I Hope You Never Have To Do This 1-5-19

My mom and I were driving out of the mall today. As we approached the stop sign to turn on to the main road out of the parking lot, there stood a homeless man holding up a sign that read “I hope you never have to do this”. I have to say, those words really tugged at my heart. I often say “in a New York minute, everything can change”. I should know. My life is very different that it was only six years ago.

We drove out of the mall. I didn’t say anything to my mom but I drove all the way to the main Road. I turned right, then turned right again. My mom asked “where are we going?” I replied “don’t ask. You’ll only make fun of me”. I drove back to the mall parking lot and stopped where that man was. He was not only freezing but I could tell he had been crying. I told him I didn’t have any cash on me but would be happy to buy him a meal and some coffee. He said “yes. Thank you!” I drove across the street to McDonald’s and bought him two meals and some coffee. When I returned and handed him his bag he looked at me in awe saying “oh my god! Thank you”. I then handed him his coffee. My heart went out to him as I could see him tear up. He thanked me again and said “I love you”.

I’m sharing this story tonight because I’d like to encourage others to have a heart and do your best to show compassion to others. You won’t always be greeted with the same love and gratitude this man showed to my mother and I but what you will be greeted with is a sense of peace knowing you helped someone in need. There are no guarantees in life. You never know when you might find yourself standing at a mall parking lot holding up a sign that says “I hope this never happens to you!” It will Be then that you will find yourself hoping someone will stop and lend a helping hand.

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Cups Of Water 5-21-18

Cups of water

We who live by compassion

are so small in this world.

It seems sometimes as if

we face a forest fire

of fear and violence

with little paper cups of love.

They appear like magic tricks

in trembling hands,

not much, just little cups,

but we offer them,

the great baptismal, birthing flow

in little cups, mere drops

of God

that flood the world,

that never run out.

SGH

The purpose of life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others. Only then have we become true human beings.— Albert Schweitzer

Kat and Ali 12-28-17

They say there are no accidents in life. Especially when it comes to meeting people.

In 2014 I walked in to CPMC in San Francisco. I was scheduled for my chemotherapy treatment. That morning I prayed for an angel to come in to my life that would speak hope in to my life. It’s no secret my life in SF was rather tumultuous with my ex. Standing next to me while waiting for the elevator was a gentleman. We struck up a conversation. As it turned out he was a pastor from Vallejo. His wife had just had open heart surgery. His name is Ali. We have been friends ever since. Ali has blessed my life so much with his prayers, encouragement and support throughout the past few years.

That day Ali asked me if I would stop and see his wife Kat that week. He felt it would cheer her up. I made it a point to go visit Kat that week. She was very sick the day I went and was so down. I have never seen Ali or Kat since that day three years ago however we remain in contact via phone and text.

Today my calendar reminded me it was Kats birthday so I texted her a birthday message. Much to my surprise I received a call from Kat. She was crying. She called to thank me. Not only for remembering her birthday but for stopping to see her that day three years ago. Kat shared that I’m always saying what a blessing they are in my life but I have failed to recognize the blessing I have been in theirs. Kat told me the day I went to see her the doctor had just told her they found a blockage and would have to perform another surgery. She was so sad. She told me that my voice and smile lifted her spirits and after I left her doctors told her the blockage was gone and she would not need another surgery. She said she often forgets my name but has never forgotten my voice or smile and the miracle I brought in her life that day. I had no idea. Her words to me were “you always say Ali and I are a blessing in your life but you really were a blessing in our life that day. I will never forget you. I wanted you to know that”.

Wow! I had no idea. I was very touched to hear her story. Even more so to know I somehow made a difference while in one of the greatest challenges in my own life.

The moral of the story is you never know whose life you’re going to bless. Strive to be a blessing for others. You may not see it today but one day you will discover that somehow you made a difference.

Another Day In Paradise – Revised 5-24-17 

I wrote this blog two years ago on March 4, 2015. My sobriety date. Today I’m 15 years sober. I’m still climbing out of the pit but my passion for helping those in need or being a voice of hope and inspiration for others hasn’t changed. A friend send me a text this morning saying “Another Day In Paradise”. It sparked this memory and caused me to refer to this blog as a reminder of just how blessed I am. Despite the challenges in my life, I am living another day in paradise. 

Today is my sobriety anniversary. I have been sober for 13 years. It’s hard to believe that 13 years have passed since I woke up from a three day blackout in the back of a police car. I was on my way to jail for throwing a cell phone at my boyfriend. I had spent the weekend consuming an unimaginable amount of alcohol. In fact, my last drunk consisted of three fifths, a bottle of wine, a half gallon of whiskey along with many cocktails at the bar. It was Sunday, March 4th, 2002 when I entered reality. I had no idea what I was doing in a police car, I had cut my arms, legs and and face with a knife and all of my eyelashes from my right eye were gone. I suspect I burned them with a lighter. Who knows. The journey has been long but through the grace of God, I am able to celebrate my thirteenth year of sobriety. 
Between the years 2000 and 2001, my ex-husband and I went through a nasty divorce. It’s amazing how two people who fell in love and raised a family together could become so bitter toward one another. Divorce in any relationship certainly brings out the “ugly” in each of us. My divorce was no different. I find the humor in it all by referring to our divorce as “the War of the Dunkins”. If you’ve ever seen the movie “the War of the Roses” that was my ex husband and I. We fought over everything, however unlike the movie we didn’t have the chance to swing from the chandeliers. The divorce was so stressful and made me feel like such a failure that I found myself drinking every day for over a year. Of course, being the class act I thought I was, I rarely drank before 5:00 pm. I often refer to myself as the “Joan Crawford” classy drunk who never missed a cocktail hour. Looking back, I find myself so embarrassed. 

We all have stories, my story however belongs on TLC debuting as a mini series. The past few years have been a difficult journey but somehow I’ve managed to get through it without the use of alcohol. I have God to thank for that. 
I spent the morning volunteering at my church today feeding the homeless. Rather than celebrate my recovery, I find it more rewarding to give back. My story at times may seem overwhelming and more often than not, I feel sorry for myself but some how volunteering my time feeding the homeless brings so much happiness that even for just a few hours I’m able to focus on someone else’s story. I’m quickly reminded of how lucky and blessed I really am.

I began volunteering last week and since then, my life has taken on a new perspective. I’m happy again and every day I look forward to going back to my new “job” that pays me in rewards and blessings rather than with a big paycheck. I’ve met some wonderful people, I’ve cried many tears, I’ve swept floors, wiped spilled milk from tables, served oatmeal, assisted the sisters in handing out clothes and I’ve hugged people who live on the streets and haven’t bathed in several days and despite their adversities and challenges, they are filled with a sense of gratitude for what they do have that it’s hard for their gratitude to not be contagious.  

I have travelled quite a journey these past 13 years, I’ve been up and I’ve been down but somehow God has seen me through it all. Thirteen years ago I was rock bottom, ironically thirteen years later I’m rock bottom again. The good news is with gods help I was able to climb out of the pit of addiction and all the demise that came along with it, I suspect he will help me climb my way out of this pit too and who knows, in a year from now I’ll be able to look back and say “look how far I’ve come” and once again be able to say God carried me through this challenge too. A good friend once told me “Velma, you’re rock bottom. There’s nowhere to go from here but up”. I may be rock bottom but I’m moving on up!!!

In the meantime I’ll keep moving forward and take this time to ask anyone reading my blog to give back to your community. Whether it’s volunteering your time to help those less fortunate or even donating clothes or money to your favorite charity, please do so. It’s such a rewarding experience. My song for today is “another day in paradise” by Phil Collins. I chose it because sometimes when we feel like our lives are in disarray and we feel sorry for ourselves, remember there’s always someone else less fortunate and our lives really are another day in paradise. 

Everyone Is Facing A Battle 3-12-16

On March 12, 2014 my ex and I were on our way back from Scottsdale Arizona after spending five days at spring training. I’m a huge fan of baseball and even huger fan of the San Francisco Giants!!! We had spend the week cheering on the Giants.  I posted this story on Facebook. It popped up as one of my memories today. I remembered this flight and the impact this young woman had on my life. I am sharing on my blog today as a reminder you never know what people are going through until you spend a day walking in their shoes. Be kind. Be compassionate and always try to bring joy in someone’s life, especially when they’re having a bad day. 

