Thursday, July 06, 2017

Moving On

For the last six years I've worked as a site coordinator with TRUST Meals on Wheels. It was a part-time job, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., Monday thru Friday, and entailed coordinating the delivery of a hot lunch meal to approximately 40 people (mostly seniors and/or disabled) on five different "routes" in south Minneapolis. Volunteer drivers delivered the meals, although if, for whatever reason, one of them couldn't make it, I would drive his/her route that day. It's been rewarding work in many ways, but for a while now I've known that the time had come to move on.

Left: With my TRUST Meals on Wheels colleagues Julia and Betsy – December 2014.

This past Friday, June 30, was my last day with TRUST Meas on Wheels. In late August I start a year-long chaplain residency at a hospital in Minneapolis. Between now and then I'll be returning to Australia to visit family and friends.

Above: With Deb and Tiffany in the kitchen of Redeemer Health and Rehab Center – Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Located in south Minneapolis, not far from the TRUST Meals on Wheels office, Redeemer prepares the meals of which I coordinate the delivery.

Above: At my desk at the TRUST Meals on Wheels office, located in Judson Memorial Baptist Church in south Minneapolis – August 2012.

I applied for the position of Site Coordinator with TRUST Meals on Wheels in April of 2011. At that time I was working as executive coordinator with the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities. The whole "marriage amendment" issue was just getting underway in Minnesota, and so CPCSM had starting operating as Catholics for Marriage Equality MN. It was a time of much activity, yet also of a funding crisis for CPCSM. In order to continue my work with the organization, I needed a part-time job. The position at TRUST Meals on Wheels was a perfect fit, and well-paying for a part-time job!

In August 2012, when the above photo was taken by my colleague Julia, I noted the following on The Wild Reed:

The thing I like most about my work with meals-on-wheels is that at the end of every day I know I've making a difference in people's lives. I mean, as meaningful as the work of C4ME-MN is, we rarely see positive social change around marriage equality happening immediately. It's coming, to be sure; and of course what we're doing is important as, in many ways, we're 'planting seeds' for the future reality of full equality for LGBT people. But it's very much future-oriented work. With my work with meal-on-wheels, however, I experience the satisfaction of knowing that every day – here and now – our work is making a very real difference in people's lives. These two very different types of work make for a good balance in my life. And for that I'm very grateful.

Well, as we all know, a lot has happened since I wrote these words. . . . The "marriage amendment" was defeated in November 2012; marriage equality was achieved in Minnesota in May of 2013 and nationwide in June 2015, and CPCSM/C4ME-MN disbanded in early 2016.

I trace my openness to the idea of interfaith chaplaincy being a new vocational path for me to the wise counsel and encouragement I received from my mother and my good friend Joan when the three of us spent an afternoon driving along the Great Ocean Road outside of Melbourne. This was during my Australian sojourn of March 2015, when Joan accompanied me from Minnesota to Australia.

In the weeks and months that followed, many more people shared their support and encouragement whenever I mentioned that I was thinking about pursuing a vocation in chaplaincy. The phrase I heard over and over again was that such a vocation was a "very good fit" for me. I also sensed this and, for the first time in quite a while, felt excited and hopeful about the prospect of a new vocational path. Truth be told, as early as 2011 I was no longer feeling inspired by church reform work, be it with CPCSM or the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform, another group of which I was a part. More than anything, I just had a very real sense of needing to move on and live my life. I was getting close to 50, after all! Part of this "moving on" involved living in a new way that made the most of my gifts of self – a self shaped by many things, including my experiences of being gay and, of course, the interpersonal skills I'd developed in and through both teaching and my pastoral care and organizing work with CPCSM. Chaplaincy seemed to be emerging as this "new way."

In October 2016 I began my first unit of ACPE-accredited clinical pastoral education at St. Francis Medical Center in Shakopee. I would make the 30-minute drive out to Shakopee from south Minneapolis three afternoons a week, after my Meals on Wheels work. It was a very rewarding experience, and I successfully completed my first CPE unit about a month ago, at the end of May. Midway through my clinical, in March of this year, I was offered a chaplain residency at a hospital in Minneapolis. I gratefully and happily accepted it.

All of which brings us to today . . . and my departure from TRUST Meals on Wheels.

