Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mother: A Looking Glass

You know the nursery rhyme "What are little girls made of—sugar and spice and everything nice?" Well, that was not me. I was more like the little girl who "when good was very good but when she was bad, was horrid." Except that I was hardly ever good.

My earliest memory is the loss of some precious candy. I was given a piece of candy, but I wanted two. My mother insisted that it was one or nothing at all and that she was going to do “count till three.” When she got to three and I had not responded, she simply popped the candy in her mouth and walked away. There was no reasoning, no second chance, no saving the candy for later. Incidents like that taught me to make the most of a situation. . . and to let go when necessary and persevere at other times.

In my stubborn spirit, my mother saw potential. So she taught me to channel my headstrong spirit in positive directions. When I wanted to learn to juggle, skip rope or cook, she drew out that same energy and made me persevere and never give up.

More than nurturing me, my mother was my best friend. She has always been there for me, kept my secrets, shared my giggles. When I discovered that boys had some worth after all, I remember pointing ones potential to her.

And in my best friend, I met God. Growing up, I would often hear my mother talking out loud to no one in particular. I soon learned she was talking to God. She'd say stuff like "Now you’ve got to see it from my point of view" or "If you think I can do one more thing today, you’ve just got to show me how." Or when she messed up she’d say "Now you think that’s really funny" or "I’m not going to sop bugging you until you show me how this makes sense." She did a lot of praying on her knees. But she did more just plain talking to Him as if He were standing right next to her.

Yes, my mother taught me a lot of things but most important of all, through her I felt the first warm touch of God’s Love. Yes I was a horrid little girl, but thanks to my mom and her partnership with God, I think I turned out pretty good after all.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Plight of Girls in Nepal

A bright-eyed, bubbly, powder-fresh little girl skipping about without a care in the world is a sight that gives one the warm fuzzies. For birthdays, Christmases, and even for no special reason, you shower her with gifts. And stores that cater to little girls have never-ending supply of trinkets and treasures. But did you know that just about the price of a few toys every month can buy life for a little girl in Nepal? For girls in Nepal life is anything but made up of sugar and spice and everything nice.

The stories about the plight girls are many and begin even before birth---aborted female fetuses, suffocation at birth, abandoned by family, child labor, debt bondage, early marriage, prostitution, etc. While the stories are many, they are commonplace. You don't read much about these girls in the papers. Only a handful of organizations try to make a difference. Even the government has no social service or welfare plan for unwanted girls left of the streets to fend for themselves.

Consider these facts and you’ll see the value of sponsoring the life of a little girl in Nepal:

1. The general male female ratio in the world is 1:3. But in Nepal, because of the abortion of female fetuses, the male female ratio is 1: 0.9. (District Demographic Profile of Nepal, 2003, published by Informal Sector Research & Study Center). About 2/3 of the girls in Nepal lose their life before it even begins.

2. 7 percent of girls are married before age 10 and 40 percent by age 15. (United Nations research as quoted on EquityFeminism.com)

3. Approximately 63,230 girls each year are forced to labor. Of these 3,027 are under the age of 6. (District Demographic Profile of Nepal, 2003, published by Informal Sector Research & Study Center)

4. Every year around 10,000 girls, most between the age of 9 and 16, are sold to brothels in India. (Tim McGirk, "Nepal's Lost Daughters, India's soiled goods," Nepal/India:News, 27 January 1997)

5. It is not uncommon for parents to sell their daughters and for husbands get rid of their young unwanted wives for US$200 to $600. Depending on her beauty, a girl can fetch anywhere from less than a water buffalo, to slightly more than a video recorder. Organizers in rural areas, brokers and even family members sell girls. Husbands sometimes sell their wives to brothels. (Tim McGirk, "Nepal's Lost Daughters, 'India's soiled goods,"Nepal/India News, 27 January 1997)

6. "Deukis" is a system where by rich childless families buy girls from poor rural families and offer them to the temples as though they were their own. These girls are forced into prostitution. In 1992, 17,000 girls were given as deukis. (Radhika Coomaraswamy, UN Special Report on Violence Against Women, Gustavo Capdevila, IPS, 2 April 1997)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Survival--Without the Spirit

Saw this on the National Geographic Channel:

When a female prairie dog has a litter of pups, she needs plenty of nourishment and stamina. The pups are forever hungry and demand more and more milk every day. Understandably, the larger the litter, the greater the demand on the mother.

