Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
“Lord, help me overcome my biases. I want to be able to see you in every person I meet.”
As I read my devotional this morning, I smiled thinking of the message. I remembered as a child watching the PBS program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and singing along. Decades later I would watch the show with my children. Of my children, Ian liked it the most. I chuckle when I visit that time in my mind. I still hear him saying as a toddler, “Momma, I want to play the piano (he pronounced it pee-an-do with all long vowels of course) like Mr. Rogers when I grow up.” I thank God for these precious memories of my children. I thank God for those messages that helped shape me as a child.
After reading the parable of the Good Samaritan, I realized the relevance of it in our modern lives. Today, I think we can substitute Samaritan and Jew for many disgruntled “neighbors.” Here’s the shortlist: Republican vs. Democrat, Muslim vs. Christianity, Jew vs. Muslim, Pro-life vs. ProChoice, Gay vs. Straight, Catholic vs. Protestant, & Black vs. White. Whew! I could add more but you get the idea. Would you care for your neighbor like the Samaritan did? Would you use your arms to hold this dying adversary? Could you open your mouth to give a kind word? How about untying your purse strings to give a meal to a starving foe? Use your body to shield them from hateful slurs and threats? Or do we continue to be consumed by hate believing that they deserve to be chastised and hurt? See. We are all called to be a “Good Samaritan.” I hear my back row students squirming in their seats. It is very hard to love those who hate and persecute you.
In this present time our lives are so influenced with confusing messages like “If it feels good, do it” or “It’s all about me #YOLO.” It’s true we only have one earthly life to live. Sadly, those who choose to act morally are often chided in our culture for their weaknesses. They don’t fit in to the popular social circles. After reading the scriptures about the parable of the Good Samaritan, I felt nudged to implore you to find a way to help that wounded person on your life path. We all have at least one person we can choose to help. Imagine if we all encouraged one person a day for a year. Wow! Today, seek out a neighbor to love and serve. Let’s make the most of this beautiful day!
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Neighbor Loving Gal
Quotes of the Day by Mr. Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.”
“There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.”
“Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
Last week the verse “And whoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when you depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” haunted me. I tried to interpret it into my own being. I have this flaw within me that wants to help and give until it becomes unhealthy. I have members of my family and friends that have addiction problems. Sadly, today this is not an exception. Many of you reading this are no stranger to drug addiction and it’s horrible consequences.
Too many children in our society are orphans because of this rampant epidemic. Drugs just hollow out a person. It takes their heart and leaves a selfish, insatiable shell. As a former teacher, I have seen so many children altered by this current epidemic. The neglect is rampant. The emotional abuse cuts so deep. Face it America, our family system is shattered. The children are lost in this shrapnel. The cycle of poverty is growing exponentially. When do we shake the dust from our feet?
I love working with children at our local library. There is a huge building beside it. This building stood for sale a long time. When I would go to the library, I always envisioned a safe house for children. A place they could show up on the doorstep and find immunity from their chaotic lives. A place where they could have a warm meal, a clean bed, and quiet place to read and study away from the drama of the world of addiction. You know going home from school hungry with only dry cereal to live on and no adult there to ask you about your day. Taking care of younger siblings while riffraff comes in and out of your house at all hours. Trying your best to avoid sexual predators. Surviving. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to take children home with me and give them the nurturing and love they deserved. To provide a place for them to thrive and grow and crush the cycle of poverty. The building has been bought and someone is renovating it. Such a dream.
When do we shake the dust and move on from those who continue to choose evil? We give them love, resources, and shelter but are we giving them God? Are we enabling bad choices at the cost of the lives of children? I think we are. These children are feral without any moral and spiritual guidance. Faith without works is empty but don’t you also believe works without faith is just as futile? These things haunt my thoughts. Money, nice clothes, and food don’t remedy the deep rooted issue we are facing. It’s a heart problem. Hearts of children harden by the minute because of this cycle.
