Faith to do good

I had a discussion on Facebook today about the current presidential race, and one woman said Hillary was endangering our country by wanting to bring in Syrian refugees. The woman in question claims to be a Christian. This is something that I just don’t understand. I remember when the Syrian crisis began, the church I attended showed videos about how terrible the situation was, with Christians being beheaded by ISIS, among other terrible atrocities. At that time it seemed we were being encouraged to care and to help.

Within a few months, however, I noticed that Christians were up in arms about the possibility that Syrian refugees might be allowed into our country. “They could be terrorists,” they said. “We have to make sure we have enough for our own people before we go helping people from other countries,” they said.

I was truly astounded by this attitude coming from Christians. This is so far from what Christ taught! He taught faith, not fear. Matthew 25 says that whenever we do not help someone in need, it is as though we have failed to help Jesus. He taught that when the storms arise that we should not be afraid, but have faith, that he is always with us. He taught us not to be afraid to share what we have. Remember those loaves and fishes? What a lack of faith is displayed by those who call themselves Christians but dig in their heels against helping our Syrian brothers and sisters.

There are children who will suffer and die because of that triumph of fear over faith.

I guess I kind of take this personally, because the triumph of fear over faith, or compassion, or human kindness, or just plain goodness could well have cost my own child her life. My daughter, Michaela Joy Garecht (www.dearmichaela.com) was kidnapped in 1988, the victim of a witnessed stranger abduction. Michaela’s friend saw her being kidnapped, watched the kidnapper’s until he drove his car out of the parking lot and onto the highway. Then she ran to get help. At that time, however, there was an older woman pulling onto the same highway from across the street. She took note of the kidnapper’s car. He was driving so erratically she thought he might cause an accident, and because of that she made an attempt to memorize his license plate number.

Later that day she watched the news, and realized what it was she had seen. Did she call the police? No, she didn’t. She didn’t because she was more afraid of the remote possibility of danger to herself than she was concerned about the certainty of the horror my daughter was facing. It was three months later that she called me, but even then she was motivated by fear. She had been in the grocery store and had seen a man who looked like my daughter’s kidnapper. She was afraid that he might have recognized her and might want to hurt her, and that is why she reached out to me.

I was nice to her. I talked to her, I “understood.” I talked her into undergoing hypnosis in order to try to recall the license plate number, but it had been a long time by then, and she told me the day before the session that she would not remember the license plate number. And she didn’t.

My sweet, beautiful, kind, innocent little girl endured what unknown fate that might have been prevented if this woman had come forward with whatever information she had, if she had come forward soon enough to be able to retrieve the license plate number. I really could not understand how she could have allowed the unlikely danger to herself to outweigh my daughter’s suffering, my daughter’s life.

And I don’t understand those who would lock the gates and turn their backs on the Syrian refugees because of their own imagined perception of possible danger, or worse, because they aren’t sure we have enough to share. One day, one way or another, I believe they will have to answer for this.

The sad thing is that these people don’t even acknowledge what they are doing. They don’t own up to their fear. They don’t confess their lack of faith. They seem to think they are fine, righteous even.

It’s just part of the political climate this season I guess. A heartwrenching season. I pray it will be over soon and we can go to better days under compassionate leadership.

Don’t be mad!

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I am a very imperfect person, living an imperfect life, in the company of imperfect people. Am I disappointed? Oh yes. I am very disappointed in many things in life, myself above all! So what should I do with that disappointment? Well, at best I should use it as a motivator to change things for the better. Anybody who has been reading my blogs for awhile, however, is aware of this problem I have with wet cement filling my various body parts. In fact, as I was writing about change, I literally felt that cement start creeping down my spine. I am working on this, really. At the least, I should just be aware of things, which means being aware not only of how things are disappointing, but also of how they are glorious. It’s a trite thing to say, but I have so much to be thankful for just by virtue of living in the time and place I do. Not going to list the rest. You get it.

But what is not a helpful reaction to disappointment is anger. 

Here is what I can tell you. I can love you, even when you are disappointing. I can love you, even when I know you find me disappointing (which is actually harder). There is so much more to you, and to me, and to life, than what is wrong. There is so much that is right. It is not work for me to focus on those things. It is easy. What is hard is blocking out anger from other people.

Even that, I can do.

Being angry doesn’t help anything, as you know. Sulking, storming, yelling, none of it helps. It doesn’t perfect the imperfect — quite the opposite.

When in the presence of anger, I can block it out. But it costs my heart dearly, because my heart really needs to learn to open up and not to shut down. My heart has been hurt so much, so badly, so deeply, that its greatest skill has been learning to close in on itself. But in order to heal, in order to get rid of the wet cement and all else that keeps me from moving forward in life, it needs to open. In seeking peace in an angry world, it closes tighter.

