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For the second time in just twelve hours, I got rescued this weekend.

First there was last evening. I had been attending an intense conference on Friday and Saturday and was in need of some decompression. Right as it was wrapping, I get a call from my college friend, Rachel, who’s in town this weekend for Disney’s Princess Half-Marathon.

Though they’ve been few and far between, I’ve always appreciated our times of connecting over the years, with some common themes running through our respective paths. A enjoyable evening unfolded of sharing stories old and new, where I discovered some things about Rachel that changes the way I look at her and some of those stories. It was the gift of the unexpected—a place where God loves to show up—as the veil of the mundane parted for a little while.

It is a gift to be able to see, and be seen by another. We all want it like anything, but then we dread it like nothing else, so few are the times it seems that it goes over well. I felt blessed by my friend that evening, and as we parted ways, I experienced a settled peace, hope, and goodness about my life.

… Then came the morning, with a beckoning sense to take a walk at break of dawn. Even favorite routines can become too familiar, so this morning I listened to an inner prompting to choose another route, setting off on a path I’d not yet trod.

In a word, it was magic. I’ll not bore you with the details of the sunrise through the trees and over the lake, or the mists, wildlife, or sliver moon. But I would like to say a couple things about magic.

What is it? Magic is a world of the senses. It is sensuality—in the best sense possible—seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, and hearing a world that is alive with mystery and wonder.

But it is not merely seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, and hearing either. It is enchantment, where feeling—or thinking with the heart—transforms sensory functions to bring forth something new. An experience where how I see, how I smell, how I touch, how I taste, and how I hear make all the difference. In one, I may be a passive recipient, oblivious to what is there, disconnected, lost in some personal funk or distraction; in the other, I am present to the moment—body, soul, and spirit.

Of course, no one really has to be taught this, at least early on. As children, we intuitively cultivate imagination and play as twin companions. But given life’s effectiveness in beating these sensibilities out of us as we get older, we often have to relearn these basics.

So magic. What is it? It is finding ourselves again: in a world that is at once ageless and new. It is rescue from the routine—not necessarily with different data—but a different perspective. It is enjoyment of ourselves and the world around us. Free to love, laugh, and listen.

I’ve lived in some very beautiful places, places that can touch the spirit as few things can. I’m sure there are many days that my years of what some have called “filling the well”—building a vast treasure house of images and moments that can sustain me when the world around me appears anything but inspiring—have made the difference in getting through. However, I still find myself regularly succumbing to unbelief just as much as the next guy, and badly in need of rescue.

That’s why I’m grateful for magic, and a world that despite all messages to the contrary, is full of the stuff.

 


Sunrise Over Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska, Summer 2005

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I’ve been meaning to post here for awhile. But things got busy. And of course, there’s the holidays. Etc. Etc.

It was a year ago that I began this blog. My intent was to try to post twice weekly. I had some success with it at first, but it wasn’t easy, as final drafts take more work to pull off than the initial scribbles that birth them. Perhaps it was the perfectionist in me taking over, rechecking several times when I knew there would be other eyes involved, though this may go against the grain of blog style and sense. Then I whittled my appearances here down to weekly, before eventually showing up sporadically or not at all for lengthy spells.

But there have been some writing successes this past year. Perhaps the biggest: I wrote my first book.

It’s a book I coauthored with a dear friend of many years, and with whom I’d often dreamed of collaborating together since we first met in Fort Worth in 1995. A chaplain in the Air Force, my friend, James, sought to turn his doctoral dissertation into something suitable for a wider audience. So in July of 2009 while visiting Orlando with his family, James invited me to help him with his project. And about a year and some cumulative 250 hours later, I finished my contributions to the work. It’s a book geared for helping pastors and laypeople who desire to walk with people on their journeys toward God, especially those who are spiritual but may not be particularly inclined toward church.

I’ve also recently been working on some pieces for possible inclusion in a new magazine devoted to the intersection of art, creativity, and the spiritual life. I’m pretty excited as it gives me opportunity to dig into an area I’m pretty passionate about, a place where God met me eight years ago and brought me great joy, particularly after picking up a book by Julia Cameron called The Artist’s Way, which helped me to cultivate a sensibility that our creative impulses aren’t just something that makes for a nice pastime. They often are the doorway to weighty matters, meant to be nurtured and developed, like a calling, and a place where God loves to show up, as all true creativity hails from the mind and heart of God.

