I have been thinking a lot about recent events, both private and public. Don’t tell anyone, but I am sixty-six years old and, in a week, will become a great-grandmother. I am going to take a moment here to pause because I still have a hard time saying and accepting that. My life has had many twists and turns along what Robert Frost describes as the road less traveled. I have been standing at an intersection recently, but have made a decision to follow a path where I feel led.
So many times in my life, I have chosen to stand and wait, offering only “thoughts and prayers” to my journey. While taking time to think and pray before acting is essential, often I stop short of doing anything. I have been reminded that choosing to do nothing is a choice. This is true not only of my life journey but in my day to day actions as well.
The facebook posts after the school shooting last week followed the same pattern as other such tragedies. Posts offering “thoughts and prayers” follow shock and anger. Heated debate and name calling are next to appear. Soon everyone forgets as we await the next shooting or child abduction or horrific stories of abuse. Please hear me as I say that prayer is powerful and much needed. Yet, I have to ask if it is enough. I was reminded of a story that still haunts me.
A few years ago, I was driving on a busy four-lane highway to my church prayer lunch. The road is one where no one slows down for anything. People pass and bounce from lane to lane without the benefit of blinkers or common sense. As I made my way to church, suddenly the tail lights on the cars ahead of me flashed red as cars in both lanes came to a sudden stop.
I tried to see what caused the delay when I saw what looked like the front of a broken shopping cart coming across the front of the line of cars. I was surprised as I saw a broken walker being pushed by an elderly man. He walked so slowly that I wasn’t sure how he got into the road at all since traffic is usually constant. He had only one good arm; the other seemed to be at an angle as if he had an injury or perhaps the remnants of a stroke. He walked with a bit of a limp, as well. The walker had front wheels, but there were no wheels on the back. He made it past the cars reaching the safety of the grass median. However, the grassy area seemed to make it harder for him to push and maneuver.
My heart ached as a watched his broken body push the feeble walker. There was no expression in his eyes or face. It appeared that his spirit was broken as badly as his body. As the cars began to move, I felt a battle raging in my heart and head. I wanted more than anything to pull my car into the grass and see if I could help him. The logical side of my brain wondered how in the world I could help. What if he was violent? What if he was mentally ill and didn’t understand my gesture or offer of help? What if he was ill and I was exposed? Would I offer him a ride? What would I say?
I pulled into a parking lot for a down the road to think for a moment. I fought tears as I wondered if this man had family or food or a place to stay. I certainly had nothing I could offer him. My finances were already limited without trying to help someone else. Maybe I could go back and just say a kind word to him. The logical side of my mind asked what good that would do. Sure, go and say, “Hi, I saw you struggling to get across the road. I don’t have any way to help you but just wanted to say Howdy!”
In the end, I didn’t turn around even though I felt led to do so. I don’t know why this man touched my heart the way he did. I did say a prayer for him. I believe in the power of prayer. There have been many times in my life where I felt so very broken, and I prayed for someone to reach out to me. I am so grateful for the people who took time to pray for me, talk to me, and help me. How could I not return what had been so freely given to me?
I don’t know the life journey of the man I saw that day. I don’t know if he had friends or family or anyone to help him in his brokenness. All I did for him that day was pray. I know in my heart praying wasn’t enough.
Matthew West’s song “Do Something” encourages us to take the time to do something for others: I Said, “God, why don’t You do something?” He said, “I did, yeah, I created you.”
None of us can solve all of the world’s problems. None can address every issue or the challenges faced by others. Yet, each of us can find a way to take action. Yes, I pray and continue in prayer. I didn’t stop and help a broken man a few years ago, but I choose today to offer my thoughts and prayers – and then I take the next step. I find a way to do the next right thing to try and make a difference.
It is January 2018 and the beginning of a new year. This is the time that we all make decisions to go to the gym, eat healthier, made amends, go to church, or make other life altering choices. I will admit that I too have been guilty of waiting for January to make changes that could have and should have been made long before. Instead of feeling guilty, I choose to see this as a positive thing – at least I am willing to make changes and when better to start than January.
My move to the Upstate of South Carolina from the Lowcountry this summer created the opportunity for many changes. These changes include where will I get my hair cut, what doctor to choose, what grocery store is best, and the list goes on. I am grateful that my best friend Jan moved back to this area from Charleston before I arrived. Having a “local” friend is a huge blessing.
Two decisions that would have a large impact on my life were how would I continue my exercise and healthy eating program without my trainer, Arron. I will admit that I haven’t done as well as I had hoped. Going to a new gym with new people and new routines is difficult. There is an amazing gym at Clemson, and I have a membership at Gold’s Gym. I simply need to put on my gym shoes and go. I give you all permission to hold me accountable to my commitment to continuing this journey.
