Remember the Springsteen song, Atlantic City? When it came out, it was a resurrection song, a good one too.
That wasn't too long before I left New Jersey for seminary, the ministry, and pursuits that took me to places hither and yon. I paid very little attention to what was happening in A.C.
But I hadn't paid much attention before I left, either. Casino gambling arrived whilst I was in my early twenties, and my first husband and I went to the casinos a total of two times. We saw Frank Sinatra, who was paunchy and testy and sang about four songs before setting down his glass and walking offstage. Still. What an amazing thing to think about now!
I have never gambled. At least, not with money. Never bought a lottery ticket, not once. What can I say? I am so utterly opposed to a system that lures people who can ill afford it to place their hopes on some pie in the sky day when they will be happy just because they hit it rich. I believe so strongly that we must endeavor to be content in this moment with what we do or do not have that I can't endorse or take part in gambling.
I've supported efforts to keep Kentucky from having legalized gambling. We do have horse racing, but so far, no casinos.
So... strangely enough, here I am, serving a congregation just a few miles from what was the Casino mecca of the east coast!
Before I knew I'd be back here, so close to home, Hurricane Sandy had me riveted to the news, as it did most of the nation. I saw with great relief that my beloved Long Beach Island as well as A.C. was spared the worst of her wrath.
Nonetheless, I find that other forces have conspired to lay the once burgeoning resort low. Casinos have been suffering, it seems, for quite some time. Plans have fallen through, competition has arisen in neighboring states, and major investors have pulled out. Most recently, three casinos have closed or are about to close, leaving hundreds unemployed.
This is alarming. Perhaps to those who have lived in its midst, it does not seem shocking. You've had twenty years to watch the demise of the patient. All that's left is to sit back and see what the collective wisdom will come up with to make the place work.. or not, going forth.
I am so delighted that the UU Congregation of the South Jersey Shore has already signed on to take part in an interfaith initiative to house families who are displaced or homeless. This will go a long way toward a hands on involvement. I suspect there is more we can do, as well. These outreach efforts are not just charity. They help us learn about the "other," those who get squeezed between the forces of exploitation, greed, and convenience and who are merely trying to meet their day-to-day needs. They help us develop compassion, wisdom, and soul.
Everything that comes back, and everyone, still dies. In the in between, let us grow in understanding and faith. Amen