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Thoughts on the book of Job May 27, 2012

Filed under: Personal Growth — Meghan Hamilton @ 3:47 am
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As I stated in my last post, I am attempting to read the Bible in one year. I started in the middle of Job. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, it goes like this: Satan and several other angels appeared before God. It is not clear why they did so, but God boasts about how faithful Job is. Satan thinks that Job’s faith will fall away if he loses everything. So God agrees to allow Satan to test Job’s faith. Job, a wealthy man with a large family, loses family to raiders and his posessions to various mishaps and disasters all engineered by Satan. He has several friends who remain by his side after the aquaintences no longer want anything to do with him and his now miserable existence. These friends come to the only conclusion they can and advise Job to repent of his sins so God will bless him again. Job insists he is blameless and cries out to God for answers. Eventually God speaks up and restores Job’s wealth and blesses him with a new family.

My thoughts? Number one, the book is too long. It seemed to drag and the friends arguments were repetitive. I got it the first time. And I didn’t even read the whole book! I suppose part of my issue here is cultural.

Number two – Job was pretty sarcastic. I liked that. I never picked up on that before.

Number three – I realized that when a friend is hurting, he or she doesn’t always need advice. He/she doesn’t need me to overanalyze the situation. He/she probably would prefer it if I quietly sat beside him or her and provided companionship. Job’s sarcasm showed up because as well meaning as his friends were, they weren’t really helping.

Number four – I was reminded that there are forces at work in this world that I am unaware of that affect me directly. They may be people doing things behind my back or spiritual forces doing things behind my back. Either way, all I can do is remain faithful to God.

Thank you for reading. I welcome your thoughts on this.


Reading the Bible in a Year May 18, 2012

Filed under: Personal Growth — Meghan Hamilton @ 2:41 am
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 When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I read the Bible cover to cover twice, and a third time with a “Chronological Bible.”  (For those of you unfamiliar with the Christian Bible, it is not entirely in Chronological order and some of the passages are variations on the same story. )  At my church, we were challenged to a daily Bible reading program for the first part of the year.  It covered 100 passages that are often considered foundational to Christianity.  Now that is drawing to a close.  Another member of my church happened to send an email about Bible reading that got me thinking, “Now what?” 

So – now I embark on another quest to read the entire Bible in one year.  Will daily study of these scriptures change me?  I hope that they change me for the better.   Some of you may be thinking, “Oh boy!  She’s becoming one of those people…”  If, by “one of those people,” you think I am becoming a fanatic who persecutes people for disagreeing with my beliefs, rest assured, that is not who I am and I hope I will never be like that.   I hope to find a deeper spiritual connection and relationship with my God.  Through doing that, I hope to become a more loving and kind person.

Where did I begin this current quest?  A popular devotional, “Our Daily Bread,” includes a Bible in one year program.  I assume they started in January at the very beginning in Genesis 1.  However, I don’t like playing catch-up, and from previous study I am familiar enough with the beginning to start in the middle without getting completely confused.  So I looked up today’s reading and started there.  I am in the middle of Job.  An interesting starting point.  Already I am finding that I understand more than I did the last time I read that book. 

Has anyone else taken up this challenge?  How did you fare?  In my previous reads, I picked it up and put it down many times before completing the task.  Are you of a different belief system?  Have you tried a similar reading program?  I am interested in your thoughts and experiences.

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Mental Health Awareness Month May 6, 2012

It seems like there is a day or a month to make us aware of all sorts of things.  May has been proclaimed Mental Health Awareness Month.   If you have been following my blog or have known me for more than five minutes, you probably know that my husband has Bipolar Disorder.  Thus, I am all to well aware of mental illness. 

If you want to find out specifically about him, browse through old posts.  If you want to find out more specifically about Bipolar, use Google or any search engine you prefer.  Today I would like to talk about mental health in general terms and my observations about how people view it.

If you read my post about jury duty and you know my life with my husband, you may wonder why I didn’t find in favor of the plaintiff when she came to court seeking compensation for emotional damages.  The fact of the matter is, she did not prove to us that she suffered unduly and the defendant’s actions did not fulfil the legal requirements to be made to pay.

Do I discount anxiety or emotional strain as being “in her head?”  No.  These are very real things.  They are very real mental disorders and illnesses.  I see my husband’s anxieties play out almost daily.  I see other people struggle with anxiety.  I have seen and known sleeplessness and felt my own stomach knot up with worry and fear.  These things should be recognized by our legal system and by our society as very real illnesses just as a broken bone or diabetes are recognized as such.

One of the problems I see in our society, thus our legal and healthcare systems, is a refusal to believe that these are biological disorders.  Even though mental illnesses respond to medications, many people would have us believe that someone can “snap out of it” or “just get over it.”  Because of this attitude, people suffering from a real illness are reluctant to seek medical advice for it.  Would you tell someone with a rash that won’t go away no matter how many over the counter creams and lotions they have applied to it, to “just get over it?”  No!  You would advise them to see a doctor.

As I have learned about my husband’s illness and my own postpartum depression, there are many pills available to help people through mental illnesses.  There are many counselors out there to help people through stressful situations that arise from the illness or from an external situation. 

My inclination is that the woman in the court case I watched play out last week is to believe that she had a situationally triggered  illness of some sort.  The problem was, she had been too reluctant to have it evaluated.  To compare it to a cut, there was no way of knowing if this was a small scratch that healed easily or if this was a deep wound that would have required thirty stitches, or somewhere in between.  What if our culture made it easier for her to see a counselor?  Or even to just visit her primary care doctor for an evaluation?  That case may have turned out much differently, especially since we don’t have any visible scars to indicate the level of anxiety she had experienced as we would an external flesh wound. 

