Activism, Citizenship, Climate Change, Community, Consequences, Creation, Environment, Food Deserts, Food Insecurity, Gardening, Non-Profits, Opal's Farm, Public Policy, Seasons, Service Organizations, Simplicity, Stories, The Future, Thoughts From the Porch, Transformation, Unity Unlimited, Inc., Urban Farming, What Can I Do, Writing

#24hoursofreality

Thoughts From the Porch: It’s a bit chilly this morning. We’ve been having below average temperatures all season long. Last Spring, it was above average temperatures. Ask most folks and they’ll tell you that’s just North Texas weather: eighty degrees one day and twenty the next. Weather has always been a wild ride here. That’s just the way it is, right?

 The reality is that our changing weather one of the consequences of global climate change. Stories of extreme weather – devastating storms, overwhelming floods, intense droughts, – fill the news regularly. While a tiny minority denies the science of climate change, most folks agree action must be taken.

Acknowledging and understanding the problem is the first step in leading to the solution. Today is 24 hours of climate reality, a broadcast from aroundthe world about climate change and a good first step. You can tune in via https://www.24hoursofreality.org

Opal’s Farm is one step toward a broader solution. Taking advantage of urban areas to grow food locally doesn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things. However, gardens and farming by organic methods are one small thing each of us can do to contribute to our planet’s health.

 Taking care of the soil, protecting our watershed fromharmful toxins, and putting carbon back into the soil is a by-product of the fresh produce we grow. We strive to be good stewards of the creation we livein. It may be one small step, a two-acre project, but it provides a model for others.

 We invite you to listen to Climate Reality’s broadcast andto be a part of Opal’s Farm. Be a part of the solution.

Acceptance, Activism, Christianity, Citizenship, Class, Community, Listening, Neighbors, Politics, Public Policy, Service to Others, Texas, Thoughts From the Porch, Uncategorized, Voting, What Can I Do, Writing

Just Vote…

Thoughts From the Porch: Yes, folks. This is another voter turnout post. I’m sure you’ve been bombarded by political ads, voter turnout robocalls, and every conceivable mailer you can imagine, from applauding your voting record to shaming you for apathy. Please bear with me, though. This is an issue close to my heart. It matters!

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

I questioned my role in voter participation as a Jesus-follower. I know where my true citizenship is. I may be entitled to U.S. citizenship by virtue of birth, but I follow my Rabbi first and foremost. I realized just how privileged I am to live here, especially in Texas. This is my earthly home, where my friends and family are, and where I’ll more than likely stay until I leave this world. I’m not confused, though. One’s spiritual beliefs are not an excuse for not voting. However, they change my motivation for voting.

The Gospels reflect Jesus’ concern for the neglected and marginalized. He went as far to say that how we treat them is how we treat Him. Pretty powerful words. In an election year that will affect the poor, the elderly, the immigrant, and the disenfranchised, your vote does matter. How you vote is also a reflection of how you see them.

While elections are always about how we see our political leadership, this year is also a reflection of how we see ourselves. What are our values? Are our decisions based on fear, class distinctions, and exclusion or they ones of faith, the common good, and inclusive of all? Everyone will answer those questions for themselves. Elections are important. How we vote matters to us all…

I took advantage of early voting and a rainy Wednesday last week to place my ballot. I was thrilled by the diverse crowd that was there on a Wednesday afternoon. I spent time in prayer and reflection about the matter before me and performed one of the privileges of my physical citizenship. It should be done with reflection.

I’m overjoyed when I hear the reports that voter turnout is exceeding expectations. I’d love for everyone to vote for my choices, but that’s unrealistic. The bottom line is that they were there casting their ballot.

Results will be in Tuesday evening. There will be winners and losers. Some of you will be elated by the results and others frustrated and disappointed. That’s how it works.

My friend Edgar always says, “Chop wood and let the chips fall where they may”. Go out there and vote. The chips will take care of themselves, but you won’t have chips if you don’t chop the wood…

person dropping paper on box
Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Activism, Class, Communication, Community, Conservation, Creation, Environment, Fighting Poverty, Food Deserts, Food Insecurity, God's Economics, Gratitude, Health, Hope, Neighbors, Non-Profits, North Texas Giving Day, Prayer, Public Policy, Service to Others, Spirituality, Thoughts From the Porch, Transformation, Uncategorized, Unity Unlimited, Inc., Urban Farming, What Can I Do, Writing

North Texas Giving Day is tomorrow!

