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9/11 Ten Years Later

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

Kyle and the 9/11 Firefighters

There are some things I never forget. The day President Kennedy was assassinated. The day the Challenger exploded. Columbine. What I was doing on 9/11/2001. My husband called me and said turn on the television. I got there in time to see the second plane hit the tower. I watched with my hand over my mouth then turned to my little son and said “Kyle, we’re going to war.” All day long I walked around in a daze. That evening I was called by NBC News. Justice correspondent, Pete Williams, had been vacationing in Yellowstone National Park. He could not get back to Washington so he went live from KUSA in Denver. I was his producer. I wasn’t at Ground Zero. I wasn’t among my east coast colleagues. After a couple days Pete finally was able to get home and I returned to my routine and family.

But 9/11 wouldn’t let go of me. I was consumed by the reports and confused by my feelings. I was feeling detached, panicky and somehow responsible. The more I listened to television and radio the more I felt that the United States had somehow brought this upon ourselves. I needed to bear witness to get some perspective. I decided to go to New York and see things for myself. No one I knew would travel with me so I took my son, Kyle, the same one who looked at me confused when I said “we’re going to war.” We arrived in New York City one month to the day after the attacks. My family was incredulous that I would take him there. My husband’s family was furious that I would put him in danger. What kind of mother was I?

I was afraid to get on a plane. I pushed through it. I was afraid of the Muslim cab driver who picked us up from LaGuardia Airport. I pushed through it. He was as shellshocked as everyone else. I was stunned by the incredible compassion of New Yorkers who were so wounded yet so grateful that we had come. Even the homeless thanked us from their street corners for helping New York get back on its feet. Broadway put on its musicals but theatres were empty. The city was edgy. There were anthrax scares. We went to Ground Zero while it was smoldering. The facade was still standing, crews were still combing through the wreckage and the smell of death remained in the air. We read the flyers with faces of the missing. We saw the flowers and makeshift memorials. I was stunned into silence. I finally cried uncontrollably when we went to Grand Central Station and saw the bulletin boards full of pleas from families desperate to locate loved ones. It was all so much to take in.

I wanted Kyle to know what was lost on that day and what we still had. We couldn’t go to the Statue of Liberty so I took him for a ride on the Staten Island Ferry so he could at least get an idea of what this country stands for and why this attack on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the very essence of America, was so traumatic. And the most profound thing happened. On board the ferry were so many firefighters. They were all from out of town. They had come to attend funerals of their fallen brothers because there simply were not enough firefighters left to honor so many who had died. They were riding the ferry from one funeral to another to give their brothers a proper farewell. Kyle stood among them and had his picture taken. Kyle and the heroes. Later when we were in Midtown Manhattan we paused and watched a funeral processions for a fallen policeman. It was so somber. There was so much sadness in the air.

Now ten years later we pause and reflect and watch memorial tributes on all the television networks then on September 12 we will quickly get on with our lives. So much has changed as a result of 9/11 but so much has really stayed the same. I think most people wish it would just go away and we no longer would live with this cloud of vulnerability. The memories are so painful. But of course it won’t leave us and we persevere. It never will go away and we shall always remember the day and what we were doing when we first found out. I will always be grateful for that time I spent with my son in New York in October 2001. It gave me a chance to grieve and such a sense of clarity. The United States did nothing to provoke this. Did nothing to deserve this terrorist attack at the very soul of America. And yes we did go to war. At the moment it seemed so right. So necessary. We’ve had a lot of time to reflect on that too.

Going to New York after 9/11 was life altering for me and one of the most profound teaching moments for my child. A couple years ago I took my other son, Blair, to New York City. It was a much more festive time but we still went to Ground Zero. It’s a construction site now with a memorial to the side. I kept babbling about memories from the trip I took with Kyle. I wanted Blair to feel it too. We went to the little church next door that withstood the blast and is a memorial to this day. A choir was singing in memory of the fallen, all those years later. There were touching memorials to the New Yorkers and first responders who died. And we went to the Statue of Liberty so he would know what was lost and what this country still stands for to Americans and the world.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit Teletrends Television Production and Development.

