September 4, 2020

Can a blessing come out of something challenging? In hindsight, it is easy to say “yes” to the idea. But in the midst of the challenge, in particular a difficult and dangerous challenge, it is only by faith, sometimes a radical, tenacious, stubborn, “I-will-hold-onto-this-promise-of-God-until…faith” that keeps me going. Being stubborn and persistent can have its reward.

My friend, Debbie Davis, responded to a recent meditation that I wrote about having scarlatina as a child. She wrote, “So glad that the blessing of your whistling came out of something challenging.” Once again, it is the wisdom of others that shines a light on a spiritual truth.

What I didn’t think to mention when I wrote about learning to whistle was how frightening that particular illness was for my family. A year earlier, the only son of Paul Shannon, host of KDKA’s afternoon “Paul Shannon’s Adventuretime,” contracted scarlet fever and suffered significant heart valve damage. No doubt that made my mother even more anxious. On top of that, I had been diagnosed when I was four with a heart murmur, and although that problem resolved itself as I got older, my mother, the worrier in the family, continued to worry that if I ran around too much (which happened daily, multiple times), something unnamed but terrible might happen. I am sure that I heard lots of Christine stories about a little girl just like me.  Like many children, I intuited her concern, but out of some inner persistence and stubbornness I was not going to be slowed down.

The Shannon family lived across the street from my great aunt, in an affluent neighborhood near South Hill’s Country Club. Paul Shannon was one of my hero’s, as his show part of my afternoon TV trinity with Our Gang and The Three Stooges, and I conflated him with those TV shows. I’d make excuses to play in aunt’s front yard, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone famous.

One momentous summer afternoon, my sisters and I were invited to swim in their in-ground back yard pool. I suspect that the invitation was due in large part to their son’s attraction to my older sisters, not me. I was sorely disappointed that some of the Our Gang characters, along with the Three Stooges didn’t drop by. 

In so many ways, this season has been sorely disappointing as well as challenging. The challenge is to recognize the blessings that come out of challenges. I picked up the habit of whistling during a childhood illness and wrote about it, without seeing the amazing blessing it was…the blessing of health, of determination, of memory, of seeing God as I look back on that time. All because of the words of a friend.

With thanks or the blessing of friends who unknowingly turn our hearts to God. ~ Anne

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