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Violence, Big Brother of Exceptionalism - Sunday, November 30, 2014

Modern Warfare 3 Video game

Watching TV sports this holiday, I noticed there were a large number of ads for video games, very violent video games. I guess this is the season for giving and receiving and what is more American than violence.

This morning in Church someone prayed for the people of Honduras who have suffered terrible violence, especially since the USA led military coup in 2009 of the democratic elected government by SOA offices trained at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. Honduras has the highest murder rate of any country in the world, – “in 2012, it registered 90.4 murders per 100 000 population, more than twice that of neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala – most victims are poor and nameless.”

Although the USA has the highest incarceration rate in the World, our country is known for purveyors of violence in the world, from Killer drones to military budget larger than the 9 other top ten budgets in the world, to being largest exporter of weapons in the world.

I have been exploring in my mind the connection between ‘racism’ and ‘militarism’. I believe they are connected when one class of people, one race or one country believe they are exceptional and do not need to “conform to normal rules or general principles.” We see it in our political figures, like our President, who proclaims and praises “exceptionalism”, in our staff and leadership of local St. Vincent de Paul Society who know what is best for the poor, in our police chief and mayor who believe they can stop “thugs”, as they call them, with increased police patrol in certain neighborhoods.

Violence is the big brother and sister of Exceptionalism, whene one group believes they are more equal and know what is good for others.


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No Blacks Playing Basketball but Cars of Whites Driving on Trail are Welcomed - Saturday, November 29, 2014

Old Sign on Trail Going to
Soccer Field

The story of Resurrect the Rims at Doyne County Park begins in 2009 when a good part of the park, outside the 9 hole golf course was closed for some major renovations. When the park was reopened in 2010 the playing field for soccer players was flattened, there was a new playground and new basketball courts, with 4 rims. Most of the people in the neighborhood did not know why the park was closed and reconstructed. But soon after it opened an individual called a meeting in his home about taking down the rims on the new basketball court. The than pastor of the Church on the Park called a public meeting in the Church hall to see what people really were concerned about. Although the few persons wanting to take down the rims tried to dominate the meeting a few other concerns of homes boarding the park were expressed. One of them was that parents of a local private high school were now driving cars on the bike trail to get to soccer field. There is a parking lot in the park but the girls from the private high school soccer team would have to go on trial next to young men playing basketball, including many African Americans and by the playground.

New Sign on Trail going to
Soccer field

Also during the course of public meetings it was disclosed that the County Supervisor at that time with a small group of individuals thought they had a promise from County Park System not to put back the basketball courts. It turns out that many full court basketball places in mostly white neighborhoods at been taken down by the County when African American males started to play basketball there. This was one of full courts left outside of North Central Milwaukee, 85% African American, only a few full court basketball playing areas, in the very far nearly all white Southside and the 85% white suburbs. Now thanks to someone firing a shot in the park and a WE Energies truck hitting one of the poles there are two of the four basketball boards left and no full court basketball playing.

While working to keep the rims up I learned the major portion of the park renovation has been paid for by a private high school and thus the county felt obliged to put signs up that the new level soccer field could only be used by private permit. One of the other concerns, besides taking down the rims was accomplished, the placing of a sign on the bike/walk sign saying “No Motorized Vehicles Allowed.” This sign was same as one off the road in the park going the other way on the bike/walk trail.

I used to drive into the parking lot to check out basketball players. After two of the rims were taken down I noticed cars again driving on the bike trail to get to shelter for golf course or soccer fields. When I could easily do it, I would point out the violator, there was no vehicles allowed on the bike path. A few weeks ago I pulled into the parking lot by the rims and by chance noticed that sign going into the park had been changed. The new sign now reads “No Motorized Vehicle Parking.” The city ordinance quoted is the same but the big change was ‘Vehicles Allowed’ to ‘Vehicle Parking’.

So it seems now that people can drive cars on the bike/walking trail path past the courts, playground to get children playing soccer but they cannot ‘park’ on the bike path.

These days where we see the life of a young adult African American is not valued very much in society but money speaks and is ‘free speech’ this story speaks of the racism rampant in Milwaukee. African Americans playing full court basketball is a ‘danger’ but cars driven by white person on well used walk/bike trail is safe?


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Lynchings Today - Friday, November 28, 2014

Lynching Past & Present

Fighting the big corporate ATT&T to get Ms. Lucille’s, 86, phone back in operation, despite all the time he took, seems easy compared the struggle to get the landlord to fix her heating system. When I was over at her house working on restoring the phone I noticed she was using her gas stove to heat her house. She told me the heating system was broke and the landlord had promised to fix it. He never did and a week and half later she still has no heat in her house outside leaving the gas stove on. I called the person who manages the houses for landlord many times, she has called more times and another friend has called. Someone did come to look at it but said a new part was needed the person did not have but that person never returned.

She is careful about complaining to the landlord since at her age and condition it would be difficult to find another landlord to rent to her. She like many seniors wants to keep her independence and having her own place is part of it.

While making home visits I noticed that the housing conditions of the poor have drastically dropped. People are poorer more than ever and the housing stock has dropped in quality. I blame bed bugs and greedy landlords for the deteriorating situation but it is really many other factors, including all of us and the racism in American we cannot face.

I am now listening to an audio book, historical fiction novel, about the lynchings of African Americans in the South during the beginning of 20th century. It is horrible and would not be tolerated in our times. But today, under the ‘new Jim Crow’, “the rate of police killings of black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of lynchings in the early decades of the 20th century.”. Naturally the lynching of past days and the killing by police of today are very different. However, the lynchings of 100 years ago and modern day policemen killings of African-Americans are often for no good reasons and are very seldom prosecuted.

