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On being attacked by a dog

WARNING: this story is about a dog attacking me and my dog. While we are both fine, the story could be triggering to victims of violence. Please read with caution.

February 14, 2020

The Details

Spectrum was due by 4 (Wi-Fi woes) so when I got home around 3:35, I hurried to get my beagle, Isabella, out for a potty break before they arrived. We walked maybe 3 minutes before she was done with her business and we turned back for home. Just before I stepped into my yard, I saw Dobby, the neighbor’s dog, cutting across my front yard from my back yard. It was about 3:40 pm at that point.

“Oh, Hi Dobby,” I said, “What are you doing . . .” That’s the last thing I remember before he rushed towards me and Isabella.

Dobby, a rescue dog who belongs to our next-door neighbors, is noisy, but skittish. He barks a lot, but our dog does too. In fact, Isabella and Dobby have had an ongoing conversation for several years. One would hear the other and respond enthusiastically. So, when I saw Dobby, I wasn’t even a little nervous.

And that’s the first lesson I’ve learned from the whole thing. See, I’ve known my whole life that dogs of any breed can snap and lose their ever-loving minds. When I was in first grade, a preschooler in our community was mauled by a police dog. I have vivid memories of her struggles and the subsequent comments my dad made about dogs: “Under the right circumstances, any dog will bite, maybe even attack.”

I knew this, but I now realize that I didn’t really believe it. I’m a dog lover. I’ve never been bitten by anyone else’s dog, and any bite I’ve gotten from my own animals was under adverse conditions that made a bite the only effective means of communication. So, when Isabella and I would be out walking and fenced-in dogs would bark at us, I didn’t jump or run or react. I might remark, “Well, hello there Noisy! Aren’t you unwelcoming today!” And Isabella and I would continue our walk. Lesson number one (a four-plus decades one that has lain in wait): Dogs will bite. And also, it hurts when they do.

Anyway, Dobby’s presence in my yard that day didn’t give me immediate cause for concern. I greeted him. He barked at Isabella. She barked back.

And then in a flash he was on her and I was trying to get between them, but Dobby was stronger and faster and Isabella is a beagle princess, not a fighter, so she was trying to get away and I was screaming and screaming and screaming for help, and no one was coming, and I thought he was going to kill her especially when he went for her throat because he got her by the jugular and started to pull back and shake her. I got her away from him. (Isabella has rope burns from the leash which was looped under her tummy.) Losing his hold on her neck, he went for her leg, then he dove for her underbelly; at one point I thought, maybe he’ll pull her leg off and will be distracted by that and we can get away. I kept screaming for help, trying to find more volume from deep in my core and failing, fearing my voice would give out before help came. Eventually, I just curled down over Isabella, with my head and face covered and tried to keep hers covered as well.

A humor break: Isabella is a submissive dog; always has been. Still, she wanted to protect me somehow, so from under my left arm she barked intermittently at Dobby. I am not fluent in beagle, but I think she said something like, “Please don’t do that!” or “That’s not nice!” or “Please stop!” Valiant effort but, bless her heart, not effective in the least.

Not able to gain purchase on his target, Dobby went after me, grabbing my right arm. Just as he did, I saw the blood dripping from around his teeth and gums. I knew Isabella had been bitten badly.

And that’s when Mike, a neighbor from the next street over, came running down through the woods. The structure of our neighborhood is like an amphitheater with our house at the base and Mike’s at the rim. The acoustics are such that I can hear him talk on his phone when he is outside . . . and I have significant hearing loss! So, my screams carried up to his ears and he came running, as did Darlene, a woman who lives near him.

Later, I asked Mike and Darlene what they witnessed.

Mike said, “Dobby had a firm hold on your right arm growling and tugging. [I was yelling but] he never let go until I was only three feet from you and then Dobby turned, showed his teeth, and started growling at me.”

Darlene said, “The dog had hold of something and and was shaking it, but I couldn’t tell from where I was if it was your arm or your dog.”

Mike picked up a limb to threaten Dobby which got the dog to respond. Then, Mike chased Dobby back to his driveway and returned to check on me. Before he got to me, Dobby was back, headed for me and Isabella, still huddled on the ground. This time, Mike chased Dobby all the way back to his home where the teenaged son met him at the door and took possession of his dog.

