Posts tagged Catholic Charities

Priorities

PrioritiesI can’t be sure why I’m poking along, taking my time getting to McKinleyville, California. It was only 22 miles from Trinidad, but I just couldn’t seem to ride very far each day. I found my mind wandering a lot, and about nothing special.

The views of the ocean were spectacular. I could hear the ebb and flow of the waves as they rhythmically move, almost like some sort of dance. At one point, there was a parking area off the side of the road with access to the beach.

I decided to take time out from this ride and do some reflecting. Water always helped me feel close to God, and God was who I was missing right then.

As I sat on the beach, allowing the ocean to tickle my toes, I thought back as to why I seemed to feel depressed. The weather had been picture perfect, so I knew that wasn’t it. My money was holding out, and I wasn’t yearning for any nourishment.

I decided to think back as to when this depressed feeling started. I had been unsuccessful finding any type of volunteer work in Trinidad, but that hadn’t bothered me. I took advantage of my time there and did a lot of sightseeing.

Then it hit me, while I was out snooping around, I came across an old man who was kneeling before some sort of memorial that had been erected in his backyard. I quietly watched this man as he prayed; at least I think he was praying. When he finished, I saw him touch a photo that had been imbedded into the stone memorial. I could make out that the photo was of a woman.
I allowed myself to assume this woman was the man’s wife. I figured he recently lost his wife, and was still mourning the loss. Judging by his frailty and white hair, I figured the man to be in his late 80’s or maybe early 90’s. Assuming he and his wife married young, I figured they had been married over 60 years. How hard that would be to love someone that long and be the one left behind.

Later that day, as I sat at the diner counter eating my lunch, I inquired about the old man. My waitress, a middle-aged woman, knew exactly who I was talking about, but some of my assumptions were wrong. The man was 92, but the photo was a picture of his daughter who had passed away over 60 years ago.

The man had been a salesman which took him away much of the week. His daughter would often beg him to come to one of her baseball games, but Jim, the old man, always explained that work came first. His daughter grew to accept the fact that her father’s job took him away, and unlike her friends’ parents, was unable to be a bigger part in her life. Her mom would show up occasionally, but most game days, the mother needed to be home with their other children.

On one sunny day, the girl headed off to practice and was struck by a speeding car. She was killed instantly. Her father was away and couldn’t be reached by phone since there weren’t any cell phones back then. His wife had to wait until he phoned her to give him the tragic news.

My heart grew heavy thinking about how this father must have felt hearing that horrible news long distance. I began to realize just how good things like cell phones, internet, and other modern devices are to communicating with others. I had often condemned the popularity of texting stating that it takes away the closeness between people, but this story made me rethink my position on this.

As I continued to listen, my waitress grew solemn while she swallowed hard before finishing her story. She said, “That man was my father. He was never the same after my sister was killed.”
I made my condolences, quietly finished my lunch, and got on my way. I had been thinking how tragic it had been that the man had never seen his daughter play baseball, probably missed birthdays, first attempts at anything, and wasn’t there the day the accident happened.

I soon realized that my depression was based off of the number of times I had ignored a loved one, claiming to be too busy for them. Subconsciously, I had been thinking how selfish my ride seemed to be, but then I realized that I was still doing God’s work. I thought back to all the wonderful people I had met and who had helped me along my way.

As I sat watching the waves dance, I decided that the best thing I could do to remedy my situation was to call family and friends more often. I even thought that some of my nieces and nephews may like to join me on some of this ride. How great would that be to have that kind of quality time with a loved one.

I got up, brushed the sand off of me, and headed back to my bike. I grabbed my phone, called each of my siblings, and told them how much I love them and miss them. Then I called a few friends and my nieces and nephews. Surprisingly, my middle niece said she’d love to ride with me. Her job is with a local ministry, and they decided she could do some ministering along the way.
I’ll be meeting up with Sarah in Eureka, California. I have new found energy since Eureka is only about 25 miles from where I stood. I felt like I had my priorities straight again. Never would I ever take any loved one for granted for we just don’t know when God calls them home.

And in my real world, I just experienced losing my uncle. He lived in California for years. I remember when I was growing up, looking forward to seeing Uncle Hal because he had traveled the world, seen so much, and had such delightful stories to share.

My sister, brother-in-law, and I took a trip out to see him about ten years ago. We had a blast and Hal had shown us so many wonderful sights around the San Francisco area. Then we helped him cull through some personal items that he was thinking about parting with. Most of the items were household items. He gave me this fabulous set of Royal Dalton china that I display proudly in my hutch.

