My Indiana

“Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”  –Pope St. John Paul II

There’s a lot of laundry at my house.  Our place on Randolph Crescent Drive is home to two sweaty teenage boys, a 10 year old who avoids bathing, plus Tom and myself.  Yours truly handles the washing and folding.  I’m positively adequate at the task.  In my defense, imagine trying to memorize the correct home for scores of t-shirts and athletic shorts.  I have three “men” who essentially wear the same size.  Black Nike t-shirt with a white “swoosh”?  Go fish!

“Tax Season” Tom came home the other night wearing a very snug fitting work out worn t-shirt.  He looked at me in disdain and said, “Do I look like a size Medium to you?”  I assured him that he looked H-O-T, but he was bugged. Sometimes, well intentioned people make mistakes.  Oops.  What he grabbed from the top of the pile in his dresser obviously was misfiled.

Last night he texted, “Happiness is….a size XL t-shirt.”  I replied, “Well sometimes it takes a size medium day to realize the fabulousness you take for granted?”

Hubby had a classic response, “That’s one way to think of it.  You’re so glass half full in a glass half empty world.”

I tell this mundane little talk to illustrate that I do tend to try and see the upside in life.  Effort is occasionally required to uncover truth and discover positive intentions most people have, most of the time.  In “Shellyville”, this is not at all regarded as “wishful thinking”,  but is grounded in reality.

This brings me to the hot topic of the week here in Hoosier land, the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

Have you checked a news outlet– any news outlet– in the last couple days?  Whew, as a state, we are taking a beating.

Let me begin by saying I believe in treating all people with compassion and kindness.  The vast majority of my fellow Hoosiers feel the same.  I’ve spent the last 43 years getting to know a lot of them.  Trust me.  Good peeps.  I am Catholic, and I love Jesus.  Convincing me that Jesus would EVER condone hate-mongering of any type is an unequivocal no-go.  Without delving too much into some of my favorite works of literature to back up my thoughts, I will just defend myself by saying His friends and disciples included murderers, adulterers, women, and lepers.  He was born a Jew, 2000 years ago in the Middle East.  I’m no historian, but my guess is he was a person of color.  Does that matter?  Hell to the NO!  I’m just using my personal Jesus vision to illustrate why it makes ZERO SENSE Jesus would condone any modern day pizzeria, retail shop, etc from discriminating against ANYONE based on race, gender, sexual orientation or any other reason one can conceive.

Indiana:  Did we just pass a bill that allows “cover” for those folks?  Did we make discrimination fair game?

I argue that at this point– IT DOESN’T MATTER.  Even if RFRA is truly rooted in compassion– we need to DROP Senate Bill 101.

Why?  Because regardless of what the bill was intended to do, its existence has no quantifiable upside.

Lest my conservative friends think I have crossed over to “the dark side”, I will add that I understand this bill does not even apply to disputes between private parties.   It applies to the government or state actions– and I believe it was intended to give existing Federal law local teeth.  What I’m attempting to say is that I believe it’s authors were certainly not motivated by desire to legalize discrimination.  It was intended to prevent burdening a person’s ability to exercise their religion.  20 states have like legislation.  I’m told by a few legal beagles I know that it’s the “local version” of President Clinton’s 1993 Federal RFRA.

Further, there’s no doubt the government struck fear in the hearts of faith filled people here in Indiana when they deemed folks like the Little Sisters of the Poor outside their definition of what is a legitimate religious organization and ordered them to pay for abortificants.  I am among that group.  That, to this Jesus girl, feels like very objectionable behavior.

Where did we go all wrong?  I think it’s super simple.

We’ve forgotten that most important sense– you know, the 6th sense– COMMON SENSE!

We need to trust in the goodness of the majority of Americans.  Let the free market work!  In 2015, a restauranteur or jewelry shop owner who refuses service to a certain segment of the population will surely wither and die.  I promise you I will not be back to buy my next car from the dealer who insisted on talking to my husband before letting me test drive one of their vehicles, for instance.  In fact, it’s tempting to publish their name here so you don’t either.  Instead, just ask me when you see me next, ok?

