Sri Lanka Tea

IMG_1972“Good tea is not made in the factory.  Good tea is made in the fields.  If you do not get good leaf you cannot get good tea.” — Lalith, a good friend in the tea business while visiting his homeland of Sri Lanka with Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom of Compassion Tea Company

We love tea. It’s true. Learning about this fabulous drink makes us a little bit giddy. And there are few things in life that bring us more happiness than a tea tasting! (Of course, this is second to serving God and His people in need!) Several members of our team have now been to Sri Lanka to learn about the tea process from plant to your cup. We’d love to share some of our knowledge with you.IMG_1667

The complicated process of making tea is thousands of years old. And among the superior quality teas such as the ones we carry, a vast majority of the process remains done by human hands. Let’s look at the process as it is done in Sri Lanka.

Currently, in the world tea market, there are 70 different tea growing areas around the world.China produces 39% of the world’s tea. India produces 23.5% and Kenya produces 8%. Sri Lanka follows with 6% of the tea market production. Teas from Sri Lanka are called Ceylon teas. About 400 tea plantations operate in Sri Lanka and roughly 20% of the land in Sri Lanka is under tea cultivation. There are about  650 tea factories. About 340 million kilograms of tea are produced in Sri Lanka each year.

Despite the statistics that say tea is one of the fastest growing beverages in the United States, the US imports a modest 2% of Ceylon tea. Turkey and Russia import the majority of the Ceylon tea.

All tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. How the leaves of the plant are processed creates the different types of tea such as black, white, green, and oolong. Herbal teas are a misnomer in that they do not come from the Camellia Sinesis plant but are based on flowers, fruits, the shavings of the rooibos plant, and other leaves.

The Camellia Sinesis plant grows naturally into a tree, but in order to cultivate it effectively, plants are maintained as shrubs. This also makes the harvesting more comfortable for the tea pluckers. Climate, soil, and elevation play an important role in the quality and quantity of the tea produced. The plant grows best in tropical climates that see a lot of rain and at higher elevations.

When the tea is harvested, workers enter the fields to hand-pluck the top youngest leaves and buds. A typical “pluck” is to pull two leaves and a furled bud from the top of the plant. It takes about 4.5 lb. of fresh tea leaves to produce 1 lb. of the tea you brew for your cuppa.

Typically, men oversee the work of the tea pluckers as they are called. The tea pluckers, who are women, begin their days in the fields around 8:30. They have a morning break and a two-hour lunch break. They then pick in the afternoon until about 4:30. The women carry a special basket on their backs. This lightweight basket makes it easier for them to use both hands for plucking. They then toss the leaves in the basket. Measuring sticks keep the plucking to a consistent level. Once an area of the field is plucked, it won’t be picked again until at least 8 days have passed.c84d8bcf-f64a-43e3-8e7d-9cec8b5a23d28617342c-c9b1-4a90-bfe3-af425635f51a

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On the Pedro estate where Ed and Wendy visited this past January, the pluckers make 680 rupees ($4.50) per day minimum and get free housing and medical care, child care and maternity as well as 21 days holiday pay. They are compensated for extra leaves picked and are given free food for their children and free burial. A health care clinic on the plantation provides the majority of their medical needs. The workers are well cared for and make a good living by Sri Lankan standards. Sadly many of the workers who stay on the plantations  for free do not even work on the tea plantations, but prefer to work elsewhere (like farming) where they make more money. But they cannot be kicked off the plantation. Out of the 7,500 people who live on the Pedro tea estate, only 1,500 work in tea plucking or processing, yet all 7,500 get free housing and benefits! This poses a real challenge for the plantation owners and may lead to problems in the future as world demand for Ceylon tea lessens and as costs rise.unnamedunnamed-3unnamed-2

Once the tea is plucked it is carried to be weighed. Because extra bits of leaves and twigs accidentally get in the baskets, the tea pluckers sort through their baskets before they take them for weighing. The tea pluckers are given bonuses for extra tea plucked. Once the tea is sorted and weighed, it is ready to head to the processing plant. Three times a day, trucks carry the tea from the fields to the processing factories. Because Ceylon is a black tea, it will undergo a fair amount of wilting and oxidizing in order to give the tea the rich black taste we know and love.

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Our Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Decaf English Breakfast,  Black Lemon, Cinnamon Orange Spice, and Black Chai teas all contain at least 90% Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka.

Green and white teas are minimally processed from here. Black teas, like the Ceylon in Sri Lanka, undergo 10 steps to provide the proper oxidation of the leaf to achieve the black color and flavor that makes Sri Lankan Ceylon so delicious. Here is a pictorial guide from the Lover’s Leap Tea Factory at the Pedro Estate of Sri Lanka where Ed and Wendy visited last January.

IMG_1683IMG_1716Step 1: Withering Process- Air comes up from the bottom of the withering bins, and the leaves will wither for 12 hours. These leaves begin the withering as soon as they come in from the fields. After withering, the leaves go through a tunnel to the rolling room.

IMG_1708IMG_1714Step 2: Rolling – The leaves are placed in the roller for 20 minutes. Oxidation is taking place. Rolling bruises the leaf and makes the juices come to the surface. Left: The leaves on the left are rolled, and the leaves on the right are withered only.

IMG_1739IMG_1759Step 3 – Rotor Vane – After the tea goes through this “mincemeat grinder” it will be much finer, like wet grass. Tea can go through up to 4 turns on the rotor vane. Above: The leaves on the top are ready to go to dryer, but the leaves on the bottom must go through the rotor vane again.

IMG_1736Step 4: Shaker – The tea leaves that are ready to go to the dryer will fall through while the larger leaves go through another rotor vane.

IMG_1817Step 5: Drying step – The tea will go through a drying oven at 125 F for 21 minutes. A wood fired boiler is used to heat the ovens.

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Step 6: Electrostatic separators are used to pull out fibers and stems from the tea. After separating, it drops into the yellow buckets. At this point the tea is finally stable. You can see that it is really starting to look like black tea by now.

IMG_1832IMG_1834Step 7: Grading – Tea is graded by size using the Chota sifter. There are 4 sizes: 10, 12, 14, 16. Number 16 (BPOF) will be the smallest and the strongest tea.

Step 8: The Color Separator is another way to remove more stems and fibers. It also separates the tea into different grades.

IMG_1870Step 9: Bulking – The tea goes through the hole for the bulking step. This is where they blend several harvests together.

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Step 10: Bagging. The teas are put into bags which each hold 33 kilos. Then, the tea is sent off to the auction house or other tea blenders to make specialty teas. 

