz Kafka

He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure. His every thought is allied with power and all difficulties are bravely met and wisely overcome. Thought allied fearlessly to purpose becomes creative force. Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your heart. Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
–Carl Jung

That which we are, we are, and if we are ever to be any better, now is the time to begin.
–Lord Alfred Tennyson

When you have to make a choice, and don’t make it, that in itself is a choice.
–William James

Don’t be afraid to take a big step if one is indicated. You cannot cross a chasm in two small jumps.
–Lloyd George

Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
–Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

First keep the peace within yourself, then you can bring peace to others.
–Thomas a Kempis

And remember, we all stumble, every one of us .This is why it is good to go hand in hand.
–E. K. Brough

Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves.
–Carl Jung

Often, people try to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things or more money in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier.

The way it actually works is the reverse. You must find out who you really are, then do what you need to do in order to have what you want.”
–Margaret Young

Habit is habit, and not to be flung out the window, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time.
–Mark Twain

To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.
–Elbert Hubbard

Great souls have wills; feeble ones have only wishes.
–Chinese Proverb

The whole purpose of the universe is unerringly aimed at one thing – you.
–Walt Whitman

Knowing others is wisdom; knowing the self is enlightenment.
–Tao Te Ching

Everyone stumbles over the truth from time to time, but most people pick themselves up and hurry off as though nothing ever happened.
–Sir Winston Churchill

He who postpones the hour of living rightly is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.

Computers are useless. they can only give you answers.
–Pablo Picasso

Be not afraid of changing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.
–Chinese Proverb

A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
–George Bernard Shaw

Only those who risk going too far can know how far they can go.

The freedom to fail is vital if you are going to succeed.
–Micheal Korda

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
–Abraham Lincoln

He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life away in fruitless efforts.
–Samuel Johnson

If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day — go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month — get married.
If you want happiness for a year — inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime — help someone else.
–Chinese proverb

Digging Deeper Into Integrity ~ Early Morning Thoughts

As I’ve thought about integrity and honesty. I realized that I have to order what I consider to be my core values – and it’s no accident that I should list integrity first (by the way, that’s where the Air Force Academy places it). Integrity for me, is where all my other values will fall or stand. Without integrity my reasons for doing anything can justifiably be questioned – and doubted. Without integrity my personal quest of excellence also comes under a cloud.

Some time ago, I read that integrity is the willingness to do what’s right even when no one is looking. Without someone around, I may feel it acceptable to do whatever I want, how I want – without any concern about consequence. Of course, there still are consequences for actions – but the result might not be all that public, at first. But – as some major leaders have discovered, failure to have integrity in private can be exposed in public. But, to hold onto my values – no matter what the situation, is integrity in action.

But this also isn’t a full definition of integrity. If I turn again to the dictionary: “uncompromising adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” As I’ve said before, integrity defined this way is controlling. It implies following standards set by only by others. This also leads to the acrimonious discussions of almost any subject currently being debated. Even between people who should be somewhat in agreement, the arguments become almost self-serving and divisive. It implies that whatever I hold absolute, everyone else should. And without going into detail, we call can think of serious incidents, decisions and problems that have resulted in situations that never should have happened. Or, shouldn’t have happened the way they did if people were working in TRUE integrity.

An addition to the definition could be “the state of being whole and your true self”. Which could mean – standing against the “crowd” to hold onto what I believe to be right. So, going back to the comment above – integrity is not only doing what’s right when no one is looking, but doing what’s right when other people are watching.

My reactions have to be based on what is true, not fantasy, and I have to make commitments based on my vision or purpose. In short, my life has to be aligned with the big picture. Being responsible is handling whatever comes along and making adjustments so problems don’t repeat themselves. Responsibility and integrity is not about blame.

Far more difficult than knowing what is right is doing what is right. Doing the right thing is not always easy, but it is always right.
–George S. May (founder of the May Company)

This quote gets at the real meaning of integrity. When doing right thing starts to be in conflict with the easy way, or is at “odds” with “the way we’ve always done it,” is when our integrity is confronted. My integrity is really called upon when doing the “right thing” makes me subject to criticism, ridicule, or second guessing.

