Being of Service? Showing People How to Fight Back! (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Thursday, August 27, 2015

It was almost a year ago today that a journalist contacted my husband Kevin about debt consolidation companies. And, my husband had a story to tell! But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll start at the beginning. You can read about it, below.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, August 29, 2014

BK kindness is a lifestyle

Being of Service? Showing People How to Fight Back! (Feature Friday!)

I have heard horror stories of how less-than-honest companies bundle and buy out debts at only a fraction of their value. Then, they hold the debt or note for the money owed. So instead of cash-strapped people owing a credit card company money, or a bona fide medical center money, they now owe these sleazy debt consolidation companies the money. But wait, there’s more! Much more . . .

I’ve been involved with seniors for a number of years, especially recently. I mean, at their homes. These seniors, often frail and in poor health, receive all kinds of telephone solicitation calls. Many of these calls come from shady, fly-by-night companies. But the worst of them all? The worst come from these sleazy, slimy debt consolidation companies. The debt collectors call. Then, call again—and again. And if they get a trembling, anxious senior on the other end of the line, so much the better! These pond scum debt collectors bully the elderly, trying to force them to send money. And sometimes, the senior is bullied into paying off a debt they do not even owe.

Most people don’t realize how to stop this horrible harassment and misuse of the telephone, not to mention get revenge. But a debt collection company tangled with my husband Kevin one time too many. My husband—who did not even owe the debt mentioned—took action. Action against the company, and action to stop this daily harassment for a debt which was never his to begin with.

My husband is extremely methodical, and he takes excellent notes in his work life. So, he decided to do the same thing in this case. Every time the home telephone was called by this company, we noted the date, time, and whether it was a recorded call or a real, live person. Every single time there was contact with a real, live person, we recorded their name. My husband sent two “cease and desist letters” by registered mail (so a real, live person at the company was required to sign for the letter, and show proof they received it). He took extensive notes whenever he spoke with anyone, and kept all of the notes in a file. And—he employed a law firm that specialized in fighting with these slimy debt collection firms.

The lawyers at the law firm were pros! They knew exactly what they were doing. My husband worked with them, hand in glove, and actually won the case in small claims court!

So, that was several years ago. My husband Kevin and I had almost forgotten all about the case, when a journalist contacted my husband a number of days ago. Mr. Sullivan wanted to know whether he might be able to write an article about the debt collectors and how my husband beat them at their own game. My husband gladly agreed! Moreover, he sent Mr. Sullivan all of his notes. (The journalist complimented my husband on his extremely thorough note-taking, too!)

So—long story short, the story appeared in Yahoo Finance on Wednesday. And—my husband is a hero! He showed, through his excellent example, exactly how to defuse these pond scum debt collectors. And, he wants people to know their rights under the law, too. In a quote from Mr. Sullivan’s article: “I would gladly do it again, not for the money, but because these people are slime who abuse and exploit people who don’t know how to defend themselves,” he said. “While I was defending myself, I followed various forums on the subject, and I was appalled at how many elderly people are victimized. It’s sickening.”

Not only the elderly, but people of all ages might be victimized. Thank God there are people who know how to stop these abusive practices and horrid debt collectors. People like my husband Kevin. That’s a sure way to live by the tenets of Micah 6:8! Live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

(To take a look at the Yahoo Finance article by Mr. Sullivan, check out this link: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/one-man-got-even-debt-103042195.html )

@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 my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

 

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Not One Hundred Percent

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 8, 2015

What do you do when you aren’t feeling quite well? Do you drag around, trying to make do with what you can? Or, do you get plenty of rest? This blog post from a year ago relates a little about me and my day of being kind when I did not feel one hundred percent.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, January 9, 2014

Not One Hundred Percent

hospital-patient

I didn’t feel one hundred percent today. Sub par. Nevertheless, I dragged myself out of the house this morning. Once I had started the day and was outside, I felt better. (I ought to take my own advice, since that’s what I’ve said to my children for years when they don’t feel very chipper in the morning.)

I had the opportunity to be with a senior for a bit today. This senior needed some assistance and companionship, and I was happy to provide it. We didn’t talk too much, but this senior was content to simply sit with me there as a companion. I was very much aware of the ministry of presence. My being-with this senior was loving and giving of myself.

I know what the ministry of presence is, but some do not. Simply put, it is not a human doing, but instead becoming a human being. Simply being present with another person. I’ve been told by many people that my caring, less-anxious presence can be gentle and calming. Sometimes that’s what anxious or frightened or upset people need. And oftentimes, I provide it.

