Monday, December 17, 2007


sometimes i come up with crazy ideas for hillcrest...mostly because after doing this thing twice a week for 7 months i'm all out of creativity. so i just try to think of what i would want to do that would require some feat of memory. presidents of the united states and their political party? countries? us capitals? Jane didn't like any of these ideas today. :) i love that woman. she has permanent burns on her hand from smoking so much...flips the camera off and tells the slow wheelchairs to get the hell out of her way....and somehow all of it just makes everyone smile. so instead of memorizing the names and political affiliations of a bunch of old dead guys, we just talked for an hour. Jane's an amazing story teller, and has such a sarcastic sense of humor. she thinks her brother's "a crazy weirdo" for loving stupid horror movies like "kaw", but she loves him anyway. Michelle's brother is a three star general (or something like that) in the marines...but when he visits his little sister he's in street clothes like anybody else...and you could just see the affection she has for him in her eyes as she told us all about him.
I met ron's brother in law when i walked in today. Bartley (sweet name). Ron's excitement was overflowing as he mouthed something to me. I had to slow him down and finally made out "i'm getting my voice back". i was confused and looked at Bartley who explained to me that they were on their way to get a computer that will be mounted on Ron's wheelchair. He'll be able to type into it and it will speak for him. I can't begin to describe the joy in his eyes. I've watched this incredibly intelligent, conscious man work and work and persistently try to tell me so many things, participate in so many games and stories...and 4 out of 5 times he has to just give up and silently mouth "pass". i've felt that frustration with him in whatever limited way that someone who has her voice could attempt to understand. and now he'll be able to communicate with the rest of the world!!!! finally he can tell us what's going on at 90 mph inside his head. I'm at a loss for words...just crazy happy and grateful.

Friday, December 7, 2007


There's this girl at COA...michelle. She's 24, mexican, long black hair, dark eyes (usually with smudged mascara and eyeliner hiding them), dresses a little provocatively. She cycles between extreme shyness where she won't look you in the eyes or seems afraid of you or talking super fast about something silly like how she likes my sweatshirt, or how she loves to drink milk. She was there the first few weeks I started back in June...and I still see her pretty consistently now.
There's this guy who started out with a stone cold face....well almost...basically anytime I tried to crack a joke or wish him a good morning he just rolled his eyes. Pretty well put together tall black man, maybe in his 40s. Always with a crisp new hat after a while I started calling out the fact that he has so many hats. and he told me they're usually new everyday (don't ask me where he gets said hats). So instead of trying to be funny or nice, i just started excitedly proclaiming that day's hat color. Somehow we've become friends. :) Wednesday and today he was pretty talkative...which for him means "so is it getting too cold out there for you?" To which i replied, "too cold to bike at least...I've been driving down here..." (which I immediately regretted...translation: my spoiled little self doesn't feel like riding my $300 bike while wearing one of many sweatshirts I have to pick from, so instead I jump into my warm car...anyways, enough about me, where'd you sleep last night in the rain??....i always struggle with this...this desire to identify with these people instead of separating myself from them. Jesus was among them!!! Moved into the lives of those he served...i digress...)

Michelle overheard this conversation about bikes and cars and started sheepishly asking about my transportation habits....and eventually got the courage to ask, "do you think you could give me a ride to the village? It's real close but it's so cold I don't want to walk". She'd been hanging out up where we serve so the steam trays would warm her. After she asked me I hesitated...looked for an excuse...told her I usually stay until 8:30....stalled, and finally couldn't find any reason to say long as she was cool with waiting until 8:30. We got in my car and as we drove off she informed me that the village doesn't open until 9. she wanted to know where I lived and if it was close...I was vague and said something like oh, it's only 10 minutes by car, 30 by bike...and this whole time I'm trying to figure out why I'm acting like such a scared little brat. She would have had to wait outside the doors so I offered to drop her off at a coffee shop, she asked me for a dime. I told her I'd give her everything in my wallet...knowing I had no more than $2 in change. Still I had no idea why i was being so reluctant....why i was avoiding giving her information...(society tells me I should be careful? watch my back? protect my stuff and worry about myself)...I had told her I had somewhere to be, but really, it was 8:30 and I didn't need to be at hillcrest till 10. so I parked and we went into the coffee shop together. She pulled out some pennies from her pocket...I told her not to worry about it. I ordered for her after she stood speechless at the counter for a while. One large hot chocolate and a small soy hot chocolate for me. I told them my name for the cups. I didn't even think about it...but she was really upset by this. she wanted her own name on her cup. what's funny is my name is michelle too...but SHELLY was all huge on her cup and I think it was mostly a sense of ownership that she wanted for that hot chocolate. who knows.
this is getting long....I'm just disturbed by my hesitancy through all of this. i kept my purse close...put it at my feet in the car instead of the console between us. didn't know what else to ask while we sat so after it got awkward I just tried to practice patience while holding my cup...she thought i was mad after a long pause, but i reassured her over and over that i was just quiet.
Jesus didn't withhold a damn thing. he wasn't afraid of being taken advantage of. he didn't care if someone stole his possessions...possessions were fluid...things are things and they have no real value. and while i'm worried about myself and my ego and whatever was going on inside of me, this girl is going on 7 months on the street or much more as far as I know. and as she says hello to a friend on the street and he eyeballs her and gives a crude, degrading response I have a feeling she's had it pretty rough out there...and her heart's very much in pain and she's been abused and mistreated and forgotten that she's a child of God. if she's ever known that. she has a brother and sister and mom and dad in new mexico. she took a greyhound out here 4 years ago. first to LA, then long beach. I don't know...don't know much at all. just wish she could go home for christmas...stay warm and dry and know that she's valued and loved. i don't know if a hot chocolate communicates love or helps to accomplish any of those things...but i hope the next time someone asks me for a ride 3 blocks away, 30 minutes of time, and a dime I don't wait so long to offer what I have.

