Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hawaii - Roosters and Hens

One thing I didn't anticipate in Hawaii was waking up to the cock-a-doodle-doo of a rooster. When I saw my first rooster wandering around the car rental office at the airport, it took me by surprise. When I saw roosters and hens casually walking throughout the park at the beach, I took a second look, but when I heard a rooster crow at 2:30am on our first night in Hawaii, I about make chicken soup.

I had heard that chickens wandered the island of Kauai, but I had no idea they were so prevalent. I just didn't get it - why did the islanders allow them to roam about? Wasn't anyone catching them for food? And how did all these livestock get here?

During one of the historical tours we took while vacationing, I learned that Kauai wasn't always the island of roosters. It turns out that many people on the island kept roosters and hens for eggs and meat. However, after a hurricane battered the island, many cages were destroyed and the chickens got loose. It wasn't hard for them to find places to hide in the dense jungle, and so they have continued to run free and reproduce since.

Additionally, Kauai is the only island without the mongoose. On other islands there are fewer birds because the mongooses eat the ground-nesting birds' eggs. No mongooses on Kauai means more chickens!

Here are a few of our many sightings:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hawaii - A lesson in Giving vs. Taking

As I prepared for my recent trip to Hawaii (yes that's why my blog has been sparse!) I got to pondering the life of a tourist.

Something started to irk me about this as I thought. We as tourists spend a lot of time taking on vacation. We visit the noteworthy sights, we take photos, we eat wonderful food, we go on adventures. It's all about us - and rightly so. It is vacation, after all.

But I found it a little unsettling, especially as I learned about the history of Hawaii. One of the travel books I read shared a brief history of Hawaii, which I found fascinating. There is much to learn there, and I only scratched the surface, but it is a tale similar in some ways to that of the Native Americans. I was also very interested to learn that during his presidency, Bill Clinton signed the Apology Resolution which acknowledged the United States' role in the overthrow of the native government of Hawaii. It didn't right the wrongs done to the Native Hawaiians, but it did acknowledge that the US got the land without the permission of the Native Hawaiian people.

All this to say that I felt like another "typical" American just take-take-taking from someone else. Who was I to go and visit a beautiful island? How do the Native Hawaiians feel about tourism? Do they feel like their land is being prostituted? I don't know. But it sure made me think. How will I handle my trip? How will I acknowledge the gift the citizens are giving me by allowing me to visit? How will I respond?

Then, I had an idea.

I could give instead of take.

I could give time.

I began looking on a website I found called Volunteer Hawaii which lists service opportunities for each of the islands. After a few emails, Zac and I were scheduled to help at the Kauai Independent Food Bank.

We signed up for a 4-hour shift which seemed so small in comparison to the many hours we were spending as carefree tourists. However, it was something.

When we arrived we had no idea what we would be doing. We were introduced to the manager on duty at the warehouse. He was tall and built, with a small, wavy pony tail ball high on his head. I could easily picture him in a football uniform. His manner was quiet and concentrated.

We were also introduced to another worker, who worked far more than he spoke. He was a shorter man, with short, dark hair and was quietly moving food here and there, sorting and inventorying boxes.

We were quickly put to work organizing and sorting food on the shelves. As the morning wore on, we learned more about the food bank. Food banks are different from food shelves in that oftentimes food banks provide food for food shelves. The Kauai Independent Food Bank works with 20+ non-profit organizations to distribute food. Many are local church groups that help the homeless and hungry. The KIFB also works with local farmers to get fresh produce in stock to distribute. They are doing great work for the citizens of Kauai.

We weren't the only volunteers there that day; there was another islander who was helping full-time as part of a welfare/work program. She wanted to find a job, but jobs were hard to come by. She has some children and grandchildren and needs money to provide for them. This program allows her to aggressively job search while also volunteering. From what she shared with me, it seems like a very strong program. I hope she finds a paying job soon.

As with all service opportunities, I think I feel more blessed to have been a part of it than I was a blessing to the people I was helping. I enjoyed talking with the other volunteer (whose name I will withhold out of respect), and learning about her family and her life. She shared food tips with me, shared about what life was like when she was younger, and told me about her kids and grandkids. We talked and laughed as we sorted and stacked, and the work didn't seem like work at all. Just two people, hanging out and getting to know one another. What a treat.

I also felt blessed to be a witness of a different mindset to the people at the food bank. We got asked skeptically a few times, "So...why are you here?" Apparently it's not often that tourists ask to volunteer.

After the experience, my brain got to thinking what it would be like if everyone volunteered a little when they went on a trip. What if we didn't just take when we went somewhere; what if we also gave.

I quickly calculated in my head that there were perhaps 200 people on our flight to Kauai. If even just ONE plane flies in each day (which far more do), that would be 200 people infiltrating the island each day. What if each of them volunteered just two hours? That would be 400 community service hours each day on the island of Kauai. HOLY COW! Can you even fathom that?!? What would that look like? How could it help the food bank? The environment? The schools? The homeless or hungry? Hmmmm....that could be really really cool.

As you plan your next trip, consider if you could and how you could give back. What does that look like for you?

Monday, May 16, 2011

View from the Sky

As we ascended I gazed back on Minneapolis. It was a clear day and I quickly picked out Lake Calhoun, then Lake Harriet. The leaves that are starting to grow on the trees made a patchwork quilt of green from the sky, with the gray roads keeping each square in its place.

The rooftops got smaller and smaller and it got me to thinking about God. It amazes me and baffles me at the same time how He can know each of us intimately and care for each of us deeply. I couldn't even begin to count all the rooftops I was seeing, and that was just one city on one continent!

