I Wish

Wishes

 

He sips his water. “I prayed that I would get some kind of job again. Nothing. It’s all a joke.” Jerry concentrates on his water.

 

“When did you first discover that you don’t always get what you pray for?” I ask.

 

He stares at me. He speaks as though he is forcing each word from somewhere far away. “When I was a kid, I used to pray for what I wanted for Christmas but I always got what my parents wanted.” He takes a large swallow of his coffee.

 

“I was very young when I asked God for a teddy bear just like my sister got the year before. I didn’t get it. I alternated from hating my parents to hating God. That was my earliest memory of discovering that I will not always get what I want. I have had to keep re-learning that lesson.”

 

“Do you still believe in God?” he asks.

 

“I do but the God I believe in can’t be manipulated. I believe in mercy and starting over again. In prayer, I lift up what I am concerned about, not a wish list.” I look at him sideways. “My God likes reality. I’ve learned that through very hard experiences. I pray for the strength to deal the cards I get, not to get different cards.”

 

He drinks some more water. “What you say makes sense but I don’t like it.”

 

I laugh. “That goes with the territory.”

 

We leave. I admire his honesty. I worry about his perception that the only response to his problems is to ask for his problems to change rather than work with them. That is a human failing and one in which I participate all too often.

 

The longer I am on the street the more I notice that this segment of society has all the elements of those in a more advantaged society.  We are all on the journey of working with reality.

 

May this Advent, we all work with what we have, in gratitude, rather than wish we didn’t have the reality we have.

 

The invisible has been made visible. Rejoice in who you are.

 

 

 

Wheelchair Dignity

Wheelchair Dignity,

It is delightful watching two homeless people interact with enjoyment. They are not too far from the bench where we are handing out socks.  She is in a wheelchair and the young man is telling her jokes.  They are both laughing.

I went over to them with some socks. Instead of stopping their conversation, they include me in it. I felt honored.

Later, she has her new friend wheel her over to the food line.    On Mondays, a church group brings burritos for breakfast for everyone in the park. They can go back for seconds if there are enough. Around 100 people line up for the food. No one shoves anyone. It is a calm time.

I watch the wheelchair woman smile and talk to the people around her. I am impressed with her style.

I ask her how she does it, how she gives such an aura of dignity.

She smiles and says, “My grandmother always told me that I could not choose what other people thought about me but I could choose how I feel about myself. When I became paralyzed, I spent some time feeling sorry for myself and then I remembered what my grandmother said. So I changed.”

As I grow older ,I find that it is more important to me that I choose whatever exterior image that I can manage and that I just don’t slide into whatever is easiest. It is too easy to let my physical limitations dictate my self-image.

I learn so much from those who have made hard choices.

Happy Advent. The invisible is made visible. Those who have least, embody what is Holy.

 

 

 

Expect Holiness

Advent thinking 2019

 

Celebrating the invisible made visible.

 

Advent is the time when the invisible become visible. We are all bathed in holiness as we recall the story of God coming to earth, bringing the light that reveals holiness in all creation. Once and for all, our story tells us that holiness is not in heaven, in a far off place, it is on earth, it is at hand, it is visible in every person and all things created, including all things that fly, swim, crawl, walk, or just sit there.

The way advent works is that you choose to look deeply at your daily existence. If you look for a green car, soon you will see green cars everywhere. At Advent, I look for holiness, places and people where I draw a deep breath and say awww. It may be a homeless person sharing a meal with someone. Or a gnarled tree that survives in spite of its twisted nature. Or a child picking up a leaf and lost in wonder.

It is combining the inner and outer world. As Richard Rohr says,  “The reason Christianity lost its authority is because we go caught up in doctrines, practicing rituals and following requirements rather than going deep and in.”

 

What will you expect of holiness this Advent season?

 

Door

Doors

Hal, who sat in his wheelchair while I sat on the bench,  reminisces about living in his old home.  “As a boy, I used to love running to the door and opening it to see our front yard. I loved playing in our front yard.  It seemed like whenever I had fun, that door was key.  Silly, I know but  I loved that door. Now, I even dream about being in a place where I can close a door to be safe and open a door to have fun. Then I wake up and find myself outside with no door, or roof or anything.”
At first, I thought how pathetic for him to dream of a door.Then, images of small things in my childhood emerged. A fallen tree in our front yard where we played King of the Mountain or breathing in the Morning Glory flowers, or running inside the house to the one air cooled room when it was too hot outside. These memories all bring me comfort. They are a small slice of happy times.

