Tag Archives: kindness

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

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Can I make a confession that will make me unpopular? I’m not a big fan of Thanksgiving. No, not thanksgiving… Thanksgiving. Yes, the holiday, the one with the capital T. I know that’s a pretty awful thing to say about a cherished holiday. It’s not the meaning behind it that irks me, nor is it the gathering of family and friends. Really, it comes down to this for me: I don’t like the excess it ushers in. The meal itself (an average of 3000-4000 calories) is excessive and doesn’t necessarily symbolize our thankfulness. Then it marks the beginning of the holiday season, which retailers start promoting before Halloween, where we push and shove each other to get the latest coveted items, complain about the long lines to buy mounds of gifts for people (sometimes out of nothing more than obligation), all the while saying “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” but feeling Bah-humbug in our hearts. Hmm, judging by the leftover turkey legs hoisted and ready to launch at me, I’m not making many fans here. Okay, I’ll stop the griping about the holiday season and step down from my soapbox.

What I do love is real thankfulness. I have a ton of things to be thankful for and no meal or gift will adequately symbolize my gratitude for what I have been blessed with throughout my life and, most especially, throughout 2012. Perhaps what can express the joyous feelings I have are my words.

This year I had 112 days to really connect with my husband and take care of him the best way I knew how as I said my long (but still too short) good-bye. No turkey-and-stuffing feast can commemorate my feelings and memories. I have enjoyed the privilege of heartfelt conversations with my sons that have allowed me to grieve and heal, and feel incredibly proud and fortunate to be their mother. That beats any stocking-stuffer or glittering tree. I have met people who have changed the way I look at living and dying: hospice nurses, doctors, chaplains, and volunteers. The way they cared for us has been life-altering. I’ve received messages from strangers thanking me for helping them see joy in hard times… that has humbled me. Those things can never be wrapped up and topped with pretty bows (and if they were it wouldn’t do justice to their beauty). I’ve felt the closeness of new friends and old who have literally and virtually wrapped their arms around me and let me know what love looks and feels like. Yes, that is warmer than any holiday wish. People I don’t know gave me their time and donated their money to my family to help us tackle hospital stays and bills, not once, but twice. All these things happened outside of the holidays and they deserve so much more than a day or a season to be celebrated.

I totally understand why we celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas and I don’t mean any disrespect to those who get giddy this time of year. I know that there is nothing wrong with special meals and the giving and receiving of gifts. I just wish that these things came out of the blue more often, and not on the obligatory days we set aside on the calendar. I wish they came with peace and harmony and simplicity, rather than crowds and sales and long return lines. If you think back to just a few days ago, what was the best part? Was the ginormous feast what made the day spectacular or could you have been just as happy eating nachos with your friends and family and talking about all the ways you were blessed in 2012? Can you name every gift you received (or gave) during this season last year…or how many you returned? Would that day have been a waste if you had nothing to unwrap other than your arms from around the people you cherish?

I’ll continue, just as you will, to celebrate holidays. Nope, there’s nothing at all wrong with setting days aside. But I long for a bit of a shift, where perhaps we become more mindful, more intentional, in being thankful and giving throughout the year. I know this is something I can definitely work on. Lots of people have used social media to shout out thankfulness each day during November, myself included… what’s wrong with doing that 365 more times starting December 1? Why not give a token of appreciation on a random Tuesday? Or an all-out, festive meal on the 18th of any month? How about using your best dishes for PB & J and Mac & Cheese to make your kids feel super important? Or hand out free, heartfelt compliments every single day of the year? I don’t think expressing gratitude and spreading happiness as often as possible will diminish the celebrations during this time of year. Hmm… it might even make them sweeter.

Giving Thanks Every Day = Joy

Thanks for sticking it out through my little griping session. Hopefully I didn’t offend or hurt any feelings. Oh, this also wasn’t a commentary on any particular celebration this year. In fact, as I write this, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

Two Cents and Some Joy

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While this photo has a nice sentiment and fits nicely with what I want to say, it is also a plug for my fellow do-gooder and peace lover, Noelle. Click on it… be inspired and buy her stuff!!

