Helping, Serving—One Woman at a Time (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, April 18, 2016

I am thankful. Thankful for good health, thankful for a snug apartment in a good part of town. Thankful for a livable wage for me and for my husband. But, it was not always that way. Years ago, I remember living at the poverty line. Not able to find decent jobs, for many, many months. Health and depression issues came in there, too. My life was filled with anxiety and fear. The constant knot in my stomach, stress headache that just wouldn’t go away. Thank God, that period of my life is over.

As I was looking over several entries in A Year of Being Kind, I came across this Feature Friday blog post. I really feel for anyone stuck in this sad, hopeless, even despairing situation, described below. Sarah’s Circle is a non-profit, helping agency that serves as a helping hand. Helping in a variety of ways! I am so glad that Sarah’s Circle is here.

 Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, April 25, 2014

heart and people illustration

Helping, Serving—One Woman at a Time (Feature Friday!)

Imagine being afraid. Downright terrified. Needing a safe place to stay. On top of that, being homeless. No place to go. Nowhere to sleep. Nothing to eat. On top of everything, you’re a woman. Got that? All of those things, rolled up into a tight ball of frantic fear and anxiety. What to do? How to cope?

There is a place to go. There is a solution. In the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, Sarah’s Circle provides a refuge for women. They may be homeless, or in need of a safe place to go, or both. Sarah’s Circle provides assistance in terms of housing, case management, referrals, and other necessities of life. In other words, this organization provides hope for women who have just about run out of hope.

A friend of mine, James, is the business manager for Sarah’s Circle. I talked with him recently. He told me this organization “is a place where any woman can come and find support no matter what their situation is.” James is quite enthusiastic about the services and other resources these caring folks provide. Their day program is open to anyone. That means—anyone. Regardless of the reasons for homelessness and loss of family, employment, living space, dignity—women can come to Sarah’s Circle and find help and hope for themselves.

In addition, this non-profit organization also supports twenty-two units of permanent housing. (This is in partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.) Sarah’s Circle is an oasis in the challenging, sometimes fearsome desert that is the city of Chicago. This group helps vulnerable women through difficult times, as they rebuild their dignity, stability—their very lives.

Women have gender-specific reasons for difficulties in their lives, which include many types of trauma. Not only can homelessness be a result of poverty and domestic violence, but Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder frequently occurs. As a result, trauma can contribute to mental illness and substance abuse.

Sarah’s Circle reports: “Approximately 56% of women who are homeless have been sexually assaulted; this is more than three times the rate for homeless men and for women in the general population. Research shows a strong correlation between frequency and seriousness of past victimization and diagnosis of mental illness as well as reported drug and alcohol problems. Women are more than twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. “

Sarah’s Circle is not a religious organization, but many people of various faith expressions work or volunteer at this organization. As I reflect upon service to the poor and homeless, giving a cup of cold water to those in need, I can’t help but be reminded of the verse I’ve chosen for the month of April. Colossians 3:23 tells us “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.” May I be given the willingness to go and do likewise. Please, God, may it be so.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a PEACE journey through Eastertide. #PursuePEACE. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

You Help Me, I Help You! (#BestOf!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, April 1, 2016

I had forgotten all about this situation. This vignette. Yes, two years ago at the beginning of April was a very busy time around my house. It felt good to remember this man. How helpful he had been. And, his kindness did not seem forced, at all! That was the best part. I do remember him, now. I wish him the best, wherever he may be. Good thoughts, gentle prayers, and my best wishes are winging his way.  

bathroom Roy Lichtenstein pop art 1961

Roy Lichtenstein – pop art, 1961

 

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, April 5, 2014

You Help Me, I Help You!

I’ve spoken here about getting prepared for some remodeling of our bathroom. A facelift, as I like to think of it. Today, I went out in search of more supplies. I need to have just about everything ready for the contractor when he arrives on Monday morning. So, there we were, my daughter and I. At the huge do-it-yourself big box store.