This tea factory in Colombo, Sri Lanka, gets tea from the tea estates and makes their own blends for shipping to countries like Japan. Below is a series of photos showing a huge blending machine from top to bottom.

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Many tea factories also make their own tea bags. These teabags are going to New Zealand. Much of the work here is done by hand.

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Here is a worker gluing the tea bag boxes shut.

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This tea factory in Colombo ships 40 foot containers of tea to Japan, England, and the Middle East. The Middle Eastern countries buy much of the Ceylon tea; however, due to conflicts and wars in this region, tea exports were down for Sri Lanka this past year. 056c1a09-f10a-4dcd-bdbf-6c92ea289849

It’s all ready to go somewhere around the world!

Did you know how much time and labor and care went into your cuppa? Enjoy!IMG_1986

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Building an Ark

“It took Noah 120 years to build the ark.” Wait. What? My understanding of Noah and his cruise through the floodwaters of the world has been shaped significantly by the cartoonish tellings of children’s Bibles with the sweet pictures of animals snuggly resting and the rhyming words that gloss over the reality of what was under the water. My understanding looks something like this: Noah gets a word from God to build a boat. God gives him very specific instructions about size and shape and cargo. Noah gets busy and finishes just in time to load the animals before the deluge hits, killing all life except what is on that boat. I remember studying the flood in college. There, we read a number of flood stories from a number of different religions. Based on the prolific motif of a flood destroying the earth found throughout early literature, we can safely assume that such a thing happened, so concluded that professor.

Well, it appears to be Noah week in the drama of my life. On Tuesday, we studied the life of Noah in Bible Study. My son Joseph is learning about Noah in preschool. In fact, he wore a green shirt and brought two stuffed animals to school today so that his class could form a rainbow (based on shirt color) and an ark-like zoo (hence, the stuffed animals). And last night, the Bible story I blindly pulled off the shelf to read to my kids was… yep, Noah.

So, Noah. The Bible tells us specifically that he was 500 years old when he had his first son and he was 600 when the flood started. He was 601 when he finally left the ark. He was a righteous man who walked with God and did exactly what God told him to do. And my Bible study commentary says that it took Noah 120 years to build the ark. Curious, I looked at Genesis 5-9, the story of Noah, over and over again in a number of translations. All I could see there was in Genesis 6:3 where God makes a promise that in 120 years He is going to wipe out the earth. Fed up with the evil, sad that He had created His creation, God says “Enough.” 120 years and the game’s up. But because Noah is righteous, God will save him and his family and seven pairs of every animal, bird, insect. (I feel like singing… “The Lord said to Noah, ‘There’s gonna be a floody floody.’ Lord said to Noah, ‘There’s gonna be a floody floody. Get those animals out of the muddy muddy. Children of the Lord.’”) So, I turned to the internet. Turns out there is a lot of discussion about how long it took Noah to build the ark. Hypotheses range from 50 to 75 to 120 years based on God’s promise of destruction and salvation, when Noah had his sons, when they were old enough to have wives, etc.

I felt discouraged. Noah taking 120 years to build the ark seemed so dramatic and cool. 50 years? Not so much. But, really, that’s ridiculous on my part. Can you imagine the situation? You’re far away from the sea. You are a farmer. You start building a large boat in your backyard. Why? Because God told you to. It doesn’t really matter how long it took. If it took 120 years, wow, that’s a long time to believe, follow through, and obey. If it took 75 years, wow, that’s a long time to believe, follow through, and obey. If it took 50 years, wow, you get the picture. Perseverance. Noah stuck it out.
One has to believe that he took some grief for his grand boat project. “Crazy old Noah! Always good for a laugh!” must have been the taunting around the neighborhood. After all, the Bible tells us that Noah was the only righteous man to be found. Therefore, it is safe to conclude that no one else knew God and/or if they had heard of Him they certainly didn’t believe, follow, or obey. Yes, Noah must have been the subject of many jokes. But he persevered.

With the jokes, were there other nuisances? Or even threats? If Noah knew that God was about to destroy the world and if he was telling the naysayers why he was doing what he was doing, which the Bible tells us he knew and he did, don’t you think there might have been some who were angered by the message? Who thought Noah was too proud and needed to come down a peg? Who might have tried to sabotage his work? Or who mocked Noah at every turn? “Where’s the rain, Noah? Where’s the flood? You’ve been working on this for 50 (or 75 or 120) years. Do you really believe this God is going to do what He says? Don’t you think maybe you just made this up in your mind?” But Noah persevered.

Do you know any Noahs today? People who buck convention, stick it out, persevere through thick and thin? People who seek to follow God’s ways, obey His commands, walk with Him even when the rest of the world is laughing?

A couple of our Compassion Tea directors are currently preparing for a trip to Africa this summer. While there, they will be distributing supplies, visiting clinics, taking notes about what is needed at the clinics, and well, frankly, risking their safety and certainly their comfort. Facing this huge trip must feel daunting, something like building an ark. How much and what is needed for the trip? How to collect medical supplies? How to carry those supplies to Africa? Once there, they will run across lots of other Noahs who are building arks in the shape of medical clinics and churches, who are tending to the most basic needs of their fellow man in places where voodoo is still the preferred method of medical treatment and where supplies for treating even the most basic illnesses are scarce. One of the clinics they will be visiting has a recently donated x-ray machine. This is new technology for the clinic. The machine is all set up and ready! But there is no one trained in how to use it. So it sits unused. Another clinic has patiently been waiting for its running water to be restored. They’ve been waiting for 2 years. The funding is there, but getting anything done in Africa is kind of like building an ark in the middle of a desert. It takes a whole lot of perseverance. The kind of perseverance that has led one of the missionaries with whom CompassioNow works to return to Africa after medical time off in the States. This missionary has celiac disease and has to eat gluten-free. Rural Africa doesn’t understand gluten-free. But for the sake of fulfilling God’s calling on her life, this missionary is stocking up on gluten-free food and heading back.

Fulfilling God’s calling is rarely easy. Whether it is building an ark in the desert or running a tea company or traveling to Africa to bring supplies and comfort, it takes a special brand of perseverance. I am pretty sure that when Noah heard God shut the door behind him and saw the waters pour forth from heaven and earth, he was infinitely glad he had listened and obeyed. Once the first x-ray is taken, once the first drops of water flow into the clinic, once the missionary sees the smiling face of a goo-goo (grandma in Africa), there will be much joy and relief. When our Compassion Tea directors deliver duffle bags of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to clinics in Africa, there will be much joy and relief. When the directors return from Africa, there will be much joy and relief, too. But it will take continued perseverance for all of these things to happen… and a lot of tea!