About five years ago, my uncle’s health started going downhill. My sister and I must have said at least a dozen times in the past two years that we needed to get back out to see Hal since he was not able to come see us anymore.

We kept saying, “Maybe next year we can plan a trip out there.” Now it’s too late. Hal has been called home to be with God, and we are left to mourn like the fictitious man at the beginning of my blog.

As my sister and I drove back to Nebraska, where Hal was laid to rest, we spoke about how we had not been good about prioritizing our lives to accommodate the aging relatives we still have. We were grateful that we were able to see some of those relatives at Hal’s funeral, and we are now busy trying to make plans for some sort of family reunion somewhere halfway between the places we live.

Life is too short to spend most of your time working. As important as our jobs are to our livelihood and the people we touch on with any jobs we have, we have to know when to say, “I’m going home to be with my family. That piece of work can wait until tomorrow.”

You see, the work will always be there, and if you aren’t there to do it, someone else will get it done. But you may not have another opportunity to see that school play, a first date, or a special birthday. And for those of you who still have parents who are living, take the time to do things with them even if it’s a little inconvenient for you.

Also, recognize when others, who value family time a little more than you might, need more personal time than maybe you do. Just because you are focused on work projects, doesn’t mean they need to be just like you. God made us alike in a lot of ways, but He also made each of us individually.

I’m going to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to my boss and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado for giving me the personal time off to attend my uncle’s funeral. As my family and I mourn our loss, I can be thankful that I work for a great bunch of people who do recognize that we all need to prioritize the work we do into our personal lives.

So before you race off to another meeting, or head to the gym before going home, take some time to at least call someone and say, “Hey, have I told you lately just how much I love you?” And as always, let’s keep going the distance. God bless you all, and I love you.

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A Purpose in Life

Our-prime-purpose-in-this-life-is-to-help-othersIt’s been an exciting 24 miles of salt filled air, but one can’t see the ocean from this stretch of the highway. In fact, one can’t see much at all because you’re busy watching all the traffic around you. It’s a beautiful section of highway, flanked by trees on both sides, but because it’s only a two-lane, one must be attentive to all those vehicles.

I find myself thinking “Where are they going?” I soon find that many are heading to Bullards Beach State Park near Bandon, Oregon; the same place I’m staying at. It sits inland enough to be protected from the strong ocean breezes, but it’s near the Coquille River, so many of those entering the park have boats.

I will be doing some crabbing, and I don’t mean complaining. Having never crabbed before, I was a bit hesitant to try, but I was told that it’s quite easy. They have a special dock where one can chat with others making it easy to pick up pointers from the pros.

I rented a yurt, a domed tent structured by a wood frame with a wood floor. It wasn’t exactly what I had expected. The yurts were quite close together, but it was clean and there was a bed so I was a happy camper.

I did a lot of hiking while staying at this park. I went to the historic Coquille River Lighthouse then ventured down the 4 ½ miles of open beach. The sand felt good squishing up between my toes. Having lived inland my entire life, I realize why so many people are drawn to our coastal states. The ocean is mesmerizing, and there are so many different things one can find along the beach. I was like a little kid seeing something for the first time.

My crabbing ended up being a bust, but I was fine with that. I had more fun watching the pros haul in those delectable crustaceans. It made me realize how diverse we all are especially when one ventures out of their comfort zone.

It also made me realize how important each individual is on this fine earth. There isn’t a one of us without a purpose. I know we all have days when we feel bogged down by the humdrum of our lives, but each task we do each day is of value to someone.

So I spent the rest of that day touring this area, and taking note of all the different tasks that were being performed by all the people I came in contact with. It was truly breath-taking, to see just how widespread God made all of us, yet we are all so very much alike; mind boggling to say the least. God is truly the master of all things.

And in my real world, I am coming off our busiest time of the year. It’s during this time that our number of donations and number of clients seen doubles, maybe even triples. And each person who works for Catholic Charities, each person who volunteers, each person needing assistance, each person who donates, plays a critical part in the success of Catholic Charities. There isn’t one job or one person that is more important than the other.

I remember, while living in Aspen, watching this mobile parts distributor pull up to a mechanics shop. I could only assume he was there to present to the mechanic the different products he had that could make the mechanic’s job easier. As I passed the truck, I heard a couple of young guys comment what a “loser job” that parts distributor had. I was appalled. I thought, “Just where do you think that mechanic gets the tools he needs to fix your cars?” And I must confess that when I was much younger, I would occasionally think that certain jobs were below me.

