Sandusky Family Time

After spending the weekend back in my hometown — taking some time to remove a few heavy furniture items and appliances from my mother’s recently sold home, my wife, daughter and I drove back up to Sandusky this morning just in time for lunch. We watched a few fireworks from mom’s backyard last night – one last chance to catch Thunder in the Ville.

We got home shortly after 12 noon and emptied the car. As we sometimes do, we decided to head over to Cedar Point for lunch — free dining on the season pass meal plan and a great place to just walk around for a few hours.  As we drove to the park and contemplated our various dining options, we opted to choose from one of several dine-in/sit down restaurants – narrowing it down to Coasters or Johnny Rockets.  I was in the mood for a grilled chicken sandwich, which I knew Coasters had, but wasn’t sure about Johnny Rockets. So as we entered the park and headed for Coasters, my wife suggested checking Johnny Rockets since it was already ‘on the way’ to see if there was a short or long wait and if they had a grilled chicken sandwich (which she thought they did, but I wasn’t quite so sure).  When we arrived, there was a moderate wait for a table, but they did have a chicken sandwich on the meal plan, so we decided to put our name in for a table.  When asked if we preferred an inside or outside table, we opted for whatever was available first.

An outside table opened up about 10 or 15 minutes later and we were seated. We had never eaten outside at this location before (always indoors) and I commented on how nice it was to dine outside on a sunny, but cool afternoon – right in the heart of the park. It was nice enough that we decided to take a few family photos while we waited to be served.

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Other families were being seated at the surrounding outdoor tables at Johnny Rockets throughout our meal — nothing unusual about that.  One group came out shortly before we finished eating.  I didn’t really notice them when they came out or how long they had been sitting there, but as we were eating, I caught a glimpse of the back of one young boy’s shirt in their group.  He had a blue shirt on with the name “Sprochi” across the back and I think the number 12.  I thought to myself, how funny is that! I went to elementary and high school with a kid named Sprochi. I’d never heard or seen the name anywhere else since then, so I thought it was a funny ‘coincidence.’

That’s just about when I noticed the boy’s mom sitting a few chairs away from him and partially facing my direction. She had sunglasses on, but I recognized her face instantly. Her husband had his back to me, so I couldn’t see his face, but it was obvious!  I walked over to say hello to two of my high-schoolmates who it turns out a few hours earlier made the same family drive that I just finished up from the Ville.

It was a short visit, but special nonetheless, if only for the seemingly chance happening.  I had seen them both a few years ago at an impromptu 25th class reunion during a homecoming football game, but that was still a planned event and not a random chance meeting.

The Sprochi’s picked a beautiful day to come to Sandusky and enjoy the park. As we briefly caught up, he recalled mentioning to his wife earlier that day that he thought I lived in the Sandusky area — just one of those little asides that we think of or say on any given day.  Little did he know (or expect) that he would actually bump into me among the thousands of other guests in attendance at the park that day.  Had we not decided on the way to the park to eat at a sit down restaurant? Had we gone straight to Coasters rather than checking at Johnny Rockets for a chicken sandwich on the menu? Had their son not decided to wear a shirt with his name on it? Had either of our families decided that the wait was not worth it – or had one of us been seated inside rather than in the outside dining area? Would this chance meeting have happened at all? (This doesn’t even consider what other factors may have contributed to or altered the Sprochi’s decision of where and when to have their lunch).

[EDIT: I later discovered through sharing this blog post on Facebook that they in fact went to Coasters first — while looking for Johnny Rockets. While at Coasters, they could have decided this place looks nice, why don’t were just eat here, but instead chose to continue their quest to Johnny Rockets.]

Was it just a coincidence?   Hardly…

Brian, Meg, and family, I hope you all had a great time at the park today and that you will come back again sometime soon!  As often as we go over throughout the summer, there’s a good ‘chance’ we might run into each other again if you do!

Praise God!!!

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Sunset Gardens Sunrise

Below are a few updates on my recent Wake Up Call post – relating to my mother’s decision to sell her house and move to an apartment.  If you haven’t read Wake Up Call – just published 11 days ago – you should go there and read that first to get the back story.

On Friday, April 7th (after nearly a dozen showings of the house in less than a week and a few offers below her price) we knew that Mom’s house would likely sell very soon. Not wanting to put the cart before the horse, but also not wanting Mom to be out in the cold, we decided it was time to call the property manager for the apartments described in Wake Up Call and see what their exact availability was. They have three apartment complexes in Sandusky – the newest and nicest where Louise lives, but also the most expensive rent per identical units. The cheapest and oldest were at a different location.  Mom was most interested in finding out availability at the third middle range option.

Mom had come up to meet me after work on Friday and we were traveling back to her house for the weekend to try to sort through some of the items that tend to collect in a house over the course of 45+ years. So while driving down the highway at 70 MPH, we called the property manager to see if that third location had any units available in the layout Mom liked best.  We were told that none of the locations had any units available and that there was a waiting list at least 3 names deep with no indication of when a unit would become available. Needless to say, that was an unsettling blow to Mom’s plans (and also to the God-Incidence described in Wake Up Call). I could have slammed on the brakes at that moment and gone from 70 – 0 MPH in seconds and it still would have had less of an impact on Mom and I than that phone call.

There was also another issue I had just discovered a day before. The rental application required tenants to have a gross income of 3.5 times their rent – of which Mom fell well short. After much thought, reviewing alternatives – including other apartment locations, discussions about scrapping the whole plan and removing her house from the market, and some other difficult exchanges, she finally decided to still apply for the apartment to try to get onto the waiting list and keep the house up for sale. Once the house sold, we could put the furniture she intended to keep into storage until an acceptable unit became available.  She also had a possible temporary living space available in a furnished vacant apartment above her cousin’s veterinary clinic less than a mile from the house. It was a disappointment – especially not knowing if she would be approved or how long it would take for a unit to become available, but at least it was an option. Upon calling my wife with the news, she said optimistically, maybe they tell everyone that line about having no vacancies just to separate the serious inquiries who submit acceptable applications from the random phone calls from prospective tenants who may or may not be legitimate.

So over a rough and emotional weekend with everything in limbo, we filled out the application and included a letter documenting Mom’s income, excellent credit history, and savings which she can use to supplement her rent payments should her income and expenses fall short. I just kept praying that weekend “Thy Will be done…” over and over – and threw in a little reminder and request that my most recent post to this blog not be defeated by this unexpected curve ball.

I woke up very early on Saturday morning (even before Mom, which is unusual).  Looking out my old bedroom window, I could see that a spectacular sunrise was about to occur, so I grabbed my phone and went out to her back deck barefooted (it was only 25 degrees out at the time – yikes!) to take a panoramic photo of it. I knew it would likely be one of my last opportunities to catch it.  I grew up on Garden Drive — the name of the street itself, but the subdivision also includes another street and as a whole is known as “Sunset Gardens”.  This sunrise photo clearly shows that they got the name wrong.

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I’ve since decided to make this the blog’s new header photo.

After Mom and I returned from a somewhat productive weekend cleaning at her house, my wife dropped off the completed apartment application this past Monday afternoon. They then called Mom on Tuesday to let her know she had been approved even without meeting the gross income requirement. (I like to think that my explanation letter helped, but it was more likely the repetitive mental prayer of “Thy Will be done”). When Mom asked how long the waiting list was, they told her they had something opening up in June – which was the exact floor plan she wanted and was on the property site she listed as her first choice! So it seems (as DOES happen from time to time) that my wife was was right in her optimistic assessment of the prior Friday telephone call. Now it just came down to selling the house, which had been officially on the market since April 3rd.

Because of all the interest in it, the realtor said it shouldn’t take long. Mom got a qualified offer meeting her price on April 12th from a young couple – first time home buyers – who were already pre-approved for a loan. Mom accepted the offer on the 13th with a closing to occur within 40 days. She would then have another 30 days to move out – which should neatly overlap the date that her new apartment is ready for occupancy. Could that timing be any more perfect?  This has truly been a Holy Week to remember.

So I am happy to report, rather than a disappointing conclusion to the recent Wake Up Call post, instead we have a few more God-Incidences to round out the story!

Praise God!!!

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Wake Up Call

When my father passed away two years ago, he was well into what would be his final day or two with us.  He was no longer able to speak in response to any of us and no longer responded to me with any eye contact when I spoke to him. But he still had a strong grip and he seemed to respond to my voice with a grasp of his hand whenever I spoke if I offered him my hand.  One of the last things I said to him where I recall getting that responsive return grasp was to tell him that I would make sure Mom was taken care of after he was gone.

After he died, I talked to Mom over the next few months about the possibility of her moving to Sandusky in the future where I could keep a closer eye on her.  She considered it, but was not ready to do that any time soon. I knew that it had to be her decision in her time and that I couldn’t push it, but I also brought it up when it seemed appropriate.  I remember telling her that it could be her decision now to sell her house on her terms when she was ready, but that in the future a decision might have to be made for her without her input.  With a few health problems of her own, navigating steps has become a bit more challenging for her recently. With her shower and her laundry and her garage all accessed through her basement, stairs are at least a daily encounter for her.

We’ve had the conversation many times over the past two years — sometimes she seemed to lean toward moving, other times she seemed dead set against it.  All of her friends and all of her doctors were there after all.  So was the house she and my father bought when I was six months old and lived in ever since. Up until his final few years, dad was still able to take care of most of the house and yard maintenance.  Although she made a valiant effort, it quickly became clear that Mom was not up to the long term task and neither my sister nor I were close enough to handle things regularly.

