Busy, busy, busy! It’s been a busy week. Mostly taken up by work, but it was also a good busy. It was my birthday yesterday, and while I didn’t have something going on every night, I did have things to do. Tuesday it was dinner with the family, Thursday a friend took me out to a restaurant in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Friday was my weekly wine tasting/happy hour, and yesterday, the day itself, was full of exciting things. I started off by renewing my license and car tags. They both expired. Still, I did it nice and early at a location that doesn’t seem to be too ridiculously busy. The person who helped me was working toward becoming the world’s fastest talker, but when she wasn’t being angry at working for the BMV, she was nice enough. There was laughter. Not even mean-spirited.
It did get better than that, I took myself out to breakfast, and then I stopped at a bookstore. I bought some much-needed reading material. Well, maybe “much needed” is a bit strong, since I already had two bags of books that don’t have homes and haven’t been opened, yet. Nah, that’s the right word. I have a few hundred books in my home, not all of them have been unpacked since I moved. I didn’t have the space for them. Then I bought a new shelf and had more space. Still not quite enough, though, I used one of the shelves from a 3-shelf case and moved it to a 5-shelf case. Paperbacks don’t take up as much room as hardcover. I could fit more. Still not enough. I do re-read my books, and I’ve been through I’d say 85% of them at least twice. I do also use the library if it’s a book I’m not sure I’d want. The ones I bought yesterday were either part of a series, or from an author I have a hard time putting down, so that’s how I justify those.
Last night, though, was a beautiful end to my birthday week. Friends from church, in the choir, a couple who keep me in mind for things like this, were going to the final CSO subscription concert, and they had two extra tickets. They invited me and another friend from our choir. The other person plays French Horn, so she’s also a musician. They were playing Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsokov, and the Polovtsian Dances by Borodin. The latter is actually part of an opera, but the music stands well on its own. There was a guest musician due to perform a third piece in the first half, a percussionist, but he had to cancel due to illness. So, we were treated to a late substitution, another Scheherazade by Ravel, with a vocal soloist. It was lovely. Interesting translation in the program. Mostly accurate.*
This same couple brought me along for a tour of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center a few years ago, a time when I didn’t have any extra money to spend. I hadn’t had a job in 4 years at that point, so no, there was no money. It was a church outing, and we had a Jewish scholar – can’t remember if he was a rabbi or just studied – leading us. Our tour picked up a few stragglers, since he had some seriously good information about the scrolls.
Yesterday morning, before heading out to the BMV, I tried to come up with some topic or other to write about. I thought perhaps I’d try something serious. There’s been a lot of discussion about poverty and what appears to be an attack of the poor, at least, from a certain perspective. It made me think.
There are those who like to discount poverty in this country by saying it’s worse in India or Bangladesh or somewhere else considered to be part of the developing world. That’s true. It’s also true that this isn’t a developing country, this one is supposed to be a first-world country. That attitude shows a complete lack of respect for other human beings, telling them it could be worse. Yes, they could be so much poorer economically, spiritually (not speaking religiously), mentally, if they lived in one of those countries. Guess what? This isn’t one of those countries.
I could go on about that, about how it’s not just money but environment that makes a difference. When your life is second-hand and almost – almost good clothes, almost decent housing, almost nutritious food, almost good education – there’s more to overcome than just not having money. There’s an attitude to overcome, a behavior. There has to be a willingness to believe there’s a way out, and there has to be a hand somewhere, extended to help. Maybe it’s a tutor who believes, or parents who want more for their children. Maybe it’s a life where you don’t have to worry about your next meal, or where you sleep. Maybe it’s someone who tells you you can’t. Not everyone is motivated by the same thing, not everyone succeeds the same way.
There are those who are convinced this is a Christian nation, that we’re a theocracy. Many of these same people talk about the Constitution like it’s a sacred text written by God. They forget the bit in the First Amendment about the government being prohibited from establishing a state religion.† They also forget Matthew 25:34-40 –
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
There’s a bit about sheep and goats◊ in there too, which provides a great way to shock someone who believes the Bible is the actual word of God, as opposed to an interpretation by man. Especially when you point out defunding programs that aid the poor make them goats and not sheep in this story. In the old testament, there are a number of exhortations for people and the poor as well, some listed here.
Pope Francis summed it up nicely, I think. He was speaking of the economic impact of large families, but it’s applicable in many situations.
“…I can say that the main cause of poverty is an economic system that has removed the person from the centre and replaced him with the god of money; an economic system that excludes and creates the throwaway culture in which we live. …” – Pope Francis
That got a bit rambly. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning while writing. I should know better than that. I leave you with this: Be kind; you don’t know what someone else has been through.
*It was in French. I may no longer be able to carry on an intelligible conversation, but I can still piece together meaning. Yay, Latin.
†Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.‡
‡Further elaborated on in a 1947 case that went to the Supreme Court, where a statute about student transportation to schools both public and parochial was under fire:
The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and State.” – Justice Hugo Black, 1947
Justice Clarence Thomas has been working to say otherwise.
◊Not a fan of that particular comparison. Sheep tend to blindly follow; goats have to be led.