a Subway story

The following conversation took place between the sneeze guard, amidst the shredded lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and processed meat. It was ten thirty in the morning, early for lunch but primetime for conversation…

He asked me what I did, and I replied, “I am a therapist.” To this, he shook his head and smiled. As an afterthought I added, “I am also a minister as well.”

This comment elicited a response from my inquirer. “Ah, you deal with issues of faith.”

“Sometimes,” was my reply, “but not always in as good a fashion as I wish.”

“I believe that we are all created valuable. I hate this culture of fast food and quick remedies. It is the same with faith, people wanting quick answers.”

“You and I share many of the same thoughts,” I interjected with a quick nod.

“Blood is cheap,” he went on. “People do not value one another. Instead they would rather run off and buy a machine gun and kill ten people.”

“I agree we do place little value on life. I am curious about your view though, since you work in a fast food restaurant.”

“It is a job,” he replied. “I am also a computer technician. I like working with computers more than people. They, at least, will tell you what is wrong and then you can fix it. With people, they are more difficult. They do not say what is wrong and instead would rather kill one another.”

“Yes, computers do seem easier.” I stated as I picked up my sandwich.

Walking towards the door, he asked one last question. “What kind of therapy do you do?”

Ironically, I replied, “I try and help people live meaningful lives.”

To this he laughed, “Good luck with that. It was good to talk with you, have a good day.”

“To you as well,” I replied, “have a wonderful day.”

It is frightening and laborious, but sometimes rewarding. How do you help people create meaning throughout the events of their lives? Most people walk through the doors of my office seeking relief from a variety of symptoms. They wish to find some type of psychotherapeutic panacea to mend their broken hearts and right the ships that sail through their lives. The problem comes when they want these psychological solutions yesterday.

I will be the first to admit that I am ill suited for the quick fix type of therapy; the one-size-fits-all, seven steps to wholeness crap that populates the self help aisles. To be sure, there are some helpful things in this section, but most of it is vacuous garbage that should be deemed unfit for human consumption. Many of these books remind me that blood IS cheap and so are the lives that many choose to live. When did we begin to equate living with owning the newest gadget, measuring our success by the amount we consume? How have we leapt onto this path of hyper-consumption? How do we get off?

Often, I laugh when I tell people that the folks of my generation believe that the microwave is too slow. But my laughter often hides a more sinister truth of the fear I experience each time I, or another, proves this to be true. Many people walk through my door wanting to be fixed in eight sessions or less. To these people I would say (though I don’t often enough), meaning is not a prescribed method of living, but a life-long journey that begins when we believe that every person, including ourselves, has inherent value through the mere fact of their/our createdness.

A life lived attempting to keep up with the Joneses is no better than a life of heroin addiction. It is nothing better than a shallow attempt at self-medication; the acquisition of goods does nothing more than quantify our lives, and the only result of this type of measurement is the cheapening of our blood.

Meaning, value, and growth are intrinsic endeavors cultivated in a safe community whereby one has the opportunity to be challenged and loved for who they are, not what they own or what they produce. Forget salvation, forget atonement and miracles, this was the penultimate act of the incarnation: God sent someone who came into this world and showed each person that they were loved, embraced, and cared for by God, no matter where they found themselves in life. There is no other act of God greater than the fact that we are loved before we do anything, during the things we do, and despite the things we have done. And, no other act of God creates more freedom than realizing the potentiality of our createdness…

grace and peace



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