Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Friday, August 29, 2008


We have a severely handicapped foster daughter who now lives in a supported flatting situation away from home. She spends time at home with us about once a month. She is nearly thirty and has Retts Syndrome which leaves her unable to do hardly anything for herself. She is severely intellectually handicapped and has no ability to speak. On Friday Jean and I were walking down town and I saw Pania coming toward us in a wheel chair being pushed by the carer who works at the activity centre she goes to during the day. She was quite some distance off when she spotted us. Immediately her face lit up, she beamed from ear to ear and her beautiful brown eyes glistened with joy. It was so nice to see her and to know beyond doubt, even before we were close enough to say hello to her, that she was really, really pleased to see us. Her eyes and her smile warmed our heart!
This got me thinking about greetings and the feelings they leave us with. I was driving down to do chaplaincy at the fire station one day and spotted in the line of traffic inching up the other way, another chaplain friend with his badge on going to do his thing at his site. I wound down the window of the van ready to say hi as we passed and I saw him wind down his car window. As we waved together, he yelled at the top of his voice... "Gidday sexy!" People on the foot path all looked to see who was saying what to who. As I drove on I thought that they would never guess that here were two deeply committed Christian chaplains just saying "hi" to each other. That greeting meant, "We're colleagues together in the same team... all the best." I called at a fire station the other day and walked into an office. I saw a fire fighter there working on the computer and said, "Hi Boss, is everything under control?" He said "Hello boss", back and said, "Pull up a pew and sit down." We then continued catching up on some stuff very personal to him that we had often had sessions on before. That greeting meant, "We're companions on the road of life supporting each other and I want you to know what's going on for me." I was sitting at the Ambulance head quarters the other day eating my lunch with others in the kitchen. The mechanic came in and saw me there and with a grin on his face, rolled his eyes and said in mock disgust, "Oh God!!" I saw every eye in the room watching me to see how I would respond. I nonchalantly said, "See how well I have him trained....he looks at me and mentions 'God'. I'm having an impact at last!" Shaking his head with a grin on his face he got his coffee and sat down beside me. That greeting was just a cheeky, very male way of saying, "You're religious but you're OK." I headed in to town early on Saturday to go work on the Habitat house. To my surprise I saw a friend's vehicle going the other way. I knew that she too was on her way to a busy day. There was a brief surprised smile and enthusiastic wave as we sped past each other, but in that greeting was "All the best for your day!"
It can be just a few words hastily spoken, a look of recognition or delight, a smile or gesture, but these small greetings can mean so much on the journey of life. "Hi! How are you going? I hope you're having a nice day?"

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

PC... to be or not to be?

I notice ex-All Black player and coach Brian Lochore, (the All Blacks are our national rugby team) has been speaking at a function hosted by a NZ Christian leader Ian Grant. Both he and Grant were debunking our "Politically Correct" world and implying that males can't be "true males" in it. Brian Lochore fondly remembers when his child could play in the mud, while dad downed another jug at the rugby club. Ian Grant was saying that it is making us "male mothers" rather than true blue kiwi males. There are indeed some things about the PC world that frustrate and take a bit of getting used to. I would also admit there is often an "over statement" and exaggeration. But one of the hassles is that it is a different way of viewing life and people. It was easier when "she" was "the wife" and had clearly defined roles. Then "he" was the bread winner and "head" of the house and everyone fitted into neatly defined roles. But did they? Often people who were "different" were sent off to big institutions where they didn't have to be coped with. (Though I often see such people struggling without enough support on our streets in the new environment... that is a teething process of working out how we support people in a different way in the new environment.) Often people actually withered under the roles expected of them, like battery hens in cages. People were often measured for their usefulness or objectified. While some PC'ness is frustrating and sometimes "over the top", in general it is a move toward a true and proper respect of people, and the precious variety of people that we have in the human family. I see lots of teething problems as we, particularly us older ones, get used to the new perspectives, but the answer to these is not to go backwards, but find new expressions. I for one, would rather err on the side of respect and honouring of human personality and dignity than wind back the clock to times that, though easier, and more clearly defined, were often limiting and imprisoning of human variety and fulfilment. I would rather see our community work through the issues and mistakes of being politically correct, than try to drag us back to the fifties. I see the likes of Lochore and Grant's speeches (and I have only read the newspaper reports) as people fighting rearguard actions, trying to turn back the tide. Lets harness, shape and celebrate the positive elements of the new. Its a new world... get used to it and help shape it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Simple pleasures

