The Sky is Falling!!

The Sky is Falling . . . NOW!

The Sky is Falling . . . NOW!

The sky is falling, the sky is falling, the sky is falling . . . NOW!

Hush, Chicken Little!  The sky never falls!

Well, almost never . . .

Detroit Michigan, 2004.  WDWO TV-18 was in the spotlight for a live program that would be broadcast around the world and in millions of households in the United States, and it was my job, as station manager, to make this happen.

I had produced enough programs to know that in order to be successful at bringing a quality program, I needed a studio audience, talent, singers, topics of interest and a speaker with recognition. Never shirking from a challenge, I went to work.  If I remember correctly, I had about 6 weeks to pull this 3-hour live program together.

I trust that all of my current and former employers would agree that “Subordinate” is my middle name.  I aim to make everyone happy, so when the president of the network called and said he wanted this one preacher man to be the guest speaker, I went to work to make it happen.  This gentleman was a very high-profile minister, a Bishop, in fact.  I had never met him, but had heard enough to know this would not be an easy scouting expedition.
Getting an appointment with any bishop in Detroit was a challenge made even more difficult because for one, I was a woman without the “covering” of a man, and secondly, I held a position of authority, and this should be reserved for men only. I had much to overcome, not to mention that not everyone has appreciation for Christian television.

The first step in the right direction was to become acquainted with the secretary of this Man of God. I made lunch dates, sent flowers, attended the church and finally garnered an appointment.
Meeting Bishop was nerve-wracking, and intimidating. I knew immediately he did not approve of me being in his presence without a male accompaniment, but I forged ahead with my spiel promoting my television station, telling him how I am giving him this opportunity to reach millions, promising he will grow his congregation, and be heard preaching around the world!

He had to pray about it.

Aarrggghhhh!!!!

Befriending the secretary proved to be a brilliant decision because two weeks later, I am still trying to get an answer, and having her help was crucial. I was determined that “No” was not acceptable, so I continued to hound from a distance until Bishop finally said he would be a part of this program.
After weeks of stress, hard work, planning and plotting, the day arrived. We picked up the president of our network from the airport. He was very pleased with my work and success with the bishop. A church was bussing in their congregation to be the audience. Our set was stunning. The Green Room well stocked with the finest foods and drinks. Paperwork and releases signed. The engineers had everything wired and synced. The camera operators were in place. Sound checks done. We were 15 minutes to air, and I am so pleased, not to mention, I see a nice raise coming my way.

Then I start to hear the sound of a crumbling sky.

My secretary comes running to me saying that we had a big problem, and indeed we did.
Mr. Minister is at the front door saying he won’t be making the broadcast because he just remembered another obligation. Crack. Crumble.
No amount of pleading, crying, promising or shaming was changing his mind.

The sky was falling. It was the end of the world. Blood rushed through my head, and I saw the end of my career just seconds away.

I had no choice but announce to my boss what had happened. Thunder cracked. Clouds desinigrated. The sky continued to fall.

The show must go on, and it did. Without the guest speaker. We made it through the 3-hour airing by improvising, shaking, stretching out the talking heads, sweating, and adding more music.

I thought the sky completely landed upon the earth this night, but I was wrong. My career continued, successfully, and I never heard from the bishop or his secretary. I think he was not ready for the big-time:-)

When I think I am experiencing the sky falling and the end of the world is upon me, I remember the bishop, and I smile.

Chicken Little need not panic. The sky may open up but will never swallow me. I’ve learned to dodge the debris.

Cartoon - End of the World

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And Then I Found my Passion . . .

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Life often gets in the way of opportunities,  delays our chances, diverts our purpose and challenges our growth, confuses our passions and causes us to stop learning those things that are the most meaningful of all.

I always want to find a person’s passion for there lies their heart, but so many find it hard to know what makes their heart beat.

Passion is hard to define.  Being a mother and housewife and good person in my community was a wish I held since about the age of 2 when I pretended to be Susie Homemaker, and I believe that I met the challenge of being the best mom, a dutiful wife – not to mention great cook and seamstress –  and by all indications, was a respected part of my town, church, tribe.  I agreeably met expectations, and loved doing so.

