All About St. Francis and the Children

When I was about 16, my best friend and I went to see "Brother Sun, Sister Moon". (This is while I was living abroad). We were both so touched by the movie and the life of St. Francis, we plotted to pack some things, find out about getting to Assisi, and signing up to be Franciscan Nuns!  Well, since I'm here with kids and a boyfriend, you're thinking.. 'she didn't do it'.

Golly, you're a bright bunch!  ;)

We didn't because we had little doubt our respective parents would have found us, dragged us back home, and made house-nuns of us for the rest or our lives. BUT, the effects of the movie stayed hidden somewhere in my heart, because when I traveled to Italy for 15 days in 1990, my tour included the charming little city of Assisi.

Sitting to meditate in the Lower Church at the crypt in The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi melted my heart. It is impossible to ignore the sweet atmosphere which permeates the tiny space...a token of what it must have felt like to be in St. Francis' presence.

And of course life arranged the many twists and turns that would cause me to settle a stone's throw away from the beautiful city named after him, San Francisco.

Today, I participated in a special event tailored to reach some of the under-privileged children from San Francisco schools, and to teach them about the Patron Saint of their city, through a celebration. A celebration of every person's access to this sweet saint and his unique connection with all creatures.

Volunteers from our community started their day at 6 a.m. to begin with setup of the events scheduled for the day: actors, dancers and singers who were in the play on St. Francis' life had to get to the National Shrine of St. Francis early, people who were setting up audio equipment at the park a mile from the Church where activities and food would be waiting, drivers bringing fresh flowers, the lunches, decorations, table and chairs and tents, and activity captains with their crews.

The program began in the morning at the National Shrine of St. Francis, where the children watched the play.

They then came to the park where an Umbrian Festival awaited them!

First there was a delightful picnic lunch with fresh fruit made by our community volunteers. Then the children ran to visit several tents; Fresh Flowers in water bins waiting to be arranged in Baskets and decorated, face and hand painting, lawn games, and a puppet show with St. Francis and his cohorts.

At the end of the Festival, each child was carefully given a very special cupcake decorated by expert bakers, and snuggled amidst opalescent ribbon in a take away box.

I had the privilege of being one of the hand painters. As I painted a butterfly on one 8-year-old girl's hand, she said, "This is the bestest day ever!"

I told her it sure was for us, because we had the super cool treat of hosting her and her schoolmates.  A boy at another table was overheard saying, "I don't want this to end!"

Having the opportunity to participate in work that brings joy to children, especially those who live in households fraught with tension and instability, is a gift... and the reward beyond measure.

Today several children asked to have hearts or glittery stars with the words "I Love you, Mom" painted on their hands.  I realized that today is Mother's Day in Mexico.

Participating in activities that serve others, especially when we are dealing with issues of our own, actually brings healing. It also gives us perspective.  We may find that our issues are not so great after all, that many people are struggling just to meet basic life needs.

If you can find an hour a week to donate to a soup kitchen, or a Day Center for the homeless, or children's after school enrichment programs, I promise you'll get so much more out of it than you put in.

Perhaps there is a senior living in your neighborhood who could use help with grocery shopping, or gardening... there are so many ways to engage in the lives of those who need a hand. The Universe is eager to compensate us for every act of kindness.

One last pitch... Life expectancy for people who live in tightly knit communities is higher than that of others.

Give all you can.

~ Happy Mother's Day