Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Life is a Beach

There is nothing (and I mean nothing) like the silence when people you adore leave the house after a good visit, and you are left all alone. In a family our size, this happens with regularity, and I’m still not used to it.

As I write this, I am sitting on our eerily quiet porch in Lewes.  I cherish having morning coffee out here, but really? I love sharing this view, this experience, with the ones I love far more. On my own, I am forever turning to invisible companions and saying, “Would you look at that?” (luckily I have a hubby who knows not to dial 911 at these moments).
Our porch. How lucky are we??

I vividly remember my mom Joanie visiting us from Atlanta back in the 1980’s. She loved the beach almost as much as I do, and she treasured these summer weeks with us at the Delaware shore. Inevitably, her departure would trigger a full day of tears and melancholy. Same with my sister C. I always treated these goodbyes as final, and mourned as if I’d never see these people again.  It took the next wave of visitors to start to lift the fog of sorrow. `

Just said farewell to Rose and Evan, after a wonderful four-day reunion. Things could not have gone better, truly. No bickering, no tense moments. MUCH laughter. We ate Grotto Pizza and King’s Ice Cream and homemade crabcakes. We played a rousing game of Hearts one evening. We ran on the boardwalk in the early morning. One night, we checked out a Rehoboth club, and enjoyed hearing our talented friend Karen Murdock sing for the patrons. We even toured a local brewery! Add that to four days of perfect beach weather and what do you have? The glow of satisfaction? Nope! A weepy mom!! Not content to just savor the good times, I insist on adding a side dish of sad.

Rehoboth/Lewes is not only the source of present joys and sorrows: we have a 33 year history in this place. I trudge over the dunes at Park Ave. beach and am instantly transported back to holding tiny Sheridan’s hand on the same walk. I stroll past Funland on the boardwalk and the shrieks of joy bring me right back to my toddlers’ similar shrieks (usually of joy, but once, my over-stimulated offspring grappled for the wheel of the car ride and its exciting buzzer-horn. As I watched, aghast, four year old Sher leaned over and bit two year old Evan!)

Does anyone else have this weird reaction to the high points of life? Am I the only one who wastes the precious moments with dread that they will soon be over?

So here I am, watching the sun setting over the water. The sun doesn’t cry. The sun also rises. Tonight, I think I will have a glass of wine and relish the days just past, and try to be confident that other wonderful days are ahead for me and my loved ones.

At Aqua Restaurant, Rehoboth Beach

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Rose is a Rose is a Rosebud

Rosebud.  What a lovely place name!  You might look at the name on a map of South Dakota and imagine miles of colorful flower gardens. You would be wrong.

The real Rosebud is a Lakota reservation in the southeast corner of South Dakota. Last week, a group of high school youth and adults left Philadelphia to spend a week there. We went to serve, to help wherever we could. We lived at Tree of Life, a ministry that has been in Mission for 30 years. Some of us ran a Vacation Bible School in the town of White River. Some of us worked onsite, helping with the food distribution, doing some painting. Our days were full of activity, but also full of revelation. For you see, things on the reservation rarely go as planned.

Painting with Tree of Life

The Christ’s Lutheran folks at Tree of Life spent a large part of their time unloading pallets from semi trucks, donations from various corporations. And what was donated? Fresh fruits? Vegetables? No! The trucks were loaded with cast-off items that could not be sold. Hundreds of pairs of high heels. Thousands of bottles of Mountain Dew. The Mountain Dew will contribute to the rotting teeth and the diabetes that afflict 80% of the Rosebud population. There is nowhere to go that would warrant dressing up in high heels. Halfway through the week, the food distribution was shut down. Tree of Life had run out of food.

VBS in White River was not smooth sailing, either. We’d brought the same curriculum we’d used

home in Oreland. There, 50 little ones enjoyed our VBS. They were brought and picked up by attentive and loving parents. Here, the children either walked a distance or piled in to our van after a
free lunch at the community center. Some of the older ones were already hardened by life, and did nothing but cause trouble.  They mocked our planned activities. They pushed and shoved and cursed. We tried to keep a vision of their home lives in mind. Raised by teenage moms or overwhelmed grandparents. Beaten. Neglected. What would it be like to be Jeremiah First-in-Trouble? Anessa Little Boy? Aiden Yellow Eyes?

So now we are home, haunted by memories of the people we were trying to serve. Hoping that things will get better (even though I was there 11 years ago and nothing has changed). It was a humbling week, without the gratification of making an obvious difference.

This Rosebud is full of thorns.  There is little chance of it ever blooming. Still, where there is life, there is hope. Education is a key, as are access to health care and decent food. Jobs. Habitable houses.  It is a long road ahead for the Lakota people, and no magic wand (or magic group of volunteers) to make it shorter.

In the end, we prayed. And we continue to pray with and for the people of Rosebud.  And we invite you to keep them in your prayers, too.