As a child, I knew it was important to help others, but as I got older, I knew that  I wanted my life to be spent aiding the down-trodden, the misfits, those who struggle.  In school, there were girls who were unkempt, not bathed, wearing shabby clothes, and could never invite anyone to their homes, nor were they ever invited into the homes of others.  The kids would pass “cooties” every time one of these girls walked by or was accidentally touched.  Wrong.  Very wrong.  The scars, I am sure, still remain.

I do not recall, nor can I imagine, ever participating in this cruelty, but it was about 4th grade that I started feeling inside an ache in my heart for unfortunate people, and it remains to this very day.

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In grade school, and for many years, The Appalachian Mountains called me, but I did not go.  I sent books and gave money, but I yearned to go there to teach and hug and understand.  I still regret not going.

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After High School, I signed up for the Peace Corps, and when my departure was merely weeks away, I kissed this guy and thought I was falling in love.  I don’t know if leaving would have been the best decision, and I don’t know if falling in love was the best decision, but that’s another discussion.  Even in the midst of our discovering our passion, we become passionate:-)

Life, and influence of those around me who feared for my safety, interrupted my trip to skid-row in Chicago.  I really have no comprehension that others might want to cause me harm, so have never been concerned for my safety.  People tell me I just have a streak of stupid here.  I still want to work on skid-row, and believe that I will one day.  I know I can make a difference – if nothing more than giving a hug and a hot cup of coffee.

And such were the plans of an everyday housewife.

For a few years I regularly visited a drug rehab center for young women and encouraged many by simply listening and offering hope that a better day was ahead.  I understood struggles, and would freely share my story.  In time, I bonded with a beautiful girl who had traveled a very rocky road, and after many months of getting acquainted, Theresa and I started climbing her mountain of living independently.  We found a landlord willing to offer low rent, we scoured the county’s yard sales for furniture and household items, and we began the legal process that would allow her visitation with her 4-year-old daughter.  This story does not have a happy ending.  Drugs won.  This was not fairytale material, but in the midst of it, you cannot think failure is even possible.  If we knew the outcome, we would never climb the first rung.

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My time in inner city Detroit allowed me the privilege of loving and feeding and holding those who never felt the sun shine on their souls for even a day.  Visiting the psych ward at the Detroit City Hospital is an experience I will never forget.  Juanita was delusional and different, but she had normal days, and I enjoyed helping her manage life, driving her to church and being her friend.  The day I received the call that she was taken – in a straight-jacket – to the hospital was a hopeless one.  Juanita had tried to kill herself, and the edge of insanity had come so close that she simply had to crash on the other side.  I visited with her a few times but with too many prescription drugs and only a vague recognition, I abandoned the fight for Juanita, but the overall fight is never over.  We can never give up on those who need us.

We are all touched, in one form or another, by mental illness, and the stigma surrounding those who suffer must stop!  I am not naïve enough to say that love can cure the disease, but love can offer hope and change, but this is another story for another day.

4981911-extreme-close-up-image-of-drunk-man-holding-a-glass-of-whiskeyDoug was a recovering alcoholic.  It had been years since he had lived in his own home, and after choosing Jim Beam over his wife and children, life began its downward spiral.  He showed up at the television station every day to do odd jobs and be around “good” people.  He was funny and animated and very helpful.  When the sun started going down, he and I would walk down the street to the local coney island and get him dinner before he wandered off into the darkness toward home – address unknown.  Doug rarely cried over his lot in life.  He knew that to keep taking the 12 steps was a challenge big enough.

So many stories of people – people who are beyond the whining stage, who are standing on an unsteady floor at the bottom of nothing, who are over the idea that someone will take care of them . . . My passion, my calling, my purpose?  No one is too dirty, too poor, too lost, too sad, too sick, too lonely that love cannot change their life, but, the end of this story is not about their lives being changed, but how each of them have changed mine.  I am not a Mother Theresa because I do not do what I do without reward.

I rarely get to the end of the story with most people I have met, and I rarely know how my presence changed their lives, but I do know how they – each one of them – has affected mine, and there, my friend, is my reward.  Yes, there is a price to pay to help others.  Broken trust, sad heart, threat of disease, and a weariness that may take days to overcome, but it is worth it.  There is not one person I wish I had not met.

So, here I am in Estes Park, Colorado, far from The Appalachian Mountains or the skid-row in Chicago, but I am living my passion.

