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Laughter and his Last Days

Laughter and his Last Days

Most of us at some point in our lives have laughed so hard we’ve begun to cry. Experts have acknowledged there’s a connection there. A sense of relief from stress and anxiety can come from both. But is there ever a time when laughter might be beneficial at times of extreme sadness? I recall laughing not long after my father’s death as I shared a funny moment about him with my siblings.

But what about such a place as a hospice? I asked my wife who volunteers at a nearby hospice facility. “It all depends on the patients and their families,” she said. She agrees with information cited in an article I recently read in the Minneapolis StarTribune (March 7, 2017) by Allie Shah. Those patients that have accepted their situation and are coping with their death prognosis can often be welcoming of humor. Shah’s article focuses on 66-year-old Roy Cato, dyeing from cancer.

Each week he is visited by a professional from a local hospice care facility. After the routine blood pressure check and response to medical questions, the two try to revert to humor. As you can imagine, when it comes to enemas, there’s plenty of opportunity for jokes. But nothing is planned; humor tends to come up more on the spur of the moment. Both men recognize the value of humor and look forward to their time together. Cato calls it “a special time.” Many family members and friends also come calling, and Cato is most appreciative. He says there is more laughter than tears now.

Many thanks to those who can see the value of humor and who, Living Love Large, can skillfully negotiate the difficult moments of the last days of a person’s life, replacing tears of sadness with laughter.

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Sewing up the Community

Sewing up the Community

So what do an old sewing machine and barber’s razor have in common? It’s hard to imagine just what. Perhaps they both have a knack for creating a certain by-product, especially when used outdoors among people. As reported by Steve Hartman in two different stories (On the Road, 5-22-15 and 7-11-14), they are both used to provide a free service to the community, and in doing so, are helping to build those communities.

The sewing machine was an antique when found tossed by the wayside by Michael Swain of San Francisco. The college art teacher came up with an idea to put it to good use. In his free time, he parks himself by the curb of the run-down Tenderloin district of the city to help street people, many homeless, charging them nothing to repair a loose button or tear. While doing so, he found that the sewing machine became an easy topic of conversation. In effect, the antique machine not only repaired clothing, it helped build community.

Eighty-three-year-old Joe Cymerys didn’t have a regular barber’s chair, but a simple folding one would do. Once a person sat in it and heard the buzz of Joe’s razor, the grateful customer knew his bushy head would soon feel lighter. Each Wednesday in a park in Hartford, CT, under the shade of a big oak tree, Joe plugs his razor into an old car battery and sets up to do his thing—something quite different from his old job as a real estate investor. In addition to the haircut, Joe often also finishes up by applying a massage to a scalp or lotion to some smiling cheeks. The only payment expected is a big hug, and everyone is more than eager to show their gratefulness.

Thanks to Michael and Joe, their respective communities, ranging from California to Connecticut, get a bit of unexpected love—the kind of love that builds community, and the kind that is most worthy of being touted as Love Lived Large.

(Secret word for April blog contest: sewing)

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Bears Across Africa

Bears Across Africa

Each month 1000 bears are shipped to Africa, but these are not your wild beasts with sharp claws. No, we are talking about cuddly teddy bears distributed to young children in search of a lovable companion. As reported by Kevyn Burger in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (1-1-17), this outreach comes about thanks to Amy Berman, who started a non-profit 14 years ago replicating what her mother had done during WW II for English children evacuated due to bombing. Berman, as it turns out, is using the same pattern that her mother had used to make those bears.

Altogether, a total of more than 128,000 children in 14 countries have received these bears over the many years that the Mother Bear Project has been operating. As Berman states, “Children need something to play with or sing to, to cuddle at the end of the day.” Many of them are orphans of Africa’s HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Since Berman started the project, volunteers in all 50 states as well as 30 countries have stepped up to make the bears. They also contribute three dollars per bear to cover shipping costs. A 90-year-old former art teacher, Sister Lauren Spence, holds the record for number of bears fabricated at 2,230.

Brennan adds a couple of nice touches to finish off each donation. She has volunteers sew a red heart on each bear and tags each one with a note from the knitter. She also sends a thank-you note back to the knitter. Finally, she coordinates getting a picture of the child holding the bear—a most gratifying gift to the knitter in exchange for all of the unconditional love sent the child’s way with each bear. Thank you, Amy Berman, for the Mother Bear Project that expands your mother’s work many fold, certainly a fine example of Love Lived Large. If you’d like to donate to her cause, check out her website: motherbearproject.org.

