Category: Neighborhood

Code Red: What are we doing to our kids?

back bus education school
Photo by Pixabay on

Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experiences of another. Each year more than 10 million children in the United States endure the trauma of abuse, violence, natural disasters, and other adverse events. These experiences can give rise to significant emotional and behavioral problems that can profoundly disrupt the children’s lives and bring them in contact with child-serving professionals. For therapists, child welfare workers, case managers, and other helping professionals involved in the care of traumatized children and their families, the essential act of listening to trauma stories may take an emotional toll that compromises professional functioning and diminishes quality of life. Individual and supervisory awareness of the effects of this indirect trauma exposure is a basic part of protecting the health of the worker and ensuring that children consistently receive the best possible care from those who are committed to helping them.

When the children at Sandy Hook Elementary School were murdered, my children were 5, 8 and 11.  My kindergartner was shielded from the news and didn’t know what had happened, but my older two kids knew about it, and were traumatized by it.  They could imagine themselves there, in that school, on that day, in that room.  They, and I imagine millions of other children experienced secondary traumatic stress.  I believe an entire generation of now high school and middle school students are walking around, living every day with this diagnosis.  Every day, they go to school thinking, “Is this the day there could be a shooting in my school?”  Like all trauma, it can go deep into the memory, and be covered up by distractions such as studying, activities,  sports, etc., but it’s always there, like a knot in a necklace it clogs the memory stream of the mind.

Parents too have this secondary trauma, but it’s different for us.  We aren’t the ones walking into the school.  We are the ones dropping them off.  We get to drive away and feel slightly sick all day, until that feeling wears off, until another shooting happens somewhere else, and it’s all brought back again.

Teachers. I can’t imagine what it feels like to be a teacher. The responsibility that is on them to both teach and to recognize that these young brains, that are not yet fully developed, are at some level traumatized, the burden is too great.  They too are traumatized.

After a recent school shooting in our community, I was disheartened to see how quickly people went to their corners of defense and blame.  Immediately people were blaming parents, schools, guns, entitled kids, school safety, teachers.  Immediately people were fighting.  In the mean time, our children our standing in the middle of the room, wondering if anyone is going to look at them.  We need to care more about our children then being right.  We need to act like a community first, before we act self righteous.  We need to blame ourselves before we blame others.   Our children are afraid and we can’t be in control and we want to fix it and we think we know the answers, and we start fighting and blaming and pushing and as a result we end up avoiding the very people we are trying to protect.

We need to show our kids what it looks like to live in a safe community, where people are held accountable for the actions and where our social norms of valuing every life and common decency is not lip service but modeled.

As you may have read, the parents who lost their children at Sandy Hook have filed a lawsuit against those who have profited on their deaths, by saying the mass murder that happened that day was a hoax.



It’s unimaginable to think that our children could be shot on any normal Tuesday afternoon.  It’s despicable to think that people would deny that truth and mock that reality.  When society allows for violence to occur and then denies the injustice, the society has lost its common humanity and we have lost our moral center.

We cannot allow evil to win out, and right now, it’s winning.  The more we hate each other, blame each other, mock each other,  and avoid having meaningful conversations about peace, reconciliation, conflict resolution, common decency, and truly model a respect for our fellow human, our children will continue to kill each other and themselves.  We are responsible for the society we create.  We are responsible for the denigration of the human condition.  Our children are taking their ques from us.

If we want things to change, if we want our schools to be safe, and if we want our children to heal, we need to stop shouting at each other and start focusing on them.  Let’s talk to our kids, ask them what they think, what do they need, what do they want in their schools, and how would they know they were safe?  Let’s honor the voices of our children, and let’s respond to their wisdom.  Our kids need to know that they are being heard. They need to know their trauma, either first or second hand is valid.  They need to know that adults believe them, hear them, and will try to protect them.  Most importantly, they need to be empowered to believe things can be different.

We can heal.  We can be better.  We must, for the sake of our kids.










We have lost something as a society.  We may not want to admit it, or believe it, but it’s true.  We do not trust each other anymore.  We do not trust our neighbors, our leaders, our institutions, the newspapers.  Case in point, the word for 2016 was “post-truth,”  narrowly beating “fascism.”

There is a lament, a cry, in this statement, because we believe that we used to trust each other.  We used to believe fundamental truths such as,  “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”  Does that truth still apply in our society today?  

