Showing Love to All God’s Children (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Saturday, February 28, 2015

Talk about “do unto others as you would have them do unto you!” To my mind, no one exemplifies this principle more than my friend John. John Mroczka has recently retired from his many years of work at the YMCA, yet he is still going strong. Still doing lots of things for others. God bless you, John! What a wonderful blessing you are (and have been), in so many people’s lives!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 28, 2014

 

Men sitting on a park bench (mixed media) - credit Getty Museum

Men sitting on a park bench (mixed media) credit Getty Museum

Showing Love to All God’s Children (Feature Friday!)

I love the town where I live! Such an eclectic group of people. Such a diverse bunch of individuals. A little bit of everything—snooty, artsy, down-and-out, parents, families, empty-nesters, students, immigrants, salt of the earth. Just about all kinds are represented here.

Some of these various kinds of people cross paths at the large YMCA near downtown. Yes, many people are active members of the Y and use the pool, gym, weight room, activity classes, and its other services on a regular basis. However, about one hundred and twenty men (give or take—the number varies) live in the attached single-room residence. I love that the YMCA also serves as a place where guys can get a leg up, and have a safe, warm place to live at a reasonable monthly price. However, some of these men are living on the edge of not-quite-enough. Some are on government assistance because of health reasons. Some have lost their jobs and are on the downhill slide into extreme poverty. Some have other issues.

Whatever the individual difficulty, by and large, the lives of many men who live in the residence at the YMCA are not cushy, posh and comfortable. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

That’s where John’s Cupboard fits in. John’s Cupboard is a service of the YMCA specifically to benefit the men who live in the residence. With all the government belt-tightening, corporate cost-cutting, and lessening of social services, many of the guys in this building have real, material needs. The Cupboard provides canned chicken and tuna, Ramen noodles, canned soup and crackers. Those are its staples. Plus, additional food is provided through donations. Another important part of the Cupboard are the toiletries provided by the Y, ordered from American Hotel. These are handy since they come in small, individual-sized packages. Soap, shampoo, disposable razors, toothpaste and toothbrushes. All greatly appreciated.

Enter John Mroczka—men’s residence director at the Y. (Also the John of “John’s Cupboard.”) John has done a great number of jobs at the facility over the years, and will retire this summer with twenty-nine years of service at the Y. But how did John start the Cupboard? At first, it was some spare cans of food kept on a shelf in his office. The Cupboard has since enlarged in both number of items offered and in size. John hopes to enlarge what the Cupboard provides to new socks, too. Socks are always appreciated!

For years, John has given a Christmas present of two pairs of socks and a coffee mug to each and every resident at the YMCA. He adds, “A few other employees and I solicit Y board members for additional things, gift cards for the residents.” John has the gifts of helps, discernment and service in abundance. He certainly shows it, too!

His kindness and compassion—tempered with a savvy eye and sharp nose for scams—make him uniquely qualified to do exactly what he’s been doing for years. Which is serving others, for the benefit of these men and their families, as well as for the glory of God as he understands God. Thanks for all you do, John! May God’s richest blessings rest on you, too.

@chaplaineliza

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

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I love Mister Rogers. I really do. Re-reading this post brought me right back to his nurturing, friendly assistance in the business of being a parent. Yes, caring and attachment to those close to me can be so difficult! Such a chore, sometimes! Yet, I can always come back to my Heavenly Parent and ask for forgiveness, come to complain, or ask for a hug. Thanks, God!

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

baby and butterfly

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

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation:

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Reciprocal Kindness and Blessing Happen!

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Saturday, February 21, 2015

I try to be a blessing to others. I hope and pray to serve in God’s name, every day. Here in this post, I receive a blessing! Such a big blessing, believe me. It warms my heart, just remembering it. See what I mean.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, February 23, 2014

blessing much more

Reciprocal Kindness and Blessing Happen!

Another week, another Sunday. Another service. But this week was a bit different. I played the piano again for two senior residences. My loving, willing act of service today involved playing music for the seniors. Yes, I was acting as music leader for the services. But it was more than that—God did a wonderful job of divine coordination with a number of people, and especially with the special music I had chosen. It’s so awesome to watch God show up! God was all over today’s two services.

The scripture passage for this morning was from the gospel of John, chapter 7. It featured Jesus, at the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. He made the revolutionary statement “Let anyone who is thirsty come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (vv. 37-38)

Earlier in the week, I was asked by Chaplain Sarah to play special music before the sermon. I didn’t have an opportunity to get back to her with the title of the music I had prepared. This wasn’t a huge deal, I knew. The service would continue without the music title. I mentioned to Chaplain Sarah before the first service of the morning that I would be playing “I’ve Got Peace like a River.” She paused while getting ready for the beginning of the service and looked at me. “That will be perfect with the scripture and sermon today.”  And it was! I did my best on the arrangement of the spiritual, and Chaplain Sarah had an opportunity to tie in the sermon with the lyrics: ”I’ve got peace like a river,” “I’ve got joy like a fountain” and “I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul.” As believers, we do have the peace, joy and love of Christ flowing as living waters from within each of us. Truly, my choice of music was a God-incidence, as my good friend Pastor Joe says.

