Friday, August 30, 2013

Michigan bikers hanging out with the Sisters of Charity

You go, Sisters!  Next time I'm in that area, I may have to look these sisters up.  My kind of women.  

Apparently there is a big yearly motorcycle rally in Brown Deer, WI, and for the last ten, the Muskegon (MI) Motorcycle Gang has been staying at the sisters' retreat house.

Muskegon biker with Wisconsin Sister of Charity at their retreat house

Here's what they have to say:

"Motorcycle men and women are absolutely delightful," [Sr. Anne Marie] said. "We struck up a wonderful friendship."
Bill Carothers of the Muskegon Motorcycle Gang said the two groups have more in common than many would think.
"Their charter is much in common with what ours is -- helping others less fortunate," he said.
There are 23 members of the MMG staying at the retreat. Carothers said that after a deadly crash in 2012 that claimed two of their members and injured eight others in Fond du Lac County, the tranquility of the retreat has been a godsend.
"It has been a very hard year for everyone," he said.
The MMG appreciate having their extended family in Brown Deer to lean on. They have also been known to take the sisters on rides around town.

Ride nice. Pray hard.
Good advice.
Ride nice, everyone. And wear your helmets.  Too many people in the ICU with my mom were there after accidents.  The rest of us need to ride - drive! - nicely too.  And ALL of us need to pray hard for each other and offer each other such hospitality.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013


raining cats and dogs Friday afternoon

I posted the Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day rain song on Facebook.  It was pouring.  I heard jokes about seeing an ark in progress.  Now I hear there are flash flood warnings.

In the midst of this, it occurred to me how different a rainstorm is here than in Haiti.  Thunder and lightning and rain are just no big deal to most of us.  We don't think much about drainage.

I wonder if the little fish in my sister's fountain pond will still be there in the morning. This afternoon, the pond level had already risen several inches. 

This evening as we drove back to the hospital, we said, "Wow, look at all that water rushing down the road."  My sister complained that her socks were wet, and I thought how fortunate I was that I hadn't put any on, as my sneakers have holes to let out water - and therefore let it in. (They were great shoes for Haiti, but I may need to rethink these shoes now that I'm back in snow country.)   Wet feet aren't a problem.

On the way home from the hospital, though, it was still pouring, and there was water streaming through the parking garage.  How glad were were to have that parking garage! No need to make a mad dash to the car. As we pulled out into the dark, rainy night, it occurred to me that if this kind of rain were happening in Port-au-Prince, there would be a lot of people whose homes would be washed out.

earlier this summer

Here I notice the intermittent hum of the sump pump in the basement, but I'm not worried about any homes being washed away.  My father points out that there are big floods here, and I do remember the Flood of '82, when all the high schools were dismissed so we could help sandbag (do I date myself?), but that was slow, so slow, not the result of one good thunderstorm.

from  30th Anniversary of the Great Flood of 1982: Where were you?
As the magnitude of the disaster became clear city officials set up sandbagging stations around town, manned mainly by high school kids. They filled more than a million sandbags to reinforce dikes and protect property. Volunteers fanned out all over town, piling sandbags, evacuating residents and rescuing belongings. It was a civic effort whose story survives as legend to this day.
“The number of people that came to do whatever they could do,” recalls Dick Fox, “the sandbags, whether that was a friend or competitor or customer. And so you know it really was a community spirit kind of thing.”
Fort Wayne’s plight and her spirit made national headlines, the nation called us ‘the city that saved itself’. And on March 16th President Ronald Reagan flew in from Washington to praise the city’s resolve, raise our spirits and join in the fight. Fort Wayne’s three rivers would hover above flood stage until March 26th. By the time the waters receded 9000 people had been evacuated, 2000 homes destroyed, 56-million dollars in damage.

