Monday, March 26, 2012

13 Rhode Island Blues

The story of our Vernon family life in Rhode Island is a fitting prelude to the tragedy of little Ricky Everson's death in our old refrigerator a short 6 years later on June 2, 1967 in San Diego, California. The refrigerator had been purchased by Daddy in order to have something on the patio to keep beer cold in case he and Mama might entertain his superiors (although I don't recall that they ever did--no money!).  Alcohol played a pivotal role in ending Ricky's 6 years of life.

Daddy's relationship to alcohol became all too obvious to his family by the time he returned from Cuba and moved us from our relatively care-free time in Illinois to his new posting with the Seabees in Davisville, Rhode Island the last week of February of 1961. His time with the Seabees in Cuba was when he starting drinking in earnest and alcohol became a vitally important member of the family while he was gone, although we girls were not yet aware of it. The new family member that we were totally aware of and in love with was my youngest sister, Mary Beth, born on the day Daddy and we three older girls started the move eastward to Rhode Island.

We arrived at our new home a little less than a week before Mama and Mary did.  Daddy was with the Seabees again at Camp Endicott, but we lived at Quonset Point.  It was a Naval Air Station that was fully active from 1941 to 1974, but now keeps a small military presence of various kinds and is called Quonset State Airport.  It is located in the North Kingston area, a town founded in 1674 by the colonial government and is most famous as the birthplace of American portraitist Gilbert Stuart.

When we met our baby sister, Becky was 14 1/2, I was 12 1/2, and Melody was 9 1/2.  We had helped Daddy get our unit (2 floors, probably 3 bedrooms) ready for Mama and Mary, although since I was still in my full leg cast and crutches from my ice skating injury, I can't imagine I was much help with it.  But I do remember it was an amazingly joyful time when I came home from school one day and saw Mama waiting for us at the top of the stairs.

After hugs and kisses, we tiptoed in to my parents' bedroom, where my new sister lay sleeping in her small  mint-green painted crib. I looked down and was awestruck and totally smitten at my first meeting with Mary. Mama had made a crib-liner out of ivory colored fleece and finished it with a wide mint-green satin ribbon.  Framed by that beautiful softness, Mary looked like a little madonna, all softness, sweetness and innocence.  Well, not quite.  She had been born with very dark hair, but even 8 days later it had started to grow out very, very blonde.  She looked like she had been given a very bad dye job and her roots were showing.

Alas, we don't have many photos of her nor of any of us during our short twelve or thirteen months in Rhode Island.  One I had and gave to Mary recently is of her as a toddler sitting in Daddy's lap on the carpet in the living room.  Behind them is the 50 gallon aquarium where Daddy kept tropical fish (a new thing since his tour of duty in the tropics).  Beside father and child is the turquoise padded circular coffee table that Mary used to prop herself up and dance around whenever she heard music. Behind them are the chocolate brown drapes that covered the entire living room wall, part of which was a bank of windows that overlooked Narraganset Bay.

The Bay is a beautiful body of water named after the Algonquin people who lived in the area prior to the European invasion.  The irony is not lost on me that it was within yards of this water that Daddy's alcoholism invaded our family like a tsunami, quietly, quickly, and deadly.

I remember two very distinct times when the invasion made it feel as if the ground was shifting under our family.  The first was when Becky had gotten ready for a Friday night dance that Daddy was supposed to drive her to after he got home from work.  She waited and waited, but he never showed up.  Great disappointment and tears.  And great silence about it the next day.

The second was on my parents' wedding 18th anniversary, December 16, 1961, only 9 months since our move. Daddy had dropped Mama and us girls off downtown one evening for us to do some Christmas shopping.  He was supposed to pick us up after an hour or so but again, he was a no-show.  We waited in the deep December cold, huddled and anxious, and still he didn't come.  The stores had closed and it was very dark by the time he finally showed up.  Mama was furious and we were scared.

Daddy seemed very quiet and when we finally tumbled into the car took off for home, and he drove very differently from his usual daring high speeds--very slowly and erratically.  And when he drove right past the road that even 9 year-old Mel knew was were we should be going, my stomach turned to stone.  Mel started to protest and I remember very distinctly kicking her in the shin and hissing at her to shut up.  We never talked about it and the next day pretended that everything was hunky-dory.  It was the beginning of the Great Cover Up of "let's pretend we're all a happy, peppy "holy man's" family.

