Toppled compost, rejected stones
Last week the sisters in my house were all a-buzz about the compost mishap.
The glorious new outdoor bin I ordered as our house Christmas gift had been toppled in the night. Could it have been a squirrel? Maybe the windy weather was the culprit? As we speculated and stared out the window in the early morning, my mind was on the lovely heap of frozen food scraps I would need to reassemble in freezing temperatures.
Luckily I love working outside in the cold, as long as I'm dressed for the weather. I grabbed a shovel and went to work taking apart the bin and surveying the damage. If I was being honest with myself, I knew my initial construction had been sloppy; I hadn't paid much attention to the foundation.
I took aim at the frozen blob with the tip of my shovel, impressed at what we had amassed in just a month. As I began piecing the bin back together, it was pretty clear the rock-solid frozen ground was not conducive to a firm connection. I gave the now-upright bin a swift tap from the side, and it fell over again. Well that won't do…What we need is a solid foundation.
I decided to start over and dig a small trench for each side of the compost bin, so it would actually set down into the ground an inch or so. This was not easy after weeks of near-zero temperatures; but slowly I chipped away at the frozen sod and matched each side with the length of the bin.
I placed the rebuilt bin down into its fresh foundation and began filling it with the frozen food scraps. When I tapped it with my shovel again, though, there was still a slight give — just enough to make me think a squirrel could do some damage. We need reinforcements…
I looked around the yard, and a stack of wood along the side of the gate caught my eye — Perfect! I pried the frozen logs apart and began hauling them to the compost bin. I wedged and stacked them along the three vulnerable sides of the bin, playing a sort of old school Tetris game as I matched up angles for the most ideal fit.
And finally I replaced the pièce de résistance: a bucket of gravel to keep the lid down.
After one more tap on the side of the bin, I was convinced that a squirrel would be no match for our composter. Picking up my shovel and glancing back at the new stronghold in all its glory, I thought, Good luck movin' that!
As I moved into my day, the whole process struck me as an echo of what I've seen and participated in over the past 18 months at my ministry.
I came on the scene as many vulnerable people were feeling toppled. I processed and cried with immigrant parents right after the election when their children were told by peers at school that they'd be sent back to Mexico. They described to me what it was like to be awakened by a screaming child who had a night terror that his parents were being taken away from him.
I listened as co-workers of color shared through tears what it felt like to know that white supremacy had just been emboldened in a country where they already feared for their children's safety every day.
In the midst of all this, I was reminded by one of our wise, veteran Faith in Indiana (formerly IndyCAN) leaders that this was not a surprise — that we were kidding ourselves if we believed the rough roots of racism had been pulled up, that we in fact had a solid foundation.
As a nation, we have much to do in the work of reparation: of digging deep for the sake of building the Beloved Community. The toppling reminded us of this and laid bare a muck that has been real, though often hidden, since the first massacres and displacement of the First Nations people.
In 2017, we surveyed the damage: we stood with Aaron Bailey and his family when he was murdered by police. We took a shovel to stubborn muck: we held vigil at the airport when our Muslim brothers and sisters were being unlawfully detained. We looked around at the broken pieces: we listened to our immigrant leaders impacted by unconstitutional detention in our local jail. We dug deep in relationship: we joined hands and lit candles, shared stories and embraced one another.
We have measured our steps together in prophetic resistance. And now it is time to rebuild.
Earlier this week, as I sat shoulder-to-shoulder with scores of people of faith and moral courage at our People's Candidate Forum, I began to see glimpses of this energy to reimagine, to create something new.
I heard Savi, a 29-year-old Honduran-American leader celebrate getting his voter registration in the mail for the first time after years of believing his voice at the polls didn't matter. The room swelled with applause as he ended his testimony, "Now I know my vote counts. And I will vote."
I watched as a Mexican father of eight, living in fear of deportation, looked candidates in the eye and asked them to consider the contributions of immigrants to our community.
I grinned ear-to-ear as I heard Crystal celebrate our work together to end money bail — the very policy that had cost her own family thousands of dollars and heartache when a minor infraction was blown out of proportion.
I looked around the room and flashed through the stories of the people I knew in my mind. In that moment, a scripture came to life: The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. It turns out all these stones — rejected by an empire that drives wedges between us and labels some of us "criminal aliens" and "thugs" — make a stunning foundation.
The winds of oppression continue to blow, but we have done our work. We have dug our trenches deep. We sit steadily on what our foundress Mother Theodore called terra firma, solid ground. And as we organize together to put one rejected stone on top of another, my sentiment echoes: Good luck movin' that!
[Tracey Horan is a member of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Her first deep conversation with this community occurred in a melon patch during her time as an intern at the Sisters' White Violet Center for Eco-Justice. She is a community organizer with Faith in Indiana (formerly IndyCAN).]
Check out Horizons, featuring reflections from younger sisters.