Archive for December, 2013


Ubuntu

1052_catg8931As we constantly deny opportunities to love, the guardian of the mind fails to yield toward connection, to that sense of deep love that could significantly impact our life.  Thus, the values and voice of Christ lay silent, losing touch with the very creator who resides within. Simply put, the impulse to change the world rests helplessly and doesn’t create a sense of empowerment.

Our hectic life places undue emphasis on technical mastery and our lifestyle is toxic to those in need and pursuing the vital connections between the personal and public good. It’s not inaction that has the biggest impact on those surrounding us. It’s all the secondary issues — the lack of healthcare, the economic issues, unemployment and disruption of community that strips the soul.

As the voices of our lives diminish, what will we say when asked, ‘Where were you?‘ As a Buddhist, there are no excuses. But how doe we embrace priorities those that enable the public good? Will we remain a threat to the environment? Will inequities in the distribution of wealth, lack of a sustainable energy policy remain only ideological dreams? Will our society continue to violate personal privacy and savor the predilection for excessive use of force?

Truth told, most of us give, not out of a genuine place of hope to help and of generosity but rather via some transactional exchange, some sort of trade, as if we procured the right to go on with the day and not necessarily be bothered by bad news.

An engaged Buddhist rests upon the insight that we must begin to change ourselves before we can help to change the world.  The stories we tell about each other matter very much. The stories we tell ourselves about our own lives matter. And most of all, I think the way that we participate in one another life stories is of deep importance.

Nelson Mandela said that the gift of prison was an ability to go within and to think, to create in himself the things he most wanted: peace, reconciliation, and harmony. Through this act of immense tenderheartedness, he became the embodiment of what South Africans call “Ubuntu.” Ubuntu: I am because of you.

Each of us gets to experience the deepest parts of our own humanity through our interactions with others. In 2014 we must realize our own well-being is deeply tied to those surrounding us. Danger is shared. Pain is shared. Joy is shared. Laughter is shared. Achievement is shared. Houses are shared. Food is shared. Ubuntu asks us to personally open our hearts and to share, and live with empathetic action in every moment.

All of us are in the cathedral of life, we get to see the most beautiful parts of ourselves reflected back at us. All creatures (human or otherwise) share our best and brightest moments. If I have a gift to share, it’s a gift that provides more of me to society. Thus, I carry the very nature of love that God and Buddha profoundly proclaimed.

We so often hear, “It’s only me, I can’t make a difference“, but great leaders of history showed that this is not true. Everybody can make a difference if committed.

The Search for God

pillars-of-creationWatching the Hubble Space Telescope at the planetarium gave some great and wondrous insights to our universe.  One photo pictured a small segment of space, about one 24-millionth of the whole sky. Within it, almost all of the 3,000 galaxies could be seen, some of which are among the youngest and most distant known. Each of these galaxies contains over 100,000,000 stars (i.e., solar systems). Multiply all that by 24,000,000.

On face value, the chances “we” (this island earth) being the only planet supporting life seems shockingly remote. However, Hubble’s discoveries do leave questions. First, if we are products of the universe, where does the universe come from? How do we solve it? Second, where is God? Third, how do I fit into this potentially vast universe?

One could take a ‘scientific’ or ‘religious’ view of our world, dividing the world into believers and nonbelievers. From a straight scientific perspective, religion is wrong. Believing in spirituality is flawed. For those of the moralistic side of religion, one can visually conceptualize God, but simply cannot tolerate the written word as inscribed by leaders of the past. And there are those who believe every word of the Bible is verbatim, every sentence is sacred.

I believe we do this because we are guided. For instance, much of modern day life is run more from an Apple iPhone than by spirit. Think about it, we structure everything, including time. We synchronize encounters. We are a culture of repetition. Our world is an endless cycle of calendars; a way of ensuring each year repeats the same patterns, same themes, same ideas, and same messages. For instance, the Super Bowl occurs in February; NCAA holds it’s madness in March; Thanksgiving in November, Christmas in December; Easter around April; businesses financially budget in either fiscal or calendar years; vacations occur around the same time of year; morning starts early, sleep starts late; seasons occur yearly, etc., etc., etc.

We forget to remember that we are not simply bodies in motion. We are spirit. And when the hand of God or the body of life teaches us lessons, it’s commonly done via the spirit. For instance, the Hubble Space Telescope cannot conceive of the idea of forgiveness, tears of the heart, falling in love, starting anew, starting afresh. You cannot immerse yourself in the water of love when only a physical action backs up a philosophical idea. God is neither.