Speaking of Ms. Cameron, of everything she preaches, the most important is a practice she calls Morning Pages. The idea is to spend 30 minutes at the beginning of the day writing freehand for about three pages. She contends that nothing will kickstart your creativity like this practice (along with taking time at least once a week for “Artist’s Dates”—time you set aside just for yourself doing whatever activity it is that is fun, brings you joy, and releases the heart of the child within). Moreover, you’ll see the payoff not just in showing up to the pages, but in your daily routine and relationships as it enhances these, whether artist or attorney by trade.

In short, I agree, as I became a disciple of the practice myself, awkwardly beginning one day on a bus ride from Christchurch, New Zealand over the Southern Alps en route to the west coast community of Greymouth, while passing through Lord of the Rings country (These doses of beauty—great stuff for Artist’s Dates—really do help the process). In about three weeks time, I began to notice a shift taking place, where my morning musings did not have to be coddled to come forth; rather, they began to burst forth onto the page. And the quality of the work reflected this over the course of the next year.

So while you’d think I know how to follow my own advice on this, I realized over the past few years that though I journaled frequently, and usually early in the morning, I had long since stopped making my handwritten work the locus of activity, choosing to type it out on my laptop instead. I’m not saying one always trumps the other; do whatever works for you. But having a conversation about this with my writing coach, Jamie Morris, about a year ago, I realized that it may do me good to return to “Old School” Morning Pages again. So that is exactly what I’ve been doing now for about two months. Some days, it feels like routine. But on the whole, it is helping me return to a creative center.

Another creative endeavor of note: It looks like the short film I wrote and directed in a summer class out in LA over two years ago may see the light of day, going from a hard drive in storage to an upload on Vimeo or YouTube. That may not seem like much given how multimedia savvy we are nowadays, where your neighbor’s kid may have put out a better production than Steven Speilberg’s first piece in film school. However, I’m deeply grateful for that experience, facilitated by my writer/director/producer friend, Jim Lindsay (Jim’s spent many good years creating primetime programming for NBC and the History Channel among others.).

Anyway, the principle acting role in the film was by a young woman who is beginning to make some great connections in Hollywood, as she just worked with the writer/director of an up-and-coming A-lister filmmaker on his latest project. So it will help her in getting more exposure as she pursues her dreams. And if I can get another published credit out there myself, so much the better.

That’s all for now. I will return in the New Year.

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“For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”

– Ecclesiastes

This week, a new chapter has begun for me as I started a new job.

Now in this economy, this is certainly good news for anyone. But it’s much more than this for me.

Eight years ago this month, I walked away from the stability of a job and way of life that while good in many ways, in other ways had also become tired and stale, and badly in need of some renovation. Now for some, such talk may sound the onset of a midlife crisis. But in this case, rather than running from something, I felt I was running to something—a chance to get my life back. And the previous year had made clear to me I was to do so by leaving behind all that I knew for a season of rest and soul recovery off the grid.

So selling all my furniture, I moved out of the nice home I owned then in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and embarked on what would be a one-year traveling sabbatical around the world.

The day I left November snows were blowing, the kind that were readying the high country for the beginning of ski season in just over a week. Two days later, I awoke in my hotel room to the sounds and smells of paradise, on an island deep in the heart of the South Pacific. And so a new journey had begun.

Just like the experience of my sabbatical was for me, we all have a need for rest. But I’m talking about more than mere vacation, or taking time to relax on the weekend. No; what I’m thinking of has more to do with the idea of a season or space in our lives that is spacious and abundant. Where everything seems to fit together in such a way that deep inside you know things are as they were meant to be. Everything is as it needs to be. And you hope that it never ends.

It finds its expression in the old Hebrew word shalom. Yet, as much as we were made for something like this, and need it, it seems to be the case that it is not something that we can easily arrange for, but rather something that we are brought into now and again—as life also has a way of doling out times and seasons that seem to care not whether a sense of shalom is part of the equation.

My year brought forth shalom in ways that have changed me forever. Looking back, it’s almost hard to believe sometimes. Not just the things that I was doing and what I was experiencing during this year. But the way in which it came together, as there is story upon story of one door after another opening to make this thing happen, and much of it without trying very hard.

And then there have been the seven years since, which have largely been anything but this. Very difficult in many ways, where conversely to the time leading up to and during my sabbatical, there is a lot that did not come together as I would have hoped, even when making what I thought were the next right steps. By and large, it has been a season spent outside of shalom.

