Friday, October 26, 2012

The Passing of a Wonderful Person - Hildegard Geissler

I went to a funeral this week for Hildegard Geissler – she was a member of our congregation. She was 93 years old when she died. Most Sundays she was at church; if she felt well enough she would stay for all of the meetings. She always had a smile on her face. She was a most interesting person.
During the funeral several people read passages from her journal. Those passages are listed in bold italics below.

In 1933, shortly after I graduated, Hitler seized power by a narrow election and became the Reichskanzler of Germany. Among many, many other people, this also did disturb my family and me very much. ‘What was this going to be?’ we were asking ourselves and - feared. I just did not like this man’s looks in the first place - his little mustache, his hair style, his cold eyes , his whole mannerism. I disliked his speech. That salute ‘Heil Hitler’ was ridiculous and crazy.‘Who did this man think he was?’

Hilde lived in Dresden. That city was chosen for allied terror bombing, February 13-15, 1945. Over 800 planes and 3500 ions of incendiary explosives burned the city to the ground leaving behind 21,000 dead. Hilde described what it was like on the receiving end of the allied wrath. At the time her son, Volker, was 8 months old.

FEBRUARY 14, 1945
Up to that time and until almost to the end of the year 1944 Dresden had been spared from air-raids. Only on a few occasions when alarms sounded at night we had to hurry to the basement, but were always relieved to be able to return to an intact home after a short while. We did count our blessings then, because we knew of what had happened to most ofthe other big cities in Germany.
Then came the night - no one will ever forget - February 13th - 14th. The sirens howled and screamed ominously, long and lasting. This time it was different. In moments I had dressed and had Volker packed into the baby-carriage. In the bottom of it were placed the first-aid survival kits and other urgent necessities. Neighbors readily helped to get me downstairs.

Hardly were we there when the first blasts were heard. But they were way off in the distance. The deep, booming, roar of planes drew closer and closer. One shocking detonation occured after another. Sizzling, hissing noises from above and then those expected explosions - it seemed like hell had opened its doors. The muffled roar of those airplanes sounded as they were right over us - they did not seem to depart. One wave clearly followed the other one. Everyone thought we were probably being buried alive. Then there was silence - we hoped the sirens would sound again as the signal that it was over and we could try to get out. Not so - another attack drew near. People cried loudly and silently, or just whined and whimpered. I kept my little darling close to me, lovingly bending over him. He was quiet. My treasure... There were silent prayers in my heart. Despite the destructive and alarming sounds all around, a certain unexplainable peace and strength embraced me. I observed this attitude later on so often - little things could throw me off, but when it came to serious situations I was able to keep my calm.

The tenants of the apartment house were huddled together. A few candles had been lightened. Volker was covered with soot, smudged all over his face and head. He looked like a little chimney-sweeper. I just had to laugh. Loosened bricks from the chimney had given way to the stuff.
After a third such attack it was still - absolute silence, no sirens, nothing. Carefully, a few people investigated - climbing up the steps of the basement. The door could be pushed open. We were not buried! The house was a mess. Debris, glass everywhere; broken doors, stairways - not a single window intact. No way to live there anymore.

Sister Geissler was an inspiration to everyone who had the great honor to have known her. I remember years ago when she got a computer and was so excited about how easy it would be to do her genealogy work on a computer. She was always so grateful to visit with people. One of her visiting teachers spoke of her love for music. Although it was hard for her to see over the past several years, she loved to hear beautiful music. On their monthly visits to her, they would play music for her – how she loved those visits and the music. Two hymms she loved were played at the funeral – Be Still My Soul and A Child’s Prayer.
Church won't be the same without dear Sister Geissler - she will be greatly missed. But we know she's having a wonderful reunion with her beloved Rudy, who left this earthly life five years ago.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Politics 101

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything and as we gear up for this upcoming presidential election, I’m finding myself more and more concerned about the personal attacks that people are making on one another just because they have different political viewpoints. These are my personal observations (mainly from posts on Facebook by acquaintances, friends, friends of acquaintances and friends of friends). I will not specifically name people; if you feel you fit into these categories, so be it. I hope we will continue to remain friends or acquaintances going forward, despite the fact that I might have differing viewpoints from you.

Why is it that all Republicans are lumped together as the Tea Party? Maybe I’ve missed something over the past few years, but when did the Tea Party become an officially recognized party? There are Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Libertarians, etc., but I must have missed the announcement that the Tea Party had become an officially designated party. From my observation, there appear to be a group of Republicans who may have moved more to the right and are aligning themselves with the Tea Party Movement (who knows, there might be some Independents in this group as well), but it is a MOVEMENT, not a sanctioned party.

