So, how long have we been in this crazy time? Depends on how you count, I guess.
I decided to free-form the article this week, probably because so much is going on. Hope you might grab something worth your while. Funny, I originally typed in “free-from” which may be one of those Freudian slip things. Or, maybe I just can’t type well when I’m tired.
- I went for my physical this week. I love my internist who is a stable middle-aged guy who was referred to be by all my physical therapists in the wake of my quad tendon surgery. They all go to him and swear by him. In fact, the hand specialist has a huge crush on him, which is a bit comical for me. Going to his office building and his office, just off Pill Hill here in Atlanta because of the close cluster of Children’s, St, Joe Emory, and Northside, was a little scary. I wore the worst mask I have ever worn, supplied by my lovely wife. Hotter than hell, not an N95 even in its dreams. But I wore it, black, a flannel sort of thing that I thought looked appropriate for a priest. I just have to say, the office staff, the nurses, nurse assistants, and the doc could not have been more friendly, so accommodating to this crazy guy who uses a well-honed defense mechanisms that I like to call humor. I made it in and out in a reasonable amount of time, with a deep sense of victory getting this behind me.
- My wife has taught at the famous Schenck School for some time. It was begun by a man, David Schenck, who had a dyslexic kid. In his effort to care for his child, he started a school in the basement of an Episcopal Church. His early, simple dream is now one of the preeminent schools in the world for dyslexic students, giving them the skills to deal with their specific learning issue and then helping them transition into mainline education. Families from all over the country make the investment of moving to Atlanta to avail themselves of the Schenck School magic for two or three years. It has caught the attention of Richard Branson who has provided some publicity and support for its method. For me, I have become a huge fan, cheering on my wife and her co-teachers in their noble cause. My wife taught her last day last week, having been relegated to ipads and computers. figuring out how to educate through this new medium. on the fly. Tomorrow, the teachers will line the circular driveway around the school, social distancing, while kids, driven in family cars. will honk and say good bye as they end this year. I would wish her end of serving as a teacher could be a bit more up close and personal, but my bet it will be a special moment. I have laughed each morning as each kid in her class signs on, their faces popping on the screen, and the laughter as they recognize their classmates in cyber space. I have been amazed at the creativity of these teachers and the resilience of the parents. My niece, Gracie, will begin teaching at Schenck next year, keeping the Galloway connection intact. Did I mention, I love Schenck?
- I have been worshiping by internet for the last few months. Christ Church, Frederica, signs on with Morning Prayer at 9:15 each Sunday, and does an excellent job of producing the broadcast from either the church building or from home, when regulations mandate. Then, I watch another parish, Holy Nativity which is near the village on St. Simons Island, at 11 as they celebrate the Holy Eucharist. It’s an odd feeling, worshiping this way, but I have been shocked at moments of deep holiness breaking through the digital broadcast. I am proud of the clergy and professionals who make this all work, as they do so with great creativity and with a deep pastoral sense of connection. However, it is a study of the role of media in communication. Music seems to work well, although I love live performance and crave singing with others…..I grew up South of God, remember. And television is a cool medium, not great news for preachers. McLuhan is worth a revisit.
- We are in the process of moving from our town house in the shadow of the Braves home park, and around the corner from my beloved Weather Channel. I am praying to not be visited by Jim Cantore during the upcoming hurricane season. First time I went to move my daughter in after her college graduation, we ran into my Atlanta neighbor, Jim, on Front Beach, where he was covering a tropical depression about to make landfall.
- We are packing boxes, mostly of my crazy collection of books. It is a bizarre time to be moving, and with my physical limitations of my torn quad tendon. It’s tedious at best, dangerous at worst, and sporty on a good mood day. We are moving to St. Simons Island, a coastal island of Georgia, with a rich history that I am excited to explore.
- Many of you will connect St. Simons, with Glynn County, which has been a bit infamous of late. It is the county where Amaud Arberry was murdered as he was jogging on the streets. He was a part of the Gullah Geechie culture of the coastal islands, a culture my friend, Pat Conroy, connected me to years ago from his coastal South Carolina roots. It was almost a year ago, I finally allowed myself to read Pat’s last work of fiction, South of Broad, in order to get some closure on my grief at his death. I only hope I will inherit the twinkle in his eye as he talked of his love of low country. I’m betting on it. However, my eyes have been focused on racial justice all my life, and I am finding it curious that this is happening as I make my move. My Texas friends are noting the irony.
