Tag Archives: faith

God loves U…enjoy the sandwhiches

Stop right there, I know. That is not how you spell sandwhiches. Is there a story? But of course. Let me explain,

I want to talk about a concept that has been in the back of my mind for a while now. It is something that I think has been bugging and awing me for the past for months. This thought is one that rarely gets much attention. However I believe it deserves all the credit in the world for how relationships between all individuals operate.

It is the concept of capacity.

Webster’s Dictionary defines Capacity: the maximum amount or number that can be contained or accommodated

Centered at the front of my attention, this concept of capacity has been on my mind for a while. While the definition seems simple, I think the word means so much more. I think it is a loaded word, pregnant with so much life and substance. I think it is a word the defines relationships. I think it is a word that contributes to who we are as individuals, citizens, friends, lovers, workers, humans and so much more.

The capacity at which a person can love.

The capacity at which a person can hate.

The capacity at which a person can forgive.

The capacity at which a person can forget.

The capacity at which a person can determine priority.

There is a capacity that each of us allows to feel from others and a capacity that we allow others to feel. And beyond relationships, I think capacity can apply to tangible things as well (This will come into play with the post’s title).

In my line of work, I deal with people at their rock bottom. For some being homeless is the lowest level of low that one can possibly be at. I see people in their most genuine form of survival and their capacity to survive. What I think blows my mind day after day is their capacity to act on what they feel will help them survive.

A few weeks ago the housing specialist came to my desk to let me know that a woman would be coming into the shelter to obtain homeless status to be eligible for a housing grant that we have access to. She asked if I could take care of her paperwork and assessment. I agreed and a few nights later her ID was dropped on my desk.

I had no idea of who this woman was or what her situation was. The grant we have access to is to help people who need financial assistance with moving into their own homes. Almost anyone can be eligible for it, but they need homeless status and to acquire that, they need to stay in the shelter at least one night.

With her ID on my desk, I prepared her assessment paperwork like I do for the dozens of new people entering the shelter every week who I assist in transitioning. I walked out front and saw her sitting on the front bench, shaking. I smiled and introduced myself. Her voice shook as she reached out her hand to introduce herself. I explained the intake procedure and we walked back to my office. We sat down and like I do with any client before beginning the technical stuff  I just asked,

Why are you here?

Every day I go in I think nothing could ever shock me again, and every day I am proven wrong.

This was one story that stuck with me. It was her birthday back in 2011. Her husband woke her up with breakfast in bed. He kissed her good morning and said eat up. When she was done, they got dressed and he suggested they go on a birthday walk. She told me how in love they were. Their 3-year-old daughter was staying at her grandmother’s house so they could spend the day together. They went out walking. She stopped and stared at me. Her look went right through me and I felt the shift within her. Her eyes welled up. When they were walking he tripped. He stumbled and fell into the road. She said everything happened so fast that no one knew what happened. She didn’t. He didn’t. The driver of the car didn’t. She watched him get hit and just dropped.

Fast forward a year and a few months later. She had spent months in mental health recovery and while any specialist could tell you that isn’t nearly enough time, she came out of recovery for her daughter’s sake. She lost her home because they couldn’t afford it without his income. Her mother took them in. But in the time since he passed, she was finally able to secure a job. She just couldn’t afford that first lump payment for an apartment and heard about our financial assistance. When our housing specialist said she would need to stay in shelter one night to acquire homeless status, she became nervous. We sat in my office, very fragile. When we finished the paperwork, she said, what’s next? I told her now she left the office area and went into the shelter. The tears started coming and she said, oh of course. She dropped her bags and frantically collected them.

I said her name and she looked up, broken, all I asked was if she wanted to sit with me a little longer to prolong her inevitable stay in the shelter. She breathed out and said thank you. I’ve never seen someone so grateful just to stay sitting in an office. I said, tell me about your daughter. She went on and on. And I realized, despite all the trauma this poor woman had been through, she was putting herself through more, all for her daughter.

