The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Tuesday, July 4

Announcing - Leadership for Social Change

Ideas start in the mind. Along the way, many get forgotten or rejected.  But some ideas remain... growing stronger over the years until they are realized.

For me, this one started in 2011. 

I'm at the Peace Corps office in Kiev saying my goodbyes. After two years of serving in Konotop, Ukraine, I'm flying back to America tomorrow.

Jud, we're hoping that you'll record your 21 tips talk before leaving,” says Iryna, the PC training director.

My talk of practical ideas for community integration had been well received by Peace Corps Trainees. Iryna wants to use it in future trainings. Of course, I'm flattered and soon find myself sitting in front of the camera for my first ever video – 21 Tips for Community Integration.

I don't know it at the time but a new idea is forming.

Flash forward and I'm back in the Peace Corps.  This time I'm in Macedonia. Here I'm serving as an organizational development specialist helping young community leaders with management and leadership issues.

I learn a lot. I develop short in-office trainings, bi-weekly emails with “Leadership Tips”, and spend lots of hours coaching.

I don't know it at the time, but I'm organizing a body of content.

Moving into present time, I'm back in America again and missing my relationships with community leaders. I'm wondering how I can keep relationships and make new ones.

That's when the idea for a YouTube Channel crystallizes. 

 On YouTube, I can open a space for sharing and encourage community leaders in their work for positive social change.

I think to myself, “I can do this.”

But soon I discover that I can't do it alone. While I have inspiration and content, I don't have knowledge of how to make and post videos.

My son, Matthew, starts my learning process. He helps me map out a plan and shares some links for more learning. And just as importantly, his support motivates me.

Nesko and Ratomir, colleagues from Macedonia, help me solve technical problems. Other, like Sally, Bob, Fran and Barb, are a constant sources of support. When I'm about to give up, I'll talk with one of them.

Once again, I learn that ideas don't easily become reality. This one takes six years and six months.

Yet here I am on July 4th announcing a new YouTube Channel.

It's a place where community leaders can discover new ideas and adapt them into their own leadership.

I'm hoping that it will reach community leaders both in America and developing countries.

Maybe Peace Corps Volunteers and others who work with community leaders can pass-it-on.  

I won't be monetizing this project.  It's about helping others. 

So if you can, why not help me pass-it-on.    
Here's a couple of ideas to get you started.

1.  Subscribe yourself.  Leadership for Social Change. When a channel has more subscribers, it shows up more frequently on searches. 

2.  Post these links in your Social Media and tell people about Leadership for Social Change.  

By passing-it-on, you open possibilities for reaching leaders who might benefit a lot.  It's a "three degree of separation" thing.  


Thank you so much.  

Like I say in one of the videos, “We're in this life together. And we are leaders who are working for a better community at a time..

Monday, March 6

No More Anger and Fear

Since the November election in America, I've been moaning and groaning.  Like many, shock, anger and fear hung over me.  

But recently, there's begun a transition...It began happening with the Million Women March in Washington, DC.
NY Times photo

With my friends, Jan and Bruce, we're making our way to the Washington Mall. Soon we are caught up in the crowd, shoulder to shoulder.

I look around. Millennials, aging Baby Boomers, Families. Grandmothers with grandchildren. Grand fathers too. Gay families and straight couples. Veterans, Disabled, Women with pink hair and others wearing hijabs.

Jan wears her pink pussy-hat as do so many others. 

The organizers of the March had suggested that people knit these hats as a somewhat gleeful way to say “NO” to the ugliness of misogyny.

I step up on the curb to get a better look. As far as my eyes can see, crowds occupy the space from the step of the Capitol to the Washington Monument and beyond.
Maybe It's not a million, but it's more people in one place than I have ever seen and over the years I've been to more than a few marches.

Everywhere I see signs. “Love Trumps Hate; Dump Trump; Not my President.” 

Among the many jabs, there are others promoting core American values - freedom, equality, justice, and kindness to refugees.

My sign says, “No more hate and fear.” 

I didn't know it at the time, but these simple words became my harbinger for a more sustainable activism.

In the evening we make our way to All Souls Church.  About 800 of us are gathering to learn four part harmony to Leonard Cohen's Anthem. 

Candles are passed out and we perform it for one another. 

Volunteers with cam recorders circulate so that a YouTube video can be made

It's quite inspiring. 

Take a moment to see and listen for yourself.

