To serve or be served

I am always amazed at how many people want to do good. When we look at the world at times it seems like it is literally falling apart, and yet suffering seems to be the glue that puts it back together again. I find most people want to do good but they don't know what to do, there is no one to lead them. It has been my observation that when people observe some one or something good happening, they simply want to be a part of it. Suffering brings either the best or the worst out in a person.They say you can learn more about the character of a man in 5 minutes of stress than you can in 5 years of good times.

Our country, our community, and yes our Church are going through some very stressful times. It is in these moments that heroes are made or dictators resurrect.

A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith;
From spiritual faith to great courage;
From courage to liberty;
From liberty to abundance;
From abundance to selfishness;
From selfishness to complacency;
From complacency to apathy;
From apathy to dependence;
From dependence back into bondage. "Tyler" said in 1750

In my world I see us on the brink of moving back into bondage, the last rung of the ladder. It is sad that we are in the end of a great era, but I am hopeful for the future because as history unfolds her wings we are on the dawn of a new outpouring of spiritual faith, The stuff that greatness is made from.

I want to talk about two men that met me today at the soup kitchen. They are very busy men running a large organization, they have families and responsibilities and yet they came down today because they have a deep desire to serve. They want their organization to revive their spirit of service.

They see that in order to grow we must inspire, we must serve. Selfishness, and entitlement is a failed experiment. It has been said by the greatest teacher that " The greatest among us will serve the rest"

and in the words of a dead president, "let us not ask what our country ( community, organization, or church) can do for us, rather ask what we can do for our country."

Real Leaders, Servant leaders right now are more precious than gold, harder to find than diamonds. As we look next week to another election day and are discouraged by the choices that are again presented to us. Do not be discouraged for in the words of Mother Teresa, "we are not called to success, but rather faithfulness"

If I may be so bold in adding a thought to Mother Teresa's quote, I believe it is in faithfulness that make us a success.

Mother Teresa said something else which if every man, woman, and child, followed, the world would be plunged into a utopia. She said, "don't wait for someone else to do something great, do it yourself!"


Blowin Sunshine


I thought I was a celebrity!


  " How are you, you fantastic person?'

" You are how old? you look like an athlete in his prime!"

" You really are an amazing person"

" Hey Champion, its GREAT to see you"

" I bet that you could do anything"

These are only a sampling of the words I am showered with whenever I see Charlie's smiling face at the soup kitchen each Saturday!

Many of the stories I have written on this blog are sad and sobering stories, 
I thought it was time for a change of pace.
This is a story about what each of us is capable of doing with each passing moment of our lives.

I met Charlie some time ago, he knew nothing about me.
Working with so many at the soup kitchen so often one has to be on guard because there are as many "characters" at the soup kitchen as there are in a fat Webster dictionary.

At first I didn't know what to respond with or how to react because if you are from the same planet as I come from, flattery is a red flag, and unconditional love and acceptance is about as rare as kryptonite.
My first thought was
" Is he for real?"

Like clockwork he would show up each week serving faith missions finest coffee.
"Want a cup?" He would ask a homeless man
Only $20 for you, milk and sugar are extra!
Thats how he would break the ice with all the new people that came to the Kitchen.
Then he would let out one of his wonderful laughs as the man slowly broke a smile back at him, not quite sure if he was kidding

After that he would whip out his magic tricks to bring all the children to life.
"Do it again!' cried the kids as Charlie would would remind them that a true magician never repeats a trick but because they were such special kids he would make an exception just this one time, each time getting the same chuckles and giggles from his young audience and even from a couple of the adults passing by.
The kids smiling eyes were like rays of sunshine as they pierced through the toxic mist of their broken lives.

Charlie, reminded you of who you really were, and who you belonged to.
He reminded you that life is not a spectator sport, it was meant to be lived and lived to the fullest.
He made you feel like you were the King's very own kid.
Then he would tell you a story about the hero in the latest novel he was reading.
He would get real close to you, look you right square in the eyes and tell you that you remind him of that character.

No matter what the need, if you asked Charlie it would be done as if it was the most important job in the world.
I know he will probably object to me writing this about him because he never assumes the limelight.
That is always reserved for the one he is speaking with.

