Tag Archives: respect

Resolve to listen in 2018

park, Harrisonburg VA

Like a walk in the woods, listening is good exercise.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. In general, I think they are just so much hype without much substance. For those who are serious about such resolutions, however, I wish you the very best at keeping and meeting those New Year challenges.

Not making resolutions doesn’t mean I don’t desire to improve the world and myself. I do with all my heart. I’ve discovered in my many years of living that it takes more than wishing.

Drive and desire are key ingredients to making the world a better place for all of us to live. And by all of us, I mean every single human being. In the eyes of the Maker, we all have equal worth. Those are His words, not mine.

With that in mind, I want 2018 to be the best year yet. Given the world’s troubles, that’s going to take the work of all of us to help make that happen.

That’s the thing with resolutions. They tend to be too individualized. However, working together creates a more substantial margin for success. If we want to improve the world, we have to help one another.

Let’s agree to make our surroundings more beautiful, peaceful, kind, inviting, welcoming. I can’t do it alone. I’ll need lots of help. You and you and you. Regardless of our political affiliations, religion, race, ethnic background, one by one we can together resolve to bring peace to this too troubled world.

We don’t all have to agree on how that gets done. Too often the details are what derail us from accomplishing anything good at all. Forget the details. If we are clear on the aim and outcome, a legitimate process is required. It doesn’t have to be complicated, however.

As ordinary citizens, we need to strive to do better than the ballyhooed politicians for our families, our communities, our country, our globe, and ourselves. It’s the least we can do for our children, our grandchildren, and all the generations to come.

conversation, listening

Listening requires full focus and attention of all our being.

What’s my grandiose plan for this noble goal of reconciliation and harmony? You and you and you, and me. Together we can help soften the rancor in the world if we only take time to listen to what others are saying, asking, claiming, even accusing. Yes. That’s it. Just genuinely listen to one another. It doesn’t have to be an inquisition, merely face-to-face listening. After hearing the other, ask clarifying questions to ensure understanding. And with that knowledge, we ask more delving questions.

I don’t intend noisiness. I mean sincere inquisitiveness that leads to a mutual understanding of each other. And yes, in the end, we may still respectfully disagree. But just because we may differ on how we see a given situation, listening should not lead to denigrating the other person or the belief they hold. Dialogue should lead to mutual respect for one another. Our integrity as human beings depends on it.

If we agree to focus on clarity of issues, truly listen to one another, and respond with personal respect and understanding, perhaps we can make not only our lives but also the lives of those we affect a tad better, conversation by conversation.

In 2018, can we all at least resolve to try to improve the world by listening without judging? Besides making the world a better, safer place, wouldn’t that also make each one of us better people, too?

I’m ready to listen. How about you?

Silver Lake, Dayton VA

Listening and understanding without judgement create a quiet beauty even on a cloudy day.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

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A father who loved life, sometimes too much

Stambaughs by Bruce Stambaugh

My older brother, Craig (middle), and I accompanied our father, Richard H. Stambaugh, on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12, 2009.


By Bruce Stambaugh

My father loved life and his family, sometimes with reckless abandon. He seldom realized the latter. Dad chose to express his affection through actions rather than words. He enjoined his family in whatever he enjoyed doing, and Dad had a wide range of interests throughout his long life.

Dad especially had an affinity for all things outdoors. My brothers, sisters and I learned much about nature and sportsmanship. We also learned about safety, although I don’t think that was the primary lesson Dad had in mind.

Dad’s uninhibited fervor occasionally overrode practicality. The tricky tandem of affability and naiveté resulted in some memorable if not scary situations.

Parents by Bruce Stambaugh

Dad and Mom on their 66th wedding anniversary.

Take the time my older brother and I nearly drowned while Dad was supposed to be watching us. I was too young to remember this incident, but I heard the story so often, I can visualize it in my mind. Craig was six. I was two. We lived on a channel that connected two lakes.

