Category: Faith & Doubt


Humor

I’ve read that fear of cancer returning represents one of the most common concerns. This fear can last years. I have no such illusions and presume the consequences of my lime will return – just a matter of when. I wonder how I survived until sixty.

I have a funnier fear. Back in 1996, a car dealer general manager in Minneapolis said he was going shove a golf club up my ass. And that’s my fear – that in fact – he snuck into my home last weekend, took my prized Calloway nine iron, shoved it up my ass right up to my neck, and left. “Damn,” I said to a friend. “Someone has to clean that club for the upcoming best shot tourney.”

My doctor stated not to bend over. No worries. My neck is so stiff I can barely bend over. And therein lies my greatest fear: I can sit on a toilet and be unable to raise my underwear. Yeah. Yeah. I know. Some people fear about cancer’s return, I worry about wiping my behind.

A friend inquired, via text, about the latest?

“I am still old, bald, and fat.”

“Yeah. Knew that already. Anything I can do for you?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I drop my cane and can’t bend over, and I text you. Will you come and pick it up for me?”

“What if you drop your phone?”

“F•••.”

I hope I am humorous until the end. I do not fear death. I fear not being able to laugh. For instance, if I have to die in 2020, I hope it’s just before the election, “Tell Trump I’m not voting for him.” Or may something like, “Hey? Anyone want to see a dead body?” Being a computer forensic geek, I could claim, “S•••. Forgot the browser history.

You know, maybe it’s crucial to be like Tig Notaro. In 2014, on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Ms. Notaro commented:

“Before I had a double mastectomy, I was already pretty flat-chested, and I made so many jokes over the years about how small my chest was that I started to think that maybe my boobs overheard me…and were just like, ‘You know what: We’re sick of this. Let’s kill her.’”

In 2012, I wrote that by shining light on a dark road to guide others also lightens yours. The very nature of which is both Christian and Buddhist. Yeah, some days suck, but some do not. Like everyone else, I get up and continue forward. Ultimately, when I’m at my lowest, God becomes His greatest.

When a coworker asked how I dealt with the pain, I quoted a Buddhist I had read.

Well, I simply reflect upon the moment and remember I am not having a bad day. My body is, but I am not.

Yes, I have ups and downs. Moments of pain get intermixed with moments of relief. I forgive and continue on. By injecting humor, and using humor as an essential support tool, I’ve found pain lessens. Sure making fun can ruffle feathers, but for those like me, it’s about survival. Humor can be dark. But it can be fun. And it can be healing.

While the surgery was a breeze, I was surprised by some low-level anxiety. Anyone saying otherwise is more than likely in some form of denial. Mine deepened when surgery was pushed back several hours. Similar to ocean waves before a storm, light bouts of emotions rolled and rolled.

I didn’t experience tomophobia, the fear of surgery. I did not fear my surgeon would mess it up and hit the spinal cord. It was always the same two questions: Should I have proceeded alone and What if something goes wrong? What if? What if?

The good news, I’m not alone. 

I was reasonably jovial in the pre-surgery check-in.

“Any allergies?”

“Yes,” I deadpanned. “Parachutes that don’t open, lightning strikes and bullets.”

“Are you sure what to attempt this using only local anesthetic.”

“Yes.”

The MRI indicated the tumor was about the size of a walnut and led the surgeon and I discussing (during surgery) why food is ‘the comparable.’

“Oh,” she hypothesized. “Mr. Patient, the tumor was the size of a radish … an orange … a baby carrot.”

I know why. Patients can relate. Patients can digest the size of an orange but cannot understand 9 cm by 6 cm by 19.5 cm. I envision her saying to a friend, “I ate a 9 cm by 6 cm by 19.5 cm tumor for lunch.

The surgery revealed my tumor was not the size of a walnut; it was more significant. Mine also had several roots or offshoots not detected by the Lipoma. That explains why my symptoms were degrading, but the scans didn’t reveal it. These roots were hidden. Unfortunately, the tumor inside the spinal cord remains. Just have to wait and see if this surgery will lessen spinal pressure. (It’s a bid to buy time. I’ll take what I can get.)

Twenty-four hours later, I feel pretty good. I met the surgeon this afternoon.

