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Paul: I Witness a Friend’s Difficult Calling

Paul and I observe that we have practiced “loving others” for years. At least we know how to put others first. We honestly don’t feel a need to learn the “unselfishness” that religions preach. Our challenge seems to require more love for ourselves, the other half of the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Paul fell into this caretaking pattern as a child. During his early elementary years, his mother was diagnosed with kidney failure; within a few short years, she was dead. At that point his older sister, who had been his pal all through childhood, seemed to turn her back on him. He felt that she and their father had left Paul out. “Did I do something wrong?” he puzzled. His mom had died, his sister and dad were more distant to him. He tried to compensate for whatever bad thing he must have done by being extra helpful, hoping that by pleasing others they wouldn’t leave him. Paul continued this pattern into adulthood trying to connect to. others by being thoughtful and caring. I could see how he had developed beautifully into a caring friend, with a large heart that felt the suffering of others. But I also understood the desire not to feel trapped in service and to value himself.

Paul is a writer, a playwright. He’s not one to brag, but over time I’ve learned that he teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses; that he has won awards, his plays have been performed abroad, and he has taught abroad. He is highly respected and gifted. He mentions in passing that he counsels homeless people and ex‐prisoners. More and more, I see his modest but great spirit.

Here with John of God, Paul is driven by a hunger to spend as much time as possible in meditation and prayer, struggling into a deep place with his Inner Guide, his Higher Power, with the Source of his life. These are my own terms, though here at the Casa we use ordinary terms like “God.” We all know toward what we are pointing and what that term requires. Just as English has united us, so the simple symbols common to Christians, especially Catholic Christians, and the language used with those has also allowed us all to share a common spiritual experience.

Yesterday, my friend made a giant turn: Paul received a healing he has sought for years. Something inside him opened and he realized, not with his mind but finally at a deep emotional level, that his father and sister were not rejecting him; they were both hurting like him over the mother’s death and his father turned to his sister as a substitute for the mom — they became a pair supporting each other. They weren’t judging and abandoning him, they were just buried inside themselves and hurting too much to be there for him. What a big opening! He was a newborn babe yesterday as he received part of the healing for which he had asked.

But today, as he said, his daemon -

Marti Matthews is a member of Oak Park Monthly Meeting. A retired counselor, she is the author of the book Pain: The Challenge and the Gift and various published articles. Because of a curvature in her lower back, she has been led to learn much on the subject of healing.

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