The Happy Leaf Blower
Oh the happy leaf blower
Who sees me raking across the street
Dragging my tool over the scattered litter
My chapped hands catching splinters from the
A film of green develops from right to left as I toil
While the piles of leaves along the curb
Grow taller and taller,
The wind threatening to destroy
All of my work.
He crosses the road to the neighbor’s lawn
To help them, I think,
Only he backtracks slowly
Moving me out of the way
Towards the garage.
I take refuge from the insulting
Noise and fumes of his blower
As I watch the tornado of swirling gold and red and brown
Take flight in the fall morning
He scatters them and gathers them up
And leaves them in a larger pile on the curb
Before offering me a satisfied smile and a wave goodbye.
I raise my hand, rub my ears,
And wish I had more to rake.
*this image was pulled from an internet search...
Cold November Plagues
You know that scene in Outbreak when Dustin Hoffman strides purposefully into the hospital, ready to tackle the impossible task of curing a novel virus, when another doc grabs him and points out that a patient in isolation now has signs of the disease? Remember how Hoffman looks up and we get that whiplash-inducing tour of the air vents that shows us how the virus jumped between rooms?
There is no such connection between my kitchen pantry (where the moth infestation started) and my laundry room (though they are back to back and each behind a closed door), but when I opened the laundry room door two weeks ago and spotted a pantry moth on the ceiling, I felt Hoffman’s panic.
It had already been a dark month, where the darkness brought on by the increasingly shorter and cloudy days only felt like one of the many plagues sent my way, plagues that started with the (five) mice in my closet crawl space and then became larvae on my pantry rice. Instead of escaping to Florida for Thanksgiving like my neighbors, I found myself setting and emptying mouse traps and throwing out food and spraying a bleach and water solution over every pupa, whimpering with disgust, no matter how much I tried to inhabit my friend’s mindset, the one who absolutely reveres the process of metamorphosis.
Because Ms. Pennington not only owns a bookshop and solves mysterious murders that happen at a ridiculous rate in her sleepy North Carolina town (perhaps even more ridiculous how little the characters fear for their lives while living through these ordeals), she engages her customers by offering them “bibliotherapy,” that is, suggested reading to help them with whatever emotional problem they may be dealing with. While Ms. Pennington does resort to traditional self-help titles when a friend wants to learn how to promote herself at work, she mainly sticks to fiction.
I think this is why I love these books so much (and will go back to read books two, three and four in the series next): While they are fast-paced murder mysteries that skip the gore, they are jam-packed with reading recommendations! I love seeing both familiar and unfamiliar titles and gathering ideas for future reading. Ms. Pennington and her friends read both deeply and widely and somehow, in the midst of running businesses and solving impossibly difficult crimes, they also manage to meet for a weekly book discussion.
I’m still searching for my next book club, but in the meantime, these characters were great company on a dark, cold day after I was done scrubbing the pantry ceiling, shelves, walls and floor. And, when the moths returned and somehow jumped locations to the adjacent-though-not-connected laundry room, a neighbor offered her portable ozone machine.
“Just leave the house while it’s plugged in and air everything out afterwards,” she warned.
The dog and I took a walk. Time will tell whether sucking all of the breathable oxygen out of the space succeeded in ending the life cycle of the resilient pantry moth or not.
The days are still gray (enough that I planned our next trip to Florida), and I still need to set more mousetraps, but I had an unexpected gift waiting when I turned the blinds one morning: a November snowfall. Suddenly, everything was brighter and more peaceful. (Those landscapers manning leaf blowers couldn’t work in the cold weather, thank goodness!) My kids were wishing for a snow day as they stomped in their boots to the bus stop, but I told them that whether school is in session or not, it happened. Here, a snow day. A respite. Blanketing us, soothing us, and tucking us in for the long winter to come.
In Sickness by Barrett Rollins
During my first month as a doctor, one of my elderly hospital patients refused my recommendation to schedule a colonoscopy. I had conducted a small bedside test that indicated she had blood in her stool. It was standard procedure, I explained, to then find the source of the bleeding, and most importantly, rule out colon cancer.
