We all need prayers, and we all know someone for whom we can pray - or for whom we should pray. Praying for others is a great way to ensure that when you need prayers, others will pray for you.
Right now, after a prayer of thankgiving for the blessings in my life, my prayers go to a young girl named Maggie Lee. I have never met her or her family, nor would they know me or my name if they heard it. But 12-year-old Maggie Lee was in a bus accident two weeks ago as her church group was traveling to Georgia from Louisiana. One young boy was killed. Maggie Lee suffered a brain injury and has been fighting for her life. Her parents update their CaringBridge blog several times a day; each entry I am anxious to read, each entry I am fearful to read.
Maggie Lee will need a miracle to fully recover, and yet the faith of her parents is inspiring. They are a beacon of hope and a true gift to their daughter. And what inspires them? The prayers and their community, many for whom I am certain Maggie Lee’s parents have prayed in the past.
Prayers are not always answered in the way that we want to hear; but they are always heard…and more importantly, they are felt. Keep prayin!
Over the past three weeks, our family has attended church services in English, Latin and French. I could guess at some of the language, but for the most part mass in French and Latin was truly foreign to me. However, I can tell you what I fully understood: Prayer.
When we were at DisneyLand-Paris, I watched as a Muslim man (with his family standing by watching) knelt on his mat facing east, and prayed. If I could have heard his thoughts, I would not have recognized his words - but I know what he was doing. Like a smile, prayer is universally understood. His sense of devotion was noted and respected.
I am not sure why, but it seems my children behave better in church here than they do at home. Maybe it is the excitement of visiting a new church, because it is clearly not that they understood the Latin or French. To me, the reasoning doesn’t matter, as long as they are respectful of those who are trying to pray. Just yesterday my oldest leaned over to me and said, “Mom I don’t understand what he said.” Again, that didn’t matter to me - I was just thrilled that he was LISTENING and trying to understand what was being said. Listening, as with raising your children with a faith, is a journey along which to learn and perfect.
As we travel from church to church - religious nomads of our own kind - we will continue to pray for those in need, for those who ask for prayers, for those who need prayers and for those who don’t even know they need prayers. You might not understand what we are saying, but I hope you feel them.
Tomorrow I am having lunch with a long time family friend. I have known her since she was two years old and her mother, Marilyn, was a close friend of my mother’s throughout my childhood. Our families spent holidays together. On any emergency form for school or camp that my parents filled out for me, Marilyn was the emergency contact.
Marilyn was the type of friend that we all need to have - and we all need to be. For someone who rarely wrote a letter, she sent a card to me everyday - yes, every day - when I was in the hospital in South Bend, and for many months afterwards. I have kept them all. Yet what I remember the most was the moment she walked through my hospital room door. She did not ask to come, she did not tell us she was coming - for she knew we would decline her help. She just showed up. Not to be in the way, not to entertain us or be entertained by us, but just to be there. To make sure my mom got rest. To get lunch so my mom would not have to leave me for 20 minutes. To do laundry. To do everything behind the scenes to hopefully make my mom’s life a little easier, a little less hectic, and perhaps a little more relaxed if only for a few days.
This was the way she lived her life: quietly giving to others behind the scenes. I learned only after her much-too-young death the extent of her outreach. Just as she never asked for appreciation or thank yous for what she did for us, she never boasted about her aid to the blind and other organizations who benefited from her gracious heart and many talents.
Marilyn always treated me as a friend and an equal, and not just the daughter of a friend. In many ways she was the first person who treated me like the adult I wanted to be. I will never forget that.
I still today am inspired by her friendship. And tomorrow I look forward to continuing my friendship with her daughter, who recently quit her job to spend a month in Africa helping to train occupational therapists, and who with a generous heart is making her mom very proud.
We are in London. We have been here since last week - #2 of my red-eye plane flights.
I love London. It has been a favorite - or as they would write here, favourite - city since I first visited here the summer after I graduated from Notre Dame.
Our first few days here have been wonderful. We have a slower paced life and that suits our family well at this time. Even with two active boys, we have managed a good balance between sight-seeing, museum time, park play and rest.
As I mentioned in my last post, over the past year I have travelled (within Maryland/Virginia and throughout the U.S.) to share my story and to meet with others in need or search of hope. It really is an honor to do this. It can be draining - both physically and emotionally - but I love it. I love the face-to-face connection with people; I love feeling as though I can make a difference in someone’s life - or to help them understand that perhaps their problems (boyfriend/girlfriend problems to a high school student) perhaps aren’t as serious as they thought. I often talk about, and have here, perspective.
Yet time travelling is time away from my family. It is a balance that parents juggle everyday. Our family is not unique nor an exception to this. But we all need to recharge and to reconnect and to focus on what grounds us and gives us the strength to give to others. For me, it’s my family.
My husband works for international company. We are here with him to spend more time as a family. Over the past week, it has been the four of us almost 24/7. Sound like a lot of time together? It is- but again it is to balance out the last year, to recharge, to return to the States and return to a life that we love: a life of outreach to others, a life with a community of friends with whom we share the joys and hardships of life. A life where I will continue to travel and share the story of What Though the Odds. I am looking forward to it, and I know by summer’s end I will be more than rejuvenated to carry on my journey. But for now I will enjoy the perspective of summer through the London Eye.
The past two and one-half days I have flown two red-eye flights and have viewed the London eye. At least I didn’t lose my luggage (as I did in South Bend).
On Monday morning I had the privilege of speaking at the 100-year anniversary celebration of USC’s Rossier School of Education. It was a unique and neat experience as I was there with family (my mother flew over from Arizona) and a good friend (who flew west with me from Maryland). This good friend has been involved from the genesis of USC’s on-line Masters of Arts in Teaching - the first of it’s kind in terms of technology and integration with the University. It was fun to see what he does on a daily and weekly basis; and I think he felt the same way.
We flew the red-eye home on Monday night, landing at Dulles at 5:30am. At 5:30pm that afternoon, I was back at Dulles with my family, getting ready to board (yet another) red-eye to London. Family time.
My husband works for a company that only does business internationally. He is gone all the time. For us, our summer abroad is an opportunity to spend more time as a family. While it will afford us many more opportunities in terms of global awareness for our children and experiencing life beyond Annapolis (which we will miss very much!), the most important aspect for us is being together as a family.
Over the past year I have had the true honor to share my story in person with hundreds - perhaps thousands - of people. I am often thanked for having the strength to open up and share, with strangers, such a personal story. More often than not I hear, “I know this must be so hard to share, but thank you because you really are making a difference.” I hope the latter is true; the former is not.
I do not know why it is not hard to share my story. Perhaps because I have lived with it for so long. Perhaps because it is just part of me. Perhaps because of the reaction I receive from those who are looking for hope. To me it is not hard, it feels good. For so long my injury defined who I was. It controlled my life. When sharing it with others, I am the one who is in control. I now control the goodness it gives to others and not the sadness it represented in my life for so long. Because my life is anything but sad.
This is one reason I am studying for a Masters in Arts in Teaching. I love to teach - whether it is History or about life. Being able to share one’s gifts is a gift itself and one I am honored to do.
(Next up: part II - the London Eye)