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The Graf Family mini-website has outgrown the MilwaukeeRenaissance.com greenhouse!

Projects that Bob Graf has started with other community members are still here on the MilwaukeeRenaissance.com, where growing conditions are so great for small, tender seedlings — see

Moving to our new wiki home, at NonviolentWorm.org:

Included below is the live home page of the NEW Diary of a Worm, on the New NonviolentWorm.org wiki website. Clicking any link below will bring you to our new site!

Nonviolent Cow : DiaryOfAWorm/Diary of a Worm browse

Welcome to the Journal of the Graf Family Growing Power Home Model


Rain Garden
August 2010

Tomatoes & Basil
from Front Lawn
Garden 2010

Back Yard
Garden 08/02/09



In January of 2006 I toured Will Allen’s Growing Power farm. Inspired by the Growing Power vision, my wife, son, a family friend and I constructed a home-based version of the Growing Power system in our sun-room.

We started by building an 8′ X 2′ box in our three-season room, and (with help of good persons at Growing Power and some worms) grew, with mixed results, salad greens and seedlings for the first summer’s garden. As the seasons change, our focus shifts back and forth between the sun-room and its evolving Growing Power Home Garden Project Box, and our Growing Power backyard garden, where we use the rich soil, worm castings and worms from the indoor box outdoors. Same system yet different.

Digging in the earth can uncover all kinds of things, and so can digging deep in ourselves. In my online journal, I have been recording daily reflections on the progress of our efforts in adapting the Growing Power model to our home and garden, mixed with my observations about life, peace, justice, faith, family, community and friends. Enjoy. Thank you! — Bob Graf


Click below to read any post in full — see the Archives for older posts.


Thank You Woman Friends - Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Ms. Lucille,86,a new,
old friend, whose mother is
alive and 114

I am blessed with women and men friends, from way in the past to the last few years. Today it was for my women friends to bless my day.

One friend from the late sixties who I have only seen once or twice in the last thirty years sent a short note of affection in response to an email I sent to friends of old. I will need to write her and tell her a newer woman friend, an 86 year civil rights activist, was on the bus with us, driven by Father Groppi in 1968, to Resurrection City in Washington D.C.

Another woman friend who has been in severe pain for the last five years called today to ask for a ride to still another medical test ordered by the recent pain doctor she saw. She is a young woman, in her forties, who manages to keep a good disposition although she lives with constant pain. She is full of blessings.

Another newer friend who I talked to today is a mother, grandmother and great grandmother who works, goes to school, and is very active in her church as well as other activities. Yesterday I drove her to a rally at North Division high school where the President spoke. She and one of her granddaughters had security passes to go in early and to stand behind the President. I did not wait in the very long lines to get in the field house where the President was going to endorse the Democratic governor for election. I made the mistake of telling her that I do not vote and made some remark about my disappointment with President Obama. Tonight on the phone I heard an earful about how the President has been attacked by whites because he is black. The love and proud of African Americans is deep and unconditional and I should have been more sensitive. I tried to lighten the mood by repeating a bumper sticker saying “God is not a Republican or a Democratic” but that did not work. She remains a good and trusted friend.

Of course I must name my best woman friend, Pat, my wife. She still works full time so on days, like today, where she works till 5:30 I prepare dinner. She is appreciative of my cooking which, I have to say, has improved over the years. She herself is a great cook and has taught me how to cook some foods, especially Middle Eastern cooking, which she learned from my mother.

I am blessed with men and women friends and today I want to say thank you to my woman friends for making my day one of joy.


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Science and Faith Together at the End - Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Once I was walking with Pat on a nature trail along Lake Mendota in Madison. It was a beautiful day. Near the end of the walk a strange thought entered my mine: the end of the world would be when humans could create nature. I am not sure what the thought meant but recently it has struck me as meaningful in an email conversation I am having with a friend about Truth. He comes from a strong science and math background where there no black or white and where what we call truth is relative. I am coming from a faith background where there is right and wrong and where Jesus shows us the way to God or “Kingdom of God on earth” and faith is full with paradoxes and mystery. In the world of science truth may be always relative. However, the world of Faith, we believe that the Truth of the Gospel is constantly revealing itself us.

In science we need to be active and pursue our every changing knowledge. In Faith we need to be silent to hear the truth within all creations. Science is something we learn and earned while faith is a gift given freely to us. Where humans via science discover more and more about nature with gift of faith we see the truth in nature. The scientific way and the way of faith are not contradictory but operate on different levels. In science we use our thought and minds to discover more about nature. In faith we used our senses and our heart to discover more about nature. Science uses reason while faith takes a leap.

Perhaps someday the science of nature and the faith in God will come together and with a whimper the world will end.


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Drive African Americans Back to Slavery - Monday, October 27, 2014


A friend asked me to take her today to the Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) to get license plates for a car her family had just purchased. I headed to the nearest DMV office which is downtown. It is there I got my license when I was 16 and had been there many times with family, friends and myself for car matters. She had her doubts about going there and she was right. This DMV office no longer offers license plates. The closest office was on the far South Side so we headed there. My friend had got a list of DMV offices and sadly,to no surprise, there was no office in North Central Milwaukee, the most racially segregated, poorest area in Milwaukee (See M.A.P.S.).

