Being Kind, Crossing International Borders

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

I try to go to the YMCA several times a week. In this blog post, I mention a chance meeting on the stairs at the Y. See whether you can relate.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, January 11, 2014

"Walking with Friends" by Carolee Clark

“Walking with Friends”
by Carolee Clark

Being Kind, Crossing International Borders

Earlier today, I happened to stop on the stairs. I had an unexpected encounter with someone from another country, and I hope I was of service.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll give a little background, and set up the story. As is my habit during the week, I went to the gym to do some stretching and cardio exercise. I finished a good workout, and started down to the women’s locker room. Halfway down the stairs, I saw a young woman holding an open pamphlet, obviously reading intently. She looked puzzled, and frowned at the piece of paper. I slowed down, since she caught my attention. She glanced up.

We smiled at each other. And that’s all it took for her to engage me in conversation.

As it turned out, she held a pamphlet that listed information about GED classes. She trustingly started pouring out her story in accented but fairly good English. She wanted to take a GED course. And then, get her GED to be more prepared to get jobs here in the Chicago area. I encouraged her, and took a look at the pamphlet with her. “Yes,” I said. “The GED class you want is at the high school, on Tuesday night.”

She told me about studying English in high school, in her country of origin in South America. Again I smiled and was encouraging. “You speak English really well for taking only a couple of years of classes. I wish I could speak another language as well.” She beamed and nodded her head in gratitude for my words. She was very hesitant about English grammar, it turned out. Plus, she also was enrolled in citizenship classes. I was quite supportive. “That’s great! I wish you the best in both of your classes. God’s blessings in this new year, too.” She smiled even more widely. She wanted to know my name. Elizabeth, I told her. She readily gave me her name.

I think I made a new friend!

This is not an isolated incident.

I guess I have that kind of appearance that makes me approachable. People come up to me on the street, or when I’m stopped at a stop light. They’ll roll down their window and tell me they’re lost. And, ask directions. Or when I’m standing in line at a grocery store they’ll engage me in conversation. Tell me about personal details of their lives. Believe me, it happens! (My family is endlessly amused, and say that I have that kind of face. Or chaplainly air. Or something.)

In preparation for this year of service, I’ve prayed specifically to be open and willing, each day. As subtext to my month’s service, for January, the verse I have chosen is Ephesians 4:32. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” I think I was kind to this sweet young woman. She and I made a genuine connection. And—I pray that I was of service.

@chaplaineliza

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

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com

 

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

Of Service When Sad.

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

KIND one kind word

Of Service When Sad.

Ever have someone in your family or friends get really sick? So sick that it affected you? So sick it was like I was walking through chest-high water? That’s the way it is with me. Someone I know is quite sick. I was thinking about this dear one for the past few days, and I feel so sad as I remember. Also happy, warm and grateful at the thoughts, but mostly sad, today.

I remember other times when I felt like I was walking through chest-high water. Sad times. Heavy times. Even though I am trained in how to deal with difficulty and challenging situations, it doesn’t make very much difference. I am still sad.

I know that my chaplain training helps me with others, assists me to help contain emotions—feelings. Helps me to be kind and helpful, of service to those going through difficulty.

As much as I don’t think of it, I need a chaplain from time to time. I need someone to walk with me, when I am feeling sad, or lonely, or depressed, or angry. Sure, I can separate myself from those strong emotions, and sometimes even train the feelings to be used for beneficial reasons. That’s turning sad feelings upside down. That’s just a couple of examples.

Yes, all of us need someone to walk by our sides, now and then. Someone to listen, someone to walk at one’s side. I was one of those helpful, kind people today. But what about my feelings inside of my heart and mind? I had to slow down, personally, and just acknowledge those the sad feelings inside of me. And maybe, I’ll be kind and gentle with myself today.

If you’re facing difficulties today, you might feel like you’re walking through chest-high water. I urge everyone to stop, and do a status check—a feelings and emotion check. Feelings and emotions can be wild and difficult. If you are going through some challenging times today, consider being kind and gentle with yourself today. And God will be there to help, too.

We all need kindness and gentleness, especially when we’re sad or mad. Thanks, God, for sending friends to help us through those difficult times.

@chaplaineliza

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

I Try to be Kind, Try to Journey with Others

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

BK hug a blanket of kindness

I Try to be Kind, Try to Journey with Others

Ever have someone close to you need help? Assistance? Someone to be there, with him (or her). This kind of situation is probably all too similar to so many people. As someone who is familiar with care centers and people who might need more care at home, that clears my brain and heart to be present with people.

I know I’ve spoken about this aspect of care and concern before. As a chaplain, my inner ‘antennae’ are sensitized to people who are going through stuff. Any kind of stuff. And it’s not only the people I know, but it’s also others who know them.

