Pastor Mitty pulled his hood up over his stocking cap as he walked to the Main Street Cafe. Winter had finally come to Poplar Park, and the pastor of the Community Church wasn’t very happy about the change.

He wasn’t happy about how the Wednesday Men’s Fellowship Breakfast had been going lately, either. Too much talk about things that didn’t really matter-the weather and the price of gas and the Bears, endless talk about the Bears. He needed to engineer some changes.

Ash, Eric and Dominique were already drinking coffee as he slid into the empty space in their regular booth. After letting the banter go for five minutes, Mitty decided to begin his intervention. “Fellas,” he said, “I’ve been thinking that lately, uh, well we haven’t really been focusing on what this group is supposed to be for.”

“You mean we haven’t been harassing Alice enough?” said Ash with a grin. Eric and Dominique snickered.

“Now guys, I’m serious.” Mitty was not going to be deterred. “We talk about everything except our relationship with God here. We really need to make some changes.”

“Now, you talk about changes that need to be made …” Ash interrupted his pastor’s sermon. “Dennis Donaldson has to go. The election for village council is coming up in April, and I’ve decided I’m not going to campaign for anyone. I’m going to spend all my time working against Donaldson. He seems more interested in attacking the character of the other council members than getting things done.” Mitty noticed the “Dump Donaldson” pin on Ash’s sweater.

Before Mitty could get back to his point, Dominique jumped in. “What needs changing is the NFL,” he fumed. “Black players make up, what, 70 percent of the league, and the media is talking about Lovie Smith and Tony Dunge like Martin Luther King’s dream has come true and we’ve all arrived in the promised land. I’ll start celebrating when I see black people owning NFL teams.”

“I just don’t get it.” It was Eric’s turn to preempt his pastor. “You guys are complaining about personalities in the village and football while our kids are dying every day in Iraq. I mean, the News Hour shows pictures of soldiers who have died, and I swear some of them look like they haven’t started shaving yet.”

Alice started filling cups as she listened to Eric’s speech, and at that point she got into the debate. Twenty minutes passed before she got around to taking their order.

The four men knew enough to stop before their argument reached the boiling point, but everyone seemed to be in a grumpy mood as they put their coats on.

Frustrated that the men’s group had not allowed him to even present his plan, Mitty turned over different ways of changing the men’s group as he walked through snow flurries on the way home.

As he waited for the light at the corner of Main and Oak, he saw Father Bob Sullivan walking toward him. “Hey, Bob,” Mitty shouted.

Fr. Sullivan looked around, saw Mitty, and jogged over to his friend. “I’m sorry, Walt. I didn’t see you there. Guess I’m in another world.”

“Another world?”

“Yeah. See, a week ago I started planning what we were going to do for Lent in the parish, and I came to a realization.” Mitty waited as his Franciscan friend chose his words. “I realized that I wasn’t ready for Ash Wednesday … spiritually, I mean. In fact, Walt, well, to tell you the truth I wasn’t ready for Christmas this year.”

Pastor Walt knew the feeling. He had been in the pastor business long enough that he sometimes preached peace, justice and love without having much of it inside.

“So,” Fr. Bob continued, “I decided to go on a weeklong retreat at a little place on the South Side, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I discovered.”

Again, Mitty waited for his friend to continue.

“What I finally figured out was that the main problem wasn’t with my parish or the village or even the world. What needed changing, Walt, was me.”