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The Promise, a ministry in Marion, Illinois, reaches out with love and hope to the homeless and needy.  Dave and Peg Maragni share my passion and allow me to be a part – from a distance.   I visited them when in Illinois earlier this month, and they are doing a tireless work.  It is my privilege to know them.  If you want to know more, “Like”  their page – The Promise, Marion, Illinois, on Facebook.

Locally, I have a family who needs help.  Their home flooded, and they are out of work, and our laws say they are not supposed to be here, so they are afraid of asking for help.  One of the parents is legal and one is not.  How to explain to the children that to ask for food and shelter threatens to devastate the family even more than they already are?  I am happy to report that after many hard days, we are getting ahead of the challenges and are more hopeful with every sunrise.

Immigration reform.  Another story for another day.

Today, I thank you for reading my heart and hearing my passion.  May you find your passion among the expectations of your life, and may your passion help others find theirs.

Detroit

 I Love Detroit

Life throws many curve balls, and most times, out of instinct, you reach up to catch it and not let it drop and roll away. Such was Detroit, Michigan.

While living/working in Detroit, the television station I managed, WDWO TV-18, sat on a frontage road where it nearly took up the length of an entire city block. When snow came, there was an ordinance whereby we had to keep sidewalks cleared and passable. Late one Friday afternoon, the snow began to fall, and plans were to clear the walks before going home.  But, before that could be done, a shiny new Cadillac pulled up, a spiffy-looking gentleman stepped out, introduced himself as a city commissioner, and told us we needed to clear the walks. When explaining that we were getting to this before leaving, he told us that for $100 cash, he could see to it that we didn’t have to worry about shoveling.

Well, in my momentary brilliance, I knew he wasn’t offering to shovel the walks for me. He was making me an offer he hoped I would not refuse.  Needless to say, I played dumb, which I can do so well, and politely refused. This story flashes through my memory when something happens that reminds me of the city’s decline.

This brings me to Kwame Kilpatrick, who, at the age of 37, plummeted himself to disgrace with a sex scandal, and now faces many years in prison for racketeering, extortion, bribery and tax evasion. When I met Mayor Kwame in 2004, he presented himself as humble, caring and determined to lead the city into a new era, a sense of pride and to overcoming. I believed him.

Kwame KilpatrickAmong other aaccusations from the case, federal prosecutors have said that Kilpatrick operated a fund for the needy called the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, with the aim of helping Detroiters in need. Instead, they said, the former mayor used the money for yoga classes, golf clubs and vacations.  Huffington Post

Although Detroit is battered by the likes of Kilpatrick and greed and violence, let there be no doubt that The Motor City continues to breathe because of those who know no other home, because of the many whose hearts beat loudly with hope, because of the resolve to keep putting all they have into the fire of promise.

As I talked and worked with hundreds of “Detroiters”, it was clear that they know pain, heartache, defeat, second, third, fourth chances.  Coming from my little southern Illinois town, I had not been exposed to the tragedies such as those that prowl Detroit.  My heart would break as I listened in disbelief to the stories of sweet people maimed by drive-by shootings, young mothers widowed because their husbands were pumping gas on the wrong side of town, good people frozen by homelessness, families displaced with massive evictions . . .

But!  There was joy in every voice I heard!  There was hope in every discussion of tomorrow.  There was resolve that a better day was coming!

One of the highlights of my experience in Detroit television was producing Mykelti Williamson in a live program.  The name may not mean anything to you as he is best known as Bubba, Forrest Gump’s friend.

Mykel Williamson WDWO

Mykelti and his wife are passionate for Detroit so they talked of hope and faith and overcoming adversities.  They are only one of so many who see a better day for Detroit.  Meet David Gough, President, International Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame (IGMHF.org), who is purchasing river front property for a state of the art facility honoring our history in Gospel Music.  Visit the Pastors, Apostles, Bishops and street preachers who never grow weary in sharing a message of hope, cheer for the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Lions and Red Wings. buy your car American made, and always pray.  Detroiters believe in prayer, because more often than not, that is all they have had.

There are those who will not allow Detroit to become a forgotten city, but again, life has declared that every man out for himself does not build a great city, nor does it bring leadership to a worthy population. I hope Detroit can find redemption within and for its beautiful people because they kept a part of me.  I no longer have dreams of returning, but Detroit, Michigan left an indelible mark on my soul.

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