In my years here at The Standard, I have noticed a common misconception about the difference between opinion pieces and news articles. Not all writing in a newspaper is a news article that reflects the newspaper's “opinion”.
It's first important to understand that good newspapers do not have opinionated news. Slants within news articles go against journalistic integrity. Journalistic integrity is a commitment to presenting only the facts of a situation to readers, so the readers can make their own informed opinions on a subject. News with a bias, would cease to be news, and become propaganda for a specific opinion.
I have heard people claim newspapers should be telling people how to think correctly, but one person's opinion on “correct thinking” is what someone else would call out as propaganda.
Meriam-Webster defines propaganda as, “the spreading of ideas, information, or rumour for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person.”
But truth itself is the greatest advocate for truth. Truth does not need biases to highlight it.
That said, newspapers, not just The Standard, have a platform for opinions as well. These are editorials, letters to the editor, and columns. In The Standard these are typically found on pages six and seven. This column you are reading right now, is an opinion piece, in which I am highlighting certain facts, but expressing my opinions on those facts. And you can disagree with me. As long as you express that disagreement in a respectful manner, you can write what's called a “letter to the editor”.
The purpose of letters to the editor are to allow a forum for public opinion, not The Standard's opinion. Members of The Standard can express their own opinions in columns or editorials instead, which don't necessarily reflect the opinion of other members of our staff, or even The Standard as a company.
I look at it this way, if you see a YouTube comment you don't like, do you email YouTube to express your displeasure with their company endorsed opinions? Of course not. Any user of YouTube knows the comments are by users, not by the company itself. Instead, if you have something to say, you direct it to the person who wrote the comment, or in our case, the letter writer. How do you respond? By writing a letter to the first letter writer, which can be printed as a rebuttal.
We hold the right to refuse or edit letters to the editor, and we do not have to explain any of our edits, which are up to the discretion of the staff who handles that.
I hope this opinion piece, has helped you better understand the nature of opinion pieces and news articles, and how they differ. Remember, if you have an opinion on a subject that you would like to express, you can send a letter to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Imagine you are an employer and you have two candidates for a single position. You ask them to each explain why you should hire them. Instead, they tell you why you shouldn't hire the other job applicant. Would you be inclined to hire either one after that? I wouldn't.
This may sound like a silly scenario, with clearly out of touch job seekers, but it's also the state of politics.
As I write this, we have candidates vying for the job of Ontario's Premier. We as citizens are their prospective employer, and we each cast a vote for the person we want to hire. Sadly, the candidates have spent more time slinging mud at their opponents than trying to convince us why we should hire them.
Someone who points the finger at others, lacks the maturity anyone would look for in an employee, no matter the profession.
Would you take a prospective employee on their word about their experience, or their opponent's inexperience? I would be checking their resumes and calling their references myself.
Candidates have a party line to follow, and it's in their vested interest to make their opponents look like a lesser choice. We as voters should be doing our own research.
Imagine several restaurants have the chance to sell you on eating their food. Would the following argument compel you? “Eat at my place, the other restaurant's food tastes terrible! At least my food doesn't taste terrible!” Being better than the “worst choice” isn't a compelling argument.
I'm not saying don't vote for people who sling mud. Otherwise I would be asking you not to vote for any party with enough support to win. All the major parties have done this. I want you to vote with your own conscience.
I'm trying to appeal to the candidates moving forward to tell us why they are qualified for the job. There's no reason to avoid the answer with distracting arguments about your opponent, unless you don't have many qualifications yourself.
It is important we are thankful in our prayers. “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2 (NIV). While we shouldn't complain (Philippians 2:14), if we do complain to anyone, it should be to God. He hears our complaints and concerns without holding it against us, because of His grace, motivated by his deep love for us. We see David throughout the Psalms make his complaints known to God.
But we should move past the Old Testament example of David and look to the New Testament example of Jesus. Jesus prayed often. His prayers, by majority, focused on thankfulness and praise of God, not concerns. He settled the fact God is in control. Instead of asking God to fix what He knew God already had under control, He focused on knowing God better, by being in relationship with Him.
The best place to lay down our burdens is at God's feet. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT). When we do this we trade our burdens for Jesus burden. Jesus described his burden as “light” (Matthew 11:30). Do you feel weighed down by concerns? That's not Jesus burden you're carrying then. His burden is light, anything that feels heavy on you, is therefore not a godly concern.