I guess I’m rather a novice at this sort of thing. I have rarely bought anything larger than a birdbath at one of these stores. Either that, or I’ve bought enough paint for a couple of rooms on several occasions. I felt like a kid in a candy store! Imagine, being able to choose the type of tile and the type of vanity I want. (I take pleasure in the small things in life. Or, I’m just easily pleased.)

The gentleman who helped us was great. He was kind, friendly, and especially helpful with suggestions for the vanity. (We have a modest condo, and small bathroom—therefore, small vanity.) He left us alone after a short time so my daughter and I could finish collecting the towel bars and the faucet for the sink, but assured us he would be around if we needed him.

As we made our way to the register in the front of the store, my daughter, the store employee and I chatted some more about the upcoming work. I checked out of the store and the clerk helped us to our car with the things we had bought. After he finished loading the rear of our vehicle, he handed me a small piece of paper with his name, store and employee number listed. He asked me—in a sort of shy way—whether I might be able to rate him and his customer service. I gave him a smile (my usual wide, friendly type of smile). “Sure! I’d be happy to do that.”

I don’t often follow through with the online form. For example, when a cashier at the grocery store hands me a form like that, I realize I have had minimal contact with him or her. I know they are told to give them to customers, but I feel very little reason to actually go on line. (I am not sure whether that makes me a “bad person” or not, but that’s the way I think right now.)

The duplicated form he handed me caused me to think about the time we spent together. I felt perfectly comfortable with him. As I said, he was cordial, helpful and friendly. The only thing that I really regretted was that I hadn’t asked his name.

I found out his name as I looked at the form. Reggie. Here’s a shout out to you, my friend! As far as I was concerned, you were absolutely great, Reggie. I hope you are the same way with every other customer you meet. God’s blessings be yours.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a blogging journey through Eastertide. #PursuePEACE. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Are You Being Served? (Feature Friday!) (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Saturday, March 19, 2016

As I read through a 2014 blog post list from A Year of Being Kind, this blog post jumped out at me. Yes, I still go into Curt’s Café from time to time (even though it is a little out of my usual traffic pattern). And, I am so glad they expanded—to a second location, on the south side of Evanston, on Dempster near Evanston Township High School. What a great opportunity for young people, looking for a leg up! And what a wonderful chance for restorative justice to be lived out. Thank you, Susan. Thank you to all the supporters of Curt’s Café, too!

 

Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, March 14, 2014

restaurant drawing Navaredo (1)

Are You Being Served? (Feature Friday!)

Imagine a place where young people are valued. Mentored. Taught not only what to do on the job, but how to manage life skills, as well. Imagine no longer—this place is for real, and it’s Curt’s Café, in Evanston, Illinois. This café and coffee shop in north Evanston has a mission to “equip at-risk youth (15 to 22 years old) with job and life skills through training, career coaching and mentoring.”

Worthy goals, you say? That’s not all. The training and support these young people receive help them to succeed in life, find worthwhile employment, and become active participants in their local community. These young men and women are not always the first choice for general employment, because of a brush with the legal system. Or, they haven’t had the opportunities that other youth often take for granted. Those are things that usually are a red flag to employers. However, the staff and director at Curt’s Café go out of their way to provide these young people (“at risk”) with fine opportunities. Careful training by food service professionals. Mentoring in positive, helpful life skills. Gainful employment.

I had the opportunity to talk today with Susan Trieschmann, Curt’s Café’s executive director. She said one of the most transformative things about working at the Café is watching the transformations happen in the lives of the young people. And she not only watches the youth working and training at the Café, but also watches the interactions of the patrons with the staff.  Susan marvels at the patience of the patrons, and talks about observing them “dig deep down and grab the patience from somewhere inside.”

She gave a recent example. A good-hearted recent hire at the Café was serving breakfast to a father and daughter. The young man messed the order up. He not only messed up, but he has issues with shyness. Messing up the order made his shyness even more apparent. Susan observed the daughter encouraging the staff member and letting him know that it was all right. People mess up. And that just happens sometimes.

