How doors to harmonious relationships have been opened in history

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Zachary Fisher, A Helping Hand to U.S. Armed Forces (September 26, 1910 – June 4, 1999)

Zachary Fisher was a tradesman, a builder.  Over his lifetime, he and his extended family have built many prominent structures.  If you are curious to know where they are, you can investigate their locations on the internet by looking up Zachary’s name.

Zachary Fisher

Zachary Fisher

However, from the perspective of Harmony Keys, Zachary Fisher did something far more important than constructing towers at prominent addresses.  He was a man who built harmony in the lives of people.  How did he do that?  Zachary Fisher became dedicated to aiding the U.S. Armed Forces in a myriad of ways.  One way was that he contributed millions from his own wealth to improve the lives of families whose loved ones have been injured or killed in the military service of our country.

Who was Zachary Fisher?  Let’s start with his father, Karl Fisher, a stonemason.  Karl emigrated from Lithuania to New York in the early 1900s and went to work in his trade.  Zachary was born in Brooklyn in 1910.  Very early in his life, Zachary, like all of his brothers, was trained by his father as a bricklayer.  At age 16, Zachary left high school to work in construction.  When WW II came along in 1941, he was rejected for service due to an injured leg.  In lieu of service, he aided the war effort through his construction skills by building fortifications on the eastern coast.  It was the beginning of his desire to aid the U.S. Armed Forces.

Over the years, Zachary had many projects to assist various parts our military, including the preservation of an historic aircraft carrier and the development of a naval museum.  Those projects involving equipment and buildings were important, but Zachary seemed to yearn for a very personal, close focus on military men and women and their families.  So in 1982, he and his wife, Elizabeth, founded the Zachary and Elizabeth M. Fisher Armed Services Foundation. Through the Foundation, Zachary contributed to the families of the victims of the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983. Since then, the Foundation has donated $25,000 to each of numerous military families who lost loved ones under tragic circumstances.  The Foundation also provides scholarship funds to active and former service members and their families.

In 1990, a wonderful stroke of opportunity presented itself.  Pauline Trost, wife of Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Carlisle Trost, spoke to Zachary and Elizabeth of the urgent need for temporary lodging for families at major military medical centers.  Zachary and Elizabeth immediatelyformed the Fisher House Foundation and initiated the Fisher House program, dedicating over $20 million to the construction of a nationwide network of free, temporary, comfortable lodging units for families of hospitalized veterans and military personnel.  One year later, in 1991, the first two Fisher Houses were built and ready to serve.  The first was near the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda; the second was near Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.  Today there are more than 60 units operating across America and one in the United Kingdom.

We had never heard of Fisher Houses and wanted to know more so we studied an interview with one of Zachary’s grand nephews, Ken Fisher and Ken’s wife,Tammy, which was conducted by Philanthropy Magazine in Fall 2010.  The following notes are based on that interview and on the Fisher House Foundation website.  The story is thrilling.

Department of Defense Photo

Learning to Climb Again

Picture this: The Fisher House Foundation builds multi-unit residential properties within walking distance of major military and V.A. medical centers.  Each unit has between 6 and 21 suites and can host 12 to 42 family members at one time.  Each incorporates kitchen, laundry, recreation, and library space.  Books and toys are provided.  Once the units are completed, they are turned over to the government.  When a service member or a veteran is hospitalized, his or her family can live at the house, free of charge, for as long as they need to stay, close to their service member or vet during recuperation.

Since inception, Fisher House Foundation has provided approximately 5 million nights of free lodging with home-away-from-home comfort, giving military families time to heal.  And the program is growing exponentially.

A striking fact about the outreach established by Zachary Fisher is that it seems non-partisan.  His generosity, and the grassroots philanthropy of his family, have been applauded and recognized over and over by leaders of many administrations:  Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, as well as Margaret Thatcher and the late Yitzhak Rabin.  In 1998, Zachary received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton in honor of his wide-ranging contributions on behalf of the young men and women in the US Armed Forces.  In 2010, Barak Obama announced the proceeds from his children’s book “Of Thee I Sing” would benefit Fisher House Foundation’s “Heroes’ Legacy Scholarships” for the sons and daughters of fallen/disabled service members.

Without a doubt, Zachary Fisher was a man who built more than buildings.  He created harmony among human beings.

