Riding the schoolbus, I noticed a box on the front of one of the houses we passed, right up next to the front door. It was a glassed in little altar maybe three feet square, with a statue whose identity I couldn’t make out in the brief moment we passed by; Mary or Buddha, Shiva or Goddess. I was struck by the public-ness of the devotion, the outward statement of the display. How important their faith must be to them, I thought, to fashion such an altar as a part of their home, part of their yard. This is much bigger than a Jesus fish or a bumper sticker, a necklace or a t-shirt. This is a personal billboard.

We rode on, and my driver, Curtis, turned down our beloved jazz radio station to talk to me.

“Why does a chicken scratch?” he asked.

I pondered for a moment, then shrugged.

“Because he can’t make a sandwich.”

A chuckle erupted from him, emanating from deep within his belly. I giggled. The children twittered and guffawed, egged on by each other’s deepening laughter.

So he told another one. And another. All chicken jokes.

And as we traveled on in laughter I thought to myself, that’s his altar. Curtis shows his devotion to life, to God, to good in that constant sense of humor, that grandfatherly grin, those silly chicken jokes he tells just to make a day brighter. His altar is on his face, on his lips, on his tongue.

And that, I think, is a much better place to put it.

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