Monday, December 3, 2007

so cold....

i'm bundled in bed with two comfortors, fuzzy red socks, purple fleece pj pants (thanks gramma), and the hood pulled up on my sweatshirt. and as i read i try to figure out a way to have my hands inside the warmth of my blankets while still holding the book in a position that is conducive to...reading.
Scott saw Phoung outside walmart a few weeks ago with one shoe on. i have no deep meaningful thoughts...just worry and heartache for her. i sat in church today doodling a manger scene through a sermon on a topic i've heard discussed over and over and then something came through loud and clear. the world is not the way that it was intended to be. and Jesus' life gave us glimpses of the kingdom that will be restored. Phoung should be sleeping in a warm bed. Anita should be able to eat all the cookies she wants without needing to be fed. Ron was meant to laugh out loud with a full rich voice instead of his silent formation of words. my gramma should be jumping on a couch as she cheers on the sooners. my dad should be able to wrestle on the floor and play catch with his grandkids. i know this leads into a big debate on what heaven is and whether or not the sooners will be there...(my gramma says yes for what it's worth)...imagining all this hurts my heart. i think it's easy for me to take in all the suffering around me and just sit with's sort of like sticky mud. you get stuck and it's miserable and you just want to escape but you can't because it covers you even as you try to walk away into your "normal" life of school and work. But something i was reading the other day painted a beautiful picture of the glimpses that Jesus offers.
Nouwen tells about his friend...
"who is so deeply connected to God that he can see joy where I expect only sadness. He travels much and meets countless people. When he returns home, I always expect him to tell me about the difficult economic situation of the countries he visited, about the great injustices he heard about, and the pain he has seen. but even though he is very aware of the great upheaval of the world, he seldom speaks of it. When he shares his experiences, he tells about he hidden joys he has discovered. He tells about a man, a woman, or a child who brought him hope and peace. He tells about little groups of people who are faithful to each other in the midst of all the turmoil. He tells about hte small wonders of God. At times I realize that I am disappointed because I want to hear "newspaper news," exciting and exhilarating stories that can be talked about among friends. but he never responds to my need for sensationalism, He keeps saying: "I saw something very small and very beatuiful, something that gave me much joy."

a few weeks ago at coa i was helping a woman get some new clothes and on my way back from showing her to the restroom i heard a beautiful stream of music coming down the stairs from an old beat up piano above. it wasn't the best playing i've ever heard...but in the place that it was in -surrounded by pain and weathered people from a weathered piano- it was heavenly. a few days ago at a christmas party anita and jane from hillcrest had some pretty outrageous make up on...lipstick on their teeth and mascara smudged all around their eyes...and they were gorgeous. and the activities were not spectacular and the gifts were humble...and love filled that place. at church today i had a very real moment of remembering my gramma. an older woman came up to a table i was at and straightened the table cloth with her elderly hands and tapped it gently just like my gramma would have seems so silly, but she was there with me for a second as i closed my eyes.
it's these moments that keep me going. which is strange...i used to operate out of a need to see this horrific suffering eradicated. a desperate pain that needed to be removed...and when i realized that there was just more pain to be discovered i eventually burnt out and gave up in my heart and continued the work out of obligation or guilt. But when i accept that this world is broken...i can move on from there and take joy and find hope in those glimpses of the kingdom...not even a kingdom that will come...but moments when a bit of the kingdom is right here among us.
and these are the glimpses that lead me to wait with anticipation for Jesus and the restoration that is to come.

Friday, November 9, 2007

ashokan farewell

i've been in a very solemn mood lately. this song surfaced among my pile of music and i can't stop playing it...

it's nice when your circumstances sort of determine your next step for you. i think i always have a responsibility to make choices in my life, but sometimes the next step or movement (reaching out) just seems so obvious. I'm moving inward a bit. which is odd given my constant disdain and frustration with what seems to be a habitual self-focused orientation. but it's not really's more about knowing that i am than knowing i am good or noticed or attended to. just that i am here, whether i feel good or bad or lonely or giddy or lost or completely found...i can always know that i'm here.

today at coa i missed phoung. i feel such guilt despite all my efforts not to feel that way. i don't go so often anymore...i say school's picked up...but really, i'm just out late with friends and 6am's a little too early. but i never regret it when i do go. not once.
today there was one man who, when i plopped a ridiculous amount of eggs (we had lots left and it was almost 8) and 4 sausages on his plate, his eyes became enormously round. about 20 minutes later he walked up to the food line and said "i owe you guys an apology". i was taken back but just listened as he continued. he told me about how on the way here he was so hungry and he almost didn't come because he just knew he was going to be served a pathetic little bowl of bland oatmeal (not uncommon), and then he came, and now he can't even finish all the food he has. He said it was God's sense of humor. I just smiled and said you're welcome. Which felt weird, because i'm not the one that determines what's given or how much...but it still felt like the only thing to say really.

at church last sunday we were talking about blessings and the good life and the things we would have or the circumstances that would be in place if we were to consider ourselves living the good life. both the things we think are good and the things we know we expect but maybe shouldn't... As we were going around the circle I was hit pretty hard thinking about some of the people living out on the increasingly colder streets...sometimes the blessings they get and are so grateful for are nothing more than a hot cup of coffee, some eggs and the pizza crusts we had donated. i'm left humbled.

God bless Phoung and Will, wherever they are.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


this summer as a part of the internship we did a life-map. i came across mine the other day and laughed out loud because i had an identical moment of realization to the one i had when i first made this map. first, that I cannot predict my future, and secondly that i have no real ability to construct a permanently accurate picture of who i think i am.

When Kira explained the activity she stressed the fact that we were all pretty our maps really shouldn't have even take up half of the page we had. I had 4 icons on mine, representing major events and locations in my life. A minivan (car accident), a pirate's hat (highschool), a greek amphitheater (PLNU), and the 405 freeway sign (the past year +). When i first made this I was shocked at the discrepancy between how I had recently been summarizing all of the important things in my life and the actual span of all the things that have made me who i am. Not to get too wrapped up in self-psychology and the narcissistic trends of today's culture...but in an effort to know was relieving to realize that I'm more than the past year's struggles/changes/hard lessons. AND to realize...i'm young!!! Not only is there more in the past that I tend to neglect...but PRAISE GOD there is a future that I do not know! I remember talking to lauren laforge (my world-traveling friend who among other adventures did semester at sea) about the Pacific Ocean. A few years ago, we were on campus at loma...staring at the water, and I was overwhelmed by the magnificence and massiveness of the ocean. Of course she contributed her greater understanding by telling me about her trip from the coast of california to i was further baffled by the distance beyond the horizon that i could not comprehend...and then i realized...i can only see the top!!!! That's how i feel about life right now.
i'll probably laugh yet again one day when I look back on Long Beach and grad school days. maybe i'll still be here, maybe I won't...but I can look back and know that God is good. and I don't have to know what's next...because I know God is good...and the road is beautiful...and the path is my home. and while I've had many homes and relationships change and concrete markers of my own identity come and go...I am a daughter, and a sister, and a friend...and I am part of the body of Christ. And that is good. and I can rest and be still in that.

this very simple, beautiful song often gets stuck in my head...

