Part 3b: May - AugustTreasury of Celebrations:
Index for this Section
- Celebrating Summer
- Hiroshima Day
- May Day
- Memorial Day BONUS: Memorial Day: A historical summary - Why being for peace is not enough by Ken Sehested (May, 2016)
- Mother's Day and Father's Day
- National Birthdays
- Remembrance Day
- NEW - World Population Day
- BONUS: New Fall Festival -- Celebrating Ugly Food
BONUS: Simple enough: The reasons we remember by Bob Sitze (May, 2014)
From Alternatives' Treasury of Celebrations, published by Northstone Books. The entire 288 page book is available for $12.
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BONUS: Laura Flanders Show: Author and professor Peter Linebaugh discusses his new book, The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day.
May Day has roots in prehistoric times as a spring festival, marking the revival of nature after winter. Maypole dances and flowers still mark the celebration.
Meeting in Paris in 1889, a congress of world socialist parties voted to support the United States labor movement's demands for an eight-hour work day and chose May 1, 1890, as a day to demonstrate in favor of the eight-hour day. That action set a precedent, and May 1 became the traditional time for labor demonstrations in Europe. In the former Soviet Union, May Day is a national holiday marked by giant banners, patriotic speeches, and military parades.
[See also Labor Day.]
At home on May Day
If spring comes late to your area and March 20 and 21 goes by without any visible signs of new life, celebrate its coming today. If possible, spend some time outside. Consider how different your life is because the labor movement won the struggle for an eight-hour work day.
Worship Alternatives ART #3243-4064 | Worship ITEMS Worship Alternatives ART #3252
Courage is born
Pentecost (from Greek pentekoste meaning 50th) celebrates the post-resurrection descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus' followers (Acts 2:16). This occurred on the Jewish Pentecost which is observed on the seventh Sunday after Easter, or 50 days after Passover (see Shavuot below). On that day, a group of frightened disciples in hiding in Jerusalem were empowered to become fearless witnesses, even in the face of opposition by the civil authorities. For that reason, Pentecost is said to be "the birthday of the church."
Although setting the Christian observance of Pentecost on the existing Jewish feast day was probably intentional, the two days have only the name and date in common. Also known as Whitsunday, Pentecost was celebrated as early as the third century, with celebrations sometimes including the whole 50 days. Because it was a feast of joy, any kind of penance was forbidden.
The Lent/Easter season concludes with Pentecost, celebrating a universal ministry empowered by God. According to the story of Pentecost, many nationalities were represented in the crowd that listened to the disciples preach the good news of Jesus that day, but they all heard the message in their own language. Pentecost is a good time to hear the message in your "own language" and to consider what participation in God's Shalom means for you.
At home on Pentecost
Recall heroes of faith who were empowered to participate in Jesus' ministry despite great personal cost. Well-known public figures include: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dom Helder Camera, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Desmond Tutu. What lesser-known people would you include?
First Fruits and the Torah
Shavuot, meaning "weeks" in Hebrew, is observed seven weeks (50 days) after Passover. Other names describe its character: Harvest Festival, Festival of the First Fruits, and Festival of the Giving of the Torah. Originally an agricultural festival, Shavuot was one of three occasions when people were required to go to the Temple in Jerusalem with offerings from their farms. After the destruction of the second Temple in the first century, the people could no longer bring their offerings to the Temple, so the festival was designated as the anniversary of the reception of the Torah at Mount Sinai. While the agricultural theme has not been removed entirely, the central focus is on the Torah. At the synagogue service the Ten Commandments are recited and the book of Ruth is read.
Our common heritage
Because Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (Torah) are all familiar books to Muslims, Jews, and Christians, take some time after dinner one evening to contemplate that fact. What do those common roots mean today? Retell the story of Ruth to a child you love. In your women's or men's group, spend an evening focusing on the book of Ruth.
Mother's Day, observed on the second Sunday in May, has its origins in the different concerns of two women, Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis. Julia Ward Howe - writer, lecturer, social reformer, and author of The Battle Hymn of the Republic - made the first known suggestion for Mother's Day in 1872. She wanted to observe Mother's Day on June 2 and dedicate the day to peace. For several years she sponsored an annual Mother's Day meeting in Boston as a way of connecting her ideals of motherhood and peacemaking.
Anna Jarvis had a different reason for honoring mothers. Never a mother herself, she spent most of her adult life caring for her mother in Grafton, West Virginia. Her concern was for mothers who needed care and whose adult children were neglecting them. Out of this concern, in 1905, Anna Jarvis started a campaign for an annual religious celebration honoring mothers.
Although others started Mother's Day celebrations in their areas, Anna Jarvis is responsible for making it a nationwide observance. In 1914, Congress passed a resolution providing that the second Sunday in May be designated as Mother's Day.
