Every day, almost seven days a week, I deal with such unutterably sad and ugly things. Ours truly is a world of woe.

Until I moved here I spent most of my life insulating myself from these things and did my best, successfully, to avoid them. I did such a good job that most of the time it seemed to me I was the only person in the world with problems.

Now all of that has been turned upside down. Since I have become absorbed in the problems of others, it feels like I am the only person in the world without problems.

Part of the explanation is certainly that whatever problems I do have pale in comparison to those of a child who is jailed for murder or a family that has dedicated its every waking moment to hate and revenge. But more to the point of this post—and I was thinking about this last night as my head hit the pillow—my problems just don’t matter to me anymore like they once did. It feels to me like they don’t matter at all.

Yesterday Otto and I got into the car to make a run for ice and the mail. In his old age, Otto is becoming markedly weaker and frailer. For the first time he was unable to help himself into the car. I had to lift him in, and he was unable to climb onto the back seat where he usually sits. It demonstrated to me in a dramatic way that his days in this world are numbered. It was a blunt reminder that my constant companion of more than thirteen years will one day no longer be by my side.

What was my reaction?  I felt empty. “It doesn’t matter,” I said to myself.

Oh, when he is gone I will surely be heartbroken, and I will feel like I am missing an arm or another part of my body. But my honest reaction was and is that it just doesn’t matter. “When you go, I’ll go too,” I told him. He will have to wait for me—I have much yet to do—but I will follow him and we will be together again with everyone I love. In the meantime I will continue rubbing his ears and loving him and keep making him comfortable and cleaning his ass when I have to.

I have done all this before.

Yesterday I spoke with Chris Brown and he told me about the latest outrage in his ordeal. He spent some time yesterday with some social services bureaucrats who informed him that he will be forced to make child support payments to the state if Jordan is found guilty and incarcerated in a youth detention program. Chris has not worked since the murder, he has sold everything he owns to raise cash to subsist and continue supporting Jordan. He has been impoverished by the wrongful actions of the state. And now these comfortably-employed bureaucrats are telling him that the state wants more! If he were to fail to pay, the state could put him in jail too.

As Chris told me about this, I could hear the emotion rising in his voice… and what did I feel? Empty. No outrage. No hate. No fury. “Don’t worry about it Chris. You’re not in this alone,” I said. “I’m with you and Jordan for life. We’ll get through it if it happens. Yet I believe with my whole heart and soul that Jordan will be acquitted. We won’t need to cross that bridge.” I am sure of it.

One reason I am so confident of this is that I’d had such a good day on the phone lining up support for Jordan. I spoke to a woman I’d never met before, and she agreed to help in a significant way. “I don’t even know you but I love you!” I exclaimed into the phone. I could tell she felt good about her decision. I could tell she was glad I’d contacted her. People want to help.

This was not the only positive call in the day.

I ended the day last night exchanging e-mails with a young friend who said, “I am having the worst day of my life.” She’d had a fight with her mother, an unhappy woman who slapped her daughter—my friend—across the face. “I moved to my car crying and I’m having beers, but not feeling better,” she texted from her phone. Her mother was wrong. She had accused her daughter of something she didn’t do. And now the daughter was suffering.

If she were here I would hug my friend, tell her I love her, and that we would see this through. But she is many thousands of miles away, on another continent in fact. What did I feel? Empty. No outrage or anger. Only love for that girl and her unhappy mother.

All I could do was tell her that.

As I went to sleep last night I imagined myself as an empty wallet, empty of all the dirty emotions most people accumulate in the course of their days and years. I realized that my wallet is empty because I am always spending love out of it. I don’t understand how I can keep spending and there’s always more to spend… it is a mystery to me… it’s like having an infinite line of credit… the last thing I remember before slipping away to dreamland were the words, “Fishes and Loaves.”

The first thing this morning I checked to see if Otto was still with me. He is. I rubbed his ears and he groaned with pleasure. I think he endures whatever infirmities he suffers for the love he receives. Love does conquer all. It is the only thing that lasts. It is the only thing that matters.


Groove of the Day 

Listen to Buckwheat Zydeco performing “Secret of Love”


8 Responses to “empty”

  1. 1 matt
    August 27, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    That which you give of yourself touches us all, Dan, in different and often very personal ways. These children and their families know first hand the rightness of the cause and the value of your gift, but others must be shown, and you continue to do so admirably. So don’t feel empty, Dan, because you have fed the souls of many with your “fishes and loaves”, and some of those will go on to fish for themselves and in turn share the gift with others.

