Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcoming 2012

United Nations Sculpture in Grace Cathedral,
San Francisco, California.

An introduction: I enjoy sharing messages with my friends that combine sacred thought with secular wisdom. I think that the two play well together. There are so many different things that can tie together a good message about our faith, love and hope in God. And, there are plenty of good messages that are worth sharing. Sometimes, it just takes moving in the slow lane of life, observing, and enjoying the journey.

Today, I would like share a few thoughts about 2011 with an eye toward 2012:

As we wake up across the world this Sunday, January 1, a new year is upon us. It's funny, but just a few hours ago it was still 2011. Out with the old and in with the new as the saying goes. Yet, as I look back over the past 12 months, I can proudly say that I have gained many meaningful friendships, both near to my California home and also many time zones away around the world. Also, I have achieved so much knowledge and wisdom thanks to these new friendships. And, through your encouragement and support, I have started this weekly dialogue combining sacred thought with secular wisdom. I am grateful.

A Facebook friend of mine from Tunisia, whom I met last spring, credits my ability to be a tolerant and open-minded individual with making her comfortable to share her thoughts and opinions ~ both cultural and political ~ with me. Imagine, me a Christian raised in the Anglican tradition of the U.S. Episcopal church, and she, a Muslim who is very proud of her Islamic faith, exchanging a open and peaceful dialogue that has been as much secular as it has been sacred in nature. Over the months, she has asked me my thoughts about Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey and I have attained a new insight about Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting that teaches Muslims about patience, spirituality and humility. 

Because of these meaningful, newfound friendships, I learned firsthand about the Arab Spring revolution that began in Tunisia (the northernmost country in Africa) a year ago, which enabled its citizens with the opportunity to participate in open and democratic elections for the first time in their lives in October.

Also, I learned firsthand about the flooding that paralyzed the Southeast Asian country of Thailand this fall and what it was like not knowing whether a friend's home in Bangkok would suffer severe flood damage or, thank goodness, be spared from the worst. 

Finally, I learned firsthand about the impact that the elite tennis professional Novak Djokovic has meant to his native Serbia ~ how he almost single-handedly made a troubled country feel better about itself thanks to attaining a No. 1 world ranking in 2011 ~ from several Serbians, whom I befriended through a mutual love of tennis. Mind you, these friends of mine grew up amidst the tense atmosphere of the Yugoslav Wars of the early 1990s, filled with political isolation, economic decline and ethnic cleansing ~ something which I could not fathom happening here in the U.S. Thanks to my Serbian friends ~ not to mention Djokovic ~ I am able to envision their country in a more positive light.

For me, the year 2011 was filled with learning about internationalism and realizing the potential of our wonderful world if we all "do the right thing."

Looking ahead to 2012, it is my hope that each of us can learn the importance of tolerance and to become open-minded individuals in developing friendships with others regardless of social, economic or religious barriers.

The former secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian, who won the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, knows the importance of tolerance and being open minded. He said: "We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race." 

Words of hope to start the New Year.

Happy 2012 my dear friends.
May God bless us all.
May our year be filled with peace on Earth.

Peace, Mike 

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