I realize now that my body was already trying to tell me that the stress and chaos were taking a toll on me.  As I recounted in an earlier blog,  I first had breathing trouble in Rhode Island.  I was in class one day and suddenly could not catch my breath.  The school nurse made me breathe into a brown paper bag and told me that although I didn't have any fever, I probably had a small throat infection that had been worsened by the cold.  It happened several times that winter.  Now I know that it was the increasingly oppressive stress of our family life.

Over the years as I've tried to deal with the chaos of my childhood and untangle some of the emotional knots it produced, I've discovered that a huge part of my anger at Mama was that she, who-was-not-drunk, allowed her precious children to ride in a car of a drunkard.  Not only just when he was drunk, but when he was drunk and physically beating on her while he was driving.  Not only when he was drunk and beating on her while he was driving, but as he sometimes did, when he would turn around to the back seat and aim a slap at us girls if we happened to say something that set him off.  But, in retrospect, that was Mama's childhood: a drunk father and a compliant wife who came to believe she deserved everything she got.

You can only do better when you know better, and Mama didn't know better.
Daddy may have known better in his head, but he could only express compassion for others, not for himself or his weeping family, caught in a hell not of our own making.  We were all prisoners of fear, shame and an inability to love and respect ourselves.

It was only decades later that I learned that Daddy first physically abused Mama within the first months, if not weeks, of their marriage.  And it was not just physical abuse.  As in the millennia before her, girls of her generation were raised to believe that males were inherently smarter and better than females. He was sanctioned by nature and by society to rule over her and keep her in line. Not only did Daddy have that power over her, but he was a "man of the cloth."  He was also sanctioned by a literal interpretation of the Bible and by the church as one of God's representatives to "lord" over her.

 So by this time in Rhode Island they had had 18 years practice of Daddy abusing Mama physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually, and of Mama not only accepting such abuse, but seeing such behavior as "love." But it was becoming more and more unacceptable.

Each of us girls reacted differently to the cracks in our family that opened up so dramatically in Rhode Island.  Becky, now 15, began to abandon the family; she would be gone from home as often as she could (and who could blame her?).  Mel started backing into corners and trying to make herself as invisible as possible.  Mary, just a toddler, was often tucked away into a corner or back room or in her play pen while the fighting ensued. And I, at 13, started assuming (with gusto!) the role of martyr: heroic defender of the helpless: Mama, Mel, and Mary. We were all very much alone and isolated in our personal clouds of fear and shame.

I can only remember one friend in Rhode Island, a girl named Nancy Cranston.  Perhaps I invited her to my house, but I doubt it, because this was the time when it became "iffy" enough at home that I was afraid to invite friends over in case Daddy was drunk.  I remember being at her house though, also on the same base, but in the "enlisted" section; officers and enlisted personnel were segregated.  Nancy's mom was really funny and spoke with the unique accent of her Kentucky home.  She also was amazingly young for a mother.  She must have been all of 27 years old because she had Nancy when she was 14.

Sometime that fall, I began to have stomach aches.  It was eventually diagnosed as appendicitis.  I went to the city of Kingston for a appendectomy and, besides experiencing a little pain, spent some very blissful days in the hospital with strangers hovering over me in concern.  I believe now that the source of my stomach issue was stress, the cause was fear, the cause was my body crying out, "Get me out of here!"  So, even though I carry a 5 inch abdominal scar because of it, I ended up enjoying my appendectomy.  I got away from the chaos for a while.  I was babied and worried about--heaven on earth.  Good stuff for a child shortly before her 13th birthday who desperately just wanted to feel loved and safe.

It got bad enough that Mama finally decided to become proactive for her sake and the sakes of her four girls.  She pulled us out of school in March of 1962 and somehow got us to her mother's house in Seattle, Washington. Good for you, Thelma Lou!  Would there finally be some peace?

NEXT:  14  Seattle Sours

Will you pray with me?