And what about those Little Sisters?  Well, I would argue that if you have any common sense, you would know when you decide to go to work for the Little Sisters of the Poor, you should know 2 things before you arrive.  First, you aren’t going to get rich working for them (ummm….they have the word POOR right in their name after all).  Second, they’re Catholic.  So, probably if you make your free will decision to have an abortion (and I sincerely pray you don’t) they aren’t going to spot you the money to pay for it.  You’ll be on your own dime there.

Let’s use our heads, people.

Optimism, compassion, and hospitality.  Indiana is full of all three… and we’re still open for business!  No ill conceived piece of paper signed by a government official at any level can change that!

Sometimes, it takes an ill fitting size medium shirt in your gym bag to help you remember the XL (you had been wearing all this time) was the better fit after all.  Just sayin.


My friend Kit Kleck is rather an inspired mom, if you ask me.  She’s a common sense organizer type.  It would be a piece of cake to give you multiple examples of her simple genius, butStAug my favorite today is this quarterly service project she has coordinated for the junior high kids at St. Louis de Montfort for the past couple of years.  There has been bell ringing for the Salvation Army, feeding the homeless downtown, collection of clothing, etc.

Her inspiration for this ongoing project is the Corporal Works of Mercy:

•To feed the hungry;

•To give drink to the thirsty;

•To clothe the naked;

•To harbor the harborless;

•To visit the sick;

•To ransom the captive;

•To bury the dead.

The idea here is that the children (and their families too) will have the opportunity to practically experience going outside oneself in service of another.  Mercy used in this context is said by St. Thomas Aquinas to be a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for, and, if possible, to alleviate another’s suffering.

Kit put me in charge of the 3rd quarter project, and with the help of my good friend, Julia Mattei, I elected to use my moment in charge to organize a trip to St. Augustine’s Home for the Aged, on 86th St. in Indianapolis, which is operated by the amazing Little Sisters of the Poor.  It’s Lent, I reasoned, and one way to give alms is to share our time.

The uncomplicated opportunity was playing BINGO, talking to, and serving treats to the nursing home residents – and if you’ve ever done it you know it is just a darn good way to spend an afternoon.

Here’s a little peak at our experience with the SLDM  7th graders and about 40 St. Augustine’s residents this past weekend.

My new best friend, who would prefer that I call him “Vincenzo Giuseppi”, told me as I suggested he might want to cover “B 6” (if he has any chance to beat Adele at the next table over),  “You are outgoing and fun.  This is the best time I’ve had in a long while!”

As we began, the kids were timid and quiet.  They had obviously not spent much time in a room full of seniors.  The residents weren’t so sure about us and our squirrely crew either!  However, it didn’t take long before I started hearing kids saying things like “Yes, I agree, chocolate chip cookies are definitely the best” or “You have 3 brothers?  Me too!”

The charming activities director with the Peruvian accent was brilliantly accommodating.  She allowed the kids to assist the residents, call out winning numbers, and run the numbers board………generally just take over the day’s event.

I brought along my 2nd grader who plopped himself down between two charming Bingo- loving old gals who paid so much attention to his every silly word that he said (beaming) “I was like a celebrity Mom.  They loved me!!”

As we were leaving, “Vincenzo” insisted we wait until he made a quick trip to his room.  When he returned, he handed me two puzzles.  They must be 1000 piece puzzles, put together and glued in place.  Obviously, these were treasures.  The larger of the two was a Christmas puzzle.  He whispered to me it was a personal favorite because it’s of Rockefeller Center in NY, and although he likes to joke that he is old Italian mafia, the truth is that his last name is Bennett, and he is from NY.

A Christmas picture, huh?  How appropriate, I can’t help thinking.  Vincenzo?  You and your friends brought Jesus to life for us on Saturday.

That’s how it always goes, doesn’t it?  You do something “to be nice” and what happens is that you end up being the one to whom the gift was given.  I know this.  Sometimes, I just forget.  In this case, the gift is mine applies literally and figuratively.

When we try to be the face of Jesus, we can be certain then that we will find Him and our gift inevitably is joy.

“…Amen, I say to you, what you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt. 25:40)