Braving the Sea
The shuddering booms
of bombs yet again fall
two sisters’ childhood is shattered
as rioters and the government squall.
In what seemed like a moment
they thought would end soon
another friend’s life is taken…
visas in Europe seem opportune.
Teen sisters Yusra and Sarah
know their future’s shaky at best
so they beg their parents
to fly far from the nest.
These young Syrian swimmers
pack their bags light
fare to Turkey in hand as they tearfully
embark on their flight.
Wandering the streets of Istanbul
they search for routes to the West
With horror they realize
rubber rafts across
the sea are “the best.”
They push out in dark waters
Stuffed on a dinghy fit only for eight
18 desperate travelers
surrender their fate.
Soon the flimsy engine sputters
Prayers and tears flow
as they brave the cruel sea
and a bitter wind blows.
Yusra and Sarah
decide to lighten the weight
they jump boldly in the Aegean
Swimming through the icy strait.
Their strokes push through
the cold, pain and fear
Praying persistently that soon
the shore will draw near.
After hours of swimming
They miraculously reach the sand
Weary and amazed
They’re alive in a new land.
Exhausted by thousands of refugees
The nearby neighbors have little pity
So the group of 18 find shelter
and food from foreign aid in the city.
Determined to reach Germany
Yusra and Sarah walk countless miles
Cross borders, sleep outdoors
and endure this dangerous trial.
After weeks they miraculously make it
to a safe haven in Berlin
Where they must start over and
Yusra wishes she can swim again.
The girls find a nearby pool
and Yusra pleas for a spot on the team
The coach sees her potential
says yes and re-awakens her dreams.
Life as refugees is hard
But the sisters do what they can
and try to secure safe passage
for their parents to travel by land.
Through grit, courage, and talent
Yusra joins the first Refugee Olympic Team in Brazil
She swims with power
Buoyed by hope and a strong will.
Meanwhile, Sarah audaciously
returns to the Aegean sea
joins efforts to bring many more
refugees across to safety.
These two sisters’ story
is but one of millions who’ve fled
conflict, disaster, persecution
and seek refuge, holding hope by a thread.
May we who live in comfort and ease
show compassion and kindness
as we see and meet
the refugee newcomers among us.
To learn more:
Photo by Tim Marshall
Beauty All Around
Ding. Ding. Ding. Buzz. Buzz…
My eyes are so easy downcast, mesmerized
by that ever humming, lit-up screen that constantly begs for my attention.
Yet most times I surrender to it,
it leaves me bored, dissatisfied, annoyed…
Instead, when I step away and really look up, and am fully PRESENT…
I am amazed, in awe at the beauty all around:
those every day sights and sounds
that pull me in and fill me with wonder.
Beauty unfolds each morning
when I get up early enough to pause
at the stream on my way to work,
when sunbeams sleekly wrap around the grassy hillsides
with streaking ribbons of light.
Beauty unleashes from intricate designs
on the grand old granite buildings in old town
in a child’s sketchbook of thick lines and vibrant scribbles,
from the bold maroon and cerulean muraled faces
on the wall of a nail salon.
from the strength of many voices
chorusing harmoniously as one civil rights song
that still rings true,
from the calming swirl of chords in
an age-old symphony that
blows through horns, pipes,
and exhilarant bows upon
stringed wooden instruments.
Beauty rises from
each pair of hands
that write, carve, sculpt,
clap, and play
each with their own hues
and grooves and fingerprints.
from a delicate infant
cradled in its family’s arms
experiencing life and love
for the first time.
Beauty connects us
through affectionate hugs from friends
who know our joys and sorrows alike,
from the insightful words of an elder
who passes on hope and encouragement
to a young one lacking confidence.
from those sacred moments
we daringly let others into the
vulnerabilities of our hearts,
from fits of uncontainable, side-stitching giggles,
from tears of solidarity and empathy
shed with friends in times of sorrow.
Beauty is carved into our hearts
And woven into the universe…
Let’s take a moment
to pause and breathe deeply
of the beauty
All around us!
