Lou Ness


"You're the enemy of the people, and we're going to kill every f---ing one of you,” said Robert Chain, now free on $50,000 bond for making threats against the Boston Globe Newspaper. 



Alla Famiglia, Sometimes

Aug 2, 2018


I have just returned from the annual family reunion. Gathered from eight states, we played, laughed, told family stories to the youngest members of our tribe and yet something…. 


Goodbye To A Community Ally

Jun 28, 2018

Several years ago, a note came across my email: “Would you be interested?”

The message came from someone called Victor Yehling who said he was from WNIJ/NPR. Victor wanted to know if I would be interested in an idea he had. People from the community would write a short piece (250 words) and record the piece for a program he was starting called Perspectives. A few of us said yes and so it began.

Wishes For Memorial Day

May 24, 2018

“Oh, beautiful for spacious skies for amber waves of grain…” I love that song; it can always make we weepy.

I’m a veteran. I served in the Army in the midst of the TET Offensive. I wish I could tell you I was as politically aware as I am now, however I was 18, and the world was all about me.

The Assurances Of Spring

Apr 12, 2018

Can you believe this weather?

On Easter it was cold, very cold, then it snowed. Soon it will be in the middle 60s. What’s up? It’s on everyone’s mind, the Midwest spring/winter roller coaster. 

Let me remind everyone: We have had chilly, very chilly, and wet weather as late as Memorial Day. I remember standing in the clammy climate cheering on my kids who were marching in a parade, shivering down to my damp toes. 

Celebrating Women Everywhere

Mar 8, 2018

International Women's Day  is celebrated on March 8 every year. It commemorates the ongoing fight for women’s equality.

While the first observance of a Women's Day was held February 28, 1909, in New York, March 8 was suggested by the 1910 International Woman's Conference to become an "International Woman's Day." In 1975, it was adopted by the United Nations.

For most people, this day will pass quietly without much fanfare. Make no mistake: Women are organizing around the world to bring justice, fairness and equal rights to the front of the conversation.

Check What's In That Spoon

Feb 1, 2018

I am no longer scandalized by comments from the president. Rather, I expect unpredictable behavior from him, it’s the new norm.

However I am disturbed by the silence from Republican leadership in the face of yet more disturbing conduct from the President. I am angry about the silence from elected men and women charged with holding the president accountable for his conduct.

My Republican friends whisper to me in corners, “I cannot bear the man,” and then are silent when he feeds his base spoonfuls of hate.

Not Too Late For Christmas Wishes

Dec 28, 2017

“All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth…” Remember that song? I do. Oh, if it were only that simple.

What do I want for Christmas? I want civility, kindness, compassionate relationships with our world partners. I want a leader who brings people together over solutions, not creates divides so wide, sometimes even families can’t reach across to each other.

Here's Why I Take A Knee

Oct 19, 2017

From the front of the room, the professor -- who was black -- sarcastically said, “So, now I should feel bad for you, poor little white girl?”

From the front of the room, the professor -- who was black -- sarcastically said, “So, now I should feel bad for you, poor little white girl?”

I felt the heat spread from the top of my head throughout my body. Her remark was in response to a statement I made when she asked, “How did you feel reading the poem, ‘What I want my white friends to know about being black?’” I said “ashamed.”  Hence the slap!

Do The Right Thing -- For The Future

Sep 14, 2017

Don’t you love this weather? Mild days, cool nights and a slight breeze to keep the sweat away when you’re working or playing outdoors.

Yes, its fall. Still let’s think about this. We have not had reasonable rain in 19 days. Heat, hot weather is what ripens tomatoes, so the red fruit is lagging in production. Early this spring, torrential rains turned strawberries to mush and mold. In my garden the mildew is rampant. It needs a little heat.

A Time To Speak Out

Aug 10, 2017

I wonder who’s next?

Martin Niemöller, a pastor, was an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for this quotation:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist.

“Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

“Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew.

