If you only read your Facebook feed you might forget about the Thanksgiving dinners held in the shadow of grief or in the aftermath of divorce. Television commercials seem to forget about the lonely Thanksgivings, the sad Thanksgivings and the angry Thanksgivings happening all around us. Life is not about constant happy moments and there is a good chance you have or will experience a tough Thanksgiving in your lifetime. Which presents an opportunity to “keep it real” with others that are having a difficult time this week.
As you experience the holiday of gratitude, remember to reach out to those dealing with life trials you’ve faced and overcome. Maybe they’re making the same mistakes you’ve made. Maybe they’re struggling with the same grief process you’ve had to make peace with. For me, I’m reflecting on the times I failed myself. I’m reflecting on the times I failed to be who I hoped I was and the shame that came along with that. I’m inspired to tell someone else at that same point of despair that I understand. I’ve been where they are and the pain is not permanent.
If there is one way I’d encourage you to serve this week, it would be to lovingly open up to someone going through a challenge you uniquely understand. Turn your gratitude into an opportunity to serve.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
If I had to describe July with just one word it would be “indulgence”. That word might surprise you as July is a month of skimpier clothes and lighter meals. But for some, July is also a month of vacations and celebrations. It is a month of summer parties and outdoor concerts. The month of July may find you blessed to be by a pool, beach or grill. There is almost no end to the wonderfully indulgent thoughts that pop into my head when thinking about the month of July.
It’s a great thing to take pleasure in the indulgences of life. I highly recommend taking joy from your summer surroundings. You may also want to consider channeling some of that joy into service. July poses a few unique opportunities to serve our communities.
- Pay attention and get help. Try to look up from your phone (not as easy as it sounds) when walking near parked cars this summer. You may see a child or animal that was left unattended in a dangerously hot car. It’s a small effort that may prevent a tragic story.
- Donate to your local food bank. The summer break is the busiest time of year for many food banks (not the holidays). More families are in need of additional meals that their children previously received during the school day. To take it a step further, you and/or your children can run a mini-food drive by passing out flyers and collection bags. You can then retrieve your neighbors food for one large donation.
- Drag out fall clothes. Do you have school-age kids? Do your kids have fall clothes (jeans, shirts, etc.) in good condition that no longer fit them? If so, make a point to donate them this month. That allows time for organizations to get clothes ready for August back-to-school needs.
- Not everyone has protection from the heat. July is a perfect time to make donations to the organizations that set up cooling centers in your community. Your donations will support centers that will save lives this month.
- Don’t forget to check in. Stop by and check on the elderly or anyone that you think may be living without relief from the hot weather. Even if they don’t need help, knowing you care goes a long way.
What are some other ways to serve in July?
When it comes to supporting and serving loved ones there are a few topics that I’ll continue to post about over and over. One of them is serving someone with a broken heart. The list below was originally posted around Valentine’s Day. It’s been updated based on your incredibly honest feedback. These are things that someone suffering from loneliness, regret and shame may need to hear. Feel free to share this list broadly because you never know who may be served by these words.
10 things to say to the brokenhearted
- “This is going to hurt for much longer than you hope it will. I need to tell you this so you don’t demand from yourself a faster recovery than what is possible.”
- “You will likely do something desperate and embarrassing if you haven’t already. You might even do it multiple times and even after you thought you’d gotten better. This is completely normal so don’t feel ashamed. We’ve all been there.”
- “Yes, my life is busy but I have time for you. You will not go through this alone.”
- “She really didn’t know you. She knew the version of you while in a bad relationship. Because you’re feeling broken right now you may think that version is the real you. It isn’t.”
- “I want better for you. I know you miss him a lot. But you could receive so much more love than what you were getting.”
- “Be sad. You’re giving this fight to get happy again all you have. But whenever you need to take some time to be sad you shouldn’t feel bad about it. It’s ok to be sad. It won’t mean you aren’t moving on.”
- “I need you in my life. He may not have needed you and that hurts, but I do.”
- “Yes, you made some mistakes. So did she. But you’ll get a chance to do better next time and I know you will.”
- “Yes, I am tired of talking about him, but I’m happy to keep doing it if it is still helping you move on. Is it?”
- “I love you and I’m not saying that to make you feel better. I really love you and I want to make sure you know it.”