Tears for Old Yeller
I’ll never forget that day in 4th grade
Mrs. Fallon sat on her stool in front of our class
during her weekly ritual reading us a story.
She had a faded paperback of “Old Yeller” in her hands
and she read that dreaded chapter
where young Travis discovers his beloved dingy colored
dog Old Yeller who defended his family from a rabid wolf
had endured the wolf’s fateful bite
which meant Travis had to shoot his dear friend
before Old Yeller turned on the family.
As Mrs. Fallon read the story her voice slowed and softened.
Tears began to trickle silently down her cheeks
Her voice choked up and as she did…
We all cried too. My classmates and I mournfully passed around
that box of tissues as we lamented for Travis
and his sweet dog.
There was something sacred in that moment
as Mrs. Fallon gave us permission to feel
to cry with honor and to be moved by a story not our own.
She showed us nine- and ten- year olds
that feeling sad is quite natural
and that when we choose to feel our feelings
in the company of others
there is solidarity
there is beauty
there is comfort.
Photo by Element5 Digital
“Sakura” (Japanese for cherry blossoms)
Cherry blossoms sway
Give whispers of soft fragrance
Into gentle breeze.
The People in the Shadows
I wander down the tree-lined dirt path
that eventually becomes a sidewalk,
sensing that stickiness of humidity so commonplace in Thailand.
It’s not long before I start to pass street vendors:
I notice an older man and woman, side by side at their food stall.
The few plastic chairs and modest outdoor tables set up
in front of them remain vacant.
Their Thai cuisine may be simple
but the recipes surely come from decades of perfecting:
a peanut-sprinkled papaya salad so wildly hot it instantly cleanses your nostrils,
Pad Kra Pao, a savory, basily minced pork dish with a fried egg and rice,
and colorful veggies from local farms the man deftly slices with a
sturdy cleaver in a whirlwind of chops; they will soon swirl in a sea of coconut milk, ginger, galangal, and shrimp paste.
The menus and signs for their shop are hand written and worn, but the food
they prepare is of highest quality.
They stand at attention in front of the woks and ingredients
swatting flies and wiping their brows, waiting for the next order to come.
Nearby, a woman with silvery hair pulled back in a bun stands
in a tiny stall, the size of a bedroom. Her shop is sardined with vibrant
dresses and skirts and shirts, many patterns of generations past
that reflect traditional culture, as well as a handful other
attire that mimics Western style. Our eyes meet fleetingly as I nod and I pass her by. She too waits for customers.
Across the street, brilliant, blinding lights shine,
flowing from the windows of a multi-story,
brand-new destination: the mall!
Folks from miles around have flocked here
Their motorbikes and cars and bikes jammed tightly into the surrounding lots.
These shoppers arrive with eager anticipation
to check out new fads and brands and to get the trendiest clothes and gear…hoping what they acquire will up their coolness factor.
The customers stroll inside, onto gleaming, snow-white tiled floors.
Glitzy, monstrous ads plaster every surface featuring
underfed, serious-faced European and American models in outrageous fashion and bold makeup entice buyers to be like them. Pop songs blare from speakers
pulsing in the hearers’ heads and bodies.
The potent smells from the food court bombard the senses:
take your pick of baked breads and pretzels
and donuts and coffee and boba and slushies and ice cream
and pizzas and burgers and fries and steaks and fried chicken…
Western brands that wow their customers
with such excessive volume of saltiness, grease, and sugar.
A flowing flurry of people stream up and down
the infinitely-moving escalator as it pushes its occupants up and down
to the next big sales.
These customers may have fond memory of local foods and vendors
but bright foreign novelties before them glitter and gleam
so much more glaringly and loudly...
I return outside to refreshing night air, the road clogged with
honking cars and motorbikes, many with plastic bags of new purchases
squeezed onto their arms and in their satchels.
As I make my journey home, I can't help but notice the local store owners once again. Tiny shop after shop, dimly lit: outdoor eating areas, small clothing and convenience stores. Though there are a handful of customers scattered about, the air feels thick and hushed.