I’m so grateful that I’ve come to a point in my life where I know each of us has a purpose in life. Sometimes that purpose can be highly rewarding, and other times one is totally unaware of what their purpose in life has done for someone. I think those times are the most special to God because we are doing things just because, and not for any kind of recognition.

I see this time and time again here at Catholic Charities. We have so many great volunteers who come each week because they believe in what we do. And I hope they know that Catholic Charities couldn’t do what we do without them. Kudos to all of you who volunteer not only here, but all around the world. God is smiling down on you for your efforts.

And don’t forget to recognize your own purpose in life. It took me a while to realize that one of my purposes in life is to write. I ignored this for years, but have now embraced my writing skills. I have completed my first book, and am now working on the second in a series of books about this epic virtual bike trip I’m on. And as I wait for these books to be published, I’ll continue doing what I do for I know that each task I perform each day is a small piece in God’s perfect plan.

So in this fast pace of life we live in, take some time to appreciate the diversity of tasks being performed around you each day by a diverse group of people. Look for the value in each person to include yourself, and thank God for He is the master of all things. God bless and as always, let’s keep going the distance.

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To Have It All

My first thought when entering Florence, Oregon, is that this is a small community that seems to have it all. You have the Pacific Ocean to the west, pined hills to the east, and sand dunes smack dab in the middle of it all. And the businesses here seem to be just as diverse.

I found a nice quilt shop right off the highway and, of course, I just had to do a little shopping. It’s not as if I don’t have enough fabric, but to be able to say that I bought a piece of fabric in every state is just mind blowing to me. I thought “I just have to have it all” much like this town has. I found some unique finds and the help was oh so friendly. It just made me want to stay, but as usual, my stay here would be short.

I spent the day doing a lot of window shopping, ate at a fabulous seafood restaurant, and got back to the RV park I was staying at in time for the community dance the park was having. Not being a dancer, I opted to sit and watch the retired community members show me what they could do; so many could really cut a rug. It made me a bit jealous that I had never had the confidence to just get out there and learn. I guess I was just too independent most of my life to let go and stop leading, something most men don’t like, but I certainly had fun watching these senior couples as they spun around the dance floor. It seemed to me, at times, that they weren’t two people dancing, but one body floating across the floor. Harmony and synchronicity was prevalent in that amphitheater, and those seniors made me feel like I had all that I needed right there.

But as with so many things in life, the dance ended, and it was time for me to head to bed. I had a long day ahead of me, and I was bound and determined that I was going to make it to California before the year’s end. I was grateful for all the wonderful people I had met, the awesome sights this place has, and the time I was able to spend in this fine community. I’ve often said on this ride of mine, how wonderful God is to have blessed us with so many things. I prayed that night that we all would start seeing this world as God had intended us to see it. I know that God is not happy with the divisions we’ve created on earth, and although I’m only one person and incapable of ridding this world of those divisions, I knew that I could be making small changes with those divisions as I traveled my way through each state. After all, even small changes are an improvement over what we currently have. I ended my prayers thanking God for all the gifts He gives to us each and every day, and promised Him that I would try to recognize something new, some gift of His, with every town I’ll be staying in. And if I could help one person in each town that I go through, I would feel like this trip had a purpose greater than being able to say I traveled through every state in the United States. I fell asleep feeling so close to God. I knew that I truly did have it all right then.

And in my real world, I’m sad to say that Catholic Charities deals with many who do not have it all. Some have nothing but the clothes they are wearing. It’s sad to see, especially at these holiday times. But I know that the staff at Catholic Charities does all they can to help each client with whatever their needs are.
It makes me appreciate the things I have. I may not be rich in wealth, but I’m certainly rich in love. Like those senior couples I spoke about in my virtual world who shared their lives with each other for years, and their love was overwhelming. It’s the love of my family and friends that has gotten me through many a hard time. A friend of mine just spoke on Facebook about how she was thanked by a friend of hers for a small act of kindness she did for that person. And several years ago, while I was visiting my uncle in San Francisco, we were stunned when the car ahead of us had paid our Golden Gate Bridge fee. They didn’t know us and we didn’t know them. Sometimes it’s those little unknown things that we do that makes a person feel like they have it all. So as we enter these holiday times, let’s all try to help someone through some random act of kindness. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t even have to cost you anything, it simply needs to be something that makes that person feel like they count in this world. And imagine the grin on God’s face if we all do one small deed. God bless you all, Happy Thanksgiving, and let’s keep going the distance.

