Friday, January 31, 2014


I considered my writing on Grace to be finished, but I must tell one more story.

Some people believe that a higher being is in charge of our lives who will see to our good no matter what.  Then there are people who use terminology to reflect a position that god lives within us and we are the authority of our lives. As more of our society rejects the God of Judeo-Christianity, the questions when does life begin and when does it end are answered in terms of independence and autonomy.

The law of the land increasingly reflects the secular view as unborn children, accidentally brain damaged, and elderly with dementia require money from families and the government to sustain life. Life itself is being redefined; the qualities of personhood transition from creation of a creator to accumulated plasma.

Predominantly Grace is understood as unmerited favor, the moral quality of kindness, the way to transcend the bondage of a mortal body. In most philosophies grace lifts the participant above the common fray, moves the recipient across life’s stage without effort, sustained from inflicting damage on others.

Antonyms of grace such as awkwardness, unkindness, defacing, indicate harm and danger. Humiliation and disgrace diminish rather than enhance.

Whenever “harm and danger” is mentioned we laugh at this story:

Our second year renting half a house, the house was sold by a tough Dutch woman named Susie who visited the States annually but collected her rent monthly. She sold it to a tight-fisted Dutchman who lived in a nearby city. (Yah, vat is?)  He descended on us one Saturday to inform us that our rent was going to be increased while he would do nothing about repairs we had requested of Susie. Furthermore we were to pay every four weeks. My young husband informed Harm, our new landlord’s name, that there would be no rent increase without repair and no extra payments. Period.

The next day being Sunday we went to church and the minister prayed, “Deliver us from harm and danger.” Rather than disrupt the service with our laughter, we escaped out of the sanctuary. Harm and danger has been a family joke ever since.

So I end with an adaptation from Garrison Keillor.  Be well, do good, and spread Grace wherever possible.


What interesting responses from you to the previous post about Real Change.

A writer friend wrote a poignant essay describing her stop at a traffic light with many vehicles ahead of her. Sitting through two light changes gave her opportunity to observe a man waving a cardboard sign and walking the median toward the drivers who might give him money.

A grocery store is on one corner and an older, stooped woman came out bags in one hand and a cane she used for support in the other. When she reached the corner she slowly placed her bags on the street, opened her purse and took out money. She gave the money to the cardboard man, painstakingly retrieved her grocery bag, plodded her way to the crosswalk, and proceeded to slowly cross the street. The man pocketed the money and commenced waving his sign.

My friend titled her essay, “Intersection.”  Unless we remain housebound with no visitors, we approach junctions throughout the day. Some intersections require our response and some slide through our awareness to the general dumping receptacle that allows us to function. Some crossing points involve us with written or video presentations, and again, we may respond or ignore.

The grace we offer others in our intersections wells up from the grace we store within ourselves. (An AA friend reminded me to not “should” on myself.) If we are graceless, our response will be barren, judgmental and coarse. But if we daily remind ourselves of the mercy we receive in droplets and in deluge, we will slow dance through our intersections one day at a time. Blessing others as we have been blessed.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014


For a thinking citizen of the world…of our country…of a city… social justice struggles are real. They are called struggles because the issues are convoluted and less than clear. The solutions likewise are difficult.

Social justice asks us to see realities in our community, and engage in compassionate discussions of what actions we can take. Not common tolerance, which can quickly become sentimental and ineffective, but giving ourselves in multiple, manageable ways. Here is a real change you can make.

Many major cities have a weekly newspaper discussing the needs of the homeless and addiction community as they increase our awareness of the struggles. The paper in Seattle, Real Change, uses individuals to distribute. The vendor must be wearing a badge with their name and picture. Achieving this badge is an accomplishment because the requirement is that they be sober. The paper sells for $2 and the vendor keeps most of it. We never leave home without dollars easily accessible in our pocket. We keep an eye out for the vendors as we walk Seattle’s streets, shake their hands and give them our names. It’s a small thing.

Hint: If you spot a vendor and don’t have singles, do not ask for change. Go into Starbucks and buy some brownies, get change and give both the brownies and the dollars to the vendor. We had a very funny experience in Chicago and should have known better.

When a friend of ours managed a day mission in downtown Seattle, he told us not to give to the panhandlers but to support the organizations that offer real assistance. There are sadly many men and women sitting on the sidewalk with a cup held out, but they have no bona fides to show they work “the Program.”  I hold up my Real Change, nod, return their eye contact, and they immediately recognize that I’m not minimizing their need, but I know….

Amanda Laughtland is a poet, artist, and teacher. She recently posted the following experience and poem (A Teeny Tiny Blog): 

“This poem is in appreciation of the man who sells Real Change outside the post office on Greenwood Avenue.”

In Front of the Post Office

"Hello, queen," sings the man
who sells newspapers. You wouldn't think

I'd be so charmed, but who else
greets me this way? When I leave

with my paper, I never hear
another customer receive the greeting

I almost believe he keeps for me.


poem used with permission


Friday, January 10, 2014


Adult Family Homes (six or fewer beds) are strictly regulated by the State government. (Pause for a moment to find/think gracious thoughts about regulatory government. I thought of one and don’t have time to manufacture more so we move on.) One of our procedures for new caregivers is Orientation Training. Basically it reminds us of many things that should be common sense. The section describing good communication makes thoughtful reading for anyone who is not a hermit.

“Communicating well means more than talking to a client. It means:
-      Watching the client’s body language carefully to see what his or her actions and gestures may be telling you.
-      Listening carefully to any comments from the client.”
“Good communication helps:

-      Get you the information you need to do your job.

-      Things go smoothly….

-      Keep things calmer in stressful situations.”

Living in transition is stressful, and while we humans are created for change, we have evolved an automatic brake pedal when told by others we need modification. When the brake is applied a loud ooga horn sounds warning. There may not be an actual sound, but our facial expression can speak as loudly as a klaxon on a diving submarine.

Deliberately making moments of grace throughout the day protects us and those with whom we need to communicate.   Taking five deep breaths with slow exhalation before eating.    Thinking a positive mantra whenever we sit at a traffic light.     Enumerating qualities of someone who pushes our buttons when we know we will be communicating with them.    We are the primary beneficiaries.