(For a second 1:10, my friend Sally and I are on the stairs in a human chain from historic bell to singers below) 

The March activities are soon over and there's a nagging question. Now what? 

I continue attending All Souls. Along with so many others, we are discussing next steps and trying to figure it out.  I know we are not alone. The same kind of discussions are happening across the Nation.  

One Sunday the minister says with such a big bully in the White House, we need an even bigger love for one another. This begins a discussion about resistance.

Resistance is what you do when faith is tested by the “principalities and powers” of this world, says our minister. It's a response to core values being assaulted. 

It's a relentless effort to meet false tweets with truthfulness; intolerance with understanding; and hate with love.

Another Sunday, the minister gives some guidance for those, like me, who are struggling to find our way during these difficult times. She outlines five tips for resistance.

1.Seek some form of spiritual practice. “We need it to sustain us.” It's not that everyone should sit in a circle humming Kumbaya. No, there are many ways to develop spiritual practice. Find your own way to become more nourished in love for others and connected to God, the source of all being.

2. Take seriously what is being said by the “principalities and powers”. Recently Bannon, chief strategist for the administration, said, If you look at these Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction.” Deconstruction of agencies and institutions?

Does that mean no more civil rights enforcement by the Justice Department; and no more clean water regulations by the EPA; and no more safety in food and drugs because the FDA has been deconstructed.

Is it the deconstruction of the Peace Corps too? Agricultural Department; Labor Department; Medicaid; Veteran Affairs and more? 

Pay attention. Amidst the clowning and tweeting distractions, they’re saying what they intend to do.

3. Stay close to the ones being marginalized. Some of us are fortunate enough to know people who are immigrants, green card holders, Muslim, Black, transgendered or other likely targets. 

What's our plan for supporting them if and when (we all hope never) their time comes?

All Souls and many churches are taking steps to become Sanctuary Churches. 

You can read more about it here in the Washington City Paper. 

People are organizing and preparing just in case. I begin thinking is there something I could be doing?

4. Be positive in our approach. Many Americans are struggling to understand the chaos since Inauguration Day no mater who they voted for. The minister reminds us “to keep kindness in our resistance.” 

As Martin Luther King practiced and St. Paul wrote, “Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21) For me that means letting go of post election anger and fear.

5. Be relentless in our resistance. This is not a time to give up on democracy or a nation we love. 

I was so proud to be an American while serving in the US Peace Corps.  For two years in Ukraine and and another year in Macedonia, I served my Country. When I worked with people, I could tell that they respected America. But now?

It's not a time to destroy the social progress of the past decades. Immigrants and refugees are human sisters and brothers and children. It's not a time to compromise away bed-rock values.  Human rights belong to all.

We have a constitution, institutions and the rule of law. It matters.

A statue lifts a lighted torch over New York's harbor and speaks to me, America and the heart of humanity -

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

With the help of others, I'm looking for ways to support values that are true and dear to my heart. I've joined a new public policy and witness group at Church. Another group is working on voting rights. I'm attending their meetings too.

Whatever emerges, I realize that it's time for more justice work. No more moaning and groaning.  No more anger and fear. 

As Henry David Thoreau once said and still says to us, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” 

I guess it's time to get walking...again.

Wednesday, December 7

That's How The Light Gets In...

All Souls Church, Unitarian
My friend, Darryl says, “Wanna check it out sometime?” He's been going to a Unitarian Church on 16th Street. It's a tall steeple one and got organized in 1821 when the United States was still a young country. 

We make arrangements for the Sunday following the election...on a day when the nation is deeply divided.

I'm stunned to see the place packed. It's not what you expect to see in a church these days. Usually this place holds about 1500 people on the main floor and wrap-a-round balcony. But on this particular Sunday, it's bursting with about 2000.

Even more, I'm shocked to hear the minister's sermon...interrupted by a standing ovation lasting several minutes. 

Never have I seen or heard such a thing. It's unbelievable to see so many people roaring their approval.

What stirs such deep emotions is the minister's call for the congregation to be true to its history.

As best as I can recall he says, “We are people of sanctuary. We have given support to gay and lesbian human right seekers, war resisters, run-a-way slaves and more. For all of them, we were a place of sanctuary. 

"Now there's coming a time when we may need to be preparing again...for immigrants, refugees, Native Americans, Muslims, people of color, trans-gendered people and others who are dispossessed.”

I feel like I'm in the right place and glad to add my own applause to the cacophony.