At the end of the day he quietly sweeps the corners and edges of the dinning room
stopping to talk to each person that walks by
asking them how they are doing and if they would like one final cup of his famous coffee.

Why do I write about Charlie?
He is only just 1 single solitary ordinary man!
How could 1 ordinary person make a difference?
The truth is, He reminds me of something Mother Teresa once said .
" Make the ordinary, extraordinary!"

When a person Mother Teresa was helping asked her if they should convert to Catholicism
she would ask them what religion they were.
If they were Muslim, she would say, " become the best Muslim you can be.
If they were Hindu, she urged them to become the best Hindu they could become.

Charlie, never preached, he was simply Charlie
He brought light where there was darkness
He brought out the best in people

Anybody can serve coffee, tell a few jokes, or perform a few cheap magic tricks, but what is so mystical and magical about Charlie,  like Mother Teresa, he would become totally present to whoever he was speaking to, and make the ordinary disappear with a simple wave of his magic wand,

... and reveal the extraordinary!



Her name was "Chastity" she was a very pretty woman with clean but visibly worn cloths from repeated wear. She came over to me and asked me if I could help her. At first I thought she was a volunteer because she seemed like she could have been the girl next door.

"Can you help me load my bike? "

"What do you mean" I said.

 She said "I lost my job and can't pay for my car so they took it, and now I am trying to feed me and my son but I can only carry a little bit of food on my bike. I am doing the best I can, trying to smile and stay happy for my son but I don't know how long I can keep this up. How can I find work when I don't have a car or have decent cloths for an interview? I don't want a handout, I want to work" as she tried to hold back a tear.  "You know what the worst thing is though? Its how so many people look right through me because they think they know what and who I am, as if I were invisible, or if somehow I choose this way of life. Its so hard to keep my dignity, my self respect when I feel like no one can hear me or see me. Do you know what I mean?"

I was about to say something " appropriate" but I felt  God nudge me. He has always given me a word to say in these moments and this moment was no different, but what was spoken did not come from my lips or my head, it came from my heart, perhaps even God's own heart.
I looked at her intently and just wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tightly as she laid  her weary head on my shoulder for a deep long cry. At first I could feel her body ridged and unyielding but then I heard a deep sigh as if she resigned herself to receive Gods love through this broken stranger. The moment became somber, sacred, and holy as if grace was watering a dry and dying flower neglected in some forgotten corner of a sun scorched garden. 

"Thank you so much for the food she said, I think I feel better now,  I think I feel less invisible now, yeah, thats it "

" You are most welcome, I said. Please come back.... 
I would like to "see" you again.

 There are many incredible people I meet along my journey who want to make a difference in the world. Some of them tell me they want to go to a far off country to work with the poor.
 I am always in awe as to what they expect to find there.
Is our next door neighbor's blood a different shade of red from those in Africa? Does not our sisters tears in India contain the same amount of salt ?

Mother Teresa once told me that despite the fact that she traveled the world and saw every economically deprived society, she said that New York suffered the greatest poverty. She said "In Calcutta when I give a woman a cup of rice because she hasn't eaten in 2 days, she will will go and share some with her neighbor who hasn't eaten in 3. Loneliness is the greatest form of poverty she said and here in New York  people are the most isolated and alone in the world! 

You don't need to go further than your own backyard to feed the poor.....everyone hungers, rich and poor, but not only for food!