We used to stand for the American flag, put our hands our hearts, join together in song.  Even if we disagreed with a policy or a practice, at least we would all stand together as a community at the ball game and claim a unified loyalty.  Lately, some athletes and others have chosen not to stand, causing a stir in the media. The choice not to stand feels disrespectful and insulting to the rest of us who are standing, but more than that, not standing is a symbolic act that says, “I don’t trust you.”

We used to have a common enemy that we could all rally behind, like Russia.  If we didn’t trust or like each other, at least we could all agree that we really didn’t trust Russia.  Having a common enemy at least brought us a sense of unity.  Having someone to trust less, helped us trust each other more.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).  Those who claim the name Christian  today have very different understandings of what Jesus meant in this statement.  Today, those who identify with the Christian faith, have taken this statement and have turned into a message of warning, instead of as a message of hope.  Within the large umbrella of those who claim the name Christian, there is a deep mistrust.  This fracture of mistrust provides evidence to those who have left the church and affirms their decision that they did the right thing in leaving.   “Who would want to be part of that mess, when I can just find God on my yoga mat and be accepted for who I am?”

If a religious organization, institution, country, family, any system has lost trust, then the system has collapsed and it is vulnerable to false prophets, (as lamented by the prophet Jeremiah,) false teachings, (as warned by Paul in Corinthians), and false hope, (as spoken against in the Gospels.)

What is required to regain a lost trust?  

First, we have to admit that we don’t trust each other.  Let’s just get that on the table and deal with it.

Second, we must have the desire to trust again.  Look, if we don’t want to trust each other, then we won’t. If it serves us to fear each other, then we will keep fearing each other.  We have to choose to trust each other. We have to want to believe that people who see the world differently than we do are still people. We have to see each other.

But just having the desire to trust is not enough.  We must know the truths within us – the fundamental values that define us as individuals. If we believe that Jesus said to love God and love our neighbor,  and if we believe that to be a fundamental truth, then why don’t we act like it?   If we believe that, “all men (and women) are created equal,” then why don’t we act like it?  We cannot expect society to act one way, if we are not willing to behave in the truths that define us as individuals.   What is your truth?

We must hold each other accountable. If we hear hatred, bigotry, dishonesty and cruelty, we have to speak up and speak out.  Part of trust, is loving each other enough to say, “That’s unacceptable. You are hurting our society. You are pouring words into the impressionable minds of our children, and they trust you.”  When we give adults permission to be cruel and do not hold them accountable, we are telling our children that it’s o.k. to be rude, hurtful and even violent.  Part of being a trusting community is holding each other accountable. Speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)

If we are going to trust again, we need to forgive each other.  We need to be humble enough to ask for forgiveness and generous enough to forgive.  We must see the hurt we have impeded on each other and start to slowly, faithfully, work towards reconciliation.  Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,  and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31)

It took us a long time to get this  broken as a society.  It will take a long time – perhaps a life time to begin to trust again, and perhaps admit that the trust we thought we had was a falsehood.  If  we are going to heal, we have to begin to be willing to trust.  It begins with one small step at a time.  It begins with one neighbor reaching out to another neighbor, one community, reaching out to another community, one stranger, opening her door to another stranger.  It will not be resolved on social media. It will not be resolved in the halls of Congress.  It will only be resolved one person at a time.  I believe we can heal this country. I believe we can trust each other.  I believe we can love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  I believe love always wins.  I believe we can get there — even if it takes a life time.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
Fred Rogers


“What do you say?”


What do you say?

Remember that parental prompt our parents would give us to remember to say, “thank you, ” “please,”  “excuse me,” “may I please be excused?”

We do share those are phrases in our collective vernacular?  Correct?

I think we have lost something in translation.  Somewhere in the invasion of “say whatever you are thinking,”  we have lost the practice of having manners.

Whatever happened to manners?  Where did they go?  They must be around here somewhere, like those expensive sunglasses I shouldn’t have purchased last summer.

Whatever happened to manners?  You  know, back in the day, young people took etiquette classes.  Families used to have Sunday dinner with linen napkins and maybe two different kinds of forks at the table.  Parents would teach their children to put their napkin in their lap, to pass the butter, and to sit up at the table.

Back in the day, people would shake each other’s hands, look people in the eye, and say, “nice to meet you.”

But today?  Good Lord.

Whatever happened to being offended by crass language, immature name calling, and flagrant disregard to humanity?

