Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Friday, January 23, 2015

THE REAL AMERICAN POOR



Poor people? I don’t know any poor people. A couple of guys come into our coffee hour at church and eat up the food and ask for money. I guess they are poor. Then I was forced to look at the young woman who served me coffee at the neighborhood Starbuck’s. She may make $10 per hour if she is lucky. If she works eight hours a day five days a week for 50 weeks, that is $20,000 a year. She will be docked if she is sick, has no insurance health or dental benefits. If she is going to school, she will work fewer hours and have even less money. If she is married and has a child, she will probably have another job to supplement her income. If she is working two jobs, caring for her child or children and commuting to work she is tired all the time. She probably is not in the best of health as she cannot take time from work to go to the dentist or a health care provider is she has one.

I read Hand to Mouth – Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Triado, Putnam, 2014. I am disturbed emotionally by the author’s straightforward description of how it is and feels to be poor in America. People have food and shelter, yes. Living with very little money has a huge emotional and physical affect on the daily lives of women, men and children. In adequate dental and health care is just a start. Physical exhaustion from working three jobs plus transportation limits one’s capacity to work efficiently at either of the jobs. Family and personal life is strained and brittle due to long minimum paid jobs. The brutality of low paying jobs in restaurants, manufacturing, janitorial and housekeeping jobs is described with humor and satire by the author who is just up from low-pay work. Abrupt scheduling changes, pay docking and jobs where no breaks are allowed make life a horror for working people. Look carefully at the next person who waits on you in a fast food restaurant, at your club or favorite restaurant. How much do they make, how many jobs do they have? Pray for them, at least.

Here is the author’s last piece of advice for rich people:

“As long as you keep me accountable for not making it when I was well under the national median income, I’ll hear no whining about how difficult it is to find good help.  (Pro tip on the help rich people” Treat us fairly, pay us decently, and make it clear that you give half a fuck whether we live or die. We’ll kill ourselves for you.”


I hope you choose Hand to Mouth for your next book club selection. The stories of poor working people in our country and in our churches will make you very uncomfortable, but will make you yearn for change.

Monday, January 19, 2015

EPISCOPAL SCHOOLS


Episcopal Churches have sponsored hundreds of private schools throughout our country. White children left public schools to go to local church sponsored schools. White parents removed their children because they worried that the black children would lower the educational standards in the public schools. Instead of white and black students mixing and learning together, public schools are segregated again. The Episcopal Church and others contributed mightily to our present day segregated public school system. (I put this paragraph on my Facebook page this morning.)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

MUSLIMS HAVE NAMES

Epiphany Sermon 1/11/15

I saw the following post on Facebook this week.

Please don’t use the word retarded.
I am a beautiful person
I am Isabella

Our name is very important to us. We are known and recognized by our name.

With a name like Cromey I am often called Crummy, Cornliegh, CrAHmey.
I was baptized Robert Warren. Then I was called Bobby, Pain in the butt, Bob, Robert. Our name is the key to our identity.

We are dehumanized by the expressions used about us. Look at the expression THOSE PEOPLE.

THOSE PEOPLE: MEANING LGBT FOLK, BLACK, BROWN ASIAN HISPANIC PEOPLE ARE NOT THOSE PEOPLE THEY ARE REAL HUMAN BEINGS.

I read of a white bigot yell at an African American attorney, “Why don’t you get YOUR people to behave better?” The bigot is dehumanizing African Americans.


This week we know of the murders in Paris. The killers  – killed THEM not people, human beings, THEM. The Paris killers did not see their victims as human beings.

Today we must not treat all Muslims as THOSE PEOPLE

Like Isabella, who is not retarded, but beautiful and made in the image of God. All Muslims are children of God. Some Muslim fanatics do not represent all the people of Islam.

How about someone in this congregation taking on the task of finding out a nearby Mosque and forming some kind of dialogue with them. NOT RICHARD. He has too much to do already.

At our baptism we were given a name Robert, Richard, John, David Aaron, Marshall, Timothy, SARAH, JAN, LEAH AND OLGA and all of us.

