Wednesday, March 21, 2018

some good books -- and what can we give?

**post edit note...I wrote this fast.  I wish I had more time to take on this, but I don't so I hope it somehow conveys how I feel...and what I learned from these books.

We have read three really great books lately in my book club.

I love love love when a book takes you into a different world...and teaches you things from a different perspective.  And these three did that in a pretty powerful way for me.  

I was taken into the life of a wise and loving Muslim father writing letters to his sons as I read Letters to a Young Muslim.  I was taken to a world I hear about and think about but don't know intimate details about.  That book was beautiful because he wasn't just writing to his sons...he wrote to me.  So many universal truths in his words and so much I related to in my own religion.  He also included lots of interesting history and mostly beautiful things about how to take responsibility in life and to soak up knowledge and truth.

I cannot do a review of this book justice in the short amount of time I have to write this post...I have a bazillion pages turned over so it's difficult figure out what to quote, but here's one of those things I thought extra poignant: “Saif, I want you to be aware of the well-constructed path to a closed worldview that will, if followed, lead a person to a dangerous place. It can lead a well-meaning and sincere child to a place of close-minded anger and aggression.”...and also "Responsibility means looking out for the disadvantaged in your community.  Look for them.  They will not always be visible.  Our societies tend to focus on the new, the clean, the young, the beautiful.  Who wants to think about the ugliness and unhappiness in life?  I want you to devote some of your time to helping those who are on the borders of society.  He goes on to talk about how education has the power to change the world.  

Oh so much more, but in short, I think everyone should read that book.  In fact, it's been a few months and I've forgotten a lot, I should read it again.  So many truths ring true there and it gives so much insight into the Muslim world.  I love books that make me think and feel that much.  That book is HERE if you want to check it out.

Then we read Where the Wind Leads which is an incredible story of the journey of a Vietnamese refugee family, saved because of the goodness of an organization looking for "boat people" who needed rescue in the South China Sea.
(The book is HERE.)

It tells of this strong family in Southern Vietnam, how they fled the country when the North took over.  It made me think of how quickly governments can change, how quickly people can turn, how resilient people can be, and it made me ponder deeply the "coincidences" that happen in life.  I could do a whole blog post about that, my mind has been so jumbled with thoughts about "divine design" and what it means to me lately.  Hopefully I can get to that at some point.  Lately my mind has been so overrun with so many ideas and thoughts I wish I could put together with more of a semblance of order.  But back to the book...

We hear about refugees all the time.  They are in the news every day.  We raised money in our Children for Children concert a couple years ago to help refugees in Greece (back HERE and HERE).  You hear their stories, watch video clips online, listen to the news and learn about the extreme need for help.  

But this book takes you into the very story of one family, and it is powerful.  It is powerful because amidst a sea of worry and woes and overarching problems, it tells the story of one organization that went against so many telling them their ideas couldn't help...the problems are too large...too many governments' hands are tied, an unanswerable problem...and decided to take action anyway, even if it only meant a drop in a bucket. 

And it tells about what a difference that "drop" made.

It was extra fascinating to me because I've been there...to Vietnam, to Cambodia...I've studied the calamities that went on there, and this simple book brought those stories I heard to life in such a haunting way.  It gave me more of an understanding of what governments are going through...the sheer number of those who need help is so overwhelming.  How good intentioned people can be jaded from not having the answers to help.  It taught me that even though we can't "fix" these problems with a magic wand, we can do something.

The thing that hit me the most is this: (and this may be a spoiler alert, so beware!) That this huge extended family leaves Vietnam.  Through their journey they find themselves separated on four fishing boats floating out to sea.  One is rescued, and after quite a journey, the survivors are finally "sponsored" in America where they work their hearts out to make ends meet because they have the opportunity to do so.  And every one of them is able to make something of their lives.  They do amazing things.  So much resilience.  The other three fishing boats float back to Vietnam.  The most poignant part of the story to me is at the end when the author (who was three at the time he was rescued in that fishing boat and has now graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University and has gone on to get his MD at Harvard Medical School, is also a Fulbright Scholar and holds a master of theology) goes back to Vietnam and finds his cousins who's fishing boats floated back to Vietnam all those years ago. 

