Social Media? Or a Kind Conversation? (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Monday, June 19, 2018

So much attention to what has been going on recently is posted on social media. Sure, it’s an efficient way to get out the message to many, many people with a minimum of effort. (And, I must say I use social media for exactly that reason, sometimes.) However, the intimacy of a personal, one-on-one conversation can be so nurturing and healing. It can provide feelings of warmth, wellbeing and connection, which are sadly falling to the wayside in today’s rush-rush, hurry-hurry, fast-paced society. May God never allow me to shelve this intimate, personal touch of a kind, one-on-one conversation.

kindness,create

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Social Media? Or a Kind Conversation?

Have you noticed? People pay so much attention to social media today. Smart phones, computer laptops and tablets. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Reddit and Tumblr. So many choices! So many ways to further fragment individuals and their communication. Even when I see several people sitting in close proximity to each other, chances are that they will be staring down at some electronic device, focused on that, instead of focusing on each other—sitting at the same table, or even on the same bench.

Call me old-fashioned, but I actually enjoy the art of conversation. I may not be the best at this dying art, but I do enjoy talking with people. In a small group or tete a tete. Intimate, joy-filled, heartwarming, sometimes even heartwrenching. But all the same, there is nothing quite like it.

I have been trained as a chaplain. I’ve done several extended internships as a chaplain intern, and served as student pastor for one year. I was employed as a part-time director of pastoral care, and then on call chaplain at a hospital in Chicago for almost seven years. And this was all in the past eleven years. Extensive, specific training. A great deal of spiritual, psychological and emotional understanding of people in highly volatile, fearful, or extended situations. Challenging, anxious experiences. Lack of hope, grief, trauma, end of life concerns. Yes, I’ve seen a lot.

Looking back on it all, I can see how many of these formative experiences have prepared me for what I’m doing and where I find myself, right now. God is awesome—how God fits this all together never ceases to amaze me.

Take this evening, for example. I happened to meet an acquaintance of mine. (I don’t think he knows about my new job.) He and I fell into conversation, and he started talking about how he used to be all caught up in the church, and went through years of parochial schooling. Then, he stopped church attendance some years ago. Now, he has recently started to consider God, and spirituality from a whole different perspective. In turn, I told him a little about my experience with God and spirituality. I encouraged him to continue to explore this! (And, no, I did not bash him over the head with the fact that I am a professional, in the “church business.”)

I looked on this friendly conversation as part of my being kind. Helpful. Making positive suggestions. And perhaps, when we meet again next time, my acquaintance might remember my kind words and ask me about my perspective—my experience, strength and hope. Please God, help me be ready to be kind, and to be of service!

@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 meditation journey through Pentecost and beyond. #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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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!)

 

Showing Love and Kindness—On a Bus!

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, February 4, 2015

Sometimes a smile can do a world of good. It can lighten someone’s day. Just take a look at this conversation I had, a year ago.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, February 4, 2014

City bus - credit Marin Dobson

City bus – credit Marin Dobson

Showing Love and Kindness—On a Bus!

I can get into the most intriguing conversations with people I meet, at a moment’s notice. My family rolls their (collective) eyes, sighs, and says, “Oh, Mom.” (Or simply sighs, in my husband’s case.)

I took the opportunity of a day off from work to go to the YMCA this morning, after bringing my son to school. I went into the women’s locker room to change into my workout clothes. Many of the same people were there, the usual denizens of the gym and the pool on a typical weekday morning. I took my time to change, relishing the extra time I had at my disposal.

A woman I had met a number of times before bustled up to a locker near me. We hadn’t seen each other for some days. After we said hello, she was reminded—internally—of the blog I’ve been writing. (Yes, this blog.) She turned to me as she changed and asked how the blog was going. “Fine!” I said, with a smile. She is involved with a non profit organization that assists women and children, and she wanted more information about the blog. So that some of the women could post suggestions about acts of kindness they are familiar with. I said that would be great, and thanked her so much! We talked a bit about how people could contact me. (Reminder: anyone can always contact me at the Facebook page A Year of Being Kind, or through my Twitter account @chaplaineliza, or through wordpress.com—just in case anyone was wondering.)

Another woman, a few lockers down, happened to be listening to us as we spoke about intentional acts of kindness and service. My friend went off to the gym upstairs as I began to talk to the second, older woman. She apologized for eavesdropping on my conversation, but I told her that was perfectly all right. Introduced myself, and the two of us immediately engaged in conversation, also! She told me about an act of service that instantly came to her mind, as soon as she heard about people being kind. “Giving people a smile. Just that simple action can help so much.”

I agreed, and told her about my smile (and I showed it to her, too—my smile just-sort-of happens, you understand). She smiled back, and we exchanged a few words about smiles. But then she went back to her story. She used to ride the bus here in our suburb to work. A bus driver on the route greeted everyone who got on his bus with a big smile, friendly and cheerful. As the woman told me about this driver, she obviously remembered him with fondness. A big smile came across her face. “I used to tell him that his bus ought to be called ‘the Happy Bus.’”