That’s where you can step in! By drinking tea, by joining our membership, you can help the directors collect medical supplies to take to Africa. By drinking tea, by joining our membership, you can help CompassioNow send medical supplies to the clinics in other parts of Africa. By drinking tea, by joining our membership, you can provide funding for staff and water projects and other projects. We would love to welcome you aboard our ark!

To Sugar or Not to Sugar

Not long ago, I made the Saturday morning trek to the Farmer’s Market downtown. I love the Farmer’s Market… all the fresh fruits and vegetables, flowers, organic breads, and even the balloon man. Usually, I stop to chat with a local olive oil producer whose olive oils are amazing. (Olivina if you are interested!)  This day, I mentioned my work with Compassion Tea to Charles and his ears literally perked up. “I drink way too much soda,” he shared. “I’m looking for a new beverage that doesn’t have as much sugar in it.” Well, you can imagine the next 30 minutes! Duh! ICED TEA!

I’m not sure what sparked Charles’ decision to alter his drinking habits, but it seems to be a trending topic.

You may have noticed on September 14 that New York City’s Board of Health approved Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on 16 oz. soda and/or sweetened drinks. Effective March 12, 2013, this ban will prohibit any beverage with more than 25 calories per eight ounces from being sold in a container larger than 16 ounces. So, basically, in 6 months’ time, when you take in your weekly movie or swing through Jack-in-the-Box in New York City, you won’t be able to buy the mega beverage of your choice. You can, however, drop into the grocery or 7-Eleven and purchase a 2 liter or a Big Gulp. And at the restaurants, you may have as many refills in your smaller cup as the restaurant will allow. The reason behind the ban? According to Mayor Bloomberg, banning these drinks will “curb obesity” and “save lives.” To read more about this, click here and here.

Okay, so don’t travel to NYC if you plan on consuming large amounts of Pepsi. Maybe stay in Trenton instead.

This week, the New York Times ran an article in the opinion section of the paper titled, “Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes?” In the article, Mark Bittman explains the scientific advances that are suggesting a link between the body’s reaction to too much sugar over long periods of time, the development of type-2 diabetes, and the similarities between type-2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. In fact, studies with rats have shown that, when the insulin in the brains of the rats is limited, the brains of the rats “show all the signs of Alzheimer’s.” (Bio refresher: Insulin is released by the pancreas and goes knocking on the doors of cells telling them to open up and grab the glucose, which is what the body turns sugar into, coursing past in the blood. When insulin becomes a constant, persistent, and annoying knocker, which is what happens when we consume large amounts of sugar regularly, the cells become “insulin resistant;” they stop listening and refuse to open the door. This is damaging to blood vessels, the heart, and other organs, and causes the kind of damage to the brain noted in the article.) The article goes on to discuss the implications of this study from a health perspective and from a “cost-to-society” perspective. It also adds the caveat that while sugary drinks and foods are instrumental in increasing the rate of type-2 diabetes in Americans, sugar may not be the only culprit. Heavily processed foods certainly have their place in the decline of American health, too, according to the article.

Interestingly enough, I was recently reading an update from Karero Medical Clinic in Kenya… yes, as in Africa. A team of doctors and dentists from the States had recently visited the clinic and had provided dental services to “dozens of people.” Rev. Jeff Spainhour, from North Carolina, was among the delegation of professionals who traveled to Karero. After watching the extraction of countless teeth among the Kenyans, Rev. Spainhour commented, “It was obvious that sugar has had a great negative impact on the health of the people seen.” Even in Africa, sugar is becoming the boogie man. It starts with the teeth, spreads to diabetes, and may even lead to the most mind-debilitating disease we know.

As our pastor always says, “So what.” As in, “What should we glean from these campaigns, comments, and studies?” I see the answer as very simple. Put down your 16 oz. Coca-Cola and pick up your tea cup! (Or maybe moderation?)

There has been lots of talk throughout time about the medicinal properties and health benefits of tea consumption. Ironically, when you look for conclusive evidence to support tea as the healthier alternative, what you find is lots of “suggestions.” “This study suggests,” “studies on this are not conclusive,” and “not enough research has been done” are the constant caveats. I’ve turned to my favorite stand-by, WebMD, for a little help here. According to a compilation of studies put together by Julie Edgar, here’s “what some studies have found about the potential health benefits of tea:
• Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
• Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
• White tea: Uncured and unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
• Oolong tea: In an animal study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims.
• Pu-erh tea: Made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. One animal study showed that animals given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.”

The article has little to say about the health benefits of different herbal, rooibos, and chai teas even though so many claim benefits such as weight loss, digestive aid, cold prevention, and stress reduction. Again, the issue is lack of study. (Click here for the whole article.)

What the article does point out is that bottled iced teas are often laced with sugars and/or artificial sweeteners and should therefore be avoided. Edgars includes a quote from Diane L. McKay, PhD, a Tufts University scientist who studies antioxidants as saying, “You want to incorporate healthy beverages in your diet on a more regular basis to benefit from these health-promoting properties. It’s not just about the foods; it’s about what you drink, as well, that can contribute to your health.”

So what? I realize people like soda. I grew up drinking it and I haven’t grown two heads or sprouted wings or anything too bizarre. But when it comes to health and making healthy choices for me and my family, I’m inclined to avoid things that contribute to obesity (goodness gracious, I have enough trouble keeping off the pounds!), tooth decay, and now possibly Alzheimer’s. Yes, soda offers variety and flavor and caffeine and a cool, refreshing pick-me-up or get-me-going boost. But, I have to argue that tea is even better.

As a Compassion Tea drinker, I find plenty of flavor and variety in our offerings, enough to keep my changing palette intrigued and satisfied. And because of the intense and robust flavors, I don’t need to add sweeteners to the teas to improve flavor. If I want sweet, there’s Provence or Bourbon Street Vanilla or Almond Rocker or Jasmine Vanilla Rooibos or our new flavor Caramel Rooibos in the pyramid bags. If I want fruity, well, that selection is endless. From blueberry to mango, we’ve got fruit! For a spicy mood, there’s West Cape Chai, Cochin Masala Chai, or Spicy Rooibos. If I’m looking for something gentle and delicate, there’s Sencha Cherry Rose or Peony White Needle or Silver Needle or even Coconut Oolong or Jade Cloud. And of course, there’s always the oolong, pu’ erh, and black teas, which offer that robust cup, the get-me-up-and-going cup of tea. Tea is varied and as long as we don’t pour in a pint of sugar it is healthier than soda.