Driving a car is a challenge for low income persons but not having a DMV office there just increases the challenge for these citizens to drive. This is one more example of the racism that is rampart in Milwaukee.

Later in the day I attended a symposium at Marquette University that billed itself as the history of Marquette’s Educational Opportunity Program (E.O.P.), a program started after student protest in 1968 on ‘institutional racism’ at Marquette, the low number of African American students. The promotion of the program had been so historically inaccurate, saying the protest was a student response to Martin Luther King’s death, not mentioning the group that spearheading the protest and calling a fellow Jesuit scholastic at the time as an “60′s activist” made me go over the Marquette University Library to get a copy of the official 100 history: “Milwaukee Jesuit University Marquette 1881–1981.” I was prepared for a revisionist history.

As is the custom these days with panels or speakers on controversial subjects like racism there was no time for comments or questions. However, my concern for historical accuracy was not important since three of the panelist were people I knew at that time and they told the story like it was. I talked with two of them afterwards to say hello and expressed my concern that the number of students from North Central Milwaukee in the program has declined over the years. They were both aware of this fact and had made subtle hints about this in their talks. Is this another example of an institution going backwards in the civil rights struggle?

Marquette’s new president was present as the panelist talked about the university being a place for free exchange of ideas. The other big struggle of 67–69 at Marquette was the resistance to military training at Marquette University. We lost that struggle in a big way as Marquette is now the regional training center for Department of Defense for Army, Navy/Marines and Air Force. We have been trying to get a ‘dialog’ for years at Marquette about presence of military departments on campus for Southeastern Wisconsin. Maybe now is the time to ask again.

However, dialog of issues of peace and social justice are not in vogue today. Just like with our struggle with racism of local St. Vincent de Paul our views are tolerated, not debated, and just ignored or marginalized, the message and the messenger. However, I need not give in to despair but continue to hope that we can once again talk about Gospel values and how to practice them in our lives. If someone can show me how it is okay for Marquette to teach war and killing without conscience I would need to change my mind. If someone in St. Vincent de Paul could show me how spending millions of dollars of poor person’s monies in the suburbs helps the poor in North Central Milwaukee than, in conscience, I would need to accept it.

The values I was raised on, including 13 years of Jesuit education, tells me these two things, teaching killing and ignoring the poor are wrong and without a dialog we must struggle for the truth.

One of my friends active in civil rights asked a group at a meeting of St. Vincent de Paul: “How far do you need to drive African Americans back into slavery?”


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Truth or Non-Truth - Sunday, October 26, 2014


Today I had a conversation with two friends about Truth. One by email from a friend, learned in science, living in Texas and one by phone conversation with a friend, who is a Roman Catholic Woman Priest, living in Kentucky.

The thoughts about Truth got regenerated in my mind at a recent conference on Gospel nonviolence that I attended with Father McCarthy of the Center for Creative Nonviolence. He was talking about the principle of Aristotle and Pope John Paul II that if x is true than y is not true. Simply if the Gospel exhortation to “Love your enemies is true” that not loving your enemies cannot be true.

My friend from Texas was talking about the gray area we find in science and often in everyday life. But in major matters of morals I cannot see, without rationalization, how two things can be true and untrue. When the Catholic Church considered ‘slavery’ okay it was moral in their practice. When the Catholic Church considered slavery immoral it became immoral for Church matters. I do not see any grey area where slavery is okay and not okay.
My woman priest friend and I were talking about teachings of Gospel. If teaching violence and killing, according to Gospel is wrong it cannot be rationalized, like it is at certain Catholic Universities, to be right or moral. In some matters something cannot be true and untrue.

Today was Dorothy Day day at our Church. Now Dorothy was a person of strong beliefs. If her conscience told her something, like military killing in wars was wrong, she could not justify it. She was open to changing her mind and thus her conscience through dialog and conversation but when she believed something was just and moral she had low tolerance for people, who tried to have it both ways, preach one thing and practice another.

A derogatory word for persons who believe in conscience there is right and wrong, truth and non-truth is ‘righteousness’. But in bible and other literature being righteous is often a compliment, not a insult. For if was have no sense of right and wrong, values we believe are truth we do not have anything to die for or to live for, no meaning in life. Truth might be our ‘opinion of Truth’ but if we believe it to be true we must live it to the best of our ability. Our life is as Gandhi said is “A Experiment with Truth.”


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Message and Messegner Ignored - Saturday, October 25, 2014


A friend of mine sent me some Marquette tribune articles from the spring of 1968 when a group of students were struggling against the administration for what they called “institutional racism”. The president of the time ignored our message but tried to marginalize some of the leaders of the movement. If this sounds familiar it is, for now often the administration not only ignores our message, but when possible, ignores the messengers.

