The 99%’s Opportunity
July 1, 2012
Shoes in Church:
I showered and shaved................ I adjusted my tie.
I got there and sat................ In a pew just in time.
Bowing my head in prayer............ As I closed my eyes.
I saw the shoe of the man next to me....... Touching my own. I sighed.
With plenty of room on either side......... I thought, 'Why must our soles
It bothered me, his shoe touching mine.. But it didn't bother him much.
A prayer began: 'Our Father'............. I thought, 'This man with the
shoes, has no pride.
They're dusty, worn, and scratched. Even worse, there are holes on the
'Thank You for blessings,' the prayer went on.
The shoe man said................. A quiet 'Amen.'
I tried to focus on the prayer....... But my thoughts were on his shoes
Aren't we supposed to look our best. When walking through that door?
'Well, this certainly isn't it,' I thought, Glancing toward the floor.
Then the prayer was ended............ And the songs of praise began.
The shoe man was certainly loud..... Sounding proud as he sang.
His voice lifted the rafters........ His hands were raised high.
The Lord could surely hear. The shoe man's voice from the sky.
It was time for the offering........ And what I threw in was steep.
I watched as the shoe man reached.... Into his pockets so deep.
I saw what was pulled out.......... What the shoe man put in.
Then I heard a soft 'clink' . As when silver hits tin.
The sermon really bored me.......... To tears, and that's no lie.
It was the same for the shoe man... For tears fell from his eyes.
At the end of the service........ As is the custom here.
We must greet new visitors, And show them all good cheer.
But I felt moved somehow........... And wanted to meet the shoe man.
So after the closing prayer........ I reached over and shook his hand.
He was old and his skin was dark..... And his hair was truly a mess.....
But I thanked him for coming.......... For being our guest...
He said, 'My name’s Charlie............ I'm glad to meet you, my friend.'
There were tears in his eyes......... But he had a large, wide grin.
'Let me explain,' he said............. Wiping tears from his eyes.
'I've been coming here for months...... And you're the first to say 'Hi.''
'I know that my appearance...........'Is not like all the rest.
'But I really do try....................'To always look my best.'
'I always clean and polish my shoes...'Before my very long walk.
'But by the time I get here........'They're dirty and dusty, like chalk.'
My heart filled with pain............ And I swallowed to hide my tears.
As he continued to apologize.......... For daring to sit so near
He said, 'When I get here............'I know I must look a sight.
'But I thought if I could touch you....'Then maybe our souls might unite.'
I was silent for a moment............. Knowing whatever was said
Would pale in comparison.... I spoke from my heart, not my head.
'Oh, you've touched me,' I said.......'And taught me, in part;
'That the best of any man..............'Is what is found in his heart.'
The rest, I thought,............... This shoe man will never know.
Like just how thankful I really am.... That his dirty old shoe touched my
This is a good story, but does it go far enough?
Martin Luther King, Jr., civil-rights leader (1929-1968) said: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring.”
Isaiah 58: (Good News Translation)
1 “The Lord says, "Shout as loud as you can! Tell my people Israel about their sins! 2 They worship me every day, claiming that they are eager to know my ways and obey my laws. They say they want me to give them just laws and that they take pleasure in worshiping me." 3 The people ask, "Why should we fast if the Lord never notices? Why should we go without food if he pays no attention?" The Lord says to them, "The truth is that at the same time you fast, you pursue your own interests and oppress your workers. 4 Your fasting makes you violent, and you quarrel and fight. Do you think this kind of fasting will make me listen to your prayers? 5 When you fast, you make yourselves suffer; you bow your heads low like a blade of grass and spread out sackcloth and ashes to lie on. Is that what you call fasting? Do you think I will be pleased with that?
6 "The kind of fasting I want is this: Remove the chains of oppression and the yoke of injustice, and let the oppressed go free. 7 Share your food with the hungry and open your homes to the homeless poor. Give clothes to those who have nothing to wear, and do not refuse to help your own relatives. 8 "Then my favor will shine on you like the morning sun, and your wounds will be quickly healed. I will always be with you to save you; my presence will protect you on every side. 9 When you pray, I will answer you. When you call to me, I will respond. "If you put an end to oppression, to every gesture of contempt, and to every evil word; 10 if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon. 11 And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things. I will keep you strong and well. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that never goes dry. 12 Your people will rebuild what has long been in ruins, building again on the old foundations. You will be known as the people who rebuilt the walls, who restored the ruined houses."
