‘Handicapped’ Parking? Scamming the Disabled

Here’s a news story we all can cheer! “Handicapped” or Disabled Parking is recognized around the world. The photo at right shows a disabled-reserved space in the infamously impossible-to-park-in Old City of Jerusalem. Similar spaces with similar logos can be found across Europe and Asia.

What makes us really see red!?!
Seeing an obviously able person cruising into a disabled space. Now, we may sometimes mistake what we think is an able person. So, watch your fury! But, generally, the lack of compassion in scamming a special parking space is an injustice that makes all of us fume, right? Those of us with disabled friends and relatives get really steamed!

So, it’s no surprise that a Detroit Free Press video by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Jim Schaefer may be going viral this week. ReadTheSpirit first saw this video, Monday morning, when an alert reader emailed us a link from the Deadline Detroit website. We are now sharing Jim’s report with you.

Click the video screen below to watch Jim’s report. Some of his reporting may surprise you!
(NOTE: In sharing this video today, ReadTheSpirit is experimenting with a new kind of video-sharing link. If you don’t see a video in your version of this story, click here to reload the story in your web browser. If you still can’t see a video, please email us at [email protected] )


13 True American Stars We All Should Know

PHOTOS FROM TOP: Kent Nerburn and his wife, the writer Louise Mengelkoch, on the porch of their Minnesota home; socks on a clothesline; Robin Roberts and Missy Buchanan in New York on the GMA show discussing their book about Robin’s mother; documentary filmmaker Ian Cheney; the cover of Joe Sacco’s Journalism; musician Carrie Newcomer; comedian-pastor-author Susan Sparks; theologian James Cone; the Goodwin family; travel writer Judith Fein has fun on one of her many global journeys; former-Amish writer Saloma Furlong; musician Fran McKendree; and bread related to Benjamin Pratt’s meditation. For July 4, we celebrate Americans
who are devoting their lives to strengthening our communities in creative ways. CLICK THE LINKS in each of these 13 mini-profiles to read a wide range of creative, inspiring stories. Enjoy!

(For fun facts and debunked myths about the actual holiday, read our Independence Day story.)


We love the first of our July 4 stars!
Kent Nerburn began his career as a sculptor, then morphed into one of America’s most beloved authors writing about Indian culture. Now, later in his life, Kent suddenly is having a ball going viral with a story from early in his career that often is headlined “The Cab Driver” or “The Taxi Driver” as it bounces around the Internet. We included a visit with Kent and his wife in our American Journey series in 2010. But, for the 2012 Fourth of July week, we’ve decided to join the viral publishing of Kent’s stirring “Cab Driver.


Speaking of “going viral,” inernational peacemaker Daniel Buttry is on his way toward a viral spread of an inspiring true story that involves prayer, international hot spots and—socks. Yes, socks, like the ones you may be wearing right now. Today, we also are joining in the viral republishing of Dan’s “We Are the Socks.” (Warning: Reading this story may be dangerous to overly comfortable readers.)


Here’s another star you may not immediatley recognize. We’re publishing a new story by author Missy Buchanan about Robin Roberts’ family.
Years before other authors turned to writing about the spiritual challenges of aging, Missy was inspiring people to reach out toward older men and women in their communities. Recently, Missy helped Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts produce a book about Robin’s mother, Lucimarian Roberts. Now, the world knows that Robin Roberts is facing a life-and-death challenge this year. What you probably don’t know is the story of the spiritual matriarch at the helm of Roberts’ big family. That’s Missy’s story, today.


Back in 2007, Ian Cheney brought us King Corn, a film that fans praise as a wake up call to the overwhelming dominance of corn in American culture. (Farmers and ranchers were not so happy.) But, on July 5, 2012, PBS’s award-winning POV series will premiere Ian’s latest film, “The City Dark.” In one hour of remarkable filmmaking, Cheney not only raises some urgent ecological questions—but he also touches on deep spiritual questions. ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm reviews Ian’s new film The City Dark and explains how you can see it on TV—or online.


Famous comics journalist Joe Sacco is the first Maltese-American writer we have featured in our pages. We mention that because Sacco’s life was shaped by his birth on Malta and his childhood in Australia. By the time he became an American, he already was well aware of the world’s breadth. Joe Sacco also is the most controversial “star” in today’s list of 13. There are nearly as many foes as fans of his provocative reporting in comic form. In reviewing his new hardback collection, Journalism, ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm argues that we should set aside our political arguments with Sacco. Instead, we should recognize that he is helping to create a new global language in news media.


Quaker folk musician Carrie Newcomer is as middle American as a Norman Rockwell painting. She even helps to fix hot dishes if a family in her congregation needs a hand. She once wrote a song celebrating the quirky names of Indiana’s county fairs. But she also is a restless creative spirit who is carving out new blends of traditional American and Indian music. Read our story about her album, Everything Is Everywhere, and learn how she collaborated with a famous musical ensemble from India.


She calls New York City her home. Her church shares a building with a hotel. That’s why, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11/2001, we invited Susan Sparks to write for ReadTheSpirit. We are recommending, today, that readers go back and take in Susan’s column, The Lifeboat of Laughter. In that piece she writes: Humor highlights our commonalties. When we laugh with someone … our worlds overlap for a tiny, but significant moment. … As W.H. Auden wrote, “Love your crooked neighbor with your own crooked heart.” Yes, insipring and wonderfully quotable!


Born in 1938 in Arkansas, the great theologian James Cone has taught students at New York’s Union Seminary since the 1960s. Watching the resurgence of bigotry in 2012, Cone’s effort to keep Americans from forgetting our history of racism certainly is timely.
In our most recent profile of Cone’s work, we wrote about him: He is eager to link together the many hard-won conclusions that he has drawn in his long career and, as a modern-day prophet, to sum up his central message for this new century. His newest book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, is an important testament in that effort—if you care about bridging America’s racial divide.

