Are You Being Served? (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, April 9, 2017

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!

coffee shop drawing

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

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

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

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

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


Be Kind—in a Health Care Setting (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Tuesday, March 28, 2017

As I looked at this post from three years ago, I was reminded that I have helped out many relatives and acquaintances over the years. My siblings and I quite willingly were there for our elderly relatives. Moreover, I have also been trained in chaplaincy, so I have specific skills in dealing with people in hospitals and care centers. This is so important, especially for those patients and residents who do not have family or friends who are able to come and see them regularly, and give them a hand. Please, consider this opportunity to encourage someone, to brighten their day, and give them a cheery word.

 BK no act of kindness is wasted

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, March 24, 2014

Take the Opportunity to Be Kind—in a Health Care Setting.

I did some housework for an acquaintance of mine today. Some cleaning, some laundry. Took care of a few necessary things. This service was much appreciated, too! But what about people who need some kind of help or assistance, and are unable to find anyone to come and give them a hand?

This is a sad situation, indeed. Imagine—an older person, or a person with limited mobility, who wants to do things or go somewhere, and rarely is able to. Or perhaps a person who is confined to a wheelchair or a walker and badly needs some assistance in their home—but is unable to afford anyone to come in and help on even an occasional basis.

I know that because of employment, family obligations, continuing health concerns, or any of a host of other urgent matters, sometimes relatives and friends are unable to assist their ill or shut-in loved ones. In my work as a chaplain, I’ve seen people come to the hospital, loved ones who came a long distance to see their relative. Their relative—the patient—might not have any relations or even friends living close by. I know what a difficult thing this can be for some people (both for the patient as well as the far-away relatives). And even more complications can result when an older or infirm patient is released from a hospital or rehab facility. They come home to . . . what? Who? If they previously lived alone, it’s a real challenge to find someone for them to stay with. Or to stay with them in their house.

This reminds me of my elderly aunt, who died just about three years ago. My aunt and my mother lived together in my mom’s house for a number of years. That is, until my mom died about a dozen years ago. Then, my 80-something year old aunt moved into a senior apartment building. Nice-sized studio apartments, with an additional kitchenette, too. It’s a good thing my aunt had three nieces to check on her regularly (me, my older sister, and my cousin). Between the three of us, my aunt had visitors at least twice a week, and sometimes three, and even four days every week. But I know that some other families are not as fortunate or as close-knit.

All this talk of families and God and encouragement and illness intrigue me. A particular Hebrew word leaps to mind, too. The Hebrew word “mitzvah” means the precepts or commands of God. As a second meaning, Hebrew mitzvah, means something similar as the English “commandment.” Often, it’s a moral deed performed as a religious duty. The term mitzvah has also come to mean an act of human kindness.

So, whether you or I consider our act of kindness altruistic or a mitzvah performed as a religious duty, these are wonderful opportunities to show others you care for them! Love them! Do you know someone who needs assistance? Someone who has limited mobility? Ask if you can give them a hand. And chances are, they might say yes!

@chaplaineliza

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a PEACE journey through Epiphany and beyond, into Lent. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

 

Caring for Myself—And for Others (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, March 6, 2017

Reading this post, three years later, my opinion has not changed. Yoga is marvelous for me, inside and out. (Especially with that exceptional yoga teacher! Who, sadly, does not teach on Monday nights any longer.) I have now gone beyond gentle yoga to regular yoga classes—hatha and vinyasa yoga. Yes, yoga is a wonderful way to care for myself. And, by caring for myself, I can’t help but care for others.

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, 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

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a PEACE journey through Epiphany and beyond, into Lent. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

Being Kind with Singing Valentines (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, February 12, 2017

This is one of my favorite, poignant, heart-tugging posts from three 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 few 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

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

(Suggestion: visit me at my blog: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers– where I am doing a PEACE journey through Epiphany and beyond, into Lent. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

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

 

A Souper Way to Be Kind (#BestOf)

A Souper Way to Be Kind (#BestOf)

 

souper-bowl-logo

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 2, 2017

Earlier today, I was reminded of the Super Bowl coming up in a few days. I passed the big screens of televisions at the gym this afternoon, and saw the promos for the big game. I like football, but for some reason, my thoughts came right to this blog post. The reasons behind this blog post are so worthwhile. I hope and pray that all houses of worship that are participating in this Souper Bowl of Caring receive a great deal of donations. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 31, 2014

What a Souper Way to Be Kind! (Feature Friday!)

