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I had a similar experience when my son decided to join the Army just before the Iraq war started. I’ve always been pretty anti-war so my first thoughts were around what people would think of me. I was also very uncomfortable with the military culture and didn’t want to be a military family. At the same time, I realized how uncompassionate my feelings were, towards a group of people I knew nothing about and who give so much of themselves for all of us. There seemed to be a sort of justice at work, forcing me to share the anxiety and sorrow of this community.During my son’s term in the Army, especially during his tour in Iraq, it was the community of Army families, (as well as friends and church) that kept me sane.I became connected to people whose lives I would never have touched otherwise. I also came to know my son far better than I had before.s a painful time; I’m happy it’s over, but I think I’m the better for it.
Sherri responding to the Wake Up Call! – Is It All About You?
I can relate well to Is It All About You?. As a senior in high school, I was offered two scholarships to college-my mother and stepfather would not allow me to accept either. We were very poor and on Public Assistance and as the eldest child, it would have jeopardized their monthly check if I did not go right to work. I was devastated and never forgot that I had to switch majors from academic to business, which I hated and did poorly in. However, I did what was expected, and swore that one day I would attend a four year college and graduate. When my two children came along it was a given that they would go to college directly from high school. My son however, told my former husband that “Mom is forcing me to go to college”. His Dad came over and threatened to seek custody of our son if I insisted on making him do what he did not want to do. No matter that there were no back up plans, or did our son know what he wanted to do. We had a terrible argument, but in the end I relented-keeping custody of my son was of course more important than losing him over college. In due time, Don once 18, moved into a little place of his own, worked odd jobs, and suddenly decided that community college was a good idea. I supported this, and the upshot was that he eventually transferred to a four year college, the same I was attending in night classes!. My daughter like myself never doubted she would go from high school directly to college.
The lesson I learned was that not every child is ready for college or for any dream and hope their parents might hold for them, when we think they should, and the best support we can offer is our continued love and belief that each child did have a right to choose work over continued school, until and if, they were ready and able to see the advantage of a college degree. In our family story, I realized part of my huge disappointment related in part to my cited experience and lifelong desire to learn more academically. My unexpected reward for stepping back was that the children and I all graduated universities within 2 weeks of one another! We did not plan this outcome but it evolved naturally. Both Don and Ann went on to graduate school, and Mom went to work-but with the college degree she always dreamed of. I could have saved us a lot of panic, anger, disappointment and hurt by exploring other options with my son, and have faith that his intelligence and interests all pointed to more education and that eventually, he would see that for himself, which of course happened. My willingness to share my story is because at the time I was reacting to “All about Me and My Goals”-and to this day wish in hindsight I could have had faith that all would work out according to my children’s personal growth and according to God’s plan for all three of us.
I feel a parents we sometimes need to put aside our dreams for ourselves and our children, and have faith that the values they learned while young, would carry them through the path they would try, even if it differed from our own.
Patti responding to the Wake Up Call! – Is It All About You?
My 15 year old son was wrestling with the concept of the world having overpopulation pressures, and wondering if therefore wars and other high fatality incidents were actually of benefit to the world by reducing human population. As we talked about that, I reminded him to be aware that he was using only the faculties above his neck – his mind – and not to forget the faculties below his neck, like his heart (we agreed that was in his chest) and his soul (we decided that might be in his stomach, because that’s where feelings seem to live). He is a World War II buff, so I knew he would grasp the concept I provided next. “And what do you get when you use only the faculties of your mind, and disregard those of your heart and soul?” I asked him. He didn’t have a ready answer. “Nazi’s” was all I had to say. At that moment he softened, and agreed that the “logical”, intellectula and efficient Nazi regime was utterly horrifying becasue their carefully orchestrated efforts utterly lacked human heart and soul. And isn’t understanding that what empathy is really all about?
Dash – responding to the blog Heartless Youth? Growing Empathy in Our Kids
My husband loves to grow vegetables. When we bought our house in 2004 the lot had to be good for growing vegetables. Much time and energy was put into this. I had imagined that somewhere on the lot near the woods in the back would be a place of solace to read and meditate. As we developed the space I insisted that the garden be round. I am a trained designer. It is a 15 foot circle in the middle of the back yard. After Michael planted the vegetables, I looked out from the second story window and there in the yard was a labyrinth. It fills me with joy every time I see it and brings me to a place of prayer with My Creator. The whole process of growing food, preparing it, preserving it, and sharing it, has been a very spiritual experience, connecting us to one another, the earth and to God.
Diane – responding to the blog Feasting, Cherry Pickers and Connection
Each day is a blessing to me and I begin by trying to connect with all of creation around me. I often sit on my porch, breathe in the smell of the season, listen to the sounds of the birds, wind or rain, and take in the colors and patterns of life around me. This experience grounds me in the breath of life that fills all of creation, and for me it is a perfect way to welcome a day by acknowledging the Holy One that is part of everything seen and unseen around me.- Rich, responding to the Wake Up Call! – Welcoming the Day!