 

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Auto Repair on the Cheap

Auto Repair on the Cheap

If a smudge of auto grease got on her note pad, Cathy Heying wouldn’t have been surprised. Living two lives as a social worker and auto repair student could explain that. But if she hadn’t been so entwined in the lives of her social work clients, the urge to learn auto repair would never have happened. She recognized that if there was one thing that put a wrench into the lives of her clients, it was a broken down car that they couldn’t afford to repair, making it difficult to get to work.

With that in mind, Cathy hatched a plan to start up a non-profit auto repair business in Minneapolis. She studied the craft part-time at a local trade school, raised money, and in 2013 was able to sublet a single repair bay. As reported by Kim Palmer in the Minneapolis StarTribune (8-28-16), the Lift Garage charged only $15/hr. for labor to customers who met certain low income guidelines. As we all know, that compares with rates well over $100/hr. at most repair garages. Parts were sold at cost.

The need was great, and the Lift Garage has now grown to four repair bays with six full time employees. Over the last four years, about 700 customers have jointly saved an estimated half million dollars! Unfortunately, demand far exceeds capacity, and wait times can be up to three months. Expansion, however, is in the works.

Cathy reports that one of the hardest things about her job is having to tell customers that their car, often very old, is not worth the investment to repair it, even at bargain rates. Repairs that often lead to other needed fixes are also difficult to deal with.

Overall, costs to operate the Lift Garage exceed the incoming fees, so Cathy has found that she spends most of her time now soliciting donations and managing the place. Her days of grease on the note pad are few and far between.

A salute to Cathy Heying is in order for taking the initiative to help low income car owners—just another example of Love Lived Large.  If you would like to donate, check out:

https://www.theliftgarage.org/

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Love from a Few Strangers

Love from a Few Strangers

hands-together2

 

They came bearing a care package. Not that the cards and stuffed animals would make any immediate difference to the 22-month-old girl who suffered life-threatening injuries at the hands of her father. The members of the Black Student Council of Edison High School in Minneapolis wanted to meet with the mother, Rae’Chelle, to say “we care” and to let her know she was not alone. It seemed to be appropriate activity for Martin Luther King Day. A teacher had facilitated the meeting.

Rae’Chelle was very happy to meet with them. The tears flowed freely, mixed in with a few smiles. The mother had no explanation for the father’s out-of-control behavior. He had provided a number of excuses. More importantly, he had seemed to have real regrets as he brought his daughter, Rae’Ana to the hospital. He was now in jail, charged with first degree assault. But none of that seemed important now. Whether Rae’Ana would survive was the critical question.

The toddler had incurred multiple injuries, including brain trauma, hemorrhaging, a lacerated spleen and kidney, and numerous broken bones. But today, as they met outside the hospital (sixteen was too many to go inside as visitors), there was better news. Rae’Chelle’s prayers had been answered. Her daughter’s eyes were now open and she was breathing on her own, even saying, “Mama.” Physical therapy was to follow. The mother also revealed the father had been praying for her as well. A good turn of events for the young couple also expecting a second child.

The teens’ visit, topped off by a group hug, was very meaningful to Rae’Chelle. “This touches me,” she said. No doubt about it—certainly they were an example of Love Lived Large!

(This story is based on one originally written by David Chanen that appeared in the Minneapolis StarTribune dated January 19, 2016.)

 

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A Different Kind of Debt Collector

A Different Kind of Debt Collector

man on phone

 

Chances are more than a few of us have been on the wrong end of the phone line at some point in our lives. The end where we’re hearing all kinds of demands. Yes, there are many sorts of these types of calls, and generally they are not pleasant. Let’s focus for a moment on the aspect of being a debtor. Debts can take many forms, but for simplicity, we can start by discussing the debt of money.  Let’s take a look at a different kind of debt collector.

Bill from Tulsa, Oklahoma decided to take a unique new approach to debt collecting. I heard about him on Steve Hartman’s On the Road (CBS, 10/04/13). He figured that yelling loud would not necessarily produce better results. He knew that from experience. There was a reason many of these folks were not paying. Many just needed a chance to get back on their feet, and that’s where Bill decided to change his role. He began offering additional services. He called it his “Customer Care” experience. He helped with such things as resumes and job searches. Getting paid now was not the goal, but rather getting paid eventually was.

The results for Bill were encouraging. He found that the success rate for getting paid by people he had helped was about double that of the old style of collecting from his debtors. Thanks, Bill, for your efforts at Love Lived Large! I think a number of debt collectors could learn a thing or two from your approach.

Of course, the greatest debt collector of all time could be our Father God, but then He decided not to collect. No need to tell you He forgave the grand debt of his Son, Jesus, given over 2,000 years ago in exchange for all of our sins, no matter how many, no matter how grievous. How can we repay that? Fortunately, we have a gracious God!

 

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