HOPE Pilgrimage 2014
June 5 – June 6
Picking up some mom’s role in my life, “the girls” (my two sisters) sent me my yearly poem, not as terrible as mom’s, but close, on my 39th anniversary of ordination. They also gave me mom’s pre-pilgrimage warning, “Don’t ride any of those busses!”
Mom couldn’t come to the airport, but the other “Izzy”did. She was born on the date of my mother’s death and named Isabelle and called Izzy, just like my mom, even though I did not even know her mother and even though her mother did not even know my mother existed, when little Izzy was born. This Izzy came to the airport to see her grandmother off, but, after hugs and photos with her grandma, had an extra hug, from her, and vicariously, from my Izzy, too. Izzy likes stuffed animals, so she asked her grandmother to bring back a stuffed Jesus for her. When she was told that this might not be possible, she said, “Well, then, bring me a stuffed Mary holding Jesus.” I’ll see what we can do for her.
My first “forget” was the ribbons I had cut into 18 in pieces, two for each pilgrim, to be tied to our suitcases for easy identification, when our bags come around the conveyor belt at baggage claim, at least we hope they all show their happy faces and make our faces happy.
It looked like we were going to have our flight from D. C. delayed, and a visit to the gate agent seemed necessary to see if could still make our connection at. D.C. for Dubai. Two pilgrims offered to go as back-up. I said that we could hold off on the threesome, until I found that reinforcements were needed, “Let’s play good cop, bad cop – and terrorist! Oops, not a could choice of a third word at an airport.
For our first prayer together before boarding our first plane, I had pulled off my “Hat’s Off to the Spirit” blog post: the Holy Spirit prepares us, anoints us and sends us, in our meekness and in our weakness.
Flight to Dubai was real long, a long 13+ hours. I thought of a good reason to live in the Middle East: I wouldn’t have to make the flight back to Milford. The extra fee for an aisle seat with no one in front of me, that is, with lots of room for my legs to stretch out, was worth it, but the flight was still long! Especially bad so was the so-called breakfast. I chose the turkey and cheese sandwich over the vegetarian option. Jonah, the son of the daughter of friends of mine, would not have had any hesitation answering the question that is asked often of him at table, “Jonah, yummy or yucky?” The last time I flew to the Holy Land, I was mysteriously bumped up to first class. Now there was a breakfast. Oh, what a difference a curtain can make in an airplane.
On the flight a chatty, chatty, chatty row-mate said, among the many, many, many things he said, that he studied all the religions of the world, and he concluded with, “When it comes down to it, they are all the same,” I was disappointed in myself that I did not have a good 30-second airplane, Pope Francis-type response, to say something about what they say about God is different, and about Jesus in particular, and about what they say about relationship with God is different. Maybe by the next time someone offers that same conclusion about their study I will be ready to do a quick advertisement and recommendation for Catholicism.
From the air on arrival in Dubai we saw what someone said was the tallest building in the world. “Downtown” Dubai looked very small from the air, and totally surrounded by extensive, rough desert. Cutting through the desert was a huge highway, was it four or six lanes, each way. Crying out loud, in the desert, how is that for “a highway for our God?” If only for me and my pilgrims God could cut through to us that way by way of the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, possibly using a fourth and fifth lane: the land and the people. May we also find our swift and safe way to God using the same 4, 5 or six lanes.
When I get the email-photo from Christy, I can show you something from the Dubai duty-free store that I could suggest that the people of St. Andrew can give me as a parting, retirement gift.
I was disappointed that I could not get a Dubai Starbucks gift mug for my friend, Paul. The Starbucks was in the other terminal! That was a disappointment for me. What was not a disappointment was the coffee and pastries at the “Costa” coffee counter with Cathy and Judy, enjoying “A” day with kindergarten teacher Michelle: Cathy with the “airplane” figure stenciled in cinnamon on top of the foam in her cappuccino, me with an “apple” custard muffin, and Judy sawing that she was sitting on her “a word that we do not type in polite company.”
We have laughed about how terms like “riding shotgun” and “photo bomb” sound different in the Middle East.
What a treat it was to have our friends Hanan and Ranim (and her fiancé Amer) meet us at the airport when we came out into the welcome area. Ranim is one of the Palestinian 8th grade students who visited us in Milford ten years ago. She is now 23 and graduating from medical school this month in Jordan. She and Amer drove an hour and a half to the airport just to greet us and spend ten minutes in our company before we had to get on the bus and get everyone to the hotel. It was late and we had spent 26 hours on our journey here. My second “forgot” was that I did not think of the gifts that I had in my suitcase for Ranim. But I will see her parents in Beit Jala, so I can leave them with her mom and dad. Hanan, a doctor of another kind, is a professor at the American University of Madaba. Hanan came to Cincinnati last October with the group of educators from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. She will come for dinner with us at the hotel tomorrow night, and take everyone out for hooka afterwards.
My goal on this pilgrimage is to help provide for each pilgrim what each one desires or needs: that place, that photo, that gift. I must remember to tell all of them tomorrow that they can be selfish for two weeks. The group is filled with caretakers. This time can be a time for them to be appropriately selfish for fourteen days.
Provide for each, that picture, gift, place – that is my goal.