Monday, December 27, 2010

A Thought for the Quiet Period

Since I am reduced to silence for what would appear to be a few weeks, I would like to invite followers to guest post. Just send me a post (elizabeth.mahlou@gmail.com), introducing yourself, your blog if you have one (and a link if you would like), and post about something you would to share. You can re-post something from your blog or talk about something new -- whatever tickles your fancy. Let others get to know you. I think it will be fun for readers to discover who is behind the pictures under the follower list.

Here Yesterday, Gone Today, Back after Several Tomorrows

Just as I took vacation time to work on my next book, my computer died. This is called Leaver luck; it has happened to us on so many occasions that I was not surprised. You see, Murphy's home is on a cloud right about our house, and whenever we start to feel comfortable with life as it is, he drops some raindrops, hail, blizzard flakes, and the like. The computer repair shop said that the computer was too dead for emergency CPR, so they have to send it to a hospital far away to see if it can be resurrected (perhaps not). That is going to take "weeks," they assured us. How many, they cannot say. Happily, the computer is under extended warranty. I am glad I had the foresight to purchase that. So, if it cannot be resurrected, I will be sent a brand new baby.

In the meanwhile, Donnie has loaned me his very old, but functional Macintosh laptop. I used to know how to use Mac; I am re-learning. The problem is that the computer is so old, it cannot handle even my Word files, and every single document I want to use, Donnie has to convert on his machine. Internet is difficult. I seem to be able to get onto blogger and publish comments, so please feel free to explore and comment on old posts. What is difficult to do is write new ones because I have no access to my graphics, no way to upload graphics, no way to handle large files, etc.

So, it looks like I am out of commission for some weeks. I can get online to read your blogs, and I will continue to do that. Posting on my own blogs, though, is, unfortunately, on hold until my electronic life returns to normal.

I am indeed still working on my next book. Donnie was able to convert the book file, but all my notes are not available. :( Well, I thought of those ideas, they will come back, or God will plant some new thoughts. I actually ended up drastically revising the table of contents while waiting for Donnie to convert the old document on his desktop computer, put it on disk, and pass it along to me in a format that the laptop will recognize. I also changed the title of the book: A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God. I seemed to be getting more inspiration coming my way now that nearly all I can do computer-wise is work on that book. (I am also getting more family and friend time, which is not all that bad, either.)

As for posting anything on my blogs, I am afraid I will have to wait until I am past the computer crisis and my electronic life is back to normal, which looks like nearly the end of January -- right after the book is due. Interesting, how dates and tasks work out that way!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Few Brief Steps Away

As this goes up (automatically), I should be on a plane for Hawaii, where I have some end-of-year business to conclude. After that, on Saturday, I will fly back home, just in time for the Christmas season to descend in full tempo. This year, though, Christmas cards will have to wait until February (January if I can manage a trip to Korea and card writing). We have no tree -- our cat Intrepid eats all plants, including artificial ones, and nearly died from the latter a few years ago so we have given up on a tree -- therefore I will not be distracted with tree decorating. Some holiday activities will, of course, take place as they should and as we want them to. However, I will be stepping back a bit from my normal kinds of blogging posts and the normal tempo of my blogs.

I have taken some days off from work to do a second edition/sequel of my book, Blest Atheist. Unfortunately, over the past two years, the title has been snagged for a variety of odd things, none of them having to do with the remarkable kindness of God, which is what the book is about at its core. Even a furniture store has taken it, along with an atheist reading group! In fact, although it is a spiritual book, essentially Christian, most bookstores carry it in the atheism section. (I guess no one reads books before categorizing them!) That has caused some angry, even rude, reviews from atheists who got a conversion story, rather than a confirmation of their atheism -- which must have been quite a surprise for them. (Christian readers and believers belonging to other religions generally review the book well.) So, the book needs a new title, which I am working on, and since time has passed and my spiritual experiences have continued on a path of deepening conversion, I plan to revise the book dramatically, as well as include those new conversion experiences.

For publication and marketing purposes, I need to turn in the manuscript no later than December 30, so I will reserve most of my writing effort for the book. Monday Morning Meditations will continue, and I will post excerpts from the book as I go along on Mahlou Musings. So, for the next 15 days, my posts may be sparse in spite of having prepared a few backups in case of situations like this.

I will indeed take time to enjoy the Christmas season. San Ignatio, as you can see from the pictures above and below, goes all out for Christmas. (Note: the placard under each lighted wreath/halo is the story of a saint important to this town: St Francis for it was founded by the Franciscans, St. John the Baptist after whom it was named, the real name of this town being San Juan Bautista -- I used San Ignatio as a pseudonym in my book and so I have continued to use it in this blog.) If this town has a year-round sacred feel to it, at Christmas that feel intensifies, beginning with the lighting of the streets, intensified by the daily performances of La Virgen de Teyepac (Our Lady of Guadalupe) by our local El Teatro Campesino, and concluding with our midnight Mass, which usually really is at or near midnight, depending on how you count the caroling.

So, please forgive my moments away. I will catch you when the book muse takes a recess and will be back on full-time blog duty in January.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Please Help Us Choose

For years now, after our children grew up and became adults, rather than spending money on gifts that are neither needed nor particularly wanted, we have taken a family collection of the money we would have spent on each other and have instead spent it on things that others both need and want. For example, last year we gave visa cards to all the staff (cooks, janitors, librarians, handymen, monks, etc.) at the St. Francis Retreat Center, who do much to make sure that retreatants are able to devote their time exclusively to spiritual matters.

Each year we select a charity that has some special meaning to us. The retreat center is a place where both Donnie, my husband, and I have spent time that has contributed to our spiritual growth. Years ago, floods in India destroyed the homes of relatives of Appu, the college roommate of my daughter, Lizzie. When we were living in Jordan, we gave the money to the only animal shelter there, one which took in more than two dozen cats that I rescued from the streets of Amman. And so on and so forth. Family members nominate various options, and we all vote on which we would like to support in a particular year.

This year we have four "charities" from which we are choosing. Before we take a family vote, I thought it might be interesting to hear what readers thing. Here are the options we are considering:

(1) Afghans for Afghanis (see the link in the right sidebar under Ways to Help). Having spent time earlier this year in Afghanistan, I have developed a soft spot for this very impoverished nation. While factions in the leadership may have been working toward mutual extinction for decades, if not centuries, the everyday man is the one doing the greatest suffering. From the little I could see, by Western standards they have very little, even considering that their desires, values, and concepts of what a "normal" life looks like is quite different from those same concepts in the USA.

(2) Adopt a Box. Our parish has collected Christmas gifts for troops in Afghanistan. Ah, there's that Afghanistan soft spot again! The amount of gifts collected has far exceeded what the parish member who headed the drive anticipated. She was prepared to pay for the mailing of the gifts, assuming that if the collection can were entirely filled, it would cost her about $100 in postage. Well, our parish donated not a can-full but a truckload of gifts, and the postage will be about $1200. So, our pastor has asked that individuals offer to adopt a box of gifts for mailing. As a family, we could adopt a number of boxes. (There is an additional option, as well. I have told the parish member that I would use God's credit card for any orphan boxes.)

(3) Bennie's Homeless. Our friend, Bennie, works with the homeless in a nearby city, providing them with blankets, clothes, food, and personal articles, thanks to the generosity of his friends and neighbors. In return, the homeless work to clean up the local river along which they live. Thanks to their efforts, the salmon, which had nearly disappeared, are now returning "home" to spawn.

(4) Hope. Doah works for Hope, which gives work to the handicapped, who do janitorial and other kinds of simple tasks that they are capable of handling. Doah mentioned that Hope is short of money this year, so it seems that this is a charity that truly "touches" home.