I couldn’t even comprehend the capacity of love she had for her daughter. Despite all the loss and pain, she wasn’t phased for a second when it came to the love and sacrifice she would go through for her daughter. I cried when I left work that night because of how tragically beautiful the story I heard was.

Now, while a person’s capacity to love can be immense and so powerful. Their capacity to hate can be just as immense and what’s more, take a much bigger toll on us.

Last week was the worst week it could have possibly been. I couldn’t have woken up last Monday morning possibly conceiving it would be a worse week. From the moment I walked into work to the moment I left Friday afternoon, just awful.

And during this whole awful week the concept of capacity stayed focused in my mind.

The capacity to throw 4 months of meticulous work, a college education and low-cost housing all out the window. The capacity to throw it all away.

The capacity to have someone risk their job for your health and then disregard them for your own selfish reasons. The capacity to use others.

The capacity to tell someone with anger and hate filling your bones that you wanted nothing more than to slice your wrists open and it was their fault. The capacity to be angry. The capacity to hate.

Such negative emotions. Fueled by what? No one knows. I don’t anyways. But being at the end of all the hate, selfishness, anger. It burnt me out.

People said one thing when I started this job.

Don’t get burned out.

But when I woke up Monday morning, I felt it. I didn’t want to go to work. But I did. I’m not just going to not show up. Fortunately, I had a 1-on-1 with my boss. We sat down and I told her everything. And like she does, she asked me my self-care areas.

I work out, I write, I pray.

Those get me through the day. And when I left I thought, I am going to work out tonight and maybe I should write about this too. But I didn’t think about prayer.

I went to the kitchen and asked the director if there were any lunches left. He said there were some bag lunches in the fridge. I grabbed one and walked back to my office. I sat down with a sense of exhaustion and defeat. But I opened my bag lunch and noticed a piece of paper inside. I reached in and pulled it out.

God loves U...eat the sandwhiches

God loves U…eat the sandwhiches

I almost teared up because of how happy it made me. I don’t know who put it in or where it came from. I could have grabbed any number of random bags. But that is the one I grabbed. And I grabbed it for a reason. Despite all the pain and sadness from the week before. I forgot about my own capacity. My capacity to trust in my faith. To trust in the fact that I am loved and watched over by someone so much greater than anyone.

The capacity to do anything is great. I believe capacity to love, hate, trust, forgive, forget, be humble, be great, be good, makes us who we are. And by the definition, is what separates us, making us unique and allows us stand up and stand apart from others.

Anyone has the ability to possess those qualities. But to possess the capacity to truly understand and demonstrate them, is something completely different.

Thank you for watching out over me.

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If this doesn’t tug at your heart, tear up your eyes or make you straight up cry, that is very surprising.

I’ve written before that on July 15 (8 days) I will be participating in the New England Tough Mudder challenge. As the date for the event grows closer and closer, my nerves have been building up. Every day I have been reading blogs, stories, tips and tricks to the event trying to plan out my strategy to the event. TM has a YouTube channel which features videos focusing on different events as well as personal videos showing journeys and advice for future mudders. When I was scrolling through videos this evening, I came across one that was labeled great motivational video. I played it and was stunned at how inspired I was. It consisted of different quotes and one that got me was the following,

“Somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for someone to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!”

It is something so true. I thought about how unfair life is. Thought about how many times I have actually actually been hit. And its true, no amount of physical pain comes close to the strikes life can dole out. There are lots of things that are so unfair and every time you stand back up from them, you accomplish something. After I watched this video I just wanted to run to the gym and have a great workout, but something else caught my eye. It was a video entitled “Never Ever, Ever, Give Up”. I watched it twice, the first time I held back tears, the second time, I let them go. This is the video and while it is something that happened when my generation was very young, its message is truly timeless.

Something I like to say is that I always choose to fall back on my faith. I do. Life can be very bearable when we are letting God carry the things that are bigger than us. I believe this message speaks for itself.

