Dear President Trump and Members of Congress

You have lost the trust of the American people.  Your self-serving behavior and childish partisanship have left America in a sad state.  My father and grandfathers would be angry that their sacrifices for this country had led to men in power abusing that power and leaving those who support this country by their labors to fend for themselves.  You have made your positions ones of privilege and nepotism, not of the worthy but of the selfish, mean spirited and greedy.

You have denied the average American health and dental care, yet you enjoy lifetime benefits.  You are first to cut Medicare, social security and other earned benefits paid for by our taxes, and yet you enjoy full pensions in retirement, as well as numerous opportunities to make additional income by perpetuating your ideologies through speaking engagements and academic positions.  (In case you have forgotten, you penalize us for earning additional income once we are on Social Security.)

Your position as servant of the American people has become master of the masses.  You pass legislation for the 1% and leave the rest of us to gasp for breath every day.  Our parents are destitute in later life, our teachers are working two and three jobs to keep food on the table, our farmers are abandoning family farms, the mentally ill are left on the streets without treatment, our jails are filled with the men and women who when released have no better prospects than what they have when they went into this medieval system and our poorest are left to a life of homelessness and anguish even when they are working to support their families.  You gobble the prime portions of America and its resources and begrudge those who were before us the right to their own sacred space.  You subsidize your friends and steal from those too poor to have any real power to protest.  You ignore your districts, your constituents and spend millions on self-interest travel and entertainment.  Your sole purpose after election is to work towards reelection; you should instead earn reelection by working for the common good.

I have to ask, to what end? Can you spend all that you have?  Do your benefits lessen if you give some to the rest of us? Why should a public servant have the right to a full pension, private security and health benefits free of charge when the rest of us are denied basic health care?  Why do you claim to have the best interests of the American people at heart but work your best to make our lives more difficult? Since before President Obama your partisanship has served only yourselves.  It doesn’t matter who is elected president, you work to thwart all legislation for the public benefit. You are not Republican or Democrat, you are Egocrats serving yourselves.

It is time for you to examine your souls.  Reach deep down into yourselves.  Don’t just look in the mirror and placate yourselves with appearances.  Your radical ownership of the “Christian Right”, your obsession with the “Socialist Left” are smoke screens to hide your true intent: to rape America and her people and place yourselves an elite race that is answerable to only themselves. You have reincarnated Nazism and called it democracy.  You have not fooled us.  We see you and we will no longer be silent.  Time to come down and see the horror you have created.  Time for you to stand trial for the crimes you have committed against the American people and our Constitution.  It is Judgement Day and come November you will receive our verdict.

Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey

1200px-California_Department_of_Motor_Vehicles_logo.svgFor those of you who know. me, you know that I have had problems with my left eye for over 10 years now.  It all started with a detached retina, several surgery, a sclera buckle and has finally stabilized with a macular hole. Ahh the joys of aging.

Some of you also know that every one to two years (because they can only issue licences in five year increments) from the start of these ocular issues, I have visited the neighborhood DMV and had to bring an eye exam form, take an eye test on site, and take a road test.  All of this culminates in my license being renewed for another two years.

This year, it’s different. This year is a single year.  I did my due diligence to the max.  I got my eye exam within six weeks of going to the DMV.  I tried unsuccessfully to schedule my road test before the deadline, I had all my papers because the laws for id’s changes in October of 2020. And yet, despite all my best efforts, I was told that because my birth certificate did not match my current name, (really who in my generation that has been married would be able to do that), I would need my wedding license.  So home I go, search I must and bring back the wedding license which still is not signed in my current name, but fortunately, they took pity on me and let it slide.  Because there are no road test appointments for 50 miles before the deadline, they extend my license and schedule me in the first slot in the DMV 25 miles away.

