One Year Later

The Atlanta Downtown Connector – Jan. 20, 2016
A year ago today the weather in Atlanta was frosty and cold.  The threat of ice and snow caused businesses to send employees home hours early.  Today in Atlanta the tempature was 74 degrees; I played golf in short sleeves and many of my fellow golfers were in shorts!  

A year is a long time and at the same time it seems short.  It can be a time of joy and happiness or it can be a time of sorrow and pain.  We all get years, some good and some not as good but we only have so many.  Some people have 100, some 90 some 80, but some have only 10 (or less).  On balance, our years are more “good” than “bad” and that is a natural good for most of humankind.  This past year qualifies as a bad one for me.   My brother died at 57 years of age and then my mother died suddenly five months later at 90.  Death always depresses us at any time in our lives.  Years that I recall as ones that were “bad” are those in which I lost someone close to me that I loved (1963, 1964, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1980, 1994, 1995, 1998, 2016 twice).  I am 60 years old and have had 10 years in which I have lost a close loved one.  Don’t get me wrong, there are other years in which people that I knew, liked and cared a lot about died, and that’s common.  But these are the years that family members died; and it colors the year in a way that defies explaintion.

I am not sure where I am heading with this except to say that nothing that seems so bad  can actually destroy us and that on balance, we recall our lives with more happiness than sorrow.  For example, I have 50 “good” years and only 10 “bad” ones.  It doesn’t matter if it is the life or death of a loved one, our bank account, our politics, our sports or the weather, life is generally good, year in and year out. For that we should be thankful.

Did I say sports?  Speaking of sports, go Falcons!  I need a good year in 2017!   

Another Sad Day…

Helen Baxley Swope, October 22,1926 -December 16, 2016

My dear mother Helen passed away yesterday.  The picture here is from a painting my father had made sometime in the 1970’s.  I think Mom hated it but it was a good portrait of her in her late 40’s/early 50’s.  Despite her reservations about it, she let Dad hang it and it is still on the wall in their house.  It reminds me of my Mom, strong, beautiful and vibrant.

Mom led a long, productive, solidly middle class American life.  Born in the 1920’s she lived through the cataclysms of the depression and World War II before doing something unusual for a woman in her generation; graduating from Brenau College in 1950. Following her 1952 marriage to my father Paul she had three children whom she raised and pushed through school.  After we all left home, Mom volunteered at her church several days each week.  Her presence and dedication to Embry Hills UMC was so strong that people there started calling her St. Helen – in a admiring way.  A woman of many talents, she hand made over 30 full sized quilts along with dozens and dozens of needlepoint and crocheted items.

Mom was a strong woman, she endured the loss of her father in 1963, the death of her only brother in 1973 and then cared for her mother who had Alzheimer’s throughout the 1970’s (before we knew what Alzheimer’s was).  She also was a breast cancer survivor since 1977.  After a broken hip in 2010, she struggled with her health continuously.  When my brother died this past July, she said that when she died she would have some serious questions for him; I suspect he is trying to answer them right now!

Mom loved her family; her husband of 64 years, my sister, me, her in-laws, her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, all of whom she leaves behind.  She also loved Christmas.  The day of her fall that eventually led to her death, she had happily spent the day dragging my Dad from store to store to find the perfect Christmas gifts for her great-grand children and some sorority friends that she was to meet today for lunch. Her house wasn’t decorated until all 100+ Byer’s Caroler’s were on display and the tree was up and lit.  Mom, this Christmas is the first one in 91 years you will miss.  The gifts you picked out are still neatly placed on the bed upstairs, waiting to be wrapped.  We are all so very sad that you are gone.

It hasn’t been 24 hours since you died and I already miss you so much.  I’m going to miss your stories, your fierce pride in your grand and great-grand children, I’ll even miss the many, many questions about your vast array of technology (iPhone, iPads, PC, Kindle, etc.) but most of all I just miss you.  I know you now have  peace and are free of the pain that your aging and failing body had given to you.  I know you always loved me no matter what and I hope you know I always loved you.  Rest In Peace.

The #YearofMercy Comes to an End


This weekend the #YearofMercy announced by Pope Francis will come to an end.  The focus of the year was to have all people of good will reflect on God’s mercy toward us and how we are to extend mercy to others.  Recently I wrote a booklet containing a series of reflections for a tour of the Doors of Mercy in Atlanta.  I have been asked to post that booklet so others could have access to it.  It can be found here: Reflections at the Doors of Mercy.   Although the Year of Mercy is over, our need to extend loving kindness and compassion to one another in this troubled world continues.  Peace!

