Compassion
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Coronavirus – My Day 40

There are new words now in our language and we have all learned them, regardless of whether or not we even speak English.  They arrived suddenly one day and like company that stays too long or is purely obnoxious, they are still with us even after several months.  For some the arrival has brought fear, anxiety, chaos and even death.  We are all facing a strange, unknown threat and most of us are doing our best to “follow the rules” as to not become ill or even worse, to make someone else ill and perhaps be the reason for their demise.  No matter who you are or where in the world you live, you are probably experiencing at the least some sort of stress.  I’ve spoken to many people who seem to have some sort of new physical ailment or one from the past that has reappeared.  It is not uncommon.  Besides many of us find ourselfes wondering whether or not that sore throat or queasy tummy or ingrown toenail might be a sign that the enemy has found a weak spot in our defense.  It’s simply an extremely daunting, challenging time and we, as American are at our best in times like these but I don’t know if any of us understood how long this time might last. 

The Easter Holiday brought the following message to my inbox:

Haven’t seen you lately so here’s an update. I have been working out 2-3 times a day, lost 25 pounds, almost all muscle now. Took up learning Mandarin and have become quite proficient. Have finally got to finish War and Peace as well as all of the works of Tolstoy, Hemingway and Kurt Vonnegut which I have always wanted to get to. I’ve taken up the guitar and have Smoke on the Water down pat. Have tried to write a few songs, sent them to a music house and they tell me some guy I never heard of, Post Malone, wants to record them. I have also become a concert pianist and expert at ice sculpture. It’s been very boring but we all do the best we can. Happy Easter, stay safe and may the force be with you. 

I so appreciated the humor and I am sure anyone reading this has also found some relief in the humor that has come along.  I, on the other hand had to reply that the skills my husband and I have honed have been a little more mundane.  He has taken charge of the cleaning, including the vacuuming.  I am his “new” supervisor. 

About forty years ago, we had a friend who won the “sexiest man alive” contest in upstate New York.  It was I recall, a lunchtime event and several men were called up on a makeshift stage and questioned about why they should win the title.  As you can imagine, there were many creative and somewhat risqué answers but our friend won with not only his good looks (which he had) but with the simple statement that he loved to cook and he did the cleaning.  He was unanimously given the title.  I’ve tried to convince my hubby of fifty-two years that there is nothing sexier than a man who likes to cook and clean.  It just took a pandemic to push him into the role I always thought should be his.  

Again, humor has come in many many forms and for the most part, I have let it feed and nurture me.  We had one email that said a couple had decided to not have children and they were going to tell them after dinner.  But, the winner for me so far has been:

It was LOL for at least two days and it still brings a smile to my face when I think about it.  I don’t know who this lady is but I would love to meet her and I would love to have her as a friend.  

Also don’t miss John Krasinski’s YouTube segments called Some Good News.  It’s the kind of news I wish were published by our mass medial. It’s kind, funny and uplifting. 

https://youtu.be/F5pgG1M_h_U

In one of my favorite books, Spiritual Insights for Daily Living by Elizabeth Fenske, the March 25th reading tells of an old Arab folk tale where Pestilence once met a caravan in the desert on the road to Baghdad.  “Why must you hasten to Baghdad?” Asked the caravan chief.  “To take 5,000 lives,” was Pestilence’s answer.  Later, they met again and the caravan chief said, “You deceived me, Pestilence, instead of 5,000 life’s you took 50,000.” “Nay,” replied Pestilence, “5,000 and not one more-it was fear who killed the rest.”

I know, we all feel like we are living in a Twilight Zone episode.  I know I do.  I keep thinking any day now, I will wake up from this dream, this bazaar state of the world.  Fear! Anxiety! Stress! Grief! Loss!  Most of us are facing all of these emotions.  Most of us are fairly familiar with them but not on such a continual constant level.  Being who I am, I look for ways to see the silver lining in all the events of my life; sometimes to the annoyance of those around me.  In my first book Creating Positive Affirmations, Living an Intentional Life, I write that, “We cannot control the wind but we can decide how to set the sail.  The wind may blow you all over the world and take you to places you do or do not choose but it is your attitude during the journey and when you arrive that will determine every aspect of the adventure and you can determine that mindset by carefully choosing your self-talk.”    