Why is it that many liberals feel that some conservatives do not care for their fellow Americans? I will preface this observation by saying that in my circle of acquaintances and friends, many more are of the conservative persuasion. In this circle, I am amazed by the generosity of these people – with their time, with their money, with their ideas. And most of them are very humble with this generosity. They don’t brag about it – they just do it. There are many liberals in my circle who I could say the same thing about – they are humble and generous as well. There are issues that are important to both sides of the political spectrum – neither party has all the right answers. Somehow, we need to figure out a way to work together for a common goal and stop the blaming game.

It saddens me that so much money is spent on these political campaigns, funded by super PACS (and these super PACS are on both sides of the political spectrum). Just think what could be accomplished if these millions and millions of dollars could be spent to help those in real need of help (or donated to organizations that could help those in need). Something has to change going forward to make this money more accessible to those truly in need.

Why is it when people express their beliefs (political or religious) that they are crucified because their beliefs differ from others? I have an acquaintance whose political persuasion is opposite from mine. This person is a liberal, as are most of the people who make comments on this person’s Facebook page. From time to time there would be comments made by another person (who I believe is a conservative). Obviously their viewpoints were totally opposite from each other. Every time the conservative made an observation, the people who responded called this person horrible names, made fun of this person because of said conservative viewpoint, and basically ostracized this person. Just because this person had another viewpoint was no reason for the attacks to their character. Everyone has a different belief system and they are entitled to that belief system. That is what makes this nation so inspiring. Yet, when we express our beliefs, there is ridicule. Why can’t we just accept the beliefs of others and move forward. If you don’t agree with a friend’s beliefs, that’s okay. We need to be accepting of our differences and learn to embrace our friends regardless. We all have the freedom of choice to believe what we want to believe, accept what we want to accept and treat everyone equally. To make generalities about people based on their religious or political beliefs is wrong and sometimes very hurtful.

Why is it that whenever something is written about the candidates running for president, that so many people accept what they read as the gospel truth? What ever happened to checking out the facts for yourself instead of just relying on what the “news media” is reporting about each candidate? All comments by both parties are not 100% accurate, yet people will read these comments and observations as if they have been thoroughly documented and are the truth. Come on people – use your brains and seek out the facts for yourself – don’t rely on the “talking heads” to form your opinions. All liberals and conservatives aren’t bad people – they just have differing opinions that should be respected. We need to move away from the “gotcha mentality.”

We have a little over two months before the presidential election is held. We all have differing opinions of what is going on. Please be mindful of these differences and respectful of the people who hold these different viewpoints. It doesn’t do any good to mock someone whose opinions differ from you. Hopefully when the election is over, no matter who wins, we can still remain acquaintances and friends.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Handmade Afghan Project (HAP) – What Is This?

What can an amazing group of women (plus a few men) accomplish if all of them are working toward the same goal? Designing 350 afghans in one day. Then the designs have to be crocheted together, which takes another amazing group of people. Let me share the story of my first put together event (PTE) with members of the Handmade Afghan Project (HAP for short).

HAP is an organization that was created by a very selfless woman, Deborah Starobin Armstrong in 2004. Volunteers throughout the country (and Canada) knit or crochet 6” x 9” rectangles. There are very specific requirements – the type of yarn, color selection and design, and size. The rectangles are then sent to 4 collectors in Maryland, who sort the rectangles by color and store them until it’s time for a Put Together Event (PTE). At the PTE, 49 rectangles are used to design each afghan. These designs are then packaged in a Design Kit, which is sent to various people throughout the country who will crochet the sets together to make the completed afghan. The afghans are returned to Maryland, where they are washed, wrapped in plastic, and sent to various military hospitals throughout the country. Additionally some of the afghans are sent to hospitals in Germany and Afghanistan. These afghans are given to wounded military personnel who are recovering from their injuries.

On March 12th, forty five people gathered in the cultural hall of a local church in Maryland to design these blankets. Several people traveled from other states to help at this PTE. They began the day at 8:30 a.m. and finished at 3:30 p.m. As I stated before, 350 afghans were designed that day.

Can you see the USA in the design?

Just one of many tables of 6x9 rectangles.