Even before dad passed away, my mother’s neighbor had a son who began cutting their grass and shoveling their driveway for a very reasonable fee. His mother and step-father had just moved into the house two doors down a few years before.  I never knew their name specifically and I don’t think I ever had the opportunity to meet them, but I knew that she was from my dad’s hometown – Mingo, Jct. – and they apparently had the chance to discuss and swap old hometown stories as new neighbors.

It wasn’t until just over a week ago – during a seemingly random conversation with my mom – that I finally realized the guy who had been cutting her grass and shoveling her driveway was actually a high school classmate of mine. Because his mother had since remarried, I never heard the familiar last name which would have possibly clued me in on the connection.

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I didn’t specifically reply on Facebook, but I am in complete and full agreement with both Nhung and Greg. The CCHS class of 1989 is still pretty special nearly 30 years after we were last all together at the same time!

So anyway, earlier in March we experienced a few days of fairly strong winds throughout Ohio.  We had it up here on the Lake where many roofs were damaged to one degree or another. Mom had to file her own insurance claim, which thankfully turned out to be a very minor problem to fix — just some chimney flashing that came loose and not an entire roof that needed repaired. But during the period in between noticing the initial damage and finding out the minimal bill, Mom finally came to the realization that it was time to reconsider her living accommodations.  It was just a gentle, but firm, wake up call for her that she is not capable of handling any major catastrophes which might occur with her house on her own.

About a year ago, I showed her a few apartment complexes in the Sandusky area — just to plant a seed without forcing her hand, so that she had an idea what to expect if she later decided to make a move. After the chimney flashing damage, she asked me about those places once again and this time she sounded like she was ready to unload the house and come this way to live.

We looked online at a few complexes and apartment floor plans. She thought that she liked a few of the possible options, but you never really know until you see a place in person.  So Mom made arrangements to have a realtor look at her house and give her an idea of what he thought it might sell for.  She also had tentative plans to visit us over a weekend to drive through a few of the apartment complexes she liked online. As the plan unfolded, she decided to drive up on a Friday to meet me after work.  She and I would drive through the apartment locations and then drive back down to her house for the weekend to meet with some of my cousins and work on cleaning a few items out of her basement.  She would then come back up with me on Sunday to do some more looking that following week.  I discussed the weekend plan with Mom on Thursday while my wife and daughter went out to the local Verizon store to sign us up for landline phone service through Verizon. We figured out that we could save a bit on our monthly budget by removing our landline service from the cable bundle and adding it to our existing wireless plans at Verizon.  They came home with the new hardware and we just had to wait a few days for our phone number to get released for Verizon to pick it up.

As luck would have it, I managed to get a Friday afternoon appointment with the property manager to see an empty two bedroom ranch apartment with an attached garage — all items on Mom’s wish list.  We went to that meeting and were underwhelmed to say the least.  Let’s just say that we were not at all impressed with the woman who showed us the vacant apartment.  We both got the impression that she felt we were wasting her time measuring possible furniture placement. She was unable to answer several of our most basic questions (although in all fairness she tried). Just as an example, this apartment had a single car garage and the spare bedroom had a HUGE walk-in closet which ran alongside the length of the garage. When we asked the property rep how much smaller the closet was in the same unit with a two car garage, she replied that she did not know and that she had never seen the inside of a two car garage unit to be able to tell us for sure.  Huh? You work in the property manager’s office and have never seen one of the basic layouts that you offer for rent?

There were several other interactions with the woman I won’t go into which gave us uneasy feelings.  She just did not put a good face or initial impression on these particular apartments. Unless we were both receiving mixed signals, this woman had not anticipated spending more than 5 or 10 minutes with us. Here my mother was (albeit in the very early stages), trying to decide if this might be the place to replace the home she’d lived in for the past 45 years, but it felt like we were overstaying our welcome.  Needless to say, we left a bit discouraged and decided that we better look at other options elsewhere. It was a shame because of the wish list amenities that this site did offer.  Unfortunately, neither of the other two in town ranch apartment complexes with attached garages and in unit washer/dryer hookups had any vacancies. I could tell that Mom had already begun waffling on her decision to sell her house.

We reported back to my wife before starting our weekend journey to Mom’s house. It was just before we departed on that drive that the above referenced snow shoveling/grass cutting revelation came to me — when Mom first told me the last name of the man who cuts her grass and I commented that I went to school with a Patrick with that last name, but thought that he lived out in Las Vegas.  She said YES! but he flies back and forth!  Just then I remembered seeing something on Facebook recently about a rough flight he’d had. What a funny ‘coincidence’ that was!

With the less than ideal apartment meeting, Mom was seriously considering a fall back plan of moving into an apartment above her cousin’s veterinary clinic about a mile away from her house. That would solve the problem of house maintenance, but wouldn’t solve the problem of her difficulty with stairs (not to mention the barking dogs being boarded underneath her at night). We decided to just take things as they came and see what else we might find as it would probably take a minimum of several months or more to sell her house and be in a position to move.

Intending to go to 9:00 Mass on Sunday at Mom’s church and then drive back to Sandusky, Mom and I both overslept Sunday morning after a full Saturday morning of basement cleaning and a Saturday evening visiting with cousins.  Asking for forgiveness, we ate some breakfast, packed up the car, and began our trek back to Sandusky.

Our church in Sandusky has two Sunday Masses – 8:00 and 10:00.  Although there are other options, as I blogged here, we rarely ever get up early enough to attend 8:00 Mass. I could do it easily enough myself as I am often an early riser on the weekend.  But my wife’s weekday 5:00 work alarm (and often a 3:30 or 4:00 body clock wake up) is often offset by a necessary Saturday and Sunday sleep-in mode.  So we have maybe gone to 8:00 Mass a handful of times in nearly 12 years of marriage. I left my wife and daughter in Sandusky for this trip because of extra scheduled dance practices on Saturday, so I knew that they at least, would have made it to 10:00 Mass, even though Mom and I missed our Sunday wake up call.

It was nearly 11:00 before Mom and I got the car packed and underway. When we stopped for a lunch break, I noticed a voice mail notification on my mobile phone from my wife.  She had called around 9:50, but I did not notice her call until we stopped for lunch.  An almost verbatim translation of the voice mail follows:

Kassidy and I went to 8:00 Mass this morning and, by divine luck I guess, Sr. Martha* was there and we all went out to breakfast including Louise M.

Anyway, Louise lives at the apartment complex that you and your mom went to look at on Friday and she has a one car garage apartment.  She absolutely loves it there, she’s been there for quite a while. She gave me her phone number so if your mom wants to talk to her or go take a look around hers – whatever – she said she’s more than happy to help. She said everybody there has been wonderful. If she has any issues they are out right away.

So anyway – I’m pretty sure it was just a divine ‘led to be there’ kind of thing. That certainly was encouraging…

* Sr. Martha was a former pastoral associate in our parish and is the person my wife and I credit for introducing us to each other. She left the area in 2004 to take another job closer to her hometown near Dayton, but she comes back periodically to visit her friends here on special occasions. Sr. Martha came back for our wedding (which Louise M. helped out with the catering service), she came back for some milestone wedding anniversaries and birthdays, a few funerals, and the recent 150th Anniversary of our parish. She happened to be in town last weekend to help celebrate Louise’s 90th birthday and (along with a few other friends) they went to 8:00 Mass and breakfast together on Sunday morning before Sr. Martha’s drive back home.  When my wife and daughter showed up unexpectedly to 8:00 Mass, they were invited to join the group for breakfast.  Had Sr. Martha not been there (and “Meema and Beepa” another couple with them who our daughter dashed over after Mass to gives hugs to), I doubt that my wife would have known about Louise’s birthday or had a reason to approach her after Mass.

So (by chance) we had been given another opportunity for a second opinion to view these apartments.  (Or was it really by chance?)  I was able to take Monday off from work and Mom and I arranged to visit Louise that afternoon. Mom loved her apartment after seeing it with furniture comparable in size to what she intended to bring with her.  She was able to ask all the questions she needed and got helpful answers from someone who actually lived in the apartments. She was able to spend as much time as she felt she needed to see all of the rooms and closets and we felt very welcome there. We didn’t feel like we were imposing or taking up Louise’s time.

Mom was able to see the garage with a car inside of it and other storage items that Louise kept in there with her car – including a chest freezer and a storage dresser (two items Mom will undoubtedly have as well). She was able to see the extra items stored in the walk-in closet and got an idea of what the electric bill might run in the wintertime. She was able to see the washer and dryer in place (in the guest bathroom) and ask Louise about using the lower (no-step) stall shower in that same bathroom – as opposed to the tub shower in the master bathroom which presents a more dangerous falling hazard getting in and out.  When Mom began rethinking whether some of her furniture would fit in certain areas, it was Louise who pulled out her own tape measure and handed it to me and Mom to start measuring walls and door clearance, etc.

And when Mom wondered out loud about the cable TV and telephone, Louise showed her where the two cable jacks were on opposite walls in the living room.  In that process, Louise mentioned that she had just been talked into getting new landline phone service from Verizon. She went in to get a new flip phone and the salesperson had talked her into porting over her land line with promises that it would save her money on her phone bill.  But she was very confused with how to get it all set up and was ready to return it all. It was just ‘coincidence’ that my wife had just set up the same exact system in our house.  I told Louise that she would be happy to have a look at her phone and get her set up.

Mom and I thanked Louise for her help and Mom felt so much better about the situation after we left her apartment. I think about everything that had to happen just the way it did for us to have that opportunity.

