Three people passing blessings forward
From BASILICA Magazine Fall 2016, The Spiritual Works of Mercy—Practicing mercy in our lives
We are often told “be the best you can be.” But can we go it alone and be the best possible person? Scripture calls us to admonish one another, yet hold each other up. Bob Christenson and David Erb have been busy doing just that. Since playing high school football and hockey together, Bob and Dave have been friends, but not continuously connected. Interestingly, it was through some suffering that they came back together. Now they use the blessings they received to pass it forward.
Bob and Dave attended Highland Park Catholic School in St. Paul; they became fast friends, playing sports including football and hockey. Dave states their parents were friends and basically interchangeable. Both of the mothers were church-going, rosary-praying women. Bob will tell you his success can be tied directly to his parents, his father, a teacher, and his mother who partnered in raising the 11 children, instilling the importance of a faith-filled life with gifts of hope, centered in love. His father studied with him nightly making sure he could pass high school. With his dad’s encouragement, Bob overcome the struggles of dyslexia long before it was a diagnosed condition. Through hard work and parental support, he got into college and eventually medical school. When Bob speaks of his wife, he says he would not be here if not for her. After retiring from a wonderful career, Bob wanted to pass on the blessings he received. He chose to become a volunteer at The Basilica’s Outreach Program.
Dave’s story takes him to college and 18 years in the Army Reserves. He worked as an Engineering Manager at Lockheed Martin before retiring. After retirement he decided to head home to Minnesota. He will tell you his life had turned into a wreck; he drank hard, stumbling back, barely able to carry his luggage.
The story between the two friends is a journey through recovery. Thirty eight years ago Bob Christenson found it. Six years ago he helped Dave embark on his path to sobriety. Dave will tell you that Bob saved his life; that was the beginning of a strong bond, rooted in the past with a focus on the future, a reconnection that would help others. When asked, they will tell you their friendship is built on history, but mutual respect is what helps keep it centered. Bob and Dave have nothing to hide from each other. That means there’s been a time or two when one had to get in the other’s face; calling him out to be the best he can be.
Dave was on the way to the liquor store when Bob and a few others called him to a lunch meeting. They sternly told him it was time; time to get his life in order. Dave says it was a unbelievable miracle that he never made it to the liquor store that day and has not had another drink. Life isn’t always smooth in recovery. There have been bumps in the road for Bob. But then he remembers to slow down. Sometimes while driving his car! But typically to remind himself he doesn’t always have to be first. He works on being present, focusing on his emotional sobriety, whichhelps maintain his chemical sobriety.
It wasn’t enough for Bob and Dave to help each other. They felt the need to help others and have done so through the Outreach Program at The Basilica. As they worked on their recovery and their outreach they have encountered others with similar struggles. One of those people was Brenda Winder. Brenda was in recovery after being homeless, a drug and alcohol abuser estranged from her family.
With the help of the gentlemen, Brenda joined the Next Step program. With a bit more than a gentle push from many people including Mary Beth Chapel from Next Step, Brenda eventually agreed to become a volunteer. Early on she helped set up for the Thursday morning Outreach meetings. Later on, Brenda was trained as an advocate for the homeless. Brenda connects with others by sharing her past, which helps participants in the program.
All three can tell you what Proverbs 11:25 says, “Whoever brings blessings will be enriched and one who waters will himself be watered.” The blessings they have received are countless. Brenda is no longer homeless, she has advanced her education at MCTC and most importantly she has reconnected with her family. Brenda proudly states she is a grandmother who cherishes time she spends with her grandchildren.
Brenda gives credit to Bob and Dave. She says the two don’t mince words when it comes time to admonish. They praise her progress and also let her know when she needs to improve. She appreciates their honesty and continues to do more than just agree to disagree. She takes action when they let her know it’s best. She also gives credit to Mary Beth for keeping her on the right path.
The key to the success for all seems to be community. Without support and encouragement from others along the way, the walk would be more difficult. Walking a difficult journey with someone beside you can make each step more bearable. Knowing others are pulling for you helps keep things in perspective.
Brenda will tell you that Dave and Bob let her know she was worth it. She says she now has hope and that is a wonderful thing. Dave is proud to say that he was able to tell his mother he had come back to the Church and quit drinking before she passed a few years ago. They will all tell you it is blessings that each one of them get from the other. Blessings Repeated.
Judy Ring is a wife, mother, grandmother, and volunteer who works at Xcel Energy as an Account Manager. She is a member of the finance committee and Spiritual Gifts Team at The Basilica.