Politics Scare Me: Perspective from an Intimidated Lover of Peace, Mom, & English Language Teacher

img_7266.jpgI love challenging questions within small, safe conversations.  But politics scare me. I’m horrible at citing policies, remembering dates, or interpreting statistics as fast as needed in a heated political discussion. The last thing I want to do is make a strong political stance.  But as a language and culture teacher, a language and culture learner, a mother of three, a cross-cultural neighbor, and a daughter of immigrants, people have been asking my perspective on our current political atmosphere around immigration and the refugee crisis.

These 4 political observations come from being a lover of peace and equality in my home and in diverse communities.  With an odd number of personalities in our family, peace talks are a daily drill at our house.

  1. War, and the displacement it causes, is a worldwide problem, not just a U.S. problem.  There are many countries, like Greece and Jordan, maxing out their infrastructures to accommodate the refugees who are pouring in with no other place to go.  Comparatively, it seems that the U.S. has more room, more infrastructure, and more capacity to share the worldwide burden than we are currently.  45404965_2374453955915468_8133840680419065856_n

2. Lately we have been cultivating a national bad attitude of “me first”.  In fear we tend to operate out of scarcity rather than generosity.  As a mom, I work on these issues with my kids EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  I want my children to learn to get along with others, be kind, and share.  If our country were my kid, I would want to teach her baby steps towards kindness, not away from it. And maybe give her a timeout or two to think about her attitude and choices.

fullsizeoutput_2744

3. As a world leader, our country is positioned to be influential.  Rarely do leaders have a neutral, zero impact.  The U.S. has the power to do good in the world and influence others to follow our lead.  We are also responsible for our negative attitudes and actions.  They do not go without impact.  An insane number of children are dying in Yemen because of a civil war where both sides are receiving help from opposing world powers.  Our country has been contributing to this crisis financially.  After years of innocent people dying, we are just now making better choices about how to help the desperate rather than contribute to their dire circumstances.

close up photo of people holding usa flaglets

4. The best problem-solving of difficult issues comes when people work together. The polar opposite political extremes in our country are intense right now.  Extremes point fingers at them–the other extreme.  But what about the radical, intentional middle places, where we don’t point blame, but rather focus on problem solving, compromise, and caring for others?

Recently, my oldest daughter was rewarded by her grandparents for her excellent academic achievement.  My other two kids were also recognized for their good grades, but her excellence was dually noted in the form of an extra $20 bill, handed to my middle daughter to pass along to her sister.  This could have incited an all-out war at our house.  What to do? 1) pray for discernment in navigating towards a peaceful resolution 2) recognize the complexities and potential hurt each might feel  3) guide each one to consider the other’s perspective 4) give them space and responsibility in arriving at creative solutions together.  Ultimately, my oldest daughter decided to treat the family to FroYo.  Not all family squabbles arrive at peaceful compromises, but we are always learning and striving towards a “we” solution.

IMG_7777.JPG

I realize the world is a messy and complex place, and the last thing I want to do is minimize the work of those who labor towards peace by oversimplifying things.  I would rather run away from politics, especially when things get tense and mean.  I’m not in it to win it.  But I am in it to understand someone else’s point of view.  Sometimes people just need to be heard and want to be understood.  Sometimes hurt people hurt people.  Sometimes they are scared too.  I’ve learned that whatever the issue is, things become much less political as they become more personal–that point where issues have names, faces, stories, and favorite foods.

Advertisements

Courageously Beautiful Together

My dear lifelong friend from Nevada came to visit my new home.  We were on our way to enjoy a lovely lunch together, but needed a few things from the store first.

We went in to the grocery store for baby wipes and celery.

We left soaring.

My friend, who also happens to identify an impromptu florist, volunteered my Spanish speaking services in the floral department.  She just happened to overhear the florist’s  request for a translator.  Then, through me as her interpreter, she offered to add a dozen red roses to an already full bouquet because a smitten Spanish-speaking man wanted an abundant bouquet for his bride of 53 years.