When I asked my wife, why on earth they got up so early to go to 8:00 Mass, she told me that she had simply woken up early and looked at her clock. She said she thought to herself that if she didn’t fall back asleep and was still awake at 7:30, she would consider asking our daughter if she wanted to go to the earlier Mass.  We only have one bathroom, but our daughter always showers in the evenings, so there would still be enough time for both of them to get her ready. When 7:30 rolled around and she was not back to sleep, they got up, got ready, and off they went!

Had she not woken up so early (for her) on a Sunday morning, or if she had rolled over and fallen back to sleep, or if I had been home (there would never have been enough time for all three of us to get ready on short notice), or had they simply decided to maintain the normal routine and gone to our normal Mass, we might have never known about Louise living in the apartments Mom was interested in.  Our impression from the Friday before may have never changed and we might not have given another thought to this complex.

Maybe other forces were at work in getting Mom to take a second look and to find a friendly face. Maybe God sent a wake up call to my wife to cause her to cross paths with this 8:00 Mass crowd on this of all weekends.  Maybe it was just coincidence that it happened to be Louise’s 90th birthday weekend, or that Sr. Martha was in town, or that it was the weekend that Mom happened to come up.  Maybe it was just chance that the earlier March winds damaged the chimney flashing on Mom’s house and set the wheels in motion.  But isn’t it ironic that many legal or insurance documents refer to weather related conditions or damages to structures or property as “Acts of God”?  How appropriate is that terminology? Do I even need to opine that If the wind was an act of God, then it necessarily couldn’t have been a coincidence?

As of April 3rd, Mom signed a contract to put her house on the market.  (If anyone in the Steubenville, Ohio area is looking for a 3 bedroom home with a lot of character in a great neighborhood, just comment below!) She hasn’t yet applied for an apartment in this complex, but she is now much more settled in making that choice than she was upon first impression.

It will be an emotional day when my mom hands over the keys to the only house I’ve ever known as her home. But a house is only a building — one which I am not able to return to nearly as often as I would like. The childhood and teenage memories will always be there. The basketball hoop that no longer stands in her backyard will always stand out in my mind. The spot where I buried my sister’s cat (who chose me after she left for college) will remain a memorial in my heart.  My old bedroom, where my dad rested and drew his final earthly breaths will continue as shelter for some other young child or old man from the wind, rain, and lightning… and any other ‘Acts of God.’

Praise God!!!

By the way, I went back over to Louise’s apartment last Friday with my wife and daughter and we got her on the right track with her phone switchover.  She was so thankful for Linda’s assistance, and we were so thankful for hers!

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Prayer-a-Phrasing

I’ve previously blogged about my past experience teaching the Sacraments to 5th graders about 15 years ago. It’s odd to think it has actually been that long ago, but the wall calendar behind me verifies this is true! I’ve already admitted that I wasn’t the best fit in the role of trying to keep that many ten year olds under control, but I still tried my best to make it interesting for the kids. Sometimes it was playing hangman with vocabulary words, sometimes it was play acting the different Sacrament ceremonies.  One time it was helping the kids to put the Lord’s Prayer into their own words.

When I was an RCIA sponsor a few years before, one of the other candidates, named Dean, often shared tremendous insight and quite a sense of humor during our group meetings. I considered myself fortunate that my own candidate and I were assigned to the same table as Dean and his wife Lena, who was sponsoring his initiation into the Church. We shared with the same small table group each week over the course of the full RCIA year and Dean was always a great contributor.

One week Dean shared with our small table a story about his son’s prayer life as an adolescent — I’m guessing he was maybe about twelve years old at the time.  As I recall the story, he would say one line of the Lord’s Prayer and then paraphrase it into his own words. He would then go on to the next line and repeat the process through to the very end of the prayer. Dean admitted that his son’s motivation in this exercise, as you would probably expect from a young man at that age, was essentially just to act silly. But Dean’s point in bringing this up in the first place was to recognize the unintended result of his son’s actions. Through this self-imposed “prayer-a-phrasing”, his son had to truly process the sentiment and meaning of the words rather than just rattle off the memorized phrases. How often do we recite prayers or the pledge of allegiance, or sing a school fight song or alma mater without ever really thinking about the words passing through our lips?  For my Catholic brothers and sisters, since the Church made the most recent subtle changes to the Nicene Creed and some of the responses at Mass do you find yourself more consciously concentrating on the words than you did ten years ago?

So rewinding back 15 years again, on one particular occasion while teaching a religious education lesson, I recalled Dean’s story and decided to integrate his son’s exercise into a class project. I don’t independently recall the suggested lesson plan, but no doubt the primary focus for that week were the words given to us by Jesus in Mt. 6:9-13.

I had a class of about 20 kids pair off into groups or two or three. Each group was assigned one line from the Lord’s Prayer. I had each group randomly pull a slip of paper out of a hat to determine which phrase they were assigned.  They each spent about 10-15 minutes discussing the meaning of their assigned paper slips and to rephrase that segment into their own words.  I remember explaining to them that we could never improve upon the prayer that Jesus himself gave to us, but that we could enhance our own understanding and awareness of what Jesus taught us with those words.

At the end of the class, I collected all of the papers and put them all together into a single collective class prayer that we prayed together during our lesson the following week.

I shared that prayer again during an adult education session a few months later and then filed it away.  I am a digital pack rat and tend to save every scrap of paper from any meetings or gatherings that I think I might have a later use for.  I take most of those prayers, papers, and presentations and scan them into digital pdf files saved to my hard drive.  Years later I searched and searched my laptop for a copy of this prayer. I wanted to share it with another ministry group, but I could not seem to find my original draft of it anywhere in my computer files. I finally resigned myself to the fact that it was not there anywhere and that I had lost it forever.

After work on Tuesday of this week, I came home to find a short stack of old papers sitting on my desk.  I soon found out that my wife had come across them in the bottom drawer of our filing cabinet.  They were all about 10-15 years old or more and had been there undisturbed for most of those years — forgotten.  My wife (rightfully so) often takes the position that if you’ve lived without an item for X years and haven’t missed it or realized it was missing, you probably didn’t need it anyway.  This philosophy is obviously 180˚ opposed to my own save-everything-at-all-costs mentality (which I truly believe I inherited from my father, who is now in Heaven).

My wife admitted to me she was just going to throw those papers out or shred them, but that something made her stop and think about that decision.  For whatever reason (which she couldn’t even explain herself) she decided to put the stack of papers on my desk for me to sort through — knowing that I probably wouldn’t get to it right away and that they would likely just sit there for the next several months or more.  Something told her that was the right thing to do, even though it went against her own nature.

Included in that stack of papers was this prayer. There may be a slight loss in the translation of a few lines, but this is still a pretty remarkable prayer-a-phrase in my opinion when you consider the source.

Was it just a coincidence that my wife changed her mind against putting these long forgotten papers through the shredder? (The irony is that I HAVE since shredded the physical copy — after scanning it into my digital computer documents).

Praise God!!!  (and maybe do that by offering a prayer-a-phrase of your own!)

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Faith, Hope, and Charity

Unlike many of my other blog posts, there is very little background or build up to this particular episode of GodIncidence.  It is pretty simple really.  Today is Christmas Eve. Sometime between 10 and 11 o’clock this morning, our doorbell rang. I was in our home office at the time, working on an another blog post – Follow the Yellow Brick Road – that I just published a short while ago. Our daughter went to see who was at the door and my wife followed behind her.  I heard voices, but couldn’t hear specific content. A few minutes later, my wife walked in and handed me our January 2017 church offering envelopes. She said that a woman, named Faith Smith, was just at the door and she gave her our church envelopes.

(Her last name was not Smith, but her first name was Faith. To be honest, I don’t remember what her actual last name was, but it was not a widely common name like Smith and it is important to the story. Regardless of her real last name, I would have changed it here for privacy either way.)

Faith told my wife that she lives on another street several blocks away from us with the same house number as ours. Apparently she is semi-regularly getting our mis-delivered mail and she has just been bringing it past our house and putting it into our mailbox.  But for whatever reason — maybe because they were church envelopes; maybe because it is Christmas Eve; maybe because she is growing weary of silently doing the post office’s job behind the scenes; or maybe for no identifiable reason in her mind, but merely as part of the mystery of GodIncidence — Faith Smith decided to ring our doorbell and personally hand those envelopes to someone in our house.

My wife then told me the ironic part.  She said that Faith Smith closely resembled a mother she knows through our daughter’s dance studio — close enough that they could be sisters. That mother’s name is Hope Smith (where Smith is again a substituted name for privacy purposes of the exact same privatized name above).

But for now, these three continue: faith, hope, and charity. And the greatest of these is charity. 1 Corinthians 13:13

What are the chances that these women named after the first two of the three theological virtues share an identical last name and bear a striking resemblance to each other? What are the chances that Faith came to our house on Christmas Eve delivering our church offering envelopes? What are the chances that there is a similar looking Charity Smith out there who has not yet crossed my wife’s path?

Okay, maybe that last one is taking the GodIncidence too far, but really who’s to say? While I would not necessarily expect it, I’m certainly not willing to disregard it. As the State motto of Ohio (drawn from Matthew 19:26) says: With God, All Things Are Possible.

Today God sent Faith to our household on the day before we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. May God Bless everyone who reads these comments. I pray that He has sent Faith to many others on this day, as well as Hope and Charity. Merry Christmas to all!

Praise God!!!