Thoughts From the Porch: It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon here in Fort Worth. The days are getting shorter and it’s been dark when I venture onto the porch. A cool, calm resides in our little cul-de-sac. There aren’t many things better than seeing the light slowly creep across the yard until fills the morning and another new day awakes.

Please excuse the lateness of the hour. It was a very busy morning. Between doctor appointments and meetings there was little time at the desk today. However, I would be remiss if I failed to remind you that tomorrow, September 20th, is North Texas Giving Day. I know, I know; you’re shocked that I mention this again, right?

North Texas Giving Day is the perfect opportunity to make your donation stretch farther. You can find them at https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/unity-unlimited-inc. And just in case you forgot about Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm I’m reposting (again) our North Texas Giving Day article. Thanks, and y’all have a great afternoon…

A Very Special North Texas Giving Day…

How Do You Eat an Elephant in the Desert?

 

The word ‘desert’ conjures up images of intensely hot, arid weather, sand dunes, and harsh conditions. We tend to imagine them to be far-off places like the Middle East or Africa. What if I told you that the desert was only a few blocks or a couple of miles away from your front door? While it may not be hot and covered with sand, it’s just as harsh as the Sahara or Death Valley. It’s a local food desert and it affects us all.

The USDA defines food deserts as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”

This occurs when there’s no local grocer or farmer’s market within one mile of an urban neighborhood. The only food available is at local convenience stores and “Quickie Marts” that carry only processed convenience foods that have little or no nutritional value and contribute to the obesity epidemic, diabetes, and heart disease.

The USDA Economic Research Service has mapped “census tracts” and defines them as a “census tract with a substantial share of residents who live in low‐income areas that have low levels of access to a grocery store or healthy, affordable food retail outlet.”

According to government data, Tarrant County alone has over forty census tracts designated as food deserts!

How does this affect you? First and foremost, this is a humanitarian issue – EVERYONE has the basic human right of access to food and health. Tarrant County is fortunate to experience strong economic growth and has for many years. As the population grows and more residents move to the suburbs, the grocery stores and farmer’s markets follow them, and often close the less-profitable stores left in low-income urban neighborhoods where food and hunger exist as well.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity “as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. … Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household.

In Tarrant County, one in four children (and one in three if they are African-American or Hispanic) go to bed hungry or face food insecurity. One does not have to live below the Federal Poverty Threshold of household income of $24,858 per year to experience food insecurity. Over 25% of households facing food insecurity live at or just above the poverty guidelines and fully 36% receive no federal or state benefits. (further information is available through the Tarrant Area Food Bankhttps://tafb.org/ and Feeding America www.feedingamerica.org).

Not only is this a humanitarian issue, but one of economic concern as well. The resulting health issues from lack of nutritious food create more emergency room visits and hospital care for often preventable illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure. Low-income residents, often uninsured, are forced to utilize county hospitals such as John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. Care for low-income and indigent clients places an additional burden on the county health system and is often borne by the entire community in a variety of social and economic ways. Longer wait times for healthcare and additional property taxes are just the tip of the iceberg…

The magnitude of the problem can be overwhelming, but there is a solution!

Addressing food issues is much like eating an elephant. It can only be done one bite at a time! Unity Unlimited, Inc. (a 501(c)(3) non-profit) has taken the first bite!

Unity Unlimited, Inc. was granted use of thirteen vacant acres in Fort Worth by the Trinity Regional Water District (TRWD) for the express purpose of creating an urban farm. Ms. Opal Lee, a longtime community and humanitarian activist in Fort Worth, is a founding member of Unity Unlimited, Inc. focused on helping people overcome racial and cultural division so that they can live productive lives in harmony with their fellow man. Talks with TRWD led to the dream of an urban farm providing farm-fresh, nutritious food for residents of the community. That dream has become reality.

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The necessary permits are being issued and Unity Unlimited, Inc. will soon be breaking ground on Opal’s Farm. Located just east of downtown, the farm sits on rich, fertile bottom land near the Trinity River. Initially, five acres will be prepared for planting right away. The remaining eight acres will undergo soil preparation for additional crops. Only 100% organic methods will be utilized with special care given to the soil and the environment.

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Following each growing season, produce will be distributed throughout area food deserts, helping restore health and vitality to local neighborhoods. A portion of the fruits and vegetables will be sold to local chefs, restaurateurs, and markets to support local farm-to-table needs and to help make the farm self-sustaining.

It’s not only about the food – that’s just the first step. Changing lives, educating, providing growth opportunities – that’s what agricultural intervention can do!

