Marvin Repinski: Challenge: Adapting to shifts in our lives

Published 6:30 am Saturday, May 29, 2021

In 1931, Jane Addams was a resident of Hull House in Chicago. When she was much younger, she led a restoration project of Hull Mansion, an abandoned building in disrepair. This property became what is termed a settlement house. These places were open doors of rescue and a form of salvation. Some of them did tell the story of Jesus Christ, who in the Bible states, “He became poor so that we might become rich.”

Many volunteers and professional people joined Addams in her belief that we can adapt; we can make things better. People in need of sleeping quarters, food, security, friendship and medical attention found it in Hull House. Projects of this nature are still across our nation, even in southern Minnesota, and are bidding for our contributions, our hands-on volunteerism and political support.

This story is one I set within the larger history. Upon the early death of her mother, Addams was cared for by her older sisters and her brother. A curvature of the spine caused her head to droop to one side. In the place she was born — Cedarville, Illinois — she became disturbed by the living conditions on shabby streets in her area. The ragged children, the broken down homes and poverty became a kind of calling.

Email newsletter signup

Despite her painful situations she became deeply aware of the needs of others and reached out for an education that could support her compassion. In 1881, the risk-taker persisted against odds, with extra courses of study, to qualify for a full college degree.

Surgery for her declining back issues did not deter her drive to be a person with gifts to share. In a time of recovery, a trip to Europe became a time that focused her awareness of deplorable living conditions and hunger among families in what was termed slums. Upon her return to Chicago, with many setbacks, she led concerned persons to establish Hull House.  This woman, among many other women, established opportunities for the ill, unemployed and homeless. Despite her own disabilities, she appealed to Congress and political and industrial leaders. Sociology and city planning courses benefit from her work. Addams was the first recipient of the first honorary degree bestowed on a woman by Yale University. In recognition of her accomplishments and climbing of many barriers to righteous causes, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

The shifting of a public conscience is enhanced by her saying, “Yes a tide can be turned — people deserve a humane life!”

New realities in law enforcement

To start a brief point of view, I support the members of what our communities call those men and women who pledge to support the life, property, and civility of all persons.

I have stepped side-by-side with police officers, colorguard persons, VFW personnel and others, wearing my white clergy robe. It is a small gesture to march in a parade through the city where I share the values of law enforcement personnel.

There is a dangerous naivete that permeates the swelling negatives that walk our streets and gut our airwaves. There is now little calm in the voices calling to “throw out the police,” but is there not some nonsense in this?  We are indeed, in some quarters, a disappointment, filled with anger and resentment about people in law enforcement. We can acknowledge that but also say, “Please gain a larger picture.” When the news on TV breaks in with an alert for an 11-year-old girl who has been kidnapped, the first call is to the police department and the desk of the county sheriff through 911.

We are in a time of shifts between law and order and the agendas of civility, criminality, justice, use of force, retribution, arrest, protection, friendship, guidance, training, wisdom and the humane needs of a shifting society. We are in a very necessary time of rethinking, attitude change, behavior, expectations and our personal responses.

A remark was written long ago by the author George Eliot: “Ignorance gives one a large range of possibilities.”

I’m working on the expansion of my understanding and asking for Our Lord’s help in a measure of fairness and truth. We are now rethinking — are you?

A new civil  rights movement?

“You can have anything you want if you want it desperately enough. You must want it with an exuberance that erupts the skin and joins the energy that created the world.”  (Sheila Graham)

Not being a pessimist, I had to think this over and over! Finally my response was, “Not so easy if you are in prison or live in parts of the Middle East!” But I still think we can, as persons, groups, churches, nations, political bodies, and President Joe Biden and staff, help “erupt our skin.”

Native American history of legends, myths, and ancestral spirits remind us that both good and bad dreams hover over us while we sleep, waiting to capture our minds for the night. In order to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep, “dream catchers,” webs of colored string with a hole in the middle to let happy dreams pass through to the unconscious mind, were prepared. Bad dreams are not hurtful; they get caught in the dream catcher’s net. Do you think we should make one? Who do we consult?

We adapt when we change

“If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”  (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Am I waiting for a Divine being to sit down beside me on my lawn chair?  My imagination says “maybe.”  The water coming out of the hose says “just keep watering.”

The industrialist, organizer, and banker from Philadelphia had a plan. What? Building the Northern Pacific Railroad. It would run between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The plans did not materialize. You need money to build rails. By the way, if this shift would have become a reality, it was predicted Minnesota’s largest city would have been Duluth!

Participation in religious services

The membership of the religious institutions in Minnesota have in recent years experienced both a shift and a slide. The changes in our population’s movement from institutional forms of spirituality to a more personal embodiment has been documented in informed reviews by a number of journalists.

A most deliberate on-target study has been in the past year through the writings of Ms. Jean Hopfensperger. With great talent and so sharp at gaining the heart and mind of any person she interviews, she is well-respected. There are times that her writings are a multi-tasker –  sociologist, psychologist, politician and geographer. The columns in the Minneapolis StarTribune do the homework of a rabbi, priest and pastor. Thank you!

Writing as one who affirms the central teaching of many of the major world religions, I dream of the day when the term, the seemingly trite, and self-occupied, outdated, and argumentative stuff and the “my way only” appraisal will embrace a larger beauty. My dream is enforced by the conviction of Katherine Mansfield, who wrote, “Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change.”