Penny Doyle, fundraising manager for the Café, is touched by transformation, too. She watches the young women and men become more confident as they continue to grow in learning at the Café. Learning not only about the restaurant and food service business, but about life in general. She especially has gratitude for the incredible community support. Penny encourages anyone who would like to contact the Café to check out their Facebook page or contact them at www.curtscafe.org. And donations are a wonderful thing, as well!

The patrons, by and large, realize and fully support the mission of Curt’s Café; they have a great capacity for willing understanding. Even active encouragement!  Susan, who attends classes on a part-time basis at Catholic Theological Union, is fully committed to the mission of the Café. This ministry is a visible, tangible way for restorative justice to be lived out. Lived out locally, in our community, praise God.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a Lenten journey. #PursuePEACE. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Can I Be of Service? How? (#BestOf)

Can I Be of Service? How? (#BestOf)

Posted on March 14, 2016 by chaplaineliza

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, March 13, 2016

This #BestOf blog post reminds me of how much I enjoyed being kind, and doing daily acts of service in 2014. Just having that orientation, each day for a year, provided me with a wonderful store of memories. And—this particular post reminds me of my friend Sarah, who now has an even more successful florist’s business here in Evanston. (And not just flowers, but much more!) I want to be of service to others. Lord, You know how much. Send me more opportunities, please.

Can I Be of Service? How?

Posted on March 14, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, March 13, 2014

 

act in such a manner

Can I Be of Service? How?

Can I be of service today? I did not have that intentional thought today, it is true. However, in retrospect, I found I did perform some service. Several times!

I worked today. I was of service there. I ran some errands, so I was of service to my family and my husband. I went to the gym this morning—I even did some self-care, and was of service to myself! So, yes. I did perform some acts of service today, although they were not intentional. I mean, I did not pray specifically for God to send some brand-new opportunities for service into my life. The service just sort of happened. Just sort of was there. After thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that’s great, too!

In among the errands I did today, I stopped by my friend’s store to pick up several little items I asked her to get ready for my church’s fund-raiser. (a Bunco party! How retro is that?) My friend Sarah has the most visually appealing store I know of. Of course, she is a floral designer, and has just superb taste. (In case anyone would like to find her, her shop Four Finches is in the Chicago suburb of Evanston. http://fourfinches.com/ )

Sarah has the precious gift of making stunning arrangements, using flowers, plants and other visually appealing bits and pieces. She can also choose lovely gift items. Her store is, as I said, attractive and restful to the eye. So, Sarah took advantage of a service opportunity today! She provided several small but very appealing things that I am taking to the church as raffle gifts.

Now that I think more about it, I find I am seeing service opportunities in many places. Isn’t it funny how a prayer that I prayed a number of times could change how I look at things in such a fundamental way? I mean, seeing potential acts of service, love and caring is not the typical thing that comes to some people’s minds. And March is not even half over, yet.

This service-thing — I felt that God wanted me to embark on it for the year 2014. I tried to walk right into it with as few expectations as possible. All I knew was that I felt God wanted me to do it. Sort of. I didn’t really have a clear idea about that, either. I don’t want to appear grandiose or anything, but my embarking on A Year of Being Kind was just a little like Abram setting forth from Ur of the Chaldees. Abram didn’t know where he was going. And neither do I.

Now that I’ve started the Lenten journey to the Cross, I feel more like Abram than I did before. It’s one day at a time, for sure. God, I am sorry I did not intentionally pray for You to show me something today. But You showed up, nevertheless!

Gee, I wonder what God will send me tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a Lenten journey. #PursuePEACE. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

 

 

Caring for Myself—As Well As Others (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, March 7, 2016

This blog post from two years ago is a post about self-care. That is so important for people in caring work. (That was one of the most important lessons I ever learned when I attended seminary. Self-care!) Since we are now in the middle of Lent—one of the hectic times of the year for pastors—I thought this post was a good reminder for all of us. Take time for myself. Well worth the time.

