2 weeks ago
Over the years, several people have asked if I offered spiritual direction in a private practice. I do, though I've never been quite so public about it. But I'm being public now because I would very much like to do more of it. I think of spiritual direction, though, as "spiritual companioning," of walking with people as they do the work of discerning the still, small voice of God in their lives and making meaning of the events of life. I don't do too much directing. I do more trusting. The work is between the person and the Holy Spirit. I'm there to ask a few helpful questions, to remind people of the wisdom of their religion and the wisdom of their own heart, to occasionally offer a way to reframe an experience or idea while searching for God and meaning. Mostly, I listen and trust that the Spirit and the person in front of me will do the work they need to do. It's what I did as a hospice chaplain for many years, but with people in the middle of life, instead of those nearing the end. If you're interested and you'd like to have a conversation about whether I might be a good fit as a spiritual director, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org (Facebook messages have been an utter disaster for me--I never to seem to see them all, and some get lost, so please use this direct email address.) I work on a sliding scale, so please don't let finances stop you from at least contacting me if you feel called to it. Also, we can Skype, FaceTime, or talk on the phone if we're not nearby. ... See MoreSee Less
(And please feel free to share with anyone you think might be interested, or intrigued.)
4 months ago
A friend of mine had a grandmother who used to murmur, “Don’t argue with people who are never willing to be convinced.” That’s a rough translation from Yiddish. It’s a little aphorism I’ve adopted about social media, especially in the Age of Trump. There are people who are simply not willing to change their minds, despite evidence and analysis. That’s fine, if that’s you. That’s your prerogative, though I think it will close you off to the thrilling feeling of your brain growing bigger when you understand something new. But if that’s you—if you’re not willing to be convinced—then this post isn’t for you, and you don’t need to read any further. We can still be friendly.
A beloved childhood friend asked me, when I posted about calling my senators to talk about my objections to separating children from their parents at the southern border, “Why do you feel it’s wrong to enforce our laws?”
This question is a perfect example of someone trying to change the subject when discussing something terrible, uncomfortable, or painful. We humans do this all the time. I do it all the time. My hospice patients did it many times an hour during our conversations at the end of life. They would bump up against something so painful, so confusing, so traumatic, something where their beliefs about the world were so in opposition with their actual experience of the world that they would cut off in the middle of a story—sometimes in the middle of a sentence, and ask me how my day was going. Traffic bad? It’s a hot one, isn’t it? What about those Pats this season? Cognitive and spiritual dissonance is really, really, uncomfortable, even painful. When we see images of children in internment centers, or hear audio of toddlers wailing for their Mamas, it is easier to change the topic. We all do it.
It's easier to ask a broad, abstract question than to ponder what happens when a toddler is put by herself in a detention center. But I'll try to answer his question anyway.
Morality is not the same thing as the law. One hopes that our laws are moral, but as even an elementary school student knows, there have been so many laws in the US that allowed things that were immoral, even evil. Slavery. Marital rape. The internment of Japanese Americans. The institutionalization of Native children.
So if a law or the enforcement of the law is immoral, then, yes, I do feel it’s wrong to enforce that law. It is immoral to remove children, toddlers, and babies from their mothers and fathers and place them in what amounts to jail. Someone wrote that it was only for five days, max. Take a step back and think about that for it minute. Someone tried to argue that an internment of 5 days was reasonable for a one-year old.
We have a moral imperative to not follow immoral laws. We always have, we always will. We also, I believe, everyone of us, have a moral compass. It is our duty to use it, even when it is uncomfortable, even when it bumps up against dearly held beliefs.
The ends do not justify the means, and “I was just following orders” was disavowed after the Nuremberg Trials. If you cannot see why taking nursing babies from their mothers’ breasts and putting them in what amounts to jail is not just immoral but barbaric, cruel, and inhuman, then I do not know how to convince you to think otherwise.
I have many friends who are ethicists, moral theologians, and philosophers. (We make for fun parties.) I have many friends who are law professors and political scientists. They can explain the moral and legal arguments on family separation better than I can.
But I’m going to try to convince you anyway, because that’s just how I am.
When I was four, I got separated from my mother at the grocery store. I know I was four because my younger sister was in the baby seat in the shopping cart, and I was walking free. I remember this was such detail that it seems ridiculous. I was looking at the cereal boxes. The “treat cereal” that we weren’t allowed to have. My mom would buy Apple Jax or Trix, and we could have that instead of cookies or ice cream, but never for breakfast, and what I really wanted—Cocoa Pebbles—was forbidden. Why? Who knows? But I remember looking at the brown boxes of Cocoa Pebbles and the red boxes of Fruity Pebbles and longing for them. When I looked up, my mother, brother and sister were gone. I became panicked, hysterical. A woman tried to bring me to the Customer Service in the front of the store and I became even more hysterical, until I heard a voice over the loud speaker asking the parent of a missing little girl to return to Aisle 8. I remember every moment of that 90 seconds.
Do you have a memory of something like that? Try to remember. Try to remember what you saw and heard and smelled and felt. Try to really relive it. If you can’t remember, then try to imagine. Try to experience the terror of a 4 year old. Yes, it’s uncomfortable. Do it anyway.
Now try to imagine the terror of a 4 year taken from his mother in McAllen, Texas. Try to imagine it. Feel it.