Ultimately, it makes me more disappointing.

Life is what it is. Let’s embrace it, and each other. Let’s keep each other warm in the storms, shelter each other from the heat.When we feel cared for in this way, life will be less disappointing.

When we feel loved unconditionally, our hearts can open, and heal.

And then, who knows, we all just might be less disappointing. Even me.

We need to help each other

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My Bella on the last day of her life.

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend. She has a dog she rescued from a shelter in March 2014. Elsa is a pit bull, and at the time my friend adopted her, she had missing and broken teeth. Why she was in this shape was unknown, although the vet at the shelter suggested it might have been to make her a more cooperative breeder. Regardless, Elsa needed a loving home. She had been given only one day to live before being euthanized when a friend told Keri about her, and Keri decided to rescue Elsa. Keri does not have a lot in the way of resources herself. She is on SSI and goes without a lot of things. But she was willing to love Elsa and share what she does have. She has provided for Elsa, feeding her, getting her shots and medical care, and being a good, loving mom to this dog.

Recently, however, it was discovered that Elsa has a mammary tumor. The surgery for this was quoted at $2,000, which Keri didn’t have. So Keri’s daughter started a GoFundMe for Elsa, to try to raise the money needed. This cause has really struck home with me, because I had a chocolate lab who died in 2013 from a mammary tumor. Bella’s had spread so quickly, it was something like a month between when we first discovered a bump to when she had to be put to sleep, because the cancer had spread to her lungs and she was no longer able to breathe.

Keri has done her due diligence with the mammary tumor. She not only got a quote from her own vet, but she traveled to Oakland to the East Bay SPCA because she had been told they offered financial assistance for veterinary care. They did quote a lower price than the vet, for more services, and did give Keri a discount because of her income. But the SPCA had asked for ex-rays from Elsa’s vet to show that the tumor had not spread, and they also did an exam, for which Elsa’s mom had to pay more money. Also they don’t take Care Credit, which had promised Keri $500 credit towards the surgery. So between the extra costs and the loss of a resource, Keri was left once again without enough funds.

What has amazed me is how difficult it has been to raise this money through GoFundMe. Just myself, I have posted it on my Facebook a good half dozen times. Over 13 days, a total of only $650 has been raised. “It’s my fault,” Elsa’s mom said to me a few days ago. “I should never have got a dog when I am on SSI.”

How heartbreaking is that? Had Keri not been willing to adopt Elsa, she would have died. Elsa needed Keri, and perhaps Keri needed Elsa also. Keri has been willing to give from what she has to meet all of Elsa’s needs until now. She has not been neglected. As Keri said, she has been lucky, because none of her dogs have had problems like this, and most don’t, most of the time.

When something unexpected like this comes up, we ought to be able to help one another. Those of us who don’t have a lot should not be afraid to take responsibility for a pet, because we should all have each other’s backs.

In fact, we should have each other’s backs whatever the need is. If all us poor people got together and looked out for one another, life would be so much better. Best of all, we would not have to be afraid, because we would know that we were never alone, that there was always someone there who would want to help us.

This isn’t the first time I have tried to help people raise funds in times of need, so I guess I am not really shocked at how difficult it is to do this. For Elsa, in 13 days, only $650 has been raised. With the expenses of the new exams, and the discounted fees charged by the SPCA due to Keri’s income, Elsa needs a total of $1400 raised for the surgery and biopsy, or an additional $750.

This is not that much. I have 1,363 friends on Facebook, many of whom are ardent animal lovers, so this should have been a slam dunk. But it hasn’t been. So I thought perhaps if I wrote it out, if people could understand Elsa’s story, and Keri’s, they might feel more comfortable about helping with this cause. The thing is, it doesn’t take long for this kind of cancer to spread. On Bella’s last day, she was unable to get comfortable, because she was having so much trouble breathing. We propped pillows and blankets so she could lean on them instead of trying to lie down. We fanned the air in front of her face so she could feel that there was air there, because that seemed to comfort her. In the evening, the whole family gathered to say goodbye, and a friend came to our house and put her to sleep.

It was too late to save Bella, but I want to help save Elsa. I don’t want her to die, and I don’t want Keri to be forced to grieve the loss of a dog simply because she didn’t have the money to pay for treatment. So I am asking you, please, please help.

Please. Go to Elsa’s GoFundMe Page and give a little, or give a lot if you can. Please help save this dog’s life. Please help one of your fellow human beings. If you have ever loved a dog, you know how she feels.

And to everyone who has helped, or who will help, thank you.

UPDATE: Within hours of this posting, all the funds necessary for Elsa’s surgery have been donated. I thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I hope to be able to post a follow-up with photos of a happy and healthy Elsa.