That's right, how we value humanity. What Ray Rice did was reprehensible and criminal. His use of domestic violence and the resulting consequences underscore what I often say in this blog: We need to value human life.
I won't judge his wife, Janay, for staying with him or marrying him. Domestic violence situations are more complicated that just telling someone to leave. Leaving isn't always an option. For more insight, see these eye-opening tweets under the hashtag #whyIstayed
When I watched the video, I saw two people on a dangerously violent path. Rice pays the public price because he has a contract in place, while Janay becomes the subject of victim-shaming for her actions. I'm not sure which punishment is worse at this point.
Domestic violence comes in many forms. And just like when I wrote about the suicide of Robin Williams
, there are signs we can all look for to help prevent more victims. I will share these at the end so you can find more information and resources.
Domestic violence, much like sexual assault, is about power and control. The abuser gains that control in various combinations of emotional/verbal and physical abuse. To break free of this is a monumental and dangerous task for any victim (and there are male victims as well) and often requires outside help and continued support. Imagine how much harder that would be if there at children in the relationship as well.
But I'm not here to join the bandwagon and bash Ray Rice, Janay, or the NFL. I'm here to remind all of us that, when we see signs of domestic violence or abuse, that we take the appropriate action.
I'm willing to bet that someone in there lives saw these signs before the incident in Atlantic City. I hope that person spoke up. Maybe there was no one to speak up, but that usually isn't the case.
We've become afraid. Although we claim to want to protect certain groups of people, we are still afraid, sometimes, to do the right thing. I get it - we're human and not perfect. Fear is a great paralyzer. Some of us are afraid to get into someone else's business; that it's a problem only between the couple fighting. We are afraid of being wrong and having people mad at us.
All of the above thoughts are valid fears but we must put them in perspective when it comes to the safety of another person. Your action or inaction may mean the difference between life and death. Yes, it's that serious, and, in my opinion, worth someone getting mad at me for making sure someone is alright and safe.
Yesterday, someone in the neighborhood, who knows I write this blog, asked my opinion on the situation. He was expecting an opinion and the Ray Rice's firing and who knew what and when. Instead, I asked about before Atlantic City. I asked about what the video doesn't show and what we couldn't hear. I asked what would he have done if he had seen signs of domestic violence as a friend of Rice. I asked him what our responsibility is to each other in community and as human beings.
In the end, this man decided he was only willing to step in and call the police in certain situations. While a little disappointed with his conclusion, he reminded me of just how unaware we are and how we can easily rationalize minding our own business. But, more than just giving me an understanding of his mindset, he said, out loud, what he was really thinking and I got to see how that was based on traumatic, violent events of his own childhood watching his parents show violence toward each other.
I know it's hard to overcome fear and take action, but isn't that something to pray about? Do the thing you fear and it will, eventually, go away. God doesn't give us more than we can handle, so that tells me if I'm in a position to help in some way, that I can handle it.
It all starts with a basic agreement that all life is sacred and we are all in a position to help keep true to that belief. And if that is what we truly believe, then we should take that seriously and start looking out for each other. Remember Jesus' parable of The Good Samaritan and we will have a place to start. Pray God gives you the strength to overcome fear and do what is right, though it may be hard. And pray for not only the victims, but the abusers.
As promised, here are some resources and information for you or anyone you may know in a domestic violence situation:
Questions to ask in order to determine if the relationship is safe (the warning signs I mentioned) from TurnAround's website:
1. Has this person ever hit you, pushed you, thrown objects at you, or otherwise displayed violent outbursts directed toward you?
2. Has this person ever been violent toward former dating partners?
3. Does this person become verbally or physically abusive when under the influence of alcohol or drugs?
4. Does this person often berate you or put you down (even in front of others) in order to feel superior?
5. Does this person become extremely upset when you do things without his (or her) permission, or when you reject his (or her) presumed authority?
6. Does this person resent you for having friends of your own or try to control your friendships?
7. Does this person threaten to harm your friends if you continue seeing them or if they try to help you?
8. Does this person hold in low regard members of the opposite sex, but say that you are special?
9. Does this person seem to feel better when you fail?
10. Has this person ever forced you or manipulated you into having sex when it was against your wishes?
September 11, 2014 02:24
By Wendy Stewart
Hello again, my fellow readers! As many of you know, I am a fan of the long-running BBC sci-fi hit show, “Doctor Who.” The show follows the adventures of a time-travelling Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey and his human companions.