When the messenger is attacked for the message he or she has a chance to practice nonviolence by absorbing the attack and keeping to the messenger. But when the message and messenger are ignored who do we act nonviolently? I asked that question at a recent conference on Gospel Nonviolence and there seem to be no easy answers. When a messenger is attacked he or she is at least recognized as someone worth attacking. When a messenger is ignored it is as if he or she did not matter.

This reminds me of a quote from the famous Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

This quote is more remarkable when you realize that Elie Wiesel was a teenager who lived through a horrendous experience, with his father, in Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945 at the height of the Holocaust toward the end of the Second World War.

The ‘crimes against humanity” he experienced and described in his book “Night” came when everything is inverted, every value destroyed. “Here there are no fathers, no brothers, no friends,” a Kapo tells him. “Everyone lives and dies for himself alone.”[1]
So here is a man who described an unspeakable attack on his humanity saying the opposite of love is not hate, its indifference.”

How do we struggle for truth and love when we face indifference and the message and messenger is ignored?


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Time to Write and Not to Write - Sunday, October 19, 2014


There is a time to write and a time to not write. The next four days I will try to do both. I may stop writing this posting on Diary of Worm but write some thoughts on racism in Milwaukee, Dorothy Day and military training, mental health first responders and few other ideas. What I would really like to explore are new tactics and strategies on going on the offensive with creative nonviolence. There is a lot to draw from, Gandhi, King, Dorothy Day, to name a few but what we really need, I think, are new tactics to fit our day and age. The YouTube video we are making about military training at Marquette and Notre Dame may be a step in the right direction; but we need to speak in a clear and loud voice the Way of Gospel of nonviolence and fear not the reprisals and rejections we face.

If you need, I doubt it, more postings on the Diary of Worm this week check out the archives. There is more than you need or want to know but there are few gems of observations here and there. There is a time to write and not to write.


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The Meek are Getting Ready - Saturday, October 18, 2014


Last week in these observations I asked I really do not have many answers except to Love your friends and well as your enemies, just consistently and persistently ‘do the right thing’ and keep on speaking truth to power no matter what the consequences or how weak a messenger one may be.

Maybe there are no answers. The first shall be last, the stone rejected by builders will be corner stone, meek shall inherit the earth, the poor are blessed, the weak shall be strong and the strong weak, the mighty will fall down and the weak will rise, the poor are blessed and rich condemned, the more you give the more you get are all paradoxes of life that have no easy answers.
My deceased son Peter and my garden have taught me a lot about paradoxes. To my son life was a paradox: what was important mean little and something little was powerful. In the garden it is often the smallest seed that produces the most fruitful plant.

But being consistent and persistent at living the Gospel as, one’s conscience tells one to do, can be very tiring. When I am doing a good job at it I can hardly get up in the morning. When I falter, false energy keeps me awake. The only real test if I am doing the right thing I can find is not how good I feel about something but how calm and natural I feel about it. If agitating others agitates me inside than I must question it. But if I am moved by the spirit when I talk and act there is calm inside.

I starting to realize what we call nonviolence, protesting, accepting all opinions, petitions, writing emails and even some actions of civil disobedience is just more noise keeping the message confusing? Unless people have ears to hear and eyes to see we are just spinning our wheels in this kind of nonviolence in word and actions.

What I call “creative nonviolence”, the message of the Gospel, does not appeal as much to reason as to the heart. It starts with our own hearts and just radiates out and finds a community on fire with living Gospel message.

We need new tactics and strategies to go with the creative nonviolence of the Gospel, ways of proclaiming in word and deed, the Gospel nonviolent love. Some of us are brainstorming on tactics and strategies. All I know so far we need to creative, willing to endure suffering and insults and support each other. Some say we need to build a new way of life inside the crumpling shell of the present way of life. Until we can do this creatively we need to throw wrenches into the well oiled machine of present to slow it down. We cannot stop decline of empire but only slow it down so we are ready when the empire falls. A friend of mine wears a button that says it all: “The Meek are getting ready.”


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Revolution of Heart - Friday, October 17, 2014


“The greatest challenge of the
day is: how to bring about a
revolution of the heart, a
revolution which has to start
with each one of us?”

Dorothy Day

Early this morning I took a friend to Sam’s Club to purchase some fish. I normally do not shop at Wal-Mart/Sam’s Club, I say it is against my religion, but since I was there I looked into purchasing a bag of fish. Not to my surprise the back of the frozen fish bags said “A Product of China”. I try to stay away from “Made in China” products, especially food since the practice of cutting corners to make money in China makes me wonder what I am really eating. What are the fish fed?

In my email today I got a note today from Wal-Mart workers who are trying to change the treatment of workers at Wal-Mart from within. They talk about victories and about issues they were working on. However, one assertion really struck me ”the Waltons”, family of founder Sam Wall, “now has as much wealth as 43% of Americans combined.” Although we frequently hear these figures about how a small percentage of Americans have the majority of wealth in this nation it still strikes me as a tragedy.

