Category Archives: Charity

Week Two of the Williams Lake MDS Caper

[Thoughts from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]

How appropriate, I think, that baleful sobriquet, title, alternate “me” called ~burning woman~ at the end of week two in Williams Lake in process of rebuilding some of the homes lost in last Summer’s wild fires that swept through this small town of approximately 10,000 people.

The devastation left behind by the fires is still very much in evidence. The city proper was spared as it did not provide the kind of fuel such fires require to sweep ahead as they jump from tree top to tree top, race through dry grasses, jump across small lakes and even wide rivers pushed by high afternoon winds, some generated by the fires’ own heat.

Though many homes and animals, both domestic and wild, were lost in the fires, no human life was lost that I know of. The evacuation done by various government departments, backed up by some military presence (that mostly to prevent looting) made sure everybody was accounted for. Not all “survivors” who lost their homes are happy with the heavy-handed presence of law enforcement. Many know  had they been allowed to remain on their properties, using their Canadian farming and ranching common sense, they would have saved their homes and animals. Power may have failed but generators were available to pump the deep wells and roofs as well as grounds could have been watered. It never fails to amaze me how well totalitarianism works in a democracy!

What to say: am I happy to be here, doing this volunteering to help essentially homeless people get a home back they could not otherwise ever have again? Let’s say I’m satisfied. The work is hard and dirty – this is King of the Gumbo country and if there is as little as one rain shower, your feet are immediately clotted with a compound that would shame LePage’s Premium glue. Gumbo, i.e., the world’s most persistent mud can add 3 to 5 pounds of clumping mud to your foot in four steps.

Plus, it is both, stifling hot and freezing cold in turn, on the same day. Three days ago we arrived at our work site in 3 inches of sleet deposited during the night. It didn’t melt until late in the afternoon.  Good thing was, it severely slowed down the swarms of mosquitoes ever on the prowl for blood. 

Nevertheless, our house, which was footing and Styrofoam forms when I arrived is now standing proud, awaiting the delivery of the roofing trusses. Not bad for on average 2 to 4 volunteers a day. And no: it wasn’t prefab!

As I said before, these volunteers are Christian people, mostly Mennonites. As for me, well, let’s say I’m acceptable because of skills, providing my own truck (GMC 3/4 ton van) and a LOT of tools. Plus I was baptized in a Mennonite church many decades past. As I said jokingly, “I don’t know what happened, folks, but it didn’t take.” I guess you have to be born in it, not just born again.

Anyway, yes, they mostly support Donald Trump and believe he’s doing a wonderful job- to be expected. They wish Canada would become part of the States – to be expected. They hate our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau – to be expected. And they hate labour unions, also to be expected. In other words, they are right-winged to the core and it isn’t a matter of thought but a matter of faith cum brain washing. Except for Justin Trudeau, of whom I have no opinion, he being a liberal means it’s pointless to have an opinion of him, I’m basically opposed to everything these people stand for or believe in… yet here we are, drawn to this part of the map to do the same thing, with the same purpose in mind. What does that say but that as human beings we are united in the only thing that matters?

Imagine a world in which people (all the people!), though they disagree on every aspect of religion, politics, economics, and social norms see a desperate need and come together, working their asses off responding, rebuilding, restoring and in the process bringing hope where there is either none or it is badly shattered.

Next week is next week,  the show must go on!

 

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It’s all your Fault

[thoughts from   ~burning woman~   ]

The other day, in an unguarded moment of, what, nostalgia? Remorsefulness? Painful introspection, well whatever, I wrote that thing I called ‘Throwing away the key’ and got some interesting replies. I gave myself some interesting replies also, churning up some pretty nasty internal monologue.

The long and short of it, it’s now churning me. Oh yes, there was something driving my thoughts that day and it has intensified. I don’t know where this is going but I’m sure I’ll find out.

Life on earth is interesting to say the least. It’s kind of black and white though we like to throw in a lot of colours to hide the plain truth and we like to pretend the colours are real. They’re not.

