Health As Virtue

I don’t really want to be one of those people who rails against ‘American culture’ because who even knows what that is, anyway. But I guess I’m going to just for a sec here because I can. Something I’ve noticed for a long time. Americans often consider health to be a virtue instead of like, an attribute. As in, good people are healthy and bad people are not.

You are unhealthy or sick because of the choices you have made. You did this to yourself and therefore you deserve whatever unpleasantness, illness, or disability that you are dealing with. I am healthy because I am smart and make good, moral decisions and therefore I deserve whatever good things may happen in my life.

Consider the old adage, “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I am all for making healthy choices, I really am, but let’s take a second here. Going to bed early and getting up early is not a healthy choice–it’s just a choice. Getting adequate sleep is a healthy choice, but when you get that sleep is totally immaterial. It is generally easier to sleep when it is dark outside and be awake when it is light but even that isn’t a requirement (see: people living in polar-adjacent areas). There’s so much more to unpack in that phrase but I can’t right now, I think you get my drift though.

Being healthy is great but we’ve got to remember that health doesn’t always come down to our choices. Human health is full of risks and chances, things that happen just because they happen. And because we live in an imperfect society, our choices are also often very limited; money makes a huge difference, as does education, culture, and access to preventive care.

I’ll be frank with you. I would rather care for every need–including the every single one that does genuinely result from ‘bad choices’–than willfully neglect a human being in need. That’s the real healthy choice: caring about everyone. There’s a whole lot more to say on the issue but that’s what I’ve got for you today.


Please pardon the dearth of cats on here this past month, I wanted to try to just focus on what I was saying. But now it’s March and regular content can now resume so here is a fairly substantial gallery of many furry friends. I hope that it in some small way atones for my cat-related negligence.

I just love them all so much. Very blessed to have so many precious kitties in my life. I will especially never get over how cute Béégashii and Jenny are together. They’re all just such excellent cats. I love cats.


The other life news that I have is a little bit scary to share, to be honest. Because nothing is certain and I kind of feel like nothing is real until it actually happens and because I’ll feel like a ginormous loser if it doesn’t happen but I’m a loser. Plus, it’s arguably the biggest Thing (maybe even only Thing) to happen to me since at least August.

I am being flown out (that’s right, I’m not flying out, I’m being flown out) to a second interview a couple time zones over this coming week. I am super excited about the job primarily because a) it is something that I actively really want to do right now and b) I already have friends in this potential new city and that would just make things a whole lot easier and nicer.

Hoping against hope. Trying not to hope too much because my hopes have been dashed (or maybe more accurately, slowly withered away until their dust so completely disperses that it’s difficult to tell there ever was hope to begin with) so many times before. I’m anxious about the interview itself–it’s forecast to be in three parts and take up two complete hours. I’m also a little anxious about traveling–not because of a virus of any kind but because traveling generally makes me very anxious no matter how often I do it.

But anyway. Enjoy the cats. Care about people no matter what. Join me in hoping. Please please oh please.

Left Over

There are two ways to think about leftovers: evidence of plenty or that which has been passed over. I have been feeling both this week.

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Camaro, on the other hand, has been posing for a very artistic portrait

Very small Keegan was never the kid who never got picked to be on a team at recess, at least not to my recollection (we all know how meaningless that is but still). This was in part because I did have friends, some of whom were sporty, and in part because I mostly just avoided being in that situation because sports are the worst. Anything more athletic than four-square was very much anathema to very small Keegan. And honestly still is. In other words, ‘that which has been passed over’ is not a new feeling to me but I have been blessed to have avoided it in that common scenario.

On the Thanksgiving front, of course, there were a great deal of leftovers in the former sense. Really a lot of mashed potatoes. Turkey living a second life in many forms. The pumpkin pie that I made and devoured altogether too much of. So many rolls. All of which is a great thing. To be provided for. To participate in having plenty.

There are a few things that I’ve been waiting for lately, and none of them have come to pass. Not in a not-happening kind of way, but in a (hopefully) not-yet kind of way. It’s unpleasant nonetheless and I’d much rather have a yes or a no than a who-knows but here we are. Still. Waiting. Other things seem to keep piling up behind those things but it’s been slower than molasses on this side.

