Wednesday, May 26, 2010

thoughts from the Koran

Assalamu alaykum=peace be with you, an Islamic greeting in Arabic.

I am truly delighted to be among the believers of God. The Islamic scripture Qur’an says, “Do not despair of solace from God. No one despairs of solace from Allah except for people who do not believe. (Surah, ie. Chapter Yusuf, no. 87). In these stressful times, I find the particular passage from the Qur’an as a source of strength for us all. As we approach Mothers’ Day, I am thinking of a Hadith.
saying of the Prophet Muhammad. It says: “Paradise lies under the feet of mothers.” I am sure all believers will agree that mothers deserve our love, respect, and admiration.

Omar Khalidi

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Are We Listening?

First Reading:

Together, one with one, we can build the new Earth, a place of wholeness in diversity. We can transform our organizations into communities, places of compassion and care.

Our leaders will focus on affirming and renewing values, building community, and releasing human possibilities. Connection, not acquisition, will be seen as the primary human motivator. The core question will be, How can I help?

Together, we will build spaces of renewal, creating safe places in dysfunctional organizations, seedbeds for a new world. We will advocate a new leadership based on service above self. We will replace the leader on top of our pyramid with a leadership circle, moving beyond the rhetoric of participation to shared governance in fact.

In calling forth this new day, let us be guided by our hearts to be the vessels for the light that powers the Universe, to be a chord in the one song of our healed and holy Home

- John Jacob Gardiner, Professor of Leadership, Seattle University, Washington

Good morning. My name is Abigail Francis, and I am the Director of Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Services at MIT.

Sometimes I think I may have been called to this position. Have you ever had that feeling…like you were somehow in just the right place at just the right time with just enough experience, skills, and knowledge for the situation? Was it luck…effort…planning…fate…God…that helped you get there - maybe some combination of these things?

I like the idea of a calling because it implies that I have the awareness and the ability to listen. Listening is a skill that I think could use some sharpening at MIT. We have no problem sharing our ideas, our innovations, our solutions. But sometimes I think the real answers lie in our ability to just be…still…quiet…patient…and to hear from those whose voice has been left out. In essence, this is the true nature of my work, and I argue that it is in fact, all of our work.

As a community we share a collective responsibility to create an environment where everyone is valued, where all good ideas matter, and where all are invited to be their very best. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Sometimes it takes some digging for me to see the good in people who actively hate others or in a situation where a student faces a deep despair. Imagine that after saying just three little words - you loose all emotional, spiritual, and financial support from those who are supposed to love you the most. All your community, history, and sense of self-worth - gone - after saying “mom”, “dad”, “fraternity brother”, “sorority sister”, “athletics teammate”, “I am gay” or “I am transgender”. Or imagine living your life in hiding because coming out as LBGT in your home country or home state could have you arrested or even killed. Imagine having your spouse die in the hospital while you and your children aren’t permitted to see them because you are the same gender. Imagine being fired from your job simply because of your gender identity.

Every day I hear from those who are silenced, oppressed, discriminated against, assaulted, isolated, and neglected. Their stories are real, and their negative experiences are a constant. So I wonder, as a leading institution, how can we “build a new earth” as John Jacob Gardner describes? What would it take to reach a place of “wholeness in diversity”? And as an institution, do we all care to reach for that place? Is it worth the journey to a place or time where everyone feels included and valued as equals? Can we even imagine the possibilities if everyone at MIT were able to operate at their peak performance? What would happen if we could eliminate all forms of power, privilege, and oppression? Do you agree with Nelson Mandela that “the time for the healing of wounds has come”, that “the time to build is upon us”? And if so, then how might we get there?

I’m afraid that these questions are without a scientific formula. The problems of achieving equality for all people, of transforming an institution, are not a quick fix. Yet, progress is possible. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It may very well get messy. Mandela says, “there is no easy road to freedom”. But as with science, we can learn from our mistakes. We can think about our own forms of privilege, and we can improve on multiple forms of cultural competence.

The real challenge is that in order to succeed we must act together. We must ask about what we are called to do as a community, as a society, as a department, as a laboratory, as a board, and as an institute. If it does take a village to raise a young person, then what role will we play collectively, to help this generation of students grow and develop? And how can we ensure that they all have an equal chance at success?

I think we all have a calling to be part of the “birth of a new world”. The real question is: are we listening?

Second Reading:

The time for healing of the wounds has come.
The time to build is upon us...
We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people
from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation,
suffering, gender and other discrimination...
There is no easy road to freedom...
None of us acting alone can achieve success.
We must therefore act together as a united people,
for reconciliation, for nation building,
for the birth of a new world.

