Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category
Last evening I returned to Indy from an assignment with Mennonite Disaster Service. Mine was not a job of dry walling a house in Minot, North Dakota or laying the foundation for a house on Staten island. Rather I reported a communication audit to the Bi-National staff.
I regard the organization highly. Its people are now my people.
This morning I read a strong feature about Mennonite Disaster Service in the March-April issue of Emergency Management Magazine. Entitled “The Long Haul,” the article is written by Jim McKey, the editor, who says, “The Mennonite Disaster Service has shown over the decades that it has a knack for rebuilding communities.”
I see an increasingly significant role for MDS in its holistic response to disasters.
Normally airtime is quiet time; it’s unusual for me to start a conversation. Today was an exception.
The chap beside me was a graduate student from Princeton, headed for the convention of The National Society of Black Engineers beginning tomorrow in Indianapolis. He is a handsome chap, neatly dressed and courteous. He was traveling with three others from Princeton.
He grew up in Biloxi. We talked about the mentors who have inspired us.
Not all the talk was so serious. He was delighted to remind me of New Orleans’ triumph over the Colts in the Superbowl. His sport is baseball; he hurt his shoulder in college which put an end to a career in baseball.
The National Association of Black Engineers? This from its website: The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), with more than 29,900 members, is one of the largest student-governed organizations in the country. Founded in 1975, NSBE now includes more than 394 College, Pre-College, and Technical Professional/Alumni chapters in the United States and abroad. NSBE’s mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.”
If I recall correctly two members of NSBE called at our house several years ago, asking whether we might be interested in contributing toward scholarships. I hope I contributed.
My seat partner hopes to land a career as a university prof. I told him it would be a good vocation.
How is a physical wound treated? First you clean it thoroughly. Then you apply a covering dabbed with an antibiotic salve. If it doesn’t heal then you go to a doctor who might incise the wound and apply a stronger ointment. In time, with luck, not even a scar will remain.
How is a spiritual or emotional wound treated?
Now I pause, unable to give a prescription. In my long life I have known such wounds and I have experience healing but I can’t begin to tell you how it has happened. I can’t give a definitive analysis of how gloom can be transformed into gaiety, how guilt can be replaced by self-regard, how sorrow can meet gratitude, and weakness overlaid with hope. Nor can I understand why some spiritual and emotional wounds never heal, but remain as festering sores besmirched upon the soul.
We employ a lexicon — grace, forgiveness, renewal. Yet those words-signs don’t have the capability of revealing what precisely is signified.
Sometimes during these cold dreary days I go behind the garage and stand by the compost pile heavy with the refuse of our lives and there know that I am in the presence of a miracle that is now turning this junk into rich loam that I shall harvest in the summer. I am grateful for the compost pile as metaphor.
And this week I meditate on the Christian understanding of resurrected spirit. I am grateful for Easter as metaphor.
Beyond that, in the presence of a deep heart wound, I bow in silence.
In yesterday’s New York Times I read an opinion that the tipping point has arrived for the acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender individuals. The writer thinks that no matter how the Supreme Court decides this week on legal rights for same-sex married people, we have seen in recent weeks a “sea change” in political declarations on the issue. He even suggests that some members of the far right have changed their views (or at least their public statements).
This issue has been important to me, not just because I love my gay relatives, not just because I identified with gay students, not just because I esteem so highly my gay neighbors and friends, but because acceptance of human beings in the vastness of their variety is the right thing to do.
I grieve that my friends currently in Uganda must exist under a totalitarian rejection of gays.
My church denomination’s reluctance to accept gay people in relationships motivated me to withdraw my membership. How can I possibly be member of an organization that discriminates against my brothers and sisters and friends?
Although there is a noticeable shift in public opinion, and the courageous acts of individual congregations in declaring their open and affirming stance, I suppose it will be a long time before the church at large and my own denomination becomes accepting. As denominations move toward that point they will lose congregations unwilling to change. Why does the church lag behind social change?
I don’t now how many hundreds of flights I have taken. No matter, I fly with delight.
Getting out of bed at 5 AM … trying to remember what I will need on the trip … arriving at the airport … keeping on my shoes at the check-in because I’m 75 … buying Java … a tad regretful that I shall miss the big snow storm headed to Indianapolis … saying not only hello to the flight attendant but how are you … racing against the 39 minutes from Indy to Detroit to complete the Sunday crossword puzzle … buying chocolates as a host gift … reading New York Times at Detroit … lifting up high above the clouds and storm … coming down over the Appalachians in the northern Shenandoah Valley … sighting a ski slope … descending over the Piedmont … seeing the Chesapeake and wishing I lived close to it … following a meandering river that didn’t seem to know which way was down … pushing my left ear open … seeing Baltimore like a child’s toyland … landing softly toward the northeast.
I’m not one to stand up immediately when the plane pulls to the gate. I linger.
How heavy it must be to arrive at the close of one’s life carrying regrets — a persistent and incriminating memory of devastating errors.
Two items in today’s news pertain to this issue.
Misty Wallace was shot in the face by a carjacker in 1992. Let us imagine the shooter to be a reckless teenager. Let us imagine that the shooter served his term in prison. Let us imagine that the shooter grew up into responsible adulthood. And let us imagine the deep regret he must have felt. How under the grace of the heavens might he melt that regret?
Misty answered that question. Two years ago she posted a message on Facebook, searching for the shooter. She found him, Keith Blackburn, who served his prison term, got a GED, eventually earned a master’s of divinity degree and intends to devote his life to ministry. Misty’s contact with Keith, her forgiveness of his act, took from her a lot of bitterness and hatred. And more, it gave Keith an opportunity to apologize and try to atone for his error. That’s a story to live by today.
Further on in the newspaper I read an equally provocative column by David Ignatius of The Washington Post. How, again under the grace of the heavens, can the United States and its allies atone for the terrible, unsuccessful and ultimately destructive war in Iraq? Only the former vice president would do it all over again. The rest of us carry deep regrets for “one of the biggest strategic errors in Modern American history.”
The United States solved nothing in Iraq, but ruined the infrastructure, exposed the tensions among Shiites and Sunnis and Kurds and Arabs, created a vacuum of leadership and revealed to the world the inconsistency of our ideals and our behaviors.
How can we possibly carry this heavy regret? How can we atone for our sins? What if … What if a “Misty Wallace” from Iraq spoke for her devastated people: “The United States and allies, we the people of Iraq forgive you.” Would we be melted into penitence?
If you don’t like trash talk, skip this blog.
At my childhood home we burned the trash. What didn’t burn went to the lime kiln. That place was an embankment between the meadow and the Reading railroad tracks, apparently used at one time to burn lime. Our neighbors dumped their trash there too. Then Daddy decided that the dumping should stop. He called the neighbors and posted a sign on the meadow fence. I recall that one neighbor came with a pick-up load anyway but Daddy did not let him dump. I think the rebuff strained their relationship.
While in the voluntary service program in 1960 I drove one day from Indiana to Illinois with an older and educated and quiet gentleman who looked out the car window with a searching wistful gaze. He said he worried about the future of garbage disposal.
Today I took our trash to recycling.
The day was chilly but since I was thinking about trash, I grabbed two garbage bags and headed to the wooded acre by Pleasant Run. In a short time both bags were full. I picked up mainly beer and pop cans with a surprising amount of clothing. And one hub cap.
A reader sent to me an article about the growing problem of disposing of old electronic equipment such as TVs. Not much can be recycled. Not much can be refinished and varnished and sold as an antique. The old man was right — there is reason to worry about garbage disposal.