Monthly Archives: January 2021

Reflection from Jennifer

Black Elk, leader of the Oglala Lakota Sioux people, used the term “the first peace” to identify a sense of connection we feel within ourselves.  In his book The Sacred Pipe, dictated to American anthropologists and published in 1953, the first peace is described as:  

“that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Tanka (the Great Spirit), and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us. This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this.”

Poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson published an essay titled “The Over-Soul” in 1841, describing what he understood as a “common heart”:

“within [humanity] is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related; the eternal One… We know that all spiritual being is in [humanity].  We lie open on one side to the deeps of spiritual nature, to the attributes of God.  Justice we see and know, Love, Freedom, Power.” 

I read Black Elk a few years ago in Conflict Transformation class in seminary, and I just came across some of his writings again this week as I was looking through a collection of writings and poetry by indigenous peoples.  Also this week, I found myself reading a collection of Emerson’s essays while I was sitting by the fire on a relaxing Saturday afternoon and I reached for the closest book. 

These two readings offered me a good lesson — sometimes I think we’re saying the same thing, just using different language.

No doubt we speak through the lens of our experiences and so we use the language that comes most naturally to us.  But language can be divisive.  What I describe as “a and b” might be “x and y” to you.  If we’re going to really listen and understand one another, we might need to dig a little to uncover what we’re actually trying to say. 

In these times when we’re quick to identify our differences and claim our ground, may we have patience to dig and seek understanding.  May we seek to realize the first peace within ourselves by opening our eyes to our common heart.   

Blessings & peace to you,

Jennifer

CPE Intern  

Reflection from Marianne

This week was a milestone celebration moment at HHH – some received the first dose of the COVID vaccine, and the rest received their second dose.  Halleluiah!! 

As the COVID vaccine rolls out in our own little corner of the world, across the country, and around the world, I’m feeling the tender sensation of Hope re-awaken after a deep slumber.  Hope that we are starting to see the light at the end of a long tunnel.  Hope that we can, and will, weather the storm and will be able raise our faces, once again, to the warm sun of togetherness. 

May these excerpts from Amanda Gorman’s poem, The Hill We Climb offer inspiration and hope on the dawn of this new day as we celebrate reaching a milestone at HHH.

When day comes we ask ourselves,
where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry,
a sea we must wade

We’ve braved the belly of the beast…

…our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it

Marianne DiBlasi, CPE Intern

Reflection from Mary Anne

This is my second unit of CPE. My first was in September 2019 and my second began in
September 2020. The two units have each presented their challenges. We CPE interns have
been assigned residents in a different manner this year compared to last. In 2019 we each had
residents from each of the various areas: Health Service Center, The Lodge, LAL, Havenwood
Cottages, and Heritage Heights Cottages. And of course this year is much different since we
have not been able to visit residents in person since December because of COVID, and we
have had to conduct interaction with residents either by telephone or ZOOM. The other thing
that is different is each of us has been assigned to specific areas rather than an assignment
of residents from each of the various areas and campuses. Having an assignment from one
specific area has given me a different perspective of HHH. Sometimes it is hard to realize
that the two campuses (Havenwood and Heritage Heights) are really part of the same
organization. Whenever I am on one particular campus, the other is referred to as “over there.”

But the one particular thing that I am impressed with is the attitude of all of the residents
regardless of where they are living. Each of the independent residents is interviewed yearly
with what is called SWELL Chats. This is a means of touching base with the resident to see
how things are going. My impression of the residents of HHH prior to COVID was the
friendliness, the happy frame of mind, and the many smiles. Now that we have been living
with COVID for almost a year, my impression is still the same. Despite COVID weariness
and sometimes feeling “zoomed out,” most residents are still very friendly, in a happy frame
of mind, and have many smiles. The resilience of the residents is amazing.

Some of the questions with the SWELL Chat are: What is your strength? What do you do
for fun? What are your spiritual practices? The answers are rather similar from each resident.

1. Strengths: Keeping a positive attitude on life.
2. Activities: Walking or hiking for exercise; jigsaw puzzles; card games; reading; activities on Channel 919 such as World Affairs; Book Discussion; Sing Alongs; Updates from Administration.
3. Social interaction: Zoom with family, meals with friends at Barrows for lunch.
4. Spiritual practices: Commune with nature; Zoom with my church community on Sundays.