The racism of lynching was mostly in the South while police killings of blacks is all over the USA. How can we have gone so far in civil rights in the last 100 years and land up in the same place, African Americans, mostly male, being killed by whites, mostly policeman. Today when we hear about policeman killing persons unarmed African American males like Michael Brown, Dontre Hamilton or the 12 year boys playing with fake gun we say shame and life goes on. The government officials, not even the President, do not call it racism but rather tell us to vote and work hard and the system will change. Racism of old, lynchings, as racism of today, police killings, was not changed in the ballot box but only when people of all racist stood up and said in one clear voice in word and action: “Enough”, we will not take it anymore. I am not talking about violence, although I can understand that response, but am talking about risking our lives, insults, reputations, careers to say stop. If a young black man, with a legal gun, shot and killed a white police officer who he felt was endangering his life, would he be charged and held accountable in the justice system?


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Days of Thanksgiving or Days of Fasting - Thursday, November 27, 2014

Attitude of Graditute

Gratitude come naturally when one fast or eats a little but it is hard to conjure up when one is full and feels fat.

Scripture scholars tell us that the uniqueness of “Love Your Enemies”, found in the Gospels, probably means it is something Jesus really said and meant. When you see deeply into people, friends, enemies and those in between it is easier to love everyone and see them as a unique being and not judge them by actions but who they are.

Often what we are looking for to feel gratitude is right when we are, we just cannot see it. As the saying goes “We are the ones we are looking for.”

Gratitude flows from deep within the soul so when we are cluttered with all kinds of things it is hard to feel gratitude.

When we feel the presence of God, gratitude flows.

When we see God in other persons, life or nature gratitude flows.

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude but with family and friends busy with TV sports and movies, playing games on I Pad or smart phone, it is hard to find time for gratitude.

Gratitude lives in silence, something that many of us fear.

When we have a sense of our death it is easier to find gratitude for the moments we are living.

Nature evokes gratitude as does a friend with a helping hand.

When we are ignored it is hard to find gratitude, since the one doing the ignoring or showing the indifference is not recognizing our being and existence. It is easier to be rejected than ignored.

An attitude of gratitude goes a long way in making friends or melting the hearts of enemies.

Gratitude grows naturally as a rose does on a cultivated rose bush.

Being grateful is hard in a times of war, violence and injustice.

Our present Thanksgiving has roots in the Puritan tradition of Days of Fasting or Days or Days of Thanksgiving in response to events that the Puritans viewed as acts of special providence.

So if today is a Day of Thanksgiving when is the National Day of Fasting? Will we have football games on TV on the Day of Fasting?


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Trolleys and Freeways for “young talented educated people” - Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Trolley downtown for
“young talented educated people”.

Milwaukee does not have an effective mass transportation system, no commuter trains and a very poor and expensive bus service. For a young adult living in North Central Milwaukee, without a car, it is almost impossible to get to and back from an industrial job in the suburbs, where they are. While there is over a 50% unemployment rate with young African-American male adults in North Central Milwaukee our Mayor is pushing for a $123.9 million dollar trolley service for downtown Milwaukee he says will attract “young talented educated people” to live in the downtown area.

The State is pushing for multimillion dollar expansion of I-94 expressway for “moving commuters, tourists, freight and other movements to major sites around and beyond the Southeast region” without driving through any neighborhoods, especially the racially segregated neighborhoods of North Central and South Central Milwaukee. The “young talented educated people” could take the trolley to their car and get in and out of Milwaukee.

I see this as all part of larger plan, conscious or unconscious, to segregate the poor and minorities into certain neighborhoods that do not have jobs but have poor housing and education and less hope and opportunity to make a better life.

I joke that Milwaukee is building a wall around North Central Milwaukee which is 85% plus African American, the poorest area of city with high unemployment, poor education and highest rate of incarceration. One person took me seriously for a second and quickly realized what I was talking about was the invisible wall of discrimination. If we imprison people like the Israelis have done to the Palestinians in Gaza we are asking for trouble. There is a spark of hope in all humans that eventually will rise up nonviolently or violently to seek freedom and equality. Where will the “young talented education people” who have their own trolley go then? They would probably get out the expanded freeway and head out of town. Trolleys and expanded freeways will not settle problems of a racist city. They will only make matters worse.


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Money Feeds Racism - Tuesday, November 25, 2014

“Money is the dung of the devil.” Pope Francis 09/20/2–13

We were watching a show on Al Jazeera America TV called “Holy Money”. The documentary explores “the financial scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church and the efforts of the new Pope to clean up its multi-billion-dollar business dealings amid allegations of money laundering, corruption and embezzlement of funds.” The quote above comes from this film.

The Roman Catholic Church is rich beyond what we could imagine. “Blessed are the Poor” does not apply to the institutional Church. The gap between what we say and believe, the Gospel values, and the wealth of the Church and how it uses its money and power is overwhelming. To his credit the present Pope is trying to do something in his words and symbolic gestures. The real question is can he make institutional change.

Money and how to use it is at the heart of most social ills, even in the conflict with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. When I started to research were the money is coming from and where it is going in the Milwaukee Society the few got really upset and had two of us suspended by the National Office of St. Vincent de Paul. Now the same few are taking this suspension that they imposed on me to threaten me that if I try to participate local St. Vincent de Paul they will “use all means available” to stop me. They need be afraid of me but should be concerned about all the monies of the poor they have wasted. It is an independent audit that they are afraid of, not so much for what they are doing with money belonging to poor being illegal, but it being immoral.

It is very hard for the ‘rich’ to be in the Kingdom of God on earth. With money come power, glory and often greed. With money comes the feeling of ‘exceptionalism’ or arrogance of the rich toward the poor.

Again on news on TV tonight they uprisings over the failure to indict the white police officer in Ferguson were featured. The president and “TV talking heads” say people should vote and take other constructive efforts for change. They fail to see or use the word that is the heart of anger and frustration, racism.

It is not community and police relations that are the problem. It is money, the dung of the devil that feeds the racism of this country. Until as a city or country we admit it, we are a racist nation, the conflicts of races and culture will continue to happen.

Money feeds racism. Stopping the greed of the few in this country will be a first step in solving the growing divide between races, poor and rich.


