Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day 26: Self Help Love Notes

How many of us have visited the "Self Help" aisle at the bookstore?  I admit it.  I have spent many hours perusing the shelves looking for that one book that would solve all of my life's problems.  Oh and the money I spent!  I have purchased books on coping with divorce, anxiety disorders, dealing with the death of a loved one, motivational books and even emotional well-being!  I can't speak for anyone else, but I never found the answers in any of those pages.  No one ever reached out from the bindings and hugged me with inspiration and a set of directions on how to navigate through the rough patches.  They were comforting at first, but as I read on, I realized I already knew all of the answers.  Can we really rely on some self-proclaimed experts to tell us how to live a bountiful, pain free life?  Maybe some benefit, but I was not one of those people.  In fact, I don't think I ever finished reading a single one.  We all know the answers, don't we?  We know we have to love ourselves and accept who we are.  We know we have to trust and take giant leaps of faith even when it seems the bottom is going to drop out.  We know that the keys to our salvation do not lie in the author's pen or even in our own hands--it lies with a much greater power and when we finally surrender to that realization; miracles begin to happen.

So I apologize if you are an author of a self-help book.  I'm sure your intentions are good, but wouldn't it be great if there was a book of affirmations that spoke to the real heart of the matter?  We all have struggles.  We all have difficult journeys and we all get lost at times.  But if we follow the Way, the Truth and the Light, we cannot possibly fail.  "If God be for us, who can be against us?" ~ Romans 8:31.  How comforting that one statement is.  God is for us!  He is with us!  Which leads me to my ARK today.....

I was at the bookstore yesterday--I'm sorry, I just can't stay away.  I love the smell of the pages, the way the leather and binding feels when I run my fingers over them.  I love the embossed covers and the printed word.  I can't help it, it's a sickness, I know.  You should see me at the Library!!!  Anyway, I digress.....

As I was saying, I was at the bookstore pouring over art books and I couldn't help but notice the amount of people that were up and down the self help aisle.  Just like I used to be.  I watched the people, mostly women, who seemed to be desperately searching for answers. Almost every one selected a book and made their way to the front to pay for it. idea!  I sat down at a table and tore a bunch of strips out of my notebook and began writing little love notes to stick in the pages of the books!  I felt so devious yet excited at the same time.  I wrote things like, "You are loved-don't ever forget it!"  "You are stronger than you think you are." "You can get through anything, this is a minor setback!" "You already know the answers, you can make it!"

My heart was beating out of my chest as I selected random books and tucked a note deep inside {actually, not too far from the beginning of the books because no one ever finishes them!} As I stealthily hid each note, I thought about how the person who finds it might react.  Surprised at first, I imagined, but then maybe it would give them hope. Maybe they would get more inspiration from the note left there than the actual book.  Maybe they would read the note and realize they had to push harder to find their truth.  Whatever the outcome, I knew it would be a kind surprise that would brighten the day of someone who was experiencing darkness.  No harm in that!  So from me to all of you searching for help . . . a little love note to help you move through this and closer to Him!

"Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness." ~ Mother Teresa

Day 21-25: Miracles on St. Paul

I just returned from a five-day trip to Indianapolis where I was a participant in the Fuller Legacy Build (a Habitat for Humanity-like organization).  In fact, Habitat for Humanity was originally founded by Millard Fuller but he was summarily fired under questionable circumstances years ago.  All of that information is neither here nor there and I'm sure there are at least three sides to that story!  Personally, I think all of the in-fighting and division takes away from the true mission of giving a hand-up and not a hand-out.

What I wanted to share was the instances where my life was touched and where I may have touched others during that week.  If you've ever done any work with Habitat for Humanity (and I highly recommend it if you haven't) then you will know that you cannot leave a build feeling the same way you did when you arrived.

In all of my philanthropic adventures and service-oriented jobs, none has ever had as profound an effect as witnessing the look on the face of the homeowner as their new house appears right before their very eyes.  And to think that I helped this dream come true with my own two hands (including my smashed, purple thumb which I consistently banged with my hammer)!

For the second time in my life, I ended up on a 'blitz build' home--where a team of 25 or so people start with a concrete foundation and build an entire home by the end of the week--inside and out.  Literally, the keys are handed over to the homeowner on the last day!  It is a miracle to witness, and an even greater miracle to be a participant.

On a trip like this, the range of emotions from hour to hour is exhausting.  On any given day, I can go from excitement at the prospects of the day ahead to being overwhelmed at the immensity of the job.  I can be laughing and joking with my fellow workers one moment and then sobbing as I hug the new homeowners and share in their overwhelming joy.

In case you haven't figured it out by now, I am a people watcher.  I get consumed by their emotions, their actions, their mannerisms. Sometimes I am ashamed when I catch myself doing it, but I can't help but be drawn to the human story.  On this particular trip, I was surrounded by people from all over -- from one coast to the other and Canada as well.  As I work on these jobs, I find myself up on scaffolding or a roof, side by side with another and I can't help but make small talk.  Before I know it, an amazing life story begins to unfold.  This happens to me over and over and over.  These people really touch my life with their journeys and inevitably, I always get around to the question of, "what brought you here to this place?"  I must say that I am usually blown away when I hear how each of them came to be sitting beside me on a scaffold nailing in vinyl siding!

I wanted to share the stories of some of the people I encountered and the miracles I witnessed . . . the first Miracle was the name of the street where we worked...St. Paul.

Alberto and Ted:  I was put in charge of leading this three-person team to install the soffit and sheathing under the eaves of the roof.  I found myself in the great company of Alberto and Ted.  Ted was a very humble and meek man who knew way more about installing soffit than I did, but who wouldn't admit it and continued to let me lead.  As we chatted while we worked, Ted told me tearfully that he was the recipient himself of a Habitat for Humanity Home and he was so grateful that he worked on every build he could to repay his debt and give glory and praise to God.  Miracle number two.  Alberto, who completed our team was from just outside Mexico City and spoke limited English.  Alberto was so eager to learn everything we were doing and always asked the why's and how's when we were measuring, cutting, and bending.  As the day progressed, Alberto and I engaged in gentle teasing and banter and I soon discovered that he was new to the country and had left his home in Mexico to marry an American woman.  In his country, he was a civil engineer, however he could not get any skilled labor in the U.S. because of the language barrier.  No one would accept his credentials from Mexico so he worked in a fast food restaurant.  He worked on Habitat for Humanity Builds so that he could learn the trade and he went to night school to earn a degree in this country so he could provide a better life for his new family.  Miracle number three.

