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The sharp and slim line between.

November 18, 2014

If you know me you know that at this time of year I look like the star of the “Exorcist” during that scene when her head spins around- however I am not projecting anything so this may be a bad comparison, but indulge me with your unconditional judgment on my goofiness.
Throughout the year I do my very best to rally assistance for friends in need within our arm’s reach. The difference at this time of year is that the offers to help are a bit more plentiful than other times of the year, however, the needs increase as well. Layoffs, illnesses, vehicle breakdowns, the cost of food rises (adding to that the need to feed kids through a break from their daily free/reduced lunches) adds to higher grocery costs, and though death is always painful it is more crippling during the holiday season. Therefore, it is my belief and my mission to work harder to communicate the need for us to step forward to offer the hand of a friend and meet those needs, whether it be in physical, financial, or emotional, needs that are exasperated during these months.
I often hit the wall during these months (unfortunately I’ve found that adding years under my belt does not add energy) but only temporarily because of God’s grace and support. Contrary to what you may believe, I do not carelessly and eagerly launch each day looking forward to responding to what I truly believe I have been called to do, at least for this chapter of my life. There are many days I shake my head and put up my arms in frustration at the heavens, both at God and at my father, whom I founded Hope & Friendship Foundation for (to carry on his legacy of engaging in acts of kindness after his death). However for every one of those days there are countless, simply countless, more that lift my spirit and conviction and remind me that it is a humbling honor to be a conduit of such love, friendship and hope from those that have to those that need.
Last Saturday was one of those days.
The temperature was in the teens when I left my house and I was not skipping to my car as I left to lead Fall Mission Stay Saturday 2014. I was driving toward the Lemont Police Station praying for at least one more set of hands to join me to complete the yard work I had promised to two friends in need. Guess what? There were dozens of them.
We started at a home that is battling a life ending disease. For as anyone knows that has battled death it is not only the person who is ill’s battle and trial, it is the entire families battle. In the heat of their health battle other battles are rising and they are repeatedly being knocked to the mat and suffocating from the lack of hope that is at the end of each day. The gift of this army of angels showing up on the coldest November morning in 30 years thrilled the children of the house, and lifted the spirits of the parents. There was laughter, community, and much work accomplished with ease and compassion.
Then we traveled to the home of a dear friend of mine, whom we have visited for many Mission Stay Saturdays, for the last Mission Stay Saturday posthumously. It was so bittersweet. We helped her family, but dearly missed her presence on her balcony thanking us, waving to us, and sharing her grace with us.
What many who were with me on Saturday at the Mission Stay visits didn’t know is that between those two houses I had a Chaplain call that required me to counsel a family through the first hours of learning of the death of their 23 year old son, brother, grandson. The pain was so powerful that even I had trouble “finding positive” as I told them I am determined to do. But we did, a friendship developed and I have been able to continue to be a compassionate and sympathetic ear and support throughout this most difficult week as they prepare to bury their beloved on Thursday.

As I moved through Saturday morning I was overwhelmed with the underlying story of the day: we were visiting the line between life and death, light and darkness, hope and hopelessness with friends who were either evading it by skimming just above it, or who had painfully found themselves just below it.
If you have heard me speak you will have heard me expressing that:
There is a small degree of separation between those that have and those that need. Moving through your days feeling that “it could never be me” is a very vain and naïve disposition that will level you to the mat with even a greater crash.
We, as a body of friends, reach out and meet needs for other friends who have been knocked to the mat: leveled by cancer and other devastating health issues for parent and/or child, unexpected job loss, loss of a spouse or child, loss of home from fire, etc., and to those that have been pulling their chins up to the bar of living barely at a comfortable level to falling below due to unexpected and unaffordable set backs.
A person can drive a very nice car, live in an affluent neighborhood, have more mouths to feed than they might have planned on “had they known”, be well dressed and equipped with “designer wear” and quality items in their homes, simply because the chapter before this chapter was one of comfort, happiness and excess.
Then came the life-blow.
They still have the home. They still have the car. They still have the remnants of what was as they try to move through was is now. It isn’t a life in the distant past, it is a life that seemed to be a blink of an eye ago. That is how fast life blows take you down.
Saturday evening I was overwhelmed with the reminders of that sliver of a line that had been unwillingly crossed by all three families I had been with, as well as so many others who came out to help who I personally knew had been helped during their attempt to rise from the mat. They were up and reaching out to others knowing first hand how painfully sharp and slim that line is.
That alone exudes hope that those that grieve, those that need, those that are in a fetal position on the mat today can know that it is possible that they can be one of many that join in action tomorrow as part of the army of angels who reach out their hand, pull up a fellow friend, brush them off, offer them a hug, meet a basic need with unconditional judgment knowing that it very well could be any one of us, during any page of a future chapter of our lives who will need to be assisted, lifted, and loved where we are so that we can rise to where they do, where we would hope to be.
“The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.”
~ Albert Schweitzer

Wishing you the peace of the season of giving,

Terri O’Neill-Borders

Hope and Friendship Foundation
721 Hickory St, Lemont, IL 60439
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Proverbs 31: 8-9


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