Sunday, May 10, 2015

To dream of the person you would like to be is to waste the person you are. Sholem Asch

Rescue the weak and the poor; deliver them from the power of the wicked. Psalm 82:4

Campolo spoke to the congregation and he said these words: “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a damn. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said damn than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

That was my Tony Campolo year. 1979. Yeah, he actually said this, again and again as he traversed the United States and spoke to cozy comfortable Christians. Whose pockets jingled when they walked. And I did the Baptist leap to my feet and run up to the front thing and committed my life to early morning meetings with God and His Word and long days and callouses on my fingers and an aching back from scrubbing and cracked mismatched dishes all for the joy of it. The joy of being His hands and feet.

And I sort of stumbled into a Tony moment Friday with my class. Took a deep breath and said the word.

I was preaching it Friday, again and again, and my second period class picked up on the cadence and started Amening me sistuh. And it all tied into the project proposal assignment of teams wandering Doolen and looking for problems and proposing solutions and researching and interviewing and surveying and counting and graphing and then presenting. And they will do anything for a candy bar.

And presenting is important. I have been a judge at the Southern Arizona Science and Engineering Fair a bunch of times. And we have to know what we are talking about and why and what is the big purpose.

So I stood in front of the class and modeled my ever-popular pet peeve speech. This one led off with I am angry. Militias fighting to control Congo's vast mineral resources are fueling the deadliest war since WWII. And our greed for the next best toy, our lazy lack of compassion, and our toss away mentality are part of the problem. Lead, Thesis, Support, Support, Support, Counterpoint, Rebuttal, Close. You have all heard my song and dance before. And I had a little video from the ENOUGH project talking about systematic murder and rape fueled by our cell phones' need for the three T’s: tin, tungsten, and tantalum.

Except of course in first period when I was reviewing the required speech outline, one of the girls hollered out, Miss, did you say Your Butt Hole? And in second period, when I said, I am angry a boy shouted, We don’t give a fuck.

And so the next period I included his quote in my lead. And all the kids whooted and threatened to call the principal and their grandmother and the scary monitor. And I said, But I do give a fuck. I care about you and your lives and your impact on your world around you.

And our greed and our self-centeredness and laziness fuels pain and suffering all around the world. Our water bottles thrown on the ground pours money into the pockets of ISIS and more than 1.8 million people had to flee their homes this year because of that. (btw out of four classes, 122 sixth graders, only one girl sort of knew where plastic comes from…gas, Miss?) And our drug use and that of our older cousin and our dad and the kids down the street pays mafiosos in Guatemala City who charge city bus drivers “tips” to drive down streets and if they don’t pay, men with guns will step into the bus aisle and randomly shoot a rider. And our chicken legs and pork chops from Costco are produced by Chinese peasants who live in such humiliating and tortuous conditions that companies have to line their housing apartments with nets to catch all of the factory workers trying to commit suicide. Our choices matter.

And these projects are not about just picking up trash and helping find homes for pit bulls and getting after-school basketball clubs and robotics clubs and home-ec classes and dissecting frogs and making goo and getting candy. These projects are opportunities to develop you into people who care, who have a sense of community, who look at the big picture, and are strong and confident and work together as a team, and who think science is meaningful and that the scientific method is a useful tool to really seeing problems and working for change and analyzing results and learning from our mistakes and most of all, making a difference.

And last night Alan and Mary Anne and I watched a movie. And John joined us at the end. And there is a little bit of cussing in it because it is a true story. A true story about some undocumented kids from a messy public high school in Phoenix. And how they end up taking on Duke and Stanford and Cornell and MIT in a robotics competition and winning. And maybe the tired teacher had to be dragged kicking and screaming into their lives. But their lives were changed forever.

So Monday I will try it again. And Tuesday. And the last nine days that remain.

Yet when they are diminished and brought low, through stress of adversity and sorrow, He lifts up the poor out of misery. Psalm 107:40

Because the LORD God Almighty is at work, His work of restoration. And I have the joy of being His hands and feet.

And Sholem Asch is my new favorite author. Thank you Tim and Jenny.