Larry and Cecilia:  This couple arrived on the job site every day with their own trailer stocked full of nail guns, saws, scaffolding, and tools of every shape and size.  Larry ribbed me constantly as he skillfully taught me many things about the building trade.  They were farmers in Indiana and several times each year they drove their handy trailer to build sites and donated a week of their time plus the tools and equipment they shared with everyone.  They also have travelled to every continent doing the same thing with Global Village, an international Habitat organization.  They are headed to Nepal in January and graciously invited me to be a part of their team (I must have done something right!)  What amazed me most about Larry and Cecilia was that they were clearly comfortable financially, but instead of spending money on themselves, they chose to donate their time, talent and treasure to those less fortunate.  They did it as a couple and shared their lives and love with everyone around them.  Miracle number four.

Tiffany:  A lovely young woman (about the age of 25) with two small sons was the deserving recipient of the home we were building.  As I said before, I have been on many, many jobs over the years and have truly enjoyed meeting each homeowner, but never have I witnessed one so humble and gracious.  Tiffany spent the entire week making sure each of us had cold water to drink and sunblock on our faces.  She learned every team members name and where they came from.  She took hundreds of pictures and got everyone's email addresses and promised to send them (which she most definitely did).  Tiffany was a smart and confident woman who happened to be down on her luck, but instead of digging a hole in the sand and hiding her head, she chose to keep fighting and working through the struggles and never gave up on her dream of owning a home.  She was proud and happy and was continually hugging each of us and showing her gratitude.  This is the type of person who can make you feel guilty for ever feeling sorry for yourself!  When you met her, you just knew she was going to do great things with her life!  Miracle number five.

I could go on and on about this trip and the people I met.  Each one of them touched me in a special way and I will carry around the memory of them in my heart forever.  The week was full of ARKs--too numerous to mention and I felt I never wanted to leave that place.  But one thing I truly learned, I don't have to go to a job site to build a home.  I can begin right here in my own soul and seek out the good in others, recognize a miracle when I see it, and spread love and light wherever I go.  If I do that, my own home {soul} will always be a place of great joy!

"... Of free choice, my God, and out of love for you, I desire to remain and do whatever be your Holy will in my regard." ~ Mother Teresa

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day Twenty - You Are Beautiful and You Are Loved

At a recent trade show, I noticed a young woman in a sea of people that was terribly disfigured.  Her face was swollen and her features were droopy.  Her skin had mottled, purple marks and I assumed this was from perhaps a birth defect.  Instantly I felt pity for her and couldn't tear my eyes away from her.  I watched her for a few minutes and saw her keep her head low and try to hide herself in the crowd.  I was irritated with myself because I couldn't stop staring and I was also disappointed that I felt pity because I was fairly certain that this woman did not want pity from people--at least I wouldn't if it was me.  I was also watching the people who came into contact with her.  They would stare, appear shocked, then hastily turn away.  No one spoke to her and she didn't talk to anyone either.  Just as I was analyzing the situation and uttering a silent prayer for her, she looked up and caught my eye.  I did the same thing everyone else did--I looked away and then was instantly ashamed of myself.  I couldn't bear it any longer; I knew I had to say something.  I pushed my way through a few people and came right up beside the disfigured woman.  When I got closer, I realized she was very young.  I touched her on the shoulder and she turned to me.  I forced myself to look at her and hold her gaze and I said, "You are beautiful, and you are loved."  There was an awkward few seconds, but slowly she formed what I interpreted as a smile (it was difficult to know because her features were distorted) but then, unmistakably, I saw something in her eyes.  There was no mistaking that she was smiling with her eyes.  She uttered an awkward "thank you" then turned and walked away.  I felt she didn't believe me, but as she moved on, she turned to look at me over her shoulder and then - there was no doubting it this time - she smiled.  A wide, beautiful, genuine smile.

I don't know what came over me or why I was so bold to do that--it could have been horrible and I knew that I was risking making her even more uncomfortable, but I imagined that this girl had spent a lifetime avoiding stares, comments, and keeping a distance from other humans.  I had the urge to reach out to her and remind her that beauty is deep inside--we are created in God's likeness and image so she must be beautiful and as God's creation, she most certainly was loved!

"Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work." ~ Mother Teresa 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day Nineteen - The Miracle of Benjamin

It's been so long since I've written and my little vow to perform an act of random kindness and blog about it every day has gone out the window!  But today, I received a note from a stranger who read my blog and I realized that I need to keep going.  Maybe I can't write every day, but that doesn't stop me from seeking out ways to shower others with simple, loving acts.  So, I've jotted down notes over the past couple of months and I must get back to the business of "spreading the love!"

A short while ago, I went on a woman's retreat where I was blessed with being God's pawn in the making of a miracle!  Remarkable, you might say--but I believe that He uses all of us constantly to do His work--we just need to be open to accepting His graces and doing His will.

First let me rewind to last Summer when our Pastor asked all of the parishioners to "spiritually adopt" an unborn child.  The idea was for each person in our very large congregation to pray for just one baby for a period of nine months in the hope that their prayers would save that baby from being aborted.  He passed out little prayer cards and asked each of us to pick a name and write that baby's name on the card and pray for that child every day.  If we named our baby, it would really feel like we were praying for an individual instead of just a general prayer tossed in the direction of the unborn. I was at church with my son and when I fished around for a pen in my purse and wrote down a name on the card, he gave me a puzzled look and said, "Who is Benjamin?"  That is the name I put down on my prayer card.  I don't know why I chose a boy and I don't know why I picked the name Benjamin--I don't even know any "Benjamins" but that is the name that God placed on my heart and I wrote it down.

I taped my little prayer card to the front of my coffee maker and every morning I prayed for little Benjamin while I waited for my coffee to perk.  I prayed that his mother would be strong and not resort to aborting her baby.  I prayed that God would send her the mercy and support she would need to help her carry Benjamin to full term.  I prayed that Benjamin would be born into a family that would love and want him and that his birth would bring great happiness to his parents and family or to an adopted family.  After a few weeks of praying every morning, I began to wonder if one day Benjamin would know that some random stranger prayed for his life.  I even asked God if one day in heaven, maybe Benjamin would come up to me and say, "hey, you prayed for me to be born and I had a wonderful life."  I never doubted that he would be born, but I did long to know if I would ever find out what happened to him.  Giving a name to this baby made it very personal to me and I grew to love Benjamin and loved praying for him.  On Mother's Day, our church celebrated the "births" of all the babies that were spiritually adopted nine months earlier and it was wonderful to think that thousands of souls were probably saved through our collective prayers.

