Compassion for Strangers

I was on my way to work from a coffee shop for the sole reason that I enjoy talking to strangers. On the way I observed a young man in a very disheveled appearance having a fit; flailing his arms, talking and yelling to himself. He continues this for about fifteen feet, spins in three circles, and falls down flat on grass. His arm or leg occasionally twitches and flails.

               I felt like I was looking into a mirror of my soul. I sympathize with the struggle he must have with his own mind. I don’t know if he is aware of a fight in his soul, whether he is friends or enemies with voices in his head or even voices from strangers around him.

I wonder if the strangers in my head would get along with the strangers in his. I may never know because unfortunately I drove past him without stopping. Perhaps by God’s grace I will see him on my return and we can have a conversation. Maybe it will be the two of us, maybe it will be four or five of us.

Most of my adult life I have struggled with depression. I am convinced that all forms of suffering trivial or severe serve to make us more like Christ. I have been trying to figure out for years how depression is making me more like Christ. Despite many conversations with friends I never could figure out a satisfying answer.

               I recently woke up in the middle of the night in a great deal of angst over something that in a few years will seem trivial. I couldn’t fall back asleep, gave up, and went about my day on two hours of sleep. This morning I felt a sudden onset of guilt and regret over past choices with enough emotional force to make my chest hurt.

              It is a struggle. I am aware that my emotions are out of line. I am routinely fighting with myself. I wonder if this man intensely feels this struggle. Does he feel as though he has demons and wants freedom? I wish I knew how to help. I realized that even if I had stopped I would not have had the slightest clue as how to be helpful.

(As a side note, according to Jesus we are not to worry about what we will say when taken in front of courts and kings and queens for the Holy Spirit will guide us. I assert that he will do the same for us when speaking to his lost children. I should have stopped).

              I enjoy talking to strangers. But I find that those who are most strange are not strangers. When asked who is our neighbor, Christ responds with a story about a person who chose to be a neighbor to a stranger. Now here This young man taught me something important about my struggle; compassion. How can he be anything but a neighbor to care for?

Winning and Losing at Grocery Stores


I have reached a new level of adulthood. For the first time in the last year that I have been doing all my own grocery shopping, I checked to make sure that the eggs were not broken. I also, as a general practice, get lost at least two or three times every time I go to a grocery store. I found everything with one trip through. Win!

The obvious couple in front of me was checking out separately. As soon as I unloaded my groceries it was apparent I was going to be there for a while. She had a WIC check that was giving the clerk trouble. A call back for a question, an attempted processing, re calling, four-five attempts to send it through the machine to read it, finally an attempt to manually enter it which caused the system to crash.

I smiled at the couple behind me, as they appeared to be on the edge of being irritable. The poor girl checking out was horribly embarrassed. They were buying almost nothing but baby food.

‘Pay for their food and tell them that Jesus is looking out for them’

He wore Nike shoes, a nice Casio watch with what looked like a thousand functions, and her makeup was done very well.

‘Buy their food’

They probably did not need the WIC check. Annual income limit for one is 21k, for two is 30k. As we all moved to another register after this one froze I quietly asked the clerk, “How much was their total?” “25 dollars”

‘Pay for their food. For once, you have cash in your wallet.”

I had no doubt that they would get the WIC check working. The store wasn’t going to refuse their food simply due to issues with a machine. I let another couple that had come in behind me go first at the next register since it took me time to move all the groceries back to my cart.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course, I am sure.” I like spreading calm happiness. I let another couple with five items go in front of myself as well.

‘Pay for their food’

I am very willing to help people in need. But, I don’t consider people with smart phones, Netflix accounts, high speed internet, new TV’s and new car payments to be in need. Most people I meet who get assistance from family or some government program could happily make it on their own if they chose to spend their money on something other than entertainment and luxuries.

I loaded my groceries into my cart and then into my car. I took my cart all the back to the store front to see if they had made it through. They had, and looking at me the man said, “Thank you man,” “no problem” I responded. Inside, I said I was sorry.

I have spent more than twenty-five dollars on: food that has gone to waste, video games, late fees, dating websites, alcohol, cover charges, chocolate, massages, gym memberships, two subscriptions I don’t even use and countless other items.

I won at being an American adult that plans and checks their eggs. I lost at being a compassionate follower of Christ who puts eternity ahead of the present. I didn’t get lost in the grocery store, but I lost in modern ideals of optimization, need, self-reliance and so may good American qualities that get in the way of living for eternity.

