Friday, October 30, 2009

I Survived Slate Hollow and All You Get Is This Crappy Blogpost

So it was an eventful off week at the Farm. I will eventually get to my recap of what was a wonderful weekend at ND for the BC game in a bit but for the sake of being timely, I'll let you know the adventures of us Farm Managers during this off week.

It started when Jamie and I went to go get First Aid Trained in Lexington. After learning how to shout "ARE YOU OK?" to various prone victims and devouring some delcious Waffle House we headed back to the Farm. Now, we had driven for 4 hours that day without incident so of course when we get to Lower Kinney Road we immediately get into an accident. Actually accident is a pretty strong word. Really all that happened was that we hit sideview mirrors with an oncoming truck. It was no big deal and no one was hurt but it was certainly a nuisance. Now Bert (Big Red Truck) is ghettofied with an elastic band holding the mirror in place.

Our week of adventures was far from over, though. We went to deliver some food to a local woman in town on Wednesday. The trip there was uneventful but the trip back was less boring. I was at the wheel of the Snitch on Lower Kinney and spotted a dead racoon with a vulture perched on top in the middle of the road. I drifted to the right to avoid the vulture who insisted on standing his ground on his roadkill. My manuever brought the right set of wheels briefly off the road, which was alright since it was level. I brought us back on the road and had enough time to get out an apology for the brief rough patch. But as the words "I'm sorry guys" were escaping me I could feel the van begin to fishtail. With it loaded with kids, I'm sure the van is a lot more stable but since it was just the 3 of us Farm Managers, there was nothing to oppose the back sliding out. The fact that it had rained recently certainly didn't help. We whipped around pretty quickly and it was a miracle that we didn't roll or anything. We ended up with our front wheels on the pavement and the back end in the grass. Everyone was fine and we anticlimactically pushed the Snitch out. However, when we looked at the marks, we realized that six inches to a foot earlier than where we skidded off the road was a short drop down to the Kinneconick creek... yikes.

The good news is, that was the last of our car accident related adventures... bad news is it wasn't the last of our adventures. At the Wednesday night service at Mosby, Rick mentioned that a local woman's husband in jail mentioned she needed some firewood. We told him we would be happy to deliver some to her. We called him the next day to get the address and he told us that she lived in a trailer at the top of a hill in Slate Hollow. Slate Hollow is one of the worst sections of Vanceburg, which didn't phase us much. We took Bert with some wood thrown in the back of the truck. Now, Rick never told us an exact address, only the whole trailer at the top of the hill part and the possibility of another house being nearby. We turned onto Slate Hollow and then made a right onto Slate Church Road... and proceeded to make our way up a freaking mountainside. We came to a split in the road that had one path going up and to the right while the other was more level and went left. Both looked rutted out so we decided to turn around. Only problem was, turning around wasn't really an option with Bert and these small mountain roads. Jamie managed to make a nicely excecuted 45632482 point turn without sending us tumbling over the side of the mountain and we made our way part of the way back down.

On the way we stopped to ask where this woman lived from a local (in retrospect probably something we should have done in the first place). She was very nice and informed us that Diane lived back up where we were before. So we drove all the way back down and came right back up and took the fork to the left. As we were driving we came across a few tresspassing signs, the most disturbing of which read "Tresspassers will be shot, survivors will be prosecuted". Now, seeing this sign in the middle of suburbia in front of a white pickett fence in the daytime is one thing. Coming across this sign while driving up the rutted out mountain road at dusk in Slate Hollow is completely different. And more than slightly off putting. The woman we had asked directions from had assured us that it was fine to proceed so we did... cautiously. We came to a place where the path began to steepen (if that was possible) and seeing as how we could view the trailer we were looking for, we decided it would be smart not to push our luck with Bert and we stopped. We each grabbed a handful of firewood and descended the grass hill to this woman's trailer with more than a little trepidation. If this woman was going for a yard that deterred tresspassers, she was more than successful. It seemed like the place was crawling with dogs, all barking and most with heavy metal chains. It didn't help that by this time it was fairly dark. We caught sight of a man coming out of the house toward us in the dimming light. He was wearing all camoflage gear with something in his hand.

