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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Contemplating bridges and walls*

A hot topic recently has been the building of walls and bridges. Many Americans, including some Republican presidential candidates, want to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border as one of the solutions to illegal immigration.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, believes America's current immigration system is broken and requires comprehensive reform. He says border security is important to the country, but doesn't believe a fence is the way to achieve that security. Former Secretary of State (and another Democratic presidential contender) Hillary Clinton say she supports a secure border and a path to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants currently residing in the country.

Walls and bridges are everywhere, and they will be around for as long as we live. They exist to help us maintain our economic, religious and socio-political standards.

We build walls to protect our privacy, to discourage trespassing, to set ourselves apart from others, to establish a space for ourselves where we'll be left alone.

We build walls to exclude others from our lives. We build walls to contain something that threatens or endangers our well being. We build walls to counteract our inadequacies, vulnerabilities and insecurities.

On the other hand, we build bridges to facilitate or maintain a steady flow of life. We have bridges, because we want to connect or interconnect with the outside world. We have bridges to maintain the steady flow of goods and services others can depend on.

We have bridges to communicate with others, to help us explore and learn more about others. We have bridges to reach out to others.

I view walls or borders as impediments to growth and development of the totality of men and women. They contribute nothing but isolation, indifference, ignorance and selfishness.

They deter progress and learning. They contribute to fear and doubt, suspicion and mistrust. Secrecy is prevalent with walls and borders.

There's freedom in building bridges. There's openness and communication, cooperation and coordination. With walls, there's apathy and indifference.

Building bridges can make a big difference. Bridges are a means to help build one big community better. We need each other for our survival, because we're one human family. Despite our differences of viewpoints and backgrounds, we all belong to the human race.

Pope Francis, on his way back to Rome from his recent trip to Mexico, said a person who thinks only about building walls and not building bridges is not Christian.

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump reacted to the pontiff's remarks and said, "For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful. No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man's faith or religion."

Evangelist Franklin Graham agrees that as Christians we should try to build bridges with others whenever we can, but that doesn't mean we should compromise our national security. He suggests to the pope "to reach out and build a bridge to Donald Trump. Who knows where he may be this time next year?"

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appears in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, February 25, 2016. For mnore information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

What it means to observe Lent*

Lent has begun for Christians around the world. It started on Ash Wednesday, when many of us went to church to receive ashes on the forehead to signify "we are dust and to dust we return."

The practice of receiving ashes dates back to the fifth century and became a widespread Christian practice by the 11th century.

Lent is the season to observe and commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who, we believe, is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer.

It is the time to reflect on what it means to be a follower of Christ, an opportune time to repent for our misdeeds and misgivings and to increase awareness and intensity of our prayer, fasting and alms-giving.

It is the time to grow in and strengthen the faith that binds us together and makes all things possible because of our love and devotion to our Lord.

What does it mean to be a Christian? As sinners, we have the ability and capability to be holy. That is, if we allow Christ into our lives.

If we obey His teachings, we become responsible, law-abiding citizens and peace-loving people. We become selfless, mindful of others, our neighbors who benefit from our good deeds, kindness, charity and generosity. We become more aware of and concerned about others, especially the underrepresented, underserved, marginalized, disables, elderly, helpless and hopeless in our midst.

Practicing our faith, we are able to see Christ in them. We try our best to love and care for them the way we want to be loved and cared for.

On the other hand, let's not underestimate the power of prayer in our lives. One thing we can do to counteract negativity, fear and hopelessness in our lives is to pray for ourselves and for others. Prayer can save us from a lot of troubles. Also, prayer leads us to a life of holiness towards God.

When we pray together---when we pray for others who need our prayer---things and people change for the better. We become interconnected and we get closer to God.

As followers of Christ, we also practice alms-giving and fasting. We give of our time, talents and treasures. We share what we have, because we believe that giving is caring.

We give up something or deprive ourselves of something at Lent so that others can have it. That's a sacrifice for others, for God. We just let others have it, instead of ourselves. That is giving. That's an act of love for others and for God because we see Christ in them.

We believe in giving because it is in giving that we receive more blessings and graces from our Almighty God. To share is to give, and to give is to love, and to let others experience our faith.

