What are you enjoying right now?
Sometimes, we need to step back and ask a question like that.
Philippians 4:8 challenges believers to think and dwell on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable.” So the Facts & Trends staff would like to regularly share our “Favorites” at the moment.
It might be a new book or podcast we’re enjoying or something going on in our lives we want to share. Hopefully, you’ll think about things that are your favorites right now and maybe find something else to add to that list.
Aaron Earls (@WardrobeDoor), online editor: A friend recently went to Greece to work with refugees there. I was thankful to have the opportunity to partner with him and pray for their work. Visiting the refugee camps gave him a unique and needed perspective on many discussions we currently are having in America.
He wrote about some of his misconceptions that were challenged when getting to know refugee families and how we, as Christians, must see them.
We all know how easy it is to label a group of people and dismiss them from our lives. Once they become [insert label], they’re no longer human. They’re just them. We must not do this to anyone, especially to refugees. By definition, a refugee is someone who has left his or her homeland due to “persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution.” In other words, someone else has already told them they’re less than human. To treat them as subhuman is the worst kind of evil.
Refugees are real people with real stories. If we’re ever going to get past the labels, then we have to start seeing them as people just like us. We have to let them be human.
Carol Pipes (@CarolPipes), editor: This article from Fast Company tells of a new technology that builds three-dimensional artwork embedded with sensors that allows the blind to “see” art through touch.
The article explains how the computer program converts 2-D images to 3-D data. The data is then sent to a machine that sculpts a bas relief of the image. Then they print the image on top of the relief.
This new technology brings classic works of art to life for those who are visually impaired. People like Lynn Jackson, who lost her sight after a stroke, are able to experience art.
At an exhibit where she was able to feel the iconic painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware, Jackson was elated to have artwork at her fingertips. “It was really exciting,” says Jackson. “It was like someone turning a light on in a dark room. It was wonderful.”
Lisa Green (@lisaccgreen), managing editor: I’ve never studied biblical languages, but I recall a pastor from my childhood explaining that some ancient texts have no punctuation or spaces between words, runningeverythingtogetherinonelongstringofletters.
Other texts have no vowels, which seemed an even bigger challenge to my young mind. I would read Bible passages, imagining them as long strings of consonants with no spaces, and wonder whether I could have made sense of them in the original language.
So I was intrigued this week by an online graphic giving a brief history of punctuation. It acknowledges what I recall hearing as a child — writers in ancient Greece and Rome didn’t punctuate their texts.
Some common punctuation marks have fascinating origins. The comma, for example, was envisioned as a knife. And quotation marks started as a set of sideways lips, indicating words that came from someone’s mouth.
Punctuation was fluid until the invention of the printing press. Today, however, the emergence of social media may bring back a more flexible approach. It will be interesting to see what’s next. 🙂
Bob Smietana (@BobSmietana), senior writer: My favorite this week: $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, a book from Johns Hopkins sociologist Kathryn Edin and H. Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan.
A few years ago, Edin, one of the nation’s leading experts on how poverty affects family, began running into families who had almost no cash income. This was something new, and one of the unintended consequences of welfare reform. She began looking at the numbers, and found that about 1.5 million American families—including 3 million children—live on less than $2 a day.
Most of these families get some assistance, with housing or food stamps. But it’s rarely enough. And most work for a living, or have worked for long stretches of time. But their work is always perilous, says Edin. These are families, she says, “caught in an endless cycle of jobs that don’t pay nearly enough and periods of living on virtually no income.”
For several years, Edin and Schaefer followed 18 families, eight of whom are profiled in “$2.00 a Day.” All had spent at least 3 months living with less than two dollars a day of cash income. All went from just getting by to desperation and back again.
What most wanted was a little stability. Their version of the American Dream: a steady job and a stable place to live. One woman, a single mom named Jennifer, refused any government assistance, despite 3 spells of $2-a-day poverty in a 3 year stretch.
“Her vision of the good life remains astonishingly humble,” write Edin and Schaefer. “[S]he dreams of a full-time job paying $13 a hour, set schedule, and decent working conditions.”
With a job like that, Jennifer could afford a safe place to live, and maybe even a decent used car. But even that dream seems out of reach, says Edin. Still the families she studied show remarkable resilience. Most are unwilling to give up, despite the odds.
At time when politics seems dominated by Twitter feuds and Facebook put-downs, “$2.00 a Day” is a sobering reminder of some of the challenges many of our neighbors face.
For more on the topic, I interviewed Edin at Christianity Today: “What It’s Like to Live on Less Than Two Dollars a Day.”
Katie Shull (@KShull), graphic designer: I just found out that today is National Apple Pie day, which happens to be my favorite pie. I encourage you all to go enjoy a piece of pie and thank God for the small joys of life.
What has made you smile so far this week? What would be your favorite today?