erin f. wasinger

stories of loving our neighbors, discernment, & other hard things

Author: Erin (Page 1 of 6)

When ‘radical’ faith looks a lot like the everyday

In July, Sarah and I went to my hometown to speak at the little public library where I worked when I was 14. My mom and stepdad and some of my aunts and cousins and even some strangers packed the tiny room that in the late ’90s was a garage for the village’s EMS.

Someone (unfairly) asked me (in the presence of my mom) whether I’d ever consider moving home, back to the place in Ohio where I’d graduated a decade and a half ago.

“I mean, could you do this sort of thing” — she referenced the new-monastic-like, Year of Small Things, radical-faith thing — “here in a rural place or a small town?”

Well.

Tell me.

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Their story: Teaching players ‘what they’re capable of’

Damber Magar stands in his room surrounded by his sports trophies and academic certificates and diplomas at his home June 20, 2017 in Lansing. Photo by Dave Wasinger

Maybe the most important work of the Lansing Youth Football Club team isn’t what happens on the field.

Sure, soccer matters to the dozen and a half guys on the team. Almost every day the players carpool to Lansing’s Francis Park for two or three hours of practice. Occasionally they scrimmage teams from Grand Rapids. They train for tournaments in Detroit, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

“This (team) is our passion,” said one of the team’s captains, Damber Magar. Like most of the players on this independent soccer team, Damber’s family are Bhutanese and came to Lansing as refugees from Nepal. Damber’s family was resettled through St. Vincent Catholic Charities in 2010.

At a practice this summer, their coach, Bai Lee, was especially working on positions with the boys and young men who’ve been playing the game since they were toddlers. Some of the players are brothers; a few knew each other when they lived in refugee camps, where children would crowd onto fields to play pick-up “football” games. Others practice with the team with little experience but a desire to connect.

“We don’t care if they don’t know how to kick the ball,” laughed Damber. “We will help them. … After a few months, a few years, they start playing well. They can handle themselves when they’re playing with other people. We can see their skills.”

But after practice, he said, “(the captains) try to tell them not about soccer, but about life.”

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Authors event: Small Things are Small-Town Things, too

To welcome someone into your home is to show them what you think’s important. Remember the first friend-date you had as an adult? For mine, I was staging my coffee table with smart books and a candle (I should’ve dusted the dust jackets first for maximum credibility).

Now, you know you’re my friend if you walk into the space now occupied by Lego, library books, and eleven hundred little scraps of paper Louisa tells me are “bookmarks.” (I love you and I can’t keep up with my many, many children, is what my living room says.)

But to welcome someone to your hometown is to show them something deeper, something maybe mitochondrial. Ah yes, I’ve said when I see friends’ hometowns. I can see this place in you. 

So, that’s happening next week at a book event in the place where I graduated, got married, and flee to when I need my mom.

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Their story: ‘America offers everything’

“This is home,” Nael Al Saedi said, sitting on his couch one rainy Saturday afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Dave Wasinger/ for STVCC

His family walked in and out of their living room, taking turns telling stories and listening to each other’s. The home has been theirs for less than a year — bought about seven years after arriving in Lansing as refugees.

Inside, the youngest helped herself to ice cream at the kitchen table. Outside, a red, white, and blue pinwheel spun in the landscaping.

This is home, he said.

Sixteen-year-old Hawraa’s consumed with schoolwork and volunteers at a local hospital. Ahmed, 9, is into soccer (“and recess,” he said). Nadaa, 8, likes reading, dancing, and running. His second daughter, Noor, 15, was at driver’s education class.

Al Saedi said he’s proud to watch his kids pursue their own ambitions — he’d hoped the children would have educational opportunities in America. But, he said, he wants them to remember how they got here.

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And finally, it’s spring: where our words have been

“You must be coming to visit me!”

We were halfway around our block when were stopped by a wave from our octogenarian neighbor who lives behind us. We weren’t technically coming to visit, but our walk turned into a tour of her ever-changing garden. look upHer garden is her thing: I notice her from the kitchen window almost every afternoon. She’s out there with a yard waste bag, her gardening gloves, and a wagon of tools.

She’s got tulips that bloom larger than my fist, hostas that could eat my dog. Later will come roses and irises and a whole slew of blooms (which I won’t be able to name thirty seconds after she tells me). She schools the girls: look at this Jacob’s ladder, see primrose, can you spot the faces on the pansies here.

(Meanwhile, I’m just happy the kids haven’t crushed my peony to death with their bodies. Pretty sure someone watered it from a container of bubble mix, too.)

This is our spring: full of neighbors and walks and finally, flowers.

It’s been a busy spring of writing, too, so I’m here to share what we’ve been sharing.

More substance soon. But for now: besides preaching, freelancing for the newspaper, and mowing the neighbors’ yard for petty cash, you can find us — 

Why I learned to talk about depression in public

Of all the chapters in The Year of Small Things, the hardest to write was about self-care. For one, pretending you’re Dorothy Day feels good; prophetic, even. Talking about depression doesn’t.

 

But. It’s important to talk about with other people if only because it shouldn’t be awkward. Vulnerability was the posture I wrote from, and now that people are seeing the stuff on the soft underbelly (I’ve had three children, what do you want from me), people have felt compelled to share their own mental junk.

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You know, Dorothy Day never voted

Dorothy Day — my patron (almost-) saint — was arrested for picketing for the rights of women to vote.

And even after the 19th Amendment passed, Dorothy Day never voted. 

The cofounder of the Catholic Worker movement felt problems weren’t solved by politics, her granddaughter Kate Hennessy writes in The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother (out now from Scribner). It’s really, really hard to remember that this week, isn’t it?

More on that later. For now, I’m still lamenting.

And, conversely, celebrating. (Joy and sorrow are different sides of the same coin. Where did I read that?)

My and Sarah Arthur’s book The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us releases TUESDAY. You’ve gotta stop by yearofsmallthings.com for a roundup of hot giveaway action.

And, to hold you over: I had the chance to interview Kate Hennessy for the Englewood Review of Books. Catch a preview of it, below:

Kate Hennessy – New Dorothy Day Bio [Interview]

 

Peace, friends. There will be peace.

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