Anna Jarvis envisioned Mother's Day as a time of recommitment to honoring and caring for mothers, especially mothers who were no longer able to care for themselves. But she was dismayed to see the way the holiday was celebrated. She lived to see Mother's Day become the victim of commercialism, when honoring mothers was reduced to giving flowers, cards, and gifts. She died in 1948, disappointed and disillusioned that her work had been so trivialized.
A special day to honor mothers has ancient and world-wide precedents, but a special day to honor fathers seems to be unique to the Western world. Many different people contributed to the creation of Father's Day, all of whom were likely influenced by Mother's Day. The first Father's Day service was probably conducted at a church in Fairmont, West Virginia, at the request of Mrs. Charles Clayton. But the person most responsible for getting the day started was Mrs. John Bruce Dodd of Spokane, Washington. The idea came to her during a Mother's Day sermon in 1909. She remembered her father who had raised six children after his young wife's death. Only one year later, on the third Sunday of June 1910, Spokane became the first city to honor fathers with a special day. Although widely observed since that time, it was only in 1972 that a Congressional resolution put it on the same basis as Mother's Day in the United States.
The founders of Mother's Day and Father's Day would probably not be pleased with the lot of many of today's elderly people. Part of what they were responding to in the early part of this century was more than a simple desire to honor their parents. They feared that the emerging pattern of small nuclear families would contribute to a growing neglect of elderly parents and bring about a growing social disorder and the economic and cultural marginalization of the elderly. Theirs was a prophetic vision. They identified a problem with which this society has yet to come to terms in any serious way.
Mother's Day and Father's Day remind us to honor our parents in special ways. Beyond that, however, calling attention to the plight of the elderly in this society and pressing for serious attention to their problems may be the best way to honor them. Hopefully, the blatantly commercial creation of "Grandparents' Day" will die a commercial death, and the genuine concerns for the elderly which moved the founders of Mother's and Father's Days will find expression on those days.
Although the founders had elderly parents in mind, there is no reason why younger mothers and fathers (including single parents), and the special problems they face, should be excluded from these observances.
Although it didn't catch on as part of traditional observances, Julia Ward Howe's idea for making Mother's Day (or Father's Day) a day dedicated to peace makes sense. Those who bring life into the world and nurture it to adulthood have a special stake in seeing that those lives are not senselessly destroyed in war. Although commercial Mother's Day cards with peace messages may not be available anytime soon, there is no reason why you can't create your own, and encourage others to do the same. You may want to combine honor for parents and the desire for peace in your celebration.
At home on Mother's Day
Recognize and acknowledge that those who care for small children occupy a very influential place in society. Whether at home, in elementary schools, or in day care centers, the kind of care given to small children determines the direction of our society.
Use Mother's Day as an occasion to speak on behalf of better day care arrangements for the growing numbers of mothers who work, and for better prenatal care for poor mothers. Consider the struggles of mothers trying to support families on inadequate welfare allotments and of elderly women whose social security benefits do not meet their costs for living.
Make a special donation of food or clothing or money to welfare mothers in your community by contacting social services.
Mothers mourn in El Salvador
Throughout many countries in the world, Mother's Day is an occasion for mothers to spend time with their children, celebrating motherhood and family. But in my country of El Salvador, motherhood has taken on another meaning. After years of war, more than 60,000 deaths and another 6,000 disappearances of our loved ones, we Salvadoran mothers pass Mother's Day as we do any other day, mourning for our missing children and husbands. While mothers everywhere spend sacred moments with their children, we only have our sorrow to embrace. For us, the greatest homage on Mother's Day would be the liberation of our incarcerated children and the declaration of the whereabouts of our disappeared ones.
- America Sosa, COMADRES, Washington, D.C.
Mother's Day: A celebration of love, a festival of peace
Mother's Day was initiated in the 1870s as a call to women to work for peace in the world. In that first Mother's Day proclamation, Julia Ward Howe wrote:
Arise then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts. We women of one country will be too tender for those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says, 'Disarm, Disarm!'
As men have often forsaken the plow at the summons of war let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
I ask that a general congress be held to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.
On this day we honor our mothers for their constant love. Motivated by that love, let us also make an earnest search for peace.
- Center for Disarmament Education, Eaton Rouge, Louisiana
Older adults: A nonrenewable resource
A television commercial features an older man on his first day at work at a local fast-food hamburger restaurant. The scene moves quickly from his young co-workers' skepticism at his arrival to their frank amazement when they see how effectively he does his work. When he returns home in the evening, he says confidently to his questioning wife, "I don't know how they ever got along without me."