Why not make it your beverage of choice!

Campaign Promises

Every morning, I run the same drill. Feet hit the floor and the ankles and heels start screaming. I stumble toward the bathroom to grab something warm and my phone and then head outside with the dog to mincingly make my way down the driveway to get the newspaper. I check emails as I go and then glance at the day’s headlines on the way back up the driveway. This morning, I laughed out loud when I opened my inbox.

To Drink More Tea!

There, thanks to Princess Cruises, was the single most clever ad campaign I have ever seen. Concerned that I might be “tired of all the negative news,” Princess Cruises is offering “The Campaign to Escape Completely!” From now until Election Day, the cruise-line is giving away free cruises where you can really and truly escape from the media for a few days. Floating on a big boat, with food readily available, pools aplenty, and no TV or newspapers? Right on! Sign me up!

It doesn’t matter which way you lean politically, there is enough fuel to flame the fires of distrust, self-righteousness, and dare I say even hatred for the other side. When we were visiting Ohio this past August, the Olympics were wrapping up and there were events we wanted to watch, but every other commercial was political in nature. First, one would blame the present administration for not solving our country’s economic problems. Next, the present administration would scare women and seniors into believing that should there be a change in the presidential watch they can kiss their current benefits good-bye. It was emotional; it was fluff; it was ugly. I feel for the swing states these days. You are in the heart of a bitter, media-driven, war of words where no one seems to be 100% truthful, 100% genuine, or 100% tuned into reality. (And right now I may need to wrap my tongue in gauze I’m biting it so hard.)

So, what does this have to do with tea? Not a whole lot, truth be told! I can offer you the chance to relax and unwind with a cup of tea… maybe one of our new flavors? Have you tried Jade Cloud or Bai Hao or Coconut Oolong or West Cape Chai yet? Or the Lavender Sage Rooibos or Lemon Mint Rooibos are fantastic for centering and grounding… as long as you leave your media outlets turned off. Tea is very relaxing. Waiting for the water to boil, watching the leaves steep, pouring a cup, taking the first slurp… all are steps in patience, settling down, calming, breathing more deeply, creating a mood for contemplation. Take some time.

A few days ago, I was reading through one of my favorite chapters of the Bible – Isaiah 40. For us, the weary-worn electorate, this chapter holds great comfort. I’m going to quote from The Message translation because it is just so fun and accessible:

12 – 17: Who has scooped up the ocean
in his two hands, or measured the sky between his thumb and little finger?
Who has put all the earth’s dirt in one of his baskets,
weighed each mountain and hill?
Who could ever have told God what to do
or taught him his business?
What expert would he have gone to for advice,
what school would he attend to learn justice?
What god do you suppose might have taught him what he knows, showed him how things work?
Why, the nations are but a drop in a bucket,  a mere smudge on a window.
Watch him sweep up the islands
like so much dust off the floor!
There aren’t enough trees in Lebanon
nor enough animals in those vast forests to furnish adequate fuel and offerings for his worship.
All the nations add up to simply nothing before him— less than nothing is more like it. A minus.

21 – 24: Have you not been paying attention? Have you not been listening?
Haven’t you heard these stories all your life?
Don’t you understand the foundation of all things?
God sits high above the round ball of earth. The people look like mere ants. He stretches out the skies like a canvas—
 yes, like a tent canvas to live under.
He ignores what all the princes say and do.
 The rulers of the earth count for nothing.
Princes and rulers don’t amount to much.
 Like seeds barely rooted, just sprouted,
they shrivel when God blows on them.
 Like flecks of chaff, they’re gone with the wind.

Did you catch that? Nations are like a drop in the bucket. The rulers of the earth count for nothing. In the grand scheme of things, as we like to say, this election process really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. It is much ado about nothing. Chaff in the wind, blown away on the slightest breeze. Our nation is struggling to maintain a way of life. We are trying to maintain a life we believe is built on free-enterprise, hard-work, and freedom. Some of us want it to be more so while some others of us believe in the power of the government to help us reach our goals. But in the end, who is in ultimate control?

During her speech at the Global Leadership Summit, Condoleeza Rice shared that while she was Secretary of State, she would often ask the leaders around the table whether they were more concerned about today’s headlines or tomorrow’s history.  Boiled down, her question is this: Are we shooting for the popular decision or the right decision? Over the course of the next 7 weeks we are going to be treated to a continuing barrage of ire and political mayhem. Then, we will know the leadership for the next four years. What will that tell us? Will it really tell us our future individually or collectively? Probably not. Whichever way the election goes, those grand and glorious campaign promises are going to be promptly broken whether because the promise was just a line to get the vote or whether “the other side” gridlocked the process. Decisions will be made both for the popular reasons and for the right reasons. And one person’s “right reason” is another’s “stupid reason.” That’s the way it is.

Ultimately, it will all work out… because God is on His throne. In the meantime, I suggest a cup of tea and maybe a free cruise.

Nuts About Coconut!

On one of our weekly paths to and fro, the kids and I drive past a sign that advertises “Cherries, Coconuts, Fruts.” No, that is not a typo on my part. The hand-painted-on-cardboard sign is wrong. Yet, it has provided the kids and I a steady topic of conversation from “what is a frut, mommy?” to “why don’t they change it?” I love to hear my kids giggle and passing that sign always inspires a giggle.

Then, there comes the inevitable, “Can’t we stop to buy a coconut?” I wish I could pinpoint the moment when coconut became the flavor-of-the-day for my kids. Coconut spread on toast, coconut milk, coconut in cookies or granola bars… they love coconut. The only time they weren’t thrilled with coconut was at the bagel shop when they picked up tetra-paks of coconut water. I managed to drink it for them (because I can’t stand waste), but I really couldn’t blame them. Blech!

Imagine the excitement then when I announced that Compassion Tea would soon be carrying a new tea… Coconut Oolong! Although this oolong, like all other oolongs, has caffeine, this has become an early-in-the-day-only treat for the kids. As we would say if we were still in the Netherlands… LEKKER!