Duality: It’s all your fault, the other side, it’s all my fault. There is nothing in between, either or, that’s it. We don’t like that so we say, as if saying it really meant anything, well, it’s not all her fault, it’s not all your fault, not all yours, not all mine. It’s always a bit of both. Then we write up reams of laws and hire thousands of highly paid interpreters to determine the degree of fault to saddle both with. The system gains. Instead of one guilty party, you have two, and both get to pay, forever. A Crayola System, in a nutshell, that’s what living in society is.

Life on earth. For the average Joe or Josephine, it’s never black or white, it’s the coat of many shades of grey. Nothing’s really evil; nothing’s really good. We make sandwiches without the slices of bread and see nothing amiss with that when we open the plastic wrap to pick at bits and pieces of meat and cheese, lick the mayo and mustard from the wrap and finally grab the pickles off the tray and eat them. What a delightful sandwich, we say and of course everyone agrees, it was a delightful sandwich.

Then comes the innocent, the fool, the philosopher who sits beside you on that spinning plastic stool and says, that wasn’t a sandwich, that was a mess of edibles, perhaps, more like a dog’s breakfast. Oh, how dare you, or, Oh well she’s just a kid what does she know, or He’s the village idiot, don’t listen to him.

You ordered a sandwich, the system gave you a sandwich and that’s the end of the story: it was a sandwich. When the system gives it to you, it’s always what you meant to have. Always. If you said otherwise, you can’t begin to imagine what the system has in store for those who insist it wasn’t a sandwich.

Anyway, what difference does it make? It does, says the philosopher, the baker didn’t sell any sandwich bread and he went broke. His family is now on the streets, homeless and starving. And did you notice that the mess you call a sandwich did not cost you any less without the bread?

Well probably the other ingredients cost more so who can blame them for not lowering the price? If that baker had any gumption he’d have found another job to provide for his family. Those people are just lazy. What people, you ask? You know those immigrants, those, those, you know, those not like us.

Which brings in love, and hate. Well, we don’t want total love, that would throw a lot of things in complete turmoil. We don’t want total hate, that would make us look bad, so we bring in the Crayola box again and we start colouring between love and hate.

We have an official black people day, or week or we may stretch it to a month. See? We’re not racists. We don’t line up at some church to shoot the same-sex couple that just got married. See? We’re not all that homophobic. We just won’t serve them any sandwiches, but that’s understandable, we have rights.

We bring in famous entertainers to raise money for some flood victims because their plight was in the news, plus it’s a marvellous opportunity to promote our group and raise even more money.

There are gala dinners and lavish entertainment and when the bills and our financial expectations are covered, we gather to two percent remaining, and put the amount on a billboard size cheque for the photo shoot and the TV interview and we bring the happy, smiley CEO of the charity corporation that will distribute two percent of the cheque’s value to the village mayor who will pass on two percent of the receipts to his friend at the lumber yard and a pick-up truck half full of two by fours and six sheets of plywood will drive off to the construction site where a half dozen volunteers from the local church are building a Christian school. See? We are charitable.

So, let’s stay with the greys, they’re so much easier on the eyes. And for those of you naysayers who gripe about the way we do things, this is earth and if you don’t like it, you know the slogan, “Love it or leave it.” What’s to not understand?

 

Jeanine Winslow

[short story  by Sha’Tara]

Devon avenue is an old street with old trees, old houses and old people. This is where Jeanine Winslow lives, with her old cat. She is a widow now, her old husband died about two years ago, but no one remembers that except Jeanine and the Revenue Service. Jeanine’s house and home is one of the most decrepit small bungalow type houses on the street.

Today is a grey day. It’s raining, a cold, miserable rain that hits the skin as frozen needles. Jeanine’s arthritis is bad today, that being one reason she has been unable to go to the corner store. The other reason, of course, is that as usual the month outlasted the pension and there is not one red cent left in the house. The cat is the fortunate one, he can go outside and hunt mice. There are lots of nice fat mice in his neighbourhood. Yes, it’s his neighbourhood, he’s a cat.

There’s a steady tinkling sound in the small dining room, just behind where Jeanine is now standing and contemplating her situation.  There’s an old, rusty water can on the floor to catch a steady drip from the ceiling, a drip that keeps wandering as the drywall gradually sags lower from the water coming through the old worn out asphalt shingle roof.