“You have eighteen stitches. Since we left a gaping hole, had we had to sew it shut. Otherwise, it would go a cavity of blood or potential infection. The surgery entry point will close in a couple of weeks. The stitches on the inside won’t dissolve for months, and the healing time will be about seven months. You’re likely to experience side effects. A hand may not work as well before surgery. You may experience headaches. Some of these will diminish. The tumor will be biopsied, and that should help us confirm the initial diagnosis and future treatment of what’s left.

“You know that cane you came in with?”

I nodded.

“Take it everywhere you go. Go to work? Cane. Go to a movie? Cane. Use the bathroom? Cane. Got it?”

I nodded.

So…that’s it for now. Back to monitoring. Here’s to another day.

Lastly, I wish to thank ‘Cosmic Traveller7’ for her thoughts and best wishes – meant a lot.

Internet misinformation has been a robust debate for the last decade. The 2016 U.S. Election demonstrated how foreign governments, political parties, and pundits weaponized hatred, bigotry, and speculation. In all the ensuing discussions, we’ve neglected one component – us. 

Information and disinformation alike rely upon us. For instance, prominent conspiracy theories in contemporary American politics is dependent upon us to reflect unique pathologies of the party in control. Donald Trump is a well-known conspiracy theorist. His supporters often embraced ridiculous ideas lurking in the darkest recesses of the internet. And by embracing such ideology, they influence national policy.

Experts implore us to think more. Yet we reside in a 140-character world. The vestibule of truth is dependent upon the reader willing partaking in any proposed content as truth. 

Need examples? There are plenty. 

Justin Trudeau received harsh criticism for picking up donuts for his cabinet meetings. Social media users went brain-dead bananas from cost (approximately $45) to why not Tim Horton’s. 

Pizzagate splashed across our television screens before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. A Reddit user posted “evidence” (i use that term loosely) that alleged a pizza owner in Washington, D.C. generated both child sex and pizza. As Pizzagate spread, Comet Ping Pong received hundreds of threats, and on December 4, 2016, Edgar Maddison Welch arrived and fired several shots from a semi-automatic rifle. Welch later informed police he planned to “self-investigate” the conspiracy theory.

I canceled my LinkedIn account last month after receiving an online diatribe of how wonderful Trump was versus the ‘do nothing Democrats.’ The viral post went to a hell of a lot of users. And the rant forced me to assess the value of service I was receiving. My assessment led me to believe that this service was neither valuable nor offered anything that enhanced my daily business life.

Again, my cancellation was not about the validity or integrity of Trump’s policies. Instead, it was about the personal value received from LinkedIn. LinkedIn positions itself to be a digital resume, a source of news, and inspiration. At that moment, LinkedIn lost its compass, and its value to be both newsworthy or inspirational diminished significantly. 

In canceling LinkedIn, I, in effect, terminated my last social media account. Outside of any social media accounts linked to this blog, I have no other social media vices. I deleted Facebook in 2010. I never used Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, or any other social media venue. It’s liberating.

Social media’s problem lay in its inability to transform. From Black Lives Matter to the Arab Spring, protests spurred by social media have failed to materialize meaningful movement. The Arab Spring started via Facebook. Ten years later, it’s dead. The #Metoo movement has resulted in only six convictions and falters as a top priority for most Americans. When a massive fire broke out on June 14, 2017 at the 24-story Grenfell Tower public housing in West London, causing 71 deaths and over 70 injuries, public outrage was swift. Within days, #Justice4Grenfell trended on social media. Eight months later, little has changed for those who lost their lives, for those who survived, the bereaved families, or the wider community. 

Why? 

There’s a difference between ‘viral’ and ‘movement.’ A viral post is something shared, copied, and spread across multiple social platforms. Anyone can have a ‘viral’ post. Movements require action. And without work, they’re destined for death. Movements require ‘us’ to become involved. If you want change, you must vote. Want to change the educational system of your local city, you must get involved. Need to change the bias of a government, you must run for office, create ideas, and publish policies.

David Imel wrote an article titled, ‘I quit the internet for nine days.’ I paraphrase him in stating we need to stop scrolling Twitter endlessly. We have to restrain from searching CNN every time someone excuses themself for the restroom. Imel noted his habits.