There is nothing about space itself that offers any insight to the power of humanity or love. Hubble makes no make a room for love. There is no room for generosity. You cannot measure the fulcrum of agape love in a stellar explosion. It’s impossible to understand the mystery of faith watching two solar systems collide. How eerie our world mirrors the universe. The same violence and warfare in the universe affects everything we do – our hopes, dreams, aspirations, fantasies, relationships — and our religion.

Transcending the world of Hubble, the world of God, Nirvana, Allah or Dao lies beyond the reach of words. In our world, only our collective humanity prevents us from bringing faiths (scientific and religious) together. To do so requires a level of compassion far greater than the universe, far more powerful than even the Bible’s written word.

Our view of Santa Claus matures from a byproduct of knowledge and age, whereas our ideas of God remain at a rather infantile level. Selfishness, greed, envy, self-preoccupation and our engrained ability to make ourselves the center of the universe prevents us from the reaching the level of love necessary to create the universe or the very level of love God intended for you and I. We remain woefully ignorant of the hatred produced each and every day.

Buddha had a monk who pestered him constantly about the existence of God and the creation of the world. The Buddha told him that he was like a man who had been shot with a poisoned arrow but refused to have any medical treatment until he had discovered the name of his assailant and what village he came from: he would die before he received this perfectly useless information. One could, the Buddha said, spend many pleasant hours discussing these fascinating topics but this would distract a monk from his main objective: “Because, my disciples, they will not help you, they are not useful in the quest for holiness; they do not lead to peace and to the direct knowledge of Nirvana.”

The quest for God comes from our ability to love one another. Real love transcends everything.

SpiritAs we begin to welcome the New Year, I believe we are at a pinnacle of social responsibility. One of the most impressive things about what the younger generation talks about is not what “we” (i.e., the collective society as a whole) should do, it’s the “what I would like to do.” Thus, the personal becomes part of a larger collective movement.

I became aware of this youthful movement during the recent power outage in Vermont. Sipping hot chocolate and swapping stories near and far, I constantly heard, “This is what I will do. Why? Because I’m excited by it; because it’s wonderful and something that leans to the greater good.

In truth, it’s an old concept. Philanthropy in and of itself is pretty old. But the love of mankind remains very powerful to the current generation. In fact, this form of love gives enormous hope. And I find this very very provocative, because while the youth themselves set sail in different directions, the direction as a whole is specific and unique to a problem. But the internal compass is comprised from the single source of love available to all. Saint Paul talked exquisitely of such in his “one church,” many “talents” theme.”

In ushering 2014, we have to think of looking in other directions than we have been looking. Paraphrasing the book “Breaking the Peace (Václav Havelin),” hope does not consist of the expectation that things will come out exactly right, but rather it’s the expectation that they will make sense regardless of the outcome. The world will not be saved by the Internet or our ability to communicate. Our world will be saved by the human spirit. And by the human spirit, I don’t mean anything divine. Rather it will be our individual ability to realize each of has to be something greater; to arise out of the ordinary and achieve something we never thought possible.

On an elemental level, most all have felt some level of spirituality. Some felt it at the work, while others quietly reading a book. I can feel it in the music surrounding me, at a hospital, in bedside prayer or when helping those in need. This form of spirituality elevates us beyond ourselves. To touch this side of ourselves, we must see ourselves and the world through the eyes of another, and of many others. We must be present in all things.

So in 2014, if we are to be the world’s healer, every disadvantaged person in this world – including the United States – must become our focus. Every disadvantaged nation, and perhaps our own nation, becomes priority.

The lesson is clear. The lesson is that the world, and the disadvantaged of the world, deserves our compassion. But beyond our compassion, and far greater than compassion, is our moral imagination and our identification with each individual who lives on this island earth, not to think of them as a huge forest, but as individuals.

In 2014, let each of us not only become committed, but have the charisma, the brilliance, the compassion of Christ, the love of Buddha, the beauty of a Muslim, the heart of all that allows us to succeed and enlist more of humanity in the cause for others. The love of humanity, the love of all, can bring a kind of love translated into action, and in some cases, a focal point of enlightened beyond personal self-interest.

Where there is love of humankind there is love of healing. And it’s found within the power of the indomitable human spirit.

