A Humbled Man

Things have been rough this year.

My wife died giving birth to a stillborn child.

I lost my job to a younger man.

The earth shook and things went wild.

Alcohol became my best friend

Keeping me warm on cold winter nights.

Teeth fell out and tongue turned brown

And vagrants challenged me to fights.

One rainy night, down on my luck,

No nickel to my tarnished name,

I stumbled into an empty house

Where I could hide in shame.

I searched through cabinets covered in dust

And looked under every loose board

Hoping to find a morsel to eat,

A blanket, a shirt, anything to add to my hoard.

Upstairs in what was a little boy’s room

A magical things I did find.

Buried beneath a pile of rags,

A book to challenge my mind.

A stubble of candle sat on a shelf

And so I quickly lit it with glee.

By the flickering light I eagerly read.

A realization soon came to me.

The story spoke of a man long ago

Who owned very little but love.

He roamed his world bringing peace,

Goodwill, a message from God above.

I am like He, I began to think,

With nothing to lose nor fear.

Resolved to act I fell asleep

Like a child, both loved and dear.

When the new sun brightened the world

I stumbled, confusedly, into the hall.

For there surrounded in unearthly glow

Hovered the Man to whom I did fall.

“My Lord, forgive this humble man

who long ago fell out out of Your grace.

Today I beg you, I am renewed

And ready to take my place.”

A breeze arose, tore off my rags

And dried the tears from my eyes.

Gentle fingers brushed my cheek

And lifted away my cries.

That was the day when I took control

And rejoined the human race.

From that day forward I was His man

And walked with smiling face.

I now believe that my wife and child

Truly did not die in vain,

For their sacrifice brought me back to God

And to feel His love again.

Faith: a Personal Definition

One aspect of faith is the belief in the inherent goodness of humanity.  It may be a naïve way of thinking, especially considering these troubled times.  It may be a bit misplaced in terms of focus considering the quantity of murders, robberies, beatings, and home invasions that take place every day.  However, if we cannot believe that the bulk of those traveling through life with us do so with goodness as a driving force, then we cannot live as faith-filled people. 

Back when I was still teaching something occurred at my high school that challenged my faith in humanity.  An article appeared in the school newspaper referring to a group of students as “Tard Kart.”  In itself, the label does not seem offensive.  However, the members of this group described themselves as crazy misfits who were not accepted by the school population at large.  Hence, to them, “Tard” was a derivative of the word retard.  Kart referred to the food carts which were staffed by Special Education students, the connection, to me, was quite obvious.

Believing that it was a simple mistake, I contacted the teacher who oversaw the Journalism students.  The teacher found nothing offensive about the inclusion of the name in the article.  When I asked her what she would do if a group called themselves “Spics” or “Wops.” Would she print that?  Of course not, she said, as those are ethnic slurs.

The teacher herself had been subjected to ethnic slurs over her entire teaching career.  She had been found crying, many times, over the cruelty of students who mimicked her accent and who left insults on the white board in her classroom.  One would think that if anyone would be sensitive to negative stereotypes, it would be she.

Earlier in the same week a student was attacked outside my classroom.  He was a relatively small freshman compared to others in his class. When I heard loud thumps outside my room, I went outside to see what was happening. My student was on the floor curled up in a fetal position, holding his groin area.  Large tears coursed down his cheeks.  He was unable to speak or move for more than thirty minutes. When I found out what has happened, I was horrified that two very large seniors had slammed the smaller boy against the wall and kicked him when he was down.

I believe that it was a prank that got out of control.  Yes, the students involved tended to be aggressive, defiant, and general malcontents.  Yes, they were not on track to graduate in June.  Even so, my faith tells me that this “beating” was not a planned act of violence, but rather an opportunistic reaction.

In my seventy-one years of life, I have not only witnessed, but also been a victim of comparable events.  As an abused child, I grew up in an environment that was not conducive to the development of faith.  It’s hard to believe in a God that allows physical beatings, verbal harassment, and emotional debasement.  I prayed, every day, for salvation.  My prayers went unanswered, or so I thought.

It was not until I went on a trip to the mountains of southern California with a Catholic youth group from my university that I understood faith.  Looking at the towering mountains and walking amid the amazingly tall trees, I realized that there is a God who loves the world so much that He gave us places of solitude and introspection. 

God does not always our wishes for He knows that we need to be forged by our experiences.  We may not want to walk our given path, but we have to believe that the journey somehow leads us to a clearer understanding of who we are meant to be.