This is especially true today when my wife and I made some home visits to people in need in North Central Milwaukee. The typical call is with mom with a number of children in the household who needs basics like stove, refrigerator and beds. We do what we can but greedy landlords and the epidemic of bed bugs with racism are keeping people down and leaving the poor without much chance of getting out of it. Many households have many generations under one household, mother, children, cousins, grandparent under one household. One friend of mine has four generations in her household and struggles to provide food and heat.

The poverty of minority groups, like African Americans or Hispanics is growing at a tremendous rate why the State and Rich take more and more away from them. Yet I find in these homes of the poor a good spirit and hope. There is a spirit of gratitude for the beds or appliances you can provide and hope their children will one day escape the poverty and suffering they face.

People criticize people doing the works of mercy as just applying band aids not creating “systematic change.” Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker also faced this charge. Her response and mine is that Jesus in the Gospels commands us to do the works of mercy saying that what we do the least of people we do to Jesus. As I tried to say in the parable Thy Kingdom Come on Earth as It is Heaven the simple act of providing a bed for a child so he or she no longer needs to sleep on the floor could have a tremendous and revolutionary impact.

If we all live the corporate and spiritual works of mercy there would be revolution in this country. As Dorothy Day used to say we would not have homelessness if everyone took in one homeless person. There would be no great inequality of wealth if everyone practiced the Christian teaching of sharing their abundance with others in need. We can elect all the people we want, pass all the laws we want, yet revolutionary change will only happen when there is a revolution of the heart and people and groups of people live the Gospel in daily life. But we cannot really change other persons but only ourselves. So the real revolution is the revolution of the heart.


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What is the Option - Thursday, October 16, 2014


I am the Way,the Truth
and the Life (Jesus)

So much is going on drawing my attention that it has become more difficult to select what I can do best and be most effective. The simple criteria of works of mercy over works of resistance has become confusing since I have so many request for works of mercy and more and more thoughts of doing works of resistance.

The principle I learned long ago, when I was working in religious education in the Church, is the harder you work and the more good you do the more work there will to be done. I thought in retirement I would slow down, read and pray more but just the opposite is true, the more “ministry of the word” I do the more there is to do. “Ministry of the Word” is not new but my understanding is new.

The more I hear the word of God the more I must do and the more I do the more I need to be. I cannot hear the ‘cry of the poor’ or about the suffering and violence in the world without wanting to do something about it. Someone approached me last night about a new cause and event to rally people around it. I said I probably could not make it and the person said it was only attending a talk and rally. My response was that if I attended the event and believe in the cause I would want to do something about it. I was not one to hear about an issue and then move on to the next one.

Someone at the St. Vincent de Paul meeting the other night about the new thrift store they are building in an affluent area where it is not needed rather than an area, like North Central Milwaukee, where it is needed, said I should get aboard on the new store and stop wasting energy resisting it or just leave the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I told him that was not my choice. My choice was to be silent about a great injustice in a Society I deeply appreciate or to speak out my conscience. Actually, I said, in my case there was no choice. If I love working with poor and rejected I had to continue speaking out and agitating against injustice. He did not understand and kept following me around the rest of the night.

I guess God does choose the poor, rejected, weak and marginalized to be his messengers of the Gospel, the Way. I need to take God’s blessings and run with them or I will be in trouble. What, if not the option for the poor, is the option?


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Racism in the Heart - Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Last night coming home from a meeting where racism was evident I asked the three African-American women in the car with me how such good people do see the racism they were expressing in words and action. One woman responded about a man I deeply respect: “He does not want to face up to the racism in his heart.”

I did not understand what she meant until when I was driving home the last of the three women. She is an 86 year old African-America woman who asked if I could stop by a gas station so she could purchase some ‘pig skins’ snacks. I stopped at the station and said I would run in and get the snacks for her. Before leaving the car I saw a couple of young adult African American males standing around the door of the store. Instinctively I took some money from my wallet, left the wallet in the car with my friend, locked the door and went into the gas station store. I looked in the snack section of the store but could not find ‘pig skins”. I asked the person working behind the bullet proof glass where I can found them and one of the young men at the door pointed out a rack by the counter. He showed me the different kinds that were present and we joked about my not knowing what these snack were. On the way out the other young adult opened the door and we shared a few words of greetings. Once back in the car I put my wallet back in my pocket, gave the snack to my friend and drove to her house. I realized that it was the ‘racism in my heart’ that led to the fear of young black adults at the station.

Today I went to a prayer vigil for a young adult who was killed in North Central Milwaukee. I got there late and the mostly white regulars of the homicide vigil were just leaving. There was a large family turnout for the vigil and they did not leave. In fact more and more came. We stood around talked, prayed and just were present to each other. Family members were a mixture of African American and Hispanic persons. I talked with a few and learned more about a few, the family and the neighborhood. At one point we were told to gather around for prayer and a few members of the family prayed aloud. There was one young child running around and having a good time with family members. I was told this was the son of the young man killed and that he looked exactly like this deceased father. After 30 or 40 minutes family members started to leave and so did I. Feeling comfortable with this family was another chance to overcome the racism in my heart.


