Did I Make a Difference?

Community service - USS Frank Cable Sailors

By Judy Berman

Some people make our lives richer just by crossing our path.

For parents, they might not know what influence they’ve had until their child’s nearly grown.

As a teacher, I often wonder: Did I make a difference? I don’t mean in test scores. I’m looking for a deeper impact.

Are my students thinking more critically when given conflicting points of view? Have any of our class discussions led them to think more about what they can do to forge stronger, positive relationships? Or how to make the world a better place?

That’s when I think about a story I was assigned to report on when I worked for Florida Today.

There are certain people we’re meant to meet in life. For me, Irene Summerford was one of them.

Volunteers were out in her Melbourne neighborhood painting houses, cleaning yards, and emptying lots of debris and brush.

A deacon told me about a woman who lived around the corner. He said Irene, a widow, spent what little money she had to help those who were hungry and hurting.

When the volunteers took a lunch break, I decided to go meet her.

Irene, who had been helping the volunteers paint her home, was sitting outside on a bench. A huge cross was on her front lawn.

She said she wished people would do something to make a difference every day, that a special day should not be needed to do so.

“Life is about reaching out thru love. It doesn’t take a rich person. All it takes is a willing heart to reach out,” Irene told me.

Irene admitted that sometimes she knows she can’t help and leaves it in God’s hands. Other times, if they need something to eat, she’ll offer a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Or, maybe what they need is “just a smile and a hug.”

Irene wondered if she’d always be on the outside looking in. I understood as I’ve felt like an outsider, too. But, she said, she learned a lot by being on the outside.

I was touched and humbled by her strong belief. We talked about half an hour. Her positive outlook prompted me to re-examine my own goals.

About 1 ½ years later, I left the paper and sought ways to help children through teaching. Irene’s passion to improve the lives of children in her neighborhood led her in another direction.

She “was the driving force behind the creation …for a drop-in center for kids in the community, a program that began life in a public housing apartment in 2004,” according to an article in “Florida Today.”

Irene died of cancer in 2006, at age 60, a year before a new building was completed to meet the growing demand for an after-school program at the community center.

Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Irene lived that and made life better for those around her.

Our lives intersected briefly, but Irene left a lasting impression on me.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video: Conner and Cayden Long – SportsKids of the Year – An excellent example of brotherly love and sportsmanship – Conner’s brother, Cayden, has cerebral palsy, and they compete in triathlons together.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_Lax4zFFoA 

Main Photo: Community Service – USS Frank Cable Sailors – Gunner’s Mate 1st Class, Sierra Clemons, playing a game with a child at the Child Protection and Development Center in Hua Yai, Thailand – photo taken Feb. 23, 2012 http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fa/USS_Frank_Cable_Sailors_participate_in_a_community_service_event._%2813453432314%29.jpg/640px-USS_Frank_Cable_Sailors_participate_in_a_community_service_event._%2813453432314%29.jpg

 

Spring at Last

Great Blue Heron - adult and offspring

Great Blue Heron – adult and offspring

By Judy Berman

Rains persistent patter
Dancing on the porch.
Heavy gray rain clouds
Cast a dark shadow.

After the deluge,
Birds chirping
In the cool, night air.

The harsh caw of one
Competing with the
sweet sound of another.
Spring – at last!

Buds are bursting thru
Birds are nesting
New life, renewal.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

White Pelicans

White Pelicans

Great Blue Heron warily eyeing an alligator

Great Blue Heron warily eyeing an alligator

Sandhill Crane nesting

Sandhill Crane nesting

alligator asking in the sun

alligator basking in the sun

Florida is the temporary home of birds that “winter” here. It’s also the year-round home for others.

Last weekend, my husband, Dave and I visited Viera Wetlands in Brevard County on Florida’s East Coast with Lee of Southern Photo in Melbourne along with another photographer, Jim.

We snapped away with our cameras as these birds swam in the ponds, a lake, and built their nest in a swampy area.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video – Florida Nature Compilation – Simoes Productions. Footage of nature in Brevard County, Florida. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heB4H-_jweU  

Photo: Viera Wetlands – Great Blue Heron – adult and offspring. They are year-round Florida residents. Taken by Judy Berman, 3-1-14.

Photo: Viera Wetlands – Hooded Merganser ducks swam in a pond near us. They winter in Florida. Taken by Judy Berman, 3-1-14.

Photo: Viera Wetlands – White Pelicans. They winter along the coasts. Taken by Judy Berman. 3-1-14.

Photo: Viera Wetlands – Great Blue Heron warily eyeing an alligator – “Come on in. The water’s fine!” the alligator smiled invitingly. Taken by Judy Berman, 3-1-14.

