What Can I Do About the War in Ukraine?

Art work by Peter H. Reynolds, You can purchase a print proceeds go to UNICEF:

Like you, I have been worried about the war now raging in Ukraine. I am worried about what I can do to help. I have also wrestled with the fatigue that has settled in. I find when I give an important issue much of my mental and emotional energy I am increasingly anxious to either act or ignore. When I see the human tragedy unfold and feel helpless to change it I am tempted to move on. That is normal. It is difficult or even impossible to live our lives completely immersed in the things we have little control over. I do think there is a way, however, to stay engaged, informed and work for change while at the same time giving attention to the other demands of our lives. 

I have been motivated to find this balance by the words of my friend Danielle Chelom Leavitt-Quist. Danielle lived much of her life in Ukraine and it is the focus of her PhD work at Harvard.  

“Just as Ukrainians are preparing themselves for a long, protracted, increasingly cruel war, we MUST prepare ourselves to continue caring. It is so easy to care for five days, to repost sensational stuff when everyone else on our feeds is doing so. What about five months? A year? For Ukrainians this is so ludicrously far from being a fleeting social media cause. It should be for us, too..

If we intend to be allies to the millions of Ukrainians who are suffering unspeakable, unthinkable terror at the hands of the Russian state, we must do the work of keeping this relevant and urgent in our minds and in the minds of those around us. The world order is fundamentally changing as you read this. We must be on the right side of it.

We can do this. We can care! We can alter the way we live and think to support these efforts in the long haul! We can love people we don’t know!” (Danielle Chelom Leavitt-Quist Facebook post 2/28/2022 Shared with permission) 

I truly believe the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the greatest assault on democracy in more than 80 years. So, how do we stay committed to this cause while still living our lives? Here are a few suggestions I am trying to implement in my own life. 

Give this issue some space, just not all the space: I know it is not healthy to let any one thing consume my mind. I also know I can carve out time each day to focus my mental, emotional and spiritual efforts in this direction.   

Stay informed: I can invest my time in reliable sources. Here are two great resources for staying informed. The New York Times has a great free daily newsletter it comes to your inbox nightly recapping what”s happening today. If you are on Instagram @Sharonsaysso does a great job of answering questions and bringing clarity to complex issues. 

Give consistently: Donor fatigue is real. I can choose one or two great organizations and donate a regular amount instead of a one time contribution. Here is a list of a some really good organizations. 

Pray daily: I have learned for myself prayer is less about changing God’s will and more about focusing my mind and thoughts toward higher ideals and insights. When I pray I feel the courage and clarity of what actions to take. It helps focus my mind and motivate my actions. If you are not a person of faith, I have found meditation offers many of the same benefits. Praying daily for Ukraine has helped me find the balance in life and find the time and energy I have to give to this issue. Prayer has also given me direction on how to act.

I loved this insight on prayers for Ukraine from my friend Greer Bates Cordner. Greer was a missionary in Ukraine and is a divinity PhD candidate at Boston University. 

We must pray for peace in Ukraine, but we must pray for the kind of peace that accompanies justice and virtue and truth—even if that takes time and, perhaps, some fighting to secure. Let us pray that the armed conflict ceases without the destruction of Ukraine’s sovereignty…Let us pray that in the aftermath of this war, Russia, Ukraine, and the rest of our nations take hard stock of our governments, and begin (or continue) the process of rooting out corruption, self-interest, and greed…Let us pray for the stomachs to fight for hard peace instead of the absence of conflict. Oh God, give Ukraine a real, hard, just peace. And give her the courage to fight for it. Let it be in Ukraine according to the words of Thy Son: ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; *not as the world giveth,* give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’ (Greer Bates Cordner Facebook post 2/26/2022 Shared with permission) 

I have been heartsick by the suffering and inspired by the courage of the Ukrainian people. I am confident our efforts matter. We can make a difference one day at a time.   

I Was A Stranger…


Resisting comprehensive immigration reform goes against our Judeo-Christian values, American ideals, and common sense. The United States’ current immigration laws are outdated, cumbersome,inadequate,unjust and in desperate need of reform.

A moral principle 

Leviticus 19: 33-34 And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. 

God’s people have often been “strangers in a strange land”, Jesus himself was a refugee. Every nation has the right to protect their borders, to welcome strangers in on their own terms, but those terms should be framed by our basic beliefs of right and wrong, compassion and human dignity. 

Matthew 25:35: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.

Luke 12:48 For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: 

I truly believe the United States has been blessed in unparalleled ways: economically, politically and intellectually; in many ways it truly has become what John Winthrop envisioned speaking of a “a city on a hill” Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and Bush all have used this metaphor. Surely, if we are to be a beacon of hope to the world, we must have an immigration system that meets the demands of the 21st century, coupled with the compassion of the ages. 

Our American ideals

The United States is not a place, it’s an idea—if not so, we would have never grown past our 13 colonies. The audacious, and to many, blasphemous belief that citizens could govern themselves was revolutionary to say the least. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I am not so naive that I don’t know and appreciate that those words where constrained by the bigotries of the 18th century. I also am not so cynical as to not be moved by them, to see their potential and the inspiration they have been to the world. How perfect was France’s centennial gift: “Liberty Enlightening the World.” How fitting the poem that accompanies her:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

We have always, always been a nation of refugees, pilgrims and opportunists seeking a better life. To resist that is to turn our back on our history and our future. 