I've been searching and finding, there's nothing but searching, searching for something to fill...
And in all of my finding, I'm finding there's someone, who loves me to sit and be still.

I'm in love with a savior, who saves me to love me, and loves me to stay by His side.
And I love to sing all the songs of His goodness, I'll sing them the rest of my life.

I love how you know me, I love how you hold me...I love how you set me free.
I love your love. I love your love.

Monday, October 8, 2007

discriminate love.

We just finished going through the book of Jonah at church. A few weeks were spent on God the rescuer...and God's merciful nature. A God who, if an evil nation repents and turns from their ways, will relent of the destruction that was intended for it. Yesterday's sermon focused on Jonah's attitude toward them. He didn't want God's mercy to be given to them, he wanted God's justice.

So we talked about our attitudes--whether we desire compassion and mercy to be poured out on all people, or if we are a little bit glad when an evil person finally gets what they deserve. But beyond the head (my attitude and thoughts about who deserves what), I'm convicted of my behavior. I want to help the poor. and in all honestly...unless I have a personal relationship with someone who happens to have general attitude toward the rich is not very compassionate. I could justify this with the idea that they don't need help...they're self-sufficient so why would I waste my energy caring or finding out what their needs are? But there's less truth in that and more truth in the fact that I'm just not drawn to them or moved to care about them because I'm a little bit calloused and jaded.

Some of my early daydreams when I realized I wanted to be a psychologist set me in an office in La Jolla, wearing a tailored suit, charging $200/hr. Now I'm not sure I'm going to have clients who pay me. I'm pretty sure my checks will come from the government or some other obscure funding source. Speaking of La Jolla, the newspaper for a few days last week highlighted the landslide/sinkhole on Mt. Soledad Drive. multiple homes were completely lost, and peoples lives dramatically affected. and my response? "it's not like they don't have the money to rebuild." yep. cold-hearted. I used to babysit for 2 different families on that street. Rich young couples that I suddenly care less about because they have money???

Why didn't Jesus hang out with the rich like he did the poor? He told the rich to give away all they had and follow him. But does this justify my insensitivity? How did he treat the tax collectors? When I see a man in a suit I offer little more than a quick, courteous smile. But when I see someone in dirty clothes wandering the streets, my heart aches and I begin to pray. I KNOW the rich guy's got problems. Maybe he's got food to eat, but is he known and loved?? His problems are less obvious, but still real. Which demographic am I supposed to care about as a Christian? I'm pretty sure the answer is to love my neighbors. all of them.

Lord teach me to love indiscriminately. to value my brothers and sisters and to be the neighbor you've called me to be, instead of thinking I need to save up my energy by selectively choosing my neighbors...choosing who I deem worthy enough of my limited supply of love...let your everlasting love be given through me. Thank you for pouring out your grace and mercy so lavishly on all your children.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

will the mountaineer

As I was mixin grits wednesday morning scott came down the stairs and into the kitchen shouting out, "hey your friend's here". I've never seen Will look so put together. His goatee was trimmed, clean clothes. sober. I got to talk to him for about half an hour and we covered everything from the guy that walked up to him a few weeks ago and said "you don't belong in the sun, come live with me in my house" (PRAISE GOD!) to his family, to horticulture at LBCC, to San Jacinto's summit at sunrise. it was great to spend time with a friend, who is "finally out of the nightmare" that he'd been in for 2 years. Thank you Jesus.

Monday, September 24, 2007

a city of relationships

funny that i've been reading articles all day (seriously since 9am to 9pm) about empathy and prosocial action...and at the same time I can look back over this single day and see the manifestations of this working in my life. I love it when my tedious research comes to life and gets me all jazzed about people. it's a little nerdy...but wonderfully rich and good.
I bumped into Will again today. He came to COA a long time ago pretty consistently and then just stopped. Susie and I have seen him over on 7th and pch, I saw him on 2nd street with my mom, and I had a very short conversation in the middle of an intersection by my house today as I rode to school. I've never met someone who so blatantly and hopelessly describes his life as a nightmare...and believed them. I invited him to come wednesday...he said he would. I've been talking to a mentor/friend lately about how this fellowship has affected the way I see the city. My response was very honestly, "I don't know how I see the city, but I know have relationships within it." Previous experiences with people who are homeless in a different city were very different. I was "friends" with a woman named Donna. What this meant is that I knew her name, maybe she'd remember mine for a week, and we'd have a little more than the standard "hello" interaction. and to be truthful, for that year, and maybe even now, it was more about my ego than loving her. I walked those same streets not that long ago and felt no connection to the people I passed on the street. I walked past probably 20 different people in sleeping bags and blankets in that same city...and I was sad that homelessness exists in the world, but I didn't even really feel much when Donna passed me and we had a quick exchange. I don't think she recognized or remembered me really, but was just surprised that someone knew her name. And then I thought about Phoung. I was suddenly moved to tears at the thought of my friend from Long Beach having to sleep on the streets. And it clicked inside. I don't go to COA at 6am when I'm exhausted because it's the right thing to do or someone's watching or so I can write about it on a blog or tell about it in church. Phoung's there. I hope and pray that Will's there. I want to see my friends if only for an hour...not because I think I can fix their problems with some food, but to let them know I care. I don't have much to offer...I don't know how to fix things for them or take them out of their nightmare, but I hope they feel noticed and loved and accepted and wanted. And without those relationships, I might as well be there for court ordered community service for a few weeks tops.
I care about a group of students downtown not because it's my duty to pray for a new nonprofit at my church, but because I know it's my friend's first day running this thing. and because he's my friend I want it to go well. and i want the relationships he builds to be formative and redeeming for the kids that are there.
I'm not sure how God's changing this city...but I know that my life is intertwined in a beautiful mess of relationships...and I have faith that those relationships are slowly changing the way that I live...
When asked "why have relationships with these people? what does that have to do with the kingdom of God at large?" my friend answered, "because by being in relationships with these people, I'm doing exactly the opposite of what today's culture says I should be doing with my time."
there's a long conversation in that alone, and I agree with that statement. I want to be compelling and different and counter cultural and when that's noticed--whether it's who I'm friends with, what I'm eating, what I'm driving or not driving, or where my time and money is spent, I want to be able to answer, at any given time when asked "why do you do that?" --"because I'm a Christian". too often I talk about social responsibility or environmentalism or simply say "i'm a volunteer". but that's not true. and merely "being counter cultural" isn't complete either. I love and serve a wonderful God, and I want to share that. I don't just want to give a hungry person food...I want them to realize that I care and be able to share why. Evangelism and compassion...I've seen that either can be empty practices. God teach us to keep these together.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

