Friday, August 31, 2012
The New Frontier lives through us today. Ever since 1961, when President John F. Kennedy urged a new generation of Americans to carry the torch and answer the clarion call to action, Americans have been inspired to serve their fellow man. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the violent and untimely end to Camelot and I am working on a book that compiles Floridians' memories of President Kennedy and his dream of a better world that works for all. I am sending a call to you who were alive during this dynamic period of our nation's history to share with me your reflections on the thousand days that marked a transformative time for Americans and citizens of the world. If you would like to submit your thoughts to be included in my book, please send me a 500 word essay that explains what President Kennedy meant to you. Please include memories or recollections of the Kennedy years. Please send me your essay by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will review all submissions and will work very hard to ensure that all submissions are published. In these times when politics can be a dirty game and a devil's bargain, I want us to look back to a time when anything was possible for our world and I want to remind us that we can return to believing in ourselves again. I hope to have this book published by the summer of 2013. Time is of the essence as time marches on and I want to preserve your thoughts while we are still here to share our memories. Please email me if you have any questions!
Thursday, August 30, 2012
In education, it is my most firm belief that we should be the kind of teachers that we would have wanted to have when we were young. It's kind of like the advice that I received when I worked at McDonald's in high school - if I am sure that I would not serve an item to myself, I needed to throw out the bad food. One lesson that I am proud to share with my students is the importance of creating safe and civil schools for all! We all have our experiences with those who sought to bully others. Their aggressive behavior harms the overall academic atmosphere. We cannot learn new ideas when we are more worried about our safety. Traditionally, teachers' and administrators' focus was on minimizing the impact of bullies because it was always assumed that bullying was part of the natural pecking order in schools. Too many students, however, fell through the cracks because of this social Darwinist attitude toward a serious issue that has resulted in far too many student victims lashing out against their bullies or harming themselves. A few years ago, Linda Bishop grew weary of the negative atmosphere that bullying created at my school. This brilliant colleague of mine masterminded and pioneered an anti-bullying program at my school - Mayport Coastal Sciences Middle School. Working in cooperation with the United Way and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Mrs. Bishop showed our community that we can be the change that we want to see in our world. Before soon, the change manifested itself in new policies and legislation around our state and around the nation that have resulted in real progress toward making education the goal for our schools, teachers, students and families to make strides toward learning and to help every child feel welcome at school. I am not naive enough to think that a simple slogan can solve our problems. It is our job as citizens to promote safety and civility by asking our students to communicate with us whenever they feel that they are in danger. No, it is not snitching, it is building an educational system that works for all! John Louis Meeks, Jr. currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida where he teaches social studies at Mayport Middle School. He is a 1998 graduate of the University of North Florida and a veteran of the United States Air Force.
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Before I go to bed tonight, I want to express my most sincere gratitude for those from around the world who took the time to visit my blog. I never expected for this blog to have such a worldwide scope! When I first envisioned this blog, it was part of my effort to raise awareness (and funding) for my upcoming pilgrimage to Israel. It has become, however, a frequent or infrequent journal for my innermost thoughts. I think of it as a journal/diary without a lock. When we unlock our innermost thoughts and share them with the world, we are engaging in a public yet intimate dialogue with our brothers and sisters in Truth. I thank you for being a part of my journey. No part is too small in this plane that we call life. Here is a shout out to my visitors from the United States, Canada, Malaysia, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, Lebanon, Kenya, Egypt, Japan and all the ships at sea (Thanks to Walter Winchell for the ships at sea part!) The great song that I sing in church each Sunday rings evermore true as I share my affirmation for the world... Let there be peace on Earth and LET IT BEGIN WITH ME <3
Forget what Prince says, I say that we party like it's 1966! This is the year that my beloved Baltimore Orioles won the World Series by sweeping the Los Angeles Dodgers (Sorry, Sandy Koufax!) to win all of the marbles. This past year has been one of achievement for my students as my Scholar Bowl team won the Duval County scholar bowl championship. We did not gain this prestige by just hoping for victory, however. It was through years of practice and hard work - and with help from our community and a phenomenal assistant coach - that we pulled together and achieved something that no other Scholar Bowl team had done in our school's history! The laurels are great, but we must never forget that it did not come easy. It was through blood, sweat and tears that we won this great honor. By keeping your eyes on the prize, you also can reach for the stars and share your own light with the world. We all can be Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson or even Cal Ripken if we motivate ourselves to do our best in what we do. It does not matter how humble our work is. As Abraham Lincoln said, if you are going to be a rail splitter, be the best rail splitter that you can be! I can't believe in YOU if you don't believe in yourself first! PLAY BALL!!!