My brother and I wandered on to the boat dock behind our house. According to the neighbor, the next thing she heard was plop, plop. When she no longer saw us standing on the dock, she assumed the worst, jumped in the water and pulled us both to safety. I understand our mother gave our father a good going over, and with that fearful incident firmly ingrained in my psyche I never learned to swim.

My first actual memory of my father is less dramatic, although it, too, was problematic. Dad handed me a bottle of soda. That gesture certainly was tame enough. Problem was I was only three and at the time sitting on the ceiling rafters of the house in which I grew up. Dad and my great uncle Elmer built the brick bungalow together. Dad wanted his family to see the progress to date.

There I was a toddler dangling over what was to be the dining room, Dad proudly smiling, handing me a Coca Cola from the floor below. Either they had nailed me to the 2 x 6 or they were overly trusting that I wouldn’t fall.

Sometimes the unsettling consequences weren’t necessarily Dad’s fault. Dad signed up the family for a special all day passenger train excursion from our hometown of Canton, Ohio to Cambridge, Ohio and back, a distance of about 120 miles roundtrip. The only problem was the train’s locomotive had so many mechanical issues we were gone for 24 hours. No food service or sleeping quarters were available on the train. We arrived home at 6 a.m., and once again Mom was not pleased.

Clendening by Bruce Stambaugh

Over the years, Dad spent many enjoyable days hunting and fishing with family and friends in the Clendening Lake region of southeastern Ohio.


On a family outing to Leesville Lake, Dad rented a boat with a capacity of four for a family of seven. Dad thought two kids counted for one adult. The boat patrol officer thought otherwise.

Should I even mention the time Dad left Craig, our cousin and me in a drenching rainstorm 40 miles from home? In honor of Father’s Day, let’s just say that it all worked out in the end. Mom, of course, had the last say.

Certainly not all of our experiences with our gung-ho Dad were harrowing in nature. We had many, many good times together. I do believe that our vicarious adventures with Dad taught my siblings and me to both enjoy life and to do so responsibly.

Dad was a loving, lovable guy who at times simply couldn’t help himself. I am forever grateful for his headlong dives into life.

Headstone by Bruce Stambaugh

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In honor of the day, my late father, and the visionary founders who penned our freedoms

Richard H. Stambaugh by Bruce Stambaugh

My father, Richard H. Stambaugh, achieved a long-time goal when he was able to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. on September 12, 2009 thanks to Honor Flight. As part of a photographic review of the 21st century's first decade, this picture appeared on the front page of the NewYorkTimes.com on December 24, 2009, three days after Dad died.

The original article was first published on Nov. 11, 2011. I am republishing a revised version today in honor of Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and for all those who work globally for peace.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The very first sermon I heard preached in a Mennonite church 40 years ago was on nonresistance. That was precisely what I was looking for spiritually, and I embraced it. My father, a World War II veteran, was skeptical, but eventually accepted my decision.

Now years later, I was to accompany my 89-year-old father on a special excursion called Honor Flight for World War II vets. Dad was dying of cancer, and he had long wanted to make this trip to Washington, D.C. Regardless of physical condition, each of the 117 vets on the plane was required to have a guardian for the all-day round-trip. Given his physical situation, Dad needed extra care.

Given my nonresistance stance on war, I was reluctant to go. I likely would be the only conscientious objector on the packed plane. But this trip wasn’t about me. It was about my father fulfilling one of his dreams. To help him accomplish that, regardless of my personal convictions, I needed to go with him.

Bruce Craig and Dick by Bruce Stambaugh

My older brother, Craig, and I with our father, Dick, prior to leaving Akron-Canton Airport. Craig served as guardian for two other vets on the day-long trip


As anticipated, the vets received their patriotic just due. Upon arriving at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., fire trucks sprayed arches of water across our arriving jetliner. This ritual was usually reserved for dignitaries. As we exited the plane and entered the terminal, a concert band played patriotic music. Red, white and blue balloons were everywhere, and hundreds of volunteers vigorously greeted us.
Handshake by Bruce Stambaugh

Another veteran was the first to welcome Dad to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.