praise God when I'm wrong

So i've been missing my scheduled meetings at hillcrest a lot lately. I went while my mom visited...but labor day, a trip to see a friend and a broken car have caused me to miss about 4 in a row. I felt like a jerk Monday when I dialed the phone to let them know my car was in the shop. Lordes quickly told me they were going to San Clemente anyways and wouldn't be there. (big sigh of relief)...and then proceeded to ask how Susie, and Abigail, and Richie were...and to tell them that they are missed. and then she said that she loves us all. I guess some people don't love conditionally like I'm afraid they do. I wonder how much of that assumption exists in my mind because that's true of how I operate? Being loved like that, when there's no fear...of rejection, or disappointment, or that's empowering. It makes me want to be there everyday. quite the change from my recent attitude of obligation. THEN, at COA Han followed Susie out to her car because he "needed to talk to her". She was a little suspicious (he's made a few comments over the past few months). But despite her caution as to his approach, she let him walk her to her car...and he asked how I was...he thought I looked distressed about the whole car thing and wanted to know if there was any way he could help. I share Susie's perspective only because I thought the same things. even as she began the story I was worried with her, only to be blown away, and truly touched by his absolutely selfless concern. Jesus, take away our fears that lead to assumptions. There's this great section in a Nouwen book that explains the term Namaste...the holy one in me recognizes the holy one in you. Let this be true in our lives. I want to know what it means to look at Han and see Jesus.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

living for the sake of next week's blog material?

The fellowship's over. My obligation to these non profits is over...but praise God I've built relationships at Hillcrest and COA that will continue. But with the ending of the fellowship, I still have this blog...once a tool to inform my community about the work being done in their city through their, my fear is that this is just another myspace. but instead of pretty pictures of myself and lists of attractive qualities and songs and movies that somehow create a profile of me to advertise to the world (insert sarcasm)...instead...I have stories. God please do not let the things shared here be a form of advertisement for myself. I pray that I would not use the people whose lives are unknowingly shared here as tools toward building my reputation or prestige. Keep me honest and humble Lord. Use the things shared here for greater purposes than my limited mind can even conceive. In all actions, all things I say, all things I think, let me first ask "does this bring love into the world?" "does my response to this person, my sharing of this story, or even my random thoughts create a community of love?" where friends, family and those reading this are spurred toward a life after Christ. I pray that they might join me in prayer, that they might share in the suffering that exists in this city, that we might all become more like you. and I thank you that that is a journey we are called to walk through together in love.


Monday, August 6, 2007

my socks loved off.

a few days ago...after a LONG night at work (I'm a waitress) I slept in past my alarm and got to coa an hr late. and I'm so glad i didn't roll over and decide to just skip. Poung is so freakin loving. constantly tellin me to have a good day. each day. Poung is vietnamese, gender unknown...and that's okay. and constantly encourages me to get more sleep. take care of myself. "be happy and have good day. you have good day today, tomorrow and i see you wednesday. all week have good day." and means it. really really means it. and cares about each individual day that i'm going to wake up to. He/she also has a very diligent desire to learn the English I spell words on one of many napkins Poung has saved in a shirt pocket and even spell my own name wrong so that the phonetics I know Poung's relying on won't be confused by my very not phonetically spelled name. I just can't imaging being in that place in life and having the energy and heart to wish a wonderful day of rest on someone who I know had a bed to sleep on last night...while I slept on concrete. I'm much too self-centered to be concerned about someone who's better off than me.
Oh lay me down again/here at your feet/show me how much you love humility/oh spirit be the one that leads me to/the humble heart of love I see in you/you are the God of the broken/friend of the weak/you wash the feet of the weary/defend the ones in need/I want to be like you Jesus/to have this heart in me/you are the God of the humble/you are the humble king.
There was a man at COA on Monday who was out of it. said he was groggy from sleeping pills. looked lost, needed lots of assistance just to sit down in a chair. i felt heart was pulled towards his...even if only to pull his chair out for him and set down the hot cup of coffee. I turned back towards the food line after getting him situated and Susie had tears in her eyes (i love that girl's heart). She was right there in her heart with that man as he struggled. A few days later she was in San Diego with me visiting some of my college girlfriends and we were in Pacific Beach as a man in a wheel chair shuffled himself with his feet and limited arm strength across a street and up a sidewalk ramp...something we probably wouldn't have noticed so plainly a few months ago. I couldn't pinpoint his nationality, his age, socioeconomic status, or the mental disorder I'm pretty sure he has, but regardless, he was a man who was obviously physically struggling to make it up this curb...and from my car we watched him battle against his own limitations, the strain on his face and the second by second push that seemed at any second was just an instant away from failing and would sending him rolling backwards into a busy intersection. right at the point of greatest struggle this white, middle aged businessman was headed towards him from the other side of the street...and as he approached this man and the street corner..he just walked right on by. almost had to walk around the man in the wheelchair to make it to the same corner to stand next to the him and wait for about 3 minutes to wait for the next pedestrian signal. and so the two stood /sat next to each other while the lights changed. and I yelled inside the soundp roof (i hope) doors and windows of my car. I was angry at this man. This priest, this pharisee, who just passed the bloodied, bleeding man by in the ditch. careful not to dirty his holy robe on the pain and sweat and struggle of a man in need. I think of Bill at mid-city and the hugs I would give him, and the way I often had to hold my breath through the smell of those hugs..and the nagging knowledge that the smells were now passed onto me for the next few hours...I'M SUCH A BRAT. God let me be inconvenienced. let me enter into the dirty, painful, messy lives of those around me and see the Christ in them. Let me recognize and acknowledge our shared humanity and move forward from there to ask not "who is my neighbor", but instead try to understand how to be the neighbor.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

