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Diary of a Worm’s Life in a Home “Growing Power” Box and Garden

Rain Garden
August 2010

Tomatoes & Basil
from Front Lawn
Garden 2010

Back Yard
Garden 08/02/09

Click below to read any post in full, and to post your comments on it.

Struggle for the Truth - Saturday, May 31, 2014

“In our struggle for freedom
truth is the only weapon we
possess.” Dalai Lama

May comes to an end and spring is still limping in. I planted a few more plants today and got, with the help of my friend from the Vet’s house, got other garden work done. The struggle to catch up on garden work continues.

I read a quote today from Mahatma Gandhi “The Satyagrahi strives to reach reason through the heart. The method of reaching the heart is to awaken public opinion.” A Satyagrahi is a person struggling for truth through nonviolence. After my recent experience with trying to reason about the wisdom of a large investment in a thrift store for St. Vincent de Paul in the suburbs instead of a much smaller one in the neighbors in need, I can see how we must reason through the heart which means awakening public opinion. But how do we waken public opinion when an article from the National Catholic Reporter on this issue is online but not published in the newspaper, local papers do not want to touch the issue any longer and emails and request for dialog go unanswered or ignored?

Someone sent me a very well researched and rational video about what really happened and why on 9/11. Now there is a subject few are interested in the truth.

It is said “The truth will set us free” but when one gives his or her ‘opinion of truth’ the response is often that is your opinion and I have my opinion. I admit no one but God has all the Truth but to struggle for the truth, as Gandhi says, is at the heart of nonviolence. For true freedom we need to agree thattruth, facts, history and research do matter and truth is more than individual opinion.
I took solace in working in the garden but must return, refreshed, from the garden to continue the struggle for the truth.


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Cows, Congress Persons and SVDP Board - Friday, May 30, 2014

Herd of Cows on road in India

What do Cows, Congressmen and Congresswomen and Board of Directors of St. Vincent de Paul in Milwaukee have in common? The answer, my friend, is they are all, at times, part of a herd. Cows, like this group of cows from India, are part of a herd being led down a road. I remember hearing about how Congress Persons, like my own congresswomen, are at times of a key vote for their party, rounded up like a herd, until it was clear how the vote in Congress was going. If it was going the way of their party or strongly against the party vote they would be let loose to vote the way they wanted. If the vote was close they were told how to vote, of course if it was against their conscience there would be something in for them at a later moment if they voted the ‘right’ way. In congress they actually call it ‘herding’. With the St. Vincent de Paul executive board, all but one, are blindly following the staff and consultant recommendation to vote for 4–5 million thrift store and operation in the suburbs to make money for the poor on the complete other side of the city, North Central Milwaukee, the poorest, most segregated, most criminalized area of Milwaukee. They are acting like a herd not questioning how the Society will ever see any return on investment and trickle down monies.

I have written a lot about why it is wrong to make this investment in Mission of St. Vincent De Paul and SVDP by the Numbers]]. The vice president of the Board of Directors asked me to print his thinking on this investment. I hesitated since I thought it was insulting to the poor and marginalized but now will, below, print both of his emails without editing. I believe strongly in community but when it becomes my conscience or joining the herd I do not really have a choice.

Here is the Vice Presidents own words about the millions of dollars to purchase and operate a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift store in the suburbs that in the SVDP flyer for local donations says: “We use your donations to provide gift certificates to needy families for free merchandise or sell at a reasonable price to low income and value oriented customers.”


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Picket Lines are Not What They Used To Be - Thursday, May 29, 2014

Protesting Jim Crow admission
policy at Ford’s Theatre,
Baltimore, 1948.

Picket lines, especially for civil rights actions, used to be an important tool in the arsenal of nonviolent action. You do not see or hear much these days about picket lines. We tried to have one today at the location of proposed new 3.2 million dollar St. Vincent de Paul, SVDP, thrift store investment in the suburbs. We did not have the contacts to get African Americans from North Central Milwaukee where the SVDP thrift store belongs and some that showed up did not know much about the issue or came at different times.

I did meet some interesting people, those who oppose the store, like I, and those who support the SVDP thrift store as an “a way to make money to help the poor in North Central Milwaukee”. We had signs on the picket and passed out SVDP by the Numbers sheets. No one on any side questioned our numbers. I had a bunch of research information with me in case someone challenged the facts.

Learning from History how to slow down violence in the city, my letter to editor, will appear in tomorrow mornings newspaper. Those who see it might like it and even say “nice job” to me and those who read it and do not like it will just ignore it. Creative dialog on information or opinions is not in vogue these days.
Many people just “do their thing” and the spirit of working together to make a difference for change for the ‘common good’ is history.

It is easy to be discouraged. However, my spirits were lifted today by three suburban women, members of a St. Vincent de Paul Conference in Waukesha Country, who heard about our picket from a common friend. They were all eager to pass out our by the Numbers sheets and engage persons. It was refreshing.

