A Helper and Servant, in a Big Way (Feature Friday!) #BestOf

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Thursday, October 22, 2015

Another day, another memory. Except, this is an especially poignant one, concerning the Ebola crisis in Africa. (And, there is recent, hopeful news. The crisis has been over for a number of months!)

This post also concerns my friend Jim, in Africa. He and his family are over there, far away. He and his wife Amy are doing important, life-saving work. God bless them!

 A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, October 24, 2014

Heal me, O Lord

A Helper and Servant, in a Big Way (Feature Friday!)

Ebola crisis. When I say that, what happens inside? Do you get anxious? Afraid? Do you know much about Ebola? Do you know anyone who is actively working with the medical personnel concerned with Ebola, in areas affected by that particular disease? I do. My friend Jim—Dr. James Mcauley, medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—is stationed in Africa, along with his wife and part of his family. (Jim and Amy’s younger son was in the same grade as my son—we all knew one another from church.)

Jim has been stationed in Africa for three years. Formerly an infectious disease physician here in Chicago, he is now doing life-saving work managing and supervising medical personnel in a large area of Africa. Here’s a snapshot of what his day-to-day work looks like, in his own words.

“Our team has been working flat out trying to stop this epidemic, and morale is always an issue. I visited four of our teams in the last 48 hours – bringing supplies and listening. [I’m thinking of] two – discussing infection control with the nurse in charge – part of our roving team and have had a particularly rough road…. Others have had to deal with the stress of having a cold or diarrhea and wonder if it might be Ebola. Although our teams avoid contact with Ebola patients, it is always a concern. I have lost a lot of sleep worrying about my team.”

One other important thing about Jim? Yes, he attended seminary part-time while holding his position as infectious disease doctor—full-time. He and I were in seminary at the same time, in the same Reformed Tradition class. We sat at the back of the room, and made joking and snarky comments to each other. (Yes, I was that kind of student.) He is now ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and has that qualification, too. So, when I read that he is concerned for his team, I know he and his wife Amy (also a physician) are praying for the workers on the field.

More from Jim: “Saw first hand the Ebola Holding Units where people are isolated while diagnostic tests are done. [I] visited two quarantined villages, and participated in several calls with the US. CDC staff do not enter Ebola Treatment Centers or any home where an Ebola patient might be housed. So we kept our distance…. I think the bags of Snickers I left with my teams held the Dementors at bay for another day…. Pray, resist the urge to call for US isolation, donate (CDC Foundation has been amazing), and consider volunteering to help our neighbors in Africa.”

Jim is reporting from the field, from where the disease is affecting countless people, every day. Not only the people who were infected, but also their families. Their friends. The people who lived next door, or down the street. All because of the fear and anxiety that comes from Ebola.

This is what Jim has to say about that: “So much we don’t yet understand. I am starting to think of ways to reach out to the faith based health worker groups – who better to stand in the gap and demonstrate to the world what it means to love God and love my neighbor. Wouldn’t it be great if in a few years when the world looks back on this epidemic they say, ‘Ah, but the people of God stood fast and demonstrated real love!’”

This is my hope and prayer, too, Jim. I pray that you and Amy will demonstrate God’s love in your actions, too. God’s blessings on your work and service. And, thanks for the permission to share your story!

@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!)

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Thanksgiving Dinner becomes an Opportunity to Help (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, November 28, 2014

THANKS give thanks to the Lord - Psalm 107

Thanksgiving Dinner becomes an Opportunity to Help (Feature Friday!)

For those of you following at home, I did not eat a big turkey dinner on Thursday, the traditional Thanksgiving Day. No, instead, I celebrated on Friday. I joined with my family at my sister’s large house. Lovely table, delicious bird, wonderful side dishes. All in all, a successful meal. Excellent, as always. Just as I told my sister.

What I would like to highlight is my daughters (and their friends, too). All three of my daughters were in attendance. And, all three of them were working hard to get the food and drink ready. Prepare the table. Slice and boil and stir and open, and all the other dozens of small tasks it takes to get a large meal ready.

