A gift from Pastor Patrick

I haven’t written a blog post in nearly four years. I have reasons and excuses for the that, but the only audience that cares about them is me, so I’ll spare you. Today is the only day I can do anything about.

Over the past few months, I’d been thinking about trying to write again.  I considered starting a new blog or maybe changing the name of it. Then yesterday,  (New Years Eve) while scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed, a post by a man I’ve only met a few times, Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis caught my eye.  What I know of Patrick is that he is a humble, gentle, generous guy, with a deep spirit and a fire in his heart to make the world a better place. He’s an author,  a community leader, a social justice and human rights activist, an artist and promoter of the arts, and the co-pastor (along with his wife, Luisa) of a vibrant, multicultural, multilingual, urban congregation.

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Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel – St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

But last night, it was his quiet, elegant poem that grabbed me, and reminded me why, about seven years ago, I named my blog “Trying to Pay Attention”.

I haven’t made many New Year’s resolutions in the past, but Patrick’s poem feels like a (big) nudge for me to restart something that I used to enjoy — and the timing of it makes it impossible for me to ignore.  I’m not going to make the mistake of setting arbitrary goals for posting things that I will undoubtedly either stress about or give up on, but I am going to give this blog thing another shot.

So here’s Pastor Patrick’s poem. In it, this line repeats, “I try to pay attention”.  I take it as a reminder for me to start trying harder — to pay attention to myself and to the world around me.

Thank you for this gift, Patrick.  Many of us are entering 2017 with feelings of dismay, apprehension and trepidation. Let’s hope the new year will be a happy one. We all know it’s going to be a memorable one. Let’s all light a candle each day . . . and try to pay attention.

My last poem written in 2016 (unless something pops into my head before midnight!)

– Pastor Patrick Cabello Hansel

On winter mornings
I light a candle
I carry my tea
To the old chair
I sit
I breathe
I try to pay attention
Sometimes I fall asleep
Sometimes the light flickers
And something raw and ugly
Arises from my soul
I try to pay attention
And hear its voice
I sit
I wonder
I breathe the loneliness
And glory we were born into
I await the rising
The first day
The last day
The day that is to come

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One last 2010 memory

I had just picked up a pizza and was heading home at about 8:15 tonight. It was snowing a little and some of the streets were pretty slippery because we had some thawing temperatures over the past few days followed by a quick freeze today. There were waste-high piles of frozen snow lining the road.

I was driving down a pretty busy street when I saw somebody standing in the intersection ahead waving their arms. It looked like he or she was wearing a large parka and facing away from me. As I got closer, I saw that the person was facing me, but the hood of the jacket was buttoned completely up over their face. Then I realized that the person didn’t need to see anything, because I could also now see the cane waving in the air.

I stopped in the middle of the intersection and asked if I could help. A man’s voice said, “Yes, could you please tell me where I am and help me find the sidewalk?” I asked him if he wanted to hop in and I’d drive him to where he was going. He told me the address, which was about a block and a half away, around the corner. As I drove him there he told me he had ridden the bus to a friend’s house, but the driver had just dropped him in the middle of the intersection. “How the fuck does a bus driver drop a blind man in the middle of the street?”, he said. “When I asked him to tell me how to get to the sidewalk, he just closed the door and drove away.”

I didn’t know what to say. I told him I was sorry that had happened to him. I asked him if that kind of thing happens very often. He said, “Yeah, unfortunately, from time to time”. Maybe it was just a day in the life for him. But a moment of panic raced through me as I pictured myself in the middle of Penn Avenue and 51st Street, not being able to see where I was going.

I walked him up to the door of his friend’s house. The street and sidewalk were slick and uneven from the re-freeze. It was dangerous to walk even with the two of us hanging on to each other.

He thanked me. I didn’t ask his name and he didn’t ask mine. I never did see his face.

For a brief moment I caught myself having a silly thought. For some reason, I thought, “I wish I could make him see”.

Then I realized how ridiculous that was.

On New Year’s Eve of all nights, a man standing in the middle of a slippery street wearing a black parka . . . .

I hope everyone drives carefully tonight, and doesn’t get behind the wheel at all if they’ve had a few. I’ve had my share of nights when I didn’t drive responsibly. I’m thankful tonight wasn’t one of them.

As for the bus driver — “How the fuck do you let a blind man off in the middle of the street” and not even help him find the sidewalk on a night like this, indeed.

Happy New Year. Be safe.