Monday, July 07, 2008

Allowing for the music

Recently, I had a young professional guy, actually a banker by trade, visit me at my office. Looking for business, he dropped by to explain his bank's products and services. He also came trying to figure out who we are and what we are up to as an organization. Nice guy.

In the course of our conversation he asked me what lots of people ask, "So, what do you do when a homeless person asks you for money?"

Of course, unlike lots of people, I don't have a standard answer to that question.

I told him, "In my opinion and in my experience, it seems to me that you just have to follow your heart in the moments of such encounters."

The fact is, I do different things at different times.

Later that same day I met with Dr. Ron Anderson, President and CEO at Parkland Health and Hospital System.

My purpose was to brief him on our future plans for homeless housing and our need to develop a sound business case for ending homelessness in Dallas.

As always when I have the privilege of visiting with Dr. Anderson, our conversation was wide-ranging.

In the middle of our talk, he told me that Native American thought teaches that everyone has a song and every song should be welcomed and heard.

"When another person shares their song with you, it is a precious gift and deserves to be heard, received, honored and enjoyed," he noted.

"The problem is, too often, we don't want to know or hear the songs of other people, especially the poor, the homeless and the troubled," he continued.

Brilliant analysis.

We don't want to hear the stories, listen to the songs or view the photos, do we? Can we keep it real here?

Out of sight, out of hearing, out of mind--no threat to my desire to control my environment, so long as I ignore what is around me.

This refusal to hear, to allow for the music from others, is the death of community.

We need the music of others, no matter what informs the lyrics or the melodies.

People need to be heard. People need to sing!

I need to hear, to see, to absorb and to confront.

Community is life lived in the music provided by others.

Silence is not golden. It is deadly.

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4 comments:

Adam Gonnerman said...

Good thoughts. The trouble with listening to voices "on the margins" is that their stories go against what we think is proper, and shows us an unseemly side of life that is right in front of us, but which we refuse to see. We all just want to be comfortable in our little worlds.

Anonymous said...

Larry - I may be a bit off- topic, but I want to tell you what has been bothering me. I have several friends who have recently donated modest amounts of money to hunger projects in Africa. This has been followed by reading reports of the tremendous amount of money our government sends to other countries to assist in hunger projects, etc. While I appluad these efforts, I don't understand why Americans don't first help those here in our country, and I certainly don't understand why our governement does not focus its efforts, money and time on such projects right here in our country. I have concluded that our government and many Americans feel "better" about helping foreign countries than they do about taking care of "our own". If the time, money and effort was first focused here in the USA, I think we would see a tremendous difference in the USA and THEN we could help other countries. What is your view on this issue. Thanks, David.

Anonymous said...

The US is the richest country on Earth on an absolute basis and one of the richest on a per capita basis. In the US you are classified as being in "extreme poverty" if you make less than $10,000 a year. In Mexico, to take one example, the MEDIAN income is about $10,000 a year.

One BILLION people in the world make less than $1 a day. Fully 3 BILLION - half the world's population - live on less than $1,000 a year.

Yes, the US has poor people, but they are often well off in a relative sense compared to billions of others around the world. In such circumstances, the US has a moral obligation to help out around the world, and not just "at home." We don't do nearly enough. Kudos to your friends!

Stacy Peters said...

What a beautiful analogy. As usual, the Native Americans have such insightful imagery. It certainly appeals to me as a "singer." Thanks, Larry, for sharing stuff like this. As with musical tastes, we are often not as eclectic with our friends. That's one reason all my children went to public school. I wanted them to appreciate the songs of all kinds of people.