I first tried the coconut oolong at Ed and Wendy’s house when we were all gathered for a Compassion Tea director’s meeting. Chris and Anne were taking us through the intricacies of cupping. Think wine tasting only with tea. First, you inspect the leaves, notice their color, smell, are they curled or cut, rolled or shaped. Then the tea is steeped for the proper amount of time. In a flick of the wrist, the leaves are left on the cup lid and the third step is to inspect the infused leaves asking yourself what has happened to them in the steeping process. How much have they uncurled? If the curl or roll is still fairly tight, you can probably get another couple of infusions out of them. Having done that, it’s time to look at the liquor, the tea itself. Cupping your hands over the cup, take a deep breath. Note the nose. My favorite part comes next! Remember your mom telling you not to slurp? Well, in tea tasting, slurping is necessary! Breathing in, slurp up some tea, let it roll around on your tongue before you exhale and swallow. The full flavor of the tea should hit and linger. Like wine, you can then assess whether the tea has tannins, how it finishes, and eventually what it takes like cooled off.

When Chris and Anne announced the coconut oolong, there was an audible collection of breath, one of those oooooooo moments you might hear from a crowd expecting an amazing magic trick. The excitement filled the air. As we cupped our way through this tasting, the excitement grew. My notes indicated that the leaves had “beautiful curls” and were “consistent in color.” Both dry and steeped, the leaves gave off a rich, chestnutty aroma with a hint of a floral bouquet too subtle to completely identify. But, it is the lingering notes of coconut that make this tea truly marvelous. All of the Compassion Tea directors were making notes and rating the teas we tasted over the weekend. Wendy steered us to a quick way of marking the teas we wanted to carry… smiley faces. How funny it was to watch all 8 of us furiously scribbling smiley faces with hearts and extra smiles in our notes!

I didn’t know much about oolong tea going into this experience. Here is a little of what I’ve learned. Oolong is primarily produced in China and Taiwan, although India and other tea producing regions are beginning to produce it too. Like green, black and white teas, oolong comes from the camellia sinensis plant; the difference is in the oxidation process.

The Coconut Oolong is a tea blend. It’s base is a Taiwanese tea called Bao Zhong flavored with a creamy and smooth coconut flavoring. The Bao Zhong teas are known for their floral character, which comes from a unique natural process. Any time a tea leaf is bruised or cut in any way, it exposes the enzymes in the leaf to oxygen thereby beginning the oxidation process which gives the different teas their unique qualities. In the case of oolong tea, there is a green leaf hopper bug that visits the camellia sinensis plants and nibbles on the tea leaves. Those little nibbles begin the oxidation process before the leaves are even harvested. Once the bugs have left the tea garden, heading for another, the tea leafs, usually a bud and two leafs, are plucked, withered and dried, sometimes steamed, sometimes roasted, often rolled or shaped into pearls, and then finished off before heading to your tea pot.

I should note that we also tasted and are adding Jade Cloud – an organic Fair Trade green tea, West Cape Chai – an organic Fair Trade rooibos that includes ginger, star anise, clove, fennel, cinnamon, cardamom, peppermint, black pepper, and ramon nut (a coffee-like flavor) to create a warm and spicy happiness, and the Bai Hao oolong without the coconut flavoring. Stay tuned! I intend to mix the West Cape Chai with some half-and-half and a splash of rum. I’ll tell you how it goes!

Useless

“Useless. There is no way you can use these, Clara.” I hated to have to say this. Mama can usually fix these things. But when the dog shredded her brand new flip flops, ripping the strap completely apart, there was no way to fix this except through copious amounts of duct tape. Who wants to wear that? (Don’t answer that… I realize there are websites devoted to duct tape apparel. Yikes.)

The pronouncement against the flip flops was met with copious tears, a true flood and a resistance to reality. All over a pair of shoes.

What else can be “useless?” Our dog Winston has rendered many things useless… from Legos to dolls, from buckets to fly traps. It almost makes one want to call him “useless.” But something stops us from calling another living thing “useless.” It certainly isn’t politically correct and it certainly isn’t Biblical. If we believe in a creator, who created us in His image, then certainly no human is less than remarkable.

Apparently, this is a first world perception however. In places where living is tenuous and people need to work together to provide the minimal for subsistence, those who can’t carry their own weight are, by society’s standards, “useless.” Chris and Jack Faherty, Compassion Tea co-founders, were in South Africa earlier this month visiting two clinics CompassioNow supports (in part thanks to your support of Compassion Tea!) Dr. Karin Volker has been working at the Lily Medical Centre for about four months now. She offered to take Chris and Jack around and discussed with them several of the patients she has been helping. One particular woman, in her early twenties and handicapped, has been deemed by the community as “useless.” Unable to walk, she crawled where she needed to go. Her own family had refused to help her. Because of the lack of care she had received, the woman eventually arrived at the clinic sickened with severe infections. Dr. Volker has been treating her infections and has given her a walker… the first time anyone has offered to help this woman improve the quality of her life. But Dr. Volker is frustrated too. She told Chris and Jack that she had sent the woman to a nearby government clinic. Unable to run certain labwork at Lily, Dr. Volker hoped the government clinic could do it. The government clinic had the capacity, but refused to do the labwork because “it was unnecessary.” The woman was useless; why spend the money?

Chris and Jack were taken to the woman’s house. I’m going to let their words tell the story:
“Wednesday morning we awoke to a very bright, cold day, (around 35 F). The conference center is a long cement block building with bedrooms on each side of the dark hallway. We were grateful for our warm showers but we ate breakfast wrapped in the blankets off our beds. The building never warmed up even with the windows open during the sunny afternoon. I mention this to put our community visit in perspective.
The home [we visited] was one of the round houses with a thatched roof and I wondered on the way there how they handle the cold nights having fewer resources than we did. When we went in the home there were three women and a baby, two of the women lying in bedding on the floor with the baby lying beside one of them. Apparently both of them were ill that day and were being cared for by a family member. As we looked around a few things stood out: there was no lighting other than the window, there was some crude electrical wiring, there was no furniture other than three “beds” on the floor, a small table, a large refrigerator (?) and a small electric space heater. The woman we came to see was one that Dr. Volker had told us about … who was handicapped. She has not received much help in her life as she is considered “not useful” and she had come in quite sick with infections. She was lying in one of the beds that morning and the woman there said that she was having a bad day but that she had been improving since Dr. Volker had been treating her. She pointed out a walker in the corner with a seat attached that the clinic had given them and she said this woman had been able to use it to get around without crawling. I believe the woman is in her early twenties and this is the first time anyone has offered to help her improve her quality of life.”

For twenty years, this woman has heard words that labeled her as unworthy, unlovable, hopeless. A walker, some antibiotics, and a person willing to take the time to help must add some hope to a life otherwise considered worthless.

