The reverberation of silence…..

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Silence!

“Be (known as) a person of persistence and endurance. One person with persistence, commitment and endurance will accomplish more than a thousand people with interest alone.” – J. Mason

When and where we are birthed is not a decision that provides room for our opinions to weigh in. We emerge, most times, angry at the doctor or nurse who swatted our bum while we also vociferously complain at the change in our residing address. That really does nothing to the process of childbirth and/or family building, we eventually get to accept (some of us pretty early and others pretty late) that there are things/events we can change and others that would be a manifestation of sheer naivety and wrongful application of energy were we to attempt changing them. That’s where serenity comes to play, giving us peace to go through those events we have no control over however wisdom is a prerequisite to enable us tell the difference.

I recall my first solo Christian outreach as a University graduate some 16years ago and was it an eye opener indeed. Not only did it satisfy my urge to go to new places but it also made me realize that entitlement is a unique word and not the very best to use in our common, everyday conversations. There I was, in a little village populated by about 100 families who had chosen to question the predominant religion. No schools, no water, no electricity but all around them these same ‘necessities’ were available to others, a reward for their conformity and reliable apprehension at rocking the boat. I juggled having summer classes, learning the language, helping on farms and talking about intangible treasures that are stoutly backed by infallible and unbreakable promises. Talking about streets of gold to someone who had never seen an asphalt road is not just a gigantic stretch in imagination but it also kindles hope, strength of purpose and incomprehensible peace.

Trust is something that is inevitable to life. From the moment you open your eyes to a new day to the moment you shut them at the end is a journey of faith. You unknowingly believe that you will live, you believe the atmosphere can sustain your respiratory system, you believe that your feet will hold you up……you believe without an iota of doubt because that’s what science says. Who made science? There is always a source, an origin if we choose to apply ourselves to searching however there will always be the plethora of unanswered questions that make life more of a mystery than just a monotonous exercise. And those unanswered questions, we believe will be answered someday. That in a nutshell was one of the minor reasons that made me enjoy my stay and plan another visit the next summer.

On the faces of children and adults, I could see contentment and unbridled joy because they chose not to dwell on their lack (they were not anticipating a turn around so soon or the coming of a messiah) but rather focus on The One who holds all of life in His hands. They could relate with that! They could relate with the fact that life in itself is a season, and just like every agricultural community, they understood seasons – every season begins and ends someday. From the starry eyed kids in their worn-out clothing to the fierce gleam of defiance in the eyes of adults, I learned that what we need the most in life is companions that are eager and willing to walk some way with us as we journey through life. And not just any company but the distinct few who walk in agreement with us, come rain or scorching heat. I learned the beauty of silence, not the silence of indifference and nonchalance, but the silence that brings the realization of our existence as humans devoid of all the frenzy of the big cities and wholly dependent on Our Creator.

Like Spinoza says, “no matter how thin a slice is, there will always be two sides.” We may choose to butter both sides and deal with ensuring we don’t get dirt on our faces and clothing or we may choose to be thankful for that slice regardless of the availability of butter or not. I recalled this life changing experience because once again, I’m embarking on something completely foreign to me as I grapple with dystonia. An entirely unprecedented chain of events for those who know me just a bit. However with a life as unique as mine, you develop the knack of ignoring the bumps (& associated pain) from the thrown lemons and focus on making some lemonade. It’s not just trying to survive (a puny task I dare to opine), it is instead recognizing the circumstance and adapting to ensure your purpose is not derailed. The purpose always counts, and what we put in today and tomorrow will always determine if we are striving for excellence or just pretending to enjoy (while cringing internally in absolute terror) the waters as we are hurled along in no direction by the strong currents of life.

…..and you are???

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – MLK Jr. No life can be lived in isolation and although we do not get to pick our families but we do get to pick our friends, and yet again we believe that most of them will be there for the long haul despite the occasional squabbles. The journey we all embark on will have its fair share of storms, and sometimes during those storms, what we crave the most from our friends is not just a deluge of words alone but sometimes that walm hand that is quietly slipped into your hand, reassuring you that you are not alone. So many times, we are so unsettled by the silence that we fail to see and appreciate how consistent and little our true friends are. Their actions are not preceded by a definitely not-so eloquent speech or a forwarded ‘do not break the chain’ prayer (insincere and bothersome). True friends are found in the silence.

