Category Archives: Make a Difference

Projects that are making a difference, improving lives, and building communities.

Religion-based bullying: causes, dangers, solutions – by Sam Chester

Bullying can be based on various things. A person, most likely, a school student, might find themselves bullied by others because of their race, gender, sexuality, appearance, academic or athletic performance, personality, and other aspects of their identity.

A solution to the problem as complex as this one must be equally comprehensive. Today, however, I would like to tackle but one element of this problem: religion-based bullying.

Roots of faith-based bullying

Religion-based bullying is a horrible trend that is still going strong in our schools. It happens both in the physical world and online and shows no signs of stopping. It would be preposterous for us to blame it exclusively on children, equally as preposterous as to turn a blind eye to it.

Children, indeed, seldom have a strong understanding of religion: spirituality usually requires some life experience. Children are even less likely to be interested in the small differences between various faiths and creeds.

They can, however, and often are conscripted by grown-ups into the hate of the different. It is our instinct, after all, to fear and distrust “them” who are opposed to “us”. An instinct that goes counter to the ideals of diversity, sure, but still remains an instinct. And as it is with instincts, it can be easily exploited when there is little understanding or willpower.

It is us, the adults, who fuel this instinct in kids. What we say to them or around them doesn’t need to be downright offensive. A little biased comment here. A slightly derisive one there.

And it all builds up into a structure of oppression.

Continue reading Religion-based bullying: causes, dangers, solutions – by Sam Chester

Parents and Teachers as Possible Partners – by Dr. Beth Lynne

I worked as an educator for twenty-five years in NJ until I retired a couple years ago. The entire district in was a low socio-economic community. One of the major complaints teachers made was that parents didn’t care about their kids. Once I became a school disciplinarian, I found that parents felt the same about teachers—they were just there for the paycheck. Imagine that! If one would believe both parents and teachers, then who did care about the kids and why was there this disconnect between parents and teachers?

One thing I could piece together was that the parents were fierce about their children. If their kid didn’t have the correct gear or the child’s cell phone was taken or someone was picking on their child, they were at the school demanding action. So it was not accurate that they didn’t care. They cared; it was just that education was not their number one concern. It was the perceived role of the school in the health, welfare, and rights of their child that was paramount.

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The Online Spaces of the Final Generation – by Samantha Boucher

“The Final Generation”

Some refer to Generation Z – those born, roughly, from the mid-1990s onward – as ‘The Final Generation’. This is not due to some apocalyptic vision of the future, but rather as a reflection of the nature of culture in online spaces.

The Final GenerationIn previous generations, it could be reasonably assured that a monoculture would develop. Because of the nature of the distribution of media and the limited ways in which it could be communicated, entire generations of youth would grow up with roughly the same cultural experiences – watching the same shows and cartoons, consuming the same film and radio programs.

Continue reading The Online Spaces of the Final Generation – by Samantha Boucher

Two Letters – taking a stand! – by Terry Howard

As sheer coincidence would have it, I’d just finished rereading Dr. King’s famous “Letter from A Birmingham Jail” when the following excerpts of a letter from my good friend “Shirley” popped up in my email:
Dear Pastor, I first want to say that I have benefitted from your sermons since I have been a part of your congregation. I, however, have some concerns that prompted me to write to you. I know that my political beliefs aren’t necessarily in line with a large portion of the congregation. I knew that when I first started worshipping here but I didn’t perceive it to be a concern. I believed this to be true because I try to look at people and issues and determine the best course of action based upon all that I hear, read, observe and analyze. Based on that process, I pray that I know what is the most prudent to address and decisions to make.  

Continue reading Two Letters – taking a stand! – by Terry Howard

Asian Americans Must Vote for Inclusion- by Celeste Chen

When they first came to America, my parents, now Asian Americans, lived in a cramped apartment, first in New York, and then in Boston. My father likes to recount stories of how he would have to make multiple treks in the middle of New England snowstorms to buy diapers because they didn’t have enough money for bus fare.

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Muslim Niqab in America – By Claire Sydenham

Last semester I went through an experience I’d never gone through before in my teaching career: I taught a student whose face I couldn’t see. The reason? She was from Saudi Arabia, and she was wearing a niqab, that part of her all-black outfit that covered her face from the bridge of the nose down.

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Assembling our Time Capsule for Aliens – by Martin Kimeldorf

What would it mean to unlock the mysteries of both the visible and invisible dark night skies? In Matthew Bothwell’s article Monsters in the Dark, the Cambridge astronomer eloquently and patiently explains the invisible monster galaxies uncovered by the Hubble Space Craft’s long-exposure images. Relying on infrared light exposures, the new imagery penetrates the cosmic dust barriers to reveal in his words: a “vibrant cosmic powerhouses in the distant Universe” engaged in active star-making.

Bothwell admits that we don’t know why these massive galaxies even exist. The spiritual-cosmological questions that follow could sound like these: “What forces bring them into existence?” “Why do they die?” and most profoundly, “Why, or what purpose do they serve?” This busy star-nursery also fosters questions about our own existence back here on Earth and to what degree are we alone in the universe.

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Healing the Trails of Tears – by Andréana Lefton

JOURNEY OF TEARS

That whole morning and night before were one long prayer for assistance. I woke at four, and sat in the living room of my friends’ river-side house, speaking aloud to the darkness, undamming the river, flooding inside.

Then I got ready, and drove to Red Clay State Park.

For years, my feet have taken me to Red Clay State Park, near Cleveland, Tennessee. This land was once the last seat of Cherokee government, and also the place where, in 1838, the Cherokee people learned that the Treaty had again been broken, their remaining land would be taken, and they would be forcibly “removed” to Oklahoma and parts unknown. Thousands and thousands of people died.

Continue reading Healing the Trails of Tears – by Andréana Lefton

Retaliation Still Commonplace in Workplace – by David Grinberg

America is fast becoming a retaliation nation. Look no further than the workplace, a microcosm of society.

Malicious managers are increasingly lashing out at aggrieved employees who have the courage to protest real or perceived discrimination. Retaliation against workers is an unlawful violation of their federally protected rights under anti-discrimination laws.

Nevertheless, retaliation is rampant from corporate America to small and mid-sized companies. This insidious form of discrimination is ruining company culture and hurting bottom-line productivity, among other negative repercussions for employers and employees alike.

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Climate Change and Global Cities – by the Rev. Dr. John Pawlikowski

The Chicago Council of Global Affairs brought 51 mayors & staff to Chicago to develop a flexible mayoral covenant on climate change within North America. The session in which I was a participant was led by the mayors of Chicago, Vancouver,Montreal, Washington and a modest size city of 150,000 in Mexico. NY TIMES writer Thomas Friedman chaired this session.
Allow me now to share some of the important points that arose from the discussion.

Continue reading Climate Change and Global Cities – by the Rev. Dr. John Pawlikowski