The first time I saw this commercial, I thought the message was good: not only is this man able to do good work, but the quality of his work is recognized by the younger generation. I have since had second thoughts. What does this commercial suggest about a society where selling hamburgers at minimum wage is an appropriate use of a senior citizen's skills and experience?
It is my hope that this commercial will be viewed as a parable about the contribution older people can make to all facets of life in this society. The skills and experience of these people are like nonrenewable resources. When they are gone, they are gone forever. How long can our society afford to waste this critical resource?
- Rev. James G. Kirk
Our celebration of Mother's and Father's Days has one thing in common with the intentions of their founders - we say we are honoring our parents.
But Anna Jarvis's efforts to call attention to adult children's neglect of their parents haven't had much effect. On Mother's and Father's Days, unfortunately, we honor the dollar more often than we do our parents.
As adults, and also as children, we often neglect our parents. We take them for granted and fail to show appreciation for their nurturing, or we consider them nuisances rather than people like us with a need to give and receive love. As a result, we are ready targets for advertisers who appeal to our guilt feelings to fill their pocketbooks. "Remember Mom" and "For Dad on His Day" send millions rushing out to buy gifts that will prove affection or pay Mom and Dad back for all their sacrifices.
The sales thrust extends to grandparents, aunts, and uncles, sometimes even sisters and brothers. Anyone who remotely qualifies as a mother or father figure, especially anyone who has been ignored during the months preceding the holiday, is likely to receive some type of acknowledgment. Restaurants, clothing merchants, florists, and candy stores do a bonanza business.
We could suggest doing away with Parents' Days and making every day a people's day, on which we honored them and thought of ways to help them and bring them joy. In fact, making every day a People's Day is what we do suggest. But it's also fun to have special days for Mom and Dad. The trick is celebrating them appropriately, given the influences on us to buy and be done with it.
The original celebrations focused on the parents of adult children - their need to be cared for in old age or illness, and the child's desire to show appreciation for the parent's own years of caring. Our focus could encompass all the needs of our parents or the needs of all the aging and ill in our society.
What do your parents need that you can give them on their day? Or what do they need that you can promise on their day and do another? Pick something that will satisfy them, not something that will make you feel less guilty. A surprise phone call, a surprise breakfast in bed or a weekly game of chess may mean more than a commercial gift. The point is this: don't get entrapped by the occasion, but make the celebration one which shows your sensitivity to their needs.
Sometimes Parents' Days can be complicated by too many parents. When there are two grandfathers and a father involved, a family can get wrought up over sharing time with each person. If you need to divide your attention, talk about it with the people involved and plan ahead. Maybe you can celebrate Mother's and Father's Days, two Grandfather's Days and a Grandmother's Day.
Or maybe you can share your celebration with aging friends outside your family. Holidays, especially those which are highly commercialized, have a very negative effect on those who don't feel a part of them - like many of our senior citizens in homes for the aged, nursing homes, and hospitals. Use Mother's or Father's Day to focus attention on them, to visit them or to begin a self-education program on their needs. You might enlist your family or a community group in the project as well.
See if your community has resources available for its senior citizens, and if it doesn't, see what your group can do to get something started. Make sure your local government is taking advantage of available programs and resources. Check into local employment practices and see if there is discrimination against those who are "too old" to get jobs while they have the mental and physical stamina to work.
You can also use the day to share your talents and skills with older people. You might help an older friend plant a garden or, if the work is too taxing for your friend, offer the time and tools to start it yourself. Your mutual harvest of goodwill will be plentiful.
If you've always wanted to learn quilting, woodworking, or how to fix a broken toaster, ask an older friend. They have decades of experience! (Consider that if your friend is 80, her memories extend back into the 1880s, since she will have heard stories from her parents and grandparents!)
If you'd rather focus on showing appreciation for your parents, don't rely on a greeting card to convey the message. Try a family or group discussion about what you appreciate in each other. If you live far away, make an audio or video tape and mail it. Or if talking is difficult, write a letter. Try to share what you feel today, for tomorrow one of you may be gone. You might also ask children from an orphanage or foster home to join you and your parents for a holiday outing. You may pledge to start a regular program for sharing with parentless children the experiences your parents have given you through programs such as Big Sisters or Big Brothers.
A lot of mothers really are uncomfortable about Mother's Day because it's "mandatory." As an alternative, we suggest sending a gift or letter to your mother on your own birthday. She thinks about you that day; in fact, it probably means more to her than it does to you. The people we know who tried it said their mothers were touched and pleased. One woman saved her money all year and on her own 35th birthday sent her mother money - the mother needed money more than she needed anything else - except, of course, the love involved.
