Category Archives: Misc

My day in The Army

The text came late Tuesday evening, “This is Jon. You’re on for tomorrow morning…details to come.” And so began my day in The Army, The Salvation Army.

My only experience with The Salvation Army had been to drop a bit of money in their red kettles at Christmas time or visit their Thrift Store on occasion.  I had no idea of the scope or depth to their service in the community.  But that all changed yesterday.

I drove to Oneida where 5 days ago a rain swollen Oneida Creek  flooded the nearby streets and neighborhoods known as The Flats. I was greeted by the Salvation Army’s Major Stan and the mobile meal canteen truck.  After a few introductions I was given rubber boots, a shirt, a badge and we were on our way.  Today’s task was to distribute Clean Kits.  But I found the Salvation Army is concerned about so much more than just the task at hand.

Riding to the impacted area I got to know a second generation Salvation Army volunteer Josh.  He told me about the trauma experienced by flood victims and the importance of listening to their stories, encouraging them to take a positive step forward no matter how small and most of all connecting with them by name, looking them in the eye and seeing them – he called it practicing the power of presence.  And I found Josh tireless in practicing this power of presence all day long.  Beyond the muddy clothes, sweat soaked shirts and needs of water and supplies lie people in need of hope.  He saw that need first as he greeted each person, ask their name, listened to their story, encouraged them, pointed them in a positive direction, carried supplies to their cars and waved as they drove off.  His presence in the midst of the situation brought hope and encouragement needed just as much if not more than the cleaning supplies that were distributed.

Our tent was shared with the American Red Cross, National Grid, the Oneida City Council and the Salvation Army and located within the impacted area of homes and businesses.  Collaboration between these organizations was selfless as they worked with one another to best serve the community.  People came throughout the day for water, cleaning kits, food, information, medical help and just to find a place to rest from the daunting work of clean up.  This was also a place where people from the surrounding community dropped by with donations of supplies, offers of help and just to voice their gratitude for the help being giving to the neighborhood.  The collective efforts and cooperation under that tent were a tangible reminder to the victims of the flood that people outside their neighborhood cared.  On several occasions after receiving their cleaning kit or water I heard people say, “thank you for being here, it means so much”.  There it was again, the power of presence.

Yesterday I found the Salvation Army to be more than an organization.  Melinda is a volunteer who lives in Oneida herself.  She summed it up best for me.  She has been served by the Salvation Army, she’s a member of the Salvation Army church, her son works at the Salvation Army Camp and she volunteers when she can. As she handed out cleaning kits, spoke words of encouragement to people, gave water, food and medical aid she shared with me that her giving comes from a life that is “rich in love” as she put it.  When I asked what do you know about the Salvation Army from your experience, her reply – “The Salvation Army is family.”

Family shows up when times are hard with supplies, food, support and most of all their presence.  I agree with Melinda.  The Salvation Army is no longer a red kettle to me.  It’s a picture of family.

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Changing the Landscape = Commitment


A husband with a day off, beautiful weather and no agenda is a dangerous combination in our house.  Our to-do list of home projects has included “redo the dilapidated retaining wall and front steps” for more years than I want to admit. Cost, timing, decisions to DYI vs hire a contractor, all those and more have kept us frozen and unable to make it happen.  Monday, we committed.  We didn’t sign a contract or purchase materials.  No, my husband just announced “I’m tearing out the bushes”, headed for the front door and began tearing out the three overgrown bushes lining the steps and wall.  And with that, we were committed.

No time-table, no contract signed, no blueprint but he took action.  Action he paid for later in a sore back, tired muscles and the realization that tearing out overgrown bushes and three corresponding stumps is work meant for those much younger than he.  We took the first step forward which seems to be the hardest one to take, we he took action.  And more importantly he changed the landscape.  Permanently. Boy, did he change the landscape.  It’s a mess. There is no turning back, no rewind, no other recourse but to move forward.  We are committed.

I often think, dream and imagine new projects, plans or changes in my life.  As long as they stay in my head, unspoken and unknown to anyone I am safe.  I can back out at any time without feeling I have failed by not actually accomplishing what I had hoped to do.  No one else knows so I’m safe.  Around January I heard a friend say that verbalizing your New Year’s resolution can help you achieve it.  Within a few days I read that saying your New Year’s resolution out loud can cause you to think you’ve already done it and can actually erode your resolve.  Hmmm, conflicting opinions.  Which one do I find to be true in my life?