9 The Goodwin Family:
More than a ‘Year of Plenty’

From the East Coast to the West Coast: The Goodwin family sprang onto the national scene with, “Year of Plenty,” a book about radically reorganizing their family’s patterns of gardening, eating, shopping and overall consumption. In summer 2012, you may enjoy revisting our 2011 interview with the Goodwins. At that time, we called their book brilliant and innovative. We wrote: This Norman Rockwell family sewed together a patchwork quilt of principles that real people can duplicate—and that takes the century-old adage “Think Globally, Act Locally” one step further. The Goodwins managed to “Think Locally, Act Globally”!
Take a moment with the Goodwins. They may change your family’s life.


It’s summer. Millions are on the move. But, as you hit the road, are you thinking about the spiritual possibilities in your journey? Learn about The Transformative Magic of Travel with veteran travel writer Judith Fein, author of Life Is a Trip.

11 Saloma Furlong:
A Pilgrimage from the Amish

Millions of Americans saw a short version of Saloma Furlong’s story in the landmark broadcast of the two-hour PBS documentary, The Amish. Saloma is a rare and important new author, because she isn’t an outsider looking into Amish life. She comes from generations of Amish and tells her story in a memoir, Why I Left the Amish. This summer, millions of Americans will cruise through Amish communities nationwide, regarding these families with a nostalgia for our collective past. Meet Saloma Furlong and read about the real depth of Amish culture.

12 Fran McKendree:

Musician Fran McKendree barnstorms the country week after week, leading retreats, performing at conferences and using music to stir men and women to wake up the sacred vocation that often is stifled within them. Fran regularly keeps in touch with ReadTheSpirit and we know that, above and beyond his work with church groups across the U.S., Fran is using his studio to send even more moving music out into the world. Want a vivid example of this? Read our story about Fran McKendree and his song, Times Like These.

13: Benjamin Pratt:
‘Bread & Hunger Games’

Finally, here’s a special gift to readers from the author Benjamin Pratt. Over many years, Ben has been both an expert on pastoral care—and a liteary scholar specializing in the works of various authors. Today, Ben Pratt closes our circle of 13 stars by offering us a meditation that you are free to share, connecting three elements: our daily bread, The Hunger Games novels, and a courageous story of a musical peacemaker in Eastern Europe. Please, make time for ‘Bread & Hunger Games’ by Benjamin Pratt.

Please help us to reach a wider audience

We welcome your Emails at [email protected]
We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, AmazonHuffington PostYouTube and other social-networking sites. 
You also can Subscribe to our articles via Email or RSS feed.
Plus, there’s a free Monday morning Planner newsletter you may enjoy.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Guide for Caregivers: Music guaranteed to lift your spirits

Watch the two videos below and we defy you to keep from smiling!
Music holds that power.
And we want to hear from you:
When has music lifted your spirits?
Or, to pose the question another way: What music reliably lifts your spirits?
Dr. Benjamin Pratt, author of our popular new Guide for Caregivers, has been asking this question everywhere he travels. In fact, the question is the focus of one chapter in his new book.

To prove this point, Dr. Pratt found two short music videos that will lift your spirits, no matter what tough stuff you are grappling with today. In fact, the first video—shot on the fly by a young woman passing through a lobby at the Mayo Clinic—became a defining moment in the life of that young woman and her mother. The daughter, Jodi Hume, and the mother, Sharon Turner, were passing through Mayo as part of an absolutely agonizing years-long process to surgically rebuild Sharon’s jaw after cancer. Horrifying, right? That’s certainly how Jodi described the whole medical-and-caregiving process later.

One day Jodi and Sharon were leaving Mayo after the latest surgery, when she heard the piano and caught Fran and Marlo Cowan spontaneously entertaining anyone within earshot. She asked if she could capture a video clip of their next number. The Cowans agreed. The result is this YouTube video.

And, the most important result of that music? Sharon laughed. Jodi laughed and, for the first time in many years, Sharon dared to order a regular sandwich for lunch—and took a big bite, confident that her newly restored jaw would work. And it did.

Get the point? Now, watch the video! (NOTE: If your version of this story does not include a video screen, click here to reload the story in your browser.)

The second video was produced with a bit more pre-planning by members of an orchestra in Copenhagen, but it proves the same point.

Dr. Benjamin Pratt and all of us at ReadTheSpirit are asking, everywhere we go:
When has music lifted your spirits?
Or, What music reliably lifts your spirits?

Add a comment below or email us with your thoughts at [email protected]

Want to read more about lifting the spirits of Caregivers?

Get Help: We publish an ongoing series of Recommended Resources for Caregivers.

Get the Book: Appreciating the power of music is just one of the chapters in Dr. Pratt’s book.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.


Willis Barnstone: In the 84th Year of Residence on Earth

Willis Barnstone (right) walking with his friend, the poet Jorge Luis Borges, in Buenos Aires in 1975. Photo courtesy of Barnstone and Wikimedia Commons.Willis Barnstone is best known as a translator—as in the case of his new Poems of Jesus Christ, which we are recommending this week. ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm was so moved by the fresh and artful rendering of Jesus’ sayings in this new volume that he scheduled our weekly author interview with Barnstone.

When Crumm called Barnstone, the poet and translator cheerily began the conversation by pointing out that, although he had been in the midst of composing a new poem, this was indeed a good time to do an interview. After Crumm expressed surprise and offered to delay the call, Barnstone insisted that this was simply the way he worked—always writing, always in the middle of some project.

After the two hit it off in their interview, Barnstone emailed ReadTheSpirit’s home office a couple of hours later with the finished poem—the completed version of the text he had started while contemplating the looming telephone interview.

