Iron Sharpens Iron

There is much to complain about in 2020. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, a presidential election, and although the stock market is booming, many people are feeling left behind, profiled, sick, dying, and simply struggling to survive in mind, body, and spirit.

My family and I have been truly blessed this year to remain employed with the ability to work remotely. Our oldest son was furloughed but was able to sustain himself when unemployment finally after waiting weeks. He is now fully back to work and busy. Praise God, we have remained healthy to date.

While I received my second promotion within the last 6 months, it is uncomfortable for me to share in the joy of my success when so many are struggling to stay in their home, feed their families, find jobs that pay enough, not to mention the fear and grief from this global pandemic.

One of the best blessings for me in the midst of these unprecedented times has been the ability to work remotely which has allowed me to spend my favorite season of the year, summer, at our home at Lake Michigan in northwest Michigan. At the end of the day I was able to walk on the beach, float for hours on soothing waters underneath a spotlight sun on many of these summer days. The peace of daydreaming and letting the stress and the reality of our existing world wash off of me in the refreshing waters of Lake Michigan proved how very blessed I am.

My Summer Vacation

I took a vacation the second week of August. It is a vacation I will not soon forget.

Journal Entry: August 15, 2020 ~ Ludington

At the beginning of this vacation, I vowed I would simply live in the moment whether it was reading, writing, prayer and meditation, napping, daydreaming, swimming or whatever I felt like doing in that moment. I promised myself not to have any would’ve, could’ve, or should’ve regrets. No projects, no alarms, or agendas. Sheri, just do you whatever that is – just be in that moment without any expectations.

I am reading 3 books of different genres which is customary for me, but I have not finished reading any of them.

I did connect with an author in Duluth, MN who contacted me a few weeks ago. We discussed my reviewing his children’s books and he emailed me copies.

I wrote more this past week than I have in months.

I spent countless hours at the beach, swimming and bobbing in the lake daydreaming. I have a tan for the first time in years which is only by consequence.

I napped! (I never nap!)

I watched several interesting documentaries. The documentary on author, Joan Didion has had a lasting impact on me.

Earlier today I played golf with Vinny Sal for the first time in I do not know how many summers go. We used to golf together all the time before Leonardo and Christian were born.

And you want to know the most fascinating part of my vow toward mindfulness on my vacation?

Time slowed way, way down.

I was not bored, nor did I feel unproductive, it was quite the opposite. And I do not regret one moment.

So, as I look at the remaining hours of my vacation before setting alarms, attending meetings, telephone calls, and fulfilling expectations, I vow to institute this mindfulness experience into life after vacation. There will be more no’s, perhaps another time, and more moments of ‘Sheri, just do you,’ whatever that is in that moment.

2020 has not gotten the best of me, but rather I have gotten the most out of a forced lockdown has had to offer – introspection, an appreciation of now and not what should be, or what could have been.

As much as 2020 is a year most would like to be over, my friend, Mary was right many years ago when she advised, “Never wish away time.” She was right even now in 2020.

It has been the best vacation I could have imagined. I have never felt better in mind, body, and spirit than right now in this moment.

What I also learned on my summer vacation.

Let me back up a bit and share with you a few interactions I had with strangers on the beach. These brief beach interactions caused me to wonder about our responsibility toward one another especially our personal interactions with family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.

Journal Entry: August 13, 2020 ~ Ludington

Today I returned to the same spot on the beach along Lake Michigan. After bobbing in the lake for about an hour, I say in my beach chair staring out in the blue peacefulness. I was just daydreaming when a large, big-bellied man with salt and pepper curly hair approached me.

“I see your tattoos. Are you a Christian?” He asked pleasantly pointing at my Owl tattoo with the inscription Psalm 119 on my left forearm.

Squinting up at this tall stranger, I smiled. “Yes, I am.”

“So, you must be voting for President Trump, I assume,” he said smiling.

“No, I am not.” I answered with a smile.

A bit red in the face from the sun or some emotion (?), he huffed, “why not??”

I politely answered, “Because his behavior does not conform to the Holy Bible that I read every day. He has made a mockery of the Christian faith.”

“How so??”

