Instead of going to San Diego State University, the college where I received an early acceptance, my mother asked me to consider the University of San Diego - a Catholic college. Fortunately, it was a gorgeous day when we went to tour the campus because I fell in love with the school immediately. Almost 30 years ago, the only religious requirement was to obtain four religion class credits. Ironically, the college my mother wanted me to attend actually led me to classes like “Nature of Religion” and “Belief or Not Belief”. Those four years of college were rough for my mom because I questioned her on everything about our faith. After some deep breathing and lots of praying the rosary, my mom was relieved that my education led me right back to our religion.
There are many religious beliefs. We have so many choices these days because we have access to so much more information about all kinds of beliefs. Besides my friends and family that share the same religion as me, I also have friends and family that do not believe in any organized religion. And some that do not believe in a higher power at all. When I learned long ago not to talk about politics and/or religion - I really took it to heart because I still feel super uncomfortable talking about either topic even with people who share my same beliefs. In fact, writing about this is going out of my comfort zone for sure. I will always be one who just wants people to believe (or not) in something - anything - but remain consistently loyal.
Recently I have been giving and receiving the gift of prayer. With a very sick cousin who has been in the hospital in a coma since Super Bowl Sunday, I have been saying prayers like crazy. I had sent over a thoughtful pinch of an Edible Arrangement for the family and the nurses but the ICU is very strict so I am not quite sure if any of it was even seen by anyone. Well, it made me think, what else could I do? I am across the country and I feel helpless. Which brings me back to prayers. A prayer seems so little compared to what I really want to do for them but I quickly realized that prayer, no matter what religious denomination, is a collective gift that could be given to any one at any time. My other cousin had called on our family to pray everyday at the same time with the thought that a group’s prayer could have more strength than lots of individual prayers. Each day she posts the prayer on FB and with the magic of social media we all get to see it and join in. My friends, who don’t even know my cousin, can see that I’m praying for her and so they pray for her too. Wow, it’s pretty cool.
My hub has been having some health issues for awhile and I have been receiving prayers for him also. Everyone who knows what he’s going thru has offered us prayers. And you know what, even if someone doesn't believe the same way I do, I know that they are sending out their positive energy - I call it positive juju. Juju, although it has a real definition, is a term I use to cover the bases of whatever religion or lack of religion there is behind the positive thoughts. When this energy is offered to us, I feel as if I get a tiny piece of each person who is giving us this gift. I have friends, neighbors and family who want to do more than pray for us. However, being someone that’s never organized enough to know what I need, I have been declining the offers. I just wish I could wrap my head around something as it’s happening so that I could know what my needs are at the moment. But I am someone who takes longer to process and so when the offer is on the table, I usually can’t think of ways for them to help me - so I pass.
Going thru this experience has led me to be more thoughtful when I offer my help to someone. I will aim to think ahead and be like some of my neighbors and friends who don’t ask what I may need but instead have a plan like, “I’ll come get the kids on Saturday so you can do X” or “I will go Target for you so you will have stuff when you get home from the hospital”. I usually offer my help when I know someone is going thru something but I never know how to help. To be honest, I’m always the deer in headlights gal on a "normal" day so offering to help someone is like throwing out a life vest while I’m on a sinking ship. Unless I know how I can help - I am not going to offer up my services anymore. Instead, I will sincerely offer up a prayer and know that it’s a valid gift. It helps in a way that doesn’t overwhelm me or the person who is trying to process what is going on. Instead, my prayer is added to the collection of positive juju for the person who needs it. Whether you believe in prayer or not, offering to put someone in your thoughts is a gift that will make anyone feel good. And when we feel good, chances are we feel positive. When we feel positive we can have a better understanding of what’s going on. Thoughts, prayers, good wishes, positive juju - all of it is like a one size fits all gift that’s pretty hard to top.