Tag: Spirituality

Giving Chickin’

Sometimes our workdays run very late. Lately, more than sometimes. But every now and again, during those late cases, we get to see something that makes the whole day worth it.

A couple weeks ago, a coworker and i went to pick up a patient for a procedure. It was way after hours, and the poor woman was just so relieved to finally be getting it over with. As we are unhooking her from all her bells and whistles, she tells us that she can’t wait to get back. She hasn’t eaten in two days, and a friend brought her some chicken from her favorite place so that she could have something really yummy after her procedure. Then she looks around. There are a few of her kids in there. Well, i call them kids, but they were all adults. And she begins to panic.

“Don’t you go eatin’ my chickin’! That’s MY chickin’! I haven’t eaten in two days, and i really want that chickin’ bad! Please don’t mess with it!” Her kids all agree that they won’t touch it. She doesn’t seem convinced and has me bring her the box so she can count out the pieces. “I got three pieces of chickin’ in here. Three. I counted. (She shows me.) See? I have proof. Now that chickin’ better be here when i get back! Don’t you go eatin’ my chickin’!”

“Yes, Momma, ” they respond while rolling their eyes.

We wheel her away, her supper reboxed and placed on the counter for her return. Thru the hallway, she continues to go on about her chickin’. She can’t wait. She’s been so hungry. And that’s her favorite chickin’. We get her into the procedure suite, get to working, and she is still talking. She is gonna have some chickin’! This whole wait to get this pacemaker thing is worth it because, as a prize, she gets her chickin’ after! She LOVES that chickin’! It’s her favorite! And it smelled so good when her friend brought it! Oh, there ain’t nothin’ better than some good fried chickin’ when you really hungry!

I am not exaggerating. This woman was truly in rapture about this chicken.

After, when we are wheeling her back to her room, she is getting really excited. Like, six-year-old-on-her-birthday excited. She can almost taste that chickin’! Mmmmm, all the greasy-crunchy skin! It’s gonna taste so good after being starved for two days! I can’t wait to get my hands on that chickin’! I’ve been lookin’ forward to this so much! MMmmmm mmmmm! It’s gonna taste so good!

You see what is coming, don’t you?

We barely get her hooked back up to the tentacles of her room before she asks if she can have her chicken. She knows she can’t have it quite yet, but she just wants to smell it. Her mouth is watering. I am smiling as i go to grab her pot of extra-crispy gold… But all i find is an empty box in the trash and her children are gone. At first, she thought we were kidding, but when the truth set in, the look on her face… Well… I don’t think there is a word for it. Some combination of anger, shock, disgust, sadness – all wrapped up in that iron-weight foil that only real disappointment can bring. I want to cry at first, but then anger builds. What kind of kids are these? What kind of people are these? The anger starts burning. By the time i am at the nurses’ station giving report, i am royally pissed. I want to find those kids and kick their selfish little asses.

While i am infused with venom, my coworker is infused with Spirit. As he passes me talking to the nurse, he gives me the sign that he’ll be back in a couple minutes. While i rail on about the actions of those rotten P.O.S.s who should know better than to do that to their momma, my coworker is downstairs in the hospital food court buying her some more chicken. Without pomp. Without circumstance. Without flash or banner. He just goes and does it. And he brings joy and healing to that woman that no pacemaker, and certainly none of my burning fury, could ever bring. He just brings it to her and leaves.

Later that night, and many times since, i have dove into the ocean of what it meant.

I often get angry with the injustice, speaking my mind to friends and readers about how the world is going to hell, without even the benefit of a handbasket. The times when i let my anger pass thru, tho, and allowed a spirit of Love and Humanity take over my action are less common. Honestly, it didn’t occur to me to just go buy the woman some chicken. A simple act of kindness. Of Love. Of Humanity. The thought never crossed my mind. But it should have.

