All The Sad Men, revisited

His name was Daniel, but he answered to Dan. As in when his mom called out, “Just tell the man ‘no,’ Dan.” 

From my register I was asking him the same questions (those designed as blatant pleas to grab even more of your cash before you leave the store) that I ask everyone. I was doing so, both because we’re supposed to, and also because I didn’t want Dan to think that I saw him any differently than those customers that preceded him. Even though I did.

In fact, my interaction with him reminded me of a post that I wrote a little over two years ago now. A post remembered as I asked God to bless Dan and his family while they happily left my store. A post that I’d like to revisit here today…

She sat there, munching somewhat sloppily on her burger, occasionally spitting forth bits as she yelped out to no one in particular. And I sat there and stared. I felt bad that I was staring, but I wasn’t doing so out of rudeness. No, it was more like envy than superiority that I felt. It was more a case of “what if” than of “thank God not.” And here’s why.

Whenever I experience one living with severe special needs, I become somewhat immersed in what I imagine is their imprisonment. Their imprisonment in a world who wishes that they just weren’t around. Or at least, not quite so visible. But at the same time, I find myself jealous of their freedom. Freedom from this same world that ofttimes judges them in ignorance.

A world, mind you, that can be far more handicapped than they will ever be. A world filled with folk who care more about little dollar bills than they do each other. A world that places much more emphasis on the cut of the cloth than on the content of the character. In my very humble opinion, this world isn’t nearly good enough for people such as her. This world is a damned and empty shadow of what it could be, and I feel that we’ve all worked pretty hard at making it so. Or at the very least, sat back and simply allowed it happen.

So what of the poor girl-woman that suffered under my “not intentionally rude, but extremely rude nonetheless” stares? Why do I sometimes feel jealousy towards people like her? How could I be so crass as to make mention of the concept? Well, imprisoned as she appears, I would love to see the world through her eyes, just once. Just once to see if what I think to be true, actually is.

You see, I’m of the belief that her vision is much clearer than mine. I’m quite sure, in fact, that mine is muddled beyond the point of ever recognizing the Truth. A Truth that I believe she most likely sees quite naturally, and on a daily basis. A Truth that she may even long to share with the rest of us, if only we weren’t so ignorant to her language.

She sees the Truth, and I see only what I choose to see. And yet she is locked in the wheeled chair, while I roam free…

I suppose I should step back for a moment and let you know where my meanderings on the topic come from. I’ve no personal experience in my own family, but when I was young, I was forced (yes, I meant to say that – or at least did at the time) to volunteer at an institution that cared for people like my incidental lunch companion.

As my parents felt it was important to teach us about stewardship, part of their education to this end included a trip to a local long-term care center that managed the severest cases. As a young and unappreciative pisser, I recall hating the place when we first arrived. The stark white walls did nothing to conceal the smell of piss and medicine. The painted-over drop ceiling served more to rebound, than muffle the occasional non-sensical shout or yelp. The halls were clogged with wheel chairs, and in each sat an alien life form. A being so far removed from my knowledge of the world as to be almost comical, if only they didn’t frighten me so.

Being young, and being a pisser, and being there against my will, I decided that hatred would be my best response. Hatred towards these creatures. Hatred towards their needing my assistance. Hatred towards their being around at all. I did as I was told, but only just. How dare they make me? How dare they be here? How dare they exist?

And then, as happens so often in life, something happened. And that something was this. One of them began wailing. And not just a whimper or a sob, but an honest-to-Jesus moon-raising moan. One that would make you think that they were seeing Satan’s ghost himself. And for all I know, maybe they were. The wailing only made me feel uncomfortable. But to another, it provoked a different reaction. I can’t recall if it was an employee, a volunteer, a random passer-by, or maybe even an angel in disguise. But I do remember watching one soul walk deliberately up to the young wheelchair-entrapped wailer, and hugging them. Simply hugging them. The wails continued, but so did the hug. And eventually both were quietly put to rest. Both the hugger and the wailer were at peace. I stood there dumbfounded as the blinds were torn from my eyes, my little stupid pisser attitude backhanded to the floor.

