Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween in the 'hood

Everything is not about poverty and wealth.

But where I live, almost everything is.

Tonight we welcomed almost 300 tricker-treaters at our front door.

Most were young children. Some were teens. Lots of parents accompanied their children on the neighborhood rounds to collect the special "treats" offered at most of the doors in our community.

There were all sorts of costumes. And, there were children with no costumes.

It was a joyous night. For most of the kids who came to our door, the treats were special. These children came for the special occasion of free candy. Most were from low-income, working families.

Trick or treat here is not like the experiences we had when we lived in suburban Richardson. Tonight we passed out lots of candy to children for whom it was a very special night.

They were all beautiful.

New resource for 2008 election. . .

Yesterday, Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, was launched in an attempt to provide voters with useful information on the issues of poverty and opportunity as the nation moves toward the 2008 elections. The initiative, supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Eos Foundation and other major foundations, will seek to engage presidential, congressional and local candidates in substantive discussions about poverty and keep these issues in the forefront as a new administration sets its agenda.

New polling data indicates that growing numbers of likely voters, both Republicans and Democrats, are concerned about hunger and poverty. The research found that 50% of likely voters believe that "the hunger problem in the United States is getting worse," an increase from 38 percent in 2002.

Polling was conducted by Thomas Z. Freedman and Jim McLaughlin as part of their multi-year surveys for the Alliance to End Hunger and Bread for the World. The purpose of the surveys is to better understand American attitudes about issues of poverty and hunger and how best to communicate with voters. This report, available at, provides a comprehensive account of key public opinion trends that the Hunger Message Project has identified over the past five years, and to describe what those trends mean for politics in 2007 and 2008.

Between May 2003 and June 2007, the percentage of likely voters who said that "a candidate's position on reducing the hunger problem" was very important when deciding their vote for Congress nearly doubled from 23 percent to 44 percent. A majority of those polled, 54 percent, do not believe that "political candidates have spent an adequate amount of time discussing hunger and poverty issues."

The launch event introduced the new Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity initiative as a three-tiered program, including:

1) A website, that includes information on candidates' statements and proposals on poverty and filmed responses of several presidential candidates answering questions on poverty in America. The website also will provide daily news updates, opinion, research and census data, and links to blogs on poverty and hunger.

2) Forums and opportunities for national and local candidates and elected officials to discuss their ideas and views on poverty and solutions that can create opportunity.

3) A continuing post-2008 election effort to ensure that poverty and opportunity issues are prominent on the national policy agenda and to press elected officials to fulfill their campaign promises.

"More and more Americans understand how important this issue is to our country," said Douglas W. Nelson, president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "The effects of poverty go far beyond the short-term hardship for millions of families, to its tragic, long-term consequences for children. Nearly 13 million children in America are living in poverty, and it negatively affects their health, lowers their educational attainment, increases their risk of future arrest and incarceration, and robs them of hope for a successful future," he said.

"At this important time reducing poverty should be moved from the back burner of policy discussions," he added. "The Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity initiative will help to make sure that happens."

"The need to address poverty is being discussed today in a way that it hasn't been in decades," says Andrea Silbert, president of the Eos Foundation. "The new polling confirms that it's not just advocacy organizations and foundations that are focusing on these issues, but individual voters as well. Voters are clearly frustrated with government progress and want practical, innovative, bi-partisan solutions that involve governments, non-profits and the private sector."

This is an exciting development in my view. Hunger and poverty are the issues we address on a daily basis here at CDM. I'm grateful for the leadership of private foundations in providing the resources needed to keep these issues in the forefront of our approaching national election.

Check out the website. Then, let me know what you think.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

hope, cities and leadership. . .

Jerry Brown, former California Governor, Presidential candidate and Mayor of Oakland, shared the following comments in an interview with oral historian, Studs Terkel for his book, Hope Dies Last. We'll be discussing this book this Thursday at our montly Urban Engagement Book Club meeting.

I found Brown's observations interesting, practical and hopeful in very ordinary ways. We've seen what he describes here in Dallas among the people with whom we work.


“We try to deal with (our problems) neighborhood by neighborhood. What I find as mayor, it’s not abstract, it’s block by block. It’s just people living their lives. They don’t live their lives in ideology. They live their lives by what they face every day. Very few people generalize, or stand back and look at the big picture. It’s getting rid of a drug dealer on the corner, or creating a group to watch out for the neighbors, or working to fix up a local school. All these things build community life. At the same time, the media, national entertainment, advertising, brand shopping – and work people have to do – occupies a lot of daily life, so people don’t have much energy left over to organize their neighborhoods or work on civic issues. But there are thousands of people in a place like Oakland who do just that: they find the time.” (p. 223).

"In some of these lower—income neighborhoods, it’s like a continuing disaster that pulls people together, while at the same time fostering a lot of antagonism and anger.” (p. 224).

“In a city like Oakland, where we have eighty different languages in our public schools, all different races, ethnicities, religions, and political ideologies, somehow we’re holding it together. That’s hopeful. Why can’t we do the same with the world at large?” (p. 224).


Monday, October 29, 2007

My young friend

One of my young friends who would benefit from the provisions of the recently defeated DREAM Act is pictured here to the left in a photo taken several years ago when she was about 10-years-old. She is the smiling face in the middle of this "huddle" of joy.

This photo captures a moment in a day of summer camp or, possibly, a shot from one of our after-school activities with children from our community.

She came here when she was 5-years-old when her parents moved to Dallas from Mexico. They were undocumented. They came to work. She is undocumented.

She is now a high school graduate. She is now a college student. She is today what she has always been: a delightful, smart, honest, wonderful person.

Opponents of the DREAM Act bluster about border security, abiding by the law, not "jumping ahead in line" that is the immigration process.

I guess almost all of us are for all of those things. What complicates this issue are facts like these:

1) The American economy invited these immigrants to come here, to work for cheap wages, to benefit us all. Our government--that would be me and you--looked the other way, did not enforce the law at the workplace and the problem grew to its current scale. At the same time, the policy benefited everyone--employers and consumers who took advantage of cheap labor, larger profit margins and cheaper goods and services. Again, that would be all of us who benefited.

2) The child pictured above, my friend, had nothing to do with any of this. She simply accompanied her parents to the U. S. She played by the rules, as far as she knew them. She excelled. She is an asset to everyone who knows her and to countless who don't.

