Being Kind by Cracking a Joke (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, August 31, 2018

This post made me so happy! When I read through this, I instantly remembered the young man whose day I brightened. Imagine, I was able to do that just by giving him a bright smile and making a humorous comment. How many other people go through their everyday activities all sad and down in the dumps, with no one to make them smile? It was a simple interaction I had with the cashier, and I hope a meaningful one, too. It is a reminder for me: be kind. Be helpful. Be of service. Please.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, September 1, 2014

ruddy duck, Chgo Bot Grdn, photo credit Kevin Jones

Ruddy duck (male), as identified by my friend Tom Russell.
photo credit – Kevin Jones, Chicago Botanic Garden, 9/1/14

Being Kind by Cracking a Joke

Today is Labor Day! The “official” end of summer, and a day for holiday festivities, picnics, barbeques, and all manner of outside activities. I spent a quiet holiday with my husband. Quiet and enjoyable! My husband wanted to go to one of our favorite places in town, the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Even though the day felt muggy, the overcast sky helped the weather seem a bit cooler. So, there we were. Traveling northward, taking our time. It was a holiday morning, I reminded my husband.

When we arrived at the Botanic Gardens, my husband (once again) commented on the fact that we have a Garden membership. (My father-in-law is very kind! That’s been his Christmas present to our family for quite a few years now.) “Yup. We can go right ahead, in the members’ lane. Don’t need to wait in line to pay. Yes, indeed.” I shook my head at my husband for his ridiculousness, and commented that he sounded quite a bit like Don Knotts in “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.”

It was a good thing that my husband took his large umbrella along when we left the car. The overcast sky threatened rain all morning. Lo and behold, the rain started while we were quite some distance from the entry gate, in the middle of the garden. As I said, good thing. In fact, it was a novelty for us to walk around the garden in the rain.

And the flowers! The colors! We saw a riot of color! Explosions of flowers! Absolutely gorgeous time to go to one of the most beautiful natural places in the Chicago area.

All that leads up to the being-kind part for the day. After having my fill of beauty and lovely flowers and restful greenery, I stopped at the gas station just west and north of the Garden. Very large gas station. Lots of gas pumps, and roomy interior to the building. As I went into the building to pay, I noticed the young man behind the counter. He looked glum. I mean, really sad. I paused, a number of steps away from the counter, and watched him carefully as he waited on another customer. I could just feel the sadness in him: a palpable thing.

As I stepped up to the counter, I gave him my signature smile. (I do have a friendly smile. I’ve mentioned it before.) “Good afternoon!” I pushed my twenty dollar bill across the counter, slowly. He watched it slide towards him for one second, and then two. He picked it up as I said, “I’d like twenty dollars,” and paused. Grinned wider—“on lucky pump number thirteen!” The cashier was a bit taken aback at my comment, and then instantly recovered. His whole appearance transformed, his face lit up. Nodded. He opened the cash register, and continued to smile at me. I waved as I turned to go.

Such a little thing. Off the cuff. I didn’t even think before I made that comment to that young man. But I suspect I made a difference to him, today. I hope so. I pray so. God, please be with that young man! Today, and every day.

@chaplaineliza

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(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!)

Of Service Through Sorrow and Sadness (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A year ago. A wet, chilly, dreary October day. Unlike today, which had blue skies, high clouds, and a fresh wind. As I read last year’s post, I was transported back there, to that wet, chilly day. Gloomy feelings, uncomfortable situations, and deep sadness. Usually, I don’t want to go back to times like these. However, I especially wanted to remember this dear one, this senior, who has now died. Passed on to heaven. Blessings on all of these infirm dear ones, whether seniors or younger ones.

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

BK kindness touching your life

Of Service Through Sorrow 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

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(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

In Which I Feel Sad, But Still Try to Be Kind (#BestOf)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, October 7, 2015

As I read through selected blog posts from last year, I get vivid snapshots of life and experiences. As in this one, from one year ago. Yes, the post contains some everyday happenings, the busy hustle and bustle of everyday life. Yet, those happenings can also be poignant and bittersweet, sometimes somber. Sometimes sad or grieving, myself. Even heart-wrenching, at times. Lord, thank You for the opportunity and the ability You have given me, to be available for people and to walk with them in the happy times as well as the sad times.

 

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

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

lilacs and candle  credit - ocean of compassion

lilacs and candle
credit – ocean of compassion

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.

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Being Kind on the Winter Solstice

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, 2014 photo credit - Kevin Jones

Winter Solstice, Dec. 21, 2014
photo credit – Kevin Jones

Being Kind on the Winter Solstice

Today is the Winter Solstice. It is the shortest day of the year, for those of you who are not familiar with this terminology. Yes, it is also Sunday. I led a worship service at my church this morning. Yet, I also walked through a sleeping garden today. The Chicago Botanic Gardens.

The Winter Solstice is the time of the shortest day, the time of the longest night. Starting tomorrow, the days will grow longer once more and the dark will wane. But today, tonight is the time of the most dark.

This morning at church was the fourth Sunday of Advent. We lit four Advent candles on the Advent wreath this morning. The lighting of candles, the return of the light is a prominent feature of the Christmas festival. The kindling of light is a similar feature in many other midwinter festivals—Hanukkah, for example. Sankta Lucia, and the Yule Log, to mention two more.

