Why am I here?

Certainly you have asked yourself this question. Perhaps you asked it many times. You could have been sitting in a boring class that seemed to have no relation to real life. If you went on to college there may have been several of these classes because they were listed as “requirements.” “Reflections on Man,” for example, may sound like something meaningful, but I am pretty sure my only reflection was on the meaning of the course itself. “Philosophy and Religion” as well as “Behavioral and Social Sciences” requirements provided me with plenty of opportunities to ask, “Why am I doing this?” On its lowest level, I guess you could say I was doing if for the grade.

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Family gatherings can also drive you to ask our topic question. Good old Aunt Pearl may compel your attendance at her twice annual family gatherings. That would be the ones without music or television where the adults would try painfully to keep some sort of conversation going. Her cookies and hard candies just were not enough to keep you from wondering why you continue to attend these family gatherings that seemed forerunners to family wakes. By the time Aunt Pearl passes, you will feel like you have already attended her wake on many occasions. After the kids get hyped up on candy, they may provide some comic relief to go with Aunt Pearl’s annoyance (or passing). The conclusion may still be, “Why Lord? Why?”

Of course, you may find yourself at one holiday party when you know a better one is going on elsewhere. The reason for this may be that it is some sort of social obligation. Still you wonder why you are at Orville’s party when Wilbur is so much more fun. Even though the holidays usually seem to race right by with January and February lurking around the corner, time seems to stand still at Orville’s party, leaving you to wonder “Why am I here?”

For the last dozen or so years, I have thought of this question on the grand philosophical scale. That is, I have literally wondered why I am here, on earth, in this place, at this time. I figure there must be a higher calling, if I could just find out what that is. In Catholic grade school, we were taught to seek our vocation in life. Lately when they call to pray for vocations, they generally mean they need more religious to join up.

Still we all may think “Why am I here?” You might have the pleasant thought that it is because your mommy and daddy wanted you, but in my case, I am pretty sure that is not it. If you think it is because the stork brought you, you are either from Alsace or too young to be reading this blog.

In church we read out the intentions or invocations. These are prayers where we call on the Lord to help us. One at the end usually goes like this, “For the intentions we hold in the silence of our hearts (pause), we pray to the Lord.” In recent years this pause was where I filled in a request for acceptance, which has to do with chronic foot pain, and a desire to have the answer to the question on why I am here. There must be some reason beyond tossing off clever quips on social media sites.

There was a priest whose sermons never left me with the “why am I here” feeling. It almost seemed like he is just talking to me. So I confessed to him one day that I felt there must be a grand plan. I felt frustrated that I did not know it even though I prayed for the answer. Of course, he urged me to keep an open mind and be receptive. What else could he say? He was not going to pass along God’s response. No voice was coming to us from a cloud. No one will give us a 140 character response on twitter (or 280 if you are blessed with extra letters). He did the only thing he could, he listened.

In the meantime, I thought I would just take whatever reasonable opportunity I could to help people out and keep my ears open. It reminded me of the frustration felt by the Bishop at the beginning of the holiday classic The Bishop’s Wife. At his wit’s end at not finding what he needed to build the cathedral, he prays, but if you see this holiday movie, listen to what he prays for. Is it really a cathedral?

Just like our movie hero, it finally came to me. I was a bit surprised that it took so long. It was there all along. Unlike Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, I did not have to travel the world for the answer, nor did I have to go to Oz. While I was lending a helping hand, and enjoying new adventures with some of my friends, new and old, I discovered something. It was never one great thing that I was supposed to do. It was a lot of little things, and they would add up to the reason why, and they have. In case I have not been clear let me just state it this way, “Do the next right thing.” That’s it. Really! As you move from adventure to adventure, helping when asked and finding help when needed, you will see the answer that was never to be had at Aunt Pearl’s house. Check below the video.

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THE MOST TRUSTED MAN IN AMERICA

With 45 constantly tweeting about so called “fake news,” you may wonder who to believe when the news is reported. At one time, there was no question about it. We trusted one man to always tell us the truth.