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Agitation is the Breath of Political Life - Tuesday, October 14, 2014


“Those who has ears to hear let them hear” Mark 4: 9

Tonight again I realize what a poor messenger of the good news of the Gospel I was. I attended a St.Vincent De Paul Society meeting about the new investment of millions of dollars for a thrift store in the suburbs where it is not needed rather than a much smaller investment in a thrift store in North Central Milwaukee where it is really needed for the work of our Society. I got angry before the meeting when good Vincentians refused to look at the fact sheet I prepared from the mission statements of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) and from their own budget. They just did not want to hear the truth as I saw it, based on their own numbers and Rule of the Society. If their refusal to see or hear the “cry of the poor’ was not enough they presented at the meetings before any questions statements that were not in the mission of SVDP or SVDP thrift stores and half truths on information.

The African-Americans, three females and two men seem to understand what I was saying or trying to say. Most, white suburban persons, did not want to hear what I had to say and told me to sit down and “shut up”.

When my friend, 86 year old African American women of the civil rights asked about the advance of “racism” as represented by group’s decision to go to suburbs rather than poor with the thrift store there was no response. Another African American women in our group explained the refusal of a friend to admit the truth as he did not want to face up to racism I understood.

No one, including myself, wants to admit to racism. However, unless we face the reality of racism growing in our society we can now face it and overcome. The racism of the “New Jim Crow” might be less overt than racism of past but it is still racism. As one of the many persons, an Episcopal Bishop, arrested in and around St. Louis in protest of the killing of unarmed young African American males said: “My faith compels me to be here, I want to show solidarity and call attention to the structural racism of St. Louis.”

St. Louis ranks well down the rankings of the most racially segregated cities in the USA. Milwaukee is number one. Loving our friends and enemies requires us not to ignore them as they often do to us. However, at a certain point in time it is useless to try to dialog with persons hard of hearts and all we can do is to show our faith and expose the truth in acts of civil disobedience. If one of us is right the other is wrong. If someone does not have “ears to hear” or “eyes to see” Jesus of the Gospel tells us to move on. The truth will set us free. In the meanwhile we need to listen to advice of Mahatma Gandhi who said: “Agitation against every form of injustice is the breath of political life.” Mahatma , Volume 5, p. 225


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The End is Near? - Monday, October 13, 2014


The military has said we cannot beat our new enemy, ISIS, with air power alone. This becomes evident as ISIS marches onto Baghdad, Iraq despite all the bombing, missiles, killer drones we use. Taking this logic a bit further and learning lessons learned in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan we cannot take sides in a civil conflict and ultimately win any real victory. Often people in the country resist our interference and take the opposing side.

There was a cartoon in the editorial section of today newspaper on how George Orwell the author of the book “1984” was wrong about the date. (See cartoon below). He predicted constant surveillance; state sanctioned torture, newspeak, and novel writing machine, gibberish music created by a computer and endless war, all things that are true today, 2014. He just got the year wrong.
The book “1984” like the Book of Revelations in the New Testament uses images of the future to describe some of the oppression of the present. The early Christian were persecuted by the Roman Empire and talked about the revelation of God in images and revelations. The early Christians were persecuted and thought themselves of living in “end times.”

Talking with a friend today about all the violence, climate change, wars, oppression, and illnesses going on the world she thought we were living in “end times.” Perhaps we are, but a truer way of looking at the world today is, I believe, seeing in the present the seeds of the future. “The end is near” might be a good way of describing our present.


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Hospitality Is The Way - Saturday, October 11, 2014


My friend Prasad Gollanapalli visited today. Prasad is Director Sarvodaya Social Order, a society based on truth and nonviolence that was formed in 1948 after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. He was brought to the USA this time by the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial of North Texas (MGMNT) for the grand unveiling ceremony of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Plaza in Irving Texas.

We had got to know Prasad in Dec. 2007 to January 2008 when a group of us took the first Pilgrimage of Peace, a walk in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi]] in India. It was after this pilgrimage to India that this web page changed names from Nonviolent Worm to Nonviolent Cow. The Cow, as seen by followers of Gandhi was a source of manure for castings and growing; a source of milk and cheese, source of medicine and many other things but not of meat. Mother Cow was like Mother Earth, a symbol of culture growth and well being.

Prasad is an important but simple and peaceful person. With other people from our pilgrimage out of town today we went to visit Father Jerry Zawada, another important but simple and peaceful person. Jerry lives in a Franciscan Retirement Home in Burlington Wisconsin but remains active in peace and justice movement.

I have mentioned how blessed I am to visit the poor and needy in home visits with St. Vincent de Paul Society and with friendships with people in need and ill. These two men are also blessed ones in God’s sight since by their word and actions they live the Way of Jesus in their daily life.

I hesitated to drive to Jerry’s for such a short visit this afternoon but with eyes open and the changing colors of the trees on a bright sunny day it was worth the ride.

Middle Eastern persons, my mother taught me, are known by their hospitality. Hospitality was a sign of wealth in nomad days of old in the desert.