I could physically feel myself growing up a little bit that day. One of the first of many times I’ve had the experience.

A little while later I was pushing along one of the more talkative residents who would speak and speak and speak, and occasionally even say something. At one point he looked me dead in the eye, and with no prompt or reason whatsoever, told me very lucidly the exact day it would start snowing and the exact amount – in quarter inches – that we would receive. I’m sure you already know by now that I’m going to tell you that he was exactly correct on both counts. EXACTLY. Dumb luck? Could’ve been. Dumb luck does seem to have a way of getting around. But I’d like to think that there’s something more to it.

In fact, I’d like to think that maybe – just maybe – there are certain people who are so spiritually in-tuned, so close to God, that they’re incapable of making themselves small enough as to deal with our little shambles of a “reality.” They’re exalted over the angels, but trapped on this mortal plain, and they simply can’t function at such a junior level. They need our help in this world, but only because we’ll need theirs in the next. We just don’t know it yet. They’re not “retarded,” we are. They are of a higher prominence, yet we sit smugly by and laugh at their superiority.

I know. It sounds a little too naive to be true. And that, in part, is why I wanted to jump into my lunch mate’s head. Just once I really would like to see if I’m right. Or if I’m an idiot. Or both. It’ll never happen of course. For one thing, we don’t live in a Disney movie, and switches of this nature just aren’t possible. But even if they were, I don’t feel that the swap would be a very fair one. For her, that is.

•••

I feel it’s important to note, I’m using this song today not in jest, but in respect.  I too, long for the day when all of us “sane men” are locked away, and we allow the “mad” ones to finally be free.

Happy Easter, kids.

 

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First off, I want to thank everyone who commented on Friday.

And I’m even more grateful that none of you called me on breaking my “no more sad posts” promise from the week prior =)

Secondly I wanted to explain to you, as an anal retentive type, I’ve set up a folder for every member of my family on our computer desktop. They each contain the person’s name followed by “stuff.” Well, all but mine. My name is followed by the word “junk.” Pretty telling, don’t you think?

Anywho, I was sorting through my “junk” after Friday’s post, and I came across something I had previously forgotten about. A long way back, I used to teach Children’s Liturgy at our church (I know, right?), and at one point they decided that we should provide the actual homily (sermon) in our own fashion to the general congregation. Of all the teachers, I was chosen (I know, right?) to do so. Now, as the church is a body politic more than anything else, the tides eventually changed, and about a week before I supposed to give the homily, they canned the whole idea. The thing I came across while sorting through my junk, was the homily I had planned on giving, but never did. Until now, that is…

OK kids – we have been getting soooooooo many complaints from the parents, jealous that they don’t get to come to the Lil Church in the back with us every week, that we thought  – just this once – that we would instead bring our Lil Church up front to them! And don’t you worry; I’ll make sure that they behave as well as you do. Well, almost.

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So, are we ready to listen to the readings?

     (response)

And do we listen with our mouths?

    (response)

Do we listen with our ears?

    (response)

OK, then, let’s go!

.

    (followed by the readings. After Gospel, wait a few minutes. Let the kids sit back down on the floor before doing so yourself. Deep breath, and…)

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“You are the salt of the earth.”

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Did you notice that?

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“You ARE the salt of the earth.”

“You ARE the Light of the world.”

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See, Jesus didn’t say, “you MAY BE the salt of the earth”,

Or, “being the salt of the earth happens from time to time”,

And He didn’t say, “There’s an outside chance that at some point you might possibly be a light of the world – hey – it happens.”

.

No, Jesus plainly states that we ARE the salt.

We ARE the light.

Already.

Without our even knowing it.

COOL!

So… all the hard work has already been done – God already knows we have the ability to shine like His son – God has already placed His trust in us.

.

Now,

all I have to do is just sit here n’ “Shine” – right?

Just hang out n’ be all Salty – right?

Is there something more to it you think?

Well,

I’ve already got salty down (rubbing beard), but how exactly do I shine?

