Tags: #thinkkit, daily prompt
What did you make this year? Whether something personal, like a song or some art, or a work project, share your process, the end result about your creation.
I made an impact.
I made our home. I cooked dinners, packed lunches, swept floors, and did laundry. I scheduled appointments and planned vacations. I drove Anna to and from school in another town dozens of times.
I made charitable contributions. I donated money to a few causes. I dropped off clothing and household goods at Goodwill (and shopped there too). I volunteered at Girls Inc., Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Indianapolis Animal Care and Control, and other places.
I made Lifetime status at Weight Watchers. It has been almost a year since I reached my weight loss goal (and maintained it).
I made some money. I ventured back into the work-for-pay world by securing three part-time jobs: Weight Watchers, Nederveld, and Foresters. It’s not a significant salary but maybe it’ll cover hiring someone to clean the house. Ha!
I made a positive impression on others. I was offered the job at Weight Watchers after being observed as a participant in meetings. I was offered the job at Foresters after a recommendation from the position’s incumbent (whom I met on Twitter) + a single phone interview. I was introduced to Pam Blevins Hinkle with the phrase, “I’ve been telling you about her.” I heard “I follow you on Twitter” more than once when meeting someone. I got several encouraging comments on a post that was scary for me to write.
I made someone’s day with my words and actions. Bill frequently tells me so in texts and emails. I bought Anna a copy of TFIOS and took her to the Writers’ Harvest to hear John Green speak. I managed a sussy for The Sussy Project and at least three on my own (so far). I had breakfast with a Twitter friend after she lost her job.
I made jams, jellies, and pickles, blogged about (here, here, and here) and otherwise, in the spring and fall. They made popular swap items, handy gifts, and my husband drool (just the pickles, though).
I made commitments and kept them. I attended every food swap this year as a swapper and volunteer. I went to about a dozen Trade School Indy events. Who knows how many promises I made (and kept, because that’s what I do).
I made good decisions. I started (and kept) exercising. I reconnected with old friends. I recognized that I need a certain amount of social recharging to stay emotionally balanced and ensure that I get that (e.g., regular lunches with friends, cultural events on my own).
I made repairs and improvements. I replaced two track lights in the downstairs hallway; one hadn’t bee functional in 7-ish years or so. With Bill, I built a stone retaining wall in our back yard. I changed the bulbs on the car’s taillights. You know, those kinds of things.
I made crafty things, like greeting cards and Christmas ornaments.
I made messes, too, and bad decisions. I started to detail those but decided against it. Today’s prompt is about creation and creativity, which I’m interpreting as positive. The positive aspects of messes and bad decisions are lessons learned and behaviors changed, and those have already been covered above.
She paired me up with Meghan Deas-Halley from Columbus, Ohio. I checked out her blog to get a feel for her personality and
lovingly crafted a handmade decoration for the tree I imagined her having chose which faux ceramic animal ornament she would get from the group that I painted for the Trade School Indy ornament exchange, and then I threw in a crystal snowflake for good measure. (OK, I wasn’t that callous about it. I did try to guess which animal from the odd menagerie she might like the best. I did write her a nice note. I’m not a Scrooge-like monster.)
I wrapped them in red tissue, packaged them up securely with green shredded paper, adorned the box with a punny sticker (which the postal dude put a sticker over), tucked in the holiday card, and sent it on its way.
A couple weeks later I got my package from Meghan. In it was a very nice greeting card and a cool ornament wrapped in gold tissue paper. The photo doesn’t do justice to the sparkliness. It will look so great on our tree! I love it.
Thanks, Meghan! Merry Christmas!
Tags: #thinkkit, daily prompt
Interview at least one other person about their favorite moments of the year. Why were these moments important? Were they major events, a particularly memorable minute, or somewhere in-between? Share what you heard.
I was going to let this one slide but I tossed the question out to Bill in conversation. He reviewed the calendar and then gave me his highlights:
— His business trip to Dallas (March)
— My birthday dinner at R Bistro (August)
— His birthday dinner at Taste Café (October)
— Our trip to Jamaica, particularly Thanksgiving dinner (November)
— “There may be others. The year isn’t over yet.”
