Courage under Fire

It is Sunday morning, and I am once again late to church but determined to go.  I moved to this new town in east Texas a few months ago, and I know two people.  It’s time to make some friends and find a good church.

As I make my way through the parking lot, I see a young black woman with three boys heading towards the large church door.  The boys are reluctant to go, and I hear her encouraging them to keep moving.  She’s black and about to walk into a church auditorium filled with a 1,000  white people.

“Have you visited here before?” I say to her.  She looks quietly and says, “No.”

“Do you mind if I sit with you?  I’m new, too.”

“Okay,” she quietly says.

We walk in and there is beautiful music and the church is packed. We sit in the back because that’s the only place to sit.  Her boys are cleanly dressed but there are large patches on the middle boys jeans.  Two of the boys immediately ask to go to the bathroom. I don’t see them for the next 30 minutes.  My impulse was to check on them, but I figured they were her kids and maybe she needed a break from being a single mom.  I decide not to butt in, which goes against who I am.

While the congregation is singing a song neither of us know, I start talking to the lady I just met.  I already consider her to be a very brave woman.  I learn she just moved from Mississippi with her children because she had a job lined up to take care of an elderly woman, but the woman passed away.  She is like me, new to the area.  She talks more, and I learn she is like me, she doesn’t have much money.  She’s not asking me for anything, but I learn her electricity will be turned off in the next few days if she can’t put together $50.  She has also applied for numerous jobs and is clearly not lazy.

The title of the sermon is “Courage under Fire”.  We both listen intently.  We’ve been there.

I’ve gone to numerous Baptist churches, numerous times.  These days there are usually 5 – 10 beautiful, talented people on the platform of the church singing praises and alleluias.

The contrast hit me, however.  The contrast of so many white people in beautiful clothes rejoicing and the young single black woman in the back of the church with 3 boys wondering if her electricity is going to be turned off.  My new friend has gone to a few churches in the area, but they all tell her they don’t have any money to give.

When the service is over, I offer to take her family out for pizza but first I need to stop by my apartment and find some cash.  We agree to meet at the pizza place.  I finally arrive, and they are sitting in the hot baking sun waiting for me.

Tamara asks me like she’s already figured out she hasn’t made a new friend, “Are we getting this to go?”

I look at her and ask, “Do you want it to go?”  Then I realize, she thought I didn’t want to sit with them and have a meal.

Her boys are very respectful and eat salad without complaining.  Clearly, she is doing something right.  What kid fills his plate up with salad?  A hungry one.

Tamara and I visit as the boys eat their food hurriedly, then go straight to the arcades.  My new friend and I have money for food but no entertainment. The boys don’t give up asking her for a quarter to play a game.  I never hear them whine when the answer is no.

“I try to not let it show on my face, but I’m worried,” she tells me. “I don’t want my kids to see how worried I am.”

“Do you have access to the internet?” I ask her.

“I go to the library and use the internet so that I can apply for jobs,” she says. “My kids think I’m going to work.”

“I can’t go back to Mississippi,” she tells me.  “My family has abused me,” she says quietly but clearly.  There are no tears, but there is a look of resolve on her face.

“I love to cook.  I can work two jobs.”

She shows me numerous photos of special meals she has prepared. The strawberries dipped in chocolate catch my eye. I can tell she is trying to find her way through life and is not going to give up.  She told me that after the church service, she spoke to someone about her predicament. They agreed to pray for her.  She also left her phone number with them.

Hopefully, the beautiful white people at the affluent church will do more than pray.  I hope they will give.  I hope they will help her find a job, so she never has to worry again about her electricity being turned off.

As we part and go our separate ways, one of her boys looks at me and says, “See you next time at church.”  I hope he associates church with people who want to support his family.  I hope they feel welcome if they decide to return to the predominantly white church.  I hope when they’re my age, they will remember someone from church tried to help them.

I tell my family the story, and they worry that I am prey to scammers.  They have no idea how much joy it brought me to help someone in need.  I am out a few dollars for pizza and gas, but my tank is full.

 

It is good to be alone at times, but when you know a storm is coming, there is safety in numbers.  Especially, if those numbers are on your side, and you know the storm will be hitting them, too.

On a very blustery day, I was sitting on the front porch of my sister’s beautiful home. I was alone, I thought.  I noticed a nearby tree with very thin limbs and some small objects on them.  As I looked closer, I could see that the small objects were little birds clinging to the tree limbs for dear life!

When the winds came, the birds did not move.  Their claws dug in deeper, and they stayed together.  There was no arguing amidst the group; they were partners.  They had resolve. They did not know if the storm might destroy everything around them. There must have been some innate voice that said, “Stay with your friends.  They have your back.”