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Exceptional or Ordinary - Monday, November 24, 2014

Two Palestinians walked into a Jewish synagogue in Jerusalem and open fire killing five Israelis. The President of Israel immediately orders the bulldozing of their family homes. What would we say if the US President order the destruction of the two cousins involved in a Church shooting in the USA?

The head of Department of Transportation (DOT) suggest taking money from already devastated education fund to pay for new roads. What would people of Israel say if a similar official suggested taking money from education fund to pay for new highways?

President Obama secretly decides to extend the direct USA military presence in Afghanistan for another year. What would we say if President Bush did such a thing?

Staff and select suburban members of Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Milwaukee take millions of dollars donated to poor in the city to build a thrift store in the suburbs and I get a letter from the local lawyer of the Society saying the Milwaukee Society will “use all means available” to it to prevent my participation in the Society. Does this make sense? White policemen in Ferguson, Milwaukee, New York City, and around the country shoot and kill unharmed African American males and do not face any charges. If a black man shot an unarmed police officer who he felt threaten from, would he be charged? The Catholic Church in Milwaukee can spend millions and hide millions in order to settle with men and women abused by priest. Is this what the Gospel is about?

There are many more examples of what I would call “exceptionalism” thinking. Exceptionalism is the perception that a country, society, institution, movement, or time period is “exceptional” (i.e., unusual or extraordinary) in some way and thus does not need to conform to normal rules or general principles.” (Wikipedia) This seems to be the thinking of Presidents of Israel and the USA, Staff and select few of Milwaukee St. Vincent de Paul, Police Departments, Wisconsin DOT department and Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

It is time for the ordinary, ‘next to normal’ and rejected persons of the world to rise up and demand equality with the exceptional.


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A Man Without Shame! - Sunday, November 23, 2014

Study War No More

This weekend I joined thousands of persons from all over the US and Latin America in the 25th anniversary of struggle to close the School of Americas (SOA), the Army, military training base for training terrorist in Latin America. It was also the 25th anniversary of the massacre of six Jesuit scholars/priests, their housekeeper and her daughter that took place during the Salvadoran Civil War on November 16, 1989, at the campus of Universidad Centroamericana “José Simeón Cañas” (UCA) in San Salvador, El Salvador. It was this massacre by SOA training military that first awoke large number of people to this terrorist training camp in the USA. The killing goes on all over in Latin American so we honor all those killed by USA supported terrorist attacks, babies to the elderly. The coup in 2009, of SOA graduated of a democratically chosen president of Honduras was led by a SOA graduate and has led to a country of repression and violence, the murder capital o the world. The terrorist base has changed its name to the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Corporation but terrorist training and support continues in the USA.

During our SOAWatch to close the School of Americas there was an inclusive Eucharistic celebration during which the Franciscan priest who I was accompanying spoke. My friend and friend of many there mentioned my helping him with his walker which has really slowed him down. He loving and jokingly spoke of my helping him get up from falling, which he has not done in my presence, saying I was a “man without shame.”

Thinking of that remark I have come to like it, if a “man without shame” means someone who not afraid to speak up in resistance to violence and injustice. “A Man Without Shame” if it means someone not afraid to “speak truth to power” even when it brings rejections and silence. I am not saying I am this kind of person but a “man without shame” is something I would Like to be. As the Army says in propaganda “Be All You Can Be.” I would like to be a “Man without shame.”


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Unconscious Cultural Racism - Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tonight I went with two friends from our St. Vincent de Paul society to a talk at Mount Mary College about Racism and Catholic Church. Actually the talk was called “Unconscious Racial Bias and the Challenge of Solidarity: Catholic Social Justice Post Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and . . .” The unconscious cultural racism was important to me. In recent years I have become aware of racism around me, from eliminating the basketball rims when African Americans started to use the courts to racial discrimination of local St. Vincent de Paul Society that got me recently suspended. Once your eyes are opening it is frightening. Solidarity with African Americans becomes nature for what you are seeing is experience every day by African Americans.

Yes, racism has become a taboo word every time I brought it up at meetings about the basketball courts and the location of St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in white, high income neighborhood where it is not needed, rather than in black, low income neighborhood where it is needed.

Racism is deep in our society and will take more than change of laws and regulation to get out. We all need to dig deep in our hearts and soul and become aware of our own ‘unconscious’ racism. It will take heart to heart dialogs, which we got a taste of tonight, before much it done.

I hope I have courage to continue with message of racism, something people do not want to hear. I had one small victory today when after hours and hours of talks with Att we were able to restore her basic phone services. This struggle was a good example of the struggle to overcome ‘unconscious’ cultural racism


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Devices are Taking Over Our Lives - Tuesday, November 18, 2014

With record snowfalls and record cold reported across the country, I guess any thought of extending fall to make up for a cool summer is gone. Maybe next year we have some of the warm weather of climate change where each year the average world temperature rises. Extreme weather has become a hot topic and even here in Milwaukee where we only had a little snow and it has been a little colder than normal extreme weather eats up our news. Why people like weather reports so much I do not know. If I want to check on weather I just look at the App on my smart phone which is usually more accurate that radio and TV news.

I heard a freighting report on radio today how obsessive we have become with our devices like smart phones, tablets and computer. The story was about a young man who, while texting and driving, killed two men. At first he denied he was texting when the accident occurred, but when a specialist talkeed about how our devices distract us without us even knowing it he realized that he did kill these men because of texting. He is now an advocate of not texting while driving which most Americans agree with but many of them still practice it.

Checking on devices for texts, emails and information, like weather conditions, or diving instructions has become like a slot machine for many. Although most text and emails bring us not much new or exciting we keep checking, like pulling the lever of the slot machine, looking for the ‘good news.’ Science has shown how our devices have affected our brains.

I must admit I am guilty. If I sit in the living room to take a break or eat lunch I find myself turning on TV, flipping channels looking for news or sports or checking my phone or email. There are Apps for just about everything from checking the biblical readings of the day to doing speed check on passing cars.

