Are You Being Served? (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Sunday, April 9, 2017

As I read through a 2014 blog post list from A Year of Being Kind, this blog post jumped out at me. Yes, I still go into Curt’s Café from time to time (even though it is a little out of my usual traffic pattern). And, I am so glad they expanded—to a second location, on the south side of Evanston, on Dempster near Evanston Township High School. What a great opportunity for young people, looking for a leg up! And what a wonderful chance for restorative justice to be lived out. Thank you, Susan. Thank you to all the supporters of Curt’s Café, too!

coffee shop drawing

Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, March 14, 2014

Are You Being Served? (Feature Friday!)

Imagine a place where young people are valued. Mentored. Taught not only what to do on the job, but how to manage life skills, as well. Imagine no longer—this place is for real, and it’s Curt’s Café, in Evanston, Illinois. This café and coffee shop in north Evanston has a mission to “equip at-risk youth (15 to 22 years old) with job and life skills through training, career coaching and mentoring.”

Worthy goals, you say? That’s not all. The training and support these young people receive help them to succeed in life, find worthwhile employment, and become active participants in their local community. These young men and women are not always the first choice for general employment, because of a brush with the legal system. Or, they haven’t had the opportunities that other youth often take for granted. Those are things that usually are a red flag to employers. However, the staff and director at Curt’s Café go out of their way to provide these young people (“at risk”) with fine opportunities. Careful training by food service professionals. Mentoring in positive, helpful life skills. Gainful employment.

I had the opportunity to talk today with Susan Trieschmann, Curt’s Café’s executive director. She said one of the most transformative things about working at the Café is watching the transformations happen in the lives of the young people. And, she not only watches the youth working and training at the Café, but also watches the interactions of the patrons with the staff.  Susan marvels at the patience of the patrons, and talks about observing them “dig deep down and grab the patience from somewhere inside.”

She gave a recent example. A good-hearted recent hire at the Café was serving breakfast to a father and daughter. The young man messed the order up. He not only messed up, but he has issues with shyness. Messing up the order made his shyness even more apparent. Susan observed the daughter encouraging the staff member and letting him know that it was all right. People mess up. And that just happens sometimes.

Penny Doyle, fundraising manager for the Café, is touched by transformation, too. She watches the young women and men become more confident as they continue to grow in learning at the Café. Learning not only about the restaurant and food service business, but about life in general. She especially has gratitude for the incredible community support. Penny encourages anyone who would like to contact the Café to check out their Facebook page or contact them at www.curtscafe.org. And donations are a wonderful thing, as well!

The patrons, by and large, realize and fully support the mission of Curt’s Café; they have a great capacity for willing understanding. Even active encouragement!  Susan, who attends classes on a part-time basis at Catholic Theological Union, is fully committed to the mission of the Café. This ministry is a visible, tangible way for restorative justice to be lived out. Lived out locally, in our community, praise God.

@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 Lent, into Eastertide and beyond. #PursuePEACE. Pursuing Peace – Thanks!)

(also published at ayearofbeingkind.wordpress.com .   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)


How to Be Kind, While Standing in Line

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, December 20, 2014

when someone is nasty

How to Be Kind, While Standing in Line

I stood in line two times today. And I mean, in serious lines.

First, at the post office. I mailed a Christmas present to one of my relatives in another city. I stood in line outside the post office as I waited for the door to open, first thing this morning. And then (because I was not the first one in line outside), I waited longer inside.

However, mostly because it was in our small, local post office, people were generally very nice. Nice to the postal worker behind the counter—who is a long-time worker at our post office, and a super nice guy. Also, nice to each other—and comfortable talking with one another, even though people weren’t acquainted before waiting in line together.

So, yes. I did end up waiting a total of twenty minutes at the post office. The time I spent there was pleasant and genial. Altogether, a nice experience.

I also waited in line at the bank. I had some banking business to transact this morning, and it was helpful for me to interact with a teller. However—there was only one teller inside at the window. Moreover, she not only had to wait on people in line, she also needed to handle the customers outside, in the drive-up lane. It was between 11:30 and noon, on the Saturday morning before Christmas.

Whoever came up with that for an employee allocation plan? Finally—another employee came over to the teller windows and started helping the bank customers. But that was after I had been in line some twenty minutes.

I could tell that the fellow people waiting in line at the bank were getting short-tempered. The atmosphere was completely different from that at the post office. Not pleasant. Not genial.

I decided to start talking. In my friendly way (similar to the way I interacted at the post office earlier today), I made several general comments to the people around me. Talking about how busy it was outside, and how long the lines must be at the post offices on the Saturday before Christmas. The two people behind me warmed to the subject. We talked for a bit. Just before I went up to see the teller, I looked back in line. Eleven people behind me.

Good grief. I ended up waiting in a stark, somber bank line for more than thirty minutes. Here’s hoping those behind me had a better experience after I left.

So often, people decide to react in either a positive or a negative way. The line at the post office was a positive experience. I hope I made the lengthy wait at the bank a little more bearable for a few people. Using my chaplainly, pastoral care skills, I think I did. God willing.

