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Last night, I listened to an interview with Todd Bol, the founder of Little Free Libraries.  For those of you who may not know what these are, they are the tiny libraries that look like elaborate mail boxes.  Set on posts in yards and parks throughout the country, those who put them up stock them with books for their communities.

Why?  As Bol explained in the interview, those who are illiterate are more likely to be incarcerated, to be hungry and to be homeless.  Not that others don’t suffer as well, but literacy is an amazing safety net.  And putting out these libraries shows the community that reading matters and that they, the people in this community, matter.

For me, the best part of the interview was when Bol mentioned all the griping and snarking being committed in the name of politics.  “That’s not who we are,” said Bol.  He emphasized that the American people are people who work together to solve problems.  That we are people who work together to build community.

Amen!

What is your favorite community building activity?  I’ve taken part in river clean ups, worked at the food pantry, and gone on hunger walks. In a community garden this summer, I learned how prickly “wild” cucumbers are and just how many 14 plants produce.

Community builders.  Provisioners. His hands and his feet in the world.  This is who we are.

–SueBE

 

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When the whole world is a lie,
where do you go for truth?
Look inside yourself.
Find the one thing you would die for.
Extract it like a sliver.
Hold it up as high as you can.
(Don’t worry. Some
will not see, even if what you hold
is mountainous, epic, blinding.)
Your arm will wobble. Your chest
will heave with tears. Let them come.
God will see what you are holding:
If it is not worthy, you will know.
You can hide in the bowels of the earth;
still God will find you. If you are holding paper,
you will wither like a leaf in winter. If you hold
yourself, you will become a shadow. Only love
will shield you, so make yours vast, lavish,
even impractical. Stand in the light of one true thing,
and God will stand with you.

You have to be open.  It’s just a fact.  No one wants to talk to you if you are certain that only your way is correct.

When I saw this quote, I knew it was right but how?  I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  And then I saw a video  (see below) by Robin DiAngelo, author of What Fragility.  She discussed how we use phrases like “I’ve been taught not to see race” to shut the conversation down.

I’m not racist.  Boom.  The door slams shut.

This is a big part of why race and racism aren’t discussed openly in our society.  Even those of us who work hard not to be racist have these catch-phrases.  All we have to do and the conversation, the multiracial conversation, shuts down.  Those who might have something to teach you aren’t interested in being told that their experiences didn’t happen like they remember.  They are the ones misinterpreting what was said, what was done, and how they felt.

Us?  We’re good.  Because we aren’t racist.

My church is hosting another talk at the end of the month.  It is the last one we have scheduled before the holiday season.  Me?  I hope it is only the beginning.  Racism doesn’t have to be intentional to be a big deal.  As much as I don’t enjoy these meetings, I’m glad we are doing them.  It is a discussion we need to have as a society and as a Church.

–SueBE

The weather is mocking me: After three days of rain, only the most tentative flicker of sunshine. It’s enough to make a person lose hope. And I have lost it, especially of late. I’ve lost hope in the Sisterhood (you know, that wild idea that women might work together for our own good), in men, in the Church, and in the bright, shiny promise of Democracy. I’ve lost hope that somehow we’re going to pull it together before the effects of global warming smack us in the face with a cataclysmic shout of “too late!”

But it’s okay. Because at the bottom of my Pandora’s box remains one thing — faith in God. And because of this, I can’t lose hope entirely. I have to still believe in the Sisterhood, in men, in the Church, in the bright, shiny promise of Democracy. I even have to believe that maybe we’ll save the planet before it’s too late. But only because I believe in God.

I don’t have to believe that human beings are capable of being fair or loving or vigilant, because God demonstrates over and over that God can work a miracle through the unlikeliest of people. Most saints are saints despite themselves. They are saints because God worked through them. And God can work through any of us.

So while I might be experiencing a dark night of the soul, there’s still some sunlight left in my inventory. And that is the idea of God’s infinite possibility. If you can believe in that, you can never lose hope. Good thing, too, because a life without hope is no life at all.

Or the humanity of someone else.  We have, after all, been charged to help the least among us.  Like Miss Ruth said all so well, if you can’t be bothered, step aside.  Enough is enough already.

–SueBE

I just read an interesting article: “NASA Chief Wants to Send Humans to the Moon – to Stay.”  Well, now. I can think of a few people I’d like to give the old heave-ho into the heavens right about now.

I’m out of patience, for instance, with the pope. Forgive my bluntness, but how long should we expect to wait until he makes real reforms in the wake of multiple sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church? I hear him saying a lot of words, but nothing is changing. Could it be he’s not sure what steps to take? Let me help, if I may.

  • Defrock all priests proven to have abused children
  • Give them no retirement plan or benefits, just cast them out
  • Same goes for the bishops who covered up the abuse
  • Removal of statute of limitations re: long-ago abuse
  • Class action to remunerate all victims
  • Criminal action to put offenders in jail
  • Global database documenting all confirmed abuse cases
  • Total transparency and public access to the data
  • Sweeping reforms to protect children in the church

So. All of the above. Or, option B: Pope Francis resigns.

