Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Here's the Deal, Dems...

As you pass the hours on Capitol Hill positioning yourselves to please all of the people all of the time - so you can keep your high-paying, insurance-provided jobs... There are real people at the bottom of the Hill - where what's rolling down collects -losing their jobs for reasons that have nothing to do with pleasing anyone. Businesses here in real-time-America are not making money, in case you hadn't heard. There's downsizing, belt tightening, and internal restructuring all over the place. This week, a corporate survival redesign put a dozen close friends of mine on the unemployment line. And just so you know, my conservative Democrat health care hold outs - these are hard working people. They are people who give all they've got to give to whatever they do. They are people who have worked this way their entire lives to make sure they, and their families, always pay their own way. A few of them are near retirement age and find themselves dusting off the resume. They're hoping they don't get sick. It appears you are fiddling your way through politics while Rome is burning. We need a dependable health care system. We need it now. None of us expect Congress to create high paying jobs for every unemployed person in America. We know the economy will have to run it's course in the ditch before jobs with good wages return. But for the love of Abraham Lincoln, could you find your way clear to consider helping us stay insured? Make your deals. Make them quickly. We are losing heart tissue as we stand by and watch. We will need EKGs and MRIs and lots of expensive prescription drugs to stay steady if you do not get this bill moving. This is OUR president's top domestic priority. It's high time to make it yours. Peace.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

On the Road

Every time I hit the highway with nothing ahead of me but open road and a few hours toward a destination, I think of Jack Kerouac's classic traveler, Sal Paradise. One of two fictional characters in Kerouac's iconic On The Road, Sal emerged in literary history as the founder of the "beat generation," and ended up paving the way for every free spirit whose mantra is seize the day. Life is holy and every moment is precious, says Sal. I couldn't agree more. But I'd rather not hear about it on the radio. In Christian rock songs. Scanning the I-don't-have-satellite-radio dial this week on a long stretch of mind-numbing interstate, I found the strongest signal between Waco and Austin to be coming from KSUR, an American Family Radio station, aka family values radio station, aka Christian radio station. The music was pleasant enough, for a song or two. The words were easy to pick up, thanks to an ingrained vocabulary of churchiness: hosanna, glory, holy, majesty - repeated over and over and over. And Jesus, of course - Lord, Savior, God, Holy One of Israel. But after about two songs and a long commercial break and some DJ blabber, I was ready to drive my car into a highway crash barrel. I wonder what the world's faith community thinks about Christianity when it hears this? That's what crossed my mind. I found myself wishing for a pop culture radio version of Buddhism or Islam or Hinduism that I could tune in to for traveling entertainment. Every person of faith should have to suffer the humiliation I'm feeling, I thought. Do you know you can email your prayer requests to the hyper-talking DJ at KSUR? You can also enter your pastor in a drawing for a trip to the Holy Land on El Al Airlines ("it's not just an airline, it's Israel"). And, you can hear the news that includes the latest update on how abortion is being "smuggled" into health care reform by liberal democrats. It's all there for you - plus the advertisers who, of course, are the nicest Christian capitalists around, and certainly deserve your business. That's entertainment. I believe in the right to free speech. I know it is my inalienable right to turn the dial when I'm disgusted by what I'm hearing (insert Rush Limbaugh's name here). I know Christian rock music is as viable a genre as ska punk or gangsta rap or screamo...and that it probably needs a unique venue on the radio dial. But I was embarrassed to hear Christianity presented at such a bubble gum, happy talking, commercialized level. So I turned off the radio and let my idle mind wander back to Sal: Life is holy and every moment is precious. The road toward home was suddenly much more interesting. I'm packing for a two week vacation today. I think I'll throw NPR & Balmorhea CDs into my bag. And a copy of On The Road. As I sit in the coming days, reveling in the colors of sunset, magnified by an expanse of easy water, I'll repeat after Sal: Life is holy, and every moment is precious. Who needs the radio? Peace, all. Happy trails.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hungry and Humiliated

