Posted by: kulanjiyil | November 23, 2011

CELEBTRATING THANKS GIVING WITH FAMILY

The last Thursday of November is observed in the United States as a day of Thanksgiving. On October 03, 1863, in his presidential proclamation, Abraham Lincoln made the following assertion:
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.
For most people in this country, Thanksgiving is a family event. On this day, families from different parts of the country get together. How Thanksgiving is celebrated varies from families to families, but common to all is that it is an exclusive family affair. Family members plan for this day in advance, and they come to catch up with each other, to share stories and experiences with one another, and to share a common meal. Traditional thanksgiving dinner consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, olives, and cranberries, baked pumpkin and apple pie. Thanksgiving dinner is often a reminder of the first Thanksgiving the Pilgrims shared with Wampanoag Indians as an autumn harvest feast in 1621. Thanksgiving is a memento of the divine care, protection, and the bounty of rich harvest the pilgrims enjoyed in their newly adopted country. It’s a time of expressing gratitude to God, together with the family.
As an immigrant family, do you have a family tradition of Thanksgiving? Remember the day you first arrived in the United States and what it was for you to transition to the new social, cultural environment! Many of you have great stories to tell; stories of struggles and difficulties, and then stories of success, achievements, and prosperity. Are you grateful for the divine help you received all through the way? Are you thankful to those who extended helping hands at times of need? Do you want to share some of your experiences and memories with your family, and create a thanksgiving tradition of your own? Do you want to encourage and inspire your family with an attitude of thankfulness?
I trust that families will seize this opportunity to connect with as many family members as possible. Let this season of Thanksgiving be truly a time of joyous family celebration for all of my readers. Happy Thanksgiving!

Posted by: kulanjiyil | November 4, 2011

A QUESTIONABLE LIFE STYLE

Having late night dinners, movies, parties, and social gatherings have become trendy for many Indian youth living in North America today. Friends hang out late into irregular hours of night, some even into late mornings. Fun activities such as bowling have become ordinary things to do when friends come together. Like most Americans, now the Indian youth look forward to the weekend, and when it is finally arrived, they say, “Thank God it is Friday (TGIF)!” It is time for  the weekend fun!

In a fast phased culture like America, undeniably there is a need for us to relive our stress, to relax and to restore our mental and physical energy to function healthily. For this reason it is reasonable if young people want to have some enjoyable time and socialization opportunities. However, what is problematic is their choice of time, the late night hours.

Throughout human history night is perceived as different from day. After a day’s work people return home for rest and sleep. Night is more dangerous and unsafe than day. Evidently, modern industrialization has tremendously changed much of our times of yore, with people having to work late night hours with different shift schedules. With urbanization matters have further changed, introducing a culture of “Nightlife,” where opportunities and choices for socialization, entertainment, and dining are plenty made available. There are cities around the world that are vibrant at night as day is. Night clubs, musical symphonies, and other such amusement programs attract people, and Indian youth are not invincible to these enticements.

An increase in violent crimes, linked to Nightlife, is reported throughout America.  The current US recession escalates these violent crimes. Muggings, rape, robbery and drug related crimes are in raise everyday.  Several incidences have been reported where South Asians have become easy targets of some of these crimes. Late night road accidents and fatalities owing to drunk diving are also being reported. Tragedies have struck families in ways no human words could console their sense of loss.

People who choose Nightlife lifestyle often think that they are in control of their lives, and that no danger will lurk them. They live their life on the presumption that they are like any other ordinary American. What they don’t understand is that a lot of times Asians become easy targets of robberies and hate crimes, especially after 9/11. Asians are generally perceived to be rich and they can become targets of muggings. Most Asian youth are defenseless and helpless to fight against their assailants. When Indian youth present themselves at strange places at odd times, they are taking a risk and putting their lives at harm’s way. This risk is not worth taking.

It is a good and safe practice to come home early and to stay away from activities that go into late nights.  But when such occasions present themselves you have a choice to make. There are plenty of things you can do during the day or early evenings. Let late night engagements be an exception rather than a lifestyle. When being out at unfamiliar places and situations, be watchful at all times. When you go out tell your family where you are going and when you are expected to be back home. In these ways you would not only protect yourselves but also help avoid unnecessary worries for your loved ones waiting home, be it is your spouse or your parents.

Posted by: kulanjiyil | November 4, 2011

Attitude is Everthing

An attitude is a frame of mind that expresses a person’s thoughts, feelings, and evaluation about a person, place, thing, situation or an event, and as such it is the powerful motivator in all human behaviors. Attitude can be negative or positive, and it is always directed to an object. Some attitudes are fleeting and circumstantial, but some are stable and representative of a person’s personality traits.