“No,” she said softly but firmly with her husband next to her, equally resolute. She’d been through enough. No more workup.
She refused my senior resident. She refused my attending physician. She became the subject of debate. How much to push her while she was still in our midst, receiving care for another issue? Everything we had taught ourselves said that she needed this test.
But what if our assumptions were wrong?
In the middle of this crisis of conscience – which might have lasted one day or three, I can’t remember – I had an epiphany: I had read my test result wrong.
Everyone who has taken a COVID test by now knows that there is a line that appears for “control” and a line that appears for “test.”
Her “control” line had been positive, I realized, not her “test.” In my first-time-as-a-doctor nervousness, I had invented a problem.
By the end of my intern year – really by the middle, after a winter of calling time of death on multiple people each time I was on call – I had changed my tune from “workup at all costs” to telling my husband that if they asked him for my advanced directives, please let any hospital personnel know that I was “do not resuscitate,” “do not intubate,” “do not hospitalize,” and “do not touch under any circumstances let me die in peace thank you.”
Because was death, especially in this 80-something-year-old woman, really the worst thing?
After reading Dr. Jane Weeks’s story first in the Boston Globe and later in her husband Dr. Barrett Rollins’s memoir In Sickness, it seems like the renowned Boston oncologist and researcher would have agreed with me – that patients should be empowered to be able to make a clear-eyed choice regarding medical and end-of-life care, and to even be able to decline it, especially weighing the toxicities of certain treatments, like chemotherapies.
Indeed, in real life, she largely refused treatment for her own breast cancer, which she diagnosed in herself about ten years before her death, kept secret for six years, and only confided in her husband when she thought she was dying. For the last four years of her life, she bound him to her secret, refusing to let him speak of it to anyone.
This is another layer to the mystery: Not only does Weeks make us question how treatment conversations should take place between doctor and patient, she also demands we consider who has a right to know our medical history to begin with.
Was she wrong to refuse treatment for breast cancer? Was she wrong to force her husband to keep her secret? And was her husband wrong in keeping the secret from everyone else? When the news finally leaked that she had end-stage breast cancer, concerned family members and colleagues who yearned to be close to the fierce woman they long admired as a mentor and physician researcher wanted to do something to help her. And the reader presumes that these family and friends would have wanted to know what was going on with her.
This month, ten years after his wife’s death, Dr. Barrett Rollins lays it out for everyone in his scene-driven story about his wife’s struggle with breast cancer. The memoir opens with her near-death experience that landed her in the ICU and from there, chronicles her last year of life and her husband’s caretaking role during that time.
By the end, we definitely know what happened, but we are no closer to understanding why, or whether the writer thinks it should have happened this way or what the alternatives might have been. I expected this memoir to delve deeper into Dr. Weeks’s research and arguments, or at least some greater exploration of her past that created her intense phobias and personality. I thought such a discussion would be worthy of attention and could be used to try to improve communication between doctors and patients, especially regarding end-of-life issues.
Then again, this wasn’t her memoir; it is her husband’s, but the thing is, while he is present on every page, we learn so little about him that I don’t think it can be called his memoir either. He includes a few lines about his intense reluctance to face conflict and the turmoil he experienced as he considered several times whether to break his vow of secrecy. Still, in the end, it avoids any deep reflection regarding their marriage or the role of sharing medical news.
By the end, I couldn’t see this as anything more than an attempt to absolve her of any requirement to seek medical care or share her medical condition, and to absolve the writer of any complicity in the outcomes. Did they have love in their marriage? Yes, he argues. Did they support each other? He supported her every day of her life. This book could have been titled, “In Defense of My Actions,” and yet, perhaps he chose “In Sickness” in order to argue that no one can know the nuance of a marriage from outside of it. Theirs was a particular relationship, he argues, that in revealing the story on these pages, he hopes to explain to the world.