We will take a family vote very soon. In the interim, I would love to hear readers' opinions: which would you choose if you were a member of our family? (I will let you know the result from all the blogs and from our family's vote.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bad Guy, Good People

The world seemed pretty heartless earlier this week to the family of Aidan Sullivan, a 9-year-old born with a disorder that left one side of his face underdeveloped, deforming his jaw and skull and leaving him without a right ear.

A thief crashed a fundraiser meant to pay for surgery to construct an ear for the boy out of the cartilage from his rib, making off with about $8,000 raised for the brave son of a New York City firefighter.

But today, a foundation in a nearby community was on its way to the family's home with a check to replace the stolen money, and others who read about the third-grader's plight have also offered to help.

"One person did a bad thing, but a lot of people are stepping up to help," Tim Sullivan, a lieutenant with the New York City Fire Department, told the local Journal News for a story today. "It proves to us that there are good people out there. We're very grateful."

Added his wife, Colleen: "A bad thing turned into a good thing."

Aidan, of Brewster, N.Y., was born with hemifacial microsomia, a congenital disorder where the right side of his face is underdeveloped. The boy has undergone about 10 surgeries already, and even though he doesn't like hospitals and worries about being away from his 4-year-old sister, Kaylee, he was looking forward to this particular operation.

"Finally, an ear," he told the New York Post. "I want to look normal."

The theft happened Nov. 20, at a fundraiser sponsored by a group of firefighters. According to Colleen Sullivan, about $7,000 cash collected that night was put in an envelope and then placed in a box with about $1,000 in checks that were collected at an earlier fundraiser.

But the box was stolen at the end of the night when a family friend put it down for a moment.

"Everybody that was in the place that night knew that we were there to raise money to put an ear on a little kid," Tim Sullivan told the local ABC News affiliate in an interview after the theft. "How could you be such a bad person to a kid, a 9-year-old kid that needs an ear?"

The family had already planned to go ahead with the surgery scheduled for March, but were unsure how they'd pay for the expensive procedure, which is not covered by the family's medical coverage because the doctors do not take insurance.

Then on Friday, the day after a Thanksgiving Day story detailed their loss, they received a telephone call from Suffern Police Chief Clarke Osborn, a volunteer with the Vincent Crotty Memorial Foundation, informing them that he, along with Vincent Crotty's father, Peter, would deliver a check to cover the loss.

The foundation, based in nearby Rockland, was formed in April after a car crash that killed high school baseball players Vincent Crotty and Christopher Konkowski.

"If we could take some of that pain away, then that's what we want to do," Crotty told the Journal News. "I saw no reason why we couldn't reach across the river and lend a hand."

- posted on AOL News, by Lisa Holewa

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving in San Ignatio

I am proud of our little community's efforts to help each other, especially the efforts of Old Mission Church. Thanksgiving is not only no exception but it is a major big deal. Last Thursday, the Old Mission Church hosted a thanksgiving meal for any and all in town, regardless of social or economic standing. Those who could afford to donate, gave money. Those who knew how to cook, cooked. Someone anonymously donated 20 frozen turkeys. Twenty people raised their hands to cook them and bring them to the feast. Those with neither money nor cooking talent helped clean. As for me, I also helped clean. I can donate, but I cannot cook, and I do like to feel useful. We had so many cleaners, though, that it took less than a half hour to clean up after a three-hour meal for which more than 25% of the town showed up. No one should have been left hungry in San Ignatio on Thanksgiving Day. Those who did not attend, I suppose, were having dinner with relatives; I do know a number of people who donated in lieu of helping because they had planned family meals. We have come to enjoy the town meal so much, though, that we leave Shane's thanksgiving meal as a special event for Lemony's family, making the preparation easier for her, and instead participate in the community event, taking along Noelle, now that she is without Roy, and Doah, pictured above at the feast with Sr. Delores from our local Franciscan convent, Sisters of the Atonement. Every community should be so interwoven and caring -- little more than a big family, which is not such a little thing after all.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am taking the day off from blogging to attend morning Mass and then help out all afternoon at Old Mission's community dinner -- open to all, regardless of SES or church affiliation. I will also take some time during the day and evening to drop in to followers' blogs with Thanksgiving greetings.

Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Invisible People

I would like to bring readers' attention to one of the blogs/websites that I list on my blogroll, whence came the picture above. (I am sure I will be forgiven for "borrowing it.") The site is called "Invisible People," and it accomplishes the intent of H2 Helper perfectly.

Each blog post focuses on an individual. Through a video, the individual is introduced to blog visitors. No longer is the individual just a face in the crowd. The individual is now a person with whom visitors can identify.

Poverty, whether it be felt through hunger or homelessness or both, is not without a face. However, it often is easier to drop a few coins into an outheld hand than to invite that person to share a meal. When we take in the former action, we fail to engage with the people whom we are helping. Our charity takes on an impersonal nature. When we take the latter action, we do engage with the people we are helping. Our charity not only takes on a personal nature, but the rewards are two-sided: the helper is rewarded along with the helped. Getting to know someone personally is always a reward, no matter who that person is.

People should not be invisible. The poor, the homeless, the hungry, the ill -- they are not all that different from those of us who have not had to carry these crosses. Looking the other way makes them seem invisible, but it does not make them invisible. They are real, and they deserve our respect and personal attention (and, if only for a brief time, our friendship). That thinking is what the Invisible People website hopes to catalyze by introducing real people to readers.

Stroll on over and meet some fine folks!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homeless in America

I recently happened across a wonderfully informative blog called Homeless in America. I have added it to my blogroll and invite you to consider doing the same. Below is just one of the interesting posts that you can find there. This one came from October 10. Many thanks to Br. Gary for allowing me to re-post it here word for word. If you have any time at all, please click on the link to see more of the posts -- they are all inspiring, both in terms of what others have done or in terms of what we should consider doing. Now, here is that post:

"It’s a story nothing short of amazing. A handful of homeless men lifted a 2 ton Cadillac off a little girl who was pinned beneath it. One of the heroes is a New Mexico man (photo) who credits his tribal heritage for saving the girl’s life.

The man who helped save 9-year-old Robyn Rubio’s life is not only tearful, but humble when he talks about his act of bravery.

“I don’t want to be called a hero,” said Stanford Washburn.

Washburn, a person who has nothing, gave everything he had to rescue Robyn. He even credits his Navajo heritage with saving her life.

“I chanted for her, ‘Please don’t leave us, be with us, be well, be well.’ That’s my chant,” said Washburn.

Washburn calls Shiprock, N.M., his home, but right now he’s homeless. The rescue took place while he was drinking in an alley near the Las Vegas strip in Nevada when he saw a Cadillac hit Robyn head-on. Washburn and several other transients jumped up and ran to help, miraculously lifting the 5,000 pound car off of Robin’s tiny body.

“I know she was scared, I know she was real scared,” said Tina Rubio, Robyn’s mother. Her daughter had to undergo treatment many days in intensive care.

What Robyn will know one day is that a homeless man from New Mexico saved her life. But it’s likely he won’t be the one to tell her. He’s much too humble.

“I’m just one of you guys, a red-blooded human being,” said Washburn.

A spokesperson for the Las Vegas Police Department said he doubts the men could have picked up the car if a child had not been underneath it. They also said it shows how humans regardless of their circumstances react to saving a life."


- From Homeless in America

Monday, October 18, 2010

Helping Afghanistan

"For the last 25 years, Afghanistan has been plagued by disasters ranging from drought and earthquakes to war and terrorism. Afghans face low life expectancy, high illiteracy rates, and limited access to clean water, sanitation and electricity. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Today, as the country takes steps toward recovery." This is the introduction to Afghanistan on the Catholic Relief Services' website.

