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Aunt Tova’s Closet

imagesChantall’s story about her aunt’s material things. Excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Master Tova’s niece, Chantall, had recently arrived from the land of the Maori to care for her aunt in her final days. The first thing The Master requested was that Chantall clean out her bedroom closet.

“It would be my pleasure Auntie. Where would you like me to put everything?”

“Just clean it out first, then we’ll figure out what to do with it.”

Chantall went to work and was surprised to find such an array of items packed into such a small space. She pulled out three bags of clothes, ten pairs of shoes (including some sequined platform clogs), a shredded bed roll, five pairs of candlesticks (which were melted almost to the wick), fifteen unmatched socks, a pair of rusty engraved silver scissors, scroll after scroll of some ancient texts (which she could not read and did not understand), two balls of yarn, a broken knitting needle, seven lightweight blouses (with stains and various colored material), a large pair of men’s pants, a moth-eaten velvet hat, an earring, nose ring, ankle and wrist bracelets, an array of playing cards, a begging bowl, an ochre-colored robe that had turned almost gray, a wooden chess set, two brass bells, some old letters (which she planned to read as soon as her Aunt drifted off to sleep, as they appeared to be love letters), a drawing of an elephant sitting in meditation, and a necklace with a green emerald pennant in the shape of a Bodhi tree. Clearing out the closet took much longer than she’d expected.

“Now what Auntie? What would you like me to do with all your things?”

“We must first clear out the closets of our mind, before we can be free,” Master Tova replied. “A mind cluttered with ideas, thoughts, the past, the future, or desire, will never find freedom.”

“Okay,” Chantall said, “but what do you want me to do with all this?” She nodded towards the high pile of Master Tarantino’s possessions.

“That? That is nothing more than a collection of matter, which had been stored inside a container of matter. Holding on or letting go of material objects makes no difference. It is our attachment to people, places, or things which causes suffering and keeps us on the endless wheel of karma.”

“Yes. I understand Aunt Tova, but where should I take it? What do you want me to do with it?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Just leave it. Better yet, why don’t you take what you wish, give some to your mother, and distribute the rest to charity?”

“I’m not sure how to say this Auntie, but most of this is useless. It wouldn’t even be worth donating.”

“Then burn it all. Light a pyre and reduce it to dust, just as I will soon become.”

“As you wish.”

Chantall took load after load out into the light of day, built a fire, and started throwing Master Tarantino’s material goods onto the fire. She kept the ancient scroll, the necklace, and a bell. She tried to retrieve the love letters, which she’d inadvertently thrown in with everything else, but it was too late. Then she returned to her aunt’s room.

“It is done Auntie.”

“Excellent. Now you are free. There is nothing holding you back. You can move on.”

“Those were your things, not mine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, does it? Desirelessness is a trap and desire is liberation.”

“Don’t you mean . . . oh, never mind.”

As Aunt Tova drifted off to sleep, Chantall quietly tiptoed out of her room, wondering what she would have found in her aunt’s love letters, and berating herself for having inadvertently thrown them into the fire.

Chantall told this story to her mother after she returned home from caring for Aunt Tova. Her mother wrote it down and later passed it on to an undisclosed student of her sisters community.

More stories of desire at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Syrian Children

Dear Gabriel,

By the time Syrian children have reached Jordan, they’ve seen more than any child should ever have to.

Their country has been swallowed by brutal, unspeakable violence. They arrive in the camps with fear in their hearts. Their lives have been upended and their family members killed by a violent war they can barely understand.

These children – and children just like them around the world – need our help during this time of crisis, and Gabriel, we’re depending on you and other CARE supporters to make it possible for all of these children to know comfort, safety, and hope.

We’re raising $100,000 by Friday to help children and families in Jordan and those suffering around the world. Please make your gift today.

“People are dying like flies.” Ahmad loves his beautiful homeland, but he knew he had no choice but to leave it to keep his family safe.

In the Za’atari camp, Ahmad’s family is packed in with many thousands of others, growing poorer and poorer as the refugee crisis drags on. “I have nine children and my wife. One of the children is only three months old.” It is difficult for him to continue telling us his story. “At home I could take responsibility for all of them. I was working, I earned money to support my family. Now I cannot do anything.”

If only Ahmad’s story was unusual – but it’s not. Tens of thousands of refugees have ones just like it.

Heartbreakingly, the majority of the people living in the camp in Jordan today are innocent children like Ahmad’s – children who have lived through extreme heartbreak, violence, and terror. Their families need emergency assistance just so they’ll have enough food to eat and clothes to keep them warm as winter approaches.