However there will be those times when ego has even gone to ground (for fear of identifing with you) and your outstretched hand is completely ignored. It is in those times that silence, if permitted, becomes a complete set of percussion instruments all wailing in discordance. That is when silence becomes a banshee whose voice threatens your peace of mind. It is that silence that cuts the most deeply, leaving a wound that may seemingly never heal. And still, even as the silence reverberates all around you, there is still a choice to be made – give into the insanity that the cruel, intentional silence of friends offer or find that quiet place deep in the recesses of your mind where no hand can touch. Retreat there to ponder on the fact that life is a process and it is the approval and relationship of God that counts the most. On the many occasions when friends align with the enemy through their silence and it becomes nigh impossible to differentiate friend from foe, then you are forced to remind yourself that no man has a plan that makes total provision for you, it is then you just must find Him.

I learned from that first experience, even in the silence, beauty can still exist. When the words from the lips of companions are like the falling of brown leaves, lifeless, insincere and meaningless. When their gestures threaten to extinguish the sliver of light you have because their intent is not to act but to be seen as being active. It is in times like these that I cling fervently to the promises of a good God who is not man that He would dare cast shadow on His Word. I remember that it is not the seeming abundance (just provocatively beyond your grasp) around you that counts but the ability to bask in what you have been blessed with; hope, purpose and a destination, that is what counts when the silence descends on you.

Remember, We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.” – Mother Teresa

עד ניפגש שוב, תן אהבה שלו למלא ולשמור אותך!

Adios!

Staying True…..

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Staying True

In a few weeks, we will be saying farewell to 2017 and ushering in, with bated breaths and the hope of better things to come, a brand new year. And again as usual, many journals, note pads et al will be whipped out so that the annual yet publicly unrecognized event of New Year Resolution writing will begin. For me, it is a time of evaluation, assessment and preparation because what future will there be to look forward to if we are still perplexed as to our purpose here on earth. Has the dystonia been cured? Nope! Are there new proven medical approaches towards ending this relentless battle with dystonia? Not to my knowledge but the ultimate question I ask myself is “what was there to be thankful for?” And my answer is, much more than I anticipated because it is really not about if my eggs were scrambled right or my account balance is quite ‘attractive’, it is about realizing that I have been through 365 days and still standing.

I recently unearthed my quotes book from one of my many traveling bags, brown and well thumbed, ink slightly fading (thank God I used red and green ink) and the first question my daughter asks me is, “Daddy, can I keep it?”……..Uhmmm! Of course not, you have more writing and reading materials that I had at your age but in that brief exchange, I can truly be grateful for the prayers answered, those pending and those that I received when I didn’t ask for. It is weird when people are taken aback at how leisurely I handle some stuff but then there is always a back story, and it is within those stories that life lessons are passed down from generation to generation. I am not a witness to any man-made life transforming physical attribute, the emergence of an Adonis or the perfect being but I am and will be a witness to the countless things that we take for granted because we are in our carefully carved out comfort zones.

I am thankful for the many friends that have passed through my life, some still there for the long haul while others have moved on as their life purposes direct them. I want to without permission talk about the relationships that have left indelible marks on who I am becoming and as I write I cannot help but marvel at the laurel, awards, certificates that bear my child’s name because she represents the next generation and whilst there is breath in my lungs, together we will journey for as long as I can and even when the wagon wheels fall off and I am unable to put them back on, I know that there’s help just around the corner. One thing I do not mind telling her everyday is that she is not an option but a priority and I am thoroughly stoked that we journey together and when the time comes for her to leave the nest or for me to transition to grander lodgings, I will proclaim that I do not have any regrets.

For me, regrets are an admission of not being able to retrieve a learning point from every experience and like I tell my few friends, I have seen more than my fair share of curved balls. And so it is not about how hard the balls hit but what they made me acknowledge even as I move on. Photography will always be a hobby of mine and even though it is becoming increasingly difficult to engage in it as much as I would want to but the stories that my pictures tell are worth lifetimes. It is in the brief or prolonged encounter that I have had with the lives that I have been greatly privileged to meet that make me truly say I have no regrets and to a great extent, I have stayed true to who I am, which is just another way of saying that I have tried to walk the paths laid out and defined for me by God. He truly is the bane of truth and no compelling discourse will change the foundations upon which I have built my life.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove through the night with tears cascading down my cheeks because no matter how many tough storms you have been through, the reality is that each storm actually reveals layers that you might never have known existed. And I have learned that even when you are down, you will always find strength to reach out to a friend who is desperately in need. In my opinion, there are those people who for some unfathomable reason are unable to grasp how important they have been to me and so it is not uncommon to tell people that I love them just for who they are. And so the tears were for a friend who is counting down the days to a miracle or to a transition to loftier dwellings. I have since learned the futility of asking why does it seem that bad things happen to good people because I have also realized that it is because those events are suited for a particular cadre of people, who do not even know their own strengths and so inadvertently it is not so much about bad things happening but the evolution and growth of truly unique individuals.

