The Empty Chair

green wooden chair on white surface
Photo by Paula Schmidt on Pexels.com

Every day rolls on and the imprint of her has nearly left the chair that she sat in every day. All that is left is a few items around the house that people did not realize reminded me of her. She has been gone seven months now.

I could still smell her perfume in her house, when I last visited. Of course, I miss more than just who she was in the last few visits I made. I miss every moment with her. We all do.

This is what happens when someone spends the majority of their life caring for other people above themselves, they leave a gigantic hole.

sky ditch eye hole
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Like a sinkhole, everyone stands around the edge not to get too close. They all talk about the sting of death and share stories of their loved one.

At least we did her celebration of life with a lot of the very people who she left behind. It was a welcome relief to not have to see an endless line of all the people she ever helped.

She would have had one of those funerals with a thousand people. She touched so many lives, that I am not even sure a church in her small hometown could have housed us. This is how it is for the kind of servants that realized that they were nothing, if the did not serve others.

My grandma poured herself out for others so often. She was often exhausted at the end of a day, after making sure that everyone had what they needed. I am remember her leaning back in her recliner and flopping her feet over to my Grandpa in surrender of the day.

He lovingly would rub her feet and help her to begin the shutdown of a day.

She never claimed to be a perfect person, she had her share of struggles, yet this showed whenever she told stories. She often bestowed grace on other people who I would not have.

Her life impacted so many people and I know she is making people laugh in heaven as I write this. She understood who Jesus is and she knew how much she needed his forgiveness. I can only hope to live up this part of her life, to fully know how much I can’t do this life without a dependence on Jesus.

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Thinking Music – Part 1- Waiting on the World to Change

I remember that clear, cool September night under the stars, listening to John Mayer perform, “Waiting on the World to Change.” He seemed to know the frustrations and angst in everyone in the crowd.. At the time, Mayer was one of my favorite singers and some of his lyrics were thought provoking and they still hold true today. It is a simple song that holds a lot of great truths.

Mayer sings…

Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could
Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

Of course, some of these lyrics are contextual, but I think he grasped in just a few lines how the angst against the perceived powers in control will be better when we are in control. This
“we” is how most younger generations have felt. Sometime in my late 30’s I went from being someone who felt a part raging against this machine, to becoming a cog in the wheel,  “get off my lawn” kind of person.

I am not meaning this politically, but merely in the generational sense, that I did not understand most of the younger adult people that I worked and lived around. In my early adult life, I often chose to serve others and help others over being there and helping my own family. I bought into the lie that you can serve others and everything else will fall into place. I know this not to be true now.

We have to find this ever illusive balance that so many strive for, but I so rarely see. I walk my neighborhood and see plenty of people chasing after money, addictions, and fame. I see the rare person who serves other people or who plays with their children in their yard. This life seems unsustainable to me as one part of a DINK (double income no kids) couple.

I feel because we as a society have, in many ways, given up on this balance, we only find time for people and causes that make us feel like we are making a difference in our opinions. We are so swelled up with news that we only read news from our “trusted sources,” that we do not consider what it means to be a different social class, race, or sexuality.

Where do we start? We have to start with ourselves, becoming the kind of people we want to see in others. I speak this to myself today, as I like to the sideline coach of my life, rarely being the player who acts on the calls of the coach.

Where do we go?

We start making one good choice a day and sticking with it. For me, it has included running a mentoring club for students after school, forming a writing club, having conversations challenging values, but I know the greatest work is in me. Just doing things does not help, until we really work on the biases and judgments we place on others. Social justice is necessary for our society, but we must work on the injustices we hold latent in our hearts as well.

Pink

My wife wrote an amazing post about working with students in her new position. It is an amazing view into lives that many of us never consider.

Tattooed Daughter

bunny.jpg

“Why you doin it that color?”

I heard one of my students ask another.

“I like it that way.” The girl answered immediately and without an ounce of adolescent, self- conscious hesitation.

This seemed to be enough. That’s all she had to say to make the one asking move on to other topics. Her painting evolved into something totally different than everyone else’s, I thought about the gutsiness of this. How so few adults I know can live so unencumbered nevertheless a teenager. How so many of us spend most of our lives giving ourselves permission to say this very thing – because I like it that way.

As she painted, she went on to tell me that the reason I had not seen her before was that she’s just with us for the summer. Her dad lives here and she usually lives with her mom in Chicago during…

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Coffee Log, Day 108

I really loved my friend Gareth’s response to Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. Read on and subscribe to his posts.

Livesay Writing

Hi.

On a dark March evening in 2013, lying beside a sleeping woman with whom I’d been collaboratively ruining two lives – mine and hers – I was strung out, lit up, crying, and inspired as the hot blue TV played the Hokkaido episode of No Reservations. Anthony Bourdain was sipping soup. The soup was prepared with fish sperm. Absurdly removed from my nook in North Carolina, that scene confirmed my decision that – no matter where I was or who I was with in a year – I’d follow up on a lead to teach English in Japan. In 2014, I did just that. All that is to say: Anthony Bourdain helped me save myself.

So it was a little disorienting that he hung himself last night in a French hotel.

I went to lunch at China Chef for the third time today. It was less crowded but…

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Teachers

 

Growing up, I always admired my teachers. I was surrounded by education from a young age, as my stepmom went through part of her education and began teaching when I was in my formative years. She taught drama as one of her subjects, but I think it made one of the biggest impacts on me. I have always loved escaping life through theater, not as a way of avoiding life, but to remind myself of the good things in life. Education has brought so much good into my life, this all happened because of my teachers.

