Pride, joy from the work we do
The first time Nasrudin addressed the congregation, he asked: “Oh people, do you know what I have come to tell you?” The crowd answered, “No.” Nasrudin replied, “Then you are too ignorant to understand what I was going to say.”
But the people invited him back to the mosque, and when Nasrudin asked if they knew what he was going to tell them they said, “Yes!”
“Fine,” Nasrudin replied, “Then I don’t need to waste your time.” Once again the people invited him back and this time when Nasrudin asked if they knew what he was going to say, half the people said no and half said yes.
“Good,” says Nasrudin. “Then those who know should tell those who don’t and I will leave."
-- Zen story
I love that story, laughing at ourselves and our religions is truly a God-like experience. We seem to be taking our personal selves too seriously (as if God cares). A God of peace and laughter is what we should strive to emulate.
Since the election, more and more photos of Obama have been hitting the media, and I wish they had been part of the election campaign. What is emerging is a genuine man of the people and a practical joker. The honest emotion displayed between him and Michelle is wonderful, and the one of him running down the halls of the White House being pulled hither and yon by his dog, Bo, is a hoot. While his embraces of people old and young are real and charged with compassion and concern. While the belly laugh pictures of him and V. P. Biden evoke old Laurel and Hardy movies. Obama is a people person who wears his heart on his sleeve.
Who knew? He is not detached and self-contained and distant; he shares himself and opens his heart and enters into the push and jostle of life with no fear. And this is a man I would not just vote for but one to whom I would willingly give my trust and confidence.
“The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”
-- Albert Einstein
Wild with success
And how my kids move along never ceases to surprise and amaze me. After many a year of standing behind Jose pushing and shoving him forward he enrolled in the Job Corps at Glenmont. And even then I had doubts and concerns about his ability to stay the course.
The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving he arrived at QUEST -- high, but not on drugs, high on success. He has finished his training and is ready to be an apprentice as a plumber. He was wild with success. After a life as a cipher and a nobody he was actually a real person. A person who could join a union, and have a good if not great job. He was not invisible. Jose casts a shadow now and believe me he knows it. All credit to the Job Corps and a handshake and a thank you.
And the sad thing is that more of our youth could do this. We must use nontraditional ways of thinking to lead some of these kids forward. And yes we have another good story this week. Love, another 17-year-old, is getting an award from the governor next week for her work with the AIDS Council and her street outreach to the kids in our community. A shy and quiet young woman, she escapes her fears by reaching out to others. I am so proud.
And I am also tired of other agencies and minor political officials saying that we at QUEST have it all wrong. This year alone I have lost $40,000 in funding to back biting and jealousy. Wake up Schenectady; we are the biggest bang for your buck. Compare budgets, compare actions and results; we share and we care.
Again, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Hannaford came down and donated 47 boxes of food and we were right on it. I have kids who love to give away things, food-toys-clothes and love. We hit the streets running and made individual gifts to both friends and strangers. Our last two boxes were left on a table outside a small church on Albany Street, where free food is left on a regular basis. And God bless you folk for being so involved with the community. My kids were actually jumping up and down with glee to get to give food away.
The stealth part is the biggest part and the best part, at least as far as they were concerned, that’s where you look for a house that is very run down, where you know children in need are living, and under cover of darkness, you strike and run. This will happen at Christmas too with toys and we hope with Christmas trees. The joy of giving is absolutely that JOY. And the spirit of helping others runs like a river at QUEST. If I can leave nothing else behind, teaching my small group to care and contribute will have been worth the effort
“We are to practice virtue, not possess it.”
-- Meister Eckhart
And yet in the midst of this season of love and light we have a 14-year-old boy in a medically induced coma, in Albany Medical Center. Struck by a baseball bat in the side of his head, among other injuries, at 10 A.M. on a Sunday morning by a bunch of boys having a good time. In Mont Pleasant on the corner or Congress at 6th Ave. The blight keeps spreading and Mr. Mayor just exactly what corner have we turned? Non-profits are sniping instead of sharing, huge salaries being handed out to various political positions and questionable tactics being smiled at and then ignored.