Keep hope alive

I know first hand, what a torrent of feelings you experience when you are told that the medical issue that you have persistently battled with is not going away. It almost seems like a black hole has just opened up in front of you and is desperately tugging at you but what if you refuse to give in and just fight. Sometimes every other person will tell you that it is pointless to do however remember that people did not give up on you, and so even if it’s seeming like your twilight has come, remember that the choice is ours to create memories that will not be so easily forgotten. Even when you are being pummeled and the obvious option is to just give in, remember that there are lives around you and regardless of the time of day, hope is like a little flame that shines through the darkness that seemingly grows in magnitude every day. I may not be as mobile as I used to be however when I realize with stunning clarity the countless privileges I have received, the least I can do is to pay it forward. And so even when it hurts to smile, and you can can barely get up from your bed because the slightest pain causes you to break out in sweat, when it seems like curling up in the fetal position looks quite appropriate, let this fact not escape you – there’s something you can still do.

More often than not the battle of life rages in the mind and so its not about how many iron man competitions you have participated or how many marathons you have run or your ranking in obstacle races, when life hits you – the battlefield rages in your mind and yours only, and as long as you do not give in to the wilting of the mind by focusing on the horrifying monster in front of you, you can still be a beacon of hope. Hope that you live is hope that heals and you may have been written off by people but in the fullness of time, God always comes through on your behalf. That is a message that you must share because in all reality the world is increasingly becoming like the Dead Sea but the sliver of hope that you hold, the little spark of kinder can light someone else’s candle and so that in itself is a purpose and one thing I know is that one of the greatest gifts you can ever have is the opportunity to finish strong. Refuse to let the circumstances around you – the hair loss, the painful torquing of your spine, the inability to keep food down, the weight loss etc do not let them define you because I know you and I have loved every moment I spent with you.

Those moments where your laugh rang out, when your eyes twinkled in mischief, when your company was the only thing that kept me going – there is more than enough for me to treasure you forever. And when you hear that the chemotherapy is not working and your life is reduced to the slowly running out sand in the hourglass, stay true because you may not have gotten all the gifts others take for granted but you still have time to share the tale of a walk with God or the life transforming event that has over the years given you the grace to press on. When the finish line looms ahead, be thankful for being able to run this race, be thankful that you chose to be you because that is who God made. We will never in all entirety have all the answers but there is a certainty that cannot be questioned and that is you were made for a purpose. Cancer may be wreaking havoc in this fragile body but I am glad that I ran alongside with you, I am glad for the sacrifices you made but above all I am glad for the love that we shared, the conflicts we had, the disagreements etc because I can say that I lived amongst angels. This for me is not an eulogy and yes every loss requires grieving however I choose not to dwell on the inevitability of saying farewell because we part today to meet again in a place where sickness, stress, loss, sorrow cannot dwell.

As the night star shines brightly, that is what you will always be to me – an angel, a bright star. Like the balance scale, good will always triumph over evil and even if we do not experience the victory physically, we know without an iota of doubt that there is a future that awaits us where treasure that cannot be defiled by man lies in store for us. A place where man’s opinion does not count, where there are no pity parties – that is the ultimate hope that we have, that’s something that no sickness or nightmarish conditions can take from us and as long as we breathe, every breath is an offering of thanksgiving to a Creator whose best cannot be grasped by our feeble minds. And when the breath ceases, we know for sure that the finish line has been breasted because it is not about how far but how well. Today is a day that I am thankful for and despite the inexplicable relapses that have plagued me in recent weeks, I am still standing and obviously not on my own strength (heck I can barely walk 500 feet without stifling the cry of agony) but on The Source that is inexhaustible, for that I am thankful.

