The Last shall be First

Happy Holy Thursday students! Today as I finished my readings, I imagined Jesus washing my feet. Why did he do this? Why did he, the son of God, wash the feet of his disciples? Peter resisted. Jesus told him unless he was allowed to wash his feet then he could not truly follow Jesus. I love the way we learn lessons from Jesus. He was the champion of Socratic thought and questioning. He continually flips the script. Think of God. God is at the top of all. He is the CEO of life. What are we? Well, we all have different stations and life. We are teachers, sanitation workers, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, stay-at-home moms, drug addicts, alcoholics, railroad conductors, relatives caring for other relatives who are sick, managers of small businesses, homeless people, mentally ill people, young people, elderly people, disabled people, and the list could go on forever. We all have a station. Which of the station’s do you think should be the feet washers? Aha! That’s right back row, you could never imagine a doctor or lawyer washing a homeless person’s feet. That’s exactly what we are supposed to do. Front row when you get your PhD you should not be haughty. You should still wash your brothers and sisters feet who are less fortunate than you. Not literally unless the chance arises, but you are called to put others first regardless of their station. This is exactly today’s lesson. We are called to love each other and serving each other to the end of our earthly lives.
Jesus understood that for something bigger to be born something had to die. Look at biblical history. Isaac was going to die at Abraham’s hand. Abraham understood his covenant with God had to be stronger than that with his own son. At Passover, remember all of the unblemished, male lambs and goats that were sacrificed for The Exodus out of Egypt? Something had to die to protect the Israelites. Have you ever had a chance to hold a baby lamb? It makes my stomach hurt to think of them being sacrificed. Today’s Gospel ask for us to die. Back-row do not get upset; I am not asking you to die literally. We are to die to ourselves. That means our egos are to die. We are to love each other as we love ourselves. This is so hard in a world that is so egocentric, so selfish. It takes constant practice. If we practice those virtues every single day eventually we will defeat our ego. We will begin to see Christ in others regardless of the station they have been given in this life. We can get there. I know we can. Your homework today is to think of your station in life. Make a plan to wash someone’s feet. If you see a homeless person, offer them your respect by looking them in the eyes and simply greet them with kindness. Let them know they are part of the one body. If you are of a more humble station like wheelchair Sal, hold your head up and smile. Greet all those you meet with the joy of Christ in your heart. You are very important, too. Remember students one bread, one body, and one Lord of all.
Sal the Sacrifice it All Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“The washing of the feet and the sacrament of the Eucharist: two expressions of one and the same mystery of love entrusted to the disciples, so that, Jesus says, “as I have done… so also must you do.” (Jn 13: 15). Pope John Paul II
“When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.’”
Blessed Mother Teresa
This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wine at night Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
Once in this time wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind; Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
This flesh you break, this blood you let
 Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape Born of the sensual root and sap; My wine you drink, my bread you snap.
Dylan Thomas

