Thursday, January 19, 2012

Wisdom from my Mother

An excerpt from my new book entitled Getting Over The Four Hurdles of Life

I guess you could say that my story of faith started two days before I was born.  Two days before I was born, my so-called father—I’ve always referred to him as “my mother’s husband”—left my mother, two young sisters, eleven and twelve years of age, and me, and he never returned.  His departure put my mother in a difficult position.  She had an eighth-grade education, came off the farm in North Dakota, and couldn’t get a job during the Great Depression in 1935.  In the cold prairies of North Dakota, she had to do two things that were very unpleasant for her:  she became a baby-sitter to earn money, and she had to put our family on welfare.  We lived in a one-room apartment above a bar and hardware store, and I remember my mother getting $42.50 in Ward County welfare each month.  She sat down and meticulously decided what breads and canned goods we could buy for the coming week.
Several times during these difficult times, my mother taught me a lesson that has stayed with me during my entire life.  Two times, I saw my mother get on her winter coat, walk down a flight of stairs, and take back to the Red Owl and the Piggly Wiggly grocery stores 25 cents and 40 cents, because the clerks had given her too much change for the groceries she’d brought home.  Seeing her dressing in the middle of winter, I said, “Mama, where are you going?”  She said, “Oh, I’m taking this money back to the store.  They gave me too much change.”  It reminds me of a poem by Edgar Guest.
I’d rather see a lesson than hear one any day.
I’d rather you walk with me than to merely show the way.
The eye is a better teacher, and more willing than the ear.
And counsel is confusing but example’s always clear.
The best of all the teachers are the ones who live the creed.
To see good put into action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you let me see it done.
I can see your hand in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the counsel you are giving may be very fine and true, But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do.
My mother followed the advise of St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century when he said, “Preach the gospel every day, and if necessary use words.”  I saw other lessons in the life of this woman who had no PhD behind her name.  Not once, after being abandoned, did I hear my mother talk negatively about the man who had walked out on us and never returned, never sent any money, never wrote.  She didn’t drink, and she never smoked.  I never heard her swear.  She was never bitter, angry, or ever complained about her situation in life.
My mother’s Catholic faith was unbelievable.  She brought me to Mass and Communion daily—not just Sunday, but daily.  For me, the daily trip to church was a ritual.  To my numerous fake illnesses and attempts to avoid going, my mom’s response was always, “Get up, Son.  We’re going to Mass and Communion.”  The spirit that grew in that little, one-room apartment we lived in, uncomfortable and cramped though it was, made it attractive.
Being a small place, the apartment never provided any place for me to get away on my own.  So at night, I often went to sit above the alley on the fire escape.  One night, the faith my mother instilled in me deepened when I came back in from sitting out there.  My mom asked me to sit in her little rocker.  She pulled up the footstool and said, “Son, I notice you go outside at night a lot.  What do you think about when you’re out there, sitting on that fire escape?” I said, “Mama, I think of three things.  I think of travel.”  (We didn’t own a car, a bicycle, or any other form of transportation.)  “I think of mountains.”  (North Dakota is a very flat state, flatter than the top of a table.)   “And I think about learning—I want to learn as much as I can.”
My mother hesitated just a moment and then said, “You know Son, I’m going to tell you something.  I’m embarrassed to tell you this, but I need to teach you a lesson.  You know when these people come to pick me up to go baby-sit?  I’m so embarrassed.  There’s no husband in our house.  We live in this little one-room apartment.  I’ve just got an eighth-grade education.  My clothes smell of mothballs.”  (She bought her clothes at rummage sales.)  “So I’m so worried about my image when these big shots come to pick me up.  I look up big words in the dictionary, and then all the way to their house,” she said, “I inject these big words into conversation to try to impress them.  That’s called making an image.  When you sit out there on the fire escape at night, just you and God, that’s your true character.  And Son,” she said, “If you spend too much time polishing your image, you’ll eventually tarnish your character and be an  unhappy man.”  That night, my mom taught me that being my true self was far more important than trying to impress people or pretend to be someone I was not.  Your character is who you really are and your image is what you are perceived to be.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Have You Had Enough?

By:  Dale Brown

Never have I seen the American public so disgusted with our Congress, Wall
Street and the large corporations.  Partisan politics, negative campaigning and
seemingly no control over big business is literally sickening everyone.  I plead
with you to lead the way in cleansing a system that is totally out of control.

Americans are not only fed up with the greed, the lies and the cheating but they
are angry.  Please serve as a beacon light to change a system that so
begrudgingly accepts change.

