Mason Street Musings

Expect the unexpected. You’d think, after sixteen years with the Mason Street Irregulars, I would have mastered this one rule of Catholic Worker life. As Scott reminded me many years ago, “You want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.”

My plans for the three days following Christmas were pretty simple. With Claire, Scott, and the family away in New Hampshire, and Dave in the upper Midwest, vacationing with friends and relatives, I was going to stay at Mason Street to assure that the house ran like the proverbial well-oiled machine.

The first day, Sunday, ran so smoothly that I began to believe that I could actually pull this off. Our three guests, Rao, Fouad, and “Samantha,” sat around the table, ate Christmas leftovers, and talked like old friends. We watched TV, read, and relaxed, and all of us were in bed by ten.

Monday was a different story—a completely different story. The first snowstorm of the season had blown in overnight, leaving a foot of swirling, drifting snow in its wake. Feeling tired after repeated attempts to remove what the plows then replaced, I ordered a couple of pizzas for supper and waited for them to be delivered.

Around ten o’clock, just as I was preparing to call it a day, Rao ran downstairs and informed me that Samantha was having a “medical crisis.” I arrived in her room to find her visibly shaken and in tears. She told me that she felt pressure in chest, was having difficulty breathing, and couldn’t stop shaking. She asked to go to the hospital. After calling 911 and filling them in, I went outside to await the first responders. Within two minutes, a fire truck and an ambulance, sirens and strobe lights splitting the night, arrived to take over. In another ten minutes, they had taken Samantha to the hospital. At two o’clock that morning, I was awakened by the sound of the front door opening. Samantha was back, saying amid mighty yawns that she felt better and would be ready to go after a good night’s sleep. Recuperation is quick in these parts!

On Tuesday evening, while our friend David Maher served supper, Samantha left the table amidst more tears. As I followed her to her room, I heard her on her cell phone. “The cops are coming,” she said. I could only stammer an uncertain, “What?” I discovered that Samantha had “borrowed” one of our kitchen knives that morning before setting off to visit a friend. While there, she had threatened to hurt herself. Her friend had rightly called the police, who appeared at the house to transport Samantha to the Emergency Mental Health unit of a local hospital.

“Well,” said a visibly relieved Rao, “that’ll be it for the night.” But that was not to be. Several hours later, Samantha reappeared, bearing instructions to visit her psychiatrist in the morning for a reevaluation of her meds!

Each of us has plans. Rao, a gregarious, extremely friendly visitor from India, works daily to learn all he can about computers and finance so he can “be a success.” Fouad, an Iraqi student, here with the help of the Iraqi Student Project, studies at Clark University and hopes to return to his country to aid in its rebuilding. And Samantha? She’s a single mom with more than her share of problems, who hopes eventually to be reunited with her child. Here at 52 Mason Street, our plans are to continue providing housing, food, and support to those who seem to find constant obstacles blocking their paths.

We know your struggles have mirrored the economy’s, and that, like us, you’re having difficulties making ends meet. This makes us all the more grateful for your help in defraying winter’s inevitable costs. We encourage you to write us and continue sharing your thoughts on our work and this newsletter. As you read this, it’ll be almost time for the baseball season to begin. Spring must be just around the corner!

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