The famous German philosopher Dietrich Bonheoffer once said, “The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy.” Studies reveal that people that are optimistic tend to adapt better to their environment, respond well to psychological stressors, and recuperate faster and better after an illness or surgical procedure. They have the advantage of optimal immune response to treatments such as cancer. Optimistic persons are seldom quitters, and that boosts their coping mechanism and survival ability. A positive attitude in life is linked to improved quality of life, enhanced work performance, and a greater sense of life satisfaction.
Negative attitude, on the other hand, is characterized by a general pessimistic orientation to life, self-defeating thought patterns, and lack of self-confidence. People with negative attitude tend to worry about their circumstances and blame others for their problems, and their negativism stands as an obstacle to living life fully. They inadequately handle life stressors, and have limited adaptive skills. Pessimism breeds cynicism and despair.

The personal resolve and hope of the optimistic persons draw people to themselves and for that reason they appear to have stronger and efficient support system in comparison those that are pessimistic. The negativity of the pessimistic persons repels people from them.

What is important to realize is that our attitudes, to a large extent, is shaped by our environment. Our cognitive, emotional, social and personality developments are impacted by the kind of nurture we receive early in life, and then after the kind of people that influence us. This is an important lesson for parenting. Children cultivate positive attitudes if parents demonstrate that for them, and children take on negative attitude if they are raised in an environment of negativity and critical spirit. There is much truth in the proverbial saying, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”

The kind of attitude we foster in ourselves and in others make a huge difference for our lives, and for the lives of others. By developing an optimistic way of thinking and acting, by learning to appreciate the good in others, and by educating ourselves to reappraise our circumstances differently, we can revolutionalize our way of thinking, feeling, and evaluating people and our life situations.

Posted by: kulanjiyil | February 11, 2011

ROMANCE & MARRIAGE

Valentine’s Day is celebrated around the world on February 14th with couples exchanging flowers and gifts as expressions of love and affection to each other. Romance is often associated with Valentine’s Day celebration. The word, “romance” is popularly defined as “a relationship between two lovers,” and based on this definition, romance could be between any “lovers” whether it is between two unmarried persons, between an unmarried and married person, or between a couple within the bond of marriage. When romance is placed within the boundary of marriage, it can be understood as the vigor of emotional tie that exists between a husband and wife which expresses itself in words and deeds.

In some people’s mind romance has to with the honeymoon and the initial feelings following a wedding. When romantic sentiments gradually fade way, such marriages suffer from emotional emptiness and dryness. The association some people make between romance and physical beauty keep them way from enjoying a fulfilling marriage. As physical beauty diminishes in the processes of aging, couples find their partners to be les and less attractive. With passing of time, they experience emotional distancing from one another. As isolation and loneliness increase, marriage comes to a deadlock.

Our popular culture wants us tolerate pre-marital affairs and extra-marital affairs. Promiscuity has become a way of life. It is argued that “two consenting adults have the right to romantically get involved.” The problem with popular culture is that it places the cart before the oxen. People first get psychologically and sexually involved with someone they think they love, and then think about the consequences. The emotional scar that results from such promiscuous life style is dreadful.

In order to sustain passionate union between couples, their love must be exclusive and their loyalty total. They must not allow anything to come in between them to thwart their shared trust and fidelity. It is in such a climate that couples can grow in warmth and fondness for each other.

There are many different ways for couples to show affection. Sexual intimacy is part of it, but romance does not always imply sexual relationship. Exchanging gifts between spouses on special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries, having a special meal under a candle light, eating out at a restaurant, spending a day together without distractions from family or work, and taking a vacation together, all can be romantic. Because people differ in character traits, living styles, and personal preferences, there are no prescribed ways to build love and romance in a marriage. It is for the couples to discern how to share their love with each other and how to make one’s spouse happy and special.

Posted by: kulanjiyil | December 11, 2010

The True Meaning of Christmas

The Christmas season is here again, and the retelling of the Christmas story brings hope and joy to every heart. The baby born to Joseph and Mary, in a manger in Bethlehem, was not an ordinary child; indeed he was God incarnate. He was given the name Jesus, for the reason that he was to be the savior of the world (Mathew 1:21). The angel of the Lord announced to the shepherds living out in fields: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good tidings of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord” Luke 2: 10-11). The host of angles that appeared also proclaimed: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom God’s favor rests” (Luke 2:14). On the Christmas morning the long expected Messiah had arrived, inaugurating an era of divine favor of peace and goodwill to all. This message is at the heart of Christmas.

