Our Neighbor’s Faith

When Donna and I joined a Lutheran Church in Northfield in 1977, the Pastor asked if I would help lead the Adult Forum for the coming year (which up to that point had been a Bible study – averaging a few people each Sunday).  I reluctantly agreed — on the condition that I decide on the program for the year.  The Pastor reluctantly agreed on the condition that he know what kind of program I contemplated.

So I picked a topic.  For the ensuing September – May, the Adult Forum series of our Church was titled “Our Neighbor’s Faith.”  Each week (or two) we would focus on a different faith traditions.  I brought in two Mormon couples, a Jewish rabbi, a Jesuit priest, two Jehovah’s Witnesses couples, a Salvation Army officer and so on.  All – coming in to tell us about their religious beliefs. 

By the time the year ended, average weekly attendance zoomed to 30 to 40 people.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses (I still have an audiotape – somewhere) drew more than 50.  Talk about interesting!  An abbondonza of questions, comments and and pointed observations.   For one group of visitors, I had to gently draw the line between proselytizing and informing.  I declined to take on the responsibility the following year (it was exhausting!) so the Church recruited a professor from the Lutheran School of Theology to lead the Adult Forum for the year.   I guess “Our Neighbor’s Faith” was a tough act to follow.  🙂    I continue to be interested (“fascinated” is probably a better word) in religion.  I have previously posted (January 30, 2012) on how the Archangel Gabriel has ministered to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons and Bahai.   The uber messenger.   To the children of Abraham.  Yet religion continues to unite — and divide — so many of us. 

Stop & Frisk

(A timely repeat from 8/23/13)

Years ago, when I was an Assistant States Attorney, I occasionally rode along with Chicago Police. One day, we were driving on West 18th Street. Suddenly, the officer in the front seat pointed at a car going in the opposite direction and hissed “They’re dirty.” We squealed a U-turn, going boots and saddles (lights and siren). The car stopped, officers hopped out – guns drawn. Pointed.  In the car were two gang bangers (both with records), drugs and two sawed off shotguns. I often wonder whose life was saved that day.

New York City’s murder rate fell from the thousands to a few hundred thanks to stop & frisk “with reasonable suspicion.”  The bad guys didn’t know when they’d be stopped so they weren’t packing.  Chicago on the other hand is the murder capital of the (un)civilized world. Thousands of shooting victims. Many innocent. Many spontaneous. Explosions of gunfire. Especially in poorer neighborhoods. But of course Chicago doesn’t have stop & frisk. As it “may offend.”  Result?  Gangs rule. Senseless violence. Mayhem. Butchery. Death. And Chicago slides into the abyss.

Police are not the problem. Criminals are the problem. The bad guys. Chicago gun laws are the most stringent in the country yet the bad guys have guns. But in Chicago, there’s no deterrent for the bad guys who carry them. And then use them.

Obviously it’s a tough situation. There are no easy solutions to this problem but ignoring stop & frisk as an option is madness. I cannot fathom the mindset of those misguided souls who oppose stop & frisk with reasonable suspicion. If they want to debate the statistics or the Fourth Amendment issues, they will lose.

Miles Ahead

[A repeat from September 3, 2015]  Donna and I were driving in Wisconsin with our 3-1/2 year old granddaughter.  We talked.  And talked. . . . .   There’ s a field of corn.” “There’s a field of wheat.” “Those are cherry trees.” “Look at the cows. They’re called Holsteins.”  Some terms we discussed in Spanish.  We went to a petting farm and fed the pigs and goats and cows. Learned about Texas longhorns, Brahma bulls, sunflowers, wells (complete with bucket), we counted bags of corn used to feed the goats and sheep, we looked at wild turkeys, discussed the purpose of silos, and . . . . . and on. And on.  All in one day. . . .

I pondered the fact that our granddaughter at age 3-1/2 is perhaps several miles ahead of disadvantaged kids — who do not have the “hands on” tutelage of parents, grandparents, caregivers and friends. I read an article that said that said that children from middle to upper socio-economic families will hear millions of words more than children born into poverty.  And this abbondanza of words forms a critical base for future learning, performance and advancement.   Add to this that children from middle and upper income families receive hundreds of thousands more affirmations of encouragement and fewer of discouragement (the reverse metric from welfare families).

Betty Hart and Todd Risley penned an incisive book on this vexing  situation:  The Early Catastrophe:  The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3.   The number of words a child hears in the first few years of life is tied directly to educational achievement.  And is inversely proportional to problems a child may encounter later in life.  The big question is what do we do about it?    


Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.  It is like the precious ointment upon the head . . . . and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion . . . .”  Psalm 133

In July 2015, I posted on attending the 100th anniversary of the Gamma Alpha Beta fraternity at Augustana College.   Many of the brothers from my era showed up.  We have remained a close-knit group since graduation. 

I wasn’t destined for college (see post of October 13, 2013).  My future was to work (assistant plumber) after high school.  Frankly, it’s a fluke that I even applied (after h.s. graduation) and got in to “college.”  And that I came to know my brothers. 

There are amazing memories and stories (most of which are gladly remembered — and a few that shall not be repeated).  One I personally relish is the dark night when my entire pledge class was corralled by police and taken off to jail (it was nothing serious).  One quick-witted pledge escaped detention by launching himself over a window well and clambering up onto a fire escape.   Yeah.  That was me. . . . 

The GAB’s won the Homecoming Sing with the ballad I sang to Lauren every night when she was little — “Oh Shenendoah.”   It was that song I picked for the Father-Daughter dance at her wedding (see post of August 14, 2011).  We had tears in our eyes as the music played.  It’s interesting how when you meet old friends, you pick up where you left off.    It’s as if time stands still and you’re back being 19 years old again.  In my brain, I’m still 19.  Now if only my body would cooperate . . . . .        


[A repeat from September 24, 2012] Sidewalks.   We walk on them – they serve their purpose.   Providing a durable and predictable path from Point A to Point B. 

When I walk to and from the train station, I keep an eye on where I’m walking — looking for cracks or holes in the sidewalk.  Or those slightly elevated slabs.   That habit has helped me avoid trips and twisted ankles and to find money, jewelry, wallets and such as I reported in my post of August 2, 2012.  While I walk, I also peruse those permanent stamped impressions identifying the contractor — and the year the sidewalk was laid down.

One stony sidewalk near my home bears the weathered yet clear date “1912.”  Wow!   A century.  As I walk from the train station to my office in downtown Chicago, I pass two such markings which go back decades.  One is 1935 — six years before the U.S. entered World War II.  Another is 1947 — the year I was born.  I think of my trips downtown — with my parents.  Years ago.  I’m sure I walked here.   Then.  My parents and grandparents and even great-grandparents probably walked on these same sidewalks.  And here I am today — sharing the same space.  Walking.  On the sidewalk.     


In my post of November 11, 2011, I mentioned an occasion when I was asked by a friend “what is your favorite day?”  Quirky question but I thought – and replied “Thanksgiving.”   It’s a long weekend.  Family time.  Great food (stuffing – my favorite).  Detroit Lions on t.v. (yawn).  Though this year it’s versus the Bears.  And Christmas is on the way.   Christmas??  YIKES!!  So I asked my friend his favorite day.  “December 21st” he responded.  The day of the winter solstice — when the days begin to get longer.  I can relate. . . . .     

Well, it’s another November.   Eight years later.  Wow!  The days are often slow.  And arduous.  But the years go quickly.  Faster it seems every year.    

I hope that Thanksgiving is a favorite day for you.  But Thanksgiving is more than just a day.  It can be an attitude as well.  An every day attitude.  Of gratitude.   My best wishes to you for a wonderful, happy and blessed Thanksgiving weekend.   

Heart Healthy

Donna and I went to a restaurant the other night. The menu was speckled with admonitions like:
 LC – Low Cholestorol
 HH – Heart Healthy
 LS – Low Sodium
 PF – Peanut Free                                                                                                           GF – Gluten Free                                                                                                          And so on

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see legends like FFF for “Fat Fat Fat” or HS for “Heart Stopper” or LC for “Loaded with Cholesterol” or MSS – “More Salt than Siberia.”  How about CG – “Calories Galore.”  I mean they put warnings on cigarettes (“you will die“) but the warnings on food rarely describe the destructive effects of salt and sugar and the artery-clogging and unbalanced nature of fast foods, red meats and genetically-modified foods.   

Then again . . . . Burger King has a “Rodeo King Burger” (1,480 calories; 2,340 grams of sodium) to which you can add fries and a Coke (another thousand calories).   And – if you can go next door for a Sonic Blast beverage, you  tack on 1,540 calories.  Frankly, when I order a couple of Triple Whoppers, I like them with bacon and cheddar fries.  I finish with a massive piece of cheesecake.  Yum.  I wash it all down with a cup of black coffee with NutraSweet (certainly not sugar).  Now that’s living.   (Yawn)  I think I’ll take a nap.