God Our Maker,

We can neither see nor touch space, but it is real.
We can neither see nor touch you, but you are real.
         Space surrounds and abides within the molecules and atoms of all matter.
         You surround and abide within your beloved creation
                  for all of it, 
                  each of us matters to you.
                       We rejoice that when we cannot feel your presence
                        it is because you are so close our vision fails.

           constrained by time within the flexible relativity of space
                  is the physical extension of your steadfast love and mercy
     As your creatures, we too, are constrained by time and geography,
                 limited by
                 vulnerable to
                      both the bitter and the sweet that life brings to every human creature.

  And yet, and yet, with tenderness beyond speaking,
          you hold us within the spacious, gracious, flexible relativity
                 of your good will
                 of your good plan for Life,
                 and call it good.  Hallelujah!

 We pray now for your beloved Creation and creatures bound to you by ties of grace--

         We pray for the beautiful waters and air of the earth that makes it possible for us to be.
         We pray for the all that matters to you on this earth that is in peril,
                  especially children and the most vulnerable among the human family.

Send us today that we may seek them out and bring them to safety,
          and so be your ambassadors of grace.
And give us the wisdom, courage, and fortitude to intervene in the lives of misery and hopelessness that are often invisible to us, that we might not be passive bystanders in life, but rather agents of freedom, light.
           We pray for the parents and families of children whose innocence and vulnerability have lead to their death.  We ask for your abiding consolation in their loss, your comfort in their grief too painful for words.
          Hear our prayer as well for those whose ties of addiction and anger make them enemies of your good will for life.  Their actions pull and strain and kill families, communities and nations, and yet you love them still and send ambassadors of grace to them as well.

You can do what we cannot, O God, and so we ask you to heal the wounds, soften the pain, transform the memories and resurrect the lives battered and torn by current challenges of chaos and hopelessness.

We pray for what we cannot create for ourselves. Be Thou our vision, our wisdom, our guide on this journey of life each step of the way.  We ask it all in the name of Thy Holy Goodness from which all matter is born. Amen.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

12 Life in Illinois

Daddy was commissioned as a Chaplain in the US Navy on November 4, 1957 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois. Little did we know it would provide the catalyst that would move our family life from bad to really, really bad. It was in the Navy that my father felt not only encouraged to drink, but regarded it as part of his "socialization" duty as an officer.  Thus the ominous dark shadow of his alcoholism was firmly planted and nourished with approval from those my father wished to impress from the very beginning of our life in Illinois.

We had moved several months earlier from the gentle hills of the country surrounding Indianapolis into the hustle and bustle of the busy Navy town of Waukegan, located north of Chicago on the western shores of Lake Michigan.  At first we lived in a housing area called Lake County Gardens, but only for a few months.  My older sister, Becky, says that as poor as we were and used to pretty wretched conditions, even this housing was too low on the Vernon family totem pole.  So, we moved to a brand-spanking new duplex across the rail road tracks where eventually the good folks of Waukegan would build the Jack Benny Junior High School to honor its most famous son.

The move into the duplex would have been my parents' 9th move since their marriage in Eugene, Oregon 14 years earlier in December of 1943. They had lived in the Watts area of Los Angeles after they both graduated from Northwest Christian College and still lived there when my older sister, Becky, was born in 1946.  They had moved into the back room of a church and were living in Rosemead, California when I was born.  I don't know why Daddy left the Rosemead Church of Christ, but I suspect it was because we were a family who definitely fell through society's safety net.  Mama, Becky and I moved from there to a trailer park in Phoenix, Arizona for a while.  Daddy was not there.  I think, I hope, he was elsewhere searching for a job.

Mama was pregnant with my sister Melody at the time and suffered from severe nausea the whole term (as did I when it was my turn to usher in the next generation).  Becky remembers making her and me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Sometimes a kindly neighbor woman brought us food while our mother stayed in bed for a good part of every day.  Taking care of her 3 year-old sister was very heavy responsibility for that 5 year old little girl. What a sad picture. We must have been very lonely and scared.  Our mother was unwilling or unable to provide much care for us during this time and we were on our own.

I don't know what happened or didn't happen in my parents circumstances, but we eventually wound up back in California-- Long Beach, where Melody was born in 1952 when I was 3 and 1/2.  I'm pretty sure we lived in a trailer there as well, but there is no one alive to ask about it and there is no clear documentation.  I do know we were living in West Covina in the Los Angeles area shortly thereafter and stayed there until our trek half-way across the USA to Indianapolis 3 years later in 1955.

