Facing Hate Head On

“Hate begets hate; violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness. We must meet the forces of hate with the power of love… Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding.” (Martin Luther King Jr. 1958 Speech)

I know and believe Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement above almost better than I know any other reality, but that doesn’t stop me from getting upset and ready to throw a few punches when I watch the news reporting the craziness going on in my world today. I also know, simply sitting at home in my living room, and just watching the news will paralyze me eventually letting those images of hate so vividly presented on the television get lost in the hodgepodge of other “news”. I can’t let that happen. I must do something to counteract the hate in my world.

Now, to many my preferred course of action will seem like pollyanna and totally ineffective, but I believe there are two actions I can and must take to stop the hate. I believe with all my being, these actions will truly make a difference. First, I must take those vivid images with me. I must never forget that today someone, somewhere is hating, and as Dr. King states in the above video, I must love that hater and then just as important, or maybe more importantly, secondly, I must identify with the “hated”. That’s right, I must identify with the hated.

I absolutely cannot do that by myself (by myself, I would throw the punches) and so I choose to join other believers on a regular basis and pray, meditate and then most importantly make a plan of action to be a source of love in my world. Together, if we are true to our mission, we will stand with the marginalized and oppressed, we will counsel the doubtful, feed the hungry, cloth the naked… you know the rest and yes, I believe we will redeem the hater.

Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Connecting Over A Meal

As a teacher, I experienced the joys and sometimes the struggles of living with a group of people, six hours a day five days a week. About my third year of teaching we, the faculty and staff, chose to make our school a “closed campus”, that is we decided to eat with the students, giving up our forty-five minute lunch period, and yes, getting that same period of time as our own at the end of the day. Of all the teaching experiences I remember, this one, eating meals, breakfast and lunch with my students topped the list as most rewarding. We became a family. Teaching now wasn’t just a job I came to everyday. It became the family I shared my life with.

The two minute Inside Edition’s August 2016 video of a Mississippi Sergeant David McCoy’s chance meeting and a subsequent shared meal with a homeless man, Dan Williams from Ohio demonstrates the value of sharing a meal. Fr. Thomas Glennon, SSC has the following quote on his business card: “A life unlike your own can be your teacher”. So, like my sharing above, it’s not clear here who is the teacher and who the student, but no doubt all came out winners, me, my students, the sergeant and the homeless man.

Today, I religiously join a group of seniors for lunch sponsored by the Lakeview Prebysterian Church in collaboration with the City of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services—Senior Services. In truth, the people I’ve met there have become my family. I can’t imagine what retirement would be like without those lunches. The trip to and from lunch also connects me to people many of whose lives are unlike my own, and truly they are my teachers today.

Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Swords into Plowshares

“I believe in a future where the value of your work is not determined by the size of your paycheck, but by the amount of happiness you spread and the amount of meaning you give.”

This quote comes from Rutger Bregman’s April 2017 TED Talk, Poverty isn’t a lack of character; it’s a lack of cash. Poor people, he tells notoriously make poor choices especially in the areas of health and money. He continues by citing a study by Eldar Shafir of Princeton University and his colleagues who observed sugarcane farmers in India and showed: “…that people behave differently when they perceive a thing to be scarce. And what that thing is doesn’t much matter — whether it’s not enough time, money or food.”

He then presents what I believe is a plausible solution to poverty in the United States today by proposing a guaranteed monthly income for everyone. That would change the context in which the poor live and as the above study suggests open the door for the poor to make better decisions. He actually shows this was done in Dauphin Canada and it worked. He also points out that it would only cost “175 billion, a quarter of the US military spending or one percent of GDP”.

Finally, such a move Bregman suggests would also open the door to the 87 percent of workers today who don’t like their present jobs, giving them a choice and helping them realize the quote beginning this post.

Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

A Tried and True Way

At the risk of sounding too much like an infamous contemporary tweeter who offered to send in the militia, I’d like to suggest a tried and true way to solve many if not all of our 21st Century Chicago problems. I didn’t invent this way and neither did Jane Addams whose story Amanda Forsythe tells so well in her 2012 YouTube video Jane Addams Founds Hull House in Chicago.

Jane Addams (1860 -1935) a wealthy heiress, not unlike the afore mentioned tweeter, from Northwestern Illinois with her friend Ellen Gates Starr, garnering financial and moral support from many of the wealthy women of Chicago, chose to purchase an old run down mansion in one of the worst parts of the city, that much like parts of today’s Chicago was facing unprecedented social upheaval, live there and open their home to the poor all around them. She truly got involved.

