Chaplain Greg Asimakoupoulos and Meredythe Glass at Covenant Shores Retirement Community. Courtesy photo

Chaplain Greg Asimakoupoulos and Meredythe Glass at Covenant Shores Retirement Community. Courtesy photo

When you aren’t in Kansas anymore

  • Tuesday, February 26, 2019 3:15pm
  • Opinion

By Greg Asimakoupoulos

Special to the Reporter


I’ve been thinking a lot about the “Wizard of Oz” recently. For one thing, this year marks the 80th anniversary of that timeless film. Although the movie didn’t garner an Oscar for Best Picture, it was nominated for five Academy Awards. As you may recall, it won for Best Original Song category with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

There’s another reason I have “Oz” on my mind. One of the residents at Covenant Shores was actually in the movie. Meredythe Glass was only 18 years old when the film’s producer (her cousin) found a part for her.

The movie adaptation of Frank Baum’s story never seems to grow old. One of the reasons may be the fact that the 1939 film portrays a gripping picture of the human condition.

The tornado that catapulted the Kansas farm girl into the imaginary kingdom is more than just a tornadic wind. We all face storms in life. Some gale force winds are worse than others. They are clocked with varying velocities. But we all face them. A health crisis. Unexpected unemployment. A car accident. The death of a marriage. The death of a child or a spouse. Perhaps the death of a dream.

Such ill breezes can blow us off course or knock us off balance. When our worlds spin out of control, our confidence is shaken. We aren’t sure where to turn or who to turn to. About the only thing of which we are certain is that we aren’t in “Kansas” anymore.

It’s a times like this we discover what Dorothy did. We need a company of committed friends to keep on going. When she first met the scarecrow, the tin man and the lion, there’s no way the young girl from Kansas could have known just how much they would help her survive.

Nearly 30 years ago, I was knocked off my feet by a psychological cyclone called clinical depression. It was an unanticipated storm the local weather man could never have predicted. For nine months I was trapped in a dark storm cellar of despair. But gratefully I was not alone.

Three friends walked beside me as I gradually found my way out of that emotional basement. Each made time for me. Without judgment they listened to my heart. Their presence reminded me I wasn’t alone.

These who journeyed with me were not professional counselors. And they did not have their “acts” entirely together. Each limped along crippled by their own individual struggles.

One was dealing with the emotional pain associated with parenting a child with special needs. Another was attempting to dance with a difficult marriage. The third was a retired military officer who was rebounding from his own personal (and painful) bout with depression.

As we shared our lives together, we helped each other shoulder a burden that was too heavy for any one of us to carry alone. Thankfully, the dark clouds eventually lifted and I walked out into the sunlight once again.

Through it all I discovered, like Dorothy did, that the most helpful companions are those who live with unmet expectations of their own. In the longing for what is lacking in our own lives, we develop a capacity for showing compassion to others.

What makes the “Wizard of Oz” the timeless classic that it is has to do with the unlikely fellowship of friends who travel the yellow brick road together. What makes the difficult journey of life meaningful is the privilege of sharing the road with those we encounter on the way.

Greg Asimakoupoulos is the chaplain at Covenant Shores Retirement Community.

More in Opinion

What I learned about life from Mr. Rogers | Column on Faith

A monthly column by a Mercer Island pastor.

Best Buddies include everyone | Windows and Mirrors

North Creek’s new club this year works to promote inclusion and helps students make friends and connections.

Prom after parties and safety | Dear YFS column

Dear YFS answers community questions (submitted and posed).

Libraries are places of connection and community pride | Library column

Written by Lisa Rosenblum, the director of the King County Library System.

Take ‘eating clean’ to a whole new level

Avoid foods made with chemicals, support natural detox.

Are sheriffs above the law?

Washington voters have spoken on I-1639. Sheriffs need to set the stage to follow their oath of office - and enforce the law.

The difficulty of aging in place | Windows and Mirrors

Living on a fixed income in an increasingly expensive region is not easy.

Metzger says farewell to Reporter

Mercer Island Reporter journalist leaving staff after more than four years.

Talking with your children about gender

Youth and Family Services answers local questions.

Sound Publishing’s seven Eastside newspapers are Bellevue Reporter, Kirkland Reporter, Mercer Island Reporter, Redmond Reporter, Bothell-Kenmore Reporter, Issaquah Reporter and Snoqualmie Valley Record.
Sound Publishing’s Eastside newspapers are moving to new home in Kirkland

New advertising director joins Eastside news team

In lieu of a perfect world | Windows and Mirrors

Violence in the world will happen but we shouldn’t just resign ourselves to it.

A triangle, a round ball and the shape of things to come

Jerusalem International YMCA a beacon of peace.