Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas: Called to Make the Poor a Priority

Almost 30 years to the day, Tiff (age 4), Jessica (age 2), and I were talking about the Christmas story…the birth of Jesus. I remember telling them it was important to remember that Jesus was born poor and homeless (we were running homeless shelters at that time). “Why?”

“Because then we can realize that we need to take care of the poor,” I answered.

Tiff thought and said, “We do more for poor people than anybody I know.”

I replied, “That may be true, but we can still do more…lots more.”

“But, Been…We. Do. More. For. Poor. People. Than. Anybody. I. Know.”

Sometimes I agree with Tiff, especially when I am weary. Not that I seriously think we do more, but sometimes it FEELS like that we have done enough and we can stop. Especially at Christmas…

We see the people who have so much in the world trickling down their generosity to the poor and if I have had a bad day, I think we do actually do more for poor people than anybody I know.

THEN I open my eyes and see anew the poverty staring me in the face and think of the stable and manger… I imagine what an improvement a stable is to the home that many babies are born into here… there is much still to be done.

Let me quickly say that I have no illusion that I am ridding the world of poverty or even enabling people to rise above poverty. The people we work with work so hard to make their lives tolerable. Mostly I hope beyond hope that the little we do might give some a chance to right a few of the wrongs that the powerful have dealt them.

BUT on bad days I think there is no more energy or imagination to keep pushing…to find money, to fight Coker International, to look at new clinic services, and, I think, we have done enough over the many years.

The Christmas story tells us that the embodiment of hope was born poor and homeless. There was no Santa Claus. No Christmas trees, stockings, and no roast beast…but poverty and hope. We who are Christians need to remember our profession of faith is rooted in the poor…and we need to remember that no politics, no economic system should divert us from those roots. We were called to make the poor priority…and we can never…never do enough. Not until all bellies are fed, all have a roof over their heads, feet with shoes, bodies with clothes, not rags…in other words not until shalom…salaam…justice prevails.

The Jubilee House Community sends you all the hopes of the angels this coming new year:

Peace on earth and good will towards all.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The First Purisima

This evening is the celebration of the conception of Mary without sin...Purisima. Nicaragua celebrates this Catholic Holy Day for than any other country in the world, I do believe.

I always think of it as a cross between China New Year with the fireworks exploding for hours, Christmas caroling with people going door-to-door singing songs about María and praying prayers to María, and Halloween with gifts handed out to the people who come to your house or shrine.

In 1994, our first year living here, we being the true newbies, were told by César, our Director of Projects, we should set up a Purísma shrine. Well, not being Catholic or Nicaraguan, we had no idea what to do.

“You put up a Mary down by the gate. You need to give some little food, and a little gift, like a toy,” he told us.

We had so little money. “For how many?” we asked.

“Oh, everyone will come expecting the gringos to do something…so 500.”

500! But we were up to the challenge! We popped and filled 500 little bags of popcorn. We went to the market and bought 500 little noisemakers…the toys were little the noise was LOUD! Henry and others from my English class came to help us set up our shrine.

The Purísma Marys are all very white skinned, dressed in blue, and have a halo. We didn’t know that then, so we pulled out our last Advent banner which has mother and child…Haitian mother and child on it.

“Whoa! You can’t use that!”

“Why not?”

“Well….hmmm…well…hmmm…she has a baby. Mary is a virgin.”

“But this is the only Mary we have.”

Then we could just see their resignation and the realization just how ignorant we really are…and like you say to a child who dressed herself for a party completely inappropriately but so proud… “This is great!” ….uh yeah.

So our banner went up, Henry et al, decorated our altar so, so prettily with flowers and palms and we got all set up. We stood with the Coury, age 5, and Daniel, age 2, at our gate in the middle of the countryside…the city then had not moved out to us…and we waited with great anticipation.

And we waited.

And we waited.

About 20 plus kids came from the cooperative next door. That was it.

The next morning….“Cé-é-é-é-sar. No. One. Came.”

“Well, of course not. You didn’t shoot up fireworks…they didn’t know you had an altar.”

Sigh. We too did not know.

We ate the 480 bags of popcorn. And since that time, we have just enjoyed OTHERS’ celebrations of Purísma. -- Kathleen