A few Sundays later the worship service is centered on hope. A Blues singer belts out Leonard Cohen's marvelous song, Anthem. 

Leonard Cohen Performing
"The song took ten years to write. There's not a line in it that I could not defend. I delayed it's birth for so long because it wasn't right or appropriate or true or it was too easy or ideas were too fast or too fuss, but the way it is now, it deserves to be born.

It stands for something clear and strong in my heart.

The meaning in the chorus is the background of the whole record: 'Ring the bells that still can ring.' It's no excuse for this dismal situation...and the future is no excuse for abdication of your own personal responsibilities toward yourself and your job and your love.

Ring the Bells that still can ring. They're few and far between, but you can find them.

Forget your perfect offering.  That's a hang-up that you're gonna to work this thing out. This situation does not admit to a solution of perfection. This is not a place where you make things perfection - your marriage, nor in your work, nor in your love of God, nor in your love of family or country.

There's a crack in everything.  The thing is imperfect. And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together – physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind.

That's how the light gets in.  But that's where the light gets in, and that's where resurrection is and that's where the return to repentance is...with the brokenness of things."

Maybe it's just me being in this place at this time, but the song brings a lump to my throat. When I glance at the woman next to me tearing up, I join her. I think our emotions come from a sacred place.

Leonard Cohen is most known for his song, Hallelujah.  It's been sung around the world by many pop-artists. Its enigmatic lyrics give a pause to everyday. Learn more about Leonard Cohen.

This time the sermon is not interrupted with cheers, but it's timely for a nation divided and losing hope.

The minister re-frames the quest for hope. He says that hope is not like waiting for a gift to be wrapped up with a bow and dropped in our laps.  Rather hope is active. It's something we give our lives to each day and week, month and year. I'm thinking - to make the nation a kinder, gentler and more just place to live one step at a time.

It's just like the Old Testament Prophet, Micah, urged so long ago – “What does the Lord require, but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.”

I write this post in hopes that it might give you opportunities to think deeply.

After all, living is more than household projects, emails and deadlines. We need encouragement from one another and a new vision of a nation healing old fears, suspicions and hatreds. 

Together we do what we can with what we have.  And we create hope.  

Wednesday, October 19

What A Day - October 18, 2016

I'm grateful for my garden apartment. While I was still in Ukraine, I saw it listed on a real estate blog.

Wow,” I thought. “I can live in the city and still be close to nature.” You see, while my apartment is a 16 story concrete building, it's less than a block from access to Rock Creek - a park that snakes its way through the District and up into Maryland farmland. It's a refuge from concrete and asphalt for many animals and fauna. 
My apartment looks out on a patio through a floor to ceiling glass doors and side panels. 

I can see flowers in my small garden and a beautiful dogwood tree. It's a perfect spot to enjoy morning coffee while my pair of cardinals sing or the humming birds check out the feeder. 

A couple of Springs ago, a mother duck hatched her brood here.  What a sight to see - Little fluffs peeping after one another - until the animal rescue came and returned them to Rock Creek.

I often say with a smile, “Life is easy on Veazey,” It's a rhyme in honor of my street – Veazey Terrace. “Life is easy on Veazey Terrace.” It's a wonderful place to live.

But then today happened.

It's about 7:45 am. My alarm has already gone off and I'm still under snooze control. Suddenly I hear a loud crash and a clatter. What? I'm uncertain about jumping out of bed to see what is the matter. 

Actually, I have an impulse to pull the sheets up over my head and stay safe
Now I hear a sloshing sound from the bathroom. I call out, “Hello!” And again, “Hello!” There's no response. What could it be?

I walk towards the door and notice blood on the floor. “Oh my, what's happened?” I poke my head half-way out of the doorway and suddenly see in my bathroom a full grown deer.  

He's big.  He's taller than I am with those antlers towering overhead. In a flash, he spots me. 

Quickly the frightened intruder turns leaping across my living room through the shards of glass while dripping blood on the floor. One, two, three bounds and then a jump. He's gone out through the huge hole in what was once my solid plate-glass door.

Wow, what's just happened,” I think. I scan my living room. 

Broken glass crunches under my feet. I step over to my hallway entrance and dining area. Walls and floors are smudged with blood. 

I take a closer look at the bathroom. It looks like a crime scene. I'm in shocked.

