I was in that place. I was a “baby Christian” as my Atlanta area pastor used to call us who stayed in the same spot without spiritual growth.
I was wrongly speaking aloud about another one of those”worse year of my life” moments when my mother gave me a colorful cloth pouch.
I didn’t go to church with her. I told Mom that I had too many things to sort out and that no one would miss me if I did not attend that day’s service. I also told her earlier that I needed additional funds to repair my vehicle and honor the medical co-payments related to my youngest son’s blindness. I was asking for patience, peace and a semblance of a so-called normal life. It was a too-often state-of-mind for me. I craved a change. That was in 1994.
My mother returned from church and was talking over me about how I should place photos, notes with my hopes and dreams, receipts and faith examples of any type. I tried to again interrupt my mother with my lengthy list of needs. I gave up and decided to try her way. After all, I had nothing to lose.
Nothing to lose: That’s a great place for spiritual interference to enter the room. I found myself clinging to the pouch like it was a necessary hand bag or makeup carrier. I still stuff the pouch today with items that are disparate and have individual meanings to me. The remembrances evoke tears, smiles and frowns from the stuffed away memories of the good in my life and the fears.
Several years ago, I heard a sermon by Dr. Barbara King, founder and senior pastor of Atlanta’s Hillside Chapel & Truth Center, about temporary possessions we give power to in place of the real power source — God, Allah and other deities. She spoke of a rabbit’s foot and other items deemed lucky by its owners. Dr. Barbara — as she is known — told the congregation to use until they could gain strength in trusting the true source.
I was in that place. I was a “baby Christian” as my Atlanta area pastor used to call us who stayed in the same spot without spiritual growth. Dr. Leon Hollinshed was among those kind individuals who helped me to get to my greatest place. For that, I am grateful to him and so many others who stood in the gap with prayers during the year my youngest son became blind and our world became a shadow of its former place.
Since 1994, I’ve cherished memories from some funeral programs, happy and encouraging notes, photos of my children in their early years, an usher pin, an airline ticket, donation receipts, name badges and encouraging letters and notes from family members and now deceased friends.
Connect the dots
1. Even if you don’t feel like it, graciously accept a gift of encouragement.
2. Listen to the still, small voice and act accordingly.
3. Believe in prayer.
4. Do something to honor your gifts. I write thank yous to folk who have extended kindness to my family and me.
There are three basic rules for success offered by the artistic director of Chicago-based The Second City Training Center, the companion amateur comedic prep center for the world’s largest improvisational and sketch comedy.
- Show up.
- Take care of one another.
- Do stuff.
The administrators and faculty are united around this trio of success “musts.” There is signage everywhere that invites students and visitors to report any feeling of being uncomfortable due to a staff member or classmate’s comments or actions involving the person reporting infractions. There are also other cautions such as joking and performing satire about subjects such as race or sex, yet not being a racist or sexist. There is a lot of emphasis on looking out for one another and being supportive. The most important point made in my first class by my instructor, Erin, was to come to class – whether your homework was completed or not. Sound advice.
Customer service is treated differently here: They actually practice it through the team of volunteers and paid staffers who are engaging with students throughout the building located in Chicago’s Old Town. In other words, customer service reps at The Second City Training Center do not remain in an office and only answer queries and concerns online via emails and chat rooms.
Diversity is not a ‘talk the talk’ as it is a ‘walk the walk’ where physically disabled, transgendered, racial, ethnic and other so-called differences are represented in the teaching and administrative teams. During the January orientation for the 8-week courses, Anthony LeBlanc Associate Artistic Director, summarized the school’s intent this way:
“Meeting people who are different … is a gift.”
It is a give-yourself-a-break place. The Second City Training Center is described as a second home by many of its hundreds of students. It’s the kind of home we all long for and that is one where being different is ok and laughter fills the walls.
“Sometimes we think we’ve outgrown these things but the need for them resurfaces during times of stress …” Brian Mayne, Self Mapping: How to Awaken to your True Self (2012). Watkins Media Ltd.
As a child, I never wanted or needed a comfort blanket or stuffed animal to keep me safe from any perceived harm. Not judging: At least one of my siblings needed the warm touch of an outside object to migrate through infancy to childhood. I also know there are hundreds of children who benefit from comfy blankets or stuffed animals to ease tough transitions.
Yet, in my adulthood, I acquired items that morphed into my comfort blankets. In 1982, received two crocheted and knitted blankets that marked the birth of my oldest son. A friend carefully crafted the yellow and white blanket for my newborn; the multi-colored blanket was designed for my covering during naps from taking care of my baby son.
As life progressed, I would increasingly seek out the yellow blanket and used it to cover each of my three children and my grandchildren during their nap times. While covering the young ones with the blanket, I transferred my prayers for them from me. It gave me comfort and I believe my utterings and the heavier than normal blanket was like a big hug to the napper.
Today, the yellow blanket is my visual reminder of the beautiful passage of time. I keep it in my home office as inspiration for my writing projects and an occasional warm wrap on my shoulders.
The larger, orange, brown and yellow blanket was made for me by my grandmother, “Mama Helen” Douthy. My family, household guests and I have snuggled under the multi-colored blanket. The blanket seems to have a secret power to immediately place the user into a snug sleep. When Mama Helen died in November 2008, I placed her blanket over my comforter for at least a year to help with my grief for a lady who taught me many things in life, including how to knit and crochet.
Whatever object one finds comfort in — pacifiers as babies and a single memory item for one nearing the end of life, it brings the user some reconciliation with uneasy points of life. It was Researcher D.W. Winnicott who coined the phrase “transitional object” (1951) to what I call comfort items. I remember that on a police ride-along in DeKalb County,Georgia a decade ago, my “partner” sergeant had a few teddy bears in his vehicle in case we encountered domestic situations that involved children whose trauma could be eased with the hug of a warm, stuffed animal.
I am proud of my comfort blankets. They are symbols like those used during spiritual ceremonies and even by professional athletes. I worked with the host committee for the 1995 Olympic Games and became familiar with several comfort or good luck items and rituals prior to events. For instance, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio included three-time parathelete, Army 1Lt., Purple Star and Bronze Medalist Melissa Stockwell always places a small picture of her son and husband on her bike and eats special candy the night before a race.
Author Brian Mayne, “Self Mapping: How to Awaken to your True Self,” suggests that adults should embrace their transitional objects … What’s your comfort blanket?”