Ironically our homily last Sunday was about “Dust.” For two weeks I had rolled the “shaking dust” verse in my mind. The priest had a beautiful message of “dusting” off our spiritual lives. There are ways for us to reach out and help be a “dust mop” to those around us. We need to not be scared to lend a hand and give hugs. Time is short. It helped me realize that although sometimes our love falls on deaf ears we need to shake off the dust and let some go, dust never sleeps. America has layers of dust and I need to move on with my mop to find new areas of need. If we all did our dusting, we could make America shine again.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Dust Hating Gal
Quote of the Day:
“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
I’ve been on earth almost half of a century. My life has had many highs and several lows. To stay sane you have to just roll with the changes trusting that whatever storm we are facing will pass just as those fun, love-filled times did. Through it all we have to put our best foot forward and finish our race. Which foot should we use? What pace should we run? All these come from our moral compass.
When I read headlines or catch a glimpse of the news, it troubles me. Something has gone terribly wrong. There are children hurting so badly that they open fire on each other. There’s human trafficking to fill perverted sexual desires. The abundance of children living with a parent who love getting high more than their precious children. The need for people to escape the reality of this world through chemical means. Are we mentally softer or weaker than generations past or am I imagining things? When the going gets tough we go searching for something at the pharmacy to right it. Is being made of sterner stuff a thing of the past?
There is so much hate and confusion. I read scriptures and pray each day for God to use me. I want to be like Jesus. I want to empty myself and spread love. I want there to be love left everywhere I go. Remember in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis when Aslan comes back and everywhere he prances flowers and plants spring to life? That’s what I envision me doing in my wheelchair. Me embracing my moral compass and everywhere I go leaving a trail of beauty behind me as I roll! Then, I will come to my end and step into eternity and be at peace. It’s urgent for us to dig deep, clean out the garden our souls, and use those compasses that God gave us.
What the world needs now more than ever is to grow our moral compasses. We are currently at a huge crossroad. Everyone wants to be right. Everyone feels they have the knowledge and discernment to be the judge on so many moral issues. We have lost the intimacy of being humans. Sharing meals and taking time to listen to our children and spend time with our elders. Don’t get me wrong. I depend on technology for so much, but the access of so much too soon is a problem. It’s literally poisoning the minds of our children, promoting immoral behaviors, and making everything a world of me not we. We are in this together. Just one kind gesture at a time and we can begin to move toward decency. It costs nothing to be kind and considerate. Being cruel or mean is never an option. We have to find our moral compass or I fear the human race will be lost forever.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Moral Compass Gal
Quotes of the Day:
“I have learned that as long as I hold fast to my beliefs and values – and follow my own moral compass – then the only expectations I need to live up to are my own.”
“Conscience is a man’s compass.”
Vincent Van Gogh
“Families are the compass that guide us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.”
In my mind, I’m thinking of how 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It makes me ponder if we are any better for it today? What would MLKJ think of our country? Watching a PBS presentation at home with my kids the other night, I shuddered. Watching the blatant displays of hate, it made my stomach hurt. When I taught as a white educator, this was a tough but fruitful unit for all of my students. We realize the fight for a better world was for all. We all bleed red. We are a family of humans. We all deserve love and respect. We all want to finish this life as best we can. Humans are not geared toward solidarity existence. We all have gifts to share. We all are capable of building up one another. We all have a purpose.
I always asked, “What did MLKJ fight for: blacks, the poor, or equality? This was a tough question. As we viewed historical footage, my students recognized that among the vast marches there were blacks and whites marching side by side. All colors were martyred for the cause. Doing what is right in any situation is always the tougher path. It’s not for the weak of heart. Dying for something honorable takes sterner stuff indeed.
I ask again, “What was the Civil Rights Movement all about?” I’m just a mere educator but this is my take on it. It was for opportunity not hand-outs. It was to be able to compete in the race of life not with a head start but with a chance to compete. The only problem is who are the score keepers? This is where opportunities become muddled. This is age old regardless of ethnicity. Your birth comes with limitations whether rich or poor, nurtured or neglected, educated parents or not and in your life race you have many hurdles to leap in order to compete well. Opportunity. It’s crucial to being able to compete. Will you seize your opportunities?
