Tag Archives: hope

After – Albuquerque 1996

1294519_10151934672121063_245716286_oAfter the prayers had been said
and the motions had been made;

after the rulings had been dispensed
and the speeches had been delivered;

after the instructions had been given
and the buttons had been pushed;

after the votes had been tallied
and the results announced;

after the passion
and the decent order;

after . . .
. . . the assembly sat in quiet contemplation,
pondering who had won
and who had lost,
considering what was gained
and what the cost.

My heart sundered the silence,
breaking, softly breaking,
for those, who by official action,
had been denied their full humanity,
and, whose gifts, but that same official action,
had been rejected.

A tear slid down my check,
coming to rest in tangled whiskers.
A single tear
shed for those beloved of God
who the vote would exclude
and for those
who out of fear
or prejudice
or lack of love
or for whatever reason
sought to shut doors –
and build walls –
and keep out –
and settle once and for all;
and in so doing
lost an opportunity
to join in
God’s amazing,
welcoming,
including,
affirming,
door-opening,
wall-smashing,
never-ending
love.

This was written after the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 208th General Assembly (1996). That assembly met in Albuquerque, New Mexico and took action to recommend a change the church’s constitution that would ban LGBTQ individuals from serving in ordained offices. I attended that assembly as an observer. As the United Methodist Church meets to wrestle with similar questions, I remembered this piece and choose to share it. 

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Filed under Current Events, Family, Friends, Human Rights, Poem, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Hope’s daughters

Worship this morning at the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone focused on responding to gun violence. Planned and led by our confirmation class and youth group, the service invited us to connect with hope’s daughers: anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. (Augustine)

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Filed under Current Events, First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, Gun Violence, Human Rights, Worship

Eeyore Knights of Valor

Not alone, we stand together,
for alone one could not stand.

Not alone, we stand together,
soul to soul and hand in hand.

Not alone,  we stand together,
aching hearts, but spirits strong.

Watching, waiting, working,
when others turn away;

seeing, hearing, feeling,
what others would avoid.

Not alone, we stand together,
wounded,
surely wounded,
sorely wounded,
wounded all, yet still we stand.

Not alone, we stand together,
laughing, weeping,
bound by hope
and filled with love.

Not alone we stand together,
for alone we could not stand.

26 July 2001
Colorado National Monument, Fruita, CO and Orem, UT
revised 15 February 2019
Manhattan, New York 

with thanks to Diana Cheifetz

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Filed under Friends, National Park, New York, Poem

Grandma Cao

I watched The Apology tonight on PBS. It is a harrowing story of sexual violence and of official denial and the refusal of people to acknowledge and address past wrongs. It is a story endurance and perserverance in the face of such violence–physical, social, and psychological.

The documentary “follows three former “comfort women” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Seventy years after their imprisonment, the survivors give their first-hand accounts of the truth for the record, seeking apology and the hope that this horrific chapter of history not be forgotten.”

I stand in awe of the grandmothers who tell their stories. Their courage and grace amazes me. I grieve for their experiences and for all the women who did not survive this violation. I am grateful for their willingness to share their stories and to filmaker Tiffany Hsiung and those who have captured and preserved their stories.

Grandma Cao, one of the women featured in the documentary, died on October 22.

Tiffany Hsiung has written a reflection on Grandma Cao, the grandmothers, and the realities of telling stories of sexual abuse and violence. The contemporary parallels are clear, painful, and instructive.

Here are some quotes:

It has been almost a decade since I first met Grandma Cao, and some other survivors of World War II. History might refer to them as “comfort women,” a euphemism given by the Japanese Imperial Army. But to me, they are “the grandmothers” and what started out as a journey to uncover these atrocities, soon turned into an exploration of one’s perseverance.

The grandmothers I interviewed told me that back in the old days — and even today — people will say things like, “Well, if it really happened then why didn’t you say something sooner?” Or, “The only reason you are saying this is because you want money and attention.” Sadly, this rhetoric is still often heard today as a defense when a woman publicly discloses her experience with sexual violence.

