195: Readers Help Us Find Inspiring Values in a Summer of Global Change

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e passed through the Solstice on Friday — and we’re now in the heart of the summer in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s a summer of startling global change hitting us every day in the U.S. when we start our cars, vans and trucks — and we’re reminded that we’re part of a huge world where rapidly changing forces are transforming even our individual households.
    But you know what inspires me every day? Hearing from you, readers. And, today, we’re going to share more of your voices.
    Readers are sending me notes about their Vacation Bible Schools, their camping experiences — mainly, in these notes, you’re telling us how these experiences revitalize body and heart while reminding us of the core values that make life worth living.
    We’re going to be talking a lot about the V-word, Values, over the next couple of weeks here.

    AND, in the heart of the major U.S. city near our home office — Detroit — I spotted kids from just such an innovative summertime program. They’re part of the Detroit Agriculture network, an array of grassroots-as-it-gets men, women and young people.
    That’s Autumn, 9, and Deandre, 13, in the photo at right, selling bags of salad greens. These are delightfully delicious-looking bags of crispy fresh greens that, as Autumn put it when I walked up to their stand: “We picked this morning! Fresh!”
    Deandre chimed in, passing his hand proudly over the sacks: “You can pick your own salad here. Some of these mixes have a little spice to them, like this one.”
    I was thinking: This is impressive. These are young entrepreneurs, growing vegetables in plots in their own urban neighborhoods — and they’re even putting together gourmet salad blends for customers.
    “This is amazing,” I said simply.
    Autumn beamed, folding her arms proudly across her chest. (See the photo at the end of today’s story.) As I was taking her photo, she said, “It’s 4-dollars per bag, please.”
    I was thrilled to buy a 4-dollar salad for my family — and could tell by talking with these kids that they’re picking up spiritual values from getting their fingers down in the dirt, growing yummy food — to building diverse community relations that extend from their neighborhood — to Detroit’s nationally known Eastern Market, where they were selling their crop — to my home and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other homes.
    Bravo to them! And bravo to their adult mentors!

Care to Read More on This?
    There are lots of “green” community programs in southeast Michigan. Here’s a Web hub for many of them called Detroit Agriculture. We know most of our readers don’t live in Michigan — but this site might give you some good ideas to adapt in your part of the world. Also, another great starting point for urban-suburban diversity programs — and an organization that works closely with ReadTheSpirit — is the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion.

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efore we leave the Detroit area behind, we’re very happy that the Burning Man team (Temple Crew and Black Rock Arts folks) landed in Detroit this month to build an urban temple.
    Our Friday story about the temple rising in Detroit touched a lot of readers’ lives. And our good friend, Detroit News Culture-and-Politics writer Amber Arellano published an extensive story (and sidebar) in her newspaper as well last week.
    These stories — ours and Amber’s — circulated on an Email network among “burners” who are particularly interested in the ongoing temple projects. I’m delighted by some of the responses we got. In fact, watch these pages, because through these Email notes I’ve now met one family from the West Coast who blend teas for the temples and we’re hoping to tell you more about them in coming weeks here.
    If you’re not familiar with the whole Burning Man world — well, it’s an incredibly creative group of people who see the world from many unusual perspectives — but, at the core of it, these folks share many of the same deep values about family, spirituality and community expressed by the vast majority of our readers.
    HERE’S ONE NOTE that came from a Temple Crew burner named “Napalm” after he read the stories from Detroit:
    WOW!!!  This brought tears to my eyes. I am so inspired by this. I was just recently thinking that Detroit would “rise again” if for no other reason than because the laws of physics make it so. This is a wonderful, beautiful concept. Happy Summer Solstice, everyone!!

Love to you. “Napalm.”

Care to Read More on This?
    Our Friday story was a snapshot of the kind of world-transforming hope that a project like an urban temple can evoke in us. Amber’s more in-depth feature tells a whole lot more about the background, the group and the work that transformed this corner of the city.

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hen, speaking of Values — REMEMBER — the PBS documentary, “Traces of the Trade,” debuts Tuesday night at 10 p.m. in most places across the U.S. But — as they always say — check local TV listings for channels and times in your area.
    Our three stories last week about the PBS film and racism connected with a whole lot of readers. I heard from men and women, including members of the DeWolf family who made the PBS film, thanking us for what we published and adding further thoughts. In fact, when I attended various events last week, people came up to me and mentioned these three stories on racism in particular.
    My favorite Email about these stories came from ReadTheSpirit reader and contributor Elaine Greenberg. Elaine is a musician and cancer survivor who also is active in her Jewish community — and organizes innovative musical programs to help cancer patients and cancer survivors, as well.
    Elaine read Dr. Gail Hayes’ moving story, “I Am Sienna,” last week and connected with it immediately. Here’s how Elaine described it:
    Dr. Gail Hayes’ story today was so well written.
    I knew where the story would end, but she told it with such sensitivity. Her programs for children must be outstanding. I am going to Email her and tell her how well she told her story.
    I can relate to her love of a grandmother and the fact of being “different.” My skin is white, but when I am in a group of non-Jews and I make it known that I am a Jew, sometimes, I feel a certain feeling that I can’t describe that I have known since childhood. It isn’t rejection, but a change in the atmosphere of the room. I am sure anyone who is “different” will tell you the same thing.
    You never quite get over the fact that there are people who back away from you because you are a different race or religion.
Elaine

Care to Read More on This?
    Dr. Hayes contributed the story, “I Am Sienna,” on Thursday last week. As Elaine pointed out in her Email, this certainly is a story about experiences that millions of people can appreciate. There also are links within the “Sienna” story to read more about Dr. Hayes and her work. Elaine shared a memoir with us, as well, during Hanukkah last year. If you’d care to read Elaine’s story, it’s still here at ReadTheSpirit.

COME BACK TOMORROW for news from the latest Pew research on America’s religious diversity. Pew is releasing this new round of analysis from its vast, new database on religious life within this next 24-hour news cycle — and we’ll share with you the key meaning of this data fresh from Pew.

AND, WEDNESDAY — we’re calling on all fans of comics, graphic novels, manga (and we know we’ve got a whole bunch of you among our readers). It’s also going to be a fun day for younger readers — and readers who simply are looking for fresh ways to share our values in new forms of media. That’s just about all of us, isn’t it? Our Wednesday Conversation will feature Chris Yambar — an incredibly creative comic artist. Should be a lot of inspiring fun.

TELL US WHAT YOU THINK. Clearly, we enjoy hearing from you here at the Home Office — and, even more importantly, our readers around the world enjoy hearing from you, too. Click on the “Comment” link below. Or Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm directly. You also can find us on Facebook, Amazon reviews, GoodReads, Digg and various other social networking site.
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