What is Jesus' burden? Is it to be concerned with God's work? No. This is well meaning, but it traps us into a “holy” version of trying to earn God's love and favour by doing good things. The truth is we are accepted by God because of what Jesus did, not because of anything of ourselves.
Hebrews 4:9-11 describes our new “burden”, as follows: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”
Now that we are to take on Jesus' burden, of rest in God, disobedience would be to try to take back control over God's care of us. To leave this rest and to try and fix things ourselves, or complain to God about it, is taking back our old burden.
But remember there is no guilt in bringing those heavy concerns to God, though we must leave them there when we do.
While on the subject of prayer, I invite you to send me your prayer requests. I would be glad to pray for you. Just remember God hears your prayers too, and he is the one that answers, not I. If you would like to send me a prayer request, email me at email@example.com.
Often I write about contemplative and serious topics. This week I thought I would discuss something a little more light hearted.
If you've met me in person or have seen my photo next to my column, you know I sport a furry face. It seems like everyone has an opinion on beards, and if you grow one, you get to hear those opinions. I was surprised, when I first grew my beard, at how many people actually like beards.
My friend Matt and I were discussing this one day, when I erroneously suggested that in recent years beards have been “in style”. He pointed out while they are in style, it's hardly recent. In fact beards have been the norm in many cultures across the globe, through the majority of history. It's only been a few decades here and there where they weren't as popular.
Since my beard is red, it's an uncommon feature, which is hard to miss. Consequently, I have a lot of conversations with people who comment on it. These conversations are generally complimentary, but sometimes I hear a few things about beard growing, which in my experience are untrue.
Here's a few beard myths:
(1) I can't grow a beard, it grows out patchy. Most beards grow out with uneven patches of facial hair the first few times it's grown. I've talked with several successful beard growers who've had that experience as well. But after they shaved and grew their beards over again, once or twice, it became much more even.
(2) If I grow a beard I won't have to shave anymore. Sure, you can neglect to shave if you want to look like a cast member on Duck Dynasty, but while the general populous is more open to beards currently, unkempt beards are almost unanimously disliked. For this reason, I recently had to trim my beard. If it grew into anymore of a 'bush', it would have had to run for president. A good beard still needs to be trimmed to keep the edges clean. No one likes to see stubble on your neck, A.K.A. a “neck beard”.
(3) Everyone looks better with a beard. The website Mashable recently posted edited photos of Marvel's Avengers, humoursly trying to make the case “Avengers: Infinity War” would've been a better movie if all the character's had beards. Search it online and form your own opinions if you like, but I don't think it was an improvement for Iron Man or Spider-Man, much less the female cast. Although I have to say, I feel the Hulk was greatly improved by his fictitious facial hair.
(4) Beards make me look fat/thin. Some people grow a beard in an attempt to hide a double chin and give an appearance of being thinner than they are. Others grow them to fill out an otherwise thin face. In my experience you will look the same weight, only you will have a beard.
Not to oversimplify weight loss or weight gain, but if you are looking to do either, I would suggest exercise may be more effective. I recommend All Fit Gym in Port Perry, at 16130 Old Simcoe Road, it's been good for me.
So there you have it, four beard myths. Whether you like beards or a clean shave, have a great week!
When you work in a newspaper office, death is something you hear about frequently.
It's been difficult at times. I've spoken with readers at the office one day, and found them in the obituaries in the following weeks or months.
But today I want to write to a specific group of people, who death affects in ways that are beyond my own experience. I want to speak to widows.
Specifically three widows, but by extension to all widows who may read this.
The first widow is Vicky Popowich. I transcribed her poems into a digital format, so she could publish her book “Hope”. Like her poems, she has been an example of hope. I want to give her, and all widows, some hope as well.
It can be hard for a widow of a man who was known for his ministry, when it feels like people expect you to fill his shoes. They were good “shoes”, but God has other “shoes” meant for you. He's not finished with you yet. You still have many more years to spread Christ's message of hope, but in your own style, as God leads. It's going to get “gooder and gooder”.
Recently I wrote a column honouring George Samells, my best friend's grandfather. I want his wife, Marnum, to know that she's a wonderful person too. Don't hesitate to reach out to friends near and far. We're happy to visit you. You always have something interesting to say, and I love listening to you!
Some who have lost a loved one may want a listening ear, but don't know how to ask for one. Let's make that effort to be a ready and available listener.
