Blog

Author, Be Radiant

A Radiant 4th!

A Radiant 4th

I dare suggest that the Fourth of July is truly a radiant holiday.  It has always been one of my favorites, that patriotic sense of community, the celebration of America, that knowledge that we all love this one country of ours.

This deep sense of patriotism and community was inspired in me as a very young girl.  My father had grown up in Blue Island, Illinois, right outside of Chicago.  Every summer, around the fourth, we would take a road trip from Middletown, OH to Chicago to see our grandparents, cousins, and all sorts of extended family.  While for this little five year old the six-hour drive seemed never-ending, the results were always worth it.  Days upon days of playing in new spaces, with cousins I didn’t get to see nearly often enough, and grandparents who doted on us; those trips were sacred.

Blue Island to me, was the quintessential American town.  We would celebrate Independence Day there, starting the morning with the parade.  Standing along the parade route I would watch my parents talking to so many people as they made this annual pilgrimage home .  If Mom and Dad were talking, my grandmother was always there, hoisting us up so we could see, or holding our hand so we wouldn’t get lost.

I loved the parade, though the fire engines were so noisy I would always cover my ears.  We all cheered the bands and laughed at the clowns.  The parade had to be the best in the country, at least to me.  We all waved flags during the parade and if I couldn’t find mine, there were several people jumping to give me theirs.  That day, in the town of Blue Island, I felt what it meant to be American, to be part of this great country of ours.

After the parade had ended, we would find our way back to my grandmother’s and cousins’ homes for a cook-out.   The men manned the grills so that hot dogs and hamburgers were in constant supply.  We spent our afternoons eating and playing until it was time to get ready for the fireworks.  There was only one place to go for fireworks in Blue Island, Eisenhower High School.  We would get there early and Mom would put a blanket on a patch of the football field.  We would lay down on our backs and wait for the explosions of colors to light the sky above us.  I was always a little bit afraid, what if the embers came all the way down on me?

I wonder if I knew the word radiant at the time?  I don’t really know.  But, as I remember those nights, the sky was radiant.  The deep, dark night, spotted with bright, little stars would explode in color.  We would all gasp and ooh and aah at the same time, without even trying.

And now, I ask myself, isn’t the fourth of July the definition of radiance?  We are one nation, under God, with the beautiful light of fireworks connecting us all as we jointly sing God Bless America.  On the Fourth of July however, it is not just the fireworks that are radiant, but it is us.  We, the people, are radiant as we celebrate this country of ours.  We are the light, given by God, that shines most brightly at the celebration of our country’s birth.  As freedom rings, let all of us shine….

 

Be Radiant

A Light in the Dark

dependent-dementia-woman-old-70578

I was visiting with a friend today and she shared a harrowing story of her grandmother that ended quite beautifully, thanks in large part to some lovely, dare we say, radiant strangers.  It goes like this.

Her grandmother, about 85, decided to walk five blocks to a convenient store. Sure, her daughter and granddaughter were coming over in a little bit but, it was only going to take her a few minutes to run this errand.  She had planned to take her cell phone, but when she picked it up, she realized it was not working (the battery had died) and so she left it at home.

She finished her errand and decided that she really had plenty of time, so why not take the bus to her daughter’s house and save her the trip.  It would be a nice surprise.  But, that is when things got a little turned around.

The grandmother forgets things occasionally, like so many of us do.  This time however, she forgot which bus stop to take and ended up getting off at the wrong spot.  Downtown, on the south side of St. Louis, so many things looked the same to her.  She started walking the city blocks, looking for her daughter’s house.

The more she walked, the more turned around she became, the more scared, the more nervous, the more forgetful.  Day turned to night and her family was besides themselves, as it had now been 4 or 5 hours, and they had no idea where to look.

The grandmother started knocking on doors, could anyone help her?  But, by this time, so afraid, she couldn’t even remember what street she lived on, let alone where her daughter lived.  And then she found the light in the darkness.  Late Saturday night, she knocked on the door of a loving couple.  They could see she was scared and lost.  They brought her into the house, calmed her down, gave her a bit of water and tried to help her remember things.  Where was she going?  What was her address?  Was there a phone number to call?

They were at a loss because she was at a loss.  But, they had a relative who is a police officer.  They called her, could she help?  Sure enough, the police officer was able to help her figure out at least the name of her street, and she took her there.  They walked up and down the street to see what looked familiar.  And, at 3am, there was her daughter, sitting on the stoop of her house, so afraid for her mother.

As my friend, the granddaughter shared this story, still so clearly rattled, it occurred to me that the star of the story is that kind couple. How spectacular that of all the doors to knock on, that the grandmother knocked on theirs.  The family does not know who they are.  But, their kindness, their warmth, their caring for a nervous grandmother, made all the difference.  To me, they were radiant.  They were the light that dark Saturday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

faith

God Bless America

God Bless America

I started my day at Mass, asking that God bless America and especially all those who have given their life for our freedom.  Truth be told, I usually start each day at Mass.  But, there is something about Memorial Day and remembering our fallen troops at church that is always so profound for me.