Taking a step, tearing out the bushes and changing the landscape, does it for me.  Just saying it out loud does not propel me to do anything and it doesn’t really make me feel like I did it either.  It’s the no-going-back action, burning the bridge as they say, that moves me forward. Picking up the shovel, ax, electric saw, tow rope to pull the stump out with the car, whatever it takes, to make that first step that means I can’t go back to the way it was.  Action leads me to commitment.

Last year I took action and committed to meet weekly with a few women and share how we have been impacted by reading the scriptures the previous week.  It was the action I needed to commit to something that I wanted to do but didn’t always have the resolve to do.  These women would expect me to be there and ‘let me know about it’ if I didn’t show up.  It was the committment to these women, the weekly meeting, that did it for me.  And it has changed the landscape of my life this past year.  Just like our front lawn now, it is messy and unfinished but it is evident that something is changing.  And that something that is changing is me.

How about you?  Are you committed by saying it out loud?  Or do you need to take action, change the landscape and tear out the bushes? What project or plan are you committed to?

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A flower of humanity

Don’t know where it was taken, by whom or when.

But I love this photo.

It is as though these children are the petals on a sunflower.

Beautiful and full of life.

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The Complexities of Forgiveness

Stacey was a high school girl with a traumatic past when I met her.  She had been abused by a family member repeatedly when she was younger.    Then early in her high school years while walking home from a football game she had been hit by a car driven by a classmate at her school.  Stacey suffered multiple injuries that had long-term impacts on her physical appearance and abilities.  She had deep scars inflicted by others both physically and emotionally.  But the heaviest burden she carried each day was the hate, resentment and unforgiveness in her heart.  It was tangible, uncontrollable and repelled anyone around her.  It was difficult to spend time with her.  As I got to know Stacey and she unfolded the tragedy in her life I was overwhelmed with a sense of inadequacy.  I could not relate in any way to the depth of pain she had experienced.  Anything I had to offer seemed far too little.   And many times I found myself avoiding her.

One night as I gave her a ride home and our conversation turned once again to her continued resentment, hatred, bitterness towards not only those who had hurt her but anyone that might associate with them I shared what I had always heard and knew to be true about forgiveness.  Until you offer forgiveness to those who hurt you, those who have hurt you will continue to do so. Not by their actions but by your own imprisonment to the bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness is the only way to begin the healing process.  The way to receive forgiveness yourself.  Those words coming from someone who has never experienced the depth of pain she had experienced were laughable to her and unwelcome. Our words were heated, sharp and brutally honest to one another that night.  I wanted Stacey to let go of the hurt and allow forgiveness to penetrate her soul, but she only wanted to hurt those that had hurt her and in her mind the only way to do that was to remain angry with them.  I moved away not long after that and time and distance eroded any relationship we had.  But I think often of Stacey and that conversation in the car.

I have never faced the depth of pain she experienced at the hands of others.  And many times I felt that my words were empty because of that.  But I do believe that the words I spoke from the scriptures were true and had life of their own to offer her, forgive just as you have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32).  Even this one, if you refuse to forgive others, you heavenly father will not forgive you. (Matt. 6:15)   I learned a lot during my friendship with Stacey.  I saw the results of refusing to forgive.  It was painful to watch and ugly to see.  But I also know that forgiveness is hard to offer and not an instant result of saying or hearing the right words.  It seems that there are complexities to forgiveness.  There are numerous books written on the topic, seminars, counseling sessions and sermons given on forgiveness.  And yet all the clarity those resources have to offer fades when someone who has hurt you physically or emotionally asks for forgiveness and you are faced with the emotions raging within and the person standing in front of you.

I hadn’t thought about Stacey in a long time.  But when I hear PBS is airing a two-part series Forgiveness:  A Time to Love and a Time to Hate  April 17 & 24 and read the article about the series I couldn’t help but think about her again and reflect on my own struggles with forgiveness since my encounter with her.  Forgiving a child, a spouse, a friend or a co-worker is difficult.  But what about a nation that has experienced genocide or apartheid, how does forgiveness look in that situation?  Does the depth and magnitude of the pain inflicted and evil endured complicate the question of forgiveness?  It seemed to in Stacey’s case.

More to come no doubt.