Hospitality, be it for a Gandhi leader form India, a Polish Franciscan priest or on a home visit is the universal way to follow the Way, Truth and Light


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Laugh Till We Die - Thursday, October 09, 2014


Nick Riddell 1930 - 2014

Yesterday I told you my experience with a friend with severe fibromyalgia who discover her increased pain was from an inflammation. This morning I talked with a friend who last week after finally having to take his wife to a memory care unit at health complex was going in for a routine colonoscopy. Today when I called him back he told me that something went well during this routine procedure and he was rushed to the hospital to have his spleen removed. A friend I took to a clinic a week ago for a routine Endoscopy told me today he has cancer.

If all this medical talk is getting you down let me tell you about a memorial service I went to tonight. It was fun. It was for a friend who died in hospice peacefully after living some time in an assisted living facility. He was old, 84, and had lived a full life and had been active in civil rights and peace issues. One elderly woman, 86, a veteran of the civil rights movement came to the microphone to share some thoughts about our friend. She ended by saying something about the hope that the youth present bring to all of us. I and others looked around and could find only one young adult present, the daughter of the friend who organized the memorial service.

We the people born from 1922–1945 are called Traditional or Silent generation. We and the early Baby boomers generation are getting old, ill and dying off. There is not much we can do about it except take care of our health, live fully and pray for a peaceful death. Someone mentioned they could not find any family or relatives of our friend but he certainly had many friends, be they now old, as evidenced by the good attendance of the memorial service tonight and the light mood of the event.

If I live longer I imagine I will have see many more friends suffer and die. My friend who was just diagnosed with cancer and I joke around with each other and make each other laugh. So today when he told me about cancer I joked around and told him about laughter therapy made famous by Norman Cousins and with good scientific evidence of its effectiveness.

Living in the shadow of death is just normal for most of us elderly persons. But add some humor and laughter into our lives and maybe we stay a little bit healthier and live longer. We can laugh till we die.


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No to Profit over People - Wednesday, October 08, 2014


Last night my friend Ann, who suffers from severe fibromyalgia, chronic and widespread pain, called me to ask if I could take her to an Urgent Care center today. Ann has been a friend for quite awhile and I know of the suffering and pain she has endured so I said yes. When I got to her apartment the doctor had suggested that she go to the Emergency Room. When we got to the emergency room she waited in her road van while I wait inside to check out the wait. She cannot sit for long periods of time and so in her van she lays down in the backseat. The emergency room of this hospital located in North Central Milwaukee, the poorest and most racially segregated area of Milwaukee, was full of African Americans of all ages waiting for care. The intake person said the wait for care was hours and hours since there were twenty five persons ahead of her. I went back to the van and she said to go to Urgent Care Center that is located in white suburb of Milwaukee, near her main Doctor’s office. We went there and there was no wait to be seen but it took hours and hours for blood test and x rays. Other patients came and went but my friend, a African-American person on fixed income waited and waited. At the end the Doctor said her chest was inflamed and that was the cause of extra pain she was suffering. However, because of the only pain killer that has been effective on her she could not take anti-inflammatory medicine. He gave her another type o medicine and after a stopover at a pharmacy for the medicine I got her home six hours after we had begun the journey.

My friend, because of her disability, lives on a fixed income and needs lots of health care. But she has insurance, Medicare and a supplementary policy, while probably most of the persons in the waiting room have no medicine and use the emergency room as doctor’s visit. Doing this, as my parents did, is very expensive and is something the new Affordable Health Care Insurance was going to fix. Clearly it has not but heighten the most expensive but not effective ‘for- profit health care system’ in the world.

For-Profit Health Care, For-Profit Education system, Non-profit agencies maximizing the ‘revenue stream,’ seems to be the norm for our capitalistic USA society. Everything seems to becoming privatized to make money and more money for fewer and fewer. Even the military and defense department is privatized and a few corporations and individuals make more and more money on war and killing. Individuals seek more and more tax cuts and shun pay for welfare of poor and marginalized, even for basic rights of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” and certainly for food stamps or housing for needy.

On TV news tonight they showed a public hearing of our local energy company that seeks a two tier energy rate charge, higher for low users of energy and lower for high users of energy. Only in the USA today could we get away with this blatant greed as one attendee of the hearing told the news person: “The rich get richer and the poor get poor.”

Racism, Discrimination, Greed and Poverty are becoming dominant in the USA. Where will it ever stop? It will only stop or slow down when we break the silence and say in word and action: No to Profit over People.


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Being In Silence - Tuesday, October 07, 2014


I remember reading a few years ago from Mother Therese’s spiritual adviser that after enjoying a great deal of inspiration and enthusiasm in starting her religious order she suffered most of her life from the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, a depression and emptiness.

We all like enjoying moments of joy and inspiration but sometimes we just do what we believe is right without the feeling we are doing anything worthwhile. This natural sense of doing the right thing, in joy and sorrow, is, I believe, in all of us, if we are in touch with our being.

Something like this is in nature. Plants can be blasted by bad weather and injury and often survive with the right conditions and environment to grow again.

