Rambling on Harem Outfits and Blessings

[Author’s note: From our deployment to Iraq.]

September 26, 2010
I walked out of my CHU (containerized housing unit) last week and noticed the chill in the air. If I didn’t know better, it was downright cold. After a few shivers and pinching myself to make sure this Iraq thing wasn’t a dream, I walked over to the nearest thermometer and found that it was 80 degrees at 6 a.m. Well, no wonder I was cold. There were actual thoughts of putting on a coat or finding a cup of hot coffee to cling to. Never fear though, it did warm up to a comfortable 110 by 11 a.m. Everyone that day kept noting how the weather was changing. 110 seemed a more normal and not like “real heat.” You do get jaded about the heat.
Another opportunity for becoming calloused and rather indifferent are the vendors. They are everywhere. These can be local Iraqis or other third world people trying to make a living off selling anything and everything. No matter what you may have heard, the American dollar is still the most loved currency in the world. The vendors love Americans and love our money more. I recently stopped by an outdoor (most of them are outdoor) vendor selling what I thought were beautiful silk scarves. Well, they were beautiful, but they were not scarves. They were actually dresses for women; very sheer, very revealing dresses. I thought the women here wore only burkhas, you know, the big black robes that cover everything except the eyes. These were definitely not burkhas.
The man behind the counter seemed anxious to sell me one. I tried to explain that I did not look good in silk, especially silk that reveals a bottom that has sat at a desk for too many years. He replied that it was not for me, but for a lady in my life. I told him, “Well, I’m sure my mother would like one but I don’t think she’d wear it to Church.” He looked shocked and tried to explain that these were for “special ladies.” Well, if your mom isn’t special, who is? But I asked to see some in child and baby sizes. Again he looked like a raccoon about to be hit by a truck. “I don’t think I have those sizes, are your ladies that small?” Well they were for my great nieces and I thought they would look cute in Middle Eastern harem outfits. He shook his head and walked away. I find I have that effect on most vendors.
We often become jaded with the comfort of life. We have enough to eat, we know where to go if it’s too hot or too cold, there’s always someone we can call if were lonely or just want to chat with a friend. It isn’t that way for many people on this earth. They spend their days in worry about where the next meal is to come from, will they freeze to death tonight, or is there someone who will listen to them. The people of St. Mary’s have always been very generous to our sister parish in Haiti and other missionaries that have stopped by. Giving of ourselves to the poor is a corporal work of mercy that lifts us beyond the confines of comfort to the Heart of Jesus.

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