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A Little Pampering

ImageShortly after riding into Bonneville Oregon a police cruiser pulled me over.  My initial thought was “WHAT!?  Is it illegal to ride a bike in this town?”  Well the friendly policeman got out of his car and asked if I was the woman riding her bike across the country.  I told him I was indeed that woman.  “Great,” he said, “Then you must follow me as we’ve been waiting for you.”  Of course my suspicious nature kicked in and I asked to see his ID.  “You know Officer Kennett” glancing at his badge name “one can’t be too careful.  I mean you could have been some nutcase in disguise.”  Officer Kennett laughed and said “You are so right to have asked to see my ID.  I commend you on your safety knowledge and now that we have that behind us, just follow me.  We’re going to head across the river and up the street just a few blocks to the Bonneville Spa.” 

At this point I was excited about getting a little pampering at this spa before I found a place to stay for the night.  After a grueling hot day on the bike I could use a little pampering.  As we approached the Bonneville Spa I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  The place was nestled in pine trees and although the outside was nothing spectacular looking the surrounding area made up for it.  The sounds of the birds and the smell of the pine trees were intoxicating.  

As I approached the front entrance a man came out looking all official.  I figured this must be the hotel manager and right I was.  With arms outstretched the hotel manager said “Welcome to the Bonneville Spa.  We would like for you to enjoy all of our facility here.  You are our guest through Sunday.”  Now I knew I had died and gone to heaven.  

My gear was taken by the valets and I was escorted inside.  The inside was magnificent with its high ceilings, rustic fireplace, and the staff seemed very attentive to my needs.  The concierge took me to my room that had its own hot tub and a balcony that looked out onto the courtyard.  I’m not big into massages, but let me tell you after months of being on a bike, working in fields, bussing tables, and cleaning hotel rooms, being pampered with a massage was just what this old body needed.  Then I experienced one of the finest meals I’ve ever had, pan seared prawns with a wonderful Caesar salad.  Life was good. 

My night’s sleep was divine with the bed feeling almost like you were sleeping on a cloud.  I can’t remember sleeping that soundly in ever so long.  The next morning I was greeted with a fabulous breakfast of eggs, toast, sausage, and fresh fruit.  I was then asked if I wanted to get a facial, go for a hike, take a trip to one of the local wineries, or enjoy other activities the spa was offering.  I thought about it and decided it would be fun to just sit in the comfy chairs in the lobby and read a good book. 

As I sat there I found myself doing more people watching than I was reading.  And what amazed me was the number of people who came in looking like a million bucks and treating the help like they were yesterday’s garbage.  One such couple came close to getting scolded by me, but I noticed the staff employee handled the situation with dignity and finesse something the couple knew nothing about. 

Later that afternoon the manager approached me with suggestions of what they could do to make my stay there even more memorable.  I knew this would be my chance to maybe give something back so I asked if staff was allowed to use the spa’s amenities when not working.  The manager said they can, but most are unable to afford the fees that are charged.  I said “then staff does not get any discounts.”  The manager confirmed that stating it was corporate policy. 

“Well then, would it be against corporate policy if this person here,” pointing to myself, “asks that the way her stay here could be made more memorable is to allow all staff who are interested the pleasure of using whatever amenities they chose free of charge?”  The manager stood there for a moment trying to comprehend my request and finally said “Don’t you like it here?”  “I like it just fine, but after sitting here watching how hard your staff works and how some of the guests treat them I thought it would be nice for them to enjoy a wonderful massage, a facial, a dip in the pool or whatever else they choose to do.  I received such wonderful pampering yesterday and it improved my whole outlook on life so much so that I just feel that your staff deserves a little pampering too.  You may find that they work even harder than they do by allowing them such a privilege.”  The manager smiled and thanked me for my thoughtfulness.  I told him that it has been my experience that you get back what you give to a person and by giving his staff some pampering they would probably be more apt to pamper the guests more than they already do.  The manager agreed to my request and the next few days each staff member was able to enjoy some amenity the hotel/spa offered.  All were so grateful to me and on the day that I left to head back out on the road I was given a wonderful basket of fruits, nuts, and other quick energy snack foods.  My pampered long weekend had come to an end and on such a high note.  I figured I could coast into Troutdale, my next destination, on my refreshed attitude alone.  And the staff at the Bonneville Spa showed that their attitudes were also refreshed.  We all need a little pampering every now and then. 

