June

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit.
A new month starts,
with the leaves
and heat
of summer
as the seedlings grow larger.

Each new year,
each new month,
each new day
is a chance
to turn over a new leaf,
as the old leaves pile up
each fall
on our yards.

We rake these new leaves
into giant piles
and leap into them
as last gasps
of joy
before the winter comes.

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Asking Questions about Race

“Sometimes what matters is asking the question.” It was a comment made at a conference on Christian mission I was at a few months ago that particularly caught my attention. After the conference I gathered with a group of people who had attended the 2016 Trinity Institute conference on Racial Justice. We have been meeting to find concrete ways in which the Episcopal Church in Connecticut can help work for racial justice.

Based on my experiences as a Health Leadership Fellow with the Connecticut Health Foundation and as a candidate for State Representative in 2012 and 2014 who tried to talk about race issues, especially around health disparities, it seems like one of the biggest challenges is to get people to stop and think seriously about racism.

Many people I’ve spoken with seem to think that as long as they don’t have a Confederate flag on their vehicle and as long as they don’t say certain offensive words, racism doesn’t really have much to do with them. To me, an important starting point is to get people to think a little more broadly about racism.

I like to start by talking about racism in terms of prejudice and power and exploring different types or aspects of racism such as individual or internalized racism, interpersonal racism, institutional racism and structural racism. A good explanation of some of these concepts, together with some important links can be found in Race and Racism

How do we raise awareness about these aspects of racism? Often, I find myself a white man in groups that are predominantly women of color. The discussions about raising awareness seem mostly to be preaching to the choir. How do we get folks going to predominantly white churches on Sunday morning to confront “the sin of racism”, what we have done and left undone, in thought, word, and deed, not loving our neighbors as ourselves.

I hope the group of Episcopalians I’m part of can help get this message beyond just the choir.

How can we do this? It seems like an important starting point is simply listening. Where do we see racism? Where do we see opportunities to talk about racism, to raise awareness?

A concrete request from our last meeting was to ask one person how racism impacts their lives.

“Sometimes what matters is asking the question.”

So, I asked that question in a blog post a little over a month ago. I didn’t get a lot of replies, although one good friend, another Health Leadership Fellow with the CT Health Foundation, shared my post and broadened the discussion a little. Perhaps a lot of people aren’t comfortable talking about race. It sure seemed that way when I was running for State Representative. Perhaps a lot of people aren’t even able to think about how racism relates to their own lives. Trust me, it does.

So, the question is still out there, how does racism impact your life? Where are the places we can build bridges and work together for racial justice? Can we draw together urban and suburban churches? Episcopalians, Methodists, AME, and others?

One True Love

You were the one
I wanted to catch
and be caught by
when playing
Marco Pool
at the town pool
water dripping down
your laughing face
and arms
but I didn’t see you.

You were the one
I wanted to chase
and be chased by
during those games of tag
in the playgrounds
of my childhood
but you weren’t there.

You were the one
I wanted to discover
and be discovered by
on those
summer trips
of adventure and learning
when I climbed on
the dinosaurs
in the park
at the museum
but you must have left
or not yet arrived.

Across the gym floor
at the junior high dances
where only the cool kids
actually danced
I looked for you
from the boys side
over to the girls side
hoping to see you
hoping to be seen by you
hoping to find the courage
to cross the floor
and ask for a dance
and hoping
you would say yes,
but junior high dances
were nearly universal
disappointments.

On prom night
I went to the local
pizza joint
hoping to see you
hoping you would want
to see me
as we sat with our friends
exiled from the prom.

When I was finally
out on my own
and heading to bars
after work
to drink and dance
with co-workers
you were the one
I scanned the crowd for
hoping for romance.

Years later
after we both had failed marriages
under our belts
you were the one
I tried to find
amidst the hundreds
if not thousands
of online personals.

Now
our daughter
is going to
those junior high dances
and I hope
she’ll find her
one true love
after grad school
as we grow old
together.

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Stalwarts of the Twentieth Century

A former boss always told me I was great at writing eulogies. Perhaps it is because I have had so many chances. At times, it has seemed as if my wife and I have been to more wakes than dates. The deaths often come in groups. Many people say they come in threes, but it seems like for me the groups are often larger.

A few weeks ago, the former head of human resources at CHC passed away. Here is Mark Masselli’s post about David Landsberg. I went to the wake and hoped, maybe this time, it wouldn’t be the beginning of a new group of deaths. However, I knew better. I knew of others in hospice.

Things remained relatively quiet until Friday of last weekend. The grandfather a young girl at church passed away. One of her friends told me that her friend was said about her grandfather dying. The following day, the grandmother of my two oldest daughters passed away.

I was never very close to my first wife’s mother. She was very strong willed, as am I, and often those wills clashed. She came from a very different world than I did, the upper middle class Midwest. She did a lot in her community and was loved by many. Her obituary describes many of her accomplishments. In many ways, it seems, hers was the life of Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt, a novel he published the year after her birth, hers was the world that predated Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone”.

Then, on Sunday morning, George Wildman passed away. George was the father of a friend from church. He was an artist who drew Popeye and the hidden pictures I looked for as kid in Highlights magazine. George served in the Navy. He was an Elk and a Mason and played the saxophone. He also symbolized mid twentieth century America.

On Wednesday, I learned that Marcia Moody had died. I first met Marcia in 2004 during Gov. Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. John Nichols summed up Marcia’s politics this way:

While she delighted in discourse and befriended Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Greens, Marcia was a passionate progressive. And she had a sense of right and wrong that made her an ardent foe of big-money in politics, lobbyist abuses, and influence peddling.

She embodied the ideal of American politics, something those longing for mid twentieth century America think might have been the case looking back through rosy colored glasses at earlier times.

Thursday. I got to a midday Eucharist which is attended mostly by the Episcopal Church Women stalwarts who serve on the altar guild and similar ministries. I was planning on going to the wake for George in the evening so I vacillated about whether to go to the midday service. I ended up going, and when I got there, I was informed that Joan had died unexpectedly. Joan was one of the regulars at the midday service. She was always there helping, preparing food for events making sure the linens for the altar were clean. Mostly, we sat around and talked about the great things she had done for the church.

It has been a few days since I learned of the death of all these stalwarts of the mid twentieth century. The other crises in my life also seem to be ebbing, so I’m hoping for a little quiet time of reflection before life’s next set of surprises come.

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ADHD

It must be difficult,
he thought to himself
as he walked down the street
past the park
where he saw
squirrels
chasing one another,
to have ones attention
limited
to a single thought.

As he found himself
looking
at the flecks of sunlight,
bright and shiny,
dancing
in the splashing water
of the fountain
he wondered
how those
too busy
to see
these jewels
managed to keep going.

He stepped up his pace
to that of a New Yorker
late for a meeting
smiling
at the young mother
who watched the world
through red rimmed eyes
and the old homeless man
whose hand
shook
every so slightly
with each drink he took.

As he weaved
in and out
of the crowd
in his quickened pace
he wondered
how best
to address
the needs of underserved students
with ADHD,
the topic
of the coming meeting.

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