Today, I made my way to the DMV.  I parked in the road test lane, waited for thirty minutes only to be told to find a parking space and check in at Window 4.  Again I wait, this time with a lovely Muslim woman who was taking her test for the first time at what appeared to be mid 40’s, another woman who was taking her first test at what appeared to be early 50’s.  What an exciting time for them.  After checking in with a lovely employee who told me she and her son had the same birthdate, the day my temporary license expired, and wishing I wore Depends®, I return to my car, circle back to the test lane and wait for an additional 20 minutes.  Soon I am met by the same proctor who sent me to Window 4, who checks all my papers three times and declares that because I have to come back in December when my license actually expires,  take  written and road tests this year, pay my $36 fee (there should be a discount for seniors who take written tests), he has the ability to waive my test, and allow me to go home to enjoy the rest of the day!  Just go back to Window 4 he says, I will set it up he says, have a great rest of the day he says, oh and you can park in one of the reserved for “end of road test” spots.

Sometimes I think that life could be harder, sometimes we make it harder, sometimes others have the pleasure of doing that for us. But sometimes it is just an early morning drive to a new destination where you meet kind people who give are encouraged by your smile, give you smiles, speak gently and share good news all to brighten your drive home with quiet blessings.  It has been a good day.

Teach Your Children Well

Every day I scroll through my social media feeds: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and most days I enjoy the posts that people add. I enjoy seeing things like clouds, scenery, food, and life events.  Since the last Presidential election, however, it has been a non-stop litany of vitriol that we would be washing our children’s mouths out for.  My friends and neighbors fill their pages with slurs, derogatory comments, and crude words that are worse than the fabled smog of the Inland Empire.  Daily I see comments attacking physical appearance, intelligence, faith, and family. We attack our friends for posting something we do not agree with.  We are all about sensationalism, and no one is exempt from our anger, frustration, and fear.

We would not accept this from our children.  Schools have zero tolerance for bullying. If a child came home and said that the slimy red head from down the road was dumb, we would sit that child down and talk to them about treating others as they would be treated.  Why is it appropriate for us to do this as grown ups?  Why do we not focus on the issues and not on the person?  What happened to “if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all”?

None of us is perfect. We all have flaws and blemishes. Why do we feel it is appropriate to throw careless words around, tempt with emotionally-charged headlines (when we know that people will not read all the way through) and post incomplete or inaccurate stories to make ourselves feel better?  Why are we not acting as adults who espouse Christian morality and taking a look at the real issues?  We have become the arm chair  yellow journalists of the past. We are all about sensationalism; we attack everyone, even our family for posting views that oppose our own. What happened to “if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all”? 

We practice a political racism on both sides of the aisle; we categorize everyone associated with the opposing political party as evil while glorifying ourselves as the saviors. It is not new, but it has escalated in the past 6 years reaching a zenith in the past 18 months. We have tunnel vision; our way is the only way. How wrong we can be and how much damage we do when we refuse to listen, really listen to the other side and decide what is right and wrong for ourselves, to be able to rationally come to the middle way and avoid the extremes. We have become armchair protestors. We post and repost without a single original idea. We no longer write to our elected officials, we post on Facebook and attack on Twitter. We “throw shade”, we mock, we belittle, but we do not act. Our vocabulary has become limited and ugly. Why are we not out petitioning, going to town hall meetings, writing letters to the editor? Because it is easier to lash out and feel more righteous by remaining at our desks and practicing non interaction through social media.

Where is your righteous indignation when you see the homeless on your street corners and under the overpasses? Where is your compassion and largess when, as a business owner, you are content to pay your employees minimum wage and restrict hours to avoid providing benefits. Where is that indignation when you are at an amusement park and the person picking up trash is on food stamps so you can have a clean park? It amazes me that people will patronize a company if it pays lower wages but will boycott companies because they are exercising the same right that you have to support causes they believe are in their best interest.  Try to remember, the people promoting and reporting these stories on both sides are in it for the money.  Don’t kid yourself, they are not altruistic and need to sell newspapers and magazines and air time.  And those they quote want that permanent government pension and health insurance as much as their counterparts.  There is no black and white.

I believe the real reason we are in such a state is that we have for too long left our responsibilities for rearing responsible children and stable government up to others and have failed to actively participate. We pull a lever and walk away trusting that that person will actually carry out our wishes when they don’t even know what those wishes are.  We drop our children at school and expect they will learn everything there.  We blame educators for the lack of morals, and empathy, responsibility and the understanding of consequences.   Our obsession with ourselves and our electronics have caused us to become complacent with the status quo and have allowed ourselves to believe that we don’t have to participate.

