Healing sin by naming it.

Proverbs 28:13 – “The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” (HCSB)

The word “sin” turns many people off and they just stop listening. It is simply any failing or fault. It is any time we fail to live up to our potential. It is any stumbling block. The word has such deeper meaning than we are able to give it.

It is gossiping.
It is overeating.
It is fear of failure that is
so crippling
we never even start.
It is any time we trust
in our own ways
rather than trusting God.

Sure it is also the usual that we think of when we think of sin. It is lying, stealing, murder. But mostly it is anything we let rule our lives, anything that prevents us from living a whole and holy life. Anything.

Confessing our sins is the greatest form of strength. It is the greatest weapon we have against them. Let us think of “confession” as “naming”.

It takes courage to say
“I’m angry and I’ve let anger rule my actions.”
It takes courage to say
“I have a hard time with impulse control.
I eat (or) say whatever I want
without thinking about the consequences.”

It takes courage to admit we need help. When we name our failings and faults we are bringing our wounds and our brokenness before the greatest healer of all, God. We say “I can’t do this on my own, and I need your help.” God heals us if we name our faults, and then turn away from what we are doing.

It can be very hard to turn away. Bad habits are hard to break. They are the “devil you know”. You’d rather stick with them than do something new and healthy. But by naming our faults, we are like so many people who went up to Jesus for healing.

Let us quickly look at the story of Jesus healing the blind man. The entire story is to be found in MT 20:29-34, MK 10:46-52, and LK 18:35-43.

…. Jesus asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus said, “Teacher I want to see!”

Jesus knew very well what Bartimaeus needed. But the issue is – did Bartimaeus? Only after naming his weakness was Jesus able to heal him.

Let us continue with a little more of the story.
…. Moved with compassion, Jesus said “Open your eyes. Your faith has healed you.”

Often Jesus said to people “Do you believe I can heal you?” And they said “Yes!” Then he simply said “Your faith has healed you.”

Believing that Jesus can heal you is the healing.

But first you have to confess to name your weakness. Give it to God, and God will turn your weakness into his glory. The thing is, can you name your own problem?

Naming it takes away its power.
It means it isn’t you.
You are a child of God.
You aren’t alcoholism
or compulsive gambling
or lying.

Naming the problem helps you separate it from your idea of yourself and helps God heal you.

If you can’t yet name your problem, then give that to God. Say “God, please help me to recognize where I need healing.” God will enter into your heart right where you are, right as you are, right then.

Poem “Fat”

These days,
the fastest way
to discredit
a woman
is to call her “fat”.

Years back,
it was “mentally ill”.
Years before that,
the word was


You can silence people with these words.
But people
only silence
the ones
make noise.

Being called a name like
or mentally ill,
or witch
means you are onto something
means they are scared of you,
of what you have to say.

Don’t be silent,
and don’t be
at those words.

Those words are a sign
that you are
on the right track.

Compassion fatigue and the yetzer hara

Compassion fatigue is a real thing. It is devastating and results in many good people giving up. We forget to take time for ourselves to heal. We give and give and give until we have nothing left for ourselves. We feel that our work is never done.

This is the work of the yetzer hara, the Jewish idea of the “evil inclination”. It says that we have to do it all and save everybody. It says that if we lose one, we’ve failed completely. It says why even try if we can’t fix everybody?

But we don’t fix anybody. We are there to help, and they have to want it. They have to do the real work.

The longstanding idea is that a person has to hit rock bottom to get help, and that they have to ask for it. They have to bring themselves to treatment – it can’t be forced on them.

In a way, this is frustrating. We don’t wait to do CPR on a person who has a heart attack. We don’t ask a drowning person if they want to be rescued. We just do it. We don’t stop first and get them to sign a consent form.

But mental health, often intermingled with substance abuse, is different. To be truly mentally healthy requires not just a change in mindset, but a change in lifestyle. Everything has to shift to keep the process going correctly.

Thus it isn’t up to the caregiver or the facilitator or the mental health provider to “make” the person well. It is up to her or him to keep the ball rolling. The caregiver shows the path – the client has to walk on it.

They have to take their medicine. They have to go to their doctor’s appointments. They have to reduce stress. They have to eat well. They have to exercise daily. They have to get enough sleep. They have to do all the little things that add up to the big thing, the only thing – being stable and sober and well. Balance is hard to achieve. It takes a lot of work.

Getting mentally healthy isn’t like buying a new car. You want to get to “health” and you are tired of walking there. So you want to make a quick change and get there the fast way. You buy a new car and fill it up with gas. But when you get there that way, you still don’t know how to really get there on your own.

It is more like buying a piece of the car, a day at a time. Every day you work closer to the goal. Eventually you have enough pieces that you are able to learn how to put it together. Then you have to get lessons on how to drive it. Then you practice. Finally, you can do it.

It takes years, but all that hard work means that you know how to do this on your own. It means that when the car breaks down, you know how to put it back together. It means you know where the pieces come from. You learn that you have to maintain that car every day or it will break down.

You can’t be driven to mental health. You have to get there on your own.

It should be the goal of the mental health provider to show the client what pieces will work, how to maintain them, and how to use them. They aren’t there to drive the client but to teach them how to drive themselves.

Thus – don’t feel guilty if a person seems stuck on the road. They have to do the work. They have to want to get better. It seems frustrating to watch them struggle, but that struggle is what forces them to make a decision. Work on getting healthy, or go the easy route and stay sick? Pain is a strong motivator to make better decisions.

It is like a baby bird. If you help it get out of its shell, it won’t have built up the muscles to survive. It can’t get help flying either – it has to be strong enough to fly on its own. If you cheat it of the work, it will fail.

Meanwhile, as a caregiver, you have to take extra care of yourself. Don’t get pulled under by the drowning people. Take extra time for yourself. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. Focus on your successes. And remember, sometimes you can’t see results right away. Sometimes the result, the reward, of your hard work will “bloom” later, in a way you’ll never see. Trust the process.

Unsatisfied art

Part of being an artist is never feeling satisfied with your creation. It is why you started creating to start off with. You feel that something needs to be fixed. You sense something is missing.
So you get out your brush and your paper or your clarinet and your tape recorder. You get to making stuff. You know that something needs to fill that hole you can sense, and that you are the one to try. But that same feeling that made you start is the same feeling that will make you feel that you aren’t finished – that your art isn’t good enough. That same feeling will make you think you should throw it all away.
Perhaps there needs to be a “Post Secret” for artists. Perhaps there needs to be a revelation of the mental process of artists, in the same way that magicians (sometimes) reveal how they do their tricks. You think you are doing it all wrong, but you just don’t know that everybody else is having the same problem. Perhaps that is part of what this post is all about.
I hate pictures of myself. My eyes don’t match up. One looks more “open” than the other. If I post a picture of myself, I’m either looking at the camera at an angle or I’m smiling so my eyes are squinting. Then it is harder to see that my eyes don’t match.
Then I started looking at other faces. I work in a library, so I can look at author photos on the back of books. I started slowing down and really noticing them. Almost all of them look “off”. Almost all of them have one eye different from the other. I finally realized that I look “normal” by looking “abnormal”.
Then I thought about something I was told years ago. I was told that when making a Persian rug, the artist will intentionally make a mistake so the rug isn’t perfect. It is to say that only God can make something perfect. In a way this seems arrogant. If you can intentionally make a mistake, you could then presumably make it perfect. But I think that isn’t the idea. The idea is that imperfection is OK, and it is part of being human.
Jesus tells us that. Jesus tells us that we can’t ever get to 100%. The test is rigged by the world. Jesus tells us that we are OK the way we are as long as we are trying to do the right thing.
I know someone who rewrote her book four times before she published it. I think that is such a waste of time and energy. Sure, there is something about putting your best work out there. But there is something about knowing that you are constantly changing and evolving, and your work is too. What you wrote/drew/painted/composed a year ago will be totally different from what you will create today. That is normal. Just keep creating. Just keep trying.
I know people who never start anything because they are afraid they won’t do it right. I’ve been that way. I’m glad I got over it. Well, mostly. I understand the logic of it. If you don’t start, you’ll never fail, right? Except if you don’t start, you’ll never learn and grow. You have to start, but you also have to let go. You have to be OK with it never matching up with what you envisioned in your head. That is part of being a creative person.
You’ll get closer and closer to being able to bring forth what you imagine the more you try. And some of being an artist is being OK with the happy accidents, the discoveries, along the way. While you are trying to get to one idea, something else will happen and take you down another road. That can result in some pretty amazing work. That can also derail you and leave you stranded.
Part of being an artist is knowing how and when to rein yourself in, and when to let yourself go. Sometimes the art will try to take over. Sometimes you should let it. Sometimes that is just an excuse to goof off and not get things done.
Trust the process, right? Sometimes. The best learning comes from making horrible mistakes. But you have to do something. Art doesn’t make itself.
A bad part about being an artist is that you never think you are done. Whatever you have made, it never feels “complete”. It is like me with my eyes. But then I got away from looking at myself and I looked at others. Art is the same. Nobody ever feels like their art is complete. You are normal.
Just keep making stuff. Don’t let the monster win. The monster is the thing that says you can’t do it, that you are no good. You defeat it by making stuff anyway.

To create a book. Thoughts.

I’m having debates in my head about how to do the book and if I’m ready to publish. I realize now that I’ve already said it several times – it is already written, I don’t need to add more.

I’m still writing more, and I can and will always write more. I have finally realized that I can publish the new stuff later. I can republish old stuff and put it with new stuff if I find I’m writing a lot on one theme – like Communion, for instance. This book is a taste, a start, a beginning.

I’m weary and I worry about going through editing. But then I remember the only thing to it is to do it. Just start.

Also, then I remember the Jewish idea of the yetzer hara – knowing about it is helpful. I’m seeing all these distractions as a sign that I’m on to something good. It is a sign now, when I stop to notice it playing this game on me.

Just like how a child learns “this” feeling is a sign to go to the bathroom – “this” feeling of being distracted is a sign that outside influences are messing with me, trying to stop me from doing what I’m being called to do, what I’m made for. Sounds paranoid? It isn’t. It is actually very healthy. The idea of the yetzer hara isn’t mine, and it isn’t new. It was very freeing to learn about it. I’ve written about it many times before. It is an indicator to me now. I’ve transformed it from being a stumbling block into a steppingstone.

The idea of the yetzer hara needs to be introduced in mental hospitals. Heck, it needs to be introduced to people before they get into mental hospitals.

So the more I write about writing, the more I’m not putting my book together. See, it is a game, a distraction. This is all part of being human. I still feel a need to publish something every day. It is a way to stretch and clean out my head. But I need to use this unintended vacation time (the library is closed for remodeling) to work on my book, as I’ve said all along.

Perhaps there is a good reason I found out that Internet Explorer isn’t to be trusted. I was using it and Chrome to work on the book. I had my main blog open on Chrome, and I had the Empty Cross Community blog open on IE. I’d post from one to the other, and check to make sure I’d not already posted something. I created the second blog just to create file folders for my book. My first book. Which is already written, mostly. I’ve not added anything new to Empty Cross Community that isn’t already in BetsyBeadhead. It is just more focused – just the religious stuff. No rambles, no pictures.

I found out that IE is highly suspect, so I stopped using it. It is impossible to look at two WordPress sites using the same browser – I can’t log into both and look at both. It thinks I’m “BetsyBeadhead” when I’m on “EmptyCrossCommunity”. It won’t let me post to it. So I had to stop. I’m starting to see this as a good thing – it has created a stopping point. Start on the next part of the project. Stop adding to it. Start formatting.

Time to get going. Wish me luck, and say a prayer if you are the praying type. Pray that my words are of use to people, that they lead them towards God, and towards healing.

“Dis”. Customer service story.

To attack someone who works in customer service is the same as throwing rocks at a dog on a chain. They can’t defend themselves.

I was told by a patron recently that something I did “came off as disrespectful.”

She had handed me her ID and got angry with me that I didn’t hand it back to her. I had put it on the counter. I was in the middle of checking her account to make sure I was in the right one, so I wasn’t looking. If she’d handed me her library card, this wouldn’t have been an issue.

Plenty of people put their IDs or cards on the counter and don’t hand them to me. Plenty of people put their books out of my reach too. If I got offended with each assumed slight I’d be angry all day.

But she said that my action “comes off as disrespectful.”

I’m so sick of this word, “disrespectful.” It is used so often these days that it is shortened to “dis”. If you want to feel offended when no offense was meant, that is your right. If you walk around with a chip on your shoulder, you are going to get tired.

If you want to talk about disrespect, think about the fact that this woman thought it was her right to tell me off. Me, a stranger. She gets to take a pot shot at me and walk away. She doesn’t know anything about me. If she knows my name it is because I have to wear a name tag. Abusing another person, taking advantage of the master/servant relationship inherent in customer service, is disrespectful, and it isn’t fair.

Just because you feel offended doesn’t make you right. How you perceive someone else’s actions is your own issue.

In customer service, the customer is always right. We aren’t allowed to defend ourselves.

There isn’t much I’d be allowed to say to someone who treated me badly. I can’t say “So why do you think you can talk to me like this?” But I can say “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

And I am sorry.

I’m sorry in the same way I’m sorry when I have to tell someone that they need to be quiet in the library. They should know better. I’m not apologizing for telling them. I’m apologizing for having to tell them. It isn’t being loud that is rude. It is the fact that they don’t get that it is rude.

Plenty of people assume that we are supposed to be friendly and cheery to them all the time. If we are less than cheery or perfect they attack us. Our own personal issues have to be suppressed.

They don’t get how hard that is. We can’t be “on” all the time. Nobody can. Plenty of customers have bad days and are happy to share.

So what do I know about her? She is African American. She is obese. She is in her early 20s. And, she just got a book about how to turn negatives into positives. It is called “Good self, bad self – transforming your worst qualities into your biggest assets.” Fascinating, isn’t it?

So I did.

I was really upset, but I’m training myself to look at things differently. I’m training myself to learn from the negative. I’m learning to spot the tricks of the yetzer hara and see them as a sign that I’m on to something great.

I was just about to sit down to work on part two of the condensed Gospels. I was about to be so angry that I didn’t. I almost thought who am I, to write about the Gospels, me, a sinner in the eyes of this stranger.

And I saw it. She wasn’t even real. She was an agent of the yetzer hara. This was a sign that I’m onto something big and important.

So I breathed in, sat down, and began to work.

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Years ago I used to look forward to a smoke when I got upset by a patron. I finally realized that I was letting them kill me. Then I learned to burn it out by going for a walk or going to the Y. But that all required waiting. I had to burn with that anger for a while until I could get it out.

Now I have learned to see it as a sign that I’m on the right path. Weird, but it works.

It still doesn’t make it right to abuse a person in customer service. Just because you feel slighted doesn’t mean you were. Forgive, and all that.

Writing a book.

I want to write a book. Well, essentially, I’ve already written a book. I just need to put it together.

I’ve been writing a book all along with this blog. I’ve actually been writing several books. Each post is a page or two. I’ve got way more than enough posts and enough topics to write about three books right now. The problem is sifting through everything. In a way it is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Or maybe it is like disassembling one.

Ideally, I would have been copying what I’ve been writing into a Word document, sorting it into folders, all along. That way it would already be done. I didn’t do that, because I didn’t know that was what I wanted to do. Now I know better.

The problem is time. I still have a forty hour a week job. And the new ideas keep coming. It is hard to do it all at once. But then again, I am having a hard time believing that I’ve written as much as I have in sixteen months. When I started I had the goal of posting three times a week, with the hidden goal of at least once a day. I’ve far surpassed that.

What I need to do is sit down and start sorting. I’ve done some of it. There is a lot more to go through.

I just have to commit to doing this daily. Even a little bit a day and it is done. While feel obliged to post something new every day, then I remember that nobody is paying me for this. Some days I’ve posted anywhere up to five things. So I’m ahead.

I think I’m using the idea of “I have to spend the time working on new things” as a diversion to not work on this project.

And that lets me know it is the “yetzer hara” doing the talking. This is the Jewish idea of the “negative influence” that tries to stop us from doing good things. I have learned to use its powers against it, like in aikido. When I feel it trying to prevent me, then I know I’m onto something really good and amazing. It actually spurs me on, rather than preventing me – once I notice it.

So, it is time for a shift in energy. Time to start sorting. I’ll try to post new things too because that is a good exercise for me. But I’ll try to use things that I’ve already worked on part-way rather than stuff I have to start from scratch. There are plenty of ideas that I’ve gotten some of the way into and just not finished. This way I’ll be using them up and not taking as much time. This way I’ve got more time to sort.

But mostly, I’m going to spend some of my writing time as book time. This stuff doesn’t do itself, and I don’t have minions. Even if I did, I’d want to make sure that anything that has my name on it is the way I want it.

The only thing to it is to do it. Wish me luck. Sometimes the biggest battles are in our heads.

New commitment

I keep saving off Bible verses that I like and want to write about. I rarely write about them though. Sometimes I do, but not nearly as often as I write about other things.

I think there is a connection with this and painting. I have a lot of painting supplies. I rarely paint. I want to, but then I don’t. I don’t in part because I don’t want to mess it up. There isn’t a cut and paste feature on painting when you are doing it for real. Digital is another matter. But putting actual paint on an actual canvas is pretty scary sometimes. I don’t want to waste it. I don’t want to do it wrong.

Analyzing the Bible is the same. This is little me, non Bible scholar me, giving my viewpoint. Who am I to say that this section means this? Who am I to pull these different sections together and point out a connection between them?

Then I also think that I don’t want to alienate people. Not everybody likes to read about the Bible. A lot of people are turned off by religion because of religious people. Too many people have tried to cram the Bible down their throat rather than to offer it as the nourishing food that it is.

Then I see between the lines. I’m trying to talk myself out of this. And then I remember the Jewish concept of the yetzer hara. It isn’t me trying to talk me out of this. It is this force outside of me trying to masquerade as me to get me to not do this.

It sounds a bit crazy. It sounds a bit like hearing voices. It sounds a bit like arguing with myself, and we all know that is a bad sign.

But it is a real concept, and it is really useful to know. It is like having a road map to your mind and finally learning where the dead ends are. Don’t drive over here, you’ll get lost.

So I’m using it as a slingshot. I’m seeing this pushback or inertia or fear as a sign that this actually is something I should do, in fact it is something I must do.

It is kind of like aikido, or at least I think it is. At least it is what I think aikido is about. Use your opponent’s energy against him.

So I’m going to commit to making at least one of my posts a week a musing on a particular Bible verse or section. I was going to say three posts, but then I think that is the yetzer hara doing its evil magic as well. If I commit to three and then have a hard time doing it, I’m likely to give up altogether.

It is just like committing to exercise. If you start exercising and you say you’ll go to the gym every day, you’ll likely get sore and tired and worn out. You’ll get discouraged if you try too much all at once. Best to start out small and warm up to it.

I did the same thing with my blog. I committed at first to posting at least three times a week, with the hidden goal of once a day. I now post as much as four times a day, and that is partly because I’ve found “dead” time to work and how to write using my phone and my Kindle.

It is precisely because of how I’m able to write this often is why I shouldn’t commit to three posts of Bible study a week. I need to do those kinds of posts at a computer so I can cut and paste specific references. I don’t always have time to sit at a computer to do that.

Or, am I making up yet another “rule” of how I should do this? Yet another yetzer hara trick. It will tell you that if you can’t do it perfectly, don’t do it at all. The way around that one is to know that doing even a little of a good deed is better than doing nothing.

So, wish me luck, and I hope you find some good out of my insights that will follow. Pray that I am able to hear and interpret God’s Word wisely, so that we all might be uplifted.

Peacemaker and the Process.

I said at one point about a year ago that my goal in life was to be a peacemaker. I’m not doing a very good job of it. Either I need to reapply myself to my goal, or I need to be honest with myself about what my goal really is.

When I said that was my goal I was in the deacon discernment program in the Episcopal Church. It was tedious. It was a lot longer and harder than I thought it would be. I thought that if a person said that they wanted to be helpful to people, they’d be given some training and some oversight and a task right away. Folks would get help in a helpful way, soon. Nope. Their plan was wait three years and think about it. Meanwhile, I’m stumbling along, clueless. Meanwhile, people are still coming to me with their problems and I still don’t really know what to do.

Part of the Process of discerning if you are called by God to be a deacon in that church, and it really is a Process with a capital P, is a series of assignments. You get an assignment once a month. You need a whole month to work on it. The last one that I was given before the Process was put on “pause” (read, thanks for playing, but you can stop now, you aren’t what we are looking for) was about my goals for life. It was to teach me that everything that I’ve already done in my life was training for what I’m going to do. I felt a bit cheated. If I already have all the training and experience, then what do I need this Process for? If I can figure out for myself what I’m being called to then why do I have to go to these meetings every month and bare my soul to these near strangers?

I’m a little bitter, still, about the whole experience. I try not to write about it much because it just opens fresh wounds that I’m trying to heal. But I’m learning that it is important to examine the source of pain in order to heal. This is a new part of my practice. I’m still learning how.

I said that I wanted to be a peacemaker. I said that I’d love to travel around the world and get people who have disagreed for years to actually listen to each other for a change and see things from each other’s perspectives. I thought that peace in the Middle East would be a big coup.

But then I thought I’d need to learn all those languages, because you always lose something in translation. And I thought that they certainly wouldn’t listen to a young American woman. That is three strikes right there.

Is that the yetzer hara speaking again? Is that the voice of the “evil inclination” that is trying to prevent me from doing what I’m called to do? Or is it the voice of reason that points out that is really not my calling?

Who am I kidding? Peacemaker?

I don’t even talk to my brother or my aunt. I don’t go to my previous church in part because of a huge falling out with the priest. And I’m spending Thanksgiving at home with just my husband because of a falling out with his family. My circles just keep getting smaller.

I don’t have a great track record with making peace.

My usual modus operandi is to avoid the problem. If you don’t talk about it, it will go away, right? Don’t talk about the elephant in the room. We herded elephants in my family home. Just thinking about that madness makes my stomach start to cramp up again. Who doesn’t want to avoid pain? Running away seems very healthy. Until it isn’t, and you realize that you’ve run away your whole life and there isn’t anywhere to run away to anymore.

I feel like I was cheating a bit when I said that I wanted to be a peacemaker. It sounds good. It is close to what I want, what I feel called to. I don’t really want what I’m being called to – but then I want nothing else. The idea of not doing what I’ve been put on this Earth for makes me sad. Nothing is more tragic than seeing someone waste her life thinking she has another day, another month, another year to start living it. I don’t want to be that person.

But then I don’t have a word for what I’m called to. That was why I consented to be part of the Process. I figured it would separate the wheat from the chaff. I figured out it would separate the signal from the noise and let me know what I was hearing. I figured if several of us listened together we’d hear better.

Turns out instead of boiling off the stuff that I don’t need, like skimming off the scum from chicken soup that you are reducing to juicy goodness, it just boiled everything over and spilled it on the floor. I didn’t know I had so much in me. I didn’t know that I can’t be contained to one denomination’s rules and rubrics. I didn’t know that one expression of faith wasn’t going to be enough for me. I didn’t know that this process would widen things up instead of narrowing them down.

I know God works through everything. I know that everything I go through is from a loving God who wants the best and is working with and through me to bring forth what is best. I also know it doesn’t feel very fun while it is happening.

