A Message from Amelia Earhart to the Women of the Future

Dear Sisters,

Dear Sisters,

You know me as a brash American flyer. And, yes, I set flying records. Yes, I championed the cause of women in aviation.  I was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the US mainland. Mostly, my flying has been solo, but the preparation for it wasn’t. Without my husband’s help and encouragement, I could not have achieved what I did. Ours was a contented and reasonable partnership, he with his solo jobs and I with mine. But always with work and play together, conducted under a satisfactory system of dual control.

But my greatest adventure – to circumnavigate the globe – was cut short in July of 1937.  Obviously I faced the possibility of not returning when first I considered going. Once faced and settled there really wasn’t any good reason to refer to it. The most effective way to take up a challenge or adventure, is to do it. One must plan thoughtfully and thoroughly. One must practice and perfect all skills. Then, one must take up the challenge and do it! Adventure is worthwhile in itself.

I will always cherish the vision of flying after midnight, the moon set, and I was alone with the stars. I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty, and I need no other flight to convince me that the reason flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the esthetic appeal of flying.  Flying might not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price

After I was lost over the Pacific, probably in near the Howland Island, the wreckage of my plane, my bones were never found. And so, for all of my accomplishments, for all of my achievements, I am remembered as the woman who was lost at sea.  

But I was so much more than that. I was a woman who relished beauty and adventure. I was a woman who believed that women, like men, should try to do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others.

And so I say to you, my sisters of the future, never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done. Watch them, learn from those who are doing. Use your fear, let it take you to the place where you store your courage. And then, FLY!

In memory of Amjad Farid Sabri

In the beginning, in the lands of southern Asia, there were the Riwat peoples. That seems to be as far back as we know. In the north of Pakistan there is evidence of a Paleolithic site, the Riwat, where people lived at least 45,000 years ago. That is a long time for threads of something like civilization to weave.

Over time the land came to be called India which at times included what we now know as Pakistan. Think civilization, culture, and conflict.

And then the British East India company said, let there be tea, and the sun of British colonialism rose over the India, and the British Empire brought its version of  western ‘civilization’ to the lands and the peoples of India, including what we now know as Pakistan.

And then Mahatma Gandhi and others stood up and said, “This land is our land.” And there was conflict, lots of conflict. Finally in 1947 the Union of India and the Dominion of Pakistan were created and gained their independence. This was followed by more conflict.

Throughout the lands there were Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Muslims.  And among these religions and peoples of peace there was conflict.

In Pakistan most of the people were followers of Islam, people we call Muslims. Among the followers of Islam, there are divisions. There are Sunni Muslims; Shi’ite Muslims; Sufis who some people understand to practice a mystical kind of Islam and who other people say do not practice Islam at all; Ahmadiyyas are an offshoot of Sunni Islam; Baha’is are an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. And, yes there is conflict between and among all of these groups, even as each of these groups practice a religion of peace.

Among the Suffi’s there is a devotional music known as qawwali. Qawwali emerges from the conviction that, before the majesty of God and the span of Creation, reason fails; only art, only music can possibly evoke the deepest feelings stirred in the human soul. So you have a musical form that reflects, in its very effect on you, the nature of faith as Muslims once believed it to be: A deep, romantic love, between a dependent human being, and an all-powerful Divine.

Those who sing in this tradition devote their lives to singing the praises of the prophet Muhammad, continuing the centuries-long tradition of musical veneration, Poetry, often Urdu or Punjabi, is set to music, usually in praise of God or the prophet Muhammad. A band of singers joins together to deliver songs that ecstatically convey the deep love of God, which classical Muslims expressed in secular metaphor: an intoxicating beloved, or an intoxicant itself. Masters of qawwali, known as “qawwals,” are world famous.