The Gray Panthers, a national action group of all different ages, works with a score of contemporary problems facing old persons - representing age realistically, housing, fighting mandatory retirement, transportation, health, schools for all ages, legislation, employment. Each affiliate in the Gray Panthers network is independent and determines its own needs and priorities. A gift to parents could be helping to set up a local chapter.
For Mother's Day, why not give a contribution to local women's centers, libraries, or to some organization in which your mother has shown interest or to which she has given her time?
- Aviva Cantor Zuckoff, New York, New York
Journaling and storytelling
Organize a workshop on keeping a journal. Suggest it to parents as a way of recording their thoughts and feelings as they grow older.
Ask parents to write about their childhood. Give them a notebook, a pen, and lots of encouragement. (Or provide them with a tape recorder and plenty of tape.) Stress how valuable a record of their memories is for them, for their families, and friends. This could evolve into a group workshop, "Celebrating Childhood." Many grandchildren would be happy to receive a story about their grandparent's growing-up years.
Mother's awareness program
Mother's Day need not be limited to celebration of mother, but can be a time to celebrate women. Many mothers bear a heavy load of family responsibility because they work outside the home and still continue to keep the lion's share of the family duties. Mother's Day is a good time to start a "working mother's awareness" program. If your family is one of these, think about how the family runs. Is there work sharing by all family members, or does mother still do the organizing? Just because she can do jobs with ease when other members of the family cannot doesn't mean she wants to. Families tend to give up on helping because "it's so much easier for her." That is an excuse. Why not sit down with the family on Mother's Day and discuss sharing tasks and readjusting the work load more fairly?
Or start a project on women's rights. There are still discriminatory laws and traditions against women in jobs, getting credit, or owning property. Mother's Day might be a good day to start a women's rights study/action program - either in your own family or in a community group.
- Ellen Dittmer, Jackson, Mississippi
Memorial Day: A historical summary - Why being for peace is not enough by Ken Sehested (May, 2016)
BONUS: Simple enough: The reasons we remember by Bob Sitze (May, 2014)
A day to reflect on world peace
Memorial Day is a day to honor lives lost in all military conflicts. Originally, it was a day to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Civil War. According to one tradition, the day began when some Southern women chose May 30 to decorate the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers killed in the Battle of Shiloh. More than remembering war dead, the day was to help bring reconciliation to a bitter, scarred, and sharply-divided nation.
Popular celebrations of Memorial Day tend to emphasize the importance of military strength and military preparedness. The day might be more appropriately observed as a time to resolve old hostilities and to work for peace, so that there will not be more war casualties.
Canadians honor the memory of their war dead on November 11. It is a legal holiday. Remembrance Day (known in Newfoundland as Armistice Day) commemorates the armistice that ended World War I at 11:00 a.m., on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
In this century, Canadians have officially served in the South African War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Since the inception of the United Nations, Canadians have been involved in peace-keeping missions throughout the world. On Remembrance Day, Canadians also remember women and men serving on those missions.
The Royal Canadian Legion sells poppies as symbols of the fallen and of hope, in recognition of John McCrae's famous poem, In Flanders Fields. (McCrae was a physician and poet from Ontario who served in World War I.) Throughout Canada, Girl Guides and Scouts, cadets, and military personnel participate in parades and memorial services.
While it is our purpose to honor our war dead, do we instead glorify war?
What problems are solved because soldiers die? Is our world a better place because we are willing to give our young on the altars of national security?
What about those who are now filling graves for tomorrow's "peaceful" cemeteries? Are bereaved families comforted by the honor they receive?
What about war? Does it bring peace and life, or death, destruction, and empty ceremonies?
Children of War
This Memorial Day or Remembrance Day, let us celebrate life. Let us honor the survivors of war in our time - the children of war.
In 1986, the Children of War Tour brought young people who had grown up in war-torn areas of the world to the United States. Joined by North American teenagers, they toured cities across the country, telling their stories.
"Children have an ability to forgive and forget. We are less sure that we are absolutely right. Adults, who are sure they are absolutely right, they make war over their absolute rightness. Now, look at us, look at us. We represent the places in the world where men are killing each other and yet we are living together."
- Arn Chorn, Cambodia
"We believe that wars are not the solutions in our countries. We must learn to live together because we are the future. We've been learning from old people, and old people are teaching us to kill."
- Hector Recino, El Salvador
Said a 15-year-old boy to his Minneapolis hosts, "We don't call this a basement where you play ping-pong. We call it a bomb shelter."
- Marwan Najjar, West Beirut, Lebanon
Confirming the importance of the young people's mission, Nobel Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu accompanied the children on their visit and told them: "When you go back home and walk down the street and people ask, 'Who is that?' You tell them, 'I am a sign of hope.'"
(The above quotes are taken from Brave Bearers of Hope, the Children of War Tour by Judith Thompson, Coordinator of the Children of War Program at the Religious Task Force, Mobilization for Survival, Brooklyn, New York. Used by permission.)
