Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 24, 2013

Vasicek: A wealth of good news on several fronts

World poverty shrinking, coffee reduces stroke risk

By Ed Vasicek
Guest columnist

— Spring is here. St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone. Because that minor holiday fell on a Sunday, we had a record number of pinches in church last Sunday. Must be the revenge of the Irish. I tried to feign being Pastor Ed O’Vasicek, but wasn’t convincing.

Today, however, is Palm Sunday, a special day for me. This is the season for Christians everywhere to contemplate anew the meaning of events that occurred nearly 2,000 years ago, a message we call the “Good News.”

People of all faiths, however, enjoy hearing about good news in the secular realm. Let me share some with you.

The first is about world poverty. Although poverty cannot be eliminated speedily enough, change is occurring briskly. Read what the UK digital newspaper, Mail Online, has to say:

“World poverty is shrinking and developing countries are becoming less poor, according to a new study by Oxford University.

“Nepal, Rwanda and Bangladesh were the ‘star performers’ of the 22-country study carried out by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), followed by Ghana, Tanzania, Cambodia and Bolivia. The report predicts that some of the poorest countries in the world could see acute poverty eradicated within 20 years.

“The department measured poverty by using a new term called the Multidimensional Poverty Index, or MPI. It measures the intensity of different deprivations that poor people face including nutrition, education and sanitation and not just income.” Great news!

We have a wealth of good news locally. Consider the major strides in the Kokomo school system, with its creative direction (vocational school, international school, arts school, international student exchanges), a thriving branch of Indiana University — and don’t forget Ivy Tech. We boast a revitalized downtown, a relevant bus system, expanded walking trails, flowers and art and beautiful signage — too much to document. Despite past losses, Chrysler is revving up our economy. Optimism about Kokomo’s future and realism about Kokomo’s future seem to be the same thing.

We have some good news about better eating habits. We human beings resist change of routine, and food is not just about feeling good or enjoying a meal — most of us are very emotional about what we eat. Some folks literally panic about trying something new; eating the same foods over and over again give many a sense of stability. Thus, change toward better nutrition succeeds best in small increments. America’s love for the hamburger and for fast food is a case in point. Burger King is beginning to wake up and smell the coffee, according to AP:

“Burger King is offering a turkey burger for the first time. The Miami-based company is rolling out the new sandwich this week as part of its limited-time offers for spring, marking the latest fast-food effort to cater to health-conscious diners. Last week, McDonald’s said it plans to offer a lower-calorie version of its Egg McMuffin made with egg whites.”

It’s a start. If small improvements in our diets become established over time, we may accumulate them. Eventually we can better watch out for our own long-term best interests.

Many of my columns feature my fictitious friends, Elmer and Emil. With Elmer, I can always repel him by offering him a cup of coffee because he despises the brew so much. Elmer, though, is increasing the likelihood of stroke, according to a UPI article:

“The study, published in ‘Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association’, found people who drank at least one cup of coffee daily had about a 20 percent lower risk of stroke compared with those who rarely drank the beverage. People who drank two to three cups of green tea daily had a 14 percent lower risk of stroke and those who had at least four cups had a 20 percent lower risk, compared with those who rarely drank green tea.”

Let’s say Elmer drinks green tea; I think he’ll live as long as I do. That’s what’s nice about a fictitious friend. Have a great day!

Ed Vasicek is pastor of Highland Park Church and a weekly contributor to the Kokomo Tribune. Contact him at edvasicek@att.net.