Table of Contents
(c) 2002 by Skipping Stones. Opinions expressed in these pages reflect views of the contributors, and not necessarily those of Skipping Stones, Inc. In the spirit of ecological sensitivity, we choose to print with soy ink on recycled & recyclable paper.
From the Editor
As I was bicycling to work this morning, I passed a street corner, where three young people had set up a small, make-shift welcome station. They were offering free muffins and hot drinks to passers-by. I wondered if it was a sales gimmick or, perhaps, some missionaries at work. So, out of curiosity, I got off my bicycle and struck up a conversation with them. I discovered that it was just an act of selfless service, no agenda, just to do something kind and see what happens!
As I sipped on the hot drink in the cool morning air, I shared a few plums I had brought with me from our garden. We talked about the concept of "Paying Forward" (rather than the more common paying back for favors received from people).
During the holiday season, we often think about what gifts we might get from parents, grandparents and others, or what to give them. We feel obliged to give gifts. At times, we even feel that we don't owe someone a gift because they didn't give us anything the year before.
Is the holiday season just about commodity exchange? Is gift-giving a trade? Or, is it an expression of our love and friendship? Let's make the holidays more than shopping sprees and all the stress of finding the right gifts for the right price.
What do you think holidays are for? What would your ideal Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah or New Year's celebrations look like?
It seems like there are many ways of enjoying this special time of the year: caring and having compassion for others—even strangers, sharing each other's work loads, offering the fruits of our hard work to others, spreading our joy, sharing our harvest to the extent we are able, creating artistic gifts that express our talents and values, appreciating nature by spending quiet time outdoors, visiting friends or family...
My family and I will be in India during this holiday season. We will visit our family and spend a few weeks at a spiritual center in southern India. Our seven-year-old son will have a seven-week intensive experience that no school program could possibly offer in a classroom.
With this issue, we complete 14 full years of Skipping Stones. It was conceived at a Gandhian Ashram in India, and we derive much of our inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, the nonviolent warrior. We celebrated his birthday, October 2nd, and our anniversary together, with spiritual kirtans from Sikh and Hindu traditions, charango and marimba music from the Andes, classical guitar, dances and peace songs in Hebrew and English. Yet, even as we celebrate, we are concerned that dark clouds of another war loom on the horizon. It is our sincere hope and prayer that no country, including the United States, will impose a war on any other people. Great visionaries like Gautama Buddha, Christ, Mahavir Jain, Gandhi and Dr. King recommended only nonviolent means to solve all conflicts. They knew very well that war cannot achieve justice; no war is just! Loving our enemy is the ultimate test of our spirituality.
We cannot just sit and watch our governments prepare to wage wars, while our schools and healthcare systems decline. We have nothing to gain through wars. In democratic societies, where it is easy to let our voices be heard, it is our responsibility to say no to wars.
What if millions of youth actively worked for peace? Let's declare peace with all, and let's also maintain peace within ourselves. That might be the best way to celebrate the holiday season.
Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All!
Arun N. Toke
Land of the Free
Letter from Belarus
Hi, Skipping Stones! I was very glad to receive your letter. Our education is very difficult in Belarus. If you want to study in the university you must be very clever, or you must have a lot of money. I have to study a lot, and I have little time to communicate with my friends. Still, I decided to write to you. I very much like American people because they are equal between each other. I like traveling, so my dream is to go to America. I don't want to live there, though, because I am a patriot of my country. I want to be useful and important for my country. Perhaps, I will save Belarus from harmful substances after the Chernobyl tragedy of 1986. Thank you for reading my letter.
Your friend from Belarus,
Nastya Agafonova, girl, 16
The Dad I Never Knew
My dad's life seems extremely boring, no excitement or adventure, just work. But under his nearly bald head lies a treasure of unique and interesting memories of being a kid. Even though he comes from the hippie age, and myself the technolo-gy age, we both have a great deal in common.
Back in the year 1967, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, my dad still had a thick head of hair and was a typical 12-year-old boy. He liked to launch rockets made of items lying around the house. I also like to launch rockets, but I don't see how he survived with only three television channels. Dad also liked to buzz around the neighborhood in his homemade go-carts. He built dams in the local creeks that flooded basements. My dad never seemed like he would have been a mischief-maker! We both like movies, from my age or his, like "Dr. Strangelove."
