Saturday, November 27, 2010

If Ye Are Not One, Ye Are Not Mine

 How does one thankfully celebrate by feasting when surrounded by desperate poverty without repulsively standing on one's own Rameumptom saying, "We are thankful that we are so blessed while others, not as deserving as us, are selected to suffer..."For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there-- and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just? ...Be one and if ye are not one ye are not mine! DC38

So Thanksgiving became, for us, both a dilemma and an opportunity. To give to all isn't possible with the small means and short sighted vision we have.  Will the gift bless or hurt? Who is honestly in need? What would help most, money, food, teaching (most don't speak anything we can understand or speak), what precedents will be set for the next time we pass along their way or for those missionaries who follow us? Etc, Etc.  Then to complicate our feelings the turkey we were to eat was given to us... (Are we not all beggars...? Mosiah 4) Indeed we were!

After much prayer and counseling together a plan was hatched which by no means solves all the questions. We will continue to wrestle with these issues for the rest of our lives. Of course we have been conscious of them for years and occasionally were confronted with them on the streets of Salt Lake City; Phoenix, Arizona; New York City; etc but now they swirl around us daily and even from moment to moment. 

John, Sylvestre, Kevin, Anita, Alene, Fulgence, Jackson

After being confronted by one of our favorite apartment staff members who smiles all the time and leaps to help us carry things in. Though he is always working, he pauses to wave or open the gate for us. So when I asked him, the day before Thanksgiving how he was doing, "Ca va?", and his answer was "pas bien"-(he speaks a little  French which means here, "not good") I asked him why, I was really concerned since he was always so happy. He said, "I am hungry". I asked why since you have a paying job? He shook his head no. 
I wondered whether he 
Jackson, Isaac, Sylvestr
didn't understand or wasn't being paid for his yard work. I promised to talk to the apartment manager. I then shared the situation with the Janet and the Jamesons. We had been confronted by both guards for money as well so suddenly the swirl of poverty was intimately and directly around us. We told the group that we couldn't celebrate a Thanksgiving by consuming, there had to be a better way and all agreed. Now that said, it is a reality that a harvest celebration is had in most countries to give thanks to their deity for the harvest. Here, it is in December and called Umuganuro. So celebrating by consuming is ubiquitous but then everyone is celebrating together and we would not be. So between the four of us we decided to have the Apartment manager gather all the staff together and translate our words as we shared some of our resource with them. You see them smiling holding their white envelopes. We explained that just one time per year we give gratitude to God by celebrating the harvest bounty and wanted them to partake with us by using this money to eat better. They were so happy they applauded and have greeted us with even bigger smiles.

The rest of the day was spent trying to be thankful for a gifted turkey that proved to be a real challenge. The landlord's chef cleaned it...mostly... pliers and a knife finished the pin feathers. We washed and washed until we were satisfied. Grammy stuffed it with some of this wonderful whole wheat bread crumb dressing and popped it into the little toy oven.  

Trying to determine time and temperature with a toy and no meat thermometer was guess-work at best. We waited then removed the dressing and checked the meat on the inside... still pink. Another hour and it was time to cool and carve. I don't know what those butter-ball guys do but this was not your father's turkey...maybe it was great grandfather's because I dissected more thick skin, blood vessels and endless facia from layers of muscle and tendon. When we finished the brown meat looked and felt raw...kinda purple but the white meat looked good...until you chewed it, and chewed it, and chewed it. Tough old bird, as the saying goes... but we were thankful. The fresh green beans, fresh fruit and yogurt salad, sweet corn and croissants.

 Then came the banana cream and apple pies with whipped cream- Sister Jameson's specialty (but then everything is her kitchen speciality).

When we finally got the word from our Embassy employee that he was here, we warmed it all up again... and then to add to the giving part of the thanks he brought a fellow worker, an African named Caleb. It made for an interesting history lesson on the wars and conflicts of his life in this area... How do you spell

T H A N K S G I V I N G ?

With a Smile!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful post. I've never been more grateful for my blessings than when I was living among the poor in the Philippines. My first Thanksgiving home I solicited friends and family for donations to send to a friend of mine in the Philippines for the purpose of her starting a business so that she and her family could then sustain themselves. Thanksgiving seems like such an appropriate time to give.

    I love reading your posts. Thank you for your testimonies.