Spirals, Doors, and Feelings

Have you ever noticed that every time you hold a door for someone who is more than four feet away? They always smile, look at you, look down and rush the open door avoiding any awkward human contact. Or when you stop in the car and wave someone across the street: smile, look down, and then run.

I do the same thing when someone holds the door open for me or when I cross the street. I do not want to make them wait. Which, is silly and insulting. I feel insulted when I am holding the door and others rush. Excuse me, but do you really think that my kindness and charm is so petty that I would not be willing to wait? I did offer. At the same time I feel bad that I caused them to rush.

Am I the only one thinks this way? That there is a slow downward spiraling trend towards bad feelings? The door opening recievee, (the walker? Wait… no.) feels bad that someone has taken the time to hold the door and must wait. The person holding the door feels bad for the one who ran. Both feel they did a good deed. The one holding the door knows they held the door. The runner feels they saved the door opener from having to wait longer. But for why?

Why cannot we, or I, graciously except the offer of an open door just as we are? Walking whatever speed we are at. Do we not believe they are gracious enough? They may have offered yet still are burdened? As though their lives are so poor that waiting a few minutes longer would mean a mental breakdown later that evening.

But it is the same thing most anything we are offered. When parched and given water we suffice with one glass when we could have four. When fed we eat a meager portion when we could eat the whole pig.

If you ask me a question for which I have a ten-minute energetic answer, I shorten and deprecate my own answer. I do not have faith in the other person’s patience. I do not want to be a burden. I am afraid that if I talk to much I will not be liked. Living through fear and belittling my own voice I am depriving them from an experience of life, listening. I am depriving both of us the relationship developed from experiencing me more fully. I sink myself into a deeper isolation.

I am not a hero when I do this, and even if I was I am not the Hulk. I am not endless in my patience and long suffering. I am human and need a friend to speak with, share with, to be free to talk for five hours strait with (I have done this when I was little). I will take the risk. If you ask I will answer, and if I wear your patience thin I learned more about you and we are both better off.

So I commend you, when someone opens the door for you do not rush. Walk at the same pace through, smile, and look up. Look them in the eye with all the time it takes you to get to the door. Make it a real connection, and say thank you.

From belief to doubt to love part 1

From belief, to doubt to love part 2

I care deeply about people and want them to feel loved. One of my principle ways of doing this is thoughtful intentional listening and probing questions to help them open up. My goal was always to console past hurts and pains.

I had many experiences pouring time and energy into others in this way. I was always happy and joyous about the opportunity and saw the blessings and the fruit. It was a signature part of who I was and how I loved people. Then I met Eric.

Eric had previously been known to be a very happy go lucky energetic individual. Everyone on campus knew who he was. We had very opposite upbringings. He was raised mostly by a single mother from divorced parents just above poverty. I was raised by two married parents in a middle class home. However, we always respected each others point of view and enjoyed our conversations that stretched our previous beliefs. I was looking forward to my year with him as a roommate.

Unfortunately, the happy bubbly individual I had known went through an identity crisis and began wallowing in all of his childhood daddy and family issues. I was happy to help despite my own identity crisis where I was terrified of who I would become and that our conversations were rarely conducive to my sleep cycle.

He believed that he was a sham on the outside pretending to always happy. Now he was going to live in each moment honestly. He wanted so bad to have some sort of female affection. And many things like that. On several occasions I gave up what turned out to be a whole letter grade in order to spend time listening and sympathizing with him. Worth it.

I was falling into my own pit of depression, but still I made it a point to share in his life. A girl he had been good friends with had written him a letter saying he was sexy. Most of the conversation I do not remember, but this, “You know what she said, she thought I was sexy. Sexy? Me?” He was rather overweight. “She has a boyfriend and yet she has been my friend and encouraged me. She wrote me a note. The only bit of encouragement I have had all semester. No one else has tried to be a part of my life or encourage me or understands what I am going through.”

Of course not. Especially not the guy sitting across from you two hours past his bedtime who was in the middle of spiraling towards thoughts of suicide. Nope no one.

It was at that moment that I realized… People suck. People will suck you dry of all of your energy. Then, in return. They just sit there and do nothing. No growth. No life change. No progress. Just a black hole sucking up all of the attention.

My identity was wrapped up in my ability to help effect a positive change in others. I had always been able to be some sort of a blessings in others lives, regardless of how small. And now someone who I thought was going to be a close friend threw out all of my loving efforts. My care was rejected and the seed of doubt was planted. If they can just throw away all of the care and attention, why bother?

