Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Work of Christmas Begins Now . . .

Regina Brett, the Plain Dealer's best columnist (in the company of Terry Pluto and Connie Schultz), wrote a wonderful column today. Here is a section of it:

This poem by Howard Thurman that I saw on a Christmas card describes what needs to happen next:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

This is the week to think about how to do all, or some, or one of the above. It's that bridge week, seven days between the old year and the new, between what we promised to do and what we plan to do better.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Poem for Christmas by Notre Dame's Frank O'Malley


By Frank O’Malley

Let the Christbrand burst,
Let the Christbrand blazon.

Dartle whitely under the hearth-fire,
Unwind the wind, turn the thunderer,
And never , never thinning,
Forfend fear.
Flare up smartly, fix, flex, bless, inspire,
Instar the time, sear the sorcerer,
And never, never sparing,
Save all year.

Let the Christbrand burst,
Let the Christbrand blazon.

(Frank O’Malley was a beloved English Professor at the University of Notre Dame)

Poem for Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

The chill creeps into the bones:
December 21 and sun gone long before 5 o’clock;
huge gray clouds roll in off Lake Erie
riding the Witch’s gale, spitting sleet and

fears as real and as organized as the swirl
of pin oak leaves down Lakeshore Boulevard.
This day, shaken by nameless fears,
seems to last forever:

I wonder how I will get through the next minute,
and the minute after that,
and the minute after that,

wonder if I can make it
until hope returns

until peace-which-surpasses-understanding,
as mysterious as winter solstice fear--
my heart standing still, turning cold,
my spirit abandoned--

until peace returns like grace like unexpected


Robert M. Coughlin

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Death of a Great Woman--7 Years Ago Today

Seven years ago today, my mother, Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Coughlin, passed away. She had just been blessed and given last rights by a Catholic priest at Lake West Hospital, and with her family around, she breathed her last, and, we believe, entered eternal life.

My brothers Denny, Kevin, and Jim, and my sister Mary Ellen, and all Mom's grandchildren, relatives, and friends cannot put into words what she meant to us. I wish my Dad were still alive so that he could express what she meant to him. Mom was not famous, her outward accomplishments were modest--but to our lives and our hearts, she was central, most important, most beloved. She gave us her unconditional love, her happy Irish spirit, her love for family, her love for life--she gave us everything important. It is my deepest wish that we can share in that vibrant, living spirit, pass it on to our children and grandchildren, our friends and acquaintances.

Thanks, Mom. We forever bless you and you forever bless us!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Great Recession: There Will Be Hell to Pay!

This ain't the Great Depression that my Dad and his family suffered through (My Mom and her family survived those years quite well because her father was a yard conductor with the New York Central Railroad, in the Collinwood Yards of Cleveland). But it is significant and unlike anything that I have lived through. Two things that I learned the other day brought this point home to me.

One of my students is writing a short research paper on the impact of this recession. She told me that she had been laid off from a $70,000/year job--making torpedoes at a Greater Cleveland Westinghouse factory. She said to me, "I can't even find a $10.00 per hour job now!" If she could find a full-time job paying 10 bucks per hour, she would make about $20,000/year. Of course, there aren't many jobs like that because employers who pay such slave wages try to keep you under full-time so that they don't have to pay any benefits. This woman has returned to our community college to retrain. She is in her 40's and finding it very difficult.

Talk about hitting a brick wall! From a good full-time salary with benefits, vacation, and health care . . . to zilch, nada, nothing. Imagine the blow to one's family and one's self-esteem, not to mention one's mortgage, credit card bills, and just the everyday needs of living.

Another story I heard yesterday: a man in his 40's from Ashtabula, Ohio, with 3 kids (9, 7, and 5 months) was laid off from his job as a trash collector (yes, even the trash companies are laying off!). He has lost his job and now his house is being foreclosed. I know this hard-working fellow. What is he going to do?

One of my close relatives has narrowly avoided a foreclosure with a "short" sale of his home. He lost his house, but, thank God, has landed on his feet. We were not going to let him and his family be destroyed and left homeless. We will take care of our family and friends.

But what of those who are not close family or friends? What happens to them? And what happens when a problem is so big that even if we want to help we can't? I think of two of my old friends from Euclid--brilliant people with college degrees and significant skills. They both have been laid off from jobs more than once and live almost hand to mouth with gigantic chronic health problems (serious type-1 diabetes and its side-effects). They live off of multiple part-time jobs, no benefits, no health care. They work harder than most people with full-time jobs.

Our society is failing, and there will be hell to pay!