Pretending that we can turn back the clock, rectify all of the mistakes quickly and empty out over a million students by deporting them to Mexico is absurd. As Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said last week in Washington, the vast majority of these young people have no home to return to in Mexico.

Believe what you want about comprehensive immigration reform. But don't forget my young friend.

Look at her picture.

She is not a statistic.

She is a wonderful person.

We don't need to send her anywhere, except on to finish her education so that she can continue to make a valuable contribution to our nation.

Sending her back to Mexico would be about like sending my two daughters back to Scotland.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Counsel from a homeless friend. . .

"Eric" is new to this blog community.

He posted a most interesting and insightful comment last Tuesday, October 23. You may want to go back and take a look at what he said.

Eric is exceptional.

He is also homeless here in Dallas.

He signed off on his comment by offering up this bit of counsel to those of us who are well off, especially those of us who take exception to people like him:

"my inconvenient existence may be a glimpse of your eternal reward. . ."

Don't like the way that sounds?

It occurs to me that Eric's been reading the words of Jesus, since that is just about what Jesus told his critics through the words of his parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. You may want to check the passage out at Luke 16:19-31.

I have this hunch that Eric has a lot in common with Jesus.

I mean think about it.

Jesus was always upsetting the voices of reason of his day.

He made the religious leaders and the church folks mad as could be on a regular basis. Usually it was by pointing the inconsistency of their ways.

Or, even more, it was by simply telling them that they had missed the whole point of "doing God's will" in the world.

Eric's just carrying on a great tradition.

"my inconvenient existence may be a glimpse of your eternal reward. . ."

Something to think about the next time you feel inconvenienced by a poor person who has no place to live in a city of incredible wealth like Dallas, Texas.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why a "Pumpkin Festival"?

We work in neighborhoods where people face all sorts of difficulties, places where bad problems abound, where life is not very good.

At the same time, in every case, no matter what, we also find amazing people who possess enormous amounts of social capital. In the worst places and situations we discover that people are good and that hope abounds.

So, we've teamed up with our great corporate sponsor, Life is Good, to bring the 1st Annual Pumpkin Festival to Dallas!

Take a quick look at this video from the website of The Dallas Morning News to learn more about the experience:

Come by today between noon and 8:00 p. m. and enjoy the party! I promise you'll have a great time!

Life is good!


Friday, October 26, 2007

Community and pumpkins galore!

If you live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, you've got to join us tomorrow for our first annual community "Pumpkin Festival." Our goal is to carve and display 6,000 pumpkins!

There will be games, food, fun and delight as we offer a free experience in a wonderful venue for adults and children! Sponsored by Life is Good and Central Dallas Ministries, our festival will be the first of its kind here in Dallas. Our goal is to bring everyone together for a time of fun and community life.

For more details, go to:

Hope to see you on Saturday. The day will be unique and remarkable. You won't want to miss it!


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Washington, DC

Yesterday, I flew to Washington, DC to lobby our senators in support of the DREAM Act.

When planning the trip, it was my understanding that the bill would come before the U. S. Senate sometime in early November.

To everyone's surprise the bill came up yesterday for a "procedural" vote that would determine its near-term fate. To move forward the proposal needed 60 votes. It managed to receive 52. So, back to the drawing board.

Traveling with me were three delightful students from Dallas. Jose, Monica and Jesse--all would benefit from the relief provided by this immigration bill. Each of these wonderful young people were brought to this country when they were small children by parents who were not documented. None of them were consulted about the family move. Since coming to this country, all three have been great students, model citizens and hard workers. All three want to go to college--two are currently enrolled, in spite of the fact that when and if they graduate, they will not be able to work legally. One would like to join the U. S. Armed Forces.

During what turned out to be a long day, these students talked to top staff members in the office of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

Senator Hutchison worked hard to see the bill move forward. Had her efforts been successful, her staff was prepared to present a balanced set of changes to the bill to make it more acceptable to everyone. She exhibited great leadership, as she worked for a bi-partisan solution to the problem. It was also very clear that she understands the ethical and moral implications of the issues surrounding the debate, as well as of the problems facing these wonderful students.

She made us proud. Her staff assured us that they were not giving up.

I wish everyone could have heard these students explain their lives, their goals and their dreams. As they told their stories, tears flowed. It was moving just to be in the room with them.

Senator Cornyn would not allow the students in his offices, saying that he nor his staff would sit down with anyone in violation of federal law--never mind that the offense in question is a civil matter, not criminal. And never mind that these children did not knowingly violate any law when they were brought here.

His staff explained his "No" vote as the result of procedural/political concerns and the fear that the bill would not be open for amendment or debate if passed to the next step. We pointed out that Senator Hutchison, also a Republican, had reached a much different conclusion and, in fact, was waiting to deliver a bill with language and provisions that could break the logjam. We engaged in a heated debate and left with the promise to continue the conversation.

The Dallas Morning News published a story this morning by Washington Bureau reporter Dave Michaels quoting Senator Cornyn as saying the "sympathetic" nature of the issues surrounding the DREAM Act make it politically unwise to act now. He judges it better to use the legislation and the issue as a political tool in deciding on any comprehensive immigration reform down the road ("Migrant bill fails to pass Senate," 2A, October 25, 2007).

That may be smart politically, but it is terrible policy for the hundreds of thousands of students across the nation who are like my three young friends.

Why would we want to lose them to our national life and economy, especially at a time when we need more bi-ligual professionals than ever in our history? Why waste the investment we've already made in these young lives? Why keep them living in fear, needless fear?

The question here is not one of "sympathy," though surely we've not reached the place as a people where sympathy is a weak or negative value, have we? In fact, the question is about morality, good faith, fairness, justice and solving a horrible and pressing problem.

My young friends returned to Dallas a bit frustrated and a lot disappointed. They are concerned about their future. To be sent back to Mexico after 13 years in Dallas, with no family, no hometown, no idea what to do. . .those prospects would concern anyone.

They brought their cameras for the trip.

After our meetings in the Senate, we took a cab to the Lincoln Memorial. I wish everyone could have seen them. Standing where Dr. King stood. Gazing up at the amazing statue of President Lincoln. Watching the video presentation in the small museum space. They were so proud to be in Washington, the capitol city of the only nation they've known--the place they call home.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Church Growth"

Dr. Joe Clifford, Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church in Downtown Dallas, has been stirring things up a bit since he hit town a few months back.