Let’s keep making this list better.
What would you say differently?
What have you needed to hear?
Like many, I often find myself thinking about how to use my time better. Arguably time is our most precious and most limited resource. So it only makes sense that we’d try to be more thoughtful about where and with whom we spend it.
Here are five people that definitely deserve some of your time. You may only have a few of these friends in your life right now. And that’s perfectly fine. But be on the lookout for each of these people. Each will make you a better server in unexpected ways.
- The friend that you want to be more like. This isn’t about competition or envy. It is about motivation to be a better version of you. This friend helps make your growth goals more clear as you see traits in them that you want in yourself. The growing you will be a better server. Keep this friend around you.
- The friend that always shows up. It is wonderful to have people that you can call or text at any moment. But there should also be someone in your life that shows you why actions speak louder than words. This friend physically shows up for the things that matter to you. Your first book signing – check. Your wedding – check. The day your son was born – check. They remind you to move beyond good intentions when you seek to serve. Keep being grateful for this friend.
- The friend that tests your thinking. This is someone that helps you test your assumptions and theories for logic and bias. This isn’t someone that thrives off being smarter or wiser than you. They care deeply for your best interests and help you see where your blind spots might be. Knowing you’re not always right will make you more open hearted and accepting of others. Service thrives in an accepting heart. Keep this friend close.
- The friend that supports your spiritual journey. It isn’t uncommon to have very close friends that don’t discuss their spiritual life at all. Make sure one of your friends supports your spiritual journey. No matter what your belief system is you can be sure it will change, develop and deepen with time. It is a mighty friend that walks with you on this path. Most spiritual journeys will lead you back to service. Keep this friend close to your heart.
- The friend that needs your service. I can’t seem to remember a time when I didn’t have a friend that was going through a rough patch in life. Which friend it is changes, but life’s challenges come and go for us all. Protecting and serving others teaches us more about love than looking out for ourselves. Always have a friend that you’re lending your strength to and sharing their load. Keep this friend in your prayers.
Are you looking for one of these people?
If so, which one?
I can live for two months on a good compliment. – Mark Twain
Genuine compliments actually serve both the receiver and the giver. You can’t give a compliment without focusing on the beauty and value of others. So giving more compliments helps us develop our spirit of gratitude. And as I’ve covered previously, gratitude and service naturally cultivate each other.
Unleash the power
Have you ever wondered if men and women want to receive compliments in the same way? See below for ideas on how to tailor your compliment style by gender. These small tweaks in your delivery can help ensure that your positive message is received with the maximum impact.
- Ask for their advice: Many men see advice seeking as a sign that you respect them. And for men, respect is almost synonymous with love. I’ve taken a highly unscientific survey on this topic. All the men I asked said that being sought after for advice was the highest compliment a person could give them. Please note that it is very important to be authentic in valuing their expertise. Be careful what you seek advice on. If you don’t plan to use their advice it could be viewed as an insult.
- Be specific: My group of men reported not valuing general praises as much as specific ones. They preferred their compliments to be more targeted and unique. This may be because many men use logic to process emotion. It is therefore easier for them to see the emotion behind “I love the way you smoked the steaks. It had just the perfect mix of grill favor and tender texture.” than “These steaks are good!”
- Attention to detail: Women want to know that they are catching someone’s interest in a positive way. So it goes a long way when a person picks up on harder to notice changes. These could be things like their efforts to be more patient or even something cosmetic like a new hair style or outfit. The compliment is important, but it’s equally important to show that you care enough to be paying attention.
- Volume: The women I asked joked that they couldn’t imagine what too many compliments would look like. Some women preferred to receive compliments in private instead of public. But all wanted them to be plentiful. Don’t hold back.
How else do you compliment men and women differently? Surely this is just a start.
Speaking of compliments, please feel free to pay me a big one and SHARE this site with others. It’s definitely appreciated.
There are moments in life when you get to play the part of the hero. Maybe you rescued a toddler that fell off her tricycle. Or maybe you hailed a cab in the rain for your group of friends. It’s a blessing to be able to rescue and serve those in need. And the reminder that you add value into the world feels pretty nice too.
