Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Travels since November have taken me through Washington, Oregon, California and landed me in Arizona (my first time in the southwest). I rode through northern California with the company of three young community-searching, simple-living explorers. All of us, strangers at the beginning of the trip (brought together by a Craigslist rideshare ad), hugged goodbye after the 8 hour drive.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Throughout my junior and senior year of college, Kacy and Andrew grew to be two of my closest friends. I learned about young marriage from them, and witnessed their dedication to each other during the beginning months of their lifelong commitment. Despite my differing political beliefs and world view, we respected each other and felt comfortable speaking openly; and when I told them about the Catholic Worker, they were very supportive. Kacy and Andrew saw me through travels to Nicaragua and Los Angeles, graduation, immense transition and inevitable heartache and my move to LA. I was present for Kacy and Andrew's adoption of their dog and first love, Oscar, the purchasing of their first home, and most recently the gift of their first child, Maxwell Alexander.
I had the gall to ask Kacy and Andrew if I could stay with them for a few months after leaving Los Angeles. Their response was immediate and welcoming, even after hosting another house guest for the three months prior. Once I arrived with my uncertain future ahead of me, they gave me a home. When I sank into the ruts of depression and loneliness, they offered me counsel. And without hesitation, they welcomed me into their family and asked me to be godmother to their son.
The expectations I had of these past months, as I have often written, were nothing of what actually happened. I thought Los Angeles was going to be the only place to which I would have an emotional connection, but the Tacoma CW dug into my heart. And now, I'm not leaving some place I've visited, or people with whom I can easily break ties. I'm leaving family... again. I'm packing my bags to venture out into a life yet to be determined, and I am saying goodbye to the Keippelas.
They are not affluent. They do not have a large home or income. They are not Catholic Workers. Kacy and Andrew are a middle class white couple who saw my need and offered food, shelter and love. They opened their house for hospitality. Once for a near-stranger, and again for me.
I share this story to lift up the Keippelas for their generosity and spirit of kindness. And I also share this story as an example of the great work an "average" person can do. Andrew told me a few weeks after I arrived, "We have that extra room and you need a place to stay." The logic was simple.
Without a doubt, Kacy and Andrew sustained me through what were months of confusion. They could have easily asked me to leave, or demanded a deadline for my stay. And while they may not define their generosity in this way, I received the grace of the Works of Mercy, and felt love that God asks of us all.
Thank you, Kacy, Andrew and Max, for everything you have given me.
Friday, October 2, 2009
These past few weeks have been a blur for me. I left the Tacoma Catholic Worker with much more sadness than I could have anticipated. The community members and Jesuit Volunteers pulled me back to purpose. I spent hours in fascinating conversation about life, love, family, service, music, and community. I ended my days covered in dirt from the garden, and plans each night were anyone's guess. My three weeks in Tacoma excited me for my future route through the west coast.
Side note:I AM NOT ASKING FOR YOUR MONEY.I have been given money by some family and friends. Some people have bought me dinner, drinks, paid for gas. And for all of these acts of generosity, I am grateful. But I do not want to skim through this year on the dollars of my friends and family. Will I turn down your gift? No. Might I send it to a Catholic Worker or local organization? Yes, and I would encourage you to do the same.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I made it to the Tacoma Catholic Worker. And for the past three weeks have tried to keep busy amidst the community's attempt to restructure and redefine itself. I've found good, thankless work in the organic garden just outside the main house (there are 8 houses used by the Tacoma CW). I wake up at a decent, yet not lazy, hour to start weeding which is most of my labor. I spent a substatial amount of time harvesting the Asian pears, blackberries, tomatoes, miscellaneous squash, non-Asian pears, lettuce, beets and an occasional ear of corn. After I drained the garden of its yield, I helped to can the produce. And yesterday, I finally finished the blackberry jam project. But if I'm not in the garden, I sit back and witness community dynamics, have conversations with fascinating people (the Jesuit Volunteers are next door), search for a piano to play, and look forward to a year of discovering the lifestyle that fits me best.
A friend of mine is currently in a similar time of discovery, although half way across the country and without an organic garden. We met in Los Angeles, and he has since been a source of strength for me, possessing the unique ability to simultaneously calm and enlighten me. Our spiritual journeys have also been quite parallel, although his dedication to his own path seems much more solid than my temporal excitement.
Recently we talked of causes we believe are just. Essentially, we were asking: What do we do with our passion? Do we feed our passion to boredom to create a lively experience, or do we find what we need and cultivate our calling? We didn't have any decent answers.
Ironically enough, it seems the challenge is passion--reining it in, directing it. "Ambivelent" is not a word often used to describe a Catholic Worker. Yet sometimes our conviction as Catholic Workers is so strong that it drives others away, alienates us from dialogue, paints an untrue picture of our work, or distracts us from the journey toward Christ. In other situations, we feel the burning in our bellies and refuse to act for fear of disapproval. One of the many struggles I have lies within the risk of meeting the needs of my self and spirit without being dictated by the societal understanding of what is acceptable. My friend's response to that revelation: "Welcome to following the Gospel."
In Greek (pema) and Latin (pati), passion literally means suffering. Hence, we call the series of events leading to Jesus' death The Passion of Christ. This is slightly reassuring, only in the sense that my struggles with my chosen path now seem to have Greek and Latin meaning. It makes me wonder if the Buddhists really have got it down: Life means suffering (one of the Four Noble Truths). And the Noble Eightfold Path leads one out of suffering and to Nirvana. It transforms suffering into a higher level of existence, ultimate wisdom. Similarly, Jesus' death brought forgiveness and eternal life, and our following Jesus can lead us from the suffering of mortal life to immortal grace and love.
As I continue to learn, the journey seems to be within the challenge, passion and confusion. My dear friend and I are stuck on a path with blind turns, but we maintain faith that each step and the destination are grace. In the meantime, what do we do with our love, hopes and desires blooming from our passion?
"Maybe we just have to demand more from the world and, in turn, ourselves," I reached for wisdom.
"Maybe not more," he replied, "but just something different."