This may sound harsh, but I’d also like religious leader Joyce Meyer to retire. In a sermon last week, she recounted the sexual abuse by her father she endured for years. She said, flat out… wait for this one… “I’m glad it happened.” She said it had made her a better person.  

Well. Okay. She’s canceled!

Where to begin? What a disservice this is to victims of sexual abuse. Some child is going through this right now. And her abuser, who probably thinks he’s a good Christian in all other ways, hears his preacher say it’s actually not such a bad thing after all.

I know I’m probably just in a mood from the recent doings on capitol hill,  but someday, we’ll look back in shame on this era of the innocent being hurt by those in power. Maybe the next generation will come up with a way to make sure it never happens again. If it means sending offenders to a colony on the moon, well, I’m okay with that, too.

Everyone’s got an opinion these days, and we each think only ours is right. We will insert ourselves into conversations in which we do not belong just to tell other people so. We’ll deny others’ lived experiences with our own conjectures about how we might have lived it, had it been up to us. And everything is up to us — it’s all out there on the table, ready to be judged, pawed over, analyzed. Nothing is private. Nothing is sacred. Nothing can be held out as indisputably true. Please, let us all take a step backwards and listen — just listen. Truth can only come when everyone is heard.

I say, “How could they, possibly?”
and yet possibly people do,
improbably and often.
It’s the old sin, snaking,
rearing up like an asp,
to ask: “Who knows
better than you?”
And there you are,
mouth full of apple,
mealy beneath your tongue.
You know nothing. At core,
at core, all of us know nothing.
Lock your opinion in your bones
until — and, yes, unless — you
find yourself kicking the embers
of the same conflagration.
And even then, know —
there were other ways,
other gates, out of the garden.

With all the divisions in the world – in politics, between countries, even in families – it shouldn’t be surprising that there are those who believe we should eliminate the population of certain species to save other ones.

There’s author Jonathan Franzen, who believes that cats should be killed, since they kill birds. Then there are the scientists who have created a robot designed to kill the starfish that kill coral reef, so that the coral reef can provide food for other species (which, I assume, would also end up killing coral reef.) Others say that the starfish are a symptom and the real problem is port activity and pollution caused by humans. I don’t think any of us would vote for eliminating humans to save the coral reef!

On a more sinister note, there are those who truly believe whole groups are inferior to their own people. The Rohingya in Myanmar have been the focus of a genocide carried out by the country’s military. Leader Aung San Suu Kyi (a former Nobel Peace Prize laureate, yet) said recently that “the situation could have been handled better” but that “we have to be fair to all sides.” Hmm. Where have we heard that before?

We’re so used to looking through our own lens that we might not even really see each other anymore. Just a reflection filtered through our own worldview.

I can’t believe it even needs to be said, but what do you say we take “extermination of entire populations” off the table, across the board? Of cats, of starfish. Certainly of people. Of others who espouse a different political ideology or religion. Let’s all agree to this basic idea, and with any luck, eventually, we’ll work our way back to the Golden Rule.

I can make myself believe
that voting still matters
that good will win out
that women will be heard
and people of color respected

I can make myself believe
that redemption is possible
that no one (even me) is useless
that justice is a-comin’
and blue waves can save

I can make myself believe
all manner of fairy tales:
Father knows best
blind obedience is my duty
and we can pray away the pedophiles

But I cannot believe in America
(not really)
or in my Church
(not absolutely)
until men believe in change.

These days, I’m everybody’s Auntie. Nodding at the neighbors as they walk by. Smiling at new mothers with their strollers and Shih Tzus. Shaking my head only to gently remind passing cars of the speed limit. There was a day though, let me tell you. There was a time when I was a leadfoot with the need for speed. People can never believe this as they look at me now with my cardigans and cat’s eye glasses, a Nana if ever there was one.

But it’s true. I got pulled over for speeding so many times, I kept my license, insurance and registration paper-clipped in the center console for easy officer-viewing. Heck, I got pulled over so many times I knew that you could speak to the prosecutor right before your court appearance and tell him you’ll plead guilty in exchange for not getting points on your license.

Let me tell you. I was as guilty as the day is long. Guilty as sin, every time. I was pulled over by officers of all different demographics: old, young, male, female, Black, White, Hispanic. Out of the dozen or so times I was pulled over for speeding, I only got a couple of tickets. Back in the day, I could flutter a mean eyelash when I wanted to. I knew how to launch a charm offensive in a pinch. Here’s the thing. Never once, when I was pulled over, did I fear getting shot. And I was guilty on all counts.

That’s how I know white privilege is real. I don’t say it to knock my own race. I’m not trying to implicate all police officers. But if you can’t be safe in your own car, or as happened recently, in your own home, the system has really got to change.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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