It seems that the good Reverend takes exception to the City of Dallas' efforts to, as he says, "criminalize" homelessness. He objects vigorously to the recently enacted panhandling ordinance, saying that the way to address the problems facing the homeless poor is not by writing citations or hauling folks off to jail for a few hours.

No, Joe wants us to consider alternatives like adequate funding for mental health services, substance abuse treatment, counseling and permanent supportive housing development. You know, approaches that actually work!

Joe's a unique guy in these parts.

But, he takes it further. He argues that addressing homelessness in these more comprehensive and pro-active ways will be just as good for Downtown business and redevelopment as it is for the homeless. And, get this, it will cost a lot less with more return on investment than our current approach.

I agree with him on all counts! Joe's just right.

The needs are clear. The cost-benefit analysis for Dallas lines up with the experience and data of other cities we've studied. The fact is, it is just cheaper to work with and care for our homeless brothers and sisters than it is to fine them and treat them like they are criminals.

Not long ago, in response to the City's crackdown on the street population, Joe opened his church's parking lot at night to his homeless neighbors so that they could bed down in safety for some rest. Interesting, this notion of parking lot as sanctuary, don't you think?

It is my understanding that in a recent Sunday morning sermon to his congregation ("Living Out in the Open," October 14, 2007) Joe noted, "We are up to four Porta-Potties now – a new way to measure church growth!"

This guy is a creative, honest spokesman for what is simply right for our community.

Here's my prayer: that more communities of faith would begin to employ significant metrics, like Porta-Potties, when measuring their growth as congregations.

Keep speaking truth, Joe. We love you over here!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

To End Homelessness

Nan Roman, leader of the National Alliance to End Homelessness and author of the "Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness" in the U. S., met with a group of us here in Dallas last week. Fannie Mae convened the meeting. We continue to have many reasons to be grateful for Steven Bradley and his other associates here in the Dallas office of Fannie Mae.

Roman laid out an interesting, brief historical overview of the problem of homelessness in the U. S. She pointed out that prior to 1983, homelessness wasn't much of a problem in the nation. Her organization and, more recently, her plans emerged as a result of the growing national crisis.

She didn't say, but I couldn't help but wonder about causes for the rather sudden explosion of the number of homeless in America. Several things came to mind.

  • The Vietnam War and the thousands of veterans who returned unprepared for what greeted them. Side bar: a friend of mine who is a psychiatrist at Veteran's Hospital here in Dallas told me that 85% of his homeless patients suffer from post traumatic syndrome due to events that occurred prior to their military service--the military being their place of escape until their tenures of service ended.

  • The Reagan Era and its more draconian social benefits and programs built on the theories of supply-side economics.

  • De-institutionalizing mental health treatment and services across the nation.

  • Ironically, the "war on drugs" that has resulted in the incarceration of millions of men and women who likely needed treatment instead of what they received. Upon release countless of these people ended up on our streets with few options for work or housing.

  • The forces that have created a growing gap between the wealthy and the impoverished have also fueled the growth in the homeless population. Outsourcing of millions of better paying American jobs would be included here.

  • The disappearance of the old "boarding houses" that existed everywhere until the mid to late 1960s.

Since the early 1980s, service providers have responded to the growing problem of homelessness. By the late 1990s there were over 40,000 programs in the U. S. designed to address the issues of homelessness.

Ironically, the homeless population doubled! The proliferation of services does not equal a solution to the problem.

The folks at the National Alliance to End Homelessness are determined to bring the cruel numbers down. They rolled out the first version of their 10-year plan in 2000.

Among other tactics, they are promoting the benefits of developing permanent supportive housing rather than shelters or more services without housing.

There it is again, that notion that homeless people really need a place to call home.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Today is "Community Hunger Day"

Today hundreds of our partners across the city and beyond will join us to participate in our second annual "Community Hunger Day."

It is not too late for you to join the effort.

Go to to learn more and to sign up.

Over twenty years ago, Edd Eason taught me the value of what I call a "focused fast" for the sake of others.

Edd led our youth group in a 30-hour hunger experience. Our focus for the weekend was world hunger.

It was not an easy experience. However, it was unforgettable!

Today our focus is hunger among the urban poor here in Dallas and across our nation.

If you decide to take part, I hope you'll share your insights and your experiences by posting here during or after your fasting.

Thanks for all who step up to the challenge.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Time to retreat

Vacation has been a long time coming this year. No time away in the summer--just too much going on and too much uncertainty caught me in several traps of confusion about my schedule.

Ever been there?

But, I'm holding out hope for November.

My good friend, James Walters has offered up his cabin in Wells River, Vermont. James teaches at Boston University. Brilliant scholar working in the early Christian era to understand the social dynamics of the period.

James is also a skilled urban practitioner on several levels. While at Heartbeat, James helped create the Personal and Community Empowerment (PACE) materials that we are using to train leaders and organize community groups in several inner-city neighborhoods here in Dallas.

I love James. Wish I could find more ways to spend time with him.

The thought of his cabin leads me to share what's below from the latest Heron Dance email message I received on Friday.




I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace
Comes dropping slow.
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the Linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep hear’s core.

—W.B. Yeats, 1890

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Study material that matters

People ask me for material to use in Bible study groups or Sunday School classes.

Try this resource:

I think you'll be challenged in a very big and important way!


Friday, October 19, 2007

I've been to Jena

I've been to Jena, Louisiana.

Actually, I don't remember ever really going there, but I've been there in my experience of how white folks work out their racism.

We must not be fooled. Race and racism continue to play large roles in the social and cultural life of the nation. And, much of what is still alive and well in our communities is ugly, hate-filled and utterly absurd.

The story of the "Jena 6" remind me of my experiences forty years ago when I was in high school and college. The situation facing these six young men bring back memories of my first church in Shreveport, Louisiana where racism was not only alive and well, but honored in the community and in my church.




No doubt, you've heard and read about the "Jena 6."

Last fall, when two Black high school students sat under the "white" tree on their campus, white students responded by hanging nooses from the tree.

What does a "white" tree look like? God giving out titles to trees now?

