Category Archives: Life events, Gratitude and Giving and Little Miracles

“Open your eyes,” a story of my encounter with two homeless people

 
By Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City Paper, 7/2018

“When I close my eyes, so I would not see / My Lord did trouble me / When I let things stand that should not be / My Lord did trouble me / Did trouble me / With a word or a sign / With a ring of a bell in the back of my mind / Did trouble me / Did stir my soul / For to make me human, to make me whole”
– “Did Trouble Me,” by Tom Jones

For the six years I worked in Boston, I encountered many homeless people.

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Zen and Art of Writing Op/Eds – I still have a lot to say!

by Robert Gillis
Published in the Boston City Paper, 3/2018

While Op-Ed pieces are by their very definition a personal opinion, I hope you will indulge this oddly self-serving personal piece from me.

Recently I have been doing some soul searching (as part of one of my countless mid-life course corrections).  When you reach my age (ahem, mid-twenties, give or take) you realize that your TIME is precious.  I’ve been bouncing around the idea in my head of what to stop doing, what to say no to, or, as advised by Henry David Thoreau, “Simplify, Simplify.”  

For the last months I’ve been considering stopping the op-eds (no one suggested that but me, to myself) but I began to consider, should I stop doing it?   After all, it’s been 22 years.

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Be Kind; You Never Know What Someone Is Going Through

by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City Paper, 12/2017

Three stories.  All of the same message.

  • One of my closest friends from high school – also named Bobby – has been sending me messages through Facebook to call him.  All these years later were still close and he is one of my compasses in my life.  He knows me well; he knows when something’s going on — even when all the Facebook posts are happy ones.  He knows me well and knows what worries me, what keeps me awake at night.   So I call last Friday night, and we have one of our marathon conversations as we do several times a year.  Near the end, I apologize for once again turning the call into a therapy session.  He laughs and reminds me that he is always encouraging me to call, that I also listen a lot, and I only talked about the things going on in my life right now for about 10 minutes before we were laughing and joking and talking about all sorts of other things for the next hour or two.  Talking to him was cathartic – he knows me.  He knows what’s REALLY going on at any given time.  I’m grateful to have him as one of the people in the “support group” in my life.   
  • Recently, I bumped into a friend I have not seen in some time.  She is always so friendly, so kind, always smiling.  Running into her was serendipity, one of those 30 seconds later and we would’ve missed each other moments, and we ended up talking for over 20 minutes and caught up on each other’s lives.  And she asked me to pray for her and the people around her and told me about some of the problems they face.  I had absolutely no idea.  She has always been one of these people that I thought had a so-called perfect life.  While I understand no one has a perfect life, I never, ever imagined what she was going through, and what her family is going through.  I will be praying for her and talking to her more.
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“We will be okay,” two signs of hope in troubled times

We Will Be OkayBy Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City paper 11/2017

“We will be okay.”

It’s Sunday; I’m driving around Foxboro Common and I pass the Universalist Church and these four words on their little announcement sign jump out at me. “We will be okay.”

As I’m inspired. I really am. That’s my next column, I say to myself. There is hope. I happen to notice another sign across the street, which I will get to in a moment.

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Your kind words can make a difference — and maybe even save a life

05 Ogunquit Beach - Umbrella and Two Aderondack Chairs by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper, 8/2017

Checking into FaceBook on my lunch break and I see that a few friends are going through rough times and some, just by the tone of their posts, are hurting…

And I get to thinking: Our words matter and we can make a difference.

True story, a month or so ago, a Facebook friend posted a video and explained she was actually contemplating suicide the night before — thankfully for all of us and for her, she made the calls, talked to people, reached out, realized she was not alone, got the help she needed — thank God — she is still with us and feeling better.

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2016: Embracing the spirit of Christmas Past, Present and Future, and finding the key to the childhood joy

by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper 12/2016

It’s early December and I am wondering in a store or two, looking at the rows of decorations, wrap, candy and Christmas merchandise lining the shelves. I find myself lost in nostalgia this evening, recalling a time, as a kid, when I would race to the stores and just window shop for hours, looking at all the Christmas decorations and then excitedly continue preparation for Christmas at home.

