How the Pandemic is Changing a Holiday Outreach to Prison Inmates

TG in Arkansas

Hours riding in vans, loading and unloading equipment at nine different locations, going through prison security nine times, set-up and waiting, greeting hundreds of inmates, preparing and facilitating communion at each location. That has been my experience of the week after Thanksgiving for the past several years. Being part of Timothy’s Gift Christmas Tour to multiple correctional institutions during that week has become an anticipated and cherished part of the holiday season. It’s a holiday outreach that touches those who visit as well as those visited in profound ways.

The purpose of the tour is to deliver a message of hope and affirmation that each person is loved and not forgotten. Those who experience the program of music, words, personal greetings and affirmation have expressed the power of it. Letters from inmates we receive indicate impacts well beyond the ninety minute program at each location.

Enter the Pandemic

But not this year. The pandemic has, of course, halted such programs into prisons. The absence of this tour has created an emptiness for me and others who regularly participate. Seeing photos and remembering experiences in institutions in different states over the years – Arkansas, Ohio, Florida – accent the vacancy this has left. As I look at the faces in the photos, I think about what life must be like for the inmates now.

It’s difficult to even imagine the impact of the pandemic isolation of the past months in a correctional institution. We have certainly felt the impacts of stay-at-home orders over the months. In prisons, during the worst days, they have been confined to a single location with almost no time outdoors to get exercise. Food was brought to cells and barracks, no educational programs were available, no work assignments that normally  helped pass the time, no church or group meetings for inspiration and comfort, no visiting allowed by loved ones.

The normal activities have opened up as much as has been possible in the past months, depending on the location and the virus statistics there. As on the outside, restrictions may have been lifted and then re-imposed. Precautions are still necessary and very limited visitation of family is generally allowed now. It’s impossible, however, to know how long it will be before outside programs will be allowed and when people will be comfortable going in.

Plan B for Holiday Outreach

Thanks to the genius of Timothy’s Gift founder Ron Miller and people he engaged in the project, a different kind of holiday outreach has been created for this unusual year. Since we can’t go in person, a DVD of a Christmas program including music, spoken word, and humor has been professionally produced. It has been sent to 62 prisons in Florida and Arkansas for them to show to groups and to be available for individual viewing!

We look forward to getting feedback from inmates, administrators and staff of the institutions about this holiday outreach. The DVD will reach many more people than a program in rooms with limited capacity could reach, and in so many more locations than can be visited in any one tour. Although this approach lacks the impact of “when I was in prison you visited me,” it is a way of touching hearts and minds with a message of care. Hearing that they are not forgotten – even in the midst of a pandemic – is important, in whatever way it is possible to get the message.

If you are interested in learning more about Timothy’s Gift, go here:  https://www.facebook.com/timothysgift/community/ for photos, comments from inmates and more.  To support Timothy’s Gift, go to http://timothysgift.com/give

 

Personal Liminal Space – A Cross-County Move In the Space Between  

movingI’ve reflected on the liminal space we are all experiencing during this pandemic here: https://carolbrusegar.com/liminal-spaces-in-between-time/  It is a time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, a season of waiting, and not knowing. Now I am in a specific personal liminal space. Within a few weeks, I will be moving from Nashville, TN to Cypress, CA to be near my family. They moved from Nashville to California four years ago and I am delighted to be joining them.

Preparing to Move in Liminal Space

The liminal space begins with the preparation stage – not what it used to be and hopefully not what it will be in the future. The differences from previous moves begin with paring down belongs as we typically do. All the precautions must be followed; so trips to donate boxes of books to a library’s used book sale mean masks on both sides, a cart that I must load and leave at the door. When I make deliveries of donated items to Good Will, I must unload the boxes and bags filling my car into bins. Their employees aren’t allowed to gather items or help in any way. Some things that I might have sought out places to donate to – magazines, for example – don’t seem worth the additional hassle and go into recycle bins. I won’t ask or accept offers of help in the packing process from friends to eliminate risks. When I must have people in for a moving estimate or to remove furniture that is donated or purchased, it will be with utmost precautions.

As departure time comes closer, there won’t be any in-person gatherings to say good-bye to groups of friends or others. Even if they were done carefully, following all the recommended precautions, we couldn’t hug each other. So we will have a Zoom gathering instead. This makes it a rather strange departure. Hopefully the future holds something better.