What a happy memory! And what a kind thing to do. A smile and a positive attitude may seem to be little things, but they can brighten a person’s day. They changed this woman’s day, this morning, just remembering. Thank God for small things—like smiles.

@chaplaineliza

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

Being Kind to a Sleeping Stranger

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

THANK Thank-to-God

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! My husband and I watched him sleep with compassion, 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

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

In Which I Help and Save the Day

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, November 1, 2014

Michigan autumn lake reflection  photo credit Terri Gostola

Michigan autumn lake reflection
photo credit Terri Gostola

In Which I Help and Save the Day

Well, almost. I mean, not really. The save-the-day part. But my son and his friend were extremely grateful, nevertheless. Let me tell you what really happened. My son and his friend were some distance away. Near, by standards of the commuter railway, but not in terms of travel by foot.

I had absolutely no idea I was going to be needed. It was a quiet Saturday afternoon. Here I sat in the living room, checking email and doing other computer work this afternoon, when I got an unexpected telephone call on my cell phone. Hmm. I didn’t know the number. “Good afternoon,” I said, using my business delivery, not knowing who on earth it might be.

“Hello, Mom?”

Just from the tone of my son’s voice I knew something was the matter. (Yes, a mom can usually tell those kinds of things.) “What’s up?” I asked, using my cheerful voice.

“Well . . . “ I waited, wondering what was coming next. “We missed the train. We almost got there in time, but not quite. And the next one won’t be here for almost two hours.”

I nodded to myself. “And let me guess. You would like me to come pick you up.” The answer was affirmative, and sheepish. Accordingly, I needed to shut down several things. Finish an email. I left as soon as I could, in just a few minutes. It was a beautiful day, after all. Sunny, bright blue skies with wisps of high clouds, even though it was downright cold. (Maybe the cold snap was causing people to stay inside.)

Yes, I saved the day. Like I said, my son and his friend thanked me and expressed their gratitude repeatedly. (It was a cold day for walking!) And, we had a really enjoyable time on the way back. I needed to stop by the library, and we all went to the pet shop nearby. I met two adorable mixed breed puppies, and the store cat. So, I had some animal-petting time today, which is always a plus. My son and his friend chattered about all kinds of things, and I enjoyed the animated conversation. Even got in on some of it.

So, did I help out today? Yes. Did I enjoy myself today? Yes, again! All in all, a successful day. (Especially petting the animals.) What kind of service are You going to send me tomorrow, God? I wonder.

@chaplaineliza

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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

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Of Service? Through Eavesdropping?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, October 23, 2014

BK be kind 1 Thess

Of Service? Through Eavesdropping?

Ever eavesdrop on a conversation while standing in line at the store? Yeah, me too.

That’s what happened today. Let me back up and give a little perspective. On the way home from an errand, I remembered we needed some milk. I don’t ordinarily stop at a nearby drug store, but it was later in the afternoon. The grocery store would be mobbed with people after work. I figured I would save time by going to the drug store. So what if I paid a little more.

Immediately ahead of me in line was an older African American woman. She and the cashier apparently were familiar with each other, because their conversation was genuine, fluid, and warm. The woman ahead of me started in the middle of things. I took it as some topic she had started previously, recently. Perhaps yesterday, or last weekend.

She was clearing out her elderly relative’s house after his death, and she found all kinds of coins. And paper money. Her relative had been an amateur collector for decades. Not only money from the 1900’s, but also a selection from the 1800’s, too. And, from what she was saying, I could tell she did not know the first thing about valuable, collectible coins or paper money. I couldn’t help it. I have some people in my family who collect things, and I have absorbed one important principle from them. Only deal with reputable dealers. Otherwise, disreputable people masquerading as dealers could very well fleece amateurs. Big time!

I was very apologetic, but I felt I simply had to interrupt. “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but hear. It’s wonderful that you are finding some interesting coins! But I wanted to caution you. Some of my family members are amateur collectors, too, of different kinds of things.” Both the woman and the cashier were intrigued by what I said. I had their attention. I pleaded with her not to go to just any pawnshop or place that advertises “Will Pay For Gold.”

The cashier nodded, and the woman ahead of me seriously listened. For the life of me, I couldn’t bring the name of the big-time coin dealer downtown to my mind while they stood and waited. Good grief! I paused, and repeated that the woman ought to research dealers. (Grrr!! I still couldn’t remember!)

The woman ahead of me gathered her change and left. While I paid for the gallon of milk, the name of the dealer finally came to mind! . . . “Harlan Berk. That’s the name!” The cashier nodded again. “That lady is a regular. I don’t know her name, but I will let her know. I’m sure she’ll be in again, soon.” (For the record, I have never been to that—extremely reputable—coin dealer, in the Loop. I just happened to remember the unusual name.)

God willing, I hope, I pray that the woman will research the dealer she chooses. At least I warned her, and let her know that what she inherited from her elderly relative might very well be worth something!

@chaplaineliza

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