In saying this, I don’t want to say that these last few years have been without meaning or significance. Far from it. For one thing, during the sabbatical, I realized that I am an artist, and I have remained committed to living out of that ethos, even if not always so well, in the time since, putting my values into action.

And just as light and hope came to restore me during a golden season, periods of darkness in the time since have helped to refine what began in that journey. I bring two snapshots from this interim period which capture this.

From a blog entry, November 2006:

I tell myself often as I’m about to arise from my bed, when finally disrupting those few moments of waking pensiveness leading up to that choice, “Get back on your horse and ride, B.” I say this to myself in a spirit of compassion, because many days I feel that the cost to living in a way that seeks to connect my inner life to my outer life seems too much to bear. Lives lived as journeys are often cases of love in a dangerous time, or life on the run, much in the way that the fugitive David fled from the murderous Saul in the years that would eventually open to a triumphal entry into Jerusalem as king. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58, NIV).

The only thing that keeps me going some days is a defiant choice to be creative—even if in small ways—to honor my inner architecture… And when I do this, I get a temporary resuscitation of heart. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12, NIV). This is no mission for pew-sitters or preaching-to-the-choir types. It is the call to be a “living sacrifice,” not according “to the pattern of this world,” but in a true “spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12: 1-2, NIV). The dangerous life of a pilgrim radical.

From a July 2009 journal entry:

I am different. Feel different. Changed. Defiant—but not some punk-ass sniveling cause. More like “furious indifference”—released unto my true strength—even if I soon slip back into some sort of amnesia. A strength that curiously enough—it seems I had to go to hell and back before I found it, knocking on death’s door, alone in a big cold city where I knew few people… But more curiously still, it is the place that God found me—and I found myself—through “the darkness that introduces a man to himself.” Alone but not lonely… And grateful.

* * *

I intentionally stepped away for a season. I followed this by a return to grad school, exiting right as this recession we’ve been weathering began. So much of what I’ve wanted to do has not been possible for more than short doses, if at all, due to the fact that like many, I have found my wings clipped. And my recession began well before this, because face it, almost everyone’s living tight when they’re in school.

So fast forward to the present. After a long, long period of undulating unemployment or underemployment, and then precious few promising opportunities coming my way, just over three weeks ago, I simultaneously had four promising job opportunities come my way, and all of them connected to core passions and long-term vision. And as I begin one of those positions this week, I’m a bit floored to see how things are beginning to come together again, not just for the needed provision of the job itself, but how I see it setting me up for success in other areas.

When God rains, He pours.

There’s just something sweet about a taste of redemption and freedom that is made all the more so in proportion to the struggle and suffering we experience on the road to get there.

Shalom, Y’all.

The Best Scene from One of the Greatest Films Ever

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“I always thought that the spine of the character is awe and wonder.”

– William Shatner

I’ve been reading in the Psalms recently (28-31). The one place at present where my heart seems able to show up in coming to the Scriptures. I love David’s naturalistic lens for experiencing God. Particularly 29:3-10. The NIV Study Bible, not always reliable with its reference notes to the questions coming out of my reading, nevertheless suggests in v. 29 that “the temple” may refer to all of his creation being his temple.

In watching Earth’s Wonders on the Travel Channel the other day about the world’s best places—showcasing many which I’ve had the privilege to see—all the more I get the sense of how it was meant to be. And say, “Yes! The whole world is Your temple.” And then with some amount of bafflement, marvel at many of the people filling churches on a Sunday morning, at those who’ve never felt inclination to step out into the world and experience the God of the Wild. And sometimes wonder just what and who it is that they may be singing and praying to.

The self-revealing God of the Hebrews perhaps hidden once more in plain sight. Or out of sight, as may be the case here—as hearts on pilgrimage, or going up to Zion, or to the temple—seem so apparently not so in some cases, but settling for something far less instead. Cartoonish, childish even, when considering the spirit whom they seek to commune with.

Like those strange cargo cults of the South Pacific; or the people encountering an ominous message from a mysterious “V’ger” in an otherwise horrible Star Trek: The Motion Picture; or the intrusion of a Coke bottle into the lives of Kalahari Bushmen and the misadventures that follow in The Gods Must Be Crazy—where the divine transmission has apparently gotten jammed—one wonders, Where is God in all of this? And Why don’t they want to see Him in his earthly temple?