When Black students protested the light punishment for the students who hung the nooses, District Attorney Reed Walters came to the school and told the students he could "take [their] lives away with a stroke of [his] pen." Sounds like a great fellow, huh? Champion of justice and reconciliation, right?

Racial tension continued to mount in Jena, and the District Attorney did nothing in response to several egregious cases of violence and threats against black students.

But when Justin Barker, a white student--who had been a vocal supporter of the students who hung the nooses--taunted a black student, allegedly hurled the most offensive of racial epitaphs in the direction of several black students, and was beaten up by black students, six black students were charged with second-degree attempted murder.

Mychal Bell, Robert Bailey Jr., Carwin Jones, Bryant Purvis, Theo Shaw and Jesse Ray Beard — were between the ages of 14 and 16 at the time of the incident, but were originally charged as adults with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The legal adult age in Louisiana is 17.

The first young man to be tried, Mychal Bell, was convicted. He originally faced up to 22 years in prison for a school fight. On Sept. 27, Bell was released on $47,000 bail after the district attorney said he would not continue to prosecute Bell as an adult. The original verdict was tossed out by the Louisiana state appeals court, which said that he should have been tried as a juvenile. Bell was sent back to jail for violating probation on previous conviction.

A national movement has grown up around the Jena story. Congressional hearings have been underway. Thousands traveled to Jena to protest the community's handling of the matter, especially in the courts.

John Mellencamp wrote a song, "Jena," that drew angry protests from the white mayor. "The song is not written as an indictment of the people of Jena but, rather, as a condemnation of racism," the singer says. []

It's a pattern I've watched now for four decades. Black folks are injured, defamed, imprisoned, upset and organized to stand up for their rights. White folks try to assure everyone that "things are being blown out of proportion."

White people don't understand the power of the noose as a symbol of hate, oppression, death and racism. Nooses recall a terrible and revolting part of our history as a people when an estimated 3,500 (likely a conservative guess) African-Americans were lynched, primarily in the Cotton Belt states, in the period between 1800 and 1968.

Believe it or not, I have a "coffee table" book in my library that presents a collection of postcards depicting lynching of African Americans. Nice way to greet friends, don't you think?

These photos are unbelievable, but speak to the legitimate outrage of Black Americans, as well as any of us who believe that racism is immoral and intolerable. If you're up to it, do a Google search on "lynchings" and see what you find behind the "images" tab.

Don't dismiss this incident as insignificant or isolated. What happens in Jena is important to us all. It should be a wake up call, a reminder of what remains just beneath the surface of all of our lives, even after all we believe we've learned.

I've been to Jena.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The facts about children's health in the U. S.

My friend, Janie Metzinger of the Mental Health Association of Dallas sent this message around earlier this week. I believe it provides the factual reality facing us as we consider the cost of blocking health coverage benefits to all of our children. We need to improve the overall system of health care delivery to all of our children.

Somehow it seemed appropriate to add this post to what is below regarding the hymn heard in church on Sunday.

Please consider the facts.

BACKGROUND: A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine underscores concerns for children’s health raised by the President’s veto of the SCHIP legislation. (Please see The Dallas Morning News article below.)

Contrary to the rhetoric of some SCHIP opponents, the Children’s Health Insurance Program was specifically designed for children in families of middle class and moderate incomes. These families are not eligible for Medicaid, which was designed for children in very low-income families.

CHIP parents are hard-working. They often work in the construction, health care, hotel, restaurant and manufacturing industries. Many work for small businesses who simply cannot find affordable insurance to offer to their employees.

CHIP is a public-private partnership. A portion of the money for the program is put in by state governments. (Texas uses a portion of the Tobacco Settlement money for this purpose.) The state’s portion is matched by the federal appropriation, and parents pay a sliding scale premium for CHIP insurance for their children.

The state contracts the program out to private insurance carriers who vie for the business. Parents then choose which plan they want for their children. CHIP covers preventive care, lab tests, X-rays, hospital care, prescription drugs, physical therapy, rehabilitation, mental health and dental care.

Texas consistently leads the nation in the number and rate of uninsured children within our borders.

ACTION: Please contact you Senators and Members of the House of Representatives to tell them that you support CHIP. A vote may come as early as today on the veto override.

Here's the article from The Dallas Morning News from last week:

Study: Medical care for children often falls short
Doctors score low on preventive steps, tests for seriously ill infantsThursday, October 11, 2007
MELVILLE, N.Y. – Children are not faring well in the health care system, a team of researchers reports today in the largest analysis of its kind. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concludes that overall, doctors gave children the appropriate outpatient medical care only 47 percent of the time.

"They got an F," said Dr. Joseph Hagan, a Burlington, VT pediatrician. Dr. Hagan co-edited the American Academy of Pediatrics' latest update to its children's health guidelines, due out later this month.

"It's sad, but I think it reflects some unpleasant realities about our current health care system or, I might say, non-system," Dr. Hagan said.

The report, by the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute and the nonprofit Rand Corp. research group, is the first comprehensive look at children's health care quality. The findings are particularly troubling because nearly all the 1,536 children in the nationwide study had insurance.
Eighty-two percent were covered by private insurance. Three-quarters were white, and all lived in or near large or midsize cities.

Experts said minority children, those with more restrictive government insurance, and the millions with no insurance at all certainly fare even worse.

The compliance rate was even worse than that found in a study of adults: They got only 55 percent of recommended care.

The study was based on a review of two years of medical records of children in 12 metropolitan areas.
The new research found children's doctors did best in providing the recommended care for acute medical problems – 68 percent. They scored just 53 percent for treating chronic conditions and 41 percent for preventive care.

"I was really taken aback by the results for preventive care," said Dr. Rita Mangione-Smith, lead investigator at the Seattle institute and an associate professor at the University of Washington. "It was really kind of distressing to me that there was some really basic stuff that we should be doing that's just not happening."

The researchers found, for example, that only 19 percent of seriously ill infants with fevers taken to doctors had the correct laboratory tests to determine the underlying ailment. Only 44 percent of children with asthma, the study found, were on the right medication.

"How can we appropriately treat an infant if we don't test?" Dr. Mangione-Smith asked Wednesday.

The research also discovered babies aren't receiving routine checks of their height and weight to ensure proper growth. Some youngsters aren't receiving all of their recommended vaccinations. And children are not being appropriately screened for anemia, a marker for learning disorders.

