Of Service When Sad.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, November 10, 2014

KIND one kind word

Of Service When Sad.

Ever have someone in your family or friends get really sick? So sick that it affected you? So sick it was like I was walking through chest-high water? That’s the way it is with me. Someone I know is quite sick. I was thinking about this dear one for the past few days, and I feel so sad as I remember. Also happy, warm and grateful at the thoughts, but mostly sad, today.

I remember other times when I felt like I was walking through chest-high water. Sad times. Heavy times. Even though I am trained in how to deal with difficulty and challenging situations, it doesn’t make very much difference. I am still sad.

I know that my chaplain training helps me with others, assists me to help contain emotions—feelings. Helps me to be kind and helpful, of service to those going through difficulty.

As much as I don’t think of it, I need a chaplain from time to time. I need someone to walk with me, when I am feeling sad, or lonely, or depressed, or angry. Sure, I can separate myself from those strong emotions, and sometimes even train the feelings to be used for beneficial reasons. That’s turning sad feelings upside down. That’s just a couple of examples.

Yes, all of us need someone to walk by our sides, now and then. Someone to listen, someone to walk at one’s side. I was one of those helpful, kind people today. But what about my feelings inside of my heart and mind? I had to slow down, personally, and just acknowledge those the sad feelings inside of me. And maybe, I’ll be kind and gentle with myself today.

If you’re facing difficulties today, you might feel like you’re walking through chest-high water. I urge everyone to stop, and do a status check—a feelings and emotion check. Feelings and emotions can be wild and difficult. If you are going through some challenging times today, consider being kind and gentle with yourself today. And God will be there to help, too.

We all need kindness and gentleness, especially when we’re sad or mad. Thanks, God, for sending friends to help us through those difficult times.


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Being Helpful, at a Farmers’ Market

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, September 13, 2014

BFM produce for blog book

Being Helpful, at a Farmers’ Market

Farmers’ Markets are wonderful things, whether in the middle of the city or in the suburbs. Not only are they places where local produce, goods and products are readily available, they are also great places for communication; for local non-profit organizations, churches, synagogues and other places of worship to get their messages out. Last—but certainly not least—farmers’ markets are wonderful places to meet and greet. For friends and acquaintances to say hello, touch base, and even make new friends.

It was a gorgeous, sunny September morning. For something different and out of the ordinary, my husband and I went to the market downtown today. We haven’t gone there regularly for a few years (not since the children were smaller). It’s a happening, bustling sort of place! Lots of shoppers, lots of stalls selling all manner of goods and produce, and lots going on. We strolled up and down the large aisles amidst all of the people coming and going. Took in the sights, as it were.

As we strolled, my husband put his head close to mine and said, “I wonder how long it will take before we meet someone we know?” This is a humorous sort of game we play when we go to a local restaurant, or take a walk downtown on a weekend. Sure enough, it’s rare that we don’t run into someone we know. And sometimes, know well!

Almost before the words were out of my husband’s mouth, the next thing we know I bump into a good friend. Literally! I had just picked some corn on the cob from a bushel basket and straightened up when our friend bumped into me with his backpack! (It didn’t hurt at all.) We both immediately stopped, turned, and started to apologize—when— “Hello! Good morning!”

After smiles, shaking of hands, and hugs, we started right in, talking. Our friend Gregg asked me about the church (which is going well, thank God!), and inquired what I had been doing lately. I knew our friend was interested in social justice, peace and reconciliation. So, I told him about the Potluck for Peace I had attended on Thursday. I mentioned the Children of Abraham Coalition, and he was indeed interested. I particularly mentioned the different groups and synagogues associated with the Coalition. Our friend thanked me, and I said I would get more information to him. (I will, Gregg! The link to my Friday Feature: http://wp.me/p4cOf8-fP)

I know it may seem like a little thing, but friendly meetings mean so much, sometimes. Keeping up connections, friendships. Exchanging smiles and hugs. And welcome information, too! Thanks for the opportunity to do all of these things today, God!


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Helping? At a Car Wash!

A Year of Being Kind blog – Saturday, September 6, 2014

car wash illustration photo credit - timesunion.com, 9/11/11

car wash illustration
photo credit – timesunion.com, 9/11/11

Helping? At a Car Wash!

Yesterday? Wild weather! Torrential rain, powerful wind gusts, sky black as shoe polish for more than half an hour. Absolutely a 180 degree change from today: powder blue sky, low humidity, with picture perfect weather. Perfect weather for a football game (my husband is a Northwestern alum, and he follows the football team). And—perfect weather for a car wash at my church.

