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A little box pops up on my Mac…Fathers Day is tomorrow.  I just stare at it.  Let it sit there for a minute.  There have been 14 Fathers Days that have come and gone since he passed away and each one is different.  The first one was very difficult and I had no idea that Fathers Day was even coming up and then I walked into a Rite Aid and there it was a huge sign, Fathers Day is Sunday June 20, 2004 with a huge display filled with cards and gifts. I stood there staring at it just like the little sign on my computer but with tears in my eyes and a twisting of my gut.  I whispered out loud, but I don’t have a daddy anymore and then remembering that the last time Fathers day was more than just a day to celebrate my dad, it was also the last day I saw my father alive.  Each Fathers Day after that is a remembrance of him and I going out to get lunch at a brewery in Irvine.  As a kid it was the day we made daddy breakfast in bed or gave him silly gifts but as an adult it was the day I took him to get him food and something related to beer.  This time he sat with a large tray of beer samplers.  I don’t drink beer, so they happily were all his.  He sipped and commented on the mix of odd hops from pumpkin beer to super dark brews.  He was happy as we sat and talked.  He had recently taken to letting my mom take the helm and work and him being the stay at home husband.  He would fix things, do laundry, watch a little tv and talk to me sometimes while I was on break from my working for a large corporation from 9 to 6.  I wasn’t immersed in my work, it was okay but I was bored and unchallenged by it.  I did like he money but hard to spend it when working 14 hours a day.   The company was noticing my lack of drive but I didn’t realize it until one day I was asked in a meeting, do you like your job.  I instinctively answered, of course, I love my job.   Knowing somewhere inside the real answer was, no I am not challenged enough and need to express some creativity soon or I will burst.   My boss nodded and said, well okay but I don’t think he was buying it either.  I think my father sensed it also, he would come and visit from time to time, everyone in the office loved him.  He had a huge child like smile and would brag about his youngest and how proud of her he was (that is me, if you didn’t get the reference yet).  I was so glad he was proud of me, I hadn’t always been the best daughter in the world but at least now I felt like I wasn’t letting him down or worrying him about my financial status.  I think parents always worry, even if just a little and a good parent like him, wants to help out even when I was financially taken care of.  When he would come to visit he would fix things, he even changed he handle on my refrigerator door so when I opened it and was standing at the stove, I could just reach in, grab what I needed and put it back.  He wanted to help his little girl and it was so sweet and I loved it but what helped me more than anything was our talks.  Was him opening up about his experiences, his childhood and those rare moments when he would talk about what it was like for him being my father.  Those are the conversations that stick with me, those are the things that on Fathers day I remember.  I only wish I had taken more video of him, recorded his voice more or written down every moment where we connected.  One in particular conversation stands out, the last one we had while sitting in that brewery.  We were both relaxed, and enjoying our food and I asked him what  being at home was like for him. He said he was enjoying it and then he told me the words that stuck with me, “I spent way to much time chasing money instead of my dreams”.  I knew in this was some regret, I knew he had wanted to do more sailing in his life, had wanted to teach but he seemed to be in a place of more calm than he had been in.  He seemed less stressed out.  I knew he was right and that life isn’t all about money but it is about memories and doing things that make us happy.  I also knew he was a good father and he worked jobs he may not always have loved because he wanted his wife and children to be taken care of and he was wiling to sacrifice some of his dreams to provide that for us. I had a great respect for him now and I saw him as wanting to be happy and at peace in his older years.  His children were grown and he didn’t have the same pressure.

Shortly before his death a month later, in a one on one meeting with my boss, I was asked the question again, do you like your job and I blurted out No I don’t.  He paused and looked at me and said, we knew this and were trying to figure out what to do.  It was discussed and we both agreed that I didn’t fit in at this job.  He said to me that I was like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole and it just didn’t work.  We decided I would stay for another month, giving me time to train someone new and look for another job.  Then my dad passed away and they graciously let me stay for another 2 months while I worked through emotions and looked for work.

Now 14 years later I have discovered so much about myself, that I love being creative, that I cherish times over things (though sometimes I do miss being able to just randomly buy a nice purse or a pretty new dress), that I can survive more than I thought I could and that I am happiest when being creative.  I think my dad would like my artwork, I think he would still say he is proud of his little girl.    I am not sure where my path with my artwork is leading me, but it is what makes me happy and I know he would want me to be happy.

I walk into a Rite Aid now and see all the Fathers day signs, cards and gifts and I smile at his memory, I know I still have a daddy, he may physically be gone but his heart, words and love are always with me.  Thank you daddy for all you gave me and still give me.

