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!”

You Can Make a Difference!

You Can Make a Difference!

June 2, 2018

Pentecost 2018

 

Recently a great deal of the rhetoric prominent in social media has been about “I”.  One person claims to have all the answers while another says they acted or voted to protect themselves.  The ego or “I” is the conscious self so it is not unnatural that we would consider it in most things.  The problem is that the “I” is not the only living entity on the planet.  There is also a “You” and “We”. 

 

The word affect is a verb, grammatically speaking, in the English language.  Basically it means to have an impact on something or someone.  In writing this blog I am hoping to affect your thinking and encourage you to do something positive to benefit all of us, the family of mankind.  Since a verb is an action word, to affect something or someone is to bring about change.

 

Effect is most commonly used as a noun, the result of an action or, as we just discussed, a thought process.  While the purpose of this blog is to encourage you think and then affect someone by positive action, the intent is the end result –  that your actions will create a productive effect or result.  “Affect” refers to the doing; “Effect” denotes the end result of that doing or action. 

 

Effect also can be defined in another way.  It can also mean someone’s personal belongings.  This might seem confusing and yes, it can be.   Personally, I like that effect is both the result and the possession.  It encourages us to be accountable for our actions.  No one is going to score a perfect rating on our actions.  We all make mistakes.  This is where thinking positive can keep us from letting past actions become a future death sentence.  Thinking positive people also have lower blood pressure and sleep better.

 

Earlier this week someone exercised what they felt was their right to free speech by, without any cause or pertinence to the speaker’s daily living, insulting someone else.  It was done supposedly in a humorous vein but resulted in quite a backlash.    While language can be a bit confusing, an insult is generally always understand to be just that – a rude, offensive slur about someone.  It is, quite simply, verbal abuse.

 

Today the first step you should take is to think positively.  Negative thinking narrows one’s field of vision.  Imagine yourself swimming in the shallow waters of a beautiful ocean resort.  Suddenly someone cries “Shark!”  You no longer are focused on the rest of the people on the beach but only on getting yourself out of the water.  This is a healthy instinct of self-preservation but your focus has also become extremely self-centered. 

 

Positive emotions help us to broaden our field of vision and imagine what is possible instead of seeing only the negative and dire outcomes.  Maybe yesterday really was the worst day of life.  Today really can be the first day of the rest of your life.  Take care of yourself and start the day off thinking of possibilities.  Share a smile with another and together you will create something extraordinary out of an ordinary facial movement.   Maybe you really don’t have time for going to the movies but take the time hurrying on your commute to notice the flowers along your path.  A healthy person can accomplish much more than one who is thinking or feeling negative.  We all have time for a smile and the first smile of the day should be a smile to you.

 

Living positively benefits the “I” and also the “We”.  To make the most of living and do what is best for “You” involves helping another.  The time for talk is over.  It is now time for action.   As Walt Whitman once said, “If you keep your face towards the sunshine, the shadows will fall behind you.”  With one ordinary affect, you will create an extraordinary effect and make the world a much better place for all of us.

 

 

 

Make the Impossible Possible

Make the Impossible Possible

Jan 15-16

 

Last year during the season of Epiphany we discussed people who did something and made a difference.  Earlier this week the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was celebrated.  He is but one of many who ventured outside of the box society would have put him in and made a difference.  “There is no man living that cannot do more than he thinks he can.”  Henry Ford was living proof of his quote.  It is about encouraging us all to stop outside of any box someone or we have placed ourselves in and try.  Attempt the impossible… because it just might happen.

 

There is really only way one to make the impossible happen and that is to believe it can.  You must believe in the possibility of the impossible becoming possible.  And no, I have not gone crazy or am trying to win a bet using the word possible or its variations as many times as I can in one sentence.  Lewis Carrol wrote of this in his “Alice in Wonderland.” 

 

“Alice laughed.  ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things.’  ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

 

In his autobiography “The Crack-Up”, F. Scott Fitzgerald speaks of this.  “Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation– the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.  One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true.”

 

Ah but the book is titled “The Crack-Up” you might be thinking.  Isn’t is crazy to believe the impossible to be possible?  After all, they are contradictory terms.  Yes they are.  Perhaps the true question of value is “Are those terms factual?”  In fact, is it even possible to define something as impossible?

