Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House

1524 NW 21st + Oklahoma City, OK 73106 + 405-557-0436

Our Christmas Wish List

November 14, 2001

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Another year has past, and once again we come to you inviting you to share in our ministry of service and justice in the coming year. In the last 12 months, it has been our privilege to help many people in need. Every week, on Saturday mornings, we prepare and deliver bags of groceries to people in need who do not have transportation to get to a regular food bank. We have had a steady stream of guests throughout the year, and the family that has been living in our house, is about to move out into their own place and we're very happy for them.

In the past year, we have paid electric bills, gas bills, water bills, doctor bills, and bought medicine and also provided some veterinary care for people as we have had the resources and the situations have presented themselves to us. We continue to receive referrals from Birthchoice, Catholic Charities Family Hope Program, St. Vincent de Paul, our local Community Action agency, and various parishes. We have "committed" more than 1500 "works of mercy" in the past year (each one being something like a bag of groceries, some clothes, blankets, a bill paid, etc.), which is about double what we did last year. This doesn't include nights of lodging or meals given away here at the house, because we neglected to keep good track of those during the past year.

We expanded our area under cultivation quite a bit, and this year for the first time were able to provide some of the folks we help with fresh produce from our garden, mostly tomatoes and herbs, plus collard greens. Other local gardeners brought us produce this year, and this is something we hope to continue to develop over the next year. We're planning to double again the area we have under cultivation next year, which should just about eliminate the last of our lawn. Each year our compost pile has gotten bigger, and this year it is positively overflowing. All summer long I've brought home the grass clippings and the altar flowers from church (we quit cutting our lawn, plus given our expanded gardening areas, we were no longer producing grass clippings from our own property), and have been rescuing bags of leaves and lawn clippings from neighbors who put them out for the city garbage truck to carry away and bury in a land fill (sigh).

We've also been working with a group of college students in Chickasha, which is about 30 miles south of here. They want to start a Catholic Worker farm (!!!!), and have even found six acres just outside of town with a house on it that is available for rent. I am going down there next week to look the situation over, the leader of the group isn't Catholic, but he is coming up to OKC each week for RCIA so I can be his sponsor at his baptism and confirmation next Easter. His name is Josh, age 21, let's keep him in our prayers.

During Lent last year, we hosted a group from Creighton University who came for our poverty immersion/service trip, they plan to return this next Lent, and the week after Easter we have tentative plans to host a team of doctors and nurses from Kansas who will provide a series of free clinics for the poor during the week they will stay with us. We have written to four parishes that serve low income neighborhoods to see if they are willing to partner with us in this ministry by providing space for the clinics.

In the past I have written you about an elderly African American lady we know who lives with her dogs in a house without running water or natural gas service, she is 84 years old. We visit her every couple of weeks, bringing food for the dogs, some things for her, and she is doing really fine. We haven't been able to coax her into a different living situation (the seven dogs are a complicating factor), although we continue to work on this. She may unfortunately be forced to move by the state, however, as her house (indeed, her whole neighborhood) may be in the path of a proposed new crosstown freeway. There are several people in this neighborhood that we help fairly regularly, mostly elderly, some single mothers with kids, and we are very concerned about what will happen if they have to be relocated.

Another person I have shared with you is Steve, a man living with HIV who has made just about every bad choice it is possible to make and not be in jail. We didn't see him for a long time, I was starting to think that he was dead, but he stopped by recently, looking a bit better than the last time we had seen him, he has been hitch-hiking about the country. He stops by every so often for a shower, a meal, he's sleeping down by the railroad tracks, we've given him blankets and a tarp to make a tent.

There is another African American man who calls us about every six weeks for help with groceries. As with many elderly people living solely on Social Security, when he has extra medication bills or house repairs, his grocery money has to go for other things. He only gets $10/month in food stamps, so we're his backup. Shortly after the events of Sept. 11th, we delivered him some groceries, and he called the next week and left a message. He said that watching our volunteers bringing him his groceries, he thought about all the people in the world doing evil, but then he thought about the people doing good, like the folks coming up his walk bringing him a bit of help.

It's not much, I suppose, in the grand scheme of things - beans, rice, boxed mac and cheese, maybe a pound of frozen sausage, a few cans of veggies and soup, cornbread mix, crackers - but for him and for others it means the difference between having enough and not having enough. It's not always easy to keep this going, sometimes I catch myself thinking, "I hope no one calls today," but then something like this happens which reminds all of us why we are doing this. In the past year, the number of elderly people calling for help has increased quite a bit, and more than half of the food we distribute these days is going to elderly people.