Now . . . fast forward to my retreat I mentioned earlier.  On the first night of the retreat, this amazing group of 30 or so women gathered to start our journey together and spent time getting to know one another.  I sat next to a beautiful young woman and we struck up a conversation with the usual small talk . . . "Where are you from?  What do you do?  How many children do you have?"  We seemed connected in so many ways that we spent a great deal of time talking to one another.  Before long, we started to share some very personal things with each other--mostly because we both had some common ground and also because we sensed trust and safety in confiding with one another.  She told me she recently had a difficult time with her 18-year old son and I remember being shocked because she seemed so young herself.  She told me that she was also a grandmother--sort of.  Her son got a girl pregnant the past year and they had an unfathomable time with the two teenagers deciding what they would do about it.  In the end, the couple decided to have the baby and give it up for adoption.  I asked my new friend if this was difficult for her; knowing that she had a grandchild out there but she explained that as a family they all thought that this was the best possible decision for the baby.  After all, her son and his girlfriend were still in high school and knew they could not raise a child and there were so many deserving families that longed to adopt.  Her son and girlfriend did consider abortion, but knew that it was wrong and that this baby deserved a chance at life.  She told me she was extremely anxious and worried when the baby was born because she wasn't sure she could go through with the adoption, however she told me that God placed a band-aid on all of their hearts that day because she was able to hold the baby when it was born, but was given the grace to know that they were making the right choice.  It was a touching story and I was amazed that she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was God's plan for them and for the baby.  She was teary-eyed and wistful, but I could tell that she believed it was for the best.  My heart ached for what she must have gone through and I admired her courage.  Just in passing, I asked her the gender of the baby.  "It was a boy," she said, "and we were able to name him for the adoptive parents.  We named him Benjamin."

Benjamin!  It was MY Benjamin, I just knew it.  My new friend cocked her head and asked me, "Why do you look so shocked?"  I burst into tears and shared with her my story of how I prayed for an unknown baby I named Benjamin.  At that point, she too knew that I had been praying for her Benjamin!  God had given me an amazing gift that evening--I saw first hand the power of his love and mercy.  He saw to it that Benjamin made it into this world and made certain that he was born into the right family.  Then He provided a person to personally pray for Benjamin and after all of that, He still gave me the gift of knowing what happened to my little guy!  Needless to say, the tears were flowing that night and all of the other women at the retreat were stunned to see the two of us who had just met crying and hugging.  A miracle brought us together as friends and now she and I both know that God has an amazing plan for little Benjamin!

"The miracle is not that we do this work, but that we are happy to do it."    ~Mother Teresa

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day Eighteen - TSA & Zagnut

Today was a travel day for me.  As much as I love to go to different cities and satiate my wanderlust, I find the travel process tedious and angst-filled.  But I guess like all good things, we have to endure a little of the bitter first.  I was pushing my time limit by getting to the airport a little late and I didn't anticipate the longer than usual lines at security.  This is a stressful process even when you aren't running late but today the air in the security arena was charged with irritability. I felt myself getting stressed and anxious but took a few deep breaths and resolved myself to the fact that there was nothing I could do but wait.  I inched through the line and finally made my way to the screening area and dutifully removed my belt, jewelry, shoes, and laptop and set them on the conveyor belt.  Feeling confident that I was almost at the end of the process, I proceeded through the metal detector and "BEEP."  Darn it - I almost got through.  The TSA officer asked me to step aside into a glass holding room for a full body screening.  Just great.  Boarding for my flight had already started and I was still stuck in security.  Again, I took a deep breath and tried to relax; knowing that getting frustrated was not going to help anything.  Minutes passed and an officer finally came to check me for traces of explosive powder and rifle through my bags.  Three officers were checking me and they all were gruff and defensive.  I patiently waited and didn't say anything.  When they were finished, one of the officers shoved my things toward me and said I was 'free' to go.  For some reason, this statement bothered me but I swallowed hard and tried to put myself in his position.  These officers work in a thankless job with angry and frustrated travelers all day.  It is mundane work but unfortunately has to be done.  It was not these officers' fault that I was running late--it was my own.  As I gathered my things, I looked directly at the officer and he seemed braced for me to blast him with ingratitude.  Instead, I said, "I appreciate the job that you do."  The officer looked stunned.  There was an awkward few moments of silence while he absorbed what I just said and then he told me, "We don't hear that very often."  "Well, you should, " I said.  "I appreciate you."  I rushed away feeling elated.  I might miss my flight, but I knew that I made that officer feel good for a brief moment.  After all, they are working to save our lives and protect our airlines; keeping them free from all the hazards that unfortunately have become obstacles to all air travelers.
     Thankfully when I made it to my gate, the flight was delayed and I could take a few minutes to grab a  magazine and compose myself.  I was still on a "kindness high" as I got in line at a little kiosk and found what I was looking for and got in line to pay.
Behind me was an older gentlemen eyeing the candy bars.  He said to me, "I don't need a candy bar, do I?"  I smiled, turned and answered, "Of course you do!"  He chuckled at me and said, "No I don't" and at that moment he spied a Zagnut bar lined up neatly with the large assortment of other candies.  "Oh my gosh" he said, "a Zagnut bar!  I haven't seen one of those in years!  I thought they quit making them."  I replied, "well then, that settles it.  You need a candy bar!" He went on to nostalgically tell me that Zagnuts were originally made by the Clark company in Pittsburgh where he grew up.  As a boy, he rode his bike by the factory every day.  He was so sweet and I could tell the Zagnut brought back pleasant memories for him.  When it was my turn to pay, the gentleman turned to the woman behind me and began explaining about his Zagnut bar.  The cashier overheard the whole conversation and both of us were tickled by his excitement.  As I paid for my magazine, I quietly told the cashier to include his candy bar.  He seemed a little surprised, but then I could tell that he really liked the idea.  After I paid, I turned around to the gentleman who was still telling his story and said, "enjoy the Zagnut."  He smiled and waved as I ran off into the crowd at the gate.  I glanced back for a moment and saw him trying to pay for his candy bar and the cashier must have just told him I bought it for him because he glanced around, looking a little bewildered.  My heart felt full as I watched the puzzled look on his face turn into a giant smile and he turned to look for me in the crowd.  I ducked away to my gate, smiling broadly and knowing I had made someone happy for the second time today.  I guess he will be telling the story later, but more importantly, I hope he passes the kindness forward.  Judging by my brief encounter with him, I'm sure he will!
"Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
~ Mother Teresa

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Day Seventeen - Abbracci Gratis

I received this video today and almost deleted it before I took the time to watch it.  I'm so glad I didn't.  Take a moment to watch it now . . . .