It is easy for us to believe that we are holy by doing empty observances, but is it enough that we make ourselves feel good? Doing Good Deeds is a spiritual practice.
From Islam Shaykh Sa’di : “To give pleasure to a single heart by a single kind act is better than a thousand head-bowings in prayer. - (Accessed 4/29/11) http://faith786.wordpress.com/2008/05/02/islamic-quotes/
And yet Imaam Ibn-ul-Qayyim teaches, “Deeds without sincerity are like adding dirt to water then carrying it. It weighs it down and does not benefit the carrier!” http://www.islamicquotes.net/blog/ (Accessed 4/29/11)
These 2 Islamic quotes seem to be to be at odds with each other, but they prove a point we believe in Unity: that we must look within for our guidance as to what is ours to do in the world. Action in the world is one of our 5 main principles in Unity, but it does not seem to serve us or others well if it comes from a sense of duty. Action from the heart, guided by the heart is the key to “Creating a World that Works for All,” our Unity Vision.
The Buddha said: “In separateness lies the world's great misery, in compassion lies the world's true strength.” http://thinkexist.com/quotations/compassion/4.html
We live in a country founded on certain principles, many of which are found in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense,[note 1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Yet if we pay any attention to what is going on right here in the United States we realize that
• the Union is far from Perfect,
• Justice may be better than in some places, but it needs our help,
• Inner and outer Peace and Tranquility need a shot in the arm,
• the common defense now needed may be from the 1% in control of most of the money and jobs in the country,
• the general Welfare is going downhill fast as the middle class disappears and the poor are seldom spoken about;
• and freedom may be relative to our class and economic status.
The thing about a democracy is that what the people say and do makes a difference. The people have power. But…… if the people do not use that power but turn it over to those who are at the top, we move from a democratic republic to an oligarchy.
It is our responsibility to keep this country great by listening within and stepping up and out to follow the guidance we receive.
• That means taking action that others may not agree with.
• That means taking risks, being visible, signing forms, educating others, creating new opportunities for people to do the right thing.
• It means listening to the other side and understanding many perspectives.
• It means letting our sacred self work in the world creatively.
The world is in a whirlwind of change right now. We are all being called upon to listen to our unique guidance and to trust it by stepping out to make a difference in this country which has such an impact on the world. THIS IS THE OPPORTUNITY AND THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE 99%.
As I read the following issues, I invite you to raise your hand when you feel touched by any subject. And if you feel very strongly around an issue, let yourself stand.
What injustices do you see in the world? (Racism, Sexism, Religious Discrimination, the justice system and the penal system, Discrimination again Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transsexuals, economic injustice: lost jobs, lost homes, lost families, lost hope: the growing gap between the have and the have nots;
What is imperfect in our Union? (Trust… trust seems to be eroding in government, even local government, in businesses, in families, in any kind of commitments. How can we restore trust??? Maybe by teaching and learning communication skills and bringing education, compassion and forgiveness into all our relationships. (Aida has created a transparency package for government to avoid graft and build trust. So far no one wants to buy it.)
How can we help people find inner peace? lessen fear around strangers, tomorrow, the unknown, death, loss or success, where their next meal or their next medical need will come from; where they will sleep tomorrow or tonight.
How can we help people build outer peace? in homes by dealing with domestic violence and child abuse, and elder abuse; in neighborhoods from gang violence, raise consciousness from the mentality of the reptilian brain that wants to run from or after someone for criminal purposes to a heart centered, compassionate response.
How can we promote the general Welfare? Economic disasters, huge student loans, lack of education, and jobs, and promote goals that are spiritually affirming and life affirming rather than based on material emptiness, and promote self-worth, education, self-confidence, compassionate responses, healthy relationships, healthy families, healthy emotions, nonviolent communication. General welfare of children, of health care for all people, of animal rights, of the earth and its care by promoting clean air, clean water, clean earth, by preserving natural resources and natural habitat and natural beauty.
How can we promote freedom? In thought, word and deed. Freedom to follow our inner guidance rather than go along with the crowd. Freedom from the past, freedom from co-dependent relationships, Freedom of those falsely imprisoned, freedom for abused women lashing out at their abusers, freedom from violence: both inner and outer.
The list could go on and on.
• Which issues touch your heart?
• Which issues are you willing to sign a petition to congress about?
• Which issues are you willing to join an advocacy group for?
• Which issues are you willing to create attention or education around?