My Broken Crown: Pride

In my crown I have found another large crack. Pride.

I have always thought myself humble. Even though I am loud and will quickly express my opinions, I am generally (at least believe I am) quick to change them when I am presented with sufficient evidence to the contrary. I act confidently (in most areas… except relationships… then I cower) in what I believe is true because that is all I have to go off of. When I turn out to be wrong; thank goodness for grace.

Although I perceive that I do not think that highly of myself in the present; I often do not understand when people compliment me. When I think about myself in the past I am arrogant.

I am one that is prone to regret, guilt, and a rehearsal of what could have been. Whenever I think back on my mistakes, sin or just choices, I always think, “I knew better” “I should have known better” “that isn’t like me” or “It is just because I didn’t try” and “I knew what to do, I just didn’t care”

Under this is the presupposition that I am better than my choices. Rather than giving myself grace because I am flawed, I prove my arrogance by believing that I was better… and just made a slip up. I could not come to believe that I am dishonest. My arrogance could not except such a flaw. “I was caught up in such and such” “It is because of this” or “I deserve more patience” What I should have done was admit: This is where I am at. These are my flaws. I may be 24 years old but I still have not grown up to such and such a level of maturity.

It is only when I can accept the truth of my flaws being who I am (not some restrained version of a better me that needs release from society, family, or the like) that I can then accept grace in a way that allows for growth. Without this truth, grace leaves open the door for laziness and licentiousness.

I have made many mistakes as of late. I have a lot of growing up to do. I have been humbled by those younger than me who are more honest, have more follow through, are better time managers, love others better, and show wisdom far beyond what I have been able.

My crown is not one of someone who has arrived. I talk about how I could do this or that if only I cared to. No, regardless of reasons who I am is who I am. So I present that my crown is that of a child slowly waking up to the world. Embarrassed, crawling, I sit up and spin the propeller on top and say, here I am, this is me: thank goodness for grace because I am still growing.

Writing Your Life

I have journaled off and on since I was eight years old. When I was young, I just wrote about what I did and how u felt, happy, sad, excited. Playing outside with AJ, sad over the death of one of my chickens.

When I was in high school, it was dreams and a bit of drama from relationships.

In college, I wrote about all of the other people that I hurt. I wrote prayers regarding my struggle watching others suffer and not knowing how to help. 

I would cry and be at a loss over friends who lost friends because of human nature, those who were depressed, lost, cutting, or just at their wits end from school. I was focused on others.

I recently read through the last two years of journals. 

Post college it turned almost completely to issues with my girlfriend. Almost all of them were prayers of confusion a to marry or not. 

Comically, after the break up they turned to dramatic woes and throngs of love and anguish for my loss an a struggle to deal with a broken relationship. As time went on they move more and more into centering on the pain in my own heart. Journals of praise and gratitude became more in frequent. Journals regarding my care for others, no longer written.

Even after an unfortunate event that left a friend with deep wounds, rather than care for her, my entries focused on how the situation affected me.

I am embarrassed of these sections. I am tempted sometimes to remove them. But I keep them as a reminder. As they how were my focus really is.

We don’t get to write out our lives. We don’t decide what decisions other people make or how it affects us. But we can always choose how we respond and what we focus on. 

How will you write out your life?

I am going to re write whatever happens to me as care for others. Not myself.

The Jacket part ii

It is important to capture our imaginations. Not just of grand and romantic ideas, but of day to day events. Take hold of the ideas we have and place them on paper for future musing. It is also important to appreciate art for arts sake. So there are two good things together when we have a story for the sake of story that captures our imagination of day to day events.

The following story is one of a sad event. I hope that it captures your imagination to create in you an emotive response. The beauty of emotive responses in literature is that the event is slowed down. Each word and moment can be re read and mulled over. The panic of an appropriate response or the rush of sadness that is experienced in events that happen to us is removed, and we get to take a look at the emotion that is not withdrawn like a scientific study, but not immersed like a life event.

So without further to do, 

The Jacket

 “Can she remember anything yet?”

“No. I am sorry Charles. I am afraid not”

“Is she back to functional?”

“No. Not really. It is as if she has reverted back to high school. With a little less independence”

“Does she have any long term memory yet?”