Okay, do you have tears welling up in your eyes like I did when I watched it (all three times)?  I realized this was the ultimate ARK.  I googled the YouTube video and found dozens of similar videos in many different countries.  What better way to express what I have been trying spread?  It is amazing to watch how people almost avoid the 'free huggers' at first, but eventually that first person gives in and then there is a ground swelling of love and friendship that slowly starts and then crescendos with so much intensity that it made me want to get out my markers and make a "free hugs" sign!  It is so RANDOM!  That's what I love about it.

The definition of a hug is:
     1. To clasp or hold closely, especially in the arms, as in affection; embrace.
     2.  To hold steadfastly; cherish
     3.  To stay close to

This video made me think of the human desire to be touched or held.  It reminded me of all the times that I hugged my children to make them feel better or safer or loved.  And all the times I ached for a hug myself so I could be reassured that everything was going to be all right.  Imagine how many lives were effected in that one day by strangers who just felt the world needed a {hug}.  Imagine being at your lowest point, and then someone is standing before you offering a free hug--no strings attached.  These people are my heroes - Acts of Random Kindness--it doesn't get any better than this!

"For one moment our lives met, our souls touched."  ~ Oscar Wilde

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day Sixteen - Tablecloth & Linen Napkins

A very wise group of women at a recent retreat I attended taught me the importance of making things special for the people you love.  Your family and friends are worth the extra effort of laying down a tablecloth and using your "good" dishes and glasses.  Light some candles.  Use cloth napkins.  Put some flowers in a vase.

We have become a world filled with very busy people.  Everything is designed around instant gratification, multi-tasking, routinely rushing through our day as quickly and easily as possible so we save valuable minutes in order to do God knows what else.  It's exhausting.  Why do we do it--so we can find ways to cram even more activity into our busy lives?  At the end of the day are we every really satisfied at what we've done or are we constantly stressed because we haven't truly accomplished a thing?  And so our hectic lives become a series of blurry and inconsequential events that never really matter in the long run.

Tonight, I set the table for my family.  No paper plates, no standing around the food spread out buffet style and wolfing it down before we even sit.  I used my good dishes.  I lit some candles.  We ate together and talked and shared our day.  We used to do that when my children were younger.  It was the most precious time of day for me.  Somehow we got so busy that our family time got squeezed out of the daily schedule to make room for some other insignificant event.  But tonight was wonderful!  No one really noticed the linens or the candles (at least they didn't say anything) but the entire mood around our dinner table changed and in fact, everyone lingered tonight--staying longer than usual to enjoy the experience that had become a scarcity in our home.

My friends at the retreat were right.  My extra effort made a difference to our family this night and it all started as I lovingly got out my tablecloth and spread it across the table . . . and perhaps I brought them all back to a place of peace, security, happiness and love.  A place that we seemed to have left behind but thankfully we have found once again.

"Go home and love your family."  ~ Mother Teresa

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day Fifteen - Food For Thought

We have all seen the panhandlers on the side of the road--you know the ones I'm talking about.  Those same ones you try not to make eye contact with when you pull up beside them at a stop light holding up their cardboard signs begging for food or work.  I'm guilty of avoiding them too.  I try to justify it to myself . . . I think, "if I give them money, they are just going to go get drunk."  I've even heard the argument that the beggars with their cardboard signs and filthy clothes make immense amounts of money (tax free) each year and it is more advantageous for them to beg than to work. This way of thinking is crap and deep down, I think we all know it.  Who are we to judge and decide who is worthy of our generosity and charity?  Who does not have a spare handful of change--tiny amounts that you will never miss?  How can we turn a blind eye to a sad and lonely HUMAN being on the side of the road who must resort to the humiliating act of begging?  I can't do it.  Even if they do go buy a six-pack with the money, what difference does that make in my life?  The other important question is what unspeakable thing could have happened to that person to reduce them to live and scrounge on the streets?  I know some of you may be thinking, "well, they chose that life through the choices they've made."  Again, I ask you . . . who are we to judge?

Many days, I drive by a street corner downtown where the same man stands in the same spot with a tattered sign and filthy clothes.  He always wears the same clothes and his hair and beard are long, grey and unkempt.  He looks like a dirty version of God to me.  You know--the image of God in long white robes with flowing white hair, standing on the top of a mountain surveying his people.  At least that's the image I have.  Sometimes I give him a few bucks, sometimes the light is green and I can get by without having to stop.  Either way, I feel sorrow, pity and guilt.  The guilt comes from the fact that I am driving my Lexus SUV in my designer duds while this man clearly lives at or below poverty level and I'm guessing by the looks of him, he sleeps in an area where a large community of homeless people congregate below one of the highway underpasses in the area.

But today was different . . . today I had a car full of groceries and a beautiful, warm, whole roasted chicken in a bag on the front seat of my car.  It was going to be dinner for my family tonight - something easy so I wouldn't have to cook.  As I was approaching the corner and saw the man in the distance, I first starting thinking of digging in my wallet but the smell of the chicken wafting through the car gave me an idea.  When I pulled up to the corner, I reached over and grabbed the chicken and handed it to the man's waiting outstretched hands.  At first he looked a little surprised--I mean, it is a bit comical if you visualize it, but after a second he realized that he had a hot meal.  Our eyes met and he was filled with gratitude.  The light changed to green and as I drove off, he said, "God bless you."  I will never forget the cloudy blue eyes as they smiled in genuine thankfulness.  "No, I whispered to myself . . . God bless YOU."

"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."  ~ Mother Teresa 

Monday, May 31, 2010

Day Fourteen - Where is The Love?

Today I decided to look for love in the unusual and strange places it hides at times.  I'm not talking about the 'butterfly, heart pounding out of your chest, silly gaga' kind of love.  I'm talking about the unexpected and spontaneous love that is innate in all of us {I believe}, even when we think that nobody gives a damn about anyone anymore.  I searched for the unconditional, transcendental love that we are all capable of but seem to forget that we possess the ability.

First, I saw love in church yesterday when a husband reached over and took his crying baby from his wife and quickly walked out of the mass so as not to disturb anyone.  True, you may say that is normal and that is what he should have done, but what I witnessed was something much deeper.  He gently put his hand on her lower back and as she turned to him, the intimate look in his eyes and the devoted smile on his lips said more than words could ever express.  His eyes said, "you are so stressed my darling, let me take the baby so you can pray."  And her lovely glance back at him as she handed over the baby spoke volumes of relief, gratitude and safety in the knowledge that someone had her back.  Again, as I usually do, I felt I had intruded on a very private moment, but I am so glad I saw it.  That was love.

