The Learning

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The Learning

From the moment of infancy, children are taught to learn about things – eating to survive, crying to get attention, smiling to get more love and attention. Then as toddlers children learn to crawl, then walk, and this is all a process that has gone on from the beginning of all time.  God was there always, giving the child the means to find a way to survive and iive and thrive. When children go to school, there is the learning to make the mind facile and inquisitive.  To watch their teachers and learn what they are taught, to take on the attitudes of their friends and elders.  They sit at home at the kitchen table or dinner table and listen to their parents and grandparents talk of politics, and manners and people who have been significant in their lives. If the children are lucky, there are books to read and devour and learn from to think more, to have the ideas with which to reach for intangible things – life, love, happiness and that one thing that they will always strive for – Heaven.

Yet something gets in the way, doesn’t it?  Have you seen it happen too many times?  Our young children start to follow the wrong things and people.  They ape their heroes and heroines  – they smoke, take drugs, dress like harpies, get into bed too soon with the wrong ones, and then they bring all these hurts and  take them to new relationships and jobs and cities and all of that follows.  Their parents, we – or their elders  – the aunts and uncles – we sit helpless.  We remember how these children are and were, when they were just from the womb, wrapped in blankets and bonnets.  All slightly wrinkled and toothless. Smiling up at someone, not us, but at some other One who looked down at them and gave them that spark of life.

So what happens with the learning?  Where did the learning go wrong?  Who made this learning fall into a pit of snakes?  I do think that smoking is the first thing that happens to a child – it happened to me.  I went to work at a hospital in my first job while in collge.  In that hospital, I was with a group of ICU nurses and staff.  They all would gather in one of the empty rooms and have a smoke.  I was there and felt out of place.  So I smoked too. My Dad found out – my room reeked of smoke and the ashtray was under my bed. He was a calm and authoritative man, and told me to stop smoking.  There was something in his voice that told me that he meant business. And so I did stop smoking.

But what of the others who pass through without an authority figure in their lives, smoking cigarettes then on to weed, then cocaine and then on to oblivion?

These are the ones that you might call “lucky” because their lives are short but miserable.  They don’t wreak havoc on their loved ones, they miss out on the people who would have helped them back on track, they don’t get into more trouble, cause fires, cause heartbreak, or God knows what else.  They learn the wrong things. They reach for the people who tell them this is the Good Life.  They like the fast cars, the big mansions, the easy money, the fashionable houses – the modeling, the grimy cities that promise success.

The Learning I am talking about is the Learning that tells a child that this is the true way and the path to getting OLD.  Yes, OLD.  Why do the young live a short life and then die into oblivion?  Because they made a choice to learn and reach for things that led them to death.  You can do that math – that connection of dots.  Think on your own lives and the lives of those who never made it past 18 or 25 or 30.

Why did I want to talk about Learning today?  Because we all keep learning Something.  What that Something is, is really a cooperation between you and God.  Yes, God.  Here’s that God word again, you say.  Well, it’s true.  Here’s another word – Satan.  A child is a big deal to both God and Satan. Satan wants the children.  He is salivating even now to snatch a child into his clutches and make this child become him and be as evil as sin and as death. There are so many of these seemingly untouched children out there.  They made the wrong choices and reached for the bad things in the world.  And then they use the knowledge that only Satan can give them and make others sad, suffer, or die. Every day.

The Learning is an important concept.  God taught us that first Learning.  In Eden.  Each of us goes through The Learning in our own Eden.  Who is the serpent in your life?  What will you and your children do when the serpent lifts its rattle and tells you to eat that luscious ‘apple’?  Where will you find recourse?  Who will you call to get you out of the pit of vipers?  What will you say or pray?  Will there be grace to give you to pray and call God’s name?  If you do call God’s name, then the Learning will have been successful because God hears you when you utter His name. And He will take you back into His loving arms to heal and forgive.

On the Subject of Nurturing

Father God

What about nurture?

Coming to my mind – in Oxford University (UK), they have a practice or tradition of students being in meetings with their professors – a one to one kind of meeting to discuss and improve their work, and to write essays and papers. This appealed to me because I believed this was the right way to become educated. I love the idea of Oxford and being a student there.

In my life, nurturing is a big deal – my parents nurtured me, mostly my Mom who was my guide and mentor in all things. My father stood as the disciplinarian, the one who told me once to quit smoking and was the Voice of Authority.

