Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A New Way to Celebrate Valentine's Day

This past Valentine's Day was the first in 20 years that I spent without my beloved Kathleen. Valentine's Day had always been one of my favorite hoidays, since I am incurably romantic, and I often celebrated for an entire week, buying her See's chocolates, watching our favorite Romantic movies (like "Brigadoon"), and reveling in the miracle of love.

I must confess I miss Kathleen more, not less, as the days go by. But this year I celebrated Valentine's day in a new way--one I know that Kathleen would appreciate and approve. I led an interfaith service project at her former church, where she was beloved by the homeless folk who come each month for a hotmeal, and where I have many homeless friends whom I dearly love and who love me.

Here's a description of this love feast:

On Valentine's Day weekend, Walteria United Methodist Church hosted an interfaith youth service project co-sponsored by the South Coast Interfaith Council (SCIC) and the So Cal Committee for a Parliament of the World's Religions (SCCPWR). Our team of teens and adults came from a variety of backgrounds but were all united in loving service. Participants included Milia Islam-Majeed (exec dir of the SCIC), Sarina Van Zyl (Jewish Vedantist), Arin Ghosh (Hindu), Jasmine Hailey (Christian scientist), eight or nine MTO Sufi Muslims, and a dozen or so Christian youth from various churches. A photographer from a local newspaper took some great pictures. See http://www.dailybreeze.com/ci_14399066?IADID=Search-www.dailybreeze.com-www.dailybreeze.com

Our group served a homemade meal to around 60-70 poor and homeless guests, and the MTO Sufis performed one of their religious chants--zikir--which was well received. During the time of devotion I gave a brief message about the Parliament and the interfaith movement.

At 1:00 PM, after we finished our work, we went to the sanctuary for a program about the Parliament and the meaning of service from different religious/spiritual perspective. We showed a video made by one of the teens (see http://sccpwr.org/page6), and Jasmine and Sarina spoke about their experiences at the Parliament in Melbourne.

Our guests speakers Melissa and Shaun then shared their experiences as a homeless couple living on the streets of Torrance (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEXJZ749_5g). Their moving story gave us all a deeper awareness of what it means to be homeless, and brought tears to many eyes. It also made us realize that we need not only to help the homeless through acts of charity, but also to change the laws so that homeless people will be treated fairly and compassionately.

Many expressed a strong desire to return to this church for another service project in the future.

We are now gearing up for a follow-up service project on Sunday, April 25, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of EarthDay. We are looking for one or two churches, synagogues, and/or mosques to co-sponsor the event to guarantee a good turnout of young people.

What better way to honor those we love than to devote our lives to loving service?

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