The poor, elderly, ill, the people without a lot of devices are being left behind and we who have lots of devices are becoming more and more passive. We can hear or read about anything on our devices so why do anything more than send a text or email. I am guilty as the next person in allowing devices to take over my life.


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Overcome Evil with Good - Monday, November 17, 2014

Being banned from making home visits is a lost for me. But with the type of friends I am now developing there is no lost of ways to help friends, from driving someone somewhere to help getting a phone connected. The new world of technology, fast cars and computers, smart phones and twitter has left some people, poor, old and ill behind.

So that part of the Catholic Worker equation remains, works of mercy. The other part, resistance to injustice and violence, war and greed is also not hard to find. When one eye is open to the evils of racism and militarism they appear everywhere.

What is hard to do, these days, is when facing what you may see as evil to overcome it with doing good. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12: 21) When a Catholic institution that you love and respect, like St. Vincent de Paul, locally treats the poor badly and bans you how do you respond? When Marquette, a Jesuit Catholic University, ignores its own teaching and teaches war and killing what do you do? It is easy to criticize such things but how do you turn them around with love and respect.

I do not know what to do but to keep on speaking the truth and acting on my conscience. More prayer and silence will help guide me but more and more I am getting to understand St. Ignatius of Loyola when in a prayer in his Spiritual Exercises he says to welcome rejection, insults and being ignored when you are doing something in the name of Jesus. I am not sure what I am doing is in the name of Jesus but I certainly can follow his advice by taking the evil I see around me and doing my best to overcome it with love and goodness.

I hope I am not too old to overcome evil with good.


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Give to Needy Not Greedy - Sunday, November 16, 2014

Last night we had our first snowed, about an inch. The fear of a big snow never materialized here in Milwaukee but the bitter cold did. Hope of temperatures above 30 are quickly disappeared and we are in winter, like it or not.

All of our Wisconsin Sports team, Packers, Bucks, UW football and basketball won this weekend so maybe we will have some interesting sports games to distract us from the cold of this winter.

Today’s Gospel the parable of the ‘talents’ Matthew 25: 14–30 is a favorite of capitalist and greedy. It seems to condone making money on money and usury. But this is a complete misinterpretation since early followers of the Way, Jesus, considered Usury, making money from money, immoral and a sin. Many preachers, like ours in Church today, understand the “talents” talked about in the Gospel the same as what we would call talent in English language. It actually was a large sum of money and the people of Jesus’ day probably understood the servant who did not use his money to make money as the hero. If you read the rest of Matthew 25, especially the part about the “Last Judgment” where those who cared for the least were caring for God, the story of the ‘talents’ takes on a new meaning.

Jimmy Carter is attributed to have said: “If you don’t want your tax dollars to help the poor, then stop saying you want a country based on Christian values, because you don’t. The same sentiment of sharing abundance with those in need is expressed in faith Muslims, Hindu’s and others.

I heard a biological scientist once say that altruism is a natural generic value of creatures who survive throughout the ages. Besides humans he names, worms, bees and cockroaches are creatures that would sacrifice for the common good.

I believe this is why ‘usury’ was considered so harmful to early followers of Jesus, called later Christians. Being a man (or woman) for others, like St. Ignatius of Loyola urged the members of the Society of Jesus, Jesuits, in my opinion is natural. By being for others we really are defending ourselves.

Being for others is being for self. As followers of the Way of Jesus we give and live for the needy not the greedy.


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Machines and Humans Work Together to Wreck Havoc - Saturday, November 15, 2014

Yesterday I observed how communication technology leaves the poor behind and today I found out that humans can help or make it worst. I went back to my 86 year old friends home trying to restore her phone service. After a hour and half the other day we discovered that the problem was with the billing department. Someone had sold her a package she did not need or use. She even had wireless computer connection included although she has no computer. The phone company representative insisted she pay back bills for services she did not receive or want. He said, paying the large bill was option one. When that was impossible it came up with option two and switched me to person who he said would restore her old fashioned basic line service. This person was doing that until he came to the credit check. I told him what problem was but he tried and when he failed put us back on hold for the billing department where we had started. After being on hold for a very long time I finally hung up and called again and again to the smart robo phone person who said he understood complete sentences Clearly he did not understand my request to speak to a customer service supervisor but finally a human answered.

By now my cell phone cell batter was being depleted. The third person today seemed to understand our problem and came up with a way to bypass the system and restore basic phone system. It is scheduled for tomorrow morning but will not work if the technician who installed the bundle stuff disconnected the regular land line. I expect he did and if it is true will be back Monday to help my phone restore service.

So after over 3 hours of communicating which high tech machines and humans I am not much further than when I originally called.

Machines and humans teaming together wreck havoc on old, poor or ill or even “near normal” persons like myself.


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Communication Technology Leaves Poor Behind - Friday, November 14, 2014

Two events today reminded me how modern US communication technology is leaving the poor, outcast, elderly and ill behind. One was a friend of mine who has no computer or printer in her house. We made arrangements to go to a local university next week to hear a speaker. We both called for reservations since the new way of getting in on free talks for public at a university to public is to call. We both called and left messages on a phone. We got call backs that we were registered. However, than I got a call asking for email address since the admission tickets would be emailed to me and I could print it out. A little while I got another call from the same friend saying he could not reach my friend but asking for her email address so he could email her a free ticket. I explained that my friend had a smart phone but no computer and printer. He said he would email her ticket to me and, after a couple tries, he did.

An 86 year friend of mine was very hard to reach by phone, her only communication device with outside world. Finally she answered the phone yesterday and explained to me that her phone was only able to receive calls but not make ones. We made arrangements to meet the next day but when I called her back with a change of time I was greeted by an automatic message saying her phone number was changed and it was unknown. I went over to her house to check on her and found her with no phone service. The phone is important to her for many reasons, one, being her 114 year old mother in Florida would get help calling her at her number.