On the other hand I got into a discussion with a strong supporter of new store. All went well until he started to talk about the poor we visit, African Americans, as poor and lazy. I had to excuse myself from the conversation. I am having a very hard time with “new Jim Crow” this store represents but overt racist remarks are more than I can handle.

I can understand why low income African Americans would not like to be on this picket line. In old days picket lines meant something. Today they are ignored and people, some very good people, just do not understand what is wrong with this type of investment in suburban white community and how it hurts people in need. No facts, no history and probably no picket line, even if it was large, seem to make a difference. Picket lines are not what they used to be.


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SVDP by the Numbers - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

“We must do what is most
agreeable to God.
Therefore, we must
do what our Lord Jesus
Christ did when preaching
the Gospel. Let us go
to the poor.” Blessed Frederic
Ozanam (1813–1853)

The Central Office Staff of St. Vincent de Paul in Milwaukee and some leaders do not want to face the facts they are creating a social agency that hurts the poor rather than serve the poor directly as mission of SVDP is. They do not want to hear facts, common sense information, moral or mission arguments that, despite any good intentions, what they are doing might be legal but is wrong.

But for my love for them I must keep trying to appeal to their moral and Catholic Social justice sense of the SVDP mission to serve the poor directly by home visits and thrift stores in areas of most need. So here is another try.

St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) Milwaukee Central Office by the Numbers

100% — retail store cost charged to SVDP conferences for vouchers for donated clothing, household items and beds.
99.4% of Svdp five central office budgets of 2,041,600 that goes for administrative cost.
30 −50 Employees projected to be hired at proposed store in Greenfield
50% of projected budget of Lincoln Street Thrift store going for compensation for 10 or so paid employees.
50% of retail store cost charged to SVDP conferences for vouchers for donated furniture.
29 of Conference Presidents that voted for loan of 3.2 million dollars for store in Greenfield without knowledge of any business plan for return of investment. 4 voted No and 22 were absent.
.06% of Svdp five central office budgets of 2,041,600 that goes for direct service to needy.
0% of $100, 000 given by St. Catherine’s parish council for Needy Conference fund deposited in Needy Conference “separate fund balance.”
0 Number of Board of Directors of SVDP that seconded African American president’s motion for presidents’ council to reconsider vote for Greenfield store, in light of more information.

“$3.2 million for SVDP Store in Greenfield Legal but not moral.”

“We use your donations to provide gift certificates to needy families for free merchandise or sell at a reasonable price to low income and value oriented customers.” (Milwaukee SVDP flyer seeking donations.)

  • All above numbers can be verified as facts. See Mission of St. Vincent De Paul Society


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Learn from History to Slow Violence in Milwaukee - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Here is a letter to editor that I have wanted to write for quite some time and finally did tonight. If you read this post regularly I am concerned about how we do not learn from history. With the recent escalation of violence in Milwaukee we can learn some lessons from the past. In fact I wrote about Crisis Intervention Team (CIP) training in an essay Essay on Violence in Milwaukee in 2008.

Dear Editor
We could learn from the past how to stem the violence in Milwaukee. Near the end of his term and after building many new prisons, Governor Tommy Thompson asked a special committee to look at the root cause for prisoners and prisons. They reported back, and according to MJS article, prisoners and prisons “are bound to grow as long as the root cause of crime—poverty, lack of education and lack of family support—go unaddressed.” Politicians did not listen and prisoners and prisons increase.

President Nixon was elected with a “law and order” mandate. He launched a “War on Drugs” but also a very successful treatment program for drug addicts. With the emphasis on treatment crime went down but after his reelection and Watergate the successful drug treatment program was forgotten and the “War on Drugs” led to more crime and drugs.

When Memphis saw an increase in police shootings and arrests of persons with mental illness they created a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) which was effective. Our former police chief’s goal was for all police to have this 40 hour training. However, the present police chief, according to MJS, as kept police trained with CIT training to around 20%. Police shootings and arrests of persons with mental illness has increased.

There are many more lessons from the past that we can implement to decrease violence in the city, if only we could learn from history.


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Honor Veterans Not War - Monday, May 26, 2014

Today, Memorial Day, Pat and I went with our son and his family to a Milwaukee Brewers Baseball game. Three or four times during the game veterans were honored. This is something, honoring veterans, I have no problem with. But I felt by words and music veterans were not being honored but war was. I doubt if veterans of Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan died so we can be free or enjoy democracy. They were sent to wars where there was no victory for democracy but were placed in an environment where they had to “kill or be killed.” The “war on terrorism”, latest wars, have not eliminated terrorism but created many more terrorist. If we had taken a ‘police action’ against the alleged terrorist for 9/11 that would have been one thing. But we went to war with Iraq, a country devastated and full of violence, after we withdrew. The many years of the war in Afghanistan has not brought peace but more death and injury to all, especially people of Afghanistan.

