Official Barbara Kois Website
The Danger of Safety

Safety pic
Sometimes when I drive to work on the expressway, I see people repairing potholes. I count the number of vehicles involved in this process and – I kid you not – there are eight vehicles blocking traffic so that two people can fill a pothole with a diameter of approximately twelve inches. You got it right: one foot in diameter and it takes eight vehicles that block two lanes of traffic so that two people can pour material in and fill the hole.


One time, after I was late for work because of this situation, I called the road repair folks, having gotten the number from the side of one of the trucks at the scene, to suggest that this might be done with fewer vehicles and at a time other than rush hour.


I was told that the eight vehicles are there to make sure the two individuals doing the actual work are safe – safe from speeding cars going by, although no one is speeding or doing anything but crawling when two lanes of traffic are blocked off. Safety?


At the train station in my town, two workers were weeding along the side of the parking lot recently and they had eight parking spots blocked off so the two could weed. Would they not be safe if cars were parked in the spaces? The amazing thing is that the next day, after presumably a full eight-hour shift of weeding for two people, only a twenty-foot edge of the parking lot was complete and they moved on to the next eight cars to block off. I’m a gardener and it doesn’t take me eight hours by myself to weed a patch of my yard that’s twenty by eight.


Switching topics but still on point, at the end of my mother’s life, she lived in a nursing home. She’d had a nice condo in a senior living facility but once she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, they whisked her into the nursing home portion of the place “for her safety.” Neither she, nor her husband, nor her adult children had any say in the matter because of the fine print in the documents they had signed when entering the facility. Into the nursing home she went and that was that.


She had not driven for several years and she never set the kitchen cabinets on fire cooking or anything like that. She wasn’t a wanderer, so that wasn’t a problem either. But for her “safety,” all of her freedom was summarily taken from her. My poor mother had no freedom whatsoever when she lived in the nursing home. She was fed, had her hair done, was helped with bathing and sat in a chair listening to a neighbor’s blaring TV even though she deplored TV – because she wouldn’t be “safe” in her condo.


I’m not saying that Alzheimer’s isn’t a very serious condition that requires help. I only mention my mother’s situation because at the time I thought, I bet she’d rather be able to sit in her own living room and decide what and when to eat and wash her own laundry than having someone do everything for her because she was supposedly incapable.


What would have been so unsafe if she had been able to dig in her small garden or take a walk around the block? In fact, another man I knew who had Parkinson’s was planting his tomato plants in his yard when he keeled over and he died a couple of days later. Now that’s the way to go!


If someone had been keeping him “safe,” he might have been sitting in a wheelchair so he didn’t fall over. But he was allowed to live fully until the last minute. Freedom – and the ability to be responsible for our own selves, actions and consequences – is one of the greatest blessings we have. And I treasure it, understanding the risks that attend it.


I’ll take the consequences for my freedom over “safety” any day.


On the bright side, now that technology seems to be giving us driver-less cars, older or infirm people won’t have to be restricted to walking or getting rides anymore. All they need is one of those new cars to get around in – safely.

Navigating Home

I purchased a GPS after getting lost on a business trip in Texas (I live in Illinois) during which I spent three hours getting from the airport to my hotel, a distance of 1.2 miles. My adult children in Illinois helped me by using their GPS systems on their phones and patiently walking me back from my panic.


A couple of the highlights of the experience were seeing a highway sign with the symbol that the green toucan uses on Angry Birds to go forward and then circle back. I had never seen a sign like this outside the game and described it to my daughter, who laughed as she tried to help me.


Another doozy was when I stopped at a gas station to ask for directions and–I’m not making this up or exaggerating–the brick-enclosed building had no door! No door at all. As I gesticulated desperately outside the window, the clerk felt sorry for me and after unlocking what appeared to be several padlocks, stepped outside her fortress and pointed me in the direction she thought I was going. This was fairly early on, after only an hour or so of being lost.

So I came home and invested in a GPS and it was worth every penny.


But here’s my favorite thing about the GPS. When the computer voice, that of a woman, tells me what to do, for which I thank her often, she uses no inflection or emotion at all when she says, “In 1.2 miles, turn left on Route 20.” Flat, emotionless voice. Even if I make a wrong turn and she has to recalculate to figure out where I am now, her voice shows no judgment or anger or even impatience. She just calmly says, “Go 4.6 miles and turn right on Anderson Boulevard.” Some of her pronunciations are kind of funny, but after all, she’s a computer, so I give her quite a bit of slack.