In Haiti could also pretty much assume that there would be no power in our neighborhood. When a thunderstorm was in progress, the electric company normally shut it off even if they'd turned it on earlier. Here I was surprised when my sister made sure my dad had a flashlight in case the power went out.  That possibility hadn't even occurred to me - but I also didn't feel the need to get one. (Honestly, I don't remember a single time the power has gone out here in Indiana just because of the rain. The Blizzard of '78, yes.  This doesn't quite stack up against that.) If the power goes out, I'll just go to sleep for the night. No problem.  I might even sleep better with real dark and no little noises from various electronic devices.  Maybe Piper the hedgehog would even take a nap instead of running on his wheel.

I heard this was to be an unusually active hurricane season.  So far, so good.  Let's pray that continues. When it rains hard in Haiti, just a normal rain, it floods.  If Haiti takes a hit from a hurricane, it will be a disaster they can't afford.  Just praying the heavy rain will stay away.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

the 'busy' trap

dashing about

I just read an article with some real truth in it, "Anxiety; The 'Busy' Trap", and I think it's more than worth sharing.  I've been thinking about this in various ways since becoming a sister, in a new way since going to Haiti, and yet again differently since beginning this long stretch of time waiting with my mother in the hospital. Time flows differently, and what needs to be done and what is life-giving are of a different nature.  But there is still a need to find a space between busyness and sabbath, a space for quiet listening, a space where my mind and heart have room to grow and my prayer can become fruitful. It's in this kind of space that God has room to work in me and beauty can begin to grow.

It's so easy to stay busy instead.  In fact, some of us do really enjoy it. I do believe we all need real work to have a sense of satisfaction.  The key here, I think, is not to confuse busyness with doing the work we need to do, any more than we should confuse laziness with essential down time. In our culture, we've swung to the far end of the spectrum.

Consider the birds of the air...
a bananaquit on the umbrella tree blossoms in our yard
Delmas, Haiti

When I first arrived in Haiti, I hadn't learned how to do many of the things that needed to be done, and I had not yet begun many of the assignments that were eventually mine and which I very much enjoyed.  It's not that there was nothing do do, but there were moments I had nothing I had to do. This was so unusual a situation that it provoked a certain amount of anxiety.  I thought I was missing something. I felt lazy despite Sister's assurances that I was doing enough.  And of course, the situation changed soon enough.

This, of course, was a sad state of affairs for a sister.  Sabbath time? Reveling in the unusual gift of time for more prayer, for studying Creole, for creativity, for enjoying the beauty around me?  It's a spiritual issue as well as one of mental well-being.  Time to relearn.

In doing so, I remembered something else, something useful during times when the to-do list seems endless: I can accomplish a lot more during my work time when I also take time for this refreshment.

I do best when quieted by the beauty around, bathing in the sound of water, humming with the bees, breathing in the greenness of life.  However, most of us don't have the freedom of writers like the one whose article I just read. Most of us can't escape to a rural setting.  Fortunately, there are many ways we can make room.

God's gift of abundant life is best received when we make space for it.

a deer near my parents' house in Michigan

Here are some excerpts from the article:

IF you live in America in the 21st century you've probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It's become the default response when you ask anyone how they're doing: ''Busy!'' ''So busy.'' ''Crazy busy.'' It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: ''That's a good problem to have,'' or ''Better than the opposite.''
Notice it isn't generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet...
Almost everyone I know is busy. They feel anxious and guilty when they aren't either working or doing something to promote their work...
BUT just in the last few months, I've insidiously started, because of professional obligations, to become busy. For the first time I was able to tell people, with a straight face, that I was ''too busy'' to do this or that thing they wanted me to do. I could see why people enjoy this complaint; it makes you feel important, sought-after and put-upon. Except that I hate actually being busy. Every morning my in-box was full of e-mails asking me to do things I did not want to do or presenting me with problems that I now had to solve. It got more and more intolerable until finally I fled town to the Undisclosed Location from which I'm writing this.

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I've remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I'm finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It's hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it's also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration -- it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done. 
(New York Times - ANXIETY; The 'Busy' Trap By TIM KREIDER  Published: July 1, 2012)