John Muir understood this, whose naturalistic spirituality was infused with a rich biblical depth, and of whom stories are recounted of scrambling up into tall trees to experience a storm’s power. Maybe some of these places are the wonders that for some of us God one day hoped to be the settings of our encounter with him, like Moses and Elijah in the wilderness before us. Or like that guy Jesus even, who spent a lot of time retreating there.

But instead of the God of Holy Fear and Wonder, we settled for that old god of stern harshness and legal-moral asceticism. And we settled for the old god of the fertility rite—only castrated and retrofitted with religious garb and ecstasies of another sort, people falling all over themselves in a “I can’t get enough of this stuff” swooning fervor.

Perhaps some of this sounds unkind. I don’t mean to say God doesn’t show up in some very similar-appearing circumstances. God after all is God, whose redemptive history has seemed much about giving us a long time to figure that fact out, and not to confuse Him with the things, circumstances, and practices we make Him out to be in—attractive or not.

For one thing, God seems to have a penchant for showing up in the dirt—where we’d least think or want to find him—in the seemingly pointless desert wanderings of a young nation; or the example of a naked prophet; or whoring of a wayward wife; or piss and dung-soiled straw of a small Judean stable.

But the element that seems missing for me toward the people in question here: Where is the courageous stepping out to meet such a God as found in these other places? Or the at-once terrifying but ultimately transformative showdowns? Like Lt. Dan during the hurricane in Forrest Gump, or before him, like Job putting on his best bluster before God humbled him in silence.

Like C.S. Lewis once said, it’s like God has invited us to a holiday at the beach, but instead like children we have settled for making mud cakes out of a puddle.

Go figure…

Storm Coming on the Patagonian Steppe / Brian Bragdon

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Vanilla Sky

The other day I was coming out of LA Fitness, when I was surprised with a visual feast—a late afternoon sunset following the cloud break of a recent shower.

Now Florida already has some great sunsets. And due to the fact that most of the state sits between two coasts, the collision of moist air currents can make for some spectacular storms. But to say it was a beautiful sunset doesn’t quite capture the encounter that led me to take another way home just so I could stretch out the experience a few moments longer.

It was a quality of light that some artists have been known to chase after. Pacific Northwest photographer Mary Randlett probably says it best: “I have always called it Toledo Light [for the dramatic sky in El Greco’s noted painting Storm over Toledo]. We have wonderful liquid light in the Northwest.”

Liquid light. That is what I experienced on the drive home that evening. Back at the house, the sun now safely hidden behind the trees, its effect could still be seen in the clouds above—carrying a luminescence that seemed almost unnatural. Around that time, my roommate stepped outside to smoke a cigarette, as he settled into the comfort of a lounge chair. He cracked a wide grin and nodded his head upward.

“Vanilla sky,” he said.

I nodded in mutual admiration of the moment, about something touching on the transcendent in an otherwise day-is-done routine. I have a huge capacity to be stirred by nature, which is why I’m grateful every now and again to be jolted like this.

I’ve other moments very similar to this one in its quality of light: the late afternoon ride back to Seattle from Vancouver with my friend, Rob, following the breaking of another storm; the surprise of the sun managing to peek through gloomy skies shrouding the slopes of Chile’s Mount Osorno; and the brief penetration of light through a veil of valley mists following a soggy afternoon in Dorrigo National Park, Australia. Experiences of the holy breaking into the now.

I’m reminded of John Eldredge’s statement: “The world is overflowing with beauty. God seems to be rather enamored with it. Gloriously wasteful. Apparently, he feels that there ought to be plenty of it in our lives.”

Gloriously wasteful is right. I don’t always notice. But in moments like this that I do—Wow.

The Glowing Veiled Forests of Dorrigo / Brian Bragdon

Dorrigo Mists / Brian Bragdon

Late Afternoon Light Near Osorno / Brian Bragdon

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Lent Season is upon us.

Those of you familiar with the Christian faith and tradition likely know this. But I don’t want to assume anything.

See, I should know this firsthand myself. And I do. Yet, it wasn’t always this way, but rather became so only recently.

Around this time a couple years ago, I was speaking with a local businessman about a particular matter, when I noticed during our conversation that he had this big smudge of grease or ink on his forehead. Not wanting to leave him to the snickers of other noticing folks like myself, I was about to tell him about it to help him save face. But for whatever reason, I didn’t.

