Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Slavka had it Right

So much happened on my trip to Europe that I did not get to report on it as it happened because I just did not want to glaze over it but wanted to explain it and take my time. Well, I know I will never have the amount of time it would take to explain what happened in Medjugorje so no time like the present to try to explain it here.
In March some of the kids on the trip from Ireland went and volunteered with this nun, Sister Muriel. "They went with her into the hills and fed old people", was the report they told me. I went with them to deliver some donations and met her, she was a nice lady from Boston and had the accent to match. Just about a month ago I was in Medjugorje again with my new video camera and asked if I could go along with Sister as she made her deliveries and what an experience it was!
A little back ground for you, sister came to Medjugorje when she was 68 and that was 16 years ago. At 84 she delivers food and supplies to about 250 "old people" as she calls them who live up in the surrounding villages far from the gift shops and pilgrims who flood Medjugorje. She has one other lady who helps her but other than the weekly helpers (usually from Ireland) in the summer who drive along with her to make her deliveries it's just her and Mary. She decided to help the poor who really have no way out of their poverty and for the most part these are elderly women. Most of whom took care of their aging parents or disabled siblings and never got married themselves and no are alone with no income or pension, gulp. I am assured that Uncle Sam can at least allow me to buy cat food when I am 84..maybe. Anyway usually these women's 'houses' consisted of one room, no running water, maybe electricity, maybe a stove, a bed, a chair a table and lots and lots of Mary and Jesus pictures on the wall. They were all around the same age as Sister Muriel but not as in good as shape. At times with no ones to talk to for days they were more excited to see Sister to talk to someone (even though Sister barely understands Croatian) than the food she was bringing them. Their faces would light up and especially when they saw the 2 teenage boys we brought along that day to help us deliver. The 2 were named Sean (go figure) but Sister changed it to John and then the Croatian Ivan so the people would understand better, apparently you don't find a lot of Sean's running around he former Yugoslavia. As poor as they were what they lacked more than material needs was human interaction and attention.

The more people we visited the more I stopped feeling sorry for them and started feeling bad for what I take for granted on a daily basis. Obviously for the surplus of food, clothing and shelter I have but also for the people I have in my life. For the first time I understood why things often get in the way from appreciating just what I have in my life. They sometimes even get in the way of people.
For the first time it made sense that I don't need to buy something just cause I want it. Chances are I have the same thing at home but it got lost in the shuffle amidst the piles of other "stuff" that if I lived to be 100 would never have time to wear, watch, play, eat and listen too. The people in the mountains have nothing. But they had something that people in our culture lack. They had a sense of peace. They had a happiness that this world does not recognize. Sure, given the choice you, me or the poor grandma living in a one room house would be drawn to a life of security of three meals a day, running water, friends and cable TV. But never knowing that, these people rely on something else. Something that you can't see or hold tangibly in your hands. Their faith is unwavering.
I think back to a woman who's sister who she had always lived with had recently died of cancer and her only neighbor who we had just visited was dying in her bed alone. She was in mourning and faced with the fact that soon she would be totally alone with only Sister visiting her one maybe twice a month if time allowed. Through her tears she wanted to know how Sister Muriel was. Was she OK? It stopped me dead in my tracks. Not once did she express a "why me" or "can't someone do anything" or even the famous, "where is God?" All she wanted to know was how Sister was and struggled to get up and bring chairs out for us to sit on. I know I would be singing a different tune. I stub a toe and I want to consult with toe specialists and numb it up to not feel any discomfort. I was in awe of this tough mountain grandma who's beard was healthier than most lumber jacks.
Going from people who have nothing of material value but are so filled with a quiet joy to my world of loud music, fast Internet and many times people who have the world but lack so much joy made my head spin. I thought after leaving the final house we visited that this would be it. I would go home sell all I own, shave my head, eat nothing but dirt and live under a rock. Or at least never complain again about anything EVER. But wouldn't you know it not 2 days later, being human crept back into my psyche again and I was really mad when the movie on the flight home was the same one I saw flying out.
But some things have changed. For one, I got rid of about half of what I owned and don't miss any of it. I went through my closet and gave away things that I was keeping just to keep. Space taker uppers. Junk that at the time I just had to have it.
I think before I buy things now. Not, can I afford this, because the answer if no (no matter what, even gum I need to put on layaway). But I think, am I buying this because I need it or because I am bored, bothered, anxious or empty? What do I really want?
I'm slowing down more and looking at the big picture. Not getting mad at people who are slow at the supermarket or cut me off in traffic. I'm seeing how blessed I am to have been born in the Country, State, City and family that I'm in.
And if anything it hasn't made me think my career as silly on the big scheme of things but on the contrary, I can see how lucky I am to make people laugh for a living. I hope to never take for granted my life and the opportunities I have every day. Don't get me wrong, I still like my stuff, but now hopefully, I will begin to put more value on true wealth instead of the kind that is passing. And anyone who deals with any business lately knows how it's all passing.
So there, that was my story about a 84 year old nun who is in better shape than me making a difference. You will probably never hear about her after she dies or see a movie based on her life. But in her own quiet determined way she saw a problem and instead of asking, why doesn't anyone help those people? decided she was just a good a person as any to do something about it. I'll keep telling jokes for now, Sister Muriel has a good 20 years in her until she needs replacing. Not it. Called it. No stampies. I also would like to say that being rich does not make you evil. You can be a very good person and be happy and find peace with lot's of money. I keep telling God that I'll prove it to Him. I guess I need to help out a bit by buying a lotto ticket.
You can visit Sister's site if the gnawing guilt has gotten to you: http://www.saintjosephtheworker.org/index.asp
That's right, Sister ain't afraid to go all WORLD WIDE WEB on you.