Notifications have created a sense of urgency in my life. Everything feels important. Did someone like my twitter post? I have a new Instagram follower? Surely these things need to be addressed! And so, waking up to effectively nothing on my phone felt weird. I felt anxious.

From a Buddhist perspective, if you want to see how we’ve enslaved ourselves to the latest tweet, look no further than our government leadership or Presidental impeachment trial. The way people lie about each other is appalling. Saturate yourself in the ‘online world,’ you’ll likely acquire a warped perception of others, online or not. For Trump, Biden is Sleepy Joe, Low I.Q., Crazy; Bernie Sanders is Crazy; Elizabeth Warren is Pocahontas or Goofy; O’Rouke has ’hand movement’ (whatever that meant), Stone-Cold Phony, or a Flake; Klobuchar looked like a ‘Snowman,’ and Gillibrand ’… would do anything for donations (some interpreting sex or oral sex).’

Trump made it ok to demean and debase. That’s a reflection of us, all of us. We allowed it. In the process, we stopped considering others human (as in people) thinking instead they are mindless, easily seduced political enemies of whatever cause we’re either for or against. 

We must reverse the trend – even if it includes replacing our current leaders. We must regain our humanity.

Just a little over a week to surgery. Time to get some of this tumor out. I still haven’t told many people — I kind of arc around trying to find something to do. Not so much to keep the mind preoccupied, but more so because my current position is rather damn dull.

In regards to the surgery, I have no grand expectation of the outcome. Although, admittingly, I feel embarrassed. Why? Well, I think everything will come ok, that all this drama was for naught. I presume, post-surgery, some cute nurse will poke me in the shoulder and say “arise.” And just as Christ command, in awe, everyone will clap. Such fairy tales seem overrated. At surgery end, I will get up and walk. If I don’t, get me a television, a remote control, kettle chips, and a diet coke. I am ok with the outcome, regardless of the path to which God commands I endure. Sure, I wish to have tumors out. But with the diagnosis of an additional tumor, I strive to place one foot in front of the other and walk onward. 

My tale of woe is nowhere near as others. Dare to think God has dealt you a lousy hand, take a look at the Kobe Bryant or the Mauser family. Sometimes comparing life’s misery keeps one in check.

I am not a true warrior. You know, the guy who saved many. Such a viewpoint should never be mistaken for me. That’s not to say I didn’t do my part. I did. But I no longer consider my sacrifice anything special. Real heroes lay enshrined in national and local cemeteries. Those heroes fought injustice, battles, defeated Stalinism, communism, and hatred. Real heroes are victims who rose against the likes of Epstein and Weinstein. We should celebrate their sacrifice, not mine.

I can’t give this tumor more power than it has. It’s a foe that has no face, no body, nor motto. It does have an x-ray, yet appears as another blob. However, the deeper foe is age. Like David in Psalm 71:9, the very passage of time is a trial, and I utter unto God:

“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails.”

I’m assured He shall not.

In more youthful days, I ignored aging. The nature of humanity eventually outstripped youthful laughter. A year post-diagnosis, I accept certain ignoble truths: I neither bought this tumor nor the second. Amazon didn’t deliver it. Neither did a stork.  Accepting life and its frailty requires a different camera lens. I used to think being sick was a gift. In pure form, sickness taught many lessons. Yet I looked at it all wrong. I am a gift. I’m unsure why it took so many years to understand. Like a child, God held me abundantly. And I grew wiser and more mature. I wish more could have seen. 

Nine days from now, I will walk an uncharted course. There will be new roads with new choices. In preparation, I read Chapter 64 of the Dao De Jing. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” 

And how will my journey begin? When I get off the operating table and walk, foot by foot — step by step.

I was asked how Republican GOP Senators could side with Trump and acquit him. It’s a thought-provoking question, given the fact that Trump’s defense team presented a radically different view of the events and the Constitution, seeking to turn the charges back on his accusers while simultaneously denouncing the whole process as illegitimate.

To answer the question, I went back to Nixon aide Egil Krogh.

“The premise of our action was the firmly held view within certain precincts of the White House that the president and those functioning on his behalf could carry out illegal acts with impunity if they were convinced that the nation’s security demanded it. When the president does it, that means it is not unlawful. To this day, the implications of this statement are staggering.