The author says: "For me, visiting Vietnam was like walking into a parallel universe--the life that would have been mine if the current had been a bit stronger or if the wind had shifted direction.  As I stood there in my parallel universe, looking at my alternate life, I found myself feeling guilty and ashamed--guilty because I had received a blessing they had not, and ashamed because I had not done more to help them...Why me?...why did the same wind take our boat in one direction and theirs in another?  We were blessed-there's no other way to say it--but why weren't they?  Were we more worthy in some way?  Were we more deserving of rescue?  I don't see how; my family's entire contribution to our rescue was to lie there waiting to die....

"...I worked long and hard to get where I am today, but the humbling truth is that all my hard work has been possible only because of a blessing I received that I did nothing to deserve.  I believe that blessing is something I am expected to pass on to other people any way I can.  I think that's what we are all expected to do."

I related so much with this.  I think about it every day.  There is so much to give in life, no matter where we are coming from.  I'm sure those cousins who were left in Vietnam have their own way of giving as well.  So do those Muslim sons of Omar Ghobash he was calling to action in his book, and the rest of us.  We all have such responsibilities...we just need to figure out how to give.  Our own unique ways we can give.  There are people suffering right where we are every day.  Just as Sharon Eubank says in her talk I shared back HERE, WE are the gift.  We need to reach out and do what we can in our own ways to lift and build, even if what we are giving seems small and insignificant.

I love that right as I was finishing that book, I got an email from someone wanting to make a difference for refugees. 

Coincidence?

"Divine Design?"

I don't know, but I think the timing was pretty great.  Sometimes the problems in the world are so overwhelming we throw up our hands and don't know what to do.  But we can choose to wring our hands in despair or do SOMETHING.  Even if that "something" doesn't seem earth shattering.  And I love that these guys are doing something.  Our family is going to join them.  

Here's a little about what they are doing with lots of videos and links HERE.
This is what Tracey (the person putting it together) says: 

"The refugee problem is so enormous; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and wonder what we can possibly do to help. But after watching video after video about this latest crisis in Bangladesh, I just kept saying to myself, “I can’t do nothing”. I remember going to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, and being shocked at how many Americans ignored or denied what was going on in Europe. For that reason, I want to make sure I do something to help these refugees.  I don’t want to look back and realize, that while all these horrible things were going on, I did nothing. I felt bad, but ignored it because I was too busy, didn’t know what to do, or couldn’t believe it was actually happening!

The idea is instead of spending money by going out on this particular Friday (April 6th)- stay home, make an inexpensive meal, play a board game or watch a movie you already own - donate the money you saved and take the opportunity to talk with your family about where the money is going." 


I love that idea.  Such an easy way to raise awareness in our families and make a contribution.  Join our family as we join them on April 6th if you can!

May we all find ways to lift and build and make a difference in our own unique ways.

I'm just finishing the third book I want to talk about ....will get to it soon!

15 comments:

  1. Thank you! I just bought these books to read with my family.

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  2. Thank you for the book recommendations and for being a bright spot on the internet. I know I will always come away from your blog with new ideas and inspired to be a better version of myself.

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  3. Thanks for sharing, I put the books on my Kindle wish list.

    I am curious why you don’t spend more time talking about politics on your blog?

    You have an amazing college degree, worked for a senator, understand the ins and outs of totalitarian systems and are an articulate thinker.

    Why is your family overall so quiet about this important topic?

    Marxism has resulted in worldwide suffering wherever it has been established and we have the same forces here in America working non stop to deprive all of us of our Liberty.

    As well intentioned as refugee work is, the effort to expose and shine the light of day on the political systems that cause people to want and need to flee their homes in the past and currently today seem to me to be as important as clothing and feeding the refugees.

    You have this platform, why don’t you use it to condemn and educate your readers about the toxic political ideologies and teachings of Marx and the worldwide impact on innocents?

    Maybe if a few more people would speak up about this topic we could help PREVENT those families from having to flee in the first place.

    Jenny Hatch
    www.JennyHatch.com

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    1. I have been reading Jordan Petersons book these past few days...

      He has a three minute video that is the best smackdown of Marxism I have ever seen.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8p2QfjaSIUo

      Here is the text of his speech:

      The fact that the post-modernists dare to be Marxists is also something that I find I would say not so much intellectually reprehensible as morally repugnant. And one of the things that the post-modern neo-Marxists continually claim is that they have nothing but compassion for the downtrodden.

