Relationships

Four questions to ask your friends (or anyone you want to know better).

Posted on Updated on

Art Child

Last week, my husband and I took a cruise to celebrate our anniversary. We love traveling together and enjoy being on a cruise ship. This year, we choose to travel on one of the largest ships in the sea. It was massive and had a number of features we had not experienced on previous cruises.

One of my favorite features was finding art in every stairwell, landing and hallway. Each piece of art was curated from a different part of the world. They covered countless countries and cultures. With the luxury of free time, I stopped at different pieces to read about the artist and his/her inspiration.

Each piece took on a new meaning when the artist’s background and what they hoped their work would bring to mind was explained.

Context changes everything.

Unfortunately, context is rarely obvious at first glance. We have to dig deeper to understand the context behind a piece of art. We have to do some research to understand the context of quotes or religious scriptures. We have to build relationships and ask questions to understand the context of human lives, actions and emotions.

I left our trip wanting to work harder to understand the context surrounding the lives of the people around me. It is hard to serve people well if I don’t truly know them.

Here are a few questions I plan to ask more frequently (when appropriate).

  1. How did the place you are from shape who you are today?
  2. What are the one or two most defining moments in your life to date? And why?
  3. What is something people think about you that isn’t true?
  4. How close is the life you live today from the life you want to live?

These questions may be too personal to ask in some relationships. Don’t be alarmed or offended. Do feel privileged if someone is willing to share any of these answers with you. Clearly, they trust you.

Which question do you think reveals the most about a person?

 

Wish the world was a better place? Here are 100 things you can do about it.

Posted on Updated on

Waterdrops

“Nothing will change if nothing changes”

-Unknown

We know the world needs our help, but it can be hard to know where to start. Start here. Some of the items on the list below are easy and some are a bit harder. Some of the items will take you 30 seconds to complete and others will require a little more time. Most of these are free of expense, but some are not. Use this list if you’re having a hard time channeling your concern over all the tragedies and conflicts in the world into tangible action. It’s our work and NOT simply our compassionate thoughts that change the world. Start small, but start today.

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 are some others?

Four anniversaries you probably aren’t celebrating, but should be.

Posted on Updated on

Celebrate

What a great month! In just the last few weeks, I had Mother’s Day, my wedding anniversary and last night we celebrated the 10th wedding anniversary of family friends. It was a joyous expression of their love and commitment. So much so that my feet are still hurting from all the dancing.

Anniversaries give us a time to honor the important milestones in our lives. We could let these days pass by unmarked, but by celebrating them we renew our gratitude for the original gift. On my anniversary, I was celebrating with my husband but I was also thanking God for sending him into my life. So the physical celebration was between the two of us, but the gratitude was between me and God.

Here are 4 anniversaries you may not be celebrating now, but should consider. This doesn’t have to be an outward celebration. Truthfully, nobody other than you even needs to know about it. You can just set a day to remind yourself to be especially grateful because that’s what an anniversary is all about. Letting more gratitude into your heart WILL motivate you to serve others more.

Four new anniversaries worth celebrating

  1. The day you gave up something that wasn’t serving your life anymore. Was it a substance you were abusing? Was it an unhealthy attachment to someone? A compulsion to outspend your means? A job you hated? A life that wasn’t authentic? Either way, at one time this thing had a hold on you. And now it doesn’t. Take a day to celebrate that and thank God for seeing you through to the other side.
  2. The day you met a close friend. If you aren’t sure of the exact date try to agree on your best guess and celebrate that day every year. You can do it with them if you want. But this is more about you acknowledging that they are a blessing in your life. Remember on this day that there was once a time that you could not lean on them for support, but now you can.
  3. The day you met a teacher that changed your life. This is similar to the day you met a friend, but this person may not share a friendship with you. They may have been your boss or a high school teacher. They may have been someone you didn’t even like at the time or someone that hurt you. But if they came into your life and left you forever different (for the better) you should choose to celebrate that.
  4. The day you met God. Try to pinpoint the time you first felt God’s presence in your life. This is not about religion; it’s about faith. This is the day you went from “hoping” there was a God to “knowing” there is a God. This is the day your world expanded and the earliest seeds of peace, gratitude and service started growing in your life. This day changed everything. This day is truly worthy of an anniversary. Celebrate it.

 What else should we be celebrating?

 

Is winter really over? 8 questions to ask yourself before the cold weather leaves.

Posted on

Blossom

The most common use of the word “winter” describes the season marked by cold weather and bare trees. During Mother Nature’s winter season, we are forced to retreat inside and many things stop growing. The characteristics of a winter season can show up in other parts of our lives too. We let certain things go dormant and experience winters in our careers, relationships, health, and even in our hearts. During these types of winters our focus has to shift from growing to hibernating and healing. It is always difficult to go through times of winter, but it gives us a chance to rebirth something even more beautiful.

The last day of this winter season has already passed, but it seems as if the cold weather is staying with us a bit longer. If you’re coming to the end of any kind of winter, here are 8 questions to ask yourself before temperatures rise. I posted some of these questions last year, but my answers have definitely changed. Have yours?

