Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wisdom Of The Week

 Sharel was twenty when she died from an overdose. Her funeral was held at the Holy Temple Christian Church on Althea Street in Providence, Rhode Island. The church tried to raise $5,000 for the expense, but only managed to raise $347.

Althea Street is short, only three blocks long. It is poor. Boarded up buildings mingle with renovated homes. An empty lot sits in the middle of one block, filled with garbage. A small path weaves through the garbage back towards a ring of old chairs under a tree. Around the chairs, on the ground, are needles, cheap bottles of vodka, and tiny bags used to hold crack. At each end of the street are stores that sell milk and cereal but make most of their money from selling single cigarettes (loosies) and cheap malt liquor. They also sell crack pipes disguised as pens or flower holders.

You can find a version of Althea Street in any American city.  At the center of all of these streets you find churches. Lots of churches. Churches that occupy makeshift spaces are often the only building with lights on. Inside the churches are priests, nuns, and ministers who are part of the neighborhood. They spend their days talking and helping those who have fallen the lowest. The crack addict smoking under the trees, the junkie who falls asleep in the empty lots.

They often do this because they themselves were once that person. They do it because what brought them back from their lowest point was a person holding a Bible, or a Koran, talking to them and treating them as an equal.

On the streets you don’t find any scientists. You may find flyers offering people money to be part of studies. Studies on how drugs affect the brain or the body.

Scientists need to be a little more like Willie. They need to get out of their libraries, universities, and labs and go to their town’s version of Althea Street and treat those who they meet as equals not subjects. They need to spend time talking and offering hope to those who don’t feel there is much hope left. They need to figure out what that hope is, and allow the possibility it may be a Bible.

Until they do that, until they do it with the equal energy of churches, those suffering won’t trust science. And for good reason.

- What Science Can Learn from Religion

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