At no time did I or anyone else there question whether the operation was necessary, legal, or moral. Convinced that we were responding legitimately to a national security crisis, we focused instead on the operational details: who would do what, when, and where.”

Is this where we’re at? A January 26th, 2020, tweet, Trump emphasized his belief that Article 2 of the Constitution allows him to do anything.

“Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”

And what’s the price, Mr. President?

Republicans willingly accept leadership from a morally bankrupt family who presides over a scandal-laced presidency. Many Trump advisers face significant prison time, and Donald Trump probably has to stay in office to avoid prosecution.

The pursuit and abuse of power—power is an end unto itself. GOP Senators weaponized religion. In doing so, religion is no longer personal and private; it’s a public freak show. In his appearance before the right-to-life movement on January 25th, Trump noted:

“Sadly, the far-left is actively working to erase our God-given rights, shut down faith-based charities, ban religious believers from the public square, and silence Americans who believe in the sanctity of life. They are coming after me because I am fighting for you, and we are fighting for those who have no voice.”

It’s the same message, twisted differently for each occasion: Anyone who opines is evil.

I often ponder anger’s value. Should we valorize it or avenge it. In prayer, I’ve was informed to abandon anger’s thirst, eliminate even the smallest seeds of violence, because the full-blown emotion can only cause harm. In life, I want to prevent similar events from occurring.

One problem with anger is the tendency to cling to it, to bear a grudge against any reasonable form of reconciliation. On the other hand, I want to exact (often disproportional) revenge. Yet failing to react to grievous wrongdoing runs the risk of acquiescing in evil.

In the end, as a Buddhist, both sides of our current political system prefer to segregate the ‘moral side’ of anger. Each promotes its version of the ‘dark side.’

The agents for change are documented in history. To avoid despair, we clarity – a clarity that only (“the truth”) can provide. Trump claims he is the ‘revolution.’ However, Trump himself doesn’t have a revolutionary character of ‘truth.’ If we don’t get that, I fear a hell of a lot of people will continue to suffer and die.

By acquitting Trump, we’ll unleash a political leader that wants only was power. And what he most obviously enjoys is smashing anything in its pursuit.

With You

I bent over and couldn’t get up. As I said to the doctor, it’s as if my brain was sending signals, by nothing below my waist responded. These past several days, nothing seemed to work right. Back at home, I couldn’t get comfortable. Nothing soothed the pain, standing, sitting, or walking.

It appears I will suffer.

“Then, I shall suffer with you.”

Eventually, I will be unable to move.

“Then, I will sit with you.”

And if I die?

“Then, I shall die with you.”

A week prior to Christmas I met my counselor. Personally, I believe she thinks I’m nuts.

As you may know, I skipped four of five stages of death. These stages included, denial, anger, bargaining, depression. Maybe I experienced each stage but I experienced them like Tortilla Flat in Arizona, population 6. It’s the sort of town where one presses the accelerator to ensure, that in the unlikely event of mechanical failure, there’s enough speed to coast to the other end.

Thus, her question, “Why haven’t you asked ‘why me?

Having a top secret clearance, I could say, “Classified.” Or better yet, “Because I’m fabulous.” Then again, maybe God didn’t intentionally send me a tumor. “Well, I personally don’t think it (tumor) was intended for me. The package was postmarked, ‘To whom it may concern.’” Truthfully, I have no answer. I just remember that since 2014, my physical symptoms seemed to be accelerating.

On a weird, yet personal note, there were times I reverse-engineered the ‘why-me‘ question.

My first experience with reverse engineering came during a football game where the only player in the history of the NFL died on field. Charles Frederick “Chuck” Hughes. Hughes was sent into the game against the Chicago Bears as an injury replacement. He made one catch for 32 yards and a first down. Three plays later, he was used as a decoy in a play. After the unsuccessful play, he was running towards the huddle with 1:02 left on the clock when he collapsed, grabbing his chest. Hughes was taken away by ambulance and the game continued. At age 11 I questioned God, “Why did I live and he didn’t? What made me so special and not him?”