One of the reasons the show has been able to continue for nearly 51 years is a very cool loophole which allows the show to continue with a new actor as the Doctor. The loophole is regeneration - something all Time Lords can do. When the Doctor is upon death, he can regenerate into a new Doctor. Same memories but a different face, personality, mannerisms, and way of approaching the world.
The appearance of a new Doctor can be just as confusing for the Doctor as his companions who witness the regeneration. The new Doctor is a stranger and the companion must relearn to trust the Doctor.
The season 8 premiere brings that point home quite well as the current companion, Clara, isn’t sure she knows who the Doctor is anymore. To be fair, neither does the audience as this is the first episode for the newest Doctor (actor Peter Capaldi).
The wonderful thing about the companions is they often represent the view of the audience as we are also trying to figure out who this “new” Doctor is and if he can be trusted.
What appealed to me most about this episode was the constant call to look beyond the surface and into the heart of the person with whom you interact. While that is not always possible when you encounter strangers, the episode calls into question whether anything or anyone remains the same if all that has changed is their outward appearance.
We know it is difficult to really know a person based on what we see on the outside; but if we are honest with ourselves, we will realize our clothes, hair, grooming, mannerisms, etc., are all meant to convey a particular message. Our appearance lets us decide if we want to fit in or stand out.
So what does this mean for us Catholics and others who may read these words? I think its just that we cannot go by appearances alone. We must avoid assumptions about people, which keep us from really getting to know them. We must show compassion before criticism and judgment. We must look at people the way God sees them - beyond what they may be trying to mask.
(All 13 regenerations of the Doctor./tvtropes.org)
August 29, 2014 03:21
By Wendy Stewart
By the time you read this post, you will have heard, from various traditional and social media sources, about the death of actor Robin Williams
. At the age of 63, his death is suspected to be a suicide.
Suicide? Well, that leaves one question we will never be able to answer when something like this happens: Why?
A couple of days ago, my neighbor’s daughter was shot in the side with her two young kids nearby (also covered on the news). The shot caused her to lose a kidney, but, thankfully, not her life. I saw her five-year-old son last night and his face and demeanor told me that he was starting to understand the gravity of the situation. I asked if he wanted a hug, he said yes, and that was the best I could do for him at the time. This is the same little boy who has seen his uncle arrested and hear about his father being shot in the arm. He’s a tough little kid; too tough for only five.
Just as we can’t say for sure why his mother was shot, we can’t say why Robin Williams decided to take his own life.
I know Mr. Williams has had some trouble in life and he had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (a treatable mental illness) as these facts have been discussed in the media. But, with suicide, we who are left behind never really know why such a horrible thing happens.
I don’t want to write this off as an insignificant question of life, but, at some point, we have to stop asking why and start living again. I know. I lost my father to suicide in 1998. There is anger, frustration, guilt, and, of course, sadness and regret for those left behind and I went through all of those emotions. Not every family member comes out on the other side with their faith in tact, like I did.
I had to make a conscious effort to eliminate the question of motive and ask God what I could learn and take from this. I already knew God would take care of my family and me; I wasn’t worried about that. I was concerned that others would miss the signs and be too afraid to ask such a very personal and hard question: “Are you thinking of harming yourself?”
If you’ve read my posts before, you know I am a firm believer of ingraining in people a respect for life. I believe this respect for life, which comes from loving others and seeing them as God sees them, is key to resolving many human issues. But it is also an important key to understanding how we see ourselves. In the song “Seasons Change” by Christian artist Crystal Lewis, she sings, “Are you going through a dry spell? I was there a while ago. Now I’ve come to a place where the rain falls, where the trees bear fruit and grow. Where I find a refuge in my God, it’s a place of surrender I know. I look at God and see what I want to be, He looks at me and sees His own.”
Lyrics like this remind me that no matter how awful I think of myself that is not the person God sees when He looks at me. It is the same for all of us. Give yourselves a break and look at yourself the way God does.