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War and Remembrance 5

A couple of years ago I read a book called “The Faith Club” where three women got together regularly to talk about faith. They were a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew. The experience and friendship was transformative as they worked through their differences and came to realize their similarities. I am having a dialogue with a man named Ben Coker, Jr. in South Carolina who responded to a blog I wrote on Veterans Day. We are politically miles apart but we are finding common ground and having an inspired conversation. It continues here.

Vicky, please call me by my first name. I am also enjoying this dialogue with you. I fully agree with your assessment about our not being able to run to every segment of the world. I vividly remember Mogadishu. That was an absolute fiasco. We went over there for humanitarian reasons. There was no functioning government to control the population. Reagan sent the military as a part of the contingency to provide this assistance. The radicals have taken over that area. Of course we exited that area in disarray. We should have never been there.

How do we differentiate between the areas we should try to help and those we should not. I agree with you about our being able to win the friendship through creating conditions that enrich the lives of the people and promoting quality of life. Do you remember the Marshall Plan that was utilized to rebuild Europe in an effort to develop and cultivate friendship and to improve the lives of the people as well as international commerce? This was a very successful operation. However, it was successful because the Allied Armies and the Nazis destroyed all the infrastructure throughout Europe. The Allied Armies had beaten the adversaries into submission. They had nothing left. The military leaders were allowed to conduct a very aggressive battle plan that left them helpless. The adversaries could not resist the USA’s and other’s plan to resuscitate the economy of the world. The enabled the nations to develop a resurgent economy conducive for ALL citizens.

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A Westerner Ponders Arranged Marriage

One of the most interesting things I read in the newspaper while in Delhi was the matrimonials in the Sunday Times of India.  The section consisted of page after page of personal classifieds by families unapologetically seeking the perfect made to order husband or wife for children whose time has come to make a love connection. Some of the ads were very specific.  They spelled out criteria of caste, looks, religion, region and education.  Some ads were placed by families that spent a fortune sending children to the finest colleges and universities in India and abroad.  On the market were Drs., MBAs, and Ph.Ds who studied in prestigious schools in the U.S.A. and U.K. and now were ready for a mate.  Some families who were shopping for love were less particular.  Caste no bar meant that a boy or girl would marry outside of the caste.  In several ads families were requesting “homely” girls.  “Why would anyone want a homely girl?” I asked.  “In America a homely girl is plain and unattractive.”  “No,” my friends informed me.  “A homely girl is one who wants to stay at home.  Not a career woman.”  Do people really meet their soul mates through these ads or is it just families marrying other families, putting medieval rituals ahead of the happiness of their children?  “It is a tradition,” a young man I met in Jodphur told me.  “Those are for people who are desperate,” one of my colleagues said.

Finding a mate in India is definitely a family affair and most marriages are still arranged.  It is easy to impose our western values on India and decry this practice, but India is a country where family comes first and that means who children spend their lives with seems to be everybody’s business.  So in a country with 1.2 billion people it might just be more practical to launch a marketing campaign, especially when you consider the drama involved when young people try to find Mr. or Mrs. Right or Singh or Patel themselves.  Names are not included here to protect the innocent.  Some of the people I spoke with are hiding things from their parents (and as I’ve found out people actually do find and read blogs.)

A young army captain I met on a train told me how he found his wife escorting a friend’s sister home on a bus from the south of India.  They fell in love and wanted to wed but her parents refused to have her marry a man in the military.  Mind you this was a charming, intelligent, handsome man who wrote poetry, for goodness sakes.  He decided to send her father letters every day to prove he was worthy.  Dad finally brought the case before the entire extended family (and it was a very large one) and the council of in-laws gave their consent.

Another couple I know went through alot of drama with parents as they tried to marry.  He pursued her for many months and could not get her off his mind.  She took a great deal of convincing and played very hard to get.  At one point he told his parents it was over.  When she popped up again in his life his parents refused to even consider her.  They eventually married but I am told there was tension at the wedding and there still is a cloud over their union today, mostly because they broke tradition by moving into her families house after the marriage rather than moving into his families house.  Parents have a say in this too, it seems.

