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!)

 

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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!)

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.

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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!)

Being Kind to a Sleeping Stranger (#BestOf)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Thinking about the homeless, and those in need: our church provides donations (both monetary and physical gifts) to a local food pantry. I just finished the pastor’s article for the December church newsletter. I mentioned our holiday donation to the food pantry. We are going to give personal care products—soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and more. Greatly needed, to be sure! I pray for this dear man, and for countless others like him.

Being Kind to a Sleeping Stranger

thank-thank-to-god

Posted on November 28, 2014 by chaplaineliza

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, November 26, 2014

Being Kind to a Sleeping Stranger

Happy Thanksgiving, to one and all. Today was a quiet, down day. A day to catch up on some needed rest and relaxation, a Sabbath day for me. I particularly needed a Sabbath, after going full bore for almost three weeks.

Except—my husband and I went out for a cup of coffee this afternoon. Yes, we were actually able to find an open Starbucks. My daughter, home from college for Thanksgiving break, decided to go out with her distinctly un-cool, fuddy-duddy mom and dad, at the last minute.

My daughter is such an interesting person. So is my husband. (I must say, I am not so bad at conversation myself.) We had the rare opportunity to sit and talk with each other for over a half an hour, with no computers, DVD players, smart phones, MP3 players, or other gadgetry to distract us. I very much enjoyed finding out more about what my daughter was learning in several of her classes, as well as her experience at a recent lecture with a visiting professor. Amused, I did more listening than talking. She and my husband were getting into it in rapid-fire fashion, concerning the subject of the lecture (a fascinating aspect of medieval literature).

While we were engaged in conversation in the rear of the coffee shop, a tall man came up and sat down about ten or twelve feet away from us, on the booth-type seat along the wall. We didn’t notice him at first, but then, I saw him begin to nod off. And, he did not have any coffee. I felt compassion towards the man. I caught my husband’s eye, and gestured towards the sleeping man. I smiled, sadly.

My husband saw him, too. And immediately registered what his probable backstory was.

My husband was a volunteer at our former church’s homeless drop-in shelter, on Monday afternoons. During the weeks between November 1 and March 31, the church we used to attend had (and still has) a drop-in place for the homeless and indigent, from 3 to 7 pm. First Presbyterian Church took Mondays out of the week. He was a regular volunteer there, most Monday afternoons, for about five years.

So, we both suspected this man needed a place to get in out of the cold. Especially on this cold day, with the high temperature of about 20 degrees.

I was not about to complain to the Starbucks employees about this man. No way! With compassion, my husband and I watched him sleep, and did not disturb him. I mentioned that I hoped he had some other place to go when the Starbucks closed. I finished my coffee, and left along with the rest of my family.

I never did find out what happened to this man, afterwards. I don’t think he had any place to go on Thanksgiving. I hope and pray for him. Lord, have mercy on this dear man. I don’t even know his name—but You do. God, bless this man.

@chaplaineliza

(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!)

 

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!)