The Day Before the Election

Monday, November, 7, 2016

This evening, I’ll be in the Sternberger Elementary School cafeteria helping to set up for the election. While I am there,  members of my church will gather for a prayer service:

Breathe, Pray, Love

A time of quiet, music and prayers for peace and healing

I doubt we are the only church or the only people praying the day before this election.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll turn off my alarm clock at 4:30am. It is DARK at that hour. I’ll shower and dress and gather my supplies (green tea, Diet Coke, change of shoes) to spend the day as an assistant poll worker. Yes, I’m one of those nice, grey-haired ladies who checks you in, gives you an “I voted” sticker, and leads you over to the voting machine.

In NC, voting sites are open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. Anyone in line at 7:30 pm gets to vote, no matter how long it takes. It’s a long, long day. And we can’t leave, other than to go down the hall to the bathroom.

All the poll workers bring food. The chief judge makes crockpot soup that is available whenever we get a chance to eat. I made banana muffins. One (male) voter ususally brings us freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I hope he didn’t vote early. There will likely be plenty of food.

Our precinct is majority white Republican and upper middle class so I don’t expect conflict or commotion. And I hope there’s no conflict or commotion at any polling place anywhere. I’m not confident that will be the case. I’ve never worried about that before.

I’ve been a politics geek most of my life. My Gramma Bryant taught my mother how to be a Democrat and Mom and Dad taught us. We always watched the news growing up and discussed current events at the dinner table. The retired man I live with and I did that with our children and I see it continuing with theirs.

My older daughter took her 4-year-old daughter, who said she wanted “the girl” to win, to vote early. She sent me a picture of Maggie with an “I voted” sticker. I posted it on Facebook with the caption “Voted for the 1st woman president.”

And my younger daughter will take her kids to vote on Election Day. I hope she lets 6 1/2-year-old Adaline push the button for Hillary so she, too, can say she voted for the first woman president.

If you haven’t voted yet, I hope you do. You have no right to complain, ever, if you don’t! Thank you to all the North Carolina voters who voted early–you’ve made Election Day much easier!

Remember to breathe as you wait for this long, difficult campaign to end. And please do pray for peace and healing. We all have to live together after tomorrow, whatever the result.

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Published in: on November 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm  Comments (4)  
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All Are Welcome Here

Almost 300 people gathered at Kanuga Conference Center in the woods of the NC mountains.  All were somehow touched by HIV/AIDS.  The Southeastern dioceses of the Episcopalian Church have sponsored this annual June retreat for over 20 years. Clients and patients mixed easily with staff and volunteers from agencies in NC, SC, AL, FL, GA and even Texas.  Some rode many hours on buses.  Others carpooled.  For many, this was their only trip beyond their home county all year.

I attended this year, my 4th time.  I listened to stories of loss and loneliness and hope and resilience.  Many voiced gratitude for a place of no shame where the dominant message was “You are welcome here.

A young man in his 20’s told of being born HIV positive.  His mother died shortly after his birth and he was adopted at 3 weeks old from the hospital. At 8, his mother told him he was HIV positive.  He went to a support group and found a best friend.  As he reached adulthood, his adoptive mother died and then his best friend.  He was ready to stop his medications and die, too.  He found Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.  He participated in a men’s support group and the men nurtured him and loved him and he decided to keep on living.

Another man shared that he doesn’t take communion at home because he is HIV positive and doesn’t want to make anyone else uncomfortable by drinking from the communal cup. He gratefully took communion and drank from the cup at the sunrise lakeside worship service because all were truly welcome that morning.  He cried telling his story.

At that same lakeside worship service, just as the priest was consecrating the bread and wine, a flock of geese circled the lake, flew over our heads, and landed softly on the water.  They stayed there, floating, as we went to the front for communion.  Flying geese are a Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit.*

I volunteer at Higher Ground, a house in my town where people infected and affected by HIV gather. I’m on the board of directors for its parent agency, Triad Health Project.

Once a month my church provides lunch at Higher Ground for about 30 people, sometimes more.  Over the years, we have fed over 6,000 hungry mouths. One time I fixed baked chicken breasts.  I knew how many I cooked and I knew from counting heads it wasn’t enough.  We had leftovers.  And no way to explain them.  There is always enough food.

Once or twice a month I lead a group, called Robin’s Nest on the calendar. Sometimes we write in journals–everyone gets one and they’re stored in a big wicker basket in the back room.  We’ve played with Model Magic, weird stuff that’s like new-age Play Dough. We’ve used markers and crayons.  Always I play music, usually soft jazz like Kenny G or Boney James. We’re quiet for a while and then everyone has a chance to share.  We talk about life and death, faith and fun, anger and love.  We tell our stories. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry.  We listen and we are heard.

Most of the folks who participate have lost something because of their disease.  Lovers, family, honesty about themselves, mobility, health.  They are more likely to talk about what they have gained.  For some, days free from addiction.  For most, faith in a loving God.  Often, it’s Higher Ground, where they have a community of welcoming friends who care where they are and ask how they’re doing.  They daily choose to keep on living because they have come so close to dying.

Nine years ago, when I was diagnosed with cancer, I went to Higher Ground.  I knew they would understand my fears and would show me how to keep living each day, one at a time.  When my rheumatoid arthritis is acting up and I’m in pain, Higher Ground is one of the few places I will go.  They accept me as I am and it’s okay.  They offer compassion; there is no pity.  They know how to live life on life’s terms.

I know the Holy Spirit was at Kanuga. I saw Her geese. I feel God’s presence every time I pay attention at Higher Ground.

14 years ago, I resisted the call to Higher Ground.  I had just resigned after  6 1/2 years as a Hospice volunteer coordinator and I said, “I don’t want to be around people who are going to die.” I’m not sure when or how that changed.

People I love have dwindled and died.  But more have come close and then gotten well again.

I think I have more to learn from my friends at Higher Ground.  My heart needs to continue opening to new friends.  I’m willing to take the risk.

 

* “Wild Goose” is a Celtic spirituality metaphor that evokes unpredictability, beauty, and grace.

 

 

 

Published in: on August 1, 2014 at 4:39 pm  Comments (7)  
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We Share This Universe

Our awesome responsibility to ourselves, to our children, and to the future is to create ourselves in the image of goodness, because the future depends on the nobility of our imaginings.
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison

The world we live in depends on the responsible contributions each of us makes.

And this world is just as good as are the many talents we commit ourselves to developing and offering.

None of us is without obligation to offer our best to our family, friends, or strangers, if our hope is to live in a good world.

The world can only be as good as each of us makes it.

Individually and collectively our power to mold the outer circumstances of our lives is profound.

Our personal responses to one another and our reactions to events that touch us combine with the actions of others to create a changed environment that affects us.

No action, no thought goes unnoticed, unfelt, in this interdependent system of humanity.

We share this universe.

We are the force behind all that the universe offers.

Whether I acknowledge the depth of my contribution is irrelevant.

It is still profound and making an impact every moment and eternally.

 

from the book: The Promise of a New Day

by Karen Casey and Martha Vanceburg

 


Published in: on March 11, 2011 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  
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