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Making the World a Softer, Better Place

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Gracie helping Katie get ready for prom.

This past weekend I kept checking Facebook on my smartphone, waiting for news and pictures. It was a big weekend for my family. My great niece Mollie was in Fort Worth, Texas, competing at the national championships for gymnastics. Meanwhile, her twin sister Katie was on the prom court of the Cambridge High School Junior Prom. Supporting each twin was a matter of divide and conquer for the family. The father, my nephew Kevin, accompanied Mollie to Fort Worth, and took some great pictures. The mother, Shawn, stayed home, along with the younger sister, Gracie, and they helped Katie get ready for the prom. And they took great pictures, too.

It was an exciting weekend for everyone. But the abundance of blessings was really a mixed blessing. Mollie had to miss going to her junior prom because of it falling on the same date as the national gymnastics competition. Katie had to miss cheering for her twin sister as she competed in Texas because she couldn’t be two places at once. Interesting how blessings and sacrifices can be two sides of the same coin.

Shawn was the first to provide an update on Facebook. It was fun to see Katie all dressed up. It was a beautiful evening for beautiful young couples.

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Cambridge High School Prom Court – Katie is 3rd from right.

On Sunday, Kevin entered the following update about Mollie on Facebook.

Mollie is the Senior C National Floor Champion. She finished 2nd in the overall. Took 3rd in vault and 5th on bars.

Mollie was awarded an all expense paid trip back to Texas in October because she made the Junior Olympic National Team. She will meet the Olympic coaches and practice for four days.

Words cannot express how proud we are of her. Congratulations Mollie on an incredible achievement.

A tremendous thank you to Aubrie for the dedication and patience coaching Mollie. Thank you to our parents for helping Mollie get to where she is. Thanks be to God for giving Mollie this incredible talent for gymnastics. It will take her farther than she can ever imagine.

Thank you to Danielle J Lynch [Kevin’s sister who lives in San Antonio] and family for making the weekend trip! Thank you Adrienne Lacy [a family friend] and family for coming as well! Thanks to Chase’s sister Rene’ and her husband Patrick for the hospitality and friendship this weekend. It’s nice to have a fan base everywhere we go! 

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Mollie on Bars – one of four events gymnasts compete in.

Kevin posted several photos he had taken showing Mollie in action. Here’s one of the photos I lifted from Facebook.

My mom, Kevin’s grandma, would have been very proud of both Katie and Mollie. (And Gracie, too, for being a supportive kid sister.) But I think Mom would have been proudest of Kevin. Mom always worried about him. She thought he had way too much energy and creativity for his own good. He was always running. Everything he did, he did fast.

I remember one story Mom told about when she baked and decorated a batch of cut-out cookies for him to take to school to share for his birthday. As usual, he ran as fast as he could to get to the car to go to school, even though this time he was carrying a big round tin full of special cookies. He tripped and fell, and all the beautiful cookies broke into pieces. I’m sure it bothered my mom more than him. He still shared the cookies with his classmates. They tasted just as good whether they were broken or not. It seemed that nothing could slow down his speed of movement nor subdue his enthusiasm for whatever he was doing. (I think his girls all inherited those traits.)

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Kevin on stilts – 1984. Note the stepladder and electrical wires.

When Kevin was 13, he decided he’d make a pair of stilts and teach himself to walk around and see everything from a bird’s-eye perspective. After constructing the stilts, he realized that he needed a stepladder to get on the stilts. When he started walking with the stilts, he discovered he was lucky that the stilts were just short enough that he could still walk under the electrical wire that was strung from the pole to the house – without the stilts catching and pulling down the wire. Kevin’s guardian angel was kept very, very busy throughout his childhood.

Mom prayed for all her grandchildren every day. But I think she must have prayed for Kevin at least ten times a day. She knew that praying for him was the best way to keep him safe – just in case his guardian angel was taking a much-needed nap.

So why would my mom have been proud of Kevin today? In his Facebook post he demonstrated that he’s learned one of the most important lessons in life. He’s learned that we are who we are because of all the people who have helped us in our lives. Like the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It took a village to raise Kevin, and it’s taking a village to raise Katie, Mollie, and Gracie.

I’m thankful that I can be part of this village, that all of us are connected to each other’s lives and well-being. As Joan Chittister said in this month’s “Monastic Way” pamphlet,

There can never be too much kindness in life – either for us or because of us. Every act of kindness makes the world a softer, better place. As Aesop wrote, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

Thanks to everyone reading this post who’s making the world a softer, better place for everyone in their lives.