We need to put away Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Give up a day at the spa or the mall.  Close the laptop and put down the phones. We need to eat dinner together, and talk to each other.  We need to follow our children to bed, talk to them, pray with them. Teach them their worth and value.  We need to teach responsibility and consequences. We need to start with our spouses and children, they are starving for conversation and a moral compass. We need to teach our children what we ourselves have forgotten.  We need to find our compassion and replace the fear we have created of those who are trying to find a place at this enormous table we call America.  il_570xN.934295187_43m5

Try walking to your mailbox and talking to your neighbors.  Engage the people you come in contact with each day.  Listen, really listen to the checkout person whose job you will save by not going to the self checkout.  What is it they really are worried about?  What do they need?  Yield to the person entering the freeway, have patience with the older driver.  If we stop and listen, responding in love instead of fear and anger, we might find that kinder, gentler nation again under the anger, mudslinging, and trash of recent years.  Then, and only then, will we live into our Baptismal Covenant of loving our neighbors as ourselves and respecting the dignity of every human being.



The Pain of Assimilation


Two years ago, my church began a journey of assimilating a congregation that began as a mission of our church many years before.  The congregation had always been a mission, it never did achieve self-sustaining status, a full-time rector, a paved parking lot.  It did however have a lot of people who were willing to do things for the community and a praise band.  Who still has a praise band?  Our rector, was careful to prepare our congregation by telling us how much these people hurt because their church was closing, how we should be kind and open and willing to accept them into the congregation.  Problem is, no one told them to be gentle and kind and loving to us.  They came, we opened our doors and our hearts and they moved in.

Some small group ministries have benefitted from the influx of a (relatively) younger congregation with more energy.  Social life has improved if you like parties and we acquired an additional outreach project that was popular at the former church.  We have a Youth Group and a Young Adult Group now,  and there is new blood on the Vestry, And yet, I cannot help but notice that despite these “improvements” the heart of the community is divided over something as simple as music.  The deepest hurt is the attendance and how it can fluxuate based on the music being sung.  We have a beautiful old organ and a wonderful choir filled with talented people, a hymnal filled with beautiful hymns and a music library to rival a much larger church.  On days when the choir sings, the pews are rather empty because our new brethren don’t want to hear the organ or the hymns, they want praise band music.  When the praise band plays, the pews are full, not because the preaching is better or the Bible is different, but because their praise band is playing and their music is being sung.

How sad it is that unless we are playing by their rules they will withhold their participation and stunt the building of community. It is us and them, our threads and yours and the tapestry that was us is unraveling with all the silent divisions. We the welcoming community are feeling less like the “welcomers” and more like usurpers. It is as if we have been pushed aside and relegated to the back seat. We are now the children’s table.  Someone said, change means that we can never go back, and I get that.  When you put two congregations together you will never have one or the other, it will always be a new creation.  What I don’t get is the lack of sensitivity that undermines our unity and the feeling of two churches where there should be one.  I don’t see the community coming together, growing closer and learning to adapt to each other’s idiosyncrasies.  I see the tapestry that should be growing more colorful is growing threadbare and losing its vibrancy with each passing day.  What should have been a restoration work has not become a demolition project and I am sad for where it will all end.

I am my Mother’s keeper

I invited my mother to consider retirement villages in Southern California. She had lived in rural New York for most of her life and the cold and the isolation were wearing on an ageing soul. She hemmed and hawed and dragged her feet but she came and saw found a place and, after an avalanche of activity, she moved in with us. We knew it was going to happen and we prepared ourselves for a short-term stay until her residence opened up.

When we extended the invitation, the plan was to move her out because her house had sold and, within six months, she would move into a life care community. This was not to be. She rejected all but one and after two years they have finally found her a place.  Now we have come to the excuses: I can’t move “because I am on chemotherapy,” (they are a life care facility). “I’m trying to  get my papers in order,”, (they are all in color coordinated folders). “I need to go see all my doctors and get my records,” (cannot manage to get up on time to get to doctors during office hours). And two years later, I am seeing no light at the end of the tunnel.