After spending over an hour with three AT&T officials I found out it had something to do with her billing. I said I would work on it with her today after we got back from our scheduled appointment. When we got back, however, my alarm on cell phone rang reminding me that I need to pick up my Goddaughter from school today. So I took some bills she had found and said I would be back tomorrow. It looks like someone, perhaps accidentally, ran up some big bills for services she does not use. She only uses the phone to make local calls and to receive local and other area calls like from her mother and friends.

I have ran across this same situation with my own phone and with phones and communication equipment of friends who are not technology acute and cannot spend the many hours of frustration it sometimes takes to get to human beings that can solve your problem.

It used to be and still is that lack of car handicapped the poor and ill. Now it is modern means of communications. Our world of communication technology, text, emails, tweets, internet connected computers and printed is leaving people behind and make it “harder to be poor.”


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Blessed and Valuable Beggars! - Thursday, November 13, 2014

Whatsoever You Do

Yesterday I saw a news story how Churches were encouraging members not to give money to beggars. It was suggested people give money to charities instead.

Today I read how the month of November brought both highs and lows to the sculptor, Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz, of Homeless Jesus On the one hand his life-size sculpture depicting a barefoot, blanket-shrouded Christ, asleep on a park bench, was blessed by Pope Francis on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica following the Wednesday General Audience on November 20. On the other hand, another of Schmalz’ works, a statue of a beggar, called “Whatever You Do” was stolen from the Church of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields in Kensington Market, a historic neighborhood in downtown Toronto. This statue depicted Christ as a beggar slumped on the ground, holding out a nail-printed hand. Drawn from the Beatitudes, it spoke of how Christ is revealed in the marginalized among us—the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned. I guess when the statue of Homeless Jesus was blessed by the Pope the price of his others works increased in value. So if you see the sculpture picture on this page please report it to authorities.

Now if the pope blesses all beggars, following sayings of Jesus that “Blessed are the Poor” and “whatsoever you do for the least you do unto me,” I would hope the value of beggars will rise.

Many great saints, St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of Jesuits and St. Francis of Assisi, founder of Franciscans were beggars. Somehow in our American culture beggars have gotten a bad rap, as thieves or marginalized people to be ignored. Jesus, as a homeless beggar, would have a hard time today, even with a nail-printed hand.

A beggar came up to me last Sunday as I was going to my car after Church. Normally I give money to beggars, the amount determined how I size them what. However, this person they did want my money even though he needed it for shelter. To keep his self respect he wanted to tell me jokes and thus earn any money I may give him. So I let him tell me three jokes as I walked to my car. They were Zombie jokes like: “Why do Zombies not eat clowns?” “They found them funny.” I gave him some money and he went on to earn more money telling jokes.

I heard one scripture scholar say that “Blessed are the poor” in Jesus’ time could be understood to be “Blessed are the blind beggar” since people with disabilities like blindness usually had no family support and were dependent on begging to survive.

Jesus was generous to beggars and so will I,for they are blessed and valuable.


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Three Rejections in One Day-Magnificat - Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jesus, Rejected by his
own people in home town
of Nazareth Luke 4: 16-31

Today I received three rejections relating to my suspension from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. One was from our local conference President who I asked to attend local conference meetings and make home visits during the time of my appeal to Society was being processed. She said she had orders from local staff saying I could not do that.

One rejection was from the CEO of the US Office of the St. Vincent de Paul in St. Louis. I pointed out the injustice of suspending two of us before any notice to us of any violation and without letting us know who our accuser is and what the specific accusations were. We were found guilty. I made two request of him during the time of the appeal of our conviction, without trial or hearing. I asked him if I could continue make home visits to those in need and to request a full audit of the Milwaukee Central Office budget by an independent auditor. He said no to both request.

The third rejection was from a local parish priest who agrees with us that the SVDP in Milwaukee needs structural change but now that we have been suspended, unjustly as it is, says to give up and take on another ministry.

I was thinking how people I admire, like Martin Luther King Jr. Gandhi or Dorothy Day, would take such a rejection. Would they say well I have tried to correct these injustices to the poor but now that the authorities have rejected me I will give up?

Jesus says if you have a grievance with someone bring it to the person first before taking it to higher authority. Our legal system says you are innocent until proven guilty not guilty until you make a successful appeal. Our country prides itself in freedom of speech yet I have been guilty of is speaking of injustices to the poor. The St. Vincent de Paul Rules and manuals says any individual member can speak freely but not, unless authorize to do so, for the conference, council and US or International council. All my statements have been as an individual advocate.

Catholic Social Justice and Rule of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul says we should treat each other with respect, dignity and charity, even the least amidst us.

The vice president of the local District Council has told me many times that our Society is not hierarchical. The poor, who own the money of Society according to our rule, are on top. After the poor come the members, councils and staff of the Society. I have said that is the way it should be but not the way it is.

We can respond legally or nonviolently. I am not interested in a legal challenge and do not have money or resources to make one. However, I can nonviolently respond by taking the personal pain and suffering this action has cost me but continue to stay on message: The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Milwaukee, despite all the good people that are members, been taken over by a few and have moved the society in a direction that harms the poor and discriminate against them, especially African-American and Hispanic minorities as other powers do in Milwaukee. Call it what you want but it is racism, perhaps the new Jim Crow, but still racism. If we, weak as we may be, do not stand up for and be the voice for the voiceless, in solidarity with poor. The local powers can marginalize a few of us all they want but if our message is true it will come out.

Today I feel more in solidarity with poor as I have felt for a long while. I feel privilege to be rejected by ‘powers to be’ not that I am any kind of martyr or seek dishonor or publicity but because acting on my conscience and doing the right thing I far as I can hear and see it, I can share in the grace and blessings, God gives to the weak, poor, outcast, sick and with Mary, Mother of God, pray the Magnificat: (below)


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Cry of Veteran to End War - Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Today, Veterans Day, in honor of Veterans of all wars, I would like to share an interview with a veteran of the Iraqi war, Paul Cappel in the Sun magazine. It is called: Fighting with Another Purpose. The interview may be long but so is the struggle to wage peace and end war.