Amjad Farid Sabri born on 23 December 1970 in Pakistan. Following in the tradition of his father, he became one of the most famous qawwals in the world today. On 22 June 2016 he was on his way to a performance in Liaquatabad Town, Karachi, Pakistan when he was gunned down by two motorcyclists who claimed to be part of the Taliban. The Taliban have banned all music. They killed Amjad Farid Sabri because his singing violated their ban on music. I say let the music live!

Amjad Sabri was only 45 years old.  He was a man who devoted his life to the praise of his God and to peace. I expect that he had his flaws, he was human after all. But still, he was a human being doing his best, giving praise where he could, honoring the awe that surrounds us. And for the gift of his music, he was murdered.

This madness has to stop. Hatred never conquered hatred. Only love can conquer hate. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, and with you and with each of us. Let us each do one loving thing today in memory of all of the senseless conflict, violence and murder that is plaguing our world.

Let us remember, forgive, and do better. Let us all find a way to love our family, friends and neighbors, remembering that everyone is our neighbor.

Androcles and the Lion

Sometimes stories that are kind of old and maybe feeling a little worn out are still worth dusting off and looking over one more time – maybe even a couple more times. This story reminds me of the Eleanor Roosevelt quote that we should do at least one thing that frightens us every day. It also reminds me of the Good Samaritan Story (but that is a story for another day). And it also reminds me of the practice of paying it forward. But then it is really just a story about being kind. Or is it?

Once upon a time, it a land all too near to us, there was a slave named Androcles. One day Androcles managed to escape from his master. After Androcles made his way outside the master’s compound he fled into the forest. As he was wandering among the trees looking for a safe place to make a home for himself, he came upon a Lion who was lying under a lotus tree moaning and groaning.

When Androcles saw the lion he was about as scared as he had ever been. At first he turned to run for his life, but he notice that the Lion was not moving to chase him, so he turned back and went a little closer to the lion. When Androcles got closer the Lion put out his paw, which was all swollen and bleeding, and Androcles found that a huge thorn had got into it, and was causing the lion’s foot to swell and become so painful. Androcles took a deep breath, moved closer to the lion and ever so carefully, ever so gently he pulled out the thorn and bound up the lion’s paw.  After a day or so the lion was able to walk on his paw again, and he then licked Androcles’ hand of Androcles like a dog. Then the Lion took Androcles to his cave which they then shared.  When the lion had a successful hunt he would bring some of the meat back to the cave for Androcles to cook for himself.

But as we all know, life has both hills and valleys and all too soon the master’s soldiers found Androcles and they captured both him and the lion.

The master was angry with Androcles for escaping, and he wanted to make an example of him to the other slaves so that they would not attempt escaping, so Androcles was sentenced to be thrown into a pit with the lion, after the lion had been kept without food for several days. The master and all his court and all of the slave came to see the spectacle.

Androcles was led out into the middle of the arena. The hungry lion was let loose from his den, and rushed bounding and roaring towards his soon to be meal. But as soon as the lion came near to Androcles he recognized his friend, and fawned upon him, and licked his hands like a friendly dog. The master was stunned and ordered that Androcles be brought to him. Androcles told the master the whole story. The master’s heart softened when he heard about the relationship that had grown between his slave and the lion.  As he thought about Androcles act of bravery and kindness, and the lion’s response of appreciation, the master gave Androcles and the lion their freedom. Both of them were returned to the forest to live their lives in peace.


Hannah Arendt and Banality

There is something about the word banal. I just find myself liking the way it feels in my head, on my tongue. Banal – for an ordinary, common, cliché, overworked, overused, kind of word, there is just something about banal that feels fresh, original and interesting to me. But that probably has to do with my earliest substantive encounter with banal. I was introduced to the word through Hannah Arendt, and her use of the phrase “the banality of evil.”

Hannah was a Jewish German born political theorist. She escaped Europe during the Holocaust and became an American citizen. Her theoretical work dealt with the nature of power, democracy, authority and totalitarianism.