When John in the River Jordan baptized Jesus he already had his name JESUS. The writers of the gospels were already making his name more powerful and substantial. “You are my son, the beloved: with you I am well pleased Son of God meant to the ancient Jews a Messianic hope and a special vocation.

He was not to be just a nice guy.

“He is to bring forth justice to the nation.
He will not grow faint or be crushed until he had established justice

He was to be a light to the nations, open the eyes of the blind, to bring out prisoners from the dungeons, from prison those who sit in darkness.” Jesus meant to bring sight too the blind. In our day it means to bring medical help to the physically blind.Jesus meant prison reform – overcrowded jails, rape and sodomizing young men and women in prisons. It means prison reform actual and in our time.

I also believe the rich and the powerful hear the message of Jesus, feed hungry, house the homeless, release the prisoners, and heal the sick. If American Christians took those calls seriously it would raise taxes and make the rich poorer. Many wealthy America avoids hearing the Gospel of Jesus to bring justice. They stay away from churches – and synagogues where the concerns for social justice are presented week by week with the Biblical message.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the president of the United States during the depression of the 1930’s and the war in the 1940s. He was an Episcopalian, a Christian and even served on the vestry of St. James Church, Hyde Park, NY. He heard the message of Jesus to care for the afflicted and feed the hungry. He did some bad things; he turned away Jewish refugees who want to come into the US. He did little to relieve African Americans from their wretched conditions in the South. He was not perfect.

But he fed the poor and gave work to the 33% UNEMPLOYMENT in the US in the 1930s. He pushed through congress laws, which provided food and jobs for Americans who were impoverished after the Depression. He did not simply preach help to the poor and hungry, he passed legislation too make sure million of Americans could eat and have jobs.

President Barak Obama is a Christian, a Baptist. He did not move fast enough on LGBT rights, allowed Guantanamo Prison to exist and failed to end the war in Afghanistan soon enough. But he healed the Sick. He pushed through the Affordable Care Act giving medical insurance to millions of Americans who could not afford it. He did not preach healing to the sick; he helped make healing available to millions of Americans.

Our preachers and leaders cannot just preach pieties about social problems. We must be specific and move in concrete terms to keep and preserve our human dignity and work for the dignity of others.

We like Isabella can do something, act directly and make a little sign like she did that says:

Please don’t use the word retarded.
I am a beautiful person
I am Isabella






Monday, January 05, 2015

HELEN, MY MOTHER

Helen Louise Reinemann Cromey
1912-1959
“HEY WARREN, HOW ABOUT ONE FOR THE OTHER LEG.”
My mother’s smile, warm, open and friendly, beamed from her eyes, as she demanded another drink of rum and coke from dad.  She stuck out her chubby leg, sitting on the dark green sofa, in her peach slip on a hot humid New York City evening after dinner. I used to threaten that I would carve that expression on her tombstone.

She stood straight and five feet four inches tall. Always worried about her weight. She said, “I want to lose the weight from my legs, arms and tummy, but weight loss always shows in my face.” She had bright merry brown eyes and graying hair. She said she started going gray in her 30s.
Helen taught me social dancing. First was an awkward one-step, then later the simple fox-trot steps. She cajoled me and my big size 13 feet into some form a regular pattern to the point where I became a fairly smooth dancer.

An expert swimmer, she taught my brother Edwin and me to swim. She held my hand as we waded into to the light surf of the beach at Rockaway. We held our noses and ducked under the water. Opening or eyes under water my eyes stung but I soon got used to it. She held me in her soft arms and we ducked under the water together. She took my skinny arms and swung me around in the water and we ducked under together. I learned to trust the water to hold me up as I did the dog paddle and kicked my legs. It was all great fun. Sometimes I got a snoot full of water and I cried. She laughed and said do it again and I did.  Slowly I trusted the water and myself to move about in the water testily at first and then with more vigor.

She was enormously affectionate with lots of hugs and kisses amply displayed toward my brother Edwin and me.  When I was 14 and well over six feet, I ran into the living room and plopped down on her lap.  She loved it.  She laughed and said she loved me.