As we walked through the old city of Jaisalmer, a man I met told me about the love of his life who got away.  She was a woman from California who was there for three years doing social work.  They lived together and he wanted to marry her.  His parents refused and when he honored their wishes, she left.  That was six years ago and he has lost track of her now, but still longs for the relationship.  He is unhappy in his arranged marriage.  He says his wife is very selfish and treats his children badly.  They are now separated.  He asked me “Do you think I made a mistake, giving her up for my family, or should I have given up my family for her?”  I told him I thought he would have had regrets either way.

My Muslim rickshaw driver in Jaipur told me that he was dating a Hindu woman for a couple of years.  They were having a great time and his family didn’t mind at all.  But her family did so mom and dad forced them to break it off.  He says he doesn’t care what faith someone is.  All people are the same and as long as they treat each other well and make each other happy nothing else should matter, but obviously her parents did not agree.

A colleague of mine has been dating a young man for six years and intends to marry him but her parents don’t even know him because they will not approve.  When a family friend told her parents he noticed her with this boy at a bus stop a few years back they tightened the screws.  Another colleague’s parents seldom let her out of the house alone after about 8:30 p.m. in the evening making it nearly impossible for this 19 year old to have a relationship.

Western women would certainly never put up with all this meddling from parents, but the good news is even as fundamental traditions have stayed the same, the practice has evolved and women say arranged marriage can work.  A young mother and IT professional I met on the train back from Jaipur to Delhi was telling me her marriage was arranged.  Her parents placed an advertisement in the matrimonial section of the Times of India and that’s how she met her husband.  But instead of being passive in the process she was highly involved and could have walked away from the arrangement at any time.  Her husband could have walked away too.  They didn’t, and after a brief courtship, she is now happily married and living with her husband and first born child in the United States.  Arranged marriages are still the way most people hook up in India (even the Prince, grandson of the Maharajah of Jodphur, will have an arranged marriage when he weds.) Matrimonial websites like http://bharatmatrimony.com and http://shaadi.com are booming, but in this day and age, more young people are asserting themselves in their love life, especially those who are educated and don’t need to settle for less.

If someone hasn’t already thought of this, I think a great idea for a Bollywood musical would be an Indian adaptation of “Fiddler on the Roof.”  If you recall Reb Tevye had three daughters and as each one chose a husband they made choices that made their father progressively more uncomfortable.  Each daughter followed her heart and Tevye had to adapt.  I think that really sums up what’s going on in India today as many young people work around their parents or at the very least, alongside them to find partners.  Of course, arranged marriages can turn out badly.  If the wrong partners are found people can be miserable or abused.  That happens when we self select our partners too.  Still, choosing a spouse continues to be a family affair in India and for what it’s worth maybe having mom and dad involved can be helpful.  Maybe working backwards, marriage then love, can be possible.  Just look at the statistics.  Although divorce is starting to be a bit more prevalent among the upper classes of India, on the list of countries with the highest rates of failed marriages (America is #1) India isn’t even on the radar.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Favorite Friends I’ve Never Met

Several of my friends and even my family think social networking is a waste of time.  They won’t Facebook, Twitter or read blogs and can’t really understand what I get from it.  I’ve found the most vehement opposition from my tango dancing mother and my friends who are cyclists.  These are not ladies who exercise casually, but rather women who compete on the dance floor, do 100 mile bike rides in the Rockies and think it’s fun to race up Mt. Diablo in Northern California.  Their buff bodies speak to their passion.  My flying fingers speak to mine.  They are my bricks and mortar relationships.  But because of social networking I have a new circle of virtual friends who I enjoy and respect, even though we have never met or for that matter, may never meet. 

