#1: A Whirlwind Start to Haiti Trip

We are settled in with our Haitian hosts after a whirlwind day and a half.

The 13 members of the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice service learning trip to Haiti arrived in Port-au-Prince Friday and Saturday. Most of us are from the Main Line and Wellsprings congregations in suburban Philadelphia.

This is the first of three posts about a service trip to Haiti Jan. 9-16, 2016.

On Sunday after attending an evangelical Christian service, with more than 2,000 Haitians in the morning, we took a brief tour of the country’s national history museum. Then we climbed into three vehicles for the three-hour trip to the headquarters compound of the Papaye Peasant Mouvement (MPP), our hosts for the week.

The trip took us past a vast ghetto of makeshift housing near Port-au-Prince, through the mountains and into Haiti’s Central Plateau. To see the depth of poverty here, to be so close to the people who live their lives here, is a world-rocker.

We shared our feeling of heart-opening and -breaking at the night’s reflection. A house away, we could hear a family going through its paces—talking, laughing, a child calling out. For me, it was a reminder that our circumstances may be so different, but our humanity is identical. We live, we dream, we fear, we grow angry and despair. We persevere.

After the reflection, we star-gazed. The sky is both darker and brighter here, and bursting with light. May that be a good omen for seeing what is ordinarily hidden from us.

Monday we will hear more from our hosts, hopefully including MPP’s founder, Jean-Baptiste Chabonnes, who recently abandoned a presidential  campaign. And we move one day closer to understanding and being in relationship with the people who live in this complicated, difficult, wondrous place.

Please keep us, and our hosts, in your thoughts.

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Orbits Near and Far

At today’s leadership meeting at Wellsprings, I realized that one of the things I do—and should own—is a general stepping in and out of commitment. I see it as an orbit, an eccentric one at that, that brings me closer and takes me farther from the issues I wrestle with on a daily basis. I rarely become occupied and unable to separate from something.

The truth is, I think this is a mixed bag. While it keeps me from becoming obsessed, it also means that I sometimes step away from issues that I should stay on top of—work and church projects, family issues, friendships. I always figure I can work my way back eventually. That is sometimes a rationalization. I have no intention of re-engaging. Other times, as I draw away I feel the tug of gravity or responsibility and I nudge back into the waxing portion of my orbit.

Continue reading “Orbits Near and Far”

First Steps

Have to say I’m a bit proud of myself. After last week’s 5k run with Virginia at Wellsprings, I realized a) that I can run 3 miles and b) that I’m pretty blocked in my thinking of what I can do regarding running.

So today I went to the Pawlings lot that links to the Valley Forge trail and ran. And ran. And ran some more.

84 minutes later, I’d gone 8.5 miles. I’m not fast, but I kept my form relatively safe and my pace, while it slackened off late, didn’t go over the cliff. It helped that it was a beautiful day. Sunny, little wind, 40s headed to the 50s.

Funny the walls we build around our aspirations.

I’m grateful:

  • to Virginia, who ran with me last week and kicked my tail, which made me look at my ability and self-made blockages.
  • to BJ Gaddour, Adam Campbell, David Jack, and the whole Speed Shred/Spartacus at Work gang. I used to say I couldn’t run distances because of my back or my knees. But my back is better than it’s been in almost two decades and while I’m pretty sure there’s something pre-arthritic about my knees, they are functional and the lunges and other exercises have gotten the structure around them as strong and healthy as it’s been since I was much younger. I realize that when I thought I couldn’t do it, the reason was, well, because I COULDN’T, you know? Funny the walls we build around our aspirations.
  • to Wellsprings, for hosting an early spring 5k that got me thinking–and moving, in a particular way.

My goal, now, I think, is to participate in the NY Urbanathlon in October. Last fall I was there to help with some marketing efforts and I thought it was beyond me. Today, I’m feeling up to the challenge. That’s a good way to start a weekend, or a season, or the next day of your life.

Couple other things I realized:

  • I used the Runkeeper app on my phone and knowing generally where I was (how long, how far) made a big difference. I felt like I had the information I needed to make decisions. Excellent. Funny thing, though, was when I checked on Runkeeper and saw that it saved the event as “snowboarding.” Note to self: Learn the darn app.
  • I’ve never been a headphones-while-exercising person, but I tried that and, what do you know, it makes running easier when you have something else to concentrate on other than noting that your lungs and legs are on fire. Note to self: Add some up-tempo playlists to Spotify.

P.S. Sunday update: I’m a little sore in my hamstrings, but not THAT sore. Got in 20-25 minutes of Speed Shred-esque exercises, with Kelly, in the basement. Feeling good!

Age-Group Champeen!

wellsprings-5k-resultVirginia and I took part in a 5k run at our church on Saturday. The course was very up-and-down, it was mostly on and around athletic fields—in other words, it was a slow track.

And we did great—Virginia especially. She finished 27th among all 150-plus participants, and first in her age group (I will avoid getting in trouble by not mentioning what age group that was), in a touch more than 30 minutes. Great time!

I don’t think we’ll suddenly hit the road racing circuit, but it was fun. And we helped out before the event, with general setup and sorting out the parking.