We were unaware Jason Vorhees lived in Slate Hollow

At this point we were downright frightened and we hailed him with as many "farwood"s and "y'all"s as we could spit out, praying we didn't get shot. Somehow I got out "Rick Buckner sent us to get some firewood for Diane". "Who's Rick?" the man said. If before, we were scared, now we were pissing our pants. I thought poor Colleen was going to legitimately cry. Here we were, at the top of Slate Hollow at dark, apparently at the wrong place facing a man dressed head to toe in camo who didn't know the person we had been sent by. There was a legitimate feeling that we weren't coming back down from the mountain. When we explained that Rick was a pastor at a local church the man seemed to soften a bit. He led us down into the yard and we followed tentatively, not knowing if we could be relieved yet. The irony of all ironies was that when we went down into the yard we saw that the woman had a sizable pile of wood next to her house.

Where the hell were you on that one, Alanis?

The man interrupted our zombie-like wood stacking by asking if we wanted to come meet Diane. Honestly, going inside that house was the last thing I wanted to do. All I wanted was to throw the rest of the wood into the pile and get the Hell outta Dodge before anything worse happened. Of course I didn't say this but accepted the invitation. Naturally there was a giant Huskie chained to the porch when we went inside. Oddly enough, when we stepped inside, the tension seemed to melt. The woman couldn't have been nicer (she was skeptical at first but seemed glad when we told her there was no charge for the service) and we were introduced to her two friends (one of whom was camo man). They were her neighbors who came to check on her because they knew she was alone. One of them was truly fascinated by us and the Farm. He kept repeating "That is really cool of y'all" and seemed genuinely astounded that a place like the Farm existed and would do something like this. We then grabbed the rest of the wood from the back of the truck and put it in the pile in silence, all of us still kind of shocked by what had just transpired. As we walked back up the hill toward the truck, I broke the silence by saying "Well... that turned from terrifying to heart warming in about 2 seconds". Jamie and Colleen numbly agreed with me. Of course, as luck would have it, another truck tried to make its way up the mountain as we were going to leave. We had to execute another 45657389 point turn, this time with the other driver waiting to slide past. Colleen claims that the driver was the infamous Goat Man of Slate Hollow (Scroll to Vanceburg) which I think is ridiculous seeing as how that story is clearly a hoax. But who knows? After that experience I wouldn't be surprised.

The experience was certainly a bonding one and was yet another reminder of how you should never judge things by appearances. And although I wanted to seriously injure Rick for sending us on this crazy adventure for apparently no reason, I'm glad it happened. If nothing else it showed this woman, who has a husband and son in jail and who cannot leave her house, that there were people out there who know and care about her. Even if we didn't serve her through the physical means of the firewood delivery, we certainly performed ministry of presence that day.

Notre Dame: Party in the U.S.A.

I said in the previous post that we had two groups back to back. The second of the two groups was my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. They were on Fall Break from beautiful South Bend from October 18-23. There were 17 of them but what I noticed from the beginning was how young they seemed. The majority of them were sophomores, something I guess I didn’t notice when I came down in the spring.

Having a group from ND was both exciting and a little nerve wracking. I was very excited to talk to Domers about everything from football to the dining halls. At the same time there was a little nervousness on my part with them coming here. As a Farm Manager I always feel a little anxious having groups come here because I have this hope that they will love this place as I do. There was a heightened sense of this feeling because the group was from Notre Dame. Notre Dame is a place that became a home for me for 4 years but it was much more than the fact that I went to college there. There is a Spirit at Notre Dame that you buy into as a student and alum. The University stands for something larger in the world; it’s a force for change and for good. It prides itself on having students who truly care for humanity and fight for causes they find worthy. There is a faith and inherent trust we have in the University to continue to select and nurture students in this way. It’s why we proudly wear ND gear to the point that people ask us if we have anything else in our wardrobe. It’s why we approach total strangers because they have a Notre Dame class ring. And it’s why we continually make the trek back to beautiful South Bend, IN to cheer on our beloved football team.
My Home for 4 Years: Love Thee, Notre Dame

While all this is true I still had apprehenions going into this week. Would this group get the Farm? Would they truly want to do service or was this just a resume builder? If not, what would that say about the University? Where does that leave me. Seems like I got caught forgetting the concept of God’s Time and looking ahead huh? I shouldn’t have worried and really just trusted the fact that these were Notre Dame students and they would be here for the right reasons. They absolutely 100% understood what the Farm was about. I was really impressed with their reflections on the first night. Because of the tight Notre Dame community, there is often a tendency to get trapped in the Notre Dame bubble. And being from Notre Dame, students are used to tackling problems in an academic setting so there’s a tendency to approach service projects like this as abstract problems to be solved. But the very first night, Ethan mentioned how on the drive down he began to realize this was an area very much like his own home and likely filled with people not significantly different from himself in many aspects. It’s a conclusion I came to, but only after about a week here. To hear that kind of insight come from them immediately assured me that Notre Dame continues to produce special individuals.

