Posts Tagged With: caring

 
 

Finding Somewhere Safe

“Just take me somewhere safe.”

If someone answered that way when you asked them if they needed a ride, what would you do? Where would you go?

MSH saw a man looking a bit lost and bewildered, carrying a backpack and a sleeping bag. He bought lunch for the guy at McDonalds and chatted some. Said he was a veteran but hadn’t seen combat. He said he had a family out of state, five kids and a wife. He seemed nervous and a bit uncertain. Parts of his story didn’t make sense with other things he said.

He didn’t want to go to a shelter, or to a VA hospital, or a food kitchen. He finally just asked MSH to drop him off at a shopping center, near a spot where a group of guys had gathered with their restored cars. MSH asked them if any of them were Veterans. A few were, so he explained about this man he’d tried to help who, in the meantime, wandered away and couldn’t be found again.

When MSH told me about this encounter my worry meters buzzed. Such things make me wish I could fix the world. But of course, that isn’t possible.

I’ve read recently about Mother Teresa who, when asked about the huge task before her, replied….

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ~ Mother Teresa

I’m surely no Mother Teresa, but I do try to make a tiny difference where and when I can. I help at a local Food Bank from time to time. I donate to charity. I offer my services regularly in a variety of volunteer opportunities. On occasion my home has served as a sanctuary of sorts.

notre dameWe have a family friend or two who drops in from time to time. They see our home as a safe place to land, or a spot to score a slice of bread, which really means a slice of caring and a listening ear. Once, on sitting down at the kitchen bar to some fresh homemade bread and strawberry jam, one of these friends said something about finding sanctuary in our home.

That caught me off guard.

Sanctuary sounds like somewhere sacred and set apart and rare. My home? A sanctuary?

Another friend I know has told the story of a man at church who asked her why she sat in the hall during part of our worship service. She replied that she felt awkward and out of place because she’s single and so often seemed left surrounded by empty chairs rather than by mostly-married worshippers of our congregation. This kind, younger, married man, sweetly put his arms around her and hugged her tight. She proceeded to sob. She said she hadn’t been hugged by a man in decades and felt his kindness in that platonic squeeze. From that day forward if he is at church he has saved her a seat next to him and kept a lookout so he could pat the chair and let her know it’s saved just for her. My friend found sanctuary in a house of God in the most unexpected of ways.

I know this man, and he’s no Mother Teresa either. But he saw a need and has done his best to fill it. He’s a saint in one person’s eyes.

The word sanctuary finds its roots weaving through Middle English from French. Before that it started with the Latin word “sanctus” which means “holy.”

Anything we do to alleviate another’s sadness, to lift a person’s burdens or to cheer a weary soul is a holy act.

We can all provide sanctuary, if not in actual brick and mortar, at least in deed and action and maybe even in word.

Perhaps the sanctuary we provide is simply the small space around us as we provide a reassuring hug, a human touch to a person aching to feel loved in some small way. Maybe we rub a set of tired shoulders for a few seconds to push courage and fellowship into weary shoulders.

Perhaps the sanctuary we’re in is a porch swing where a heartfelt conversation takes place, temporarily lifting the weight of worry or sadness.

Perhaps the sanctuary we create is in the holding of our bitter tongue, the forgiving of long held grievances, or a word of thanks. Perhaps our smile creates a sanctuary that carries someone through to the next way station for disillusioned travelers.

Mother_Teresa_1985_croppedAnother quote by tiny but powerful Mother Teresa says, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

Are we tossing coins when a slice of bread is needed? I hope not. Are we giving out bitter sponges soaked in vinegar when a glass of cool water is all that’s required? I pray not.

To be completely honest, I have turned away when a need was evident, mostly because I doubted my ability to lift or cheer or make a difference. Sometimes my own needs kept my eyes looking inward and I simply couldn’t or refused to see another’s need. Sometimes I’ve just been world weary myself and needed my own sanctuary.

We aren’t always on one side of the equation. As humans we often find ourselves on the other side of needing. That helps us feel compassion when the roles switch places again.

Hopefully I learn and apply the knowledge when facing a person in need of sanctuary.

“Take me someplace safe,” the weary one says, “wherever that is.”