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Fly Together - Monday, November 10, 2014

“The day will come when
the Eagle and Condor will fly
together in the same sky,
wing to wing, and the world will
come into balance.” Ancient

With all that is going on in my mind, like suspension from SVDP, with all I need to do around the house, with cooking, shopping and going to the Doctor not to mention the many phone calls I received today, I still went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee tonight to hear two speakers on mining. Why?

One was a Mayan woman from Guatemala where her community has been blocking access to a mine for years and one was a Bad River Band member of the Ojibwe tribe who has been working against the fast-tracked Gogebic Taconite mining proposal in Wisconsin. Both are struggling with their communities to save the environment and the way of life of their people and who for all of us trying to save Mother Earth.

A friend who sent me the announcement said in an email: “There is an ancient Aztec Prophecy that says when the Eagle of North America and the Condor of South America unite; the spirit of peace will awaken on Earth.” I hope this prophecy is true and both did mention we are all one people and what we do for each other we do for ourselves.

What can we do about these two situations which are both struggles against greedy corporations and greedy politicians? They mentioned some letter writing but in dealing with people who do not care I do not have much confidence in that method.

I have visited mining areas and met with Mayans struggling against the mines with the delegation from SOAWatch. That felt good since we showing solidarity and support to persons in struggle. As Mayans are indigenous people of Guatemala the Native Americans are the first people in what we now call USA. They were first people here but are now treated as last. Treaties are made only to be broken when we want to take away more land and rights.

The Native American started off with a prayer in his native language. Although I did not understand a word I got the feeling it was a prayer deep from the heart. The woman from Guatemala spoke in Spanish but the translator could not translate the passion and spirit of her words.

People of the World who struggle for human rights need to gather and fly together like the Eagle of North America and the Condor of South America. It is only together we will overcome. Maybe that is a hint of why I went?


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Nobody or Somebody - Saturday, November 08, 2014

After Election Day a friend text me from Chicago asked me if I voted for Mary Burke for Governor. I said “No”. He then text me saying he did not think I would not vote for Governor Walker so who did I vote for. My answer was, once again, one word: “Nobody.” No more emails on this topic. So I wrote this brief essay on Nobody.

Nobody or Somebody

Once I was a nobody, just another kid playing on the block on the West Side of Milwaukee.
As a young adult I was somebody for awhile, a famous protestor from West Side of Milwaukee.
Now I am old and back to being a nobody, someone easy to dismiss, but still living on the West Side of Milwaukee.
I am just another nobody again on the West Side of Milwaukee who was a somebody for a brief while.
Nobody or somebody? Does it really matter? Being who you are, true to self and living on the West Side of Milwaukee is probably more important.


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Works of Mercy are Way to Revolutionary Change - Friday, November 07, 2014

Giving Drink to Thristy
Works of Mercy

People consistently try to separate the works of mercy, like feeding the hungry, from working for systematic change, making structural change in our society.

On one side we have people call the works of mercy, providing beds to those in need, as band-aides. Yet when the same person works on structural change they care call other names. This reminds me of a well know quote by Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara, archbishop in Brazil. “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.”

Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker faced similar criticism in the 60’s. In one of her letters she says: “We have heard this same word, a ‘band- aide to a cancer,’ from Boston and Milwaukee and even from the Australian bush within the last year. Perhaps it is only those words of the gospel about the corporal works of mercy, which in a way include the spiritual works of mercy, that has kept us going all these years. We are commanded over and over again by Jesus Christ himself to do these things. “What we do for the least of these, we do for him.”

Jesus in the Gospel brings us the Way to make revolutionary change, to make “the Kingdom of God on earth.” But His Way starts with change of one self, doing the corporal and works of mercy, spreads to communal practice like the St. Vincent de Paul Society and eventually brings a Nation to change. People forget that in Matthew 25 when Jesus was talking about doing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy he was not taking about individuals but about groups, organizations and nations. Dorothy Day said: “The greatest challenge of the day is “how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”

In the Gospel and in life there is no difference between doing the works of mercy, visiting the sick, or making systematic change. We just do acts of kindness, speak the truth, do works of mercy and resistance and the world will change. When Frédéric Ozanam and a small group of students at the University of Parish started the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Paris by making person to person home visits to those in need who would imagine how this simple act would lead to one of the largest Catholic lay organizations in the world?

I tried unsuccessfully in the parable “Thy Kingdom Come on Earth as it is in Heaven to show how a simple home visit and works of mercy by Vicentians could make a major and sustainable change in the life of child and community. But no one had ears to hear and the money that could have made a radical and systematic change in the North Central Milwaukee community was hid away somewhere in a band for ‘future use.’

The Gospel of Nonviolent Love as well as many sacred writings points the way to make deep systematic changes to the our society and to world, ways to end poverty and violence.

Dorothy Day would say if everyone took in one homeless person we could end homelessness tomorrow. So we talk and talk big change and miss the opportunity to make change around us. The works of mercy are the way to revolutionary change.


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Death of Fall forAll Is Well - Thursday, November 06, 2014

Statue of homeless and
rejected Jesus

All is getting cold in the gardens around the house. I have a few more preparations for the winter to make and the gardens will be ready for the death of winter. It is easy to prepare for the death of winter. I raked up some leaves from the street, instead of putting leaves in the street for city pick up because I wanted them for the compost pile. On the worm compost pile I put wood chips with the leaves to offer a frozen hood over the earth pile where the worms can be warm and eat and get deep.

A friend today talked about the natural dying of our mind and body that seems to take place in the winter. The adjustment in the fall to slower and colder times tires me and by body but in death we believe there will be life.

