Punitive versus Restorative


Recently, my life has been filled with recovery time. August is a busy time for parents and teachers. School starting and renewing routines take a lot out of us. August also happens to be the month that I begin searching for sponsors for the annual Autumn March for ALS. I have to take several days to recover from the bursts of activity. This affords me lots of reading time. I am currently reading four books as well as daily scriptures and reflections. At the Alley Casa last night we had a debate on whether to move a smart TV into my bedroom. Sal the ALS Gal, me, was all for it. I told him I could lie in bed and just watch whatever. Like most other Americans I am into binging shows, you know like overindulging. My husband reminded me by saying, “Sarah, why did you not allow the kids to have TVs in their rooms while they were growing up?” Needless to say, I don’t have a smart TV in my bedroom. It would keep me from a lot of productivity like reading four books at a time. So I am missing out on some great TV shows but I am also writing which is even better.

One of the books that I am currently reading has brought up the topic of punitive versus restorative justice within Christianity. God in the old testament is very punitive but always loving. The idea of doing something to receive salvation has been ingrained into us. Oftentimes we are too focused on the individualistic aspect of Christianity instead of the communal aspect. The Western culture we live in is so competitive. We want to say you are in and you are out. It is this way not that way. Our popular culture is feeding into the selfish individuality as well. You know it’s all about me. Just like Eddie Murphy has said before in his stand up routine, “What have you done for me lately?” Look at our broken justice system with overflowing prisons and jails. There needs to be a paradigm shift. There needs to be rehabilitation. Many of us have loved ones who have been a part of this broken system. Often times people come out of the system so broken they are not repairable. They sink deeper into debauchery. I fear it is just a way to separate people from main stream society and just throwing them away. I don’t think that Jesus ever threw anyone away. He was drawn towards the broken. My heart hurts for all of the broken that are living in cages. What is worse is they are trapped within a consciousness of defeat. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying let all the rapscallions loose. I’m saying that there could be rehabilitation and education and most of all love to help these hurting individuals. Kudos to my community for people and non-profits like Tiffany Boyd, Sue Ann Cloar, Judy Boehmler, Transitions, and Matthew 25:40. We are reaching out and try to rehabilitate with love.

Restorative justice is not a new concept. It is involving those that are betrayed with the betrayer. Working out a way to educate each other on the cause of the betrayal. Both sides work on a solution to help avoid further trespasses. It helps people figure out why they are doing things that are against moral precepts. It helps to build skills that many children are not getting these days because of our broken family structures. It helps to build relationships with adults who in turn learn forgiveness. These adults see how people become broken and immoral. I remember a principal who told me I wish I had more teachers like you who tried to understand where children are coming from each day. It would definitely be an eye-opener. He said that most teachers want these children just paddled but that’s only part of trying to correct bad behavior. After all other attempts are exhausted, then the paddling was a part of our restorative justice. I genuinely cared about each of those children. Rarely, was a paddling given. I wanted them to grow and to choose to be the good not forced into silence or submission. I rarely had a child that could not read my heart and try to be the best they could be. It’s about relationships. It’s about community. It’s not about groups or individuals who carry the right way to salvation. This is where we are broken in our Christianity. We are too busy trying to get on the right bus to ensure our salvation and we are leaving behind God’s chosen people: the poor, the addicted, the prostitutes, and the mentally ill. This is the short list of those left behind. We are not to gather on buses cheering and chanting our way to heaven because we made it. We are to be among all of those who are hurting and needy. There is no joy if there is still so much pain in our communities. To the least of these always enters my mind when I am rolling out around in my community. My mind is constantly whirling on the jobs that need to be done. I am constantly asking myself how can I help? How could I be the Christ within me to my little community? I want restoration. I know that I cannot eliminate all of the hurt, but I could help those that are on my path. Some may say “Bah humbug! Ms. Alley you are wasting your time and resources on all these losers.” (Front row I hope this isn’t you. The back row kids are a handful but we love them.) You know why I don’t listen to the naysayers? I have proof in my Catholic Christianity: The prodigal Son, the book of Habbkuk, Ezekiel chapter 16, and Jeremiah chapter 31:31. God wants us to love and restore each other. His love cannot be put in a set of rules and regulations. We have it within us. We just need to give it to others in our community. I truly believe this is what we are called to do before we are to enter into our next adventure with God.

