Monday, November 30, 2015

Thirteen Short Conversations About Nothing

Hastily assembled, somewhat plagiarized, poorly constructed........

1) On being liberal or conservative - I am fortunate to have been formed by conservatives and forgiven by liberals. Embarrassed to vote Democrat, ashamed to vote Republican.
2) On being Catholic once (sort of) - I remember fighting with priests as a boy, convincing myself I was an atheist. Later, after meeting Father Bill Talentino in Virginia who was doing social just work, and a dozen or so other priests working in poor missions in third world countries, I lamented my diversion from spirituality and began to build the real foundation of my faith. I am not Catholic, but I am connected.
3) On leadership - It is all about the separation of my ego. Divorcing what is in my interest from that which benefits others, then leveraging the residual grit, stubbornness, and courage to fight the right battles. 
4) On friends - Few and far between, forever forgiven, forever familiar.
5) On alcohol and drugs - The epitome of our collective selfishness. The distillation of evil deemed disease to ease our guilt and to look past crime, child abuse, and despair. 
6) On change - There are two kinds of new people who "cause" trouble in a system: Those who bring it in and those who expose it once they arrive. 
7) On wisdom - The ability to recognize the value in things.
8) On serendipity - Like looking for a needle in a haystack and finding the farmer's daughter (Penthouse Magazine, circa 1970's).
9) On Misters Rauner and Trump - Bullies and sissy boys.
10) On Hillary Clinton - I once thought the evil press only published pictures of her frowning. Now I don't think I like that which lies underneath the frown.
11) On honesty - Too often confused with solipsistic convenience.
12) On aging - Ear hair grows faster than my IRA; I wake up with pains with no recollected attributable causes; I care far less for money and I find less things I want to waste said money on; and the notion of passing away before I change the world scares the heck out of me.
13) On love - I pray for reincarnation.............

Friday, November 20, 2015

Indiana Does Admit Refugees!

Indiana does admit refugees!

I have been bemused and saddened by the reactions I have seen to the Syrian refugee problem. Most of you will know my feelings on the subject as I have worked with refugees, orphans, and at-risk students for thirty years now. I was doubly distressed though, when I learned that my “home” state of Indiana weighed in on the wrong side of the human equation. Distressed because I too was a refugee of sorts, and Indiana was my refuge.

Forty-one years ago, my family moved from Michigan to Indiana when I was in the tenth grade. I had been born there, but had never lived in the state for any significant time. As a matter of fact, I had never lived anywhere for any significant period of time. We moved to Garrett in July of 1974 – it was my sixteenth school and my step father’s 37th second chance. I am sure if they knew what was coming, many of the townspeople would not have left out the welcome mat – but most importantly, many still would have.

I lived in Garret for two years and began to hope against reason that I would graduate there and make a life in Northeast Indiana. Fate had other plans, as my step-father showed up one day with a Uhaul in November, 1976 and moved us overnight to Oklahoma. I was crushed but without options. I have detailed before how I worked and saved for a month then hitchhiked back to Garrett to finish high school. In order to do so, my best friend, Jeff, and his family, had to agree to take temporary custody of me. They did so without hesitation. So once again, Indiana had opened its doors to someone who many might have considered undesirable.

A month or so into my stay, I got into trouble with the police and was arrested for underaged drinking. My hosts were justifiably upset and ready to ship me back to Oklahoma. When they talked to my mother, she begged them to let me stay as she firmly believed my step-father and I would kill each other if I moved back. Being the good Christians they are, they gave me my first second chance and I am here today because of it. They could have easily denied the first request and even more sensibly ended the experiment the first time I screwed up. They didn’t, and I changed.

I like to think that the kindness they showed me, and the kindness I had always experienced in that little forgotten town taught me about humanity. I would also like to think that I have paid them back in my own way in other forgotten places around the world. A refugee can be a lot of things, and no one was as lost or at risk as was I forty something years ago. A group of people with no overt moral obligation lived their faith and touched me with their grace. I am living proof of that sort of investment.  And by the way, Indiana is not my home state because I was born there - It is my home state because I was redeemed there.

I, for one, will never forget my fellow human beings no matter their condition or disposition. I can’t afford to even if I wanted to – I owe too many people too much yet.