Death came to me today in a letter from the National Office of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The staff and a few leaders of the local council have built over the years an agency that spends millions of dollars but few for the main mission of the Society, to serve person to person people in need. Doing the works of mercy is what drew me to the Society in the first place when we leaved in Madison. Pat, my wife, and I fell in love with the Society and once on a trip to Paris, France visited the grave of Frederick Ozanam, the young university student founder of the Society and went to the international office. The more I experienced the work of Society, the move love and respect I had for it, the largest lay Catholic organization in the world.

However, in 1995, when I moved back to Milwaukee and was given an administration job as Assistant General Manger of the three thrift stores at the time I became greatly disillusioned and depressed. I had been asked by the Expectative Director for find why the thrift stores were losing so much money. After working each job in the thrift stores I came up with, but that it was the structural of the Society in Milwaukee that was losing so much money and hurting the very mission of Society to serve those in need. Naturally that was not the answer he wanted to hear and now two of the employees he hired to build the social agency empire are now running the show.

The death was not in being excommunicated by the National Office, the very people I, as a last resort, tried to tell about what was wrong, maybe legal but wrong. I really do not care with people in central office in Milwaukee or national office think about me. I am disheartened that I cannot make any home visits to people in need. These home visits have brought me so much grace and blessings and the experience of people in need gave me the strength and inspiration to fight this injustice, transferring money given to poor to those who are not in need.

This is not the first time I have been rejected, fired, expelled, punished or banned from a group that I have, in conscience, tried to nonviolent change. Bur each time it happens it hurts. Like an injured tree I feel the lost. But one of lessons I have learned from being rejected is not to react but take the pain in internally and respond with love and graciousness. I pray for the courage and blessing to practice “love of enemy and friends” this time. I am not the only one that is being expelled for ‘speaking truth to power’ in local society. At least one more person, a devoted Catholic with deep love for those in need, has been excommunicated. He is talking about fighting this injustice legally. That is fine if he wants to do that but, for me, this is opportunity to fight injustice to poor nonviolently. I need to remember the death of fall will past and all will be well.


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Fine Print and Myth of Equal Opportunity - Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Today a couple legal questions came up in discussion like what is the difference between ‘and’ and ‘or’ in a legal title or filing a discrimination suit against County for racial discrimination in the County Park system. Once I was involved in a partnership legal suit that cost me a good chunk of money to counter sue the partner suing me but at the end made no real difference in the settlement of the case. A civil rights lawyer mentioned we might have case for elimination of backboards courts and rims when African American basketball players became dominate in the nearby County Park system, something he called ‘recreational’ redlining.’ But there are few lawyers that take civil rights case and, even if you win, they can be costly.

There are two ways, in my mind, to challenge human rights violations, legally or by nonviolent action. The legal action is becoming less available except to persons or corporations that can afford a good lawyer. Every time we click “I agree” on an App or Web site or sign pages of legalize on a form at doctor’s office we really do not know what we are agreeing to. We just trust the other person to truthful. But if we trust the other party being a computer firm or Doctor’s office what do we even need to sign or mark forms of small fine print. We need to it not for our protection but for the protection of the provider of service. It is their lawyers they pay to write all the fine print covering liability for the provider.

In last night’s acceptance speech the Republican Governor reelected said that in Wisconsin “We believe the opportunity is equal but the outcome is up to each and every one of us.” I would like to ask the Governor if two young 20 year men commit the same crime but one is white, coming from a wealthy suburban family and recipient of quality education and one is black coming from a low income family and receipt of poor quality education will there be same results. Most likely the white young adult, if caught, will have a good lawyer by his side in court and probably get off or with reduced sentence that may be removed from his record. The black young man has more chance of getting caught and less chance of getting his sentence reduced or removed. If both at 20 years are determined to get a good job and both apply for the same job, with the black young adult with criminal record and probably without a car and white person has no record, probably with a car would you call that ‘equal opportunity.’ The law might apply equally to both men but the application because of status, money and position will not be the same. The law might say an employer cannot discriminate against a person because he is black with a criminal record but we know it will happen. Unemployment for young men in largely low income African American neighbors in Milwaukee is around 50%. Unemployment for young men in largely middle or high income neighborhoods is very low. Check out the blue dots on the Unemployment map according to 2012 Census information on M.A.P.S.. The more you get out of central city where there is racial discrimination and poverty to the suburbs the less unemployment there is.

Opportunity is NOT equal Governor and no matter how hard one tries a young adult African American male with poor education, lack of money and vehicle with a police record does not have the same ‘equal opportunity’ as young white suburban adult.

Another famous Governor who was well known for his building the prison system in Wisconsin, in the 90’s, commissioned a special study group to report back how we could reduce criminals and crime in Wisconsin. They reported back saying, 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.” This is not what the Governor or politicians wanted to hear so more prisons with more prisoners grew until Wisconsin now ranks number one in the USA in percentage of incarceration of young adult African America males. People who create the fine print seem not be able to read the large print. Equal opportunity is a myth.


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Vote But Do Not Want to Hear - Tuesday, November 04, 2014

“If liberty means anything
at all, it means the right to tell
people what they do not want to
hear.” George Orwell

Some people do not want to hear what they do not want to hear;
For if they hear what they do not want to hear they might feel the need to act,
And acting might bring them controversy and conflict, something they do not want.
If they hear what they do not want to hear and do not act,
They may feel guilty and uncomfortable.
So it is better not to hear or not to see,
Go on sleeping while awake, being silent and ignoring what they do not want to hear.
Thus than they can say, no matter what happens, they are not responsible.
If no one takes responsibility due to not hearing,
All, except those who break the silence, are responsible.
However, those who do not hear what they do not hear, vote.
Voting gives them coverage for not hearing, what they do not hear


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Election Special - Monday, November 03, 2014

Wells St. could use
more of this than new
narrower paved street

Today I received a phone call from the Mayor’s office about a letter I had sent him. It must be election time since I never sent a letter about this concern. Anyway I took my posting time tonight to write the mayor a letter back. I believe voting by word and action is more effective than voting in elections where we know most of the results.