I can be the street preacher, waving my fist and gathering winds of discontent. Or i can be vessel thru which a spirit of love and generosity flows. I want to be less of the former and more of the latter. And the example i saw that night proves it. My coworker is a regular Joe. Just like myself. Just like most of us. Not a wealthy benefactor. Not a martyr. Not a saint. Just a guy who allowed his soul to be a conduit between all that is good and all that is not. My instinct was to get angry. His instinct was to bring Love. In the form of chicken.

Angels in Joes’ clothing. That’s what they are. These people who have already found it. Who put it to use. Many spout the words of their faith. The rules. The expectations. But it is these angels who have the bigger impact. Because their actions transcend any specific religion. They represent the tenets of Humanity and Love.

I am not a church goer. But i am a person of daily prayer and meditation. To God/Goddess/Universe. To the spirit of all things good and loving. To the one Saint Francis beseeches in his quest to become a better person. Perhaps it’s time i revisited that prayer. It is the sentiment of that prayer that i am lacking. Needing. Wanting. No, i’m not a totally selfish woman. I do good for other people. But not enough. So many are suffering. And while it’s true that i can’t singlehandedly bring about world peace or end world hunger or vanquish evil; i can keep my eyes open for opportunities to be that conduit. I can spend less time preaching and more time doing. I can make a difference. I can buy some chickin’.

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Sidewalk Preaching

So let me tell you about my son.

He is 13 years old with that “Puberty is almost here” roundness and stench. He has me dye his normally dark brown hair black with a green forelock. He is on the lego robotics team and writes most of their scripts for exhibitions. He gets astoundingly good grades in all his classes, except the two he doesn’t like, where he is in danger of failing. (Gifted, it seems, only when he enjoys a topic.) He is a sugar ‘ho and loves all things sweet: Soda, candy, slushies, ice cream, cake, even jello. He loves comic books, especially Ant Man. In fact, i think he’s a bit infatuated with Ant Man. He lives for computer games. He’s a devotee of Top Gear. He has memorized whole episodes of the Simpsons. He can fake battle with a lightsaber better than Mace Windu himself. He likes Panic at the Disco and FallOut Boy, but can also sing along to my corny music and an impressive array of show tunes. Like most other kids his age, he’s a mixed bag.

On one hand, he is intelligent, adorable, funny and sweet. He’s a seanachie since birth and can tell stories on a whim. Occasionally, the stories are true, but he’ll never tell you which ones aren’t. (For months, our apartment manager thought we were British, because he always spoke with a Brit accent when he went by the office.) He has a beautiful singing voice. A flair for acting. And the kid loves to perform. He can make you laugh without even trying. He’s just naturally funny. He has a great vocabulary and can converse with professors as easily as pre-schoolers. He usually does his chores without much reminding. He knows when and how to hug. He has no social fear, or at least never shows any. And he doesn’t give a flip about what other people think.

On the other hand, he’s messy. His bedroom smells like a long-forgotten gym locker. Every damned pair of pants he puts in the wash have exactly one leg inside out. He will sleep in clothes and wear them the next day. He doesn’t notice when he misses the bowl.  He peppers the apartment with dirty socks as if it’s a damned caeser salad. He scrapes the healthy part of dinner into the trash when i’m not looking. Fresh out of the bath, he still smells like pubescent boy hormones and sweat. He cops a rotten attitude, talks back, and has a terrible temper.

But i still think i did ok with him.

Every now and then he gives me a glimpse of the man he will become. The morals, the compass, the humor, and the love inside him. He shows kindness without thinking, he helps without asking. Or he quips at just the right time. At those moments, i know that, in spite of the anarchy and chaos that is my 13 year old boy, he will be ok in the end.

We had a moment like that the other day. We had a little thing to celebrate, and so went to the park, got ourselves some ice cream floats, and strolled. We came across a street preacher. He had his Bibled hand raised and was shouting fire and brimstone. We’re all going to hell! Homosexuals, inter-racial mixing, and liberal Democrats are paving the way to Hades! Turn away from the abominations! Now, we are not church-going people, but my son stopped as we got closer to the man and said, “You know, maybe i should be a preacher.”