Next, I watched what appeared to be a patient granddaughter helping her elderly grandparents out of the car and into the frozen yogurt shop where I sat enjoying my Sunday afternoon treat!  As most of us know, it takes enormous patience to go through all of the steps necessary to help an elderly person--much like caring for a young baby or toddler.  I watched her as she aided in getting the walker out of the trunk for her grandmother and gave her a gentle boost to get her out of the car safely.  She kindly and graciously listened to her grandfather direct her through the task.  It was apparent that he was hard of hearing and while most of us would be annoyed or embarrassed by the loud discussion--she was the opposite.  Tolerant, unflappable, and gracious.  I had so much admiration for her and it made me long for my own grandparents who both passed away in the last 24 months.  Not once through the whole process did this young woman ever show signs of weariness or distress.  Once in the yogurt shop, she did everything for them as they chose their flavors and toppings and even choosing a seat was a tedious ordeal, but she never lost her smile or gentle tone.  I realized at that moment that this was not a chore for her.  This was unconditional, genuine love for these two people and she was truly happy to do it.  As they enjoyed their yogurt and the beautiful day, I saw love again.

Random act of kindness for someone else?  Not really.  I think I did something kind for myself today.  I made myself remember that people do have goodness and merit and from this day on, that is the truth I will seek from others.

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love."
~ Mother Teresa 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day Thirteen - Can I buy you Lunch?

Today I met a friend for lunch at a popular local spot and whenever I go there, I can't help but feel like I'm supporting the neighborhood and I enjoy the atmosphere and sense of community.  This afternoon as I munched on my BLT and chatted with my girlfriend, I noticed a lovely older couple across the dining room.  What struck me the most about them was the fact that they gazed at each other as they ate and they held hands across the table.  I couldn't help staring and I felt like I was intruding on a very private and intimate moment.  Their love for each other was evident and seeing their twinkling eyes filled my heart with joy.  They really made me happy and I thought, "every couple should look like that."  So I did something a little impulsive--when our check came, I asked the waitress to please include that couple's check with mine and don't tell them I paid for their lunch.  She seemed uncomfortable and I could understand why, but I really wanted to do this random and unexpected thing for the couple.  I told her when the couple asked for the check, just tell them that someone who they gave hope to bought their lunch!  I quickly gathered my things and left the restaurant before I was discovered.  Their lunch cost me about $10, but that was nothing compared to what they had given me.  All afternoon I wondered what their reaction was when they found out.  They may have been freaked out--I hope not.  I hope they were surprised and perhaps one day they will pay it forward!

"Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier."
~ Mother Theresa 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day Twelve - I Say a Little Prayer For You

  How many times in our lives does someone ask us to say a prayer for them?  How many times have you heard of someone's misfortune or an illness and sincerely said, "I'll pray for you?"  Did you really say a prayer?  Did you remember them when the moment passed and you had some quiet time to lift them up in prayer?  I know I am guilty of giving lip service to this very same promise.  My intentions are good at the time, but then it slips my mind and I forget to pray.  But what if YOU were the one who needed the prayer?  Would you want that person to forget to pray for you?  Today I decided to take it a step further and pray for someone I didn't know!  My ARK went to a complete stranger!  Today I heard of a tragic incident at my daughter's college--a young man committed suicide.  All day this news has weighed heavy on my heart; perhaps because it hits really close to home for any parent.  Then I was struck with a sudden and strong urge to pray for his parents.  I don't even know them, but I prayed that our Lord will have mercy on this family and help them to bear the unbearable.  I prayed that they will not spend the rest of their lives agonizing over the question that must be running through their minds, "Was there something we could have done differently." I prayed that somehow in His infinite wisdom, our Lord will comfort them and carry this family as it passes  through the storm.  I was comforted after I prayed and I hope that my prayers will somehow comfort them as well.
     I made a commitment to continue praying for others.  Not just my family and friends, but also for complete strangers:  the beggar on the street corner, the frustrated teacher at school, the isolated child in the lunchroom, the lady who looks so sad all the time in the grocery store.  Maybe one day I'll find that my tiny prayers made a difference to someone.  Maybe people will pray for me, God knows I could use them.  So the next time someone tells you about their gallbladder surgery and asks you to pray for them--do it!  Stop everything at that instant and take a moment to pray.  You have nothing to lose and they have everything to gain!

     "Little things are indeed little, but to be faithful in little things is a great thing."  ~ Mother Teresa

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day Eleven - Be Annoyingly Pleasant!

     This evening I had to make the dreaded trip to the grocery store--one of my least favorite things to do.  There is nothing about the grocery store that I like and I always walk in there with a poor attitude, keep my head down and get in and out as fast as possible.
     Tonight, I made up my mind that there was no way out of it so I may as well try to make it as pleasant as possible.  I pasted a smile on my face and walked through the door with a positive attitude.  I have shopped at the same grocery store for five years and have never paid attention to the staff.  I walked right up to the bakery counter and politely asked the baker to slice a loaf of bread for me.  He was pleasant and friendly and I noticed his name tag (Gerald) and I began to strike up a conversation with him.  The more I asked, the more animated he became.  He seemed genuinely pleased that a customer had taken the time to notice him and ask about his family and his life and to compliment him on his job
      Next I moved on to the Deli counter where I also had a nice chat with Maylene.  She was lovely to chat with and her whole demeanor changed also once I began to notice her and make pleasant conversation.  I moved through the store and spoke to everyone and gave a big smile and "hello" to every shopper I passed.  People must have thought I was high!  I got tickled at myself when I realized that I was reminding myself of my grandparents and how they had to stop and talk to EVERYONE whenever I took them out.  But you know what, the members of their community loved my grandparents and my grandparents loved them! Now I know why!  I got through the checkout process talking and laughing with Nancy the whole time and a wonderfully friendly Kenny carried my groceries to the car.  I got in my car and thought to myself, "that wasn't bad at all.  I actually didn't mind the shopping tonight!" More importantly, I connected to others and showed them I appreciate what they do.  It was a good feeling!
      "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." 
     ~ Mother Teresa 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day Ten - Choose Wisely