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The farm will create jobs, provide job training, and bring a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-reliance to the local community. The 13 available acres of urban land will connect food production, processing and distribution in the same space. This is basically from farm to plate; which is a win-win for the residents, county, state, and country.

Opal’s Farm and North Texas Giving Day

Opal’s Farm invites you to become an “urban farmer”, to take the first bite out of the proverbial elephant. Whether as a volunteer, farm sponsor or financial partner, together we can take a bite out of surrounding food deserts and build healthy, vibrant Fort Worth neighborhoods.

Thursday, September 20th, 2018 is North Texas Giving Day. Communities Foundation of Texas’ North Texas Giving Day offers a special opportunity to become an “urban farmer” and a financial partner with Opal’s Farm. Make your secure donation at  https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/unity-unlimited-inc. Throw on your overalls and become a part of Opal’s Farm today!

Christianity, Faith, Family, Grief, Hope, Immigration, Neighbors, Politics, Prayer, Public Policy, Uncategorized

Father’s Day 2018

I didn’t spend very much time on the porch this morning, despite the fact it was much more pleasant than it has been lately. Rain came close enough from the south to make for a cool morning. A gentle breeze invited me to stay longer, but I couldn’t. My heart was heavy this morning and I simply needed to retire to my desk to write and journal.

Yesterday was Father’s Day and I want to extend a belated Father’s Day blessing to all fathers out there. I hope you were celebrated and appreciated by the one’s you love. I hope you were able to spend time with your kids, young and old, and enjoy time with family and friends. That wasn’t the case for everyone. Still, I wish a Happy Father’s Day to you all.

My wife got out of bed before I did and left the CBS Morning News on when she went to the porch. When I woke up a short while later, the very first thing I heard was a story about the separation of immigrant families along the southern border of our state. I’ve been following this story closely since it became public knowledge. The more I learn and see, the angrier I get. It’s wrong! It’s evil! I don’t see how anyone with any kind of moral code can remain silent about it!

If there’s anything good to come from such a policy, it’s the growing number of people who are outraged by it. In a culture of divisiveness, anger, and antagonism, it seems to be the one thing people can agree on. Maybe there’s hope for us yet…

I read articles where previous First Ladies, from both ends of the political spectrum, condemn Mr. Trump’s policy of family separation (it’s still impossible to use the words Trump and President in the same sentence without throwing up…). Politicians from both conservative and liberal leanings have equated his policy to Nazi practices and the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

I had the privilege of celebrating Father’s Day with my wife’s family yesterday while many fathers didn’t even get to see their families because of the corrupt rantings of men like Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions. They won’t even accept responsibility for their evil. They blame it on someone else. They are just doing their job – echoes of Nazi war criminals…

NPR reported the other day that one father had been voluntarily deported to avoid continued separation from his infant son. Four months later he’s still waiting for his son to be returned to him! Not only has the government failed to reunite him with his son, they’re not sure when or where that reunion can take place. I’m not even sure if they know where he is…

I was outraged by a Washington Post report of the long-term damage these kids (and their parents) will suffer as the result of these hateful political games. One pediatrician witnessed a two-year old girl constantly crying and slamming her little fists against the floor because she’s been kept from her mother who came here seeking asylum from neighborhood terror and domestic violence. Such scenes should spark outrage in others as well, regardless of their political leanings or views on immigration.

“As of Thursday, 11,432 migrant children are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, up from 9,000 at the beginning of May. These numbers include minors who arrived at the border without a relative and children separated from their parents.

The policy so far has pushed shelters to their capacity. Administration officials had started making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases. On Thursday, the Trump administration said it will house children in tents in the desert outside El Paso.” (Washington Post.com  June 17, 2018)

I’d like to believe that we, as a people, are better than this. I’d like to believe that we are better than to allow such behavior to go on unchallenged. Seeing the folks who spent their Father’s Day marching on the Texas border or attending rallies against this cruelty gives me hope. Maybe if enough people put aside their partisanship and simply act like human beings, we can effect change. I’d like to think so…

I understand the anger and frustration that led to the election of a man like Donald Trump. What surprises me is that, according to the most recent Gallup Poll, 42% of Americans still approve of him. I must admit that it scares me more than a little bit. Still, I hope that humanity wins out…

So, on this day after Father’s Day, my heart goes out to all the fathers who are separated from their children, especially because of the maliciousness and evil of morally bankrupt politicians. Please know that there are people with you in spirit who striving to do what’s right on your behalf. Be strong. Love and appreciate your families and know you’re loved and appreciated for wanting them to have a better life – just like most of us fathers. Happy Father’s Day…