"No service is too small when given mindfully, with good intention and an open heart."

WHY I DO THIS: I like to meet people here in America (I am Dutch) and get to know how they live and the way they look at life and our world today.


When I think of springtime, I often think of PATIENCE. Here in Maine, following long months of winter cold and snow and stillness, we are hungry for green and for movement. The moment that danger of frost is past—or even before that moment, indoors—we plant. And then we wait: for germination, for growth, for blooming and ripening and harvest.

Nearly eight years ago, I planted two lilac trees-one in the field by the road, one by my cabin. The trees grew but never bloomed. Then last year, blooms on each one. Just two, but no lilacs ever looked more magnificent to me. (Where were the trumpets announcing them?!) A forecast, perhaps, of abundance to come. This spring will tell the story.

-A COMPANION TALE: Recently, I read of a different kind of planting and of a harvest the planter knew she would never see. In this story, which reaches FAR BEYOND PATIENCE, an old woman in the Mid-east planted a date. (So doing, she was like the person who, seen by no one, moves a rock from the road with the simple intention that another person passing by would not be harmed.)

"When you plant a date, you know you are never going to eat from the fruits of the tree because it takes about eighty years for a date seed to grow into a tree. . . If you understand this process, you can make the commitment You know that in the eighty-year period date trees are buffeted by sandstorms and windstorms and all kinds of impact on their growth. For the most part, the tree could look as if it is dying during those eighty years. If you did not understand this, if you did not understand the process, you could easily make a judgment about the severity of its condition and cut it down. You have to live out of the image of what is going to happen, and that's what I'm talking about, living out of our images of hope.
-Sister Miriam MacGillis, a Dominican sister from Caldwell, New Jersey, in a 1986 speech

-In some situations, additional patience is required-patience that sometimes transmutes to hope, then faith, which may be accompanied by additional dogged-often astonishing-effort, and/or by grace of a sort we can only marvel at. In February, I had the good fortune to meet with Abraham, a young Dinka tribesperson from the Sudan who, along with hundreds of other young men from Africa, had been resettled to this country after years of unthinkable hardship in their own land. I had first heard of these young people, watching a CBS 60 Minutes II program called The Lost Boys of The Sudan. (Do a search on the internet for 'The Lost Boys of the Sudan' to read of the history of this ordeal.) The program featured boys ages 8-17 who, without adults and by the thousands, had wandered, nowhere to go, for nearly ten years through sections of the Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. During this time, the boys suffered hunger, thirst, fear and annihilation, discovering few truly secure refugee camps along the way. Often there were only leaves to eat, or drops of water, plus the everpresent danger of lions to face and, during river crossings, the danger of crocodiles and ambush, as well. Many boys succumbed, malnourished as they were and barraged by despair. They had lost family. They had lost childhood and culture. What harvest could they wait or hope for? Even in safe havens, although there was some schooling available, learning coexisted with dread of attacks by land and by air.

After watching the 60 MinutesII program, I looked up Abraham's story on the internet. At once, and deeply, I was moved reading of the compassion the boys had shown each other during all those years of wandering. In essence, the boys had become parents to one another. They had bound each other's wounds. The little they had, they had shared. I wanted to capture this quality of caring in a book for young people. And so, I wrote to Abraham, including in the mailing two other books I had written celebrating kinship. I explained my in-tention of writing spiritual biographies for young readers, featuring in them themes of compassion, courage and hope. I promised that, as with other books, I would tithe a percentage of profits, in this instance to the Lost Boys project or to one/some of the boys themselves.

Abraham wrote back a welcoming letter. He was waiting for me, smile warm as sunshine, in front of his apartment in northwestern Vermont when I arrived for a visit. We shared the simple Sudanese breakfast he had prepared as a surprise. I was warmed with smiles nearly the entire morning, except when talk skirted around events of the walk. Despite Abraham's reassurance that he would be willing to talk about anything, his face clouded when he tried and I respectfully eased back. Abraham did tell me that long ago he sang to the family cows he tended, along with other boys and their cows, and made toy cows from clay to play with. He told me that God had been his only hope and comfort during all the years that followed. (Many of the refugees had received a Christian education.)

Abraham and most of the lost boys resettled in this country are in their twenties now. They have lived here for under a year. Desperately, they seek higher education. Their longing is to return to the Sudan to improve conditions there. Abraham works full-time and attends a community college, by all appearances soaking up every bit of knowledge he can. He admits he is impatient. The night before our visit, I'd once again seen the video, The Shawshank Redemption, an ASTONISHING TALE OF PATIENCE. I shared the story with Abraham. True to his shining good nature, Abraham laughed and laughed. He said that perhaps his waiting was a good thing, after all, then-a time to prepare himself so that he could present himself well to universities.

