Un-Happy New Years, New Years tears, grandmother, short story, short stories, imagination, writing, Panama, beach, time to celebrate, time to mourn, death, grief, healing, heal

Un-Happy New Years

It was 9.01 pm, and she was late getting ready for the New Year’s Eve party.  Once again, she had no desire to go. Days before, she had felt excited and eager.  But as the day dawned, and the hour neared, she drew back into her shell, wanting to shun it all and stay home.

The excitement was already replaced with anxiety.  And she was feeling pressured into going.

“What will they say when I don’t show up?”, she thought.

She was already thinking about the excuses she could make up. I have a headache (no one will believe it, of course).  My stomach is playing up again and I don’t want to drink anything feeling like this (that was actually true, but they still wouldn’t believe it).

A drink would, without a doubt, leave her with an upset stomach overnight and probably for days to come.  Multiple trips to the bathroom throughout the night would make for a bad night’s sleep and a thick head in the morning.  The woes of a weak digestive system that could no longer withstand even one glass of wine or bubbly.

But that wasn’t really what she was avoiding.  It was the overwhelming feeling of being lost within a sea of energy – some dark, some light, but all crashing into her, bombarding her.  The extroverts in the room completely unaware of the energy they threw out… the damage it caused as it crashed into her unabated.  Nowhere to hide, even if she locked herself in the bathroom.

How she hated the multitudes and gatherings in closed quarters.

She thought, for a moment, about the invitation to join her family at the beach.  At least at the beach, there was space to get away from everyone, and she could go for a solitary walk.  But how she loved her own bed and really disliked going away overnight. And if she left now, she wouldn’t reach the beach until almost 11.00, and there would be no chance of turning around and driving back home.

For a moment she was lost looking at a photo from years before.  Happier times, younger days.  Times when she loved being at the beach with her family – when all the cousins would still get together and the neighbours would all come over. That single sparkler in her hands, a reminder of a happy childhood spent with family and friends.

She sat down with the photo in her hands. For a moment, she felt the joy of the party and the multitude.

It was almost enough to motivate her to finish getting ready and leave for the party.

But then she heard the sound  of the car horns and the traffic jam on the street outside. The sound of the traffic as the stragglers that had gone for drinks before driving home and were now stuck in late traffic as they tried to make their way out of the city.

What traffic would she have to navigate to get to the party?

And just like that, her mind was made up.

Pijamas it was!  Another New Year’s Eve at home alone.  In bed before 10.00.

But was that really so bad?  Un-happy for some – perhaps.

But at 6.00 a.m. on New Year’s Day, she would have the promenade to herself as she went for a run with the dogs, enjoying the first sunrise of the New Year.  Beautiful solitude.

Quiet.

Ah. Bliss.

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Jesus, Panama, children, religious community, abortion, gay marriage, family values, Utopia, churches, healing, communities, love Thy neighbour, love thy neighbor, organised religion, Catholicism, politics, political parties, followers, evangelists, televangelists

Panama – Utopia – a religious community where Jesus might actually be welcome

“What if Panama had 0% corruption, no inflated government contracts and politicians were actually elected for their capacity and ability to get the job done? What if public sector officials actually did their work with heart and soul? What if private citizens and companies practiced social responsibility? What if neighbours worked together to build better neighbourhoods and participated actively in local government?

What if churches fed the poor and provided social and emotional healing to their communities?”

Panama doesn’t have Jesse Duplantis, wanting his $54M jet, but it has its fair share of “rockstar” evangelists.   Like the one that rides in a helicopter over Panama City to “bless it”.  His critics suggest that Jesus would have walked around the city to impart his blessing on everyone, not flown over in a helicopter.

These same evangelists would create a new political party, calling on all of their members to only vote for those who are sanctioned by the church.  They call on their members to protest “for family values” against gay marriage.  And then, they are strangely silent on issues like rape of minors and the 9,000+ adolescent pregnancies from last year. They are vociferous in their rejection of sex ed in schools, because it would compromise a family’s right to teach this in the home, but are silent with respect to real social solutions.