Even today, as doctors search my colon for another tumor, someone will press me for an ‘why me‘ answer. I don’t have one. Sometimes, I ask the same question. For instance, ESPN college football reporter Ed Aschoff died of pneumonia at 34. My response? ‘Why him, not me?” And then there’s 13-year-old Broadway star Laurel Griggs.’ Ms. Griggs suffered from obstructive lung disease and died after a massive asthma attack. My response? ‘Why her, not me?

Throughout all my questions, God has remained stoically silent. Sometimes, there are weird back and forth that can be both funny and maddening.

“Trust me.”

“What? Seriously?”

“Yes. Trust Me.”

“F*** me.”

“I don’t do that.”

So, yeah, the answer is there, but it’s not quite as detailed as preferred.

As a former rescue man, I know all of us have terrible things happen and it’s just a matter of when such a thing knock’s the door. Otherwise, in spite of all the awful things I’ve done in my life, I’ve been fairly lucky.

I have had many wonderful times in my life. I’ve traveled extensively, scavenged beaches and experienced many wonderful things. “Why me? Not Others?” Don’t know. I am clueless. I have witnessed the deepest levels of human caring. “Why me? And, why can’t others?” Hard to say. As such, each experience humbles me and compels me to become better. I experienced great love and suffered deeply from the loss. “Why did I suffer so greatly?” Who knows. Yet, through it all, God has always … always … always made time for me. And I presume He does the same for you.

Some claim I’m hedging bets, working both sides. True, my walk with God appears perplexing: Grew up Catholic, moved to agnostic, debated atheism, became Buddhist, and Spiritual. I still claim God is an awesome friend, And as my friend, I’m fairly positive He shook His head in disbelief of my misadventures. Yet who among us hasn’t given God the leftovers of both heart and priority? Then at the end of life, look back and regret the many missed opportunities. If you’re such a person, then I’m walking with you.

When my favorite singer, Harry Chapin, died in 1981, his widow reported that Harry’s music supported 17 relatives, 14 associations, seven foundations and 82 charities. Harry wasn’t interested in saving money. He always said, ‘Money is for people,’ so he gave it away‘ (to fight hunger). Even though Chapin questioned God in life, he lived a Christ-like life. My response. ‘Why him, not me?

So, yes. I have regrets. “Why me? But not unlike others.

However . . . In the end, I’m fairly lucky. I have no clue why, but I accept the time remaining. In the end, I just have to trust.

And He whispers, “Yes. Trust Me.”

Years ago, Ron Srigley taught a class in which many students failed the midterm. Not just failed, but failed miserably. He asked the students what went wrong. After a few moments of silence, one young woman put up her hand and said: “We don’t understand what the books say, sir. We don’t understand the words.” Srigley looked around and saw guileless heads pensively nodding in agreement.

I experienced a similar phenomenon several weeks ago in a restaurant outside Tucson, Arizona, after a beautiful meal, I requested a $100 gift certificate for my parents. New to completing such a task, the manager assisted the young server.

Manager, “Make sure you write ‘For food and non-alcoholic beverages.’”

A pause ensued as I watched the young server.

“Ugh,” she anguished. “How do you spell ‘alcohol?’ I need my cell phone.

Mark Zuckerberg’s reformulated Facebook’s mission statement aims to “give people power to build community and bring the world closer together.” The price for this form of community is the loss of human relationships. All of us stick our faces into our phones when face to face communication is required. Why? Mainly because we don’t know how to communicate.

I wonder if God uses a cell phone? Not sure. In 2017, a blog author outlined 15 must-have apps Christian Apps that will inspire growth. Likewise, there’s a list of 15 Buddhist Apps that will provide daily inspiration and joy. There are at least “7 best prayer apps” guaranteed to grow your faith (as opposed to the 100 or so non-guaranteed). There are apps that will remind you to pray and others that will ask others to pray. (Mind you, I am unclear why the phone’s calendar appointment couldn’t do that function, but nonetheless.) By the way, Google can now point you in the right direction for Mecca, and there’s a host of religious dating apps. Lastly, God now has a television show “God Friended Me,” in which an atheist gets a friend request from ‘God’ via Facebook.

So…does all of this help with our connection to people, and likewise, to God? We’ve become so used to not talking that it scares many to have such serious conversations. Now, any of us risk that one incorrectly used exclamation point will end a friendship. And certainly an inappropriate picture has plummeted careers. It’s a point our current leaders have learned: The lack of face-to-face interaction demeans and depersonalizes. It’s a subset of society and or religion altogether.

