Daily Prompt: Daring to Tell Your Truth

Last year when Patrick Kennedy spoke about his family’s alcoholism on 60 Minutes — and his own — it totally inspired me. It made me happy that a man was telling his family truths. That he was seeking to heal by being honest.

Does every family think they are a little bit like the Kennedy family? I think my family is. And by family I mean the family I was born into, the family I married into, and the family I created. All three of these  families share a legacy of intelligence, humor, and service. And yes, a dynasty of not talking about feelings but forging on and accomplishing greatness no matter what.

Every family has their health struggles. How do you handle yours? Do you put on a brave face? Do you speak your truth? This topic often comes up when teaching writing to adults– What if writing my truth hurts someone? Maybe we should ask instead, What if it heals someone? What if the truth does set you free?

And then there is, of course, this advice (from Anne Lamott?) ‘If they didn’t want you to write about them, they should’ve treated you better.’ But some people can’t treat you better because they’re not in treatment.

I thought it was interesting that Patrick said his father Edward Kennedy suffered from PTSD because his two brothers were assassinated.

Talking about your family illness — whether is be Parkinson’s, alcoholism, depression, or cancer — is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.

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via Daily Prompt: Daring

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Love Your Neighbor

Today I wanted to do something different. So I went to Unity Church. John Shelby Spong, a retired Epicopal bishop, preached on the Gospel of John.

Basically, he said, the gospel was made up. He said – how can you trust something written three generations after a person lived? The John Gospel, he said, was written 70 years after Jesus’ crucifixion.

The bishop told the story of the woman at the well. She was not judged. The conversation at the well was a metaphor for peaceful coexistence. (This is my interpretation of the sermon). Although the two at the well had different faiths, they shared the same god. And god does not belong to any one faith. The sermon inspired me to love without judging.

Spong concluded the sermon,
“It’s not that Christianity has failed, it’s that it hasn’t been tried yet.” I agree – we have not tried a radical love of neighbor and a deep tolerance for difference.

As I rode my bike from the church at Symphony Space along Broadway, I thought, yes, but if we are all sisters and brothers, why are we so divided? This message of brotherhood has not been the prevailing message of mainstream Christianity.

I went to Unity because I didn’t want to hear about the historical Jesus. I needed a spiritual boost – a personal empowerment. I am in a transitional mode (will let you know more as it develops!) and I wanted something personal, inspirational, and self help-y.

The last time I was at Unity, pastor Paul Tenaglia offered these affirmations:

“God has the right and perfect well-paying work as a New York artist for me.”

“I believe I have a natural abundance;
prosperity is mine;
I have unlimited success in my creativity.”

“Divine love blesses and increases in me.”

I liked those affirmations – and today’s sermon too. God is there – in love for self and neighbor.

Then, I went and bought a Christmas tree on Broadway.

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Saying Nothing

The Jamaican horn-player was testifying to a handful of people. He wore a yellow polo shirt. “It’s easier to build someone up than to criticize,” he said.

The church seemed on its last legs. On 57th between 9th and 10th, the church had peeling paint and rotating fans. It was super hot.

I think it was a Brazilian Church because the Brazilian flag was draped over a pew in the back and a sign outside listed a 7 pm Brazilian church service. I wandered in around 7:50.

I had been walking in the city after my writing class. My classmates and teacher liked this new writing project, A Church A Day, especially they liked me mentioning the people I met.

I had reported in class that many of the men who guarded the church doors, the guys who allowed me access to the sanctuaries, seemed just one step away from the soup kitchen themselves. The church caretakers had seen it all but were were still good-hearted and hard-working.

The Jamaican speaker at the Brazilian church last night was no exception. “I play in the subway. That’s my job. When the police come up to me, I move on. Then they’ll say, ‘Weren’t you just here yesterday?’ ‘I have to make a living,’ I say. It’s tough to make a living as a musician. I have 3 students. I pray for 20.”

At one point he asked the congregation, “What does faith mean?” A few people called out, “Jesus’s love.” “Forgiveness.” He waited. I said nothing. He said, “You in the back, say anything.”

That was me — the one in the back. My tongue was tied. I didn’t feel comfortable speaking. I wanted to say something, to help him out. But I wanted to give the right answer. I liked his sermon. But I didn’t know what faith meant.

I smiled. I hoped that I looked European, perhaps slightly non-English speaking. He moved on. I couldn’t help thinking he was disappointed in me.

Then later he asked, “Who is there for you? No matter what? Who will always be there?”

I shouted out, “Your mother!” A few heads turned. He did not acknowledge my answer. I think the question was rhetorical.  The correct answer may have been God and not mother. I’m not sure. I slunk down in the pew in embarrassment, feeling ridiculous — unable to answer when called on, shouting out the wrong answer when I was not called on.

It’s hard to understand the rhythms of worship. There were several Hallelujahs shouted out during the sermon. It seemed okay for everyone else to yell out randomly. Like when he’d ask, “How am I doing? This is my first sermon. But it won’t be my last.” “Hallelujah!” someone yelled.

Even though I felt inept, I dug this guy. I liked, “Knock and the door will be opened. But you have to knock. No one is going to come knocking on your door.” And he said, “For me the ultimate sin is laziness. You need faith, honesty and hard work.” “Hallelujah!” someone called out.

At 8:15 the service was over. I wanted to tell the speaker I liked his message. But I felt shy and didn’t want to engage. Maybe they’d try to get me to come again. I couldn’t commit. I want to visit a lot more churches. I walked back out into the hot summer night.