Several of my former supervisors mentioned this aspect of my character (my giftedness?). I think back to how I began this post, and connected it to a verbatim I wrote for my first chaplain internship. The verbatim concerned a senior couple at the hospital where I did my clinical rotation. However, one of the most distinctive things about that in-depth paper was one of the learning issues that I dealt with at the time. How do I manage to navigate and work when I don’t feel up to par? Not one hundred percent? I was not feeling quite chipper for the clinical day at the hospital, either. Yet God was still able to use me.

I did pray before I went to the floors for my clinical chaplain visits that day. It’s amazing. I wrote this particular verbatim almost ten years ago, yet I can still see and hear portions of the conversation and interaction in my mind. Upon reflection afterwards, I was awed by the openness of both the husband and the patient. God has given me an open heart and open ears to listen to people who are hurting. That’s a big reason why I went to seminary in the first place—to get further training in how to more intelligently, actively listen to people, and to walk with them as they go through difficult places in their lives. I am surprised at how little I did say to both of these dear seniors, reading over the verbatim just now. Yet the couple seemed really happy with my visit, and really wanted me to come back.

This situation in my verbatim was early in my experience as a chaplain. However, even then I used the ministry of presence. Today I come alongside of people, being with them. Sometimes I talk with them, and sometimes I’m quiet. For example, like I was with the senior I helped today. I tried to be a gentle, friendly companion, and I think I succeeded.

@chaplaineliza

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

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

Being Kind with a Snow Shovel

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, January 5, 2015

On this snowy, frigid evening in January, this post from a year ago strikes a familiar chord.

 

A Year of Being Kind blog – originally published Monday, January 6, 2014

photo by Sergei Kvitko

(photo by Sergei Kvitko)

Being Kind with a Snow Shovel

It was cold in the Chicago area today. Frigid. I mean, exposed skin would freeze if uncovered for more than a few minutes. I understand that we broke a temperature record with -15 degrees. We won’t even talk about the wind chill, with wind gusts anywhere from 20 to 30 miles per hour.

I needed to be out and about today, going to and from work. Despite the extreme temperature, it was a beautiful day! Crisp, clear air. Blue sky. Since I had a functioning vehicle and wasn’t walking, I enjoyed the trip.

During the course of the day, I met someone who needed to get out of their garage. Thank heaven their suburb was on top of things and had already sent snow plows down the alleys. One wrinkle: in sending out the plow to clear the alleyway, the snow subsequently was piled in a heap against the garages. An anxious senior was involved, and I had the time and the ability. They had the snow shovel. So, I was happy to shovel out the apron of their garage and allow them access to the alleyway.

Another case of “who is my neighbor?” I didn’t live anywhere near this senior, not like my friend with the snow blower whose story I related several days ago. However, I felt compassion for this dear senior. Of course I shoveled the snow.

I try to keep myself in fair physical condition. I consider this part of my spiritual service to God, to keep up my physical self, to stretch and exercise regularly. I try to go to the gym three times a week and do what I can. Cardio-vascular, a little strength training, and (most important!) stretching both before and after. When I don’t go to the gym for a few days, my body starts to let me know through aches and pains.

This is a roundabout way for me to mention exactly why I felt so free to just pick up the shovel and go at it. I feel blessed that I am in decent physical shape, and I don’t want to lose that ability any time soon.

But what about people who are less-abled? Like several of my friends and acquaintances, who have lost some or most of the physical range of motion and ability they were born with? They are growing more and more dependent on others to do things for them. This dependence can be a source of griping and grumbling, or of gratitude and thankfulness. I see any number of reactions and responses to offers of service, on a regular basis.

However, I can let those I serve (or offer to serve) respond as they will. God has not made me an arbiter of people’s thoughts and actions. Instead, God has encouraged me to serve. And this year, my hope, my intention is to find some kind of service each day. Not to judge people on whether they have gratitude for the service, or whether they thank me. Service is what God has called me to do.

I wonder what will show up tomorrow? God willing, I’ll find out.

@chaplaineliza

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

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

Helping? Being There for My Friend!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, October 26, 2014

Centering-Prayer-hands holding candle

Helping? Being There for My Friend!

I have a friend who lives in a neighboring state. We recently had dinner when she was in Chicago for some business. We have gotten in the habit of having lively conversations over social media. It is so enjoyable! And I hope it’s mutually beneficial, as well.

My friend told me recently about a long, difficult day she had at work. On top of that, the situation at her home was not particularly peaceful. After the stressful day at work, of course she was anxious and frustrated. (I’ve been there, too—I know!) She gave me a play-by-play on her irritating home situation. And I commiserated. Good grief! I know how families can be sometimes.

I had a sudden thought. I asked my friend whether she wanted me to give her a brief meditation. (Great for relaxation and stress relief!) She said, “Sure!” Accordingly, I started.