I’m not sure if Jane Weeks' life and death will have an effect on the practice of healthcare or oncology or the research of either, but for those who are aware, perhaps we might individually reflect on our motives for seeking medical care or not. For anyone seeking eternal life, I still strongly recommend religion. For my friend, Grace Segran, who sought treatment for her breast cancer, chemotherapy deprived her of enjoying her life, and she chose hospice in the end. For myself, I recently waited through almost four weeks of congestion, coughing and sinus pain, only going in for treatment when my kids fell sick. I might wish to never step foot in a medical office again, but how could I knowingly spread germs to them? For them, I took my antibiotics and steroids and began once again to sleep at night.
We can’t know Jane Weeks’ motives completely, but we can hope that she lived tenaciously, purposefully, and in accordance with her own wishes, to the very end of her truncated life.
Be the Match
Last week, a friend of mine donated hematopoietic stem cells to be used in new research on gene therapy for those with Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome, a genetic disease that affects the bone marrow, causing it to fail. She did this in hopes of new treatments for her daughter and others who are affected. She will spend the next 7-30 days recovering, if she is a typical case.
She asked me to follow her on social media and to get the word out about the research going on at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Notably, she didn’t ask me to recommit to be a bone marrow donor.
That would be the biggest ask, don’t you think?
I first fundraised for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training back in 2003 when I was living in Rhode Island. I ran a half marathon in Virginia Beach that year in honor of my cousin’s husband, who would in the ensuing years be put through the ringer with both diseases.
In 2010, I met up with the Team again in Boston, where we ran back and forth on Route 9 in preparation for the Boston Marathon. I mostly ran with my coach, but I was excited to also run into a high school friend I’m not sure I’d seen since he delivered his valedictory speech on the day he was cured of leukemia.
During one of our training sessions, our team was visited by representatives from Be the Match. I already knew that sometimes a family member can provide bone marrow needed for a transplant in order to treat blood cancers (as my cousin’s brother was in order to help him) but other times, recipients are at the mercy of strangers who volunteer. My high school friend and I each swabbed our cheeks, filled out the paperwork, and signed up.
That was 12 years ago now.
Would they still have my cheek sample from 12 years ago? All it would take would be a few clicks, or a quick email to find out, but why would I sign up when I might never be a match for anyone?
I took some time to review the pledge I made in 2010:
Your commitment to patients Once you join the registry, the most important thing you can do is stay committed. Show your commitment by taking this life-saving pledge:
As a Member of the Be The Match Registry®
I understand that:
I read it over, searched my email for my old donor ID number, and then updated my contact information. I clicked submit on the form and felt flooded by a wave of possibilities: the chance that it wouldn’t matter to anyone, and the chance that it would make all the difference.
Pray for my friend. Pray for her daughter. And ask yourself if you might be able to donate, either money or your own cheek cells and commitment too.
If a neighborhood’s wealth can be estimated by the number of landscaping trucks parked on the roads, then my street is very well-off. Most days this fall it was hard to negotiate a drivable path around all of the service vehicles, and the related noise has been deafening.
My husband reminds me that we jumped more than one culture when we moved from Cambridge to here, one of the suburbs on Chicago’s North Shore. We went from East Coast to Midwest. We went from city to suburb. We went from mixed income to affluent. We went from stratified ages and family groups to single-family homes with more traditional family structures.
All of the habits and mannerisms of this new culture landed on me in the form of intense sticker shock. I began to look for a part-time job in order to try to gain a little control over what felt like a losing battle with unpredictable expenses, but I was heartedly disappointed to lose out on a few jobs I might have genuinely enjoyed (bookseller, library aide). In the end, the one that took me, no questions asked, was the grocery store. After a few weeks of picking items for online orders, I actually began to enjoy the work, until a union rep came along five weeks in, demanding a portion of my paycheck and sincerely but firmly explaining that this was nonnegotiable.