“When he separates children and families into cages who are merely seeking refuge, making fun of disabled people, bullies and disparages women and people of color at his rallies and press briefings, has lied thousands of times, and meets secretly with foreign adversaries to name just a few reasons, as well as, taking Bible holding photo opportunities in churches he does not attend on a regular basis or at all, he does not earn my vote.” I replied.

“You must be one of those leftwing, liberal Democrats that are pro-abortion!”

“No sir,” I said calmly, “I value life, womb to tomb, but I cannot tell you what to do with your body nor can you tell me what to do with mine. And I am an independent who voted Republican up until 2016 when I voted for a 3rd party candidate. I will not do that again.”

Angry, he waved me off and trudged down the beach.

When he was out of ear rage, a woman who sat alone bout 10 feet let out a long, “ewwwww weeeee!”

I turned to her and she said to me in a bit of southern drawl, “did you see him inch toward you every time you said something? You were calm and cool as a cucumber.”

I told her I do not know what his purpose was to come over to talk to me. I wear a wedding band and I am certainly no fashion model in a bathing suit. People nowadays want to either commiserate or convict and I will not allow anyone to steal my peace or intimidate me.”

She asked me if I was a mental health professional because I was so articulate and calm.

Smiling I said, “No! But I have been called a mental case before.”

Journal Entry: August 14, 2020 ~ Ludington

Today’s interaction was a display of kindness.

I arrived earlier to the beach than the past 2 days to the same partially secluded beach along Lake Michigan.

I guess I had been at the beach for perhaps 45 minutes when a beautiful, young Hispanic woman (who I had seen at the beach the last 2 days with who appeared to be her mother and sister) approach me.

She asked, “Do you drive a blue car?”

I replied that I drove a blue SUV.

She said, “The rear hatch is open.”

And as I began to rise from my beach chair, she said, “no-no, I will go close it for you. Would you mind giving me your keys so I may lock your car for you?

“God bless you!” I said as she bounded up the sand dune.

She returns with my keys and I thank her profusely again. She said, “You would do it for me, wouldn’t you?” I said, “I absolutely would!”A few hours later, I packed up my beach gear. I approached the trio to thank her for your kindness once again.

“I am going to find a way to pay your kindness forward today.” I said smiling.

Her mom shouts after me, “hopefully, we will see you again tomorrow.”
I shouted back, “I have a golf date with my husband in the morning, but perhaps tomorrow afternoon.” And waved goodbye.

Moments later a quarter of a mile down the road, I noticed a tow truck is sideways in the road. As I am waiting, I see a young family who obviously has been at the beach. The tow truck driver was loading their old van and toddler stroller onto the truck bed. I pulled over to the side of the road and approached the mom holding a baby who appeared to be about 1 year old or so.

“May I drive you all to wherever you need to go? My son had his car towed earlier this week (Leo) and because of COVID, he could not ride with the driver. (There was 5 of them – 2 adults and 3 little kids.)

She anxiously looks over to dad without saying a word, and he says, “No, the driver said he knows it is illegal but said it was okay for all of us to cram inside the cab. We don’t have that far to go.” I was about to say that no one needed to do anything illegal, but then I hesitated when I glanced at the dad’s body language toward mom. I decided not to push it. And told them I hoped everything would turn out well for them.

I retreated to my car and wondered why the tow truck driver had not said anything as I was sure he heard my offer. Perhaps he saw the same apprehension that I had, or he was simply oblivious with the task at hand.

A lesson in trusting my instincts.

I still wish they would have accepted my offer, however, my wanting to feel good about paying kindness forward may have placed her further in an already bad situation.

I am praying for this young family. The day is still young and perhaps I will have another opportunity.

Since my vacation, I have been contemplating my interactions on the beach and with all my connections (family, friends, colleagues, church, neighbors, acquaintances) including new people I meet. Irrespective of when we get past the pandemic or who is ultimately elected president, we need to find a way forward with each other. How do we all move forward in healing the nation, individually and collectively?

