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Lori’s post, “Who Walks With You?” and SueBE’s post, “If Only…” were uplifting to me and I was reminded yet again of the way the three of us who write this blog sustain each other from afar on a regular basis. Lori’s comment that “people are amazed when I tell them we’ve never met in person” made me ponder: What is it that makes people connect and form into a community?

It also made me wonder: what if we met and were not at all what we expected? Would the community come apart?

For example, I seem to be the Kindly-Auntie type on this humble blog, but who knows? Maybe in real life I’m an obnoxious loudmouth who stands so close that you have to hold your breath — for some reason, I’ve always just eaten onions.

Not really. I actually am the Kindly-Auntie type. (Plus I don’t eat onions.) I’ve got the bona fides: cat’s eye glasses, knitting, Lifesavers in handbag. I used to have a cat. That’s another Kindly-Auntie thing — remembering lost loved ones in regular conversations. KitKat is still a part of the household in that way, and a part of our hearts.

Kindly-Aunties are able to shift gears from lighthearted to deep-rooted on a dime. We still carry change purses (speaking of dimes). And I am not on board with this push to eliminate pennies. Oh, and we’re also known to go off on tangents.

Of course, I use the Kindly-Auntie lexicon — “handbag” not “purse.” I call everyone “son” or “dear heart” and have pocket packs of tissues available if anyone sneezes.

The reason we get along so well is that we just get each other and think the world of each other. We don’t need to be in the same place on the planet to be on the same wavelength. True blue friends like that are a blessing indeed.

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What is written on your heart?  Is it a tale about faith in God or a tale of worry?

My community has a Facebook group.  When I joined, I read every single post.  People post questions when they are looking for a plumber or when a neighbor needs a wheelchair ramp.  “Can we get together as a community and do this for them?  Provide the supplies.”  I love those kinds of posts.

But ultimately the group is exhausting.  There are thousands of members and everyone wants a say.  This week the new prosecuting attorney let some staff go.  He also announced that they will no longer prosecute deadbeat dads.  Apparently, this charge is often used to revoke men’s parole.  He is also limiting prosecution on dealing pot.  No longer will it be an automatic charge based on amount.  There must be — get this — evidence.

To say that many people are unhappy with him is an understatement.  The funny thing?  None of them read the interview.

Day by day, we get to decide.  What story is written on our hearts?  Me?  I’m chosing faith in God and a quest for social justice.  And I’ll admit, step 1 is not reading much on Facebook.

–SueBE

Last night, I listened to an interview with Todd Bol, the founder of Little Free Libraries.  For those of you who may not know what these are, they are the tiny libraries that look like elaborate mail boxes.  Set on posts in yards and parks throughout the country, those who put them up stock them with books for their communities.

Why?  As Bol explained in the interview, those who are illiterate are more likely to be incarcerated, to be hungry and to be homeless.  Not that others don’t suffer as well, but literacy is an amazing safety net.  And putting out these libraries shows the community that reading matters and that they, the people in this community, matter.

For me, the best part of the interview was when Bol mentioned all the griping and snarking being committed in the name of politics.  “That’s not who we are,” said Bol.  He emphasized that the American people are people who work together to solve problems.  That we are people who work together to build community.

Amen!

What is your favorite community building activity?  I’ve taken part in river clean ups, worked at the food pantry, and gone on hunger walks. In a community garden this summer, I learned how prickly “wild” cucumbers are and just how many 14 plants produce.

Community builders.  Provisioners. His hands and his feet in the world.  This is who we are.

–SueBE

 

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The scientific community celebrated this week as an unmanned probe flew close enough to Pluto to take clear pictures of the planet.

But some were asking the question: Why spend money on the space program?

People here on Earth are hungry, they say. We need real-world projects funded. For instance, almost half the population of India and over a million Americans live without indoor plumbing.

How can we justify space exploration when so many problems exist here on the planet?

Like so many things we can’t explain to naysayers, it really is a leap of faith.

In my teen-age years, I spent some time as part of a Pentecostal church. On Sundays, there was quite a lively service, complete with congregants “speaking in tongues” and getting “slain in the spirit.”

Often, I’d look to my left and right, and see people in pews with heads tilted back, and they were just gone. They had a faraway look, and, if you spoke to them at that moment, they wouldn’t have been able to hear you.

What were they looking at?