Today’s reflection was quite an academic one. As I have said before, I am always learning. I am constantly seeking a deeper connection with God. I am trying to live in joy not fear. Last but not least, I am taking each moment as a gift. It is so exciting to be a light bearer. Today’s saints I read about were infamous. They both were huge sinners. One had a concubine, was a lawyer, and a slave to his flesh until he was in his thirties. He then had an Awakening. The other was an escaped Ethiopian slave who had a dangerous gang that pillaged communities. He fled into the desert and encountered Christian Monks. He was educated on the way, the truth, and the light. He had a change of heart. He still had a lot of anger. In one of his angry fits the Abbot took him to the roof top at dawn. He said, “Look! It takes time for the light to overcome the darkness.” Don’t lose heart. Where there is light there is always hope. Sinners do become saints. Can I get a amen back row?
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Light-bearing Gal

Quotes of the day:
“Go away and sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything.”
St. Moses the Black
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
St Augustine of Hippo

The Last shall be First

Happy Holy Thursday students! Today as I finished my readings, I imagined Jesus washing my feet. Why did he do this? Why did he, the son of God, wash the feet of his disciples? Peter resisted. Jesus told him unless he was allowed to wash his feet then he could not truly follow Jesus. I love the way we learn lessons from Jesus. He was the champion of Socratic thought and questioning. He continually flips the script. Think of God. God is at the top of all. He is the CEO of life. What are we? Well, we all have different stations and life. We are teachers, sanitation workers, doctors, nurses, grocery store clerks, stay-at-home moms, drug addicts, alcoholics, railroad conductors, relatives caring for other relatives who are sick, managers of small businesses, homeless people, mentally ill people, young people, elderly people, disabled people, and the list could go on forever. We all have a station. Which of the station’s do you think should be the feet washers? Aha! That’s right back row, you could never imagine a doctor or lawyer washing a homeless person’s feet. That’s exactly what we are supposed to do. Front row when you get your PhD you should not be haughty. You should still wash your brothers and sisters feet who are less fortunate than you. Not literally unless the chance arises, but you are called to put others first regardless of their station. This is exactly today’s lesson. We are called to love each other and serving each other to the end of our earthly lives.
Jesus understood that for something bigger to be born something had to die. Look at biblical history. Isaac was going to die at Abraham’s hand. Abraham understood his covenant with God had to be stronger than that with his own son. At Passover, remember all of the unblemished, male lambs and goats that were sacrificed for The Exodus out of Egypt? Something had to die to protect the Israelites. Have you ever had a chance to hold a baby lamb? It makes my stomach hurt to think of them being sacrificed. Today’s Gospel ask for us to die. Back-row do not get upset; I am not asking you to die literally. We are to die to ourselves. That means our egos are to die. We are to love each other as we love ourselves. This is so hard in a world that is so egocentric, so selfish. It takes constant practice. If we practice those virtues every single day eventually we will defeat our ego. We will begin to see Christ in others regardless of the station they have been given in this life. We can get there. I know we can. Your homework today is to think of your station in life. Make a plan to wash someone’s feet. If you see a homeless person, offer them your respect by looking them in the eyes and simply greet them with kindness. Let them know they are part of the one body. If you are of a more humble station like wheelchair Sal, hold your head up and smile. Greet all those you meet with the joy of Christ in your heart. You are very important, too. Remember students one bread, one body, and one Lord of all.
Sal the Sacrifice it All Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley
Quotes of the day:
“The washing of the feet and the sacrament of the Eucharist: two expressions of one and the same mystery of love entrusted to the disciples, so that, Jesus says, “as I have done… so also must you do.” (Jn 13: 15). Pope John Paul II
“When you look at the Crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host you understand how much Jesus loves you now.’”
Blessed Mother Teresa
This bread I break was once the oat,
This wine upon a foreign tree
Plunged in its fruit;
Man in the day or wine at night Laid the crops low, broke the grape’s joy.
Once in this time wine the summer blood
Knocked in the flesh that decked the vine,
Once in this bread
The oat was merry in the wind; Man broke the sun, pulled the wind down.
This flesh you break, this blood you let
 Make desolation in the vein,
Were oat and grape Born of the sensual root and sap; My wine you drink, my bread you snap.
Dylan Thomas

Hope

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 7:23-28
This is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God.