And in my real world, my mind goes immediately to the clients that Catholic Charities serves each and every day.  It is our goal to always treat each and every one of God’s people with the respect and dignity they deserve.  It may not seem like we pamper our clients much, but I believe by just being there for them, listening to their stories, providing them with some necessary things that help them move on to a better life could seem like pampering to them.  

I have too often seen people of higher means or in a higher position rudely treat someone of a lesser stature.  Sometimes I think people get caught up in their own lives and react without thinking.  Others are just pugnacious by nature and just have a nasty outlook on life.  Whatever the reason, treating people like second rate citizens is just wrong.  We are all God’s children and we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.  And we all deserve a little pampering now and then.  So next time you want to tell someone what they did wrong try telling them what they did right first, give them a little “pampering” and see how much more they’ll do for you.  You might just be surprised at how much more you actually get out of this person.  And just because a person seems down on their luck doesn’t mean they don’t need a little pampering too.  I always think of the bible verse Matthew 25:35 – For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.  We just never know when that stranger might just be Jesus in disguise.  So try pampering someone today and watch them bloom.  And as always, let’s keep going the distance.  God bless you all.

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Stop and Smell the Roses

Image Riding down I-84 more commonly known as the Columbia River Highway I take in the beauty of the Columbia River that snakes its way through Oregon.  And then a pack of cars and a semi blow past me interrupting the peace and tranquility one gets when watching a river flow.  My mind starts wondering where some of these people are headed and if they ever take the time to look at the beauty around them.  

I’ve spent many mornings on this trip watching a sunrise while it spreads its hues of pinks and oranges over the countryside.  How many times before this trip have I missed this daily miracle?  Too many to account for I’m sorry to say.  I ponder how much it must hurt God when He sees how much we miss in life.  We allow our jobs, our children, our pets, and our hobbies to control our very essence.  

I decide to stop for a while to take in the beauty of this grand river.  As I sit by the edge of the river eating my PB&J sandwich I think back on the towns I’ve been through, the people I’ve met, and the things I’ve learned.  The Columbia River Gorge is breathtaking and I’ve hit it at a good time of the year when many waterfalls are flowing and the wild flowers are blooming.  Life is truly good. 

I started this trip with the quest of being able to brag that I rode through every state in the United States and to maybe lose some weight.  How selfish of me to take a trip for such shallow reasons, but God, in His infamous wisdom, has shown me the way.  God is in every sunrise, every meadow of wild flowers, every town, every person, every road I’ve been on while trekking through this great country.  He has drawn me closer to Him than I ever thought I could be. 

A chill rushes through me awakening me and prompting me to get back on my bike and head into The Dalles which is just a few miles away.  I know that I’ll be taking some tours through this fine town and will be meeting some wonderful people.  I stop for just a moment to pray that I always remember to stop and smell the roses. 

And in my real world stopping and smelling the roses is a hard thing to do.  It’s easy to write about doing this on my virtual biking trip, but putting it into practice in the real world is another story.  I find myself getting bogged down with work, with responsibilities of caring for my elderly mother and my pets, of maintaining the house and yard, and trying to finish all those craft projects that I had obsessively purchased these past several years.  Some days the weight of all of these things feels like they are crushing me; pushing the very life out of me.  My life is no different than any other human being, but yet I know that my life is certainly easier than many. 

Working for Catholic Charities of Central Colorado I see on a daily basis the number of people and families whose lives are weighed down much more than mine.  They would love to be able to have the responsibility of maintaining a house and yard, to have a job, to have the resources to care for not only their children, but their parents.  It’s with these thoughts that I realize that by just appreciating that I still have my mother with me, have a fine roof over my head and a yard to tend to, have a job, have pets who are healthy and give so much joy to me, and that I’m still able to afford a hobby and have the ability to continue to work on these hobbies are my bed or roses just waiting for me to stop and smell them.  

Our beds of roses are not always going to be a beautiful sunrise on Pikes Peak or a crystal clear mountain lake’s reflection.  Our beds of roses are every facet of our lives both the good and the bad.  God wants us to appreciate everything we have and do so let’s all learn to take the time to stop and smell those roses.  And may we continue to go the distance.