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I’m pretty sure you guys are too young to have heard of this, but there used to be an uber-popular thing called a “WWJD” bracelet, and these little gems basically reminded us to always think about how Jesus would handle a situation, prior to attacking it ourselves.

I kinda wish it hadn’t been so uber-popular, because once something reaches that level of coolness, then it HAS TO – by some strange cosmic law – become uber-NOT cool at some point, and then it just disappears altogether.

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I wish this hadn’t happened because these bracelets were so much easier than lugging around a copy of today’s first reading all the time.

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You see the W-W-J-D stood for “What Would Jesus Do”, and in the first reading, Isaiah reminds us that “What Would Jesus Do” is exactly What Would Jesus Did:

  • He gave bread
  • He clothed
  • He sheltered
  • He embraced
  • He Shone with the brightness of God’s Light!

And if I want to shine as He did – if I want to shine with the brightness of God’s Light – then all I have to do is follow His lead – all I have to do is

  • Give bread – either literal or intellectual (got a good book you’re done with? Pass it along to someone else to enjoy! Not playing with that toy? Give it to someone who maybe can’t afford it!)
  • Give clothing – be respectful of the clothes you have, so that when you grow out of them, someone else can wear them as well. Ask your parents to make semi-annual Amvets or Salvation Army runs.
  • Give shelter – friend having a hard time with their brothers or sisters? Invite them over for a sleepover!  See a classmate being bullied? Stand by them instead with the bullies – SHELTER them.
  • Give embraces – real ones are cool, but sharing your toys is another way to make someone feel pretty well-hugged – holding doors for people does wonders as well, and I guarantee, if you VOLUNTARILY do dishes one night – your folks are gonna give you the hug of a lifetime – after they come back to, of course.

In other words – before you do anything – just remember that God has ALREADY placed His trust in you.

And His Son has already shown us the Way – go do it like He did it – and don’t worry about what results. Trust him like he trusts you. Then, not only will you be the Salt of the earth,

you will also be salty  =)

not only will you be a Light to the world,

but you will also SHINE!

.

Will it be easy?

No!

.

Can you do it?

Yes!

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Jesus believes in you, your loved ones believe in you, I believe in you – and I pray that you believe in you too =)

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Now get outta here – be good through the rest of mass, and have a great week kids – thanks!

•••

I guess I’m sharing this with you today, because when I re-read it, I found myself thinking two things. First off, my punctuation skills suck. And secondly, I really should learn to take my own advice more often.

A screw in the mix

Previously… – or – The whole mess till now…

The red “hair” wasn’t so much a biological memory, as it was in remembrance of the red hood that he had dawned, all those human years ago, when first he agreed to serve Beelzebub.

Beelzebub, that fat, lazy, stupid old demon. He had thought that he’d beat the man with the red hair, but he had thought oh so very wrong. True, the man had been young enough to believe that Satan would actually deliver on his end of the bargain – that being providing him with eternal life – but he wasn’t so naive as to think that there wouldn’t be a screw at least somewhere in the mix.  The screw in this case was that eternal life only came after death. A bit of a pisser, but for the man with the red hair, more of a barrier than a obstacle.

No, not the kind of eternal life he had imagined at all, this death. But he was above Satan. Hell, he was above God even. And Satan had provided him with a very long life. A long life he spent in study. A long life that he had spent plotting. A life, long enough for him to discover that there could actually be a second type of eternal life. One that even that moron of a devil didn’t recognize. He lived his long life maliciously, and his eventual death – brought about by slowly burning in that old wooden chair – didn’t surprise him a bit. Hell, by the time it occurred, it almost seemed like part of the plan. Not Satan’s, but his. As a result of his studies, he knew that Satan was not yet seated upon his “throne.” No, that wouldn’t occur until the end of days, and the man with the red hair planned on being in his new kingdom – the kingdom of his making – well before that took place. He would never need to deliver on his end of the half-witted bargain. He would never need to do any bidding whatsoever for that piece of shit devil. He would never be imprisoned like all the rest. He was almost there. Almost free. All he needed now was Clive. As through him, the man with the red hair could finally speak his new existence into reality. He would once and for all become alive. Real. For his was the kingdom. And the power. And the glory.