A knock on the door takes Jeanine out of her circular thinking about a situation she has no control over. Wiping her tears, she goes and answers the door. On the rickety old porch, long without a roof, two very well dressed young men with briefcases smile at her. She smiles back and politely invites them in. They come in and begin their spiel.

They’re from the local “Tabernacle” they say, and they are collecting funds to finish the inside of their church, and inviting their neighbours to participate in the services.

The tinkling continues as Jeanine, sitting nervously on a small stool, the only two chairs taken by the young men, listens politely. One of the young men stares at the drip in the can, then follows it to the sagging ceiling. It impresses itself on his mind as his father is the owner of a local lumber yard and he’s done some construction himself. He understands this lady’s problem but says nothing, letting his partner do the talking.

Finally the spiel is over. They stand, realizing that this woman was certainly not made of money and perhaps they’d have better luck on another street. They make to leave when suddenly Jeanine finds her courage and her tongue to say something to these nice young men. She does not berate them or call down their religion, or their God. Far from that. Jeanine is a very kind lady. But there is something she needs to do.

She grabs the coat sleeve of one young man and say, “Please, don’t go yet. There is something here I need to show you. Please follow me?”

They follow as she leads them deeper into the old house, through a short, dark corridor. She opens the door to a tiny bedroom and in the bed, two small children, obviously a boy and girl and obviously siblings, sleep, the little girl sucking her thumb, the little boy having his arm over her in a protective way.

“I found them downtown five days ago, she says. They were crying and hungry, abandoned as so many are. What could I do but take them home, feed them, wash them and provide them with a bit of warmth and the comfort of a few sheets and blankets? I have nothing to dress them in and their own clothes were nothing but dirty rags. Now… I have nothing left to feed them. I just wanted you to know that it is not because I’m stingy that I didn’t give you anything, it’s that I don’t have anything… nothing. I’m sorry.”

The two very nice young men looked at each other and something flashed between them, some thoughts that found agreement. The oldest of the two, the one who had done the presentation, spoke then.

“We’re sorry too, very sorry. Look, here’s forty dollars that I have on me. Take that for now, and I promise we will be back.”

The younger searched his own pockets and came up with another fifteen dollars and some change. He also handed that over.

With a trembling hand, Jeanine took the money and the look on her face showed all the gratitude that words could never express. The young men left and Jeanine, knowing the children could be trusted to stay in the bed, got dressed for the cold and wet, painfully put her winter boots on and went shopping, slowly dragging her old two wheeled cart and counting her steps as was her habit.

Two days later, early morning, the storm having passed and the pale winter sun having made his appearance in a bright blue sky, a construction truck loaded with roofing materials and several cars pulled up along Devon avenue, close to Jeanine Winslow’s cottage. One man walked up to Jeanine’s front door while the rest, a crew of some seven men and three women, began to unload the truck and wheelbarrow the materials to the house. Ladders came next.

The “foreman” whose name is Jason Farnham and none other than the owner of the lumber yard, had gone to speak to Jeanine and got her shocked OK, for the work to proceed forthwith. The old roof was quickly peeled off and the happy pounding of air nailers and commands hurled back and forth filled the yard. Two women, one a strong teenager, the other, middle aged, went into the house and after moving the meagre furniture and spreading a tarp, pulled down the damp drywall. While finishing they explained to Jeanine,

“We’re sorry about the rush but the drywallers are only available tomorrow. They’ll start at 10:00 AM sharp and they’ll be done the hanging by noon. We’ll be back to finish the taping and mudding tomorrow afternoon. Any mess, we will clean up and we’ll paint next week. Is all this OK with you, Mrs. Winslow?”

“I… Yes, of course, yes…” She sat, small and quiet, with her big tomcat in her lap, her face in her hands. She didn’t know what to make of all that was happening. She thought, maybe she should just let it happen. And that’s what she did: let it happen. She went to the children’s bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed where they were occupied drawing and colouring. They looked up at her and smiled and her heart nearly burst with joy.