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A Lesson Well Learned

Image       I can’t believe I’ve only made it through 3 towns in the last 5 months.  I’d say it’s because I’ve been having a great time, but the truth is I’ve been hard at work.  I got into Kennewick Washington in October.  Kennewick is the more popular of the tri-cities in this area.  I quickly found a place to stay and discovered they had a fabulous wine tour which I took.  Kennewick was a lovely town filled with delightful people, but I didn’t stay long as Oregon was calling to me. 

My next stop was Umatilla Oregon.  I set up camp at the Marina RV Park and soon discovered that my funds were running low again.  I had enough money to stay at the RV park for 2 days.  I decided not to chance it and only stayed one.  I was bummed that I couldn’t check out the town better than I did, but it was my own fault. 

I pushed on to Boardman though it seemed to take an eternity to get there.  I think my mood was so down because of my stupidity with my money.  Note to self – always have enough money to live for at least a month.  

As I rode up this one street I noticed a church.  Feeling so low I decided to check it out in hopes that I could have a little quiet praying time.  To my surprise, me being Catholic, it was a Catholic church.  I entered this solemn looking building and instantly felt the presence of God.  I knew instantly that God and maybe a few angels had been guiding me to this place. 

I went to a set of vigil lights, took a dollar out of my wallet and pushed it into the money slot, then lit a candle.  I knelt there looking at Our Lady of Guadalupe and felt this rush of serenity flow through me.  My thoughts also leapt to those times when my mother and her mother would give us some money to light vigil lights.  Oh, the faith that those 2 women had.  As I prayed silently for help and discernment on how to get out of this predicament I got myself into I felt a different presence.  I turned to see a priest standing not far from me. 

He was the pastor of this fine parish.  He asked if I needed any help.  I wondered why he would ask me this, but I soon found out why.  You see this is a tight-knit parish and when a stranger happens in during the middle of the week that person usually needs some sort of help.  I explained to Fr. Nebelung my predicament.  He said, “Well then, you’ll be needing some sort of shelter and a job.  I think we can help with that if you aren’t afraid of a little hard work.”  I told him that there wasn’t much I wouldn’t be willing to do.  He asked me to bring my bike gear around to the back of the church where we secured it in a locked shed.  Then he walked towards the rectory.  I was thinking that it might not look good for me to be staying at the rectory, but I soon found that the rectory had a little cottage behind it.  

Fr. Nebelung unlocked the door.  The one room cottage was dark, but clean.  He told me this unit was used for just the sort of predicament I was in.  I could stay there free of charge for as long as I wanted on one condition, that I help the field workers at one of the local farms.  I looked at him and said “I hope you mean you want me picking produce from the fields because I don’t know how to drive a tractor, combine, or other such machinery.”  He laughed and said that I would indeed be picking produce from the fields.  I was to meet in front of the church at 4:00 a.m.  A truck would be by to pick me up.  I’d be able to connect with the owner of the farm once I got there.  The proper paperwork would be filled out and I’d receive my wages at the end of each day.  I thanked Fr. Nebelung.  He informed me that dinner was served in the rectory at 6:00 p.m. sharp.  He then instructed me to get rested because I would need it. 

I’m a morning person so being ready by 4:00 a.m. was not the issue of the day.  Riding in the back of a crowded pick-up truck was also not the issue.  Providing the proper documents to get paid was the easiest part of my day.  The issue was I soon learned what it’s like for many of the people living and working here in these United States.  Picking produce dawn to dusk is back breaking work.  The farm I was at provided water, food, and bathroom breaks, but I never saw such huge fields of potatoes, onions, and other produce items.  My co-workers seemed to pick 3-4 times what I picked that first day.  

There were times during the day that I felt they were talking about me as most spoke only Spanish.  I didn’t allow myself to dwell on this for I felt it was self-absorbent to think that they were talking about me, but I soon found out they indeed were doing just that.  A fine woman about 5-10 years older than me came up to me and although her English was broken I was able to understand that most of the workers felt I would never be back again.  

Ah, just the sort of motivation I needed to continue on for they had truly been right with their assumptions; I was thinking about finding different work, work more suitable to my needs.  But the more I thought about that, the more I realized just how arrogant that was to think that this field job was below me.  And I wasn’t about to prove to those field workers that they were right. 

So at the end of each day I would drag my tired, hurting body back to my cottage, I’d shower, and then would flop into bed falling asleep before my head even hit the pillow. 

