Remembering Independence Day

Remembering Independence Day

Independence Day Flag

Remembering Independence Day

As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July, let us take a moment to recognize that the forefathers of this nation signed the Declaration of Independence with their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.

They pledged everything they had to pursue the idea that no one man was better than any other. Their vision was limited to their time and place. It ignored women, children, people of color, and The Indigenous. Those were to come later in a struggle that continues to this day.

What would you treasure so dearly that you would offer up your life, fortune, and sacred honor to bring it into being?  For our forefathers, it was the revolutionary realization that kings were no better than anyone else and that there was inherent value in the commoner. They fought for democracy, the greater good as they understood it, and the rule of law.

May we do no less.

Dr. Lois M. Sprague, Ph.D., President
The Guibord Center – Religion Inside Out

On the Second Anniversary of George Floyd’s Murder

On the Second Anniversary of George Floyd’s Murder

On the Second Anniversary of
George Floyd’s Murder

“Daddy changed the world.”

Gianna Floyd, 6- year old daughter of George Floyd

Here on the second anniversary of George Floyd’s horrific murder, I want to acknowledge some of the many ways that Gianna’s father’s tragic death has changed me as a white person along with millions of others and transformed the work of The Guibord Center forever.

Her dad’s murder has, indeed, changed us. Forever.  For the better.

White privilege runs deep. It is a wondrous thing always to get to go to the front of the line – until you see the barbed wire that’s been keeping others back. And the scars they bear from trying to move forward. And their anger, despair, and exhaustion from working harder than you can imagine while following the rules in a rigged system where they’ll never win.

That’s not right. It’s not fair.

Like millions of my white peers, when I watched that tape two years ago,  I suddenly remembered all the names I had been hearing: Trayvon Martin. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Young people murdered at the hands of the police or by white men playing cops. Yes, I heard the names and got angry, but I had done nothing. I had heard them through a cultural cloud of denial that surrounded such reports and concerns and… I had done nothing! “That’s just how it is.” “A horrible fact of life.” “There’s nothing I can do.” It’s just the racist system.” These thoughts ran through my head, muting my concern and enabling me to disconnect from myself without ever being aware of what I was doing.

I had confronted many injustices of racism since childhood. It always felt wrong. I knew it was wrong. It wasn’t fair.  “That’s just how it is.” “It’s the system.” “It’s all okay.”  Those were the answers to my concern and alarm. Over and over again. The mantras blurred the pain and muted the tears. My heart, like so many others,  learned to become numb.

And then George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer who looked directly into the camera and defied anyone – defied me –  to stop him.

The horror of the certainty of impunity on Derek Chauvin’s face finally broke the spell.

No! “That’s NOT just how it is”! Racism is not preordained! Not right! It’s not how it has to be! Not anymore! The spell shattered, and millions of white Americans finally awakened to the excruciating pain of the cruel injustice that is racism in America.

Racism is a spiritual issue. It is a hardening of the heart. It is a denial of the sanctity of the other.

No!

In the immediate aftermath of the murder, many people asked us at The Guibord Center “to do something.  Go down there and help people”.

I winced. “No.”  We have always had a policy of asking people of different backgrounds to tell their own stories. We needed to listen, open our hearts, look at our assumptions, and prayerfully and humbly seek to understand the toxic and self-damaging way we had been trained to deny the fullness of the sacred in our brothers and sisters of color.

We called our entire Guibord Center Community together – Our Board, Advisory Council, staff, friends, and colleagues — and invited them to join in a year of prayer and discernment about what we could do as people of faith to grapple with the urgent spiritual necessity of breaking open our hardened hearts and engaging in the process of setting things right.

We met with Black colleagues and listened deeply to them. We hired a Black professional with excellent confrontational skills to help us break through our layers of denial about the racism we recognized we carry. We read together and met weekly for many months to study and pray together and gradually felt the walls around our hearts breaking open.

We began a unique initiative on “Nonviolence and Racism” and brought in speakers from across faiths to teach us about nonviolence as an effective force for changing racist systems. After completing the full complement of structured antiracist training with our expert, we continued to meet weekly without her and still do so. It’s a beginning.

We continue to bring issues of racism into our Inspiring Stories Series. A number of us have joined Rev. James Lawson’s monthly Saturday morning seminars to dig deeper. We continue to grapple with ways to change the injustices embedded in every aspect of our laws and businesses and to staunchly raise the voices of concern in the streets and pulpits and playgrounds all around us as the sacred and spiritual truths that unite us to Creation and one another are frayed and denied.

George Floyd’s murder has, indeed, changed the world. Not enough yet, but it has begun. It’s opened our hearts and led to significant changes in how we see and treat one another. We’re more aware now. More respectful. More vocal. More inclusive. The change is a life-long process. We have a long way to grow, and we are committed to staying faithful to the process.

I hope you’ll continue to join us.

Dr. Lo Sprague
President – The Guibord Center
Turning Religion Inside Out

The Guibord Center’s Response to the Recent Murders In Buffalo and Laguna Woods

The Guibord Center’s Response to the Recent Murders In Buffalo and Laguna Woods

The Guibord Center’s Response to the Recent Murders
In Buffalo, Laguna Woods and Uvalde

The Guibord Center joins with people throughout this land
in grieving the recent murders of our fellow Americans
here in their own communities.

We embrace the agony of losing their loved ones
and pledge to honor their memory.

We say to those
who feed angry and troubled souls
the poison of resentment
in the service of anarchy and terror:

“Hatred brings only death; it cannot bring Life.”