But that’s not all. Yes, I did play the piano. And it was good to be not only useful with the gifts I have been given, but joyful to be a blessing to the seniors as I played service music for the assembled worshippers. The icing on my cake today came from one dear senior at the second service (at the second retirement home of the morning).

After I had finished a selection of older hymns and gospel songs for the postlude, the common room was almost empty. Just a few older people were left to go back to their rooms (actually, to go back for lunch). This particular dear, aged senior came up to Chaplain Sarah, about a dozen feet from me at the piano. She thanked both of us in her decided manner, taking great care to pronounce each word in her precise way. And then—she blessed us. Blessed us for our ministry. Blessed us both for leading the service. Blessed us with good health and all happiness. We both sincerely thanked her, and we continued to clear the room.

I needed to leave, but I thanked this senior again as I went out, past the elevator. This was not an occurrence that I would brush off lightly. I will hold this dear woman’s blessings close to my heart. Thank You, God. Thank You for the opportunity to be of service. And thank You for unexpected blessings.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

(the Best of) Kindness through Connection (As in People)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Today is Ash Wednesday. But I’m not going to concentrate on ashes in my post. Instead, I’m going back to a situation where I was not simply kind (as in, ‘nice’), but I may have helped out in a material way. I hope so. I pray so.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, February 15, 2014

 

friends drinking coffee credit - courtesy of the BBC

friends drinking coffee
credit – courtesy of the BBC

Kindness through Connection (As in People)

Some days ago, I happened to run into a friend of mine. I hadn’t seen this friend for a number of months, and was very happy to reconnect with him. Someone was with him, someone I had never met before. I smiled my friendly smile and stepped towards this second man. He seemed a bit hesitant and taken aback, almost as if he was unsure exactly why I’d even smile at him. My chaplain antennae started twitching. I detected something, some way of being that concerned me. I softened my voice and manner and started talking to him and our mutual friend, both together.

After seating ourselves and after initial uncertainty, my new friend opened up. He and I made an instant connection, too. He told me he had been out of work for a number of months. As the months began to pile up, he became more and more discouraged. I recognized the plight and problem of the long-term unemployed: employers hesitating even to consider people who have been unemployed for a long period of time. This wasn’t under-employment, but instead unemployment, pure and simple. Feelings of uselessness, self-pity, anger, despair, depression. (Sadly, I could relate, since I have gone through similar times in my own life and experience.)

This sort of thing does not happen to me all the time, or even most of the time. But making an instant connection does happen sometimes. And when I get the feeling, the urge to talk with someone, I usually listen to that urge. And, I listen to the person, too. As I was taught, I try to journey with the person for a little while. And, I try to actively listen to the story the person brings to me, too.

After I found out what my new friend had been doing before he was “downsized,” I realized I was acquainted with an older man who had worked for decades in the same industry before his retirement. Accordingly, I told my new friend. It was marvelous to see him perk up and tentatively begin to blossom. He asked me whether I could give the retired fellow his name and number. “Certainly!” I again smiled my friendly smile at him. I cautioned that I might not see this retired man for a number of days. My new friend said that would be okay—he had been unemployed for so long, a few more days (give or take) wouldn’t matter.

So, I ran into the retired man yesterday. He was interested in the story of my new friend’s long-term unemployment, and readily gave me his telephone number. However, he cautioned, my new friend needed to call him. (Excellent strategy—make the unemployed man need to do something.)

I called my new friend today. I gave him the cell phone number, and boy, was he grateful!  For him, this phone number was a lifeline, a connection with an industry that had been holding him at arm’s length for months. He said thank you to me, several times.

All because I made a connection, introducing two people who otherwise might never have met. What a way to be kind. What an opportunity to show caring and encouragement, in God’s name.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

(Best Of) Being Kind with Singing Valentines (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, February 13, 2015

This is one of my favorite, poignant, heart-tugging posts from last year. 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 facedown 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 daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

I Need a Little Help from My Friends—with a Vacuum Cleaner?

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, February 11, 2015

As I said in this Best Of post, I enjoy helping out. I do have the spiritual gifts of helps. (Yes, it’s true.) Reading through this post, I see I did a kind thing here. You could do something kind, too!

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

vintage doll vacuum cleaner

vintage doll vacuum cleaner

 

I Need a Little Help from My Friends—with a Vacuum Cleaner?

I took the opportunity to be kind today, in several ways. But the one that stuck in my mind was being kind by vacuuming. One problem—but I’ll get to that, later.

Let me back up. I often have the chance to do things for senior citizens. Lots of different things, like shopping, errands, doing the dishes, vacuuming. I’ve said before that I have the gift of helps. I’ve noticed this gift from a very early age. I liked doing things for people, and often doing things for older people. At church, in the neighborhood, even on the bus or in a store. I would often happen upon older people who have dropped their keys, or their glove, or their shopping list, so I picked it up for them. Or, I pass by a senior citizen in a mall parking lot who was trying to load their bags into their car. I helped out there, too.

I know I’ve talked in this blog before about an older friend of mine who works for a large senior citizen facility here in this suburb. She told me a few years ago, “You ought to have ‘Good with seniors’ printed on your forehead. Because, you are!” I must admit, yes. Yes, I am. It’s true.

