Malnourished.

In the waiting room, a child looked at her mother with earnest eyes and announced loudly, "I'm starving momma." "No you ain't, now sit down and hush," the momma said.

The Ore-Ida jingle clanged on the television, "it's Ore-ida-rida-rida," while steaming bagel bites were pulled from the oven and piled high on a plate. The little girl in the waiting room wrythed, tortured. "Momma, I need somethin." She was emphatic, needy. I guessed her to be eight. I didn't blame her.

"Hush now; we'll get something after your brother comes out." The mother was adamant.

I watched from the far side of the room. In the land of plenty, we have lost a sense of lack. We are betrayed by our beltsizes and bank accounts. We are not starving. None of us. Not really.

*****

A few weeks ago I followed Lindsey Nobles and the Food for the Hungry bloggers as they traveled to Ethiopia. They saw the faces of malnutrition, of developing-world starvation. They've counted ribs, seen bowed legs, lollipop heads.

I wonder how they feel when they hear their friends complain, "I'm starving."  I wonder if their guts churn a bit, if the fire rises in them. I wonder if the first world colloquialism pains them.

*****

Scott and Allison drove three hours to bring us company and a bit of dinner. Scott and I stepped down to the coffee shop and he asked how I was holding up. "I don't know," I said, "but I wish Titus would just eat." He said he was sorry, said that a time like this brings him to repentence. "I don't think enough about my connection to food, about God's connection to it," he said.  "I don't think about what it means to hunger; not really."

We sat in silence and I looked over the reflection pool.  I wondered what Jesus meant when he blessed those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Maybe he's watching us all, the best of his creation, thinking, "I wish they would learn the pangs of right hunger; I wish they would learn to eat."

*****

Update: please keep praying for Titus Lee. We need him to tolerate feedings and gain weight.  Amber will update again soon.

 

Give or Take the Hippies

At 30,000 feet Jimmy Ray of Prairie Grove spilled his Wranglers, chip-kickers, and conversation into the aisle. I was reading the July Harper's magazine. The cover read "Broken Heartland." Jimmy leaned across the aisle and introduced himself. Was I working on some kind of school project or something, he asked, and was that a liberal rag or a conservative one? I rattled the melting ice in my Delta cup, told him I'd long since quit the schooling business and I couldn't attest to Harper's politics, which both surprised and satisfied him. It's probably liberal, he said.

Jimmy tore the tin foil package of salted Delta peanuts and said that Harper's orghta visit an Arkansas cattle farm this year if they wanted to know something about being broke. The drought's been on, he said, and he with hay is king. Jimmy didn't have enough hay, so his wife kept reminding him that he was not a king.

Jimmy laughed self-deprecatingly.

Where you coming from, I asked. Portland, Or-eh-gone, he said. I ain't seen that much rain or that many hippies since Forest Gump; rains every day in up in Or-eh-gone. Then he said he'd kill himself if he had to live near all them Patchouli-wear'n, bicycle commute'n, rain drenched hippies. They just end up smelling like wet dogs. The irony, he said, was that he and his new angus calf would readily kill for a few weeks of rain in Prairie Grove.

Give or take the hippies.

He'd calved too early this year, right in the middle of the drought and the ribs of his youngest heifer were visible. She's flirting with starvation so they'd been bottle feeding her. If she makes it, Jimmy said they'd have to keep her as a pet. That'll be a sore loss, indeed. His face broke wide into the smile of a old-timey cattle salesman.

I'm nothing if not a softy at heart, he said.

I looked out the window and every square inch of grass was the color of Carhartt overalls. I thought of that song from Catholic school, the one wherein a singular spark gets a fire going. I imagined an apocalyptic inferno engulfing Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, then I whispered a prayer for John and his friends in Colorado.

That's when I saw it.

There was a road stretching northward across the great plains. Its straight spine split into a T, giving the allusion of two outstretched arms. Just above the T was a perfectly round cattle pond. Along the spine of the road were 8 chicken houses, four on either side. The ribs of this industrial skeletal sketching were rudimentary, but from 30,000 feet things seem much more clear.

The citizens of the heartland, we are dry. But we're still here. God as my witness.

*****

Thanks for joining me in this experiment in dialogue. And, by-the-way, I linked out to John's place because he's been crushing it lately. Yes... there are more of us than you think.

Flight 54

Where the denizens of the delayed  dine, God-only-knows.  God and me. Fivehundred and seventy two miles from my baggage claim, there is a bar.  The  waitress there  is cardable, flaunting too flimsy a skirt.  If I were her father, I'd  tell her to quit with this self-exploitation bit, but I'm not.  I look her only in the  eyes and order beer from Texas.  She says that it drinks drier than Lubbock; I  nod and laugh knowingly, as if i know anything about Lubbock. My uncle was  once a paper salesmen in Lubbock.  There's that, at least.

Ignoring the assemblage of Flight 54 passengers, I find free wifi. Cassie shares photos of the world's largest Amaco sign.  It is red.  Kevin's sermon notes, or as much as will fit into one hundred and forty characters, are posted precariously above Ashely's galvanized slide of pipe dreams. Her daughter is smiling and I find myself hoping that she'll never don the dress of self- exploitation.  If she does, there'll still be grace because Ashley's good at  second chances.  Lord willing, little girls make good on first chances, though.

A woman approaches the manager. She's been delayed and, for the love of  God could she get some service? She's neither invoking love nor God with that  kind of venom, and when the manager offers her an apology for the delay, she  leans in, tells him too loudly that she is civil rights officer as if that is supposed  to make him set some queso on fire.  He apologizes as much for being white as  anything, and gives her a complimentary breaded onion.  This appeases her for  the moment, but moments fly fast.

A congregant in the house of the delayed, I sit in South Texas. All the while, I am omnipresent.

The Savage World

In a savage world it ends the same for all.Spent capillaries seep, a throbbing portent of death. Saliva and blood mix salty; the slack-jawed panting. Even the most bold water the ground in those moments when white wolves call them quarry. These alabaster jackals sacrifice the weakest in their packs.  Aiming for higher plains, snuffed snarls fade like galaxies on Kansas dawning.

The edges of the prairie canvas are taut with anticipation. It is a savage world that puts its best to death.

*Inspired by George Catlin's Buffalo Hunt, White Wolves  Attacking a Buffalo Bull, as pictured at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.