For instance—I kid you not—I just received a text message from someone from Denver, Colorado (720) ***-****. I have no clue who the person(s) is/are. It could be anyone. I presume it is a woman, for the person(s) sent an anime of a woman dressed in a Santa outfit riding a dragon. However, I presume the person wishes me ‘Happy Holidays.’ It could be ironic. Just the other day I was praying, and jokingly said to the deceased person I prayed about, “Ah. Send me a text letting me know how you’re doing.” Maybe it’s visible proof that God allows cell phone use. However, the test came from an Android phone. Does that mean God uses only Android? Irregardless, hate to see that one-time text charge from the hereafter.

Looping back to Ron Srigley, Srigley offered his students extra credit if they gave up their phones for nine days and wrote about the experience. Twelve students took the offer. The results were impressive, as many students wrote of being both distracted and morally compromised.

  • Kate: “Having a cell phone has affected my code of morals, and this scares me … I regret to admit that I have texted in class this year, something I swore to myself in high school that I would never do … I am disappointed in myself now that I see how much I have come to depend on technology … I start to wonder if it has affected who I am as a person, and then I remember that it already has.”
  • And James, though he says we must continue to develop our technology, said that “what many people forget is that it is vital for us not to lose our fundamental values along the way.”

Of course, I write all of this with full knowledge that, for all practical purposes, I’m a blogger. Still, I doubt if the (720) area code text was from God or otherwise. And maybe, just maybe, God does follow my blog. Never know, right? I have no clue, but I’ll keep you apprised. My point is simple, put the phone down and meaningful conversations, both personal and spiritual.

God wants personal, not a text. And those you love deserve the same.

Yesterday I was asked to describe what Christmas gift Ms. K. provided. The request was a soul-searching. 

In the 245th episode of the CBS-TV series M*A*S*H, ‘Who Knew,’ a landmine killed a nurse Hawkeye was dating. In the aftermath, Hawkeye finds himself performing some severe soul searching when he finds out she was too shy to reveal she had serious feelings for him and regrets not allowing himself to get to know Nurse Millie Carpenter better. Hawkeye uses his eulogy to do something Millie never got to do–to do a better job of letting those closest to him know what they mean to him.

I’m empathetic to Hawkeye. 

For me, Ms. K. was someone worth knowing. However, during the early decade of 2000, I was positive she wouldn’t care to know someone like, and for a long time, I lived for nothing more significant than myself. Moving backward just eight months ago, I feel Ms. K. through experiences of a cool breeze, in the touch of a loved one, and in the memories of those lost who’ve stood beside me, for better or for worse. 

In many ways, I’ve gotten to know Ms. K. through our on-and-off conversations. Many who worked with Ms. K. never saw her. They saw her beauty, but few knew her. Until recently, I was in the former crowd. I could write my feelings, but could never express them. And, I thought my style of communication would clash with her style. However, I only guess exactly what her style was.

Unfortunately, I had to learn post-life. In her death, I learned there remains an unexplained bond. I’m uncertain how long it will last. Hopefully, forever. Then again, maybe our relationship is a hand-off that will make a more substantial contribution beyond just my life. I believe it’s a similar bond Christ gave.

However, to answer the question I was given, the greatest gift I received from Ms. K. is love. While outside our time, she’s within my heart, with no fear, no great anguish. Even in meditation, I yearn toward her and await for God to bring us close. She has the heart of hope and leaves not the smallest thought unfilled. As Matt Chandler might say, ‘love is sacrificial, love is ferocious.’

To all the people I’ve worked with, fought against ignorance with, and those of common bond, I am blessed by your love. All of you were very important and helped make the man I today. I am sorry if I took any of you for granted, especially Edward P., Ingrid L., Sheila M., and Ethel C. All of you are directly responsible for setting the foundation Ms. K. inherited and continues to mold.

Ms. K.’s link goes beyond love. There’s compassion. Like God, I experienced neither thirst nor hunger. In her eyes, I can shed MS. I walk without a cane, and we dance with through the forest she created, the home she now resides.

In life, right to the end, she was a mentor. And true to nature, she’s mentored me. With compassion as her compass, she guided. Of course, therein lay her challenge. I didn’t make it easy. 