I had a pleasant weekend. Over the weekend we had two days when most of the time the grey drizzle and cold that we have been having in Dunedin lifted. On Saturday I hoped on my cheap bike and cycled the twelve kilometres into the harbour basin in town. I stopped briefly, had a drink from my drink bottle and cycled home again. It was just a bit of a ride, outside in the elements alongside the harbour, but it lifted my spirits. I felt so much less like an old man because I was exercising again. I enjoyed the scenery. I enjoyed the time to think and talk to myself. (Passers by may think I am strange) It was a simple but profound pleasure. On Sunday afternoon a friend and I went up my mountain, Mount Cargill, a hill on the northern edge of Dunedin. It was quite an aerobic, hard walk up to the top which was covered in cloud. It took about 65 minutes. We jogged quite a bit of the way down. Again, the bush, the exercise, and the conversation were special. A simple pleasure. Last night my wife Jean and I were invited out to an evening meal by Malini, a delightful Indian lady who is a member of our church. We shared the time with her and her elderly friend. We enjoyed beautiful spicy Indian food, and Malini insisted we eat more! We learned about Malini's childhood and life in India. I had to laugh. We got to know Malini's eighty two year old Indian friend, a lovely lady who has just started coming to our church from time to time. She is a long serving Anglican lady who Malini values as her surrogate grandmother in NZ. She told me she enjoyed our church services though they were very different from her Anglican background, and that she had been trying to describe them to her daughter. She said, "I told her, they have to be seen to be believed!" I did not think I was that weird! But again, a very precious evening of friends from different cultures talking and eating together. Advertisers keep telling us that to have the "good life" you have to spend big money! But again and again I discover there are very special, deeply enriching and inexpensive simple pleasures we can enjoy. For that I am very thankful.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Memories... Angus Brown

Its two weeks to my 60th Birthday so I am indulging in some memories of those 60 years. One of the biggest influences in my life has been my dad, Angus Brown. My dad was a plumber. He was a very involved church member and an able lay preacher when called upon. He had been a Regimental Sargent Major in the army during the war. He was a fine man. Of course he used to lose his cool. He battled bad health at various times in his life. The firm he was involved in became bankrupt and he lost his van and his tools. There were five kids and we were never very affluent so life involved a lot of stress. Sometimes he would hit us, but not often. We hid his army web belt under the bath because he used that to strap us with. Three memories of dad.
Sunday afternoon drives. During my childhood he had three vehicles, and two of them were "Bradford" vans. It was our job Saturday evening or Sunday morning to empty the van of plumbing gear and Dad would use it to pick up Sunday School children, and other church members on Sunday morning. But Sunday afternoon drives were a legend. We kids were all perched in the back of this wee two cylinder van as it vibrated its way down the road. There were no seats, we sat on the wheel arches or the floor. Every other car would be going faster than the Bradford and often passing cars would yell "Get a horse!" or some other comment. Dad would putter along and he often would start singing old army marching songs. "I've got sixpence, jolly jolly sixpence....", and we would all be expected to join in.
"Wait till your Father gets home!" This was what mum often said if we had misbehaved after school, and we would be banished to our room, sometimes with a splat from her spatchelor. My poor dad would come home tired from work and he would be told all the naughty things David said or did. He would wearily come into the bedroom, sit on the bed and simply say, "What's up Mick?" (He always called me "Mick", from Mickey Mouse- I have big ears.) He would then question me to understand what's going on in my life. Finally he ended up giving me a brief hug or rub across my shoulders and take me down stairs to apologise to mum, and perhaps set the table with him, chop some wood, or help him light the fire.
"Why are you a plumber?" I was so fortunate in that I often got to go with Dad when he went to work. It was so great seeing him do his thing, or relate to a heap of different people and to get to know this man at a different level. Once while helping him "wipe a joint" on a lead pipe under a floor in a house I asked him, "Why are you a plumber?" Wiping a joint in a lead pipe was difficult any where. It involved melting a metal solder and moulding it with a moleskin pad around a pipe. In the cramped space under a floor it was tough going and it seemed an appropriate question. He finished the job, turned off the gas torch and we sat there. He told me how during the depression it was expected he would go out to help earn a living and he started a plumbing apprenticeship. He said he did plumbing to earn a living but that that was not his "calling". He was called, he said, to be a man of God. That involved being the best plumber he could be, but also being active in church and ready and willing to help people and relate in a helpful way with everyone. He said he would have loved to have done something else other than plumbing, but the depression and the war interrupted and anyway I will learn that you don't always get what you want in life. But God and his ways were the primary focus of life for him. It was a special moment, lying on the clay under a house, a conversation that has kept me on track. I recall too when my mum would dream of what she wanted her sons to be, he would balance her ambitious dreams by saying, "I don't care if they turn out to be dustmen, but I hope they will be the best dustman they can be, the most honest dustmen, and give a fair days work for a fair days pay."

