I See Your Belly Button: Immigrant Lessons in American Compassion – by Alfred T. Stefanik
From the time that Fr. Alfred (Al) Stefanik preached his first sermon, “Don’t Smell the Peonies,” at Trinity Episcopal – Shelburne in 1988, Dorothy Cole and other church members insisted that he set what became known as his “grandmother stories” into a book. Al’s grandmother, was all about standing up for the little guy, and he used the stories to make the Gospel message concrete and current.
Genowewa (Jenny) Hozer-Gniazdowski, the stories’ namesake, was a wife and the mother of six children, and little else in her life was conventional. Jenny dared to question the tenets that held up traditional societal and church structures, but she did so with kindness and heart. Never prey to petty scandals, her fierce determination to stand up for minorities and the persecuted was unshakeable. Although most of Jenny’s story takes place in the 1940’s, she also stood up for women’s rights and the dignity of people who were said to have “alternative lifestyles.”
During the first eighteen years of Al’s life, he spent a lot of time with his grandmother. In that time, she taught him the meaning and the roots of compassion. I See Your Belly Button is Al’s tribute to his grandmother as well as a testament to the human capacity for love. The book is now available at the Hopkins Bookshop in its new location: Trinity Episcopal Church, 5171 Shelburne Road, Shelburne, VT 05482. Store hours are Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday, Noon to 4 p.m. Tel: 802-985-2269.
Article content: Excerpted and adapted from Amazon.com
Book cover: Roda Publishing