Pausing for Thursday.

18 November, 2010 § Leave a comment

I know, I know — I’ve woefully neglected this little corner of space in the blogging world… my only disclaimer is that I’m still learning how to navigate the “limitations” (perceived or otherwise) of going without a personal computer this year as part of my commitment to radical simplicity. As much as I love libraries, I’ve also learned I do not love library computers, even though they provide some of my only Internet access time during the course of the week. There’s something about a ticking clock, crammed rows of coughing, sniffling and twitching bodies, and an impersonal desktop that stifles the writing urge, if you know what I mean… thankfully, my housemates have also all been very generous with sharing their laptops so that I can at least check email or write papers for the “Theology of Poverty” grad course or work on text-based projects on a semi-regular basis when we have the chance to use the Internet at Taft Coffee Shop between Tuesday and Friday.

OK. I digress. Allow me to pick up my original train of thought:

Earlier this Tuesday morning found me and two of my housemates, Matt and Becky, taking a break from routine as we gleefully crawled around a corner-bit of green tucked behind the Elder St. artist lofts complex in our neighborhood. Sandwiched by exhaust-producing parking lots on one side and an abandoned warehouse building on the other, the tucked away community garden that our Bulgarian friend Lucy and her small, four-legged companion (an inquisitive canine of unknown descent who responds to the name of Chloe) invited us to work in for several hours provided us the chance to take temporary refuge in a (literal) oasis of flourishing vegetation and new life in the midst of inner city sprawl. Matt grabbed a shovel and went to work transplanting several young trees with tenacious roots and shivering leaves to other more spacious locations throughout the garden, trailed by Lucy’s animated hand motions, unceasing chatter and frequent references to “those guys” — apparently her anthropomorphist tendencies include fond conversations with trees, shrubs and bees alike. In the meanwhile, Becky and I stifled giggles at the interactions between this garrulous European artist and our rather reserved teammate, and then lost ourselves in pulling dandelions, weeds, old leaves, discarded plastic bottles and other unwanted items from the vegetable and flower beds all around us. Although we weren’t changing anyone’s lives (unless you count our own mental sanity) by being present in the garden that day, it was still a beautiful manifestation of what it looks like to embrace a God-given stewardship of the natural resources found even in the midst of a man-made concrete jungle… and after the three hours flew by, we were able to stand up, stretch out our backs, brush the grainy dirt off of our knees, and look at a job truly well done: lettuce, arugula, green peppers and thyme that had been previously crowded out by weeds now had room to grow and multiply, thereby providing food for Lucy and her mother’s daily meals; discarded vegetation had been gathered and redistributed to the compost pile; and the rest of the apartment complex would now be able to benefit from a more orderly, open green space.

True to form in a year characterized by ever-evolving opportunity to serve, I also rejoiced in the chance to embark upon another rich adventure this week, one that will hopefully repeat itself every Wednesday morning for the rest of the year: volunteering at the Gano Mission Center’s food bank, a community facility located in the Latino side of our neighborhood and within easy 25-minute walking distance from our home. Although this was my first time there, the welcoming nature and enthusiasm displayed by the small but dedicated staff at Gano turned the experience into an unexpected homecoming as my teammate and I quickly settled into an easy rhythm with the flow of traffic throughout the course of the morning. I met bag ladies with beautifully high cheekbones and patched hoodies, young mothers pushing squeaky strollers with wide-eyed babies perched inside, wrinkled old men with ready winks and shaky hand grips, and large families with over 7 mouths to feed. We stumbled through laughing conversation and quick hugs as I attempted to piece together the few Spanish words I’ve picked up since moving to Houston; the individuals receiving food and household items were granted respect and personal dignity as they picked cans, bags of dried beans and bunches of yellow onions off of the shelves themselves; and I felt myself choking up as I watched my new friends Rhonda, Maria, Rafael, Delores, Raymundo and Mona walk one by one out the door into November’s cold sunlight with so much more balanced in their arms than what can be physically constrained by a brown paper bag of groceries.

It’s been a good week.

“Of the thousand experiences we have,
we find language for one at most
and even this one merely by chance
and without the care it deserves.
Buried under all the mute experiences are those unseen ones
that give our life its form, its color, and its melody.”
Pascal Mercier


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