kinship

In the cave painting in Northern Australia, you can find pictures of boats or canoes. Wally, my adopted uncle among the Aborigines, talked to me about my obligation toward my kin. “You need to provide and cook food for your kin. We are going fishing for turtle.”

     I gulp and say “Yes, sir.”

     He takes me and my colleague Russ to collect wood for a fire on the beach on Crocker Island in Arnhem Land. Then he hands us a net made by the women and places us carefully in a canoe. We are told Dreamtime stories of the women weaving baskets and nets.

When a turtle is spotted on a rock, everyone in the canoe has a hand in throwing the net and securing it around the turtle. We then proceed to shore where we haul the turtle on its back near the fire. I think I looked away at the killing of the turtle but I helped cook it in its own shell. My “aunt” gave me herbs to place in the simmering soup and I watched the fire.

     When it is done, my uncle reminds me that I hand out the food to my kin according to my relationship. This was a test of how I was related to everyone. I carefully handed out soup to the oldest member of my uncle’s family and then to the others. My “parents” came next and then more distant relatives until everyone on the island was fed.

     When the next animal was killed, it would be divided up among the kin of the providers so that different people got first choice for each meal. I’m sure I didn’t understand all the intricacies but I got the main message that I have responsibility to my family and all the members of my community. No body goes hungry in a community.

     This has stayed with me. Everyone gets fed. No one person has more food than the next. The Native American tribes I have lived with have the same understanding. Anyone who comes by your house shares in the food–no matter how little.

     Those in power and money in American don’t get this at all. Sometimes I feel like a foreigner in my own country.

     This Lent, I want to find those hidden poor with whom I can share my food. Not because I am a saint but because I have been taught to care for those within a community. I have been taught by those who keep their obligations even if they have little food.

Kinship

Day 26 Kin

                          

     In the cave painting in Northern Australia, you can find pictures of boats or canoes. Wally, my adopted uncle among the Aborigines, talked to me about my obligation toward my kin. “You need to provide and cook food for your kin. We are going fishing for turtle.”

     I gulp and say “Yes, sir.”

     He takes me and my colleague Russ to collect wood for a fire on the beach on Crocker Island in Arnhem Land. Then he hands us a net made by the women and places us carefully in a canoe. We are told Dreamtime stories of the women weaving baskets and nets.

When a turtle is spotted on a rock, everyone in the canoe has a hand in throwing the net and securing it around the turtle. We then proceed to shore where we haul the turtle on its back near the fire. I think I looked away at the killing of the turtle but I helped cook it in its own shell. My “aunt” gave me herbs to place in the simmering soup and I watched the fire.

     When it is done, my uncle reminds me that I hand out the food to my kin according to my relationship. This was a test of how I was related to everyone. I carefully handed out soup to the oldest member of my uncle’s family and then to the others. My “parents” came next and then more distant relatives until everyone on the island was fed.

     When the next animal was killed, it would be divided up among the kin of the providers so that different people got first choice for each meal. I’m sure I didn’t understand all the intricacies but I got the main message that I have responsibility to my family and all the members of my community. No body goes hungry in a community.

     This has stayed with me. Everyone gets fed. No one person has more food than the next. The Native American tribes I have lived with have the same understanding. Anyone who comes by your house shares in the food–no matter how little.

     Those in power and money in American don’t get this at all. Sometimes I feel like a foreigner in my own country.

     This Lent, I want to find those hidden poor with whom I can share my food. Not because I am a saint but because I have been taught to care for those within a community. I have been taught by those who keep their obligations even if they have little food.

Day 26 Kin

Day 26 Kin

                          

     In the cave painting in Northern Australia, you can find pictures of boats or canoes. Wally, my adopted uncle among the Aborigines, talked to me about my obligation toward my kin. “You need to provide and cook food for your kin. We are going fishing for turtle.”

     I gulp and say “Yes, sir.”

     He takes me and my colleague Russ to collect wood for a fire on the beach on Crocker Island in Arnhem Land. Then he hands us a net made by the women and places us carefully in a canoe. We are told Dreamtime stories of the women weaving baskets and nets.

When a turtle is spotted on a rock, everyone in the canoe has a hand in throwing the net and securing it around the turtle. We then proceed to shore where we haul the turtle on its back near the fire. I think I looked away at the killing of the turtle but I helped cook it in its own shell. My “aunt” gave me herbs to place in the simmering soup and I watched the fire.

     When it is done, my uncle reminds me that I hand out the food to my kin according to my relationship. This was a test of how I was related to everyone. I carefully handed out soup to the oldest member of my uncle’s family and then to the others. My “parents” came next and then more distant relatives until everyone on the island was fed.

