Sunday, January 24, 2016

HOPE FOR OUR CHURCH

HOPE

What is my hope for the future of Cochran Memorial Presbyterian Church and the Three Voices congregation?

As I look around the church on any given Sunday, it’s obvious that I am one of the youngest persons attending. At 52 years old, that seems to imply little hope for the future of new generations coming in to assume our places. In just a few decades, most of us will be gone … hopefully just to our new, more exotic southern homes somewhere that is warm year-round. Who will take our places?

But expanding my vision beyond our church walls, I find this is not a problem that is facing only our Three Voices of Oneida Castle, Verona, and Vernon folks. When I do my newspaper stories on Sunday mornings, it often entails attending other church services. I find we are far from unique -- quite often, I am the youngest one at these other churches as well. Where are their future generations?

Let’s look at the world situation. Here in the United States, murders on college and high school campuses are getting to be so commonplace we almost have started to expect them. They are barely even news anymore. And they are coming closer and closer, as we saw last week in Geneseo. Our presidential race this year has become more of a media spectacle than a search for the leader of the free world and concentration on the common good. Our social media and Internet, rather than being vehicles to convey education and information, now deliver drama, propaganda, and overwhelmingly bad news constantly.

Sadly, our lives here in the U.S., for all of these flaws, are still better than much of the world. In many places, war-torn families might not know if their sons and daughters will survive to the next day. People of impoverished nations fear for their futures without the means to provide for their families. Natural disasters also seem to be more and more in the news.

Religious zealots are at odds with each other, with many claiming their own beliefs are superior to all others. And some are willing to kill over it.

Some might wonder why God has failed us. But that’s the exact opposite of my view … I think we have failed God.

The separation of church and state, for example, has become a hotbed of discussion as our leaders seem to try to push God further and further away. Rather than embracing the soothing compassion of religion, churches are emptying. People are not reaching out to God in their time of need. But He remains there for them. God hasn’t deserted the people, even as they have deserted Him.

In a short-term view, I see things getting worse in the world as chaos reins. Long-term, however, I have all hopes that there will soon be a glorious turning back to God. Whether it takes an incredible cataclysm will remain to be seen, but I think that the evil we see all around us today will soon be transformed to a renewed vigor within the churches -- ours included -- that will unite the people once again under God.

That is my hope for not only Three Voices, but all of Christianity as well.

Friday, May 3, 2013

VOTERS DENIED THEIR VOICE

With all the furor over "three men in a room" in Albany deciding things for all residents of the state, I can't believe the people are sitting for this case of seven board members deciding the future of two school districts without taking it to the residents' vote.

The scene is the Stockbridge Valley and Madison Central School districts in Central New York, where a three member advisory committee of former superintendents from across the state plus a few dozen local residents recently spent countless hours and who knows how many state-funded dollars devising a plan for a theoretical merged district combining academic offerings and student and faculty populations of both. 


I had the pleasure of covering the first of two information sessions, as the advisors released their projections to the public at the Madison school ( see  http://www.uticaod.com/mid-yorkweekly/x2082719178/Roadmap-to-possible-MCS-SVCS-merger-revealed for the full story) and was impressed by the work that went into the research. The three advisors stressed repeatedly that they were neutral on whether or not the merger was beneficial to the districts, telling the residents it should be up to them to decide that.


It was announced the next step would be a vote by the respective boards of education whether they wanted to take the prospect to the voters in each district, and I was even more impressed when MCS board of education member William Langbein stood before the audience to then and there reveal his intention to send the decision to the residents, as he felt it was not a decision their board should make for them.


The MCS board of education agreed unanimously 6-0 with him at their vote.


That same input was not welcomed from residents of the SVCS district, however, as their board voted 4-3 at their April 30 meeting to kill the prospect before it went further. You can read editor Carolyn Godfrey's story on that decision here:

http://www.uticaod.com/mid-yorkweekly/x1506803180/No-SVCS-MCS-merger

So, thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of work just went down the drain. I'm not saying the merger was a good or bad idea, but at the very least that should have been brought to the tax payers for their say, yes or no. It's their district too, and the merger feasibility study wouldn't have been done if there weren't financial concerns that needed to be addressed.