Caring for Myself—As Well As Others

Posted on March 11, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, March 10, 2014

yoga guy zacara spot

(yoga drawing – Zakar art by Chris Carter)

Caring for Myself—As Well As Others

I needed to dive right into the week, right off the bat this morning. Work today, running and fetching, some computer work, some necessary telephone calls that needed to be made. Then, I made dinner. At least, I started dinner and asked my daughter to finish turning the chicken in the covered skillet while it simmered. Why the hurry at the end of the day? Simple! I have a one word answer: yoga.

Earlier today I went out of my way to do things for other people. Yes, I did acts of service, intentionally. But I want to focus on what happened at the YMCA. In yoga class. The Y has a number of different classes and exercise opportunities each day. In the pool, in the exercise studios, in the big gym. There are several yoga classes each week, too. I am no expert at yoga, believe me! But the gentle yoga class on Monday afternoons is perfect for me. Yes, there are yoga poses and stretching that challenge me! But nothing is too hard. Nothing that the older instructor has the class do is beyond most people’s abilities.

I’ve been attending the gentle yoga class for about three months, and it helps me! The yoga teacher helps me, too. She has a kind and easy-going way about her. One of the biggest reasons I appreciate this teacher is the open, generous manner she has with each person in the room. She also invites people to leave their worries, troubles, and stresses outside the room. Inside the room is calmness and peace. We can take our time and stretch, and restore balance and harmony to our bodies and our inner selves.

Yes, I realize that there is a component to certain yoga instruction that is rooted in eastern thought and religious practices. Yes, true. But not this teacher, and not this kind of gentle yoga and stretching. I think this is why I enjoy it so much. But—I saved the best for the last. I find this regular yoga class is a superb way to care for myself. I run around most of the week like a chicken with its head cut off. (My father-in-law saw quite a number of these in the barnyard, and he said they were pretty funny!)

Sometimes I am running, or in a hurry, or worrying. Other times I am caring for others—my children, my family, my good friends, those at my work, patients or residents. It seems as if I seldom take the time or the opportunity to carve out an hour to rest, to release the worry and upset of the day or the week. That is just what my kind yoga teacher invites us to do. It’s no wonder I am dashing off to her class each Monday!

I need to take the time on a regular basis to allow myself to unwind. And more importantly, to allow myself to become refreshed and recharged—as in this class. I am so grateful to the YMCA for employing such a wonderful teacher. Thanks, YMCA! And thanks, God!

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a Lenten journey. #PursuePEACE. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)


 

Do I Show Love, or Show Anger? (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, February 23, 2015

This is a sweet, poignant blog post featuring one of my favorite people, now dead several years. Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame. I can always use this lesson, Fred, and always need to consider your words on caring and attachment, as well as managing my angry feelings.

Do I Show Love, or Show Anger? Good Question.

Posted on February 28, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 27, 2014

heart - on a branch

Do I Show Love, or Show Anger? Good Question.

“Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!” Really, being the mother of two teenagers can have its challenges. It is so easy for me to become irritated, even exasperated with my teens. I guess God has given me an opportunity to be kind and to show love right here in my own home.

I’ve been a mom for more than half of my life, but sometimes I feel like I’m still a beginner, a rank amateur at this business of being a parent. I know I’ve mentioned this little book a couple of weeks ago—The World According to Mister Rogers, written by Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame). Here’s a pertinent quote from Mr. Rogers:

“It’s the people we love the most who can make us feel the gladdest . . . and the maddest! Love and anger are such a puzzle! It’s hard for us, as adults, to understand and manage our angry feelings toward parents, spouses, and children, or to keep their anger toward us in perspective. It’s a different kind of anger from the kind we may feel toward strangers because it is so deeply intertwined with caring and attachment.”

Oh, Mister Rogers, how right you are! I end up getting angry or irritated or upset with my family and with my spouse so much more than I might at complete strangers. I act in an informal, natural way with my family and close friends. Strangers or people I don’t know very well get served my ‘company manners.’ (Usually, that is.) And as Fred Rogers mentioned, anger expressed in close relationships is different. More complicated. More deeply intertwined with caring, attachment, and deep emotion.