"There can be dire consequences for the children, for their families and for society as a whole," including death, when these easily managed conditions are not controlled, said Julia Paradise of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Some experts said the results highlight the importance of the debate over the proposed expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program, which Congress approved and President Bush vetoed.

A vote to override the veto is set for next week. [Which, in fact, is likely today! LJ]

Ms. Paradise noted that the proposed expansion of the CHIP program was to include the first major initiative to measure and find ways to improve quality of care for children covered by that program and by Medicaid – low-income groups that generally have more health needs than others.
The study was funded by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation of Plainsboro, N.J., and the California HealthCare Foundation.

The researchers noted they had incomplete medical records for some children, no children from rural areas were included, and more than half the families asked to participate didn't respond.

Dr. Mangione-Smith and the other experts said they hope the new findings will lead to action to address the shortcomings. Dr. Hagan said doctors can do more to keep up with the latest care guidelines. But he said they can't solve all the problems, such as insurance plans that don't cover crucial screenings and the inadequate time pediatricians have to spend with each child.

Basing payments to doctors on measurements of performance, as Medicare has done in some cases, should be considered, said Dr. James Perrin, a pediatrician at MassGeneral Hospital for Children.

"It's not so much training doctors as rearranging incentives to encourage people to provide high-quality care," said Dr. Perrin, co-author of an editorial in the journal on the need to improve the quality of care for children.

Another big challenge, Dr. Mangione-Smith said, is to change pediatrician training, which now focuses on treating acute illnesses in a hospital.Dr. Mangione-Smith advises parents to go to the pediatrician armed with as much information as possible.

"Come in with your own checklist," she said. "Ask your doctor, 'Is their weight OK today? Should she be checked for anemia?' "

(McClatchy Newspapers, The Seattle Times and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Anthem heard in church last Sunday

Church music fascinates me. I suppose this is due to my fundamentalist background and the place of song in its tradition.

But it's also the result of a theory I have about churches.

It is simply this: you can tell an awful lot about a congregation by paying close attention to the words it sings on Sunday.

I'm talking values, theology, relevance and practical engagement with the world.

Here's an anthem sung in a Dallas church last Sunday. It's titled Prayer for the Children.

See what you think:

Can you hear the prayer of the children,

on bended knee, in the shadow of an unknown room?

Empty eyes with no more tears to cry, turning heavenward toward the light.

Cryin' Jesus, help me to see the mornin' light of one more day.

But if I should die before I wake, I pray my soul to take.

Can you feel the hearts of the children,

aching for home, for something of their very own?

Reaching hands with nothing to hold on to, but hope for a better day.

Cryin' Jesus, help me to feel the love again in my own land,

but if unknown roads lead away from home, give me loving arms, way from harm.

Can you hear the voice of the children,

softly pleading for silence in their shattered world?

Angry guns preach a gospel full of hate, blood of the innocent on their hands.

Cryin' Jesus, help me to feel the sun again upon my face.

For when darkness clears I know you're near, bringing peace again.

Can you hear the prayer of the children?

A thoughtful, compassionate church concerned about something beyond their own comfort or consumer desires for "satisfying worship," I'd say.
May their number increase.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Responsible investing

Al Gore just won the coveted Nobel Peace Prize.

I am aware that Mr. Gore is a fairly controversial fellow. He did win the popular vote in the 2000 election for President before losing the Electoral College count. No reason to go down that path any further! This is not about politics or personalities.

Last week I opened my on-line McKinsey Quarterly to find an interview with Gore and his business partner, David Blood. I found this conversation most interesting and commend it to you.

Is there a way to do business with an eye and a heart for the social good?
In other words, can a person do well while paying attention to doing good?

Here's the McKinsey introduction to the interesting interview:

As McKinsey research indicates, executives around the world increasingly recognize that the creation of long-term shareholder value depends on a corporation’s ability to understand and respond to increasingly intense demands from society. No surprise, then, that the topic of socially responsible investing has been gaining ground as investors seek to incorporate concepts like sustainability and responsible corporate behavior into their assessments of a company’s long-term value.

Yet socially responsible investing has always been an awkward science. Early approaches simplistically screened out “sin sectors” such as tobacco. Subsequent evolutions tilted toward rewarding good performers, largely in the extraction industries, on the basis of often fuzzy criteria promulgated by the corporate social-responsibility movement. These early approaches tended to force an unacceptable trade-off between social criteria and investment returns.

Three years ago, former US Vice President Al Gore and David Blood, previously the head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, set out to put sustainability investing firmly in the mainstream of equity analysis. Their firm, Generation Investment Management, engages in primary research that integrates sustainability with fundamental equity analysis. Based in London and Washington, DC, Generation has 23 employees, 12 of them investment professionals, and a single portfolio invested, at any given time, in 30 to 50 publicly listed global companies.

For the entire interview, check out the link below. You'll have to go through a simple registration process, but, in my opinion, it will be worth your time.

I'd love your feedback on this one!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some important facts on SCHIP

Recently, Congress passed and the President vetoed a new version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).

As Congress prepares for another vote in an attempt to override Mr. Bush's veto, several important facts should be kept in mind.

1) The bill under discussion will provide health insurance coverage for almost 4 million more children.

2) The bill targets only low-income children. The bill’s new cap is set at a maximum of 300% of the Federal Poverty Level or just under $62,000 gross pre-tax income (not net income) for a family of 4. The states have the option of setting their own cap levels. Only 600,000 of the 3.8 million new children gaining coverage under the bill are not currently eligible and would become eligible due to the proposed funding expansions if states so chose. Anyone who tries to pay for private or employer sponsored health plans understands that income at 300% of poverty does not guarantee a family will be able to afford coverage.

If you believe the Congressional Budget Office, 84% of the children gaining coverage under the bill are either on the program now (but without the new money would have to be cut from the program for lack of funding) or are eligible now but not enrolled.

3) Contrary to some opposition propaganda, the bill reforms previous versions of SCHIP and cuts out adults. There will be no waivers under the new SCHIP legislation allowing for the provision of coverage for parents. Those states that have received such waivers in the past will have to transition parents to a separate program with a lower federal match. Further, the bill prohibits coverage for childless adults. States providing coverage in the past for childless adults under SCHIP will no longer be able to do so.

