18 February 2008

Traveled So Far - Psalms 27 & 121

Psalm 27:1
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is
The strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 121:1
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills -from whence comes my help.”

1972 - Winter
I did it! I graduated, well almost – I was in my second week of student teaching speech and drama and not sure I would make it to week ten. As I traveled back from my morning shift at the high school to Monmouth Medical Center for my 3-11 shift - my speedometer crawled along at 40mph.

I had been so excited about my first job as an adjunct recreational therapist in the Department of Psychiatry. Unheard of at 22, with only an undergraduate minor in psychology, my passion had always been to work as a part of a triage team – following in the footsteps of my family who had all found their work place in the “mind fields”.

My job duties had not been a surprise; checking charts for admitting diagnosis, drug dosage, and which patients would be recovering from electro shock treatment. I would then make my rounds getting patients up and on their feet for - yes – Recreation – whatever form that would take. All this certainly much easier than dodging spitballs from unruly sophomores who cared less about Lady Macbeth, obsessive-compulsive behavior, or why Willie Loman wanted to be a salesman in the first place.

I stopped the car on the shoulder of the parkway, and pounded the steering wheel for yesterday, a total blur - and today, the tears had come. I was scared, not of delinquent students, or manic patients - but of two new patients: a gay man and a lesbian who had come in for depression and were immediately scheduled for ECT, thorazine, and a rigorous treatment plan for “deviant” behavior.

God help me! A sexual prisoner myself, afraid and hiding until history could somehow transform our tragic flaw - and now - a keeper of those just like me – electrocuting an impulse - that no wattage could ever erase - no amount of recreating ever fix.

I knew we were all feared losing jobs, families, and friends because of our lifestyles – and did. Some permanently – had lost the will – to live, and found their way in - and sometimes never out of psych wards.

I almost quit life that day - and both jobs. It was the opened hospital chapel door that pulled me in after my 3-11 shift that day, and every day for another year - to pray - and a letter arriving from my mother telling me if I could make it through student teaching & a new job – I could do anything. She always closed with: “Don’t forget that God holds the key. And - don’t forget to pray. God loves you, no matter what.” Love, Mom.

2007 - Christmas
We did it! The word “deviant” erased from the Psychiatric Association’s description of us long ago in 1975. The rest - all these years later - is history, or is it?

Just yesterday I once again found my eyes tearing, my fists raised above my desk at work. A colleague and new friend proclaimed that we had to bring down gays and lesbians from the pulpit - that they must not be allowed to serve in any official capacity in the church – and what did I think?

I said, “you may want to rethink your invitation to me to join you for the holidays”.

“What?” she exclaimed.

I proudly said, “ I am a deacon, a trustee, and a lesbian, and you may want to rethink your invitation.”

On Christmas Day sitting around a festive table with 11 evangelicals each reading Presbyterian reflections from our Advent booklet - was the highlight of my holidays! I had walked where Jesus would have wanted me to walk.

And, yes, Mom, I do pray – most every day. “Guess Who’s Coming To Christmas Dinner?” - I say.

As you and I travel back in time - we realize we have traveled so far. We can’t stop now!

--Bev Thompson

Whenever I feel afraid, or outcast, or that I begin to “lose heart” that there is goodness
in the land of the living - I hum the lyrics from this song:

I Wanna Know What Love Is
by Tina Arena

Gotta take a little time
A little time to think things over
Better read between the lines
In case I need it when I’m older

This mountain I must climb
Is like the world upon my shoulders
Through the clouds I see love shine
Keeps me warm as life grows colder

In my life there’s been heartache and pain
I don’t know if I can face it again
Can’t stop now - I traveled so far
To change this lonely life

I wanna know what love is?
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me -

Gonna take a little time
A little time to look around me
God - nowhere left to hide
Looks like love has finally found me.

I wanna know what love is?
I want you to show me
I wanna feel what love is
I know you can show me.

Lord - help me to be strong
On this road I travel on
When I’m lost and lonely – find me
My journey’s just begun and I’m
Not the only one.

I wanna know what love is
Yes, I found out, I want you to show me
I Wanna feel what love is
I Know you can show me.
I wanna know what love is –

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