Symmetry

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Symmetry is the word that popped into my head as I drove home from Quincy, MA. In the truest sense it probably isn’t the right word but in my mind it fit the bill. Let me explain…

The voice on the other end of phone asked “I was wondering what your plans are for Kids’ Day?” ” Excuse me, Reverend Bergers I have no idea why you are asking me that question.” Reverend Jay Bergers was the director of our district church camp. At the time, I was the Sunday School Superintendent in my local church and had met him on several occasions during women’s retreat or family camp. My husband had worked alongside “Jay” clearing land at camp but why I was being asked about a district-wide event was a total mystery. At Reverend Bergers’ suggestion I called the district office.

“You made my day” responded Reverend Ken Blish as I explained the confusing telephone call from Reverend Bergers. Obviously a breakdown in communication had happened and no one had informed me that I had been appointed District Children’s Ministries Director. “So how do you feel about that”   “Like I should pray about it” Well, to be honest I was stunned, confused, overwhelmed and not sure if I should laugh or cry. My husband was thrilled, supportive and encouraging. Thus began my stint as Children’s Ministries Coordinator for the Metro New York District Church of the Nazarene.

And on Saturday as I checked name tags at the Eastern Field Children’s Bible Quiz at Eastern Nazarene College, a woman walked up to me, introduced herself and said “I think you know my father, Jay Bergers.” We had a lovely conversation. She explained to her spouse and teenage children how she knew me and how the 9/11 memorial at camp was for my husband. Later as I drove home the word symmetry popped into my head. Nineteen years ago a telephone call from Reverend Jay Bergers started it all and on Saturday at my last official act as Children’s Ministries Coordinator Reverend Bergers’ presence and influence was made known again.  A beginning and an end suddenly tied with a bow that only God could add.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12: 1-2

time & treasures

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Due to recent weather events in my part of the world, my original plans for the past few days have been canceled – no district wide children’s Bible quiz on Saturday, no tours for the 9/11 Tribute Center or ladies small group on Monday and no teaching ballet this afternoon. I see that type of change in plans as having extra time. Laundry, cleaning, answering emails, finishing books for book club all fit into my regular schedule. So when extra time presents itself I try to think of something I don’t think I have time to do and get it done or I fall into the “binge watching” trap.

On Saturday I organized paperwork I will need for my 2014 taxes. I shredded stuff I don’t need and filed the rest. With a sense of accomplishment I then binge watched most of the first season of Parenthood. Sunday was a regular day. On Monday I organized my address book which consisted of very old addresses of family and friends and lots of little return address labels that I had stored in the book. I tossed out most of the written pages and simply taped the labels in the book. Yes, I do have contacts on my phone and computer but I don’t need to carry all of those people around with me. 🙂  Then I watched a couple more episodes of Parenthood finishing season one and starting season two.

On Monday evening I decided I should accomplish something else as I had extra time due to no ladies group. So I decided to clean out the small drawer in the cabinet that sits next to my favorite chair and has become the catch-all for this and that. Since it is a small drawer I always assume what I place in there well be safe because it won’t be swallowed up as it could be in a big drawer. I wasn’t surprised to see post-it notes, small pads of paper, rubber bands, paperclips, cleaning cloths for my computer, my amazon credit card and my checkbook. I was surprised by a few treasures:

  • a box of rose petals – a friend had collected the petals from the yellow rose that was placed in Bruce’s name  by the National September 11 Memorial on Veterans’ Day. Friendship is an amazing treasure.
  • a small metal kazoo – “a dad gift”. After September 11, my daughters and I purchased a gift for each other that would have been something Dad would have bought or something that reminded you of Dad. We continued that tradition for 10 Christmases and then decided to make it an optional Christmas tradition. Meghan had purchased the kazoos for Emily and I in 2013. Many years ago while on a long road trip from NY to KS a stop at Cracker Barrel had resulted in Bruce (Dad) buying kazoos for the girls. Thankfully it took a few miles for them to get the hang of it. Family and memories are treasures.
  • business card from Dith Pran – In 2005 (?) I had a telephone interview with a New York Times reporter and that reporter asked if a photographer could come to my home. A few days later a gentleman arrived at my home and began to take photos. In the course of the photo shoot, I realized that the photographer was Dith Pran, the man whose life the movie the Killing Fields is based on. We spoke of his passion to tell the next generation the story of the Killing Fields because one time was too many.  It was a totally surreal experience. There is a You tube video of his last words. Passion and purpose are another treasure.