But it struck me, that this kind of integrity is extremely personal. I do not have to require MY integrity of someone else – only that they follow their integrity.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Core values on paper are nice, but without putting those values into action they are nothing more than words. Dr. King’s quote highlights the purpose of having core values, which is to use those values to shape my decisions and actions. And because of the “big picture” I avoid the my-way-only type of reaction or decisions.

more to come on this

I’m grateful for a friend explaining
the Air Force Academy code

Integrity, Truth, Knowledge ~ Late Night Thoughts

It was an interesting day today. As I was traveling around getting errands done, I decided to conduct a kind of “man on the street” questionnaire. I would simply ask “what do you think integrity is or means.” Sometimes I got nothing more than silence and/or a shrug. One person said simple “truth.” When I asked what that meant – all she would say was “truth.” Another added “doing what you say you’ll do.” Another answer was “whatever politicians are not.” (that caused general chuckles from those around. But it was my stop, and I didn’t have time to pursue that answer.)

The most troubling to me were three students. All three admitted they had no idea what integrity was. That answer brought me up short. I realized if someone doesn’t have their own definition of integrity – they will never realized the lack of it and what can happen if it is missing.

Living with a definition of integrity, allows a strong sense of moral/ethical outlook. This has a tremendous advantages. If/when things get difficult or adversarial – I have something to hang onto. I don’t need to get desperate. Without it (personal experience here) I start to do things I wouldn’t do, I become someone I am not – and try to convince those around that I’m that different person. I lose my sense of balance, and begin to make decisions that have little or no basis on my inner self.

With integrity, I stay the same person I am no matter what happens. No matter how awful things get I don’t become unglued. That requires inner strength. It would be nice to say that I never have a problem with inner strength. I would be lying if I said so (and probably burned by lightning from above and lava from below.)

However, when I remain with integrity I can stay more together and integrated with what I need to hang onto. In other words, I don’t fall apart so quickly. And this integrity is going to come from within. I’ve had a lot of challenges over the last year and a half. I can look back at some points with pleasure/pride at how I came through to the other side of the problem. Other moments? Not so well.

I can “beat myself up” over what didn’t go well or I can take things in hand, and grab even more strongly onto integrity and truth. I can look deep within and find the strength that I need to accomplish what is surrounding me. However, always I need to remind myself that I am responsible for my choices, and my actions. And I’m going to have to take responsibility for the result.

But I’m still troubled by the three students that didn’t what integrity was. That has caused some shivers deep within me.

more early saturday morning


A Relational Virtue And Lost Grace ~ Early Morning Thoughts

There is something in every one of you that waits
and listens
for the sound of the genuine in yourself.
–Howard Thurman

As I typed the words lost grace – I’m concerned about what I’m trying to convey. It’s a struggle to find the right words to make sure my meaning comes across and is clear. I don’t mean lost in the sense of gone/finished/never to return. I want to convey the idea of misplaced or forgotten. I also am not chatting about mannerisms or simple habits. You know, the kind of things that keep us from failing to survive in the world around us. So, my idea of a lost grace is that integrity as a current, modern measure has slipped from awareness. I admit when I started working with this series of posting, I honestly had a slightly different idea of integrity than I do now.

It’s easy to say that integrity should be the prime virtue – a core/central ideal. Somehow, it seems to be seldom spoken of…unless, of course, we have headlines about those we perceive as lacking in that trait. Look back over the headlines and on-line
news stories, and it would be easy to become cynical about integrity and/or the lack of it. Certainly that seems to be the case with politicians (easy target), teachers (easy target), celebrities (easier target). But what about ourselves? (either not an easy target, or an un-touchable target). And, of late, it seems that it is a trait assigned only to those who have passed on…seldom to the living.

There is a very popular and very often quoted Hasidic story of Rabbi Susya. When he he imaged what would happen to him at heaven’s gates, he decides: “God will not ask me, ‘Why were you not Moses?’ He will ask, ‘Why were you not Susya?’” (When I think of that I’m a little concerned he might ask ME “Why were you so WD?”)

Regardless of your spiritual stance, that story leads to an interesting and somewhat overwhelming concept.