I am not proposing that you ignore any of your emotions.  As Rumi says, “Welcome and entertain them all.  Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”  Then, take steps to move through those negative feelings.  Most of us know what is required to lift ourselves out of the pit but sometimes we need a reminder and many times we need a friend.  

Here are some of the tools that help me.  I share them with a hope they may also lift you to a “better place.”

 

  1. Believe in a Divine Power that loves you and wants only your best.  It may look nothing like you think it should, but work hard on trusting your God.
  2. Reach out either to help another or get help.  Don’t hesitate to ask.  Be humble.  Pick up the phone, write an email or even more unique, send some snail mail.  
  3. Exercise.  Find a way.  Take a walk, go up and down the steps, turn on a video, dance to a favorite song or two.  It is a panacea for the blues.
  4. Laugh.  Read those silly jokes or find a movie that tickles you funny.  How about anything by Steve Martin but especially my favorite, My Blue Heaven?
  5. Eat some chocolate or a little ice cream.  Be kind to yourself.  Be compassionate with yourself. 
  6. Take a bath, put some bubble bath in it and light a few candles.   

The list can be endless.  You know what you love.  You know what nourishes your soul and feeds your heart.  Have hope.  Have faith.  If it’s simply too windy for you at any point, lower the sail and take shelter in a safe place and wait.  The time will come again when we can all raise our sails and embrace the adventure of this life.  



Have Courage and Be Kind

Affirmation: I live a Christ centered life of love, hope, peace, gratitude and compassion.

LouisePenny26BookLouise Penny, the author of the crime novels about Three Pines, Canada and Inspector Gamache came to Meredith College in September of this year, 2015 to promote her newest book, The Nature of the Beast. It’s her twelfth book in this series. The auditorium was full. I guessed there to be about 300 people there. I became a fan a few years back when one of the women in my book group, Anne Brill, recommended Mrs. Penny’s work. My husband, Sandy and I like to listen to a good book if we have an extended drive and I purchased The Beautiful Mystery for us several years ago. We were immediately hooked. We can’t wait for our next long trip to delve into the newest novel and to be reunited with the inspector and the rest of our new “friends.”

ScreenShot2015-09-16at11.59.32AMLouise didn’t really speak about her books because she said she might give away some of the story line which she felt would interfere with her reader’s enjoyment. Instead she spoke about her
journey to becoming a successful writer. It wasn’t an unusual story. It took her a long time and required quite a bit of stamina and also a few serendipitous events. One event revolved around a fundraiser in a foreign country where she met her publisher, the only person with whom she had an encounter during the whole night. Her whole story was interesting but the message with which I came away was about “kindness.”

She said she modeled the inspector after her husband. If you’ve read any of her work you will know the inspector is a wonderful man. He is a family man, he cares deeply about his coworkers and he rises above the call of duty to a place of kindness and compassion. What a gift to have someone in your life like that, and especially the person with whom you’ve chosen to spend your life. I know it’s a gift because I too have a husband like that. When she spoke about the qualities these men exemplify she focused on kindness. It was a short sentence but it emphasized to
me the power of words. “It is easier to be mean than it is to be kind.” Well, I thought, isn’t that the truth!

Don’t you love it when the same message repeats itself in your life? Why, I wonder am I hearing this concept on a regular basis. What is God or simply the Universe trying to tell me? What more am I to learn? Over the last two weeks the phrase, “have courage and be kind” has appeared two more times. I bet you didn’t know that those were Cinderella’s mother’s last words to Ella. Disney’s latest adaptation of the famous fairytale added that phrase. In this edition, Cinderella wasn’t simply saved by the handsome prince, they chose to empower her with qualities that enabled her to change her life and still be compassionate. Thank heavens!

It seems to me it’s so much easier for people to be spiteful, to be right, to be “all about me and not about you.” We all recognize when we are being treating kindly. Are we called to be kind to everyone? It seems we are. We are even called to be kind to our enemies. What does that look like? Does it take more energy to be kind than mean or indifferent? Maybe it just takes a
different kind of energy. I believe it certainly takes a more conscientious effort to rise to the higher good than to sink to the lowest common denominator.