Praying, fasting, alms-giving, observing the Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments can help us grow in faith, especially during this Lenten season.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Sunday, February 14, 2016. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A tale of two cities in Suffolk*

As a transplant from "Silicon Valley" in California for 22 years, I have observed a tremendous transformation of our city, particularly in northern Suffolk. Growth and development are so evident that the landscape has changed.

Because the city is so spread out, there is a notion that there are two Suffolks: one in historic downtown, where the seat of city government resides, and the other in the northern end, where business is booming.

Depending on traffic and other factors, it takes almost 30 minutes to reach downtown by car. At least, that's what I've experienced for over two decades that I've been a resident here.

It's good that, in northern Suffolk, we have hospitals and medical centers, offices and banks, the city treasurer, dental offices, libraries, post offices, schools and a police station that our growing community can depend on.

Now we have infrastructure projects, like widened roads and bridges that have linked to interstate and major highways, retail stores, hotels, restaurants, industrial companies, military establishments, car dealerships and gas stations that a growing community depends on. New communities emerge as new houses and other dwellings continue to be built.

Years ago, we didn't have some of these establishments. The area was covered with trees and farms.

From an agricultural to a suburban city, Suffolk's population has increased to more than 90,000.

With the sprawling population and business boom, city taxes and revenues went up. Thus, the city's economy has improved dramatically because of growth and development.

Managed growth and development are beneficial. But when there is too much growth, it jeopardizes the environment, which is not good.

We've been hearing the news about global warming and other major issues affecting humanity, like war, terrorism, poverty, inequality, drug and human trafficking, refugees, illegal immigration, viruses and more.

This is where innovative and visionary leaders, city/urban planners and managers come to mind. They play a vital role in shaping our city's and country's future. But, of course, an educated and well-informed and involved and engaged citizenry can make a difference in what our future will be.

Managed growth and development should gear toward building bridges and community cohesiveness, along with equal economic opportunities for all residents. It should be eco-friendly. It should not be detrimental to health and public safety. It should also protect the city's historical sites and legacy.

On the other hand, there seems to be a disparity between the city's different areas.

Are we creating two Suffolks, one progressive and the other lagging behind? Or, are there revitalization projects in the works for downtown?

Is this a tale of two cities? Can the story be changed?

Managed growth and development should be a boon, not a bane, something that benefits all, that we can all be a part of and, hence, be proud of.

Suffolk's growth and development is inevitable. as its population becomes more diverse, so should its economy.

-Chris a. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, February 9, 2016. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com

Friday, January 29, 2016

Faith makes all things possible*

Faith is personal, yet universal in nature and application.

Synonymous with belief and trust, faith is inherent in each one of us. In our thoughts and actions, we have faith, not just in matters of religion, but also in the way we live our life.

Faith is linked to trust, as manifested in the statements, "i believe in you," and "Believe in yourself."

"I trust you," signifies faith, and so does this: "In God, we trust."

From a song, "Walk with faith in your heart...and you'll never walk alone," or in church song, "We walk by faith and not by sight," or Cher's "If you believe in love," there's this thing called faith in our life.

What are we without faith? No hope to rise up, better ourselves and become victorious? No hope of overcoming adversity because we're "walking dead?"

Faith can lead us to new adventure in life. Take education, for example. Education is a component of faith. How? If we have faith, we have the ability to empower ourselves to do great things, not only for ourselves but also for others. With education, we can learn something new each day. We have faith to influence others and make a difference in the world, no matter how great or small.

Learning never stops, because we have faith. If we don't have faith, we lose the ability to learn to make a difference in the world.

With faith, education is always possible, and so is success. But, of course, it depends on one's definition of success. Overall, faith is the defining factor in learning, acquiring or obtaining education and information, and eventually in attaining one's success.

Faith is the driving force that keeps us alive, dreaming and making a difference for others. We still believe in the goodness of humanity, amidst a cloud of doubt in the back of our mind.

With faith, all things can be possible, because we have programmed ourselves to believe that our positivity or optimism supersedes our negative thoughts.