Where are the examples we are leaving our children? And I guess everyone double counts now from agencies to MetroPlex. The numbers game, ah the numbers game. What about the wins for our populace in terms of real success? And I mean all of our populace -- not just a chosen few. Listen if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, just maybe it might be a duck. You think?
We as a city are facing bankruptcy and we paid our financial advisor just under $100,000? So now she’s moved on to Proctors at an undisclosed salary. Non-profits have to make public all salaries paid to employees. It is a law. A real law, punishable with fines and even maybe jail. This is a federal law. Schenectady seems to operate in some kind of miasma of no accountability. No wonder I am so tired. Here we are a small non-profit, puffing along always on the verge of going broke and those in power are calling us a failure. Why don’t they just look in the mirror?
Non-profits must always have their budgets and finances listed publicly for all who wish to see. You cannot hire anyone for an undisclosed amount especially for a salary of over $100,000. Folks stand up. A lot of this is your tax dollars. Remember united we stand means the little things too just not the major issues.
QUEST as a nonprofit with a budget approximately $120,000 a year has to submit a privately funded audit to the attorney general of New York State. Lately people have been requesting an audit of downtown, all non-profits must submit one to the Attorney General's Office yearly. And it must be available at public request. Let’s take heed of this request.
Moving on to street gambling. Wednesday night on our drive around the hill we saw 4 different gambling spots. One near Jerry Burrell Park was cleverly concealed in the back of an SUV, with the back opened, the dice (3 dice in these games) were thrown into the back of the van and the money too is tossed there, the smell of weed perfumed the air and the small brown bags held the pint bottles of alcohol.
The other three sites, two on Albany Street and one at King’s School, were even more blatant, large groups of men and boys cheering and yelling while the games progressed on the streets and/or the sidewalk. Police could not miss this; it is 6:30 at night in well lit section, entailing drugs, alcohol and large groups of people. If my kids and I just driving could see it so easily so could the cops. C’mon now this is still a part of the city and it should be treated as such. Can you imagine this happening on State Street? The State Street below Nott Terrace that is.
And the next disturbing thing is girls fighting. More and more of these fights are appearing on my Facebook page. Two girls surrounded by a mob of screaming, yelling teens, fighting, really head banging, hair pulling fighting, while those watching all have their cell phones out and are filming the whole scene cheering and jumping up and down with excitement.
It has gotten to the point where I get one or two a day. This is very disturbing; this is done in broad sun shining day light and is offered as an entertainment attraction in well populated areas, often in municipal housing projects. I see kids as young as 12, frankly some look even younger. One of the fights was about one of the girls dissing another on Twitter. There’s that tired old word again. You gain your respect back by beating up one of your peers? And it all winds up on the social media page.
I know that Mont Pleasant Middle School is a favorite place to have these venues. We should be ashamed. Again I say, “This is a very small city.” How did we turn out to be a grade B movie? The shops at Brandywine where the hookers hang. How many times have we been approached there? My kids think it’s funny. I do not. I have an 11-year-old telling women to back off.
And there’s the utter defeat of the young woman telling me matter of factly her boyfriend was stopped by the police -- 3 cops -- because there had been a robbery downtown and her friends were black and on a bike. No anger on her side, just a young woman stating an everyday occurrence of her life in the ghetto.
The following quote was written for tourists visiting another country I use it for the citizen, business people and politicians of our town. Those who visit urban decay rarely and constantly offer silly and weak observations about how to change things.
"If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home.”
-- James Michener
But to take away some of the bitterness I leave you with the text from a hand-written note given to me at Perecca’s last week.
"Judy... Thank you for doing everything you can to help our city families. Enjoy lunch on me! Happy Thanksgiving.
That may not say it all, but it says enough.
Judy Atchinson is executive director of QUEST, a not-for-profit group in Hamilton Hill that helps children who are considered at risk lead healthier, happier and more productive lives.