Out of his poverty (what are we really thankful for?)

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Out of his poverty

"As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3"I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21)

Every year, the majority of our small groups spend hundreds of dollars planning, cooking, and consuming elaborate Thanksgiving meals as an act of celebration. These meals are complete with an abundance of turkey, side dishes, and desserts, not unlike the meals students will eat a few days later at home. While these events are an act of love and generosity, this year, we decided to do something different.

Our leaders decided to host a “special” activity, telling our small group members that there would be a surprise but nothing more. As they came in through the door, students were given different tickets, each with a number on them- 1, 2, or 3- which they were to keep a secret. Before dinner was served, students were finally told what those numbers meant. 

The ones- all 9 of them, would be seated at the beautifully arrayed middle table, covered with tablecloth and adorned with tableware and wine glasses. The twos- about 20 of them in all, were to sit at lined tables in the back of the room- tables which weren’t covered with anything. The threes- around 40 of them, were to sit on the floor.

Then, the food came out. The first group was given a meal of garlic roasted chicken, pot roast stew, feta crusted salmon, garlic mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, and fruit tarts. The second group was given bags of bread and a container of peanut butter and jelly, to make their own sandwiches. The last group was given large bowls of rice to eat. All of these meals and the percentages of people who received them were to help simulate the disparities of wealth and food distribution in our world.

In the midst of rumblings, laughter, angry looks, confusion, and the expected emotional tension proceeding this announcement,  the completely unexpected happened.

Mike came in.

Mike, local homeless man in Berkeley, is a friend of InterVarsity. He often sits outside of the Durant Food Court with his boom box, and many InterVarsity students have come to know and talk to him over time. Some of our students, excited about the possibility of a free Thanksgiving feast for him, decided to bring Mike to our event. Unaware of the different “tiers” and the broader purpose of the event, these students had no idea what Mike would be stepping in to.

Mike, drawing a three, came in to the room. Looking around, confused, he took a seat along with the students who brought him, congregating around a bowl of rice and a few paper bowls and plastic spoons.

He sat down on the floor.
               The tension in the room rose.

Immediately following, several students came over to me, pointing out what the majority of the room had already noticed. What were we to do?

I went over to talk to Mike, feeling horribly guilty and yet unsure of what to do. Do I let him sit on the floor, eat rice, and participate in the simulation? Do I pull him aside and just make a plate of food for him, singling him out even more? But as I began talking to him, explaining what was going on, he smiled at me and said, “Oh! Don’t worry. I’ll participate.

So he did- sitting uncomfortably on the floor and eating plain, white rice on a night when he was hoping for a Thanksgiving feast

Later in the night, Mike and I began talking. Through his alcohol-scented and half-coherent words, he told me how thankful he was for new friends, how some students had taken him to church recently.  He told me about where hippies came from. He smiled as he talked about his "partners" Andrew and Sarah, how they were gonna get married some day soon. And then he told me his opinions on UC Berkeley.

“You- so many of you, come every year to UC Berkeley, and for what! Do you really come here for the education, or do you come here because it’s UC Berkeley- because of the name? There are over 400,000 people in the city of Berkeley, who will never be a part of UC Berkeley- and you, you come here for 4 years and then you leave.”

He talked about the realities of hunger:

“When you eat the same thing every day, your stomach begins to forget. You eat the same thing with the same nutrients all the time, and you forget that your stomach stops absorbing the nutrients that you need from eating real food.”

And as I stood there, listening to Mike, I remembered our privilege and wealth, to even put on an event like this. I realized that in every step of the way in this activity, students had the power and privilege to choose out if they wanted. I understood that many of these students would go home to a kitchen full of food, a room with a bed, and their own private bathroom. I remembered that a few days later, our bellies aching and sore from being stretched with an abundance of food rather than a lack of it.

Most of all, I recognized that despite all the ways we had planned this event as an opportunity for us to remember the hungry in our world, that we still had much to learn from people in our very own backyard.