We each have had to alter our lifestyle for the past year with COVID. And although there are
some down times and feelings of despair as to when will it all end, there is a reservoir of
resilience in most of us. This may be more apparent to us when we are relieved of COVID
and are able to look back and assess our resilience. We will analyze our responses and be
able to see how we got through it. But even now it is worth the time to celebrate our
resilience and to look at the lessons that we are learning. It really is summed up to keeping
a positive outlook on life, just as our HHH residents are doing.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the challenges in life that help to build my strength.
Thank you for the times when my lack of resources reminds me of the value of resourcefulness.
Thank you for the mysterious people who confound, frustrate and annoy me, teaching me patience and the art of forgiveness.
Thank you for the moments when I am in desperate need of a miracle, and at the very last moment, from an unexpected source, one arrives.
Thank you for the difficult path that only I can walk, the challenging problems that you have prepared for me to solve and the purpose that you have for my life.
Thank you for the moments of courage that you give me so that I can live a life of meaning, not comfort.
Thank you for the moments when I am aware of my many faults, not so that I can wallow in guilt, but so that I can tap into your grace and mercy.
Thank you for sending angels to wrestle with me, building my resilience and teaching me to hold on to what is good.
I pray that you would give me strong ankles for the times when I walk on rocky ground.
I pray that you would give me a strong heart for the times when pain would otherwise break my spirit.
And I pray that even in the darkest night, I will be looking to the light that’s coming.
I pray that I (and my family and friends) may be numbered with the resilient ones.
Amen

Darren Poke, Better Life Coaching Blog

Mary Anne Totten, CPE Intern

Reflection from Sarah

As I sat watching the NFL playoff games on Sunday I was reminded how the simple joy of cheering for my favorite team lifted my spirits.  It is in that spirit that I introduce, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, Loyola University’s 101-year-old basketball chaplain and her positive outlook on life.   At age 101, Sister Jean is living through her second pandemic.  Every day during the Covid19 epidemic, she is up at 5 a.m. for morning prayers before starting work on Zoom.  Confined to her apartment, she answers emails and records pre-game prayers for her beloved Loyola Ramblers.  Sister Jean, who turned 101 in August, longs to return to face-to-face interaction with students and fellow faculty members.  Yet, as COVID and Zoom fatigue have set in across the country, Sister Jean remains hopeful as her prayers for the health and safety of others continue.  She attributes her optimism to her mother who always encouraged the children to find the positives of every situation in life – no matter what.  “My mom told us to always look on the bright side of life, always.  I think about all of these awful things that are happening, but I want to look at the good things.  I know sometimes, it’s easy to say, ‘Everything is bad’ but no, not everything is bad.  We want to work on the bad and make it good, but we have to believe that something good is going to come out of this….I think we’re going to be better.  We have to think good is going to come out of this, but we have to do some good to make that happen.  I shouldn’t just say, ‘my neighbor has to do that’ – no, I have to do that.”  For now, Sister Jean continues to pray for those around her – both those that she knows and those that she doesn’t.  Many who ask her for prayers ask for perseverance as they await better days ahead (Patch.com)

I close with a prayer from Sister Jean with a modification from the Loyola Rambler’s to the HHH team.

We ask our God to protect our caregivers, all healthcare personnel, the elderly, and those especially susceptible, those who are suffering from this disease and those who have died, as well as those who are mourning the death of their loved ones.  As the days go by let us continue our team spirit, let us bring happiness and joy to others and let us ask our God to continue to protect us with His great love.  So God bless us, stay healthy, be safe, and go HHH team.  Amen.

Sarah McEvoy, CPE Intern

Reflection from John

A couple of days ago, a car in front of me had this bumper sticker on it: “Be the person your dog thinks you are.”

My dog Pucci taught me a lot. In fact, he taught me more than I taught him.

I was his shelter.

I was his playmate.

I was his partner in all kinds of adventures in the winter woods and summer lakesides.

I was his source of food.

In a thunderstorm, I was his reassurance that everything was going to be okay.