But, Mass today, wow was that special.  Let me explain.  Every morning when I attend Mass, there is an older man, maybe 94 or so, who always attends.  We call him Briggs.  He still drives and brings with him everyday, a woman from their retirement community, who just turned 96 herself.  Briggs is such a gentleman, always a kind word, opening doors for each of us.  I don’t know him well, but I have heard a few stories.  One story in particular is that he fought at the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.  When I asked him about that a few months ago, he simply smiled and asked how I had heard that.  I took that as confirmation that indeed he had fought for us there.

But, back to this morning.  We are at Mass and there is Briggs, in his usual place, on Mary’s side of church.  As Mass was drawing to a conclusion, our Pastor suggested that we sing, as a closing song, God Bless America.  But, he offered, that he can not carry a tune and would someone be willing to lead us in song?

There are easily 50 – 75 people at Mass, but not a soul was willing to start, except for one strong voice.  Yes, it was Briggs that immediately led us in song.  The 94 year old man who fought for our freedom, ever so proudly led us in singing God Bless America this morning.  There was a hush for a second as we all realized who had started the song, and then we all joined in.  I don’t know if I ever heard a more beautiful rendition of that great song.

I think about the gifts that his man has provided us; from his days in battle, to his work in our community, to his gentleness with all he meets, to his beautiful humility.  Perhaps his greatest gift is the example he sets for us each and everyday, an example of faith, honor, commitment and loyalty.   That gift was so profoundly evident today, as the 94 year old veteran stood tall and sang out God Bless America for us and for all those who have served.

God Bless our troops and God Bless America…

 

 

 

Author, Be Radiant, faith

A Horrible Headache

Author Donna A Heckler as a child
Donna about age 9 or 10

Let me take you back, many, many years ago when your author, as a 7 or 8 year old, had a horrible headache.  I remember it well.  Truly, I had never had a headache before so I couldn’t figure out what was occurring, but my little head was just pounding.

I went into the kitchen to look for my Mother.  She took one look at me and asked what was wrong.  My head really, really hurts I explained.  I don’t think I even knew the word for headache yet, to be honest.  She asked me what had I done?  Had I fallen, had I hit my head?

“No”, I said, “I was just thinking.  And, now my head really, really hurts!”

“What were you thinking about?” she asked curiously.

“Well, I was trying to figure out how God could be three persons in one.  I can’t figure that out, and I really, really tried!  And, now, my head really hurts!”

My mother proceeded to explain that this was something that people are not supposed to understand, we needed to accept it on faith.  While I don’t recall if she said it was a “mystery”, she did tell me that it was something that only God understood.  She suggested I just accept it and not try to sort it out and then my head would feel better.

I thought about this at Mass today on the Feast of the Holy Trinity, and thought I might share the story with you.  This little girl stills wishes her brain could figure out the Holy Trinity.  This Catholic adult is humbled by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the three persons in one who love, strengthen and guide us.

I smile as I think about this very real introduction to faith that I had as a child.  As an adult, I smile as I think about how many times faith removes the horrible headaches in our lives, allowing us to be radiant.

Be Radiant Friends….

 

 

 

 

 

Be Radiant, faith

Finding Radiance in the Rain

Rain on Leaves

This author and speaker did a bit of a mid-west tour this past week, driving from St. Louis to Indiana to Iowa, back to Indiana before heading home.  I tried to tell myself I was doing one big loop through the upper mid-west, though truth be told, it was more of zigs and zags, through the rain most of the way.

It was a rainy trip and I was slogging through downpours and thunderstorms as I drove.  During one part of the journey, when the rain didn’t seem like it would ever let up, I challenged myself to find the radiance, in the rain.

Surely it was there, I just needed to be present and look for it. I pulled off the highway to get some gas and a little bit to drink.  As I checked out with my beverage in hand, the clerk, never-looking up, murmured “Thank you and have a blessed day.”  I automatically said thank you and turned to leave.  No, I thought to myself, really thank her for saying that.  I turned back to her.  “Thank you for saying that.  That was really lovely.”

Words can not describe her reaction.  She lifted her head up and burst into the biggest smile I have seen in awhile.  Standing  a bit taller, she looked me in the eye and said with a shoulder shrug and that beautiful smile, “I always say that, it is sort of my thing.”

“I am so glad” I replied, “It is a wonderful thing to say.  Thank you so very much.  You have a blessed day as well.”

I stepped outside, into the rain and realized I had seen the radiance I was looking for that day.  Right there, at a little Speedway gas station in Indiana, by a shy, beautiful cashier who wanted to remind me, and all of us, that we are blessed.