The parking lot

I was asked to make sure everyone was gone from the soup kitchen before I locked up. After checking all the rooms upstairs and down I was able to turn the lights out and head home for a short nap before I would go out for a wonderful diner with about 10 friends.
When I went to my car 3 of our homeless were sitting and talking and eating some of their leftovers in the parking lot.
 "Arent you going home?"
 were the words that felt natural to say but I caught myself.
There was a time when I would look at people like this and would be afraid of them. I think back and wonder why? I went over to simply say my goodbys but they were so excited to talk with me. I was exhusted from staying out the night before a bit too long and had every intention of giving them a token 
" NY minute"
and be on my way back to "normal life"
But something happened, I was taken in by their stories. The hopes longed for, the lives lived on the street and the realization that for them that this conversation might in fact be the best thing that happens to them all week. 
 I heard the words of the master say, if you do this to the least of my brothers you do this for me.
Suddenly I felt like an honored guest. Instead of just listening, I tried to really be present and before I knew it, what seemed to be charity on my part became a lesson in life for me. I was taken by their simplicity and even generosity. One of the men reached down in his old greasy and worn pants pocket, he had about $1.75 in change and gave all he had to another man who did not have enough for a metro card.
I started to think  how so much of my generosity comes from my abundance rather than my need, I have never given freely all that I had before like this man! I admit I felt my ego engage when I first thought I was being noble  by "giving my time" to what the world called " nobody's".
But I soon felt humbled in this mans presence, He has become my teacher.
Our conversation was interrupted by a call on my brand new i phone  when I realized that I had spent about 2 hours in that parking lot after everyone was suppose to go home. You see what  changed in those 2 hours was my perception of reality. When I came out I saw 3 homeless people in the parking lot that I felt needed to leave and  go home.   
When I drove off after our simple conversation I realized that the  parking lot was their home.

The Eagle

I am embarrassed by how I look, by how I smell cried Tim as he looked right at me with blood shot eyes. I need a place where I can rest, where I can get my respect back, my dignity, even just for a short time.
Tim would not go for food stamps or other government handouts, he felt that the governments handouts only enslaved the poor, made them dependent on a new slave master. He wanted what ever other man in the world wants, to work for his daily bread with honesty and dignity.
I lost my sister, she was the best friend I ever had! When will the pain leave me he asked?
They say that time heals but for me years only seem like moments ago.
He began telling me stories of his family growing up here on Long Island. How at the turn of the century they owned a large parcel of land. He spoke of a time in his life when he remembered life being noble and honorable.

Now I must interject here by saying of all the people I speak to at the soup kitchen, Tim is in fact one of the most noble, humble, and grateful men I have met. He is a very tall intelligent and handsome man. I asked him, do you want me to help you go into rehab and get you  housing? No, I am not ready for that yet he said. I said Tim, how long has it been, how long are you on the street. The answer was all too familiar; years.
Many men I speak with, I try to encourage to give them confidence, but Tim was very different. Tim was an eagle trapped in a cage and unable to soar.  I wanted to tell him what every boy needs to hear to become a great man. I wanted to answer a question that haunts men more than
 " who am I? " 
or even 
" Is there a God? ".
No, unless this one single question can truly be answered by the boy inside, the man  will remain trapped inside the prison that holds him captive. That one single question that all men want  answered is

 " do I have what it takes to be a man?"

 A silent moment hung in the air around our table, my heart wanted to reach into this beautiful man and release the wings that have been dormant for oh so long!
There is nothing special about me that could ever touch that hidden woundedness and bring light into that darkness. Only light itself can do this. But are not we all called to become the light of the world.?
Did not the Master Himself tell us we could do all things?
There are moments in each life where we see the face of God,
for me Tim revealed one of these moments.
I looked straight into his weary tearful and bloodshot eyes and felt at that moment to say,

 " Tim, I believe you were made for greatness, you have what it takes to be a great man, it already lies within you!"

Tim just looked at me in silence, I knew those were the words that he has been longing to hear most of his life. Was Tim magically transformed even though that was what he was longing for all of his life?
"I don't know"
I do know the following week he sought me out, he wanted to talk and " eat more"
The food we were giving him at the soup kitchen was more than just meat and potatoes.
He told me how grateful he was for all my kindness and invited me to dine with him. This was a man who just weeks before  would only eat alone.
We are not called to change peoples lives but we are called to tell them the truth. Only when people  come to know the truth about who they really are can transformation begin to happen.
I think of all the lies that I sometimes believe about myself, the cage I have built that locks me in, but more importantly locks others out. I think of all the living I have missed because I did not know the truth.  In each of us there is a small fragile little child that simply wants to be loved. That we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves
Cathedrals are magnificent but they do not hold a candle to the temple we each possess within us, we are church not made of bricks and mortar but of flesh and blood and the light that burns within each one of us still burns even if we don't believe it. 
That is not religion, its truth.