Whatever happened to the  notion that boys and girls are to become gentlemen and ladies?  I know I sound like some prim, stick in the mud, but come on, we have gone off the deep end here.1528290674_55e8846e48


I’m not saying we need to go back corsets and  coming out parties. I’m not saying that men and women should be separated by gender roles or responsibilities.  What I am saying, is that our children are growing up believing it is o.k. to live without a filter, or a sense of what is appropriate to say to each other, to other adults and to the world – and that we adults are modeling that behavior.

They see and make posts on U-tube, Snapchat,  and Instagram images of themselves  without thinking.  They believe they can say and do whatever they want without thinking through the consequences.

And there are consequences.

Today, with the uninhibited temptation of texting, people say whatever comes to their mind without thinking about that the fact that that feeling at the moment can become forever part of their persona, when really it was just a fleeting thought, that should have kept fleeting.

The media says that if we are shocking, than we will be noticed. So we try to keep shocking the system to be seen.

How many times can our culture be shocked, before we realize we are flat lining?

Whatever happened to civility, decency and kindness?

This falls on us adults. If we are outraged at the way kids behave today, we better take a long look at the way we permit political leaders to talk to each other, the way we talk to strangers and the ways in which we let violent language pollute our psyche.

The whole world needs to stop and ask the question, “is this a speak it, or a think it?”  Then stop, reflect and then speak, or not.

We must hold our leaders and ourselves to a higher standard of conduct, in which we are not impressed with name calling, vulgar language, or petty remarks.  We should be so offended by those who do this, that we not avoid them, but we teach them that they cannot talk or behave in a manner that is unbecoming to the office they are seeking, or the role they are in.

Why?  Because our children are watching and they deserve better.

Because if we lose our common value of civility, we lose ourselves.

We must teach our children well.

Here is an article by David Lowry to help us with some guidelines:

How are we doing?


Helping your child master these simple rules of etiquette will get him noticed – for all the right reasons.

By David Lowry, PhD.

Your child’s rude ‘tude isn’t always intentional. Sometimes kids just don’t realize it’s impolite to interrupt, pick their nose, or loudly observe that the lady walking in front of them has a large behind. And in the hustle and bustle of daily life, busy moms and dads don’t always have the time to focus on etiquette. But, if you reinforce these 25 must-do manners, you’ll raise a polite, kind, well-liked child.

Manner #1 

When asking for something, say “Please.”

Manner #2 

When receiving something, say “Thank you.”

Manner #3 

Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are’ finished talking.

Manner #4 

If you do need to get somebody’s attention right away, the phrase “excuse me” is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.


When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later.

Manner #6 

The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.

Manner #7

Do not comment on other people’s physical characteristics unless, of course, it’s to compliment them, which is always welcome.

Manner #8

When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.

Manner #9

When you have spent time at your friend’s house, remember to thank his or her parents for having you over and for the good time you had.

Manner #10 

Knock on closed doors – and wait to see if there’s a response – before entering.

Manner #11 

When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.

Manner #12 

Be appreciative and say “thank you” for any gift you receive. In the age of e-mail, a handwritten thank-you note can have a powerful effect.

Manner #13 

Never use foul language in front of adults. Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.

Manner #14

Don’t call people mean names.

Manner #15 

Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Teasing shows others you are weak, and ganging up on someone else is cruel.

Manner #16

Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.


If you bump into somebody, immediately say “Excuse me.”


Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don’t pick your nose in public.


As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.


If you come across a parent, a teacher, or a neighbor working on something, ask if you can help. If they say “yes ,” do so – you may learn something new.

Manner #21 

When an adult asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile.

Manner #22

When someone helps you, say “thank you.” That person will likely want to help you again. This is especially true with teachers!

Manner #23

Use eating utensils properly. If you are unsure how to do so, ask your parents to teach you or watch what adults do.

Manner #24 

Keep a napkin on your lap; use it to wipe your mouth when necessary.

Manner #25 

Don’t reach for things at the table; ask to have them passed.

Originally published in the March 2011 issue of Parents magazine

The Village


I have been made profoundly aware of the number of people who are helping me raise my children.

As we have prepared to leave our community, the village that has raised my children have become more apparent. Did I take them for granted? Did I see that they were nurturing them, loving them? Did they see it themselves?