When God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a new king (whose identity was unknown to Samuel), the prophet looked on Eli’ab and thought God chose this man. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:7, RSV) We must always remember God knows our hearts and loves us all. God doesn’t make mistakes, which means he didn’t make a mistake creating any one of us. Anyone suffering from depression, as I do, needs to remember that daily. But it is a truth we should all keep in mind.
So, while we will never really know why Robin Williams died, we can take this time to reach out and help others who may be facing a similar situation. Remind them of the love that is there for them every single day. And if you or someone you know is in emotional crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also chat online via their website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org
One final set of lyrics to meditate on, also from Crystal Lewis. These are from her song “Beauty for Ashes:”
“When sorrow seems to surround you. When suffering hangs heavy o’er your head. Know that tomorrow brings wholeness and healing. God knows your name, just believe what He said: He gives beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, peace for despair.”
August 12, 2014 07:54
By Wendy Stewart
You could say I’ve always been an organized person. My notebooks for school were always neatly divided and every paper had a place to go. I made detailed lists and schedules. Back when JCPenney and Sears still out Christmas catalogs, my list was so detailed, you wouldn’t even have to have the catalog in front of you to order as I had already given you all of the information necessary!
Many of us did the annual spring clean and waited just a bit longer to put those cold weather clothes away. What was I doing? Having dreams about how I needed to declutter my room!
I have to give a little back-story. In my mom’s house, paper is the enemy. There are piles of paper for everything including permission slips, fliers, mail, schedules, etc. If it’s paper, there’s probably a pile for it.
Mind you, these piles aren’t random. It’s more like controlled chaos. And now that I’ve tried to make it sound better than it is, I will admit my room has fallen victim to the paper monster.
Well, to be perfectly honest, my room didn’t stand a chance back in 1993 when I started boarding school. I accumulated things and they ended up in my room. Every once in a while I would get rid of something, but it never amounted to much. Now add another four years of being at the Naval Academy and you can imagine my stuff just piling up.
While stationed on my ship in Bremerton, Washington, I lived alone in a minimalist apartment. No stacks of paper. Nothing out of place. I didn’t have much and I liked it that way. Which is why it’s all the more perplexing why I have so much stuff now!
There is so much clutter I have dreams of getting rid of this stuff because I have to move and nowhere to put everything. I’m no dream specialist, but I’m sure there is a correlation between the two. I have also been known to look around my room and feel a little trapped by the stuff. That left only one option for me: it has to go!
Now if you remember my previous blog
, you know I don’t have a car. So, I can’t just fill a bag or box and stick it in the trunk and drop it off later. Nope, getting rid of things that can be donated requires a bit more planning on my part. Luckily, the Internet is a wonderful place to find that help.
As I got excited about starting to declutter and give away things, I needed to know which charity would come and pick up donations in an inner city neighborhood off of North Avenue. Even I wasn’t hopeful about that one! The first place I tried didn’t pick up in my zip code. The next place didn’t have an opening until early August (I was preparing for this about a week and a half ago) and that was too long. Third time was a charm when I hit upon Green Drop.
I remembered getting some post cards in the mail before from the Purple Heart talking about a truck coming by to pick up donations. Since I didn’t have anything ready, I always ignored the cards. Lo and behold, Green Drop is the business that handles donation pickup for the Purple Heart (and the National Federation of the Blind). The best part? They could come and get my donations the following Monday! Yea!
After that successful pick up, I scheduled another and I’m going to keep scheduling them weekly until my room is the way I want it to be: minimal.
Just the knowledge of knowing that I’m getting rid of clutter has brought my stress down because I don’t have to find space for things. And I had to establish ground rules. The rules include: unless they are specialty shoes, in order for me to buy a new pair, I have to get rid of an existing pair. I had other things to consider, like wardrobe. For that I have a nice selection of fun shirts and interchangeable bottoms. My shoes are usually multifunctional and there are some items you’ll just never see in my closet (I’m talking about you mini skirts and short shorts).