I spent the next 3 months working there.  Not only did I make a lot of new friends of whom I discovered I was able to talk to even though we had such language barriers, but I was probably in the best physical shape I’d been in for years.  I knew that I had learned a lesson that would stick with me for the rest of my life or maybe I should say I had learned several lessons.  Those lessons learned were: 

  • Always have at least a month of income to survive on
  • Know that God is with you always
  • Don’t allow your pride to overshadow the gifts that God has placed before you
  • And most importantly, don’t ever allow your ego to think that you are better than anyone here on this fine earth.  We are all children of God and there’s not a one of us who doesn’t provide some value to this world.

And in my real world work hasn’t been quite that back-breaking, but I have been busy.  Busy enough that I found myself too tired to ride my bike on several occasions.  And then the “chicken shots” for my knees started wearing off, but I soon discovered that by riding at least a mile almost every day that the bike riding truly did help alleviate some of the pain from my knees.  It has been this discovery that has prompted me to get back on this bike and preserve much like I did in my imaginary world.  

And as I wrote about working with those field workers my thoughts went to Catholic Charities’ Family Immigration program and the wonderful works that they do.  We are blessed to have such dedicated and non-judgmental employees who have helped hundreds learn English through ESL classes and help and guide those seeking to become American citizens.  I also think about all those people who work so hard at manual labor jobs and who have probably faced the prejudices of many who feel they are superior for whatever reason.  There isn’t one job here on this earth that isn’t important because each job is held by a human being, a child of God.  May we all learn to drop our prejudices and accept each person as a child of God, a person who deserves the same amount of dignity that we want for ourselves.  And may we all continue to keep going the distance in God’s name.

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Bits and Pieces

I found a quilter’s haven in Spokane so I decided to stay awhile and check out this fine city.  After doing some checking around, I decided my best bet for a long stay was at the Park Lane Motel, Suites & RV Park.  As I was checking in the park manager asked if I was the lady riding across the country on a bike.  I told him I was indeed that crazy lady and that this trip has opened up my eyes to a whole new world of people out there.  We had a nice visit about how we get caught up in our own lives and tend to ignore things going on around us.  He then asked how long I’d be staying.  I told him that I was feeling a bit fatigued and since there was a bunch of quilting stores I wanted to visit, I thought my stay here would be at least a week, but as it eventually turned out I spent almost a month there.  He offered me a maid service job in exchange for my stay there and any hours worked over 20 hours I’d get paid $8.25 an hour.  I figured that was a fair deal so I took him up on this offer. 

I got myself settled in my studio apartment then went to learn all of what I’d be doing as a maid.  Having done this type of work before, I found it to be much the same routine.  It is hard work, but rewarding and it was paying for my room so that was good. 

At the end of my day I walked to the Costco and bought some foods that I could quickly prepare in my tiny kitchen.  Over the next few weeks I checked out the many quilt stores and the rest of this fine town.  I found each quilt store to have something unique, but there was one store that would change my life forever. 

As I entered the A Heart Like Yours Quilt Shop I found an elderly woman showing off a beautifully made quilt to the shop owner.  Not wanting to disturb their conversation I quickly rounded a rack of fabrics and began my search for new and exciting fabrics.  As I moved through the store I kept hearing bits and pieces of their conversation.  I suddenly realized that the elderly woman was trying to sell her quilt to the store owner, that this quilt had been made by her grandmother, and that she had meticulously cared for it for all these years.  The store owner kept telling her that she wasn’t in the market for antique quilts and that the woman would be better off going to an antique store to try to sell it. 

The elderly woman, whose name I would find out soon was Margaret, seemed exasperated with the store owner.  As she carefully folded the quilt and the store owner went off to help a different customer I approached Margaret.  I asked if I could see this fine quilt.  It was exquisite with lots of applique, something I hated doing, with intricate lace work.  I told Margaret that I had overheard that her grandmother had made it, but that I hadn’t heard if it was made for her or if it was something that was handed down to her.  She told me that the quilt was made for her mother’s wedding gift and that when she had gotten married her mother gave it to her.  Being the snoop that I am I asked Margaret why she wasn’t giving it to any of her children.  Margaret explained that the only child she had died at birth and that she had been unable to have any more children.  I pressed her for more information asking why she wanted to sell such an heirloom.  It was at this moment that I was hit with words that cut me right to my core.  

