"No service is too small when given mindfully, with good intention and an open heart."
DEAR NEIGHBORCARE VOLUNTEERS AND FRIENDS:
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.)
-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:
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."
"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."
Blessings all around you—this spring and in every season,
PO Box 370, Blue Hill, ME 04614-0370