  1. What stopped growing for you this winter?
  2. Do you want to see all, some, or none of it grow back?
  3. Was your home a place you wanted to retreat to during your winter?
  4. Who kept you warm during your coldest days?
  5. What will you do to prepare for the next winter?
  6. What do you want to plant in your life next?
  7. Will you have the desire and energy to care for a new blossom?
  8. How has this winter better equipped you to serve others?

Are you ready for warmer weather?

Let’s talk. Four questions I need help answering.

Posted on

Coffeeshop

Relating and helping

Last week, I was sitting in Starbucks reading when the tables closest to me started filling up with young children. There were a total of three women with six children between them. One of the women was holding a baby. Another tried to get her oldest child (who was maybe four years old) to stand in line while they got the other kids settled. Brief fits of crying and whining started but never lasted for too long. People around us (most were working on laptops) begin to get noticeably restless and some started leaving. Every single child in the group was ridiculously cute and simultaneously obnoxious.

For a moment I considered leaving too. I’d read enough already. Then all the sudden I felt a feeling of freedom take over me. I realized that I could get up right then and go to bathroom. Nobody would follow me. No little voices would call my name or demand their needs be met first. I didn’t have to watch nor entertain anyone. I could leave the store all together without putting anyone in a car seat. I could leave without looking for things that may have been thrown on the floor. I could leave without asking for hot water to sanitize a pacifier or heat a bottle.

I couldn’t shake how I was both feeling sensitive to them and feeling grateful that my children are older, now 10 and 12. If my sons were with me they wouldn’t be interrupting anything. I could still read. They would probably be occupied with staring at my oldest son’s cell phone. I was acutely aware of the difference between their experiences with young children and mine with older children.

Then one of the moms says to me. “You can’t read through this can you?” And before I answer another Mom says “I miss reading”. And I totally get what she means because I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to be in their places. I know what it feels like to “miss reading”. So their struggles are real to me. I can see myself in them. And it makes me want to be kind. But most importantly, I noticed how strongly I desired to help them. How much I wanted to go get napkins for them or how much I wanted to help entertain the kids.

The Questions

This week I’d love to discuss with you the following questions. We can do this through WordPress, Facebook, email or in person. But I’d like your perspective on one or all of the following questions:

  1. Is it possible to truly relate to a struggle you (or someone you love) have not personally experienced?
  2. Are you likely to commit most of your time and resources to addressing issues you can relate to?
  3. Are you more effective at helping when you’ve personally been touched by the hardship?
  4. Does your faith or spirituality call you to serve beyond what you can relate to?

I don’t know if there are any right answers here, but it’s worth discussing.

What do you think?

Let’s talk.

100 ways to love on the world

Posted on Updated on

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?

Pain and privilege

Posted on

Cracks

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

-Leonard Cohen

After last week’s post (The privilege to live without open wounds), I had the following exchange with a reader who gave me permission to share it below. I think it speaks to the journey we are going on together and the discussion I hope you will join into.

 

Reader: 

“Living with open wounds”…as with most things, often a lot of grey area in that. Totally get that in the article you do not mean to address a certain level of trauma. “I’m not talking about people that had tough romantic breakups or are dealing with the unfortunate but predictable sadness that life can bring.” For many people things can be clearly categorized. Upon first glance I would fall into the privileged category…I am hardly the first to be divorced after a long marriage, have parents deceased, had someone die in his arms, etc. And I do consider myself privileged. But my oldest daughter is MR (the term Du Jour is Intellectual Disability). Make no mistake, I do feel blessed to have her! But I see the things she will never have in her life, the things that for some reason were determined for her before she had a chance to have a say about anything in her life. Because my love for my child is endless, it forever shock my faith in God … why did he allow this with my sweet little innocent? Please, I am not looking for spiritual or religious advice…been there, done that, still doing that, it is a constant in my spiritual life. But I do consider it “Living with an open wound” because if you love someone impacted in such a way, it is a constant tear at the heart. Again, I feel privileged in other aspects in my life, and I feel blessed to have her as my daughter. I just bring this up to point out that this discussion can have multiple layers within multiple layers. Wounds can leave “gaping wounds in the heart and psyche” and “derail your potential” in subtle ways. They can drag you down or serve as motivators. And they can do both at the same time! Definitely a thought provoking topic.

 

Me: 

Thanks for this thoughtful comment. I had to give the post a title, but I realize that people have wounds of all kinds. In this case, I was speaking specifically of the wounds that come from dramatic trauma that usually includes violence of some kind. But really my point is that we all have painful disadvantages in life. Suffering is not trivial no matter what caused it. You make that point eloquently and I certainly can see where you struggle with things that many (to include me) do not. But there’s something powerful about considering the pain that you/we DON’T have. Often we are so consumed with the pain we DO have that we don’t give the emotional energy needed to let others pain in. We may feel we don’t owe the world anything because we’re still suffering too. I think it is worth trying to feel more despite the pain that is uniquely ours. Because until we can care about what goes on with our brothers, we won’t really care enough to help them. So that’s my point with these posts. But know that I am sending you extra love and am grateful for your ability to engage in these kinds of conversations.

What does “privilege” mean to you? Are you privileged?