 

Sigmund Freud once said “It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”  We might inquire of Dr. Freud by what standard of measurement would he define the impossible.

 

History is full of impossible things becoming possible.  During the season of Epiphany 2016 we discussed people who had their own great epiphanies and invented new things, some of which would have been deemed impossible at one time.  They were people who attempted the impossible or unknown and not only made it possible but also known and popular, used in everyday life.  In 2017 we discussed great humanitarians.  This year it is time for us to step up and make a difference.

 

Believe that you are weak and you will be.  Believe that you are forever handicapped and you will never thrive.  Lee Wise wrote a really powerful sentence about this.  “Belief in what matters most holds the power of creating legacies that matter most in the long run.”  I believe in you and your power to live a life of intention, a life that will better the world … for you, for me, and for tomorrow. 

Dream Big

Dream Big

Jan 8

 

On August 17, 2015 at 6:31 AM a tweet was seen: “Make sure humanitarian efforts don’t go unnoticed this World Humanitarian Day”.  His simple tweet was seen by over eleven hundred people and retweeted hundreds of time.  That alone did a great deal for humanitarian efforts.   It got people thinking and talking and, as usual, led to action.  One tweet got people thinking and enabled others to dream big.

 

The use of twitter, a social media site that limits the amount of characters might seem fitting for a lad who suffered from dyslexia.  Most would not have expected him to try very hard to learn, especially since he was born with the proverbial silver spoon.  The little rich kid who sent that tweet on August 15th began his entrepreneurial ventures by buying American record manufacturers excess stock; you know, the stock nobody wanted.  He then sold the excess record albums out of the trunk of his car to anybody and everybody.  He soon was selling to retail markets in England and then started a mail order discount record business.  That led to opening his first store, the name chosen after being suggested by an employee to recognize the lack of experience they all had in what they were doing.

 

He was seeking to make a place in the world and our young man who had trouble in school suddenly found himself not having trouble in the business world.  He began opening other businesses, none of which he really was an expert in and all with the same name reflecting his lack of experience.  From records he branched out into an airline, a soft drink company, a liquor company, a mobile telephone company, a communications empire…the list goes on.

 

He also sought to achieve personally and in doing so has set some personal and world records by crossing the Atlantic in a sailboat alone and flying around the world in a hot air balloon.  All bore the name “Virgin” and were piloted by none other than Richard Branson, now Sir Richard Branson.

 

Branson started his first charity, “Student Valley Centre” at the age of seventeen.  It is difficult to find an area of life that his foundation and charitable giving does not support.  Among the causes he supports are Domestic Violence, Animal Abuse, Adoption, Fostering Orphans, AIDS and HIV, At-Risk/Disadvantaged Youth, Cancer Education and Research. Children’s Causes, Conservation Efforts, Disaster Relief, Education, Environment, Family/parent Support, Gender Equality, Health Rights, Physical Challenges, Homelessness, Human Rights, Hunger, LITERACY, Mental Health, Poverty, Clean Water, Weapons Reduction, Women’s Rights, and Global Warming. 

 

All of his causes affect the citizens of the world.  He was awarded the United Nations Correspondents Association Citizen of the World Award for his environmental and humanitarian efforts.  He was also awarded the Knight Bachelor (hence the title “Sir”) by the Queen of England.  Branson credits all this to his desire to seek new things and answers.  “My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them…from the perspective of wanting to live life to the fullest.”

 

The beginning of the New Year gives us all a chance to ask what identity we want for ourselves.  Who do you want to become in 2018?  Branson thought himself “huge” and then set out to make it happen.  He defined living life to the fullest by giving as much as he could to help others be huge. 

 

Stop thinking small and give yourself a large identity.  We all can achieve great things when we work together.  The first step is to decide we want to make the world a better place and to individually make a difference in the world – no matter how small or how large that difference might be.    When we dream big, we seek to be a better person and help another.  By dreaming such big dreams, we will give ourselves a wonderful today and a better tomorrow.

