POEM: BUCKET BRIGADE – Owed to Karen Krause

BUCKET BRIGADE

Owed to Karen Krause

While some pine
That faith
The size of a mustard seed
Can move mountains
Like magic
Perhaps with a wrinkle of their knows
Wiser women know
How mountains move
Bucket by bucket
By outstretched hands
And sturdy hearts
In awe ways
Moving
Forward
Crossing generations
And races
Not to the swiftest
But the truest
Seeking won peace
In couraging
When injustice seems beyond the pale
And hate appears justified
A brigade appears
As well
And in the shadow
Of a rising calvary
Appears victory and solace
Beyond belief
For what death cannot touch
We have firmly held
The mountaintop
In portions made human
Sizing us up
Long the weigh
Only making us stronger
Such trails and tribulations
Are now more plainly marked
And the eternal answer echoes more clearly
Be more
Karen
Be won for all
Not bewitched
By fancy
As some go before us
Surely, we must follow
And may we all be carried away
In the arms of friends
And when such days we face
The un-Karen powers that be
May we hear the call to arms
And just bucket

I wrote this poem, this ode, as a tribute to my friend and my public health mentor, Karen Krause.  Karen died Monday, October 21, 2013, at the age of 73.  [You can see her obituary and local news story for a small outline of her life.]  I shared this poem with her when she was healthy enough to take it in.  I would like to live in a world where everyone has poems written about them and for them.  This poem takes us one step closer to that world.  The idea for the poem was inspired by a conversation I had with Karen and a couple other friends.  I spoke of the commonly misunderstood scripture quote from Matthew 17:20 where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Of course, most people mistakenly refer to this as if faith were some magical spell, cast successfully if only you believe hard enough.  Karen’s life emulated its true meaning: that spending a lifetime, even generations, moving a bucket at a time, can move mountains.  [Check out one of my other blog entries for more background on the historical context of this scripture.]  I knighted Karen as “Leader of the Bucket Brigade” and this poem soon followed.

You can download a printer-friendly PDF version of this poem here: Bucket-Brigade-Owed-to-Karen-Krause

I was deeply honored when Karen asked me to write a letter for her, her last letter, to be distributed upon her death.  Karen and I, from our years working together in public health, drafted many letters and such, spending hours editing and re-drafting.  Perhaps as a fitting culmination and closure of our relationship as friends and colleagues, Karen, defying precedent, accepted the letter with virtually no editing. Here is that letter:

Karen Krause asked me to write this letter.  Karen died peacefully on Monday October 21, 2013.  She wanted to give thanks, especially for her friendships and experiences in her final months. She was in hospice care since July.  Karen decided to forgo treatment to maintain her quality of life in her remaining time.  She and her doctor were content with this decision.  She lived and died as a nurse and a patient, without regrets.  She was tremendously thankful to be able to stay home and maintain her independence for most of her hospice experience.

Karen was deeply grateful for her friends and colleagues — and Karen had a way of making friends colleagues and colleagues friends.  Karen continued to bring people together until the very end, just as she had brought people together her whole life.  She was heartened by the outpouring of visitation, food, medical help, pastoral counseling, assistance of all kinds, and abundant words of encouragement.

Her last months were invaluable for Karen recognizing her own humility.  Her often unsung work was just her way: “that’s Karen.”  Karen’s dedication and perseverance inspired countless others, yet, she was faithfully, even doggedly, focused on higher purposes than herself.  Many friends shared what she meant to them, the positive contribution that she made to who they are.  This enabled Karen to better see and more fully appreciate how important her life has been to others.   Hopefully, such realizations helped serve as just wages for decades of work serving others.

As in her life, her dying wish was for social justice.  Among other things, Karen was the moving force for Toledo Area Jobs with Justice/Interfaith Worker Justice Coalition (JwJ/IWJ).  She knew this work needs to go on.  Toledo JwJ/IWJ is reorganizing.  Karen made clear that her preferred way to be honored is to assure that Toledo JwJ/IWJ is able to continue its vital work.  Please contact Bob Lynn, Jr. to see how you can help out jwj@jwjtoledo.org ; PO Box 13048, Toledo, OH, 43613; or 419-787-5245.

Karen succeeded in making the world a better place for all.  Her life, and death, is a call to all of us to do the same.  Karen accepted the gift of gratitude for her life, and she asked that you accept her gratitude as her final gift to you.

Please see Karen’s obituary in the Toledo Blade Obituary, Foth Dorfmeyer Funeral Home and Toledo Blade Featured Article for more about Karen’s life.