@chaplaineliza

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Praying for a Kind Solution in an Unjust World

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, November 24, 2014

JUSTICE do, think

Praying for a Kind Solution in an Unjust World

I looked at Twitter tonight, after things really broke loose. What I saw there made my heart break.

For those of you who have not been following the news in the past few days (or weeks), the Grand Jury made its decision, concerning the (white) police officer who killed a (black) teenager several months ago. The Grand Jury found the police officer not guilty on all five counts.

After viewing the reactions for some fifteen minutes (and clicking on a few links), I posted my own response on Twitter: “St Francis’s prayer comes to mind: “Lord make me an instrument of your peace.” Praying for justice, clarity of mind, open ears. #Ferguson

I do not have much else to say, other than 1) thank you to Michael Brown’s family for recommending that people find positive, responsible ways to change society and change the justice system; 2) God be with everyone who is on the streets tonight, no matter who or where they may be—protect each one; 3) some fool was foolish enough to release the grand jury findings so late in the day. (Foolish, to the nth degree!)

That’s all. Except, with this addendum. I ask God to allow cooler, more sober heads to prevail. And, I repeat a portion of my tweet, “Praying for justice, clarity of mind, open ears.”

Dear Lord, help me to be of service to all those who are struggling for justice in an unjust world. On many, many fronts. So be it, Lord!

@chaplaineliza

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Conversation with God

matterofprayer blog post for Friday, August 15, 2014

PRAY God can hear you

Conversation with God

Got prayer?

Levity aside, do you pray? Once in a while, or sometimes, or even daily? I saw a recent survey of “average Americans” that said over 50 percent pray several times a week. As a woman of faith who strives to stay in regular contact with God myself, my initial thought was, “That’s great!”

But—my second thought came quickly on the heels of the first one. Did the people asking questions in that survey define “prayer?” And, how do each of the individuals answering the questions define “prayer?” I can’t answer either of those questions. However, I can tell you how I answer that question.

To me, prayer is often “a conversation with God.” Sure enough, when I pray, I do have conversations with God. Sometimes, I wish they could be conversations like I have with my friends, my family, those I care for and love. Wait a moment—God is all that to me, and more. God knows my deepest thoughts, the dearest desires of my heart. When I’m anxious or afraid, frustrated or downright angry. God can go with me, wherever I go. (“Whither thou goest, there also will I go,” to quote from a poetic, older version of the first chapter in the book of Ruth.)

But sometimes—sometimes God seems distant, even hiding. It’s as if I’m all alone. No one cares. No one is there for me, not even my husband, family, or friends. Not even God. Those are the dark times. The sad times. The times of depression, even despair. Yes, I have gone through times like that. When things are more positive and moving in a good direction, I often don’t want to think back to those dark, dismal times. Those bleak, even heartbreaking situations where I felt like I was in the bottom of a slimy pit with no way out.

Yet—I have come out of those situations. With the help of family, friends, colleagues. With the help of faithful praying companions. And I do have conversations with God. I do not start the conversation. Instead, I pick up the thread of the conversation, midstream. God spoke first. The beginning of my prayer “is in response to who God has been for us, or what God has done, or is making known to us, or causing us to feel.” (“The Word is Very Near You,” p.19, Fr. Martin Smith)

Yes, this is a redefinition of prayer. Yes, God does woo me “back from isolation into belonging and from anxiety into life-giving awareness.” (p. 18, Smith) As 1 John 4:19 tells us, “We love, because God first loved us.” Just so, we communicate with God—converse with God, because God communicated and conversed with us, first.

Let’s pray. Dear God, thank You for not demanding prayer. Instead, You graciously give prayer to us. It’s a gift! Thank You so much for this wonderful experience, and an opportunity to talk intimately with You, the God who created the heavens and the earth. It’s just You and me, God, Up close and personal. Intimate. Awesome. Thank You.

@chaplaineliza

(also published at www.matterofprayer.net

A Season to Be Kind. A Season to Be of Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, July 16, 2014

BK power of touch, smile, chance to be kind

A Season to Be Kind. A Season to Be of Service

“To everything–turn, turn, turn!/There is a season–turn, turn, turn!” The Byrds’ song echoes in my mind today as I consider things in my life. My personal life, my professional life. Yes, things are shifting and changing, even as I sit here and type on my computer.

People are sick. People go into the hospital. People have operations. People get well. People go to school. People graduate. People get jobs. People lose jobs. People retire. People get pregnant. People have babies. People die.

Yes, I realize these things, intellectually. Even experientially, on occasion. But these happenings are occurring with more and more regularity. Or not ‘regularity,’ per se, but I see increased occurrences. In that case, I wonder why I’m particularly noticing the changing of the ‘seasons’ of life?

A good thing for me to do would be for me to focus on one thing at a time. Not get bombarded by lots of things, all at once. That’s a prudent idea for anyone who is going through a number of shifts and changes in their lives. (Even good or positive changes!) God, help me to take life one thing at a time. One day at a time. Even—one hour at a time, sometimes.

