7 October 2017

Open House Faces: Mary Kellogg, The Symbol Of Our Open Houses

Mary Kellogg

If there is one transcendent symbol of our Open Houses, it is Mary Kellogg, our believed friend and poet. Mary has published three books of poetry and we are working on a fourth with her. We have known her all of our lives together, and at 87, she is radiant and loving and so important to us.

She has come to just about every one of our Open Houses to read from her poems, Maria and I published her first books of poetry together, before we were married.

Mary still lives along on her 30 acre farm on a remote hill top about 20 miles from us, she is proud and independent and determined to remain in her home. It is impossible to imagine an Open House without Mary, and she is coming back Sunday to read again.

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Open House Faces: The Return Of Ali Mohammed

The Return Of Ali

My friend Ali Mohammad has just returned from a trip to Egypt and the Sudan, to attend his sister's wedding and visit some friends. I missed him, he is my connection to the refugee world I am exploring and writing about. Ali is a teacher and driver at RISSE, the refugee and immigrant center in Albany.

He brought some kids from the RISSE soccer team with him, and this is a group I have come to know and love, mostly because of Ali's trust in me and enthusiasm.

He thanked some of the many people who have contributed to RISSE through my blog. With his return, I am resuming my work on behalf of the refugees and immigrants of America, who have been unfairly demonized and targeted by arrogant and exploitive politicians.

I am researching outings, scholarships, and any other activities that will support them and their new lives in America. At the farm, Ali thanked the people in the crowd, many who have supported the refugees. He told them I must have appeared from heaven, and I say that Ali is an angel come to help these boys adjust to a complex new country.

Ali and I are brothers, we have a love for one another, and I am cranking up my support of these kids and other immigrants and refugees I am meeting. We are doing great work together and I know we have hard and meaningful days ahead of us.

I could use your support for this work, it is more important now than ever. You can donate to this cause – we are taking trips, buying soccer uniforms, organizing retreats and paying for lessons – by contributing through my Post Office Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y.,12816 or my Paypal account, [email protected]  Please not the money is for the refugees or RISSE kids. Or for the Mansion, if you  prefer.

We have lots of good work to do, and I mean to show  these people in these coming weeks and months what the heart and soul of America is really about. Thanks for considering it.

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Open House Faces: Mary From Quebec Was Here Too

Mary From Quebec

I decided Friday that I would do a new thing for this Open Houses, I would take portraits of people who had come from different places and focus on them. It was a good idea, at least from my side. Mary asked me to sign a book of mine that she bought, and I asked her where she was from. "Quebec!," she said, and I told her I had to do a portrait of her for my "Open Faces" series.

She smiled readily and said, "sure, of course." Americans were here, but so were a bunch of Canadians as well.

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Open House Faces. Greg From South Carolina Had Me In Tears (Twice)

Open House Faces

A couple of month ago, after I wrote a post on the blog wondering why the values of Jesus Christ, who I have always admired, are so often invoked but so rarely followed or honored. I got an e-mail I will always remember from Greg, a Christian man living in South Carolina.

His e-mail had me  briefly in tears, he said I should know that even though I was not a Christian, I was a better Christian than  many of the people who talk about Christ, but who seem to know nothing about him.

This message struck me deeply, because I consider being called a good Christian one of the highest compliments I could ever be paid. To me, Pope Francis is a good Christian, not a hypocritical or exploiter of  faith like so many of our leaders.

I am not conventionally religious, I tend to bounce all over the place, yet in a way I am quite religious. I believe in caring for the poor and giving them hope, and in searching for compassion and empathy in our daily lives. That is the heart of Christ's call to the world as I understand it.

We are, in our world, obliged to care for those weaker and more vulnerable than ourselves.

I am belatedly doing that in my life, and a wonderful community called the Army Of Good has formed around me. We are very diverse, and have no discussions about faith, everyone is welcome, but Christ's ethos is very much alive in the group, even if it has been forgotten elsewhere.

I see in the outside world that there are political Christians and true Christians of the faith, and Greg is one of the latter. He drove all the way to South Carolina to talk to me and thank me for what I am doing and writing, and this brought me briefly to tears a second time. How humbling and touching is that.

Greg also has a dog he loves dearly, and as I often have, he wondered if it is okay to love his dog  more than he loves many people.  He is never disappointed by his dog, but is sometimes disappointed by humans.

Don't worry about it, I said, I believe loving animals  teaches us – especially men – how to love people.

That's what happened to me, when I had given up on love, my dogs kept it alive and helped me to wait until I found the right person to love.

So there I was, sitting on my farm, throngs of people all around me having this wonderful conversation about Christ, faith, compassion and animals with a man I had never met and did not know. Except I did.

In that moment here, Greg and I became brothers, he saw me in a way that even some people who have known me for many years do not know and can't see.

I didn't have to reveal myself to Chris, he saw what was in my heart. I will return the compliment, he is a good Christian to me and I very deeply appreciate his coming all this way to see me. America was here on the farm Saturday, and I am overwhelmed at their coming.

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Open House Faces – America Was Here. Joan From Minnesota.

Joan From Minnesota

All day long, I was looking at faces from all over the country, people who had taken great pains to come to Bedlam Farm and share in our experiment, our search for creativity and meaning in our lives. They were all doing the same thing, of course, and we are a tribe, a mighty nation, an Army of Good.

I thanked Joan for coming so far to be with us, and she thanked me for inviting people in. The America I met Saturday was a warm and loving and compassionate people, they had many different ideas from me, but we were a community, we mattered to one another.

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