When he would curl up against one of my legs on the couch in the evening, I would be reminded of the most important thing I was to Pucci: His source of comfort. And he was mine.

A dog doesn’t know things in words, like we do. A dog knows in feelings.

What more powerful and more positive feeling can anyone know than comfort?

What could be a more deeply felt expression of unspoken love than this sense of peace and security?

What more can I aspire to as a human being — as one of God’s precious creatures — than to be a source of peace, security and comfort – and to have that feeling returned, even without a word being spoken?

John Terauds, CPE Intern

Reflection from Cherie

Puppy Love

She’s almost five months old and has been running around our home like she’s the queen for seven weeks now. She was born to a hoarder in the south and wasn’t touched by human hands until she was eight weeks old. She was six pounds and timid when the rescue team handed her to me through my car window on a rainy December Saturday morning. The purple ribbon tied around her neck ensured me she was my pup; the one I saw in the online pictures. I wrapped her in warm blanket, held her close and told her she had it made it home. The funny thing is a part of me that I hadn’t realized was missing made it home that morning too. I’ve seen the bumper stickers, the ones that say, “Who saved who?” surrounded by paw prints. Now I understand.

We call her Hazelnut, sometimes Hazel and often times Hazy, although Little Nut suites her best. When naming her, I was inspired by the story of an ancient mystic who wrote these words about a hazelnut almost 700 years ago, “And in this he showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed. And it was as round as any ball. I looked upon it with the eye of my understanding, and thought, ‘What may this be?’ And it was answered generally thus, ‘It is all that is made.’ I marveled how it might last, for I thought it might suddenly have fallen to nothing for littleness. . .In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is that God made it. The second that God loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.” – Julian of Norwich

I speak her name throughout each day and I am reminded of three properties: God made her, God loves her, and God keeps her or sustains her. This little creature reminds me to connect to the rhythms of life, reminds me to take breaks and play, reminds me to eat and rest, reminds me that I am a little thing too.

On walks under a blue January sky, we sometimes pause. She sniffs the ground and I look toward heaven. My soul whispers the words as a prayer, “You made me, God. You love me, God. You sustain me, God.” Then I call to Hazelnut and we walk the rest of the way home.

Cherie Shaw, CPE Intern

Reflection from Jennifer

In tomorrow’s community worship service, I’ll be sharing a song for reflection that’s become an anthem for me during these challenging times.  I’d like to share the lyrics with you as well:

“I Am Willing” by Holly Near

I am open and I am willing

To be hopeless would seem so strange

It dishonors those who go before us

So lift me up to the light of change

There is hurting in my family

There is sorrow in my town

There is panic in the nation

There is wailing the whole world round

May the children see more clearly

May the elders be more wise

May the winds of change caress us

Even though it burns our eyes

Give me a mighty oak to hold my confusion

Give me a desert to hold my fears

Give me a sunset to hold my wonder

Give me an ocean to hold my tears

I find myself constantly returning to these words.  They remind me that what matters most is how I respond when there’s a swirling tornado all around me.  Creation is big enough and powerful enough to hold my confusion and fears, if I can simply remain open and willing.

Of course being open and willing is not always easy.  Am I open to hearing and trying to understand all points of view, even when they’re very different from my own?  Am I willing to admit that I don’t have all the answers and that I’m only able to see things through the lens of my own experiences?  Am I willing to pick up the phone and be the one to apologize, even when the phone feels like it weighs 1,000 lbs.?  In the midst of hurt all around me, I can choose to take small steps towards peace.     

I hope you find some comfort in these lyrics as well.  Today, may we all try to be open and willing, and may we rest in knowing that’s enough. 

Blessings & peace to you,

Jennifer, CPE Intern

Reflection from Marianne

The year 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing and protecting women’s constitutional right to vote.  On Wednesday, when Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, Kamala Harris was inaugurated as the first woman, first Black, and first Indian-American ever to hold the office of the Vice President.  Today, I offer you a prayer conceived by Alden Solovy and Evan Kent to celebrate the momentous occasion of Kamala Harris’ Vice Presidential inauguration. 