At some point every April 4th, I revisit the “I have a Dream” speech. I am always stirred within my soul to “Dream” of a world where love and service trump hate and selfishness. I will embrace all in my path. I will take the opportunity to be the best version of myself. Be a peace maker. You have only to accept the opportunities given to you each day.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Opportunity Gal
Quotes of the Day:
“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Authenticity is everything! You have to wake up every day and look in the mirror, and you want to be proud of the person who’s looking back at you. And you can only do that if you’re being honest with yourself and being a person of high character. You have an opportunity every single day to write that story of your life.”
“Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”
“I hope everyone that is reading this is having a really good day. And if you are not, just know that in every new minute that passes you have an opportunity to change that.”
In my mind today, I’m trying to center myself and plot out how I want to serve others in the new year. Believe it or not, I’m still here with ALS/PMA dipe and all. I’ve found the cure to melancholy and depression. I’ve shared it before and I’ll continue until the “back row” students understand. It truly is in giving that we receive. Focus outward, not inward. It makes life bearable especially for Sal the ALS Gal. I hear some of you complaining that you have no money to help others. Hey, neither do I, but I do have mercy that can be given in abundance. Mercy: compassionate treatment of those in distress: blessings. I’m searching for ways to serve and deliver mercy.
Last Friday night I attended a local basketball game. It takes a lot to get Sal the Basketball Loving Gal out of the house especially in the winter and at night. It’s a sacrifice indeed. I never know how my body will betray me from fatigue and atrophy. Let’s just say it was really rebelling Friday night. My right hand wouldn’t push the joystick to drive my scoot, my neck was wobbly and terribly tired, and my breathing was labored affecting my speech. I had a big dose of humility as I was escorted to my area. Being so frail in a place where I was once so strong is truly humbling.
I looked around the crowd and saw familiar faces: former colleagues, students, and peers. The student section was full of life and youth. As the girls ran out for warm-ups, I remembered my years on the basketball court. I was so very grateful to be able to watch, enjoy, and remember other seasons of my life. Ironically, it was “Throwback” night and the theme was the 1980’s. The students were all decked out in 80’s garb. It made me chuckle. Big bangs, concert shirts, and mini skirts, were all the rage. Whew! Have mercy on our style!
Many people came by and gave me hugs, talked basketball, told me how my former classroom is going, and updated me on their current undertakings. Guess what students? They gave me mercy. Compassion. What costs nothing but can reverberate and last an eternity? Mercy. Forgiveness. Loving the unloveable. Especially when love and forgiveness is not deserved, this is the ultimate form of mercy. Will I ever get there? I’m trying desperately to do so. And of course I urge you to find mercy that may be locked up inside of your own hearts. We have all been hurt by others. We have all had times of gossiping. We have all been “twits.” Unpack mercy this year. Yes, this is an assignment back row. Remember to have mercy on yourselves first.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Merciful Gal
Quotes of the Day:
“God’s mercy is fresh and new every morning.”
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”
“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”
“I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”
“A little bit of mercy makes the world less cold and more just.”
In my mind today, I’m thinking about addiction. Addiction is when you forsake everything for something you desire. Regardless of the harm you inflict on others, the acquisition is all that matters.
Recently the kids and I were talking about a popular tv series that has a notorious alcoholic as the protagonist. My IV Specialist was here and she watches the same series. I asked her if she had a “Frank” in her family. She said, “Gosh, no!” I was astounded. Heck, my family and my husband’s have at least one “Frank” and multiples in some generations. Addiction is hereditary.
Last night as I was trying to go to sleep I kept thinking about addictions. I love watching documentaries and biographies. In grade school my favorite books were biographies. Anyway in a documentary I watched the other day a famous musician had to move to another country to escape the cocaine culture and create music with a clear mind. He had been so “high” for years he had become numb to living in reality. Numb. That’s the word that kept turning over and over in my mind as I wished for sleep to come last night. Addiction numbs you. One doesn’t want to deal with the trappings of life or doesn’t know how to deal with real life situations. The past sometimes prompts you to search for something to mask the pain. The pain must never surface lest you risk feeling. It’s so, so sad that people want to be numb. The musician began again, but this time he could “feel.” He experienced life even heartbreak but it steeled him. He released an amazing album. Out of his stupor, he grew. At the end of his life dying with a excruciating cancer, he didn’t enjoy the “highs” of his medication. He wanted to feel every minute of life he had left. He had conquered addiction.