Where was the Memorial to the 22 veterans a day who commit suicide because of the wars they were exposed to? We talk little about the wounded and more about the dead who cannot respond. Soldiers are brave and courageous persons and should be honored but no one wants to mention the greatest of all tragedies: they did not die protecting our rights but creating more war, violence and terrorist. There were even remembrances of veterans of the civil war where US citizens killed each other.

Father Charles McCarthy sent me a YouTube video call Pieta: Mothers of Sorrow, a Lamentation of the Great Deceit: Just War Theory. It shows the terrible effects of the wars we justify and glorify using the death of soldiers.

Yes soldiers and veterans are brave and courageous but let us honor them without honoring the wars, some “unjust, immoral and illegal”. Let us not use death of military personnel and wounded soldiers to justify war and violence. To say that soldiers who fought in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan fought for our freedom and democracy dishonors not honors these brave men and women who did what they thought was right and were trained to do. Honor veterans not war, violence and destruction.


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Father at War Final? - Sunday, May 25, 2014

Afghan Father and Son

Four years ago I met Frank whose son was about to go off to join the Army, despite the wishes of his parents. Frank wrote his reflections on his son joining the military in a posting called Father At War. Now his son has left the active military and he has written perhaps his final two reflections about how his son and their relationship have changed. You can find them at Final Exit and written for this Memorial Day weekend Stopping a Round.

Today marks what would have been the 42nd birthday of our son Peter. Peter took his life nearly four years ago after suffering what some would call a ‘mental illness’, I would call a ‘brain illness’ and he felt, although not a veteran, was like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.

No matter what you call it, it is triggered when he brain is traumatically affected and the symptoms are very similar, fear anxiety, depression, manic behavior and sadly sometimes suicide. The Veterans of Military Affairs that for a number of years 22 veterans a day commit suicide.

The military has extensively studied the brain and knows that killing a person or watching someone killed can trigger PDST. Yet the military continues to teach killing without conscience, reflexive killing which can trigger PTSD. In our fast paced society we know that one of four persons will suffer from a mental illness or brain illness but refuse to treat it as other illnesses like cancer or heart disease.

When will ever learn that putting young men and women in a war situation where they must kill or be killed or the refusal and reluctance to treat mental illness like other illnesses will only result in more suffering and tragedy?

Frank got his son back from war, changed and wounded, but alive. My son will never return to life on earth. We are Fathers at War and the final will never end.


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From the Heart of Whiteness - Saturday, May 24, 2014

I am reporting from the heart of whiteness,
The white belt of central Florida,
The whitest of white areas where Disney World reigns on the East
And Gulf coast cities on the West,
Where there are very, very few people of color,
This suntanned white reporter reports.

The water is warm, the weather is warm
And the food at the many restaurants is warm.
All can be hot at times but never are cold,In central Florida.

There are reportedly black neighborhoods in parts of some cities
But there no whites travel there
And if blacks stay inside the area it is okay.

In Disney World it is hard to find blacks,
Maybe a few Africans in the African village.
Mickey Mouse is all white if you did not notice.

There is nothing wrong with being white,
I am white.
But too much whiteness like found in central Florida
Can lead to being hard of seeing and hearing.
In the land of whiteness
The sun is out and the Gulf waters warm.
Swimming pools abound
But no blacks are to be found.


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Be a Living Stone - Sunday, May 18, 2014

Last night I did not write a posting on the Diary of Worm due to the fact I had written myself out in an email I sent to members of Society of St. Vincent De Paul in Milwaukee. I write these posting for myself and if they make someone else reflect or be inspired, that is a bonus. I try to write some each night but decided that this week to take some breaks from writing, sought of a retreat, to step back and reflect. Often stepping back one can see more clearly what is in front of them and how to continue the journey.

I am inspired to write tonight by the second reading, from Letter of Peter (1 Peter 2:4–9) where the author ask us to come to Jesus, “a living stone rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in sight of God” and be like living stores to be build into a spiritual house.

Before this web page I wrote an occasional newsletter by email to friends called “Living Stones”. I just tried to share some of the inspiration, writing, reflections and people I was blessed with in life.

The part of being a “living stone” that I overlooked but now fully understand is the part of being “rejected by human beings”. In those days of the newsletter I was invited to speak at Marquette University to classes a number of times; some people called me a ‘prophet’, believe it not. I was respected.

Now partially thanks to my own design and the impersonal communication of email some of my friends from those days reject me, often by the most harmful form of rejection, ignoring the person so you do not need to deal with message. I am a flawed person as some of my old friends and new friends, who are mostly poor and ill, know. But my real friends these days do not put me in a box and stigmatize me. Being a ‘living store’ means being accused of having a hard heart where just the opposite, compassionate and solidarity with those most in need, makes you speak out from the heart, even if the message is “what you do not want to hear.”