The second decision was where to go to church. This one has taken longer than I thought. I came to the upstate with a church already in mind. I enjoyed the church services, the pastor, and the people there, yet I knew in my heart that I needed to keep searching. Just a few weeks before the holidays, I decided to visit a church I pass every day on the way to school. I felt drawn to visit. It turns out that the pastor grew up in the same church as my best friend. I immediately felt drawn to this church. I plan to make this my new church home.
That takes care of the physical and spiritual part of my life. The harder part of a move such as this is creating a new community. In Charleston, I had an extensive circle of people in my life from my years at Hotline as well as the theater community. It is time to create a new community here. Just as with the gym, I haven’t done as well as I had hoped in this area.
One last change for the new year involves this blog. I have been writing for OdysseyOnLine for the past year, neglecting this site. As of the first of the year, I am not longer a writer for OdysseyOnLine. While this was a great opportunity and provided a larger number of readers, I don’t feel I was able to write in my “own voice” on the site. I am returning to my website and blog for my writing.
I hate change if truth be told. Ask any of my friends; they will confirm this. However, I must concede that change is inevitable. This year will undoubtedly bring many changes. I hope they are all positive, but that is a bit unrealistic. So, I will look at the year ahead and remember the Serenity Pray daily:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Click on the link to read. Transferring colleges in as I start my senior year is going to be filled with mixed emotions. I love College of Charleston and hope that I will love Clemson as much!
There are things I could never imagine happening to me. That is saying a lot considering I have a highly overactive imagination. I can imagine an asteroid crashing into earth close my home. My friends will tell you that they are not allowed to mention comets, or meteor showers, or a protentional eclipse. I can imagine a tsunami wiping out a beach as I sit in the sand. I can envision an earthquake while I am in a three story building. I am afraid that someone might break into the house when I am all alone and taking a shower (that might just be a throwback to Psycho). I can even imagine how our country might look like after the current elections. Yet, I could never have believed what would happen this week.
I arrived at my class at school, and we began a group team building exercise. The instructions were simple. Everyone was to stand in a large circle. The professor would read a statement, and everyone would quickly, without much thought or hesitation, step into the circle to the extent that they agreed with the statement. If you strongly agreed with the statement, you would walk into the center of the circle. If you slightly agreed, you would only take a small step or two in the circle. If you strongly disagreed, you would stand in place and so on.
The first statements were innocuous.
“I like chocolate.” Almost everyone was in the center of the circle.
“I like pizza.” People were a bit more spread out on this one.
“I am a dog person.” “I am a cat person.” There were some strong feelings on this one.
The statements then focused more on issues.
“I am a feminist.”
“I believe everyone has the same access to prosperity.”
“I believe everyone should have equal access to education.”
With each of these statements, everyone in the group shared the same opinion. We all appeared to be on the same page when it came to social issues and ideals.
After each statement, the professor would ask us to return to the circle if we had moved. After a few more statements, I heard this one.
“I believe in God.”
Without hesitation, I began my first step into the circle. As I moved, I suddenly became aware that no one else was moving. I hesitated for a split second. Do I keep going? Surely everyone is thinking about the question and will be stepping in. Maybe they are just waiting for the others. I took another step. The room was silent and still.
I kept taking steps towards the center of the circle. I could only see those in front of me or just to my side. Everyone was looking at me in the circle, but no one looked me in the eyes. I felt alone and exposed. I thought of the woman in the Bible who was caught in adultery. Everyone circled around her, pointed fingers, and said she should be stoned. Could this really be happening? I just wanted the professor to direct me back to my spot in the circle.
We quickly moved on to our next activity. I don’t remember much about what we did the rest of the class. I still felt as if I was standing alone in the middle of the circle. That feeling would stay with me for a while; in fact, I am still carrying a bit of it with me as I write.
I would not have been surprised if no moved into the circle had the statement been, “I am a Christian” or “I am religious” or “I go to church.” I know many people who want nothing to do with organized religion. I understand those who have questions about faith. I certainly have many questions about God, the church, the Bible, and theology. I am still shaken by the fact that no one moved into the circle. Even if someone had moved just a step or two into the circle, it would have been easier to understand. How could these people who share the same values about social issues and social justice not believe in God?