The Super Bowl is almost upon us, here in the United States. This finale to the 2013-14 football season will bring people from across the country—and across the world—together to watch the extravaganza, the festivities, the commercials. Oh, yes. And the football game, too.

As I have a pastor friend at a church in Ohio. (I featured this church in Ohio two weeks ago, with Yarn Alive!) My friend, Ross, is pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Cuyahoga Falls. One of the mission outreaches at their church is Souper Bowl of Caring. What, you might ask, is Souper Bowl of Caring? Good question! I’m glad you asked. Put simply, this effort uses “the energy of the Super Bowl to mobilize youth in a united national effort to care for people in their local communities who are hungry and those in need.” (from the Souper Bowl Mission Statement)

A brief history of this outreach, from the Souper Bowl of Caring website: “A simple prayer: “Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat” is inspiring a youth-led movement to help hungry and hurting people around the world.

“This prayer, delivered by Brad Smith, then a seminary intern serving at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, SC, gave birth to an idea. Why not use Super Bowl weekend, a time when people come together for football and fun, to also unify the nation for a higher good: collecting dollars and canned food for the needy? Youth could collect donations at their schools and churches in soup pots, and then send every dollar DIRECTLY to a local charity of THEIR choice.”

This outreach effort started in 1990. Other churches joined the team, and by 1997 Souper Bowl of Caring reached $1 million and kept right on going. In 2004, the first NFL owners joined the Souper Bowl team. Also in 2004, First Lady Laura Bush kicked off the caring effort that year. In 2008, the national total for the food and funds drive topped $10 million.  And it’s still continuing to grow.un

Whether in local congregations like the church in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, or in city-wide efforts like in Houston, Austin or Dallas/Fort Worth, the Souper Bowl of Caring is a tremendous opportunity to be kind to people, where it counts—in the pocketbook. Pocketbook issues are a concern to people across the nation. With unemployment and under-employment so prevalent, and costs for basics such as heating going through the roof in this challenging winter, all the more reason to give something, if we can!

Pastor Ross said recently, “I hope you are able to make an extra run to the store just for this cause. We are blessed to be a blessing. The need is substantial, and UPC can help with your help.” What a wonderful way to bless those who have real needs. Whether with cans of soup or chili donated to local food pantries, or with cash donations to the charity of YOUR choice, please consider giving. What a way to join in. Join this caring team. For a Super—I mean, Souper Bowl, indeed.

@chaplaineliza

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

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

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

Place-Holding, Being Kind (#BestOf)

Place-Holding, Being Kind (#BestOf)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ever been in the middle of things, and have the opportunity to be kind? This is a post where exactly that happened. I was waiting in line at the grocery store, and I held someone’s place for him. See what happened next.

Home » Uncategorized » Place-Holding

Place-Holding

Posted on January 15, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, January 14, 2014

shoppingcart2

The grocery store. I don’t generally go to the store during the day. Usually, my shopping trips involve evenings or weekends. But not today. My daughter called and asked for several things we could use in the kitchen, and I went on my way home from work, mid-afternoon.

What a difference a few hours makes! The daytime clientele inhabiting the nearby grocery store had marked differences. I saw a lot of moms doing shopping for the week (or, at least a number of days). The most notable group I noticed were senior citizens. As opposed to the moms of families. I felt a bit like a sociology grad student, out doing field research. Yes, I watched the moms as they pushed the well-laden carts. I could relate to them, and I knew what they were doing. Having often done it myself.  But the seniors, they were especially fascinating to me.

I’ve been told that I am especially good at working with seniors. A chaplain friend of mine who works at a large senior retirement center said to me a few years ago, “You ought to have ‘Good with seniors’ tattooed on your forehead.” This does not only go for my work. I genuinely like older people. They have complex and fascinating stories to relate. It’s satisfying for me to come alongside of seniors, listen to them, journey for a little way with them, try to alleviate their problems or needs, or rejoice and praise God with them. Whatever it is that fills the bill.