According to our friends at the Center for Public Policy Priorities ( "if the number of uninsured children grows this year at the same rate as last year, nearly 2,000 additional children will become uninsured every day."

Contact your U. S. Representative and each of your U. S. Senators to urge a vote for SCHIP when it comes up for a vote in the near future.

A vote for SCHIP is a vote for the health of America's children.

[Material for this post drawn largely from information provided by the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Austin, Texas]


Monday, October 15, 2007

Join us for Community Hunger Day 2007

People who live outside the city or in other locations across the country often ask me, "What is it like where you live, doing what you do?"

There are a number of ways to answer that inquiry. But, for today, I'll direct you to an event we've planned for a week from today. Participation with us in this special, collective action will allow you to experience and share in a bit of our world. And, the video link at the end of this post will really help your understanding.

Just like every other day, on Monday, October 22, thousands of our neighbors will skip breakfast, miss lunch and go without dinner. They will go to bed hungry.

I'm asking you to join them.

For this one day, I ask you to go without food for at least one meal.

Share in the hunger that many of our neighbors experience daily. Spend the day in reflection about the issue of hunger. Donate the amount you save by not eating to our work here in Dallas.

Make a commitment to our community on Community Hunger Day 2007.

Our neighbors who live in inner city Dallas, Texas will be strengthened and encouraged by your support.

Sign up for the campaign today at

If you want to understand more about the life we share here, connect with us by taking a moment to watch the video below.

Please share it with your friends, family, associates at work and neighbors.

If you experience difficulty viewing this video, go here:


Sunday, October 14, 2007


"Truth exists; only falsehood has to be invented."

--Georges Braque quoted on the beginning page of Nelson Demille's Up Country, a novel about a GI's return to Vietnam.


Saturday, October 13, 2007


I suppose I looked into my own future last Tuesday. What I saw left me with very mixed emotions.

Tuesday was moving day for my parents.

For over 30 years my mother and father have lived in the same wonderful home in Richardson, Texas. Before that, my growing up years were spent at another, much more modest Richardson house where we first moved in 1953.

I have incredibly fond memories of that time and of that house. My dad bought the vacant lot next door to the house and me and my buddies turned it into a ball field--football in the fall, baseball in the spring and summer and track year round! Mark Wallis, one of my best friends, and I played "Home Run Derby" on that field for hours at a time.

Fifty-four years in the same town. Believe it or not, they have had the same P. O. Box and the same phone number for all those years. Well, technically, in the early days their phone number had about 6 fewer numbers than today! We transferred the same number to their new home. Stability is something they have known very well across the years.

My dad is 87, my mom is 86.

They have enjoyed a really great life together. Next month they celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary. They have had their health problems over the past fifteen years or so, but have done very well until just recently.

Their house became more than they could manage. Their health has begun to decline markedly.

We've been talking about a move into a more "manageable environment" for a couple of years. My dad's last heart flare up and surgeries forced our hand.

As a result, on Tuesday they moved into an independent living facility in Richardson. It is a very nice, two-bedroom apartment with meals furnished, along with other important amenities.

They didn't want to move.

My approach was to keep them out of the actual moving process. We relocated furniture and other household items during the day. Once the place was set up as much like home as possible, we brought them over and let them come in for their first night.

My mother cried. My dad thanked us.

It was an emotional time beyond words.

For the past two weeks, as he had regained his strength, dad has rehearsed his career--his stint as the first full-time executive with City of Richardson (1953-1959) back when the population was about 1,200. The entire city staff included him, a water department worker and a sanitation worker.

He reviewed the details of his career with the private development company he helped build. Until his most recent hospitalization, he was still going to the office one day a week. The owner of the company and one of my dad's very best friends died about two years ago.

My mom has been worried, depressed and up and down. It is how she handles disruptions like my dad's health issues. Of course, she suffers with her arthritis and gout, as well as several other health-related issues that remain both troublesome and chronic. Night before last she entered the hospital for a blood transfusion and other treatment. We're hoping she gets to come home today after a couple of nights there.

It is a tough time emotionally, as well as physically. . . for all of us.

So many memories came flooding back during the past several days.

I've been so very blessed by my parents and by the life they provided me. It is hard seeing them near the end of their journey. They are blessed with everything they need to make the process as pleasant as it can be, I suppose. Pray for them.

Going through this experience forces me to consider my own future, should I live so long. It's definitely a mixed bag. But, overall, the positive far outweighs the momentary negative.

One thing stands out to me in a huge way: my privilege is overwhelming.

I am thinking of my parents again this morning.

I'm also thinking of the elderly poor who are at about the same juncture in life as my folks, but without all of the blessings and benefits.

Life is a mystery. But many things are very, very clear to me as I look back and forward.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Earning the right. . .

Today's edition of The Dallas Morning News includes a thoughtful op-ed piece by conservative columnist Ruben Navarrette of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Navarrettee lived and worked here in Dallas with our newspaper for several years and always provided much for readers to consider, debate and "chew on." Though I didn't always see eye-to-eye with him, I was sorry to see him leave.

Navarrette's essay this morning ("Helping immigrants earn their way," 23A) is a no nonsense evaluation of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), legislation still alive in the U. S. Senate as S774. I've posted often on this positive legislation (use the "Search" feature above to review previous comments on the act).

The DREAM Act provides a realistic way for the children of undocumented immigrants, brought here by their parents, to receive legal status and remain in the U. S. while pursuing college education and/or serving in the U. S. Armed Forces. The bill also provides a pathway to citizenship for those who choose it and who fulfill all the requirements.

Here's part of what Navarrette says:

". . .but let's not lose sight of the real strength of the DREAM Act. It's the quid pro quo of offering illegal immgrants a path to legalization but not making that path a cakewalk. It offers something precious--the right to say in the United States legally--but it isn't bashful about demanding certain things in return.

"Every single piece of immigration reform that comes along should strike the same sort of bargain. Those who don't want to accept the terms and take the deal can go about their business and bet their chances with immigration authorities.

"But those who do will have demonstrated that they're willing to make an investment in a country that has already given them a lot and stands to give them much more. In return, the rest of us get a higher-earning, greater-producing legal resident who can contribute to society for many years to come."

Sensible words.

Read his entire comment at:

In talking to young people who would benefit from the DREAM Act, it is clear they are ready to accept the opportunity, make the investment and get on with doing their part of make their communities better.