As I pulled into the parking lot one evening, my 11-year old in the passenger seat asked me about the man standing at the corner with a cardboard sign asking for money. “Why is he there?” my son asked. I explained that there could be many reasons he was there, some perhaps having to do with choices he had made, some perhaps with reasons out of his control. Either way, he was having a very difficult time in his life, and we were so blessed with good health, opportunity, a stable life and loving family members. “In fact, we’re going to share some of what we have with him right now” I said. My son shrank back in his seat, and said he was afraid of that man. “Don’t be afraid” I said, “he’s just a person like any of us, who needs some help.” I handed my son a bill and told him to roll down the window and hand the money to the man. Nervously, he did so. As he accepted the gift, the man’s eyes softened, and he graciously said to my son, “God bless you.” As we drove on, my son sat a little higher in his seat, a glow about him. “Wow”, he said “that felt really good!” It’s awesome how initiating a kind act of giving can remove fear and spread understanding and compassion to our children.
– Dash, responding to the Wake Up Call! – Acts of Kindness
I stood in a football stadium in 1977 with more than thirty thousand people gathered for the funeral of Steve Biko, the black South African leader murdered by his government. A man of small stature appeared on the football field and began to preach.
He implored the angry, grieving, incensed crowds not to respond to violence with violence. He kept repeating that God loves every single person. He repeatedly invited the vast crowd to be partners with the Holy in love and create a land in which every person could celebrate their beauty and dignity. “We are made for oneness” he said. The small physical stature of the preacher, Desmond Tutu, disguised the towering spiritual strength of this man’s incessant, passionate invitation to Love.
Tutu’s words that day kept playing in my mind, keeping me awake at night. Could I be loved by the Divine? Could this expansive magnificence be found in me as much as in others? Was Tutu right – was I included in being a partner in the only enterprise that mattered, Love discovered and lived in our lives?
In the years since then I have come to believe that the only question ever ask of us is “Did you love with abandonment?” It is about becoming fully human in the one life that you have now.
Last week I was paying for my parking at a parking garage and the guy behind the counter seemed kind of sultry and I thought, I am a paying customer he should be being nicer to me. Then I thought perhaps it works both ways so I said, “hi, how are you today?”. He gave me the most heart felt smile and said, ” I am doing very well, thanks for asking”. So often we project what we think people should do rather than just doing… Thanks as always for your wonderful insights.
– Bob, parent, partner and school teacher, responding to Spontaneous You, a Wake Up Call!
Waiting for my breakfast at Glo’s this morning I began to meditate on life’s delights:
Baseball, Books, Cats, Beer, sake, sushi, early prayer service Sunday, Family and good friends, Food and great restaurants like Glo’s, Health, Music, Nature, Sex, Spirituality, Travel, Tuaca, Yogurt – Greek God’s; Being authentically human (Micah 6:8) and fully alive!
– Sky in response to Delighting In Delight, a Wake Up Call!
Robert, I really appreciate your spiritual wisdom and find myself looking forward to it each week. Pearls of wisdom and something practical to work on and implement the ideas. While we belong to a congregation and attend occasionally our spiritual world has grown much wider. I find it important to focus on the spiritual daily and hourly in fact and need to have a focus in order to try to walk the talk.Thanks!
– Margaret, therapist and grandmother, responding to a Wake Up Call!
The blog on compassion reminded me of one of the most memorable acts of compassion I ever received. My beloved grandmother, in her 90’s, spent a quiet month dying in my parents’ house surrounded by all of her family. She was pain-free and comfortable, and we were with her around the clock. A couple of weeks into her final illness my dear grandfather, from whom she’d been divorced for 50 years, also took his final turn. Relatives flew back and forth between their deathbeds, and they both died surrounded by family, after full and rich lives, 6 days apart.
After this month of intense caring, I flew first to Missouri to bury my grandmother, then after a few days home flew to Denver to bury my grandfather. I returned home on a Sunday afternoon. After tucking the kids into bed I headed to the night-time Compline service.
Sitting in that dark, special space, as soon as the music started, my tears began to flow. They were just the tired, sad, content tears of all the preceding month’s feelings. They flowed soundlessly as I dabbed them occasionally with a handkerchief.
When the service ended, a woman sitting in front of me whom I had never seen before turned to me and picked up my hand in hers. She held it tight for a moment, looking with great kindness into my eyes. Then she gave my hand one last squeeze and turned back to face the front for the organ concert.
I loved that moment. She didn’t ask what was wrong; in fact, nothing was wrong. She didn’t tell me everything would be alright; in fact, everything was alright. She didn’t require anything of me or try to tell me anything. She just — a stranger — held my hand and looked at me kindly because there were tears on my cheeks.
Not flashy, not showy. She wasn’t feeding the hungry or sheltering the homeless. It was just plain, simple compassion. – Alicia
How very true -we have all uttered “one of these days”! At 73, I now realize that every day is indeed a precious gift, and the older we are, we cannot predict how much longer we will live-1 year, 5 years, 10 more years? Therefore what you write is even more an alert to live in the present as fully as we can – even as things go wrong or facing sadness’ of life, we have to try to carry on and not put off until the tomorrow’s of our life.
– Patricia, medically retired trying to live fully in the present, responding to the Wake Up Call! – One of These Days…