I know some people get weirded out and stressed out just be doing the things I find calming such as making lists and getting organized. How do you get around that? Get some help and make it fun! Swap items with your friends or make it a family game to see who can fill up a bag of donations the fastest. However you choose to declutter, remember it helps clear your life of unnecessary items and, best of all, there is so much less to clean! Sounds like a win all around!
Here are links to the three organizations I looked at, including Green Drop:
July 03, 2014 12:25
By Wendy Stewart
OK, so I know that living here in Baltimore, the words “joy” and “public transportation” aren't usually found in the same sentence or even the same breath. As a frequent user of the MTA, I have often found the opposite attitude on a daily basis. The reasons are obvious: lack of consistency, a complicated system, no cohesive way to understand how the entire system works, timeliness, and, of course, the people.
Mass transit exists to serve the people of a given community. Some organizations do it better than others, but I assure you, it could be much worse. Many people are worried about safety at certain stops after dark, crime on the transit lines, and just the amount of extra time it takes to get from one place to another.
Four years ago, my Jeep died. I mourned the loss quickly and moved on to catching the MTA. I didn’t think four years would go by before seeing another car in my possession (I still don’t have one), but I found some surprisingly good things over the years that I don’t want to miss when and if I do get another vehicle.
You have to understand that much of taking mass transit is a very social thing. And even for an ambivert (half introvert, half extrovert) such as myself, I don’t always enjoy being social. Some days I just want to put on my earphones and listen to some music, the Divine Office (I have an app for that), or an audio book. I’ll admit to tuning people out.
But then there are those special days when you get to connect with people on a level that would not have been possible if you had been zooming through town in a car. You may not have even met that person. These are the people we meet through our travels on mass transit who have stories to share, praise to give, complaints to be heard, or who are on their first journey. There are workers, disabled people like myself, school kids, college students, and everyone else you can think of. Mass transit is a great equalizer. If we are all traveling together, we can have a great ride together or we can complain together (I’m in favor of the first one).
And because there is so much diversity on public transit, you just can’t find the same drama and hilarity but on a public form of transport. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you see and experience something new – good or bad. That is how life is; we have to take the good with bad. But what do we learn from this?
I used the word “joy” in the title of this post because there are days when I know I’m privileged to be able to leave the house and get anything done. To see another person on the bus stop sweating it out in the hot summer morning can be a relief. I’m not alone. But it’s so much more than that. It’s knowing that I get to be a part of someone’s life in a good way or a bad way with every decision I make. I mean, we all know that somewhere deep inside, right? We know our interactions with people are important, as we want people to see God and not us.
So think about this for a minute: how many people do we miss as we go about our days in cars, with our heads down, just trying to get through the day? What if we had to slow down, wait, and, sometimes, engage with the kind of people we’ve never talked to before? How would our lives change? Could we, then, truly start to see the love of God in each person and truly feel compassion and the need to be faithful to our fellow man?
These may sound like lofty goals for some people, but I think, if we allow ourselves to see others as God sees them, what I mentioned above might be a little easier and give us a new perspective on the world.
Try this: if you normally commute to work by car, take a day or two and plan a way to get there all or part of the way by public transit. If you normally work from home, venture out to a new spot but you have to at least walk to get there if you don’t take public transit to a new spot.
I promise you’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn about our city and each other.
In the meantime, if you need help figuring out how the whole transit thing works, check out the following links:
(College Town Shuttle, Circulator, Howard County Transit)
July 01, 2014 10:30
By Wendy Stewart
In case you forgot, today is the first day of the Memorial Day weekend and also graduation day for the Naval Academy class of 2014
(my alma mater).
What you may not know is there is a one-mile run tomorrow that not only honors the fallen we set aside Memorial Day for, but also, for veterans like me, who have come back as Wounded Warriors.
The Coppermine Memorial Mile in Canton is run in memory of fallen soldiers and a benefit race for the Wounded Warrior Project. Though this is the first I've heard of a race of this kind, I encourage you to lace up and run or come out to support those who do. You can register on race day tomorrow and find out more details about the race here
Why support a race like this? I would love to believe the answer is obvious and needs no explanation, but I know that isn't the case. A couple of weeks ago I was in my favorite gaming store and somehow we got to talking about the military and how many veterans, like myself, just want a "thank you" every once in a while. A young man standing at the counter, perhaps in his early twenties, asked why. His point was that we didn't do anything special and we have an all-volunteer armed forces.