There are the adopted grandparents who have taken care of our little boy since he was 7 months old. When he visits on occasion,the now almost 7-year-old, runs into their house and grabs the chocolate pudding from the fridge and spoon from the drawer. He knew it would be there, waiting for him.

There is the beloved music teacher who makes every child feel they are remarkable.


There is the coach who gets my daughter and has patiently worked to build her self-esteem and help her find her inner athlete.

There is the piano teacher who welcomes you into her elegant home and makes your child feel that she elegant too.

There is the couple from church who take our kids fishing and to craft shows and over for tea. Just to make a connection with them.

There is the violin teacher who plays games so it doesn’t feel like practice.

There is the principal who stops over to see how things are going, the counselor who calls to check in and the teacher who sends a special note.


There is the doctor who sits to listen five-minute longer, the nurse who lets me pop in for a question.

There is the neighbor who blows our leaves, and drops by with May Day baskets and “Boos” us on Halloween.

There is the Mom down the street who leaves bags of clothes on the front porch for my girls. Special dresses that belonged to her older daughter that can’t just go to anyone.

There is the church who let my kids run around in it and play and sing and call it “home.”


This village is filled with colorful people who paint bright shades of joy, love, grace and welcome. Its rich with lessons of hospitality, care, comfort, and safety. This village teaches self-discipline, hard work and responsibility. These colors are the palate that have made my children who they are today.

Thank you.

Civility, Or….was that a think it or a speak it?

“People who cannot restrain their own baser instincts, who cannot treat one another with civility, are not capable of self-government… without virtue, a society can be ruled only by fear, a truth that tyrants understand all too well”
― Charles Colson, How Now Shall We Live?

“Was that a think it or a speak it?” That’s the question we ask our kids when they are fighting with each other, and they say something that was hurtful. “Was that a think it or a speak it?” It’s a question we need to be asking ourselves as adults too. Sometimes I get tired, overly annoyed, or just fed up and speak before I think. I always regret it. I always wish those words hasn’t come out of my mouth. When that happens I feel like I turn a different color. Like my soul turns the color of vomit. It’s not attractive.

When I think before I speak and I choose how I respond in a more conscientious way, I find that my soul and my sense of self is more translucent, free and content.

Here’s the thing, we have a lot of comments out there on the web, in emails and on Facebook, where people have chosen to vomit on each other. They have not thought before they wrote or thought about the energy, feelings or impacts the comments will have on other people or society as a whole.

What kind of people do we want to be?

I don’t have an answer for this. I’m a big advocate for Freedom of Speech. I understand how easy it is to write a snarky comment without worrying about accountability.

But here’s the thing, at the end of the day there is always accountability. We are always accountable to our souls, our inner self, and ultimately each other, and when we express hurtful things, we are really ultimately hurting ourselves, and all of society whether we know it or not.

I think our society needs to call people accountable to rude, hurtful behavior. I think we need to be assertive when we see comments that are pukey. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be critical, angry or assertive. I’m saying that we can be all of those things without being a jerk.

We need to teach society to stop and think, “was that a think it or a speak it?” We need leaders to model civility.

“Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­ as you surely will ­ adjust your lives, not the standards.”
― Ted Koppel

The Ministry of Making Music

I learned today that my piano teacher passed away. I rode my bike to her house every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 from the age of 10 to 17. I would sit in her living room and wait for my lesson, trying to remember what it was I was supposed to practice, feverishly scrambling to finish my theory assignment, and hoping she wouldn’t ask me to play Chopin.

I was not a skilled pianist. It did not come easy, or naturally. I did, and still do love music. I give her much credit for my appreciation for music and for the fact that I can still play, a little. My piano teacher was an accomplished first soprano as well as a skilled pianist. She was also wheel chair bound from childhood polio. I never really thought about her wheelchair, and I certainly never thought of her as disabled. She could sing higher than I ever could and play beautifully. She taught me more than how to hold my hands on the piano or how to count off beats. She taught me to appreciate and respect the discipline of creating beautiful music. Wasn’t I lucky?

She was never overly complimentary, nor was she ever overly critical. We just came together, after school…after long days of lunch rooms and, PE and math, and smelly boys and catty girls and we would play music in her living room. We would look at the notes and try to find what the composer intended for that particular piece of music. I would leave her house, committed to practicing longer and better than I had the week before. At the end of the day, our time together was less about succeeding or failing, it was simply about making music.

