Monday Morning Musings

Posted on January 9, 2017 under Monday Morning Musings with 3 comments

Belting out a tune at the old age home

Music is the theme of today’s post.

First . A quick note about Kanyakumari. It is the southern most town in India and as such, it is literally the end of the line for buses and trains. Tourists come from all over India and indeed from around the world to vacation here. Unfortunately, because of its location, many people, especially those with challenges, are often abandoned and left at the train station and bus station. Charities, like the ones run by The Daughters of Mary, where I am volunteering, come to their rescue.

In this region, the Sisters operate 11 orphanages, a home for the aged, a home for 100 mentally ill women, another rural property for the mentally ill and a leper colony. These are the ones that I know about. I am sure there are others.

Shortly after I arrived in Hyderabad, I bought a guitar to keep myself amused. While I played it occasionally in my room, I never had the opportunity to use my music anywhere else. ( Maybe somebody heard me singing and decided that Hyderabad wasn’t quite ready for Leonard Cohen, Neil Young or Stan Rogers! ).

Upon arrival in Kanyakumari, I mentioned the guitar and the genie was out of the bottle. A few days after settling in, the Sisters asked me to sing at mass in their tiny, perfect chapel. There was the priest ( Father Dominique ) , the three Sisters and me. The stillness of the early morning ( a 6:00 a.m. mass ), and the intimacy of the chapel provided a wonderful backdrop for  a very short and simple celebration.

Father Dominique gave one of the briefest and most meaningful sermons I have ever heard. He told the Sisters that the religious were called to provide three S’s: soup, soap and spirit. Soup represents food which is the most important thing for the poor. Soap represents health and hygiene. And of course, they are asked to provide spiritual guidance. He added a fourth S: Study. He felt that once the poor had the basic necessities of life, then education was next on the list of priorities. He didn’t refer to any bible readings. He just talked common sense. I congratulated him afterwards for being so practical.

Last week, I did my first field trip, visiting many of the facilities mentioned above. The old age home in no way looks like the ones we are used to seeing in Canada. There are 60 residents: 30 men and 30 women living in dorm style accommodations: 30 in one room and 30 in another. The women’s dorm, in particular, is badly in need of renovations.  Most of these people have been abandoned by their families. There is no funding from government ( and certainly not from the families ) . The Sisters rely on charity to keep the place going. Under the circumstances they do a remarkable job. They are also building a 20 bed palliative care unit so that they can move the very sick and dying.

When I arrived, most of the women were curled up in their beds. The Sister in charge introduced me. The women were nonplussed. I don’t know why I did it or why I chose these particular songs, but I sang “The Kelligrews  Soiree “ and “  I’se The By.” It was like an electric current went through the place. They all got up and came to the front of the room where I was standing. They clapped and more importantly, they smiled, and then they sang a song for me. It was very uplifting.

Something similar happened at the home for the mentally ill women. About 70 of them were in this very large gymnasium type structure, chilling out watching a television program. After being introduced, the Sister in charge asked if anyone would like to sing a song for their guest. It took some cajoling but finally, one lady came up and performed a song.  I decided to sing as well. The acoustics were simply out of this world. I felt so inspired and was really pouring my heart into it. And then a lineup formed. Everyone wanted to sing for “Mr.Len.” They sang in Tamil, in Telegu and Hindi and other dialects I didn’t recognize. I shook just about every hand before I left.

Emmaus, the name of the facility, badly needs to acquire some land so that they can get these women outdoor more often. They would like to get an acreage where they could grow vegetables… good for the body, mind and soul.

The other evening, the Mother Superior of the order and some of her executive members, came to Stella Maris for dinner. I was asked to join them . ( not full time… just for dinner! ). There was lively discussion at the dinner table with many questions about Canada. I grabbed my guitar and sang “ Oceanside Again” and “ Farewell to Nova Scotia” in rapid succession. It didn’t appear to cause indigestion.

I was saving this for the end.

Do you have a pair of pajamas or just some old clothes that you wear around the house, that you’ve had FOREVER? Thought so. I have a pair of St.F.X  gym shorts that I’ve had since the early 80’s. I also have a t-shirt that has seen better days . Combined, this is perfect attire to wear to bed in warm climates.

It was 11:30 a.m. I had been on the go since 4:30 and after a long walk, I decided to cool off and stretch out for a power snooze before lunch. The door bell to my room rang. It was Sister Archana who had just returned from a 6 month stint at the Coady. “ Grab your guitar.” I have come to understand that when Sister says something, she means business. I asked for two minutes to get changed. “ You look fine the way you are,” she said. I hopped in their vehicle along with three other Sisters and we went roaring through the streets of Kanyakumari. They prayed along the way. I prayed that we didn’t have an accident, dressed as scantily as I was (!).

Ten minutes later, we arrived at a mansion of a very wealthy foreign diplomat. He and his family were having a dedication ceremony to a grotto of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Sisters had been invited to pray and I had been invited to sing a song about Mary. His extended family was in attendance. All of them were dressed to the nines. Mercifully, the ceremony was short and sweet as it was held outside in the scorching sun. He had a second grotto on the property and invited us to go and see it. While there, he asked me if I had ever heard the Paul McCartney song, “ Let it Be.” I cranked out a few verses much to his great joy.

He invited us into his house for tea. It was bad enough that I was hot and sweaty and ill attired but when I spilled the tea all over my t-shirt, I swear some people might have thought that the Sisters had just arrived from one of their rescue missions.

On January 6th., “ Old Christmas” , the Sisters held a postponed Christmas party . They wanted to wait until Sister Archana returned from Canada to have this gathering with staff and volunteers. There was a gift exchange followed by tea and fruitcake. I sang “ Oh Holy Night”, a cappella, at 4:00 p.m. ( usually a midnight mass specialty ), in 34 degree heat…  hardly Christmasy but it felt like it.

Have a great week.

P.S. Video #2 ( Len Live ) coming up on Wednesday. I’ll show you how charity is done quickly and efficiently.

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