If I had any thought that this description might be exaggerated, that thought would have been shattered by my recent visit to Afghanistan. (Not with CRS; I had a different mission there.) Here are some of my observations, reported on 100th Lamb:
I had seen pictures of Afghanistan -- the dusty desert, the musty mountains. It seems that life of any sort -- animal or plant or human -- has an incredible struggle to live. Dusty feet in worn, torn sandals walked the streets where I was. In Kabul, there were similar sightings, but there were also cars, many of them, old but running. There was the constant lowering of men's eyes and the shuffling of women within burqas. (One Afghan wanted to put a burqa on me and take me home to his family. That would have been risky for both of us, so I declined what might have been an interesting cultural experience.) Good food at good prices with good service was the norm in restaurants, but these were things mainly for foreigners. I found essentially two classes: the haves and the have-nots. As always, there is potential in that disharmony for violence. And certainly violence can be found there. The Afghan is perhaps best described as a soft soul in a hard shell. As a foreigner, one wonders which of the hard shells are safe to attempt to break open and which are not. More than anything, I wanted to help these people, but there is little that one person can do, so I just lent my professional expertise, which is really all I have to give anyone. (I suspect that any side that can give these people jobs and a life
that allows just a little peace and even a tad of comfort will win the current war.)

In leaving the country, I had some time to talk to the Safi (Afghani Airlines) ticket agent on an interpersonal level because a traveling companion took our luggage to be strapped -- his had broken enroute to Dubai and, having repaired it, he did not want a repeat on the way home. I told the agent that we had brought some work stuff with us in a foot locker that was overweight so that he would be prepared to expect the overweight. We had come early so that we would have time to deal with overweight requirements and fees. (We had to pay $400 enroute to Afghanistan in overweight fees.) When my travel companion (another employee of our organization) brought the luggage over, the agent weighed each piece, marked it, and gave us the baggage tag, along with our tickets. When I asked where to go to pay the overweight fee, he looked at me and said simply, "I have waived the fee; that is Afghanistan's gift to you."

All I could think was that it is always seems to be the people with the least who give the most. Thank you, Afghanistan! I will be praying for you, for all your people -- those that might be considered friends and those that might be considered foes. That will be my gift to you.


If anyone has the desire or is given the urge to help the people of Afghanistan, here again is the website of Catholic Relief Services: CRS.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Where in the World Is Elizabeth?

I just thought of an interesting little competition. While I am gone tripping, please leave a comment, guessing where you think I am and why. And since I will not have access to the Internet, no one will see anyone's answers until I return so there will be no influence one upon another!

I will send a surprise gift to everyone who guesses correctly.

This will be fun, no?

Friday, October 1, 2010

From the Washington Post , Of Concern to All

The following article from The Washington Post opened my eyes. I had no idea that we, in the USA, have moved so quickly and so far along the path to a banana republic situation where the middle class gets squeezed down or up, leaving only the haves and have-nots. If we pay no attention to the have-nots as a country, we may lose more than our sense of humanity.

As 44 million Americans live in poverty, a crisis grows
By Katrina vanden Heuvel
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When the government released new U.S. Census data on poverty last week, our warp-speed news cycle paid too little attention to what these numbers tell us -- and what the government could do to tackle this moral, economic and political crisis. It's clear that the Great Recession battered those on the bottom most heavily, adding 6 million people to the ranks of the officially poor, defined as just $22,000 in annual income for a family of four. Forty-four million Americans -- one in seven citizens -- are now living below the poverty line, more than at any time since the Census Bureau began tracking poverty 51 years ago. Shamefully, that figure includes one in five children, more than one in four African Americans or Latinos, and over 51 percent of female-headed families with children under 6.

These numbers are bad enough. But dig deeper -- as Georgetown University law professor Peter Edelman has been doing for nearly 50 years in his battle against poverty -- and the story told by these figures is even more staggering.

Edelman points out that 19 million people are now living in "extreme poverty," which is under 50 percent of the poverty line, or $11,000 for a family of four. "That means over 43 percent of the poor are extremely poor," said Edelman, who served as an aide to Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-N.Y.) and in the Clinton administration before resigning in protest over welfare reform that shredded the safety net. "That's over 6 percent of the population, and that figure has just been climbing up and up."

Edelman says that the number of people living at less than two times the poverty line ($44,000 for a family of four) is equally significant.

"Data shows that's really the line between whether or not you can pay your bills," said Edelman. "That has reached 100,411,000 people. That's 33 percent of the country. That's the totality of the problem -- whether you call it poverty or not."

For too long we have accepted the narrative -- promoted by well-funded conservative think tanks -- that claims people who are struggling are to blame for their troubles, and at the same time we don't have effective anti-poverty policies. So tackling the problem is seen as wasteful.

"So many people think it's their own fault," said Edelman. "They don't see the structural problem in our economy."
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But with so many in poverty, that narrative has become harder to sustain during the Great Recession, and so renewed work is being done to take on poverty and its structural underpinnings.

Half in Ten, a coalition working to cut poverty by half in 10 years, is pushing Congress to renew the TANF Emergency Fund , which is set to expire on Thursday. Thirty-six states and the District of Columbia have used the program to provide 250,000 low-income and long-term unemployed workers with subsidized jobs. The coalition is also pushing to make the Obama administration's Recovery Act reforms to the child tax credit and the earned-income tax credit permanent. These progressive policies keep families from falling into poverty and reduce long-term costs such as crime, public benefits and lost consumption. Estimates of costs associated with childhood poverty run at $500 billion annually, or 4 percent of gross domestic product.

And then there are the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 a year, a centerpiece of the GOP's just-released "Pledge to America." Edelman says that it's difficult to see how we can help the 44 million Americans living in poverty today without that revenue.

Beyond what Congress can do immediately, it's clear that America needs a broader movement to create a more just and higher-wage economy. Edelman and other advocates say that we will need to push to make it easier for people to join labor unions through an Employee Free Choice Act or at least reduce legal barriers to organizing. The minimum wage should also be indexed to half the average wage.

"But you're still going to have a gap," said Edelman. "And you essentially have to invent some new idea of a wage supplement that starts from the premise that the so-called good jobs went away a long time ago and we've become a nation of low-wage work."

That's why 100 million people are struggling to make ends meet on less than $44,000 per year.

This devastating economic reality has the potential to create new political alliances -- and shape a 21st-century anti-poverty movement. Such a movement is urgently needed because the voices of the poor, of workers and of those struggling to get by are barely heard in the halls of power these days. Anti-poverty groups and advocates with ideas for a more equitable economy are often marginalized within even Democratic Party policy circles that seem hard-wired to reject them.

We know what needs to be done to reduce poverty. The question is who will fight that fight? And who will listen?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sad News: Fr. Thomas Dubay

I have mentioned Fr. Thomas Dubay's publications a number of times on my blogs, and they are in my recommended reading list. For me, his works have been my sanity checks and mainstay when it comes to dealing with the mystical experiences that have come my way. About two years ago, after a string of locutions and having just finished his book, Authenticity, I wrote to Fr. Thomas to tell him how helpful I had found that book (probably not one of his most popular because it is directed to those people who have experienced sound, voice, touch, and, as I have found over the past four years, they are not found in every pew in the church). I also told him of some of my experiences, of the details of my quest to determine their authenticity, and of some of my questions and concerns. I did not ask for a response and did not expect one. Nonetheless, a few weeks later, I received handwritten comments on my letter from Fr. Thomas, who apologized for the format but said that he had just arrived from another trip, was tired, and wanted nonetheless to respond to my note immediately. He told me that he thought that my experiences, as described, were likely authentic and why, commented on my comments, and suggested some answers to my questions. His letter gave me greater confidence in moving more deeply into contemplation and not pulling away from God at the most intimate moments.

