Our Lady of Peace. Carved from marble brought from some far off land, she stands @ the site of the Dunvegan Trading Post on the banks of the Peace River in northern Alberta. i love statuary, and marble is beautiful all on its own, without human intervention. so last spring i asked her to pose for me, and she graciously consented.
i'm not a particularly religious person. spiritual, i think, but organized religions have had their way with me and left me a skeptic. as a single mum i was frequently 'taken on' in the way well-meaning Christians 'take on' a fundraiser for the hungry or a mitten knitting blitz for the homeless. people become projects, and it's impersonal, demeaning and humiliating. there were some who sincerely cared about my kids and me; those few i still count among my dearest friends, but most were more religious than caring, and we didn't find much common ground.
so, though i believe with all my heart in the mission of Habitat For Humanity, the fact that it's essentially a faith based organization was cause for some apprehension. there is, indeed, some of that 'people as projects' orientation there, by affluent Christians who have ulterior motives for being connected, but i find it far less rampant in HFH than in the general churchy population. and the ReStore folks are even less so. they're with the ReStore because they genuinely endeavor to live in a way that reflects a faith and a lifestyle that respect all human beings and the planet we inhabit together. my kind of folks.
in the pre-move prep phase, as word gets round that i'm leaving, things i've loaned out (and forgotten about) are returning. one is a book by Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy author, Douglas Adams, that i'd loaned to a very special teen student when he mentioned his interest in the author and his works. it's called, Last Chance to See - about endangered species, written about this very serious issue in Adams' quirky, self-deprecating, thoughtful style. i highly recommend it. ...and a bit from it prompted this post. he and his accompanying expert, Mark, find themselves on a plane to Zaire with a flock of missionaries. here's what he says about them, and about religion in general. as their plane takes off:
".... i then became rather tense myself as the plane started to taxi out to the runway, because the preflight talk from our pilot included a description of our route, an explanation of the safety features of the aircraft, and also a short prayer. i wasn't so much disturbed by the 'O Lord we thank thee for the blessing of this day', but 'We commend our lives into Thy hands, O Lord' is frankly not the thing you want to hear from a pilot as his hand is reaching for the throttle.
..... i don't like the idea of missionaries. in fact the whole business fills me with fear and alarm. i don't believe in God, or at least not in the one we've invented for ourselves in England to fulfill our peculiarly English needs, and certainly not in the ones they've invented in America who supply their servants with toupees, television stations and, most importantly, toll-free telephone numbers."
i haven't quite sorted out what i do believe yet, but i'm very sure of what i don't. every time i see a magnificent church building, i'm, i confess, impressed, because i do appreciate architecture and beauty, but my next thought is often, "the cost of that could have fed, clothed, and housed a lot of deserving kids." and, like Albert Schweitzer, i believe we are our brothers' keepers. the affluence and decadence we're surrounded by, when there are hungry and homeless people who have done harm to no one, is a blot on our society, and on our humanity.
the argument that one person can't make a difference is a self deceiving lie. everything we do, no matter how small, has an impact, and makes ripples that have impact. we need to give careful thought to every facet of our lives - what we model for and teach our children; the kinds of homes we choose to live in; the kinds of foods we choose to eat, and where they come from; consumer choices about who we buy from, what we buy, and why we buy it; the way we treat our neighbors and our communities, near and far. each facet has an impact. our circle of influence may appear to us to be small. we may never see the cumulative effects our small acts of responsible stewardship and kindness have. this doesn't mitigate the importance of doing them.