Accept

Accept

2018.12.30

12 Days of Kindness

 

 “What goes around comes around”. Like most people, I receive posts on Facebook that are often pictures of animals. Being an animal lover, I revel in each one. One of my favorites, though, is an oldie but goodie. It is a picture of two dogs, German Shepherds, sitting side by side. Both dogs have a sign around their necks, respectively. The first sign states “Don’t let karma bite you in the rear.” The dog sitting beside that dog has a sign that reads “I am Karma”.

 

The old idiom I quoted at the beginning of this – What goes around comes around – has a great deal of truth in it, both in nature as well as our treatment of each other. I first heard it as a definition of karma when doing a religious presentation to a group of first graders.  There was an overly-active young lad who was not prone to sitting still in the class.  On this day he kept jumping up and playing with non-playful objects in the room, things like the light switch or window blinds cord.  He suddenly stopped his actions, though, and looked directly at me when I asked if anyone knew the meaning of the word “karma”.  His response was quick and to the point: “What goes around comes around.”

 

Celtic culture described the areas of grass affected by a common fungus as fairy rings. These circular spots of grass contained grasses that grew a deeper green and were often thicker than the other areas of grass. It was believed that the fairies made them and that they were a sign of good luck. Depending on the mythology and the culture, fairy rings were thought to be made by fairies dancing, perhaps used when illustrated by mushrooms growing as dinner tables with the fairies eating off the mushrooms, or as places for spirits to gather and sometimes be free to release their powers within the circle.

 

Mushrooms are associated with fairy rings and not just because eating certain ones can produce hallucinations that might make one believe he/she really had seen fairies dancing. A common sign of a fairy ring is a necrotic zone, an area in which the grass and other plant life has died. Fungi associated with mushrooms, mushrooms themselves being a fungus, deplete the soil of nutrients and the plants growing within the circle often die. Similarly the area adjacent to such fungus can grow thicker and deeper in color.

 

There is also evidence that rabbits are an important part in the life cycle of some fairy rings. Rabbits eat grass, cropping it very short while their waste products contain nitrogen-rich droppings. Mushrooms need more soil nitrogen than grass does and a fairy ring can be started from a single fungus spore. Subsequent generations of the original spore will grow outward seeking more nutrients since the parent fungus would have used up all in the immediate area. Rabbits eat only the grass and not the mushrooms so the mushrooms soon grow taller than the grass which the rabbits keep low. This can create rings inside of rings.

 

It is said to be bad luck to enter a fairy ring and even worse luck to destroy or disturb one. Superstitions abound in almost every culture based upon such novelties of nature. From the thirteenth century writer Raoul de Houdenc to the modern-day romance writer Nora Roberts, fairy rings have played a prominent role in the literature of the world. They are also found as subjects of art and were a favorite of Victorian art.

 

The roundness of fairy rings is repeated in the Native American Indian culture in the form of medicine wheels. These stone man-made circles were thought to harness the healing power of nature and used to benefit man/woman. Also known as “sacred hoops”, medicine wheels were found in areas of different tribes and are one of the common aspects found throughout the tribes of all such peoples within North America. Alberta, Canada hosts at least seventy medicine wheels that survive today.

 

Archaeologist John Brumley notes that a medicine wheel consists of at least two of the following three traits: (1) a central stone cairn, (2) one or more concentric stone circles, and/or (3) two or more stone lines radiating outward from a central point. The lines of stones radiating outward from the center appear as spokes in the directions of east, west, north, and south.

 

The medicine wheel was not a set pattern, though. The number of spokes differed from wheel to wheel and some spokes were not evenly spaced out in the design. One of the oldest remaining wheels dates back over forty-five hundred years. Some are aligned astronomically with the horizon and others reflect the position of the sun on the four seasonal equinoxes. How their power was utilized is a subject of much debate but it is clear that they held power and served purpose of healing and living.

