August 2010

PEACE!!   Peace            JOY!!   Joy            LOVE!!   Love

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Dear Friends: PEACE!! JOY!!! LOVE!!!

In my letters I have mentioned often how my experiences as a boy during the Great Depression greatly influenced the way I helped the poor. To help my parents pay the expenses for my education, I "went to work" when I was nine. I had my own bank account then, too! Before and after school and during all holidays, I worked at many different jobs: delivering the papers, cleaning backyards, shoveling snow off walks, caddying, delivering telegrams and finally—the peak of my 'working days!'—working as an office boy in the Canadian Pacific Telegraph. Looking back now I consider my work the best education I got in my boyhood. I learned 'to stand on my own feet', I met and became friends with so many co-workers of all kinds, I learned to 'get along' and—perhaps most of all—I felt great satisfaction that I could help my parents a little, who were working so hard to help me a lot.

That experience was the main reason I started the poultry at SAS. I wanted to teach my poor children that they could do a lot to help themselves. I wanted to make them learn how to get along with all sorts of companions. I wanted them to free themselves from the 'caste mentality' that so cripples India. The lowest caste children, the Untouchables, worked with and made friends with the highest caste children, the Brahmins. I wanted to save them from feeling like beggars. And I wanted them also to experience the joy of helping their parents. Working in the poultry transformed my poor children. It changed them from "I can't" children into "I can!" children. And that psychological change is the first step out of poverty.

During the Depression, the thing that caused men especially the most suffering was being 'out of a job'. In those days men were thought of as the breadwinners and women as the homemakers—a noble thing to be! So I believed that giving the poor meaningful work was the best way to help them. It made them free to run their own lives. It gave them dignity, the chance to give to their community and not only beg from it. It made use of their talents and creativity. It gave them lots of new friends.

That was one of the reasons why every monsoon we planted tens of thousands of tree saplings to renew the forest above Woodcot. We didn't make any money planting trees, but it was a great help to our community. We often built retaining walls to protect homes of poor people that were threatened by landslides. It gave me a special joy to be able with your help to help the poor help the poor.

The other experience that influenced my way of helping the poor was the fact that we had to live in our grandmother's house because we had no other home. And the last thing my Dad said to me when I left for India in 1948 was: "Murray boy, by the time you reach India, 2 Mitchell—the affection name we gave to our home—will belong to us." It had taken Dad and Mom sixteen years to pay off for a home that cost them $17,000! And so SASAC built hundreds of homes for the poor. And I learned then that nothing changes the mentality of the poor more than owning a home of their own. It stops them from thinking they are doomed to be poor, doomed to live in a shack in a slum with their children all their lives.

I mention all this now because everyday I pray for the Intention of the Pope for each month. Since many of my fellow Jesuits did not think my priorities in helping the poor were valid, it has given me great satisfaction as I say my Morning Offering every day to discover that the Pope believes in the same priorities I do. Here is his Intention for August: "That those who are without work or homes or who otherwise in serious need may find understanding and welcome, as well as concrete help in overcoming their difficulties." That says it all! SASAC was the place where the poor, so often unwelcome elsewhere, were welcomed and sympathized with in their difficulties. And—because of your generosity—we were usually able to also give them "concrete help".

I've used up most of space of this letter 'explaining my life and work' and I have little space for news of SOJASI. But this is the best news for me when I visit SOJASI (usually once a week!). Slowly Ceci is able to employ more and more of our poorest friends and the handicapped, who have suffered so much from unemployment during the three years of the shut down. In each of their faces, I see the face of my Dad when he would come home some evening and with a big smile on his face say to my mother: "Al, I got a job!" It delights me so much that at SOJASI fathers and mothers of families can 'have a life': be free, feed their children and use their gifts and talents to help others. At present India is suffering a great deal from inflation, especially of essential foods; rice, 'dal', vegetables. And every day, as more square meter beds get back into action, our poor workers produce more and more of the best organic vegetables in the Himalayas! The Lord be praised—and you too!

Yours in Him,
  Father A Signature



Sabeeta takes roll call of the newly employed
Neeta & Co. using "Sowing Plates": one of the 'secrets' of SMVG success



Lalchand & Co. with happy harvest
Hollow blocks for homes for the poor



Sarswati with Compost crew, the secret of SMVG incredible harvest
Another kind of harvest for the poor