Monday, November 29, 2010
November 2010: of Soap and Stany
It is early morning in the basement of Ascencion Catholic Church. Having arisen from my sleeping bag, I am thinking of Hanilyn (here pictured taking some first steps at her 1st birthday party just a week ago). Hanilyn is our daughter Maggie`s first child. Too cute, yes? Time now to take my first steps of the day also!
Cool and crisp, it is time to turn on the furnace so as to greet homeless guests here with some of the warmth we all need. Once every ten weeks the church hosts up to 15 people: families who have fallen onto hard times due to things like health care costs, unemployment, or other circumstances. To satisfy city codes, someone from the church must stay overnight to handle any emergency that may arise. Last night that was me. Two snoring men, crying children, and the chirping of a smoke alarm (that needs a battery changed) contributed to an unsilent night.
With the new day, all are awaking with surprisingly good spirits. Folks are pleased that soap is available to use in the showers here and are grateful to be able to take a bar with them to the next shelter. They see me typing this and I tell them how, on this day last year, my wife and I were arriving in India. Larry, whose time in prison over 16 years ago continues to handicap his ability to find steady work, tells me that I was really lucky to go to India. Another man interrupts to say how much he liked going to Reno once. A woman observes how nice the bar of soap is compared to the sample sizes they usually make do with. Somehow that soap seems more important now than the glorious experiences of the past year.
The homeless families staying at the church enjoyed a Turkey dinner 2 nights ago, a tradition for the holiday of Thanksgiving. Kristine stayed over that night, after having worked all day preparing a similar meal for 14 who came to our home. In the U.S. Thanksgiving is a time to share a feast with friends and family while being mindful of all we have to be grateful for. Our children Sonrisa, Shaman, and Mira were all there, together our foster daughter Maggie`s family, our friends Gil & Adriana with their boys, and one of my students from Portland Community College who has no family nearby. The three pre-teen boys loudly played Fooseball in our basement and were crazy happy when Shaman distributed his old Pokeman cards among them as a gift.
It is good to take time to be thankful, whether it is for a dream trip to India or a bar of soap today. Sonrisa now has advanced Junior standing at Portland State University and has declared a Sociology major with an Environmental Studies Minor. Shaman is working part time and is hatching a plan that will include future studies at Portland Community College. Mira has full time employment and still loves making music as a skilled base guitar player. Gil is successfully recovering from gall bladder surgery and yes, his kids love their Pokeman cards almost as much as Maggie loves her new life as a mother!
What a remarkable year it has been! Exactly one year ago Kristine and I arrived in India to begin the Fulbright adventure. First a night in Mumbai, then the arrival in Kochi to be greeted by our future lifelong friend Stany. By the end of that second day, we would be in Pala and preparing to furnish our apartment and to meet my colleagues at St. Thomas College. It now seems both so recent, and yet like a former life away....
Over the next nine months, regular end-of-month entries will serve to both reflect upon the activities of a year ago as well as update people we met abroad with more current news. What follows is a sampling of news highlights from November:
This month has been full of activity, not the least of which involved many communications with Stany by email and by phone. He has been selected by USIEF (United States India Education Foundation) as a nominee for a Fulbright-Nehru award that will take him from India to teach courses at Portland Community College (PCC) for 4 months beginning in September of 2011. Originally we had hoped that he might come as early as a month from now, but the wheels of bureaucracy move almost as slowly for him as they did for me. Final notification should be communicated from Washington D.C. in early March. Perhaps it is for the best, he will be an honored guest as PCC begins its 50th Anniversary celebrations next Fall.
Much of my activities beyond the classroom in November have been devoted either to meetings or to speakings! Meetings relating to the Portland Metro Green Party, Peace and Justice Works, Just Skills Seminars at Ascension Church, PCC Peace and Conflict Studies, and the Internationalization Steering Committee at PCC, have been productive but somewhat exhausting. Speaking engagements have included four solo presentations (one on Palestine, two on India, and one relating to China & India) and chairing three panel discussions (on Teaching Peace in the 21st Century`): a total of 7 events in 10 days!
It is a challenge to balance what it asked of us and the energy we may have to fulfill basic obligations. Jesus tells us that we should give our widow`s mite (if even a small donation of time or money, but enough so as to be felt as a sacrifice). But when is enough enough? In this world, in our country, in our community -- the needs are so great and our enough is usually not so.
One step at a time, yes Hanilyn?