Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Reply to Glenn Beck. . .Offering of Letters

Every church in the nation should respond to the recent, "over the top" commentary of Glenn Beck (encouraging church members to flee their congregations at the mention of the hated concept "social justice") by participating in Bread for the World's annual "offering of letters."

This year the letter writing to Congress will focus on U. S. tax policy and low-income, working Americans.

If you are a church member or a church leader, click here to find out how to get fully involved this year.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bon Jovi Tour & Homelessness

Bon Jovi Tour Doubles As Homeless Research Mission

Jon Bon Jovi's new tour is bringing the veteran rock star to venues he doesn't usually visit on the road. A shelter for hardcore alcoholics in Seattle. A tour of Skid Row in Los Angeles. Perhaps a squatters village in Sacramento.

That's because this tour in support of Bon Jovi's latest release, "The Circle," is also a fact-finding mission. The singer plans on visiting as many homeless shelters and programs as time allows in hopes of getting ideas and inspiration to shape his own work with the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, a Philadelphia-based charity that fights homelessness by building affordable housing, establishing community kitchens and cleaning up vacant lots in blighted neighborhoods.

"I've spent the last quarter of a century touring, going from arena-stadium to hotel back to arena-stadium-hotel," he says. "This time, because of my foundation's work over the last six years building affordable housing, on my days off and when the opportunity arises ... I will go do shelters and try to learn more about the issue and how to combat it."

Among those stops: Skid Row in Los Angeles early next month with Steve Lopez, the Los Angeles Times columnist who wrote "The Soloist," about a schizophrenic, homeless and wildly talented cellist named Nathaniel Ayers. The book was later made into a movie.

"Skid Row is an eye-opener," Lopez said in an e-mail. "I don't know Jon Bon Jovi, but I suspect he may come out of this with a keener sense of how many people are suffering in this economy, and of how many people on Skid Row are dealing with a combination of financial, physical and mental health issues, many of them veterans."

Such themes dovetail with the latest album, which features "Working for the Working Man" and other songs inspired by the economic meltdown and political turmoil around the world.

Before he kicked off the tour with two shows at Seattle's KeyArena last week, Bon Jovi toured one of the city's most well-recognized homelessness programs, a building run by the Downtown Emergency Service Center that provides homeless alcoholics, many of whom have serious mental illnesses, a place to live - and drink alcohol.

The program saves taxpayers more than $4 million a year in social service and jail costs and creates a safe atmosphere where residents may be more likely to get sober, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year.

The singer didn't specify what aspects of the program he might incorporate into his future work at the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which has built more than 150 units of affordable housing in seven cities since 2006. Various problems of homelessness require different solutions, he said.

Thinking back on a quarter-century of hanging out in hotels around the world, does the 47-year-old wish he started working on the homelessness issue earlier?

"I don't think I was ready for it," he said. "When you're a boy in a rock band, you want to go out and see the world and do all the great things you're supposed to do when you join a rock band. Now there's another aspect to it. There's just more to be said and done, and the difference that can be felt on the trail that you've made."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Henry Folsom Frazer

So, today at about 4:00 p.m., Henry Folsom Frazer entered our world! 

The little fellow decided to arrive a bit early. . .5 weeks early to be precise!  And that caused a bit of a stir for everyone involved, especially Mom, Dad and Brother, Owen. 

He weighed in at 5 pounds 9.5 ounces and measured a rather long 19 inches.  Huge hands and feet like his big brother.  Lots of dark brown hair and, to quote a nurse "a rather calm disposition." 

He will remain in the little folks ICU for a few days to make certain his lung capacity and eating habits are well in order. 

We are so grateful that he is here.  I can't wait to be able to hold him.

Joanna, the mom here, is doing great!  And, Jordan is doing well as the very relieved father. 

Thankfully, our children have good health insurance, something everyone in the nation deserves. 

Happy Birthday, little Henry!  I'll enjoy my granddad "bonding" ritual real soon.  We're so glad to have you on the journey! 


Just in from Daily Finance. .  .

Living in Poverty: 40 Million Americans, Including Children and Working Poor

Posted 6:15 PM 03/17/10 Economy

If the word "poverty" conjures up starving children in Africa, prepare to be shocked: nearly 40 million Americans, or 13.2% of the population in the richest country on the planet, lived at or below the official poverty level in 2008, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's an increase of 2.5 million over 2007.

What's more, that figure includes 14.1 million people under the age of 18, or 19% of all children, up from 13.3 million and 18% in 2007. In other words, nearly one in five American kids live in poverty.

One of the fastest-growing impoverished segments is the "working poor," adults who spent at least 27 weeks either in the labor force or looking for work. Of the 39.8 million Americans living at or below the poverty level in 2008, some 8.9 million adults were defined as the "working poor," an increase of 1.4 million from 2007.Additionally, 4.5 million families were counted among the working poor in 2008, up from 4.2 million in 2007.

The new data reinforce the toll the Great Recession has taken on working families and the poor across the United States. After three years of annual income increases, the real median household income declined by 3.6% between 2007 and 2008, from $52,163 to $50,303, the Census bureau found.

Read more here

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Opportunity in a Dark Night of the Soul for the Western Church

Many Christians view the decline of Western Christendom with alarm, as if God had fallen from heaven.  Enormous effort is put forth to launch church growth programs to shore up membership, increase giving, and keep denominational ships afloat.  But the history of God's people is a history of life cycles, a history of clarity about call and identity, followed by complacence, followed by collusion with the powers, followed by catastrophic loss.  Contrary to being a disaster, the exilic experiences of loss and marginalization are what are needed to restore the church to its evangelistic place.  On the margins of society the church will once again find its God-given voice to speak to the dominant culture in subversive ways, resisting the powers and principalities, standing against the seduction of the status quo.  The church will once again become a prophetic, evangelistic, alternative community, offering to the world a model of life that is radically "other," life-giving, loving, healing, liberating.  This kind of community is not possible for the church of Christendom.  Christendom opposes prophetic community with its upside-down power and its exposure of golden calves.

from Elaine A. Heath, The Mystic Way of Evangelism:  A Contemplative Vision for Christian Outreach, pages 26-27

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jackson Browne

The music of Jackson Browne moves me.  Music with heart, a social soul and a prophetic challenge all rolled into one experience. 

Check out his website here.  You'll f ind all sorts of interesting options for changing the world at his site!  Love this guy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dallas Observer reports on Grand Opening. . .