The small, basic roof was completed in record time and while the roof crew was cleaning up and running the magnet along the walls for stray nails, the foreman went back in the house, expressed his satisfaction on the removal of the old damp drywall then addressed Jeanine.

“Mrs. Winslow, I must apologize for our brisk performance but we just wanted to get this done in the shortest time while the sun was shining. We didn’t want to leave you as your situation was described to us so we put our emergency crew together, gathered the materials and soon I promise, your life will be back to normal, minus the roof worry. We will also put a new roof on your front porch. That, and new steps, comes later this week. I would have called you, and certainly we should have sent someone to warn you, but you don’t have a phone and we didn’t think there was any option either for you, or us so we decided to act instead of debate. My son Steve, whom you’ve met, was very persuasive and quite insistent.

“We will need to talk about the two children you are harbouring. The situation will have to be, shall we say, legalized? We have a couple of very compassionate people who we rely on to discuss these situations. Would you agree to meeting with them?”

“Yes I very much would. I know I can’t keep them but I need to know they will be sent to a good home. They really are wonderful kids, you know? I wish I could have them meet all of you but I’ve got them wrapped up in old clothes of mine and my husband. I haven’t been able to go shopping for children’s clothes, I’m sorry.”

“Did you get that, Leona? The kids need clothing. Could you leave the clean up to the rest of the crew and go get some children’s clothes from our good will box? If you can’t find anything there, please go and buy em.”

“OK, sure Jason. Be back shortly.”

“Leona’s my wife, we’re a team! I’ve got to go, Mrs. Winslow but there’s a couple of things to settle yet. First, here’s a check for $500 to help you get through this time. Second, and most importantly, everything we did, or will do, for you, is our choice. You owe us nothing and we certainly do not expect you to join or attend our church or any such thing. You will not be embarrassed by having to give any testimony. When we’re finished, we’re finished. Certainly, should you need further help you are welcome to get in touch with us – use the lumber yard – but that’s it. We are very happy to have the means to help you and others like yourself. Is that all OK with you then?”

“Yes Mr. Farnham. Yes it is. Thank you.”

 

 

Some Thoughts Today

I changed my header image today, replacing the colourful Steller’s jay I had taken a picture of in the back yard with a picture of a Merlin, or Pigeon Hawk (small northern falcon) taken on top of a housing complex in Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray, Alberta, on the day I was leaving there.

There’s a story behind this.  Some months ago I had decided to join up with a construction/re-building volunteer organization to go up to Fort McMurray and help re-build some of the 2400 homes that were destroyed by last year’s wildfires.  Some 1500 other constructions were also either totally destroyed or badly damaged by the rampaging fires (2016 Fort McMurray Wildfire – Wikipedia)  of last May.

So, my partner, Vic Janzen and I drove my van the 1500 km to Fort McMurray from Chilliwack, B.C., doing the drive in two days – easy stretches – had the power steering pump not sheared its shaft 300 km south of our destination.  So the rest done with armstrong steering and since the pump also runs the power breaks, some interesting moments practically standing on the pedal to bring the vehicle to a standstill.  It’s doable, and we did it without incidents.

This was meant to be a somewhat long term involvement but we literally ran out of work after two weeks of steady labour and long hours.  We got three basements formed, cement poured and basically ready to receive the “ready to move” pre-built homes that are being trucked in from southern Saskatchewan where another group of volunteers built them with help and donation of materials from a local firm.

I met one of the people whose house our group is replacing.  Lots of teary emotions as these are proud people who never thought they’d be in such a situation, having to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of “charity” from complete strangers. I was reminded again of how little we can rely on what we believe to be certain.  Even with all our fancy technology, our way of life can be taken from us literally in hours; all that we’ve worked a lifetime for gone, just like that.  All is ephemeral.

So, we came back, without incidents this time except for the “check engine” light and “check oil” light constantly popping on and off.  This has yet to be analyzed and corrected… will it be another $1000 repair job… or worse?  I suspect a leaking head gasket, but what do I know about modern vehicles and their convoluted engines, except to drive them?