The third widow is a faithful contributor to The Standard News. Mary Jean Till has kept readers informed about all the happenings going on in Greenbank. She has a joyful personality and has always treated me as more than a worker bee. When someone, with much more life experience than I, treats me with respect, it's an expression of Christ-like humility. To this pillar of Greenbank society, I say, thank you for your example in the community. I hope you can teach us all to have a community spirit like yours.
To the readers: do you know anyone who is a widow? Spend some time this week showing them they have value.
There is a Chinese proverb which says, “Talk doesn't cook rice.” In other words, actions speak louder than words. While our words have an impact, it is our actions which tell people who we really are.
This is especially true when we apologize and make commitments to do better. Talking about doing something different, but not changing our behaviour, communicates we don't really believe we need to change. It says we don't want to feel the condemnation, but we don't want to do the work either.
The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1 said, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Without loving actions to back up our words, they become noise. Words can be a clumsy way to express love, and while verbal affirmation of love is vital, it's hallow if love isn't proven through actions.
I would say a major cause, of not following our words with action, is that we're too quick to speak. We're at times quick to make apologies for actions we haven't seriously or fully considered yet.
The solution is not to be quicker and better with our words, but to be patient, thoughtful, and listening. It says in James 1:19a, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak.”
If we spend more time listening, we'll spend less time making statements we're not living out, we'll adjust our focus from selfishness to true interest and concern for others. When we do this, we'll view others more for who they are, rather than as extensions of ourselves. As a result, we can give apologies which are backed up by action and benefit the other person.
This week my challenge is, when you want to apply a temporary bandage of words, instead take some time alone to think and pray about what actions you can take to improve yourself. Once you've figured that out, don't share your plan with someone else, keep it to yourself and walk it out. Give fruit time to grow and speak for itself.
The Bible says you will know people by their “fruit” (Matthew 7:16). Fruit is an object, not an idea, when fruit grows, people will see it, we won't need to point it out.
Let's match actions with words and not be so quick to speak, so we can avoid falling short of our words.
George Samells, the grandfather of my best friend Tyler Wescott, and known to me as “Grandpa George”, passed away this past Thursday, March 22nd. He was born on a farm on Scugog Island, on Ma Brown's Road, and lived much of his life within Scugog.
The Wescott and Samells families have always made me feel welcome as one of their own, and Grandpa George was no exception to that. After first meeting Grandpa George and his wife Marilyn, known to Tyler and I as “Marnum”, I went to breakfast a few times with them. I remember Grandpa George would order his toast burnt, since he said no one ever toasted his toast enough, so this would ensure it.
Mr. Samells was a character indeed, and I found him easy to like. He was a strong supporter of the newspaper, even after his deteriorating eyesight wouldn't allow him to read it. His weakening eyes, he said, had benefits, since it meant he didn't have to see people's facial hair, something he was often humourously critical of.
During the past few years, I would often see Grandpa George and Marnum at the laundromat, or more frequently at Tim Hortons on Reach Street. About once a week I would see them at Timmies and spend a few minutes catching up and talking about Tyler, as Grandpa George made a few jokes about Tyler's beard.
One of the last times I saw Grandpa George was at his 91st birthday party. Again, he made me feel like one of the family and shared stories about his life long dedication as a Toronto Maple Leafs fan.
In one story, he told us how he would listen to the hockey game on the radio with his father. The radio had one ear phone, with no other way of listening to it. He and his father had an arrangement, where George would listen to the first half of the game and his father would listen to the second. Inevitably though, his father would fall asleep before the second half started and George would get to hear the entire game.
In the Bible, in James 4:14, life is compared to a mist that quickly vanishes. We do not know how long our life will be and this can give us great pause to consider our legacy.
Unfortunately for many, rather than pausing, we become urgent and afraid our legacy will be lackluster, pushing to ensure we've done all we can to help those who will live on after us to do 'better'. The urgent and those who try hard to make a legacy or leave others better off, rarely achieve any of these goals.
Instead of worrying about our legacies, I suggest we do what Grandpa George did, during the time I knew him, make people feel welcome.
A quote I mentioned in a previous column, that can never be emphasized enough is, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou.
A welcoming heart and a gentlemanly attitude are two of the only legacies for which a man is worth being remembered. And these legacies are lived and earned. Mr. Samells exemplified these things in the time I knew him and that's the legacy I will remember him by. Thank you for making me feel like part of the family, sir.