In a reflection I read it clarified addictions so well. It actually gave insight to the mindset of a person addicted. As I read it I thought, “What a great blog this would make? Addiction.” So many of us today are touched by chemical addiction. Heroine is making a huge comeback. It’s creeping from urban areas to little burgs like mine. Opioids, hydros and pain meds, are recking havoc in our families. I’m praying the “meth” phase is dwindling amongst our population, but sadly it’s becoming more prevalent. Addiction. It is exhausting and heart wrenching when people you love are numb. The addicted continue to deceive not only us but also themselves. Most addicted people feel they are doing great. They use the blame game when cornered or the “At least I’m not like ________, they are doing ________ which is so much worse than me.” Sound familiar? I hope not for your heart’s sake. There’s only one way to truly heal from an addiction. Allow yourself to feel and deal with what drives your pain and thirst to be numb. Then allow something greater to fill your heart and fuel your spirit. That something is God. I pray you’re fortunate to never have to deal with addiction. If you do, know it is in God’s hands.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the End Addiction Gal
Quotes of the Day:
“But they are living on a fundamental self-deception which nothing could cure except the extraordinary advent of God’s love and forgiveness.”
Fr. Herbert McCabe, God, Christ and Us
“Ashes to ashes,
funk to funky
We know Major Tom’s a junkie
Strung out in heaven’s high
Hitting an all-time low”
“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.”
“Addiction is a hugely complex and destructive disease, and its impact can be simply devastating. All too often, lives and families can be shattered by it.”
“No one is immune from addiction; it afflicts people of all ages, races, classes, and professions.”
Patrick J. Kennedy
In my mind today I’m thinking of adversity. If you’re human, you will have times of adversity. Let’s define adversity: difficulties, misfortune, sorrow, suffering, hardship, woe, and pain. Wow! So many synonyms for one word. I could go on and on. Adversity has no discretion. It can ruin the best of days. It will pop up any place: home, work, church, school, or playgrounds. It could be a health, personal, financial, or spiritual crisis. I know back row students, Ms. Alley sounds like a “Debbie Downer.” It’s true, but there are many lessons and blessings in adversities.
No, I’m not off of my rocker in 2018. During my lesson for Sunday School, we talked about resolutions and making goals for ourselves. We looked at health, academic, personal growth, and relationships. Goals are great. It took a while for Sal the Nutty Professor Gal to realize this in her own life. Goals are things we strive to accomplish in our lives. The key word is strive because old adversity pops up even when we have the best of intentions. What we learn through our struggles is persistence, humility, and gumption. This is our lesson for today. Yes, plans go awry, but we have to find our center and rise above it. So be thankful for adversity.
Each Sunday in class we read about a Saint. Sal the Fruity Teaching Gal calls this the “Saint of the Week!” I get excited reading about saint’s lives because it never ceases to amaze me how they turn such horrendous adversity into something good. This week we read about Thomas Merton. He’s a controversial and colorful saint. He was tested and tried continually about his contemplative thoughts about God. He was a person who thought “out of the box.” This concerned many leaders in the Catholic faith. I admire him because he had gumption, persistence, and humility. He never quit his faith. He knew there was more meaning and purpose for the human life regardless of naysayers. I feel that, too. Even my own children question my faith because of the hand I’ve been dealt with my health. They are still angry at times, but I know God uses everything even terminal illnesses for some type of good. I think the hardest thing in the world is truly letting go and letting God use you. Humans want to control their own destinies. All we can do is try to do more good than harm in our gifted earthly lives.
Before we go, the back row knows what I’m going to say and yes you’re right! Here’s your assignment. Think about you life and strife. Then, find a way to react in a positive way to the hand you’ve been dealt. No troubles at the moment? Lucky you! Now, find a way to give a blessing to the humans who are struggling. We are a team of humans. There is no us versus them. This is it. WE have to work together to be the helpers, healers, and hosts of the true light of the Holy Spirit. Remember adversity is a wonderful teacher. Are you teachable?
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Embrace Adversity Gal
Dedicated to all of those who support Sal the ALS Gal through prayers, friendship, medical bills, and love. You want me here longer and for that I’m so humbled.