Well, I could have gotten offended but I've heard stuff like this before. The same attitude colors the contributions of first responders and anyone else who dedicates their life to service. So, in its essence, it troubles me but doesn't offend me.
As Catholics we see so much service to the poor and marginalized. We have donated money, goods, and time. We have watched others give up earthly families for the Church as they become sisters, brothers, priests, and live out other forms of single, consecrated life. We watch missionaries go off to do the work of the Church in domestic and foreign lands. What they all have in common with our veterans is that they have chosen to make a deep sacrifice for a greater good, whether that's for country or for God.
Does that mean no one else makes sacrifices? Absolutely not! But no one really questions celebrating special days for moms, dads, grandparents, nurses, teachers, etc. What they do is difficult as well.
So what's a Catholic to do? How do we respond to those who take such people for granted? Take a deep breath and pray before we speak. This is not something to argue about, but it is good for us to remember we all need prayer and maybe the person being negative is hurting in some way. We pray for our enemies. We bless those who persecute us and we rely on the Lord to do what we cannot.
Even if your prayer is a quick Hail Mary or an Our Father, I bet that would go a long way to help you deal with these situations.
As I said earlier, if you can get to Canton tomorrow, great! But don't forget the real purpose of this holiday weekend. And, again, congratulations to the United States Naval Academy class of 2014. Good luck, shipmates!
Let me know what you think? Do veterans and first reponders get too much attention? Not enough? Share your thoughts so your voice can be heard as well!
This plaque hangs in the memorial corridor of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and honors alumni who were involved in the country's most recent conflicts and wars.
May 23, 2014 04:39
By Wendy Stewart
Via social media sites such as Facebook, I heard there is a student club at Harvard planning a “Black Mass” for today. When I first heard of it, I didn’t think much about it except to pray for all involved, on both sides of the issue.
Then, as today approached, I started to see more in my feed about this “Black Mass,” and I wondered if someone had penned a response, official or otherwise.
You see, I’m not looking for official guidance on how to respond to a group of students exercising their first amendment right to free speech, especially if they change venues and go off campus. I was looking for someone to give a response from the average Catholic; from the perspective of someone who isn’t personally involved, but, as a Catholic, has an opinion and a reaction.
Some of you may remember I have a degree in history from the U.S. Naval Academy. My unofficial specialty was religion and I continue to spend a lot of time researching more about my Catholic faith and learning about the faith traditions of others. I’m a history/religion geek, what can I say?
One of those I happen to be a bit familiar with is Satanism. Oddly enough, despite the name, they don’t actually worship Satan – at least not in the way we worship God. Satanism, according to its official website, espouses much of the opposite we value in the Christian church and in other faith traditions. They celebrate vengeance, indulgence (as opposed to abstinence), kindness only to those who deserve it, and other similar statements (nine satanic statements in all).
So, what does that mean when Satanists, who don’t really believe in Satan go and celebrate a “Black Mass?” They are usually, deliberately, poking fun and parodying the rest of us, especially Catholics.
The ultimate question is, how do we respond?
We could align ourselves with the Harvard Chaplains and ask the university to cancel this event. You can see the official statement from the chaplains here
We can pray in solitude for the hearts and minds of those who choose to participate in such an event, which I’m sure many are doing and have been since this gained media attention.
We can be offended, which is precisely the reaction a “Black Mass” is intended to elicit.
We can speak out and say that we will continue in our Catholic faith regardless of mockery and insult.
Or, we can do a combination of the above, including ideas I haven’t even dreamed of yet.
You see, I haven’t seen anyone really take a stand on this, other than the chaplains and the students. When our religious freedom is at stake, can we tell someone else not to practice theirs? I don’t have the answer to that question. But I do know we should not be quick to judge or quick to hide in the corner when something controversial comes up.
Should you pick your battles? Yes. So if your cause is social justice or pro-life or any of the other many things we try to fix in this world, you might not want to spend too much time or energy on this one. However, if you have some time and energy, pray about whether you should publicly make a declaration of your faith and how you are proud to be Catholic (even if that public sentiment is only on social media).