In 1961 she was working for the New Yorker, and was sent to observe the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Her observations and reporting evolved into the book: “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the Banality of Evil.”  That was where she coined the phrase “the banality of evil.” In the book she wondered if evil is always intentional, or if perhaps some people thoughtlessly obey orders or follow group opinions without critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inactions, none the less, leading to the perpetration of evil in the world.

Here are two of the many quotes from Hannah that resonate for me

The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.

So, for all of this? Let us always remember to be awake, to be aware, to think about the long and short term implications of our everyday actions. What we do, what we choose to do, it all makes a difference. Life lived fully, life lived well is anything but banal.



On Aging and Heaven

Yesterday MaryLou and I went to a ‘free lunch’ to hear about a program that provides in home services to senior citizens who cannot perform one of basic the activities of daily living (things like bathing, dressing, hygiene, transferring, walking, eating, shopping, cooking, managing medications, or managing finances). Well, it is true, there is no free lunch. It was a sales pitch for a kind of insurance program: you pay them lots of money and they provide a case manager who will see to it that you get the services you need in your home. Or so they promise. As the guy talked, I kept hearing this voice in my head saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

So we left the lunch feeling mopey, and wondering about how we will cope with those days when they come – the days when we can’t manage on our own, those days. Both of us are realistic and pragmatic enough to know that those days will inevitably come. We both have seen each of our four parents weather those days. And we were there for them. But … oops, we forgot to have kids! So, we know we have to figure something out, we need to have a plan, a backup plan, and a couple of contingency plans. At some point we will likely move into a condominium or town house, maybe down the road (way down the road) into an independent living senior community. But that is about as far as we have gotten in our planning. That and to say we – we as a society – we need better options and alternatives for the graying population who are moving ever more steadily into our golden years.

As I pondered the pragmatics, I eventually (OK, fairly quickly) found them too much, and so I retreated to philosophy and stories. And it occurred to me that the long and the short of it is that all that really matters is love and the love that we give and receive. The rest can be dealt with somehow, someway. And then I found myself thinking about how along with the vicissitudes of aging, so many of us fear death that great unknown. And THEN I remembered this story:

There was a 90 year old couple who died in a car crash after having been married nearly 70 years. They had been in relatively good health even the last 15 years mostly due to the wife’s insistence on healthy food, including liberal doses of bran and daily exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to the mansion which was to be their heavenly home. It had a beautiful state of the art kitchen, living room with a gianormous wide screen TV, luxurious bedroom, bathroom and spa. They oohed and aahed about their accommodations, and then the man asked St. Peter how much it was going to cost, and St. Peter, said, “this is heaven. It’s all free.”

Out behind the house was a lovely swimming pool and expansive gardens. The man asked St. Peter about the maintenance costs. And St. Peter said, “this is heaven, it is all taken care of for free.”

Then they went back into the house and the man looked in the refrigerator. It was stocked with all of his favorite foods, wines and deserts. The man reluctantly asked St. Peter where the low fat and low cholesterol foods were.

St. Peter laughed and said, “you are in heaven. That is the best part. You can eat as much as you like of whatever you like and you never put on weight and you never get sick. This is heaven.”

Hearing that the old man went into a fit of anger. He threw his hat on the floor and stomped on it shrieking. St. Peter tried to calm him down, and finally asked him what was wrong. The old man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault! If it were for your darned bran muffins and low fat yogurt, I could have been here 15 years ago!”


And so the story goes. Kind of makes the next life look pretty good. But who knows? There really is no way of knowing what comes next. And yet, we do all have our beliefs and hopes.  Here’s hoping that the best of all our hopes and beliefs do come true. And here’s hoping that when we all get to ‘those days’ the days were life here is a bit more demanding than our abilities, here’s hoping that we are able to find and manage the resources to life with dignity and grace.

Anyone have any plans you are willing to share?


On nurturing your dreams

I totally love James Taylor music. Totally. There is just something about the mellowness of his voice, the ease of his guitar playing. It just really mellows me out.

