Letters

My good friend, Jim writes letters. Now, every time I receive one of these, I vow that I will write a response. You see, Jim doesn’t use email, so I can’t just send off a quick response. I used to be pretty good at writing letters. I started when I went off to another state for high school and pretty much kept it up until I discovered email and the Internet in the early 1990’s. It’s been downhill ever since, at least as far as letter writing goes.

Lakshmi Pratury in her 2007 Ted Talk, The lost art of letter-writing challenges her listeners by suggesting we should not give up on letter writing sharing how rereading her deceased father’s letters connects her to him realizing “…the paper that touched his hand is in mine…”

I’ve kept a few of the many letters I have received over my 73 years on this earth and periodically look at them and remember another person, time and place. One letter in particular from my older sister, Marianne who in the midst of starting and raising a family took the time to tell my what she thought of my “vocation” and how our family influenced that. I won’t go into the particulars here, but to this day fifty-five years later, I think of that sage advice and sometimes actually reread it.

The founder of the Passionist, Saint Paul of the Cross (1694 – 1775) whose feast day we celebrate this coming Saturday, October 20 wrote more than 20,000 letters.  In his day letter writing was the new technology, kind of like email today. In their book The Letters of St. Paul of the Cross, two Passionists I claim as friends and mentors  Fr. Roger Mercurio (1918 – 2001) and Fr. Frederick Sucher (1917- 2013), building on the work of other Passionists translated  over 2,000 of these opening to English readers the thoughts, struggles and mysticism of this simple man. Thank you Roger and Fred, for introducing this saint to me and happy feast day to all celebrating the gift of letters.

Posted by Dan O’Donnell, a layman who 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

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We Are All Called to be Builders

Can you imagine a world “of hopes, dreams and visions…where prophets speak…where peace and justice meet…where outcasts and  strangers bear the image of God’s Face and the cross stands as witness”?

Posted by Dan O’Donnell, a layman who 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

The Power of Asparagus

My mother assigned daily chores to each of us. I remember periodically having to pick some wild asparagus that grew in our rock garden and bring it in for dinner that night. I never dreamed that this simple act was unusual or that it would ever become a means of fighting climate change or of building community.

Tim Rinne in a 2014 TEDx talk Growing food, growing community — the example of the Hawley Hamlet, shares a charming story of how the fear of missing a meal at some future date, led him to revolutionize what his neighborhood looked like and how he grew from knowing just three of his neighbors to now knowing all of them. As a result of their combined work, they lessened their carbon footprints and learned to grow food, much like that asparagus I picked when I was five years old in 1950.

I’m meeting with an activist group leader tomorrow to talk about what we might do to fight the bad effects of gentrification in our Chicago north side neighborhood. Maybe we will plan a demonstration in front of the alderman’s office, or maybe we will organize individuals asking them to stand on corners requesting people to sign petitions. Both ideas I suspect have been successful in the past, but I’m hoping that we will come up with something more revolutionary like the Hawley Hamlet. Thanks Tim for the idea.

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

Why Blog?

People who know me, know I’m always pushing blogging. I push it because I believe it will lead to more face-to-face meetings and allow all of us to overcome our time and space limitations as well as provide a venue for people with differing opinions to come together to share them.

In the above TEDx talk, Celeste Headlee presents ten ideas on how to be a good conversationalist. While I think they are all effective strategies, one in particular impressed me, number two: “Don’t pontificate.” In her comments about this suggestion she says, kiddingly I think: “If you want to state your opinion without any opportunity for response or argument or pushback or growth, write a blog.”

Unlike simply listening to a homily or watching a program on TV, blogs do offer the reader an opportunity for response, argument, pushback and growth. As a blogger, I appreciate someone taking the time to respond, whether with an Emoji or a comment. Both communicate, and after all, that’s the whole idea.

Finding the time and space to meet face-to-face limits the number and variety of people with whom I can converse. The blog opens up many more possibilities for discussions with people. If we apply Headlee’s ten suggestions for conversation to blogging, I think we will enjoy blogging and be better prepared to effectively participate in face-to-face conversations.

Any comments?

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

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