In Which I Help, by Taking Someone to the Doctor

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, November 18, 2014

today I woke up

In Which I Help, by Taking Someone to the Doctor

From time to time, I get asked if I could take a friend or acquaintance to various places. Going shopping, or to the hospital, or to the doctor. I am happy to do it. It’s a change of pace.

I got all set with my laptop, so I could get something done while waiting. (The day was a two-part affair, with the first stop at a testing facility, and the second stop the doctor’s office.) Everything went smoothly. Beautiful day, left on time, pleasant conversation, light traffic. Even got into the testing facility without a hitch. But then, a hiccup. A wrinkle. In the small waiting room, a television blared. And I mean, it was loud. I did not have any type of earplugs or headphones or anything to help cut the noise. Ggrrrr!!

Really, it was a small thing. Not much to complain about. Big deal. So I wasn’t able to do much writing, at all. But it wouldn’t have mattered if I had brought a book, either. I still couldn’t have read. Not with that television blaring.

Other than that, the two of us had an uneventful day. We finished at a nice diner for a late lunch. (I had soup, which was delicious!)

Upon reflection, today was a pleasant day, indeed! (Except for the nonsense with the blaring television. Which was really too loud for the space.)

But sometimes I wonder, from time to time; will I ever need a ride? To go shopping, or to the dentist or doctor. Or for tests at the hospital. Will I be able to find people ready and willing to transport me? Or, will I be dependent on the kindness of strangers? Taking cabs, or buses, or some other form of para-transit. I wonder?

I am not going to think about that sad, disappointing future right now. I’ll think about that tomorrow. Meanwhile, I can be glad that we had the opportunity—today—to have a pleasant, enjoyable trip to and from the facility and the doctor’s office. God willing, I’ll be available to transport friends for a long time to come.


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Trying to Be Kind to a Bird

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, October 29, 2014

sun reflected on water

Trying to Be Kind to a Bird

I am sad to say this does not end well. If you are at all soft-hearted, perhaps you don’t wish to read any further. Be warned. I am still very sad.

At about quarter to eleven, I went into the church for the midweek bible study. The church has two entrances: one near the classrooms, and the other near the sanctuary and church office. I usually enter near the church office. For some reason, I went into the other one—the one by the classrooms, and circled around past the preschool classrooms to the office.

I started the bible study a little before eleven. We had a good study—another one in the series on the names and titles of Jesus in the Gospels. A little after twelve, the bible study finished. Everyone started to leave. I went into the church office with several others, and a church member noticed that there was a bird outside, huddled on the sidewalk in front of the sanctuary-side glass doors. I came to look, too.

“Oh, my. It probably crashed into the glass doors.”

I was concerned. It looked like a sparrow. I bent down to look at it, being careful not to touch it. The weather was gusty and cool, and the sparrow was all huddled and fluffed up. I went to my laptop and quickly looked up bird sanctuaries in Chicago. That led me to Chicago bird collision monitors. I called the volunteer hotline.

“Hello. I’d like to report a bird that I think collided with the glass doors at my work.” The wonderful, kind volunteer told me where to bring the injured bird, and also said that it was quite possibly a migratory sparrow, coming through the area. I said I would bring the bird to the wildlife center. Accordingly, I followed her directions, washing my hands and getting a paper bag. By the time I returned to the doors by the sanctuary to collect the huddled bird, I was shocked to see a change. The bird was not fluffed up any longer. As I gently scooped it up into the bag, I noticed it was no longer breathing.

This was heartbreaking for me. If only. If only the weather were not cold and gusty. If only I had seen the hurt bird earlier. If only. If only.

With a heavy heart, I called the hotline again, and spoke with the same kindly woman. I told her what had happened. She thanked me for being concerned for the poor bird. And we hung up.

I know birds do collide with glass windows and doors during the yearly migration. I’ve read articles about it, but actually seeing a bird that collided with a door—that is truly heartbreaking. I know God knows about the flowers in the fields, and the leaves that fall from the trees. As Matthew 6 tells me, God knows about each sparrow that falls. Dear God, seeing the aftermath of this sparrow’s fall makes me heavyhearted. I know it’s a small thing, in the grand scheme of things, but I do feel badly for this poor bird. I tried to be kind, I really did. I hope this bird had some joy in its life, and I pray that it brought joy into the lives of others.


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God Made Each of Us Special (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, September 19, 2014

fearfully wonderfully made Psa 139

God Made Each of Us Special (Feature Friday!)

Ever have a line from a song play over and over in your head, almost like it was on an endless loop? Yeah. That happened to me the other day. It usually bothers me a lot, but not necessarily this time. The particular line was from the gospel song “Something Special” written by Bill and Gloria Gaither. “God made you something special/You’re the only one of your kind.” It’s hard to get mad at a song if it has lyrics like that.

What triggered it was a blog post I saw earlier this week from a blogging friend of mine from New Zealand, Barry Pearman. In his blog Turning The Page on September 16th, he talked about how God had each one of us in mind when God created us. Formed us inside of our mothers, and crafted each part of us. Barry says, “Often I think about . . . the fact that God knows every one of us on a deeply intimate level. We are not a commodity product, a resource to managed, a number on a spreadsheet. You as an individual are of incredible value to God.”

Wow. I’ll say it again—wow! How many people today do not think they are valuable? Do not think they matter? And, do not think God cares about them? I would say that many people are in this sad, lonely situation. Barry mentioned the “internal bully” that tries to interfere and intimidate people into accepting their negative, internal self-monologue. Oh, do I connect with that!

Barry’s inspirational blog has the uplifting theme of assisting people with mental health. “Your own or others,” as the synopsis says. Plus, near the top of the blog—in the right side margin—Barry is featuring a post called “6 Keys to Helping Someone Who is Suicidal.” In this month of September, where mental health, suicide prevention and the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) are highlighted in so many places, I also wanted to lift up Barry, his wonderful work, and his positive, nurturing blog post featuring Jeremiah 1:5 and Luke 12:6-7.

I remember the prophet Jeremiah, and the good and gracious words God spoke to him in Chapter 1: “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you.” So, we come back to the idea that each of us—every one of us—is special. Valued. Yes, Jeremiah had problems in life, but he knew that God was walking right beside him.

It doesn’t matter whether you or I walk beside each other on the path each day, or journey alongside of someone who is hurting—mentally as well as physically or spiritually. We can still help each other to carry burdens. My verse for September is applicable, too: Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Yes, I want to come alongside of people. Yes, we can ease each other’s burdens. And yes, I want to communicate God’s love, encouragement and support.

– See more at Barry’s blog:


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In Which I Am Kind by Telephone

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, July 2, 2014

BK power to change lives

In Which I Am Kind by Telephone

Ever look for opportunities to be kind? Opportunities for acts of service? Yeah, me, too. Seriously!

I have been actively looking for opportunities like this, each and every day since the beginning of January. We’ve begun the seventh month, and have now passed the halfway point of the year. In the past few days, I have been taking stock. Looking back over the past six months. Overall, I am pleased. Pleased, and a little surprised.

I mean, I did not fully expect what was going to happen as the months unfolded. I’ve helped and been kind to quite a number of people. It was a lot of service, true! But also, some persons, places and things I did not expect. I met people I didn’t previously know, and wrote about some new places and things—places and things that were new to me, anyway!

Waiting for the next service opportunity can be exciting. What’s around the next corner? Is there someone in need? Or, someone who is sad, or upset, or just plain wants a smile or a hug? I’m up for it. Whatever “it” is, I would like to say that I’m ready!

Today, I needed to make several telephone calls. A couple were routine, a couple more were specific, where I had several things to communicate. But, I tried to have a kind, cheerful spirit as I called. I think I communicated with a smile on my face. I have heard a number of times that a person’s expression on their face—even while talking on the telephone—can be so important. I realize some people can tell whether the person on the other end of the line is smiling or not. (It comes through in not only the sound of the voice, but in how certain words are pronounced, too.)

Instead of being down in the mouth, depressed and sad, I do try to show a positive, pleasant attitude. I can see how several of those in my acquaintance are negative. Gloomy, and pessimistic. Even though I am really friends with a few of them, I don’t particularly want to hang around when they are like that. Sad, isn’t it? I suspect that is exactly what my friends want, and need.

Hmm. All right, Lord. I hear what You are telling me. Next time one of my acquaintances is gloomy and sad, You would like me to stay with them. Be present with them, and journey alongside of them. That is, You would like for me to at least offer to journey with them, in that land of disappointment, anger, loneliness, and fear? I understand. Yes. I’ll try. With Your help, I suspect I’ll succeed. At least, some of the time.


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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 )
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Being Kind? By Mail

A Year of Being Kind blog – Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Being Kind? By Mail

Someone I know had a death in his family recently. Right now, the loved ones are gathering for the funeral service, from several states. When I saw my friend a few days ago, I expressed condolences, along with a number of others.  And, I pray for him, his family members, and all those who love and mourn their loved one’s passing.