“The great miraculous bell of translucent ice is suspended in mid-air. It rings to announce endings and beginnings. And it rings because there is fresh promise and wonder in the skies. Its clear tones resound in the placid silence of the winter day, and echo long into the silver-blue serenity of night. The bell can only be seen at the turning of the year, when the days wind down into nothing, and get ready to march out again. When you hear the bell, you feel a tug at your heart. It is your immortal inspiration.” – Vera Naz

פרידה עד שנפגש שוב בתזמון שלו עצמו

Adios!

A glimmer shines through…..

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Seeing the glimmer…

“What is hope but a feeling of optimism, a thought that says things will improve, it won’t always be bleak, there’s a way to rise above the present circumstances. Hope is an internal awareness that you do not have to suffer forever, and that somehow, somewhere there is a remedy for despair that you will come upon if you can only maintain this expectancy in your heart.”- W.W. DYER

What words can best describe how I feel today? Again, sometimes words cannot really suffice but the best I can do is try to share how I feel in the best possible way. It is my birthday today and although I have been awake since 2 a.m however there is nothing that compares to the infusion of life and strength that every day brings and inasmuch as today is kinda special, it is yet another new special day for me. Looking back, I can with more than a wry smile, look at how far I have come through the obstacles and challenges that life has placed in my path….and truly say that if not for God, where would I be? Nothing absolutely compares to the thrill of realizing that I live because I am a creature of purpose and one whose destiny can at best be tampered with but never altered.

I am thrilled by the number of goodwill messages that are coming my way and as every one unique in its own way arrives, I have yet another reason to be thankful because I have long ago realized that life is not measured by the number of birthdays one celebrates but the inexplicable impact we have on the lives that we have been privileged to encounter on our individual journey through life. Amazingly, last night I was in the company of my high school mates after more than two decades and as I stuttered through, keeping up with the updates to our individual lives, I silently acknowledged that I am more than blessed. Regardless of Myoclonus and each new name this neurological disorder spews forth, I know that I have survived through it all for more than just the simple reason that I am a survivor but more importantly that there is yet a purpose to be completed with my days.

Seated right now, in a very comfortable lounge, I prepare to yet undertake another phase in my life so uncannily marked by my birthday. I have lost friends who weren’t and gained those that are and have touched my own life in their own unique way. I reminisce on how it all started and the days when I was all but consumed by the shadows of depression, uncertainty and irreparable loss of those things I erroneously thought were the pillars of my life. Today, I sit and acknowledge that buildings are torn down so that newer and more majestic edifices can be erected and whilst the pain of the demolition puts more than an acrid taste in my mouth, yet I know beyond any shadow of doubt that what is being erected is way more glorious than what was once there. I am grateful for the things I have lost because I would never have gained the things I so cherish. I am grateful for the people I have lost because I realized as my father was always wont to say during my growing up days that ‘the beautiful ones are truly not yet born’. I have been blessed to be the father of an awesome daughter and as each day passes, I realize that nothing might have prepared me for this phase and season which rapidly draws to a close.

i felt the beautiful cold winds of the early spring morning on my face and with each exhilarating breath, I know that I could never ever completely count my blessings least of all, naming them one by one. I have witnessed the blazing death of the phoenix and watched the splendid rebirth of a more majestic creature and whilst I may have so desperately wanted to sit amidst the charred remains of what I felt was so beautiful, yet I was strengthened to hope beyond hope and trust that from the midst of the ashes, something much more splendid and majestic emerges. I have encountered lives that have inspired me and spurred me to heights that I dare not dreamed before. I have watched hope arising as the early morning sun, every glimmer just a taste of the radiant splendor that is just beyond the horizon. I have been stirred to live by faith, and make it my lifestyle, replete in the knowledge that faith and hope are concepts that cannot be taught only experienced and captured by one’s self. Chucking out the feelings of resentment that threatened to pull me down, I stand free and unshackled and whilst my body may be yet weak, still my spirit is renewed daily much more than I could ever have imagined.

I have been privy to the ineptitude of hapless experts and the scorns of people I once held dear. I have struggled more mornings than I wish to remember, every waking moment, an overwhelming battle with the constraints of living with this neurological disorder. Borne more pain than I ever felt I could, accepted with some degree of defiance that I am unable to do the very things that I had so easily done in the past and yet today I stand with such an immense sense of peace and joy that the glimmer out there is mine to bask in and what an awesome experience it will be when I am basking and luxuriating in the fullness of the radiance of a beautiful beginning, a complete restoration of better things than I had previously thought were irretrievably gone. I am a witness to the fact that you are yet to live until you experience what it means to lose so that you can find. You are yet to live until you are confronted with an upheaval of the very things that you felt were yours by right. But now, with a chuckle, I know that you never can have until you are willing to let go of what you think you have. Loving without being assured that you would be loved back, giving even when your very being screams out in protest and simply just keeping your eyes on the hills where the vast and inexhaustible reserves of strength are yours to just tap into.

