Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tweeting the 25th - More reflections

So much is going through my mind — thoughts and vignettes from past and present...

  • the fundraising dinner at Tutto Bene that began this journey — feeling like Cinderella transported rags and all into the kingdom of the rich. But the reality of Cinderellas never really changes. After the ball is over, we go back to our fireplaces and ashes, brooms and raggedy clothes. The stagecoach becomes a pumpkin and the horses, mice. The prince charming is not ours and the glass slippers do no fit our tired, swollen feet.

  • Maribel Pérez — I visit her fundraising Web site for a status update. As of mid-July she still lacked about $50,000 of the $80,000 she needs for her lung transplant. How much did we spend on flowers and catering while Maribel spends another day on a respirator?

  • "Only 25 years? That's nothing!," my friend, a retired Polish Catholic librarian says. "Hah! When I hit 25 at the public library, they didn't do anything for me." "Yeah," I say, "all I got for 25 years was a $250 gift certificate and a round of applause from my colleagues. Five minutes and then back to work." We both shake our heads.

  • Desmond Tutu — My mind goes back to the little party the anti-apartheid community in London threw for him and Leah and their children when he was to return to South Africa to become the first African Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg. It was nothing much — just sitting in a circle and sharing tea and cake. We had no money so, in African tradition, we took turns offering the Tutus prayers, well wishes, and advice. And now the little girl (Mpho) I remember sitting quietly at her mother's side is a priest just like her dad, and her dad is a Nobel laureate.

  • The Family — I look at the pictures I have taken of the clan. They don't smile mostly, not even the children. Do they ever smile? I've never seen a family so uptight and driven. They are too formal. Are they having fun? According to my camera, it would not appear so. Maybe they too would prefer to just sit around in jeans, drinking coffee, eating arepas, and telling stories...

Why do I participate in all this when I am so uncomfortable with it both ethically and psychologically? Good question.


  1. From the "Schinler's List" movie:

    "SCHINDLER: This car. Goeth would've bought this car.Why did I keep the car?Ten people,right there, ten more I could've got.
    This pin - He rips the elaborate Hakenkreus, the swastika, from his lapel and holds it out to Stern pathetically.
    SCHINDLER: Two people. This is gold.Two more people. He would've given me two for it.At least one.He would've given me one. One more. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.
    One more. I could've gotten one more person I didn't.
    He completely breaks down, weeping convulsively, the emotion he's been holding in for years spilling out, the guilt consuming him. "

    We are just human.Perhaps all that PR in the gala will produce some fruits for MAPAVI in the long run.
    Some times when I buy a bottle of wine or spend money in something that I don't really have to have,I remember that I could give it to someone or a cause that needs it.But I still do it.
    The poor and needy get neglected not because we don’t know they exists, they get neglected because we are not wired yet to think and feel for the others as we do for ourselves. The great majority of us has not reached yet that level of “guilty consciousness” that hurts as much as the crown of thorns hurt on Christ's head, as to be able to leave aside the non essentials, until all humanity has reached the level of having at least all VBN (Vital Basic Necessities) taking care off.

  2. All of these questions are the ones I most wrestle with myself. Certainly none of us is perfect but perhaps we can avoid extremes in either direction.

    I remember a volunteer at the CCNV homeless shelter telling me that he didn't read books because the homeless can't afford books and don't read. That's crazy. Dorothy Day, the great "saint to be" of the homeless, was also an intellectual who read voraciously and listened to opera on her radio, but she never felt superior to the homeless people she lived with and one of the lovely anecdotes about her (from Robert Coles, I think) tells of a writer approaching Dorothy as she is conversing with a homeless woman and Dorothy asks the writer which of the two women he wants to speak with. She did not presume that she was the only interesting person present.

    The event on Saturday night was not the MAPAVI gala, according to Padre Hoyos. It looks and quacks like a duck, but it is not a duck. It is a very expensive decoy but, in spite of Father's protestations, I would be very surprised if MAPAVI also throws a gala this year. More money went into that one event than many of our people make in a year (including clerical workers in the Arlington Diocese). That is what makes me uncomfortable.