Once their basic needs are taken care of, these Syrian children need psychosocial support. The longer you leave kids alone with their trauma, the more it gets inside of them. CARE is ramping up our support of not only emergency financial assistance, but aid and comfort for children and other vulnerable groups who have already endured too much.

None of the work we do for families living in crisis or squalid poverty is possible without the support of people like you. We desperately need your help today.

We’re raising $100,000 for families living with hunger and poverty in Jordan and around the world by Friday. Please, will you help us meet our goal?

Families are depending on us, and I know we won’t let them down. Thank you so much for everything you do.

Sincerely,

Helene D. Gayle, MD, MPH
President and CEO, CARE

Go Rwandan Orphan’s Project!

From Amakuru!

A fantastic year for the ROP, but there is still much to achieve.

The year 2011 was quite a year for the ROP (Rwandan Orphan’s Project)! In December three of our six graduates started university at two of Rwanda’s top universities, having won prestigious government scholarships because of their impressive grades. The year also saw the opening of the ROP’s library and playroom, a room full of books, art supplies and toys unlike anything our children or staff has ever seen before. We built a wonderful new kitchen that is both more efficient and more environmentally friendly than our old kitchen. The ROP also added a mental health program to the project, staffed by a psychologist and an experienced social worker. This program adds another facet to the care we already provide our children by ensuring that their mental health is looked after as well as their physical health.

There were many other achievements, but none bigger than the purchase of our own land back in September. This is the first asset that we can truly call our own and it is a major step forward in our journey towards becoming independent and self sustaining in the future.

As great as 2011 was, we all expect 2012 to be even better. We have a newly-opened nursery school that is the ROPs first income generating project. We’re also building new partnerships that we hope will allow us to reach our goal of starting construction of new buildings on our land this year.

But despite all these improvements, we still face real problems. We lack a steady, regular income to meet our monthly costs, which is our biggest struggle,

We are also trying to raise money to begin construction of a new ROP Center on our land. These are lofty goals but we believe that they are achievable. We hope to begin by raising funds to build several greenhouses on our land that would allow us to grow high value crops to generate income for the Center year round. The next phase of the project would be constructing the classrooms, offices and other necessary rooms that would make up the new and larger ROP School. The final phase of the building would be the raising of dormitories, a dining hall, a kitchen and other facilities and upon completion the staff and children of the ROP would make a final transition to our new home. We know we will face great challenges to get there, but we continue to believe that people from here in Rwanda and around the world will see what our program gives to so many orphans and vulnerable children and will be inspired to help us.

Murakoze (Thank You)!

Rwandan Holiday

From ROP Stories
Rwandan Orphans Project
Center For Street Children

by Sean
16 January 2012

A Christmas to remember at the ROP

Just as in the U.S. and Europe Christmas is a huge holiday in Rwanda. It’s a time for families and friends to come together and enjoy each other’s company, eat a lot of food and perhaps exchange gifts. It’s no different at the Rwandan Orphans Project. In recent years Christmas has been celebrated at the ROP Center by sharing a meal on Christmas day, usually followed by some performances of song and dance from our boys. This year, however, we wanted to give them the best Christmas they’ve yet had. We received some very generous Christmas donations from various people that helped us with this idea. We expected this to be a Christmas to remember at the ROP.

Christmas Eve was a day for celebrating with the staff, children and visitors. Jenny started off the day by having the boys make decorations for the Center. Some of them stuck to the design while others just stuck pieces anywhere and everywhere.

After the tree was well adorned we decided to give the boys an early Christmas present. We had many “new” clothes that had been donated by various visitors during the previous few months and we had been saving them for this day. As is the tradition we laid all of the clothing on the floor of the dining hall so all the boys could see what they had to choose from. As you can imagine each boy eyes the item he wants and hopes that nobody else chooses that item before their turn comes.

Of course we have to make sure that they fit before they take them. Often the younger, smaller boys choose clothes that are much too big for them simply because they like their design. This leads to the occasional round of tears when a small child is told he cannot have a sweatshirt that is meant to fit an adult.

After all the boys had chosen their clothes we had a treat for them. Elisabeth, the ROP’s staff psychologist, is good friends with a very well known Rwandan artist called Ben Gangi. She asked him to come and perform for our boys as a Christmas treat and he accepted. From the moment he started singing the boys were dancing all over the dining hall and singing along at the top of their lungs.

Read entire story and see all the photos at ROP Stories.

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