Friday, July 17, 2015

Rant #2, Food - 17 July 2015

When you donate food or money for food to a cause what do you expect from the donation? Do you believe it will be packaged up and delivered to the intended recipient within a reasonable amount of time? Or do you think it will be stored for months, perhaps years before being given? 

This spring M witnessed the delivery of a shipment of donated food. If I remember correctly, she said the delivery date was supposed to be in November but it was delivered many months later. Many of the items were well past their expiration dates. The semi-perishables had not been packed securely and were infested with maggots and rat feces, among other vermin. Much of the food was not usable. Was the woman unpacking it angry? No. She was grateful for whatever they could use. Was M angry? Very.

Where was the snafu? Who knows? Who cares? Obviously the shipper didn't. And people have been known to donate food long past the dates on the packages. Why? What is charitable about giving something that is useless and perhaps harmful? When your local food bank or the post office collects food, do you go thru your pantry and pull all the old cans to donate? Or do you check to see what is needed and pick up those items on your next shopping trip? Think about it. 

Whether the food was individually collected or purchased with donated money or part of a government program, it was not properly handled. Somebody didn't care. That somebody was probably wasicu. Makes me embarrassed, angry, sick.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

An Episcopal Rant - 16 July 2015

It’s nice that some of our young people are headed to the Dominican Republic to host Vacation Bible School. It’s good to get a sense of other cultures. I contributed to the expenses for one of them. But.

In June and early July, I drove to Portland, OR to sing a week with Berkshire Choral International then headed home. I stayed with friends including many I had known only online. The one person I wanted to meet and visit more than all the others was Rev. Margaret Watson, Episcopal priest on the Cheyenne River Mission in South Dakota. 

Margaret is a hero for all of us who know of her work - carefully documented on her blog Leave It Lay Where Jesus Flang It and on Facebook. First of all, there are 9 active parishes under Margaret’s charge. She and her husband Joel, also ordained, live next to St. John’s in Eagle Butte, SD. I don’t know how far some of the churches are from Eagle Butte but I know that Cherry Creek is at least an hour and the road I saw isn’t paved. Dupree is close. Promise looks to be an hour and a half. Getting the eucharist to all of them once a month is probably the easy part of her ministry unless the weather doesn’t cooperate. 

Life on the reservation is unlike anything any of us can imagine. It is not a different lifestyle. It is a different world with different rules and expectations that are somewhat rigid and knowingly prejudiced against wasicu - us - for good reason. The Lakota were migratory but they were forced onto reservations where they could not travel. They did not have the advantage of staying on familiar land like the Navajo and Hopi. On Cheyenne River four tribes were forced together. They have not adapted as well as the Cherokee and other groups. Their history is a sordid example of US government mistreatment, theft and lies. 

Alcohol, drugs and suicide provide a steady stream of trauma and funerals for Margaret. One recent weekend she had a wedding plus three funerals with wakes. She attends tribal events and is heavily involved in the lives of the Lakota in her charge. When I was there over the 4th of July she was called to the tribal hospital twice, once for an infant who survived then again for a teenager who hanged herself and didn’t. At the powwow she baptized two then buried five or six people the following week. Many of the children are alone and basically feral. There are gangs of course. Even the young ones wonder if it will ever stop. How can the children be inspired, led, corralled, educated to see that there can be a future? I left with lots to ponder. 

Margaret deals with all this herself. She has immersed herself in Lakota culture and endeared herself to the people. She is only one person however and the work is immense and intense. She needs another priest. Desperately. Her husband Joel is not well enough to help except as support. She needs our prayers and far more.

Fortunately she has a most wonderful bishop, John Tarrant. He appeared on Easter a couple of years ago to help visit the many parishes. He is totally supportive and much appreciated.

Meanwhile our Episcopal young people go out of the country. Why can’t they help Margaret and others like her try to deal with our own people? While Sudan and other places need help, why can’t an Episcopal diocese or two fund Native American seminarians? Or help rehab homes, schools and churches? Or work with the youth? 

Why can’t the sister city of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania be Eagle Butte or Promise or On The Tree??? They are certainly easier to get to and at least as needy and deserving.