To gain a superpower, look no further than your local drug store. Below is a list of items that may come in handy during your next rescue mission. They vary in size from “wallet ready” to “satchel approved” so everyone can carry something. There’s no pressure to get them all, but when they’re needed you’ll be an absolute hero.
HERO TOOL KIT
- Band-Aids: There are many brands of adhesive bandages but I can’t stop myself from calling them all “Band-Aids”. You can’t predict accidents, but these are a rescue waiting to happen.
- Tylenol: There are a lot of pain relievers out there, but acetaminophen (known by the brand name Tylenol) will serve the largest audience. Ibuprofen or naproxen can cause stomach irritation if not taken with food. Also pregnant women are limited to acetaminophen for their pain relief.
- Travel Sewing Kit: It’s bound to happen. Buttons will pop off and pant hems will fall out. They vary in size, but some travel sewing kits can easily fit in your wallet. You’ll be ready to rescue someone from walking around looking raggedy.
- Tissues: Gone are the days of gentlemen having a handkerchief to offer. Tissues serve the purpose even better.
- Skittles: Yes, I’m referring to the bright colored candy. In a pinch, Skittles are a commonly used substitute for glucose tablets which can quickly raise a diabetic’s blood sugar in an emergency.
- Trail Mix: People get hungry. Save them.
- Bottled Water: This is always good for a true emergency situation like being trapped in the desert. But its more common rescue use is to help someone swallow their pill-form medicine.
- Stain Remover Wipes: Stains are easier to remove when you treat them fast. And you’ll help them get that stain remover on the spot pronto. These come in very small travel packs about the size of a hand wipe.
- Feminine products (ladies only): Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve played this hero many times. It’s really simple, travel with extra feminine products on you and someone in need will ask for them.
- An Ink pen: Even in this day of electronic communication there are still times when someone will need an ink pen. This is usually to fill out a form (or do something else involving paper). Surprisingly few people carry pens on them anymore. Be the person that has one.
What items have you used to serve a dame or damsel in distress?
I often tell people that winter is my favorite season, but this year even I’m ready for spring. As beautiful as the snow has been, having so many storms has been disruptive. It has thrown off my ability to accurately anticipate what the next days or weeks will bring. It’s highlighted to me that as much as I try to control my life – I’m not in charge.
When winter comes
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 the winter season can show up in other parts of our lives. We experience winters in our careers, in our relationships, in our health, and in our hearts. Often our focus on serving the world around us has to shift to hibernating and healing. It can be especially hard for people focused on service to go through times of winter. We are used to serving others and have to allow ourselves to be cared for.
The last full day of this winter season is tomorrow, March 19th. If you’re coming to the end of any kind of winter, here are 10 questions to ask yourself before ushering in spring.
- What stopped growing this winter?
- Do I want to see all, some, or none of it grow back?
- What do I want to plant next?
- How much energy do I have to care for a new blossom?
- Which habits helped me through this winter?
- Which habits made this season more difficult for me?
- Was my home a place I wanted to retreat to?
- Who kept me warm during my coldest days?
- What will I do to prepare for the next winter?
- How has this winter better equipped me to serve?
What would you add to this list?
Picture yourself in my kitchen two nights ago. My husband and I just got home from work. I came into the kitchen a little later than him. I’d just hung up my coat and was starting to think about dinner. Here’s the exchange that followed.
Him: “Were things really crazy getting the kids out this morning?”
Me: “No, not really? School had a 2 hour delay because of the weather. I had extra time.”
Him: “Oh, because you left the cereal out on the counter.”
Me: “Oh ok. Sorry.” (Meanwhile I’m wondering where he’s going with this conversation.)
Him: “…And then I saw that you put the milk away in the pantry.”
Me: “Wow. I really didn’t sleep well last night.”
Sleep matters. For most of us, it matters a lot. The only thing that makes being sleepy better is getting more sleep. I want to make that clear because this post will not help you with being sleepy. It can ONLY help you with being tired. Being tired is a completely different animal than sleepy. Tired is more about energy and motivation. Sleepy is about a physical need to restore your systems. But it can be hard to distinguish them from each other. The chart below has some examples that might help you tell them apart.
|“I wonder if anyone would notice if I got 15 minutes of sleep here at my desk.”
||“I don’t really feel like taking a nap, but I do feel like laying in my bed.”
|“I keep trying to get online, but the light from the screen is giving me a headache.”
||“Wow, have I been on this site for two hours? I can’t get anything done today.”
|“Where did I put my keys? Not again!”
||“Since I’ve gotten up and gotten my keys, I should probably head to the grocery store. But man, I really don’t feel like it!”
|“God, please give me the strength to feed these kids tonight.”
||“Why can’t these kids feed themselves yet?”