Christ CompassionSitting without power in a northern Vermont/New York town, a few of us huddle against the hotel’s fireplace and embrace the radiant heat. And thus, another Christmas Eve stands firm at my door. Here in the woods, there is no Santa, no ghost of Christmas past and even Marley has been placed upon the back shelf of many a mind.

Still, if I had to explain what Christmas is all about, I would summarize by using the word “love” or “compassion.” Certainly, we can see Christ’s compassion. He had many faces; some fierce; some wrathful; some tender; some wise. Dalai Lama once said, “Love and compassion are necessities. Thus, without them, humanity cannot survive.

Without becoming religious, I have been lucky to see Christ everywhere. There are so many whose hands and eyes have touched me. And in an unceasingly unending river of love, they continue to embrace my soul today. They touched me when I was partially paralyzed after a military accident some 30 years ago. And because of my caregiver’s strength, her strength became the kind of mudra and imprimatur that now guides my life. She could clearly see into the nature of my suffering. And she stood strong, recognized that I’m wasn’t separate from her and transformed my suffering.

But Christ’s compassion has another component: the seeds of compassion require watering. Several weeks ago, I attended a healthcare fair in East St. Louis, Illinois. Anyone traveling through East St. Louis would say that this is the land God forgot. The seeds of their own compassion had rarely been watered. But the conditions for compassion must be activated, they have to be aroused. Each us can activate an amazing abundant amount of compassion throughout our life, but we choose otherwise. Why?

Sometimes we hinder love through our own self-pity, our higher-than-thou moral outrage, or simple fear. We look unto the world and see a world paralyzed by fear. And in that paralysis, our capacity for compassion also becomes paralyzed. Instead, we harbor a “scarcity mentality” and shrivel in the face of trial. Thus, compassion drains us.

But I promise you the type of love and compassion Christ delivered can be truly enlivening.  We can open the world and have an undefended heart. The archetype of this in Buddhism is Avalokiteshvara, Kuan-Yin, she who perceives the cries of suffering in the world. We can stand with 1,000,000 others, hand-in-hand, and embrace the powerful instrument of love.

This Christmas, I ask you to come out of the cave. Be compassionate, remove one another’s problems and transform yourself into the Buddha of love, into the Christ of compassion.

We can be powerful partners of life – we can be compassionate fathers, with sons who are loved, with daughters who are honored, with mothers who are proud. We can embrace the plumber, the road builder, the caregivers, the doctors, the lawyers, the president (faults and all), and with all beings.

This Christmas, sit in the lotus sea of love and actualize the potential for all mankind. That’s what Christ accomplished. And we can as well.

Have a wonderful and blessed holiday.

See The Face of Christ

guardian_angelAs we close in upon another Christmas season, I often get asked my thoughts of Christmas. Over the years I have been befuddled, trying to find balance between meaning and spirit. In end, I found a version I believe most, including Atheists, could use: I believe Jesus was one who put aside personal benefit to help others and had compassion, kindness and love for all beings.  Jesus demonstrated immense compassion, love, kindness, and beauty. He also incorporated that very compassion into the lives others.

One of my favorite holiday movies has been A Christmas Carol. For Dickens, Christmas was about getting unchained from materialism and appreciating all relationships. Christmas is about the ability to give and to take pleasure in giving.  Imagine being able to understand one another feelings and experience them (in some degree) as if they were our own. This is the basis of the remarkable cooperative tendencies we all have and it might be the primary reason God hoped we live for.

In December 2011, I lived in Alabama. Being single, I spent time at the Waterfront Rescue Mission. The Waterfront Rescue Mission was one of countless sanctuaries that resounded with prayer and song on Christmas. Staff and volunteers—welcoming the homeless, and serving them — had been inspired in different ways. One regular volunteer noted, “Here at the mission, we see the face of Christ.”

Those who arrived, had personal reflections:

  • One man, who bunked “off the railroad tracks,” said the day was special as Jesus’ birthday.
  • Another, living in a tent in the woods found personal meaning in the song “Joy to the World.”
  • Another mentioned being homeless for five years eloquently stated, “The day is about Christ, and all he represents.”

Nearly twelve years have passed and I barely remember these visionaries. Regardless, their message remains alive today as it were in the days of yesteryear: “Christmas should be every day. You should show love all the time.”

Every religion has its own myths and paradigms. But the value of Christmas does not hinge on external fact, but rather personal truth and spirit. Christmas celebrates a momentous evolutionary leap capable of compassionate living. The secret meaning of Christmas is this:

Like Jesus, you and I can experience a rebirth that improves humanity!”