Ms. Addams was the first American Woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She is credited with starting modern day social work, influencing people like Ethel Percy Andrus, foundress of AARP, establishing the first juvenile courts in the world which separated juvenile offenders from the adult population. This only begins to tell the story of a woman who had the courage to live a tried and true way, one not too different from St. Francis or St. Paul of the Cross.

Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

A Tomorrow Called Hope

As a teacher, I always thought my first job was to create a safe space for all. If I was successful at that, then some learning on my students’ as well as my part could take place. I can’t tell you how amazed I was to see that the great Jesuit teacher of our day, Pope Francis agrees. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised though, we had the same teacher.

Pope Francis in his April, 2017 TED Talk, Why the only future worth building includes everyone, tells us how to create this safe space, this safe world. We do this, Pope Francis tells us by understanding that none of exist except with each other, “none of us is an island”. Secondly, Pope Francis shares his dream of a world that recognizes that life is really about, loving one another. A life of love gives us a tomorrow called hope. Finally, he talks about a revolution that needs to take place, “the revolution of tenderness”.

This distilled version does no justice to the loving, hopeful version Pope Francis shares in his TED Talk.

Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Some Thoughts on “The News”

I’m not sure when television “News”  (North, East, West, South) started becoming important to me. Actually, throughout most of my life I never had the time to watch it regularly, but since I’ve retired, it’s become a regular event in my daily life. I’m beginning to think this is not healthy. After sitting in front of the TV for a half hour, trying to digest all those eight second cuts presented, I walk away more confused and I believe less informed.

I began wondering if there wasn’t a better way for me to get connected with what is happening in my immediate world and the larger universe surrounding that. I started looking for alternatives and I think I’ve found a good one, Damon Brown’s How to choose your news, a TED Ed talk and lesson. TED Ed is TED’s youth initiative that presents animated lessons like the above one, as well as all sorts of discussion questions and materials for someone who wants to go deeper. (I wish these existed when I was teaching-I think they are great)

While the animation is only 4:48 minutes, and I believe well worth watching, I will try to summarize it in a few sentences. Brown starts with recognizing the confusion surrounding today’s plethora of media including, but not limited to social media, blogs (this of course is a blog) and online videos. He suggests the following seven points if you want to get the truth:

  1. Get original news
  2. For current events, follow reporters on social media
  3. Don’t try to follow chaotic stories in real time. Check at several points during the day rather than every few minutes
  4. When you can’t get the original story, read coverage in multiple outlets and not the differences
  5. Separate fact from opinions noting words
  6. Watch out for stories that rely on anonymous sources
  7. Verify news before spreading it

As a community we are as apt to post material that is controversial and present it as facts. Worse, we stand on the sidelines of the important issues of our day unwilling to share our truth or view. This I believe (note the use of the word believe) is not good. As a community with a shared strong belief in the power of the Cross we need to speak up, not condemning those who think differently, or suggesting that our view is any better than another’s, but simply stating our truth. Finally, if we wish to be heard, we must also respectfully listen to others who don’t share our thoughts.

Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey

Telling Our Stories

Before modern media, the community would gather around the fire in the evening to recount the days events as well as to tell the story of their tribe, it’s encounter with the earth and the world they knew. Today, especially at this time of the year, we do this in our homes, churches synagogues temples and mosques.

Nothing can ruin that sense of fellowship that sharing ones’ stories creates more than to have someone else tell our story, especially if they do that with a slant that suggests they are better than us. Chimamando Ngozi Adichie in her TEDGlobal 2009 talk The danger of a single story tells her story that sadly for the early part of her life, was defined by someone who knew nothing of her truth.

This past Monday, Jews around the world gathered for their sacred Seder meal where they retell their story. Starting today, the Christian world will gather to retell their story.

Sadly, many of the tribe will be missing at these gatherings. I’m not sure why, but if my experience as a gay man is not unlike theirs, I suspect they feel that their story isn’t as valid as the others who are gathering. Chimamando Ngozi Adichie uses the Igbo word nkali which translates to “greater than another” to explain her experience. I suspect many of us can relate to Chimamando and that word, nkali.

I pray that I always have the courage to tell my story and just as important, the humility to listen attentively to others as they tell theirs.

Dan O’Donnell

Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey