Inner City Diary
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Some people can't even plan their next day
December 28, 2003
Virginia stopped talking and stared at me. I was busted.

We had just started eating supper. She was talking about something but my mind was elsewhere. 

I must have been wearing that "I want to listen to you, honey, but I can't stop thinking about something else" look.

She asked, "What are you thinking?" I responded with, "I'll tell you, but I hope you don't get mad.Ē

She shrugged. I confessed. ďI was just thinking about what it would be like to be mayor or premier. I was wondering how I would react to the infrastructure crisis, pleas for funding, union negotiations. I was thinking of new ideas for going after crime, cutting waste and what it would take to get more people excited about Winnipeg.Ē

I anticipated a range of reactions from exasperation to concern. Instead she laughed. ďBoy, are we different. Iím talking about meal plans and activities for the next week and youíre thinking about being mayor! That explains why you looked so lost in thought. How long have you been thinking about that?Ē

What followed was an interesting discussion about dreams, hopes and fears. We both talked about important things Ė from meals, to kids, to work. It was good to think out loud.

The very fact that we have imagination, hope, and energy to plan our future is a signal of our privilege.

There are some so poor Ė in money and vision Ė that itís hard to plan much beyond tomorrow. There are many whose lives are so unstable, so bounced around by others that theyíve been conditioned to stop thinking for themselves. They may have much to offer, but they just canít see it.

Predictions about the future for these folks make about as much sense as pitching the wisdom of RRSP contributions for dumpster divers in our back lanes.

This week I talked with a poor person who didnít know where their next meal was coming from. I talked to a parent who wasnít sure how long her addict son would live.

I know a child who doesnít worry about school or work or reading and writing. Heís just worried if mom and dad are going to spend the whole next check on booze again. If itís really bad theyíll probably pawn the TV, and maybe even some of the video games he got for Christmas.

I talked with a woman who is being emotionally abused and terrorized by her spouse. Sheís been worrying so long about the range of things he might do, that she doesnít even start to think about what she can do to get out of the situation. Weíre trying to help.

All of us face the unknown with some fear and trepidation. There are so many things in life beyond our control. But it never hurts to think ahead. But itís almost impossible to predict where life will find us one year from now.

Lots of people make predictions around this time of year. As a Christian minister, our scriptures have some stern warnings for those who traffic in false predictions. Iím not confident about predicting specifics about the future. But I have determined several things as I start out the new year.

I will live for and with my beliefs Ė even when theyíre not popular. Some days this past year have been pretty lonely. No matter what I do, or how people feel, I have to face myself in the morning. If Iím just playing games with words or putting on a show, the next year will be awfully unfulfilling.

When Iíve made a mistake, I wonít waste too much time in self-pity or resentment. Thereís more relief from admitting mistakes and moving on than disguising them and hiding from those who know better.

Iíll work with others. The more I achieve, the more I realize how little Iíve achieved on my own. Time brings humility and a desire to work with others. Iím enjoying taking others to meetings, seeing other groups and individuals stepping forward to do things I canít do. Itís nice to spend less energy hoarding and more time sharing. Less time protecting my way and more time evaluating the best way.

Iíll keep working as hard as I can. Early mornings. Late nights. I sleep better when Iíve worked hard, thought hard, and fought hard. I canít quite imagine the ďeasy lifeĒ - whatever that is.

And, most importantly, Iíll look for those around me who have no job, no vision, no energy to dream up plans or resolutions for the future. Weíll all be better off if we donít leave them behind.
Copyright 2003
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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(204) 775-4929