Life happened again yesterday. I had too many obligations and not enough time. I hope you are staying strong and practicing your virtues. Today we are going to talk about the virtue of Hope. Hope can mean a lot of things in our culture. We hope we get into the college that we want when we graduate high school. We hope that we can get a good job to provide for our family. We hope that our students in class will behave and try to learn the objectives. As a Christian virtue hope takes on a different dimension. As a Christian hope it’s not based on our human desires. Hope is based on what God has promised us as Christians. We hope in the strength of our God and savior to fulfill his promise that he wants us to be happy, to have a good life, and to help us to fulfill our purpose in creating a better world for Him.

My first reading today was from Jeremiah. It was rather shocking. It said this is the nation that will not listen to the voice of the Lord God. Think about that. We hope in the promises of God but are we doing our part? Are we listening to the voice of God through scriptures and prayer and other people that God places in our lives? What if we don’t hold up our end of the bargain? In order to cash in our rewards, we have to live morally, sound lives. This is very important. That’s why students I am taking so much time on virtues. In order for you to grow spiritually we have to run a good race.  You have to have a sound moral core. All of these virtues that we are discussing and learning are from God. Haven’t you always heard all things good come from God? I understand the argument of people not understanding creation and a creator, but all of the studying I have done I have come to the conclusion that this one makes the most sense. God is a god of love. All things from God should produce love. Think about the opposite of our virtues that we are building. We want to be strong . We want to be courageous, but the opposites of those are to be cowardly and weak in our faith. Think about the opposite of charity. That would to be very miserly and we all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. How did that work out?

Today I want you to work on your virtue of Hope. I want you too have faith and hope for the best. Hope for the plans that God has for you. If you’re reading this blog, you have been led here for a reason. There are three big aspects to being a human: our relationships with others, our relationship with ourselves chosing good and acting upon it, and our relationship with God. Right now we are focusing on our relationship with ourselves and trying to create a better person, a better heart, and a better understanding of why we are even here on Earth. I hope you understand that we are not here to horde as many resources as possible, to be lauded by our accomplishments, or be accepted into the “in” crowd. We are here to live a life of virtues. We are here to love each other and take care of one another on this earthly journey. Our treasures are not here. I really hope that our time together will open your ears to hear. Not like the ones in the Bible verse today from Jeremiah. It’s never too late to fight the vices of your life. We are called to listen and fight now to build up a Kingdom of God. Today I want you to read The Lord’s prayer. I want you to really think about each line of this perfect prayer. You all are growing! I feel it. Hope in this prayer, and most of all try to live this prayer today as you go through your day.

Sal the Thy Kingdom Come Gal
Sarah Anderson Alley

Quotes of the day:
The great gift of Easter is hope – Christian hope which makes us have that confidence in God, in his ultimate triumph, and in his goodness and love, which nothing can shake.
Basil Hume

I see so many people. They just seem to be hopeless. Being a Christian and being a pastor, the ultimate hope is in Jesus.
Richie Fury


The Christian experiences and lives a paradox. He possesses joy in sorrow, fulfillment in exile, light in darkness, peace in turmoil, consolation in dryness, contentment in pain and hope in desolation.
Mother Angelica

I hope the day that all the Christians are one. This is my dream.
Pope Theodoros II

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Diablo

Diablo

 

In my mind today, I’m thinking of Beelzebub. I scroll through my news feed and I see tragedy and division. I read posts from people who think the idea of Lucifer is a fable conjured by humans. As I look around each day the evidence keeps piling up that there is indeed something happening here and it’s becoming clear. There is a battle of good versus evil. There always has been and that is part of our human story.

Can you have demons without angels or visa-versa? What about a devil without a God? There is evil but thank God there is also good, literally. We are so divided in our government, churches, and societies. Why? How can we create calm from chaos? Don’t you want some peace; just give me some peace. Who can show us a way to peace? Ah, yes my front row students know the answer. Let’s continue this discussion.