“Son, you generally have to be religious to be a preacher.”

“I’m serious! I can be a preacher. I know what God wants.”

He shoves his float in my hand, says, “Watch this, ” and heads toward the sidewalk corner. Up on the edge he perches and raises his fist.

“Hey, everyone! Listen up! I have a message from God! Seriously! This is important! God wants to tell you something!”

The street preacher stops and stares. A couple passers-bye look up.

“Stop being assholes! Start being nice to each other! That is all.”

He climbs down and takes his float back. “See?” he says.

The street preacher, dumbfounded, departs. A couple people clap. I am speechless at first, but eventually reply, “I don’t know that i would word it quite that way, but i do think you’ve got the gist of it.”

We are both smiling as we walk and sip. Tho others may be horrified, i am swelling with pride. My stinky, messy, green-haired, selectively-gifted, bad-bathroom aiming boy gets it. He gets it. I must have done something right.

Yup, he’ll be just fine.

Matthew 11:28

I don’t personally, to my knowledge, know any terrorists.  The closest thing i have in my address book are a few friends who are, as the expression goes, “proudly redneck.” But i do have friends and acquaintances from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, India, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and a host of other countries that are far less politically flammable. None of them has ever given even the slightest hint of being a terrorist. Even the Moroccans next door- They may be complete schmukeroons, but they are unlikely to be terrorists (They are so loud, nothing about them is a secret.) If any of them, even the neighbors,  needed a place to rest their head, i would gladly open my door. Without hesitation. Them or their family. It’s the right thing to do for people in need.

This time of year, the story of Mary and Joseph is front and center. Inn after inn turning them away. Mary, on the edge of giving birth, and no one will give them rest. No room. No room at the inn. You can’t stay here. No can do. Keep on walking and take your ass with you.

So Mary gives birth to Jesus in a barn. (It wouldn’t surprise me if the animals in residence curled up close, as many animals are wont to do when they see a baby of any kind in need.) In the beautiful Christmas stories, Mary and Joseph make do and go on with the tasks at hand, without further thought of the innkeepers. But i am willing to bet that they were pissed. And sad. For their own situation, the pitiful start of their beloved son, and the state of mankind itself.  What kind of people turn away a near-term pregnant woman on a cold night? Even in the womb, Jesus must have been shaking his wee head and saying, “No wonder God is sending me!”

We hear the story of Mary and Joseph every year. Lets face it, Christian or not, at least in the U.S., you know how the story goes. It’s part of the reason we are kinder and more thoughtful this time of year.

Theoretically.

But we’ve become terribly hardened and paranoid. The unconscionable attacks on innocents by terrorists, which seem to be on the rise, have us all on the edge of our seats as if we’re watching someone crank the handle on a jack-in-the-box. It’s coming. We know it is. Those fanatics are everywhere and they are out to get us all. Those crazies, with their brown skin and head wraps and accents. Evil. The whole lot of them.  The entire brown population. Up to no good. Because, you know, none of them are average Joes, just trying to make ends meet. None of them go home and read bedtime stories to their kids. None of them are afraid. None of them are human.

So now we have a bunch of refugees clamoring to get into our country. Normally, we’d show off the Statue of Liberty and all her virtues and principles. We’d welcome them. Start charities to help them get on their feet. Help take care of their children. Just like we have refugees of times past. Sure, they’d face some discrimination because, you know, we’re human and all. But we’d help them. These refugees, however, we won’t help. Because they’re brown. Ergo, they aren’t human. So much for our principles.

Nope. No room. No room at the inn. You can’t stay here. Keep on moving and take your camel with you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m afraid of the crazies just as much as everyone else. ISIS, ISIL, the KKK, the neo-nazis, Westboro Baptist Church, and Tom Cruise all terrify me. But i realize that the crazies are far fewer in number than the average Joes. I also realize that i can’t hold all brown people accountable for the actions of ISIS any more than i can hold all Christians accountable for the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s unfair, and it makes life far less interesting for all.