As an only child, I wanted and sought out nurturers in my life. There were few. Besides my Mom, these may have been friends and teachers and in my graduate life, that was my PhD major professor. He wasn’t too nurturing as he was busy. But, he made sure that I was ‘protected’ from those who would wish to tear my project apart. He came to all my presentations, and then asked me what my wish would be – do I want to become an MD or a PhD? Or did I want to major in Biochem or in Pharmacology. These are not at all out of the ordinary for a major professor to do, but that was something I appreciated.  And it was nurturing. And, he enjoyed eating the Asian food I brought to work when we celebrated birthdays and achievements.

Nurturing children to become good students is a key thing. Nurturing students to succeed in their chosen field of study is most important. The trajectory of nurturing is in direct opposition to the progress of an individual’s growth, I fear. I fear that there are no older guides who are there to see to it that a growing or young adult is on the right path to becoming the best they can be. In terms of work, the ones who appear to be nurturers besides the management and higher levels of the company would be the human resources director and her staff. I know from experience that she would be checking to make sure everything was where and how they ought to be. That they are happy, content, filled with new projects etc.

But it isn’t really enough, though is it? To my mind, nurturing is mainly relegated to babies and nurseries. When the babies have been let out of school in the 7th grade, they are almost done with nurturing them. In church, nurturing is good as well, and this activity can be in the care of children while the parents are being given religious ‘food’ but the best part is when the children go to Sunday School. The nurturing there happens only on Sundays, and then the rest of the child’s life is taken to the four winds the rest of the week.

What I’m trying to say in so many words, though, is that we ALL NEED CONSTANT NURTURING. Self-love, maybe so – and that is the topic of another blog post (see MarianMusings.com). But, I mean – that love of a better and older, wiser person – those would be our parents. It behooves us Parents to nurture our children NO MATTER how old they are. To those who have no parents remaining, there are the aunts and great aunts, the grandparents and godparents. In the tradition of baptism, the godparents are given the task of taking over the raising of children of the family if both parents were to die suddenly before the children are of adult age.

Seek out the nurturers in your world. If you see the sign at the office “Your Mother DOES NOT WORK HERE” that only means you need to bus your tables and clean up after you have had your morning coffee. But it seems to hint at the fact that one cannot expect a “mother” or “nurturer” in that office.

It seems to me that the workplace is where nurturers are lacking. I don’t see supervisors being nurturers where I have worked. It seems that all work is geared towards the production of something. Not of someone. I suppose you can’t really expect a company to turn out better employees. Yet, isn’t that something that one could expect? Why not? If one were to go to another company and tell them they worked for A and company B is thinking “I’ve seen A employees and boy, they are great!” Is not that a good sign that A company was somehow nurturing? I don’t mean diaper changes and timely readings of bedtime stories. NO, I mean, that the company needs to improve the education of their employees in a nurturing way.

if a company fails an employee, that is deserves thirty lashes of a leather splint across the back. Well, I’m being facetious. But if an employee is someone who has had many good things to say and many good projects that they’ve done, and that company has marginalized that employee without much ado, then I’d say the company is comatose and is on life support.

Of course, nurturing an employee can be dangerous, can’t it? There are those who don’t think their coworkers should be nurtured. Why that person and not me? Then if that happens, nurturing must be equitable. But there are elements of fairness that aren’t present in many companies. It is then that an employee needs to decide whether he or she is in need of nurturing elsewhere. Or, if one can’t move or is somehow beholden to that company, then the nurturing must definitely come from “extra-terrestrial” sources.

I’m finding that this is how everyone must seek their Nurturers. I am suggesting that one seek Sunday school all over again. Sundays for nurturing the individual is perfect. One goes to have church services, and then maybe a hearty lunch, and then a little nap and then settle down to read, or write about how things could be improved in one’s life. Taking the ideas of what was discussed at church service and putting those against what one is going through in life. I’m suggesting a prescription of nurturing – asking a Higher Being to be part of one’s life and becoming THE ONLY and ONE NURTURER. It’s simple enough. Father God, you would begin, help me here because I need nurturing.