What can be done?  I ask you, reader, to evaluate how you see mental illness.  Do you believe that it is a physical illness affecting the brain?  Or do you believe that it is something else?  Do you believe that all people with mental illnesses are “crazy” and don’t deserve the time of day?  What do you believe?

I believe that all people deserve to have their bodies cared for, whether it is their brain or their pancreas that is ailing them.  When I encounter people in mental distress, I encourage them to seek counseling.  When I encounter someone with a diagnosed mental illness, I don’t assume anything about how it affects them in their ability to function and work on a day-to-day basis.  Every person is different.  Every person deserves to be treated as a person with real feelings and real problems.  No one deserves to be told, “Just get over it!” when it comes to their health.

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“All rise!” – Lessons learned in a jury box May 5, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Meghan Hamilton @ 12:51 am

This week I appeared as summoned to my local courthouse for jury duty.  Book and bottle of water in hand, I arrived prepared to wait as I have in the past.  The previous time I was called, they placed me on a Grand Jury.  It was interesting work deciding if a criminal case should go to trial.  Most of them did go to trial, though I don’t follow court reports to know if the defendent’s were ever found guilty or exonerated.  I would imagine most of them were found guilty as the District Attorney’s office generally brought us cases that included quite a bit of incriminating evidence.  But I digress.  This post is about this week’s civil case.

After we were all checked in, we were brought into an empty court room to be presented a video about jury duty.  All Massachusetts jurors see this video.  It was nice to see that there is a new one.  Our county has two court houses on the property, and the other one needed jurors, so they took twenty of the sixty of us over there.  I remained with the other forty. 

In MA, the jurors are preassigned random numbers, so they call up people in numerical order to fill the box.  As the judge weeded out those with a good reason not to be there and sent them home, the box filled.  Once there were twelve people willing and able to stay, the defending attorney requested that several of the older women be dismissed.  I don’t know if the judge was required to comply, but he did.  That brought me into the box.  Both attorneys were satisfied with my presence and eventually we had twelve acceptable jurors. 

As we listened to the case, several things went through my mind.  First, “Why are we here?  The Plaintiff has no evidence on which to base her claim.”  As I mentioned above, this was a civil trial.  A woman was seeking monetary damages from a man (Man A) her husband (Man B) had issues with and who subsequently dragged her into the dispute.  She was claiming emotional suffering and wanted money to compensate her for the suffering. 

In a nutshell, the dispute over some money had gone on for some time between Man A and Man B.  She claimed to have no knowledge of the dispute until much much later.  As the dispute went on, each man claimed the other would drive by his place of business yelling, “F*&% you!” and flipping the bird.  Mind you, at the time, both men were about 50 years old. 

As years went by, yes years, the acrimony rose.  Finally, Man A got so frustrated and fed up that he took to carrying a black permanent marker around with him and writing on men’s room walls from Chatham to Fairhaven (for you non-Massachusetts readers – that is over a 60 mile route) during his travels.  He would write what you might expect in a men’s room message.  “For a good time, call Mrs. B at ###-###-####.”  Sometimes the graffiti was very graphic and included things Mrs. B might like to do for fun.  Use your imagination.  I don’t need to repeat it word for word here.  He claimed he thought the number was Man A’s business number and no one else would pick it up. 

As a result, this woman, Mrs. B got a series of phone calls from men looking for a “good time.”  These occurred over about a six month time span before one of the police departments caught wind of it due to his repeated visits to one bathroom in particular.  They successfully prosecuted him for malicious destruction of public property.  Shortly after the police found him out, he stopped his scribbling on bathroom walls and the calls stopped coming in to Mrs. B.

So – during this time, she never sought any help or evaluation of the anxiety she claims to have experienced upon receiving approximately 15 of these calls.  They didn’t change their number.  They didn’t put a block on private calls until after Man A had been identified as the author of the graffiti.  (The caller ID always said, “private.”)  She never missed work.  No one came to the trial to testify to the level of anxiety they saw in her.  No one from work came to say she was making mistakes or doing her job less well than before it all started.  No friend came to say that she had expressed a high level of anxiety.  Her own husband had little to say about how anxious she was.

Let me assure you, dear reader, that I am not unsympathetic to this woman.  I believe she may have suffered some anxiety over this.  But the law was pretty clear about the grounds upon which we were to find in her favor.  She didn’t meet the criteria.  There was no legal reason to grant her money.  Maybe there should be criminal law that pertains to writing someone’s name and phone number in such a manner.  Maybe there is and it wasn’t pursued (I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know.). 

What is the lesson here?  If you have been hurt in some way, please get to a doctor.  At the very least, go to your primary care doctor and get it on record that you have some sort of problem.  No matter how embarrassed you are at the time.  No matter how scared you are at the time (in cases of rape or domestic abuse and the like).  No matter how trivial it seems at the time.  You will have little to go on later should you decide that you want to pursue legal action for the wrong done to you if you can not document that you suffered an injury, be it a black eye or an anxiety attack.  Get it on record so someone can verify you were hurt.

The other lesson?  Massachusetts is awesome in that a plaintiff is not allowed to specify the amount of money they would like to receive when asking for compensation.  If we had found in this woman’s favor, it would have been up to us jurors to decide how much money she deserved.  If more states adopt this sort of law, perhaps we will see a reduction in the number of outrageous claims in the millions of dollars for things that most people would not think warranted that sort of money.  I wonder if the woman who received $5 million from McDonald’s a few years ago after getting burned by coffee would have gotten that much money had the jury been able to set the dollar amount. 

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