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The Lyft driver drove me to my doctor’s appointment, and as we pulled into the parking lot, he told me he was a pastor, and asked, “Do you mind if I pray for you? Because I believe Jesus heals.”

“So do I,” I said. “I’ll take all the prayers I can get.”

He came around to help me out and held the car door open. I said, “‘Preciate that, son. And thanks for your prayers.” I went into the building. As I got onto the elevator, I realized he was still standing by the open car door. He finally – reluctantly – went back to the driver’s seat.

Oh. Did he intend to stand there next to the car and hold hands to pray with me? Right there? That would have been different. In that case, I would have declined. It wasn’t just the issue of praying in public, but also of its being done in that location. Blocking the doorway where ambulances drop off sick patients for their medical appointments.

In some ways, his prayer would have been a performance. Publicity for his church. He could just as easily have prayed for me as he drove away. It reminded me of the time an acquaintance zeroed in on me at a gathering. Said she really wanted to talk to me. She’d heard about my health issues. That I’d gotten separated. She said, “I really think you could benefit from my support group.” It turned out to be Transcendental Meditation. So she’d sought me out, thinking I was a mess. Huh. I literally said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and left.

You can help people in a way that really benefits them, or you can meet the quota of your clique. Souls saved. Public prayers accomplished. Check.

The best way to represent your beliefs is to be a human being. Offer an ear to listen. A word of kindness. If you keep pushing your product despite resistance, you’re just another door-to-door salesperson.

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Sometimes God puts a big dream in your heart, and you survey the breadth and depth of it… and promptly talk yourself out of it.

For years, I’ve had a vision of starting what (in my mind, at least) I’m calling the “Block Project.” I’ve thought of naming it “Here to Help” or H2H.

So many people on my block are unemployed or on a fixed income. Many mouths to feed/bills to pay/never enough. Struggling to get by.

What if, instead of having a Neighborhood Watch, all of the neighbors watched out for each other?  

What if the carpenter across the street used his skills to fix the fence of the widow down the road?  What if she, in turn, gave the carpenter’s daughter piano lessons in a kind of barter/honor system?

What if, instead of talking about Mrs. Jones’ overgrown weeds, someone stopped by her house to make sure she was okay?  And maybe even offered to mow the lawn for her?

What if the guy with the green thumb helped every neighbor plant a tidy little garden, so they could eat well in the summer, and can for the winter? What if people having a hard time paying the heating bill could receive help from a general emergency fund?

But even though I’ve thought about this for years – even going so far as to discuss it with my teen-age son and ask if he’ll be the Computer Tech for the database (what people need help with/the skill set of each neighbor/resources available) – I have yet to do a single thing to put this idea into motion.

I did a little math in my mind and decided that having a disability and no resources meant that this was just a pipedream, but still.  The idea keeps coming back to me. 

It just seems that even though I can see putting my heart into it, how do I put my back into it? After all, I’m limping around from the effects of MS and spend many an hour sick in bed.  How do I even begin?  Where would the money come from? How would you get people to “buy in” and help out?  I guess the naysaying-critic in my mind is asking: Who am I to claim this scale of dream, anyway?

So I thought I’d write a post about this and see what you dear readers think. Any thoughts?  Even if you don’t have an idea about logistics, would you kindly do me a solid (as we say in Jersey) and like this post? Sure, it’s a big dream, but a little encouragement would go a long way. Thanks, dear people!

It’s an old joke: A guy goes to a Chinese restaurant, eats his meal, then cracks open his fortune cookie, only to read the title of this post. Ha, ha. What’s less funny is that so many of us really are trapped: by the physical limitations and illnesses that beset our bodies, or by the more invisible, but no less crippling, illnesses of our minds. What do you do when there’s no fortune cookie around for you to send out an SOS?

It’s easy to say, “Talk to someone about it.” And most of us are comfortable — or at least willing — to discuss our physical woes with a doctor or other understanding soul. Our mental woes…not so much. Why? Perhaps we don’t want to burden others. Or we think our problems are unimportant compared to the afflictions others are carrying. Or maybe we are ashamed. Mostly the last one, I think.

Having a mental illness or issue is still viewed, by many, as a personal failure, a lack of will. If you’re depressed, think a happy thought! If you’re anxious, stop worrying — it’s silly. If you can’t control your thoughts or emotions — well, cowboy up! Grow a spine! None of these responses help someone. I know that mental illnesses are hard to understand — I watch “Hoarders” sometimes just to horrify my own inner neat freak, asking myself, “Why? Why on earth would anyone DO that?” But in point of fact, some people do. What are the rest of us going to do about it? How is my reaction helpful? (Note: It isn’t.)

I’ve lost friends (plural) to depression. I wasn’t close enough to help them, or maybe I wasn’t listening. Or maybe they never reached out. But from now on, I’m going to behave like everybody out there is carrying a heavy burden, mental or physical. Because they ARE. I just can’t see it. We are, each of us, trapped in a fortune cookie factory of our making.

We have two choices: reach out to God or reach out to one another. (Make that three choices: to do both.) If you are carrying something heavy, I want you to tell me. I want to pray for you. I want to listen to you. I want to tell you that I love you, even if I don’t know you. I hope you will afford me the same comfort. Let’s help each other. God put us together for a reason.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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