Paul’s Perambulations

February 5, 2011

Does Paul take a homeless person to the formal Mendel dinner?

Filed under: Education,Family,Peace,Recreation,Work — admin @ 11:18 pm

The Villanova College of Arts & Sciences invites their faculty to an annual formal dinner. Putting on a tux for dinner seemed rather excessive/wasteful to this simple Quaker. But a friend had purchased one at a garage sale that happened to fit me perfectly, and so I thought I would go. But I remained uneasy with participating in an administration-sponsored event that seemed both unnecessarily wasteful and suppressed all individuality. For a religious institution that has “Caritas” in its motto and supports the individual’s search for truth, this didn’t seem like the best way to publically spend a lot of money. Invitations were for “faculty and guest,” and my former wife declined to attend with me.

What should I do? I decided that I would bring a homeless person as my guest. This seemed satisfactory to me on many counts, and I described my intention and reasoning to a number of people, including Fr. Ray Jackson. Ray Jackson was a good friend of mine and a very liberal priest with whom I had team-taught a graduate course on Peace and War. He was not your ordinary priest, particularly at Villanova. We were each uncommon, but in quite different ways. He was brought up in the Bronx and had been a Marine sergeant in Korea, and these influences were apparent. I described my plan, and my reasons seemed clear and compelling to me. Knowing his sincere concern for peace and justice, I was sure he would agree. But he gave me something to think about. “Paul, I know that this sounds like a good idea to you. But forget it. People work hard; life can be hard. Here is an opportunity for people to forget their concerns and worries and come together as couples and friends for a nice social occasion. And you are going to hit them with hard reality?  Don’t. This is not the time or place.”

I thought about it, and followed his advice. I went alone. At a later point in life I met Fran, and we go together. I wear the free garage-sale tux my friend gave me. Fran wears something gorgeous that she got at a thrift store. She looks beautiful; we have a good time.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”

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