When we are puttering around Cape Cod, somehow I find myself liking him even more – maybe because he has a home on Martha’s Vineyard, an island right off the Cape, so the radio stations always feather his music into their play lists.

So, it did not surprise me at all that as we were thinking about packing to head up to the Cape I had this dream where I was talking to Mr. Taylor. Even in my dream, he was Mr. Taylor, I just couldn’t get ‘James’ out of my mouth. In my dream I was going on and on about how wonderful a musician he is, about how I totally love his music, his lyrics, his voice, his tone, his guitar playing, how easy he makes it look, all of it.  Eventually I took a breath and said to him, “I would give my life to be able to perform like you do.”

In my dream he smiled at me, looked me right in the eyes and said, “I did.”

And I woke up and thought, that’s it! That is just really it. If you want to be amazing at something, at anything, you have to give your life to it.

While some people putter around with this and that, puttering and looking to be comfortable, people like my dream James Taylor give their whole life to their craft, their art, their passion. And they do it hoping that they will succeed, knowing that they may fail, but responding with full open heart to their passion, bringing substance to their dream.

I wish for all of us the courage to live our best dreams!


So, tell me friends, what is your best dream? How have you nurtured it today?

On keeping your saw sharp

Well it seems that I am obsessed with balance these days. But not really. I just keep finding these stories, and they just seem so right.  This one comes to you from Paul Brian Campbell’s People for Others blog. It really is a wonderful blog to subscribe to – every morning he posts something wonderful. Sometimes a musical interlude, sometimes thoughts and reflections, sometimes a wisdom story that just makes me think.  Go check him out! http://peopleforothers.loyolapress.com/


It was the annual lumberjack competition and the final was between an older, experienced lumberjack and a younger, stronger lumberjack. The rule of the competition was quite simply who could fell the most trees in a day was the winner.

The younger lumberjack was full of enthusiasm and went off into the wood and set to work straight away. He worked all through the day and all through the night. As he worked, he could hear the older lumberjack working in another part of the forest and he felt more and more confident with every tree he felled that he would win. At regular intervals throughout the day, the noise of trees being felled coming from the other part of the forest would stop.

The younger lumberjack took heart from this, knowing that this meant the older lumberjack was taking a rest, whereas he could use his superior youth and strength and stamina to keep going. At the end of the competition, the younger lumberjack felt confident he had won. He looked in front of him at the piles of felled trees that were the result of his superhuman effort.

At the medal ceremony, he stood on the podium confident and expecting to be awarded the prize of champion lumberjack. Next to him stood the older lumberjack who looked surprisingly less exhausted than he felt. When the results were read out, he was devastated to hear that the older lumberjack had chopped down significantly more trees than he had. He turned to the older lumber jack and said: “How can this be? I heard you take a rest every hour and I worked continuously through the night. What’s more, I am stronger and fitter than you old man.”

The older lumberjack turned to him and said: “Every hour, I took a break to rest and sharpen my saw.”


Neuroplasticity and flying like and eagle

Neuroplasticity. It is an odd word, and an even odder word to use to begin a blog that promises in some kind of way to get around to social justice or human rights.  Neuroplasticity … plastic brain? Well, yes, kind of exactly. It is a newish area in brain studies that is very quietly shouting out that are brains are not as fixed as we were once told they were.  Remember high school biology class when we were taught that by then our brains were our brains and what you had was all that you were going to have? That drinking alcohol killed off brain cells, and so you should pretty much expect that drunk and stupid would inevitably go hand in hand? Well, now neuroscience is discovering that it ain’t necessarily so.