      And I would say that anybody with more than a cursory knowledge of 20th century history who dares to claim simultaneously that they have compassion for the downtrodden and that they’re Marxists, are revealing either their ignorance of history that is so astounding that it’s actually a form of miracle, or a kind of malevolence that’s so reprehensible that it’s almost unspeakable, because we already ran the equity experiment over the course of the 20th century, and we already know what the Marxist doctrines have done for oppressed people all over the world. And the answer to that mostly was imprison them, enslave them, work them to death, or execute them.

      And as far as I can tell that’s not precisely commensurate with any message of compassion. And so I don’t that think the post-modern neo-Marxists have a leg to stand on ethically, or intellectually, or emotionally. And I think that they should be gone after as hard as possible from an intellectual perspective – an informed intellectual perspective. And this is fundamentally a war of ideas.

      And that’s the level of analysis that it should be fought upon. And not only is it a war of ideas, I think it’s one that can be won, because I think that especially the French intellectual post-modernists are a pack of – what would you call them? Well we could start with charlatans – that’s a good one. Pseudo-intellectual would be good. Resentful would be another.

      And then I would also consider them highly – they’re highly deceptive in their intellectual strategies because almost all of them are Marxist student intellectuals and they knew by the time the gulag archipelago came out, and even before that, that the nightmares of the Soviet Union and Maoist China were of such magnitude that they had completely invalidated any claim to ethical justification that the fundamental Marxist doctrines had ever managed to manifest. And so, it’s a no go zone as far as I’m concerned.

      Intellectually, the game’s over. We’ve already figured out that there are finite constraints on interpretation. And we also understand why those exist, and how they evolved, and from the perspective of political argumentation, there’s absolutely no excuse whatsoever in the 21st century to put forth Marxist doctrines as if they are the balm that is administered by the compassionate to the downtrodden.

      Sorry.

      Tried that.

      Didn’t work.

      We’ve got a hundred million corpses to prove it. And that’s plenty for me. And if it’s not enough for you, then you should do some serious thinking – either about your historical knowledge, or about your moral character.

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    2. She has stated before that this blog is primarily for her own family record keeping/journal. The day she gets political is the day I stop reading. I can research political issues on my own, I don’t need to be preached at. It’s her blog, she can post whatever she likes.

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    3. I obviously can't speak for Shawni's political views, but I think it's highly unlikely that she shares the ones you've expressed here.

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    4. I don’t expect anyone to accept or mimic my political views.

      I am just curious why people are so willing to be the “cleanup crew” for the horror show that results when totalitarianism rears it’s ugly head in a country, but are so loathe to speak up and speak out when a country, like Venezuela, begins its hopeless trek down the communist path.

      I don’t expect other bloggers to care about current events and politics enough to write about it.

      But I am curious about the current muzzle that appears to keep most female bloggers silent on these important topics.

      Jenny

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  4. Myanmar’s leaders are probably not going to moved by an Arizona’s mom’s blog.

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    1. True.

      But those moms who live in that country might be heartened to hear that a mom blogger cares enough to write about her wicked government.

      As Dr. Peterson points out in his excellent video, we have a whole centuries worth of “evidence” for the evil that results when Marxists rule.

      I am simply befuddled by the willingness of American Women to stand quietly by until the people have to flee their homes.

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  5. I love getting book recommendations- these are both on my list. Thank you! I just finished an important and deeply moving book- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I highly recommend it.

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  6. Thanks for great recommendations! I was thinking of you and your family when I recently read the book, “Option B” by Sheryl Sandberg. I’m currently a 34 year old mom of 4 young kids, and am losing my hearing for unknown (yet) reasons. I can relate what I think your feelings and Lucy’s might be on losing one of your senses. Anyhow, the book gave me a lot of great thought and was very inspiring. It’s a quick read you may like.

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  7. Thanks for the recommendations, Shawni. I value your judgement in books. Would you mind telling a bit more about your book club? How big is the group? How do you choose the books you read and discuss? How do you feel your study and discussions are helping your families generally?

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  8. Can you post some more info on what Tracey is doing to help those refugees and how she is able to get them the donated funds or the resources she has? How neat would it be if we could organized more nights like this across the country. I've wanted to help them as well but have no idea where to start!

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    1. Hi! This is actually Tracey. Please email me at samhaslam@yahoo.com I would love to share more info with you. You are right, it would be awesome to get more nights like this across the country. These people need so much help!!!

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