May you become enlightened during this holiday season and may the love in your heart be abundant and overflowing. May you see the face of Christ in everyone.

thAttending a recent holiday party, I met a young therapist who confessed she had a fear of heights, a fear of crossing highway overpasses, a fear of crossing bridges. She also taught counseling, but because of a fear of being attacked, a guard dog accompanies her to ensure protection. In essence, she attempts to heal herself by healing others. And while I ponder the premise of such a world, this whole tale reminded me of Short Term 12.

The film Short Term 12 is about Grace (Brie Larson), a damaged caretaker caring for damaged children. While her own traumatic childhood experiences make Grace such an amazingly empathetic staff member, the experiences of those in her care are also triggering. The emotional traumas of adolescents bleed into her own; causing her otherwise perfect relationship with her boyfriend is to unravel under the weight of her own dysfunction.

In one scene, Grace explains to a new worker the kids “shelf-life” has passed and thus they remain at the home, waiting in a world where time appears to stand still, yet one in which everything continually moves. Each of the kids submit to the love of caretakers who aren’t much older themselves. In essence, kids are taking care of kids.

These kids are fractured representations of our own human condition, beaten, battered and consistently disappointed by the flaky world of adults. There’s a hug distance between the so-called “normal home” with love and wanted children and a short-term care facility designed to provide a place to live — but little else. These kids are nearing eighteen years old and remain ill-equipped to navigate life’s changing moments.

While we never see the abuse, we are witness to consequence. The movie is blunt, honest and filled with harsh truths. No sugarcoating. Everything digs deep. This is a film about the riskiness involved in both caring for another human being and having someone else care for you. Every moment is witness against the conservative naivity that every child can be equally cared and equally loved.

In truth, the government’s social systems are a quagmire, but instead of critiquing the system, Short Term 12 creates a small world where love, law, and brokenness operate freely.

Maybe all need such a world, where love and acceptance remain free to operate.

VermontThe window overlooking Vermont is surrounded by oceans of trees. Looking upon Nature’s marvel, I realize she gave nothing without labor. I remain utterly speechless and in awe.

Here in the deep woods, I can dust snow from tree branches and ponder the struggle. Yes, she struggled. In love, she forged and bored through listless rock to create this world, the world in which we live.  Each of us on this island earth are connected, born from that very labor of love. And everyone needs to understand our earth, this spirit of life, this beauty of creation loves everyone given life.

Over the years I have traveled to and fro, from Asia to Africa, from Canada to South America. In all those travels, I am not unaware of the encircling power of love – the love of people; the love of potential and the love internal peace that only someone who truly loves another gives. There is a tremendous power within unabridged love, in drawing life’s breath from one another. Those who share the depth-less, that someone so deep, so encompassing, there is no other.

Even I found the richness of God’s creation in my love, I now understand God’s true love includes both power and strength: the power of a received kiss and the foundational strength forged year after year.  Yes, my love knew me. She understood my significance and stirred life through a simple touch. In her hand, the key of the lonely heart trembled and the simple twist of her wrist unleashed the magic of Christmas. Agape love understands, for everyone needs someone to set them afire.

This Christmas, give the power of love.  We need NOT be independently wealthy. Nor does being a rich Scrooge to make a difference. Surely there’s something about our service that doesn’t require having an enormously rich neighbor to facilitate?

This type of glory is not about recognition. It’s about assisting those in need. Thus, this Christmas, remember those who’ve not had the opportunity to receive this power of love.  Understand one in six children live below the poverty level. 1.6 million children are homeless and represent 38% of the entire homeless population. Somewhere in your neighborhood, there is an elderly man or woman who believes they are alone.

Together, we have the power to reach unto those in need.  While shopping for the holiday, drop a toy in the collection box, pay someone’s monthly heating bill or sit and listen to their life story. There is nothing like the power of listening. All of these souls have the same right to kiss their dreams just as you or I. Awake from the slumber, come to them as a friends. Regardless of fault, each person is worth knowing.

While I lost my love to my own ego, I look through the forest onto Lake Champlain and I hope somewhere she searches for me.  Regardless, were she here, we would embrace the community and acknowledge a power greater than any CEO.

All of us can be the Christ in another’s life.

Live … love … offer peace and comfort. That is what God’s love is all about. It is very Buddhist and very Christ-like.

And to Ms. K. … Merry Christmas … wherever you may be.

