Archive | November, 2013

56 Cent People

28 Nov

56 Cent People

No, it’s not a political sign. It defines safe travel not political persuasions. I think, though, it might encourage us to do “the right thing” as we dance and stumble through life. To do “the right thing” means one is informed by values, ethics, moral principles, or religious beliefs…or all of them. Values drive behavior.

That’s true in this morning’s news report about the sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, who has decided to save money in his budget by reducing the cost of the Thanksgiving meal given inmates to 56 cents per person. Do you know what you get for 56 cents per person? Not much. Some soy mixture, the article said. I think I’ll pass, thank you.

Nobody believes inmates ought to be treated like guests at the Hilton. Too many believe they ought to be humiliated and treated as if less than human until they’re turned back onto the streets repentant and rehabilitated. So in the name of saving money in the budget, let’s diminish their humanity even more and reminded them again and again that they are worth 56 cents on Thanksgiving Day.

The fallacy of letting inhumane values drive rehabilitation is that the anger and even rage produced by such money-saving brilliance, pent up in months or years of jail time and aimed at any form of authority, explode again on society when the cell door is opened and the 56 cent person is back in contact with the rest of us.

I’ve heard it said that prisons, where dignity and human values are lost, can become the best training grounds for deeper hatred and more violent behavior. Those places become school houses for violence. Maybe the wise philosopher of the comic strip, Pogo, got it right: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

The Movable Feast

26 Nov

In my faith tradition there is a thing called a “movable feast”.  Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

A movable feast, as contrasted to a fixed feast, is an observance in the church’s calendar which occurs on different dates in different years..thus, movable.  The observance won’t be on the same date every year because the calendar changes.  So there you have it.

Easter, Palm Sunday, Pentecost, among many other observances, are examples of movable feast times.

But today I declare that I am a movable feast because this morning I joined several friends to cook a meal for a local shelter that provides lodging for homeless men.  My job in the cooking routine is to stand at the huge stove and cook big tubs of meat mixed with onions, green peppers, beans, lots of chili powder, some corn and a smattering of other exotic ingredients.  The final meat mixture is then combined with steaming rice, wrapped carefully in large containers and delivered to the shelter for the evening meal.

I’ve noticed, though, that when driving home after the meal preparation I carry with me the lingering aroma of onions and all the other spicy ingredients.  You should see the looks I get if I decide to make a shopping stop before taking a shower at home.   Stray dogs follow me down the sidewalk.  I am a walking, movable feast!  I guess that’s not so bad, however, because  in my faith tradition there is also the encouragement to become “bread for the world”, to provide nourishment for people in need, and to feed those who are hungry.  To do those things is our highest calling, not just to believe the right things and say the right words.  But it occurs to me that my movable feast fragrance might be offensive to some people.  At least that’s the way it seems when glances come my way at the hardware store before getting home to the shower.   I wonder why some people are offended and others seem not to be?  Maybe there’s a hint out of the faith tradition again – those who are fed, filled and satisfied sometimes breathe in life in different ways than those who are hungry and have no prospect of a daily meal. Strange, isn’t it, how one’s senses are dulled by plenty and sharpened by poverty.  Sadly strange how the smell of onions and peppers sometimes offends the nourished but delights the neglected.

Perhaps, instead of delivering the meal to the shelter and then driving to my comfort zone, I need to make my hardware stop in that particular part of town — better yet, maybe I need to take some individual servings of that fragrant meal in the back of my van.  Here comes the Movable Feast.


The Way We Were…The Way We Are

14 Nov

Some of my friends carry very heavy loads, things that are almost unbearable.  A sudden sickness that turns into a constant and long term battle; a financial reversal that shakes all securities; a loss that cripples the emotions and drains what little energy is available.  You have friends like that, too.

Someone said to me once, through tears and anguish, “if I could only go back in time.  If it could only be the way it used to be.”  I’ve never met anyone who has those options, but too many of us live in the deadening grip of that wishful fantasy.  The tight grip of “if only I could be the way I used to be” punishes us, distracts us from living, and causes us to wake up in the morning still longing for what used to be, still hoping for some reversal of reality, and still captive to fear or remorse or regret.

And, saddest of all, The Grip blinds us to the wonder of life still in our midst and still trying to get our attention.

My response to my friend was “you can never be what you were, but you don’t have to be what you are.”  There is yet a choice, and that the Sacred Word to “choose life.”  Love over despair.  Now over then.  This moment with all its potential over that moment with all its pain.

I wish I had a magic wand to give my friend or a pill that might erase yesterday and shine healing light on today.   I don’t, but I know it’s true.  You can never be what you were…that’s gone.  But you don’t have to be what you are…the victim of yesterday.  Choose life.



One Way or The Other

14 Nov

One Way or The Other

Some days are like this! Coming or going?


My Day

7 Nov

My Day

Some days start out so good!
I feel fine.
I dance and sing.
I smile at the world.
And then
The phone rings or
the doorbell calls or
the cat throws up or
the dishwasher decides to die or
I step on my glasses.
I didn’t plan any of this.
Go away, Unwanted.
Get lost, Unexpected.
I end up in a place
I didn’t plan to be,
Between exasperated and enraged.
My boat that set out on calm waters
Is stranded, held captive,
Useless and helpless in the arms of futility.
And then, with clearer eyes
And calmer breath
I discover that the view is pretty good
From here.
I can see new horizons,
Broader landscapes,
Roads that were lost
In the confusion
Flowers blooming on a distant hill.
My plan is history.
My day is hopeful.