One sign of being a true ‘living store’ rejected by humans but acceptable to God is that despite any suffering, insults and rejection there is a deep sense of peace if you doing what God calls you to do in conscience and faith. A living store is hard and determined but being living is soft and sensitive. It is better to be a ‘living store’ than a ‘dead stone’.


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Answer, My Friend, “Go to the Poor” - Friday, May 16, 2014

I am having some frustration with the new email system imposed on me by ATT/Yahoo. The learning curve is too much for me to handle without wasting lots of time. Yet my problems with computer and email shrink away compared to the four families that we made home visits today. There were no computers in these households in the 53206 ZIP code, the most criminalized, the poorest and most segregated by race neighborhood in North Central Milwaukee, the most criminalized, poorest and segregated area of Milwaukee which is 1st or 2nd in major cities in the USA in these and other areas of shame. These families are struggling for a bed free of bed bugs to sleep on for their children or a refrigerator or stove to preserve and cook food, items many landlords have stopped providing rental properties.

They do not know the local St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP), at least staff and leaders, are determined to borrow 3.2 million dollars to build a thrift store in the suburbs to help them in the future with profits. The whites in the suburbs will enjoy another thrift store to add to their collection while the African American in North Central Milwaukee will suffer more from the racism and great social injustice this store represents. We the members of the St. Vincent de Paul will suffer from a lack of resources to aide those most in need. The Society will become deeper in debts, owner of more properties and pay more out in compensation to staff which is already five times the amount used to serve the poor. (See demographics in M.A.P.S.)

How do I explain to this lady with three children and no furniture or refrigerator and stove that we cannot fully serve her basic needs from lack of funds in our SVDP conference while SVDP is determined to invest 3.2 million in the suburbs? The poor will become poorer in North Central Milwaukee which badly needs a SVDP thrift store and the rich in the suburbs and can save even more money and become richer with another thrift store. The bankers who offer the loan will become richer as well as the real estate speculator supervising the new store in the suburbs. The four families and many more will have less resources, money, jobs, basic household provided to them. And I am worry about the new email system?

I cry out to God saying how can this be? What can I do to stop these good people who sincerely believe that borrowing 3.2 million to operate a new thrift store with high operating cost in a wealthy area will only burden the poor not serve them. God responds with the same old answer, “My friend, I have given all my blessings and grace to the poor. Go to the poor to share in them.”


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Custard or Homeless Making Milwaukee Famous - Thursday, May 15, 2014

Leon’s Frozen Custard
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee is famous for its summer festivals, beer, Friday Fish Fries and Frozen Custard. Milwaukee is known as the “unofficial frozen custard capital of the world”. “Per capita, Milwaukee has the highest concentration of frozen custard shops in the world and the city supports a long-standing three-way competition between Kopp’s Frozen Custard, Gilles Frozen Custard and Leon’s Frozen Custard. Milwaukee has a few ice cream shops and some soft serve places but Custard reigns.

When I was a child living on the west side of Milwaukee we lived near the first Kopp’s Custard Stand that was started by Elsa Kopp to support her family when her husband developed Parkinson disease. There were two flavors of custard, vanilla and chocolate, until the 60’s when Mrs. Kopp started mixing flavors and creating special concoctions. It became known as the ‘flavor of the day’ and is standard in all custard stands. For example Kopp’s now offers two flavors of the day. Some flavors of the day the next few days at Kopp’s are ‘Turtle Sunday’, ‘Key Lime’, Mint Chip and German Apple Streusel.

When I was a young adult Kopp’s moved out of the original location to large locations, east, west and south. Kopp’s original stand was taken over, by what I understand to be, one of their employees and called Roberts. It stayed Roberts for a long time and since I still live on West side of Milwaukee have made many visits to it. But a few years ago when Mr. Roberts died it was sold and became “Junior’s”. Although its web site is ‘gotcustard’ the place started to change. playing down frozen custard and emphasizing diverse fast food that custard stands also had available. However, Junior’s kept offering the flavor of the day which was made fresh in the custard machines behind the counter.

Last night I was driving home from a meeting at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul central office and frustrated how the board could not see how a store in North Central Milwaukee at low cost would better serve the mission of the Society than a 3.2 million dollar in the suburbs. I was going by Junior’s and notice interesting ‘flavor of the day’ custard on the outside sign. Like so many times before in my life I stopped, went inside and ordered a ‘single cone flavor of the day’. The young man who took my order said okay and went into the back room with taking my money. Someone else asked me if I was being served and I said I thought so. I looked around and saw the three custard making machines were shut down. I saw a woman making a Sundae for a customer on the other side of the store using a machine that looked like a soft serve machine. As I waited I look at the menu board and could not even find frozen custard even listed. The closest I can see anything custard was the logo on t-shirts of employee with wegotcustrd web site. Finally a young woman asked me what I wanted and I repeated my order, ‘single cone,


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Works of Mercy are Revolutionary - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

When I was young I thought the works of mercy, corporal and spiritual, were good but did not lead to real change. As I grew up I began to understand, mostly from the Catholic Worker Movement, there was no conflict between works of mercy and working for systematic change. Now I am older and beginning to think the works of mercy are it and lead to revolutionary change.

