My Son and I—Being Kind Together?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, June 3, 2014

BK kindness let me do it now

My Son and I—Being Kind Together?

There we were—in conversation with one another. (Rare circumstance now, that we should be in the same room together long enough to actually have a conversation!)

My son knows about this blog. (As he might ironically say, “Duh, Mom! Of course I know about it!”) After all, I’ve just been involved in this being-kind-thing for five months now. Anyway, he and I talked about my efforts to be kind and to take opportunities to be of service, and help others.

I acknowledge my religious affiliation. Yes, God (or if you like, my Higher Power) is a part of my motivation for this being-kind-thing. But, wait! There’s more! I have the definite feeling that God is pleased by my efforts to be of service to others. To be kind. My son had his own slant on this: he called it “light work.” He is exploring his own understandings of spirituality and God/Higher Power, and he is enthusiastic about my daily writing about being kind.

We had a lively, intellectual discussion this afternoon about how exerting positive energy (his term) helped a person to have a positive feeling/aura that emanated from them. (Again, his slant.) I agreed, and tried to say something similar to what he just said, but with a Christian understanding. We ended up agreeing that positive, beneficial feelings naturally came out of a person who was in the regular habit of being kind, helping others, and looking for opportunities to serve.

I gave him a specific example. I told him about our trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden two days ago. His father, sister and I went to enjoy the beautiful weather and even more beautiful floral and greenery displays. As the three of us walked toward a small bridge, we approached a family coming toward us. From my years and experience in the hospital, I identified them as Latino. Several women, some preschool or elementary aged daughters, and two men. The father (or maybe uncle?) pushed a toddler boy in a fancy plastic car with a long handle. (Bright blue, with red wheels and a red handle!) I made eye contact with the father and the boy as I came toward them. I smiled. The toddler looked up at me. Just as the man passed me, pushing the blue car, I looked down at the toddler. I smiled even more, bent over a little, and said, “Bueno!”

That was it. But the little boy started to smile! So did the adults. I straightened, made eye contact with the man and with the women again, and nodded my head as they passed us on the path.

My daughter and husband were several steps behind me. My daughter sighed. I heard my husband say softly to my daughter, “You might roll your eyes now, but eventually you will appreciate how your mom can instantly connect with people.”

This made me smile! All of it. My non-verbal interaction with the family on the bridge, my daughter’s subsequent sigh (and probable eye roll), and my husband’s comeback. But this was a wonderful example of being kind. Taking the opportunity to be friendly. Open, welcoming! Or as my son would say, practicing “light work.” God, thanks for the great opportunity! Help me be open to Your leading tomorrow, too.

@chaplaineliza

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Being Kind, Accompanying a Friend

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, April 24, 2014

 

friendship when people know all about you

Being Kind, Accompanying a Friend

I accompanied a friend to a medical visit today. I was happy to! Really.

This reminded me of situations in the hospital or in the care center, where I—the chaplain—would stay with patients and their relatives while medical personnel came into the room and talked at length about their medical condition. Or, about other sensitive or confidential information.

Of course, I would never stay without their permission. Sometimes, if the patient was unable to request my presence, the family members would. And, I understood, oftentimes. If I do say so myself, I have a comforting, less-anxious presence. This is helpful when I deal with upset or anxious patients and loved ones, or even angry and downright upset patients and relatives. And on occasion, the patient or family want me to pray for them, pray for the loved ones at home or scattered throughout the country. Or, pray for healing of body and soul, pray for comfort and encouragement for everyone involved (in the hospital and outside, too).

There’s another reason I remain with them: an extra pair of ears is sometimes helpful, too. I’ve seen it happen again and again. Even though the medical personnel often speak slowly and try to make sure the patient and family understand all the explanations and details and options, sometimes things can be overwhelming. All the information, all the upset, all the distraction. The unfamiliar rooms and beds, the hospital units, the unfamiliar staff coming into the rooms at all hours. And in some hospitals, the sheer size of the facility can be intimidating.

Not that my friend today was involved with any of these unpredictable aspects, but all the things eventually got squared away. I did, however, keep my ears open when the medical personnel came in, and I simply listened. Active listening, I mean. I hold people’s confidences very dear to my heart, and do my very best to get the clear picture from the medical professional. Just as backup for my friend, in case there was any clarification needed or discrepancy found.

My friend and I had a good talk, after the office visit. I am glad I was there to be an extra pair of eyes, ears and way of transportation.

I wonder: will there be anyone to do that for me? I am in fairly good health. (Yay, me!) I don’t think I need to go into the hospital or care centers right now. So, I suspect there will be sometimes when my loved ones need medical care. Or, even me! I might need to go to the doctor or oral surgeon or some other kind of professional. Ya never know. (I don’t!)

@chaplaineliza

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Helpful Conversation—on Such a Topic! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, April 4, 2014

Helpful Conversation—on Such a Topic! (Feature Friday!)

Life - limited warrantee
Conversation starters. We all know them. “Hello!” “Pleased to meet you.”“How’s the weather today?” “How ‘bout those Bears/Hawks/Cubs?”

But what about topics that bring conversation to an absolute standstill? How about—death?