So what do you think the mother does when she realizes she is not producing enough milk for her pups? Like any mother, she is determined to do what it takes to keep her pups alive. So here’s what she does—She pays a visit to her sister, who has also just had a litter of pups. And then while she is there, she EATS her sister’s pups—her own nephews and nieces!! She now is once again fortified with nourishment to care for her own family.

According to statistics, 39% of prairie pups are cannibalized every year. That’s one in every 7 litters! Talk about survival tactics!!

Praise God that we are created with a conscience, with the power of the Holy Spirit that gives us the natural inclination to do good, to choose the right over the wrong.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Snickerdoodle Dilemma

I have a sweet tooth. Actually I have a whole set of sweet teeth.

I had just had a heavy lunch, topped off three large pieces of European chocolate. Armed with more than the recommended daily sugar intake, I was set for the second half of the workday. But that was until I stopped at Sheri’s desk. Sitting on the counter was a see-through, smell-through bag of Snickerdoodles. UUUM--memories of baking with my dad wafted cinnamon aromas into my brain cells.

“You must have some,” urged my evil dessert twin who lives between the folds of my middle-aged belly.

“Maybe just one,” I responded. It was going to be a memorable moment—just me and my Snickerdoodle. I resolved to eat it slowly, relishing each little bite. Instead, like a dog head to head with a pound of meat, I snarled and stuffed the cookie into my drooling mouth. It was quite an indecent spectacle—right there in the office hallway! I didn’t stop to appreciate the snickerdoodly lightness or enjoy the cinnamony sugar granules. It was just a greedy, self-serving, three-step process: gnaw, drool, and swallow. I didn’t even chew that worthy Snickerdoodle.

And before it could get down my throat—I wanted more. I turned around and went back. Complimenting Sheri on her baking skills, I apologetically said, “I have to have another.” She graciously encouraged me to take a handful.

“I’m going to enjoy these,” I said to myself, truly believing that I had total self-control. But just as the cookie got closer to my mouth, it was another gnaw, drool and swallow.

Five minutes and several cookies later I felt the thick, sweet, nauseas aftertaste of Snickerdoodles. Funny, how I had forgotten that nasty aftertaste. Somehow I remembered only the initial joy of biting into one.

Life has many Snickerdoodles. Like a bottle of whiskey in the evening that combines the fellowship of friends with the sensation of well-being. But then comes the nasty hangover the morning after!

What are we to do about with our Snickerdoodles?!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Dung and Stars

Before moving to Nepal, I did my research. Lonely Planet, the Internet, and an uncle who had lived here. But my information sources obviously did not prepare me enough. As I stepped out of the airplane, the smell hit me, almost knocking me over—the warm, pungent combination of diesel fumes, animal dung, and human sweat.

The hour-long drive from the airport was decorated with sights to match the smells. Animals and humans defecating side by side. Ancient buses grinding against one another, puffing black fumes. From somewhere deep inside my sterile soul came a silent scream “Take me back to air-conditioned homes and litter-free streets!”

With every new day, I grew increasingly sensitive to every dung heap and diesel cloud. My daily walks were carefully orchestrated—wear shoes at all times, ensure pant legs end above the ankles, use handkerchief to cover nose, and most importantly, don’t take eyes off the road. ALWAYS LOOK DOWN.

The inevitable happened one dark night. I stepped into a fresh, warm pile. In anger, I waved my arms into the black night and yelled out my every suppressed thought. And as I vented, the brilliant beauty hit me: Nepal’s coal black sky--far away and untouched by the pollution of its soil--showered me with the most beautiful stars I had ever seen—translucent, shimmering gems of perfect beauty. A canopy of gems, fit only for nobility, yet it shone on everyone alike.

Standing in a puddle of dung, I was lost in exquisite beauty. All that time, while engrossed in combating the smells of Nepal, I missed out on the beauty. All that time I was looking down instead of looking up.

Standing in a puddle of dung, I realized that life is kind of like dung and stars. There’s the good and the not so good. I can either spend my time looking out for the smelly stuff in life or I can revel in its beauty

Life is what we make of it. A heap of dung. Or a thing of beauty.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Strife in the Land of Peace

The strike has been on full swing. Yesterday was the fourth and supposedly the final day. Roy has been itching to defy the strike and go into Kathmandu. Yesterday he got his chance when a patient had to be transferred to a KTM hospital. He rode in the ambulance and saw first hand the chaos on the streets—burned tires, strewn bricks, destroyed vehicles, angry mobs, etc, etc.

