Friday, September 22, 2017

Fifty

Walking down an unfamiliar street in Buffalo, New York many years ago, it suddenly began to rain. It wasn't a light shower but rather a cold and pounding downpour. I wasn't wearing an overcoat and had no umbrella, so I was soaked almost immediately. My usual sunny disposition had turned to quite the opposite, but all that was about to change for the better.

Hurrying up the sidewalk with water pouring off of me, I looked down and there in front of me was a fifty dollar bill! Oh my! Suddenly the rain didn't seem so bad. If it hadn't been raining, surely that money would have blown away. I put it in my pocket and continued on my way.

Later when I mentioned my good luck to a friend, he said "But it isn't yours. Did you even try to find the rightful owner?"

This wasn't a wallet or an identifiable piece of property. It was US currency that someone had likely dropped without knowing, but since I didn't witness it, how could I possibly find the person it belonged to?

I'm telling you this story today to solicit your thoughts. Was I wrong to keep it? Was that a dishonest act? What would YOU have done?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Story of a doctor and the racism he has faced

Those of you who read this regularly know that on occasion I have shared stories I "found" and have no idea who the author is.  Today I am sharing one of those.  I did search to find who wrote it, but didn't locate the writer.  I have no idea of the city or any additional information.  The point is, this man was the victim of hate.  I'm glad he shared his story and I hope you will all read it and then do everything you can to put an end to hate.  Nobody should have to experience a confrontation like this.  Please read on -

I’m a black man. I’m about 6’2″, average build. Nothing too fancy. I think I look normal, not intimidating in the slightest. I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. My parents were blue collar workers, but provided for me and my sister. We were taught manners, said our pleasantries. I got detention once in fifth grade because I was late to class because I spilled paint in my Art class and had to clean it up. But that’s it, that’s the worst trouble I’ve ever been in in my life.

I am a surgical resident at a hospital you’ve probably heard of. I was educated in a Top 10 university and went to medical school at a pseudo-Ivy League institution. I have had a great life. I’ve made sure of it. So have my parents.

Of course, I have noticed racism throughout my life. I have been pulled over and the officer has never given me a clear answer. Sometimes, they will straight up lie and tell me that I was speeding when I know I wasn’t. Once, I was stopped and frisked. The officer apologized and told me that I matched the description of a criminal-on-the-run in the area. The only description was “black man, average build.” I never reported this, but I always remember it.

 Today, I was leaving after a 26-hour shift at the hospital. I’m in my fourth year of residency and the hours get longer and longer, but I’m almost done. Today was particularly grueling, because I found out that a patient I have worked with since the start of my residency is now deemed ‘terminal’ and will be moved to hospice care. It sucked, it broke my heart. It was like four years’ worth of work had been erased.

As I was walking across the parking lot, a young man—younger than me, maybe twenty-five—leaned out of his car and called me the n-word. It was loud enough so people could hear. People stared, most in shock. Others picked up the pace to get away from the earth-shattering embarrassment unfolding.

I stopped and looked at him.The man didn’t get out of his car, but he made sure I saw him. The sneer on his face, it grew into a piercing grin. He started mimicking the sounds of a monkey. He called me the N-word again. People continued to stare. My mouth fell open. The guy mocked my expression; he feigned behavior like one of my patients suffering from severe mental retardation. He was trying to show me how he saw me.

A lot of things were on my mind in the forty-five odd seconds I was standing there. I wanted to walk up to the man and list off all my accomplishments. I wanted to tell him how, in eleventh grade, I won a science fair by creating a more efficient way for our school’s agriculture club to conserve energy. It took me to a national conference.

I wanted to tell him about the first time I fell in love. I wanted to tell him about the guy who made my heart beat so fast that I thought it would explode. This guy, he was tall, his smile was dopey and his eyes were light. Just the thought of him took away the painful feelings that this man was bringing to me. I wanted to tell him that I’m a good person; that I volunteer, I save lives, I work so people like you get a chance to survive and carry on being the hateful people you are.

But instead, I walked to my car. The man called me the N-word about five more times, laughing so hard I thought it was certain he would lose consciousness.

I sat behind the wheel for a very long time, maybe ten minutes, processing. I was angry at the man, but also at the people that didn’t say anything. I was angry at myself for not saying anything.