I left my position at the end of the week, not having expected to pay the machine in order to keep a low-paying job, but before I did that, I got to know some of my coworkers. Coworkers like the Ukrainian woman and her refugee daughter searching for affordable preschool, the grandmother caring for her cancer-suffering boyfriend while also babysitting her grandkids, and the teenager who didn’t seem to have any plan for college.
When the Ukrainian grandmother approached me about preschools, I had to admit that I was unfamiliar with the area, but I went home that night determined to bring her an answer that would help her situation. I called the Village Hall and spoke with a social worker. I contacted someone at the local Head Start program. I spoke with the public school and the park district about their more affordable options. All of these options had multiple hoops to jump through. Nothing was straightforward. And everything had a waitlist. I compiled all of this information onto a document and presented it to my coworker, hoping something in there would prove fruitful for her family and wishing there was more I could do.
Recently, our church gathered on a Saturday morning to pack 1,440 Thanksgiving dinners for families in need around Chicago. The congregation had already spent weeks raising the funds to purchase all of the food and supplies. My kids had memorized Bible verses to “earn cans” that would be donated to the event. Behind the scenes, connections were being made and nurtured with the groups who would receive the dinners.
Then, on the big day, approximately 300 volunteers, my kids and I included, showed up in the sanctuary, first to worship in song and then to hear from the 13 ministries and organizations who had requested the food baskets and would carry out their distribution, organizations like:
West Deerfield Township Food Pantry
Youth Services Glenview / Northbrook
Good News Bible Church
Westside Ministers Coalition
CASA Lake County
Family Empowerment Center of Chicago
TEDS (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School)
Trinity Ministries of Chicago
El Puente Nuevo
New Church of Joy
When it was her turn to speak, a representative from Youth Services in Glenview shared that, “I think there’s a misconception that there isn’t any need on the North Shore. You look around and see all of this wealth, but there are a lot of families in need.”
I thought about my coworkers and wondered how their salaries were stretching to make it work. I could never fix all of their issues no matter how many phone calls I made, but in leaving them, I had lost the opportunity to be in community with them.
My dad likes to tell a story from the middle of the pandemic, when my parents’ car broke down in the middle of Iowa and they spent a few cold days outside of Des Moines debating whether to buy a new vehicle while trying to console their brand new and now once-again freshly traumatized rescue dog who was along for the ride. I guess the situation made my dad desperate enough that he started to crave Taco Bell. And yet, when he approached the drive-through on foot to place an order (lobbies being closed due to the pandemic), he was told they couldn’t serve him – because he didn’t have a car.
You need a car to get around the Chicago suburbs. My gas bill skyrocketed immediately when we moved here. (And if you are fit enough to bike the distance, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bike rack when you get to your destination.) I knew the property taxes were going to be much higher here than in Cambridge, and I knew the sales tax was going to go from nonexistent on essential goods to very existent.
But I didn’t realize that there aren’t kitchens or food plans in the public schools, nothing easily accessible if you are food insecure. I didn’t realize that there would be additional school fees and add ons for every activity, with no great way to deflect costs without simply not participating. I commented to my husband this fall that I felt like I was being treated like a blank check and that if I had to order one more specialty t-shirt for an activity, I was going to scream.
I decided that the attitude of the area was something like, “If it’s nice to have, then buy it,” without thinking about what stress such an idea might have on families. It seemed a baseline assumption that families would be capable of taking care of themselves, as well as stepping up to give above and beyond that.
How would a lower income family live comfortably here? How would a family like that ever feel part of the community?
Coming from Cambridge, there wasn’t really a “keep up with the Jones’s” type of vibe because there was so much diversity that you couldn’t target out any particular type of living. Or maybe closer to the truth, like the “tall poppy” idea in Australia (aka “cut down the tall poppy”), anyone who wanted to ask anything of families or the community would be asked to think of how it might impact the various socioeconomic and cultural groups. I was told that our public school system included speakers of over 500 different languages. That’s a heck of a lot of groups, and yet, the mission was to ensure we were all in the same boat together.