It doesn’t particularly matter. Whether I’m called a chaplain or a pastor, I still come alongside of people. I still try to be calm, gentle, welcoming. A practice I’ve developed in the past few years, it doesn’t always work—it doesn’t even usually work. But when it does, I try to journey alongside of others. Use my less-anxious presence.

Sometimes, I am so grateful to have people appreciate my presence. At other times, they haven’t. They want to be alone, or with their friends. They can be hungry, angry, lonely or tired, and therefore snap my head off. But regardless, I offer to be there. To be of service. To be kind.

Thank God that many people are grateful, thankful for company while they are going through stuff. And for the others who aren’t, at the time I asked? That’s okay. Some people have real challenges, and it’s difficult for them to come up smiling all the time. I understand, better than others. Hugs help, too.

@chaplaineliza

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

Of Service Through Anxiety and Sadness

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, October 15, 2014

THANKFUL for day to live, love, be grateful

Of Service Through Anxiety and Sadness

A wet, rainy October day. Sad. Anxious. Depressing. Especially when I needed to make an emergency trip to the dentist. (At least that turned out all right.) Afterwards, I spent the morning taking it slowly, easily. Letting my mouth recuperate from the dental work.

But what about other people who spent today in less than comfortable places? Like individuals who have lost a job and can’t find another one? What about them? What about their families? How are they making ends meet, financially? What about the desperate, long-term anxiety that comes with unemployment—especially being without a job for a long, long time?

What about people who are caregivers? Who faithfully stay by their loved ones, feeding, cleaning, doing heavy lifting. Sometimes these dear ones have the most thankless jobs, but still show up every day. Still continue to care for their loved family member, spouse or significant other. I know, I have seen the care, love, and comfort displayed by faithful people stepping up and loving, caring and being an encouragement.

And individuals who are terribly sick, in the hospital or an extended care center? It doesn’t where these dear ones are located. Serious sickness happens. Sadness and anxiety afflict countless numbers of people, every single day, affecting patients as well as the loved ones. (I have some familiarity with this, from my time as a chaplain.)

When I visited one of these dear ones today in an extended care center, I tried to be as encouraging and supportive as possible. I prayed; this dear senior prayed for me, too. I cried because I was so emotionally shaken.

God be with the dear one I visited today. Thanks to you for any prayers you can offer for this dear person. And, thanks for prayer for me, too. I need it, since I am regularly dealing with emotions, feelings, relationships. All difficult, challenging, filled with anxiety and sadness. I know God is with me, in this rainy, sad October day. Thanks for good thoughts too, and may God’s blessings surround all of us–even through sadness, depression and anxiety.

@chaplaineliza

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

 

In Which I Feel Sad, But Still Try to Be Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, October 7, 2014

blue flowers

In Which I Feel Sad, But Still Try to Be Kind

I tried to be kind today. I truly did.

Since today was Tuesday, I read to the preschoolers and kindergarteners this morning. (That always makes me happy!) I answered a number of emails, responded to several items of business, and personally wrote thank you notes to all of the businesses that were kind enough to give raffle prizes to St. Luke’s Church—for the Spaghetti Dinner last Saturday. Busy day at work today!

But, that was not all. I found out about a dear senior today who is not in very good health. Dear, dear senior saint. I feel for this senior so deeply. I have been calling and visiting on a regular basis, over the past number of weeks. And I feel discouraged. Deeply sad.

Over the last ten years, I have known a number of people who became sick and died. Some over a long period of time, others more quickly. Some even suddenly, traumatically. It doesn’t particularly matter why they died, except for the fact that they did die.

I’ve been a chaplain for most of the past ten years. I’ve seen trauma, gun shots, stabbings, heart attacks, strokes, broken hips. Patients in the Intensive Care Unit and the Emergency Department, as well as in Extended Care and even after they’ve been released. And some of the saddest, most heartbreaking situations of all, when I was paged to Labor and Delivery for an emergency call. (For some reason, these calls are often in the middle of the night.) So, I’ve seen sadness. I have journeyed with patients and their loved ones down these heartbreaking paths.

The current, continuing situation with this dear senior is—sadly—not new to me. And yet, it is. Each individual brings a different aspect to this circle of life. I cannot help but think of others who have passed on. Crossed that river. Died.

I’ve been asked, point blank, what happens after we die. I do not really know. (Other than some tiny glimpses the Bible gives to us. And, most of them can be construed as allegorical.) I do know that I will be with God. And beyond that? I don’t particularly care. I’m held in God’s hand. That’s perfectly all right.

So, yes. I did do some kind things today. Some useful and helpful things, too. However, my day was (and is) colored by sadness. Grayness. Anticipatory grief, grieving the dear person I used to know. Hoping against hope that this senior will have a good day tomorrow.

