Vladimir’s Shoes

I have something to share – but I want to preface this by saying this is not a “I’m-so-cool” story – this is a… wow… when-people-learn-you-want-to-do-something-good-they-celebrate-that-and-want-to help story. This is a people-are-good story. This is a God-will-find-a-way-to-provide-for-Her-children story – and sometimes God will provide by using US. And when that happens – when we’re the ones who are in the right place at the just right time – it is magic!!

So. I guess this story starts a week ago when I saw a homeless lady sitting near Tony’s Coffee Shop with her shopping cart home. I asked her if I could get her a coffee or something, and she came with me to Tony’s and I got her a scone and a mocha. She was/is very cool and I consider her a new friend.I ran into her again today – we were happy to see each other again! – and she asked if I could get her a sandwich for lunch. I said sure – I’d get her something after my walk.

After my walk I came back to my new friend and she introduced me to another homeless person – a young man my youngest son’s age – he said he didn’t need anything to eat, but – and he lifted up his foot to show me his shoe (the bottom of his shoe was hanging to the top by a few stitches – it was flapping around) what he really needed was a new pair of shoes. Then he wandered off – not expecting anything from me – and I went to get a sandwich for my friend and to get myself something to eat at the Colophon Cafe.

When I came out of the Colophon the young man was sitting next to my friend again. I asked him if he knew of any shoe stores near by – and he looked at me in shock – “Are you going to get me shoes?” he asked, with a mixture of uncertainty and hope. I told him yeah – he couldn’t go walking around in those shoes he was wearing. So he got off the bench and we went on a quest for new shoes.

As he was walking his shoe kept flapping against the pavement and he joked that it was making music – it was like a drum. He asked me my name and I hesitated… because… you know… people with my name are sometimes hesitant to say it these days 🙂 …but I told him “Karen” and waited for a reaction. He apparently hadn’t heard about the Karen memes, though, and when I told him what “Karen” has come to mean, he laughed and said, “You are the least like that person that I know!”

He told me his name was Vlad – short for Vladimir – and he’d been born in Russia, but adopted when he was young by people in Minnesota. I asked him what he was doing out here and he said he really liked it here. We talked some more about his circumstances – and as I got to know him better I felt all my motherly instincts coming out.

After several stops, we finally found a place that sold men’s shoes – “Fairhaven Runners” – and went in to investigate (everyone in my family has purchased shoes at Fairhaven Runners at some point). Vlad found some shoes that he really liked and the shoe salesclerk – who quickly grasped what was happening – patiently explained to Vlad how he could measure his feet for the shoe size and then went back to fetch some shoes for him to try on. As Vlad was trying on shoes, the salesclerk asked Vlad if he could use some free socks and Vlad looked up at him with a smile on his face and nodded his head. The salesclerk went in the back room and then came out and tossed Vlad some free new socks for Vlad to wear with his new shoes.

I told Vlad he could leave with his new shoes now and I would take care of everything for him in the store. Vladimir thanked me and went out smiling. There was a lady standing behind us in the store and she asked me, “Did you just buy him new shoes?!” She looked like she was crying. She said that it was really beautiful what she’d just witnessed. Isn’t that lovely?!

And then – get this! – when the salesclerk rang me up he gave me a 20% discount! And THAT had ME tearing up. People WANT to do right by each other, don’t they?

I felt like I was walking on holy ground today. I think… I think it all balances out, you know? – Good disperses itself throughout the cosmos – and I know I’ll always have what I need – there’s no lack – there’s no competition – there’s no need to go through life clutching and afraid and feeling like Good is limited and finite, and if someone else has enough then I won’t have enough.