I see my dad in my brothers. My older brother has his gift of being able to speak in public. Murray my younger brother has his placid, caring nature and warm smile. Stephen my youngest brother has his ability to mix and share freely with all sorts of people. Dad died when I was around 14 years old. I recall after his death mum was going through his papers and came into my room in tears, handed me a torn yellow paper with blotchy blue typing on it, and said, "Your father used to recite this. It is so like him." I still have that paper with the poem on it... here it is, it does describe much about my dad, Gus Brown. It is called "If"

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim:
If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can hear the truth you've spoken
twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew,
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you,
except the will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a man, my son.

Rudyard Kipling.

Dad died in 1964. Here it is 44 years later and I still get a lump in my throat when I write about him. He is still very much a part of my life.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"You must be so proud..."

We went to my daughter's graduation on Saturday afternoon. She has graduated a few times before. (B.A., Post Grad., M.A. ) She has been a perpetual student. This time it was a law degree.(Batchelor of Laws) At a Night Shelter Trust meeting on last Thursday night I mentioned that I was attending the graduation on the Saturday afternoon. A man there was effusive... "You must be so proud! Your daughter has a law degree!" and he went on and on about it. Perhaps he was surprised that a dumbo like me could have such gifted offspring? Others also have mentioned how I should be proud. I do admire her, she has studied long and hard for this degree and stuck at it during difficult times. But I am proud of my children, not so much for what they are, but who they are. She has achieved a lot, learned a lot, but she could use it for good or ill. The determinant factor in that is not what she has learned, but who she is in her inner being. The speaker at the graduation called upon the graduands to tackle the big issues of the future, inequality of food in our world, of global warming and such like. But as I listened, I thought that most of the graduands wouldn't hear this and will probably use their knowledge and skills for selfish ends, to pad their own nest. The wider picture problems will be largely forgotten, unless they impact on their comfort. I am proud of my daughter because I know that whatever skills and knowledge she has will be used for deeper and wider purposes. That is who she is. Our knowledge, skills and abilities extend our ability to express who we are. The truly important factor in life is not what we are and have, but who we are. Who we are determines whether other achievements are going to be of true worth. (Photo: Angela on the left, her friend Margaret and her husband David... robed up because he is on staff at the university.)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cold day but warm hearts...

The weather in Dunedin has been cold lately! We have had everything. Rain, hail, snow, wind and endless grey cloudy skies. Saturday was no exception. In the morning there was no rain but with snow on the hills and a breeze it was COLD! We collected for the Dunedin Night Shelter Trust which involved standing in the cold, holding a bucket, trying to eyeball people in the hope that they will put some change in it. I was outside a hardware store, getting colder, and colder and not collecting much money for my efforts. A man came past who I knew. He has helped out on a couple of Habitat for humanity builds a few times. We have nailed weatherboard, barrowed concrete and shared running stories together. I have forgotten his name though. He put money in my bucket and we talked briefly before he went into the shop. A woman who worked in the store came past, saw me standing in the cold, and invited me into the entrance. She dashed away and came back with a table and a chair. It was marginally warmer, but a lot more comfortable. I also appreciated the welcome smile. After about half an hour I noticed my Habitat acquaintance come out with a shopping trolley full of purchases. He stopped next to me as I was busy talking with another person. He dug amongst his purchases and brought out a cup of steaming coffee, put it on my newly acquired table, gave me the thumbs up and left the store. He had bought it for me! It so cheered me up. I had been there freezing, feeling like a homeless beggar because I was indeed begging for money. Some how you do feel a sense of rejection from the cold, sometimes angry stares and the people who carefully avoid you. In the midst of all this, that gesture of kindness warmed me in all sorts of ways that ran far deeper than just the warmth of the coffee.