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Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Every year around this time of year, along with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, comes the popular topic of whether stores and restaurants and the like should be open on Thanksgiving Day. I am not going to delve into that topic specifically, but it was something I heard debated once again on talk radio recently. The point of view being aired was that other than necessary services (and God Bless all those who have to give up family time to protect, serve, and give care to others) there is no reason why people need to be out and about shopping on Thanksgiving when Black Friday is only a few hours away.

While I don’t have one of those service jobs and I do typically get a four day Thanksgiving weekend, over the past several years I’ve noticed that there always seems to be either a unexpected figurative fire to be put out or some other demanding deadline looming at my day job always smack dab on and around the Thanksgiving holiday.  Sometimes it is right before, sometimes it falls just after.  Sometimes it impacts my ability to have a relaxing four days with my spouse and kids. So while I don’t have to be at my desk at work on turkey day, I often find myself bringing work home over that period.

2016 proved to be no exception as an important deadline reared its ugly head and my attempt at meeting it early on was quite unsuccessful.  This was one of those kind of deadlines! You know the type… where your ability to meet your end is impacted by how quickly or efficiently someone else handles their own deadline and gets usable and manageable information to you (that you then need to re-work for several hours to several days into a different acceptable format which is not as simple as printing, signing, and submitting).  I actually brought work home with me over the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, but could not get much accomplished on it without the initial groundwork I was relying upon from another source.

The Monday prior to Thanksgiving arrived and I went into work about 90 minutes early. Believe me when I say that it would have been even earlier than that, but 90 minutes is about as early as I can make it due to my daughter drop off duties during the school year. Once I got to the office, a good part of Monday morning was spent fighting with computer files from a recent email containing volumes of documents 90+% of which were in an unrecognized file format which I could not access.  As that proved unfruitful — even the sender of the email was at a loss, I opted to work on the stuff that I could access and assimilate into my part of the process — piecemeal as it may be.

I was twice interrupted (not rudely by any means and I tried very hard to be sympathetic and helpful) by a tenant with sewage coming in through his bathroom drains with no clue how to diagnose or fix the issue.  I am no plumber and don’t have the authority to make that call, but my efforts to reach the owner — tied up out of town in a meeting — were eventually responded to with a text message that someone was coming to get the key to get into another vacant adjacent apartment unit.

Making little progress on my computer files issue and having lost the morning to the afternoon, I quickly realized that I was fighting a losing battle. Playing telephone and email tag with the guy on the other end of those uncrackable documents and waiting for the apartment “key master” (who never arrived) — I had my own out of town appearance scheduled for 3:30 at a location 30 minutes away. So I left the computer files, I left the unclaimed apartment key, and I left the sewage stained apartment all behind.  I drove 30 minutes to the next county, checked in for my 3:30 appearance and waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Finally at 3:50, when the other side didn’t show up, I checked out and started my drive back – the time all wasted.  It was ironic because I knew in just 2½ short hours later I would find myself driving right back to almost the exact same location with my wife and daughter for an evening appointment.  By this time I literally felt like Dorothy in a whirlwind tornado and I definitely was not in Kansas anymore.

On Tuesday of that week, I planned to go into the office early again. I usually do not shower until after I take our daughter to school – giving me sole access to the single bathroom in our house. But on this day, I planned to shower early. I was fully prepared to jump in at 6:00, but I missed my mark when my wife had a brief emergency need for the bathroom.  Since her workday regularly starts at 6:30, she has bathroom priority at that time of the morning. Rather than get in right away after her, I directed my attention to my work issues on my laptop. After another 40 minutes passed by and my wife was already gone to work, I tried my shower again.

As is my habit, I turned the bathroom radio on while starting up the shower.  Usually it is just background noise that I can’t always hear clearly while under the running shower head. But I am sometimes able to hear the news or the teaser naming an upcoming studio guest interview. I thought I heard a particular name mentioned that morning, but I wasn’t really sure. The combination of the shower head water noise and the weak reception of AM radio in the wintertime made it very difficult to know for sure. A few minutes later, I heard a familiar piano riff leading in to the studio interview and then knew for sure that I’d heard correctly.

Jim Brickman was coming to Cleveland for his 2016 Comfort and Joy Christmas concert tour and I was able to finish my shower and hear the end of his interview to learn that after Cleveland, he was finishing up the tour on December 23rd in Sandusky.  Had I taken my 6:00 shower, I would not have caught the radio interview and probably would have missed the announcement altogether.  But that simple delay and my decision to do some work rather than jump in at 6:05 gave me the opportunity to hear this interview and act on it – one major Christmas gift down!  Three tickets later (and an additional early Christmas surprise for my wife* – see below) we solidified our plans for the Friday before Christmas.

Always a good show, Jim’s focus on Christmas music was extra special and made for an all around fun evening with the family — one that I might have missed if it wasn’t for some work stress over the Thanksgiving holiday. Great music along with Anne Cochran, Tracy Silverman, and Kris Allen.

I am so thankful and thank God every day for the family he has given to me. I don’t believe it to be coincidence that we were able to share this evening together last night on (as Jim put it) Christmas Eve … Eve.

Praise God!!!

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* We got to meet with Jim briefly before the concert courtesy of the surprise VIP membership gift I got for my wife!

For a unique “déjà vu-like” experience, take a look back at Random Radio for a non-coincidence imitating a non-coincidence.

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Vacation Bible School

Back in 2000, I was talked into teaching Religious Education classes (or PSR) to 5th grade public school children one night a week for about an hour. The primary focus of the 5th grade curriculum was the Sacraments. When approached, I wasn’t really sure that I wanted to do it, but a co-worker talked me into trying it out to see if I was a good fit. I wasn’t the best teacher, but I did my best to make things fun — not many kids are very enthusiastic about an hour of religious training after having already spent an entire day in school.

I sometimes had difficulty keeping 12-20 energetic 10 year olds under control, so I was grateful to have a parent assistant to help me out most weeks.  We used the classrooms at the local Catholic school, but we constantly had to remind the students that they were not allowed to mess around with the property belonging to the regular Catholic school students and teachers. Nevertheless, that first year, one of my students broke the chalkboard pointer which belonged to the daytime teacher.  He was goofing around with it when he wasn’t supposed to.  If I remember correctly, this was on a night when my parent assistant (to whom the role of the primary classroom disciplinarian fell) was unable to attend.  It was pretty clear to me that I was not cut out for a career in elementary education.

The second year, I had a different parent assistant, and her attention was primarily occupied with trying to keep one particular student focused and on track.  I am not sure what type of condition Giorgio had, but his speech was very difficult to understand (he sometimes seemed to have a language of his own).  He did not read, and he had some other special needs issues which made it extremely challenging for him to keep focused — even with a full time attendant.  He was sometimes prone to disruptions and outbursts — never violent or angry, thankfully — and the other kids in the class (including a female cousin who often helped to translate when Giorgio spoke or had a question) were all familiar with him.  They accepted his condition and treated him like a normal kid.  I never witnessed any mocking or mean spirited comments and Giorgio was never made fun of in my class.  I attribute that more to the kids’ own well behavior than to anything I ever said or did.  The thing is = I never HAD to say anything to any of the other kids about how they should treat Giorgio.

In my third (and last) year of teaching the Sacraments, I had no parent assistant in the classroom.  I did my best and I think I made an impression on a few of the kids, but I knew that I was not the best person for that job.  I was involved in several other parish ministries and I was spreading my time a bit too thin. So when I saw that I needed to cut back on my over-extended efforts, I knew that religious education was the one I had to drop.  This was approximately the same time that I met my wife — through one of those other parish ministries.

Several years ago, we signed our daughter up for Vacation Bible School. I think she was maybe 5 or 6.  Somehow in the process, my wife ended up staying for a few nights to help as a parent volunteer.  She didn’t sign up in advance to do that and she had no duties in organizing or running any part of the program, she just answered the call when one of the program’s directors needed a few parents to help.  (I chose not to commit myself, although I was asked also).

Earlier this spring, the person who had been running the bible school program for several years had some other summertime commitments (involving her certification for another unrelated religious education program) which made running VBS at the same time just too much on her plate all at once. Although she committed herself to assisting with VBS (she still took a lead role in the planning and promotion, but just wasn’t the program director in name), another church friend of ours was asked and accepted the responsibility to run things.  Her husband and my wife work together at the same company and we are all social friends of sorts — so she asked my wife if we would like to help with a couple of the presentation themes.  Knowing my love for being involved, our history of being drawn together through adult parish retreat ministry, and my past efforts with religious education, my wife agreed to help and said she would ask me also. She was not directly aware of my reasons for stepping down from teaching 13 years ago since we were not yet dating at the time.  My wife had already committed herself, but I was not tremendously enthusiastic about the prospect.  Rather than come right out and say that, I more or less kept silent as the “think it over and get back to me with a decision” time passed by.

So as the time drew closer to needing an answer, and I remained wishy-washy — not really wanting to do it, but not wanting to disappoint and say “NO” either — somehow, I’m still not exactly sure how, a “YES” response was transmitted from me to my wife and passed along up the channels.  I was quite relieved to later find out that my wife and I could work together as a team rather than be split up each at different stations with different responsibilities.

As the planning meetings were scheduled, they conflicted with my wife’s other volunteer commitments at our daughter’s dance studio, so I was tasked to attend those meetings on behalf of us both.  I was encouraged by the experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm of the other people involved, but I was still not overly enthusiastic about the time commitment with it being a few hours each evening for a full week (which I knew would also be a very busy work week for me). The actual location setup was spread out over two different Saturdays.  The first day involved some room preparation, and it turned out that our room was one already in use during the regular school year for a religious education program, with many items belonging to that instructor remaining in the room over the summer months.  With a few minor exceptions, the items in the room were largely unavailable for us to use, but could not be removed from the room and stored elsewhere.  So we had to cover them up and keep them hidden from view and away from the curious fingers belonging to the kids in our VBS program.  I immediately had déjà vu visions of that broken chalkboard pointer from 16 years ago!