The The National Council of the United States Society of St. Vincent de Paul on its website says “End Poverty Through Systematic Change.” This seems like a contradiction since the mission of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) is to “person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering”. How does works of mercy lead to systematic change?

In Matthew 25 of the Gospel in the Judgment of Nations Parable the King (God) at the last judgment says: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Many take that statement about doing the corporal works of mercy as a statement about an individual doing the works of mercy. However, if you study the scriptures you can see the parable is about the judgment of nations or groups of persons. There was no sense of individualism in the culture of Jesus’ time. Everyone belonged to a group or nation.

Taking that understanding you see how if a group like St. Vincent de Paul or a nation, like USA, would adopt the works of mercy, corporal or spiritual, as a standard of living the Way of Jesus, the Gospel, it would lead to a revolutionary change.

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, used to say that if everyone was open to taking in a homeless person in their household, an act of mercy, there would be no homelessness. All we really need to do for revolutionary change, on an individual, group or national level is to practice the works of mercy. A list of Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are below.


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Sustainable Enviornment Better For All - Monday, May 12, 2014

St. Vincent de Paul and
Daughter of Charity nun, an
women’s religious order “devoted
to serving Jesus Christ in persons
who are poor through corporal and
spiritual works of mercy.”

The rain keeps coming down, although we had a snowy winter and a wet spring. There seems there is not much we can do about the weather except to endure it, report it and mess it up. Climate change caused by human actions have led to some extreme weather conditions and despite lots of talk we are not doing much about it as a community or nation. Climate change reports by scientist say conditions will get more extreme and worst unless we do something about it, besides talk.

It is easy to talk about what’s wrong but when you try to do something about it, even resistance, you are subject to be called negative. That is what happened to me when the central office of St. Vincent de Paul called my email calling for us to be true to the vision of the society ‘negative.’ I tried very hard to be ‘positive’ by suggesting alternatives to establishing a 3.2 million thrift store in the suburbs and even one where we could make a profit by establishing a store in North Central Milwaukee that could used as a thrift store and central office freeing up money by selling the present valuable real estate site of central office. But positive ideas are even called ‘negative’.

Like the weather sometimes we cannot about the weather except be environmentally responsible and helping to create environments that are sustainable. A St. Vincent de Paul thrift store/office on the North Side would not require a major 3.2 million investment but would be a sustainable investment to serve the mission of the Society.

So we cannot control the weather or the Society of St. Vincent de Paul but we can help to create a sustainable environment that will be better for all.


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Making Mistakes but Getting Out of Box - Sunday, May 11, 2014

Last night I did not do a posting because I spent hours trying to fix a commuter glitch. After many attempts I thought I had finally sent an email out to a group about an upcoming St. Vincent De Paul meeting. However, when the one I sent myself did not come back I thought I had made a mistake. So I spend a large amount of time trying to fix the computer glitch. This morning I realized the earlier email did go out, just not right away as normal. However, tonight I heard from a few friends that I put the right weekday for meeting but on the wrong date. This is a human error not computer mistake. So I tried sending it out again with correction only to get message about suspicious activity on my email address and it was not be sent out again. I will try again later or tomorrow a few times to send out the correction but not so hard. The individuals who wrote me back questioning the date got short note with correction. I learned in the past that trying endlessly to repair a computer glitch could waste lots of time and it is best to let it go and try later. I have got better over the years but still make the same mistake.

Today, being Mothers Day, Pat and I went up to my son’s house, spend some time with him, his wife and our three grandchildren and all went out to dinner. Recently I have noticed that certain restaurant foods, especially in quantity as with the buffet do not agree with my stomach and cause problems. But I made the same mistake again.

Some mistakes I have made, like responding with overt anger over perceived moral wrongs, I have learned to control. It is natural to get angry but it needs to be expressed in a creative nonviolent way. However, this mistake in the past, has stigmatized me to the point that some people can marginalize me by putting me in the box of just being negative and angry and no matter how I act, especially if I act with same old anger to stigma, keep me in the box.
A poem once said: “Man is Made to Make Mistakes.” These have been consoling words over the years but not I need to learn how to get out of the box these mistakes put me in.


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Two Tulips Too - Friday, May 09, 2014

Two Tulips Blooming at last.

