Author Archives: 50 Days of Fabulous

Grief and Fritos

“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.”   -Luke 6:25

The first hospital vigil I ever kept was a few weeks into my ordination.  A young mother of two teenage children had sat down to dinner with her husband and kids, had a massive heart attack, and never regained consciousness.  We sat with her at the hospital for 48 hours, shell-shocked, as the doctors tried valiantly to think of something miraculous and new, to science this problem.  Her parents drove down immediately, and joined our vigil.

I was a baby priest–still a transitional deacon–and was struggling with what, exactly, I should be doing during all these hours.  Reading the Bible?  Praying unceasingly?  Offering sage and comforting advice?  None of these seemed achievable–but I had the idea in my brain that I needed to be Holy, Wise, and therefore, Serious.  And Serious Priests, I felt, probably didn’t show up to the hospital with wet hair and get distracted by why the coffee tasted like plastic.  I settled for crouching silently in the corner and thinking Serious thoughts.

Meanwhile, the woman’s mother, around 3 am on the second night, discovered a package of Fritos, and began to read it to her husband.  “Honey, it has the strangest things in here.  Why do you suppose that is?  What do you suppose these things are?  Corn syrup.  Malto-dex….” she trailed off, and then made a complete mangle of some chemical name.  Her husband looked at her and burst out laughing.  She looked shocked, then tried again, and started giggling.  The two teenagers, who minutes before had been sitting in shocked silence, started coming up with increasingly outlandish ingredients for Fritos.  Corn mash!  Hydro-mashed-up-corn-pellets! And falling over with gales of laughter.

For a few moments, they could forget what was happening, and relish the sheer absurdity of whatever goes into corn chips.  For a few minutes, they could find comfort in each other, and bear up for what was coming.  Laughter, and Fritos ingredients, are a clear gift, even if weeping comes later.

Jesus reminds us to recognize the gift of being present to our emotions, to the location life has placed us. Trying to be something we aren’t in the moment, or trying to be something we think we’re supposed to be, isn’t loving to ourselves or others.

Being authentic locates us in God. Mourning or laughing – or feeling both seemingly conflicting emotions together – God holds them all and holds us in these moments.

Megan Castellan is our writer this week. She serves as Assistant Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri, and diocesan youth coordinator for the Metro Kansas City area.  Her ongoing adventures and strong opinions are chronicled in her blog Red Shoes, Funny Shirt  and on Twitter @revlucymeg. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, playing with yarn, throwing jellybeans at politicians she disagrees with on TV, and cheering on KC-based sportsball teams.

What Breaks Your Heart…And Makes You Laugh?

“Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.”   -Luke 6:25

 

My brother is a professional comedy writer, and I am a priest.  We pretty much have the same job, as I remind him regularly.  Both of our vocations are concerned with finding the subtlest meaning in life, and transforming it so that people can better understand.

What is appropriate subject matter is a hot topic of conversation in both of our communities.  The church community struggles right now with its stance towards the government, the rising tide of anger and hatred, and wonders what its role might be.  How do we preach prophetically without alienating those who need to hear us?  How do we stay pastoral to those who need comforting, while recalling that for many, comfort can only be found on the far side of challenge?  And, oh yes, we do still need that IRS safeguard, and the long-time parishioners who look askance at all mention of anything political from the pulpit.  How to navigate this brave new world we inhabit?

The comedy community, my brother tells me, has a catchphrase:  punch up, don’t punch down.  It signifies the difference between mocking someone or something with more power than you, and mocking someone or something with less power than you.  Generally speaking, it is acceptable to punch up; it is not acceptable to punch down.  Eddie Izzard’s jokes about the clueless and privileged British conquering an empire through the use of flags is funny; attempting to mock ethnicities or nations because they were conquered is not even okay.

Jesus’ warning to those who laugh now seems to me to be a warning against punching down.  Don’t be so quick to laugh at those who are less fortunate, who are less privileged than yourself.  Don’t add to their pain and suffering.  The role of the faithful is to side with the unfortunate, and the lowest of the low, standing so close to them as to be unable to distinguish daylight between them and us.  We cannot be faithful followers of Jesus if we separate ourselves from the least and the lost through mockery.

Megan Castellan is our writer this week. She serves as Assistant Rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Missouri, and diocesan youth coordinator for the Metro Kansas City area.  Her ongoing adventures and strong opinions are chronicled in her blog Red Shoes, Funny Shirt  and on Twitter @revlucymeg. In her spare time, she enjoys singing, playing with yarn, throwing jellybeans at politicians she disagrees with on TV, and cheering on KC-based sportsball teams.

 

The Other Pair

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” – Luke 6:24

The Other Pair is 4 ½ minute-film made in Egypt. Based on a situation from Mahatma Ghandi’s life, this award-winning short invites us to reflect not only on what it means to be poor, but also on the possible ways in which the haves and the have-nots can help each other.

As you watch it, when in your life have you been in need? Did you receive help, and what was that experience like? When have you been rich and able to generously give? Did you? If so, why, and if not, why?

Watch. Enjoy. Share with a friend. Begin a conversation about how we as people of faith can be generous with our treasure instead of hoarding it where moth and rust consume.

