Awoken humanity

I am, as you might already be aware, a leader in a youth program in Elizabeth, NJ. We have an interesting setup to our program, as it is not one group in one location, but one group with several locations all throughout the city, and now even the state.

Well, in the group I work with, we want to always be sensitive to the needs of our city. We want to get involved with serving and the helping of the oppressed and needy and downtrodden, no matter if that need is a physical one, emotional, spiritual, or any other kind. We want to be there for those who need us most. As we fully move into the Liberty Center we will be able to do more and more as well as start up new programs and endeavors to attack the roots of the problems… not to just provide for the needy, but to attack the very roots of poverty. Not to just help those who are oppressed, but to assault injustice itself. A big task, yes, but it is what we are called to do.

We are starting small. As I said, we are still in the process of fully moving into our new home and so we are not at our full ability to do what we want, but we can begin the process.

Can driveThis Thanksgiving, as we live in such a blessed society and sit comfortably amidst the top 5% of the wealthiest people on the planet, we want to stress to the youth the importance of giving. Giving of their time, money, talents, and abilities for the betterment of society and those around them. Sacrificial giving.

And so we have teamed up for the upcoming holiday season with the homeless services at St Joseph’s in Elizabeth in order to provide food for the poor in the city so that they might have a decent Thanksgiving. We are going around door to door in our area, collecting non-perishable food items with which we will in turn submit for the feeding of the hungry. It will be glorious.

We began the collection of foods on Saturday. It was a chilly day. We gathered a small group of teenagers from our little community and set out to the streets. We spit into two groups as to cover more ground with more rapid pace. This week we invaded the Jefferson Park areas of Magnolia Ave, Madison Ave, Catherine St, and other surrounding neighborhoods. Next week we shall set out for the Peterstown area, so be ready.

I must admit that the first half of the collection was slightly disheartening. There was not much luck in people answering their doors, or if they did answer to help us. The second half yielded much better results. We ended up collecting three semi-large boxes of canned goods, pastas, cereals, and other such products. We also have a small number of appointments to return this upcoming Saturday for collection as well as individuals who have said they will bring “boxes” of goods to the Liberty throughout the week to donate. This, coupled with our second outing on November 17, I hope, will provide much aide and relief for the overlooked of our society.

I noticed something while walking house to house with the youth in my group. During the first hour spirits were somewhat low as our efforts seemed to be in vain. With each passing rejection or unanswered door, the paced seemed to slow. But at the first donation all that was changed. It was as if a spark was set and ignited a new passion in the teens we were with. And then the second donation came. And the third. Soon they were excitedly running house to house, boldly speaking to the residents where there was once shyness. Waiting with excited anticipation as the home-owners said, “Let me go see what I have in the kitchen.” The second half of our journey sped by with haste whereas the first seemed to drag. And so I began to think:

There’s something about service, about giving of yourself to something bigger, about the simple act of helping others that awakens something within us. Something about service that awakens the fullest extent of our humanity, and I think somehow, as we give ourselves away, we are connected more deeply with those around us and with God himself. It’s as if there is some deeply latent area of our being within that is only roused when we give sacrificially and unselfishly for the betterment of others. It’s as if we were meant for more than just living for ourselves. Perhaps there is something deeply divine about denying yourself and lifting the needs of our fellow human beings above our own. Maybe there’s a truth in the idea that we were made to help bring peace and restoration and hope and justice to a broken and fractured world. Maybe it’s true that, as the Scriptures say, when we give our lives away, we will find true life, that when we help others we will really be living life to it’s fullest potential. We will be experiencing life as it was meant to be lived.

Maybe.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it… Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:6-7, 17-19 NIV)

PS: If you want to help out and live in the Elizabeth area, (non monetary) donations can be brought to the Liberty Center (1121 Elizabeth Ave, Elizabeth, NJ 07201) during business hours or on Friday night between 7pm and 9:30pm. Or you can contact Pastor Harold Boyd at 908-289-6322. If you would like to help out but do not live in the Elizabeth area, contact me via email at whartz at bridgyouth dot com.