I applaud the Madison Central School's board of education for their intentions to take it to their folks, though. That's the way things should be done ... they are representatives of the residents of the district, and should take into consideration the will of those residents by hearing their concerns through a vote. SVCS residents, unfortunately will never have that voice, and now neither will the MCS families, because four persons destroyed what took so many hours to create. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A TAXING EXPERIENCE

It was inevitable as death and taxes, and this year figuring my income taxes nearly meant the death of me.

OK, maybe that's a little too extreme, but it was pretty tense there for a bit as the accounting software initially rejected my daughter as a dependent. That meant not only losing her deduction but also the college credit I was expecting -- bumping me up to owe $2,000 more than I thought I would. Ouch! It's been nearly 20 years of constant outpouring of cash, even more so now that she's in college. She's definitely a dependent, Mr. IRS.gov.

Luckily, whatever I did wrong was soon changed -- although the tax forms still say she was convicted of felony drug possession but I think that is an easy fix (unless she really was convicted of felony drug possession ... darn college kids!). I figured how much I will owe come April so I can plan on having the funds available. I'm not dumb enough to send it in now, though. Let 'em wait.

Yeah, I said "owe." I'm watching all the people around me getting their refunds like it is a big windfall, and I can't help but wonder what they think that refund is benefiting them. Isn't that your own money the government has had for months while you could have been earning interest? Aren't you actually losing money by getting a refund?

I opt for paying a little at the end of the year. Unfortunately, New York State felt my "little" was excessive and fined my $29 for owing too much, but still that's a small price to pay for having access to my own cash.

Anybody else have a fun, or not so fun, income tax story to tell?

Friday, November 9, 2012

WHEN WILL THIS BE OVER?

I don't think I've ever seen so many viscous attacks during an election season as I did this year -- and most of them were not from any candidate but supporters airing their views on Facebook.

Maybe it's just because I wasn't on Facebook during the last presidential election, but I was stunned at how vindictive the postings became, especially towards the end. And it wasn't by any one side; people of both parties in the election were just as adamant that their candidate was the one to save the earth while his opponent was the one who would destroy it.

I can see having a passion towards the person you support in an election, but seriously I can't imagine why anyone would feel they need to make such nasty and often personal attacks on people who don't agree with them. Isn't that what America is all about? The freedom to have your own opinion? I felt like posting the number of Facebook friends I had and then announcing who I voted for, just so everyone could watch the number dwindle as I was un-friended by people who voted contrary to me.

So the election has come and gone, and I'm figuring the vitriol will come to an end. Wrong! Now the posts are starting that it's time to flee the country before it's too late and how the end is near. And those are two of the nicer things that were posted.

Can't we just all get along and work for the common good? Or is that something that has been lost in this time of Internet turmoil?


Thursday, October 11, 2012

KNOW YOUR ROLE

There's probably nothing that perturbs me more professionally than when someone insists I should do a big expose article on some scandal.

Mainly because anyone thinking I'd be interested in relating such a thing has obviously never actually read any of my stuff.

Political discord? School administration salaries? Governmental shenanigans? Drugs in the water? Sure, there's plenty there you can probably get steamed over. But that's not my thing -- I see my role as the opposite of the conveyor of the bad news. I want to bring to light the good news as much as possible instead.

There's certainly enough people who excel at reporting the bad news ... the world doesn't need me to do that.

It isn't always easy to be on this mission. Sometimes when I'm looking for stories while laying out the wire service pages in the paper there isn't a lot offered by the Associated Press with anything good to say. Often I have to come up with five or six different ways to say someone is dead just so all of the headlines on a single page have varied terminology if not a varied theme. Many of the pages lately have made me queasy with the abundance of vile news, and if you think the news that is printed is bad, you should read the stuff we don't put in because of our all-ages audience.