I realize there are many concerns and details to handle when there is a death in the family. I have seen people deal with the death in a number of different ways. Getting angry is common. Unbelief, shaking of the head and denial of the passing is also a way to cope, to find a way to begin to process the news. Extreme sadness, or loud expressions of sadness and sorrow can be another option. I have even had a few deaths at which the family and loved ones did not do much of anything; their family and friends were extremely subdued and silent. All of these responses are valid, and deeply personal. Even those who only knew the deceased slightly may still be strongly affected.

But what about other friends, and acquaintances? People who didn’t have a chance to personally express their sorrow for the death, because of distance? Or poor health? I suspect they might get upset about their weakened physical condition, or feel badly simply about being far away.

I do have an idea. Send a note, or a card. I know that sending greeting or condolence cards might seem to be a habit of yesteryear for some, but people notice. I understand that people are grateful, too. I know I appreciate being remembered with a card. (or even with an email, although “by mail” is the subject of this blog post)

This brings to mind a friend of mine. A good friend, a chaplain, who has a ministry of sending cards. She sends all kinds of cards to all kinds of people. What does the Apostle Paul say at the beginning of the letter to the Philippian church? “I thank God in all my remembrance of you.” (1:3) What a touching way to remember each other, than to send a card or a note with a few words or sentences of genuine interest, care and concern. What a way to be kind! My chaplain friend finds this ministry an opportunity to serve others and to connect with those near and far.

Again, Paul’s words tell us how much Paul appreciated his friends and acquaintances in the city of Philippi, from a long distance away. How much more can we express our care and concern for others through cards and notes? Noteworthy features are the words chosen to communicate, the picture(s) on the card, and the sentiment and attitude of the person sending the card. In other words, things to appeal to the ears, eyes and feelings of the recipient. Also important, the card or note helps the recipient know that you and I care. It doesn’t matter whether we are near or far, what a way to be kind and tenderhearted. God bless my friend, and God be with all who mourn.


Yarn Alive Being Kind (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, January 17, 2014

halcyon yarn

Yarn Alive Being Kind (Feature Friday!)

When disaster hits—anywhere in the world—the disaster is all over the news. Media coverage and live reports can be seen (or heard, or read) on most any media outlet.  Relief efforts are often launched. Good-hearted individuals and worthy relief organizations send donations. Wonderful efforts, one and all. What a loving, giving way to be kind!  But then another disaster happens. Another, and another. After a while, something called disaster fatigue can set in.

Specifically thinking about Japan and a disaster almost three years ago, in March 2011, a tsunami devastated large portions of coastal land and the communities on and near the coast. Many of those left homeless were elderly. For many months, huge numbers of these displaced people went to temporary housing. With little to do in the following months except consider all that was lost in the tsunami, large numbers of these elderly people became sad, even depressed.

Enter Teddy Sawka, a Christian missionary to Japan for several decades. She saw first-hand the ravages of depression in the displaced seniors living in her small community of Shichigahama, a sea-side village. Knitting is quite popular in Japan. Teddy thought that by keeping their hands and minds occupied, perhaps these seniors would find some purpose in their lives. She began Yarn Alive among the displaced seniors, who took to knitting and crocheting with great eagerness.

Missionary Teddy’s cousin is Jill France, member of Cuyahoga Falls United Presbyterian Church. Jill and Teddy keep in touch regularly. Teddy communicated to Jill that the seniors in the budding knitting group in Japan needed more yarn. Jill brought this need to the knitting group (prayer shawl-making group) at her church. In a number of weeks, the group had prepared six boxes holding knitting needles, crochet hooks and 40 pounds of yarn to send off to the seniors in Japan. This was the first of a number of ‘care packages’ sent.

Word spread in Japan. Other knitting groups—Yarn Alive groups—began to meet in other villages and towns in Japan. Meanwhile, word also spread among the media. Missionary Teddy was interviewed by a Wall Street Journal reporter in Japan, almost two years ago. Teddy gave the reporter her cousin Jill’s name and contact information. Soon Jill was interviewed, and several women in the Ohio church knitting group, also. After the article appeared in the Wall Street Journal in the first week of March 2012, calls and emails started pouring into the Presbyterian church office. And even more yarn, needles and hooks sent off to Japan.

Signs of such giving, gratitude and solidarity, in Jill’s own words: “The Lord works in such amazing ways.  It has been just so wonderful to hear from people that are eager to help and so full of love!  It has also opened my eyes to the bonds that women feel for other women around the world.  All enjoying the same gift of sitting together and knitting (or crocheting) and talking!  Doesn’t matter what language we speak, we are sisters!”

Jill, how right you are, my friend. Such a wonderful ministry. Such a marvelous way of being kind! May God continue to send all of us ways of being kind, on a regular basis.