Barnstone’s email explained: “I was writing a poem when I picked up the phone—never mind interruptions, helps the mind to keep going down below. I had written the first lines, but I knew the poem was not finished. As soon as we hung up, I added the last lines. I think of this one as our poem. Hope it works. Somehow, it has to do with some of the things we were talking about. Willis.”

Then, an hour later, he emailed again with the following, finished version of the poem, making a number of key changes since the original emailed version. “This shows you how I work. It really was exactly the same process in doing the poems of Jesus Christ.”

So, here is Willis Barnstone’s new poem, a reflection on themes we are exploring this week in our coverage of his latest book.

In the 84th Year of Residence on Earth

By Willis Barnstone

When I consider how my life is spent,
Rocked here and there by vile stupidity,
I wake from tons of shame and don’t repent

The worst or best in me. Felicity
Should be my flag. Milton, my guide, was dead
At sixty-five, blind, scorned, saved by Marvell

When every monarchist wanted his head
Dumped in a pit. My body-mind is well
And tricks the clock. How dare I think remorse?

Is bitching a right? Yes, but not my right.
As long as earth is round, I’m like a horse
Following insane commands to work

And work without regret and go berserk
Locked in a basement deprived of all light,
Or best, sit in the sun, first dawn in Greece,

War dotting hills, the sea Homeric grapes,
Islands, old metaphors for droplets of peace
After decades of slaughter, marble shapes

Entering ink of poets, years I greet
As clearly as an Oakland riot, London
Milk bottles breaking on a foggy street.

When I consider how my life has spun
My threading cape of creativity,
In dark night sun forces the heart to run.


Read our coverage of Willis Barnstone’s The Poems of Jesus Christ.
And: Come back later this week for our interview.


Please help us to reach a wider audience

We welcome your Emails at [email protected]
We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, AmazonHuffington PostYouTube and other social-networking sites. 
You also can Subscribe to our articles via Email or RSS feed.
Plus, there’s a free Monday morning Planner newsletter you may enjoy.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Guide for Caregivers: Recommended Resources

Guide for Caregivers:
Dr. Benjamin Pratt suggests …

CLICK THIS BOOK COVER to read more about Dr. Pratt’s Guide for Caregivers!THE FOLLOWING GROUPS, WEBSITES and RESOURCES are recommendations from Dr. Benjamin Pratt—the pastoral counselor, caregiver and author of Guide for Caregivers: Keeping Your Spirit Healthy When Your Caregiver Duties and Responsibilities Are Dragging You Down.
We share these recommendations as part of the ReadTheSpirit Caregivers project—as an aid in your own online research into assistance you need.
We know that the following groups have a track record of helping people.
NOTE: We have taken special care in these entries to provide links to what we regard as especially helpful areas of these groups’ websites.

This list of Recommended Resources is just the beginning …
Our latest additions: February 6. The list will expand through 2012.
Please, help by sharing your suggestions!

Know a group, website or other resource that should be listed here?

Email us at [email protected]

Inspiration from ‘Superman’

Dana and Christopher Reeve Foundation

I offer this resource for caregivers in grateful memory of Dana (March 17, 1961, to March 6, 2006) and Christopher (September 25, 1952, to October 10, 2004) Reeve. As caregivers, we face the question from friends: “Are you a Superman?” Or we ask ourselves: “Am I a superwoman?” Many of us feel we need to be emotionally, physically and spiritually a super person to accomplish and survive our daily tasks. It can be a big mistake to lay such expectations upon ourselves. I found this very down-to-earth, thoughtful and helpful interview with Dana Reeve, the wife of the man many of us thought of as Superman. Read this excellent interview with Dana Reeve and take a moment to visit the Foundation established by Christopher and Dana Reeve.
Dr. Benjamin Pratt

People You Should Know:
Jeanne Robertson


NOTE: As you scroll down, you will see that other recommendations on this page lead you to websites and helpful organizations. Now, we also are including recommendations of talented people who share caregiving issues in creative ways. Here is what Dr. Benjamin Pratt says about Jeanne Robertson:

I teach that laughter is vital for caregivers to sustain a healthy spirit.  Here is a marvelous woman who will keep you laughing.  6’ 2” Jeanne Robertson is a Person You Should Know.  Jeanne Robertson is a professional speaker who steps on stage at 6-foot-2-inches and quickly engages audiences with humor about real-life experiences. Speaking to thousands of people annually, she utilizes her positively funny style to illustrate that a sense of humor is much more than a laughing matter. It is a strategy for success.
Enjoy these two episodes from her talks …

Family Caregiver Alliance

Click this image to visit Family Caregiver Alliance.If you are providing care to an older or disabled family member or friend, you know that navigating the long-term care system can be difficult. The Family Caregiver Alliance was founded in 1977 among a group of families and community leaders in San Francisco. It grew into the first nationwide community-based nonprofit to focus on the needs of families and friends providing long-term care at home. Within the larger site, the state-by-state resource provided by the Family Caregiver Alliance is intended to help you locate government, nonprofit, and private programs in your area. It includes services for family caregivers, as well as resources for older or disabled adults living at home or in a residential facility. It also includes information on government health and disability programs, legal resources, disease-specific organizations and much more.

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Click this image to visit the Cystic Fibrosis FoundationWhen the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Foundation was established in 1955, most children who developed the disorder did not live to attend elementary school. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the United States (70,000 worldwide). A defective gene and its protein product lead to life-threatening lung infections and problems with properly absorbing food. Today, the predicted median age of survival is in the late 30s, thanks—in large part—to the care provided though the national network of CF Foundation-accredited centers. This Care Center Network provides expert cystic fibrosis care for people living with the disease and supports 260 clinics that specialize in caring for children and adults with CF. Besides taking care of people with CF, care centers also focus on the entire circle of men and women who are primary caregivers. In addition to an excellent monthly online newsletter, CFF provides a Patient Assistance Resource Library that can help families navigate the maze of health care.