Check out the report from The Dallas Observer today. . .

Great media coverage of CityWalk Grand Opening!

We enjoyed great media coverage on last evening's "grand opening" at CityWalk!

Check it out. . .

here. . .

and here.

Possibly more later!  Thanks to all who supported us through this entire process!

Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets

Recently, I received a copy of a most provocative book by Steven H. Goldberg, Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets:  Why Philanthropy Doesn't Advance Social Progress (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).  Clearly, this book is worth the attention of anyone involved in non-profit management, fund development and the delivery of high-impact approaches to addressing vexing social challenges. 

Goldberg, trained as an attorney, assembles the thinking of a wide variety of folks working to change the equity equations of our economy and our culture to benefit those who suffer in marginalized positions. 

For example, I love the definitions he digs up for the term "social entrepreneurship" (page xxv).

"Social entrepreneurs play the role of change agents in the social sector, by:  adopting a mission to create and sustain social value (not just private value), recognizing and relentlessly pursuing new opportunities to serve that mission, engaging in a process of continuous innovation, adaptation, and learning, acting boldly without being limited by resources currently in hand, and exhibiting heightened accountability to the constituencies served and for the outcomes created."  (J. Gregory Dees, "The Meaning of Social Entrepreneurship")

"A social entrepreneur is any person, in any sector, who uses earned income strategies to pursue a social objective, and a social entrepreneur differs from a traditional entrepreneur in two important ways: . . . their earned income strategies are tied directly to their mission. . . [and] social entrepreneurs are driven by a double bottom line, a virtual blend of financial and social returns." (Jerr Boschee and Jim McClurg, "Toward a Better Understanding of Social Entrepreneurship:  Some Important Distinctions")

"We define social entrepreneurship as having the following three components:  (1) identifying a stable but inherently unjust equilibrium that causes the exclusion, marginalization, or suffering of a segment of humanity that lacks the financial means or political clout to achieve any transformative benefit on its own; (2) identifying an opportunity in this unjust equilibrium, developing a social value proposition, and bringing to bear inspiration, creativity, direct action, courage, and fortitude, thereby challenging the stable states hegemony; and (3) forging a new, stable equilibrium that releases trapped potential or alleviates the suffering of the targeted group, and through imitation and the creation of a stable ecosystem around the new equilibrium ensuring a better future for the targeted group and even society at large."  (Roger L. Martin and Sally Osberg, "Social Entrepreneurship:  The Case for Definition")

What is your take away here?  I'd love to read your reactions.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Check out article in The Dallas Morning News today about CityWalk@Akard!

Great story by Kim Horner in this morning's edition of The Dallas Morning News concerning our CityWalk development!

Here's how it begins:

Low-income development is changing minds in downtown Dallas

By KIM HORNER / The Dallas Morning News

Skeptics envisioned a skid row when developers first proposed 200 downtown apartments for low-income and formerly homeless residents.

Sharon Denise Tillis, who used to live in a shelter, was among the first to move into CityWalk@Akard, a new low-income housing development. The waiting list has 300 people on it.

But so far, the project, CityWalk@Akard, has not lived up to those fears.

The 15-story apartment building opened just three months ago, and only 10 residents have moved in so far. But neighboring property owners say the project has already improved, rather than hurt, the neighborhood.

To read the full report click here.

Class bias, misplaced fear and permanent housing for the homeless

When Central Dallas Ministries and the Central Dallas Community Development Corporation moved into developing permanent housing for formerly homeless people most people applauded our efforts and our decision.  All of the national research indicated that providing a permanent place for homeless persons to live had dramatic impact on the success and personal stabilzation of the individuals involved.

As I say, most everyone supported our efforts. 

Most, but not all. 

The CityWalk@ Akard project was our first. 

[BTW--The grand opening will be this evening from 4:30 p.m. until 7:00 p.m.  Even though the building is not quite finished, it will be a grand party.  Mayor Tom Leppert will speak.  Our district's Council Member Angela Hunt will speak.  Other city leaders and supporters of the project will join us.  If you are in Dallas, come on down!]

And not everyone was happy about our plans to develop housing for low-income and formerly homeless tenants. 

Some business leaders expressed concerns.  Everyone maintained their civility, but many discussed the project with us in rather foreboding terms. 

Among those expressing reservations, and in some cases downright fear, were parents and leaders at a nearby private school. 

We worked closely with the school group, even including one of their leaders on our community advisory board.  As we worked through the project, the group's initial opposition waned. 

Of course, in the beginning the group expressed concerns for the safety of the children attending the school because of the presence of low-income and formerly homeless residents in our building. 

While, as a parent and grandparent, I understand those feelings, beneath these concerns lurks a real bias, an ill-informed bias and a fear that in the vast majority of cases is totally misplaced. 

Then, earlier this week I received a copy of the following AP report from my dear friend and pastor, Dr. John Fiedler.  John stood with us in his church (First United Methodist) just around the corner from City Walk and spoke boldly for our project.  He repeated his statement of support before the entire City Council. 

John sent this news report to point up where the real danger may be today when it comes to school children and the extremely poor. 

Read it and let me know what you think.

2 Philly kids face charges in random-attack game
Mar 23 02:35 PM US/Eastern

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Two preteens assaulted a woman walking home through a playground as part of a violent game called "Catch and Wreck," in which children identify targets they think are homeless and then beat and rob them for fun, police said Tuesday.

An 11-year-old boy was arrested Monday night and charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy and robbery, Philadelphia police Lt. John Walker said.

A 12-year-old girl was charged shortly after the Friday night attack in southwest Philadelphia. The victim was surrounded by children, then punched and hit with sticks, police said. She suffered minor injuries to her knee and head and delayed seeking medical attention to help police with the investigation.

Police also plan to charge the boy in an attack on a 73-year-old man who was beaten and robbed in the same area on March 13, Walker said. The victim in that assault, Vincent Poppa, suffered a heart attack and remains hospitalized.

A spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams said both children were being charged as juveniles. Their names have not been released.

Investigators believe the assaults are part of a game called "Catch and Wreck," which children in the neighborhood described to them after Friday's attack.

Children told police the game involves pinpointing passers-by they think are homeless and then beating and robbing them for fun, Walker said. The woman who was attacked, however, said she is not homeless.

