Pentecost 157


St. Francis of Assisi reportedly said:  “Start doing what’s necessary and then what is possible.  Suddenly, you will then find yourself doing what is impossible.”  What if we cannot agree on what is necessary?  How do we move forward?


In the Declaration of Independence one can find an often-quoted phrase written by Thomas Jefferson:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”  Jefferson went on to describe these rights as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.  Are these necessary?


We cannot help others is we do not agree on what is necessary.  How can we ever seek to make ordinary time extraordinary if we cannot agree on what should be ordinary or common in one’s life?  This is an important issue because if education for all is ordinary, why do people have to go to such extraordinary lengths to obtain it and why do others go to such terroristic lengths to prevent it?


Recent aid organizations have requested assistance in helping those areas devastated by Hurricane Matthew.  Many in those areas have asked that people donate to local charities rather than the international organizations.  The problem is that many times the local groups are fraught with malfeasance, even more so than the larger groups.  Local officials prefer to build their personal coffers rather than distribute the aid received because their idea of what is necessary is skewed and narcissitic.


In my humble opinion, it should be necessary for a nation to provide food for its citizens as well as availability to health care.  That health care should include mental and emotional health as well as physical, dental, and vision.  Currently, a national healthcare program in one country for the elderly will pay for an eye examination but not for any required reading apparatus such as glasses.  Most people know when their eye sight in waning.  Why bother to have a doctor verify it if the program will not correct the vision problems?


The education of women is a hotly contested debate in many Islamic countries and yet, in others where Islam has existed since its infancy, many women are renowned scientists and mathematicians.  The Quran emphasizes personal growth and achieving what one is capable.  Why then are young girls abducted from their schools and sold into slavery?  Why is it not necessary for the gender of the human race that brings life into the world to be afforded a full life themselves?


Maybe it is because of the root of the word “unalienable”.  The word comes from the Latin “alius” which means “other.”  There are many words in the English language that use this word as their root.  They include alien and alias.  Say the word “alien” to many people and they began to think of little green beings from another planet.  The legal definition is not even in agreement on exactly what an alien is except to describe it as “other”.  This might be one Latin word whose derivatives actually are quite close to the root word.


In Great Britain, legally an alien might be a citizen of the republic of Ireland.  In the USA they are legal aliens and illegal aliens.  In common law they are “friendly aliens and enemy aliens, with the latter comprising not only citizens of hostile states but also all others voluntarily living in enemy territory or carrying on business there; enemy aliens are subject to additional disabilities.”


This concept of aliens having authorized disabilities was of great interest to me.  It refers to their not being able to own property but they can amass what is called a personal estate which means they can have personal possessions.  Another disability is that they are subject to taxation of all earnings and wages, cannot be a member of Congress or elected to President (in the USA) or, in many states, serve as governor.  They also cannot vote, fill any office, or serve as a juror.  For this reason, all illegal aliens found to have committed a crime are sent to their home county and not prosecuted here.  It would be necessary to have a jury of their peers if such prosecution occurred and one could argue that they would be impossible since their peers would be other aliens who could not serve on a jury.  In this case, necessary would mean deportation.


Is food and proper clothing necessary?  Certainly medical science has proven that it is for one to have a healthy life.  Why then, are there not programs that guarantee such for all, especially our children?  One of the most stable ways to store food is the canned food industry.  While other industries have suffered in the past fifteen years, the canned food industry has reported a steady increase in production and revenue.   The canned food industry is involved in the retail sales of canned ready meals, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned pasta and noodles, canned desserts, and canned seafood and meat products.


What if each of us donated a can of canned good for every can we purchased?  Even if we donated one can for every three purchased, we could go a long way in providing necessary food for those who have none.  Canned vegetables represent the leading market segment, generating $1.2 billion in 2010, accounting for almost 31% of the overall market in the United Kingdom.  The Asia-Pacific canned food industry recorded yearly growth in excess of 4% between 2006 and 2010, reaching almost $15 billion in 2010. Canned meat products represented the leading market segment at close to $7 billion, accounting for 48% of the overall market.  Canned vegetables represented the leading market segment in the USA generating $4.5 billion, accounting for over 31% of the overall market.  Last year this number was expected to rise to $16 billion. These figures, by the way, are from the canned food industry, not arbitrary estimates.


Given the above statistics, if one third of purchases were matched by donations, the hungry of the world would have $5 billion to eat in the Asia-Pacific market, $400 million in the UK, and $5.3 billion in the USA.  For the cost of one canned good item, we could give to the world of hungry children almost $6 billion worth of food.  Is feeding the hungry necessary?


In 2002, Abby Adams-Silvan wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times.  In it she wrote: “Food for the starving should be a major priority in the war against terrorism. The survivors of today’s famines and the diseases of starvation may well be the terrorists of tomorrow. This is not only because of sociological consequences, but also because nutritional deprivation, before as well as after birth, causes brain as well as body deformation.  The failure of the rich countries to place a high priority on efforts like the World Food Summit, and the startling drop in global aid, reflect a dramatic lack of self-interested foresight as well as of altruistic humanitarianism.”


