Friday, February 26, 2010

A while back I had answered an interview question on facebook that asked if I would rather be deaf or blind. I think at the time I responded "deaf". My rational being I enjoy reading so much that it would be a greater loss for me. I was pondering that question while driving home he other afternoon while listening to music and I thought, "I wouldn't prefer being deaf, I like music and movies and people's voices far too much. I'd rather be blind.".

Instantly, problems with that scenario came to mind. Firstly, I certainly wouldn't be driving to and from work. Secondly, as I looked around at the trees, deer in a field, the faces of the people I passed I realized that I would really miss these things along with thousands of others. I don't want to be blind. Or deaf.

Then I started to wonder, am I just selfish, spoiled? I've seen people in documentaries who say being deaf is very peaceful. I'd never thought of it that way. People who are blind who say it's wonderful because the 'see' things more deeply, differently from others. I wondered if this is true or coping? Then I thought, perhaps I just do not have the coping skills to deal with what I perceive as that kind of loss.

In Detroit I had a friend and co-worker who had AIDS. His HIV had progressed and he was often sick, missed work, did not feel well at work but somehow stayed optimistic. Not necessarily that he would not be sick anymore but about his life overall. He claimed in many ways this was the best thing to ever happen to him though he wouldn't wish it on anyone else, ever. His was much more conscious about his health, friendships meant much more to him that they ever had, his relationship with his partner (who was HIV-) meant more to him than any relationship he'd ever had. He was in a stable and healthy relationship for the first time that he could remember and yet he was physically ill much of the time. My sense of disbelief kicked in and marked his attitude up to coping skills once again.

But what if it isn't coping skills? I have no reason to doubt that these people with what I  perceive as hardships claiming to be better off now than ever are telling me the truth. Have these people really taken their situations and turned them into strengths for them?

Joni Erikson who was paralyzed early on has continued to do art and write books for years. She's on the radio and seems to be doing very well. She's not angry with her circumstances. She rejoices in who she is and who she can be. I admire that kind of strength and have to wonder if I would be like any of the people above or if I would just become bitter, depressed, angry and not enjoyable to be around in general. I'm grateful that so far I have not been put to this kind of test. I truly believe we are never presented with anything that we cannot deal with. And if I couldn't deal with it, maybe that's not a bad thing either. Understanding my shortcomings.

I appreciate strength in others. I appreciate those who hold to a higher call. I appreciate those who use their differences to lift the rest of us up and encourage us and point the way.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Last night I was at chapel when the chaplain turned a chair from up front around backwards toward the few of us in the crowd, straddled it like a cowboy getting ready to chaw and spit, and she made the comment, "I don't know how to explain this. I'm just tired of explaining things in terms of God and would like to find another way to present this stuff." She lost me, I got bored and thought, this is unreal and started to look in the rafters. I wondered if she saw that bird that was sitting up there. Dark body, tannish dirty looking feathers plumed from it's head, wings at it's side slowly shuffling itself closer to the wall. I wondered how it even got into the chapel in the first place? It wasn't making any noise as it moved and I seemed to be the only person who noticed it even though the kids were not paying any attention while the chaplain sat astride the chair, head resting in the palm of her hand looking confused and frustrated.

Then the boy next to me nudged me and said, "What kind of bird is that?". I looked again and it was getting larger, and its feathers were wet against its larger clumsy brown body. It was crawling along the beam against the wall, nearer to me when I noticed it was a pelican chick. A large pelican chick that had just hatched and was working it's way over to me with it's outstretched wings reaching and pulling itself ever closer. No one else seemed to notice but it was curious and sort of coddling against me now, warm, friendly, drying. I noticed two others in a nest behind an upright beam I hadn't noticed before. I watched them for the rest of chapel and befriended the first chick that had worked it's way over to me.

We didn't actually have chapel yesterday, we have it today.

I don't know what the pelican was all about.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Struggle. I struggle every day to try and find something redeeming about a 16 year old who is currently in residence. Honestly I find nothing that makes this kid worthwhile and it's an awful feeling. He spits at staff, calls other boys filthy names, scratches, kicks, claws, bites, destroys things in the house, swears constantly...

For seven hours yesterday he had to be watched by two staff and often three while he tipped desks over, broke a door handle trying to get into a locked room, took very serious blows at staff, had to be redirected physically, argued with boys in the house who were saying nothing back just trying to ignore him. He's very volatile and really very dangerous. He's been threatening to beat an 11 year old boy. And there is no recourse accept to try to be respectful to him and treat him like he's human.

