Dr. King Still Speaks

This most recent presidential election season saw the normalizing of white nationalism and fanning of racial tension for the cause of political expediency.  The Black Lives Matter movement reminds us that racism, particularly within the judicial system, where people of color make up a disproportionate percentage of those incarcerated, remains a persistent stain upon the soul of our nation.

We have much work to do.

Dr. King was a prophet.  He spoke truth to power. His message was rooted in the righteous anger of prophets like Amos 5:24 and Jesus who wept over Jerusalem and said ‘If now, even now, you knew the things that make for peace.’

Dr. King’s letter from his jail cell in Birmingham still speaks.  Speaks to those of us who are complicit in our silence.  Speaks to encourage those standing up for those on the margins (people of color, the poor, refugees, undocumented immigrants, LGBTQ, women denied equal rights).

Dr. King still speaks.  Let us listen.  Let us respond. ~ Kent Harrop

mlk-jail

Letter from Birmingham Jail or Letter from Birmingham City Jail, is an open letter written on April 16, 1963, by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., an American civil rights leader. . He gave bits and pieces of the letter to his lawyers to take back to movement headquarters, where the Reverend Wyatt Walker began compiling and editing the literary jigsaw puzzle.

King’s letter is a response to a statement made by eight white Alabama clergymen on April 12, 1963, titled “A Call For Unity“. The clergymen agreed that social injustices existed but argued that the battle against racial segregation should be fought solely in the courts, not in the streets. They criticized Martin Luther King, calling him an “outside agitator” who causes trouble in the streets of Birmingham.  Below are highlights from the more lengthy letter penned by Dr. King.

 

“Letter from a Birmingham Jail”

16 April 1963 My Dear Fellow Clergymen: While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet like speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” ….

…But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five year old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”;

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. There are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.”  So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.

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No One Left Behind

In the last posting of GreenPreacher (Running and Dancing for Life)  we met Kelly Pheulpin.  We learned about her journey to lose over 100 lbs and eventually become a Zumba instructor.  In today’s guest blog, Kelly shares her story as the leader of the ‘Slowest Runners’ and her commitment to help others  become healthier too.

In our highly individualistic and competitive culture, Kelly and friends are committed to a counter-cultural journey where the slowest runner sets the pace, where no one is left behind and everyone wins. Imagine.

                                                       No One Left Behind

2012 brought me a year of firsts.  I taught my first solo Zumba class, I joined a running club, and I tried a distance longer than a 5K. I decided to join the Wicked Running Club because I wanted to find a running partner to help me become faster and more consistent with my running. What I found was a family.

Our color is red and when you put on that red shirt for the first time you right away feel like part of the club, and you usually meet a few members at a race. In reality, what joining Wicked has done is opened the door for everyone in the club to offer encouragement on this journey. There is no better feeling in the world than coming around the bend to a sea of red screaming and cheering you in. You feel unstoppable. Having a running community at your fingertips allows you to meet up with training buddies with the same pace or goals. 

The running community welcomed me with open arms and I have been a permanent fixture ever since.  I now lead a training group through Wicked called “The Slowest Runner Sets The Pace”. We meet several times a week and I will happily run with whoever my slowest runner is. It is empowering to help someone else accomplish their running goals. I have been lovingly named the “Queen of the Slowest Runners”, which is a title I take very seriously. I believe that any runner, no matter their pace, is destined for their own greatness whatever that may be.

photo-wicked-runners-club

Through my work with the Slowest Runners I accomplished things this year (2016) I never thought I could: I trained and ran my first ultra marathon of 30 miles. When I received a race entry into Ghost train an ultra-marathon I said, “Thank you, but I can’t run this. I have never run more than a ½ marathon.” However, I’m not a quitter and I love challenges so I decided (after a time) to think about it. As I thought about it, I realized that I COULD do this. Next, came finding other crazy runners willing to join me in this quest. I found an amazing training partner, Sandy, which helped me achieve my goal.

Sandy and I started our training 8 months before the big day. We ran through most of the North Shore and sometimes in New Hampshire as well. We even went on vacation together to stay on track. (When race day came we found we had something else in common; we over pack! Good thing our husbands love us and were willing to be our race support.)

As we stepped up to the start line we were so excited and nervous at the same time. The race started and we were on our way. Just as in our training we decided to document the miles with selfies. We found out fast that we didn’t have enough fingers to correspond with the miles completed and take the photos but we were laughing and enjoying the adventure. We had two fifteen mile loops to complete our goal of 30 miles. When we came in from our first 15 miles we were wet from rain but in good spirits. Our friend and fellow runner, Patty, ran us in for the last quarter-mile. She gave us just the right amount of motivation to keep us going. Our husbands gave us big hugs and kisses and wished us luck on our next loop.

