Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pilgrim's Progress: Progress

Setting out a pilgrimage brings to mind the hobbits' wrenched away from the comforts of their hobbit hole and the prologue to the Canterbury Tales where Chaucer describes the urge to go on pilgrimages, often seeking far off shrines caused by April showers, a sort of spiritual spring fever. And yet, all of them heard a call to leave their homes for the open road which in the Middle Ages could constitute high adventure.

As I think about why I am going to Lui, I think about the other times I have felt a cosmic nudge, sometimes a vague suggestion, sometimes a push. Often it would come from unexpected quarters. It would seem unusual or even outlandish. It was very often expensive and at least half of my friends would question it seriously. And so would I. But during my adventure in cancerland, I learned early to follow those nudges, those whispers of something different from the usual.

A couple of examples:

Leafing through ELLE magazine post-diagnosis ( yes, the fashion magazine) I saw a little blurb about a multi-disciplinary practice for breast cancer patients in Malibu. I was going to Malibu to visit Susan Klein anyway so I called them up. The joint practice included a double doc who was a psychiatrist, a fitness trainer, and a PhD chiropractor nutritionist. Among the three they recommended therapy, weightlifting and a 10% or less fat diet and a regimen of vitamins. It took several months for me to implement all the suggestions. Ultimately they became part of the framework which helped save my life. The consult cost me $500.

The next adventure was a weekend of pancha karma at an AyurVedic clinic which I had read about in Deepak Chopra's books. Once again it was expensive, outlandish to some friends and long distance ...Lancaster MA. I flew into Boston where my brother-in-law picked me up and we drove through gray drizzly March weather to central Massachusetts. As he stopped the car, I said, "Look, if there's an electric blue statue of Shiva in the foyer, I'll be back out. Wait for me to give the high sign." There wasn't and once again I discovered that the nudge had led me onto another path for healing.

Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on...

When Stephen Dokolo described the children in his school weeping quietly from thirst, I remembered being taught about the signs of hunger among my class in the school in Roxbury. Hunger, yes. Thirst, no. If children are hungry in the morning, it isn't just they didn't eat breakfast: they likely had no evening meal either. School lunches were the only food they could count on. I felt as if I were back at the beginning of my teaching career. Even further back to the puesto de leche in Barrio Los Olivos where malnourished children were given a super enriched milk product to enrich their diet. Then Stephen asked me when I was coming to Lui and I felt that nudge again.

All the familiar hallmarks: unusual, expensive (although contributions will fund most of it), unexpected (believe me south Sudan was not on my Africa list. Egypt, yes; the Dogon dwellings in Mali, yes; the Masai Mara, yes; a photographic safari, yes) and many of my friends are questioning the whole idea. And then this morning in Forward Day by Day, I found this, "We are to take counterintuitive, costly, joyous steps toward God's new order of life in and through our faith, hope, and love." Amen.

There is now a well on the grounds of Fraser Cathedral so the children have water to drink.

1 comment:

Lisa Fox said...

Thank you for sharing this reflection. It sounds like your call to Lui was much like my own: crazy, counter-interuitive, and powerful. God bless you as you prepare for this trip.