Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Volunteering at the Local Soup Kitchen Tuesday Mornings

I'm living back in my hometown temporarily and so I've begun every other Tuesday, volunteering at the local soup kitchen with a family member, where we distribute hot meals and sack lunches to low income and homeless individuals and families. The soup kitchen is operated by the Catholic church across the street and is located in the basement of the old catholic school, meals are prepared and served in the kitchen and clients eat in the old cafeteria. Also in the basement, next door to the kitchen, is a day room where clients can receive educational tutoring, assistance with GED course work and job applications, Dress for Sucess and Share You Soles clothing for employment, and on some days just serves as a safe, warm place where they can relax, watch movies, and socialize with others. Also, up on the first floor is a St. Vincent DePaul resale store. I've been volunteering with the soup kitchen for the last eight years, off and on, as times allows and the regular volunteers and the director know me. When we got there around 8:30 and the hot food was already prepared and sack lunches ready to go, as sometimes meals are prepared in advance. A few of the regular inviduals we serve often choose to give back and volunteer and were washing the tables in the dinning room and emptying the trash cans for us. Shortly after we arrived, Second Harvest food bank made a delivery of fresh produce and various milk products, so I helped put away food. I noticed that we had a bushel of patatoes, more patotoes than we knew what to do with, and had gotten fresh produce in, and so suggested to the director that maybe we could make my grandmother's famous patotoe soup recipe. She liked the idea and so I set to cleaning and peeling patotoes. I got the patotoes done and had a minute to sit down, but I'm always looking around to see if there's anything that needs done. Today's menu consists of hot vegetable soup (made this morning), salad, yogurt sticks,  fruit cocktail, and orange juice or water, plus they can choose to get a sack lunch to take with them (consisting of a sandwhich, piece of fruit, chips, and a desert), and extras such as loaves of bread, and heads of lettuce. We opened the door and started serving at 9:30 (we serve until 11am) and I was right upfront, distributing the meals,  as well as pouring more juice and washing trays as needed. We served an estimated 85 individuals, about average for a given day.

Soup Kitchen Hours sign

Bulletin board: Welcome to the Harvest Soup Kitchen
Bulletin board: I can do all things through Christ who gives me stregnth

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reflections on Haiti and Catholic Relief Services' Operation Rice Bowl

As I sat down for dinner tonight, I looked down upon my bowl of home-made soup of chicken broth, spaghetti noodles, chicken, and celery, and  I contemplated about Haiti and how many hungry bodies, such a simple soup would nourish. I wish there would be a way I could go overseas to Haiti and serve nutritious meals such as these to the hungry there, however temporarily unemployed and without a church affiliation (I consider myself an agnostic theist), I have no means to connect with mission groups or to travel overseas. Then I remembered the Catholic Relief Services' Operation Rice Bowl collection container on the kitchen counter (from a family member's church). This program of Catholic Relief Services invites Catholics in the United States to respect human dignity and foster solidarity with the poor through the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving (Seventy-five percent of gifts will go to Catholic Relief Services international hunger and poverty alleviation efforts and twenty-five percent will remain in the donor's local diocese to support local hunger and poverty alleviation efforts). In turn, participants will enter the stories of people throughout the world who are rising from poverty with the help of these relationships of solidarity. Although having no intention of participating in the prayer or fasting, I gathered what little money I have out of my purse and dropped it into the Operation Rice Bowl collection container, while dreaming of more, hoping it will make a difference.

Giving All Post-Abortion Men and Women a Voice

This is to let you know of new pro-choice post-abortion sharing website, 45 Million Voices. In their words:
45 Million Voices is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating the stigma, shame, and silence surrounding abortion through education, empowerment, and sisterhood....
In this virtual space, we will share women's stories of their abortions, unedited, posted as they are submitted to us. The goal is to provide a safe space to listen women into voice. A space where stigma is eradicated, silence is broken, and honesty prevails through the power of love and support....
The stories of women who had abortions are featured, although they mostly focus on physically and emotionally positive abortion experiences. However the experiences of women are diverse and I believe the voices and experiences of all women should be honored and heard. Let's see how honest these people are and let's give a voice to all women.

For those post-abortion women and men, who regret or had physically or emotionally difficult abortion(s), or have had difficulty coping after your abortion, this would be a good opportunity to share your pregnancy and abortion experience and to promote post-abortion stress syndrome awareness.

I encourage you to share your abortion story because others need to know that while feelings of relief are normal, so are feelings of sadness, loss, or grief and everything imbetween are normal too and all women's voices and experiences should be honored.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In Favor of Reproductive Choice...Except for the Choice to Have Multiple Children

With the recent birth of Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar's 19th child, feminists and advocates for reproductive choice are working themselves up into a tizzy once again. The target of their disdain? Michelle and Jim Bob's reproductive decision to have multiple children and a large family.

Many of their responses show a double standard of many in the "Reproductive Rights" movement. If a woman decides she wants to have multiple children and a large family, based on a fully informed decision, made between her and her husband, and based on their personal convictions and beliefs, she is looked down upon with a patronizing attitude that she must of been coerced or brainwashed, or mentally ill; her very real feelings and experiences are challenged and questioned (with the viewer or reader presuming to know what she must be experiencing and feeling); jokes and  insults regarding the possible state of Michelle's genitalia are made at her expense; and she is called condescending and belittling names such as  "brood mare," "breeder," and "clown car." In the same breath they shame and berate the Duggars for reproductive choices they've made, these advocates would expect others to respect their own reproductive rights, to limit their family size using birth control or having an abortion. Those who have a large family, whether by circumstance or choice, are looked down upon as misguided, lacking intelligence, irresponsbile breeders, and contributors to the problems of overpopulation, overall a burden, while women who use birth control and carefully limits her family are viewed as good girls, empowered and intellegent, making good choices. With an obvious amount of disdain, many feminists turn their matriarchal noses up and away with an air of disgust towards those with multiple children.

As for the various comments and pot-shots towards the Duggar's belief system, while I don't personally agree with their belief system, I don't see the Duggars trying to push their beliefs onto others, or presumably wanting everyone to live their lives this way. Rather, the Duggars are living their life to their beliefs, as they see fit. While many of their family practices are quite questionable and while I must disagree with their practices, it's not of anyone's business to tell them how to raise their children, so as long as the children are receiving adequite food, shelter, clothing, and education. While you may agree or disagree, how many children they have, what religion they practice, and how they raise their kids is their business, as long as they're not abusing their children and are within the confines of the law. And regardless of their decision to appear on public television, by no means should Michelle Duggar's body or her personal beliefs, be subject to public judgement. Leave them be. As mom always has said, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.