This was the second annual car wash at St. Luke’s Church. Rally Weekend, the Sunday school kickoff for fall! I helped a little bit, by providing taxi service for two of our young people. I drove to the El station to pick them up, and bring them to the church to help out with the car wash. I really enjoyed being of service today!

A steady stream of cars and vans came through the wash line today. Enough to keep the volunteers busy, active and washing for most of the time the car wash was in operation. Plus, the hot dog lunch we offered to those who waited was much appreciated! I considered the time all of us spent out in the church parking lot to be time well spent: raising the church’s profile in the community. All good!

I did not need to get involved with the actual washing of cars, this time. I was ready, and willing! However, my services in the car washing department were not necessary. But—I did keep some people company while they were waiting for their cars to be washed. Providing hospitality? Helping people to feel comfortable? Making pleasant conversation and giving information about our church and the coming activities this fall? I tried to do all of these things!

This reminds me of what different roles people play in the church. Or in other religious organizations. Some people do the hands-on stuff, the actual physical labor. Others do the set-up, and the preparation. Some provide that necessary social lubricant, the customer service, public relations and advertising. Some also make sure that people are fed, that their needs are taken care of. And lastly, there is the cleanup. When individuals work together, have camaraderie, and talk and laugh together? That, in and of itself, is one of the best things that can come out of an event like this. Relationship building.

What about relationship building with God? Vertically? I need to work on that, too. When I consider how much God wants a relationship with me? I find myself thankful. And grateful.

Thanks, God! Thanks for wanting me back as a friend. As a follower. As a grateful person. Even when I sin, or fall away, or just leave undone those things that I didn’t do work last sign. Help me to do better, please! Thanks, God.


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Being Kind? Not Spouting Off . . .

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, August 19, 2014

restaurant drawing Navaredo (1)

Being Kind? Not Spouting Off . . .

I will drink most kinds of coffee. It does need to be decaffeinated, but other than that, pretty much any kind of coffee will do. Ask my youngest daughter, who is getting ready to go away to college this week. She’ll tell you I drink good coffee, mediocre coffee, even wretched coffee, if necessary.

My daughter and I went to a big box store today to get her some last things. Before move-in day on Friday. About a block away, we saw a chain restaurant. My daughter mentioned (wistfully) that she hadn’t been to that particular restaurant for a number of years. Thinking suddenly, she amended that, since she and her friends had been there for a festive occasion about two years ago. We both laughed. I asked her whether she would like to eat there this afternoon. Special, festive occasion, and all. After all, it isn’t every day that one’s youngest daughter prepares to go off to college.

We went in, sat down, and checked out the menus. I noticed the service was slow. Even after the waitress came to take our order, she disappeared in the back for quite a while. I ordered decaf coffee. (As my daughter will verify, I do this all the time, and just about every restaurant.) When she finally brought the coffee, it was cool. She disappeared before I could mention the tepid coffee to her. I really don’t mind tepid coffee, but I needed to add a good deal of milk to it. (It has to be the proper color, after all! A nice, lighter mocha. Or café au lait, if you like.) Five little cream containers were on the side of the cup. I put them all in. All of them. And the color of the coffee hardly changed, at all.

That was strong coffee, believe me. Strong, and really rotten tasting. I kid you not. I will drink most kinds of poor and even wretched coffee, but this coffee, today? I do believe this was the worst coffee I have ever drunk in my whole life. And, that’s saying something.

I didn’t see the waitress again for some time, except far away across the room. She delivered some plates to another table, a good distance away. Since my oldest daughter is the general manager of a superb breakfast/brunch restaurant in Chicago, I have some elementary idea of how restaurants operate.

And this one? This restaurant my daughter and I were sitting in this afternoon? The service rated a 3 out of 10. My coffee was a 1 out of 10 (and I thought that was generous, even charitable). The only saving grace was the food. Absolutely marvelous. Really and truly.

My daughter mentioned my showing disapproval in the tip. Or, lack of tip. I said it might not be the waitress’s fault. (Of course, as time passed, I do tend to think her lackadaisical attitude might have affected her service. But the coffee? To complain about that, I asked for the manager. And even then? I expressed myself in a courteous manner.

In retrospect, I think I was courteous when dealing with the restaurant staff today. I wonder how I might have acted and spoken if the situation had been different? If I had been in a bad mood, or had a headache, or any one of a number of other things? I can thank God that I was able to be kind. (Thanks, God!)


