What can curiosity teach you?

My dear friend, Lola, came to visit us this past week. Everyone flocks to see her when she visits from Virginia.  Not only is she beautiful, discipled and fun, but she has a childlike curiosity about life.  And that brings me to a book I just got done reading entitled SENT by Heather and Ashley Holleman. They write about “Curiosity” as being the magic bullet to begin conversations with strangers and to connect with friends. She often begins a conversation with a question and then listens intently to your answer therefore remembering your answer years later. “When we allow ourselves to feel curious about other people’s lives, we believe that we will discover something meaningful and valuable from the interaction.” As we value the person before us, we need to remember he or she is made in the image of God regardless of social or economic standing. 

A bike ride with Lola means being prepared to hop off to pet a dog, to observe a plant or just to capture the moment with a picture. An Asian man down the hill from me has spent endless hours on his garden by the road.  I have been curious about his plants, since I’ve never seen some of them before. So through the Spring and into summer my curiosity simmered but never to the point where I would stop and ring his door bell. That happened when Lola was with me. She had such a level of curiosity that she echoed the words, “Old and Bold”, and rang the doorbell. The man came out and she asked her question about his flowers and I asked about the plants. The man hesitated and said, ”I don’t speak English.” Now that opened the door of curiosity for me and I said, “I can teach you,”. I taught ESL years ago. When I spoke slowly to him, I discovered he was able to answer many of our questions in English and now that Lola was “Old and Bold”, I will help him learn English and then we will discover how he grows the most amazing plants. What have your friends taught you?

Lola visiting Chef and Butch in my neighborhood!

Reflecting on tragedy and Hope

Like me, you probably enjoyed the month of June with all the sunshine but then our grass was turning brown unless we watered it often. Now each day is filled with rain and the Fox River will fill up again and the grass and plants will flourish. As part of nature, we too need the sun and the rain to grow. Where do we get the nourishment, we need for our lives? Pascal once said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of each man/woman which cannot be satisfied by any created thing but only God the Creator.”

It often happens late at night in the quietness of our soul when we have time from a busy day to reflect on our lives and where we are heading next. Each of us is born for a purpose to make a difference in the world and to family, friends and those who pull at our heart strings. Right now, my heart strings go out to the victims of the building collapse in Miami-Dade. We may ask why? “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered. “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, NO! But unless you repent, you too will also perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all of the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, NO! But unless you repent, you too will perish.” Luke 13:1-4

Our lives are but a vapor. “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away.” James 4:14. But God through his word and through his son, gives us hope for each day while we inhabit planet Earth. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Following him gives hope that whatever calamity comes, we can trust him to hold the future. Jesus understands calamity, he hung on a cross for our sins and paid the price for our eternal freedom. We can live without fear if we repent and follow the resurrected Christ.

So, as you reflect on your life, open your heart and ask God to show you He exists and has a purpose for your life. Then watch as He unveils the blindness you once experienced. He talks to you through nature, through life experiences and through his word. “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; It has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold on me.” Martin Luther

Down on my knees

We had very few people on my last scheduled volunteer day at Good Shepherd Hospital. We began dismantling the vaccine clinic and bringing it back to its pre-clinic state as a conference/ educational center. One of the jobs was to remove the blue tape on the cement floor used to direct the patients to registration and to the vaccine clinic. Getting down on my knees was not too difficult for me since I stay active, walking, exercising and riding my bike. But my finger nails were really taking a beating while I continued pulling up the stubborn tape. I began conversing with a lovely volunteer named, Judy, who apologized for not helping due to physical restraints.  “No problem,” I said.  I enjoyed conversing with her about her daughter working in Norway and her mother in a nursing home. At one point, I said, “Well here I am on my knees; Is there anything I can pray about for you?”  “I pray all the time,” she said. And then our sweet fellowship began.   I told her as a kid in the Lutheran church, I had memorized prayers like the ‘Our Father’. I would try to say it at bedtime, but I always fell asleep before the end of the prayer. Then I’d feel guilty.  As a child, I only knew Jesus as an historical figure and not as someone who wanted to have a close relationship with me.  Now I understand how much he loves each of us and wants us to come to Him with everything. He has created an empathy in my heart for others like my new friend, Judy.  “How has prayer connected you to others and deepened your relationship?”

volunteered at the clinic from February to the end of May

thoughts On racism

Music the International language

In light of the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, I decided to write about my own experience with racism. I grew up with educated parents who taught us to love people of all races and religions. At an early age, my dad took me to the library and I still remember a book called April Love about an adorable black girl who suffered injustices. At the Lutheran Sunday school, we sang “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. The pastor’s wife taught us about missions in the world helping those of other races. But I never knew a black person until high school. I played soft ball with Thorpe High School in Chicago and they would always beat our Warren Elementary team.  I found myself fearful of unknown people, but then in my homeroom I met Harriet, a beautiful black girl. I was getting to know and love her but then one day she was gone. I found out that she was pregnant and back then a pregnant girl did not attend high school.