We continued ascending and the green patchwork of city blocks transformed to green squares of fields. Soon I glanced out the window to find a blanket of white with snowy mountain tops peeking through. It took my breath away. The mountain range had to have been in Colorado, and I marveled at the beauty of the mountains from the sky.

As I was trying to wrap my head around all that I had seen, the song "God is Real" by India Arie came to mind. It was certainly the soundtrack to my life at that moment!

Enjoy this song - the link I found doesn't have video to go with it, but gaze out your window and make your own music video. I know you'll do a great job!

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Full-Time Temporary Employee

In May of 2009, I quit my full-time job without having anything else lined up. It was just time for a change, and it couldn't wait any longer. That decision was crazy and scary and I didn't know what the future would hold.

Well, it's been two years now - two years - and I have never been without. God has provided all sorts of odd jobs and unique opportunities for me to help make ends meet. I have stories of how I have seen unexpected money come in to cover car repair bills and adoption expenses nearly to the dollar. I am amazed.

In the last two years, there have been only a handful of days where I wanted work but could not find it. Otherwise, I have been busy and even been turning away work because I have more opportunities than hours in the day.

Somehow or other, my pieced-together temporary jobs have become a full-time gig. Who would have thought?!? Tonight I had to change my cell phone message to let teachers know that I am booked for subbing through the rest of this school year. Amazing.

Lord, help me to use past experiences of your faithfulness to trust you with my future. Remind me of your goodness and your care.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Give What Each One Needs

I carefully nudged each plant out of the black plastic containers. The small plantings fell into my hand and the dirt slipped through my fingers. I picked up my spade and chose each one's new home in the flower pot. My favorite part was pushing the dirt back into the hole, covering the roots and stabilizing the plant.

I felt particular concern for one little set of white impatiens. They were so little! As I moved the dirt around them, I did it more gently than when I was working with the other plants. I carefully worked around the thin stems and gave the plant extra support. When I watered this little one, I was watching to make sure I only watered close to the dirt and didn't wilt the stems by pouring from too high up.

This reminded me of some seminars I have attended this year on teaching. While I certainly won't be able to articulate it as well as the presenters I've seen, I do think it's worth noting. When we think of how students should be treated in schools, we often think it should be the same, or equal. However, we would not want a doctor to give us all the same prescription if we had different symptoms! A good school is not one where they are giving all students the same kind of attention/education/assignments. A good school is one where the staff is giving all students what they need. To be fair to all students, we have to give each student what they need, and hold each student to their own individual highest standard.

In order to be fair to my plants tonight, I had to give them different treatment. In order for each of them to thrive, I had to find out what each needed. My little white impatiens needed some careful planting, so I gave them careful planting. My tomato plants needed rich soil, so I added compost. My basil plant needed protection from the rabbits, so I put a cage around it. My marigolds needed water, so I gave them extra water.

I hope all my plants will thrive this year because I looked for what they needed and gave it to them. I hope the same for all the students I see each day.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Walking Together

Some special people in my life are going through a hard time right now. It's hard for me to know what to say and what to do. Sometimes I feel small and helpless compared to the large, overwhelming situation.

I don't always know if or how I can ease their hurting hearts, but I do know one thing. I can walk with them.

I'm learning what it looks like to walk beside someone in their pain. I'm learning what it means to simply be with that person.

I think there's a lot of value in that.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Three Hugs and a Rock

Last week I found out that the media center assistant at my favorite school was going to be leaving. I grieved with the staff at that school because she was absolutely amazing at her job. I wondered what they would do in her absence and how they would finish out the school year.

Then a light bulb went on in my head! I wondered if I could fill in for her to finish out the school year...

Tuesday was my first day helping out in the library! Part of my duties include supervising students as they walk in from the buses. As I stood outside that first morning to remind kids to walk, to look out for any kids who stumbled, etc., I was surprised to hear a chorus of "Hey Mrs. Harder!" So many students greeted me as they walked in! If I had been having a bad day before that, I certainly wasn't now!

Some of the students whose classrooms I have subbed in before greeted me with hugs, and one student even opened my hand to place a small, smooth rock in my palm. I don't know what I did to receive that special gift from him!

Can you imagine what a happy place the world would be if each person got to start their day out that way? I hope I can give the kids such a warm welcome to school in return.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Divorce Hurts

I woke up crying in the middle of the night on Saturday. I was remembering how Zac sat me down to tell me he wanted a divorce. I cried for how alone I felt, for how altered my future plans were now, and for fear of how I would financially survive without him.

I blinked around the dark room, still sobbing audibly.

I wiped my eyes again and tried to get my bearings.

Wait a minute.

This was the middle of the night. Zac didn't just sit me down to announce his intention to divorce me. Was this just a bad dream?

My mind offered a resounding YES! It was only in a dream that Zac wanted to divorce me.

Even though I started understanding that this was just a bad dream and that I was still happily married, I couldn't stop crying. The feelings of hurt and betrayal felt so real. It was crazy. I ached in the pit of my stomach.

Unfortunately Zac wasn't home, but I needed so badly to hear his voice and have him tell me that this was indeed just a dream. I needed to hear him say he loved me and that he would promise to be with me forever.

The clock read 4:18am as I dialed his number. It was very early in the morning, but I desperately needed his reassurance. He came through for me.

As I reflect on my bad dream, my heart hurts for those who don't wake up from this scenario; for those whom this is their reality. I got a small taste of the tough emotions that come with divorce, and I erupted in sobs. I have no idea how people work through this daily. Please pray with me today for those who have been through or are going through a divorce. It must hurt something awful. I do believe it's one of those things you can never fully recover from.