The Landmark Forum: Accepting a gift

Accepting a gift sounds simple and lovely. How wonderful to receive a gift from a friend. But accepting a gift is not always an easy task for me. Unless, of course, it’s my birthday. Or Christmas. It’s easier then. But money for a weekend-long “leadership conference”? How could I accept that?

Sitting on the edge of the bed in my toddler’s bedroom where I had fallen asleep the night before, I let out another deep breath, picked up my cell phone and selected Susan from my contact list. While the telephone was ringing I pondered how exactly I would tell “PS” (Pastor Sue) I could not accept the generous gift The Team I was working with on a website project had given. I began the conversation with, “Hi, PS. I got your email.”

“Oh Heidi, aren’t you excited? I’m so excited for you.”
“Well, yeah, but . . .”
“You’ve worked so hard. I’m so happy you are going to be able to do this,” she said.

And I thought for a moment while she continued to talk. I had worked hard. Each Wednesday when Sue and I would meet after Preschool to chat about her life story, I worked hard. Yes, it was work I love to do, and for a dear friend, but nonetheless I had taken time away from my children and my household responsibilities, set my book project aside and put my heart into the project and tasks at hand to assist with what she was currently working on and hoping to accomplish. I could acknowledge that. Acknowledging that made it easier to accept the gift of a paid deposit to The Landmark Forum. If they (the women in this project) had to pay someone to do the writing for this project, it would cost quite a bit, I told myself. And that enabled me the ability to accept the $150 paid deposit.

Plus, I could hear the enthusiasm in PS’s voice as she continued, “I really think you are going to love this, and it’s going to start working before you even get to the forum!”

I giggled, and I wiped a few tears overwhelmed with the generosity of my dear friend who would go to such lengths to help me do something she believed would open doors for me in areas of my life that had become great obstacles. Just the fact that she, for six years, did not give up on me and continued to, with a smile, mention Landmark. Just the fact that she had the strength and courage to do that, to love me that much, and then to help me tackle everything I saw standing in my way. I wiped a few more tears and smiled while I let out a breath saying, “Okay.”

While I had initially called that November morning to cancel my participating in The Landmark Forum, I hung up my cell phone excited that I would be choosing a weekend to go be with adults and learn something, though, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I would learn. My knowledge of Landmark was that it was some sort of courses Pastor Sue’s sons had given to her as a gift, and the courses had positively impacted her life. While the courses were not a constant topic of conversation, they had come up a time or two.

Summer of 2009, a year after Pastor Sue had married my husband and I, she contacted me curious if I had an interest in participating in a project called “Tunnel Vision”. The idea was to bring a diverse group of community members together to create an incredible piece of art beneath a bridge over a walking path in Rice Creek Park in Shoreview, Minn. I love art and people and Shoreview, so I was interested. My concern was how I could participate while taking care of my two-year-old daughter and expecting my son. PS assured me there is always a way to be part of the team and I could do what was possible.

I became a public relations assistant of sorts taking pictures, interviewing participants, writing stories and sending out news releases. I was thrilled when the local newspapers and a news channel featured the project. I was not thrilled when I was put on bed rest during the actual painting and creation of the mural.

Sunday, September 13th, 2009 during an incredibly hot day, I parked my car, pulled my daughter from her car seat and together we walked down a hill following a bouquet of balloons to a path beneath a bridge. My little two-year-old looked and pointed and loved the painting on the bridge wall. I agreed it was something special. I snapped pictures and made notes and talked to the many volunteers as they arrived.

Jody Yungers from the Ramsey County Parks board thanked volunteers and supporters for their efforts, and Shoreview Mayor Sandy Martin said, “I’m so proud this is in Shoreview.”

I giggled when my daughter interrupted The Mayor because she had something to say about the paint on the wall. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I remember we all got a chuckle out of it and The Mayor was gracious about the interruption. I was a little proud that my baby had something to say and she was brave enough to say it (smile).

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Pastor Sue also spoke during the bridge dedication ceremony thanking all of the volunteers and supporters for their generosity and dedication to the project. At the end, there was a passing of the brush. Then we all gathered at a nearby gazebo and park to enjoy a potluck meal together.

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I remember that day, sweaty and hot, standing in a group of people who had come together to create this incredible mural. To be a part of that – I didn’t know these volunteers and I wasn’t technically a part of that community, though my father’s family has been a part of Shoreview for many years. Still, I felt connected, and proud, and a part of something bigger; a part of something spectacular.

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Like many things in life, the Tunnel Vision project was not without obstacles. There were people to talk to and committees to get approval from and things that came up that needed to be addressed as we went along. But we did it, together, all of us as part of a team. How cool is that?

The hope was to do another art project on the opposite side of the bridge wall: a graffiti mural. Somehow PS had gotten connected with Tamas “Zen” Pomazi, who presented an amazing mural idea asking only for the payment of the spray paint. In the end, the graffiti mural was not approved by the City of Shoreview. That was a disappointment. However, Tamas “Zen” Pomazi continues to share his incredible artwork with the world. In 2011 he and Max Miller co-founded Greenwich Vintage Company which specializes in hand-crafted American-made wingtips, boots and chukkas for men. The custom-built footwear sports Greenwich Vintage Company’s signature colored soles. If you haven’t checked out their products, take a peek: http://greenwichvintage.us/about/

To this day I have never met Mr. Pomazi, but I enjoy looking at his artwork. While I still wish the opportunity for a graffiti mural would have come to life, I believe everything works out the way it is meant to work out.

Pastor Sue had a final presentation about the Tunnel Vision project on a Tuesday night for Landmark. She invited me and my family, and we went. Throughout the evening we listened to speakers talk about their community projects and about Landmark. At the end of the night I shoved the brochure that had been handed out into my purse, hugged PS, and my family and I went home.

“That seems kinda cool,” I told my husband, talking about the course Pastor Sue was taking and the community project it ignited.

“Yeah, definitely something you’d like,” he said.

We both knew I would like it, and we both knew I wouldn’t be doing any Landmark courses. A single-income family with a two-year-old and a baby on the way, we didn’t have the funds. It really was that simple. No matter how badly I may or may not have wanted it. I got home and filed the brochure into my filing cabinet.

August 2013, while cleaning out and rearranging the basement, I pulled the Landmark brochure from the file I had tucked it away in fall of 2009. I paged through it, thought again how cool Landmark could be, decided I could not come up with the money or a sitter or justify the time and gas expense, and I recycled the brochure and continued with my cleaning project. September 2013 Pastor Sue called wondering if I might be interested in helping with a project. Again, as it had in the past, Landmark came up. Helping PS with her website project allowed me the ability to accept assistance with paying for my Landmark forum. Six years after I first heard about it. November 2013 I reviewed the possible dates for a forum and chose March. That decision turned out to be something I am very thankful for. Everything, my friends, happens for a reason.

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