Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A trip to Remember

Dear Readers

I had a chance to go to Tijuana, Mexico last weekend (October 1oth and 11th) for the Amor Project. The Amor Ministries helps to build homes for the poor in Mexico, started about sixteen years ago, Amor has built over 16,000 homes. Religious and non religious groups on various weekends throughout the year, help build homes in Mexico, using only hand tools and raw human power. The groups are made up from high school students all the way to senior citizens. Our group came from the "First Presbyterian Church of Newhall", consisted of three very hard working women and twelve men ranging in age from thirty-one to late seventies.
We arrived at the Amor Camp about forty-five minutes south-east of Tijuana around eight at night. Our escort TJ meet us at a Carl's Jr. and we caravan into Mexico and ultimately to our secured camp. Accommodations were basic, portable restrooms, an area to take a shower, a large lot that could hold a thousand campers, plenty of wood for a camp fire and a guard who kept the camp safe at night and during the

The next morning TJ arrived and escorted us through the tattered, mostly dirt roads to the home that are team would work on Saturday and Sunday. Observing the lack of signage, ruts in the road, a family making their way through the narrow enclaves on their way to town, relying on American buses made in the fifties. The deploring conditions were more reminiscent of a camp in a war scorn area as oppose to a neighborhood made of civilians in their home country. This is what made the presence of Amor so important, this project allowed families to have a safe roof over their heads and instill a sense of normalcy and pride.

Building a home is a lot of hard work, Victor the owner of the house was and is a very skilled builder, his guidance was invaluable. Amor provided a basic blue print as to how the home is to be configured. The objective this weekend was to build a foundation, framing and a roof on the back section of this home. This would provide a dining room and an additional bedroom to Victors home. Victor has a beautiful Wife and two very beautiful kids, a two year old daughter with an enduring smile and a nine year old son who was always helping us. They had a cute kitten who adopted us and decided to live in one of our tool bags.

Our first line of business was to carry sand and rock up to the work site, four meters up a steep driveway. It was a task unto itself that meant a lot of sweating and I admit Florence a beautiful senior citizen far outpaced me in terms of endurance. By the end of the day, we completed the foundation and the framing.

That night we ate in front of a camp fire, the air was windy and cold, but I surmise there was a sense of pride amongst our team. We were sweaty and dirty, our solar shower was the only instrument that could clean us, I am a bit modest and maybe a bit to sheltered to endure an outside shower. I opted to take a sponge bath behind a building. My idea of camping is in a large Class A motor home, but this trip was not about self adulation, it was about helping a family have a better existence.

The next day, after a couple of problems, we installed the framing and roof, this was a tough task, it required a lot of "man" power to drag the framing from the street to the work site. At the end of the day our group was disappointed that we were not able to stucco the walls and cover the roof. Next weekend a new team would complete out task and Victor will have a completed home.

Going to a foreign country like Mexico is an eye opening experience, in the United States as bad as we American think we have, the US has a strong government and laws to protect its citizens. As poor as the people we saw in Mexico, there is a strong sense of family, a glue that mends like concrete to the essence of these families. There is something that "we" Americans can learn from the poorest of the poor, in Tijuana, the importance of family and no matter the economics realities of the day, the family unit is transfigured as the catalyst to happiness.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Family Matters

Dear Reader

Families are one of those aspects in life that we as humans or any other species do not choose. In a sense maybe if God gave us the ability to decide what people we would want to be our parents, our siblings and other family members, the Homo sapiens species as we know it, might be extinct. Who would choose an imperfect soul, predestined with ungodly diseases, void of manners, a bad sense of humor, a body as old as the hills. Surely not "I", wait I have these faults according to my daughter Taunji and she still loves me.

Faults is what makes us human, "we" are not perfect, because "we" are not God. We can strive for perfection, but perfection is unattainable even to the purest of pure. That is not to indicate that "we" should not strive to be the best we can be from a moral standpoint. And "we" as humans will make mistakes, this is when "we" forgive. In the case of family forgiveness is a more difficult matter, for some families. In the case of my family, forgiveness seems unattainable.

It all started in the 1950's when my mother fell in love with my dad. It sounds simple, in the fifties there was nothing simple about a bi-ricial marriage, no matter what part of the country one lived. My mother is Russian and Jewish and my father is African American or in those days a "negro". Ironically I was raised Catholic, but that is whole other blog. I have two older Sisters and we all got along well, until my Moms mother made a surprise visit, thus the expression was born, "guess whose coming to dinner", took on a new meaning to our household. I never saw my Grandmother again, I never got to know my Grandfather or meet my cousins from my Mothers side of the family. In my mind I forgave, my Grandparents, but I do not sense my Mom forgave them, thus starts the complexity of forgiveness.

Fast forward today, my family is feuding over the fact that forgiveness for some is so difficult to reason or fathom. For the most part, "my family" got along very well together. It was not until the family expanded, did problems, simple problems that turned into a snowball rolling down a steep mountain, life went astray.

Forgiveness is one of the most effortless expressions that we as humans can exert to one another. Jesus expressed in the bible we should forgive seventy seven times seven, I ask my Readers to take heed to that message, because in these difficult times, we need to forgive each other, then move on and embrace each other with love.

I pray everyday to God, that my family can be whole again. Today, tomorrow, call a love one and tell them you love them, tell them "you" are sorry about any misunderstandings, because you never know when the Lord is going to come a knocking, love is so contagious, love someone today.