By admin


Categories: celebrant musings

Systemic Change vs. Charity

I wish I could ask my mom something.  Regrettably Mom died two years ago.

When I was in third grade I noticed a little girl in second grade who sat in a chair at the end of the hall while everybody else when to eat.  Most kids brought 35 cents each day so they could eat in the cafeteria.  They turned right at the hall’s end.  I turned left and walked three blocks home for lunch.  It was something that made me different and I longed to be like everyone else and eat in the cafeteria.  Lillie Bell just sat in a metal brown chair with her feet swinging and her big brown eyes watching everybody.  I asked my mom if it would be OK if I fixed a lunch for Lillie Bell Templeton.

Mom agreed and the next day I brought a sandwich in a brown paper bag and gave it to Lillie Bell before I walked home for my own lunch.

My teacher, Mrs. O. L. Davis , who had braids wound severely around her head, told me that afternoon that I was silly to bring a lunch for Lillie Bell.  Her family had enough to provide their child with lunch money!  Her mom took in ironing and cleaned people’s houses and she could send some change for Lillie Bell to eat.  They lived too far away to walk home like I did, but that family could provide for their own children.

I remember hating my teacher and thinking she was wrong!  It was the first of several times I remember being morally outraged with “Old Lady” Davis.  All this at age 8 when teachers are pretty much up there with Mom and Dad and God.

For several days I continued to bring a lunch.

Then here’s the part I’d like to ask mom.

Somehow Lillie Bell was no longer in her chair.  I was told she was eating in the cafeteria.  What happened?  Had my mom made polite inquiries?  Did Lillie Bell’s mom start sending a lunch?  Was someone shamed into letting her eat for free?

I bet mom knew.  I hope that my act of charity had something to do with systemic change within that school structure.  I just remember that I was happy that Lillie Bell no longer sat on a cold hard brown chair at the end of the hall while everyone else turned to go eat lunch.

Oh, did I tell you Lillie Bell was black?



By admin


Categories: celebrant musings

Valentine Wishes

It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m wearing my traditional outfit, which since his death has been my father’s bathrobe.  It’s silk and has red hearts on a black background and makes a nice jacket.  Dad loved fancy clothes, shoes and boots.  All day I’ve been wrapped in a posthumous hug from my father.

Dad was a man of few words, a hard worker, gentle, expert in fixing things, and fiercely proud of his kids.  He had a strong sense of fairness and was known as a good boss at the gasoline plant where he eventually became the superintendant.  He attended every piano recital, band and choir concert, and school event where I performed, every ball game and spelling contest of my brothers.  He generally let Mom do the talking, but he made his presence known and we respected him.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Dad.  And Happy Valentine’s Day to all proud dads everywhere.



By admin


Categories: celebrant musings

Soar Like an Eagle

Yesterday I officiated at a Committal Service for a man who was a Valley of the Sun transplant from snowy New York almost a dozen years ago.  I don’t know much about him except that he loved to work on cars and was a kind, hard-working man who was clear with his wife that he did not want a service when he died.  The daughters indicated that he did not want them to spend money on his after-death care.

At first there was no service planned, but the mom and daughters changed their minds and decided a Committal Service at the cemetery would be appropriate before he was laid to rest and that it would help them say good-bye.  Through a series of phone calls, I was contracted to write a short service and officiate.

As the daughters, a niece and I stood chatting before the service, waiting on one more person to arrive, one of the young women said, “Look up!”

What we saw took away our breath:  A large eagle with a five foot wingspan was circling overhead.  After two turns the magnificent bird soared off into the sky.

We all felt it—the intake of surprised air, the beat of our hearts, the misty eyes.  No one will ever convince me we saw anything other than the spirit of this man blessing our gathering and soaring into the heavens.

 That We Can Soar Like an Eagle

by Jay Althouse

 That we can soar like an eagle,

Fly like a dove, run like the wind

With strength from above.

We will never grow weary, for love will prevail,

And those who believe,

Cannot fail.