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Answers from Chief Joseph
from the October 2005 Star Beacon
Moments of Grace
by Chief Joseph and John Cali
As many of you know, I normally don’t pay much attention
to the mainstream news media. But I have during this very
difficult time in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
We’ve all heard many stories of the human horrors left
festering in Katrina’s wake. And we’ve heard people in positions
of responsibility, folks who should know better, pointing fingers
and finding blame everywhere except in themselves.
CNN host Howard Kurtz
exclaimed, “Good God, what is wrong with these people? Will they
ever learn to see somebody else’s misfortune as something more
than their political opportunity?”
But, for the first time in
my personal memory, the mainstream news media are focusing not
only on the bad news, but also almost as much on the good news,
the news of all the “good Samaritans” out there.
National Public Radio
reporter Robert Smith said “There’s no shortage of kindness, even
if there is a shortage of space.”
There have been, as another
wise reporter said, “moments of grace.” Moments that restore our
faith in humanity, in ourselves, and in the basic goodness of
In an eloquent and poignant
letter, a dear friend wrote me about her own moments of grace.
Here’s her letter:
On the subject of Hurricane Katrina, may I make a few
comments? I live and work in Houston TX, as you may or may not
know. There has been a plethora of accusations and blaming, but I
feel those are people who’ve not yet learned that blaming and
accusation get us nothing.
Rather I’d like to tell you that in my job as a rabbi’s
assistant, the very morning the hurricane made landfall, my phone
was ringing non-stop with people saying, “Tell me what to do, how
can I help? I can’t sit here doing nothing!” And it has continued
to ring with that same sentiment ever since.
Houston citizenry has opened their hearts and homes and
wallets, they have volunteered for feeding the hungry and clothing
those who arrived here with only the shirt on their backs. They
have sat with refugees and listened to them talk, something that
many desperately needed. They have played with the children and
As we continue to become more organized, there are solid
plans in place so that the most can be accomplished to help the
hurricane victims without duplicating efforts. People from all
walks of life have stepped up to the plate and worked tirelessly.
People from nearly every state in the Union have called
to volunteer parts of their homes, their vacation homes, air
mattresses, anything they have to house those who’ve lost
This country has not lost its heart nor its faith! I
have a sign in my office that states (not my words) “I don’t
believe in miracles, I depend on them.” And oh my goodness they
abound here and I am grateful to be here.
And here’s Chief Joseph.
It is true you are all in your current lifetimes for the benefit of God, of
All That Is. But it is also true you are in this lifetime for your own benefit.
It’s a two-way street, friends. You and God benefit equally from your human
experiences. You humans bring a richness and joy to us in the dimensions of
spirit simply by being human. Your being is its own justification.
It’s all about growth, not perfection and imperfection.
We ask you to consider for a moment your idea of perfection.
When you finally become perfect (whatever you define that as), you will
have, as you say, “arrived.” And most of you, when thinking about arriving,
believe you’ve reached your destination, the end of your journey.
But there is no end to your journey — or to God’s. You are both on an
eternal journey, a journey with no end, no destination.
The “end,” if there is one, is simply growth. You are growing, growing,
growing. And no end is in sight. Nor will an end ever be in sight.
So we can only assume when you talk about imperfection, you are saying you
have not yet arrived at perfection.
Our only response to that is you are perfect in your imperfection.
Forget the terms “perfection” and “imperfection.” Instead, substitute “growth.”
You are growing. You are neither perfect nor imperfect. You are growing.
God is all that is. God is literally every thing that exists in all of
creation. That includes you, with all your perceived imperfections.
So, yes, to answer our reader’s question, your “imperfections” are part of
God. They are also God’s “imperfections.”
You and God are on a journey together. You are intimately bound together as
equals, and can never be separate. Take comfort in that — you and God are never
separate. He or She is always with you. You are one, imperfections and all.
It’s all good, friends. God wants you to enjoy the
journey, to find joy in every aspect of your life. Even your
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