 

While many fairy rings are found throughout Europe and the medicine wheels of the North American aboriginal people known as American Indians seem to be found only on the two American continents, there are other such rings. The landscape of Africa also hosts fairy rings. The explanations for them in Europe, particularly in Great Britain and Ireland seem to lose validity when comparing that topography to the land of Africa.

 

Often described as a “thousand blinking eyes in the desert”, the fairy rings of Namibia are considered one of the world’s great natural mysteries. In a place called “The Land God Made in Anger’, the Namibian circle number in the millions although such circles are also found where the grassland transition to desert, from Angola to the Cape province of South Africa. The Namib Desert is a remote and harsh environment. Reasons for the circle abound but, just as plentifully, they are found without backing. Biologist Walter Tschinkel was certain the circle were the work of termites. “They are really neat places, these little clean patches. They are like little satellite dishes. I looked at them and thought ‘this has to be termites,” Tschinkel remarked. “It is the sort of things termites do.” However, his theory proved false and while others still believe in the sand termite as the cause, that theory also fails to justify all aspects of the circles.

 

More recently a scientist took a holistic approach. Many theories have focused on the underground gasses believed to be affecting the soil and grass formation. Folklore of the region mentions underground dragons whose breath created the circles. Stephan Getzin, an ecologist from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, in Leipzig, Germany decided to consider all theories but from a different perspective – a bird’s eye view. He took to the air to examine the Namibian circles and discovered something very interesting. The circles not only appeared as eyes in the desert, dancing across the landscape, they were evenly spaced and had an organization to them. His findings have revealed only that there is still we do not know and that all previous theories might have some validity although none would be the entire story. “I’m sure this is not the end of the story,” summarized Getzin.

 

These circles, these evidences of unknown karma upon the environment, whether natural or man-made, are excellent examples of the sacred in our own lives. Sometimes it is what we do to ourselves and sometimes we are simply the victims of another’s behavior or choices. The fact is that we can learn and heal from everything.  Life is a series of lessons, a process of acceptance.   Not all of life’s lessons are pleasant or invited.  Healing occurs when we learn. What we choose to eat and drink affects our living and how we live has just as important an affect.  Selecting to live graciously with respect to all gives us a greater chance of being treated the same. Even when we are not, we can find the lesson and move on to greater things.

 

My readers for this blog come from forty-three countries world-wide.  Those of you who have taken the time to comment have taught me and I accept those lessons with gratitude and joy.  Life is not for the faint-hearted.  Life takes courage and is seldom “easy”.  Your acceptance of these posts has been a blessing and I thank each of you.  My efforts in writing this blog have been rewarded by your reading it.  Some might say that is a type of karma.

 

Eventually, goodness will go around the world and encompass it and us.  The best karma will be found in the acceptance we give one another.  Today’s world is often a world of one of name-calling and inciting terror.  Sharing kindness by allowing people to be, accepting them for their differences rather than in spite of them, opens a door for a better tomorrow and a brighter, safer future for everyone.  May be t greatest lesson is that the sacred part of karma is in learning from the painful and spreading joyful kindness to all.  I do know that if we encompass the world with a ring of goodness, we will all have better karma.  Then, what goes around will be goodness, mercy, kindness, and a better tomorrow to come.

Thoughts on Tradition

Thoughts on Tradition

2018.11.24-25

Growing Community

 

It is that time of year in which traditions seem to take on a higher priority.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or something else, almost every community has its winter solstice-time traditions.  These traditions are generally passed from one generation to the next, and they provide a very important connection to the past.  Thus, these traditions are a direct link from the past to the future.  They give us direction, personal relationship and serve to honor the culture from which they originated.  We receive our core values from our traditions. 

 

Traditions and core values are important because they provide the framework of a community.  Within a family traditions serve to provide us identity.  Most of our traditions are based upon our history and they provide the framework for who we are today or in the present.  Our traditions reinforce the values we hold dear, the core values that help define us.  Through our traditions we celebrate those things that are dear to us and that we consider important.  By such celebrations we honor our role models, the tenets of our religious and/or spiritual beliefs, and the structure upon which our communities are built.