“Well, kind of. She seems to remember who I am. Well, not really. I mean, she remembers that I am the one that is supposed to take care of her” Clair had enough warewithawl to notice his face. “I mean. I am sorry. I know that is supposed to be your job. He sighed.

“I don’t think of it as a job. It is what I want to do. Is she learning anything?”

“She reads some. But it is usually the same books over and over. So no.” There was a long pause. The sun was setting outside, leaving long shadows from every object, and long strands of light coming in through the windows. The floors were red with flowered patterns, that matched the wallpaper on the walls. They stood on the second floor overlooking the entryway to the care facility. Charles had known Clare since high school, and he considered himself lucky to have her at the facility. At least she knew enough about the situation to be sensitive.

                “Uhm, Charles. I really don’t know how to tell you this. But, if her memory hasn’t come back yet, and I mean her ability to remember, not just her memories, then it will probably never come back. She won’t have any long term memory. She will always need a care taker. She also will never remember who her caretaker is.” There was another long pause. For Charles, time didn’t really register at the moment, but for Clare, the pain of having to tell him the inevitability of him ever getting his fiancé back, it seemed like ten or twenty minutes before she got the next words to come. “I know it is hard, though I don’t pretend to really understand, but the best thing is for you to move on. The life you had with her will always be a good thing. The way you treated and loved her is a good thing. But you won’t get her back. You have to let her go. That will take time. I suggest this be your last visit.” A minute passed, and Charles lip began to quiver. The tears slowly built up and began to roll down his face as he looked down and out into memories.

                “al…” he tried to speak. Took a deep breath, and started again, “Alright.” He wiped the tears from his face, but they were immediately replaced by more, that sparkled and shone in the late light. He looked at the floor, to the walls, to the ceiling, as though looking for a way out.

“Hey, uhm, I will give you your time. My mom made some fantastic dinner last night. I have some left overs. I will warm some up and have it waiting for you, okay?”

“Al… Alright”

“Alright. But you are going to need to say something more than that. She is just as spunky and outgoing as ever.” With that, Clair walked passed him and headed downstairs as though to the kitchen. In reality, she stepped in to the bathroom to take care of her own tears that were forming.

Charles slowly walked towards the room, 26a. That was the age that Abigail had sworn she would be married by. The 26 part, not the ‘a’. He stood outside for a few minutes. It would have been longer, but he did realize that he looked kind of creepy just standing outside the room. He knocked quietly.

“I am never going to answer if you knock like that. It doesn’t sound like you actually want to see me. Wait, who is it? Oh no wait. Knock again.” He smirked out a few more tears, and the knocked again.

“Come in.”

“Hello.” He said quietly. She just stared at him.

“Hello, my name is Abigail.” She got up from the chair where she had been reading a kids book, “The Queen and the Cornrow” one that he used to read to her for fun. They would make up their own story to the pictures. In a chest at home, he had pictures that they had drawn to the story. Some pages were stick figures they had done late in the early morning when they were both tired and high on sugar. Other pages they actually took time on, or glued in magazine clippings.

“Oh. My name is Charles.”

“Well what can I do for you Charles? Are you here to play a game?” He paused.

“I would love to.”

“Okay, well I have games, I think. They would be in the closet wouldn’t they?” She began going through the closet, throughout occasional things. A blow dryer, a jacket. “That is funny. I thought I had games. Well what are you hear for then if I don’t have games.”

“Actually. Well I am here to say goodbye… er I mean. To chat for a bit, and then say goodbye.”

“Do I know you?”

“Yes. Well you did.”

“I did?”


“What do you mean I did?”

“Abigail… You got in a car accident. You had a head injury and you have forgotten everything. We were engaged.”

“Really? Hmmm. Hey are you crying?”

“What? Uh no.” She always had a knack for knowing when he was upset. Apparently it was obvious or she hadn’t lost all of her little quirks.

“Why are you crying?” He waited. “well?” She was also good at prying everything out of him.

“Because I have to say goodbye to a dear friend. Once I say goodbye, I never get to see them again. Though it’s really hard, because they don’t know I am saying goodbye.”

“Wow. That is rough. I am sorry to hear that.” She paused. “Hey, you know what helps a broken heart, a little sharing and caring. Let me show you something. Have a seat.

He sat down in a small chair close to the door. She went over to a draw and slowly opened it.

“Okay, you have to promise not to tell anyone. And to not think I am too weird.” That was another phrase she would use. Everytime before she mentioned some crazy idea she had or a dream of the future of what it could be like driving around the U.S in an R.V full of adopted kids, just to give them an adventure.

