Thursday, August 20, 2015

What I Meant When I Said "I have no regrets"

"I believe I've reached this point where I have no regrets and no bitterness," I wrote recently on Facebook. A few of my friends questioned that statement, so I would like to clarify. 

Really, there are a few things that I would - if I could - go back and do differently. Definitely. 

Probably there are many things I would do differently, but there are a few that stand out from the rest.

There was the time I told someone I was thinking about what to do with the rest of my life, but what she heard was, "I'm going to take you down". Of course, it was way more complicated than that. But I could have been more careful with my words, and I've always been sad it turned out that way.

There was the time I got caught up in a cult, and because I had to leave my mom, I got mad at her (go figure). 

There have also been simple human mistakes I made that may have caused serious harm to loved ones. 

I would be irresponsible or calloused if I said that if I had all those things to do over again, I would do exactly the same thing. 

But that's not what I meant when I said that I have no regrets. Here's what I meant: 

I no longer beat myself up. 

I'm not only a sinful person but I'm also a fallible person. I guess that's why they call me a human. And I'm in good company.

King David saw a beautiful woman who caught his eye, so he sent her husband into battle to be killed. David repented, and he went on serving God. 

Mary and Joseph, the best of parents, lost Jesus for three days on the way home from the temple when he was twelve. True, Jesus knew where he was and what he was doing. But, although Mary was sinless and Joseph is called "the just man", they were human, and they didn't know where he was. 

Maybe what I meant when I said I have no regrets is that God made me human, and I don't regret being human. 

I laugh. I cry. I get mad. I rejoice. I sin. And I make mistakes. And God "gets that". Sometimes there are consequences to sin, and I might regret the consequences; and sometimes simple mistakes that are not sins at all go horribly wrong. Because darn, we are human. And sometimes I might still be sad about some of those things. 

But I no longer beat myself up. 

Because God is good. And God is love. God loves me. God loves those who have been hurt in some way because I am human. God loves my loved ones way, way more than I do. 

Know that God loves you. Know that He loves your loved ones even more than you do. God loves us every minute of every day - until he will love us every moment of eternity. 


Friday, July 17, 2015

Chop, Chop -- Book Review

A Review of the Book, Chop, Chop, by L. N. Cronk, currently available for free as a Kindle book.

I just finished crying over this book. At least I think I finished. It was a satisfying cry.

I loved this book all the way through, and I can't tell you how rarely that happens.

Who would have thought a 60 year old woman would enjoy a book that starts from the viewpoint of a preschool boy and follows him through to young adulthood? But it was simple, yet captivating. The conversations, the characterizations; all of it made me feel like I was right there, enjoying the friendships of these young people and of their families. Religion is an integral part of the story - it is called contemporary Christian fiction - but the religion comes through in a natural and caring way.

Throughout the book there is a tension, the knowledge that the book is leading inexorably to both love and tragedy. The tragedy might have been too much for me even a year ago. When it came, it did bring me to tears of sorrow; but as I continued to read, I was brought again to tears of joy.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

On the Other Hand - The Woman who Needed Gas

Yesterday, I wrote about the woman who came up to my car window to ask for money to buy some food. I was just about to leave Five Guys, and absolutely no alarm bells went off in my head. So, as it turned out, I not only gave her money for lunch but we had a nice chat, too. 

On the other side of that coin, there are times when my intuition tells me to avoid a situation, and I listen to that voice in my head. 

This morning I received an email from someone who listened to the voice of caution but felt badly about the situation. If we care, we are going to feel badly about others sometimes. Sometimes, it might likely not be what they claim, but we might still feel badly. Here is, approximately, what I wrote to him:

"I understand your distress about the woman who asked for help the other night because, whatever her intentions, she was in distress. We don't want to see someone suffer and not be able to help. But I don't think it was within your scope to be able to help her. You are right; if she needed gas and her mother was having a heart attack, she should have called 911. If she didn't have a phone, she could have asked you to call 911, or raced into the store to ask someone to do so. You might not have thought of 911 until afterward because you were being approached for help, asking for another "solution". But who wouldn't think of it if was their own relative having a heart attack and they were short on gas?  And when you recommended she seek help in the store, she just stood there. 

"Thinking of reasons, other than her "mother's heart attack", that she might have been talking fast, I thought about your location: a grocery store parking lot, shortly before closing time, in an area where you can buy alcohol in the grocery store. 

