Wednesday, October 13, 2004

It is considered one of the most spectacular feats and objects of art in the world... and it was simply born out of love.

The Taj Mahal (or "Taj" as the locals refer to it) was born when a king, Shah Jahan, lost his devoted wife Mumtaz Mahal shortly after she gave birth to his 14th child. Heartbroken, the Shah envisioned the perfect shrine for his beloved, and the project drew the finest artisans of the 1600s: garden designers from Kashmir, calligraphers from Persia, dome designers from Constantinople and architects from Baghdad. Onyx, amethyst, turquoise, jade, mother-of-pearl and more were shipped from Tibet, Russia, Persia, Afghanistan, China and points beyond. In all, construction required 20,000 workers toiling for 22 years...

In 1979, five-and-a-half-month-old Laura Lamb became one of the world's youngest quadriplegics when Laura and her mother, Cindi, were hit head-on by a repeat drunk driving offender traveling at 120 mph. As a result of the crash, Cindi and her friends waged a war against drunk driving in their home state of Maryland. Less than a year later, on the other side of the country in California, 13-year-old Cari Lightner was killed at the hands of a drunk driver. Two days prior, the offender was released on bail for a hit-and-run drunk driving crash. He already had two drunk driving convictions with a third plea-bargained to "reckless accident." At the time of Cari's death, the drunk driving offender was carrying a valid California driver's license.

Enraged, Cari's mother, Candace Lightner, and friends gathered at a steak house in Sacramento. They discussed forming a group named "MADD-Mothers Against Drunk Drivers." Thus, MADD was born with a name that would sweep the nation...

In 1989, Jacob Wetterling, 11, his brother Trevor, 10, and a friend, Aaron, 11, were riding their bikes while returning home from a convenience store in St. Joseph, Minnesota. A masked man came out of a driveway and ordered the boys to throw their bikes into a ditch, turn off their flashlights, and lie face down on the ground. The gunman asked each of the boys his age. They each responded. He then told Trevor Wetterling to run into the woods and not to look back, or he would shoot him. Next, the gunman turned Aaron over, looked at his face, and told him to run into the woods. As Trevor and Aaron ran away, they glanced back to see the gunman grab Jacob's arm. When Aaron and Trevor reached the wooded area, they turned to find that Jacob and the gunman were gone. Although Jacob's family has never given up hope, Jacob Wetterling is still missing to this day.

On October 22, 1989, friends and strangers rallied to the family's aid and worked 24 hours each day to search the area for Jacob and distribute flyers across the country. Investigators later learned that, unknown to local law enforcement, halfway houses in St. Joseph housed sex offenders after their release from prison. Jacob's mother, Patty, became an advocate for missing children and was appointed to a Governor's Task Force that recommended stronger sex offender registration requirements in Minnesota. Later, the U.S. Congress passed the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act in Jacob's honor...

The AMBER Plan was created in 1996 as a powerful legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, a bright little girl who was kidnapped and brutally murdered while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas. The tragedy shocked and outraged the entire community. Residents contacted radio stations in the Dallas area and suggested they broadcast special “alerts” over the airwaves so that they could help prevent such incidents in the future. In response to the community’s concern for the safety of local children, the Dallas/Fort Worth Association of Radio Managers teamed up with local law-enforcement agencies in northern Texas and developed this innovative early warning system to help find abducted children. Statistics show that, when abducted, a child’s greatest enemy is time.

In April, 2003, President Bush signed the Amber Alert legislation making it a national program. A full year has passed since the Amber Alert law was enacted. While the Amber Alert system is now mandated across the country, some states are still trying to implement the procedures necessary in bringing the alerts to the public. Hampered by outdated Emergency Broadcast guidelines and different activation criteria in each state, the system needs a fair amount of fine-tuning to be optimally effective. Code Amber is on the cutting edge with the technology helping to make that a reality...

Hope. It is one of the most powerful gifts and strengths we have. Second only to our capacity to love, hope is intricately woven to this capacity. It is what propels us far beyond self preservation and simple sustenance.

Hope, my friend, is not a cure-all. It is not a pocket full of empty wishes or a handful of crossed fingers. Hope will not eliminate all the bad feelings and bad occurrences of Life. As one friend has told me time and time again, cynically, "Hope in one hand and spit in the other; then see which one is full first."

But let me take a moment today to share with you what I believe hope to be. Simply it is "love in action." It is the profound belief and conviction in what you believe is right, and then putting that belief and conviction into action. It is a belief and conviction that stands against all odds and all atrocities and all situations and proclaims loudly, "It doesn't have to be this way! There is a truth that must shine forth!" And hope is certainly not easy; it often demands the ultimate commitment from the individual.

The hope of Laura's, Jacob's and Amber's parents could not prevent what would ultimately occur to them. But these same parents would not allow all that was good and noble and true about their children - and their overall belief in Life - simply die at the grave. It was hope in the midst of tragedy and pain that rose from the ashes and has changed the course and lives of so many others. Numerous lives have been spared and saved because of the tragedy - and even more so, the hope - of these children and their parents. And there are so many similar stories like these three. Ordinary persons achieving extraordinary change... because of hope.

Perhaps I might tell my friend, "Sure, the hand full of spit will be full first. But what can I do with it? On the other hand, a handful of hope may very well change the world..."

hoedl's haven
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