Grateful, not proud



I am grateful to be an American. My citizenship has given me many privileges, particularly because I am straight, white, Christian, able bodied, and was born into a well educated and employed family.

I am grateful for the willing sacrifices many have made to provide my lifestyle.

I am pained by the involuntary sacrifices that have led to my position of privilege. And, so, though grateful, I am not proud.

I am not proud of the way our settlers took land from Native Americans through bloodshed and injustice. I am not proud of the way the country was built by slave labor, and continues to be maintained by slave labor. I am not proud of how long women’s rights have taken to progress or that we still do not pay women equally to men. I am not proud of the inequity in our schools, neighborhoods, hospitals and prisons. I am not proud of the way we treat those who are differently abled of body and mind. I am not proud of the violence and death that has maintained American’s perceived power in the world.

I am inspired by the resilience and persistence of the oppressed.

I am motivated to listen more to those who are limited by systemic inequity, and learn how best I can support empowerment.

I am confident that we can do better.

I am hopeful to be a good citizen of the world.


I participate in evil every single day.


I participate in evil every single day.

I eat food that has been produced by the hands of those working in unsafe conditions for unfair wages, on land that is poorly cared for in order to maximize profit. Many of my toiletries are packaged in plastics that kill sea life and pollute our water. Some of the clothes I wear are no doubt made in sweatshops by small children. And, I have more than I need to wear while other people are cold. I have a spare bedroom, and yet people sleep on the sidewalk on my block every single night. I drive a car that uses more gas than necessary and pollutes the air around me. I take medication produced by an unethical pharmaceutical industry, and I benefit from research completed at the expense of animals who are tortured.


I constantly benefit from racism and classism. I use infrastructure that was built by slave labor on land that was unjustly and violently taken away from Native Americans. And, I grew up with an excellent education in affluent suburbs where my IQ was not damaged as a child by lead in my water or my paint. This enabled me access to further education which makes it possible for me to earn more money and have more power. And, I could go on.

I also participate in the grace of God every day.

Otherwise, I could not lift my head off my pillow in the morning. By the grace of God, I continue to have a sense of self- worth and sense of meaning and purpose in my life. By the grace of God I trust that despite all this evil, I am loved. By the grace of God, I see opportunities to chip away at the bad in the world, and to contribute to all of the good. By the grace of God I have experienced the momentum of justice and peace and so I believe there is hope for us all. By the grace of God I have been inspired by gifted leaders to think creatively and compassionately about the world around me. By the grace of God I have been cared for well enough to know how to begin to care for others.

And, I trust. I trust that the grace of God, the power behind the universe, is stronger than all the human evil the world can bring. And, I trust that this grace is what will transform us, heal us and save us. On good days, this trust frees me from feeling burdened by all of the hurt around me, and instead, it frees me for living into God’s grace. Trust does not mean I have the answers. Trust does not mean it is easy. Trust does not mean it doesn’t hurt. Trust does make it worth taking another step anyway. Let’s walk on together.

Hot Glue*

Hot Glue*

I love hot glue guns. The relationship began during my sorority days of endless baskets, frames and rush decor and the love affair only grew stronger in Occupational Therapy School. Glue guns are a lot faster than sewing machines when making splints, gadgets and do dads.

Today, I finally sat down with the pile of Christmas decorations that needed attention before returning to storage. And, I decided I may as well get the non- chocolate Easter bunnies’ ears back in order while I was at it. Thank goodness for my glue gun. And, as I restored my choir angles and bells, and repaired the bunny ears, I thought about my life as a therapist, and as a chaplain
I thought about all of the plants I have brought back from the brink of death rather than tossing, and I recalled that day I performed surgery on my goldfish. Certain hydrocephalus. I drained the fluid from his head with a safety pin and he lived a while longer.

I love being a part of restoration (returning to function), repair (returning to “home”) and healing (returning to wholeness). Aware of the bumps, bruises and cracks in our lives and world, I really like reworking and finding a way, rather than simply replacing what has been injured. This goes for objects- and for people. And, I don’t mind when the cracks and the stitches (or glue bubbles) remain visible. I know that I will smile next year as I put the crooked choir boys on my tree, remembering the real live boys who played with them this year.FullSizeRender-4

I am spending this Lenten season trying to decrease my dependence on plastic, to re-cycle and repurpose as much as possible. It is a bit overwhelming and  has reminded me of this image (courtesy of Allison Canade).  It is a simple plastic bowl, carefully sewn back together for continued use. I am not likely to sew my plastic back together.  I might just use my hot glue though.

The photo was taken in a small town in Honduras, where trash is really not a concept. Out of necessity, eScan 14verything gets re-purposed and reused. We noted that our Honduran friends not only show care for their bowls, but seem treat one another with similar lasting value. There are no throw-aways. Those who are elderly, disabled, or very young, are incorporated into the work of the community, valued for who they are in the moment, from toddlers to 90 year olds, with their wrinkles, quirks, canes, and bottles in tow. I can’t help but think about how our throw away culture dribbles into the way we treat one another.