I’m not particularly attached to my mail carrier—although I’m sure she’s a really nice lady. But my son or daughter still living at home? My older daughters on their own? My dear husband? Even my siblings—although we haven’t been in the same house for a couple of decades. All of us are bound together with caring, attachment, and deep emotion.

I fly off the handle—sometimes. I bite my tongue—less often than I should. God, I need more patience! But I am not wild with the way the Bible says You will grant me more of that valuable commodity. And this—in the middle of this is where God has placed me. God, I get the message. You want me to show love not only to strangers and casual acquaintances, but show love towards my family. Close friends. I know I will fall down on the job, but God is right there to help me up again.

I sure am glad that God has seen fit to provide such awesome help to me. I readily admit I need it! And God willing, God will be there for us, no matter what.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a Lenten journey. #PursuePEACE. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

 

Being Kind with Singing Valentines (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, February 15, 2016

This is one of my favorite, poignant, heart-tugging posts from two years ago. Read it, and see if you agree.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 14, 2014

bouquet of valentine roses

Being Kind with Singing Valentines  (Feature Friday!)

This Valentine’s Day story happened about ten years ago.  Not to me, but to my husband Kevin, instead.

My husband was part of a barbershop chorus here in the Chicago suburbs then. Not a large chorus, but a very earnest one. The chorus was part of the Barbershop Harmony Society, historically named the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. Sadly, his chorus disbanded a couple of years ago due to aging membership.

But, enough background. On to the important stuff—the story.

Singing valentines were one of the signature fundraisers for my husband’s chorus. They would advertise for several weeks before Valentine’s Day. Requests would come in, and a Singing Valentine barbershop quartet would travel to the specified place, dressed to the nines in their concert attire (sparkling white shirt, spiffy red vest, black tuxedo pants, even with black garters on the sleeves). The quartet would sing two songs (such as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”). One of the quartet would present the valentine recipient with a single red rose. Very romantic, and out of the ordinary, too.

My husband Kevin—the baritone for the quartet—went out with the rest of the guys to deliver several Singing Valentines. All of the quartet knew the drill for Singing Valentines. It didn’t matter whether they were going into a workplace, a restaurant, a home or apartment. They would go in, introduce themselves, sing two numbers, present the rose, and excuse themselves as quietly and quickly as possible. After all, they had more valentines to present.

However, this next Singing Valentine was different.

An older mother wanted her adult son to receive a Singing Valentine. Not the usual sweetheart or husband or wife, but it was the next on the list. The four guys drove in a single car from place to place. They had the address of this son, on Ridge in Chicago. Just south of Devon. They were unfamiliar with the facility. Misericordia, it was called. The quartet came into the facility and discovered it was a home for people with moderate to profound developmental disabilities. They announced themselves to the front desk. The facility was ready for them, and ushered the quartet into a large common room.

To the quartet’s surprise, the staff had painstakingly assembled between thirty-five to forty residents in the large room—residents in specialized wheelchairs, several sitting awkwardly, one even lying face down on a wheeled cot. This was definitely not the typical Singing Valentine. As Kevin recounted the story, the quartet went into a quick huddle. No snappy valentine delivery this time. Instead, the quartet did their two numbers plus an additional set of songs. They gave an impromptu mini-concert for the assembled crowd. (It was a crowd, too! About three dozen residents plus a number of staff.) At the end, the son was presented with a rose, and the quartet quietly excused themselves. On to the next Singing Valentine.

Kevin recollected, “We went into the thing with a very business-like attitude. But, we were shocked into the realization that there was something much more human at stake. I think we were all a little choked up by the whole episode.” The business of delivering Singing Valentines had transformed into something deeper. Something more meaningful, more intensely touching.

What an opportunity to be kind. What a way to show love. Happy Valentine’s Day, in deed.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a Lenten journey. #PursuePEACE. Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)