Community, Service, Sociability

Many years ago, I was chatting with a coworker about art.  During the conversation he said, “I think only two things really matter in life: Creative endeavor and Service to Others.”  I don’t recall his exact words, but this is close.  I remember thinking back then, I am totally in agreement about creativity, but not so certain about service to others.  I thought it was good and all, but to make that my focus?  I wasn’t sure.  Well, that was then.  Today I find that service to my community is exciting and rewarding.  I think the reason has something to do with getting my mind off myself.  As for creativity? What could be more creative than finding new ways to serve my community?  It gives me opportunities to learn, to meet new people and to stretch myself! And getting me out of the house is no small part of the benefit.  Today it gives me a thrill to be able to take on a new project and to follow through.  

I am big on community these days.  This is not only because I like people, but because there are real benefits for me.  I get to meet new folks and learn new skills.  I broaden my social horizon and find out more about my community.  

It occurs to me lately that we all suffer from a distortion of reality due to scale.  We usually interact with a limited number of people, over the course of a week or a month.  Unless we make an effort to expand, this human quantity can remain the same for years! When that happens, we can make unwarranted assumptions about our community. We may think we know our neighbors when we really do not.  Perhaps this is one way prejudice arises – from ignorance.   

 I don’t want my world to shrink, but to expand, especially now that I am older and retired. Meeting new people is exciting!  Community service is one way to accomplish this. 

Work and Life

I worked outside our home for many years, and except for the commuting, I enjoyed it. I held a variety of jobs and learned a new skill at each one. I met all sorts of people. That aspect has proven to be the most valuable, over the years. I was shy growing up, but got over it once I began working. There was so much to learn, and this required interacting with folks.

I changed jobs often. The reason for that was because I worked in a field — engineering — where it was more expedient to hire temps than permanent employees. As a result, there arose the phenomenon of “job shops”, agencies devoted to finding and hiring skilled engineering support people and paying them well. I was happy to discover that my drawing ability could finally land me a decent job. Only problem was, as I mentioned, these jobs were temporary. The many changes proved benficial for me, however. I learned to be flexible and to communicate with all kinds for people. It turned out to be kind of fun, except for the interruptions in income.

This is meant to encourage you, as well. If you are out of work right now, don’t despair. I have been down that road many times. You have value for your next employer! Try this: Write yourself a letter bragging on all your positive qualities. Are you great at math? Are you a whiz at organizing things (people, tasks)? Are you a talker who can sell anything? Do you enjoy young children and relate well to them? Can you multitask? Do you write well? You clearly don’t need all these qualities, but you do need to recognize what you have and celebrate it. Include a section for actual job experience, too. Once you have your list, find a family member or a good friend to talk to about it. Ask for suggestions. Don’t be scared, their opinions are not the final word, and they may have some good ideas.

You may need additional training in some area. Don’t feak out! This is true for most of us. You have your list of wonderful qualities and skills to encourage you. See about talking to someone at the state Employment Commission, a professional who can help guide you into an area where you may need training. Such a counselor can also guide you to work areas where you may be a fit. And this consultation is free. Happy hunting!

Giving Thanks

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18

I once mentioned this to a friend, another widow.
“I don’t know how that could be,” she replied, referring to the the initial command.
Me either, at the time. Still I couldn’t stop thinking about how this is God’s will for me. I decided to give it a try, and deliberately thanked God for my life from Him, all of it. My eyes and heart were opened and I became actually thankful! Wow.

Now, during the several years since my losses, I am seeing wonders in my life. I have a new purpose and a goal, and these bring me joy. I am writing about a grief journey on which Jesus accompanies me – Hope and a Future! Who knows how many people may be helped?

Giving thanks is an act of will. It’s not based on my feelings. Once I got ahold of that idea, I was able to do it, and God provided the rest. The benefits are many – a closer walk with Jesus, deeper contentment, a new sense of purpose. These developed over time, as my faith grew.

I now relax and trust that God is caring for me and directing every aspect of my life. Gratitude is a faith builder.

Vaccine Day

I’ve now had both the required vaccinations to protect me against covid19. The first shots were administered at a a local university and the lines were long. I’m guessing there were a thousand of us waiting both indoors and outside on a drizzly day in March.
Surprisingly, the whole experience showed me how polite and goodnatured people can be! Complaints were minimal and rudeness was nonexistent. Some folks were joking with eachother. Sometimes they were breaking out of line to chat with eachother. The most remarkable person of all was a young man with his grandma who may have been six years old. He stood in line with us for over four hours and never fussed! (He wore a Spider Man hoodie, and I did see him gazing up at a light pole as if he longed to climb it. ) Later on, as we were still in line, I told his grandma I had noticed his patience and I wouldn’t complain since he was such a trooper. A man waiting in a wheelchair was happy to break the monotony and chat with a youngster, so they smiled and chuckled about the red hoodie.
I looked around with a growing sense of pride. These were all my neighbors, perhaps a thousand of them. Folks I never see all together at once. I’d been in line a couple of hours before this occurred to me, a fine and cheering thought!

Help Heal Veterans – a worthy cause

So here is another unopened envelope on top of my pile. Better tend to it now. Well look, it’s from Help Heal Veterans, a support group that Howard used to participate in. They do one thing: provide therapy kits which allow veterans to use their hands and minds. This activity encourages them and helps them heal in many ways, even saving their lives. Today, because of isolation resulting from the current quarantine, demand for these kits has exploded.

I got choked up as I read through the many thank-you messages from veterans. They are so grateful that they’re not forgotten. Their messages are short, like this one from Taylor:
“Coming home from Iraq was even harder than being there. The therapy kits have helped me more than I can say.”