Would I do that again?  Sure, only I hope it’s closer to “home” next time!  I hear there’s been flooding in the Okanagan valley in central B.C.  That would be only 600 km from here.  Would I go back to Fort McMurray?  Only if there was better organization and my time was better allocated, as in productive long term work.

Anyway, the other side of … ~burning woman~ … eager to make this planet a better world for all.  We do what we can, eh?  🙂

 

Anarchist memes-facts, quotes, headlines just for you

Note: the following thoughts, comments, facts, are fully recommended, accepted and absorbed already by this blogger.

Caution:  The following may cause your mind to engage an unusual thinking pattern.  They may cause it to experience anger.  That is normal.  Your mind is experiencing a jump from RDD or reality deficit disorder.  This jolt will allow your mind to then continue to work with reality and gradually abandon its reliance on brainwashing from fake mainstream education, media, religion, and learn to think for itself. The process by itself is never life-threatening.  It may however give rise to thoughts such as, “Why am I here, in this hell-hole?”  “Is there a way out?”  “Is everything I’ve ever been taught a lie?”  “Can I ever trust anything or anyone again?”  (And, for those of you going bald, “Does God really know how many hairs I’ve got left on my head?” – no, just kidding about that last one.  It was answered long ago in a particular Sunday school class which you blissfully slept through.)

To the quotes then:  

The planet does not need more successful people.  The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds – Dalai Lama

Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges or beliefs.  This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking; where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless. – Leo Tolstoy

It is now clear that “fake news” can have real world consequences: just ask the millions of people who have been affected by the mainstream media’s propagation of the false “war on terror.” 

Anarchism is not a romantic fable but the bareheaded realization, based on five thousand years of experience, that we cannot entrust the management of our lives to kings, priests, politicians, generals, and county commissioners. – Edward Abbey

The world spent  $1735 Billion dollars on war in 2012.  It would take approximately  $135 Billion dollars to totally eradicate (systemic) poverty.  When a politician claims, “there’s no money” for addressing something like child poverty, don’t believe them.  What they are actually telling you is that they’re spending it on something else.  The MONEY is ALWAYS there; it’s a matter of deciding which things are IMPORTANT ENOUGH to spend it on.  The fact that they’re telling you they’d rather spend it on other things (new bombers, for example, or new prisons, or subsidies for oil companies) is an indication of their values.  (Source:)

http://campaign2000.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Campaign2000NationalReportCard2016Eng.pdf 

http://still1in5.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/2016-BC-Child-Poverty-Report-Card.pdf  (Keep in mind that in terms of resources, Canada is one of the richest countries on the planet – standing at #4 globally for most valuable resources reserves.)

The phrase, “fake news” has exploded in usage since the election, but the term is similar to other malleable political labels such as “terrorism” and “hate speech.”  Because the phrase lacks any clear definition, it is essentially useless except as an instrument of PROPAGANDA AND CENSORSHIP.  The most important fact to realize about this new term: those who most loudly denounce fake news are typically those most aggressively disseminating it. – Glen Greenwald, The Intercept

Government is the Entertainment Division of the Military Industrial Complex. – Frank Zappa

I don’t think people realize how the establishment became established.  They simply stole the land and property of the poor, surrounded themselves with weak-minded sycophants for protection, gave themselves titles and have been wielding power ever since. – Tony Benn

(So, you don’t need any “Illuminati” or other so-called secret cabals, all you need is the biggest brawn, the largest group of sycophantic bully boys, and off you go a-conquering and a-stealing and a-raping and a-creating royalty and corporatism.)

Regarding child labour: Before unions came along, every day was bring your child to work day.

The “trickle down theory:” the principle that the poor, who must subsist on table scraps dropped by the rich, can best be served by giving the rich bigger meals. – William Blum

Of course, war and the military establishments are the greatest sources of violence in the world.  Whether their purpose is defensive or offensive, these vast powerful organizations exist solely to kill human beings.  We should think carefully about the reality of war.  Most of us have been conditioned to regard military combat as exciting and glamorous – an opportunity for men to prove their competence and courage.  Since armies are legal, we feel that war is acceptable; in general nobody feels that war is criminal or that accepting it is a criminal attitude.  In fact we have been brainwashed.  War is neither glamorous nor attractive.  It is monstrous.  Its very nature is one of tragedy and suffering. – Dalai Lama

From a chart titled, Americans killed last year by:  Cannabis: 0,  Ebola: 1, Snake bites: 2, ISIS: 3, Playing football: 12, Cow attack: 20, Bee sting: 100, Police: 1,100, Big Pharma drugs: 100,000 plus. (No one can know for sure since many doctors and medical facilities are covering up for Big Pharma by lying and falsifying the causes of death by prescribed drugs.)  