I have been thinking about this all week. As I began to process this, I looked at the world and the events of the past years. I remember bombings and killings in the name of God. I saw religious people who hated those who are different, people who say that God hates those who are aren’t like them, people who claim to follow God but turn their back on the poor, sick, and lonely. Politicians have been throwing around claims about God for months. Churches are splitting because they can’t agree to love one another any longer because of issues surrounding race, gender, who you can love or which bathroom people can use.
I must wonder if these bright, talented, young people I know, who want to change the world, look at all of this and decide that God can’t exist. In his book, “Blue Like Jazz”, Donald Miller writes about his experience at Reed College, a secular liberal arts college in Oregon. He and a few Christian friends discuss a way to talk to people on campus about their faith since students seemed hostile to their views. They come up with an idea to offer a confession to the other students. The confession below expresses what I have been thinking:
“So this group of us on campus wanted to confess to you,” Donald said.
“You are confessing to me!” Jake said with a laugh.
“Yeah. We are confessing to you. I mean, I am confessing to you.”
“You’re serious.” His laugh turned to something of a straight face.
“There’s a lot. I will keep it short,” Donald started. “The thing is, we are followers of Jesus. We believe that Jesus is God and all, and he represented certain ideas that we have sort of not done a good job at representing. He has asked us to represent him well, but it can be very hard. Jesus said to feed the poor and to heal the sick. I have never done very much about that. Jesus said to love those who persecute. I tend to lash out, especially if I feel threatened, you know, if my ego gets threatened. Jesus didn’t mix spirituality with theology. I grew up doing that. It got in the way of the central message of Christ. I know that was wrong, and I know that a lot of people will not listen to the words of Christ because people like me, who know him, carry our own agendas into the conversation rather than just relaying the message Christ wanted to get across. There’s a lot more, too.”
There is a lot more! I want to confess and apologize for not always carrying the message of Christ in my life, but I am going to keep trying.
My life has always involved changes. I am not really fond of changes; just ask anyone who knows me. 2015 has been full of changes, and I wasn’t happy about most of them. There was a lot of loss this year, too. However, this Christmas will be a very big change for me. Tonight, I will board a train and head west to San Antonio, Texas (after heading North, then West, and then South to get there) to spend the holiday with my brother and his family.
My brother and I were separated when we were very young. I did get to spend a couple of weeks with him every summer, but never Christmas. That might have been in part due to the fact that I lived in South Carolina, and he was in West Va. buried under snow. We haven’t been able to see each other very often as adults and have only been together during the Christmas season a few times. We have never actually shared Christmas Day since he was 2 years old.
This will be an exciting time. I will get to meet his grandchildren for the first time. We will be able to spend some good quality time together and that usually means trouble. His wife might have to send us to our rooms or give us time out. She will have to separate us when football is on because he is a DALLAS fan. OMG! We will get to do a little sightseeing, try to piece together memories and share some old pictures we have been able to gather over the years. All in all, I am so very excited and ready to begin this journey.
This will be a huge change for me. For the past 19 years, I have spent every Christmas day with my two children, their spouses, and my grandchildren. We usually begin the day in our pajamas and head to IHOP for breakfast. We then return home for gift giving and fun. The day usually ends with playing games and just relaxing. This year we got together a couple of weeks early to celebrate Christmas as a family. For the past 4 years, I have shared Christmas eve with my “other family.” The day often included shopping or last minute gift wrapping followed by Christmas Eve service at church and then supper. There would be amazing hot chocolate from a crock pot and just enjoying the time together. The kids would beg to open one gift from under the tree, and then we would exchange our Christmas gifts for each other.
Christmas at my house growing up wasn’t much of a celebration or fun. It was a day I usually wondered if my mother or father would call or come to see me. Usually my mother would call, but never my father. We had an ugly silver tree with a light that revolved around it. I have written some other posts about all of this. As an adult, Christmas was made very special because of my children. I loved watching their excitement over everything that happened during the holidays. There was then a period of time when they were older that things weren’t as good, but those times passed.
Christmas really is about a time of celebrating the birth of Christ and all that it represents. It is a time to share with family and friends no matter how close or far. I will truly miss the Christmas traditions of the past years, but I know this Christmas offers something special as I get to be a “kid” and reclaim some of the Christmas spirit with my little brother.
I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa or anything else that you may celebrate during this holiday season.
The text below is an assignment for my Religion and Society class.
“Experiment with Ahimsa,” following the model of Gandhi and his autobiography. After re-reading about Gandhi’s understanding of ahimsa and his experiments with Truth, conduct an “experiment with non-violence.” For some set time (3-7 days), attempt to refrain from all forms of violence towards other human beings and animals, including (but no limited to) anger, hate, gossip, personal criticism, evil thoughts, jealousy, and physical violence toward any other being. Try to remove violence from speech, mind, and action; and try not to support others if they engage in violent speech, thought or conduct. You must maintain a record of your experiences and “experiments with Truth”, using Gandhi’s book as your model to emulate.
