A Morning Prayer for Suffers of Mental Illness

I have lived with depression for many years and in all that time few people have known about it.  That is not unusual for those of us who suffer from depression. Depression, well all mental illness, is a hidden disease, a taboo disease. When someone suffering from a mental illness speaks up, they are given a lot of advice, most of it worthless, then people walk away and avoid you from then on.  Yes, the medical professions have finally begun to address mental illness for the disease it is. But, within the general population mental illness is still a stigma and affected individuals and their family go to great lengths to keep it hidden. You see most of our ideas of mental illness come from history where sufferers were thought to be possessed by demons or were the result of some shameful act in their or their family’s past.  So, keeping sufferers of mental illness hidden has a long, painful, and cruel history.

In fact, today it is only when a person with mental illness becomes a threat to themselves or others does anyone know about it. When that happens it is not medical personnel who become involved it’s the courts or the police and the sufferer is then stigmatized and hidden away either in a mental institute, or prison.  Mental institutes may or may not be helpful because they are poorly funded, and prisons, well they are simply store houses for the mentally ill.

In the last week a new spokesperson, Simone Bile, become the one who unlocked the door of mental illness and let in some light.  She admitted she was suffering, which was causing her to lose focus when she needed it most. For her safety and the safety or her Olympic Team, she withdrew from competition. That took courage, great courage, for her to say no when many would have been pressuring her to remain in the games.

What follows is a prayer for sufferers of mental illness, who like me have been living in the shadows for a long time.  I have lost friends to suicide because they couldn’t find the help they needed to crawl out of the darkness.  I know too many who today struggle just to survive in a world that doesn’t understand or care about them. I do not know the number of people who suffer from some form of mental illness.  But if we knew that number, I have no doubt that it would be the number one disease in this country. If we knew that mental illness affected more people than say cancer or heart attacks maybe we would have more funds to fight it, more personnel to treat it, and more compassion for sufferers.

A Morning Prayer for Suffers of Mental Illness
(Opening Prayer for Queen Anne Christian Church, Seattle WA.)

Creator, Partner, Friend,
I wait for light
In the darkness of my mind.
I call out but
I hear only echoes in the emptiness around me.

I am afraid to speak of my pain.
People do not want to hear,
To listen, to sit in silence with me,
I frighten them.
They fear not what they don’t know
But what they might learn.

Creator, Partner, Friend,
come to me and sit with me,
Listen to me.
Hold me in silence and give me comfort.
Don’t let me go,
be my light in the darkness
You are all I have, If I lose you
I am afraid I will lose myself.

Creator, Partner, Friend,                                               
I ask in humble prayer
For myself and others like me.
Open the hearts and minds of
Our loved ones, of strangers,
Give them courage
To confront their fears and
Reach out to touch us,
To hold us,
to listen to us,
To sit in silence with us,
To be with us in our suffering, our pain,
To be the light in the darkness.

I ask this, Creator, Partner, Friend
In the name of the Carpenter Rabbi
Who welcomed us,
Who sat in darkness with us,
And brought us into the light.

Ruth Jewell, ©August 1, 2021

A Small, Sad, Little Man

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, Virginia December 2, 2015. Salon.com

 

I have a confession to make, I pity Donald Trump.  I have gone through several stages regarding “the Donald” in the last few years, from repulsion to dislike, to anger, to downright hate.  But in the last couple of days I have surprised myself by realizing I simply pity a sad little man.  A small, sad, unlikable man who wants to be liked.  Yes, I have compassion for this spoiled, paranoid, mentally ill man who has gotten himself into a position he has no idea how to handle and has put us all at risk.  That surprised me.

I have taught tolerance and compassion on this page for several years and now I realize that I need to practice what I teach.  Despite his sexual misconduct, his spoiled little rich boy tantrums, his lies, his bully boy swagger I am called to love this man. Not like, and certainly not support, his behavior or his lies, but, love as Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospels would.  Not the love being taught by those who pervert the Gospel, and there are too many of those in the press right now, but with compassion for someone who is in mental pain, and ill.  I am called to understand that this small little man is unable to understand what being a human being entails because he was never taught how to be a human being.  His examples in life were as broken as he is and he has perpetuated that brokenness within his own family.  That is sad.

