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Embracing a 'Golden Frame of Reference'

    I am a child who grew up and hopefully matured during the American "Sixties". The "sixties" were a time in history characterized by much change and upheaval. Major change became a global phenomenon. The world witnessed radical sweeping changes in the Roman Catholic Church as the pronouncement of the Second Vatican Council were issued released 1963-1965.

    From time to time, I enjoy reminiscing about nostalgic glimpses of those days gone by. I find myself wondering, if there remains any lasting and enduring lessons lingering from that turbulent time awaiting rediscovery for this time and people? As a baby boomer that came of age during this time, the question of how to meet the challenge of how to create social and political change has been a central concern of my adult life.

    Can a walk down memory lane, reexamine those radical contributions and determine if any merit passes the noble test of time? How about spending a moment exploring where the movement went wrong? Is there currently a desire out there by anybody who wants to initiate another time of intense enlightenment?, --only this time do it better?

    One of my favorite lessons of the sixties is the story of the "Golden Frame of Reference." The story of the Golden Frame of Reference is a history lesson that offers a valuable insight. It teaches us to be aware of how our adopted point of view can significantly color the way we look at life and hence alter our destiny, for better or worse.

    Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco California was the birthplace of many other stories, good and bad. Haight Asbury became established as the "unofficial epicenter of "hippie counterculture." The district developed a reputation, "as a neighborhood like no other, a brave new world of possibility on the edge of the continent."

    The Haight Ashbury district included two parks that all Hippies knew well. The most famous was Golden Gate Park. At times the park was filled with slumbering and napping youth enjoying the soft bed of grass and perhaps catching the sounds of some speaker passionately trying to express himself..Small and large crowds gathered throughout the parks and district. The area attracted people of all ages and backgrounds.

    In the November, 1968, I personally experienced Haight Ashbury while on leave from taking basic training in the US Army at Fort Ord California. I still recall the sights, the sounds, the smells. To this day I can close my eyes and easily call to mind the feeling I had of excitement and an electric spirit permeating the atmosphere. I was aware that something important was happening in this mystically special place in time. Memories periodically haunt me today as if to say, did anybody really �dig� what was "really" happening there?

    In the mid 1960�s San Francisco�s Haight Ashbury became a Mecca attracting hundreds, if not thousands. Many came seriously seeking an "alternative lifestyle". Many came out of curiosity. Thousands left their own home towns coming to California to somehow affirm their desire to change the status quo.

    New intellectual attention was placed on matters such as: civil rights and treatment of minorities, women�s rights, free speech, war and peace, capitalism, socialism, communism, free love, hair styles, politics, imperialism, fashion, music, art, media, just to name a few.

    The sixties became a time where youth aggressively scorned apathy. "Free thinkers" embraced the notion that enlightened people could unite behind a given cause and somehow in solidarity bring about change for the better. A belief came to life that held the notion that each person is responsible to take a stand on matters deemed important. Each person should sense a mandate to be catalysts energizing the social, environmental and political climate leading to improvements.

    Many consciously turned away from the preoccupation of so many addicted to the hording of wealth and all the problems associated with a struggle for power, status and money. There in Haight Asbury, among all the heady intellectualism, each person had to deal with practical necessities. Finding food became a more and more difficult as the masses gathered. For most, money was scarce.

    The intriguing story of the Golden Frame of Reference was born out of a lack of food available to those in the district. Leaders came up with an innovative plan to obtain and share food . The leaders of this enterprise became known as "diggers."

    Haight Asbury Diggers began their work in the late fall and early winter of 1966. Diggers, took their name from a 17th Century English group who took it upon themselves to dig and plant in the public land and distribute their crops to all poor people.

    Diggers" found creative ways to obtain donations of food and money. They worked cooperatively to prepare large quantities of meals shared for free.

    Only one slight "obligation" faced those who came to receive a free meal. The hungry were given an invitation to pass through a wooden frame constructed of two by four pine boards. This large square was painted yellow. Each day hundreds received the warm soup, and hundreds passed through a portal that affectionately became known as the,  "Golden Frame of Reference."

    The Golden Frame of Reference" tradition called out for a new consciousness. The Frame was a simple but poignant reminder to be attentive to examine the way one looks at things, and perceive how this point of view impacts life choices.

    Because the digger leader�s had adopted a generous and benevolent frame of reference, the community could eat. Few today know about this little known story.

    Crossing the threshold of the Golden Frame of Reference made free food available and more. In a sense this small gesture heralded a profound shift in the prevailing social conscience.

    Supplies of small wooden sticks, string, and paint were made available. People were encouraged to construct and wear their own personal "mini-frames of reference as reminders. Wearing the small golden frame demonstrated a desire to be more thoughtful about applying personal frame of reference.

    Did the Golden Change of Reference peronally affect me? I think it did. Today, people call me an idealist, but I don't mind. I try to use my golden frame of reference to guide my thinking and my actions.

    The sixties taught me to challenge myself each day to be keenly interested in matters outside of myself. Since the sixties I became a husband, father, biology teacher, assistant high school principal, an amateur writer. I spend most of my time these days as a volunteer director of a ministry outreach attempting to engage persons with disabilities t and encourage them to connect with a faith community.

    I wish that today, we might rediscover and rekindle the best parts of the sixties.

    I wish that a huge new frame of reference could be adopted that might help our society not mindlessly look at persons with disabilities as handicapped, or view God�s people as pitiful broken and misshapen misfits. Why not focus on highlighting a person�s abilities, instead of some apparent disability?

    I am happy to have had some connection to the sixties. I am happy to use of golden frame of reference each day as I encourage others to be resilient when they experience brokenness in their lives. The sixties has helped shape me into an optimist, for that I am very thankful.

    � Donald R. Grossnickle
    Sunday, February 05, 2006

    Deacon Don Grossnickle Ed.D.
    Director, Disability Outreach Partnership Ministry
    Vicariate One Bishop's Special Staff
    Archdiocese of Chicago
      Libertyville office Work: 847- 549-0160 Fax: (847) 549-0163
    200 N. Milwaukee Ave., Suite 200. Libertyville, IL. 60048-2250
    � All Material Copyright and All Rights Reserved by Donald R. Grossnickle