I started my Monday morning at the pulmonologist. He was a decent guy, and his pre-examination questionnaire was very thorough (What previous jobs have you held? Postal clerk, typesetter, church secretary, parking lot attendant. Have you traveled outside the Midwest in the past year? Yes. If so, where? Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.), along with the requisite medical history. By the time I entered his exam room, I was sure that he would be able to determine the cause of this cough, and why it’s lingered so long.
No such luck. He had read the chest X ray from Mount Carmel West, and he listened to my chest and lungs. (“Take a very deep breath,” he instructed. If I could do that, I wouldn’t be in his office.) He was at a complete loss as to the cause of it, but he wrote me a prescription for a different antibiotic (I dropped it off for filling at Giant Eagle last night, but haven’t gone down to pay for it yet), and he wants to see me again in three weeks.
I went from the doctor’s office to the Feed My Sheep food pantry in western Athens County with Jacques Angelino and his mom (she’s 96 years old and will probably live to bury all of us), along with a 19-year-old woman named Lindsey, who has frequently made the Monday journey to work at the pantry. I hadn’t expected to be going again until Memorial Day. Late in ’09, I had told Jacques I’d go during the Presidents’ Day holiday, but that didn’t happen because there was about two feet of snow on the ground that day and I was still healing from my gallbladder surgery.
Feed My Sheep is housed in the Faith Believers’ Ministry Full Gospel Church on State Route 356, and Ray Ogburn, the pastor, was happy to see us, as he always is. Athens County is still the most impoverished county in Ohio, and Mineral (along with the rest of Waterloo Township) is the poorest of the poor.
Lindsey, Jacques, and I immediately went to work in the storage room filling boxes with food items and the children’s books Lindsey brought. We try to work fast, and Jacques tries his damnedest to make sure that every square millimeter of the box is full before we send it out for distribution.
The food is often airborne while we load the boxes, and if you’re thinking of the food fight scene in National Lampoon’s Animal House, forget it. “Need some peanut butter for these!” one of us would say, and tossing it (underhand) is the best way to deliver it. The same was true with tuna melt, pasta, boxes of Hi-C, and any other food that was at hand.
Although the pantry is only open two hours every Monday, the cars line up well before 1 p.m., almost like waiting on line for Rolling Stones concerts in the pre-Internet days. We stock 15 boxes at a time (the most we can fit on the storeroom table at once), and then pray over them before they go out to the people–maybe that’s the extra ingredient.
Ray tells us that we handed out about 60 boxes of food, which is heavy traffic. I wasn’t keeping track; I was too busy trying to keep up with Jacques and Lindsey. They do this weekly–I do it weakly.
Jacques makes the trip down there weekly (150 miles round trip), and the other six days he is on the phone or meeting with people in person trying to interest people in contributing food, school supplies, and clothes to the shelter or (even better) to come in person and lighten the load. If anyone asks him, “Why are you doing this?”, his reply is “Why aren’t you?”
I am not a Christian by faith or profession, although that is my heritage. Nevertheless, whenever I go down to Mineral to help put together the food boxes and send them on their way, I’m reminded of a photograph I saw in a Catholic newspaper ages ago. The picture showed a statue of Jesus with outstretched arms (this is a Jesus that the people from Westboro Baptist Church have never heard of), but vandals had chopped off the hands. Someone painted NOW YOU MUST BE MY HANDS on the base of the statue.
I was home by 6 and ate some very good chili that Steph had made. I stayed up way too late wandering around Second Life, not interacting much with anyone there, but just exploring the terrain. I was appalled when I glanced at my watch and saw that it was way past midnight when I finally decided to go downstairs and take my Seroquel and Sinemet.
In my last blog entry, I wrote about Second Life and how fascinating it is, and at the same time I was ridiculing the urban legends about Dungeons and Dungeons that otherwise intelligent people were accepting as fact in the 1980s. Today, I remembered a conversation I overheard while I was still in Cincinnati.
I was in U.C.’s main library one afternoon reading at an out-of-the-way study desk, and I overhead two male graduate students who were chatting. One was speaking, matter-of-factly and without resentment, about a woman who had recently moved in with him and his wife. (I think the woman was his wife’s sister, or ex-roommate.) The grad student talked about how this woman hardly ever came out of her room, and was making no efforts to find work or enroll in school. She spent her waking hours, he said, playing a multi-user dimension (MUD) computer game based on The Dragonriders of Pern, the multi-volumed fantasy series by Anne McCaffrey. The other grad student listened to this in bafflement, but the man telling the story didn’t seem to feel put upon. Even if I didn’t feel like this person was abusing my hospitality and generosity, I would still be wondering about such a degree of withdrawal that one can only interact electronically with fantasy.
I wonder if I crossed paths with her on Second Life.