Sometimes, things cannot go back to their original use. I’m not sure I’d carry water in this special bowl. These are opportunities to transform. Sometimes, new life literally enters into cracks and holes, and grows in ways we might not have imagined without the damage. Sometimes our things, and our people, need to consider new settings. Thank goodness for Good Will.  And sometimes, both things and people are truly worn out.

For now, I’m going to look for ways to re-use my plastic, and to be human glue.

*Environmentally friendly, hot glue IS available!

From De-segregation to Integration


This seems so simple, but worth re-thinking.

I’m struck again by the difference between “de-segregation” and “integration.” It has only been 50 years since the civil rights amendment was passed. Until then, segregation was legal, “we literally paid White cops to keep Black people in their place” (CPD). With the so-called end of segregation, not that long ago, from a White/dominant perspective, people who were/are Black could legally be in places where they were previously not permitted.

It did not seem to mean, from that point of view, that those who are White would move into “Black” spaces. Therefore, the distribution of resources, (public, private, cultural) was never “integrated”. White land owners with education and health and power etc. stayed right where they were. And, those newly recognized as full humans, who work their behinds off to overcome, can try and enter “White” spaces where they often still aren’t fully welcome. That isn’t integration, equality or justice…never mind reparations of any sort.

Colorful multi-cultural integration concept tree set. Vector file layered for easy manipulation and custom coloring.

My elementary school was a part of the Boston busing “integration” project. Black students from downtown Boston were bused into the wealthier and pretty White suburbs. None of the suburbanites were bused downtown. That wouldn’t have been an acceptable standard of safety or education for the White parents. That? That is not integration, or equality, or justice.

It is common for those of us in privileged positions to tell those who have historically been marginalized, abused, and oppressed what they ought to do.  Move out of the dangerous neighborhoods.  Leave the underfunded schools.   It might just be radical if we instead accepted the responsibility for the injustice and segregation we caused in the first place and more fully integrated all of our communities, without taking them over.


My Beagle is a Hybrid



Bella on pink pillow

Characteristics of Beagles and of Bella, the beagle-human.

1.) Pack animals. Yes, Bella prefers to be in a pack and detests being left alone. But, Bella prefers a pack of humans, and could care less about the presence of other dogs.

2.) Follow a scent no matter what. Yes, Bella’s nose is in charge of our walks, always. However, even when following the scent of a squirrel, she looks back every 50 feet or so to make sure her human is following behind.

3.) Food motivated. Yes, food is Bella’s favorite thing and she will eat almost anything, so long as it is intended for human consumption. Dog food will sit in her bowl for hours and hours while she awaits something better.

4.) Sweet and Friendly. Bella likes anyone with two legs, and does fine with those using the wheels of strollers or wheelchairs, too. Four legs? She’ll outright ignore you. And, if you are a rare human she does not like? I wonder about you.

5.) Stubborn. Yes, Bella is very smart and knew very quickly what the rules were in our home. However, she has a will of her own. Following the rules has never really been a goal. She’s not untrained, she just doesn’t care. When you call most dogs, they run toward you. When you call Bella? She’ll look to see what you want before moving. And, she’s excellent at making sure the humans know what to do. She effectively declares it bedtime when she’s ready, opens cupboards when she’s hungry, sit on shoes, hides the cell phone, redecorates, and shreds the mail. If you do not follow her lead, she’ll come back and look at you with her head tilted, like, “what is the problem?” She learned to get out of her crate in one day, knows how to wiggle out of a collar and a harness without a problem. Even her doggie day care van reports while the other dogs are harnessed into the back of the vehicle, Bella generally rides “shotgun” with the humans.

6.) Beagles are known to bark a lot. I am fortunate that Bella rarely barks or howls. However, she is very verbal. She fusses and cries, groans and squeaks, snorts, and even clears her throat to get attention. She sometimes opens and closes her mouth silently and truly appears to be attempting to form words.

7.) Affectionate. Yes, Bella is a snuggler almost always, as long as it is on her terms. Enter her space unbidden, and she’ll move. Get up from your seat, and she’ll quickly sit on your spot to keep it warm.

8.) Stinky.  Yes, Bella loves to roll in anything with a strong odor.  And she looks utterly defeated when this leads her straight to the bathtub.  However, she is a princess in so many ways, rolling in the dirt or on worms always seems out of character.  Fetch is not her favorite game as she doesn’t like sandy or dirty balls in her mouth.

