Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sacredness and Dignity of the Human Person one of the nine Guiding Principles identified by Catholic Relief Services.  Throughout my service experience I will blog about most of these in some way.

The phrase All Shall be Received as Christ is one that characterizes Benedictines-- it is in the Rule of Benedict, the guidelines, per se, that outline Benedictine community life.  If you've ever experienced Benedictine hospitality, hopefully you can affirm that you were truly received as Christ. 

As I was journaling on this principle I reflected on the dignity of each person.  All are sacred, not some.  Dignity of any person, or thing or place, is not ours, and not ours to take away.  There is something about treating others as one would like to be treated (hey!--the Golden Rule, just as we were taught when we were young).  This came up one day as a "teachable moment" when I was volunteering at Benedictine.  No matter the level of functioning of the exceptional students, they are still youth who need to be reminded of the Golden Rule... as do all of us. 

When respect is given to others, it is in the spirit of respecting God-- offering respect to God and the Divine spirit in each person.  Similarly we respect ourselves.  It is not our choice to determine or be selective as to whom is good/bad, right/wrong, worthy or not of respect and love, and so on.  I can see where we need this reminder in daily life: to uphold the dignity of each and treat each as Christ in our thoughts and words and actions.  All human life is sacred. 

I had a wonderful conversation about life with someone I just met this week.  About her ex-husband she said something that really spoke to me, “Right now he’s doing the best he can.  I’m doing my best, and he’s doing his best too.”  This may not be an appropriate approach to every situation of conflict, but then again, it may.  It brings me right to the dignity of each person; dignity which we cannot judge.  

Whether I’m working with youth or youthful vintage, with friends or a new face, approaching each with reverence and respect is a goal I renew each day.  No matter how well we know someone, there is always a piece of her story hidden from view.  She is doing her best—can be encouraged to do so.  And I encourage each of us to do the same.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Opportunities in the Area

This week has flown by!  Here are a few great opportunities I've had in the past week...

On Wednesday I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Jenna Bush Hager.  She spoke on "How the Power of Compassion Changes Lives" as a guest of the Women & Girls Fund of the (Maryland) Mid-Shore.  This is a wonderful Fund which "uses the power of pooled resources to improve the lives of women and children on the Mid-Shore," encouraging women of all ages to be strong, healthy, and powerful, essentially improving communities as a whole.  Jenna spoke well and helped us to see how the opportunities she had as a First Daughter opened her eyes and heart, inspiring the works in which both she and her sister are involved. 

Thursday I had another busy day of transporting residents of the House.  I refreshed my memory of routes to nearby towns and can drive there without referring to directions.  I found a few shortcuts and back roads.  I ventured north to Chestertown.  And in Chestertown I drove around the campus of Washington College... yes, as in George Washington.  Admittedly, I got shivers as I saw the 1700-something date on the campus dedication sign.  This was the first U.S. college, I believe.  I drove down a couple narrow, broken streets to look at houses I am convinced are over 200 years old.  It is incredible to me as a Mid-Westerner to be in a place so rich in history.  I will be sure to update if I learn more. 

I also made it further south this weekend; I'm slowly expanding the area I've seen!  A friend's uncle's band played at the Legion in Cambridge on Friday night.  It was a fun time as I love any live music-- and this was good live music!  Don't worry St Joe Legion, this doesn't replace you.  Saturday I also saw more small towns I had not previously seen.  By the way-- the weather here has been beautiful!  I have enjoyed many refreshing walks, a few runs, and a couple bike rides. 

Speaking of exercise, I am also getting into Insanity-- workouts that are, in fact, nearly insane.  It has been nice to connect with some of the school staff through this, and overall to be growing comfortable with everyone at my service sites.  I had my first full days at the school last week and today.  It has been going really well; I have been able to work with a few of the students one-on-one and am learning how to effectively interact with and react to them. 

I'm going to leave you with this for now!  I am doing well and am very comfortable here.  I appreciate you reading this as I share my adventures! 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Knitting scarves

Meanwhile in my action-packed days (now almost two weeks) here, I have been knitting scarves!  I decided to join in this new venture and am now a member of the (quickly-growing, I must say) unofficial Knitting Circle a.k.a. K-nitting Klub. One of the Sisters wanted to start a new craft and while making boa-like feathery scarves she came across these knitted "novelty scarves."  If you search in Google Images "starbella novelty scarves," many images with scarves in a multitude of colors will come up (Starbella is one of the brands of yarn).  Here are photos of one of the scarves that I made last week: 

One line of yarn (Red Heart Boutique Sashay, if you're interested) gives each of the yarn colors/color schemes a name of a dance.  I have knitted Conga, Salsa (the one shown in the photos--very fitting, isn't it?), Ballet, and am currently on Boogie; Hip Hop is one of the most popular color schemes.  Just an extra fun twist to making the scarves!  Christmas gifts... coming right up! ;)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My First Week

Well, folks, I have been here in Ridgely for a whole week!  It has been a full experience thus far, and I am very much looking forward to the weeks and months ahead.  For this first week, I want to capture for you some moments of each day...

