My brother in law Tony helping the poor

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fighting for Your Life!

I am 44 years old.  I am looking back on my life thus far and I have to tell's pretty amazing.  I am amazed that I survived being the youngest in a family of 8.  There were so many kids in such a little house, not to mention the lack of food, clothing, and punishments we had to endure, oh my God.  All of us children not only survived, we all became productive citizens and descent people.  And the homework that had to be done, my mother only had a 6th grade education, my father went a little bit further but then he joined the Army, got his apprentice degree, and even a real estate license.

My dad worked for 40 years in a sweat shop only to  have his pension stolen just a few years before his retirement.  My mom worked cutting hair in our basement and later worked in the cafeteria at the public high school we attended so that she and my dad could have health benefits when they retired.  It was an incredible work ethic to behold.

I had a bunch of friends in our neighborhood.  On the street I grew up on we had 500 kids!  Some of those people I still keep in contact with, but I don't make any great effort.  Why not?  Well life hit me.  My parents couldn't afford to send us to college so we were forced to take menial jobs as secretaries or typewriter sales.  One day, when I was in my early 20's, I decided to apply for a job answering the phones at a bank.  When I went in to apply for the job they told me that they don't hire anyone without a degree.  Can you believe that?!  You needed a degree to answer the phone.  Something I did about 100 times a day in my house!  That was the moment that I decided I was going to get my degree even if it killed me, which it almost did.

I started going to school at night, then I got married and had a baby.  I took a year or two off but eventually I got a job at Nestle which paid for college tuition.  I worked there for 10 years and during that time I received my degree and had another baby.  I was 30 years old by the time it was all said and done, so who had time to keep up with old friends?

Looking back on the situation, I probably wouldn't have changed a thing.  I admired myself for having stick-to-it-iveness. I just watched the movie Precious and it reminded me of how hard things can be for some people.  I had it pretty easy compared to Precious, but still, I have always felt like I have had to fight for everything.  For me, things don't come so easy, but for my kids they do.  I think it is better to have adversity and challenges in life, it builds character.  For those of you who know me, you know what a character I am!

As I am getting older, I am starting to think that fighting for everything isn't the answer.  As kids we fought for the last pork chop on the table, as a teen I fought to drive the car, as a young adult I fought to go to school, in my 30's I fought for respect, and in my 40's I fought for injustices, (and to stay awake!)  I'm tired.  I'm burnt out, and I'm not so interested in fighting the good fight anymore.  Is there something wrong with me?  I just think it might be someone else's responsibility to fight for what's good and right.

When I started doing mission work in El Salvador I was full of excitement and anticipation, but you would not even believe the road blocks that were thrown in my path!  I used to lie awake at night and think, "All I'm trying to do is a little good, why is it so hard?"  I grew tired of helping people too.  The only thing that kept me going was the thought of seeing one little person suffer because "I was tired."  When I thought about the real reason for helping the poor I stayed with it.  I didn't do it because I thought I was changing world, or the country, or even a village.  I did it because I thought it would make one person's life better.

A good friend of mine I had once said to me, "keep fighting the good fight, Joyce."  I listened to him.  I felt he knew what was best for me.  Today, that very same person has made it almost impossible for me to continue to help.    But God finds a way.  Whenever one door closes He opens another.  I do not feel discouraged or hopeless.  I feel at peace.  The Bible says that God wants us to be happy.  He created us so that we can live abundantly, which I do.  Even though I am only 44, I have lived a lifetime.  I have no idea what my 50's or 60's will hold, but I sure hope it doesn't involve fighting for anything.  Maybe I'll have to fight for my life, maybe I'll have to fight for my kid's life, maybe I'll have to fight for my rights.  I really don't know, but I sure hope God's promise to be happy and live abundantly continues well into my 80's.  There is nothing worse than feeling worthless.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Friend in Need is a Friend in Deed!

I had lunch with a really good friend of mine.  She is one of those people you can call while on your way to someplace and say, "hey, can you meet me at such and such, I want to get a cup of coffee?"  And she will be there!  I have another good friend, the best really, he does EVERYTHING for me and my family.  He is very handy and super generous.  He has remodeled our bathroom, painted like 5 rooms, built our deck, yada yada.  Basically, he works for food.  He will come over on his day off during the week just to get away and "relax" with the Colovas', which I could never understand how those two words can cross paths, relax and Colovas'.

My family has become so comfortable with our friend that the other day it was really funny, my son came down stairs and said, "when is Fr. John coming over, my bike is broken and I can't go anywhere?"  So I called him and invited him over for some delicious barbecue ribs and corn on the cob.  I called my husband and said, "Fr. John is coming over for dinner and to fix Johnny's bike."  Dean said, "ask him to fix the air conditioner that's leaking too!"
Which he did.

