Dollar Snow-Cone

The August summer heat would not relent as she defiantly arched her elderly frame to rise from the cracking concrete stoop in this ignored part of the city.

I walked up the block with a crumpled dollar bill for the ice – without the syrup.  Sweat scattered from my hairline.  My face and neck burned scarlet.

The makeshift plastic table was wobbly-arranged for quick sales anticipated from the two buses of people who visited for a mere afternoon, scheduled in to clean up the neighborhood through a service agency.  All in the name of peace and solidarity.

A battered aluminum urn, dented from years of use, held ice that would shave pieces into a forbidden Styrofoam cup – a cheap fix.  A neat row of glass bottles with plastic pumps each waited with their blaring color of sugar syrup attentively for its snow-cone debut – chartreuse mint, tangerine orange, bright violet grape – nothing known to Nature.  My only wish was the frosty shavings to melt my dusty, gritty throat.

She rose from the stoop as I smiled deeply breathing in front of a torn plastic umbrella, offering some shade.  Her cocoa-colored skin clenched hard onto muscles whose strength was all but gone from years of sacrifice.  Her knotted, ebony hands buckled from years of toil…fields, factories, mills?  I couldn’t imagine.  This heat would not stop her today.  Nope.  No way.

“Just ice please.”  I handed her the dollar bill.

She pulled the black plastic lever to shave the ice into slivers of cool relief.   Gently she extended her arm giving me a cup filled with ice shavings and started to count out change – one worn quarter, one dime and three nickels.  Her hand trembled as she counted and then my eyes rested on her wedding ring encircling the on her left hand.

The simple band was of thin gold, but the worn beveled edges reflected the mysteries of a previous life filled with more joy than today brought.   The pattern of the bevel was exactly the same as the wedding ring belonging to my grandfather which I wore in the middle of my right hand.  I had asked for it and wore it every day without fail since his death.   Nonu’s hands were the worker’s hands of a turn-of-the-century Italian immigrant – massive, skilled and unfaltering.  They could crush rock, melt brass or graft five different apples on to one tree for autumn pies Noni would make each year.

I reached for her left hand with my right so she would see my ring as I touched hers.    She slowly lifted her eyes to meet mine.  Her heavy blink under sagging eyelids gave way to a weakened smile as time and space held us united in some unexpected enigma made for this day.

“No change”, I said, “and God bless.”

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Urgent Care Sunday afternoon

urgent care

Without hope, broken dreams, it ain’t worth livin’, life ripped at the seams.

My paper bag sits with a bottle of cheap wine, no one cares Lord, but I am still Thine.

Judgment beware

Judgment beware

“salga fuera, culto al dinero. promesa de los pueblos, salir a luchar por el valor.” -Papa Francisco I Without food, safety, peace or rest how can others be expected to do their best or show mastery on a data-driven test?

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at the end of the day…

at the end of the day…

all anyone can do is to try. try to build relationships, try to open minds and hearts, try to introduce empathy and understanding. for those who have never experienced trauma, poverty, hopelessness, judgment is passed upon others. even among the … Continue reading

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real reasons

real reasons

Somewhere in between the push for private profits in all-things-public and the reality of where the public exists lies an immutable truth. We are people who need to be ‘entertained’ and whose sights are focused, indeed obsessed with that culture. … Continue reading

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the first time

the first time

these are the hands of an afghan street child who, for the first time, has savored coffee with milk. the gentleness of the moment, the tenderness of his fingers as he embraces the cup have made me awaken this Monday … Continue reading

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little known history…

little known history…

and our guide held a reproduction of a 1755 map of Lower Manhattan from which he explained the African Burial Ground – about 5-6 acres of between 10,000 – 20,000 free and enslaved Africans. my mind swirled with questions unanswered…spirits … Continue reading

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evangelii gaudium – give thanks and be grateful enough to change the world one step at a time

evangelii gaudium – give thanks and be grateful enough to change the world one step at a time

No to an economy of exclusion No to the new idolatry of money No to a financial system which rules rather than serves No to the inequality which spawns violence Related articles Pope Francis’ new document, Evangelii Gaudium: 9 things … Continue reading

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disconnect

he waited patiently at the open door of the soup kitchen amid crunching brown leaves for the twelve o’clock whistle from the factory nearby to signal that guests could start coming in for a hot meal.  his hands trembled as he balanced himself on his wooden cane.  miles away, satisfied stomachs in pin-striped suits with enameled pins of patriotism and words as smooth as their silk ties argued over too much money being spent on entitlements.  These at stake were the very programs that he had paid into his whole life of hard work, paying bills, taxes and belief in setting aside for his future.  now, people whose entitlements are never in jeopardy are making and managing laws that further cripple others, but there is noticeably never sacrifice to their own elevated status for the benefit of those who elect them.  as i fill his plastic bowl with chicken noodle soup, i can’t help but wonder with what kind of conscience do others carry – those who cut funding, sustenance, jobs and life for workers, veterans, mothers and children, while raising their own salaries, toasting with a French Petrus Merlot and attempting to sleep soundly night after night?  what ring of inferno, real or self-imagined, will Dante and Virgil discover for those whose power has been corrupted absolutely?

mercy inn 6

optical delusion

2 redgirls

There is some magical, spiritual quality that sparkles in the eyes of a child despite layers of
dusty skin and mismatched, unfitting clothing. Supplicating brown eyes languish through the pains of poverty, clasped hands urge to pray away the ceaseless wars, standing at attention for time immemorial to wait …for something, anything to counter the lack of opportunity for education or what is commonly known in our world as normalcy.

“But what can I do?” His shrill voice strained with a crescendo of annoyance, as if it were a pest he’d rather swat away with a word or two. “..Can’t change the world….”

“No, you can’t,” she whispered slowly with calm resolve, her eyes bowed to the earth. “But you can be aware, feel and know that in every child, a part of you also exists.”