Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I was raised Catholic

I was raised Catholic. I went to catholic grammar and high schools. I was an altar boy. I had a great priest in charge of the altar boys, Father Colbert, who had us go out and spend time with old and infirm people who did not get many visitors. We painted a house once (bad job cause we all got drunk) that the church donated to a family that had lost their home. We were expected to do an act of real kindness--which meant it had to be something we would have preferred to avoid--daily.
Some of that was the same stuff my mother and father expected of me and my brother and sisters. It was a given that you would go out of your way to help others, even when it was an inconvenience.
I have not been a practicing catholic for a long time. But I know what it means to be a decent human and I know when i fail that I have to wipe myself off and try to be better. I'm probably 50-50 with being decent and failing.
One of the stories I most loved as kid was the story of the loaves and fishes. You know the one where Jesus is having a rally of some sort and gets thousands of people onto a hillside in the midday heat and then remembers he didn't arrange for any vendors. I'm being loose with it, but you get the point, right? You can't have thousands of people sitting in the damned desert sun without water or wine or food or you are going to lose that audience quickly, and probably in a negative and gnarly fashion.
The story goes that once Jesus realized what was up he called for a loaf of bread and a fish. Then he had the people on the hillside come up to get bread and fish. And no matter how many loaves of bread and cooked fish he gave away, he still had one loaf of bread and another fish. It was a great miracle story. It was intended to show not just Jesus's compassion, but his ability to make miracles at will.
I was probably still in my teens when it dawned on me that that was nonsense. Not that Jesus didn't pull it off with aplomb, but that if he could work miracles like multiplying fish and bread, well, he would have had such an unfair advantage on the rest of us as to make his doing-good worthless.
What occurred to me was that he probably called out to everyone there to take out what they had and to begin to share it with others. And then they did. And there was more than enough to go around. And it WAS a real miracle to get people to share like that when people prefer to hoard for themselves.
And I look at our world, knowing there is much, much more than we need for everyone in terms of arable land, water, building supplies and all the other necessities of life. No, there's not enough good redwood for everyone to have a 5,000 square foot redwood cabin in the woods, but then most people in the world wouldn't want that. Waddle and daub works better for housing in some places; reed houses in others; mud homes elsewhere. But there are enough materials for everyone. And enough food. So what are we fighting for? Why are we hoarding? Are we really taking it with us when we die? Will that hoarded 50 pound bag of potatoes be good in three weeks, or will you throw it away when it rots and starts to smell? If it's the latter, why not take that over to the food bank while it's still good? Or those old clothes? Why not take them to the Salvation Army to give to someone who needs them more than your overstuffed closet does?
I just get so tired of knowing that half the people in the world are suffering needlessly, and often at the hands of others who have much more than they need, more than enough to share and alleviate that suffering.
And no, I probably don't do enough myself. But I try to remember, I try to share. Don't mean to be maudlin here, but that's how I feel. There's enough to go around. So let's share it and alleviate a bit of suffering.

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