I love the beauty of tall trees, but on this particular day, I loved the beauty of the bird family sticking together even more.Birds on Tree

Partners

Rich vs. Poor

It’s time for me to confess the truth.  Apparently, I cannot write any other way. I have to bear my soul and my truth.

  1. I just moved to an east Texas town;
  2. I don’t presently have a job;
  3. I need a job;
  4. I only know a couple of people, but I did meet my neighbors. Thankfully, they seem like very nice people; and
  5. I need to get to know more people, so I’m not harassing the people I do know!

Part of the reason I blog, is because I amuse myself.  I don’t have a dog or a cat or a child.  It’s just me.  I have no money. Well, just a tad or I wouldn’t be typing this on my laptop. The truth, since I’m not able to lie or even hide the truth, is that I’ve made some bad decisions and right now, I have a tv but I can’t afford to hook it up.  (pitiful, isn’t it.)

So, I amuse myself, and that’s where you come in.  I need you to interact with me if for no other reason, maybe you just feel sorry for me.  (I used to hate that, but I guess my pride has gone down a few more notches.)

You see, I want to be perfect.  I look at my friends on Facebook and other places.  They seem to be really happy.  Some of them even have enough money to travel with since they’ve retired.  I love that for them.  They are kind, generous people.  While I don’t have money in the bank (ok, maybe $15 today), I am wealthy in the kind of friends I have. They are quality people, and I love that about them.  They know me pretty well.  They know my ups and downs.  They know many of my secrets.  They know I’m not perfect.  No amount of money can buy that.

Maybe I’m rich after all.

Barefoot Cowboys

I’m a born and raised Texan.  I was born in the 50s on New Years Day in a small west Texas town.

I grew up on the border of Juarez and El Paso.  Flash forward a few years, and I worked for some wealthy people in downtown Dallas.  I handled numerous amounts of money, but it was just a bunch of numbers to me. I worked for a prominent attorney who had a nervous breakdown and was rushed to Timberlawn in the middle of the day.  Later, I worked for a Foundation that handled a bunch of donor money.  Some of the people even ended up havin’ their name put on a hospital building. I’m sure it was exciting to them.  I was just glad that I spelled their name right on the legal document and kept my job.

It’s been a few years since I saw Lucy Pappillion (see Walker Railey of First United Methodist) walk down the hallway.  My boss opened the door, and they talked.  Didn’t get to see any legal documents on that, but I bet they would have been interesting.

I talked to Lance Rentzel once.  He called another boss of mine.  It was in the 1980s, so I knew his name, but my boss had pounded into my head, “ALWAYS ask the person on the phone to spell their last name.”  I asked Lance to spell his.  A few minutes later, my boss came out and said Lance wasn’t happy about that.  I shrugged my shoulders.  There were a lot of people who were not happy about Lance.  I wasn’t too bothered that I asked him to spell his last name.  I could have asked some other questions.

So now, I’m retired and livin’ in East Texas.  Love the tall trees and most of the people.  I’ve never seen so many white people with bad teeth.  When I went to the local Social Security office, there were some people that looked like they had fallen on hard times.  I can kinda relate.  I’ve had some hard times, too.

Today, I went to a garage sale down the street.  As I was leaving, a middle aged cowboy with no shoes on his feet asked me if I had $20 so that he could buy some “drawers” (that’s Texan for underwear).  “Sorry, I don’t have $20, but you look like you need some shoes!”

“Makes my feet tough,” he said as he turned and walked away. I noticed that not only did he have bare feet, but he did indeed have a hole in his drawers!

Who would my father be without his mental illness?

I’m a big fan of Pete Earley.Below is a link to his website which features a writer who asks about his father’s mental illness.

Mental illness is a thief. It robs people of joy and contentment. It gives them despair, instead of friendships.

It is something that everyone should know about.

My mother had schizophrenia. It robbed her of enjoying life.

http://www.peteearley.com/2015/08/24/a-14-year-old-asks-who-would-my-father-be-without-his-mental-illness/

The Sun DO Shine!

Driving home from work last night, I heard an amazing story on NPR (National Public Radio).

A man was freed from being on death row for 30 years. Anthony Ray Hinton was freed after being wrongfully convicted in the slaying of two Alabama shootings,  He was freed partly because of the persistent work of the Equal Justice Initiative,

Some other types of news media reported him saying, “The sun does shine!” Hmmm….I kind of like, “The Sun DO Shine!”, You can hear his words if you click on the link below.

http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=433478728&m=433513429

Freed in April, 2014, Anthony Ray Hinton addressed the media. I think it is a powerful speech.  I don’t know what he is doing with his life today, but on that day, he was thankful that the sun DO shine.