Now I’m not generally the type of guy who will let something like this go on while  some pour soul becomes the laughing stock of his or her peers. But whatever held me back this time, by doing so, I was the one who saved face that day.

I come from a non-liturgical tradition that never really observed Lent, certainly not on a large scale. And while I may have heard the name dropped every so often over the years, I remained blissfully ignorant about the significance of Lent to my heritage.

Now it seems I’m not the only one to fall prey to such folly. The other day, Vice-President Joe Biden, and President Obama were making an appearance for a press conference, where the Catholic Biden visibly bore such a mark on his forehead. On CNN the following day, audio was played from a couple of journalists for Britain’s Sky News speculating about it as they watched news feed for the conference—apparently mistaking the mark for a bruise (I wondered this, too, at first, from seeing a small photo from the conference online. What is meant to be the mark of the cross in ash sometimes ends up being an amorphous blotch. Still, even the less descript marks are synonymous with Ash Wednesday for those who know.).

At any rate, I now know about Ash Wednesday as the faith community of which I’m a part practices Lent. The significance of the season is to anticipate the resurrection of Christ, which for many, makes Easter even more important than Christmas. Lent takes place 46 days out before Easter, or the biblically significant 40 days when not counting Sundays. Traditionally, people give up something—some food, drink, or practice—as a willing sort of self-denial.

For my first Lent last year, I gave up caffeine (no easy feat!). But it’s about more than just giving up something. It’s about getting something in return. Replacing it with something good which hopefully will draw one closer in their relationship with the Lord.

This year—the coffee stays. But I have been more mindful about the why (drawing closer to God) behind the what (what I’m giving up).

To bring my folly full circle, the other night I walked into work not long after attending our Ash Wednesday service. A few minutes later, my partner on the night shift made a comment regarding my forehead—“Ash Wednesday, huh?” (You kind of forget it’s there after awhile). Then mused, “Good ol’ Catholics.”

I started to take exception—not being Catholic—probably more than anything from some long-standing issue going back to childhood where I feel I have to correct someone who misunderstands me.

But then I had to catch myself. And smile a little, moreover glad at the general recognition that got it right. Of being identified with something I had chosen to willingly identify with. And risk a little ignorance if needed, no doubt which my business friend was well familiar with that day a few years ago.

And it takes me back to the what and the why again—both in what I seek to give up, as well as what I hope to gain. If it were merely discipline or religiosity I was looking for, I could join a class at the gym, or attend a seminar. But I’m already happy enough with the fitness routine I have. And as for gaining more knowledge, I’m trying to make better use of that which I’m already acquainted with.

No. This is more about presence and connectedness in the here-and-now. Awareness and encounter of realities outside of myself—Holy Otherness—without any sort of self-editing for whoever may be watching. Real journeys are like this, off-the-beaten path sort of affairs that while possessing public and community dimensions, nevertheless take their journeyers into very personalized experiences.

Granted, this sometimes feels elusive, and not always my actual experience. So far, my 40 day season is not off to the best start. But there are moments that this awareness and encounter happens. And the aim has a way of focusing the general movement in the aim’s direction, where even the common has a way of becoming holy.

Last year, I did notice a positive difference in myself at the end of the season. It wasn’t one of those dramatic changes that takes place overnight. But I was happier, and more spiritually connected…

I’m hoping history repeats itself this year as I look forward with great anticipation to something new.

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Unless you’ve been off living in a cloister somewhere—or comatose—I’m sure that like me you’ve been hit with a barrage of images and sound bites the last few days of the tragic impact of the earthquake in Haiti.

Once in awhile an event happens that captures the pity, shock, sorrow, even anger, of a much larger group of people than those immediately impacted. Two events in 2004 did this—Hurricane Katrina and the Indonesian tsunami. (9/11 is no slouch, obviously. But I’m thinking at present about natural disasters and the seemingly inordinate disparity of tragedy experienced among the poor) It’s looking like Haiti is the newest universal touchstone of tragedy as we enter a new decade.

Well I was watching CNN today when a story was told of a young Haitian teen who was pulled out of the ruins alive. It was a rare story of celebration that has been popping up here and there amid such overwhelming sorrow. I was more struck by her response to the interviewer. It was clear to the assembled press that she was joyful. When asked about this, she basically said that God was with her, and glorified Him for her rescue.