Photo: Florida Today – A few miles from our home, Dave took this photo of a Sandhill Crane nesting. Feb. 2014.   * For more on this, read “Love and loss in the parking lot” by Suzy Fleming Leonard. Photos by Craig Bailey. Slide show by Rob Landers. http://www.floridatoday.com/article/20140301/COLUMNISTS0604/303020015/Suzy-Fleming-Love-loss-an-office-parking-lot. 

Photo: Viera Wetlands – alligator basking in the sun. Taken by Dave Berman, 3-1-14.

Vigilante or Self-Defense?

By Judy Berman

Let’s say you meet a stranger in a dark alley. Someone is killed. The survivor claims self-defense. There are no witnesses. Only one side of this story is available because the other person is dead.

That image of the vigilante who takes the law into his own hands was popularized in Hollywood. Think: Charles Bronson (as Paul Kersey) when he avenged his wife’s death in “Death Wish” (1974). Many cheered him on when he sought revenge.

But two recent cases in Florida, that appear to have taken the same path, ended in the deaths of two young men under the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

Make no mistake. This is not about anyone’s right to “bear arms” and protect themselves. This is about rights guaranteed to U.S.citizens in the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.

Rights such as the right to a fair trial “decided by a jury” of your peers. There’s not much chance of that happening if someone apparently takes justice into his own hands.

“The 2005 law eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat when attacked, leading critics to say the statue fosters vigilante justice and allows criminals to get away with murder on a claim of self-defense,” according to The Miami Herald.

Florida Statute 776.013 (3), known as the “stand your ground” law, allows people to use deadly force if they think their life is in danger, or other lives are in jeopardy.

  • On Feb. 26th, an unarmed 17-year-old in Sanford, near Orlando, Trayvon Martin, was gunned down by 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. Martin was returning to his parents’ home after going to a convenience store to buy Skittles and ice tea. Zimmerman told dispatchers that Martin looked “suspicious.”
  • On Wednesday, March 21st, Miami-Dade Judge Beth Bloom tossed out a case against Greyston Garcia, who was charged with second-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Pedro Roteta. 26, on Jan. 25th. “Police said Roteta was stealing Garcia’s truck radio.” Garcia chased Roteta more than a block before the fatal attack. Roteta had a pocket knife, but it was unopened and in his pocket, according to The Miami Herald.

In the Martin case, Zimmerman ignored police advice not to confront the teen. He followed Treyvon Martin in his sport utility vehicle and then on foot. The two allegedly got into a fight. The devastating outcome has been the subject of protests and national news coverage.

The Miami-Dade judge’s decision on Garcia angered Miami police Sgt. Ervens Ford, who supervised the case. The Miami Herald quotes Ford as saying the decision was a “travesty of justice. How can it be Stand Your Ground? It’s on (surveillance) video! You can see him stabbing the victim … “

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office may appeal the judge’s ruling.

The Miami Herald reports that “in the first five years the law was in effect, it was invoked 93 times. In the last year and half, it has been invoked at least an additional 37 times. ‘Justifiable homicides’ reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have increased threefold since the law went into effect.”

The state of Florida should take action now to re-examine the Stand Your Ground law. What happened to Trayvon Martin … and to Pedro Roteta … could have happened to anyone’s child. This law is a matter of concern for all citizens who want safe passage on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

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UPDATE: On June 26, 2012, Greyston Garcia, 26, was killed in Liberty City, Fla. shortly after he left his job at a convenience store. “Investigators suspect the shooting was between two rival gangs and Garcia was an innocent victim.” CBS Miami reported. http://miami.cbslocal.com/2012/06/27/police-seek-gunmen-motive-in-double-murder-in-liberty-city/

UPDATE: On July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was found not guilty of killing Trayvon Martin. Here is the link to USA Today’s story: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/07/13/george-zimmerman-found-not-guilty/2514163/

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider, earth-rider.com, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Main photo of Charles Bronson taken in 1973. In 1974, he starred in the vigilante film, “Death Wish” http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bronson_1973.jpg           Attribution: Fish Cop at en.wikipedia

* Editorial cartoon: courtesy of Jeff Parker, Florida Today 

* Miami judge decides fatal stabbing was self-defense, a news article in The Miami Herald. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/21/2706789_miami-judge-stabbing-in-the-back.html

* Number of “stand your ground” cases rises as legislators rethink law, a news article in The Miami Herald. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/22/2708767_number-of-stand-your-ground-cases.html

* The Bill of Rights http://www.ushistory.org/documents/amendments.htm