#Election2016 ends, at last!


Finally, the toxic and awful #Election2016 comes to a merciful end.  Like a huge number of Americans, I find both @HillaryClinton and @realDonaldTrump to be ill suited for the presidency.   According to most polls, the majority of Americans would prefer to have another option for the nation’s highest office – just about any other option!  Yet, we are stuck with these two major party candidates and one of them will become the president on January 20, 2017.   Continue reading “#Election2016 ends, at last!”

Progress Against Human Trafficking and Slavery 

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was part of a @CatholicRelief delegation that met with staff members of the U.S. Senators and Representatives to discuss H.R. 3226/S. 1968, which is the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act. This pending legislation requires publicly traded companies with revenues over $100 million to include in their SEC reporting statements that indicate they are working to ensure their supply chain is free from human trafficking and slavery.  Not all companies wait until legislation is passed to take right and moral actions.  One such company is Patagonia.  Watch the video to better understand the problem, a bit about Fair Trade and the good work Patagonia is doing.  If you don’t have 12 minutes, watch the short 2 minute version here: patagonia – Fair and Ethical Trade.

#CCGPoverty #FairTrade #CatholicRelief #EndTraffick




Advocacy: A Day on Capitol Hill

Yesterday I was part of a delegation of Catholic Relief Services Global Fellows who went to Capitol Hill to meet with legislative staff members of our Senators and Representatives.  Our purpose was to advocate on behalf of two groups of people that are all too often voiceless in world society; those who are victims of human trafficking and slavery and refugees.

Senator Johnny Isakson’s Office: (L to R) Deacon Fred Toca, Deacon Steve Swope, Legislative Correspondent Allie White, Kathy Hampton, Deacon Bill Hampton, Fr. Vic Galier
We discussed the pending legislation H.R. 3226/S. 1968, which is the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act.  This act would be another important step toward ending trafficking and enslavement around the world.  Currently there are approximately 30 million slaves in the world, many are women and children who are held in the sex trade and many are men in forced labor.  The act would require all publicly traded companies with revenues of $100 million or more to include in their annual report a statement that tells what efforts they have made to ensure their goods and services have not been produced by people who are enslaved.  The legislation is important because it again affirms the inherent dignity of each human and the revulsion we all have for human trafficking and slavery.  In addition, businesses will benefit when they are assured their competitors do not have an unfair and immoral advantage over them due to the cost differential that the use of slaves creates.

All people of good faith can let their voices be heard on this topic.  To send a note to your senators and representative you can go to this website and complete the form: Support H.R. 3226/S.1968.  It only takes a minute and can have a huge impact.

Senator David Perdue’s Office: (L to R) Fr. Vic Galier, Deacon Bill Hampton, Kim Mazyck,  Kathy Hampton, Katie McCabe Chaudoin – Legislative Correspondent, Deacon Fred Toca, Deacon Steve Swope
In each office we also encouraged support for additional funding for humanitarian aid in the federal budget for the current fiscal year.  Right now the humanitarian aid funding is .014% of the Federal Budget – that is just over  1/100th of one percent.  It is that small in the face of the largest refugee crisis since World War II.  While acknowledging that every country has a right to vet those who wish to migrate we must also admit that we have a moral imperative to aid those fleeing war and persecution by supporting refugees where they presently reside, during their journey and within our own borders should they be admitted.  Increasing funding to provide all refugees the basic necessities of life like food, shelter, clothing and education for children is not optional for anyone who claims to be Christian or American.  It is a moral requirement that we cannot justify ignoring.

As a Georgian, I am proud to say that we received a warm welcome in all three offices and the promise of additional study and consideration of the pending legislation.  I encourage each reader to take the time to contact your Congressional delegation and voice your support for both of these initiatives. Based on our meetings, I can assure you if you are a Georgian, your voice will be heard.  Peace!



Life in Aleppo 

Aleppo (Getty Images)

Life in Aleppo, especially eastern Aleppo has deteriorated  to a level that is almost beyond belief.  (Drone view of Aleppo). Many have fled out of fear for their lives, many have died and many are trapped. For those trapped, life is a daily effort to avoid explosions and starvation.  One citizen of Aleppo who has remained tells his story.  This story is informative and well worth read in order to better understand the situation in Aleppo and how one man and his wife are trying to stay in the country that they love.  We live in Aleppo. Here is how we survive.