Long days and vacations
In the Northern Hemisphere, summer arrives on June 20 or 21, when the summer solstice occurs. On that day the sun is high in the sky and there are more daylight hours than on any other day.
Traditionally, summer is the time to take vacations. Since ancient times people have recognized the importance of a change in routine to help restore minds, bodies, and spirits. While festivals and celebrations helped to provide them with brief changes in routine, vacations as we know them today were generally available only to the wealthy.
The 19th century labor movement is responsible for the widespread practice of vacations with pay, the only way most working people can afford to take time off from their jobs. With children free from school for a couple of months, vacations came to be associated with summertime.
While the idea of taking a vacation is still a privilege accorded to relatively few people in the world, the tourist business is now recognized as one of the world's largest industries. Although widely viewed as an ideal form of development for poor areas both at home and abroad, there are many questions about whether tourism aids or inhibits development.
Regardless of the time of year they are taken, vacations should be occasions for rest and renewal. But unless vacationers exercise care, they can be self-destructive and exploitative of others. Like other celebrations, vacations can be times to restore the human spirit without sacrificing concerns for other people and the environment.
Have a solstice party
Invite friends to celebrate the longest day of the year with a potluck dinner. Spend as much time as you can outdoors. Ahead of time, invite guests to research and share a known, little-known, or should-be-known fact about the sun or solstice. Invite them to write a letter or poem on the theme of summer, the longest day, or the sun. Seal these in an envelope and mail it back to each guest so that they receive it on December 21 or 22, the shortest day of the year.
Los Niños 'vacation' in Mexico: A gloriously different experience
Have you ever dreamed of a vacation "south of the border"? At the sound of this phrase, the mind sketches scenes of sunny beaches, tropical weather, and plush resorts. At least, that was my first impression and experience of Mexico - water skiing in Acapulco, sunbathing in Cancun. Recent experiences, however, have provided a different "vacation": three summers in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, crowded orphanages, and a squalid jail. And I wouldn't trade those experiences for all the luxurious tourist resorts in the world! This atypical vacation was possible through "Los Ninos." No, it's not a travel agency or a Mexican airline. Los Ninos, which means "the children," is a nonprofit organization that provides direct aid, education, and development service to the impoverished people of Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico.
The program has a powerful three-fold goal:
1. to provide direct help to meet the basic needs of impoverished children and families in a way that respects their dignity and human worth;
2. to catalyze cooperative efforts among the poor so that they might discover and develop their own resources;
3. to educate the affluent about the need for personal responsibility and structural transformation in a hungry world.
Volunteers are invited to spend a weekend, week, or summer working on the Mexican-American border. They are encouraged to deepen their educational experience by participating in social justice seminars, sharing sessions, and ecumenical worship services.
Working out of two barrack-style buildings in San Ysidro, California, the two-year volunteer staff and short-term volunteers commute daily into Tijuana, Mexico, just minutes away. The stark contrast often shocks new volunteers. Gone are the lush southern suburbs of affluent San Diego. Instead, one finds dirty city streets surrounded by the dusty, crowded confusion of shouting vendors and beleaguered beggars.
In the morning, the Los Ninos van struggles up steep and rocky unpaved roads to Panamericana Alta, a neighborhood built on a former city trash dump site. The inhabitants live in dwellings of rearranged refuse, made from discarded scraps of metal, wood, and cardboard. Nothing is wasted - even an old, ragged mattress frame makes a sturdy wall.
The people here make their living at the nearby functioning dump, wading through smelly, smouldering rubble to collect bits of glass, aluminum cans, scrap metal, and bottles - all to be resold for a mere pittance of pesos. Some families have traveled hundreds of miles to work in this dump - "to feed my children," as one woman explained.
After two summers of helping out in this neighborhood, I find myself this summer as directora, or principal, of the small summer school operated by Los Ninos. "School," for us, is a dirt floor shack with two wobbly tables and too few chairs. Since the community is without running water or electricity, we learn to innovate; removing a few boards from the walls provides natural light and "air conditioning."
The purpose of the school is to supplement the education that some of the children receive at nearby Mexican schools and also to teach those who are unable to attend these schools. At Los Ninos, education is a concrete tool that can, we hope, provide a way out of the vicious cycle of poverty.
The children's needs are so basic that volunteer teachers feel extremely useful, teaching math, reading, and writing skills. Though we teach in Spanish, the non-Spanish-speaking volunteers also feel needed in helping children print the alphabet and write their names, and organizing craft and recreational activities.
Although rewarding, the days are not without frustration. Stray dogs and chickens wander in and out of the schoolroom during classes. The student body magically doubles from 25 to 50 within the first two weeks! One class is moved outside and another class into the van; the chickens stay.