Life and Death

Last Friday was a special day students. It is the birthday of my last child, Abbey. As a mother every child you have bears a special place in your heart. Each one’s birthday is a special day. We have an Independence Day baby, Labor Day baby, Christmas baby, a Mother’s Day baby, and Easter baby. Lots of Alley babies and each one is a treasure and gift from God. Besides celebrating there was lots of work to be done. Working the soup kitchen on Saturday and church Sunday coupled with a COPD exacerbation by Ken made our schedules harried. Papa Ratz aka Papa Smurf has been ordered meds and rest. Two things he hates. He fights to live each day and is a literal miracle. He has end stage COPD. Most people know about Sal the ALS Gal but not about my sweet, amazing husband. Whisper a prayer for him today students. God blessed Ms. Alley with this hard working and selfless man. I’m not ready to live in a world without him.
Students we have covered many virtues. Seven ways to make a difference. Today I read about life and death. Death is something we all have to face. Humans have a different consciousness than do other animals. We have a consciousness that knows we are going to die. Other animals live their lives without worries about the end of their earthly existence. Why? I believe we are created in the image of the creator. The Creator is eternal and therefore a part of us is as well. How do we deal with this? We are one week away from Holy week. Holy week is the week that we march Christ to the cross. We escort him to his death. This is the Pinnacle of our faith. In this heinous act, death was defeated. We are given answers to our own death. Jesus showed us that there is life after death. He paved our path to ressurrection. Living with disabilities and illnesses is only a part of our journey. I believe our death is a birth into the eternal. Be not afraid students.
Today’s lesson was a heavy lesson. No one wants to think about death. So let’s talk about life. Life is what happens between birth and death. How is your life? Is it full? Are you disappointed? Are you angry? I hope your life is going well. If it isn’t students you need to take inventory. On my journey sometimes I reach a dark patch and I find that I am focusing inward. I am counting all the crosses that I bear. I am wanting to know why they are there. Why did someone so young in the middle of life end their earthly journey? Why do good people have horrible cancers? I become angry. I want to lash out at God. Guess what students? There are days that I lash out but they are becoming fewer and fewer as I journey toward my death. You see God is not a rescuer; He is a redeemer. It is so easy to confuse the two. We mere humans want to be rescued from cancer, strokes, COPD, ALS, young deaths of children, and all the other unexplicable tragedies that we traverse through on Earth. There in lies our mystery. The mystery that our journey redeems us to be born again in death to the next life. So if you are not in a happy place in your life, try to practice you’re virtues. Remember as a Christian you have a job to do. You are to live your faith. That means more than showing up to church once a week. Being a Christian has to be the most important part of your life. That Sunday that you do attend church should redeem and refresh you for your job you have each week. It is hard back row, but I believe you can do it. I implore you to be found. Next week begins our Holy Week of Lent. We will relive the death of our savior, Jesus Christ. But on that third day our tears will be dried and our hearts will be full because we know we are redeemed. We are preparing to live our lives with purpose and at our deaths we are restored to everlasting life.
Sal the Redemption Loving Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the day:
I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.
Leonardo da Vinci
Back row, not the blue Ninja turtle!

Faith

Looking back over our classes together, we have been very busy! We have covered so many virtues. We have tried to put so much goodness out into the world. Remember this is ongoing assignment. I don’t want you to stop after we reach our forty days together.
Yesterday we discussed charity. I hope in some way you were able to be charitable. Don’t forget it doesn’t have to be something huge like donating $1,000 to a local charity. That’s great if you can, but if you are not able to do so don’t beat yourself up. I find that God works in the smallest of ways. Those small little gestures that we give as we walk through our daily lives.
Today we will discuss the last virtue of the seven Christian virtues, faith. I grew up in the 80s and when I hear the word faith I think of that song by George Michael. You know the one: “You Gotta Have Faith.” This song is very far from the virtue of faith that we need to discuss today. Faith is the belief is the graciousness of God’s plan for our lives. The Divine plan for our lives is revealed in Scripture and traditions of the church. Faith is not something we can acquire by studying. Back row you love that part. It is a gift. It is a mysterious gift. If we ask God to strengthen our faith and his works, he freely gives it to us. He gives us Faith to believe in the things that we do not see with our eyes. The virtue of faith has many definitions with the the many denominations of Christian faith. The one I described to you is from Thomas Aquinas. Faith is a very important virtue.
Today as I write this blog, I remember that today is the day Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I think it is befitting to discuss faith on this day. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had tremendous faith. I remember teaching this objective in my history class. Listening to the speech the night before his death together we realized he had faith that the cause for good would continue. He foretold of his impending death. He reassured the Civil Rights crowd he was not scared. He knew better things would come whether he was here in body or spirit. Twelve years before April 4th 1968 Dr. King had received yet another death threat. As he sat in the middle of the night with a cup of coffee he recalled hearing a voice. That voice promised that it would be with him to the end of time. It encouraged him to fight for what was right and just. This steeled his resolve to continue the dangerous fight for rights. You see students, he had faith in God’s plans.
Every once in awhile, I get glimpse of what Sal the ALS Gal looks like in this scoot. For example, heading into the church last night for youth group I saw myself reflected in the glass doors.  I saw a broken body rolling into church cumbered by apparatuses to help me continue to go forward. I said oh my goodness. My daughter asked what are you talking about? I just replied boy I am such a mess. Rolling down the hall, I saw one of our young parishioners with her baby and four year old. The four year olds face lit up and grabbed my arm and hugged me the best way she could. We began talking about little topics that children love. The image that I saw moments before vanished. For a second, I lost my faith that a broken body could still do the work God has provided for me. I was reminded of oh ye of little faith. You see students if you ask God for the faith to complete the plan of your life, He will. Why are we studying how to be lights for God? Why are we learning virtues? We are on this journey to make the best decisions possible. We want to make the world a better place. We can only do that by walking in faith in our daily lives. This Faith walk speaks louder than any blog or speech. Today, walk with faith that God is with you. Your day maybe riddled with problems, but have faith. Turn to him and whisper a prayer:
God, I want to have faith. I want you to help me make good choices. I give my life to you. Help me to grow in faith and love for what is good and just.
Amen
Sal the Faithful Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quote of the day:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. . . . And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
—Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., at a rally the night before his death

Hope

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 7:23-28
This is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God.