When I met my future husband, Larry, I also met his black roommate, Troy. Larry and Troy became close friends, and would tease each other with Mother jokes, etc. An example would be “Your mother wears combat shoes.” They would refer to Larry as fish belly white—all in good humor. Troy’s girlfriend, Gladys, taught Larry how to dance. To this day, Larry is a smooth dancer. They wanted him to join their fraternity and he would have been the first white person in a black fraternity. But Larry didn’t stay in school long enough to have this happen; instead, he became an air-controller in the Marine Corps.  One Saturday night, Larry and I along with Troy and Gladys went to a Beach Boys concert and we decided to switch partners to see how people would react as we crossed the street. This was during Martin Luther King’s marches in the 60’s. Larry observed a young, white couple sitting in their car. The woman was looking at us and pretending she didn’t see us. She poked her husband and with her body language, pointed to us as we made our way to the entrance. Larry stopped, smiled and waved at the freaked-out couple.

I admired Martin Luther King and his non-violence stance.  My family and I were shocked and deeply saddened when he was shot. I recall his prophetic words, “I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”  How sad that we are still so far from the Promise Land. In the 90’s, Walter Payton was not allowed to join Barrington Country Club because of his race. How heartbreaking that so much emphasis has been placed on race.

As a high school teacher, I did my best to teach my students through literature and personal experience about the importance of loving others regardless of their race. We read Raisin in the Sun, the Power of One, stories about Rosa Parks among many others. When Obama was running for president, the students would turn to a black student in my class and ask him if he was going to run for president someday. Fast forward to today. I thought we were making headway, but I think we are moving backwards.

If we claim to be Christians, then our actions must reflect God’s love for each human being. “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23-24)” He is the light that enlightens every person who comes into the world. How can we be enlightened? It’s a process of stepping outside of the lines and shaking hands with new friends. Volunteering with Humble Design in Chicago and working at the Care Center in Barrington has given us an opportunity to forge friendships and to become color blind.

Feeling a bit squirrely today

Larry, my husband of over 50 years, has had a love affair with his feathered friends for many years now. Our breakfast nook faces out to our deck where he has installed five bird-feeders to attract a variety from cardinals to our best friend, the large red headed woodpecker. Having a conversation with him at the breakfast nook is often difficult while I compete for his attention. . If I die first, a cardboard cut-out of big bird would be a good replacement for me, his loyal wife.   His war with the rogue squirrels began with the installation of his first two bird feeders.  They found every possible way to get to his concession stand—-by leaping from the deck, hanging upside down to suck nectar, and balancing on the umbrella stand above the feeder. “I will not be outsmarted by a squirrel,” said Larry.

One morning, while quietly enjoying our eggs and bacon, my 6’2” Marine husband witnessed the especially aggressive antics of Fred, the Olympic champion of champions.  Larry jumped into action by pounding on the window and throwing open the door. Terror stricken Fred fell 15 feet to the ground with a well-earned bite of suet in his mouth. Larry took off to his favorite store, Home Depot, and bought a longer pole to extend the now 5 bird feeders further into thin air. And yet even then, a few like Fred, made their way to the tasty suet which attracted our colorful woodpeckers. “I will not be outsmarted by a squirrel,” Larry said.  During a sleepless night, a brilliant idea came to him. He woke up, skipping his eggs and bacon, and bought plexiglass which he installed on the deck rail to prevent the squirrels from jumping to the bird feeders. The next morning, we saw paw and face marks on the plexiglass as the squirrels frantically tried to get through.  Larry proclaimed victory. “See, he said, “I’m smarter than a squirrel.”

Fred

But then a couple months later, he felt a measure of compassion, especially for ferocious Fred. He began throwing out some seeds on the deck floor for his former nemesis.

returning back to normal

I’m looking out the window at a foot of accumulated snow on my deck table, and I’m thinking what good snow that would be to ski on but then I move to my indoor thermometer and see that it’s only 4 degrees with a possible 6 degrees high for the day. It’s an improvement from yesterday when the morning temperature was -6. It’s a good morning to catch up on my writing.