We are each and every one of us
connected to something greater than ourselves.

The Web of Life.

True power comes in choosing
to love one another
– even now –
to honor the Sacred in the Other
to work for the good of all
even in the face of such calculated cruelty and death.

Our hearts ache for those taken too soon,
and for those who remain shattered.

The work of healing is the hardest work of all.

We each do it alone
and
we do it together.

– Dr. Lois M. Sprague, Ph.D., President
The Guibord Center – Religion Inside Out

 

Howard and Itza the Tiger

Howard and Itza the Tiger

Howard the Vet meets Itza the Tiger

Instead of standing up with Anna, Howard remained kneeling in the dirt. I watched as he pivoted slowly towards the full-grown tiger and searched for words in his limited Spanish.

“Hey, Itza…. Itza, Grande. Magnifico.”…  “Bueno, Itza. Bueno.” His voice was soft, melodious. Respectful. “Hermoso, Itza. Grande y hermoso.”

Howard instinctively dipped his head down in the hint of a bow. He cooed. He watched the huge tiger and the huge tiger watched him.

When the vet called to him, Itza was laying down with paws outstretched. He was fully focused and alert. Man and tiger both stayed nearly flat to the ground. Howard watched. Nodded. Bowed and rose carefully to one knee. Itza lifted his head up. His chest rose. Howard inched upward again. Itza’s ears twitched and his head rose slightly higher.

They began a sort of dance. Without really thinking about it, Howard mirrored the tiger and the tiger mirrored him. Gradually, ever so slowly, the man began to straighten all the way up and move forward ever so smoothly as the great cat shifted from laying on the ground to sitting all the way up. They rose a notch at a time, keeping a discreet eye-contact, Howard continuing to speak – almost purring, chanting – while looking from a slight angle with Itza looking straight on.

Finally, Howard rose to his full 6 feet+ height – and those of us witnessing this held our breath. Itza was up on his feet by now. He stood there on all fours – not budging, not flinching, not backing down – for this meeting with the man. And there they remained, sizing each other up carefully.

Building Trust

Itza had faced many a beating in his days in the circus. He had been victim to and watched many a brutal deed done by the males of our human species. He had good reason to be wary of men and Howard clearly understood that. He slowly reached out to the edge of the bars and offered the back of his hand. Itza looked and waited and finally, sniffed and then, Itza chuffed it – with a deeper than a horse-like sound and shake of his muzzle.

It was a breath-taking moment – the two of them standing there, finally, in front of one another. There was a hushed wonder and bit of a nervous laugh in Howard’s voice as he continued to talk to the tiger. Itza had granted him the audience and actually agreed to be friends!

Just as Howard half-turned away in delight, Itza suddenly rose up to his full height on his hind legs to tower above Howard.  In the same instant this stunning wild animal suddenly let out a sound that wasn’t aggressive but stated unequivocally that HE, ITZA, was boss. I laughed out loud. I couldn’t help myself.

There was no doubt! The tiger had won. He dwarfed Howard’s six-foot-tall frame. The power and might of this magnificent animal were simply indisputable. Howard jumped back, frightened out of his skin, and began to laugh, too. “Okay! Okay! Now we know who’s boss!”  Itza immediately came back down on all fours and stood quietly, now that everyone understood. Then, he even let Howard feed him a snack. He generously offered more chuffs. They were friends – at least for the moment.

Howard Meets the Animals

Howard Meets the Animals

This was Howard’s first meeting with the animals. His first time to ADI’s Temporary Rescue Shelter. Tomorrow everyone would be on site and the real work would begin in earnest. Today, this was an introduction, a first impression, a getting-to-know-you opportunity and I wanted to tag along quietly in the background to witness and to learn.

Right from the beginning, unlike most of us, Howard never walked straight up to an enclosure or night/feeding cage. Not at first. He stood there quietly – watching instead – for a long time. He wrote notes, observations. He then asked Anna, the vet and person who cared most directly for the animals, questions in his best broken Spanish. Then he observed each animal again and ask the question from a different angle. He was careful. Thoughtful. Thorough. He noticed that Sasha, the lion stepped gingerly on her right front paw. “Ow,” he said, with a surprising tenderness, “She hurts!” He stopped. Flipped through the notes.  Finally finding the section that told of a botched declawing and the infections and problems that followed, he immediately announced with clear relief, “Ah, good. We can help her. We’ll try some new meds. She doesn’t have to be in pain.”

Once more he had stopped. Looked. Paid attention. Become fully present.

Then he’d stepped forward – and only then.

I took a breath. It had been awhile since I retired from my decades’ long psychotherapy practice. Howard was doing what any good clinician does – taking the time to get himself centered and prepared to focus on the well-being of the other.  Observing his compassion in action, I knew he was the right guy for the job as well as for our team.

He and Anna had made it more than halfway through the tigers when they came to the small C-shaped arrangement of cages that housed Itza, the biggest of the tigers, along with the females in his family.

Itza is father to the cubs, Max and Stripes, both of whom had somehow fortunately escaped the awkward stiff-legged gait that are tell-tale signs of excess in-breeding. Sombra, their mother, her sisters,  Lupe and Bimbi, were not so lucky. All three suffered from seizures.

Howard had met  Sombra and the cubs on the backside of the C. He and Anna then came around to this area and spent a long time kneeling on the ground across from Itza, getting to know Lupe and exploring as best they could her medical needs. When they finished with her, it was time for the vet to meet the biggest and most ferocious of the tigers face-to-face.

To be continued…