I’m guessing that disclaimer is probably for our romantic Christmas dinner although, to be fair, he might be thinking of the company Christmas party next weekend. My husband likes smooth travel and delicious meals. New experiences that go well make for very positive memories, too.
Today’s prompt is easy. I believe in volunteering. I talk to strangers. I help out when/where I can.
How do you want to get involved in your community this coming year? Is there an organization that you’re finally going to join? A neighbor who could use a hand? Or do you have a great idea that just needs a little momentum? Share how you’d like to get involved in your community during 2014.
I’m sure 2014 will see much of the same volunteering activities that 2013 (and 2012, 2011, 2010, etc.) did, or at least at the same organizations. Girls Inc. and KIB are two of my favorites to give time to. There will also be new opportunities with different organizations that I can’t predict because that’s how being open to volunteerism works. My first experience helping at an athletic event will be the Fight for Air Climb on 8 March 2014.
I know I will stay involved in our thriving bartering community. I have been enamored with Indy Food Swap (and Suzanne, of course) since the very first event in 2012 and I’m looking forward to six more fantastic swaps in the coming year, both as a swapper and a volunteer. I will continue to attend Trade School Indianapolis classes and plan to do some volunteering for them as well.
I’m sure there will be community fairs and fundraising walks and art shows to go to, and I will go to them. Not all of them, of course, but as many as practical. Sometimes I will join a friend, sometimes I will go alone, sometimes I will make new acquaintances there. I will go to First Friday and encourage others to go, too. I will attend several Spirit & Place Festival events including (my favorite) WFYI’s Spirited Chase. I will participate in classes and events at various Indy Public Library branches. I might see a film festival movie screening or two. I will read the Two Books One City novel—picked it up today—and participate in discussions about it.
Supporting the local economy keeps money in the community. I will have lunch at local ethnic restaurants with Scott and Erin. I will shop at Indianapolis City Market, Handmade Promenade, Indy Reads Books, Saraga, and other local businesses. I will buy produce at farmers markets and through Green BEAN Delivery. We will buy a membership to Eagle Creek Park and hike there plus visit various state parks. I will pick up growlers of beer for Bill & friends at local breweries.
Maintaining one’s homestead is an important part of contributing to the community because it helps maintain the neighborhood’s property values. I will do yard work: shoveling, planting, weeding, watering, raking. I will have a new tree planted to replace the dead Norway maple in our front yard (and be very sad to lose the shade of a mature tree). I will keep the our house in good repair.
Being compassionate to friends and strangers strengthens community. If an acquaintance needs emotional support then I will offer to chat over a meal. If a friend’s car breaks down then I will offer them a ride. If a friend is travelling then I will offer a ride to the airport. If I have an extra ticket to an event then I will ask a friend, an acquaintance, or plead on Twitter for any company at all. If The Sussy Project asks me to manage a request then I will do it, and I will make a solid effort to make sure the gift given is as appropriate as possible for the recipient. I will give gifts for no reason on my own. I will clear my neighbors’ driveways with our snow blower when I can.
I will continue to circulate in Indy in a way that causes people to recognize me. (Bill: “You know someone everywhere we go!”) I will tweet about the experiences I have, the things I see, the places I go, the people I meet, and the goodies that I buy. I will strive to live up to this compliment:
— Melissa Heeke, CAE (@mjheeke) November 22, 2013
Tags: #thinkkit, daily prompt
OK, this is really the prompt for December 4. But I didn’t get around to writing a post yesterday because (1) I didn’t find myself in front of the laptop much and (2) I wasn’t sure how to answer the questions.
What was the wisest decision you made this year? Who did it impact? Describe your decision-making process, discuss the results, or just share a little learned wisdom.
A bunch of things came to mind but were shot down one by one (e.g., they weren’t decisions I made this year, they weren’t really decisions as much as approaches to life). I considered going with the idea that being in a conscious, supportive marriage means making choices continuously to handle things in ways that honor the relationship and that requires that I make an unconscious decision to stick with Bill every day. I wondered how many choices I’ve made, good choices, even excellent choices, would be considered wise. That word is weighty, you know? Then I thought of something.
