Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where Were You? East Coast Earthquake

This will undoubtedly go down in local folks' memories on par with "where were you.... when we landed on the moon?  when JFK was shot?  when the twin towers went down on 9/11?"  Let's face it, earthquakes are so rare on the East Coast that they almost defy imagination.  I've lived in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland for my entire 57 years and I have never experienced an earthquake.  Until today. 

Where were you?

I was at my desk on the second floor of a 1970's era building on our campus at Echo Hill Outdoor School.  There was a lot of light-hearted chatter going on in the adjacent office with my colleagues as we awaited the afternoon arrivals of our new fall staff members.  The floor began to vibrate, and at first I wondered if there were a lot of staff members dancing in another part of the building (we can be a pretty rowdy bunch at times!)  The shaking quickly intensified to the point where it felt like a gigantic washing machine was out of balance, and people began calling out "is it the AC system?"  "is something wrong with the (kitchen vent) fan?"  I looked over at the desk next to me and saw the file folders and pencil holder shaking to the point of blurring.  A pile of papers slid to the floor.  A picture fell off the wall and I watched a bulletin board, propped against the fireplace chimney out on the balcony, fall over.  Someone shouted to evacuate the building and we did.  Once outside the shaking stopped and cognitive processes began making order of what we had just experienced.  "That was bizarre!"  "I've never felt anything like that before!"  "It must have been an earthquake!"   I stared at the trees surrounding the campus, certain they must still be trembling.  But no - the leaves and branches were eerily still. 

Some moments passed and we finally determined to re-enter the building.  Amazingly, we had not lost Internet connection (it seems that while everything else causes us to lose connection, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake had not!)  Two of my daughters called to report feeling it, one in Chestertown about 12 miles away, the other in Church Hill, even further south.  Text messages began flooding cell phones with shocking news:  "They felt it in New York!"  Another text:  "Virginia!"  Still another:  "Rehoboth Beach!"  Four minutes into the calm someone logged into their Facebook page and downloaded a virtual flood of news. 

Although we were all still dazed, the conversation quickly turned to the amazing ability of technology to instantaneously connect people.  And in that aftermath of uncertainty, we did what people do best - we reached out to one another. 

So.... where were you when the East Coast Earthquake hit?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Compassionate Congregation

The discussion on Sunday July 10 was a response to a request earlier in the summer from a member whose family includes an adult child with mental illness.  Dianne Turpin, employed some years ago with our local Crossroads Community, led the discussion.  

Her goals for the morning were four.  Participants would know that:

1.  Mental illness is more common than generally acknowledged.  National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says one in four adults/57.7 million Americans in a given year.

2.  UUA has a strong history of advocacy re: mental illness and strongly endorses NAMI and their efforts.

3.  Stigma is a large part of the problem and there are many ways in which any one of us can fight stigma.  (For example: See Stigma Busters at NAMI website)

4.  Families with a mentally ill member live with an often invisible disabililty, and if we, UUCR, are mindful, and compassionate, we may be able to help.

Closing words were from 365 Tao, Deng Ming Dao:  "Above all, be compassionate.  This is a stand against all evil, and it opens your spirit."

Following discussion several small cluster conversations formed around the room.  An offer was made to form a support group--a generous offer that clearly would address a need within our UUCR community. 

Comments are welcome to continue the dialogue.  Please remember this is a public blog.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Living Lightly

This morning's discussion topic was "Living Lightly on the Earth".  I would like to suggest some additional resources and ideas:

The books I mentioned:
   Walden by Henry David Thoreau
   Small Is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher
   Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin
   The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka

Google "voluntary simplicity" to pull up a host of websites and blogs with great practical ideas and suggestions for how to de-clutter your accumulation of material possessions, love what you have, and how to deepen your sense of inner peace and contentment.

If you have a lot of stuff you would like to get rid of, hold a yard sale!  If you don't want to do that, list items you would like to sell on a website such as Craig's List.  This works for bigger ticket items.  To give away stuff, list them on Freecycle (there is a local Freecycle group started by the Green Sanctuary Committee at UUCR and now listing over 500 members! at:  kentmdfreecycle-owner@yahoogroups.com).  Or donate items in good condition to local places such as Women in Need, Hidden Treasures, or Nearly New.

Anyone want to continue the discussion?