Drug companies blame their high prices on research and development, yet they spend $19 on marketing for every $ they spend on R&D.

In Iceland, 9 crooked bankers were sentenced to 46 years of jail time.  Meanwhile in America, Wells Fargo CEO got a 134 million dollar golden parachute for ripping off thousands of customers.

Still in America, authorities uncovered that Wachovia bank laundered 378.4 BILLION dollars for a Mexican drug cartel.  The bank was fined 50 million dollars (2% of its illegal profit from the money laundering) and no one went to jail.  But meanwhile, still in America, they lock up kids over a dime bag of pot.  Let that sink in for a few minutes…

CAPITALISM:  The extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men, for the nastiest of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all.

 

Another Gift of the Magi (part 2)

The anonymous donations kept coming, always enough to meet the rent and the basic needs.

But where was Sylvia?

After she collected the original amount, she quit university and hired herself out as a model and a call girl.  It was the only way she could see to raise money in sufficient amounts, consistently and quickly enough to meet her sister’s obligations.  Her sociable ways, confidence, physical beauty and intelligence soon made her the number one choice companion in the “underworld.” 

She changed her identity and had a false address.  She took the name Folie Delacroix.  She had one rule only: no entertaining in her place.  She rented a run-down basement suite in the old part of town, among the poorer segments of society.  Some she even directed to her sister’s hospice.  Every dollar she made not needed for immediate personal necessities she put in her sister’s “Hope Fund” as they now called it.

Every Christmas, as they had promised each other, Sylvia came to visit her sister.  When pressed about her doings in the world, she remained  evasive,  explaining that getting her degree had been put on hold due to more immediate commitments.  She spoke of trips to Europe as assistant secretary to the CEO of some software company.  She made up stories of exciting times on the Riviera and other places.  She was determined to keep her deepest and, to her, most shameful secret.  

At the end of their yearly visit, they would hold each other and say nothing.  Moments that brought back so many happy times for Sylvia and gave so much hope to Ariana.

The anonymous donor was faithful.  The money was always there, sometimes more than expected.  Then on the tenth anniversary of their vow, as they met for another Christmas, Ariana noticed her sister looked pale and thin.  The luster in her eyes was dulled. 

“Syl, what’s wrong?” 

Sylvia shrugged.

“Don’t do that,”  admonished her sister, “I’m a trained practical nurse and I handle sick people everyday.  I can read the signs.  What’s with you?”

Sylvia began to cry… “I’m sick, Ari.  I’m… I’m dying.  I’m being punished.”

“What are you saying?  What have you done?”

Sylvia sat crying for a long time without saying a word.  Ariana waited, holding her, sensing her fear and confusion.  Finally, Sylvia unburdened herself and told the story of the last ten years.

Ariana was shocked.  She kept staring at her sick sister and finally exploded:

“You foolish, foolish woman.  What have you done?  Why?  You gave away everything you had, everything you were, including your reputation, to give me this hospice?  You sacrificed all that meant anything to you so I could have what I wanted?  You gave away your life for me.  Syl… I never knew until now what love is.  You… you did this — for me, so I could fulfill my dream…

She stopped.  Sylvia continued to sob, their tears mixing as they held and kissed each other. 

Ariana held her sister’s hand in a tight clasp, looking deep into the sad blue eyes.  She said: “Listen to me very, very carefully, Syl.  Few people could do what you have done.  Let me never hear you speak of punishment.  What awaits you, sister, is not terror but joy.  You have demonstrated once again that love given freely, unconditionally, to another –which is the same as saying “to God” is the greatest gift of all – it’s the gift of the Magi.”