Action

Action

Pentecost 140

 

October 22nd, 2016 has been designated as “Make a Difference Day”.  It is one day when groups of people will come together to make a difference and enact a positive change for their communities.  During this series we have been discussing how to turn this ordinary time into an extraordinary time.  That is the thought behind Make a Difference Day and the volunteers that will live it. 

 

“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light…We all have something to give.”  These words were embedded in the inaugural speech of President George H. W. Bush in 1989.  Two years earlier Ken Giddon had joined with others to start New York Cares.  The volunteer management organization was created to address social issues that were plaguing the city.  These volunteers nor operate over thirteen hundred nonprofits, city agencies, and public schools based upon one common belief – Everyone has a role to play in making their world a better place.

 

One year after he gave his speech referencing a thousand points of light, President George H. W. Bush honored more than one thousand volunteers for being “points of light” in their communities.  The Points of Light Foundation was created as an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization to encourage and empower the spirit of service. The nonprofit extended President Bush’s vision, understanding that “what government alone can do is limited, but the potential of the American people knows no limits.”

 

During the first year of his presidency President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act which created AmeriCorps, a national service program engaging Americans in voluntary action to help correct some of the country’s most critical issues.  A year later the Corporation for National and Community Service began operation as a federal agency through which millions of American donated time and talents in such outreach services as Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America.

 

In 1997 the Presidents’ Summits for America’s Future brought together Presidents Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford as well as first lady Nancy Reagan.  The country’s social issues were addressed and all of those on the panel mentioned above discussed their roles in meeting the needs of the country and world and how voluntary action could be part of the solution to many problems and issues.

 

In 2001 the United Nations proclaimed the Year of the Volunteer and over one thousand agencies worldwide came together to work together, regardless of race, color, or creed.  In 2004 City Cares, which had expanded to some US Cities, changed its name to HandsOn Network and went global.  In 2009 the Edward M. Kennedy Service America Act reinvigorated America’s call on volunteerism.  Twenty years after he had first uttered the words, President George H. W. Bush and President Barrack Obama met to renew the plan of action for the nation’s volunteer workforce in addressing critical needs.

 

Hurricane disaster relief, foreign country disaster relief, community block organizations, crisis centers, afterschool programs, and food banks are just a few of the many programs helping propel America forward through the actions of its volunteers.  These wonderful acts that were successful were not conducted by geniuses or highly skilled individuals.  They were the works of ordinary people volunteering their time and efforts because they cared.

 

In 2013 the Points of Light Foundation and HandsOn Network merged, renewing their commitment for humanitarian efforts, the manifestation of faith and the spirit of caring for one’s fellow man.  To date the merged foundation performs over two hundred and fifty thousand service projects each year in over thirty different countries.  Thirty millions hours of volunteer service are clocked each calendar year with an annual dollar value of volunteer hours reaching six hundred and thirty five million dollars annually.

 

This was not done by someone sitting on the couch watching television, doing nothing.  Some sat on the couch watching television as they made blankets or hats or scarves for those in need.  Others left their couches and helped prepare food for the hungry and destitute.  Still more helped clean up weather-ravaged areas while others sorted through donations of clothing and helped established distribution channels for such aid.

 

They all acted.  They all did something.  We can all do something.  We cannot all do everything but we can do something.  I am but one person; however, I am one person and that one person can do something.  It is an awesome undertaking to change the world for the better but we can do it if we just…act.  Function, work, proceed, be, appear, represent, accomplish….We don’t just do it for others.  When we act on behalf of positive action, we help ourselves as well. 

 

It isn’t about rewards.  It is about living.  Live that which you believe and help another.  Long before President Bush gave his speech about one thousand points of light, another man named William Shakespeare wrote:  “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”  It really isn’t about shining, though.  It is about action.  No deed is ever wasted.  Charles de Lint noted: “Every time you do a good deed, you shine the light a little farther into the dark.  When you’re gone, the light is going to keep shining on, pushing the shadows back.”  Act and the world will glow with the light of your good deeds.  We all have something to give.  We all can make a difference.