Now, I’m not saying drunk and stupid don’t go hand in hand, there is way too much evidence – scientific and anecdotal – to document that, but I am maybe saying it is the transient effect of the alcohol, not the permanent death of brain cells. But, wait, that is not really the point of this anyway. Back to neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity says that the brain is capable of healing itself, that the brain is capable of reshaping itself, literally so. If only we work at it diligently and in the right way. And isn’t is always the diligently and in the right way part that is the kick in the butt!  Trying something once, failing pitifully and giving up is no longer an options. Now it seems it really is much more that you have no longer failed so much as you have begun to succeed – if only you are willing to keep trying. And yes, trying with diligence and in the right way. Because, remember the definition of insanity: repeatedly doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results. And then there was Thomas Edison who would conduct thousands of experiments on an idea he had for an invention until he got it right. And that is the model here – Edison’s experiments: he would try something, fail, analyze the failure, learn from it, and then come back at it another way, tweaking (tweaking not twerking) until he got it right.

The road to social justice and human rights, the road to fairness and respect for human dignity is a long road, a very, very long road. But if we approach it with diligence and in the right way, maybe looking at all of our actions as experiments in the spirit of Thomas Edison, acting, analyzing the outcomes of our efforts, learning and trying again in a slightly different way, maybe there reason for hope!

And here’s a bit of a story I found that kind of gets to that point:

Once upon a time in a far off farm in rural New Jersey, Jessica found an eagle’s egg. She didn’t know what kind of an egg is was, she just saw that it was an orphan egg that needed a home. So she picked it up and carried it home with her. When she brought it in the house, her mother shoed her out, and told her to put the egg in one of the nests in the hen house. Together they would watch and see if one of the hens would sit on the egg until it hatched.

Well, sure enough in a little while the egg hatched, and a baby eagle was born.  The eaglet was born along with a whole brood of baby chicks and grew up with then in the barn yard.  From the time he was born, through all of his life, the eagle grew up with the chicks and did everything the chicks did right along with them.  They scratched in the dirt for worms and insects, he scratched in the dirt for worms and insects. They clucked and cackled, and he clucked and cackled. They would flap their wings and fly a few feet into the air, he would flap his wings and fly just a few feet into the air.

Some years passed like this, with Jessica and her mother always keeping a close eye on the young eagle and the chickens in the yard. One day an old college friend of Jessica’s mother, Anna who worked for the Audubon Society came by the farm to visit. When she saw the eagle in the barn yard in the middle of the chickens, she was aghast.  Her first reaction was to ask if the animal was ill or injured, but it looked healthy to her. Jessica and her mother told Anna the story about the egg and the eagle growing up with the chickens, Anna got very quiet and thoughtful.  Then she proposed a road trip to Jessica and her mother, and the three of them packed a lunch and drove to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary across the river in Pennsylvania. As they walked the trails there, the three of them talked about birds and freedom. Over the horizons they saw six or seven different kinds of hawks, a kestrel, and even an eagle or two. As they drove home, Anna looked at Jessica and her mother and said, that is what an eagle’s life should be like, not scratching for bugs in the dirt.

Jessica and her mother thought about it, and realized that Anna was right, but what could they do about it? Their eagle didn’t know how to fly, not any distance, not really. But they recognized right when they saw it, and so the two of them devised a plan to teach their eagle to fly. Each day they would take the eagle to a ledge, each day slightly higher than the day before, first a table top, then a ladder, then a low roof. Each day repeatedly they would stand the eagle on the edge of the ledge and encourage him to fly. The first day the eagle fell as much as he flew, but with practice and as his wings strengthened, the eagle developed skill and confidence. And then the day came when Jessica and her mother knew it was time. They gathered their eagle into a cage, drove to Hawk Mountain, walked to the edge of one of the cliffs, and set their eagle free. As he stood on the edge of the cliff, the eagle spread his wings, lifted his head into the wind, and few off with the wind to the life he was meant to live.

Of course Jessica and her mother were sad to see their beautiful bird leave their nest. But every now and again, they are fairly certain that they see a magnificent eagle circling over their farm, floating on the winds in majestic and regal freedom and dignity.  And in those moments they feel like they too share in their eagle’s freedom.