Our second Saturday setup (just this past weekend and the day before we began the program) involved additional room and prop setup and several hours of theming other hallway areas.  On Sunday morning we discovered that most of the hallway theming work, done by several children volunteers, had come down overnight and was not easily repairable.

Our particular VBS station dealt with Bible stories and scriptural themes which help to illustrate the over-riding theme for the night.  Because each night had a different “living the Bible” experience, we had to make wholesale prop and theming changes each night in preparation of the next day’s lesson. Upon seeing what did and did not work with the kids during the first session Sunday evening, and upon additional review of the rest of the program guide, my wife and I realized that we had a lot of additional prop and theming work to do in our room over the next several days.  So Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. — when I would normally be bedding down for the night (especially knowing that I had to be in court bright and early Monday morning), instead I found myself walking around our local WalMart with a cartful of necessary items we had overlooked the first time around.

In re-creating some of the bible stories or images, we have a pre-written script to follow, with some ad-libbing thrown in for variety.  My role has generally been that of the helper while my wife presents the main content.  My job that first night was to pretend that the lights in our room weren’t working. I had to lead the kids to believe that I was trying to track down the problem while my wife continued on with the lesson.  I would then return to the room at key points with different artificial lighting solutions (first little battery operated flicker candles, then mini flashlights, etc.)  So MOST of my time was spent outside of the room with very little interaction with the kids — just listening from the hallway for my audible cues to enter the room with my lighting options.

This left my wife with 90-95% of the overall interaction with the kids in our Sunday sessions.  I was hardly even seen or heard, but after one of the groups finished their shift in our room, a girl of about ten years with Down Syndrome came over to me (not to my wife who shared with them for over 20 minutes, but to me who shared three lines with them and “fixed” the lights).  She grab/hugged me around the waist and said “Thank you,” before following her group out into the hallway moving on to a different station.

Although I wasn’t as enthusiastic about the program as I could have been before we started, she reminded me what the time, effort, and late night spending money at Walmart was really for.  This may turn out to be our only commitment to Vacation Bible School, I don’t know, but it was in reflecting on that ‘thank-you’ hug and telling my wife about it hours later at home (she had not seen it herself and did not get a similar hug of her own) that I realized I was where I was supposed to be.  I am posting these observations just before our fifth and final night of VBS.  Each day has had its challenges and its rewards, which I suppose is just a microcosm of everyday life.

Praise God!!!

To bring this full circle, about a year or so ago, I was sitting in Applebee’s with my family having dinner. At some point while we were eating, I noticed a young man and someone I assumed to be his father sitting at the bar, chatting and eating some sandwiches. I thought I recognized him, but I wasn’t 100% sure until we made eye contact. I didn’t see any recognition in his face when our eyes met, but there was no doubt in my mind at that moment that it was Giorgio all grown up.  He had to be in his mid-twenties by now.  I had not seen him since he was in my classroom, but I sometimes had wondered over the years how he was doing and what paths his life had taken.  I guess I still don’t know the full answers to those questions, but I do know that he was alive and well — and enjoying some good food at Applebee’s!

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Language Barrier

I’ve blogged many times about my family’s and my love for Cedar Point and what a blessing it is to have such a fabulous place to visit and walk in the summer months. We got season passes again this year in anticipation of the new Valravn ride.  I may or may not ride it this year because the lines will no doubt be quite long all the time!  There are still plenty of other rides which pack quite a thrill but at a shorter wait.

This past weekend, my older daughter and her brother came home from Florida for a visit and we went over to the park with them on Saturday for several hours.  We hoped to ride Valravn, but the lines were just too long for our liking.  We also discussed Top Thrill Dragster, but it was a little long also given that it is only a 17 second ride.  So instead, we hit Magnum, Rougarou, and GateKeeper.  I also let my older daughter talk me into two rides that terrify me — Power Tower and maXair.  Her brother then talked her into a ride that terrified her – SlingShot! See videos of that experience here!

File May 24, 2 14 51 PM File May 24, 2 15 11 PM

I may get in trouble for saying this, but our older daughter caught the eye of a tall, dark, and handsome food service worker at one of the dining options at Cedar Point. It was a build your own Mexican style menu, much like you would see at Chipotle or Qdoba, but he apparently spoke no English and we had to point at the ingredient options we wanted on our burritos. When another another worker came over to check on us at our table, he commented to our older daughter that his co-worker said that she was very beautiful, but that he only spoke Spanish and was unable to tell her himself.  All in all it was a very full Saturday and a fun time.

We have been talking about getting our front garden back into flower shape, and this happened to be the only weekend where that would be possible due to other weekend plans and commitments on the schedule.  So when Sunday rolled up on me, I woke up around 6:30 and considered whether I wanted to get started.  We typically go to 10:00 Mass, so I had a few hours I could devote to pulling weeds.  (It turns out I needed more than just a few to get at all the clover growing right along the fence line).  At first I was tempted to just leave the garden go and instead spend my morning on my laptop doing clicks. But I decided to get motivated and get moving and went out to the garden instead.

I donned some old jeans and t-shirt and some work gloves; I grabbed my iPhone and earbuds and downloaded a few of my favorite podcasts; I started working. I didn’t know how my wife would feel after the walking we did at Cedar Point the day before — that sometimes aggravates her chronic back issues, but I could at least get started and hope that not too many new weeds would sprout up if we weren’t able to finish the garden that day.

I was just about finished with what I had planned to accomplish — maybe another 5 or 10 minutes more, when I turned around/was startled by a young girl in her late teens or early twenties standing right behind me on the sidewalk.  I was so wrapped up in what I was listening to that I never noticed her or her friend walk over.  I pulled out one of my earbuds as it was clear she waned to say something.  She began speaking to me in broken English — saying something about a work form.  I held up an index finger and pulled the other earbud from my other ear so that I could hear more clearly.  That was when I was able to make out “phone” (not form) “work” and “taxi”. Clearly frustrated that she was unable to speak better English, I tried my best to understand.  As she slowed down and tried again, adding in some additional details, I finally got the picture.  She and her friend were Ukrainian and work at Kalahari, a large water park in the area.  They were supposed to be at work by 9:00 (it was about 8:30 at the time) and they had just discovered that the bus transportation did not run on Sundays. When they saw me outside working, they thought I might have a phone and might be able to call a taxi for them to get to work on time. Because their English was not very fluent and they didn’t know well enough where they were to explain to a taxi dispatcher, she asked if I could call and make arrangements for them.

Foreign workers are very common at Cedar Point and the hotels and water parks in the area during the summer.  Cedar Point is large enough that I think they have their own employee transport busses, but I suppose Kalahari likely doesn’t employ enough people to make that service worthwhile.

I found a local taxi company, called and gave them the particulars, and then let the girls know that a car would arrive shortly in front of our house to pick them up.  They thanked me and took a seat on the street curb as I went back to my weeds.  Even though a few minutes before I intended to wrap up and go back inside to shower for church, I decided to stay out a bit longer to help translate when the cab arrived.  As the girls spoke back and forth in their native language, I glanced up each time a car drove down our busy street, but none were from any taxi service.

By 8:45, when the taxi hadn’t yet arrived, the first girl walked back over to me — nervous that they would still not make it on time.  She asked me if I knew when the taxi would arrive. She explained that if they were late — “we will get 2 points and then we will be fired.” Clearly concerned that they would be late, I gave the index finger “hang on just a minute” gesture a second time.  I then went inside to ask my wife if she would mind if I drove these two out to Kalahari and asked her to tell the taxi driver if I wasn’t able to cancel and they arrived at our door looking for a fare.

I then went back outside and told the girls if they wanted that I would take them to their work.  They were both relieved at the offer and quickly tried to get into my neighbor’s car which was parked in front of our house!  I laughed, shook my head “no”, and pointed to the older beat up car further up the street.  One of the girls commented: “but you’re busy?” pointing at the weed patch in front of our house.  I told her it was okay.  I didn’t tell her that I have experience giving rides to strangers.

Once in the car, I tried to call the taxi company.  There was a recent call in my phone log, which I assumed to be the company’s number.  That turned out to be the person who MIS-dialed MY number a few days earlier, but was still showing up in my missed calls list! I then re-ran a Google search for taxis, but could not remember which company I had called! So I had to dial each one until I got someone who recognized the request!  Once I finally got the right number, the woman/dispatcher was a bit annoyed at the cancellation, but she got over it without much difficulty.  When she asked why it was being canceled, I simply told her that the girls who needed the taxi were no longer there.  They probably would have been charged at least a hour or two of their wages just for the taxi ride into work…

That resolved, I then tried to communicate a little bit more with them.  I learned that this was only their second day on the job at Kalahari and they had only been in the United States for five days.  I debated the decision to talk to them about the dangers of accepting rides from strangers and I ultimately decided not to say anything as I did not want them to misunderstand or make them scared and uncomfortable.  Later that morning at Mass, I prayed that I had made the right choice.  Cleveland and Toledo are each only one hour away from Sandusky and both cities have reputations as gateways for human trafficking, being close to largely un-patroled international waters on Lake Erie.  The large volume of foreign students in the Sandusky area tourist workforce makes them an ideal target for the trade.