This led me to reflect, how would the Bible tell me to act toward seniors? As I reflected further, I realized that there are several specific verses that I can think of, telling me how to behave in an appropriate manner with elders. One I’ll mention is Leviticus 19:32, which tells its readers to stand up before (or, honor) “the gray head” ( i.e., seniors). Biblically speaking, older people are supposed to be respected and cared for. (This led me to think of the seniors who are sadly warehoused in today’s society. But that’s a subject for another blog post.)

So, I took this opportunity to be kind to a senior today. I vacuumed. Except, I had a bit of a problem. I had never used this particular vacuum cleaner before. At first, I thought there was some idiosyncracy with the vacuum. However, I opened it up and checked the bag on the inside. Yup. It was full. Rats! I wasn’t sure where the extra bags were kept. What to do? I really wanted to take care of this chore, and the vacuum cleaner simply wasn’t working properly.

The next thing I knew, a new acquaintance of mine helped me out. Together, we were able to find the bag, struggled to get the bag replaced in the upright cleaner (tricky fit!), and I finished up the task. Much better now! Without that help, without the teamwork, I would have had a lot of difficulty finishing the vacuuming. It seems like a little thing, but it stuck in my head. I was grateful! And, I said thank you.

It’s good to be working together, helping each other out. I do need a little help from my friends and acquaintances, I must admit. I ask for help more often, now. I’m not too proud. At least, most of the time.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

In Which I Ride the El (evated Train)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, February 6, 2015

As I reread this post, I vividly remembered the situation. I was back there, in the El car. I pray for both of these men, even today.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, February 8, 2014

 

Under The El Tracks  Painting by J Loren Reedy

Under The El Tracks
Painting by J Loren Reedy

 

In Which I Ride the El (evated Train)

I rode the Elevated train (or, the El) downtown, amidst the big flakes of thickly falling snow. Since the ride downtown lasted approximately one hour, I had my trusty reading material. (I’m currently reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. But I digress.)

About twenty minutes into the ride through Chicago, a young man in an older jacket, stocking cap, hoodie and sweat pants came walking slowly through the El car. He gave a practiced little speech about how he was broke and hungry, and he needed money. I looked up. I usually am leery of people who ask for money. In fact, this guy looked and sounded like a typical panhandler—practiced, and too pat. I checked him out, looked him up and down. Since I have some experience working with people in a drug and alcohol rehab, I suspected he was mildly high or intoxicated. (For my money, I’d bet high.)

He stood there after he finished his spiel, gazing from person to person. Most of the passengers completely ignored him. I sat there for a moment, and then dug into my bag. I pulled out a wrapped chocolate biscotti. Held it out to him. He took it, and looked at it with a big question on his face. “It’s a cookie,” I said. “A chocolate cookie. I really like them.” The information I gave him slowly registered, and he said thanks. Then ducked out of the train car through the connecting door.

I continued to read my book, traveled to the Loop, went to a restaurant to meet my sister, and had a wonderful lunch. After a pleasant afternoon, I traveled back on the El. Got on a very crowded train car, and was fortunate enough to find a seat. After about ten minutes, similar story. A young man in layers of clothes and a stuffed backpack got on the El. He stood in a group of people near the door. He seemed a bit nervous, but got up some gumption and started to speak.

This time, I could tell the man was desperate. He told a story of job loss last fall, and then homelessness. He had been sleeping on the El train for a number of weeks, by his own account. He had just gotten out of the hospital and offered to show discharge papers to anyone who wanted to verify his story. He said his leg was getting better after being infected and inflamed, and that he needed some antibiotics. $18.60, he said they would cost. He showed everyone on the train his calf. (Yes, the calf did look puffy and inflamed. I know what that looks like, from my years in the hospital.) Again, no one moved or looked at the young man. I could see the desperation on his face. Even despair. His eyes filled with tears.

I waited almost a minute. I hardly ever do this—again. (I usually do not have the money to spare, to tell the truth.) But, I gave him some money. And I said, “God bless you,” as I gave it to him. I held his hand for a moment. He and I made eye contact. Held it. His voice broke. “Thank you. Thank you, and God bless you.” I could hear the gratitude in his voice. Then he got off the train at the next stop. I waved and smiled as he got off the train car. He nodded at me and then ducked his head as he made his way through the mass of people clambering in or out of the car.

Two people. Two situations. Honestly, I do not usually give things to panhandlers. But today, I did. I wasn’t even thinking or making a conscious decision—the compassionate gifts just happened.

A friend of mine is a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, reporter Maudlyne Ihejirika. She had an article published the other day that featured three people who had lost their jobs many months ago. (In case anyone is interested: http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/25404540-418/still-jobless-little-hope-of-long-term-benefits.html) Just like the second man on the El. Perhaps I was empathizing with his situation. Perhaps I was recalling my friend’s article. Whatever the reason, I acted in a loving and giving manner. Just like in Matthew 25:40, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

God, thank You for the loving, caring nudges. Thank You for the opportunity to be of service to these two men, these members of God’s family.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)