Many Thanks To The Red Cross

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of August 13, 2017

It is comforting to know when there is a disaster such as a fire or a stormsprinkle-life1 in your community, fire departments, police departments and ambulance crews, as well as ordinary citizens, step up to help and save lives.

The Wellington Estates Apartments in Wells caught fire the morning of Aug. 5. I live a block from the fire station and heard the sirens, but as the hour passed I heard sirens that weren’t familiar to me. Checking out the situation I found crews from seven neighboring communities that came to help. Luckily no one was hurt, but many families were displaced from their homes.

The Red Cross was on the scene immediately helping out with vouchers for places to stay and other things needed to help the residents.

I was surprised on Wednesday afternoon when my doorbell rang. I didn’t recognize the people at the door. I was skeptical and careful as I answered, not sure what to expect. It was a woman from the Red Cross inquiring about smoke detectors in my home.

With so many scammers knocking on doors these days I was hesitant to answer any questions, but seeing the credentials hanging around the worker’s neck and looking at the paper she handed me, I knew she was a Red Cross worker.

She told me she and two other workers were checking on homes and installing smoke detectors if they were needed. I asked the cost and she said there was no cost. I almost turned the Red Cross workers away because I knew I could afford to put in my own smoke detectors. There was one problem with that — I had two smoke detectors that broke months ago and we hadn’t replaced them. We talked about it and vowed we would do it soon but put it on our list of to-dos that never gets done. I couldn’t remember the last time we checked the batteries, and I knew the working smoke detectors were years old.

I asked if I let them put the smoke detectors in if I could make a donation. They told me I could, but they weren’t the ones to take the donation. They left the information if I did want to contribute to the Red Cross.

My husband was surprised when he came home to new smoke detectors. The fire at Wellington Estates reminded all of us who live in our community that fires break out at unexpected times and we all should have a plan. The Red Cross volunteers when visiting my home also went over tips and a workable plan.

I didn’t know about the Red Cross program called Sound The Alarm, Save A Life. According to redcross.org, volunteers will install 100,000 free smoke alarms nationwide. They work with fire departments and local groups visiting homes, replacing batteries in existing alarms and installing new ones, and providing fire prevention and safety education during their visit.

I am thankful they chose to stop by my home because we had put off replacing our alarms. They also pointed out we did not have a carbon monoxide detector.

If you are interested in this program, or if you want to donate or volunteer to the Sound The Alarm, Save a Life Campaign visit redcross.org for links and information. And if you are interested in helping the Wellington Estates residents with donations, there is a fund set up at Wells Federal Bank in Wells called the Wellington Relief Fund or call Pastor Mary Iverson at 507-553-3513 or Open Doors Church office at 507-553-5453.

Church Pews Be Gone

My column this week. I had a few thoughts on church pews. What are your thoughts? Comfort or beauty?

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of July 10, 2017

I love the look of old church pews. I wouldn’t mind having an old church pew in my home for looks but not for sitting. As I lifted my creaky back up off a hard church pew one Sunday morning I wondered why we hold on to the old-fashioned church pews in many of our churches. Let’s face it, they are uncomfortable, and they are hard on the back.

Yes, we have some cushioned church pews in my church, but since I am short when I sit on the cushion my feet do not touch the ground and I am uncomfortable. But cushions do not fix the slanted back. And while I am short many tall people have a hard time with small pews, which are in many old churches. Am I complaining? Probably and there is no fix, but I wondered how those uncomfortable church pews got started.

Before the construction of church buildings, people met in houses. Long bed-like cushions were provided on which people would recline to eat their meals. I could handle reclining while eating. When the Eucharist was served they would stand.

When the first church buildings were resurrected people would stand or kneel at the service. The Protestant revolution introduced the sermon as the central part of worship and the pew appeared. Since churches could not afford them, people would purchase what was called pew boxes because they could be locked up and no one else could use them.

During the mid-19th century, pew rents were offered for those who could not afford to buy their pew. These pews were a cheaper version and called the “cheap seats.” Those unable to afford pew rents were given unassigned seats at the church.

There are different designs of pews. Some were fancy and others were rough with slivers to remind people of Christ’s death. Some pew designs are ornate and lavish. Backs of pews may be straight or angled. Some pews are small in size. In older churches most pews face the front of the church and the pulpit, not allowing for conversation or interaction with the others sitting in church.

That makes me wonder why we keep the pews. Early church services were held in the home, and people could look each other in eye and interact with one another. Then when buildings came into place people stood to pray and again could move around and have a conversation with other congregants. Why are we not doing that now? Why are we holding on to those church pews — besides the fact that most of them are pretty?

