Monday, January 15, 2007
Near the St. Vincent's Medical Center in Jacksonville, there is a new park decorated with bronze statues depicting the Sisters of Charity who founded the center in 1916. The various poses signify the various aspects of the work the sisters did - the Dreamer, the Pray-er, the Breadmaker and the Planter. I think of those four, I'd probably be classified as a dreamer. I like to think of myself as an idea girl.
Perhaps, before I tell you a particular success story, this would be a good time to point out that all my ideas are not what you'd call winners. Like the time I lit all those candles on the beautifully evergreen draped mantle just as my holiday guests were arriving. Who knew the flames would reach so high they would burn the fake (and obviously meltable plastic) moulding on the mirror hanging over the fireplace? And how was I supposed to know when I talked Wendy into driving eight hours through the night to get from San Diego to Tuscon for a hot air balloon festival 5 am take-off that a sand storm would kick up so much wind and dirt the balloons would be grounded.
And I'll even admit now, after twenty years have gone by and tattoos are more the norm than the exception, that my giant-step-for-womankind-foray into independence was not one of my better decisions. Sometimes a girl just has to do what a girl has to do, but let's not go there.
My most recent idea started off pretty benign. As in years past, as soon as Halloween decorations are taken off store shelves and the Christmas stockings are hung by check out counters with care, I began looking for one of my favorite catalogues. It's called Chinaberry and it is chock full of books for children of all ages. I love reading the descriptions of books almost as much as I like going to Barnes and Noble and actually touching the books and looking at the pictures.
Any time of year is a good time for the Chinaberry catalog and a cup of tea, but it's especially good right before Christmas because it is chock full of new holiday books. It's hard to imagine that one can hear the story of the Nativity from so many different voices and still have it end with the glorious sound of angels singing and a tiny baby asleep in a manger. For me, it's a story that just never gets old.
Whether you believe in the incarnation or not, when you hear the story of that young girl don't you want to ask, how did she do it? Were the girls made of heartier stock back then? Was her courage divinely inspired? Or did she just do what other women do when they find they are "great with child," let nature (God) take it's course?
It might seem that I've got way too many questions and obviously a bit too much time on my hands. Sometimes I just can't help it, my thoughts take on a life of their own. Every year as I try to imagine those first few hours in the donkey-smelling stable I wonder how Mary and Joseph coped without their family and friends there to help. No ultrasound machines, no lamaze coaching, no soon-to-be grandparents with a video camera to record it all. Just a tired couple bringing a new life into a world gone crazy. Not so unlike some couples that today find themselves in the similar circumstances.
These were the thoughts running through my head, when I had a clear vision of a baby shower in honor of the Holy Family. The people of my church picked up the idea ball and ran with it. We collected baby clothes and diapers and blankets and hats and food which we gave to a downtown mission church. We celebrated Eucharist in front of a handmade nativity scene. We had harp music and ate Middle Eastern food. With just a bit of pride,I have to say, it was one of my best ideas yet. It was creative, charitable and fun! I can't help but think a myriad of centuries after the fact, the young mother smiled.