I make two calls. I reach out to my friend Sally for support and contact the building management for help. Both respond quickly, thank goodness. With friends near, I transition from shock to clean-up mode. It'll take most of the day. Blood dries quickly and cakes on hard if you ever need to know.

Apparently the deer had found his way to the strip of land that runs along the patios on my side of the building. Workmen coming for repairs spooked the deer. He ran down the strip of land to the last patio...mine. It's a dead end with no way out.

The deer must have seen the reflection of the dogwood tree in my glass door thinking it was a way back to Rock Creek.  So with a leap and a bound, he cut his way into my apartment.

I'm feeling grateful when I consider all that might have happened. What if he had turned into my bedroom instead of the bathroom? What if he had lashed-out at me?  What if he had slashed through the living room instead of leaping outside again? 

Sure it's a mess. But it can be cleaned up and the glass door can be replaced. I'm safe.

What an experience!  I'm very aware of how life can change in a moment.  While life is not always easy on Veazey, I still can enjoy my morning coffee on the patio and listen to my cardinals sing.

But what about the deer?  When you think about it, it's people, like me and my kind, who have intruded into his space.   

I wonder if the cuts were deep?  Did he survive?  As the repairmen arrive with new glass,  I keep thinking, "I hope he makes it."   

Saturday, July 2

Remembering Legacy and the Lafayette Urban Ministry

I belong to a club. It has no bi-laws and no regular meetings.  In fact it only has three members. We're the club of the LafayetteUrban Ministry Executive Directors – Ron Elly, myself and Joe Micon. Over the years we have remained friends keeping in touch with occasional meetings, emails and phone calls.

Last week we lost one of our members. Ron Elly died. He had been battling cancer for a long time, but at 76 years, cancer finally took him from us.

I was invited by the family to share my thoughts at his funeral in Lafayette, Indiana. In a whirlwind of a flight from Washington, DC, I share this eulogy...

July 1, 2016

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of celebrating the life of Ron colleague in ministry and friend. Our lives intertwined through our work with the Lafayette Urban Ministry and our friendship grew over the years. During my last extended stay in Lafayette, we began having regular coffees together. No agenda – just a little reminiscing, laughter and friendship.

On Monday the phone rings. There's no premonition of the news it would convey. I learn Rev. Ron Elly died.

A wave of sadness slides thru my soul. “Oh no,” I mutter or something like that. I knew he had been battling cancer, but still the news hits me hard. Memories flood my consciousness. “Oh Ron, you're a good one. You made such a big difference. We'll miss you.”

For some reason, I find my thoughts returning to a bible verse from the prophet Micah.
What does God require?  Do justice.  Love kindness.  And walk humbly with God

I first met Ron on the pages of the Green Book as I was interviewing for a new job with LUM. For those who may not know, the Green Book was a strategic report on the Lafayette Urban Ministry prepared by Dr. Jim Davidson, a sociologist of religion from Purdue University in collaboration with Ron Elly, Tom Hull, Don Nead and a host of others from the staff and board of LUM. 

Dr. Davidson analyzed strengths and weaknesses and importantly saw great opportunities for LUM.  Oh yes, It was called the green book not because of some deeper metaphorical meaning, but simply because its cover was a bright green.

I learned about Rev. Ronald Elly on those pages...recruited by Presbytery from Seminary in Louisville Kentucky to Hope Chapel – a small Presbyterian congregation on the south side of Lafayette. Here lived some of Lafayette's poorest families and most marginalized people.

The year was 1967. It was an activist time. Churches were beginning to realize that they would have to see beyond their stained glassed windows and get involved in their communities. 

It was a time to connect with the marginalized. It was a time to correct racial injustices. The government was launching a War on Poverty. The times they were a changing and social justice was in the air.

Ron saw an opportunity at Hope Chapel. He felt that it was well positioned for renewal as a Servant Church – loving neighbors and doing justice in the world.

Unfortunately, leaders at this congregation did not share his passion for a Servant Church. They wanted to recapture a more traditional model for church life - One that served their own members and not so much the community. They balked at Rev Elly's ideas...Unfortunately.

Or was it fortunately. God does work in mysterious ways. Sure there were plenty of false starts, disappointments, conflicts and heart aches. We can only imagine the anxiety that Ron and Ellen must have felt as Hope Chapel back-tracked.

But Ron had persistence. Amazingly he didn't loose hope. Something new was beginning to happen in Lafayette, Indiana and Ron's ministry was at the heart of it. I'm not sure he realized it at the time, but looking back we see it clearly.