But when I have finished my business or dropped someone off at the airport and am ready to turn around and go home, all I have to say to her is “Go home.” And her response is absolutely heartwarming.


“Navigating home,” she says. But it’s not the personality-less tone she uses for every other instruction. “Navigating home” is delivered in a way that makes me feel like saying, “Ahhhhh, I’m going home now.” Her voice drops down when she says “home” so that it really sounds like she knows I’m glad to be going there.


Today when I dropped two people off at the airport and told my GPS girl, “Go home,” and she gave her usual comforting response, it suddenly dawned on me that that’s what I, along with every other Christian, am doing here on earth–we’re navigating home. We’re traveling this world on our way to our real home–heaven.


And that thought–from my wonderful and beloved God, I believe–was even more comforting and exciting than the prospect of returning to my snug and cozy little house that God gave me fourteen years ago.


I’m on my way Home–to be with our Savior and our loved ones who have gone ahead of us, and they include my dear mother, my sister and my brother, whom I miss. I’m not in any hurry to get there, though, and I have, as Robert Frost said, “Miles to go before I sleep.” Miles and more fun times with my three darling children and maybe even grandchildren one day. And work that God still has for me to do.


God, help me to honor you with the rest of my journey here, however long or short. And thank you that I know where I’m going as I’m “Navigating home.”

least of these

Welcome to my blog. I have been writing many things for quite a long time and know that blogging is the “in” thing now. So I’m going to blog.


What I’d like to talk about is . . . well, lots of things. I’m a mother, a writer, a sister, a neighbor, a woman, a friend, and life is full of interesting happenings and fascinating people, isn’t it?


One of the most interesting people I’ve ever met is my friend Linda. Right now, she lives in a retirement home in another state and has no money. Literally – her Social Security check goes for rent on the place and she has something like $80 a month to spend. The place even has bugs that they try to tell her are “lint” and some anonymous person harasses her by banging on her apartment door at 4:30 a.m. many mornings.


So I grieve for her situation. Let me tell you about her amazing life.


Linda earned her living cleaning houses. Until she reached the age for Medicare, she had no medical insurance. She had no paid sick days or holidays, no pension plan or IRA. Linda’s mother died in childbirth and, as soon as Linda was old enough to understand the words, her father told her that she had killed her mother by being a “bad baby.” Not surprisingly after a start in life like that, Linda has struggled with depression for many years.


I first knew Linda when she cleaned my house, back in the days of my material prosperity. We became friends, and she worked for me for ten years. Over the years, we talked and prayed together, sharing victories and heartbreaks. Both of us are mothers, and we prayed together for our children.


Financial reversals ended my luxury of Linda’s household help, and ended my years of owning the house as well. But our friendship remained strong, and we talked on the phone and visited each other occasionally. During one particularly discouraging week for me, Linda called me.


“You sound down, Barb.  Has something happened?”


“I didn’t get the job I applied for, and I’m getting panicky about finances,” I said.


“What a disappointment about the job.  Let’s meet for breakfast on Saturday.  My treat,” she said.


I was glad to see her Saturday morning, but I felt guilty that she had offered to pay for my breakfast.  If I had handled things better when I had money, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Linda has so little, and yet she wants to take me out to breakfast, I thought.


After we finished our meal, Linda pulled out an envelope with my name on it and handed it to me.


“I really want you to have this, Barb,” she said.


“Oh, Linda, I couldn’t take that from you.  I just couldn’t.”


Her smile faded instantly, and she looked away from me, obviously hurt.


“You helped me years ago, Barb, and now I want to help you a little bit.”


I knew immediately that the right thing to do was to put aside my pride and guilt and accept her gift.


“Thank you, Linda.  I appreciate your help.”


After Linda paid our bill, we hugged each other and parted. I was touched by her kindness. When I got home, I opened Linda’s envelope, expecting to find a $5 or $10 bill. Instead, she had given me $128 in cash.


Surprised and overwhelmed, I realized that she had given me a full two days’ pay from her housecleaning work. Just like the widow’s two mites, I thought (from Mark 12:42 NASB). She has given out of her poverty, not out of her surplus. She gave me what she had to live on.


Another lesson learned by example.
Check back to learn more about Linda and other amazing people I know.