- This move gets me closer to my beloved Cumberland Island, where my friend, John Miner, used to take me to his bungalow off the Greyfield Inn. John introduced me to so many characters on this remote island, but my favorite was an old fisherman who got it just right: Cumberland Island ain’t nothing but the Good Lord a’talkin’, and my, do He go on!
- John had hunting rights for the Carnegie portion of the island which meant we were free to roam over a good part of the island. So here’s my story from the island. On one occasion, we were down around Halloween for a hunt. Miss Lucy Ferguson, the grand dame of the Carnegie clan invited us to a clam bake on the beach after our dinner, libations, and drive on the beach in John’s trustworthy Bronco. When we returned from our adventure, we found the group sitting around a huge bonfire. John and I ambled up toward the fire as if approaching a sacred ritualistic gathering, which in a way, it was. As far as I knew, there were no virgins to sacrifice. To my surprise, sitting in the sand by the fire were two honest-to-God leopards, one traditionally spotted and the other midnight black. I knew that I had been drinking but this was a bridge, or feline, too far. Turns out, Miss Lucy had invited this animal trainer dude who provided animals for movies to come to the island.. He had brought these two big cats, along with a menagerie of other creatures. I was fascinated by the gorgeous black leopard, the sheer majesty of this cat. Aided in my chemically-induced confidence, I knelt before the magnificent creature and began to talk to him/her. The cat seemed nonplussed by my presence, when all of a sudden, it used its declawed left paw to send me sprawling into the sand, with not so much as a by-your-leave. Turns out, this leopard was brought by the now infamous Bhagawan Antle, otherwise known as Kevin, who owns and operates Myrtle Beach Safari. He was part of the human menagerie of folks featured in the infamous Tiger King series, now ensconced in the collective unconscious of this damnable pandemic. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
- I have been using this odd time to attend some training opportunities. The Absolom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing is offering a series of conferences online on the human experience of lament. Led by Dr. Catherine Meeks, this series offers a fresh, faithful look at our experience of facing times of crisis. Google the Center to get the dates and times.
- In the wake of the pandemic, as predicted, we are seeing a significant rise in mental health issues, including depression, domestic violence, and addiction. Post Trauma is particularly on the rise among our healthcare workers who have born the brunt of this crisis. Being sensitive to others, taking the time to ask “how are you doing?” may be the difference for someone on that particular day. I’ve had more than a few off-handed queries responded to with desperate responses that got my attention. Take the time to ask. There are a lot of hurting folks out there.
- Monitor your own self. If you find yourself down or troubled, reach out to a trusted friend just to talk it out. Most times for me, that’s enough. But if it gets tough or repetitive, pay attention to your internal prompts. Call the Suicide Prevention line at 1-800-273-TALK. Or, as I counsel folks deep into crisis, get yourself to an emergency room, or call 911.
- My friend and colleague, and old Southside Boy, Lou Koon, continues to offer online seminar opportunities to be trained in awareness and suicide prevention. On Tuesday, May 26th, an online seminar is being held from 9AM to Noon., three hours to equip you to be sensitive and respond to those who may be in despair. You can register for this seminar, offered at no charge, by going to InterveneChallenge.com , or armedforcesmission.org . I have gone through the training myself and recommend Lou’s expertise and accessibility.
- Journaling is my longtime means to increase my self-awareness. It’s what I teach the people I coach, and the folks who work with me in therapy. Attending to your own emotions as they emerge, monitoring the shifts of mood, exploring the triggers are things that you can tend to in your journal. I enjoy writing my thoughts, wonderings, things that make me smile, things that make me angry. These days, I start my day with a time of gratitude, and end it the same way, listing things for which I am grateful. Framing my day in gratitude works for me. There is a lot of research that supports this practice as a healthy means to live your life.
- Finally, invest in connections. Take the time to call. Write that note to someone to express a thought or appreciation. I found a note to me by my eighth grade teacher, Ruby James, that renewed my spirit and gave me some encouragement this week. Though she is long gone from this planet, she was still her for me this week. Connect with someone.
- As we move into this Memorial Day weekend, I am reminded that it used to signal the beginning of summer for me, a more relaxed time. This year seems different. I am going to remember to give thanks for the women and men who gave their lives in service, and I am going to be reading a new book by my friend, Joe Galloway, who wrote We Were Soldiers, Once….and Young. He’s got a new book out about stories of soldiers he knew in Vietnam. He was in the thick of it, and he’s a hell of a journalist and writer. I know I will learn something important about life. Blessings on your Memorial Day weekend. Make it memorable.