Another thing that impressed me how well they all connected with the people here. Most groups do well connecting with the people at ministry of presence sites like the Nursing Home and Comprehend. But it’s often harder to make that sort of connection at some of the direct service sites. It’s sort of like a left brain/ right brain thing. It’s hard to engage direct service and ministry of presence both at the same time. Oftentimes at construction sites this is due to the fact that we’re often given jobs that get us out of the way of the guys while they do their own thing. But when I was with the group on Tuesday, a lot of them spent most of the day up on the roof with Rog, John Lewis and Bo. It seemed like the kids really took it upon themselves to try and form a connection with the workers. When they were presented with the opportunity to do so, they actually took full advantage of it. At lunch the workers were joking around with the students and the students were joking right back. Rog kept telling Allsion (a psych major) that she should schedule an appointment when she gets out of school to see Case and Perry. He then added that she could probably make a living just seeing those two since she’d never figure out exactly what was wrong with them. Indicative of the fact that the kids really connected with the workers was that fact that this was the most I had ever seen/ heard Case talk with a group there.

At a second site, the kids interacted with Mr. Ivey, the future occupant. He lives in a house that is still on the property and does not have running water. When he heard the group was from Notre Dame he said he had something for them. He went into his house and came out with a Notre Dame windbreaker. He said his niece gave it to him but that he figured they would like it more than he would. It was another example of the astounding generosity of the people of Appalachia. He didn’t have running water in his house yet he was so willing to just give away a perfectly good jacket just because he thought they would appreciate it. And it was made possible because of the efforts the kids made to connect with the people they served.

The group accomplished a lot during the week. They roofed that entire house and also spent time putting up the roof at another site. They were excellent at the Nursing Home and Comprehend and danced up a storm at the Thurman’s. We happened to catch Bivens during a revival week so the churchgoers were extra fired up for service on Wednesday. During reflection that night Matt said something that was profound. He said he was struggling during the service during prayer because the sound of everyone saying their prayers out loud made it difficult to get any sort of coherent thought formed. He was getting so frustrated until the only prayer he could muster was something along the lines of “Lord, I don’t know what these people are saying but I do know that they clearly Love you and understand you. Please bless them and answer their prayers”. It was an extremely understanding and Farm-like sentiment that I was impressed at hearing from a person who had been here for 3 days.

The kids also packed all the food boxes for the next pantry day. It was a bit of a hard day for me because as we were packing the boxes I noticed that we were really running low on food. There were more than a few instances of scrambling to find alternatives to items that George had asked to be put into the boxes because we completely ran out. The pantry relies both on government commodities and corporate donations. The third Friday of the month is reserved for commodities while the first is supported by corporate donations. Because the commodities have to be inventoried, they cannot be used during the first Friday. The number of families that the pantry serves has jumped from about 180 in June to about 240. Unfortunately, as this is happening, the economic slowdown has hit the pantry and corporate donations are drying up. George often buys some food in bulk but since monetary donations are also hard to come by, it’s now getting difficult to buy enough to supply everyone. It’s come to then point where George has become really nervous about the upcoming holiday season. That’s when I knew it was really bad because George, along with his big heart, has seemingly limitless optimism. But as dire as the situation seems, as is often the case, it has brought out some excellent examples of Christian Love. We told the Notre Dame students about our concerns on Thursday at dinner. As typical Notre Dame students, they immediately began to brainstorm ideas to try and help George out. They talked about having second collections at mass and making a presentation during their Appalachia seminar. Their generous spirit and sincerity in their attempts to help was so impressive and really made me proud to be an alum. They weren’t the only ones to step up for the Pantry. I emailed Micah from Hoban and got an almost instantaneous response indicating they would divert a portion of their canned food drive to us as well as donate the proceeds from a dress down day to the Pantry. It’s so great to see how the volunteers who come here are affected by this place enough to want to give back.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mt. St. Mary's: Awwww Naaahhhh

So it's been a while since I've written a post. To be fair, I haven't had much time since we had two groups in a row after which I attended the ND- BC game but more on all that later. For now I'll recap the Mt. St. Mary's week.