"We're just hoping it's isolated and that (these arrests) will quickly bring it to a halt," he said.

Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross, who oversees all field operations for the department, said the recent reports of "Catch and Wreck" were the first the department had gotten.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Food Stamps and Farmer's Markets

Here's another great post from

Tell me what you think? 

Any ideas for a solution?

Help devise a system for using food stamps to buy better produce.

We all can agree that fresh fruits and vegetables are an essential part of good health. Yet access to fresh produce remains an enormous challenge. For people on food stamps, it’s an especially difficult one as there are few supermarkets in low income neighborhoods with sufficient offerings. Even thought more farmers’ markets are springing up across the country—and more than 750 farmers’ markets nationwide accept food stamps—other challenges remain.

Foodstamps, of course, are no longer physical stamps but “electronic benefit transfer” cards (or EBTs). This has helped remove the stigma for recipients of aid—and makes shopping at supermarkets easier—but has left farmers’ markets in a tough spot: without a battery-powered wireless card reader, food-stamp recipients can't use their EBT cards. The lack of this simple machine is keeping people from buying fresh food. Many farmers are unable to afford the cost of the equipment (about $1,100 per reader) required to accept the debit cards; others feel the paperwork and record keeping is onerous.

Some (but not all) states have agreed to fund programs to facilitate the use of food stamps at farmers’ markets. Vendors can use hand-held devices, and in some cases cell phones, to process transactions. Other markets, like San Francisco’s Alemany Market, allow EBT card users to exchange their credit for market-specific tokens that can be used at individual booths, but the extra step required has resulted in a drop off in use of food stamps at farmers’ markets.

All of which begs the question: how can we make food stamps easier to use and to accept at farmers’ markets?


Make it easy to use and accept food stamps at farmers’ markets.


Invent a low cost, easy to implement solution. Is it an app? Centralized check-out? Delivery? Something totally low tech? Barter? Trade? Let us know.


Post a comment, tweet @GOOD, or e-mail projects[at]goodinc[dot]com with your solution to the problem of how to accept food stamps at farmers' markets. Your response can take the form of a sentence, a paragraph, a sketch, an annotated photo—whatever you think will best convey your idea. Deadline is Monday, March 29.

To check this site click here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

So, history can be "managed," can't it?

Last week the Texas State Board of Education adopted a textbook content plan for all social studies students in the state of Texas.  You can read the report on the Board's action published in  The Dallas Morning News here.

The article and, even more, the actions of the board drive home a point about the writing of history that seems to escape many of us. 

History is always interpretation. 

The notion of historical fact remains largely mythological by definition.  At best, history is the craft of cobbling together various sources into a story that then can expect to be challenged by other historians with additional sources and new interpretations.  This process of give and take, peer review and intellectual refinement and debate is the stuff of the profession.  It provides cause for conventions and symposiums and professional meetings.  It provides content for various historical journals.  In the battle we discover the professional concerns of serious historians.  Of course, non-historians can enter the fray as well, as evidenced by the action of the Board of Education whose actions were admittedly more political than historic in any sense. 

Still, there is no such thing as an objective historical narrative  or the definitive version of any historical event, period or epoch that we can rely on without healthy skepticism or continuing challenge. 

Further, the historian's own social context, her own life history, his educational experiences and her personal values all will enter the process of "doing history."  Great historians labor to overcome the adverse affects of outside influences, but pure interpretative analysis just doesn't happen.  Sources must be chosen, evaluated, reject or included.  The result:  the latest historical interpretation to be read, appreciated and critiqued for the good of an on-going quest for better, more complete understandings. 

Historians like John B. Boles, Howard Zinn and David McCullough, to name only three, know (in Zinn's case, sadly, "knew") this reality.  Historians spend their lives working their sources to discover and craft a story that we can dig into, gain insight from and use in the living of our own lives. 

While the recent actions of our State Board of Education leave an awful lot to be desired when it comes to the source choices they made, it should not surprise us that they chose.  That's just want historians do.  Even non-historians, like our state Board of Education, make such choices, in this most recent case with a political and value agenda to promote. 

Speaking of choices and sources, be sure and read what my partner Rev. Gerald Britt wrote about the Texas textbook plan.  I think you'll appreciate the choices he makes and the story he tells.  To read what he has to say click here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Texas Big Winner in Health Care Reform. . .

This from the Center for Public Policy Priorities following the passage of the health care reform bill on Sunday night in the U. S. House of Representatives:


Texans are among the biggest winners in last night’s historic vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to enact fundamental health care system reforms. With more than one in four Texans currently lacking health care insurance and runaway premiums adding daily to that 6.1 million count, relief cannot not come too soon for our overburdened health care system. In addition to providing new economic security to millions of Texas families, the national health reform bill will also bring billions of dollars back to Texas each year through health insurance tax credits for middle class and low-income Texans, and Medicaid coverage for our poorest citizens.

“Medicaid expansion to cover working poor parents of children on Texas Medicaid today will be 100 percent federally funded for three years, with the state getting nine federal dollars for each state dollar from 2020 on forward said CPPP associate director Anne Dunkelberg. “Twice as many now-uninsured Texans will gain coverage by purchasing affordable private insurance through the new Health Insurance Exchange as will gain Medicaid, bringing even more federal dollars to Texas with no state matching dollars required.”

This reform keeps in place our large and robust private insurance and health care delivery sector, while filling the gaps that have left too many Texans lacking care or overwhelmed by debt. Our state leadership should move promptly and in good faith to facilitate the implementation of health insurance reforms. Texans can look to the establishment of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and our response to Hurricane Ike as recent examples of the excellent performance of which our state government is capable when it has the backing of leadership.

Providing equal access to affordable health care will remove a crippling barrier to real equality of opportunity for Texans and Americans. CPPP applauds Congress for taking this long-overdue step forward. We pledge to help Texans learn about this legislation, and about what we need to do here in Texas to ensure the maximum benefits of reform for our citizens.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) is a non-profit, non-partisan policy institute dedicated to improving economic and social conditions of low- and moderate-income Texans.

Inequality and illness. . .

Every once in a while I run across an exceptional website or blog. happens to be one of those. 

Don't know how I missed it for so long. 

You can check out the home page here. 

What follows was "Post of the Week" for March 6-12, 2010. 