The life Jesus lived on earth demonstrated the glory and the magnificence of God. All those who had known him and experienced him testified: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1: 14). Jesus was not a human that attained divinity, but God who assumed humanity to rescue us from the enslavement of sin. The author of Hebrews writes, “Because God’s children are human beings-made of flesh and blood-Jesus also became flesh and blood by being born in human form. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of devil, who had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14) It is to this kind of personal knowledge of the person of Jesus that we are called to enter this Christmas season.

Our redemption was the ultimate purpose of divine incarnation. We read in John’s gospel “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16.). By laying down his life for us on the cross as a penalty for our sins, Jesus purchased our redemption. The true meaning of Christmas is understood only when the cross of Christ is acknowledged and its benefit appropriated.

What ought to be our attitude to Christ at this Christmas?  The wise men and the shepherds who visited the new born Jesus are quite instructive for us. The wise men bowed down and worshiped Jesus, and likewise we are called to approach this Christmas with worshipful hearts. The shepherds spread the word about Jesus, and we are to spread the good news of Jesus all around.

Wishing you and your family a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Posted by: kulanjiyil | January 23, 2010

Starting Well

How important is a good start? A good start is decisive in finishing well. Take for example, professional sports like a running race. In a competitive event, the slightest delay in starting the race would put the contender in great disadvantage. Unless the person is well trained and resilient to beat the odds, the chances of winning the race are very remote. Dedication to rigorous training, physical, emotional and mental endurance, perseverance, patience, clearly defined goals and focus, are some of the essential qualities of a skilled runner.

A new year has dawned on us-the year 2010.  How important is it to you that you start the year well?  What are the indicators that you have started well?  Well, the answer depends on what values steer your life, and what goals you set for yourself this year. Material success is often the driving force for many. The distressing cost of such lives are often broken relationships, breaking marriages, ever-increasing stress, and dwindling emotional and physical health.

I would propose a key indicator to help you determine if you have started the year well. Have you made your family the first priority this year?  Above all other ambitions and goals that drive your life, the wellbeing of your family ought to be your first concern. Within the family you have two distinct roles, one as a spouse, and the other as a parent. These are two different systems, but they are interrelated. The strength of a family is only as good as these two systems are.  As a couple, your primary loyalty is to your spouse, and your commitment or lack of it to build up your spousal system is a test of your devotion to the family. Identify at least one area in your marriage, where you want to see some enhancement. Be willing to do your part and encourage your spouse to do his or her part. You know that good and healthy marriages do not happen as you would expect, but you have to work towards it. It takes both of you to work as a team to get things accomplished. Strengthening your marital system can prepare you to become better and competent parents. As a parent, your first obligation is to your children. Your children may be at a critical stage in their development and this may be the most effective phase that you can positively impact them on. Devote your time for them. Learn to communicate with them more effectively. Be a sympathetic and compassionate parent. Your children will appreciate this more than any other things you plan to provide them with this year. Take heed that the lost opportunities would never come back. The scriptures instruct us, “redeem the time.”  A healthy family environment, with both the spousal and parental systems functioning efficiently, creates the right condition for personal growth and personal fulfillment.

The secret of finishing well is not having good intentions, but acting upon them. After establishing some achievable goals for the year, you must begin pursuing them insistently. Procrastination is an obstacle to overcome. Dwelling on the past mistakes and failures can only discourage and cripple you. Apostle Paul has a word of encouragement: stop thinking about what is behind, and look forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3: 13), and you will finish the year well.

Posted by: kulanjiyil | July 8, 2009

Woman Marries Her Dog

Emily Mabou, 29, reportedly married her dog in Ghana. In her statement she reported, “For so long I’ve been praying for a life with a partner who has all the qualities of my dad. My dad was kind, faithful and loyal to my mum, and he never let her down.” She further added that her relationships have all been with “skirt-chasers and cheaters.” The officiating priest exhorted the guests, “rejoice with her, as she has found happiness at last.” As per her plans for babies, Mabou reported she would consider adoption.
A similar story was reported sometime ago from India, where a man married a street dog to atone for stoning two other dogs to death some fifteen years ago. Selvakumar, 33, told the Hindustan Times newspaper that he had been suffering since the incident.
See what we have done with the institution of marriage!!!  Where is it’s dignity? What are we to expect next?