At the circular, mostly granite World War II memorial, strangers came up to the vets and shook their hands and thanked them for their service. I emotionally took it all in, focusing my attention on caring for my elderly father.

The entourage visited several other war monuments in the U.S. capital that day, too. Back at the airport, we had left in the morning, the vets received a similar patriotic welcome home. Dad said this experience ranked right behind his 67- year marriage.

With that comment, I was exceedingly glad that I had had the chance to experience that day with my father. I felt honored to have been able to accompany him on his most significant day and glad he had gotten to go. Dad died three months later.

Despite all the hoopla of that day or perhaps because of it, the futility of war became all the more obvious to me and had actually reinforced my nonresistance stance. To a person, the vets with whom I spoke said they hated what they had had to do. I

Welcome home by Bruce Stambaugh

Hundreds of well-wishers greeted the vets upon their return to Ohio.

also remembered the words of Jesus, when he said to turn the other cheek and to go the second mile and beyond for your enemy.

For a day I had had one foot on the foundation of God and country, and the other on the teachings of Jesus. The trip with my father was an inspirational reminder of the commitment I had made as a young man to a different way of making peace in a hostile world.

Mailcall by Bruce Stambaugh

Each vet on the Honor Flight received letters to read during mail call on the flight home.


Because of this experience, I had bonded with my father in his time of need, and I greatly respected what my father and the other veterans on the flight had done. And yet, I knew I could not have done what they had, not because of cowardice, but out of conviction.

I had participated in the Honor Flight out of love and respect for my earthly father. I had held fast to my peace convictions out of love and devotion to my father in heaven. In that paradox, I had found no conflict whatsoever.

Bob Dole, WW II Memorial

When Dad spied Senator Bob Dole, who forged the way for the World War II Memorial, he rose out of his wheelchair and shuffled and squeezed his way beside the senator.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2017

This first article appeared in Rejoice!, the daily devotional for Mennonite Church USA.

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What’s in a name? Does it really matter?

Edgefield basketball team by Bruce Stambaugh

My sixth grade basketball team.


By Bruce Stambaugh

I recently had a very nice conversation with a six-year-old girl named Sophie. I told her that I liked her name. In response, she just beamed an ear-to-ear smile and blinked her brilliant blue eyes.

I didn’t tell Sophie this, but she reminded me of another Sophie I knew when I was in elementary school. That Sophie and I were in the same grade and often in the same class.

I remember her in part because of her name, which was rather unusual in the 1950s. Plus, when compared to the rest of the hoard of heads in the overflowing classroom, Sophie’s last name was even more foreign than her first.

Just years removed from World War II and in the midst of the Cold War, families with eastern European last names were often Girl and pumpkin by Bruce Stambaughlooked at askance. That didn’t make it right. It’s just the way it was. As I recall, Sophie was even picked on by other kids, despite her pleasant personality and her charming looks.

I never liked that she got taunted. But I don’t remember ever standing up for her either. I admired Sophie for being so impervious to the mocking and bullying. I seemed only able to empathize with her, stymied by my own juvenile sense of inferiority.

I got teased a lot in school, too. Out of the hundreds of students in our elementary school, I think I was the only Bruce. It didn’t help that I was small and younger than most kids in the class. I remember the hurt feelings more than exactly what was said. I couldn’t imagine how Sophie felt. Yet she kept that furtive smile and carefree attitude.

I silently blamed my parents for my troubles since they had stuck me with the cursed name. I don’t think they liked me. I theorized that since they already had a son, they were hoping for a girl next. Back then, parents had to wait until the actual birth to know the sex of their child.