All day, from my living room window I could see demonstrators walking to Dhulikhel from Banepa. Following them were police with tear gas. Every now and then there’s been an explosion and fumes rising up—another vehicle being set on fire! Absolutely no vehicles allowed on the road except for dire emergencies.

At about 3pm, we heard gun shots. A few minutes later our ambulance was called into Banepa. Went there and picked up three gun shot victims. One arrived dead, the other went if for surgery, the third we couldn't take care of and had to be transferred to Kathmandu. But the problem was that our ambulance was stoned just trying to get the victims from Banepa to the hospital and attempting to go into Kathmandu was too dangerous. Roy was ready to go, but there was a very emotional mob outside the hospital trying to get in and there wasn't anyone else at Scheer to be forceful enough so he had to stay put and keep the crowd out of the campus. Dr. Silas offered to ride in. [Since yesterday Roy, Silas, and Stuart (Director of Support Services from Australia) have been taking turns riding in the ambulance.]

Meanwhile Roy and his hickory axe handle stood guard at the hospital gate--It was not that the crowd was angry at Scheer; the Nepali are generally a very emotional people and when they get that way they usually don't think rationally--There were about 500 people outside and they ALL wanted to come in to check on the wounded. When we wouldn't allow that they lost what little rationale they had!

Bricks were thrown into the hospital compound, missing Stuart and Eunice nurse by inches, reporters seeking refuge in our compound which agitated the mob even more.

When we called the police to come up the hill and calm the crowd, not one turned up!! A curfew was enforced beginning 5 pm today. At about 6pm things began to calm down.

As scary as all this sounds, everything will be back to normal shortly. We've been through this so many times! We are fortunately to always be alerted of when it's going to be a bad one--and that gives us time to prepare and be ready. The same was true with this strike. We were told by our "sources" what to expect about a month ahead.

Today continues to be curfewed--and there's an air of apprehension. Employees could not go home last time, no room at the hospital, food is running low, nursing students feel unsafe in their dorm, the wounded keep being brought to the hospital--yet the newspapers only report that three have died so far. We know of many right here in our neighborhood.

Sky thought it was all better than watching TV!

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Zum-Zum Attitude

Twenty assorted sizes of tape securely hold down on my desk a very old and wrinkled piece of paper that measures 4 x 3 inches. It is a special piece of paper. From margin to margin, in elementary scribble, is a message: “Hardy-Hee-Hah! La-Lop Lee! Ubee-Ubee-oop-Oop! Koo-Koo! Yipa-Zipa Lipa-Hipa! Ookee-Ookee! Eek-Eek-Eek! Bo-ba-bee-bap! Oopa-Loopa! Zum-Zum!” Sky was nine when she taped that piece of paper to my desk

You’re probably wondering, “What does it mean?” I asked Sky the same question as she taped it with furious determination—and without asking for my permission.

She looked at me, rolled her eyes in exasperation and responded with a question of her own: “Does everything have to mean something?”

Being a very mature adult, I was taken aback by this philosophical response from a child. My logical mind silently responded, Of course everything has to mean something. I’m wasting my time if it doesn’t mean anything. Aloud, though, the mother in me said, “So tell me, Sweetie. What is this note all about? Explain it, so I can understand.”

Another roll of the eyes and a sigh preceded her directions: “Read it aloud, Mom, and tell me how it makes you feel.”
More psycho babble from a child, I mumbled to myself before I did as I was told. I started out ALOUD with the “Hardy-Hee-Hah! . . .” and barely got to the “ZUM-ZUM.” I felt silly! I sounded foolish! I felt like an unburdened child at play. I first smiled. Then I snickered. Finally I was laughing so hard!

“This is my gift to you, Mom,” Sky said matter-of-factly. “Every time you need to stop and smile, read this note.” With those instructions, she left my office—back into her childhood where the problems are simple and the solutions even more so.

Alone again in my adult world, I learned an invaluable lesson that day: Being grown up doesn’t have to be humdrum. You’ve got to find your “Hardy-Hee-Hah!” and have a ZUM-ZUM blast of a day.

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.--Herm Albright (1876 - 1944)

Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you. Phil 3:15, New American Standard Bible