But miraculously, only 2 years later, we were a Navy family, with a nice home, a father who had a steady income and meaningful work, and all the benefits of health care that we had never enjoyed before because of our poverty. The second move in Waukegan was my 7th move but my my first visit to a dentist.  It looked as if life was taking a uptick.

Navy life gave us a community and in some ways an extended family that the church had given us before. I remember having a sense of pride in his accomplishment and proud to see the salute that was given every time Daddy came on base.  But mostly I was sorry for myself that once again I was the new kid coming into a classroom full of others who seemed to have known one another and had been tight friends since babyhood.  This wasn't true, of course, but to a newbie fifth-grade student, looking in from the outside, there's no other viewpoint but as the only one-who-doesn't-belong.  My salvation came from a very caring and supportive teacher and eventually from a good friend named Susie Carlson.

Susie and I were the tallest two people in both our fifth and sixth grade classes.  In our class picture, she is the one next to me in the back row forming the tip of the mountain to the rest of the foothills around us.  I also had a friend that lived down the street from our duplex, Sandy Alvis.  We hung around with the Carroll children who lived on the other side of the two-story duplex.  If we opened the medicine cabinet and looked through the razor-blade slot in the back, we could see Brooks Carroll's eyeball through their matching slot.  It took very little to entertain us.

Winter was a great time for neighborhood fun: making snow angels and icing up tunnels we had carved in the deep snowdrifts of our steeply pitched backyard.  We played kick-the-can at back of the Texaco station when the owner was kind enough water down the paved parking lot so we could ice skate on it.
In the summer, we made boats out of found discards.  I remember one time make a "boat" out of a bathtub and somehow poling it around on the marshy reef area adjacent to the tracks across the street from our duplex.  I'm not sure how we managed that physics-wise, but I do remember it happening.

 I also remember the peat fields catching on fire in the summers and sending up little columns of smoke for months at a time.  Summers were also for tromping around and bike riding.  I didn't have a bicycle at that time, but the last summer we lived in Waukegan, in 1960, I thought I might get one.  My mother's mother was staying with us for a while.

Grandma Chaney had taken care of us three girls while Mama met Daddy down in Haiti for a short vacation.  Daddy had been sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba with the Seabees after his tour at Great Lakes.  It was a hotspot but I had no idea how much of one it was. We had stayed in Waukegan so Mama could keep working as a laboratory technician.  The 3 1/2 years we lived there was the longest I would live anywhere until my last three high school years when Daddy was in Viet Nam with the Marines.

About two months after Mama got back from Haiti, we where finishing lunch when she said she wanted to tell us girls something.  She asked us' "What would you like most in all the world?"  Without hesitation I yelled out, "A bicycle!"  Becky was a little quieter and slower, but she had the right answer, "A baby sister or brother!"  Another Vernon was coming into the family.  I was immediately thrilled with the idea of another sibling. (I wonder if anyone would have agreed with me if I had suggested "Schwinn" for a name; it would have worked for either a boy or a girl.)

Mama was always very clear that if she ever had a boy he would be named Douglas Steven.  Her choices for girls' name was more flexible.  Becky is actually Beverly Kaye; I don't know the sources of either of her names.  I am Fay Kathleen: Fay from my mother's older sister, Faye, who died at 17 after going blind from a brain tumor.  The Kathleen was from a popular Irish ballad called, "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen."  (Alas, it is about taking the dead body of Kathleen back to Ireland after she dies!)  Melody Anne was named for Mama's favorite hymn (and the one she could play the best on the piano, "In My Heart There Rings a Melody."  I used to love her name the best out of all of ours, but I have learned to love my own name and have deep affection for it.

Mary Beth was named after the Carroll family's youngest daughter. By the time my third sister was ready to enter the world in February of 1961, Daddy had received orders to be with the Seabees in Davisville, Rhode Island.  He had come back from Cuba to Waukegan to supervise the packing and the movers.  On the night before Mary's birth,  our duplex was empty of all but the possessions Daddy, Becky, Melody and I would take with us in our 1959 Rambler station wagon to our next home.  I had pulled a ligament in my left leg playing kick-the-can a few weeks before, so my leg was in a cast up to mid-thigh and I had handy pair of crutches which I was tempted to use as Zorro swords.  Together, me-myself-and I, my casted leg and my two crutches took up a big hunk of the back seat.