If you ever feel alone. Feel abandoned. Feel left hanging. If you feel tired, feel lost, feel disappointed. Perhaps watch this video for a little bit of motivation. We don’t need to look for someone to blame or for an excuse. We just need to get up. That is what makes us stronger. It is what makes us the best version of our self.

People aren’t perfect. Life isn’t fair. Sometimes we fall down. But like the first quote says, it is how we stand up from getting hit down that tells us who we are. But when we fall the hardest, there is someone who forgives, does not judge, picks up and helps us cross the finish line every time. I believe he will be there to help me cross mine, every time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If you really knew me you would know…

My last written post was a talk that I had given on my senior retreat. Before the talk, my friend Bri introduced me. She said some very flattering words and then gave me a photo of the two of us and a jar. Written on the jar was the following, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” -Ralph Waldo Emerson. Inside the small sized glass jar were what seemed to be a few dozen slips of paper. She knew that two of my passions were writing and taking photos. Each slip of paper had either a journal or photo prompt. The jar sat on my desk for the last few months of school and after I had graduated, moved home and unpacked, I took the jar and placed it on my desk. I don’t like to put meaningless things on my desk, that way whatever sits upon it has my focus.

With the first few weeks of summer spent doing little besides working out, relaxing and recouping after a very busy semester, I found myself sitting at the computer with blank word documents struck with writer’s block. I really wanted to write. I wanted to do nothing but write. I hoped that perhaps in the first few months of post-grad I could spill out the great American novel. But as a lot of writers know, sometimes the words just don’t come. Finally I forced my hand to reach into the glass jar and pull out a prompt. The slip of paper read,

Journal Prompt: “If you really knew me you would know…”

Hmm.

I thought a lot about the prompt. What did it mean? I put it aside and walked away. But as the week went on, this idea kept coming up in my head.

“If you really knew me…”

Who is you? Who am I answering? Who is it that knows me? Is it my friends or family? Is it people I’ve known for days, months, years?

“…you would know…”

What would you know? How do I sum up who I am in ONE entry? I think its impossible, but I also think that isn’t what Brianna wanted me to do. Last week was a really long week. It seemed like day-by-day I was getting hit back and forth with unfortunate circumstances. So by this morning, it finally hit me. How could I describe myself in one post? So I thought of the top 5 things most pertinent to who I am today and why I find them to be so important in knowing me.

(In no particular order)

1. Time is irrelevant.

In four years of college, I came to admire many people. I had a lot of inspiring professors and mentors over the course of my education. But one stood out. Him and I were often spotted bickering back and forth about silly nonsense. He was a priest and campus minister named Father Dinh. Many on campus knew Dinh. He was a very loving and gentle man. His words were often very inspiring.

An example of his wisdom? One time in conversation he stated, “Your heart is your home. What do you see when you walk into a home? Pictures, photographs, memories of loved ones. In your heart rests the images of those you care about most. You choose which photos you hang up, which ones you take down, which ones you throw away. You choose which ones get the best light and which ones sit in the darkest corners.”

He is a very prophetic man. But one of the most common things you will hear come out of his mouth is, “Time Does Not Exist”. Anyone who knows him well has heard him say this. It is something I agree with. Perhaps not 100%, but I believe there is a lot of truth in it. Last spring I spent some time working in Pine Ridge, South Dakota on the Oglala Lakota Native American reservation. While we did a lot of good labor work to help them during our time there, we also spent a good portion of our timing learning about their culture. Something that was stressed to us upon our arrival was to leave our watches and our phones in our rooms, basically any device that could tell time. The Natives of the land strongly believed that there was no need to follow the strict rules of time. Time is constraining. The length of a conversation does not make it a good conversation. Spending long hours doing hard work doesn’t mean it is good work. It is purely the quality of things that make them good.

