Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How many of you have had to be a boss – I don’t mean being the boss of your children, or being the oldest in your family growing up, how many of you heard that special phrase “You’re not the boss of me!” growing up? Often businesses will reward people who work hard and get a lot done by making them managers. Getting work done is task-oriented. But managing is people-oriented. That’s a big stretch!

One way managers and leaders try to corral human behavior is with rules, and I’ve come across a few crazy laws this past week:
• You’re not allowed to keep an ice cream cone in your back pocket in Alabama
• It’s forbidden to walk around in Lawrence, Kansas, carrying bees in your hat
• It is unlawful to lend your vacuum cleaner to your next-door neighbor in Denver
• Nobody is allowed sing in your bathtub in Pennsylvania

Every state has crazy laws because people are creative, and sin abounds!

Lots of bosses find themselves at a loss in how to get the work done, meet the deadlines, produce what’s asked of them and at the same time manage others well, bring out the best in the individuals that work for them, keep the work atmosphere healthy, and, yes, “bear the sword,” commend, but also punish, promote but also fire.

Have any of you had to fire someone? Think of what that must feel like for the boss – how many of us actually enjoy confrontation, or telling someone they’re performing so poorly they have to go?

You know how hard it is to keep law and order at home, just think of you were a police officer! You know how hard it is to adjudicate between two angry friends, or two angry children. What would it be like to be a judge? What would it be like having to make decisions that will affect a whole nation?

As soon as you are a boss you become the focus of all the people who work for you. You’re out there, public access, you can’t hide now. People will feel free to form opinions about you, not just how you are as a boss, but who you are as a person, everything will come under scrutiny. And people will feel free to share their opinions of you with each other. We’ve actually made it a national pastime to scrutinize every tiny detail of our public figures, really highlighting all the flaws and weak spots, all the indiscretions and transgressions, have you noticed that? What a price to pay for agreeing to lead.

As you read your newspaper, drink your coffee, and debrief the air on what a lousy job our government is doing, pray with compassion for our leaders and governing authorities, God has appointed them to a high calling and a hard job!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Devil

The spirits were out in the world that year. Sun Myung Moon had been releasing them as he spread his Divine Principle throughout Italy, Germany, Belgium and Holland.

By 1969, two years after my father and I had returned to America, the spirits were spread across the Atlantic, gathered wherever people gathered, like undulating waves of fervor, frothing up ecstatic joy among five hundred thousand worshipers of love, hallucinations and the throb of music in Woodstock, New York. Moving west to California, the spirits churned up ecstatic violence among Charles Manson and his worshipers; offering up the blood of humans to the spirits.

That same year Sun Myung Moon performed the sacred rite of marriage for the first non-Korean followers of his unification movement. Forty-three couples were joined together in unholy matrimony, to worship and serve the “True Father;” but also to serve the spirits he had brought with him. To serve evil. Among those special chosen was my erstwhile mother, who was already one of the Inner Circle, those who would lead and organize the “Unificationizing” of the United States.

The spirits frightened the teachers at my school, where I had successfully completed the second grade, and was beginning to feel some confidence as a third grader. The teachers spoke often of hell, of what horrors it held, the screaming, the gnashing of teeth, and I imagined teeth bursting in an explosion of tiny pebbles from the heat and the flames of hell. But the terrors of hell were nothing compared to the Devil. Here was evil at its most concentrated, the distillation of perfidy, of wickedness at its worst. We must resist the devil, for he drags the unsuspecting to hell, he fills them with his terrible spirit and causes them to do evil, even to become evil.

I had grown quite fed up with all of this frightened talk. The hand wringing and rounded eyes, the finger wagging and trembling voices. “Where is this devil?” I asked. I was no stranger to evil and its horrors. I was almost certain I had seen a picture of the devil himself in our living room in Italy. “Does he have black hair? Does he have a big shiny forehead? Does he smile like this?” I squinted my eyes and put on my most malignant, evil smile, frightening in its insincerity, the angel of darkness concealed in light.

The teacher could not answer me at first. Then she explained that the devil was a spirit, he was invisible, we could not see him, which is why he was so dangerous. “Well, is he visible in hell?” I was wondering to myself where that picture of him had been taken. Yes, the teacher slowly nodded; yes, very likely he was visible in hell.

I decided to put an end to all this terror. After I confirmed that heaven was “up there” and hell was “down there,” I began to dig a hole in the playground at every recess. Soon the other children began to help me. “We are going to dig to hell, and we are going to kill the devil.” It was a simple, yet powerful plan, for nearly all the children became as passionate and committed as I was, without reservation, to remove evil from our world.

Only the teachers were troubled. They questioned me in tremulous voices. Was I not growing tired of this project? Would I not like to play with the other children? My scorn for the ineffectiveness of grownups only increased. It was no wonder the devil and his evil were loose everywhere. Like my mother, they were weak, impressionable, held under his dark power even from so far away. But I would protect them before the devil arrived in Mount Vernon, New York. I would do the simple, practical thing and kill him myself.

Unfortunately, my father grew concerned that my school was not a good place for me, and had me transferred to another school where all the playgrounds were pavement.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First Day Of School

I'm going to be offline for a couple of weeks, away to a wedding among our extended family in Minnesota. So I thought I would tell some stories from my childhood. This is the first of a two part story concerning the first school I went to in America.


My father and I had agreed to leave Italy behind us. We would start fresh, no looking back. The past was no more.

There was much to forget. We talked about that on the way home in the airplane. No more speaking in Italian to each other, English was our language, we would be full Americans. As I gazed out the window I thought about weeping willows for some reason. Each leaf was a tear, many tears, softly suspended, gently falling, always falling and the wind fluttering the tears through the sky. There are clouds in the sky when you look out the window of an airplane, but no angels.

My father prepared me early in the morning. As he put mayonnaise on the bread ( Wonderbread), and pulled one slice of bologna from the package (Oscar Myer), he said, “Today we will look at a school for you.” I watched as he reached for the apple (Red Delicious) and put the sandwich and the apple into my lunch box. “You can decide if you would like to be in first grade, or second grade, or third grade.” I could decide. I wanted to be in third grade. I could read and write, and do arithmetic, but all in Italian. My English might not be strong enough. Perhaps I would be in first grade.

We arrived at the school, and my heart pounded. There would be strange people here, people I did not know. There would be much I had to forget to fit into this new school. I would be starting all over again. How big would the children be in third grade? I held onto my father’s hand as we walked from the bright sunlight into the darkness of the entry hall.

Inside the classroom an American flag stood in the front left corner, on a tall golden pole. A white flag with a golden cord stood in the right corner (I discovered later it was to represent the church). In between was a large black board, powdery with chalk, with the teacher’s desk in front of it. The children sat at their desks, facing the teacher, and as we looked at the backs of their heads my father bent down to whisper to me that the first grade was on the left side of the room, and the second grade was on the right. Third grade was in a room all by itself.

I held onto his hand as he explained to the teacher about me. “I would like for her to decide for herself,” he said, as the teacher looked down at me. Grownups did that when my father would explain about us. They would look down at me and nod their heads, and make small sounds like “oh” and “I see.”

I listened to the children talk to each other. I studied the books the teacher showed me. “Does she know how to do math?” she said to my father. Only in Italian. “Can she read?” Not very well in English. I thought about my beautiful books, filled with writing I had done myself. I thought about how the nuns had praised my addition and subtraction, and my new skill of multiplication. I thought about the taxi drive to the airport, with only my father, and my sisters.

I decided on second grade. My father smiled, and the teacher nodded, but I listened, in my heart, to the wind rustling the weeping willow.

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