Lovetree

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Whether you look forward to Valentine’s Day or despise it, I’m sure we can all agree that the world would benefit from more attention on love (and not just the romantic kind). Below is the list of 100 simple, loving, compassionate and gratitude-inspiring actions you can start checking off immediately.

Share the love!

100 Ways to Love on the World

  1. Send encouragement to someone caring for an aging parent.
  2. Donate coats and blankets you won’t use often.
  3. Get to know someone on a deeper level. Who did they love? What did they lose? What matters most to them?
  4. Enrich a livelihood. Donate to fund a microloan to help people in other parts of the world increase their earning potential.
  5. Marvel in the power of human expression. Buy tickets to music, dance and other live performances.
  6. Make an effort to use both sides of your paper.
  7. Laugh long and hard. Laugh loud enough for others to hear you.
  8. Plant something and watch it grow.
  9. Buy art that moves you and says things words can’t.
  10. Donate batteries to keep lifesaving appliances and smoke detectors working.
  11. Shop kindly. Choose to shop from companies that donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.
  12. Say no. Knowing you can set limits will give you the confidence to serve more.
  13. Join a bone marrow registry.
  14. Raise your awareness of the employee working conditions at the companies you support.
  15. Help them live the dream and share their art. Dine at chef-owned restaurants.
  16. Tip generously.
  17. Advocate for a minimum living wage in your community.
  18. Put a Band-Aid in your wallet to give away when needed.
  19. Text someone a specific compliment. (e.g. “I admire how much patience you have with me.”)
  20. Learn the warning signs of suicide and take them seriously.
  21. Buy local produce.
  22. Hear gossip and refuse to spread it.
  23. Adopt your next furry family member at a rescue or shelter.
  24. Plant a passion for service in a child’s heart.
  25. Keep the craft growing. Support new and independent artists.
  26. Choose books that broaden your view of the world.
  27. Shovel your neighbor’s walkway.
  28. Donate your old computer to a school.
  29. Offer your home repair skills to the elderly, ill or a military family.
  30. Learn CPR.
  31. Register to be an organ donor.
  32. Be a designated driver.
  33. Choose to shop at small businesses more often.
  34. Be bold enough to ask for help. Let someone else experience the gift of giving.
  35. Make a small change to conserve energy such as not pre-heating your oven or opening it while food cooks.
  36. Be a connector. Introduce two people with mutual interests or career pursuits.
  37. Multiply the impact of your donations by joining a giving circle.
  38. Share a meal with someone you love.
  39. Brighten a teacher’s day. Send in an unsolicited treat or thank you.
  40. Treat your spouse to an unexpected display of passion.
  41. Do online research about the distinction between charity and philanthropy.
  42. Encourage someone to share their faith with you in a place where it is normally kept quiet (work, school, etc).
  43. Grant someone the freedom to parent differently than you without judgment.
  44. Bring a neighbor an unexpected gift.
  45. Register to vote or correct your voting information.
  46. Offer an elderly pet owner peace of mind by suggesting you care for their beloved pet whenever they are unable.
  47. Choose to share something shameful or painful in your past if it will help another feel less alone.
  48. Rally around an acquaintance going through a difficult time. Sometimes it’s the most unexpected acts of love that touch us the most.
  49. Act! Move beyond sympathetic thoughts. Vow to do one small thing (donate, advocate, etc.) to address a world problem that seems hopeless.
  50. Give someone the freedom to live an unconventional life and still be accepted.
  51. Donate school supplies.
  52. Offer support to a grieving soul long after the funeral.
  53. Share a piece of wisdom that only comes with age.
  54. Make a call and check on an elderly family member.
  55. Create a disaster plan for your family.
  56. Give someone a gift you made yourself.
  57. Take a walk with a loved one. It serves the body and soul.
  58. Drive cautiously and without distractions.
  59. Admit you’re biased. We all are. Facing that we have biases (racial, class, religion, etc) helps us to better address our issues and to serve more sincerely.
  60. Loan someone a book you love.
  61. Don’t let it sit in a drawer. Give your old cell phone and chargers away or donate them to a charity.
  62. Treat a pet with kindness and respect.
  63. Make a small change to conserve water such as not prewashing your dishes before using the dishwasher.
  64. Donate suitcases to foster children.
  65. Share public service information (traffic detours, power outages, flood warnings etc.) via social media.
  66. Turn off and unplug electronics you aren’t using.
  67. Pick up trash that wasn’t properly discarded.
  68. Give someone more credit than they deserve.
  69. Believe someone’s dream is possible. And tell them. They need the support.
  70. Fight indifference and don’t look away. Let yourself feel sadness when you see a homeless person.
  71. Tell someone you forgive them. And mean it.
  72. Contact an elected official via social media to quickly advocate for a global or domestic cause you believe in.
  73. Call someone you usually text and tell them you just wanted to hear their voice.
  74. Pick up an extra item or two from the grocery store to donate to your local food bank.
  75. Make a small online donation to a global, domestic or community nonprofit with a mission you believe in.
  76. Practice empathy. Take a few minutes and imagine the struggles of someone you know.
  77. Listen carefully. People yearn to be heard and understood.
  78. Thank a healthcare provider for their service.
  79. Tell someone a joke.
  80. Save someone from a work conversation they aren’t enjoying. “I hate to interrupt, but can I borrow you for two minutes.”
  81. Actually take your reusable bags into the store with you.
  82. Actually take your reusable cup into Starbucks with you.
  83. Pray for someone.
  84. Teach someone something. Anything.
  85. Get or stay committed to a recycling program
  86. Give someone you love your undivided attention.
  87. Hold a door open and wait while multiple people pass through.
  88. Take time to write a supportive comment to someone on Facebook.
  89. Hug someone.
  90. Share any online article that raises awareness of a service need.
  91. Let that busy person behind you go ahead of you in line.
  92. Leave change in a candy machine.
  93. Pay the toll for the person behind you.
  94. Thank a solider for their service.
  95. Discuss with a younger relative a piece of your family history.
  96. Cheer loudly for someone else’s kid.
  97. Give away an extra umbrella on a rainy day.
  98. Keep your brain sharp and body strong. Serve on!
  99. Share this post and spread the love around.
  100. If you love them, tell them.