All of the details of safe reunion with my family after I have traveled across country also need to be worked out. It will be a challenge to reunite after nearly eight months with no visits in a responsible, safe way. (Normally I see them every 3 months.)

The Challenge of Downsizing Memorabilia

Another aspect of this process, which would have happened regardless of the external circumstances, is the significant downsizing of the memorabilia of my life. Perhaps because of the context of 2020, I am thinking of this process in a liminal space framework also.

I have carried many boxes with me through two moves – a collection of things that only certified pack rats (or treasure keepers in gentler terms) would continue moving. I have eliminated things in each of my past two moves and what I still have are some of the most precious. These include items from my mother who died 18 years ago: costume jewelry, her crochet and latch hook projects, table linens, aprons.

Then there are letters she wrote me over many years and over 60 years-worth of her diaries. The letters and diaries will be used for writing I plan to do and thus will make this move too. I am taking photos of many of the other things as remembrances and letting go of the physical objects. I am paring down remembrances from other family members and friends as well as 40 years of print photos. I feel as though I am in a space of letting go at a deeper level than before. The connection to the physical things that connected me to the people is in some way changing.

Hanging on to so many physical items has been my past mode of operation. The process of letting go of these keepsakes is a physical manifestation of the letting go of some of the other things I have had to release for the past several months. Some of them will never return in any form. Some will be recreated. All will stay in my memories.

Preserving the Meaning Without All the Objects

As I move through this, I am motivated and inspired to capture and preserve some of the memories and reflections for the future. I kept things in boxes and brought them along because they were valuable to me. How can the meaning of such things be captured in ways that will sustain me and touch or inform members of my family or others? How can I honor and share the meaning and lessons? That is my challenge and another opportunity from the liminal space of 2020!

Perhaps you, too, are exploring how to capture your experiences, your story, your memoir in writing. There are many books available to assist us in this process.  https://amzn.to/3gSo6bo

Here’s one that has a unique approach that I have found to be helpful:  https://amzn.to/32OyHiH  The Stories We Leave Behind: A Legacy-Based Approach to Dealing with Stuff by Laura H Gilbert

BACK TO NORMAL OR CREATE A NEW NORMAL WHEN THE CRISIS ABATES?

normal or new normalWhat happens when quite suddenly the normal parts of our lives simply STOP or are drastically changed? When work stops or changes? When family patterns are disrupted? When income changes? When our usual recreational activities are halted? When we are separated from normal family and social interaction?

Many of us, after that, have found ourselves actually wanting a NEW, a different normal when we come out on the other side of this. Some of the new normal will be beyond our control. Other things may be chosen or created by us.

Questions

Questions, as is often the case, can open up new things to consider. I found a series of questions posed to his employees by a CEO of a major company in India.* Perhaps you have thought about similar things. For example:

  • “How can we continue to unburden our environment in the future? (Have you seen some of the photos and statistics about how air pollution has changed in some locations during this time of shutdown?)
  • Can we use transport more efficiently?
  • Can we travel less and leave less of a carbon footprint?
  • Can we increase the use of long-distance ways of meeting and communication to work more efficiently and enhance our work life balance?
  • Essentially, can we reboot our personal and professional way of life?”

We may be noticing some of the gaps and weaknesses in the way the country operates while we go through this experience.

  • The inequality of our health care system is certainly being highlighted.
  • As school systems are going to online learning in elementary, middle and high schools, we are hearing about the gap of technology availability within schools and among students of different financial situations.
  • There is a broader technology gap regionally and urban versus rural.
  • The vulnerability of people to this virus in group settings like nursing homes and long-term care facilities and correctional institutions has been highlighted. Are there options that are better for health and safety?

Perhaps we are seeing needs for new structures and services to better meet the needs of individuals and families – more flexibility in how we do our jobs, different kinds of childcare, schools that interact and function differently.  What are you seeing?

New Visions, Values and Priorities?

If we have come out of this experience with new visions, values and priorities for our personal/family lives, for our communities, country and world, it is up to us to be the advocates and activists for those things. We can use the tools of our technology to connect with individuals and groups who are also wanting things to be different. We can help to create the new normal that comes after this.