This reminded me so much of holidays past. Not only here, at my sister’s house. But at my mom’s house, years ago. There were similar scenes that occurred in my mom’s smaller kitchen. The turkey—or ham, or roast beef, depending on what Mom chose to serve—and the group of relatives and a few friends offering their help and assistance in getting the table all set.

And, eating? Too much eating. Years ago, and now, too.

Thank God I come from a family that, even though we usually did have to scrimp and save when I was young, did have a turkey with all the trimmings on Thanksgiving. Yes, I am thankful for enough. Enough when I was small, in my parents’ house. Enough when I was a young mom (although, sometimes scrimping and saving again), and enough right now. Enough, and then some.

Thank God I have three healthy daughters (and their friends) who are able to gather with the family, and help prepare dinner, serve, and clean up, and generally assist my oldest sister. I am so appreciative of family, and of friends. And of people who are more than willing to roll up their sleeves and volunteer. Help out. Be of service, willingly. Lovingly.

@chaplaineliza

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Being Kind to a Sleeping Stranger

A Year of Being Kind blog – Thursday, November 26, 2014

THANK Thank-to-God

Being Kind to a Sleeping Stranger

Happy Thanksgiving, to one and all. Today was a quiet, down day. A day to catch up on some needed rest and relaxation, a Sabbath day for me. I particularly needed a Sabbath, after going full bore for almost three weeks.

Except—my husband and I went out for a cup of coffee this afternoon. Yes, we were actually able to find an open Starbucks. My daughter, home from college for Thanksgiving break, decided to go out with her distinctly un-cool, fuddy-duddy mom and dad, at the last minute.

My daughter is such an interesting person. So is my husband. (I must say, I am not so bad at conversation myself.) We had the rare opportunity to sit and talk with each other for over a half an hour, with no computers, DVD players, smart phones, MP3 players, or other gadgetry to distract us. I very much enjoyed finding out more about what my daughter was learning in several of her classes, as well as her experience at a recent lecture with a visiting professor. Amused, I did more listening than talking. She and my husband were getting into it in rapid-fire fashion, concerning the subject of the lecture (a fascinating aspect of medieval literature).

While we were engaged in conversation in the rear of the coffee shop, a tall man came up and sat down about ten or twelve feet away from us, on the booth-type seat along the wall. We didn’t notice him at first, but then, I saw him begin to nod off. And, he did not have any coffee. I felt compassion towards the man. I caught my husband’s eye, and gestured towards the sleeping man. I smiled, sadly.

My husband saw him, too. And immediately registered what his probable backstory was.

My husband was a volunteer at our former church’s homeless drop-in shelter, on Monday afternoons. During the weeks between November 1 and March 31, the church we used to attend had (and still has) a drop-in place for the homeless and indigent, from 3 to 7 pm. First Presbyterian Church took Mondays out of the week. He was a regular volunteer there, most Monday afternoons, for about five years.

So, we both suspected this man needed a place to get in out of the cold. Especially on this cold day, with the high temperature of about 20 degrees.

I was not about to complain to the Starbucks employees about this man. No way! My husband and I watched him sleep with compassion, and did not disturb him. I mentioned that I hoped he had some other place to go when the Starbucks closed. I finished my coffee, and left along with the rest of my family.

I never did find out what happened to this man, afterwards. I don’t think he had any place to go on Thanksgiving. I hope and pray for him. Lord, have mercy on this dear man. I don’t even know his name—but You do. God, bless this man.

@chaplaineliza

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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.

@chaplaineliza

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A Helper and Servant, in a Big Way—My Friend Jim (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, October 24, 2014

Heal me, O Lord

A Helper and Servant, in a Big Way—My Friend Jim (Feature Friday!)