I’m actually writing this without knowing the outcome of the election (it’s Tuesday and many of you are still standing in lines at the polls as I type), so the following is my opinion regardless of who will take the office in a few months. I don’t always vote and, quite frankly, this year the only reason I did was that the ballot was delivered by mail. Yes, I completely understand that I have the right and, some would say, duty to cast my vote and participate in the process. However, there have been times when I was not informed on any issues or candidates and felt it was more my duty to sit out than cast an unintelligent vote.

This is my two cents, a rare political post that probably won’t reveal much about the direction I lean. Two cents is precisely what I feel my opinion is worth in the big piggy bank of viewpoints! Take it or leave it and judge it if you like.

This year has been the single most difficult year of my entire existence. It’s tested me physically and emotionally in ways I did not expect. There were moments I wanted to go to sleep and wake up after everything was over… and other moments I just wanted to sleep and never wake up. It became a year where I had to question and carefully examine my views on healthcare and social security and taxes and, most importantly, humanity outside of those issues. I’ve been sad and even frustrated and irritated at the hateful and hurtful things said about people, not just candidates, during this political season.

This year I did mail in my vote, a mixture of heart and head decisions. However, I don’t feel this has been the most important election ever. I doubt there will be any sort of life-altering transformation in policies that will fix everything because at this point, frankly, that’s next to impossible to achieve in four decades, much less four years.

I may be hopeful today or I may be a disappointed…I’ll never tell. But one thing I will always be, regardless of who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office is this: respectful. No matter what man or woman holds that title, I have a duty to myself to be the kind of person who respects the process, however flawed it may be, and respects the person, however flawed he or she may be. I only need to look in the mirror to find an example of a flawed person. Any time I show a lack of respect I believe it says more about my character than anyone else’s. I’ve let myself down plenty of times that way, even in the last couple of days.

So, for the next four years, and the following four after that, and 12 more after that… okay, basically forever, I’ll make sure that I wake up every day and decide for myself how I’m going to live, no matter who is running the country or how much or little I pay in taxes: respectful, happy, and joyful. On purpose. Some years, like this one, will probably be filled with grief and others will probably be a breeze by comparison. Life simply happens and it usually doesn’t consult us on every event. But I get to decide my reaction… or, better yet, my response, to every event, every challenge, and every day – the good and the bad. I will choose to respond with respect, kindness, compassion, understanding, and joy. Those things get my vote every time.

My Everyday Vote = Joy

Get Real!

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Some say the world is a dangerous place and filled with hurtful, angry people. Others won’t even think of bringing a child into a world like this. No, we cannot let kids roam free like they used to and often we don’t even know our neighbors’ names, much less socialize with them. We build fences and stronger locks to keep people out and away. We arm ourselves against our fear of unknown violence. We honk and curse and shake fists at one another on the roadways. We look down and avoid eye contact and certainly don’t smile at strangers. We scurry from place to place, consumed with our own lives. Yes, this is how we live… sometimes.

But there are souls in this world who long to change that, who have soft hearts that desire to spread goodness, peace, comfort, and, of course, joy, to others. Today I was the recipient of something truly extraordinary. A group of women in a neighboring city gather on a regular basis and collect money as they share time together as friends. Every quarter they choose someone to receive the money they have collected. I was nominated for this gift several months ago, unbeknownst to me. Until today, I had never heard of Womenade of Highlands Ranch. I had no idea that complete strangers had decided to give to me out of the kindness they feel inside.