Some congregations are moving into a new generation of worship when they build new facilities replacing the pews with comfortable chairs which are easy on people’s backs. I would imagine people with arthritis, back problems and disabilities appreciate the change.

Chairs aren’t always set up in a straight line. They can be moved, and they may be moved in a circular pattern so people can change directions and look at one another, being able to have a conversation when the time arises. One of my favorite parts of the service at my church is the sharing of the peace where we can move around and meet and greet people and look someone in the eye so they know we care.

There are traditions we need to hold onto in our churches which affect the theology of the church. In my opinion, church pews are not one of them. Instead of worrying about the aesthetics of a church, and yes we need to keep up our buildings so they don’t fall down, I would rather have a well-used and worn church where people feel comfortable and at home.

When we invite people to our houses we offer them comfortable chairs, something to refresh their thirst and good conversation. We want them to feel at home in our home. Shouldn’t we want the same thing in our churches? Don’t we want our churches to be a place of peace, rest, and refreshment in a world full of strife and stress where they can feel accepted and hear God’s word? We are not perfect people. There is not one of us who doesn’t sin, so wouldn’t we want to welcome all to our comfortable church home?

I must admit there are days we don’t attend church when our backs make it difficult for us to sit in the hard pews. We watch the service live streaming at home, but by doing that we miss conversations with others that might revive us for the week and make a difference in our life.

This is an opinion column. My opinion: Pews be gone.

Snap, Sizzle, Pop…It’s the Fourth of July

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of July 3, 2017

14687804116_c553cd4dc4_zI don’t love fireworks, but I don’t hate them either. I think they are fun and pretty, and I have many memories of my childhood of Fourth of July with my dad and his love of Black Cat firecrackers.

I think there are a time and place for fireworks — celebrations, and of course the Fourth of July, but I would differ with people on the time or place.

One of my dad’s favorite activities with the Black Cat firecrackers was making a hole in a tin can, setting a firecracker in the hole, setting it in a pan of water and seeing how high in the air the firecracker would blow the can. When I was a kid, fireworks of almost any kind were illegal except for sparklers, and if I remember right,  small firecrackers and snakes might also have been legal. Penalties were different in those days. If the police caught you with firecrackers you were given a warning not a fine — at least that is what happened to my family and friends.

On the Fourth of July, we would travel to my dad’s farm, have a bonfire and shoot our fireworks. Probably many of them were illegal fireworks. I suppose it could be said that we were being told one time a year it was fine to break the law. We never talked about it but if I think about it now, it goes into that gray area where we choose what we want our kids to believe about honesty and following the law.  However, most of my family and friends found a countryside to shoot fireworks. Half of that was because of the law and half was because of respect for our neighbors.

I still remember visiting my son in Omaha one July Fourth. They had a watering ban because it was so dry and people would be fined for watering lawns. It was also illegal to shoot fireworks in the city of Omaha. But that was a law everyone ignored, so on the morning of the Fourth, the paper’s headlines were: If you are going to shoot fireworks please water your lawns. The fireworks started in the neighborhood around 8 a.m. and continued until about 2 a.m. the next morning. It wasn’t little fireworks, but many were the kind you see at events. The next morning the street sweeper cleaned the streets as it looked like it had snowed fireworks, and the street and lawns were covered with debris. It was a fun day because it was expected, and people knew what was going to happen.

The past few weeks around 11 or 11:30 p.m. loud booms could be heard in our neighborhood and other neighborhoods in our community. Facebook comments lit up in protest of the noise so late at night. Dogs and cats got scared and caused problems for their owners. Small children woke from their sleep scared, and those who suffer from PTSD almost took cover. Many veterans, no matter how long it has been, dive for shelter when they hear the noise because it brings back memories from their time in the war. It was an inappropriate time for fireworks because it was unexpected.

People felt there was a lack of respect for their neighbors. It is easier on veterans, children, and pets if you can prepare for the event that might shake their world. I know we can’t always prepare for the unexpected but in this case, trauma can be avoided by warning your neighbors, waiting until the actual day, or taking your fireworks into the country and an open area where others will not hear.

It is Independence Day and we should be celebrating. Fireworks are fun but remember to be careful is also a part of shooting off fireworks. Kids love fireworks. My grandkids are excited about this holiday. My husband and I will be staying home because he is one of those veterans who wants to take a dive when they hear the sound. We do not go to firework events. I remember the first time I was with him when we were dating, and fireworks started at an event. He almost pulled me straight to the ground on the pavement. Years later, the sound still sometimes triggers that feeling.

Enjoy your day. Have fun, be respectful and show your pride in being an American. We do live in a great land.

 Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com