Monthly Archives: December 2016

Peace on Earth

Over two thousand years ago, a heavenly choir gathered to perform one of the most exciting concerts ever. It was an outdoor performance to only a select few – a handful of shepherds and their flocks in the hills outside of Bethlehem. The message of the music was simple: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14.)

Of course, the choir was there to help announce the birth of the one who many now call the Savior. And His message is one of peace. Shortly before His crucifixion, He said to His apostles, “Peace, I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” (John 14:27.)

But where is that peace today? All around us we see, hear and often live just the opposite. War, murder, road rage, contention, violence, distrust, revenge, anger, death, destruction, anguish, brutality, bullying, abuse, despair, sorrow, shattered hopes, heartache, disappointment, hatred.  These are not just words we know; we often live them – whether we want to or not.

I remember as a young boy, sitting in church this time of year, singing the carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The chorister abruptly ended the song after the third verse:

  • And in despair I bowed my head
  • There is no peace on earth I said
  • For hate is strong and mocks the song
  • Of peace on earth goodwill to men

I remember thinking, what kind of Christmas carol is that? But I’m older now, and perhaps a little wiser. I admit, with the news each day filled with violence, hatred and tragedy, I often feel the same way as Longfellow did.

World peace is on the Christmas wish list of many. We hope that world leaders, through treaties, cease fires, pacts and other agreements, will bring us peace. Ironically, world peace really begins with each of us individually. If each individual, regardless of belief or religion, could radiate the true spirit of Christmas, then every home would radiate peace. A thousand such homes would build a truly peaceful city, and a thousand such cities would bring the beginning of peace on earth for everyone.

So what keeps us from experiencing peace? Often is it because we let anger get the best of us – even when we feel we are justified.  As Halifax said, “Anger is seldom without an argument, but seldom with a good one.” I have always loved this clip from Happy Gilmore*:

It usually takes two people to make one of them angry. Often, our anger arises from a simple misunderstanding. We don’t hear something correctly, or the story changes as it goes from person to person. Or as we lawyers like to say, we assume facts not in evidence. Speaking of lawyers, enjoy this clip from Erin Brockovich**:

Often our anger emanates from a desire to get even, a desire for revenge, which King Arthur, in the movie, Camelot, calls “the most worthless of causes.” But revenge is like biting a dog because the dog bit you. Or as the movie, Seabiscuit*** illustrates, the time spent getting even is much better used getting ahead:

Often, the acts of violence we experience are the result of one person exercising power and control over us. The victims of domestic abuse, rape and bullying feel helpless under the power and control of the perpetrator. Even those in war are often the “victims” of their superior officers. But studies have shown, for example, that if even one person stands up to a bully, the bullying will stop. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I love this scene from Eye in the Sky**** showing how, even in the military, raising an issue can lead to a more peaceful solution:

An even better solution might be to follow the advice of the person whose birth we are celebrating: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to those that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44.) As this clip from The War***** illustrates, it really can be done:

With William Gladstone, I “look forward to the time when the power of love will replace the love of power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.” As the carol says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” This Christmas, let’s give some of the gifts suggested by someone I admire:

This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again. (Howard W. Hunter)

These are the truly special gifts we can give this holiday season. Happy holidays to all, and may you and yours enjoy peace.

                                                                          

*Happy Gilmore

  • Production: Universal Pictures, Brillstein-Grey Enertainment and Robert Simonds Productions
  • Directed: Dennis Dugan
  • Screenplay: Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler
  • Starring: Adam Sandler, Christopher McDonald and Jule Bowen
  • Release Date: February 16, 1996

**Erin Brockovich

  • Production: Universal Pictures, Columbia Pictures and Jersey Films
  • Directed: Steven Soderbergh
  • Screenplay: Susannah Grant
  • Starring: Julia Roberts and Albert Finney
  • Release Date: March 17, 2000

***Seabiscuit

  • Production: Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Spyglass Entertainment
  • Directed: Gary Ross
  • Screenplay: Gary Ross (based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand)
  • Starring: Toby Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Elizabeth Banks
  • Release Date: July 25, 2003

****Eye in the Sky

  • Production: Raindog Films, Entertainment One
  • Directed: Gavin Hood
  • Screenplay: Guy Hibbert
  • Starring: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman
  • Release Date: March 11, 2016

*****The War

  • Production: Island World
  • Directed: Jon Avnet
  • Screenplay: Kathy McWorter
  • Starring: Elijah Wood, Kevin Costner, Mare Winningham
  • Release Date: Noveber 4, 1994

A Quiver Full

The Psalmist of the Bible tells us, “Children are a heritage of the Lord…. Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them.” If ancient King David is anything like me, he grinned when he wrote that, for the thought of having a quiver-full of kids makes me, well, quiver. Providing a safe place for our children, and the food and clothing that go along with it, can be a terrifying responsibility. Even worse, raising a child to be a self-sufficient, functioning and productive member society can be overwhelming. Having had five children of my own, I have learned by my own experience the roller coaster ride that being a parent can be. My family has been the center of the greatest highs in my life; they have also been at the center of my deepest lows.