 

What happens when we stop honoring those traditions?  Award-winning author Frank Sonnenberg cautions that if we stop honoring our traditions, “our beliefs will get so diluted, over time, that our way of life will become foreign to us.”  Within the modern-day community, though, there are often differing traditions.  Our traditions do provide us a forum to show what is really important to us but what if our neighbor does not celebrate in the same way?

 

In the past culture is what brought a community together.  Culture referred to a pattern of human activity and the symbols which gave significance to tradition. Culture is represented through the art, literature, costumes, customs, and traditions of a community. Different cultures have always existed in different parts of the world. The natural environment greatly affected the lifestyle of the people in that region, thus shaping their culture. The diversity in the cultures around the world was also a result of the mindsets of people inhabiting different regions of the world.

 

Today, however, we have a far more mobile society and a community is often the home of varying cultures.  Culture has served to link people and their value systems.  Have we lost that in the 21st century?  Can we create culture among so many different behaviors?  At a time when people are shouting “remember the reason for the season”, have we forgotten how to be civil towards each other?  Traditions serve to unite us but at this time of year, they also serve to divide us.  Lawsuits will be filed to determine what symbols can be placed in public locations.  People will decry the “happy Holidays” that encompasses the complete community to honor a man who advocated love for all.  Can such a traditional saying meant to show support for all really be so divisive?

 

Traditions developed as a way to continue the family unit, to illustrate identity and for celebration.  Unfortunately, there are many who fear embracing the whole community.  Rather than our traditions promoting empathy and the engagement of citizenship, too often they serve to be contentious. 

 

I hope this year as we celebrate the core values behind our traditions we remember to let those traditions evolve.  We have a few traditions in our family that have developed from less than perfect times.  On a day where most people in our community and country eat turkey, we include hot tamales on our table.  We do serve turkey as well as ham, green bean casserole, corn pudding, stuffing, filling, dressing (the last three being very similar but each representing all sections of the cultures from which family members have been raised), potatoes (usually two kinds), etc.  A prominent spot on the table, however, is reserved for the hot tamales.  They represent a Thanksgiving gone bad but yet, at the end of the day when all we had to eat was one can of hot tamales, a day in which we truly appreciated our blessings and togetherness. 

 

It is wonderful to have the picture-perfect traditional dinner or holiday tree, etc.  Nonetheless, we should not consider the holiday ruined if it is not impeccable or flawless.  In our communities we need to strive more for inclusion and smiles rather than a movie-set depiction of any holiday.  I think the best way to keep our traditions – all our traditions – is by remembering their reason.  Most traditions are based upon love and strength.  This year I hope we find the strength to honor those who are different and share the love of life with them.  We build stronger communities through the tradition of community – the coming together, the engaging of others in a shared experience called life.

 

 

Needing Others

Needing Others

2018.11.12

Growing Community

 

“A proper community, we should remember also, is a commonwealth: a place, a resource, an economy. It answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members — among them the need to need one another.”  When Wendell Berry spoke these words, he said quite a great deal that most of our politicians have forgotten.  After all, their job is to grow a better community for their constituency, whether it is one hundred, one million, or more.

 

When we forget to need one another, we do a series of things.  First, we proclaim ourselves God (insert Allah, G-d, Buddha, or whatever.  We are saying that we do not need anything or anyone else and, my friends, that is simply not true.  John Donne spoke the truth when he said “No man is an island.  No man stands alone.”  There are countless of thousands living “off grid” and yet, they needed something that someone else made, created, or devised in order to do so. 

 

Taylor Brorby wrote in 2012 “We all stumble… I am not naive to tell you it will work out, but it just might, and if you have a community to support you, it ensures that someone is there to catch you if you stumble.”  He also mentioned author Ray Bradbury’s two favorite words – zest and gusto.  “These words are not only fun to say, but encourage us to move, to experience, to acknowledge that life may be difficult — especially if you’re having a crisis — and they also encourage us to move through those emotions to experience life in a new way, to seize and embrace it.”  In explaining Bradbury’s words, Brorby encouraged us to find our community. 