I am a big believer in this concept that time is irrelevant. As a journalist, I have to adhere to deadlines. I am not speaking about time specific to one idea. This world is so wrapped up in time, always needing to know how long its been, how long they have to wait, or how long things will take. I like to believe that there is a beauty in timelessness. Especially after just graduating, time is simply the greatest commodity one can have. Why waste time counting it? Why not just be timeless?

2. I HATE social media.

When I publish a new post from this blog, it gets sent to my twitter account and followers of the blog. I can count on one hand the amount of times I go on twitter a week. But there is no Facebook in my life. In September I found that I was traceable via my Facebook. At first I didn’t think this was a big deal. But when people knew where i was ALL the time, it creeped me out. When it started affecting my relationships to the point that I couldn’t go out with a friend without someone asking why they weren’t invited, it got very irritating. At one in October, my roommate and I sat at our desks and were on our laptops. We were both on Facebook and he commented how much time we waste on the site. We sit down at our computers and the first thing we do is check to see if we have a notification and then get caught up in browsing the newsfeed. I took it to heart and started considering deactivating my profile. I talked about it with a few friends and the consensus stated I would probably not do it. I heard comments along the lines of “you won’t be able to see pictures of yourself and how will you keep up with your friends?” These things made me want to deactivate it more. Do they really think I am that conceited that I need to constantly check pictures of myself? I have over 600 friends on Facebook, I talk to maybe 10 percent of them. If we are really friends, we’ll still keep in touch. So one night I finally deleted it and it felt so free.

A few months later I found out I needed to get a Facebook for a class I was taking. It was a student run show and we needed Facebook accounts to keep in touch with one another. I agreed and said I would make a fake one. I didn’t want a Facebook. I had a life free from it. Why was I going to let it tie me back down again? So I created it. I loaded ONE picture and posted a status that said it was a fake page that I was using to stay in contact for my class. Well the kids in the class friended me so I accepted. Then mutual friends of theirs started finding me. Quickly all my friends started finding this fake page. I started getting accused of hiding from them. People actually got angry at me for not friending them with my FAKE FACEBOOK PAGE. Some people grew suspicious as to if we were friends at all because we weren’t Facebook friends.

DOES ANYONE ELSE SEE A PROBLEM HERE?

To quote one of my favorite films (Zoolander), “Does no one else get it? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

In the last two weeks of school, I started saying to people that I would be deleting the fake page soon and they were all surprised. Why are you deleting it again? Clearly they didn’t understand that I was serious when I said it was fake and I would be deleting it when I was done with the class.

While my posts have been scarce in the past few months, I love having a blog. Because as a writer, I feel like I’m actually expressing real emotions as opposed to depressing one line lyrics via Twitter (which I am guilty of). But I hate what texting, Facebook, twitter and other social media have done to human interaction. People don’t know how to interact anymore and that is just sad. When you can’t hold a conversation, write a letter or just express emotion without the help of technology to do so, something has gone wrong.

3. I LOVE wearing suits.

Since my last post was about hating something, this can be about loving something. I love to wear suits. My roommates and close friends used to tease me because if an event was ever slightly upper scale at college, I suited up. Quoting one of my favorite characters of all time, Barney Stinson, “Suits distinguish”.

When I was in high school, I participated in an extracurricular called Forensics. It was the process of speech giving. We competed locally and nationally. These competitions were judged and we were ranked based on presentation of both speech and self. Our coach who was one of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met, taught me more than anyone ever has. He drilled this concept of professionalism into our heads. Our school was known as the black suits. As long it was a black suit with solid colors, he approved. For six years, I sported solid black suits with an assortment of shirts and ties. While at first it was an irritation, I came to find that this level of professionalism paid off. Not only was I winning competitions, I found it to be a highly respectable choice of attire.