9.) Hearty dogs. Yes, Bella has proven vets wrong multiple times, she has survived a lot. Her health has not been low maintenance as most Beagles, but she is tough, and has been worth every bit of care.


thank you kisses

Sea Glass


bottle-722590_640                        blue bottle

Memo Re: Beach Glass, by Lia Purpura

Lia Purpura is the author of On Looking (Sarabande Books, 2006), a collection of essays, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her most recent volume of poems, King Baby (Alice James Books, 2008), won the Beatrice Hawley Award. Recent poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Orion, and elsewhere, and her third book of essays is due out next year from Sarabande. She is writer-in-residence at Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland. (1/2011)



Sea glass. Growing up on both the Atlantic Coast and the Pacific Coast, I am a beach girl at heart. For years, I walked the beach every day, sometimes more than once. And for me, it will always be a place of physical pleasures, of sand and wind, familiar smells, and the sounds of waves receding and returning, crunching sea weed and squaking gulls. The beach is also a spiritual place for me, a space where I cannot escape the presence of God. Like the mountains, the ocean reminds me of my smallness, and also of my participation in the vastness of the universe. And, when I find sea glass, the real stuff, I am reminded of all the people, all of the stories that have taken place on the beach, and in the ocean, before me. Each piece of glass has been on a journey. Perhaps aboard a ship, perhaps carried to the ocean in a storm, perhaps trash, but maybe a treasure. It takes decades, 40-50 years, for sea glass to become smooth, and frosty, hydrated with the ocean water bringing lime and soda to the glass surface, churned by the tossing and turning of waves to cause enough friction to change the shape, the texture and the color of the glass from how it once was. It can be fun to imagine the travels of a single colored piece, and maybe also a little disturbing. The darkness at the depths of the ocean are a little overwhelming to consider. But, that is where a piece of sea glass spends most of its time, in roaring tide.
I recently listened to Brene Brown’s newest book, Rising Strong in which she spends time acknowledging the periods of roaring tides, of struggle and vulnerability that people experience before we get to “rising again” in strength. Brene uses Theodore Roosevelt’s famous quote on the Man in the Arena to illustrate this period:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles…, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;

STOP THERE, Brene says. The quote goes on…He strives valiantly; errs, comes short again and again, he does actually strive; and knows great enthusiasms and great devotions; and eventually, in the end, the triumph of high achievement,

Brene suggests we spend more time with that experience in the dust and blood and sweat. Similar to the pounding and tumbling of the glass in the sea, that challenging part of the journey has a value all it’s own, and is a big part of the story.  When we are actually in the arena, when we are in the waves, with dust and blood and sea creatures and sharp rocks.


Here in a hospital setting, many people are in the throes of storms, feeling tossed and spun, being propelled forward only to receed yet again, the momentum changing with a tide over which we have little, if any, control. I suspect, though, we do not need to be hospital patients to relate to the chapters of struggle in life either. Right?



So, some simple analogies with sea glass can be made.  Firstly, there’s the diversity of the glass; the different colors and shapes and origins, surely with different storm stories. And, secondly, its probably good to support one one another in the waves, not to rush each other thru too soon, but be willing to share tears. And, I cannot help but note the role of tears on our human journey through the waves of life. Tears, the salt water washing right through us, as the waves turn the ocean, tumbling the sea glass, tears are often a part of forming us into new beings, of softening our sharp edges, morphing us into new smoother shapes with less sparkly of a finish. Dissolving pain, draining tension, letting go of old ridges, opening to new ways of being.  And thirdly, yes, there is even a message of hope in this analogy, there’s the potential for transformation after a storm, for human lives to eventually land on a sandy shore, forever changed, but beautiful, and with a new purpose and direction ahead, perhaps claimed to become jewelry.

But, more than all that, I’m mostly struck by the reminder in this reading that everyone we meet has been on a journey already. Everyone we meet here at Northwestern, patient, loved one, nurse, chaplain, environmental staff-everyone has a story. We just meet here for one page in a whole long tale. The older adult who lies in a bed at the end of life was once different in appearance and maybe personality, too. The frail and balding person receiving chemo therapy was maybe once an athlete. The swollen person who cannot walk because of excess fluid in her legs maybe used to dance. The man who cannot remember where he is might have been a professor. The sea glass we discover may not resemble at all the container of it’s earlier life, and may be quite different, even, from the transforming piece that spent years and years being thrown and bounced against the rocks.


Do we have the reverence that is required to appreciate humans as sea glass? The openness, and willingness to get into what the author Lia called “primitive postures”? I pray for that eye for buried brightness, and the drive to give small things their due.

And lastly, as Lia closes her essay, I, too,  hope we all can find time for the bright uselessness of joyful endeavors, like searching for sea glass in the sand, those frivolous pastimes that really are not so useless, after all.

Ritual: I invite you each to come up to the table now, and choose two pieces of sea glass; one, to remember your own journey, through waves and still waters, and maybe onto shore. Choose the other, in honor of someone else who’s story you appreciate, or wonder about, or long to learn more about. I hope this will be some sort of a tangible reminder to you of whatever meaning sea glass, or the ocean, has for you, trusting that there is at least a small hint of connection for us all.