The woman had just lost her husband after a long battle with cancer.  Their insurance company had dropped them claiming that they had been delinquent with their premium payments.  The hospital was demanding payment of over $150,000 and was ready to sue her for payment.  She was forced to sell her house along with most of the furnishings, but she still owed $5000 and the hospital was being relentless.  She said that she didn’t blame the hospital for their aggressive ways because they were hurting financially too.  She just didn’t know where she was going to come up with that final $5000.  

I was close to tears partly because of the woman’s plight, but mostly out of anger with her insurance company, the hospital, and even the store’s owner.  I felt overwhelmed to help this woman, but knew I didn’t have $5000 to give to her.  I at least needed to know what the shop owner felt this quilt was worth.  The store’s owner stated the woman could possibly get a couple thousand dollars if she took it to the right antique store, but she wasn’t sure if any of the antique stores in that area would be willing to pay that much money.  She went on to say that she was trying to convince the woman to hold on to it as it was a family heirloom.  

I returned to Margaret and asked where she was living now that she had sold her home.  She hesitated to tell me, but finally said that she was living in a small storage unit along with the few belongings she had not sold.  I knew that this woman needed a lot more help than just paying off the hospital.  I asked Margaret to come with me that I was going to make sure she got the help she needed. 

We headed back to the RV park.  I found the manager and explained to him what was going on with the woman.  He graciously offered her a room to stay in and asked if she was capable of doing maid work in exchange for the room.  He also contacted the local Catholic Charities there.  The staff at Catholic Charities was able to get Margaret into their Catholic Housing Community and also got the hospital to reduce the amount she owed plus found her a job that wasn’t as taxing as the maid job was.  Margaret was able to keep her heirloom quilt and the few belongings that meant so much to her. 

It would be a few years later that I’d receive a package in the mail containing that beautiful quilt.  There was a note with the quilt that said “Margaret passed away peacefully in the night and that she considered me a daughter to her.”  I was grateful that I had caught bits and pieces of Margaret’s story and had decided to try to help her. 

And in my real life my story isn’t as dramatic, but I must say that God has a way of making our lives bits and pieces of other people’s lives.  I was doing some shopping for my elderly mother at the local Wal-Mart store one Sunday.  The checkout lanes were packed with people standing behind huge carts of groceries.  I kept walking down the aisle looking for the shortest checkout lane.  I finally chose one, but soon realized that I had made a mistake.  My line didn’t seem to be moving. 

I was starting to get frustrated thinking the customers were simply being slow.  I contemplated switching lanes, but remembered every time I had done that in the past the new lane would become the slow lane.  So I stuck it out and stood there impatiently while my legs cramped up on me causing me even more angst.  After an excruciating 15 minute wait I was the next in line.  It was then I realized it was the cashier who was sort of holding up the line with the way she was scanning items.  I wanted to give her a dirty look, but refrained figuring she had enough problems simply being a cashier at Wal-Mart.  I put all my items on the belt when suddenly I heard behind me “is that any good?”  I turned to find the man asking me if something in my basket was any good.  I looked into the basket and soon figured out that he was asking me about the mayonnaise made with olive oil.  I told him that I thought it tasted good, that you really couldn’t taste the olive oil, and that I figured it had to be a little healthier for me. 

We continued to talk about our love of olive oil as the cashier started checking me out.  The cashier quickly got into our conversation.  She said she just loved sautéing vegetables in olive oil and that now that she and her husband finally had a place she’ll be able to do that soon.  I asked her if she just moved to town and was bowled over when she said they had been living out of their car ever since they moved here.  She went on to say they had to move here because she had cancer and was getting treatments here.  I immediately asked if she needed any household items.  She said all they had were the clothes in their suitcases, but that she was so grateful to have a roof over her head.  I told her she needed to call Catholic Charities as we should be able to help her with some household items and possibly some food.  She thanked me over and over again for the information and said she’d call first thing Monday morning. 

As I walked to my car I felt the urge to cry thinking about what she and her husband must be going through.  Then I realized that without my knowing God had directed me to that line, had gotten the guy behind me to ask about bits and pieces of my life, and got the cashier to share bits and pieces of her life.  I prayed that she would follow through with a phone call to Catholic Charities and that we’d be able to help her and her husband get a foot up on life. 

We don’t always know when God is going to tap us on the shoulder and get us involved in other’s lives, but we need to not be afraid to share bits and pieces of our lives with our fellow human beings.  You just never know when what you have to share may change your life and the lives of others forever.  May God bless you all and let’s keep going the distance.

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