Ebola crisis. When I say that, what happens inside? Do you get anxious? Afraid? Do you know much about Ebola? Do you know anyone who is actively working with the medical personnel concerned with Ebola, in areas affected by that particular disease? I do. My friend Jim—Dr. James Mcauley, medical officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—is stationed in Lusaka, Zambia, along with his wife and part of his family. (Jim and Amy’s younger son was in the same grade as my son—we all knew one another from church in Evanston.)

Jim has been stationed in Africa for three years. Formerly an infectious disease physician at Rush University Medical Center here in Chicago, he is now doing life-saving work managing and supervising medical personnel in a large swath of Africa. Here’s a snapshot of what his day-to-day work looks like, in his own words.

“Our team of 60+ has been working flat out trying to stop this epidemic here in Sierra Leone, and morale is always an issue. I visited four of our seven district teams in the last 48 hours – bringing supplies and listening. [I’m thinking of] two – discussing infection control with the nurse in charge – part of our roving team and have had a particularly rough road. They needed to stop a health worker training due to hostile local villagers who believe we have brought Ebola to their communities. Others have had to deal with the stress of having a cold or diarrhea and wonder if it might be Ebola. Although our teams avoid contact with Ebola patients, it is always a concern. I have lost a lot of sleep worrying about my team.”

One other important thing about Jim? He and I were in seminary at the same time. Yes, he attended seminary part-time while holding his position as infectious disease doctor—full-time. He and I were in the same Reformed Tradition class. We sat at the back of the room, and made joking and snarky comments to each other. (Yes, I was that kind of student.) He is now ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and has that qualification, too. So, when I read that he is concerned for his team, I know he and his wife Amy (also a physician—a pediatrician) are praying for the workers on the field.

More from Jim: “Saw first hand the Ebola Holding Units where people are isolated while diagnostic tests are done – about half end up positive and are moved to an Ebola Treatment Center, where half die. [I] visited two quarantined villages, and participated in several calls with the US. CDC staff do not enter Ebola Treatment Centers or any home where an Ebola patient might be housed. So we kept our distance…. I think the bags of Snickers I left with my teams held the Dementors at bay for another day…. Pray, resist the urge to call for US isolation, donate (CDC Foundation has been amazing), and consider volunteering to help our neighbors in Africa.”

Jim is reporting from the field, from where the disease is affecting countless people, every day. Not only the people who were infected, but also their families. Their friends. The people who lived next door, or down the street. And what about those who were afraid to attend school? To go to shops? To go to offices? All because of the fear and anxiety that comes from Ebola.

This is what Jim has to say about that: “I started to think – for such a contagious disease in such crowded impoverished settings, why don’t more people die? Why did ‘only’ half of the people who lived in the house I visited yesterday get sick? Why did ‘only’ 10% of the village die? So much we don’t yet understand. I am starting to think of ways to reach out to the faith based health worker groups – who better to stand in the gap and demonstrate to the world what it means to love God and love my neighbor. Wouldn’t it be great if in a few years when the world looks back on this epidemic they say, ‘Ah, but the people of God stood fast and demonstrated real love!’”

This is my hope and prayer, too, Jim. I pray that you and Amy will demonstrate God’s love in your actions, too. God’s blessings on your work and service. And, thanks for the permission to share your story!

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Youth Who Live Justly, Show Mercy, Walk Humbly (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, August 15, 2014

micah68 vertical

Youth Who Live Justly, Show Mercy, Walk Humbly (Feature Friday!)

A friend of mine volunteers at a nearby hospice, about once a week. She told me how awesome it was to have a large number of youth come to the hospice. This was several weeks ago, when the youth made blankets for the hospice patients. My friend saw how affected and moved the young people were. Talk about emotion!

This activity moved and intrigued me. It’s not the typical activity for youth to do, much less a large number of youth. So, I asked my friend Ann where the young people were from. Which group sent them? St. Viator’s High School in Arlington Heights was the answer.