Obviously, it is the bad news that attracts people to read any paper. If there's a huge calamity I expect my stuff to be bumped for the hotter news, because I would make that decision to ax my stuff as well. Sales increase when there's a major disaster, and again I'm just as guilty because that's when I'm also more interested in reading the paper, too. It's like driving by the scene of a car crash -- you can't help but look. You probably aren't glad the crash happened, but at the same time find it oddly intriguing. Likewise, if you are reading a novel there's got to be some kind of a conflict or it will be pretty boring.

Luckily, the majority of our local stories are usually good news about good people. But once we get into the wire service accounts of the goings-on in New York City, Washington, and overseas that ratio is invariably skewed towards evil.

So in an effort to compensate for all of that bad news, I strive to relate the good news. That's what I perceive to be my role in the world.

It doesn't matter what you do, whether you write, build bridges, teach school, wait tables, or crunch numbers ... taking some time to define your own role is a great organizer and a great motivator to your own endeavors. Give it a try!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

LIVING THE BACHELOR LIFE

So I'm walking down the street yesterday not too far away from my new apartment, when my buddy stops his lawn mowing to strike up a conversation. We chit-chat for a couple of minutes and he asks how I like my new "bachelor pad," and I tell him it's fine. Then he gets all serious, and tells me how many people envy my freedom in being single -- and from his tone I'm thinking he might be near the top of the list himself.

I admitted that certainly there are moments when I might wish I had a significant other, but it doesn't take too long to look around and realize just how miserable many of the couples I know are in their lives. And if that alone doesn't make me feel better, I can always read the Annie's Mailbox column in the paper, because it is riddled with unhappy people who are battling spouses, ex-spouses, and in-laws.

Somebody I know just announced he was getting married -- for the third time. I think that after I touched that hot griddle and burned myself once, it was enough to discourage me from doing it ever again. Another friend spent most of the night last night waiting for her hubby to come home. That's not something I feel shows much self-respect, or respect for a spouse from the absent husband. I was at a small board meeting recently where all of us knew each other pretty well, and suddenly one of my compadres noted aloud how every one of the four of us around the table was divorced. The man and woman there who live together agreed they were never going to marry, because what was the point?

It seems marriage has become more a business for attorneys than a loving institution in this day and age. Living together without being married can actually be more of a sign of love because they are doing it because they want to, rather than because that wedding ring obligates it.

Sure, it would be great to be in love with a soul mate. But I'm sure not going to cry away the days looking for one. Plus hopefully I'm setting a good example for my daughters, showing them that they don't need a husband to complete them ... they just need to grow into the best people they can be first and to worry about becoming a couple second.

If it's meant to be, that's great. If it's not, then that's the way it's meant to be instead. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

TO 'FRIEND' OR NOT TO 'FRIEND' A LOST LOVE

Anybody who uses Facebook has inevitably stumbled -- or stalked -- across a special someone from the past who he or she would like to get in touch with again, but might feel a bit tepid about actually sending that friend request. It's a big step ... especially if you aren't sure that person wants to hear from you again.

I've been there several times, and most recently stalked -- I mean, stumbled -- onto my first love from way back when. There was a moment of indecision as I stared at the "send" button, recalling our breakup and whether or not it was one where we vowed never to speak to each other again. Luckily, I've never had such trauma. Most often we just go our separate ways without all the drama, for better or worse. Maybe it's just because I've never had a truly passionate relationship where the breakup is devastating; I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if I'm missing out on something, but maybe someday it'll happen.

So now I can say I am friends on Facebook with just about every girlfriend I've ever had and it's really not so bad. We "like" each other's photos and make comments on posts when the mood strikes, although there isn't too much reminiscing about the past. Actually, there hasn't been any reminiscing about the past. It was a little odd when one of my lost loves sent my daughter a friend request as well, though, but that's OK too.

Facebook offers the perfect buffer to keep those wounds from reopening -- a cyberspace bandage that maintains distance while allowing all parties to stay in touch. So, if you've ever sat there staring at that friend request button while perusing an old love's homepage, or sent the request and then wished you could get it back, I'm sure you are in good company. Excepting in cases where there is still a restraining order in place, I say to go for it.

The worst the recipient can do is block you from further contact. Or get another restraining order ...