Kindness is a close relative of compassion. Many of the messages I’ve received lately in several of my readings have revolved around my responsibility to show compassion for the marginalized and suffering of the world. Compassion is kindness put into action. I believe as I age that responsibility becomes even greater. This is a time in my life when I have the luxury of having more time and how I use that time is very important. I want to leave this world a better place than I found it. I must confess there are many days when I look around and can’t even imagine what steps I can take
to help the world. It helps for me to recognize that I support several projects that reach out beyond my normal sphere of influence to the benefit of those who need exceptional help. I really can’t help the whole world but I can do some things that makes a difference or can I?

Starfish-1Do you know the story about the boy who is throwing starfish into the ocean? A man comes along and asks him what he’s doing and he explains he’s saving lives. The man laughs and tells him he’s wasting his time; he can’t possible save all the starfish. It’s not making a difference. The boy picks up another starfish and throws it into the ocean and says, “Well, I made a difference to that one.” My sister, Gloria Hafner, was a specialized reading teacher in NY. She took one or two students at a time and helped them learn to read at or above age level. She always told anyone who would listen about her work and that she had, “made a difference to that one.”

Pope-and-Ecuadorian-woman-2015-1At the time of this entry Pope Francis is about to come to the United States. There has been a lot of publicity revolving around his visit. His approach to the world is causing quite a stir. He seems to me to be filled with love and compassion. He wants us all to fill ourselves with these intentions and then to put them into action. He doesn’t want to hear excuses and he doesn’t want or be our judge or jury. He is encouraging everyone to hear the message of Jesus and to go forward to make the world a better place. I personally find his message and his example to be refreshing, inspirational and challenging.

One of my efforts revolves around my belief in the power of prayer. I pray the Rosary daily for those “who most need God’s mercy.” I am trusting that my prayers seep out into the universe and relieve someone’s pain and suffering. It seems to me there is so much anguish. Perhaps the world is always like it is now and we simply see it more clearly because of the media but what is taking place especially at this time with the refugees from Syria and Africa is beyond tragic.

Miracles-1One of the conversations I’ve had recently revolved around energy and our ability to influence it. The scientist I spoke with didn’t believe there was such a thing and that the only reason there was any sort of change was due to a placebo effect. I didn’t feel qualified to argue with him but I left feeling very sad. He didn’t believe in mystery. He only believed in “mastery.” He only seemed to believe in what he could see and touch and prove. I am sure he is not alone but I need “mystery.” I need to believe that there is more to this life than what I perceive.

I don’t believe there will ever be any definite proof that our thoughts and prayers change the world but I truly believe they do. I actually embrace the mystery and imagine one day when I am no longer physically part of this world, being shown how the time and effort I made to send help to others through prayer manifested itself. It’ll be my judgment day. I’ll see where I failed to rise to the level of a higher plane and where I truly made a difference because I cared and was willing to take the time and make an effort to pray.

Maybe that’s why lately the words, “courage” and “kind” are appearing together. It may be harder to be kind than mean and kindness is a very important quality to practice but it takes courage to be compassionate. It takes the ability to “suffer with” another and that is very hard. It’s so much easier to turn off the TV or to turn away from the homeless and hungry. Pope Francis and now even
Disney are calling all of us to step outside of our comfort zone and find a way to help those in need. Perhaps it will be with prayer. Perhaps it will be only to reach out to one person, someone for whom we can claim, “it made a difference to that one.”

