A Rock Feels No Pain

In despero , obscurum ; In Diligo , Lux lucis. (In despair, darkness; In Love, Light). -Me

Mission: Dominican

Mission: Impossible

Mission: San Marcos

Well. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, and longer still of any substance; and this one, too, is delayed, but I am still processing, still trying to think of all that went on, that I learned and felt and the times we shared.

So, practical things first. A couple of weeks ago, on the 28th of June, 21 people set out at the crack of dawn. Sixteen kids, from 14-18, and five adults, from some age to 47. We met at 0-dark’thirty, at the Church, and boarded a chartered school bus. We rode said bus, to the Newark, NJ, airport, and got off at terminal C. (It would have been silly to get off anywhere else, because that’s the terminal the flight was departing from, you see. I know you were worried about why we chose that terminal, and now you know).

Anyway, we herded and corralled, and counted heads a lot, and worked 21 people through security, immigration, boarding-pass checks, and onto the plane. A few (short!?!?!?) hours later, about 1230, we disembarked at Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, and began a great adventure in hard work, sharing, laughter, tears; in working, building, sweating, bleeding; in short, we started a week of mission work to the San Marco area of the Diocese of The Dominican Republic.

I can’t tell you, how proud of those kids, I am. Sixteen teenagers, working in dirt, shoveling, carrying concrete, heaving buckets of water (“Mas Agua! Mas Agua!”). We dug, we sweat, we panted; we sang, we laughed. We made friends, even across the language barriers. We learned that in this country, in our cozy little tiny-village lives (Yeah, small- the population of the “bigger” village, where our church is located, is estimated at 6663, as of 2007; the hamlet I live in, next to that village, is so tiny they don’t measure population separately from the surrounding areas), just how blessed we are, how fortunate.

We spent that week working, on a building site that will eventually become a Church, School and shelter for single- moms. Our little band turned out to be the first group in. The Padre we worked with had never had a mission group to work with before, and indeed, we were the ground breakers for the entire project.

Not to minimize the physical, for the kids did an incredible job, considering- 250′ of trench for a foundation, 18” deep and wide; concreted mixed, barrowed and poured that length, and cinderblock wall to about 4′, for most of that length, using hand tools like hoes, shovels and picks; some of our young ladies are almost five feet tall, and might weigh 100 lbs, and they worked without a serious complaint, for a week, in temperatures that approached 100, with 90% plus humidity. Not a single one of us were seriously hurt; as the designated first-aide guy, I had to flush two kid’s eyes, one for a bit of rock chip, and one for sunscreen dripping, but other than that my primary concern was blisters, hydration, and sunblock. (After all, I had to bring ’em back in the same shape I took ’em from moms and dads, right?).

So, the upshot, was a lot of hard physical labor.

But-

The most wonderful parts, had nothing to do with that. As great as they were at work, the gang of kids were even better, at mission and outreach, at connecting and friendships. Each one, in their own way, joined hands with neighbors and friends that we hadn’t met yet. Smiles, laughter, little ditties in Spanish, little ditties in English, clapping to the beat of songs we didn’t know, couldn’t recognize, set the stage for a deeper relationship. (I wish I could remember some of the little movements and words, to a little thing we learned from a 14 year-old gal, that first night; we have video, but I don’t have it here, but oh Lordy, we laughed!).

Some of the things that stand out, with crystal clarity-

  • The Dominican workers refusing lunch until we, the “guests”, had eaten; and, on the last day, when they realized they’d not purchased enough food for the entire week- watching them eat ketchup sandwiches; some of which, were cut in half, so each would get something.
  • The grandmother of one of the little girls opening her home, humble as it was, so we could use her bathroom- and, although clearly impoverished, offering me a cup of cafe, as if she had gallons to spare. (I know she didn’t, because 1. I could see her supply of coffee, and it wasn’t much, and 2. All water had to come from bottles, you’d no more brew gallons of coffee than you’d water plants with your drinking water).
  • The look on a couple of our teenager’s faces, when they realized, in horror, that one of the workers was barefoot not by choice, but because he didn’t own a pair of shoes. The look on those same faces, as well as the worker’s, as they took him to the little peddler’s cart and bought him a pair of shoes.
  • Later, the gratitude on Joan’s (Pronounced jo-ahn, and it’s a male name- we kept wanting to call him Yohann, lol) face, too, when he received a pair of shoes from the feet of one of the boys. (Does it count that I did bring some of ’em home shoe-less, albeit healthy?)
  • The gentle kindness of the Padre, as he bent to speak to the little girls that flocked around us, after we started our days with a prayer service in the teeny shed that acted as the church, for now, explaining why they couldn’t wheel the wheel barrows full of sacks of concrete up the street for us.