Ron was brilliant in his ability to gather people together. He was always out in the community. First through the NDP (Neighborhood Development Project) he reached out to Presbyterians and then to Methodists and quickly to a broader ecumenical circle. He had a knack for identifying people with a social justice gene and then he got them involved.

All of us, where would we be if not for Rev Elly's ministry? We have lots to be grateful for and so much to celebrate.

By 1971, the idea for a Lafayette Urban Ministry was taking shape. More people got involved. Seven churches became charter members. And in January of 1972, it became official when Dee Tritschler moved and Les Gaylor seconded a motion to create the Lafayette Urban Ministry and call Rev Ronald Elly as LUM's Pastor Director.

It was exciting times. Work with youth as well as a transportation program expanded. A Centralized Emergency Fund was created to help with emergency needs. Work on racial justice took off through an Integrated Hands Program. A Hispanic community festival was organized thanks to LUM securing additional church funds. Participation as well as budgets increased. More than 20 congregations were discovering new ways to do Church.

But Ron was not to remain Pastor Director. He sensed a calling to a more personal ministry of pastoral counseling. Soon hundreds of people were able to sort out troubling issues because of Ron's guidance. Imagine the renewal in their lives and the difference Ron's pastoral counseling ministry made. Many recall his deep concern and wonderful kindness to this day.

Still Ron Elly is and always will be the birthing parent of the Lafayette Urban Ministry.

Among his many gifts, he gave us vision. He taught us that through persistence, prayer and faith, many good things are possible. We can see beyond stained glass windows or self-obsessive lives. Ron's vision gave us hope and has already changed Lafayette.

It's true...isn't it?

Because of his vision, we catch glimpses of a servant church. Now churches, secular organizations and all people of good will are regularly engaged with the poor and embracing the marginalized.

They walk for hunger
They counsel at an immigration clinic.
They volunteer at the homeless shelter.
They support the Food Finders Food Bank and give away bags of groceries.
They write letter to legislators pleading for a social safety net.
They work on community task forces.
They give to the Good Samaritan Fund. 
And more...
It's like we are echoing the words of the prophet Micah. Do justice...Love kindness...Walk humbly with God.

Indeed, Ron, we recognize what you have accomplished among us. You leave a living legacy and we are most grateful. We thank God for all blessings... And today, we, especially, thank God for you. Amen

Thursday, May 26

Dubrovnik, Croatia - Paradise On Earth

“Pearl of the Adriatic,” enthused George Bernard Shaw after his visit.

“Those who seek Paradise on earth should come to Dubrovnik,” he said.  
View of Old City from my Guest House
It's easy to see why
UNESCO deemed it a World Heritage site in 1979.

I'm staying at a guest house overlooking the Old Town of Dubrovnik. 

The view is amazing. Don't you agree?

But the world almost lost it. My host explains the terror during the 1991-92 siege. 

Mortars from surrounding hillsides hit nearly 80% of the roofs. His mother and family struggled for water and food just to stay alive.

Street life during the year of the siege
Hearing him and seeing the intensity brings history of this siege, like the others that inflicted the Balkans, into an embarrassing awareness. 

Frankly, I know little about the flood of warfare that engulfed the Balkans in the 1990s.

Walls in a museum pay tribute to the men whose lives ended during the siege
A YouTube search helps to fill in my ignorance. I start watching a BBC documentary.  Here's the Link - The Death of Yugoslavia. 

Slowly, I'm beginning to understand what happened after Tito's death and xenophobes gained power. The worse of fear and suspicion and hatred took over. Crazed leaders manipulated the people resulting in Hell on least for a time.

Meeting a young child along the way
Today I'm walking the wall that encloses the Old City. Much has been restored. Investments from abroad and the hard-work of the people is bring the luster back to the “pearl.” It's a wonder although if you look closely, there are still scars and need for on-going work.

They tell me it's about a 2 hour trek, but at my speed, I'll double it.  

Whatever, I think it's a glorious day to be exploring “Paradise Restored." 

Let's go - up and down and around

Can you spot the few roofs that have NOT been replaced?

Church stands proud  and sea glistens 

I wish that was me in a  kayak 
See the different roof colors.
 Nearly 80% had been destroyed

Dubrovnik is a living city alive with daily life

I talk with this man about his garden
Former fishing and trading harbor,
now serves tourists

Fortification scared from war

Mesmerized by the crystal clear water
Colors of Paradise