As I mentioned earlier, my final day was last Friday, June 30. Earlier in the week, on Monday, June 26, my colleagues at TRUST hosted a reception and "card shower" for me at Judson Memorial Baptist Church, where the TRUST Meals on Wheel office is located. It was a lovely luncheon, one which a number of volunteer drivers attended. I greatly appreciated all the encouragement and support I received as I move on from Meals on Wheels and into the work of chaplaincy. I sure did feel the love!

Below: From left: Jane, Sue K, Sue A. John, Barb, Russ, Betsy (TRUST Meals on Wheels Director), Harv, and Ward – Monday, June 26, 2017.

Above: From left: Steve, Barb (TRUST Grocery Program Coordinator), Jane, Claire, Suzanne, Doug, me, Jim, Beth (TRUST Office Coordinator), Jan, and Nancy (TRUST, Inc. Executive Director) – Monday, June 26, 2017.

Above: From left: Jan, Barb, Bill, Doug, Ken, Nancy, Katie,Eileen, Carol, and Ken – Monday, June 26, 2017.

My dear friends Ken and Carol Masters are pictured at right in the picture above. I lived with Ken and Carol from 1998-2003 in their home in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. At that time Ken and Carol were regular volunteer drivers with TRUST Meals on Wheels. It's how I first heard about the program.

Left: With Ken and Carol at the 2009 TRUST Meals on Wheels Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon.

In February 2007, even though I was now living across the river in St. Paul, I started helping Ken with his Meals on Wheels route each Thursday. I'd take the 21 bus from my home on Dayton Ave, down Marshall Ave/Lake St. to the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis so as to meet up with Ken and help deliver the meals on the our route.

In the photo at right I'm pictured with Ken in June 2011. We're at Redeemer Health and Rehab Center, picking up meals for delivery. This photo was taken on my last day as a volunteer with Trust Meals on Wheels – Thursday, June 2, 2011. The next Monday, June 6, I started work as the Redeemer Site Coordinator with the program.

It was Ken who after we delivered meals on our route one Thursday earlier in, I think, March of 2011, noticed the flyer on the message board at the TRUST Meals on Wheels office announcing the need for a new Site Coordinator. He encouraged me to apply for this position. The rest, as they say, is history!

Above: From left: Margie, me, Julia (Walker MOW Site Coordinator) , Kim, Larry, Ann and Dick – Monday, June 26, 2017.

Left: Jane, Sue K., Jim, Beth, me, and Linda.

Following are some of the generous and encouraging comments that folks wrote in the cards they "showered" me with last Monday, June 30, 2017.

Dear Michael, Our paths have intersected so many different times over the years – School of the Americas Watch, anti-war protests, marriage equality, and then Meals on Wheels. I was delighted when you became a site coordinator and am sad to see you leave, but I wish you all the best in this new part of your life. Your life skills and compassion will make you an excellent chaplain. I hope our paths will intersect again sometime in the future.

– Jane

I have so enjoyed getting to know you and certainly hope we can stay in touch as you move on to your "higher calling." Your care and compassion for others is such a significant part of who you are; your chaplaincy sees a perfect fit. Best wishes to you. I'll miss you.

– Margie

What a pleasure it has been to share conversation around the TRUST Meals on Wheels program with you. We've shared a few other stories as well, so I feel like I'm losing a friend who is moving away. But you have other gifts to share in your upcoming chaplain role, so I wish you much joy and satisfaction in your new job. Blessings!

– Barb

Thank you so much, not only for your kindness and your efficiency, but also for your very special caring attentiveness to each client. Clearly you will be a wonderful chaplain.

– Nancy

It has been a pleasure to get to know you over these past years. Your kindness and caring towards the Meals on Wheels clients was evident to me as you'd explain a little bit about each client. . . . I know that everyone who comes in contact with you as a chaplain will receive the same kindness and respect. Congratulations and best wishes as you travel on this new path in your life.

– Kim

Best wishes on your new career. I know you will be great! I will miss hearing your Aussie accent. Keep in touch with us at TRUST.

– Jan

Best wishes, Michael, on your next "great adventure." We have really enjoyed discussing Poldark and Australia with you. You will be missed!

– Ken and Katie

Blessings to you as your journey of love and service continues on a new path. We'll miss you and think of you often.

