Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Now that I spend so much of my time at the computer, I'm in danger of missing the gifts that arrive on my doorstep almost every day. Yesterday, I was rewarded for stepping away from the busyness of my life.

Nursing a cup of coffee and staring dreamily out the kitchen window - my computer snoring softly in the next room - I became aware of clucking in the distance.

A group of wild turkeys were strolling through my neighbour's backyard. I watched in fascination as the females kept their heads down and concentrated on finding tidbits in the grass. The males formed a phalanx of protective armour behind them, keeping an eye out for marauding predators, while at the same time ensuring that the females didn't lose their way.

I quickly laid my coffee cup down and took up the binoculars. The head tom fanned his tail, from time to time, a casual flexing of his muscles that kept the younger jakes in line. Never once did the males let down their guard, and never once did the females feel the need to cast a furtive glance towards the forest.

They continued on their leisurely walk, the females pecking at the ground, and the males on high alert. It all looked....well, so effortless. I could almost imagine the females mincing across the yard, parasols held aloft, their long, flowing dresses brushing against the tall grass...the males with walking sticks, jingling coins in their pockets, and gallantly throwing down their cloaks over puddles.

I wondered what it would be like to have such a presence in my life. To move through my day, a squandron of angels in my corner. To be honest, as a modern woman, I'm not entirely comfortable with that image.

But I am comfortable with the urge to protect: doesn't every mother feel it, even when her children have outgrown the need for her protective arms around them?

This leads me to another question: is it an imperative to extend this primal urge to the larger community?

As the birds disappeared round the corner of our house, I felt a new resolution stirring within me. Are you your brother's keeper? whispered in my ear. I had a choice. I could put down my binoculars, and join hands with others. Or, instead, in this day of voyeurism taken to new heights, I could choose to read about others through news blogs, sighing over those who are largely ignored in our society. Wishing I could do more, but reassured by the knowledge that I'm only one woman.

Don't get me wrong. I have done my fair share of merely observing the plight of others. But maybe it's time to flex my own muscles, remind myself that I am not an island. I may be only one woman, but there are others who are willing to join hands with me, creating a safety net for those in need of one.

And in so doing, by willing to step away from the distractions in my world, I can open my heart to the gifts that are right there in front of me. For, as L'Arche reminds us in their video, What Makes a Community?, when we are supportive of one another, we all benefit from the gifts present in each one of us.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Maureeen, we are "our brother's keeper"! Whenever I have the opportunity, I will tune in to see Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche, on Vision TV. This gentle, humble man is a direct conduit to God. Our world is a touch gentler and a little more accepting because of Jean's devotion and love for those who may not be perfect in body or mind, but who are perfect in God's eyes!
We should all be so blessed!
Keep up the good work.

Ethel said...

What a wonderfully written story, Maureen. I hope this is not a silly question, but have your works ever been published? Your words are just beautiful, and very uplifting.

My daughter and me are very happy to have discovered your blog. We will tell our church friends about your blog and about Ideal-Way too. Our world is a much better place because of persons like Jean Vanier, and you too my dear. It sounds like it is very rewarding work. God bless you, Maureen.
Ethel in Scarborough, Ontario

Anonymous said...

Well I find this to be a refreshing place to come to. You truly have received a gift from God with your writing abilities and by the heart given to you to except these special persons who I agree tend to be so misunderstood. It doesn't really matter but how many are on your board helping bring this very important work to reality? I will tell others of this great blog spot and about the special work being done for those you can't always do for themselves. God bless you my dear.

George & Sherry said...

Our sentiments are with Ethel, Maureen. You are an excellent writer. Are you absolutely sure you have not been published? We look forward to reading more stories like Our Brother's Keeper.

My husband and me visited the Ideal way site and we were impressed. Tell us more about your poetry Contest. We have a young adult in our building who is developmentally delayed. Are you planning to have one to include us out in Manitoba? Thanks.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, all, for your kind words. I agree with you, Anonymous: our world 'is a touch gentler and a little more accepting' because of Jean Vanier's courage and passion. Interviews with Jean Vanier are now available for the first time on DVD (Images of Love, Words of Hope: In Conversation with Jean Vanier).

No, I am not a published author, but thank you for asking. I will also be including stories and poems written by fellow board members, from time to time. We have eight board members, and I will be including photos of them when their entries are posted (as well as background information on them).

IDEAL-WAY is also very grateful to the hundreds of volunteers who have given freely of their time, energy, and passion to help improve the lives of the intellectually disabled in our society.

George & Sherry, you will be glad to hear that our first annual poetry contest served as a pilot project in Ontario, but it's IDEAL-WAY's intent to include the rest of Canada next year. This will be an annual event - and you might want to mention to your young adult friend who is developmentally delayed that part of our future plans include an art contest, as well!

Thank you, all, for your comments - I look forward to hearing from you again!

Andrea said...

Hi Maureen, a friend who works with special needs people, loves your blog and told me to check it out. She definitely steered me right, because I was thrilled when I discovered a vegetarian recipe. I am a vegetarian with two room mates. (One is a vegetarian too.) I am definitely going to make the lebanese salad this weekend. This recipe looks so authentic, and I just die for lebanese food because it is healthy, delicious and perfect for us vegans. Thanks for the great recipe Janette.

