Two by Kaze

Two by Kaze
While sitting down, drinking a half cup of coffee and writing with the laptop, a homeless woman wanders in the café. She is wasted and can’t stand up straight. She goes to the counter and says “Can you give me a hot chocolate? I don’t have money but I really need it.”
She stands there humped over, looking down at the floor.
Since my back is to the counter and I didn’t see if they agreed to give her a free drink, I ask her if they said yes. She doesn’t understand me and keeps looking down.
I turn around and go to the counter. “I’ll pay for the hot chocolate.”
The counter woman looks at me with amazement. Pointing to the man in front of her, she says “He has already said that he will pay for it.” We smile at each other and the man takes his credit card and goes back to his chair.
The counter woman says “OMG. Two of you came up to pay. Two of my customers. I can’t believe it. She looked stunned.  I felt like telling her “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. There is kindness in our country.”
The woman takes her hot chocolate and leaves. I follow her and tell her I have a blanket and some food in my car. She was not able to understand me and she wandered off. I don’t know if she was mentally ill or on drugs or something else.
I went back to the cafe and sat down. I’m always pleased when I see kindness. And I was also surprised. There is kindness in our nation even when the media declares there is only incivility.
There are ordinary people who are drawn to compassion.
What a nice surprise for me and the counter person and the unknown man. Life is very good today.

 

    

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Social Justice by Kaze

  Social Justice

      Spending time fighting for social justice has been a process of small steps. My earliest memory concerns 1st grade. I played jacks with a young Latino girl when the teacher told me to stop. I didn’t understand. She sent a note home to my parents informing them that I played with the wrong type.   

     Incensed, my father told the teacher that she could not tell me who to play with. Then he explained “racism” to me. I didn’t get it. But I remember the incident.

     Twenty years later as I became involved in the Civil Rights movement, I finally got it. I saw what happens when we do not value people unconditionally.

     This Lent, I want to spend time looking beyond every face to see the beauty of each human being.

                                          

False Assumptions by Kaze

 Unquestioned Assumptions

     As I look inside myself for things that keep me from growing, I remember a time in Kenya when extra teaching staff arrived from America. I wanted to treat them with kindness so they wouldn’t leave when they saw the primitive conditions. I so proudly showed them the indigenous hut set aside for them. I gushed with enthusiasm at their chance to be immersed in the culture rather than living at our training school in crowded conditions. They thanked me and moved in.

     Later that night the husband came to see me. “My wife is having hysterics. She is scared to be in a mud hut with all the possibilities of snakes and biting insects. Can we possibly move into the school building no matter how little it is. It has plywood walls.”

     Stunned, I realized that I had assumed because I would love living in the hut and I was not scared to do so, that everyone would like that. It jarred me that I so assumed that everyone believed like I did.

God Treasures by Kaze

God’s Treasures

      Lent is a journey toward mercy. As children, we learn how to grow out of being self-centered if we want to become healthy. Sometimes it takes us years to develop compassion and care for others.

   A line from H.R. Niebuhr captured me years ago. He stated that the neighbors we do not prize are God’s treasure. My world stopped. A montage of people that I despise swirled around my head. I tested it out.

     Bikers have been a category of people that I assumed were not decent people. I gritted my teeth and walked up to some bikers at a gas station and asked for direction. To my surprise, they showered me with good-hearted and kind advice, demonstrating a compassion that I did not often meet with stranger.

     I changed. I saw differently. I begin to look for treasures.

     This Lent, I want to practice looking for treasures among those I have judged unworthy.

Lent. Changing Lifestyle–Kaze

Lent  Changing Lifestyle

     Fasting during Lent involves changing your lifestyle not just denying your body some sweet.

     When I taught in Ethiopia, several of us took a break and asked our hotel to fix us a picnic lunch. This took place in the 70’s before the revolution that deposed the Emperor. Emaciated people sat on the roadways with downcast eyes. We chose an empty country side and opened the basket of food prepared for us.  To our surprise the basket could have fed ten people.

     As we started to unpack the food, a crowd of hungry people gathered and grabbed for the food. We ran for the car. The crowd threw stones at us. We left with difficulty.

     That day, I awoke to the privileged position I had enjoyed of having copious food. That image of hungry people crowding us for food that we had in abundance has never left me.

    This Lent, I want to look at how to change my lifestyle in light of those who live in poverty.

Valentine’s Chocolate by Kaze

 

Valentine’s Chocolate   by Kaze

     Sometimes I wake up wondering how I can trust my inner experiences to be something more than wistful thinking?  Sometimes when I live too much in my mind with only logic and organization, I find myself channeled toward superficiality.

     I find it healing to be in touch with those who bring me back to real stuff.

     So yesterday on Valentine’s day and Ash Wednesday I take my box of chocolates (and socks) and head toward the park. I find the place where I usually go to visit the homeless and discover that the entire park has been fenced off. So I go looking for them.

     I find about seven sleeping bags on the sidewalk at second and Iron street. I hand out the chocolates and socks with great appreciation. Even delight. I find myself totally enjoying being with them.

     My fingers are to weak to tear the wrapping off the chocolate box. I ask Charlie to open it for me. You would think I had given him a medal. He grinned and showed his friends what he was doing. He carefully gave the box back to me and I shared them out.

     I asked if they wanted the white or dark chocolate.  They all took the white. One man stands back from the other. I politely ask him which he wants.

    The others immediately tell me. “He doesn’t speak. We are not sure he can hear. He’s a good guy. We call him Jack since we don’t know his name.  I smile and offer him the box.  He smiles shyly. Then he hugs me. I hug back.

     Immediately I get a hug from the other homeless. I’ve never had so many hugs. I am overwhelmed and very grounded in the kinship of those I encounter. I walk away from Holy Ground, grateful that I have started off my Lenten journey with such a blessing.

Ashes by Kaze

Ash Wednesday by Kaze

     “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. From dust you are and dust you will return.”     

     In our book “Everyday Wonder” by Kaze Gadway and Priscilla Wilson, we have a lot of stories on death and dying. We didn’t intend this. We wanted to tell stories of events that have changed our lives and revealed the holy in the midst of everyday time. And yet, death and dying keeps showing up, from trees to husbands to children to dogs.

     On this Ash Wednesday and the next 40 days of Lent, I reflect on how extreme moments reveal the essential. I find myself in situations where I am afraid for my life or I am by the bedside of someone who has killed himself or I see those in the streets whose life erodes daily or another friend dies. It goes on.

     And each time I am forced to look at what is important, what gives meaning, and what direction my life can take.

     I think a lot of the vigil for the homeless that is held once a year. Someone reported that most who live on the street die at the mid fifties. I am seventy seven and often feel that I am the only elder on the street. Part of the reason I can move among the homeless is that I have white hair. I am the token grandmother that they no longer see.

     I talk to people that I think are my age and discover they are in their 40’s or 50’s. Street life with malnutrition and exposure and lack of direction takes its toll. Each person I encounter raises hard core questions about living.

     One young man asks “I don’t mean something weird or nothing but can I touch your hair? It reminds me of my grandmother who is the only person who ever cared about me.”

     I say “yes” and we both shed a few tears as I pray silently for him.

     What can I say? Today is the time to look at decisions and priorities. It is the time to remember about profound commitment, about lasting relationships, about joy in the midst of everyday things. And it is the time to look directly at the suffering around us.

     I am going to die. So are you. This is a day of looking honestly of how we want to live our remaining days. This is a day of looking at the Holy, at the awesome stories of our lives interacting with the Creator.

     It is also the day we can contact those we love with just a “How’s it going.”

     And it is a day for remembering those who have gone on before.

Finding the wonder daily