The painful challenges never cease. But inspirations outweigh frustrations. In our seven-week program, a 10-year old learns to add and subtract for the first time; a 14-year-old child proudly learns to read; and yet another, at age eight, holds a pencil for the first time and finally learns to print his name.
It is ironic to be placed in this "teacher" role. I feel more like a student! In a few months, the children have taught me far more than my years of formal education.
I have learned not only how to live without plumbing or electricity, but I have also realized the countless number of gifts I take for granted: abundant, purified water, and reliable, nutritious meals each day.
I have learned some of the great joys possible that can't be derived from material possessions: the healthy, wholesome ecstasy of a child's hug and the glad comfort of a loving, affirmative family.
And, most precious of all, I have gained a revealing view of myself through the eyes of another world. I now realize what a marvelous gift it is to have my basic needs met and my rights as a human being respected. And I now see that along with this comes the responsibility to help others secure the same.
- Mev Puleo, Los Ninos, San Ysidro, California
What you shouldn't leave home without: Ethics and tourism in the developing world
Travel changed my life. My traditional Mississippi Delta background provided me with a set of stereotypes about life, people, and the world; and though I questioned those values at an early age, I learned to accept their teachings and adjusted my behavior accordingly. But my first trip away from home challenged all that. As a college student I spent a summer working for the United Methodists at a camp in Hawaii.
Everything was different - food, foliage, friends. And for the first time I met people prejudiced against me because I was white.
But I was enthralled by what I saw and felt, and this first experience of tourism became one of the most profound learning experiences of my life. The way I saw myself in the world was radically changed, so I decided to see more of the world in order to have a better understanding of my place in its great diversity. Throughout the rest of my formal schooling, I chose summer jobs with people whose culture was different from my own. After graduation, I became a travel agent - a job that enables me to help others have the broadening, life-changing experiences I have enjoyed since that first trip to Hawaii.
Tourism is now the largest industry in the world. To disassociate ourselves from it is almost impossible. But the more I learn about this international business, the more concerned I become about its ethics and the more I question the effect of this giant industry on our world. The ethics of tourism are highly undeveloped. Church offices and boards, with their huge travel budgets, are among the supporters of this industry, sometimes without questioning the industry into which they invest so much money. The truth is, tourism is no longer a frivolous, middle-class issue; it encompasses human rights and justice causes throughout the world. As supporters of the industry, individuals and institutions must take ethical questions into account.
What are these questions? Last year I attended a conference sponsored by the Center for Responsible Tourism in San Anselmo, California. There I heard reports from people who constantly deal with difficult issues forced upon their countries by the demands of tourism. In Tahiti, tourists consume precious water resources, making water levels sink dangerously low. Hawaiians live on beaches because of insufficient housing on islands sporting luxurious hotels. Puerto Rico's fishermen and land owners are displaced so that hotels and resorts can be built. And in the Philippines, along with other Asian countries, tourism for prostitution is big business.
Stories about tourism's abuses seem endless. Why do these things happen? An important reason is that poor nations are encouraged by world banking institutions to promote tourism as a way out of poverty. Now, however, many countries realize that profits from tourism go out of their countries, back to outside investors. As host countries, they are left with their lands defaced, their people put into degrading roles, and their way of life changed forever.
The Ecumenical Coalition on Third World Tourism was formed in response to these burdening concerns. This group has developed an important concept for responsible tourism: a code of ethics for tourists, helping guests to be respectful and gracious in their visits to other countries.
While tourism presents many problems, the industry also provides an opportunity for people from different cultures to meet - crossing political, social, and religious barriers. However, in order for this human encounter to take place, those of us who travel must be willing to treat people with dignity. While at seminary, I wrote a paper comparing the influx of northerners in the South after the Civil War to U.S. intervention in Central America. I made that comparison to help people understand the powerlessness and frustration felt by citizens in other countries when touring Americans fail to treat them with respect.
This past year I had the opportunity to help a youth group in San Anselmo, California, make their travel plans for a work project in Jamaica. The group was very careful to make sure all Jamaicans who helped with arrangements for the group were adequately compensated. In addition, a group of Jamaican young people were invited to work alongside the young people from California. Together they created a much-needed playground for the village. Tourists in this instance treated hosts with complete dignity, and the experience for everybody was very fulfilling.
A number of organizations are helping travel consumers meet recreational and educational needs in ways that are not dehumanizing to people in host countries. Among them: Contours in Thailand, and the Center for Responsible Tourism in California.
- Terre Balof, Atlanta, Georgia
A code of ethics for tourists
1. Travel in a spirit of humility and with a genuine desire to meet and talk with local people.
2. Be aware of the feelings of the local people to prevent what might be offensive behavior. Photographers, particularly, must be respectful of subjects.