We signed up to receive the Fisher House Foundation newsletter.  If you would like to learn more about Fisher outreach and how you can help, contact Fisher House™ Foundation, Inc., 111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420, Rockville, MD 20850, (888) 294-8560,


Irish Immigrants with Two Religions Meet in Salt Lake

Here’s a question for you:

Is it possible for people with different religions to learn to get along and even marry each other, living in peace and harmony?

Below are the words of Mary who wrote her views of my novel Gra Im Thu! I Love You! in which two Irish families, with two different religions, move to Salt Lake City in the early 20th Century.

“This is a great novel about two Irish immigrant families in Salt Lake City at the turn of the century. One family is Catholic, the other new converts to Mormonism. The novel deals with how two teens from these families fall in love, marry and learn to work out the cultural, religious and intergenerational differences between their families. A really fun first novel with lots of interesting historical details about Salt Lake City.”

What is your opinion about how people learn to respect each other’s religion and political beliefs?

What is the secret to learning to treasure our differences?          Image


Why You Must Get to Know the Wise Sage Epictetus

What? You’ve never heard of Epictetus? (Epic-teeʹ-tus) You are not alone. I’m right there with you. I had no knowledge of Epictetus until I ran across one of his most famous quotes:

“We are disturbed not by things that happen, but by our opinion of things that happen.”

Epictetus had many practical words of advice which are relevant to modern persons like you and like me.

“So what,” you say. “Thousands of philosophers, seers, religious leaders, politicians, educators, and on and on, have given us their views. We have advice coming out of our ears.”

Well, just a minute. The puzzling factor with Epictetus’ advice concerns the unlikely evolution of his life. How does it happen that a simple human being, born a slave almost 2000 years before our time, could think ideas that seem relevant to our present-day psyche?

Let’s try to find out.

Epictetus was born in the southwestern region of what we now call Turkey between 50-55 AD. We old folks know that AD stands for Anno Domini, or in the Year of Our Lord, but you may find Epictetus’ birth year written as 50-55 CE which is now used by some to connote the Christian Era or Common Era. His exact birthplace is thought to be Hierapolis, Phrygia in what was known as southwest Anatolia at the time, an area which seems to have changed hands and allegiances often. It is difficult to sort out whether Epictetus was born a Greek slave or a Roman slave. Various chroniclers label him as one or the other. Stephen Walton, President of Ideonautics Corporation, and a man with interest in Stoic philosophy, refers to Epictetus as a Graeco-Roman Stoic philosopher, so perhaps we can think of Epictetus as a little bit of both Greek and Roman, whether slave or philosopher.

But we do have to ask the one HUGE question staring us in the face and we ask it with great wonderment: How did Epictetus morph from a slave into a philosopher?

Here’s what may or may not be true: Epictetus was born to a slave woman and therefore he was automatically a slave himself. His master was an important aide de camp for Emperor Nero. Sometime after Nero’s death in 68 AD, the master decided to free Epictetus, perhaps because the master realized that the youth, Epictetus, was a bright young man who would benefit from education. The master made arrangements for Epictetus to study in Rome with one of the greatest Stoic teachers of the time Musonius Rufus.

Under Emperor Domitian, in 89 AD, all philosophers were banished from Rome. Unabashed, Epictetus traveled to Nicopolis, a cultural magnet on the Adriatic coast of northwestern Greece where he established a school and became wildly popular among students of philosophy. He remained there until his death around 135 AD.

In his private life, Epictetus never married. However, it is thought that during his later years, he adopted a child who was in need. It is this act of love and benevolence that causes me to celebrate, with you, the life of Epictetus. This man, born a slave, perhaps wrought with so much lameness that he moved about with the aid of a crutch, loved life so completely that he recognized the importance of embracing the life of a child who needed him. Here was a man who truly brought harmony to those around him by demonstrating his love and by listening to others, learning from others, and teaching others.

The teachings of Epictetus were recorded by his student, Arrian, and the collection became known as the Discourses. A shorter version of the Discourses was called the Enchiridion or Manual or Handbook in English. It seems that some scholars frown upon the Enchiridion as being so brief that it precludes us from fully grasping the underpinnings of Epictetus’ thoughts. However, I, being unschooled in Stoicism, looked over the multitude of references on the internet about Epictetus and his teachings in order to find something I could understand. I found it. I wish to point you to a clear “modern” interpretation of the Enchiridion by a man I mentioned earlier, Stephen Walton. Here you can read what Mr. Walton titles “The Manual, or How to Control Everything You Can, a modern rendering of the Enchiridion of Epictetus” by Stephen Walton.


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