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Lynn’s Meals4Mandela Fundraiser

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Benefiting: Friends of Ikamva Labantu

Please join me in supporting this unique and worthwhile campaign: MEALS4MANDELA. This initiative supports the orphans and most vulnerable children of South Africa. It enables each child by way of healthy nourishment to not only survive, but to truly thrive and lead the meaningful, happy lives all children deserve. It is all in honor of International Nelson Mandela Day – celebrating Mandela’s legacy of justice, resilience, love for mankind and above all-hope.

In 2006, I had the unforgettable opportunity of volunteering with Ikamva Labantu, the NGO working in South Africa’s most impoverished townships for over 50 years – that supports over 2,000 orphans and vulnerable children with all the care and support they need to flourish. Ikamva was founded by an extraordinary woman named Helen Lieberman, a dear friend of mine and human rights hero. As a young woman in 1960s South Africa, she risked her life and safety to begin working in the township communities on her own. Her work has blossomed into one of the largest and longest standing nonprofit organizations in South Africa today.

I experienced first hand the burgeoning self-reliance developing in the townships of Cape Town. All generations were looked after by one another, creating close-knit communities of caring and productivity. I was truly inspired and I know you would all be too.

So please, I hope you will join me by supporting this vital campaign however you can – $1 will provide a nutritious meal to a beautiful child. Can you think of a better use of your resources?? (All donations are 100% tax deductible!) We want to provide 10,222 meals – one for every day Mandela spent behind bars.

Thank you for your help.

-Rev. Lynn

Manhattan Mercy

Monday, June 14th, 2010

Bouncing down West 72nd Street, gleeful with my thrift shop purchases, I came upon a statuesque black lady holding up an ancient looking miniscule caned woman who is barely standing, frozen mid-sidewalk. Her knees are buckled so severely that they are frighteningly close to the ground.

I offer my help and it is accepted. As I place the flat of my hand under her upper arm, the black lady explains, “I’m trying to help her get to the bus on Amsterdam.” To me it is obvious that this is not going to happen. In fact, it is a dangerous idea.  I share my thoughts and the tiny woman says, “I think I need to sit down,” which I believe to be a very intelligent comment. We look around and find a set of 3 cement steps in the front of an apartment building and ask the seemingly tortured woman to try to slowly head for them. “Is there a chair anywhere?” she hopes. We cannot locate one, though we have asked several merchants.

She puts forth a great effort as we support her and slowly, step-by-step, get her over to the stoop. Now we have a challenge. She is facing the steps and that means we must turn her around and bend her torso into a sitting position. Enter a European, bald fellow asking if he can aid us seeing our dilemma. We are glad to have him and he begins to lift her gingerly when a Muslim-garbed man also offers his help. Just then a woman wearing a Star of David joins us and asks, “How can I help?” We’re not sure yet, but, thank her for standing by. The two men with determination lift the little elderly woman and arrange her into a sitting, if awkward, position on the second step. Her feet hardly touch the ground, that’s how short she is.

Now she is slanted with her Le Sportsac nylon purse draped across her chest. She is out of breath until she settles into her awkward posture. An Indian woman with a smile comes by and asks her, “Are you comfortable? You don’t look comfortable.” “I’m okay except for my back, but I’m glad to be sitting.” I ask if I can put her purse behind her back and she says no. So we sit a bit and I introduce myself, “I’m Lynn, what is your name?” “Maria.” Everyone then introduces themselves: Donna, Pablo, Abdul, Sue, Trina and now we are united in a Manhattan mission of mercy.

Maria begins her short story, “I live on 83rd between Broadway and Amsterdam and I was supposed to meet a friend at a restaurant on Columbus. I can’t remember the name but would recognize it if I saw it. I looked and looked and walked up and down Columbus and up and down again and I got so tired. I could not find that restaurant and she’s not answering her cell phone. Now I just want to get on the bus and go home.” I offer my observation that her plan seems ambitious given her present condition. The others agree and Sue takes it upon herself to contact 911 who say they will send EMS.

Donna excuses herself to get to an appointment downtown. I ask Maria if there is someone we can call to come get her. She responds no and tells us that her daughter just got married the other day, here in Manhattan where they live and love. I congratulated her and asked if that might have contributed to her fatigue–to which she reiterated the Columbus Avenue fiasco. Realizing that she has a daughter I inquire, “How do you feel about us contacting your daughter to come get you?” “No!” Definitively no.

Sirens are blaring and the St. Luke’s EMS Ambulance makes a swift u-turn to land in front of us. Two uniformed men–one Chinese and one Filipino (I think)–approach her with gentle smiles and concern. They ask her a few questions that seem to test if her brain is intact, which it clearly is. They explain that if they transport her, it would have to be to the hospital. Maria says, “No, I just want to go home to 83rd between Broadway and Amsterdam. I’m very tired.” The two medical workers whisper between themselves about whether they could stretch the rules and take her home in the ambulance. They decide against that but offer to get her a cab and put her in. She supposes she must take a taxi after all. I tell them I will talk to the cab driver about helping her at the other end.

A Sikh driver stops and we all go into high gear. The driver looks at the scene and says, “My cab is too high for her to get into.” I explain that she will be lifted in so it’s not a problem and that I would like him to help her at the other end where there is also a doorman. He agrees a tad reluctantly but I talk him up and he relaxes with a genuine nod.

As the two EMSers lift her kindly and set her into place, she remembers her purse, which I hand her and she explains, “You know, I’m eighty-seven and a half years old. Thank you all.”

As the taxi pulls away she raises her tiny hand, smiles and waves goodbye.

–Rev. Lynn

The Lunch Date

Saturday, June 12th, 2010

His back was to me as he sat down at the corner diner table with his older companion. He was a man in glasses. I did not mean to eavesdrop but it was near impossible not to.

“You know, my book was published. My book was published and it has made quite a noise.” Silence on her part. He went on, “Yeah, it has made the top ten list and Number One in political books.” She interrupts, “My phone just made a sound and I don’t know what it means.” “Oh, I bet it was a voice mail.” “A voice mail? I don’t know what to do…”

“Let me take a look at your phone…Oh yes, it’s a voicemail. Shall I listen for you?”

“Okay, why not?” He presses the necessary buttons, holds the phone to his ear and repeats to her what he is hearing. “Do you want to call back or take down the number to call later?”

“No. No, I’m not interested.” “So,” he goes on, “I’m going to make the talk show circuit. NBC has me scheduled for an interview and maybe Fox, as well. This is really a big deal.” “Huh, I think I’ll have the tuna salad.” “That’s a very good choice at this place.” “Okay then, I’ll have that.” The waitress swings by and says,” I’ll be back in a minute.” A minute of quiet ensues as they wait for the waitress to take their order. They order two of the same.

I’m feeling bad for the guy, motherly actually, recognizing how much he wants to impress this lady. I imagine she is the sister of his dead beloved mother. She has nothing to give. I think she must have a failure of a son and is threatened by her nephew’s success.

Nothing new goes on, just more of the same conversation with slightly different ways of putting the words together, filling the time of this unfulfilling lunch date.

I stand to leave and debate with myself, deciding to go the route of compassion. As I pass him I say cheerily, “Congratulations.” “Huh?” “On your book.” Taken aback and pleased in one expression he says, “Thank you!” I pay the check and as I pass him again he is in a reverie of either confusion or pride or both.

–Rev. Lynn