The Mount kids were here from October 11-October 16. I wrote in my last entry that the three of us were a little worried about how much authority we could project with a group of people that were essentially our own age. It wasn't even an issue because the Mount kids were so receptive to the Farm's message and so determined to perform sevice that they bought into the idea of putting yourself second and had no problems taking orders from us wacky Farm Managers.

With their sense of determination, the Mount kids really accomplished a lot. The first day at Construction we spent the whole day hauling cinderblocks around through what I assume was once dirt but was now decidedly mud. What struck me was that the individual task itself was pretty menial, to the point that John Lewis greeted us that morning by asking us if we had brought strong backs and weak minds, but by the end of the day we had completed the entire foundation to a house. Unreal. It was cool to see that stage of construction, since we're often working on a house once the walls have gone up. In a sequence of events very appropriate for the Farm, the group the next day was at the same worksite and literally built on our foundation. The group also made some real progress at the clothing pantry. While the overflowing donations are certainly a good thing, the mountain of bags in the back corner is a tad frustrating and makes it a logistical nightmare on handout day. So the fact that this group was able to give us a breather and organize the boxes behind the benches was a HUGE help.

Speaking of handout day, I was able to attend my first one on the Friday of that week. I was fortunate enough to have some time before the madness started to talk with the people there. Once again, I was struck by their sincerity and concern. There was a cold front that came in that week (it frosted that morning) but I was dumb and forgot my sweatshirt. I couldn't tell you the number of times people asked me if I was cold. These were people who would soon get tickets to go to the clothing pantry so they could try and get clothes. Some of them didn't have heat in their houses yet here they were, worrying about whether I was cold. It was a perfect example of Christian Love and community to me. I think it's an offshoot of two aspects of the region that become really apparent when you're here: Religion and Family. Church is such a large part of life here. They truly coming together and worshipping on Wednesdays and Sundays. They are true scholars of the Bible and take its message seriously. While this promotes some views that I don't exactly agree with, they also take to heart the call to love their neighbors. This makes for an incredibly tight knit community, one that sincerely cares for all its members. The people also highly value Family. Several generations of the same families often live in the same hollow, oftentimes on the same road. I was talking to Wayne Thurman, the patriarch of the Thurman family the other night. He told me how someone had offered his son, Brian, something like $100,000 for a strip of his land. 100k is not a sum to sneeze at especially in this area and Brian had enough land that he could stand to lose some of it but he merely said (and I'm paraphrasing a little here) "I'm sorry, the land isn't mine to sell, it's for my son."

From a Farm Manager perspective, this week was challenging. It seemed like every day something else was going wrong. We blew a fuse trying to make pancakes and ran ridiculously behind schedule on a day our boss came to the Farm (Though this did lead to my favorite quote for the day: "Yo Pancakes... Imma let you finish... but Bagels are the best Breakfast of ALL TIME! OF ALL TIME!!!"), the weather kept changing our schedule, we got lost on the way to construction, and one of the vans (Affectionately called Bougey due to its plush interior and mood lighting) got a flat tire on the way back from church on Wednesday night. But Jamie, Colleen and I kept rolling with the punches. Our mantra was dualy "Welcome to the Farm" and "We'll get it done somehow". And you know what? We got through it. It was a reminder that God never gives you more than you can handle. Flat Tire? Turns out one of the kids in the car knew how to change a tire like a champ. Blown fuse and running late? Turns out our Boss can't be on the Farm anyway. We must have done something right because at the end of the week Jimmy and Allison, the two student leaders both asked for applications to be Farm Managers! I think they wold both be really excellent Managers and hope they consider it.

Farm Analogy Time: Swift= Pancakes, Beyonce = Bagels and Kanye = Fuse?

I also saw a lot of growth from the Mount kids during the week. Maybe it was because they were more adept at expressing their sentiments during their reflections, but I got a sense that at the beginning of the week they came in with little bit of a savior complex. This certainly isn't a bad thing and actually pretty understandable when you think about the context of a service project like theirs. It's hard to really understand the area unless you've been here and easy to reduce it to an abstract concept when approaching it from the realm of academia. Doing so makes one view the region through a problem/ solution lens on a large scale rather than realizing the individual stories present here. But the sentiment also comes from a sincere desire to do good in the communituy and I think as long as that remains intact, you can't help but become affected by the people. I know it happened to me when I came here in March. But like me, they saw by the end of the week that the people here are far from helpless and in reality give as much to us as we do to them. Once they realized that the service here is a two way street the Mount kids were able to channel that spirit of fighting for social justice and really accomplish a lot as well as get a lot out of the experience.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beat SC Week

