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...! 

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