 

What am I missing?

Truth

I’m late getting this post out because I spent my writing time having a firm conversation with my soon-to-be 12 year-old son. It was a conversation that almost all parents have at some point. I’ll call it the “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it” talk. Often how we say things makes a greater impression than the words and points themselves. By the time we reach adulthood, we tend to be well aware of this fact. We may actively try to monitor things like tone, body language and facial expressions in hopes that our communications will be received more favorably. This is critically important because it’s almost impossible to serve others if we aren’t able to connect and communicate well.

I was passionate about explaining this to my son. I pointed out the visual cues that revealed his mixed emotions. And I explained how those visual cues created more hostility in me than his words alone warranted. But I’ve been thinking about it more since then and in hindsight I think I missed an opportunity to teach him something additional. Correcting his tone or body language is important when showing respect, but it can also lead to suppressing the truth. Covering things up will make his conversations more palatable, but true emotions have a way of being felt and known even if not fully observed or expressed.

When I revisit this talk with him again, I’m going to do a better job of pointing out that he should also try to identify and deal with how he feels. Because directly dealing with his feelings will actually help him manage them better. It will also allow for a more open and honest exchange. I’m going to encourage him to examine his emotions and intentions even if it’s still appropriate to display them more calmly. I need him to know that tone and deliver definitely matter. But if the relationship matters – the truth about how he’s feeling matters too. So I want him to have some tools to identify his feelings because sometimes he won’t even be sure what they are.

Feelings that speak loudly

So these are the 10 questions I’m going to encourage him to ask himself. The truth behind any of these answers is often hard to hide. I’m sure he won’t remember them all but I hope he’ll try one or two. They should help him come to a conversation knowing what he’s feeling and if he’s being genuine or not.

  1. Am I angry with this person?
  2. Has this person hurt my feelings?
  3. Do I like this person?
  4. Do I trust this person?
  5. Have I tried to see their point of view?
  6. Do they remind me of anyone that may have hurt me in the past?
  7. Does this situation remind me of anything that’s happened before?
  8. Am I open to changing my mind?
  9. Am I willing to hurt this relationship to make my point?
  10. What is the outcome I’m hoping for?

What is missing from this list?

flowersspring

Last Saturday while I went to the grocery store, my husband and the boys went shopping for my Mother’s Day gifts. I’m incredibly blessed to have been given such wonderful sons. They are talented and beautiful in surprisingly unique ways. I look forward to seeing the men they will grow up to be. I want them to be empowered to carve out their own space in life without worrying much about my expectations. But I pray that they will grow up to embrace a passion for service and here are the reasons why.