And the point of the story? Finding your nature and living it, of course. But also that it took diligence and determination, persistent and intelligent work to make it happen.

So, may we all find our best wings! And may we all develop the resilience to learn to use them to fly!! May we all remember that even the brains of old dogs are plastic enough to always learn new tricks.

What’s a Mother to do? The Days After Mother’s Day

Happy belated Mother’s Day one and all!  Because even if we have not given birth, we are all some kind of mother (put the accent where you will), we are all mother’s of invention.

I recently read a blog by a friend of mine, and she got me thinking about this question: What would YOU do to save your son or daughter in a moment when he or she might be putting herself/himself in harms way?

Far too many of our sons and daughters are subject to random acts of violence and senseless acts of cruelty.  There are not enough random acts of kindness nor senseless acts of beauty to balance the scales of any act of violence or cruelty and there have been far too many acts of violence and cruelty of late. My friend Rosi is right when she says we need to change the social structures. We need to build families, churches, governments, workplaces, media, social welfare systems that foster human dignity, growth and potential, that enable people to empower themselves. And I think we also, concurrently, need to change hearts, minds and actions on the interpersonal, ordinary day level so that the building of those new social structures is conceived in love, dignity and compassion.  And, I think Mother’s Love is just a fine foundation upon which to build all of that.

Here is the blog that spurred my thinking. It comes to us from

CHARLEENALDERFER familygram’s blog https://charleenalderfer.wordpress.com/2015/05/06/whats-a-mother-to-do/.

She posted it on May 6, 2015. I thought it would be appropriate to share it today, the day after Mother’s Day.

Thank You Charleen!


A tall, young black male enters the frame.  He wears a hoodie and jeans and carries the ubiquitous backpack.  He turns occasionally and looks back toward the camera.  In the background is a large gathering of people.  He seems to be headed in their direction. Suddenly, a woman dressed in yellow appears in the frame.  She is moving quickly in the direction of the young man.  While clearly older than he is, she is both matronly and attractive.  Intuitively, one knows she is his mother.  As she closes the distance between them, he continues at his same pace still turning to look toward her.  When she is close enough, she grabs his hoodie and he pulls away.  It is evident that he does not want to do what she is asking.  He reaches out and she grabs his arm with one hand and with other hits him on the head.  Now, we think, he will pull free and run.  But he does not run,.  He continues to resist.  The tug of war goes on and then, slowly, he goes with her.

This street in Baltimore has been in the news for the last few weeks.  It has been the scene of protests, both peaceful a violent. This young man was going to join the protestors in a setting which had turned toward violence. His mother saw him while watching the activity on TV.  She acted on her emotion and her instinct and ran after him to bring him home.  “Violence breeds violence” has been another kind criticism.  Hitting him just perpetuates violence. As a family therapist, I believe this is true if it is persistent and becomes a way of life.  We don’t know if this is the case for this mother and son.

If that were my son, I would do whatever it takes to get him.  My first thought would be that he might become Freddie Gray –   arrested and fatally injured in a police van.  My next thought would be to get him away from angry protesters who could convince him to join them.  I would want him home and safe.  What would a mother do to make that happen?  A slap on the side of the head got his attention.  The truth is that he didn’t resist that much.  He didn’t fight back, he didn’t try to run and he didn’t hit his mother. He could have done any of those things; he could even have pushed her down.  he was bigger, stronger, younger. Instead, he went with her.  Think about it.  What you do to save your son in that moment?