But these days it is difficult to be in touch with our being. Like climate change in nature, the conditions are not very conducive. There is so much noise, information and communication that being in touch with our nature is difficult. Being in silence is the best way to be in touch with our being but true deep silence is hard to find these days.

Mother Theresa must have really been in touch with her being to keep on going while living in the dark night of the soul. Doing helps us get going, like when I have something to do in the morning I can get up earlier and in time.
But those mornings when I have nothing in particular to do it is very difficult to get going.

If we look at people who we really admire, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton or Mother Therese we find one common ingredient: they were persons of prayer in touch with who they were. Biographers says Martin Luther King Jr., when he had nothing going on, had a hard time getting out of bed but when he did he was sharp and ready to go. Yet King admitted that the busier he got the more time he needed in prayer.

Prayer might not be the answer to all life throws at us but it is certainly a way to get in touch with our being. The way to prayer is silence and the way to silence is prayer. Our being is found in silence.


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The Truth of the Gospel is Nonviolent Love - Monday, October 06, 2014


Father Charlie McCarthy

Over the weekend a friend and I drove to Liberty, Missouri, just outside of Kansas City, to attend a retreat with Father Charles McCarthy of the Center for Christian Nonviolence. We had heard Father McCarthy before at a small conference at Notre Dame and knew he was a person, who my friend said “Speaks the Truth.” In fact that was what his talks were all about, the Truth of Nonviolent Love of the Gospels. He claims with Pope John Paul II and Aristotle: “One may define the human being as one who seeks the truth.” We can all respect each what others say of the truth, there is a principle obligation to seek the Truth and to make it the norm. This teaching means the Gospel and the teachings of the Gospel like “Love Your Enemy” cannot be rationalize away. Rational ethics are based on survival and can be rationalized to include killing but, according to Father McCarthy, Gospel ethics are based on ‘unconditional love’ and are the norm of the Way of Jesus that we are called to.

In this type of thinking, the Catholic Church, as many others, has greatly failed to live the Gospel, the way of Jesus. They have become tied to the State and rationalize and justify breaking the Way of Jesus in the Gospel.

I have thought and written a lot about the Mission of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and how our local organization has failed this mission. In quoting the mission statement I skipped over the first three words of the statement “Inspired by Gospel values”. The Gospel Values, like Works of Mercy, solidarity with poor and marginalized, loving your neighbor like yourself are what we in the Society are called to be by “offering person-to-person service to those who are needy and suffering in the tradition of its founder”, Blessed Frédéric Ozanam, and patron, St. Vincent de Paul. The individual conference budgets of St. Vincent de Paul, projected next year to be around $800, 000 are nearly 100% dedicated to provided needs, food, clothing, furniture, beds and appliances to the poor and marginalized. Yet the central office budget of nearly $3, 000,000 is 99.6% dedicated to compensation and operating expenses. The less than .4% dedicated to poor and marginalized are called ‘relief’ services.

Is not bringing relief to poor and marginalized what the Society is all about. Perhaps we need these numbers reversed with the nearly 3 million dollars going for ‘relief’ and $800, 000 going for compensation and operating expenses.

I thought of this because when there is a difference of understanding of the ‘truth’ as there is in this case, the way to solve the difference is ‘dialog’. Yet the central office staff of St. Vincent de Paul have chosen not to enter into dialog but just say what they are doing is the mission of the Society, giving out more misinformation, operate in secrecy, without transiency and ignoring the truth of the Gospel and the Mission of the Society as some of us understand it.

Gandhi called his autobiography: “Experiments with Truth” and in word and action struggled for truth and to treat each person, even the ‘enemy’ with unconditional love. Martin Luther King Jr. was not afraid to speak the truth although it cost him his life. Dorothy Day said the truth of our conscience may disturb some persons but maybe these people need disturbing of their conscience. Thomas Merton says the word of the Gospel is understood only when it is obeyed. It is known to those who strive to practice it. In the Gospel of John Jesus says “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…” (John 8:31)

Jesus also said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Light.” The Truth of the Gospel is Nonviolent Love.


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The R Word - Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Did Racism play a role in
death of Dontre Hamilton?

With all the talk about segregation, incarceration of African-American black males, poverty areas in minority neighbors and racial profiling of African Americans no one wants to use the word Racism. There is talk about segregation, inequality, poverty and even discrimination but the word Racism is avoided. Yet what is happening in Milwaukee if it is not Racism.

The dictionary has two meanings for racism: 1) prejudice or animosity against people who belong to other races; 2) the belief that people of different races have different qualities and abilities, and that some races are inherently superior or inferior. For the first meaning a quote from Malcolm X is used: “”I am a Muslim and … my religion makes me against all forms of racism.” (Speech, Prospects for Freedom) The second meaning reminds me of how our soldiers are taught how to look at the enemy as inferior humans, be they Korans, Vietnamese or Arabs. We know what is best for people of other countries.

Yet, unless we admit that we live in a racist society how can we ever change it. Awareness is a necessary step for change. So we talk and talk about segregation, even racial segregation but fear to use the R words.