First there is Susan MacCaulay.  She is a Canadian living in Dubai.  I stumbled across her website Amazing Women Rock (http://amazingwomenrock.com) when it was quite new.  What seems to have started out as a place to go for moderate Muslim women has morphed into something much larger and universal.  She is a champion of women around the world and has a large following now.  The first thing you notice about her is her passion for pink, her platinum blonde hair and her trendy get ups.  On one occasion she turned the camera on herself in a Riyadh hotel room and talked about how strange it was being a woman on a road trip to Saudi Arabia.  Then she posted it on YouTube and endured the threats from those who felt they were disrespected.  She has an elderly and opinionated mother who she adores somewhere back in Canada who reminds me of David Lettermen’s mom.  I am such a fan of hers I even contemplated a trip to Africa through Dubai just so I could meet her.  She hollers about injustice towards women and celebrates their achievements.  Susan rocks! 

Second is Dr. Qanta Ahmed.  She is a striking British national whose family came from Pakistan.  What’s interesting about virtual friendships is you often forget what brought you into someone’s universe.  I think I crossed her path doing research on a story for HDNet’s World Report but I’m not sure.  She had written an article about her transformative relationship with a rabbi who made her fall in love with Judaism while she lived in Charleston, South Carolina.  The irony came at the end when you found out she was a Muslim.  She is one of the most articulate voices for connection between people of all faiths.  She told me about her book “In The Land of Invisible Women.”  I ran out to buy it.  She wrote about the time when she couldn’t renew her visa in the United States and had to leave the country even though she was a doctor practicing medicine.  She moved for two years to Saudi Arabia and tells the story of the culture shock for a professional woman under the kingdom’s repressive laws.  Even so, she had a remarkable journey, had great stories about Riyadh and the Hajj, and got in touch with her Muslim faith.  I was stunned by her writing ability.  She has an amazing eye for detail and there was an extraordinary richness in her voice.  I still don’t know how she finds time to practice medicine with so much social networking.       

Third is my filmmaking friend, Zippy (is that the greatest name or what?) Nyaruri.  I met her via email when I needed a fixer for a story on the monetization of food aid in Kenya.  A fixer is a producer on the ground in a foreign country who helps set up a story and takes care of arrangements.  Without a fixer it is next to impossible to handle all the logistics and relationships.  Our story fell through but we have kept in touch through Facebook.  Through Zippy I see Africa.  When I first was introduced to her she was bouncing back and forth between Kampala and Nairobi.  Now she lives in Capetown, South Africa and recently she posted pictures of herself in Namibia.  She is developing a documentary about one of the few women truck drivers in Africa.  She introduced us to a fellow filmmaker named Godwin Opuly who runs sound and second camera for us when we are doing video production for BeadforLife (http://beadforlife.org.)  Even though I have never met Zippy, when I considered visiting Capetown for the FIFA World Cup, she invited me to stay in her home.

Fourth is Caroline Jones.  She actually found me when she saw a story I produced about an acid attack victim called Juliette.  She was so moved she asked if she could use a photograph of her as the foundation for a painting.  Caroline’s ambition is to help others through art.  Her inspirations are women facing obstacles and the book “Half the Sky” by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and his wife Sheryl WuDunn.  Caroline has created a body of work she calls Nguvu http://nguvu.artworkfolio.com.  Nguvu means strength in Swahili and her exhibit is this August in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  She will donate 50% of the sale from each work to the organization selected by the photographer.  She also builds boats, has a daughter and is a vegan who blogs about tasty recipes for other vegans.  That’s all I know about her.

Finally there is Karen Daniel.  She is a freelance television producer just like me who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.  She’s loves NASCAR and drives a truck.  She idolizes Dolly Parton and Linda Ellerbee.  She is the kind of person that you recommend even if you don’t know them because you know she gets it.  She’s been described as fearless and like me she wished she moved to New York City right out of college.  She has grey hair and the last time we chatted I told her that models dye their hair grey now.  It’s the new hip thing.  We also have a mutual acquaintance.  I met Ashton Ramsey trying to book Neil Wanless for the Today Show.  He’s the impoverished young cowboy who won a 200+ million dollar lottery in Winner, South Dakota.  Talk about a small world.  Both Ashton and I know Karen Daniel.  Once again, I can’t recall how it came up but imagine my surprise when I’m sitting in a small town bar and we both know my virtual friend.