Later there was a story about Florida woman, Mimi Dittmer, who was trapped in a Port-au-Prince supermarket, going down on her knees to shield herself when the quake struck, and locked into this excruciatingly painful position for the next five days. Similarly, when asked about her thoughts on being pulled out of the rubble against great odds, from her hospital bed she said “Jesus Christ saved me,” and spoke of reciting the Psalms to keep her spirits up in the midst of her ordeal.

I’m not overly sentimental, but these stories got me to thinking about how I (and we as a nation) might respond to such chaos like this. After all, Haiti was already known as being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere before this happened. But I was thinking, for instance, Would our God survive in a place like Haiti? An American belief in God, couched in comfort, blessing, protection.

I think of another story: an American nurse of Haitian ancestry who went down to volunteer and how she has to turn away often to cry as she’s trying to help dying children. I think that such joining of others in their suffering would help us in the West to erase the categories of division we usually live under, with our common humanity becoming more important. But therein lies a bind; for what separates us is more than the overall greater economic and social privilege we have here, but how these very things can insulate us to being vulnerable—the very thing that will be needed if we risk opening our hearts to the realities of disappointment and despair. It is difficult, yes. And yet, I can think of few things that facilitate such connection like this as shared grief. And grief will be needed in order to rightly see the light of hope.

Do Americans as a whole get points for this? Not to downplay some of the amazing outpouring of generosity that’s taking place as people open their homes and purses to help. But after the celebrity telethons have settled down, can we legitimately share in the claims of solidarity if we are not participants ourselves in the grief? And are we afraid to truly engage the response of this young girl? Vs. saying, “Heh, heh, that’s nice. Now, run along, dear.” If so, perhaps it’s because nothing unnerves us like looking at our own fear, disappointment, and anger if similarly challenged. Or more—than daring to name God in the face of these things, particularly in view of his apparent silence.

… Speaking of finding hope amid the ruins, I was very encouraged recently to learn about a group call Jobs Partnership of Florida (www.jobspartnershipfl.org). My friend, René Vazquez, a staff member at Summit Church, was telling me about it and invited me to come to an informational meeting the other night. Basically, Summit is working with JP to bring hope to the residents of Orlando’s Old Cheney neighborhood, many who are unemployed and locked in grinding cycles of poverty and dysfunction. Cheney was once a thriving community back in the day when the naval base was here, but has become something of a ghost town economically, with lots of empty businesses lining Colonial Drive, even worse now in light of the current economy. And while nearby Baldwin Park has sought to inject some new vitality to the area, many of the folks in adjacent Old Cheney have not directly benefited from it.

I was moreover struck by the sense of commitment to have a vision for impacting lives with more than short-term solutions, but lasting changes. Stories of reluctant businessmen who opened themselves to getting involved, and in the process, found themselves changing as they sought to help change the fortunes of others in need. And of other neighborhoods where participants went looking for a job, but in some cases, found a career and a sense of calling, dramatically boosting their sense of worth. NPR actually did a story on it awhile back (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5317076).

As local business leader, Eddy Moratin, gave the history of Jobs Partnership, he and René spoke about the systemic issues surrounding dying neighborhoods. Moreover, I was encouraged by both men’s daring to dream on behalf of an area that has been written off by many as dead or dying, and committed to seeing a generations-long process of restoration—as it does so by personally touching one life at a time, by meeting very real here-and-now needs. Sort of like the old saying, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and feed him for a lifetime.”

And I was challenged by an attitude to go beyond the typical models of community improvement that have flourished during boom-time economies and here in particular—that of infusing venture capital into new housing and business developments that quickly skyrocket in value while furthering the divide between the haves and have-nots. I’m all for “the invisible hand of economics” when it works like it should. It’s just nice to know that a kind and visible human face can be attached to it at times.

… I was more or less a blank slate while going to this informational meeting, though hopeful of what I would find. And I did find an appreciation for what it is on its own terms and am genuinely heartened. But looking at it sort of like with my questions around finding hope in Haiti, I realize we need programs like JP more than for the obvious good they do for others and for the system as a whole. We need them for ourselves, to make us believe there is still good and light in the world. I think these guys probably said it in better and less crass terms than I do here. But we need it to believe and to hope and to not lose heart—apart from the immediate and most important good it effects. Is that not a worthy value? Even if far from altruistic?

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