  1. I want them to find themselves earlier than I found myself. I know that their minds will be bombarded with thoughts and questions centered around who they are and who they want to be. I want them to have the tools to discover key elements of their character. A deliberate focus on service develops discipline, patience and a concept of honor much faster and easier than the world will.
  2. I want them to get over themselves. I know that they will snap a thousand “selfies” or whatever form of self-expression is popular in the days to come. But I want them to know that they are not the center of the universe. I want them to feel significant enough to lend a helping hand, but humble enough to seek help when they need it. I want them to have a balanced view of themselves. So they can appreciate their strengths, but also accept and forgive their imperfections. They will need to make peace with their self-image if they hope to have the compassion and empathy to serve.
  3. I want them to love hard. I want them to be prepared for the work love requires. I want them to be prepared to serve those they love. And I also want them to require that those who claim to love them show their love by serving and respecting them. This will help them not waste time on people unworthy of their vulnerability. Love in all its forms (friendship, family and romantic) requires great commitment and effort. I want them to expect love and serving one another to go hand and hand.
  4. I want them to know where they can find happiness. I know that they will look to new jobs for happiness. I know that they will look to money for happiness. I know that they will look to parties and friends and women and alcohol (and hopefully NOT drugs) for happiness. I want them to have the insight to measure their lives by love and service and not just superficial signs of success. I want them to know God’s magical formula that gratitude plus service equals happiness.
  5. I want them to know how to quiet the voices in their heads. I know their internal voices will talk ceaselessly about their own needs, about their pain, their failures and their struggles. I want them to have ways to quiet those voices. I want them to have the tools to connect to God. I want them to know that prayer and service will quench their thirst for validation.
  6. I want them to be resilient. I want them to embrace life as a magnificent learning experience. I want them to accept that struggle, grief and loss will be some of the best teachers in their lives. I want them to submit to viewing hardships as character refining lessons. I want them to see through service that tough times are universal and that faith, time and love can heal all wounds. I want them to know how to bounce back.

What are some of the things you want for the children in your life?

Love languageEvery now and then I receive a call on my cell phone from someone speaking another language. When I don’t answer the call they leave me a voicemail. But I don’t understand the voicemail. I usually guess at the language they are speaking. Then I wonder how they got my number. Eventually, I start worrying that they might need something urgent. I try to judge how urgent the call is based on the tone of their voice. A few times I’ve called back the number and tried to say “Wrong Number!” in hopes they also speak English. Each time, I’ve not been able to tell if calling back helped them or not.

THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES

For some things in life you get credit for effort alone. But when you speak different languages the recipient may not be able to appreciate your effort. This is the basic gist of The 5 Love Languages written by Gary Chapman. This book completely changed the way I serve the people I love.

You may already be familiar with his work. If not, his main point is that everyone has a primary and secondary love language. These are the ways that they most like to receive love. Those ways are:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch

Do you have a guess which one is your primary Love Language?

What about your spouse? Your children? Your best friend?

Knowing the love languages of the people you care about will allow you to serve them better. It will give them the opportunity to feel your love more deeply. It will give you a much higher return on your efforts to serve them. Knowing your own love language will also help you tell them how to best love you.

SPEAKING ANOTHER LANGUAGE

Here is how this concept has played out in my marriage:

My primary love language is Physical Touch and my secondary love language is Words of Affirmation. My husband’s primary love language is Acts of Service and his secondary love language is Quality Time. Now we both value ALL five ways of receiving love to some extent, but our primary and secondary styles are the way we hear the love messages most clearly. Since we have two completely different languages we have to make special effort to speak each other’s languages. This does not come naturally. It has to be deliberate and I’ve had to remind myself about it almost daily.

When I feel most loving towards my husband, I want to be with him physically or tell him how much I love him. Because those are my love language preferences and how I instinctually think to show love to him. Instead, I have to make sure I place a high priority on cooking for him and doing our laundry. Those things show him love through his primary Act of Service language. To me, laundry is definitely NOT sexy. For him, it gets him feeling loved and energized. He would instinctually show me love by doing housework. He thought most women desired more help around the house (and many do). And though I appreciate the help, it is much more important to me that he rub my back or tell me I look beautiful. He has to make a special effort to be more touchy and verbal than his natural style so I feel loved.

TAKE THE QUIZ

You can find your love language preferences and have others in your life take the Love Language Quiz by visiting Gary’s website. http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

READ THE BOOK

If you want to read more about how to use the love languages in your relationships, see Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Language: The Secret to Love that Lasts at http://www.amazon.com/The-Love-Languages-Secret-Lasts/dp/0802473156/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392047956&sr=8-1&keywords=the+five+love+languages.

