Balancing the Books

There were 5 or 6 alms-seekers at the exit by the end of the prayer service.  The man at the charity donation box had looked at me rather sternly when I had asked for my $2 in change for my $10, and then smiled when I said I needed it for the metro.


I had hopped on the metro at the last minute, afraid of being late for the service, and having problems getting the machine to take my money.  Noting that this is haram in Muslim culture, I am careful to pay my fare at the train exit.  Many Muslims believe that there is an angel that sits on your left shoulder and counts your evil deeds, to be weighed with a scale against the good ones (recorded by the angel on your right shoulder) when one is judged.  According to some records, Mohammed even states that the evil recorder has a 6 hour or 60 minute delay in writing things down, in case one repents.  Judaism also has the 2 inclinations that whisper on each shoulder the yetzer ha-ra and the yetzer ha-tov, but my understanding is that the bad one (present at birth) is 13 years older than the good one.  I guess in Freudian terms, the Jewish conception has them as part of the id (drives), and the Muslim conception has them as part of the superego (vigilants).  Anyway, hopefully, my act didn’t count as stealing.

This time, I did not have enough to give alms.  Although not poor (with a roof over my head, a well, a car and insulin), with 75 cents left, I am in my own lingo, “too poor for Kool-aid”.  Maybe it is what it feels like in Iran, with economic sanctions.  No money to do anything with, but enough resources to make things work for a while.  Maybe 4-5 days worth of dog food, and enough rice for longer.

It was another “free” day at the museums, and I headed over to the Museum of Fine Arts to watch a movie about social reforms and nuns in the Catholic Church, called “Band of Sisters“.  The movie is a documentary that contains quite a bit of humor.  It discusses the change in the conception of religious life from “a sanctified life” to “an involved life”.  One has initial footage of women joining the convent with the ideas of “I was young and Catholic. I knew I wanted to do good, and I also wanted to be perfect, so I became a nun.”


This is followed much later with a nun visiting her almost deaf father, repeating over and over “I made these biscuits for you” until the old man’s eyes finally light up and he declares “You were made a bishop!!!???”  One sees a lot of footage of the nuns’ involvement in the struggle to get visitation rights for religious people to those undocumented who are held in detention: the congressman and political people putting on their best 10 year old school boy faces to talk to them, the police trying to figure how to explain the police line to nuns during organized arrests, and the nuns figuring out how to go limp when the police come to arrest them.

100_3192The separation of families, who are not allowed to visit their detained loved ones, and who often cannot even come to watch them be driven away because they are themselves undocumented.

Intermixed with all of this, are vocational callings to environmental branches, health care branches, educational branches, homeless reform branches, and obviously global travel possibilities through mission work.  Those nuns in the movie, like most religiously trained people I know, somehow manage to have an almost unwavering capacity for a positive outlook.

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