 

In 2005 Dr. Art Lindsley, a Senior Fellow with the CS Lewis Institute wrote an essay based upon a passage from Hebrews:   “…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…. “.  Found in Hebrews chapter 10 verse 24-25, this summarizes one definition and the need for community. 

 

Lindsley continued:  “Although we can gain the power to love others by our times alone with the Lord, that love is never expressed or stimulated except by being with other people. The Greek word for stimulate (paroxysmos) is sometimes used in English: paroxysm. It means “provoke,” “irritate,” “exasperate,” or “stir-up.” It is a word that communicates intense emotion and is almost always used in a negative fashion. For instance, when the Apostle Paul sees the city of Athens “full of” (under) idols (Acts 17:16), his spirit is deeply moved or “provoked” within him. This seems to be a powerful negative reaction to the idolatry that he saw all around him (Acts 17:16). It is because Paul saw the idolatry that he was moved (provoked) as he was, and thus spoke as he did. But in our context, Hebrews 10:19-25, a positive meaning is demanded. The context of the community stimulates—provokes—love and good deeds by all kinds of means. Without community (the church), love and good deeds are not provoked or stimulated. Love is in fact impossible in isolation. Love demands another: God or our brothers and sisters.”

 

CS Lewis spoke about the need for community.  He called it “a vast need”.  The Greek word for assembling together is “episynagoge” and it means “in addition to”.  Community is in addition to ourselves and it is a vital need that we all have.  Mankind is a social animal and when we are isolated, either by choice or by discrimination, we are only half-way functioning. 

 

No one lives a perfect life.  We have stumble, fall flat on our faces, get lost, and fall apart.  I remember hearing a mountain climber discuss his ascent to the highest peak.  “I lost count of how many times I fell and started,” he remarked.  “What I will always remember is the support I had reaching the summit.”  His community kept him going, kept his dream alive, and gave him strength.

 

Community gives us strength.  It affords us the chance to fail and then learn from our failings.  When we insist on our community only being comprised of perfect people, then we have set ourselves up to be unsuccessful.  Diversity is the blood-force that keeps life going.  Our communities need diversity if they are to flourish and we need communities to succeed.  We need communities to give us a chance to live and thrive, prosper and grow.

It Happened This week

It Happened This Week

2018.11.09

Growing Community

 

This week is ending as so many in the United States of America have all too often – with families grieving and communities reeling from yet another incident of multiple victims from one incident of gunfire.  A gunman opened fire on a crowd inside Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Calif.  On Wednesday, Nov 7th twelve people were killed and another eighteen injured, and the gunman is reportedly dead.  One of the dead was a responding law enforcement official.  The man suspected of killing 12 people in a bar in a Los Angeles suburb was a decorated Marine Corp machine gunner deployed in Afghanistan who had several prior brushes with law enforcement.  He was also the grandson of a thirty-year Navy Commander veteran.

 

Countries need to defend themselves and young men and women often gain maturity and skills when doing so.  Sadly, though, some are taught those skills without being able to cope with such knowledge.  War is often a catalyst for mental anguish and we need to include such screening in the curriculum of all who serve.  We also need to offer more assistance to those returning from war zones.

 

With such carnage it is easy to forget the positive things that also occurred this week.  In lieu of the upcoming holiday season, toy drives and in full swing and many are donating for the less fortunate.  In areas where winter is fast approaching, clothing drives are also being conducted.  It is a great time to donate both your time and energy to help someone else.

 

In Boston this week a conference was held regarding how cancer research can be adapted for maximum clinical impact.  A chemotherapy symposium was also held with new innovative cancer therapies being unveiled.  Various educational conferences were held this week.  Some were for the traditional educator but others offered education in specific careers.  The American Resort Development Association hosted its Fall Conference in Washington, DC.  Ongoing until the end of today, it offers industry professionals educational and networking opportunities each year through its Annual Convention and Exposition with attendees, educational sessions, and expo hall booths.