I hope I know where that place is and how to get there. I hope others are also willing and able to help as well.

~~~~~

“Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing.” ~Rachel Naomi Remen

Acuminate_Leaf_(PSF)

 

 

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Categories: Being Human, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

There is No Measure for Sorrow

Mom used to do this thing that I found a bit creepy. But then, I was quite young and had half a lifetime yet to live before I’d begin a journey of understanding.  It’s been half a lifetime at this point and I think I’m starting to understand her behavior.

The first thing Mom looked at when the afternoon newspaper arrived, oddly wasn’t the comics, which I went for. Nope. Mom looked up the obituaries. First thing. Every day.

Bizarre.

That’s what I thought at the time.

What more is there to say?

What more is there to say?

I know now that she didn’t want to miss an opportunity to express condolence to someone she might know who could use the support and love. An old classmate, a church friend, a distant relative, a former neighbor, parents of her friends.

My second older brother died before he’d reached a year.  The support and love Mom received after Brian passed away must have been invaluable. She saw the value of others reaching out to comfort her. It stuck with her, this desire to give strength and support to the broken-hearted.

"Hennes Grave" by Picasa.

“Hennes Grave” by Picasa.

You’d expect I’d naturally have picked up her empathy and kindness, since not long after that, I was born. Born into grief, born to lift and cheer, born being needed, born to fill an unfillable space.

It took a while.

I went through a phase when my own babies were tiny where I scanned the obits briefly, looking for children that had died. I think it served as a kind of mental inoculation or talisman against the possibility that my own little ones might wander into print in such a horrible way. Strange thinking, I know. We do odd things as mothers to protect our brood.

Then I passed through a phase where I’d skip that page of the newspaper as quickly as possible, as if not acknowledging it made it unreal, an un-possibility.

If only.

I simply don’t read a print newspaper anymore. Solved that problem, didn’t I?

Hardly.

I’ve been to far too many funerals in the past ten years. And not just older people either. Babies, young men, mothers, fathers, young adults, college students, children, teens. Disease or accident, anticipated or sudden, self-inflicted or battled, tragedies every one.

Oddly, older people dying doesn’t carry the same tragic heft and horror for many of us. Although the loss feels every bit as painful, I would think, for those closest to the departed. But who am I to say?

There is no measure for grief, loss or sorrow.

I’ve been at crowded standing room only funerals and those with barely anyone in a tiny room. I’ve felt comforted and I’ve felt bereft. I’ve been strangers to the grieving and close friends with the heartbroken. I’ve been one whose heart went missing when the death occurred. And, I’ve held my own tears in check for later as I offered a hug and spoke what little one can say.

Photo: "Belmont Cemetery (1809218994)" by Natalie Maynor

Photo: “Belmont Cemetery (1809218994)” by Natalie Maynor

Obituaries, along with the newspapers they used to appear in, are dying their own slow death. For whatever reason fewer and fewer obituaries get published. Facebook and other social media now serve, rather inadequately, as death announcement venues. I’m not so sure I’d want the notice of my death to run squeezed between a “stay calm” meme and a “you won’t believe what this cat and dog did” video. Lacks dignity and appropriateness wouldn’t you say?

But then, whose to say what’s appropriate nowadays?

We celebrate births and weddings. We mail out invitations and announcements and ask others to join us in our happiness. The only other significant major life event, death, has been left to dangle precipitously like so much bad press we want to avoid reading, let alone acknowledge.

I hope we figure out a better way to help the grieving. I hope we don’t simply hold our breath waiting for their response to our queries of “How are you?” to become “Oh, I’m fine.” I hope we don’t believe that pat answer. I hope we pray for them, handle with care and know that all is not well, not for a very long time.

Mortality reaches us all eventually, no matter how we try to dodge it. How we cope, how we grieve, how we celebrate a life, how we avoid its ending. It’s all part and parcel of the whole life experience.

I, for one, want to help ease whatever pain I can. After all, I was born to it.

 

~~~~~

“My father always read obituaries to me out loud, not because he was maudlin or morbid, but because they were mini biographies.” ~ Bill Paxton

Categories: Death | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Forget Comfort Foods, Try This Instead

Comfort foods.  I could wax poetic about all the varieties, textures, tastes, emotions and colors of myriad edibles.  So could you.