I think about our children and how we, or at least I, am always trying to tell them to  “do their best,”  “to reach for the stars,”  “to work their hardest.” I think about the fact that my kids are taking standardized tests all day today and then will come home and practice their instruments and we will pull papers from their backpacks and if they got a star on their paper, we will put their paper on the refrigerator and if they play well we will say “great job,” and I think “this is crazy!” The question should be: “Did you have fun?”  “Did you fall down and get back up?” “Did you help a friend along the way?”  “Did you think about the kid on the play ground who is left out?”  “Did you pray for your teacher?”  “Did you eat ONE vegetable?”  “Did you take care of yourself?” Then, that was a successful day. You made music.

I preach every Sunday and I try to get people to think about their faith. I try to encourage them to move closer to the Divine. I try to encourage them to think about God when they are emptying the dishwasher or getting gas, and sometimes I don’t know if I make any difference in that area. Sometimes I feel like I completely fail. It’s not the failing that matters, it’s the honest, hopeful, desire to make music. – Or in my line of work, we call it Grace.

It’s then that I just have to sit at the piano, and simply play music. Maybe I will miss a note, who cares! Maybe I will only play the right hand, good for me! Maybe I will only make it through the first page, right on!

Go fail something today. Go make a mistake. Go attempt, fall down and attempt again. Don’t be your best. Just be. It’s enough. Play beautiful music for the joy and beauty of music and teach your children to do the same.

After Reading the News


After reading the news this morning:

The government is going to allow for horses to be slaughtered in New Mexico
A child was killed
in a bathtub
A dog was abused and neglected
to death
I stopped reading the news.

I was shocked to discover that I was not shocked.

Numb? Yes.
Disgusted? Yes.
Saddened? Yes.

But not shocked.

Dear God,
I long to be shocked by actions of evil and brutality. My soul has become callused by stories of missing children, poverty, and corruption to the point that its tough exterior is no longer impacted by that which used to bring me to tears. I want to expect the best out of people, not assume the worse. I want to be accused of being optimistic. I want my feelings of retribution toward those who abuse the innocent, to be turned into passion for justice. Turn my silent hopelessness into a bright voice that says, “no more, no more, no more!” Amen.

To Begin the Season of Lent.

We need this season for no other reason then to sit longer with our souls and remember that we are in the same breath dust and a child of God. We need to roll these two concepts in our minds like dough. “I am a child of God, and I am dust. I am dust and I am a child of God.” “Oh, Lord you hem me in, behind and before,” the Psalmist writes. We are hemmed in, you see. We need this season to remember we belong to God. We need this season to take stock in what matters and what doesn’t. It’s a wilderness season. An introvert season. A sit down and be quiet and listen to me! season. We need 40 days to get cleaned out. Clean out our anger, our pain, our guilt, our annoyances, our cluttered minds, so that when the resurrection comes – we are ready.

Here is a poem by Wendell Berry that spoke to me. I thought his wisdom was a wonderful way to begin Lent. Blessings to you in this season.

“Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is highest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.”
― Wendell Berry


imageSometimes I can get crabby. My car breaks down, another snow storm comes, another child has to visit to Urgent Care, my insurance coverage might change, folks don’t like being Presbyterian anymore, etc, etc. It is all things that are out of my control that can drive me to a level of melancholy and angst.

My confession is that, while these things are all anxiety provoking and important they are also things that keep my eyes off Jesus. It’s like Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount, and I’m missing his lecture, because I’m on the other side of the mountain, sending one more email, trying to figure out how to make everything better. How to be in control.

This was my devotional this morning and it jarred me back to what Jesus sees every day compared to what I see. I was humbly reminded to keep things in perspective. I can’t afford to miss his sermon today. I can’t afford to not sit at his feet and be a listener today. I can’t afford to not be reminded that I am accountable to him. There is too much at stake.

I don’t know about you, but I need to have the courage to see the world through the perspective of Jesus.

How Will We Respond?

Murphy Davis

More than 30,000 children are dying of hunger today–are we crying out for them? They are under attack–are we angry? Have we met them in our prayers? Have we offered food to anyone who is hungry today? Or did we put it off because we were scheduled to go to a spirituality conference? Or because we were in a meeting talking about Christian unity? … When our prayer and our action are both rooted in the compassionate heart of God and the grief of the earth and her children, then we are promised that we will bear the fruit of liberation, the flower of courage.
Source: Hospitality Sept. 2008