My mother is not a pleasant woman. She is strongly opinionated, a judgmental person with radically different views from my own and my family. She has no tolerance for young boisterous children and my grandchildren visit often, one even lives with me. She sees the flaws in everyone but herself. The house must be quiet when she is “working” and the television is full volume when she is watching. She is on a “special diet” that requires cupboards full of special foods but rarely does it get consumed. She would rather opt for a portion of whatever we have prepared which allows her to comment on the amount of salt, grease and sugar that  may or may not be contained therein. “It’s all about convenience,” she says.

Caring for ungrateful aging parents is not what God intended. The Bible is full of admonitions that children should not anger their parents and parents should not anger their children. Parents should live in harmony with their children, both being served and serving. No one should be more or less than the other. Living with empathy and  compassion would make the arrangement livable. My mother does not see life that way. She is smartest, she is most knowledgeable, she is not responsible for the wrong that is done, it is always being done to her. Even “the Google” is against her. There is no joy in living with her or with her ideas.

1312821385-acc41398aa0a5842ff0aa3024deae6c6And yet, I am her keeper. I cook, clean, shop and wash-up and make her bed. I listen while she lectures on about this or that. I am not 100% successful but I try to remain quiet when I hear about all that is wrong with the way my children and I live our lives.  I do it not because she loves me, but because I am asked to love her. I do not do it because she cares for me, but because I am asked to care for her. To respect her as a child of God. I hope that when it is my turn to assume that role, I will be kinder, quieter, gentler and less demanding. I hope that it will be easier to see God within me. Perhaps I will even find my own place to stay.

What Really Matters

10205320188629905The other day, a woman gave me a paragraph to be included in an announcement that would serve to introduce her to a  community of women. It was well written and thoughtful and expressed her passion for working with a particular group of people, their rights and the causes they support. I was happy to publish it.  Several hours later, in the wake of the Charleston shootings, she asked me to change it to remove her words lest she be thought of as racist. The offending words? “women matter.” In an instant, this group she cared about no longer mattered because of the use of a word that might somehow link back to the tragedy in Charleston and would label her remarks as racist. For the record, there was nothing racist in her remarks at all.

WE ALL MATTER, the young, the old, the rich and the poor, the weak and the strong, those to the right or the left of “normal”. My friend’s particular passion is that of the cause of women. Not only white women, but all women, the disenfranchised, the under empowered, the desperate, the abused, any of whom may appear privileged and yet suffer in silence. Other friends have other passions, some for those in prison, some for the aged, the ill, for children, for literacy, for education, for the homeless, for those who are autistic and for those in poverty stricken countries. They do not look at the color of the skin but work with compassion caring for all.

It saddens me that someone would think that she might appear racist by saying that women matter. All lives matter, it is in our Baptismal Covenant to “respect the dignity of all human beings.” So yes, Black lives matter, women’s lives matter, children’s lives matter, Indigenous peoples lives matter, Hispanic lives matter, Asian lives matter. It is not only about their lives but the quality of those lives that should matter. All peoples, no matter their origin or past, should be able to live in decent housing, make a living wage, have food that will nourish them without making them or the earth sick, be given competent health care, be able to worship (or not) as they are called, to be able to live without racial profiling and sleep in peace without fear of the police, or their neighbors.

The maintenance of boundaries defining people is what keeps us mired in the past. We can no longer be American, Israeli, Iranian, or African, black, white, brown, heterosexual, homosexual or any other faction you want to call out.  We are human. We must come together and look at it as “All Human Life Matters”. All Humanity, not just the chosen few or those whose tragedy has made the headlines, matter. There is no perfect solution, no perfect religion, no perfect government, no perfect being, no one size fits all for our planet. We must learn to forgive ourselves for and work with the imperfections we all carry and forge a better world focusing on our strengths. Each of us have unique gifts and talents and we all need to use them for social justice with compassion wherever we are able. We need to raise each other up and thereby raise ourselves up. We need to look deep within ourselves and face the fears that keep us from doing what we are called to do. We don’t need more slogans, we need more hands reaching out to help. I cannot believe that Mother Theresa or Pope Francis would say one life matters but the other does not. I know my God did not.