Of course my virtual friendships aren’t anything like the ones I have with those who I grew up with, break bread with, go to book club with, and take Sunday walks with.  Those are the lasting friendships of my life.  But my virtual friendships are enriching my life and broadening my circle and I’m learning and pondering things that I never would have considered if I weren’t running across these amazing women around the world.  My college friend, Margaret Hoeveler’s mother, Griff, used to say at the end of the day you can count your true friends on one hand.  I think that’s wise but I also have a circle of special social networking friends I can count on one hand and they assure me the energy I spend doing this is not a waste of time.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Politics with my Cappuccino

My barista leaned over the counter today.  “What do you think of the MSNBC host who said she hoped it was a Tea Party member rather than a Muslim who set the car bomb in Times Square?”  His colleague at the cappucino maker edged closer to hear what I had to say.  “Well,” I replied, “I wish it was someone from the Tea Party.  It actually kind of makes me sick to my stomach every time I hear it’s a Muslim because I think the large majority of them aren’t radicalized and it just gets more difficult for law abiding Muslims.”  My barista rolled his eyes and got back to work.  My barista and I have been sparring politically for a while now.  It has become a regular occurrence. 

Standby for the great irony here.  My youngish, handsome barista who drives a sporty car (he says he married well) is wildly conservative.  Not what you’d expect.  Consider your barista.  Hip?  Trendy?  Teva Sandals?  Mine is a supporter of Sarah Palin and the Tea Party and is sick of all these bailouts.  Me?  I’m the middle aged suburban mom in an upscale Denver suburb, as liberal as they come, who believes government has a financial obligation to its people and coming to the rescue is necessary now and then.  His eyes light up when he sees me come in for my daily nonfat dry cappuccino fix.  “Vicky, what do you think of this?  Vicky, can’t wait to hear your opinion on this one.  Vicky, how are you going to feel when your taxes go up?  Vicky, come over here.  I need to ask you about something.”  Politics is part of my coffee ritual now. 

At first I was a bit surprised by his forwardness.  I couldn’t imagine our discreet back and forth was good for business or that his company or customers would approve.  After a particularly intense exchange, which lasted about five minutes and had his colleagues calling him back to work, I got downright uncomfortable.  We were discussing President Obama and Congress and health care reform.  He made sure I understood that my taxes were going up and soon my income would be shrinking.  I didn’t articulate my position succinctly.  Race came up.  I walked out of the store replaying the discussion in my head.  I talked to my friends about whether I should say something to him or stop visiting.  After thinking it through, I came to the conclusion that this exchange is good for both of us, but in measured doses.  Kind of like one cup of coffee a day.  After all, discussing politics at the local coffee shop is what we do in America.  Right?    

A while back I was listening to NPR and there was a discussion about Melinda Blau’s book “Consequential Strangers.”  These are the people on the periphery of our lives that matter.  They are not friends or colleagues, but rather the people who we intersect with over the course of our lives that have an impact nonetheless.  They are the lady at the bank who greets me when I come in, the woman I sit and talk to on the airplane, people I’ve never met on Facebook who intrigue me with their posts.  Our interactions make a difference in my life.  My barista is a “consequential stranger” and even though I think his politics are strange, I walk through the world more knowledgeable because we talk out our differences.  He knows what I drink, greets me by name, has my coffee ready before I get to the cashier and now he knows my politics and I know his.  I doubt we’re opening each others minds or mellowing each other out.  Most likely we’re just agreeing to disagree and entertaining the staff.  I’m hearing about the Tea Party with my cup of joe.  He’s hearing what I like about our President.  We’re not shouting each other down or holding up signs.  It’s rather civilized.  Like meeting over coffee.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Moderate Muslims

Eboo Patel writes a column featured in USA Today reminding people that moderate Muslims are also in the fight against extremists.  They believe terrorism goes against the teachings of Islam and call on all Americans not to let the radicals make us fearful and divide us from good neighbors who also are longing for peace.

