It’s Monday–An Enduring Good

Did you have a good week?

I was asked this question about my trip to Haiti more than a dozen times this morning but could never articulate an adequate response. On one level, the question seemed so normal, so everyday but my experience was neither normal nor everyday. I’m not blaming the questioner. It’s how we routinely engage one another in conversation about our favorite restaurants or afternoon naps or effective nasal decongestants or family cruises. But, there was nothing routine about this week.

Did you have a good week? No. I didn’t. To say it was good would delegitimize the lived experience of so many in Haiti who long for what I expect—a non-permeable roof over my head, three meals a day, and the leisurely possibility of hoping for something, anything different in my life.

I asked a 33 year-old mother of six children what she hoped for? The concept didn’t even register. “A good day,” she said, “is when my children get fed. A bad day is when they don’t.”

So, in some very important ways for this middle-class American, it was not a good week.

  • It was not good to sensually consume the sights and smells of the vast wastelands of trash and filth.
  • It was not good to be indifferent to the young children who were knocking at our bus windows while pointing to their empty stomachs.
  • It was not good to listen to the stories of kids who trek for hours to go to school only to be sent home because their family couldn’t pay the bill that month.
  • It was not good to watch child slaves enjoying the momentary freedom of a school environment that cares for them one day a week, knowing they will be sent home to endure the horrendous physical and emotional burden of their “masters” the other six days a week.
  • It was not good…
  • It was not good…
  • It was not good…

Paradoxically, though it was not good, it was essential.

How can we speak of God’s care for the poor from a distance? How can we articulate a global vision of God’s kingdom of love while only experiencing the suburbs? How can we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep when we have no idea what gives rise to another’s joy or what breaks another’s heart?

It was not good, but it was essential.

For worship the final morning in Haiti, I used the quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes that has been my guide for the past few months.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing…

 It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

There it was. In all that was not good, there were more acts—small acts of kindness, sacrificial acts of giving, transformative acts of compassion that, I’m convinced, are working to cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good!

Not good like the taste of a piece of chocolate, but an enduring good that tastes like hope!

  • The enduring good of a man named Maya who, once a child slave, now provides refuge and hope for a another generation of children in Haiti.
  • The enduring good of Erin who left her career in the for-profit world to lead the work of HTF and invite another generation of people to believe that change can happen even in a place like Haiti.
  • The enduring good of the caseworkers and teachers working tirelessly on behalf of the poorest of the poor.
  • The enduring good of a mother sacrificing everything so her kids can eat.
  • The enduring good of people of Peace who left behind work and school and family to have their eyes opened, their hearts broken, and their vision of God’s work expanded.
  • The enduring good…
  • The enduring good…
  • The enduring good…

So, did I have a good week? No.

Was I part of something that may work to tip the critical mass toward an enduring good? I think so. I hope so.

It’s Monday. Rather than hoping for a good day, do something, anything that works toward an enduring good! Peace. Kai

 

It’s Monday–Woe to Those at Ease

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion…

            Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory,

            And lounge on their couches,…

            Who drink wine from bowls, and

            Anoint themselves with the finest oil,

     But are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph! Amos 6: 1, 4-6

I have undertaken a new spiritual practice this year—I am re-reading the biblical prophets. The timing is right. Though separated from us by thousands of years, the enduring themes that weave through most of them—justice and concern for the disadvantaged, greed and the ever widening gap between those who have and have not, and a self-indulgent faith community that loses sight of who they are and what they have been called to do, are as challenging for us, in our time, as ever.

So I’ll be writing about what I’m reading and then letting you decide if and how the prophetic words and imagination comfort or challenge you.

“Woe to those who are at ease in Zion… But are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph.”

Notice the tension: In the same community there are those who luxuriate on the finest beds and couches and those whose lives lay in ruins. There are those who guzzle bowls of wine without thinking and those who hustle for scraps of bread without knowing where the next scraps will fall.

The prophet is undoubtedly grieved by the gaping chasm of wealth that separates the two. But, he is also devastated by the yawning chasm of indifference for those who don’t grieve the disparity at all. “There are always winners and losers, makers and takers.” That’s just the way it is. (Words almost always spoken by “winners” and “makers.”)

But, is that true? Does it have to be true? Is it the vision God has for us and for the world?

I wonder if the prophet’s cautionary woe rises out of a deeper knowing, a communal wisdom, a Godly vision that understands that, in the end, we rise and fall together; that individual blessing means little if it doesn’t translate to communal benefit; that a community can be fabulously wealthy in material ways and deeply impoverished in spirit; that a bowl of wine was never to be consumed alone, but savored by friend and foe alike—all who long to drink in the goodness of life.

It’s Monday. If you filled up a bowl of wine (or your favorite drink), who would you share it with? How can your blessing benefit someone else today? Peace. Kai