Making a Difference

Making a Difference

Pentecost 111

 

If you are someone who has been following the current presidential election in the USA, you might think all the position does centers around creating discord.  The role of the President of the United States is not a role of power.  It is a figurehead role, one with very little actual power but a great deal of visibility.  The speeches the President makes are soon forgotten but those who have used the office to make a difference for positive change and growth are the ones who are remembered.

 

“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light…We all have something to give.”  These words were embedded in the inaugural speech of President George H. W. Bush in 1989.  Two years earlier Ken Giddon had joined with others to start New York Cares.  The volunteer management organization was created to address social issues that were plaguing the city.  These volunteers nor operate over thirteen hundred nonprofits, city agencies, and public schools based upon one common belief – Everyone has a role to play in making their world a better place.

 

One year after he gave his speech referencing a thousand points of light, President George H. W. Bush honored more than one thousand volunteers for being “points of light” in their communities.  The Points of Light Foundation was created as an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization to encourage and empower the spirit of service. The nonprofit extended President Bush’s vision, understanding that “what government alone can do is limited, but the potential of the American people knows no limits.”

 

During the first year of his presidency President Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act which created AmeriCorps, a national service program engaging Americans in voluntary action to help correct some of the country’s most critical issues.  A year later the Corporation for National and Community Service began operation as a federal agency through which millions of American donated time and talents in such outreach services as Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America.

 

In 1997 the Presidents’ Summits for America’s Future brought together Presidents Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford as well as first lady Nancy Reagan.  The country’s social issues were addressed and all of those on the panel mentioned above discussed their roles in meeting the needs of the country and world and how voluntary action could be part of the solution to many problems and issues.

 

In 2001 the United Nations proclaimed the Year of the Volunteer and over one thousand agencies worldwide came together to work together, regardless of race, color, or creed.  In 2004 City Cares, which had expanded to some US Cities, changed its name to HandsOn Network and went global.  In 2009 the Edward M. Kennedy Service America Act reinvigorated America’s call on volunteerism.  Twenty years after he had first uttered the words, President George H. W. Bush and President Barrack Obama met to renew the plan of action for the nation’s volunteer workforce in addressing critical needs.

 

Hurricane disaster relief, foreign country disaster relief, community block organizations, crisis centers, afterschool programs, and food banks are just a few of the many programs helping propel America forward through the actions of its volunteers.  These wonderful acts that were successful were not conducted by geniuses or highly skilled individuals.  They were the works of ordinary people volunteering their time and efforts because they cared.

 

In 2013 the Points of Light Foundation and HandsOn Network merged, renewing their commitment for humanitarian efforts, the manifestation of faith and the spirit of caring for one’s fellow man.  To date the merged foundation performs over two hundred and fifty thousand service projects each year in over thirty different countries.  Thirty millions hours of volunteer service are clocked each calendar year with an annual dollar value of volunteer hours reaching six hundred and thirty five million dollars annually.

 

This was not done by someone sitting on the couch watching television, doing nothing.  Some sat on the couch watching television as they made blankets or hats or scarves for those in need.  Others left their couches and helped prepare food for the hungry and destitute.  Still more helped clean up weather-ravaged areas while others sorted through donations of clothing and helped established distribution channels for such aid.

 

They all acted.  They all did something.  We can all do something.  We cannot all do everything but we can do something.  I am but one person; however, I am one person and that one person can do something.  It is an awesome undertaking to change the world for the better but we can do it if we just…act.  Function, work, proceed, be, appear, represent, accomplish….We don’t just do it for others.  When we act on behalf of positive action, we help ourselves as well.  We all can make a difference and when we do, we make an ordinary day something extraordinary.

 

It isn’t about rewards.  It is about living.  Live that which you believe and help another.  Long before President Bush gave his speech about one thousand points of light, another man named William Shakespeare wrote:  “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”  It really isn’t about shining, though.  It is about action.  No deed is ever wasted.  Charles de Lint noted: “Every time you do a good deed, you shine the light a little farther into the dark.  When you’re gone, the light is going to keep shining on, pushing the shadows back.”  Act and the world will glow with the light of your good deeds.  We all have something to give.  We all can and should make a difference.

