Tag Archives: Religion

A Prayer for the Boy with Black Hair and One for Me

I'm not a fan of tattoos. I'm anti-voluntary pain, but you are considering one, go with the praying hands. It's a good look and you don't have to be a biker to pull it off.

I’m not a fan of tattoos. I’m anti-voluntary pain, but you are considering one, go with the praying hands. It’s a good look and you don’t have to be a biker to pull it off.

I had both kids in the car and I was dropping off my daughter at school. As we inched our way forward in the “kiss and go” line, we said our usual school drop-off prayer in which we ask that all the students, teachers, aides, secretaries, the vice principal, the assistant principal, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, and all who enter the school will be blessed with a safe and happy day.

My son, who was on his way to his second day of pre-school, said, “What about me? Let’s pray for everyone at my school.” And so we did. “God bless all the students and teachers at the pre-school with a wonderful, safe, happy day of learning. Amen.”

“Except for the bad kid. Don’t ‘God bless’ him,” my son added with his hands still folded and his head still bowed.

Before I could even open my mouth to address this, his sister intervened. “No, we should pray for the bad kid especially, Tom. Maybe if he has a good day, he won’t be so bad.”

“Okay, God bless the bad kid.”

“God bless with boy with the black hair,” I correctly him. I’m sure that either way, God knew who we were talking about.

Oh, yes, “the bad kid”—AKA “the boy with the black hair.” I have been hearing about him since I picked my son up from his first day of pre-school. I asked, “How did it go?” and he responded by relying the misadventures of one of the other students. Apparently, this child spit on the floor and was put in time-out where he spit on the floor again. He kicked a teacher’s assistant and was sent to time-out. He called my son a ‘baby’ and ended up in time-out—again.

The first time my son listed all the charges brought against the bad kid, I listened because I didn’t want him to think I wasn’t interested in hearing all about his first day of school, and apparently, this other child’s behavior was the dominate event of the day. When he was finished, I told him that I wanted to hear about what he did at school, not some other child. He talked about puzzles and worksheets and games and stories, but he kept coming around to the bad kid because it was at story-time that the spitting incident happened and while doing a puzzle, the names were called. At pick-up, I did hear the teacher tell a parent that she needed to speak with him privately. I’m presuming this was the bad kid’s father or grandfather.

“Let’s not call him ‘the bad kid,’” I said. “Maybe he was just having a bad day and bad feelings that cause him to behave badly. It doesn’t mean he is a bad kid. What’s his name?”

“I don’t know. He’s got black hair.” And thus, the bad kid became known as the boy with the black hair.

Honestly, I don’t know if the boy with the black hair was just having a bad day or if he has been spitting on the carpet, kicking aides, and calling the other students names since September. I do know that I felt especially proud of my daughter when she reminded her brother not to exclude anyone—even a person who had hurt him. Pray for your enemies.  For me, it was a moment in which the Heavens opened, a beam of light shown upon me, and a voice said, “Well, you must be doing something right.” No, it wasn’t “Well-done, good and faithful servant,” or “This is My Son with whom I am pleased,” but since I’m not yet dead and I’m certainly not Jesus, I will settle for “Well, you must be doing something right.”

For all the bully-awareness they do in school, I’m pretty sure the guidance counselor isn’t the one who taught my daughter to pray for her enemies. My husband and I taught her that. It’s an actual example of us sharing our faith and our beliefs with our children and it sticking. Woo-hoo! Score one for Team Parent!

Of course, I have a hard time with the word “enemy.” I mean, really, the boy with the black hair is hardly Kim Jong-un. He’s a child. He may have a behavior problem, but labeling him an enemy is pretty harsh.

On a personal level, I doubt many of us have true enemies. It would be a little paranoid of me to believe that anyone is out to get me. I’m not an underworld drug lord. No one has a reason to want to snuff me out. I’m sure I could be a victim of a random crime just as anyone could be—but random is the key word there, isn’t it? And then, there are the political and religious radicals around the world who may see me as an enemy just because I am an American, but I choose not to hate them back. Yeah, I’m praying for them instead.

No, in our comfortable, western world of convenience and a fairly high standard of living, most of us encounter unpleasant circumstances and attitudes. Those are our enemies. Sure, people sometimes embody those attitudes and contribute to those circumstances. On a regular basis, I encounter people whose comments or actions make me want to beat them with my shoe—or at the very least, my words. I’ll even confess that lately, I’ve been walking around with a can of whoop-ass that I’m ready to open. I have a chip on my shoulder and a hair trigger and slew of other clichés meant to tell you to stay out of my way.  In that respect, I am my own enemy.

And it makes me wonder—have to taught my children to pray for themselves? Have I taught them that in that moment when you think, “I just might lose it!” to say, “God bless me and comfort me so that I won’t say or do something I will regret?” I don’t know. Oops.

I’m reminded of my favorite prayer, the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is error, truth;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek

To be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

See? I read these words and I think, “Yeah, that’s how I want to be. That’s who I want to be” and it’s all about changing the petitioner, not other people—our perceived enemies. It’s all about how if we change ourselves, we can change the world and how we can be used to change the hearts of others by being that living, breathing extension of God’s love.

The next time my son mentions the boy with the black hair, we going to pray with him—more than just “God bless the boy with black hair.” We will ask God to show us a way in which we might help him have good behavior and we can ask that he be receptive to our help.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that it is exactly what we are called to do. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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Finding Zen Again

My first job out of college was working for a private non-profit that provided summer camp and other activities for children with cancer and support for their families. My second job was being the outreach coordinator at a shelter for victims of domestic violence. I was woefully under-qualified for both jobs, but in taking them, I experienced the greatest period of emotional and spiritual growth in my life.