Multiple Sclerosis Society


Multiple Sclerosis Foundation


Cllick this image to visit the National Sclerosis Society.Fear. Isolation. Confusion. These feelings are common when someone is diagnosed with MS. Although more than 450,000 people in the United States have multiple sclerosis, people who are newly diagnosed have often never heard of the disease; they don’t know where to turn for support. MS was identified as a disorder in the 1860s but, to this day, there is no cure. Treatments and support groups work with people to help return function after an MS attack, prevent further attacks and prevent disability.
Click this image to visit the National Sclerosis FoundationThere are at least a dozen MS organizations and foundations working across the U.S. on various issues from funding research and advocacy to directly helping families. The Society and the Foundation are two of the most important non-profits with a solid track record across the nation.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society was founded in 1946 and works on promoting research, services for people living with MS, education and advocacy. Look around the website and you will find lots of information on all of these ongoing efforts. If you are a caregiver, especially interested in advocacy and keeping up on new efforts to combat the effects of MS, check out the group’s Advocacy section. Advocacy takes many forms through the Society, but on this landing page you’ll find links to efforts that may interest you.
The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation was established in 1986 with a mission and a range of programs similar to that of the Society. If you or a loved one have just received this diagnosis, you might start on this landing page within the MSF site, called Coping with Multiple Sclerosis. The links from this page provide answers to all sorts of common questions about topics ranging from “Newly Diagnosed” and “The Search for Causes, Treatments and a Cure” to special topics like “Pediatric MS.”

Alzheimer’s Association

While researching the new book, A Guide For Caregivers, I attended one of the Alzheimer’s Association’s excellent educational programs designed to help caregivers. I can personally vouch for the quality of their programs. This global organization now ranks as one of the most important first stops families should make as they prepare to care for a loved one with this kind of health issue. In 1979, Jerome H. Stone and representatives from several family support groups met with the National Institute on Aging to explore the value of a national, independent, nonprofit organization to complement federal efforts surrounding Alzheimer’s disease. That meeting resulted in the April 10, 1980, formation of the Alzheimer’s Association with Stone as founding president. The Alzheimer’s Association works on a global, national and local level to enhance care and support for all those affected by Alzheimer’s and related dementias and is the largest private, nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research. Local chapters provide services within many communities. Use the group’s main website to find a chapter near you. Or call the professionally staffed 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900 for information and advice, including translation services in more than 170 languages. The organization runs more than 4,500 support groups throughout the country and connects people around the globe through their online message boards and deliver 20,000 education programs annually. While writing A Guide For Caregivers I attended one of their excellent educational programs for caregivers. You can find numerous resources through this excellent Association site, but a good place to begin is http://www.alz.org/carefinder/index.asp.

Home Caregiver Network

CLICK the image to learn more about Home Caregiver Network.Frustrated by a new challenge in your home? Want someone to show you how to do it? The Home Care Library is developing a series of helpful How To videos on specific skills home-based caregivers need to learn. You may not need all of these videos, but when you need to answer a crucial new challenge? These videos can help. In addition to the basic How To lessons, some videos help you realize the importance of taking care of yourself and how to do it. Among the general themes the Network is trying to cover: How to cope with the numerous challenges of caregiving, successful communications skills, what to look for when choosing a nursing or long-term care facility, and extensive tips and information to make the home caregiving experience more enjoyable. Once you become a subscriber to The Home Care Library you’ll be able to watch all of the videos you like— as many times as you like. Videos range from Basic to Advanced Caregiving Skills, Helpful Products, Coping Skills, Emotional Support and techniques as essential as Moving a Person to the Side of the Bed. For this recommendation, we’ve had several people preview videos on the site, including colleagues who work with caregivers, and what we’ve seen is quite helpful. If you decide to subscribe, you may want to try a single month and judge the usefulness of the videos for your own situation. We don’t recommend paying for a full year of the service until you’re sure it’s helpful in an ongoing way.

Funny Times

CLICK the image to learn more about Funny Times.One of the most popular chapters in our new Guide for Caregivers encourages people simply to laugh—and laugh on a regular basis! A sense of sense of humor is vital to keep your spirit healthy. Here is an opportunity to load up some guaranteed laughs! The Funny Times is a monthly forum for humor and satire for people who understand that their world does, indeed, seem totally insane sometimes. The Funny Times team reads thousands of cartoons to find and collect what they regard as the “best of the best” each month. Celebrating their 25th year, they supply us with delightfully funny, intelligent humor. Every issue has more than 100 cartoons and at least a dozen written features. You may find some old favorites as well as up-and-coming artists you’ve never met before. “Come over to the funny side and join our more than 70,000 subscribers who love to laugh at us,” say Ray Lesser and Susan Wolpert, who call themselves Publishers, Editors and Troublemakers at The Funny Times.

United Cerebral Palsy

CLICK to learn more about the mission of UCP.If you are familiar with Cerebral Palsy, that’s because United Cerebral Palsy is noted among charitable nonprofits for its early development of fundraising telethons. The group was founded just after World War II by four friends, including Leonard Goldenson, who later was president of ABC Television. Goldenson and his wife Isabel had a daughter with cerebral palsy; so he began raising funds for supporting disabled people via a telethon from a station in Chicago. From those roots, United Cerebral Palsy became one of the most important nonprofits advocating and providing support for people with a spectrum of disabilities. The backbone of UCP is the services and supports that are provided by its approximately 100 affiliates worldwide, which reach 176,000 children and adults, daily. Affiliates’ services include housing, therapy, assistive technology training, early intervention programs, individual and family support, social and recreation programs, community living, state and local referrals, employment assistance and advocacy. Each affiliate offers a range of services tailored to its community’s needs. Their One Stop Resource Guide helps you find answers to the most commonly asked questions. And, for people without disabilities, UCP provides a very helpful Ten Commandments of Etiquette for Communicating with People with Disabilities.

