Saturday, September 24, 2011

God made Miss Rachel :-)

If you have visited this blog before, you say to yourself that the format is different from last time, and you would be right.  I changed the background to make it a little easier to read, and I am hoping you, readers, will like it.

On Thursday, I spent the better part of my day in the first grade.  I am convinced that they are the loudest first grade ever.  My housemate, Chris, tells me that I am exaggerating a little, but I think I am correct.  Perhaps it is the size of the class (28), or the fact that they don't have an aide in the classroom and won't for another week, but this group knows how to be loud.

During their religion class, their teacher reminded them of a song they had learned last time, "God made birds and fishes" la la la la.  Something like that.  Then, she asked everyone to draw four things that God had made.  Ricardo finished first, and brought his picture to their teacher, Mrs. Derenzo.  I was on the other side of the room, and all of a sudden I heard her say, "God made Miss Rachel!"  Ricardo had drawn a stick figure version of me.  Later in the class, Leira brought me her drawing, and said that she had to give it to Mrs. Derenzo, who had left to teach another class.  It was a card that said, "I love you Mrs. Derenzo."  Leave it to the first grade to teach me about unconditional love.

Apart from that, what I continue to reflect on is the idea of "harm reduction," as proposed to me by my housemate, Chris.  I can't fix all of the problems in Camden; I might not be able to fix any of the problems in Camden.  What I can do, however, is what he calls "harm reduction."  Make life better for those whom I serve.  I might not be able to change a child's fluency in English, or their home life, or drum up a full choir for mass on Sunday, but I can smile at the first grade, and listen to what they tell me and sing as well as I am able.  Realizing that I cannot do everything frees me up to do something, and that is the point, after all.

Do something.

Peace and all good,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Every day I'm shuffling...


The title of my blog is more than just a song I've been singing, although it has been a song that I am singing.  More importantly, it signifies two distinct things:

1. The Francis Shuffle:  Chris Posch, ofm, the site supervisor in Wilmington, gave a thrilling talk on opening retreat about "The Francis Shuffle."  Basically, what it means is that while it is good to get away from the hassles of everyday life, whether it be in prayer or in physically distancing onself, to truly follow Francis, one mys come back to those daily hassles.  Up the metaphorical mountain, and then back down.  This will be my task for the entire year.

2. Orientation:  My community has literally been shuffling around to the different potential ministries, and while it has been a bit overwhelming, it is also fantastic, in the truest sense of the word.  It's like I get to live a fantasy.  I'm living the dream, as one of my housemates would say.

For now, I have taken on work in Music Ministry, being present at Francis House (the HIV and AIDS ministry), helping the first grade, and teaching an after school martial arts club.  I'm starting to settle into a routine, but life is far from "routine" here in Camden.

The real joy of my entire year lies in all of the people I have been able to meet: my three housemates, the other Franciscan Volunteers in Philly and Wilmington, the Friars, the parishioners, the people who gather at Francis House, the Parish staff and the staff at the school, the first graders.  So many wonderful people.

For back to school night in the first grade, we were all coloring pictures of ourselves to put on our desks.  I was supervising a special set of skin color crayons with about five students at a time.  One of the students asked me what was wrong with my front teeth.  I explained to her that I had a stain. "Don't you brush your teeth?" "Yes, but the stain is underneath, so brushing doesn't make it go away."  That seemed to satisfy her until I told her that I was finished with my own picture, and she said, "Don't forget to color your dirty teeth!"

To those who have been waiting for something more substantial, I am sorry.  This post has been in draft form for a couple of weeks now, and I recently received a friendly reminder that I needed to put it up.  I do promise to write more, now that the intro is underway.  For now, happy adventures to everyone in cyberspace!

Peace and all good,