On a Summer Balcony

On a Summer Balcony

Breeze moves across bare legs,
knees remember long pants,
and toes yearn for socks.

The heat, so bright,
ignores the shadows,
on the northside.

Summer voices surf in on the breeze,
reminding the shadows that the sun,
will expose its secrets soon enough.

But for now the cool shadows,
are only pierced by rattling dishes below,
and memories within that do not forget.

 

White Trucks

There is a white pickup truck near my home. I see it when I walk the dog. It catches my attention when I take my morning runs. The racism oozes from this particular truck. The truck sports a large window sticker bearing these words: “White Trucks Matter.”

No. This is not funny.

Humor has a way of revealing our beliefs, convictions, or values. Our laughter-disclosed feelings are sometimes those things of which we are not proud. A self-aware and moral response to revelations about ourselves can lead us to personal growth and change. Noting what we find funny can be an impetus to lessening unconscious ways in which we act in racist ways.

Sadly, the owner flaunts his racist values. Though you and I may not post racist signs on the back of our vehicles, we have a lot of growing to do. For those of us who are white, a willingness and awareness of our privilege is critical. Whether revealed by our humor or not, failing to accept the existence of our own privilege, denying systemic racism and privilege which benefits us, is no less offensive than “white trucks matter.”

___

Additional Information

TEDx Hampshire College: Jay Smooth – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU

On Racism & White Privilege
http://www.tolerance.org/article/racism-and-white-privilege

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, National SEED Project
https://nationalseedproject.org/white-privilege-unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack

White Privilege: Let’s Talk, United Church of Christ
http://privilege.uccpages.org

 

I Sent Her Away

The child, without affect, and the mother with earnest tone showed up on my churchstep. Cardboard (begging) sign tucked beside baby. Lots of words spoken quickly. Perhaps well-rehearsed. Perhaps not.

Rent due. No job. No money. How much is your rent? $500. More words. Many words. Diligent and speedy words.  Let me see what I can find out. I’ll be right back.

I return with little. Empty hands really. Have you tried FISH? Helping Hands? More words. Rent. No job. No money. The air filled with earnestness and (only later I perceived) panic.  Give me $300. No job. No money. Diapers.

FISH can help with diapers. Words. Fast. Eyes. Brown eyes yearning. For cash. Brown eyes yearning for relief. Quiet baby in stroller. No affect. No gurgles or babbles, smiles or cries.

I don’t have money for rent. You can come back for a meal on Tuesday. Too little (I know). More words. Begging words.  Desperate words (though I didn’t realize it until later).

I’m sorry. We have no money for your rent.  I’m sorry.

You’re not sorry. You didn’t give me any money.

Moments after she leaves, I run to catch her with a one time rent referral in hand. I stop at the door with still-little but something. Very little. A slight hope. But it’s not rent she really needs.  Cash. Words. Fast words. No job. No money.

Two big men got out of van. She gets in. They are gone.

Sigh.

Nagging feelings. Cloud hanging. Piecing together, a member gave her food. Another gave her cash. She’d set up shop at edge of parking lot with that cardboard sign and sad, emotionless child.

But it’s the tone I missed. It was the bursting with desperation I failed to grasp.

The child, without affect, and the mother with earnest tone left behind horror in my mind. The desperation. The two big men in the van. The dull child.

She was in need. Desperate words. Earnestness and panicky words. Pleading brown eyes. She needed help but I fear it was not with rent.

And I sent her away.

___

Related

The Blue Campaign, Department of Homeland Security
National Human Trafficking Hotline

 

Around the Bend

Around the BendWM

Yes,
as you say,
summertime often fills the water with voices.

But around the bend,
I reply,
that is where my eardrums cease to tingle.

And in the silence,
I am Gaia,
creator and creation.

Without tingling ears,
plastics or steel,
we are all one, interconnected.

The Myth of Human Separateness

The Spirit moves us together,
she dances around the edges.

An opening appears,
and she oozes into the space between us.

The Spirit fills the space with respect,
laughter, and comfort.

She dances joyfully,
overjoyed at our response to one another.

The Spirit smiles and nods,
bursting with joy.

“Aha!” she says, “I told you:
human separateness is a myth.”