 

This week is Law Justice and Development Week, a platform to explore the link between rights and protection to economically empower disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals and groups, identify the role multilateral institutions, non-governmental organizations and the private sector may play in advancing rights and protection, and examine how upholding rights and protection may affect development outcomes, especially in fragile contexts, and how such approach may contribute to reducing poverty and boosting prosperity with a focus on the impact for refugees.  These are topics which have been around since the beginning of mankind and we definitely need to continue our work in developing and resolving such issues.

 

What all of these things, even the tragedy in California with the mass shooting, have in common is that there are part of what is required in growing a community.  We will never know everything and these conferences, varied as they are, focus on growing a better world for everyone.  Community refers to all of us and when we respect the rights and needs of the individuals within said community, then we are making progress.

 

Elections were also held this week in the USA and the biggest challenge now is to act, to take those votes and turn them into forward momentum that benefits everyone.  It is not about power but progress.  We construct a better tomorrow by living in communion with our neighbors – those across the street and those halfway around the world.  This week had more than its share of grief but there was positive effort displayed.  That is the takeaway from this and every week.  “And when I die, and when I’m dead and gone; there’ll be one child born in this world to carry on.”  We best honor those who died this week by living tomorrow and making it better.

Capturing a Moment in Time

Capturing a Moment in Time

2018.09.14

The Creative Soul

 

I remember my first grown-up present at Christmas.  It was a very inexpensive camera, but it was a gift that made me feel so grown-up at age seven and seemed to promise me the rest of my life would follow and be magical.  The art of photography continues to seem magical to me.  Photography is the taking of a picture of reality that somehow not only shows us the obvious but also the unseen, the possibilities of our imagination and beyond.

 

Photography not only can inspire us; it can improve our mental health.  IN a Dec 2017 article Danielle Hark wrote: “We all deal with mental or emotional struggles at one time or another in our lives. Whether it’s stress from work, situational depression or anxiety, or full-on mental illness, it helps to take time to refocus and gain perspective. One tool you can use may be right in your pocket attached to your phone… a camera.  It has been proven time and again that creativity and art therapy are valuable tools for emotional wellness. Photography is one such tool that you can utilize without going to art school or being professionally trained. Modern technology provides easy-to-use options including a variety of automatic modes on point-and-shoot cameras, digital SLRs (single-lens reflex cameras), and even camera phones. Now anyone can take photos — and just by taking a photo, you are taking a moment to stop and look at your environment through a new lens. This moment can be the moment that changes your day from a negative to a positive — or at least gives you a momentary distraction and calm.”

 

Photography is the act of taking pictures for sentimental reasons, as a hobby or keeping informed with new events. Similarly, taking pictures help us to stay in touch with past events, thereby enables one to appreciate history.  Most people use photography as a tool to keep in touch with past events. Looking at photographs taken in the past also helps to improve our knowledge on how we relate to past events.

 

Medically speaking, taking pictures can save a life.  The advancements made because of x-rays and modern photographic capabilities combines with nuclear medicine are truly life-saving tools.  There are other reasons for taking pictures, though.  Legally it is a good idea if ever in a traffic accident to quickly snap a picture of any damage done to your vehicle.  It is also a good idea to periodically take pictures of your home and its furnishings.  These can be used to document loss from theft or natural disasters.  Keeping hard copies of such pictures is also a good idea since digital photography is sometimes inadmissible in court.

 

What about the weekend photographer or the proud grandparent?  Are those being creative and are there health benefits?  Even the Centers for Disease Control recognize the advantages of taking pictures and the art of photography.  When community members photograph their daily lives, they may find that the bigger picture begins to emerge.  In young hands, a camera can be a gateway to healthy habits, life styles and communities.  Researchers gave cameras to teens in inner-city Baltimore and asked them to take pictures of positive activities that were alternatives to joining a gang. “The project gave participants courage to talk to adults about community issues,” says Seante Hatcher.  Ms Hatcher is the community relations coordinator for the Johns Hopkins University Prevention Research Center (PRC), one of 35 community-academic partners the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funds to find innovative solutions to health challenges. The “Photovoice” technique shows that taking pictures can empower the photographers, document their perspectives and deliver their messages.

