Sweet Miracle of Kindness

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I received the following email today:
Dear Pam,
Just want you to know that I am honored to be your second Mom.  I never had a daughter, but if I did, I would hope she would be just like you.  You are a kind, honest, considerate, intelligent and loving woman.  I am so proud of you, and I respect you for how you have adapted to a new city, job, and home this past year.  Not an easy task !
Pam,  you are very special to me.
Love,
S…

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A Lesson To Learn and Relearn

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I called someone late yesterday afternoon to ask if I had done something to offend, upset, or make them mad.  I thought long and hard before I made the call.  I had been wondering and worrying about this for over a week.  I navigate my way around a lot of personalities on a daily basis.  I have a 17 member board of directors and six standing committees of 10-20 members.  Each person has their own agenda.  I have learned to be careful not to jump to conclusions.  Minor upsets, trespasses, and personality conflicts have a way of burning themselves out. Ignorance, or the illusion of ignorance, prevents most personal confrontations from even taking place.  Sometimes, though, it is necessary to step into the landmine of personalities. Continue Reading »

A May Day Memory

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The year was 2001, and my 12-year-old son had been in a coma for over a week. He had recently been airlifted to a university hospital for another surgery, his third in the past week. This was going to be a delicate surgery. His eye muscle was trapped in an orbital fracture. His nose was broken, too, and needed to be repaired. While these repairs would ordinarily be complicated, the complications were compounded by my son’s skull fracture and significant brain swelling. The surgery posed a risk of further brain damage. Without it, his eye would forever be “sunk” into the socket and cease to function. These were horrible choices for a parent to make.  I wouldn’t wish this kind of life-altering decision on my worst enemy. Continue Reading »

Sanctuary

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Sanctuary – A place of refuge or safety

 

 

Those of you who have read the blog for a while might remember that I moved offices several months ago.  I was a little apprehensive about the move.  I had really liked  my office.  I was happily settled there, but the move would make it easier for me to supervise staff and would save me many trips down the hall each day.  To complicate matters, I would be locating to an office I had formerly occupied.  I had worked in that old office during some of the worst days of my life, but I couldn’t really say, “Oh, I don’t want to move to that office.  It holds too many memories from a very difficult time in my personal life.”  Yeah, I didn’t think that would go over too well.  While they might think I’m a little quirky at work, they don’t actually think I am insane.  (I think!)

The office suite had been completely remodeled with new paint and new carpet.  It was now a tranquil color, instead of the former industrial blue.  It had always been a very bright and  sunny space.  I followed the advice of Seasweetie and placed a bowl of fresh lemon on my desk.  I don’t remember why, but I believe it was to improve the feng shui in the new space.  Below is a picture I took on move-in day.  There are the lemons in the little orange bowl I bought to add a little more color to the space.  The lemons are gone now, after growing a lovely crop of fuzzy mold.  I still have the bowl, though, and it’s usually filled with Hershey’s Miniatures.  🙂

 

 

The office has turned out to be a wonderful, calm, peaceful, place of comfort.  I have accomplished some of my best work in that space, and it has been interesting to come back to the same space under different circumstances.  There are four of us who share the suite of offices.  It doesn’t allow the same amount of privacy as my former office, but I find that I enjoy the company.  While I could close my door if I chose, I rarely do.  The only time the door is shut is if I am on a conference call or working on something that needs complete concentration.  (What I mean is that I have to shut it to force myself to concentrate and not allow the ADD to kick in and make my mind wander.)

One man and three women share the four offices and common reception area.  In the six months since we became office mates, we have formed sort of an alliance.  We chat back and forth through our doors.  We pooled our funds and set up a pretty nifty coffee station in the reception area complete with top shelf coffee and a variety of creamers.  We’ve brought in plants and hung pictures.  Never once has an unkind been word been spoken among the four of us.  This pleasant companionship has come to mean a great deal to me.

It’s been interesting to watch as our friendships have transitioned from the friendship of co-workers to real friendship.  What has even been more interesting is the fact that other people in our building have begun to notice.  Our office suite has become known as a sanctuary.  People often comment on it and stop in to sit in the reception area and relax for a few minutes.  The politics, alliances, manipulation, and undermining that go on in other areas, just don’t exist in our little suite.  Instead, we have created a pleasant, welcoming, and productive place to work.

This week  someone gave me a gift card for Chick-fil-A.  (YUM!)  Today the gentleman in our little group asked if anyone wanted to go with him to shop during lunch.  He needed help choosing a Christmas gift for his wife.  We all said that shopping sounded like fun, and I offered to buy everyone lunch with my gift card.  So the four of us took off for the mall during our lunch hour.  As we sat eating lunch, I realized what a curious group we made.  One man in his 30’s, a young woman in her late 20’s, and two older (ahem, one of them would be me!) women sharing lunch at the mall.  It was so enjoyable, and I realized how blessed I am not only to have a job that I love, but to be able to work with people I truly like.

