Treasure

For where your treasure is, that is where your heart will be also. – Luke 12:34

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, my Grade 5 class spent the day doing lessons and activities with a focus on the theme of ‘love’.   For their morning Bellwork, the students told me about one or two people (or pets) that they loved a lot and to list a few reasons why.  A couple of students had concerns that they couldn’t choose between the people they loved and I assured them that just because you pick one person, doesn’t mean you love another any less.  The responses and reasons varied, but the majority selected mom or dad (for spending time with them), pets (for cuddling), and one student selected David Beckham (because he is an amazing soccer player).  It was special for me to get to read their responses and a great way to start our day. Soul Pancake, the group responsible for the amazing Kid President videos, did an experiment where they measured a persons (self-indicated) level of happiness. They then asked the participants to write a letter to a person in their life that has left a lasting impression.  Once the letter was complete, the participants were asked to call the person they wrote to and read their letter.  Check out what happened:

 I asked my students to do the same and I am curious to hear their stories about what happened when I see them again.  I have been thinking a lot about ‘love’ lately and about the different people and things I love.  It all started a couple of days ago when I was challenged by my wife (don’t you just love when that happens?).  She had come home from work and mentioned that she had forgotten a magazine that was at work (our mail gets delivered there).  Immediately, I hoped that it was the latest edition of “The Hockey News”, a magazine I read cover-to-cover every month.  My wife told me, however, that it wasn’t “The Hockey News”, but instead “Compassion”, a magazine we receive as a result of having a sponsor child. I was immediately disappointed.  I didn’t want to read about children in third world countries.  I wanted to read about hockey.  Seeing my disappointment, my wife pointed out that it’s pretty sad that I care so much about hockey and so little about the third world.

And so, I began to think about love and about how I am spending the time I have in this world.  As Luke pointed out 2000 years ago, where you spend your time, the things you treasure, is also what you love.  The list of things I think I love the most would look something like this (and maybe not in this order):

God. Megan. Family. Community. Friends. Justice. Food. My dogs. Being outside. Learning. Reading. Writing.

I really do consider myself as someone who cares about the third world, who wants to build community where I live and where I work, who loves to read and learn about new things.  If I look at how I spend my time, however, I see a different picture of what I really love.  The things or people I spend the most time with are:

Work. Megan. The dogs. Hockey. Video Games. Browsing the Internet. Watching T.V.

I am hesitating as I write this, because I don’t really want to admit to myself or to the world the things I spend the most time doing.  Why do the things I think I love the most and what I actually spend the most time doing not add up? I wonder what would happen if I spent more time doing the things I love and less time on all the other stuff that comes into my life. Would I be happier? More fulfilled?  I think it’s time to find out.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What I Learned from My Summer in Jail

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“When you go to jail, there’s so much simple stuff missing. You just want some good toilet paper or a real toothbrush, a real blanket and a real bed to lay in.” – Ja Rule

An excellent observation, Ja Rule.  Jail is not the Hilton, Marriott or Sheraton.  I have been lucky enough to spend a few nights at these places and jail is nothing like them.  Jail (at least the one that I’ve been in) is kind of what you would expect it to be; cold, sterile, overall uncomfortable.  I am OK with this, however.  I mean, how did you end up here? What did you do that brought you to this place? The answers to these questions are often more complicated than they appear in the big picture, but in the small picture, you did something ‘bad’ and for your own safety and the safety of others, you get to spend the night with me.  In jail.  With mediocre toilet paper, a simple blanket and a mat to sleep on.

I am currently in jail as a type this post with three friends who are all sleeping off the night before. I don’t know their stories, but I do know that they probably deserve to be here right now and it’s probably in their best interest. This summer I had the… well what’s the word I’m looking for?  Privilege? Opportunity? Let’s go with privilege.  This summer I had the privilege of working as a guard at the local jail.  As I worked, I learned and relearned a few simple truths.

Jail is a great place to focus and get work done. My job as a guard is fairly simple.  I need to check in on the prisoners regularly to ensure that they are doing OK and occasionally prepare meals for them (depending on the situation), but beyond that, my time is mostly my own.  I have found that sitting at the guard desk is a great place to ensure that I focus and get work done.  At times there is literally nothing else to do.  No distractions or other things I could be doing.  Who would have thought?

