Sunday, April 29, 2012

When is a School no Longer a School?

This may be hard to believe but there is a K-8 school in greater Seattle that remains open in spite of the following.

Imagine touring the school with the principal trying to understand why his school should be the school you send your kids to for one of the most important times of their lives.
At the end of the tour of the way too old building you summarize your visit by stating,
"Now, correct me if I misunderstood what you were saying, or what I've heard from others, about the school."

"Okay, I will." Replies the principal as he escorts you into his miniscule office.

You take a moment to look at your notes before beginning, "Lets see,
#1         You have no librarian! The school hasn’t had one for five years and you have no plans for one in the future.
#2         No ESL! Kids have graduated without the ability to read, write or speak English.
#3         No science lab!
#4         No language classes!
#5         You're advertising, on the web, for volunteer religion teachers!
#6         There is no formal computer training or curriculum!
#7         You have no school counselors!
#8         You've borrowed operating money from the faculty and staff by reducing some wages in excess of 20%!
#9         You have no certified tutors or an established tutoring program!
#10         The priest, for whatever reasons, stays away from the school.
#11         No full time Art or Music teachers.
#12         You will be covering in PE, as well as in science, though you have no credentials in science or PE.
Did I get it right?'


"Ah, why should my children attend this school?"

"Well, we, ah, have a loving faculty and staff!"
Looking around the office you spot a photo of two young boys. You ask, “Are those your kids?”
“Yes, that photo was taken a few years ago when they were in middle school.”
“Oh, how did they like it here?
“Ah, they went to __________________ up the street.”

Believe it or not there are still parents sending their kids to this school.

                                      Kids Deserve Better!!

N.B. There have been some exceptional kids that have graduated from this school. They are motivated kids supported by their parents, friends, and relatives all encouraging excellence in spite of what is/was available in the school. Part of the draw is this particular school offers a lower tuition than the competing religious schools in the neighborhood.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Last Big Ride!

Seattle's Finest

The other day, a see him once in a while kinda friend, was carried out of his house for an emergency ride to the hospital.
I don’t think he is coming back-
He’s in his eighties, has a damaged heart, bad kidneys and liver that isn’t doing its job.
I’ve gotten to know him over the last year while I give him a rides to his doctor appointments whenever he needs to get checked, tested, probed, poked, whatever-
He has always been full of laughter, soft sarcasm, and insightful comments about the news as he shuffles towards the car for his ride.
Over the last six months he’s been moving much slower and needs a slight hand getting in and out of the car.
He makes fun of himself as he drops down into the softness of the passenger seat.
A couple of weeks ago I took him to see his heart doctor. When I picked him up he told me they kicked around the idea of surgery but that the doc thought he’d die on the operating table. He told me he didn’t want the surgery anyway and they should save their skills and help out younger folk who could use a few more years.

Before I could ask anything he told me he was ready to go. “I’ve been around death my entire life and it doesn’t scare me. I am okay with moving on. Go see what’s to be seen.”
Before retiring he spent seventy years in and around funeral homes. His dad was a mortician housing the family above the preparation rooms, viewing and remembrance rooms. He later became a mortician himself working for various cities before founding his own successful business.
He never married telling me that not too many young ladies found his career choice all that inviting. He had a couple of long term girlfriends that he spoke kindly of as he wondered what had ever happened to them.
I could feel a touch of sadness as he spoke about making this trip all on his own.
I hope he comes home.
Of course no one will tell me anything at the hospital since I’m not a relative.
Too bad just caring about someone isn’t enough in our over lawyered land…
If he’s gone I hope he gets more than he thought might be waiting up the road.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Graffiti,wall art and tagging

Photo by M Barrett Miller

There’s wall art, tagging and graffiti.
The difference between one and the other is profound!
The picture highlighted in this article is wall art displayed with the encouragement of the property owner. The artist took their time and produced a quality piece that covers up a bare ally wall.
Tagging is complicated shorthand that says, “Hey, I was here”, or offers the name of whatever affiliation the spray paint phantom belongs to in the neighborhood.  Usually hard to decipher unless you are a member of the in crowd-
Graffiti has a noble history going back to ancestors marking walls in their cave, cliff or well-worn rocks telling all who cast their eye on it that something of note has transpired. Some of it is elegant sharing with the viewer a myriad of emotions that share the intrinsic story there for all to contemplate.
Some of it is just pleasant to look at-
Hopefully, the artists out there will get permission for their expressions rather than doing what someone did to this library wall. According to “Goodbye Graffiti” the costs can vary greatly according to surface construction and choice of attack weapons.  
Whatever the costs it is too much!
Put away your cans of paint and read a book!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Church Plays Politics - Hero in the Making-