Thinking about money & suspending purchases

A little ago I was driving along the New Jersey Parkway and I came to one of the inevitable toll booths. So, I got my money out, rolled down my window, pulled up and reached out to hand the toll collector the money. She grinned at me, shook her head and said that the person in the car in front of me had already paid my toll. I was kind of mildly stunned. I mean you hear about people doing that kind of thing, but it doesn’t happen to me! So I drove off surprised and smiling. I smiled most of that day and into the next. Then, of course having strong and deep Catholic roots, I woke up and thought, “You damn fool! You should have paid for the car behind you! You should have kept the joy rolling. Damn what a dolt I can be!” And my overdeveloped Catholic guilt crept in and threatened to trash the glow I still had from the gift. And so I resolved to pay it forward the next time I’m on the parkway – and I even put a note in my car in the coin box to remind myself!

Then I remembered a day when I was driving along route 57 in New Jersey on my way to a graduate class at Marywood College in Scranton, PA. There in this small little town that I drove through every week were some guys alongside the road holding white plastic buckets and taking up a collection. Now, I don’t know about you, but where I come from the local volunteer fire departments do this once or twice a year. So I dug down deep into my pocket and pulled out a quarter (this was in the 1970’s and I was a graduate students, so that was big money for me) and I plunked my money into the man’s bucket. As I dropped the quarter into the bucket, I saw the KKK patch on his shirt. UGH. What had I done! I had just given money to a hate group, a hate group that I very much hated. UGH. Double UGH. I felt angry with myself. I felt deceived. I felt like I wanted to, needed to, take a shower. But I kept on driving, went to class, came home, and wrote a check for $5.00 to the United Negro College Fund (remember it was still the 1970’s and I was still a graduate student, so this was really, really big money). I figured this was one time when Martin Luther and his protest against the Roman Catholic practice of buying indulgences could be set aside.

Then I remembered a group in a gay bar that organized a fund raiser concurrent with a picketing event by Fred Phelps and some of his people from the Westboro Baptist Church. Fred Phelps and his people were our carrying their virulent anti-gay signs, demonstrating against something or other as they were wont to do. The group in the bar got people to pledge money, so much per quarter hour that Phelps and his people demonstrated, kind of like you do for people who are participating in a benefit walk, only in this case all of the money raised would go to a local pro-gay advocacy group. So, there was this beautiful ironic paradox – the longer Phelps and his people demonstrated against gay folks, the more the local gay group would benefit! Nice.


And then today I was surfing the internet and I found this story about some people who walked into a coffee shop, and as they were standing in line, they heard the folks ahead of them order five coffees, two for them, and three suspend.  As they waited in the line, a few orders later a small group of women ordered eight coffees, one for each of them, and four suspended.

When the new comers placed their order, they asked the barista what ‘suspended’ coffee was. The barista chuckled and asked if there coffee was for there or to go. They said they would be drinking the coffee there. The barista said, “ok, take a table close to the counter and watch.” So they did.

The new folks took a table that was near the counter and had a view of the stream behind the café. They enjoyed their coffees and some conversation for a while. People came, placed their orders, some sat and drank their coffee, some took their coffee to go, quite a few place orders that included suspended coffee, and occasionally a suspended sandwich or soup.

Then just as they were about to leave, wondering what they were supposed to be waiting for, a man dressed in shabby clothes who looked like he could be homeless came in and asked, “do you have a suspended coffee?”

And it dawned on the two visitors, people paid in advance for a coffee or sandwich or bowl of soup that they intended to be held in reserve for someone who could not afford a warm beverage or a meal. Nice.

It is not a solution. Maybe it is not even a step in the right direction. It surely does not address any of the systemic, structural problems that cause and perpetuate poverty. But it does give some comfort and nurturance to individuals in the moment. And that is both necessary and nice too.

Four little stories about money and what we do with it, about what we can do with it. How we spend our money can make a difference, it can bring unexpected joy to someone, it can advance justice, and it can bring comfort. Or not. Think before you spend. Frivolous spending can be a good thing if you do it in the right way, at the right time. Planful, intentional spending can be a very good thing, if you do it in the right way, at the right time. And I don’t know when there is a wrong time to invest in a good cause (as long as you have paid the bills and have purchased enough food to stay healthy and enough books to keep your brain alive).