They are likewise nonvocal on corruption, the investigation of Obredecht bribes, and the slow justice system in Panama which never seems actually convict anyone other than the poor.  They say that with a new political party they want to drive change, but there are some things that they just don’t seem to want to change! If they can amass 10,000+ for a family values march, why not bring all of those members to a march against corruption?

While claiming to draw the community closer together and working together  to protest against same-sex marriage, they are separatist on so many other matters.  In 2019 Panama will be host to World Youth Day, a week long convention of youth in Panama organised by the Catholic Church.  It is expected that the Pope will attend. This event is thought to cost some $50M to organise here, and while the Baha’i, Methodist, Anglican & even Muslim communities have expressed their support, including housing the youth in their places of worship or homes, support from the evangelical community has once again been soundless, other than Salvation Army and other groups that are very youth-focused.

Would these be religious communities where Jesus might actually feel welcome?

Am I being tongue in cheek? Hell, yes!

I am so sick of watching churches say that they support “family values” and yet do nothing when there is a case of a minor having been abused for 8 years by a family member.  There were no protests when he received a sentence of community service, which isn’t allowed under the criminal code.  “That’s a problem for the justice system”. It obviously has nothing to do with “family values”.

There are likewise no “family value” issues in teen pregnancies, and God forbid that we have sex ed in schools.  Abstinence, taught in homes, is certainly the only way to stave off the rising cases of HIV, STDs and unwanted pregnancies.  What about all those youth whose families are not teaching anything at home?  Should they simply receive whatever education their families see fit?

Adolescent mothers, most of a certain social strata, aren’t provided with a staunch support network to help them through their pregnancies, stay in school, and other basic skills to help them break the poverty cycle.  Now, there are fabulous programs like “Las Claras”, run by the women’s group “Voces Vitales”.  But this is run by a group of professional women concerned to improve the opportunities for young women as single mothers.  This is not something that churches in Panama have seen as an “outreach program” or a social need to address.

There are also programs, like Asociación Luz y Vida, which runs a home for the elderly in Paraíso (and another in Metetí, Darien), most of whom were homeless.  This was started by Monseñor Rómulo Emiliani and then set up as a Nonprofit, with a group of donors.  Even so, it only has space for 50 elderly patrons.

Another program was established by the Catholic church in cooperation with the City Council: “Centro de Orientación y Atención Integral San Juan Pablo II“, in which the Catholic church undertakes to take on at least 30 people a month referred to it by the City Council social workers.  This is an attempt to work together at solving a problem of homelessness and drug addiction, but requires that the participants want to be rehabilitated.  The City Council, will, however, subsidize the program with $36,000 a year towards expenses ($3,000/month).

There is also a program under way in San Miguelito (probably the most dangerous part of Panama City, that is actually outside of the city limits), which addresses the gang wars.  In this program, some 200 evangelical groups and 60 Catholic churches joined task forces to reach 1,500 youth in a program aimed at getting them out of gangs and into “the Life University”, in which they would be taught life skills, sports & hand-crafts of various types.

But, with the exception of Las Claras (not associated with any church) and Asociación Luz y Vida (a nonprofit that I know was originally the brainchild of Monseñor Emiliani), which I already knew about, I had to search long and hard to discover the social programs that the churches in Panama were participating in! For example, when I looked up Hosanna Social Programs, the results that I got from the search engines were all about their television programs and shows!  They do, however, have a prison outreach program.

What happened to Jesus’ call to love your neighbour as yourself:

35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25)

This makes me truly wonder if Jesus would feel at home with the churches in Panama today?

Or would he be walking through their houses of worship, overturning tables and throwing out the money changers and all of those seeking to make a business of the church?

It’s not that I don’t want to see churches in Panama, but in a Utopia, churches would be so much more than inward looking social clubs only concerned about their ratings and attendance numbers!