Now, Donald Trump is not an easy person to have compassion for.  His mental illness keeps him from recognizing how much damage his lies and actions cause.  His self-centeredness and ego keep him focused only on himself and that prevents him from seeing the world around him as worthwhile and valued, unless it is feeding him.  Unfortunately, he has landed himself in a position he doesn’t understand, making him easily manipulated by foreign powers and those in the GOP who want power.  However, as my mother would say, “you made your bed, now lie in it.”  It is not that I will ever support him or the GOP when they put people, our country, and our world at risk but I will at least try to understand that what he does comes from a background that was devoid of compassion for others.  He may have grown up monetarily wealthy but his life has no richness to it.  He is one of the poorest people on earth.  That is the reason he strikes out at those who have found life with meaning that doesn’t encompass only gold.  That is reason he strikes at President Obama, because he is loved and Donald isn’t, not even by his family.  That makes his heart small, his life small, and that deserves our, my, compassion.

To love someone that is unlovable is hard and I can only say this new practice of compassion and love is a work in progress.  So, expect backsliding. I will continue to resist, protest, letter write, and even tweet at “the Donald.” However, I will temper my statements with as much kindness I can muster at the moment and I will add this man to my prayer list. Jesus said to love the unlovable, the sick, the poor, and the imprisoned and Donald is unlovable, poor, and imprisoned in walls of his own making and the making of his family. But he is one of God’s beloveds and that is all that matters. I am not sure how successful I will be but I will try, so, help me Holy Spirit.

Ruth Jewell, ©March 13, 2017

 

 

Blessed are those – Prayerful Tuesday

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Matthew 5:6

homeless, by Peter Griffin, PublicDomainPictures.net
homeless, by Peter Griffin, PublicDomainPictures.net

What does it mean to “hunger and thirst” for righteousness? What Jesus was saying is better understood if we understand how the 1st century audience understood righteousness.  A person listening to this scripture in the 1st century would have heard righteousness as justice; so those who “hunger and thirst for justice “will find justice.   However, at least if you listen to the news media, it doesn’t seem as though justice is a priority today.

In this land of so much abundance there are too many who are hungry, homeless, and lost in a world of mental disability and addictions.  Last Tuesday I volunteered at Common Ground in Everett.  About 40 homeless and hungry people and one sweet dog showed up between 8 am and 12 noon, for coffee, tea, sandwiches and snacks.  For 4 hours, 4 days a week people who live on the streets find a warm place to talk, play a few board games, drink coffee and eat snacks, or just sleep in a safe place.

Each and every one of the people served by this small shelter was hungry for justice.  Some are homeless due to alcohol abuse or chemical addictions. Some have mental illnesses, too many are veterans suffering from PTSD.  Some are young people thrown out of their homes by their parents and some are homeless through no real fault of their own.  Some have committed crimes that prevent them from getting a job, but that is a smaller percentage than most people think. Many are homeless because they lost their job and are unable to find another one.  It is one reason why some 50 something’s are on the street.  They were living paycheck to paycheck and when the paycheck was lost so was their housing and everything else.

Every single visitor to Common Ground only wanted enough to survive on, a clean place to live, enough food to eat, and clean clothes to wear.  Is that too much to ask? Each person wanted to be recognized for the person they are, with all the wounds and scars that living a life produces.  Is that such a hard thing to ask for?

Homelessness, hunger, illness aren’t sins or crimes, even though they are often treated that way.  Homelessness is the dirty little secret we want to hide away and tell ourselves it can’t happen to me, or those we love.  Well, the truth is losing your home, and/or your family, everything you hold dear can be lost in a moment. When it happens, you very well may end up on the street asking yourself what happened.

The spiritual practice for the week is to recognize the people on the streets as our brothers and sister, our aunts and uncles, our mothers and fathers.    You might carry with you an extra sandwich, or candy bar and when you meet someone offer it to them.  They may refuse, but most likely they will accept. Shake their hand and let them know you recognize them for who they are, a child of God, a child of humanity. If you are in the position to speak up for those on the street then find a way to do it.  If you are able to volunteer at a shelter the life lesson you receive will change how you view your own life of comfort and abundance.  Even if you believe you have very little it is still more than what those on the streets have.  They believe you are rich, and in meeting them face to face you will recognize how rich you are.  You probably are saying that’s not a spiritual practice but it is spirituality in action, practicing what we are taught in the Gospels.  It does no good to pray if the prayer is not followed up with meaningful action.

May each of you find the Divine in the face of a hungry man, woman, or child and may you be righteous offering justice for those in need.

Ruth Jewell, ©February 23, 2016