By this time in February, Larry and I would have been up to Wilmot to ski numerous times and we would be making plans to ski out West; but this winter is different. Not only are we still in a pandemic, but Larry has had lots of back pain. He continues to volunteer at Humble Design/Chicago and at Conference Point, a camp in Lake Geneva but he returns home with lots of pain. The good thing is that he is scheduled for back surgery on February 22nd. Hopefully lifewithlarry will be more exciting after the surgery. But Larry doesn’t complain and loves to cook and help the neighbors by snowplowing their driveways.

I’m excited about getting my first dose of the Covid 19 vaccine. Now, I will return to Good Shepherd Hospital not to play the piano yet, but to help with the vaccination program. I’m including my picture to show that it is safe and that I had no problems, not even a sore arm. If we want to put this pandemic behind us, we need herd immunity. I sure hope the vaccine will be available for you soon.

Feb 3, 2021 my first dose

I remember Mom holding my hand while waiting in a long line at South Chicago Hospital for my polio vaccine. I would imagine that then like now there would have been many who were fearful of the vaccine but the results were wonderful—eradicating polio. Let’s do the same with Covid 19 so it will be unable to morphe into something even more deadly.

The road to happiness is paved with bricks of service to others

We have now been married over 50 years and Larry’s life of service to so many is something we can all seek to do as God inspires us. We have all been given gifts and talents. Larry is not only very adept in contracting but he is also a good writer. My talents are in the area of music, writing, and communication. Put a hammer in my hand and it will take me 12 times to pound it in. But true happiness exists as we seek to help our broken world. I had an opportunity to write about why my husband should be considered an everyday hero and this is what my neighbor and I said.

“We are living in our home right now because of the volunteer work Larry Schuerr has done for us,” said Karen of Fox River Grove. She has been battling with MS for over 40 years and was in need of redoing her house so she could keep herself from falling and still live in the neighborhood she loves. Larry put up ramps inside and out so she could get her scooter from room to room and to her van. He enlarged her bathroom door so her scooter could roll in easily.  He gathered a group of friends to pour cement in outside openings to prevent groundhogs from hibernating under their home. This is just one-person Larry has helped.

During the flooding on the Fox River, he helped the Holt’s fortify their home on the river from flooding their basement by sandbagging around their house.  He also poured cement for the Venetian Garden’s club house and provided a ramp. A young woman in a wheelchair wanted to know who put up the ramp so now she could easily make her way into the club house.

For years he collected bicycles and refurbished them for local kids in need of one. He began a program with Dean Jim Kelly, from Cary-Grove High School.  CG’s Interact students repaired and donated bicycles for children in the city. While teaching at Dundee Crown as an Industrial Arts teacher, his students worked with Habitat for Humanity in their Carpentry 3 program. On Saturday’s Schuerr would gather family, friends and students to work on homes where families were experiencing hardship and lack of finances to repair their homes. He continued to work with Habitat and various church organizations after retirement.  

Larry, an avid skier and former ski instructor, also worked with Adaptive Adventure, a group that taught skiing to the handicapped using various devises. His favorite memory was teaching a little girl how to ski with one leg. She was born with a leg that only grew to the knee. The joy he saw on her face when she was able to make turns down a hill made him cry.

Currently, Larry and I have both been volunteering at Humble Design Chicago where our daughter Julie Schuerr Dickinson is the director. This organization is being used to help so many in the inner city. More information is at jdhumbledesign.org/chicago@humblechitown.

Volunteering has been a way of life for Schuerr who grew up in humble circumstances and never forgot what it meant to get a package from the VFW on Christmas. “Now that I have the means to help others, I joyfully do it,” said Larry who worked as a contractor and teacher.

“Larry lives the Christ-like life by helping those around him in need. That is where his joy in life comes from,” said Karen of Fox River Grove.

Merry Christmas 2020

I’ll be Home For Christmas like so many of you. But hope is on the horizon as a vaccine is near. I read a book in November 2019 called As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner about the flu epidemic in 1918 coinciding with World War 1. I closed the book and was very thankful that we conquered that one. My mother, who had the flu as a child, told us many stories about losing many friends and family members to the flu.

We traveled to Hawaii in February 2020 and had a wonderful time staying at the Hale Kola, military bases and a B&B. Then March rolled around and the country closed down taking drastic measures to save lives. I took walks and bike rides with friends in the neighborhood where people seemed friendlier and more eager to smile and say hello. I could no longer volunteer playing the piano at our local hospital so I began posting music on Face Book and Instagram. We took trips in our trailer to Picture Lake National Lake Shore, Door County and lastly to New Orleans to see our foster daughter, Donna and her family.