  
On the flight home from Scottsdale we had the same seats w a view of the engine as we did on the flight there. To the right of us was a young mother who was trying to console her screaming baby. It was very annoying to many people on the plane. I’ll admit I too was a little bit frustrated. I could see the young mother was frustrated so I finally got up and asked her if shed like some help. She was so appreciative. I sat next to the young girl. She was 21 years old. I was able to finally console the baby and he fell asleep. I decided to sit next to her for the duration of the flight. I didn’t want to wake the baby so I just held him for his mom. 

Sometimes in life you never know what the person next to you might be going through. At times we don’t stop to ask. As it turned out this young mother had moved to the Bay Area a few months prior after her son was born. Her baby was born that October. This young moms name was Stacy & her sons name was Jaiden. Stacy was returning from Arizona where she had gone to visit her daughter who had a birthday that week. She would’ve been 3 years old. The previous July while Stacy was pregnant she took her daughter to the pool. She turned around for a brief second. Long enough for her daughter to run off & fall in to the kiddie pool. Stacy’s daughter drowned. It was an accidental death that was not just caused by drowning but her daughter had asthma. Stacy shared how the paramedics had tried so hard to save her daughter. Like any mother she was devastated. 

The trauma she endured was hard on her pregnancy. She shared that her baby experienced colic & would cry  for hours. She had been told that the trauma not only effected her but possibly affected her baby. She moved to the Bay Area to stay w her godparents in the hopes of healing. She was in counseling and her family had been very supportive. 

As we began to land baby Jaiden woke up. He was screaming. For some reason I prayed & asked god to please console this baby. You’ll never believe this but the baby stopped crying. Stacy and I talked to him, rubbed his back until we landed. My heart went out to this young mother.

After we returned home I found  I couldnt stop thinking about Stacy and her baby. I certainly prayed for her & hoped she would overcome. 

I decided to share this story because often times we all become frustrated w other people. We don’t take the time to listen to the real story. Next time you encounter a frustrating situation take the time to ask the person if everything is ok & be sure to listen. I know I will do the same. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind always and take the time to listen. 

  

Another Day In Paradise 3-4-15

I wrote this blog two years ago. Today I’m 15 years sober. I’m still climbing out of the pit but my passion for helping those in need or even being a voice of hope and inspiration hasn’t changed. A friend send me a text this morning saying “another Day In Paradise”. It sparked this memory and caused me to refer to this blog as a reminder of just how blessed I am. Despite the challenges in my life, I am living another day in paradise. 

Today is my sobriety anniversary. I have been sober for 13 years. It’s hard to believe that 13 years have passed since I woke up from a three day blackout in the back of a police car. I was on my way to jail for throwing a cell phone at my boyfriend. I had spent the weekend consuming an unimaginable amount of alcohol. In fact, my last drunk consisted of three fifths, a bottle of wine, a half gallon of whiskey along with many cocktails at the bar. I washed it all down with cocaine. It was Sunday, March 4th, 2002 when I entered reality. I had no idea what I was doing in a police car, I had cut my arms, legs and and face with a knife and all of my eyelashes from my right eye were gone. I suspect I burned them with a lighter. Who knows. The journey has been long but through the grace of God, I am able to celebrate my thirteenth year of sobriety. 

Between the years 2000 & 2001, my ex-husband and I went through a nasty divorce. It’s amazing how two people who fell in love and raised a family together could become so bitter toward one another. Divorce in any relationship certainly brings out the “ugly” in each of us. My divorce was no different. I find the humor in it all by referring our divorce as “the War of the Dunkins”. If you’ve ever seen the movie “the War of the Roses” that was my ex husband and I. We fought over everything, however unlike the movie we didn’t have the chance to swing from the chandeliers.  The divorce was so stressful and made me feel like such a failure that I found myself drinking every day for over a year. Of course, being the class act I thought I was, I rarely drank before 5:00 pm. I often refer to myself as the “Joan Crawford” classy drunk who never missed a cocktail hour. Looking back, I find myself so embarrassed. 

We all have stories, my story however belongs on TLC debuting as a mini series. The past few years have been a difficult journey but somehow I’ve managed to get through it without the use of alcohol. I have God to thank for that. 

I spent the morning volunteering at my church today feeding the homeless. Rather than celebrate my recovery, I find it more rewarding to give back. My story at times may seem overwhelming and more often than not, I feel sorry for myself but some how volunteering my time feeding the homeless brings so much happiness that even for just a few hours I’m able to focus on someone else’s story. I’m quickly reminded of how lucky and blessed I really am.

I began volunteering last week and since then, my life has taken on a new perspective. I’m happy again and every day I look forward to going back to my new “job” that pays me in rewards and blessings rather than with a big paycheck. I’ve met some wonderful people, I’ve cried many tears, I’ve swept floors, wiped spilled milk from tables, served oatmeal, assisted the sisters in handing out clothes and I’ve hugged people who live on the streets and haven’t bathed in several days and despite their adversities and challenges, they are filled with a sense of gratitude for what they do have that it’s hard for their gratitude to not be contagious.  

I have travelled quite a journey these past 13 years, I’ve been up and I’ve been down but somehow God has seen me through it all. Thirteen years ago I was rock bottom, ironically thirteen years later I’m rock bottom again. The good news is with gods help I was able to climb out of the pit of addiction and all the demise that came along with it, I suspect he will help me climb my way out of this pit too and who knows, in a year from now I’ll be able to look back and say “look how far I’ve come” and once again be able to say God carried me through this challenge too. A good friend once told me “Velma, you’re rock bottom. There’s nowhere to go from here but up”. I may be rock bottom but I’m moving on up!!!

In the meantime I’ll keep moving forward and take this time to ask anyone reading my blog to give back to your community. Whether it’s volunteering your time to help those less fortunate or even donating clothes or money to your favorite charity, please do so. It’s such a rewarding experience. My song for today is “another day in paradise” by Phil Collins. I chose it because sometimes when we feel like our lives are in disarray and we feel sorry for ourselves, remember there’s always someone else less fortunate and our lives really are another day in paradise. 

http://youtu.be/YiUQE5bJKFU

The Book of James 2-10-14

On December 28th I flew home to San Francisco after spending 11 days home in Quincy, Washington with my family. The following day I began radiation treatment. The following week, I found myself at the State Disability office. There had been a mistake on my paperwork that needed to be resolved. Ahead of me was a young man. He was asking the woman at the front desk many questions. I could tell he was confused and overwhelmed. For some reason I reached out to him. I offered to help him with his paperwork. The young man shared he had just returned from a 28 day stay at a rehab facility for drug addiction. His name was Jim. Jim shared he was a flight attendant as well as a nurse. He had been battling addiction to prescription drugs. He was very emotional, scared and overwhelmed. My heart went out to him since I am no stranger to addiction. I have been in recovery from alcohol addiction since 2002. I am now 12 years sober. I remembered how I felt when I was released from the rehab facility so many years ago. I not only shared my story, but I did my best to offer words of encouragement. Jim felt hopeless and I felt the need to encourage him not to give up. He was so grateful. Since that day, I text Jim words of encouragement once or twice a week and he does the same for me.

A couple of weeks ago I went downstairs. I had a few things I needed to buy at Safeway. As I approached Safeway I couldn’t help but notice a homeless man sitting with his dog. He looked sad and I sensed he felt hopeless. He had a sign that read “anything helps. God bless you”. I felt this pain in the pit of my stomach. The look on this mans face touched my heart so I walked up to him and said “I’m walking in to Safeway, is there anything I can get you?” He looked at me and much to my surprise he answered “I’d love a blueberry yogurt.” I couldn’t believe it. He could’ve asked for anything but instead all he asked for was a blueberry yogurt. As I walked in to the store I could feel a lump in my throat, not to mention, a tugging at my heart strings. My heart kept telling me not only to buy this man yogurt but I needed to give him money. I bought him 2 Greek blueberry yogurts and for some reason I asked for $20 cash back after I paid for my groceries. In addition to that, I asked the checker to give me the change as follows: one -$10, one – $5 and five – $1’s. I have no idea why but when I left the store I walked towards this homeless man. I handed him his yogurt and as I handed him the money I told him I didn’t know why but I felt the need to help him. He looked at me and reached out to me. He hugged me and said “God bless you”. I asked him what his name was. He answered “James”. James shared he had been homeless for the past 3 years after a streak of bad luck professionally but the good news was he had just qualified for housing. Unfortunately, the circumstances it took for him to be moved in to a home were less than stellar. He had been diagnosed with two types of cancer. My heart sank when he told me this and for some reason I began to cry. I told James I had never been inclined to give a homeless person more than a couple of dollars but something inside of me kept saying “you have to help this person”. I stood there crying and James reached out again and gave me a hug. He told me I was a good person and he knew God was going to bless me. I walked home that night praying for James asking God to bless him in a miraculous way. I haven’t seen James since that night but I find myself praying for him everyday. James touched my life that night in more ways I could have ever touched his. He reminded me not only to be grateful but to be compassionate toward others.