Fr. Thomas passed away this weekend, and his passing feels like a personal loss. I will now treasure those handwritten notes even more. If you have not read Fr. Thomas's books, please find some time to do so. They are, for me, second only to The Cloud of Unknowing/The Book of Privy Counseling on my list of books to which I am addicted.

The following is from the Little Sisters of the Poor in Washington, D.C., who cared for Father Dubay during his final days; I have blatantly "stolen" (borrowed?) this information from his publisher and am certain that the publisher will be happy to have the word spread.
Rev Thomas Dubay, SM
RIP September 26, 2010

From Washington, DC:
This morning at 4:45, the Lord welcomed into His Kingdom Rev Thomas Dubay, SM, after suffering kidney failure and massive bleeding in the brain. Father’s frail health had been declining ever since his admission to the Little Sisters of the Poor home in Washington more than a year ago, but his suffering was even more noticeable in recent months. Despite this fact, Fr Dubay was just as witty as ever.

When Father’s superior, Fr. Bruce Lery, SM, called the Little Sisters on Sunday morning to tell them, he said, "We have a saint in heaven" –how true! Fr. Dubay was hospitalized about a month ago and then transferred to a rehabilitation facility for specialized treatments but his health was steadily declining. Yesterday he was re-admitted to the hospital with bleeding in the brain, and he was put in coronary intensive care. Although the ventilator was removed, he continued to breathe on his own.

Although he suffered from his loss of independence, he was happy to concelebrate Mass almost every day in the chapel of the Little Sisters Home in the shadow of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in our nation’s capital.

The Marist priests and brothers visited him almost daily, and Father depended very much on his superior, Fr. Bruce, who was always there for him. In a few words, Fr. Dubay literally practiced what he preached! Father was happy to give weekly classes to the Little Sister postulants –classes which he enjoyed as much as they! From his room, Father continued his spiritual direction with many persons who called on him and this also was extended to letter writing.

We can render prayers of thanksgiving for the wonderful support Father gave to religious communities spending a good part of his life giving conferences and retreats. Although his preaching and spiritual direction was delivered to contemplative communities, his teaching was not for them alone. Religious the world over benefitted of his spiritual wisdom and guidance for years. He will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace after leading so many souls to true spiritual peace during his lifetime! The opening prayer of today’s liturgy says it all: “Help us hurry toward the Eternal Life you promise and come to share in the joys of your kingdom”.

For more about Fr. Dubay's writings and work, see his author page at Ignatius Insight.
My note: Many have said that Fr. Thomas Dubay is one of the greatest spiritual directors and writers of our day. I believe it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Does God Allow Suffering, Starvation, and Poverty?

I would like to draw readers' attention to an interesting dialogue on Ordinary Hero log: Let's Get Real...Why Does God Allow Suffering, Starvation, and Poverty? The growing number of comments are insightful and well worth reading. I hope that readers of H2 Helper will take a minute to go over there, read the post, see the poignant pictures, think about the comments, and post a response of their own. For that reason, this post is very short -- just click on the URL and go on over to Ordinary Hero.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Time to Quander

I ask the indulgence and prayers of readers of all my blogs. Other than for an occasional, already-written post or the Monday Morning Meditation (I never miss an "appointment" with God and right now that is especially important to me), I will be taking a week or so off to quander (ponder a quandary).

Donnie received a shocking call today from the work place of Doah, our youngest son, who lives in a group home from the mentally challenged, and immediately called me: Doah had been raped. I immediately left work, and we headed north. We met with the sheriff's department, the folks from Doah's workplace in whom Doah had confided, doctors and nurses, an advocate for victims of violent crimes, and Doah himself. Doah went through five hours of medical tests and over an hour of interrogation from the sheriff's department. The medical staff said that Doah inspired them with his obviously deep faith that gave him an extraordinary ability to cope with this trauma. The deputy told Doah that he was the best crime victim he had ever met -- Doah was straightforward and explicit, got the details right, and did not back down from uncomfortable truth. By the time the evening was over, the deputies had tracked down the rapist, an illegal alien without documents who seemed to have disappeared according to everyone who knew him, and had him behind bars. Impressive! So was the orderly procedure and all the help made available to us.

Nonetheless, this event has thrown our lives out of kilter, and I need some time to put things back together. We have brought Doah home with us until we can find another group home for him. We have to decide on any legal action we wish to take against the group home -- a difficult decision because I am suit-averse by nature. There is also more testing to do and results of testing to receive: hepatitis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, HIV/AIDS. The latter is very frightening and very possible. I am asking all our friends to pray that Doah passes through this terrible experience without contracting HIV/AIDS as a permanent reminder and life-threatening consequence.

Thank you for your understanding and any prayers you are willing to say for Doah (or candles you are willing to light). God bless you until I am up and running regularly again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Waste Management Helps Marlins Build Homes for Haiti

I thought this press release from the Florida Marlins to be worth posting here. I would invite all to visit the Food for the Poor website (see right sidebar) for other such inspiring stories and ways to be part of the teams that are out there solving problems for the homeless and the hungry.

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. (Aug. 4, 2010) Moved by the ongoing crisis in Haiti, Waste Management has made a $50,000 donation to the Florida Marlins “Homes for Haiti” program to support the month-long campaign between the baseball team and Food For The Poor to build much-needed housing in Haiti.

Waste Management, which has more than 500 workers of Haitian descent in South Florida, rallied immediately after the Jan. 12 earthquake to raise $100,000 in emergency aid for Haiti. Now the company has joined the Marlins’ effort to build homes in a country where more than 1 million people have been displaced.

“We are extremely pleased to partner with Food For The Poor and the Marlins in this vital effort to bring housing and hope to those in great need,” said Dawn McCormick, Community Affairs Manager for Waste Management in South Florida. “It is gratifying to support our Haitian co-workers, many of whom lost family members in the earthquake, by participating in this effort that will put families into permanent homes and provide them with a safe and more secure future.”

The Waste Management donation will provide 10 two-room homes. Food For The Poor homes are permanent, sturdy concrete construction with rebar reinforcements, and strong corrugated zinc roofs. The charity is ramping up its capacity for building, and homes are going up in Pierre Payen, Trou Du Nord, Demier, Chastenoye, Delogner, Gros Chaudiere, Mahotiere, Leogane, and Grand Goave.

Marlins catcher John Baker, along with members of the Marlins’ front office traveled to Haiti on July 6 and 7 to see firsthand the destitute living conditions of families in Port-au-Prince, as well as in Cap-Haitien, where some of those fleeing the capital have moved.

“The trip to Haiti was an eye-opening experience; it was an awakening for me,” Baker said. “Most people don’t think of this kind of poverty being just an hour and a half by plane from Florida. Looking at pictures doesn’t do it justice. Until you have walked where they walk, and smelled what they smell, you really cannot understand.”


While the campaign started July 12 and runs for a month, the Marlins game on Aug. 22 will be sponsored by Waste Management, the leading provider of comprehensive waste and environmental services in North America. About 4,500 Waste Management employees and community partners will be there to see the check donation to Food For The Poor.

“We are grateful for the support of Waste Management on one of the most important projects we can do right now, which is to build homes,” said Angel Aloma, Executive Director of Food For The Poor.

To donate, go to foodforthepoor.org/homesforhaiti or text “Haiti” to 25383 and donate $10.

Food For The Poor, the largest international relief and development organization in the United States, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian agency provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 96 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Contacts:
Kathy Skipper
Director of Public Relations
Food For The Poor
954.427.2222, ext. 6614
kathys@foodforthepoor.org

Carolina Perrina
Director, Business Communications
Florida Marlins, L.P.
305.626.7389
cperrina@marlins.com

Dawn McCormick
Community Affairs
Waste Management
954.226.9894
dmccormick@mw.com

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sabbath Sunday #2

Fr. Christian Mathis (Blessed Is the Kingdom) has made the suggestion that we "rest" on the Sabbath by taking a break from our normal blogging and sharing an older post of which we are particularly fond. Rest? Gladly! I don't get to do that very often, but now, thanks to Fr. Christian, I get to do it at least once a week -- and it gives me more time to spend with God, which is a wonderful gift.