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Sew Many Quilts

Yesterday I was one of fifty, women and even a few brave men, that joined together to ‘Sew Many Quilts’ for the thousands of refugees that are moving to our city. Most of these refugees come from warm weather climates and will welcome the quilts when they get a taste of Syracuse winter.  We gathered together to cut, design, sew, press and tie quilts today.  A good old fashioned quilting bee.

At the end of the day we had finished 18 quilts and there were a few ‘take home kits’ available. I brought one home, the fabric already cut, colors matched and ready to be sewn together. A nine patch crib quilt top. I do not pretend to be a quilter. And I’m not a seamstress either. I have a sewing machine and I like to sew but I’ve never been very good. And I proved that to be true once again.

Yesterday I discovered that 1/4″ is very different from 3/8″. Just ask a quilter. That small difference, block after block, adds up. And when sewing in a group, with each person building on the next person’s work, let’s just say, my work created problems down the line.  And this group was not hesitant to point out that I was making a mistake. That might sound harsh but it was actually very helpful. I didn’t know that my mistake would make it difficult for others. And by letting me know I was messing up I could stop creating more work for others and actually be helpful. Isn’t that what friends do for each other? And I discovered that quilters are forgiving. They taught me, corrected me and forgave my mistakes. They even trusted me with a ‘take home kit’.  (Maybe that was one way of keeping all my mistakes in one place.)

Today I set up my table and sewing machine at home. I was careful to keep my seams at 1/4″ and finished the quilt top by myself. Only “unsewing” 2 blocks. I pressed it, laid it out and admired the creation, a beautiful patchwork of squares. Complete but not satisfied.

Today I was sewing quilts. Yesterday I was building relationships.  While  tying, snacking and sewing  I had met  Mary Lou, Joy, Kathleen, Alex and Ti Yuhn. I laughed with Sandy, Lisa, Alison and Sybil throughout the morning.  And learned not only about quilting but about friendship from Doris, Barbara and Kristen.

When I was young my grandmother would tell stories of the quilting bees that she would attend on a regular basis. I admired and eventually inherited a few of those precious heirloom quilts she made at those bees. I think I discovered why she spoke of those times so fondly. Yes, she was sewing, but more than that she was building. Building into relationships with her family and friends.

Sew Many Quilts will meet again in two weeks, making more quilts for refugees and at the same time building friendships with all who participate.

Come build something with us.
Sew Many Quilts

 

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Monochromatic

mon·o·chro·mat·ic  [mon-uh-kroh-mat-ik, -oh-kruh-]

adjective: using only one color;  lacking in variety;  monotonous

I must admit I had become monochromatic.  I was monotonous, lacked variety and yes, one-dimensional in my postings on human trafficking.   And I am more than a single focus.  I have a variety of interests, ideas and thoughts.  (Ask my husband, he’ll tell you I can jump from one topic to another with little or no warning – I might add, this is not the best strategy for good communication)  But I had begun to use one single voice.  My passion and interest in human trafficking has not dimensioned but I need to balance it with the other aspects of my life and thoughts.

My recent trip to Washington DC brought the opportunity to lobby with a World Vision staffer on Capitol Hill.  He continually told each of us to “use our voice” at home.  We discussed how powerful our voice is as constituents with our congressmen and women.  As we spoke I told him of my concern that if I use my voice at home to only speak about one issue, people will begin to turn down the volume and see me as one-dimensional, a continual “talking cause” and nuisance.  A single message that seeks to mobilize others can quickly become annoying.  He offered no words of wisdom or help in how to find a balance.  Maybe he hasn’t found it either.

I’ll go back to reflecting on a variety of topics and try to find a balance.  But I make no apologies for the times that I get stuck and become monochromatic. Those that are oppressed are unable to speak in their defense.  And when I get the opportunity I will ask you to join me in speaking for them.  Together we can bring more than one voice, we can bring many sounds and harmonies that will not only garner an audience that will listen but maybe an invitation to join in the chorus as well.

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Why I love to read the newspaper – part 3

A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down – Mary Poppins

The paper today may have brought the news of budget cuts, automobile recalls, rising unemployment rates but it also offered up a spoon full of sugar to help all that bad news go down . . .

They’re giving away FREE PRETZELS at Auntie Ann’s on Saturday, Feb. 20, at the ShoppingTown Mall. 10am to 3pm.  (cinnamon or original)

Enjoy!


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