This year I started going to the YMCA thanks to Kristy‘s and Rachael‘s encouragement. Kristy was a current member, Rachael was joining as a new member too, and the three of us started taking a few classes together to build some momentum. I went to Cardio Kick on Saturday mornings with Rachael at the Bike Hub and all three of us went to Zumba on Sunday afternoons at Jordan. I tried a variety of classes at Pike until I found ones that I really liked. Eventually I split off from them but not before I found a groove. Over time I tried different days/times and new workouts (including a short-lived affair with strength training) and developed a new mindset about exercise. I experienced positive, reinforcing results: I could eat a little more without gaining weight, I could walk longer distances or over more rugged terrain without getting winded, I started looking forward to exercise. Bill said he could see muscle definition in my arms + I could lift heavier things.
I hadn’t done any regular exercise during my weight loss journey. I knew I needed to incorporate more activity if I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and not just a not-overweight lifestyle. The no-sign-up-fee promotion combined with peer pressure was a perfect kick in the ass to get moving. Finding a routine that worked for me—something I’m still working on, if I’m being honest—was key, and I’m proud of myself for trying so many different things.
Exercising in general is good for my body but going to group classes is good for my spirit. Yes, I’m sure endorphins or something are released from jumping around for an hour, but it’s more than that. Being in that room with an instructor I like and so many supportive women (and a man or two occasionally) is WONDERFUL. I don’t know them outside of that context but we chat and laugh and notice when each other are gone. I look forward to seeing them. I always thought group exercise would be unappealing to me but, turns out, it’s quite the opposite. I even like watching my form in the mirror (which I have to do or else I can’t be sure I’m doing the moves right) and, instead of focusing on where I’m jiggling, feeling good about what my body can do. Most of the time I take a spot in the first row too, which means I’m in the group of participants expected to do the harder versions of the movements that the instructor is demonstrating. I’m so proud of all of it, including that I was open-minded enough to discover this aspect of myself.
I have told people many times this year that I know I’m making good choices when the people at the Y know my name. I walk in and I hear, “Hey, Sach!” “Back again? What are you doing today?” “Look at you!” and sometimes “Where you been, girl?” If you had told me a year ago that I would frequent a gym enough to be greeted by name, I would’ve thought you were crazy. They don’t know my name at Dunkin Donuts, y’all, they know my name at the Y. That makes me feel so good.
The person most affected by this decision was me, obviously, but I know others have been impacted. My family goes without (me at) dinner sometimes because of cardio class but in return they get a happier me. Cardio classmates get inspiration. My friends have someone who wants to do things like the Shamrock Run & Walk, Mutt Strut, and Big Red Bash with them. Penny gets long walks around the reservoir. Anna sees a parental figure modeling the value of taking care of oneself. And Bill has a partner who feels energized, confident, empowered; you can infer what kind of effect that has on our relations(hip).
Tags: #thinkkit, daily prompt
Today’s prompt was the push I needed to finally download my Twitter archive. I mean, if something strange happened then I must have tweeted about it, right? Because I thought about my year in photos and nothing jumped out so I’d have to look elsewhere.
Share the strangest experience of your year. Did you do something new or unexpected, see something out of the ordinary, or have a unique experience? What was so strange about it?
Then, while I was waiting for the file to be delivered, I remembered something! And yes, I had tweeted about it. [← Link here when I get the file.]
It was the summertime and I was driving around with the windows down. I was probably running errands or coming home from having lunch with Scott or something. I don’t know. But I love to have the windows down as much as possible. And I was stopped at the red light on 38th Street at Eagle Creek Parkway, facing west, in the left lane, in our Volvo wagon. Can you picture it so far?
So I’m sitting at the light, windows down, and the radio is playing. An Eddie Money song comes on and (OBVIOUSLY) I start to sing along. The radio seems, like, extra stereo or something, and I think I hear a voice that’s not mine. So I look to my right and see the guy in the car next to me, windows down, singing along to the same song on the radio. White dude, ostentatious sunglasses, funky car. He looks back at me, keeps singing, and gives me a thumbs-up gesture while nodding. Just then the light changes and we both drive off. It was SUPER COOL (and kinda strange, I guess).