With faith, we can't be left alone, in desolation, in state of nothingness, because we believe in goodness over evil, love over hate, unity over divisiveness.

Faith binds us together, as evidenced in churches. Faith enables us to keep moving forward, to continue living for our dreams. It is the most important thing we have to survive and to succeed. It is the only thing we have to counter hopelessness and fear, to overcome obstacles, changes and challenges.

We can learn from and educate others because we have faith in ourselves and others. We believe we can change and accept change for the better. Because of faith, we can move mountains; we can treat or cure disease; we can eradicate or minimize poverty, people's pain and suffering.

Faith keeps us safe and at peace with ourselves and others. Trusting our government, our leaders and fellow citizens is a manifestation that faith plays a big part in our life.

Faith in God, our Almighty Father, is a guiding force that can save us from a lot of temptations, bad activities and thoughts that (prevaricate or) lie about what is good and what is truth.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opiniion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Friday, January 29, 2016. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Feeling much better

That's right, folks. We're feeling much better, after weeks of being under the weather! Thank God! I can't complain. I'm grateful to be alive and well...

Now, we're into real wintry mode in our area. Bitter cold weather has finally arrived! With that snow-rain mix that fell to the ground yesterday, and further drop in temperature to below freezing, there was this snow-white "shaved" ice that covered the ground this morning. That's what we witnessed in our backyard, particularly in our partially snow-covered wooden deck. It was cold! But, not that freezing cold.

Anyway, we bundled up, especially when we went out for brunch at International House of Pancakes (IHOP) in the neighboring city. By the way, the day's sunny but cold. Likewise, it's a national holiday because it's the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Day in the U.S. of A! With the exceptions of private firms and businesses, public offices and institutions are closed for business. No schools, too.

There's a lot of diners at IHOP, this morning, we observed. Was it because it's a federal holiday and majority of people are off from work? Or, people just love pancakes, and wanted to enjoy the day with their family or friends, I suppose so. Well, whatever the reason may be, I would say, we had a great time, enjoyed the food with my family members. In addition, we had left-over food for dinner.

From IHOP, we went to NEX and bought some stuff, winter clothes, and a bag of dog food for our 8-month old puppy chorkie. That completed our day today.That's how we observed MLK, Jr. Day today. Personally, we're cognizant of the contributions the civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had to America and to the world. He fought for equality for all, with peaceful agenda in mind. His "I Have  A Dream" speech is, to me, a lofty goal and everyone's dream. It continues to impact freedom-loving and peace-loving people of goodwill, I believe.

Well, on the other hand, feeling much better has been my goal since I got sick on Christmas Eve last year. With positive attitude, I've been praying for my speedy recovery, after two visits to the nearest clinic and two bottles of colds-cough medicine and plenty of fluid and rest and citrus-based food.

Thank God, we're alive and getting much better as we continue to live life the best we can. We're optimistic and hopeful for good health and good life. That's all.

Here's wishing you all a great day! And, "May God bless US always!"

-Chris A. Quilpa

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

When holiday is over...

Now that the holiday season is over and done, we're back to our normal life. What do you mean, you ask? Well, after all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we're back to work for those of us having employment and business, school for those who are students, and doing something that we have not done in previous years.

For those of you who made new year's resolution, I believe, you've begun to actualize what you have planned to do for this new year. Whatever it is that you've wanted to change or reinvent in order to advance your career or profession, you are, I'm sure, working on it. I know, it may take some time to accomplish it but you're on the right track to achieving it someday.

Did I make a new year's resolution? Not really. Why is that so? Well, I'd rather not make a resolution that, I regret  later, would be doomed to fail. But one thing I put my mind into is to just live (in) the present moment well, thanking my Almighty and Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer, and enjoy life each day, as if it's my last day on Earth, without reservation, without regret. That's all.

Looking back at the past Christmas, I caught the bug, characterized by entire body and head ache with intermittent productive coughing. In short, I had the signs and symptoms of colds or flu or URI (Upper Respiratory Infection). Yes, folks, I got sick and had visited an outpatient doctor twice. With bed rest, enough citrus fruits, lots of liquid and juice, and prescribed medications for colds/flu, I feel better now, but with intermittent coughing, up to this day as this article is being written. As my doctor said, it takes time to get back to normal health.

