Our Eyes Were Opened


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Is Donald Trump an Abbot?

How timely is this?

Thomas Merton, October 20, 1962
 
“People demand that the government ‘interfere’ in nothing, just pour money into the armament industry and provide a strong police for ‘security,’ But stay out of everything else! No interference in medicine, mental health, education, etc., etc. Never was a country at once shrewder and less wise–shrewd in nonessentials and lunatic in essentials.
 
I have no doubt the world feels toward America the way many monks feel toward an abbot who wants to exercise total power, to receive unquestioning obedience on the basis of slogans about which he himself ceased thinking twenty-five years ago, and who above all else wants to be loved, so that he may never, at any time, to himself, seem to be exercising power, or loving it. Nobody denies him the power he has: few give him the love that he needs in order to be safe and content. And therefore he uses his power, from time to time, in unpredictable, arbitrary, and absurd ways in which he defends his own ends and makes everybody miserable.”
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Hidden Voices Part 4 in a Series

One way I identify hidden voices is from the comments I receive through my work with Our Eyes Were Opened, Inc. I’ve heard: “He committed a crime. Why should I help him?” 

Formerly incarcerated people have a hard time after they have paid their dues for their crime. Landlords often will not rent to them and employers will not hire them.

Reentering society brings real problems for real people. If we as a community do not recognize these issues and find ways to address them, then the likelihood of the ex-offender returning to incarceration is high indeed, as high as 65% within three years.

I have been fortunate to be part of redesigning and then facilitating a ReEntry Simulation. This simulation allows participants to experience the challenges of reentering society after being incarcerated. So far, simulation participants have been probation and parole officers, employers, a few newly released ex-offenders, and agency staff people who work with a high percentage of former convicts. In this simulation, there are challenges of getting and paying the fees for identification papers within the month, of finding a place to live, and of having money for regular, required drug testing, paying child support, and buying food and transportation tickets. Participants also juggle going to AA/NA, employment or the Career Center, and/or Vocational Rehabilitation. The only quick money in the simulation is using the pawn shop or selling one’s plasma.

Being part of this process, I have learned more about how hidden are the voices of people who have as part of their history their criminal record. I have wondered even more deeply why can’t the time in prison be used for constructive, life stabilizing, life re-creating activities and opportunities? Why must the voices of these human beings, these our brothers and sisters, be stifled and thereby limit the God-given potential in each person? Why must their voices for hope for a new life be so hidden?


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Hidden Voices

We will not, do not, or cannot hear the voices that are hidden in our community.

We will not…hear hidden voices

We stay within the confines of people more or less like us. We live in neighborhoods with people who are more or less like us. We work with people who think more or less like we do. We worship with people who are educated more or less like we are. Our income levels are more or less alike.

We tend to remain with people whose fund of knowledge is similar to ours. Our fund of knowledge grows from our gender, our age, our socieoeconomic status, our education level, our experiences of the broader world, our race, our faith perspective and a host of other things. We often believe that our fund of knowledge is the only one that’s valid.  We will not hear hidden voices.

We do not… hear hidden voices.

We do not want to hear hidden voices. We are busy enough with career or retirement, caring for kids, grandchildren, or ailing parents. We struggle with our own limited world of influence and certainly do not want to be disturbed by issues beyond our control. We want to remain in our own bubble. We like our blinders of our skin color, our privilege of power or prestige, or our position in society. We prefer that hidden voices remain hidden. Otherwise we might feel uncomfortable and we do not want that! We do not hear hidden voices.

We cannothear hidden voices.

We are stressed already with the problems of the world. We are overwhelmed with all our responsibilities in our home, our community, our church, our work, or our neighborhood. We may be going through a divorce, grieving the loss of a loved one, struggling with health issues, or facing financial challenges ourselves. We do good to crawl out of bed in the morning and plow through the day. We simply cannot take on any more. Our bandwidth is taxed heavily right now. We cannot hear hidden voices.

But there are hidden voices in our community. During my next few posts, I’ll share some of those.


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Hawks and Doves

Hawks and Doves

This week, a parable took place right in front of me with a hawk and a dove. I’m talking real birds here, not symbols.  It seems timely since it happened the week leading up to the celebration of Independence Day.

We’ve had a dove couple nesting in the upper corner of our front porch. One of the birds, we assume the mother, is always on the nest, sitting very calmly. She looks at us when we come and go. We greet her. She does not blink, just notices that the people who live near her nest accept her chosen birthing place.

We did not realize when the babies hatched because they, too, were very quiet. Eventually, we could see them peering over the nest, surveying this world into which they were born. Of course, the world they saw involved four porch chairs, some plants, and a Carolina wren appearing every so often. We never heard a peep.

Occasionally, we’d see a gathering of dove friends in our front yard. They might chat with each other a bit but were not as comfortable with our intrusion as our resident couple was. But we’d hear the coo-coo sounds of the doves’ conversation.

As I took the garbage to put in the can that I’d already pulled to the street for the City sanitation staff to empty, I heard THUD!!! I wasn’t sure what the noise so I turned to see what caused the sound.

I saw a large hawk swooping across my porch. It paused briefly on the empty window frame that defines the border of the porch nearest our neighbor, and flew away. I stood there with my mouth open. After noticing a bloody splat on the outside of my storm door, I immediately went into the house and told my husband that he would not believe what had just happened. I went back outside. That’s when I saw it.

A baby dove that was just getting its feathers was lying on the porch floor with the back half of its little body ripped off.

The doves had lived peacefully for several weeks on our porch. They asked nothing of us and did not make a mess. The bird couple occasionally sat together on the edge of the nest minding their tiny family. And then, with absolutely no warning, a powerful bird decided that it would take life so it could have a meal. But the hawk flew off, having mutilated a family, without even eating the baby. It had killed for nothing.  The dove family is now gone. I don’t know what happened, if they left of their own accord or were driven away by power and death.

Our country is living in a time of hawks and doves. Some take and possibly destroy while others go about life, trying to take care of themselves and their families.

Is a country of hawks and doves really the country we want to celebrate?

 


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Donald Trump Prayer Project

God of the Whirling Planets, grandiose gestures on the part of us humans must seem pretty silly sometimes. Be with President Trump so that his decisions reflect the grandeur of your universe. Amen  5.22.17


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Gentrifying vs. Gentle-fying

Gentrifying: House is purchased for income building
Gentle-fying: House is purchased for neighborhood building
Gentrifying: Security is based on locks, gates, and systems
Gentle-fying: Security is based on friendships and watching out for each other
Gentrifying: Long-time residents may not be welcome
Gentle-fying: Long-time residents are cherished
Gentrifying: Diversity is threatening
Gentle-fying: Diversity is cherished
Gentrifying: My way is the right way
Gentle-fying: Our way is the right way
Gentrifying: The past is obscured as not important
Gentle-fying: The past is celebrated as part of the heritage
Gentrifying: Us vs. Them
Gentle-fying: It’s all Us