That's what the handwritten sign said. I could not bear to look into the face of the woman holding it. I knew my wallet was empty. So I pulled up beside her and tried to find a position that would keep my peripheral vision from catching a reminder that she was there. Hungry and Humiliated. The red light seemed to last for 20-minutes. Finally I decided I couldn't drive away without handing her something, so I pulled a half dozen coins from the bottom of my purse and rolled down the window. "I'm sorry, I don't have much." I said. "That's okay," she replied, with a tone of compassion that invited me to love her. I looked into her face as she reached for 78-cents. "Everything helps," she said, returning the eye contact. She was strikingly beautiful. And present. And young. She could easily have been a girl one of my sons brought home from college. I squeezed her hand, and told her to drink water. Yep - that's it. 78-cents and the free advice to drink water to avoid heat stroke on a Texas summer day. That was all I gave her. As I drove away from the busy intersection, I was hyper-aware of the cold blowing AC in my sporty new car and the long list on the seat beside me that was about to turn into a basket of abundance at Whole Foods. And the just-opened bottle of cold spring water in my cup holder. She was so young and so pretty. Hungry and Humiliated. I know you hope I turned my car around. I hope all of you would have done that. I didn't. I did my grocery shopping, and was halfway home before I thought about stopping for some cash and heading back to the corner where she stood, hungry and humiliated. I wondered how much money it would take to get her off the street before the temperature reached boiling point on the asphalt. Then I caught the time. Awfully close to a lunch date. So I went home. "I'll go by on my way to lunch," I told myself. I didn't. By the time I finished lunch with friends, and put my over-filled body into my cool, sporty car, it was 103-degrees outside. I went straight to an ATM machine and got $20. As I approached the intersection, I was hoping she wasn't still standing in the heat. I wondered if I'd insist she get into my car. I was embarrassed I'd only gotten $20. I was imagining how I would explain our house guest to my husband and sons. She was gone, of course. No one can stand in the middle of cars on pavement for too long on a summer day in Texas. As I left the intersection, I hoped she was sitting by a pool somewhere with friends and a tall glass of iced-tea. I wondered if she was safe. I imagined that she was. I was embarrassed I hadn't offered her more when I had the opportunity.
Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He replied, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." - Jesus
Just Humiliated. - Me

Thursday, July 9, 2009

To Know When We're Full

I tried on bathing suits at a department store last week, and I have to admit, I looked adorable. Adorable as in...25 years ago and four months pregnant.
Honestly, it is not really a very cute look on me now. My kindest friends have tried to reassure me by telling me it's just a problem related to the non-standard-issue amounts of estrogen surging through my midlife age and stage body. I'm sure the Ben & Jerry's straight out of the carton has nothing to do with it. It would be a stretch to say I'm fat. I'm lucky to swim in a gene pool that tips toward long and lean. Still, I am a gastronome, a foodie, a - hate to admit it - glutton. I love to shop for groceries, I love to cook, and I love to eat. I have created a world that circles around the belief that almost anything is better with a big piece of cake.
In the process of doing that, I have forgotten what it means to be full - as in satisfied, finished, had enough.
We had a restaurant meal a few summers ago with a seminary student who had been sent by his 3,000 member congregation in Africa to study in the United States. When his plate full of enchiladas, refried beans, and rice was placed before him, he stopped and shook his head over it.
"This amount of food would feed a family of four where I come from," he said.
It was the most meaningful blessing of food I'd ever heard spoken over a meal. Do you understand your abundance? is what I heard. Do you know when you are full? is the message that lingers.
According to the latest statistics, 26% of America is obese. That's more than one in four of us. Obese - not just fighting an extra ten pounds - but life threateningly overweight.

Meanwhile, one in three Africans is starving.

I have trouble staying on a grocery budget, and we rarely fall below our monthly plan for eating out. I'm wondering if a monthly budget allowance for hunger relief, used to cover over budget grocery expenditures in my household, would stop me on my way to a second helping? A rob-the-hungry-to-feed-the-full plan...

Would it help me remember? I am so full.