Inequality Makes Me Sick (Literally)

GOOD Blog > Andrew Price on March 6, 2010 at 5:39 am PST

Given that income inequality in the United States is pretty bad (see map), this interview with the epidemiologist Richard Wilkinson is especially interesting. Wilkinson has found that high levels of income inequality correspond to all sorts of social problems. In other words, it isn't having more, but sharing more, that makes a community healthier.

"...we looked at life expectancy, mental illness, teen birthrates, violence, the percent of populations in prison, and drug use. They were all not just a little bit worse, but much worse, in more unequal countries. ... Epidemiologists and people working in public health have been doing this work for some time, not only controlling for relative poverty, but for all the income levels within, for instance, an American state. So once you know the relationship between income and death rates, for example, you should be able to predict what a state's death rate will be. Actually, though, that doesn't produce a good prediction; what matters aren't the incomes themselves but how unequal they are. If you're a more unequal state, the same level of income produces a higher death rate."

Wilkinson's explanation? In countries with more income inequality there is fiercer competition for status, and that leads to higher stress, more crime, less trust, and a host of other socially corrosive phenomena.

To check out this site click here.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring interrupted!

Sunday morning, March 21, 2010, greeted Dallas, Texas with a message of beauty, hope and surprise! Sure, the cold weather created a few travel concerns, but the wonder of the snow seemed worth it.

One more time, lest we forget, before the arrival of another hot summer.

I love it!

A clear word on Sunday morning in the midst of Lent. . .

Isaiah 10:1-4. . .

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.

What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches? Nothing will remain but to cringe among the captives or fall among the slain. Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Side-By-Side Comparison Tool for Health Reform Bill

The Kaiser Family Foundation provides a very helpful "side-by-side" comparison tool for the House and Senate versions of the current health care reform legislation that may be voted on this Sunday. 

Check it out here.

Children lead the way on Census 2010 in Dallas!

Central Dallas Ministries
511 N. Akard St., Suite 302
Dallas, Texas 75201

Contact: Stacy Olds (214) 823–8710

Next Generation Urges Census Participation

DALLAS – A crew of elementary and middle school kids will knock on doors in their East Dallas housing community during spring break on Friday, March 19, encouraging neighbors to participate in the 2010 U.S. Census.

The youngsters will tell families in the Roseland community to “take 10 minutes to fill out 10 questions that will influence the next 10 years of your lives.”

The students will be knocking on doors between 10 and 11 a.m. on Friday March 19.

Their effort is an educational community-building step by Central Dallas Ministries to join the city of Dallas in making the latest census count as accurate as possible.

“Kids tend to get our attention,” said Gerald Britt, vice president of public policy for Central Dallas Ministries. “We hope the message they bring will convince the community that participating in the census count is good for everyone. It can bring health care services, schools, college grants, roads and other critically needed services to people.”

Enlightening young people on the census is another goal, Britt said. “This whole week, we taught the kids at Roseland about the Census – what it is, when and how it will be completed, and why it matters so much. We hope that, when they become adults, they will tell their kids about the Census, too.”

Immigration reform. . .now

I like what Jim Wallis writes in the latest on-line edition of Sojourners.  Lend him your attention for a few moments.  Then consider what you could do to join the movement to bring comprehensive reform to our immigration situation.

Pray Immigration Reform Into Passage

On Sunday, a major march for immigration reform will take place in Washington, D.C. Tens of thousands of people will gather to call on the White House to lead, and put forward an immigration reform bill whose time has come. We will march and we will pray. And the following morning, a high-level delegation of religious leaders will meet with key White House officials to press the same message. There are both Democrats and Republicans who in the past have said they supported comprehensive immigration reform, and so there ought now to be bipartisan support for such a bill. But in the ultra-partisan and poisoned atmosphere of the U.S. Congress now, bipartisan spirit has fled the halls of power. In Washington, politics is now just a game of win and lose, and it’s only about the next election; the process of politics in the nation’s capital is no longer about solving problems. But the problem is that there are children and families in the balance, and the politicians are now playing politics with the lives of vulnerable people. Those people are our brothers and sisters, they are our parishioners, and they are children of God. And the faith community has come together to say the time for politics over compassion is over.

The number of deportations in this administration’s first year is higher than previous years, meaning more broken lives, more families torn apart. That is not what we meant by change. Read the entire essay here.

[I know he has been busy on the economy, health care reform and other important matters, but possibly one thing you and I can do is write President Obama and challenge him to deliver on his campaign promise to bring forward a plan for comprehensive immigration reform ASAP.  LJ]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Project Access update. . .

Central Dallas Ministries helped create Project Access Dallas in 2001-2002 to serve uninsured, working people in Dallas who don't qualify for public health benefits.

Dr. Jim Walton, the medical director for the project, recently prepared an update report on the effort. To read Jim's report click here.

The Go Giver

If you haven't read The Go-Giver, you need to check it out! 

The principles apply in business, but also across the board generally for all aspects of life. 

My friend and partner, Dr. Jim Walton gave me a copy for my birthday this year.  Thanks, Dr. Jim!   Great, inspirational read.  Not so much a new message, but packaged so well in a story that pulls you along to the next page. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day and history from the underside. . .

Thinking of St. Patrick's Day draws my mind to the lives of Irish immigrants to America in the nineteenth and early twentiety centuries.  Telling the story of these folks seems important to me as I consider the challenges facing strangers, laboring people and newcomers, whoever they may be or whenever they arrive in the United States. 

No one wrote history from "the underside" quite like the late Howard Zinn.  I ran across the following interview as I was searching for material on Irish immigrants.  I found important insights into Zinn's work and the discovery of the entire American story.

RL: A People's History of the United States is probably your best-known work. So many people who read the book have had their eyes opened, not only by the conclusions you reach but by your whole approach to history. Could you spell out what you mean by "people's history''?

HZ: I guess what I mean by a "people's history'' is basically two things. First, the content of history, which is different from traditional history in that I am telling of the lives of the people who are generally ignored by traditional history. For instance, the so-called great "economic miracle'' of the United States between the Civil War and World War 1, when the United States becomes an enormously powerful industrial nation--that's presented traditionally as a great and wonderful triumphal experience.

But left out of these traditional histories--it was very clear to me as I was studying both as an undergraduate and graduate student--was the experience of working people. Who were the people who worked for Rockefeller's refineries? Who were the people who worked on the transcontinental railroad? Who were the Chinese immigrants and Irish immigrants who died while working on the railroads. The girls in the textile mills of New England --going to work in the mills at the age of 12, dying at the age of 25--they were absent. I wanted to bring in these people.