We have been blessed with new local volunteers, every Saturday morning we do our grocery distribution and more people are showing up to help these days. It looks like we will be incorporating a new ministry providing hot meals to street people, one of the new family volunteers is already doing this, and is interested in expanding it and so we're going to help with food and people. They home school their five children, and the father is a fire fighter.

We had our biggest meeting to date on November 8th, the 104th birthday of Dorothy Day (and yes, we remembered to sing her Happy Birthday), 19 people showed up. We hosted a group traveling from Eugene, Oregon to the annual public witness at the School of the Americas at Ft. Benning. They showed a Maryknoll film, "guns and greed", which was very sobering and tragic, actually showing pictures of Archbishop Oscar Romero after his assasination. I've also been reading a book about Fr. Stanley Rother, a priest of the archdiocese of Oklahoma City who was martyred in Guatamala about that same time. We also had a seed exchange in conjunction with this, five tables of seed were on display, and I came home with some great finds, including some einkorn wheat, which is the first domesticated wheat, originating in Turkey.

In conjunction with our works of mercy, we also continue to do works of justice, hoping to do our little part to build a world without poverty and oppression. Our websites continue to be popular, with user sessions per day climbing to an average of 600 in the late summer. Since Sept. 11th, visits to our main page at Justpeace have more than doubled. We added two websites this last year, bettertimesinfo.org and energyconservationinfo.org , and continue to strive to make resources available for people seeking to reform their lifestyles to be more simple, frugal, and sustainable. We printed two editions of our newspaper this year (working on a third, but we presently lack printing and postage money), and an energy conservation almanac last winter. I have been working on a new edition of the Better Times Almanac of Useful Information for Poor People, which we would like to issue on an annual basis.

We made it through the summer without air conditioning except for one bedroom, one of the guys living here injured his back on the job, and was flat on his back for most of the summer. A local friend gave us an AC so we put it in his room, but the rest of us survived nicely without air conditioning, and so it came to pass that the summer electrical bills caused me no heart failure (the window unit was fairly new and more efficient than the older units we had been using). He is going to have to have surgery on his back, so keep Sean in your prayers as he is worried about the surgery, and also his future prospects as the doctors tell him even with the surgery he will not be able to do the same kind of work he has been doing.

Well, I was going to write a short letter (keep it to one page, I said to myself), but so much has happened it just isn't possible to keep things on one page. There are many unmet needs that we run into all the time, but we continue to do what we can, with what we have, where we are, and trust that God will make up the difference.

We earnestly invite you to keep us in your prayers. When we started this, someone said to me, "You know, Bob, this is going to really be a hassle." And sometimes, often actually, it is. But also sometimes, and also often, it isn't, or maybe it is that the Holy Spirit makes us able to bear whatever is sent our way. Sometimes I pray, "Lord, just what do you expect me to do about this?" Sooner or later, we figure it out. I can't even count the number of little miracles - a need is manifested to us and that very day a check arrives in the mail, or somebody drops something by the house (like a crockpot, or a blanket) that we need for somebody. Going to my office at church is like Christmas, I never quite know what is going to be inside the door. I may be the only guy in Oklahoma City who can get excited when someone gives him a bag of plastic grocery bags, but when you go through as many as we do, paper and plastic grocery bags are great gifts.

And the boxes in the mail? We've received many gracious gifts from people - from bay leaves to Y2k supplies and everything gets passed along, very little comes in our door that we can't find a use or place for eventually. Teddy bears for kids, batteries, even a big box of yo-yos. And rosaries and holy cards and Catholic religious literature which we always need.

As far as I am concerned, all y'all (as we say in OKC) are heroes for helping us in this way. You have touched the lives of many people that you will probably never meet, you won't know their names, but who knows what souls may have been saved from all this, what comfort and healing has been given. We haven't a clue, but we have faith in God that as we are faithful to the little things He has asked us to do, He will provide whatever else is necessary. All year long, except for about 3 weeks total, we have had food to deliver to everyone who has called. And as you know, we don't send out regular letters saying "please send us money", except for this annual appeal and sometimes a little note in the summer when things get a bit lean. Only God can match so excellently the needs with the resources, and we praise him and all the saints (who we invoke often!) for the help we have received.

We thank you for your help in the past, and we pray God's blessings and protection for you in the coming year.

Your little brother in the Lord,

Robert Waldrop and

Sean and Shawn and Tammy and Ashley and James (the humans), and Sallie, Sassy, and Pixy the dogs, and Crooked Paw, Mother of Nations, Skitz Kitty, and Callie the Cats, the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City

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