    • August 27, 2011 at 1:52 pm

      Thanks, Matt, for your kind words… but I do not use the word “empty” as being something negative, but very positive and peaceful. I am thankful that little of the negativity with which I deal ever lodges in me and attaches to me. It is relationships with people like you that prevents this from happening. Thank you for inspiring me.

  2. 3 MM
    August 27, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    I was going to say pretty much the same thing as Matt. But yeah, you are right, emptiness is actually a good thing, because it also means you are free from anger and hate, which would blind you and prevent you from reaching your goal.
    I used to be pessimistic about the world, thinking “whatever, we can’t do anything anyway, we’re all doomed”. And then I randomly got to know people like you who try to make a difference and I realizes that we’re not doomed. I want to live a happy life but I also want to leave this world knowing I at least tried to change some bad things, even in the slightest.

  3. 4 Jeanne
    August 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    I understand that word “empty” as well. It seems life is so full of sorrow (as well as joy) that you have to just have faith in God and go with it. God never fails us.

    We need to focus on today. The past and the future will devour us. We can get through everything if we help each other and listen to the Holy Spirit who guides us through this life._

  4. 5 Jeanne
    August 27, 2011 at 8:52 pm


    He will have to pay child support to the state……..I suppose this back dates as well.? If it does, it should be illegal because while your fighting to defend your child, visiting your child to help that child maintain a healthy emotional state, paying for trips back and forth to visit, you cannot possibly work. This does not even touch the mental suffering that debilitates you from even being able to work like a normal person would. That should not be legally allowed. That is exploitation. It is abuse and emotional battery. If you look at it from another perspective and you feel the father of a minor child who is involved in the legal system, should be working, you see again the dilemma that stacks up against the defendant and their family. Had Chris worked while Jordan was incarcerated, he likely would not have been able to see him on a regular basis, Jordan may have declined naturally without his main support system at such a young age. Chris would not have been able to be as involved in his case, as he should be, and the state would have jumped on the opportunity to say he “does not care for his child because he was not available to him all the time”. This would have worked on the side of the Prosecution. What a shame. This is very wrong and should not be allowed. However, I am praying earnestly for Jordan to be freed, as I feel he is innocent.

    I am soooo empty. Empty. Empty. Empty.

    We’re going to be o.k.

  5. 6 andy rea
    August 27, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Howdy Dandy Dan,
    About ten years ago I was at one of the lowest, if not the lowest point of my life. One sunday night I visited a small county church. Those people I had never seen before made me feel like the prodigal son. Anyway you brought tears flowing back remembering this poem I penned in the parking lot of that small country church.


    Humans have little or no compassion for anyone but themselves.
    Mercy seems reserved for the select not Gods elect.
    The select have little respect, understanding or acceptance of anyone,
    except their kind that can be blind.

    When are we going to understand God’s Mercy and Grace to step into His race?
    Stop worrying about other people, have the love, kindness and understanding
    that God accepts.
    Stop worrying about what other people are doing, saying or playing. Doing God’s business,
    to get on His payroll, to get past modern day pharos.

    When are we going to have the love, concern, and care that comes with compassion
    that will lead to reaction?
    Reaction that will lead the Angles in Heaven in chorus. Over a soul that is added,
    over the Great Commission, that can be one of our omissions.

    If we could only awake each day, to begin anew, praise God for His blessings that
    always needs addressing. Forget about other people’s faults train our mind,
    to understand and be kind. To awake each day with God’s word in our way.

    So our hearts will be hungry for the souls that are lost, like seas and the trees;
    there are many to take, before our time is to late. Why do we wait?
    if we believe God’s word is the way, to make it to His day.
    We deface God Himself by our lack of faith, in His saving grace.

    Nothing is sweeter than when your alone, and cannot bear another tone.
    When a child of God comes along, and tells you, your home and not alone!
    Has love and compassion for you, when your not due. When someone cares,
    understands, and dares to love a child of God when everyone else is a facade.

    Thank you Lord for your children that reach out and understand has compassion
    takes your hand. People that put on your shoes, walks through your land.
    Puts your heart upon the rock. Helps you find the key to the gate, before heavens to late.

    Andy Rea 3/8/03

  6. 7 Jeanne
    August 27, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Beautiful poem. I am going to copy it and hang it at work.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. 8 Gia
    October 18, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Your honorable work sets and example for all of us to follow. Thank you for everything you do.

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