Life happened again yesterday. I had too many obligations and not enough time. I hope you are staying strong and practicing your virtues. Today we are going to talk about the virtue of Hope. Hope can mean a lot of things in our culture. We hope we get into the college that we want when we graduate high school. We hope that we can get a good job to provide for our family. We hope that our students in class will behave and try to learn the objectives. As a Christian virtue hope takes on a different dimension. As a Christian hope it’s not based on our human desires. Hope is based on what God has promised us as Christians. We hope in the strength of our God and savior to fulfill his promise that he wants us to be happy, to have a good life, and to help us to fulfill our purpose in creating a better world for Him.

My first reading today was from Jeremiah. It was rather shocking. It said this is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God. Think about that. We hope in the promises of God but are we doing our part? Are we listening to the voice of God through scriptures and prayer and other people that God places in our lives? What if we don’t hold up our end of the bargain? In order to cash in our rewards, we have to live morally, sound lives. This is very important. That’s why students I am taking so much time on virtues. In order for you to grow spiritually we have to run a good race.  You have to have a sound moral core. All of these virtues that we are discussing and learning are from God. Haven’t you always heard all things good come from God? I understand the argument of people not understanding creation and a creator, but all of the studying I have done I have come to the conclusion that this one makes the most sense. God is a god of love. All things from God should produce love. Think about the opposite of our virtues that we are building. We want to be strong . We want to be courageous, but the opposites of those are to be cowardly and weak in our faith. Think about the opposite of charity. That would to be very miserly and we all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. How did that work out?

Today I want you to work on your virtue of Hope. I want you too have faith and hope for the best. Hope for the plans that God has for you. If you’re reading this blog, you have been led here for a reason. There are three big aspects to being a human: our relationships with others, our relationship with ourselves chosing good and acting upon it, and our relationship with God. Right now we are focusing on our relationship with ourselves and trying to create a better person, a better heart, and a better understanding of why we are even here on Earth. I hope you understand that we are not here to horde as many resources as possible, to be lauded by our accomplishments, or be accepted into the “in” crowd. We are here to live a life of virtues. We are here to love each other and take care of one another on this earthly journey. Our treasures are not here. I really hope that our time together will open your ears to hear. Not like the ones in the Bible verse today from Jeremiah. It’s never too late to fight the vices of your life. We are called to listen and fight now to build up a Kingdom of God. Today I want you to read The Lord’s prayer. I want you to really think about each line of this perfect prayer. You all are growing! I feel it. Hope in this prayer, and most of all try to live this prayer today as you go through your day.

Sal the Thy Kingdom Come Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:
The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.
Basil Hume

I see so many people. They just seem to be hopeless. Being a Christian and being a pastor, the ultimate hope is in Jesus.
Richie Fury


The Christian experiences and lives a paradox. He possesses joy in sorrow, fulfillment in exile, light in darkness, peace in turmoil, consolation in dryness, contentment in pain and hope in desolation.
Mother Angelica

I hope the day that all the Christians are one. This is my dream.
Pope Theodoros II