Quotes of the Day:
All by Thomas Merton
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.”
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.”
“We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others.”
Happy New Year!
In my mind today I’m thinking of all of the blessings of 2017 and how things have changed from my childhood. Remember as a child how the 2000’s seemed otherworldly? They seemed so distant as we envisioned a world like The Jetsons. We’ve yet to have flying cars, but we have rumbas, drones, and FaceTime which are amazing when I think of my techno-free childhood.
My family certainly wasn’t the jet-set. We had an antenna for tv and seven tv channels. One of those was PBS. I think I’m the only one that couldn’t live without it, and it’s still one of my favorite channels. Go ahead back row and call me a geek. Mr. Rogers taught me how to deal with kids like you. Now, kids watch tv on their phones. Remember favorite tv shows that we all gathered to watch? The only time we could watch cartoons was Saturday mornings. If you slept late, you missed out.
What about having one phone jack and one phone in the entire house? I was envious of friends that had phones in their bedrooms. Seems unbelievable doesn’t it? Phones were for function and not so much for entertainment. I remember waiting anxiously by the phone for that person I was crushing on to call so my parents wouldn’t embarrass me or interrogate them if someone of the opposite sex called. Just like Archie and Edith sang, “Those were the days.”
It makes me wonder what will kids today look back on and feel nostalgic about when they reminisce? Are things today worse or not as fun or are we not as connected as days gone by? Are we all freaking out? Yes, there is a lot of disparity, but I also see so much good. There are many organizations and individuals working for people struggling in the middle of the healthcare gap crisis, poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, neglected children, better environmental choices, and natural disaster relief. And we aren’t giving up or stopping. Why? The good anyone does reverberates and multiplies no matter how minuscule the deed. 2018 here I come. Sal the New Year Gal is brimming with ideas to promote goodwill toward all. Join me.
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the 2018 Gal
Dedicated to Matthew 25:40, Salvation Army, Union Mission, McIvers Grant Public Library, Dyersburg City Schools, and Dyer County Schools
Quotes of the Day:
“I just believe in the goodwill of people, the power of people to do something positive.”
“In a time of domestic crisis, men of goodwill and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics.”
“Justice and goodwill will outlast passion.”
James A. Garfield
Faith, Hope, Love, & Radicava
In my mind today, I’m thinking of rejoicing. This is the third week of advent. We are called to rejoice remembering our savior entered the world. Behold! Emmanuel is here within each of us. He is.
Ironically, I’m also rejoicing because with faith, hope, and love God has granted an approval for me to begin infusions of a new drug to sustain me on this side of heaven for a bit longer. It’s called Radicava. If all goes well, Sal the Hopeful Gal will be given more time to share my light with you.
If you research ALS, there are so, so many variations. I’ve already been blessed by a slower progressing form of the disease. Now, Radicava may slow down my progression further still. So Sal is the Rejoicing Gal! My first infusion starts tomorrow. I promise to update as I go through this process. We PALS (people with ALS) pray for more time. We want to love just a little longer.
Are there glitches? Oh yes, isn’t there always? First, I’m praying I have no allergic reactions. Second, I’m praying both my insurances help pay for it. At the moment, only my private insurance is willing to pay. The costs are outrageous My first infusion is $15,000. Only 70% is being covered at the moment, but I have hope that all will work out. I’ve been carried for my 48 years in His Palm, and I have peace with whatever life throws my way. Just this morning I was reminded that each trouble we encounter has meaning and purpose. Last, I’m asking for your continued love and prayers as I begin this part of my journey.
So students, God willing we will have many more lessons together. I’m headed to the church today to work with the youth on a Christmas skit to be presented Thursday night. I asked God to use me and I sincerely thank Him for doing so through help from my family and friends. I am living not dying with ALS. I’m not giving up or slowing down. Just like Robert Frost penned, “I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.”
Sarah Anderson Alley
Sal the Radicava Gal
Dedicated to past and present PALS. We pray that there will be no more PALS in the future.
Quotes of the Day:
“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”
“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”
“Love cures people – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.”
Karl A. Menninger