Thank you, Mr. Hinton, for sharing words of wisdom. May we ALWAYS remember that “He sits high, but He bows low.”  In our darkest hours, God sits high, but he bows to the person who is at their lowest point.

Below is part of the written transcript:

ANTHONY RAY HINTON: The sun do shine. Thirty years ago, the prosecution seemed deemed to take my life from me. They just didn’t take me from my family and friends. They had every intention of executing me for something I didn’t do. But for all y’all that’s snapping the cameras, I want you to know there is a God.

The Emergency Room

I spent today in the emergency room with a man I have loved over 20 years. We were once married. Unfortunately, I took many things for granted during those 20 years, including him, so when he called me this morning to let me know he was having some pain and felt he needed to go to the hospital, I dropped everything to run to him.  Although his father was a physician, he tends to not see any physician on a regular basis. Hence, a call in to work because my love was past due for an ekg and all of the other tests they did today. Heart problems were ruled out, thankfully, and a prescription or two was written for some much needed medicine.

I loved being with him today. I loved to remember trips we’ve made together. It was time well spent, especially since he was able to go home afterwards.

We are peculiar people, he and I. Marriage and divorce can be very slippery slopes to maneuver, but I had today with him. We held hands, talked about the children (our dogs) and listened to each other.  Some couples never know the closeness that he and I felt today……I guess as Isobel from Downton Abbey expresses (see my previous posts), we are some of the “Lucky Ones”.  At least, now I know that and hope to never take it for granted again.

Running Toward Others

I’ve had the pleasure of working at a call center for almost a year. Most of the people who sit in my circle do not look like me. They are younger and their skin is much darker than mine. I’ve learned a lot about them. I’ve learned that they laugh when they make a mistake. They get frustrated with themselves if they make a mistake, and they expect to come in each day to do better and try harder.

They laugh. They sing, and they care about each other. They do not wallow in the past. One of the young black women in my circle said recently, “When I was younger, I wanted to go into acting.” She is funny, talented, and I could definitely see her in that role, so I asked her, “Why didn’t you try that out? I think you’d be good at it.” She said, “There was a white girl in my high school group who told me that they didn’t need a black girl in the Acting Club.”

May we never be that cruel to anyone – no matter what color their skin is.

Run toward others today – no matter their skin color.  It might just make you happy.

Dogs and Smiles

There is a wonderful pet adoption program that I’ve been able to be a part of.  It’s called appropriately, “Love on Wheels”.

It turns out that there are some places in the northern states of the U.S. that have a shortage of pets.  In Texas, we have plenty!! Someone, I think it was Stacy, came up with the idea of saving the rescues in Texas and sending them to deserving folks in New York.

I had the pleasure of fostering two of the dogs in the early stages of the program. They are such a delight. Usually the first couple of days, the dogs seem very sad, but by the third day, they begin to perk up. By the time they make it to New York, their tails are wagging.  You can see a big smile at the 1:37 and also, the 1:54 mark of the youtube video below. That was one of my fosters, Smokey. She was the cutest dog and made me so happy in such a short amount of time.  I cried when she left, but, as you can see, she is in good hands and that makes me even happier!

I smile every time I see the new group headed to New York.  Happy tales to all of you precious puppies.

Giving and the role it plays in happiness

It was a joy recently to attend an anniversary party for two people I met about 30 years ago.

The setting was a large room at a beautiful country club.  The room was filled with people who were smiling and enjoying the moment.

When I was in my twenties, I was engaged to a young man. I watched my engagement ring dance in the church lights as Jim and I sat together.  He introduced me to Gilda and Hollis.  Jim’s friendship did not last, but my friendship with the young couple has lasted for decades.

Their youngest son and two daughters provided the entertainment for the evening, as did their numerous grandchildren. Their friends shared stories about the couple.  (Some can even be repeated.)

I’m not a person that enjoys crowds, so I try to steer away from large gatherings. This night was different. I knew the people we were celebrating. I knew part of their secret to joy and happiness.  Not only do they laugh a lot, but they have also given to others.  They’ve given their time, their talents and their money.

Thank you, Gilda and Hollis, for showing me what happiness looks like, and for allowing me to see the impact of two unselfish people who share their love for God, for each other and their friends and family.

At this point in my life, I think I’m enjoying anniversary parties more than I do weddings. I prefer watching old friends dance under the lights.

If you would like to share your talents or your money, there are several websites that might be of help.  http://www.gofundme.com/

https://www.volunteermatch.org/