The stage was set. He could feel it. Much like the mighty oak, insistently chiseled in a specific place, he was certain that Clive would fall in exactly the direction he needed him to. And he was certain that Douglas would be similarly positioned as well, becoming crushed in the process. That was always their way, wasn’t it? Dying for their friends in an effort to save them. A salvation that wouldn’t come, not this time. The man with the red hair didn’t need Douglas to die in order for his plan to come alive, but he did relish in the anticipation of watching it occur. This Tia however, was new to the mix. Unanticipated. And unanticipated was not good. It gave the man pause. What was her game? How did she fit in? She didn’t feel like the others. No, in her was something that was, well, different. In her was something that unnerved the man with the red hair. He had been watching closely over the weeks as she became closer and closer with Clive. She was friendly with Douglas as well, but in Clive she had a special bond. She had almost given him something to believe in. A scenario that would be worse yet, should Clive ever figure out that that “something” was himself. This made the man with the red hair nervous. And he was not prone to being so. He had worked far too hard at creating Clive, and he would be damned – quite literally so – if this didn’t work.

He seethed. His plan had to work. It simply had too. Remembering that there was nothing anymore for him to slam his fist against – nor, in fact an actual fist for him to slam it with in the first –  he instead twirled in his rage. Spinning in ever expanding circles to release his anger. An anger that seemed to have no end. An anger that seemed to only grow the more it was dispelled. The man with the red hair remembered that sloppy devil mentioning something to him at some point, something about an “abundance” that he would be blessed with. Sadly, he had been young. And not paying very close attention. After he had heard what he wanted, he naturally assumed that the abundance spoke of was a life eternal. Perhaps now, he realized, it was something else…

None the matter. Plans were in place. Clive was ripe for the taking. Or at least would be soon. Very soon. The man with the red hair decided it might be time to “drop in” and see how far along he was. Clive’s father had proven to be a false hope for the most part, a reminder that if you wanted something done right, you needed to do it yourself. The man with the red hair would not make the same mistake. He would not let emotions get in the way. He would go to Clive, disconnect him from this Tia bitch, and tighten the screws even further. The prize was his, his to take. The Mercy seat was once again burning. But this time, burning for him, and he’d be godammend if he didn’t take it. For his was the kingdom. And the power. And the glory. Forever, and ever, amen.

© t – 2o12

All the sad men, roaming free

She sat there, munching somewhat sloppily on her burger, occasionally spitting forth bits of it as she yelped out to no one in particular. And I sat there and stared. And I felt bad. I felt bad that I was staring, but I wasn’t doing so out of rudeness. No, it was more envy that I felt than superiority. It was more a case of “what if” than of “thank God not.” And here’s why.

Whenever I stumble across one who is severely mentally handicapped, I become somewhat immersed in what I imagine is their imprisonment. Their imprisonment in a world who wishes they just weren’t around. Or at least, not quite so visible. But at the same time, I find that I am jealous of their freedom. Freedom from a world that regrets them so.
A world, mind you, that is far more handicapped at times then they will ever be. A world filled with folk who care more about little dollar bills than we do each other. A world that places much more emphasis on the cut of the cloth than on the content of the character. A world that hopes for a cure to all disease, mental retardation included, but only partially for the benefit of those who suffer from it. And only at the turn of a profit.

In my very humble opinion, this world isn’t nearly good enough for people such as her. Or us, for that matter. This world is a damned and empty shadow of what it could be, and I feel that we’ve all worked pretty hard to make it so. Or at the very least, sat back and simply let it happen.

So what of that poor girl-woman that suffered my “not intentionally rude, but extremely rude nonetheless” stares? Why do I sometimes feel jealousy towards people of her kind? How could I be so mean as to even make mention of the concept? Well, imprisoned as she appears, I would love to see the world through her eyes, just once. Just once to see if what I think to be true, actually is. You see, I’m of the belief that her vision is much clearer than mine. I’m quite sure, in fact, that mine is muddled beyond the point of ever recognizing the Truth. A Truth that I believe she most likely sees naturally on a daily basis. A Truth that she may even long to share with the rest of us, if only we weren’t so ignorant to the language.