There’s so much more, so many little things that I can’t recount, I can’t express some of it yet, I’m still processing the whole trip, the whole community we formed to go, and expanded while we were there; the welcome we were given to join that far-off group, the love we all held, and showed.

Why, today, am I writing this? Well, cuz we had a follow-up meeting with the ‘gang’, today, after Church. We managed, it seems, to raise a substantial amount more than we needed, and the kids decided it would be appropriate to give it back to our parish, who had contributed so much to the trip; but, they also decided, on their own, that they needed to continue this connection, and all we heard for an hour, was how they could do more for the people of San Marcos.

Yeah.

It costs $300.00 (US), per year, to send a child to school, up through high-school. That includes tuition, uniform, books, etc. So our gang, today? They figure that if each of the twenty of us did just a little bit, per month, that we probably wouldn’t even miss, well; “Pauloa, Joan, Roberto… they could go to school!”

Yeah

Proud, I am, so proud of that gang.

And I love ’em all, each one.

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Filed under: blessings, friends, friendship, God, musings, spirituality, , , , , , ,

Cool Thing-

I came across a really neat site over at dangerous lilly’s tonight. I’d never heard of this place, it’s called “Gives Me Hope”.

Little snips of things that people have done, or observed, or thought of, that give hope to another, in some way or fashion.

This one, particularly, floored me:

A little girl was dying of cancer and her younger brother had a match for the bone marrow she needed.


The doctors told him it was a matter of life and death.

After he had the surgery, he asked the doctors how long he had to live.

He thought if he gave his bone marrow to let his sister live he would die – but he did it anyway.

Goosebumps, and, mebbe a tear or two- okay, so I’m not such a good rock anymore, lol.

Just wanted to share…

Filed under: friendship, life, love, ,

Friends, Thank you!

The last few posts I’ve done here, have been back and forth, and not particularly spelled out; but, I have to say this: despite some knocking, despite some attempts by that ol’ black thing, to sneak back around-

You beat it back.

Yes, I know, “I” did it- but dammit, you all were here, even when I didn’t answer your comments, even when I’ve been so bad about commenting on your blogs (I do read, promise!)- and I’m grateful, for that.

Even now, you’re there, you’re here, and I can feel it. It is a wonderful feeling, to me, to have people that care. In so many ways, this is a new feeling to me; I was commenting just the other day, to a dear friend, that the old tagline of my blog (in it’s first iteration) was “I Am The Invisible Man”.

I can’t tell you how grateful I am, to each of you, that I no longer feel invisible; so, thank you- all of you:
Craig
melissa
imetam
redheadeditor
buttafly32681
emily
phyllis
lb
db
sb
ms

I wanted to say that, and also to let you all know, including the folks that inquired via email or IM- I’m okay. I’m okay, and doing better than ever, and the light is shining far above, spreading it’s warmth.

Thank you again & God bless all of you-
Dave

Filed under: "mental illness", depression, emotions, friends, friendship, God, invisibility

David and the terrible-awful-no-good-day

Today, March 13th, is a terrible-awful-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day.

But not for me, anyway. Today, for me, is a day like any other day. I got up, went to work, did some research, put together some analysis, had lunch- really, just a day.

But I feel great. The only thing I can point to, is simply related to the last few posts.

I’m alive.

I have God.

I have family.

I have friends.

So I’m feeling happy and content and at peace, at the moment.

I hope YOUR Friday, is just as nice in it’s own way, for you.

Filed under: "mental illness", emotions, family, friends, friendship, God

One flew into the Cuckoo’s nest

I know, the title of the book is “One flew OVER…” but, I didn’t. I flew into the cuckoo’s nest.