I recently had the privilege of attending parts of the Global Leadership Summit and hearing Condoleezza Rice and John Ortberg speak. Rice spoke about her meager upbringing in the segregated south where her parents weren’t able to take her to the movies or to a restaurant. Nevertheless, they passionately imparted to their daughter that even though she “couldn’t sit at the counter at Woolworth’s” she might “one day become President of the United States.” That same child, who in the eyes of some would have been considered unworthy, potentially useless, grew up to become Secretary of State. It was a rousing moment at the Summit and I just heard Rice use it again during the RNC. Opportunity and hope are so powerful.

John Ortberg’s speech focused on research he did for his latest book Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus. Listening to the speech and subsequently reading Ortberg’s book, I’ve been amazed at the impact of Jesus’ life. I’ve had the privilege of growing up hearing the stories of how Jesus healed through touch or mud packs or mere words people with leprosy, lameness, blindness, excessive bleeding, and disturbed minds. But in today’s world, where we have huge institutions that lobby and fund-raise for everything from autism awareness to prison care, Jesus’ care for humanity seems par for the course. Ortberg says no. He explains the social culture of the day whether it be Greek, Roman, or Jewish. And concerned about others they were not! Ortberg explains, “Anything malformed or defective was considered by Pharisees to be unable to reflect the perfect holiness of God. Therefore, nothing malformed was allowed within the precincts of the temple” and that translated to people’s homes as well (pg. 36 Kindle version). According to Ortberg, “Sociologist Rodney Stark argued that one of the primary reasons for the spread of Jesus’ movement was the way his followers responded to sick people” (37-38). “The idea that ‘the least of these’ were to be treasured – that somehow the Jesus that they followed was present in despised suffering – was essentially a Copernican revolution of humanity. It created a new vision of the human being. People actually took Jesus at his word” (39). And therefore, Ortberg suggests “… wherever you have an institution of self-giving for the lonely (and for practical welfare for the lonely), schools, hospitals, hospice, orphanages for those who will never be able to repay, this probably has its roots in the movement of Jesus” (44).

Ortberg goes on to attribute libraries, hospitals, charities, democracy, abolitionist movements, and the rise of women’s rights to Jesus and His followers. Could these events, movements, institutions have occurred without Jesus? Possibly humanity could have gotten there eventually, Ortberg surmises. But we’ll never know because the world did have Jesus and continues to have His followers.

I can’t speak for Dr. Volker’s inspiration, but I can speak to the founders of Compassion Tea. As followers of this man named Jesus, they have publicly declared no life useless. Daily they strive to improve the lives of those in Africa deemed so and they support the people on the forefront of the fight to bring hope and health to people who are otherwise considered worthless. That is what Compassion Tea is about; we share tea in order to save lives… because no life is useless.

The Old College Try

What do you remember from your college days? I was watching via Facebook as the new students at Wittenberg University, my alma mater, arrived this past week. New Student Days… unpacking, bonding games with your dorm mates, learning the campus, and figuring out the food options… ahhhh, the good old days! Actually, that first year, probably the first month or two, everything felt so foreign. But by the end of my four-year tenure there, I owned that place! It sure felt like home and with the added independence of having a car on campus I knew Springfield and Yellow Springs quite well. It almost seemed incomprehensible that I couldn’t just stay at Wittenberg forever, cruising over to Young’s Dairy for an ice cream, watching the independent films in Yellow Springs, pontificating about literature with my favorite professors, sledding in the Hollow, or watching movies under the stars there, and best of all, chilling with my besties. But, I had a wedding and a new job and a new house waiting so onward and upward!

My college years were the ones that introduced me to tea. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what started it, but I remember having a brutal sinus infection my sophomore year and the only thing that kept me going was that giant tumbler of tea I carried to earthquakes and volcanoes honors science and to philosophy first thing in the morning. I must have had a hot pot to heat the water and Lipton was no doubt my tea of choice. After all, I was only a poor student! Yep, tea and my mom’s butter cookies… manna from heaven!

If this is making you feel nostalgic at all, you’ll be happy to know that Compassion Tea is introducing a new membership, our 9-month student membership! This membership covers the school year and is perfect for a parent, godparent, grandparent, or friend to gift to that special student heading back to the hallowed halls of learning. All you have to do is head over to our website (click here) and sign that special someone up for the 9-month membership and we’ll do the rest which includes sending two pouches of specially selected teas (about 50 to 60 infusions per month) directly to the student at his/her mailing address on campus. Just think of it as a warm fuzzy delivered to your student’s door monthly! And don’t forget the added bonus of also saving lives through this membership. Your purchase of a membership will help us send life saving medical supplies and medicines to “the world’s least served” in Africa.

Let’s give it the “old college try” and see how many student memberships we can get, how many students’ lives we can warm, and how many lives we can save!

Inspiring Pu’ erh

Anne and Chris watch as Didi pours another infusion of her family’s pu ‘erh tea during the World Tea Expo held in Las Vegas in June.

The team gained insight into what Chris describes as “a meditative way of life that weaves the calming effects of tea into the building of relationship.”

“I was sitting in the hospitality room at the hotel, sipping wine, relaxing, and keeping to myself,” reminisced Lee Kennedy recently as he retold of an amazing experience he and the other founders of Compassion Tea Company had at the World Tea Expo held in June in Las Vegas. “And then Anne walked in and started doing what Anne does best,” he continued, sitting back in his patio chair. The people around the table chuckled because we all know what Anne does best; she’s a master at creating relationship where there is none.

Anne Kennedy, Lee’s wife, picked up the thread of the story. “There was an Asian man sitting near my husband and we started chatting.” And in the course of the conversation, they realized they were both there for tea. As Anne relayed some information she had just learned, the man became increasingly excited. As it turned out, the man was Professor Kanzo Sakata from the Laboratory of Molecular Bio-catalysts, Institute for Chemical Research, at Kyoto University in Japan. He specializes in the development of floral aroma during the production and processing of oolong and black teas. He works with the Japanese government to assist Japanese tea makers improve the quality of their teas, and Dr. Sakata was the one who had studied the impact of a certain leafhopper insect on the leaves used to make oolong teas; his published study was exactly what Anne was relaying. Immediately, a bond was formed.