     I received the following message in an email today and I couldn't have found the words to say it better myself...
     "Sometimes we have to choose whether we want to be right, or whether we want to be happy.  Sometimes we have to keep our opinions, issues, grievances and complaints to ourelves in order to love and respect others who are important to us.
     It doesn't make you weak to bite your tongue when the conversation gets heated.  Live your truth, and let others live theirs . . . making a choice to show love and patience instead of proving ourselves right when the issue really doesn't matter more than the person and the relationship does . . . choose your battles wisely.  People we love are always more important than just about anything."
     My husband and I have been married for twenty years.  As do most couples who have been together most of their lives, we tend to bicker about the small, insignificant things.  We love each other passionately and would lay down our lives for one another, but somehow that doesn't matter when he forgets to change the empty toilet paper roll or I have a different opinion than him over how the bougainvillea should be pruned!  We tend to have a battle of wills and sometimes we dig our heels in and refuse to budge just for the sake and satisfaction of being right.  How silly is that?  It took this email I received to make me realize that the choice is to be right or to be happy.  After all, what difference does it make and who is keeping score?  The most important thing to me is that he is happy and knows I love and respect him.  I can't show him that by proving my points every chance I get.
     So today, I gave in to a battle.  I won't say what it was about, but I did know in my heart that I was right. You know what?  It didn't matter.  I conceded easily and the conversation was over as quickly as it had begun.  He looked surprised--I could tell he was geared up for an argument--but I gave in and we were both happy.  It was over and he thought he was right and I knew I was right.  It was a win-win situation!  I'll save my battles for the things that are truly meaningful and life-altering--not on the trivial little things that clog up our relationships!

     “It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.”
     ~ Mother Teresa

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day Nine - Kill them with Kindness

     I spend a lot of time shopping in a local arts & crafts store (a big chain whose name I won't mention).  It's one of my favorite stores, but unfortunately, the manager is a very grumpy lady who has zero customer service skills.  Every time I go in there, I get very frustrated at how rude and abrupt she is--to the customers and to her employees.  She is very confrontational and condescending and I often wonder how she achieved a position as high as store manager.  I know I shouldn't let it bother me, but I have owned several retail businesses myself and the most important part of my business was customer satisfaction.  I really have to bite my tongue when I go in there and if there were another store like it in the area, I would not return to this one.
     Well, with my new found attitude and commitment to being kind, I went into the store today determined to be genuinely nice and to 'kill her with kindness.'  After all, you never can be sure why a person acts the way they do.  Maybe this woman has no joy in her life or has had some unbearable sadness. Maybe she is so used to being grumpy that she has forgotten how to smile.  I was on a mission to find out.  She was at the cash register snapping out orders to her staff and even with a long line, she had only one clerk working the sales desk.  As I walked up, I looked directly at her and asked how she was today.  She turned away and spoke to her employee and completely ignored me.  Not to be defeated, I tried again to make conversation but this time, she told her clerk to take over and walked away and her salesperson gave me an apologetic look. And that was the end of it.  I wasn't successful with my ARK today (or was I?) but I won't give up.  Instead of being angry with this lady now, I actually feel sorry for her.  Maybe she needs some love and kindness in her life to break down the wall she has put up.  I'll keep trying whenever I go back and I'll keep you posted!  But even if it didn't seem like I made an impact on her--I sure felt better about myself today!

     "We must convert our love for Christ into deeds. We must express Christian love in concrete, living ways."
     ~ Mother Teresa

Monday, April 12, 2010

Day Eight - Use Facebook for Something Positive

     How many of you have a 'facebook' page?  I decided to get one a few years back when my kids were younger and I wanted the ability to monitor their online activities and watch for potential predators.  Within a few hours of developing my 'page,' I had many 'friend requests' and was so surprised that people were seeking me out!  I soon realized that facebook was a cyber black hole and was sucking me in deeper and deeper.  I found myself spending hours online catching up with old friends and watching the news feeds to see what everyone is doing.  I also noticed my kids were 'collecting' friends and all of the teenagers were having an unspoken competition to see who had more friends.  I watched my own friend numbers grow and was allowing anyone to 'friend me'--even if I had seen or spoken to them in 30 years!  I think the most bizarre friend request came from a friend of my older brother's who remembered me in junior high school - strange, huh?  It didn't take me long to realize facebook was eating valuable time and also I was uncomfortable with sharing my hour by hour activities during the day.  I was allowing people to violate my own privacy!  After I stepped away from this narcissistic practice for a while, I found I missed some of the people I had been reacquainted with and decide to continue--in moderation!
     So what does my ARK have to do with facebook?  I decided to use this vehicle today to reach out to a person who I was acquaintances with in high school and now am friends with on facebook.  You see, I have dozens and dozens of high school people on my friend's list, but I actually didn't know them well in high school and after thirty years, can't even imagine what we would have in common now.  I thought that was a sad fact.  I shouldn't have been so self-absorbed and shallow in high school--I should have taken the time to really get to know people and I should have stayed in touch with those I cared for.  Today, I decided to pick an obscure friend and post a comment to them remembering something significant and nice about them from school.  I thought it would be difficult, but when I got out my high school yearbook and looked at the pictures and things people had written to me, a lot of very happy memories came flooding in.  It was a nice trip down memory lane, and the person I wrote to on facebook seemed genuinely pleased that I had remembered these nice things about her.  I hope I made her feel good--I know it made me feel good and wish I had paid more attention to her thirty years ago!

     "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."
     ~ Mother Teresa

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Day Seven - Comfort a Lonely Soldier

     Today I was reading a book about a soldier who received letters from home and he counted on them to get through the difficult and often lonely task of protecting our nation.  This got me thinking about all of the men and women who serve us and I wondered if there were organizations that support the troops who may not have family or receive little or no mail.  A quick internet search led me to a site called Soldier's Angels  ( which, among other things, will help you to make a connection to one or more soldiers that you can write or send care packages to.  What an awesome idea!  I happen to be in favor of "old fashioned-letter writing" so I was on board right away!  I went through the sign-in process and am now waiting to be assigned a soldier to 'adopt.'  I am thrilled at the prospect and I'm reminded of when I was younger and had 'pen pals' all over the world.  I used to love writing the letters to my friends but I especially loved receiving them!  So today, I am reaching out to someone special . . . a person who stands thousands and thousands of miles away . . . willingly protecting our freedom.  I just want to say, "thanks."

     "There is a terrible hunger for love.   We all experience that in our lives - the pain, the loneliness.  We must have the courage to recognize it.  The poor you may have right in your own family. Find them. Love them."
     ~ Mother Teresa

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Day Six - Making contact with an old friend . . .