Back at church recently, during the basket drive, I was glad the benefitting 13 organizations exist, and that they know the families and can work to fill the gaps. I hope the families who received the Thanksgiving meals were blessed by the gesture and nourished by the food.
I also hope my family gets some new way to expand our community, to meet these families ourselves and share life with them. Without the grocery store gig, I need to search for another way. Because, selfishly, we all lose out when we don’t see them.
Packing up baskets in the church gym that day reminded me of setting up for the monthly marketplace at our Cambridge elementary school. An organization called Food for Free would donate canned goods, fruits, vegetables, dairy and frozen items. (I wrote previously about this endeavor here and here.) A handful of moms and I would arrange the food on tables and then invite families in to shop after school pick up that day. I also shopped. I visited with the staff and families. Then we’d go home and cook the same food that week which made me feel more connected to them.
By living together, we are all more blessed and nourished every day.
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
One of humanity’s most defining characteristics has got to be the desire to make records, keep them, and share them with the next generation. And yet, obstacles to such a pursuit have run rampant throughout history. In the middle ages, despite the best efforts of scribes, “one bad-tempered abbot, one clumsy friar, one invading barbarian, an overturned candle, a hungry worm – and all those centuries are undone.” (172) And perhaps one day in the not-too-distant future, as Anthony Doerr imagines, paper will be obsolete, such that our species will be reliant on our virtual memory, as data stored only in computer systems.
The associated reverence is mocked as superstition in the middle ages, or labeled academic pursuit in modern day, and later, attributed to nostalgia in centuries to come. However, by then, no one can deny the beauty of such a craft, or the way stories have an ability to entwine their way into our personal lives, soothing us, and directing our own hopes and dreams.
Perhaps expectedly, the advancement of technology – while astoundingly imaginative – is what is most mocked in this text. A cannon so large that it could destroy a city – at the expense of beloved livestock that hauled it to battle? A bomb so sophisticated that it can be operated with a cell phone – at the expense of innocent children, including the one who assembled it? A ship so advanced it can transport the last humans on earth across the galaxy – at the expense of leaving their heritage behind?
Reading all of this makes me recall the quote from the book I loved last month, Sea of Tranquility:
"When we consider the question of why...there's been this increased interest in postapocalyptic fiction over the past decade, I think we have to consider what's changed in the world in that timeframe, and that line of thinking leads me inevitably to our technology...My personal belief is that we turn to post apocalyptic fiction not because we're drawn to disaster, per se, but because we're drawn to what we imagine might come next. We long secretly for a world with less technology in it." (190-1)
That is, indeed, what Mr. Doerr’s characters seek by the end – simple lives. A view of the sunrise. The feel of dirt beneath their feet. Companionship. Air to breathe. And paper on which to record and share.
Because whatever disasters they witnessed in their lifetimes, these characters conclude that by the end of their journey, “The world as it is is enough.” (568)
You will live a hundred lifetimes in this book. Follow the threads, suspend your disbelief, and delight in the emerging tapestry on display in the final pages. Enjoy.
I love film adaptations from children’s books, but I had another reason to run out to see Lyle, Lyle Crocodile this fall. My family recently moved across the country, and I found myself intensely nostalgic not only for the place we left but also for who we used to be before this transition.
Something happened during the pandemic, though. Despite the library’s best intentions, my kids became more focused readers, no longer allowed to grab random picture books from the shelves and flip through them within the library’s walls. Our inspiration for reading stemmed from what was most within our mental recall, that is, a lot of Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Book series hold their own value, don’t get me wrong, but I started to notice that we sat together less and less frequently, and read my childhood favorites even less than that.
So I was already on edge this summer as we geared up to move out of state, and from city to suburban living. Among other changes, I realized we would no longer have built-in bookshelves in the living room. If I couldn’t display those childhood favorites, would we sit and read together again? With my youngest children now seven years old, would I also have to say goodbye to an era, to childhood, in addition to everything else?