At the end of the night, we decided to collect an offering for an organization that’s fighting global hunger. As I stood next to Mike as they announced the offering, he asked me, “Will this money be given to children?”

From out of his pocket, he pulled out two, crumpled dollar bills.

He looked at me and said again, “Will you give this money to children?”

And with that one act, I learned more than any statistic or program could tell me.I learned that the depth of your generosity is not dependent upon how much you have or your capacity to give, but on the emptying of your heart for the sake of others. I learned that even in the face of seemingly unending poverty and hopelessness, the human heart can continue to fight and choose faith.

Out of the 373 dollars we raised that night, I believe it's appropriate to say that Mike put in more than all the others.

He gave out of his poverty.
And he is teaching us.

Posted 11/27/2008 at 2:32 PM - 4 eprops - 2 comments

Olbermann: Gay marriage is a question of love

Note: I know I said I would lay off the subject for a while, but Olberman asks the same questions I've wanted answered for a while.... So here it is.

Everyone deserves the same chance at permanence and happiness
By Keith Olbermann
Anchor, 'Countdown'
updated 6:13 p.m. PT, Mon., Nov. 10, 2008

Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8.  And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble.  You'll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.

How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling.  With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a
question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

"I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love."

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27650743/

© 2008 MSNBC.com

Last thoughts on Prop 8 for a while

The video that started it all for me

Legal Thoughts on Prop 8:

Analyzing History

Present and Future

This is what I mean when I say we're close minded

Taken from: http://tenacious-snail.livejournal.com/566853.html

My family is real

I was adopted by a married man and woman when I was three months old. When I was 4 or 5, the man moved out. When I was six, a woman moved in. That woman was, in function, my step-mom. A second parent. The person who drove me home from afterschool sports, who taught me to ride my bike, who taught me to waterski, who took me to Europe when I was a teenager, and showed me my first white Christmas. She taught me to parallel park. She taught me how to get along with my other mom, at times that my teenage self was otherwise being difficult.

My mom and my stepmom could not get married, legally. So they didn't, and my relationship with her, and their relationship with each other was not legally recognized.

They were together for more than 30 years.

On Christmas day, 2000, my stepmom went to the emergency room with abdominal pain and swelling. They lied, and said that they were sisters, so that my mom could be with her in the hospital, outside of visiting hours. They had to make up a relationship so that my mom would be allowed to make decisions while my stepmom couldn't. They found that my stepmom had stage III ovarian cancer, which had spread to her uterus and her colon. They did surgery to remove the cancer, removing her ovaries, uterus, and parts of her GI tract, and gave her a colostomy bag.

I flew in to town and pretended that the woman who taught me how to do yard work, taught me to throw a ball, taught me to ski was my aunt. Someone who held my hand while I cried at a play. And who our law said wasn't my "real mom"-- that title got reserved for someone who walked out when I was an infant, but that I was still inherit from if she'd died in Louisiana without a will. She was 87 pounds, lying in that hospital bed, and when I saw her, I had a strong, visceral response and feared that she'd die of this disease. I fainted and hit my head on my way down, which caused *me* to go to the ER as well.

Over the next year, I visited about 4 times-- my real aunt, my stepmom's nephew and I each visited, so that my mom and stepmom would have someone else there for the difficult period that followed each treatment of chemotherapy. Because my mom and stepmom were not legally related, because same-sex marriage was not legal, my mom was not legally entitled to any sort of time off from work to care for her spouse of nearly 30 years.

December 25, 2001, she was hospitalized again, with a recurrence of ovarian cancer.

I flew into town, and joined her in the hospital for her birthday. She had more surgery for cancer, and got a G-tube installed. I took her home from the hospital and took care of her. I'd planned to visit over MLK weekend, and so was going to fly back that Monday, but she asked me if I would stay. I did, and on that day, I drove her to the emergency room to be treated for dehydration. While in the hospital, I helped her to register for hospice care, because she wanted to die at home. For the first time in this ordeal, she told the hospice intake worker what her relationship with my mom really is.