A Prayer Celebrating Kamala Harris’ Inauguration

Our God and God of our mothers and fathers,
On this historic inauguration
We celebrate a woman becoming Vice President of the United States,
A 100 year-climb from women’s suffrage to the Oval Office.

We honor and remember all the women in our lives who sought freedom,
And all who came before in this struggle,
The women who paved the way for equality,
Who marched in the streets,
Who supported their families,
Who battled sexism and racism in the face of hostility.
Who were paid less,
Passed over for jobs,
And battled for promotions,
Who had to prove themselves more capable than male colleagues.

Vice President Kamala Harris has broken through
One of the most formidable glass ceilings of leadership
And into the innermost sanctum of power
In the world’s most successful democracy
At a time of crisis.
Black. Asian-American. Woman.
Powerful. Focused. Unyielding.
Articulate. Educated. Brilliant.
Successful, she is everything
The old guard
And the good ol’ boys fear.

The glass ceiling of government –
The White House and the Office of the Vice President –
Has been broken.
There is only one more glass ceiling left.
But the barriers that still
Keep minorities and women from rising
To the upper rungs of success,
Regardless of their qualifications or achievements,
Have not been broken for all.
As we celebrate this victory,
We pledge ourselves to continue the struggle,
Knowing the depth of the work of justice and healing required.

“A Prayer Celebrating Kamala Harris’ Inauguration” is © 2021 Alden Solovy and Evan Kent.

Marianne DiBlasi, CPE Intern

Reflection from Mary Anne

Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

                      —Danielle LaPorte

We are continually searching for our authentic selves. The faster I move, the more I forget. The slower I go, the more I can remember. Softness remembers; hardness forgets; surrender remembers and fear forgets. In these days of political strife, rampant pandemic, and economic hardship, I can become numb and wonder who am I, what am I about? I sometimes feel that I am operating like a robot and I am on automatic pilot.  Before the pandemic, I was meeting with friends, having coffee or dinner. I was involved in church activities and volunteered in the food pantry. Since the pandemic I don’t have those connections. I have to work harder at keeping my head straight and maintaining my authentic self. I realize now that I had been defining myself by my outside activities. It is important for me to slow down, and tune out the world, even for a short time. This time between pandemic and no pandemic is fallow time. Fallow time is when farmers allow a field to lie dormant, not plant, and let the soil rest. This is my time to be fallow, and more contemplative. I need to sit with myself and develop spiritual reserve in order to be of service to others. One way to do this is to: sit quietly, breathe in and out slowly, breathe softly and imagine my breath is cleansing water. I can then re-enter the world, energized, and ready to be my authentic self and to give to others.

Once upon a time,

when women were birds,

there was a simple understanding

that to sing at dawn

and to sing at dusk

was to heal the world through joy.

The birds still remember

what we have forgotten,

that the world

  is meant to be celebrated.

—Terry Tempest Williams

May you find rest in the joy of each day.

Mary Anne Totten, CPE Intern

Reflection from Sarah

A Meditation on Hope

Hope can be a fickle thing.  We have it and then we don’t.  We think everything is going back to normal and then we receive crushing news.  And hope disappears.  But does it really?  Is hope every really gone?  Hope is like a flower.  It appears on schedule, but we forget it’s there at times.  Sometimes it’s lurking beneath the surface and we have to create our own flowers.  We have to visualize them in our minds instead of seeing them for ourselves.  We’re going through a time when it feels like there is a hefty price to pay for hope.  It feels way too expensive.  But what’s interesting is that it’s even more expensive to lose sight of hope.  We need hope like we need air.  And yet we don’t consider the price of air until it’s gone.  Until it’s difficult to breathe.  In this way, hope and air are linked. 

Where do we go if we can’t find hope?  What do we do if nothing is working?  We build a castle for hope.  We construct the walls. We beautify the grounds.  We create a space that will one day welcome hope.  That’s all we can do.  And then when we least expect it, hope appears.  It’s the flower that was never truly gone.  It’s just something that we couldn’t see at the time.  Create the space for hope.  And then invite it in.  (Jordan Brown)

May God heal you, body and soul.

May your pain cease,

May your strength increase,

May your fears be released,

May blessings, love, and joy surround you.

Amen.

Rabbi Naomi Levy

Sarah McEvoy, CPE Intern