Flew into a brick wall, as well, or that’s what it felt like.

I’ve just returned from a few days in what I refer to as the nut-hut, because I had a major depressive episode on Sunday night. Looking at Lynn’s face and the expression in her eyes, as she was watching me, convinced me that the best thing to do was to remove myself to a safe place, but one where my own loved ones didn’t have to take on the responsibility of keeping me from hurting myself.

Not the easiest thing to do, because despite all of my knowledge and intellectual understanding, there’s still the underlying resistance to needing help for a mental illness. I can tell myself over and over that it’s just another part of the body that gets sick sometimes; and most of the time, I even believe it. But it’s still not the greatest feeling to know that your brain isn’t working right, and needs to have something just in order to do what normal people do without thinking about it.

So, a mixed week around here. Bad, in that it’s never fun when the black thing rears up, and this was a nasty vicious attack; but good, too, because I was able to ask for the help I needed, when I needed it.

I also realized, over the days, how much I love and value the friends I’ve been making lately. Many of them are online but I find that a pretty neat thing all by itself- it’s easy to talk here, and easy to share thoughts that would be much slower in coming, if there were more of the social conventions to be followed first.

I was struck again, by how loving my family is; Lynn was there, twice a day, for the full hour allowed, just to talk, to bring coffee that isn’t slop, and clean undies- and whatever else was needed, just to hear her tell me that she wasn’t going to let me come between us, was so fundamentally needed I can’t express it all.

I have so many things that I want to write about, observations that struck me, while I was there, but can’t yet articulate; so, if you read here regularly, you’ll have to put up with that for a while, I suspect.

Filed under: "cuckoos nest", "mental illness", depression, family, friends, friendship, love

I’m thinking of heaven

One of the good things about traveling, at least if the travel is for business, is that I can spend some time alone, just to sit and think. The last two weeks, I’ve been away (although home on the weekend, yeah!) and been incredibly busy. Nothing like putting in 12-14 hour days, and then lock yourself in a hotel room.

On the nights we didn’t work that long, I found myself thinking a lot, particularly as I tucked in to try to sleep. Reflecting, looking back at different things that have happened in my life, different attitudes and thought patterns that I can see developing as I’ve gotten older.

Perhaps, as I’ve been accused of, I’m an introspective kook, who thinks too much. But, I rather think that looking at what motivates me to do certain things, examining the whys and wherefores of choices that have been made, is not a bad thing. I don’t always like the conclusions I come to, because sometimes it’s hard to look at myself and see just how inept I’ve been, at some facets of this thing called living a life. No, some things, I wish would just go away, so I don’t have to have the retrospective embarrassment that sometimes occurs, when I think of a particularly stupid or boneheaded move.

But the flipside of that, is that I can look back at some incredibly good things, as well. Some choices, some acts, are so clearly indicating that God has something in mind for me, that I can’t imagine how I thought I could fight it off for as long as I did. Maybe the biggest goof-up is that I wouldn’t listen for so long, despite the not-so-infrequent hints? I don’t know… Perhaps, as has been said in different conversations, I wouldn’t have heard until I’m ready anyway, so there’s little point in worrying about it.

I can look at four wonderful, healthy and well-adjusted and polite kids, and think “I had a hand in that, I helped to teach them manners, helped them to know right from wrong, to be polite and respectful.”

I can look at my family, my two brothers, my sister and my dad, and although not as close as some, I know that if I needed them, any of them, they’d be here in a heartbeat. I know, deep down, that they can feel that from me, too, and that’s pretty special on it’s own.

I have even made some friends, in the last year- which, for me, is pretty amazing. But they’re in my life, to one degree or another, some online only, some I’ve talked too, some are even in-person-friends; I’ve shared stories with them, we’ve cried and laughed and shared hugs, we’ve told each other dreams and nightmares- and a few of them, even come back for more! (Hmmm, what’s wrong with ‘em?)

So, I don’t think that some time to think is a bad thing, overall. But now, sitting here in my big ol’ leather recliner, with Lynn over there >>>>, the kids arriving home from school, well- that’s what I call heaven, really.

Filed under: family, friends, friendship, God, life, love, meanderings

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