purpose

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive,
but in finding something to live for.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

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( a jar of Pickles from Pickles with a Purpose)

I suppose a jar of pickles and Christmas seem to have nothing much in common…
But as you may know, those of us predisposed to all things Southern, love a good pickle.
As we love the sheer notion of pickling.

We pickle everything from cucumbers to okra to quail eggs, to pigs feet.
And mind you whereas I prefer all things of the cucumber variety, I have been known to
venture out on a limb by trying a pickled green bean as well as an okra,
I simply draw the line however with the eggs and pig’s feet.

I live in a small Georgia town, a growing town, but considered small
none-the-less by the larger city dwellers…
And I should know having grown up in the big city…
we are indeed small, despite having a super Kroger and a Super Wal-Mart.

I don’t like super…super is too big, too generic, too impersonal.

I do like my small town as opposed to the big city.

Whereas the big city has more to offer such as great places to eat,
unique places to shop, and abundant things to do….
the small town is more homey.
And I like the feel of homey.

I was at the pharmacist’s the other day getting a prescription filled.
I like my pharmacy.
It is owned and operated by a local gal whose husband I once worked with at the high school.
I remember when they got married.
They now have boys in junior high.
Time flies in small towns.

Her dad works the counter, while she works at filling the bottles.
It’s nice as in it’s homey, as they know me by name.
They know my husband and they know my son and daughter-n-law.
They order things I need.

So the other day as I was waiting for my perscribtion to be filled, I wandered about
looking at the items she has in for Christmas.

Sitting amongst the ornaments and specialty soaps sat a jar of pickles.
Curious I picked up the jar.
The label simply read Pickles with a Purpose.
The side label gave a listing of ingredients and the fact that they came
from Marietta, Georgia…once a small town of its own,
but Marietta is now a part of the mega growing Cobb County, the
soon to be new home of the Atlanta Braves.
How an Atlanta baseball team can still be known as just that, Atlanta’s baseball team,
when moving out from Atlanta to a neighboring county still has me confused…
but that is not my worry, not today.

There was also a website listed on the back label of the pickles.
A website where one could learn more about the story behind the pickles.

I did however notice a small card propped up by the pickle jars…
so I pulled it out hoping to read a little further into the story.

It seems the idea of the pickles came from a 9 year old boy named Luke
from Marietta, Georgia who felt God wants him to help raise money for an older man
he knows who happens to be homeless.

The young man’s grandmother graciously offered her secret pickle recipe as a means
of having a product to sell in hopes of raising enough money to buy Luke’s
homeless friend a home.
The homeless friend, named Tim, is a middle aged black man whom Luke
had met while helping his mom at a business she manages…

At that point, with tears in my eye and my prescription being ready,
I grabbed up 4 jars… all I could carry, as made my way to the counter to pay.
I was told that the pickles were really great so I went back and grabbed the last jar.

It wasn’t the fact that the pickles were supposedly really good…
It wasn’t because I like pickles…
but rather it was the story behind the pickles that actually inspired me…
as I normally wouldn’t buy jars of pickles to give as Christmas gifts.

Later at home I got on the computer and looked up Pickles with a Purpose and found the
following You Tube video of the young man Luke sharing his plan of raising the money
to buy his friend Tim a home…

I hope Luke’s story will inspire as well bless you as much as it blessed me…
As Luke’s pickle story is really just another reminder of what Christmas is really all about…

I’ll be going back to pick up some more jars of pickles…
Small towns are nice that way….

I am no man’s man

“They say that none of us exists, except in the imagination of his fellows, other than as an intangible, invisible mentality.”
― Edgar Rice Burroughs

I am an invisible man. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.
Ralph Ellison

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( Alamo Square / San Antonio, Texas / Julie Cook / 2014)

I am no man’s man

When I was born,
Hope was born,
Potential was born,
Possibilities were born.
The world was beautiful with vibrant color.
The stars above were endless and bright.

Was there love in my world?
Did my birth bring anyone joy?
Was I a happy child?
Did I coo as a baby?
Did I laugh easily?
Did I thrive and develop?

As my years increased, I think the stars grew dim.
Hope eerily languished.
Potential suffered slowly and painfully before dying.
Possibilities vanished.
Love was lost.
Color was no more
My world was black and white
I become no one.

When did I come to this park?
When did this bench become my bed?
When did I, as a person, no longer matter?
When did I become a non entity?
When did my light grow dull?

The throngs of tourists, the business people and the children
they all simply see through me, past me, beyond me.
I do not exist, yet I am here.
You who do see me, secretly wish I was invisible.
I am a trouble to your conscience.
I should simply cease being
I am no man’s man.

I am dirty
I smell
I am lost
I have nothing
I own nothing
I am not productive
I am your eyesore
Your burden
The being you wish would disappear

I do drink when I can
I do smoke when I can
I mostly beg
I am dishonest to you but more so to myself.

The days roll one into the next
The time matters not
I cough
Is that blood?
I smoke things to forget
I drink things to take me to different places
Days merge into night
the night will not stop
Is this all there is?

I close my eyes,
If they open again,
It is all the same
I am still the same empty specter you despise
I am the nothing which bothers you, irritates you
You wish I would vanish
You wish I did not exist, not like this
You blame me
You blame others
That would make all of this much neater
You wouldn’t have to be troubled

This is a messy situation
This is an uncomfortable issue
This is a troublesome thing
To you, I am:
unsightly
ugly
bad
I am a nobody
I am no man’s man

I am no man’s man.
and it all begins again. . .

Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.

Mother Teresa

The old couple next door

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”
― Fred Rogers

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How appropriate that today’s quote is by Fred Rogers, as in Mr. Rogers, as in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.

My neighborhood consists of about 40 rodeo bulls which live across the street (see the post Meet the Neighbors”) in a rather large pasture and a couple of horses which belong to the lady next door. Factor in the deer, wild turkeys, bobcats, opossums, raccoons, owls, coyotes, hawks, buzzards and the occasional rumored bear sighting and ours is a rather wild neighborhood. . .and we won’t, however, count “the chicken little the sky is falling” lady who swears a Big Foot lives in the surrounding woods.
We, on the other hand, have two cats.

The horses were old when we moved here about 15 years ago, making them much older today. I’m no horse person, meaning my knowledge of horses is somewhat limited, but if the one on the left, whose back is sagging rather notably, is any indication of age, old pretty much sums it up.

The lady next door is rather elusive and not at all sociable. She is, however, what I would consider to be, a gentleman farmer, or in her case, a gentlewoman farmer. She supposedly runs some sort of company, but seems to retreat to this “farm” as a home. At one point she had about 8 cows but that was short lived. As long as we have lived here, I’ve never seen her ride the horses nor actually pay them much attention. We are also wondering if she may not have moved closer to town as she seems to be gone a good bit of the time, returning every blue moon.

I do know the horses names. . .Logan and Nick—however I don’t know which is which. Don’t tell anyone but I have been known to wander over to the electric fence she has up between our two properties with a couple of carrots for the lonely pair who gratefully seem to nibble the lanky orange sticks from my hand. Sadly, this is the type of woman who would most likely not appreciate my giving her horses carrots. Nevertheless the animal lover in me just hates seeing lonely or neglected animals.

Upon close observation the casual viewer will note that both of these two horses are inseparable. We have never seen one without the other–always in close proximity one to another. Neither allowing the other to wander too far from sight. They have obviously lived a long time together and seem almost dependent upon one another.

There is much about the relationship between these two horses which can be said for and about us all. Companionship is such an essential aspect of the human psyche. Even for those of us who consider ourselves to be a bit of a loner, the comradeship, if not the companionship, of another like minded soul is often most comforting. We were and are wired for connection with other living creatures–be they human or animal.

It is during this bleak time of year, when the weather turns most foul—when it is neither fit for man nor beast, that my thoughts turn to our homeless population—both human as well as animal. I do not live in a major metropolitan urban area. My life is that of a rural dweller. I have, however, traveled far and wide on this planet of ours and I have seen those cities which seem to have many a homeless dweller.

The need for the creature comforts of shelter and warmth are indeed paramount but I believe that the need for the kind interaction of one’s fellow man is what is truly most essential. To be acknowledged as a living breathing being is imperative. But how often have we all walked along a sidewalk not giving the person nestled in the crook of an empty doorway, or huddled under a piece of greasy cardboard a second glance?

I say all of this as I was driving home yesterday from Atlanta. It was raining with temperatures in the low 40s. Along the side of the interstate, just a stones throw from a city center, sat a lone tent pitched in a clump of weedy bushes. As I barreled along the interstate, racing past this lone little wet tent, my thoughts wandered to the whats and whys as to a tent pitched just off a major interstate artery leading either to or from Atlanta–depending on ones perspective.

I suspect it is not only a very hard life to live without a place to call ones own, but more disconcerting is the thought of the loneliness. Having no one to help bare any of the tremendous burden. No one to offer comfort or solace. No one to hear the cries, the mutterings, the empty anguish. No one who can offer a warm touch, an embrace, a whispered “I love you”. . .

All of which brings us back to my 4 legged friends next door. My thought is that if something happens to one of the horses, the other one will most likely mourn himself to death. Just as we often hear happening with older couples who have been married for many many years.

As the exuberant joy of the holidays has now passed us by and we find ourselves settling into the long darks days of a cold bleak winter, may we all work at being mindful of those who are less fortunate than ourselves—particularly the homeless and the oh so very lonely. . .

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:37-46)

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Feast Days and Remembrance

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“Among all things that are lovable, there is one that is more lovable than the rest, and that most lovable of all things is life.”
-St Anthony of Padua

Today, June 13th is the feast day of Saint Anthony of Padua—-Santo Antonio di Padova. Please see my previous post The Bracelet, the Saint and the Mystery for a more in depth story regarding this wonderful Franciscan.

May we all be reminded of the importance of life–all life is precious in the sight of God—no one on the planet is ever “less than” anyone else. I think Mother Teresa so poignantly demonstrated this in her respect for the sick and the dying of Calcutta as she would walk the streets in search of those very individuals forgotten and discarded by mainstream society. Her belief was that all people deserved to be tended to and cared for– allowing for all to die with dignity.

Those individuals who are less fortunate then me and you, those who live on the streets, who call a box home, who wander into food banks in search of something to eat, who lay sick and dying on a park bench—-they are no less important or loved by God, than you or I—as we are all the same. It is merely our clothing, our home, our car, our job, our position… that falsely separates us—the us and the thems—-
and it is but for the Grace of God go I….

Today, on this particular saint’s day of remembrance—a saint claimed by Padova, Italy–born in Lisbon, Portugal who regarded the poor of his day as precious in the sight of God, may we all be mindful of the people we see, or perhaps don’t see, as we go about our daily routines—an act of kindness or remembrance—a helping hand, a donation—is all it may take to make the difference in someone else’s life……

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