Friday, January 23, 2009

hello from God

Thursday morning. Running late for work. Why is this guy in front of me driving so slowly? These roads are awful, I can't believe they haven't plowed this yet. Use your turn signal, jerk!

Red light. Slam the brakes.

A block up, on the left, a flock of birds bursts like fireworks from the top of a building. Paints a dramatic curve across the sky. Loops back to the building where more birds join in. The avian ensemble twists back and forth, performing gorgeously, passionately, in a long swinging rhythm, never leaving my line of sight. I am transfixed. My heart is quieted, my hands unclenched.

At the very moment the light turns green, the birds settle gently back down on the building. The sky and the road are clear.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President -

Of course I got teary-eyed at your inauguration. I was actually running errands at the time so I listened to it on my car radio, but there I was in the parking lot of Hobby Lobby, hearing your first words as President, and sitting there a few extra minutes to listen, which I shouldn't have done because I didn't have much time and I ended up ten minutes late to work which made for a frustrating start to the afternoon - but I could hear in your words, and in your voice, the hope and passion that inspired so many of my friends and coworkers to vote for you.

I have to be honest, though, you didn't get my vote. Neither did McCain, actually. As a Catholic pro-life pacifist I don't quite feel represented in politics, ever. So I cast my votes for some local races and left the President part blank. I remember feeling a little awestruck in the dim room where I voted, looking at your name and McCain's, printed so starkly on the paper. I knew then, and I know now, that this moment is historic. I can feel it in my bones today, now that you've been sworn in - a curious, excited, apprehensive waiting. Where will we go from here? Where will this new leader lead us?

I know that you just don't get it about abortion, and that pains me. I am pretty concerned about what's next for unborn children, and I am going to be praying hard that somehow you receive the grace to understand what abortion really is. Because I think you've probably heard all the best arguments out there, and haven't been persuaded yet. So all we can do is pray for grace.

Apart from abortion, I'm kind of excited to see what you come up with. Is there really a way to solve the healthcare problem in America? Can we find a better way to teach our children? Can we do more to use our resources responsibly? Will we ever see the hardest workers in our country earn a living wage?

I'm kind of excited about all that. But let me tell you what I'm really excited about: Shreveport, Louisiana and South Side Indianapolis, Indiana. I forget about this sometimes when I listen to too much political stuff on the radio, but I just don't think the world is truly going to be changed by Washington, D.C. I think it will be changed by my friends.

Does that sound ridiculous? I guess it does. I guess it might be ridiculous. But seriously, Mr. President, you should see it in these neighborhoods. People are suffering there - from poverty, sickness, addiction, hatred, you name it. But here's what's happening - my friends are living there, and bringing Christ, and doing really concrete things like building houses, and teaching children, and building businesses, and showing love. And it's really changing things. People are being freed from the chains they've been in for years. Decades. That's what changing the world means.

You were a community organizer so I bet you're familiar with the principle of subsidiarity - that things ought to be handled on the lowest possible level. That's part of Catholic social teaching and I really think it's true - I guess because I think that real human interaction, and relationships, and love, are the only things that can really change someone's life. Better systems and policies are great, and I know a lot of people who rely on the safety nets that the government has in place, but when it comes down to it, a single mother's life is not going to be changed by the President, but by her next-door neighbor.

So even though my eyes were damp at noon today, and even though I will worry and hope and pray during your presidency, much more of my worry and hope and prayer and energy will be with my friends. And I'll keep hoping that more people will turn their eyes away from D.C. and toward their own neighborhoods. It's been cool to see people get excited about you, Mr. President, but it would be cooler to see them all change the world themselves.

Gotta go. I'm on my break but it's my late shift at the homeless shelter tonight, and I have a lot of work to do. Best of luck, Mr. President. You'll be in my prayers.