*Honyak: a Polish/German reference to a person with a poor sense of manner or appearance. A harmless idiot. A bohemian redneck.
My dad loved the city of Cleveland.
He grew up on the Near East side in a tiny two-bedroom house. His dad was poor, his mom was poor, his sister was poor, he was poor; but they loved life! He would often tell me stories of how his dad and uncle would push their furniture to the side of the living room so they could wrestle. His mom would play Italian operas on their large antique dial radio while cleaning house. His sister was painfully shy, and he was the persistently sick little brother. Before the Cleveland Clinic became one of the most famous hospitals in the world; they experimented on my dad by sticking him with countless needles and allergy scratches.
The big event for my dad’s family in Cleveland were Saturday afternoons when they would go to the open market to buy fish, large strings of hot dogs, and of course Polish kielbasa. Every true Honyak loves kielbasa.
Even though their income wasn't much, nor were their amusements high-brow, they were joyful, thankful people. This is what being a Honyak is all about, enjoying and even thriving in the simplicity of humble living.
Somewhere along the line, as modern day Americans, we have been taught to believe that “we deserve more.” And in the context of that pride a bitter root has grown where we are always trying to prove our significance by outdoing one another, casting blame on those we feel are holding us back, or not giving us our fair share. By the way, what is a fair share?
Can’t we just live in humble gratitude for a change?
Honyaks instinctively and often by circumstantial necessity, live like this. My dad, as a poor boy in Cleveland, had no other choice. And it was this man that taught and trained me in the Honyak ways for 40 years. I had the great honor over this period of watching how a Honyak loved his wife and cherished his kids, and wrestled with grand kids (people were his hobby). Eventually our family moved to an upper crust suburb of Cleveland called Bay Village, but in the midst of larger mortgage payments he never lost the Honyak. Just ask my sisters, they will tell you that Kielbasa still sizzled on the stove and accordion music was often heard in the halls.
Out of the simplicity of Honyak humility and gratitude that I learned from him, I am going to share some of these life lessons on my Wednesday blogs for the next few weeks. I think people reading my blogs often take me for a conspiracy advocate or a mean-spirited contrarian. When the truth is, I am simply the son of a Honyak. Wednesday’s lessons will center on the fine art of “being a human being;” a real flesh and blood man. My Cleveland dad never pulled punches, but expressed his thoughts straight. From simple street wisdom like…
“Chris, when you get a job, shut your mouth and let your hard work do the talking.”
“Chris, when you play serious cards, you better not be caught cheating because you will get a beating from the other players at the table.”
To deeper philosophical truths…
“Chris, if you want people to like you, ask them about themselves and you will soon become the life of the party.”
And my personal favorite: “There ain't a horse that can’t be rode, and there ain't a man that can’t be thrown.”
I learned life from a real human being, a Honyak, and that is what seems to be missing these days in most Christian circles & political dialogue. The important practice of reading men and women’s hearts is what my dad gave to me, my brother and three sisters - - a capacity to relate, listen and care for others. I don’t say this as a platform for arrogance; I say this as the starting point for real discipleship. Somehow discipleship has evolved in America as a class to take in seminary or Sunday school, or to the rest of the world they think it is people striving to pass their biased brand of political agenda - - but that has never been the biblical pattern. Discipleship, as taught by Jesus throughout the gospels, is a natural one-on-one human affair.
You know, there is a lot of Cleveland, or should I say, Nazareth in Jesus.
(Nazareth, does anything good come out of Nazareth?)