President's Diary

Printed in the Fall 2013 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Boyd, Tim. "President's Diary" Quest  101. 4 (Fall 2013): pg. 154-155.

By Tim Boyd

Tim BoydThe month of April started with me visiting the TS group in Detroit. This spring trip has become something of a tradition. Probably every year for the past twenty has found me visiting my Detroit TS friends. The Detroit Lodge is one of those exemplary groups that have maintained a stable and fully functional approach to the study of the Ageless Wisdom. Over the years every group has its ups and downs. Some respond well; some give up and close their doors. Detroit has responded very well to deaths of prominent leaders, relocations of people and premises, changing popular tastes, and the day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year chemistry of group interaction. 

As most of you know, our Olcott national headquarters is a beautiful campus, with buildings, lawns, pond, and groves of trees. In all it comprises forty-two acres. Mark Roemmich is in charge of the seemingly impossible job of maintaining and beautifying the whole thing. He does an incredible job. This year, on Earth Day, he organized a work party for staff. Everyone who could came out in their work clothes after lunch. Mark formed us into groups, and off we went with rakes, clippers, and shovels in hand to clean up the leaves and debris that had accumulated over our long winter. A couple of weeks earlier we had also experienced the worst episode of flooding in almost three decades. So there were some odd accumulations of tree branches and soil in unusual places that we had to address. Weatherwise, it was a gorgeous day—one of those days when you look out the window and wish you had some good reason to leave your desk and go outside. It was a genuine pleasure to work and talk with fellow staff members in this different setting. Clearly many of them were quite familiar with using a rake and shovel. After the afternoon of sweaty work, I slept quite well that night. 

April also celebrated the first anniversary of our Children's Bedtime Stories. A year before, my wife, Lily, along with Pat Griebeler, Danelys Valcarcel, Lois Pederson, and Dan Smolla, had the idea of developing some programming for kids. They wanted to keep it simple. The parents and students at the Prairie School of DuPage quickly became big supporters. Now, one Friday evening each month, they all gather in our library for music and stories told by some first-rate storytellers. 

In May we had a long-awaited visit from Eboo Patel. Many of you remember him as the moderator for our interreligious panel during the Dalai Lama's visit  in 2011. Eboo is a world-class figure in the interfaith community. He is a young man, a Rhodes scholar, and founder of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), which has blossomed on college campuses across the country. His work has involved young people in addressing religious prejudices not merely by dialogue, but through concerted action. He came to give a Thursday night talk on his latest book, Sacred Ground, which addresses the United States' history of religious inclusion. It was an excellent talk. Unfortunately it was marred by something I had never witnessed before at any Theosophical presentation. During the question and answer period an audience member took the opportunity to attack Eboo's work, Islam, and religion in general. Had that been the full extent of it, it would not have been a problem. Everyone has a right to their opinion. However, this man's agenda was to take over the conversation and use the gathering as a platform for his extended rant. When it became clear that he did not intend to sit down and allow others to speak, he was ushered out of the building and off the grounds. 

May also saw our third annual White Lotus Day Meditation Retreat. Staff members Jim Bosco, Juliana Cesano, Pablo Sender, and I took turns presenting the theory and practice of a variety of forms of meditation.We were also joined by Andrew Vidich, who is a professor,author, and longtime meditation practitioner, and by Meredith Bosco, who led a walking meditation at our labyrinth. 

In June the Order of the Round Table, led by Mark and Kim Roemmich, had their annual pre–Father's Day campout. About thirty parents and children set up their tents on the north side of the building. They had a fire circle, sang songs, played games, roasted marshmallows, told stories, and just generally had a good time. 

A little later in the month we had our farewell celebration for Jeff Gresko. Jeff has been working full-time at Olcott since 1987—twenty-six years. His tenure here is actually even longer than that, because before he settled in full-time, he would work here a while, travel around the world, then come back and work some more. Over the years Jeff has been involved in every aspect of life and work at the headquarters. He has worked on grounds and maintenance, in accounting and housekeeping, in the bookstore and kitchen, and in the audiovisual department. During John Algeo's  administration, although the title had not yet been developed, he functioned as the chief of staff. He is one of those people who will never impress you with his ability to quote the standard Theosophical texts, but whose every action shows a life immersed in love of community and the example of selfless service. The fact that Jeff almost violently resists recognition made our celebration that much more fun for us. He had to sit there and take it. 

Another in our broadening spectrum of children's programs took place in June. "Comforting Your Child with Therapeutic Touch" was presented by Marilyn Johnston. Marilyn is a professor of nursing who trained directly with Dora Kunz in Therapeutic Touch for thirteen years. The method is successful in dealing with pain and discomfort at all levels, but children are particularly responsive. The two-hour session was designed to give parents simple tools to deal with the numerous discomforts and energy imbalances that confront their children. Although the crowd was mostly composed of mothers and their kids, there was also a sprinkling of fathers and grandparents who came for the training.  

One sad event marked the month of June. Karole Kettering, longtime member of the Theosophical Society and wife of our treasurer, Floyd, had a massive stroke and died. My first memories of Karole go back almost forty years, when she and Floyd were the focus for the Young Theosophists group at the time. They were married, and Floyd worked on the Olcott staff. They lived in one of the houses on the grounds. Frequently they would host meetings in their home. Floyd and Karole were a little older than the rest of us and had a way of grounding some of the high-flying idealism and impracticality that were a part of our youthful exuberance. Karole was always full of life and laughter.

About thirty-five years ago Karole started a Christmas food drive for less fortunate families in the area. Over time her efforts evolved into the Humanitarian Service Project, a huge operation spanning two counties that provides food for seniors and families, gifts at Christmas, educational supplies for schoolkids, and other service avenues. 

A memorial service was held for Karole here at Olcott, which filled the auditorium and overflowed into the library and lobby, where the service was also broadcast. She lived a large life and touched countless people. 

As I write this I have just returned from a two pronged event in Brazil. I was the featured speaker at the Brazilian Section's nineteenth annual International School. Then, on the day that I was returning to the U.S., I gave the opening address for the Luso Hispanic Conference, which continued for another three days after I left. The events were attended by around 200 members from Brazil and the rest of Latin America. Both conferences were held at the Instituto Teosficode Bras­lia, which in Portuguese is named Para­so na Terra—"Paradise on Earth." For many years I have heard about the activity of the Brazilian Section and about the center they have developed at the institute. They purchased the land in 1990, and in 1993 they hosted the TS World Congress there. It is truly a visionary project with an array of impressive structures which include lodging, a meeting space that can accommodate 500, dining facilities, and a beautiful Greek-style temple built on the edge of a mountain. The property is about the size of the whole city of Wheaton, where we have our national headquarters. It is an hour drive from the capital city of Bras­lia and is about a mile high. It has natural springs and waterfalls in many places, one of which I swam in during a break from the conference. It was a high-energy gathering. Although language can be something of a barrier, I know just enough Spanish to get into trouble. For those who spoke Portuguese, hand gestures, eye contact, and good intentions seemed to go a long way. I made many new friends. 

At the time of this writing, our Summer National Convention begins in one day. It will be followed directly by the Theosophical Order of Service International Conference.  Already people are starting to gather. This year we will have more than forty visitors from overseas. Once a year old friends and new gather for this event. Christmas is great, but year after year this is my favorite time.

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