"faith in action"

this was the title of our WOW summer sunday school class this morning. Keslie, JoAnne and I took 15 5th graders to Hillcrest to give out door hangers we made and to sing songs with hand motions and pretty weird "kidstown" theology actually...
Anyway, I feel like my "continuing team" component of this internship has been kinda touch and go. The idea is for us to not just have a summer of gospel living and leave and go back to normal life later with this memory of a summer one time...but to both let that integrate into the daily fabric of my own life and to intentionally (in addition to coincidentally in my existing relationships) create a continuing team. My chosen team was "kids". this proved challenging. 2nd graders didn't get why we made cookies for the Cambodian congregation last week, they just want to eat the dang cookies. and even if Scott and Robert from COA came in person to explain their stories and church, sometimes I wonder if the kids just bring bags of donations because a flyer got sent home and mom and dad cleaned a closet out. Hopefully there are conversations happening at home as well...I'm pretty positive they are.
But today I feel like it sank in. We had all 5th graders...and they had fun making the door-hangers and singing the songs in the class. And then we drove to Hillcrest. I explained why these patients were here...that we needed to be quiet but we could be cheerful...teacher-ly things mostly. ~~I remember the first time i went to a convalescent hospital as a kid. I was freaked out. I didn't know what the smells were, why that lady kept squawking...truly squawking. why everyone looked so sad and depressed. and i knew it was a place i didn't want to stay at for any longer than I had to.~~ Today I watched kids goof off and play at church and then all this sudden become silent and scared and need to be prompted to say you're welcome when that woman in the robotic bed said thank you or told the little girls they looked pretty... But when we sang they came a little more alive. and when one man who was a little off his rocker (aren't we all) asked if he could sing to us and sang an old Sinatra tune they all applauded and relaxed a little and said thank you to him...and said hi to Anita and Ron, some of the MS patients I work with during the week. It was awesome to see that shift. To know that the past few months of prayers and planning and intentions to not just do something good but to change these kids' awareness and their attitudes to the marginalized of society was actually resulting in something. Instead of being taught to avoid people who look and smell weird and to not talk to strangers and never give money to the guy on the street corner, they're eyes are being opened just a little at a time...and I was privileged to witness that outbreaking of the kingdom today. Thank you Jesus.
I'm also realizing the significance of relationships in these moments. I think random acts of kindness can be a breath of fresh air for some of these patients and the workers there...but the relationship our church has, and that i have through working there twice a week is what made today possible. I even feel weird knowing I taught a sunday school class today and I honestly won't remember any of those kids was a one time thing...and it was weird for one little boy to call me mrs. chelle later in the day...(for one i'm not married...and for two, how come you know my name kid??) I'm so grateful for the relationships I have at Hillcrest and I hope to have after this summer is over. I don't know the future after grad school (the reason I moved to Long Beach)...but I know that right now these people are my friends and I love them.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

fun with the franklins

today was serveday. we threw a carnival for Franklin Middle School. Chris and I have been volunteering there this summer as student aids...basically just hanging out with middle schoolers who are "at risk". Which means, some of these kids already have criminal records...and they're not even 14. We wanted to throw them a party that shows them that someone in the community cares about them...about their future and about their daily joy...that we're praying for them to have happiness and laughter in their lives, even if it's tough at home.
In the beginning I envisioned this giant event with clowns who could juggle...while on stilts. A dunk tank and balloon animals...we had none of that was a humble carnival...with a few really bright shinning moments...a lot of smiles and laughter...and some dang good tacos. i'll blog more later when it's not 12am...but here are some pictures.

Monday, July 23, 2007

whoever loses his life for my sake...

In the last 3 weeks I have been exposed to more stories of violence, assault, and destruction than the whole time I've lived in Long Beach. The truth of it is, I'm just having my eyes opened to what has been here always. Over by the rescue mission on Atlantic last week a 14 yr old boy was jumped and stabbed to death by a group of kids his age. They were in opposing Latino gangs here in the city, fighting about territory and who tagged what...the killer's mom drove him and his friends to do it and they're all on trial for murder now. A while back a guy from church was mugged walking to my friend's apartment. Someone tagged our garage here at my house. One of the cooks at work had his bike stolen right outside of the restaurant last night. A friend in San Diego had his phone and some money stolen, possessions of the church he interns at broken...all by a guy who they are trying to love and welcome into their lives and the church. And then this morning Enrique came into COA. He's usually there really early, but he came in around 6:30am. he had just been held at gunpoint while on his way to come volunteer. Volunteer. because the judge dismissed his case finally, no more community service...just on his way to help and be with friends. so at 5:30 in the morning two guys ask him for a cigarette, and as he's reaching for one to give them they pull out a gun, shove the cold barrel into his side and demand he give them his wallet. He pleads that they just take the money and let him keep his id, his papers...they take it the whole thing and run run off, but not before telling him that if he doesn't look the other way they'll kill him. he kept saying, it's not about they money (although I know $248 is significant for a guy like him), but just that he's glad he's okay and that his permanent residence papers to be in the US are at home. He said he was just waiting for the "pop" of the gun to go off in his side. It made me sick deep in my gut. Physically afraid. it reminded me of a movie where the victim closes their eyes and you hear a gun shot, and realize that some hero has saved the day and the gun that went off was pointed at the killer. Except it's not a movie. Enrique said "God forgive me, I'm gonna go get a little something myself...I don't want to go through that again". please no Jesus! I told him to be careful, told him I was glad he was alive...please don't let him give into fear and violence.
he was held up right outside my friend's house. on the sidewalk, right in front of his door. I've ridden my bike there, I've walked to and from bible study there late at night to my car a block away. I've driven down new streets here in long beach and realized I'm the only white person, that my widows are down and people are coming out of their front doors and I really shouldn't be there...but I leave my window down because I don't want to show fear or offend them in my assumption that they will hurt me. I don't know how to respond to all this. I know if my mom reads this I'll be getting phone calls cautioning me to walk with someone to my car, to lock all my doors, keep my widow up and go buy some mace. No. I want to live here. When Jesus says that whoever loses their life for his sake will save it...I think about it most often as a metaphor for the control I try to maintain in my relationships, finances, future...but i think it's a literal statement. I might die. I might be attacked. Maybe in my neighborhood, maybe on the campus of CSULB, maybe in the middle of Belmont Shores or some other nice neighborhood. And I don't know how to respond to these things. and I am afraid. But perfect love drives out fear. Love is not provoked. it's not reactionary, but springs forth from our faith that there is a King and a kingdom reality that we live in, and our hope for the Kindom's restoration. Love bears all, endures all, hopes in all. Love never fails. Josh Swanson preached yesterday on 1 Corinthians 13. He talked about the persistence of love...Oh God teach us to have compassion and mercy on those who attack us, who disrespect and violate our rights...Love is not concerned with our own rights. To love is not just a willing attitude that given x circumstance I will be willing to lose my life. If I truly love, I've already lost my life.

heal this city Jesus.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Santa Cruz

Just got back from a weekend in Santa Cruz. We worked and talked and slept and ate a lot. And it all felt very normal. I guess it just felt like this was life...and that was nice. I've been on lots and lots of missions trips where you lose sleep and work hard and get burnt out. This was just life. A very good life.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

when life meets work and you can't tell the difference.

