Love

The Killer Joke

Two years ago one of our social workers discovered six siblings living in a garbage dump outside of a village called Ciudad Vieja in Guatemala. This garbage dump was as close to hell on Earth as any place can be. Looming above it was an active volcano. A fine layer of ash fell like snow from its frequent eruptions.

In the garbage dump, the volcano was not the only thing that burned. Decades of garbage lay in enormous mountains. Trapped gasses ignited underground fires, which caused a thick, chemical smoke to hang heavy in the air.Amongst the waste, carcasses of household pets decayed and emitted putrid smells while flies swarmed and swarmed and swarmed. In the torrent of this oppressive environment, there were also people. Little boys and girls climbed the mountains of burning garbage looking for food. They spent twelve hours every day scouring these mounds of waste in search of a way to stay alive.

As is our mission, we worked to get six siblings out of that environment. After putting the right pieces in place, we managed to find them a place to live and enrolled them in classes at one of our schools. Each student was given new clothes to wear and school supplies. For two weeks, it seemed as though we had succeeded. But then, all six stopped showing up to school. We could not find them in their new homes. We went back to the garbage dump and sure enough, there they were.

It leads one to ask the question, “Why would any sane person choose a life in hell over a dignified house, and the chance for a good education?” We soon found out the answer.

A young boy living on an East Cipinang garbage...

Image via Wikipedia

In the hustle and bustle of getting these kids out of the dump and into new clothes, one of the girls slipped through the cracks and did not receive a new pair of shoes. Her name was Carmen. Carmen wore a pair of ragged shoes that she had found in the garbage dump. During her second week of school another girl noticed these shoes and made fun of her. She laughed at her for having such shabby shoes. Others joined in and made fun of her shoes.

Carmen had lived her whole life in a garbage dump. The social pressure of being made fun of for her shoes was new and completely dislodging for her. It was too much for her to take. She decided to leave school and return to the dump. At least in the dump no one made fun of her. She was the eldest sibling, and her brothers and sisters decided that if she was going to return to the garbage dump, then they were all going to return together.

This story does have a happy ending. In the end we were able to convince the children to return to school where they remain today. As I write this letter, they are studying in a classroom 100 feet away.

I tell you this story and ask you to share it with your students for this reason. Six people’s lives were almost destroyed because of one unkind comment. All the girl who made the comment did was make fun of another girl’s shoes. Surely all of us have done worse. I know I have. If asked why she did it, I’m sure she would say something we hear all too often: “It was just a joke.” The girl likely could never have imagined how far the negative consequences of that “joke” could have reached. But that joke almost destroyed the life of six children. Children in garbage dumps don’t survive long. If their health does not give out by the time they reach adolescents, exploiters or human traffickers prey on them.

Story courtesy of Luke Armstrong

Categories: Communication, Love, Service, Teaching | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

God and Celebrity Culture

Imagine the following scenario. We are in a large gathering at a local park, and there are folks of all social strata and condition present. Perhaps drinks and hors d’oeuvres are being served by waiters and waitresses. In one particular area are gathered Hollywood stars, big wig political leaders, and other cultural glitterati. As most of us scan the crowd our eye is drawn immediately to the famous and we lift up our cell phone cameras and try to get pictures.

But if God were to walk into this crowd, where would his eye be drawn? Where would God “run with his cell phone” and start snapping pictures? Most likely his eye would be drawn to those serving the hors d’oeuvres. Perhaps too his eye would be drawn to the edge of the park where some of the poor are gathered and wondering what all the excitement is about. Some of them are begging. Yet again, there are some in the crowd who have come from the local group home. They are mentally handicapped, many of them wheelchair bound, others not able to talk but making wild gestures and groans. God’s eye is drawn there too. “But God, but God! Look at all those famous people over there! (we say), pointing to the glitterati. And God, looking puzzled, says, “Where? Who are they??”