 

Today’s writer is Hugo Olaiz, associate editor for Latino/Hispanic resources at Forward Movement. Originally from Argentina, he moved to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies in Spanish, linguistics, and translation. He lives in Oxford, Ohio, with his husband John-Charles Duffy and an aging beagle mix named Patches.

It Turns Out You Can Buy Happiness

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” –Luke 6:24

This is a fascinating TED talk by Michael Norton. Five years ago, when Norton was in business school, he ran an experiment to see if there is a correlation between the way people spend their money and how happy they feel. He gave money to a group of college students in Canada; some were told to spend it on themselves, while others were told to spend it on someone else. That evening, he called them to ask them how they felt. The result was clear: “People who spent money on others got happier,” said Norton. “People who spent it on themselves, nothing happened. It didn’t make them less happy, it just didn’t do much for them.”

Then Norton repeated the experiment in different countries all around the world, giving his subjects different amounts of money. Overwhelmingly, the experiments confirmed the original results.

“So if you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right,” Norton concluded. “The implication isn’t you should buy this product instead of that product, and that’s the way to make yourself happier. It’s that you should stop thinking about which product to buy for yourself, and try giving some of it to other people instead.”

 

Today’s writer is Hugo Olaiz, associate editor for Latino/Hispanic resources at Forward Movement. Originally from Argentina, he moved to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies in Spanish, linguistics, and translation. He lives in Oxford, Ohio, with his husband John-Charles Duffy and an aging beagle mix named Patches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Handcarts among BMWs: The Cartoneros of Buenos Aires

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” –Luke 6:24

I have seen poverty in the country where I was born. Argentina is one of the richest and most progressive nations of South America, yet I have seen the destitute come out at night, carrying handcarts as if they were Mormon pioneers. In Argentina they are called cartoneros.

The word cartonero could be translated as “cardboard picker,” but they will pick up anything that can be sold to be recycled. They receive only pennies for their finds, but when you have been fired from the factory where you used to work, and especially if you have a family to feed, those pennies help your family survive. For the most part, cartoneros are a result of Argentina’s financial crises. Every time the financial system crashes, cartoneros reappear by the thousands. Many cartoneros have a high school diploma; some may even have a college degree.


The cartoneros are generally adult men; some take their children with them and teach them the job. Cartoneros have to be strong enough to carry their carts for miles, although some own a horse who does the heavy pulling. Traditionally, in Argentina, official garbage collectors do their rounds at night. Therefore, cartoneros have a small window of opportunity: They must find their goods after they are thrown away, but before they are picked by the official garbage collectors.

Cartoneros are the visible sign of extreme poverty; their mere existence represents a national embarrassment. In the ritziest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires (Retiro, Recoleta, and Palermo), the BMWs and Mercedes of the neighbors stand in stark contrast with the humble carts pulled by the cartoneros.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God,” says Jesus. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”

[Photo Credit: MagicalUrbanism.com]

Today’s writer is Hugo Olaiz, associate editor for Latino/Hispanic resources at Forward Movement. Originally from Argentina, he moved to the U.S. to pursue graduate studies in Spanish, linguistics, and translation. He lives in Oxford, Ohio, with his husband John-Charles Duffy and an aging beagle mix named Patches.

 

 

Sandwiches and Salvation

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”  -Luke 6:24

As a child, I had a toy keyring with pictures framed in plastic primary colors. On this ring, I had a picture of my great-grandmother (my grandpa’s mother) and my infant self sitting in her lap. She passed away not long after the day this picture was taken, and because I was so young, I have no memories of her. I have only this photo and a defining story that my grandpa told me.

One day, as we sat together in my grandpa’s living room after a lunch of fish sandwiches (he eats fish every Friday) and vegetable soup, he told me about his childhood and growing up during the Great Depression. He was just a boy of 5 or 6 at the time. His family lived at the end of a road, not far from where he raised five kids and continues to reside today.

This image is a work of the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.

Sitting in his favorite recliner, he told me about how he remembers hungry, jobless men walking down his street with all their possessions in a small bag on their back. They would knock on the back door, asking for something to eat. My great-grandmother would set up a card table and chair in the yard, under the cherry tree, and serve them a bologna sandwich and a glass of water. They would eat, thank her, and continue on their way searching for any paying work. My grandpa didn’t realize it until years later, but the curb in front of their house had been marked—a sign to others that they could find a meal at this house.

This story is so dear to me, because it tells me so much about a woman that I never had the opportunity to get to know. My great-grandmother was not rich. It was the Great Depression, after all. But she was rich in kindness. She was rich in generosity. And she was rich in the love of Christ.

Her true wealth was her generosity and love. She gave what she could. And her generosity and love marked her in the eyes of others and in the eyes of God.

How can we give from what we have? Do our daily acts mark us in generosity and love in the eyes of God?

 

Alyssa Finke spends her time writing, hiking, and cooking. She also really enjoys a nice adventure, and will cross oceans or city limit signs to have one. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, Alyssa is the Marketing Coordinator for Forward Movement. Currently raising a tomato plant, a cactus, and several geraniums, her green-thumb aspirations are a work in progress.