We were still having fun and laughs as the miles kept adding up. As we were heading towards the final miles and dusk was setting in my Aunt Ann was heading back out for her third loop. She provided words of encouragement and told us how proud she was of us for completing this race. We now had the end in sight and our pace was speeding up. We saw our husbands and I started to get so excited and emotional we had finished! Together Sandy and I had tackled Ghost Train, which meant that we can now call ourselves Ultra-Marathoners. Our husbands wrapped us in their arms and told us how proud they were. To this day this remains my favorite race and I can’t wait to try it again next year.

photo-kelly-and-team

Kelly and her team of Slowest Runners

Running and Zumba have become integral parts of my journey to healthier living. What’s important is finding the regimen that works for you and sticking to it. For some, like me, the social aspect is key. But for others, it’s getting into the routine. For everyone, though, this is about making a commitment to yourself and going on a journey to find what works. It wasn’t easy getting here… but it’s what gets me up in the morning, literally!’

Thanks to Kelly for sharing her story. As her friend and one of her pastors at First Baptist in Beverly, I am inspired by her commitment to serving others.  This is a message that is needed now more than ever.

I invite you to read and be inspired to be ‘your best self’ in this New Year.  Kelly and company will be happy to provide support.  To learn more about Wicked Running Club go to: http://www.wickedrunningclub.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Running and Dancing for Life

My friend Kelly inspires me.  Not just because she lost over 100 pounds.  She has created ways to encourage and empower others to become healthier too.  As a mom she raised a daughter with diabetes and for 20 years served as a coach for other parents supporting their diabetic children.  I invite you to read and think about ways you can become healthier and how you too can encourage and empower others.

Thanks to Kelly Pheulpin for being the guest writer for these next two issues of GreenPreacher.  As you read I think you too will be inspired by the discipline, wisdom, playfulness and compassion that she brings.

My Journey from unhealthy to the better happier me:

‘Sitting in the office waiting for my doctor, I already knew she was going to bring up my weight gain again: I gained another 10 pounds. Finally she knocked on the door and came in, her look of disapproval had my stomach sinking. “Kelly, if you don’t learn how to control your diet you will be giving yourself insulin in addition to Rachel. Who will take care of her diabetes if you’re not around?” This was my wakeup call.  Yes, I have an amazing support system in my husband, but could he be successful all alone? Did I want to chance it? Was losing weight and be healthy so hard to obtain? I was going to find out. 

Kelly, seated right pre-Zumba

Kelly, seated right pre-Zumba

Following my appointment I went directly to the YMCA and signed up for a membership. Now what? I started by trying out the treadmill, elliptical, swimming, and weights. Nothing held my attention, how was I going to succeed if it felt like so much extra work? In talking with one of my girlfriends she told me about a class at the Y she was loving, Zumba. She said, “You adore dancing, so I bet you will also enjoy this.”

I met up with Jess the next night to try a Zumba class, though I didn’t hold much hope that it would be my key to success. When class started, the music was pumping and the instructor began moving, her smile and movements where contagious. When she cooled us down 50 minutes later I couldn’t believe I had just worked out for an hour it didn’t feel like working out. It felt like a dance party. My clothes were drenched, but I felt good. I had found my workout.

I started attending class 3 to5 times a week trying out all the different instructors at the Y. After three weeks I had lost 5 pounds and I was excited, I knew I had found the start to my healthier me. Jess and I continued to meet for Zumba but also walked 3 times a week on the treadmill. It was like our “coffee hour”. There was  one day I saw Jess running on the treadmill and I was very envious. I had always wanted to run but my asthma prevented it (according to my doctors). I explained this to Jess and she suggested trying it one minute at a time, and if I found that I couldn’t breathe, then they were right. Then she pointedly asked me: what is the harm in trying 1 minute at a time? She was right one minute at a time was the way to go!

I downloaded the ‘Couch to 5K program’ in October of 2011 and started following it faithfully. In early November my family encouraged me to sign up for my first 5K that they were all running. I was nervous and thought, “How will I do this? I’m only on week 3 of the program and running up to 5 minutes at a time.” My cousin, who is an avid runner, also encouraged me to sign up see how it goes. So against my own better judgment, I signed up. Race day came in early December and I wasn’t at the point in the program where I could run the whole 5k but I was going to do my best. I was able to run almost the entire 5k! It took my about 50 minutes to complete but I did it. At this point I had lost 25 pounds and was feeling like a new woman but I know I had more work to do. 