As things are disrupted by the pandemic, this may be a time when positive changes are more possible than when things are more solidified.  You may find some ideas and inspiration in this book: A Finer Future, Creating an Economy in Service to Life. The authors are world leaders in business, economics and sustainability who have gathered environmental economics evidence, and outlined principles of a regenerative economy, along with a policy road map to achieve it.

 

*Read more about Anand Mahindra and his letter to his employees here: https://www.livemint.com/companies/people/anand-mahindra-tells-employees-to-take-a-relook-at-life-prepare-for-post-corona-world-11585816739150.html

Transforming Your Life With New Experiences, Part 3

Timothy's Gift in FloridaNOTE: In two earlier posts, Transforming Your Life With New Experiences and Transforming Your Life With New Experiences, Part 2,  I wrote about experiences in prison ministry with the Timothy’s Gift program. This post is about a more recent visit, this time to Florida prisons. The earliest post reflected a week-long tour to prisons in Ohio, the second to Arkansas.  I am part of the support team. This is a Christian ministry and that is reflected in the post.

In the days following a week-long Timothy’s Gift tour including 12 programs at nine different correctional institutions, I am generally fatigued. But my eyes are especially tired, feeling dry and hard to keep open. It is a physical reality, and there is also another level.

My eyes have seen, taken in, processed, remembered so much in the seven days. So much razor wire – layers of it enclosing each institution. So much blue – the color of the inmate clothing in Florida. So many varieties of men who are incarcerated – many nationalities and origins, ages from the twenties to the eighties, including the very old and infirm in wheelchairs. In one location, men who introduced themselves during the program included people from Mexico, Puerto Rico and multiple states far from Florida. There were some people who barely spoke English; I can’t imagine being unable to understand and communicate in that setting.

As we stood near the doors and greeted inmates as they came, I saw the range of excitement and openness to skepticism. Most had some kind of eye contact (or eye to face contact) as they shook our hands. Some certainly were there because it was an opportunity to do something different than the routine – anything would do.

My eyes saw and remember the variety of responses during the programs – a wide range from bubbling over with enthusiasm from the very beginning to stoic and staring, and everything in between. I saw how certain songs in the program elicited responses – laughter, smiles, sadness, tears – often subtle, sometimes not. One man sat motionless through much of the program, staring ahead to the side of the stage. At a couple of points, his eyes shifted to the person talking, but still no expression. There were a couple of tiny nods but little change in facial expression; no clapping or standing. But those nods indicated that some message was touching him. Will he be one of those who writes to us?

Seeing the lines of men in blue lining up for and receiving communion – hunks of bread broken of and placed in their outstretched hands with words of encouragement and blessing which they dipped into grape juice – was moving each time. Here was when most tears flowed. Quiet prevailed during this time as people pondered and prayed.

At the end of communion, an a cappella version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” washed over them, followed by “The Prayer.” There is no way to describe the feelings that welled up throughout the room, particularly with the crescendo of emotion at the line, “we are all God’s Children.” It seemed like an invisible power brought people to their feet at the end. What a high point!

As we again shook hands and blessed them as they left, lots of gratitude was expressed along with blessings and wishes for a “Merry Christmas.” The messages of You are Loved, You Have Great Worth, God is With You, and You are Not Forgotten seem to have touched them. This has been verified powerfully in the letters received since we returned home. I am amazed at the impact they describe that lasts beyond the time we were together. The protective barriers which are a necessity in that environment truly have been breached and love and care reached them.

We also interact with a variety of staff members including the officers who direct the inmates into the room and into rows and take us through the security checks and locked compartments to our destination in the chapel. They stand alert on the sides and at the back of the room, often expressionless. There are also supervisors – sergeants, lieutenants, majors – the assistant wardens and wardens, and chaplains. Often it’s hard to assess what they are thinking or feeling. But as we are courteous, grateful and take time to talk with them, they warm up and open up. Everyone I talked to said they really enjoyed the program.

My heart also “saw”/recognized things, particularly this: a team of people whose hearts were open and who became instruments of love and acceptance. Perhaps one of the miracles of the week is this: the simple messages of You are Loved, You Have Great Worth, God is With You, and You are Not Forgotten transform those coming with the messages so that we embody them in ways that can’t be fully explained except to say “God With Us.”