Sit in a comfortable, straight-backed chair. Like a kitchen or dining room chair. (Not a stuffed armchair—too soft and squishy.) Both feet flat on the floor, and comfortably underneath you. Take three deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out.

Place your hands comfortably on your lap–fold them or let them just rest there. Lift your shoulders up to your ears, hold them there–1-2-3-4—and relax. Turn your head slowly from side to side. Again. Lift your shoulders again. Hold–1-2-3-4—and relax. Again, three deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. Now you’re ready to come to God with a one-word or phrase prayer. Help. Thanks. Wow. I’m tired. I love you. Even, frustrated, or angry! Whatever you’ve got, that’s okay. However you feel, God knows about it. And God has dealt with lots worse! God and you together can do wonderful things.

Remember, this is supposed to be a short relaxation/prayer time! Only five minutes (*grin*). Now you’ve expressed feelings or prayer to God, let your arms fall to the sides. Wiggle them gently. Do gentle shoulder circles, forward and back. Now one last time, lift your shoulders—1-2-3-4—and drop. Three more deep breaths, in, out. In. Out. In. Out. Your breath should be more relaxed. Your blood pressure should be lower. Now you can re-engage with the family or with your co-workers, and be in a better place. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. In every way.

Afterwards, I asked her whether this meditation helped her to relax and get a better frame of reference. Her answer: Yes! “Physically, it helped me calm down and slow down. The rest of it helped me center my thoughts, and give my anxiety to God. God is much better at dealing with it than I am.”

And tears are okay, too. God has given us emotions on purpose. We are supposed to show the full range of emotions. A reminder–if you and I stuffed our emotions and feelings–stuffed crying and anger and frustration–the hidden, subterranean emotions could get really twisted and ugly.

Thanks, God! Thanks for my chaplainship training, and thanks especially for my friend.

@chaplaineliza

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

Kindness Through Planning and Preparation

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, October 8, 2014

prayer and meditation

Kindness Through Planning and Preparation

My husband has the occasional dream (or is it nightmare?) where he is completely unprepared for a class. Different classes—middle school, high school, and sometimes college—with different specifics, but he always seems to be completely unprepared.

Me? I don’t remember my dreams. Well—that isn’t quite true. I rarely (and I mean, very, very rarely) remember my dreams. I might have similar dreams, like my husband. I just don’t remember them. However, I wouldn’t like to be caught unprepared, either. (Especially caught with my pants down, as has happened in my husband’s dreams now and then. Really.)

What does all this have to do with being kind, you ask? Great question! I am busily preparing for a morning of presentations and group facilitation, coming up soon. The presentation is going to be a morning of focus on prayer and meditation. A beginner’s overview, with some prayer practice built in during the final half hour. I’m excited! Enthused! Pumped! Oh, and I am wondering whether anyone will show up. *sigh* (That’s the nervous, anxious, nail-biting-me talking.)

Ultimately, who comes or doesn’t choose to come to the morning presentation doesn’t really matter. What matters is my stewardship. How faithfully and well I plan and prepare. I am providing service to others, and I hope those who attend the morning groups and presentation receive a blessing. And if they receive helpful, encouraging information, too, that’s an additional bonus!

I don’t usually talk about this here, but in addition to my Master of Divinity degree, I also am certified in the State of Illinois as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor (or, CADC). As I share about prayer and meditation and facilitate that group, I will also weave some basic recovery principles into the presentations. Spirituality, prayer, and meditation intersect and are closely aligned with the recovery program. A well-rounded understanding of prayer and meditation can be helpful to those who would also like a more thorough understanding of the recovery program.

So, yeah. That’s what I am busily involved in right now. Actually, it’s fascinating, finding so many intersections of prayer, meditation, and spirituality. Then, the practical side, the practice-part. And to add some spice to the mix, a healthy dose of recovery principles.

Is this being of service? Is it kind? Am I helpful? I hope so. I pray so. God willing, let it be so.

@chaplaineliza

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

Of Service? To a Community Member!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, September 24, 2014

HELPING one hand to help Audrey Hepburn

Of Service? To a Community Member!

I like helping people out. I really do. I guess some church people might call that the spiritual gift of helps. (See commentaries on spiritual gifts, and 1 Corinthians 12 for more information.) Yup. I enjoy giving people a hand, when I can. Being of service helps me in so many ways. Including in thinking of other people, and not concentrating so much on me, myself and I. (In other words, focusing on my three favorite people! Or. One favorite person . . . <grin>)

Yesterday, a woman from the neighborhood around the church telephoned the office. She was able to speak to the church office manager, who in turn gave me the message. Sure enough, the anxious woman is looking for someone to care for her elderly relative, who will be getting out of rehab early next week.