"I thought, "Can alcohol withdrawal make someone hyper?"  I Googled that, and I found several sites that said withdrawal can cause hyper-excitability, anxiety, and agitation, among other things. So her anxiety could have been very real and valid.

"Looking at her story at face value at the time, you couldn't help her because you knew the gas station didn't accept cash at that hour, and you were wise not to offer to go to the pumps with her to use your debit card. But she probably didn't actually need gas, and she probably hadn't thought through all the details of her story.

"I'm guessing she had a real problem, but probably not her mother having a heart attack. It could have been a more long term problem than you could possibly do anything about since you can't follow her around and feed her habit. If she has one. Because, of course, I am making up a story! And I wasn't even there. It is absolutely not for me to say or know what her intentions were! But I do think that the pieces of her story don't seem to fit together. 

"Whatever her real story was, you were probably seeing someone in true distress, but someone you couldn't help. And that is always a tough feeling."

I share this to say, no, I don't recommend we do just anything that would naturally follow from someone's request. They need gas? The only way to do it would be to go to the pump, where no one else is at this hour, and use our card? No, I don't recommend that. 

Or,  someone else I know was once approached on a bus to get off at the bus stop and go together to an ATM to get some money from his account. No, I don't recommend that (and he didn't do it). 

There are some ways we can help people, and others that are not so wise. At the same time, we can still have compassion in our hearts. It is always right to have compassion. 

Just sharing some other thoughts.   

Here was my post about The Woman at my Window

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Woman at my Window

After a long and fruitful appointment with the new (to me) sleep doctor, I headed off to get something to eat, but I didn't really have a plan. I thought: Five Guys. No, too greasy. I know, Panera Bread. I headed to Panera Bread, came to a detour, missed a road, and ended up going back the way I had come. Okay, Five Guys it is. (And I only got a hamburger, not fries, so it wasn't greasy.)

When I came out of Five Guys and got in my car, a woman came up to my window. I started to groan and moan on the inside, and then I remembered that groaning person is not me, and that this is a real person at my window. So I listened.

She said she lives in a shelter, and she would like to be able to get something to eat. I had been planning to give her a protein bar, but at this point, being right outside Five Guys, I pulled out $8 and told her she could get a small hamburger and a drink with that, as that's what I had just gotten. She thanked me, put it in her purse, and started chatting. I started to groan inside (again! Yes, I'm human, folks). But I thought: I don't have to be anywhere at any particular time this afternoon and I can listen to a woman tell her story.

She had lost a small but nice apartment because it got burned during the riots. She said it wasn't just about police. Well-spoken, she described gentrification without actually naming it. She told me all about corporations coming into the city, buying up property, and building expensive apartments. She said many people don't realize it's going to hit them, too, eventually. She also said these corporations come in, and they don't hire local people who live in the area (black or white).

I wish I had had a tape recorder going, as it was fascinating, although it was heart breaking too. When she finished talking, I put my hand out the window to shake her hand and told her my first name. She looked so surprised, shook my hand, and told me her name too. She said she's writing her story, and she will put me in it. Then she walked into Five Guys, and I drove away, thinking about Matthew West's song, "Do Something".  I told Our Lord, "I don't know what you want me to do."  (You might notice that's not a direct question. I'm so afraid he's going to tell me one of these days.)

Really, it's so big, and I don't know what I can do. But there's a saying posted around here a lot (maybe where you are too), "If you see something, say something." Well, this is a different kind of "something" than the slogan has in mind, but I feel I need to say something, in whatever ways it comes to me.

But please understand that I'm not telling anyone to do what I do…what little I do. I know some people get defensive about the idea of giving money, and I usually say: I give food, not money. But recently, I've begun carrying a protein bar in a baggie with a folded paper towel and a couple dollars, so someone can get a bottle of water or soda. Today, I gave a lunch but I think the lunch was less important to her today than having someone to just listen. 

But we are each called differently in this world. Some give at the office…and yes, I mean that to sound cliché, and I don't really mean "give at the office", as in monetary contributions (though that's good too). I really mean many give of themselves at work: nursing and teaching and so many jobs; every honest job contributes well as parenting and caregiving, and so forth. 

But sometimes, what I can give is a smile or a listening ear; and it feels right. It doesn't feel like enough, but it feels right. 

Post Note the next day: I do think we need to exercise caution, think, and follow our intuition. I received an email today from someone who was feeling uneasy about a situation. Here are my comments on that.
On the Other Hand - The Woman who Needed Gas.