Her free and easy ways, her enjoyment of life's pleasure and her being very physical with me taught me to be the same way.  Coming home from work she climbed out of her dress and girdle to get into something “compasil” as she liked to say.  Helen used to sit in her slip with Dad in his undies on hot humid summer nights watching TV on Welfare Island, where they lived for 14 years.
Welfare Island is now called Roosevelt Island after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the White house from 1933 until his death in 1945.

The island in the 1940s and 50s had three hospitals, the City Home and a Detention Home for Girls behind a high chain link fence. Dad was the chaplain at Bird S. Coler Hospital and the City Home or the poor house, which housed homeless, sick and elderly people. Mother was the secretary to the superintendent of Coler hospital, Mr. Lewis.

The chaplain’s apartment was in the basement of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. There was a large living room in the shape of a D under the curvature of the chapel’s rounded rear wall. There was a dining room, two bedrooms a large meeting room, two baths and a small kitchen.  It was quite luxurious after living so many years in small flats in Brooklyn.
The chapel is a city landmarked building and still stands, although the City Home and Detention Center gave way to condominium apartments. In 1959 my mother Helen died in the apartment under the chapel. She was 57 years old.

Her favorite song was Irving Berlin’s “Always.” I still get a lump in my throat when I hear someone sing, “I’ll be loving you, Always.  With a heart that’s true, Always.” I think of mother singing that to dad.  She had a lovely singing voice and sang in church choirs where Dad was the rector. She sang around the house as she did chores.

She used “Evening in Paris” after bath powder and perfume. It is certainly not top of the line cosmetics, but that is what she used.  Dad went out to buy Christmas presents for her usually on Christmas Eve. He was not one for planning ahead. He would rush home and wrap the Evening in Paris Cosmetics in a sloppily arranged package and put it under the tree to open a short while later. We shared Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, as Dad would often be away doing church services on Christmas morning.

Helen loved to go shopping on Thursday evenings. That is when New York department stores were open only one evening a week. 24/7 shopping had not been invented yet in the 1940s and 50s. We lived near Bloomingdales on Third Avenue and 59th Streets in Manhattan. She loved cruising the cosmetic counters on the first floor of that store. When I go to Manhattan I often take the Helen Cromey Memorial Walk through those counters and think warmly of her. I have only visited her grave in Paramus, New Jersey once with Edwin. I have taken the Bloomingdales memorial walk many times.

One of her best friends was Sylvia Pamigiano. Sylvia was a Jew married to an Italian. Her family was not pleased with the union. Bill was a big blustery fellow with a wide smile and good laugh. He died a very few years after their marriage. Sylvia was bereft and Helen invited her to dinner and she and Dad talked Sylvia in her grief. She became Aunt Sylvia to us boys. She often joined us for dinner on Tuesday evenings. She was dark haired and slender with bright brown eyes and was a sweetie to Edwin and me.

Helen was a confidant to family members especially the young women.  She was tolerant and non-judgmental about people’s thoughts and behavior. My cousin told me that she could talk with Helen about personal things where she couldn’t talk so easily with her own mother. I assume this had to do with men and sex.
The following memory haunts me. We lived in Great River out on Long Island in the late 1930s. Dad was the rector of Emmanuel Church. The rectory was right next door to the church.

One day we were all having breakfast in the kitchen of the rectory: Dad, Annabel, Edwin, Jimmy and I. I saw the boiling brown, hot coffee spill into my mother’s lap from the aluminum pot. She shrieked,
“Aagh, Oh, Ah.”  Her screams contorted her face.  Annabel rubbed butter on her naked thighs. She was taken to the hospital. What a shock that must have been, but I don’t remember any feelings, but the memory lingers. She recovered and the awful event was never referred to again.
Several times Helen was away for a while with nervous breakdowns. She went to some institution in White Plains, N.Y. I never knew any more about these absences. I don’t remember any adverse feelings about these situations, except that mother seemed to cry a lot. I do not remember being afraid or angry. Dad took good care of us. Annabel Knorr and her son Jimmy, a boy of my age, moved in with us for a while. She helped soften our family situation while Helen was away. I am only conjecturing.