 

Pomegranates & Pussy Willows

pussy-willowwmWe gathered around a table where Mrs. Straub showed us what she’d brought in this time. She gave each of us a branch to hold and observe with our eyes and hands. While they didn’t taste as good as the pomegranate seeds she brought in, the softness of the pussy willow is embedded in my memory. Though I know they can grow in other parts of the United States, I don’t recall seeing them in Missouri where my family moved after Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

 

And so, as I run past them in my new home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, a pang of joy wells up in my eyes. I was blessed by a first-grade teacher who understood the importance of hands-on science learning. When we weren’t able to get out of the classroom, she brought nature to us in the form of pomegranates and pussy willows.

This morning I paused on my run to peer at the pussy willows clustered in the wetlands. I made another scientific observation: rain beads up on pussy willows as it does on my rain jacket. Thank you, Mrs. Straub for helping me to appreciate our world.

Multiple Multiples

We’ve just moved to a new city where I will assume a new pastorate in a few days. Until this transition, my wife and I worked 165-miles apart. We  will be living together full-time for the first time in four years. Unpacking and consolidating I’ve discovered that when you live in two homes, have a home office and a work office, AND keep the car well-stocked, you can end up with multiples. Multiple multiples might be more accurate.

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Weary of being without when needed, I kept lip balm in my car, with my running gear, in both homes, and in my desk.
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Can you really have too many paring knives? I have paring knives from both homes as well as my office desk.
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I’m a middle-aged runner. Of course, I had two ice packs (one clay, one gel) in each city. Sometimes, heat is more appropriate which meant two heating pads. I gave my multiple unopened bags of epsom salts to the Food Pantry before the move.
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Is there anything more annoying than toe nails that need clipping and you’re without an adequate tool? Tweezers are needed wherever you are when the stray hairs of middle-age crop up. Yes, that’s three toe nail clippers, three tweezers, and two nail clippers. Why three? Maybe for the trinity; we’re clergy after all.
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Notice? I did not take the church’s stapler. Nor did I take the church’s staple removers. (Though, there was the time when I bought multiple staplers for the church office within a few weeks. The bookkeeper was confused until I explained the children had gotten hold of the first new stapler. 
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In the small town where I lived and served a church, power outages were not rare. When you live in a frontier town, you don’t want to be without a flashlight. Of course, my wife needed one, too. Or more. Quite a few more.
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I’m not so much of a salt lover that I need shakers in my office or car. Still, do we really need two sets now? Yes, why yes we do. She prefers the glass ones and I like my Tupperware versions.
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Scissors are useful in the kitchen, in the office, for sewing, and for opening packages. I don’t know why we needed six, it’s not like we carried or used them in the car. Honest. Trivia: that top pair were my grandmother’s sewing scissors. No one is allowed to use them. They are sacred object in my home.
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Besides the two sets of three hymnals (Chalice, New Century, and Sing! Prayer & Praise) that I used for preparing worship, I needed incense in both locations. Incense can help lure the Holy Spirit out of hiding when I prepare sermons. It’s true.

We also had multiple toasters. We have multiple bags of dog food not to mention the hand lotion here, there, and everywhere. We even have an extra robe now because she kept an extra in my parsonage. None of this is to complain. It’s been fun counting the number of like items we’ve found we had. The joy of being together in one home outweighs any minor difficulties of merging households.

 

 

Guilt is a Funny Thing

walk-sign
Photo from www.driversed.com
The Walk sign came on. I started to move into the crosswalk. So did the white Honda. Frightened, I stared through my wet glasses at the driver. Instinctively, independent of conscious thought I thrust my arm out and pointed to the Walk sign.

Throughout the day, I’ve had this nagging guilt about the exchange. I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t yell expletives (or even think any). I wasn’t angry, just scared. Still I have nagging guilt.

Guilt is a funny thing. Guilt doesn’t always make sense. As I’m prone to do I’ve been reflecting on the encounter. Why has it nagged at me off and on throughout the day?

This is it: I was able to communicate my feelings (he stopped) but I did not hear the driver’s perspective. More, there was no reconciliation between us. I don’t know who the driver was or what he looked like because of my wet eyeglasses.

Yeah, guilt is a funny thing.