Only being in the country for five days, I don’t know if they were warned about those dangers or if they have the awareness necessary to stay safe. Hopefully that is something they know to be careful about.  But with the language barrier, I was afraid a friendly lecture might only confuse them into thinking I intended to abduct them rather than drive them to Kalahari.

Ultimately I was able to get them to work on time and we eventually understood each other enough to locate the correct drop off point at the employee entrance.  (If you’ve never been there, Kalahari is a pretty big place with a lot of potential drop off points!)  I was still able to get back home in time to shower and make it to 10:00 Mass.  After Mass, we bought some mulch, soil, and flowers and a few new bird feeders.  We got the front garden weeded, planted, and mulched and made some progress (but not finished) in the side and back yards; and still had time to cook dinner and visit with our older daughter and her brother. In the process, our younger daughter was able to discover that she does like steamed crab legs in small quantities.  That will be good to know in advance of our trip to Ocean City later this summer!

What would have happened had I decided to be lazy Sunday morning and stayed inside? Would these girls have found someone else to help them get to their jobs? Would they have been fired two days into the job? Maybe, maybe not… Was it just coincidence that they encountered me just a few minutes short of going back inside?  Was it just coincidence that the clover had grown so thick along the fence line — which kept me out there longer than I had originally planned?

Praise God!!! (and continued prayers for my Ukrainian passengers and all foreign workers willing to take the service jobs at a pay scale that so many able bodied young workers in this country simply turn up their noses at).

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“Back” Home

I grew up in the Steubenville, Ohio area and still enjoy making the 3 hour drive back home to see the old haunts now and again.  I don’t do it as often as I should or that I would like. Whether it is a family reunion or a class reunion or a holiday or just because, home is always home. It is amazing how often I am reminded directly and specifically of home through encounters that happen 150 miles away.

I spent countless hours as a child and teenager in my back yard with an old basketball and an older backboard and rim bolted to yet an even older tree/pole. I was not an athlete in school. With a little bit of effort and a lot of perseverance, I may have been able to ride the bench on the school basketball team, but I was more interested in the less structured “backyard ball”.  I still remember that old hoop that my uncle — Tom Beany — put together years before. I suppose it was for my older cousins when they were boys, I don’t really remember that far back.  He found a perfectly straight tree with a “Y” shaped crook at about the right height and bolted a backboard and rim onto the crook bracing it with a 4×4 block of wood. I was just a kid when my cousins had outgrown it or lost interest and I had always begged my parents for a hoop, so somehow I ultimately inherited that old wooden pole hoop!

I still remember helping my dad to dig a hole in the ground near the edge of our yard.  Dad and Phil Lunger, who lived across the street, raised that behemoth pole into place and I spent thousands of hours over the next decade plus hoisting up shot after shot at that rim.  I recall that the first very first shot of the day would often clank hard off of the backboard and usually sent a poor songbird screeching away in terror after my rude and unannounced intrusion violently rocked her nest — improvidently constructed in an old tree crook with the added protection provided by a large flat board to one side of her nest and a 4×4 block of wood on the other side.  I often started my marathon basketball sessions with a sprinting heave of a shot from 25 feet away with little to no chance of going in, but a strong likelihood of a jarring collision with the backboard!  It wasn’t until after the bird’s angry departure that I would remember she lived on the other side of that hoop! Ironically, even though my intrusion was a regular occurrence, that same bird (or one just like her) continued to build/return to that same nesting spot year after year.  I guess my rude interruptions were a favorable tradeoff for the other security the spot provided.

{PHOTO PLACEHOLDER —> I am trying to locate an old
photograph of that hoop to insert here}


Not being a participant in school athletics, I didn’t develop very strong relationships with any of the coaches in high school outside of the classroom. I had several coaches as teachers over the course of my four years in high school: Yanok, Radakovitch, Opatkin, Bahen, Farrar… They each had different teaching styles and varying limits of what you could “get away” with in class. I could probably tell stories about each one of them, but that’s not really what this blog post is about.  I had Coach Farrar for an Economics class my senior year.  I recall him being a fun teacher and generally not too harsh.  Maybe just ‘coincidence‘ but the two independent memories I still recall from Coach Farrar’s Economics class 25 years later have nothing to do with economics or any course instruction, but instead relate to getting him off topic.

One was the time someone in class managed to get him off topic and spend almost the entire class period discussing stories about his prior employment as a security guard at the amusement park in his home town of Sandusky, Ohio. I think this ‘strategy’ happened more than a few times! Of course, that park is now one of my family’s summer “go to fun spots — we are patiently awaiting the new 2016 Cedar Point season opening only a week away!

My other Farrar memory was the time all of the boys in the senior class not on the football team wore flannel shirts and ties (in place of our uniform dress shirts) on the day that our football team was to play Jefferson Union High School. J.U. was a school that drew its students from a more rural part of the county — many of whom were farmers or at least lived in farming communities.  So someone came up with the idea of wearing plaid/flannel shirts to school on game day as a school spirit/joke kind of thing.  The team always wore their football jerseys to school over top of uniform clothes on game days, so they weren’t really included in the event.  We didn’t have specific uniform clothes colors that we had to wear — just a shirt and tie and dress pants. So plaid flannel shirts were still within the dress code and all of the non-football players wore their flannel best that day to school.  Being an assistant football coach, I recall Coach Farrar having a good laugh and a very positive reaction to our showing of support and solidarity, while still remaining within the spirit of the dress code.

I don’t recall my final grade for Economics that year, but I know I did fairly well.  I’m not sure how much longer Coach Farrar taught at CCHS, but at some point during or soon after my college years, he’d moved on to another teaching job in some other location.  To be honest, I didn’t really keep in touch with many of my teachers after high school — I probably had a stronger ongoing relationship with the cafeteria lunch ladies!

Fast forward ten years to 1999.  In the summer or fall of that year, we had our ten year class reunion and it was a good time getting back in touch with some friends I hadn’t seen in quite a while.  As everyone shared their updates and experiences, I relayed my news that I had recently graduated from law school and was living and working in Sandusky, Ohio.  I got a few responses along the lines of: “Oh yeah! Coach Farrar was from there! You probably go to Cedar Point all the time.  Remember the times he would spend entire class periods telling stories about working there as a security guard?”  I had to admit to everyone that I had not visited Cedar Point at all because all of my free time was devoted to studying for the bar exam!


I am a bit fuzzy on the exact timing of the next event because I have no independent recollection of it and the details come from my mother. At some point over the next several years, my parents were up to Sandusky for a weekend visit.  If you know anything about Sandusky’s geography and layout, you would know that Route 250 is the main thoroughfare in town for shopping and dining.  Route 250 snakes generally in a southeast direction from Sandusky through the heart of Ohio amish country, and ultimately runs through Cadiz, Ohio (Clark Gable’s birthplace) which is about 20 miles from Steubenville — so most trips to and from Sandusky/Steubenville are spent traveling Route 250 virtually the entire way.  This is a beautiful summer drive if you’re ever looking for one.

At the time of that visit from my folks, I was living in an apartment a few blocks away from 250 just beyond a local Sandusky church.  The weekend ended and dreaded Monday morning arrived. I got showered and dressed and left for work and my parents gathered up their things and started their trek back home on 250.  But just before they got to 250, they saw a church bazaar advertised at that church just beyond my apartment complex.  On a whim, with no hard schedule deadlines, they decided to stop and browse the tables of wares.

As mom tells the story (dad has since passed, and even alive he would not have remembered the details), she was at one end of the area and dad was at the other end enthusiastically waving her over to meet someone.  It was not uncommon for my dad to strike up conversations with complete strangers for no particular reason, so it was not surprising that he was talking to this woman he had never met before. The best my mom could figure, he somehow started talking to this woman standing behind one of the tables, probably with an opening line something like: “We’re not from around here, we are just visiting our son who lives up here, he’s an attorney.”  Maybe he volunteered, or maybe she asked, either way – she discovered that my parents were from Steubenville.  She then likely replied that her son used to teach at a Catholic school in Steubenville and my dad ultimately discovered that he had struck up a conversation with one Mrs. Farrar.  Upon my mom joining them, they then proceeded to talk for several hours — as mom tells it, at least as long as it would have taken them to drive home had they not stopped “just for a few minutes to take a look.” Through the course of that conversation, Coach Farrar’s mom told my parents that he was teaching/living in a small town on route 250 (which coincidentally is just about the exact midpoint between Sandusky and Steubenville).  She apparently told my parents the exact street and house where he lived and even encouraged them to just stop and ring the doorbell on their way past — that he would be so happy to get a visit from someone from Steubenville.  My dad, being the way he was, probably would have stopped and rung that doorbell without a second thought… but they really only knew of him and didn’t actually know him on a “stop unannounced many years removed” basis.  So that 250 reunion never took place.


I cannot recall whether I have blogged about my wife’s chronic back problems, but it is something that she lives with everyday — some days are better, some days are worse.  She is able to treat it with medication and massage therapy and periodic chiropractic treatment.  She has been treating with a local chiropractor, Dr. Marty, for a while and at some point a year or two ago, she went in for an adjustment just before or just after a difficult car trip to Steubenville.  That drive came up in discussion during her treatment and the doctor told her that a friend of his from high school used to teach in Steubenville… (Yep, same guy!)  He had been down to Steubenville a few times when Coach Farrar was still there, so he and my wife have since periodically swapped Steubenville stories.

