August 11, 2011: YES!

[Thanks be to e.e. cummings, of course]

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any–lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

April 18, 2011: Widows’ cookies—and a jar of freeze-dried nuts

The Good News continues:

Our Prison Fellowship Committee’s fundraiser dinner on Friday night raised $1,200!

But here’s what I want to tell you:

Three African-American women, whose lives have been impacted by  the mass incarceration of African-American men in ways I will never experience, came to the dinner. And contributed store-bought cookies and a jar of freeze-dried nuts.

And just as I can never know how it feels watching so many men from your community—including members of your own family, perhaps—sent to jail, I cannot adequately express how deeply touched I was and continue to be about their contribution.

April 10, 2011: The widow’s “two tiny coins”

Today at Meeting, an elderly widow sheepishly handed me a $10 bill for the Cambridge Bail and Legal Defense Fund *: “I wish I could give more,” she whispered as she handed me the money.

So, of course, I thought about the widow’s mites story (Generally this Bible story is called just that, employing an old word meaning coins of little value):

Once [Jesus] was standing opposite the temple treasury, watching as people dropped their money into the chest. Many rich people were giving large sums. Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a farthing. He called his disciples to him. “I tell you this,” he said: “This poor widow had given more than the others; for those others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on.”

Now, to be truthful, the Meeting widow is not destitute—but, nevertheless, like most old people, has to be very careful with her money. So her contribution feels like what Jesus was talking about: that a modest gift, donation, contribution given in love  and with an open heart—yet with some hardship—is beyond price.

The widow’s selfless act this morning also makes me think about another Bible passage: Isaiah 61: 1:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the humble, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to those in prison.

Maybe the Meeting widow’s heard this good news, too?

* This is a fund started by Friends Meeting at Cambridge’s Prison Fellowship Committee so that we can help those in need whom we’ve met while doing prison ministry. Currently, we are raising $ to pay the legal costs for a man in prison so he can appeal his life sentence. [See my February 2, 2011 entry]

March 29, 2011: “Sacrament of Pain”

Today’s Good News is courtesy of Thomas R. Kelly, the Quaker writer, teacher, philosopher (1893-1941).

Your response to the following passage might very well be: “You call this good news? What planet are you from?”

OK, call me crazy—but I find  Kelly’s words, written after visiting Germany in 1938, enormously comforting:

“An awful solemnity is upon the earth, for the last vestige of earthly security is gone. It has always been gone, and religion has always said so, but we haven’t believed it. . . There is an inexorable amount of suffering in all life, blind, aching, unremovable, not new but only terribly intensified in these days.

“One come back from Europe aghast at having seen how lives as graciously cultured as ours, but self-deluded by a mild veneer of religious respectability but unprepared by the amazing life of commitment to the Eternal in holy obedience, are now doomed to hopeless, hopeless despair. For if you will accept as normal life only what you can understand, then you will try only to expel the dull, dead weight of destiny, of inevitable suffering which is part of normal life, and never come to terms with it or fit your soul to the collar and bear the burden of your suffering which must be borne by you, or enter the divine education and drastic discipline of sorrow, or rise radiant in the sacrament of pain.”

March 11, 2011: Precious

Although I have been accused of finding good in nuclear war (for real), there’s precious little to find good about what’s happened in Japan. Reflecting on this (after watching countless videos of the massive destruction), feeling that disaster, I walked through the rain to the Market Basket, a supermarket half a block from my house.

Always crowded, the store was especially packed today. Threading my way through the congestion of shopping carts, customers just finished at the check-out lines and wheeling their carts towards the exits and people like me, simply trying to get past all that to actually get to the food, I overheard a little boy, grabbing a shopping cart, complain to his mother: “It’s wet!” he whined.

Hey, kid, I  wanted to say. How ’bout being grateful a tsunami hasn’t just smashed into this store and deal!

But of course I didn’t.

But I also, at first, was a little nonplussed: How come everyone’s so normal? I wondered. Why’s everyone so intent on their groceries? The trivialities of their daily lives.