Sure, there have been times when I’ve been led to say “no” – times when I’ve felt that giving money to someone wasn’t going to really help him – I’m not completely naive when it comes to stuff like that. But this time – today – I knew it was right. And it felt really good that I was there to be used by Love in this way.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Here are some photos of my new friend, the salesclerk who helped Vlad and me, and Vlad’s old shoe…

Seeing the Best

Last week we cancelled the flight to Pittsburgh that we were going to take today to see Scott’s family because – duh! – right? We thought it might be cool to make our annual trek to Lincoln City, Oregon, instead. So we booked a couple nights at a pet-friendly place there for tonight and tomorrow night. Then we woke up this morning and realized that this was probably not such a good idea, either. I’d been told earlier that we needed to cancel our reservations by Sunday, though, or we’d lose the money. Soooo…

The thought occurred to me that maybe I could call homeless shelters in Lincoln City – maybe they knew someone who could use a warm room for two nights. So I called a couple places – one wasn’t open, yet, another one told me that because of the virus they’d already found a hotel to put their homeless people in. She thanked me, though, for wanting to do this, and seemed really grateful for my gesture.

When I realized I wasn’t going to be able to use this room to help homeless folks, I called Sailor Jack’s to cancel our reservation. And Angie at the desk said we hadn’t been charged, yet, and we wouldn’t be! She cancelled our reservations without charge! AND told us to stay safe up here. I told her we’d be coming down again later and we’d be seeing her.

I’m just… I’m kind of teary-eyed here. People are so kind. I’m seeing the best in folks right now.
– Karenlove

Sunset over flooded fields in Skagit County, Washington State. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

Drip Coffee and an Orange

It’s like the night chewed him up and spit him out
on the sidewalk and left him there in a heap
of rags and dirt the next morning. And I ask him
if he’s alright. He shakes his head and rolls
his eyes – he has seen better days.  He asks me
if I can bring him a coffee maybe – “A mocha?” I ask.
He says just regular coffee with milk and sugar.
As I leave to buy him the coffee, he calls after me,
“And can you get me an orange, too?”
He could have asked for a fancy coffee with syrup.
He could have asked for a doughnut. Or sweets.
But he asked for a drip coffee and an orange.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

During My Break

I’m never sure when my break is going to come at work. Today it came at the beginning of the day. I decided to take a quick walk down to the market to get a little exercise and maybe buy some snack to bring back to school.

At the bottom of the hill this man came around the corner and we smiled at each other. He opened up the door to the little barber shop that I pass on my way to the store, and went inside. I remember someone once telling me that the other “Molenaar” in the valley owns that barber shop. So – I couldn’t resist, right? – I opened the door and stuck my head in and asked if there was, by any chance, a man named Molenaar in there. “Yeah,” another barber said. “He just walked through the door…”

At that moment the man I’d exchanged smiles with came out of a back room. I asked him if his name was “Molenaar” and he said it was. I told him I am a “Molenaar,” too. That surprised him – “How could that be?!” he asked. I told him there are gazillions of us in the Netherlands. He smiled and he asked me if I’m the “Molenaar” that sometimes writes letters to the paper – he said people always wonder if we’re related – if I am his sister or something. I told him that I was, indeed, that Molenaar. I told him that I’d met his daughters at sporting events when my own sons were involved in sports (his daughters are all athletes), and he nodded and seemed happy to hear that. Then he asked me if my dad was the climber – and I said yup. He said his uncle was good friends with my pop, and told me his uncle’s name – and for the first time I realized that my dad’s dear friend, N. Molenaar, was related to the local barber! Whoah. I never would have made that connection if I hadn’t wandered into that barber shop this morning.

I continued on my walk to the store. There was a group of men hanging out on the corner carrying on a lively conversation with each other – they looked like maybe they’d spent the night outside and were just waking up. I passed them and said hi and went into the store to find something to snack on. I bought a can of mixed nuts and came out of the store. I said hi, again, to the men on the corner. One of them asked me if I could buy him a mocha or maybe give him a dollar – he made a point of saying he wouldn’t spend it on alcohol or drugs – said he was going into rehab soon. I figured a mocha sounded like a better deal for him than a dollar.

So I went back into the store. There were two women standing in front of the espresso stand – a friendly-looking red-headed lady, and an equally friendly-looking blond-haired lady. We chatted for a while while they ordered and got their drinks, and then I ordered the mocha for the man standing on the corner and a small cappuccino for myself.