ScreenShot2015-09-16at12.25.49PM

Christmas Miracles

Affirmation: I possess the Christmas spirit all year long.  
Miracle on 34th Street was released in May of 1947.  It originally had the word Christmas in the title but because of the release date it was removed.  How do I know this?  My husband, Sandy and I went to visit his mom, Yolanda, this last weekend.  She lives in Savannah, GA and they were having a fund raiser at the local original Savannah theatre showing Miracle on 34th Street.  We had all seen it many times and we knew it was delightful but we went simply to share the afternoon together and to support the Humans Society.  Once again, I was wrong!  Watching this classic, corny movie in the midst of a crowded theatre was a remarkably different experience than watching it at home alone or in a small group.  We laughed, sighed, applauded and shared all the clever and tender moments that has kept this film so meaningful.  
It’s definitely a secular film.  There is no mention of a God or Christ, other than in the frequently used word “Christmas” but what I consider to be the spirit of Christmas permeates every scene.  Kris Kringle, The real Santa Claus only cares about making others feel valued, loved and important.  It’s not about the physical gifts he’s been told to promote, it’s what they represent to the child or adult that is asking for them.  He brings people together for their betterment and the betterment of all.  He spreads his charm and good will like a net over everyone with whom he comes into contact.  He converts the unbelieving, skeptical Maureen O’Hara and her disenchanted child, Natalie Wood into people with imagination and faith.  He even converts the USPS.  
I saw a cartoon this second week of December, 2014 in the USA Today where two children were standing in front of Santa and asking for world peace and good will towards men.  He asked them if they’d consider an Xbox instead.  The news this week was so sad and tragic that I couldn’t listen.  It only took a glance at the headlines to see the horror that we are perpetuating on our fellow human being.  Has the devil won?  Has “Satan” truly become the ruler of this world?  It would be so easy to believe we are at the end of times but it is Christmas.  It’s a time to promote hope, peace and love for everyone whether one is or is not labeled “Christian.”  We know what He came to do.  He came to show the world that we were put here to love and to serve and that I believe, is the one true truth.  He was here to raise our level of awareness to a higher purpose.  He wasn’t concerned with the rules and regulations.  He was only concerned with the person and their well-being.  He was here to bring comfort to those who most needed it and to make uncomfortable those who are able to be of comfort.
I know there are many believers who believe theirs is the only way.  There’s the joke about the Catholic, Baptists, Mormon, you choose, who arrive in heaven and ask St. Peter why he whispers every time he gets close to this huge wall that is there.  Why is there a wall at all?  He tells them that the Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, you choose, are on the other side of the wall and “they believe they are the only ones up here.”  Oh, to be so sure.  To know that because you are right, you are saved and the rest of the world is damned and how truly sad.  I read a wonderful quote recently, “You can be right or you can love.”   
One of my greatest strengths is my gift of perseverance.  I believe it’s the reason I have accomplished most things in my life.  I truly believe if I simply “hang in there” I will learn or finish whatever it is I’m working upon.  The other side of perseverance is stubbornness and I am as guilty of that as I am proud of my determination.  Just ask my hubby.  This summer, for example, I wanted to walk a new path around Bass Lake in the NC mountains.  We headed out and after an hour we hadn’t reached the lake yet.  Sandy reasonably wanted to turn around.  Turn around!  I couldn’t even imagine it.  We hadn’t even seen the lake yet.  Finally, a few minutes later we arrived.  I knew we were close.  I was right!  Now he reasonably wanted to go back the way we had come.  Go back the same way!  No no no!  We needed to follow the path and head up the other way.  I had been told it was the same distance.  I knew I was right!  He agreed and we got lost and four hours later, we finally found our way to our starting point.  

Sandy not only didn’t leave me, he barely scolded me.  He lives a life of love, not right.  It wasn’t the first time he’s had to put up with my set thinking and I am here to confess he is not the only person in my life with whom I’ve exhibited this trait.  It’s one of those personality shadows that interferes with the quality of my relationships and which I have only recently begun to understand.  Perhaps, this is why I’ve been granted these sixty eight years of life so I can continue to recognize how flawed I truly am.  What was Pope Francis’ first message?  “I am a sinner, pray for me.”  Oh, yes, we are all flawed but as long as we don’t believe we are above or beyond anyone else, we can embrace our humanness and know that God created us just as we are.  She/He created the the miracles of this universe and we are, each one of us, one of those miracles.

Christmas is not an easy holiday for many many people but perhaps it’s because the true meaning has been lost.  Christ is coming, God.  He comes again and again every year and I believe he remains with all those who choose to love, care and be of service to the world.  The Christ, the Savior is here in the hearts of all who know the importance of spreading the net of compassion and love over everyone whose lives they touch.  That miracle on 34th street is the miracle that can be ours should we choose to open our minds and our hearts to The Christ.