I talk to strangers all the time—I mean, a lot of strangers—and I don’t recall having quite the connection I felt with this guy, with whom I didn’t exchange a single word. Not, like, we-are-destined-to-be-friends kind of connection, just a quick moment of understanding that we were experiencing the same thing at the same time. Something ultimately meaningless but still fun. I dug it.
BONUS: I recently had another moment of strangeness too, a witnessing of something unique. There was no tweeting about it (WHO AM I?) but Anna and Blaire can back up the veracity of my story because they were also there.
We were leaving City Market after a Trade School Indy class, lingering on the sidewalk to chat. Across the street, a guy goes by on a bike-scooter hybrid holding a leash with a bulldog riding a skateboard. We squealed and hollered and giggled and he glanced our way nonchalantly, like it was totally normal. They got to the corner, waited for the light, and crossed the street, with the dog out in front the whole time. It was wild! That has to have been the most out-of-the-ordinary thing I’ve even seen first-hand.
Tags: #thinkkit, daily prompt
When I saw today’s prompt I thought, “COME ON.” But then I realized I could really use some input on a particular question.
Take a poll and share the results. Is there something you’ve been curious about? A decision you’re struggling with? Ask the crowd, and report back on what the results might mean.
We recently returned from a tropical Thanksgiving holiday in Jamaica. It was wonderful. So great that, while there, Bill mentioned more than once that he would like to make trips like that more frequently than every two years.
“We could afford it, I think.”
“I think so. We’d have to budget.”
“We could definitely do it.”
“We have to make sure we have enough money to do things with/for Anna too. She’s already upset we didn’t take her here.”
“We should take her on a vacation like this.”
“Instead of coming alone?”
“No, in addition.”
“Maybe we could take her and Taylor on vacation for spring break 2015. It’ll be Anna’s 16th birthday.”
“We should definitely do this more often.”
And just like that I was on board. Already thinking about how we can manage money to take a vacation every year, just the two of us, and also afford family trips plus activities just for Anna (e.g., sleepaway camp, study abroad trips). We don’t believe in accumulating debt—the only debt we have is the mortgage, and we’re whittling that down fast—so saving it will be. It might mean fewer or less fancy dining out experiences. It might mean…hell, I don’t know. We don’t indulge in many extravagances. We can’t skip paying Anna’s school fees, feeding the dogs, or putting gas in the car. Surely there’s a way, though, right? RIGHT?
Anywho, here’s the question:
Where should we go next time?
The place should be warm in November/December and within 8 hours of flight time from Indianapolis. I like the resort to be all-inclusive so that I have to worry about absolutely nothing while there. If English is commonly spoken, that’s a plus but not 100% necessary. Also, a place for adults only is preferable.
Where should we take the girls?
You know, if we can swing the Sweet 16 trip. We’ll have Taylor too, assuming her parents are on board. Same conditions as above but in April & no adults-only requirement.
Leave your answer in the comments, please. The question is totally open-ended so suggest away! Maybe it’s a place you’ve been, a place you’ve heard is great, a place you saw on TV, whatever. I am a research machine but I could use the hive mind to help point me in the right direction.
Tags: #thinkkit, daily prompt
I saw the prompt when I opened my email this morning but forgot about it until I saw Trena’s tweet a bit later. I am a little intimidated by the idea of writing (and publishing!) every day for the duration of this assignment but I’m going to give it a shot.
Document your year in photos. Did one photo encapsulate your year? Maybe it takes a gallery. And don’t forget to caption, describe, or or document what made an image so important. Let’s see those photos!
Jenn and I had SO MUCH FUN at The Moth GrandSLAM in Louisville. We did some outlet shopping on the way down, had a fabulous dinner, and shot the shit with other story fans while waiting for the show to start. Can hardly wait to go to the next one!
Before I left Lilly I bought some (slightly) discounted Broadway in Indianapolis tickets for this year. Here are Anna and I at Sister Act in the second row. We loved this show!
Aaaand here’s Gooch.
I rallied the troops (AKA us + Talyor) to do some planting with KIB in the spring. We put in trees along 38th Street outside I-465.
We went on a road trip to Kentucky for a long weekend during spring break. We brought Taylor, the member of our family who’s not related to us but might as well be. On the way to Louisville we stopped to try ziplining for the first time.
