Each month we will be sharing the testimony of one member of our community’s experience of and commitment to our life together. This month’s story comes from Stu Ervay.
WE ARE NOT MEANT TO BE SELF-SUFFICIENT
I’m pretty old now, which means I grew up as an American boy influenced by radio and television shows that glorified the rugged individual who conquers the wilderness or bad guys. Those men were tough and understood the difference between right and wrong.
Comic books also became popular when I was young. In fact, Superman and I appeared on earth the same year. Truth, justice and the American way were Superman’s convictions, and his actions always reflected those beliefs! Like the Lone Ranger on TV, no one knew who Superman was or why he performed the things he did.
All we knew is that those mysterious good guys with high principles protected us from bad guys who wanted to hurt us. They kept us away from evil and helped us when nature or illness afflicted us. They were kind to women, children and old people.
When in the early elementary grades I wanted to be like Superman or the Lone Ranger. However, I later realized that even fictious characters like that can’t be totally self-sufficient. There was always the “side-kick” like Tonto or Clark Kent’s friends at the newspaper. And they seemed to problem-solve together all the time, often depending on the opinions of others in a community. Even more important, something spiritual seemed to drive them, like the powers coming from Superman’s extinct planet Krypton or the Lone Ranger’s previous experiences as a Texas Ranger.
They were not as self-sufficient as I originally believed. They connected with other people and something spiritual that was hard to define. Something inside their hearts and brains caused them to need opportunities to serve others and to make a difference. I began to realize they were in many ways leaders who were sensitive to others and to a higher power that guides their actions.
I decided to emulate those two ideals as much as possible, and to build a platform based on education and the acceptance of responsibility to support what I hoped would become leadership in making a difference. And I chose the church to be my “side kick” or support system. Choosing the church was, and continues to be, the best decision I made.
Problems the good guys solved on early radio or TV shows were straightforward and simple enough to be solved in 30 to 45 minutes of airtime. That isn’t the case in real life. Illness, relationship issues, financial problems, death, and even social disruptions caused by weather, domestic violence or war make our real lives truly challenging. The support we need is more than a quick answer from a superhero or even pats on the back from concerned friends, neighbors and family members.
True support in real life is deep, meaningful, long-lasting, and enriching. It is the product of a kind of milieu or emotional atmosphere into which we are absorbed and nurtured. It touches our souls and invigorates our outlook on who we are and what we must become. It makes us different because we are connected to the essence of what it is to be both human and spiritually enveloped.
I joined Heritage Presbyterian Church for one reason. I knew my wife and I were entering a life phase in which we would need help. She had contracted Alzheimer’s Disease.
Financially we were self-sufficient. Logistical help could be characterized as physical, mental and emotional caregiving. While not totally self-sufficient in those categories, they didn’t seem to be insurmountable challenges.
But I knew my family and I would need the kind of support only the Heritage family could provide. We needed true support that transcends the ordinary and envelopes the essence of our being. For a while my wife knew what was happening to her because it had also hit her mother. Although now in the final stages of dementia, I believe my wife still knows what is occurring at some level of consciousness. And, as her primary caregiver, I know what is going on at every level of consciousness. It hurts and no superhero can make it better.
But the people of Heritage surround us with strength girded by faith and a deep sense of Christian community. Life for Christians is no easier than for anyone else. The difference is that perseverance is grounded in deep caring, constant communication with God through prayer, and the knowledge that we are far more than a collection of diverse human beings congregating under one roof.
I am grateful for two things: new insights God has given me in the final years of my life, and the existence of Heritage Presbyterian Church. My gratitude informs my desire to give back as much as I can in terms of leadership, any special talents I might have, and financial contributions that sustain our church in a society dependent on economic considerations. For years my family gave churches what we could during lean times. Now I’m able to do much more than that, so—with the knowledge and blessing of my family—I regularly transfer somewhat substantial contributions. Why? Because without HPC and the people who surround us in our time of need, we would suffer like so many others suffer today: with depression, loneliness and despair. Those debilitating feelings are at epidemic levels. HPC is doing something about that condition and I’m a fortunate recipient. As members of this congregation, we can help overcome our culture’s loss of true support and expand the real meaning of our existence.