Today has been a busy day for a busy beaver, indeed! Please allow me to entertain you with a music clip that has always been a source of tranquility for me. Special thanks to Ms. Julia Henderson of North Carolina for being such an arbiter of good taste for me! You will always, Julia, be my Wallis Simpson ;-)
Monday, August 27, 2012
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Thursday, August 9, 2012
To gain a greater perspective on my imagined competition that was causing my feelings of defeat, let's go back to the beginning. When I was spending the summer with my cousins in South Carolina and Maryland, we all played summer games on a level playing field. Although I was not the most physically coordinated child, I enjoyed our hide-and-go-seek, our foot races, and our youthful adventures.
Over the years, however, I felt like I was trapped in amber like a fossil while my generation lived their lives. They had children, they got married and they had more children. I felt great shame because I brought nothing to the table as my mother's side of the family was expanding and I seemed to be stagnating. My parents and maternal aunts and uncles were rightfully proud of the new blood in the family and I was simply becoming an irrelevant relic.
This seems to be the American way, right? We are always struggling to keep up with the Jonses to accumulate the most things in life. Yes, the two-car garage and the white picket fence figure in to that all as well, but I have struggled to be happy with myself unconditionally. Once I stop comparing myself to others, I know, I will be truly happy with all that I have and will stop seeking to be someone else.
Easier said than done. LOL!
This is the most frustrating part of my spiritual journey. I have spent much of my youth seeking approval from others. Although I know that it was to help me strive to be a better person, I still remember the times that my mother told me that I could not do anything right and that I was lazy. This admonishment has been a motivator and an albatross to be at the same time. Narcotics may never get the best of me, but the desire for approval and the desire to be liked have become my most incorrigible addictions.
I realize that the point of being on the path is to finally overcome and transcend, but some quests are more challenging than others for me. Between having a sister who is engaged to be married and a cousin who is expecting his fourth child, it does not seem to matter what I can do in life because I have failed in establishing a meaningful family of my own.
I bet you are asking why I am even writing this blog entry if there is no handy resolution to my situation. I guess it is out of my own understanding that this imperfect world will yield resolutions in its own time. As I pick up the puzzle pieces, I will find clarity as long as I realize that I have more growing to do and do not give up in my search for wholeness.
In the meantime, my mission is to teach myself and others that single does not have to mean lonely. I am grateful for the circle of friends that I have developed over the years through my school, my church, my work and my travels. And, in a time when single adults are outnumbering married adults, I dare say that I have become the Joneses in a weird way. But this does not matter as much as following my own bliss. Then, I will have truly won. FOR THE WIN
Sunday, August 5, 2012
I got this habit from a Norwegian Rotary exchange student who worked with me on my college newspaper in Douglas, Georgia.
Wherever Kjersti went, she sent postcards to her friends and family. She had a knack for choosing postcards that defied the typical 'Greetings from...' fare. She preferred choosing postcards more for their aesthetic qualities than for being a giant 'You are here' that we see in shopping mall directory kiosks.
When I began making road trips near and far, I took to sending postcards that also reflected my quirky tastes. I have mailed postcards with images of the now-defunct DeSoto automobile, the great actor Montgomery Clift and a Marc Chagall painting. When I correspond this way, it is my chance to revive, in my small way a variety of arts that seem to be fading.
