in the triangle of poverty, a bratty voice


Sue Clark and I are sitting in a coffee shop in Indiana, PA, on the edge of IUP. It's raining. Crosby-Stills-Nash & Young are playing and Sue's reading about James Naylor...

Cleveland, Toldeo, Detroit. We've been to the first two of those. It's a triangle of poverty, Joyce Litten, chair of the Social work dept. at Lourdes College told us. More children living in poverty than anyplace in the U.S.

Cleveland's population has gone in the last ten years from 1 million to 500,000. We could feel it in the roads: bumpier than the narrow gravel road I live on. Smaller tax base, the clerk of Cleveland Meeting explained, but same roads to maintain. Or not maintain.

I brought a book of sci-fi short stories with me. Cleveland felt a little like a post-something place. But with the world class orchestra and museums, and the memory of having been great, central, industrial, rich, a first American home for millions of immigrants who love her still.

And I read from the book, Chapter 6, about Lamarr's violent childhood. Not an easy chapter to hear but that's what prayer led me to. Driving west from Syracuse, where I picked up Sue, I had been feeling I wouldn't read from the book at all, would just tell the story, discuss the issues.... Talking to Sue helped me question that notion. Then when I went into worship that night in our room on the 3rd floor of the old former-mansion meeting house I heard a voice. Not God's. My own voice, as if overheard - a bratty child's voice saying "I don't want to read from the book anymore, I don't want to..."

So I laughed at myself and read from the book. One white man, the adoptive father of two black sons aged 5 and 10, listened with great intensity and immediately shared a story of his own. If he ok's with it I may paraphrase that here. Maybe we came just for him, his sons. Maybe just to see and feel Cleveland. Maybe just to rehearse faithfulness for some larger production.

I'm feeling grateful and open and, thanks to wonderfully gracious hosts, not too tired. More later. Sorry I'm not traveling with a camera, but may get some pics from others.