 

“Photovoice bridges age, race and gender. The pictures speak in a language common to everyone,” says Joyce Moon-Howard, DrPH, a researcher at the Columbia University PRC. The center has used Photovoice in interventions to promote healthy eating and in programs to encourage teenagers.  The process of taking photos can be used to involve young people in positive activities and engage policymakers in discussions about sensitive community issues. with HIV to share their feelings about living with the disease. “The project used both the lens of the camera and the lens of the HIV-positive young adult,” says Alwyn Cohall, M.D., director of the center. “Participation reduced the isolation and stigma of dealing with HIV and gave the teenagers a sense of belonging.” In a separate study, teens took and shared pictures of nutritious foods and were inspired to try more fruits and vegetables, he says. Dr. Moon-Howard identifies group discussion as a vital aspect of Photovoice. A set of photographs, she says, creates a “series of meaning” that helps a group identify issues of mutual concern and can motivate change.

 

By picking up a camera,, you are not only being present and creative, but you are actually practicing mindfulness, which reduces stress and helps leave you balanced and ready to take on the rest of your day.

 

 

A Mother’s Love

A Mother’s Love

2018.07.15

Pentecost 2018

 

We often think of “separation of church and state” as a means of keeping politics and religion separate.  Recently in India it has become a way of one faction’s campaign of lies being used to usurp power and gain control.  West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted on Thursday, July 12th, that the religious order founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta – more popularly known simply as Mother Teresa – is being targeted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is affiliated with a Hindu nationalist group.  Although the state government is run by the BJP, the state has a large proportion of India’s marginalized tribal people, who exist outside of Hinduism’s traditional caste system, and many of them have become Christian as the Christian church has done much to improve their quality of live, standard of living, and educational opportunities.  Jharkhand has a Christian population double the national average.  The BJP has even gone so far as to accuse nuns of the Missions of Charity of illegal and wrong doing.

 

Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu was born August 26, 1910 was an Albanian-Indian descent in Skopje (now the capital of Macedonia), then part of the Kosovo Vilayet of the Ottoman.   After belonging to many different empires throughout history, Skopje today is the capital of an independent Madeconia.  After living in Macedonia for eighteen years Anjezë, then anme’s English equivalent being Agnes, moved to Ireland and then to India, where she lived for most of her life.

 

The youngest child in her family, Agnes’ father died when she was eight years old.  He had been involved in local politics but the young girl was fascinated by stories of the lives of missionaries and their service in Bengal.   She decided by age 12 that she should commit herself to religious life and this resolve strengthened in 1928 at the shrine of the Black Madonna of Vitina-Letnice, where she often went on pilgrimage.

 

Agnes left home in 1928 at age 18 to join the Sisters of Loreto at Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham, Ireland, to learn English with the view of becoming a missionary. She never saw her mother or her sister again.  She arrived in India in 1929and began her novitiate in Darjeeling, in the lower Himalayas.   She learned Bengali and taught at St. Teresa’s School near her convent.   Teresa took her first religious vows on 24 May 1931. She chose to be named after Thérèse de Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries, opting for its Spanish spelling (Teresa).

 

On 10 September 1946, Teresa experienced what she later described as “the call within the call” when she travelled by train to the Loreto convent in Darjeeling from Calcutta for her annual retreat. “I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. It was an order. To fail would have been to break the faith.”  Joseph Langford later wrote, “Though no one knew it at the time, Sister Teresa had just become Mother Teresa.”

