Thursday, April 30, 2015

For Nepal, from the Dixon Mom.

Selfie with Gertrude
Gertrude Ambrose, aka the Dixon Mom, is celebrating her 75th birthday today with a donation to our efforts in Nepal. I met her at the CWL diocesan convention in Toronto. The CWL are great supporters of D&P and I have an info table there. "I never had problems speaking up for others," she says, "because I myself was pushed aside." She grew up a victim of the war in a small swiss border town. Despite having little education, she became a leader in her village.

At the age of 30 she came to Canada and married. "I have never been in love," she tells me. "I married the worst of the worst. After 36 years he died." She smiles. They call her the Dixon Mom because she is such an active member of her inner city Toronto neighbourhood on Dixon road. "I have no problem telling the men off when they do bad things. No one has sued me yet."

CWL convention
She lobbied to have bulletin boards out up in her building to advertise community events and volunteer opportunities. "Authorities want to spend millions on a p‎ool or a rec centre, instead of listening to the simple ideas of people who live here. A bulletin board gives people a sense of what is going on. Loneliness is the worst thing in the world you know."

Gertrude's eyes are lively brown. She zips around on her scooter from one place to the next. She leaves me with not only a donation, but a compliment. "You come down to my level, and you keep eye contact. You are a good listener."

I'm not a good listener though. I am just easily captivated by someone who flexes the muscle of the widow's mite.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

46 soups + 89 acts of generousity = Alleluia!

On Easter Sunday morning Ryan Worms and I completed our 46 day Lenten fast for Development and Peace - our contribution to D&P's annual ShareLent campaign to raise funds for it's mission.

I am grateful to the Catholic Register for publishing a reflection I wrote about the experience. Now that the fast is broken, I offer a few more words here on the Muse.

My wonderful wife Joanna (who was the first to sponsor me in the fast, of course) is Polish. In the Polish tradition Easter breakfast is one of special foods that are taken in a basket to be blessed at the Church on Easter Saturday. After greeting the Easter dawn down by the lake, we returned home and I broke the fast with wife and children as we shared an egg from that sacred meal together - a symbol of new life. As I did, my thoughts were with with many.

First, they were with Ryan, with whom I fasted. Believe it or not, we did not get to share a single soup together in person through the whole thing. On Holy Thursday though, we did a 'Skype Soup' as we remembered the last supper of our Lord. And of course, we talked shop over our french onions soups (he being, being french, had one infinitely better than my own feeble attempt!)

Second they were with all those we were fasting for. In particular this year, I thought of the people of Colombia (from the visit of Fr. Alberto) and the people of Syria - my heart being broken to tears most recently by 4 year old Hudea from the Atmeh  refugee camp.  

Finally, in a very special way, my thoughts were with the 89 people who supported the fast with donations - 89 acts of generousity.  At the Easter Vigil we break the silence of lent and sing Alleluia for the first time to greet the Risen Christ. You, the 89, were the Alleluia in my heart this Easter. Connecting with people was a special part of the fast for me - writing, begging, praying, thanking.  Yes, my heart would always leap whenever the email notifications would come in, "From: Development and Peace Subject: On-Line Contribution." I am so so grateful to all of you who helped me to not only reach my personal goal of $5000 but blow way past it to over $6000! I am happy to say that between the two of us, Ryan and I surpassed our combined goal of $10,000.  When one considers those who became monthly donors, that amount is amplified even more!

All in all my diet of 46 soups resulted in me losing between 30-35lbs (see the soup album here) . What was gained by the fast far outweighs the loss though. Going without brings things into focus. My heart has been even more finely tuned to the mission we proclaim as Development and Peace - that the Risen Christ offers hope for a broken world and that life is stronger than death. Alleluia!

breaking the fast!