I do try very hard and have been struggling with reminding myself that yes, even this boy is a child of God. Before he was in the womb our Creator named him and knew him personally. It still remains very difficult to see this 16 year old as having any value what so ever. I know that's harsh but right now that's stronger to me than the fact that he is created and has purpose and worth. L'Engle wrote that there were people who seemed to constantly want to cause her harm. She decided finally to "bless the bastard". I think she's right, it doesn't make me feel much better about this boy but it is the right thing to ask for. Blessings. For this extremely unlikeable young adult.

Through this the 11 year old has remained quite calm and able to keep his own temper in check. He's come a long way. He used to be a terror but now he's able to see things a bit clearer and take things so  personally even when someone is directing their comments right at him. This should be an example of how this other young man can change, but right now it just isn't. The other young man remains unlovely in oh so many ways.

Change my focus and show a way to work with and accept what seems unworkable and unacceptable.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I am reminded by a very good friend and pastor that as Valentines Day approaches, I may be single but I am not alone and I am not unloved. That's been very difficult for me for years and it remains so today to some extent. I don't recall a single year that I have been in a relationship during this month. It's been so long since I've been in a relationship that I've become quite cynical of the idea, even if somewhat still hopeful.

When I see families together, parents/children, and I know the relationships are strong I can't help but be a bit envious of them. I'm very happy for them also. And I'm grateful for their experiences.

Apart from this one day a year that has been marketed for love, love should be expressed every minute of every day. Love for family, love for neighbor, love for friends, love for strangers, love for's what we're taught from a very early age, or should be. It's a very good thing to learn and put into practice, often. We are loved, by friends, by others, by spouses, by family, by our Creator. Faith, Hope, and Love. The greatest of these is Love. That's no mistake. That's a good thing to remember when I'm feeling lonely, feeling left out. Love is active. It shouldn't just sit there.

I receive a message from a friend of my youth. That's an act of love. I receive a smile from a stranger. That's an act of love. Someone stops so I can cross the intersection safely. That's love. I hear from friends I haven't been in touch with for years. That's love.

Some One lives for the sole purpose of dying in my place. That's Love.

Friday, February 05, 2010

It's been almost a week since I last sat down and read from the Bible. For me, this is not a good things. I get moody, cranky, nervous, agitated, grumpy, difficult to be around. Mostly I become unable to listen to others and their ventings. I cut  my sister short today because I didn't want to hear what she's saying and struggling with. In large this was a response to the fact that I've been in prayer for weeks about certain health concerns she's dealing with and have forgotten about her living situation and the fact that she's been unable to live in her home that is hours away from where she works. Reviewing my shortness with her chosen topic (considering letting her house go into foreclosure) was really a response to my own shortcomings having forgotten her desire to live back in her home up north. Of course her health is also a priority and that's what I have focused on.

Maybe I feel I let her down. Part of my thought process was that I was concerned about something that maybe she doesn't consider a priority. Then I consider how irrational my response to this is. Of course I am concerned primarily with her health. Without that she wouldn't be able to enjoy her home up north anyway. Even more than that, I'm just a man, and though I believe we have the ability to perform miracles and change lives with the Spirit through us, I am after all, fallible, mistake worthy, just a sub-par, below average person who struggles daily with just about everything lately.

It's all become pretty overwhelming really. I find that I'm never really comfortable, confident, assured. I'm always questioning, perhaps even doubting. What I'm not certain, of course.

Sugar's song "Helpless" is blasting in my ears and it seems appropriate. I do feel pretty helpless most of the time. I wasn't able to prevent a co-worker from being fired this week. I haven't been remembering everything in prayer like I feel I should. ( I was actually feeling pretty good about this until my conversation with my sister today, and it isn't her fault) I haven't really been effective in helping any of the kids at work make long term changes. I mostly get frustrated with them and just lay it out there like the most uncool parent would.

I have got to believe though that there are more important, and perhaps surprisingly simple, things in store that I will effect in some positive way. Isn't that what most of us want anyway? To feel that somehow we've been here and involved in something positive, good, and lasting? Maybe I'm feeling helpless and overwhelmed because I'm not simply listening and moving on? I'm taking hold and not letting go thinking I really can effect change?

As the days get longer, the weather gets nicer, I am going to have to start taking time to watch the cats outside grow and play. Take the dogs on longer walks and get myself away from the house for days at a time. And make time again for daily reading and meditation. And prayer. Accept blessings, accept forgiveness, accept my shortcomings.