“Okay. I promise, with all my love.” She pulled out a jacket from the drawer. It was his. She had borrowed it often. He had had it for years. It smelled like him, had small tears and a few small stains, but was in general good condition.

“This is my special jacket. It is special because every time I am feeling down I put it on, and I feel better. You see, there are times when I feel like I am missing something. That something is just wrong like I am in a dream without any family and if I can just wake up I will have them all right here beside me. But when I put this on. It feels like home. It smells like home.” She paused holding and looking down at the jacket. “But recently. The smell has been fading. I don’t know what to do. When I feel down, I want to put it on, but I am afraid that it is going to lose all of its scent. What am I going to do?” She looked at him pleading. Tears began to roll down his face. Seeing her, even over something so small was unbearable. “Abigail.”

“Oh, what is wrong? Oh dear. Apparently you need this more than I. I am afraid I have forgotten how to cry. Here, put this on, it will help.” She stood up to give it to him, and he leaned forward to take it and put it on. “There. Now you will be better.”

He just cried. He couldn’t take it. He just sat their and cried as she tried to console him. In all honesty he was trying to stay their longer so that he could wear the jacket longer and give it his scent again, but he didn’t have the words to speak.

The sun finally set.

“Hey, uhm. It is dinner time, and I need to go soon. Are you feeling better.”

“Yeah. Yeah I am feeling better.” He lied.

“can I have that back please?” He slowly rose and took off the jacket. He placed it on her shoulders the way he used to. He went to hug her, but stopped, “is it alright if I just”

“Yeah, hear.” She hugged him, with energy.

“Wow. That is amazing. It smells like home again. Your pretty great Mr. You know that? You made my jacket smell like home. I feel at home. Like I am among family again. Thank you so much.

And he just stood their, hugging her and crying for a while. And finally let go.

“Goodbye Abigail.”

“Goodbye Mr.” she said, as she clutched the jacket tighter. 

Marvel Comics and Binding Stories

The ancient myths of the Greco-Roman and Norse God’s were shared in order to show the listener how to live. It showed them how to behave in society. It demonstrated the relationship between men and women. It explained why the weather changed or why catastrophes happened. It explained the motivation for wicked deeds and what honor is. They also helped to hold together the whole of society. Since everyone in a society knew the same stories and lessons from the stories, it added a thread of commonality.

Joseph Campbell spent most of his life studying myths. His goal was to find the common threads in myths around the world. One of the themes that came up in most cultures is the quest of the hero. A hero overcame obstacles in order to become the person he needed to become. He would prove his worth, his place in society, become a man etc. These stories showed young men what they were supposed to do to become a man (women were often left out or given secondary roles). The quest could include defeating a monster, traveling to a distant place, or often a death and resurrection.

In America, we have many movies, but we have few stories of lore to guide the young generation in how to live. We have historical figures, like Davy Crockett, George Washington, Daniel Boone, and Martin Luther King Jr. but they are given a cursory telling at best. I am rather disappointed that such fantastic historical figures are not held up as bedtime and campfire stories. However, I am very thrilled that the United States is starting to tell stories of its own mythical heroes.

Our American Heroes are comic book heroes. Currently the comic book industry that is dominating the market is the Marvel Universe. Marvel is the company that has produced the heroes known as, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, Thor, The Fantastic Four, Dr. Strange, Ant Man (who is not like an ant in the same way that Spider Man is like a spider) the X-Men and many others. For many years, comics and baseball cards were what young boys would spend their allowance on every week.

Until the release of the recent blockbuster hits, Marvel Studios was slowly going under. Comic book sales were down and their profits were disappearing. Now bought by the Walt Disney Corporation, Marvel Corp. is taking the United States Culture by storm. With no signs of stopping the production of their main heroes, Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor, as well as planning to continue to add more Marvel heroes. Marvel is a major force in shaping our thinking. This is especially true because now they are making good movies. Through the flop of the Hulk films, the mediocre Fantastic Four, and the dismal falling of Spiderman, it seems that Marvel is learning to make good movies.

These good movies are not just fun to watch, but they are actually beneficial for our American character and culture. The marvel heroes, who will be the subject of the next several postings, are teaching young people the importance of right over might, relationships, honor, personal growth, learning from mistakes, and good choices.
The marvel movies are also so wide spread that they offer a semi common thread to the USA. They give an actual story to follow, and not just the commonality of consumerism, hard work and baseball.