by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster
Last night the Wednesday Fellowship Group gathered at St. Peter's to share Chinese food and talk of Dr. Eban Alexander's book, “Proof of Heaven.” A neurosurgeon, Dr. Alexander's story has caused ripples a testament from a man whose faith was in science until he experienced a world beyond and returned to report.
As the Chinese Orange Chicken settled in, accompanied by a Chinese Vegetable Salad, and deviled eggs, followed by fortune cookies read aloud, the subjects of faith, and our dreams for our own lives, were among the subjects shared.
We read aloud the first chapter of Alexander's book, including his recollection of an incident in college during a skydiving event. He should have died. Instead, he later realized he went beyond the capacity of his brain. Though Eban did not then realize it, his decades of studies on the brain still ahead of him, after his Near Death Experience, he realized our consciousness, our being, is not limited to our brains.
We are more, and can do more, if we see past perceived limitations.
A casual mention of a friend, now living in Ashtabula, who yearns to move to Geneva, seeking more from life, took the discussion to what we want for our community and the problems our church family experiences with the much-changed neighborhood where St. Peter's is located.
These problems include drug use and solicitation, sometimes directed at parishioners entering the sanctuary. One long time member reflected on how different the houses standing along W. 50th are today. Young families once started their lives together there. Children frolicked safely in South Park. Father David, our pastor, wants South Park to again be a haven for families and children.
We asked ourselves, “What do we want Ashtabula to be like?” For a short time, no one spoke. Then, ideas and images flowed into the conversation, bringing into focus a very different Main Avenue and North and South Parks which were secure, safe, and welcoming again for families. We saw a Main Avenue which offers what today draws people away from our city.
This Main Avenue includes renewals of what has been lost, along with new additions. A Trader Joe's, a bakery, a Shea Theater, it was a merging of dreams.
When we allow ourselves to see, believe, and take action together, understanding each problem and the solution, we end limitations. In this way, small changes accomplish great ends.