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I am not pro-war and when asked by people who are, well how can we stop it, if we don’t we will be attacked by terrorist. The answer is in getting to the root of the problem, the way the mind thinks. The article below is about an unbelievable organization called Seeds of Peace, working towards change. I contacted the magazine this came from (it is taken from Science of Mind Magazine, October 2007 edition), to find out if I could get an electronic copy sent to me and they said the don’t do that, so I am copying it word for word.
The Seeds of Peace Take Root

We are warriors of hope,
We are masters of understanding,
We are pioneers of respect,We are soldiers of trust,
We are leaders of tommorrow,
We are Seeds of Peace.

It all began with a small summer camp. Fourteen years ago, in the woods of western Maine, the seeds of hope were planted. It was here that forty-six young Israeli and Arab teens were offered an unprecedented opportunity to break the cycle of violence and work together to bring peace to a world of war and conflict. Motivated by the bombing of the World Trade Center earlier that year, John Wallach, a seasoned journalist with two decades of experinece in the Middle East, enlisted the support of Israel, Egypt, and Palestine in bringing young people from all three countries together, on neutral soil, in the United States. Putting a human face on the enemy, he believed, he could pave the way to compassion, trust and understanding.

In August of 1993, The Seeds of Peace Camp for Conflict Resolution welcomed its first campers. Just a few weeks later, on September 14, at the invitation of President Clinton, these young people from opposing “sides” stood together as wintesses to the signing of the Oslo Declaration of Principles. Fourteen years and thirty-four hundred campers later, Seeds of Peace stands as an inspiring example of the power of vision and the transformation of hate into hope.

The “Seeds” have taken root and now each summer, some four hundred-fifty campers from the most war-torn areas in the world gather in rural Maine to attempt to do what governments can’t: create peace and understanding one person at a time. They come as representatives of their individual countries, prepared to debate, defend and discuss their position with those they have come to view as the enemy. The delegations that arrive in camp are comprised of the brightest and best their respective countries have to offer. Hand picked by their governments through a highly competitive application process, these youthful delegates are accomplished and motivated.

The Maine program, which is the cornerstone upon which all Seeds programs are built, affords campers the opportunity to create a new model of community and coexistence.

In many ways this camp experience is strikingly ordinary–days are filled with swimmng, sports, arts, crafts, music, drama and a variety of group activities.

But in very significant ways, is also anything but ordinary. This camp isn’t just about basketball and boating. There’s plenty of that, of course, but there’s also a great deal of work to be done.

Founder Wallach once described the experience as a “detox” program where participants have the opportunity to get rid of hatred before it has the chance to poison their minds and trap them in another cycle of self-destructive conflict. Professionally facilitated, intense daily dialogues allow campers to share their fears, frustrations and hopes for the future. Historical biases are aired, individual perspectives are examined and current conflicts are discussed. They hear each other’s personal stories and learn that they share common experiences.

Group challenges, both physical and psychological, unite participants through cooperation and shared success.

Even the simplest activities such as living and dining with each other provide opportunities for bonding and sharing that campers could not experience in any other setting. Intentionally grouped by conflict areas, the teens bunk together with others from their region: for example Israeli youth share accomodations with Palestinian and Arab youth.

Bobbie Gottschalk, cofounder of Seeds of Peace, explains, “When we bring these teens to the United States to be in a camp setting with people from the other side, they start putting a face on those people; they’re looking them in the eye and relating to them. Normally, you would only be in that kind of setting if you were friends or relatives–you would not sleep right next to your enemy, nor would you ever sit and eat at the table with them or play games on the field–those are the things you do with your family or your friends.”

Although some of these young people from the Middle East may live only a mile away from each other, she explains, they would never have contact; their differing political and religious views would make interaction impossible. They would remain physically seperated by stereotypes about each other–judgements handed down from generation to generation based on perceived histories of the war.

She continues, “There’s a comfort level that people find even in the most stressful war situations. There’s a comfort level with just being with your ‘own kind’ and being against ‘the other kind.’ You don’t have to think very much–it’s ingrained.” Drawing campers out of that comfortable position is the goal of these sessions.

After watching campers over the years, there is no doubt in Gottschalk’s mind that these teens leave camp profoundly changed. And the impetus for that change comes not only from camp programs, but also from fellow campers whose stories of courage and determination serve as powerful inspiration for their peers.