The other thing is simply a point of view, simply to look at history with a different point of view, not just a different point of view in the academic sense, but very specifically to look at the events of American history from the point of view of people who have not had a voice, people who have been oppressed, and people whose struggles have not been noticed.

So I decided I wanted to tell the story of Columbus from the standpoint of the Indians that he encountered.

RL: Which is not the standard account.

HZ: And I wanted to tell the story of the Mexican War not just from the standpoint of the American soldiers who didn't know what they were doing, where they were going--many of them immigrants, desperate for a little money and a little attention--not only to tell the story from the standpoint of the GI's, which I wanted to do with every war, but also to tell the story from the standpoint of the so-called enemy, to see the Mexican War from the standpoint of the Mexicans--how "nice'' it is for them to have the United States take half their country as a result of the war and to commit atrocities in the course of it.

I wanted to tell the story of American history from the standpoint of women, Black people, Indians, of working people and of radicals and protesters.

As soon as I made that decision, it was clear this was going to be a different kind of history. And I have no doubt that the reason my book has reached so many people--to my surprise, actually, and certainly to the surprise of the publisher--is that people who read it were suddenly struck by the fact that I was telling American history from a very different viewpoint.

To read the entire interview click here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Architectural messaging. . .

Recently, thanks to a most generous "program related investment" on the part of the Embrey Family Foundation, Central Dallas Ministries acquired a 3.6 acre tract of property at the southeast corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and Interstate 30. 

We have big plans for the site that include the creation of scores of new livable wage jobs, a new health and wellness center, a gigantic food distribution center, a retail grocery store, teaching kitchens and a product exchange center and production facility leased to PepsiCo, another of our development partners in the project. 

More details will follow here over the next few months. 

In preparing for the design phase of the project, I sent the architects at OmiPlan a list of what I consider to be "design values."  I framed them in terms of "what the new facilities must say to Dallas."  See what you think of the list: 

What the Center of Hope development must say to Dallas. . .

. . .the days of making apologies for being in S. Dallas/Fair Park are over.

. . . the people in this neighborhood are more than worth the highest class investment possible on this key property.

. . . this marks the renewal of an historic, but new, valuable, logical, strategic “gateway” into S. Dallas.

. . . it makes sense to invest significantly in this part of the city—many have said it, we choose to do it!

. . . the quality, style and aesthetic expression of this development make sense and really fit the community and its “soul.”

. . .this community deserves only the best possible effort.

. . . the health, well-being and economic stability and security of this community is of the utmost importance to the developers, tenants and owners of the development.

. . . the design of this development takes community input extremely seriously.

. . . the message conveyed by the facilities design will be more along the lines of economic development and enhancement than those of charity or philanthropy—in this project we are attempting to move far beyond charity to real community development.

. . . that hope resides in this place for any and all who seek it.

. . . the development will be neighborhood/community-centric rather than organization or corporate-centric.

. . . while efficiency will be a high priority, neighbor and customer friendly “welcoming” will trump every other consideration inside our budget.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pew Report: Black children and poverty

What follows was published by the Economic Policy Institute.

Many people who spout off about poverty and how to overcome it have no real understanding of the pervasive and corrosive affect of dense poverty on the lives of children and their families.

Sobering data.

Business as usual charity won't move the needle on this social reality. This issue calls for bold, courageous public policy and consistent leadership to go with it.

Most black children grow up in neighborhoods with significant poverty

October 7, 2009
By Joydeep Roy

Two out of every three black children born between 1985 and 2000 were raised in neighborhoods with at least a 20 percent poverty rate, compared with just 6 percent of white children, a new report from the Pew Foundation finds. These numbers are virtually unchanged from thirty years ago. Among children born between 1955 and 1970, 62 percent of black children were raised in neighborhoods with at least a 20 percent poverty rate, compared with only 4 percent of white children, according to the Pew report. This gap persists even when the poorest families are excluded from the analysis. Among children from the upper three income quintiles, almost half of black children -- 49% -- lived in high-poverty neighborhoods, defined as those with at least a 20% poverty rate. Only one percent of white children from the upper three income quintiles lived in high-poverty neighborhoods.

Too many children, particularly those from minority groups, are growing up in poor communities. While most studies of child poverty look at the direct impact on children living in poverty, research also shows that proximity to poverty can limit a child’s job and education prospects, even if that particular child is not poor. With research showing that reducing the concentration of poverty in their neighborhoods significantly affects children’s future, including their prospects in the labor market and their chances of upward mobility, policies that foster such changes should be a top priority.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Masters and Slaves in the House of the Lord

Several folks have inquired about the work I published regarding life for slave members of ante-bellum Mississippi and Louisiana Baptist churches.

To read a chapter published in Masters & Slaves in the House of the Lord: Race and Religion in the American South, 1740-1870, John B. Boles, editor, click here. 

Avoid "Social Justice Churches"

So, I suppose Moses, David, Amos, Micah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus and James would not be welcome at Glenn Beck's church, wherever that is, if it exists. 

Amazing commentary.  No wonder we have stalemate on so many policies in this nation.

Clearly, the words of scripture, read in every church including Beck's, deal with social and economic justice, the concerns of laboring people and a very real commitment to equity and to standing with the poor.  Possibly, a branch of American Christianity now has decided to abandon this central part of the tradition and message of our faith.  Such a heretical decision does not remove the truth from the Bible, but only from exposure to congregants who aren't allowed to hear the whole story for themselves. This one is really hard for me to understand.

Glenn Beck Urges Listeners to Leave Churches That Preach Social Justice

On his daily radio and television shows last week, Fox News personality Glenn Beck set out to convince his audience that "social justice," the term many Christian churches use to describe their efforts to address poverty and human rights, is a "code word" for communism and Nazism. Beck urged Christians to discuss the term with their priests and to leave their churches if leaders would not reconsider their emphasis on social justice.

"I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!"

To read more and listen to the audio click here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Owen's first goal in his first soccer game

Owen Frazer is my grandson. He turns 4-years-old on May 7.

This morning he played in his first soccer game.

It was a blast!

Naturally, I had my camera along.

What you'll see in the clip here is Owen and his friends being little children.

You'll also see him score his first goal when he took the ball and dribbled to the goal. He is so laid back and kind. But he knew what to do with the ball when his chance came.