Story courtesy of Msgr Charles Pope

Categories: God, Love | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Super Dad

Utah father Dale Price is also known as the “Wave at the Bus” dad. Price dressed up in a costume every morning of the school year—all 170 days—and then headed outside to wave goodbye to his son’s school bus. Price says it started out at a joke on the first day of school to embarrass Rain and things just snowballed from there. Rain was initially embarrassed by his father’s antics, but soon, he and his bus riding classmates, grew to love the costumes and looked forward to seeing what creative outfit his dad would wear next.  Price didn’t repeat a costume all year—he’s dressed up as a Anakin Skywalker, a pirate, Michael Jackson, and yes, as a blushing bride—and he only spent around $50 total. He mostly borrowed his get-ups from friends and neighbors. Although Dave doesn’t plan to do it again next year, Rain can still relive the memories.

Story courtesy of

Categories: Love | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The angel on the cliff

In those bleak moments when the lost souls stood atop the cliff, wondering whether to jump, the sound of the wind and the waves was broken by a soft voice. “Why don’t you come and have a cup of tea?” the stranger would ask. And when they turned to him, his smile was often their salvation.

For almost 50 years, Don Ritchie has lived across the street from Australia’s most notorious suicide spot, a rocky cliff at the entrance to Sydney Harbour called The Gap. Local officials say around one person a week commits suicide there, but the man widely regarded as a guardian angel and named a citizen of the year has shepherded countless people away from the edge.

.Each morning, he climbs out of bed, pads over to the bedroom window of his modest, two-story home, and scans the cliff. If he spots anyone standing alone too close to the precipice, he hurries to their side. Some he speaks with are fighting medical problems, others suffering mental illness. Sometimes, the ones who jump leave behind reminders of themselves on the edge — notes, wallets, shoes. Ritchie once rushed over to help a man on crutches. By the time he arrived, the crutches were all that remained.

In his younger years, he would occasionally climb the fence to hold people back while Moya called the police. He would help rescue crews haul up the bodies of those who couldn’t be saved. And he would invite the rescuers back to his house afterward for a comforting drink. But he remains available to lend an ear, though he never tries to counsel, advise or pry. He just gives them a warm smile, asks if they’d like to talk and invites them back to his house for tea. Sometimes, they join him.

“I’m offering them an alternative, really,” Ritchie says. “I always act in a friendly manner. I smile.”

A smile cannot, of course, save everyone; the motivations behind suicide are too varied. But simple kindness can be surprisingly effective. Mental health professionals tell the story of a note left behind by a man who jumped off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way to the bridge, the man wrote, I will not jump.

In 2006, the government recognized Ritchie’s efforts with a Medal of the Order of Australia, among the nation’s highest civilian honors. It hangs on his living room wall above a painting of a sunshine someone left in his mailbox. On it is a message calling Ritchie “an angel that walks amongst us.”One woman he saved, who came back to thank him. He spotted her sitting alone one day, her purse already beyond the fence. He invited her to his house to meet Moya and have tea. The couple listened to her problems and shared breakfast with her. Eventually, her mood improved and she drove home.A couple of months later, she returned with a bottle of champagne. And about once a year, she visits or writes, assuring them she is happy and well.

Categories: Awareness, Love, Service, Wisdom | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Till Death do us part

A devoted Iowa couple married for 72 years died holding hands in the hospital last week, exactly one hour apart.The passing reflected the nature of their marriage, where, “As a rule, everything was done together,” said the couple’s daughter. Gordon Yeager, 94, and his wife Norma, 90, left their small town of State Center, Iowa, on Wednesday to go into town, but never made it. A car accident sent the couple to the emergency room and intensive care unit with broken bones and other injuries. But, even in the hospital, their concerns were each other.

“She was saying her chest hurt and what’s wrong with Dad? Even laying there like that, she was worried about Dad,” said the couple’s son. “And his back was hurting and he was asking about Mom.”When it became clear that their conditions were not improving, the couple was moved into a room together in beds side-by-side where they could hold hands.”They joined hands; his right hand, her left hand,” Gordon Yeager died at 3:38 p.m. He was no longer breathing, but the family was surprised by what his monitor showed.”Someone in there said, ‘Why, then, when we look at the monitor is the heart still beating?'” Sheets recalled. “The nurse said Dad was picking up Mom’s heartbeat through Mom’s hand.””And we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, Mom’s heart is beating through him,'” Norma Yeager died exactly an hour later.”Dad used to say that a woman is always worth waiting for,” Dennis Yeager said. “Dad waited an hour for her and held the door for her.”            Story – Tim SJ

Categories: Love | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.