For many survivors, the decision to speak out is a daunting one. The thought of negative repercussions can be worse than burying it deep inside of you forever.

For victims of sexual violence, the biggest fear about speaking out is not being believed and, thereby, being re-victimized. Society has perpetuated a culture of shame that has resulted in decades, or even lifetimes, of silence for survivors of sexual violence. Something has to change.

Watch The Apology. Read Tiffany Hsiung’s article. Believe survivors. Break the culture of shame. Challenge rape culture. “Something has to change.”

See you along the Trail.

 

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Filed under Current Events, Human Rights, Movie

Holy ground

Last night, Friday October 19, 2018, I stood on holy ground.

The gathering took place at the Joel E. Smilow Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx. About 100 men of all ages gathered in the gym for a teen forum.

Teenagers sat in the bleachers. The elders, ranging from 30 to over 80 years old, sat in chairs on the gym floor facing the teens. There were fathers of some of the teens. At least one  grandfather. Staff from the club. Friends. Friends of friends.

Several men shared their stories. Stories of mistakes. Of keeping on in the aftermath of a son’s death. Of endurance. Of the values of freedom and equality. 44416412_10156534705201063_6388540716364070912_nOf despair. Of hope. Of redemption.

When they finished, the teens asked questions. Why should I stay in school? How do I stay strong? How do I avoid the trouble of the streets? What do I do when the trouble comes looking for me?

The elders answered honestly, speaking from their experience.

After two hours, the group stopped and shared dinner. One on one conversations took place in the dinner line and as they ate. The evening closed with a promise to meet again and to meet on a regular basis.

When they do, wherever they do, the ground will be holy.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Family, Friends, Human Rights, New York

Always smiles

photo (57)It rolls around again today as it does every year. Anniversaries have a way of doing that.

Some years it almost sneaks up on me and grabs me unaware. As if I could forget. As if I would forget if I could.

Other years, like this year, memories of the day enter my  consciousness well in advance. I have to consult the calendar to verify the date.

The pain has lessened some over the years. The empty, heartache remains.

Forty-two years ago today, my father died. A private pilot, he and another administrator were flying to Harrisburg to advocate for funding for the local school system.

Though they had tickets on a commercial airline, they decided that my father would fly. The plane went down near Emlenton, Pennsylvania, the crash site only located the next day. When I arrived at JFK a day later, after a college choir trip to Europe, family members met me and broke the news and shattered my heart.

Because grief lasts, I raise a glass to remember loses and acknowledge pains. And because love never ends, I raise a glass to give thanks and to celebrate love shared past, present, and future.  On this anniversary, I raise a glass to William Koenig, to his life, to the time, the far too short time, we shared. To music made well and badly. To tears and a multitude of remembered smiles. For some years there are tears, but always there are smiles.

Goodnight and joy be with you, Dad.

Goodnight and joy be with us all.

See you along the Trail.

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I saw joy

I was feeling grumpy.

OK, I was feeling grumpy-er. Always play to one’s strengths.

IMG-6692I was walking down Fifth Avenue, heading to Rockefeller Center.

Visitors to New York filled the sidewalk. They stopped in the middle and made quick turns. They abruptly countermarched, heading back uptown without warning.

My blood pressure rose. My ire increased. And then I saw her.

She sat in a wheel chair, looking at the lights and the sights.

I do not know her name and never learned her story. It was inappropriate to ask. But I wondered.

Was this her first time in New York – the culmination of a long-time dream?

Was she a long-time city resident?

Was this an annual visit?

In the end, the reason mattered not. All that mattered was her face.

She glowed. Amazement. Wonder. Delight. Many words could describe her face and bearing. But the one that works best for me, is joy. Simple joy. Pure joy. Unabashed joy. I have not seen such joy often, but I have seen it enough that I recognize it when I do.

I saw joy that day and I carried it in my heart to Rockefeller Center. I hope it showed, just a little, on my face.

See you along the trail.

P.S. – the photo was taken inside the Time Warner Center on the same day. I did not get any photos at Rockefeller Center. I will be back.

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Filed under Advent, New York, Photo