     When the next animal was killed, it would be divided up among the kin of the providers so that different people got first choice for each meal. I’m sure I didn’t understand all the intricacies but I got the main message that I have responsibility to my family and all the members of my community. No body goes hungry in a community.

     This has stayed with me. Everyone gets fed. No one person has more food than the next. The Native American tribes I have lived with have the same understanding. Anyone who comes by your house shares in the food–no matter how little.

     Those in power and money in American don’t get this at all. Sometimes I feel like a foreigner in my own country.

     This Lent, I want to find those hidden poor with whom I can share my food. Not because I am a saint but because I have been taught to care for those within a community. I have been taught by those who keep their obligations even if they have little food.

Water Silence day 25

Day 25 Riding the Ferry Hong Kong

     One of my fondest memories of living in Hong Kong involve taking the Hong Kong ferry back and forth from the island to Kowloon. It costs five cents. I would stand among the crowd of Chinese alternately looking at them, the skyline and the water. In spite of the noise, stillness ruled.

     I could reflect as long as I had a focus on the water and yet I could interact with the crowd, the Junks and movement on the water. I loved it. I felt at home among so much activity and yet so much stillness. I can’t explain it. It was a favorite activity whenever I felt stress.

     Today, I look for places of stillness. I live next to a park and in the early morning, I can sit on a bench with my shoes off and look at the grass. Things move through the grass and I enjoy watching the snails and birds.

     Lent is a time for deep reflection on identity and purpose. If I can’t get outside, I have a chair placed before the Havasupai waterfalls, where I once worked. And I burn my sage and light my candle.

     I rather look at the water but I enter stillness where ever I can.

     This Lent, I want to enjoy even more places of stillness.

Comfort day 24

Day 24  Comfort

     As I hand out socks to some of the street people, I saw a strange sight. A homeless woman comforted another man by putting her hand on his shoulder. I asked what was going on.

     Calvin whispered to me. He just found out his sister O.D. in Alabama. He is filled with regrets and grief.

     “What is she telling him” I whisper back.

     “She is telling him that no matter how dark it is, he is strong enough to see the light.”

     I walk over to the grieving man and offer my condolences. He looks up at me with tears and says “Thanks.”

     “What was her name?” I ask.

     “Ceclia,” he says.

     “What were the things Ceclia liked to do?” I ask.

He smiles, “She loved to joke around. We always laughed with her around. And she knitted up a storm. We all have a hat or scarf she made. I’m going to miss her so much.”

After a few moments of silence, he says “Thanks for letting me talk about her. I don’t want to forget her.”

This Lent I want to talk about those who have died to their loved ones so they may be comforted that they are not forgotten.

Victoria Falls day 23

Day 23 Victoria Falls

     One of my two most awesome places in the world features my time spent at Victoria Falls between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

     I breathed in awesomeness at every step. It began with the extent of the falls. At no spot could I see the entire falls. The magnitude and the volume of the water thundered over me. The mist that rose from the water hitting the bottom soaked me totally.  

As I walked to the lowermost point of the falls, I sat down and thought about nothing. I could hear the silence in the midst of the overwhelming sound of the rushing water.

Then, as if by magic, some otters poked their heads up. Mesmerized I watched them bob up and down, being totally joyful in their play. I couldn’t believe it. I watched them for hours. There was no meaning or serious reflection about it. I just enjoyed watching them at play.

When I first took the Native youth group to the ocean in Los Angeles I had the same experience. I loved to see them just play. Inexhaustible joy is precious in itself.

This Lent, I want to find incidents of joy, where ever I can find it.

Women’s Empowerment day 22

Day 22 Women’s Empowerment

     When I lived in Zambia I held a woman’s empowerment course. We spoke of the different ways women have power. To my surprise, they had many examples of how they had both direct power and indirect influence.

     Their direct power had to do with their roles in the kitchen and certain crafts. Being skilled had its own reward and I was shown many of their creations.

     Indirect influence had to do with how they could influence men in power to make certain choices.

     “Once I get him into bed, I can make him do anything,” one of the women says. They all laugh and nod yes.

     At the end of the training, Alice says “I am glad we got together. There is so much more to being a woman than I thought. I didn’t realize how having choices makes me strong. And having a skill gives me pride. I think I could get through any misery with those two things.”

     I remembered this over the years. So many of the marginalized I meet today do not know about their choices or skill.

     This Lent, may we focus on those who don’t know that they have choices and skill.