Sometimes, I just feel alone. Who I am, simply the color of my skin, makes me the target of hate from people that I will never even know. I truly try to love and understand everyone, so when one person returns that with malice and ill-will, it’s a lot to take in.

I don’t think anyone will read this, but I just wanted to tell you all about my day. I want to put this out into the world. I want to let the Internet know that black people are good. Black people are strong, capable, smart. Black people are resilient. I’m proud of my Blackness. I’m proud of my coarse hair and thick lips. I’m proud of my body that is subject to ridicule. I am proud of who I am, what I have been through. I am proud of my ancestors who were slaves and now I am their wildest dream. Black people can be bad, too. Black people can be murderers and thieves and rapists. Black people can be everything—except human, apparently. I just want to be acknowledged as a human. I want to be seen as a human. I want to be known.

I love my black body. I’m tired of having to explain that pride in my black body is not hatred for any other race. I’m tired of worrying that I may be shot driving to work.

I don’t hate police. I don’t hate White people. I don’t hate anyone.

But, God, I love me. And I want that to be enough.

I say it is enough and I hope all of you agree. Again, I didn't write this, it's something I discovered and am grateful that the writer posted it.  I hope people will be moved by it and I invite you again to share it with others. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Help in the midst of disaster

There have been so many natural disasters in the past week, and yesterday afternoon, another huge one - a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Central Mexico, just south of the city of Puebla.  Mexico City was hard hit,  The shaking was reported to have lasted about one minute - a very long time for an earthquake.  Over two hundred people died, and that number is expected to rise.  Watching the images on tv, I saw a very dire scene, but I also saw heroes.

Emergency workers were out in force and doing what they do so well.  They chose professions where they can help others and are heroes every day.  Joining them though were friends, neighbors, everyday folks who just pitched in.  Pictures of people digging through rubble and then finding survivors is so heartwarming. 

Almost immediately [people all over began putting together assistance for the Mexican people too.  Donations started pouring in and people volunteered to go there and help with the search and rescue and with rebuilding.

We will hear hundreds of stories of heroes in the days ahead, and let that encourage us.  Yes there is bad news, but there are also caring, loving people who give help in the midst of disaster.  Let's all be helpers.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Roses are red - sometimes

Roses are red, says the poem. Indeed they are.  Sometimes though they might be pink or white or yellow or a number of other colors, including a mixed color. I think the most stunning rose color is lavender, and it smells so very nice as well!

I'm thinking of roses this morning because I happened to pass some gorgeous ones on my early walk. I just wanted to stop and soak in the beauty. It's no wonder people love to send and to receive these wonderful flowers. Oh my!  It's even pleasant to pick up a nice bouquet for yourself.

Oh and this is in keeping with the theme of this blog. If you plant beautiful flowers, you are certainly helping to make this a more beautiful world. Such a simple thing, huh? Of course there are many flower possibilities. Do you have a favorite? If I were to send you a bouquet, what flowers would you want included?

Monday, September 18, 2017

the smile on your face is there because

The smile on your face is there because you are happy?  Are you always happy?  Do you realize you are smiling or is it something that just comes naturally?  When you meet someone for the first time, do you notice whether or not they are smiling?
 
Okay so it might look like a toothpaste commercial to some people, but so what?  Isn't a happy appearance a better option than an unhappy one?  I think when someone is smiling, it makes me smile, and not just on my face - I find myself smiling inside.
 
If you see someone today without a smile, why don't you give them one of yours?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Joy Joy Joy

There used to be a song that was often sung around the campfire at church camps and other places with a line that went "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy - Down in my heart - Down in my heart to stay."  I don't know how I got that in my head.  I must have joy in my heart!
 
What brings you joy?  I've asked that question here before, but think about it for a moment once again.  There are tons of answers to the question.  There really isn't a wrong answer.  What brings you joy might not bring me joy.  Does some of your own joy come in the giving too?  So how can a feeling of great pleasure and happiness be felt by those around you?  What can you do to share the joy?  Do you every purposely try to fill others with joy and happiness?
 