For this week, I selected a heartwarming story that was shared with me some time ago and which I posted on my 100th Lamb blog: Friends Are God's Way of Taking Care of Us. I am always appreciative of the opportunity to be a "friend" in this way.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Come Along on a Journey to Help Pakistan One Family at a Time

Perhaps a few years ago, many people would not have been able to place Pakistan on a map -- well, those of us who were around when Bangladesh (East Pakistan) ran into trouble in the 1970s might have been able to put two and two together. Pakistan, however, was rarely in the news, at least in the regions where I lived, until right after 9/11 when the US needed help from that country. Now that country needs help from the USA -- and from the rest of the world, from you, from me, from anyone with a heart. Perhaps people gave all they had to Haiti; perhaps Pakistan is too far, too Eastern, too foreign for those of us living in the West. Whatever the reason, assistance from the West, which usually comes through for people in dire need, has not been as forthcoming in this instance, a place and time when help is needed in an overwhelming amount: 16 million Pakistanis are suffering from the devastation caused by the floods. (Help, of course, is needed and welcomed from everywhere and anywhere. Readers of this blog come from 109 different countries, including Pakistan. I hope that among you, there will be people who can help.)

Among the readers of Blest Atheist, the blog that preceded 100th Lamb, was Wajeeha, a young acquaintance of mine from Karachi, Pakistan. She and I mainly communicate via FaceBook. Over time, I have come to feel like she is just another of my children, and I am proud of what she is doing, both in college and in her current plan to help her country. A college student, living in an area unaffected by the flood but nonetheless concerned with the lack of help coming to the families stranded, impoverished, and left starving by the floods, she and her college classmates are taking matters into their hands and trying to help the people of Pakistan one family at a time. I asked her to write a post about her journey, and so I will let her tell it in her own words:
I, Wajeeha Asrar Siddiqui, with some friends and colleagues of mine have started the effort to help those who are affected by flood in Pakistan. We are collecting funds in this regard and have decided to take up the charge of everything under our own control. As prior we had trusted some government official with our money but there is nothing come to name of progress and God knows where the money gone. Now, we have decided to do everything by our own.

We are up for the task of rehabilitation for the people of Besham, Kohistan and connected districts. Our main motto is not to just provide them with food. The main motto is to let those back to their normal lives with all their respect and dignity. We are up to help those people without let them feel inferior to other members of the society.

We have aim to help those with food, water and clothing at first and then with books, raw material and space to practice and sale their handicrafts. People in those regions are masters of handicrafts. As we are already having Ramadan here so, the very first thing that is needed is drinking water and then food.

We would leave from Karachi to Besham and beyond by the end of August 2010. Our first target is to help 2000 families. An average cost of drinking water, food and clothing of a family for a month is around $150 - $200. We still need hands to join in and help us making our targets possible.

As we do not have much time left I request all those you’re seeking to help to send us their donations in cash. As the fact is, transferring of cash would take less time as compare to transferring of good. For all those who are looking forward to help can reach me by email ID: Wajeeha.thewonderful@gmail.com.

You can also reach our representative in Besham, Engr. Said Mehmood (s.mehmood@crspk.org) who is working with Catholic Relief Services to help all those who are affected by flood.
I promised her some help from God's credit card now that it is paid off once again (see God's Crazy Math -- it took only two days for money to appear to pay it off), but that has a credit limit (probably a fortunate thing). Won't you help, too? Even a couple of dollars can make a difference. Given the exchange rate and the cost-of-living difference, a little can go a long way. I will ask Wajeeha to report on her journey periodically when time and electronic resources permit. Let's measure the compassion of the blogosphere with Pakistan as a criterion!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sabbath Sunday

Fr. Christian Mathis (Blessed Is the Kingdom) has made the suggestion that we "rest" on the Sabbath by taking a break from our normal blogging and sharing an older post of which we are particularly fond. Rest? Gladly! I don't get to do that very often, but now, thanks to Fr. Christian, I get to do it at least once a week -- and it gives me more time to spend with God, which is a wonderful gift.

For this week, I selected a post from my 100th Lamb blog that seemed somewhat appropriate to the H2 Helper theme: Today's Drama.

Have a restful and peaceful Sabbath!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

God's Crazy Math

Although most of my bi-weekly salary is already spoken for before it arrives by bills, children’s needs, and routine living expenses, I do make donations to those causes to which I am led. A couple of years ago, I began sending $10/week to one cause only. Tt was all I could afford on my tight budget, or so I thought. Once I began the routine donation, it became possible to double it, then double it again, and again. I am now up to $210/week with that donation. I have also been able to add other donations to which I have been subsequently led: $110/week for donation #2, $20/week for #3, $15/week for #4, $12.50/week for #5, and $7.50 a week for #6. Each started out as a $10 weekly donation, then grew a dollar or two at a time until the older ones became sizable.

No, I did not win any lotteries, and I have no idea where the money comes from. It just comes, and I am certain that as a result, the lower donation amounts will increase in the same ways that the larger ones did. Before anyone thinks that I am simply being humble about my riches, let me confirm that my salary alone would not cover these donations. These are God’s causes, however, and God covers them through many small financial surprises, such as being able to use per diem to provide $1000 for the children of Palomar, Colombia. I save pennies, and God turns them into dollars. I share dollars, and God multiplies them multiple-fold. From out of nowhere come unexpected bonuses, a higher-than-normal (i.e. higher than the cost of living) salary increase, unexpectedly good royalties, and, when gaps appear, a paid consultation that appears without my seeking it through a phone call from someone whom I may or may not know in need of my professional expertise. I empty the coffers. God replenishes them to a fuller level than before.

Similarly, a financial dilemma with the IRS left me $11K in the hole with nary a cent in savings in late 2006. God not only took care of that but gave me more –- enough to pay the tax accountant and donate $400 to a retreat center struggling to rebuild after a fire. I figured that the extra money belonged to God and so found a way to return it to God through the retreat center.

It’s the same way with God’s credit card, about which I have blogged on several occasions. The latest need was $500. Last week, on Saturday, I put $500 on the card for a couple in need, figuring that I could expect $50 in immediate return from others wanting to help out. On Monday, I got $90 in donations from others wanting to help. I turned around on Tuesday and charged $82.50 to the card in order to secure frequent-flyer miles help the sister of a friend and her two children escape from an abusive husband. The friend paid back the $82.50 and added $118 to help pay off God’s credit card balance from the earlier charge. The rest will come. I have learned to trust God’s crazy math.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sometimes It's Our Own

In the spiritual circles in which I travel, particularly among the Franciscans, there is a pull (and sometimes push) to help those in need among the public: the hungry, the homeless, Just sometimes, though, it is not the stranger who needs our help. It is one of us. This our prayer group found out recently.

Two of our members, I will call them Carl and Renee, recently married, were excited to find out that their application for a home loan was approved. They found a modest home in our community and with great excitement moved in.

That was a month ago. Two weeks later, they stopped coming to our prayer group meetings. I called to find out why because it was unusual for them to miss even one meeting. They explained that they were depressed and trying to come to grips with an overnight change in their financial life. Just a few days after moving into their new home, Renee lost her job. Unfortunately, their ability to pay the mortgage was based in great part on her salary. Then, a few days after that, Carl learned that the overtime that he always got and which he counted on as part of his basic salary, given a very low weekly salary, would no longer be available to him. Instead, his employer was hiring a part-timer for the weekend hours -- it would be cheaper, I guess. They were reeling.

