Empowerment at the Post Office

Grocery store clerk, postal clerk, ticket taker at the movie theater, check-out at Walgreen’s, the clerks are everywhere, usually taking our payments with a smile and an automatic “Thank-you.” And we respond with a similarly mindless “You’re welcome.” But supposing we respond with true appreciation for the service rendered.

A Healing Shrine

The day was warm and sunny with just a whiff of salt water in the air from the Aegean Sea, not far away. There were four of us, American pilgrims to the shrine of St. Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotunda Italy: my mentor, two other students, and myself. We walked silently on the cobblestone path from our hotel to the church, already under the spell of the great healer.


The Pied Piper of Hamlin used music and rhythm to kidnap the children of Hamlin and lead them, dancing, to oblivion. The sound of Krishna’s flute drew the respectable housewives of Vrindaban to a divine, spiritual experience in the jungles of Vrindaban. Whose rhythm are we following?

Joined at the Roots

Walking past the flower-filled front-yard gardens on Lakeshore Avenue near my apartment in Oakland, I suddenly stopped, arrested by the sight of two palm trees, which had grown together but had remained separate. Emerging from the ground, their roots had grown into a living container about a foot high, from which their two trunks had grown in close proximity, but separately.

The Vietnam Veteran

“Be sure you wait for the “walk” sign” said a man’s friendly voice behind me. I was attempting to cross Lakeshore Blvd., the heavily-trafficked nexus of our neighborhood shopping area. I turned to see a slender man in his mid-seventies, wearing a dark blue and red cap, jauntily tilted to one side. “I am a Vietnam War veteran, he told me proudly…

The Liberty Bell

Our original Liberty Bell arrived in Philadelphia from England in 1735, cracked on arrival. Although it has been re-cast, repaired and re-repaired, still the crack remains, a poignant symbol of the deep fissure in our society between those of white, European ancestry and those of African ancestry. There are very few bridges by which this chasm can be crossed.

Your Inner Capitol Building

Let’s all take a few deep breaths of relief. Whew! It was a close call on January 6. But let’s also not forget that the happiness of “deliverance from evil” is not necessarily permanent. Deliverance from evil is something that must happen every day. Neither evil nor deliverance from evil are permanent conditions.


A friend of mine was bicycling alone down a little-traveled road outside of Sacramento. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of a structure in the distance. What he found was a small shrine with a marble statue of Mother Mary covered with dust and dirt from the fields, the paint of the wooden board behind her cracked and peeling, her feet covered with fallen leaves. My friend knew that he could not leave the Divine Mother in such a condition.

The Big Smile

When my first grandchild was born, his survival was not certain. He spent many weeks between worlds in the neo-natal care unit of the hospital before he was released to the care of his parents. When I met him he was already wide-awake and conscious.

The Listening Window

I was riding on the local municipal buses in Oakland, CA, where I live. One evening the bus was particularly crowded. I was sitting, but many people were standing, including a mother holding her six-month old baby in one arm while hanging onto the pole with the other. The baby began to cry, quickly escalating to a piercing shriek.

The Two-Way Elevator

I love to go to my physical therapist’s wide-open office. First, I take the elevator up to the top floor of the 14-story building. The room is full of light entering through an entire wall of huge windows framing a panoramic view of the Oakland hills, with white clouds drifting across the deep blue sky. I am warmly greeted by angels with smiles and free coffee and kind, helpful and empathetic practitioners. I’ll just stay here, I think, but I only have 30 minutes and then I have to go back down the elevator to the street, where there are…

Finding the Bluebird

There is a parklet on Lakeshore Ave. near my apartment where three groups of huge cedar trees have been allowed to stand. Even though birds love trees, we do not have many birds in this area other than sparrows. But yesterday, as I was walking by the first group of cedars, I glimpsed a flash of brilliant blue darting between the trees.

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