With Dr. Sakata was a Chinese student named Didi Liu. A foremost expert on pu’ erh (pronounced poo air) teas, Didi was leading a class in these teas at the expo the next day, and she urged Anne and the other Compassion Tea directors to attend. The group of directors consisting of Lee and Anne, Chris and Jack Faherty, and Ed and Wendy Bjurstrom also met Didi’s parents who own a tea garden and a tea production business in the Yunnan region of China. The Liu’s purchased the land for their garden when they saw tourists trampling hundreds–of- years-old tea trees. Their tea garden contains tea trees that are roughly 800 years old and this age lends great flavor and value to the pu’ erh tea they produce.

The following day, the Compassion Tea directors headed to Didi’s seminar but found it sold-out and closed. Disappointed, the team strolled off to other parts of the expo. Later, they saw Didi again in the hotel hospitality room and shared their disappointment. Didi, also disappointed her new friends had been unable to attend the class, offered to serve the team tea.

What ensued turned out to be the highlight of the expo for the entire team. Joined by Dr. Sakata and Jane Pettigrew (an English tea guru who leads many seminars on tea), the team spent the next hour and a half in near silence punctuated by commentary about the pu’ erh tea and the ceremony itself. Didi’s mother prepared the water and cups in the background while Didi quietly and gracefully led the team through multiple cuppings and infusions of her family’s own pu’ erh tea. The cups she used had been designed by her mother especially for the ceremony of tasting pu ‘erh tea. The team described the ceremony as “purposeful,” “delicate,” and “gentle”… each participant receiving a thimble-full of tea to taste after each infusion. Chris remarked at her amazement that one serving of tea leaves could change and develop so markedly through multiple infusions, the leaves offering new colors and flavors with each steeping. Truly, they were in the presence of a great pu’ erh tea.

At the end of the ceremony, Didi presented each couple with their own cake of pu ‘erh tea from her parents’ garden and pressed in the ancient tradition by a stone weight. She instructed them to save the cakes for 5, 7, and 10 years, sampling one at each milestone. Pu ‘erh tea, because of the microbes introduced into the tea, ferments with age; like a fine wine, this is what gives the tea it’s uniquely dark, earthy color and flavor. The team views these teas as priceless.

During that hour and a half, the team gained insight into what Chris describes as “a meditative way of life that weaves the calming effects of tea into the building of relationship.” As Chris described the Chinese culture as humble and private, Lee remarked, “It was a true privilege. The ceremony gave me an added respect for tea and I feel a stronger connection to the roots of tea.”

The team felt that in sharing her tea and the ancient ceremony, Didi had shared herself, had built a relational bond, and had passed on an ancient art form. They spoke of the privilege, the contrast between our fast-paced American culture and the purpose of the timeless ceremony connected to the past and connecting them to their new friend. They spoke of the “fullness of being together,” of sharing, of passing the tea cup, of relationship building… all things we at Compassion Tea knew tea could mean for people and part of the reasoning behind our mantra, “Share Tea, Save Lives.” Tea brings people together, inspires meditation and communion and relationship, and provides a platform for revealing the true self.

As the sun sank behind the LA hills, and the chill of evening settled around us, Anne concluded, “I believe it was God’s little treat for us.”

Air Entitlement

Air travel is so delightful, isn’t it? Between the disgrace of pat downs, the grossness of walking through airport security shoeless, the jostling for position in the boarding line much like sheep through a chute, and the cramped quarters on-board, flying has become a necessary evil — convenient in the sense of time, but extremely uncomfortable. Last night as I boarded the plane in Ontario/LA, I threw up a prayer asking for safety and patience for us all and for wisdom for the pilot and crew. The instruction came to fire down electronic devices and I figured we were heading up. Turns out it wouldn’t be for another 2 hours. A screw on a wing panel was missing. Due to a lack of mechanics and screws, the process took 2 hours. People who might miss connections were rebooked on other flights. Those of us who were committed to a flight to Oakland were allowed to deplane and find sustenance. And yet, there were complaints. They ran the gamut of “how could this happen to me?” to “what are you going to give me for this inconvenience in my life?”

Me? I hunkered down with my Bible study. Through my church, I’m working through C. S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters.  Screwtape, a demon worker of Satan’s, is writing letters to his nephew Wormwood and trying to advise him on ways to distract and coerce his “patient” away from a newfound Christianity and back to the ways of the world. In Letter 21, Screwtape advises Wormwood to focus on the patient’s sense of ownership. If the patient believes time belongs to him, then he will feel peevish at the imposition of others on his time. If the demon acts just right, he can convince the patient there is little distinction between “my boots” and “my wife” or even “my God.” Screwtape concludes the letter saying, “And all the time the joke is that the word ‘Mine’ in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything.” He explains, “They (humans) will find out in the end, never fear, to whom their time, their souls, and their bodies really belong – certainly not to them, whatever happens.” The study material itself reminded me that all we have is a gift from God… our time, our resources, our talents, our possessions, our very lives. The study material says, “The truth is God gave us life, then the liberty or freedom to pursue happiness…. God did not give us the right to make demands upon others to feed us or clothe us or to provide shelter for us or to give us a job or even to pay our medical expenses or provide an education.” Rather, “[Our] objects are all gifts from God. God would have us treat these gifts well” and “[t]he time we have is a free gift from God. How we spend that time in some measure will reflect how we will be judged [or rewarded].”

I could hardly contain myself. Rarely does Bible study and “real life” coincide so dramatically.  Here I was on a plane with a cross-section of humanity, many of whom felt that they had been abused in some way. Their sense was that they were entitled to some sort of gift or reward for putting up with the inconvenience. But what if we had flown with that lost screw, what if the wing panel had wiggled off? What about the safety issue here? It wasn’t like the airline had unscrewed the screw just to spite their clientele. Maybe it was entirely a God-thing… a protection for us all from injury and/or death. In fact, I believe completely that’s what it was. When I reunited with my family and the kids asked what had happened to delay Mommy’s return I explained just that… that God had protected the people on the plane and me from injury. Screwtape and his friends very well could have distracted the crew from noticing the lost screw (is anyone else enjoying the further coincidence of the lost screw and the author of the letters, Screwtape?).

Let’s take this a bit further. If God gave us time, money, energy, everything, then we have some very important choices to make in how we spend our time, money, energy, lives. I’ve heard it said that what we spend our money on reflects where our heart lies, what we value. How we spend our time, especially our “free time” also reflects what we value and where our heart lies. Do we make room for God’s work in “our” time? Do we use “our” money for God’s work?  Or do we simply use our time and money for our comfort?

