What possibilities exist when we challenge our hearts and our minds to grow?
This powerful question points in the inevitable direction of CHANGE. For our hearts and our minds to grow, there must be change. And I have to admit that I do not like change. I never have, and I probably never will. I have always enjoyed my comfort zone and seldom have ventured out of it. It has taken me at least 10 years to replace a dated 1970s floral-print couch in my living room which I have never really liked. It took my daughter’s periodic needling me into action. I bought a new couch just last year and donated the old couch to a Syrian refugee family. But still, I understand intellectually that for there to be growth, personal or otherwise, there must be change. It’s just hard for me.
And for some of us we need to be backed into a corner and feel pain before we will take action and change. I was in this position right after my husband died in 1992. I had started my career in the mid 1960s as an English teacher, moved on to being a high school counselor and ended my career in education as a middle school assistant principal in 1999. My entire career had been in the field of education. I had enjoyed it but now that I was going on with my life as a single person, I started thinking about my future and realized that I was really finished with my career in education. I wanted something different, something that would address my current and future needs. My neighbor who was on the faculty at USC in the Occupational Therapy/Occupational Science Department opened me up to that field and after many conversations and my shadowing her, I saw that it would be a good fit for me. I took early retirement and went back to school and earned an M.A. and a Doctorate in Occupational Therapy. It wasn’t easy. I hadn’t been in school since I had gotten my M.A. in Secondary School Administration in 1979. I had to take six prerequisite courses, I had to study for and take the GRE. But every step of the way I had help. I developed a network of other students, professors and family who were there for me. My daughter tutored me in math for the GRE. I had a study group for my anatomy class and we would meet on Saturdays in the lab to study. In retrospect, I realize that the reason that I was able to move forward with this major change in my life was directly because of my network. Also, I was motivated to change by reframing my negative view of change. I was able to turn it into a positive. The major motivating factor for me was that I wanted to age well and one of the primary concepts of occupational therapy is ‘adaptation’ – adapting to life changes as a result of injuries or just because of the natural aging process. As a result of my perseverance, I had a wonderful new career in OT and I learned new life skills along the way. Some of us need more help with it than others. Goodness knows we have all experienced our share of change recently on the national, state, community and church level. Some of us have still not yet adjusted and some of us have sprung into action to embrace it and move forward and do what we can.
OK, so what’s the take-home message? For me it’s community. I know now that we are all in this together. I get support from my network. Even though some days when I read the news and I feel that the world is falling apart, I know that I can come to Neighborhood Church and feel less anxious or fearful about those things that I cannot control. I know that I can find activities where I can take action in my small way.
Last month, I gave a reading from the pulpit which was adapted from a Prayer For Migrants and Refugees (Oracion para Migrantes y Refugiados) from the United Conference of Catholic Bishops. I would like to share it with you in print because the importance of community and our connections with one another resonated with me. Even thought it refers to immigrants to this country , it still applies to us all because we are all immigrants in some sense of the word – figurative or literal.
“We cannot make this trip of life alone;
we must walk together on the journey of faith.
May we welcome all who journey with us,
the refugee family, seeking safety from violence,
the migrant worker, bringing food to our tables,
The asylum-seeker, seeking justice for himself and his family,
the unaccompanied child, traveling in a dangerous world.
As we welcome the strangers in our midst,
may we welcome the gifts they bring as well:
the invitation to community, justice and solidarity.
We are not alone.
We are together on the journey, and for this we give thanks.”
Adapting to change will continue to be a challenge for me. I deal with it every day in some of the most mundane ways. We truly are together on this journey and I can’t think of a better group of people with whom to be on a journey than those at Neighborhood Church.
By: Esther Martin