How can one person be so lucky?  I have a great family that I enjoy, I have wonderful, thoughtful, and kindhearted friends, and I have the joy of my faith.  Why does God seem to give everything to some while others seems so unhappy?  Is it just their perception?  I believe perception is 90% of the problem.  Some see the glass half empty while other see it half full.  I see my glass almost completely full!  There is nothing more that I want or need, and if there is, I have no problem waiting for it.  Waiting for things is a lost art.  I was at another friends house this past weekend and they showed me their "new" basement.  It had a theatre size TV screen, leather couches, a concrete bar that sported fiber optic lights, a fish tank in the wall, etc.  This couple has 4 kids and they are about 5 years younger than me, and neither of them is working!  I thought, wow, I could not possibly ever have all this in a million years, and my husband is a lawyer and I've worked good jobs my whole life!

But they must see life as something you seize for the day, while I tend to live for tomorrow.  They don't see the need to wait for what they want (in a way I really admire them!)  I think if I had all that they had I would feel guilty, especially knowing the kind of poverty I have seen in El Salvador over the years.  I really don't think my heart would be open to those kinds of luxuries.  On the other hand, if you saw my house you might say the same about me.  I have a lovely home with freshly painted walls and a nice deck (thanks to Fr. John!), granite counter tops and much more.  I just don't have a decked out basement.  So, how can I think that what my friend does is extravagant but I what I do isn't?  See, it's all in how we look at things.

I'm just happy/lucky that God has provided me with ALL that I have!  But mostly I'm happy for my great family and least that's how I see it!


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Never Look Back - A Graduation Story

This is a time for graduations.  Young men and women are graduating this week from grade school, high school and college.  During this time there is a lot to reflect upon.  For graduates, it is a time for them to look back on their school career and relish the memories made, ideas learned, and friendships cherished.  But I have some unique advice.  My advice is to never look back!  While those things are important, they are not the most important.  Most of the memories you made while in school you will probably not be too proud of later, and the things you learned are only stepping stone for more learning, and the friendships you cherish now will most like fade away over time and give way to new friendships.

The most important thing for kids to remember is that they are on a journey, one that will never end.  When I was in school, particularly grade school, I really struggled.  In fact, my worst subject was English!  Can you believe it.  I think I almost flunked English for 9 straight years, until I was in the 10th grade.  I had a teacher (Mr. Geiser for my Garfield Hts. readers) who had the intellect to see that the way I was learning was not working for me, so he gave me a new way to learn.  He challenged me to take home different parts of speech and memorize them, which I did.  First prepositions, then adverbs, conjunctions, etc.  In the 8th grade I memorized the Preamble to the Bill of Rights and other historical documents, which I still know to this day.  I memorized the Act of Contrition in the second grade in one night, and today I can easily memorize the lyrics to almost any song, even rap.  Everything began to change for me.  In college, I even graduated Magna Cum Laude.

Once I learned how to learn, I never looked back.  I never lamented over those days when I thought I could not learn, and never again did I not believe in myself.  Today I love to write.  I write for a living, I write this blog, and I am working on writing a book (which I won't publish until I am old and everyone I know is dead or close to death :)  Sometimes the most challenging things in our lives become the things we love the most.  Relationships can be challenging as well but my advice is still the same.... don't look back.  Why?  Because you can never recapture the sentiment you once had in a relationship.  Did you ever fall in love with someone when you were younger and think, "I could NEVER live without you!"  For a while you "love" each other, you want to spend every moment together, you make each other laugh, and cry, you have everything in common.  Then, one day things change.  Maybe one of you does something that makes you mistrust the other, maybe you become jealous and petty.  Soon, this person you adored makes you feel sad and unappreciated.

Doesn't that happen?  Perhaps not only in marriages but friendships as well.  It's sad when it happens but I encourage you to look ahead in times like that.  Do not look back on a lost relationship but look ahead to knew and happier times.  Unfortunately, people are not 100% trustworthy, they will break our hearts and try to break our spirit, but never let anyone have that kind of control over your life.  Never give anyone the power to take away your joy and happiness, and please, never look back.  Jesus is the only person worthy of your complete trust.  He has YOUR best interest at heart at all times.

This blog is for all you young men and women out there, especially for my young men, keep an open heart so that you can recognize love when it comes, but when it does, don't close your heart to God, because you might need him to mend it for you some day.

Congratulations to all the graduates out there, including my son John.  Don't ever look back and dwell on the things you did wrong, the mistakes you made, or the things you neglected to do.  Today is a new day.  A do-over, so do it right!