Thursday, November 14, 2013
EAST ST. LOUIS ... FUNNY "SNAKY" DAY
Here's a bit of information that many do not know about that city; I sure didn't back then before my arrival in Feb., '67. East St. Louis was considered one of the poorest towns in our country. I was told by a priest, when trying to decide where I could be in place to help, said that this town had more poverty issues than Chicago, obviously the largest town in Illinois. This town was MUCH smaller, and the poverty was much higher. The constant racial battles took place and continued. It was a highly dangerous town, also. The kids we were teaching and playing with at this House, connected to the wide neighborhood, were the ones we took with us on this Day event.
The summer of '67 involved a pile of short-termers, connected to the Methodist churches, the main supporter of this "House" since it began. Most of the short-termers were from the mid-southern states and southeastern states. Most in the range of my age... 20-ish ... but a couple that were in their late 20s and were leaders for the rest of us.
It was HOT!!! Being raised in the west of the Northwest, I had rarely experienced any kind of heat like this, and never experienced humidity like that. I was flowing with sweat, and, at night, when in a very small bedroom of my own, a fan was put right at the head of my twin bed and I kept it on for hours. Even though it was on all night and noisy, I SLEPT.
One day, we were told that the next job was to take a bunch of the kids to a natural park area that would show them another part of the world. I don't remember where it was, but I do remember some of the occurrences. Some funny, some rather frightening, considering I'd never been in a place like that, either.
The oldest of the short-termers, a very special friend of Miss Provence, from either North or South Carolina, was in charge of us. She probably had done this in previous summers, and had a real heart for it.
We got a bunch of the kids on a bus and went. We were out of town, and we were able to see a great natural place. The kids had been told to wear shoes and socks and we made sure they could move around and about without being hurt. I took lots of handkerchiefs so they could clean their eyes and faces when the sweat was pouring. I had Bactine in my jeans back pocket, and any time a bug bit or we needed some pain released quickly, I could spray that around and about, on them or on me.
We were taken to a stream. For the first time in my life, and theirs, we were shown various kinds of lizards and/or salamanders. Didn't scare me. Kind of enjoyed it.
THEN we went to a building that had a variety of reptiles inside that we could see. Quite a few snakes were kept there. They were inside a window with a small door. Similar to what we see at zoos. Being terribly frightened of snakes, since I was about 5 when a rattlesnake was going for me in Klickitat, WA, it had never reduced.
Our leader took those of us helpers aside and gave us a "job" to do. To her, it was important that if the kids would see snakes and be horribly frightened, we could show them the other side. The few of us needed to let her put a snake on our arm and, holding its head in our hand, have the snake circle our arm. Then we were to smile and let the kids touch the snake.
I didn't know much about the Holy Spirit back then, since I'd only been with the Lord for about a year, but I am certain sure that the Holy Spirit leaned on me, lifting fear completely out of my heart. I DID IT!! The snake tail was at the top of my arm, twisted around all the way to my fingers. Was I excitedly happy? No. But was I jumping up and down and screaming, which would have been a normal reaction for me? NO! And why was I not fearful that day? Because I was being used to help and bless those kids.
It happened then... and it never happened again. My fear of snakes has never left. Garters in my house yard, cobras and pythons and mambas in Uganda, still bring forth lots of fear. I was talking with a spiritual sister today and told her that even when I'm in heaven, I don't want snakes in my house, even though they might love me. We laughed.
Overall, the kids had a great time that day. They were so excited when they saw the stream, could walk into it and look for the salamanders, or similar lizardy things, had a great sack lunch while we were hanging out at the park, and laughed and laughed as we were heading home.
I was enjoying them, enjoying the other short-termers, and was amazed that I had not freaked out with the snake on my arm.
Did it then; never again.