So, how do we embrace our humanity and find room at the inn without being foolish and unsafe? I don’t think we should be Motel 6 and leave the light on for just anyone. We have a decent refugee screening process, so that helps.  Maybe we should just have them stay in the barn. You know, like the badlands in North Dakota or something. (No, i’m not serious.) (But it’s better than turning them away.) (So maybe i am. ) (A little.) (If i was certain it wouldn’t become a prison.) (But i’m not.)

To be truthful, i don’t have a real answer. All i have is a feeling deep in my heart that it goes against everything this country stands for, everything my Christian friends profess, and everything humane to refuse to help refugees. People need our help. They are as afraid of the crazies as we are. They are also afraid of the people who are also afraid of the crazies. Us. I don’t blame them. I am afraid of us too. But i refuse to let my fear get the best of me.

Come in. It’s cold out. Let me get you some tea. And a blanket. You can stay here. Bring the goat. I will give you rest.

 

Grateful Praise

“For the beauty of the Earth,
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise!”

It’s a gorgeous day. Sunny, blue-skied, fluffy clouds, slight breeze. Steering towards hot, but not there yet. I go to the farmers’ market. Sundress and sandals and bangles and raspberry lip stain (Just in case a kilted Liam Neeson happens to be there and wants to kiss me…) I can’t help but smile. I’m here to buy herb plants and local veggies. And tho i complete that task, the bulk of my time is spent wandering. Local artisans ply their wares: Jewelry, paintings, clothing, yard ornaments, toiletries and gewgaws. Local cooks hawk their specialties: Jams, sauces, spices, breads, cakes, and cheeses. Toddlers in cute Sunday outfits delight in marshmallow pop-guns. Blue-haired women of scores of years scarf freshly fried corn dogs. Rough, ungainly men try the skin-softening magic of handmade hand cream. Candles and cutting boards. Horseradish and holsters. You never know what you will find or who you will see. (Tho i have yet to see Liam Neeson).

Home with my loot, i begin Sunday chores. I string up the clothesline. I always feel like Grandma Walton when i hang wash on the line. It’s a really good feeling. Makes me smile. Apartment windows open so the breeze comes in. Plant my new seedlings on the patio: Tomatoe, thyme, rosemary. Vacuum. Walk the dog around the flowering apartment complex. Answer some mail. Set the music to Danny Elfman while i sip on a small, cold glass of wine. Typical weekend activities that hold no significance.

This is life.

The day of weedlinglessness grows ever nearer. It’s important for me to remember that life will go on. Weedlings or not. And if i can enjoy a beautiful day of solitude like today, then what have i to dread? Extra time to smell the roses. Or the rosemary. Even if i never had another date for the rest of my life, i’ve got so much to do and enjoy… How can i allow myself to be maudlin? How can i sit this evening, the scents of herbs wafting around me, the sounds of birds and frogs and leaves in the wind, and not be content?

Because i sometimes forget that “alone” doesn’t mean “unloved”.

And at those moments, i usually receive a sign. A text from an old friend. Or a new friend. A lick from my dog. An invitation to dinner. A call from a weedling. A fortune cookie that reads “Alone doesn’t mean unloved.” (God-Goddess-Universe knows i am sometimes rather thick, so the signs are often blatant). How grateful i am for those signs! They allow me to put my loneliness aside and be joyous. The beauty of the Earth! The glory of the skies! Shoes and ships and sealing wax! Cabbages and Kings! Manalive! Towanda! Up, up and away! And yippee-ki-yay! It’s Howdy Doody time!

Even as we destroy this planet, there is a lot of beauty to be had still. Each honeysuckle blossom. Each kitten. Each babbling brook. I may never get to enjoy Liam Neeson, but i can enjoy these things. And i do. Everyday. Don’t let me forget. And i will remind you, too. We can be joyous together. Take our routine activities and make them special by seeing the magic in them. Noticing the beauty. The flavor. The glory. We all can do it.

Maybe, someday, we can even learn to see it in each other.