First of the endangered talents is connecting with my friends and loved ones through putting pen to paper. For me, sending a few simple lines or a paragraph from afar is an old school 'shout out' to people and sending it in a very unusual and unexpected way. I know that I enjoy checking my mailbox, as I have since childhood, and delighting in finding a friendly message in my mailbox.
Secondly, sending postcards can spark renewed communications with those who otherwise would be lost or forgotten. For example, I exchange postcards with my kindergarten teacher. Over three decades since I left Ms. Nichols' class, we regularly send friendly and informal reports to each other about our respective travels and vacations. I look forward to each Christmas card time when my now-retired teacher updates me on her life and family in North Carolina. Through my writing to people, I learned that my former Sunday school teacher collects postcards. Judy's name is atop the list of people to keep in touch with while I am on the road.
Lastly, postcards are a selfish pursuit for me. Writing regularly, even after my school year is done for the summer, helps me to stay in the flow (To borrow a page or two from Eric Butterworth) as I learn to express myself more naturally each time I put my thoughts down. This added benefit of mental and spiritual renewal is why I highly recommend buying some novel postcards and a few postcard stamps.
It's not as much my permanent state of mind, but how I feel whenever someone says "John Meeks."
There are four men here who share the same name.
The first, my grandfather, turns 90 years old next month. This weekend, the town of Idlewild dedicated a park to him. It was a real joy to see this sweet Michigan town pay tribute to my Grandpa John.
The second and third are my father and my uncle. My dad is "John L." and my uncle is "Jack" for purposes of keeping things simple among the Meeks clan.
The youngest of the John Meeks club is yours truly. Thanks to great family, friendship and food this summer, my belly is slowly expanding to be like the first three Johns with the same last name. Note to self: time to hit the treadmill upon my return to Florida - LOL.
I was honored to participate in an interview with local television crew about my grandfather and the dedication of my grandfather's park. This event reminds me the good that lies in my name and the duty that I have to maintain my end of it in my corner of the world.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
I remember how I built walls between myself and the world when I was a young Baptist. I hid within them from fear. I was afraid of beliefs that differed from mine because I knew that my way was the only way. I retreated behind these same walls when I felt challenged by what I felt to be opposing viewpoints.
As a YOUer, I did not know that I would soon confront divisions. This time, this was a barrier that stood between like-minded ministries that had a cold war of their own.
Nearly thirty years ago, my church was torn apart over a disagreement between the more traditional members who stood on the Bible and in the fundamentals of the Fillmores and the progressive members who sought to find alternative channels for expressing their Unity spirit.
The former group eventually left and formed their own Unity church across town. This happened years before I even began attending, but the aftershocks were still felt in our city.
One Sunday in 1992, I went with a fellow YOUer to see the 'other' Unity church for myself. I was curious to know more about a church that was in the same family but remained a mystery.
In the far reaches of Jacksonville's outer suburbia, I experienced a hidden gem tucked away in the woods that preceded the gas stations, shopping centers and gated communities that now define the area.
I received a Unity lesson and shared in the usual Unity joy with my new friends. I went home to share my new discovery.
As the time, however, I had committed a great sin. The 'other' Unity church was not our kind of people, I was told.
I learned the hard way that even good people have their walls to climb. Thankfully, I persisted even when I was made to feel unwelcome by 'hardliners' who wished to turn their backs on former members who struck off on their own.
Years later, through a strike of Divine Order, my work with the youth helped to reach out to our sister church. It was easier to build goodwill through preteen lock-ins or high school skate days than to change hearts that were obviously hard-wired to stay the course.
Before I knew it, our children were carpooling to regional events and I soon convinced my board of directors to attend board training at the church that dare not speak its name. Our exiled former ministers returned to our church when we created our minister emeritus position for our retiring co-minister.
Today, our two churches are supportive of each other in our missions to bring UNITY into the commUNITY.
This was a long time coming, but this is a shining light in my illuminated path to Truth.