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“And that’s the way it is” by Rich Paschall


With so many bad sources of news in the world, who do you trust to give you reliable and up to date information?  I know it is tough to decide.  At one time there was radio, television, newspapers and your grandma’s gossip across the back fence.  You may also have had a few barroom buddies who seemed to be pretty up to date on the happenings in the nation and even the world.  Now that there are so many more options, how do you know who to trust and what to believe?

Perhaps you still rely on Aunt Mildred.  She always seems to be well read and has a tidbit of news on everything.  When she shows up at family gatherings she can easily dazzle those who would sit down to listen.  She always shows up early to the parties and is willing to stay…

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THE TIME IT IS TODAY – RICH PASCHALL

Here’s an article from last year at this time, and I am still looking for the songs of social relevance.

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For all of the 21st century so far, I have been looking for the music with social relevance.  Yes there have been a few songs, but not much in these sixteen years.  And who are the young writers contributing songs with meaning this century?  Neil Young, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, U2?  

Those guys are still at it, but in this era of social unrest, you might expect more young voices to be heard.  Getting a good deal of notice in recent weeks is the heavy metal group, Disturbed, and their rendition of Sounds of Silence.  If you are thinking the title is familiar, it is.  They covered the Simon and Garfunkel hit to great effect. 

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Enter The Young, When Songs Had Meaning

There was a time I will describe as late Beatles up to pre-disco when many songs had a deeper meaning, that is to say, a “social commentary”.  The air was filled with…

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Decoration Day

This article has been posted before.  It has been received with a bit of skepticism over the origins of the day.  It is likely that the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War was taken up in many places during and immediately after the war, unknown to one another.  Some of these practices were reported in newspapers of the time, while others were passed down orally and written down later.  These later versions may have been supported by anecdotal evidence that is now hard, if not impossible, to prove.
Where exactly the practice of decorating graves started, and who should claim the origin is not really the point anymore, is it?  A tradition of decorating graves, and the meaning of the “holiday” are now largely lost.  This loss of historic knowledge, along with the loss of so many American soldiers, is the true sadness of the day.

Who will decorate the graves?

What bugs me most about our national holidays is that few people know what they are really about. It seems that we take it as some sort of extra vacation day and that we should all go out and have a party somewhere. The only exception to this might be Thanksgiving Day which remains on the traditional fourth Thursday of November. Most people gather with their families to give thanks at the dinner table. Of course, some are giving thanks that there are 3 football games on television and you can watch all day long. Even this tradition is starting to be eroded by commerce.

Other holidays are excuses for a party, 3 day weekend trip, backyard barbecue or attendance at a sporting event. If you ask someone of a younger generation the meaning of Thanksgiving, he might tell you it is the day we have football games in Detroit, Dallas and wherever the NFL will get ratings.  Christmas is when Santa comes, Easter is when the Easter Bunny comes, July 4th is when we shoot off fireworks and Labor Day is the end of summer so we should have one big old barbecue or party. The meaning of New Year’s Eve changed since Dick Clark no longer counts down the final seconds of the year and the NCAA destroyed New Year’s Day by moving most bowl games to other days.

When I went to search for Memorial Day online, I immediately got “Memorial Day sales.” That would probably be good if I needed a new mattress or backyard pool. I see news reports covering how Americans are hitting the road due to low gas prices. The cynic in me thinks the oil companies planned this to sell more gasoline. It also seems to be a good day for photo opportunities for politicians. They will lay wreathes at tombs of unknown soldiers, as long as there are cameras nearby. And the Washington DC website promotes the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally along with events that seem a little more patriotic.

When I was young, my grandmother referred to this holiday as Decoration Day. On May 30th, the Memorial Day holiday then, we would usually go to the cemetery and decorate the graves with geraniums. Some cemeteries put small flags at the graves of those who served in the military. We were told this was the meaning of the holiday. I had no idea how close to the truth this was. After the American Civil War a date was set aside to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Southern women had already taken up the practice of decorating the graves of fallen confederate soldiers during the war. In the 20th century the day was dedicated to all Americans who paid the ultimate price in combat. Decorating graves could be symbolized by presidents laying a wreath at the tomb of unknown soldiers as there would be no one in particular to decorate those graves.