I work a lot. I know it. I deny it. Most days I truly don't feel it. But it does create this sort of life that has a tight agenda and a slightly fragile mental state at times for me. 40 hours a week I'm emotionally investing in others and/or sitting with God, processing with my fellow interns, and it's both draining and uplifting.

Then I come to work at my other two jobs and I get to goof off. Sometimes there's stressful rushes of work...but I think being a server has taught me to handle that well and to enjoy the energy of it all.

Then there's your personal life...which tends to be hard this last year...and very self-reflective for me. I've been surrounded by loving and supporting people at church, san diego, and my even my new roomate Taylor. I finally had the energy to call my family yesterdy...I'm learning that some people deserve more intentional energy on the phone than the common, casual conversation...and sometimes that means not talking so often about insignificant things. So I called my grandma, and realized quickly that she's in tears. Her car is broken down in Newcastle, 30 miles from home, my mom wasn't answering her phone, and she just found out our greyhound Lily has cancer. And she wouldn't hang up with me so I could call my mom at work until she let me know she loves me "very much, always have, always will". I know all grandmas and mom's love their granddaughters/daughters. but my family is so freaking amazing at showing it. I talked to my grandma again today. My sister and i have been planning on sending my mom and dad to a B&B that we know of that is totally handicap accessible for her birthday. My grandma asked my mom what she wanted, she said money for a plane ticket to come see me. I just started crying. I miss my family a lot.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Hillcrest is really hard for me. I find myself watching the clock, trying to want to be there...

I feel pressure to create this wonderful, fun, interactive, helpful but still enjoyable program to help MS patients' memory. Oh wait, I'm not a miracle worker. (I'm a little sarcastic right now, forgive me).

I called my mom and got a great idea for this game. You tell a story with the words "right" and "left" in it and each time you say left or right everyone passes an object to the left and/or right. It's usually a white elephant exchange game at Christmas, but instead I made up a story about the "Wright" family and their trip to Yosemite, and instead of gifts I brought in a bunch of my camping gear and included all the items in the story.

It's really hard to create a program/activity for people who are often on opposite ends of the spectrum mentally and who are all slowly declining in their physical abilities. Something as easy as passing a flashlight is difficult to impossible for some of them. Despite help from other volutneers things dropped, the story got held up...etc. The fun part about this game (when it works) is that you're constantly going back and forth. (John Wright, and Billy Wright Left Right on time for the Wright family reunion). Well I realized this was a little difficult and frustrating for some, so I skipped over and ad libed parts of the story to eliminate some of this crazy passing (the actual fun part about the game). This means everything went much faster, and some parts of the story I simply deleted. Our 1 hr session that everyone is usually already 20 min late for was suddenly over in 15 minutes. Thank goodness for Jessie and her flute.

I have all these thoughts running through my mind...what if the story had been longer and more interesting and funnier. What if I had taken a creative writing class at some point in my 17years of education. What if I were funny. What if I had just asked a funny friend to help me. What if I hadn't waited until the last minute to plan this! Nouwen's words are flooding into my heart right now....scratch that...God is trying to whisper to me "you are worth more than the results of your efforts". But the hard part about that is, I'm not sure I'm entirely concerned about my worth...I want to help!!! I don't feel like I'm doing anything. I'm just wasting an hr of these patients' time to improve their memory. On top of that, the realist in me says, "their memory is slowly declining and will continue to do so". I can try to teach strategies for remembering things and make it practical for their daily lives...but they have 24hr care...they don't really need to remember anything on their own. Then I remember that I'm recieving compensation for this, and that money is going straight from the MS society back to Hope for Long Beach...but because of that $$ I feel like I can't just go in there and make people laugh...

What's funny is that just a few hours before 10am I felt this was going to be a blast. I had props, I had visions of laughter and felt like this was easy but not boring...I knew that they loved guessing old songs last Monday, but I wanted to come up with something new, not just do the same thing each week.

Rewind: last Friday Michelle and Ron and Beverly played Boggle with me. I kinda felt the same way it was just a dud. Ron came up with the occassional 5 letter word none of us saw like TULIP. This guy can barely talk and he was whipping my butt in Boggle. if only his mouth would catch up to his brain. Still I felt that I could have done more...and then this morning Michelle asked what the name of that game was. Despite the fact that she wasn't the greatest at it, she said she really enjoyed it. Looks like my attempts to determine whether or not the program I've created was fun or exciting are both unreliable and futile. Who cares!? me. that's the problem.

Jesus, help my unbelief. Maybe the miracle you desire has nothing to do with their brain circuitry. Maybe the miracle is in the friendships, the laughter, the Let me recieve your grace, but do not let that grace create a spirit of laziness. I want to work hard. I want to put time and energy and creativity into've called me to that. Thank you for the patients at Hillcrest. For their willingness to have a 23 yr old that could be their grandchild tell them what to do, and for Anita and Lordis and Jane and their ability to light up the room with their wit and their humor. for Ruthie and Rockney and Michelle's gratitude and thankful spirits. for the people who have much more resilience and patience than I've acquired in my years and who spend thier lives with these patients every day.

The sermon at church was from 1 Corinthians 12 yesterday. The thing that we tend to do with that passage (most Christians today) is to pray to receive spiritual gifts. To recieve the gift of tongues, faith, healing, etc. We take quizzes and classes to determine which present we got or can win from Santa God. But the context of the passage is much different. The church in Corinth was writing to Paul concerning spiritual "things" (gifts isn't really the Greek word used) that were already in existence among the members of the body, to understand how to use these for the work of the Kingdom...they were not writing concerning things of the past that they desired to somehow acquire. It was later in the sermon when Pastor Lou was talking about charisma in particular that something he said hit me. Charisma is NOT received or possessed by the charismatic person. it is received by the person the charismatic individual acts towards. SO, any spiritual "gift" I have isn't really something I ever have or own. I'm merely the way or the middle person that God uses so that this spiritual "thing" might be used to bless another. Lord grant me understanding and humility, and patience with myself when I don't understand and when I am not humble.