The concept of professionalism never really left me. In my last year of college, I was very strict to separate my personal and professional life. A close friend commented once about half way through the year that despite trying to consciously separate the two, we were at college. This didn’t really offer a huge opportunity for keeping two separate. So if I had to pick one over the other, I was going to pick professionalism. While this is not a fact that I want to bullet as a fact one might know about me, it deserves mentioning. I hate being intoxicated. When I got to college I had no desire to drink. I didn’t for a year and a half. I started it because of personal insecurities and hardships I was going through at the time and it got out of hand. But when I started realizing more and more that I was going to have to choose either a professional lifestyle or a reckless one, I was going to choose professional. Any problem I’ve had in the past two years has involved alcohol. Professionalism has always lead to scholarship, never problems. Suits are merely a metaphor for my personal preference to appear and preform on a professional level, and I love them.

4. I define the word PROBLEM different than most.

When I came back from Ecuador, I had seen a lot. If you aren’t sure what, read my Ecuador stories. I had been living in one of the poorest cities in the world. Between that, living on a suffering Native American Reservation in South Dakota, WHICH IS IN OUR OWN COUNTRY, and dealing with poverty and disability in Washington DC, I had seen a whole new scale of what problems were in the world. Ecuador had the biggest effect on this scale for me. When I had landed in America after the trip I turned my phone on for the first time. I had many messages from the week. Most of warm wishes hoping I was doing well. But then I started getting messages reading, “PROBLEM, get in touch as soon as you get back”. Obviously this made me nervous. I had just come from a place where if someone came up to me and said they had a problem it probably meant a loved one just died or they lost their home in a fire or they didn’t remember the last meal they had eaten. The problem I had been messaged about was in regards to planning a spring break trip.

As the past few months passed, I noticed it became something of an issue. One major problem was with my sister. She is a teenage girl in high school. Being a male, I don’t understand what a crucial and stressful time this is for women. I would come home and hear about her problems from my mom and laugh at them. I would get mad and say that her problems weren’t problems. The suffering I had just witnessed in such a desolate land was an actual problem, that is what needs solving, that is what needs to be fixed. When I would hear people muttering about problems at college, I would get angry and frustrated that they couldn’t see how meaningless their problems were. A professor once quoted a famous historian whose name escapes me saying “It is a sad day when the comedians of the world are the one’s speaking the truth.” One of my favorite comedians, Louis CK, stated “If you are white and American, you cannot complain about life. You have such a leg up the world.” I agreed with him a lot. Especially since in Ecuador a very formidable woman sternly spoke about how we had no right to fail at life or let the issues we witnessed go unnoticed because we were white, American and had an American passport. It took a lot of patience and discipline to learn and respect that people have very different definitions of the word problem.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a very close friend and she asked how I can be so nonchalant about life. I don’t think I said it in so many words, but I am about to dedicate my life to trying to solve major social injustices in the world through whatever means I can. Fretting over insignificant matters is a waste of time and energy.

5. I fall back on my faith, A LOT.

If you read my senior retreat talk entitled, “Fall Forward”, you might know the concept the one should never fall back, unless it is on their faith. When I first heard this statement, I quickly took it to heart. I think that is a beautiful way to define faith, something we can fall back on. I remember since I was very young up until last night at dinner, my grandmother has always pushed myself and her other grandkids to fall back on God’s love when we need it. When I talk about how I let a lot of problems go because I consider things like poverty and hunger to be the more pertinent issues in the world, I don’t do it without faith.

I’ve been asked many times to define faith. I believe faith is knowing that when something positive happens, it is a blessing. When something negative happens, it happens to teach us a lesson. Ever since I developed that definition and committed to believing in it, I have found myself more informed of who I am as well as to be more grateful for a lot of things. The simple warmth of a home and comfort of a bed is such a blessing. The complexity of friendships and relationships has taught me so much. Faith in God is a vehicle to learning what we are meant for in this world. I believe there are many who are meant for greatness. I believe that faith is the most powerful force one can have. I believe that it is the only thing we should fall back on. As Denzel said “everything else is waiting for us to fall forward.”

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That is my list. If you really knew me you would know those five things. While there is probably more, those are the ones that mean the most to me. Thank you for the prompt Bri. I hope much more comes out of this tiny glass jar.

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