Confession Really is Good for the Soul

thD6E8FPUHThe other day I had the good fortune to make a personal confession. Confession is not new to me, nor is personal confession, but this time was different. Growing up Roman Catholic and going to parochial school confession was a weekly event. The nuns walked you to the church, you waited your turn and then entered the tiny dark closet and lied about how many times you disobeyed your parents or stole. It was a guilt ridden experience and the fact that any child would have to create a number of times they broke the commandments was terrifying. What if you got it wrong? Was it lying to make up a number? Suffice to say it was more torture than any actual sin an eight year old could muster.

When I left parochial school confession ended until in midlife, I joined the Episcopal Church and corporate confession became the “good enough” method of weekly confession. But corporate confession is not satisfying to the soul. It is not naming your sins to another human being and being told one on one that you are forgiven. After a while (a good long while) I was frustrated and the sins  of my youth, (real sins this time), were weighing on me in ways that were not always immediately obvious. It was a culmination of reading and spiritual direction that led me to seeking a personal confession with a confessor. Depression, anger misdirected, unhappy memories repeatedly resurfacing, all contributed to my seeking out a professional who would sit with me and listen to my sins and then tell me God had forgiven me.

In the Episcopal tradition, there is not always a confessional, you are often face to face with your confessor. They see you for who you are and what you are, they are present. They confess that they are sinners as you are, sharing in the fallibility of being human, it is very different from the dark box and the anonymous shadow waiting to pass judgment.  You are encouraged to prepare for confession perhaps reviewing and making note of your transgressions before hand. You can of course adlib but then you might forget, or balk and then the cathartic cleansing of years of burden would be only partial.  My confessor was a wonderful woman, a retired priest, who faced me with only love and assured me in advance that she would not remember what I had said and would never return to it unless it was my wish. She offered me counsel and absolution (forgiveness) and she suggested I read the 32 Psalm  (NRSV) as penance. It begins:

1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

For my part, the experience of telling someone face to face what I had done in my life, my feelings of inadequacies, my shortcomings, all the ugly I had held onto for so many years, was cleansing. It released me from the anger of having to carry my own guilt and shame. It allowed me to feel loved and cherished by another human being and by God even if they knew the truth. It allowed me to forgive myself. Since that time, I have had less misdirected anger, I am more patient with others and with myself. I am more likely to forgive others and myself when we don’t live up to those inhuman expectations we have given ourselves.

So I recommend confession for the healing it brings to your mind and spirit. Not to be punished but to heal. To stop carrying the burden alone. To stop carrying it at all. To have the knowledge that once said aloud, the sin can no longer hurt you it is given to the air around you and the wind carries it dispersing it and allowing it to lessen. Find a confessor you can trust. Prepare for the time you will be together and enter into it knowing that you will be forgiven and restored. Acknowledging the sin before God allows you to trust Him to forgive as in Isaiah 43:25 (NRSV) He says:

I am He
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.

The Real Lesson in “Frozen”

elsa_familyHaving just finished watching “Frozen” for maybe the 25th time, I asked my 9 year old granddaughter what the message was in the movie that was so wildly popular. She said that it was ‘even if you are different, you don’t have to hide, that it is okay to be different.’ She is very wise, it is okay to be different. With a little bit of coaxing she also came up with ‘love conquers fear’ which is also right and very wise. Anna’s love conquers Elsa’s fear of being different and allows Elsa to control her gift. Admirable for a young girl to understand these lessons when all around her in the media is telling her to conform, to be like others. I am proud of my granddaughter and her ability to understand that media is powerful and can be a force for good as well as bad.

But I suspect that one of the most deeply troubling messages is that, as parents and grandparents, we pass our fears and prejudice onto our children even when we don’t mean to. Watch, as not more than 10 minutes in, Elsa’s parents lock her away in fear and insist she have no contact with her “normal” sister. They take the advice of the trolls to the extreme. The trolls, who are markedly different, never tell them to lock her away, they only say she needs to learn to control her gift. So instead of love and instruction, she is left alone for years, with no love, no contact, no apparent education that would help her to understand and control her “powers”. She is fed fear and isolation and as her power grows so does that fear and isolation. Even when confronted by her sister who loves her, she withdraws in fear causing ruin and destruction.