Iron Sharpens Iron

A few days after my vacation, I watched an old movie that I have seen several times. It is the 1958 movie, The Defiant Ones. The movie adapted by Harold Jacob Smith from a story by Nedrick Young, originally credited as Nathan E. Douglas, was nominated, and won several Oscars. Notably, Tony Curtis who plays “Joker” and Sidney Poitier who plays “Cullen” were both nominated for Oscars. It is a story of two escaped convicts, one white and one black, shackled together who must learn how to get along to elude capture.

There are 9 significant scenes in this movie that gives the viewer a glimpse of the escapees’ differences beyond the obvious, but more importantly, their similarities. In the end, they are not only captured by the sheriff as Cullen (Poitier) sings defiantly as Joker (Curtis) lay in his arms bloody and in pain from their run toward freedom, but more importantly in the end they have become friends.

I encourage you to rent and watch this movie. Here is why I recommend it and why I was meant to watch that movie again.

Scrolling my family and friends list

I have a wide network of connections – family, friends, colleagues (past and present), fellow church members, and acquaintances. Facebook and other social media platforms have allowed many of these people to reconnect with me or stay connected. Facebook has shown each of us how we have stayed true to the original attraction to stay connected or has shown these connections in a new light. Some of my connections have been lost because of these social platforms, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Facebook Post: September 4th, 2020

On September 4th on my personal Facebook page, I posted:

“I think it is time to revise my FB friends list. If you emphatically want to stay, post a comment. If this action does not bother you, no comment necessary. I will leave this open until Monday, 9/7 midnight, EST.”

I stated in the thread of this post that this was not a writer’s ploy. Neither was it to stroke my ego as to who or how many would post a comment. The basis of paring my list of family, friends, and acquaintances is based upon Proverbs 27:17.

“Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens the wits of another.”

The concept of this proverb is that we are better when we involve ourselves in positive relationships that help one another improve the other. In other words, I cannot become better without my family and friends. We are more successful in our relationships and connections when we accept advice or constructive criticism from someone we know, someone we love, and someone we respect than a simple acquaintance. Now, that is not to say that God doesn’t place angels in our lives. I am speaking of people who we are connected to already.

My family and friends do not need to share my skin color, my Christian faith, my political vote, they must not identify only as either as male or female. I desire a family and friend circle that is inclusive and diverse, because I believe iron does sharpen iron. However, I do not want to be connected to anyone who is outright toxic and hateful. It does not mean people that have been dropped from my list of connections are necessarily hateful or toxic (although some have been from time to time), or they simply were acquaintances through family, friends, school, church, or work.

There are people connected to me who will not have seen my invitation to stay connected to me because they have either “snoozed” me or  have “un-followed” me. Unfortunately, they may never know why they were “un-friended” by me. In the past, I have reached out in a variety of ways to some who have unfriended me on Facebook to inquire how I could possibly heal the divide and change their decision to be met only with silence. These people were more than just acquaintances. These were people who I valued as close friends.

If one of the “unfriended” in the future reaches out to me, I will gladly discuss my decision with them to see if there is a way forward.

My friend, Lyn once said to me, “We choose to be offended.” Yes, this is true; however, there are circumstances where being offended is necessary and appropriate. Communication is the key to better understanding of offenses.

We cannot heal if we cannot talk to one another.

All relationships carry with them a responsibility. If someone has remained on my list who disapproves of me in any way without reaching out to me, just unfriend me. You can choose to be like the man on the beach. Just don’t bother snoozing me or stop following me. I do not subscribe to these types of notifications. Either you value me to stay connected with me or not. We all fail from time to time (certainly, me included); but with love and concern for one another, reach out with courtesy and respect. I will do the same.

I hope my ‘refreshed’ friend list does not require me to pare down my connections further but to expand it with the proverbial motto: iron sharpens iron.

Friends, please live in this moment with the hope of a better tomorrow.

We all have some healing to do as we have found ourselves separated in this pandemic and because of politics. When we live in the moment, communicate with each other, and hope for a better tomorrow with our current connections, perhaps we can form new friendships outside of our circle like Cullen and Joker. 

I promise I will be more thoughtful about what I put out there in the atmosphere. You would do that for me too, wouldn’t you?

Peace,

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The Blogging Owl

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