I'm back!!!!! My computer had been sputtering for sometime, but I was determined to get every last breath out of it, but when only a white screen appeared, I knew it was time. Now with a new computer after six to eight years on my old one, there is a tremendous learning curve.
I went to the Southern Festival of Books this weekend. I absolutely love this event. I clear my October weekends in preparation for it. There were over one hundred authors present. Many of then have a session where they talk about their latest project and answer questions. And, of course they sell books! What's not to like?
One of my favorite southern authors is Rick Bragg. If you have not read "All Over But the Shoutin'", you should. I bought his new book about the life of Jerry Lee Lewis. I'm not really crazy to read about his life but Rick Bragg's prose is almost poetic and so I will read anything that he writes.
I stood in line to have it autographed. And, what I thought would be a long boring wait, turned into a very interesting turn of events. Strangers in line began to talk. We began to share our hero worship of Rick Bragg but somehow the conversation took a turn when one lady that I'll call the church lady, started complaining about minimum wage employees like baggers at the grocery or store clerks.
She went on a rant, "There is just no work ethic anymore. They ignore you and have those ear buds in while they are working. I was taught better than that."
Another lady in line whom I'll call Compassionate Lady, tried to explain, "well things are different, many of the minimum wage jobs are people who might not have been blessed to come from a family who taught them some basic skills."
The Church Lady went on to say, "well I just don't understand when you come from the richest nation in the world, that those poor people (she said with air quotes) don't just pull themselves up by the bootstraps like my grandparents did."
Almost in unison, me, Compassionate Lady, a man who had been talking with her said, "it doesn't have anything to do with money."
Bam! I couldn't believe it. With my new post addiction heart, I am rarely in a majority. The three of us began chatting away. The man turned out to be a health reporter who also volunteers at a women's prison in Oregon where he is from.
Reporter began talking about a study done that speaks to how hard this new poverty that we face in this country is to overcome. Mother Teresa herself said that it is easy to feed the hungry but the poverty in America is quite different and much more difficult to overcome.
When he learned that I also volunteer in a county jail our conversation turned to our experiences there. He was sickened by the number of women who are incarcerated that were sexually abused and don't know it. Reporter explained how the definition of sexual abuse needs to widen. I told him about one lady who said that when she was twelve years old "she let" a seventeen year old have sex with her so she guesses it's her fault. He told me about an inmate who at fourteen years old "seduced" her stepfather. They both wonder what is wrong with them that they would do such a thing.
We've separated and segregated ourselves so much that we as a people don't know or want to know what is going on in our own backyards. I call the lady who initiated our conversation by complaining, Church Lady because she first told us about all of the "good things" she does for her church. But, then, is quick to judge and wring her hands over the way the poor bags her groceries.
I was the Church Lady before. I don't have a right to stand in judgment of her. But, like any addict who goes into recovery, I too, had a conversion. I like to follow the tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola who lives by the simple idea of "Seeing God in All Things".
There is beauty in going to the hard places and seeing hard things. It is a paradox that is taught by St. Ignatius, St. Francis, twelve step recovery groups and most religions. But, oddly enough you see it in practice in a twelve step group in a beautiful way that our churches could take a lesson from.
Seeing what I have always seen but with new eyes still shocks me sometimes. But, it gives me a purpose. I can be one changed voice. That's all that I have to do. Perhaps it will ripple.....I can only pray.
Praying for Henry and many, many others.