Friday, May 22, 2009


It is very quiet around the house. Last week we had our younger daughter home from college, and at times several of her friends, and this included a celebration of her 20th birthday. We also had Jacques, from Haiti, with us. Pam was preparing to lead a group of 19 to Haiti, in an initiative that includes microcredit, a medical clinic, continued renovation of the School of Mercy, and a day camp at a nearby orphanage, plus a connection with the church in Cap Haitien. We hosted a dessert gathering for about 35 people, which was certainly a low-key affair but nevertheless an event.

They all headed to Haiti for the week, and the work is going well. I realize, in their absence, what life is like for many of my friends, and many of the people that I serve. You get in from work, and the likelihood is that you may not speak with another person until you enter the workplace again, the next day. I thought about all of this in relation to a gathering our church hosted for the welcome center volunteers, who staff our front desk through the week. Many (certainly not all) live alone, and it has occurred to me that this experience of 3-4 hours, once a week must meet a need in being at the hub of a very active church--a typical day would include the traffic of weekday school parents and children, the homeless who reside in our church, women attending circle meetings, participants in bible studies, musicians of various sorts and community groups---today we hosted several hundred people at a gathering of retired public school teachers. Not to mention the staff.

I also realize how different this is for many---some of the members of my church look at me, ask if I am truly by myself for a few days, and I sense that, especially among those with young children, this must seem like something of a luxury----like eating a rich dessert, or going to a spa. And there is something nice about it---it is restful, to a point, and yet one needs the discipline of mapping out what is meaningful and useful. Some of this is easy for me--I don't watch Jon and Kate plus 8, or American Idol; some less so--I do watch the Braves, and have developed some interest in the NBA finals, and I have been following a really excellent PBS documentary on the history of Appalachia. My reading, I find, is sporadic. I think I have reached the place in life where the really substantive reading that I do is generally toward some end.

Our family is beyond the physically intense years of shepherding younger children and the mentally intense years of negotiating with older children who are actually becoming young adults. When Pam and I are here, just the two of us, there is a vacuum, but nevertheless it is good. Not that we don't dream of the times, which are rare, when everyone is home. That is actually bliss. But practically speaking, this is less and less the case.

There is a tendency to fill the silence with television, and even that begins to become predictable. I know my own political propensities, but the tv commentators yield little that is informative or surprising. I do watch 30 Rock, The Office and Lost, but these are in the off-season. I probably need to map out some kind of reading goal, but having come through a very busy winter of writing (the 2010 lenten study for the umc) and a filled Lent, Holy Week and Easter schedule, sitting back and doing nothing is good, for now. For now it is quiet, but I am looking forward to the noise and activity that will resume in just a few days.


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