At the Botanic Garden at this time of the year, the lights are prominently displayed in many parts of the central gardens. Since this past weekend had a few temperate days, lots of people were visiting. Walking the paths, through the greenhouses, and viewing the special display. Oh, and the lights. Over 750,000 strings of lights decorate the outside areas. Mostly white lights, but also mixed with some red and green, with a few golden accents.

My husband, daughter and I walked through the garden, as I said, later in the afternoon. We sat on a bench for some little while, looking across the lagoon. And as dusk approached in the muted light of the overcast afternoon, the strings of colored lights shone more brightly.

When I see the quiet panorama of the winter Garden, I think of nature sleeping. I see the effects of the decreasing light. Because of my line of work, from time to time I have people telling me of their sadness, sometimes depression, at this holiday time of the year. Sometimes, it is beneficial to sit and be quiet at this time—if we can find the time. Certain people set aside the time around the Solstice as a time of quiet and reflection. (Just a suggestion.)

I try to meditate and pray on a regular basis. At the Winter Solstice, at the waning of the year, I can take advantage of this quiet, peaceful time. I can use this time not only for reflection, but also to let go. To release sad things, mad things, bad things. To lighten up and get rid of resentments and other baggage I’m holding onto. That way, I’m not only being kind to others, I am ultimately being kind to myself.

And, God willing, I can spread some of the light. The light that God brings into the world.

Winter Solstice at dusk, Dec. 21, 2014 photo credit - Kevin Jones

Winter Solstice at dusk, Dec. 21, 2014
photo credit – Kevin Jones

@chaplaineliza

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In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blue Christmas tree

In Which I Am Planning to Be of Service—at a Service

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”—or, is it? Christmas can be difficult for many people, for many reasons. I did a good deal of planning today. Preparing the order of service for a very special, alternative Christmas service next Monday night.

I don’t know whether you might have heard of a “Blue Christmas” service. Perhaps by another name? The Longest Night service? A service held either on or close to the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. A service for people for whom Christmas is a difficult time.

The custom of holding Blue Christmas services has been growing over the past ten years. The name refers to the loneliness, sadness and grieving people sometimes experience during the holiday season. Many people consider the holidays to be such a “happy, joyous time.” However, holiday and family gatherings can be negative and difficult. This Blue Christmas service is a time and place where sad, grieving, lonely people can join together to share their emotions with people who feel the same way.

This will be a subdued Blue Christmas service, on Monday, Dec. 22 with quiet music, reflective readings, a brief time for silent contemplation, community candle-lighting, and a reflection from me (as one of the service leaders). My good friend Chaplain Sarah is going to co-lead this service with me. (Thank you so much, Sarah!)

I know very well that there have been years when I have dreaded the holidays. When this whole season of the year was just a time to be endured, a time to grieve, a time to hold on by my fingernails. Yes, I have anxious, fearful, recurring memories of those holiday seasons. (And, yes. There were more than one holiday season when I felt this way.)

So, I want to offer this Blue Christmas service as an opportunity for those among us who are having a difficult time. Or, who have recently been through something negative and traumatic. Or, who are especially feeling the loss of someone dear at this time of the year. This is a time and place—a space where people can gather together in a refuge from the festivities and “jollity” of the season. And, a place where such sad, anxious, negative, grieving feelings can be brought out into the open. God willing, validated, and expressed.

“The most wonderful time of the year?” For some people? No, not really. Sorry. Maybe next year.

(This Blue Christmas service will be held at St. Luke’s Christian Community Church on Monday, Dec. 22 at 7:00 pm. The church is located at 9233 Shermer in Morton Grove, Illinois, and is fully handicapped accessible. Just in case this information is helpful to anyone. God’s gentle blessings at this sometimes-difficult time of the year.)

@chaplaineliza

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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

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In Which I Can Encourage Others

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, August 30, 2014

God faith and hope 1 Peter

In Which I Can Encourage Others

It sure feels good to be encouraged!

I fielded some telephone calls today—and a few were significant, for several reasons. Plus—I think I was able to help and encourage others as I responded to them.

One call, in particular, made me a little less anxious. Caused me to breathe a little more easily. And, I tried to encourage the person on the other end of the line, too. I think the call was mutually beneficial. That always makes me feel great!

There was some aftermath from the memorial service yesterday, too. Today, I strove to encourage people I met who attended the service with me yesterday afternoon. Yes, memorial services are almost always sad, and yes, I know many people who are coming to terms with their grief, their loss, their sadness and sorrow. It’s not only a gift to be able to encourage and comfort individuals who were (and are) affected, but it’s also a gift to give groups of people an opportunity to come together and support each other.

This goes for any one of a number of situations or experiences. Whether I’m speaking to a group of people, a few others in conversation, or one on one. It also makes me think of something very natural for me when I was working as a chaplain. My wonderful mentor in pastoral care told me it was so important to journey with hurting, troubled people. Claude-Marie was superb at doing exactly this, and I always felt so listened-to, so understood when I spent some time with her. Well—that’s what I strive to do for others. Now, in the past, and into the future as well.

Just as much as I honestly, earnestly tried to be an encouragement to others today, I was encouraged, too. A friend of mine sent me an email, and he said such encouraging, kind and affirming things to me in that letter, I told him that I wanted to print out that specific email and carry it around with me. That way, I would be able to pull out his email when I felt down, discouraged and blue.

God, thanks for friends who help me to feel better, feel good, or just plain feel positive about myself, my situation, and my relationships. I hope that I will continue to be able to encourage others, give them a hand, or say a kind word to them. After all, that is what A Year of Being Kind is all about: 365 Days of Service.

@chaplaineliza

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