– Ward

Michael, have a great trip back home and best of luck in your new endeavor. You have done so much for so many, and your dedication and commitment has been a great example to us all.

– Rich and Judy

Best wishes in your new calling. I'm certain you will bring hope and the gifts of caring and listening to those in need. Have a rewarding visit back home!

– Jim

Above: From left: Katie, Pat, Nancy, Margie, me, Linda, Val, and Ellen – Monday, June 26, 2017.

Above: With yet another wonderful TRUST Meals on Wheel volunteer, Linda – Thursday, June 29, 2017.

Above: With Sue and Leo – two of our Meals on Wheels deliverers – on my second last day as Site Coordinator with TRUST Meals on Wheels, Thursday, June 29, 2017. Thanks to Julia, my wonderful work colleague, for taking this photo.

Thank you so much for your years of service to TRUST Meals on Wheels. We will all miss your upbeat, efficient, caring presence. Leo will be confused. He's rather selective in his attachments and you won his and our hearts. . . . I know how important chaplaincy can be and know you will/are a blessing. Wishing you shalom and love.

– Sue

You have been such a blessing to all of us involved with Meals on Wheels. Thank you for your faithful service and cheerful presence. We are confident you will carry that spirit to your chaplain residency, and beyond.

– Wayne and Kathy
(and grandchildren Neva, Landon, Shane,
Brooke, Micah, and Delaney)

Michael, I hope all the gratitude of Meals on Wheels clients, drivers, and staff serve to provide a caim [invisible protective circle] of love for you as you move into this next endeavor. We'll miss you but I'm confident you'll be a force of compassion wherever you are.

– Sue W.

Michael, I am so happy you are pursuing your calling in life. Your kind, calming, and special heart will touch so many people. I cannot think of another person who is so suited to be a chaplain. I wish you all the best.

– Nancy

Dear Michael, Among all the gifts you have brought to our program over the years, I find I'm most appreciative of your steadfast, equanimous, pleasant countenance. What a difference that quality has made – to clients, to volunteers, and to your work colleagues. You cultivate a compassionate tone that rubs off on others! So while we will surely miss you around here, there is no doubt that your chaplaincy work will be a wonderful fit for who you are, and many are sure to benefit significantly from your presence and counsel. Take good care going forward. I'm holding all good thoughts for you that this upcoming work will bring you fulfillment, contentment, and ease. With much gratitude . . .

– Betsy

Pictured above, right, and below with members of the wonderful kitchen staff at Redeemer Health and Rehab Center in Minneapolis. I'll miss seeing these these folks very much.

I'm also going to miss seeing my wonderful work colleague and friend Julia, pictured above with me and our friend and volunteer driver Margie, and at left with me in February 2015 when we attended the James Sewell Ballet's "Ballet Works Project" at the Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts in downtown Minneapolis.

I can't think of a better person to have spent so much of each and every work day with for the past six years.

My friendship with Julia is one of a number of enduring ones that I treasure and which came about because of my involvement with TRUST Meals on Wheels. Another is with my friend Pete (right), whom I met because of his volunteering every Thursday as a driver. Since October 2014 we've become good friends . . . and breakfast buddies every Thursday morning!

And then there's Tim (pictured at left), my good friend and housemate. I first got to know and then, soon after, move in with Tim because of his dad, Tom, who, as a volunteer driver, asked me out of the blue one day in October 2011, "I don't suppose you know anyone looking for a place to live?"

Well, as a matter of fact I did – me! Tom was enquiring for Tim. Soon after I met Tim, we clicked, and in January 2012 we became housemates . . . in first one, and then, just last summer, another house located close to Minnehaha Creek in south Minneapolis.

So . . . I may be moving on from my work with TRUST Meals on Wheels, but thankfully the many wonderful people who, in one way or another, have come into my life as a result of this work will remain part of my life.

Michael, Enjoy your last day of Meals on Wheels. You'll be bringing the richness of your relationships and your wisdom to chaplaincy. You're broadening the scope of those with whom you share your gifts and with whom to learn and enjoy life. It is an exciting time.

– Tim

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Interfaith Chaplaincy
Out and About – June 2011
Seven Principles for Living with Deep Intention
A Guidepost on the Journey
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All
The Onward Call

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