Madre Liz Simmons

Madre Liz Simmons

Observations about Kodiakans No. 24 and 25: Kodiak residents are very proud of their town, and wear clothing proudly displaying the name Kodiak, or next best, Alaska the 49th state founded in 1959.

This is not true of many other places I have lived, where you only wear your own town's name if it is a college town, as in Colorado State University, or better yet, North Carolina or simply Carolina, where alums believe that everyone will know that Carolina means THE University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, or as I said, just Carolina.

Unfortunately, I discovered that wearing a sweatshirt saying simply "North Carolina" anywhere else is a little dorky, because people can't understand what the big deal is about being from the state of North Carolina.

Alaska is different. Recently, when I got off the plane in Raleigh, NC, and there was a nice southern woman telling people at the top of the stairs down to baggage claim that it was cold outside and you should wear a jacket, I said, "I'm from Alaska," which got a lot of looks and "Oh, this is nothing, then," comments heavy with admiration. I did not tell them that I had only lived in Alaska for seven months at that point, and I was really from North Carolina.

Being a natural dork, I always go for the cool factor if I can. I know, I cover it up well, a skill which I honed in high school when I hung out with science geeks, but was the class clown, thus confusing the teachers, and amusing my fellow students enough that they weren't sure if I was a geek or what.

Which was SO important back then, wasn't it?

Well, for some of us anyway. Naturally cool people have no idea how big a deal this is. Some dorks end up working with or teaching teenagers for the rest of their lives, seeking that cool factor, or at least a chance to hang out with the cool kids, even if it's just because the kids are forced to hang out with them. I did that for awhile, until I grew up enough (around age 35-40), and had done enough things to feel good about who I was, without being one of the cool kids.

I wish I could say that when I became a person of faith, and had fallen in love with my Creator, and found out that when I was created, God said "it was good," that I knew WHOSE I was, and that was enough. I guess I didn't really believe it at first. Or I believed it, but it WASN'T enough at the time. I wanted to be loved by God AND admired by others.

This can be a real trap if you are in parish work. My priest when I was 15 years old foreshadowed this for me. "Your approval needs would be a killer in the parish." His voice haunts me every time I wonder if anyone is listening to my sermons. Or when I look at the attendance numbers in the parish register, and the number isn't big enough. In fact, trying for numbers, in church, in Sunday School, in raving reviews as a teacher or preacher, in stats if you are a non-profit leader of any other kind, can be a killer.

The only place numbers work is when it comes to money, and making more of it. The tricky thing about church (and every non-profit) is that you have to pay the bills, and you have a budget to follow, and people to be accountable to, so numbers can't be completely eliminated.

But they do NOT have anything to do with how good a job you are doing. And they do NOT determine if you are worth more in the eyes of God. (I need to repeat this for myself later...)

The rest of the world is another matter. Half of THEM are feeling insecure, and worried about some numbers somewhere, and so they are in their own fear, and they are being judgmental of everyone around them. And you get caught in their net of fear and judgment, don't you? I know!

Thich Naht Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist teacher says wisely, "When another person makes you suffer, it is because he is suffering deep within himself, and his suffering is spilling over; he does not need punishment, he needs help. That is the message he is sending."

But that's so hard to remember when you are in the middle of feeling judged or made to feel less-than-worthwhile, and you are sent by the Time Machine of emotional memories back to the days when you were not a cool kid in any way. That day your mom sent you to school in homemade velveteen bell bottoms that you thought were cool, but you got only those eye rolls; or that day when you got to drive the family car to school, and it sputtered and died in the middle of everyone trying to get into the parking lot...

Snap out of it. The adults who are worth knowing and whose opinions are worth valuing NOW like you the way you are, burgundy bell bottoms, junker car, and all. And those others, who are laughing behind your back? The ones who always got to wear brand names, and had their own cars even in high school? Well, they will have to develop real character through some other painful experience in life. There are worse things than being the class dork.

Because life happens to all of us. Some of us are just fortunate enough to get all of our *!?*$% growth experiences out of the way earlier in our lives!

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