Attorney General Janet Reno traveled to Cleveland four years ago to observe ex-offenders at work in an innovative reentry program. She visited with members of Care Team, ex-convicts who are carefully selected to work for elderly residents in the community.
When I bought the land where I now live, there was nothing on it but trees, cows and fescue. The first question the builder asked me was, “Where’s your well?” I tried to hide my surprise. I had temporarily forgotten that water comes from the earth, not the sink. Of course there would have to be a well.
The last time I wrote about scanning the obituaries, I referred to people whose accomplishments were widely recognized. This time I will look at the lives of the less known, to illustrate ordinary goodness in an often ungood world. I hope the papers in your town do what the Chicago Tribune does: interview friends and family members to bring some color to each account.
When most Americans think of small towns, say Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, they think of churches: “Each of us carries a mental map of the perfect small town. Whether or not we are of religious temperament, this exercise in mental cartography invariably includes churches.” Frantz and Collins know whereof they speak.
How can hope be sustained when traumatic memories of conflict or oppression haunt a person or group? This question has become central in a course I am teaching with an African-American colleague. In “Remembrance and Reconciliation,” we are examining the legacies of racism and racial division in South Africa and the U.S.
Could loneliness be as contagious as the H1N1 virus? Is loneliness dangerous to the public’s health? Usually we think of “infection” or “contagion” only in relation to medical viruses and define lonely people as those who keep their feelings to themselves.
When Jim Douglass graduated from college, his father sent him a life insurance policy. Jim thanked his father but returned the policy. He could not accept the gift, he said, because he wanted to understand the truth of an “economics of providence” that he had read about in Matthew 6. Rather than pay premiums on a life insurance policy, Jim said he would store up treasure in heaven by sending a monthly payment to provide basic care for a little girl in France. I’m convinced that Jim is right.
I once heard a preacher say that it might have been crowded and a little smelly inside Noah’s ark, but the folks inside knew it was better to be on board than not.
The same thing goes for living together in the church. Traveling together isn’t always easy, but the ark saves us from drowning. And it does more than that—it gives us a space where we can learn to live together.
On a visit to Israel last year a colleague suggested that I visit Kibbutz Metzer, a community founded by Argentinean Jewish émigrés in the 1950s. So along with my Quaker traveling companion and one other American, I hired a taxi and drove north from Jerusalem for nearly two hours to the interior of the country.
A friend once described me as “charmingly eccentric.” I’m not sure about charming, but I can’t deny the eccentric part. I’m not eccentric like Howard Hughes or the Rain Man character—just a wee bit short of completely normal. In fact, two experts on autism have told me I have certain “autistic characteristics.” Weird though it may seem, while the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator lists me as an introvert, I instinctively act like an extrovert around people. I genuinely love people and love being around them—in limited doses. After any prolonged social interaction, however, I have to retreat into my cave.