May you have a Blessed Holiday Season and a life filled with the awareness of God’s love.

  

Affirmation:  I fully recognize and appreciate the gift of living in a free country and having the right to make my choices known.

“Our passions are the winds that propel our vessel. Our reason is the pilot that steers her. Without winds the vessel would not move and without a pilot she would be lost.“  Proverbs

Have you ever watched a political convention?   Politics is not my favorite subject, to say the least.  I am a moderate, a middle of the road citizen.  I can usually see both sides of an issue and that can leave me very confused about for whom I should vote.  I don’t have a very successful record either.  If a friend or family members favors someone for office they would be wise to encourage me to vote for the opponent.  I can’t ever remember voting for the winner in a major election.  But, I always vote.  I may not always be as well informed as I’d like to be, but I always go and cast my vote.  I try, I really do try to gather as much information as possible.  I read about the different people, sometimes I go to meet them but I’ve never been so impressed or enamored by a candidate that I was sure I was making the best decision.  The best decision for whom; for me, for my country, for the world?

When I vote I feel like that in itself is the best decision, the decision to exercise my right to vote.  When I read about and listen to the sacrifices our ancestors have made and the oppression that exists in so many countries today, I fully recognize the gift I have been given with the opportunity to choose those I want to represent me, my city, state and country.

I pray daily for wisdom for our world leaders.  There seems to be so many politicians whose only concern is their power and their prestige.  Perhaps, that’s why I’m not very passionate about politics.  I don’t have much faith in the people who chose to be politicians.  I can’t imagine what drives so many of them to put themselves so far out into the public’s eye.  I wonder, so often, if it’s not simply a grand ego trip.  I want to believe that a person who is running for office is more concerned about me, his or her constituent, than he or she is about themselves. 

When I watch the conventions, the men and women who present themselves with passion about their concerns and about their desires to uplift and empower us, their represented, I am almost relieved, relieved that someone comes across with what I think is a genuine spirit.  But, it’s the people, the audience with whom I am so fascinated.  I am sure there is a selection process for those attendees.  I’m sure some have been going for years; maybe it’s a family tradition.  I know in many ways it’s a fun experience.  I’ve been to several business conventions.  The energy generated by a group of people with a common goal is always palpable. 

In 2010 my husband, Sandy, was a keynote speaker for Toastmasters International in Las Vegas.  It’s an amazing organization and we were very excited to be there.  There were over 2000 people there from all over the world.  We met people from Africa, Asia, Australia and places that began with many other letters besides “A.”  It was 3 days of high energy, lots of stories and shared visions.  I would imagine being at a political convention would be similar.

Passion is the world that comes to mind when I watch the people in attendance.  Passion!  They must truly love and care about the process we have here in the United States to decide our own destiny and they must believe completely in that process.  They have devoted time, energy and talent to participate in the process.  I find it inspiring.  I believe we all need passion in our lives.

Passion is that quality of life that keeps our hearts beating and our spirits soaring.  I believe being passionate about our country, even with its zits, is a worthy pursuit, a just passion.  I am proud to be an American.  I am grateful to live in a land of peace and freedom.  I believe the United States is a place where dreams can come true.  I am grateful to be a woman living here in the United States rather than in some oppressive regime.  I believe in our compassion as a people and a nation.  I value the sacrifices so many Americans have made and continue to make to help others both here and throughout the world.

Vote?  For whom will I vote?  That’s not as important as if I will vote.  That choice, no that obligation, is one thing about which I am passionate.  There once was an article in USA Today stating that thousands of Americans don’t vote. They simply don’t care or they don’t believe it can make a difference.  Men and women have died, are dying, punished and even imprisoned because they want, they demand, the right to have a voice in their destiny.  Yes, I will not let this gift, this opportunity go unused, unappreciated, The United States of America is the greatest country in the world.  And, I for one, will exercise my privilege and hope and pray that I am casting a vote for someone with passion who will work and lead my country and perhaps our world towards the highest and best we can possibly be.  I hope you will join me.