For me joy is pretty awesome but like with this blog, it's NOT about me and it's not just about my joy alone.  I really am most joyful when I am surrounded by other joyful people.  Seems pretty obvious what we need to do then.  We need to spread the joy, especially during this difficult week!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Reflections from Sixteen Years Ago

The words below I have printed here before, but in this troubled week, I think it will be good to see them again.  Sixteen years ago, when the terrorist attacks stunned the nation, Frank Tracy Griswold was Primate and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States.  Three days after the attacks, as the country was trying to understand and to heal, memorials were held.  Bishop Griswold recounted that day of mourning in an essay in which he mentions the "selfless volunteers and their eagerness to be useful."  Not only was that true on 9/11, but we are seeing more evidence of that in so many who are making a difference this week in the aftermath of two horrific hurricanes.

As I said, I think Bishop Frank's words are good to see again, so here below is that essay:


On Friday, September 14, the day of national mourning, I knew my place was here in New York with those who were courageously struggling with the aftermath of the hideous events of the previous Tuesday. A police van picked me up at the Church Center and transported me through checkpoints to the Seaman's Church Institute within the restricted area where police, firefighters, National Guard, rescue workers and Con Edison technicians were being cared for with food, fresh changes of clothing, and words of thanks and encouragement from tireless volunteers.

In the midst of the chaos I was asked to celebrate the Eucharist. It was Holy Cross Day, and how appropriate and right it was that our mourning and grief be rooted and grounded in the mystery of the cross. St. Paul speaks of sharing the sufferings of Christ. I thought that every act of violence, and all that it produces, is an instance of Christ's own suffering with and on behalf of those he came to reconcile to one another through the cross.

In the Gospel reading for the day, we hear Jesus proclaim: "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." The cross is Jesus' facing into all the subtle and obvious forces of evil the divide the human family, drawing us all to himself in order that we might be transformed and live in new patterns of relationship: patterns which are grounded in the awareness that - at the heart of all differences of language, race, culture and ways of believing and naming God - we are profoundly one in the mind and heart of our Creator. That this terrible act of terrorism has provoked blind and indiscriminate blame directed against our Moslem and Arab neighbors is to allow the evil we are suffering to catch us up in its ongoing destructive force, and make us its victim in yet another way.

After the Eucharist, Phoebe and I were taken through more checkpoints to "Ground Zero." This close to the impact, gray ash lay everywhere and coated the silent and abandoned buildings, among them St. Paul's Chapel where George Washington worshiped. Outside the church the American and Episcopal Church flags, stained and torn, fluttered at half-mast. An ancient tree had been uprooted and its branches rested on the gravestones. The building was intact, but the churchyard was thick with ash and debris and thousands of bits of paper. The iron gate was ajar. I pushed it open and climbed the littered and ash covered steps to the open door of the church. In an eerie way, everything seemed to be in order, except for the covering of dust. I found myself in tears. Here, at the heart of all the chaos and destruction was a place of solace and prayer.

The sacristy door stood open. I went in and found a piece of paper and a pen and wrote "I have been here and you have my prayers and my love. Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop." I turned to leave and just then the priest arrived. "I'm here and the church is open," he said. What more could one ask for at a time like this than the ministry of presence.

As we left, I looked up at the crucifix above the altar and had the sense that the extended arms could receive and embrace all the madness and hatred and destruction and suffering that lay close by and in all the places in our fragile world where violence and death and innocent suffering are a daily reality. Somehow this terrible event has joined us in solidarity with the suffering of the world.

That evening I took part in a service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. At the end of the service, the congregation with lighted candles in hand followed us out onto the cathedral steps where people, instead of dispersing into the evening, drew close to one another, still holding on to their candles. Passersby joined them, some stopping to buy candles in nearby shops.

Spontaneous singing began…"We shall overcome…." I thought of the overwhelming generosity of spirit that had flowed through the day. I thought of the selfless volunteers and their eagerness to be useful; the many workers and their gratitude; the congregation bound together in mutual support. I was seeing evil overcome by good which is the only way in which our world can be healed. I was also seeing our church in action and prayer and hospitality mediate the real presence of Christ.

How grateful I am for our Episcopal household and for its clear witness at this time. The days ahead will be difficult and demanding for us all, and I pray that we will be able to live them with the courage and strength that are ours in the risen Christ.

 +Frank T. Griswold
 XXV Presiding Bishop and Primate
 The Episcopal Church, USA