In his article, We Teach Our Children to Be Afraid of Fear – And That’s No Way to Handle It,  Don Fenn PhD, says that we do not allow our children to experience fear so they never learn to deal with it. Elsa is yanked away from a fearful situation and never learns to deal with her life she develops into an anxiety ridden woman who is unable to lead a normal life.  We never see her work to control herself.  She is not given the opportunity to learn how to control her gift and so she becomes neurotic as the film progresses. Our children learn so much more from what we do then from what we say. What a different story it would have been had the parents encouraged her, sought instruction, allowed her to love herself and allow those around her to love her. We can all learn from Elsa and her parents. But we can learn even more from her sister Anna, who through it all, never gave up, never feared, and always approached her with love.

We humans fear so much, spiders, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and each other. Despite what we say we a want for our children we often react in ways that teaches them the opposite. In our ignorance, we step on spiders while we tell them to respect the earth and their environment. We destroy our habitat and cause erosion, flooding and wildfires through our lack of understanding of the fragile earth we live on.  We pull them away from those not like ourselves, the homeless, those who are physically or mentally handicapped. We guard them from people of a different race, color, sexual orientation, religion. We breed fear through lack of education and understanding and love. We promote exclusion and isolation. Elsa’s reaction is no more violent than what happened in Ferguson, or in other cities and countries where misunderstanding and ignorance prevail. Fear brings destruction and anger. Love brings compassion and understanding. Are we to raise yet another generation of children who are fearful and emotionally stunted, lacking compassion and love? It is time to watch “Frozen” again and learn what not to do to our children. It is time to take our cue from Anna, the real heroine of the story and practice the love that conquers fear, love drives out fear, love that is stronger than fear.

Do you want to build a snowman?

Down on Grandpa’s Farm

Recently I had a conversation with a friend and she informed me that my Girls Friendly Group could not plant potato eyes from a store bought potato unless it was an organic potato. I was skeptical and yet it is true. Today those store bought potatoes are sprayed with chemicals to increase shelf life so they are toxic when they sprout. Why would you sell a product that is potentially toxic to the humans that eat it? Maybe I am late to the table on this one but it just seems counterproductive if you kill off your customer base.

When I was a child, my grandfather fed the neighborhood with his produce. He loved his soil and in the Bronx in the 50’s there were plenty of vacant lots to grow things in. He started in a crowded city using every vacant lot in a 10 block radius. He planted fruit trees, berry bushes and vegetables. He was a genius despite being illiterate. He could coax beauty from a rock. When we moved to the country, he purchased 8 acres and year after year he cleared the glacier boulders by hand from the land until he had cleared almost all of it, planting his gardens of fruits, vegetables and flowers. Having grown up with my grandfather, I was spoiled: beans were crisp and tender, tomatoes were juicy and ripe off the vine. When October came, we were sent with wagon loads of overflow to the neighbors, leaving bags and bags of vegetables for them to supplement their table with. Somehow. I doubt if many of them canned like my grandmother did, so who knows what happened to the acres of tomatoes, zucchini and pole beans that he labored so lovingly over and distributed with so much love.

My grandfather loved the seed catalogues, Burpee, Park and the Shumway companies filled our winter afternoons with color and the hope of new life.  We would mark the pictures and I would read the descriptions for him and fill out the order form.  Names like Big Boy and Sun King, Black Beauty would raise the excitement to fever pitch.He would have cried over the advent of GMO as much as he would have loved the durability and abundance it offers. He would have marveled at disease free plants and then he would have wept if he could not use the seeds he gathered to plant his next year’s crop. I think most of all he would have cried over the lack of flavor that the new variety of vegetables yield. He was a lover of food, he would have been disappointed by lack luster tomatoes and tough green beans. He would have been an heirloom man, an organic farmer – much as he was then.