The official name was Decoration Day until Congress changed it to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968 they took a bold step toward destroying its meaning, however, when they moved four holidays to Mondays. Now May 30th is not the holiday (although it will fall there some years) and Memorial Day has become part of an annual three-day vacation. We can be so caught up in the hoopla we forget what the day is all about. “What time do we meet?” “What shall I bring?” “What is the forecast?” “What time is the game?” “Decorate what? The backyard?”

My father is buried in a military section of a cemetery in another state. Although I can not be there, I know someone will decorate his grave and there will be a small American flag on each military grave. Taps will be played. That is the true essence of the day.

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Last year this appeared on SERENDIPITY. Following the elections and light of what you see every day, perhaps you are wondering about the leadership qualities of certain people. Time to think about this again.

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TURNING SUCCESS INTO FAILURE

Time for some thoughts on success and failure. Are you thinking big?

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Image: Mashable.com Image: Mashable.com

Many think big but fail because they aren’t willing to do the work.  They want to be triumphant, but they are just hoping it will somehow happen. They rely on others stepping up to do what they should be doing.

The truth is that those running an event must step forward. They need to recruit volunteers to do what needs doing to guarantee success.  Some leaders are willing to do this…

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WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR’S EVE?

Now that Christmas is over, you must prepare for the next holiday just one week away.  So what are you doing?

The Jackpot Question, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog   By now you are expected to have a good response. So what is it? What are you doing? Certainly your friends have been asking and you must have …

Source: WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEW YEAR’S EVE?

STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND?

What if you were stranded on a desert island or had just one day to live? Perhaps you are just snowed in for the day and can not get out. In any case, it seems like a good time to consider this again.

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The “What Ifs” of Life, by Rich Paschall

Certainly you have seen some of the various questions surrounding you being stranded on a desert island?  If you were stranded, who would you like to be with?  What 5 things would you take along?  What 5 things that you have now could you do without?  What one album would you take?  What electronic device would you need?  This assumes you would not run out of batteries I guess.

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These, and questions like them, present interesting challenges to a person that they may not consider otherwise.  Who is the most important person in your life?  Is that the one you want by your side?  Perhaps you would rather have someone with survival skills.  Perhaps you would not want the other to be stranded too.  Perhaps you would rather be alone.

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LOSING OUR LEGACY

What is the value of tradition? I have not changed my mind since last year’s post.

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Traditions, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no?

The strength of many schools, churches and community organizations lies in its rituals and traditions.  They provide a constancy that is reassuring to students, members, alumni.  While traditions may seem a bit crazy to some, to most they are cherished as part of their heritage.  Those who do not honor tradition are likely to incur the wrath of those who want to find comfort and solace in the reassure that traditions may bring.

When traditions remain constant throughout the years, they begin to bring identity to organizations.  The school, recreation program, and community center become known for their special features and regular activities.  Identity leads to purpose and purpose leads to dedication and commitment.  Maintaining what you have been good at through the years is important to gathering loyalty.

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THE COMMUNITY EVENT

There are so many demands on our time. Do you have the time to volunteer for something? Let’s review.

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Do You Have The Time? by Rich Paschall

There are plenty of community organizations that will grab your time, it only you let them.  They want you for a variety of tasks and the really organized organizers will stalk you if they think you will volunteer for something.  They want you to stuff envelopes, sell tickets, make phone calls, sit at booths and sell things.  They will have you directing traffic, ushering people, handing out programs.  You can go to meetings, answer email, talk on the phone, spend hours of your precious time in pursuit of the organizational mission, whatever that might be.

But what if you do not have the time for this?  After all, if you are part of a family crew, you may have to drive little Johnny or Suzy to soccer practice, karate lessons, football practice, baseball practice, cheerleading practice, dance class, piano lessons, drum and…

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