It is a beautiful year for me, and I choose to persist doggedly and unwavering in my walk and call, knowing that I am not just a pawn to be sacrificed on the board of life but the son of the King whose thoughts for me are simply beyond my ability to grasp or comprehend. Life is a journey where we are privileged to meet and part, and yet what wisdom compares to the assurance that in those few seconds, you have bettered the life of one just like you albeit on his own path. As I mark today with whimsical feelings, I know that the day is just dawning and what an awesome one it will be, because I choose to believe that no matter how long the night is, surely the day comes and with it such an immense measure of joy.

My chauffeur beckons to me, and so I say to all of you who have been such an important part of my still unfolding story, the best is yet to come and so I cast away all thoughts that say the contrary. Wishing you all many more years of fulfilling your own purpose.

Remember that what makes you family is not the blood you share with a few but the loyalty and sense of commitment to our unique paths and purpose with the many others out there who like you have made their commitment to not be put down by whatever life throws at them.

lמסתדר טוב עד שניפגש שוב בזמן שלו

Adios!

Never Alone…..

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Never alone

“I feel too much. That’s what’s going on.’ ‘Do you think one can feel too much? Or just feel in the wrong ways?’ ‘My insides don’t match up with my outsides.’ ‘Do anyone’s insides and outsides match up?’ ‘I don’t know. I’m only me.’ ‘Maybe that’s what a person’s personality is: the difference between the inside and outside.’ ‘But it’s worse for me.’ ‘I wonder if everyone thinks it’s worse for him.’ ‘Probably. But it really is worse for me.”

― Jonathan Foer

I kinda said I was gonna allow myself properly reminisce, more appropriately marinate in the events of the past one year and start out with a stronger purpose. Give myself the personal experience of savouring the stillness of the calm after the storm but just when it seems like I can take no more, I am buffeted more strongly than ever by the complex nature of my situation. I have long learned the  difference between sleeping and resting, and even though I shut my eyes in sleep….rest is more elusive than ever, as my system deals with sensory overload in an attempt to reconcile my outside with my insides. Borrowing the words of my guardian angel ;mvo St El Gee, smiling in the face of pain, loneliness and sometimes abject frustration at my inability to do those things that I so eagerly want to do, is something that has become part of me. And though this walk is far from over, I tell myself that I can not have made it this far just by myself. I acknowledge that there is One who alone rules over my affairs and I choose to daily trust Him to do the reconciliation because I have long given up on my own ability to. I make that choice everyday.

I miss LBJ so much that our last conversation tore my heart to shreds, still I know that pain usually precedes pleasure and I remind myself with teary eyes that the pleasure will make the pains disappear…..someday. I feel the pain of a suffering world; the wife and mother/husband and father abandoned, the loneliness of the ailing and elderly, the emotional dearth of a loving but unloved partner, the hurt of a desperately cast aside sibling, the silence of words that need to be said but remain unsaid, the labours of so many unsung heroes, the brittle facade of so many around me and it just seems that I am so helpless to do all I wish I could do. I know that I don’t have as much to give in terms of materialistic possessions and the truth is that, what we need is much more than that, and so I give of myself over and over, confident in the knowledge that I am also giving to myself. Where has the love gone to? That is certainly more than I can deal with now, because I struggle to tell myself yet again ‘why are you so downcast, o my soul. Just put your hope in God….’

I beheld the arrival of this year, and like a child, I am absolutely fascinated by the beautifully wrapped gift of 2014 and with a resolute heart, I know that the gift inside is worth more than the wrapping and yet I choose to savour the entire package because it is those little moments that are ours to cherish for as long as our senses can function. I opened the door, with the swirl of the chill winter winds wrapping her beautiful fingers around me and there lay my beautifully wrapped gift. I stand alone, save for my staff of authority worn by the numerous times I have clenched her with fingers hurting as I laboured with each step – joints hurting, my back a mass of unceasing pain, over-riding the cry of my feet to take a rest….. I stand alone and yet I know that even in the darkness of the dawning day, I am not alone. How do I know that? I can not have made it this far all by myself, each phase accompanied by an angel sent on assignment just for me. I know that despite all the battle scars I bear, I am not yet a victim but truly more than a conqueror. I bear my gift even though my back screams out in pain, I know that I have received a gift and for that regardless of the pains and tumultuous feelings that assail me, I am thankful. Thankful that I have a gift, and not just any gift but one that I can and choose to share with as many as I come across.