A group of us, including some of our young student friends, are considering a trek to Washington, DC next week to meet with our Senators to urge them to support this most needed legislation.

If you haven't contacted your Senators, please do so today and urge surpport of the DREAM Act.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Compassion and structure

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

Martin Luther King, Jr.
Sermon at Riverside Church for Clergy and Laity Concerned
New York City
April 1967


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Freedom and community

When you are interiorly free you call others to freedom, whether you know it or not. Freedom attracts wherever it appears. A free man or a free woman creates a space where others feel safe and want to dwell. Our world is so full of conditions, demands, requirements, and obligations that we often wonder what is expected of us. But when we meet a truly free person, there are no expectations, only an invitation to reach into ourselves and discover there our own freedom. Where true inner freedom is, there is God. And where God is, there we want to be.

Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith (Harper Collins, 1997)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Commander's intent

Recently, I attended a seminar facilitated by an ex-Marine. He told us a couple of stories from the first Gulf War in Iraq.

A take-away I won't soon forget had to do with what he called "Commander's intent."

In battle fronts like Iraq troops face situations that are both highly volitile and filled with uncertainty and chaos. The Marine told us that every soldier was trained to understand the irreducible mission and intent of their leaders. Simply put, when in doubt, follow this clear command:

"Go north and always defend the river."

In this case he referred to the historic Euphrates River.

If separted from the larger force, if distracted or attacked, no matter what, this was the one command everyone knew they could fall back on as a mission statement for next steps type action.

This information left me wondering about our mission and work in the city.

There are so many distractions, so many setbacks, so many interruptions, so many great opportunities and so much chaos.

What would be an equivalent statement for me and for all of us who work in urban renewal organizations, no matter what our specific functions or our unique objectives?

"When in doubt, remember the poor and always stand with the community."

That's a statement that has been rumbling around in my head since I heard my Marine buddy talk. I know there is more here to think about.

I'd love to hear what you come up with.


Monday, October 08, 2007

SCHIP support needed

Julia Easley, our good friend and partner at Children's Medical Center Dallas, sent the following our way last week after President Bush vetoed the SCHIP legilation. This message comes to us from one of our best hospitals in Dallas. Read on!

Last week, President Bush vetoed the SCHIP Reauthorization Act.

Your help is needed again to ask the House of Representatives to override the President's veto.

Congress must reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) this fall. Called CHIP in Texas, the program insures more than 300,000 low-income children including 43,000 Dallas area children.

The SCHIP Reauthorization Act will provide $35 billion over five years to fund an expansion of SCHIP. An additional four million children are expected to be covered under this bill.

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed the bill by wide, bipartisan majorities last week and sent it to the President. He vetoed the bill.

The next step is for the U.S. House of Representatives to attempt to override the president’s veto, which will require a two-thirds majority vote. Our representatives need to hear loud and clear that we want them to pass the bill and override the veto.

You can help!
Please take just three minutes to write your member of the U.S. House of Representatives and urge them to override the president’s veto and support this vital program for children’s health.

Here's a simple way to write your members of Congress: Go to

This link is provided by the National Association of Children's Hospitals.

Follow these steps:
1. Click on the link
2. Enter your zipcode and click Go
3. You will see a prepared message that you can edit if you'd like.
4. Add your name at the bottom and enter your contact information
5. Under hospital affiliation, choose TX-Children's Medical Center Dallas
6. Send your message
7. Share this with others if you'd like

The choice to participate is yours alone.

If you do participate, thank you for volunteering to speak up for the hospital and the children we serve.

For additional information about SCHIP go to: .

If you would like more information about this campaign, please contact Julia Easley, director of Advocacy at

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Racism and Xenophobia--immoral and stupid

Racism is immoral.

Xenophobia is immoral.

But, to be very practical, on top of this both are absurdly stupid and the doings of complete idiots.

Case in point: My father's stay in two hospitals and a skilled-nursing center (read here "nursing home") over the past three weeks.

After suffering a slight heart attack or mild stroke three weeks ago, my 87-year-old father made it through two tough surgeries and a week of rehabilitation.

He came home yesterday.

He was so happy to be back home!

During the illness that kept him from home and my mother, daddy received amazing care from the first minutes in the Emergency Room in Richardson, through the next three days (during which we almost lost him) in the hospital, to his dual surgery experience at a specialty hospital in Plano, to his discharge to the nursing facility and finally on to two different physicians' offices before landing back home.

All along he way, we enjoyed rich encounters with professional caregivers who really cared, were very concerned and did their jobs with class, expertise and joy. Yes, I said, joy.

Almost all of those who nursed and doctored my dad back to strength and his home were "ethnic minorities" and/or immigrants.

African Americans, African immigrants, Latinos, Mexican Americans, folks from the Caribbean, people from all over Asia, Middle Eastern people--my dad was cared for by people with all sorts of backgrounds, national origins and racial heritage.

If you are a racist or if you don't like immigrants, let me just say you are in a world of trouble! You see, the people caring for us when we can't care for ourselves are these good people of color from here and all over the world.

I am mighty glad they were there for my dad. I am thankful they will be there for me. People caring for people in a shrinking, increasingly crowded world.

As I watched them work so hard, with such patience and happiness (almost all of the time in challenging circumstances), it struck me that if things were just left to us ordinary folks, the world would be a much more peaceful and harmonious place.

There is simply no place left in our nation or our world for racism or xenophobia, thankfully.

And, when my dad walked into his home again on Friday, he was greeted first by a home health worker provided by Medicare. And, you guessed it, she happened to be both an immigrant and a person of color.

We were so glad to meet her.

Friday, October 05, 2007


A couple of weeks ago, John Greenan and I visited the Dallas Friday Group luncheon. This unique lunch group meets once a month for lunch and a guest speaker.

Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) spoke the Friday we attended.

Mr. Jackson knows Dallas. He served for several years as the President and CEO for the Dallas Housing Authority, where he served with distinction and considerable professional acclaim.

After his election in 2000, President Bush named Jackson HUD's Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer. Then, on March 31, 2004, the U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Jackson as the nation's 13th Secretary of HUD.

One of Jackson's priorities as Secretary has been to promote programs and means for increasing home ownership in the nation.

I've found myself objecting to a number of HUD's funding policies, not because of the focus on home ownership, but because such programs have been funded by removing money previously reserved for the poorest of our citizens who cannot buy homes, but who remain in need of high-quality, affordable housing.