ARCH National Respite Network


CLICK to learn more about the mission of ARCH.Respite is a lifeline for millions of hard-working caregivers nationwide. The term, as defined by ARCH (Access to Respite Care and Help) means “planned or emergency care provided to a child or adult with special needs in order to provide temporary relief to family caregivers who are caring for that child or adult.” Millions need this assistance—but quality respite care often is difficult to find. The mission of the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center is to assist and promote the development of quality respite and crisis care programs in the United States and to help families locate these services in their communities. The National Respite Locator Service helps parents, family caregivers, and professionals find respite services matching their needs—and located appropriately close to their homes. Are you interested in making a difference on this issue? The group’s website also provides links to current legislative efforts to expand respite care. You might want to start by reading the “About Us” page that summarize’s the group’s mission and history.

National Alliance on Mental Illness

CLICK THE IMAGE to visit the NAMI website.NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, support and research. These days, the nonprofit organization that was founded in 1979 also works on issues of particular concern to our thousands of recent veterans and their families. For emerging issues and news about NAMI’s latest programs, watch the Newsroom section of the group’s website. NAMI works on national, state and local levels. The national office coordinates work through organizations in all 50 states plus more than 1,000 local affiliates. The group’s website now is enormous. So, depending on your particular interest, click around to find information on everything from support groups to NAMI’s “Legislative Action Center” to ways you can help fight stigma against mental illness. If you’re just grappling with news of mental illness in your circle of family and friends, check out NAMI’s extensive section on basic information about 17 different forms of mental illness.

Lotsa Helping Hands

CLICK ON THIS IMAGE to visit Lotsa Helping Hands.Lotsa Helping Hands is trying to close the “digital divide” that keeps many caregivers and care receivers from using online tools to connect with a larger community. Clearly, there are many powerful connective tools families can use—if they know about them and understand how to use them. Lotsa Hands makes the process simple, flexible and secure. A Washington Times story about the group reported: “Lotsa communities can be created and dissolved easily, and revolve around all kinds of issues: parents who need help caring for their newborn triplets, military families caring for loved ones who came home wounded, families caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or cancer. Some communities last only a few months.” Here’s the About Us page that explains the group’s guiding vision. But you’ll find the How It Works page more helpful in welcoming newcomers to the site’s nuts and bolts.

National Family Caregivers Assoc.

CLICK ON THIS IMAGE to visit NFCA’s home page.Believe in Yourself. Protect Your Health. Reach Out for Help. Speak Up for Your Rights. Those are Caring Every Day messages from the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA). Founded in 1993, NFCA educates, supports, empowers and speaks up for the more than 65 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness, disability or frailties of old age. A major NFCA priority is fostering a grater public awareness of caregiving challenges, educating caregivers themselves and helping family caregivers work more effectively with healthcare providers. Look within the NFCA site and you’ll find the Caregiving Resources section. Sign up with the group and you’ll have access to a wide array of helpful information. NFCA’s News Releases section also is worth a look. In the last couple of years, the group has published a series of news items about everything from national polls to new studies of caregiving.


CLICK ON THIS IMAGE to visit AARP’s Caregiver Resource Center.AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership that helps people age 50 and over find independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them. Since 1958, this vast organization has been leading a revolution in the way people view and live the later years of life. AARP members reflect a wide range of attitudes, cultures, lifestyles and beliefs but this collection of diverse individuals function as one through this organization to influence positive change. You may be familiar with AARP, but the organization offers such a vast array of information that it may be tricky to find the Caregiving area on AARP’s website. The AARP Caregiving Resources Center is worth checking out! As a Caregiver, AARP emphasizes that you’re not in this alone. Nearly 44 million Americans are taking care of an older family member at any given time. Whether you’re just starting out in your new role or caring for someone who’s near the end of his or her life, this AARP resource center will provide you with all the information you’ll need to help make the job as easy—and rewarding—as possible. They offer advice and assistance on topics such as starting out, financial and legal issues, ideas about housing and much more.

The Autism Society

CLLICK ON THIS IMAGE to find Autism Society resources.The Autism Society, the nation’s leading grassroots autism organization, exists to improve the lives of all affected by autism. The nonprofit increases public awareness about the day-to-day issues faced by people across the spectrum of autism, advocating for appropriate services for individuals throughout their lifespan, and providing the latest information regarding treatment, education, research and advocacy. The Autism Society’s strength is in its vibrant grassroots community of chapters and its network of national partners and collaborators. For Caregivers in particular, the Autism Society has developed in-depth information on a variety of topics related to living with autism. This information is by no means exhaustive, but it should help to equip families with some of the basic tools they may need to provide the best outcomes for their loved ones with forms of autism. These publications are available through the group’s Resource Materials page. Note: You will want to register with the Autism Society to use these resources and get the group’s free biweekly newsletter (you can unsubscribe from that e-newsletter anytime).

The Arc

CLICK THIS ARC IMAGE to jump to the Arc Resources Page.The Arc is the nation’s largest grassroots organization advocating for the rights and full inclusion of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Founded in 1950, the Arc has 140,000 members in 700 chapters—so there is sure to be an Arc group near you. In addition to its major goal of changing public perceptions about people with conditions ranging from autism to Down syndrome—the Arc also is a support group that provides resources to families. Within the larger Arc website, check out the Resources page that includes an ever-changing array of materials:
You’ll find basic fact sheets on various issues that concern families, other kinds of publications, too—and a blog with postings about recent news.