Have I mentioned the beauty of Compassion Tea in light of my ramblings?  Indulge me for a minute! You see, when you purchase a membership to our tea club (www.compassiontea.com/memberships) you spend roughly $12 a month depending on the membership you choose. The after-tax profit from that money may purchase eye glasses or Band-Aids or Neosporin or blood pressure cuffs or Novocain or surgical gloves or medicines which will then be sent to a clinic in rural Africa where it may treat a small child, a mother, a grandmother, a father, a brother, a son, a daughter… someone who does not have regular access to health care, doctors, even basic first aid. It may be used to ship supplies to Africa. It may be donated to a clinic to build a well, buy a solar panel, fix an airplane engine, pay the salary of a medical worker, host a clinic for first aid education… somehow improve the conditions of life for people in rural parts of Africa. In fact, we have Compassion Tea directors leaving Thursday to take supplies to the clinics we support in South Africa! (Stay tuned for exciting stories from the bush!) Taking care of God’s people, teaching them ways to provide for themselves, spending money to help others… all while also enjoying marvelous teas. (Sneak preview… we’ve got new teas coming… more on that later!)

Buying a Compassion Tea membership does in fact provide for our own comfort, but it also saves a life. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!

Distractions

I keep getting distracted. I should be writing a blog but then there are the dishes in the sink, the dog is eating a pencil, a shoe, a new Lego set, fill in the blank, the children are fighting again over trivialities which may really be a cry for Mom’s attention, and oh look at that pile of laundry over there. But wait, we’re late for a play date, a haircut, a camp, a show at the library, the dentist, fill in the blank. When I get home, there are the chickens to deal with and the dog will need some play time too. I’ll squeeze in that email response and maybe check Facebook and then cook lunch, dinner, fill in the blank. The distractions are fast and furious (yes, even politics as the election cycle heats up are getting to be distracting because one must be an informed voter).

And then I sit down and read my Bible study material … the assigned letters from C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters wherein one agent of the Devil advises his nephew on the best ways to prevent his patient’s complete and total conversion to Christianity. Tactic #1? Keep him distracted and unable to act. If the nephew can keep the patient focused on the minutiae and never on the big picture, on the little idiosyncrasies of the person in the pew next to him instead of on the bigger view of the sinfulness of all men, on the future fears instead of the present joys, on the daily grind rather than the vastness of creation, then the patient will be mired in the Devil’s bog rather than walking freely in the light. Distraction. The Devil’s number one tool and I’ve got it bad.

Last week was Bible School week at our church and this year’s theme was “Daniel’s Courage.” Based on his faith in God, Daniel stood up to countless attacks on his character and his God as did his famous friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and not so surprisingly God came through saving the foursome from such things as fiery furnaces and hungry lions. What really struck me this go around for the book of Daniel was the discipline with which Daniel lived his life. His wasn’t some haphazard, willy-nilly religion that came into play when convenient. He was disciplined to eat God’s food, not the King’s delicacies. He was disciplined to continue prayer despite attempts to make such action illegal. He was disciplined to turn to prayer when times were going great and when times were dire. It seems to me, discipline must be the answer to distraction. Intentionality and focus chase away distraction.

As is often the case, this realization has been reinforced for me… this time through one of those email forwards we get from our friends. Titled “When you thought I wasn’t looking” this little email points out the importance of intentionality in our lives. I admit that when I first saw the subject, I thought, “Oh here we go. All the ways I’ve failed… that negative thought I uttered, the cynical moment I had, the discouraging muttering under my breath, the moments I lost my temper.” Instead, here is what it said:

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you hang my
first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately
wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you feed the
birds in winter, and I learned that it was good to be kind
to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make my
favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little
things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I heard you say a
prayer, and I knew that there is a God I could always
talk to, and I learned to trust in Him.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you make a
meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I
learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you take care
of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have
to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw how you
handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t
feel good, and I learned that I would have to be
responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw you hold
the door open for others and heard ‘thank you’ and
‘you’re welcome’, and I learned respect for others.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw tears come
from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things
hurt, but it’s all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I saw that you
cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I learned most of
life’s lessons that I need to know to be a good and
productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn’t looking I looked at you and
wanted to say,’ Thanks for all the things I saw when
you thought I wasn’t looking.

Doesn’t it just make you want to cry? Seriously, though, there is intentionality in all of those actions and despite the littleness of some of them they do speak volumes to the state of the heart.

Now to tie this all into Compassion Tea and CompassioNow. I received an email this week, the minutes from a meeting of the board for Mission Medic Air in Zambia (www.mma-zambia.org). This organization flies doctors into the bush to host monthly clinics in places where there are no doctors. Mission Medic Air is supported by CompassioNow, who has provided funds, a new engine for the crucial airplane that gets the doctors into the remote areas of Zambia, and medical supplies, This past spring, Mission Medic Air hosted a Smile Train camp at a local hospital. During the six days of the camp, 45 patients were seen and treated. That number may seem low until you understand the scope of the camp. Smile Train (www.smiletrain.org) is a charitable organization dedicated to changing the world one smile at a time by providing free surgery to fix cleft palates and lips to families who can’t afford to have the procedure. According to their website, 170,000 children are born yearly world-wide with some sort of cleft. If it is left unrepaired, it can prevent a child from eating and speaking. In many parts of the world, the social stigma that follows a child with cleft is that he/she is cursed; some are even killed or abandoned immediately after birth. So, through the intentionality of Mission Medic Air and Smile Train, 45 children in Zambia were given new life as their clefts were repaired. Already, Mission Medic Air has about 20 other cases signed up in hopes there will be another such camp in the near future.

This made me think of the intentionality of my support of Compassion Tea. Sure, it would be easy to just grab a box of sub-quality tea at the grocery store while I’m there. Or I suppose I could choose to intentionally go to the mall and spend a wad of money at a very lucrative certain tea source there. But in signing up for a Compassion Tea membership I’ve added convenience (now my tea shows up in my mailbox), variety (I get to try teas I might not have thought to try), and that social justice element that only Compassion Tea offers… providing life-saving health care to people who need it desperately. When I don’t think anyone is looking, my children will see me baking with or drinking the tea. They enjoy it too. And they are growing up hearing the stories of children in other parts of the world that don’t have it so good.

I guess what I want to get across here is that in our world of distractions and grind, we can act intentionally in ways that have lasting effects on our own little corner of the world as well as on the wider world. It may take discipline, but the blessings that follow are immeasurable.

Just as a note… in the course of the time it has taken me to complete my ramblings, Winston the dog has shredded an inflatable ball and a gift bag and has emptied the contents of 2 trashcans consuming what he could ingest. Distractions.