Tag Archives: community

The Trip, Part 1: Hospitality

I’m pretty sure this will take several days to explain, in part since my writing time is now divided by a number of thank-you notes which must be written with all haste.

Which seems like as good a place as any to start.  We were very, very blessed by the generosity of friends and strangers on our trip to Fargo, ND, this past week.  We were gone from Tuesday morning to the following Tuesday night, and only spent one of those nights away in a hotel.  So pending the thank-you notes, here are the people to whom we owe our very awesome, very long trip.

We spent the first night in St. Louis, MO, with Nate, Angela, and John Paul.  Craig got to know Nate first in his role as a Catholic blogger (read: “they met on the internet!”)  Nate and Angela are in the beginning stages of starting a new Catholic Worker on the other side of town from the long-standing Worker of St. Louis, and as they have kicked most modern communication technology out of their house, we’ve been corresponding with them by snail mail for a couple of months now…mostly about whether they would be interested in allowing us to crash at their house on our way north.  Happily, they were willing.  We left New Orleans early, arrived in St. Louis in the afternoon, and had a great time having dinner, going to playgrounds, eating frozen custard, and discussing the joys and difficulties of living a holistic Catholic lifestyle.  Nate and Angela were leaving on their own road trip the next day, so we were really grateful to them for going out of their way to take us in.

Next we went on to Iowa City, where we stayed with people we actually knew, Mike and Violet and their beautiful daughters Stella and Juniper.  They let us stay two nights, so we had time to visit, take the kids to the library, stay up late, and marvel at how peaceful Juniper is at all times.  Mike and Violet let us sleep on their mattress.  They are awesome.  They offered to leave things where they were in case we wanted to stop back there on the way home.  Sadly, we didn’t make it back to see them again this trip.

From Iowa City we went on to the original purpose of the trip, a Young Disciples reunion in Fargo, ND.  There, again we stayed with strangers, although the arrangements for this “host home” had been made by a friend of ours who used to run the YD program.  Josh and Tracy, the young couple we stayed with, provided toys, stairs, and cereal for the girls, as well as a Mary Poppins cup with built in straw.  What more could little girls need?  We were there Friday and Saturday nights, and had a good reunion and more fascinating theological discussion.  That was actually the other theme of the trip.

While we were in Iowa City, Mike and Violet had mentioned the place their friend Brenna was living: a Catholic Worker farm outside of Dubuque, IA.  Violet was kind enough to call and see if we could come visit the farm on our way home.  And sure enough, they had a space for us.  Actually, Brenna gave up her bed so we could stay, and we got in late since we didn’t leave Fargo until almost one and there are no useful interstates in the area, (South Bend and Highway 31, anyone?) and the roosters are apparently on Mountain Time, as they started crowing at four in the morning.  But the people of the farm (do I call them Farmers?  Workers?) were so hospitable, even though only Brenna knew us from Adam, and she barely so.  Craig was feeling down and out by the morning (he didn’t sleep well) and we were offered another night, should we need it.  We have several good farm stories now, and Craig is ready to move immediately, and, as usual, we had good food and good conversation and left feeling welcomed and rested (Craig napped through lunch).

So finally we went back through St. Louis, and stayed at a hotel, because even though Nate and Angela had offered us another night at their house, they were getting back from their road trip that same day, and Craig had come down with a cold, and our humility had about run out, so we decided not to impose anymore.  And even the lady working at the hotel offered us milk as we were checking in for the tired and grumpy (read: screaming) girls.

Thus the pile of thank-you notes I have to get started on.  We have a new standard of hospitality to live up to.  We were well cared for on a long trip, one we could not have afforded to make without the generosity of friends and strangers.  And I think the best part was, if we had stayed by ourselves in hotels all those nights, trying to get the girls bathed and to bed on time, sleeping until we had to get ready to go, watching TV because there isn’t a whole lot else for a three-year-old to do in a hotel room, we would have missed so much.  We would have missed catching up with old friends, we would have missed making new friends and learning a wide variety of new things.  The girls would have missed playgrounds, frozen custard, and farm animals, just for starters.  I wouldn’t have so many letters to write, which I actually can’t wait to start.  Connections we had to people in other places which were tenuous, if they even existed, are stronger now.  Our like-minded community, which we keep trying to build a little here and there as we go, has grown tremendously.  It might just have been worth the 3,200 miles in the car.

A Community

Ah, it’s time again for me to write about something of substance.  Or something.

We talk often about trying, someday in the future, to live in an intentional (Christian) community.  We liked what we had at the Tulane Catholic Center, we’ve had retreat/camp experiences that were short term communities, and we liked it, so we’d like to do something similar full time.

Funnily enough, Craig’s parents already practically have this.  We borrowed their house over the 4th of July weekend while they went on a vacation to Boston.  Here is how our weekend went.

We drove in on Saturday afternoon and set up shop.  Before we could decide what we would do for dinner, Miss Mary Lou and Mr. Bob next door invited us over for ham, corn on the cob, and potato chips.  This, of course, led to an evening of conversation, running children, and general fun.  It was a good way to start the holiday.

On Sunday, we went to Mass (after which the youth group help sparklers to liven the spirits of those exiting the church – Fr. Tom’s idea, not ours!) and then spent a long time talking over donuts with Rusty (who we found out lives two blocks from Craig’s parents) and Anna who is the 13th of 18 children.  We were almost the last ones to leave.  But we went back home and cooked hot dogs for Bob and Mary Lou (aka B-Bob and Mimi) while the girls swam.  Dinner was kindly provided by Mr. Joe and Miss June across the street, and B-Bob and Mimi, the neighbor next to Joe and June, Mr. Darwin, and the couple two doors down were also there, along with a good part of Joe and June’s family.  So far – five meals, four of them in communities.

The other thing with Mr. Joe is that he invites everyone who lives around him over for beer every afternoon at 4.  Accommodations are made for little ones who can’t drink much beer.  And Mr. Bob spends 9/10 of the day, rain or shine, hot or cold, on his back porch (which might as well be his front porch) open to company.  We barge in frequently, and often return with ice cream.

Monday we had Mr. Darwin and B-Bob and Mimi over for dinner (Craig made some amazing meatballs, I’m sure he would be willing to share the recipe if he remembers it!) and then went to a youth group softball game.

Tuesday Craig went to work and the girls and I met Bob and Mimi at the donut shop, where they meet their friends Bill and Mary (and anyone else who comes in!) every day.  Lucy enjoyed her pink sprinkled donut, and the shop owner gave them donut holes when she saw that Samantha hadn’t touched her pink sprinkled donut.  Chocolate milk was enjoyed all around.

We finally headed home Tuesday evening after Craig took some youth to visit a local nursing home.  On the way back I was counting (we had 6 of 9 meals in community – and 7 if you count dinner with his parents after they got home!) and realized that the community we would like to build could look very much like this:  neighbors watching out for each other, feeding each other’s dogs, drinking each other’s beer, (occasionally accidentally feeding each other’s beer to each other’s dogs…) talking, talking, talking.  Most of the world’s problems have been solved at least twice on Bob’s back porch.  But there is one thing that makes it all happen – people take the step to invite other people to share with them.  Then the trust builds, then the back porch is always open.  It was a good lesson for me.

A Charmed Life?

We have such beautiful girls.  Samantha is fighting her molars, but at the same time she has started giving hugs and kisses, and I don’t think there is anything in the world cuter than a hug from a 14-month-old.  We are truly blessed.  And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, with the NFP discussion going on on a friend’s blog.  Some people struggle to figure out their signs and when they’re fertile, and it leads to frustration, fights, and general trouble.  I, on the other hand, have a regular cycle and a hard time not knowing if I’m fertile, now that I know what to look for.

We have met two beautiful young men with special needs through the youth ministry now.  And I keep wondering, “Will we have a child like this?”  All children have their own challenges, of course, but talking to these parents, you can see the years of struggling to help their child get by in society written all over their faces.  Again, it’s something we just haven’t had to deal with, at least not yet.

And I’m meeting more and more women who have had to deal with miscarriages.  Growing up, I thought that was a very rare occurrence.  Now that I am an adult talking to adult women, and maybe the things brought up in polite company have changed since I was little, but I’m finding it frighteningly common.  My friend Julia wrote a beautiful, moving post about her friend who lost a baby in utero.  But again, we’ve only suffered through this vicariously, it has thus far passed us by.

And I’m left wondering, maybe it’s the flip side of what these struggling families wonder, “Why not us?”  Surely we can’t escape these hardships forever?

Maybe it’s just the rain outside today, but it’s strange the way the suffering of others can cast a gloom over our own bright times.  Or maybe it’s not strange at all.  Maybe, and I think Julia (see above) is right in this – we have the chance to bear each other’s burdens, even if only tiny pieces of them.  The Triune God did not design us to suffer alone, or to rejoice alone, for that matter.  Which is a little difficult for a loaner like myself to accept sometimes, but I can’t think of a time I’ve opened up my suffering and not been thankful for having done it afterward.

We’re hoping to have a crowd for dinner tonight.  And we’re hoping to pray the Liturgy of the Hours after dinner, despite the two (or more, depending on who comes) little ones bounding around the room.  It seems like this is where all my writing, all our work is tending these days.  Community.  For joy, for suffering, for prayer, for play.  Community.