Larry and I both have been volunteering at Humble Design Chicago where our daughter Julie Schuerr Dickinson is the Director. To learn more about Humble Design and what they are doing for the homeless, see www. humbledesign.org/chicago@humblechitown. This has been a great way to help 4 families a week get on their feet. Larry also volunteers at Conference Point in Lake Geneva and occasionally at Habitat for Humanity. While purging our home from unwanted items, Larry came across an old bread maker which has been a source of pleasure—waking up to the aroma of fresh sourdough bread. He has become a wonderful cook. As a result, I must get more exercise time in with a former teacher Rose Blake and her Get After It program. Face Time and Zoom is now how we communicate with friends, family and online church.

Our son Aaron’s 2020 art schedule was completely canceled, but he began selling his pastels and oils online. His work came to the attention of Kelly Clarkson, an American Idol winner and afternoon talk show host. By zoom, she interviewed him and showed his work to the American audience on TV increasing his footprint in the art world.

Deb, who continues to give private piano and voice lessons, also teaches at Headwater Academy in Bozeman MT where student enrollment continues to grow. She loves her exercise-dance classes and playing tennis.

I was happy to get published in Chicken Soup for the Soul/Laughter is Good Medicine edition this past year. This is a fitting edition for Larry and I since even in this pandemic we always find time for humor.

We think of you my friends and how you have made it through this difficult year. “Beloved, don’t be astonished at the fiery trial which has come upon you, to test you, as though a strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12).While our nation bleeds from so many deaths, racial tensions and untold political divisions, we have hope as followers of Jesus, to demonstrate a better way to live

Why I Believe the Christmas Story-Day 1

Many think that the Bible stories were passed down like the game telephone where the message changed from one person to another— therefore full of inaccuracies. But God entrusted his word to the Jewish people who were meticulous in not missing a (Jot or tittle as they would say). So begins Luke 1 written by Luke, a physician. He said,”They were handed down to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seems good also to me to write an orderly account—so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” Not only do we have Luke’s story, but we have the accounts of Matthew, Mark and John whose foundation lies in the prophecies of the Old Testament, a beautiful picture.

Love Sue and Larry

sschuerr@gmail.com Sue Schuerr Face Book

lschuerr@comcast.net Larry Schuerr Face Book

How should we then live

Happy Thanksgiving 2020

Thoughts to Ponder

I’ve been studying the life of Frederick Douglass, (1818-1895) a fugitive slave who learned to read and write and became a great orator, writer and statesman dedicated to ending slavery and to ensuring the right to vote for women. He wrote his autobiography that got into the hands of Abraham Lincoln, who greatly admired him. At one time, Douglass along with a large crowd was waiting for an audience with President Lincoln. Can you imagine waiting in line to see a President? But when Lincoln heard that Frederick was waiting to see him, he invited him in. As Douglass was granted an audience, he heard someone say, “Damn it, I knew they would let the n—r though.” Lincoln was standing and Douglass described him as being “like a mountain pine high above all others…in his grand simplicity, and home-like beauty.” In Lincoln’s presence he said, ”I was never in any way reminded of my humble origin, or of my unpopular color.” Lincoln said about Douglass, “Here comes my friend Douglass. I’m glad to see you. There is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours.” At one point, along with being whipped, he was made to eat his meals in a pig trough. As Frederick waited for an audience with the President, I thought of James 2:1 “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring, and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you, but say to the poor man. “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet.” Have you not discriminated among yourselves, and become judges” with evil thoughts?—Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith—–

When will we ever learn

My background in literature and history is making me fearful that we are not learning from our past; and if we ignore our mistakes, we are bound to repeat them— which will have catastrophic consequences for our future freedoms. I taught 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451-all futuristic books worth reading now—and Animal Farm, a picture of the Russian Revolution. The books are all about dumbing down society so society will believe lies that are dispensed like gum balls falling out of a candy dispenser. I encourage all of you to open your eyes to the lies you may be swallowing perhaps being dispensed by your favorite guru. Please listen to more than one TV or radio station for your news. Trust experts instead of false prophets. Are we so stupid as a socierty that we are ignoring facts such as our election results and Covid 19 as a real disease while our hospitals are filling up to capacity? I beg you open your eyes and “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32. Also remember—-“For the time is coming when people will not have patience for sound teaching, but will cater to their passions and gather around themselves teachers who say whatever their ears itch to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3.

I would suggest starting with Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. He was born on August 12, 1920 in Waukegan, IL and died in CA on June 5th 2012 at the age of 91. Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20-21st century writers. You will see our society through his eyes.

Tips on how to live a long and fulfilled life