You’ve heard the aphorism, “You don’t want to know how the sausage is made.”
Many years ago when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, some of my friends worked at Oscar Mayer — you know, bologna, wieners. In other words, sausage, and they used to joke that the ingredients in the sausage were the three Ts — tongue, t*ts and tails.
Is ignorance bliss? I didn’t stop eating hot dogs, but no longer with as much enthusiasm as before I knew how they were made.
After I received my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, they gave me an information sheet which included a list of the ingredients. Hydroxybutl azanediyl, hexane-6, hexylecanote, plyethylene glycol N-ditetradecylacetamide, Distearoyl-sn-glycero 3, phosphocholine, postassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate, and sucrose? I was glad I got the shot before I knew how that sausage was made.
Twenty years ago I switched from butter to margarine, because dairy products raise your cholesterol levels. That is, until a friend told me to read the list of ingredients in very small print on the back of the package which included: distilled monoglycerides, lecithin, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium and artificial flavors.
I switched again. This time to Irish butter made from milk from grass-fed cows.
I used to automatically take the side of the police when charges of police brutality were made. Chief Aftanas had always been transparent and responsive when I would ask for an interview. But the phone videos of the George Floyd tragedy revealed that the sausage isn’t made the same way in every police department.
The latest survey I read revealed that only 19% of those polled said they trusted the federal government. I become more and more disillusioned the more I see how that sausage is put together.
Here’s the conclusion I’ve come up with: It’s not the ingredients that make a sausage great. It’s how the butcher who puts them together in just the right proportions and with just the right added spices.
I grew up in northeastern Wisconsin where we took great summer sausage and wonderful bratwurst for granted. Those German butchers knew what they were doing.
Three decades ago, my son played sax in the Forest Park Middle School jazz band. That group of early adolescents was not high on talent, but Mr. Weinstein, the middle school band director, knew how to pick music that fit their abilities and get the most of the ability each kid had, and the end result was pretty good. Not ready for prime time, but I did find myself tapping my toes.
I admire coaches who take a mediocre bunch of players and mold them into a team that finishes in fourth place in the standings. What we call soul food — chitlins, collard greens, beans, pigs feet, corn bread — is in most cases made from the cheapest of ingredients, which in the hands of millions of Black women over centuries has been transformed into comfort food. There’s nothing so divine as ribs right out of the smoker. We even say that the food has “soul.”
If we compare political leaders to chefs, what we should pray for are not leaders who create the perfect gourmet meal every time, but women and men of character who work the magic of combining the sometimes cheapest ingredients, mixing them together in the right proportions, adding just the right spices and knowing how long to keep them in the oven.
I’m not sure what to make of the fact that all of the races next month for board members in District 91 and District 209 only have one person running for each seat. Maybe it’s because Forest Parkers are satisfied with the performance in the districts. Maybe it’s because not many of us care enough to run.
The data seem to suggest that students who come out of D91 are pretty much average when it comes to how they perform academically. If academic achievement of our students is measured by scores on tests, that’s one piece of data that’s relevant to assessing how well our schools are doing.
Other ingredients, if you will, include the quality of the schools from which our students came, poverty, family stability, and, of course, the competence of the men and women who teach in our schools.
I taught school for three years, was the pastor of a church in town for 25 and now I’m the president of a condominium association. Going back to the sausage metaphor, in each case the students, parishioners and condo owners I have tried to lead reflected the whole range of the population — psychologically, economically, racially, regarding IQ, spiritually, in terms of family functionality, etc., etc.
I was no Mr. Chips, I was no Billy Graham, and I’m not transforming the 51 owners in my building into a beloved community. If you watch how I tried to make the sausage, in each case you would see a messy process. Sometimes I’d be proud of the results. Sometimes not.
That’s the challenge of the sausage maker. That’s the challenge of Emmanuel Chris Welch and Fr. Kuca and Rob McAdam, the new president of the Chamber of Commerce.
I would tell seminary students who came to do their field work with me, “If you want to become disillusioned with the church, become a pastor.”
I would add that though the process is messy, “Sometimes what you experience will feel for a moment or two like heaven on earth.”