I came out with the coffees and went back to the corner, but the man had disappeared. “Where’s the fellow who wanted the mocha?” I asked his friends. They kind of looked around and noted that “Joey” was gone. Then one of them saw him standing in front of the store I’d just left.

“Joey!” I called to him. “What are you doing over there?!” (I was using my high school teacher voice now.) He looked over and saw me and came up to get his mocha from me. He thanked me, and thanked me again, and told me he was going to “pay it back” and buy someone else a coffee now.

As I passed his friends at the corner, they all wished me a good day. One of them met my eyes and said, “Thank you for doing that for Joey. Thank you.” And there was something so sincere and kind in the way he thanked me for buying his friend a coffee that it really touched my heart.

And then I went back to work.

A lot of really cool things can happen in twenty minutes.

Ode to Boxing Day

It’s a humble holiday, tucked in between
Christmas and New Year’s, but it’s really keen.
Things look a little bedraggled, it’s true
The tree’s a little droopy and no longer new

The movies and music of the Christmas season
Are getting on our nerves now, and we’re seeing no reason
To eat even one more sugary oversweet sweet
It’s time for broccoli and carrots (maybe hold on the beets)

The pressure for perfection comes off on this day,
The toys have been opened, and it’s come time to play.
And if before we were wearing faux holiday cheer
To blend in with the others and not Scroogey appear

It’s time now to be genuine, and honest and real
The food banks are empty, people still need a warm meal
The homeless and hungry and jobless and alone
Still need love and caring, still need a home.

So maybe we can celebrate the day after Christmas –
By keeping the spirit of hope alive, we might make that our business.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

Smiles Are Free

The homeless man shuffled towards me,
not looking at me, unsure what he’d find
on my face. But I willed him to look
at me – he glanced my way and I smiled –
and his whole face was transformed
by a shy grin – gifts exchanged between
fellow travelers sharing a path today.
“Silver and gold have I none, but such
as I have give I thee…”
Smiles are free.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

In Honor of Moz

Something kind of wonderful happened this morning. I was waiting for my friend, Teresa, at the Fred Meyer eating area – Teresa was going to help me figure out what I needed to buy for the memorial celebration today – and this little family came in and sat down next to me – Mom with a baby, her daughter who’d just turned eight, other family members – and I started chatting with them – really neat people.

Pretty soon this man came in with a backpack and all kinds of bags hanging out of his pockets and out of his pack. I saw him trying to organize all his bags and was kind of intrigued by him.

Then Teresa comes in – and brings all that wonderful energy with her – and I introduce her to my new friends sitting next to me. They start chatting, and I leave them to go talk to the man with all the bags. I ask him if I can buy him a coffee at the Starbucks – and he asks me if I could maybe buy him a couple gift cards so he can buy food later. So I find the gift card rack and he picks out a Kroger’s card for food, and a Starbucks card, and I go back to the cashier to buy it for him, and also to buy some drinks for Teresa and me. (Teresa doesn’t want me to buy her anything, until my new friend tells her that I’m the boss today, and she has to do what I say.)

So we all get our drinks – the backpack man thanks me for the cards – he said he’d been having a really negative attitude about people up until then, and I’m making him feel better about life. Teresa turns to him and says, “Do you want to know why she bought you those cards today? Her mom died and today is the celebration for her mom, and she’s buying you those cards in honor of her mom who was the most loving person in the world.” And as Teresa tells him this, I realize that it’s true. Moz taught me to watch out for people, and to do what I could to help. And the idea of that brings sweet tears to my eyes.

So the man thanks me and we part ways, and Teresa and I go back to our table, and my new friend, Ella, thanks me for taking care of the man with the backpack. Just the fact that she noticed the exchange with the backpack-man really touches my heart.