In time I was relieved by another trust board member and hoped into my car to go to the "Farmers Market" at the railway station where my wife was braving the cold collecting for the night shelter too. I was held up at the railway crossing as a train came through and idly stared at the people on the platform across the tracks. A mum and a little girl were watching the train pass through. The train had blown its horn as it came through the crossing and as it approached mother and daughter, the mum showed the little girl the pulling action of blowing the horn. The little girl, full of delight at the train, raised her little fist, eyeballed the train's cab and pulled away at an imaginary horn. There was nothing but the rumble of the train for a second or two, but suddenly the train's horn gave a series of little toots, and the driver was waving at the little girl. Her delight was infectious, and she and her mum in their winter clothing skipped along the platform. The warmth of the train driver and his response to a little girl, warmed my heart on a cold day.

Simple acts of kindness can make even the winter weather feel better. I must remember that, often I am too full of my own importance to do those little things.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Oh dear...."

At our drop-in centre one night there was a fight brewing. One of the guys' friends, also a bit drunk, was trying to calm things down. He kept repeating at the top of his voice, "No fighting you two, this is a "f"ing church for God's sake!" (He said the full "f" word but I don't want my blog to be flagged) We of course were trying to calm things down, but got the giggles at the irony of these words. I have had reason to have conversations about slang, swearing and bad language with people. If I got hung up on bad language I would not be able to do our drop-in centre work nor the workplace chaplaincy that I do. In both places it is just there whether I like it or not, though generally at the drop-in people modify their language. Once I was taking a trainee minister around the fire stations. I warned him that at the station we were going to the officer used the "f" word in every sentence. I said that in spite of that he was a caring, responsible and intelligent man and that you really have to learn to look past the outer package to the person inside. Well I was deeply disappointed. The officer in question was on his best behaviour and never used the word once!

I can understand people preferring the niceties of correct and "attractive" vocabulary. I try to do that. But there is something inside that has me asking what really is important? Is the outer wrapping important or the inner heart and being? Some of the most self-centred, destructive and divisive people I know never swear. I know some people who can say "You bastard!" and you know that you are loved. I know some good "Christian" people who can say "Oh dear!" and you know that you are being judged and put down! I prefer not to swear most of the time but I don't get hung up on it. I can imagine the apostle Paul writing, "You may never swear and always use the correct language, but if you have not love your language is filthy, of no value and useless." Life is full of conundrums isn't it?

Monday, August 11, 2008

"Be gentle with the old people!" ?

Last night we had a meeting looking at a new project we want to run. I was pleased to see one man there, in his late 80's he had come out to consider it. He is a man I love like my own father and deeply respect. As we talked about the project he asked us to "Be gentle with the old people!" That the changes I had already made over the last 20 years were already stretching their patience, and after all they had got us where we are. I listened in love, I really did. But in the middle of the night I began to ache and rage. For twenty years I have stood up for patience with the old people! I have argued with good younger folk, pleading for them to be patient with older folk only to see the young ones disappear. One big regret I have is that I have shied away from conflict and confrontation and been gentle with the old people, hoping that in time they would get on board. I feel like I have let down a whole heap of younger folk, pleading for patience. We are out of date in many aspects of our worship and archaic in our concept of the church. I feel like I have wasted 20 years of my life being gentle with old people! But I love and respect this man? How do I cope with it?

We are allowed to go ahead with our project, but in some ways it's grudging and barely warm support. There was one young mum there, wrapped, enthused and busting to get into it. Bless her, she gave us a glimmer of hope... I hope they don't squeeze her creativity and passion out of her. It is so hard to keep it burning bright some times.