So are you sleepy or are you tired? If you’re sleepy, stop reading and at least rest your eyes. If you’re tired, read on.
- Chances are good that you will be getting up tomorrow. Life is short, but more than likely it will be pretty long. It’s probable that you will get up tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. Point being – You are going to have a lot of waking hours to pass time in.
- You will be putting in work. If you have any obligations such as family, friends, and/or a job you will be performing work during a large part of your waking hours. Point being – Doing things that need to get done is going to be a required part of your day every day.
Can we agree on these two things? Sounds simple.
Getting up and putting in work will likely happen every day of our lives. We are going to do it regardless of how we feel about it. But what if putting in work partially feed us with energy instead of merely draining it? That’s basically what “inspired action” is. Inspired action is also a type of work but it’s work that feeds us emotionally. That’s different from plain-old “action” which is work we have to do because we’re awake and we have responsibilities. In many small ways, we can shift our thinking toward viewing work as inspired action. Most if not all of that shift has to do with intentionally trying to serve others. This can be done in small ways while doing your daily routine. Inspired action leaves you more connected and energized. Since we’re going to be awake and putting in work anyway, it just feels better to be serving others.
And it makes us A LOT less tired.
Don’t believe me? Try it for three days. I don’t mean taking time off from your job to do more community service. I’m talking about serving as part of your normal day. Easy examples are letting someone in front of you in traffic, correcting a small problem for someone on your job, or getting a meal on the table for dinner. Consciously and intentionally think of everything you do as service and then see how you feel.
Are you tired enough to try it?
Like any mother, the safety of my sons is constantly on my mind. So this week has been scary. I’ve wondered if there is an entire US state where I should not send my sons to college. I’ve wondered if a place that I associate mostly with Mickey Mouse is a place where the law can’t protect their lives. I’m not an expert on these cases. And this post isn’t about that. If I’m being honest, I’ve tried not to follow the cases too closely. They scare me too much. They make me feel small.
I was reminded by a friend on Facebook that individual lives may feel small at times, but they are powerful.
This was his response to one of my status updates.
“Think globally, act locally. If everyone looks after their family and friends, a geometric progression suggests everyone is better off and taken care of.”
Here are six things we can do whenever we’re feeling small.
- Be still. Notice that I didn’t say pray. Prayer is speaking to God. Stillness is allowing time to listen.
- Cook for someone. Sure you can eat some too, but cook with the idea of serving and nourishing another. Any recipe will do.
- Seek out a child. There is something about a child’s energy that neutralizes defeat.
- Find art that moves you. My favorite book is Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. I find it hard to believe that a person could weave together a story so complex and vivid. It reminds me that humans are capable of beautiful things. Sometimes I need the reminder.
- Take up someone else’s cause. We all have struggles that are unique to our position in life. Help someone else with theirs. Embody the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
- Serve in the way that only you can. If you aren’t sure what that is yet, refer to #1 on this list.
What do you do when you’re feeling small?
How can I help?
Recently, a friend’s young and insanely full of life husband passed away suddenly. I was with her the day before he died. It still runs through my mind every insignificant thing we talked about that day. Even writing this now, it is hard to believe this isn’t a fictional story. When truly awful things happen to people we care about we want to help them. We want to be doing something (anything) to make them feel supported.
I came across the Lotsa Helping Hands website when offering to deliver food for my friend following the funeral. Someone had set up a private community page for her. Once accepted into her community, I could sign up for days to do tasks and deliver food. These communities can be used for shorter term support like during the early days of grieving or when someone is recovering from a medical issue. It was originally designed to provide longer term support to care for caregivers. These are the people that provide daily assistance to another person like an aging parent or a special needs child.
The possibilities to coordinate and serve each other through these sites are endless. I just wanted to pass this on as we are all likely to need it some day. Please tell everyone you know.
Would this have helped you during a difficult time?