We discussed their situation at our prayer group. We decided to give them a housewarming party at our next prayer group meeting (tomorrow) but decided that we would do it not at the parish but at the home of one of our members who lives very near them. One of our members will be getting a greeting card for us all to sign and a plant to attach it to. In it, we will put a visa card that they can use to get past the next few weeks.

In discussing the amount, it appeared that most of us could only afford $5-$20. We thought we might be able to get a card for $150. Certainly, that would help them some, but we wanted to help more. I offered to use God's credit card. The card would hold at least $500, so I got a visa card for $500. A couple of people in our group were nervous about that since I don't have any way today to pay that off, and all we can raise right now is $150.

"Listen," I told them. "This is God's card. We are God's people, and Carl and Renee need God's help. We are God's hands on this earth, and God's credit card is there to be used. I am confident that between now and when the payment is due, some amount of money from a source we don't expect will show up to pay it off. It always works that way for me with God's credit card, and I trust God to make it happen again."

Either we trust God or we don't. There is no half-way! There is no doveryai no proverya (trust but verify), or trust but take no risks. Trust is risky. That is why it is called trust -- and I don't believe with God that there are any risks to trust!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rickshaw Wala

Amrita, of Yesu Garden, recently posted the following heartwarming story that is fully in keeping with the H2 Helper challenge. Here is the situation:

During the cold season a rickshaw wala sought shelter in our church porch. He is a street dweller and usually camps beside his rickshaw with his few possessions .His means of livelihood is ferrying passengers and earning a few rupees everyday. He eats at cheap roadside food stalls and uses public places to wash. One night someone stole his clothes and blanket an elderly couple in our neighbourhood had given him...

Read the rest of the story at Yesu Garden: Rickshaw Wala.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Guyanese Village Built by Dog Biscuits

The following story was originally published in Florida Catholic and re-printed on the website, Food for the Poor. The Food for the Poor organization is dedicated to helping the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Joe and Judy Roetheli of Kansas City, Mo., made their fortune with a treat that cleans dogs’ teeth, and now the Catholic couple are using the fruits of their labor to house and feed those in need in far–off lands.

“We’ve been fortunate to have been successful and to have made the kind of money we’ve made,” said Joe Roetheli, 61, a parishioner of Holy Family Catholic Church in Kansas City. “There is only so much that we need and God wants us to do something righteous with our good fortune.”

Last October the Roethelis answered that call from God, partnered with the Florida–based Food for the Poor international nonprofit relief agency, and broke ground on the Lil’ Red Village, a 100–house development in Guyana, the only English–speaking nation in South America.

Their $800,000 contribution allowed Food for the Poor to build enough houses to shelter up to 600 people in the village and provide them with sanitation facilities, a community center, a school, several retail shops, a water tower, electric service and a 5–acre community garden to grow food.

Their path to building a village for the poor in Guyana began with their Catholic faith — and an intervention from two priests, one from Ohio and the other from New York, Joe Roetheli told Catholic News Service. But, their means to be able to give so generously began much earlier, with an idea for a business and staggering achievement.

Roetheli was a federal government employee and his wife was a high school teacher in 1996, the year they invented “Greenies,” a dog treat that cleans the teeth of canines and freshens their breath.
By 2003 they had sold hundreds of millions of the dog treats, allowing them to form the Roetheli Lil’ Red Foundation, a charitable organization to help those in need. “Judy and I have always believed that it is important to give back, whether it is to your local community or to the world as a whole,” Roetheli said.

Their foundation funds a pet visitation program in nursing homes, mostly in rural Missouri; helps finance documentaries and books; and with their involvement in the Guyana project it now has branched into building stable villages for the poor in developing nations.

The Roethelis got the idea of joining forces with a relief organization to build a village when a substitute priest came to their church and discussed the great need in third world nations like Guyana. Shortly afterward, another visiting priest from New York told them about Food for the Poor and the work it was doing to help feed and house those in need in the Caribbean and Latin America.
“I almost see it as divine intervention twice,” Roetheli said. “Both times we heard things that we needed to hear.”

Initially, the couple had decided to develop their village in Jamaica, but after a year of trying unsuccessfully to get through government red tape in order to build, they moved the project to Guyana and broke ground on the Lil’ Red Village in October 2008.

“The Roethelis are amazing people and so generous with their talents, time, energy and money,” said Angel A. Aloma, executive director of Food for the Poor, during an interview with CNS. “They are a great example of altruism. They have taken the rewards of their labor and used it to help those in need.” Last March –– when the project was about 75 percent complete –– the Roethelis made their first trip to Guyana to attend the dedication ceremony of the village they helped build. “We were taken aback at the extreme poverty in that country, and even though the houses we built are not the kind of houses Americans would live in, it’s such an improvement from what they had,” Roetheli said. Though he’d like to build another village soon, he said his foundation will have to recover from the financial hit it took when the stock market nose–dived in late 2008.

“We’ve got to weather the storm financially,” Roetheli said. “We took a monstrous hit. But, we’ll get there. I’m confident of that.”

For more stories of how Food for the Poor has been helping poor people in the southern hemisphere, visit the organization's website by clicking here.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Ticket

Since I have not found anything of particular interest to readers in the past almost ten days (well, of interest to me -- I am not always certain what is of interest to readers), I thought I might re-post here a blog entry I posted on 100th Lamb a couple of days ago. It has to do with a use (again) of God's credit card and how God seems always to help us when we are in the act of helping others. Here is the story:

On Monday, one of the members in my prayer group told me of someone, a certain Jose, who has been mostly unemployed this year, who needed a plane ticket for Texas (from California) this coming weekend! I have offered my frequent flyers miles from time to time, but this time would be quite a challenge. It is a holiday weekend, and it was a last-minute ticket. I knew I would not have been asked had it not been important, but could the airlines help?

I called the Premier Executive line for United's elite flyers. The agent on the other end was very pleasant. She found one flight only from San Jose and one flight from San Francisco. Then she volunteered that both required the same number of FF miles; however, for those miles the flight from San Jose was first class and left a tad bit later although still very early in the morning and the one from San Francisco was economy and really early. Well, that was a no-brainer, especially since San Jose is the closer airport.

The agent patiently entered all the "gift" information for Jose and sent him a copy of the itinerary. Then she charged me the required $35 for the telephonic, last-minute transaction. I used God's credit card to pay for it.

Later, my friend called and said that Jose had noticed the charge on the itinerary. Should she pay it, she asked, or would he be charged at the airport. Neither, I explained. I had used God's credit card to pay for it, and I was certain that the money would appear before the card payment was due.

Then I settled down to work on bills since it was pay day. As I worked through the budget, I found a $35 bill that I had planned to pay this pay day but for some reason that I had not caught, it was already paid! I think it is fair to count those found dollars as payment for the $35 I owe on God's credit card.

My only comment: well, that did not take long! I think my friend Omar is correct -- God spoils me in not making me wait!

Oh, and one other comment: I love having this credit card; it has given me many opportunities to help people that I could not otherwise have done!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Homeless in Hunterdon

For the past year and a half, five high school students have worked with Interfaith Hospitality Network of Hunterdon County, Inc. to produce a film called “Homeless in Hunterdon.” This is a documentary film depicting the stories of 12 formerly homeless residents of Hunterdon County. This is a story of struggle and hope and compassion. All 12 families received shelter and services from Interfaith, which is the only homeless shelter for families and single women in Hunterdon County.

This extraordinary film, directed by Voorhees student Brandon Rowe, was premiered at the Voorhees High School in Glen Gardner on Saturday, June 5th, 2010 at 7 pm. This film was selected for the Queens International Film Festival in November, 2009. There were also musical performances by local artists and students. All 12 film participants were there for a question and answer session after the film. The Voorhees National Honor Society hosted the event for the evening.

