I've Lived In Chico, CA 9 Years Now. Incredible.
Serving as the inspiration for this Nice-ly themed article, I just drove through Nice, California - the little town next door to Lucerne, which calls itself the Little Switzerland of America. Nice has a slogan, too, but you only find it on t-shirts: it’s the Little Drinking Town with a Fishing Problem.
I drove through Nice and Lucerne to and from Ukiah this week; these tiny towns sit right next to massive Clear Lake, so as you drive through, you see beautiful volcanic mountains and blue waters on one side, and more mountains on the other side with cool houses nestled into the crevices. Passing through really does feel a little like driving through Monaco or Aix-en-Provence or Giverny, places I have been lucky enough to see in my lifetime.
I wouldn’t mind living in a house like the one above, though I’d be really curious about the neighbors because it is hard to know where the money is made now that the primary drivers that once fueled the local economy are gone. Are these the second homes of celebrities? Primary residences of nearby vineyard owners? “Small business” owners? Stakeout sanctuary for DEA agents? Alas, I am not sure this part of the state is well suited for curious types like me. Besides, I read way too much about the politics and incredible problems here in the golden state to probably ever find contentment no matter how beautiful the surroundings. I should take Thoreau’s advice: Stop reading. If you want to extricate yourself from your quietly desperate life, and thrive, don't pay attention to the news.
If you keep your eyes on the road- a good idea if you want to stay alive on the hairpin curves - you will also see plenty of bedraggled people who appear as if they have no place in particular to go. California is interesting that way. On every business trip of the past I thought of it, and now living here I can affirm, this is the land where most everyone straddles the tension between the haves and have-nots on a daily basis. It's a casual accommodation for the most part. No one seems to pay anyone else any particular mind, as Grandma used to say, unless they are taking care of a very personal matter right in front of you. Sometimes that happens, and I know of only one person who bothered to complain about it.
Switching gears, wherever I roam, the Chicago Tribune comes with me. The good news of the day requires a little set up. I am not a practicing Catholic, but long ago the RC clan were my peeps and as my sisters sometimes remind me, I once wanted to be a nun. As was recently widely reported, the Vatican - actually the faceless, elaborately dressed dudes behind the big V- dinged Sisters of the Church for being too feminist as they went about the business that it was reported Jesus Himself actually engaged in – like feeding the homeless, relating to the marginalized, comforting the sick, etc.
The Vatican watchdogs were piously concerned that holy doctrine was being cast aside in the midst of all this radical action. The not-so-subtle message was that women can't possibly be church leaders because they aren't as good as they should be upholding and preaching doctrine. They were not being judgmental enough is what it boils down to. Elbow-deep in the work of the real world, they were perceived as not being supportive enough of papal admonishments and bishop rule surrounding birth control, for example. Ironic criticism, coming from men who've had to cover for more than a few weak, but doctrinally savvy priest-bretheren who fell down hard in the area of service to others in a most un-Christian way.
Here's the nice part.
Today through the Trib I learned that Old St. Patrick’s Church in Chicago just sponsored an event called “Blessed Are They: A Celebration of Women Religious.”
As I looked into the event online later, I reflected upon the beauty of scores of women banding together to affirm one another, accompanied by a few of the guys who DO get it…who understand what Jesus called “the good part” of what we are all, somehow, called to do; pay attention, wake up, take in, that kind of thing. Oh, and respond in relation to what we know, having learned. In fact lots of direct human service -type roles are actually filled by women, believers and non-believers alike, because the jobs don’t pay much and they are nearly impossible to do. So what does that tell you?
Generally, the Sisterhoods of the world, regardless of their collective faith, get the hard work done. Humble, necessary, thankless work should not be the primary province of either sex, but hmmm, I think it actually is. But I better stop now, because in the same issue of the Chicago Tribune, I found another article that led to my faith in mankind being restored.
A man who chose to be anonymous did an incredibly good thing for a woman in need, who had been robbed of something she had a hard time replacing. He sent her some money through the newspaper, and a note, because he wanted to restore her faith in humanity. What strikes me particularly is what he said to a reporter when asked why he was taking the trouble: “God put us all together so we would not have to face anything alone.”
Thank you, anonymous Man, for the gift you gave on behalf of, and for, all of humankind within range of your voice today. That was really nice.