IMG_0367

He could’ve fumbled to buy a decent bouquet without my communication skills. But he wanted the best the grocery store florist had to offer.

I’m SO glad my friend overheard a conversation that wasn’t meant for us.
I’m SO glad she volunteered me to do something I wouldn’t have done on my own.
I’m SO glad to have a friend who makes beautiful things. 🌹

We waved the man off with God’s blessing over his life and marriage.  And over lunch we beamed about our newly made memory that we just added to our 30+ years of friendship.

When you have those people in your life…

who believe in you, who want to spend time and go on adventures with you, who inspire you to be the best version of yourself, and who also need you to enhance their possibilities–hold on tight to those people.

Because together we generate a kind of courage and beauty, that by ourselves, neither of us could have done so effortlessly and abundantly.

IMG_0368

Scars: In Memory of the Yiayia & Papou I Never Knew

This article was published on June 10, 2012, the 68th anniversary of their death, June 10, 1944

Version 2
My Papou and Yiayia: George and Pandora Loukas

There is nothing more precious than to sneak into the bedroom of my sleeping three-year old son and kiss him good night.  The other night I prayed a blessing over him and sealed it with the sign of the cross on his forehead—as my parents had done for me.  I felt God’s presence reminding me that Jamin Loukas was on this earth for a reason.  The same goes for my father, Loukas G. Loukas.

On this day, June 10, 2012 as we remember the horrific massacre in the small village of Distomo, Greece, I am reminded of the God’s great grace intervening in another generation.  It was 68 years ago that my dad crouched trembling in a basement with 13 other children.  Where were his parents to sneak in and check on him?

Three days after the historical D-Day in 1944, Nazi troops were traveling through the region near Distomo.  In that surrounding area there were numerous resistance freedom fighters that had attacked the German troops and injured the head Nazi commander.  This act sent the Nazi troops into a rage of retaliation that they unleashed on the unsuspecting peasants, farmers, priests, expectant mothers and young children of Distomo.

A Nazi soldier beat down the basement door.  When he discovered a room full of children, he positioned his weapon to shoot, then aimed at the ceiling—all the while motioning the children to keep silent.  

When my Yiayia Pandora and Papou George got news of something terrible happening in their village, they raced home from a day at the market as fast as their mule would take them.  They wanted to gather their children close, and keep them safe.  However, they never made it home.  Later, their bodies were found lifeless on the side of the road.

Meanwhile, some very frightened children sat listening in a darkened basement to the sounds of death all around them—awaiting a dreadful fate of their own.  A Nazi soldier beat down the basement door.  When he discovered a room full of children, God Almighty intervened.  The soldier positioned his weapon to shoot, then aimed at the ceiling—all the while motioning the children to keep silent.  He sealed the door back up as best he could and left, shooting chickens and goats on the way out.  He posted the official Nazi sign on the door that confirmed that the job there was done.

That was the day my dad was spared.  At ages 16 and 14, his two older sisters became instant guardians of a two-year old. My dad was too young to comprehend God’s hand on his destiny.  The story retold time and again has become his memory of the event.  His first real memory came when he was five years old and his aunt took him to “meet” his parents.  She pointed to their exhumed skeletons in the ground and said, “That is your mother and your father.  Give them a kiss.”

People usually talk about scars as a sign of terrible things that happened in the past.  I like to think about scars as a sign of healing—a reminder of God’s ability to restore, forgive, cleanse and redeem.  When I look at my own scars I remember the bad that could have been and once was, but is no more.  There is grace there instead.  My dad was orphaned at the age of two.  As a daughter with her daddy around, and as a mother with a young son, it brings me to tears to imagine not being there for my son.  What were my Yiaya and Papou thinking that day as they tried to race home?  What were their last prayers for their four children?

I’m thankful for a dad who checked in on me at night. And as I bless my son, I think of the scars and the grace.  Because God intervened that day, my son can sleep peacefully in his bed.   The same goes for his two sisters and four cousins.  Because of God’s grace in that basement in Distomo 68 years ago, my dad’s alive today, and God’s purpose lives on for another generation.

