Tag Archives: service

Going Home

Sitting on a bench under the sun at seven-thousand feet, I wait for the bus scheduled to carry me home. My bus happens to be running late today.

Next to me, on the same bench, a Native-American man is waiting to pick someone up. At some point, he begins asking me questions about who I am, where I live and why I am visiting the American Southwest. In way of explanation, I mention that I have come to visit old friends, dear to me since the time we lived in this region almost ten years ago.


In talking about travelling, the man explains that he has not actually travelled much himself, though he helped to raise funds for his son’s travelling expenses. His son has been as far as Georgia to compete in a national contest as an athlete.

“He had the advantage of training in altitude,” I comment at one point early in our conversation.

Then, the man explains, “I am Hopi. I cannot work for myself. I work for the good of my community.” This explains, in part, why he has not travelled extensively. “I helped raise the funds for my son’s travel. His mother travelled with him.”

The concepts of community service and strength over that of individual wealth and stature are philosophical threads common to both the Hopi and Navajo cultures of this region. Given the historically sometimes brutal and definitely difficult nature of self-preservation, farming and hunting in this region, these precepts make complete sense.

The sun is now at its zenith. I feel my skin growing overly warm, yet I stay in the full sun to soak up its rays and breathe the fresh air of the out-of-doors, anticipating the long bus-ride home.

My bench companion continues, “My home reservation is not far from here. Can you believe two teenagers recently beat up an old man and threw him off the mesa? Meth. It’s terrible. We are having to lock our doors. We never had to lock our doors at night.”

Not sure about what to say, I nod my head in silent sympathy.

His face is full of sorrow. “I told my daughters, ‘Watch your little children. These meth users are not right in the head.'”

Finally, I respond, “Meth is ruining a lot of lives.”

More quietly now, he continues, “I am almost afraid to be there—on the Res. It is safer here in town. Isn’t that sad when you’re afraid to go home?”

Agent of Grace

“I’ll call the pizza in,” I announce. We have agreed on a medium, cheese-and-onion, something small to celebrate the two-person “girls’ night in.” Our conversation has revolved around listening to the heart and bringing the heart around to becoming a willing and reliable agent of Grace.

“Self-care is imperative,” I continue the thread of our conversation, after the pizza has been ordered. “Don’t think that self-care needs to suffer in order to serve from the heart. But, what does happen is that our definitions of what we consider solid self-care begin to shift.


“For example,” I continue, “where we once thought of self-care as a shopping expedition to purchase a new blouse, blazer or a bit of random bling may shift to revolve around our desiring more quiet, personal time in nature. Or, if shopping is truly a joyful, must-have experience, we may elect to shift our shopping desires toward the purchase of  life necessities for another person, who is in need, choosing to work through a charitable organization.”

My friend breaks in,  “But, how do you know when you are receiving reliable guidance?”

“It should feel right in the heart. There may be a sense of Stillness or Peace around the proposed action or around an idea,” I explain. “It may also feel like it is perennially Christmas Eve–almost everyday. And, genuine guidance from Holy Mother does not injure or harm; it heals.

“Finally,” I explain, “There comes a phase where Holy Mother seems to step in, in order to care for you, in seemingly minor yet very meaningful ways. I’ll explain more later.” Our conversation stops so that I may run to pick up our take-out pizza.

At the pizza place, as the clerk hands me the box for a large pizza, he explains that he “messed up,” adding, “But, don’t worry. I’ll only charge you for the medium.”

It feels like Christmas Eve again–in my heart.

Walking through the door at home, I explain what happened to our pizza order to my friend.

“So, is this the type of care you were talking about?” my friend asks. “Large pizzas at no additional charge, even though you clearly ordered a medium?” Then, in a teasing tone, my friend says through a bite of hot, fresh pizza, “I would like to meet this Holy Mother of yours.”

Spiritual Bleeding I

Walking out of the university library one day, I run into a male classmate from one of my advanced history courses. He is not overly tall, slight of frame and blonde, appearing to be much younger than his actual years.  We have never really spoken to one another.  Thus, his abrupt stop in front of me, as I leave the library, is a  surprise.  His opening line proves to be even more shocking, given his quiet demeanor.


“I have been thinking about going on a hunger strike,” he opens. “To protest what is going on.  The whole situation makes me feel hopeless; ” he continues, “and, yet, I feel that I must do something.”

His conclusion is resolute.  He makes it while gazing off into the distance above my head.

Shocked by his tone and the content of his soliloquy, I am even more shocked by the progressively more resolute response that begins to issue from my lips.

“First of all, you are a complete unknown to the general public.  And, as far as I know, you do not have any ‘Press.’  Am I right?” I begin.

He nods meekly.

“I don’t think having your name appear on an inch of newspaper-column-space in an obituary, announcing that you died because of a hunger strike is going to change the political situation of your concern.

“Besides, why add death to death?  It is not logical,” I counter–in full stride now.

“If you want to do something,” I continue, surprising even myself, “you should be researching a volunteer position in the area of your concern, donating money to an appropriate organization or writing letters for Amnesty International. You have at least forty years ahead of you.  You had better get to work, because starving yourself to death is not going to accomplish anything for anybody.”

“—–Right,” he answers after a long, stunned pause.  Then, again, while nodding his head in silent affirmation of the alternate perspective given to him, he repeats himself as a new vista of options open, “Right.”

Grounded again in physicality, we part company.