Life can be difficult, painful, crazy, and confusing sometimes.  Right now, my life seems to be a mixture of all of those things.  Today,  I was thankful for these good people who are a part of my life.  Their kindness and friendship are blessings.  Months ago, I worried about sharing office space, making a move, having another change in my life, but it turned out to be such a good thing for me.  The space we share has become my sanctuary from all the craziness in my life.  In that place, and with these people, I am able to find moments of peace.

I wasn’t able to spend time shopping with them.  I had an enjoyable lunch, though, and then I headed over to the hospital to check on my mom.  The situation is not good, and there isn’t a thing anyone can do (or will do) to make it better.  No, her leg wasn’t broken, but she has a torn meniscus.  Ordinarily, this could be repaired, but Mom isn’t healthy enough for surgery.  She is in a great deal of pain, but is only allowed a limited selection and amount of pain relieving drugs.  As a dialysis patient, medications can quickly become toxic.  The doctors are concerned that she will die if they were to perform surgery.  They are concerned that she will die if they give her enough medication to actually help with her pain.  What are they preserving?  Her quality of life is negligible at this point.  No matter what my personal feelings have been, past hurts and personality conflicts mean very little at this point.  It’s frustrating and painful to watch her go from one medical crisis to the next.  She has told me she wishes that she could just die.  What do I say to that?  I would be feeling exactly the same way if I were in her position.

I look back on the last two years, and I marvel at the sadness, the losses, and the changes.  But it is moments like today with my co-workers, that also show me that even during the worst of times, good things continue to come my way, too.  I have to be sure to keep my heart open.  I need to let the good in to help carry me through the bad.

A Heart Two Sizes Too Small

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I watched “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” tonight with Lola.  She has been singing the song from that movie all week long, and we finally decided to watch the DVD.

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Christmas Day.

I’ve seen the show many, many times, and I was only watching halfheartedly.  Something struck me as I listened to the words tonight.  When the Grinch witnesses the love and kindness of the people of Whoville,

“And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!”

It’s the same old story, and it’s a beautiful story.  It’s the same story that has been told over and over in so many ways, many versions, and in every language.  For as long as human beings have been telling stories, this basic theme has been a part of that tradition.  A troubled character is touched by love, and some momentous positive change occurs.  This type of story is  more than just a “good vs. evil” tale.  These stories are lessons.  They attempt to teach us that not only does GOOD win over evil, but that if we are good enough; we can actually change evil INTO GOOD.

Earlier as I was driving home from work, I was had been remembering a “friend” that I had once believed in, championed, supported, and defended.  It was a classic case of throwing good deeds out there one after another in an attempt to douse the flames of evil.  I had excused insensitive behavior over and over again.  I forgave lies and half-truths.  I had forgiven this person for horrible, hurtful things without even the decency of an apology.  I had let bygones be bygones even when no attempt had been made to rectify the misdeeds.   I thought I could teach kindness.  I thought I could show by example the true value of friendship.  I thought I could convert Bad to Good.  When that failed to happen, I blamed myself.  What had I done wrong?  Where had I gone wrong?  Why wasn’t my love, friendship, kindness good enough to make a difference?  I had failed.  I hadn’t forgiven enough.  I had stood up for myself too often.  I had put myself first instead of my “friend.”  I had failed.  This person never changed, just as everyone around me had warned.  In fact, the situation continued to worsen until I had finally had enough.  I walked away from the situation feeling defeated, battered, and beaten.  I had failed.

I thought about this “friend” once again as I watched The Grinch.  Again, I felt the sting of my failure.  No, I wasn’t able to bring the Good out from under all of the Bad.  Yes, I failed, but I also learned a valuable lesson.  It is not my job to try to change other people.  Some people move from person to person taking all that is offered until there is nothing left to give.  While that is a painful lesson to have learned the hard way, I wasn’t really the loser in the end.  In the end, this person is still messed up, while I have learned to acknowledge and cherish the real and honest goodness that already exists in the people who are a positive and giving part of my life.  Those are the people whose hearts are NOT “two sizes too small.”

Kindness Matters

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My New Car Magnet!!!

 

Who are you when you think no one is looking?

We all probably know someone who loves to tell people that they are a “good guy.”  They love to tell you about the good things they do for others and the sacrifices they make.  They love to pat themselves on the back.  According the them, everyone looks to them to solve their problem, everyone asks them for advice, everyone depends and relies on THEM.  Of course, in the next breathe, they will tell you, “I’m not patting myself on the back here.”  We all probably  know someone like that.  Chances are, if we were to dig a little bit beneath the surface of their “kind” actions, we might find a fairly selfish person who only does good for others when it serves their own best interest.  Yesterday I was thinking about one such person, and it reminded me of a long ago conversation I once had with a priest.

