Through the looking glass

Last Saturday was International Woman’s Day (IWD). IWD is a national holiday in Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia, and has been so in most of these countries since 1918. Did you know that? How come I didn’t know that?

How come America isn’t on that list? Is it because we have Mother’s Day and that’s somehow good enough? Are we uneasy about giving women credit for anything beyond motherhood? In these countries, mothers wives and daughters are all celebrated.

Acknowledging that we are a few days late, in honor of IWD, we’re going to call this Woman’s Week at the Catch and I’ve asked Marti to help me arrange some reflections to help us focus on the value and contributions of women, starting with the most needy, those without a home.

th-1After falling through the Rabbit hole into Wonderland, we know Alice struggles with the importance and instability of who she is. She is ordered to identify herself constantly but is often unable to answer, as she feels that she has changed several times since the morning. She is very bewildered by the deranged adult world – all are as mad as a March hare.

Now grown and looking through the looking glass while recalling the days of her childhood, what Alice sees in the other side of her looking-glass is a chain of memories, a mirror of obstacles, where everything is the same, only backwards.

Alice wishes to become a Queen.  Even so, first she has to learn more about the way things are. For example, the flowers tell her that they are lower in social rank than she is (“it isn’t manners for us to begin, you know”), she learns about the tragic lives of the lower class (Bread-and-Butterflies always die because of a food shortage), and she is told that she is not a real person; she is in a dream and that she really ceases to exist at all.

We who turn our heads away from a woman without a home, are doing the same. She is lower in social rank, and as a member of the lower class,  she will die because of the food shortage. When we ignore her existence by turning our heads away, we are telling her that she is invisible … and that she really ceases to exist at all.

Meet my friend Beverly. She is homeless. Before her mother died, she was homeless. One of her two daughters, now 39 is homeless.

What Beverly sees on the other side of her looking glass is a chain of memories, a mirror of obstacles, where everything is the same, only backwards. May I ask if this is not the same for you and me?  When looking on the other side of the looking glass, each of us sees specific vulnerabilities of personal disaster, trauma or tragedy. Affliction and heartbreak on every side. As with Alice, Beverly, you and me – doesn’t this make us a lot more similar than different?

Beverly and all of her sisters are no longer the homeless ‘out there,’ somewhere on the streets or sheltered with a hot meal. The homeless are among us. The homeless are us.

No One Saw Me
by Beverly Cunningham

Probably started at my birth
Through the nursery window, to see
Oh how beautiful the babies are
But no one looked at me.
As I grew older
The only “girl” my Mom’s constant pleas
She looks like her Dad
Why didn’t my only girl, look like me
Mom was so beautiful
Fair skin, flowing hair
Small-waisted, breathtaking
A “Maiden so Fair”
But me ah, the tomboy
Dark complexion, not so thin
For that was back-in-the-days
When my features weren’t “in”
House full of teen boys
Remember 9 brothers – popular to see
But I was invisible
My friends were chosen – not me
Growing into a loner
Wearing a mask – the “Class Clown”
My best friend name was “unknown”
No one really saw me when I was around
So I lost myself
Into whatever was sent my way
Spent years – lost years
Pain expected from day-to day
Until one day I was passing
A store window – and did see
Backed up and saw what
A beautiful woman – it was me
“He” said, Hope you like it
This is what I wanted you to see
But you never saw it coming
Because “You never saw me”  

You and I are good at charity. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it. Yet, I wish to suggest that we are called to a higher standard; to a joy that cannot be contrived like anger and despair. The raw stuff – the sense of being alive, of being grateful for our pulse and that of others. Unlike a dropped stitch, this kind of joy expects to be integrated into the very fabric of our lives – all of our lives – rendering the invisible visible and reunited to us again.

This week, focus on those who are really ours to give to. If you could, you would throw a feast and a party, a banquet and a pageant, a fatted calf and a robe. The feast for joy and strength, the robe for dignity and position. And yes, lights, music and a runway, to give notice to the street that it must make way. If you could you would, but if you would, what could you do?

May the stars light the black night as if each promise is holding up the sky – promises that: Yes, Beverly is someone, as are all the invisible Beverly’s, because you saw Him.

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3 Responses to Through the looking glass

  1. Cynthia Cody says:

    Bravo! Such a critical and needed message. I know many woman who have this perception and daily do kind and generous deeds. Praise to our LORD for always putting woman in a view and place of love. Thank you!

  2. bobbobs60bob says:

    The Ba’al Shem Tov, a renowned Hasidic teacher in the eighteenth century, used to say that he was envious of the poor. Now, many people are envious of movie stars or sports figures; many people express a desire to become the president of the United States or the doctor who cures cancer. But have you ever heard of someone saying that they wished to be poor? What did the Rabbi find so enviable about poor people?
    The Rabbi explained his admiration for the poor by pointing out their special quality. He said that the rest of us are distracted and fooled by the illusions of our material possessions and wealth. We lack clarity about life, God, and our relationship to Him. But the poor experience a connection with God that the Rabbi envied. The poor have no one and nothing to rely upon except for the Lord. They are clear about what and who matters in life. As a result, they forge a deep relationship with God and enjoy an extra close connection.
    In Psalm 40, King David proclaims, “But as for me, I am poor and needy; may the LORD think of me” (v. 17). Since when is the king considered poor?
    In truth, David didn’t want for anything, but he revealed something about us all. The reality is that we all are poor and needy. No matter what we may think we have, the truth is that we don’t have anything at all. Everything belongs to God, and the fact that He has blessed us with certain things today is no guarantee that we will be given them again tomorrow.
    The good news is that this realization can deeply enhance our relationship with God. When we recognize that we, too, are poor and needy, we rely only on Him. We can develop the kind of closeness with God that the Rabbi envied and that God desires.

    Written by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
    Founder and President, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews

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