There are more reasons to be thankful for, much more than the days of bleak darkness and frustration. I am thankful for the fact that through it all, He is orchestrating it all for my good and yes I really don’t feel like a super hero today, but I know that weeping might endure for a night but joy must surely come in the morning. Yet so many knots still unravelled and some unravelling, I can only appreciate the gift of the now because sufficient for each day is the evil thereof but in the end good always prevails. I choose to apply myself to giving to others because if you really want to do something with your life then there’s only one proven avenue – do something for another person without necessarily waiting for a payback. Pay it forward because we have all been recipients of more blessings than we can enumerate.

My body may yet be a far way from being what it used to be, however I have fought and will still fight, no white flag is going to hang by my door for as long as there is still breath within me. With gritted teeth, I say ‘throw what you have at me, you elusive neurological disorder, I am still standing. And regardless of how many times I am thrown down, gut punched, desolate….I am still standing. You cannot and will not take this gift from me, it is mine and mine to share…’ and so even as I wipe the tears from my ears and pick myself up onto rubbery legs, I will still plod on. I may not have the fanciest or the sturdiest of steps but I choose to move forward because my victory resonates with each forward step. I have lost many just because they refused to cross the road but I have also found many. I am thankful for the opportunity of parting with a select few decades ago, just to truly experience the indescribable joy of meeting again. I am thankful for the nights of weeping because It made me more human than I thought was ever possible. I am thankful for being able to just listen to the hurts that many have harboured, unable to share because they felt nobody would understand…..I do!

With each moment of my life, I choose to share my gift irrespective of whether you choose to share yours with me and as each day winds to a close and I watch a new day dawn, I know that this is my path. Untrodden and surrounded by thorny bushes, I still glimpse the beauty of a rose here and there as I forge ahead and to you my very own saint, I will not give up because we need each other. “I dreamt we walked together along the shore. We made satisfying small talk and laughed. This morning I found sand in my shoe and a seashell in my pocket. Was I only dreaming?” – Maya Angelou

It takes nothing to dream but it takes grit and guts to wake up and live that dream. I am living mine……….with you.

פרידה עד שנפגש שוב בתזמון שלו עצמו

Adios!

Family of strangers?….

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In the family, happiness is in the ratio in which each is serving the others, seeking one another’s good, and bearing one another’s burdens.” – H.W Beecher

Today, I met Angela at the bus stop and summer is finally over (what a beauty the weather is…). Angela responded to my ‘hi’ and despite the drizzle, we both agreed that it was such a wonderful weather. Noticing my tremors and my staff of authority, she enquired more and having never heard of Movement disorders or Dystonia, I was pleasant enough to show her my health card which explains Myoclonus and describes the symptoms (saves me from having to do much talking) and in addition, states my medication. Quite a handy card, I will say. Being a little bit distraught with what she read and observed, she kindly helped me into the bus 29 and shared my seat, peppering me with questions borne with loads of sincere care and concern. A grandmother of Irish descent, she encouraged me to visit Ireland someday and complemented my sense of humour and cheer despite the ominous words that describe my condition, before getting off a couple of stops later. With an extra boost to my spirit, I continued onwards to my medical consultation acknowledging that I can never be alone no matter how bleak the days may seem. I have got a family in over seven billion people.

As a little kid, one of the phrases continuously drummed into my ears and passed on from generation to generation is ‘Do not talk to strangers!’ and as the years fell away and maturity set in, there inevitably followed a change in perspective and a greater appreciation of these childhood phrases and the appropriate application of wisdom and understanding. I recall vividly the story of the Good Samaritan that back in the days was as good a bedtime story as any and the underlying meaning behind the story: good neighbors (family) are those who help when you are in need and in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu “You don’t choose your family. They are  God’s gift to you, as you are to them’. Now I have truly come round in my little circle of life to appreciate the depths of these words, family is not defined solely by blood but by a genuine expression of concern and affection and an unquenchable desire to help alleviate another’s burdens – that is what makes family. And as I plod through life, I am blessed to meet family in every race, of every age, tongue, religion. Hey! we all have one origin and One Father and so regardless of the inactions of a few, how doth that measure against the over 7 billion that populate the earth?