For more information on this ministry, go to http://www.timothysgift.com

 

Day Trips: Including Getaways and Mini-Vacations in Your Plans

car on highwayDay trips are often scheduled into a vacation week in a distant location – you spend one day at a location away from your primary base for the week. But day trips can be a year-round adventure right from our homes. We often have more time for them during summer when there aren’t as many regular activities scheduled on weekends. In fact, they can augment summer vacations, or even substitute for them when there are multiple people’s schedules to accommodate.

Strategically planned and scheduled day trips can provide many of the benefits of vacation: change of scenery, breaking the routine, exploring something totally new, trying out different foods or activities, and more. They also are more affordable than vacations that require greater transportation costs and hotel or motel stays.

Day trips provide a way to try out something new without committing too much time or money. For example, one person may be excited about a seven-day tour of Civil War monuments and battle fields that is available in a few months. Another person may have never visited anything of that kind and is very hesitant. A day trip to a nearby battle sight or cemetery would be a great way to assess if a seven-day tour would be enjoyable to both parties.

Regardless of your stage in life or family configuration, there are day trip options. In many cities and towns, churches, organizations for seniors, and other groups provide day trips for older people. They do all the planning and provide the bus or van transportation for a reasonable charge. It’s a great way to spend time with a friend or two and you can meet and even develop ongoing relationships with other people.

Research, Lists and Notes

Most people drive their own cars and make their own plans for each day trip. Have you ever had the impulse to get out of the house for the day (or an overnight) and then been at a loss as to what to do or where to go? You may have ended up just staying home being bored. What if you had a list of possible things to do at your fingertips from which you could choose a perfect activity or destination for that day?

Take some time to research types of day trips you would enjoy and create an ongoing list of specific destinations and activities. You can continually expand it as you discover more possibilities. This will make it much more likely that you will both take more spontaneous trips and schedule others in advance.

To get you started, here are some categories of places to go and things to do on a day trip:

Outdoor Activities and Exploration – scenic locations of all kinds, activities like fishing, horseback riding
Historic and Cultural Destinations – explore the history of your area
Museums, Zoos and Aquariums
Shopping – flea markets, antique malls, vineyards with winetasting, Amish or International Markets
Using Different Modes of Transportation – take a train ride, boat cruise, hot air balloon ride
Scheduled Events – sports, outdoor fairs, concerts

Having a designated notebook or planner to collect information and make plans can make it more likely that you will take more trips for relaxation, enjoyment and learning. It can also be fun to journal about your experiences

Perhaps you would be interested in my Planner & Journal for Day Trips: Getaways and Mini-Vacations which is available on Amazon.com as a 8×10” paperback.Cover of Planner & Journal

Taking a Much Needed Break

Long Beach, CAMost of us have times when we want to take a much needed break –  get away from our routines, our involvements, even some of the people in our lives. Is this true for you?

This fall I had the incredible opportunity to do just that for 10 weeks. It was truly a miracle, a synchronistic happening, or whatever term you might use for something that was outside normal expectations. I was a house-sitter for friends who were out of town for an extended period of time. They felt more secure having someone stay in their home for at least part of that time. Guess where they live? Long Beach, California – 5 blocks from the ocean.

After having a very challenging several months on a couple of levels, I was eager to step out of drama, disappointment, frustration and more. I did what was necessary to leave my house unoccupied for that period of time with the help of dear friends. That included emptying and unplugging the refrigerator, turning off the water and water heater, and having those friends agree to check on the house periodically.

My intentions were to first relax and unwind, and then to spend more focused time working on my online business along with visits and adventures with some friends. I continued part time work virtually, which is so incredible to be able to do. I was also experimenting with actually living in southern California, since my family now lives there, and looking at housing possibilities. The time culminated with taking care of my grandchildren for nine days while their parents were on vacation.

What I Experienced and Learned

Some of the things I experienced and learned during what I called my “Sojourn in California” were the following:

+ An extended time away can truly provide relief from stress and issues that seem intractable.
+ Time passes more quickly than I imagined possible; 10 weeks seemed like such a long time but before I knew it, it was over.
+ Being in a new setting, especially one which is so different from where I live in Nashville, provided great opportunities to see my surroundings and enjoy them. In our everyday settings, we go into autopilot and miss so many things.
+ Experiencing a new setting without having a car was a wonderful experience – walking so much felt good and allowed me to experience the neighborhood in a way driving everywhere could not have.
+ Using a ridesharing service (Lyft) when I did leave the neighborhood to visit people, etc. turned out to be a fascinating way to  hear the unique stories of each my drivers. What a way to meet such a variety of people!