I don’t think it is escapism. I don’t want to be a child again but I treasure those moments when health, car expenses, and being exposed to radical suffering did not stress me out. What if Social Security or Medacaid ends? Or food costs rise above my Social Security? Or I get dementia. Somehow, my daily concerns seem to be balanced by those memories that comfort me.

So many people I meet are never free from concerns that fill up their days, especially regarding finances. I wonder if each person has a happy image that comforts them when life becomes stressful. I hope so.
No one know what gives us hope during the dark times

Thanksgiving 2019

Thanksgiving 2019

 

Thanksgiving is hard on families. It seems like we used to enjoy, as a culture, getting together as a family. Now families are divided and many family meals end up in tears.

 

It is hard on those who attend family meals and find harsh divisions when there used to be enjoyment.

 

It is hard on those who are estranged from families, remembering the good times that may never be again.

 

For the homeless, I hear one thing a lot. “Lots of people give us food on Thanksgiving and Christmas and then we are invisible again till next year. I’m glad for the food but I hate the condensation.”

 

We can still use this day to give special thanks. I do.

 

I will make a list of some ol the things I am grateful for in this past year.  They are not in order. I am thankful for each.

 

  1. Life and Death of Dorothy Saucedo, Bob Rafos, Thomas Keating
  2. My work with Asylum Seekers
  3. My small work with Battered women in Albuquerque
  4. My mom’s 100 birthday
  5. My work on an Aboriginal book
  6. My stay at the Benedictine Abbey in Pecos
  7. My right eye cataract surgery
  8. My Gadway family
  9. My friends, near and mainly for away.
  10.  Generous people who have sent donations for the poor.

 

For you,  I wish you all a day filled with the many things you hold as good.

 

From the closing prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony

 

…With beauty all around me may I walk

In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.

In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.

My words will be beautiful…

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Poem by Jeremy Blackwater

Thanksgiving for Natives

By Jeremy Blackwater

 

Thanksgiving is coming.

So is loneliness.

I miss my relatives

But I’m not going back.

 

For Natives

It’s all fake.

A made up pilgrim story

Pretending tolerance.

 

Ask the Wampanoag

About the Pilgrims

The decimation of our people

The price we paid.

 

Calling us sub-normal

Stealing our land

Forced relocation

Torn from families.

 

We give thanks every day

Not just one day of football,

Drinking, and gorging, and

Bitterness of the poor.

 

Pilgrim day long ago

Speaks to our giving freely

Even knowing about the

Broken promise people.

 

A different family

Now surrounds me.

A family that thanks

For good and bad

 

We give thanks

For surviving.

For keeping our tradition

In telling our stories.

 

We still give freely.

We give thanks

For our blessings

For all our kin.

 

A Native View of Thanksgiving

Native View of Thanksgiving (Written in collaboration with several indigenous youth)

Thanksgiving does not come one day in November for Natives. We give thanks every day for all the gifts of life. It is a common belief (including rituals) that as long as we are respectful caretakers for all creation in Mother Earth, then the earth will take care of us. It is all interconnected.

It is a popular story that the very first thanksgiving took place in 1621 when the Wampanoag tribe and the Pilgrims joined together to celebrate a successful harvest. The Wampanoags were key to this harvest. They shared their expertise of which plants and how to plant that kept the Pilgrims alive. Turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce exist in our present Thanksgiving due to the Wampanoag people.

That was the only year the Pilgrims celebrated with Native people. It all changed when England found out about the vast land in the New World. They assumed that because there were no fences, that all the land was free for the taking. They began to seize land, killing Natives who lived there and enslaving young men. The Pequot Nation fought back in the first major Native-Pilgrim war. The Wampanoag tribe was decimated by disease and massacre.

The next part is from google. “In 1637 near present day  Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside.  Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared “A Day Of Thanksgiving” because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.
Cheered by their “victory”, the colonists  attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered.  Boats loaded with a many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.  
Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now  Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of “thanksgiving” to celebrate victory over the heathen savages.  During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls.  Even the friendly Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts — where it remained on display for 24 years.  

 
The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre.

Today, many Natives are conflicted about the white version of history of greed and murder toward the indigenous people. It is called Turkey Day by many with the question “And guess who the whites see as the turkey?” There is both bitterness and resignation and yet they continue to give thanks daily for all of Mother Earth’s bounty.

I give thanks for this great heritage and ask mercy for for those who continue to exploit the Native American.

And Native Americans continue to uphold their tradition of giving thanks every day for all that Mother Earth gives.