To Marnum, Larry, Linda, Tyler, Brittney, Jake, and Bill and his girls, my sincerest sympathy. My prayers are with you now. Thank you for carrying forth Grandpa George's legacy with your warm, welcoming, gentle spirits. God bless you all.
Voters are often quick to pounce on even the slightest of missteps made by an incumbent politician, or political hopeful. Whether a slight slip of the tongue, or brief lapse in memory or minor indiscretion in judgment, like angry sports fans ready to denounce and ridicule the athletes and call the referees blind.
Why do we do this? We act as though politicians waive any right to have their basic human dignity respected, as soon as they throw their hat in the political ring.
As a Christian, I do not believe that all respect is earned, but rather that a certain level of respect is required to be given, not because of who we are as people, but because of who Jesus is. As recently stated in my column, “Judging Jesus”, we are to treat everyone as if they were deserving of some of the honour of Jesus Himself. Obviously, we all make mistakes, and I'm not asking for us to respect wrong doing, but I am asking us to treat the person like Jesus even amidst this. We shouldn't condone the action, but we should respect the human dignity of the person.
This is, sadly, a difficult concept for us to grasp. As some would half jokingly welcome the thought of the assassination of their most hated politician. How could this possibly be acceptable? Would you condone the assassination of your neighbour just because they were annoying? Would you condone the assassination of Jesus?
All human life has value, even the life of those who don't believe that all human life has value. This goes for murderers, as well as pro-abortionists. Someone's lack of care for others doesn't give us permission to become what we hate.
Hopefully, most will agree with me on the above points. Still, some may find it acceptable to mock politicians on a personal level. While it is one thing to disagree with policies, it is quite another to gossip about how much we dislike someone as a person, or how much their personality irritates us. Many politicians are guilty of doing this to each other as well. In the average person's environment, constantly throwing insults at your co-workers would likely get you fired, but this is the norm in parliament and Queen's Park.
But here we are, sitting on the sidelines. Most of us without an hour's training in political matters, and most feeding off of the internet and hear-say from a handful of people we know who fancy themselves political pundits.
When was the last time you read an entire article on a political subject from a reliable media outlet? When was the last time you verified that story, with at least three other reliable outlets?
Here are a few questions I'm trying to ask myself before ranting about a political issue:
Would I have cared about this issue before I read an article about it?
If my favourite politician had been the one who did this, instead of one I dislike, would I excuse it or still condemn it?
Am I upset just for the sake of being upset?
Am I making fun of this politician to make me feel superior?
This check up helps determine if I'm being fair or simply looking for something to be angry about.
Questions like these would be good to ask before we comment or act against anyone in our society, so why shouldn't they be good to ask in regards to those who work so hard to serve it?
I'm not trying to imply sympathy for any particular politician by writing this column. It's simply something I've observed from all sides of the political spectrum.
Whether you're a voter, a candidate, or an incumbent politician, let's remember to respectfully discuss and debate ideas and policies, but let's not try to win points by dehumanizing those we disagree with or belittle them as people. Instead let's extend an olive branch of respect and understanding.
Remember, “Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.” - Author Unknown.
Would you condemn Jesus? While it may be a provocative question, it's also one we act out the answer to regularly. And sadly, the answer for all of us, too often, is yes.
Let me explain why I can make this assertion, even though I don't know you. Jesus, while relating a parable said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40 NIV).
Jesus makes the bold claim that what we do or do not do to others, we actually do or do not do to Christ Himself. Putting our interactions into this light, how often have we actually been criticizing Jesus? Yelling at Jesus? Judging Jesus?
Jesus further solidified the connection between our actions towards others and Him, elsewhere. In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a story about a servant who had a debt to pay, but was unable to. In an act of mercy, his master didn't pronounce judgment against the servant, instead he set him free, forgiving him of his burden. But the same servant went out and found someone who owed him money. Rather than showing mercy, he demanded payment. The master found this out, wasn't pleased and so reversed the mercy given to the first servant.
The Bible provides a context for this response in Mathew 7:2, “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Jesus said, “if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:15).
Why is this? When we condemn others for their sins, we're actually condemning Jesus, because He is the one who took their sin, and each of ours, to the cross as his own and paid for it, for all time and eternity. While this concept sounds bizarre at first, approach it simply: when you pay for something, you own it.
The Bible takes it a step further, saying, Jesus not only took ownership, He actually became as sin for us. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
This is why the concept of grace, isn't merely a sweet thought to alleviate the guilt of 'wrong-doers'.