Dear Mayor,
Today I received a call from one of your staff about the plans for reconstruction of Wells Street. She said she was responding about a letter I wrote you about the cul de sac for Wells Street between Hawley Road. I was glad to find out what the city plans for Wells street although I did not write you a letter about a cul de sac. In fact my neighbor, Mr. Penn, had gone around with a petition that I and other neighbors signed. However in talking to him after the call I found out that he did not send you a letter but had given the petitions to Alderman Murphy. Mr. Murphy told Mr. Penn as you aide told me that a cul de sac was impossible according to Department of Public Works.

However you aide told me what the plans were, something I did not receive from Department of Public Works or from Mr. Murphy. According to your office the plan is to narrow Wells Street between Hawley Rd. and 46th.

I explained to your aide that my and other neighbors concern has been for many years the speeding on Wells Street between Hawley Rd. and 46th street, a stretch of 10 blocks where there is no stop sign or method to slow down traffic. A narrower Wells Street only would make matters worse since it would offer less room to get out of the way of speeding cars and make it more difficult to back out of our driveways, especially during Brewer games where there are cars parked on both sides of Wells. Now there is one lane for cars each way and a narrower street would only increase the danger.

There are two schools on Wells in this stretch and one nearby on Bluemound. I have checked Story Hill and other Milwaukee neighborhoods near us to find that in residential neighbors there is a stop sign every other block one way or the other. At one of the many meetings Mr. Murphy had on this concern the head of DPW said Stop signs are not to slow down cars. (You could have fooled me) Yet other residential neighbors do not have a 10 blocks of residential street without a stop sign.

One of my neighbors told me that Wells Street was classified as a class B Highway. I do not know what that means but I felt I was moving into a residential block. I can understand Wisconsin and Bluemound to our south and State Street to our North being main streets but do not think Wells is similar. (State Street has two stop signs by Miller Brewery, as it should have).

In other neighborhoods wide streets have been made one lane for cars with a bike lane and a parking lane, something we could use.

Our street is busy with speeding cars because it is the main way for Wauwatosa residents to enter or exist Hwy. 41 and 94 East and West. The main DOT proposed plan for expansion of Hwy 94 corridor and Stadium exchange would eliminate exits and entrances for 94 at Hawley road and Mitchell Boulevard and thus make 44h street and 46th to Wells the main streets on and off Hwy. 94.

Also the DPW has told me that there will be no public hearing before the plans for Wells Street are finalized and that we would be paying for the reconstruction of street. Mr. Murphy has said he would call a neighborhood meeting but would support whatever DPW has approved.

Now that we know what that plan is, narrower Wells Street but no added stop signs, speed bumps or cul de sac to slow down traffic, I am asking you and Mr. Murphy to take action and order DPW to hold a public hearing where any plan to improve Wells Street addresses the safety concerns of residence.

If I seem on a crusade I am. A few years ago I saw an attentive mother stop her young child from running into the street just as a car was speeding by. Do we need to wait till a child, one of the residents of Vision Center or one of the residents is hurt before the city pays attention to our concern.

Personally I for one like to see the potholes in Wells Street continue than see a new paved narrower Wells street making it easier for cars to speed.

Like I did today, I hope to hear from your office, this time to a real concern for safety I have made. I have timed the cars going up and down Wells Street and around one in four, especially in drive time, are going 40 or more miles per hour on Wells street with no Stop signs. (Speed limit is 30 and 15 during school times).

Thank you for your concern,

Bob Graf


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Death Wrestler - Sunday, November 02, 2014

Dorothy Day and child

When I was a child I spoke as a child. Not I am elderly but would like to speak as a child. It is difficult since with all my education the child voice has been deafened. Education has lots of benefits and spells success but often wrecks our imagination.

Today, November 2, was All Souls day in our church, a day we honor the dead. A long list of dead from our parish was read off at the end of liturgy. Since I have not been a member very long I did not recognize many of the names.

Cornell West, in a talk he gave last November at Maryhouse, Catholic Worker House of Hospitality in New York city, talks about Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and one of my heroes as a “death wrestler.” He quotes her statement in her autobiography, Long Lowliness, “I had to learn how to die in order to live well.” A person wrestling with death is not afraid to speak the truth as she or he sees it. If you are facing death, what do you care about being insulted, marginalized or being jailed?

We recognize the dead to bring home the reality of death in our lives not only at the end of life but in our daily lives. If we ignore death in our lives we live a superficial life not worth living. Yet facing death is hard, even with faith that only by dying we will rise to new life.

Death wrestlers, like Dorothy are people of strong beliefs yet very gentle and kind. Dying to live and finding new life in death seem like contradictions, and they are. Death Wrestlers take to contradictions like a child to imagination. It is only natural.


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Revival Delivers Hope - Saturday, November 01, 2014

Today, All Saints Day, we were invited by friends to an African-American style revival at a Catholic Church. There were some good Church choirs, and an excellent preacher calling us to Jesus and an environment of the spirit being present with a social afterwards. We both enjoyed the experience despite it been new to us. People were moved, laughed, cried, clap hands and sung with the choir. The revival leader was inspiring about how to trust God and flush away the things that distract us and bring us down into the ‘pit’ of life.

It is to be noted that a number of members of this Catholic Church, St. Martin de Pores, at one time went to our present parish, to church, grade school or high school. Our present church, St. Benedict the Moore located downtown was created for African American Catholics but now has a largely white population of people from around the city. You can read the history of the Catholic Church in North Central Milwaukee to learn more.

Many members of the church tonight are low income African Americans and struggling and the Church, especially like this revival gives them hope to move on in life. Some would say this religion is “opium of people” and just keeps them from changing their life situation. I do believe religion brings the poor hope but that is a good thing. When someone is down hope can raise their spirit and help them ‘do the right thing’ despite hardship.

Religion, like we saw practiced tonight, can give hope, something we sorely need, especially in tough times. All day my spirits have been down and after the revival tonight they are still down. However, the revival has deliver hope that my spirits will be uplifted.


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