On the Corner

Life on a corner

by Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief – 

I like my corner.

It’s where I get to let me out—where I can explore things that interest me, and maybe others find interesting as well. I have a great pulpit on my corner. It’s got a good microphone attached.

Sometimes, I get the feeling that I converse simultaneously with both one person as well as a whole gang of curious onlookers leaning against the window of the Rexall drug store at Hollywood and Vine.

My corner is where I can sound off about the relationship between Christianity and seemingly impossible social justice issues like poverty and homelessness and their relationship to hunger, disease, negative feelings of self-worth and the always present exhaustion—where I can cry out in a crowded wilderness about the absence of empathy, caring and compassion in the assignment of national, state and local priorities by too many funding sources.

It’s where I can speak personally about my own joys and hurts—about new birth and death and all points in between—about parents who nurtured me, children who enlightened me and grandchildren who maintain my youth. Here, I can discuss how young parents are sandwiched between the generation they have produced and the one that produced them—about the pressures they feel in a postmodern 21st century—about how hard some grandparents work with childcare and income augmentation.

This corner allows me to ponder permanently Abe Maslow’s remarkable analysis of safety and growth—about how we all rather continuously prefer safety to growth, inhibited either by irrational fear or negative self-talk or both—hiding our thoughts and ideas and avoiding any discovery of our minor, perceived inadequacies. We seem, much too often, to choose the warm, tepid shelter of safety to the perceived danger of a risky and measureless human growth.

It’s where I get to hold forth on how I think the Army should look and be and do. I even get close to borderline very-lay preaching on occasion.

I love this Army. It was started by two genuine risk-takers who believed in themselves, in the power of God’s love, in their life’s mission, and in the means they devised to lift people from sin to salvation—from brokenness to beauty—from sickness to strength.

We work so hard to deal with our imperfections—trapped in the pathology of perfectionism. We always seem so surprised and delighted that someone likes us— that they’re pleased we’re still around ringing our bells even if, in many ways, they see us as kind of an anachronism. I think they carry the images of the “stand-up-collar” and the bonnet around with them and haven’t become too acquainted with who we are in the first decade of the 21st century. If we inquire why they like us, they often respond with comments commending our “good works” or our readiness to act in time of trouble—or what we did for them or their father during the war.

I have always thought that this Army’s past, present and future fit beautifully into television programming—even operating our own channel—but I haven’t found any takers with enough red or purple on their shoulders who agree with me.

One thing you absolutely can’t be when standing on a corner with a microphone in your hand is boring. If an ambulance goes by you need to relate to it and work it into the content of your message. Loudly, you report: “Uh, oh, somebody’s hurt— somebody’s got trouble”—and away you go.

We’ve had need for some ambulances on this corner occasionally. Deaths of significant figures—elections of Generals—appointment and departures of territorial commanders—major disasters to which the Army has sprinted—these and scores like them have caused us to re-make page one—change a major story inside —or even rush out and cover an event.

The best way to avoid boredom on the corner is to have critics. We have a very few who write to us, but we don’t seem to engender significant amounts of criticism. I worry sometimes that we’re playing it too safe.

I work diligently not to be boring. No sin is greater for the teacher (or preacher) than to be boring. The word makes me shudder. Although I doubt sincerely that I have ever bored anyone, (yeah sure), I suspect it’s a mystical conclusion growing in the brain and resonating in a speaker’s ears in the middle of a lecture or sermon prior to an unreached second point.

It lives somewhere deep down in your innards that suddenly begins to impact one’s outards and delivers high level fear that quickly becomes panic. One stumbles and falters with self-contempt manufactured within one’s own mind on the basis of facts not in evidence but interpreted in the glassy stares of the listeners.

If you ever find us boring—that would be an excellent time to write us a letter or transmit an email.

Yes—I really like this corner. There’s a lot of traffic—kind of noisy when the sirens go by—a nice bunch of pedestrians tracking through with some stopping once in awhile to offer a testimony, share a story, or pleasantly offer a suggestion. Maybe, someday, you’ll tell us your story.

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