Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Only Work On Sundays

This morning I stayed home from the office to have some quiet.

I’m trying to write up the advent services for the next few weeks.  I was also hoping to get started on my sermon series.  Plus, I have a little more work to do for my college class tonight. 

I awoke in the night thinking of yet another friend in the community who attempted suicide, and has now reached out to me (and a couple of other people). I’ve been facebooking with her this morning. 

A few moments ago, a member of my last church contacted me and asked me for words to help her deal with grief, guilt, and anger, all mixed into one big ball of family confusion. 

And just now, a woman calls me as she drives to another town to look after her grown daughter who is sick, in great pain, and has been so for years. The mother is a wonderful, beautiful person who is desperate for her child and reaching a place of frustration in her faith.  At her request I pray with her on the phone while she drives down the highway.

Come to think of it, I have phone calls that need to be made to two other mothers who are with their children in hospitals. 

Even as I jot these words down, I’m interrupted to answer another text.

And then the phone rings.  The “Wellness” coach from my insurance company called to ask me how I’m doing with my weight loss, rest, and exercise, which almost triggers a spell of maniacal laughter. 

But I’m back in control.

It happens like this sometimes. Everything comes in at once. I actually like moving back and forth from one thing to another. I like being of help to people.   And to be honest, I’d rather do this any day than attend another goddamn church business meeting. 

I just want to have it on record somewhere for those who wonder what I do during the week that this is what I did before 10:30 this morning. 

And I still have my sermon series to write.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Better Now

The boy who tried to kill himself is in better shape for the moment. He told his family and friends who all responded by listening, encouraging, and spending time with him.  

They took him out to eat good things because he hadn't been eating.  He has started sleeping again. Those two things alone can help enormously. 

And he treated himself to a fun evening, something I was thinking he should do.  He went out with friends for pizza, and then to a bar for dancing and some imbibing.  

He told me all about it the next day. I don't believe I've ever told a person that I thought it was wonderful that he went out and got drunk with friends.  But I did this time. 

I found out from other teachers that there are several students who are or who have been suicidal at that school. One took his life last year.  If this is the case, I've found a new direction to focus on. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The College Boy

I love teaching at the community college. I have a course on a critical study of the Bible. I focus on the literature of scripture and I love showing the brilliance and eloquence of passages to fresh ears. Most of them have never read a Bible, even if they went to church, but they have a superstitious regard for it.  I like to pierce through that superstition to give them some true understanding.

Often students stay after class to tell me about themselves: atheist, lesbian, ex-military, nursing students, retired people, young kids out of high school, truck drivers, a motorcycle rider. They’re all fascinating.

One student has gotten to me this semester. He’s young and very quiet. He wears ragged jeans and a T-shirt, the standard garb of the college student. Also like many of the students, he looks exhausted most of the time. He stammers when he talks, but he is the clearest writer in the class.

The other night, he came to turn in his paper but then asked me if it would be okay to skip class so he could go home.  He hadn’t missed all semester so I told him he was in good shape.

Except, he was not in good shape. He was trembling. 

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“I just tried to kill myself but the gun misfired,” he whispered. 

I took him out to the hallway. He shared his list of problems: finances, a sick mother, his own sickness, and he was just coming to realize he had been molested as a child. 

But something was missing.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” I ask.

“She left me this morning,” he said.

This would be what we call the triggering event. 

He promised he wouldn’t try to harm himself again that night. Later, I called him and listened to him for over an hour.  The next day, I checked on him after he came out of class.  I will talk to him again today. 

He’s not out of danger but he’s willing to talk and that’s a good sign and I’m not the only one he’s talking to. 

When he was standing out in the hall way that night, I asked his permission and then put my arm around his shoulders and I didn’t want to loosen my hold of him until I thought he’d be okay. 

I have two sons who are very much like him: smart, slender, with a quiet turbulence.  My older boy is the same age as this young man.  He’s in college several hundred miles away. I remember how I didn’t want to let go of him so he could go leave home. 

Late that night, at bedtime I went to my younger son who is still home and I did what I hadn’t done in a while. I put my arms around him and kissed his cheek—he’s going to have to get used to it again. 

I’ll be calling the young man again today.