Isn’t that all we can wish, for each of us? Each person. Each individual. I pray that each of us might have a good day tomorrow. And, good rest at the end of the day. God willing.

@chaplaineliza

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

Being of Service? Being Chaplainly. Quietly.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, September 11, 2014

Being of Service? Being Chaplainly. Quietly.

 

quiet--more you can hear

I enjoy being a pastor. I really do! I enjoy teaching bible studies, writing the orders of worship, contact with numerous people throughout the month (both on Sundays and the rest of the week), and all aspects of preaching.

However, I very much enjoy pastoral care. Being a chaplain. Coming alongside of people and journeying with them, for a time. Trying to ease their difficulties and challenges, as best as I can. (After all, I chose “@chaplaineliza” for my Twitter handle. That’s all.)

I paid two pastoral care visits today. Chaplain visits, if you like. One in person, and the other over the telephone. Yes, in this case, they were both to seniors, and both people said they appreciated the visits very much. But chaplain visits do not necessarily need to be to seniors. Just to people in need, regardless of age, as well as their loved ones, too, sometimes. To individuals who are hurting and would like someone to journey alongside of them.

Some of the people I see for pastoral care visits are so sweet and kind! Everyone else talks about them, and tells stories about them. I can hear the love, caring and support in all the other voices, and that makes me so very happy. The positive emotions and feelings are somehow amplified by their common expression. And by having those positive emotions and feelings bouncing around so much and so often? I have a sneaking feeling that the sick person is greatly benefited by so much love, caring and support.

(There are more and more research studies being done now, regarding the spiritual and emotional nature of being a patient in a hospital. I would not be surprised if some research team had already figured out some kind of test or survey using a Likert scale, finding some hard and fast measurement of the facts and figures surrounding emotions, feelings, and spirituality. I no longer have a job where I’m searching out those kinds of studies. But I digress—a little bit.)

Being a chaplain isn’t usually a showy, fancy-pants kind of job. Pastoral care is not particularly glamorous or flamboyant. Matter of fact, it is often an overlooked, quiet kind of helping. Participating on the caring team. “Oh, yes. There’s the chaplain, too. Over there.” That’s okay. I don’t want to be up front all the time. Or, even most of the time. I get a great deal of satisfaction out of coming alongside of people—in a quiet way. Especially, in a loving, caring, supportive and encouraging way.

Yes, I am quite proud of my usefulness in serving as a chaplain, or using pastoral care. Whichever you like—being chaplainly. In a quiet way.

@chaplaineliza

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

Being Kind, on an Anniversary!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, August 13, 2014

LOVE 1 Cor 13-7

Being Kind, on an Anniversary!

Today is my anniversary. Or, to be completely correct, today is my wedding anniversary. (My husband’s, too.) I remember the day of our wedding. A downright hot day in Chicago. The church wasn’t air-conditioned. Neither was my sister’s Victorian-era house, which was several doors down from the church. At least the wedding was at eleven o’clock in the morning, so it hadn’t gotten too hot yet. A small, modest affair. Just what my husband and I wanted.

But that was twenty years ago. Fast forward to today. Back to the workaday world. The earlier part of the day was filled with regular work-stuff. I mean, telephone calls made, emails sent, the fall schedule firmed up. I checked two fliers/bulletin inserts from last year and updated them with proper information and new dates. (Important!)

I also made a visit to a care center to visit a senior. Good visit! All the way around. I enjoy these visits where people are feeling pretty perky. (I mean, generally. Of course, the visit was to a care center, so people are not feeling their best. But, still.) Visiting people who are getting healthy and going to leave the hospital or care center soon is certainly much more heartening than visiting in an ICU or emergency department.

I realize, as a chaplain, I had a responsibility to do my best to come alongside of people in serious or traumatic health care situations. But I have shifted my care. Shifted my priorities. I am not working with people who are so seriously ill. I don’t deal with their loved ones on a regular basis, trying to come alongside of them as they reframe the patients’ life situations. Instead, my work is now a local parish. A small, intimate congregation.

But after I finished at the care center today, I ran several errands and ended up at the grocery store. I decided to buy my husband a small cake for our anniversary. As long as he is very fond of yellow cake with chocolate icing, I knew the store nearby would be sure to have one. And, sure enough. They even had a one-layer cake available, so I didn’t have to get a big two-layer cake. (too much!)

My husband was happy to see the cake. Plus, my son (senior in high school) and his two friends were even more pleased to see it, and to eat some, too. (The chocolate icing was superb, as well!) So, I fed some hungry stomachs today. Another way of thinking about it is, I was kind to four hungry guys.

Good memories. Good cake. All in all, a good anniversary.