Most of us go into marriage and starting a family not fully appreciating the patience, kindness, long-suffering and wisdom raising children requires. The problem of being a parent is, by the time you are trained well enough to do the job effectively, you are essentially unemployed (although I realize you never stop being a parent, even after your kids leave home). And often, as we are in the middle of our on the job training, we feel like Allyson in Mom’s Night Out,* a total failure as a parent – that we just aren’t good enough. But we are. Although a bit preachy, I love the message of this clip:

My in-laws had six kids and a plaque on their wall that said, “Before I got married I had six different theories about raising children. Now I have six kids—and no theories.” My wife and I feel pretty much the same way. Although our five children have some similarities, there are also great differences among them. I sometimes wonder how five children, all raised in the same environment, can be so different. In short, our children come pre-wired. They have minds of their own. So I try to be philosophical. I’ve tried, as a parent, to teach them things I feel are important for them to succeed, but I try not to take the blame if they do things that I consider not to be so smart. But the opposite is also true. I don’t feel like I can take credit for any of the good things they do.

So in this post I won’t throw out any theories on how to best raise children; there are entire sections in libraries and bookstores that attempt to tackle that subject. Instead, let me share two simple truths about children:

Truth No. 1: As Arnold Glasow said it, “The best thing to spend on children is your time.” Or as my wife would say, “It doesn’t matter what we do as long as we’re together.” The movie, Chef** tells of how a father takes a road trip in a food truck to recapture his passion for cooking, but more importantly, to reconnect with his son by working together:

By playing together (just hanging out):

And by learning from each other:

And when it comes to all things technological, who better to learn from than our own children?

Truth No. 2: Love all your children all the time. When they need it, and when they deserve it. My children are far from perfect—just like their dad. I hope my children feel my love for them, even when they sometimes do what I consider to be foolish.

In Silver Linings Playbook,*** after a stint in a mental institution due to his bipolar disorder, adult son, Pat, moves back into his parents’ home.  In this, one of my favorite scenes from the movie, Pat’s father, tries to help his son, even though he’s not quite sure how. So he tries to connect through something they both have in common, a love of football:

The important thing is Pat, Sr. never gives up on his son.

A young woman once wrote about the continuous heartache her brother had caused her parents. He got involved in drugs. He resisted all efforts at control and discipline. He was deceitful and defiant. Ultimately, he got caught with drugs by the police and finally forced to face the consequences of his actions. For two years his parents supported her brother in his treatment program, both economically and morally, which ultimately brought about his eventual recovery from his addiction. In summary, this young woman wrote:

“I think my parents are extraordinary.  They never wavered in their love for [my brother], though they disagreed with and even hated what he was doing to himself and to their family life. But they were committed enough to their family to support [my brother] in any way necessary to get him through the tough times and onto more solid ground.”

So love your kids when they make you proud. But more importantly, love them when they don’t. And the corollary is just as important.  Don’t judge other parents by what their children may sometimes do.

Hopefully, you’ll find more highs than lows when it comes to your children. In the final analysis, I hope that you can agree with George Banks  in Father of the Bride Part II,**** that life doesn’t get any better than this:

Let’s tip our caps to all those parents and grandparents who spend time with their children or grandchildren, and love them regardless. And if you happen to have a parent or grandparent who exemplify these two truths, give thanks – especially to them.

                                               

*Mom’s Night Out

Production: Affirm Films, FourBoys Entertainment and Provident Films

Directed: Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin

Screenplay: Jon Erwin and Andrea Nasfell

Starring: Sarah Drew, Sean Austin and Patricia Heaton

Release Date: May 9, 2014

**Chef

Production: Aldamisa Entertainment and Kilburn Media

Directed: Jon Favreau

Screenplay: Jon Favreau

Starring: Jon Favreau, Robert Downey, Jr. and Scarlett Johansson

Release Date:  May 30, 2014

***Silver Linings Playbook

Production: The Weinstein Company

Directed: David O. Russell

Screenplay: David O. Russell (based on the book by Matthew Quick

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro

Release Date: November 16, 2012

****Father of the Bride Part II

Production: Sandollar Productions, Taylor-Made Productions and The Meyers/Shyer Company

Directed: Charles Shyer

Screenplay: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer

Starring: Steve Martin, Diane Keaton and Martin Short

Release Date: December 8, 1995