It was the second spring like day in a row in the 70’s and I was able to get outside in the gardens this afternoon. Working the backyard I noticed two tulips that have finally opened. The daffodils have been blossoming for a few weeks but the tulips waited for warmer weather to bloom.

As the weather changes the gardens will change. Each flower has its time, some for a month, some for a week or two and some, like day lilies bloom fully for just about one day. My plants from seeds, like tomatoes in the sun room, are starting to come alive and grow and, hopefully, when weather stays warm for a while can be planted.

Sometimes in life, like the tulips, we just need to persist and wait for the right time to bloom. Sometimes we keep on trying, but due to conditions, never bloom. I can get down when I am struggling on some justice issue like SVDP giving “preferential option for the poor” on new thrift store in area of need over the suburbs. But I am reminded of words of wisdom from many sources that we must continue to act on our conscience without being depending on results.

Eventually “all will be well” but during the struggle it sure does not seem that way. However, like the two tulips we too must persist with hope, but not dependency, that the blooms will come.


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Words As Last Resort - Thursday, May 08, 2014

Today was our first warm day, in the 70’s, this spring. I had some St. Vincent de Paul stuff to deal with this morning and evening but in between had time to work on the gardens. I did not get everything done I wanted to in the gardens but did have a sense of accomplishment when I came in. I wish I could say the same about the rest of the day.

I heard there was an email sent out by the ST. Vincent de Paul Executive Director to Vincentians, not me, saying how great everything was with the 3.2 million dollar investment in the suburbs and how ‘negative’ people like me were to question it. I thought my letter to executive director was very positive about the mission of St. Vincent de Paul and the Thrift store. However, I guess when you take another direction than those on top you are negative. In my response, not my reaction, I pointed out how being called names and rejected was not such a bad thing in the service of those in need.

I realize that words will not solve any problems or make much of a difference in this issue. Actions, especially when working together with others, are more powerful but when all you got is words it is better than nothing.

Perhaps this is what I like about garden work. Words mean nothing, but actions, when taken by only self, mean everything. Working together we can make a difference; individual actions are 2nd best; but for last resort there are always words.


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Speak and Act Out for Earth - Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Carolee at school show

There was no posting last night since I was up at my son’s house to catch two concerts of my grandchildren, one band concert by one of my grandsons last night and one school play this morning for my granddaughter. The life of my son and his family is a very busy one but I was glad to get a touch of their life. Also the two and half hour trip each way is long but road trips can be relaxing. I just keep my mind on driving, listen to the news or classical music on the radio and let other thoughts come and go.

It is finally going to be warm tomorrow. The promise is weather in the 70’s. I got a few non-garden things to do in the morning but hope to spend most of the afternoon outside in the gardens. Garden work is more relaxing than driving and a lot more fruitful.

While spring is so late here I hear from news and family that the weather is warm and even hot elsewhere. The USA Climate Change report that climate change is disrupting our lives is finally sinking in, at least for some. But taking steps to slow down dangerous climate change is another story. Most people, as scientist, believe we must do something about climate change but despite all the violent weather there seems to be little will to do anything.

Here in Wisconsin building constructions of roads and highways is big time this summer as our mass transportation system, little as there is, fades away. There was even a move in the State legislature earlier this year to take mass transit out of the State transit budget.

China and USA consume so much of the world’s resources that unless these two do something the earth will continue to be polluted at a dangerous rate. But like so many issues, big and small, it is easy for us to feel that there is not much we can do about it. Maybe so but we must continue to speak and act out for the earth.


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The Door of Death - Monday, May 05, 2014

Poetic thoughts of death have been tumbling in my head all day. Maybe I can create an “easy essay” to get some of them out in the open.

Death is a shut door standing before me,
Fear says do not open it, let it alone.
My faith says open it and you may find life behind it.
The door is dark and made of hard wood.
It is scared with all kinds of nasty notes.
It can be easy to avoid it and pretend it is not there,
Yet my conscience says open it and take a risk.
Slowly I turn the knob,
A killer drone destroys a young child,
I feel rejected and the pain of being ignored,
Yet I continue to open the door
To find light and love on the other side.
I am relieved for a while but then see another dark door in front of me.


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Eliminating Instituional Racism at Home - Sunday, May 04, 2014

After our liturgy today our pastor, a Capuchin priest, told us the story how the St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) of Detroit, some years ago, decided like the Milwaukee County St. Vincent de Paul, to put their thrift store in the suburbs rather than in the central city where the poor live. They build a new store with SVDP officers above it. The new store was a disaster and after suffering some shame, SVDP moved the thrift store into the central city but not the offices. The first floor space for the thrift store was leased out to a collection agency. How ironic and how sad that Milwaukee SVDP is not learning from this error and is building a 3.2 million dollar thrift store in the suburbs rather than in the central city, at a much less call, where the mission of the Society could be kept.