Mike’s a big guy—well over six feet tall—with a big voice. “That dog was not afraid of me at all,” Mike told me. “Not at all.”

Darlene had arrived by this time.

Isabella will be in the cone for another 10 days. Zingo is keeping her company.

“I knew from the blood either you or your dog was badly hurt,” she told me. “When I arrived, I saw it was your arm and just made sure you kept pressure on it to slow the bleeding. Then I called 911.” (She made the call at 3:54 pm, meaning the whole thing lasted between 10-14 minutes.)

The EMTs arrived in minutes, examined my arm, said I should probably see a doctor, and offered to drive me to the hospital. I declined, more anxious to get Isabella to the vet, but Jay (who had arrived about the same time as the EMTs) assured them that I would be going to see a doctor shortly. Animal control had arrived too; they made a report, and impounded Dobby.

The end result is that I’m fine and Isabella will be. My arm is very sore and bruised, but not broken. There are a few puncture wounds and the outline of a dog mouth imprinted in my skin, but the bone was not compromised, so healing should be quick and lasting. Isabella’s injuries were worse than mine. She had wounds at her throat, groin, and eye along with miscellaneous scratch and bite marks. However, she had quick surgery thanks to the good people at Cedar Ridge Animal Hospital, and will be just fine.

Some reflections

This is a complex situation that involves lots of humans. I’m an animal lover. And Dobby is a family pet. His family loves him. They are good people who take care of their pets. This incident is evidence of a fencing problem, not a character flaw. I am not a perfect pet mom and have made my share of mistakes. I at least understand containment problems with dogs—I have had beagles for heaven’s sake. So let’s all try to remember the Golden Rule here and treat them (in the comments) as we would want to be treated. They are suffering too. I cannot imagine how upsetting this has been for them.

Isabella and her favorite human a day or so after the attack.

Dobby is a rescue. His current family did not train him to attack. Perhaps that was a part of his former life; it is for so many dogs. (And by the way, let’s make that stop.) I’m very sad for Dobby. I know he just snapped due to something in his past that came slamming into the present. At some point, he was a puppy who was mistreated and neglected. Ultimately, those who use animals for harm are the ones who create this kind of perfect storm in the first place.

Still, I have been changed by this attack. It was terrifying. I thought it would never end. I thought I’d have to call our kids and tell them Isabella was gone. As a result of the attack, I will always be more cautious around animals. I’ll start carrying something to defend myself and my dog when we go for walks.

One thing keeps looping through my brain through all of this: what if Isabella were my human daughter (don’t tell her, but she’s 100% canine), and Dobby were her boyfriend? It happens all around us you know. A little boy is abused, neglected, used for the wrong reasons. His past slams into his present and prevents him from having healthy relationships. He grows up and meets a girl who realizes the danger too late. You know the stories . . . they are legion.

I don’t know the answer to these problems, but I do know all of us are both broken and beautiful, and that God loves us beyond and through all of our imperfections. I know all children should be treasured, loved with an everlasting love. I don’t know what will happen with Dobby, but I know I will continue to try to love the people in my life deeply and fully as Christ loves me. My daily, fervent prayer is that the love I share will, by the power of the Holy Spirt, seep into cracks of pain and regret and will bring hope that empowers and transforms. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

broken and beautiful

Still "Don't Know Beans about Praying"

cottonpatchgospelBack a lot of years ago, I wrote a post about the struggle of praying in the midst of brokenness. Here's an updated version for 2020.

“Similarly, the spirit also helps us out in our weakness. For example, we don’t know beans about praying, but the Spirit himself speaks up for our unexpressed concerns. And he who x-rays our hearts understands the Spirit’s approach, since the Spirit represents Christians before God.” Romans 8:26-27 The Cotton Patch Version

Clarence Jordan (translator of The Cotton Patch Version) is right. I don't know beans about praying. Prayer absolutely blows my mind: God, the creator of the universe, wants to be in communication with me? I really can't grasp that.

But I pray anyway. I pray to music. I pray Scripture. And I pray for loved ones. (Names changed.)