I stayed in New Orleans until she died, on February 11, 2002. I cleaned up her vomit, I managed her medications, I emptied her mostly-digested food from her G-tube after the cancer blocked her intestines. I rubbed anti-nausea medications on her arms. I put morphine-derivative patches on her chest. I held her when she cried. I sang to her, prayed with her, and helped soothe her when she was having hallucinations. I handled all the phone calls, and depending on who it was, I pretended to be her niece or said I was her stepdaughter. I stayed there for over a month. While my mom went to work. I cared for my stepmom as she died.

I was there when she took her last breath. I called the coroners office and the hospice, in order to come take her body. The coroner's office sent a police officer to collect the body, and to confirm that this was an expected death and no suspicious circumstances. I told him that I was basically her step-daughter. He could see that was who I was, and that that was the best and easiest answer to put on the form. If the body were surrendered by someone who was not a family member, it would require more paperwork and hoops to jump through.

My family is real.

That love is real, that commitment is real, the caring for each other and taking care of each other is real. There is nothing that "family" means that my family didn't do.

Tomorrow, the US citizens of California will be deciding if my family is real. If we deserve to have the same rights as every other family. To be recognized.

The side who is saying "No, that is not really a family" is saying that we need to think of the children, protect children, protect marriage.

I say, protect me.

My family is real.

Perfect Picture of Me

We Hold On
Rush (Snakes & Arrows)

How many times
Do we tire of all the little battles
Threaten to call it quits
Tempted to cut and run
How many times
Do we weather out the stormy evenings
Long to slam the front door
Drive away into the setting sun

Keep going on till dawn
How many times must another line be drawn
We could be down and gone
But we hold on

How many times
Do we chaff against the repetition
Straining against the faith
Measured out in coffee breaks
How many times
Do we swallow our ambition
Long to give up the same old way
Find another road to take

Keep holding on so long
Cause theres a chance that we might not be so wrong
We could be down and gone
But we hold on

How many times
Do we wonder if it's even worth it
Theres got to be some other way
Way to get me through the day

Keep going on till dawn
How many times must another line be drawn
We could be down and gone
But we hold on

Barack Obama's victory speech and my personal thoughts about politics

I am glad that Barack Obama won the presidential election.

I think that people in the US (myself included) fail to see how important this election is for the US and for the rest of the world. It's not just a new US president that has been elected but it's also the man that the rest of the world is looking at as the leader of the western world and who has to mend fences and build bridges with all the people Bush pissed off during his 8 years in office.

It'll be interesting to see how these messes are cleaned up, and if they are cleaned up at all. I like Barack Obama but don't think that he'll be able to undo the damage done in 2 terms in the short time that the hard core republicans are going to give him... forgetting all the time that it was the Republicans who got the country in this mess to begin with.

I am sad that California has decided that we are not all equal under God and under the law.


It saddens me that people use religion as an excuse to discriminate against those who think differently. I'm a Christian, yes. I do believe that homosexuality is wrong but I will never condone the way in which Christian and other religious groups characterized Prop 8 as being pro or against family values and what marriage is supposed to mean.

So... instead of teaching our children to trust their parents and to come to them with these kinds of questions, we stop them from ever having to ask.  Where is the non-judgmental love towards fellow men? What happened to love the sinner but hate the sin?

Apparently it only applies if we're not directly affected.

I'm sad and I'm also angry that when people feel threatened they think it's ok to distort the truth and outright lie about it in order to get what they want.  I got a recorded message with a speech by Obama indicating that he believe in the sanctity of marriage... it was a spot from yes on 8 to further indicate that people should vote for prop 8.

And there are also news. People are already starting to collect signatures to put a repeal of prop 8 on the ballot for next year... there are lawsuits already being filled against the constitutional amendment. It will never end until one side concedes.


CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama spoke at a rally in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, after winning the race for the White House Tuesday night. The following is an exact transcript of his speech.


Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. Video Watch Obama's speech in its entirety »

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Gov. Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best -- the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod who's been a partner with me every step of the way.

To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perishe
d from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America