My rant about the closing of My Marsh store

Marsh

I am dealing with progress in my little town.  We have had a large influx of new settlers here, some from different parts of the world, some from neighboring towns, some just temporarily – students, I mean.  And with these new settlers the large companies have decided to set up their own flagship buildings.  Some companies, though, have left.  And one of them, our Marsh store in West Lafayette, has decided to close.  There are other bigger box groceries in town. So, I suppose that was what drove our little Marsh store off the grid. We have Meijer, Walmart, Kroger-Payless, and even some smaller groceries that serve the university studentship.  We won’t mention them, in case the business gods want them to leave as well.

Our little Marsh store was not a little one at all.  It had all the amenities:  the deli, the bakery, the flower shop, and, it had international items (like Chinese and English fare).  It had a navigable footprint, we knew where to find things – and it wasn’t a long slog like with Walmart where you could easily get lost in it looking for vitamins or Coffee or canned meat.

When my family settled here in the early 90’s, the Marsh store was pretty much the only store in town, perhaps the Kroger one was also up.  But Kroger had a large store and it was difficult to park in it. I had visions of being t-boned in their parking because someone didn’t look behind to see who was driving past.  So Kroger, despite being a serviceable store, seemed a bit of a risk to me.

Marsh had friendly people, the greengrocers liked to say hello and helped when I couldn’t find the pine nuts for my recipe.  The manager, who I just met a few months ago (he’d been there for years) had informed me then that they weren’t going out of business, they really are doing a profit and so the fear of them closing had dissipated.  But that was then, the news, the cold hard news is that they are now being run off the grid of West Lafayette.

 
It is a difficult thing to see something that’s been there for decades and been the provider of your food and greens and alcohol since you started and made this place your own.  My own, as it were.  I know that another bigger, fancier store will come out and replace it.  It will tear down the building and who knows what other ones attached, and it will be a mess for a while and then it will announce itself.

Maybe that is progress.  But what progress really, for the manager who told me he was glad they weren’t closing because he is a couple of years away from retirement?  Or the green grocers who have aged through the years, and still look as young as they were with just a bit of grey around the gills – where do they go?  I know that they will be taken care of, at least, that is what I hope Marsh will do – give them a good retirement package.  But the memories will go away.

Memories of Marsh you say?  Well, we had friends who were the cashier, the ones who sold us our lotto tickets, the assistant manager who offered to keep an eye on my dog while I shopped, the friends we bumped into and regaled with news of our latest trips or retirements and so on. Where will they be next?  I doubt that there will be a greater chance to see them again – where would they be?  What do people do when their favorite store closes?  Are the alternatives going to be ok?  What will I miss most about Marsh?

I guess I will miss a few things about Marsh, besides what I have already said.  I will miss their ample parking (mostly due to the fact that hardly anyone shopped there anymore) where I could actually sit and scroll through my newsfeed on Twitter in my parked car, or, where I would eat my Starbucks Danish before going in to shop.  I will miss its accessibility. I will miss well, the past.  I guess that is what I will miss.  The past that includes my whole family shopping there and now the family has dwindled.  So, perhaps that is what I will miss about Marsh.  Those scenes in the past where Marsh figured in some way.  Not greatly, but in a significant way.

Small towns are the thing of the past, though. Our town is eager to be part of the next technological super age.  So, with that, let all small grocery stores beware.  One can’t always stay the same, one must do what they can to matter to those who are around.  Those who have patronized Marsh are in their later years, those who are more inclined to want to shop safely, to feel like there’s a warm place to go and feel like they belong.  The youth of the town will go where they have access to Starbucks, to new-fangled foods, to every type of monster drink available.  The rich will always go where the parking lot is paved and has no bad holes.  The entrepreneurs will go where there are party stuff to celebrate openings and launches.  And then where would these stores be that can’t have all for these demographical shoppers?
 

Perhaps that is what Marsh needed – and they tried to keep up, they tried to stock those things that only they would carry and not others.  They installed U-scan devices, and made the store more spacious.  But, too little too late.

I fear for those who will miss Marsh that they will completely be in a catatonic state when they enter a big box store.  What of those tender hearts who really only wanted one item and then scurry back home to cherish it with their recipe?

I might be getting too maudlin, but I really really hate that Marsh is closing here.  I know I’ll get over it.  I shouldn’t fret, of course, because perhaps it is part of God’s plan.  Yes, He has a plan even for Marsh stores.  I don’t know what that would be, but in God’s Mind, these things are present.  So for all Marsh aficionados, take heart.  God’s in control.  He will be happy to hear our fears and settle them in his Fatherly way.