    So today I stayed home all day.  It was a beautiful Saturday and I spent the day outdoors doing yard work.  Before I knew it, the day was over and I realized I had no human contact, thus no chance for an ARK!  I began to think about how I could reach out and do something for someone so I sat at my computer and scanned the internet for a while.  How could I share some kindness?  Then it came to me . . . how many people are in my address book that I have lost track of or haven't done a very good job keeping in touch with?  I looked through my address book and came across a wonderful friend that I've known for nearly 20 years.  Unfortunately, when I moved about five years ago, I did a lousy job of keeping in touch and I felt disconnected from her.  That's it!  I've thought about her so many times and keep telling myself I will drop her a line, but time goes by and I never make the effort.  I sat down this evening and wrote her a long email catching her up with my family and asking questions about hers.  Gosh it felt so good to make contact again.  I realized how much I missed her!  So now, the only thing left to do is wait for her response.  I feel good inside!  Now I want to go through the rest of my address book and reach out to all the people who have been special in my life who I have let slip through my fingers.  I don't want to let them go - I want to pull them closer.

"If you want a love message to be heard, it has got to be sent out. To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it."
~ Mother Teresa

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day Five - Courtesy for a Frustrated Mother

     Today's ARK was quite unexpected.  This evening I stopped by the grocery store to quickly pick up a few needed items.  I stood in an insufferably long line and all the while, there was a mother behind me with an overflowing cart and three small and very unhappy children.  At first, I was annoyed at their behavior and was impatiently waiting for my turn so I could get out of there and away from the chaos behind me.  But then I turned to look at the mayhem and my irritation quickly melted as I truly saw the mother and viewed myself many years ago.  She looked weary as she was trying hard to deal with tired and hungry children and I realized that after she checked out, she still had to strap the children in their car seats, unload the groceries, travel home, put her groceries away and probably then had to prepare dinner.  I felt compassion and a sense of sisterhood while my mind traveled back to that time in my life.  Now I grocery shop alone, my teenaged children off doing their own thing.  A felt a pang of longing and my compassion turned to envy.  Where did those years go?  When I was having those difficult "motherhood moments," I never once stopped to think that one day I would be sad that my children would be past that stage and go out the door.  No longer annoyed, I turned to her as I was about to place my few little groceries on the conveyor belt.  I told her to please go ahead of me and she seemed shocked and embarrassed.  She apologized for her children's behavior and I told her please not to be sorry.  I said, "they seem tired and hungry and you must have a long evening ahead of you--I have nothing to do when I get home and I'm in no hurry.  Your children make me miss my kids".  Her embarrassment turned to gratitude and I could see her mood change instantly.  She got through the checkout process quickly and as she was leaving, she turned and looked at me and thanked me with a heartfelt nod.  For a moment, I felt like I was watching myself walk out that door and felt a familiar ache in my heart.  God bless you special mother--enjoy every moment, even the difficult ones.

"Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush,anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world."
 ~ Mother Teresa 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Day Four - A Smile and a Wave

    I live in a neighborhood where unfortunately, most people keep to themselves.  Although I am in Florida where the climate is conducive to people staying outdoors, it seems that most people live in the back of their houses and never really mingle out front.  It has been challenging meeting our neighbors and I never see a couple of men talking over the hedge or a group of women standing out front chatting while their children play.  It's sad, really.  When I grew up, we were always involved with the people in our neighborhood.  We were in the yard or streets playing kick ball and our parents were constantly outside socializing.  It was community.  It was family.
     Sadly, we live in a time where we have to relentlessly watch our children and the adults are so busy or self-involved that they never have time to take a few minutes to go visit a neighbor.  When we moved in two years ago, I wondered where the "welcome wagon" was or why no one stopped in to introduce themselves.  In fact, the first Halloween we were here, we threw a giant party and sent an invitation to everyone on our street and opened our doors wide to whoever wanted to come in.  It was a lot of fun and we met so many people.  That was a year and a half ago, and yet we still don't see any of them socially!  I spend a lot of time in my garden and whenever I am out in front, I always throw my hand out to wave at a neighbor walking or driving by.  Sometimes I get nothing in return or stranger still, the neighbors will do a double-take to make sure they actually saw someone!  Occasionally, they throw an awkward and meaningless wave back.
     This became a challenge to me.  Why are people so closed-off now?  Where is the sense of friendliness?  About 9 months ago, I started to notice a tiny elderly woman slowly walking by the house on a walker with wheels.  Her steps were labored and she seemed to be in a lot of pain.  I surmised that she had probably broken a hip and was trying to exercise her injuries.  Day after day, she tediously walked by--sometimes several times a day.  I admired her determination and remembered years ago when my grandmother broke her hip and how the doctors told her if she didn't force herself to walk on it, she may never recover.  I know it was extremely painful for her and I imagined my little neighbor felt much the same way.  I always raised my hand to wave or shout out a hello, but she always looked away and didn't respond.  Odd, I know, but the more she didn't respond, the more I tried to make contact.  For months and months I watched her and eventually she was flying by on the walker and soon after that, she was walking on her own!  It made me so happy to see that she was healing and although she was still bent over a little to the side, I admired her strength and perserverence.  I continued to wave, whether I was driving by or just standing out front as she went by, but still no response.  I was frustrated, but I persisted.  Eventually she would acknowledge me with a little nod of the head and I knew I was making progress!
     Today, my determination paid off!  I was pulling out of my driveway as she was approaching and I stopped to let her cross.  Lo and behold, she looked me right in the eye and gave me the biggest grin and an exuberant wave.  I was elated!  She finally returned my gestures of friendship (either that, or she was too tired to fight it anymore)!  Either way, it didn't matter!  She acknowledged me!  Now the question is, did I perform an act of random kindness, or did she?

