Hopefully we all have people in our lives that we admire.This doesn't mean they individuals are perfect in any way, but certainly they lead life in a way we find admirable . . . respectable . . . possibly heroic . . . and at the least, reflecting a certain quality we hope to emulate in our own life.I have lots of these (which, by the way, does not make ANY of them cheap or less meaningful).I will say without hesitation that each of my friends, certainly my family, and quite honestly anyone I choose to talk to more than once has a quality that I respect and admire.
I recently had the opportunity to spend a week with two people I have known my whole life who I have continually held in high esteem for the way they choose to live their lives.The key word is CHOOSE.Most of us lead a life of significant privilege - how do we CHOOSE to use it?I'm certainly not suggesting we all go live under a rock and eat worms.Gross.No.But I AM prying a bit, wondering how it is we use the privilege we have - just because of who we are, however that might manifest itself.Whoa, rant - back on track.
Ok, so - Calvin and Nelia recently (in the past 3 years) moved to the Open Door Community in Atlanta, GA after having established and serving at an inner city ministry in Evansville, IN for the past 25 years.I have not figured out EXACTLY how things work at ODC, but I have a better understanding now that I have been. The Open Door Community is a residential community in the Catholic Worker tradition (sometimes called a Protestant Catholic Worker House!). They seek to dismantle racism, sexism and heterosexism, abolish the death penalty, and create the Beloved Community on Earth through a loving relationship with some of the most neglected and outcast of God's children: the homeless and our sisters and brothers who are in prison. They serve breakfasts and soup-kitchen lunches, provide showers and changes of clothes, staff a free medical clinic, conduct worship services and meetings for the clarification of thought, and provide a prison ministry, including monthly trips for families to visit loved ones at the Hardwick Prisons in central Georgia. They also advocate on behalf of the oppressed, homeless and prisoners through nonviolent protests, grassroots organization and the publication of amonthly newspaper, Hospitality. (You should really read SIGNPOSTS, which REALLY lets you know how they live there. http://www.opendoorcommunity.org/signposts.htm) What a complete and strange dichotomy it is to go from this kind of community straight into traveling. Keep in mind that I am the VERY budget, no frills, $30 a day kind of traveler who sometimes stays in fairly sketchy places to save a dime. I don't necessarily fit the 30-something, white, educated, American, traveler stereotype - shouldn't I have my own jet by now? None-the-less it is interesting to flip from a world that is content and fulfilled with very little material wealth and a healthy, meaningful community into the world of (seemingly) endless expendable resources, yet not necessarily the best community and CERTAINLY little respect for the individual. I know, we talk about this everyday. The poor are really rich and the rich are really poor. But REALLY! If we REALLY want to be happy, why don't we get poor? How is it that society has such a death grip on our psyche that we can't let go of outlandish material possessions and comforts to appreciate each other and what it means to live into the person we are? Why can we not relieve ourselves of the desire for status, power, and control? We call ourselves educated and enlightened, yet we hardly have the nerve to go to a movie or dinner by ourselves for fear of being by ourselves - not being seen with someone else. We must be awful if we're alone.
In a round about way, I guess this is part of my mission.To be alone.To be on a tight budget in the midst of great wealth.To listen to myself.To HAVE to make simple choices so that later I CAN make simple choices.And to take time to meet other individuals and engage them at a level that I rarely take the time or patience to engage.
My new friend Mike from the ODC shared about a time in his life when he had lost everything and felt so lonely.He then shared what a gift it was to be in a new community where he felt like he was treated like family (the good kind).His ambition was to treat everyone he met like family in return.I learned a lot from Mike.Oh God, help me to be more like Mike.