In those ancient times, hippies, strange, peace-loving creatures, existed on the Earth. My dad wasn't a total hippie; he was half-and-half. It would be a scary sight to see my dad in bell- bottoms! Trends have rapidly evolved since then.
The economy has evolved too. Back then, things cost much less. My dad could blow his 50-cent allowance on a handful of candy and a toy. Today, all 50 cents gets you is a local call.
In conclusion, the prehistoric times that my father lived in weren't too bad at all. In fact, I found out more things about my dad than ever. Within that hard-working guy, there is still a small spark of his childhood that exists.
Kristofer P. Wellman, 12
From Brown Skin
Story of the Everglades
Blossom for Mary Beth Russell
On a dreary night in the cold winds of New York's September, I wrote a poem after a gruesome television report I saw. The report was about September 11th of last year. Of course, as a citizen of the United States I felt sympathy for the 3,000 men, women and children who died in the devastation that no one could have predicted. I could see the uncanny smoke and terror from the windows of my school only a few miles away.
But what the media has done nearly a year later repulses me. I detest the fact that the press can exploit something so private and deep into an extravaganza with marches and speeches. It's been a year already. I know we have suffered, and it's nice to recognize such an event, but enough is enough.
The media is doing reports just to get viewers to rush to the TV. Most don't even care about the impact such a program can cause to life. Maybe eight months ago it was alright, but to manipulate feelings and distort thoughts now is just not the way I would lead my life as an adult.
I was born in Minsk, Belarus, after the Chernobyl accident. My family moved to the U.S. in hopes of a better life. Technically, I cannot complain. In America people have everything: food, clothes, jobs, cultural differences, etc. Despite all these things, there is still a detached feeling among Americans. There always was. In 1865, it was blacks against whites. In 1966, it was African Americans against the Ku Klux Klan. Now, it is whites against Arabs. Such an environment can be quite damaging to a growing child.
The future is uncertain. From the low ridge where I am standing, I can only see so far over the furrows. The rainbow is nowhere in sight, and basing answers on other's presumptions doesn't work for me. I dream of words; I dream of literature. Everything else is just details.
Walk in Someone's Shoes!
I have had problems making friends all my life. That is because I have something called ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder.
People judge each other by looks, intelligence, nationality and beliefs. Everybody is so focused on his or her image and couldn't care less about each other. In my case, it's a little different. The ADHD prevents me from controlling myself or thinking before I act. It is called impulsivity. I do things that people don't like, and it prevents me from making a lot of friends.
If it were easy to change, I would have by now. For me it is easier said than done. The ADHD has caused my mind to run three times faster than a normal person's would. Instead of doing just two things at once, I can do four or five. I used to take a medication that would slow me down. I don't have to take it any more, but I still have a hard time keeping myself under control.
I had severe ADHD until fifth grade. I had such a bad reputation, and no one liked me. In seventh grade I made great progress in self-control, and before eighth grade I was taken off my medication. Because of my bad reputation many people continued to judge me by the way I used to be. Many kids matured, though, and have given me a chance. Most of the people who have given me a chance like me.
When I am sitting somewhere alone, I listen and I look. I pay close attention to everything. I take mental notes and use the good and bad things I learn to change myself. My notes tell me what to do and what not to do.
When I meet someone who has a similar situation as me, I see them for the real person they are. Try walking in someone's shoes, someone who is not exactly "popular." See how it feels to be him or her, to be disliked, to be excluded. Look, and you'll see it wherever you go. By walking in someone's shoes, the wall that is blocking the truth about everyday life will be removed!
-- Justin Smith, 14
I wish that animal cruelty, above all factory farming, could be stopped, but it isn't. Every day while we brush our hair or clean our teeth an innocent animal dies in a cramped shed, never having seen the outside of the bare walls. We never have to think about that animal. We never have to trample on it to get a rare drink of water. We never have to see its glazed eyes stare up at us without seeing. But just because we don't see it doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I am devoted to stopping this cruelty and writing to show others the truth, which also happens to be the name of a magazine that my friend and I make.
-- Holly Maguire, 11, Brighton, England.
Skipping Stones Magazine