She sees the Truth, and I see only what I choose to see. And yet she is locked in the wheeled chair, while I roam free…

I suppose I should step back for a moment and let you know where my meanderings and ideas on the subject come from. I have no personal experience in my own family, but when I was a young boy, I was forced (yes, I mean the word – or at least did at the time) to volunteer at an institution that cared for people with severe mental and physical retardation. My parents, as teachers our church to those who were preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, felt it was important to teach the children about stewardship (oddly, a belief of theirs that has all but vanished in their later years. A possible topic for a different time). Part of their education to this end included a trip to a local long-term care center that managed the severest cases. As parents who also trusted not another living being on the planet, my brothers and I toddled along as well, even though we were not yet in the Confirmation program. As a young and unappreciative pisser, I recall hating the place when we first arrived. The stark white walls did nothing to conceal the smell of piss and medicine. The painted-over drop ceiling served more to rebound, than muffle, the occasional non-sensical shout or yelp. The halls were clogged with wheel chairs, and in each, sat an alien life form. A being so far removed from my little pisser knowledge of the world as to be almost comical, if it (again, word usage intentional) didn’t frighten me so. Being young, and being a pisser, and being there against my will, I decided that hatred would be my best response. Hatred towards these creatures. Hatred towards their needing my assistance. Hatred towards their being around at all. I did as I was told, but only just. How dare they make me? How dare they be here? How dare they exist?

And then, as happens so often in life, something happened. And that something was this. One of them began wailing. And not just a whimper or a sob, but an honest-to-Jesus moon-raising moan. One that would make you think they weren’t just seeing a ghost, but the never-welcome Mr. Beez L. Bub himself. And for all I know, maybe they were seeing exactly that. The wailing only made me feel uncomfortable. Scared. But to another, it provoked a different reaction. I can’t recall if it was an employee, a volunteer, a random passer-by or even maybe an angel in disguise. But I do remember one soul, walking deliberately up to the young wheelchair entrapped wailer, and hugging them. Simply hugging them. The wails continued, but so did the hug. And eventually both were quietly put to rest. Both the hugger and the wailer were at peace. I stood there dumbfounded as the blinds were torn from my eyes, my little stupid pisser attitude backhanded to the floor.

I could physically feel myself growing up a little bit that day. One of the first of many times I’ve had the experience.

A little while later I was pushing along one of the more talkative residents who would speak and speak and speak, and occasionally even say something. At one point he looked me dead in the eye, and with no prompt or reason whatsoever, he told me very confidentially the exact day it would start snowing and the exact amount – in quarter inches – that we would receive. I’m sure you already know by now that I’m going to tell you he was exactly correct on both counts. EXACTLY. Dumb luck? Could’ve been. Dumb luck does seem to have a way of getting around. But me being me, I’d like to think that there’s something more to it. In fact, I’d like to think that maybe – just maybe – there are certain people who are so spiritually in-tuned, so close to God, that they’re incapable of dealing with our little shambles of a “reality.” They’re exalted over the angels, but trapped on this mortal plain, and they simply can’t function at such a junior level. They need our help in this world, but only because we’ll need theirs in the next. We just don’t know it yet. They’re not “retarded”, we are. They are advanced to a higher prominence, and we sit smugly by and laugh at their superiority.

I know, it sounds a little too “pie in the sky” to be true. And that, in part, is one of the reasons I wanted to jump into my lunch mate’s head. Just once I really would like to see if I’m right. Or if I’m an idiot. Or both. It’ll never happen of course. For one thing, we don’t live in a Disney movie, and swaps of this nature just aren’t possible. But even if they were, I don’t feel the trade would be a very fair one. For her, that is.

•••

I feel it’s important to note, I’m using this song today not in jest, but rather, in praise.  I too, long for the day when all of us “sane men” are locked away, and we allow the “mad” ones to finally be free.