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If only I could look that good while waiting

Anyway. On to other things. It’s December. Christmas is practically here. Needless to say, I am pumped. There is a welcome, a comfort, in Christmas that invades me even when I’m feeling my least Christmasy. For that, I am very grateful. It is very easy for me to turn inwards, generally speaking, but it is doubly true in times like this when self-pity occupies an unfortunate proportion of my day. This season is the perfect antidote to selfishness–or, rather, it is the antidote and (as I said last week) I am imperfectly trying to be cured.

It’s no fun to be the dregs of mashed potato left over after a feast. But at the same time, I know that my God is a God of Plenty. I don’t believe that God is out there preventing me from getting a job because God wants me to do something else and it’s not the right time yet. I believe even less that God wants me to wait just for the sake of waiting, because it will build character or faith or something. What I do believe is that God is with me in waiting as God is with me in action; God is with me in times of plenty, when there is much left over, even as God is with me in times when I am left over, passed over, not yet chosen.


If I were a cat, I do not know if I would prefer to be an indoor cat or an outdoor cat. It partly depends on the indoor and the outdoor in question, I suppose. A nice house, friendly people, large spaces. Decent weather, interesting things, few predators. The real key, as any pet owner or parent of a human child could tell you, would be how well I was fed. Not needing an excessive amount of food, to be mindful of my cat health, but having plenty. Something delicious and timely.

I say this as a random tangent because I am very tired while writing but also because I’m considering the lilies of the field, if you know what I mean. The cats. Consider the cats. They always have food leftover in their bowl because someone cares for them. I don’t imagine that God is some great cosmic cat owner but at the very least, I’ve had some of that bread of life so I should be good. My cup runneth over and so on.


I won’t apologize for the above but I will acknowledge it as the ramblings of a lunatic. It is what it is. I should sleep more. I’d love to not work at Michaels with awful hours. Only time will tell.

ZOINKS!

So I know that the internet can vacillate wildly between dark, evil, and pointless but I want to take the opportunity in this week’s post to highlight some of the good that the internet can do. Namely this: there is a Wikiquote article for the show Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! And that’s a really good thing.

Because sometimes you just need something good like a line or two from Jeepers! It’s the Creeper and all of that. I can recall with startling clarity Velma saying, “Somebody didn’t want somebody to see a PICture of somebody,” with just that emphasis. I haven’t rewatched any Scooby-Doo in the past several years but I feel like it’s one of those things that wouldn’t be worse seeing it in this current age (for the most part).

Other than an unabated love of Scooby-Doo, there’s not much to report this week. I don’t love getting up super early for work but it’s manageable. And, for those of you who protest starting the Christmas season early by any definition, let me tell you: Michael’s is not the store for you. Because Christmas is out in force and Halloween was on its way out starting last week. I don’t mind it, though it is just incredibly glittery. Everywhere, all the time.

I’ve never been much of a Halloween person, myself, though I don’t mind people who are. I don’t love scary for the most part. I lean more towards political/psychological thriller than horror if I’m doing anything remotely in that scene. Though even those I can only take so much of at a time. Costumes can be fun but I’ve rarely really been invested enough for anything particularly involved or dramatic. Though in third grade(?), I was a lightning bolt– a huge, homemade foam cut-out spray painted silver; it was super cool.

I don’t recall ever caring too much for trick-or-treating, either. Candy is nice but social interaction is yikes. If anyone is interested in presenting me with some Halloween candy free of trickery, though, I’ll recommend the Crunch-type chocolates (the ones with puffed rice), Twix, or something tasty like that. Or you could come bake with me, I’ll try not to make it a disaster.

Anyway. A happy Halloween to you from the very Halloween cat, who wants you to know that he’s more than ready to lay a curse on whomever you may need cursed.

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Conscription

This summer has been pretty cool. I’m grateful to have the means and opportunity to have this big trip. Mostly, I’m doing well. But a little bit, I’m not.

I read a short reflection about loneliness a while ago. The writer spoke of how we find ourselves in lonely places in several ways. Rarely a choice, it might have been a conspiracy of circumstance or Divine Providence. Most of the time, he said, we experience solitude by conscription.