And THEN we find out we are both of the same political persuasion.  And now I have a new FB friend. ❤

***

Moz’s celebration was wonderful. There was music and laughter and more music and laughter and sweet friendship. I brought her shoes to the celebration and put them in the front with all the flowers. It made me smile to see them up there…

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An Ode to Boxing Day

Ode to Boxing Day

It’s a humble holiday, tucked in between
Christmas and New Year’s, but it’s really keen.
Things look a little bedraggled, it’s true
The tree’s a little droopy and no longer new

The movies and music of the Christmas season
Are getting on our nerves now, and we’re seeing no reason
To eat even one more sugary oversweet sweet
It’s time for broccoli and carrots (maybe hold on the beets)

The pressure for perfection comes off on this day,
the toys have been opened, and it’s come time to play.
And if before we were wearing faux holiday cheer
to blend in with the others and not Scroogey appear

It’s time now to be genuine, and honest and real.
The food banks are empty, people still need a warm meal.
The homeless and hungry and jobless and alone
still need love and care, still need a home.

So maybe we can celebrate the day after Christmas
by keeping the spirit of hope alive,
we might make that our business.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, from *A Poem Lives on My Windowsill*

“Know thyself…”

Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you.
– Mary Baker Eddy

Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do? Have you ever been accused of THINKING something you weren’t thinking, or of being motivated by something that wasn’t motivating you?

Yeah. Most of us have probably found ourselves in that position at one time or another. I know I have. In fact, I know this kind of thing happened 2000 years ago, too, because there are references made to it in The Bible. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour…” is one of the ten commandments, after all. And the story of Job is pretty instructive in this regard: There was Job, afflicted with all kinds of crap – disease and pain and horrific loss. And there were his three “friends” – Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar – all having a great deal of fun plastering Job with labels, and telling him that God had brought these troubles to him because he deserved them somehow.  Zophar says: “But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee; And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.”

Ooh baby!

But in the story, Job knew his innocence. He recognized his real identity.

And this all brings me to Chris, a young man I met in Bellingham a few weeks ago.  I saw Chris standing outside the restrooms at the top of the ramp leading to the boardwalk, and smiled and wished him a good morning. He wished me a good morning back and then told me he was homeless and asked me if I had any money I could give him to buy breakfast. I invited him to join me on my walk and told him I’d buy him breakfast down at the coffee shop in the park. The park is about a mile away, so Chris and I had a lot of time to chat. He told me he hadn’t finished high school – and I told him about a program I knew of that could help him get his diploma at the local community college. He told me about his favorite high school teachers – an art teacher, a special education teacher, and a math teacher –  and said that he enjoys making art and writing. And then he shared a piece of life-wisdom that I thought was worth preserving for posterity – and that he graciously allowed me to record on my camera. (Click on the words highlighted in blue to hear Chris’s life-quote.)

Chris explained his quote this way: “Be known in life for what you do do, and not for what people say you do.”

And that – right there! – is a man who recognizes his identity isn’t based on what other people think of him. He isn’t going to let other people define who he is.  And neither should we.

defining you

The Best Gift All Day

I made a very cool connection with someone today, but I’ve been hesitating to share it because… I didn’t want anyone to think this was about me or my particular flavor of religion – this could have happened to any one of you – religious, non-religious, atheist, theist – it could have happened at the local coffee shop, or in a Methodist soup kitchen, or on a bench in the local park. But today it happened to me, and in the Christian Science Reading Room.

I’d just opened up the RR when a woman walked in, and gave a glance around the space. She wondered if she might use the restroom, and I said sure, and pointed her in the direction of it. When she came out a few minutes later she asked me to tell her about Christian Science. During the next hour and a half we shared our ideas about God, expressing love to our fellow humans, book publishing, and smiles.

She is newly homeless and living in her truck. So we talked for a while about what home is, and could be. She said she’s tried to rent a home several times in the last few months, but every time the deal fell through. I suggested to her that maybe she’s supposed to be buying a home, not renting one – and her face lit up, and she said that’s what she’s been thinking, too. She told me that she had a vision of herself sitting in a warm kitchen, offering cozy cups of tea to her friends. She pictures a place where there’s light and color and she can do her art, and look out a window and see a deer looking back at her. I told her that I felt a place had already been prepared for her, and all she had to do was open her thoughts up to all the infinite possibilities and she’d find it. Nothing, I told her, is impossible to Love.

She told me she was afraid she might lose her mind during this whole process of living in her truck, and being homeless, and I told her that I didn’t believe she could lose her Mind because I believe God is her Mind, the only Mind – and God, the power of Love, can’t ever be misplaced. She laughed – she liked the idea of that.

She asked if it would be okay if she sort of put herself together while we talked, and I said that would be fine. She took her hair out of its bun and it fell down to her waist – she combed it through with her fingers – she said it had been all snarled and knotted not long ago, but that someone had given her some oil for it that had taken the snarls out and left it in good shape. She unwound the pink scarf around her neck and wrapped it around again, re-arranged her matching pink sweater, and smoothed out her skirt. She looked beautiful. She said my teeth were really white, and she was self-conscious of her own teeth – that she wished they were whiter and straighter – she felt like her teeth looked like someone had just thrown pebbles randomly into her mouth. I was completely surprised by her appraisal of her teeth. “Come here!” I told her, and grabbed her hand and pulled her in front of the mirror. “Look at your smile! Your teeth are every bit as white as mine! You have a beautiful smile! Where in the heck did you get the belief that you don’t have a nice smile?!” She said she wanted to get her teeth fixed so she could smile her love at everybody. And I reassured her, again, that her smile was perfect right now, just as it was.

In talking about Christian Science, I offered her a free textbook, but she declined – she said it would be too heavy for her to carry around. So I gave her a small pamphlet called “Place” that I found on a Reading Room shelf – I thought maybe she could get some inspiration from that – and then I remembered I had some copies of my new book of poetry, A Poem Lives On My Windowsill, and gave her one of those. “You wrote this?” she asked, “I’ve always wanted to write a book!” So I explained the process I went through to get my book published and assured her that she could totally publish her own book. I wrote the name of the publishing company I went through, and told her that the publishing company, basically, walks you through the process once you have your manuscript ready. I shared one of my poems from the book with her then, because it seemed like it could have been written just for her:

Just Who Do You Think You Are?

You need not wait for approval, my friend
You need not wait to practice Zen
You need not wait to sing and soar
You need not wait – not one second more!
You need no one’s permission to be who you are,
to express and reflect and travel far.
If you want to write and publish a book
or cook up the recipes of a cordon bleu cook
If you want to dance or hop or run
don’t wait for permission – just get ‘er done.
You don’t need permission to love one another –
to be a partner, or friend, or sister or brother.
No, you need no approval to your life live.
You were MADE to express your you-ness,
and your talents to give.

And when she asked me how I pray, I opened the book up to my poem on prayer:

Prayer

What prayer feels like for me…
it’s like waking up to a beautiful
sunrise in the morning or listening
to an inspiring piece of music,
or looking at the stars on a clear night –
it’s a feeling of uplift – of thoughts
soaring, of fear dissipating, of a
consciousness full of joy and good will.

My new friend said she was going to go get herself a coffee when she left the Reading Room, and I asked her if I could give her the money for a coffee – I really wanted to do that for her – and, although I could tell it felt weird for her, she graciously accepted my small donation.

While we were talking a man came in, selling cleaning products. He demonstrated the power of his cleaning product, and I was duly impressed. It was quite a pricey product, but… what the heck, right? I bought a bottle of it.

After he left, my new friend said she really hoped the cleaner wasn’t from The Dollar Store. I smiled, and said I didn’t really care if it was. She said, “You’re a nice person.” And when she said that, what I thought was: We see in each other what we are ourselves.

As she was leaving the sun shone through the clouds and sent a beam right on her. She smiled into it, and said, “See? You’ve brought me light! I feel so much better now.”

And THAT was the best gift I got the whole day.

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Sunlight coming through the clouds today. (photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)