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Taking time to appreciate the American Flag and reflect on its promise

American Flags on Foxboro Commonby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper, 5/2016

It’s Saturday morning, and like so many others around town I am running errands. Driving on Mechanic Street I spot them – the American flags all along the sidewalk, encircling the common, and also running down parts of Mechanic and Central Street.

The flag’s “magical” appearance several times a year – Memorial Day, founders day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day and when needed – don’t happen by magic – the flags are carefully and respectfully placed by a nameless benefactor or benefactors* – one of the many people who do something for this town behind the scenes.

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Finding hope through the darkness of shootings — National Night Out (Rescheduled due to Thunderstorms)

03-Christmas-Still-Life---CandlesBy Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reorter 7/2015

Last week, for the first time in many years, I wrote a full column for this space, and then proceeded to, as they say in the newspaper business, “kill it.” – The reason? It was so dark, and so sad, that it was – uncharacteristically for me – completely bereft of hope.

The impetus for the column came when I was asked to add the announcement of the candlelight vigil — for the four Marines and one sailor who were murdered — to be held the following Sunday on Foxboro Common — to several Facebook pages.

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We All Want To Be Remembered

by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper, 11/2014

The month of November means many things: the beginning of the Christmas season (at precisely one second past Halloween), elections every two years, Thanksgiving, and Veterans Day, just to name a few.

But you may not know that in many faiths, November is considered a month of remembrance. Usually starting on November 2nd (the Feast of All Souls), many churches, including Saint Anthony’s in Boston and Saint Mary’s in Foxboro, have a “Book of Remembrance” in the church where people are invited to write the names of their beloved deceased, and these names will be remembered and prayed for all month.

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Cherishing the people around us – NOW

Lilacsby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper 7/2014

A fair warning friends, this one isn’t summer fluff.

Every now and then, I look up a name from the past – sometimes it’s to see how someone is doing – perhaps connect with them on Facebook – or just see who’s working where, who’s living there, who got married, or find out “the rest of the story” of people from my past.

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The Water Heals

Spectacular Wave Crashingby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City Paper, 3/2013

The water heals.

I’m a little kid, enjoying one of an uncountable number of childhood trips to Savin Hill Beach, experiencing the taste and smells of clean seawater and the joyous feeling of swimming and playing in the hot summer sun with all the laughing and crying children. I can feel the warm sun and taste the delicious boloney and cheese sandwiches Mom made, and the Kool-Aid and potato chips.

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Take ten seconds…

Bartlett---Bear-Notch-Road-Fall-Foliageby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City Paper, 9/2012

“I need to tell you that you’re going to remember this night for the rest of your lives. It’s going to be a long night and we need you to work fast and we need you to work well. But once in a while, take three seconds — you can’t spare more than that — take three seconds to notice where you are and what you’re doing.” — Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston), “The Newsroom,” HBO

Greetings Foxboro!

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Taking the time to cherish the NOW

Wells Beach Rainbowby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and the Boston City Paper 6/2012

In the past year, four people I know very well, including two childhood friends, have lost their mothers. A young woman I adore has lost her 25 year old brother. My nephew relayed a story of a 15 year old who committed suicide. My friend Sean lost his best friend to cancer – at 17. And this past week at church, Father Steve Madden, who recently lost his own mother, relayed that sad news that Father Brian, our new priest at Saint Mary’s Foxboro who has been welcomed and embraced, is in the hospital.

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‘Tis the season to be generous

Christmas Still Life - Salvation ArmyBy Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City Paper 12/2011

“I have always thought of Christmas time, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.

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A different look at, “There but for the grace of God go I”

Grace of Godby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter and Boston City paper, 12/2010

In my years working in Boston, I’ve seen many homeless people and people very down on their luck, and of course the scammers who pretend to be in need (such as the unforgettable woman in the weird hat who told me the same “Lost my purse and can’t go to the police” story twice in three months.

Scammers aside, homelessness and need are readily apparent in Boston (and also Foxboro), and I try to help when I can.

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