Because I Choose To Be

Val-Kilmer-BatmanNearly four years ago I was fired. Officially I resigned, but in truth I was fired.

In the following months, I didn’t have the traditional hands-on help. I had no online community of support, for that seemed rather pointless since my friends were all business acquaintances who either knew or who hear of my demise. I did however, have two close friends who guided me through the ensuing hell and provided a way to start anew. I am truly forever grateful for their kindness.

Over the course of the following years, my then boss went on to bigger and better things. As for me, I took baby steps, struggled with my new identity, a fear others would learn on my old identity, and sporadic high and lows of relearning to trust myself. It’s been hard, but I survived the walk and came out on the other end of the fire.

Currently working for the government in Vermont is no great thing, especially during the upcoming winter months.  Like a squirrel burrowed for winter, I have an ample supply of chips, homemade bread, Diet Pepsi and a television remote that can change channels at 2.5 per second. Since I haven’t figured out how to watch two screens at once, speed is important when watching two programs simultaneously.

Imagine my surprise when receiving an email from my former boss, seeking advice because he is no longer employed. In truth, a part of me didn’t want to forgive while another part wanted to gloat in the moment and laugh.

However, it’s important to note that nearly four years ago, I wronged him. And I know he suffered because it. No, he didn’t directly tell me about it, but I am positive I destroyed him. And secretly, as my life nears its end, I have been looking for reconciliation.

Thus, I was at the proverbial crossroad: the moment of choice. The moment came watching the New England Patriots game. There was no heavenly light, not Christmas angel. It was an innocuous quote from one of the Batman Forever (Val Kilmer) movies:

… I’m both Bruce Wayne and Batman, not because I have to be, now, because I choose to be.”

I am a Buddhist. And as a Buddhist, I get to decide who I choose to be. I could choose to be in love. Or I could choose to be in hate. And at that moment, I knew that all I wanted to do was simply love this man – a man who had given me my professional life and who had taught me so much about who I wanted to be.  And before I die, if possible, I wanted to close this pain and forge whatever time together as friends.

Whatever religion you are, as Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, Islamist, etc., we can choose to be humane and live in love.

Choose who you wish to be.

~ In Love, The Unknown Buddhist ~

nelson_mandela_photo_black_whiteIn 1990 I sat in front of my television at that moment and watched how Nelson Mandela walked out of prison … and tears started flowing.

Upon hearing of his passing, reading the words of the faithful and memorials of leaders worldwide, I listened deeply. I still hear Mandela’s transcendence, a man like only a handful of others, whose life transformed beyond the individual story-line. He made a good heart great; his vision was as wide, focused only upon the well-being of all and encouraged all to do likewise.

Mandela’s ability to use words to breathe life into social issues was his most powerful weapon. For him transcendence was essential. While politicians openly talk of repairing the injustice, Mandela found one could only transcend and transform it. He transcended brutality via four immeasurable minds—loving kindness; compassion; joy; and equanimity. He remained calm and concentrated. He looked deeply into the nature of suffering and with sudden understanding his heart was able to expand. He not only felt the power to bear injustice; he could survive it, he could live with it, and more importantly, he could transform it.

Only few could live the life Mandela led. How we would live in a world where evil ran like an open sewer is a hard question and should provoke great reflection. Like a great Tibetan master, Mandela countered negative energy with positive thought and action. He made himself an example, a light, a beacon … and openly practiced grace in all opportunities thrust upon him. In the vilest forms of hate, he showed the world forgiveness, love, dedication, and peace.

Mandela is an icon for centuries. He believed in human dignity, equality and freedom. He struggled not only for black South Africans, but for the dignity of all. Going into prison he was carbon but emerged a diamond. His brilliance remains undiminished. His character was resolve; he may have lost a life, but gained a nation.

As Mandela noted:

… the human body has an enormous capacity for adjusting to trying circumstances. I have found that one can bear the unbearable if one can keep one’s spirits strong even when one’s body is being tested. Strong convictions are the secret of surviving deprivation; your spirit can be full even when your stomach is empty.”

What Mandela taught me was the real source of transcendence does not come from a superior war machine, but from one’s internal constitution, our own individual leadership and our view within the global community. We must continually embrace our history and vision for human rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, “We have inherited a large house, a great world house in which we have to live together — black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu — a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”

At 90 years old, Mandela said it was time to pass the burden onto new hands. Like a distance runner finishing a race, Mandela passed the baton to us, those who quickly becoming forefathers to a new generation. It’s up to us find a way of “living with each other in peace.” It’s time for us to lead. Can we find a way to fulfill our spirit without indignation of others? We have a large house, but can we do it?