Reassessing The Light In The Tunnel

Jul 6, 2017

I wonder what it will take? Really, don’t you wonder what it will take for members of Congress to hold the president accountable for making choices and decision that could dramatically impact this country?

My mother used to say, “I promise I will never threaten you.” So, guess what: When she said something would happen — it did. My mother did not believe in false exaggerations of anything, a down-to-earth woman who did not appreciate grandstanding.

At Times Like This, We're Powerless

Jun 1, 2017

Tonight I am sifting through books searching for the tool I love: words -- words that would offer a light in a time of terrible darkness.

Tomorrow, the family of a 12-year-boy will gather to begin the long and lonely journey towards unrelenting grief and suffering as they bury their child.

It's Hard, But Stay The Course

Apr 27, 2017

I know spring is the time for, new life and resurrection, so when my friend grimaced at me through clenched teeth saying, “Despair? What do you know of my despair?” I was silent.

My friend had assumed that I -- being happy, optimistic and joyful -- had not known despair. I would never know their despair, but I had had my own dark night of the soul.

Your Tax Dollar At Work

Mar 30, 2017

My friend was bemoaning the cost of his ride in an ambulance from one hospital to another. He wanted his sister to drive him.

“Can you believe it?” he asked after sharing the price of lights and sirens.  “I could have had my sister take me for nothing.” 

Yes, that’s true. Of course, what he paid for was trained paramedics (3), medication, life-safety equipment, the professional driver trained to get you to your destination without an untimely accident, and more. Need I go on?

This was his tax dollar at work, for him. 

This Is How It Begins ...

Mar 2, 2017

Two years ago, I was leaning against a guard rail in Ohio along Route 30. The sun was warm, and I was back on the road again in what would turn out to be a 935.5-mile walk from Rockford to Washington, D.C.

I was reading the gospel for the day -- and waiting for the Spirit to give me new insights. Hmmm … Be careful what you wish for.

The reading was the woman at the well. Maybe you know this one: Jesus comes to the small town and is tired; he sits down by the well and, as a Samaritan woman comes to draw water, Jesus says, “Will you give me a drink?”

A Very Cold Fact About Winter

Feb 2, 2017

Winter. I love winter. I have always loved winter. The snow and cold, the blustery wind tearing around corners and sending chills through a slip of space in my scarf. I walk with joy in winter; I am often outside.

However, winter also chills my heart, because I know that men and women who call the streets home live in cold, dirty and mean surroundings. It brings a different kind of dread for the folks wrapped in layers of worn and tattered clothing.

A Resolution For All Year Long

Jan 5, 2017

As we send 2016 packing, people will resolve to do a great many things. Still, by February 1, most of us will have left these resolutions behind -- tossing them away, litter on the side of the road: matted, sullied and forgotten. It’s easier to say something than it is to do something.

Me, I make the same resolution each year, and it has given me a life full of joy. Each year I resolve to see myself as whole, complete, naturally creative and resourceful, capable of anything.

Maybe If I Tie A String ...

Dec 8, 2016

Everyone has had that feeling. You know … the one that goes like this: “Now where did I put my keys?” Or this one: “I know I just put the remote on the table!”

Gone! The items vanish and, if I am lucky, they will simply appear and in short time.

Last Monday, I lost my wallet. Everything I use to negotiate my everyday life was in that wallet. Driver’s license, credit cards, VA identification, Medicare, and the list goes on and on. Thankfully there was no cash. I have not used cash in decades. I lean on my plastic.

We React To Bad News Differently

Nov 10, 2016

Everyone handles “bad news” differently.

As a Rockford Police and Fire Chaplain, I have witnessed people responding to bad news. Yet, when it happens to me, I am left speechless. Reactions to bad news vary from person to person depending on status, experience and other factors.

For some, a trauma may be a broken coffeemaker first thing in the morning. For others, they learn they have cancer. I take bad news lightly, not really believing that it will be as bad as people report -- because, after all, I’m different.