Integrity refers to wholeness, to a sense of self that can move but cannot be shaken. Dictionaries are really no help – one definition as a ”rigid adherence to a code of behaviour.” There are many that have a rigid adherence to beliefs and stances that do not reflect integrity of themselves, on themselves – or other people. We all can make a list of those past and present who were/are like that. I like to think of integrity as holding on to my sense of self – relating to how I need to “be” in the world.

And it’s that needing to “be” in the world that gives me pause. IF it’s a sense of self that can move and not be shaken – what makes the difference between my sense of integrity and someone who takes people in an entirely wrong direction – but is unshakable in their belief (and belief that perhaps ONLY they are right).

At the current time we place individualism as the peak, the pinnacle of acheivment. But this not where I need to be. I believe that integrity is “relational.” In other words, it comes from a private viewing and an even more private process within – but I believe it has a very public outcome. As someone one said:

Integrity is a relational grace, a gift from the world and to it. One does not learn the wisdom of integrity in isolation. Nor may we possess integrity in solitude. For the goal of a person of integrity is to become his or her best self, living in right relations with the rest of the world and also to call everyone else to the same goal.

Several wiser people than I have said that we are a fellowship of human beings – NOT fellowships of race, class, gender, orientation of any type or ability. We are part of a whole and are responsible to the whole.

more on this tomorrow ~

Integrity – Truth ~ Early Morning Thoughts

We need first to understand that
the way we choose to live as individuals
is a reflection of our self-respect,
and that personal integrity is all about taking
personal responsibility for our future,

our actions,
our decisions,
the way we live

and, to the extent we can,
for the whole world in which we live.

This morning’s thoughts about integrity tie into my birthday post as well.

I hear a lot about integrity, or lack of integrity these days, usually with respect to politicians. And we see elections that are more about what the person is perceived to be instead of issues.

No matter our politics, the worthy causes we believe in and I really want to be led, followed or assisted by people who lack integrity? People who I can not trust, whose motives are questionable. People who might at any moment toss aside everything I thought I had in common and march off in a different direction, leaving me behind…

So – what does integrity mean in the long run:

Linguistically, integrity comes from one of those very basic concrete Indo-European roots with a large number of fanciful metaphoric derivatives. “Tag” means to touch, as in tag, tangible, tactile, contact, etc. “In-tag,” or “untouched” means “whole” as in integer, a whole number, and by extension pure, unsullied, whole.
–Stephen Carter

Now that your eyes are glazing over from all that – what does all that mean in real life?

As I’ve thought about these postings, I have come to believe that a person of integrity is a whole person, a person somehow undivided. I am not talking the single-mindedness or the frenzy of a fanatic who is determined that the world will be as they say … in a single mold. This is far removed from the my-way-or-no-way that some people seem to inspire. The person of integrity is confident in the knowledge they are living rightly…and, as far as possible, rightly with those around them.

I want to be a person people can trust to do right, to play by the rules, to keep commitments. Even when I disagree with someone I can sense the integrity within and can admire it. I want to be a person that what I say I will do, I do. The kind of person who expects the best from those around me, and will do anything to help them get there.

That kind of integrity, I’ve been discovering is very much a foundation of life. . It makes a lot of other parts of life to be expressed, openly and honestly. Several writers define acting with integrity this way:

1. discerning what is right and what is wrong,
2. acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and
3. saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right from wrong.

Discernment is the first crucial step…and is not a simple, mechanical process. After all, people of integrity can come to different conclusions about what is right. I must pay attention to the world around me and to my own conscience. But my conscience must be informed, by the human condition and experience and a sense of rightness that comes from beyond and within. You have also to consider what others think, and search out the right balance between reason and wisdom.

Stuart Hampshire asks: “If a person has lived a blameless life according to his lights,” as the saying goes, the question always arises — “Were his lights good enough, or could they have been better.

For some, those lights are spiritual in nature. According to the Jewish sage Maimonides: “Everything that you do, do for the sake of God.” However, there is a secular view as well: Professor W. S. Taylor (1857): “Integrity implies implicit obedience to the dictates of conscience — in other words, a heart and life habitually controlled by a sense of duty.” (Regardless of Taylor’s spiritual stance, he definitely is one of those people who spell God with two “O’s.”)

more on this tomorrow night

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Choose your words, for they become actions.
Understand your actions, for they become habits.
Study your habits, for they will become your character.
Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny.