For Friends

“If a man tried to take his time on earth, and prove what just one man’s life could be worth, I wonder what would happen to this world. If a woman tried to be more than just someone’s mother, wife, servant-child, I wonder what would happen to this world” —

the late folk-singer Harry Chapin

I wanted to take a moment or ten to talk about the blessings that I am fortnate enough to be surrounded with.  In the course of my lifetime, I have been privileged to live and work in Northern California, Southern California, Western Massachusetts, Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Upstate New York, and Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, and — briefly — New Hampshire.  I used to hate that I moved around so much. I realized in seminary that my dorm room there was the longest address I’d had ever — 3 years — and have settled down for 5 years in a place since then.  My wife and I bought a house 2 years ago and plan on retiring (if I ever retire) in it some number of years from now . 

In all of the movng, with all the schools, jobs, homes, and transition, I have come to know an incredible diversity of people who do absolutely incredible things and it is soooo cool that I thought I’d share some of them with you.

When my wife and I first “got pregnant” (yes, she did most of the work, I’m aware) we debated about “bringing a child into this world” which — based on the news — seemed to be getting worse by the moment.  When we realized that we wanted to raise children who would make a positive difference in the world, who leave a positive emotional footprint on the world, we said “OK” , felt selfish briefly, and tried it anyway. Of course, time will tell if we’ve been successful, but so far I’m proud of my girls.  As they grow, I can focus more on the adult world and now that Facebook has come along, everywhere I look, I see blessings.

Out of nowhere last week, two High School friends appeared as Friend Requests and tha connected me with two more.  The first two have apparently had careers already and love their children, just simply as parents. Eric and Jane are blessings to the world, just for that. The world is better because they are here. Eric’s list of friend connected me to Gary Ciocchi who apparently rocks with a guitar.  As I thought of him and my time growing up through Deering, a Christian camp I went to and later worked at, I thought of all the incredible people that Gary helped to make incredible, just by being himself and working at camp for all those years.  Blessings multiplied by one man’s life. Ciocchi’s page linked me to Sue Tatem’s page.  I just saw the web page for a project she’s executive director of… www.abilityplus.org.  OMG, they do incredible things proving the worth of people who, years ago, we would have thrown away — the handicapped and wounded soldiers.  I can’t imagine all the lives that Sue has touched.  I am in awe.  I can picture ripples of hope, self-esteem and meaning eminating from this place — preventing the deterioration of mental health I see all day in my office from happening.  The world is better because of her — and I’ve never even heard of this organization until now. I knew somebody must be doing these things, but it never occurred to me that I know someone who does.

As a clergy person, I am aware of incredible things done quietly and cheaply in communities every day by pastors who don’t (or do) make a big fuss for justice.  When I see letters or whatever from the national or local UCC, I see incredible things done by staff in those places. My wife’s mail re: Baptists is just as cool (well, almost. The UCC still rules!). With the billions of dollars Pat Robertson takes to feed the hungry, etc, my denomination or my wife’s could probably erase poverty from the planet or bring hope of it to everyone there.

My friend Dave Ratz changes lives every day with an Open and Affirming version of Celebrate Recovery which reaches out to addicts and does the hard work of saving not only people’s souls but lives. My pastor, George Harris, supports street artists while decorating his office, deals with the mentally ill, the poor, the washed up or not-at-all washed, the despairing,  all the time.  He talks all the time about the blessings he recieved while ministering to the homeless in Hawaii when he lived there.  Tommorrow, my friend Char Corbett has an Eccleciastical Council which brings her further along the process to ministry. She has already changed more lives than I can count, as did her mentors Ron Brown and Katherine Fagerburg.  And don’t even get me started about Prophetess Gerry Claytor and her late husband Bennie.  Bridgeport, CT — Bankrupt as I was moving there — is almost thriving now because of all the hard work she (and he) put into that place.  I have been blesed by knowing them, as well because all I have to do is look at their picture and I know that the world is a better place.  All of the clergy I know personally — even the ones I don’t like — change the world for the good. In the hospital in Bristol, CT, Rick Fowler is the best chaplain I have ever met.  Our good buddy, the late Newt Perrins still brings good memories to mind. His widow Val changes the world every day she is in it — with counseling, music, and ministry.  Gordon Sherman tops them all (and that, as you can tell, is some accomplishment).

In the counseling world, I know psychiatrists at Brown University (Hi, Pam!. At one time, I worked with the only Spanish-speaking child psychologist in the entire state of Rhode Island.  While I hope his status has changed, he was an incredible world-changer.  My friend for the last 15 years, Cathi Chapin-Bishop has effected people with her counseling skills, then her spiritual life, and now her teaching of teenagers.

Speaking of teachers, my friend Liz Solomon Wright is one of the smartest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  She teaches in Texas, now, but I knew her as counselor years ago. And now, she’s apparently going to have a kid with her husband Mike this week — more good people for the world!  Liz’ s textbooks include books on raising kids for social justice.  Can you imagine?

Dawn Cunningham works with little kids in the Boston area.  Her husband Derek works in genetics and computers, and works on Buicks.  Derek’s brother Bob frequently graces these pages with his opinions.  Rob McCarthy (a computer guy) and his brother Bill (a mechanic and father) are blessings to my life over and over. Oh, and did I mention one of my old Youth Group members, Camille Utterbach, was given a Genius Grant from the MacArthur foundation last year for her art/computer work? I can’t even believe people like Camille exist, and I got to know her.  Oh, her brother Matt “just” works with Cambodian refugees while being a parent and husband to a female Rabbi.

At Manchester Community College, I work with a woman named Barbara Fox (aka “Bobbi” because her name is pronounced with a Boston accent). Bobbi runs a program that trains interns to work in the drugg and alcohol field.  She knows tons about the field — and about education and credentialing. You wouldn’t know it to have coffee with her because she’s just a normal person, but again, a blessing to the world.

In upstate New York, I am blessed to know nurse after nurse after nurse and farmer after farmer and parent after parent. (Hi to Julie, Becky, Amy, of the Sloths and Christensens, Josh and so more!) Also in Upstate, my friends Lu and Kenn are literal “Friends” (Quakers) who possess incredible spiritual gifts. In  Northern California, my friend Muftiah is a Jungian therapist who does cutting-edge body work as well. Grace Malonai is a Professor and her husband Evan is an incredible person musically, politically, and intellectually.  In Southern California, my friend Ron Bottitta is a gifted actor who — I think — met Stephen Spielberg and worked in a Spielberg-produced movie I just recently learned.  In addition, he wants the best for the world as a person.  My college buddy Margo works for housing I think, in Long Beach.  My friend Craig Hames won a trophy (in his teens!) for animating a Rose Parade float. He’s also a pilot and a carpenter. His wife Francis does Reiki.

Back in Mass, I think my friend Joe Roberts was a rocket scientist.  He has his own telescope and takes incredible photos of galaxies. None of this mentions the friends my wife Michelle knows who do incredible things.  Our mutual friends Eva and Kevin are professors who know multiple languages. She grew up in Poland and knows incredibel amounts about New Media like computer blogs, websites, etc.

And, in the middle of all of this, my very best friend, Alan Bercovici, has simply been there for me for 35+ years now.

I am soooo blessed by the people I know, and the hope, love, creativity, and goodness  that they bring to the world.  The world is better off because they are in it, and I am better off for knowing them.

Peace,

John

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5 thoughts on “For Friends

  1. Great blog, John. I was just watching “The Buddha” on PBS, and your blog made me think of what it said about each of us becoming the Buddha. (And thanks for the mentions! :> )

    • I am so blessed to know all of those people, including you. Thanks for being you (and Newt for being him, of course).

  2. The six degrees of Blessings! John, what a beautiful article. It is a blessing, too, to walk the journey with you — you, too, have changed many lives (including mine!) along the way! Peace and joy, my friend!

  3. Thanks, John.

    I have to take issue with you on one thing, though–I’ve been your friend for about 24 years now. (I get to cheat on remembering when we reconnected–I know it was a year or two before my daughter was born, and she’s 23 now! We’re getting old, dude!)

    Blessings.

    • Cathi:

      I hate to bicker, but as a teen I “knew” you were “sweet on me” — you just couldn’t admit it —
      OK, re-writing history. It’s been so long I forgot. Yes, long in the tooth, I am. And the forehead. We’ve been friends since the earth was cooling, before computers, when dinosaurs ruled the earth 🙂 . It’s all good, though. You are a real blessing to so many and have been to me in so many ways. Hope all is well in the North country .

      Peace,

      John

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