Alternative Routes to An Easier Life

I could not get out of this underground parking lot. Now I admit to not being the best driver as one of my best friends (Gail) will happily attest.   But I had to back out of the space, backwards, past a long line of parked cars, up a significant grade and then (still going backwards) enter a very busy street. It was not going well.

Why hadn’t I backed into the space rather than driven into it? But then again I am not good at that either.

I felt like I had never driven a car before in my life.

Again and again, I panicked and screeched back into my little parking spot, panting and frightened I would hurt someone else or myself. Or damage a bunch of cars? Who designed this thing? How in the heck was I going to get my car out of that cramped underground parking lot?

Then I saw it, clear as a bell, where it had been all along – an exit sign. Simply back out, move to the back of the garage, make a circle and come out car front first into the street.

How did I miss that? How did I make things those so hard?   So, in my dream, I did just that and was on my way in seconds.

In wake-up life, I find I also make things harder than necessary. Instead, I need to slow down and look for an alternative. Take a few deep breaths. Take a short walk. Ask someone for directions. Don’t panic. We might all be surprised how much easier it is to make it through a day.

And better yet, when we see someone struggling with a situation that we can help to relieve, pass it on. Nothing feels better than helping someone else.

Pay attention every day. The Divine wants us to get to the work we need to do and She doesn’t try to make it hard. Get out of that parking lot and change some lives with your sweet Divine sparks!

When A Passion and A Career Come Together

Note: What follows is a blog I wrote for the Greenville Health System Office of Philanthropy and Partnership where I raise major gifts for our amazing Children’s Hospital. This is a little out of the ordinary for my blog, Seeking the Divine All the Time, yet it falls right in line with my daily spiritual quest. I am so very, very fortunate to work with the amazing caregivers who give selflessly, tirelessly to be of service to sick children in need. The little tiny part I play – encouraging philanthropic gifts -is (for me) the best job in the world. Thank you, Divine, and for letting me be a small Spark!

“No one stands so tall as when he or she stoops to help a child.”  This slightly altered, gender-diversified and beautiful truth is accredited to President Lincoln. I think of it daily as I work to raise philanthropic dollars to help our children at Greenville Health System Children’s Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina.

It reminds me also of the late Reverend Bennett Sims who observed “the human soul was built to give.”

And giving through clinical and supportive care to Children’s Hospital happens each day. With over 200 board certified physicians, hundreds of specialized clinicians, and still more who provide other ancillary care, Children’s Hospital is where we care for children, not as miniature adults, but as children.

For example, in our sedation clinic, children are prepared thoughtfully for mysterious procedures that are intimidating even for adults.  MRI’s and CT scans can be loud and lonely experiences. One of our child life specialists, with a chain of small, replica medical devices around her neck, explained how she uses these along with a special doll, to explain what will happen during the procedure. On the best of days, the child ends up not even needing sedation after her visit and, “Oh!” she laughed at the end of our conversation, “I am also a professional bubble blower!”  Another way to relieve anxiety.

Personally, I think we need adult life specialists at the health system.

Another example is our supportive care team which provide the vital infrastructure and medical care for children with chronic or complex medical conditions. They provide medical expertise to help parents filter through complicated decisions. They provide pastoral counseling in whatever spiritual (or not) belief system the patient and family holds.  And they go above and beyond to help with special needs such as transportation and extra care when parents are at work.

These folks give treasure, too. The $1 million gift of The Dr. William and Jean Schmidt Family was immediately matched by an anonymous community member to establish The Seed Fund For Advanced Pediatric Care.   This fund will be used to ensure that Children’s Hospital has the latest care throughout the future.  During the nearly 25 years as Medical Director of Children’s Hospital, we have witnessed through Dr. Schmidt the amazing things that happen when deep passion and a career intersect.

I have raised money mostly for hospitals since 1990 and often I am asked, “How do you do that? I cannot imagine asking people for money.”

To this, I say, it is simply an explanation of the excellent quality of our care and the importance of philanthropy to provide essentials not covered by hospital reimbursement for services such as child life specialists, pastoral care, social work and so much more.

After all, the human soul is built to give and we are never so deeply human as when we help a child.

Thank You, Mary Oliver

“and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do-

determined to save

the only life you could save.”

The Journey

Mary Oliver

I love this poem, the ending above, a work of the great poet Mary Oliver. I have studied it for years along with another, “The Butterfly,” (“Don’t love your life too much.”) They were ports in the storm of the most tumultuous time of my life and eventually helped me find the courage to leave behind what needed to be left behind and move forward (not unafraid) but with at least, solid shaky confidence.

Many years have passed since that time and, although I would be loathe to do it all again, I would. As I screamed and cried and wrote and sought elusive “safety,” (which is a sad figment of our imaginations), I was growing and changing profoundly in ways that I am still uncovering today.

Recently, someone asked me what was the most important thing I learned back then.

And this is it.

We can change only one person and save only one life. Our own.

That is why it is so important to maintain our integrity with ourselves. Not to drown out our own voices with the loud noise of the seductive world. Not to give up our own personal freedom and choice by capitulating to inappropriate commands of others. But to live a life that is thoughtful and intentional and in line with our purpose.

That means taking time to be still and listen and give the Divine a chance to help us remember who we are. And to guide us through being brutally honest with ourselves about how to move forward.

Is it selfish, you might ask, doing what it takes to save our life? I don’t think so.

This is the life we have and it is flying by and we have work to do to leave this whole place in better shape when we pass one day into the Great Mystery.

Sometimes that means moving on as it did years ago for me. And as it does today when I realize I am conceding my own intention in relationships and situations and, thus, not remaining true to myself. (Read, in fact, sometimes lying to myself).

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for the words I needed and still need today.

We owe ourselves and the Divine a life lived in Our Truth.