Photo by M Barrett Miller on Seattle U campus

For years we have been trying to nudge various church members to step away from the definition of gay children, "intrinsically disordered" that causes so much injury to so many young people.
Their plan to further descriminate is contrary to the message of who they claim to follow!!
It is refreshing to see Father Whitney say no to the plan to survey, persuade and further color the reality of accepting all people as one-
He is living up to the following:
"In order to teach it is enough to know something. But in order to educate one must be something. True education consists in giving oneself as a living model, an authentic lesson."   
                                                            Alberto Hurtado S. J. 
Father John Whitney S.J., pastor of St. Josephs, in Seattle, posted the following in response to the church wanting to collect signatures. Lets hope more priests follow his lead-
"...Referendum 74, which aims at repealing the marriage equality bill passed by the State of Washington, is being supported by the Archdiocese of Seattle, who have asked the Knights of Columbus to collect signatures at parishes. I believe that this involvement around the issue of civil marriage is a mistake, and risks placing the Church on the side of injustice. Thus, I cannot in conscience allow such signature gathering at St. Joseph. I am not telling others how to vote, but I think that a Catholic, in good conscience, can oppose this referendum..."
Danny Westneat, Seattle Times wrote the following on 11 April 2012.
"...This weekend, many Catholics going to Mass will be greeted by something they haven't seen in their churches for decades: political petitions.
The Catholic Church here is set to start collecting signatures, in churches, to repeal gay marriage, Referendum 74.
Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain announced last week he had approved the petitioning of the flock as part of church services in all local parishes.
That's quite a volatile stew. Start with two topics you're unwise to even broach at dinner — God and politics. Add in homosexuality. Marriage. A dash of separation of church and state.
We've got on our hands one big come-to-Jesus moment.
"We believe this issue is critically important," Sartain wrote, explaining why the church was turning itself into campaign central this spring.
"The whole thing is very disturbing, to many of us," counters Barbara Guzzo, 62, a Seattle Catholic who has formed a group to oppose her own church's signature-gathering effort. "There's a zealousness to it that just doesn't seem very Catholic."
Nobody is surprised that Catholic officialdom opposes gay marriage. It's how it's involving the whole operation, top to bottom, in a political campaign.
Churches can't do political campaigning, or they risk losing their tax-free status. This doesn't apply to initiative and referendum campaigns. Those are considered legislation, and churches are permitted to lobby on pending laws — even if that means passing political petitions around the pews.
But a lot of churches shy from it. Separation of church and state is partly to benefit the church.
A pastor in Tacoma recently said in a forum that while he planned to sign the anti-gay-marriage referendum, he wouldn't allow a signature-gathering "three-ring circus" at his church, Life Center. The electioneering would detract from the "church's message of transformation in Jesus."
Local Catholics last did such signature-gathering in church in the 1980s, said Dominican Sister Sharon Park, director of the Washington State Catholic Conference. One cause was the 1989 Children's Initiative to raise money for poor children.
"We don't do it often, but we will if it's a priority for us," Park said.
Guzzo expressed disbelief that gay marriage could be the drop-dead issue of the last 25 years.
"I don't think the church should be involved at this level in politics, but especially on an issue like this," she said.
Guzzo says she's pained her church now is in league with the entity that set up the group sponsoring Referendum 74, the National Organization for Marriage.
A confidential strategy memo showed that group had planned extreme tactics to try to defeat same-sex marriage. Such as trying to find disillusioned children of gay parents to talk on camera about their sorry upbringings.
This idea — to troll for broken families and exploit them, dubbed in the memo as "documenting the victims" — has got to be one of the most despicable campaign tactics I've ever heard of.
"The National Organization for Marriage is the antithesis of everything the Catholic Church is supposed to be about — like inclusivity and compassion for others," Guzzo said.
Park said the church has coordinated with the group. The archdiocese also plans to donate money to the referendum campaign, she said. But "the National Organization for Marriage isn't telling us what to say or do. We're sending out our own materials, with our own message."
To that end, in his letter about the heated campaign the church is embarking on, Archbishop Sartain struck a plaintive note. Please, he wrote. Give us room to explain our views on marriage.
"Catholic teaching cannot be reduced to a sound bite!" he said.
Probably not. But welcome to politics. It can be like dirt — it sticks to you when you roll around in it.
Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or

