Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Month: April 2015

One reason I love life (but the point where my grace ends)

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One of the many reasons I love life is the unexpected synchronicity that happens all the time….

Driving traffic-clogged I-4 at 6:50 this morning to get to the YMCA prayer breakfast, I responded (okay, yelled) at the radio because a well-spoken but clearly wrong (by the discrimination yardstick) Baptist Minister explained to the radio host why his speech should be protected and isn’t discriminatory (e.g. denying a wedding cake or photography service to a same-sex couple about to get married is protected speech he argues, based on his Biblical beliefs. But, denying the same couple a hamburger, or accounting services etc he says is discriminatory).

Finally I arrived at the mega Orlando First United Baptist church for the YMCA prayer breakfast. I ran into the packed room, saw our Oviedo YMCA Exec Director at my table and I said loudly to him across the noise,

“I just drove like a bat out of HELL to get here!”

Just as I said this I turned around and seated right next to me at my table is a lovely young pastor with my town’s local New Covenant church. (But you know God has a stellar sense of humor, so goes the saying “Because God made (insert what/whoever you think is worthy of God’s sense of humor).”

I asked the Pastor about his church, told him I’ve heard good things about his pre-school. He shares a little about his church (Anglican). He asks me where I go (Unitarian Universalist). We both make polite conversation. Pastor asks me if my husband and daughter attend UUU (mostly no and I tell him why and why I left my Methodist church. Fond memories and deep gratitude for my daughter’s programs and our religious roots I explain, but I had increasing discomfort, and my new church resonates better with my views).

I tell Pastor a tiny bit more about my church all the while trying to be diplomatic and respectful, yet honest.

Oh yeah, hi there, Mr. President

Then our speaker gets up. Lucas Boyce (Dir of Business Development and Legislative Affairs for the NBA’s Magic). Lucas wrote “Living Proof: From Foster Care, to the White House and the NBA” and is clearly living proof for character and faith and belief in himself (and bold courage).

Lucas inspires us with several stories, each underpinned by his faith and that moving from a crack addict prostitute mother to foster care to life with a loving adopted mother who encouraged him informed his life’s trajectory. Lucas built the life he dreamed as a child (with thanks to God first he said) the moment he saw the White House (and after he saw the coolest airplane ever in the movie Air Force One).

Somehow on his pathway to become a lawyer he became a White House intern/page during President GW Bush’s term. One day President Bush did a quick photo-op on the south lawn with the pages. Twenty-two year old Lucas, not yet groomed on the basics of Presidential how do you do said something like “Hey yeah, how are you? but closed with, “I’m praying for you Mr. President. It’s a just cause (post 9/11 reference).”

The next day President Bush told a staff member he was impressed with “that young man” and to hire Lucas right away. From that moment Lucas’s life moved exactly where he wanted it to go.  

The crowd, all 1,000 of us, gave Lucas a deserved standing ovation.

Passionate. Inspired. Full of faith and conviction.

Believe. Pray. Worship. Inspire others. These are the fuels that feed our compassion and hope and propulsion forward.

BUT while you pray and inspire others, please know this:

The majority public opinion believes that religious beliefs should NOT allow legal rulings to protect speech that denies well-behaved (ruly), shirt-covered citizens service.

So clergy if you must deny officiating a same-sex marriage because it goes against your Biblical beliefs, you have the right as a religious institution.

(However,  I will never believe it feels truly righteous and holy and God-infused, authentic to one’s spiritual core to deny marriage to a loving couple).

Our nation’s individual views on God (and God’s will and use of our free will) is all over the place yet all of us in small moments of respect and grace at round tables can listen to the one another. I truly want to hear someone’s concerns over same-sex marriage however, when the legislative hammer comes down and denies service to our citizens due to sexual orientation, I immediately stop listening. 

Red Barber did his job, so can business owners against same-sex marriage

The radio interviewer then asked the Baptist Minister….. “I know this is a different issue but baseball announcer Red Barber nearly quit announcing for the Dodgers after desegregation and Jackie Robinson started playing. But Barber changed his mind. He knew he had a job to do. Can’t business owners against same-sex marriage simply serve someone and do their job?