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In Which I Helped Water Plants

A Year of Being Kind blog – Tuesday, August 5, 2014

don't be afraid to sparkle

In Which I Helped Water Plants

Ever have a day when you were busy all day? A lot of little things? But at the end, couldn’t really point to any one big thing and say, in large part, that’s what I did today.

Oh, I can think of specific, minor things that happened. Discrete items I could tick off one by one. I organized some material for the worship service on Sunday. I answered some email and did other work on the computer. I read to the four and five year olds in the preschool. I talked with the trustee at church about several matters, including an upcoming meeting. And, I asked the trustee about some plants, since the four year olds’ teacher asked.

As the trustee and I walked out of the building, we came upon the four year old class. The teacher was there, too. I told her that Bob the trustee was the man with the answers for her. “I think he’s just the person to ask,” and matters were resolved in less than a minute. The preschool teacher was really happy! Her students will get a chance to see things grow, and I was glad that I could so easily get two people together who would be able to benefit and help each other.

The trustee and I also saw the four year olds with a large watering can. “I can get the key for the water. You can use the hose to water the plants by the sidewalk,” Bob offered. Sure enough, the hose was coiled up, right by the spigot on the outside of the building. Nice, white pebbles lined the walkway to the front door, and more than a dozen plantings of greenery were on either side of the walkway. The children got so excited when they saw the water bubble up. Come out of the hose, and water the thirsty plants.

I stayed outside and helped to keep watch over the large group of children, while the teacher gave two or three children special attention. Yes, I had fun! And, the children and I talked about quite a number of subjects while I was overseeing the watering and having the children take turns with the hose. (I even encouraged the children to do their best to keep their shoes dry!) And, I talked about the water nourishing the plants, among other important matters. At least—it was important to the children!

I haven’t prayed about this month’s verse yet. (I try to, each month.) I know this verse well—the wonderful call from the prophet Micah to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” This impromptu session outside was a definite learning experience. And, use of the hose showed the children how much the plants needed that water. Perhaps not today, but soon the plants will be greener than green. Nurtured. Growing.

God, help me learn other ways in which You will be pleased to see this verse from Micah 6 get put into practice. Thanks, God!


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Something Giving, Something Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, July 7, 2014

BK no act of kindness is wasted Getty-HuffPost images

Something Giving, Something Kind

I enjoyed yesterday very much! All of it. Every last bit of it. I already wrote about last night. (See my blog post of yesterday.) About how my husband and I went to Ravinia, one of Chicago’s premier summer concert venues. Lovely Ravinia Park, near Lake Michigan. Wooded, secluded area. (At least, they keep up the appearance of privacy and seclusion.) Plus, fantastic music venue, and talented artists of all descriptions. And the best part of all was the vocal group Chanticleer. As I think back on it, yesterday at Ravinia turned out to be a perfectly lovely evening!

But that wasn’t all, when I consider yesterday. Wait, there’s more!

I had two other significant experiences. First, after church. Two of the ladies encouraged me to take some of the pastries donated to the church to a men’s residence I know. (I’ve written about it here, in fact.) The YMCA I attend here in my suburb has a large men’s residence at the facility. This is a loving, kind place for me to practice service, on a regular basis. Well over a hundred men live at the Y residence at any one time. Some of these men have lived there for years. It is an inexpensive place to hang your hat. To call home. Some of these men are living on extremely limited incomes. After paying the rent, they do not have much money to call “disposable income.” So, when they receive several dozen pastries as a freewill donation, you can be sure it is a real treat.

And that was the first significant thing that happened.

The second was pleasurable, too. Except in a different way. My third daughter and I took two of her friends out to brunch. My oldest daughter is one of the managers at a restaurant in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago, called “Orange.” We traveled there for brunch. A leisurely trip down Lake Shore Drive brought us to the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the charming vintage buildings that border the park. A few more blocks, and we were in the thick of it. The urban chic, the trendy, the off-beat. And then, Orange.

The food was excellent. American breakfast/brunch place, with a twist. Of course, my daughter made sure we had an enjoyable dining experience. The kind part about this lunch (brunch?) was its impromptu nature. It just sort of happened, organically. I did not set out to make this trip! My daughter and her friends cooked this outing up. And since I had a car and was willing to drive, we all piled in and took off.

So, yes. I did have the opportunity to do something kind for one daughter. Her friends, too. And it was so good to see another daughter, as icing on the cake!

Two separate circumstances. Two opportunities to be kind. Two situations that I never expected, when I woke up yesterday morning. God, thanks for the service opportunities!


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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!