The snow was piled up high the day our dear Mary was born in the mid-morning hours.  I was called out of my 7th grade class and given the news of her birth and also told that my father would be by to pick me up so we could take off for Rhode Island; I was to wait outside.  I don't remember saying good-bye to any of my friends.  Nor do I remember in which order Daddy picked us, but the three of us girls were not given the chance even to see Mama or new baby sister before we set headed south and then east into what would turn into a bitter blizzard.  We would not see them for 8 days when they were dismissed from the Great Lakes Naval Hospital and flew from Chicago to Boston, where Daddy picked them up and drove them to our new apartment (this time in a four-plex) in military housing at Quonset Point.

Those of us who weren't lucky enough to fly found that we had to find a place to weather out the storm of February 1961 even before we got to the Ohio state line.  We wound up stranded in a cheap and skanky hotel in Greenville, Indiana for which I have no fond memories.  I had no awareness then that the storm and sense of impending danger were omens for the scary time that was looming for us all. And I had no idea that our somewhat easy life in Waukegan would be the last time I would feel more secure within our home than away from it.  Rhode Island, the destination of my 8th move, would prove to be a pivotal time.  At 12 1/2 years of age I was with the newly expanded Vernon family on a dangerous, scary, and pivotal journey from which there would be no return.

Next: 13  Rhode Island Blues

Will you pray with me?

God of the Journey,

We cannot change the past, but you can redeem our memories and heal us of our wounds.  And it is not for us to know know what dangers and sorrow lie ahead.  You give us the present moment and give us abundant opportunities to do the best with what we've got: to grow in wisdom, compassion, peace, courage, hope, and love.

We are grateful that we live neither in the past nor in the future, but only have this moment, this hour, this day before us.  We thank you for this day that where we can find the fullness of life and goodness of your gracious blessings and the awareness and wonder to rejoice in it.

We ask that you will fling your Spirit's blessings wide this day, that those who suffer may discover a sense of your consolation.  Cast your nets wide this day, that those who are lost may discover a sense of direction and purpose.  Knot your fetters tightly this day, that those who have strayed into danger, addiction, evil, and violence may be surprised by the joy of being tightly bound by your steadfast love and mercy.  O let it be that all pains and sorrows may take their place on the broken road that leads us all home to you!  In Christ we pray. . .

11 Connecting the Dots

The death of Ricky Everson in 1967 at first seemed to be a strange place for me to start on my journey of connecting the dots of my life because it was so long ago. For years, I did not see it as anything more than just another piece of the flotsam and jetsam of the wreckage of my growing up years.

But it seems now to be symbolic of the countless times I “stifled myself” (a la Edith Bunker), discounting the great trauma and tragedy as another “piffle”--of no great consequence to who I was becoming (or not becoming) as an adult. Alas, it’s so much easier to stifle things if we regard them as mere “piffles.” For years and decades of my life, I was first stifled by the chaos and eventually learned to stifle myself. By the this time, at the hardened age of 18, I was a pro.

The result was as a young adult I made a lot of impulsive decisions, based on others’ needs and desires. They were my guide while my inner compass was MIA. Q: Where do you want to go to eat? A: Where do you want to go? Q: What movie do you want to see? A: I don’t know. What do you want? Q: What do you want to do when you grow up? A: What do you think I ought to do? Q: Will you marry me? A: Will you marry me? Q: Where shall we live? A: Where do you want to live? Yada yada yada.  The only question to which I had a definite answer "yes" was: Do you want children?

Like the heroine of my favorite childhood book (Cinderella, the Walt Disney version with the honeycomb paper pumpkin that popped out when you opened it!!), I waited for a “Prince Charming” (in some shape or form: human, financial, or chocolate) to swoop in and “save” me from my life. From myself. Alas, every “Charm” that came along eventually turned into a frog or had frog-like qualities, so I just kept stumbling along, stifled and so very sad.

A lot had to happen in my life before I got to the place I am now where I don’t stumble as often, mostly because I have learned that as a friend of mine likes to say, “There’s always a hitch in the giddy-up.” Life isn't perfect, people aren't perfect, I'm not perfect--that's the human condition.  Instead of critical judgment of others or myself because we're not perfect, I'm seeking to have compassion.

