Hold It All

Month: February, 2014

Share the Wealth: A World of Opportunities for a Pakistani Immigrant, with Aroona Toor

Aroona Toor will share about her upbringing as an immigrant and her recent trips to Spain and Ethiopia. She will talk about what she has learned from her experiences and the importance and benefits of stepping outside of your comfort zone and experiencing new things.  Aroona is in her last semester at Saint Louis University; her focus has been on Public Health and Social Justice.

Join us!
Sunday 2 March
Potluck dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Aroona begins sharing at 6:45
At the home of Fatima Rhodes
4406 A Laclede
Central West End
Please bring a friend!


Being With

I have some grand notions in my head
But they often fall by the wayside
When I’m sitting at the table
Talking with one person
Hearing all that has happened
In that one life.
–Dorothy Day

I’m with you Dorothy
Whether it’s being with one aspiring PCT at Forest Park Community College
One doctor on the phone for an hour who is bouleversée after a colleague is murdered
One bodhisattva nurse celebrating milestones at Local Harvest Cafe
One Palestinian teacher who reminds me of the presence of history as we sit at Starbucks
One daughter of a World War II veteran recollecting his youth at Fatima’s Laclede salon
One young poet weeping her truths at Northwest Coffee
One friend who beamingly tells us at Sasha’s about her first date (with her future husband) when she was 16
One Iraq war veteran who lingers after class
One sage storyteller who reads me poems out back at Café Ventana (she ought to have a weekly hour on NPR)
Anyone I happen to give more than five minutes to
Because a lot can be revealed in mere minutes
Whether by rhapsody or wrinkle or whisper
Yes the grand notions dissolve
And that line from Levinas lingers:
“Ethics arises out of the face of the Other”

Email from Larry Friedberg in Haifa (Reading/6)

Dear Professor

One of your former students told my daughter
To tell me that I should read your book

So I did
I read it in two days

I want to thank you
You articulated what I’ve felt for some time

But I could only stumble over my words
With a few close friends

After a successful business career in Chicago
I retired and moved to Haifa

You’ll be interested to know
The Israel National Library has your book

Good for them!
People can learn something from you

I’m reveling each day
In the kindred political spirits I’ve met here

I refuse to go to Yad Vashem
I’ve had enough of memory

Without responsibility
Now is the time to be responsible!

I’m old enough to remember when Dr. King
Referred to “the fierce urgency of now”

To see what viciousness is happening in the West Bank
Is shocking and infuriating

Again thank you for your writing
It’s inspired me to get up off my ass

Larry Friedberg

–from forthcoming novel, Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine

Giddy: A Response to The Book of Mev by Lucy Hedges

Alexis Mary Lassus insisted I get to know Lucy Hedges. We met for the first time last summer at Local Harvest Café. Within the first ten minutes of sitting with her, I felt so at ease and at home. She sent me the following in a hand-written six-page letter recently. She will be doing a Share the Wealth soon on her life in nursing.


Dear Markus,

This is a long overdue book review on Book of Mev. I’m not sure why it took me so long. I think partly because it was so obviously well written, gut wrenchingly sad and real and uber tangible, yet so not tangible, that I felt like anything I told you about it, you already knew.

The chapter Face to Face/1 was exactly how any person would want their love story to begin. “A soul laugh, so refreshingly different from the superficial chitter chatter titters, hoots and sniggers heard on an all too regular basis. I wanted to fuse with that laugh.” Read the rest of this entry »

Share the Wealth This Coming SATURDAY: Winter Outreach, with Jerry and Marty King

From my friend Jerry King…

Several years ago, one of Teka Childress’s outreach clients at BJC froze to death at a bus stop in the City, and Teka vowed that would not ever happen again on her watch. Out of that experience came the formation of Winter Outreach, a 100% volunteer effort to offer shelter on winter nights to the homeless community of the City.

Starting two years ago, Marty and I have played a small role in the WO team, and it’s been a humbling and privileged opportunity. We, along with some of our friends who have been in this with us, would like to share that experience with a larger group–stories from our own personal encounters as well as those from the literally hundreds of people who have reached out, shuttled, prepared food, served meals, and shared their company with our brothers and sisters who have been living on the streets.

One exchange I had recently: I was talking with one of the men at the shelter, in which the subject of age came up. The tone of the conversation was jocular, good-natured teasing, and I bet him in that spirit that I was way older than he was imagining. When I said I was 72, his jaw dropped and he said, “Do you know how many people I know who are 72? None. Nobody lives that long on the streets.”

Join Marty and me at our home
830 DeMun, 3rd floor
Clayton 63105
Saturday 22 February
Potluck begins at 6:00 p.m.
Sharing starts at 6:45

Remembering and Forgetting


The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.

–Milan Kundera, Czech/French novelist


The Jews of my city are now forgotten, erased from its memory. Before, there were some thirty synagogues in Sighet; today, only one survives. The Jewish tailors, the Jewish cobblers, the Jewish watchmakers have vanished without a trace, and strangers have taken their place.

–Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, advocate of remembrance


Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You don’t even know the names of these Arab villages, and I don’t blame you, because these geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahalal arose in the place of Mahlu, Gvat in the place of Jibta, Saird in the place of Haneifa, and Kfar-Yehoshua in the place of Tel-Shaman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.

–Moshe Dayan, Israeli military leader, politician


The dispossession of Palestinian lands did not only entail the expulsion of their legal owners and the prevention of their repatriation and regaining ownership. It was compounded by the reinvention of Palestinian villages as purely Jewish or ‘Ancient’ Hebrew places.

–Ilan Pappe, Israeli historian, advocate of remembrance

The Slow Fix

This isn’t the Sudden Enlightenment School
By a long shot

It’s the Show-up-Each-Day-

It’s meditating morning and night
Then gathas throughout the day

It’s tending to the garden of the mind
And smiling to the thousands of weeds

It’s gently uprooting
One weed at a time

It’s Gandhi’s patience of emptying
An ocean with a teaspoon

It’s being on the path with Carla Nguyen
Whose texts to me are bells of mindfulness

It’s acknowledging over and over
“I have so far to go … I’m so happy”

It’s not the rushing racing way for me
I’m taking refuge in the slow fix

And I’ll never forget what Ms. Chatterjee
Sent me on that auspicious postcard:

“The journey of a billion miles
Begins with a single step”


–novel-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris

After Reading John Dominic Crossan*

Dear Shimmelstoy
After our talk the other day
(So many tears … but how energized I was when we parted!)
I went home to read and came across this line:
“We live in the shadow of the cross”

Or we should
Most of us never come close
We’re protected
We’re privileged
We’re ensconced

A follower of Jesus
Should be reminded
That the cross is an ever-present
And why?

If we are practicing the presence
Of the Kingdom of God
That means we will be a thorn
In the side of the empire
Which is alive and ill and generating havoc

Most of the U.S. population
Is one or another kind of Christian
Yet very few run afoul
Of established power
The way, say, the Freedom Riders did

When we come into contact with the marginalized
We ought to be asking
“Who is marginalizing them?
Who is exploiting them?
Who is profiting from this?”

Sophie Scholl lived in the shadow of the cross.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer did too
Oscar Romero did
Like thousands of Salvadorans in the 1980s
They were crucified one way or another by the powerful

Thanks for asking me to share with the community next month
I wonder if I can talk about Rosario without breaking down …
On second thought, so what?
I’m fine with people seeing how much she has come to live inside me
After all, “our tears are our truths”



*John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images

Makes Me Happy

To receive a vivid piece of writing (poem, rant, trans-genre) from a friend and then get permission to share it with others who are adept at appreciation

To bike in Forest Park, run up Art Hill, aware of the ordinary miracle of lung power on a sunny day, 72 degrees

To give a friend a book I’ve loved that maybe she’ll take to heart (I Remember, by Joe Brainard, for instance)

To share daily quotations, maxims, and passages with a yogini-friend

To spend $50 on stamps at the U.S. Post Office

To hang out at a café with a friend and lose all track of time (like the August day at the Bourgeois Pig Cafe in Chicago when the lunch with Clara Takarabe lasted five hours)

To take a walk in the park and repeat my mantram, synchronizing words, steps, and breaths

To behold Joanie in the morning as she sleeps or in the evening when she tells one of her classic jokes

To receive in one afternoon’s mail a hand-written letter from Ecuador, a note on a poetry manuscript’s progress from D.C., and a postcard from Benton Park

To commence a writing class and watch the participants gradually become friends as they feed off of each others’ trust, vulnerability, and panache

To receive an embrace from one of the hemisphere’s premier huggers, Courtney Barrett

To reread a great novel, like The Brothers K., and discuss with soul-pals at Sasha’s

To sit in Sophia House living room with the sangha: silent, smiling, still

To read any sequence of syllables–text, letter, message, email–from Eileen McGrath Mosher

— originally in May 2013 notebook, updated

Western Reverence for Life

General William Westmoreland once said
“The Oriental doesn’t place
The same high value on life
As does a Westerner
In the Orient life is cheap
It doesn’t matter”

The general said this in 1972
27 years after a war
When one group of Westerners
German Westerners
Eliminated millions of people
Deemed subhuman

It was also 27 years before
That another group of Westerners
Westmoreland’s own U.S. Westerners
Decimated city (fire bombing)
After city after city (atomic bombing)
Filled with Japanese civilians

It was also a few years before
Under Westmoreland’s guidance
That U.S. troops sought vindication
Of their presence in southern Vietnam
By means of body counts–
The more Vietnamese corpses, the more proof we must be winning

Twenty years after Westmoreland spoke thus
After the demise of the Soviet Union
A new enemy needed to be identified
And so the U.S. and its allies faced a clash of civilizations
With those who evidently did not have the same values
As the West manifested decade after decade


–Westmoreland quotation taken from 1974 documentary, Hearts and Minds