Friday, February 3, 2012

Candlemas and Sprouting Seeds

I realize that much of the country is not having the kind of bleak winter that they've had in the not-too-distant past.  It was just a year ago that I wondered how badly the AWP conference would be disrupted by all the severe winter weather closing airports across the nation.  It was 2 years ago that my travel plans to go to the DC area to lead a retreat at my mom's church had to be postponed because of a monster snowstorm that was so huge that my airline flight was cancelled even before the first flake fell.

Still, some of us find February difficult.  If you're one of those, head over to this post by Christine Valters Paintner.  She reminds us that this time of year, with St. Brigid's Day and Candlemas, celebrates the light shining in the darkness, the seeds already germinating in the ground.  She encourages us to go inward  to see what's sprouting inside ourselves:  "Candlemas and Imbolc are traditionally a time to look forward. What does the new life stirring in your own world sound like? Can you hear it deep within you? How can you nurture this seedling in the fertile dark earth of your soul in the coming days?"

On Wednesday, I left work to go help with dinner for the homeless over at First Lutheran.  I always try to get there a smidge early, so that I can spend some quiet time in the sanctuary.  On Wednesday, I noticed that there's already more late afternoon light playing with the stained glass.  The seasons shift in barely perceptible ways.

At the end of dinner, as I headed back to the office, I thought about how satisfying it is to serve dinner, a job where one can see progress immediately.  At the end of an hour, 85 people leave with full tummies.

The cynics might point out that the progress doesn't last very long.  It's not like we're permanently solving the problem of hungry people with no food.

On Sunday, I had a meeting with a college student who's down here in South Florida doing an internship at a local social justice agency.  We talked about community resources here and community resources at other places we've lived.

While we do have some great individual community resources, we don't have a strong network.  There are other areas of the country that do a much better job at not duplicating efforts, at making sure that resources get to those that need them, that all the social justice agencies know about the resources.  I think of organizations like Second Harvest, groups that take food that would otherwise be thrown away (like barely out of date bakery items from grocery stores) and gets it to food banks and soup kitchens, where it can be used.

I wonder why we don't have an organization like that down here.  I wonder what it would take to create such a thing.

I think back to Paintner's conclusion:  "When I was in Ireland last year I visited the site of one of St. Brigid's holy wells. Pilgrims tie ribbons on the trees and prayers are left by pilgrims seeking solace and inspiration. It is incredibly moving to witness this gathering of prayers, this sacred site holding people's deepest desires. If you were to tie a ribbon to St. Brigid's tree, what prayers deep in your heart do you long to utter? What hopes do you carry for the season ahead?"

My prayer:  for days at work where I can point to concrete good I've done in the world (as opposed to days when I'm simply answering unimportant e-mail after unimportant e-mail).  My hope:  for the day (may it come soon!) when we don't have to worry about redistributing our food wealth, because everyone has enough and because technology has allowed us to more precisely predict our needs, so that we don't have as much that goes to waste.

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