Which topics had a lot of energy? (Trust seems to be involved in many of these issues.)
What does bad behavior leading to mistrust look like?
I invite a group of you who feed strongly about issues leading to mistrust to come on stage and create a human diorama or skit about what that looks like.
Get in pairs or 3s and act out scenarios that demonstrate the break down of trust. Then share with us what you are demonstrating. (The congregation can help)
(Time for all scenarios.)
Now one at a time, with the help of the congregation, transform the ugly into the beautiful. Change your movements, or stand like statues and let others move you into positions of compassionate solutions built on trust.
We each have not only the ability but the responsibility to make a positive difference in this world.
A number of you are doing it in small ways. Some of you are beginning to engage your passion, to step beyond your comfort zone, to do things you never thought you would or could do. Like Julie Edwards Matanga who is working compassionately for animal, educating youth and even writing songs kids will remember. Like Julie many of you are opening to allow God or the Universe to do work through you. You are becoming a channel for Good in this world. You are becoming God’s hands and feet and ears and voice.
The amazing thing is that scientists are finding that practicing compassion actually helps you as much as you help others. Several of us heard James R. Doty, M.D. speak this spring at the “Meditation and Prayer as Seeds of Peace” conference in LA. He is the founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University. He works with a variety of scientists from a number of disciplines examining the neural bases for compassion and altruism. He is also a professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine.
Doty says: Why, in a country that consumes 25% of the world's resources (the U.S.), is there an epidemic of loneliness, depression, and anxiety? Why do so many in the West who have all of their basic needs met still feel impoverished? While some politicians might answer, "It's the economy, stupid," Based on scientific evidence, a better answer is, "It's the lack compassion, stupid."
Doty’s studies show that through “a compassion practice one can increase one’s vagal (nerve) tone and down regulate …(its stressful) arousal. By doing so (one) becomes calmer, decreasing one’s heart rate and increasing one’s empathy and social connectedness. Even with as little as two weeks of a compassion practice one can have a significant positive effect on markers of stress and immune function.”
CALL TO ACTION:
As we accept that our survival is based on survival of the kindest, (which Darwin’s second book was about) as a individual, as a species and as a planet, we see the importance of stepping up and stepping out in heart- centered and empowered ways to “Co-Create a World that Works for All.”
"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion." – His Holiness the Dalai Lama ––
You may not have the financial power of the 1% but you have the joint power and opportunity and responsibility as part of the 99% to make a big difference!
What is yours to do this week?
What injustices do you see in the world?
Discrimination again Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gays,
The justice system and the penal system,
Economic injustice by the banking system:
lost jobs, lost homes, lost families, lost hope, the growing gap between the have and the have nots;
What is imperfect in our Union?
Trust… trust seems to be eroding in government,
even local government,
in businesses, in families,
in any kind of commitments.
How can we restore trust???
Aida has created a transparency package for government to avoid graft and build trust. So far no one wants to buy it.
Maybe by teaching and learning communication skills and
bringing education, compassion and forgiveness into all our relationships.
How can we help people find inner peace? lessen fear around strangers,
loss or success,
where their next meal
where their medical needs will come from,
where they will sleep
How can we help people build outer peace?
in homes by dealing with domestic violence,
in neighborhoods from gang violence,
raise from the mentality of the reptilian brain that
wants to run from or after someone,
from crime to a heart-centered, compassionate
How can we promote the general Welfare? Economic disasters,
Huge student loans,
Lack of education, and jobs,
Promote goals that are spiritually affirming and life
affirming rather than based on material emptiness,
Promote self-worth, education, self-confidence, compassionate responses,
Promote concepts of wholeness building healthy
relationships, healthy families
Teach healthy thinking and ways to process
Promote nonviolent communication.
General welfare of children,
Health care for all people,
Attention to animal rights,
Earth Care by promoting clean air, clean water,
clean earth, by preserving natural resources and natural habitat and natural beauty.
How can we promote freedom?
In thought, word and deed.
Freedom to follow our inner guidance rather than
go along with the crowd.
Freedom from the past,
Freedom from co-dependent relationships, Freedom from addictions and habits that don’t serve us.
Freedom of those falsely imprisoned,
Freedom for abused women lashing out at their
Freedom from violence: both inner and outer.
The list could go on and on. Which issues touch your heart? Which issues are you willing to sign a petition to congress about? Which issues are you willing to join a advocacy group for? Which issues are you willing to create attention or education around?