Friday, April 6, 2012

Bruce Lee & P.J.Malone

           P.J.Malone photo by M Barrett Miller

I was recently “killing” some time as I waited for a friend I had dropped off at the Group Health Hospital on Capital Hill in Seattle.
Rather than dropping more money in Starbucks I drove north on 15th to the Lakeview Cemetery to see what the dead were up to-

As I cleared the gate into the cemetery I noticed a group of eight people going through various Karate, Kungfu, and contortionist high kicks just a bit west of the main gate.
I parked behind them and walked up the hill, from the west, to see what it was they were up to in the freezing fog that was hugging the ground. I watched them throwing kicks and punches at invisible foes until exhaustion took its toll.
After a few minutes of rest they moved off at a trot towards the street. 

I walked over to where they were going through their ritual to spot Bruce and Brandon Lee’s final resting place.
Now I understood. I think-

The unique stones were littered with flowers, notes and one bag of food. I wondered if the food was left by mistake or intended for activities after the gates swung closed and darkness was the last companion of the day.

What struck me the most, as I stood there looking at Lee’s grave, was the stone just to the left of his. About three feet away a marker calls out P.J.Malone, County Mayo, born 1837 (under British Rule), died free in 1879 (just before the British took Kabul.)
I stood there wondering what this Irishman would think of the hoopla surrounding his neighbors.
Pilgrims paying respect for a myriad of reasons!
How many wonder about P.J. Malone and the sights and sounds he experienced before taking his place on this little hill forever staring out at the Cascades.
How many wonder if P.J. was a man or a woman?
Did you flee Ireland during the great potato famine?
Were you homesick for the old sod up until the day you left us?
What is your story?

I don’t think Bruce would mind that I moved a bouquet of flowers from his stone over to P.J.’s

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No Room at the Inn

  Fire House Shelter photo by M Barrett Miller

There’s no room at the Inn.

Last night Seattle Union Gospel Mission personnel hosted a barbeque as they said goodbye to the 45 residents who have been living in the refurbished firehouse in the Lake City neighborhood of Seattle. 

All winter shelters in Seattle close on 1 April.

People who have, for whatever reasons, been unable to find housing as an option to the streets have been able to stay in doors in a fairly comfortable building. The shelter offered cots, some privacy, clean restrooms and showers, a well-equipped kitchen and a room where residents could watch television.
Not what many people would choose but a galaxy away from cardboard and a storefront doorway-

As I wandered around asking the departing residents what their plans were for the 1st I received no precise replies.
Perhaps, the people I spoke to just didn’t feel like inviting me into their circle or didn’t have a ready retort to where they would find themselves on the 1st.
When I refined my questions I got shrugs.

Feeling a little too much like a trespasser I spoke with a number of men who had various identifications hanging off lanyards dangling from their necks. Some seemed to be in the know telling me that the Mayor had made the determination that disallowed any continuation of the Union Gospel Mission staying at the site any longer than April Fools day.
Another man told me that Union Gospel Mission was unable to continue the financing of the shelter. As he was confusing me with too many details he was interrupted by a young lady who said the Seattle City Council would not approve of any extensions for any of the “winter shelters.”

As I write this I have no idea where the truth lurks.

I was assured by one of the more official looking men that the Mission was trying it’s best to locate housing for all residents who asked them for help. 

The feeling I got from most of the people I spoke with was acceptance, mixed with a dash of anger, towards someone out there…

The bankable truth is that everybody needed to vacate by noon on the 1st.

This closure reminds me of when I lived in Moscow, Russia.
The unknowns would turn on the boilers in the basements of apartment houses when they determined it was cold enough for residents to have heat.
They turned them off based on the same kind of logic in the “spring.”

Who they were or how they made their decisions remained a mystery to all who put up with it every year.

That it is 1 April and our streets are still “cluttered with homeless people”, should be the impetus to toss away the calendar and leave the doors wide open.


See the Let Kids Be Kids, Inc. website to see what we are doing to help the homeless.