Mom came up to visit us for Easter weekend this year and we discussed with her some short and long term plans for her house and the possibilities of downsizing to an apartment with less maintenance and yard work.  She ended up taking our daughter back home with her on Easter Monday to spend her spring break week together.  That same week, I began treating with Dr. Marty in effort to alleviate some leg and foot issues I’ve been having.  So during my treatment visits I’ve discussed my former high school and hometown with him as well.  I had a Friday afternoon treatment a month or so ago, with the plan to drive down and pick up my daughter immediately after my appointment at the end of her week visit with my mom.

I drove down and severely tweaked something in my low back while moving some furniture for mom on Friday evening, which put me out of commission for the rest of the weekend.  It was in discussing my chiropractic treatment with mom and Dr. Marty’s friendship with Coach Farrar that she reminded me of the above story with Mrs. Farrar and dad.  We talked some more about downsizing her house and things that could stay and go if she moved into something smaller.  One of the things we talked about was wall space and her large framed scenic paintings, some of which she was still trying to decipher the artists’ signatures.  There is a beautiful waterfront/sunset scene on her living room wall that I always liked, but wasn’t sure of its origins.  Just out of the blue I asked her “Where did that painting come from anyway?”  She laughed and said that she and dad bought that painting/frame when they were in Sandusky at the church sale when they met Mrs. Farrar. How’s that for a coincidence?!?

I had a followup visit with Dr. Marty the following week.  He was able to fit me into his schedule one morning before I had to be in the office.  I had a court appearance scheduled for that afternoon — just a minor routine matter for a local church which took all of five minutes, but courtroom decorum still requires wearing a suit jacket and tie for those five minutes. Rather than get fully formally dressed (who wants to get on the chiropractor’s table in a dress shirt and tie?) I arrived at my appointment in sweat pants and a t-shirt, which prompted Dr. Marty to ask if I had the day off.  I explained my outfit and that I intended to change into a suit after my adjustment.  I told him about my back injury the weekend prior and about my mother’s story of meeting Mrs. Farrar.  As I was finishing up my visit, Dr. Marty’s next patient came in — a deacon from the church I was representing in court that very afternoon!  When he realized we knew each other, Dr. Marty commented on how funny it was — living in a small world where we are all interconnected.  Perhaps his comment also had something to do with the fact he was leaving for Florida for a few days to attend a friend’s wedding and was going to be in roughly the same area where our older daughter now lives and works.  He had been a regular at the local Applebee’s restaurant where our daughter worked before moving to Florida so they knew each other well.


Not to be confused with a popular sit-com that ended a couple years ago — in the precursor to this web blog, I tell the story about how I met my wife.  The short version is that we worked on a retreat team together at church.  I’ll never forget my first experience with that retreat ministry in 2001.  This was before I met my wife.  As a participant, I was assigned to a table with a few other people.  I briefly touched on that retreat experience in a blog post from several years ago, but left this part out.  Even though it was a God-Incident, it did not really add to that particular story, but it comes into play here…

In 2001, I was still a relative newcomer to Sandusky.  I’d been here a few years, but most of my circle of friends still came from the few people I worked with and some of the people who attended my church. As I encountered different people through my office duties, I had some interaction with an attorney, Nancy, who worked as a magistrate at the county courthouse to help mediate civil cases.  It turns out that Nancy was also a member of Sts. Peter & Paul and she was part of the spring 2001 retreat team when I was a new participant. As part of the early “ice-breaker” sharing, everyone was encouraged to introduce themselves and give some basic personal information. Nancy had lived most of her life in Sandusky, but for whatever reason, she commented that she was originally born in Steubenville!  I was a little bit surprised, so after introductions were done and we were invited to get a little more familiar with those at our assigned tables, I commented on how ironic it was that Nancy mentioned being from MY hometown.  That was when Ford said, “Wait a minute, you’re from Steubenville too?”

Ford then talked about how his family moved from the Steubenville area up to Sandusky many years before. He asked me about my family and some other details.  He didn’t recognize the Lucas name, but when I told him my mom’s maiden name, which isn’t very common, he asked if she had a “Tom” in her family.  It turned out that Ford’s dad and my uncle, whom I have to thank for my hours upon hours upon hours of backyard basketball, were best friends in their younger days.  Ford later remarked that he wasn’t even supposed to be at the retreat that weekend.  Someone else on the team had gotten sick at the last moment and they needed Ford to step in to take his place.  Had Nancy not mentioned her Steubenville connection, had the other gentleman not fallen ill, had I been assigned to a different retreat table — I might have never known Ford’s connection.  (I later learned that he was also related in some way to my mother’s best friend from grade school through high school and still to this day lives right down the street from mom).


Last week I had another pre-work morning adjustment scheduled with Dr. Marty. We talked about his Florida trip – unfortunately unable to make a connection with our daughter at the Florida Applebee’s she transferred to.  At some point, somehow our conversation turned to the topic of high school class reunions and our various experiences with them. Dr. Marty’s next patient came in while we were talking.  My back was turned and my eyeglasses were not yet back on my face (I can’t see far away without them so I couldn’t see the face of the next person coming in).  Dr. Marty said, “C’mon back, Ford.  I’ll be with you in just a minute.” as he continued to talk to me about his last class reunion.

Ford heard the conclusion of our conversation and volunteered that he had a class reunion of his own coming up pretty soon. He said he would be heading back home to see some friends from his old alma mater — J.U.  Yes, it certainly is a small world, isn’t it? Don’t forget your flannel shirt, Ford!

Praise God!!!

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Stations in Life

We are in the season of Lent.  I often forego the traditional practice of sacrificing, or giving up, something for Lent, but instead try to do something proactive to help other people during that time.  In our parish, we also promote performing Random Acts of Kindness whenever possible.  While these practices can be fulfilling, still it is sometimes quite easy to get caught up in ourselves and forget to take the extra effort.  For that reason, I decided to return to the traditional Lenten sacrifice this year, while continuing to look for situations where I can be more selfless.

I’ve also committed to attend weekly Wednesday evening sessions at my church during Lent this year. At 5:30 each Wednesday, our parish presents a prayerful Stations of the Cross in the church, followed by a light meal of soup and bread in the Gathering Space and a lecture session by one of our parish priests. I’ve attended these Wednesday Lenten sessions for many years with my wife and daughter, although we missed several last year during the weeks that followed my father’s death and funeral.

As a side note, but important to the story, I have two nephews and a niece through my sister and her husband.  They are currently in their teenage and preteen years.  They live three hours away, so we do not often see each other outside of holidays or other special events, but I do send birthday cards every year to each of them on their special days. I’ve always included money with their birthday cards, but about ten years ago, I decided it would be a good/fun idea each year to include an amount of cash equal to the age they turned on that birthday. So that has become a tradition for my wife and I.  Over the years, all three kids have become very excited with the expectation each year — even though it HAS led to some counting of chickens before the eggs have hatched.  Last year at a family gathering for dinner, my niece commented on something she wanted to buy for herself and that the money she had already saved, plus the birthday money she would be getting from us, would cover it with X dollars left over.  (This was about 3 months BEFORE her next birthday, but she was already factoring in that birthday cash amount!)

So on Wednesday of this week, I was at work and got a text message from my mother. She had been having some major computer issues recently (with a computer which was just brand new in late January).  I was on the phone with her for a while on Tuesday evening, but we were unable to resolve the problems.  However, her Wednesday morning text informed me that after saying a prayer that morning, her computer did an automatic update and everything seemed to be working fine again.  So I called her from work when I had a free moment Wednesday afternoon just to make sure everything was still working well.  After we got through that discussion, she began to talk to me about her daily happenings which is not unusual.  She had gone to morning Mass and stopped at the dollar store to pick up a birthday card for my nephew.

My mind immediately began racing… What day is this? Are we into March already? How did I forget? Finally I asked my mom in a panic, what day is his birthday? I had been so wrapped up in other things that I just plain forgot! She told me that Ryan’s birthday was on Friday and that I had better have 13 dollars for him!

Relieved that I hadn’t missed it, and thankful for the coincidence in calling mom that afternoon and her decision to mention something as mundane as buying a birthday card for Ryan, I developed a plan in my head. I had to be at church by 5:30 that evening for Stations of the Cross, so working backward from that deadline, and realizing that I already needed to get something mailed out for work which required an inside counter visit at the post office, I arranged to leave work at 4:20 to go and buy a birthday card to get into Wednesday’s outgoing mail which should result in delivery on his birthday Friday.

As I left work closer to 4:30, I realized that I would be cutting it close because I did not have enough cash on hand to put into the birthday card.  I rarely carry ANY cash with me because I seldom NEED it and without any I am less likely to spend it on things that I don’t need.  As it happens, I DID have four dollars in my money clip, but not enough to buy a card AND add $13 to the envelope. Because this meant I would have to make multiple stops before the card would be ready for mailing, I decided to hit the post office first to make sure I got my work related mail out before 5:00.  Although the inside service counter closes at 5:00, the last pickup from the mail boxes is not until 5:15, so I could always swing back with the finished birthday card afterward and still get it out that day.