I did a little footwork, and found the contact information I needed. After a bit of telephone tag, Father Cory Brost and I finally were talking, person to person. He heads up St. Viator’s High School as President. He told me about an amazing summer program at the high school for youth 6th grade to 9th grade (just entering high school). It’s a one week service camp called “Praise and Service.” He related about the two different tracks in the camp, one choir track and the other track for service opportunities. Service and song make up the core of St. Viator’s mission, alongside of the importance of education excellence.

This summer camp had a total of 108 students in attendance in the camp the third week of July 2014, from 12:30 to 5:30 pm. 70 were campers, 6th through 9th grades. The rest were high school-aged leaders and recent alumni as facilitators, helping the campers on both tracks make the most of the week of service. Plus, 12 adult leaders also participated.

80 students went out each day of the camp week. Fr. Cory wasn’t certain, but he suspected that these young people had 80 different responses to their activities. Different people were moved by differing aspects of their work. I thought that Fr. Cory’s appreciation for the individualized reactions was most welcome. Awesome!

I asked Fr. Cory about the visit to the hospice. Yes, he told me that many of the youth were deeply touched by the patients, and by the opportunity to make blankets for them. He also mentioned another afternoon activity later that week. The camp invited seniors from the community to St. Viator’s. The youth acted as hosts. Another opportunity to be kind, be helpful.

After Fr. Cory and I ended our wonderful conversation, I reflected on how deeply moving it was for St. Viator’s High School to be so loving and giving with their time, resources, and expertise. Truly, an opportunity for the youth to live out the tenets of Micah 6:8: Live Justly, Show Mercy, and Walk Humbly. God willing, I pray that I might have such enthusiasm. God, thanks for their excited, exuberant, emotional acts of helpful service. And, thanks for showing Your love through the service of others, too.

@chaplaineliza

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Example of Kindness and Caring

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, July 13, 2014

BK definition of kindness

Example of Kindness and Caring

Sometimes, people follow those who are good examples. Those whose lives exemplify some trait or quality they would like to have. Or, have more of.

When I was young (I’m talking grade school here), I attended a Lutheran church on the northwest side of Chicago. The church was about seven blocks from my house. I would willingly walk both ways, to and from the church. But occasionally—especially in inclement weather—I would appreciate a ride home after morning service. Mrs. Pabst would take me home. She was the parish visitor, a volunteer position in the church, but one that many of the members and friends appreciated so much. She would visit the homebound parishioners, those who were hospitalized, and those in retirement and rehab centers.

Mrs. Pabst was an active senior, a widow who lived just a few blocks from my house. She and my mother had been acquainted for some years, and my mother thought Mrs. Pabst was a very kind, very caring individual. Mrs. Pabst also talked kindly to me, on occasion.

I vividly remember this situation. I must have been about eleven. Going to church on my own, as I usually did. It was the winter, because people were all bundled up. I remember being shy and hesitant to say that I had done something. (I cannot, for the life of me, remember what it was . . . ) Mrs. Pabst took me home after church that morning and spoke to me in her kindly way. She told me it was all right for me to take pride in my accomplishments. It was okay for me to own up to being responsible for something. Take ownership of, or point to something I had done. In other words, I could blow my own horn! Really, it was the good and honorable thing to do, and even pleasurable for me to do this!

This advice came from one of the kindest and most caring women I had ever known. Instead of being shy and retiring, hesitant to own up to any worthwhile activity or action I did, Mrs. Pabst helped me to see that I could, indeed, proudly let people know that I was the one responsible. It was okay. Even more than okay, sometimes. Just great, in fact!

I happened to think of this very kind lady today, as I remembered the words I used in a recent conversation. I gave myself as an example. I was self-deprecating and apologetic in my conversation with my friend, but I did point to myself. Tell my friend that I try to follow the right, Godly thing to do. Even now, decades after the advice given to me by Mrs. Pabst, I still am somewhat hesitant to blow my own horn. But as the years pass, I am getting more and more self-confidence. I do know that I am a worthwhile person and God’s creation. So are you! You, and I, and every other person made is a much beloved creation of God, and of infinite value to God. This is good news! Correction: this is great news!

@chaplaineliza

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