…and then he said, “When can this conversation be about me?” Pause, silence. The non-afflicted person proceeded with, “…and?” Longer pause. “I have cancer…stage 1.”
Where does a twist in conversation take two people who have been best friends for decades? For me, I thought his announcement took us back to that “quick fire” response pattern that we had developed over the years, for the many times we supported each other through crises that have happened in our lives personally and professionally.
So, why did this seem different? In the past, approaching life challenges, we would quickly analyze, develop strategies, make plans and implement solutions. Later, when all had subsided, ended or was solved, we celebrated with an analysis of our process, moved on to further reflection, and a cocktail.
This time, for the first time, responses, reactions, the usual approach to addressing the stuff of life just wasn’t there. Whatever this was, went deeper, causing confusion, causing a physical, emotional removal from what had always existed in our friendship. This was not the usual attack pattern of a problem we always employed at times like this.
Search, search, what can I do, what do I need to be right now? One of us has walked into a desert of pain.
Dig deeper, find the space between pragmatism and the human spirit. So, as things many times do, she said in wonder, a non credited note from the inside of a CD fell into my lap. I sent it.
“…as a hopeful finger hits a faithful note
and a prayer is played out across this place called life…”
After the quote, I wrote, “Finish this.”
Sometimes, what has been an assumed “playground” of a friendship, gets rearranged. Friendship sometimes demands seeking deeper insight. Sometimes we look, find it, use it. Sometimes the answer might fall into our lap.
My friend is a pianist. The scribbled note on the inside of a CD loosened his retreat into fear and opened the connection that we have relied on for so many decades. As we make appointments for second opinions, research treatment options, those simple words, exposed what we hadn’t realized, our friendship is a gift we have given each other through happiness, sadness and today is an anchor to the hope needed to conquer this new challenge together.
by Sylvia Borovay
What’s a Jewish lady like me doing working for a black church?
I’ve just celebrated working three wonderful years as Executive Assistant at Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine. I came to the church as a temporary administrative assistant to assist Rev. Hermia Shegog-Whitlock with special events planning in September 2016. The AME (African Methodist Episcopal) church was hosting the Annual Conference in Los Angeles and she needed help to handle the various banquets to be held for the local bishop and administrative support the senior pastor, Rev. Mark Whitlock. Everyone who knows me knows I love to plan parties and special events. A perfect fit!
After six months, they offered me a permanent position as Executive Assistant. It’s been the best career opportunity I’ve had in over 10 years! I’ve learned about the church and even more about myself. My sheltered middle-class suburban upbringing did not prepare me for the extreme hatred and racism encountered by members of ‘my church.’ The clergy welcomed me with open arms as has the staff and the board members. They know I’m Jewish and appreciate the love I have for my faith. They ask me questions and we share ideas. I’ve experienced the unconditional love, appreciation and respect I hadn’t found in many of the past jobs I’ve had. I’ve learned humility, patience and God’s love by watching how this church welcomed interfaith couples, members of the LGBQ community, and members of other churches and synagogues.
My boss, Pastor Whitlock, grew Christ Our Redeemer from 5 members who met in a bowling alley, to a 3,600-member church, the largest AME Church in Southern California. When he was transferred to a church three times the size of this one, the spirit of the beloved community remained. We’ve developed a good relationship with law enforcement (‘driving while black’ still seems to be an issue in Orange County), host interfaith programs and legal clinics, and provide benevolence for our needy community members. We’ve even brought the Christ Our Redeemer AME Choir to temple for shared worship.
I feel at home here. I’m made to feel that what I do is important. My reflections for 2018/19 are that I hope that I continue to be inspired to become a better person than when the year began. I sincerely thank whatever forces brought me to Christ Our Redeemer because I am inspired every day I come to work. It’s been a long time since I felt this way about a job. It’s not a job, it’s a calling.
L’Shana Tova to my Temple Beth Sholom family.