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Friday, September 26, 2014

Two Random Stories for a Friday Afternoon; Ripple Effect

I posted the following on an internet discussion board ten years ago. I apologize for the repeated material:

I think, why go on? Why take up space?

Here's a theory as to why. Maybe.

Maybe there is a spiritual dimension to life.

Maybe we are all connected in some way.

Maybe we are here to serve one another.

And maybe by living through my crappy, cursed life, and not succumbing to drug addiction, or self-destruction, or meanness, but by continuing, no matter how crappy my life is, to be a decent, hard-working person, I spiritually contribute to others. I help them to go on.

Maybe we are not as individual as we think. Maybe we are connected by a spiritual web made up of spiritual narrative.

I have often hung on for one more moment by using the example of people who lived through hell, and yet kept going. If they can keep going, maybe I can, too.

Maybe, by living through hell, and not quitting, I provide that sort of support to others, I throw out a spiritual lifeline, even if we never meet.

And maybe, when someone just quits, just commits suicide, they weaken others, maybe even others they've never met, because, maybe, we are all connected.



Most people know that I'm looking for work after many years of chronic illness that knocked me out of the job market. I've been looking for work for years now. And I've only been able to find temporary, part-time things that have barely kept me alive. Barely. I am living so far below the poverty line I can't even see the people who actually inhabit the poverty line.

This fall I taught one class at a community college. I had a lovely, lovely student, Terry, a woman who just glowed.

After the semester was over, Terry told me, one-on-one, two remarkable stories.

First story:

Needless to say, as a PhD, I am, technically, overqualified to teach at a community college.

But I've done a lot of research and writing on the c. 1880-1929 immigration, so I taught "Christ in Concrete," written by an Italian author from that period, Pietro di Donato.

As one always does in a community college, I wondered, was anyone getting this? The author's clever use of polysyndeton and personification? The social significance of this work?

Most of the students looked, simply, bored.

After the semester ended, Terry told me that there was a man in Terry's church who had been having some problems. She wanted to reach out to him, but didn't know how.

One day she just started to chat with him, and, out of thin air, just, trying to figure out what to say, she mentioned that she had this class where she was learning "Christ in Concrete."

The man responded. He knew the work.

That was the entree. She was able to reach out to the man, through that shared work of literature. A work that I pulled into the class, because of my own interests, that no other prof on campus was teaching.

Terry wanted me to know that the man's life was beginning to work out, and her intervention, and "Christ in Concrete," all played a role in that turn around.

Second story:

She had a friend who had a baby that died of SIDS. Her friend was, of course, distraught. One day, her friend was at the cemetery sobbing.

A man approached. He, too, was there visiting a grave. He was also visiting a child's grave. He was also visiting his own child's grave...

He approached the woman. They talked. She told him why she was there. 

"Very upsetting," the man admitted.

"And you?" the woman asked.

"Do you want me to tell you the truth? Or should I make something up?"

"The truth," the woman said, growing frightened.

"One day," the man said, "I just needed to go to the store to buy something stupid. I began to back the car out of the garage, and I ran over my baby."

Terry believes that that man's horrible grief was used by God to help her friend deal with her own loss. Of course, that concept begs all sorts of questions, but it is what Terry believes.

If the above theory is correct, in ways that we can't see, we are here for each other, even if just to say, "I survived that, and worse, and you can, too."

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