This morning I walked to the bank to withdraw the money from state disability that had been deposited in to an account the state had set up for me to receive my benefits. I withdrew the money to deposit in to my personal account so I can pay my bills. I’ve become a regular at Bank of America since becoming disabled with breast cancer nearly a year ago. The tellers have all been so wonderful and supportive as I’ve fought this nasty disease. One of the tellers even gave me a pin in the shape of a pink bow a few months ago. As I waited for the teller to withdraw my money, an employee was assisting a gentlemen. He was frustrated and the young female employee was doing her best to assist him. She walked away for a minute to do something and when she left the gentlemen looked at me and in frustration said he couldn’t take it anymore. I looked at him and said “things could be worse”. His reply was “I don’t think so. I just want to give up!” Earlier this morning I had seen the following quote on Twitter.

IMG_3316
I liked it so much I saved it. I read it to this gentlemen and encouraged him not to give up. He told me he had given up on hope, God and people. He didn’t believe in anything anymore. He was now living in a shelter and didn’t know what to do. I said “don’t give up! Things will get better!” He looked at me with a defeated and discouraged look on his face and replied “I don’t think so”. I knew exactly how he felt. After all I’ve found myself rock bottom for the past two years. At that moment, the female employee had returned and was trying to assist him. I turned around to finish my transaction. When I was finished the gentleman was gone. The employees thanked me for my help. The female employee shared the man had left. I ran out the door and saw this man crossing the street. I chased him and when I caught up to him I handed him a $20 bill. He looked at me and said “no you don’t have to do that!” I replied “yes I do!” I put the bill in his pocket and said “I hope you will start believing again!” He was so humbled saying “thank you”. I reached out my hand to shake his while asking him for his name. I couldn’t believe it. His name was Jim. I told Jim to start believing and to remember there are good people in this world. He said “yes there are and you’re one of them”.

As I walked home I remembered a homily my priest had told us many years ago. He told the story of a homeless man who was sitting outside of a bank. Everyone who walked in and out of the bank ignored him and treated him like he was garbage. Only one person stopped to help him. As it turned out the homeless man was actually Jesus. The moral of my priests story was always help others in need. You never know when it might be Jesus. I never forgot that homily and have used that story as an inspiration to help others. Unfortunately, the past few years have been so challenging that I found myself forgetting to help others while busy thinking only of myself. Feeling sorry for myself and missing out on not only my blessings but the opportunity to bless others. The more I reflected on the events at the bank and Father Mario’s homily, I remembered Jim at the disability office, James the homeless guy in front of Safeway and Jim the hopeless, non believer at the bank, I realized in all three instances I had a tugging at my heart to help these people. All three men were down on their luck and all three men had something else in common, their name. While two of them referred to themselves as Jim they were all James. I wondered what this all meant. I opened up my bible to the book of James and the first thing I read was “James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ”. I went on to read the entire book of James but the chapter that really stood out to me was James 2 verses 1-7 & 14-16. I am attaching a link on this blog today. I hope you will take the time to click on the link and read chapter two. If you’re a believer you will understand why I find myself so touched as I write this. In my opinion, I’m not a saint, I’m just a girl who did the right thing and I feel good about it. You see, I didn’t change these men’s life in anyway, they actually changed mine. They reminded me that any time we have the opportunity to be compassionate towards others, we need to act on it because while we may be a blessing to the person in need, the real blessing comes to ourselves when we take the time to think of others and remember, you never know if the person you walk away from or choose to ignore is not just a homeless guy, rather he’s Jesus. And I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to miss out by walking away from the most high God just because he was down on his luck or homeless and receiving the greatest blessing of all.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+2%3A1-16&version=ESV