Monday, May 30, 2016

Comfort Food

This afternoon I was driving back from a doctor's appointment and I was hungry. I had had to fast since last night. Seriously, an 11 am appointment shouldn't mean that I was as hungry as I was but the minute you tell me I can't eat? The chubby girl gets hungry. It's not pretty. It's best to avoid being around me when it happens so thankfully I was alone in the car and contemplating each drive through in the vicinity as I drove home, knowing I have a fridge and pantry full of options.

Again, as it often does, the reality of my life hit me. Luckily, I'm able to drive with eyes full of tears and an aching heart because there I was, somewhere between 8th St and Idylwyld and I realized that after my simple morning of getting up, showering, getting dressed in clean clothes and having access to good medical care, despite the scope the doctor literally wove up my nose and down my throat...I realized how ridiculously fortunate I am and how petty my complaints are.

While I was lamenting a twelve minute drive home on an empty stomach, there are people I love who are walking up to 15 km for the chance that they will get some dirty water from a quickly dwindling water source that they share with multiple communities and the surrounding livestock. Poor me indeed.

Last night, I went to the grocery store late in the evening when the shelves are depleted, and still had a thousand options to fill the cart I wheeled around until I checked out and had the money to pay for it. I remember the days when we were a young family and Jason was in school, and I really held my breath wondering if we had enough money in our account to pay for what was in the cart, despite my best budgeting and pitiful mental math. Once, and only once, was I forced to leave the cart, full of groceries, take my then one-year-old and get in the car, go to the bank and sort out a late deposit, then return to the grocery store to pay in cash. I will never forget the feeling, even though I knew it was an error, it was distressing and I felt like it was the end of the world. 16 years later I can recall that feeling because it was an isolated incident.  Poor me.

I have watched the news for the minimal reports on the ongoing drought in sub-Saharan Africa but it is often pushed off the list of "newsworthy" items by the myriad of dire circumstances around the globe. And yet, there are children that I know by name, whose hands I have held and whose grandmothers have shared with us that are literally going without water and food. There are children in our care that are getting a smaller portion of food from their care workers, and taking half of that home to their grandmother or mother, who may not have eaten in days. Days.

When I think of the amount of food and water that is available to us as a family in our household, I can not imagine what it is like to go to bed with the pain of hunger in your belly and head. Imagine how it affects your thinking or your energy level to rise in the morning with little hope of anything changing, of any water coming available or of any food being consumed. How do you tell your children you love them when all you can think of is how desperately you want to offer them something to eat?

The drought may not make the news daily or even weekly here in North America but it is happening and we can not wait until the images are so disturbing that they are deserving of a place on the news somewhere above the other human rights disasters that are taking place right now.

I'm asking. I'm sincerely there something that you can go without for a week that would enable you to help? We all have excess. We do. There's no need for Costco in a world that can't afford excess. So, if you have a Costco membership in your wallet, I'm speaking to you. If your kid plays a sport and has a $3 Gatorade after the game or you are a card carrying member of the Starbuck's nation that can preorder a drink by text and walk in without a line up to pick it up? Then I'm speaking to you. I'm not asking you to feel guilty about those things. I'm asking you to feel grateful. Give out of that. Gratitude. Not guilt. Compassion. Not compulsion. Knowledge. Not ignorance.

I'd love to hear what you can give up for a week that will enable you to step into the fight against this incredibly fast moving disaster that is affecting the poorest and most vulnerable  in our communities.

Learn more here. Give here.  I don't have to know that you've given. You'll know. Our kids will know. And the comfort that comes from them knowing that someone outside of their desperate community cares about them? It's immeasurable.

Thank you from the bottom of my aching heart. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Art of Slowing Down

I have this amazing friend, Susan, who is pretty much everything I am not....and I just love her even though I have probably not seen her, in person, since the 90's when we lived in the Okanagan and she and her husband, Josh, were youth leaders for our youth group at Lakeview Heights.  Those were the golden days of youth ministry for so many reasons, not the least being great leaders who became our friendship circle.

Over the years, I've had an ongoing friendship with Susan in which she just exemplifies, long distance, the kind of person I want to be. She is a great mom with vibrant, creative kids that she allows to express themselves so beautifully. She serves in an inner city school and in her local church and the girl will sing with anyone on the street that will give her a minute to edge in. I love her enthusiasm for life even more for the fact that I know it came at a price. She learned to love life because there was a time when she couldn't.

This week, again, she challenged me with her life and her willingness to see people and really, really stop and speak and listen to them. If she hadn't, I too, would have missed the art of slowing down. And the real art of the one who she slowed down long enough to listen to. She's fulfilling her promise to share his art with others. I'm sharing the art of slowing down that Susan shared with me, in her words:

I wonder how many times I have missed stories like this because I didn't slow down?

I'm so thankful I stopped and chose to 'see' this man.On first glance he is an aged man, soaking in perhaps the last rays of spring sun in Central Park that he will ever see. His skin is almost transparent, his hands are speckled and shaky. Thankfully, his caregiver speaks out the life that is this man.  He is an artist by the name of William Scharf. In the 1950s he was a part of the movement that Wikipedia calls the 'New York School' movement.
After his caregiver tells me who he is, I look it up on my phone and we look together at the beautiful artwork that the www shows me. He smiles and veeeerrrryyyy slowly tells me that books of his artwork are available in art stores. I hold his hand and look in his eyes and thank him for his creativity and expression, and I promise to share it with my friends.
He holds my hand longer than is necessary, and I can't help but wonder why we don't hold hands with our friends more often.
All the beautiful happened on a sunny Monday morning in New York.

Little Angel of the Pike 2009

The Oracle of the Bees 2001

Emphatic, but gentle inclination 2007

Egg Bridge 2004

Monday, May 2, 2016

Drought Relief - Zimbabwe

For someone who loves words, there are none that seem adequate to convey the situation that is beginning to reveal it's worst across sub-Saharan Africa as well as north eastern Ethiopia and Somalia. The images of famine in the 80's still comes to mind and now could include the faces are those of children I know, whose homes I've been in.  Easton and I were in Chinaka, Zimbabwe in October and things were already very, very desperate as the previous harvest had been completely decimated by lack of rain. This past rainy season didn't bring enough moisture to even produce a crop, the maize plants (staple food) are standing dry and dusty in the field. The price of maize meal has almost tripled and the access to water is becoming very limited.

Our communities in Zimbabwe are being cared for by the volunteer care workers you've read about. People like Priscilla and John,  Angeline and Christian, Florence and Barbra, who all work so very hard to bring the most vulnerable children the nutrition they need, despite rising prices and fixed support.

Hands at Work is in a unique position in the communities they work in in Zimbabwe, Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique - some of the hardest hit areas include the communities we are already working in. This means that we are positioned to help. Coincidence? I think not.

Please watch this 1 1/2 minute explanation from my friend, George and John, from the very community, Chinaka, that Easton and I spent time in in October. If you've ever been compelled to help, let it be now, before we begin to see the repeat of the types of suffering we saw in the most vulnerable communities when the last famine hit.

Drought Relief - Hands at Work -Zimbabwe

Please designate your giving to Drought Relief Zimbabwe.