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Justice

Students do you remember that rhyme: “1,2 skip a few?” I promise that it’s not what’s happening with our 40 days together. It makes me think of a John Lennon quote, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” This is exactly what happened to me. Life has been happening. We have been busy researching and visiting places that could be the next chapter for our youngest daughter. But now I am back ready to double up on our journey through our 40 days.
The last day we had class we talked about temperance. Temperance is very important as we live our lives. We need to show restraint with those things that tempt us and threaten to become idols in our lives. I hope you practiced using temperance this past weekend.
We are working on virtues. We are trying to right our ship and have smooth sailing toward our goal. These forty days we are working toward many goals: creating a pure heart, creating moments of kindness toward others, clearing out the clutter of our hearts, making our little corner of the world better, and practicing virtues. Today we will add another virtue. This virtue is called Justice.
When you hear the word justice, you think of fairness, court cases, and being slighted in some way or another. The virtue Justice is something that we as humans need. It is a check on ourselves. How do we use Justice in our lives? Justice is a balance between being selfish and selfless. There is a happy balance in the middle. It is very hard to walk this thin line in our daily lives.
Charity and Justice can be used synonymously. Are you charitable to others when everything is going their way? There are days when we wonder why did I not get what I wanted and the other person did. I told you that I had been busy. One of the things that happened this past week was our daughter did not get into a college that she picked as her top choice. Looking at her transcript and her community involvement it made no sense that she did not get into this college. So we all wanted to scream, “This is not fair!” Eating humble pie is very hard. It is one of the hardest things to do when things do not go your way. Even harder is being happy for those who have made it to a goal that you yearned for and have failed.
What should we do? How can we practice Charity or Justice when these things slap us in the face? First we should be firm with ourselves. We should not fall in the face of adversity but straighten our backbones and persevere. I believe everything happens for the good of all even if we do not get everything we want. This helps us practice humility and patience. We need to remain truthful and upright and be cautious not to slander others who have reached a goal that we so desperately wanted. We need to pray with gratitude the ability to run this race of life. Until you draw your last breath, the race is on. Embrace these times of hardship. These are the times you learn exponentially. They help you become a stronger, more faithful, and a virtuous person.
Think about a time when things didn’t go the way you wished. It may have been a job promotion or position on a sports team that you didn’t get. Did you handle it with Justice and Charity? I know many times in my life I did not. Thanks be to God I am still learning how to be a virtuous person. I hope the next time you and I are faced with a tough situation, we choose to be charitable and act out of Justice. Dry your eyes and blow those noses. Today is a new day and we have living to do!
Sal the Stiff Upper Lip Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
MLK Jr
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
Fredrick Douglass
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triump.
Haile Selassie

Prudence

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Welcome students to day fourteen! Our last assignment was to have mercy on people who are hard to deal with. I hope you had some success. If you didn’t, you need to keep trying. In the next lessons we are going to get a tune up on our hearts. In order for us to put good out into the world, we have to have strong hearts.
What makes a strong heart? Or what makes a heart strong? Our hearts drive our actions. We want to have good actions. I know we have cleaned out a lot of clutter in just 14 days but we still have work to do. Are you a virtuous person? I know the back row was asking what is virtuous? Being virtuous, is what being a Christian is all about. It is what God wants us to be. We have to be morally sound. We have to practice our morals and put them into action that is what being virtuous is.
First virtue we are going to work on is Prudence. Back row I know you are scratching your heads because Prudence is an odd word. Prudence is the cornerstone to all the other virtues. If you do not have Prudence it will be hard to practice and put in place the other virtues. Do you have the ability to choose the correct course of action? Everyday we are given choices. Do we choose the best course of action? Do we show patience when we’re dealing with those spiteful people? What about showing wisdom and not being ensnared into an argument? Do we choose the courage to walk away from a bad situation? You see Prudence is very important. It is being able to discern the best course of action.
How do we master this virtue? Just like everything else it takes practice. It takes studying. The best way for me to find answers is through scriptures. Each day read something from the Bible. If you do a daily devotion, that is based on a Bible verse. Look at Philippians 4: 8&9
8 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
These verses tell us to fill our minds with things that are good and pure. Have you ever heard of “garbage in garbage out?” If you fill your minds with bad things then your mind will think bad things. It’s a slippery slope. Next you will be acting in bad ways. Back row you know the things I’m talking about: violent video games and pornography. These are two that we need to guard our minds against. It’s very hard to do so in a culture that has become so lax. Remember we need to make a change and this is the way to do it. We need to live moral lives. Today’s homework is to take inventory of your minds. Is there something you should cut out? Are there things you need to protect your children from seeing? What “garbage” is getting through the filter to your mind? What media is unhealthy? For the last 26 days of our adventure, try to fill your mind and senses with positive images, music, and media. Let’s see if you gain Prudence.
Sal the Prudent Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
Affairs are easier of entrance than of exit; and it is but common prudence to see our way out before we venture in.
Aesop
Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken.
Pope Benedict XVI
You must rouse into people’s consciousness their own prudence and strength, if you want to raise their character.
Luc de Clapiers

Are you a Jonah?

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Only 32 more days to go in our adventure! Did you do your homework? Are you still working on it today? If you are that’s totally fine. Don’t forget the other tasks that go with this unit: healthy choices, not judging others, pray for those that you have negative thoughts about, avoiding temptation, and having a forgiving heart. Can you imagine how much good will be put into the world after these 40 days?

