Reaching Beyond the Garbage

Visitors to places like Cairo or Karachi often come back and talk about how incredibly filthy the streets are. They are struck by the waste that is everywhere, an ever-present result of masses of humanity living closely together combined with a poor or non-existent infrastructure to deal with the trash.

It’s not only cities like Cairo or Karachi. It’s a problem all over the world in urban settings.

Take the city of Cambridge where we live, a wealthy city. Unlike our suburban home, where a well-kept and swept sidewalk bordered on a pristine yard and led to the front door, the city is shared space. It doesn’t matter how much we may sweep and clean our space, it is used by others in our building and subject to their footsteps, habits, and trash.

In cities you have to deal with garbage. And sometimes a lot of it.

The garbage is all around after a busy weekend of events, traffic, and people. The garbage multiplies as services like street cleaning and trash day are suspended during a holiday weekend. Only minutes after being picked up there will be more trash on the ground.

Because where there are humans there is garbage. Inescapable garbage.

But where there are humans there is also the presence of God. In the midst of the pristine cleanliness of suburbia where garbage is well-hidden behind white fences and beautiful gardens, and in the midst of the city where garbage spills out over dumpsters and trash cans– God is there. He is there and he is active. He is there and he is searching for people stuck in the garbage.

“We do not worship a deistic God, an absentee landlord who ignores his slum; we worship a garbageman God who came right down into our worst garbage to clean it up. How do we get God off the hook for allowing evil? God is not off the hook; God is the hook. That’s the point of a crucifix.” Peter Kreeft

This is my hope on this Monday. That somehow I’ll be one who sees the people beyond the garbage. That I’ll reach into the unreachable and extend grace. 

“Stay where you are. Find your own Calcutta. Find the sick, the suffering, and the lonely right there where you are — in your own homes and in your own families, in your workplaces and in your schools. You can find Calcutta all over the world, if you have the eyes to see. Everywhere, wherever you go, you find people who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for, just rejected by society — completely forgotten, completely left alone.” Mother Teresa


The morning starts with a sun-sparkled ocean and coffee, strong, sweet coffee.

The weight and frustrations of the week are wrapped up and thrown out with yesterday’s kitty litter. Only one place for them to go – to the garbage, the grey, mud splattered trash can.

The restlessness, mistakes, disagreements – thrown out.

Today is a new day, a new time, an empty chalkboard. I look out at the ocean and cup my hands open – open to life, to God, to Joy.

And I remember to Breathe

No one who ever said to God, “Thy will be done” and meant it with his heart, ever failed to find joy—not just in heaven, or even down the road in the future in this world, but in this world at that very moment, here and now.~ Peter Kreeft on the topic of Joy


Collateral Damage – A Lost Son

I’ve tried to write a post all evening.  I want to write something that will comfort, or inspire.  But all I can do is feel tired and sad since I, like many of you, watched in disbelief as Mubarak made his speech to millions of Egyptians on state television. I flipped through a Faith & Culture devotional thinking I could find a thought or idea, but nothing came.  I read a summary of “Paradise Lost” and while it helped my soul a bit (Good, evil,* “the breaking of all natural harmony, and the tragic flaw that underlies human history”)it gave no words to my heart . As I tuned in for a last listen to the news before going to sleep, the story came, absent of comfort but capturing the personal cost of recent events.

I heard the story of a 15-year-old shot on the 28th of January, a Friday.  His name was Ahmed and he was praying at a mosque at Tahrir Square when police entered, fired tear gas and real, not rubber, bullets. The bullet went to his chest so my guess would be an immediate death.  The story becomes harder as his father goes searching for him.

He spent 12 days looking for his child, his son, in every police station and every hospital he could find.  He found him on Wednesday night and yesterday was the funeral.  He was not the only one killed that day – at least 200 other people were killed and many are still unaccounted for.  (story from AlJazeera live stream broadcast from Doha, 2.10.11)

AlJazeera interviewed his dad and his poignant story of finding his son, washing him for burial as per Muslim tradition, and burying him “with his own hands.”  His mom, crazy with grief, said that Ahmed had wanted a motorcycle.

I have a 15-year-old son.  His name is Jonathan and he is a gifted musician whose head is 90% in instruments and composition and 10% in reality.  He is an amazing fun kid who at this point in his (and my) life, is driving me a bit crazy. Until of course I think of Ahmed’s mom and how much she would give to have her kid drive her crazy, just one more time.

If your friend is sick and dying, the most important thing he wants is not an explanation; he wants you to sit with him. He is terrified of being alone more than anything else. So God has not left us alone. And for that, I love him” (from interview of Lee Strobel with Peter Kreeft, Boston College)

*Gene Edward Veith-Faith & Culture