Small groups, medium-sized groups of people gather to talk about death at what is known as a Death Café. Some talk candidly, openly. Some with wistful sadness or still-palpable grief. Others with realism, tinged with fear or anxiety, seasoned with love for those who have passed on. Death, that final parting.

These Death Cafés can be made easier by adding tea (or coffee) and sweets. Here in the Chicago area, Death Cafés have been facilitated since October 2012 by Victoria Noe and Dan Bulf. A Café is not a therapy session, not a support group. But it’s a safe place, a space to be freely open about death and dying. Dan especially has taken the idea of Death Cafés and run with it. Dan Bulf is a trained group facilitator. He has hosted and facilitated Cafés at such diverse places as senior citizen residences and coffee shops, and—in ten days, at the Whole Foods in Northbrook.

But where did the idea for a Death Café come from? For that, we need to look to Switzerland, at the “café mortels” of the early 2000’s, organized by the Swiss sociologist Bernard Crettaz. Inspired by this whole topic, a British man called Jon Underwood held the first Death Café in his home in England, in 2011. From there, the concept has taken off and become modestly successful. Modestly, because of the leery feeling that mainstream American culture maintains concerning death.

Dan recently reflected on one of several reasons behind these gatherings. “One of my personal challenges doing cause-based workshops like the Death Cafe is the accepting money in exchange for growth experiences. These experiences are offered to provide growth, connection and some fun. They come from my heart, so I make up that it should be a gift freely given. But there’s the reality that my time and efforts have value at a monetary level as well and intra-personal.”

One of Dan’s friends, whom he was trying to get to donate his time and expertise as a regular contributor, told him that money is like energy. It needs to flow, it isn’t natural to be contained or directed in a straight line. His philosophy made sense: a circle needs to be created and sustained for this energy. Dan figured that his efforts will dead end without participants completing the circle.

Dan has asked me to help him facilitate several of these Death Cafés around Chicago in the past year, because I have training as a chaplain, and with grief and end of life concerns. All kinds of thoughts of God—or a Higher Power—or a Life Force—are discussed. These conversations affect many, if not all, of those listening to a deep extent. I find them to be revealing, sensitive, even humorous at times. And many of those who attend have a Christian outline or understanding to life and death. Yes, sometimes certain people who come to a Café might still be dealing with some painful, raw issues. But Dan also wants those who attend to celebrate their finite lives, and not just get caught up in dark or sad thoughts.

He also needs to balance. To pick and choose where he might use his knowledge, understanding of group behavior, and ability to lead a conversation—and where the energy needs to flow. As Dan says, “It’s not easy.”

Thanks, Dan, for leading the way in this important conversation. (For more information see the website http://deathcafechicago.com/ )
@chaplaineliza
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Conference-Goer by Day, Pastor by Night

A Year of Being Kind blog –Wednesday, March 19, 2014

keep it simple

Conference-Goer by Day, Pastor by Night

Another day at the addiction and recovery conference. A rainy and chill day, this time. Good day to be inside. As I mentioned yesterday, I love being with fellow professionals. I enjoy getting a refresher on the area of my certification! (For those of you who are wondering, I have a state certificate in Alcohol and Drug Counseling. That’s on top of my master’s degree in Divinity.)

I loved both morning and afternoon sessions. Nothing too, too heavy. (Just kidding!) Seriously, just a seminar on grief and loss as related to addiction and recovery in the morning. This was followed by lunch and then a practicum on suicide. Both presenters were superb, and knew their stuff! I didn’t even mind discussing and learning more about such downer-subjects.

Many of the usual suspects—I mean, many of the same addictions and recovery professionals attend these sessions. I get the opportunity to hear from certain of them at the individual sessions. We all have some sort of service orientation, too. Many of these people are deeply concerned with and care about alcoholics and addicts, or drunks and druggies (as some people say). And oriented towards service? You bet! Such caring, loving service is natural for many in the addiction and recovery area.

I serve in the addiction community, too. I’m not currently employed as a counselor, case manager or worker at a recovery home or rehab unit, but I facilitate a spirituality group regularly at an inpatient drug and alcohol unit at a medical center several miles west. I’ve done it for the past nine years. (Gee, time flies when you’re having fun!) I do look on leading this group as service. Service to God (or, if you prefer, my Higher Power), as well as to the drunks and druggies who have just arrived in treatment.

A few years ago, when I was doing my two semesters of internship, I was able to serve as substance abuse counselor intern at this particular inpatient unit. After the ten month period of internship was over, I took the certification test, and added more letters to the end of my name. Oh, and I received a certification as Alcohol and Drug Counselor, too.

I praise God that I am available once a month to these good people at the inpatient unit, and facilitate the spirituality group. Many of those people in that unit are hesitant about religion. Understandable! If I had had similar experiences with church, religion, and dysfunction in the family, I probably would have a problem with religion, too! Since the recovery program and the 12 Steps are heavily spiritual (NOT religious!), this gives me an open door to talk about God.

Some prefer referring to God as their “Higher Power,” but I welcome any opportunity to let people know that God loves them, God has a plan for their lives, and God is with them—each day, all the days of their lives. One day at a time.

@chaplaineliza

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