So back to those potatoes, those GMO orbs that are poisoning the people who purchase them. Are we feeding more people than before by spraying potatoes with poison? Are people who are starving and in drought prone areas less hungry or are we feeding them these poisoned products to just reduce the surface population? I am convinced that the love and daily care my grandfather put into his garden produced more plentiful crop per acre than the GMO growers today, and he fed more people per acre than the GMO farmers who let their fields go fallow or destroy crops that might feed the hungry in order to make a profit. Perhaps we need a little less poison and a little more love in all we grow and the world will be a better place for it. For now, I will have to buy those organic potatoes and share the love, to show my girls that food does not come from a factory.

The Superiority of Benevolence

I am working through the Monastery of the Heart by Joan Chittister, O.S.B., and I was contemplating the chapter on Equality. As much as I would like to think I practice equality, I realize that, as a human being, I often fall into the trap of Benevolent Superiority. You know the feeling, you embrace equality for all, and you hold your breath as you pass the homeless man on the corner, or you pull your coat around you a little tighter when you pass the heavily tattooed teenager in the baggy pants.  We are think we are working so hard to make sure that we treat everyone equally, we promote equal rights for all, we elevate the poor and the homeless by feeding the, clothing them, but in fact, we are not treating them as equals, we are treating them much as those benevolent slave holders so long ago who were so sure that they we taking care of those who could not take care of themselves.  We run soup kitchens and clothing drives, we smile and hand out breakfast bags but we really don’t want that person in our neighborhood.

When I look around me, I see some very wonderful people doing all sorts of good things for their fellow human beings. I am not sure however, that they are listening to their fellow human beings. They are providing food, clothing and services but are they listening? Equality does not mean I have a bagel, you have a bagel. It means I will ask you what you would like while I order my bagel.  I believe it is not enough to provide for those who have less, but we must engage them in dialogue to make this provision permanent. Handouts and aid do not fix the problem, they alleviate the symptoms. We in our privileged neighborhoods and protected communities do not really know what our brothers and sisters really need because we don’t listen, we talk.  We need to ask, not tell, and make them a part of the solution. We need to really listen for wisdom in their words. We need to be prepared to welcome these people into our communities. Help them to stand on their own and rely on themselves. It is the only solution that brings dignity. We must champion the rights of the homeless and the mentally ill and make sure that the best that our society has to offer is offered to them as well.

I see women who have been give every opportunity, that reap the rewards of the women who came before them, women who enjoy every freedom, ignore their sisters around the world and at home, who are sold into arranged marriages, sold into slavery, suffer mutilation and rape. Less horrifying but even more insidious, they turn their backs on those in their own communities who are working for a minimum wage that is ludicrous and perpetuates the inequality that is pervasive in our own towns and cities. Comments like: “She should have gone to school”, “She shouldn’t have gotten pregnant”, “She should not have let that happen”, “I made it on my own so can she”, only serve to maintain the inequality and make us look like fools because we really haven’t given these women an equal voice and really listened to their stories. Believe me, you didn’t make it on your own, you made it because of the work and dedication of people like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B Anthony as well as Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Freidan and Gloria Steinem. Believe it or not,  that college education that you have and that high power job that you cling to depends more on your ability to buy maxi pads at any convenience store (which most of the world’s women cannot) as it does with your drive and ambition.  Until we listen and really hear, and act on what we hear, International Women’s Rights will continue to be a cause we must rally around.

I see men and women returning from war who need healing yet are ignored by their country and made to suffer from less that first rate healthcare and healthcare apathy. I see men and women who are unemployed because of a corporation’s greed and search for profit. I see aging men and women, who have worked all their lives, living in substandard housing or squalid assisted living facilities, lacking humane care and dignity at the end of life because they are old and don’t matter any more. I see children who are hungry because we, as a nation, are out of touch with the struggles of our neighbors. Why are we not listening to them? Why do we think writing a check and filling a food pantry is enough? If we are to really see equality in our lifetime, we need to stop trying to silence the voices one soup can at a time. We need to start listening to the voices, understand the real issues and talk about real solutions. We cannot continue to avoid the hard conversations and the decisions that will be painful but necessary for the good of all.