carolbuckles (carolbuckles) wrote,

Witness: Montreal edition

I was in Montreal Canada. I had just been removed from a job I had been born to do and was doing well. I had been offered a job in the same company but with a miserable commute, which the boss didn’t think I would do. The commute would be by train, at least, but would take 3 hours of my day, all told. I was so bitter and unhappy and I felt betrayed.

While touring around the city, I went to the Basilique de Notre Dame de Montreal [Basilica of Our Lady of the Royal Mountain]. It was a hot day and the church was full of tourists. I looked to the main altar. I kept thinking that all that elaborate stuff up there was meant as an aid to meditation. But my thoughts were running to “how did they make that…paint that…clean that…” I couldn’t settle down. The priest droned on and on in French—oh I could hear the American François accent.

Off to the side there was a Prayer Chapel with closed glass doors. A sign read “For confession and prayer only. No visiting.”

In other words, “Come in here to find God.”

I had been searching for God all of my life. I went to Sunday School and church as a child with a friend for 8 years. I couldn’t find God there. All through my teen years I read world religions and experimented with Spiritualism, searching for Truth. I didn’t find it. There were a few times I touched the Divine, so I knew it was there.

I entered the chapel and sat down. I assumed an attitude of prayer, looking at the altar. After the hubbub of the sanctuary and the steamy heat, the small space was cool and quiet. I thought that God is not in the busy places, but where people search for Him over time.

In my anger and despair I prayed, “OH GOD, are You even THERE?”

I heard—yes heard—a masculine assured voice answer, “Yes, I’m here.” The intonation was of one saying, “I’m here, where have you been?” The patience, the irony. To say I was stunned is an understatement. Pole-axed.

“Oh my GOD!” I prayed. “I felt you last at Bath, England….But You’ve always been there, haven’t You?”

Silence then, but an affirmation non-the-less.

It was a miracle. Soul-shifting, life-changing.

I went on to pray about my particular circumstances. I prayed, “What is my problem with this [job transfer]?” I reviewed—again—fear, not wanting to change the situation I loved, blah, blah, blah. I’d been over this before.

Then God said, “I’ve given you what you asked for.” There was a little more of the “well, duh” tone this time. And He sent me countless images of times I had asked for more time in the day for The Doll Project.

When I went on meds for depression, I asked myself what should I do with the time I used to spend being depressed. Inspired by something I’d heard about long ago, I determined to start The Doll Project. I would buy lightly used dolls at the thrift store, clean them, fix their hair and make wardrobes for them. I would then donate them to local homeless shelters for children newly coming there.

Looking back, I can plainly see the hand of God at work all along. My best friend was charmed by the idea and we began to work. We had both been regular haunters of the thrift stores, and had noticed the rich bounty of toys available. [In fact, I had completely furnished my home daycare over the years from thrift shopping. My wardrobe too.]

My friend had a friend who was a battered wife who left her husband in the middle of the night with her children—and nothing with them. She became our liaison in taking the dolls to the shelters. My friend is a dynamo and shepherded the project into ever greater efforts. Mass production. She had other friends who worked with us; once a year, we had Doll Day when we put dolls together with clothes and accessories into drawstring bags we had sewn. Clean and mended teddy bears got fresh ribbons and a blanket. Some years, Doll Day lasted for 8-9 hours, with several people working. I had a storage unit that was ½ devoted to doll stuff.

So I had plenty of things to work on during my commute. I have always been pretty handy with a needle, so I would take tiny garments out of my messenger bag and sew as the train made its way through the dawn.

Whereas I normally took the commuter rail, I found that Amtrak would accept my month pass. Amtrak trains are much more comfortable, though sometimes crowded. One summer afternoon found me seated across from a family of tourists who asked what I was doing. I launched into my description of The Doll Project. The lady began to cry. She took out a $20 bill and put it in my lap. She said, “I was one of those women.”

She had left home with her little boy, now a handsome young teen. He said to me, “Dolls are fine, but don’t forget that boys need something too.”

I used the $20 to buy GI Joe type figures with equipment; they got casual clothes made for them. By then my friend had invented a clever way to sew sleeping bags, with a pillow in them, no less.

We did the Doll Project for 12 years, until I moved away. God’s unique way of giving me more time to work on the project was certainly a surprise. His sense of humor was mind-blowing. And the subtle pattern of His bringing things about easy to miss.

Which is why I like to [mis]quote Jesus as saying, “Sit down, shut up and listen.”

“And know that I am there.”

Tags: toys, witness

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