3. Cultivate the habit of listening and observing, rather than merely hearing or seeing.
4. Realize that other people may have concepts of time and thought patterns which are very different from yours - not inferior, only different.
5. Instead of seeing only the "beach paradise," discover the richness of another culture and way of life.
6. Get acquainted with local customs and respect them.
7. Rather than knowing all the answers, cultivate the habit of listening.
8. Remember that you are only one among many visitors. Do not expect special privileges.
9. If you want a "home away from home," why bother traveling?
10. As you shop and bargain, remember the poorest merchant will give up profit rather than dignity.
11. Make no promises to new, local friends that you cannot implement.
12. Spend time reflecting on your daily experiences in order to deepen your understanding. What enriches you may be robbing others.
- The Christian Conference of Asia
Take a just holiday
Check out your local library and book store shelves for books about eco-tours and learning tours. Ask youth hostels, elder hostels, and universities if they can direct you to low-impact vacation ideas. They may have information about working holidays such as the Los Ninos vacation described above, or know of courses you can study in other countries in subjects such as archaeology, biology, justice issues, language, or art.
Consider a walking vacation. That's right, your own two little feet. Or maybe cycling or canoeing. Think of the ozone you'll save!
You may also want to look into a house-swapping holiday where you exchange your home and vehicle with people in another country. Certainly less expensive than staying in a hotel, and drier than camping, house-swapping has the advantage of placing you in an established community, rather than in a tourist area where most of the people you meet are other tourists.
One organization which invites people to visit other countries and stay with families is SERVAS International. This organization's purpose is to build world peace on a one-to-one basis. It is nonprofit, interracial, and interfaith. It has consultative status as a non-governmental organization in the United Nations.
Finally, you may take a "vacation" by staying home and hosting a student or other traveler from afar. Take a look at your world through their eyes. You may be surprised at how they see you and your community. Best of all, you have the opportunity to make a new friend. High schools, universities and colleges, as well as community service groups and religious groups often have needs for host families.
Canada Day, the principal national holiday, celebrates the creation of the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. This civic holiday has also been known as Dominion Day, Confederation Day, and simply, July the First.
From the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic Oceans, Canadians in 10 provinces and 2 territories celebrate with parades, picnics, giant birthday cakes, and fireworks. It has also become an important day for welcoming new Canadians from around the world in public ceremonies where people are sworn in as new citizens.
Celebrate the holiday by entering an Earth-oriented, people-powered float in your local parade. Take time to reflect on citizens of the country who do not feel celebratory on this day. If you are on your way to a picnic, stop first and make a donation to the food bank.
On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence. The anniversary of that event, Independence Day, is regarded as the birthday of the United States.
African-American orator and editor Frederick Douglass once spoke for slaves and other minorities who did not experience the freedom and justice proclaimed in the Declaration:
"What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year the gross injustice to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license..."
Let Douglass's statement be a reminder that while the creation of the United States is unique, it is also a very human and imperfect creation. To disregard the latter is to negate that uniqueness. An alternative celebration may be informed by two considerations. First, unlimited loyalty is "due only to God, not the nation." Second, legitimate patriotism requires that the nation be continually called to live out its vision of "liberty and justice for all."
In his article for The Silver City Record in Kansas City, Terry Woodbury laments the use of noisy, dangerous firecrackers to celebrate freedom. To him, it is nonsensical. After pausing for a moment's reflection, it's only surprising that hundreds of other writers aren't saying the same thing.
What if, Woodbury writes, our public celebrations were organized by librarians, history teachers, museum directors, and "...our refugee neighbors who know first hand freedom's high price? What if, for one day, radio stations played only songs of protest, of freedom, or of courage, of believing in something enough to die for it - just like we hear Christmas carols all day December 25? What if churches and schools dramatized the lives of individuals whose faith and courage have shaped our national character?"
What if the only explosions we heard were explosions of dance, drama, music, and storytelling?
Celebrate by welcoming strangers
The United States is a nation of foreigners. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free," reads the inscription on the Statue of Liberty. Safe harbor for those seeking asylum is a national ideal worth recalling on the Fourth of July.
Are there too many people taking advantage of this offer? Some think so. According to some, "we are losing control of our borders." This is not a new opinion. King George tried unsuccessfully to restrict immigration to the colonies. His action prompted one of the grievances leveled against British rule in the Declaration of Independence.
Actually, we have never had control of our borders. If the First Nations had controlled their borders, most of us would not be here. Perhaps we are afraid that newcomers will treat us like our ancestors treated Native Americans.