For more information and a clip, click here.

I just happened across this story, found it fascinating, and wanted to share it. I hope you found it interesting, as well.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ronald McDonald House

As I threw my leftover change into the collection box for Ronald McDonald House after buying an ice cream cone, a snack on our trip to Ohio to attend a family wedding, I thought about how much less the stress on Donnie (my husband), Lizzie (my oldest daughter), and me it would have been had there been a Ronald McDonald House in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1970s when Noelle was born. We lived in Ayer, too far for a daily commute, and so during Noelle's multiple surgeries for spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and related problems, we had to move our family into a hotel close to Boston Children's Hospital. As a young Army lieutenant, with Donnie working part-time teaching photography at the post education center, we had a very limited income and the effort to be near Noelle to support her, sign medical forms, and provide information to caretakers broke us. Other than a car and minimal furniture (when Shane was born right only 13 months after Noelle, the babies had to share a cradle), we could afford no possessions. Not even a television; Lizzie was five years old before she discovered the "magic box," as she called it. Every penny went into the outlandish (for us) cost of eating away from home and paying for a hotel. Further, we were mixed in with tourists, and our experiences were anything but joyful and fun.

If Ft. Devens, where I was stationed, had had a large medical facility, that would have made a world of difference. Even were there a regional military hospital, it would have helped, as it did when Noelle was first born and cared for at Wilford Hall Medical Center, about 250 Texan miles from where I was stationed in San Angelo at Goodfellow Air Force Base. I was able to take leave (until it ran out) and live right on base at the BOQ (Bachelor Officers' Quarters) for a manageable sum.

At Ft. Devens, however, the only option for critical care was Boston, and that meant civilian costs, covered in great part through the military CHAMPUS (medical reimbursement) program. The major cost was being nearby, and it took us easily a decade to work ourselves out of that debt.

When Noelle was a teenager and beyond most of her surgical needs, McDonald's began establishing low-cost houses for families of chronic care children being treated at regional medical complexes. What a great idea! To have a place to stay without worrying about breaking the bank is a significant stress reduction in an already highly stressful situation. So, I always contribute my change. It is so little for so much.

There are other organizations now that have done similar things. I contribute change to those, too, when they pop up on my radar. I hope that you will do the same when you see them on your radar!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Play and Feed

Here is a fun way that people, including kids, can effortlessly feed the world's hungry simply by playing a game. The FreeRice site donates rice to the UN World Food Programme for each question that is answered correctly, thanks to advertisers. (In this way, it works similarly to The Hunger Site, to which I try to go every day.

So, for a fun way to help the hungry at no cost, drop by the FreeRice site: click here.

Have a good day!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Online Billion Helping the Hungry Billion

When the number of hungry people in the world passed the one billion mark, the United Nations World Food Programme turned to the people who are online (now topping one billion in number) to each give a little to help to the hungry. They called their pcampaign, Billion for a Billion, and asked people to donate and to spread the word online and elsewhere. The message is simple: If everyone does a little, we can achieve unimaginable results.

Here are some of the things the online billion has achieved so far, as listed on the UN World Food Programme website:

Donations
1. Responded to the earthquake in Haiti with small donations that added up to 12 million meals for children
2. Collectively contributed enough money to feed more than 19 million hungry children in school
3. Donated enough grains of rice through the online quiz game FreeRice to provide meals for 4 million people

Awareness

4. Raised awareness through half a million posts on the web about the billion hungry people
5. Shared key hunger facts with friends and colleagues 35,000 times through Twitter and viewed the ‘Billion for a Billion’ video 500,000 times
6. Spread the ‘Billion for a Billion’ call to action through all social networks, using it as a profile picture or background image on personal pages

Inspiration
7. Created inspirational videos about hunger through the HungerBytes video contest. One of the videos gained over 31,000 views on YouTube.
8. Built a movement of 200 bloggers against hunger who help keep the billion hungry in the public eye at all times.
9. Inspired children such as 8-year-old Aditya from India, who wrote to us that we could use his pocket money to help other hungry children.

For ways in which you can be part of the one billion helpers, click here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hunting for the Hungry

In Virgina, for almost two decades now, hunters, teaming with the professional game associations, have contributed thousands of pounds of venison to food banks and charities to feed the hungry. Here is some background information.

During the summer of 1991 a meeting was held to determine the feasibility of the Hunters for the Hungry concept in Virginia. Involved in this discussion were representatives of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Association of Meat Processors, the Virginia Deer Hunters Association, the Virginia Federation of Foodbanks, other nonprofit food distribution charities, and interested individuals. Information was also available from the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Meat and Poultry Inspection.

The outcome of this meeting indicated that venison could be donated, processed, and distributed while complying with all laws and codes applicable in Virginia. It was decided that the program should be administered by a certified 501 (C) (3) organization and that to function best funds should be raised to cover the costs of having professional meat processors(butchers) accept, cut, wrap, and freeze the deer donated by hunters in Virginia. Distribution would be handled through foodbanks and other charities. A nonprofit administrator volunteered to take on the project as a pilot effort and Hunters for the Hungry began in Virginia in the fall of 1991.

During the first year over 33,000 pounds of venison was donated, processed, and distributed. The program expanded and in its second year over 68,000 pounds of meat was handled.

It became clear that the potential of the program was quite large and the decision was made in January of 1993 to form a separate nonprofit corporation to administer and operate the program. This was accomplished and continues to exist. That organization has a corporate title of Virginia Hunters Who Care, Inc.

The Hunters for the Hungry program has continued to expand. Annual distribution now exceeds 400,000 pounds.

For more information, check out the website: Virginia Hunters for the Hungry.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

God's Credit Card to the Rescue -- Again

"Go dancing tonight," the doctor told me yesterday afternoon at the end of my appointment. Yes, he wanted some more tests, but in general he agrees with me that I have been blessed with better health than my attention to taking care of myself deserves. So, I went dancing. Well, not literally dancing, but the effect was the same.

Donnie and I decided to grab a Subway sandwich and take it back home to San Ignatio (which has no fast food joints). We had some new movies from Netflix that had arrived in the mail and decided that after a hard week we deserved a relaxing evening. And that is just what we did -- after taking care of one of God's children.

When we arrived at Subway, we encountered a girl in her early twenties who asked us for a dollar. Well, being a mother, I have to know some things from kids in their twenties.

"What do you need it for?" I asked.

"Food," she replied.

Ah, in that case, I had a better solution that a dollar bill. I handed her one of my $10 McDonald cards. She could buy a couple meals with that. She thanked me and seemed sincere about it. Hollister has a 22% unemployment rate right now, so there are many hungry people looking for help.

AS Donnie and I stood in line, we had second thoughts. McDonald's was on the other side of town, and here we were at a place selling FOOD. For heaven's sake, we could buy her a meal on the spot and not make her trek somewhere else. Then she would have the card for a meal the next day.

So, I went back outside to talk to the young lady. She had started to walk off, ostensibly to go to McDonald's. "Excuse me," I called after her. "What's your name?"

She approached me. "Mary," she answered. Now there's a name that makes you think twice!

"Well, Mary, would you let us buy you a meal?" I asked.

She agreed with a wide smile, and in we went. We talked a little about the kinds of sandwiches we wanted while waiting in line, and she seemed a little awkward. That made sense, I thought. She did not know us. However, the real reason soon came to light.

"I don't know how to ask this," she started, then continued. "I feel guilty about accepting a meal for myself and then going home to my family who are also hungry. I was trying to collect money to buy food for them all. Could I get something for them, too?"

"How many of them are there?" I asked.