Still, it was interesting to hear the Secretary and to visit with him briefly over and after lunch.

We are grateful for HUD. We've been working with them in various capacities since 1996 here in Dallas. Today we have a number of housing grants that allow us to open new doors for better housing to the individualas and families with whom we work.

We are especially grateful for HUD's local expression, the Dallas Housing Authority. Ann Lott, DHA's current CEO, is a great partner.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Last week Congress sent a bill to President Bush that would have provided an opportunity to secure comprehensive health insurance coverage for an additional 4 million uninsured American children. Currently in the United States, 9 million of our children have no health coverage. This legislation would have cut that number almost in half.

The President's plan for funding the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) calls for an increase in funding of $5 billion over the next five years, an amount that will not cover the costs for those currently enrolled in the program. The administration's plan is a step backwards.

Congress envisioned an increase of $35 billion that would have been funded by a 61 cent increase in tobacco taxes. Sort of a "Win-Win" for those concerned for real gains and long term savings in public health costs and outcomes.

On the Senate side enough votes are in place to override the Presidential veto, but such is not true in the House of Representatives.

I'll leave others to debate the details relative to cost, those who would be eligible for coverage, speculation about intentions and competing philosophies.

But this I know. Every child in America needs health care that is high-quality, accessible and affordable to their families. Further, if improved public health is our real goal, health care should not be bought and sold like a market commodity.

The way we've been delivering health care options to low-income and middle-income families just doesn't work. The time has come for bold change. In the long run reform that leads to universal coverage will be the very best investment for the nation. Every cost benefit analysis I've seen makes this case very clear.

Here in Texas for every $1 the state invests in CHIP, we receive $2.64 in matching funds from the federal government. Bringing tax dollars back home helps everyone in Texas.

No doubt, the legislation will return to Congress for a vote to override the President's veto. One of our Senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison voted for the bill. Unfortunately, Senator John Cornyn voted against the legislation. I hope everyone reading here will contact their Representatives in the House and urge a vote for SCHIP.

I pray the President will reconsider his veto for the sake of our children and for all of our communities.

Everyone needs health care, and emergency rooms don't count.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Banned at last!

Best news I've heard in years!

Talk about medical and public health research and analysis that calls for three cheers!

British hospitals are banning neckties! Never mind that they also have prohibited long sleeves, jewelry, and white lab coats for physicians.

The ban is an attempt to reign in the spread of sometimes deadly hospital-borne infections.

The ties, along with the other banned items of apparel, almost never make it to the laundry and are worn again and again.

Makes sense to me. Where better for a despicable viral varmint to lodge than in and on a cursed necktie?!

I've always loved the British.

But this is more than I could have hoped for.

Gentlemen, burn your ties!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Let Justice Roll

Dr. Waymon R. Hinson and I were in graduate school in Memphis, Tennessee thirty-five years ago.

I really enjoyed knowing Waymon then. I continue to appreciate what he is up to today.

Waymon is Professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Abilene Christian University. I know he does exemplary work in training counselors.

However, what I find most interesting is his work in organizing his students into what he calls "Social Justice Teams." Members of these teams are, as he notes, "committed to making the world a better place, one advocacy effort at a time."

What is even more intriguing is the fact that Waymon has become something of a national expert on the plight of African American farmers across the South who have been forced off and, in many cases, cheated out of their family farms. Waymon's research, as well as the hard advocacy work he and his students have done around this issue, is nothing short of amazing. Here at CDM we've tried to figure out a way to join his efforts legally on behalf of these farmers. At this point the reach of what is needed seems to exceed our grasp by quite a bit.

At any rate, I think you'll enjoy the blog that he and his students at ACU maintain. Check it out at:

As I think about this amazing friend, I'm wondering if possibly he has discovered an important secret to securing "happiness" in life, whether individually or as a couple: find meaningful ways to make the world a better more decent place for everyone and then get to work taking concrete action for real change.

I bet Waymon tells his counseling students something like that. His life certainly communicates that message.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The circle of life

Saturday morning, as I was removing my mother's wheelchair from the trunk of her car, my phone rang. Brenda was calling to tell me I need to talk to Owen, our 16-month-old grandson. Owen was in the barber's chair for his first real haircut and he didn't like the experience much.

"Talk to him, maybe it will help take his mind off of the scissors," Brenda suggested.

So, here I am in the parking lot of the skilled nursing center, where my dad is recovering from two surgeries, about to wheel my mother inside to see him, talking to little Owen, who I know was trying to figure out what I was trying to do! I'm told he smiled, but returned quickly to do battle with the barber!

When we entered the nursing center, we found my dad in the dining room waiting for his lunch. He was seated at a table with two other gentlemen. All three were in wheelchairs. My mom pulled up to the table to make it four.

I watched as my parents greeted one another. My dad was so glad to see her, and vice versa. They will celebrate 68 years in November. Hard to believe. And, they are still in love!

Later that afternoon, after bringing my mother home, I rushed off to a soccer game.

I don't even understand the rules to soccer. But that didn't matter for this game for two reasons. First, none of the 3-year-old boys playing understand them either. And, most importantly, I was there to see my oldest grandson, Wyatt and not just the game.

Wyatt loves to play. Doesn't like it when he has to "take a break." He has more fun playing with his buddies. I have even more fun watching him! I am thinking that he has a bit of linebacker in him! I don't think that is a position in soccer.

Of course, Gracie, our 5-year-old grandaughter is there to watch her little brother play. It is fun watching her cheer him on. And, it's fun playing with her on the sidelines!

Reflecting on the day, I got in touch again with the circle of life--beginning, middle and last. I'm somewhere in the middle these days, watching parents and grandchildren experience this part of their lives. It is a curious position. I don't understand it all, but I'm open.

It occurs to me that this is not an easy time. It is certainly not easy for my parents. I expect it is challenging for my own children, as they watch their little ones getting started.

It hit me how hard, how very difficult it must be to make it all the way around the circle without resources. The circle is so much harder, so much more difficult for people and families who have few material resources. For sure, they compensate with what they have in terms of human, community and relational capital.

But, it is very clear to me today that it must be really tough making things work if you have little income. And, that is true no matter where you find yourself on life's ever-turning circle.