I can’t tell anyone what to do. I can only say that many people I have discussed the Christian faith with over the years turn to groups like this because they are hurting and blame God. They want answers that never satisfy and many abandon their faith in God altogether. We all search for meaning and satisfaction in our lives, and for some people, this is where they think they will find it.
So, pray fervently for everyone today and remember that our saving grace in Christ is good news we share with the world in every manner in which we live our lives.
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles …
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.” Romans 1:16-23, 28-31,NRSV
These are powerful words from St. Paul, but are they no less true today than when he first wrote them to the Romans? What do you think? Has this story even been on your radar?
May 12, 2014 03:59
By Wendy Stewart
There are many people who gave up lots of good things for Lent. Some of them gave up their vices because it took them away from meaningful relationships, especially with God, and some, because it was good for their health. I can only imagine the number of people who gave up things like soda, fast food, chocolate, candy, alcohol, and other similar things for Lent. I hope it has gone well so far since we are in the home stretch!
And then there are people like me who gave up things that are a huge part of our current technical world. I gave up Facebook for Lent.
Facebook? Yes, Facebook.
Honestly, I didn't know what I was going to give up for Lent until Mardi Gras. I had been praying about it, but I couldn't come up with anything that represented a good enough sacrifice. (Although, I'm sure God would have been okay with my heart and desire being in line with his will.) I was watching TV, not sure what I was watching, when it hit me like a ton of bricks.
You see, I checked Facebook all the time. I shared articles on Facebook, shared my thoughts, connected with old friends, made new friends, and discovered many others around the world like myself. All that was great, but I was spending too much time on Facebook.
To put this in perspective, let me make a confession: instead of praying as I first woke each morning, the first thing I did was reach for my phone and check Facebook. It was also my source of news since I do not watch news on TV regularly anymore. I checked Facebook when I was bored. I checked it to see if anyone commented on a status, and I used its chat function to speak to many friends. Checking Facebook was the last thing I did before I went to bed.
Checking Facebook on multiple devices has become a regular activity for many youths. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)
That's serious! What was wrong with me? I guess I was addicted. And I think that is why I was elated to give up Facebook for Lent. And to make sure I didn't use it, I uninstalled the apps from my phone and tablet. I let my Facebook log in stay on my devices because there are some apps and sites used my login. Where I could, I simply disabled the function to post on my behalf.
That was the easy part! I didn't realize how many articles and videos I shared on Facebook until I couldn't do it anymore. So I turned to social media sites I had neglected for sometime including LinkedIn and Google+. Sometimes, I didn't share as much, but that's because each site has its own unique voice. But, in the end, I freed up time. Time I could spend praying, healing, resting, helping others, and working on much neglected projects.
Will I go back to Facebook after Easter? Yes, but I have learned to temper my use of social media and balance my interactions online and offline. We all have to learn this balance. As almost equal parts introvert and extrovert, I find the online world very comforting, but we all must look up from our computer/tablet/phone screens and enjoy what is right in front of us.
What did you give up for Lent? How difficult was it? What did you learn about yourself? Leave a comment and let's discuss!
April 18, 2014 10:54
By Wendy Stewart
It offers free water in real glasses as part of its charm. It's a simple act of kindness that means a lot.
During the second part of this post, I'll highlight another simple act that happened at the end of the same week, and it's about a group of students from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute visiting the Franciscan Center for the first time.
My sister, Maria, is a member of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute's Air Force JROTC. Last week, she and others members of the corps, made their very first trip this year to the Franciscan Center. They didn't know what jobs would be in store for them, so I decided to tag along and see what these kids would get to do.
If you've never been to the Franciscan Center at 101 W. 36th Street in Baltimore, you might not know it services as many as 700 clients per day. That includes a range of services from free lunch, computer/job search help, clothing, a food pantry, and help with essential services such as utilities and obtaining a state ID.
Far from a revolving door of charity, the Franciscan Center aims to get clients to a place where they can be independent and live decently. We all deserve some human dignity, right?
Until this point, all I knew of the Franciscan Center came from their website, newsletters, and the collections we run throughout the year at my parish, Saints Philip and James (collecting money for turkeys, collecting winter clothing, and participating in the Souperbowl of Caring). It was amazing to see how everything comes together there for only a few hours each day.
