We spent the night at the Kavanaugh Retreat Center in Louisville, Kentucky. I have asked some of the trip members what was their favourite story for the week. For a couple of people, it was working with the children at the Urban Kids after school programme. We were very impressed with the level at which many of the children were able to read and write. Every day, after a snack, they spend some time reading a book. I wonder why our schools don’t encourage more people to volunteer to read with the children?
I spent some time with Michael Lee. He is in grade 4. At the social science center, we talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. It is Black History Month in the States, so the children have been learning some of the stories of the Civil Rights movement. Michael knew portions of MLK’s “I have a dream” speech, especially the part that says, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.” What a gift to have been taught and memorized such a noble, uplifting part of one’s story. What parts of our story do our children learn and know that inspire them to cherish freedom and dignity?
Yes we are 500 miles away from our border; 20 miles outside of Louisville, Kentucky in a town named: Crestwood, Kentucky. We arrived at the Kavanaugh Life Enrichment Center at suppertime safe and sound.
The weather looks good for the remainder of our journey to the border.
For some they say “it feels like we’ve been gone so long” and for others they say “it seems like the time has flown”. For me I feel like time has somehow stood still. My thoughts of course are on my family and getting home, but I keep going back over the events of this past week in my mind.
The urban garden work, toiling the soil, all laughing as the wheel barrow with an “attitude”, as Mylon put it, went flat once again. Of course when I was pushing it with a full, wet load of soil.
The reading time with the children, the computer help we gave them, and sorting out tons of boxes and game pieces and books before they arrived at the Urban Kid’s After School Program. Those smiling faces of the children from the west end of Birmingham. We were told we would not be too sure of the moods they would be when they arrived, nor whether they were too tired to read. For some reason, on the two days we were there with the children, they were amazing. A boy named Ronald Bell could put me to shame on the keyboard and mouse, let alone little Micheal who read to Christine, well will say he read better than I. All these kids showed so much life, so much future, and so much happiness, at least while they were at the Urban Kid’s place.
The memories of all the new friends we made way down south in West End Birmingham, Alabama are steadfast in memory now. I feel a connection with these people, one that has long been lost. I remember times in the streets of Toronto watching people struggle – struggle to survive. We see people everywhere, these days, struggling to eat, to pay a bill, to look after their children, to try and get school supplies, food, and medical assistance.
Then I think how easy it is for me. If I am hungry I can go into the fridge and stand there a while as I try and decide what I will have to eat. I think of how easy it is for me to get to the other side of town in just a few minutes, as long as the traffic holds up that is. I think how easy it is for me to get an illness looked to, or dental work done when needed. But what about all the other 12.5%? Those 37.3 million people down there who don’t and can’t?
Do we just ignore them and maybe they will go away?
Micheal this video is for you…
Central United Church Member
We got an early start this morning for our trip home. We stopped in Kentucky for a bathroom break, also Graham was getting hungry. Graham has been an excellent traveller. He has been a real delight on this trip. He has been a bit of an icebreaker as people stopped to wave and say hello to him. However, Rebecca had a less than receptive response at the Civil Rights museum yesterday, but I’ll let Rebecca tell that story.
Today we went to Highlands United Methodist Church and participated in their breakfast programme. They serve approximately 150 people every morning. I had an interesting conversation with two people about health care in the United States. They had very divergent viewpoints. What was interesting to me was how well-read they were. Not only about health care but also about other issues currently in the news — even about Canada and their problems with warm weather for the Olympics.
After breakfast was over, our group had an opportunity to talk with Reggie Holder (on staff at Highlands) about the work they do. The breakfast program, identity program, clothes closet, etc., are all funded outside their regular church budget. The programs themselves are not initiated by the Council/Board. They are initiated by people who have ‘found their joy’ and do something about it.
Reggie spoke of how important it is for there to be people who stand in the gap between what the church says and what it does, pulling the church toward holding those two things together.
We spent the afternoon at the Civil Rights Institute and 16th Street Baptist Church. This was my second visit to the Institute. I was struck this time by the number of small actions by ordinary people that contributed to making the changes that were made by the movement. It took great courage by people who, otherwise, might not have appeared very heroic. And, of course, the other side of that is the ‘incredible silence of the good people’, who, by their silence allowed evil to have power. So many people say about organizations of which they are a part, “I don’t get involved in all the politics.” However, that too is a political act. Their non-involvement leaves those who are trying to right the wrongs abandoned and isolated. It gives more power to the people who are abusing power and are counting on the silence of most people in order to keep perpetuating their abuse of power. There is no doubt that getting involved often leads to difficulties. We are fooling ourselves if we think that remaining uninvolved will leave us untouched by trouble.
This evening, Deb led us in reflecting on several situations related to poverty issues. She reminded us that, although sometimes the need seems overwhelming, we are not asked to solve all the issues. We are asked to do our own little bit that we can do.
I am grateful for this opportunity for some people in the congregation to experience and to reflect together on ways that the Church can live out faith in the world.
Members from both Central United and Brigden Churches participated yesterday and today in the Urban Kid’s after school program in Birmingham, Alabama.
Watch while the church mission group from Ontario, Canada help the kids with reading and other activities and friendships.
Central United Church