Taking down the basketball rim so African Americans cannot play basketball full court basketball is what I would call racism yet using the R word outrages neighbors. The high rate of African American incarceration we can call discrimination but using the R word to describe it does not happen.

Back in the 60’s we were not afraid to use the word ‘racism.’ We called the racial prejudice of Marquette admitting just a small number of African Americans students “Institutional Racism.”

Whites, Blacks, Hispanic need to come together, to restore fresh air into this discussion and awareness of Racism so we fear not the evil of R word.


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Racism and St. Vincent de Paul Society in Milwaukee? - Monday, September 29, 2014


Home visit by Vincentian

I spend most of my writing time today composing a letter in response to a letter put out by the Executive Director of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. the Society’s mission is to serve person to person those in need and her letter does not deal with this. I will spare you my line by line response to her ‘facts’ using their own staff numbers and Rule and Manuel of St. Vincent de Paul in the USA. The full letter will come soon on this web site with all the many footnotes. But for now I offer you a rough draft of the last part of the letter.

Racism and St. Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) in Milwaukee

North Central Milwaukee where a SVDP thrift store is needed for the conferences who receive thousands of requests each year has a household income of $20,787.00 and is 85% plus African American. In Greenfield and surrounding area where conferences receive around 10 requests per year the average household income is $42,586.00 and it is 85% plus white.

There is many more facts and figures but basically the residents of North Central and South Central (over 85% Hispanic) area have become poorer and poorer over the years and while SVDP Society is spending more and more money, not on the needs of the poor but on building a central office controlled bureaucracy that now consumers about $4 million a year, money which the poor cannot afford. SVDP conferences in North Central and South Central Milwaukee because of the increased burden, outdated phone request system, lack of funds or lack of members have gone out of business or cannot serve all those in need. Meanwhile money for needy conferences or twining goes to Central Office and less money goes toward serving the mission of Society, unpaid members making person to person home visits to those in need.

I do this research and cry out for the poor not because I like to but because I am a proud member of the Society of SVDP and need to. I am a native Milwaukee who moved back home a Vincentian in 1995. The top two executives, you and Michelle, have a total compensation of over $170,000 as reported to IRS tax form from 2012–2013. You and the other 2 million dollars of staff are good intentioned people and what you do may be legal. But the poor and those of us who serve the poor are also good people. Let us create a new society of SVDP in Milwaukee that makes its primary mission person to person home visits. You can do the numbers yourself with your own information and Rules and Manuals of SVDP but let me say, personally and from my heart let us be free to be the Society we are meant to be.


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Men and Women for Others - Saturday, September 27, 2014


Father Pedro Arrupe S.J.
gave the speech 41 years ago
Men and Women for Others
that challenged Jesuits and World

Today and this week I received an extraordinary number of request from friends, needing rides, needing to borrow money, just wanting to talk with someone who would listen and asking for advice. At times I was tempted to think how about me? I need more time to read, write, be quiet and pray. But then I thought back on my Jesuit education in the Ignatian Spirituality which I learned about in my 13 years of Jesuit education and still study and try to practice. One of the core elements of Ignatian Spirituality is being “Men and Women for Others.” In address to educators in 1973 Father Arrupe S.J. than the Leader of Society of Jesus, Jesuits, described it this way. “Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ - for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce. “

Living in a society of individualism run rampart n (Give me my tax break and hell with common good), living in the me generation when “do your own thing” abides and truth and facts are treated with “you are entitled to your opinion” being “Men and Women for Others.” However, if I look at my busy week as being a man for others my busy week is blessing.

Whenever I am asked for rides I remember that years ago after giving someone a ride they asked me how they could pay me back. I said they already have by allowing me to be of service to them and just to leave the blessings at the door as they got out of my car. I called my car the Blessing Cab since it allows me to receive so many blessings.

Special blessings are received from poor, “least of neighbors.” An Indian priest, who was from the lowest caste in India became a Jesuit priest and went back to work with the outcast caste of India told me once that he found peace and grace in the people he was working with. He prayed to God to give him the grace and blessings he discovered with the poor and marginalized. He said that God answered him by saying: “I gave all my grace and blessings to the poor, go to the poor to receive them.” Looking at life this way I am full of gratitude.

One of my social justice projects is to reform the local St. Vincent de Paul Society. Blessed Frederic Ozanam(1813–1853), co-founder of the Society put it this way: “We must do what is most agreeable to God. Therefore, we must do what our Lord Jesus Christ did when preaching the Gospel. Let us go to the poor. ” The local Society rather than offer person to person contact with people in need has developed into a four million dollar social agency that derives money and donations given to the poor and, according to Rules of Society, belong to the poor.

So, yes, let us strive to be Men and Women for Others. It might be hard at times, involving inconvenience, poverty, suffering and insults. But the Reward of being Men and Women is an everlasting blessings and one full of joy and gratitude.


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Comments

kranthi — 02 February 2009, 00:53

Dear Bob
Your experiences in India during Pilgrimage of Peace , your photographs, your experimenting with Indian food cooking very interesting. Your growing green salads using organic manure in this summer is highly appreciated by me.

(:commentboxchrono:)

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