When I was 22 and had only been working with young cancer patients for a few months, I went to the doctor complaining of chronic insomnia. “What makes you think you are an insomniac?” he asked. He seemed skeptical of my self-diagnosis. “I haven’t had good sleep in months. I toss and turn. I have these really stressful dreams when I do sleep. Sometimes, it takes me forever just to fall asleep and then, I’m awake at 5 in the morning. No alarm. I just wake up, get dressed and go to work.”

“I see,” he said. “And what are you thinking about mostly when you are ‘tossing and turning?’”

“Work,” I answered, but I didn’t see the relevance of his question at that moment.

“I could prescribe something, but I don’t think that will really help you. I think you’d do better not to think about work.”

Considering that the year was 1989, his reluctance to pull out his prescription pad surprises me today. I’ve long forgotten the doctor’s name, but I will always credit him with inadvertently turning me onto holistic medicine. His advice gradually led me to meditation as a means of quieting myself enough to sleep. Cognitive therapy, mostly through my own reading, taught me to look at a crisis and ask, “How important is this really? Where does my power over this situation begin and end?”

And let me tell you, once you’ve comforted the parents of a dying child or accompanied a domestic violence victim to court, the questions related cognitive therapy take on a whole new level of relevance. Back then, I was keenly aware that what I said and did might impact another human life in some profound and irreversible way. Because I knew I was under-qualified to  handle other people’s fears and sorrows, I developed a habit of praying daily that my thoughts, words, and actions would be pleasing unto God, that I would find peace in His presence and that I would be an instrument of Divine Healing because on my own, I’d screw it up—royally!

While working at the shelter, I had a co-worker whose bachelor’s degree was in hospitality management but she was working on her master’s in social work. Because I was curious about career paths, I had to ask, “How does one go from wanting to work with tourist to wanting to do social work?” She told me that she had always planned to go into hotel management, but during her senior year, she landed a part-time job as an EMS dispatcher. The hours worked well with her academic schedule and the pay was good. When she finally graduated, she found a full-time position as a concierge at a golf resort. According to her, the golfers would get irate over minor things, such as having their tee-time moved back 5 minutes or not getting the caddy they requested. Eventually, she cracked. She told one of them, “Look! THIS IS NOT AN EMERGENCY! YOU AREN’T HAVING A HEART ATTACK! YOU HAVEN’T BEEN IN AN ACCIDENT! NO ONE IS HOLDING A GUN TO YOUR HEAD! SO, SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP!” And she was fired. Yeah, I edited out the profanity—but you can use your imagination.

Yes, there is something about working in a job in which you are dealing with genuine life-or-death situations that renders you unable to take minor inconveniences seriously—enev when everyone around you sees it as a complete disaster.

Years later, I had my own version of my co-worker’s story. After four and a half years working in the non-profit, social work, crisis management field, I did a year of retail and then found my niche: museum work.

At first, I didn’t take my museum work seriously because it was part-time, and it was interesting and fun without any of the gravity of cancer or depravity of domestic violence. “What? The lecture series is sold out? Sounds like a good problem to have even if you don’t know where they will all park!” “The exhibit guide won’t arrive until the day after the exhibition opens? Not that big of a crisis is it, really?” “The noon volunteer never showed up? But no one died, right?” I was almost flippant about it. “THAT is not an emergency.”

Time and increased responsibility brought me back to center. No, it’s really not that big of a deal when a patron complains about a lack of parking, but on the other hand, you are losing your funding? Your budget has been cut by 25%? Attendance is way down and so you have to cut staff hours? Okay, these probably aren’t life-or-death tribulations, but they are pretty big obstacles, so I won’t make light of them.

I think I may be in another period of emotional and spiritual growth right now. At least, I hope that is the case. I don’t worry like I did when I was in my early 20s. I am, however, very impatient. I have found the past 11 months to be incredibly stressful because nothing and no one—including myself–moves fast enough for me. Whether I am dealing with my mother-in-law’s behavior or illness, managing her care or her care-givers, dealing with her house or her stuff, or balancing her needs with those of my children, or discussing money with my husband, I’m grouchy and I want whatever is going to happen to hurry up and HAPPEN. And those things I’ve listed are pretty much all I ever do and so I’m grouchy and impatient most of the time.

It’s definitely time for me to start praying again—as I once did—and turning it all over to God because I am so tired of barking orders at people and feeling that no matter what I do, it will be wrong and it will all take too long.

I need to find zen again.

I know that Zen is a Buddhist ideal, and some Christians are bothered when they hear a fellow Christian use the term, but I’m using it in a more slang, general way. Perhaps Buddhists should be offended that I’ve commandeered the word, but please know it’s not my intention to insult anyone. Think of it as “the Peace which surpasses all understanding” because isn’t that what enlightenment is all about? Knowing that it’s all okay? We are in the hands of a loving God and even when we are worried or scared or grouchy or incredibly impatient, it’s all okay because all the hardships and challenges in this life are working towards something good even if we don’t ever see it. My favorite Bible verse is Romans 8:28—“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him…” Remembering that can bring me to a very peaceful, zen-like place…and it’s kind of sad that I haven’t been to that place in a long, long time.

Yet, I am able to accept that it is all a journey and rocky roads, derailed trains, and delayed, forever-changing plans are all a part of it. Maybe that’s a lesson from earlier in life, too, and I’ve just had too little time to remember it and so, I’m having to learn it again.