Forgive me, but I love it!

BTW--Owen wears #3 on his neon lime jersey!

Friday, March 12, 2010

CityWalk@Akard: Photos

To get a glimpse of our newly restored, Downtown office tower, know at CityWalk@ Akard, click here.

The project is mixed-use: office and retail. . .

Mixed-income: 200 units of affordable housing with 50 units reserved for formerly homeless persons and 6 market rate, for sale condos.

Our grand opening will be Thursday, March 25 from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m.

Wealth keeps moving upward. . .

The chart above pretty well sums up economic reality in the United States these days. Poverty, personal and family options and equity are all shaped by this report. The chart comes with the following report from the Economic Policy Institute.

Here's what the report reveals: 

Where has all the income gone? Look up.
March 3, 2010
By Lawrence Mishel

The 400 American households with the highest incomes also have enjoyed a much faster pace of income growth than the vast majority. And, because tax rates applied to their income have fallen by a third, their after-tax incomes grew substantially faster than their pre-tax incomes. The figure looks at inflation-adjusted pre-tax and after-tax income growth for the 400 top-income families between 1992 and 2007, based on new data recently released by the Internal Revenue Service. It shows that while pre-tax income grew by a staggering 409% over that 15-year period, after-tax income increased even more, by 476%.

The third line in the figure offers some perspective by showing the change in the pre-tax median household income over the same period, which grew just 13.2%. The median pre-tax household income for a family of four in 2007 was $50,233, while the top-earning 400 households earned a median $345 million, almost 6900 times as much income. In contrast, in 1992 the ratio was just a sixth as large, with the top 400 households having 1124 times as much income.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Advocacy and Non-Proifts

Interesting report from Philanthropy News Digest and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy on non-profit organizations and advocacy in the public sector.  Important topic. 

For sure, business as usual approaches no longer work. 

As always, I'd love your feedback.

LA Nonprofits Involved in Advocacy Provide Significant Community Benefits, Report Finds

Between 2004 and 2008, Los Angeles County nonprofits engaged in advocacy and organizing generated nearly $7 billion in benefits for local residents, a new report from the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy finds.

Based on a study of fifteen nonprofits in the county, the report, Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities: Impacts of Advocacy, Organizing and Civic Engagement in Los Angeles County (76 pages, PDF), found that every dollar foundations and other donors provided to community organizations engaged in advocacy and organizing generated $91 in benefits for the communities they serve. Over the five-year study period, those benefits included $2.6 billion in higher wages, $2.2 billion in healthcare savings, and more than $2 billion from the increased use of public transit, construction of new schools, and expanded affordable housing. The report also looked at non-monetized benefits provided by the groups, including the protection of voting rights, improved working conditions, and expanded service delivery to marginalized populations.

Based on the findings, the report recommends that foundations increase their support for advocacy and organizing, help educate donors about the benefits of advocacy funding, support effective collaboration among community organizations, collaborate with other grantmakers to leverage resources, and invest in the infrastructure and organizational capacity of grassroots organizations over sustained periods of time.

"While high-profile commentators decry 'community organizing,' this report clearly demonstrates that such activity delivers enormous benefits to communities," said NCRP executive director Aaron Dorfman. "On every issue of concern to residents of Los Angeles County, from clean air to immigration, from equality to education, foundation support for community-based activist organizations yields positive results. Foundation support turns indifference into democracy, and the benefits of a thriving democracy are indeed substantial."

“Nonprofits Bring Tremendous Benefits to Communities Through Citizen Involvement in Politics.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy Press Release 3/02/10.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Live United. . .worth watching

The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas (UWMD) is moving through a complete organizational "re-invention" with the objective to provide higher impact services, advocacy and community engagement than ever before in its history. 

I can say this with great confidence because I've been in on some of the work that has been going on now for about three years. 

UWMD holds up a brilliant new model in its simple, but profound call to "Live United!"

Inviting donors to donate, advocate and volunteer, UWMD throws down a comprehensive challenge to corporations and their employees to get involved as never before in the life of our region. 

Turning to service providers and community organizations like Central Dallas Ministries, UWMD challenges us to refine our focus to concentrate on three major areas of concern as we do our work:  Education, Income and Health.  In addition, UWMD has set aside funding for "basic human needs" that arise from the current economic realities of our area and from emergency situations. 

One more major policy shift that marks a sea change at Untied Way is the fact that next year any non-profit organization in the community can submit a grant for funding.  The process will be wide open to any group with a great idea and the ability to drive positive, measureable outcomes. 

Working with Gary Godsey, President/CEO of UWMD, his team and all of our colleagues is a real privilege.  But, the best days remain ahead of us. 

So today, I applaud the work of our United Way! 

To gain more insight into the new world of UWMD click here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

CityWalk@Akard Grand Opening

Speaking of Permanent Supportive Housing. . .check out information regarding the Grand Opening for our CityWalk@ Akard project right here.

15th Annual Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast

Central Dallas Ministries invites you to join us for our 15th Annual Urban Ministries Prayer Breakfast on Tuesday, April 6, 2010, at The Fairmont Dallas (for regular participants please note new location this year!).

Keynote speaker this year will be Rosanne Haggerty, President and Founder of Common Ground, a leader in developing permanent supportive housing for extremely poor homeless persons. 

Haggerty is an Urban Advisor to the Urban Land Institute, a board member of the Center for Urban Community Services, the Citizen’s Housing and Planning Council, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and Quest Diagnostics, and is a Life Trustee of Amherst College. 

Prior to founding Common Ground Community in 1990, she was the coordinator of housing development at Brooklyn Catholic Charities.  Haggerty comes to the table with over 20 years of experience as an international leader in developing community strategies to end homelessness. She is a graduate of Amherst College and is completing studies for a PhD in sociology at New York University.  Ms. Haggerty is a 2001 MacArthur Foundation Fellow. In 2007, she was elected as an Ashoka Senior Fellow.

Following the breakfast event, a special discussion will continue as we provide important time and space for a discussion of the need in Dallas for the development of more permanent supportive housing (PSH) that utilizes a "housing first" approach. 

In addition, tours will be available of citywalk@ akard, Central Dallas Ministries' and Central Dallas Community Development Corporation's new PSH and affordable housing development located at 511 N. Akard, just up the street from the Fairmont Hotel. 

