Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scraping Asphalt

If it's spring, it must be time for a new exercise program.  In the last hour, I've just made a complete fool of myself.  My son won't claim me as his mother and my husband averted his eyes when I waved, pretending not to see me - a real dig considering today is our wedding anniversary.  Even my dog Watson, Pug-Extraordinaire, attempted to stop me leaving the house in my latest outfit.

With a hat on my head, loose shorts and a Sunkist Orange shirt, ski poles, weighlifting gloves and a pair of in-line skates, I am now the ridiculous looking woman gliding up and down her street.  I've donned this outfit before a few years ago before a ski trip to get into shape and I got pretty good at avoiding rocks and falls.  But today, I started too high up the hill and nearly face-planted into asphalt -- not fluffy, powdery snow.  I recovered from my error and much more slowly made my way back and forth down the way for almost an hour.  We live across from a family who raise llamas and even those docile creatures followed the adventures of my big ass between bites of cedar leaves and winter grass.

No cell phone photos or digital pics.  This time anyway.  My family does not want a visual record while the fresh memory of my workout-fit still burns their neurons.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Least of These

John Feehery, Republican Strategist proudly admitted on Hardball with Chris Matthews that Republicans don't care about the 45 million people without healthcare in the U.S.  Congressman Ryan, another Republican and head of the Ways and Means committee wants to abolish Medicare.  These are some of the same people who throw Jesus in our faces to convert, to throw gays under the bus and to ignore the working poor.

A few years ago, I provided spiritual support to "Margaret" a woman in her sixties who had lived on the margins of society her whole life.  Her parents were dirt farmers and as a child, she knew hunger and an empty pantry.  As an adult, she raised her three children working two and sometimes three minimum wage jobs. She had never had health insurance and with the exception of giving birth to her kids, she had never gone to a doctor.  She couldn't afford it.

Getting a yearly pap smear and a well-woman exam in her early sixties was out of the question, but when her belly swelled, unexplained fatigue knocked her back, and excruciating pain and pressure in her pelvic region forced her to visit her local emergency room, medical personnel were not surprised when they discovered cervical cancer that had spread to her spine.  She endured a round of chemotherapy and lost all of her hair.  The treatment was too little and too late.  Catching cervical cancer is easy if a woman gets her yearly exams, but nearly impossible to cure once it has spread.   Margaret went home to die.  The irony was she turned sixty-five the following week and went on Medicare making it possible for her to have health insurance for the first time in her life.

She should have been angry, but instead she was grateful: she loved her children and her grandchildren; all of her family lived nearby; she had a place to live; and she loved to crochet.

"I want to do something for others," she said.
"What did you have in mind?" I asked.
"I'd like to crochet hats for kids with cancer.  When I lost my hair, I was cold all the time, and I don't want kids to be cold like me.  If I made some hats, would you take them to sick kids?"
"Sure," I said.
The next week, she gave me sixteen hats of many different colors and all in a beret shape.  I was stunned.  How did she make so many in such a short period of time.
"I worked on 'em when I could," she said.
"All the time, it looks like to me."
Margaret smiled.  I delivered the hats to a local children's hospital.  Two weeks later, I visited again.  This time she had two plastic shopping bags full of crocheted hats.
"I crocheted some more."
"I can see that."
"Are there more kids?" she asked.
"There are two other children's hospitals in the area," I said.  "I'll take them there."  On my next visit, another bag of hats waited for me.
"I made these bigger," Margaret said.  "For old people.  Do you know any old people?"
"Lots," I said.  "I go to nursing homes all the time."
"Will they like my hats?"
"Yes," but Margaret looked troubled.  "I don't have any more money for yarn.  I went to Wal-Marts to buy some, but I couldn't get much."
"We'll get you some yarn."  The next week, a local church group provided her with all the yarn she could ever need.  For the next few months, she crocheted hats until a week before she died.  She made hundreds of them.

Jesus spoke about the "least of these."  He worried if humanity would take care of them and more importantly, he identified himself as one of them.  No doubt Margaret belonged to these people, the ones our society wastes.  She deserved more than the John Freehery-types of the world.
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human one.
Teilhard deChardin