TRIP to TURLEY
I spent this past week on a service trip to Turley, OK under the auspices of Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church of South Austin. Now, I could talk for a week and use every word in the English language to try and describe my experience in Turley, OK but it would not come, even a tiny bit, close to the actual experience. So let me simply throw out a few descriptors and hopefully via your imaginations you can get a glimpse.
Turley, OK is a town north of Tulsa of about 3,500 to 4,000 people of mixed races that have been hard hit by the downturn in the economy. Every third or fourth house has been abandoned and many are in extreme states of disrepair. If you’ve ever been to Mexico or seen pictures or video footage of the slums of India this is what it reminded me of. It quite literally is a “third-world” American town. Yes, the “third-world” exists right here in our backyard. (Austin, TX has it’s own neighborhood version with Dove Springs).
Lack of resources, such as, nutritious food, adequate health care, transportation, good jobs, money, etc has led to a sense of despair which has, in many cases, led to drug and alcohol abuse so that homes and lives are left physically, mentally, and spiritually in shambles.
The Reverend Ron Robinson and his wife Bonnie are UU Christians oversee The Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship. They also run the Welcome Table Community Center, Church, Food Pantry and Community Garden as well as many other projects and endeavors all under the umbrella organization of a Third Place Foundation.
Twenty of us went to Turley, nearly half being children. We worked fast and hard during the week in the garden clearing debris, building a deck, creating a labyrinth, and at the church and community center tearing out rotten flooring in the women’s restroom beneath the toilets, then replacing it with a concrete platform slab. We also removed an old hot water heater that no longer worked and replaced it with a new one. All these things and many other odd jobs were performed.
Some of us who went consider themselves Pagans, some Christians, some Transcendentalists, Secular Humanists and some I have no idea what if anything they would call themselves. As an “out-there, extremely weird and wild New Age Christ-ian” who believes in reincarnation, etc I felt and/or heard the voice of the Divine Light in my soul saying, “You are all the least of these,” repeatedly throughout the week. So, might I be so bold to paraphrase Mathew 25:40 to say, “when you’ve done whatever it is you have done unto another you’ve done unto yourself.” I believe that we are all born with the seed of Christ Consciousness, Buddha Nature, Enlightened Heart & Mind within us. That seed can be nurtured and grown but it can never be fully destroyed.
In saying this let me tell you a story. There is a couple who live with their son in Turley in a run down house with little to no running water and a basement filled to the brim with garbage that the previous occupants left. This couple have slowly gone through the trash removing it to the point that they are proud of the fact that there is a mere four feet of rubbish left in the basement. Now, you have heard it said, “that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, verily verily I say unto you, one person may mistake trash for treasure and vice-versa.” When this couple finally empty the basement will they find a treasure? What might that treasure be? Could it be an empty room? Whether or not we are a pauper, locked in the dungeon, a victim of poverty, or a prince or princess locked in an ivory tower of our own making surrounded with out technological gadgets either way we are imprisoned. Blaise Pascal once said, “All evil comes from this, man’s inability to sit still in a room and be quiet.” Maybe we can’t get quiet until the rooms (of our egos) are emptied of some of the things in them. I don’t necessarily believe that we must kill our egos altogether but if we were to just clean out some of the muckity-muck and bring them down (on bended knee) a notch in awe and honor of one-an-other’s “nature of our better angels,” we’d all be just a little bit better off.
Blessed Be and All Praise to the Least of These,
Yours Truly in Peace and Love,
P.S. - Reverend Ron and Bonnie are a part of a movement called New Friars and/or New Monasticism and/or The Ordinary Radicals and/or The Simple Way and/or Servant Partners and/or Drum Majors Partnership .
If your interested you can also check out: John M. Perkins Foundation For Reconciliation,
The New Friars: The Emerging Movement Serving the World's Poor by Scott A. Bessenecker,
New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today's Church by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove,
The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical by Shane Clairborne,
Let Justice Roll Down by John M. Perkins, With Justice for All: A Strategy for Community Development by John M. Perkins