Saturday, June 18, 2011

To my brothers, who have suggested I go ahead and "be that girl"

...I so am that girl.

Behold, the big, ugly, prickly, overgrown haven to spiders and other critters that has been the bane of my doorstep for the almost two years I've lived here.

In a heap. Because I sawed it to the ground!

And now the sun is shining on my doorstep!

(and if the landlord asks, yes, we "trimmed" the bushes)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why Congress Shouldn't Abandon Public Broadcasting, and Why You Should Care

President John F. Kennedy said, "I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit."

I love that sentiment. I hope it is true, because I hope that future generations will look at history with an eye pointed to the things that truly made a difference to the quality of the lives of individual people.

So how do we contribute to the human spirit? There are many ways, in my opinion. And they all start with education-- Education in reading, culture, history, science, music, theater, politics... the list goes on. Education then opens the door to creativity, the combining of seemingly unrelated bits of knowledge to form something that wasn't thought of before. Every major advance in our society has started with an idea. In other words, creativity. It's essential. At the risk of overgeneralizing, I would venture to say that the freedom to create and access to the resources and education that fosters creativity are what have made America the world leader it is.

Which leads me to my point.

In the next few days Congress will vote on a bill that would cut 100% of funding to public broadcasting - the television, radio, and online resources which, for many Americans, are some of the few - if not only - means they have to access information through which they can practice creativity. Did you know that every public broadcasting outlet has to comply with strict FCC regulations that ensure their service is accessible to as much of their constituency as reasonably possible? That means that the underprivileged child whose parents can't afford cable or satellite needs nothing but a TV and an antennae to watch PBS programs that will help him or her learn to read and do math. That child needs only a radio to listen to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast every Saturday afternoon and foster a love for beautiful music and culture (like Eve Queller, for example, who recently received NEA Opera Honors for the innovative way she broadened the accessibility of opera to the people of New York City). Lets not fail to mention that public broadcasting is possibly the only place left in our society where one can find unbiased, clear news reporting. The American people - you and me - have access to knowledge and culture of limitless variety through public broadcasting.

The idea behind this congressional vote is to cut the deficit for the benefit of future generations, and that is a good thing. But, completely cutting off funding to public broadcasting is too extreme. Cut back a little, sure. But it would be an absolute tragedy (and sad irony) if, in an effort to leave dollars behind for our children, we take away a vital resource for building spirit and creativity, and thus deprive them of the advances and luxuries we ourselves enjoy.

To provide a little insight into how funding works in public broadcasting, here's some info. Some stations, like Maryland Public Television (MPT), are state-owned. That means they get a large amount of funding from the state government. However, they are the exception not the rule. Most stations receive only a small percentage of their operating budget from the government. Federal and state funding combined account for well less than 10% of the budget of WETA, Washington DC's station. The majority of funding - more than half - comes from individual contributions. Second in dollars is corporate underwriting. That's the sponsor spots you see between programs on PBS. Think "funding for this program is being provided by X company." There are strict rules about what kind of content can be included in an underwriting spot, so that it never comes off as trying to sway the opinion of the audience. The point is, federal funding is already small in comparison to other forms of funding. PBS isn't busting Capitol Hill's wallet. But, that little bit of funding is vitally important to stations' ability to produce and air the quality programs you know and love.

If you know me much at all you know that I'm never one to push a political agenda on anyone, so please don't take this that way. I would just ask you to give this some thought. It took some thought for me. If you, like me, conclude that federal support of public broadcasting should continue, please call or email your congressman NOW. They are voting in the next few days. It is a matter of urgency.

More information:

I work at WETA, but these thoughts and comments are entirely my own. Please do not mistake them for anything official.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Introducing Mission 2011

Mission 2010: Say YES to Adventures was a success beyond my wildest expectations. A general policy of ignoring inhibitions and experiencing new things opened my eyes, my heart, my perspective. At the risk of sounding cliche, it really did change my life.

And that leads me to Mission 2011. The same concept. Put aside inhibitions. Ignore all the excuses we, for some silly reason, seem trained to come up with any time an opportunity comes before us that is in the slightest bit uncomfortable, unfamiliar, or difficult. Just say YES. Do it.

Mission 2011 is Say YES to Service.

A bit more challenging than Mission 2010, I admit, but isn't that the point? Exploration. Growth. A push to be something better. But really, this is challenging. Service is a broad topic. It encompasses everything from organized service projects, to helping a friend or neighbor in need, to offering directions to the person who looks lost on the street, to volunteering to be the one who gets off the couch to grab snacks during movie night. If it involves doing something for another person, it's service. It counts. Just like if it was something I had never done before, it counted as an adventure.

So this leads me to my recent big revelation (no really, I mean that). Last Sunday I attended a Fireside where the speaker presented an interesting challenge. He suggested that we go an entire week without asking Heavenly Father for a single thing for ourselves. Nothing at all related to our own self interest. Instead, ask, "Who can I help? How can I help them?" I felt like this would be a good experiment for me, given the whole Mission 2011 thing. So, I put in one final plea for myself, which was that Heavenly Father teach me whatever lesson I needed to learn from this, and the self-interested requests stopped there. And so my experimental prayer week commenced. As the first few days went by, however, I never did feel entirely comfortable with it.

Then, the other night, I was listening to The Mormon Channel (my new favorite thing ever, btw), and they were playing an old BYU Devotional given by Elder Holland. In classic Elder Holland style, it was a powerful message about the Savior - following Him, becoming like Him, trusting in His love for us and allowing Him to take away our sorrows. He talked about how much we matter to our Savior. Because he loves us so perfectly, what matters to us matters to Him.

Then I realized why the whole prayer thing wasn't sitting
right with me. It's okay for me to talk to Heavenly Father about me, because he really cares about me. If it matters to me - even in the smallest way, even if its something that probably isn't really that significant in the whole eternal scheme of things - it matters to Him. And it makes Him happy when I come to Him and talk to Him about it.

If it matters to me, it matters to Him.

So that means...

If it matters to that random guy on the street, it matters to the Savior. Because He loves that guy. And, what matters to my Savior, matters to me. Because I love Him, and have covenanted to follow Him and be a part of His work.

That is Christlike love. That is charity. It's all about what really matters to you. We all know that we should love everyone around us because they are God's children and our brothers and sisters in God's family. But, I think it's hard to figure out how to actually, honestly do that. I think this is the answer.

What matters to "that guy" matters to my Savior. Therefore, what matters to "that guy" matters to me.

And that's why I say YES to serving "that guy." In whatever way he needs. Even if it doesn't make sense to me why it's important. If it matters to him, it matters to my Savior, so it matters to me.

Less than a month in, Mission 2011 has been revised. No, enhanced. Say YES to Loving Service.

Because that's what it's about - caring,
loving, letting that person really matter to you.

Have I mentioned how awesome it is how God answers prayers?