Faith, Family, and God – Who Am I?

February 3, 2011
By Paul P. Jesep*/TRT Columnist
On December 31st and in mid-January two events occurred that collectively gave me A Chorus Line experience. In the musical Paul sings, “Who am I anyway? Am I my resume?”

In mid-January the time changed on my computer from Tuesday, 11:59 p.m. to Wednesday, 12:00 a.m. Another snow storm had arrived. I worked on the laptop as huge red and orange flames suddenly danced outside my deck window across the parking lot. In moments heat and light became uninvited guests. The fire trucks were arriving.

I alerted my neighbors. Most were sleeping. The gent next door cursed at the television. His blood pressure seems to rise when watching the Sports Channel. I returned to the apartment. It felt like a preheating oven. From the time it took to knock on doors to my return the temperature had gone up considerably.

“What should I take,” I asked. I had no furry-four legged children to worry about. “Perhaps take the Ukrainian embroidery my grandmother made? Maybe pack some of my music collection? What about my degrees?” I parked my car in an enclosed garage blocks away due to the storm. Without the car to load I didn’t have many options.

Perhaps for the last time I surveyed my apartment. Before closing the door I looked at the many things that brought me comfort and pleasure – books, framed art, family photos, opera and ballet memorabilia, and numerous icons of various saints that included Sergius and Bacchus, lovers and life-long companions.

For practical reasons I took my laptop, cell phone, and brief case. I took nothing else.  I did forget my reading glasses which later annoyed the hell out of me.

I am not and will not be defined by “things.” Although my grandmother’s embroidery and many photos could not be replaced, people you love are held in the heart. Opera and ballet memorabilia is something in time and does not reflect what they are – a living, vibrant, dynamic feast for the eyes and ears. They live in the moment of the performance. Icons, clothes, books, framed reproductions of paintings, among other things can be replaced.

Before finally leaving the building I checked to make sure everyone was okay. Although my neighbors clearly were, gruff, testosterone-enthused police arrived to state the obvious. “You have to leave!” Yah think?

Other than damage to some cars in the back lot and smoked-kielbasa aroma permeating the building our respective homes were fine the next day. Most important no pet or person was hurt. Perhaps it had something to do with all the religious icons I left behind. Not likely.

If my soul or how the world perceives me is not defined by degrees, titles, my resume, or social status (or lack thereof) then by what? My effort to be true to my Creation as the Creator intended.

On New Year’s Eve I was at a Barnes and Noble. After spending too much money on books I don’t have time to read a woman approached me in the parking lot. She had been crying, was visibly shaken, and needed cab fare for about a sixty minute trip. I gave it to her. She pledged to pay me back and asked several times for my address. Before you think me naïve and living under a cabbage leaf, I’m rather jaded. Yet I never doubted her sincerity to repay me or that the situation was as difficult as it appeared.

Although I thought about giving her my address, I said, “No. Don’t worry about it.” She asked several times, “Are you sure?” “Yes,” I responded. “A day may come when you’ll be in a position to do the same.”

* Paul is an author, attorney, and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, NY. His book _Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America – the Republic of Faith without Wisdom_, is available on He may be reached at

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