By Charlie Johnston
I had planned to go back down the mountain to Denver yesterday for the Triduum. But when I woke up yesterday morning, there was a foot and a half of snow on the ground and it kept snowing all day. We ended with a little over two feet. The picture above of the picnic table out back was taken today, after we had some melt-off. Pray that it gets nice and warm today and tomorrow so I have a chance of getting off the mountain in time for Easter, or I will spend my Easter with the good folks from EWTN. (That is not entirely bad – I have enjoyed some of the Daily Masses on EWTN and been delighted to see them celebrated by Priests I got to know last year and will get to visit with again this year.) All through Lent, we only got one snow of any note up here, just four inches, and it melted off within two days. Then we get the biggest I have ever seen the night before I was to leave….hmmm…I wonder what message there might be in that.
You will want to start checking the “Upcoming Events” link at the top of the Page regularly. While I am not going to do an extended tour like last year, I am in the process of working with my volunteer assistant, Mary, to confirm visits now. I will be in the Northeast for a series of presentations from April 1-11 (even if I have to get a snow-cat squad to get me off the mountain). The first two events will be as follows:
1:00pm: April 2, 2016
Manchester, New Hampshire
7:00 p.m. Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Other events will be listed as the details are confirmed.
Our friends at Focus TV in Covington, Louisiana suffered tremendous flood damage recently. Since they are supported by donors, it is a real challenge to them. Focus independently produces Catholic content for television stations around the country and through the internet. It was founded by the late Archbishop Philip Hannan.
Focus TV did a half-hour interview with me last year that I thought turned out very well. If you can help them, they would much appreciate it – and so would I. I expect to visit with them again later this year, hoping that the chair I sit on will have dried out or have been replaced by then.
There is a reason why direct charity is best handled locally. When it is done that way, people can most easily verify the circumstances and filter out manipulators who try to game others’ compassions.
We had a situation here the last week and a half where a woman using the screen name, “halfpint,” appeared with a narrative about losing everything but her car and being tossed out of her home. She asked for prayers, but naturally people started suggesting where she could go to get direction on how to get help. She quickly explained that she was not able to do any of those things and was being turned down by all the local religious and charitable outlets. All was quiet until someone asked the obvious question of whether we might be being played. Suddenly, halfpint become furiously indignant and accusatory. One person who visits here (I’ll call her A) and was deeply sympathetic managed to make direct contact and halfpint referred her to a Priest who would vouch for her. Unfortunately, A was never able to reach the Priest and could get no callbacks. Most recently, I got a note from an intermediary that halfpint is complaining that A, who wanted to go the extra mile to help, is harassing her. I am hearing from a few people here that halfpint is trashing me and other people here who were sympathetic to her with bitter invective. She has ended up staying with someone who has been a reader here. I hope that goes well. But this has been an ugly episode.
Halfpint may just be distraught from severe upheaval in her life recently. But manipulators typically give quick reasons why they can’t get any help from normal local religious and charitable outlets, give references that can’t be verified, and get accusatory and angry when efforts are made to simply verify their story. I don’t know that she is manipulating anyone, but I do know that she has behaved in precisely the way manipulators do.
I should have cut this off as soon as it started getting ugly and accusatory. People who are sincere generally do not get furiously angry when asked to give evidence of their bona fides. When I was on my pilgrimage I was stopped nine times by police to check on what I was up to. It never occurred to me to be offended that police might want to check what an obviously itinerant fellow walking in the middle of nowhere was doing. In fact, in a little Mississippi town, I had been stopped by the local police chief. When I went on into town looking for a library where I could work online, the police station was in the same building. The chief walked out, saw me and laughed, saying, “Hey, old buddy, if I knew you were coming here I could have saved myself a trip.” I laughed back and told him, “Well, you get a report of an old guy with a funny hat and heavy pack walking in the middle of nowhere, you gotta check it out.” He slapped me on the back and said, “I guess you’re right. Be safe out there.” He started by running my license to check me out – and ended by patting my back and giving me a couple of canned sodas for the road. I doubt it would have ended in laughter had I been indignant he wanted to check me out in the first place.
The TNRS Answers team is working up an FAQ giving direction to people in need, so they can easily navigate the local resources that are available to them. The link I have set up for it is not complete yet, but that is where we will direct such questions from now on. I will run a little bit of a tighter filter henceforth. While we enjoy serious debates here, if someone is just trying to disrupt or make accusations, they will have to go somewhere else. The community here is getting much bigger and drawing more attention – and that means we are targets more and more of phishing efforts and trolls. It is my job to protect this community from such things while keeping our exchanges open. Time to up my game.
This does not mean there will never be a direct appeal referenced here, but if there is, it will be quite unusual – usually something like the call for Focus TV just above – and will have to have been personally vetted and verified by me or a member of the TNRS team.
When the early Christians had to retreat to the catacombs, they set up signs and verifications to defend the community from manipulators and hostiles trying to subvert the community. As the darkness grows, it is best we don’t get side-tracked from our fundamental purpose, which is to acknowledge God, take the next right step and be a sign of hope. Everyone knows that some manipulators use people’s malice against them; the reality is that the best manipulators use people’s very compassion against them.
We will stay focused here.