“I’ve been hospitalized four times. The therapy kits you sent pulled me through.” – Anne

How amazing to realize that such a simple program means so much!
If you would like to be involved, go to Oh – if you makea donation by March 30, they will double it!

Coffee II

A few months ago I created a post called “Coffee” about the pleasures of sharing coffee with a friend. Today it occurs to me that I can enjoy similar pleasures when I’m alone, just me, with my hopes and dreams and a cup of joe.

It’s been decades since I lived in Richmond, yet most of those memories are as bright as the adventures I enjoyed back then. I was telling my son about them the other day, and mentioned that I’d like to visit some of the places I never did while living there – Tredegar, the Canal Walk, Brown’s Island – yet which he has visited with friends many times in recent years! So, now I have something to plan for.

Are you alone? Treat yourself to a little private pleasure that God provides. There are only a couple of rules: no negative thoughts, no paperwork chores. Let your thoughts wander like a child. Then plan something, even something small, to look forward to. This is very freeing and it’s good for the mind and soul. And it may lead you to your next creative endeavor.

Reading and Writing: Finding Community in a season of pandemic

We can feel so isolated these days. It’s difficult to visit in person and we feel less likely to call someone, perhaps because we got out of the habit when we were super busy in earlier days. However it certainly means more to me to talk on the phone now that it may be unwise to visit in person.

I’ve found community in another setting – the written word. I love ideas so I read a lot, mostly non-fiction. I read things I might not normally take time for and so learn a great deal. I love the exposure to other minds and encounters with unexpected information and ideas.

My church recently published a series of devotions highlighting pioneers of faith in the deep South. I learned a lot of history and found I was greatly encouraged and wanting more.

So I encourage folks to read – not just the news, but stories of people: their histories, their challenges, their hopes. Writing letters helps build community too, because that way you also receive letters and stories!

You could share family history over phone or online and then write about it. Try any creative endeavor that encourages community.

We are not as isolated as we think. There are people of ideas everywhere! For example, I belong to a Facebook group for writers of all sorts. It has members from around the world totalling over three thousand. Once I figured out how to login on my phone I was greatly rewarded. Ideas are shared as well as requests for book reviews. I am learning a great deal. It sounds overwhelming, but I recently stumbled onto a book of poetry the author would like us to review, “Winter Sun”. Of course one can’t follow up on everything, but if it’s ideas you’re after, try Facebook groups.

Wait for It!

This is an expression I’ve borrowed from my favorite streaming TV show of a few years back. “Psych” is an outrageous comedic romp featuring two friends who solve crimes for the Santa Barbara Police Department. Their style is unorthodox, their protocol often bungling, to the distress of the Police Chief and her colleagues, who have to rescue them regularly.
“Wait for It” is a new motto for me that applies because I am so very impatient and have been since birth. However, life has taught me I cannot have whatever I want when I want it, whether it is a job, a companion or a new car. I am grateful for that “Come to Jesus moment” that taught me God loves me and provides all I need, including patience.

I chose “Wait for It” from the Psych hero’s lexicon because it is hopeful. Detective Shawn is always looking ahead in anticipation and he’s willing to risk temporary setbacks for future gains. (Most of the time.)

I am an older American, still hoping that certain things will materialize in my life. If anything I should likely tend toward impatience. However, The Lord has told me that attitude will not serve me well. He has plans for me and work for me to do. In recent years I stumbled on this writing gig. (Well, its not a gig yet, but maybe someday soon).

Perhaps a fresh motto will work for you too…”Wait for It”.

Writing Saved Me

We are all weary of the pandemic and especially the lockdown it entails.   

Still, has there ever been a time in history when we have had access to so much entertainment and so many ways to communicate with each other? 

 I have a suggestion.  If you are bored or feeling aimless, try writing.  Seriously, no groaning, please.  I’m sharing what works for me when I’m down.  I find that ideas are among the most interesting things around, and that sharing them is stimulating and helps me connect!  This can be important in a time of social distancing.   

I was alone for several years after my husband died, until recently when my son came for a visit.  My motto during that time became, “I would walk a mile for a good conversation”.  I looked for opportunities to talk to folks, craved them, in fact. I visited my local friends often, an option we don’t have today.  Also, I enjoy writing to process my ideas, so I wrote letters and started a journal. 

I encourage you to write your own stories!  Your children and their children may enjoy reading about your life.  

P.S. : If you baulk at the idea of typing, there are some word processing applications, like Word Online, that create your document as you speak.  I just found this dictation feature, so I don’t know what others are out there.  Also, I have not tried it, since I enjoy typing.   

Borrowed Grandchildren

Yesterday I led the small group of children who learn better outside of the actual worship service. They are mostly younger kids under the age of six, but sometimes older children like to show up and ‘help’. We don’t discourage them, but we do confer with their parents beforehand.
I had a great deal of fun. It came to me that I could help them relax and entertain them a bit if tried to guess their names. This amused me too. I got all but one right!

Anyway, I got to thinking about the wonderful times I’d had years ago when my Grandma Bonnie lived with us. She spanked me often enough, it’s true, but I still cherish the times relaxing in bed when she would tell me stories about her sisters (she had four).
I talked about this and then invited the children to share their own family stories. They seemed to enjoy this very much.

One little girl, Ava, was four, and new to the group. She watched us in silence until there was a break in the activity. Then she began to talk and didn’t stop! I didn’t say anything, but gave her my visual attention, amazed at what was happening. I think she was mainly exercising her language skills, since I couldn’t discern a story in what she said. She was focused on some idea as she talked. I got the impression I was witnessing something special. She wanted to be like the others, and she had lots to say…at four!
This was a special time for me as well as for Ava. I had never thought I could relate so easily to younger children.