Thursday
Dec182008

« It's The (Real) Economy, Stupid »

It is cold, even inside where the heater is here but does not work. The lights are on for the holidays but the cheer has to wait still. It is me and the dog, both waiting in anticipation not for Santa—it is almost a week too early for that and he isn't really what defines Christmas around here anyway. No, we are awaiting the centerpiece of our home, Kelli, who is making her final drive down from her school now upon completing her final work in seminary. Buber may not believe in Santa, but when Kelli enters, he will be as joyous and bouncy as any kid who might watch the jolly man arrive in the middle of the night in this cold season. The poor pup doesn't know what to make of her coming and going each week, but every time she comes home he is beside himself with doggy glee. As for myself, it's like getting the living part of me back.

Three and a half years ago was a lifetime ago. A nightmare of a summer preceded her beginning of school, but I was glad that she was doing it, even if it was to mean a lot of solitary time for me. It is interesting; the summer of 2005 was a time when the world outside was doing rather well—housing prices were still high (though I contend value was low), and our life was in crisis. And now, all this time later, the world outside is in shambles and we're holding our own, even better than we thought possible. As soon as she is done with school, she gets a whopping couple of days to come down and then has before her a nine month internship at a hospital, as chaplain resident. With that comes a worthwhile stipend that puts us in a rather satisfactory position while I still sling taters and onions daily. It defies logic that we're doing this well, but for this, I thank whatever power runs the universe at our local level.

But I like to think of it this way. Kelli's work will feed the souls of people, giving the medical profession some balance as it is quite clear to that profession now that a doctor alone can't simply fix people if their whole being isn't tended to. So Kelli will learn to fill that part of the healing profession. I presently actually am a link in the chain that feeds people actual caloric sustenance and gives people a reason to gather around a table. So maybe it isn't so far fetched that we are in the place we are in today. I won't go so far to say that our particular positions are recession proof, but both are more essential to human life, and reside closer to the base of the economy than do say, a bunch of Wall St. financial wizard-grifters who are now seen to be frauds who deal in greed, hype, and fear.

We didn't just wander into these positions. Kelli's path is longer and perhaps more substantial but she realized before she went to seminary that she had been doing ministry in the secular world as an advocate for youth and seniors, educator in schools and churches, poet and speaker. What she needed was to turn those efforts into something that could bring those circles of her interests into focus, and to get a degree to legitimate what has long seemed a calling for her. My interests in social dynamics, history, psychology, deep economics and political science helped lead me to a family owned business that deals in the thing that unites all humanity at a deep level—we all gotta eat. Yeah, I am a driver, but each work situation can teach something and this one has many small lessons as I drive. The actual work has a certain few things to teach, but moving through town where I see some of the richest people and the poorest people in town is instructive in its own profound way. There is something profound about contemplating the differences—and similarities—between the rich people of Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla, and the desperate people on street corners and doorways in Downtown.

In many ways Kelli and I have pursued our own types of education in these few years, with much more to do. What I cherish about all that is that we trade notes on our experiences and deepen our understanding of our own realities with what the other has to say. Reflecting on the economic crashes of late, it is sad that it will cause anguish for so many. But really, a deeper look at the world's economy shows how despicable and destructive it is. What needs to happen is for a more human sized economy to emerge, and one that is more holistic in its practices. But people fear the change, and the coming of the new. But at what real price, the success of capitalism as we know it? When all is said and done, people still need to eat, and people will need the patient pastor or chaplain to hear their hearts as a lot of pain gets expressed—the disappointments and grieving for loss of all sorts of things big and small. Having known some loss individually and together, I'd like to think either of us might have been prepared to speak meaningfully to another person, even if it was against our wills to ever have the words to do the job!

But in this season of Advent, I am just joyous for Kelli and me not just surviving her schooling, but really thriving in it. Her own schooling at seminary swept me up in all sorts of new understandings. I have said many times I am glad she wasn't just a business student, else how would one really have the chance to develop and look at the world a whole new way such as has been put before me? Some professions are rather stiff and boring, but I think we've both benefited from her seminary experience and its enlivening effect. For now though, I will be happy to just enjoy her being back safely in a few hours, and Buber the Dog will be happy to get petted all of her waking hours, at least until she is off to the hospital in another big adventure.

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