It was while I was hyperventilating, trying to resist the ephemeral nature of time, that I saw a preview for Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, which was to be released in theaters on October 6th. I stared at the screen, entranced, and knew I absolutely had to be there opening weekend. This movie is a sign, I realized. This movie is a metaphor.
Lyle, along with the young son Joshua, takes center stage in this story, but after reviewing the plot now as a mother, I see another dimension peeking out between the lines. In the storybook, the action seems to begin with Mrs. Primm entering the upstairs bathroom and encountering Lyle for the first time – a real shock to be sure – but the story for Mrs. Primm herself begins long before that.
The Primms, like my family, enter the story in a moving van, distraught by many things, like where to put the piano (Mrs. Primm’s first concern) and where to freshen up (Mrs. Primm’s second concern). Now I wonder, was the piano really the only piece of furniture that was hard to place? And, after doing all of that work, was there no powder room on the main level where this hard-working mother might refresh herself? Nonetheless, the focus here is on the mother, and the need to wash her hands draws her to the discovery of Lyle in the bathtub upstairs.
Once the family overcomes their collective shock, Mrs. Primm begins to settle into her new home. She cleans, decorates, and entertains. And, she is drawn out into the community, presumably where she can enjoy Italian ice and visits to the park, just like Lyle.
After my family moved this summer, there were no scaly surprises in our new bathrooms, although perhaps my “Lyle” appeared in the form of my property tax bill, among other expenses that jumped up dramatically. But maybe all of that would pay for something good? I waited in anticipation for something like Lyle that would draw us into the world and then accompany us home to rest.
I’m still adjusting to the shock of driving everywhere – I really mean everywhere in this suburban environment – but overall, I’m trying to focus on how we’re engaging in our new place, how our kids are involved in sports and activities through the town and at school. This is where I meet people. The bus stop especially is a daily check in for neighborhood parents.
The thing is, we don’t have a clue as to what the Primm family did with their time before Lyle came into their lives, before they lived on East 88th Street. Did Joshua enjoy sitting next to his mother on the sofa while she read to him? Or had he just outgrown that, same as my kids? Whatever their lives were like before, they learned to love Lyle, miss him when he is gone, and celebrate his return. Realizing this, I think the Primm family has a message for anyone trying to settle in after a big move:
Be entertained. Be cozy. Be together. Bring delight to the community.
How to do this? My first thought is to throw a barbeque and invite the neighbors. Never mind that summer has passed. We’re here now, and it’s time. Bus Stop BBQ, here we come.
Grace be with us all
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a month I spent working a part-time job where we were encouraged to wear pink shirts on Fridays. That first Monday, though, we kicked off the month by wearing all things pink. My manager bought scarves for the team. I brought pink pom poms and tucked one in my ponytail. The boss distributed pink tutus for the ladies and pink bow ties and suspenders for the guys.
I was surprised by his short burst of sharing. Usually it was a heads down, fast-paced, take your breaks at staggered times type of place. Little time to get to know each other. And of course, we were back to work after this brief exchange.
So I didn’t see a good opening to share the news I’d just found in my email.
My friend Grace had been on hospice for breast cancer recurrence when she finally succumbed earlier this month. The thing is, I had been thinking of her just the week before – before I knew she had died – and I found myself reflecting on the last emails we exchanged. This was in August. I felt like I should have checked in one more time.
She had been cancer-free for over twenty years before it recurred. I met her during her remission a couple of years ago when we signed up for the same writing class.
I remember the first night of that class. It was January, 2020, and I had just finished a brisk walk from the Red Line stop at Park Street to GrubStreet’s old location in the Steinert building on the Boston Common. I reached the back of the dimly lit entry hall just as a group of writers scuttled into the tiny elevator. I knew I wouldn’t make it onto that ride, so I slowed my pace and prepared to wait for the elevator light to reset so I could push the button.