When I stood in that forest I knew that I was not the horrible child that my parents saw.  Faith allowed me to witness the goodness inside myself, the goodness inside my parents, and the goodness in those sharing the moment with me.  It sounds like a cliché, but I truly felt a golden glow spreading through my body.  That glow was faith.

Since that day, my faith has been my rock.  It gives me the strength to transcend the travails of daily life.  It opens my eyes to the good intentions of others and allows me to feel generosity of spirit.  When disheartening or disturbing events rise forth, it is through faith that I am able to process what is happening.

I do believe that all humans are capable of living lives ruled by basic tenets of kindness and generosity of spirit.  Even when the news is filled with stories of turbulence, I do not let my belief waver.  That is my belief in the goodness of humanity. That is my faith.

God’s Face

Desolate cliffs stand at the place

Where first I gazed upon God’s face

No shrubs or grass to brighten here

No rabbits, birds or white-tipped deer

Sadness reigned throughout my being

Blocked the sunshine from me seeing

Clouds above, below and within

Blackness covered every inch of skin

Upon the edge I placed my feet

Willingly admitted defeat

Dreamt of freedom’s staccato beat

Thought of God whom I soon would meet

When birds did fly into the scene

I wondered what it all might mean

Did He expect me to believe

Relief would help me not to grieve?

As icing on my private cake

A rainbow appeared that did remake

Lifeless soil into softened down

As comfort for my furrowed frown

With crash of waves upon the shore

I realized that I wanted more

Than living life like troubled boar

Whose blackened heart on shoulders wore

The sun burst forth upon a wave

Strode to my heart; pierced with a stave

Releasing sadness, doubt and fear

Then my savior, God, did appear

Now rabbits, birds and white-tipped deer

Frequently to this place appear

Marvelous cliffs to mark the place

Where first I gazed upon God’s face.

On the Way


   

It’s a long way to the top,

but I’m going to get there.

I’ll fight, scrap, and never stop

until my soul is ‘most bare

Step by step I slowly march

eyes focused, brain sharp, heart pure

even though my mouth may parch

I continue on, straight and sure

My goals are set as I go

Do this, then that, this once more

Never complaining, aglow

toward the heavenly shore

I move, completing my plans

Surely as a mountain goat

Until I hear golden fans,

Only then I get to gloat

For here I stand, smiling me,

Successfully satisfied

My Lord, my God, soon to be

My guide, my shelter; I cried. 

Innocence

Innocence, so sweet and mild,

Proudly stood, and broadly smiled

Thinking of yon water cool

Standing in the narrow pool.

Azure eyes with sparkling gleam

Laughter sparked the languid scene

Boldly stepped with shoulders high

And sighed, but did barely cry

Father stayed close by her side

Beaming with heavenly pride

Leading her toward the Lord

Blessing her with word and sword

Of righteousness born from love

And belief in God above

Prayers he said; held her tight

Down came a heavenly light

Radiant beams all aglow

About her head they did show

For this was her baptism day

Chosen by the Lord, they say.

Innocence, so sweet and mild,

Proudly stood, and broadly smiled

Saving Beat

Deep in my heart a drum strongly beats

An elixir for a troubled soul

Rhythmical thoughts, transported on cleats

Cutting, biting, pointing toward goal.

Rutted, strewn with boulders humongous

Life offers no simplistic, free ride

Discard now those thoughts superfluous

Escape into religion’s strong tide

Believe, believe the whispers demand

Strive toward the heavenly target

Faithfully follow the narrow strand

Requiring just one golden ticket

Open my eyes to glorious sights

Halos as light for the proper path

Discourse with me about faith’s delights

Immerse me in refreshing cool bath

With God as my Savior, blessings fall

Comet showers of hues glorious

Heeding Jesus’ soft spoken call

I harmonize with angels’ chorus

Radiant rays, my soul, surround

Arms extending to God’s holy feet

I beg to let ecstasy abound

As in my heart, continues the beat

Soul Thoughts

As a child

I pondered the existence

of my soul

it’s location,

how it affected

my heart, my brain

my being

how it was like a balloon

awaiting my sins

to fill it up, one by one

black mark after black mark

the sisters never spoke of

forgiveness

erasing the blackness

God’s eternal love

I imagined my evilness

pulling me down

into the undertow of hell

As an adult

I understood that my soul

is linked to my heart

nestled closely like lovers

beating in unison

a romantic rhythm

My soul sings of happiness,

fulfillment

belief in accomplishment

it thrives on goodness

like an addict hooked on chocolate

the sweetness erases errant

thoughts

lines the soul with a

protective coating

I know that we are one,

my soul and me

it cannot exist without me,

nor I without it

together, we succeed