At the Champion Avenue Low-Income Senior & Child Care Services Center
When I told them it must be like dropping your kid
off at school their first day, all my parent friends
nodded and smiled uncomfortably, meaning
what would I know. I won’t be taking solace
in the many firsts ahead. Here among the gray,
spotted and brown heads of the seniors,
their soft flesh and angles, their obedience as they
sit as uprightly as they are able at white, parallel
tables, nobody cries, and very few speak.
When I seat dad beside her, one senior tells me
she’s ninety-four, presenting one hand, four
fingers in the air, just as she might have ninety
years ago with a stranger like me, now long gone.
Dad never liked me to talk:
Lower your voice, he’d say. If I was louder:
Put on your boxing gloves. Or: You’ll catch
more flies with honey than vinegar, as if some day
I’d need the flies. I stopped talking, started writing
instead. I work full-time and dad wants to die,
so I dropped him at the Champion Avenue
Low-income Senior & Child Care Services Center,
a newish building, municipal and nondescript,
in a neighborhood that’s been razed and rebuilt so often
it’s got no discernible character left. There was bingo,
men playing poker in a corner. Red sauce and cheese
on white bread pizza for lunch. Dad, a big talker,
was an instant hit, but refused to return. What
is the name of that animal, someone asked me.
Where is Philip, asked someone else, over and over.
As if firsts and lasts were one and the same.
“I cannot help but think that future generations will label the first two thousand years of Christianity “early Christianity.” They will, I believe, draw out more and more of the massive implications of this understanding of a Cosmic Christ. They will have long discarded the notion of Christian salvation as a private evacuation plan that gets a select few humans into the next world. The current world has been largely taken for granted or ignored, unless it could be exploited for our individual benefit. Why would people with such a belief ever feel at home in heaven? They didn’t even practice for it! Nor did they learn how to feel at home on earth.”
I’m reading Richard Rohr’s Universal Christ and there is a passage early on quoting Paul who says “I have never been separate from God, non can I be, except in my mind.” This seems like the very crux of nearly every bad choice we make or every fear we feel. In those dramatic moments of fearful reaction do we not feel totally and completely alone in the Universe? A few seconds earlier we could have been skipping along blissfully unaware of our connection and then BLAMO. “Why hath thou forsaken me?!”
I wonder how this realization could affect people suffering with PTSD? If you could go back to those moments that caused mental and physical scars and attempt to see and feel those moments through different eyes? What if you could just briefly linger on those moments and see them without fear. Not to detach from a feeling and see them without emotion but to see them with an image of God watching with you. How could that reshape or rewire your body to eliminate some of the suffering?
I am not alone. It only takes one thought to change the way you see.
Words are like code. Be is the action. Quiet is the course. Remove the “e” from Quiet and you are left with Quit. Be Quiet. Be Quit. Quit. Quit what? Quit talking. Quit moving. Quit thinking. Quit making noise.
There are so few videos out there that of Henri Nouwen speaking. Just like Thomas Merton and Jean Vanier, we need more people to hear what Henri Nouwen has to say and take his words to heart. His words can soften the hard edges.