Delighting In The New Season

Oct 13, 2016

I love the change of seasons. I ache with anticipation for the time when snow melts and green shoots appear under crusty ground, or when the leaves fall providing a blanket of protections from the coming winter storms.

Each season brings me delight, and I love all the little signals that nature sends – it’s time to change.

I Am Not Alone ...

Sep 15, 2016

No man is an island entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent …
… Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee. 
                                             ~ John Donne

Maybe It's About Time ...

Aug 25, 2016

Time … we made it up, you know. We determined how the days and weeks and months were chopped into tiny segments of seconds and minutes and then became slaves to a tiny small face attached to our wrist.

When I was traveling across the Midwest, my phone changed and the time on my car remained the same: I was in two time zones. I asked myself, “Does anybody really know what time it is”? (Older folks can start humming now!)

A Choice Between Hope And Fear

Aug 3, 2016

The posters are down, the lights are turned off, and weary yet energized delegates return home, ready to take to the streets.

Both parties arrived on the national scene at the end of a very long primary to select their candidates and to reveal their platforms.

I watched both conventions and was struck by the significant difference in tone, organization and quality of speakers.

In fairness to candidate Trump and his team, the Clinton team has a long history of planning campaigns, networking into broader diverse groups and a line-up of dazzling presenters.

It's Time For Silence -- And Action

Jul 14, 2016

I used to be a professional singer. Five nights a week I filled rooms with melodies. Occasionally my voice would tire; you could hear the fatigue in my songs. The only remedy for this tiredness was to stop singing. After a few days’ rest, the sound would once again fill the space and energy would return.

Grandkids are Great, But ...

Jun 23, 2016

As I write, I am on a third breakfast at 7:30 a.m. with two of our 16 grandchildren. The dishes are growing in the sink, and the dogs sit under the table -- faithfully waiting.

For my week vacation, we take five grandchildren overnight, ages 3-11. We look forward to this time.

Kids are a natural fit for me. Having had four biological children and many children from foster care, I am equipped to navigate kid energy and mostly love it. However I am 40 years older, and the day ends much sooner than it did long ago.

What Will This New 'Card' Do?

May 12, 2016

Heard this comment: “Hillary is only playing the woman card.”

“Unfair” is shouted from her opponents! “This race is not about gender. It’s about issues.”  

I agree; it would be lovely if we could stay on the issues. If that were true, those words would not be spoken. It is about gender.

Think about this for a minute: Is there a “woman card?” Women have had to fight for every step of personal freedom and equality, however it looks today. This has taken centuries.

There's A Lot Of Good Around

Apr 21, 2016

I am always asked if I live in Rockford, which I don't.  My house is almost paid for, and I am near most of my grandchildren, so I am staying put.  However, I love Rockford.  I have since I came here to work in May of 2010.   

  With as much chatter about what's wrong in Rockford, every day I witness acts of kindness and charity.  I find people doing simply amazing things for their neighbors and community.  It's valuable to evaluate and reshape the vision of the future, but to wipe out the good in the present can be demoralizing.  

Chaplains Are Blessing To Community

Mar 10, 2016

For a Police Chaplain in Rockford, the calls come anytime. It could be 11 p.m., the middle of the day, or before the dawn breaks.

By the time you read the papers, the chaplain is home, the incident is resolved -- or on the way to being resolved -- and the family begins the long and painful journey of grief.

In Rockford, it is a chaplain who brings bad news to unsuspecting members of the community; a chaplain who will sit quietly while the reality of death enters their otherwise peaceful world.

There Are Reasons To Watch Our Words

Feb 18, 2016

Just imagine: A candidate for president repeats a slur shouted out by a woman referring to an opponent. When the candidate had the audacity to repeat the entire word, a cheer went up from the crowd. America loves its bad boys.

That kind of behavior is a magnet. It attracts people who have spent years hiding behind resentful political correctness while restraining themselves from shouting out ugly, spiteful hateful words.

In the last Harry Potter movie, Dumbledore says, “Words are still our most inexhaustible form of magic ... for good or ill.”