Because it IS normal, here, of course. (Duh) It’s a rainy Friday afternoon, people are shopping in anticipation for the upcoming weekend: nothing special. A wet grocery cart, crowded supermarket aisles, a pretty, bright-eyed little girl sitting in a shopping cart kiddie seat and happily eating a cookie—these are precious! Cans and produce aren’t toppling to the ground, no one’s screaming, the floor, the walls are not rolling.


February 28, 2011: Let Go, Let. . . Hey, You

As a Patricia who wants to be called Patricia, I often have to correct people who, upon first meeting me, ignore the name I’ve introduced myself as and call me Pat.

But today, I received an e-mail adressed to:

Unsupported global element: index = 1; parameter = first_name

At least Pat’s an actual name! (Just not mine.)

But maybe I should let go of my preference to called by a multi-syllabic name?


February 27, 2011: Let Go, Let Surveillance

Another incident from yesterday’s rally on Beacon Hill in solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin (I’m getting a lot of mileage out of that, aren’t I):

Coming home from the rally, I took the Red Line, getting on at Park Street. Waiting for the train, I heard a loud, agitated voice further down the platform; a stairwell blocked my view to see who was so upset. But just as the recorded voice announced that an Alewife train was approaching, an angry African American man (and, yes, his ethnicity is important to the story) ambled towards me, cursing, muttering, shouting, kicking trash.

He will come right up to me, I thought. I am a magnet for mentally ill T riders. Bracing myself—and hoping that train would come—I recalled a radio talk show conversation I’d heard a couple of days ago re mentally ill people and why in the world do we send such troubled people to jail? So when, indeed, the guy did come right up to me, shouting “They call me a nigger? They’re a nigger!” I was already in a place of compassion.

I smiled, I looked right into his eyes, I flashed the peace sign to him. He stopped shouting and began to talk. Earnestly. Like he really wanted me to understand him. Trouble is, I couldn’t make out what he was saying: it sounded like gibberish but maybe he was speaking a language I’d never heard.

The train rolled in. I pitched my voice low and as gentle as I could possibly be: “I wish you well. I really do. Take care of yourself. Please.”

The train doors opened. I stepped into a car. He followed me. So I stepped out of the car and began walking quickly towards the next car. The platform was, by now, empty.

Hey, if they shut the doors before I get to the next car I’ll just wait for the next train, I decided.

The doors remained open. Whoa! I realized. I’m being watched. The conductors or maybe surveillance cameras saw this whole exchange. This train’s gonna wait for me! So I slowed down, got to the next car, entered, the door shut behind me, and the train took off.

February 18, 2011: Let Go, Let God?

Okay. True confession:

I’ve been reading The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson. Like Wilkerson, herself, and countless readers of that amazing book, I have completely fallen in love with Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, one of the three people featured in the book.

BUT: Having read of Ida Mae’s hard life from small child in Jim Crow Mississippi to great-grandmother in cold, racist Chicago, I know that much of the hardships she’s had to endure have to do with the color of her and her family’s skin. Yet when something terrible happens, Ida Mae always says, “God don’t make no mistakes.”

I am just having such a hard time accepting that.

February 15, 2011: Let Go, Let Democracy

Last night I watched “Return to Kandahar” and  today read of projected deep cuts to anti-poverty agencies here in good ol’ USA and wonder why we spend billions fighting in Afghanistan when the concepts of democracy and equal rights for women are free?! Do we really have so little regard for the preciousness of what we espouse that we must bludgeon, bomb, bribe the people of Afghanistan? Why can we not see what is happening in Egypt and Tunisia and Iran as expressions of the same Spirit, the same mighty “wind of change”* that has blown from sea to shining sea? (And still blows in good ol’ USA; I believe that.) Yes, the Afghani people have suffered greatly—but I believe that despite years of war, that Spirit bravely and courageously endures in that raped, mined, devastated country.

*[“The wind of change is blowing all over the world today. It is sweeping away an old order and bringing into being a new order,” declared Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.]