 

Teresa wrote in her diary that her first year was fraught with difficulty. With no income, she begged for food and supplies and experienced doubt, loneliness and the temptation to return to the comfort of convent life during these early months: “Our Lord wants me to be a free nun covered with the poverty of the cross. Today, I learned a good lesson. The poverty of the poor must be so hard for them. While looking for a home I walked and walked till my arms and legs ached. I thought how much they must ache in body and soul, looking for a home, food and health. Then, the comfort of Loreto [her former congregation] came to tempt me. “You have only to say the word and all that will be yours again”, the Tempter kept on saying … Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard. I did not let a single tear come.”

 

Teresa received permission to start her order from the Vatican in 1950.  In her words, it would care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone”.[43] By 1997 the 13-member Calcutta congregation had grown to more than 4,000 sisters who managed orphanages, AIDS hospices and charity centres worldwide, caring for refugees, the blind, disabled, aged, alcoholics, the poor and homeless and victims of floods, epidemics and famine.[44]

In 1952, Teresa opened her first hospice with help from Calcutta officials. She converted an abandoned Hindu temple into the Kalighat Home for the Dying, free for the poor, and renamed it Kalighat, the Home of the Pure Heart (Nirmal Hriday). Those brought to the home received medical attention and the opportunity to die with dignity in accordance with their faith: Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received extreme unction. “A beautiful death”, Teresa said, “is for people who lived like animals to die like angels—loved and wanted.”

 

She opened a hospice for those with leprosy, calling it Shanti Nagar (City of Peace).  The Missionaries of Charity established leprosy-outreach clinics throughout Calcutta, providing medication, dressings and food. The Missionaries of Charity took in an increasing number of homeless children; in 1955 Teresa opened Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, the Children’s Home of the Immaculate Heart, as a haven for orphans and homeless youth.

The congregation began to attract recruits and donations, and by the 1960s it had opened hospices, orphanages and leper houses throughout India. Teresa then expanded the congregation abroad, opening a house in Venezuela in 1965 with five sisters.  Houses followed in Italy (Rome), Tanzania and Austria in 1968, and during the 1970s the congregation opened houses and foundations in the United States and dozens of countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.

 

The Missionaries of Charity Brothers was founded in 1963, and a contemplative branch of the Sisters followed in 1976.  Lay Catholics and non-Catholics were enrolled in the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa, the Sick and Suffering Co-Workers, and the Lay Missionaries of Charity. Responding to requests by many priests, in 1981 Mother Teresa founded the Corpus Christi Movement for Priests and (with priest Joseph Langford) the Missionaries of Charity Fathers in 1984 to combine the vocational aims of the Missionaries of Charity with the resources of the priesthood. By 2007 the Missionaries of Charity numbered about 450 brothers and 5,000 sisters worldwide, operating 600 missions, schools and shelters in 120 countries.  In 1982, at the height of the Siege of Beirut, Teresa rescued 37 children trapped in a front-line hospital by brokering a temporary cease-fire between the Israeli army and Palestinian guerrillas.

 

A friend of mine from India told me of meeting Mother Teresa as a boy of eight years.  His class was on a school trip to one of the orphanages for which they had donated goods.  At one point during the tour, he said, he heard someone approach him from behind.  He thought it another student since the person was not much taller than he.  “I felt a hand on each shoulder,” he said “realized the strength and weight of those hands.  I thought surely it must be a giant because they were so strong.  I dared no move or squirm.  Suddenly a sweet voice spoke and I turned.”  Mother Teresa was standing with her hands on my young friend’s shoulders. It was over thirty-five years later that he told me this story and still, he assured me, he could feel the imprint of her hands on his shoulders.

 

Mother Teresa resigned as head of the Missionaries of Charity on March 13, 1997 due to her failing health and died on September 5th of the same year.  At the time of her death, the Missionaries of Charity had over 4,000 sisters and an associated brotherhood of 300 members operating 610 missions in 123 countries.  Teresa once said, “By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.” According to former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, “She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world.”

 

In the 19 years since Mother Teresa’s death, the Missionaries of Charity have not only grown in faith and service, but in numbers around the world.  Teresa of Calcutta once described the reason for her being to accomplish what she did:  “My secret…I pray!”