This summer, the Grateful Dead will hold its final tour. The fans can’t always put it into words, but the swaying of their bodies and the joy on their faces says it all. The band speaks for them with their music. Troubles are put aside, and everyone agrees to get along and get lost in the moment.

What are they hoping to find?

We’re all looking for something that gives life meaning. Connection, community, kinship. Purpose, passion, promise. That place in the world where you feel at home. That place inside where you feel hope.

“We explore because we are human and we want to know. I hope that Pluto will help us on that journey,” said Stephen Hawking.

In other words, if we reach for the stars, we might find out something about ourselves in the process. We’re not so much traveling far into space as we are deep into the soul.

What are we looking for?

Does it matter? As long as we keep the faith and keep looking, with anticipation, the journey really is the destination.

My husband is taking classes so that he can join the Catholic Church….and boy, am I learning new things! For instance, only nuns who live in cloisters can rightly be called “nuns;” all the rest (you know, the ones you actually meet on the street, who teach your children and tend to the sick) are “sisters” or “women religious.” I have never heard this differentiation in my life.

And the practice of holding hands with one’s pew-mates during the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer during Mass? According to my husband’s teacher, this is “not an official part of Mass.” In fact, she doesn’t know why anyone still does it. I could tell her why: Community.

Church services are a celebration of Christian community. Otherwise, why not hold our own private services each week? The body of Christ is comprised of all of us who believe, and we — like it or not — are human beings. And human beings are tactile creatures.

I just happened to glance out my window. A car just pulled into my neighbor’s driveway. A man got out. Upon seeing my neighbor, the two men embraced. That’s what friends do. Why? Because, as Mary Gordon once wrote, “Flesh is lovable.” Or, as Finn, protagonist of the show “Adventure Time” (yes, I watch cartoons!), would say, “Hugging helps.”

When we get together to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection, touching ought to be involved. Yes, of course, there is the Sign of Peace, a moment to connect with one’s neighbors, but to me, that’s not enough. Holding hands during The Lord’s Prayer shows solidarity of faith — here’s what we believe, and look how we are proud to demonstrate it! I think that’s what Jesus would have wanted from his prayer, both remembrance and affirmation, all in one.

Some people blame the post-Vatican II years for bringing too much sloppy emotion into the Church, too much Counterculture kumbaya-ing, too much hand-holding. But they forget that this was a reaction to centuries of icy cold rigidity: the priest facing away from the people, the Mass said in Latin rather than the language of the people. There was a remove between God’s people and God’s word. Vatican II brought down that wall. One can hardly be blamed for rejoicing.

As times have grown more serious (the ‘60s and ’70 may have been politically tumultuous but they were also rather silly — fluorescent pink hot pants and fringed leather vests, anyone?), a good deal of the touchy-feeliness of the post-Vatican II Mass has been toned down. But I, for one, would hate to see it dissipate entirely.

I belong to a parish community. These people are my friends. We share a faith, a home, a belief system. Why shouldn’t we embrace at every opportunity?

So if you ever happen to be seated next to me at Mass and I extend my hand to you, I hope you’ll take it. It may not be de rigeur, but love never is. Love is a choice.

The weekend before Thanksgiving.  You might expect to spend this time contemplating your many blessings and thanking those around you who figure in this count. knit

Or you might live one city over from the infamous town of Ferguson, Missouri where a police officer shot a teen age boy in early August.  In that case, you’d spend the weekend before Thanksgiving asking if anyone had heard anything – indict or no, protest or no, riot or no.  You could spend your time trying to read something into every word and every silence . . . or not.

Frankly, many of us who live in the area are sick of it.  We’re sick of the controversy, the expectations, the misunderstandings and the misrepresentations in the media.

I spent the day at the Florissant Presbyterian Church craft fair and book sale.  I spent the day with people who find ways to share what they love with others.  One woman does sewing machine embroidery that is so intricate it looks like a painting. What an amazing way to bring cheer into someone’s home! A man turns the most beautiful wood into bowls.  Simple and utterly amazing.  I watched a tiny boy of about four catch a woman’s display as it started to slide off the table and then scoot back to mama’ side. Teens and toddlers, grandparents and couples, come together in community.

These are the things for which I will be giving thanks all through the holiday weekend – a wide variety of people living, loving and working side-by-side.   Heavenly Father, thank you for helping me see.

–SueBE

 

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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