I did my first post office drop, then drove to a dollar store around the corner and found something appropriate in their card section.  Having that small amount of cash on hand, I just paid for the card with a few dollars from that cash.  In hindsight, I suppose I could have used a debit card and asked for cash back, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. I also didn’t contemplate at the time that would have made things much simpler and moved me along my other subsequent stops more quickly  — which would have never led to the events which inspired this blog post…

My bank has a ATM/branch nearby, so I waited in that line (and there WAS a line ahead of me) to get a $20 bill. A few hundred yards further is a Kroger store, so I decided to pop in and buy a package of snack crackers to break my $20.  As an added benefit I would then have a snack to take in to work the next day. (I gave up sugary snacks and desserts for Lent, but not the salty snacks!)  So by the time I got out of Kroger, in addition to the birthday card, I had a small carton of goldfish crackers and increments of cash which could be combined to make up the $13. I was less than half mile from the post office and it was not quite 5:00, so I decided to just sit in the parking lot and sign/address the card. Thankfully I already had a pen in my car’s ashtray. It was unseasonably warm for early March in northern Ohio, so I rolled my front windows down about ¼ of the way, turned on some talk radio, and got to it.  I just got the envelope sealed and addressed and was about to write my return address on it when I was startled by a woman’s voice calling out to me “Sir?” from the parking lot.

A 30 something young black woman apologized for startling me and then proceeded to tell me that she had been panhandling at the Kroger store and asked me if I had any money I could spare for food.  This is the same Kroger store where I had an earlier encounter years ago, described here: the same store location which will be closing in a few short weeks when a newly built and larger Kroger store opens up down the street.

This woman was eating a bag of corn chips and apologized when a small bit of chewed up chip spewed from her lips onto the outside of my car window.  She then told me that she had been at the homeless shelter and got into a fight with a white woman there who called her and her children the N word (although she used the actual word in relating the story to me).  She said she was not going to lie to me and that she had been taken to jail for it and spent three days there.  She also told me that the authorities at the shelter informed her that she was not welcome to come back.

I had already put the $13 birthday money in the card and sealed that envelope, but I reached down to my feet and grabbed the extra six dollars from my Kroger purchase and gave it to the woman through my window.  I told her that was all that I had at the time, but that she was welcome to it. She was very gracious and asked me if I knew of any other place in town where she could get assistance.  I asked her if she had tried visiting any of the local churches.  She indicated that she had, but they had all told her that they couldn’t help because of being low on funds, but that she didn’t really know what that meant.

The woman then asked me if I would be able to give her a ride. I was instinctively very cautious at being asked that question, but something made me pause.  I considered telling her, “Sorry, I have a few errands to run and someplace to be” — both of which were true, and not simply excuses to refuse her request.  But instead, for whatever reason, I asked her where it was she needed to go.  She responded with the name of a neighborhood that I recognized.  It is not in a good part of town and generally has a negative reputation in town. I’m not overly familiar with it myself, but I knew exactly where it was which was only about a mile or so away from where we were at the time.  I glanced at the clock, quickly weighed the situation and my prospects of getting my nephew’s birthday card mailed out in time, and I told the woman, “Sure. I can give you a ride.”  She smiled and thanked me and said there was a woman there she had stayed with before and thought that she might be able to get some help from her.

As I cleared off my passenger seat, the woman got in with her corn chips and a small knapsack.  As we pulled out of the parking lot, she told me that she was a Christian and showed me a small book or prayers someone had given to her. She said she hadn’t always been a Christian and that she used to worship Satan because nobody had ever told her before when she was growing up that that was wrong. Next she pulled out a plastic drink mixing cup that she said a “nice white… caucasian woman” had given to her with some tea.  She said she did not realize it was a cup for mixing alcoholic drinks and that she wondered why she got so many strange looks from other people as she drink tea from that cup, until somebody finally informed her that it wasn’t a tea cup, but a mixed drink mixer.

She then thanked me again for helping her and told me that a lot of people wouldn’t have agreed to give her a ride because “you’re not supposed to do that sort of thing — it’s not always safe” that you never know if you can trust somebody.  She also admitted that she could just as easily be in danger by asking for/accepting a ride from a stranger.  She said she didn’t know for sure that I wasn’t a crazy person, but that she felt like she could trust me after I was so kind to her in the Kroger parking lot.  I laughed a bit and told her that I wasn’t a crazy person, even as I wondered internally why she felt it necessary to raise those issues in the first place and whether I made a mistake in agreeing to give her a ride.

She showed me a cell phone with a shattered screen but still worked that someone had given to her.  And she let me know that it had some prepaid minutes on it. She also sort of whispered out loud — didn’t really say to me directly — as we drove past a Burger King, McDonalds, and Taco Bell that said she should probably make sure that she had something for her children to eat and she hoped that nobody was going to turn her in to children’s services.  I wondered for a split second whether I should offer to buy her a few hamburgers or to let HER buy them with her six dollars, and perhaps I should have, but I was in the wrong lane of traffic to pull in to those restaurants, so I continued to drive to her requested destination.

Just a few seconds later we approached the neighborhood where she was going and she directed me through a few streets to get to her destination.  As I pulled to the curb, she thanked me again and shook my hand.  She said, “God bless you” and I told her that he always does and replied in kind.  As I drove away, I still had a few minutes to get my nephew’s birthday card into the mail boxes at the post office.  I then stopped back at home to change into some more comfortable pants and shoes and got to the church right at 5:30.

I have no way to know for sure the true reality of this woman’s story. Was she going to use the few dollars I gave to her to buy food for her children or would it go toward something else?  Were there other issues with her children which would cause her to casually comment to a stranger about protective services? Was it really just tea that she was drinking earlier in her cup? Was there more to the story about her altercation at the homeless shelter or the shattered cell phone?  Was she really a former worshipper of Satan?  Was I just a “mark”?

As we prayed through the Stations of the Cross, using the same booklet that we have used for years at our parish, a few of the reflection prayers that we all recite as a group spoke a little bit louder to me this time.  I have reprinted a few of those below.

Fifth Station – Simon helps Jesus
Jesus, our brother,
We have to admire Simon.
He took up your cross and followed you.
He had so little doubt, so little hesitation.
We see you suffering in all around us,
in the poor, in the powerless,
in the misunderstood.
We are so hesitant to come to your aid.
We find so many excuses.
We remain aloof.
Grant us the wisdom and the courage
to help the least of your brothers and sisters
and so help you.

Sixth Station – Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Jesus, our brother,
You rewarded Veronica for her courage.
You left your face upon her veil.
You will reward us for our courage,
you will leave the imprint of your face
upon our lives.
“By this will all know
that you are my disciples:
that you love one another.”
Help us to forget our fears and reach out
to serve our needy brothers and sisters.

Eighth Station – Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem
Jesus, our brother,
In the midst of your sufferings
you had compassion
for others and their pain.
We are often so self-centered.
We do not see the suffering of others.
We want pity, kindness, and understanding.
We are willing to give so little in return.
Help us forget ourselves.
Awaken us to the pain
in the lives of others.

Tenth Station – Jesus is stripped of his garments
Jesus, our brother,
There is something fearful
in thinking of you stripped before the crowd.
Even the privacy of clothing is taken.
You have given up everything for us.
We give so little in return.
May we have the grace to give,
to give of what we have,
to help our brothers and sisters
suffering all around us.

Eleventh Station – Jesus is nailed to the Cross
Jesus, our brother,
the pain of those nails was unjust.
Your hands which did such good,
your feet which walked on errands of mercy,
are now punished.
You received little gratitude
for the good you did.
Why should we expect more for the good we do?
Help us give and ask nothing in return.

Twelfth Station – Jesus dies on the Cross
Jesus, our brother,
You have the greatest love for us.
What can we say in the face of it?
We can only try to imitate you,
by responding to
the brothers and sisters
you have given us to love.

After completing Stations of the Cross, we moved into the other room for soup. Each week, they have a goodwill offering basket for participants to leave donations to defray the costs of the soup, salad, and bread provided.  As I mentioned above, I rarely ever carry cash with me.  On the other hand, my wife often does, so in years past, I’ve always just relied on her to drop a few dollars in the basket at Soup & Prayer on Wednesdays during Lent.  But this year I’ve been going solo because Wednesday has become one of our daughter’s dance class evenings and my wife stays at the studio to volunteer in the studio office on our daughter’s dance nights. Each of the previous Wednesdays this year, I’ve forgotten to bring any money with me to donate to the cause.

On this particular Wednesday I would have had change from my store purchase, but I gave it to the woman in the Kroger parking lot instead.  As I was sitting at the table waiting for our turn to go up to the soup and bread table, I was a little bit discouraged that I failed to keep a dollar from my change to add to the pot, but quickly decided that my interaction with the woman and offering her a few dollars was more important than adding a few more dollars to the already full goodwill offering basket at the church. It was then that I remembered the change I gave to the woman at Kroger was just sitting on the floor of my car after I pulled out the birthday card bills from my store change.  I had forgotten that there were still two dollars left from my original money clip/pocket change that I used to buy the card.  That money clip was in my jacket pocket and still had $2.00 in it, so I WAS able to make an additional offering this week.

If I had not called my mother, chances are I would have missed getting Ryan’s birthday card mailed out in time. If I’d had enough cash to put $13.00 into his birthday card of if I’d just gotten cash back at the dollar store where I bought the card, I would have never driven to the Kroger store where I lingered for a bit in the parking lot.  If the weather had been colder like it traditionally should’ve been in early March, I would have been bundled up with the windows rolled up as I sat in the parking lot.  If I had let fear or prejudice impact my response to a woman asking for help, those words of prayer during Stations of the Cross would have likely haunted me.

Sometimes, it only takes a simple gesture of kindness and compassion to make a difference.  As I said above, I don’t know if my few dollars to the woman were used for selfless or selfish purposes on her part.  But she was a reminder to me that I can always do better when it comes to being charitable.  It just sometimes takes a gentle reminder — a reminder from Jesus on the Cross.

Praise God!!!

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