Perhaps peacemaker is part of it. Perhaps I need to know what peace isn’t in order to understand what peace is. Recovering addicts make really good counselors. They’ve been there. They know. Perhaps I’ll know what my calling is when I get there. Perhaps God is treating me like I’m a secret agent. Not even I know my mission because that is for the best that way. Perhaps I just need to live my way into it and take one moment at a time, with trust.

A million dollars worth of enlightenment.

What would you do if you were given a million dollars? A lot of people say that they would give it to charity. They’d spend it on something good or worthwhile – defeat cancer, solve hunger, stop war. Maybe they’d also give some to family members who were in debt.

Sometimes I think they are lying for the sake of sounding like they are nicer than they are. Would any of us, really, give away all that money to help others? Wouldn’t we spend some of it on ourselves first? I know I would. Perhaps I want everybody else to be honest. Or perhaps I don’t want to think I’m the only selfish person around.

Sure, I’m not entirely self-centered. I want to learn how to do conflict negotiation. I want to be a peacemaker. Learning how to do that will take time and money – and I won’t get that money back. The peacemaking I’ll do will be for free. And I want to learn how to perform life-cycle ceremonies for people, like weddings and funerals. There are plenty of people who need these ceremonies but they don’t belong to a faith community. I would perform those ceremonies for free. The classes and time to learn how to do that are not cheap, however.

If a million dollars came my way I’d show it a good time. I’d pay off the cars and the house. I’d build a storm shelter in the basement. I’d put away a large chunk in savings. I doubt I’d quit my job because I like having some structure to my days, but I might go part time and spend the rest of the time taking classes or volunteering. I certainly would take more time to work on my art.

But I wouldn’t just give it away. There are so many things that might be helped with a judicious application of money, but they won’t be cured. Throw a million dollars at the homeless problem and you’ll just have another batch of homeless people in a year. Throw a million dollars to solving child abuse and you’ll have more abused children later. Sometimes it isn’t about money, but about attitude. So often we are trying to fix something with a band-aid when really only an amputation will cure it. So often we treat the symptom rather than the cure.

I’ve heard of people making “blessing bags” for homeless people. The bags have food for a day, along with toiletries and some underwear and socks. That is something – and I’ve long said it is better to do something than nothing. But that is only for that day. And meanwhile, the person still will be sleeping in the cold and the rain.

Maybe it is the yetzer hara speaking. Maybe I’m getting frustrated because I think the goal should be to prevent people becoming homeless, and I can’t figure out the solution. But I also want to prevent people becoming drug addicts, or bullies, or child abusers, or rapists, or prostitutes. I want to prevent the problem, and it seems so much bigger than I can possibly get my head around. I’d rather prevent someone becoming a child abuser than say I want to prevent child abuse. See the difference? It is the difference between teaching women to not be a target for a rapist, and teaching men to not rape. The person being attacked has a problem, certainly. But the person who is the attacker has a problem too. Stop the problem at the source and you’ve fixed two problems rather than one.

I have some ideas about this. The attacker feels lesser-than. The attacker feels that the other person has something that they need. The attacker often does not feel that the other person is a person at all – and that is why it is OK to attack them. Empathy is part of the solution. How do we teach this?

I don’t think money is the cure for this. I think some of it is an attitude shift in our society that needs to help people feel comfortable expressing themselves. They also need to be comfortable with other people being different and having different opinions. Teaching people dialogue versus debate would be helpful. But that isn’t money, but time and mindset. It is time for a different way of thinking.

Money just short-changes growth. It is like putting training wheels on a bike. You may be able to ride that bike, but you don’t really have the balance necessary. You haven’t built up those muscles yet. You ran right past the experience of falling down (many) times. So you can ride, but you have to have the training wheels to do it, and you can’t empathize with people who had to do it the hard way.

I’ve heard that people who have a lot of money are the least likely to volunteer or to donate money to charity. Perhaps something about having it easy makes it harder to understand those who have it hard.