(originally posted 1/13/2019)
This was going to be the year I would recreate myself! Maybe I’ll try to be the first great-grandmother on The Titan Games! YEAH! That’s the ticket! I missed the opportunity to be the oldest great-grandmother bodybuilder in the Guinness Book of World Records. That coveted title went to Ernestine Shepherd, who recently celebrated her eightieth birthday! Okay. But I can still impress the masses with my stellar fitness! It will be epic!
I was off to a great start on January 1st! I got out my planner, dusted off my scale, bought some adorable running pants, ordered some new microgreen seeds & potting soil, found that meditation DVD I bought last year, and revamped my workout routine. BAM! Ready to go.
But NO! Two weeks into the new year, and I haven’t committed to anything! Statistically, I only have a few more weeks before I give up. According to U.S. News, “approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.” so the odds are against me. But it’s not ALL my fault!
I am currently working with the homeless for St. Vincent DePaul. Since I am the only one in my parish doing it, I receive all the phone calls for assistance. (I have not given any personal information or used anyone’s real name here. I should have given myself an alias, as this is another embarrassing “tell on Linda” post.)
The phone rang—a message on our helpline. A homeless woman was at a motel. Could I call her?
Betty just completed her fourth chemo treatment for colon cancer and has COPD. In our conversation, she told me how she loved the nuns at St. Mary’s Academy, where she went to high school “a long time ago”. Smiling through broken and missing teeth, she wondered if any of the nuns that taught her were still there and could she visit them?
How did her life go so wrong? She and her husband had been homeless for years. Her husband could never seem to provide for them. They never owned a home. She never had her own gym in her basement (ahem). Her “workout routine” consisted of wrestling to get comfortable and stay warm in the car she and her husband slept in. And yet, this woman praised God. How is that possible?
I have always struggled to lose weight. I know what to do. I just choose not to. But no more! In preparation for my return to healthy eating, I have gotten rid of everything that tempts me to failure and replaced it with all things fresh, green, and organic! WOOT! WOOT!
The phone rang – a message on our helpline. Could we help a homeless family trying to get home to Kentucky?
Jim and his wife, their three kids, and her mentally disabled brother lost their home in a fire in Nebraska. Friends in Louisville offered them a place to stay and jobs there. But they ran out of money and gas and had a flat tire. Mom & dad hadn’t eaten for two days to provide for the kids, but now they were out of food. So we provided them with a room for the night and gave them money for gas, tire repairs, and bags of food. All items with pop-top lids they could eat cold while they traveled. These were fill-a-void-in-the-stomach foods. NOT A SINGLE GREEN THING in those bags. And yet, Jim’s eyes fill with tears of gratitude.
He told me they felt they had lived in a good community. Their neighbor’s kids were always at their home. They called him “Uncle Jim”. But, after the fire, not one neighbor reached out to help them. He and his wife could not believe the love and support they received here from strangers.
Their hearts ached for their kids and her brother because of what they were going through. But I could see something else: Their love for God, each other, and their kids. Somehow I knew they would prevail over their struggles. Their kids were learning tough but powerful life lessons. They were actually the happiest kids I have ever seen! Can you imagine?
Cold spagettios would not be the choice of a health snob like me. After having met such a beautiful family, it made me wonder how strong my faith would be; how well I would survive in their circumstances. I’ve never been tested like that. Nor do I want to be! Truth be told, I’m probably not as strong or resilient as I would like to believe.
Okay, this was it! It was SO COLD, but I was determined to pull on my new running pants, jacket, and hat I bought when we went to the French Alps over the holidays – and go! I usually don’t like running in the cold, but this is the new me. Bring it on!
Then the phone rang—a message on our helpline. A young dad, his wife, and a two-year-old were staying at the motel. The manager was trying to overlook the fact that they were falling further and further behind. Could we help them?
Jason rode a bike to work from the motel to a new job ten miles away. His two-year-old son was ill and had seizures. All their income went to the motel bill. They had no family or support.
The difference between Jason and me should be obvious. He doesn’t ride his bike in the winter because he is obsessed with the benefits of exercise and loves the challenge. And I don’t have to be out in bad weather if I don’t want to. Instead, I can go back to bed or down to my basement and jump on the treadmill.
For years, I was able to maintain a healthy weight. I ran half-marathons for seven years. In 2010 I ran two! That was the year after I had a kidney removed. Basically, I ROCKED it! Now, I beat myself up for failing to get my act together. And I don’t believe age has anything to do with it. (So, get that thought out of your head.) I’M JUST LAZY. There, I said it! But I need to get over it and realize that I am not happy where I’m at and the only one who can change that is me.
Then the phone rang—a message on our helpline. A homeless couple staying at the motel ran out of money. She was disabled, and he was out of work. Could we help them?
When I met with Rick and Amy, I held the door to the room we used to fill out intake paperwork. Rick had to help Amy walk. Every step seemed labored. She had been in a motorcycle accident and broke her back. At the time, she was a nurse. Now, she was on total disability. Her constant pain was more than I could imagine or bear to watch. They had never been homeless before. He always had a good job and worked hard to provide for his family. Then, due to circumstances involving his ex-wife, a shady lawyer, and back child support, he ended up in jail for three days, which awarded him a police record. They also took his driver’s license away, so he lost his job.
When they first became homeless, he lived in his car for two months, and she went to live with a friend. They tried to get into a shelter before calling us, but the only bed available was an upper bunk, which she couldn’t manage. Yet they expressed gratitude to God even when their lives were turned upside down. So why weren’t they shaking their fists at God?
I could go on and on with the stories of pain and struggle we encountered almost daily. But, somehow, right now, at the beginning of this new year, God has been shining a bright light on the contrast between my “personal” resolutions and his focus on my transformation. I’m sure he has no problem with my wanting to be healthy. But I’m betting he thinks I take it too far, focusing too much on myself. Our transformation is what he desires. It is what we were made for, not simply a lifestyle change.
Marcus Borg ends his most profound book, Speaking Christian, with these words, “Christianity…at its best, is about truth, goodness, and beauty. And it addresses the two great yearnings – our longing for personal transformation and our desire that the world be a better place.”
The Christian message reduced to its essentials is: love God (as known in Jesus) and love everyone.” Okay. My first and foremost resolution will hopefully endure every day I wake up until I take my last breath: Love God above all things, and find ways to touch others with that love every day. And, please God, may I have left this world a little bit better for having been here.
Sweatpants optional – with one caveat: 1 Corinthians 6:19 – “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit?” This “temple” is meant to be healthy as God created it, so we can physically do his work. You can decipher that however you like.