Stop!

Don’t stop what you think you’re doing right now. Stop what you don’t realize you’re doing right now.

Somewhere in the back of your mind, something is bothering you. Something someone said, or something you regret doing, is gnawing deep inside your chest. It could be something that happened earlier this week, it could be something that happened years ago. Either way, you can’t move past the feeling that’s holding you back.

Before this year’s March for Life, seven major Catholic organizations sent a letter to the president and congressional leaders asking them “to prioritize human life and to promote policies that will enable life to flourish.”

Every person has their own unique interests. All of us think we are more diverse in our likes than those around us. The irony of that statement is lost on most.

My personal mix of interests could be combined into the most epic of weekends. In no particular order, I would sit behind home plate and watch the Baltimore Orioles; I would stand at the 50-yard line and cheer the Baltimore Ravens; I’d get the closest seats possible to see U2 in concert, and I’d get front row tickets to a Broadway show.

Last year, I saw a youth group doing an interesting exercise in trust. A few teenagers were using their jackets as blindfolds as their group partner guided their walk around the church’s garden back to their meeting room.

The idea was for some of the teenagers to learn to guide others, while the other party learned to trust and accept help from their peers. It ultimately showed how accepting God’s loving help, even when we can’t see the path we are supposed to follow, will lead us to where we are supposed to be.

Sunday, 25 December 2016 17:25

Do your best to reach 2017 resolutions

By now, you’ve probably seen the heartwarming Polish Christmas ad that has been watched more than 12 million times. It’s the tale of an aging man trying to learn English alone at home, labeling household objects with Post-its before taking a trip to the UK and ... well actually, it’s probably best if you watch the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=tU5Rnd-HM6A (warning, there is some strong language at the 1:30 mark).

We all have memories that cause instant anger or sorrow. Memories of moments in our lives that we want to hide, and memories we wish had never occurred.

Regardless of how we feel, or what we’re told, those bad moments do not make us who we are. Instead, we are defined by how we respond to those moments. When we meet others, they don’t know our past. They only know the choices we make in the present. It’s our present action that matters.

It is always a privilege to get to see people glorifying God through their work. Their example reminds me of a verse from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians: “Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance.”

Sunday, 26 June 2016 10:36

Facing painful memories with strength

We all have memories that cause instant anger or sorrow. Memories of moments in our lives that we want to hide, or wish had never occurred.

Regardless, those bad moments do not make us who we are. Instead, we are defined by how we respond to those moments. When we meet others, they don’t know our past. They only know the choices we make in the present. It’s our present action that matters.

Sunday, 03 April 2016 16:11

Getting older means getting better

The other day, I was invited to play my violin at a live music festival. It’s an aspiration I’ve had since freshman year of high school, and it’s pretty high on my bucket list. Excited, I immediately started texting my friends from back then to tell them the good news.

As always, I wished I could have texted my good friend Tovah, who was my high school orchestra partner in crime, but I couldn’t. Tovah died in 2005, and I still miss her.

There is one simple, undeniable truth in America. Football never ends. Before they announced the final score at this year’s Super Bowl, people were already talking about the combine, where NFL teams evaluate college players.

The people who make those evaluations are called scouts. One of them is Matt Miller. He evaluates college talent for the website Bleacher Report. Miller shared his rules for scouting, the guidelines he uses when trying to identify the next great stars.

"Are you on cannabis?" asked the sandy-haired, uncomfortable-looking teen.

He was one of several hundred exhausted high school students waiting for final results at a debate tournament on a college campus. I was one of several dozen similarly exhausted judges.

I wasn't sure I heard him correctly. "Excuse me? Are you serious?"

Sunday, 10 January 2016 13:22

Keeping the MLK dream alive

"All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again."

That's a prophecy from the science fiction show Battlestar Galactica, but sometimes I think it might be a prophecy for our world, as well.

Sunday, 04 October 2015 13:58

What if you were a refugee?

I was shopping at the neighborhood corner store, just minding my own business, when the cashier started to talk with his customer about the refugee crisis in Europe.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees are streaming into Europe from war-torn Syria, Iraq and other Middle East and African countries. They are looking for an escape from ongoing conflicts that have claimed countless lives and smashed entire cities to dust.

I went to a One Direction concert with my niece recently. Many fellow adults winced when I told them. Some said they were "sympathetic," but, truth be told, I had a lot of fun.

It was comparatively low-key. There were pyrotechnics at the beginning and at the end of the concert. There were smoke machines and laser lights. But the producers kept the focus on the boys' singing, their talent and their looks. It also helped that band members sang live instead of lip-syncing to a track. They wore basic white T-shirts and jeans, and messy hair that didn't look styled (although I'm sure that was the point).