Grace is vital to the good news. Presenting the Gospel, which means the 'good news', without grace is dangerous. I'm not just talking about presenting it without the concept of grace, but presenting it without an attitude of grace. If we don't practice what we preach, our words are meaningless.
A famous quote, often attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, says, “Share the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” Our actions and ways of speaking communicate as much, or more, than our words do.
The Apostle Paul noted to Titus, the best way to get the gospel across, was living properly, “In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8).
While our words are important, our conduct often impacts more deeply. Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” It's counter-intuitive to expect someone to respond positively to treating them poorly.
According to an article by The Nonverbal Group, “Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, conducted several studies on nonverbal communication. He found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements, [such as] facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc.” If this is true, the tone of our words convey more than five times what our words actually do, and our gestures and body language convey more than half of our overall message.
This concerns me when I think about how I treat people. Am I speaking the truth, but not in a loving tone or gesture? This could give the impression, I'm actually judging rather than loving, or even lying to the person. Those aren't messages I want to convey.
When we interact with others and treat them certain ways, we're actually treating Jesus that way. I believe this should be a sobering thought we shouldn't move past easily.
But, bringing it back around to grace, we need grace for ourselves too. We're going to blow this, as we attempt to practice more true tone or gestures. We also need to treat ourselves like we would Jesus. We're also one of the “least of these” He talks about, in the scriptural quote earlier. Which means when we accuse and abuse ourselves, we're actually accusing and abusing Jesus as well.
From this point forward, let's view each other as Jesus, in terms of how we treat each other. Let's also treat ourselves with grace for the times we mess this up.
I'm praying for grace and peace for you. God bless!
Laughter is good medicine. This is sage advice we are all familiar with. But sometimes it's difficult to laugh. Whether it's because of loss, grief, or trauma in your life; or less dramatically, the natural stresses that come even with good jobs or relationships, it's important to step back from the seriousness and laugh.
We need to be able to laugh at ourselves too. It's difficult to have a healthy self-opinion, without being able to laugh off the silly things we do or think. Laughing at ourselves keeps us humble, sober and less likely to be wounded when someone else criticizes us. It's not a matter of mocking ourselves to beat others to it. It's a matter of being able to not take everything so seriously.
While life has many things that need to be taken seriously, we tend to make ourselves miserable by making things more serious, emotionally, than they need to be. As William Arthur Ward said, “To make mistakes is human; to stumble is commonplace; to be able to laugh at yourself is maturity.”
When we can set the emotional tension aside, and look at how hilarious life often is, we can more easily move through life and decisions. Re-approaching things from a humourous angle can get our minds thinking on a different path, and open us to creative solutions to issues.
Sometimes you have to put yourself into a humourous situation to get into the spirit of things. As a personal example, I've entered the United Way annual Tour de Perry tricycle race in Port Perry a few times, and it's a hilarious event. As an adult riding a tricycle, it's difficult to take yourself too seriously, and that's a good thing. Every time I participate, and see local business owners, politicians, and pastors allowing themselves to look ridiculous all for a good cause, it's been a great reminder that it's OK to laugh at myself. This is finding dignity by throwing off foolish pride.
Our minds work like a computer. Computers need to be rebooted, or set on 'sleep mode' periodically to get them to refresh and utilize their resources properly. Whether writers block or working out a math or technical engineering problem, sometimes we need a break and a refresh.
Laughter can help us take that needed break. As comedian Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”
Here are a few ideas for ways to refresh your mind with some humour.
Family Comedy Minute
If you only have a minute to spare while working on a big project, I recommend checking out the Family Comedy Minute, at www.radioprogramsonline.com/FCM/ This one minute comedy show packs excerpts from family friendly comedy shows, so it's not only a good quick shot of comedy, it's also a nice way to find out about comedians you may have never heard of before. A few clean comedians I recommend are Nazareth and Leeland Klassen.
Sometimes nothing is as funny as 'the funnies'. Here are a few places you can find some comics that usually tickle my funny bone! Comicskingdom.com/comics is a great quick source to find comics like Dustin or Sherman's Lagoon. You can find Peanuts, Adam @ Home, Calvin & Hobbes at www.gocomics.com
The Scugog Memorial Library is full of comedy movies and humourous books. Take care of yourself, by going there and checking out some laughable literature!
So there you have it, a few sources for humour in a hurry. Whatever you face, keep a smile on your face when you honestly can. And when you can't, get some good medicine, that is laughter.
“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” - Charlie Chaplin.