Streetwise

[A repeat from March 18, 2013 – and Manual still stands there – every day]

Every day when I walk to work, there is a gentleman standing in front of the Corner Bakery across from my building.  He sells Streetwise — a weekly publication.  Manuel uses crutches to walk but he stands guard outside the CB from early morning until about noon.    Rain or shine.  I often stop and exchange a few words with him and ask him how he’s doing.  And I buy a copy of Streetwise once a weekStreetwise sells for two dollars though my math is not always good.

Streetwise was started in Chicago in 1992 by Chicago lawyer Judd Lofchie   The mission of Streetwise is to assist Chicago area men and women, who are facing homelessness, to achieve personal stability by providing them with a combination of supportive social services and immediate access to gainful employment.  Streetwise vendors are usually trying to make a go of it.  They are not to be confused with panhandlers. 

In my post of July 11, 2012, I wrote about Henry Nouwen – the great religious/spiritual writer.  Henry Nouwen in his treatise Out of Solitude wrote “The temptation is that we use our expertise to keep a safe distance from that which really matters and forget that, in the long run, cure without care is more harmful than helpful.”   Streetwise seems to be on the right track — offering cure, the all-important care — and a strong dose of compassion.   

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Setting a Bad Example

(A repeat from January 27, 2013)

My daughter Lauren was about 3 years old.   I remember the moment.  It was a sunny day.  We were standing on a bridge looking down on a bubbling stream.  Several rocks jutted out from the rushing water — just below the bridge.  

Now understand that when a guy is standing on a bridge, looking down, there is a genetic hardwiring that impulses him to do something.   Spit.  So, without thinking,  I did and hit a rock down below.  Lauren thought this was really neat.  Lauren giggled and she puckered her lips and began drooling royally.   Smiles.  🙂  Laughs.  🙂 More drool.   “Noooo Sweetheart.  This way — ‘pffft’.”  And I hit the rock again.   More drool.  Laughs.  Smiles.  More drool.  Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.  I guess it really is a guy thing. . . . . (sigh). . . . .

It’s Never Just a Ride

I frequently take taxis.  And I have concluded that most Chicago taxi drivers are from Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Ghana. A smaller number are from Somalia and Ethiopia. And there is a crop of young drivers who are from the Transylvania region of Romania. It is my custom whenever I get in a taxi to never allow it to be “just a ride.”  I turn my cab ride into a tutorial.  After all . . . . . why not?   

Upon closing the door, I’ll ask “how’s business”? That usually prompts a response.   If I can identify the driver’s name or accent, I offer a few words in their language.  With the Pakistanis, Indians and Somalis (who are nearly all Muslim), I start talking religion.  We discuss the Quran (I have a copy – with the Bible – by the bed) and the Pillars of Islam.   And when quoting surras, I have gotten long looks in the rear view mirror and an occasional free ride (“please Sir – this ride is on me“).  

We discuss the similarities of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. We are all children of Abraham (which makes us all cousins).  After all Jews and Christians are Ahl al-Kitab (“People of the Book“) for whom Mohammed instructs tolerance.  Then there is the Quran’s acknowledgment that all are born in innocence. This preamble usually opens the floodgate for comments. And I sit back and listen.  We share the lament that the vast majority of victims of Boko Haram, ISIS, the Taliban, al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda are Muslim.  Upon leaving the cab, I will offer Assalamu Alaikum (“peace be unto you“) and always receive back Wa-Alaikum Assalaam (“and peace unto you“). 

From the Horn of Africa people, I learn of the sectarian strife and territorial conflicts in Eritrea, Somalia, Ethipia and Somaliland.   From the Nigerians it is fascinating to hear of the tribal tensions among Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo (Ibo).  And from the Romanians, I learn of struggles with school and advancing careers.    For me, sitting in a taxi is neverjust a ride.”    

A Culture of Violence

On Saturday mornings when I was growing up, I could watch one hour of television.  I was not allowed to watch “Superman” (the old one with George Reeves) because my mother thought it was “too violent.”  So I usually picked “Mighty Mouse” and “Sky King.”  On Saturday nights, I sometimes watched “Have Gun Will Travel” and “Gunsmoke” with my father.   In the old Westerns, if a bad guy was shot, he’d fall down.  Narry a drop of blood.  No coughing.  No twitching.  No movement.  And no gloating.   

In 1969, Sam Peckinpah ended that age of innocence with his iconic “The Wild Bunch” in which blood flowed in rivers and the carnage was suffocating.  I remember seeing the movie and going “whoa!” 