Have you ever considered “comfort memories?”

It’s self-explanatory.  Here’s an easy example.

My son can put himself to sleep by remembering himself through a specific ski run at a specific resort.  Recalling the swoosh of the snow under his board, the bite of the cold across his cheeks, the trees as they blur past, the feel of his muscles as he moves to catch a curve and negotiates the bumps and jumps, all combine to relax and calm him into a deep and restful sleep.

Nice way to put yourself to sleep, huh? I think so.

I have a way of relaxing myself when I’m feeling ill or in pain that, if I remember to remember it, works very well to comfort and ease my body and mind. It’s rooted in how I was cared for as a child when I was sick. It’s definitely a comfort memory.

Asleep on the couch

Asleep on the couch (Photo credit: geekdreams)

I recall pillows propped on the dark green couch, blankets tucked around me, with the TV on low and bluish across the room.  I remember the smell and taste of the concoction Mom would mix. It consisted of a bit of warm water, a spoonful of paregoric, and some sugar.  It was a licorice smell and taste, somewhat bitter, but eased by that spoonful of sugar.  My tummy always settled out if I was nauseous, my sore throat eased.  Sleep came easier in spite of noise or fever or pain.  I can still feel the coolness of the pillowcase as she turned my pillow to the cool side when my fever was high.  There would often be a cool cloth on my forehead and smoothed across my hands and arms, pulling the heat from my body and sending a swell of relaxation through my tired, aching limbs. Even if she was only checking my fever, Mom’s hand on my cheek let me feel cared for, loved and safe.

If I can conjure that image, those sensations, then I can settle into a rest that reminds me of that love.  I can relax and let the discomfort of whatever hurts lift away from me, even if only momentarily.

To know such care and comfort should fall to every child.  Every adult should be able to pull from the library of memory such a book, filled with tales of love and triumph.

What memories bring peace to you?  Is there anything you can recall from childhood, or adulthood, that on remembering, brings comfort, peace, joy, relaxation, love?

Categories: Family, Love, Memory Lane, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Small Things That Get Us Through

The last four months of last year I was working two part-time jobs.  Added up to about fifty or sixty hours a week.  They were physically demanding, on my feet for much of it.  A lot of lifting and carrying involved.  The exhaustion was formidable.  After all, I’m not a spring chicken, as my dad used to say.  There were days when simply getting out of bed seemed like a major accomplishment.

One of the jobs, in particular, was the sort of position that  can make a person feel invisible and maybe even small.  There are a few jobs out there like that.  I’ve had a few of them over the years.

There are advantages to that invisibility.  Being disappeared allowed me to observe with unabashed curiosity and clarity.  I watched all sorts of interactions between people that I filed away for future inclusion in a short story or a scene in a novel.

Most of the time I didn’t mind not being noticed.  I was doing my job, which, if I didn’t would be noticed and create some big problems.  Maybe that’s the way most jobs are.

Occasionally, a tough day would rear its ugly head and getting through the first job of the day was discouraging and weightier than normal.  Moods can do that to me.  On just such a day, nearing the holidays, I was the recipient of a gift.

I’m sure that the gift giver didn’t realize how significant her gift was.  I’m sure she didn’t even consider it a gift.  She’d be shocked if she knew I thought of that gift a year later, that I still have the package the gift came in.

Here’s what it looked like:

Yes, she offered me a cup of hot chocolate in this very cup, which I’ve kept.

Suddenly I wasn’t a disappeared person.  I was me, a fellow human being, like her, just trying to get through the day.  The invisibility cloak slipped off my head and fell to the floor around me.  I felt cared about.

Somewhere in the universe, some cog clicked into place that settled some ache in my heart that day.  I felt lighter.  I felt lifted.  I felt love.

Her gift to me was more than hot chocolate.  It was acknowledgment, personhood, a hand of kindness, recognition, friendliness, caring.

Reminds me of this quote:

I can do no great things, only small things with great love.“
– Mother Teresa

Here’s wishing  you a month filled with small things, received and given.

Have you had anything like this happen to you?  What was the gift?  How did it help you? I’d love to hear about it.

Categories: Gratitude, Love | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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