With my gracious greeters Sisters Jo-El and Mary Joseph, I had my first glimpses of Maryland on the drive from Baltimore airport to rural Ridgely.  They drove me across the Chesapeake Bay by way of the 4-mile-long Bay Bridge; they assured I was fed as we shared meaningful conversation; and they brought me safe and comfortable to St Gertrude Monastery, just in time for evening praise!  Even with only one tenth the number of names to learn and remember here, I didn't quite accomplish that by the first day.  I have them all down now, though =) 

Thursday started out with a trip at 7am to Acme, a local grocery store.  Acme is willing to set aside their beyond-sell by date foods to donate to the monastery, Benedictine School, wherever we can respond to a need, INSTEAD of throwing all of these products in the dumpster!  You all should see the quantity--and quality--of this food... I cannot imagine that each day all of this was disposed of.  The remainder of the morning was spent unpacking and continuing to settle in.  In the afternoon I was orientated to the surrounding area & to the town of Ridgely!  Yes, Sisters Mary Catherine and Mary Jane, we DID make it to the drugstore and enjoy a dip of ice cream at the soda fountain! 

Friday I had orientation to each of my service sites!  After some orientation & training pieces at the Benedictine School, I had the opportunity to spend a couple hours observing in a classroom.  In those short hours I already felt my passion for this population re-ignited.  I left that afternoon looking forward to many more.  From the school I went to St Martin's Ministries (SMM) to have tours and begin orientation there.  I had a tour of St Martin's Barn (the thrift store; aka The Barn or SMB) and met many of the staff and volunteers there.  Wow, is that place big!  I was very impressed by the work that they are able to do with their space.  I also had a tour & introduction to St Martin's House (the transitional housing; aka the House or SMH) and was able to meet most of the current residents while there.  It was a full day!

I had the wonderful opportunity on Saturday to join three of the Ridgely Sisters in attending a celebration of Perpetual Monastic Profession.  Final vows were made to the Benedictine monastic community in Bristow, Virginia.  This was a beautiful ceremony and a pleasant day visiting with Benedictine Sisters of the Bristow, Baltimore, and St Marys, Pennsylvania communities! 

Sunday and Monday consisted of leisure time, visiting, connecting with some family & friends, and walks outside.  School was in session on Monday, so I spent the morning in the music therapy room.  I was able to see students from four different classrooms and was filled with joy at how these youth are able to connect with and express themselves through music.  It was beautiful; something in which I hope to be able to participate again.  In the evening we shared an indoor Labor Day picnic complete with red, white, and blue table settings. 

After a trip to the nearby town of Easton to complete some things for my volunteer file, I spent my Tuesday afternoon at Benedictine (school).  In addition to observing I was able to tutor and interact with the students.  Each has so much personality to share! 

Yesterday was my first full day at the Barn.  I spent a few hours "sorting" in the sorting room.  Many donations are made to the barn, and trash bags full of clothes need to be sorted through.  They are checked for condition, coded by season, and hung on hangers to be displayed in the thrift store.  I was glad to be able to do this, experiencing many steps of the entire process there!  I received training in the afternoon to prepare me for taking clients last night!  I just jumped (or was thrown?-- haha, no, my training was thorough) right in.  The long and short of the process of receiving clients is that each time, which is once per month, an individual or family comes to receive food, one's file must be updated and accounted for.  There are documents to check, inquiries to make, signatures to obtain, etc.  It was a fast-paced 90 minutes, and a successful one at that!  I will say that I am very tempted to learn the necessary Spanish by next Wednesday evening so that I don't need an interpreter for the clients who are Spanish-speaking. 

And now for today...  I have been working on this post for too many days, so each day I caught up on inevitably made this post more lengthy.  In the future I will not have so many firsts and new new new things to share, hopefully keeping my posts less exhausting!  I do want to tell you, to prove my point, that today was another day of firsts. =)  I spent the day with residents of St. Martin's House.  I was gifted with a few minutes of child care: I played with a couple infants while their mothers tended to business.  Mostly I drove a couple of the women to appointments & meetings, and to college classes.  This was relaxed time with the women in an informal setting.  This also was for me a comfort and accomplishment; I like to know my way around and transport myself places.  I got my bearings and, after driving to and fro multiple times, now know my way to and through a few of the surrounding towns.  Hooray!!  In the future will come more exploration, and also shorter blog posts...!