The Baptist minister said for him no because it violates his speech.  At that moment the minister said no and denied service to a SS couple, is the moment I don’t believe he worships the same God — I do.

Okay, disagree with same-sex marriage if you must, but your job as an American heterosexual citizen afforded rights is not to deny to others, the same services/benefits YOU enjoy.

We are not, any of us, born chosen or special because we are heterosexual any more than we are born chosen or special because our eyes are blue or brown or hazel.

(To help illustrate the real life wrong in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Let’s use our heart rather than our head. Picture your adult child, deeply in love with her long time same-sex partner. One day both giddily head to the only bakery in their tiny town to order their dreamed-about wedding cake, budget tight but they’ve got just the cake picked out in their head. Lo, the baker-owner Frank who has known these ladies since they were little and used to give them free sugar cookies every Sunday says sorry ladies, I love you both but I can’t bake your wedding cake, my beliefs don’t allow it).

That’s love? 

Postscript:

“The man who broadcast Jackie Robinson’s first season with the Dodgers recalled that, as a boy in **SANFORD, Florida,  (Red Barber): “I saw black men tarred and feathered by the Ku Klux Klan and forced to walk the streets. I had grown up in a completely segregated world.” Red Barber confessed that when he learned the Dodgers would field a black player, his first reaction was to quit his job.” (Society for American Baseball Research).

When we don’t know any better we don’t do better. Once we know better, we must do better.

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Why this nation is so happy

By Sgt. Samuel R. Beyers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sgt. Samuel R. Beyers [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Live Happy magazine reports that Costa Rica ranks as one of the happiest places on earth across a number of happiness index scales (Ranked number 1 out of 151 countries by the Happy Planet Index, HPI).

When I went a few years ago, among the many places I’ve traveled, Costa Rica in particular, left a vivid sensory imprint I revisit in my mind, often.

There’s something quickly transformative about Costa Rica, perhaps it’s immersion in the lush biodiversity combined with meeting Costa Ricans (“Ticos”) who do more than merely recite their nation’s slogan, “Pura Vida,” the good life, they feel it.

And so, I’m not surprised the Happy Planet Index (HPI) ranked Costa Rica number one.  The HPI combines 3 factors:

  1. Sense of well-being. (The HPI survey asked respondents to imagine the worst possible life and the best possible life and then rate where they fall on the Ladder of Life). (Costa Rica = 7.3/10, excellent).
  2. Life expectancy. (Costa Rica = 79.3, excellent).
  3. Ecological Footprint.  (This measures sustainability. Can a country sustain its citizens without outside help. If for example, a country cut itself off from the rest of the world, could it be self-sufficient based on use of land for sustainability? Costa Rica = 2.5, average).
Lost Iguana Resort, Arenal region, Costa Rica

Lost Iguana Resort, sloped walk towards our room.

Simply put, Costa Ricans rate their quality of life high, live relatively long and while their sustainability/self-sufficiency isn’t superior, it’s right up there. Much of the land is protected under an aggressive conservation plan and so citizens live among unspoiled natural beauty, which as we know, closer to nature, closer to calm.

Let me add, Costa Rica has no military. 

“We are a happy country because we don’t know what it is to lose millions of people in a war,” says resident Carlos Arias . “We have no army. Our happiness is easier to achieve because we are easily amazed, and maybe that has to do with the fact that we haven’t suffered any big wars, like the rest of the countries in our continent.” Source: Live Happy magazine, April 2015.

Costa Ricans, Carlos explained, also have an easier time moving up a social class and making friends across classes. I wonder then, if some of their sense of well-being is feeling inter-connected which fosters mutual respect and that caring community we all crave.

What is superficially surprising, however, is that Costa Rica, a relatively poor country, whose per capita income is no higher than the international average, is consistently right up there (on happiness) with its wealthier counterparts. ~ “A Country Without a Military? You Bet!,”  by David P. Barash Ph.D, Dec. 13th, 2013

 

Arenal volcano, Costa Rica, Lost Iguana Resort

Arenal volcano. La Fortuna region, Costa Rica.