After Louisville we went to Mammoth Cave National Park for a long tour + some hiking. Here’s a rare family shot without Taylor.
Rachael and I walked our pooches around the track for Mutt Strut. Afterward, with Goocher and Sadie (R.I.P.) in the back of the car, she introduced me to the deliciousness of Mug-n-Bun’s onion rings.
Going to Binkley’s for Mother’s Day was a winning idea. The men paid for my sister-in-law, mother-in-law, and me to enjoy ourselves by eating a meal that we didn’t have to cook or clean up after.
I saw Fight Club in the Catacombs at Indianapolis City Market with Charlie. He LOVES this movie and there was really no other choice in who I would take.
One of the benefits of being a WFYI member turned out to be a reception with the Ask This Old House guys. I went on my own and made a friend there!
I found a new hairdresser and got a new haircut. (Right before then I also got a black eye thanks to Penny. I documented its progression over the course of the month or so that I had it but accidentally deleted the photos from my phone.) I was fortunate to find someone who gives a great women’s short haircut plus is personable and reliable; I had only two of those three in the stylist I saw for the last dozen years.
We had Goocher’s cruciate ligament repaired. Poor fella was limping for a while but now he’s as good as new!
A new volunteering experience for us: the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. It wasn’t for altruistic purposes, though—we did it to see Time for Three free. And we had to go to Goodwill to buy white blouses that afternoon so we could be dressed appropriately. It was a fantastic show, too!
Our financial advisers have a client appreciation night every year at an Indianapolis Indians game. This year we took Taylor too because, as I mentioned, she’s essentially part of our family. I tweeted a photo of them that made it onto the Jumbotron, which was really cool.
These two are a bit ridiculous in the best way possible, right?
Rachael, Jasmine, Kristy, and I call ourselves the #IndyGoldenGirls on Twitter. (It’s a long story.) Here we are at the Indy Food Swappers potluck in Garfield Park, sometime after I was detained by the police.
For the last few years Anna has attended Flat Rock River Camp in the summer. Her joy from sleepaway camp is so much part of our summer lives now.
The only big DIY project we tackled (or any significant landscaping, really) was building a retaining wall behind our lower deck. It still needs some backfill + cascading plants but it’s up and fulfilling its purpose of holding back the dirt.
Anna started high school. Her mother took this photo on her first day at Carmel High School.
Hiking is something we try to do a lot of when the weather permits. One weekend we tried a new (to us) park that turned out to be more prairie than forest and it was a hot affair. Penny decided to take advantage of the shade suddenly and with enthusiasm while we were walking along.
I won tickets from IndyTire to a pre-season Colts game and the seats were spectacular. Bill and I both enjoyed every moment on the 20-yard line, ten rows up from the field, knowing that we’d never pay for such a viewpoint on our own.
I bought a laptop for myself! This event deserves an exclamation point because (1) it has been I-can’t-remember-how-long since I dropped that kind of money on myself and (2) I love the flexibility the machine provides me.
I ran into Suzanne and Mr. IndyFoodSwap at the Trade School Indy anniversary party, which is fitting because I met Blaire at her first swap (she brought macarons).
Another musical, this time Pippin in 3D with free tickets thanks to Scott. This silly selfie pose has become quite popular with Anna and me of late and I think it started with this snapshot.
Bill & I went to McCloud Nature Park for some stargazing with the Indiana Astronomical Society and who walks up to me but my niece, Emma! She was there with (my sister-in-law, Laura, and) her Girl Scouts troop.
First homecoming dance, y’all! Anna got ready at a friend’s house so I had no idea what she wore until I saw this photo. (No, that wasn’t the outfit she planned to wear. Those clothes aren’t even hers.) I love that she wore sneakers when no other girl in her group did.
Bill and I drove up to Sheridan, IN, for the Green BEAN Indiana Fall Fest. We took a hayride around Feel Good Farm, had delicious food, met great people, and really enjoyed ourselves. I got my face painted.
The first day of fall break we spent learning and moving. We went to Hunter’s Honey Farm in the morning and Morgan-Monroe State Forest in the afternoon. Crisp autumn weather + easy conversation + walking with the dogs = quality family time.