Eat It – Part Three

Eat It – Part Three

2018.07.10

Pentecost 2018

 

This is the third and last segment of my post about eating and how we can make a difference by eating.  The first part centered around how we can help ourselves, be our own hero in our own lives by eating responsibility.  The second featured a wonderful organization called Dining for Women.  Today, we are going back to college  and focusing on a college pre-med student.

 

Columnist Jillian Kramer wrote about today’s woman making a difference in a January issue of Food and Wine Magazine.  “Fourteen-year-old Maria Rose Belding skirted past the block-deep line of hungry people, and launched another box filled to the brim with expired macaroni-and-cheese into the dumpster. It wasn’t the first time she’d tossed food into the trash at this particular food pantry—Belding had begun volunteering at the Pella, Indiana location when she was just 5-years-old—but this time was different: this time, she was really, really, really angry.  “I remember really thinking: how have we not done better than this?” [Belding explained to Food & Wine writer.] “And it was really frustrating because it was very clear there wasn’t someone to be mad at—it didn’t appear that someone had screwed up and that’s why we were in this situation. The donor who gave us all of that macaroni-and-cheese had done so out of the very best of intentions. The food pantry director had worked incredibly hard trying to move it and place it within other communities and organizations. The volunteers had done everything they could do. I was so angry, but there wasn’t an easy person to get mad at.”

 

The fourteen-year-old knew there were other hungry people who would have jumped at the chance to eat the food being discarded.  She wondered at the lack of communication between food pantries serving this demographic and was frustrated by it.  Kramer’s article continues:  “The tech-savvy teen figured there had to be some sort of online communication system on which food pantries could communicate with one another about their stock—a system that her local pantry simply had to sign up for. She searched and searched—and found nothing. 

 

“I thought it was real because I would watch [the pantry director]—who is a saint of the woman—make so many phone calls to landlines, and she would get calls back weeks later to try to move this macaroni-and-cheese,” recalls Belding. “It was so incredibly inefficient, and I remember standing there going, but we have the Internet. But we have the Internet.”  Five years later  a fellow college student Grant Nelson, Belding helped her create MEANS, a nonprofit communications platform for emergency food providers and donors.

 

After three years, MEANS has reached people in 49 U.S. states and territories, and boasts some 3,000 users and partner organizations. The organization has recovered 1.6 million pounds of food, food that has reached hungry people instead of over-crowded dumpsters headed for the garbage dump.  Let those numbers sink in and think about how they have impacted living, breathing people and crime statistics.

 

“We get everything from fresh vegetables to 5,000 pounds of pizza sauce in individual one-ounce packets,” Belding says. “There are so many stories where you just go: what? How did this happen? But we are so grateful that it ends up with us [MEANS] and more importantly, the people who need it.”  They even had a donation of 42,000 pounds of milk that MEANS staff had to help relocate.  They were successful and the milk went to grateful recipients.

 

Quoting again from Jillian Kramer’s article:   “Belding, now 22, runs the organization full-time—while attending American University to one day become a doctor. Her staff is also impressively young: “We are 16 to 25 [years old], we’re from a host of different backgrounds and gender identities and races and religions and socio-economic backgrounds,” says Belding. “But one of the things that we all have in common is the same kind of sense of …  a collective dumbfounding that hunger is still such a prevalent problem and how we have so much food waste, when this is so, so solvable.”  If you are interested in joining MEANS—or know someone else who is—you can visit the program on its website, call the staff at 202-449-1507, or email hello@meansdatabase.com.”

 

Pentecost is a season during which the ordinary can become extraordinary.  As I mentioned in Part One, one of the most ordinary things many people do is eat and it benefits everyone when we turn that ordinary meal into something extraordinary.  Maria Belding and her staff, like the members of Dinging for Women we discussed in Part Two of this blog post are using food to offer a hand up, not just a hand out.  Life is all about making choices and you can turn your ordinary meal into a super-charged extraordinary gift to your health by making wise choices and then turning those choices into effective actions.  That will make you our hero for tomorrow!