Sleep is wonderful. Now, I know this may sound silly, but I typically have endured sleep and not enjoyed it. Sleep was something I did when I was tired and something I knew I needed to do to maintain a healthy body, but not something I cared to do for any extended period of time.  I usually wake up early and am excited to start a new day.  I am that annoying morning person some of you probably hate.  Or at least I was. Working as a guard has, at times, required that I work overnight with little or no warning that I was about to.  There have been times when I have lived a full day only to get called at 11pm, 1am, or 2am and asked to guard.  Now, I’m not complaining about working crazy hours.  I signed up for it and it usually doesn’t bother me, but it has made me appreciate sleep on a whole new lever.  I don’t have any kids, but I imagine at times it is similar. Are there any parents in the world who haven’t learned to truly appreciate sleep or a good nap?

I need more friends overseas. Overnight shifts can get long and it is nice to visit with people who also happen to be awake.  I have had a few good visits with friends of mine who are up with little ones in the middle of night, but these are too few between.  Having some friends in places with a different time zone would be ideal.

We make choices and choices have consequences. Life is complicated.  Extremely complicated. The reasons behind why a person does what they do is complex and convoluted.  I chose to go to University and become a teacher.  Why did I choose to do this? I love helping people achieve at their best and pursue their goals.  Simple enough. Why do I like helping people? Complicated.  It probably has a lot to do with how and where I was raised and by whom. It probably also has to do with my personality and my interests.  Whatever the reasons, it is a lot more complicated.  Jail has reminded me that regardless of everything else in a persons life, some actions have direct, understandable and foreseeable consequences.

People make mistakes, but life goes on. Everyone messes up once in a while (Once and a while? /Once in a while? Google says once in a while so let’s go with that. I’m a teacher now so I should probably start figuring some of this stuff out…).  The trick is not letting one mistake become a pattern.  If a mistake becomes a pattern, the trick is finding ways to end the pattern.  Life will continue to move on regardless but how life looks will likely change.  I see people here who make mistakes and have to pay for them.  I also get to see them leave in the morning sunshine and hopefully make a better choice next time.

Who would have thought that jail would be such a good teacher for the guard? Today is my last shift of the summer and I will some aspects of this job, but I am very excited to meet my new class and start teaching.  Who knows what amazing and awesome things they will teach and reteach me?

 

On the Edge of Something Large

“While standing on the edge of something large
While standing here so close to You
We could be consumed
What a glorious day”
– David Crowder Band (check out this song here.)
 

I don’t believe this is the first time I have mused on the above song lyrics, but today they strike me all over again.  Imagine with me standing on the edge of a cliff.  Behind you, you can see the life you have lived for the last number of years or perhaps since birth. In front of you, you can see an endless sky, a beautiful vista, and opportunity. In order to reach what is in front, you must leave what is behind.

There have been two times in my life where I can remember thinking “after this moment, nothing will be the same.”  It is a scary place to be. Very scary actually. So why do it? Why take that step and free fall into the unknown? Maybe it will be better than what I am leaving behind, maybe it will be worse, but it will defiantly be different. I have heard the sentiment “change leads to growth” or some variation of it many times over the course of my life so far, but I have not heard it so eliquently put as it was by author and poet C. Joybell C.:

“The only way that we can live, is if we grow.
The only way that we can grow is if we change.
The only way that we can change is if we learn.
The only way we can learn is if we are exposed.
And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open.
Do it. Throw yourself.”

Change leads to growth. When I first left my parents house for a new life in a new city, I was flooded with thoughts and mixed emotions.  I was excited at the prospect of starting somewhere fresh where I could redefine who I was and where no one expected me to act or behave a certain way.  I was horrified at the possibility of losing my safe haven and being “on my own.” What I discovered, however, was that in leaving my known life behind I was able to learn about who I was and determine from there who I wanted to be.  The wheels of change were set into motion and in one action the course of my life changed.

I also learned that I would never be “on my own” as I thought.  In some ways, I feel my relationship with my family has been strengthened by the distance between us. The time we get to spend together (whether on the phone, on Skype, or when we get lucky enough to be together in person) is valuable and cherished. I am so thankful for the time and effort my family makes to help me stay connected to them despite being so far away.

