Hurricane Matthew last October spared very little in the island nation of Haiti, with a reports of nearly 900 dead, more than 200 injured, a half dozen missing, and more than 60,000 residents displaced, and mounting threats of a cholera in areas, according to a recent CNN news story.
It was Monday, December 19, 2016 and a gentleman walked into the Church Mouse expressing a desire to find a gift for his wife. He was thin, seemed a bit weak, wearing clothes that were faded and frayed. He glanced around our resale shop and found a framed poster of a Paris postcard. He approached a volunteer on the sales floor mentioning that he wanted to give his wife the poster for Christmas. However, he didn’t have enough money to buy it. He asked the volunteer if they would take a couple of hand-made trinkets as a form of payment. He reached into his pocket and placed the items on the counter. The volunteer pondered what to do since they were not accustomed to conducting business in this manner. The manager on duty was informed that the man would like a discount for the poster. It was agreed to reduce the price to accommodate him. Upon the return of the volunteer to the sales floor, a customer overheard the discussion about the price and the man’s situation. The gentleman repeated that although grateful for the reduction, he was still short on funds to purchase the poster. It was then that the customer discreetly approached a staff member and told them to give the gentleman the poster and she would pay for it. We obliged. The gentleman was very appreciative and extremely happy. He left the Mouse and rode away on his bicycle after finding the perfect gift for his wife.
Here in Nova Scotia, I was reading the Sunday Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper the other week when I was reminded of the 2005 Kenyon College commencement speech delivered by the prodigious writer David Foster Wallace. The beginning of the speech opens with a short story that goes like this, “There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’ “
A few weeks ago, I was giving my weekly reading to the “Butterflies” class at the Opportunity Early Childhood Education and Family Center in the Westgate section of West Palm Beach—an agency founded by the women of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in the 1930’s.
I arrived at Bethesda a little early. My call was for 1:15 p.m., and I was very excited to be, for the first time, part of a team cooking for the homeless. Marty Straton and Lesli Rothwell arrived together, and June Sory joined us a few minutes later. Marty had not known that I was there to help, but seemed very relieved that we now numbered four. Things moved quickly—twelve enormous cans of black beans, a package of Jasmine rice (the size of June from head to toe), three hundred and fifty hotdogs, bread, and salad. After cooking all the rice, we put together eight huge pans of beans and rice. The scrubbing and cleaning of the cooking pans and the kitchen, followed. I asked for directions to St. George’s. Marty was surprised that I was planning to help serve, but she quickly thanked me for volunteering to do so.
In the Gospel of John, following the exchange between Peter and Jesus where Peter is instructed to feed the sheep, Jesus says something poignant and powerful to his eager disciple. “When you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”
As the Associate for Outreach and Development I'm often asked what "development" entails. The simple answer is that it has to do with overseeing our annual stewardship and capital campaigns, Heritage Society, and major gift support. But there's a much broader aspect to development. Ultimately, it's about transformation: the transformation of our own lives which, in turn, makes it possible for God to use us in the transformation of the lives of others. The Rev. Jerry Keucher writes in his book, Remember the Future, "The church has always provided the elements of transformation: the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the life of the community...These things change us over time if we give them even half a chance."
Summer is a time for relaxation and fun, but if can also be a time for reflection and spiritual growth. Bethesda can assist you in this journey—even if you are away from Palm Beach. If you have access to a computer, Bethesda is as close as your fingertips.