Common sense

We resist immigrants at our own peril. They have always played a crucial role in our labor force, our infrastructure, growth and productivity. We damage our own economic growth by not fixing our broken immigration system. Opposition to immigration is as old as the republic: Franklin was worried about too many Germans, Adams and the Alien and Sedition Act, the Chinese Exclusionary Act, hostility and violence to Irish and Italian immigration, etc., etc., etc. It always makes the same false claims of safety, jobs, language acquisition, cultural fears, religious worries, the drain on resources and infrastructure–all not new claims, all not true, (see below), yet here we go again. We can and should fix our broken system. We should no longer stand at the border with both a ‘Help Wanted’ and ‘No Trespassing’ sign. We can and should offer a path to citizenship now for those who have over stayed their legal entry and for those who entered illegally. They should be fined, just like we do for those who speed or pay their taxes late, or don’t have proper permits for business, etc. Those who are a threat to society should be removed. No serious person thinks we can or should forcibly remove twelve million individuals. No fair-minded compassionate person would want to. We can do the right thing just as President Reagan and Democrats did thirty years ago: It will require us to revisit our past, be honest with our present, and look to the future. 

Immigration myths debunked

Of Resolutions and Regrets #Kindess2018

I believe in goals and resolutions. This year my resolution is simple. I want to be kinder. Volumes have been written about the need and practice, I doubt I can add much to the idea. I know I like me better when I am kinder. I know I like how I think and interact with the world when I chose to be kind. My outlook expands and my optimism grows when I try a little harder to be a little kinder. I love this thought from Mormon Church leader Thomas S. Monson

I have wept in the night

For the shortness of sight

That to somebody’s need made me blind;

But I never have yet

Felt a tinge of regret

For being a little too kind.

I don’t want to live with regret, I want to live with purpose.

My family was en route to a fourth of July reading of the Declaration of Independence in Boston when I noticed a woman’s “Make America Kind Again” button. I commented on how much I liked it and she gave me her last one. I love it! I keep it on my bag to remind me and everyone who sees it that we can be kind. I get comments on it all the time. I am convinced the vast majority of humanity are good and want basically the same thing: to live in a world where we look out for each other.

I was revisiting some of my social media posts from last year and found this Instagram post from the summer:

Recently I saw a business man stop what he was doing and help a homeless man get breakfast, watched a hurried commuter stop and give directions to an immigrant not familiar with the train, saw a young black man help an older white woman cross a busy street, watched as a stranger helped a blind man get on the bus and made sure the bus driver knew the man’s stop. People are good. The world is not so scary. I need to stop thinking about myself so much and start helping others more. #selfpeptalk #lifeisgood #peoplearegood

I am sure if I stop to notice, I’ll see much more of that around me all the time.

What if I just tried each day to be a little kinder? Pay attention to those around me a bit more? Serve more? What if we all did? What impact would it have on us and those around us? I don’t know exactly but I’m excited to try it! #kindness2018

Thanks eclipse 2017 we needed you! 

Wonderful to see my friends and associates coast to coast taking time to look to the heavens, if only for a few moments, forgetting their earthy troubles. Our lives were eclipsed by a celestial show powerful enough to help us take a break from our terrestrial worries. I completely missed any part of viewing the eclipse. I was in an office with my eyes dilated. Yet I was able to spend the day on social media watching the nation watch the sun and moon. One friend who lived In the direct path described it like a bonus Christmas with friends and family coming together to celebrate the solar star party. Other fiends wrote poetry, shared photos of family and friends (all those pictures of the glasses!). The best part of the day for our family was that our daughter got engaged! It was magical to see so many happy posts. I can’t imagine a time when we needed it more. The Washington post had a great piece about that yesterday.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s essential we spend time focusing on the troubles around us. I don’t think we should talk less about current events, world news, or the the politics of the day. I just think we should talk differently about them. We should try to find common ground with each other, rather than always assuming we have the higher ground. Yesterday was magical because we all looked up, looked up to something that transcends our daily chaos. We all live together here on this pale blue dot. Maybe yesterday’s celestial show can remind us how to live together.

This is going to require more than orange juice.

img_2733The other day I was walking into the convenience store next to my apartment building. There was a man sitting on the bench outside shaking. He looked at me and asked if I would buy him an orange juice. I get approached by panhandlers multiple times every day. I typically look away or say, “I’m sorry I don’t have any cash.” Sometimes I do have a dollar so I will give, more often than not, I do not give. His question to me that morning was both casual and earnest. He asked as if I was his longtime friend with an ease that implied of course I would be willing to help a brother out, like I might ask an old friend after golfing to spot me the two bucks for a Gatorade. Yet there was an earnestness about it too, a kind of humble pleading, made more sympathetic by his uncontrollable shaking. It touched me then, as does reflecting on it now. There was no way I was not going to buy him an orange juice. I’m embarrassed to say that’s all I did for him. I gave him the orange juice and said, “Have a great day.” I don’t think he has had many great days. I’m not certain what more I could have or should have done, but in the week since it happened, it has caused me to reflect.

I believe it is incumbent upon all of us, regardless of faith or political affiliation, to work together to help the poor. Taking care of the poor is our spiritual and civic duty. All of the major world religions teach the need to care for the poor and most non-religious people keep it as a moral creed. We are our brother’s keeper. No doubt part of the solution will be our continued commitment to capitalism and free markets, these have been the greatest emancipators of the poor in the history of mankind. They have and do liberate the world’s poor in ways never imagined. However, left unchecked by democratic reforms, capitalism and free markets become oppressive overlords that “grind the face of the poor” Isaiah 3:15, and “devour the widow and orphan,” Malachi 3:15. No one wants to return to the days of kids in coal mines or the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

Our wealth inequality here and abroad should be a cause of concern and alarm. Here in the United States, the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, there is not one state where minimum wage is enough to rent a two bedroom apartment!

How we care for the poor is complex. It will require families, communities and churches to work in concert. It will, and should be, a matter of constant dialogue and debate. If this proverb is true, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it takes care of the least among them,” and I believe it is, we will all need to do more than blame the poor, ignore them, or hand out an orange juice to appease our guilt.