Thank you for your truth.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


We drove up to Pasadena Thursday super early to visit Rudy and hear about Harambee. They are an organization that chose to move into a neighborhood that was once a "medieval fortress" for drugs and gang activity in Pasadena. 35 houses strategically surrounded a central point, a sort of headquarters for the BGF (black guerilla family). "cops just didn't enter". Over Rosco's Chicken and Waffles I tried to keep up with all that he was saying. He talked to us about racial reconciliation, what it means for him to be a Mexican man married to an African American woman living in this community with middle class white kids getting out of the front seat for him...knowing that the neighbors are all watching. Harambee is a Swahili word for "Let's get together and push". It's original meaning comes from Hindu Indians who worked in Kenya as slaves, but the people of Kenya made it their own and today in Kenya and Pasadena it stands for unity and purpose and fits well for this organization. 6 houses all in a row with no fences equals a giant back yard for kids to play basketball, run around, and serves as the location for the occasional Krumping competition. Basically they're there to live alongside people (John 1) and show that there is another way to live.
The thing that I was thinking while I was there was that when I visit places like this that seem to be so on target, places like the Alexandria House in LA, or Floresta in San Diego, or Restore International in India, or a semester for Creation Care in New Zealand. Places that impassion me and get me fired up...I have some really wonderful motives that I believe are placed in my heart by a loving and passionate God. and then there's this part of me that wants ownership over these things. Psychology research, classes and my own thoughts have been on motives for a really long time. Why do people engage in goodness? For whom? To what end?
Nouwen says:
we are not what we can conquer, but what is given to us....It is in solitude that we discover that being is more important than having and that we are worth more than the results of our efforts...To the degree that we have lost our dependence on this world, whatever world means--father, mother, children, career, success, or rewards--we can form a community of faith in which there is little to defend but much to share...when you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your successes and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you. For then your love for this world can merge with a compassionate understanding of its illusions.

This means so much for me right now. To find solitude. To simply be. To not evaluate my worth based on the approval or admiration of others, or my productivity. One of the compliments I've received both in the far past and recently is "you know who you are". I don't know why but I've clung to this and given it value. I'm not exactly sure what people mean when they say that to me. but it makes me feel like I've got it all figured out. Like I'm living an admirable life that is noticed and I want to throw up as I type this. I don't mean to insult those giving the compliment, but as I examine my heart now I realize that the reason I value and remember this compliment above all others is because it sows seeds of pride. It makes ME feel good about MYSELF. I'm not Stiller...but lately I feel myself wanting to be. To have some sort of security and peace because "I know who I am".
God, examine me and know me. Test my thoughts and know my ways. See if there is anything offensive in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

feelin a little slow.

I don't know how many times I've exhaled today but it felt like a far. Franklin kids can take the life right out of ya. Or I let them... I guess I'm realizing that I feel very welcomed, needed, listened to and appreciated by the people at COA and at Hillcrest...but 12 year old kids just want me to get out of their face. And I don't like holding "we're throwing you a carnival!" over their heads as a bribe to make them like/respect me. It feels gross.
I don't know how to reach these kids, I don't know if that should be my goal.
Susie and I have begun to bond over Nouwen...I like it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

singing and dancing to music

I woke up today to a new location for COA...go figure it was at COA, now that Ice Cube is done filming a very important movie. We had waffles and coffee. I walked into a big hug from Susie and then she smiled and held up the coffee she brings me from home every monday wednesday and friday. with special creamer and sweetener of course. simple things can mean so much sometimes. we actually spent most of the morning talking to each other and loving each other...and this even continued on to the broadlind cafe for a post volunteer time breakfast of tea and bagels. I'm so overwhelmingly grateful for her. While at COA I sat and talked to Will. He was sunburnt from the hot weekend...there are so many things I don't even think of that affect someone without a home to shield them or money for sunscreen... He remembered that I had been gone for a wedding, asked how it went, and even recalled that I had played my violin there. It's such a wonderful surprise to realize that people really listen when I don't even remember talking...I want to become a better listener. So we went on and on about orchestras and bands and the 3 instruments he's played and Susie chimed in with her choir stories. Then I bumped into Fred, they guy who wanted coffee the other day. I don't know exactly why but my heart hurts for this man. He won't look you in the eyes. He looks down and almost hunches over as if he's afraid he'll be hurt by something hovering over him. We found the sugar he was asking for and I introduced myself and it was awkward and weird...but I hope I see him Wednesday. Then I sat down with Han, who was talking about data entry volunteering he did last week. I asked if he was pretty good on a keyboard and he looked me dead in the eye and said, "Well, I have a degree in computer science from USC...and now I suppose you want to know how I got here?" "only if you'd like to tell me" "they mixed up my immigration papers." my heart sank. He is the hardest worker. He stays everyday to help and he does the crappy jobs! he mops and wipes and does whatever he needs to just to make it on hand outs from the church, and he shouldn't even be here. Later on Scott turned on the radio and blasted "I hope you dance" Chef Enrique and I danced around the kitchen a bit...such a mixture of emotions all in one place.

Later at Hillcrest I had NO IDEA what I was going to do for MS Cognitive Exercise with Chelle Stephens (I'm on the official!) But I ran home, grabbed my laptop and my violin, some closed toed shoes and scrambled out the door. We started with just 4 and had people coming in for the next hour and a half. It's only supposed to be for MS patients, and it's only supposed to last 1 hr. But it was a blast. We played oldies, folk music, and anything I happened to have (thanks dad) from 1950 to 1980...with the exception of one 199? Michael Bolton song. It's so cool to see how much each person celebrated when another person guessed the song or artist. We laughed and cheered and sang and even danced a little to John Denver. Then Jessie and I traded off on flute and violin. Ruthie and Angelo wouldn't leave. It was weird...I didn't have anywhere I HAD to be...but technically I was already almost an hour over...but they just thanked me and kept talking to me and asking me to repeat my name 5 times and it was wonderful and I didn't want to leave. To hear thank you from such a genuine place in their hearts. To see these patients laughing and enjoying something from their pasts. Dan came in and told me he used to play the I pulled out my music and played one last song, and then I got on the hospital's computer and found his music files for him and we turned down the lights listed to Bach's Concerto in E major together and sang's entirely possible and beautiful to sit and sing along to classical music by the way.