Gottshalk’s cites, as an example, the emotional journey of one of young Seeds graduate, a Palestinian youth from the Gaza Strip. In 2000, when the second Intifada broke out, she explains the Israeli army took over the house Yusuf was living in. His father refused to allow the army to destroy the family home and insisted that they be allowed to stay. The soldiers moved in, occupying the top floors of the home while the family of seven was relegated to living in one room on the main floor. Family members are required to get permission to use the kitchen and the bathroom and were always accompanied by a soldier. In February of 2004, United Nations representatives were granted clearance to meet with the family. After a short visit, Yusuf and his father walked the workers to the front gate. As they were saying their good-byes, a soldier from the upper floor shot the fifteen year old Yusuf in the back. Paralyzed, and with a bullet lodged in his spine, Yusuf was transported to a hospital in Israel. There he received the medical attention he needed to enable him to walk again. However, they were unable to remove the bullet and he lives each day in constant pain. And yet, she says when people ask him how he feels about Israelis, Yusuf explains that only one Israeli shot him and dozens of Israelis helped him regain his life.

In the summer of 2005, Yusuf was invited to the Seeds of Peace Camp where he interacted daily with both Palestinian and Israeli youth. Upon his return to Gaza, he gifted one of the soldiers still living in his home with a green Seeds of Peace T-shirt. “It’s a powerful story,” says Gottschalk, “but all the stories are like that.”

The campers, she says are bright, talented, and motivated. And, upon graduation, they reintegrate into their own societies with a new perspective. Some return to their countries knowing that military duty awaits them; the reality of war cannot be ignored. Providing continuing support for Seeds graduates after returning home is an integral part of the Seeds of Peace Program. Follow up programs are in place in all the conflict areas, represented by the campers. In the Middle East, for example, two hundred Israeli and Palestinian Seeds participate in an Advanced Coexistence program which offers them an opportunity to meet on a weekly basis at different locations in Israel–on both sides of Jerusalem as well as the West Bank.

The Seeds program has reached beyond the Middle East into dozens of conflict areas all over the world, including India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cypress and the Balkans among others. Workshops, conferences and bi-communal projects are among the many ways graduates are able to stay connected with the Seeds community and build on the camp experience. “We don’t just have a camp, Gottschalk points out, “we have year-round on -the ground services to anybody who’s ever been to Seeds of Peace.”

The organization’s current direction, however, may be one of returning to its roots. As a stand-alone organization that relies primarily on private funding, becoming overextended can become an issue, she says.”

We got into the whirlpool of trying to do more and more each year,” Gottschalk explains. “Part of growing up as an organization is recognizing where your strengths are and where you should be putting your effort.”

Although Seeds will continue to support their other programs, the focus will be shifting back to the Middle East and South Asia. There is still so much work to do there she says.

The influence of Seeds of Peace on the youth of war-torn areas has not gone unnoticed. The group received a Congressional Letter of Support in 2005 which read in part, “We are at a moment in time where we have an opportunity to move towards peace in the Middle East, and we must move forward expeditiously…We are strong supporters of Seeds of Peace because we believe that peace will ultimately depend upon breaking down barriers and mistrust among people from these regions of conflict. Governments negotiate agreements; only people can define the quality of peace.”

The Seeds of Peace vision of “empowering leaders of the next generation,” continues to unfold. Gottschalks’s desire for the program, in terms of outcome, she says, is “to have a number of Seeds in positions of influence in their society…I am hoping that the next generation of leaders will have enough people trained in Seeds of Peace to turn things more in the direction of wanting to understand the other side wanting to live in a cooperative relationship with neighboring countries.”

Even though the oldest of Seeds graduates is now only in his or her twenties, they have already begun to have an impact. Gottschalk tries to keep track of program’s graduates after they return home. Although most of them are still very young, she is encouraged: “I would say that a number have gone on to beginning-level jobs working in their embassies or working for the United Nations or the World Bank or other global organizations. I know one Israeli who is finishing law school and will soon be clearing for a Supreme Court Justice.”

She also speaks glowingly of a yong Israeli woman, now in her mid-twenties, who began as a Seed in 1995. Her years following th camp experience included work with a number of human rights organizations, two years at United World Colleges in India, a stint in the army patrolling the Lebanese border and, ultimately, obtaining a master’s degree from Georgetown University. “She is now working for a worldwide public relations firm,” Gottschalk relates.

American Seeds graduates have also begun to emerge as powerful voices for the next generation of peacemakers. Jennifer Miller brings the Seeds story to readers all over the world through her book, Inheriting the Holy Land. Miller’s work chronicles her six month stay in the Middle East as she follows up with her former Israeli and Palestinian Seeds now back in their homelands. The book, which won the 2005 Moment Magazine Book Award for Young Writers, has garnered praise from Madeline Albright and the Washington Post, among others.

Gottschalk believes we have only just begun to see the impact of Seeds graduates on the world landscape. With time, she says, these young people will emerge as the leaders of the next generation–leaders motivated to work for peace. In the meantime, Seeds of Peace continues its work of bringing nations together one camper at a time.

To learn more about Seeds of Peace visit www.seedsofpeace.org

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