I fed the goats and hens this morning talking to them as I did. I collected the eggs and split wood. My dog and I and God went up my mountain this afternoon. It had lovely bright snow on it with sun shining through the bush making it a real delight. It was a special time of re-energizing and dreaming. I am physically exhausted now, but nearly ready to face another week of my weird journey.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Birthdays? They are a worry?

I am troubled! I don't really believe it, but I turn 60 in less than a month. 60 is considered a milestone! Like an old person's 21st. Now you really are old! There is no argument. It used to be retirement age so had even more significance. But how do you celebrate it?

Last year my wife turned 60 and we had a small family day together and a special dinner out, just the kids, and she and I got shouted a few days away. It was really nice. Early in the year I had a tramping mate turn 60. He packed up and went away into the hills of the westcoast for a tramp by himself and spent the evening in reflection in the wild by himself... loved it! I thought "That's what I am going to do!" I love wandering around the bush by myself! But just recently I have been rethinking. I have had a few heart warming conversations with people who have been a part of my life for years. This has made me think that may be when I pass a milestone like 60 I would like to somehow thank all the people who have made, and still make my life so full and precious. I would like to thank the people who are sharing the journey with me! May be diving off into the bush would be a really selfish thing to do? Along with that, life is often nose down, bum up working and busyness and there are few occasions when we can really celebrate the good things of life. And just maybe being 60 is a good excuse to get together with friends and acquaintances and celebrate the goodness of life and the preciousness of relationships? Maybe some sort of gathering is what is called for, though I am not really a party sort of person? I am not a good "mixer" and the bush would seem a great option for me. What to do? Why do we have birthdays anyway? Does anyone have ideas?

Last Thursday it was a beautiful sunny day in Dunedin. I knocked off an hour early and me and my dog climbed my mountain. It was sooo nice in the bush! I will give myself a birthday treat sometime and spend a day in the bush! But I need to sort out what to do on the day! Family want to know.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sunrise view.

No burbling from me today. Just a picture I took recently of a sunrise from our back door. "Red sky in the morning, shepherd's warning!" I don't think we got rain that day though? It truly is a "wonderful world"!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The old man and the scorpion

A Dr Jim Fenhagan, an Episcopalian from the U.S.A., told this story in a presentation I heard many years ago in Melbourne, and it has stayed with me and guided me.
An old man sat by the flooded Ganges river in India. He noticed a scorpion float down the river and get caught up in the roots of a tree on the side of the river. The scorpion would drown in the rushing, rising current. The old man reached down to save the scorpion. The scorpion arched its back and stung him on the arm. Again the man reached down his arm, but again he was stung. This continued several times. A young man standing nearby said,"You stupid old man! Why do you continue to try to help that ungrateful creature?". As the old man reached down again to save the scorpion, he replied, "Just because it is his nature to sting, that is no reason I should change my nature to save." Jim Fenahagan said, "To understand that story is to understand the cross of Christ, and the way of Jesus."
It is a story that still inspires me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"The old girl's not as bad as I thought...!"

Inside this ailing old body is a 1960's angry-young-man, anti-establishment, anti-materialism, hippie still trying to get out and express himself. For years I have had a love/hate relationship with this old girl we call the church. I have a deep conviction that the church, if it is to be a true follower of Jesus, needs a profound reformation from its inward looking religious imperialism to a more outward, community embracing servanthood. The old girl needs a make over! One regret I have as I look back on my life and ministry is that I have been too "nice" and been afraid to rock the boat. Then again, many of my fellow 60's contemporaries have left the church and that has made it a lonely journey. But I have been and continue to be critical of the priorities, culture and expressions of the church.
Yesterday I was at a training day for the Otago/Southland Emergency Services Peer Support Team that I am a part of. There were various EAP (employment assistance provider) agencies making presentations. I was making a presentation for chaplaincy. It reminded me of the breakdown trucks in Melbourne rushing to the scene of an accident to vie for customers. These people seemed intent on grabbing the "caring for people" dollar that employers have to part out these days. As I listened and then presented, I could not help thinking the old girl has something to be proud of. Long before anybody else had thought of caring for employees, the churches had banded together and formed the Inter-church Trade and Industry Mission and its equivalents in other countries. Back in the '60's the old girl was caring for employees, well before it became fashionable! One of the groups presenting was a group called "Relationship Services", now an independent counselling service provider. It was stated that they grew out of the old "Marriage Guidence Council". That too was an initiative of ecumenical church people way back in the 50's & 60's who saw the need for couple's to have access to counselling and pre-marriage guidence. In these two spheres the "old girl" was a way ahead of the world around about it! She has not been as bad as I had thought. There are some things to be proud of. That's where God is I suspect, a way out in front breaking in new territory, and at times the old girl has been there with him. (Photo: When a couple of firemen took the "padre" to a place called "Pulpit Rock". )

Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Its a beautiful world"... "plumber's theology"

As I experience life and talk with others about their experience, I am often reminded of my simple "plumbers theology" made up of three blunt statements.
  1. "Shit happens"
  2. "There are bastards in the world"
  3. God is in the world too making it a "beautiful world".
"Shit Happens" A man told me the other day that he was down the road in four weeks. He will be 60 years old with no job. When I expressed concern he looked at me and said the only thing that truly describes life often. ..."Shit Happens!" A friend's brother-in-law died last week, relatively young, shot through with cancer. A woman I know is slowly losing her mind. I exercise, watch my weight, drink sometimes but have never been drunk etc. but still I have high blood pressure, prostate problems and seem headed for more health difficulties...on the other hand a drop-in friend spends great amounts of time each week drunk, he smokes like a train, sometimes sleeps out, could not run if he tried, but he seems to survive ok??? Its not fair! Sometimes the things we would most love to do we cannot or should not do. "Shit Happens!" So often in life these two words are an apt description of our experience. They are a reluctant and brave acceptance that life is sometimes not fair. They are a readiness not to waste time looking for reasons, asking questions that there are no real answers for, or trying to apportion blame (God, the mysterious "they" or whoever) but a willingness to accept reality, and move on. "Build a bridge" is what one of my good friends keeps saying.
"There are bastards in the world." I spend hours giving voluntary time for Habitat for Humanity. Yet sometimes a recipient of my efforts seems ungrateful. I helped to get a Night Shelter running in Dunedin. One of our clients who had free accommodation, food and clothing stole our computer and other gear. Sometimes people react to us in a way that is uncalled for. Other drivers cut us off, neighbours are inconsiderate, our kids are led astray and dictators stay in power when they shouldn't. And to be honest, I am sometimes nasty, lustful or destructive. The reality that we have to battle in the world is simply that "there are bastards in the world". It can be a readiness to accept that our fellows are just like us, not perfect. It can be a statement that we will do battle with the selfishness in ourselves to make sure there is one less "bastard in the world". It can be a readiness to see past the sin, and offer forgiveness and love to the sinner. It can be a willingness to be patient with others. But also it can be a readiness to be careful, cautious and wise in our dealings. For me it is often a statement where I remind myself that I am called to be generous, constructive and caring, and how people respond to that is their business. Their lack of gratitude, their nastiness, their retaliation should not be allowed to drag me off course. It is simply true that "there are bastards in this world." Get used to it.
"God is in the world too!" This is the the most important part of my plumber's theology. In this world, "shit happens", there are "bastards", but another undergirding reality of life is that there is a movement of love, a spirit of creativeness, a unifying presence that we have called "God". I see this presence in creation, but most often in ordinary people. Mothers who love beyond anything that could be expected of them. Dreamers who dream of a better world and give themselves for that dream. Friends who listen. Firemen who care for a colleague. Ambulance officers who again and again care for patients with the same devotion as if they were their kith and kin. I see it in movements which rebel against injustice. Groups who work for equal opportunities. People who love the disadvantaged and reach out to make life better. And I experience that presence in the life of Jesus. I feel that sacred life in the nudgings of my own conscience and the dreams I have for a better world. And even in this old ex-plumber, I see that sacred presence in the love, empathy and joy I have toward others. I know his reality in the solidarity I feel with people. I say with Loius Armstrong, "its a beautiful world!" "God", that sacred "presence" is alive and well, making a difference amidst the other stuff! May that "presence" find expression in my life.