April 10, 2017
By:  Jane Bishop Halteman

Town hall:  caring about our neighbors

Jan Richardson’s April 5 Painted Prayerbook entry prepares us for the Palm Sunday experience.  You can see the entire piece plus the beautiful image she created to accompany her post here, along with her Blessing of Palms.  Today’s Glimpses of Healing and Hope column employs several paragraphs from her Palm Sunday account as a launching pad for this week’s journey toward Easter, the culmination of the Lenten season.

Richardson suggests that the week leading up to Palm Sunday, celebrated the week before Easter, “invites us to consider how we are moving through our own journey—through Lent as well as through life. Are we allowing ourselves to be swept along by circumstances, traveling our road by default? Or are we seeking to walk with intention and discernment, creating our path with some measure of the courage and clarity by which Christ walked his, even in the midst of forces that may lie beyond our control?”

Swept along and traveling by default or creating a path with courage and clarity?  How do we find our way on new turf?  Perhaps, as Joyce Rupp notes in her poem Old Maps No Longer Work (in Parker Palmer’s April 6 Facebook post), it is time to “toss away the old map.”

In Rupp's words, “It is time for the pilgrim in me / to travel in the dark, / to learn to read the stars / that shine in my soul. / I will walk deeper / into the dark of my night, / I will wait for the stars, / trust their guidance, / and let their light be enough for me.”   

Several times in my life I have been gifted by coming to know people I needed to encounter whose meeting I could not have orchestrated, though I am an experienced planner/organizer.  My brother met one of those sorts of people last week as he visited an open house at the elementary school he and I attended through sixth grade.

In all the years since our youngest brother died in 1974 at age 18 in a single-car accident a mile from home, we have not had (or created) occasion to seek out anyone on the scene at the time of his death, but my brother had the presence of mind to ask a volunteer fireman he met at our old school if he remembered hearing about Greg’s death.      

“I was there,” replied the fireman, who is also now mayor of our small hometown.  Eager journalist that I am, I cannot wait to talk to this man, to mine this opportunity which has fallen across our paths.  I have no roadmap for what’s next, but I know there will be a subsequent step on the grief journey for our family, another opportunity to arrive at more closure all these years later.

In addition to navigating our individual lives, many of us find ourselves presently more involved in local activism.  A number of Kern Roaders were among approximately 500 persons who attended a moderated town hall on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Sunday at Century Center in South Bend.  The two sponsoring groups, Northern Indiana Community Coalition on Health Care (NICCHC) and Community Wellness Partners, presented speakers who explained provisions of the ACA, as well as citizens who offered moving testimonials of their personal experiences with the ACA. Unfortunately, our invited congresswoman did not attend or respond to invitations to participate.   

JoAnn Burke, from the Center for Aging Studies, spoke of the country’s aging population and the lack of a roadmap to sort out appropriate care for all.  “Ten thousand baby boomers turn 65 in this country every day; we have to roll up our sleeves and figure out how we are going to take care of all age groups,” she said. 

“We don’t know how to do it,” she added as she talked about larger numbers of people living longer, perhaps beyond the time when adequate care can be provided by families as may have been the case when life expectancy was shorter. “Strengthening our nation's health care system is a task for all of us; it's a common decency to care about our neighbors, said NICCHC representative Debra Javeline in her closing comments. “With no leaders in our districts, we are now the adults in the room.” 

Richardson writes that these weeks approaching Easter are prime times to ask, “How do we meet God in motion? How do we move toward the One who is already making his way toward us? Whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in, how do we participate in creating our path? What road is calling to us and has our name written on its stones? Will we go?” 

Whether you are presently most engaged by your personal or communal journey, consider the ways you are participating in creating your path. How will you meet the Divine, already coming toward you, as we transition to Easter living at the end of this year's Lenten journey?  

In the words of Pastor Janice in her Palm Sunday sermon, “Resurrection power prevails; how are you carrying love rather than violence into the world?”