I love almond nuts, cannot seem to truly encompass the beauty of those little nuts but I sure do love them. On thursday, I met Dee for the first time, all the way from the States, my first meeting with a stranger who had heard of me and had determined to squeeze out some time during her hols with her large family to say hello. Knowing of my love for almond nuts, she had walked into a departmental store in the States, purchased that bag of almond nuts and travelled with it all the way just for me. What an enjoyable period of time we spent, talking about my challenges, the current medical procedures, life, hope and above all, the faith that so unerringly defines and dictates my life. Now many would say, what is a pack of almond nuts compared to my regular weekly medical expense of £150 at the very least (excluding consultations), and my response would be that life is not all about money. Without the thought, there can be no giving and the pack of almond nuts was and is a clear case of giving. Dee, in those few hours, alleviated my burdens with her light hearted chats and lovable personality. Affection, care and concern are not resources that have a price tag, it is an expression of true familial ties, one borne from choice and not dictated by ‘tell me if you need something and I will be family to you’.

I opted to attend my high school alumni meeting on Saturday because of Dee. Having made a hash of my directions, I paused to get some rest from my severely aching back and tired legs (just to mention a few) and then across came Ian as he hurried along ostensibly to meet up with a pre-arranged meeting. Stopping by, he enquired if I was ok and in response to my stuttered need for directions, he pulled out his iPad phone, dropped his duffel bag, typed in my destination and then pointed me on my way (my destination was just two apartments away). “No worries,mate” was his parting words to me as he retrieved his duffel bag and watched me head in the right direction. As I contemplated on the kindness of a stranger, these words hit me “I don’t care about whose DNA has recombined with whose. When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family.– Jim Butcher

A couple of days back, I just had to do some errands – (I live alone) and help does not always come when you want it but things have to be done. A letter to post, a return to be made at ASDA and because of my mobility requirements, I just have to take a break now and then or face the inevitable consequences of tremors etc. I stopped by at Precious Moments to pawn my ring and also grab a chair and then I met Goli, beautifully wrapped in her hijab and ordering a pendant for her daughter. Devoutly muslim and a mother of four kids, she asked what she could do to make my respite better and enquired about my super hero outfit, yet again out came my card and with a ‘La il laha il Allah, Muhammad a rasool Allah.’, she fussed over me and after I explained where my hope, faith and strength came from even in the seemingly bleak situation – there is but one God and for every season, I trust Him to lead me in line with the reason, she gave it some thought and then delved deep into her purse, extracted a ‘prayer’ and handed over to me. Bading me well, she concluded her business and I was astounded by her public, unpretentious display of care and concern. “Strangers are just family you have yet to come to know.” – Mitch Albom

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As I receive countless opportunities of meeting various people, i count it a privilege not just to share my faith, my convictions, my hope but also to realise that I am never alone. Surrounded on all sides by strangers, I can now say that “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” – Richard Bach.We are all blessed with so much to give and yet we choose to be so constrained by our self centredness, not realising that as we walk through life, we all have the opportunity to truly understand what a family of strangers that encompass us daily. And there can be no words that can ever eclipse the actions of our hands. I look around and am amazed at the mass of dead seas that persistently choose to receive and receive and receive, choosing to deny the beauty of blessings that amount to us if only we can but give from the little or the much that we are daily blessed with. For there is but one truth, and no amount of denial will upturn it – how blessed are they that give, for it is in giving that we truly express but a fraction of the love that we continuously receive from God above.

I can recall the conversation I had with my sibling several months back, when he so vociferously attempted to make me understand that the few friends that have stayed with me will someday disappear and I will realise that family is what counts (whether they act as such or not). Now in retrospect, I realise that the circumstances we find ourselves shape us to become better, stronger and wiser and so like Scarlet O’Hara, all resentment is gone with the wind because I not only know that some friends stick closer than brothers but that family is neither something we choose or is it only defined by blood but also sometimes and in some circumstances“Friends are God’s way of apologizing for your family.” – W.W Dyer (quite a quip, isn’t it?). The truth is that when we truly love another and unashamedly express it, then we truly embrace the beauty of family and realise with sudden clarity that we are surrounded on all sides by a family of strangers. All we can and should do, irrespective of your circumstance is stretch out a hand and help raise another up because all around us are countless hordes who are definitely unconcerned about how much we know until they know how much we care and then we can begin to change the world by spreading God’s love, one person at a time.