An elderly woman in flimsy sandals strolls past me.
I’m drawn to admire her long, traditional sarong skirt of alternating golden diamonds amidst a midnight hue. We glance at one another, exchanging smiles.
She walks into the fading light. I few moments later, I look behind me;
she is already gone.
I wonder, will she and the vendors I have passed today's existence
grow dimmer amidst the flashy, seducing intrigue of Western brands
and chain restaurants and foreign fancies? Will outside companies eventually replace local peoples' businesses, foods, and generations of tradition?
Will the sense of community familiarity and connections
wane and fade as one by one, these shops close for good and are replaced by mass-produced commodities and manufactured convenience?
It’s hard to say for sure what the future holds.
I only hope that when people exit that massive mall
hopping onto their motorbikes and into their cars
they look out and remember the people in the shadows.
Photo by Egor Myznik
She defied all odds and flew!
Eyes shut; now opened, world transformed.
Rainforest reveals a kaleidoscope of life.
A Tropical Sanctuary
Manoa's lush trees
Amid budding bright flowers
Yearns for you to stay!
Manoa is a stunning valley on the island O'ahu.
As I rap on the door
I hear a scampering swoosh
as the knob turns
the door creaks open
Yoshi’s velvety fur tossles
as he scurries
like a thunderbolt
a delighted bark!
as his paws madly
across the tile.
He leaps up
howling in pure joy
his gleeful tail
pounding the ground
His eyes and mouth
grin together widely
and reveal his
As I pull him close
I hear his heart
thud against mine.
As he plunks
a sloppy kiss on my cheek
I relish this
furry hug with the
sweetest pup around!
The Phillips Head Revolution: A Mighty Force of Metal
One gray morning
in the dismal peak of
the Great Depression
Henry Frank Phillips had
a wild epiphany...
What if he could
turn an itty bitty pointed
piece of metal
(weighing less than a penny!)
into a mighty force that would
revolutionize the world??
Yes, Henry did what
many a great genius has
#1: He took an
"the socket screw," one his friend
John concluded was
a floundering failure...
#2: Brought his own INSIGHT
("we could move assembly lines
along at lightning speed
if we quickened the pace
of fastening screws
#3: Then tinkered
and tweaked the design
till he powered & patented
an INNOVATION -
a cross-beamed screw
that was brilliantly
self-centered (though he himself
tried not to be), that fit
more snugly into place
and was much more quickly
aligned with drivers than
its predecessor screws.
He soon created the screw's
a new driver whose groves
perfectly aligned with it,
making for a speedy, smooth
What would he call it?
Why not his very last name!
The Phillips Head Screw
Henry soon realized
of this groundbreaking invention
pounded on doors,
solicited phone calls,
wrote persuasive letters…
till one day he won over
the skeptics at the
American Screw Company!
With their stamp of approval
they began to license and produce
his tiny, shiny screws!
The next hurdle loomed:
convince the industrial
that they NEEDED
this metal prize.
With allies at
American Screw Company
at his side, it wasn’t long
before Henry proposed to
General Motors that with
his sturdy screws,
their production could
pick up speed
profits could surge
employment could rise…
it was not long before
the contract with GM
found their way to the
down assembly lines
steel and glass into
The revolution had begun!
as the heart of U.S. industry,
factories across Detroit,
were humming and bustling
with those mighty screws.
And the movement
budded and bloomed…
By 1940, less than
8 years after Henry
first had his nascent
a whopping 85%
of screw manufacturers
across the country
had license to use
As the massive war
the world was into
thousands upon thousands
of cars and planes
and trains - some powering
the war effort
across the world,
others helping form
cities and transportation
were held together
by these unstoppable
Phillips Head Screws.
They continued to flow
into factories that
dotted the globe
for decades to come.
Little did Henry know,
that dreary day
his idea sparked
that his bitty screws
plus his dogged
would transform an industry
impact the world!
Photo by Konstantin Evdokimov