  • For Alma and Beatrice and Carol, homebound by circumstances outside their control in need of more comfort than I could ever provide.
  • For Denise and Elmer, Florence and Grayson, Helen and Ian whose sons died a decade ago yet the pain is new every morning.
  • For baby Jenna in the hospital and for Karl in prison.
  • For families I know--too many--born into poverty, struggling to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, only to find they have no boots.
  • For the ailing, the lonely, the grieving, the depressed, the hurting . . .

Yeah, I gotta tell ya. I don't know beans about praying.

But thanks be to God, knowing is not necessary. Romans 8:26-27 (NRSV) says “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (emphasis mine)

And when I read that I sigh: a sigh of relief. I sigh because suddenly I remember, I’m not alone.  I sigh, I breathe, remembering that Alma is not alone, and Beatrice isn't and neither is Carol. The Spirit is sighing with me, magnifying those sighs, translating them into words that I can't seem to find, building them into bridges from the hearts of the hurting to the very heart of God.  I sigh knowing there's a bridge for Denise and Elmer and all grieving parents and that Karl and Jenna can cross it too. And I sigh so deep within my spirit, beyond the flood of tears that chokes my heart for those living in the grip of poverty. I sigh with relief because as I do, I find that the Spirit is already there; the bridge is already built. Everyone has brand new boots with nice long straps. I don't have to find the words to the perfect prayer; because “. . .God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes” for me.

Even though I don’t know beans about praying.

Ahhhhh.

Customer Service--Moccasin Style

I was in the waiting area when the woman rushed in, snapped her umbrella closed, shifted her parcels to balance her load, and approached the receptionist.

“Hello; could you tell me what time Mr. Person-Next-Door will be in today?”

The clerk smiled apologetically; this was clearly not the first time she had been asked a question like this. “We are no longer the same practice,” she said. “And so, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what their schedules are.”

The woman put her packages on the floor and stood again. “Oh. Well . . . will he be in at some point today?”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know.”

“Okay, well do you think you’ll be here when he arrives?”

“I will be here until five,” she said, still—against all odds—warm and friendly.

She could have said,

  • “Well, let me check my global mind-reader app and I’ll let you know.”
  •  “See, I wouldn’t know that would I? Since WE’RE NOT THE SAME PRACTICE!”
  • “As it turns out, the neighboring businesses do not fill us in on their schedules as much as you might think.”
  • “I can look that up for you at howtheheckdoiknow.com.”
  •  “One moment please. I’m going to need to go scream my head off and I’ll be right back.”

But she didn’t. She just hung in there with the woman, hearing her, being present.

“Oh good! Surely they’ll be in by then. Can I just leave this with you?”

“Of course. You’ll let them know they are here?”

The woman was picking out packages one by one, “What? Oh yes. I’ll leave them a message.” She plucked one package on the desk. “This one is for Person-one. Can you just write her name on it? I forgot. That’s it. ‘Person-one.’ Perfect.”

To be fair, there was not a line of people waiting. The place was actually pretty dead other than the woman who usurped all the receptionist’s time. Still, I’m sure she had things to do.

“Oh I didn’t put the name on this one either. It’s for Person-two. Can you . . .?”

She thanked her, propped the door open with her foot while she opened the umbrella out in the rain, and then she was off. The receptionist turned back to her computer and continued working.

I approached the reception desk, greeted her, and said, “Wow! I’ve led workshops on customer service and I could not have done better myself. That was amazing!”

“Oh,” she said, waving off my compliment, “Thanks! I didn’t mind.”

“Clearly. You were so kind and patient with her!”

“Well, it’s raining. I just put myself in her place. I wouldn’t have wanted to take those packages in and out of my car in the rain either.”

“And that,” I told her, “is the key to good customer service.”

Put yourself in the other’s place; see through their eyes. It’s a good rule for customer service. And, ya know, for life.

7 of my Favorite Teachers

(As the summer winds down, my teacher friends are gearing up for another school year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be rerunning some of my favorite posts about teachers as a reminder of how much educators do to make the world a better place. Let's all thank a teacher today; and let's vote for education reform that honors the good work that our teachers do and respects the value of every single student.)


I've recalled for you here seven of my favorite teachers, in chronological order. (Caveat: I can't pick a favorite from Gardner-Webb Divinity School. For one thing, I still have my Doctorate of Ministry left to do and I ain't crazy. But, I couldn't pick anyway. I love you all!)