Knowing what to do about foreigners in need of refuge is not easy. The social and economic implications of immigration are complex, both for citizens already here, and for those who come from abroad. But this country's ideal for justice for all should be protected as a national goal.
With regard to those who are already here, many citizens' and religious groups recognize their responsibility and persevere in a climate which sometimes questions the presence of refugees and new immigrants, especially if they are poor.
Celebrate this Independence Day by recalling why waves of immigrants have come to North America year after year for more than 500 years. Compare the reasons people are coming today. Discover all you can about this complex problem. But don't stop there. Find practical ways to welcome and assist those who are already here. There are many opportunities to teach English as a second language, for example, or to assist children who need a "buddy" in school for one-on-one volunteer tutoring.
How to Fold a Paper Peace Crane [scroll to #4-A548]
Remembering the past for the sake of peace
Hiroshima Day commemorates the first use of nuclear weapons on August 6, 1945. Peace Day, as it is sometimes called, recalls the insight of Mahatma Gandhi, who said that nuclear weapons would make peace a necessity.
The bomb that fell on Hiroshima killed more than 100,000 people instantly. Three days later, another 50,000 died when a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Tens of thousands died more slowly from radiation poisoning. Survivors, their children, and grandchildren continue to be affected.
Although the events behind this observance are difficult to recall, the possibility that nuclear weapons might be used again is making this day an important time for people all over the world to say "never again!"
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
A little girl who loved to run like the wind died when she was 13 years old. She died because the bomb that dropped on Hiroshima caused her to contract radiation-induced leukemia. Her name was Sadako Sasaki.
During her illness, Sadako heard of a legend that says that cranes live for 1,000 years, and that if a person could fold 1,000 origami paper cranes, a wish would be granted. In her sick bed, Sadako began folding colorful paper cranes of hope. When she had completed 644, she died. Her friends completed the task for her, and Sadako was buried with 1,000 cranes.
Today, a monument stands in Hiroshima Peace Park. It is a statue of Sadako, the brave young girl who did not stop hoping. At the base of the statue, there is an inscription:
This is our cry,
This is our prayer,
Peace in the world.
Middlebury, Indiana, to Hiroshima, Japan
Students, teachers, administrators, aides, and media center personnel made it happen - from Middlebury, Indiana to Hiroshima, Japan! Highlight of the year for Jefferson, Middlebury, and York Elementary School media centers was the story, project, and journey of the paper cranes.
It all began with a story hour featuring Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Students and teachers at the three Middlebury elementary schools were challenged by this moving story of Sadako's faith and courage and her friends' dedication to peace. Each school adopted an origami project, the art of Japanese paper folding, honoring Sadako by reenacting her story, sharing their concerns about nuclear war, and their hopes for world friendship and peace.
At each school, students worked hard to reach their goal of folding 1,000 gold and silver paper cranes which were displayed for several weeks as mobiles in the media centers. Most students folded at least one crane; some folded many more to achieve the objective. Principals, teachers, and parents also lent their skill and support.
Plans were made to send the completed cranes by a nine-year-old girl and her six-year-old brother who would be spending the summer with their aunt, a former community teacher now living in Tokyo. Included in each school's carefully-packed box was a photo of the mobile as displayed in the media center with the following laminated message:
To: Children's Peace Monument
Peace Park Hiroshima, Japan
To honor Sadako Sasaki and to share our hopes for peace in the world.
The experience of taking the cranes to Hiroshima's Peace Park was described in a letter by their teacher friend to the children of Middlebury: "Your 3,000 paper cranes are at home now under the statue of Sadako Sasaki in Hiroshima's Peace Park. We went straight to the Peace Park and unpacked the beautiful, shiny cranes. We tied each thousand together, attaching the message from each school. A reporter from Hiroshima's Chugohu newspaper asked questions and took lots of pictures. Thousands and thousands of paper cranes were laid carefully around the monument. What a beautiful sight - rainbow colors, patterned origami, silver and gold - all together, made in hopes of peace."
From this activity came rewarding experiences in teaching, learning and teamwork. In many classrooms, Japanese culture and folklore were featured, with projects in haiku poetry and in other origami projects. Besides learning to work together, many students experienced a memorable and positive way to deal with the bombing of Hiroshima. On the 40th anniversary of the bombing, 3,000 cranes from the three Middlebury elementary schools made their dramatic plea for peace.
- Elizabeth Johnson, Media Coordinator, Middlebury, Indiana
Remembering and Hoping
On Hiroshima Day, join others in peaceful remembrances. Many anti-nuclear and peace groups hold a special event on this day. Search out children's books which tell Sadako's story. Read the story to someone you love. If your community or school library does not have a copy, consider buying one for them as a gift to your whole community.
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Page updated 17 Aug. 2016
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