Wednesday, March 21, 2007

T minus 2 Days

Last night, the four of us headed to New Orleans held our last pre-trip gathering. We heard from a Baptist pastor, now living in the Bay Area. Pastor Dwight had lived for the past two decades in New Orleans; he still travels there frequently. He told us something of what to expect of the people we meet there, and how to be genuinely helpful. The most effective volunteers that Pastor Dwight had met there were a group of Buddhists (I think their name was Tzu Chi), who approached the people they were serving without presumption; without any preconceived notions about who they were, what they needed, or how they got there. They were present, and patient.

I am not at all sure I can do that, but I will try. It feels very strange to be going to a place that is so famous for its culture, to work in a disaster zone. I am focusing on approaching this as openly as I can.

I talked to my priest this morning; he’s from Baton Rouge, and has been in California for barely over a year. He gave me ideas for places to go on our off-time, and told me to take his cell phone number with me. I also spent a few hours online, learning about the physical environment of the Delta in general, recovery efforts, and the general political feelings there. I feel a little more prepared—and very much more na├»ve.

Our group has been taking turns leading our Tuesday night meetings, which all conclude with some sort of devotion. Last night, there were metal coins strewn all over the coffee table. Most had a picture on one side, and a word on the other. We were instructed to look at the coins carefully, and choose one to mentally take with us. The first one I picked, I knew was right for me. It depicted a sailboat; the word on the flip side was “Explore.”

I am going where the wind of the Spirit takes me. I am called to be open to this adventure; to travel fearlessly into my own soul, to meet the souls of others. I am called to explore my own sense of (white middle-class) privilege, my own desire to serve others in a place I’ve never been; my own trepidation and joy at doing this. We are called to be the hands and feet of God, and to find and honor God in all people, everywhere. I get to be pulled out of my books for a week, and go to New Orleans, to do this.

I really can’t wait.

1 comment:

V. Fan said...

thank you for your kind words about tzu chi. i am just a volunteer of the organization but take it to heart that our volunteers in new orleans conducted themselves in a way consisted with the values of the organization.
www.tzuchi.org
http://oceansmountains.blogspot.com/