Today we accept that young people can watch movies that glorify horror, death, murder and fear.  They play (often for hours on end) the most violent, brutal, cruel and bloody video games.   Killing.  Burning.  Defiling.  Bombing.  There is the scalding inhumanity of and bloodlust for ultimate fighting and the degrading and debasing reality television shows where manipulation and back-stabbing win.  Hollywood sinks lower.  And lower.  And discourse more hateful.  But – hey – don’t you dare try and impose your values on anyone.   There is no “right” or “wrong.”  Don’t even think of mentioning the word “God” in school or a public place.   And heaven help you if you bring a Bible to school.   The ACLU and secular “progressives” (who want to impose their distorted values on you) will sue you, condemn you and run you out of town under the guise of safeguarding liberty.   

When you see the horrific violence that we as a Society wreak upon ourselves, I have to wonder if this new casual acceptance of violence and debasement of traditional values — don’t invite it. . . . .

The 1000 Pound Man

(A repeat from October 20, 2013)

The heaviest person in the world weighs 1,076 pounds. He is about 5 feet 8 inches “tall.” The regulation National Hockey League goal is 6 feet by 4 feet.   You see where I’m going?? 

I have long felt that the Chicago Blackhawks could win the Stanley Cup every year by simply recruiting the largest people in the world to be the goalies.  You upholster them in padding, mask and protective gear, give them a stick and stuff them into the goal and let them take a nap. Every shot on goal would simply bounce off the goalie. Defense would become a thing of the past. The goalie would go into the history books and the Blackhawks would win the Stanley Cup every year.

The only “hitch” would be that other teams might start recruiting similarly-endowed goalies.  Games would typically end 0 to 0.  Shootouts in overtime could go on for years . . . .

Divots

One of my golfing pals responded to my commentary on Locard’s Exchange Principle with one word. “Divots.” Meaning – divots on the golf course bear silent witness to the golf shots of times past. Every fairway and green is littered with “traces” of those that pass.  Divots.  Impact marks.  Broken tees.  Balls in the water.  Beer bottles.  Snickers wrappers.  My 5 iron wrapped around a tree. . . . . Which reminds me of my post of November 9, 2014, titled “Mulligans.”      

When I’m with my buds on the golf course and we tee off on the first hole, a “Mulligan” is frequently offered for an errant tee shot. It often happens on the first tee. On the drive. We call it a “breakfast ball.” It’s a do-over.  Even if we’re playing for a few coins it’s “hit another – nobody saw that first one.”  During the round – a Mulligan may also be given (except on the green). A do-over. . . . .

Wouldn’t it be nice if in life we had do-overs? Mulligans? For errant words or deeds.  Or behavior.  We do in a way though the granting of a do-over lies in the province of the recipient – or arbiter – of the errant words or deeds. In a way, it might be called “forgiveness.”  I am confident that we all have things we’d like to do over.  And we’re all grateful for the granting of forgiveness (or lack of ill consequence).  I’m sorry . . . . It’s okay.  No worries.  I know I’ve said some hurtful (and dumb) things and done some even dumber ones that I’d like to call back.  But in the words of the great poet Omar Khayyam:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

Our futures are for the most part in our own hands.  The “moving finger” business is probably a good reason to think before we act — or speak.  And knowing of our own fallibility – and frailty – better reason to be generous with the granting of Mulligans to others.  It’s okay.  No worries.   

Locard’s Exchange Principle

A crime. No leads. Police and investigators pick through the scene. Ask questions. Examine the scene again.  Look.  Study.  Listen.  Sniff.  Search. And solve. Often thanks to Dr. Edmond Locard (1877-1966) – a pioneer in forensic science.  Dr. Locard (known as the French Sherlock Holmes) developed a basic principle of forensics that “every contact leaves a trace.”  Writer Paul Kirk in 1953 described Locard’s Exchange Principle as: “Wherever he steps [or] whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, will serve as a silent witness against him. . . . .”  In other words, the occasion of every crime – leaves behind traces of the criminal.  And thus a means for solving the case. . . . .

Locard’s Exchange Principle applies to life in general.  As we wander through our daily lives, wherever we walk, stand, sit or set foot, we leave behind a part of us.  Whoever we talk to, cross paths with or acknowledge, we leave a trace.   Of our presence.  The trace can be positive or negative.  A sharing of concern, love or sympathy.  Or it might be anger, distraction or inattention.  But as we move on this journey, whether we like it or not, there is a forensic trail.  That bears witness.   The traces we leave behind as we shuffle from one day to the next may not mean much to us.  But they could mean everything to someone else.   

Mother Teresa once said “Kind words can be short and easy to speak.  But their echoes are truly endless.”  Actions leave echoes too.  And attitudes.  What traces are you leaving behind?