Before I could reach out my hand, a Chinese woman blew into the vestibule, crossed the floor and poked impatiently at the button. I knew her action wasn’t going to call the elevator. I waited for a polite moment and then gently pressed the same button again once the light reset.
It was a small moment, but one that, for me, captured the essence of Grace – who ran after life, demanding the best, and quickly.
Self-described as a global nomad and journalist, Grace Segran had a passion for travel, for writing, for Jesus, and for her late-husband Raja. She leaves behind a plethora of personal narratives for us to enjoy, as well as advice for those who may shirk from hospice care.
Today, I am grieving the loss of her life, and I am grateful to have known her. She encouraged me – in writing, in faith, and in life. Even with only months to live, she asked me about my life. When I said I wanted to go back to work but didn’t know what to do, she suggested Walgreens, saying it was fast-paced and interesting. She also sent me the link to a song that sustained her during her breast cancer metastasis – https://youtu.be/rNXd0KQaYXg – a production of “Yet not I, but through Christ in me.”
And I thought of her during subsequent writing classes, including during a session in which I didn’t know how to respond to a prompt. This is what I wrote, and it’s how I’d like to always remember Grace:
"I don't know what to write -- which makes me think of Grace, who never knew what to write in class either. What if the prompt doesn't fit? What if you want to write something else? I think of her smiling eyes behind her glasses, playful and a little devious, daring me to play hooky and grab a cup of tea with her in the kitchen. She'll tell me tales of Scotland, and I'll wonder if I'll ever see the world through her eyes -- to have a brush with death and a heart full of gratitude for one more day. Let's stay here in the kitchen, Grace. We'll get back to work eventually. There is time. There will be enough time for it all."
I wanted to come to your memorial service, Grace. I told you that. But I had to attend virtually instead. I’m sorry I never met your daughter, the one who shares a name with my own. I’m sorry I never met your granddaughters. But I’m so glad I was there to sing with the worship team “Yet not I, but through Christ in me” and to hear your brother-in-law proclaim your immense faith and the comfort you found in your last days in Psalm 130 and your anticipation of seeing Jesus for the first time:
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.”
You told me once, Grace, that you wished you could write more about your faith. Know that your faith was proclaimed and witnessed. And we cherish it.
I am so glad to have known you, and I hope that one day, we will meet again.
Feed My Starving Children
In moving to our new neighborhood, it became quickly clear that this community is service oriented. At least, fundraising opportunities abound – both for community-based programs and for the like that support school-based activities. Our new church (or my “old” one, having spent my elementary and high school years there) was no different. The service activity I accompanied my middle school daughter to a few weeks ago, however? That certainly was.
Most of the time, when I think of supporting a community with sustenance, I think of canned food drives. In the past, I’ve written about food drives we’ve hosted at family gatherings, or my volunteer work at a food pantry in Boston during the pandemic. But at Feed My Starving Children, we did something completely different.
We were handed hair nets when we walked through the door. We were instructed to remove all jewelry and told to wash our hands well. Then, we were taught how to bag the rice mix that had been formulated to support starving people and nurse them back to health.
We assembled in groups of six or seven in stations in the workroom, manning individual spots in order to scoop in the vitamins, vegetables, soy and rice that we weighed and bagged, sealing each before loading a box that would be shipped to receiving distributors. Kids as young as six participated, standing on overturned wooden crates in order to reach the activity. My daughter joined one group. I joined another, and we quickly got to work.
In just one hour (maybe less), the sixty-odd volunteers prepped and boxed over 18,000 meals. Now that’s an assembly line! Afterwards, we gathered in the warehouse to pray over the boxes that would be shipped to South Sudan where they would be received by a group called Reach International and distributed to those in need.
I had previously prepared food for others (most consistently with Community Cooks in Cambridge), but this was food prep on a whole other scale.
Feed My Starving Children is not a huge organization, but they are helping relieve hunger in the way they know how, stating that 98% of their deliveries reach their destinations.
That night, I was glad to have been a part of their work.
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.