Anyone else feel overwhelmed from time to time? (I know I do!) Well, meditation techniques and mindfulness practices come in very usefully, here. If I can keep my head and keep up a less-anxious presence, then I have a decent chance to keep an even keel, emotionally and psychologically. It is then that I have the opportunity to be of worthwhile service, to act in a kind and caring manner.

Yes, I have been trained to be of service in a health care center setting. Sometimes this setting can be really trying, even traumatic. But I have been praised by my supervisors for my less-anxious presence. Thank God, I do know how to act and (often) how far to go to keep things in a positive, healthy direction. Even when tragedy strikes, as it has recently. A senior I have known for the past several years has died. I did my part in letting people know, just a little while ago.

And, that’s only the beginning of the stuff that’s going on. Personally as well as professionally. God, please give me the words to say to bring comfort and concern to me, and for my people, as well. And help me minister to the loved ones and those who mourn his passing.

@chaplaineliza

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Shiny, New Asphalt! Does It Help? Or Hide?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, July 10, 2014

honesty word cloud

Shiny, New Asphalt! Does It Help? Or Hide?

Brand, new parking lot! The paving company stripped the church lot at my workplace several days ago, and then resurfaced it with new paving material. Shiny, new black asphalt! And, new yellow striping, to boot!

As I gazed out onto the shiny expanse today, I wondered. Does this new surface help matters? Or does it hide them?

Let’s take hiding, first. A cover of asphalt can make it difficult to get to the bottom of things. If anyone has anything to hide, a double layer of asphalt is a pretty good way to hide whatever people want hidden. Spiritually, I mean. Or, emotionally.

If someone is hesitant to express themselves, or just plain afraid to communicate, a shiny new exterior can do wonders! Covering up their real, painful, authentic selves, and pretending to be happy-happy. Or pretty-pretty. Instead of letting people know what is truly going on inside. Or at home. Or at work. Or emotionally. Or, what kind of anguish or fear or despair is happening to a loved one. Whether close kept secrets are yours or a loved one’s, they still can be painful—especially to you and to your loved ones.

What about helping? How can asphalt help? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is safety concerns. The old, broken-down blacktop in the parking lot was beginning to be a hazard, especially for those who had some difficulty walking. It doesn’t matter why, or how old people were, because broken asphalt can be treacherous for people to navigate, even if they are able-bodied and sure-footed. And what about when the weather was tricky? Wet and slick? Or icy? The broken, uneven pavement was doubly a cause of concern.

Now that we have an even, smooth surface to walk on in the parking lot, I feel a lot better. That’s on behalf of church members and friends. I earnestly want everyone to be as comfortable as possible coming to St. Luke’s Church. And if a parking lot in good repair helps in that effort? Wonderful!

So—providing a smooth, even path for people? Let’s go a little further. Get into a smooth, emotional path for people? Provide a positive atmosphere for friends and members? Encourage openness and honesty in communication? These are traits I truly want to welcome and encourage. I would like to model these traits, to the very best of my ability. Will I succeed, all the time? No, I am afraid not. (Even though I try very hard!) However, I will continue to try my darnedest. I tried my best to be honest and open today. To be kind, and helpful to several people! God willing, I can try my darnedest tomorrow, too!

@chaplaineliza

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Be Kind? Even in the Locker Room!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, June 19, 2014

THANK thank you God

Be Kind? Even in the Locker Room!

When I went to work today, I did a lot of stuff, wrote some stuff, talked to some people.

Seriously, I did quite a bit. Got a good deal accomplished. I felt great when I left, and hightailed it over to the YMCA. I really needed to exercise!

Oh—I’m going to take a moment to insert a plug for exercise! I am a great advocate for cardiovascular activity. I think it’s wonderful. Exercise tones my muscles, helps me feel good all over, acts as a non-prescription stress reliever, and—best of all, starts those natural, positive endorphins bouncing all over my insides. So, for all of those reasons, I just love to go to the gym at the Y. (Now, back to your regularly scheduled blog post.)

I jogged on the track, stretched, did some yoga. Came back to the locker room, cleaned up. Just as I was getting dressed, a woman came in to the rear of the locker room, too. Chose a locker at the bank of lockers just adjacent to me. I can’t even tell you who struck up the conversation, but a wonderful conversation blossomed between us.

Did you ever just fall into conversation with someone? And, have a really nice time? I am so glad this happens to me from time to time. Today was no exception.

This woman opened right up. She started telling me all sorts of things. We never exchanged names, but she was so sweet! And, just before she closed her locker, she paused. Looked straight at me, and thanked me. Imagine, she appreciated my conversation! I did not talk too much. Like I said before, she was the one who opened up. But I suspect she might have been able to tell that I was also open, receptive. People often are able to tell!

I am so grateful that I was willing to connect with her, to be friendly and encouraging! And, upon reflection, how difficult was that? It took several minutes out of my day, true. I didn’t even need to go out of my way, because the woman chose a locker at the next bank of lockers! It’s almost as if God were giving me a “freebie” for my being-kind-stuff today.

I was just being me. And that was exactly what this woman needed. God, You never cease to amaze me. Gee, God, thanks!

@chaplaineliza

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