Today I went to a service at a new church, bought some supplies at a new SuperStore, and walked around a new city.  For the second time in my life I can say that things are different and will not be the same as they were before.  I am not afraid of change, though. I embrace it and am so excited to see how I will grow from it. Tomorrow I move into a new house in a new community (which apparently has an “amazing” soccer team) and look forward to the new challenges and new opportunities that lay ahead.

Living in a ‘Free’ World

Photo by: Delwin Stephen Campbell

Last night, I went to a Holocaust Remembrance Service or Yom HaShoah at the local synagogue here in Regina.  Yom HaShoah is held annually to remember the estimated 6 million Jews that we systematically persecuted and destroyed by Nazi Germany.  The main part of the service included an address from investigate journalist, Edwin Black.  Black is best known for his writing on how the corporations of America profited from the Holocaust, specifically IBM.  I encourage you to follow the links here and to read for yourself what Black has uncovered.  To summarize, Blacks message was that corporate greed made this injustice possible.  Desire for MONEY about PEOPLE made the Holocaust a reality and led to the deaths of 6 million Jews, along with homosexuals, gypsy’s, Jehovah Witnesses and more, at the hands of the Nazis.

If we do not understand our past, we are doomed to repeat it.”  This phrase was stated a couple of times last night and it makes sense to me.  If we forget the atrocities that occurred, we may very well repeat them… but what are we supposed to do if these atrocities are STILL occurring?  If you knew to Holocaust was happening right now, what would you do about it?  If you knew that corporate greed was still marginalizing people for profit, choosing MONEY over PEOPLE, would you do what you could to stop it?

The very sad, but true, fact is… this is still happening in our world.   I am so blessed to live in Canada and living here, it is easy to forget that there are people in the world who do not have things so well off.  It is estimated that between 12 to 27 million slaves exist worldwide. I recently took an online quiz which told me that because of the things I own (clothes, smartphones, laptops, T.V’s, jewellery) it is likely I had 43 slaves working for me.  You can find the quiz here.  Corporate greed is having the corporations I buy things from finding the cheapest possible way to purchase the raw materials needs to create their goods for me to consume.

I get to live the way I live (with all of my fancy toys, clothes, etc.) because somebody else is being marginalized. I am not OK with this. In a recent conversation with peers, I was told that we ‘cannot care about everything that happens in the world’ and that ‘that’s just how things are.’  These answers are not good enough for me.  If I knew that the Holocaust was happening right now, I would do what I could to stop it.   I KNOW that corporations are causing slavery and I am doing NOTHING.

 And to be honest, I’m not even sure where to start.  What can I do to stop slavery? I have tried looking into the companies I purchase goods from and have yet be able to find any links to slavery.   I have found many accusations, and many defenses, but no actual facts.  It would appear that companies would rather you not know that their raw materials are purchased from supplies who have forced or unpaid labour.  Awareness is something… but awareness without action is useless.

If you know of ways I can help to end slavery, please send me a message.

My Dog is an Honour Student

When we first got Sully, our now 1 year old pitbull, he was a little terror (you can read about it here).  In order to tame his ferocity, we started teaching him tricks right away in the hopes that he would gain some listening skills and would be less likely to bite our hands. Over the last year, we’ve taught him a few different tricks and I’d love to share them with you today.

#1 Grapeness Comes to Those Who Wait

This was one of the first tricks we taught Sully.  If you want to teach your dog this, I would start by becoming the owner of all food that enter’s his/her mouth.  This takes some time, but it’s very rare that Sully will now eat ANYTHING without my permission (at least while I’m not watching… cite the destroyed wicker garbage bin).  Once he figured out that the only time he was going to get to eat was when I said so, this trick became possible.

#2 Taking Candy from a Baby

This trick is simply an evolution for the previous one.  Sully had become very good at holding food in his mouth and drooling non-stop until I allowed him to eat it.  First, I added the element of him taking the food from my own mouth.  Once that was done, I decided to make it a little harder for him to get the food.

#3 Third Times a Charm

This is another food related trick where Sully is only allowed to go get his food when I say so.  I did not train Sully to do this trick. One day, I was eating something and tossed some at him as a treat. He let the food hit him in the face and fall to the ground, not allowing himself to get eat it. When I said ‘OK’ he went and got it.  Such a sweet dog.