Posted by: kulanjiyil | July 4, 2009

In times of loss and grief

 

I just returned to States from India, attending the funeral ceremonies of my mother, who suddenly passed away after a brief period of illness. The two consecutive trips in four weeks to India got me exhausted physically, emotionally and financially.  As I continue to grieve the loss of my mother, I am consoled and encouraged by the following:

  1. My personal faith in Christ is a concrete source of comfort and strength during these days of loss and grief. Christ assures me that death is not the end of life, but rather the beginning of a new phase of life with God. At death, all believers go into the presence of Christ. Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 5:6-9 that “to be absent from the body is to be present with Christ.” Further, the Christian faith promises us a reunion with our loved ones at the time of resurrection. St. Paul explains this beautifully when he writes, “We believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him…and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will raise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with him in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever,” (1Th. 4: 14ff). 
  2. I have wonderful memories of my mother to cherish. She lived a purposeful, meaningful, and complete life. She devoted her life in the service of others. Her acts of kindness and charity were praiseworthy. She left for us a wonderful spiritual legacy. 
  3. The emotional support and encouragement that I continue to receive from extended family, friends and community, is amazing. Their words of comfort have a healing effect, and they are more meaningful and valuable than anything else. I get to experience the constructive side of the community-oriented, interdependent Indian culture.
  4. I also have the satisfaction that I and my family had the opportunity and privilege to take care of my mother while she was ill.  My children, who are raised in this country, got to see and experience for themselves what it means to fulfill filial duties in the Indian cultural tradition.  They understand that, in times of crisis, our physical presence is more valuable to our family members, than our American dollar.

As I continue to reflect on this personal experience, I realize that all immigrant families are to deal with this kind of situations as long as they have their parents, siblings and other close relatives living in India or elsewhere. Living thousands of miles away from one’s kin and kiths is painful, and this is especially hard for those who have aging and ailing parents living there.  By way of practical advice, I would suggest the following for all immigrants:

  1. Have a current passport and a visa to your home country
  2. Have an extra budget or bank account for emergency travel
  3. In the event of critical illness of a family member, make use of family leave from your employer to travel to your home country.
  4. In the event of the death of a family member, take advantage of the bereavement leave from your employer
  5. Be able to explain to your employer/supervisor the cultural norms of grief and bereavement, and the reason why you may need an extended leave beyond what is normally given for bereavement. 
  6. When possible, have your family accompany you, especially your children, so that your children can preserve family ties with their extended family. This should form part of our family value.
Posted by: kulanjiyil | March 21, 2009

FROM CEO TO PIZZA MAN

The recent story of a Florida resident, Ken Karpman, a CEO-turned pizza deliverer, caught my attention. He is said to have gone from making $750,000 a year to $7.29 an hour. He now has to depend on food stamps as an additional source of support. His house is now being foreclosed. What a change in life style!! What a trying time it is!!

Ken’s story is only one among numerous other stories that reveal the hardships Americans face today. Millions are laid off from work, and the national unemployment rate is quite alarming. In one estimate the national average of foreclosed homes is expected to reach 3 million by the end of this year. Though there is no immediate quick-fix to our economic problems, let us hope and pray that a stable and stainable economic recovery is not too far from us.

Ken’s story inspires me because he demonstrates the right attitude we must all have these days. His example of humility and sense of responsibility towards his family in this economically harsh environment is something to be commended. In these days we might need to give up our ego and social status to consider jobs that are otherwise deemed too low or undignified. Honest, hardworking, and creative ways of generating some income to meet the end, is always rewarding and satisfying. I know this is not easy to do, but our current social reality demands it. Ken, you have my appreciation. I hope you will have better propspects soon.

Posted by: kulanjiyil | November 7, 2008

A New Day in American History

In his famous speech, “I have a Dream,” delivered on 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke these words:

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

With Barak Obama, an African American, winning the U. S. Presidency in the recent historic presidential election, one cannot stop wondering if Martin Luther King’s dream for America has come true, if not fully, at least partially. We have come a long way from the conditions that existed during the Civil Rights Movement era. By electing an African American to the Presidency, the American people have demonstrated their ability and maturity to transcend racial, social, and class barriers that discriminated, segregated, and alienated people from one another for hundreds of years. The fact that the White community can trust a person of color with the highest office of the land is a radical shift in the social attitude.  This is a welcoming and transforming change. However, as everyone would agree, just because we have a non-white President- Elect, it does not mean that lasting transformations have been achieved at the societal level. There still remains for us to overcome racial prejudices and stereotyping; social inequality and discrimination that continue to exist in America today. We have to carry on the work towards improved community relations and racial reconciliation. Let us believe that a new day has been launched in the American history, and that better days are ahead of us, where the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” that our constitution promises will be available to every citizen of this great nation.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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