Let’s look at the word diablo. From Luc Ferry’s book A Brief History of Thought he explains the word is derived from Greek as “The who who divides.” Where is the objective in this devilish lesson? Well, let’s ask this question: Who is at fault for violent, tragic shootings, the opioid epidemic, the crumbling family structures, and struggling economies? We can blame gun control issues, the government, and big corporations but underneath all those is an ancient name that is the calumniator supreme. Yes, diablo. By going against the God given morals, we allow diablo to slip into our lives. He wants rampant addictions, children from broken homes, enraged shooters, and greed to rule our economies and governments. It helps him hide behind our problems and cast the blame to everything and everyone but him. He is the ambassador of hate. I want to implore you to stop the disparity among us in our communities and governments.
We have two tiny rules that could cure so many problems. There’s no room for jealousy, pridefulness, or gloating.

There is nothing to fear if we only act morally out of love for each other. Fear is an age old and favorite instrument of Big S. It costs nothing to be kind and considerate to your fellow man or woman. Act out of love not fear. We are entering into our season of thankfulness and joy. Pick your weapon to slice through the darkness of the world and promote light. Feed a family for the holidays through local non-profits, help those wanting work find jobs, donate clothes to shelters, ring a bell for your local Salvation Army, or just be nice to those around you. When I do these things, the gift of joy is so powerful. All these acts of love are free and guess who hates them? Love is so powerful and eternal. It’s the ultimate weapon. Love has a name. I know its name and it has made all the difference in my life. Do you?

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Exposing the Devil Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“For What It’s Worth”

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking’ their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, “hooray for our side”

It’s time we stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away

We better stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Now, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?

We better stop
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look – what’s going down?
Buffalo Springfield

“Sympathy for the Devil”

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul to waste
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank
Held a general’s rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
I shouted out
Who killed the Kennedys?
When after all
It was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what’s confusing you
Is just the nature of my game, mm yeah
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
‘Cause I’m in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste, mm yeah
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, mm yeah
But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, mm mean it, get down
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Oh yeah
Tell me baby, what’s my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what’s my name
I tell you one time, you’re to blame
Oh, right
What’s my name
Tell me, baby, what’s my name
Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name

Songwriters: Keith Richards / Mick Jagger
Sympathy for the Devil lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc

Crosses

Whew! Crosses!

“Do not worry about . . . what you are to say” (Luke 12:11).

In my mind lately, I’ve wanted to write and to share but I haven’t found the words, time, or energy. I’m still here fighting to empty myself for what really matters. Well, students I’m am definitely running on empty and yes I’m singing Jackson Browne as I peck this out. I’m hopping off of the pity party wagon today and feel like my tank is being restored. Whew! The Holy Spirit (We call it the HS at my house.) has been nudging me to share words so here I go.

Crosses. I love them. Unconsciously I have filled my home with them. The symbolism of them brings me joy. Studying and reflecting lately the meaning and connection of crosses in my life has taken on a whole new meaning.

Crosses are responsibilities and events in our lives. They are heavy and burdensome. They do not discriminate according to race, economic status, or social status. They come in all shapes and sizes. They have many names: death, cancer, strokes, ALS, Alzheimer’s, bankruptcy, homelessness, Autism, Parkinson’s, debt, mental illness, unemployment, estranged family members, addictions, and plain ole loneliness barely scrape the many types of crosses we bear on our earthly journey. Makes you want to wave the white flag doesn’t it? I hear the back row saying, “Amen! It’s too tough. Let’s stop this lesson and just have recess every day!” Calm down. Breathe. Adjust that cross on your back and carry it with all your strength. Embrace it. Settle down back row and quit making the Cuckoo gesture. I’m not crazy. Your cross-training (I love this pun!) is to strengthen you, embellish you, and transform you into the vessel needed to complete your purpose for the greater good. It is.

Those crosses teach you patience. They teach you humility. They connect you with the suffering of Christ. They are unexplainable mercies of God that when the cross is lifted, Grace engulfs you. You get 20/20 vision and the lightbulb becomes blinding showing you the abundance of fruits from your labor.

Still don’t believe me? Think of a horrible time in your life. If you’re honest with yourself, you found a rainbow after the storm. You learned to appreciate something you overlooked. You learned to control your tongue. You quit blaming others for your shortcomings. You had the courage to right a wrong and say, “Forgive me. I’m so sorry.” You learned to pray instead of lashing out on social media or try to numb yourself with alcohol or drugs. I saw your jaws drop open. You get it. 😀

Students, you have a pop quiz today. No, I don’t love to torture you; I just love you. I want to fill your tank. Today, identify a cross you are carrying. Whatever it is, big or small, whisper, “God, I accept this cross for you. Help me. Use it for YOUR plan, not mine. I’m weary and tired. Give me strength. Thank you for hearing me and helping me bring joy into my valleys. Amen.”
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Cross-bearing Gal

Quote of the Day:
“True teachers use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

“Lord, help me overcome my biases. I want to be able to see you in every person I meet.”