1. Ms. Brown, 5th grade. In the 70's, as in every decade, North Carolina tried some stupid stuff in education. In my 3rd and 4th grade years, I was in open classrooms. I don't remember why that was a thing, nor do I really care. I just remember it was loud, distracting, and overwhelming (for me, anyway). In the 5th grade, I got to be in one classroom for the whole day with this one marvelous teacher who loved students and teaching. On what must have been the first day of class, she announced to her class full of mostly white kids, that her name was Mrs. Brown and if we forgot we could just remember that "Mrs. Brown is Brown." Brilliant! She got racism right on out of the way and beat a bunch of 10 year olds to the punchline. She was fabulous.

2. Ms. Highsmith, 6th grade. She's the teacher who said of me, to the class and on my report card, "Aileen has real heart. She sees students in need and cares for them." I didn't know I did that, or at least I thought everyone else did too. She pointed out a giftedness in me that I'd not realized myself. That's a good teacher right there.

3. Ms. Lewis, 7th grade. I was seriously bullied in 7th and 8th grade, but in Ms. Lewis' class, I forgot all about that. Language Arts! Books, language, words. I loved it, loved it, loved it. Plus, she was funny. (I realize now what an amazing gift of comedic timing she must have had for seventh graders to find her humorous!)

4. Ms. Delaney, 9th grade (I think). Mary Delaney, did not play when it came to English grammar. I've always loved grammar, and so I appreciated her zeal. She was also quite quirky, a fact that made her even more loveable. My best friend and I were so crazy about her, that at the end of the year, we took her to our favorite lunch place, our treat. (We had open lunch back then and could leave campus for that blessed hour.) It's to Ms. Delaney's infinite credit that she accepted our invitation, and went out to eat with those two geeky white kids.

Mrs. Hayes (left) and her daughter Carol

5. Ms. Hayes (RIP 2019), 10th grade. Ms. Hayes, sock footed, would not have been five feet tall. But at school, in her 3-4 inch heels, she was a giant. She taught history, but mainly she taught joy. I can still bring her laugh to mind, see her vibrant smile. She was an absolute delight. As a 15 feet year old dealing with all kinds of self-esteem issues, I found her energy exhilarating. Because of her, school wasn't so bad.

6. Dr. Walter Barge, undergrad. Around 1984, Campbell University hired a new dean of the college of arts and sciences, Dr. Walter Barge. Dr. Barge was one of those deans who loved teaching so much that he straddled the administrator/faculty divide and did both. I had him for my senior seminar. He said of my writing, "You have a gift. Develop it." (Then he proceeded to mark up my papers so thoroughly that it was hard to see any evidence of said giftedness.) He was a man of integrity and honor. God rest his soul.

Product Details

Dr. Kremm's book is available on Amazon.

7. Dr. Diane Neal Kremm, grad school, round one. Dr. Kremm was flat out crazy about Southern history. When she taught, history rushed forward into the present, alive and relevant. I sat in her class enthralled, amazed, and inspired. It was invigorating. In her office, she had a portrait of John Brown. What's not to love?

Oh wait! There's one more. And she's my favorite teacher of all time. I was her first student, and she was my first teacher. She taught me to read in her makeshift classroom in the upstairs hallway. She stood at her blackboard easel wielding pastel colored chalk; I sat in a little red chair and propped an oversized book on my knees for a desk. So, yeah: my sister will always be my favorite teacher of all time. (She started her official career as an educator in 1985 and is teaching still.)

So thanks Dawn, for teaching me to read and, ya know, everything. And thanks to all educators who tirelessly bless the children of this world day after day. You absolutely--no question--make a difference.

teacher appreciation

Teacher Appreciation: 5 Love Languages

As the summer winds down, my teacher friends are gearing up for another school year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be rerunning some of my favorite posts about teachers as a reminder of how much educators do to make the world a better place. Let's all thank a teacher today; and let's vote for education reform that honors the good work that our teachers do and respects the value of every single student.


Originally written for Teacher Appreciation Week,
this post has something to offer all year long.
And anyway, shouldn't every week be teacher appreciation week?


One of my favorite books is Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages. The truths of this book have guided me in relationships and in ministry. Chapman's premise is that individuals give and receive love in different ways; that is, we speak different languages when it comes to communicating love. Chapman has identified five love languages: Gifts, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Acts of Service, and Words of Affirmation. It occurs to me that Chapman's book offers insight that might help us encourage our teachers.

