Saturday, January 2, 2010

-20 degrees (Blessed are the meek)

I grew up in South America, in almost every country in the continent. I’ve been in the desert, the plains, the jungle, the mountains, the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean. In early 2001 I moved to Europe, and I've lived in Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Czech Reppublic, Spain and visited many other countries in Eastern Europe. I’ve been in hot and cold climates, but last Christmas was the first time I experienced -20 degrees weather.

I moved out from √Črd (a town in Hungary), and the little volunteer center that had been my home for the past 3 years, when I got an invitation from a family to come and work with them in the city. I’ve always liked adventure and new things, so it wasn’t difficult to move away and start a new life—although I did miss the friends I left behind, especially since it was Christmas and I wouldn’t be with them this time around.
Danci is one of my best friends—he is as crazy as me, or maybe more. We’ve gone to hospitals together—as part of our Clown Therapy programs, we’ve been together in our summer camps, and in fundraising ventures. He is been a friend, a brother, a mentor and an inspiration in difficult moments. I wanted to give him something special for Christmas—something unique, something meaningful. I finally decided that as my Christmas gift to him, I would go to the market with him.
The way things work for most of the volunteers centers I’ve know, is that it operates thanks to the help of others. Companies, individuals, other associations, goverment and various sources provide all sorts of help towards the volunteer work and thus the job gets done. One bakery donates bread, a milk company 60 liters of milk a month, an egg company in another city donate 12 crates of eggs, etc. We have friends at the market who donate fruits, and vegetables every week—and that’s what I meant by going to the market.
In the summer the market opens at night, from 12 till 8 in the morning. In the winter it opens at dawn, which means we have to get up early around 4 to be there in time.
That morning it was the coldest of my life, -20 degrees and even though I was wearing plenty of clothes, layers in fact, I was still freezing, I couldn’t feel my toes and my hands were stiff. Danci and I walked up and down the rows of trucks, pushing a trolley stacked with crates, and went around collecting the fruits and vegetables.
Farmers are not wealthy, some of them are struggling to make ends meet. Sometimes they can’t help; other times they help with very little, a small crate of carrots, a few cabagges, a bundle of parsley, some potatoes, but a little here and a little there adds up and at the end we have a decent ammount of supplies and we go home.
Because of the weather being so cold, there were less farmers at the market that mornig, and most of them were inside the truck and had only one crate out, so buyers would know what they were selling. I didn’t think we would get much that day, but we still made our rounds. Amazingly enough people gave of their products! One farmer said he was sorry but he didn’t have much to give but if we wanted some half-frozen cabbages we could take them. We thanked him profusely and went to the next person, and right and left people gave and soon we had our crates full.

I recently got a letter from a friend whom I haven’t seen in a long time. In the letter he told me how difficult his life has been lately and how nothing makes sense to him anymore. His finals lines were I have lost my faith in people. Pray for me!
I understand that life is difficult, and sometimes it seems we are fighting an lost cause. The world is not such a pretty place to be in any more—just read the news. It’s easy to lose faith in people, in ourselves, in God, in everything. I know how it feels!
But then when you wake up at the break of dawn, to go to the market with your best friend, and it’s the coldest you’ve every experienced in your life, and farmers—people who don’t have much to begin with, give you whatever little they have, it’s hard for me to say that there is no goodness in people.
I see it all the time, little deeds of kindness being perfomed in random places. Young people that give their seat to older ones in the tram; someone that helps a blind mand to cross the street; a man drops money and goes on his way and someone else runs after him to return it.
Of course the world is hard and cold. But there is good in the world, and there is goodness in people. All we have to do is look for it!

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Resolutions for 2010

At the end of each year I take time to think back on the closing year--the accomplishments, the progress made, the happy times, and to set the goals for the new year.
This is something I've been doing since I can remember. I usually write a list of things I want to learn, places I want to go, projects I want to take on and how to go about them. And although I don't always end up achieving all the goals I intended, for the most part I have been able to keep up with my yearly resolutions.
A few days after Christmas I was thinking about my list--what should my goals be this year. That morning I went out early to help at the homeless shelter and I came back home at lunch time. Ben and Angela were visiting with their four children. Ben and Angela are volunteers in another centre in the outskirts of Budapest, and I've known them for years, but hadn't seen them in a while.
Angela and I sat after lunch in the living-room and talked a bit. She told me how difficult it has been in the few last years, to keep up with the work and take care of the children sometimes all single-handed. Especially when Ben goes out to take care of business and the organization of the centre they work in.
"You know, Alicia, sometimes I don't have anyone to talk to" Angela told me "Ben is wonderful and he helps so much. I don't want to complain. But I wish I had a friend..."
Right away I got my phone and told her to give me her number so I could call her and arrange it to go out for a coffee, or to the park with the kids or just to talk.
They left shortly after, and I went to make dinner. Eden came in the kitchen and I told her about Angela. I said "Isn't it terrible that we take people for granted? It makes me so sad" and of course it's no ones's fault but our own, when we get too busy to take care of people that surrounds us. We forget to be there for each other.

I was planning of writing a long list of things to accomplish in 2010. But I changed my mind--I will have only one thing on my to-do list, and that is to bring sunshine into other peoples lives. In whatever way I can, I will try to lighten their burden, bring laughter, share the load, encourage and comfort, let the light in, create magic.

The prayer of St. Francis goes like this:
Oh Master, that I may not seek to be consoled but to console
Not to be understood but to understand
Not to be loved but rather to love

That is my resolution for 2010.