Sunday, January 4, 2009

Heart of a chicken, the Heart of Christianity

Greetings Fellow Network of Love Lovers!

It´s early Sunday afternoon here in Birigui Brazil. I have spent the last few days sharing in wonderful, life-giving fellowship with Rafael and his family and friends. I have laughed to the point of tears (some things about culture and language translation can be extremely funny), I have shared (through the help of the always faithful translator Rafa) in some insightful, spirited, even controversial conversations about the Catholic Church, I have simply sat and pondered, in awe, the way of life and the unique spirituality and flow of the people I am surrounded by on a daily basis. I think of morning conversations with Rafael´s parents at the breakfast table, and our struggle in trying to make sense of what each other is trying to say.

But I dare say it is getting easier. My terrible, terrible Portuguese, infused with a rusty somewhat working knowledge of Spanish, and a tinge of remembering small fragments of French allows me to at least relay minimal concepts when talking with Rafael´s mai e pai (mom and dad). At breakfast, it is usually just the three of us (Rafael sleeps in late). It is at this time in the day when I have tried to stretch my boundaries and get a little Portuguese in. Likewise, Rafael´s parents are able to get in a word or two in English, getting aquainted with a language their son speaks on a day-to-day basis in Chicago.



Oh, I forgot to mention that I ate the heart of a chicken. On New Years Day night, we had a traditional Brazilian soup with chicken, rice, carrots, oregano, and other delicious, spices. There was also a chicken heart swimming in the broth.

Apparently, chicken heart is considered one of the most choice parts of meat and is rather expensive here. I guess I never really considered eating the heart of a chicken, but I was told by Rafael that it was very tasty, that it is a piece of meat loved by most Brazilian children and, as I said before, that it is a very expensive part of the chicken meat.

You have to try it! Rafael told me. Well, my body was telling me no but my (heart) was telling me yes. (I apologize to all my close vegetarian friends if this post offends you in anyway. Please don´t look at me any differently after reading it!)

So, why did I eat the heart? I suppose I could have said no and no one would have been offended. Maybe it was the glass of wine with dinner that loosened me up a little. But, I´d like to think that I ate the heart to share in a cultural experience that was unique to me. And, I think it brought some joy to the people at the table, to at first see my shock that they ate heart, and then my apathetic face when chewing the meat. I didn´t care for the taste, in all honesty. In fact, as the meat was still in my mouth, I washed it down with a swig of the Chilean wine we had at the table. Everyone laughed.

After I ate the heart, I joked at the table that I had a vision of the chicken´s heart beating in unison with my own heart. I pounded my chest with my fist, thump, thump, thump, and Rafael translated for me. Again, everyone laughed. So I was exaggerating a little bit, but I think it helped to bring some smiles and laughter to the table. The experience was different and new to me, but in the end, I can say that I tried ´coraçon´with a smile on my face, thinking back to the moment at the table, the people, the food, and the conversation that made me enjoy our New Years dinner and helped to make my trip to Birigui, Brazil, my first time in Brazil, an experience I will cherish.

Before eating the chicken´s heart, Rafael and I had a 'heart to heart' conversation with Geraldo and Rosana, Rafael´s cousin and his wife, about the heart of Christianity. We all shared our visions of the church, our joys and struggles with living lives that try to imitate the apostles and disciples of past and present. It is not always easy to live the gospel. I find myself falling often, and I know others do as well. It is part of the human experience to realize that we are not perfect. But, in this realization, we come to realize our desire and need for community. It is in this sharing of hopes, dreams, and struggles, that we come to enter into a Spirit of Guidance and Charity and Love---the Spirit, ultimately of Christianity---the Heart of Christ.

It sounds kind of funny (and maybe a bit distasteful) to compare eating a chicken´s heart to sharing in the heart of Christianity. But, what I am trying to convey is the sense that, to truly try and live a life filled with Hope and Peace and Love, we have to sometimes make sacrifices and do things we don´t always feel like doing. For instance, I didn´t want to eat that heart. However, after I ate it, I realized that it brought the table laughter, and it brought me, in some strange way, closer to the culture I was sharing in. It broke boundaries of what is or isn´t a part of my culture. Culture is something we all share in, though we all, in one way or another, share in different cultures. And though culture gives us an identity, it shouldn´t restrict us from being with people with different ways of living, acting, and thinking.

I am not encouraging people to go seek out the nearest butcher shop and eat a chicken´s heart. If you want to, I warn you it is rather chewy---but it is not that bad really. Here´s what I am encouraging you to do, and you can take my advice or leave it (I am just a 20 year old person with many things to learn): if there is an experience, a place, a group of people or a person you feel compelled to meet or greet or enter into a relationship with because you think it will bring you joy or open up a door you have always wanted to open but never quite had the opportunity, I pray that you have the strength and courage and guidance to go about trying that ´new thing.´ If the new thing is something that is going to bring you joy and, in turn, bring others joy, if it is a good that can be spread somehow someway, if it something that can somehow build up the message of Love in your own unique, heart-felt way, than I say go for it. With the guidance of the Great, Holy Spirit, if it is meant to be, then it really can be so. To have this hope is to believe in things greater, larger, stronger than ourselves. It is to believe in community. It is to believe that we CAN be a universal people.

We can be baptized by the Spirit in the sense that we truly live, breathe, eat the heart of Universal, unwaivering Love.

The hardest part about this is not writing it, but DOING it. I fail everyday to truly act out this way of life, to daily nourish my heart. But in my failings, I find that I somehow need community to supplement my inner struggle.

The people here in Birigui, Rafael´s family and friends, have helped me work with my innermost turmoils and failings to realize that joy exists outside of ourselves in sharing and loving together.

I ate the heart of a chicken here in Birigui. But, more importantly, I have tasted, in my opinion, the heart of Christianity. In a mysterious way, the people I have been with have brought me a sense of belonging and unitedness, while allowing me to realize my own uniqueness and abilities. I fail, yes, but, when I hope, I realize that when I fail, I am provided with an opportunity to go about attempting to soften my heart so that I can present to others as a kind of gift to be shared with sisters and brothers.

peace to all! paz,

with love,

seu amigo bob : )

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