Sunday, August 8, 2010

We Can't Be Quiet, or Shy!

Word came last week that an old friend of mine, Dan Dick, had died. He worked in the library at Worcester State College when I first met him. He was the reference librarian. Someone referred me to him, I don't remember why. Imagine my surprise when I introduced myself to him and he responded with this booming voice loud enough to fill the farthest corners of the main reading room. And his laugh! His laugh was incomparable, absolutely huge. And in his presence, there was always lots of laughter.

Dan was irrepressible! He was a peace activist. He was a union organizer. He was a feminist. He was an environmental gadfly. And when his Catholic conscience could no longer tolerate a conservative bishop, he and his wife, with others, started the "Floating Parish." Every Sunday morning this parish floated from home to home. The gatherings were always child friendly, always included the sharing of bread and wine, always required the liturgist, lay or clergy, to engage in dialogue about their homily. Most important, it was just generally understood that people would give form to their worship during the week. It was as close to the early church as I've ever been. As one might expect, rather than flowers for the funeral, people were encouraged to contribute to an organization dedicated to the ordination of women or a Catholic Worker house.

The thing that caught my attention more than anything else about his last days in year 86 was included in his obituary. He was well known for his letters to the editor. He was not shy about expressing his opinion on matters of social import. His last letter to the editor appeared the day after he died. As the obituary said, "he got the last word."

One of the reasons I'm thinking about Dan today and grieving his loss is because of an article I read this morning. I've been trying to figure out why South Dakota has become so humid. When I was growing up here, all our summer days were hot, but dry. The wind came from the North, or Northwest. Now, almost every wind comes from the South, and it feels like we've been dropped in the tropics. To move is to perspire.

And I've been wondering why every storm is a deluge? Rain has been replaced by downpours.

As my reference librarian, if Dan didn't know the answer to my question, he would help me find it. And if the conventional wisdom tried to downplay the change I felt, he'd help me dig deeper to ferret out the inconvenient truth. He probably would have introduced me to the article I read this morning. The air is warmer, because of global warming. Warmer air holds more moisture. So far, nine nations have set all time temperature records in 2010: Russia at 111 degrees; Niger at 118; Sudan at 121; Saudi Arabia & Iraq at 126; Pakistan at 130. The planet has just come through the warmest decade, the warmest year, the warmest six months and the warmest April, May and June on record.

Sitting here sweating, I'm grieving the loss of a big, consistent voice for this good Creation. At the same time, confident as I am that his was an irrepressible Spirit, I'm listening to hear it booming out again, in unexpected places; like quiet library reading rooms, perhaps in union organizing halls, or in classrooms and boardrooms, in banks and shareholder meetings, at the Pentagon and at Congress. We can't be quiet or shy. Dan wasn't!

Carl Kline

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