@chaplaineliza

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

Being of Service, at a Midweek Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Showers of Stoles - photo - 7/07/12 The Chautauquan Daily

Showers of Stoles – photo – 7/07/12 The Chautauquan Daily

Being of Service, at a Midweek Service

I love to preach. (Have I mentioned that before? If I haven’t, I meant to.) I love every aspect of the preaching process. I usually preach from the Lectionary texts, the set Scripture passages for each Sunday. From handling the Scripture, praying over it to see where the Lord is leading, doing research and consulting commentaries and other books, to actually sitting down and writing the sermon. And then—the delivery. Ahh! That is the icing on top of a delectable cake! I won’t say it’s enjoyable or rewarding to write a sermon every single time, because it isn’t. But about 95 percent of the time, it is!

Today, I had the opportunity to preach at a midweek service for seniors. The service was in the chapel of the large Presbyterian Home in Evanston, where I’ve preached a number of times before. Plus, I served there as a chaplain intern when I was in seminary, more than ten years ago. I still preach at the Home on occasion when needed. So today, I was of service, leading a service.

Three things stand out in my mind. First, my sermon, on Psalm 103. I enjoyed writing it, and I think I delivered it well. One of my illustrations particularly struck me, moved me. I teared up while I was preaching (unusual for me), but I managed to make it through the last page of my manuscript. And, several people particularly mentioned how moving the sermon was. Praise God.

Second, I saw a dear senior (now a resident in his mid-nineties!) who I have known for almost twenty years. He and a relative of his came to the midweek service. I hadn’t seen him for at least a year and a half, perhaps two years. I so appreciated his presence at the service. He and I were dear friends, and he faithfully prayed for me some years ago while I was in seminary. But—he never had an opportunity to hear me preach—until today. Dear, dear man. I am so glad he felt well enough to attend the service.

The third thing? Something that also moves me deeply. And, causes me to reflect on the passage of time, and the changing of the seasons. The ending of one chapter, and the beginning of the next. The Director of Chaplaincy and my former supervisor is retiring at the end of this week, on August 1st. The Reverend Doctor Frank Baldwin will leave the Presbyterian Home after twenty years. He has touched so many lives, over the years. Whether residents, their loved ones, staff, other chaplains and ministers, or student chaplain interns (like me), Frank has done a marvelous job. As a chaplain, as an administrator, as a co-worker, as a mentor and advisor.

I look up to Frank and his quiet, efficient, never-hurried skills and gifts in administration, chaplaincy and preaching—combined! I know he will be sorely missed. His skilled hand of administration is almost always invisible behind the scenes. Yet, he firmly holds the reins of the pastoral care departments of the several sites of the Presbyterian Homes network. And, on top of all that, he never forgets a name. (Unbelievable memory!) Frank, I am so glad that I was able to preach well for you today. Here’s wishing you a fruitful retirement, a smooth transition, and enjoyable future with your wife, your family, and in further ministry–wherever God takes you. God bless you richly, now and always.

@chaplaineliza

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

Helping A Friend In Need

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, July 15, 2014

God making a way

Helping A Friend In Need

Today was a day to be helpful. And caring. I went to visit a good friend of one of my relatives, in the hospital. He had had a procedure recently, and I said I would go to see him. Wouldn’t you know, when I got there, he had just checked out of the hospital.

But wait—that’s not the end of it! I then called one of his relatives while I was standing there in the hospital lobby. In considerable distress, the relative told me about a serious concern she had. Immediately, I felt my chaplain skills swing into action. Of course I tried to help her to calm down, to try to be less frantic and more relaxed. I asked her for possible choices she might make, and helped her see that she could take some action in the specific situation. And even though she felt weak, she was neither helpless nor powerless.

After traveling back from downtown Chicago, I swung by the friend’s house to check on him. See how he was doing. I didn’t stay very long at all, but I was relieved to see he was resting. Thank goodness, especially since he had just been released from the hospital!

Afterwards, I reflected that I haven’t been coming alongside of people as much, as when I was a chaplain. Then, of course, I helped people in the hospital on a regular basis. Assisted them when they had concerns, facilitated getting answers, prayed for them and their loved ones when they asked, journeyed with them when they needed someone by their sides. Sure, sometimes I do this here at my new job, too! However, my current job is just not as intense a position as the one where I was working in a high-needs, intensive trauma situation.

God knows that I am facing new challenges and new joys in this new position, at the church! But, I really appreciated coming back to the familiar ground of a hospital. And as is often the case, I find that people are people. Their serious concerns still touch me deeply, and it doesn’t matter whether I hear of these concerns by email, over the telephone, on the street, or next to a hospital bed.

I pray that God will be with my friend, his relative, and with all those I know who are suffering and in pain today. Please, God, touch them in a special way today.

@chaplaineliza

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