For the many like me, who are passing through such challenging times struggling with dystonia and movement disorders, realise that we each have a family of strangers who unceasingly pass through our lives for times such as these and whilst we are seemingly compelled to succumb to the whirlpool of despondency and depression, we can choose to stand tall and make a difference whilst we yet stand. “Let us make one point, that we meet each other with a smile, when it is difficult to smile. Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family.” – Mother Theresa

Remember what a miserable tale ours would be if we choose to just exist rather than live purposefully.

lמסתדר טוב עד שניפגש שוב בזמן שלו

Adios!

Friend or foe………

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FriendshipIt is the wee hours of this beautiful Saturday morning and already the birds are first tweeting their excitement even though they have no inkling of what will come the next moment – now that is TRUST. I can literally watch/hear the dawning of this new day and what a blissful experience it never fails to be. Now is it that I am unable to sleep, nope it is simply due to the fact that sleep comes from GOD and what better way to put these waking moments to use despite the fact that I have already ingested 20mg of clonazepam as part of my daily regiment of drugs. Yeah, it is dystonia and it is real but that ain’t the subject matter.

My best friend Joiv is currently attending the wake keep of a departed friend and colleague, who in less than 6 months before her demise had to lay her husband to rest. Sad right? Now she is gone leaving behind a couple of kids who currently are running around greeting the few ‘uncles and aunts’ who have turned up to pay their last respects. Emphasis on the word ‘few’  because we can afford to be casual and indifferent about the pain of others as long as it ain’t close to home and my heart does go out to these little ones who have seemingly had their world shattered because right now, their care is dependent on folks who are not their biological parents and I can assure you that  “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes… but no plans” – Peter Drucker.

Friendship is one of the most distorted words ever uttered by man because under the guise of friendship, many a mortal blow is dealt and amongst every twelve there must be a Judas. Taking a brief backwards or downward glance into the lives of some of the great historical names we were weaned on, their end was at the hands of those whom they called friends. For these little ones, I am confident and of the indisputable fact that children are a gift from God and ultimately He alone has worthwhile plans for them (although I also tend to draw the line at the modern day values where children are rapidly becoming a negotiating chip and the end result of two fools engaging in something honorable just for the fun of it).

I am blessed with awesome duty of stewardship of these bundles of blessing (well mine is a bundle as of date….) and it is amazing what responsibilities lies with this duty, for we will be judged not by the accolades of the ‘friends’ we amass in response to our philandering or philanthropy but by the achievements in our own home. Having just read a post of facebook by a lovely lady, I was forced to comment on the topic “for all mothers” because again in my opinion “to give alms is nothing unless you give thought” – J, Ruskin and so the status of motherhood should be further elaborated as not every lady who suffers the pangs of delivery is a mother. One of my most favorite and earliest learnt latin phrases is “cucullo non facit monachum” meaning “the hood does not make the monk”

Now it does seem I am digressing however bear with me, the heart is so filled that words are simply an inadequate form of expression however it will do for now. Taking an indepth look at the rising perils faced by these little ones, it is so disheartening that life in China seems like an option where the number of kids per family is determined by the state ( they have their own reason anyway, we know it). The astronomical rate of child abuse is traceable to those closest to the child, our friends, right? Many like Tia Sharp have had their lives bestially ended by ‘friends’, Ariel Castro was a friendly neighbor, the Hospitaller Order of St John of God was supposedly a place of haven and the list is endless.

The question that begs answering is who is your friend? For me, I opine that you choose wisely because there are friends who stick closer than brothers (take it from me) and in the long run, just like the string at the end of a kite being tugged by the hands of a child, your friends are those who enable you sower above whatever dreadful circumstances you may be in. They stay longer after everyone is gone and remain even when in moments of desolation and despair, you cast them away. They never leave and whilst we are keeping our enemies closer, realise that just one friend is worth a thousand foes.

I have found one even after 2 decades and just like the cacti, they may not be the most ornamental but they last and survive in some of the worst climates. Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are for birds of similar plumage……We were never meant to walk alone (I am no Liverpool FC fan :D…) but “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” – H. Nouwen

Be a friend today. Adios!

פרידה עד פעם מפגישה אותנו שוב