Gifts. Chapman makes it clear that the cost of the gift is not the issue. A person whose love languages is gifts, feels just as beloved when the gift is a picture drawn by a child as she does when it is a pricey trinket. The point is to have something tangible. Teachers might enjoy gift cards to a nearby restaurant, items for their classrooms such as school or office supplies, or personal remembrances like flowers or photographs.

Physical Touch. Often, when people hear this one, they think Chapman is referring only to intimate affection. Not true. Those who understand love best through physical touch, appreciate hugs and pats on the back, facials and massages. So, some teachers might really appreciate like a gift certificate for a manicure, pedicure, facial, or massage. Manicures are not terribly expensive and are a real treat for some people. (Do remember to cover the tip in your gift though so that the teacher doesn't have to pay out-of-pocket in order to receive your gift.)

Quality Time. The important aspect of this love languages is presence. I've heard teachers express deep gratitude to those who support their work simply by being present. Is there a teacher in your life who you might visit this week? You could volunteer to read to students, or maybe you could attend a school program or club event. Teachers give so much time to our students, it can be a real blessing when others give a little of their personal time to be a part of the teacher's world for a bit. If you can invest the time, you will be communicating to these educators that what they are doing makes a difference.

Acts of Service. In this case, the languages Quality Time and Acts of Service are closely related. For some teachers, your presence alone will be encouraging. Others will feel even more blessed if you offer to help them with some of the endless task required of them.  This teacher might be happy to leave you in the classroom right by yourself with a necessary task such as grading papers, filing, tutoring, or something else. Teachers rarely have all the help they need. Volunteer your time and teachers whose love language is Quality Time will feel truly appreciated, loved even.

Words of Affirmation. This is the easiest for me to communicate because this is my own love language. I enjoy writing notes or emails, sending texts or messages to tell people I value them. I've also written notes on teachers' white boards and on post-it notes left on their desks. Additionally, I try always to comment on excellence, especially to school administrators. Consider encouraging students to write notes to their teachers. It's never too late: I've heard stories of teachers who received letters from people they taught years, if not decades earlier. These letters are treasures.

Whichever expression you choose, appreciate your local educators this week. And then do it again next week. And the next. Because really: one week couldn't possibly be enough to thank our teachers for all they do for humanity.

And teachers? Thanks. You totally rock!

Teaching: Expectation Achieved

(As the summer winds down, my teacher friends are gearing up for another school year. Over the next few weeks, I'll be rerunning some of my favorite posts about teachers as a reminder of how much educators do to make the world a better place. Let's all thank a teacher today; and let's vote for education reform that honors the good work that our teachers do and respects the value of every single student.)

It’s the rare 18 year old who starts college with the same major she has at her graduation. Even rarer is the one who approaches retirement in that very same career. My friend Lisa is just that extraordinary. What is this compelling field you ask? The answer: middle school education! Middle. School. Ed.u.ca.tion. Teaching pubescent 12 and 13 year olds who giggle when someone says “duty” (“She said doody!”) and who pass gas with smug aplomb. That’s what Lisa signed up for nearly 30 years ago.

It’s true. Even when we were in college, Lisa (Allen) Henson couldn’t wait to teach seventh graders. Some could argue (successfully) that she’s crazy. Just flat-out crazy. But I say she’s a hero. Her commitment to education, inspires her colleagues and transforms her students. Well, just listen to this story she told me a while back.

“Honestly, the entire seventh grade faculty talked about him.” Lisa explained. “They said Jackson* constantly disrupted their classes; and that no matter what they did he just did not respond to discipline.”

Apparently, Jackson’s academic record isn’t exactly admirable. He scores in the lowest percentile on standardized tests. It seems he just never really understands much in the classroom. Or at least, he doesn’t understand the things that are measured on state mandated multiple-choice tests.

Lisa continued. “I couldn’t believe they were talking about the Jackson I knew. I never had those problems with him. Never.” So one day Lisa just asked him. “Hey Jackson? Why do you behave for me and not for the other teachers?”

Jackson, as big as a man, loomed above Mrs. Henson. He looked down at her and said, smiling, “Because you expect me to, Mrs. Henson.”