Abraham has an adventurous spirit. Already, he has traveled to Seattle, New York and Boston. This summer there's a fair chance he will come to Maine and stay with us. Please let me know if you and yours would like to meet him if he comes here. Stories like this one remind me once again of our interconnectedness, that wherever we live or are from in the world we truly are neighbors.

in Sanctuary of the Soul, esteemed Quaker Thomas Kelly speaks of opening to life:
"Before, our chief suffering . . . was our own suffering. The world's arrows were thought to be aimed at us. But with the great unselfing, the center of concern for suffering is shifted outside ourselves and distributed with breadth unbounded among all, friends and so-called enemies. For a few agonized moments we may seem to be given to stand within the heart of the World-Father and feel the infinite sufferings of love toward all the Father's children. And pain inflicted on them becomes pain inflicted on ourselves. Were the experience not also an experience suffused with radiant peace and power and victory, as well as tragedy, it would be unbearable."

FROM THE KITCHEN For those nights you want a nourishing supper but aren't up to thinking creatively, try HASH! Boil up some potatoes and maybe some chunks of butternut squash. While they're cooking, chop up any other vegetables you have (e.g. broccoli, kale, (much) onion, green pepper, eggplant, carrots, celery, hot peppers, parsley, portabello mushrooms, to name a few, then saut³ them, adding lots of garlic, dill, black pepper, a touch of sea salt or Braggs. Add in a small can of drained salmon (my dog and cat love the leftover liquid), and/or mashed tofu. In a separate bowl, beat up an egg. Mash together potatoes, squash, salmon/tofu. Add vegetables and beaten egg, toasted wheat germ, sunflower seeds, a touch of parmesan or shaker soy cheese, and salsa. Sizzle canola or olive oil in an iron skillet. Press the mixture in. Let it remain undisturbed, till crispy. Then turn the "pancake" in pieces, any which way, till the other side is crispy. Serve with more salsa. A delicious concoction-and flubproof!

FROM THE NOT-A-DOCTOR I was experiencing an angry, burning rash and used pure lavender oil, externally, and a locally-created skin tonic tincture (containing fresh burdock root, calendula flowers, chickweed, yellowdock root and leaves, violet leaves and flowers) internally—and externally (a dropperful in a little water). Voilö. The rash was gone in hardly more than a day.

-ONF (Our 104-year-old NEIGHBORCARE Friend) is slipping away, though on days her life force is strong, she can be heard far down the hall. Interest in eating and drinking lessens. There is increased desire for sleep, and little strength. Also, more time is spent talking with others she has known well in her life, though they are no longer living. I'd like to think these conversations are easing ONF in real ways. I am glad that on two or three occasions so far, I have been present to listen to ONF speaking to a person I could not see. She seemed peaceful, then, as if she had invited friends in for tea and was enjoying them. Several of ONF's caregivers have observed these exchanges though, of course, noneof us can say for sure what we are witnessing. (Years ago, one NEIGHBORCARE friend reported some unsettling conversations during her last days. A young friend who was dying told me he was living in parallel worlds and wasn't sure which was which and who was where; he was only a little distressed. My mother, who hadn't imagined such things possible, reported talking with my father days before she died and being assured by my father that he would be waiting for her.)

Often now when I approach ONF in her room and she has no strength or inclination to speak with me, I'm less certain how to try to ease her (Should I wake her-touch her hand-or not disturb her?). Sometimes I talk with her, though her hearing aid is out and she can't hear me, at least in common ways. Or I sing a little or hum to her. In the end, all I can do is want to ease her, and ask mercy for her-and a little for myself for not sensing clearly what to do. The wanting and the asking are all I can give.

-Emma sits in a nursing home hall in her wheelchair, afraid and howling, and resistant to all attempts to soothe her. Annie is also a resident in the nursing home. She lives with dementia of some sort. This day, in her own wheelchair, sitting closeby Emma, she says to Emma in soft, honey tones. "You're all right. You have a good heart. You know, everyone has a good heart."

"And now as long as space endures, As long as there are beings to be found, May we continue likewise to remain, To drive away the sorrows of the world."

"Suzuki Roshi once said about questioning our life, our purpose, 'It's like putting a horse on top of a horse and then climbing on and trying to ride. Riding a horse by itself is hard enough. Why add another horse? Then it's impossible.' We add that horse when we constantly question ourselves rather than just live out our lives, and be who we are at every moment."
-from Long Quiet Highway by Natalie Goldberg

"To disbelieve in the existence of anything just because we have no experience of it is to take for granted that we have explored and experienced all the universe."
- Halo of Grief by Bolton Hall


took place in my home on Monday, March 25th. Again several of us—a new face, or two, this time—shared fine food and talk and addressed NEIGHBORCARE newsletters.

Not necessarily the same people will be gathering each time.
Don't think for a minute you have to be a signed-up volunteer to be part of our group.


Blessings all around you—this spring and in every season,
maggie davis, for NEIGHBORCARE

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maggie davis
PO Box 370, Blue Hill, ME 04614-0370

Copyright © 1998 - 2019 maggie davis. All Rights Reserved.