This particular afternoon as I shopped, I observed the seniors as they chose things at the store. I only had about twelve things in my basket, so I made a beeline for the 15 items or less lane. (The moms with large carts-full were taking up many of the other check-out aisles.) A senior stood directly ahead of me, also waiting his turn. Stooped and elderly, he still determined to get his own shopping done. His items already sat on the conveyor belt. Just a few feet from me, a store employee was assisting him as he tried to read the small print on a coupon. “It’s right over there. See? Just around the corner.” She pointed two aisles away.

I could see the senior deliberate. I could almost hear his thoughts. He decided to go for it. He left the ten or so items on the belt, and went over to get the popcorn. I had a sudden image of him at night, after dinner. Popping that corn and watching television or cable or movies, on DVD or TiVo. I found myself smiling. He had a bit of difficulty finding the specific popcorn, for the store employee went to help him. Just two dozen feet away. Just a number of seconds. I waited patiently in line, saving his place.

Another senior, a disgruntled one this time, came up behind me. He narrowed his eyes and looked over the seemingly-abandoned items on the belt. He looked at me. I smiled at him, and then turned my eyes to the first senior, still fetching his last item. The popcorn. The disgruntled one glanced over at the belt of items, and then back two aisles over. His face wrinkled up in a decided frown. He muttered to himself and stalked away to another check-out aisle. It was only a few more seconds before the popcorn-senior returned to his place in line.

He never knew about that little drama with the disgruntled man. And I never told him. But I saved his place for him. I stood back at a respectful distance, and that man got his popcorn. Bought it. Brought it home. I wonder if he’s popping it tonight, after dinner? I hope he enjoys it. And I was of service today. I think God was pleased. It’s as simple as that.

@chaplaineliza

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

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

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

Santas Help Out the Hungry (#BestOf)

Santas Help Out the Hungry (#BestOf)

santas-in-front-of-the-art-institute-chicago-12-6-14-credit-kevin-jones

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, December 24, 2016

I’m reminded of this photo my husband Kevin took. A wonderful collection of Santas! On top of which, a thoroughly heartwarming charity. Food for the Hungry. Please, please, donate to food pantries. Help people in need. Please.

 Home » Uncategorized » Santas Help Out the Hungry

Santas Help Out the Hungry

Posted on December 7, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, December 6, 2014

Santas in front of the Art Institute
photo credit – Kevin Jones

Santas Help Out the Hungry

I do not often go downtown on a December Saturday before Christmas. Ever. And I mean, ever.

However, my husband was the last-minute recipient of three tickets for a complete performance of Handel’s Messiah in Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center today. He and I? Our favorite period of classical music is Baroque, one of our preferred composers is George Frederick Handel, and our absolute fave oratorio is the Messiah.

So, why not go to downtown Chicago to listen to some top flight musicians, in one of the premier nationwide music venues?

My husband, daughter and I motored down Lake Shore Drive and enjoyed the day. (It was beautiful and temperate, considering it was the first Saturday in December.) We parked, and strolled down Michigan Avenue about a half an hour before concert time. Across the street, on the east side of Michigan, we gazed at a marvelous sight. When, to my wondering eyes should appear—a whole host of St. Nicholases! And some not-so-tiny reindeer, too!

More than that, all the the Santas, Ms. Santas, elves, reindeer, and other assorted Christmas people were all on the steps of the Art Institute. (My husband helpfully took a photo.)

As I came across the street to gaze upon this wondrous sight, the lead Santa (bullhorn in hand) led them off to march north up Michigan Avenue. I asked the marching Santas why they were there. One of the more helpful Santas called back over his shoulder: “We’re with Food for the Hungry—feeding hungry children.”

What a great thing to do! Colorful, helpful, kind, and—fantastic public relations, too!

Oh, that performance of the Messiah? Top flight! Really superb, in every way. The Apollo Chorus did a remarkable job. The four soloists? Excellent! And the conductor, Dr. Stephen Alltop? He led the chorus, soloists and orchestra with a light, yet sure hand. The three of us enjoyed it very much.

I have been trying to find out which food organization these Santas were with. I haven’t found out yet, but I will, soon! So, stay tuned. Watch this space. And, please—help out a local food pantry. Feed hungry children in your community. God bless you. And, God bless these local food pantries, too.

@chaplaineliza

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

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

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