- Nelson Mandela

Thursday, May 6, 2010

On Prayer Dottie Mark

"Accept , O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for
us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty
of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving
care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and
for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to
acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of His
Word and the example of His life; for His steadfast obedience, by which
He overcame temptations; for His dying, through which He overcame death;
and for His rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of
your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make Him
known; and through Him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks
to you in all things. In Jesus name we pray, Amen"

When asked by Bob Randolph to give a short talk on my dreams for the future, I first wondered just what could I, the wife of an MIT professor, mother of 4 incredible young adult children and their spouses, Gram of 9 wonderful children, possibly have to say that could offer some words of hope. Here are my thoughts.

Roger and I live at Sidney-Pacific, a graduate residence for 700 students, half of whom are internationals. We have been involved in SPICE (Sidney-Pacific Inter Cultural Exchange) groups which meet over dinner to discuss such topics as their families’ origins, cultures, histories, religious beliefs and inter-cultural marriages to name a few. As I watch them talk and learn to listen to one another, I realize that my dreams and hopes for peace and justice, as well as overcoming poverty, illiteracy and racism, in this world can happen through these young people as they become leaders in their countries, in universities and large companies. How can this happen you might think? Well, my answer is through the mighty power of prayer.

So, why pray? Simple, Jesus prayed! Even as the Son of God, He prayed while He was on this earth. If the Son of God needed to pray, how much more do we stand in need of prayer?

Jesus began his ministry on earth with prayer. Before He chose His 12 disciples, He spent a whole night on a mountainside in prayer (Luke 6:10). Before raising Lazarus from the dead, He prayed (John 11:41-43). Jesus also gave thanks to God before blessing the five loaves and two fishes and feeding five thousand folks who had come to hear Him (Matthew 14:19).

We also have significant decisions to make in life, but do we pray about them? Having been a Christian since high school days, I remember praying about where to go to college, what to study, what job to take, whether to marry or not (and then I met Roger and knew the answer to that prayer!). When we had our children, I felt so strongly that we needed to pray about them from the moment of conception…and still we pray for them! In fact, prayer has been a vital part of my spiritual journey. I’m not sure how I could have raised our family, reached out to elderly parents and friends, without being under girded by the strength and wisdom one gets from prayer.

Stanley Hauerwas, professor at Duke Divinity School, opens all of his classes with prayer. In one he said, “Lord of all Wisdom, we thank you for your Word, Jesus Christ. Illumine our minds and bodies by that Word so that we might see every part of your creation as a reflection of your glory. In particular help us not to miss the small and contingent rocks, plants and animals in which children so delight. Make us like children so that we might enjoy the sheer giftedness of your creations. Amen.”

Where does one pray? One example that Jesus gave was to get alone to pray. It is in such undisturbed quietness that our souls will be ready to listen to God. Often He does not shout His messages to us but gently whispers them. Being alone and silent is often not enough .We need to spend time with God in talking to Him and reading His Word, the Bible.

Oswald Chambers, in his book, “My Utmost for His Highest,” says “If we think about prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts, we think rightly. The blood flows ceaselessly and our breathing continues ceaselessly, even if we’re not conscious of it, but it is always going on. We are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect union with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life. Beware of anything that stops spontaneous prayer. ‘Pray without ceasing’ (I Thessalonians 5:17), keep the childlike habits of spontaneous prayer in your heart to God at all times.” In other words, you can pray to God where ever you are, even while driving your car, sitting on the T or walking across campus. We should also remember to give thanks for each day, for food, shelter, and good health…, but most importantly, we must remember that nothing pleases God more than to see us pray for His will to be done (Matt 6:10).

Our lives should be such that we glorify God. Our work and our deeds should be aimed to glorify God. Therefore, when we pray, we should pray for that answer to prayer which will bring glory to God. Jesus knew that when he prayed alone in the garden of Gethsemane, just before He was crucified. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). Oswald also said, “It is not so true that ‘prayer changes things’ as that prayer changes ME and I change things…prayer is not a question of altering things externally but of working wonders in a person’s disposition.”

Therefore, as I look to the future, at our MIT students and their potential for serving others and God, if they so choose, and at my family as they work to bring peace and justice to this troubled work, my prayer continues to be that their lives will bring glory to God in whatever they do and where ever they will be in this world.

Let us close by reading together the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, “Lord make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us show love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.” Amen

Dottie Mark
Sydney and Pacific

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

For Mother's Day

The Lanyard

Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.