What makes North Central Milwaukee so undesirable that Churches have been closed and moved out, factories have been closed, white persons have fled, the public school system left in ruins and the city trying to tear down homes rather than repair and sell them?

Recently the news told us of new mission of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits, on the south side of Milwaukee, a new high school to help train young men and women for the work force and good jobs. This will be the fourth mission of the Jesuits to the Hispanic community on the South Side, St. Patrick’s parish, Casa Romero Center, Nativity Jesuit Middle School being already established. On the North Side of Milwaukee, in equally poor community the Jesuits have no projects, never had and probably never will.

What makes North Central Milwaukee repugnant to the Jesuits and others? Both the South Side and North Side are areas of poverty and both are segregated. (See ).

The major difference is, while the South side has a large Hispanic population, North Central Milwaukee is over 85% African-American. It is time we call it what it is, racism, particularly what is called Institutional Racism.

Institutional Racism, “the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture, or ethnic origin”, is harder to recognize and respond to than the overt racism like we saw recently with the outrage of the racism comments by the owner of the L.A. Clippers basketball team. There is no individual or group to point to as “racist.” Unlike racial bigotry institutional racism is subtle with institutional systemic policies placing economic and political structures that place non-white racial and ethnic groups at a disadvantage in relation to an institution’s white members.” In this case the “institutional racism” is directed toward North Central Milwaukee and is reinforced with stigmas like how violent the neighborhood is. Crime happens everywhere but on the North side where the causes of crime, poverty, unemployment, lack of medical help, poor education, create a rough environment for health and safety it is expected and used to further isolate the neighborhoods. Institutional racism builds on itself and an area like North Central Milwaukee is avoided by the very people that can best serve it, the St. Vincent de Paul Society or Jesuit education.

How do we eradicate “institutional racism”? In 1968 a student movement to eliminate at Marquette University we felt like we had some success when, after a major protest by student body, Marquette University, a Catholic Jesuit university, created what it called an Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) that was focused on reaching out make it possible for more African Americans, outside of the basketball players, attend the school. Now I understand from sources at Marquette institutional racism with blacks has crept back into the system. I recently met a large group of Palestinian students at Marquette University whose education was enhanced by the EOP program. That is good but the idea behind the original program was to enhance African American students from Milwaukee receive a university education.

We can talk about helping the poor and oppressed all over the world but it is mostly talk if we cannot relieve the poverty and repression of the people in North Central Milwaukee, who are black. Eliminating institutional racism, Jesuits and SVDP Society, starts at home right here in North Central Milwaukee.


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Individuals For Others - Saturday, May 03, 2014

Individuals Working Together
for Others

We are all one family, brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles. I have learned that there are some cultures, like those from African Countries where this is more than just a nice thought. I am forever “Uncle Bob” to my friends from Sierra Leone that I met when they came to this country during the ugly civil war in their country. As a quote from Thomas Berry I just added to Various Quotes says: “In reality, there is a single integral community of the Earth that includes all its component members whether human or other than human.” Yes, we are unique individuals but we are united with all living creatures.” This is a fact of life oft repeated by Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Native Americans, spiritual and political leaders. Yet in the USA “individualism reigns” and self interest is separate from the ‘common good.’

Today we had what we called a “Catholic Worker Habitat” work day. Long time Catholic Workers, at large, not members of the official Catholic Worker house, needed some home repairs to the outside of their house and a group of us gathered to be of help, scarping, painting, and raking. Except for the young daughter living in the house where we were working all who came to help were between the ages of 55 to 75. We had tried to appeal to some younger persons but were unsuccessful. I have observed that young adults in the white community, like students at Marquette, are generous in doing ‘service’ to persons in need. But it is for other reasons than the sense of community which is what drew us together today.

Someone, who did not grow up in Milwaukee, was commenting on the great and diverse county park system that is in Milwaukee. I told him that the park system was part of Milwaukee’s socialist heritage. The socialist who were influential in Milwaukee to the 1960’s believed that “government was for the common good” not for individuals. Now days all politicians seem to talk about is tax cuts for individuals and the word “socialism” or even ‘common good’ are seldom heard.

All great religions, Buddhism, Muslim, Judaism, and Christianity are based on the unity of humanity and the need to be a person for others. Yet in the USA individualism reigns even with religious person. Some preachers even talk about how wealth is the sign of God’s blessings and how we must teach the poor and marginalized how to fend for themselves, work hard and be like us.

Today, working on a friend’s house we were all individuals but individuals working together for others.


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Ignoring a Crisis Makes It Worse - Friday, May 02, 2014

(Photo: Bob Jagendorf /
creative commons)

The young man killed the other day by a police officer turns out, as sadly expected, to be an African American young adult with a history of severe mental illness. Although he has been in and out of jail and the mental health complex he had never received treatment for his illness. The police chief said in his statement, the “system had failed him.”