Expectation achieved.

Hero, right?

(Thanks to Lisa and to all our other educators. You matter. You are our heroes every single day!)

*Name changed.

 

Lisa retired earlier this year. Her daughter, Kristen, is now the only teacher in the family.
preemie

My favorite July 4th story: Meredith (oh what) Grace

One of my favorite posts about one of my favorite people.
In celebration of my 50th birthday 7-22-15, I attempted to write 50 thank you notes. I didn't come close to 50, but I did write some. Like this one.

Technically, in the biological and legal sense, she's no relation. Meredith, daughter of my dear friend Debbie, was born July 4, 1995 at 25.5 weeks; her identical twin fell victim to twin to twin transfusion. Meredith lives 1000 miles away, but for nearly 15 years, our families celebrated Thanksgiving together. I'm so very grateful to have this grown-up miracle in my life.

My beloved Meredith,

Who could have ever guessed that a baby who weighed less than two pounds could make such a big impression on my life? You slipped into this world three months before you were due, right by yourself (your identical twin went straight to heaven, bypassing Earth altogether). Immediately, though, you found yourself surrounded by love—family, friends, medical staff—and found within your tiny little self, the spirit of a champion. I am so very thankful for you, sweet girl, and I thought it was time I tried to tell you how grateful I am for the gift of YOU.

Thank you baby Meredith, for surviving your shaky beginning.  Somewhere in your amazing self, you found the will to thrive. So, after four months in NICU and I-can’t-even-remember-how-many days on the ventilator, you went home. It was only a few weeks later that I got to hold you for the first time. Thank you, tiny one, for smiling at me so readily. I can still recall the feeling I had, holding all five pounds of you (a pound for each month of your life), looking into your beautiful brown eyes. You made me feel like I was the only person in the world. Thank you.

Thank you little girl Meredith, for always being delighted to see me. (You’ve always been so easily delighted.) Thanks for crawling up in my lap, for letting me read to you, for playing games and watching movies with me, for letting me push you on the swings. And as hard as leaving always was, thanks for always holding on so tightly to me, asking me not to leave, begging us to stay longer next time. Oh how I loved every precious moment of those fleeting days.

Thank you middle school Meredith, for being so unexpectedly full of spunk. I know it wasn’t easy. I’m so grateful for the grit in your makeup that kept you moving forward. Middle school is just the worst, isn’t it? I’m so grateful that you survived those difficult times. Thanks for liking me when it was hard even to like yourself. It felt so undeserved and it felt like treasure. It still does.

Thanks high school Meredith, for sticking with it. It is just so very hard . . . being. Especially in high school. But you connected and found friends I’m certain you’ll have for life. Thanks for not giving up on my Meredith during high school. I’m eternally, endlessly grateful.

I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am to have you in my life, but I’m even more grateful that you let me be a part of yours. Thanks for emailing, Facebooking, texting, and SnapChatting with me. Thanks for loving me from far away and for still wanting me to be with you. I’m so very grateful.

You will have nieces and nephews of your own before you can truly know how gratified my heart is that you are a part of my life. So thank you dear girl. Thank you for being Meredith.

I loved you before you were born.

Aileen

Evangelism According to Me

Back in the 70's and 80's, religious tracts were printed by the truckload for eager evangelists--many of them Baptists--itching to bring the masses to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Back then, we followed a sort of scare-them-out-of-hell methodology that led to high numbers of front porch conversions, if not long-term transformation.

religious tract

In time, many practitioners realized that this eternal damnation avoidance strategy wasn't exactly life-giving. This understanding led to an opposite mentality: best not to mention Jesus at all than to scare people into false faith. (All or nothing thinking. It's caused its share of problems.)

Here the good news: there is a middle ground. Think about it: we aren't scared of sharing good news in general. For example, I think everyone should try the restaurant Nine Mile. I don't try to find out if they like Caribbean food before I recommend it either. It's a fantastic restaurant in my opinion, and I want everyone to enjoy it as much as I have. I feel that way about the Biltmore Estate too. And also Disney World. And the movie Finding Nemo. I realize that some of these things are quite pricey and will require some sacrifice for people to enjoy them, but that doesn't keep me from encouraging people to try experiences that have given me joy.

