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My Response to a Friend’s Questions about Retirement

Retirement isn’t a destination; it’s a journey. Your experiences, needs, and wants will be different at different stages of your new life.

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A Special Thanksgiving

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This is the season when I look back over the photographs I’ve taken during the year trying to decide which ones will be preserved in my “best of the year” book. Having visited many wonderful places this year and been able to photograph extraordinary sights, this year is a challenge.

Strange as it may seem, however, the photographs that thrilled me the most weren’t taken in some exotic location. They aren’t of family and many aren’t really very good (much to my despair). So, you ask, why on earth would these be considered special?

Well, since you asked . . .

My daughter works for a well-known Houston rehabilitation hospital where patients often must remain for long periods of time working on recovery. I sort of know what she does, but only sorta. Several weeks before Thanksgiving, she asked me if I’d be willing to take some pictures at the hospital. It seems that at Thanksgiving the hospital hosts dinners for patients AND their families. They have specially reserved tables in the cafeteria or in conference rooms near the patients.

Part of the effort to make this time special includes a photograph of the family that is printed and delivered to the patient on the Monday after Thanksgiving. My daughter was asking me to be the person who provided the “click.” As one can imagine, I was thrilled.

I got so much out of the day as we interacted with each family group, and I loved that I felt like I was making it a little better for folks who faced quite difficult situations. The photographs included the usual challenges as well as special ones. There were babies who slept through the event, teenager daughters who only agreed grumpily to be included, patients who had to be coached to smile, and spouses who clearly had been struggling with the stress of a loved one’s hospitalization. There were also so many who thanked us with great appreciation and eagerly gathered everyone together for the traditional “family picture.” It was a wonderful experience to be part of.

But here’s where the surprise for me came. I got to watch my daughter in her work “environment.” I got to see her incredible sense of concern for each person she encountered. I got to see that she was aware of each person she passed in the hall giving everyone a smile. I saw her stop frequently to give directions to lost visitors. Even when she knew that her family was waiting at home for her arrival so they could start the feast, she never hesitated to walk the distance with someone to the exact spot they needed to be. I also saw her pitch in to help cafeteria staff set up extra tables and chairs for unexpected arrivals. I still can’t tell you exactly what her job description is. What I do know is that she is the kind of employee that every organization would love to have. I know how wonderful she is as a daughter. Now I know that she brings that same quality to her workplace.

So the image of the cafeteria table setting is something I cherish. It acts as a reminder of a day I don’t want to ever forget. A day of true thanksgiving.

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I have to confess. I love facebook. I love that it lets me share in lives of those from whom I am separated by distance. I love that it lets me learn more about my neighbors than I might ever know. I just like the sense of community it gives me.

But lately, I’ve seen it do something that I would have never imagined. It has created a spiritual family for me and others. How so, you ask? My son is a Lutheran pastor. He does all the usual things a pastor does reaching out to folks in many ways. But what he has done in the last year or so goes beyond anything he was trained in seminary to do.

On Thursday nights at about 8 pm, he posts on his Facebook page this note: My dog Hank and I are going on our Thursday night walk at 10:30pm central. Please feel free to share any prayer request. When I get to your prayer request, I will click the like button. I also ask others who are willing to take time and pray for submitted prayer requests as well and then click like as well.

I’ve learned to be pretty faithful about checking the comments and even posting a few requests of my own. What I’ve seen happen astonishes me. Many are requests from members of his congregation. Others, I  know, are friends he had in school. Many names I don’t recognize at all. But some I do. There are folks who post a request (usually not even for themselves) who I know are not “church goers.” Some I’d say are not even believers of any sort. But they use this link to ask for and receive prayers.

And many of these folks come back later (because this is an ongoing process) and respond with a “like” to the posts of strangers and acquaintances. It becomes a community of people concerned with the needs of others. I know that when I see a “like” next to one of my prayer concerns I feel a sense of peace. I hope others feel the same when I click like on theirs.

Each Thursday night there are about 25 (or more) posts much like the ones below. Notice the range of needs. Notice the time in which they were posted. And notice the number next to “unlike” (meaning they were liked). If two or three are enough to gather in His name, then we have a spiritual community for sure. By the way, I deleted names that might be identifiable but did leave a few that could apply to so many. I also deleted the names of those submitting the requests (for obvious reasons).

Please put in an extra prayer for Margaret
December 5 at 8:37pm · Unlike · 13

Surrender
December 5 at 8:38pm · Unlike · 9

All those who are homeless in the cold.
December 5 at 8:39pm · Unlike · 13

My dad died Wednesday morning.
December 5 at 8:39pm via mobile · Unlike · 15

For me to have more patience with my children
December 5 at 8:40pm via mobile · Unlike · 11

For my husband having injections Monday for pain in back
December 5 at 8:40pm via mobile · Unlike · 9

Prayers for healing, please.
December 5 at 8:40pm via mobile · Unlike · 8

For Peace on Earth, goodwill toward all people.
December 5 at 8:41pm · Unlike · 6

For me and my husband.
December 5 at 8:42pm via mobile · Unlike · 8

For our homeless and hungry
December 5 at 8:48pm via mobile · Unlike · 10

Prayers for Harry’s family and friends!
December 5 at 8:54pm via mobile · Unlike · 9

Please pray for all the people who will be affected by the upcoming storms here in the US and Europe.
December 5 at 8:56pm via mobile · Unlike · 9

Prayers for those in the cold weather and family and friends in need of prayers
December 5 at 8:58pm via mobile · Unlike · 10

Prayers for a fellow firefighter with cancer and his family.
December 5 at 9:04pm · Unlike · 11

For my aunt & her family
December 5 at 9:19pm · Unlike · 8

For peaceful end to court……god to show mercy and peace and heal this heart
December 5 at 9:31pm via mobile · Unlike · 9

Prayers for my friends who are fighting cancer. I feel silly asking for this in the same message but we are trying to sell our house. Will you pray for it to sell soon and to a great family that will take care of it.
December 5 at 9:32pm via mobile · Unlike · 7

Calm the fears and worries of my heart
December 5 at 9:38pm via mobile · Unlike · 8

Prayers for my dear friend and his wife. He had a brain bleed and is in a medically induced coma.
December 5 at 9:44pm via mobile · Unlike · 8

Prayers for an end to financial strife in my life right now.
December 5 at 9:47pm via mobile · Unlike · 6

Pray for Nelson Mandela’s soul
December 5 at 9:47pm via mobile · Unlike · 6

Prayers for Tom as he continues to battle his cancer
December 5 at 9:55pm via mobile · Unlike · 5

Please pray for my stepmother. She fell down the stairs and has bleeding on the brain and 2 small fractures on her tail bone. Also, for my friend’s father, who just completed 5 weeks of radiation treatments for bladder cancer. He has lost 16 pounds in 2 weeks and was just admitted into the hospital with kidney problems.
December 5 at 10:02pm via mobile · Unlike · 7

Safe travels for family coming in for my dad’s memorial on Saturday. Pray for my mom her heart is broken.
December 5 at 10:09pm via mobile · Unlike · 8

Chris Lake
Lord your will be done for all who cry out this night. In the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen.
December 5 at 11:12pm via mobile · Like · 7

These are real people with real needs, and yet it amazes me that each week most of the requests are different. It’s as if once is enough. I know for me, I always feel like the need has been met with a single post. Perhaps others do as well.

This use of Facebook may seem to be a simple sort of outreach, but I believe it is incredibly powerful in so many ways. It is truly a goodness. I’m glad I get to be part of it and I’m proud of my son for making it happen.

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