Category: Social Justice

Not Like the Movies

While in a debate with a friend last week, at one point her argument in the situation was that things do not turn out like the movies.  Often the bad guy wins and the good guy just keeps his head down to keep a roof over his head.

Every since that statement I’ve been wondering why.  Why can’t it be like the movies?  There could be a nice character who the audience is introduced to through an everyday encounter, like being in line at the coffee shop, getting ready for work, or hurrying to meet a deadline.  Then you are introduced to some other characters: foils, antagonists, sidekicks, and general townspeople who serve as comparison and contrast for our new hero.  Of course there would have to be some drama and trauma along the way, otherwise it would be boring for the hero and for the audience.  So a job is lost, a love says goodbye, and a favorite vase falls out a third-floor window.  Tears and inappropriate language follow.  But then hope starts breaking in, just barely from the corner of the screen so the hero doesn’t recognize it at first.  A friend has a start-up business and a best friend becomes something more.  Maybe the bad guy is not strung up a flag pole, but there is poetic justice of some form, with at least with our hero walking away with head high and soul in tact.

The first time I saw “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, I kept waiting for the big twist.  I assumed at some point we would find out the groom already had a wife in Utah or that the bride was betrothed to an Israeli prince or that they would just run off to Vegas rather than survive another loud family gathering.  But no.  The story had some hills and valleys but stayed sweet and positive the whole way through.

So if a hit movie can be a simple story, why can’t real life has a simple happy ending from time to time?  What’s the worst that could happen?  Someone lives happily ever after?

One-tenth into a Lenten Adventure

I’m writing this post from a couch in a familiar coffee shop in Portland: Three Friends, which is just a few block from Imago Dei Community.  Often on Sunday mornings I will come to church early, to find a parking spot, and then head over to this strange little shop for a bagel and juice.  When Imago was at Franklin High School I enjoyed the same ritual by walking over to Gigibar.  While my understanding of theology cries out for Sunday to be a day of rest, of fellowship at church and then peaceful time at home preparing for the week, my wandering mind will be calmed and focused much better through  an hour or two of grading or emails before the sermon begins.

At Gigibar it was a soccer mom’s paradise.  There was a kids corner with eclectic toys and two chalk boards.  The owner, who was also the primary barista, spent her spare moments cleaning or arranging so the shop always felt like it had just opened and was ready for every new customer who came thru the door.  Plus Gigi remembered my drink, which I always just find a source of delight.

When my church moved, so did my morning ritual.  The parking near our new location is just a bit better than our previous neighborhood so I’ve began to arrive one service before the one I actually want to attend (though this week I choose to swap the tradition).  I then stroll the three blocks over to Three Friends.  When I first described this shop to a friend, I shared that at the previous shop I always anticipated seeing strollers or dogs right outside, and here I anticipate seeing pot being smoked out front instead.  That is not to say that the shop feels unsafe or that the baristas are involved in any illegal behavior, just that this place is much more urban Portland, with all of the artistic, weird, free, independent, existential fill-in-the-blank that implies.  It’s the perfect complement and challenge to my weekday routine.

This week is a different experience, not only for the time of day but for my order.  This year for Lent I felt challenged to try out a proposal mentioned at a chapel service at work a few weeks ago: Forty Days of Water.  This service program, developed by Blood Water Missions, involves a commitment to drink only tap water for 40 days (extended to the total of Lent thru 6 feast days scheduled by the individual).  This means no soda, no milk, no juice, no coffee, no bottled water, and no chai for 40 days.  So I sit here, almost passively part of a new challenge, a new adventure: how to enjoy a pastrami sandwich without a Diet Coke.  My Run Like Hell water bottle is my new best friend, filling in for the cravings as I walked past 5 Starbucks last night with friends in search of pizza (really, 5 Starbucks within a 1 mile walk???).

The unknown piece of this adventure is what will it all mean in 40ish days when the challenge is complete.  I suppose that unknown is true of any real adventure.  I wonder if it even would be called an “adventure” if we knew the ultimate outcome.