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2010/01/column-moderate-muslims-were-everywhere-.html

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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Burka Barbie

Barbie in hijab and burka

To celebrate Barbie’s 50th anniversary a line of Muslim Barbie dolls have been released to help Arabic children connect.  There’s a love/hate relationship with Burka Barbie.  They wear hijab and brightly colored burkas.  What do you think of this diversity doll?    

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/babylonbeyond/2009/12/arab-world-burka-barbie-iconic-doll-gets-an-islamic-makeover-for-50th-anniversary.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BabylonBeyond+%28Babylon+%26+Beyond+Blog%29

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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The Faith Club Part 4

Over the course of reading the book “The Faith Club” many things resonated with me but one statement from Ranya, the Muslim woman, sums things up.  “Once you can see things from both sides you’re on the side of compassion and humanity.”  Another thing that impressed me was a bit of wisdom from my friend, Cheryl, during a walk last weekend.  “Don’t judge a religion by the people who practice it.”  How simple, yet how profound, these statements are.  Cheryl’s remarks reminded me why I strayed from religion in the first place and Ranya’s thoughts reminded me why I came back.

As a high school student, attending Episcopal School and singing in a Catholic choir I often asked myself if there was room in Christianity for a more open minded view.  Surely there was more than one path to God.  I struggled with the notion of a God who condemns those who don’t accept him or causes good people to suffer.  I recall when I was producing television at KAKE TV in Wichita, Kansas, we had a family with many children appear one day on our noon talk show.  There was love and joy all around.  A short time later we were shocked to learn that a fire had swept through their home and taken the lives of several of their children.  One of my colleagues remarked that God must have been punishing them.  I shut her out.  God reveals himself in many ways but he doesn’t kill babies.  I’ll never believe in a God of vengeance.  To me that notion belongs to fundamentalists and extremists who monopolize the dialogue and make the possibility of understanding impossible. 

But by closing my mind at that moment wasn’t I disrespectful of her ideas, however farfetched?  Could we have possibly understood each other better if we had dialogued on the subject rather than agreed to disagree?  That’s what is so impressive about the women in “The Faith Club.”  Over time they realized that there were more things that united them than divided them.  They were able to embrace the faiths of each other, put it out on the table and recognize a God of all humanity.  Suzanne, the Christian woman, described religion like college degrees.  “One person might earn a BA in literature while another earns one in history.  They’re equally educated, though differently educated.  The real test is how they apply that knowledge in their lives.”  I’ve finished reading “The Faith Club” and as I come to the end of this high holiday journey of faith I’m committed to going out in the new year with my mind more open.  There are connections and contradictions in all faiths and I must not only listen but also hear.

And I must remember that if I am open, God shows up in the most unexpected places.  The truth doesn’t only reveal itself in church or temple but sometimes under the stars at night.  During my high school years I sang in a choir called Na Kani Pela which performed every Sunday at Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in downtown Honolulu.  During the summer before I went to college we went to Makawao, Maui for a concert.  It was one of the last times we would all be together as a group and as we had done so many times before, we sang.  The song that night was a Latin hymn called “O Magnum Mysterium.”  As we began our harmonies a silver rainbow appeared in the sky and when we finished it slowly faded away.  It was quite miraculous.  I will always believe God was there that night reminding me to recognize the beauty in all faiths and remember the universal truths that connect us to one another and our humanity.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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The Faith Club Part 3

Three years ago I was on the road in Buenos Aires, Argentina during Rosh Hashanah.  As is my custom when I am traveling I find myself a service wherever I am.  One year I celebrated Rosh Hashanah in Wilmington, North Carolina while covering a hurricane.  Another time I spent Passover in Kampala, Uganda where we substituted Indian naan for matzah.  There was Yom Kippur in Savannah, Georgia and a seder at a college in Walla Walla, Washington while working on a story about Bigfoot.