 

 

The Lesson I Learned

The Lesson I Learned

Writers don’t care how they look.  What is important to them is what they write about.  You can look like a wreck and write the most beautiful prose.  You can have wart on your nose and write a lovely poem.  Writers have no wish to attain the heights of beauty.  Not in the physical sense.  Their world is in words, in worlds, in heaven or in some part of hell where a little bit of life still thrives.

I went to a writer’s conference last year.  The keynote speaker was a woman who was a writer -in-residence at a university. She looked like someone’s old maiden aunt.  She wore no makeup, her hair was disheveled from the wind, her clothes weren’t designer clothes.  They were the clothes of a journeywoman.  Someone who just came out of a long trip on the road.

Yet when she read her work I began to hear and see her world, her humor and her wit.  Yes, she was a writer.  Not a thing about her physically that would cause a lot of heads to turn. But turn they did when they heard her speak.

So I learned a lesson that day.  I felt like I could be comfortable as a writer.  I didn’t need makeup.  I didn’t need a lot of hair product nor did I need to wear the latest fashions to be with other writers.  Or, to write on my laptop.  In class, my classmates and I get along well discussing what I loved doing:  Writing. What we did was enough.  And that was to write, and write well.

And part of the lesson for me was to look at others without judging them based on their appearance.  It is not how God wants us to treat people.  We need to look into their eyes, their smiles, the creases on their brows, the rough edges of their lives and come to understand how God made them the way they are and see how they work, what they do. How their lives glorify God.  How their lives fit in with the Plan of God.

Each of us has a purpose in life.  Don’t let the way we look to each other get in the way.

 

The Dream

Very often I hear or read of people who express their dreams for their lives.  Many dreams are common among people:  success, a house that’s in a great neighborhood, a car – maybe one that’s new and has a status emblem on the hood.  Other dreams are also about success for their children, or loved ones, or dreams of good health or beating the Big C.  There are dreams to travel abroad and get to know other cultures.  There are dreams that are immediate.  Like dreams to pay off debt, win the lottery, have one’s own business, make it big, marry the best person.

Many dreams are built on good foundations.  The foundations might include: a good education, a job that’s steady, a life free of addictive behaviors, being part of a faith community.  These foundations most definitely are good stepping stones to achieving dreams.  Yet there are dreams that seem almost impossible because the foundations are not sound.

Take for example the dream to become a citizen of a country.  This dream is great especially for people who want to find good places to raise their children.  To give their children a good chance at life. Better lives than where they were born.  I think this is the dream that’s a hard one for people these days to achieve.  At this time in the US, the things that keep dreamers out of this goal include crime, poverty, addiction and the wrong friends.  These foundations, if you can call them foundations, aren’t good to base dreams on.

While these ‘foundations’ are like the shifting sands in the Gospel that speaks of building a house on solid rock, one shouldn’t feel dismayed that one can never achieve their dreams.  I don’t propose to give solutions to those whose dreams are built on shifting sands because everyone’s case is different.  But I do propose to encourage all dreamers to pray for their dreams to come true.

Dreams take time to come true.  It’s not at the end of ‘get rich quick’ schemes.  Like paying off enormous debt, the monthly submission of payments can be all one need to do, plus avoiding the pitfalls of falling off the plan like spending again on credit.

There’s a lot to be said about patience as well.  One of the virtues, patience can be the lifeline to a person who dreams. Who even dream big.  If one waits long enough, that dream goal may be attainable because of an unexpected blessing.

God never said not to dream big dreams.  He is, after all, the Source of ALL riches, the Source of Eternal Life.  We are His children, aren’t we?  Didn’t He say:  “Knock and you shall enter, Ask and you shall receive, Seek and you shall find?”  Those who count themselves as God’s children can count on asking God for their needs, and yes, even the big dreams.  It’s a great way to start the conversation.  That conversation is called Prayer.  To pray, one can begin with a short invocation with any of the following: Come Holy Spirit.  Come and help me, God.  I place myself in Your Presence, O Lord.  Be with me, Lord.

One will find that as prayer deepens, God works in our lives and sees where you need to make changes.  He intervenes and places opportunities in your path.  He removes obstacles to your goals.  In many cases, it’s what might be called a process of conversion.  You might find that your dreams change because God gives you a better way of looking at things.  And then the dreams are more meaningful when they come true.  They are more meaningful to you because God made these just for you and your circumstances.