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Mollie and her coach

 

Bucket List for Advent

Claudia

Claudia

The best thing about Facebook is that it has provided a means to reconnect with several people from my past. One of those connections is Claudia, an old friend from my freshman year in college. I haven’t seen her in almost 50 years. Our only communication had been Christmas cards, until we somehow found each other on Facebook – I don’t remember how it happened. Now we enjoy reading, commenting on, and often sharing each other’s posts at least weekly, sometimes even daily.

Yesterday Claudia shared an idea from her pastor’s sermon – to have a “Bucket List” of things to complete before Christmas. “The actions on this list reflect and share the true reason for the season.” He provided eleven items to help us get started on our own bucket lists for Advent. Here’s his list, along with my comments.

  1. Help a total stranger. I don’t know who this will be, but I’m on the lookout for an opportunity.
  2. Do something special for a neighbor. Maybe I’ll take our new dog Floey to visit dog-loving neighbors.

    Floey waiting for me to finish writing this blog post so we can go for another walk.

    Floey waiting for me to finish writing this blog post so we can go for a walk and see neighbors.

  3. Extend grace to a family member (let them off the hook). That’s easy. My brother Danny and I don’t see eye-to-eye on much of anything, but we still love each other. I think I’ll bring him a tin filled with a variety of the Christmas cookies that Mim and I bake every year using Mom’s recipes. I know that will bring back lots of happy Christmas memories for him.
  4. red kettleDon’t miss a red kettle. That’s a little harder for me. I haven’t given anything to the Salvation Army in years because of their strong anti-gay position. But, I know they help a lot of people. I guess no organization is perfect, and I want to be supportive of all the good they do. I’ll try to keep a little cash in my coat pocket so I can drop something into every red kettle I pass over the next four weeks.
  5. Give of your time to listen to someone’s story. That’s another easy one for me. At a minimum, I can ask each of our 93-year-olds to tell me about their childhood Christmases. That will certainly lead to some good reminiscing, and I’ll learn more about the good old days, and more about the significant memories of each person. And, the 93-year-olds will have the opportunity to relive those memories as they tell their stories.
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  6. Write a note expressing your thanks to someone who has blessed you. I’ll have to think about this one a little. I have been blessed by many people. Maybe I’ll have to write several notes.
  7. Double your tip. This should be fun! Even when the servers are grouchy, maybe a generous tip will make them feel better.
  8. Take a cup of coffee/cocoa to someone out in the cold. I might cross this one off my list. I don’t typically see people working out in the cold. Instead I might heat up a glass of spiced red wine for Mim to help her relax at the end of an extra busy day.
  9. Start a “chain of blessing” by paying the bill of the person behind you (drive through, checkout, etc.) Rather than doing this, I might invite someone who looks extra busy or hassled to cut in line ahead of me (if I’m at the end of the line) in a grocery or department store. I’ll be giving them the gift of a few minutes. Maybe they’ll do the same thing for someone else in another checkout line some day when they’re not quite so hassled.
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  10. Give an anonymous gift of value to someone in need. Our church makes it really easy to do this. We can provide anonymous gifts to residents of the YWCA, and to families at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services Center and the Road Home (a service to homeless individuals and families). Suggested gifts are listed on a bulletin board in church with a code name for each person. Mim and I can identify the gift we want to give and simply bring it to church.
  11. Donate your time to help someone else. This will be one of my favorites. I’ll play the piano for the women’s worship service in jail twice in December. We’ll include an extended time of singing Christmas Carols in these services. Nothing makes me feel the Christmas spirit more than hearing the inmates enthusiastically singing their favorite Christmas carols.

Claudia ended her pastor’s list with the suggestion to add your own list items. Here’s the first addition I made as I customized her pastor’s list into my own Bucket List for Advent.

Giving Tuesday Generosity

  1. Make a generous donation to a favorite charity on “Giving Tuesday.” Today is December 2, “Giving Tuesday,” the day that follows the sequence of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Today Mim and I will make an extra donation to Casita Copan, “a community-based organization in Copan Ruinas, Honduras dedicated to providing a loving and supportive family environment to kids in need.” We found out about this organization a couple years ago from a friend of a friend. We sponsor a little six-year-old girl, Dulce Maria, with a monthly contribution. Today’s extra gift is to help the organization meet the needs of others they care for.

I think I’ll print out my Advent Bucket List and keep it handy so that I can check off items as I complete them. I may think of other things to add to the list, too, to be sure the Advent Season of waiting is filled with doing the things I choose to do. I don’t want Advent to be just a pre-Christmas rush, a time of being too busy to keep my true priorities in line.

Advent Week 1