For more information on sponsorships, table reservations and tickets, call 214.823.8710 extension 2138 or 214.303.2138 and ask to speak with Lisa Goolsby.

We are confident that this year's event will inspire the community, advance a conversation about how to end chronic homelessness in Dallas and encourage us all to work together as never before. 

Help me spread the word about the breakfast in your world!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Check out our latest on-line magazine. . .

Thanks to the creative assistance of Pursuant, our high-tech, over-the-top, communications partner, Central Dallas Ministries shares stories and makes introductions to some of the amazing people we know who experience transformation and renewal through their own hard work and determination. 

The format of our e-magazine makes for easy viewing, while providing lots of information to those who view each issue.

 I hope you'll take a look today!

To review Central Dallas Ministries' latest on-line, e-magazine, click here.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

The sin of Sodom and the New York Times

So now comes Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, to instruct us all on the values of the Kingdom of God as over against those who often spouted by religious types from pulpits and across electronic media airwaves. 

Tell me what you think.

Learning From the Sin of Sodom
Published: February 27, 2010
Nicholas D. Kristof

For most of the last century, save-the-worlders were primarily Democrats and liberals. In contrast, many Republicans and religious conservatives denounced government aid programs, with Senator Jesse Helms calling them “money down a rat hole.”

Over the last decade, however, that divide has dissolved, in ways that many Americans haven’t noticed or appreciated. Evangelicals have become the new internationalists, pushing successfully for new American programs against AIDS and malaria, and doing superb work on issues from human trafficking in India to mass rape in Congo.

A pop quiz: What’s the largest U.S.-based international relief and development organization?

It’s not Save the Children, and it’s not CARE — both terrific secular organizations. Rather, it’s World Vision, a Seattle-based Christian organization (with strong evangelical roots) whose budget has roughly tripled over the last decade.

World Vision now has 40,000 staff members in nearly 100 countries. That’s more staff members than CARE, Save the Children and the worldwide operations of the United States Agency for International Development — combined.

A growing number of conservative Christians are explicitly and self-critically acknowledging that to be “pro-life” must mean more than opposing abortion. The head of World Vision in the United States, Richard Stearns, begins his fascinating book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” with an account of a visit a decade ago to Uganda, where he met a 13-year-old AIDS orphan who was raising his younger brothers by himself.

“What sickened me most was this question: where was the Church?” he writes. “Where were the followers of Jesus Christ in the midst of perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time? Surely the Church should have been caring for these ‘orphans and widows in their distress.’ (James 1:27). Shouldn’t the pulpits across America have flamed with exhortations to rush to the front lines of compassion?

“How have we missed it so tragically, when even rock stars and Hollywood actors seem to understand?”

To read the entire essay and to get to the part about Sodom click here.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Students need relief. . .

What with the way things appear to be unfolding (or not!) in Washington these days, the chances of Congress tackling comprehensive immigration reform this year seem slim to none. 

Still millions of immigrant children brought to the US by their parents when they were still minors continue to find themselves in "status limbo."  Hard working, diligent, eager and hopeful, millions of these youth need the benefit of legislation like the various versions of the DREAM Act that we've discussed here on numerous occasions.  [If you are interested, type "DREAM Act" and "Monica" in search tool above left.]

Juan's story in the video clip below touched me again concerning the plight of some really great human beings.  What does faith have to say to us about Juan?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Reflections on "the game" as Spring Training 2010 begins. . .(Part 4)

[What follows is the conclusion of an essay written while I coached an inner-city baseball team in the Texas Rangers Rookie League.  For Parts 1-3, see my posts on the last 3 days.]

Economic Disparity and America's "New Economy."  Observing John's world reveals that the use, trade and delivery of illegal narcotics involve not only serious criminal, health and addiction issues, but crucial market issues as well.  The drug trade in Dallas promises (actually one of urban America's most tragic lies) to provide the highest income possible to persons whose limited skills mark them out for a life to be scratched out well below the poverty line.  When faced with the option of taking a job that pays just above minimum wage or becoming a player in the illicit drug industry that promises to pay much more, many people, especially young people, chose the more dangerous route. 

While I am not  attempting to relieve anyone of personal responsibility, the fact remains that the teens and adults in John's house do not possess the skills needed to compete in America's "new economy."  Our community has the will to support the revolving door, created by our criminal justice system that shuffles adults in and out of John's world.  Evidently, what we lack is the will to adequately fund training programs that could provide real economic options for these same teens and adults.  Add the powerful factor of addiction to the mix and we create a recipe for social destruction, one person, one family and one neighborhood at a time. 

[When I wrote this essay, Dallas corporations were crying for qualified employees, especially in the technology sector.  The need was so great that immigration policies were being reformed and relaxed to accommodate the need for foreign workers who could fill the need quickly.  The economic bust of 2008 changed all of that, but the need for livable wage employment skills for our citizens remains very urgent.]

The mental leap necessary to move from coaching in a summer youth baseball league to a discussion of drugs, crime, the state of public education, employment training and market-driven economic options may seem strange or even strained. 

But not if you know my buddy John. 

He lives in the tough world of inner city Dallas. 

As a result, I estimate that John has possibly two more years of semi-innocence before he faces some very tough choices forced on him by the circumstances of his world.   If he takes the wrong turn, he likely will end up repeating the mistakes of his older family members. 

Fortunately, John has a number of friends in the neighborhood who are committed to staying near him to help navigate these critical times of decision.  Not every Dallas child in his position possesses his small advantage. 

Since serving as his coach, I know I will never be able to watch a baseball game in the same way again.  From sandlot to second grade Little Leagure, the game has always been very special to me.  Now I think I know how I'll occupy many of my thoughts during the slow, steady progress of America's game. 

[Eight years after I first wrote this reflection, I am pleased to report that John graduated high school, went on to college and served last summer on our AmeriCorps team.  I expect that he will graduate with his degree in about two more years.  Would that John's story could be repeated across urban America a million times over.]

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Reflections on "the game" as Spring Training 2010 begins. . .(Part 3)

[What follows continues the posts from the past two days.]

Here's John's list of life issues that compose a large part of his reality.

Education.  Amazingly,John does fairly well in school in spite of the fact that no adult in  his world seems to be involved or pays much attention.  he is bright and good.  Bemoaning a lack of parental involvement in the public schools in a city like Dallas wastes energy, time and breath.  The adults in John's world cannot be counted on to lift test scores, attend the school's PTA meetings, provide encouragement or demand better educational options, strategies or administration.  Others will need to fill that gap for John.  But without a supre-charged educational experience the likelihood of John escaping his extremely limted world is slim indeed. 

