“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” - Albert Einstein

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hungry Kids

Who would leave a 6-figure job to work as an inner city school nurse? The kids at New Stanley grade school call her nurse Margie. Her job as a wellness consultant took her all over the country teaching school faculties how to live healthier lives. In Texas, a principal brought her a little girl who had been beaten: either in a fight or by a parent. Margie said, "I'm not licensed in Texas." The principal wouldn't take no for an answer. After the girl was patched up, the principal said, "We don't have a school nurse. Why don't you come work here?" Margie said, "I live in Kansas City." "You could move," the principal replied.

Margie didn't move to Texas, but knew God was calling her to work as a school nurse. She ended up working in a grade school in Kansas City, KS. She resisted the idea more because she thought school nurses only put on band aides. What she found were kids complaining of headaches and stomach aches. When she asked them if they had eaten breakfast, they said "no". She started keeping granola bars in her desk. She would ask if they had eaten supper. "What's that?", the kids replied. "Well, did you eat anything last night after school?" "No." Nurse Margie knew that more than granola bars would be needed.

She contacted Harvesters, to see what help she could offer to these hungry kids. They got her connected with the backsnack program. It provides weekend food for kids who receive free or reduced lunches at school. But there was a hole in the Harvesters' program. It ended before the school year did.

Enter one of the guys from the Caffeine Crew Bible Study. Our group is already involved in feading kids in South Africa and helping orphans in India. But there are kids in our own back yard in need. Several of the guys met with Nurse Margie and said we would help fund and provide the manpower to fill the backpacks for the remaining weeks of the school year.

The need is ongoing. Nurse Margie has a waiting list for kids wanting to be in her "backpack club". We're just a small group of men meeting at the Country Club Coffee Shop early on Fridays. But how can we not reach out and stand with such a one as nurse Margie.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sanitized Society

"Death and taxes are the only certainties in life." I'm sure you've heard this before. But an alien visiting our planet would argue that in this country it's only taxes. Rarely do we have to confront the reality of death. One reason this is so is that people live much longer now. I read a statistic that the average life expectancy was 47 years in 1909. I'm glad for the good health and sanitary systems we have in this country. But we've done more than just sanitize our environment. We've sanitized our life to the extent that we've isolated ourselves from having to face the reality of death.

We know the meat we eat comes from animals who were once alive. But we only see the package of steak in the cooler. People who are terminal are sent to hospitals and hospices to die. And our pets are "put to sleep" in the vet's office. We get to leave the room before the final breaths are taken. We don't have to face death until it comes to someone close to us and even then it usually takes place somewhat removed from us. . We are informed our loved one has died. We have a chance to get ourselves emotionally ready and then we're ushered in to see the lifeless body for a few moments and then we move on.

I've come to believe that the way we deal with death in our culture has deprived us of a deep human need; we need to be confronted by death. And since we've sanitized the real thing our of our experience we feed on imitations through television, books and movies. A good murder mystery holds our attention. And crime shows and war stories may horrify us, but we are still fascinated by them. But we know it's not real. Still, deep within us is a need to be reminded of our mortality. So our media culture has invented a "safe" way for us to do that. It's like riding a roller coaster. We get to feel the danger without really facing the danger. We get our "fix" of death and then go on about our lives.

These thoughts have been rolling around in my head for several years. But the discrepancy between "fake" media death and the real thing came clear to me this afternoon as I sat with Q--our dog--and watched death slowly take him. He hadn't eaten for days, and we watched him get weaker and weaker. Our days became times of a death watch, wondering if he would die in the night or while we were at work. I was glad I got to be with him at the end, although, I don't know if he was aware of anything at all.

And even though death ended his suffering and I knew in my head it was inevitable, deep inside of me something cried out that this was wrong. Today, seeing him up close, I know in my bones that death is my enemy. He may be welcomed at times, but an enemy he remains. Of course, I know the theology. I know the story of our fallen world and how death came to be. But true knowing is intimacy, not merely concepts.

Our sanitized society has removed us from this intimacy of knowing and facing real death. Perhaps it was a noble idea to spare us from pain. But I believe we are robbed of a vital part of our humanity--fully facing the result of living in this sinful world. And, in contrast, we are robbed of fully embracing the message of the Kingdom of God: that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. I've had the concepts in my head that death is my enemy. But today I know it in my heart. So I pray "Thy Kingdom come" and look forward to the time when both death and hell are thrown into the lake of fire.