Speaking of energy and enthusiasm, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that this week is Beat SC week with the Southern Cal Game coming up on October 17. To Start off the week, given ND's recent spat of close games, I thought I would post a reminder of the storied history of ND Football as well as my two favorite close games from my time there:

Go Irish, Beat SC

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Off Week: Heart Attacks, The Battle for Ohio, Thrill Shopping, and Pumpkin Pie

So we just had an off week but for an off week it's been pretty busy...
It started Saturday when Colleen and I went to Boss-Man Joe's place to catch the ND game vs. Washington. Joe and Laura were kind enough to have drinks and food for us though it was nothing like the usual fare of burgers and brawts out on South Quad. Ah well... I took in yet another Irish thriller, almost dying about 4 times in the process. Honestly, I will have to be taken to the hospital if the season continue like this. I dialed it down considering I was at my boss' place and everything but despite this I'm pretty sure they thought I was nuts. Joe was legitimately concerned for my well being and Colleen compared my performance to John Lewis' preaching (This is the same man who leaps around, bangs his fist and proclaims I! LOVE! JESUS!). I can't say I disagree. I still don't know where we stand with this Irish team. I only know: 1) Jimmy Clausen is a MAN and 2) Charlie will have to have heart surgery again following the season. While we're here I'd like to say that the lack of buzz for Jimmy's Heisman candidacy is embarassing. Dude is the #1 rated passer in the country, has developed into a real leader, and has led last minute game winning drives in consecutive games (Plus the late scores in the UM and MSU games). Unreal. There's no one I would trust more in the last 2 minutes of a football game right now. Who? Tim Jesus Tebow? He probably couldn't figure out which endzone was his at this point. Hey Yooo!!! Concussion Jokes. Clearly Jim has to play out the rest of the season but he should be getting a little bit more respect. It's not his fault our defense is atrocious.

Jamie's boyfriend, Corey, then came to visit until Monday. We drove to Maysville on Sunday in hopes of catching the Patriots- Ravens game. On the way we stoppped by Pumpkin Fest at R Farm (I swear I'm not making this up). But when we found that they charged $3 fro admission we decided to move on. We found this pretty chill Irish pub in the historic district. They had some delicious pizza that we dug into while watching the bar slowly fill with middle aged bikers. Unfortunately they did not have the Pats game but we ended up staying for the Cleveland- Cinci game. Colleen became somewhat of a impromptu Browns fan when she heard the pathetic stats attached to the team like how they only had one offensive touchdown all season and they hadn't scored 2 TDs in one game since November of last year. Apparently their ineptitude struck a pity chord with her. Fittingly the Browns choked the game away in OT. Such is the life of a Browns fan, I guess.

Having been foiled by Pumpkin Fest in our quest to procure the elusive orange vegetables (?), we stopped by the famer's market on Tuesday to pick up a few of them. After that it was off to Licking Valley to pack commodity boxes for the seniors. We then stopped by the Lewis County library where I finally picked up Lou Holtz's autobirography. After that it was off too Food World for some Farm Manager grub. I brougth $50 worth of petty cash and let me tell you it was a thrilling experience ringing up everything waiting to see if we came in under our budget. The register lady knew how to draw out the drama, ringing up the coupons last. The machine even seemed to rachet up the tension, initially not recognizing the very last coupon we had. There was a moment of uncertainty... and then... SUCCESS! We were at $49.55 and high fived everyone from each other to the bagger. It's the little victories, I guess. Who knew shoppping could be so thrilling? I told Jamie that I kind of want to go shoppping just for kicks now. Later that night Colleen used one of the pumpkins to make some delcious Pumpkin pie from scratch. The results of which can be found here.