Extra time and random treasures have been a blessing the last few days. Tomorrow is back to real life if Mother Nature allows. 🙂

I have to be honest I watched a few more episodes of Parenthood. Not sure why I never saw the show in real time. 🙂

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It’s not just about me

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Over the last week or so I have had a similar conversation with different friends. They stumble through saying something like : “so does September 11 get easier?” “well, I know it doesn’t get easier but …”

Personally I think  it has gotten harder because now September 11 isn’t just about “my personal loss in the midst of a national tragedy.” Last week I had a delightful lunch with 7 fellow docents and friends  – a mom who lost her son, a widow, three downtown residents, a firefighter and a Port Authority employee. I know their stories and struggles. I thought of them and others on September 11. They commented that this year was harder and they couldn’t understand why. I shared my theory that it was harder because we carry each other’s stories in our hearts.

So does September 11 get easier with the passage of time:

Yes, because I don’t worry about people’s expectations.

No, because I realize how much Bruce has missed and how much I miss him.

No, because it not  just about me and my family. It is about my Tribute friends and their stories.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”

C. S. Lewis

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The Star Spangled Banner

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Today is the 200th birthday of the Star Spangled Banner. There is very interesting information to be found at http://amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/. Whether I hear the Star Spangled Banner sung live at an event or on television, I always cry. It doesn’t have to be sung well. From the first notes my eyes are welling up then the goose bumps start and by the time the words “the land of the free and home of the brave” are sung I am “done.” I have the privilege of living in the “land of the free” but that freedom cost many men and women their lives. “Home of the brave” carries a new meaning for me because my hubby was one of New York “bravest”. Well done, Francis Scott Key!

 

 

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Japan 2014 – part 3

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After my trip to Japan last year I had said to people “even if you learned the language you would still need a guide to help you navigate the customs.”  And that held true on this trip as well, we had wonderful translators that not only translated words but explained proper etiquette and customs. Taking your shoes off and putting the slippers on, placing money on the little tray not on the counter or into the person’s hand, bowing and the handling of business cards were all things we needed to be aware of.

There is a certain rhythm/pattern of speech you need to use when being translated. I found it fascinating that some times the translation would be 2 words to my 10 and other times one little thought seemed to be translated into a novel. I had absolute trust in our 3 official translators. I think because they had traveled with the group on the last trips they understood who we were and what we were trying to do – they got it.

Nearly all of our lunch and dinner meals had assigned seating including someone who could translate which ensured that you could have conversation with everyone at your table. At some events there were name tags on the table and other times in was just a matter of rearranging until we got an arrangement that would work. There was one time in particular that I had to pause when something was said because I wasn’t sure if the person realized the implications of what they said. While having dinner with a delightful young Japanese medical student and his wife, I asked whether his wife was also a student or did she work? This was a very young cute couple and he spoke English very well. She didn’t speak any English. They had been married in March. His response to my question was “she is my housewife.” Having grown up in the USA, owned my own business, having hyphenated my maiden name with my husband’s name when I got married, I really had to just smile. I wasn’t sure if it was a term of endearment or what?

There was one more experience that made me think “Toto, we aren’t in Kansas any more.” When we had our formal meeting with a rather high-ranking government official, a young woman came to escort us to his office. She handed each of us a seating chart (below). My name is listed as Ms. Hine. I do not think Clark-Van Hine is a common name in Japan. I hadn’t been to a meeting where you get a printed seating chart before. This was the big leagues. As we were walking to the office I realized our young escort  was wearing  shorts and high heels. Her look was polished but I thought maybe it is dress down Friday because I can’t believe you can work in a government office and dress like that.  Her manner was professional and polite but her outfit was confusing me. I made note of how everyone else was dressed as we walked down the halls. All the men were in suits and ties. I didn’t see any other women. I thought maybe I am over thinking this but a conversation later in the day with the Mount Sinai female medical student in our group made me think maybe I wasn’t. We have come “a long way baby” but that is not true for our sisters around the world.

 

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Japan 2014 – part 2

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My recent trip to Japan included a four page itinerary. There were 17 people in our group -six Tribute Center docents, three Rotarians, two Mount Sinai doctors, three Mount Sinai medical students, and 3 translators. Our fearless and super organized leader did a tremendous job of keeping us on time and on task. The four page itinerary included logistics meaning what we were doing each day, mode of transportation and what kind of attire was appropriate – casual, business casual, business or formal. Formal didn’t mean evening wear. It really meant suits for the men and our firefighter docent needed to wear his uniform.

