Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Popes Among Us

Wouldn't it just figure that the last two weeks the store is open the best customers start coming through the door?

I was working last Sunday and because everything is marked down and then 40% off things were busy.  Crazy busy.  Two women were making their way through the sale racks and I talked to them, offered a dressing room, kept checking on them.  One of them was in a long phone discussion with her mother about a sweater and two hours later she threw her hands up in the air and abandoned this shopping thing.

While she was talking to her mom, her mom was checking out our website and placing her personal requests via her daughter.  Much of what she wanted wasn't at our store and so what started as a daughter wanting to get her mom something special turned into a fruitless discussion over things that weren't readily available.  "I give up," the daughter said.  "Thank you for helping me but she's driving me crazy.  I can't do this any more."

The next day the same two women come back to the store and that's when I found out they worked for United Way in Alberta, Canada.  They were in Kansas City for a conference on servicing the poor and we had a long discussion about attitudes towards the poor in both this country and theirs.  They were excited to attend this conference and bring back some new ideas to their city to solve the problems of the least among us.

They had walked for miles to our downtown area on a cold and windy day only to find out that the cute, little shops they'd heard about weren't downtown.  An hour later, we sent them to our other store and to a shopping district worthy of their time, and they were just lovely.  Passionate, beautiful, lovely women.

On Tuesday, I was working at the new store and a women came in and happened to mention that she was a retired school teacher from Lake Forest, Illinois.  Well then, I asked, how did you end up in Kansas City?  Her daughter and her partner adopted Native American siblings and she wanted to be close by to see these beautiful new grandchildren of hers.  She herself was raised by her Native American grandmother on a reservation and so this was a full circle sort of thing................this gay daughter of hers and her partner raising these kids.

For the next hour she educated us about what life in this country is like when you live on a reservation and it is shocking.  Completely, utterly shocking and on her teacher's pension she sends $200.00 a month to the family that raised her, and said that even if it was $2000.00 a month it couldn't begin to fix the problems.

It's been an eventful few weeks for the Catholics and you'd be hard-pressed not to have heard about this pope or the last one with the relentless media coverage, but for my new acquaintances from Canada and the reservation, it's one weary foot in front of the other, day after day with little fanfare.


  1. Can so relate to the woman trying so hard to please, only to have it become an enormous challenge and not worth it... Wonder if the retired teacher from LF was one of mine?... LOVED everything about this--the heart they--and you--have for those in society who are marginalized...and your beautiful juxtaposition of that against the backdrop of Papal fanfare. Beautiful. (And may Francis remain as down to earth as he appears today... )

  2. Read your story. Loved it . I just happened to have the TV on the exact moment when the smoke turned white. For me there's just something so awesome when you get to witness something so important as it is happening. I waited the entire time listenting to this and that comment about who it might be and what might happen if it were a certain man, etc. But I have to tell you with total honesty that when that dear man stepped onto the balcony I was totally at peace. Pope Francis I ...... the mere body language and his stature was enough for me. He is a humble man who when he was a cardinal in Argentina did not live with all the fancy trappings that his Title allowed. He slept in his own apartment - cooked his own meals - and also took public transportation staying among the poor people he was there for.
    I cannot think of a better choice in this world of so much material wealth. I believe Pope Francis I will make us all a bit more humble than we already were before that smoke turned white.