We’re told the most challenging people are the ones that need compassion the most. I am that person. I’ve hurt and taken advantage of others. In anger, hurt, or frustration, there were times I didn’t feel like giving anything. However, if Ms. K. were alive today, she’d probably say something like, “Nothing in life is worth it if you don’t take a risk.” So, she took a risk … on me.

Ms. K. never quit–not on life and not on me. Neither did she authoritatively judge nor dismiss me. She pushed onward in grace. She paused upon weakness, learned to understand and embrace my growth. I can’t imagine what it’s like for her to have to endure continual embarrassment. Yet, she remains resilient and guides me closer to my highest self, a place where goodness and learning were closed years prior.

Ms. K. taught to fall on faith. Don’t fall on drugs, alcohol, prejudice, anger, or isolationism. Fall on your faith. In the subsequent half-year, I have learned about shared humanity, that it’s the everyday person who impacts one’s life—those who help the many, not a ‘chosen one.’

Denzel Washington said, “It’s the people you have, the people you love and the faith you have. Those are the things that define you.” It’s the same message God sent. It’s the same message Ms. K. lived here on earth. It’s the same message she still lives. 

She never wanted anyone to confuse movement with progress. It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with what you have. Ms. K. is one of the most beautiful women ever met. She’s my mentor. She taught me to love. 

And I love her.

Christmas Eve is upon us. And if Christmas is meant to bring us closer, even in my condition, I managed to bring cheer to those surrounding me.

People talk about the holidays being rough for some people. Christmas has always been difficult for me. I also wanted the beautiful ending depicted by so many Hallmark movies, but those are meant for the young and beautiful. Life never takes a holiday. I haven’t felt well for weeks and last night while bending over to pick up a dropped spoon, I couldn’t straighten. There weren’t the typical back spasms or pain, it’s just that the signals my brain sent were not received and I remained curled like a large beach ball.

So, off to the hospital.

in spite of it all, there are good things happening. Yeah, I understand my body is wearing out. However, rather than being a victim, I choose to be a witness to the process. There are strange and sometimes wondrous events. Most are personal perspectives that probably confounds many.

Ms. J. asked last week if was trying to excel the process – meaning dying. “Not really,” I replied. “I understand my story will end like most with terminal disease: death. However, I have things to do. It’s just that the pain and spinal issues make it more aggravating.

Blogger Josie Rubio noted, “I try to live in the moment. Sometimes I have to think ahead and I can’t help but look behind. Sometimes I’m so fully immersed in the moment, it’s hard for me to reach out to make future plans or be reachable, and for that I’m sorry.”

Ms. Rubio summarized it well. Live in the moment.

Unlike most Christmas’ when I didn’t even comprehend it, I’m grateful for the time. I traveled. I was able to visit my mother and father. I am able to get hospital staff to laugh. And even while in a hospital bed awaiting discharge this very morn, I spent time helping a friend with a pressing business problem.

Unlike current government leadership, true religion brings peace and satisfaction to others. I am horrified by those who claim a certain leader being the ‘Chosen One,’ when in fact such actions only aroused confusion and serve no religious function. Such a mindset is extremely immature.

As 2019 ends, it is a good time to ask what we want to do with the remaining days of our life. Surely, one can discuss dreams and see how to support one other. Just as Jesus had a dreams, Buddha had dreams, and you have dreams. Can we look at our relationships and see how they might be improved?

Paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King, our love must transcend race, tribe, class, skin, and nation. Neither nation nor individual can live alone. We must learn to live and love together or we perish as fools. Every man is somebody. Every man is a child of God. What Christ demonstrated is there is neither Jew nor Gentile. Neither male nor female. Neither Communist nor capitalist. Neither bound nor free. Every human is sacred, in some way.

This morning, I tried to absorb the beauty of the nurses and doctors treating me. I couldn’t. I want to remember them, in everything. I want to embellish the joy of friendship, saying “Thank you sir” to the black man who held the door open for me. I want more moments of saying “Beautiful head scarf” to the Muslim woman who served me coffee. I simply want love. And I simply want to take their love with me.

Love is what Christmas is about. Love requires everything. Yet that’s the simple message of a boy born in a manger.

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