Wednesday and Thursday were Portsmouth Days as we had to take Mao to the vet to get spayed. Mao was fine until about halfway through the drive when she decided to relieve herself in her carrier. It's all fun and games until the cat takes a crap in the back of the van... Oh well, we got some laughs out of it. After mass on Thursday we went to Dub Dub's to catch the end of Survivor: Somoa. She was in rare form, always a treat. The rest of the week was uneventful. We spent yesterday in Portsmouth, shopping at Aldi's and Kroger followed by gorging ourselves on Gatti's Pizza (cue the Colleen Bug Eyes). We got some sweet games of Canasta in as well, one of them won by yours truly. Now we're just resting up until the group from Mt. St. Mary's comes in a few hours

It should be an interesting two weeks with two groups in a row. I know we will be wiped once it's over but hopefully we can bring energy and enthusiasm for both groups. They are also our first college groups, which could be a challenge. All I've really got going for me in terms of authority is my Farm Manager Title and a rather pathetic beard considering I've been growing it for a month. The fact that these kids may be less than a year younger than us could pose problems, but I'm sure we'll find a way.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hoban's Masterpiece

So the Hoban kids decided to show their appreciation for the three Farm Managers with special parting gifts. Part of my gift was this spectacular Rap that I felt deserved its own blog post. I've heard rumor that Dom got video of the performance so if you're reading this, Dom, I need that. Without further ado...

Alex, he's my very best... Palex
Straight out of Portland
Brian, we gotta focus, quit playin' around
We need to do this
Alex, he's been here for two weeks,
never had a chicken beak
Speaking of a joke, Michaelangelo
Your skillz on the court are ill fo' sho'
More like HMO!!
At People's Self Help
John called you Alex Rodriguez
Great at makin' dinner
That's what she said!
You'd sacrifice anything just to give
You even invited Ben
back to your crib
Man, what's your problem?
Let's break this down...
Wild Woman
Chocolate Puddin'
Mad Skillz
Green Jacket
Big Thrillz
When's the next time we'll see ya?
Road Trip!!
Summer 2010
You'll be seein us then!
Ana's bum hip
was no work deterrence
Seein the boys in short shorts
was an act of endurance
Serving Lewis County
While driving and cracking jokes
It's great visiting Grandmas...
Air Quotes!
Alright Brittany, end this
Went to Wild Woman's
and got some cow licks
Today's Dino Fact is...
We Love you Alex!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Archbishop Hoban: That's What She Said

The last week saw Archbishop Hoban HS from Akron come down to the Farm. It was a milestone week for Jamie, Colleen, and I as it was the first group that we ran on our own. Joe had been there nearly everyday for McNic so while this wasn't our first group, it was our first solo flight so to speak. I'm really surprised how easily each of us has fallen into our roles here and how we work so well together. We've had a few comments regarding this so it seems like we're doing something right. That being said, this was the first big test we had as Farm Managers together.

I'd have to say that we passed with flying colors. Most of this was due to the fact that the Hoban kids were fantatstic. They were absolutely hilarious and most of the time we spent with them was doubled up in laughter. It was a great reminder of the joy that comes with service. Just because you're doing serious work that needs to be done and are helping people doesn't mean that you have to act like you work like at a funeral parlour. It was the perfect accompaniment to the recent Gospels referencing children. The child-like exuberance the Hoban group exhibited at all times was a good reminder of why Jesus held up children as an example of how to get into Heaven.
The joking began from the beginning. As we were doing introductions we asked the kids to say their name, describe their family and give something unique about them. When it came to this kid, Blake, he gave his name and family and began searching for something unique. As he struggled to find something interesting another person yelled out, "YOU'RE A JEW!", which was actually accurate and thus utterly hilarious. Blake, of course, took it in stride. I was impressed by the fact that he chose to embark on this trip and the poise he showed at all times. The rest of the kids, for all their kiddings, also impressed me with their ablity to recognize his participation in service as a uniting factor rather than focus on the divisive element of his religious identity. It was the embodiment of the Ecumenical mission of the Farm and laudable feat considering these were just high school kids. That more people could learn to make the same judgement...