Even so, I don't go through the neighborhood, ringing doorbells, and asking people if they've ever been to Nine Mile. I don't stop people in Aldi and suggest they make a plan now to get to Biltmore Estate during this lifetime. And I don't foist free copies of Finding Nemo on perfect strangers, promising them that this movie will make their lives better (it would of course, but still . . . ). However, if I'm in a relationship with you, I'm eventually going to mention my favorite restaurants, vacation spots, and movies. And if we are really close, I'll do my best to see that you get to enjoy those things at some point, preferably with me. 

To me, evangelism is like that. Because I love church, I want everyone to experience it. Because I love Bible study, I want others to study with me. And because I have found meaning, truth, hope, and joy through my faith in the triune God--Creator, Son, Holy Spirit--I want people I know and love to join me on this faith journey: not because they are scared they will burn in hell, but because they are drawn into the sacred Love of God.  

interracial couple older adults

Beyond Tolerance

When Jack was born, Booker T. Washington was still the principal at Tuskegee Institute. Bernice & Corrine came along later; by the time of their births, Lyndon B. Johnson had already been elected to the House of Representatives. Carrie is the youngster of the group: she was born just as Rosa Parks became active in the NAACP.

None of these senior adults grew up around people who looked much different than they did. And, even if Bernice & Corrine had lived closed together, it’s unlikely that they would have become lifelong friends. There were too many obstacles, too many barriers. Well. It just wasn’t done.

But today things are a little different. Every Thursday at the Senior Opportunity Center in Asheville these folk and others join my exercise class: Jack, a 97 year old white guy who walks with two canes;  Bernice and Carrie, African American grandmothers; and Corrine, a cheerful white lady who lives with her kids.

Really, they should not get along. They should not be friends. Their not-so-shared histories should demand a certain distance.

And believe me: it wasn’t easy at first. A senior center in West Asheville closed. Participants who chose to continue in the program had to go to the downtown location, taking the bus further than they had travelled previously.  These West Asheville members, almost to a person, are white. Downtown participants come from lots of different backgrounds; many are African American. In the beginning, when I would come to teach fitness, the West Asheville folk would sit on one side of the semi-circle and the downtown folk on the other: divided by a visible color line that would have made Jim Crow proud.

But then one day Carrie happened to be sitting beside a white woman named Mae, each on their own side of course, but right next to each other. Carrie said something funny and Mae laughed. Or was it the other way around? I forget. But they laughed. Together. So the next week, they made a point to sit beside each other again.

And the line began to fade.

They’ve been together three years now, those two groups. In a recent class, Jack sat beside Bernice who sat beside Carrie. Yao—a Chinese lady who speaks only scant English—sat on his other side, next to Corrine. No one seemed to realize that they weren’t supposed to be friends, these relics from a different time. No one seemed to remember that they had once been on opposite sides—and not just in my class either. In fact, no one seemed to notice race, creed, or heritage at all.

“Arms up reaching side to side,” I instructed the class. “Now reach over and give your neighbor a pat on the back.”

And they did. Without hesitation.

May God Almighty bless you . . .
until you become a community of peoples.
Genesis 28:3

(One of my favorite posts of all time, this one was first published in 2011.)

10 Things I've Learned about a Government Shutdown

"I invite everyone to choose forgiveness rather than division, teamwork over personal ambition."

  • Jean-Francois Cope

This from 2013 demanded another run. It's deja vu all over again!

10 Things I’ve learned (or been reminded of) during the government shutdown:

  1. During a government shutdown, federal employees aren’t the only ones who lose income.
  2. The statement, “No matter what your political party . . . ,” precedes a statement that totally depends on one’s political opinion.
  3. The work that federal employees are hired to do, waits for them if they are not able to do it.
  4. People say things to families of federal employees without realizing the implication of their comments. Example: “Yeah, but they’ll get their money eventually, so what’s the big deal?”
  5. Creditors actually want current pay, not back pay.
  6. Unscheduled time off that comes up suddenly, could end at any moment, and includes a cessation of income? Not exactly a vacation.
  7. Passion does not equal knowledge.
  8. Facebook™ doesn’t lend itself to polite political conversation.
  9. People who post political rants on social media, don’t really want to hear from people who disagree with them.
  10. I never want to be so arrogant as to believe my opinion is the only opinion of value.

 

 

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