As I read my devotional this morning, I smiled thinking of the message. I remembered as a child watching the PBS program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and singing along. Decades later I would watch the show with my children. Of my children, Ian liked it the most. I chuckle when I visit that time in my mind. I still hear him saying as a toddler, “Momma, I want to play the piano (he pronounced it pee-an-do with all long vowels of course) like Mr. Rogers when I grow up.” I thank God for these precious memories of my children. I thank God for those messages that helped shape me as a child.

After reading the parable of the Good Samaritan, I realized the relevance of it in our modern lives. Today, I think we can substitute Samaritan and Jew for many disgruntled “neighbors.” Here’s the shortlist: Republican vs. Democrat, Muslim vs. Christianity, Jew vs. Muslim, Pro-life vs. ProChoice, Gay vs. Straight, Catholic vs. Protestant, & Black vs. White. Whew! I could add more but you get the idea. Would you care for your neighbor like the Samaritan did? Would you use your arms to hold this dying adversary? Could you open your mouth to give a kind word? How about untying your purse strings to give a meal to a starving foe? Use your body to shield them from hateful slurs and threats? Or do we continue to be consumed by hate believing that they deserve to be chastised and hurt? See. We are all called to be a “Good Samaritan.” I hear my back row students squirming in their seats. It is very hard to love those who hate and persecute you.

In this present time our lives are so influenced with confusing messages like “If it feels good, do it” or “It’s all about me #YOLO.” It’s true we only have one earthly life to live. Sadly, those who choose to act morally are often chided in our culture for their weaknesses. They don’t fit in to the popular social circles. After reading the scriptures about the parable of the Good Samaritan, I felt nudged to implore you to find a way to help that wounded person on your life path. We all have at least one person we can choose to help. Imagine if we all encouraged one person a day for a year. Wow! Today, seek out a neighbor to love and serve. Let’s make the most of this beautiful day!

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Neighbor Loving Gal

Quotes of the Day by Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.”

“There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.”

“Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Intercessors

Intercessors

They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come. (Luke 7:4)

Many times I ponder why I’m still here. My mother’s sister began falling at age 38. We said goodbye to her at the age of 43. Doctors had no clue why she wasting away so fast. At her death, the diagnosis was not clear. She died of pneumonia but ALS had ravished her body. She couldn’t stand, walk, use her arms, or cough on her own. So much like me. She never lost her ability to talk or swallow. Her fragile body wore out and pneumonia took her away from her only son and new grandson. This thought always makes me cry. Our lives eerily parallel. As I write today, I daydream of the grandson to come this February.

Today, I read about the Roman soldier who sought out Jesus. His slave was sick. He believed he would be healed. Faith of friends coupled with prayer is a dynamic force. “Go your faith has saved your friend.” This spoke to me and each time I venture out in my scoot I feel the faith of my family and friends save me. They bless me with more earthly time. I hear the whisper of jobs I still have to do. I see people who need loved. Children that need taught about faith, prayer, and friendship. Then I feel the strength to roll on and give more despite the limitations of my physical body. God hears my prayers, too. He puts people in my life to help accomplish my acts of love and sacrifice. They help me share love in the world.

So, I’m still here almost a half a century old. In a way, it’s a miracle. God working through doctors, my family, and my friends who rally around Sal the ALS Gal. I’m so humbled by every prayer, smile, and touch given to me as I embrace my cross and zip forward to the next job whispered to me each morning as I pray. Today students, pray for your family and friends. There really is an energy that resonates with those you pray for and He hears you. Your faithful petitions are needed. Be a faithful, prayerful friend. Yes, that’s your homework. Back row, WAKE UP! Be an Intercessor.

Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Feeling the Prayers Gal

Quotes of the Day:

“We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful.”
Mother Teresa
St. Teresa of Calcutta

“Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening.”
Gandhi

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
Gandhi