Everyone cannot have ten weeks away; I encourage you to think about how you can get some of the benefits in other ways. Even much shorter periods away from your routines with specific intentions can be really helpful. Your intentions might be to totally disconnect, to immerse yourself in a different locale mostly on foot, to meet and share stories with as many people as possible, to isolate and write, etc. Choose what you think will help you the most. And most of all, when you need a break, figure out a way to make it happen!

Gratitude is a Powerful Force!

Gratitude helps you growMany people are in a gratitude mode during the days of November leading up to Thanksgiving. The real challenge for some of us is to carry it beyond that day as so much around us switches to Christmas and beyond. The pressure increases to purchase, produce events, perform in many ways, and it is easy to lose our attitude of gratitude! I invite you to pledge to yourself to carry that attitude through the entire holiday season and into the new year. I believe it can have benefits for you during this busy, demanding time of year.

So often these days, the negative is sensationalized and the positive is ignored. You see it in the news, in magazines and newspapers. You hear it in the grocery store, at work and even from family and friends. All this negativity can be overwhelming to the point of wearing a person down.

It can be really difficult to avoid feeding into all of it. If you’re focusing on the negative rather than the positive, you are doing yourself a serious disservice. You are harming your emotional wellbeing as well as your physical body. You could be straining your relationships, hurting your career and much more.

Use this FREE 30-Day Gratitude Journal to get your started with this practice. http://carolbrusegar.com/30daygratitudejournal

Each day there will be a reflection on a particular topic and an invitation for you to write about it – brief or extensive, it’s up to you. This format will take you deeper on 30 topics, and you of course can add other things that come to mind. There are blank pages at the back of the journal for that purpose. It’s your journal to use as you wish! Print it out and decide on a time of day to use it for the next 30 days.

DOES THIS WORK?

Maybe you are skeptical about the hype you hear about the positive effects of gratitude. By incorporating gratitude you will find a new or renewed balance and energy. Gratitude is an emotion that comes from appreciation. It’s an awareness, a thankfulness for the good things in your life, in you and in the world around you. Gratitude is a powerful thing. It can turn a negative into a positive. It can be the fuel for taking on things that are important to you with renewed energy. It can change how you feel inside. It can bring hope and happiness. It can improve your health, your relationships, your career and your ability to make a difference in the world. It can literally transform your life.
When you express gratitude, it diminishes the negativity in a powerful way. Studies show that practicing gratitude leads to:

• A feeling of optimism, joy and satisfaction.
• Less stress, anxiety and depression.
• A strengthened immune system.
• Lower blood pressure.
• The ability to bounce back quicker after a traumatic event.
• Stronger relationships.
• A feeling of being connected to your community.
• Feeling less victimized by others or by life.
• Being able to recognize and appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t.
• Becoming more compassionate and empathetic.
• A better quality and more rewarding life.

Access your FREE 30-Day Gratitude Journal here: http://carolbrusegar.com/30daygratitudejournal

Practicing gratitude changes your perspective on life. Whether you choose to journal in the morning, or at night, or both, is up to you. Choose a time and be consistent. Spend a few minutes thinking and writing about the topic of the day. May this become a habit that goes far beyond the 30 days! I believe you will see some great results.

Relocation as a Transformational Experience

RelocationHow many times have you moved in your adult life? There is a roughly 50-50 chance that if you are middle aged or above, you do not live in the state in which you were born. Slightly more than one half of the population between 25 and 55 were born in their current state of residence. (Source: 2010 American Community Survey, U.S. Census Bureau) Have you thought of relocation as a transformational experience? One that you can maximize in its positive effect in your life?

There are many reasons that people relocate to different states and parts of the country: a job transfer, military assignment, a more desirable location to raise a family, etc. As we get into our fifties and beyond, more and more moves are to be near children, grandchildren, or parents. Or perhaps you would like to be in a more pleasing climate or just to have a major change of setting.

