"Happy Birthday." I love her still. I do not know her name. I call her my Booger Angel. Seventy-five years later, I feel her presence, my compassionate caretaker, back then most likely not much older than a child herself.
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623 DIXIE STREET â€“ CARROLLTON, GA neglect as well as physical and sexual abuse, I was understandably shy, fearful and depressed. Along with other traumatic events, my younger sister and I had already been chased through the house by an older sister waving a pair of large scissors and screaming she was going to kill us. Being invited to a party was a huge deal. Recalling the experience, I see I am sitting on the floor with several children gathered around a low table. A young woman with dark hair is bringing out a large cake with lit candles and placing it on the table. She is a teenager of perhaps 14 or 15. There I am, excited about, yet perplexed at, having been invited to a party. I'm looking wideeyed at the cake when, suddenly, I have to sneeze. And when I do, a lump of snot, in my eyes as large as a baseball, is moving in slow motion out of my nose, through space, and onto the cake. I stop breathing and disappear. My body remains but most of me is fleeing the room. Surely, I believe, my social life is over. But the young woman takes a napkin, and with a sleight-of-hand equal to Houdini, removes the giant booger and begins singing "Happy Birthday." She smiles at me. No shame. No blame. No humiliation. No punishment. Just a bunch of kids joyfully singing
Lesson 2: We all know suffering is a fact of life. Even in the best of families, children don't get out of childhood without some wounds. We human beings are capable of great acts of kindness and terrible acts of cruelty as well. I learned early that the world is both wonderful and terrifying. I've seen a lot. I've known people who, broken by abuse and unforeseen catastrophes and losses, do not find their way back to life and are defeated and destroyed. I also know we are fragile and resilient, that many are wounded but do not go down in defeat. Some become Booger Angels, and we are called to become Booger Angels as well. We are called to practice loving kindness and strive to be the kind of adult we wish we had known when we were a child.
The Healing Presence Of A Good Man My freshman year at Stetson University in Deland, Fla., I joined a large group of male students making their way through my dorm on their way to carrying out the first ever panty raid at the school. The administration randomly picked several students to be punished. I was not initially among them. At that time, being a licensed Southern Baptist preacher and someone hiding my lost, confused self behind a facade of idealistic self assurance, I marched into the Dean's office to confess my involvement, insisting it was the Christian thing to do. As a result of my doing this, however, I lost my scholarship, a semester's work went down the tubes, and, briefly, I had some satisfaction being celebrated by the student body as a Christian martyred for telling the truth. Afterwards, I fell into a hole of sadness and depression. I reluctantly headed north to Columbia, Penn., where my family had bought a row house about to be condemned by the city. I found several jobs and set out, while my Merchant Seaman father was at sea, to restore the front of the house by removing a crumbling front porch. I was miserable and angry. One morning when I was attacking the front porch with my body, a Lutheran minister came by wearing a black suit and a white clerical collar. The
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