My name is John Johnson I live in Wisconsin. dfasdf
SHOP Testimony: John T. Bird

SHOP Testimony: John T. Bird

On September 21, 2022, SHOP member John Bird spoke at Wednesday Night Live as part of a program highlighting the SHOP ministry.

Greetings! I am John T. Bird, a member of SHOP since 2016.

John Bird in a recent SHOP meeting.

Many of you in the audience got to know Jim Foster while he was a stalwart member of this church. He is now happily living on the Alabama Gulf Coast, where he strolls the sugar-white beaches amid palm trees, fishing for whatever is biting on a particular day. I would like to share a true story that would embarrass Jim if he heard it.

My late father, John C. Bird, was a colon cancer survivor, so every five years, I undergo a colonoscopy, performed under anesthesia. A driver is required by law to ferry me to and from the hospital. I really did not know Jim Foster more than as an affable, husky, active volunteer at SHOP who showed up every Tuesday without fail, and whose lovely wife often brought homemade lemon squares to our meetings. I was not even a member of the church, but told Jim of my predicament: Could he drive me to and from the Kirklin Clinic on such-and-such date?

“Happy to,” he replied, without a moment’s hesitation. “Just remind me a week before.” Problem solved, thanks to a good man who helped a fellow Christian in his moment of need. I strongly believe Jim would help anyone in time of need, regardless of creed.

Good Samaritans don’t discriminate.

It is comforting to find a disparate group like SHOP that offers structure and that further embodies scripture found in John 7:24, “Stop judging by appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

Fast forward to 2022. I have been living with severe hearing loss requiring hearing aids for five years now – I am on my third set.

I am an author and a book editor, though my longest job, paid or pro bono, began as an 18-year-old proofreader, the last person to examine every document for Representative John Buchanan’s blue ink signature, while an intern on Capitol Hill way back in 1974 (the eventful summer of President Richard Nixon’s resignation). Many of you may remember well that John was once Pastor John Buchanan of neighboring Southside Baptist Church here in Birmingham.

These days I recite my Essay of the Week at SHOP, still on Tuesday mornings. For example, during February – Black History Month – I profiled baseball Hall of Famer Hank Aaron; singer/activist Paul Robeson; and Jane Bolin, America’s first Black female judge. For Hispanic Heritage Month, humanitarian and Puerto Rican baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, known to friend and foe alike as simply “AOC;” and actress Rita Moreno, who played the spitfire Anita in an Oscar-winning performance in 1961’s “West Side Story.” Each essay requires at least a half-day’s research, keeping in mind one must deal often with what librarians call a “variance”: two important sources that disagree. Sometimes it is difficult to separate fact from opinion.

Composing a first draft takes time, too, but the final essay makes for lively discussion, where SHOP members by rule are respectful of each other. Lately, I have been highlighting a series of notable mentally ill Americans, ranging from the Beach Boys’ musical genius Brian Wilson to comedian Rodney Dangerfield to Ted Kennedy’s youngest child, Patrick, perhaps today’s most influential mental health advocate, Bipolar 1 himself.

Recently, I really could not hear all the questions from members and volunteers spurred by my essays. Luckily, I sit next to Secretary of SHOP Rob Staffen. Rob relays questions from as far as fifty feet away to me in a slow, loud, audible, articulate manner; then I can try to answer them all. Again, problem solved.

I do want to mention too that I gave up my car in 2016 after a being involved in a series of accidents, and Rob has an unblemished record of getting me to and from the church from my home at Regency Retirement Village in Homewood – and, by the way, Rob lives in Vestavia.

It’s very simple: Rob Staffen, like Jim Foster, lives his faith.

I like to believe I try to live mine, too. Christianity has sustained me ever since I began living the stigma of a Bipolar 1 diagnosis at age 21 in 1976. It is comforting to find a disparate group like SHOP that offers structure and that further embodies scripture found in John 7:24, “Stop judging by appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

This is difficult to do because we have all been guilty of “judging a book by its cover.” But we all make an effort every Tuesday morning at SHOP not to fall into that trap.

Thank you for the privilege of your time.

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