To be sure, there are voluntary alonenesses. As an avowed introvert, I am well acquainted with many of them. But these that he was talking about are of a different sort. Being a conscript in the legions of the solitary does not restore, as being alone so often restores me.

I have spoken of this before on this blog, and many indicated that they had felt something similar. Some kind of mash mixing loneliness, homesickness, fear of missing out, fear that we are better friends with others than they are with us–just general ennui. Sometimes, I feel very needy for companionship. In the words of Emily Dickinson, “My friends are my ‘estate.’ Forgive me then the avarice to hoard them.”

Throughout my travels this summer, I have been so deeply blessed to have People to See along the way. Just yesterday morning, I left my sister’s after an extended stay which they were gracious to host me for. And before that, new friends in St Louis, old friends in DC, a friend in Pittsburgh and friends in Michigan… Lots of friends.

But at the same time, seeing them all has been so temporary. My life currently is so transient, so liminal, so ephemeral (though I’m not sure such a fairy-magical word feels all that appropriate). It’s a little frustrating not to be living around friends that I keep up with in person on a regular basis. I like my friends. I would like to see them.

Instead, I remain unmoored and adrift, awaiting the time when I can exit this enforced loneliness. A time when I can once again Be in a Place and Do Things with People. Or, at least, begin making inroads toward doing so, since we all know that I am not a fast friends-maker or overly-aggressive doer. One must remain hopeful.

I have become more aware of my neediness in this area. Neediness not necessarily in a bad way, though I guess that’s not really for me to say. I struggle with the idea of burden–surely my friends will not be burdened if I bother them a little but I am equally sure that at some point it just becomes annoying. I just don’t know what that point is, and I would be loathe to conscript another into something that they didn’t sign up for. That’s kind of my whole issue to begin with.

On that note though, quick plug, if you are my friend, please always feel free to send me a message or arrange a little video chat. Literally always. I’m all about that communication life. (See? V Needy)

Part of the problem, of course, is that I am unemployed and have just a lot of time on my hands. There’s only so many job applications, so much Netflix, exercise, gaming, or reading that I can do at a time. So I have plenty of time to sit and stare at walls, which I literally do, trying to stop myself from messaging all my friends a million times because, you know, they’re actually doing stuff and it’ll take a sec for them to get back to me. Not an awesome way to spend my time, I’m working on it. But here we are.

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An Arizona sunset

Someone inadvertently reminded me of one of my favorite life sayings recently. They said “Belong where you are,” and I immediately thought “Bloom where you’re planted.”

Here’s the thing about flowers: sometimes, they’re grown in greenhouses. Naturally, they belong in the ground somewhere. But they are perfectly capable of being stored indoors for the winter or when they’re young or whatever the case may be.

So I guess that’s what I’m going for at this juncture. I may not be in the ground I wish to be in or even in any ground at all, really. But I can–and may we all–bloom anyway.

 

Mostly They’re Darked

The school year here is rapidly, terrifyingly, drawing to a close. For me personally, the end of the year doesn’t exactly necessitate any additional work or stress in the way that students and teachers experience it. However, seeing as I will be minus a job in a few short weeks, I have plenty to stress about. The proper phrase is job hunting, but I feel like the anxiety is more like running away from a hunter named Joblessness.

Days here in northern Michigan have lengthened considerably and I do love watching a flaming sunset over the lake. It is very calming and even the veritable hoards of midges cannot lessen my enjoyment of the moment (at least, not too much). I have posted pictures of the Lake Michigan sunsets before so I won’t trouble you now but, rest assured, I am enjoying them as much as I am able.

On the note of pictures, though, I will definitely come through with some cat pics. That’s why you’re here anyway, and I know so many wonderful cats. I also encountered this superb human/cat pair, both of which are very alluring to me.  Can I please move to Australia and travel with that man and his cat?

 

Quite a rogues’ gallery of cuties this week. Love them all. Even the poorly-photographed, screaming Copper. (Copper was one of two cats that I briefly cat-sat last Friday for my neighbor/coworker/friend).

Anyway. I had an interview yesterday, which was a nice change of pace from the usual direct-to-rejection pipeline. I’m not getting my hopes up too high because, you know, I’ve been burned before. But it was nice. Made me feel valued. It annoys me that some part of me derives feelings of value from a corrupt and corrupting system of morally bankrupt capitalism but what is a poor twenty-something gay to do.

