Summer in Minnesota is finally here, in temperature at least! Astronomically, summer officially arrives on June 21st – the Summer Solstice. As you may recall from high school science class, solstices are the longest and the shortest days of the year. After June 21st, the days will get shorter until we reach December 21st and the process reverses itself.
Solstice, from the Latin sol (the sun) and sistere (to stand still), is the name given by our ancestors to times in the year when the sun appears to hover, unmoving, in its yearly pilgrimage. Many rituals and landscapes became associated with the stilling of the sun’s movement. Places like Stonehenge, the Sioux Tribe’s elaborate Sun Dance, Maypoles, and more – all focus on the sacred time, place, and providential benefits of the sun’s warmth and light.
As I get older, and as the father of a newly-minted first grader, I have begun to relish opportunities for standing still, quieting my inner voice, and reflecting on the world around me. Since this month of June also contains Father’s Day, it is the perfect way to wrap ritual and reflection together and celebrate the power of fatherhood, of nature, and how our cities bring these together.
While newspaper obituaries of great men and women tend to summarize their achievements, what often doesn’t make it into print or given short-shrift are their failures and setbacks. I know I wrote a lot of them back in my journalism days.
But, it is in these moments of despair – when things are going wrong – when you fumble or stumble. This is when your mettle is truly tested.
The reason I started Thinking Good … Well as I endeavor to be the best I can be for my family and myself, I have found a dearth of quality information and resources dedicated to helping men work through the challenges we encounter as 21st Century husbands and fathers.
That’s why I founded Thinking Good, a media and lifestyle community, that helps men be their better selves. Our mission is to empower us to be better husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, friends, entrepreneurs, innovators, artists and thinkers. Not just for ourselves, but also our families and communities.
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Check out the inaugural episode of SEEDS, a podcast by frequent Thinking Good contributor Rev. Dr. Jay Speights. SEEDS is a podcast offering inspiration for spiritual growth, stepping into your higher self and maintaining balance in this fast-paced, digitized noise-polluted 21st Century World. Dr. Jay wants you to join him in taking a quantum leap into the mystery of creation through deep reflection and introspection.
On theSuite Talk podcast, I often ask guests what’s one lesson they’re glad to have learned early in life. The responses are drawn equally from positive and negative experiences and result in strengthened fortitude, resilience, discernment, patience, a better understanding of limitations or willingness to seek advice. For me, learning from failure has been an important, and sometimes reoccurring, lesson.
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I live in the Edgewood neighborhood of Washington, D.C. across the street from a school. When my wife and I bought our house, it was a public school serving a low to moderate-income population that was 95 percent African American, reflecting the neighborhood demographics.
Each morning when I headed to work I’d find a trail of discarded Little Hug juice bottles, honey bun wrappers and empty potato chip bags leading to the school. Weeds sprouted through the cracks in the asphalt on the school grounds and the play structure was tattered and rusty. The schoolyard looked more like a laboratory for tetanus rather than a playground for children. Inside, portable walls, not classrooms, separated the kids who were group two grades at a time (1st & 2nd, 3rd & 4th). When I visited the school to inquire about volunteering one morning, I heard several teachers instructing their students at the same time, and a disruption in one classroom affected the others.
The school closed a few years after we moved in and briefly became a hangout for older teens and young adults who smoked weed, drank and played dice.
Eventually, gentrification took over, the school was reopened as a charter school and the building was overhauled. The playground was upgraded. Sunflowers and a community garden replaced the weeds. Woodchips covered the fissured asphalt. A section of the sidewalk was replaced and white children soon made up about 40 percent of the new student body—although the neighborhood demographics barely changed. Former First Lady and President Obama even came to christen the new facility. Even the litter got an upgrade, with Honest Juice boxes and string-cheese wrappers in the gutter instead of the cheap, corner-store junk-food trash.
Parking is a little harder to find, hey, that’s life in the big city.
I was five or six and recall being in a laundromat, but mom believes it was at a grocery store. The alleged transgression is forgotten by us both, but each remembers her towering over me index finger wagging demanding, “Who do you think you are?” I replied, “John Jioni Palmer.”
Four decades later I am still that boy, but also much more. I am a son, husband, father and eldest grandchild; storyteller, chef, leader and coach—to name a few. Each day I breathe, I endeavor to be my best at who I am, while also nurturing the desire to explore and develop new ways of being and doing.