Next step in my journey: nutrition. I had spent most of my adult life educating others about healthy diets for themselves or their loved ones living with diabetes but I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. “Lead by example” became my new mantra. I started setting mini-goals for myself such as if I lost x amount of weight I could do or buy something special. One of the smartest mini goals I made was when I lost 60 pounds I decided I would go for my Zumba license so I could help others exercise and be healthier. 

photo-kelly-zumba

Kelly in black. Dancing with joy and dropping the pounds.

One of my proudest moments on this journey was feeling confident in my own skin to demonstrate all the Latin dance moves I learned for my Zumba instructor test. I was licensed to teach in early 2012.’

Next installment:  ‘No One Left Behind’…Kelly begins a new runners club where the slowest runner sets the pace…and everyone ‘wins’.

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When Jesus was Homeless and a Refugee Too

Donald Trump was elected in part by tapping into the fears of a white culture which is projected to cede majority status by 2040.  This along with rapid changes in the economy and shifts in social norms left many feeling dislocated.

Mr. Trump seized upon the fear by creating scape goats. With broad strokes he identified Mexicans as ‘pouring over our borders’ and sending ‘rapists, murderers and drug dealers’.   He’s called for a national registry of Muslims and a halt to accepting immigrants and refugees from Islamic countries.

Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country,  he’s called for mass deportation.  In Nov. 2015 he called for a ‘Mass Deportation Force’ to deport or incarcerate those deemed to be illegal.  In November 2016 he set a policy within his first 100 days in office, to begin deporting 2 – 3 million undocumented neighbors with police records.

The result will be families and communities torn apart.

By making undocumented neighbors and refugees our collective enemy, Mr. Trump can divert attention from underlying issues that confront us: A globalized economy, environmental stewardship, inequality of: wealth, education and health care.

How are faith communities responding to such fear based rhetoric?

Many of my fellow Christians have embraced Trump’s message.  Evangelical leader Franklin Graham (son of Billy) has gone so far as to say that ‘Donald Trump’s election is of God’.

Really?  What are we to make of the following passages:

God calls people of faith to remember that they once were strangers in a strange land and they must, must welcome the stranger as an expression of covenant faithfulness (Leviticus 19:33-34)

  We must “learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17)

  We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27)

The church I serve, First Baptist in Beverly,(https://www.fbcbeverly.org) takes such passages to heart.  We’ve chosen to reject fear and embrace those whom others would cast aside.  This Christmas season we’ve placed a banner by our entrance:  Immigrants & Refugees Welcome.

photo-refugees-welcome

This banner is our response to the anti-immigrant/refugee/Muslim rhetoric that has coarsened our public life.  Inspired by the Christmas story in Matthew 2:13-23 we remember that Mary and Joseph were homeless when Jesus was born.  That the Holy Family fled persecution by King Herod and found refuge in Egypt.

Today untold millions are seeking refuge from violence, violence, misery.  Minority groups within our own nation feel under threat.  How can we not offer welcome?

We don’t know how the next few years will unfold.  But we do know that we are guided by an ancient story that has captured our hearts, expanded our imagination and graced us with courage.

Courage to say ‘yes’ to love and ‘no’ to fear.

Christmas is coming yet again.  Hope reigns. Praise God!

(For more information on how you or your faith community can get involved for causes of justice: http://faithfulamerica.org/  or, https://sojo.net or, http://cwsglobal.org or, check out Beverly Multifaith Coalition on Facebook or,  look for partners in your local community)

 

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Discernment

The road forward isn’t always clear.  Sometimes we are faced with choices that can’t be easily discerned.  The Clash, the punk rock band put it this way:

 ‘Should I stay or should I go?’

How do you go about making a major decision?  To take a new job…to give one’s heart to another…which college to choose….which medical treatment to select.

Sometimes we have no choice. Sometimes the choice is  clear.  Sometimes not.

photo-fork-in-road

Saint Ignatius of Loyola advised his fellow monks to make a list of pros and cons as a means of weighing options.  Ignatius put it this way:  ‘What is it that gives you consolation? What gives you a sense of desolation?’

To my daughters now grown,  my parental advice has often been,  ‘trust your instincts’.  If something feels right, go for it.  If it doesn’t…then don’t.

