Monday, February 27, 2012

Le[n]t It Be

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, le[n]t it be

And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me

Speaking words of wisdom, le[n]t it be

Le[n]t it be, le[n]t it be, le[n]t it be, le[n]t it be

Whisper words of wisdom, le[n]t it be

Last week signified the beginning of  Lent , the 40 day window before Resurrection Sunday which Christians often observe by fasting or giving up an item of luxury. Although in years past I have either ignored Lent or treated it as a social challenge rather than a spiritual discipline, this year is different. 

At SF Lighthouse, we are corporately journeying through the seven sayings of Jesus on the cross, through the Sunday gatherings and the daily blog devotionals. Yesterday was also freedom Sunday, where we talked about our Slavery Footprint (I own 34 slaves) and gave a portion of tithes to Because Justice Matters.

I agree with one of my favorite authors here when he says "In a world of instant gratification, [Lent] is a chance to practice delayed gratification - to fast - so that we can truly appreciate the blessings we have."

Personally, I have decided to give up all meat (except for fish). This sadly means I won't be eating from that delicious magical animal that produces bacon, sausage, and pork chops. 

I feel this Lenten season will be an important time for me, both spiritually and practically. I expect it to be a time of repentance, of appreciating blessings, and of refocusing for the very big future questions that loom ahead.

Take it away Paul...

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, le[n]t it be

For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, le[n]t it be

Le[n]t it be, le[n]t it be, le[n]t it be, le[n]t it be

There will be an answer, le[n]t it be

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


A few years back, my brother Andy gave me a book titled The White Boy Shuffle. It is an incredibly poetic, imaginative, and perceptive work that makes me both laugh and cry. Now upon my second read, I realize this may be one of my favorite novels of all time.

Thought I would share one of the more lighthearted and fun excerpts from chapter four:

That first day Nick [Scoby] and I went to the park, about fifty players were standing in the hot sun, waiting their turn to play. When the game in progress ended, Scoby walked onto the court, touched his toes, alternately lifted his feet by the insteps until his heels touched his butt, and waited for whoever had winners to tell him who else was on his team. There was some unspoken protocol at work, and Nicholas apparently had diplomatic status. Soon a huge crowd gathered around the sidelines. Right from the start there was an intensity on the court that hadn't been present in the previous game. Players who usually spent most of their precious court time arguing and disputing every call were silent and stealing glances at Scoby whenever they made a shot or did something particularly impressive. Scoby's pregame announcement - "Niggers who come here for the attention best to leave now" - seemed to have had some effect.

I watched Nicholas play a few games and tried to figure what the big deal was. His team always won, but it wasn't like he was out there performing superhuman feats. He didn't sprout wings and fly, he didn't seem to have eyes in the back of his head. There was always someone who jumped higher than he could, handled the ball better. Nick would make five or six baskets and that was it.


We played until nightfall. During what was shaping up to be the last game of the evening, it became impossible to see the basket farthest away from the streetlight. It was as if we were playing at the lunar surface during the half-moon. One side of the court was in complete darkness and the other fairly well lit. The score was tied at ten-ten and someone suggested we call the game a draw on account of darkness before someone got hurt. Scoby said, "Next basket wins." My team had the ball and we were shooting at the visible basket. The high schooler in the gray shirt took a short shot that circled around the rim and fell out, right into Nick's hands. Scoby took two spped dribbles, losing the man who was guarding him, and headed upcourt. When he crossed half-court he disappeared into the darkness, then quickly reappeared in the light without the ball. A second later you heard the crashing of the chain net as the ball arced through it.


Skipping the ball through my legs, imitating the moves I'd seen during the course of the day, I rounded the corner onto Sherbourne Drive and realized what Scoby's rep was for: he never missed. I mean never.

To Clean or Not to Clean

Recently, while getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist, I began to ponder cleaning. I was thinking that I was going to become the best flosser in the world. I would go home and floss that night and the next night. My teeth were clean now so why not keep them that way? Well, because, I realized that it is much more satisfying to floss when I really need it or when I am know I am going to the dentist. That is what happen this time. I started flossing two weeks before my visit and the dental hygienist was impressed. Ha!

Next, I started dreaming about vacuuming once a week, instead of when I noticed pieces of lint on the ground or company was coming over. I thought about becoming that person who wiped down the bathroom every week and mopped every two weeks. I wanted to become the housekeeper who completes her chores like clockwork!

But alas, I never would become that person. Why? Because it is much more satisfying for me to clean something that is dirty rather than something that is clean. So, I will probably only floss and vacuum when my teeth and floors need it. Gross? Maybe.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"It's okay, I'm white"

“it’s okay, I’m white, if something happens, the police will protect me…”
“it’s okay, no one wants to rob the white guy, it means the police will get involved…”

Every two weeks on a Tuesday evening, I walk from Powell Station to Tenderloin After School Program where I volunteer at the teen homework night. It is a two block walk that brings up more fear, insecurity, and soul-searching than any other steps of my week and to cope, I often find myself repeating, in some form or another, the phrases above.

From my suburban high school days to present day, I have taken psychological comfort in the fact that the police have my best interests at heart. But seldom other than my two block trek do I let the reality of that privilege bubble to the surface where I can consciously acknowledge its presence.

During my two blocks, I feel guilty that I hold this privilege, and so I try to bury it. Because it is a privilege I will never have to give up, and that makes me feel good. feel safe. feel protected.

So I don't know what it is like to be these two kids. I will never know, and the truth is, I don't want to know.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Cash is Money

 = $$$

I hate carrying cash. In the last five years, I have hardly ever done so. It's heavy. It can be misplaced. And in an age of digital bookkeeping, it creates a huge hassle when I am trying to track and categorize our spending to fall within our monthly budget.

But for small businesses, cash is money. Literally. A recent interaction with Bob, the owner of Coffee Adventures near my new office location in North Beach, reminded me of this. While I was apologizing for not having cash on my tiny purchase, Bob told me about his current dilemma. His Credit Card fees are going up and he has to decide whether to take the hit, or start charging a minimum transaction fee. Current market price on Credit Card fees means my $3 cappuccino, for which I used my credit card, costs Bob around a 1.5% debit fee on the purchase price + $0.25 transaction fee. This ends up being about $0.30, or 10% of my purchase fee! In no way can a small business sustain that type of overhead on minor purchases and remain competitive. 

Since our move into the Mission District, we have made the conscious decision to start carrying more cash. Sure, on bigger purchases, the transaction fee is much less significant, which means a credit card purchase makes much more sense for everyone involved. But for our local coffee shops, restaurants, and produce markets, I now understand why so many can't afford to take on the extra burden of the credit card.

So how will I track all this cash flow in our budget? Well, there's an app for that...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ticket to Ride

I love riding the bus. Not everyone agrees that the bus is the best means of travel, but for me, it is the best. No, riding the bus is not faster than BART. No, riding the bus is not as healthy for you as walking. No, the bus is not as comfortable as the light-rail trains. But a bus travels across a gentrified city. A bus has the capacity to welcome a larger variety of people into its interior. Today, on my trip from Sutter and Van Ness to home, I saw a women knitting a pink hat, a hipster man and his guitar, a father and his son, a ghost of a man coughing, a heart shaped ballon that needed a seat all to its self, a group of four boy-men listening to rap and coming home from making a difference in our communities, and a teen-ager with a fruit popsicle yelling, "Hold the bus!"