But, of course, I celebrated Christmas and New Year with family and friends. That is, without much fun fare, but with restraint and caution, because I don't want to infect others with the virus. I don't want my family members or friends to get sick. I would rather be the one to be ill than they, you know. I am willing to sacrifice and suffer for them.I remember there was one national holiday, July 4th, that I was home alone, while the rest of my family were having a great time with our friends. Yes, I got sick with the same condition I've been having this time. You and I know, it's no laughing matter when you get sick, folks. But what can you do if you get sick? It happens when it happens and it's beyond control. We just have to deal with it and have hope that, one day, after those moments of unpleasant feelings of pain and discomfort, we get well and back to normal health again.

Life has its ups and downs, we know that. It's not always constant. Same condition with our body which is not always functioning smoothly or not in sync with our mind and other parts all the time, like a machinery or a gadget or a car's engine that it's not always functioning or working well all the time. Sometimes, it breaks down for whatever reason or reasons. Same thing with our body. It experiences breakdown, at times. That means that we have to find out what's going on with our body, find out what went wrong and and try our best to fix the problem or problems. If we ignore it, we're into more troubles or problems.  Once fixed or repaired, everything is back to normal life again.

One thing that's certain, though, with our life. We age, get older. That means we have to maintain or continue to to keep watch our health, just as we have to have periodic check up or maintenance of our car or  equipment for a longer life shelf.

It's hard to believe when holiday is over but bodily pain and discomfort linger on as in my case. It makes you wonder what's going on? Why does it take longer to get well or better? I wish I have the easy answer, folks and friends. But, as time goes on, I just let things go and have to wait, be patient and hopeful and that my life will get back to normal. How's that?

Having a positive attitude in life can go a long way as we try our best to get better or recover our health from lingering illness. Prayer, too, can make a difference in how we live and enjoy life. With prayer, we feel at peace with ourselves and our God, the Almighty.

Good cheers and good vibes for a better, peaceful and safer life-world on 2016 and beyond!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.




Thursday, December 31, 2015

What's in store for you in 2016?*

Goodbye 2015, and welcome 2016! Have a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous new year, everyone.

Let's welcome 2016 with open arms and a genuine smile.

What does 2016 have in store for us, folks? Surely there will be change, because change is inevitable. Our attitude to change can make or break us.

Just as the seasons change, our outlook on life changes, too, as we get older. Our priorities and perspectives change as we age.

There will be opportunities and possibilities awaiting us as we continue to live our lives the best we can. Along the way, there will be obstacles to overcome. But, as the adage says, where there's a will, there's a way.

Baby boomers like me have more time to do what's best for us: traveling, gardening, volunteering in church or school, writing, reading, watching movies we missed, doing more exercise and physical activity, cooking and learning to cook new recipes, helping take care of grandkids, and whatever new hobbies we adopt.

For Millenials, like my two young adult children, possibilities and opportunities are out there for the taking. It's just a matter of positive attitude and right approaches to what matters in life.

Since success is subjective, it's not easy to quantify. To some, it means having a lot of money, having a house and two or more cars and a well-educated family. To others, it might mean having a stable job, a good business, winning awards and so on. To some, success is simply having a good, decent healthy and debt-free life.

What matters as 2015 ends is to look forward to what the future holds for us. With an open mind and a positive attitude, keep learning something new and making a difference in others' lives. That way, we can become better than what we were.

It's up to us what we make of our future. With optimism and determination, we work our way up to improve our lot. Every situation is an opportunity for us to become better.

We want to be civic-minded citizens by observing the laws of the land, paying our taxes on time, and voting on Election Day. We want to make a difference in the world. We want to contribute to the greatness of our country.

How? By serving in the government, if we're into politics. Or by joining the armed forces, if we're passionate about defending our country and what it stands for. Or by working in schools as a teacher helping students to graduate. Or, if we own businesses, by employing and hiring legal employees and paying them just wages.

What does 2016 have in store for you? What chances will you have to make your world a better place?

Welcome 2016!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, December 3, 2015. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.