Sunday, April 19, 2015

Soul of a Citizen - Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - Week 16

For the Spiritual Practices A to Z challenge, one of the practices is "Hope." As part of that spiritual practice, I read the book Soul of a Citizen - Living with Conviction in Challenging Times by Paul Loeb.

Some of the parts I found particularly meaningful and insightful including:

- At the core of our being lie resources many of us never dream we possess, much less imagine we can draw on.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made my lie something particular, and real,
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited the world.
Mary Oliver', When Death Comes

- Martin Luther King, according to Children's Defense Fun founder Marian Wright Edelman, was "someone able to admit how often he was afraid and unsure about his next step...It was his human vulnerability and his ability to rise about it that I most remember. He didn't pretend to be a great powerful know-it-all. I remember his discussing opening his gloom, depression, his fears, admitting that he didn't know what the next step was. He would then say: 'Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.'"

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. 
Lao Tzu

- Nothing gets accomplished when we try to do everything at once.
- Growth comes from saying yes to the unknown.
- "Children who teach a younger child, write letters to people in the hospital, or make toys for poor kids develop more receptiveness to helping people in need than those who don't share such experiences. Humane morality is learned through moral action." (Ervin Staub [a political psychologist])
- If we speak to people's passions, they're more likely to get involved in social causes.
- "Any true calling impels us toward service to the community, even as our particular passions, strengths, and gifts will determine the shape of our service." (James Hillman)
- By standing up for my integrity, I discovered the power of conviction, taking my first small step toward a lifetime of engagement.
- We never know how acts of generosity and faith will resound in the world.
- We never know how the impact of our actions may ripple outward, affecting others. We never know whom we may touch.
- Many of us find it easier to help our fellow citizens one on one than to exercise our democratic voice. We're far more likely to volunteer to meet a specific human need than to work to elect wiser leaders or pressure major economic, political, and cultural institutions to act more responsibly.
- Volunteer efforts can help us regain our sense of connection, offer lifelines to beleaguered communities, and change people's lives.
- Bread for the World points out, every day, 16,000 children perish of hunger related causes worldwide....The toll is largely from infectious diseases that devastate undernourished bodies. Because the stories of these deaths are so rarely told, we don't feel their full human impact, making it easy for us to ignore the problem.
- Making the  best use of our time and energy is more than a matter of reducing expenses. Most of us spend time recuperating from stress - time that we might use to get involved in our communities.
- We need to strike a balance between the havens that nurture us and the work that needs doing in the world. That means learning to draw pleasure from our modest domestic comforts, our hobbies, our passions, and even some of our distractions - but refusing to let them dominate our lives.
- Our kids need to think for themselves, learn from our limits and strengths, and find their own causes and commitments, in personal and public life alike.
- In The Little Virtues, Italian essayist Natalia Ginzburg argued that we should teach our children "not the little virtues but the great ones. Not thrift but generosity and an indifference to money; not caution but courage and a contempt for danger; not shrewdness but frankness and a love of truth; not tact but love for one's neighbor and self-denial; not a desire for success but a desire to be and to know."
- Only the great [virtues], which we hope our children will spontaneously develop someday but which in fact must be taught through example, can inspire a deeper sense of purpose.
- Children give us the best reason to stand up for what we believe. Again and again, activists describe them as their living links to the future.
- Aristotle once said that a barbaric culture consumes all of its resources to support itself in the present, whereas a civilized culture preserves them for later generations. Many of our society's most destructive actions yield consequences whose gravest implications aren't immediately apparent. That's true of our casual destruction of the planet.

Maybe the things we're working on today 
won't bring about changes for years. 
But it's just as important that we do them. 
Virginia Ramirez

- What I didn't realize was that giving beyond what I could emotionally and financially afford left me so exhausted that I could not continue over the long haul.
- If we are to stay involved in our causes, we must set boundaries to keep our lives from being so consumed that we're forced to withdraw from involvement entirely.
- We need to choose the pace and manner of our commitments, so that we don't end up too drained to continue.
- If we save enough time for contemplation and rejuvenation, we can continue our work throughout our lives. 'You get out of the city,' said Hazel Wolf, 'You hike, run a river, or watch birds in a park. With all the things to observe, there's less room for worry. Your mind gets a rest. You come back ready to take on Exxon.'
- Such moments of beauty and respite can help build engaged community - and lift the souls of those of us who participate.
- Isolation amplifies our impulses toward fear, resignation, and despair; whereas community helps overcome them.
- The more we voice our beliefs and speak to these longings, the more hope has a chance to emerge. We talk with new people, hear inspirational stories, build bonds with new communities. We no longer sit passively, immobilized by despair.
- We inspire each other simply through our participation.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? 
And if I am only for myself, what am I? 
If not now, when? 
Rabbi Hillel

- The moment of commitment cannot  be deferred. It must become a lifelong process, one that links our lives to the lives of others, our souls to the souls of others, in a chain of being that reaches both backward and forward, connecting us with all that makes us human.

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