Dr. Kristin Neff, of the University of Texas at Austin, teaches that self-compassion has three "core components": 1) self-kindness 2) awareness that "imperfection is part of the shared human experience" 3) mindfulness, or awareness of our own feelings of suffering.

As I'm learning self-compassion, I'm shifting from unrealistic, optimistic expectations that always seem to lead to disappointment and instead now try to hold no expectations and just be surprised when good things happen. I’m setting boundaries around me that I do not want to cross over, nor do I knowingly allow others to trespass, so that my suffering can be as minimal as possible.  I feel that my paradigm is shifting from being pie-in-the-sky optimistic to being grounded in hope, which as Emily Dickinson writes:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea,
Yet, never, in extremity
It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson

What I now sense (and that Miss Emily and young children seem to know innately) is that hope is a “built-in” of life. It’s a living energy that makes beauty, trust, perseverance, generosity and hospitality possible. It is the spirit of the earth and the Spirit of the earth’s Creator.

So here’s the sermon:
The strength and wisdom of civilizations rise and fall, but the Creative Force of Goodness that gives rise to life itself, gives rise to new strengths and growing wisdoms, and a large measure of love, joy, and peace in each generation and in each human spirit.  This Force of Goodness neither rises nor falls, but is the pulsing life of each soul, each generation, in the midst of the individual and communal sufferings of humanity. Hope recognizes the arid bleakness but sees the greening grass on the horizon and leads us on.

I believe this Goodness (one writer calls it the “More” or the “Really Real” and another calls "God's YES!") exists beyond time and space in an everlasting and elastic NOW. God’s NOW embraces the beginning and the ending of: the universe and all its realities; the world and all its creatures; this generation and all its peoples, me and my personal history with all my sorrows and joys, my loves and particular pains. And it is the now—this earthly moment— that is the best boundary for my life. It helps me to be mindful and to keep from stepping out in front of God.

There is a “holy harmony” in me now. A “tune without words” has joined my inner voice and is helping me to become a non-anxious presence in my little corner of the world even as the pokes and slams continue (recently: my husband’s death and a serious medical diagnosis). But they no longer have the power to destroy my inner self. I am. And it is enough.

The Christian theologian Eugene Peterson in The Message, translates Galatians 5:22 ff (where St. Paul is talking about what the “fruits of the Spirit” are: affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Greening. Holy harmony. Spirit-fruit. However I say it, it’s what I’m leaning into even as I parse my childhood and adult years to “connect the dots” of myself and draw a truer picture of my inner essence. It is my FayT to reveal my story to myself, to accept my sufferings, and to have compassion on myself. There is a shimmer of vitality to my life, a little more greening every day. Today is enough. Now is all I am designed to handle; now is all I want to handle and NOW is all I want to handle me. Yippee!

Next: Life in Illinois

Will you pray with me?

O Infinite Source of Being,
We praise you for the Lifeforce you are, for the life that arises within your Eternal NOW, and for the way you imbue the earth, including the human family, ith your joy and passion for life in its infinite varieties and vagaries. We are grateful that the “earth laughs in flowers”* and thank you for the beauty and order of all that is. Help us to learn to listen for the laughing, that we may daily linger with the beautiful and so inhale the sweet aroma of your grace.

You make us to exist in a mortal and limited state, mere children, earthlings, creatures. Yet too often we exploit our desire to “hold things together” and frantically spend our time and energies trying to rule, manipulate or dominate the chaos and crises beyond our sway. We are grateful for your wisdom that helps us acknowledge what we can do to work toward justice and peace and to help us recognize our powerlessness to control the world, other people, or even most of the circumstances of our own lives. We are grateful for the resurrection of our truest selves as we learn to trust that you are able to do what we cannot. Hallelujah!

We thank you for the spiritual gifts you give to all peoples, in all places and generations: for the ability to forgive and be forgiven, for the grace to persevere with deeds of kindness and justice in the face of overwhelming odds, and for the Holy Harmony that your presence sings with the unique and particular song to each of our hearts. Give us the humility and grace, we pray, to persevere in hope to the end of our days so that those who walk beside us or come behind us may also find cause to join the Choir of the Ages. In your holy and blessed name we pray. Amen

*Ralph Waldo Emerson