What an opportunity to come alongside of this anxious woman, to let her know I was going to search out more people who might have a lead on private duty caregivers or certified nursing assistance. What do you know? I was able to talk with a friend of mine yesterday evening, a woman who works in home health care, and she said she would be happy to talk to this loving family member. Give what information and handy, helpful hints there might be.

Accordingly, I made a follow-up call this afternoon. I was sorry to say that I couldn’t find a caregiver or a CAN who wanted the job. No dice. However—all was not black. The woman quite willingly accepted my offer of the phone number, as well as the name of the website where my friend is listed.

There are a hundred and one other ways to be of service and helpful, even for someone I know on such a superficial basis. Anywhere from giving clear directions, answering a question, offering assistance (such as, in bringing groceries into the house or in taking out the garbage), or doing an errand. I am so glad I was able to call this woman back in a timely fashion. And help her out by giving a suggestion for further help.

So . . . spiritual gift of helps? Can you give a non-religious way of describing it? I’m sorry if all I can come up with is that I enjoy helping people. But, it’s true! I even provide service with a smile, too. (I smile a lot. And sometimes, I can only smile. But isn’t that giving people something, too? Giving people the gift of my friendly smile. Thank God that God gifted me abundantly with a lovely smile. The gift that keeps giving.

@chaplaineliza

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

Being of Service? Showing People How to Fight Back! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, August 29, 2014

BK kindness is a lifestyle

Being of Service? Showing People How to Fight Back! (Feature Friday!)

I have heard horror stories of how less-than-honest companies bundle and buy out debts at only a fraction of their value. Then, they hold the debt or note for the money owed. So instead of cash-strapped people owing a credit card company money, or a bona fide medical center money, they now owe these sleazy debt consolidation companies the money. But wait, there’s more! Much more . . .

I’ve been involved with seniors for a number of years, especially recently. I mean, at their homes. These seniors, often frail and in poor health, receive all kinds of telephone solicitation calls. Many of these calls come from shady, fly-by-night companies. But the worst of them all? The worst come from these sleazy, slimy debt consolidation companies. The debt collectors call. Then, call again—and again. And if they get a trembling, anxious senior on the other end of the line, so much the better! These pond scum debt collectors bully the elderly, trying to force them to send money. And sometimes, the senior is bullied into paying off a debt they do not even owe.

Most people don’t realize how to stop this horrible harassment and misuse of the telephone, not to mention get revenge. But a debt collection company tangled with my husband Kevin one time too many. My husband—who did not even owe the debt mentioned—took action. Action against the company, and action to stop this daily harassment for a debt which was never his to begin with.

My husband is extremely methodical, and he takes excellent notes in his work life. So, he decided to do the same thing in this case. Every time the home telephone was called by this company, we noted the date, time, and whether it was a recorded call or a real, live person. Every single time there was contact with a real, live person, we recorded their name. My husband sent two “cease and desist letters” by registered mail (so a real, live person at the company was required to sign for the letter, and show proof they received it). He took extensive notes whenever he spoke with anyone, and kept all of the notes in a file. And—he employed a law firm that specialized in fighting with these slimy debt collection firms.

The lawyers at the law firm were pros! They knew exactly what they were doing. My husband worked with them, hand in glove, and actually won the case in small claims court!

So, that was several years ago. My husband Kevin and I had almost forgotten all about the case, when a journalist contacted my husband a number of days ago. Mr. Sullivan wanted to know whether he might be able to write an article about the debt collectors and how my husband beat them at their own game. My husband gladly agreed! Moreover, he sent Mr. Sullivan all of his notes. (The journalist complimented my husband on his extremely thorough note-taking, too!)

So—long story short, the story appeared in Yahoo Finance on Wednesday. And—my husband is a hero! He showed, through his excellent example, exactly how to defuse these pond scum debt collectors. And, he wants people to know their rights under the law, too. In a quote from Mr. Sullivan’s article: “I would gladly do it again, not for the money, but because these people are slime who abuse and exploit people who don’t know how to defend themselves,” he said. “While I was defending myself, I followed various forums on the subject, and I was appalled at how many elderly people are victimized. It’s sickening.”

Not only the elderly, but people of all ages might be victimized. Thank God there are people who know how to stop these abusive practices and horrid debt collectors. People like my husband Kevin. That’s a sure way to live by the tenets of Micah 6:8! Live justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God.

(To take a look at the Yahoo Finance article by Mr. Sullivan, check out this link: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/one-man-got-even-debt-103042195.html )

@chaplaineliza

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