There was a letter inside along with the gift, and also a note from the individual who nominated me. She shared that “even though their gifts may be small, their compassion for other women is vast.” I have to disagree. I believe their gifts are monumental because of their compassion. They give selflessly, to complete strangers, and expect nothing in return. That is the best way to give. That is the heart of compassion and love. These women, and others like them, unlock the doors, put gates on the fences, seek to know their neighbors, look deep into another’s eyes, wave and smile on the highway, and offer smiles readily to everyone. That is kindness. That is generosity of spirit. That will melt anger and turn hurt into healing. That will make the world beautiful and fill it with delight. The lovely woman who nominated me thanked me for being real. I thank her and the other members of Womenade, and countless people around the world, for choosing to be real as well. Yes, in her words…

Real People = Joy 

Joy from Ashes

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Last night I had to run to the store and the smoke from fires 60 miles south of me covered the sky, making it appear much later in the evening than it actually was. As I shut off the lights to go to bed, I noticed glowing to the south and northwest from fires that are raging in the Colorado mountains. Today is supposed to be hot and windy again, a fire’s best friend. I know a family living seven miles from the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs, much too close for my comfort, and I worry about them. I’m assured they are safe, but they have friends who have lost homes. It’s very difficult to find joy in a time like this as you watch houses go up in flames and families lose everything.

The joy usually comes in the aftermath, when all that is left are ashes. Disaster has a way of bringing out the best in people and giving us all a sense of community. I have no doubt that aid will come to those suffering loss from the fire consuming whatever is in its path. I have no doubt that neighbors will rally to do whatever they can to make the best of a horrific situation. I have no doubt that families will squeeze each other a little tighter and friends will reach out to those they hold dear. I have no doubt that we will see humanity at its best. It is unfortunate that disaster brings out the best in people, but perhaps that gives us the answer to why there is difficulty and suffering in the world. Were it not for the negative things we encounter, we would not know the depths of human kindness, compassion, resilience, and love.

There may not be a disaster where you are today, at least on a large scale. But there is probably someone you know who is hurting, experiencing their own private devastation. Reach out in lovingkindness and offer a helping hand. Be the source of joy in the aftermath of whatever someone may be going through.

The Aftermath = Joy

Transparency

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“How are you doing?”

That question is one of the best and one of the worst questions you can ask someone. It’s one of the best because it opens up the opportunity for hearts to connect and feelings to be shared. It is one of the worst because it is something we ask out of habit. Typically, we truly don’t want an honest answer. We want to hear the canned response of “fine.” Anything else might scare us and keep us from ever uttering the words again.

What would you do if someone said, “I’m hurting and I really need to talk”? Would you dare to stop what you were doing and open your heart, mind, and ears? On the other hand, what if someone just lost her husband of almost 20 years and, when asked how she is doing, she responded with “I’m doing absolutely wonderful”? Would you celebrate with her or give her a quizzical look and say, “No, really, you can tell me how you are doing”?

I’ve been asked how I am doing. A lot. Daily since February 10th. Sometimes I don’t mind the question and other times I know it’s coming and I want to turn and walk away, hang up the phone, or completely ignore the message. It’s not that I’m uncaring. No, it really comes down to this: are you ready for my honesty? I’ve had moments of depression, anger, relief, happiness, grief, elation, sadness, indifference, and joy. I’ve been honest and I’ve been dishonest in my responses.

I have a friend who is incredibly brave. She has decided to choose a path of honesty. Oh, how much I admire her! She is tired of the way people hide behind social masks, pretending they are fine and dandy, when they are really lonely or bitter. People paste fake smiles on their faces and walk around pretending instead of having the guts to be real. Not my beautiful friend. Her honesty is refreshing and inspiring. She is learning that being transparent can open you up to a better way of living. I’m sure it will have positive and negative consequences. Some people will choose to walk away from her, unable to handle truth and the beauty that comes along with it. How very sad. They are going to miss out on knowing a lovely woman. Ah, but others are going to open up in kind and wonderful things are going to spring from the gift of honesty given and received. I want to be more like the brave soul I am lucky enough to call friend.

The next time I ask someone “How are you doing?” I am going to ask with sincerity. If I am not prepared to accept any answer, good or bad, I’m not going to ask the question. I’m going to assume honesty so I can sincerely rejoice with the good answers and sympathize tenderly with the not so good responses. I’m going to have the courage to respond to that question differently in the future. If I’m doing wonderful, which is true these days, I’m going to say so. But if, on the other hand, I’m having a sad day, I want to have the courage to say, “Can I be honest with you?” And if the answer is yes, then perhaps I have found a beautiful soul who understands the gift of honesty…of transparency.

Transparency = Joy