Footprints on the Sidewalk: Getting Philosophical

Be patient with me today,  I’m going to get philosophical.

I was walking the dog (Bella) this morning.  Early.  Sixish.  Just following the route I usually do, having my morning talk with God, planning my day, clearing my head and enjoying the quiet.  Stopping once in a while when Bella found a good place along the way to sniff.

Snow had fallen during the night, dropping a fresh coating on sidewalks and driveways.  As I turned into a church drive I walk along as I head back home, I noticed that no one had yet walked on the drive since the snow had fallen.  The straight flat black asphalt of the drive lay just below that white covering, hidden and undisturbed by man, beast or automobile.

As I stared at the driveway, about to take my first step, it suddenly occurred to me my day was much like that path I was about to take: new, fresh and, as of yet, undisturbed.  I had a plan for the day just as I had a plan for my walk back home.  But, at the end of the day, if I (or someone else) were to look back over the course my feet took, what would they say about me?

Would they say that I followed the straight path I laid out or did some temptation pull me off the path somewhere along the way?  During the walk, did I somehow lose focus and then lose my direction and start wandering aimlessly for a while before getting back on the path?  Or did I not return?   Did I hear a call from someone in need along the way and stop to help them, or did I ignore the cry and keep going?

Perhaps I decided not to take that usual path and did my footprints show I struck off on a new and unexplored direction.

Being out of work gives one time to stop and think. I’m beginning a book a friend gave me called  “Zen and the art of making a living,” by Laurence G. Boldt.  It’s a big book, a guide to getting a job but to discovering one’s passion and then shaping it into a “meaningful and practical career.”

I don’t know if I will get through it but it’s interesting one to me especially at this point in my life.  Among the quotes in the book is one by Leonardo da Vinci: “Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose.”

That’s what I am looking for.  It would be wonderful to have a career is in tune with my purpose.  It also would be great to have a career that provides income enough to allow me to pursue that purpose after hours.

It would also be great to just have a job.

This morning I started to walk across that fresh asphalt.  The dog however had other ideas. She stopped to sniff and then to pee.  I waited.  She finished and looked up at me to see where we were going to go next.  I looked at the fresh snow on the path and the higher mounds along the sides.  I looked back a the path.  I moved on.

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Sometimes Passion is Found in Unexpected Places

Are you passionate about your job?  I have recently encountered some very passionate people in a place you may never expect:  A hospice.

Angela Hospice Care CenterThe people I’ve found with a passion are part of Angela Hospice staff  in Livonia, Michigan.  These individuals don’t believe they have merely a job, they have found their calling.  They do not just give of their time and talents but give of their hearts, as well.

I have not had the privilege of meeting everyone on the staff and can assume there may be some who work there because it pays to do so.  I have a feeling they are in the minority.  I think most who work there do so, because they want to help people lovingly make their final journey amidst the care and comfort of their family and loved ones.

As you may know, (and according to the Hospice Foundation of America), hospice is a concept of care designed to provide comfort and support to terminally ill patients and their families.   Its goal is to improve the quality of a patient’s last days by offering comfort and dignity.  Hospice care neither prolongs life nor hastens death.

Angela Hospice has provided this sort of care to Southeastern Michigan since 1977 and now provides assistance to more than 1,500 people per year.  With a free-standing facility with 16 beds, which is now being expanded to 48, most of its services are provided in the homes of patients so they may enjoy the benefit of being near loved ones in familiar surroundings.  Along with hospice services that are reimbursed by Medicare and private insurance, Angela offers grief programs for families and a prenatal hospice program, not covered by insurance, solely through donations.

I have never personally had any connection with hospice care before I started an eight-week training course in January, when I decided to become an Angela Hospice volunteer.  Although Angela already has 500 volunteers, the need continues to grow as the number of families for their care continues to grow. I don’t know what role I will be called to serve, respite care seems to be in the most need at this time.

In regards to volunteers, there are many passionate people among the volunteers in my training class.  Some of them are very familiar with Angela Hospice Care because they have experienced its services first hand when facing the death of a terminally ill parent, sibling, spouse, relative or friend.  They have been touched so positively that they are in the classroom so they can help others who are in need. This passion and commitment speaks volumes about who Angela Hospice is and its commitment to making our loved one’s final days as comfortable and dignified as possible.

Angela Hospice has numerous giving opportunities, including assisting with a campaign to pay for a New Care Center that will triple the number of patients served in their inpatient care center.  The cost of this project alone is $10 million.  Donors are needed with a passion for caring.  From what I’ve seen thus far, Angela Hospice’s mission is well worth you support.

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Drinking the Wine of Life and Death

The Wall Street Journal today (Feb. 5, 2010) included an essay by Edmund Carpenter entitled “before I Die.”  Carpenter wrote it back in June 1938 at the age of 17.  In the essay, the then young man talked about what he wanted out of life and his thoughts of what came after.

Life and death he said were two cups of wine.  As we experience life we drink from the first and consider the second not knowing if it will be sweet, sour or tasteless.  Carpenter’s is a wonderful essay and would be considered so had it been written by an adult, and not a boy, too young to really experience life and many years from death.

Regarding the life he wanted, Carpenter hoped for several things: do something great, experience deep love and deep sorrow, travel the globe and help others.  According to the brief bio that preceded the essay, it appears Carpenter achieved many of his goals.  He won the Bronze Star in WWII, attended Harvard Law School, and became an attorney and president of a law firm.  He left six children and 15 grandchildren when he died late last year at the age of 87.

Now he is drinking of that second cup of wine.

Because the WSJ limits access of its articles to subscribers, the entire essay is not available to many.  However, below is the last paragraph in which Carpenter speaks of that second cup.

As for death itself, I do not believe that it will be such a disagreeable thing providing my life has been successful. I have always considered life and death as two cups of wine. Of the first cup, containing the wine of life, we can learn a little from literature and from those who have drunk it, but only a little. In order to get the full flavor we must drink deeply of it for ourselves. I believe that after I have quaffed the cup containing the wine of life, emptied it to its last dregs, then I will not fear to turn to that other cup, the one whose contents can be designated only by X, an unknown, and a thing about which we can gain no knowledge at all until we drink for ourselves. Will it be sweet, or sour, or tasteless? Who can tell? Surely none of us like to think of death as the end of everything. Yet is it? That is a question that for all of us will one day be answered when we, having witnessed the drama of life, come to the final curtain. Probably we will all regret to leave this world, yet I believe that after I have drained the first cup, and have possibly grown a bit weary of its flavor, I will then turn not unwillingly to the second cup and to the new and thrilling experience of exploring the unknown.

I hope to share it with him someday.

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