Her legacy lives on, but we will miss her…

Peace,

Dan Rutt

Another Bastard for Birth Control

Today, a couple hundred people gathered outside the Lucas County Courthouse in Toledo, Ohio, to demonstrate about religious freedom and healthcare in America.  Most of the crowd was organized by the effort to repeal President Barack Obama’s so-called Obama care, and specifically, the requirements surrounding religious institution employers providing birth control related services as part of any health insurance that they offer to their employees.  This was one of many protests around the country organized by two Catholic pro-life groups.  Nonetheless, there were dozens of people with alternative messages.  Perhaps the most provocative, was a couple of bastards from Occupy Toledo, pictured below:

Another Bastard for Birth ControlIn my opinion, freedom is largely meaningless, unless it is in the context of how that freedom is used and what effect this has on other people.  In the end, if these demonstrators get their way, there will only be more bastards in this country.  In Ohio, close to half of pregnancies occur out-of-wedlock, and over a third of pregnancies, whether in wedlock or out-of-wedlock, are unintended.  The United States already has the highest rate of unintended pregnancies in the so-called free world.  I believe that family planning, the ability to plan the size of one’s family, is a basic human right that should be honored, particularly by religious folks.

Several people approached me stating quite emphatically that they were not against birth control.  Ironically, all of these were members of the Roman Catholic Church.  Typically, the distinction they were trying to make was that this rally was not about birth control but about forcing certain people, particularly religious people, paying for something they do not want.  I am intrigued by pro-lifers getting all their panties in a bunch over this issue while our governments have used federal and state tax dollars to execute people, including those who are mentally retarded, and to wage wars pretty much nonstop in our lifetimes.  No one seemed to have seriously considered resisting paying federal or state income taxes as a matter of conscience related to these issues.   To me it always seems that is more meaningful to ask pro-lifers whose life they are most concerned about, not whether they want to protect life and liberty in some abstract way.  I will work and pray for the day when there are no unwanted children, no executions or torture, and no war.  Let’s make it so!

Oh yeah, special thanks to Toledo Jobs with Justice for making a show in support of health care for all!

Corporate Tax Dodger FirstEnergy, Toledo Protest

The corporate tax dodger FirstEnergy paid no income taxes on its over $1.2 billion of profits in 2010.  FirstEnergy provides electricity to Toledo and the surrounding area.  At noon today, about two dozen protesters gathered outside the corporate headquarters of FirstEnergy in downtown Toledo.  The protesters gathered to demand that FirstEnergy pay its fair share of taxes, which would definitely be more than zero!  The protest was organized by Fight for a Fair Economy which organize similar protests around Ohio to protest Ohio energy companies making billions of dollars in profits and paying no income taxes.  The Fight for a Fair Economy (Ohio) is a collaboration of efforts between the SEIU union, labor allies, community partners and grassroots supporters to fight back against attacks on working people and their families all across Ohio.  Other local groups which participated were Occupy Toledo and Jobs with Justice Toledo.  Pictured below is Top Pun holding up a bright yellow sign that says “FirstEnergy is a tax dodger, pay your fair share.”  The sign to the far left says, “Why is it easier to believe that 150 million Americans are lazy rather than 400 Americans are greedy.”  The sign indicating Interfaith Worker Justice is a reference to one of the partner coalitions of Jobs with Justice Toledo.

First Energy Corporate Tax Dodgers Toledo Protest

Please visit Ohio Citizens Action to see a list of 37 Ohio corporations who paid no income taxes.  These 37 Ohio corporations made over $50 billion in profits and actually made another $7.8 billion in tax credits, for an effective tax rate of -15.6%.  Each of these companies are profitable without taxpayer support.  Each of these companies benefits from taxpayer supported infrastructure and services.  We should end this corporate welfare and demand that these companies make a fair contribution to their communities and no longer be a drain on our tax dollars, especially during a very difficult time for our economy and when essential government services are being strained or cut.

Toledo Protests Balancing State Budget on Backs of Working People and Families

This afternoon, about three dozen people from Northwest Ohio gathered in the chambers of the Lucas County commissioners at Government Center in downtown Toledo to protest Gov. Kasich’s State of the State address which balances the state’s budget on the backs of working people and their families.  This demonstration and press conference was organized and sponsored by Jobs with Justice Toledo and the local Service Employees International UnionOccupy Toledo also joined forces to call for a budget that meets human need not corporate greed.  Included in the gathering were labor activists and union members, elected officials, educators, health care workers, persons living in poverty, persons of faith, and God knows who else!  The event was intended to counter and respond to Gov. Kasich’s bully pulpit.  The governor claims to have created jobs in Lucas County, when, in fact, any recent job creation occurred despite his leadership not because of it.  Rumor also has it that the sun has risen in Lucas County every day since the governor was elected.  The governor seems intent on managing the state’s budget by breaking the budget of local government, counties and municipalities.  Over $70 million of Lucas County tax revenue that previously was returned to the county, is now being retained by the state.  This year alone, Toledo public schools has had to deal budget cuts totaling $400 per pupil, and already strained system.  Meanwhile, at the state, under the governor’s leadership, we are privatizing and selling off the people’s assets while simultaneously acting surprised that government somehow doesn’t turn a profit.  Well, Gov., the government is supposed to serve as a vehicle for benefiting the common good, not as a tool for generating private profit.  When profits come before the people, sooner or later, prophets will come before the people! Let us make it so.