He also has a number of companion books and other books that speak specifically to children and teens.

What’s your love language?

Do you love someone that speaks a different language?

Lockers

I don’t remember that much about being a teenager. I know it had its “ups and downs”, but I made it out alive. Yesterday, I held a workshop for a room full of high school students (9th-12th grade). Initially, I wasn’t sure how the day would go. I worried that focusing on the topic of service with teenagers would fail to hold their interest. I was definitely wrong. The last activity of the day asked the students to break into four groups and prepare a presentation on their top 10 ways the adults in their lives could serve them better. We received 40 answers, but there was plenty of overlap in what they wanted. Below you’ll find the consolidated list.

  1.  T.L.C. This is also known as Tender, Loving, Care. They acknowledged that they would not show affection back, but they still wanted it.
  2. To be a priority. This was said in many different ways from “don’t forget about us” to “remember what time you said you’d pick me up”.
  3. One day off. Defined as 24 hours to do whatever they wanted without any obligations.
  4. Teach them about finances. They wanted help understanding how to navigate the financial world. This included help figuring out strategies to buy the things they wanted.
  5.  “Real life” skills training. They thought the school curriculum should teach more skills that would apply to their home and work life.
  6. Freedom to explore their sexuality. They didn’t want to elaborate on this one, but it was on the list.
  7. One free mistake. They wanted to be able to make one reasonably small mistake without getting in trouble.
  8. Teachers being more predictable. They had a hard time guessing when some teachers would be in a bad mood.
  9. Room to fail. They wanted to be able to take some risks and learn on their own.
  10. Lowering the cost of college application fees.
  11. Considering their opinion. They acknowledged that they have limited life experience, but they still wanted their parents to place some value on their thoughts.
  12. Exposure to more diversity. They wanted to travel and meet people from other countries.
  13. Shadow an adult in the work environment.
  14. Let them choose their own college. They still wanted the parents’ guidance, but wanted to make the final decision.
  15. Feel permanently supported. They needed to know their parents support would never go away, even if they made mistakes.
  16. To be checked on when they are sad.
  17. More privacy. This one wasn’t a surprise to me.
  18. Help talking through social problems at school.
  19. Discuss their preferences for attendance and/or behavior at their extracurricular events. The group was not in agreement on whether they wanted their parents at their sporting events or other activities. Many felt parents were overly critical in their attempts to help them perform better. Some were embarrassed by excessive cheering. Some just loved having the support and the immediate ride home. The room was definitely divided.

ANY SURPRISES TO YOU? Most surprised me.

The comment floor is open below. Serve on!

Tractor

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.  – Aesop

Protect. Survive. Teach. This list sums up my parenting goals in their simplest form. I focused more on the first two goals (i.e. protect and survive) when my boys were younger. Let’s call that phase of life “provival”. When parenting in provival mode most of the life lessons you teach are meant to stop your kids from hurting themselves. Other lessons teach them key life skills (like not going to the bathroom in their pants) that help you all stay sane. I remember that phase well and have great sensitivity to those with young children currently parenting in provival mode. Protecting and surviving is probably all you have the mental, physical or emotional capacity for so I will tread lightly with offering tips for kid friendly service projects. These projects are meant to be quick and easy and to plant the basic principles of service in your child’s heart. Do them if and when you have the energy for them. Don’t feel bad for a second if that time doesn’t come until your child is much older. Practicing service can never come too early, but it can also never come too late. Serve on!

  1. Handing out happy: Join in with your child to make “Happy Awards” out of paper and any other art supplies you have around. This can be a very quick project or more elaborate based on your time, supplies and energy constraints. Once done, take the awards along on your next errand run. Allow your child to nominate people displaying happiness and give out their awards. This act of service is sure to brighten up everyone’s day and make grocery shopping a little more fun!
  2. Walking and serving: Help keep your community clean and beautiful. Take a 15 minute walk with your child around your neighborhood looking for litter to collect. Make sure to bring a plastic bag and plastic gloves for collecting trash. Depending on the age of your child they can be in charge of identifying trash only or actually be a part of the collection/disposal of the trash.
  3. Drawing with a purpose: Turn coloring time into a service project by dropping your child’s finished masterpieces off at a local hospital or nursing home. There is nothing like the beauty of a child’s creative mind to add a little joy to someone’s day.
  4. Running a mini-food drive: Have your child ask family, friends and neighbors for non-perishable food donations. They can even make an advertising sign to help promote their cause. Be sure to take them along when you drop off donations to your local food bank.