Sunday, June 08, 2008

On sinners and tax collectors

In today's gospel reading, the high ranking religious muckety-mucks of Jesus' day wonder aloud how much cred Jesus can have as a holy man, given that he is seen eating with "sinners and tax-collectors".

That always makes me smile...not for any deep theological reasons, but because of the childhood memory it evokes.

The very first definition I "fast mapped" for tax collector was "one who mooches a bite of your dessert". I learned this because those were the words my father routinely uttered while engaging in that practice. "Tax collector!"

Mind you, I had no idea what taxes actually were back then. I hadn't yet heard the expression about "death and taxes" being inevitable. I did know that "Tax collector!" was inevitable. And mostly harmless, as far as I could tell.

That is, until I learned that tax collectors were singled out as unsavories in the bible. "Sure, it's a little annoying," I (probably) thought, "but it can't be that bad!"

The actual details of this story are lost to time and no doubt distorted through retelling, so I can't say with certainty how this misunderstanding was actually resolved. My sense is that I realized that there must be other kinds of tax collectors, and I made a mental note to ask my father about it at the next available opportunity.

In any event, now you know why today, when I heard, "And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples," I mused to myself, "I hope someone thought to make extra dessert!"

Friday, February 08, 2008

Overheard at the gym

First, a disclaimer...I would very much prefer not to overhear other people's conversations at the gym. I try to go at least twice a week, three times if I'm lucky, and what I want to do is get in the pool and move. I'm not much of a swimmer, but I used to take water aerobics classes, and now I just go to the pool when I have the opportunity and do "freestyle water aerobics for one". I don't ask for much--I just want my own little spot near a wall where I can just do my thing and tune everybody else out. If conditions are right, that's where I can do some of my best creative thinking. But if people within earshot are having a conversation, then conditions are most definitely not right, and I can't seem tune them out no matter how hard I try.

I was actually in the shower, not the pool, so I couldn't see who was talking, but I had passed some older women on the way to the shower. Several of them--I'm guessing at least three--were having a conversation that I kept catching bits and pieces of...

"I stayed up way too late last night watching the returns."
"So, what do you think?"
"I don't knooow!"
"Well, our governor has endorsed Clinton."
"I'm not ready for a woman president."
"Me neither."
At this point, I *really* wanted to be able to tune out, because I was afraid I might hear something that would annoy me enough that I'd feel compelled to butt into their discussion. But the water wasn't loud enough to drown them out, so as I finished up my shower, I heard the conversation turn to the subject of women priests, and how one of the women had a friend who is one, but, "something about that is just not right." Also, apparently the women's movement is to blame for "the mess we're in today". Whatever that is.

But I wouldn't be sharing this story with you now, if it didn't have a positive twist. Here it comes. One of the women said (paraphrased)

"I used to think like that. Then my husband left me when I was 40, and I was totally unprepared to support myself. I vowed that I would never again let myself end up in that situation. ... Sometimes your situation changes, and then you change."
I didn't hear what the other women said in response, but inside I was saying "Right on, sister!" Because every day, in small ways we have opportunities to speak up and give the other side of the story. And an alternative perspective, when shared by "someone like you" has a better chance of taking root and possibly, as time goes on, softening (or even changing) some of the judgments people make.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

In which I owe my dog an apology

Originally posted at Street Prophets

Here are my buddies, Stevie (cat) and Brady (collie) sacked out just a couple feet from my desk.

I wrote about Brady and our trips to the dog park a little over a month ago. I haven't been able to take him there as often as I'd like, but when we do go, he always enjoys himself. Today was the first day in a while that I've thought the weather was nice enough to head out with him, and he was *more* than ready. And, of course seeing him that happy and excited is very satisfying for me. He's such a sweet boy, albeit a bit clueless. At least, that's how he seemed to me when he was running with the other dogs. I remarked once that Brady is "not the sharpest knife in the drawer", to which my husband responded, "I think he might be a spoon!" Today at the dog park, I realized that maybe *I* had been the clueless one.

As we pulled into the parking lot near our local "Bark Park", I could tell that Brady was overjoyed to be there. He trotted energetically at my side as we walked up the pathway leading to the park. Once we were inside and he was off leash, he got down to business--leaning on all the receptive humans and greeting all the dogs. And then, invariably, one of the humans throws a ball, other dogs chase the ball, and Brady happily runs alongside them. That's the part that always seemed clueless to me. Like Brady was saying, "I don't know what were doing, but we're having fun!"

This time, while Brady was doing his running adjacent to the action routine,