"Six," she responded. "Two children, my mother, my sister, and my brother-in-law, besides me."

"Okay," I told her. "We can manage that." Of course, we could manage that. I had God's credit card with me. ( I had originally set up a $250 credit card to carry with me for those times I ran into people needing help when I was without cash. The credit line on that account has been raised without my request to $500, then to $750, then to $4500. Yikes! I wonder if God has a big spending request pending for me. Not to worry; every time I have used the card for someone God has put in my path, within a month the amount of money needed to pay off the card has dropped into my lap. I run a zero balance on it.) So, here we were, God's credit card where it always is -- in my pocket, and a young lady in need of six meals.

Mary excused herself briefly to use the bathroom. The lady in front of us in line had overheard everything and suggested that we save money by getting six footlongs that were cut in half. That way it would only be $15 and would still be enough for six people. I considered it briefly and decided to leave that decision to God. It was, after all, His credit card.

Mary came back just in time to order. She immediately asked for four footlongs and two children's meals. As she darted back and forth between the person handling the bread and meat and the person handling the toppings, I remembered so many times doing the same thing with our kids. Sometimes, I had ordered as many as ten, depending upon who was home at the time. It was always quite an experience for the sandwich makers when my family came to dinner or I stopped by to bring them home. I got involved in the information passing to the sandwich makers, helping Mary. What joy! What fun! It was just like the old days, and for a brief few minutes, through Mary, it was like being back with my kids in younger years.

Finally done, we packed up all the sandwiches, chips, drinks, and headed out the door. "How far do you have to walk?" I asked Mary, eyeing her multiple bags.

"Oh, I live nearby," she said. "Near the dollar store."

"That's more than a mile away!" I protested. "We will drive you."

So, we drove her there, talking along the way about her family, current situation, boyfriend -- and the, yikes, fact that she might be pregnant.

"Okay," Donnie, now the dad again, brought up. "How are you going to feed the baby?"

"Well, if I am pregnant, my boyfriend has agreed to pay for the baby and get married. He has a job."

That seems like a backward way to do things, but I guess the modern days are different from the days in which we grew up. Nonetheless, both Donnie and I slipped right back into the parent role, discussing the implications of these kinds of things. She seemed to accept that even though we are not her parents. Somehow, it just all seemed so natural.

All too soon, we arrived and let her out. She started to walk away, then set down her bags and came back to me, as I was about to get back into the car after helping her with the bags. She reached out and gave me a big hug and smile. "Thanks," she said. And that was it.

Yesterday, I followed the doctor's orders. I went dancing -- but not in the literal sense.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stand Downs

Here is an interesting idea from the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans: a "stand down" for homeless vets (or for homeless people in general). From the coalition's website comes the following description:
The Stand Down for homeless veterans was modeled after the Stand Down concept used during the Vietnam War to provide a safe retreat for units returning from combat operations. At secure base camp areas, troops were able to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, receive medical and dental care, mail and receive letters, and enjoy the camaraderie of friends in a safe environment. Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being.

That is the purpose of the Stand Down for homeless veterans, and achieving those objectives requires a wide range of support services and time. The program is successful because it brings these services to one location, making them more accessible to homeless veterans.
Stand downs in May are taking place in Lakeland, Tucson, Minneapolis, Buffalo, Lansing, and San Luis Obispo. Here is the schedule for 2010 Stand Downs.

Let's spread the information!

Monday, May 10, 2010

National Conference on Ending Homelessness

The National Alliance to End Homeless is hosting a conference. The image above gives the most important details. Here are some more:

(1) Registration can be accomplished on line at the Alliance's website: click here.

(2) Events include pre-conference meetings, workshops, institutes, and keynote speakers.

(3) Unfortunately, at least for me, the registration fees are a bit steep: $450 for early registration and $700 for on-site registration. Scholarships are available, but they must be requested by May 21: click here for the link. In addition, volunteers receive free registration.

(4) Hotel accommodations for those who do not live in the DC area have been arranged at $205 a night.

It sounds like an interesting and useful way to spend three days!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Twitter Transforming Help for the Homeless

I recently came across an interesting post about someone twittering about a homeless situation and people stepping forward as a result to help. Here is an excerpt:
An LA mother and her nine-year old son have been homeless and living out of their van. Earlier this week, their van was towed by the city - along with all of their clothing and belongings. Horvath, who works during the day as an outreach worker for an LA-area shelter, tweeted the following message:

That message was received by several thousand followers. One person responded to Horvath's message, and offered to purchase clothing, food, and even a few toys for the family. Needless to say, the family was thrilled; the young mother said it was the first time she and her son had received new clothes in a very long time. Horvath documented much of the event on video, and has since blogged about the entire ordeal here.

You can read the whole post here: Will Twitter Transform Homeless Services in 2010?

This is not the first time I have read about a Twitter comment bringing out the best in people. It is good to know that social networking can be used effectively for something other than chatting. What a great idea it will become if everyone starts using it this way.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hard to Believe the Inhumanity of People

Homeless good Samaritan left to die on NYC street
By DEEPTI HAJELA Associated Press Writer © 2010 The Associated Press
April 26, 2010, 11:42PM


I came across the following story, published two days ago and had a hard time believing that people could be this way. I am curious as to readers' take on this. Why do you think people walked past? What would you have done?

Now, here's the story:

NEW YORK — The homeless man lay face down, unmoving, on the sidewalk outside an apartment building, blood from knife wounds pooling underneath his body.

One person passed by in the early morning. Then another, and another. Video footage from a surveillance camera shows at least seven people going by, some turning their heads to look, others stopping to gawk. One even lifted the homeless man's body, exposing what appeared to be blood on the sidewalk underneath him, before walking away.

It wasn't until after the 31-year-old Guatemalan immigrant had been lying there for nearly an hour that emergency workers arrived, and by then, it was too late. Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax — who police said was stabbed while intervening to help a woman being attacked — had died.

"I think it's horrific," said Marla Cohan, who teaches at P.S. 82, a school across the street from where Tale-Yax died. "I think people are just afraid to step in; they don't want to get involved; who knows what their reasons are?"

Tale-Yax was walking behind a man and a woman on 144th Street in the Jamaica section of Queens around 6 a.m. April 18 when the couple got into a fight that became physical, according to police, who pieced together what happened from surveillance footage and interviews with area residents.

Tale-Yax was stabbed several times when he intervened to help the woman, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. She and the other man fled in different directions, and Tale-Yax pursued the man before collapsing. Authorities are searching for the man and woman.

A 911 call of a woman screaming came in around 6 a.m., but when officers responded to the address that was given, no one was there, police said. Another call came in around 7 a.m., saying a man was lying on the street, but gave the wrong address. Finally, around 7:20 a.m., someone called 911 to report a man had possibly been stabbed at 144th Street and 88th Road.

Police and firefighters arrived a few minutes later to find Tale-Yax dead. Officials say they're not sure whether the man was still alive when passers-by opted not to help him.

Residents who regularly pass by the same stretch of sidewalk, in a working-class neighborhood of low-rise apartment buildings and fast food restaurants near a busy boulevard, were unnerved by the way Tale-Yax died.

"Is anybody human anymore?" asked Raechelle Groce, visiting her grandmother at a nearby building on Monday. "What's wrong with humanity?"

In the urban environment, it's not unusual to see people on the street, sleeping or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

But even assuming the person they've just passed is drunk, instead of injured, is no reason not to notify authorities, said Seth Herman, another teacher at the school. He remembered calling an ambulance when seeing a man who appeared to be homeless on the street, with a beer bottle near by.

He called 911, he said, because "I felt it wasn't my job to figure out if the person was drunk or actually hurt."

Groce agreed.

"I just think that's horrible, whether you're homeless or not," she said. "He's a human being; he needs help."

___

Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.