I’ve recently started watching the show Community on Hulu between waiting for new episodes of New Girl, Modern Family, SVU, Parenthood, and The Following. Note: we do not have cable, much less a working TV so Hulu is all I have when I feel like indulging in media.
“First, we must define what community is and what community is not. Community is not family; those volunteers in community are generally not related by blood or marriage. There is no long-standing or contractual obligations between the members. After their mission time is finished, community members may or may not see each other again (or even want to).”
“In airing the differences, community members need to start from a position of good will: expressing it for oneself and assuming it in others. Assume the positive, not the negative. A small item we used in our community: If the door slams, assume it is the wind; do not automatically assume that that community member is mad or having a bad day. Assume good will.
Community is an intentional sharing of one’s life, involving prayer, compromise, and respect. These habits are not meant to paper over differences, but to give strength and comfort, to point all the members together toward God, seeing him through their fellow community members, and through members of the larger community whom they serve.”
I feel very grateful to be inspired to write poetry. It always come so randomly, but also so strongly for me. I was inspired to write one evening when I was walking the 3 blocks home from work…
Let’s take a walk down Bank Street
where broken glass grows faster than grass
a “good afternoon” could be the last thing someone hears.
where children’s laughter in abandoned school yards from past recesses should be heard louder than
If walls could tell a story, the homes in the West End could fill volumes of a time that “once was”
where prostitution wasn’t a norm, and food benefits weren’t being cut like the last plate at a food kitchen.
Where a robbery is only a crime, not a means for survival
and strength to make it to the next day
I HOPE that even though we may have a different past
I am who I am because of you [ubuntu] andlifeisa
g i f t
that is not opened by everyone everyday.
So let us walk down Bank Street where birthdays are celebrated at memorials on the places of deaths on every block-
where bottles of grey goose, cigarettes, candles, wilted flowers
commemorate the soul that enjoyed them.
Where prayers like “If the sky that we look upon, should tumble and fall
All the mountains should crumble to the sea…
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No, I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me”
should be expressed loud and clear.
This is Bank Street.
]New Year’s Eve has always been a bit strange to me – the notion of an instant moment in which everything somehow changes – and the weeks that follow seem, for many, to be filled with empty promises of hopeful changes in behavior to be a newer, slimmer, healthier, fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-“-ier” self. I recently saw a list of the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions on Facebook, which echoed this. While few, if any, of the Resolutions are, of themselves, a bad thing, I can’t help but think how self-focused and socially-influenced they seem to be. It has had me thinking – wouldn’t it be great if more of us (myself included) tried to make commitments aimed toward the common good, rather than to benefit only ourselves?
I have found myself asking some questions that may lead to making some “Resolutions,” but perhaps of a different sort. If I say that I am committed to living mindfully, deepening my spiritual journey, and aspiring toward greater solidarity with our brothers and sisters who daily face the realities of poverty and injustice, then where are the inconsistencies in my life and what are some next steps I can strive to take this year to continue on this journey?
The skeptical or cynical part of me stops immediately and thinks “really, Maura?!? With a toddler and a newborn, a part-time job, and everything else life throws one’s way, do you honestly think you can follow through on something else?” But then I stop and think about that a bit more – yes, I can, and must, take on something else. If I am committed to living more justly and raising these a family in light of that, if I consider my work not just a job and a paycheck but a ministry and a vocation, how can I not continue to take steps on this journey?
So in my own context, how can I better promote the common good? I don’t know that I have answers to any of these questions yet, but they have had me thinking over the past couple of weeks:
What nourishes me spiritually, and how can I continue to look for and be present to the Incarnation we just celebrated over Christmas in my immediate presence – even my 2 year-old son as he refuses to nap? How can I carve out time to be more aware of the presence of God in the world?
How can I be more intentional with the community of people with whom I surround myself, including with our neighbors in need? How can I better prioritize community, and how can I move more toward relationship rather than ‘helping’?
Are there decisions or practices to which I – and we, as a family – can commit in order to live a little more simply and leaving a smaller footprint on the environment, to be in greater solidarity with most of the rest of the world? Are there practices or habits that I do out of personal convenience or because they are normative to our society that could be changed to be more in line with the common good?
What a gift for me that I have the opportunity to walk with these Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati through their year of service – challenging me as I invite them to continue on this life-long journey of faith, friendship, and service. I know they will continue to serve as reminders to me to continue asking tough questions, even when we do not have answers, and then to try to, as Rainer Maria Rilke said in Letters to a Young Poet, “live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, [we] will gradually, without even noticing it, live [our] way into the answer.”
Cheers to 2014, a New Year hopefully full of good questions. I hope you’ll consider joining me along the journey as you explore and live into your own questions and strive to bring about the common good.
Maura Carpinello has the great gift of serving as Program Manager for Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati. When she’s not walking with the VVC members as we all “live the questions,” she is walking around with her two young sons who keep her very busy.