“Say no more.  You will remain here.  I will look after you from now on.  No more work,” and in a gentle whisper, “Please say you will stay?”  “Please!” “For me?”

Sylvia protests: “But how will you meet your expenses if the money stops?”

“Remember what you said to me once?  ‘Has God ever failed either of us sister?’  The money won’t stop.  For some time now, the overall donations have exceeded those of the one we called “God’s Agent”.  The Church has, shall we say, adopted this hospice and it will be regularly funded.  You have done your part, now let me do mine and let us do ours.”

Too weak to protest and fully aware that life as “Folie” was over, Sylvia stayed at the Sisters’ hospice.  Despite her sister’s dearest hope and prayers her health did not improve.  But while she could still work, she helped with the chores and her singing voice often echoed in the rooms where she worked. 

 

Another Gift of the Magi

(Short story from The Other Side  by Sha’Tara)

(According to my trusty old MS Word, this short story is five pages long.  Therefore, so as not to take up too much of your time, I’m posting it in three “installments.”  Some of the title is of course borrowed from the famous Christmas short story “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry.  A simplistic short story written to demonstrate the spirit of Christmas; also the joys and real dangers inherent to self empowerment.)

Ariana and Sylvia were twins and they were inseparable.  They did most things together and were seldom found far from each other.  Even as they grew older, they shared their times and even their friends.  When their parents divorced, they were ten years old.  In their innocent wisdom, they decided to “share” themselves between the parents.  Sylvia went with her dad and Ariana remained with her mother.  So every time the girls wanted to be together one parent or the other had to bring her over.  Thus, over a period of time, and even after they were re-married, the parents developed a deep friendship as they watched their children playing or talking together.

After their parents separated, both girls, raised nominally Catholic, began to consider their faith and returned to the Church, attending and helping organize various functions.  They shared the same intense belief in what the Church stood for.

Both grew into beautiful young women and over-achievers.  They were heading to college when Ariana told her sister that she had decided to enter the convent and become a nun. 

“I want to try on Mother Teresa’s shoes Sylvia, see how they fit and how long I can walk in them before they kill me!”  Mother Teresa had been their childhood heroine.

Being Catholic, entering the convent was not an issue.  Men and women were both desperately needed by the Church.  Sylvia cried when her sister put on the veil and became Sister Celeste.  She accepted her sister’s choice as they had always accepted each other’s choices.  Sylvia went to college then on to university intent on getting a medical degree.

After a few years Ariana, now Sister Celeste, confided her passion to Sylvia as they spent a Christmas day afternoon together. 

“I want to open a hospice for the homeless downtown.  It’s my dream, Syl.  It’s my passion, my inspiration.” 

“And how does your Order and the Church feel about that?” 

“If I can get private funding to open it and keep it going and convince at least four other sisters to join me, they’ll bless it.  Problem is, I don’t have any contacts I could use to raise the money.” 

“How much money do you need to start?” 

“I need at least one hundred thousand dollars to open.  I’ve got a tentative tender on a lease already.  After that, I don’t know.” 

Sylvia took her sister’s hands in hers and looking into her eyes, said: “Has God ever failed either of us, sister?”

“No, never.”  she replied, smiling.

“Then go ahead.  Do this and you will get the money… I promise!”

They talked some more.  That day they swore an oath to each other, that no matter what the circumstances, no matter the distance, they would always spend Christmas day together. 

Silvia sold her new car.  She broke her engagement and when he told her to keep the ring, she sold that.  She maxed her student loans and canvassed the campus and all her well-heeled friends.   A few weeks later, near the end of January, Sister Celeste received a call from the bank where she had opened her “hope account” for the hospice.  There was a one hundred thousand dollar anonymous donation in the account.

Ariana opened her hospice and from the very start it was a success.  A brilliant manager and tireless, she drove her staff and herself to meet the needs of the homeless.  Abandoned children were found temporary homes; pregnant girls were sheltered and placed here and there.  The sick and the dying found a place of refuge there — a warm place, not an institution.  She was often heard saying, “Unfortunately, our business is probably the busiest in town.  We’ll never go broke from lack of customers.”

(end part 1 of 3)