Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lessons From Afar

The youth group continued their mission work in Georgia today with a shift at a local soup kitchen. They had breakfast around 6:45 this morning and got to the soup kitchen early so they could make sandwiches and prepare for the lunch crowd. Teen Angel had a good time. Of course, she always has a good time when she’s feeding people.

She met some sweet ladies working there, one of whom reminded her of May from The Secret Life of Bees.

And if you don’t know who May is, you should run out right now, pick up that book and read it. Weepy, sweet chick book all the way and a very pleasant read. Don't just watch the movie! May is a character who more than makes up in love for what she lacks in knowledge.

Despite TA’s quips about the shelter, I could tell she was affected by what she experienced today. She talked of the way people lined up early for the meal and begged for food and water when staff came and went. And how they had to lock the doors when they went in and out before the meals because people tried to barge in. She came face to face with poverty, desperation and mental illness today. She also experienced the love and generosity of people who provide nourishment and comfort to those who struggle with life’s basic needs. It was good for her, whether she admits it or not. I knew it would be, and that’s why I pushed her into going on this trip. While the Hula-gen’s are not financially comfortable by any means, TA has always had a nice home, plenty to eat and her share of iPods and name brand clothes. I have to work pretty hard at helping her to understand what it’s like to go to bed hungry or have your electricity turned off. She gets really tired of me saying, “See what happens when you don’t get an education,” or “Just see how lucky you are?”

It hit me today though, that this week has been a lesson for me, too. I sometimes work so hard at teaching her lessons that I forget that I could be learning, too. Relying only on her texts and pictures and the occasional phone call, I’ve been forced to see this experience through her eyes. It gives me a glimpse into her thought process and ideas about the issues of poverty and loving thy neighbor. It challenges my ideas and makes me think about my own attitudes. It occurred to me last night that I am gaining more from her witty texts than a laugh or reassurance that she is okay while away from home.

And as if to reinforce that, I came upon this quote today: “If I am ready to learn anyone can be my teacher.”
I reflected upon that for a while at lunch and considered whether I truly learn from those around me or only those I single out as the “smartest” or “best educated”. The truth is I sometimes don’t. I’m often so intent on convincing someone else that my idea is the best or my opinion is the most accurate that I don’t hear what someone else is saying. (Insert smack to the forehead here.) I just don’t always know when to sit down, shut up and listen. Thankfully, Teen Angel is getting a healthy dose of that this week from the May’s of the world, a former drug dealer and some folks in need. I didn’t travel with her on this trip because I always chaperon, and I thought she needed the independence this time. It seems I got to go anyway.


Kelley with Amy's Angels said...

I love reading these! It really puts into perspective that you can't take for granted what you're given each day. :)

Janis said...

Praise be to God...there are angels walking among us! TA is one of them. My Hubby n I often volunteer for Meals on Wheels and let me tell keeps you humble! I want to take my two oldest grans with me the next time so they can see first hand some of the less fortunate who struggle with survival. Even just the basics like a roof over your head and food is taken for granted by too many of us!

The Girl Next Door said...

great post and great lessons. I have found I am learning so much from my kids....

J.G. said...

"When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears." And sometimes the teacher is our own kids. So true!

the parishioner who doesn't do anything said...

Thank you, Hula. Thank you very much!