Easter Forty-Three

Easter Forty – Three
June 1, 2014
Last Sunday of Easter

Sawyerville Day Camp: The Human Family

In less than a month in one of the three poorest counties in the United States of America, a group of people will converge on a small town. Many will be returning and some are simply coming home. They come from many places in life, the country, and careers. Their ages will be everything from two to sixty-well…something. They will laugh, smile, sweat, learn, eat, swim, play, and yes, even get frustrated. The economic structure will be more of the haves helping the have-nots but then, that is nothing new. It has been the way the world was suppose to rotate and evolve, though sadly, it is be an uncommon thing.

Some will wonder why they aren’t at home, living the idle life their status in life affords them and others will long for their previously-considered boring offices with endless mounds of paperwork. The teenagers will go to bed at night on pallets of bedrolls, sweaty and exhausted and trying to figure out how they ended up in a small town in one of the top poorest counties in their nation. None will be paid and no twenty people will come from exactly the same town or county or church. They will be, simply put, members of the human family.

They will teach children to learn, to read, and to swim. They will run to the donated school busses, [evidence of the cooperation of a county, a town, and a Christian denomination] each morning, arms waving and voices shouting welcome. Children will hurry off and be admonished for not staying in line and then hugged in greeting. The day will progress and nothing will go exactly as planned. Conflicts will be resolved and programs rearranged due to weather or broken busses or the lack of organization by contributing vendors. At the close of the afternoon the children will slowly shuffle back onto the busses and then laugh as the staff again runs along the busses in a reverse reflection of the morning, arms waving, faces gleaming and smiles on every person within hearing distance.

Through the children’s laughter, the tears, the exhaustion, the frustration, they will say goodbye for the day. They will then go back to their venues and spend two hours cleaning, some learning how to scrub for the first time in their teenaged lives. They will then eat a donated meal, just as they ate the donated breakfast and lunch that the entire camp ate, and gather for evening vespers and discussion. Others will retrieve the camp staff t-shirts and launder them to be given out and worn the following day while still more prepare arts and crafts materials for upcoming events. Finally the county will sleep in an effort to build up energy to do it all over again for the rest of the week.

For the children in this poverty-stricken area, the week is a chance to have a vacation. They marvel at the swimming pool and overcome fears to learn to swim. They get help in reading so they can enjoy the book that each will be given to take home and keep. Each child wears their own new swimming suit and dries off with their own new towel. Drum circles are held and musicians lead the singing while the staff embarrasses themselves dancing and delighting the children in sharing the joy of life. Any thought of skin differences, hair colors, eye shapes, or socioeconomic status is quickly lost amongst the enthusiasm of each moment. After all, we all smile in the same color.

At the end of the week, tearful goodbyes are said. And then it starts all over again, for this day camp has two more sessions that will run before the summer ends. The staff of over six hundred volunteers onsite plus fifty or more parishes and another three hundred partners will end the summer learning that of which Maya Angelou wrote about in her poem “Human Family”: “I note the obvious differences in the human family; some of us are serious, some thrive on comedy… The variety of our skin tones can confuse, bemuse, delight; brown and pink and beige and purple, tan and blue and white… I’ve sailed upon the seven seas and stopped in every land; I’ve seen the wonders of the world, not yet a common man… I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike.”

This poor county is Hale County, and the small towns involved are known on the map as Sawyerville and Greensboro in the state of Alabama. Professional and students alike, some at the top of their fields, some making minimum wage at dead-end positions, and the student struggling to stay afloat will work and play at the camp called Sawyerville Day Camp (www.sawyervilledaycamp.org). Those who once were campers return from never-before-camp-imagined college careers to volunteer as staff. Others come and touch a person of another color for the first time – both camper and counselor alike. All learn that we are one, dependent on each other for both smiles and hugs. There is plenty of each to go around during the week.

Sawyerville Day Camp is not just a summer intermission, though. It is representative of the human family….a family working together planting seeds of hope and peace, calling it fun. Making a difference one smile at a time, one person can change the world today and tomorrow. And maybe, making those changes, we will learn that the greatest wonder is to be found in our fellow man – no one just a common man but a glorious wonder, a part of the human family. “I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike.”