Mended Hearts

CLICK THIS MENDED HEARTS IMAGE to jump to the group’s website.F
or 60 years, Mended Hearts has served as a national support group for heart-disease patients, their families and caregivers. With chapters in more than 200 communities nationwide, you’re likely to find one nearby. Recognized for its role in facilitating a positive patient-care experience, Mended Hearts partners with 460 hospitals and rehabilitation clinics and offers services to heart patients through visiting programs, support group meetings and educational forums. The national office also publishes a quarterly magazine, Heartbeat, to share news and inspirational stories. Within the larger Mended Hearts website, check out the Resources page: The best choice is “Managing Your Heart Health,” which downloads a 40-page, full-color guides to issues you—or a loved one—will face after any serious episode with the heart.


http://www.caringbridge.org/CLICK ON THIS CARINGBRIDGE IMAGE to jump to the website.
eadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm discovered CaringBridge—like so many other men and women—when his far-flung family hit an unexpected crisis. His uncle was undergoing critical medical procedures and the extended family wanted updates. CaringBridge let relatives on the scene pass along vital news. In our Caregivers Resources list, CaringBridge ranks as one of the newest organizations. Founder Sona Mehring developed this concept after a hastily created personal website back in 1997 helped her friends through a crisis. This worked so well that Mehring wanted to make the basic web tools available to everyone. Mehring is based in Minneapolis, and her leadership team is clustered around the Twin Cities. But, their web concept now is used each day by half a million people. Within the larger website, check out the Our Service page, which provides lots of information about using this free resources for your own circle of loved ones.

PLEASE: Consider ordering a copy of Guide for Caregivers.

AND: “Like” our Facebook page, so you won’t miss the latest news on our Caregiving project.

(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)

Gift ideas: Meet the wise doctor in Streams of Contentment

Robert Wicks says, “I do darkness for a living.” By that he means that he has helped countless men and women emerge from the depths of a darkness that has overwhelmed them because of sometimes horrible trauma. Part of his expertise, for example, comes from working with returning veterans.
, in a series of remarkable books, Robert Wicks is helping all of us—whether our darkness is deep or perhaps is more of a daily struggle like crawling out of bed and facing a new day. His latest book is a terrific choice for holiday gift giving.
(AND: In our Monday story, we provided links to our coverage of Wicks’ earlier books, as well.)

Wicks introduces his new Streams of Contentment: Lessons I Learned on My Uncle’s Farm by reconnecting his own high-profile, urban life to his rural roots. More specifically, he is reconnecting his own professional role as a noted scholar with the kind of grassroots wisdom that surrounds millions of us—if we only recognize the connections that are possible close at hand.

In Wicks’ own words from his introduction: “Now in the fourth decade of my clinical practice, I can look back and realize how a country psychology has formed what I believe, how I think, and the way I live my life. It has helped both me and those who have come to me to find or regain a healthier sense of perspective in order to live a more meaningful and satisfying life.
“Life is simpler than we make it. Knowing this can encourage us to focus more direclty on what is truly important and essential in life. Adopting a psychology, philosophy, or spirituality that supports and fleshes out this way of living can be learned. And that is what the following pages are about


DAVID: Let’s start with the cover of your book. Is that your family farm?

DR. ROBERT J. WICKS. Photo courtesy of the publisher.ROBERT: No, but it’s an image similar to the landscape I knew so well. The image tries to pull together the concept of simplicity, and gratefulness, and the idea that life is something more than just competition to see how much we can achieve in terms of wealth and success. There were about 20 cover designs that were considered. I love the beautiful inspiration of this image that was chosen.

DAVID: Readers familiar with your work think of you as a big-city expert. You show up in network TV interviews. So, seeing you writing about “a country psychology” and your family farm—that may surprise some readers.

ROBERT: I was born and raised in New York City, but every summer my brothers, our Mom and I would go up to a farm that was owned by three uncles in our family. When I was a child, it was an active farm. I had a chance to really experience farm life. I walked through all of that acreage. And, in many cases, I was off on my own because of the different ages of the three boys in my family. On that farm, I discovered “mindfulness,” long before I even knew that term. To this day, if I pass a newsstand and see a copy of an outdoors magazine, I recall waking up early on the farm, putting on waders, walking out into a stream and casting out as the sun was rising, the mist was clearing and the bass were jumping.

DAVID: So what is “a country psychology”?

ROBERT: It starts with a real sense of simplicity, then faces things directly and carefully throughout the day. After I earned my doctorate in psychology, I wound up traveling out to work at a clinic in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is Amish country. And my work out there didn’t go so well. Turns out, they didn’t want Sigmund Freud. They wanted a country physician—someone who would help them analyze issues, look at resources available to them and then work out a prescription for how to handle things. In the city, I could do more long-term therapy, but there’s a much greater focus in the country on practical, short-term solutions.


DAVID: There is a strong tried-and-true principle that runs like a backbone through this new book. A lot of what you are recommending is well known. It makes good sense. However, I don’t want readers to think they won’t find some real surprises. So, let’s talk about a surprise I found in the opening section of your book. You say that people should respond to three basic callings in their lives. Self-awareness and transformation are callings one and three. Readers probably can guess what you’re describing there. But the middle call is “pruning.”

You write that, in your experience, pruning “worked quite well. It produced the same results that we see in nature when a bush or tree is properly pruned at the right time: more fruit is produced!” But—wow—that runs right in the face of the notion in our popular culture that we can do everything in life. We should try to be talented in all phases of life—be all that we can be. That’s what we hear all the time. Instead, you’re recommending pruning—cutting back and focusing on our life’s core vocation.

ROBERT: Yes, and I think this message sounds more appropriate now that people are being forced to downsize because of the economy. Pruning now makes more sense than ever. In fact, this basic message of seeking contentment in life is more important now than ever. You are right to think of these concepts as counter cultural. We know from working with plants that, when you prune something, it doesn’t blossom less. It blossoms more fully. But that’s not what our culture prescribes for our own consumption.