#4 Sully, Turn Off the Light

This is the most useful trick for those lazy people in the world (most/all of us).  Often, when I’m in bed, forget to turn off the light, and cannot convince my wife to turn it off, I would have to get all uncomfortable and cold and turn off the light myself.  Problem = solved!

If you have a crazy puppy that seems out of control and you’re wondering “How can I make this little monster manageable?”  I recommend two things.  #1 WALK YOUR DOG!!! It’s important and gives their brain something to do. #2 Teach some tricks.  Once again, good for the brain AND fun for both of you 🙂

Ok, one more video just because he’s the cutest…

Have a great day!

Back Into the Swing of Things

It feels like it has been an eternity since I’ve sat down to write a post for this blog.  I could blame my lack of writing on the busy holiday season, or on the fact that I was having too much fun with my free time in between semesters, but the truth is I have felt completely uninspired to write anything. It is not that I haven’t pondered anything or had anything interesting happen to me over the last couple of weeks, but I’m just not sure how to start again, or where to take things.

Maybe I’ll start by just catch up to today. Holiday’s this year were AMAZING.  I was able to be home in Winnipeg for the first time in a number of years for Christmas and really enjoyed seeing my family. I think my favourite part was watching my little cousins be caught up in the wonder, mystery, and joy of the season, but I also enjoyed stuffing my face with all of the Christmas treats. I also was able to spend a couple of days with my wife’s family and had fun watching hockey, relaxing, and eating with them as well

The Holiday Season is now over, and its time to get back into the swing of things with work, school, and home life.  This semester I am taking 5 classes which end up including 3 different volunteer projects. I will be observing and assisting in a classroom,  working with an ESL student in another, and have the opportunity to choose one area of volunteer for the third.  I’m thinking I’m going to choose something that has to do with students who have special needs so if you know of any places in Regina  that need some help, please feel free to leave them in the comment section and I’ll take a look.  I am really looking forward to being able to get out of the classroom and actually interact with students and workers in the field. I also have a feeling they will give me some good experiences and some interesting stories.

My wife and I have also decided to do P90X (at this moment, I’m on Day 5 of 90).  P90x is a workout series that I’m hoping will be able to help restart my healthy eating and living habits.  I have written before about losing weight, and I’m hoping now that I can take things to the next level with this workout.  Maybe when I’m finished, I’ll post some before and after pics.

Well, I guess that’s everything for right now.  It feels good to step out of my writer’s drought  I hope you were able to spend some time with family and friends this Christmas and also to take sometime for yourself to reflect and refocus.  Enjoy the hot weather we’re having by taking a stroll with a friend, family member or pet. Peace.

I Love the Prairies

Just like the great John Denver, I am so happy to be living on the prairies.  There is really nothing else quite like it.  Hear in Saskatchewan, we sometimes get a wrap for being simple, country folk from a Province whose only purpose is to house a highway connecting Manitoba to Alberta. I’m originally from Winnipeg, MB and shared those same ideas… that was until I moved across the border.

I was just cleaning up my blog, and I wanted to put a background picture showing the prairie landscape when it hit me.  I truly love living, learning and working in such a beautiful part of the country. Some look at Saskatchewan and say that it is flat and boring.  I don’t argue with the flat part (well, portions of this province are flat) but boring!?!  Give your head a shake.  Some people will look at places such as the Qu’Appelle Valley or the far north and say “see… we’re not boring. We have valleys and forests!!” I, however, am not one of these people.  While I do think the valley’s are beautiful and the forests are lush, I truly love the flat, open landscape that Saskatchewan offers. It inspires, awes, and causes me to reflect all at the same time. Open spaces are like endless possibilities.

As the population is Saskatchewan continues to increase at a rapid rate, I hope and pray that this place does not lose its charm.  I don’t have much more to say on the subject, but I want you to know that Saskatchewan is great and maybe the next time your travelling from Winnipeg to Calgary, take a moment to be lost in the vast openness.  Let your imagination take you to a simpler time.  A time when wild animals roamed the Canadian countryside, and you could travel for days without seeing anyone and anything manmade.

That’s all for today.

D.