Earth Day, 2018

What’s green, happens every April, gets more than seven times the civil participation each year than the largest American elections, and rhymes with “birthday?” Maybe you’re thinking, “mirth-day,” as a synonym for April Fools’ Day, but it’s not green. I’m pretty sure “girth-day” may also be an answer, but most of us celebrate that on the fourth Thursday of November.

48 years ago, the United States participated in the first official Earth Day. Since that time, it has gone international, with over 1 billion participants in 193 countries. If you’re anything like me, you will say, “wow that’s neat,” but feel overwhelmed when it comes to participating. What am I supposed to do? Should I plant a tree? Do I need to provide my own tree? Is it ok to use a gas-fueled vehicle to go to the nursery to buy the tree? Instead of paying for a real tree every year, could I maybe just take our fake Christmas tree with the pine-fresh scent out of the attic and plant that? Do I need to hold hands with someone?

All joking aside, sometimes it can be hard to know what to do when every little bit of advice has its own facts, “alternative” facts, and my personal favorite, “stuff Matt makes up.” So this year, instead of a multi-national, world-changing movement, I think we should just keep things simple and easy. The theme of this year’s Earth Day is to reduce plastic pollution. Lucky for us, this also happens to have be a long-term goal of our resident environmental committee, who has worked diligently for years to reduce the amount of recyclable plastic that gets tossed out with the trash.

So this year, I propose that we participate in Earth Day by doing the following: on April 22, let’s take our trash and recycling to the trash rooms like we always do, but instead of dumping it right away, let’s take 30 seconds to read the wonderful set of signs on the walls. These signs clearly explain what is recyclable and what is not using pictures and lists. There are directions for where to put certain items. None of this is new, but maybe that’s the problem – for most of us it has been around so long that it seems like part of the wallpaper.

This Earth Day, you can feel free to change the world to your heart’s desire. I’ll be pleased, though, if we can all just pay a little more attention to our ordinary trash and recycling.

Love Your Neighbor!

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

– Galatians 5:13-15, NIV

What we have in common matters more!

No matter which direction your politics lean, I think we can all accept that this is a time of turmoil for our nation. I have heard from residents who feel afraid, angry, hurt, and uncertain about the future. When each new snippet of news is about another conflict or change, it can be easy to focus on the differences between “us and them.”

The Apostle Paul admonished that we are called to be free, and that means we must all hold to our own principles. Our base nature, though, drives us to use that freedom towards acts of hatred, discord, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, factions, and envy, among other things. Paul cautions that we are called to move beyond that base nature and serve one another humbly in love.

I have never convinced anyone of anything by shouting at them or by attacking their beliefs. Reconciliation comes from acknowledging common interests, and change comes from patiently and lovingly showing how those interests can be met in different ways. This is what Paul is telling us in Galatians: We must hold to our principles, but we must hold even tighter to our family, friends, and neighbors.

In times in which we are unsure of whether or not we can trust our national institutions, these close relationships are our support and refuge, and we have the ability to build them through mutual kindness and respect every day. I take heart each time I see friends laughing over a cup of coffee in the activity room, or people of different political views pleasantly sharing a ride to the doctor’s office. Right now, our differences might be in the spotlight, but it’s the things we have in common that matter more.



Happy New Year 2017

I have been reading “The Night before Christmas” to my daughter every night for the last month, and I felt inspired to write my own New Year poem:


Homewoods 2017 Poem

Struggling ‘round the final bend,

Approaching the finish line,

My heart and head were pounding,

And I was running short on time.


The girth of fudge and fruitcake,

Anchored every step.

Ham and turkey dumplings bounced

And gravy poured like sweat.


I now cursed this foody burden,

The source of my past elation.

Despite excess of yuletide fuel

I was in swift deceleration.


The band struck up a festive tune

For a final time,

And I staggered and collapsed,

Across the finish line.


As I fell a shot rang out,

And I crawled forward with a whine,

To start the race anew,

As the band played “Auld Lang Syne.”


New Year
The koi are having a chilly New Year


Happy New Year!


2016 Christmas Letter

My generation has not kept with the tradition of writing an annual Christmas letter, maybe because with text messages, Facebook, email, and other social media, we keep each other updated on day-to-day life in real time. While I think staying in regular contact with friends and family is a great thing, I also sometimes hear complaints that there’s just too much frivolous information being shared.

In contrast, I think there’s value in the exercise of summarizing the year’s high and low points into a succinct and cheerful letter. It offers a chance to prioritize life’s events, and express them as affirmations of gratitude and achievement. Day-to-day life looks less important, and many crises and losses suffered throughout the year are put into perspective when juxtaposed with all there is to be grateful for.

Director’s Christmas Letter

We have had a lot happen in 2016, and I’ve been reflecting on my own personal highlights. Some of them are probably obvious to you all, but some of them might surprise you:

The Staff: This should come as no surprise. This year we had some turnover of key positions, and while those departures were painful, I came away with a new respect and admiration for our staff. They worked hard to make sure the transitions were as trouble-free as possible, and I have been very pleased to see people applying their talents to new roles and responsibilities.

The Grounds Committee: I don’t know if the Grounds Committee knows how much I appreciate their work, but I hope they feel encouraged to keep it up! We have a beautiful campus, but it requires vision, planning, and hard work to keep it that way. The Grounds Committee is the vision and energy behind most of this work.

The Welcome Committee: I’ve seen more energy invested in the welcoming of newcomers this year than I’ve seen in years past. Moving to a new community is a big task in itself, but adjusting to a new set of social norms and a new pace of life can be downright alienating without the help and encouragement of existing residents. Friendships are the foundations of fun, trust, creativity, self-expression, and support in our community, and their effect is transformational.

And those are just a few examples. I could go on and on, but I think nothing shows the strength of a community more than the investment its members – residents and staff – make into it for the benefit of others. These strengths will push us forward into 2017, where new and exciting projects await. Before we get to that, let’s take some time together in fellowship to enjoy the warmth, peace, and love of the Christmas season.

Lobby Christmas Tree 2016

Merry Christmas!