Surely the service on Rosh Hashanah morning at the Libertad synagogue in Buenos Aires was one of the most memorable of all.  The truth is I did not understand a word.  It was all in Spanish and Hebrew.  What set it apart was the trio of cantors, two men and a woman, whose harmonies throughout the entire service made it seem more like musical theatre.  Tears streamed down my face.  It was so very beautiful.  And then there was wonderful Mania who made this stranger feel welcome.  The four hours flew by.  It was the most inspiring high holiday service I had ever attended and I long for my spirit to be filled again the way it was on that day in Buenos Aires.

One of the things that always gives me pause during the Jewish holidays is the idea that Jews all over the world are saying the same prayers at the same time.  I get goosebumps to think that on the day I’m saying the closing line of the Passover seder, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” it is also being said by my family in Israel.  As the ominous prayers are recited on Yom Kippur and “the gates begin to close” on the day of atonement that same urgency is being felt on continents half a world away.

The communal nature of these moments appeal to me.  In the book “The Faith Club,” Ranya, a Muslim, Suzanne, a Christian, and Priscilla, a Jew, came together for years to discuss and dissect their respective religions.  They invited each other to their homes and services and tore down the walls that divided them.  They pushed through their fears and differences to find similar truths in all of their faiths.  They agreed that God was loving and forgiving, that prayers were calls to action in all of their traditions, and that goodness and evil co-exist but light triumphs over darkness.  They concluded that human decisions, not God’s, cause suffering in our world and that dogma gets in the way of spirituality.  I feel like I’m in lockstep with these women when it comes to faith.   

How good would it be if we could all come together like these courageous women?  Wouldn’t it be something if we could leave our comfort zones, whether in our homes, in our churches and temples, or even in our countries and celebrate our faiths with people who are different than we are.  My richest experiences have been praising God in unfamiliar places, praying wherever I am, and worshipping with strangers.  Shalom. Ah Salamu Alaykum.  Go in peace.  At the end of the day, no matter who says it or where in the world it is said, we all wish for blessings and peace.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.


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The Faith Club Part 2

My son, Kyle, was born with a bump on his head and it terrified me.  As a first time mom I was certain he would become gravely ill and I would not be able to hang on to him.  Perhaps it was the postpartum imbalance of hormones but I found myself crying in the shower.  Then and there I surrendered.  I conceded I could not do this parenting thing all by myself.  As a new mom there were so many things out of my control.  How could I keep this tiny person safe?  I asked God to help me.  It was the most direct communication I ever had with a higher power.  The bump went away just like the doctor said it would, but it was a new beginning in my walk with God.

I have not been the most observant person.  Walk with God, I’ve told my children.  That’s all that matters.  But it does create a sense of “religious homelessness.”  Suzanne, who is Christian, used that phrase in the book “The Faith Club” to describe the difficulties faced by Ranya who is finding her way as a Muslim in America.  Her family was chased out of Palestine and she was unable to find a mosque that felt like a fit for her family.  I too, have felt rudderless along the way.  Organized religion has seemed rigid to me.  I love the pomp and tradition, the music and the fellowship, but I never really feel at home in any one house of worship.  I can be as inspired in a church as in a temple.  So I’ve chosen a more spiritual journey.  I’m a Jew but I find meaning in all the faiths of the world.  At their heart aren’t they all about goodness? 

As a high school student at St. Andrew’s Priory in Honolulu I drove Father Blackmon crazy with all my questions.  Why does God let bad things happen to good people?  A virgin birth?  Are you kidding?  He finally told me that some things you just need to believe.  But no one faith seems to have all the answers.  It was impossible for me to understand why my friends Orin and Bekki lost their seven year old son, Brian.  Or why the young twenty something rabbi could not offer me comfort when I lost a pregnancy and fell apart in his office.  Or what it meant when I saw my deceased father in my room with his arm stretched out to me shortly after his death.  In the book “The Faith Club” Ranya talks about how you just say a prayer and you can become a Muslim and chart your own course with God.  I like that idea.  We can shape our relationship with God.  We can see God in the beauty of the universe.  In the unconditional love of a mother, a child, a dog.  Or even in a bump on the head.

For more information on Vicky Collins visit http://teletrendstv.com.