Century Marks

Century Marks

Flight attendants

Airport chaplains provide religious services, and a whole lot more, especially at the Hartsfield-Jackson airport at Atlanta, the world’s busiest airport. Three full-time chaplains and some 50 volunteers representing ten faiths function like a spiritual concierge, listening to people in distress, mediating conflicts with airline representatives, buying meals for people who are broke or finding them lodging, and befriending airport employees. Chapels are common in the eastern and central United States but rare in major airports in the West (New York Times, March 2).

Radical elements

Pete Simi, coauthor of American Swastika, says there is no uniform profile of persons who join extremist groups. But many of them have experienced some kind of family disruption. They also tend to have difficulty with ambiguity and are susceptible to conspiracy theories. It’s a myth to think they come mainly from the lower classes. Some were violent before joining such groups, others become violent only after joining. For most of these groups, violence is in their talk rather than their actions (Southern Poverty Law Center, Intelligence Report, Spring).

Grace and suffering

Jim Kelly has to be the Job of the National Football League. As an NFL quarterback he took the Buffalo Bills to the Super Bowl four years in a row—and lost each time. A son born with Krabbe disease died before his ninth birthday. Kelly barely survived a plane crash in Alaska. He contracted cancer and has had his upper left jaw removed and all but two of his teeth. He has so much pain he can’t sleep at night without medication. Yet his wife says he never complains and indulged in self-pity only once. Kelly, 54, says, “I’ve been blessed. I wouldn’t change a thing” (ESPN.com, March 4).

Dumpster diving

Most of New York City’s trash is found in bags on the curbside, so trash is up for grabs until it’s hauled away. Foraging in trash bags has taken off in some New York circles with organizations such as Food Not Bombs, a group of volunteers that retrieves vegan or vegetarian food to share with the public. The Food Not Bombs website lists 500 chapters. “With over a billion people going hungry each day how can we spend another dollar on war?” the group’s mission statement asks. Dumpster diving generally attracts educated white people in their twenties and thirties; typically, they are people who do it by choice rather than need (RNS).

Location, location

The purchase of a $3.6 million condo in Beacon Hill to house the rector of Boston’s Trinity Church has caused consternation among some members of this landmark Episcopal congregation. Some members claim that it reinforces the congregation’s reputation as a place for the elite. Others say it is a betrayal of the congregation’s commitment to the poor in the city. Congregational leaders say a place was needed for the rector within walking distance of the church and that nothing reasonable can be purchased in the neighborhood. The purchase of the condo, which used funds from Trinity’s $30 million endowment, didn’t affect the operating budget of the church or its substantial ministries to the poor and homeless (Boston Globe, February 14).