A clear understanding of the world John navigates daily should provide our community more than enough motivaton to act boldly, radically, and creatively to make sure he experiences only the very best in education.  Our public schools must step up to the challenge of standing with John.  Simply put, my little friend John deserves the very best we have to offer. 

Criminal Justice and Addiction. John watches out for himself because the adults in his world, almost every one of them, are crack cocaine addicts.  Given the manner in which our criminal justice system deals with addicts, objectivity would push me to say John's world is filled with adults who are, for the most part, "hopeless" addicts. 

On numerous occasions John and his young cousin, another one of my players, have witnessed the arrest of several of the adults (including their closest family members) who use and sell drugs off of their front porch.  City, county and state criminal justice authorities investigate, raid, arrest and incarcerate; but they seldom treat addicts.  The system that periodically takes the most significant adults out of John's life to jail or to prison, never returns them to him in any better condition psychologically or spiritually. 

The idea of placing these adults back in his world with new skills that might lead to gainful employment outside the "drug industry" never seems to cocur to anyone involved.  Apparently very few consider treatment for addiction either.  The criminal justice system's answer to durg addition boils down to containment and incarceration. 

Children like John receive little or no assistance from Child Protective Services.  Operating with severely limited resources (including far too few foster families), under-staffed and over-worked, an over-burdened CPS system cannot respond adequately or effectively to the thousands of children in Dallas County who live in places and with adults like John.  He deserves better from all of us.

[For the final post on John and the challenges of his life drop in tomorrow.]

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Reflections on "the game" as Spring Training 2010 begins. . .(Part 2)

[What follows is a continuation of the post from yesterday.]

The following week when I arrived at John's house to pick him up for an early morning game, he came to the door to inform me he didn't want to play.  When I asked why, he told me that a cousin was in town and he didn't want to leave  him at the house to go to the game.  I encouraged him to invite the cousin to come along and help us out in the dugout.  On the way to the park John leaned over and thanked me for allowing his guest to join us for the game. 

"Coach, I was afraid to leave him at the house.  I was afraid if the police came they would arrest him for 'selling' because he is fifteen," John explained.  Talk about a heightened sense of personal responsibility:  my little twelve-year-old buddy feeling the pressing need to care for his 15-year-old cousin.  This is simply John's reality. 

John lives at a frightening intersection in our community.  From where he stays, not only can John see the most important issues facing our city; he lives with a number of them.  Just click down John's list with me for a reality check.

[Return tomorrow for John's "reality list."]

Monday, March 01, 2010

Reflections on "the game" as Spring Training 2010 begins. . .(Part 1)

What follows, in four parts, is an essay I wrote several years ago while coaching in the Texas Rangers' Rookie League, a co-ed baseball program for 11 and 12-year-old boys and girls.  As Major League Baseball gears up for the 2010 season, I'm thinking of the game's value.

I am a baseball coach.  Well, not really.  My career, my job is in a totally unrelated field.  But few things in my life are more important than my work as a coach in the Texas Rangers Rookie League. 

For two summers now I have coached eleven and twelve-year-old boys and girls who have never played organized baseball prior to being on my team.  The experience has been fun, educational, exciting, hilarious and sobering all at once.  All of my players live in a fairly tough Dallas inner-city neighborhood.  The Texas Rangers deserve a community commendation for sponsoring the summer league that actually serves as a baseball day camp of sorts for hundreds of children from all across the Metroplex. 

For several of my players the baseball league offers a welcome escape from terrible living conditions. 

Let me introduce you to "John." 

He lives with his grandmother and a number of other adults--some related, some not--in a well known, neighborhood crack house near his school.  John is a great young man.  He spends his days by his own choice going from place to place in the neighborhood looking for trustworthy people and positive things  to do.  The Friendship Center at Fair Park Bible Fellowship, the Jubilee Center sponsored by St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church and the Rangers Rookie League baseball are all regular stops on his daily walk around the neighborhood this summer. 

He seemed thrilled when he learned that he had been selected by his principal to play on our team.  He attended every practice, worked hard, learned new skills and turned out to be our most productive hitter.  John is a winsome kid with a big smile and a temper that can explode in a fury, invariably followed by quick apologies. 

After one pre-season practice he asked me for a ride home.  When we arrived at his house, I got out with him to unload some of his belongings from my truck.  As we walked to the back of my car, a small pick-up truck pulled alongside us and a young man came out of John's house and stepped up to the truck's window.  After a brief exchange of words, money and "merchandize," the truck's driver turned his vehicle around and left, all the while keeping his eyes on John and me. 

"Coach, this goes on all the time here," he tried to explain what we had just witnessed.  I tried to reassure him and told him to go inside and be careful, a truly impossible directive given  his environment.  Later that same day I talked to John about our experience. 

"We walked into the middle of a drug deal, didn't we?"  I asked to confirm what I thought I had seen.

"Yes sir.  My grandmother can't control the house anymore.  People  come and go and sue and sell drugs," replied. 

During the pre-game warm-up before our third game of the season, John took a ball right in the mouth.  The blow split his lip open.  A little ice and some special attention patched him up so that he could play in both games of our doubleheader that day.  On the van ride home I told John that he would need to see a doctor and might require a stitch or two in his lip. 

After a thoughtful pause, John said, "Coach, I'll go to the doctor, but I won't."

"What do you mean?" I asked. 

"I'm willing to go, but no one will take me.  No one has a car and they just lay around not doing anything."

I assured him that I would see that he got to a doctor.  When we arrived at his house, I managed to get permission from an aunt to arrange for treatment.  Dr. Jim Walton, our long time medical partner and leader of community health equity for the Baylor Health Care System, met us at our clinic.  John took his three stitches better than any 40-year-old man.  Four or five days later, between game days, Dr. Walton went back to  John' house to remove the stitches. 

We both observed a number of adults coming and going in all directions.  Two little girls, possibly aged five and three, played with a cat on the front porch.  They stopped their play long enough to grin and wave at us.  We felt as if we were standing in the middle of a busy, though dilapidated, dingy, and dark marketplace.  The commodity being traded was crack cocaine.  The surroundings spoke of abject poverty. 

[More tomorrow. . .]