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Telling My Story, Being Helpful

A Year of Being Kind blog – Monday, June 2, 2014

picking up nobodies

Telling My Story, Being Helpful

I don’t know about you, but I have difficulty connecting with people when they try to lecture me. (Well, not always, but usually. There are exceptions. Rare, but true.) If someone tries to deliver dry, dull facts and figures without something to catch my interest, good luck trying to keep my attention.

But this wasn’t the case this afternoon. I went to the YMCA, to my yoga and gentle stretching class. Excellent class, as always! I found my heart rate slowing down, my breathing evening out. Everything about my respiration and operation of my cardio system became much more even. Wonderful, how that happens. And these positive, physical qualities happen whenever I go to yoga now, indeed!

True, I had a number of things to do today. Plus, I brought my daughter to the store to get some containers. (She’s discovered she loves tea. So, she now has more than a dozen different kinds of tea. Thus—the containers.) I was almost late for yoga class! I did get in to the YMCA just a few minutes before class began. So, whew!

I honestly tried to focus on the various poses we had set for us. (Mostly the same, from week to week.) Because of the excellent teaching and facilitation of the class, I always am able to enter into this class. I become fully present for the stretching, yoga poses, and final relaxation—and it’s wonderful. But it was afterwards that I think I was helpful.

In the locker room, I changed out of my exercise clothes and put on the street clothes I had in my locker. I overheard the conversation between my teacher and one of the other students, on the other side of the bank of lockers. I laughed and made a second comment to my teacher, who was standing at the end of the lockers—visible to both my classmate and to me. The other woman piped up, “Who is that over there?” in a friendly kind of way. I came around and we greeted each other. The woman asked, “What was that you said?”

I told her that I had been going to yoga class since the beginning of December. And, my back has had so much less pain recently! I swear by yoga, and by the marvelous combination of yoga poses and stretching my wonderful teacher uses. The woman nodded, quite serious, listening intently. I told her a little bit of my story! Not about the scary, or the sad. But about the pertinent part. About how much of a difference yoga has made in my life, even though I have just been going to this class for only six months.

Telling my story? It makes a big difference! People sit up and listen! But if I lecture and inform with dry statistics and facts, I won’t have much of an audience at all. I’m glad I could give this woman a hopeful, encouraging outlook on yoga.

God, thanks for giving me the push to get into yoga. It sure helps me, both physically and mentally. And I had a great story to tell today, too. Always a good thing.


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Do I Show Love, or Show Anger? Good Question.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, February 27, 2014

whatever makes you happy

Do I Show Love, or Show Anger? Good Question.

“Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!” Really, being the mother of two teenagers can have its challenges. It is so easy for me to become irritated, even exasperated with my teens. I guess God has given me an opportunity to be kind and to show love right here in my own home.

I’ve been a mom for more than half of my life, but sometimes I feel like I’m still a beginner, a rank amateur at this business of being a parent. I know I’ve mentioned this little book a couple of weeks ago—The World According to Mister Rogers, written by Fred Rogers (of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame). Here’s a pertinent quote from Mr. Rogers:

“It’s the people we love the most who can make us feel the gladdest . . . and the maddest! Love and anger are such a puzzle! It’s hard for us, as adults, to understand and manage our angry feelings toward parents, spouses, and children, or to keep their anger toward us in perspective. It’s a different kind of anger from the kind we may feel toward strangers because it is so deeply intertwined with caring and attachment. “

Oh, Mister Rogers, how right you are! I end up getting angry or irritated or upset with my family and with my spouse so much more than I might at complete strangers. I act in an informal, natural way with my family and close friends. Strangers or people I don’t know very well get served my ‘company manners.’ (Usually, that is.) And as Fred Rogers mentioned, anger expressed in close relationships is different. More complicated. More deeply intertwined with caring, attachment, and deep emotion. I’m not particularly attached to my mail carrier—although I’m sure she’s a really nice lady. But my son or daughter still living at home? My older daughters on their own? My dear husband? Even my siblings—although we haven’t been in the same house for a couple of decades. All of us are bound together with caring, attachment, and deep emotion.

I fly off the handle—sometimes. I bite my tongue—less often than I should. God, I need more patience! But I am not wild with the way the Bible says You will grant me more of that valuable commodity. And this—in the middle of this is where God has placed me. God, I get the message. You want me to show love not only to strangers and casual acquaintances, but show love towards my family. Close friends. I know I will fall down on the job, but God is right there to help me up again.

I sure am glad that God has seen fit to provide such awesome help to me. I readily admit I need it! And God willing, God will be there for us, no matter what.


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