I think Ignatius and I are saying something similar.  Ignatius invites us to make our list and weigh the options.  But ultimately it comes down to what ‘feels right’.

The caveat is that this is an inexact science.  Sometimes we have mixed feelings… the pros and cons don’t offer clarity.  Sometimes its best to simply wait.

But sometimes, we simply need to jump…and hope and pray that all will be well…and if not, learn from it and move on.

Yet, I think there is another element to this process of discernment.  Being clear as to what is most important.  To understand and be guided by underlying principles and values that you hold dear.  Principles and values that are foundational to who you are and how you live.

It’s important to understand what these elements are, where they come from and to remain true.  Such values and principles serve to guide our path.  My values are rooted in my faith and in mentors who have guided me through the years.

Where do your underlying values come from?  What shapes your path?

William Stafford the great poet refers to that which guides as ‘a thread you follow….while you hold it you can’t get lost’.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

 

 

.

– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

not anyone else can travel
that road for you,

– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

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Flat On My Back

This morning was beautiful in Massachusetts. I rolled out of bed, put on my pants, an old sweater and slipped on my fuzzy slippers.  Outside the  sun glistened upon a trace of snow.  I opened the door to retrieve my daily Boston Globe.  One step was all it took….

Ever notice how an accident is never graceful?  With one step off the porch my foot hit a  film of black ice.  In a moment I was on my back, lying on the sidewalk.  It’s impressive how quickly you can go down four steps and land on concrete.

photo-falling-down-stairs

With the wind knocked out of me, I lay on the sidewalk…checking my body parts before I tried to move.  Coco a black Labrador happened by at that very moment and began to lick my face.  Mike (Coco’s  owner) asked: “Are you hurt?”

Gradually, we (Coco, Mike and I) decided that I was ok.  Everything worked.  I took a few ibuprofen and got on with my day.

My accident reminds me of how lucky I was not to break something and how the rest of my day could have proceeded very differently.  A reminder of how unpredictable life is.  We roll out of bed and think we know what is going to happen….and, ‘BAM’, we find ourselves flat on our back.

Accidents by definition are never graceful.  No one falls down the stairs or off a ladder ‘gracefully’.

But such moments can be ‘full of grace’.  By grace I speak of  an awareness that we’re not alone.  Whether we are on top of the world or flat on our back, that mystery we call God/Spirit is with us, especially when we are most vulnerable.

Like it or not, stumbles are part of the rhythm of every life.  No one avoids falling down the stairs.

Ruminating on this…and feeling a little bruised,  I happened upon a poem by the Australian poet, Joel McKerrow.  Here’s a portion of that poem entitled ‘We Dance Wild’.  This poem speaks to me and perhaps will speak to you too.

We Dance Wild

We dance. We dance wild.
Not a two-step, structured repetition. We dance large.
We dance flailing arms.
We dance the erratic and the wriggle,
the blunder, stumble and fall with no need to get back up again.
For our fumbles are our dance
and our dance is our rebellion and our declaration and our surrender.
Our falling to the floor is a knowing that it is only in the places
of dust and grime and footprint, only in the failed step and the rusty body, only in the falling
that we can ever truly meet the holy and the sacred.
We meet God on the floor.

 

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Making America Great

This past week I attended the funeral of a 96-year-old named Bill.  His grandson described Bill as a quiet man who laughed easily, worked hard, was generous and loved his family.  Bill worked in the shipping and receiving department for a local hospital.  After his shift he’d often visit staff and patients, serving as an unofficial chaplain.

His grandson said:  “My grandfather was a good man.  A family man.  Whose goodness made him great”.

I’ve been thinking about the grandson’s words in this post-election season. President-elect Trump would have us believe that greatness is defined by the wealth one accumulates and the power one possesses.

This is not a new idea.  Nations build statues to military heroes and name buildings after wealthy donors.  By one measure these are great men and women worthy of recognition.

Yet, when I think of the people I consider to be great, I think of people who are humble in heart.  People who exhibit generosity and sensitivity toward others.  Ordinary people who don’t think of themselves as brave but are capable of doing brave things.

People who pave our roads and teach our kids.  People who risk their lives for the well-being of others.  People guided by a strong moral compass.

Mr. Trump now our President-elect ran his campaign on the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’.  I pray that he has the wisdom and dare I say, the humility, to look for guidance from everyday people like ‘Bill’, who was laid to rest at age 96.

A good man.  A man who dedicated his life to his family and being a helpful neighbor.   That’s a definition of greatness I can embrace.

 

 

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