In this process, we all bring with us mindsets, lenses and attitudes toward our new locations – which greatly affect our experiences. If you move from city to suburbs, city to country, suburb to city – whatever the type of community – there are differences that we anticipate and things that may surprise us. If the move is to a different state, even to another part of the country, there can be cultural differences of various kinds, political climate changes and more.

When we relocate, we have the opportunity to allow and invite the experience to widen our perspectives and our future in profound ways. It may even transform us in ways we could not have anticipated.

The key to maximizing the positive effect of this experience is to approach the move with a sense of adventure and discovery. Although we may have chosen our new location with certain criteria in mind (climate, proximity to family, return to where we lived as a child, etc.), there are always aspects of the location that we will only discover once we are there. There will be a tension between creating a new comfort zone and being intentionally open to the nuances of the rhythm, norms, expectations and history of the new area.

At first, you will focus on getting a grasp of geography, transportation options, locations of stores, etc. to reestablish daily routines. Beyond that, I have experienced a unique time in the first months and years in a new location when I am most open to discovery and intentionally seek to understand the area in which I am. This is a time before everything becomes the new routine, the new normal – when it is so easy to go into autopilot.

If you are a photographer as I am, this is a prime time to take photos of things and places that are new, which often raises questions I want to explore. For example, early in my time in Nashville, I visited the oldest cemetery in the city where the moss and algae-covered old tombstones revealed peaks into the history of slavery and other unique parts of Nashville’s history. This ignited my curiosity and stimulated other visits, reading, and reflection on the history of the south and what it means today. As time went on, I became aware of how this area played a unique part in the civil rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. All of that profoundly affected my understanding of our history, since I had previously only lived in the north. It also provided insight into how that affects current attitudes and politics.

I have found that as a “new” person with a sense of exploration, I have discovered things that people who have lived in a location longer are not aware of. It is so easy to settle into a small geographic area and create a cocoon of sorts that we lose the opportunity to continually be stretched and challenged to grow. If you are considering or have recently relocated, try adopting this attitude and outlook.

You can get some of the benefits of relocation, and have some fun too, by pretending you are new in your location and look at things from that standpoint. Many of us have experienced a bit of this when we have out of town guests and are showing them around. We become aware of activities and places that we don’t ordinarily enjoy. Be intentional about exploring and reflecting on things that will broaden your thinking and ignite your curiosity to learn more or get involved.  An even simpler step is to do more walking or biking if you ordinarily drive a car most places. Slowing down your pace and intentionally paying attention can be illuminating.

By intentionally focusing on discovery and reflection, we can broaden our own understandings of history and our own place in it as well as what that means for what is happening today and in the future. It may inspire us to embark on formal or informal study on something we have discovered and explored. It may move us to get involved in an activity or cause. It may cause us to make different choices about specifically where we live and the groups and organizations with whom we affiliate. It can transform our experiences, outlook and indeed our future.

Looking Back: Impact of Experiences at Age 20

Listening Witness Team 1966

It is mid-summer in Nashville, TN.  It is hot and humid and has been since the beginning of May.  There have only been a handful of days since then with a high temperature below 90 degrees.  I remember another hot summer when I was almost 20 years old, living for 3 months with a group of 5 other college students in Chicago, Illinois and how the experiences of that summer transformed my thinking and my life.

I thought about that today after finding an article I wrote after that summer of 1966 that was published in my hometown church newsletter.  In the article to the people in that Lutheran Church in Stoughton, Wisconsin where I grew up, I tried to express the impact of that astounding experience in my life.  What is most striking to me as I read it is how it speaks to our realities in 2018 far more than I would have expected.  52 years later and the issues are sadly similar, even if the specifics have changed somewhat.  Here is what I wrote (I have not changed the language – this was considered proper usage in 1966):

FROM OUR YOUTH

Listening, really listening to other people, is hard work. Because of the multitude of sounds constantly pounding against our ear drums, we have all but lost the ability to really hear and understand what people are trying to tell us. This includes us in the church who have, especially in the urban areas, failed to listen to the needs, wants, loves, and fears which people are crying out to us.