As a collector of rectangles, every time I opened a box or envelope, I marvel at the designs of the various rectangles. Some are crocheted and some are knitted. There are so many designs, from very simple to quite intricate. As I do not knit or crochet, I don’t know the names of these designs, but I love to see what arrives at my house when I opened the packages. Some people are so careful in the way that they package the rectangles. Some are wrapped in tissue paper, some are wrapped between cardboard and banded with rubber bands. Although it’s not necessary, some are labeled as to the color and type of yarn that was used, including the brand. Some arrive in Ziploc bags. I’ve been collecting for awhile now and when I see the name of the person who sent the box I know what I’m going to find when I open the box.
Back to the PTE – just look at all the activity that goes on at this event. As you can see, the rectangles are sorted by color and placed on tables in the middle of the room. Designers when select what rectangles they want to use. Some designers have graphed out color designs on paper and will replicate the designs they created on a computer. Some come with ideas in their heads of what they want to create. As I walked around the room to bear witness to what was happening at the PTE, I asked various people how they created their designs. Some people told me they like certain colors and will only design afghans in those colors. Some people have designed for years and years and it has become second nature to them. Some people talked about the honor they feel toward the wounded soldiers and how this is such a small sacrifice on their part to help create something special for these brave soldiers.
Some people work with others in the design process; some people work alone. There were amazing designs created – whether it was the colors that came together in an exciting pattern, or the unique designs of the individual rectangles , it was exciting to see the “birth” of these afghans.

There are so many things that go on before and after the actual PTE – labels are made up ahead of time with a numbering system that is kept on a spreadsheet. Some people who design afghans will take them home to crochet them together. The spreadsheet keeps track of who takes an afghan with them. The labels are used to acknowledge the afghans when they are returned to the collector. Once the finished blankets are returned to Deborah, she photographs each and every one of them and posts them on the HAP forum for everyone to see. This is especially nice for those who are unable to attend the event. It’s so inspiring to look at the finished blankets.

Throughout the day, Deborah walks back and forth through the room taking photographs of the finished designs. I don’t know how she keeps the numbering system straight in her head as she goes from table to table taking photos. I spent the entire day photographing the event. Next time I’m taking a pedometer to see how far I walk during the day. By the end of the day, my back was killing me but I loved that I was able to participate and document such a worthwhile event.

In the eight years this organization has been in existence, they have lovingly created 8,000 afghans. This is entirely a volunteer group of more than 1,500 people. There are people who make the rectangles, collect the rectangles, crochet the rectangles together to make the afghans, wash the blankets, wrap the blankets for shipping, photograph the afghans, mail the boxes to the various hospitals, keep spreadsheets updated, donate funds to help with mailing expenses or yarn to help with the project - the list goes on and on. It is amazing to me that this organization is still going strong after 8 years.

Just think about the love that has gone into the making of each individual rectangle. These afghans are made for our wounded soldiers. More than 1500 individuals take time out of their busy lives to help in some small way to honor military personnel who have sacrificed so much for each and every one of us. It is an honor to work with this very dedicated group of individuals.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

100 Years of a Life Well Lived

I attended a funeral yesterday for a woman who used to volunteer at Prince George’s Hospital Center. Her name was Marie Mudd Summers and she was 100. When she was able, she would come to the hospital 5 days a week for work for 5 hours/day in various departments throughout the hospital. Everyone who worked there knew who Mrs. Summers was and if you were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to get to know her, she had wonderful stories to share. Two notable things about her – she was the granddaughter of Dr. Samuel Mudd and she worked as a secretary for J. Edgar Hoover. She raised 5 children, including one with special needs, and despite the fact that her husband died in 1972, she raised her family, worked, and eventually began her volunteer career. She amassed more than 22,000 of volunteer services to the hospital. I was talking with someone who remembers her telling him that her doctor told her she needed to volunteer 5 days a week so she wouldn’t die. I think she heeded that doctor’s advice!

Mrs. Summers faithfully drove to the hospital five days a week, and when she wasn’t able to drive anymore, she took the bus from her home to the hospital to make sure she was where she was supposed to be. Every Wednesday, her son with special needs used to come to the hospital and meet his mother for lunch. Unfortunately, she had to stop her volunteer service a couple of years ago due to her health issues.

I remember conversations with her about how her family worked so hard to clear her grandfather’s name – as she would say, “he was a doctor who treated patients when they showed up at his house”. How was Dr. Mudd supposed to know who John Wilkes Booth was? There were no phones back then, no radio and TV stations broadcasting “breaking news”. As she said, he was a doctor caring for his patients.

She was always willing to help out wherever she was needed, and she didn’t mind sharing her opinion about something if she felt the need. I remember her coming to the Executive Office every morning to get her cup of coffee.

Back to the funeral – it was well attended and there were so many photographs of her and her family, as well as the many volunteer awards on display that she received over the years from the many places she volunteered. One of her sons and one of his daughters spoke at the service and shared some things about her I didn’t know before.

One thing that disturbs me is that despite more than 22,000 hours of volunteering for the hospital, there were only three people at the funeral who had any association with the hospital (including one person who had retired from the hospital a couple of years ago, one current employee, and myself and I work at a sister facility). Where were the others to pay tribute to her for all of her years of valiant service? I find it unfathomable that no one else could carve time out of their busy schedules to pay their respects to this faithful volunteer.

Goodbye Mrs. Summers. You had an amazing life, and family and friends who will always remember you. What a legacy you left for each and every one of us.