Friday, April 4, 2014

Fools and Heroes

Across the world millions of people play the lottery every day.  I have often wondered why this is, since the chance of winning the lottery are about the same whether you play or not.  So why do we play?  The easy answer is that we dream of a better life and it’s a cheap ticket, indeed what I often call “cheap hope”. 

What I have come to understand is that playing the lottery is wise fool’s errand.  With that playing our imagination soars.  Contrary to what many people think, those who play the lottery don’t just have their own welfare in mind.  How many times have I heard that the first thing someone would do if they won the lottery would be to help their church?  Hundreds of time.  In fact a recent Gallup poll showed that people would continue to work at their jobs, support their family and support community charities.  Is that so foolish?   I have nothing against playing the lottery.  In fact, I play it all the time - my kid’s birthdays - hoping for a little bit of return on the incredible investment each of them represents in my time and the rest of my working career.  I have actually won a few times but after you subtract what I had to play to win, I think I am only in the hole for about $500 over the last ten years.  Still I play the fool.

Fools are not stupid.  Historically a fool was someone who defied convention (even made a career at it) in order to show the hidden wisdom beneath conventionality.  In San Francisco one of our most important ministries is the Wise Fools, who dress in costumes and make fun of serious people on the street, pointing out the pomposity of business men and the reality of homelessness.  They come to brighten the day of those for whom the street is their home.  Foolishness is more akin to abandon.  More akin to the power to move beyond fear of embarrassment and embrace the possibilities of change whether it be on the street or in your church.

We have been celebrating the life of Pete Seeger these past few weeks.  There was a holy fool if ever one walked the earth.  He stood up to Joe McCarthy and sang songs against convention.  Pete kept to his principles and his fool’s errand singing for kids before he would bend to convention.

Perhaps foolishness is the currency of a hero’s quest.  A way to win the lottery of a better life for those we love and those in need.

With Grace and Grit, John