 

In an attempt to correct this, the Youth Department of the ALC (American Lutheran Church) sends Listening Witness teams of between four and six ALC college students into various congregations for the summer to learn to listen and begin to teach members of the host congregation to make listening a way of life so that they can be part of a true servant church.

 

This past summer I and five other Luther College students were in a congregation on the southwest side of Chicago. We were an integrated team situated in an all-white, lower-middle class neighborhood and congregation, one block from the Negro neighborhood.

 

Although we often found it easier to see things that were taken for granted by the congregation, we also had to guard against fast misjudgments and rejecting people and ideas because they were different from our own before we understood the reasons behind them.

 

We encountered much blind prejudice, within and outside of the church. We were told that ‘nice’ girls would not be part of such an integrated team and it wasn’t ‘proper’ for us to walk down the street with Negro boys. We had to change residences because the Negro member of the team walked us to the house, and the residents feared their daughter’s reputation would be ruined. Several boys refused to take part in a communion service after our Negro team member did, although they treated him as a buddy otherwise.

 

As a result of the summer, I have a much clearer picture of what the Church of Christ is and what it can and should be today. If we learn to listen and serve and love all as the Lord of the Church did, that Church can create a brotherhood which glories in human diversity. If we remain self-centered, cling blindly to tradition, build barriers between people, and ignore individual humans by stereotyping groups, we will aid and encourage hate, discrimination, fear and everything contrary to the Gospel of love we claim to believe in.

 

This applies here in Stoughton as well as in Chicago or any large city – being a Listening Witness must be a Christian’s way of life. We must listen to what is said, not what we want to hear or think should be said, and then witness to the situation in Christian love, not self-righteous judgment.

 

— Carol Brusegar  ( From The Ambassador newsletter of Christ Lutheran Church, Stoughton, Wisconsin, December 1966)

 

What have the milestone experiences been in your life? You may find some treasure in them!

 

In 1966, a number of significant things occurred in the civil rights movement. A chapter of this book is specifically about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “going north” and specifically the events in Chicago that year.
The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement

 

TRANSFORMATION THROUGH STRUCTURED LEARNING AND LIVE EVENTS

In a world that continues to change at a rapid pace, we all need to keep learning in all areas of our lives. That continual learning can be stimulating and refreshing, and it can become tiresome at points. Have you ever just wished things could plateau for a short time so we could just BE? I have. Sometimes a break is good. But as we look forward into the next part of our lives after age 50, transformation through structured learning can be powerful.

We all have particular attitudes and proclivities toward learning. I describe myself as a lifelong learner. I have always read a lot of books and magazines. Probably until the age of 50, I mostly consumed non-fiction of various kinds. Since then I have read both fiction and non-fiction. In addition, my entire adult life has been molded and shaped by a variety of structured learning experiences. Over time that has resulted in transformation of many aspects of life. After two years of college immediately following high school, I took lots of informal classes and also designed and completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Urban Liberal Studies, graduating a year before my daughter completed high school and started college.

I have engaged in a variety of workshops, community education classes, and in the past 15 or so years, online classes and webinars. It is truly amazing what is available to us electronically, a lot of it free of charge and much at a reasonable cost. Many people complete degree programs entirely online.

A combination of virtual and in-person learning is ideal. The online tools that offer face to face interaction are one step beyond listening to content or even webinars with primarily one-way communication. These options include Skype, Facebook Live, Zoom and others.

In-person learning like workshops, live events, conferences, conventions, etc. give the added benefits of interaction with presenters/teachers and with other participants. This is helpful immediately as well as over time if you cultivate relationships beyond the time you are physically together. You can get support and feedback from some of your new circle on shared interests or experiences. This is particularly true if the topic of the event you attended was on a shared topic related to personal development. The perspectives of people with whom you connected around the topic can be invaluable as you continue to make use of what you learned in your life. Such relationships can be transformative in very personal and profound ways.

If the topic of the live event was more business-related, you may have connected with people who in some way can help you enhance your business. For example, if you have or are developing an online or even an offline business, you may have met people with whom you can share prospects for each of your products or services. You can keep in touch and provide support as you each are applying what you learned to your business ventures. Sometimes one of you will think of an idea for the other that might benefit their business.

Transforming our lives after 50 into a time of discovery, joy and contribution is an exciting prospect. Structured and in person learning can be an important tool and process along the way.