Saturday, March 31, 2012

Meeting Jesus in a Soup Kitchen

(note: although all the events are true, I have deleted minor details to protect the privacy of the people mentioned in this, especially names.)

Recently (last Saturday, actually), my confirmation class went on a retreat and visited a soup kitchen. And I met Jesus.

I've gotten some funny looks when I've said that, as if meeting Jesus isn't a thing people usually do. Which kinda makes me laugh and then makes me sad, because people SHOULD be able to see Jesus in everyone they meet. I don't know if that means they're not looking, or that people aren't acting like Jesus. Either way, that's a bit sad.

So anyway: the retreat. Our group met in our church to discuss what our experience at this soup kitchen would be like. We would serve lunch to the members, as they were called, at the day shelter, and we would play bingo with them. We talked about making sure to see Jesus in the people we served there--to look past their appearance and circumstances, and to recognize their humanity, as well as their divinity.

When we got to the soup kitchen, I was (understandably) a bit nervous--soup kitchens and the homeless aren't things I generally hang around very often. As we started off, I was pretty silent, washing tables as people finished eating and trying to be invisible. I smiled and said polite things, but I didn't really converse with anyone (conversation was somewhat impeded by the piano player in the back of the room as well; I felt like an idiot because anytime anyone said anything to me, I had to ask them to repeat it multiple times).

Finally, near the end of the hour and a half that we were serving, a middle-aged black man with a pencil behind his ear said hi to me. Because there wasn't many people left, I felt free to sit down and talk. He asked me how I was doing, and just a few minutes after that, he began asking me deeper questions--what I wanted to do with my life; what dreams I had. I told him I wanted to be an author, and when he asked me what I wanted to write, I began describing "A Wrinkle in Time" to him. By this point, several of the others in my group had sat down at the table and were listening too. I asked him if he read many books, and he said no, he preferred working with his hands (this made me smile; after all, Jesus was a carpenter). He then asked us why we were there, and when we told him we were on a confirmation retreat, and that our church was St. Martin of Tours, he asked us what the story of that saint was. This post is excessively long already, so I'm not going to retell this story; if you aren't familiar with it, please look up this saint--he's a pretty great guy. Anyway, we talked for a while longer--half an hour or so. The best part of our conversation was when he thanked all of us for recognizing the Jesus in him, regardless of his outside appearance. It was wonderful how that happened, because he used the exact same phrases that our group had said at that meeting just a few hours earlier. We said goodbye to him, and he left, saying how he was happy to have met us.

So I found Jesus in a soup kitchen that day. Who knows where I'll see him next. Maybe it'll be in you. :)

Song of the day: "Almost Lover" by A Fine Frenzy. Wonderful song! And really relatable to me lately.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

AP world history is useful?!?!

So I have quite a few thoughts that I plan to turn into blog posts in the near future, but I’m going to restrain myself and not post them all in one day.

Anyway, as the title says, ap world history might actually have a use—who knew! Recently we’ve been studying Islam, especially the controversial issues surrounding it, like the women forced to wear veils and suicide bombers attacking innocents in the name of God…but that’s not what I want to talk about.

In the past few days, something pretty stupid that I did (along with this wonderful guy that I sometimes call mine, even though he isn’t; he’s God’s) came out to my parents. Now I’m not going to say what it was…because it was stupid and embarrassing, and because I’m not sure who might read this. I’ll just say that it wasn’t good (and it wasn’t sex. So y’all (haha, I sound southern now) can put that out of your heads). And though it wasn’t good for lots of reasons, the reason that bothers me the most is that it compromised the dignity of both of us, especially me (for no reason other than I’m female and he kinda has a responsibility to guard me from the loss of my dignity, if that makes any sense, because I don’t care to explain exactly what I’m thinking).

And that got me thinking about the veils those women wear. The other day, we watched a video where multiple women were interviewed who wore the veils, and they were all asked if they thought it lessened the value of their femininity. Every single woman interviewed said she felt dignified and valued in wearing the veil, which shocked the interviewers. Now, this is western culture’s belief, and until recently I’ve agreed wholeheartedly (yeah, I’m a bit of a feminist)—forcing women to wear veils whenever they’re in the presence of a male not in their immediate family IS degrading to women. But…in light of this past week and all the stupid decisions I’ve made that left me feeling awfully degraded (kinda like a pure white cloth that’s been stained with blood (haha, quite a bit of symbolism in THAT image!)) and like I’m trying to hold on to scraps of my dignity, I think I’ve changed my mind a bit about veiled women.

Yeah, many of the other things they are put thru, like not being allowed to go to school or whatever other things they can’t do, don’t dignify women, and do make them less than men in that way. But the veils have a different message. They say “I’m a precious treasure, and as such, only the one whom I allow to have all of me, body and soul, can see fully who I am, because I respect myself too much to let just anyone have me; I’m a gift to be given, not an object to lust after.” And that’s a message I’d like to send to others—and I feel like I haven’t done a very good job of that lately. Think of how different THAT message is from the message that western women wearing short shorts and low-cut shirts send!

I think that’s something I really need to think about. I’m not going to start wearing a veil everywhere I go; first of all I’m not Islam (or Muslim, I still haven’t figured out which one you use, and when), and second, I’d probably get lynched or something in the town I live in (white, middle-class, Christian—no diversity at ALL). But the idea of that—protecting like a priceless gem the treasure that I am as a woman, even (and especially) from my boyfriend or any others I might date—is something too alluring to ignore. Demanding respect above anything else, because I deserve it—even when I feel like I don’t. Because we all deserve it. Too many young people—girls especially—are giving up so much of who they are, and they really deserve better than that.


Just lost my train of thought! This is what happens when your dad needs your help to edit his résumé….. Oh well. I think there’s enough thought for one blog post without me bothering to try and regain my conclusion. So until next time (whenever that may be)…………

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

homework, mothers, and chronic stress (warning: rant ahead)

so.....i've been stressed lately. way stressed. yeah, i just got back from winter break a few days ago, i know that. but i don't think that did anything for me except move my stress a week away.

first off, my mom did something pretty low today. i see my boyfriend maybe once a week. maybe. and i was going to see him tonight, at church. i was all excited for a whole 3 hours to spend together; i've been excited about tonight for a few weeks now. and, right before we walk out the door, she drops the bomb. "hey, you're not going." ...yeah. supposedly i have "too much homework." (which is true, but seeing my boyfriend is a little more important than AP world history) adding "oh, and the bathroom smells funny. clean it before i come home," she walks out the door. i race to the phone, trying to catch my boyfriend before he leaves for church...and miss him, of course, because something shouldn't go right in my day--that'd be too nice. so i'm kinda determined not to do any homework while she's gone, but drink hot chocolate for 3 hours, just to spite her. (stupid? maybe. reasonable? in my mind, yes.)

and then there's the pile of homework i need to do. it's in three categories--way overdue, to be turned in soon, and to be turned in before the end of the semester (after exams, in 2.5 weeks). and i've counted out the hours it'll take to do it all, and the hours i HAVE until the semester ends....and there's just no mathematical OR logical way to make them come close. it'll take a miracle and some really good motivation to get it all done. since my grades are a bit shaky because i have so many missing assignments.....they need to be done. i don't know how i'm going to do them all, i just know that when the semester ends, SOMEHOW i'm going to have all my work turned in.

so if there's such a thing as chronic stress, yeah, i have it. big time. and i'm not in some poetic mood today, saying that of course there's going to be a happy ending, because there probably isn't. the best i can do is acknowledge it....and then get back to my homework.