The memories of my Yiayia Pandora and Papou George are eternal.  They live on in my father’s heart and in the generations that live after them and hear their story.  Today we remember our loss and reflect upon our scars and the grace given to us.  May the memories of all 219 villagers lost in Distomo that day be remembered today.

For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations. Psalm 110:5

Hijacking Radical

I appreciate the Muslims in my community who motivate me to be more courageous about my own expressions of faith through their everyday radical.  As we commemorate the horrendous 9-11 attacks, and as many contemplate Abraham’s tremendous trust in God’s perfect provision during the Eid of Sacrifice, I wonder, what would it look like if we were all a little more radicalized to show extreme love, drastic kindness, and fanatical forgiveness in a hurting world?  Thanks, everyone, for taking a moment out of your lives to consider my thoughts on radicalism.  (As published in the Yemeni American News, September, 2016).

Defining Radical Religious Practices

When I was in college my roommate and I had a hunger to learn more about our faith and live out what we believed, even when other people thought we were a little bit crazy. We wanted to be radical about what we believed. By radical I mean, we wanted to pray publically when others would have thought it awkward or inappropriate. We wanted to stand out in modesty and purity of heart when other girls we knew were choosing to wear smaller shorts and date lots of guys. We wanted to study our Holy Book, talk about what it says, and figure out how to live it out every day, even when others were more interested in talking about the latest drama on their favorite show. We didn’t want to judge others for their choices, we just wanted to stand out as committed, passionate, and sold out for what we believed in. That was my definition of radical. I wanted to study the teachings of Jesus the Messiah and then live them out as best I could in my context. He was radical in his day and I wanted to follow in his radical ways of kindness, love, peace, and purity in my day.

Today, if someone is radicalized, it means they have a religiously based motivation to terrorize others. The word radical has been hijacked! Why does being sold out for what one believes in have to involve hurting others? There are radicalized religious fanatics of every flavor—those who bomb abortion clinics, those who bomb twin towers, those who terrorize innocent village children… All those extreme beliefs are crimes against humanity, and they are so far from the loving heart of God.

Practicing Radical at the Gym
The other day I pushed myself to get to the gym rather than take a nap on the couch. I convinced myself that I would feel better after a good workout. It was hot and sticky and I grumbled in my T-shirt and capris as I anticipated getting even hotter running laps. When I walked into the rec center, I passed a modest Muslim woman working out hard in her hijab, covered from head to toe—and I thought I was hot! Motivated by her prayin gym framedcommitment to religious purity, even on a treadmill, I bounded with greater fervor up the stairs to the track. I was greeted by the sight of a man and his son pausing their workout to stop and pray eastward in the corner.  One of the things that I appreciate about living among Muslims in Dearborn, is that moments like these are “normal” occurrences at the gym.  They are also radical in my mind.  Radical by my first definition. Many devout Muslims in our community seek to live out their faith everyday, even when it seems uncomfortable, inconvenient, or just strange to those around them.

Inspired by these examples of radicalism to stand out at the gym, I decided, why not…I’m devoted to God, regardless of what others think… So, I waited my turn for the secluded prayer corner beside the track, and I knelt down and prayed. I wasn’t trying to show off or prove anything; I just wanted to take a moment out of my workout to connect to God in prayer. It was a demonstration of everyday radical. It was my small moment to take radical back from terrorism and reflect the heart of God.

Waging Peace
wage peace framedWhat would it look like if we were all a little more radicalized to show extreme love, drastic kindness, and fanatical forgiveness in a hurting and confused world?  What if we all paused to pray throughout our day more often?  One of my favorite bumper stickers challenges people to Wage Peace. What if we all practiced just a little of everyday radical by waging peace wherever we are?  Love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness…these are the fruit of the Spirit of God. These are fundamental virtues.  Maybe, then, we should all strive to be a bit more radical—and fundamentalists!