As we discussed this in class, I asked about food and football. The Professor smiled and explained that we would have to make our own determination about how far we were willing and able to go with food in this process. Since football is a sport and there is no intention of harm, I am going to say that watching football wouldn’t be a hindrance to this process. ” In fact, he (Gandhi) was a path-breaker of sorts, even in football, when in 1896, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, still a young, relatively unknown lawyer in South Africa, was amongst a group of pre-dominantly Indian men, who helped form the Transvaal Indian Football Association” (Ayush Srivastava – The Goal). There was even a team called the Passive Resisters. Later, Gandhi would say that while his country was in turmoil against the British, people should be more interested in changing the country than sports.
While reading about Gandhi and his idea of ahisma, we learned that Ghandi believed non violence went far beyond “doing no violence or harm”. Gandhi taught that ahisma was non violence in our thoughts, intentions, actions, and our lifestyle. It was about compassion and love.
I have been watching my friend Abby, from the infamous Abby Gabbs blog, posting pictures with the hashtag #100happydays. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but I loved the pictures. Today, Abby posted that she had completed the challenge, and I finally understood what it meant.
It is a very simply challenge- every day submit a picture of what made you happy! Post the picture to your Instagram or facebook and tag it. At first it seemed to be a rather Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver look at your life. Yet, the more I read, the more I realized that some days I only focus on the fear or the negative. Every day has something that brings happiness. Every day I can chose to be grateful for something. I know this is pretty simple, and I know it won’t change the circumstances of daily living, but it might just change my attitude a bit.
The challenge says, “#100happyday challenge is for you – not for anyone else. It is not a happiness competition or a showing off contest. If you try to please / make others jealous via your pictures – you lose without even starting.
I decided to take the challenge. I won’t be posting to facebook every day, but my Instagram will be updated daily. I will post again in a couple of weeks, and let you know if my attitude has changed. I hope I don’t have to buy too many donuts!
“This is the Crisis Hotline. How can I help you?” I almost hung up when I heard those words on the other end of the phone. I was angry, frightened, and lost.
“I tried to kill myself, but it isn’t working.” I waited for a response.
“OK, let me get a counselor to help you.”
I didn’t think anyone could help, but I didn’t know what else to do. A woman talked to me that night for a very long time. I don’t remember everything she said, but I will never forget her compassion and caring that night. She listened-really listened-without judgement or condemnation. She saved my life that night.
Several years later, I made a decision to volunteer with crisis hotline in the town where I lived. The 35+ hours of training consisted of learning active listening skills, crisis intervention skills, and more. I was excited about answering calls and helping someone just as I had been helped. Little did I know that one call on that line would change my life.
I was in an abusive marriage. I knew I needed to leave, but I kept making excuses for staying. One afternoon I answered a call from a women, who was hiding in a closet while we talked. I stayed on the phone with her as I heard her husband banging on the door and screaming at her. We were able to send help to her and get her out. I don’t know what happened with her after that day, but as I talked with her I realized it could easily have been me on the other end of the call. It was time for a change.
Within a couple of months, I left my marriage and moved back home to South Carolina for a new start. A couple of years later, I saw an ad for a position as the Volunteer Coordinator for our local Hotline. I was ecstatic when I was offered the job. I have been blessed to part of the 2-1-1 Hotline here in Charleston, SC ever since.
The staff and volunteers are an amazing group of people. We have volunteers from every walk of life and every age range. We have college students majoring in psychology or social work. We have senior citizens who are retired and love talking with callers. We have people from varied philosophical ideas, from every political affiliation, from all faith and religious backgrounds, and more. The common thread is a desire to help others.
People often ask what is required to be a 2-1-1 Hotline volunteer. Here is what it takes:
- Respect of others and non-judgmental attitude
- Empathy or understanding
- Level head and ability to stay calm in a crisis
- Dependability and honesty
Our training program covers general counseling skills, crisis intervention and issue education to prepare you for the wide variety of calls you may take. We ask for a commitment of4 four-hour shifts a month, with flexible scheduling 24 hours a day, for 9 months following the completion of training.
My friend and coworker, Sonia wrote a blog post about her experience with 2-1-1 Hotline as well. You can read it here. Sonia is the phone room manager and would love to talk to you about volunteering. Our next training starts in June.
Call or e-mail today to set up an interview!! firstname.lastname@example.org or 843-566-7186