Recent Columns

A generous heart for the right things

It’s some years ago and my father-in-law, Gerry, is on a train somewhere between St. Thomas and Port Stanley, a Saturday touristy ride for nostalgia as much as anything. There’s a conductor and they laugh and I take a photo. It’s really something, in hindsight, considering that
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Moving beyond sentimentality

I once read that if you’re a mother then you have no more claim on humanity than anyone else. I think there’s something to it. Otherwise we’d just idealize motherhood or idolize mothers. I’m also not one of those people who sees a miracle around every corner. But I believe there are some
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Democracy is a trust to constantly work on, or lose

It was one of those inviting spring days and I said, “Welcome to another day in paradise,” to a carpenter friend who was working out front while the sun shone and while we both knew full-well that paradise will be something else entirely. But, you know, on Earth we take what we can get.
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A fine imagination can save your life

I’m no expert, but I’ve been thinking about problems lately. And children. And their stories. You know, there’s that loveable bear, Pooh, exploring the Hundred Acre Wood. And Peter, the boy who never grew up but learned to fly. Or that tiny spider, Charlotte, determined to save her dear
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The truth about truth

Today, for Easter, it’s a good day to consider Pontius Pilate. History tells us that 2000 years ago, under Tiberius Caesar, Pilate was Rome’s fifth governor in Judea, in ancient Israel, the Roman official who sent Christ to his crucifixion. Somewhere nearby was Pilate’s wife who, after a troubling dream, reportedly warned her
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Are we hurting our kids by overprotecting them?

Here’s a story to get us thinking about health and happiness. Boy has serious stomach pain. Mom brings to clinic. Boy checks out fine, but routine mental health screening asks him these questions. “In the last few weeks have you wished you were dead? Have you thought you or your family
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Hijacked faith fuels Trump

An American I know once told me that if your house is on fire then you don’t care much about a firefighter’s faults. You only care that they’ve arrived to put the fire out. Then she explained how Donald Trump was the only firefighter in town who could save America from the fire of itself. I wonder what Francis of Assisi would say.
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It takes courage to get through this life

I know an African, a long-time family friend from Uganda, named Q. He was born in a house with a dirt floor in a closet normally storing things like suitcases. He told me while we drove to Entebbe’s airport. “Mother didn’t want to get other parts of the house dirty,” he said.
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Taking life one day at a time under the African sun

There’s a red dirt road in front of the university guest house where I sometimes sit, in the doorway, barefooted. I watch the African sunrise. And the monkeys. I listen to the birds. Or watch children pass by. They remind me of Hannah, our youngest. “Hello,” several said
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Looking outward with grace

It’s still that time for resolutions, or at least new year reflections. But before I share what I’d like to improve on during my own 2024, let me say that I recently looked at a woman sitting across a restaurant table and talking – well, complaining – to me. I looked at her face. Some context. I enjoy people-watching.
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Some thoughts on Christmas

I recently watched a debate involving a couple of academics, two cerebral rock stars who talked at length about life, including the nature of goodness. The secular humanist explained that goodness doesn’t depend on God or supernatural agents. “But if they’re around, they can step up and show where we’re wrong.”
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Courage is what makes peace possible

Courage is defined in Webster’s as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.” Not that we don’t know courage when we see it. But it’s a good time to consider it because courage, it seems to me, is the story of 2023. Then again, in war, courage might be
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Don’t be afraid

During the best mornings of the year, I rise early, sit outside and imagine I’ve just come into the world. I sit in a chair near a bent and gnarly willow at the front of our house. The sun has just risen. The light is gentle. The house is quiet. The street, its schoolyard and daycare in clear sight, is quiet. My spirit is quiet. In summer
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Pondering death and what comes next

Forty-five years ago today, on November 18, 1978, more than 900 people died in the Jonestown massacre. They were Americans in a Guyana settlement named after Jim Jones, a self-proclaimed prophet who’d been once lauded as an exceptional voice and humanitarian. Jones’ followers
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People, people everywhere with nobody to talk to

We’re all lonely to one degree or another, this side of eternity. If it was different, there’d be no longing. Or expectation. Even so, we’re living in unusually lonely times. Some call it a loneliness epidemic. Alice Aedy, a British filmmaker, calls it a dystopian time. “Almost Orwellian.” Call it
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