Saturday, April 7, 2012

That Pesky Jesus

Whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God or just a character in a book, you have to admit that some of the things he says are pretty annoying. Jesus wants us to give away our goods, feed the poor, help the sick, and turn the other cheek when someone wrongs us. 

Boy, Jesus has his nerve, doesn't he? Where does he get off telling me to do those things? Doesn't he know that I worked hard for my things, so I deserve them? Doesn't he know that I'm busy? Doesn't he know that the poor and the sick got that way because they made bad choices or sinned? Geesh, why should the poor and sick get a free ride while I work for what I get? And turning the other cheek? Why, that's enabling a bully to keep bullying, isn't it? Better I teach him a lesson, so he doesn't hurt me again.

Good points, maybe, or maybe just self-serving points, but the question is, "How well has that self-satisfied, think-of-myself-first worldview worked out?" Not too well, I'd say. The ranks of the homeless, the poor, the sick, and the hungry grow day by day, and we refuse to see them. We use labels, abstractions, or statistics to hide hurting individuals. We pat ourselves on the back when we make a donation to a food bank, and then we go out for a steak dinner in a restaurant and spend enough to feed several families. I'm not saying give up all restaurant meals, but I am saying you should be aware of what that amount of money can do, and maybe cut back on restaurant dining or take a homeless person to dinner.

My son Grant and I did just that-- took a homeless man called "Pops" out for a meal at the Red Lobster. We had befriended him and given him money and things for a couple of years, so one day we asked him to join us for a meal. We picked him up on his street corner. He was visibly nervous. We told him he could order whatever he wanted. He was in shock. No one had told him that in years and years, he said. He chose his meal and dessert. He was especially pleased with the dessert because the money he made on the corner didn't allow for too many treats. He told us stories; we had no idea how many were true because many were contradictory, but they were entertaining. We had a delightful time, and we hugged one another when we dropped him back at his corner. We would have taken him out to eat again, but he disappeared from his corner, and we had no way to find him, knowing him only as "Pops."

The point of sharing that story is that by taking Pops out for a meal and spending time with him, he became an individual, a possible friend, not a label or abstraction. So, if each of us adopted a homeless, poor, hungry, or sick person, perhaps in a short time there would be many fewer people in need. Even though we might be a little poorer monetarily by spending on others, we will be richer in spirit. When the day comes that we face death, we won't care about our money and things; we will wish we had loved more and given more. So, perhaps we should get started now, thereby having fewer regrets later.

That pesky Jesus with his annoying words has given us the keys to a beautiful kingdom--a kingdom that we can make happen only with our loving, open-handed actions. All we have to do is pick up the keys and get going. The homeless, the poor, the sick, and the hungry are waiting for us.

Happy Easter. Blessings to you, your family, and your friends.

Take care,


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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cheery Midnight Chirping

Lately, the birds around our home have been cheerily chirping at midnight. I can't recall this happening before, but perhaps I just didn't pay attention; though as loud as the birds are chirping these nights, it would be difficult to not notice. What to make of this unexpected, but delightful occurrence? Bird enthusiasts and scientists have several ideas, but I like to think of their midnight chirping as a metaphor for hope.

The first time I remember actually being aware of birds chirping was when I was about four years old. It was Easter morning, and I awoke to find my mother and uncle hiding Easter eggs and baskets. I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep so that I wouldn't spoil the surprise, and that's when a chorus of bird songs burst into my consciousness. I was enchanted. They sounded so happy, and ever after when I heard birds chirping during the day, I felt joy and hope like I did on that Easter morning.

In my city days, however, I rarely heard birds chirping at all. The city noises robbed me of that pleasure. But, in my rural days, which thankfully have been my reality for the last thirty years, I have heard birds chirping all day long but not at night. The music of the nights, until recently, has been provided solely by singing frogs looking for mates.

So, what to make of this new (to me) phenomenon of the birds chirping at midnight? The surprisingly cheery and unexpected night time chirping is teaching me to look to the future with anticipation, just as the birds seem to be chirping their anticipation of the approaching day with its promise of light and warmth. Often at night, our burdens seem to overwhelm us, and it is hard to see any positive future. We forget that the sun will rise again in our lives. Yes, there may be rainy days first, but the sun eventually makes an appearance. The birds chirping at midnight remind me of this, and just as their morning chirping did on that long ago Easter morning, their cheery midnight chirping fills me with joy and hope as I nod off to sleep anticipating a new day.

Take care,


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Monday, April 2, 2012

What's In A Name?

Shakespeare asked that question long ago in Romeo and Juliet, and I've been asking it recently since I decided to use Kate as my writing name.

When I was a child, I was known as Kathy. As Kathy, I enjoyed books, school, and friends, but my home life was a nightmare. My dad used my mother and me as his personal punching bags. He used his hands, his feet, and, most devastatingly, his words to harm us. I bear the emotional scars to this day. My mom, unable to think of another way to escape, committed suicide. I feel guilty for not saving my mom, for not getting any of our family members to listen to me because my mom would not stand up for herself. As you might imagine, I associated the name Kathy with a powerless child-victim, so when I moved away after my mother's death, I began to call myself Kathleen.

As Kathleen, I was sure I could become a strong, confident woman in control of my life and my future. And for more than 30 years, it seemed as though I had accomplished this. I became a wife, a mother, and a teacher, and I lived a gloriously happy life. Then, one of my children developed schizophrenia, and my husband developed dementia. My heart was broken, and I discovered that I, as Kathy or Kathleen, could not control my future.

After picking up the pieces of my heart, I decided to write a book about dementia to try to help others who have loved ones with this dreadful disease. I just could not use Kathleen as my writing name because it reminded me of my sorrow and of what our family lost,  so I decided to become Kate. Kate, I felt, shouted survivor and adventurer, so Kate is my author name on my book.

However, Kate doesn't fit perfectly either. I have come to realize that who I really am is a combination of Kathy, Kathleen, and Kate. All that was good when I bore the different variations of my name and all that was bad are part of me. Changing the version of my name does not change who I really am, no matter how much I may want it to do so. I will always have the hurt child, Kathy, who loves her friends and books in me, just as I will always have the strong woman, Kathleen, with happy memories and a broken heart in me. These two entities weave together with the survivor, Kate, and become one woman, me, who answers to Kathy, Kathleen, and Kate because I've finally figured out that it doesn't matter what I'm called, I'm the same person inside.

So, now that I've figured out what's in a name, or at least my name, and now that I've finished writing my book, I need to figure out how to live an adventurous, meaningful rest of my life. Any suggestions?

Take care,


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