Seriously? Absurdity R Us…

I have been ranting about income disparity for years. (I encourage my denomination, the United Church of Christ, to have a conversation about poverty and economics, By the way). I have believed, since I was a teen, that the system is rigged and the “American Dream” of work hard ==> getting ahead wasn’t valid, as my mother and father worked harder than anyone I knew and we didn’t get ahead. I am also aware of people’s response to that news. My mother was mortified that I believed that, and that it was un-American to knock her beliefs that hard work was the way out of poverty. The fact is, though, I love America and wish it would live up to it’s potential.

That was 40 years ago, and things have only gotten worse since then. In the 1980’s, Studs Terkel wrote a book of interviews which said that the gap between rich and poor was growing. That was 30 years ago and things have only gotten worse since then. My wife and I were talking yesterday and we agreed that the Bush tax cuts weren’t needed then — that was 10 years ago, and things have gotten worse since then.

I have felt like I was yelling into a sound-proof world for 40 years about just how unfair things have gotten.I have been looking for the right fact or metaphor to convince people just how absurd and unfair this all is. Today in the mail it came. On page 4 of this week’s The Nation magazine:

=> Percentage of fast-food workers enrolled in public assistance programs — 52.
=>Hours a McDonald’s employee must work to earn the CEO’s salary — 1 million.

I kid you not. 1 million hours 1 person has to work to equal a year’s salary of a particular CEO,

That means — at a 40 hour week, one person would have to work 25,000 weeks to earn that particular CEO’s salary.  Given that there are 52 weeks in a year, a person would have to work 480 years to equal the yearly salary of another. That employee would have to work twice as long as there has been an America  to make the salary of that CEO. Those 480 years mean that  a line worker at McDonalds would have to have started working in the year 1533 in order to make what their CEO makes!

In 1533, King Henry the VIII was on the throne, Anne Boleyn was being beheaded and Queen Elizabeth I was being born.  Pizzaro had just made his way to Peru. It would be another 80 years before the Pilgrims would get on a boat to arrive in America.  Put another way, a line worker at present-day McDonald’s would have had to start working in the time of King Henry the Eighth at a forty-hour week to make the same amount of money his CEO makes!

Put another way, 480 people work for a year to make the same amount of money that a CEO makes.  If those people are single-earners in a family of 4, then the CEO makes the same as 920 people living on the salary of a full-time employee of McDonald’s. With 20 houses on a street, as in my neighborhood — 80 people  — 6 streets worth of people live every year on one other person’s salary. The entire town of Hall, NY, where my first church was, plus 80 more people — an entire town could live for a year (if McDonald’s actually had full-time workers) on the salary of the CEO of McDonald’s,

And he’s only one rich person. There must be many more, but that’s it, that’s how it is in America today. Could we please redistribute it so that people get homes and don’t freeze this winter or that kids get education or that people get to eat. Is it really too much to ask? Seriously?







All I Want For Some Christmas Is A New Deering

This  Piece Has Been Coming For A Long Time…

I have spoken of Deering frequently in these pages — mostly about people who have gone there, been touched by the place, led there, been to either reunion, and/or are leading in their communities now. I treasure those people and that place — and this year, I had an idea about the place and it came to me in church. What if we rebuilt the place and honored the people I treasure and, furthermore, gave them a place to do what they do best?

At the same time, I had been waiting for another reunion to happen as it had in the past. These two thought patterns collapsed on each other and I proposed a reunion , with the sort of hidden agenda of talking about building a new place. I wanted to see if I could do both, but would happily see the people again under any circumstance.

I was scared for awhile that I wouldn’t be able to do either, but it turned out fabulously.– both because of me and despite me — because I got people together and despite my overly-structured plan. The magic happened because of the free-flowing spirit of the people there — good fire, good wine, good people and surprise activities (Hi, Kathy!) It was an incredible time because of them but it took me to get them there.

Pieces of A Dream

Still, the dream didn’t go away, and it probably won’t, at least for me. I expect to be working on it for the next 20 years or however long it takes. 10 years would be better, 5 years would be incredible. I never know how long things are going to take when God is involved, but I know they are going to happen if God is involved — and I suspect that’s the case. As they say in the African-American church, “God may not come when you expect Him, but God will always be there right on time”.

All of this leads me to Chesterfield, New Hampshire. “They” always say “location, location, location” so I started thinking about location. My private practice is easy to get to off of Rt. 91 in Springfield, near a landmark — the Basketball Hall of Fame — so I wanted someplace convenient to the highway, but still in New Hampshire, as Deering was in New Hampshire. Then, I wanted it convenient to a lot of people, as usage and a wider market seemed important to a business and the Conference Center would need to be a business, I wanted it to be convenient to as many UCC Conferences as possible because I don’t know how many takers it would have. Located in NH Conference, it would be close to Vermont Conference and Mass Conference — three states for the price of one! As it turns out, Chesterfield, NH is just across the line from Brattleboro VT, It could also serve clergy friends in Connecticut in the non-summer season and religious friends I know in Albany, NY. (The Albany person/people in question already have a camp, and they are Methodists, but it was nice to think of them). Surely, there must be UCC churches in the Albany area — four states for the price of one, but not too close to challenge Silver Lake in CT’s business.

I drove to Chesterfield about a month ago to see the place and see what I could see and feel and see if it might connect with The Dream. After being on the highway and crossing through Brattleboro, you return to the woods and nature.   Chesterfield is a small town that just appears in the middle of nowhere. What I found were “whispers of the Spirit”. On the way into town, there are little shops including a hardware store that sells and installs Solar Panels —  a piece of the puzzle for me, as I believe in sustainable energy and ecological soundness. At the top of the hill coming into Main Street, there’s a huge building that I could picture as a great conference center, except that it seems to be apartments. The center of town is basically one main street with a Library, Town Hall, and a small Post Office.  There was a slightly “hippie” woman in front of the post office who gave me information about what was in town as I couldn’t find a town map.  The woman in the post office was both New England quiet and friendly.

OK, so here’s the dream and some caveats

Caveats first: 1) It’s my dream, but your decision. Just because I want it to happen doesn’t mean you need to do it. In my book on recovering from addiction, I say that “Wanting is a feeling. Just like every other feeling, it belongs to the person that feels it. A respectful ( if less than enthusiastic) answer to the statement “I want …” would be something like “it’s good to know what you want I in life” or “that’s nice”… But nothing implies a contract here. Just because Person One says, “I want… (Fill in the blank) does not mean that Person Two has to give it to them”. I believe that with all my heart.

2) Re: God language — just because I say “God wants me to do this”  doesn’t mean a) I’m crazy or b) that you have to do what I say. In this case, it is my experience that the Spirit is leading me. Having said that, the Spirit gets tested in community.

I’d like there to be a “main house” open all year long which serves as a retreat center for clergy and other workers whose goals are consistent with the gospel —

Reconciliation Equality Helping the “least of these” Diversity and inclusion Forgiveness and Healing — including the 12 Steps Peace

Plus support for more “normal life” things that bring peace, like baking, weaving, cooking, hiking, and whatever else we can think of.

After this is on solid ground, I’d like to build and open up cabins and go fully summer camps and conferences during the season.