As an aside, I kind of hate the construction behind ‘twenty-something’ but whatever, I am what I am.

Thinking about places I might be going. And having truly, absolutely no idea where those places might be. It’s easy to get discouraged. Even with the giddy high of having an interview with a cool place, immediately after I felt like I might have squandered the opportunity. Not that it went poorly, but it just didn’t seem like I made myself exemplary and so might not get this cool job. Too early to say, but it just was sad to take a second and go over the 48 hours between confirmation of the interview to its completion: ecstatic to morose. Yech.

I have quoted before Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go and I would like to do so once more today. Near-ish to the beginning of the book, as you’re getting on your way with brains in your head and feet in your shoes, there is a brief warning about some of the places you might encounter. The narrator says:

You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.
A place you can sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?

I feel a bit like I’ve wandered into some town way out there in an unknown land. Walking through the gates, seeing window after window darked. Not even because they are paths that are closed to me, but more because they are just obscured. And in that darkened obscurity, I very much feel like I might sprain both my elbow and shin.

There is no question, for me, about daring to stay out or go in. I am not staying here and so, necessarily, I am going. The question is also only partially whether to turn right-and-three-quarters or maybe not quite. There’s only so much I can do, applying to jobs. I feel justified, having this education and experience and living in this current economic climate, not taking a minimum-wage-ish position. But maybe it’ll come to that while I move somewhere and continue applying. Let’s hope not.

I think what I’m trying to say is that things are a little bit scary, but I’ll survive. The streets are not marked. The windows are not lighted. But the streets and the windows are there all the same and I’m learning that, while I may not be too smart to go down any not-so-good street, the not-so-good streets that I’m faced with don’t have to be doom, gloom, and slump.

Sometimes, it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness, as they say. But sometimes, I think it might be better to step into the darkness exactly as it is and find that maybe it’s not so bad. That’s the hope, at least.

 

There’s Only One Way to Find Out

I contend that one of the chief pleasures of life is reading in the sun. For me, it is a joy and satisfaction that few activities can achieve. A uniquely gratifying way to pass time, and an occupation which I treasure long after it is finished.

I know I’ve talked about it before but somehow I’m startled over and over again. There is a true contentment that settles deeply in my inmost parts when I am reading in the sun. A park, a bench, some shade, some breeze… It’s almost more happiness than I feel a right to. Profoundly pleasurable.

It has taken longer than it should have, but this week spring finally got itself together enough to allow that and I am all over it. I was so all over it on Tuesday, in fact, that I got pretty sunburned. Which isn’t ideal. But it was a cost incurred in the course of a supremely good pursuit, so I’m dealing just fine.

I do not know what I am doing with my life. Pretty much everything about my future is currently up in the air. But then I have a day like Tuesday, when I spend most of my hours engaged in what some might describe as frittering but I would describe as necessary. Yes, there were more productive (essentially so) things that I could have done. Should have, even.

But I will not apologizing for frittering away my time in such a fashion, even though I am in a bit of a press.

Putting in the effort is necessary. Things generally haven’t just happened to me, I’ve had to go out and see what there is to see, and I expect that trend to continue since I would like to have another job (sooner rather than later). However.

Some opportunities should not be missed. A Tuesday afternoon getting sunburned while reading. A Wednesday evening baking cinnamon raisin quick bread. A Thursday morning publishing an obscure blog. Without these things, even in the midst of the urgent press of ‘what I’m doing with my life,’ I think the uncertainty of it would all be a little too much to bear.

It’s true that I have no clue what is coming down the track at me, a few short weeks away. But, as I am often fond of saying, there’s only one way to find out. Stride into the future and live it.

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Carpe archa, seize the box.

Alter

I don’t really have much to put into this post. I usually have lots of good ideas (or “good” depending on your perspective) for Christmastime blogs but this year, it seems, festive ideas are just out of season for me. Genocide was a real heavy hitter to start of with. And, honestly, I’ve been very tired this week. Not anything in particular, just not sleeping well.

But, in the spirit of combating the vibe of recent weeks, I have this inspirational quote for you, from someone who would know. Samantha Power said, “It is easy to get used to the morning news, habituated. But don’t. The morning news is yours to alter.”