This is one way to build empathy. It’s a way to build your spiritual imagination, a skill so lacking in the US today.
This is what alarms me most about what is going on today: That people—good people—parents and grandparents—are so lacking in empathy and spiritual imagination that they cannot understand on a gut level that how the federal government is now choosing to implement an old law is wrong. If the legal and ethical arguments do not sway you, perhaps your own heart will, if you allow yourself to sit with the cognitive dissonance of what you believe about yourself and the world versus what is actually happening to babies and children. If you allow yourself to imagine and feel the anguish of others. The anguish of children.
I’m not asking you to think about immigration overhaul. I’m not asking you to think about political asylum vs economic motivations. I’m not asking you to think about whether the psychological torture of preschoolers is a valid deterrence strategy. We must all think about those questions later, but right at this moment, I’m asking you to start with love, and move and think from there. I'm asking you to imagine the experience of a child you don't know--imagine so deeply you feel it. We live in a culture that lacks spiritual imagination. We live in a culture that despises children. We live in a culture that hates the teachings of Jesus. This is an end result of that, but it was not and is not inevitable.
Even people who will not change their minds can change their hearts, if they are brave enough to imagine themselves into another person's experience.
I’m not interested in arguing this. I just promised I'd answer the question. If this is helpful, then I’m glad I took the hour to write it out. If it isn’t, that’s okay too. Blessings to you and all of us. We need it. ... See MoreSee Less
Beautifully stated. Thank you
Sound very good..but brains increase in stature by having more than someone's opinions, you may think you are always right, but two sides to every discussion, Laws are made but why has this STUPID law not changed before twenty years, why not in 2014??
Thank you, Kerry. You are such an eloquent writer and I agree completely with your post. Thank you for sharing this. I feel like I'm alone in my sorrow about this situation.
Excellent. Thank you
Thank you for taking the time to post this!
Love this. Thank you.
Simply and beautifully stated.
There is a saying, I first heard from a recent law graduate, “the law is an ass”. By that they mean the law is like a donkey. It carries the burdens of society. But like a donkey, it isn’t very bright, and is frequently stubborn and unyielding. Societies make laws to carry their burdens, to solve problems they perceive, real or imagined. If you cut an old hose into a piece about five feet long, and throw it on the ground in the path of a donkey, it may very well refuse to step over it, mistaking it for a snake. Why? Because deep in its programming in its brain, a donkey is afraid of snakes. Fear of snakes is a good self protection scheme. But if it’s only a hose, and not a snake in its path, the donkey’s stubborn refusal to proceed isn’t going to get the donkey and it’s load to camp, and there is no good reason for the problem. Don’t be an ass! The woman with a kid trying to come to America isn’t threatening you. Your insistence that a hose is a snake is what’s in your way, not the hose itself.
Kerry Egan, writer shared An Unexpected Family Outing's post.
6 months ago
I worked wth many bereaved parents at the end of their lives, and they all were so much looking forward to being reunited with their beloved children. This is such a beautiful image. I suspect it's close to the truth of what happens.**Thank You Mr. Ramsey: Why That Cartoon of Barbara and Robin Mattered SO Much**
Dear Marshall Ramsey,
Thank you. Those words don’t seem nearly big enough right now for the incredible gift you have given our community. What community is that? I’m talking about our community of bereaved parents. Loss moms and dads. We are a tribe of people being forced to live here on Earth without one or more of our children. It is a heartbreaking and agonizing life. But yesterday, Mr. Ramsey, you brought us HOPE.
Your beautiful tribute to the beloved Barbara Bush and her daughter Robin reminded us of something very important: our children are waiting for us. It hurts so much to be apart from them and I’m going to be honest, there is a part of me that is jealous that Barbara gets to see Robin again. I am waiting for my turn. But yesterday you published a piece of hope: someday, we will be reunited and I’m not sure I can articulate just how much that soothes the aching heart of the bereaved parent.
Not all of us believe in those pearly gates you drew, but we all have an image of where our child now lives. We worry that where our babies are, that they are alone. That they may not know we are here on Earth missing them so much. Your drawing reminded us that when we get there, our babies will not only be there but they will be running towards us, arms outstretched and calling out for us. Thank you for that reminder.
You see, a bereaved parent spends their days loving a child that no one else can see. Our biggest fear is not being apart from our children, but that they will be forgotten. You let us know that they have not been forgotten. Even though Robin Bush left us when she was only three, she was the one you thought of when you heard that Barbara had left us too. What an incredible way to honor the steadfast love between mother and child. It is a love that exists beyond death and your picture reminded us of that.
Finally, I want to thank you for inspiring a conversation about grief and child loss. This is a conversation happening every day in my amazing community, but to hear it being talked about in the mainstream media was a triumph for us. Your drawing did that. When people looked at your drawing yesterday they did not turn away or mumble some platitude, they simply admired the love of a mother and a child. That is the way it should be. So, thank you.
With my deepest gratitude and admiration,
A Parent Who Is Waiting For Her Turn
Find this piece on An Unexpected Family Outing or at anunexpectedfamilyouting.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/thank-you-mr-ramsey-why-that-cartoon-of-barbara... ... See MoreSee Less
Kerry, thank you so much for sharing this. It truly lifted my heart. I think of so many who have lost children and how they long to be with them again. Bless you, Kerry!