DAVID: We can only cut so far, though. We need a basic living wage.

ROBERT: Yes, but once we are making enough money to meet our basic human needs, money doesn’t contribute more than half of one percent to your happiness. That’s from actual studies done.

DAVID: Let me stop you right there, because the message is loud and clear in our culture: People with the most money lead the happiest lives. But I’ve reported on these studies for years, myself. Back in the 1990s, Juliet Schor was writing books like The Overspent American: Why We Want What We Don’t Need. Her research showed that the more we earn—the more we’re anxious about having enough. Schor’s research turned up that most of the people earning more than $100,000 per year claimed they did not have enough money “to meet the necessities of life.”

ROBERT: That’s right. I’m saying: If you’re earning that much and you still feel your basic needs aren’t being met in life, then more money is not going to add anything to your appreciation of life. People think its! People spend far too much time worrying about their wealth, the status of their 401K. But that preoccupation causes a lot of stress and grief. And, it can lead to a postponing of life. I’ll work even harder, right now, until I’m sure I have made enough. The truth is: You never will. The recession that hit all of us finally is convincing a lot of people that the old assumptions about accumulating wealth aren’t going to lead to happiness.

DAVID: And that’s why your book isn’t aimed at “Oceans of Wealth” or “Seas of Success.” This is a clear-eyed plan to achieve something much more likely for most of us: “Streams of Contentment.”

ROBERT: The theme of contentment in this book is to help people lean back and not confuse their endless wants with their basic needs. When we make that confusion in life, it causes a great deal of stress.


DAVID: Many authors we interview encourage readers to seek the help of the community around them. In fact, that’s a huge part of this new Guide for Caregivers project that ReadTheSpirit is unfolding through 2012. And, you make a very important point in this book: Not all communities are healthy for us. It’s crucial to discern a “renewing community.”

ROBERT: That’s right. There are a number of levels of community. There’s a community within you—the balance within you. It needs to be mirrored in the community outside of you. When you find a healthy community, you rejoice. This community encourages us in our lives and, when things go wrong, they support us in the midst of our discouragement. This community also is vital when our daily lives are simply running along without big ups or downs.

I tell people that there are four types of friends—or four types of voices—that we want and need in our lives: The first is the kind of friend that most people really don’t care for—but we need—and that’s the prophet. No one wants to hear what the prophet has to say, but the friend who is a prophet asks us the hard questions: What voices really are guiding you right now? Who are the invisible puppeteers in your life? The prophet makes us look at the hard questions. Then, the second kind of friend we need is the cheerleader, the supportive person who just thinks we’re wonderful. When we’ve had a rough encounter in life, we can call the cheerleader. Then, the third is a kind of harasser or teaser, the person who helps us laugh at ourselves. On the way to taking important things to heart in our lives, we often make a detour and wind up taking ourselves much too seriously. That’s when the teaser is very helpful. And, finally, we need spiritual or inspirational friends who call us to be all that we can be spiritually. If we have that kind of balanced community of friends—that whole range of voices around us—then we are much more likely to wind up finding contentment.


DAVID: Wow, at this point, we’re actually in danger of violating the advice in the final section of your new book! You give readers a 30-day shake-down course in becoming more spiritually healthy. And, you insist that nothing you list in that section should take more than “a few minutes” each day. Describe this very practical final section of your book.

ROBERT: I like that 30-day process I outline at the end of the book because these pieces are so extremely short. The normal source of resistance people throw up to improving their lives amounts to: I don’t have time to do this. I can’t go off on a retreat. I can’t read something so long. I can’t pray for an hour every day. So, the final section of this book completely sidesteps those objections. These final 30 pieces in the book can be read in about 30 seconds, each. Then, what I propose in these pieces is quick, too.

I hope that people will read through the whole book so they have a sense of what I am saying about simplicity and contentment overall. Then, those insights can form a kind of nest in your daily life—a nest you build day by day doing these simple things at the end of the book. We’re reinforcing these concepts on a daily basis.

DAVID: We keep hearing from readers nationwide that they want simplicity and a quick way to respond. That’s one reason we’re currently running very short challenges ourselves in this new Guide for Caregivers project. One recommendation we have right now is inviting readers to go “Like” the Caregivers new Facebook page and simply add the name of 1 song that boosts their spirits. Everyone has time for that!

ROBERT: I don’t know! (Laughs!) Sometimes even little things aren’t as simple as we think! I led a retreat for some Methodist ministers and I suggested that they take 2 minutes every day to wrap themselves in solitude and gratitude. So, the next morning, one pastor comes up to me and asks: “Do you really do that 2 minutes a day yourself?”

I said: “Yes, I do. Every day.”

And she said: “Well, I tried it this morning—and 2 minutes is a loooong time!”

REMEMBER: You can order the new Streams of Contentment: Lessons I Learned on My Uncle’s Farm very quickly by clicking over to Amazon right now!

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

Caregiver duties and responsibilities dragging you down? Keeping your spirit healthy begins with simple steps

FROM THE BACK COVER OF GUIDE FOR CAREGIVERS (Click this image to learn more about the important information in this book, and to order a copy.) Why did we choose a photo of Dr. Pratt smiling for the back cover? Because this book is such good news!MEET THE REV. DR. BENJAMIN PRATT,
expert behind the new
Guide for Caregivers

TODAY, we welcome the author of A Guide for Caregivers: Keeping Your Spirit Healthy When Your Caregiver Duties and Responsibilities Are Dragging You Down for a ReadTheSpirit author interview …

DAVID: You’re an expert on these challenges affecting at least 65 million caregivers, plus millions more—the loved ones these caregivers are helping. You’re a professional, a scholar in this field—but the truth is:
This is personal for you, right?