The big question, of course, is how. And, like I said, I’m too tired to tackle that. Even so, I can know that it is possible to change the world. Somehow. Things are not set in stone. Or, if ancient Egypt can teach us anything, it’s that even if things are set in stone, they are not unchangeable forever. As I book I read recently put it, stone crumbles.

I want to offer you Christmas cheer. And I do have plenty to share. But I’m writing this late Wednesday night and the words just aren’t happening. Awake until 1 am on the reg is not my optimal sleep cycle, no matter how late I’m able to stay in bed. Nothing life-threatening, just not ideal. Psh, what’s ideal. I know that many are feeling it, this time of year. Tired, that is. Lots to do and high expectations of doing it all and doing it right.

So here’s my thing for today, I guess. It’s okay to do little, and it’s okay to do it half-bad. It’s okay to have some meh in your life if it means that you have some space where you can just kerflump when you need to. Worry less, rest more, relish calm when you can. We can alter the course of the world. But take care of yourself, too.

He Was My North

Once again, Tuesday proved to be my adventure day. Adventure in the relative sense, of course. I went into Traverse City and wandered around the “Commons” which appeared to be a really cool insane asylum repurposed as a hip shopping center. Anyway, I went to a brunch place and had red velvet pancakes, which are Important. Cream cheese in addition to whipped cream. Very Important. Obviously tremendously delicious.

After wandering around for a bit, nosing through the shops, I found out that it was, in fact, an asylum! The location was a state hospital and everything, very creepy. It didn’t close until 1989. Still, it’s a cool place now. Lots of interesting shops, chic hipster kind of vibe. Yes, I did have to look up how to spell chic again, I still think chiq or chique are better options. Anyway.

On my way driving back, I decided to just meaner around because I figured it was the likely last day of warm, sunny, pleasant weather until spring. I ended up going the opposite direction of Empire to Leland and the little historic district of Fishtown. Basically little shacks on the water, very destitute-fishermen-turned-touristy. Then I had the best sandwich of my life from the Village Cheese Shanty. Which, obviously, was Even More Important. I mean, a place called the Cheese Shanty. We were destined to find each other.

Just to be clear, the sandwich was the day’s special: turkey, cherry goat cheese, kream mustard, sunflower seeds, cucumber,  and lettuce on homemade pretzel bread (different from pretzel buns which I’m not wild into). Life changing. Such. A. Sandwich.

Moving right along. On Wednesday, I took a sec to do nothing (as per usual) and watch a couple movies that I’d been meaning to check off my list. Namely, Trolls and Moana. The first was alright, pretty nice. The second was marvelous. Moana in particular I enjoyed. The whole wandering over the horizon just to see what’s on the other side thing. That’s kind of my scene.

There’s really not much else to report for this week, just work and life and stuff. I like having thoughtful thoughts to think for you, but I feel kinda like I’m fresh out. I did really have a pleasant day on Tuesday. And Wednesday was plenty nice as well.

I was just thinking how I didn’t really have any existential angst nor contemplative philosophizing for you this week. I’m feeling pretty good, which is nice. But, as I was wandering through the internet as I wrote this, I encountered afresh the wonderful poem by W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues. Which is also a lovely jazz number and also an amusing satire on dictatorship–at least, according to the play that he originally wrote it for. So I’ll leave you with that thought. Tyranny is satire, doves can’t wear mourning, and compasses aren’t attracted to human beings.

The View from Empire

Greetings, friends. Thank you for taking a sec to read this, even if it’s just the preview on Facebook. I appreciate you.

Now that I’m feeling more settled in my job and its happenings (though by no means totally on top of things), there’s really not a whole lot to say. It’s hard for me to gauge whether there ramblings of the life updates are more interesting to you. Obviously, the cats are Reason #1 for reading so over included a couple later in the post. I thought for today I’d mostly just describe one afternoon for you. Kinda cheesily poetic and kinda combining philosophising and daily life.

On Tuesday, I drove down the road a ways just to explore a little. In the next town over, there’s a little park on Lake Michigan and I stopped to read there for a while before getting dinner. It wasn’t quite blustery and it wasn’t quite chilly but it was windy and cool cloudy and the first day that really felt autumnal.

