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Those of you with a passing knowledge of college basketball may remember the name Bob Knight. He was fired as Indiana University basketball coach in 2000 and took a job at Texas Tech in 2001.
I am not suggesting for a moment that my extended family is weirder than any one else’s. I am also not suggesting that we are any less weird. Chances are pretty good that we fit under that 68.4 percent normal distribution bulge in the bell curve of weirdness. When it comes to religion, we are all over the place.
Last month, two events occurred in the same week that once again had us searching for answers. On Sept. 16, a heavily armed civilian contractor with a history of disorders fatally shot 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard. Later that week, terrorists attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in a three-day rampage that resulted in the deaths of at least 61 civilians and six Kenyan soldiers.
In 1997, then Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), The Rev. H. George Anderson wrote a book called, “A Good Time to be the Church.” His successor, The Rev. Mark Hanson, who will complete 12 years as ELCA Presiding Bishop in November, quipped that he was thinking of writing a book called, “It’s Not All That Great a Time to Be the Church.”
I’ve known Jerry for more than 40 years. We met through a mutual friend in high school, albeit an unlikely match: Jerry was a star athlete in three sports and I was a nerd who wrote for the school paper and belonged to the Ecology Club. The most obvious difference between us, however, is that Jerry is an African-American.
I am one of those whose mother invoked starving children in India or China as a way to get me to eat nasty vegetables like eggplant and okra and to otherwise leave nothing on the plate. These days, I like vegetables, I clearly do not often leave anything on the plate, and my mother need not look past our own shores to see starving children.
I did it. Even though it might make me the last person in Ahwatukee over the age of 9 to do so, I have a smartphone. It was not a case of desire; the screen on my “vintage” phone was so scratched I couldn’t see it, and it turned out I could get the smartphone and pay $10 less per month. I suspect the kid that sold it to me was like a seedy, back alley pusher — “come on, its even cheaper” — and that a smartphone is gateway technology.
Six years ago, Janine Skinner was a mother of three who was reentering the workforce. Some of the return was financial: the aforementioned kids were just a few years away from college. While serving as a youth event chaperone, she was introduced to Minnesota-based Feed My Starving Children (FMSC). That was the beginning of a six-year whirlwind.
Around 25 years ago, I was racing bicycles in Southern California. It was mostly local club races and I enjoyed training rides with teammates. We began hearing stories of a talented junior (under 18) in Texas. He had gifts, but tended to be so relentlessly competitive that he wanted to lead a race from start to finish, which often is not the best strategy. That young Texan turned out to be Lance Armstrong.
I have always been more interested in the questions than the answers. I guess that is because the questions begin conversations and answers, even the good ones, end them.