We can do batter in our fight for a better living.  We do have to stop defining those who are the ‘other” as sub-human and realize we are all in this living together.  When we address the ordinary and make it possible for all to experience it, then we will have made life extraordinary.



My Cat the Alien

My Cat, the Alien

Pentecost 35


My cat is a rescue pet, adopted from a shelter and much loved by the family.  That does not change the fact that she may be an alien.  The word alien can mean many different things but seriously, my cat fits most of those definitions.  [Editor’s note:  My cat really is just a cat.  Do not expect pictures on some tabloid or anything like that.]


An alien is an entity that is extrinsic to things.  Extrinsic is a word we seldom hear used but it really is a delightful word.  Basically it means “coming from the outside of something”.  Having spent the first several years of her life as a feral cat, she meets that definition.  Feral refers to something living is a wild state.  Wild in animals is considered “untamed” or acting outside the social boundaries of domestication.  Some of our political candidates would qualify as feral with that definition!


Usually a feral cat is a cat that has in its heritage the lineage of a domesticated cat but, for a variety of reasons, has not lived in a domesticated setting.  The problem of stray animals can be attributed to one thing – Animals living according to natural instincts, breeding at will.  While everyone loves a cute kitten or sleepy puppy, the world cannot provide enough homes for these animals.  They live on the streets, homeless and often abandoned. 


Life is sometimes described in harsh clichés and one of this is “It’s a dog eat dog world.”  If you are a small kitten in that “dog eat dog” environment, you learn to fight for every single thing you need to stay alive.  My cat came to us distrusting of our other pets but we have made progress in the past years.  She accepts us marginally and we have come to accept her.


One of those things begging acceptance is her distrust of her next meal.  Having used feeder bowls for our pets, it has been quite the change to not be able to have food available at all times.  Cats are usually very good at eating only when hungry.  This particular cat, however, gorges herself whenever food is available.  She still has the memories of those days of hunger and makes good use of food when possible.  Of course, her stomach only holds so much and some comes back up. 


We all have things we don’t trust in our lives.  Past living leaves its mark and earning trust and having faith is hard.  Often what we need to trust is ourselves.  We allow the extrinsic aspects of life inside; we allow our basic goodness to become altered and uncultivated our belief in ourselves.


My cat’s propensity to eat everything whenever possible is not why I think she is an alien.  Quite honestly, she probably feels we are the aliens.  Remember, an alien is something or someone who is not in their originating habitat.  Conception is the body’s way of having faith in the future.  It is the continuance of life itself and yet, once we are self-sufficient, we tend to not take care of that life and the life of others.


Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”  What did you do yesterday for someone or something else (i.e., a pet or other animal)?  We seldom see aliens portrayed as helping each other.  The aliens of Dr. Who are a well-trained army but when one falls down, the others just walk right over them.  The aliens of countless other science fiction programs are similar. 


In the political world, aliens are portrayed as wanting to go to a new country and usurp all the resources for themselves.  Much like my cat, they are seen as gorging on all available jobs, housing, and amenities which leaves nothing for the natives of the area.  Candidates and politicians are constantly reminding us that the world cannot sustain everything in it and yet, somehow life does go on.


Aliens are portrayed as unsocial beings that simply are there – staring at the rest of us, saying very little.  We had been the roommates of this particular cat for almost three years before we heard her purr.  Purring is one of those great mysteries that cats like to maintain since the how and why of the vocalization is still one of the great unknowns.  We assume it is a sign of pleasure and I will confess to being troubled that this cat that had many creature comforts never purred.  Then one day she purred and anxiously looked around.  It was at that moment I realized her homeless lifestyle had relied on her silence and purring would have given away her hiding places.


Too many animals are forced to live without being able to express pleasure and if you thought today’s good deed was going to be about shelter pets and the thousands of homeless pets, you are correct – in part.  How we treat others says a great deal about ourselves and that includes these animals.  The ways to help them are easy.  Donate a bag of food to a shelter.  Volunteer to be a “petter”.  Stay aware of what your area’s laws are and become involved to make sure they are fair.  No one breed is a guarantee to be vicious or harmful to others.


Our pets are a reflection of ourselves and how we live.  My cat is an alien because never knew affection in her early years.  Her favorite television program is “Tanked” and it is not the fish that attracts her.  She actually has a crush on one of the hosts.  The fish are colorful but it is the antics of the family that own the aquarium company that really interest her.


Several have asked why emphasize good deeds.  Maybe they are aliens.  In a dog eat dog world, it might seem like we need to be cats, feral entities without any concern for others.  The fact is, though, when we care about another, we are doing good for ourselves. 


It might have taken my cat the alien a few years to trust us enough to purr but one thing she did from the day we adopted her was to care for others.  Whenever anyone is ill, that cat is sitting on the floor or bed right near them.  Her compassion has always been evident, even if it is sometimes annoying.


Many of us go through our daily schedule like aliens.  We never reach out to help others, fearful that by giving we might lose something.  The truth is we only gain when we give of ourselves.  You are just one person, I know.  You cannot solve all the world’s problems; I know.  Edward Everett Hale knew this as well when he wrote:  “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.” 


Don’t be an alien today, simply going through the world without making a positive impact on it. You can do something positive for another.  It might just be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.