150 years ago, British historian Thomas Macaulay made this dire prediction for
America, “Your civilization will be destroyed in the 20th century, as Rome was
in the 5th century.  But the huns and vandals which will destroy you will come
from within, from your own institutions.”  Yes, I know this is the 21st century
but we better wake up and demand that our Congress start putting the country
first or his prediction could come true.

J. Paul Getty many years ago said, “I fear that unless there are many drastic
changes in both basic philosophies and actual practices in every sector of human
existence, our society will deteriorate and decline.  It may well be wracked
with upheavals far greater than any in previous history.  It could, and I do not
take the possibility lightly, be totally destroyed.”

I now ask you, will you just read this and delete it or will you try to do
something about it?  It has been said that nobody makes a greater mistake than
someone who did nothing because he could do only a little.  Please contact your
congressman and demand change or vote them out of office.

I have traveled in 90 countries throughout the world and fully realize there is
no better place to live but if we truly want to make this a better place to live
we should follow Gandhi’s advice, “We must be the change we wish to see.”

When I was visiting Auschwitz I was appalled by seeing what one human being
could do to another and thought how could this be possible.  As I was leaving I
saw a small plaque which gave me the answers, it said, “The road to Auschwitz
was built by hate but paved with indifference.”  We no longer can be indifferent
to the ills of our society.  Always remember when truth is in danger, silence
equals guilt.

Great social transformation such as the end of slavery, the women’s and Civil
Rights movements and the end of colonial rule all began with public awareness
and engagement.  Political leaders followed rather than led.  A few courageous
and committed people fed up with the system brought about the change.  I
sincerely hope that you will be stimulated to do something constructive and
demand that we return to the principles that made this country the best in the

The system in Washington, D.C. and the large corporations in this country are
corrupt.  It is rigged by the powerful special interest groups to benefit the
very few at the expense of the many.  William Bennett in his book, “Death of
Outrage” said, “The leader must be whole, he cannot have his public character be
honest and his private character be dishonest.”  We are to blame for many of our
current problems because we have not demanded enough from those in powerful

All of us Americans have a duty to end the corruption, greed, ineptness, and
cronyism that have dominated the political and corporate world for far too many

What we desperately need today on all fronts are men and women willing to stand
up for decency, truth, integrity, morality, law and order and who will respond
to their conscience even when it is unpopular to do so – especially when it is
unpopular to do so.

So now the question is, can we change a sick system and the answer is
emphatically YES but only if we are vigilant, committed, disciplined,
determined, and courageous enough to demand good ethics and honorable

The idea of saviors has been built into our entire culture.  We have learned to
look to stars, leaders, and experts in every field, thus surrendering our own
strength, demeaning our own ability and causing us not to act when we see
incompetence, dishonesty, and injustices.

Abraham Lincoln warned us when he said, “At what point is the approach of danger
to be expected, if it is to reach us it must spring up amongst us.  It cannot
come from abroad.  If destruction be our lot – we must ourselves be its author
and finisher.  As a nation of free men we must live through all time or die by

If you have had enough, please let your voice be heard.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Living Together

By:  Dale Brown

The world will only function properly when we show true love and respect to one
another and eliminate all forms of prejudice.

Mankind has never advanced a centimeter by hating or showing prejudice towards
each other.  The only notable advancement we have ever made in the history of
the world is when we have been brothers and sisters at labor towards a common

Prejudice is a great time saver; it enables one to form opinions without
bothering to get the facts.

To live by relying on one another implies a risk, but without some trust in
humanity, life would be unlivable.  One of our greatest leaders, Abraham Lincoln
said, “If you trust, you will be disappointed occasionally, but if you mistrust,
you will be miserable all of the time.”

Naturally, we all have traits that aggravate one another, but we should work
hard on liking each other and overcoming our own bad traits.  The more you grow
as a person, the less shocked you become about people who are different from
yourself.  When a person is wrapped up in himself, the package is usually pretty

It is a law of life, as certain as gravity, that to live fully, we must learn to
use things and love people–not love things and use people.

Nineteen of twenty-one notable civilizations did not recognize that and died
from within and not by conquest from without.  The world must learn to work
together or finally, it will not work at all.

Martin Luther King, Jr., told us, “All people in this world are tied into a
single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all
indirectly.  We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure
of reality.  It was a tragedy of history that the children of darkness were
often more determined and forceful than the children of light.”

If we build the kind of relationships with each other where we enter into a
covenant to belong to each other and be involved with each other in pursing our
goals together–then we are unstoppable.  Communities and nations will be
transformed when mankind returns to God and his purposes for them.

So the question in our journey of life is not whether God can bring peace into
the world.  The question is: Can we?

Remember the best potential of me is we.