I lived at home on Welfare Island while I attended New York University. One evening I took my girl friend Lillian home to meet mother and Dad. Helen was warm and friendly with Lillian and she and dad welcomed her warmly. Neither parent was surprised when I announced that we wanted to marry after finishing my junior year at NYU. Lillian had already graduated and was employed at Women’s Wear Daily as a researcher.
Helen and my dad supported our marriage. I was surprised when she cried when I moved out of our home to share an apartment with Lillian. She missed her oldest son.

Helen often invited Lillian and me to dinner on the island.  Our first two children were born by 1958. Helen doted on her first grandchildren. She baby-sat the little girls one weekend when Lillian and I went away. She was very tired and said she could not do that again and never did.  We saw mother and dad often for dinner on the Island or at our homes.
Helen lost weight and began to look gaunt in the face. Dad called me at 9:00 AM on May 6, 1959 to tell me that Helen had died in her sleep during the night. He discovered her dead when he awakened in the morning.

The day before was Mother’s Day. Helen always laughed that the day was cooked up by Hallmark to sell cards. My brother and I always sent her a card on Mother’s Day. Brother Edwin was away in the army and I was a busy rector of an Episcopal Church. Neither of us was home for dinner on that Mother’s Day. Helen died after going to bed on Mother’s Day, 1959.

She told us that she had travelled to Cuba for a fun filled vacation in the 20s. Pictures show her crouching donning a catcher’s mit, playing in the streets with her girl friends wearing the clothes of a 1920s flapper girl. She was always smiling and playful.

Sadly I know nothing of how she got along with her mother and dad. Her father Henry Louis Reinemann worked in bars and restaurants and worked his last years as a janitor in Schrafft’s restaurants in Manhattan. In retirement he lived part time with us in Brooklyn and part time with his son Louis and his wife Hattie in New Jersey. He died in the late 1940s.

Helen’s mother was Emma Reinemann. There are pictures of her with white hair, a matronly figure holding babies, probably Edwin or me. She committed suicide sometime in the 1930s.

I also know nothing of Helen meeting Dad, their courtship, marriage or early years together. After Edwin and I were born we moved from Brooklyn, to Great River and Sayville on Long Island and back to Brooklyn and then to Welfare Island. Dad was not careful with money and this upset Helen. Things got biter when she went to work and helped with the finances.
Helen taught by example. Her warmth, humor, easygoing nature and non-judgmental stance made her available and enjoyable. I absorbed much from my mother.
                                                                                                                                    RWC









Monday, December 22, 2014

UPDATE CHRISTMAS

Christmas is about Jesus and family for Christians. Our story is that Mary, a young Jewish woman was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter, a union man. She became pregnant before they could marry. Joseph had his doubts. A poet puts it this way.

Mary may be pure
But, Joseph, are you sure?
How is one to tell?
Suppose for instance…Well…

He married her anyway. While travelling they find shelter in the back of a garage. Auto workers come by to say congratulations. A couple of swells swing by and give the newborn and the parents some presents. They 
treat him like a king.

A homeless family finds shelter, has a baby with suspicious origins. The get good wishes and handouts. Folks help out.

The story could happen to a lot of people today. The Christmas story lives because people came to believe that the baby Jesus grew up to be a man. For three years when he was in his thirties, he preached against injustices inflicted on the Jews by the Roman government and religious leaders of his time. He called for feeding the hungry and healing the sick. He ended up dead at the hands of the people he criticized. The story goes that he beat death and survived.

We are still trying to figure out who this man was. His followers called him a messiah, a son of God and even later said that Jesus and God were one flesh. The discussion about who Jesus was goes on to this day.


Christmas starts the story and the discussion of the nature of God, Jesus, the mystery of sacred and secular will never end. The followers of Jesus range from hermit monks and nuns to social activists. Some wear Jesus like a bandage of righteousness and others work for caring for humanity.