Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The End of the Fourth Quarter

Eventually we realize that not knowing what to do is just as real and just as useful as knowing what to do. Not knowing stops us from taking false directions. Not knowing what to do, we start to pay real attention. Just as people lost in the wilderness, on a cliff face or in a blizzard pay attention with a kind of acuity that they would not have if they thought they knew where they were. Why? Because for those who are really lost, their life depends on paying real attention. If you think you know where you are, you stop looking.
David Whyte

We have but a few more weeks in Detroit and we aren't totally sure what the next 15 months will look like. We know that we want to learn what healing, intimacy and justice look like in a few more contexts. We know we want to continue doing the kinds of work that we've had the opportunity to do in the last couple of years (listening, pastoring, counseling, writing, serving).

This month, we borrowed our friend's Be Bold Bus to deliver 400 gallons of bottled water to the water station at St. Peter's Episcopal Church.

Two weeks ago, we attended the book release of “Mapping The Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African-American Neighborhoods in Detroit: Volume One.” Yes: there will be three more, and in the future, I’m expecting people to be lining up for the sequels like this is Harry Potter or Star Wars. In this first volume, We the People of Detroit and the Community Research Collective drop a data bomb on the Powers-That-Be in this city.

This is well-documented research, filled with colorful neighborhood maps attached to clear, easy-to-read analysis. Sure enough, virtually all-black neighborhoods of long-time residents of Detroit have been targeted for displacement. They've got the data to prove what they've been telling everyone for a long time.

Water rates and shut-offs were increased by the Governor-Snyder-appointed-emergency-manager, tying the “delinquency” to property tax bills leading to an increase in foreclosures in poor black neighborhoods—all sorts of input coming from suburban and corporate leaders, including water privatization behemoth Veolia.

Last week, we attended the graduation of 8 teenagers from the We The People of Detroit Youth Leadership-NOW month-long summer program. They honored us as the first recipients of their 2016 Volunteers of the Year (In Memorium Sister Canice Johnson) for Beloved Service to Detroiters. We are deeply honored, yet humbled, with this recognition. These women (photo below) are truly heroes of the movement for love and justice in the city (as chronicled many times on this blog over the past two years!).

A couple of weeks ago, we threw a little party for those we've come to know and love in Detroit. We gorged ourselves with pizza and the Midwest bean-bag game Cornhole. We toasted one another late into the night. Rev. Bill Wylie-Kellerman honored us with a beautiful poem.

We close with a poem that Tom wrote to sum up our experience in this community and to honor those who have taken us under their wings:

beloved Detroiters:

peculiar people caring deeply about the
poor and oppressed, obsessed with doing
something about it, going beyond
paternalism and philanthropy, cultivating
relationships with the least of these, remembering
names, never shaming them for their plight,

peculiar people immersing themselves in one place, extending
grace and forgiveness to their
neighbors, learning their histories infused with
complexities of social analysis,

peculiar people committing to simple living, adept at
gift-giving, making and baking
creations, sharing resources,

peculiar people grieving divorces, addictive forces, loved
ones dying too soon, crying a tune to sleep,

peculiar people celebrating over meals, erratically extending
deals at the mid-week farmers market, tending
gardens, fending off violence with candle light solidarity,

peculiar people covenanting with hilarity, laughter a needed
medicine after a day pleading in meetings, teaching
children, throwing clay, praying to keep the mid-day demons at bay,

peculiar people telling stories, invoking glorious ancestors,

peculiar people singing, mingling on the corner at twilight,

peculiar people reading, ruminating, writing, ritualizing,

peculiar people holding dear to tradition
unconditionally, refusing to trivilalize or
apathize or cynicize our disastrous political landscape,

peculiar people rejecting the expedient, civilly
disobedient, boldly shaping a whole new
world in the shell of
the old.


  1. This poem made me cry! Love y'all!

  2. Thanks, ST! Me too!! Lots of tears hitting me this morning especially…grief, gratitude…Beloved D will be swimming in us & belovedly rearranging us for a long, long time. How loved Tom & I have been to get to be gifted by these "peculiar"/miraculous people - who do the work to put the "miraculous" on the ground and resist the temptations of cynicism & apathy.

    And we sure love & have deep gratitude for you, ST - for your work, friendship, partnership on the journey. In solidarity, Linds

  3. Deeply moved by the poem. Thanks, Tom.