Summer is Near

December 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

Luke 21:29-38

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

In our wet, northern pacific world, the only thing sprouting is moss. Spongy, green pads grow on trees, benches, stones–even replace lawns–in the abundant presence of Washington’s heavenly dew. It doesn’t rain every second, but it is always wet. This new climate is the backdrop for our every excursion.

At 52°, with a persistent drizzle, we darted out under the heavy Washington sky. Today, I was on Mission Arica. Arica has no phone, so it’s hard to keep in touch. The episodes of life have woven a web between us, but I’ve been looking for the path through it for a while.

Today, the drops finally opened onto the smiling face of our friend, Arica. A corridor opened in traffic as we approached the cross walk (according to Washington law), and we ran towards our friend, who we could see through the store window. I called her name even as we ran. Her bent head raised to meet us, and a smile raced across her face.

The motion of the wet world behind us resumed as we jingled the bells of her door. Arica stood, polishing a dainty for display. “Erika! Juice! Where have you been?!” her whole face radiated with her genuine warmth. I ran toward it. I threw my arms around her and felt relief rush in. I had wanted to make contact with her so badly. I wanted her to know how glad I am that we are friends, and how much we enjoyed Thanksgiving. But Life, you are a complicated conspiracy set against my own designs! Still, today, I defeated you; Arica was mine.

She had lost my contact information. She said we were M.I.A. All of her friends had been asking about us. There was a birthday party to which J was invited. How were we going to do Christmas? From a damp, cold rain we took a place by the fire. We looked for a place to settle in and catch up. Since the kid wanted to see toys, we headed to the rear.

As we headed back, I noticed she was limping. I asked her about it. It took several minutes to untangle the tale of her ongoing foot problems and lack of insurance. She was working hard, an active participant in moving her life forward; yet, she wouldn’t take off a day to get treatment for herself because she couldn’t afford either the loss of pay or the medical treatment. I felt a hot crackle inside. That is not justice. There was a time when she would have qualified for some kind of assistance, but those days are gone. What has been spared at the expense of this working, single mother-of-three who can barely walk?

Once we found a place in the back, Arica found a chair. With a bin of Barbies to the right and a bin of clothes and accessories to the left, she sought to create gifts that anyone’s child might enjoy. On the right was a bin of well-worn dolls with hair too matted to comb–most with all their hands and limbs. On the left sat a bin of mismatched  clothes and accessories.

I volunteered to help. I couldn’t stand and chit-chat while Arica sorted through those bins.

“I like to be useful,” I told her.

Arica set her warm face on me. “That’s what you said at Thanksgiving,”

I started brushing Barbies. As I passed the brush through one frazzled head-of-hair after the other, my heart broke. People were not donating, giving something of themselves. In too many cases, they were dumping garbage. This is what our culture thinks of the poor.

When I collected donations for the reservation there were very strict rules. If things were not new they needed to be in like-new condition. If you would not accept it for your child, don’t donate it: simply put. Still, there is not one toy in that shop that isn’t broken or missing pieces.

We have spent a lot of time in that shop, watching little ones pick over the bones. As you watch these little hollow faces meander, questions come up. When parents are deprived, it is only these who suffer? Poverty breaks in on every level, and affects us as a culture on every level. As long as some of us are without, none of us is really whole.

Some of the Barbies needed haircuts. I brushed and cut doll hair like i was a kid again. I thought of each little girl who might hold that doll. And we talked. A lot had happened, and yet all was the same. Still, I gave her mine and she gave me hers.

At Thanksgiving, I had promised to teach her the delicious art of pie crust. She said she had blueberries. Before long, we were making plans. On Saturday, I will show a beautiful young woman how to make homemade pie-crust.

I don’t think either of us has a rolling pin. I made pie-dough for Thanksgiving with a can of Pam. We’ll work it out.

Something is in the air. Our adjustment here has not been easy, but hands are reaching out. Some are near, and some are far. From across the miles, hands touch us. Friendships continue to grow as we reach forward together, in faith. God is assembling a family.

Like lights coming on in a darkened house, the faces of friends light the way. As each branch rises to make us stumble, a hand reaches out to catch our fall.

Leaves are spouting.

Can you smell it?

In the air, there is spring.