I read a story in the online publication, Common Dreams about Skyrocketing Prison Population Devastating US Society. The 464-page report delivers a round indictment of four decades of skyrocketing incarceration that has quadrupled the prison population and torn apart families, communities, society, and the lives of the incarcerated people. “The rising numbers do not correspond to an increase in violence, but rather, are driven by politically-motivated policy changes, including: the imposition of “mandatory minimums” in the 1980s, longer sentences for repeat convictions, and increased criminalization of drug offenses due to the War on Drugs.” The incarcerated come from poor, racially segregated neighborhoods like North Central Milwaukee.

Mass incarceration of mostly young male minority adults for nonviolent crimes and at times for mental illnesses, agitates and deepens the problems of this local income racially segregated neighborhoods.

When traditional sources of support, like the Catholic Church and the St. Vincent de Paul Society abandon the areas in the name of going with white suburbs in order to help the poor in the name of finances it only deepens the problem. “Trickle down” economics” or “racist polices” that run from the poor rather than go to the poor for answers makes for larger suffering and more misery.

I joke that someday Milwaukee will build a wall around North Central Milwaukee,the poorest, most segregated part of the city in order to protect the people in North Central Milwaukee and people outside the area is sadly coming true. It is not a wall of concrete and barb wire like Israel is building around itself but it is a real wall of isolation, stigma, labeling, policing, poverty, racism and criminalization. The bigger the wall becomes, with mass incarceration, lack of funding for public schools, unemployment the more the self-fulfilled prophecy of how poor and violent the area is becomes true.

How to stop it? When racism was overt it was easier for people to see and expose. But when racism is subtle and in the name of doing good it is hard to see and expose. When will we ever learn that ignoring and neglecting a crisis only makes it worse?


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SVDP, Trickle Up Not Trickle Down! - Thursday, May 01, 2014

Trickle Down Theory

May 1st was a day to celebrate workers who organized and demanded fair wages and conditions. It was part of the bottom up movement in our society. Change in our society came from the bottom and as people at the bottom got more money they purchased more and people at the top got wealthy. At some point in the 20th century things got reversed and we developed the trickle down theory. The term has been attributed to humorist Will Rogers, who said during the Great Depression that “money was all appropriated for the top in hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.” Now the term is somewhat pejorative but is still practiced by politicians and the like who claim that if we give tax cuts and benefits to the rich it will trickle down to the poor. It has not worked, as the poor become poorer and the rich become richer, but the theory is still popular today and a politician that talks raising taxes for the common good is doomed.

St. Vincent de Paul and the Society named after him founded by Blessed Frederic Ozanam (1813–1853) is based on the bottom up philosophy and like the Gospel urges to go to the poor and not the rich. Fredrick Oxanam said: ““We must do what is most agreeable to God. Therefore, we must do what our Lord Jesus Christ did when preaching the Gospel. Let us go to the poor.”

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) in Milwaukee County has taken the “trickle down” approach rather than go to the poor. The recent controversy of investing 3.2 million dollar in thrift store in the suburbs rather than “go to the poor” and at a lesser amount purchasing a thrift store in the poorest area of town is a good example. The justification is that building an expensive store in the suburbs, where the need for such a store is less, will generate money that will trickle down to the poor. The local central office of St. Vincent de Paul spends 99% of its two million dollar budget on compensation and operating expenses and less than 1% on direct service to those in need, so money and service will trickle down to those in need. The central office and officers owned four properties, not counting the proposed new thrift store, all purchased with hope that these investments will trickle down to the poor. The Society in Milwaukee pays its top two executives some of the highest salaries in St. Vincent de Paul society’s in the USA in the hope that money will trickle down to poor. The SVDP conferences in Milwaukee send money to the SVDP stores for vouchers given to those in need instead of the store serving the conference.

For example, I just heard of a Vincentian of a conference that was offered a nice table and chairs to serve someone in need. Rather then have the donor give it to the store the person took it and will distribute it directly to someone in need. Giving it to store, controlled by Central office, would mean that he would have to purchase the same table and chairs back with a voucher to give it to someone in need. Money given to Society of St. Vincent De Paul, in one way or another, ends up funding the top and very little trickles down to the poor and needy.

This trickle down theory is why there is a struggle to build the SVDP thrift store in area of great need rather than suburbs. We do not need “trickle down’ economics in our Society. We need the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, Frederick Ozoman and Jesus to “go to the poor” to provide clothing, beds, stoves and refrigerators to those in need. Going to the poor directly is the way of the Society that has been lost in Milwaukee. Our mission is not going to rich with investments in hope that some money will trickle down to those in need.

Trickle up means giving resources directly to the poor. A 3.2 million investment to those in need for beds, furniture clothing and appliances would make a systematic and revolutionary change that would probably mean some money trickling up to the rich.


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