It was a day filled with music...and it was beautiful.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

bad attitude

If there's one thing I don't like about non-profits it's their tendency to move towards rules and regulations for the sake of order and at the expense of the person they're purporting help. When everyone wants a pair of socks and we only have a limited number...rules come into play to keep people from taking two...or lying about the kid they don't have that needs a second pancake. I've been at COA enough times now that I recognize the faces and know when someone's sneaking back through the line for seconds. And for the most part I just look them in the eye (I suppose as some sort of subconscious power trip to let them know I know) and I give them another pancake anyways and say goodmorning with as much sincerity as I can muster. Because when it comes down to it, WHO CARES if they are cheating the system? It already sucks for them that there has to be a system in place just so they can eat. Today Guy tried to pull a very large man's plate away from him because he jumped back in line...and the next time he came into the line I plopped another pancake on for a grand total of 4. I'm not sure why. Walk 700 miles when they ask for 7 I guess. But in a wierd way I was also thinking, kill'em with does that work?? Luckily the eruption that followed this incident was short lived. A community service worker came in before all this at about 6:20am (new guy I didn't recognize) wanting coffee. I did as I had been taught and told him we didn't open till 7:30 (I thought he was coming in to eat, not work). He had such a look of desperation for a cup of coffee. Once we all figured out he was working we were happy to give him a cup...and he said "every man and woman has a right to a cup of coffee". and I felt horrible for treating him like he was entitled to less if he was a guy off the street than if I knew he was there to do community service. I don't think Jesus was ever selective with who he was willing to be generous or kind to.

p.s. if you're reading this, I like conversations more than I like diaries.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

first day with the Franklins

I went to Franklin Middle School today for about 4 hours. Tough stuff. We started out (me and Chris) rearranging the letters on a bulletin board, dusting off and moving a filing cabinet...ya know, very meaningful jobs. I was getting discouraged, but suprisingly kept a good attitude about the prospect of being a teacher's aid/errand slave. Then we got to jump into some group discussions. Chris and I were talking to about 7 kids about positive thinking vs. negative thinking. Who controls their our thoughts lead to action...thoughts=power and other very true, but very cliche ideas that this program was teaching them. and they all rolled their eyes and in various, um...colorful, but nonetheless unanimous ways said, "yeah right". they tried to explain to these two WHITE 20 somethings that we just don't get it. and we don't. i've never been beaten up and I've never really been tempted to beat anyone else up. although I'm sure a fight at Pt. Loma Naz. would have made headlines in the Point Weekly... I don't get where they're coming from and that makes it hard. We left with questions unresolved and probably some frustrated kids who are tired of being talked at about how to be good and followed and pressured by parole officers who are making sure that they don't do anything bad.
One interesting tangent in the conversation came about when one girl mentioned that she hates black people...for various reasons she had no problem listing off to all of her hispanic peers. I immediately questioned whether she realized she was talking about individuals as if all black people shared identical qualities...and asked whether she would make the same statement about her African American teacher were she sitting in our group instead of the other group directly behind us. She of course retracted her statement and said things like "some" and "most" black people are loud, cocky, etc. The real fun began when I asked her what she hates about white people. "I can't say"..."why not"..."because you're sitting right there". I told her I could take it and she proceded with a pretty good "air head" impersonation. Problem is, not all white girls are air heads. And the one Asian girl, who of course was a bit marginalized by an all hispanic group, and all hispanic class actually was more accurately identified by our group as Vietnamese. I remember last summer talking to the very wealthy boys I was babysitting on sunset cliffs that homeless people aren't scum (even if that's the term their dad used). They're people who happen to be homeless...but people first. my friend hanna's taught me over the past few years that if you look into peoples eyes, it absolutely changes your world...Christ lives in all of us...and it's AMAZING when you really get that.
I don't know if I'm helping here at Franklin or just frustrating a few of these kids towards further rebellion and trouble. It was definitely a first day. I hope the next few weeks can be more about compassion and listening and understanding....
It is encouraging to see the teachers and principals who care and have earned the respect that precedes a friendship with a lot of these kids.

Monday, June 25, 2007

COA and Hillcrest

I started out the morning at COA. 6am came and went and we still had no breakfast, Susie, the guys and I were getting a little scared...possibly panicky. We finally got the eggs only to discover they were frozen and it was yet again "oatmeal day". The people we serve aren't particularly fond of oatmeal...but they take it with a smile when you really sincerely wish them a good morning along with a strong cup of very hot coffee.

I've learned a lot from "the guys" down there. Most of them live at COA and are recovering from something or just doing required community service. Enrique, or "chef Enrique Suave" as Susie and I like to call him, is such a cheerful man. He was talking to me today about his job before he was assigned community service. He was the managing chef down at the Hyatt Hotel. He's gone to 5 or so different culinary schools and took such joy in creating a beautiful feast for his guests. He remembers his dad's advice, treat people well and you'll be treated well in return. He used to put on monthly picinics for his emoployees...all food and drinks on him (but if they wanted any alcohol that was on them. ;) He won the Manager of the Year Award and had all of his employees on their feet...and all the other managers wanted to know how he did it. He jokes with Susie and I, and probably protects us just a little. He's got 2 kids and a sparkle in his eyes.
I was confronted with an issue today that I've always been frustrated with. I'm a girl. yep. secret's out. And this frustrates the heck out of the ministry I want to do. There were two incidents today that would have been much easier or non existent if I were simply a boy. I'm still working this out, but I'm grateful for "the guys" that are our brothers in Christ.

At Hillcrest an hour later I faced my fears. I was put in this position because I have a psychology background. But I feel SO unqualified and young to be working with these patients. MS is a weird thing...many times a person's mental capacities are completely in tact well past the time that their legs and arms and facial muscles lose control. So the last thing I want to do is walk in with some sort of patronizing solution for these people who I'm sure are frustrated every single day at their disease. I've done a little bit of research, hoping to have some sort of understanding...came across a few ideas. Remembering various objects by creating stories out of them rather than merely repeating lists. It was going okay. people were politely participating, but it felt like therapy...I felt like a teacher to a bunch of 35-55 year old, intelligent, charismatic, and at the time bored individuals. Lorda the nurse jumped in to play and came up with a ridiculous combination. and then the fun began...I wish I could remember the stories...but I can't...the point is we were all laughing hysterically. I realized that I was taking myself way too seriously. I had come to this with the idea that I had a solution to teach them...and who knows, maybe what I do will actually be useful...but regardless of whether it "works" or will someday be useful, it was wonderful to see a bunch of people really laughing together.