The last day of fall break I took Anna and Taylor to Go Ape! for a treetop adventure. We had a blast. I highly recommend it.
Aaaand here’s Penny.
Anna and Taylor didn’t have a plan for this. Anna was at her mother’s for Halloween but then trick-or-treating was postponed until November 1 due to inclement weather and BOOM, new situation. They found these toddler-sized costumes in Taylor’s house somewhere, popped in looking pretty proud of themselves, and were off for the night. I heard a good time was had by all.
I made it to several Spirit & Place Festival events this year but only one of them with the family in tow: seeing puzzlemaster Will Shortz. There was a reception for WFYI members ahead of time, after which we were ushered to reserved seats in the front row. It was a fun and funny time for nerds. (Incidentally, this shot was a group effort. I held the camera, Anna pushed the button, and Bill was willing to be in it. Teamwork!)
One of my favorite Spirit & Place Festival events is WFYI’s Spirited Chase. This year was my favorite of the three years I’ve attended, too! The last stop of the day required us to team up and compete in an adventure course. Below is Team #7 with our prizes for winning: promotional carabiners.
My first ever ornament swap! I made faux ceramic animals out of dollar store toys, screw eyes, and spray paint. The swap was organized by Trade School Indy. I took Anna with me; she made crystal snowflakes out of Borax.
Thanksgiving in Jamaica, mon! Anna is with her mother on alternate Thanksgivings so Bill & I made the decision to spend the years she isn’t with us someplace warm. This time we went to Sandals Whitehouse. It was WONDERFUL. We spent four days relaxing in the Caribbean sun and five nights forgetting about real-life responsibilities. We had a Thanksgiving dinner that Bill described as transcendant, too.
Looking through photos made me think about how
I really need to organize ours better much fun we had this year. Seriously, y’all, we really enjoy each other’s company. We share so many smiles.
I am lucky to be surrounded by so much love, both from my family and my friends (pictured and otherwise).
You read about my survey results and my experience completing the assignment, right? I’m sure you’re anxious to hear about the Spirit & Place Festival event it was all for, then. Well, I went to Choose Your Adventure, Map Your Risk this morning.
I thought there would be a big crowd sharing individual experiences with the assignments. Of 173 survey respondents, only a handful of participants showed up! And of those people, not everyone completed an assignment. And of those who did, even fewer shared their experiences. I shared (of course) and was a bit let down when others weren’t as vocal about what they did (or why they didn’t). Before the program officially started I had introduced myself to a few people and we chatted about exactly those things, so I was so sure they would jump in with their stories, but it wasn’t to be. COME ON, NEW FRIENDS.
What did happen was a presentation explaining the maps generated from the survey—each of us got one based on our answers—and a lively discussion about risk, religion, location, panhandling, race, and some other thoughts about living in Indianapolis. Not surprisingly, the people that came were the ones who exhibited a moderate to high tolerance for risk, which translated into a refreshing sharing of opinions. It was a thoughtful and interesting group of folks and we had a nice back-and-forth.
The individual maps were a red→blue continuum of risk tolerance (high→low), based objectively on each question and shown relative to the rest of the survey respondents. You can see in mine (maybe, assuming you can spot the little ring around the hexagon where I fell on the continuum) that I was judged to have a high risk tolerance because
I’m living on the edge I answered eight of nine questions in the red zone. The questions were as follows:
1. I like trying foods from different cultures.
2. I like attending cultural and ethnic festivals.
3. I would feel comfortable using the IndyGo bus system.
4. I have convenient access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
5. I like going to new places I’ve never been before.
6. I am comfortable walking alone in the mile radius around my neighborhood.
7. I would be comfortable asking my neighbors for help.
8. I don’t mind talking with people I don’t know.
9. I move frequently (every other year or more).
I suppose it’s obvious now why some people didn’t come to the event: If you disagree with questions 1, 2, 5, and/or 8 then this event was way out of your comfort zone. It was in a taquería in the back of a Hispanic supermarket on the far Eastside, tres leches cake was served, and the point of the function was to talk to (or in the midst of) strangers. In other words, it was right up my alley. As a matter of fact, I spent as much time after the organized activity talking to a couple of guys—one for quite some time—as I did at the event.
