Where I come from. Part Three: My friend Newell or Stepping Out of  Your Comfort Zone (3) - blog by BluePoppy


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Where I come from. Part Three: My friend Newell or Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone (3)
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Posted 15-Apr-2015 at 12:06 AM (00:06) by BluePoppy
Updated 15-Apr-2015 at 12:13 AM (00:13) by BluePoppy

In memoriam W. Newell Hendricks (1943-2015)

Newell at the piano with his wife Barbara on the violin.

Yesterday the Boston Globe ran the obituary for my friend Newell. You can read it here. Since it includes only a couple of lines from a poem he wrote last November which I found quite remarkable, let me share it with you:
Little Things I can still do

I can sit.
I can lie down.
I can talk while sitting or lying.

Sitting, I can write letters to my nieces
Who lost their father this past summer.
Sitting, I can save a booth at the café for a friend
Who first takes her children to school.

Lying down, I can nap with my young granddaughter
So my wife can practice or get some exercise.
Lying down, I can pray, thinking of all those I know
With love in my heart.

Sitting or lying, I can make sure there are no unsaid words
To my daughters, after adolescence.
Sitting or lying down, I can express love for my wife
Who gives me all I could ever need.

And I can require nothing of others that isn’t necessary.
In a blog post Newell wrote for teamfamilyonline.com, he explored a topic that we had also discussed earlier, I think during a staff retreat.

He continued to wonder how men could establish meaningful relationships with women who had suffered sexual abuse or similar trauma. For him it was a matter of compassion. While I had never thought about the issue, it made perfect sense. Why should only women or therapists establish these kinds of relationships? What could men do other than retreat when they became aware of such issues? Newell wanted to be a good friend, maybe even, to younger women, a fatherly figure of integrity. This he thought to be important, even if he didn’t always succeed. In “Compelled by Love” he wrote:
"I wish I could tell women that there are men who are sensitive to the particular kinds of behavior of women who have been abused; who feel compelled to reach out and try to help. I also know that there are men who will try to take advantage of the vulnerability of women who have been abused. And I know that it is almost impossible to tell the two types apart.

Compassion, love and desire are three very different emotions. They are sometimes combined, and often confused by those in relationships and by those observing relationships."
This is the last of my three posts on Newell and what I learned from him. If I had to put a label on it, I would say he taught me that in order to grow you need to be stepping out of your comfort zone, but he also taught me unconditional kindness and compassion.

Back in January Newell went with 17 members of his family to Nicaragua to say his final farewells to his friends at Dulce Nombre de Jesus. The report on this very special trip was his last blog post and you can read up on it here. One last time he took a risk and dared his family to step out of their comfort zone, into uncharted territory. By all accounts nobody seems to have regretted going with him.

Newell to me was not only a guy who lived a countercultural life, but he inspired many to follow his lead. Eighty years ago during the Nazi regime German artist Käthe Kollwitz was thought of by many as “the good German” – an example of moral integrity in a country of utter moral decline. When my friends in Europe ask me today for an example of “a good American”, someone who doesn’t fit the average American consumerism bill, who doesn’t support US military engagement overseas and alike, I usually talk about my congregation in Boston and many of my friends there – and one in particular, Newell.

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