Our last two days of our twelve day trip were unscheduled.  In ten days, we attended 6 Rotary Club functions, visited 2 Mental Health Clinics, 1 School for the Deaf, 1 High school, a Memorial Rose Garden, the Sakado Crane Memorial, 1 Temporary Housing site, 2 Shrines, and 2 Temples. We had formal meet and greets with the Mayor of Koriyama, the Minister of Reconstruction, and the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.  We listened to 3-11 stories and told our 9-11 stories. We exchanged gifts and were treated royally. We had “tea” in some amazing places and we ate a lot of raw fish and rice. We traveled as far east as Kesennuma, Miyagi and as far west as Nara. The best I can estimate we traveled over 1000 miles.  Our modes of transportation were the bullet train, the regular train, cabs, subway and a chartered bus. Oh and we “dragged” our luggage wherever we went.

We had private guided tours of:

  1. Chusonji Temple, first national Treasure of Japan   http://www.chusonji.or.jp/en/precincts/konjikido.html
  2. Kaiseizan Shrine
  3. Kasuga Shrine   http://en.japantravel.com/view/the-stone-lanterns-of-kasuga-shrine
  4. Todaiji Temple http://www.taleofgenji.org/todaiji.html

I stood at the foot of the giant Buddha in Todaji Temple. I had tea in the room only special guests  and  the emperor visit at Kasuga Shrine. I learned that a shrine is Shinto and a temple is Buddhist. I loved seeing Japan and learning new things but my favorite thing was interacting with the people. If you asked me my favorite experiences:

  1. Doing “ballet arms” with a teenager who wants to be a ballerina when she is older.
  2. Having a woman tell me she had traveled two hours to come to the mental health clinic seminar because she meet me last year and wanted to see me again.
  3. Traveling with the most compassionate, selfless group of people who made me laugh, cry and always had my back.
  4.  An amazing dinner conversation with a Shinto priest, classical pianist, Japanese business man and Jewish doctor that started with me asking “I learned today that every 20 years the shrine is taken down and rebuilt. Can you explain that to me?” and lead to me explaining what grace is?

You can’t make this stuff up.  I am so blessed.

 

 

The class of 1964

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Last fall I received an email from a Facebook friend of my sister-in-law’s. After a brief introduction of who was emailing me, the sender explained that her husband is a 1964 graduate of West Point and she would like to schedule a tour of the Memorial during their 50th reunion weekend. She also mentioned it would be 100 people. I quickly suggested she contact the Tribute Center and forwarded her the information. I did say that I was more than willing to be one of walking tour docents but 100 people will require more than one guide. Through the months arrangements were made for the group to visit Tribute but because of the opening of the Museum the group was told that the Memorial may not be open on May 17 but they were welcome to meet with a docent in gallery 5 instead of a walking tour.

So this morning I traveled into the Tribute Center to speak to 100 people in 2 groups of 50. As I thought about who this group was, I realized as 1964 graduates of USMA at West Point these men most likely went to Vietnam. As graduates of the USMA, they had served their nation, my nation. I realized as I was growing up they were servicing our country.

Well, due to traffic and more traffic I arrived at the Tribute Center at 10:28 for a 10:30 group.Just in time for the group but these folks had arrived early so they were waiting for me. I quickly put my jacket and purse in a locker, grabbed some photos and walked into gallery 5. The gentleman in charge of the group pulled me aside and said “before you start speaking I would like to introduce you to the group.” Okay, I had never met this man but his wife was the one who had emailed me and set everything up. He got everyone’s attention using some military jargon and proceeded to introduce me. He mentioned I was an email friend of his wife, that Richard* had been a firefighter and had been killed on September 11. He commented that he had found a YouTube video of me speaking at a Christian college and suggested everyone watch it. 🙂 One of the things I had said in that video had really stuck with him. He stated that I had said “Bruce’s decision to enter the building on September 11 had been made long before September 11. Just as Christ’s decision to go to cross was made long before the Garden.” He went onto say that “23 members of the class of 1964 had died in Vietnam and 1 had died in the Dominican Republic.” He also said “that their decision to serve their country had been made on the parade ground on July 5, 1964 as they (we) raised our right hand and took the oath. Actually it had been made before that.” He also commented that duty is a form of love. He then introduced another man who handed me their class coin and announced I was an honorary member of the class of 1964. I was overwhelmed and humbled. I thanked them for their service, made reference to the fact that Bruce had been a firefighter at West Point before being FDNY and then told my September 11 story.

When I finished, I did it one more time. The man who introduced me the first time, introduced me a second time and joked there wasn’t another coin. Wow!! I can’t believe I got one coin. I am ever amazed at the opportunities I am given. I am ever humbled by meeting the class of 1964. I am also very glad that the class of 1964 did actually get to go onto the Memorial after they finished at Tribute and they had a beautiful weather to boot.

*Richard Bruce Van Hine was my husband’s full name. People who knew him referred to him as Bruce. The gentleman today referred to him as Richard and even mentioned to the second group that I called my husband Bruce but he would refer to him as Richard. I thought that showed respect.