I enjoyed the whole affair quite a bit but, I must admit, not for the reasons I was expecting. That doesn’t in any way diminish how nourishing to my soul such experiences are to me; in a way, the unexpected joy might be a little more exciting.
For my Spirit & Place Choose Your Adventure assignment I opted to go to a congregation I was unfamiliar with. I mean, there’s no way I was going to climb on a soap box at the Artsgarden, or any other public space, and make a speech; I can barely stomach getting up in front of a room full of familiar people. And panhandle? NO WAY. My first thought was “People will think I’m a panhandler!” (so I have some introspection to do about my thoughts on panhandlers) and my second thought was that it would be unethical to beg for money when I’m not destitute. So going to church it was.
I was raised Roman Catholic. Lapsed Catholic, really. I went to catechism classes and received (most of) the appropriate sacraments. I went to Mass as a child, not regularly but enough to know the drill. My father and step-mother didn’t go to Mass except for weddings and funerals; I went with a friend or a grandparent. I didn’t feel connected to any of it, didn’t enjoy the ritual, and, as I got older, didn’t really agree with much of the Church’s dogma. I went to a Jesuit university because of a scholarship, not because it was Catholic, and it was there I learned that some priests are open-minded intellectuals. I also learned the most I had ever known about Catholicism and the teachings of the Church from a teacher who was a member of a different denomination.
I have been exposed to other religious experiences too. (Not in the divine-intervention sense but in the I’ve-been-to-other-services sense.) As a child my mother joined a cult and I went along for that ride for a while before my father got custody. And once, while travelling with my ex-husband to visit a friend of his in Mexico, I spent all day in a televangelist-style religious service conducted entirely in Spanish, surrounded by folks who spoke not a word of English.
It is fair to say that my participation in religion can be summed up as WHEN CAN THIS BE OVER. I didn’t go into this assignment thinking “I’m ready to start my adventure!” but more “Well, I’ll see how this goes.” I picked a group that didn’t seem particularly risky—the Religious Society of Friends. I mean, I could’ve looked for a place that was a little more out there but I wanted to take a shot at having a meaningful experience that would be more significant to me than just having endured something. Plus the assignment said I could take a friend and I interpreted that as going with someone who belonged to the congregation.*
*I did initially ask another friend, Scott, if he would take me to church with him, or if he’d like to accompany me to Quaker church**, but soon ditched that idea.
**It’s not called Quaker church. It’s called meeting for worship. I referred to it as such because I am lazy and a jerk.
I knew an acquaintance of mine, Michelle, had found the Quakers when looking into a new church to attend. I asked her for guidance in choosing a place to worship for my assignment and she invited me to join her at Indianapolis First Friends. I was so glad I did! I had a really enjoyable time, met a few genuinely nice people, and honestly intend to go back. I have been telling so many people about it, too. I never expected to feel a connection to a church group—never—but there is a reason they are called Friends. I didn’t feel like I was with church people who happened to be friendly; I felt like I was with friendly people who happened to be at church. (Does that make sense?) Members greeted Michelle and me before and after the meeting for worship and each time it felt warm and welcoming.
The meeting for worship I attended was semi-programmed. It included singing, vocal ministry, Scripture reading, a children’s message, a pastoral message, and silence for reflection. The hymns we sang were George Fox and I Would Be True. The theme was about living the Quaker way and the sermon was about integrity. It felt good to be in an environment of such honesty and acceptance. I remember thinking “I don’t know how I feel about God but I am comfortable in this place, with these people, among these values.”
After the meeting for worship a member of the congregation offered to show us around. He took us to see the library, the offices, the rooms where adult and children’s groups are held, and the parlor. Along the way we stopped to talk about various activities and chat with other members. He mentioned that there was a member who had been coming for 35 years and didn’t believe in God. This really struck me, both because of my own thoughts during the service and because I couldn’t imagine another Christian denomination who would accept an atheist into the group without concern for conversion (at the very least).
I’m glad I took the survey, got the assignment, and picked choice #1. Thank you for having me and I look forward to seeing you again, First Friends.