It was Ms. Parrish, my 3rd grade teacher at Rex Elementary who constantly encouraged me and helped me memorize my multiplication facts which I still use today (especially when I tutor math). She also taught me that life could be hard, but that I could persevere through it.

Rex Elementary
Rex Elementary in Haysville, KS

It was Mr. Kirkes, who I frustrated to no end in 6th grade at Freeman Middle School, but he hardly ever let it show. This man wrote me up nearly forty times and I was definitely labeled a bad kid then, yet he was still unusually kind. I hate I raised his blood pressure so much.

It was Mr. Engels, who was probably my most gifted teacher who wore a crazy nose and recited Cyrano De Bergeac, which is now known better for the movie Roxanne, starring Steve Martin. Mr. Engels would creatively teach language arts and is probably the first person in secondary school to help me enjoy language arts.

It was Mr. Zemanick who helped me after school so many times to raise my grade in his math class. I mean this guy literally had the patience of Job with me. I found out later he became a school counselor which is so fitting.

Colt
Campus Colts – Our Mascot

So from this student who no one even thought would finish college, I have a Master’s degree in Education from Elon University and daily try to live up to these titans (and others). I never wake up regretting becoming a teacher. I never wonder how could my life have more purpose or mission. I get up every day and look forward to what “Chad” is in my classroom that will defy odds and make this world a better place.

Remember to appreciate teachers this week. Have your child write out a nice card, send them $5 to a coffee place, donate to Donorschoose or just shoot them an email. We live and breathe on this stuff. We love the kids and our job, but sometimes it gets hard. We need more funding, we need better pay, but to be honest most of us will be there because we have decided it is the only life we can live with.

 

 

 

A Few Highlights from January so far…

I want to share a few links to items that have been reshaping my mind so far this year. Enjoy and please comment if you try one of them out! pexels-photo-416728.jpeg

Breaking Bad By Community

I think there is something in my DNA that loves to break type casts. I think it might have started when a family member lost their farm for housing a portion of the Underground Railroad many years ago.

I think there is a wrestling in my mind that wants to struggle against the powers that be. Often it can come off that I like dramatics or just enjoy chaos, but I am finding a greater purppose, I was born to rage against injustice.

I am figuring out as I age that raging can be actually be healthy. Not in the way of raising blood pressures and screaming, but in the way of helping people see that others are out that suffering exists and what they can do about it.

It happens in different places, today, it happened in a Jiffy Lube waiting room. I was talking with a woman and we started to discuss affordable housing in our neighborhood. She lives a few miles away from me, but we both have seen the property values skyrocket in our neighborhoods. We talked about the challenges there are for affordable housing. She is a retail store manager and stated if she had to find another place right now, she would have to live at least thirty minutes away. We did not solve the situation in the waiting room, but we both left feeling that someone else sees and wants to change an issue in our city. I believe the most gigantic changes in history started with conversations much like this.

I used to think it was better to just talk about trivial things when I meet a stranger, but I now realize I only have so much time, so I often lead with topics that really matter to me. It has lead me to some interesting viewpoints and a greater appreciation for my city. I constantly find people who really care about their neighbors, very deeply care for their neighbors. I am amazed at how many times I thought I was right about an issue, when I saw it from other viewpoints, I changed my position drastically. I learned to empathize with me people not like myself.

I go to many places that many of my neighbors would never darken the door of. I love to get into a lot of places that make me uncomfortable. My doctor serves mostly Medicaid patients who are very poor and struggling to make ends meet often. I like to shop in places where I rub elbows with other people who are much different than me. It stretches me, it challenges me and it reminds me that there is something that goes deep beneath the veneer of my seemingly wealthy city. There are many issues that we, who have quite a bit, stay blind to.

I have visited homeless camps, been in “dangerous” neighborhoods, and been in a few places I was not sure I would come out of alive, but it has made me a much different person. “Therefore by the grace of God, go I”, I often think. I am only a few steps away from being where some of the people are, but I also realize that they are many steps ahead of me in other areas. When you get away from a capitalistic mindset that states, financial success = happy life, which many people know is a lie yet they strive to be wealthy and “independent”. I have given up on the idea of my independence and know that I need other people and they need me (often they don’t even know it yet).

This exhibits itself more and more at a monthly dinner gathering we have. I find that I miss the people who come together regularly to have dinner and conversation in between our meetings. We have began to count on each other in much deeper ways as we just spend time together and get to know each other. Community is a beautiful thing, but it is hard to cultivate without commitment. Aren’t most things difficult to grow without commitment?

I see the power of the rhythms being our life. Rhythms that interlope with people that encourage and challenge us to be more than what we were, when our time began. Community is beautiful that way, I never feel alone or like I could not contact someone to talk. We may not believe the same way, but we care enough about each other to support each other.

I used to balk at the idea of going to social gatherings a lot more, now I am slowly learning to embrace it as a chance to change. A chance to learn something new and to teach someone else something new. To find a new avenue towards learning and peacefulness.

I challenge you today to start a weekly or monthly flow of connecting with others that will stretch you a bit.

Here are a few resources to help you!

Craigslist

Has groups under a section entitled Community. You can find a lot of nice people through these ads, of course with anything be wary of where you are meeting, etc…

MeetUp

Meetup is a great app/website for meeting people with similar interests

Volunteering

My wife and I have a friend who set out in 2017 to volunteer at all kinds of organizations, while she has been doing that she has had so many opportunities to connect with other people. You can follow her posts here!