Wednesday, March 26, 2008

a second graders immigration story

i was reading a chapter from a book called the drinking gourd about a family of runaway slaves in the 19th century. they are walking from the south to canada to be free. the kids were really into the novel and didn't want it to stop at the end of the chapter. they are second graders and just developing an understanding of concepts like slavery. we talked about slavery in the u.s. and how hard it was for families like the one in the novel to walk all the way to canada with small children.
one of my kids raised his hand and said, my family walked from mexico to the united states when i was 7. we were caught by the police and sent back to mexico, then we walked back again. wow. that hit me like a ton of bricks. i know that many of my students made a tough journey to come here, but a lot of them were born here. this is also the age when kids start making the connection between characters in a book and their own lives. a lot of children's literature is about issues like being teased or bullied or having a baby sibling. this is a whole different level.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

nun sightings

ever since i was called to the religious life i started seeing nuns around nyc. i see them on the subway, on the bus, at the symphony, riding bikes in the park, at the airport, random nun sightings. if i lived in ireland or rome this might be considered normal. in nyc there simply aren't that many nuns. they all seem to condense within my line of vision. at first i used to think it was god pressuring me to keep my vocation in mind or hurry up and become a nun. that is so not god's way. that would be my way if i were god so it's a good thing i'm not. thank god for god.
i often hear god speak to me through other people and i was telling a woman about how i see nuns everywhere and how at one point i was seeing three different nuns a week for several weeks. i mean, the average new yorker could go their whole lives these days without running into a nun. this woman said to me, how comforting of god to send you a reminder of your vocation. suddenly the nun sightings seemed less like a pressure stunt from god and more like, "i've got you covered. just so you remember what's important. keep your eye on the prize."
i decided i'd start documenting my nun sightings on this blog.
i saw a nun walking down 72nd street as i was passing by on the 2nd ave. bus last week. this pretty much doesn't count because i know that there is a convent on 72nd street between 2nd and 3rd avenues. that's too easy.
i saw two nuns in those mother theresa white with blue trim habits (can't remember the name of her order as i'm not catholic) just missing the r train as the doors closed at the lexingon avenue subway station on friday.
i never say anything to the nuns i see. but i think in my head, oh, you're my nun of the week, my reminder of what is important. thank you, sister.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

a kick@ss lent

this lenten season is rockin for me. i don't give things up for lent - so far i believe that i will not only not grow spiritually if i give up chai - in fact, anyone in a 20 ft. radius of me would suffer for 40 days and nights. instead of giving things up, i take on a spiritual practice. sometimes it's yoga or meditation or praying the psalms daily.
my church recently joined a group called manhattan together. it's part of the industrial areas foundation. manhattan together is a consortium of congregations and social work organizations that listen to people's needs and work together to help get those needs taken care of. so, rather than us upper east siders stepping into harlem, say, and telling people, "you need x, y, and z and we are here to give it to you." like lady bountiful, we get to know our community and neighbors and ask them what they need and then look to our people power - resources, networks, sheer numbers - to make something happen.
a classic story is when some people who lived in a large apt. building in the bronx went to their parish priest saying, we need improvements in our apartments. they drew up an inventory of each apt. and what needed repairing and brought it to the (notorious) landlord who said he would fix it. and then he sent the tenants a letter stating that homeland security had asked for each tenant's name, social security number, address, and telephone number. one family moved out in the middle of the night but the rest went to the priest who went to the bronx version of manhattan together and they called their contacts at the housing authority and by the end of the story all the repairs were made and the tenants, who by working together got to know each other really well, had a big party.
this is a long way to describing my supercool lent but what we're doing at my church for lent is talking with each other to determine what issues come up for members of the congregation (almost all of us live in the neigb. of the church). now, i have been a parishioner at my church for 27 years - since i was 12 - and i am having conversations with people i have known most of my life that i have never had before. i'm learning about what really matters to people, what they notice about the neighborhood, about injustices large and small. the conversations are one-on-one and it's so amazing to see these people pairing off at coffee hour and talking. after the one-on-one i see these duos then walking out of church together, still talking, down the block, into the healthfood store, still talking. it's remarkable. i feel blessed and honored to be able to listen as people tell me what their lives are like or what they notice around us.
when we're done with our one-on-ones at church, we're going to talk with our neighbors in the community - there's a public h.s. and a housing project down the block. should be interesting to get to know the people we see all the time but don't know.
if you do lent, i hope yours is as kick butt as mine. i love lent. it's so quiet and soft. gentle and purple.