Peace be with you.

A good day

I’ve been non-existant for awhile, haven’t I? It’s been quite busy and hectic around here. Work is frustrating and I am in desperate need of a vacation. I’m taking off two weeks starting October 27. Right in the middle of that a group of 9 of us are heading to St Louis, Missouri for the National Youth Worker’s Convention. I love going to this conference. It’s an annual highlight to my schedule for the past several years. First off, it’s a great experience to challenge and give ideas in the area of youth ministry. And it has a way of recharging the batteries… something about getting together with several thousand other mentally deranged youth workers (for you need to have a few screws loose to fully embrace youth ministry) and having some of the greatest speakers around today pour into you and tell you that you’re doing a good job (something that doesn’t happen all too often). Secondly, it’s just one of the most fun experiences you can have. They have tons and tons of great bands that perform around the clock. Magicians. Comedians. Games. Giveaways. Everything. Thirdly, it is sooooo completely relaxing. They encourage you to just take a break and chill and unwind while there. They even go as far as “giving you permission” to play hookie from the entire conference and just go out and have fun for the week instead if that’s what you need. Naps are encouraged… you’ll see youth workers randomly strewn about on chairs and the floor sleeping at random or just relaxing. So great. This, coupled with the fact that I have off the two weeks around it means that Billy will finally get the rest his body has been craving the past few months.

And even though I am off for two weeks straight there came a time last week when I just couldn’t take the stress and frustration of my schedule, and I had to take a day off on Monday. I took a “wellness day,” as it is called at work, and went to the eye doctor to get my eyes examined so that I could have some fresh contacts for the convention. My optometrist is about a half hour from my house, and it was weird, but even though I drive every day for work, there was something freeing and liberating about the drive to the doctor. I don’t really know what I’m trying to explain. I guess it was just that I was driving on my own schedule to do things I wanted to do… I wasn’t on anyone else’s clock. It reminded me how how much I like to just go out and drive. To just head out and let the road lead you where it may. Driving wasn’t work this day. It was fun. I don’t know, maybe I’m making no sense, but I get what I mean…. Anyway, I find out that my prescription is actually getting a wee bit better as compared to last year. I guess that’s a good thing. It has been stable for the past five years or so, and now it is moving towards zero. We’ll see what will become of this. Dr Schultz and I shared random banter and chit chat about things Macintosh, things photographic, things reminiscant (I used to work with Dr Schultz before I was a patient in his office), and other such random things. In the midst of conversation, Dr Schultz spoke of about dilation. I said that I had never had it done, and so he said that I was going to get it this day as a result. He said that after he put the drops in I would look like I was high on crack, and so I did.

Dilated

Stylin'Afterward I headed home in my new stylish dark glasses. I have to say the dilation experience was rather odd. The light sensitivity is not too bad, unless you are in uber-sunlight. The blurriness and distortion is a bit strange. I had contacts on, so I could see distance fine, but everything was blurry up close. So now I know what it will be like to need reading glasses. The dilation did provide a bit of dizziness and disorientation which proved for a uneasy drive home, but the feelings soon subsided and I was fine.

After I got home I got a call from Carlos. He was going to lunch with Castro and invited me to come, and so I did, and we partook of some fine Chinese buffet meal. Good stuff. After that Castro came back to my house and we made plans to film some video that afternoon. I shan’t speak of exactly what we filmed, but it should be edited down and on YouTube within the next few days. And we have ideas for other little things we want to film also in the next few days.

In the evening, after the filming was done, we went to Best Buy because my grandmother wanted a HDTV to replace her decade-old big-screen that had recently ceased to function. We spent a good amount of time in the store, grilling the sales rep on HD and the various televisions and talking optics and discerning the best TV to get for our money that would suit my grandmother. We ended up with a Sony 46″ LCD HDTV. We came home and me and Jimmy set it up and mounted it to the wall and got it all running. Good times.

All in all I’d say that Monday was a good day. It was just what I needed to keep me going until my full vacation at the end of next week. I like good days.

That’s all for now. Peace be with you.