I am also curious about your charity cookbook. Will more info about the cookbook be available on the ideal way site? Thanks from Kitchener, ON !

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, Andrea, for visiting our blog. You'll be glad to hear that I will be posting many more vegetarian recipes - well, after all, my youngest daughter is a vegetarian!

Let me know whether you liked the Lebanese Salad, please!

Yes, keep checking the IDEAL-WAY site, as details as to how to order a copy of the cookbook, etc. will definitely be posted there. At the moment, if you click on "IDEAL Poetry Contest", click again on 'Announcements', you will see 'IDEAL Art Contest Coming Soon'. Directly under that is: IDEAL-WAY Cookbook coming soon!
(This very unique book sponsored and published by Pearson Canada
will be one you will want to own. It is "More than a Cookbook".)

Peggie Arvidson said...

Nicely put Maureen. And I do believe that there is a squadron of turkeys -- albeit not necessarily in turkey form (but why not? the turkey was almost selected as the US bird over the eagle)

The protectors are those on this side and the other (my departed loved ones, angels and the universal love of all that's good) keeping me protected but allowing me my own free will.

I enjoyed your post and look forward to more thought-provoking insights.

Now, I'm not sure where you live -- but TURKEYS? in the backyard?! How cool.


Maureen Lee said...

Thanks, Peggie, for your insightful comments. Yes, I do believe we have squadrons of angels (not necessarily in turkey form!) on our side, protecting us while at the same time giving us complete freedom of choice.

I live in rural Ontario, and look forward, each day, to visits from the local wildlife (which include massive turtles, deer, numerous birds - and my daughter had a bear sighting the other day; now, that's very cool!).

Thanks, Peggie, and I'm glad you'll be checking in, from time to time.

Jan Hajjar, Etobicoke said...

How on earth did you find that picture of me in the kitchen, Maureen!! Someone's been snooping in the drawers! Hope you enjoy the Fattoush salad. Don't forget you can adjust the oil (only olive oil will do) and lemon (always fresh) to your liking. I always have extra crunchy pita bread on hand for guests who ask for more because half the fun is ensuring you have lots to crunch throughout! I am only too happy to submit more Lebanese recipes, not only for your terrific blog, but for the soon-to-be available Ideal-Way cookbook. You can never get enough of those healthy Mediterranean diet recipes! Bon appetit, everyone!

Andrea said...

Hi Maureen, my roomies and me loved the Lebanese salad. The recipe is just awesome! Thanks so much. Good luck with all the wonderful things you are doing for all the people you help. I have bookmarked your blog too!

Maureen Lee said...

Janette, Don't you love the photo of you in the kitchen? It captures you, beautifully, and you can thank Ad Daabous, IDEAL-WAY's Executive Director, for passing it on to me!

We look forward to more of your delicious Lebanese recipes, so thanks for offering to submit more to our blog - and, personally, I can't wait for the IDEAL-WAY cookbook. I have a feeling it's going to be dog-eared in no time...

Andrea, I'm glad that you liked the Fattoush salad. I agree with you; it really is very good! And thanks for bookmarking Just Show Up (another Lebanese recipe will be posted this week).

Addie D. said...

Hi Maureen -- the blog is absolutely amazing! While on our road trip yesterday in Southwestern Ontario, visiting participants from the IDEAL Poetry Contest, I could not believe that 2 people in Woodstock had already visited the blog. I'm impressed.

All of us at IDEAL-WAY.ca are grateful to have you on board. Thanks for sharing your talent with everyone -- evidently, the public agrees that you are a fine writer too. Love the 'Place for Poets'. You will probably get a ton of poems from persons with intellectual disabilities...the IDEAL Poetry Contest has stirred things up in a big way.

Maureen Lee said...

Thank you, Ad - this blog is definitely a labour of love, and it's very encouraging to hear that others are not only reading it, but they're enjoying it!

I'm hoping that special needs individuals will submit their work - we're more than willing to post as many as they send in!

The IDEAL Poetry Contest revealed to us that there are many gifted poets out there...it's amazing what comes up when you stir the pot one more time.

Gordo said...

I agree with addie d. that "the blog is absolutely amazing!".

Hope you are happy with the quantity and quality of poems this blog's "'Place for Poets'" is receiving from persons with Down syndrome, Autism, etc.

You bet the IDEAL Poetry Contest has stirred things up in a big way, for darn sure. Keep on truckin' with it.

Yvonne said...

I have bookmarked your very interesting and informative blog too, maureen lee! For me, and evidently for others, its topical diversity makes for a good read.

And, not just for things like the Lebanese salad... which I made and my family absolutely loved it! Thanks.

Do you have further details on the uniqueness of the "very unique" Ideal-Way Cookbook?

Gordo said...

Hi everyone, am I the only one that is curious to know about the people in the group photo above?

Is it a group on an outing, or whom? Just curious.

Everytime I visit here, I am impressed. Keep up your good work on this excellent blog.

Yvonne said...

Too many, too often, mainstream persons scramble to keep up with the pace of modern life and lose sight of the fact that it is not all about them as individuals.

I love your personal example of synergy, "when we are supportive of one another, we all benefit from the gifts present in each one of us."

Keep up the great work on this great blog.


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