A couple of years ago my husband and I visited the Arenal volcano region (outside La Fortuna) to celebrate our 20th anniversary. I was at once relaxed like every vacationer who finally exhales, but Costa Rica brought me there faster.

Iguana Resort was surrounded by exotic flowers, plants and birds. The private lodging was nestled into the side of a mountain with access through small paved roads that sloped upward to our secluded room.

Lost Iguana Resort, Golden Gecko spa

Sitting outside Lost Iguana Golden Gecko spa. Costa Rica.

Our open air porch housed two (notably creaky but oddly soothing) wooden rocking chairs that faced the jungle and the misted Arenal (active) volcano on the horizon. You have no choice but to feel blissed when you’re connected to a country who cocoons visitors in natural beauty at every step.

Residents are extraordinarily polite (almost formal I’d read despite the informality of the country) and so on the advice of traveler reviews I reigned in my forward American gusto to keep my personality footprint respectful.

Still, everyone easily smiled hello and good-bye while they said the nation’s mantra, “Pura Vida,” the good life.  I quickly looked forward to responding with the same as a reminder that like the citizens, I was experiencing the well-felt Costa Rican life. 

stray but well fed dogs in La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Well-fed stray dogs outside a restaurant in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Stray dogs also thrive in this relatively poor but largely economically sound nation.  Most residents in La Fortuna can’t afford to keep pets but they clearly care for the animals. I saw water bowls on almost every business stoop and people threw scraps for the dogs while they ate in outdoor air restaurants.   The loving communal care is obvious because despite the throngs of stray dogs, none of them looked starved for food or attention. 

Costa Rica’s verdant land and symphonic rain forest ripe with hundreds of varieties of birds was subconsciously meditative. Years back I gave up the pressure of trying to meditate except to intuitively fixate on nature’s theatre and gentle tree sways.

LI pool

The pool at Lost Iguana Resort, Costa Rica.

One afternoon at the resort I quieted my busy brain by walking circles in the shallow end of the resort pool as I scanned the property with binoculars looking for hidden birds I could hear but not see.

One-third of the year Costa Rica is covered with blue skies and cool breezes. Every day after 1pm it rains which for someone who craves long hours of bright sunlight is unappealing and moody. Usually however, the rains only lasted long enough to re-lubricate the land and to hydrated my skin in a wonderful permanent mist.

When I asked our canal eco tour guide if he ever considered living anywhere else he told me no, never.

If you grow up in Costa Rica, chances are you’ll stay even if you’re not rich.  If you live outside Costa Rica, chances are someone will insist you visit a country that seems to live abundantly happy, despite it’s modest abundance.

Postscript: Nadine Hays Pisani author of Happier Than a Billionaire: Quitting My Job, Moving to Costa Rica & Living the Zero Hour Work Week. “I’ve had a very, very good experience. I don’t know if I could go back to how I lived before. I made a mistake by thinking I always had to have something new to make myself happy. I never considered that nature can make you happy, being outside can make you happy. I worked a 10-12 hour day. I was never outside.”

Why care about happiness ratings for another country?

“Most measures of national progress are actually just measures of economic activity; how much we are producing or consuming. By only using indicators like GDP to measure success we are not accounting for what really matters, producing happy lives people now and in the future.

The HPI puts current and future well-being at the heart of measurement. It frames the development of each country in the context of real environmental limits. In doing so it tells us what we instinctively know to be true – that progress is not just about wealth.

It shows that while the challenges faced by rich resource-intensive nations and those with high levels of poverty and deprivation may be very different, the end goal is the same: to produce happy, healthy lives now and in the future. The HPI demonstrates that the dominant Western model of development is not
sustainable and we need to find other development paths towards sustainable well-being.” Source: Happy Planet Index

Get your bare feet on the ground: The many benefits of connecting your feet to the earth (called grounding or earthing) 

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