Usually, people talk to the clients and the volunteers to get their perspective on groups coming in to volunteer. I did that. Clients said it was great to have the kids there and it gave them hope for future generations. For the kids, I got the sense they had been looking for something like this all year. A way to help people and put a smile on their faces at the same time. After all, the students did volunteer to come!
The Poly Cadets were placed at various stations for lunch service as well as in the food pantry and the clothing area. That day, clothing was set out for women and children and the lunch included pasta with meat, veggies, bread, and Cafe Latte flavored greek yogurt. The students' jobs included handing out napkins, taking trays when clients were done, keeping count of clients as they came in, and assisting clients in the dining room with other needs (such as carrying a tray if someone was burdened with lots of bags and such).
Laura Rochevot '14 waiting for clients in the clothing center.
After having a talk with a couple of clients, which included a very spirited discussion of all things science fiction, I decided to get lunch for myself. And that's when it hit me: I was closer to the poor by breaking bread with them than by volunteering.
What I came to understand was, that for me, it isn't enough to donate time, money or goods. Those things are necessary and must continue in order to help the poor and marginalized. But some of us are called to live a life a little bit closer to the poor. Call it my own vow of simplicity or poverty since I don't belong to a religious community. In being with the poor, and using my own talents to share stories like this with you, dear reader, I have found myself closer to God.
Does it have to be this way for everyone? Of course not! God created us all to be able to help people in different ways. The point is that when you find your special way of helping others, everyone wins and the joy that only God can give can be yours.
So, it was a simple act of kindness on the part of Poly's AFJORTC to come and volunteer, but their kindness and willingness to serve changed at least one life that day - the one I least expected - my own.
Many thanks to Christian and Debbie at the Franciscan Center
who hosted me and the cadets. Also, I'd like to thank the following cadets and officer who volunteered last week: Maria Stewart '14, Laura Rochevot '14, Jaleel Daniels '14, Nishae Deramus '15, Ashelle Henry '15, Trey Huff '14, Katesha Culp '14, Dkhrya Mcfadden '14, and Major Gauert, USAF.
April 02, 2014 05:10
By Wendy Stewart
Many times, it's the simple things that put a smile on our faces and keep us
going day to day.
Sure, there are many terrible things going on in the world and even in many
of our own neighborhoods, but we always look for the wee, small things to make
Last week, I was fortunate to experience this twice. Instead of trying to
squish both stories into one post, I'll give them the space they are due and
give you a two-parter.
First up, my long wait for the bus helps me find a selfless act in a local
Actually, the place is called Canteen. You may have passed it going north on
Charles Street as you approach North Avenue. They don't have a sign yet, so you
kind of to peek in the window to see how many people are in there.
The atmosphere is nice and comfy and the staff is friendly. That's not what
drew my attention. It was the area on the counter with some tall glass bottles
filled with water. The sign above the bottles said you could help yourself to
the water and use the small glasses stacked next to them to drink from.
What a great thing to do! Granted, it wasn't exactly warm that day, but,
it's a place where water is still free. Don't believe me? Try going across the
street to McDonald's and asking for a cup of water without buying something.
Same thing at Target and many other places. You just can't get a free cup of
water anymore. I find that to be truly sad.
When I mentioned this to Madison, the young lady working that day, she was
surprised. She didn't know it was so hard for people in Station North, around
North Avenue, to get a simple cup of water. With that act of kindness now in
some perspective, I hope Canteen will continue to offer free water in nice
I get the feeling the people who run Canteen think much like I do: let's
take more time to help each other rather than stepping on people to get to the
top. I suspect that Canteen will be one of those hidden cool places of Station
North known for just that extra bit of caring and a smile on the faces of those
who work there. And why not? Is it so weird for people to be happy at their
jobs and pass that on to those they meet? I don't think so!
So, when you get a chance and you're heading up Charles Street, stop into
Canteen and see what it's all about, enjoy the atmosphere, and thank them for having
Tune in next time when you'll read about a group of students at the
March 31, 2014 05:03
« Older Entries
By Wendy Stewart