BENJAMIN: Yes, for 30 years, I was a pastoral counselor in the D.C. and Virginia area. Because of many men and women I came to know through my practice, I have to admit that I get angry now when I hear politicians taking cheap shots at government workers. I have worked with a lot of men and women in our military, in government service, in Congress, in the courts—and I can tell you that they are a very hard-working group of people. In fact, they’re so dedicated that they are prone to burnout.That’s why I first gained so much insight into burnout—which is one of the big challenges for caregivers today.

Then, I became a caregiver for my wife for an eight-year period. She was struck with debilitating issues in her early 60s and, despite the best medical care, this meant she was in pain often around the clock. That was true for one 18-month period in particular. I don’t know how many times I took her to emergency rooms. We saw specialists. We tried alternative approaches. We tried every way possible to relieve her constant pain. For me, this was so hard, as her caregiver, that I struggled with depression myself. I had to go for counseling myself. So, I understand the enormity of what people are going through on a daily basis. Yes, this is very personal to me.

Finally, in researching this book, I met so many caregivers, spent time with them and took their wisdom to heart. The original idea for this book came from a pastor friend of mine who told me that I should do a book with a title like: When Parenting Never Ends. His adult son had been hospitalized with mental illness and he was feeling the pain and helplessness of being a parent who had huge responsibilities for his son. That pastor asked me to lead a small group of parents and grandparents who were caring for children of all ages and conditions. That’s where this whole pilgrimage began.

DAVID: From your years, you have truly assembled a tested-and-true collection of tips, inspirational ideas and techniques! People surely will find something to help them with their spiritual challenges.

BENJAMIN: In the Acknowledgments section of this book, I thank many individuals and groups who shared their lives with me. To protect their privacy, I did not name them all. But, for example, two adult women with cerebral palsy, who live with caregivers, made a very important contribution to this book. Early in the planning stage, they looked me in the eye and said: “Keep it short! Remember—people in most caregiving relationships don’t have time to read much at any given moment.” I heard that advice from many others, too, and this book is designed with short, easy-to-read segments. You can enjoy some of these helpful pieces is less than a minute.


DAVID: You could almost flip this book open anywhere. You’ve got one section that I know readers already are responding to in large numbers. It’s about the music you sing or play throughout the day. Music can have an enormous influence on our spiritual well-being. You explain a bit about how this works. Then, you’ve found a whole series of inspiring quotations about music—drawing from a rock star to Beethoven. But, the best part of this section of the book is your invitation for readers to share online their own favorite music.

Even before your book was launched today, we asked readers nationwide to send in these musical suggestions. We call this growing list “Songs to Remember Our Hope.” Not a day goes by that we don’t get more recommendations from readers. Now that the book is launched, I’m sure we will get a steady stream. This will be fun to check out on a regular basis, right?

BENJAMIN: I’ve added a few of my own favorites to the list now, but the whole point is for readers to share their ideas. I really hope readers will visit that page and send in more suggestions. More importantly, I hope they will get the book and read the whole section on music and singing.

DAVID: We should point out that this Caregivers project is big! It will expand through 2012, so eventually there will be as many as six books in this series—and lots of new web content is coming throughout this winter. So, stay tuned to ReadTheSpirit—and order these books as they become available. Just last month, we published the first book in this Caregivers series: Guide for Grief.

At first glance, these topics may seem distinctively different, but the big uniting principle is that reaching out to caregivers—and people receiving care—is the greatest spiritual challenge of this decade in America.


BENJAMIN: Being a caregiver myself—and working on this book—these experiences have brought me a number of insights. One very important insight is the difference between religion and spirituality. In the past, like many, I enjoyed splitting hairs about the big religious questions: the nature of God, beliefs about heaven and hell and so on. As a caregiver, though, that no longer interested me. I needed to live my life in a way that gave me a reason to wake up each morning with energy for a new day—and to go to bed each night feeling that I had been a blessing and had been blessed in the way I cared for my wife. So, while I was caring for her so intensively, I wanted to live as if God was being revealed in my life through my journey of seeking compassion and concern for my spouse.

As they say in AA, “Religion is for those who want to stay out of Hell; Spirituality is for those who have already been there.” What we have in the pages of this Guide for Caregivers are the spiritual practices I find valuable to maintain a healthy spirit when your caregiver duties and responsibilities are dragging you down.


DAVID: And that final phrase is now the subtitle of the book. Of course, many of our readers know that this is your second book in three years. You published Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins & 007’s Moral Compass in 2008. Now you are releasing A Guide For Caregivers. Some folks are already commenting that you couldn’t have chosen two more different subjects. I’m sure you’ll beg to differ, right?

BENJAMIN: At first blink this may look like two completely different subjects, but actually reading these two books reveals at least one major unifying theme in both books. What got me really interested in the James Bond novels was the number of times that the actual word accidie (often spelled acedia) appears as a motivator of Bond and his most evil enemies. Accidie is one of the traditional deadly sins that describes a loss of faith in the goodness of God, a spiritual dryness, a loss of joy in life, lethargy, boredom, cynicism about life and relationships. That Fleming made this a central descriptor of his most evil characters is what set me on the trail of discovering his oft missed purpose in writing the adventure tales of James Bond. But, examine the description of accidie above and you have the unfortunate condition of the spirit of countless caregivers, too. I have attempted in both books to help folks understand and counter accidie in our lives.  Accidie is a spiritual issue and needs spiritual practices to combat it.

Care to read more on Caregiving?

Guide for Caregivers: Learn about this very helpful book and online project.

Guide for Caregivers: Songs to remember our hope—including songs you can hear right now.

Guide for Grief: Help in Surviving the Stages of Grief and Bereavement after a Loss.

Check out Caregivers on Facebook.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.