I walked along the beach a while but mostly I sat in the car and read. I had parked right in front of the water, maybe ten yards away. The sky slowly darkened as the clouds went from lightly overcast to a duller blanketing. My windows were cracked so I could hear the water with its steady white noise. The sea grasses trembled in the wind and the trees shivered with the first oranges and yellows of the season.

I don’t know if I’ll return here often, but during my time there I certainly thought about it. It’s only fifteen minutes away from school on a relatively flat drive (I’m constantly evaluating topography from a driving-in-snow perspective). Coming here in winter with no other visitors, sitting in my car by the water, reading contentedly before heading to dinner in the village. It sounds very appealing. I just might make a habit out of it.

 

 

How, I ask you, am I supposed to deal with such cute cats.

Anyway. One other note. On Wednesday, I finally went and got my Michigan drivers license. And, because it happens at the same time, I registered to vote. So that’s handy. I reflected to the coworker I went with that voting in Leelanau County, Michigan is going to feel very different for me from voting in Pierce County, Washington. Things will not be nearly as aligned to my preferences. Here’s hoping with that, I guess. At least I can vote on some statewide stuff as well. Votes always matter but I guess I’ll feel like my vote will count more here, if that makes sense.

Good luck this week, have a happy equinox. Register to vote, if applicable.

Welcome

So this week, I’ve had a better handle on the day and such. Things haven’t been totally passing me by and I had myself together enough to write some bits and bobs through the course of the week, as I typically have done. Hurray, routines are forming!

Anyway, I now have some standard shifts under my belt and I kind of even know what I’m doing. The job itself doesn’t really entail a whole lot, it’s mostly just making sure you know where students are, they get to where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there, and you handle problems and pass them off as the situation requires. Even the lateness of the hours hasn’t proved too much of a problem (yet).

There’s truly not much else to say about the job itself. Its activities don’t really merit a long discussion unless you’re the one actually doing it. In a broader sense, though, there are things that I’m still trying to figure out. As I’ve hinted before, my role here is primarily that I have a Role. Our head of school is fond of saying that we’re all teachers, all of the time.

Since it’s the beginning of the school year, I’m still getting to know people and routines and processes and all that jazz. In particular, I’m trying to get to know my three main charges. Which is hard largely because, as this blog has shown repeatedly, getting to know people isn’t my forte. So I’m working on that. Trying to be a compassionate and interested listener as I pry answers out of them. But I’m also trying to do something else.

I’m trying to create an atmosphere. Or, rather, participate in the creation of one. Most of the time, it’s not really a conscious choice, just how I am in situations where I don’t really feel totally comfortable. But I’m trying to be open and friendly and encouraging in each interaction I have–students, staff, whoever. The other staff here are also pretty excellent with that, so it’s not at all like I’m doing this on my own. But it’s something that I’m thinking about because it’s the first time I’ve really had occasion to do anything of the sort.

I titled this post Welcome because that’s what I think I’m striving for. Welcome, belonging, feeling at home. I wish this were a reality for more people in more places. At work, at school, at home, at church. Even at the grocery store, the dentist, the library. Everywhere has the possibility of giving that peace, few places manage it. Or so it seems to me.

The feeling of belonging is so elusive and so essential. It means so much to each individual as we move through school and work and life. How much more so for communities, for nations. On a note totally outside of this school but, I think, quite related, it’s got me thinking about immigration. And from there, living in diversity. And prison. And all the people that people don’t like.

I say it all the time and it kind of annoys even myself, but it’s such a thing that matters–and such a thing that seems to have so little traction right now. Jesus was very clear: love everyone. Welcome the immigrant, the homeless, the unclean, the criminal, the unpleasant, the different.

Thinking about the ‘American dream’ and how easy it is for people in power to snatch that dream from any and all. Also, I once said here “love the lukewarm” and I think about that a lot.

If we love only those who love us, we are shirking our responsibility, nay our opportunity to live in the Kingdom of Heaven. Love your enemies. Bless those who persecute you. Build welcome wherever you can, with whomever you find yourself, because we are all hoping to get it somewhere.

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Shel Silverstein wrote, “If you are a dreamer, come in.” Would that we could all offer such a welcome.