Mom and Dad by bruce Stambaugh

My mother, Marian, and late father, Richard H. Stambaugh


I figured when another boy popped out, my parents were so disappointed that they named me Bruce. Coupled with my last name, callous students also poked fun at my initials. I had to wonder what were my parents thinking.

My predicament grew worse. A couple of years later, my parents got their girl and I became the forgotten middle child. To complete the Stambaugh brood, Mom bore both another boy and girl.

As you might imagine, the derisive name-calling worsened among the squirrelly junior high school kids and the insensitive high school jocks. When I finally began to both accept my name and get over my silly self-pity, I realized what my classmate Sophie had known all along. Bruce, like Sophie, was just a name, and a decent one at that.

I long ago got over my folks tagging me with the name Bruce. I’m just plain stuck with the initials. Given my orneriness, I probably have earned them anyway.

Davis by Bruce Stambaugh

Be your own person.


I enjoyed my recent chat with young Sophie; glad for the memories she evoked. From what I could tell, Sophie had already learned an important lesson that would take her far in life.

Like the Sophie in my elementary school, this sociable first grader instinctively seemed to know that it’s not what’s in a person’s name that is important. It is what’s in the person that really counts.

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Memorial Day is for remembering

cemetery by Bruce Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Memorial Day is for remembering.

Originally, the day was set aside to remember those who had lost their lives in military service. Most research points to the American Civil War as the primary reason for Memorial Day. Graves of confederate and Union soldiers alike were decorated with flowers.

New York was the first state to officially observe a Memorial Day in 1873, with the rest of the northern states quickly joining in. The South, however, held its own day, separate from the date observed up north.

After World War I, that all changed. Memorial Day, then called Decoration Day, was established to remember all who had died serving the country in conflict. That’s how I remember the day growing up. Parades with bands, fire trucks, flags, and veterans marched by.

In 1971, Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday of May to create another three-day weekend. With that, the emphasis switched again. It was a time to remember all those who had gone before.

Yet Memorial Day became more of a celebrative affair that lasted the entire weekend than a singular time of showing respect. Picnics, softball tournaments, fireworks, and family gatherings overshadowed a time of reflection on the sacrifices and horrors of war.

When my parents built their beloved cottage in southeast Ohio in 1975, they always invited the entire family down for a Memorial Day picnic. We went fishing, boating, played games, and generally enjoyed each other’s company.

With the kids grown and gone, my wife and I began celebrating Memorial Day at our favorite vacation spot, Lakeside, Ohio. We enjoyed the company of Flag and bunting by Bruce Stambaughfriends, along with food and games. Patriotic events were staged, too, but my preference leaned more toward remembering in silent contemplation than engaging in nationalistic revelry.

As a young boy, I remembered spending hours sorting through the hundreds of black and white photographs that my father had taken during his stint in World War II. I was fascinated with the exotic South Pacific images I saw depicted in those old photos. Water buffalo, island natives selling goods, and intended to be silly equator-crossing ceremonies all intrigued me.

Dad, like his father before him, never wanted to talk much about the war. They each only shared briefly about their individual involvement. I came away from those limited discussions with the impression that both Dad and Grandpa Merle had abhorred their wartime experiences. They wouldn’t give details, but I concluded that it was the fearsomeness of it all from which they wanted to protect me.

Grandpa had served in the trenches in France during World War I, and was hit with mustard gas. He was only treated at a field hospital, and since they had no record of his injury, he suffered with chronic coughing the rest of his life.

Dad, on the other hand, chose a rosier route, avoiding the negatives. He bragged about being on the first ship into Tokyo Bay and how movies were traded from ship to ship via pulley and cable systems. In his retirement years, Dad enjoyed periodic reunions with his U.S.S. San Diego shipmates.

Neither my father nor my grandfather celebrated Memorial Day in grandiose, red, white and blue style. Rather, they chose to personally remember the horrific effects of war silently, privately. All the while, they relished in being surrounded by family and friends, enjoying the precious moments at hand.

This Memorial Day, I plan to do the same.

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