When I graduated from college, I wanted to be a television producer. I liked the idea of a career where you had the opportunity to share information that made a difference.

As a new graduate, the odds were not in my favor. Still, I knew the jobs were out there; I just needed to find them.

Last week, I was strolling along a bright avenue filled with restaurants and coffeehouses when I heard a funny little creaking noise coming from behind me.

The noise belonged to an amputee — an adorable light brown dog with no back legs. He had been strapped by his owner into a bright pink homemade trailer, with two black plastic bicycle training wheels to replace the dog's feet.

This past weekend, I attended a concert at an outdoor amphitheater. We had lawn seats and were among the first to arrive. As soon as we entered, we claimed our spot and waited for the show to begin.

Slightly in front of us was a group of girls in their late teens. They did nothing but take selfies for an entire hour.

A few years ago, Scott Bradlee was living in a basement apartment in New York City, hustling for jazz piano gigs at clubs and restaurants, and dreaming of something a little better.

Sunday, 17 May 2015 17:07

Hope where none seems to exist

I live in Baltimore and for the past few weeks, we've been in the news a lot. We've seen the entire spectrum of protest, from burning police cars to calm speeches in front of City Hall following the death of Freddie Gray, who died from injuries sustained while under police custody.

What's one way to make opera cool again? Pair it up with Star Trek.

I know that neither opera nor science fiction are considered particularly "cool" among the pop-culture glitterati of the world. Teens generally listen to One Direction, not Mozart. And, even though I love Star Trek, mentioning that in my high school would not have gotten you invited to the homecoming dance. But some interesting things happen when you pair the two.

When you're in high school or college, you imagine the professional future of the people you know.

The person who studies hard? They're going to be a doctor or a lawyer. The athlete? He's going to be the one who makes it and goes pro. The singer? Her voice is good, but so are a lot of others.

For many years, teenagers have walked in the March for Life, the annual pro-life demonstration in Washington that recently marked its 42nd anniversary. The event aims to bring awareness to the laws surrounding legalized abortion, hoping to change them. It attracts people of all ages from all over the country, united in one common purpose.

Each of us has a set of life lessons. Some of these lessons make no sense and are nothing more than superstition, like the baseball pitcher who refuses to step on the chalk line between home plate and first base when walking to the dugout. Some people refuse to drink coffee or caffeinated soda after noon because they say it keeps them up at night, while others can have an espresso and go to sleep just fine.

Sunday, 11 January 2015 11:20

Volunteering as a two-way street of help

When my beloved grandfather died, family members from around the country gathered in New York for his funeral. My mother was too distraught to cook, so the food to serve all those who attended had to come from somewhere. Enter the volunteers.

Saturday, 13 December 2014 18:00

Finding the good in your present situation

It doesn't matter whether you're in a classroom or boardroom, working for minimum wage or for a large salary: There's somewhere else you'd rather be.

Look around you. Out of all the countless places you could be, you are in a particular place doing a particular thing. You are not skiing in the snow-capped mountains of Utah or communing with kangaroos in Australia.

Saturday, 29 November 2014 18:00

Do your best to break up those cliques

Is your high school big or small? Do you know everyone or feel like you don't know anyone? Did you know that the size of your school may actually be indirectly responsible for how your social life is going?

Saturday, 01 November 2014 19:00

Stop, enjoy the simplicity of daily life

Quick. Think about the last enjoyable moment you experienced. What was the first thing that popped into your mind? Was it a large event, a vacation or a special meal? Or was it a small moment — a quick gaze with someone you care about?

Can you think of another example? If you thought of a large family event, can you think of a simple instance of joy?

When I was a kid, "sharing" meant splitting your lunch sandwich with a friend or sharing a book or toy.

Today, "sharing" usually means writing a status update on Facebook, posting an Instagram photo or talking via Snapchat. What many call "sharing" today, a previous generation might call "posting" or "exhibiting," as if the Internet were an art gallery and our lives were the art on display.

Saturday, 04 October 2014 19:00

Thoughts about recent acts of betrayal

Feelings about two important news stories of the past few weeks can be described with one word, but it's not the word most people are using.

Recently, I left my cellphone on the kitchen table when I left the house. It felt as if the apocalypse happened. The first hour wasn't so bad. It was bright and early in the morning, and I had coffee to drink and work to do.

The second hour was a little worse. I really wanted to check my email, and my texting thumb was getting twitchy. It was only the third hour away from my phone when I got a frantic email from a relative: Why wasn't I answering the phone? Was everything all right?

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