Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Conversing With Dogs

I’m talking to dogs. Don’t worry; it’s not what it seems. Or perhaps it is and depending on who you are, this either fills you with great joy or disturbs you beyond consolation. One train of thought goes along the lines of “about time you speak to Pookie because pookie isn’t just any type of dog, she’s a big girl who loves Patrick, yes she does yes she does” and you can hear the baby voice that is said in. The other line of reasoning, the one I would most likely be inclined to side with says with flippant irreverence “sellout” and need not say anything more as you shake your head and wonder how another one bit the dust so quick.

But in my transition into the United States this is an enormous step I thought I could never take. There are a fair share of friends and family who have small dogs in their lives. And you know, transitionally speaking, I have been amazed at the human status dogs have been granted in our society. Entire rooms of houses are cornered off for the use of dogs. Lawsuits have been filed by dog owners angered that some restaurant had the audacity to suggest Mr. Snuggles not be allowed to sit at the table. I have been at more than a few dinner parties when a dog gets unruly, and my third world instincts had to be quelled. Rather than try and soothe it, I find myself scanning the room for objects to throw.

But the other day I caught myself talking to a dog as though he would talk back. He looked at me with droopy eyes as I conversed about my conundrum of the time and his response was a burp, a spastic lick attack of his genitals and then as I neared completion of the story, he ran off barking at the mailman. It was then it hit me, I have sold out to talking to dogs. Why do I care so much? Because with that comes the fear, unreasonable or not, that soon I will “sell out” in other ways. Maybe soon I won’t feel my vocation should still be in sync with my career. Maybe soon I will look at a homeless man and not wonder about the humanity of it all? Or maybe it’s because I have began to forget the names of some of my students in Chile and Ecuador, and this burdens me with a self imposed guilt I don’t know how to address.

And so you see, I am talking to dogs. I am taking the baby steps of being back in this culture and I think I am almost there, there being the place I was looking for that seeks to mix the best of USA me and South America me into just plain old me. Best of all, when I raise my arm South America “you mess with me dog and I will make your life worse than rabies” style, my American friends think it’s cute that I am trying to calm the dogs nerves down by engaging in a game of fetch. If only they knew…

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Lenten Challenge

It’s Lent. I know this because one random Wednesday there were a whole bunch of people that were doing one of two things: looking at me with horrid curiosity or nodding at me, smiling as though we were part of some secret society together, though the large black cross (or smudge) on our foreheads made our club anything but secret.

The traditional Catholic sentiment is that Lent is about giving up something. I always struggled with this as, well, my childhood instincts never leave me. I figure being 25 and giving up candy isn’t really kosher anymore. I listened to what other people were giving it up, and having no room to critique seeing as how I had yet to come up with my sacrifice, I nonetheless found myself highly critical of their “sacrifices.” Giving up fatty foods and beer, sure it is hard, but I have a nagging suspicion that it’s not so much about God as it is about your waistline.

I am by no means the model Catholic. Things like stem cell research, homosexual marriage, equal rights for women, etc… stand in the way of me being a by the book model. But I’d like to think I have been surrounded by some pretty insightful Catholics and one in particular always speaks about using Lent to not so much give up something as to take on something new. Giving up beer is cool. It also helps you get one step closer to being the sexiest Catholic since Bono. But taking the money you saved from avoiding beer consumption and giving it to a cause you are passionate about- now that’s the spirit of Lent I think we could all use a little more of.

In Ecuador, there are two thousand people who turn to The Working Boys Center each and every day for tools to eliminate poverty in their lives: clothing, three meals a day, education and books, medical and dental care, workshops for escaping poverty, spiritual nourishment, the list goes on and on. And in this economy, I imagine the people who I personally witnessed tirelessly are perhaps struggling a little more than ever before. In these tough times, more than ever we are called to be agents of hope.

And so this Lent I am asking you to join me in donating to The Working Boys Center. I have failed these last eight months to really develop the words that make up the story that was my own personal journey of enlightenment in Ecuador. And so I hope you hear me when I tell you that if you give now, be it $5 or $100 I could sit with you and tell you stories of people I know and love, people whose faces are burned into my memory and heart, that will directly benefit from your generosity.

I am pledging $20 a week (for the non Catholics in the crowd that will add up to $120). Anyone care to match me?

To give via Facebook click HERE

To give via the website, learn more about the program, and see how it is a 501c3 click HERE

In advance, I thank you on behalf of Maria, a 6th grader at the WBC. I thank you on behalf of Erik, a 5th grader. I thank you on behalf of Antonia, an employee of the center. And I thank you on behalf of the countless volunteers and staff who in way or another have given a part of that which is them to see to it that people are equipped with the needed tools to escape poverty, for themselves and their children.

If you join me in this personal cause, I promise you not just one but two things.

1. I will take lots of pictures when I visit in June so you can see where your money is going. I may even take you with me if you have the interest.
2. When you get off this ridiculous anti alcohol Lenten diet, the first beer is on me!