31 May 2012

Is It Any Wonder?

This might be the beginning of a new recurring feature for me-

In preparation for a summer trip to Canada, we began preparing materials to apply for Isaac's passport. Because he is a minor, this means that he, Lacy, and I will need to present ourselves at a passport application "acceptance location" to submit it. I did a search online, and found the listing for sites near our home. Among the locations is a post office near Millie's preschool. Perfect.

After gathering everything that we need, and the grumpy, nap-needy Isaac, we entered the post office branch at mid-day today. We were told by the two employees that an appointment is required to submit passport materials. An appointment. The branch was devoid of other customers. And there was no availability today, tomorrow, or Saturday.

The website with the acceptance location listings did not mention the need for appointments, but if I had clicked on the link for the location itself, I probably would have realized my oversight. But still- an appointment? As the POST OFFICE? To submit a 2 page application and some supporting documents? Is there something special about the documents that require extra training, or a delicate touch?

I'm sure that I am making a mountain from a molehill. Is it that big a deal to come back on Monday? No. Do I relish taking our crazy two year-old back to the Post Office for that process? No.

Is it any wonder that the Post Office struggles, especially with these unfriendly policies?

28 May 2012

The Worth of Remembrance

A bit of history: Memorial Day began as "Decoration Day'' in the 1860s, to honor the 625,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War. Think of that amazing number: The number of Civil War dead is more than the population of Wyoming today. The number of Civil War dead is 11 times the number of American troops who died in Vietnam. According to Yale historian David Blight, the first Decoration Day event was organized by freed African-American slaves in 1865 in Charleston, S.C., where a parade of 10,000, led by 3,000 black schoolchildren, took place to honor the dead around a racetrack that had been used as a burial ground. In 2010, some leading Charleston residents dedicated a memorial for the first Memorial Day -- so re-named in 1882 -- at a reflecting pool in the city.

It is hard to reflect on the purpose of Memorial Day without feeling more than a little inadequate. It is one day of the year that is set aside to honor those who have died in the service of our country. How can any of us, enjoying our grills, pools (though not today), and many creature comforts, hope to express our thanks to those who have given everything? How can we express it to those left behind?

I was moved by this article by Tom Manion, the father of a fallen Marine named First Lieutenant Travis Manion.

Travis was just 26 years old when an enemy sniper's bullet pierced his heart after he had just helped save two wounded comrades. Even though our family knew the risks of Travis fighting on the violent streets of Fallujah, being notified of his death on a warm Sunday afternoon in Doylestown, Pa., was the worst moment of our lives.
While my son's life was relatively short, I spend every day marveling at his courage and wisdom. Before his second and final combat deployment, Travis said he wanted to go back to Iraq in order to spare a less-experienced Marine from going in his place. His words—"If not me, then who . . . "—continue to inspire me.

Mr. Manion reminds us that sacrifices continue to be made, and men like Travis continue to give their lives, after more than ten years of war.

Author, and soldier's wife, Lily Burana, comments on a photo that she finds haunting. I agree, and hope you will read about it. I remember seeing the photo when it accompanied a story about the Marines whose job it is to notify families of the death of a loved one and who accompany their remains to their place of burial.

Her closing words are worth copying here:
I believe that the civilian-military gap isn’t always born of indifference, but rather, at times, a sense of helplessness on the civilian side. What can I do? If you do nothing else, you can remember those who have given their lives for their country. Our country. Remembrance, which may seem a modest contribution in the moment, is a sacred act with long-term payoff — a singularly human gift that keeps on giving, year after war-fatigued year. I don’t need to remind you that America’s sons and daughters are still dying in combat. I don’t want to browbeat you into feeling guilty for not doing more. Instead, I want to tell you that as the wife of a veteran, it is tremendously meaningful to know that on this Memorial Day, civilians will be bearing witness and remembering in their own way — that those who are gone are not forgotten. I also want to say that as you remember them, we remember you.
Thank you.
Thank you, to those who have fought and died. Thank you to their families. Thank you to those who have lost in other ways, and thank you to those who love them. My words cannot hope to relay the feeling of gratitude that I feel.

20 May 2012

Lessons from Scripture

My current church responsibility is to coordinate and oversee Sunday school classes in my congregation. Occasionally this allows me to substitute teach, which is something that I really enjoy. Today's lesson provided me with a new connection between two stories that were already familiar to me.

In the Book of Mormon, which we consider scripture and a companion to the Bible, a man named Alma listens to a prophet and changes his life. He leaves a comfortable position of power and influence to follow the commandments, many people follow him, and they covenant to obey the commandments and be witnesses of Jesus Christ. At the same time, the people that Alma left persist in their ways and encounter great difficulty in the form of an occupying enemy force. Rather than rely on the Lord to find a remedy to their tough situation, they rely on their own strength and decide to go to war. Three times they try this, and each time they are defeated by a superior enemy. Finally, after all this, they turn to God,

Meanwhile, in spite of their righteousness, Alma's people are also placed in bondage by the same aggressors. Their reaction is to pray to God for deliverance, immediately. When they are commanded not to pray by their captors, they pray in secret and silently in their hearts. They are rewarded, not with miraculous deliverance, but with comfort and peace given through the Holy Spirit. This personal blessing is the miracle that they need to make their burdens light as they passed through that trial.

Two peoples, with the same basic problem, and two completely different ways of addressing it. One group is faithful, and the other less so, showing us that obedience is not a guarantee that we will not experience trials and afflictions. What we do learn is that the Lord is ALWAYS there, if we will humble ourselves and seek his comfort and guidance.

I am grateful for this story, and the important lesson it provides. We control how we react to life's trials, and I hope that I make the right choices as I experience whatever challenges await me.

Mosiah 18-24

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05 May 2012

Awesome Video Saturday CXCV

Yesterday was "Star Wars Day," so here is a funny, creative, and short retelling of the original Star Wars trilogy: