Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday morning things

* Yesterday was a long day. I finished/reviewed the next two sets of lectures for the new class, wrote an exam for Friday, finished up some grading, and had CWF meeting....I was pretty much going from when I reached campus at 7 am until about 8:45 pm when I finally got home.

* One of the service projects the church has taken on is purchasing supplies for and preparing clean up buckets for people in the aftermath of Harvey. Apparently it's about $60 to equip one bucket with the disinfectants and safety gear (masks and gloves) and trash bags and everything needed (And at that, I wonder if the number of trash bags supplied is enough - I know if my home were totally flooded and everything ruined....well, I can't even imagine how many 55 gallon bags all my sodden books and sad yarn would fill).

But still, $60 seems like a lot for someone to have to pay, especially talking about someone who's lost everything else, and may face limited insurance payouts. And that doesn't even begin to address the logistical nightmare of FINDING all you need.

So the CWF group - already people had purchased supplies for most of two buckets, but then one woman volunteered to do the shopping and those of us who were busy jumped at that. So people opened up their checkbooks and we now have funds for either five or six additional buckets.

(The congregational goal was 10, and given that the little CWF - there were only six of us present last night, though one woman sent a check in absentia - funded either 7 or 8, I'm betting we pass that goal. I think the choir is planning on doing a few. And the college student ministry is going to assemble them for us)

I'm glad. This is the kind of thing, I think, churches exist for in a practical sense. Yes, spiritual formation and communing with God and being with other people who are different from you in many ways (but alike in one important one) is important and valuable, but being able to do things that help just feels like a good reason for being here.

Also, I think I picked the right week to go on a "yarn diet" - there have been abundant opportunities to go "Well, I'm not spending that on yarn, so...."

* I mentioned "the logistical nightmare of finding all you need"? Yeah. Even in my town, with a wal-mart and a Lowe's and some other stores, some of the stuff asked for was not readily attainable. One woman is ordering the stuff needed off of Amazon (who, unfortunately, does gouge a bit when it comes to household products - I had forgotten that but third-party sellers can be pretty awful that way). But to have to run to wal-mart AND Lowe's AND a dollar store to find everything - ugh and no thanks. (I'm just as glad to hand money over to the retired women willing to shop for the stuff). And I can only imagine the distress of people where there are no open stores nearby trying to get that stuff.

Though actually, that is a frustration of living in my town: we are the biggest town in the county; the biggest town in this part of the state (the next larger town IN Oklahoma is an hour away; Sherman, Texas - where I do a lot of shopping - is about a half-hour if it's not bad traffic).

And given wal-mart's horrible restocking policy, a lot of times you CAN'T find what you need. And it frustrates me to have to drive to three or more places to find a particular thing, and more often than not I either do without or I kludge something together. (And I tend to overbuy when I'm somewhere that has what I need.) Part of it is that I'm not as organized as I could be. I am sure people living out on ranches in the sand hills of Nebraska, who have a literal hour's drive to the nearest supermarket, have lists like Eisenhower's plans for D-Day so nothing is forgotten. And they probably have their meals planned out a week or two ahead. Whereas I, having been a city-dweller (more or less) for my entire adult life, has the ability to go "Meh, I don't feel like eating THAT tonight" and can go get something else.

Then again, there are probably things about living on a ranch an hour from a city that makes the long trip for groceries worth it.

* Yesterday was the anniversary of 9/11/2001. Lots of disjointed thoughts - the startling realization, for one, that most of my students were toddlers when it happened, and yet, here I am, sitting at the same desk I sat at back then, with some of the same papers in my file cabinets that were there then. It still feels very immediate and I remember it pretty vividly.

One thing that struck me, reading a few of the accounts, was how, in some ways, 16 years was really very long ago - a number of New Yorkers, fleeing from the scene of destruction, kept trying to find pay phones to call family on to let them know they were okay. Far fewer people had cell phones then, and of course smartphones didn't exist yet. (I had a cell phone - a giant bricky Nokia - but that was because my dad pressed me to get one, with having to drive back and forth from Sherman alone*)

(*In those days, there was even less shopping in town, and so the trips to Sherman were more vital than they are now)

Also, I remember now the agonizing weeks some people spent, hoping their loved one was merely "missing" but was somewhere in a hospital unable to remember themselves, or some such thing. (I remember the old Patternworks - this was before they sold out to Keepsake Quilting - posting a photo of the husband of someone and asking if anyone knew his whereabouts). Sadly, the vast majority of those people who didn't check in on September 11 were people who died (some of whose remains were never found).

(And typing that last sentence, I'm reminded of how unthinkable it was, and how hard to believe, even as it happened)

I dunno. Hurricanes are terrible things - as we saw with Katrina and with Sandy and now with Harvey and Irma - and yet, somehow, to me, they don't seem so terrible as a group of human beings, consciously deciding, for whatever reason, to get up some morning and kill an enormous number of their fellow human beings.

I do think the immediacy of the aftermath of Irma (and still, of Harvey - even though the cameras have moved on, people are still without running water or electricity in some areas, and many people face a terrible task of cleaning up before they can even think of rebuilding) maybe drew off some of the energy from the commemoration this year. (Also, it's not a "big" anniversary, like last year was).

But as one woman mentioned last night: we are seeing some of the same spirit; the same good is coming out. Just like people lined up in New York to donate blood and do other things, there are people now who carried their neighbors (sometimes literally, on their backs) to safety, there are people opening their homes to the displaced. I suppose, just as with Sept. 11, when this has faded from the news we will sadly get back to griping at one another and complaining about petty stuff.

Though then again, in a way: isn't it a blessing to be ABLE to complain about petty stuff? For me to have a life so good that I groan over "crikey, I have to drive the WHOLE SEVEN MILES and STAND IN LINE FOR FIVE MINUTES TO PAY" in order to get the organic milk I prefer from the wal-mart, when some people are boiling their tap water and mixing it with Carnation powdered milk and they will have to do that for weeks....

I read a piece someone wrote somewhere (I don't remember, I read lots of stuff last afternoon while trying to find a devotional for last night). Maybe it was at "Baseball Crank's" place? About a bit from the Lord of the Rings, where one of the hobbits realized that hobbit life was really very small and petty - it largely revolved around food and parties and the sort of stylized manners that a stable society tends to develop. And that there was a lot of one-upmanship and petty snobbery. And this hobbit (it may have been Frodo?) realizes that, and comments to the human man (Aragorn) who is now working with him but who used to more or less defend the Shire, that didn't he get tired of the hobbits and their pettiness? And Aragorn's reaction was something along the lines of "the fact that they are free to be petty tells me that that way of life is worth defending" or something like that.*

And I guess, yes: there is a blessedness in your biggest problems being the imagined slight that someone made to you (when perhaps they were actually just tired or awkward) or, like me, complaining about having to go ALL the way out to the stinking wal-mart for something...but it's when the big bad things happen and we go "I need to stop complaining about petty things" that maybe we realize how good we had it. Or something.

And I've also read that, even though Tolkien wasn't writing strict allegory, he modeled his hobbits a bit on ordinary British citizens - who were food-obsessed and petty and the like, until some big bad evil came, and then they were more or less able to pull together. And while I never got all the way through Lord of the Rings (bogged down in some of the battle scenes), I do like the idea of the hobbitish life, where things are kind of small and peaceful and you're sort of agrarian and your concerns aren't very big....and I would rather not face the existential threats, though perhaps, as we're seeing in the hurricane aftermaths, many of us CAN when it comes to it. (I often wonder: what would it be like now if we were in a WWII situation again, with the full-on rationing and things like people needing to go and work in defense plants? Would we just man-up and woman-up again and do it, or would there be too many people who complained, or refused, or cheated their way around the rationing?)

(*And you know? I see that in academia. Last year a lot of the petty stupid stuff people did went on hiatus while we all worried about whether we were even going to have jobs this year. It's returning, a little, though perhaps some people have been a little scared out of it....or maybe some of the worst perpetrators have left, I don't know. But it does seem odd to me now I think of it, to see a blessing in "the freedom to be petty" but there you are.)

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