Today’s lesson will start with a question. Does the world need a change? Think about this. I have been reading a lot lately. One of the readings suggests that the world has outgrown the need for Christianity or any religious beliefs. It really makes you think.

In my devotional this morning, I read about Jonah and the Ninavites. Students, I’m sure you all remember the story of Jonah. How he was running from God and was swallowed by whale. Remember?He heard God’s voice tell him that he should go and give the warning of repentance to the Ninavites. Jonah said, “No way Yaweh!” You see students, the Ninavites hated the Israelites. Jonah knew if he went that it would be a sure death for him. The Ninavites were partying like it was 1999. They had several gods that they worshipped and were having a fine time doing they whatever they wanted without consequences. Jonah knew if he came in and blew the whistle on this big party that they would rise up and pummel him. After three days in the belly of a big fish, he decided what the heck? I need to just go and face the music. On his way into the village he started his mission by telling those he met on the way to repent their sins and worship the one true God or all of Nineveh would be destroyed. To Jonah’s surprise by the time he reached the city even the king had had a change of heart. God poured his Mercy out for the Ninavites. Jonah was baffled. God reasoned that many of the Ninavites did not know right from wrong and gave them a chance to change their wicked ways. Does this sound familiar? Let’s add a little geography to this lesson. Nineveh is in modern day Iraq. At one time in history it was a very bustling, modern city. The culture there still celebrates Jonah’s three days in the belly of the whale by fasting.

Back to our question, does the world need a change like Nineveh? Think of all the atrocities that we see in our world: child pronography, human trafficking, drug addictions, children abandoned, neglected, exploited, and used, broken families, selfishness and materialistic worship, rampant ignorance, hate of education, governments that do not put the people first but the interest of the elite, corporate giants, prejudice of immigrants, and divisions of communities over issues that should be thought of for the greater good of humanity. I could keep going but I think you get the message. The world definitely needs a change in my opinion. How do we do it? It seems so overwhelming looking at the hurt and pain it our societies and cultures. On my mantle, I have a plaque that says, “If you want to change the world go home and love your family.” (Mother Teresa) ln my kitchen window, I have a small plaque that says do small things with big love. (St. Teresa of Alvia) I also have a plaque that I put out that says isn’t it great that we need not waste one more moment to make the world a better place. (Anne Frank) You may think that I am a little nutty, but I surround myself with reminders of what we need to do to make the world a better place. I feel called to this mission. I can’t peruse the internet or Pinterest without finding myself re-directed to a way to put more good into the world. I saw some light bulbs coming on in the back row. Yes, this blog is one of them. I physically may not be able to teach very long anymore but God has given me a platform. Back row I will forgive you for that comment about Nineveh being just a lotion and what is the big deal. 🙂

I am on a roll. So let’s go a little deeper. What if everyone took care their family? What if we did just one small act of love each day? What if we all wanted a change? I understand many people and their arguments against religion or Christianity in particular. But the very basis of my religion, Catholic Christianity, is so simple. It is a life steeped in loving and caring for others. It’s just a quiet Love of all. That means loving the good, the bad, and the ugly. I never said it was easy. I just say that it’s simple in theory. Being a Christian is a very hard job. Remember Jonah? He ran. I do too sometimes. But eventually I come back to what is the right thing to do in any given situation. That’s right back row, love others as you would love yourselves.

Now the whole argument about is there a God? I have to say yes. I know that many will say bah humbug! Look at the list of atrocities in the world. How could there be a God that allows such horrible things to happen? Well students, He created us for good. He created us to be holy. How holy is the human race acting? Not very. It’s like blaming the teacher that you don’t learn anything when you never listen or do your homework. Students we have homework to do in this world. If we all do our part, we can change the world. I believe this. Do we have to be perfect? No, never. We are human, but we can try to do good things each day to create a better world. Of course we have homework back row, I’m still breathing aren’t I? Here it is. Think of one small the thing you can do to make the world a better place. Now, do it! Don’t be a Jonah and run!

Sal the Change the World Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Ghandi

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
Harriet Tubman

A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead

Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world.
Jack Ma
You are educated. Your certification is in your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. Think of it as your ticket to change the world.
Tom Brokaw

I realized if you can change a classroom, you can change a community, and if you change enough communities you can change the world.
Erin Gruwell

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.
Robin Williams
Please