Nelson Mandela will forever live in my constitution, in my view of society. How does he, if at all, live in you?

December Pledge Drive

NPRWhile traveling has found me in some odd places, I’ve  gravitated towards National Public Radio (NPR) or the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for timely news.  During the nighttime allure of moonlight, clutching covers, I listen to the BBC for new-found news from the surrounding world.

Being a news junkie, balanced information is important.  Accordingly, over the years I’ve contributed to many local NPR stations. Whether I sojourned upon California beaches or trekked heavily wooded hiking trails in upstate New York or Vermont. In my line of work, timely news information is critical.

However, there are NPR pledge drives that completely baffle me.  Need an example? Vermont National Public Radio (VPR) is conducting an eight day December pledge drive, just a mere two months after completing the September pledge drive. The VPR website states:

… our schedule will be September, December, and March. We also sometimes partner with a community non-profit and conduct a 3-4 day “mini-drive,” that also benefits the partnering organization. If and when we hold a mini-drive, it’s typically during the summer months.”

And why specifically December?

In our research, we found that December ranks as the best month of the year for charitable giving. In fact, a certain group of folks only make charitable gifts in December. Many other public radio stations across the country also report that December drives are generally well received and successful. VPR is also looking into the possibility of offering gift memberships, and so timing this opportunity around the holidays makes sense.”

I raise all this because several months ago I left Vermont for a month break. Before leaving, I anonymously pledged to the local VPR station in Vermont during their September pledge. On the west coast, I also pledged to my local station in Washington during their pledge drive.  Six weeks later, I received a call from professional fundraisers on behalf of NPR requesting an immediate demand for more donations. Coming back to Vermont for the holidays, I came face-to-face with the VPR’s December pledge drive.

Each pledge drive lasts eight to ten days. Over the last 90 days, I’ve had to listen to twenty-eight days of pledge drives.

I presume most who work in public broadcasting earn decent, middle-class wages; similar to those who support them. In truth, most key radio NPR hosts and administrators earn several hundred thousand dollars annually. Before being released in 2004, Bob Edwards made over $500,000 annually; Carl Kassel made well over $100,000 prior to retiring; former CEO Vivian Schiller had a base salary of $450,000; former NPR Ron Schiller (no relationship to Ms. Schiller) made close to $500,000 and Ken Stern received over $1,200,000 in bonus, salary and compensation.

Program wise, Robert Siegel (All Things Considered) takes in a mere $375,000; Melissa Block (All Things Considered) receives a cool $300,000; Steve Inskeep (Morning Edition) only made $373,000 and poor Renee Montagne (Morning Edition) made a paltry $405,000.  NPR Saturday host Scott Simon (Weekend Edition) has to live on a paltry $364,000 while Terry Gross (Fresh Air) can still smell roses at $256,000.

In prior years, the network’s managing editor Barbara Rehm cleared over $400,000 while Chief financial officer James Elder was paid $431,861 and the Vice President of Diversity, Keith Woods received $205,989. In a 2008 salary survey, Lynne Rossetto Casper (The Splendid Table) gobbled up only $173,500 for a weekly one-hour show.

In 2003, McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc bequeathed over 200 million to NPR. NPR described Ms. Kroc’s contribution as “the largest monetary gift ever received by an American cultural institution.” The funds were intended to go straight into the NPR’s endowment, generating “at least” $10 million a year in interest income, in perpetuity. So where’s that donation?

The average salary at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, including custodial and clerical staff, is $99,000, as of Sept. 13, 2013. The president grossed over $400,000 while the CEO of PBS received about $800,000.

When I first left college, I worked for a non-profit. I was paid $10,000 a year and loved it. But working for non-for-profit is a calling, a commitment from both management and employees. Money was not our sole purpose every three-to-four months of the year.

Playing the devil’s advocate, this is season for giving. But Vermont NPR plays those heart strings and tugs at the emotional appeal. Thus, the next time NPR goes into pledge-drive mode and begs listeners to chip in $100 for the the Nina Totin’-Bag, it would be wonderful if, in the spirit of balance and fairness, they would read off some salary for NPR stars.

But there are people in need. One in six children will be underfed this holiday season. There are many aunts and uncles who need a job. A local food bank needs donations to help the community at large.

This is where your contributions need to go.

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