I was raised as a Baptist.  T was raised as a Catholic.  After Andrew was born, I decided to convert to Catholicism to eliminate confusion as we attended church with our children.  I became a Baptolic.  🙂  While I was in the process of becoming a member of our local church, T and I met weekly in the home of an elderly priest.  He was thought of as old-fashioned and unnecessarily strict by members of the local parish.  Having grown up with stoic Baptist grandparents, I quickly grew to admire the strength and conviction of his faith.  He and I had many lively debates, and he never failed to listen to the point this Baptist girl was trying to make.  I could start an entire blog just on those conversations, but the one discussion that came to mind yesterday was about acts of sacrifice and kindness.

I believe the discussion revolved around the Lenten sacrifices.  I wondered what purpose it served to give up eating meat on Fridays if a person were in fact a seafood lover.  Heck yes!  I was happy to eat lobster or crab legs each Friday for 40 days!  It seemed to me that a greater sacrifice would have been to warm up the leftover spaghetti that was sitting in the fridge.  Wouldn’t God be more pleased that I frugally used my resources than to go out for dinner to a seafood restaurant that was offering great Lenten specials?  He laughed, agreed, and told me to go eat my spaghetti.  Oh, he was such a cool guy!  I miss him as I write this.  He died on Christmas Eve over a decade ago.

Our conversation led to a discussion on the true meaning of sacrifices and acts of kindness.  We discussed the public sacrifices of Lent.  Everyone loves to tell you what they are “giving up” for Lent.  (Oh, I can’t have candy for 38 more days!)  Everyone loves to grouse about not eating meat on Fridays as if it were some big deal.  What do these things actually accomplish in the grand scheme of things?  We talked about the greater value of acts of sacrifice and kindness when they are kept silent and performed privately.  He told me about monks and priests of old wearing horsehair shirts under their robes as an offer of personal sacrifice.  What would the value of that sacrifice have been if they went around announcing to their brethren, “Hey guys!  Dang…the horsehair shirt I’m wearing is itching the heck out of me!”  Both kindness and personal sacrifice hold a much greater value when they are done quietly and without the expectation of accolades.  I often think of that conversation as one of the greatest moments of truth and learning in my life.

Often in my life, I have been humbled by the kindness that has been shown to me by others.  Often, the words of Father H have come back to me.  Some of the most meaningful moments in my life have been due to the kind acts of people whose identity has remained anonymous.  When Andrew spent weeks at the University hospital an hour from our home, complete meals were delivered to our freezer each day.  Some friend organized people in our community to do this.  I never found out who that friend was, and I never found out the identity of the people who took their time to cook for my family.  That is the beauty of a small town where doors are unlocked.

When my dad died, someone brought the funeral plants and flowers to our home while we drove an hour to the burial at the family cemetery.  To return home to that act of kindness, and a beautiful flower-filled kitchen, was so humbling.  That act of kindness made me feel cared for on a very difficult day.  There is no greater kindness than to show care for someone who is in pain.

Thank you, Father H, for your role in my life and for teaching me the true value of sacrifice and kindness.  It’s easy to be a good guy when you know you will get a pat on the back.  It’s easy to do what is expected of you.  It’s easy to be the guy at work that people rely on or the neighbor with the funny joke to tell.  It’s easy to put on a show, but the true test of a human being is in their actions when no one is looking.

Vampires, Heroes, and Victims

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Today was a long day, and I am surprised to find myself writing a blog post.  I didn’t get home from work until after 9:30.  It was a draining day, and on top of that, I haven’t been feeling well.  All I wanted to do was sit down and relax for a while before going to bed, but the words were brewing and bubbling up inside of me, so here I am,  writing again.

As I sat here quietly trying to unwind, my head was replaying moments from my busy day.  It was a strange day that seemed to take place like scenes from a play.  Scene I:  a morning phone call.  Scene II:  a quiet, contemplative drive to work.  Scene III:  a meeting with mega-rich hoteliers.  On and on, my day went from one scene to the next.  The only player that was constant was me.  I walked out on the stage never knowing what I was going to get.   Everyone else seemed to know their lines, but not me.  Maybe I was feeling a bit scattered because I didn’t feel well.  I felt like I was a step behind.  I felt uncertain and unsure.

As I sat here tonight replaying the scenes, I thought about the interactions I had today with such a wide variety of people.  My work day ended by giving a presentation to a large group of business owners and residents at a public meeting.  Each scene of my day had a different tone, and I thought about that as I sat on the couch trying to relax.  Moments can go well, or they can be fraught with difficulty.  It can go either way.  So much is dependent on the people involved.  Kindness seems to be the key element.  The addition or the lack of kindness can tip a situation in one direction or the other. Continue Reading »