Because Colleen, Jamie, and I made an effort to vary the activities for both the groups and ourselves, we unknowingly paired ourselves up with the same small group for multiple days of the week. I was fortunate to spend most of the week with Da Bear Beems (to be prounounced whilst strumming one's lips). Don't ask me what the heck the name meant. Brittany, Emily, Anna, Ben, Brian and Micah spent days with me at Construction, the clothing Pantry and Dub Dub's. Each member brought something different to the group and they all worked really well together.
Ben and Brian became known as the Wonder Twins and were probably the most outrageous people on the trip. In fact, I think I've uncovered footage from Ben's Nursery School Recital (Yes, he's actually a ginger). It's not a huge surprise that Dub Dub threatened to "shake the poop out of him". The first day on the Construction site those two decided to spend their break attempting to break apart large rocks armed with only hammers. They were goofy as hell. Speaking of construction, John Lewis decided to call me Alex Rodriguez, much to the kids' delight. Anyway, those two also must have been mainlining Red Bull or snorting pixie sticks because their energy was boundless. Anna was actually handicapped by a growth plate injury in her foot but you wouldn't know it by the way she worked. She was climbing ladders, caulking, and swinging hammers with the best of 'em. Brittany was a tiny girl, weighing less than the dogs, (For which the kids had an unnatural love. Many a "BEAGLE!!" could be heard reverberating across the Farm during their week) but she wasn't afraid to lift pantry boxes that were twice her size or dive into a pile of pantry clothes that started giving her sneezing attacks. I knew I could always count on Emily to do any task I asked of her. She was certainly quieter than the rest but she had this amazing ability to just cut right to the heart of an issue/ situation with a poignant question or comment.
In my short time here, I've realized that the chaperones can make or break a week. With us Farm Managers being so young, there is the possibility that chaperones could experience difficulty in following our lead. After all, these people planned the trip and all the logistics that led up to the week. Asking them to give up their control is hard enough, much less to give it up to three recent college grads. It's always a delicate balance predicated on the chaperones understanding and buying into the charisms of the Farm and on us Farm Managers understanding where the chaperones are coming from. Micah is an Art teacher at Hoban, was one of three chaperones, and was assigned to Da Bear Beams. Not only did he understand how the Farm worked but he really relished embracing its charisms. There are some people that really have to work to "get" the Farm. Jamie, herself, has said that she has struggled to understand how the Farm works at times. Micah is just one of those people that is made for the Farm. He reminded me a little of my uncle. It might have been the whole art thing (My uncle runs a book review in MN) but I think it was his gentle spirit. There was an earnestness that Micah brought to the week that made it so easy for him to immerse himself inb the experience. He connected so well with the kids and was joking right along with them but at the same time he was so present. A prefect example was on the ride back from Dub Dub's when he asked whether we serve her or whether she's the one serving us. It's a thought I've had myself regarding the people of Lewis County. He and I connected on many levels during the week. He was a big fan of The Lonely Island Crew and Mitch Hedberg and introduced me to some hilarious youtube clips. We also had conversations about family, college, and music that were all really enlightening. At no point did I feel like he regarded me as some naive college grad, which I'm sure I revealed on more than one occasion. It was really a peer-peer relationship that made the week so much easier. During one reflection he said something to the effect of, "Alex, what can I say? Just a good buddy". Took the words right out of my mouth. He told us he would like to come visit at some point and I hope he does.

The kids got a lot of work done during the week. It was a Pantry week again so they helped with the handouts and helped clean up the clothing side. They helped to put up siding and landscape the Fuller Branch construction site. And while there was plenty of joking, there were poignant moments as well. I was impressed by Dom's leadership skills both when we were mowing Herma's lawn and when we had to make a Grilled Cheese Fest for lunch one day. Toeing the thin line between a leader and know-it-all came so easily for him.
Grilled Cheese + Tomato Soup = Crazy Delicious
The same group had a great day at the nursing home on Friday. Taylor, Dom and I were sitting in the dining room getting ready to sing. I went to go look for Nick and Emily and found them in Welby's room. I asked Welby if he was going to come hear us sing. He's a little hard of hearing so I had to repeat it. When he heard he said "Oh I don't know, I'm just enjoying these two" motioning to Emily and Nick. He had a million watt smile going and so I said Nick and Emily could just stay with him. When I told Dom and Taylor that we would be singing sans Emily and Nick I could tell they were concerned but they powered through it. After singing in the dining room we met up with Nick and Emily and sang in the sitting area. Welby came out of his room to request an encore and so we sang another song. After this Welby told us all to circle around and he prayed for all of us. He asked God to bless us in all facets of life and thanked the Lord for sending us to him. It was a powerful example of how important Ministry of Presence is to the people we serve. Sure, we're not building a house for someone or giving them food, but how can you argue that Nick and Emily didn't impact Welby in a significant way?

By that part of the week, I shouldn't have been surprised at how those Hoban kids connected with people. They had this amazing ability to joke around and keep the laughter going but when the time called for it they were prayerful and sensitive of others. It's a gift that I hope they can continue to share with others. Ultimately it was sad to see them leave Saturday but the week had been a great one. I hope I can bring some of their incredible energy and sense of enjoyment to future groups at the Farm.