     "A smile is the light in the window of your face that tells people you're at home."  ~Author Unknown

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day Three - Resist Road Rage

   Wow, I almost didn't get to my ARK today . . . I was coming home from a doctor's appointment in an area of town I really wasn't familiar with and I realized at the last minute that I was in the far right lane and needed to be in the far left to make my exit.  I turned on my signal and tried to ease over, but the guy to my left sped up and would not let me in!  I kept trying but he stayed right in my way.  He pulled up beside me as I was approaching the last chance for my exit and I threw my hand up in a gesture as if to say, "hey buddy, what gives?  Let me in."  This crazy guy became enraged and stayed right beside me for at least half a mile, making obscene gestures and I could see the rage in his face and in his actions.  If I sped up, he sped up--If I slowed to let him by, he slowed.  It actually got a little scary but eventually he screeched off (of course, too late to make my exit).  I was really frustrated and a little bewildered.  I kept wondering what in the world would cause a person to get so angry?  All I wanted to do was get over and he easily could have slowed to let me in.  It would have been the right thing to do.  I just couldn't believe someone was so mean for no apparent reason.  I was really pissed but resisted the urge to follow and do the same to him (even though I really wanted to!)  At that moment, I felt like the character of Evelyn Couch in "Fried Green Tomatoes" when a couple of young girls whipped into her parking spot and mistreated her for no reason.  She wondered what she did to make someone be so mean.  Then she turns into "Towanda" and proceeds to smash into the girls' car!  Well, I didn't shout "Towanda," but I sure wanted to.  Still shaking and scratching my head, I decided to turn my anger into something constructive.  The rest of the day, I tried to be a more considerate driver.  I let people get over when they needed to.  I allowed people to merge and turn in front of me.  Ordinarily, I am oblivious of others when I drive, but I took the time to look around and reach out to others from behind the wheel of my vehicle.  It felt good.  It also didn't cost me any time and I had a stress-free drive.  I'd also like to think that the people I was considerate of appreciated it and made them less stressed too!
     And as for the guy with "Road Rage" (and you know who you are, Mr. Silver Subaru on Rt. 417), I hope your day gets better and I will pray for you!
     "If you judge people, you have no time to love them"  ~ Mother Teresa

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day Two - Stop to Really Listen

     Twice weekly, I attend oil painting classes at a lovely little studio in my neighborhood.  I usually go in and set up my little spot and keep to myself.  It is like a retreat for me and I get into my "zone" and disappear into my painting.  Most of the clientele in the studio are retired men and women and I've noticed that they have a strong bond and it seems to be more of a social event for them rather than a technical lesson on oil painting.  Throughout the class time there are many conversations going on around me and these other students usually walk around and admire everyone's work and stop to chat.  I keep my head low and smile when it is appropriate, but I try not to engage anyone else.  I really joined so that I could learn to paint properly and sometimes I find myself annoyed at the interruptions.  After all, this is an indulgent treat in my ordinarily hectic life and I am very protective of these precious hours.
      Today, I realized that I was missing the point.  Sure, I was learning to paint but I definitely wasn't learning much about relating to others.  What a snob I must have seemed to the people around me.  On this day, I forced myself to look up from my work and take stock of those around me.  I have never bothered to get up and compliment anyone else's work.  In fact, I've never done more than just smile politely and look away.  Disgraceful.  I got up and walked around the room today and admired the beautiful artwork around me, but I especially noticed the lovely people for the first time.  I stopped to chat with an elderly woman who comes in every week carrying an oxygen tank with her.  She was painting a portrait of her granddaughter and I mentioned what a beautiful girl she was.  The woman's face lit up and I could see the pride and love she had for her granddaughter and she began to tell me all about her.  I became genuinely interested in everything she had to say as she described her family and how excited she was to be able to travel to her granddaughter's high school graduation and she hoped to finish the portrait in time to present it to her as a gift.  I was reminded of my own grandmother who passed away just a few months ago and how she just loved to visit and to talk.  We chatted for at least 15 minutes and unconsciously, I had performed my ARK (act of random kindness).  In those brief minutes, I had stopped to truly listen to this woman and I could tell she was overjoyed to share.  More importantly, I made a new friend today and learned a valuable lesson.  What good are my art lessons if I can't take a moment to enjoy my surroundings and the people I come into contact with.  Art is all around me, not just on the canvas, but on the faces of those whose paths I cross every day!  At once, I was embraced with the friendship of everyone in that room and not only did they see me through different eyes--I saw all of them for the first time.

     "I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor? "  ~ Mother Teresa

Monday, April 5, 2010

Day One - Reach out to a Friend

I have a friend who has been battling breast cancer for the past year.  But before I get into that, let me explain what a wonderful person she is . . . creative, artistic, warm and loving.  I met her through some classes she was teaching and she treated me as a friend from the moment we met.  She included me in many of the things she was doing and made certain that she introduced me to everyone she knew and always made me feel welcome. Through her, I have gained many more friends and I  had great admiration for her before cancer--I have even more now!  When she was first diagnosed, I happened to be standing there with her when she hung up the phone after confirmation from her doctor.  What an impact that news had on me.  I saw the fear and trepidation in her eyes and she hugged me so tightly as if her embrace would help to take some of the burden off of her and somehow transfer it to me.  How I wish that could have been true. To make matters worse, her husband is a civilian contractor stationed in Afghanistan so she was destined to make this journey alone.  Fortunately, she is loved by so many and as women do, they circled the wagons around their dear friend to help her through the ordeal of biopsies, x-rays, scans and chemo.  As her treatment progressed, I found myself busy with my own life and sometimes weeks would go by without my ever picking up the phone to see how she was doing.  Some friend I was.  It was very easy in the beginning to rally around to cheer or help her, but eventually people tend to forget about others and get caught up in their own universe.  The more time I let slip by, the guiltier I felt about not calling to check on her and I would push the thoughts to the back of my mind until even more weeks and months went by.

I made up my mind this morning that my friend was too important to me and it didn't matter how much time had passed . . . I wanted to see her and do something nice for her.  After all, what if I were alone and dealing with such a scary issue?  Wouldn't I want others to reach out to me?  Would I be mad or bothered if long periods of time went by without hearing from my friends?  Of course not.  I would be so grateful to hear from them and would probably long for their companionship.

So today, my act of random kindness was reaching out to a friend in need.  It was so good to hear her voice and I could tell she was happy to hear from me.  We caught up with each other on the phone and made a firm date to get together next week.  Guess what?  I think the call was more therapeutic for me than it was for her.  A friend once told me that a truly kind person is one who not only thinks of something nice to do, but also takes the steps to act upon it.

Take a moment today and reach out to someone you haven't seen or talked to in a while.  If God places them in your thoughts and in your heart like He did for me, maybe it is His way of telling you that you are needed to do His work.

And as for my friends' prognosis . . . she is finished chemotherapy and begins radiation soon.  So far, all scans are clean and her doctors are hopeful that she will have a full recovery!  God is good!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person ~ Mother Teresa

     For months now, I've been struggling with a strong pull to somehow make a difference in this world.  Maybe it's the fact that I turned 50 this year, or the nagging feeling that I am taking up space on this earth without making a contribution; but either way, I've known for a while that I am being called to a greater purpose--I just didn't know what it was. Sitting in Mass last night during the Easter Vigil, I was moved by the beautiful service in the tiny little church we were visiting in Dillon, Colorado--aptly named "Our Lady of Peace." Each parishioner held a candle in the darkened church and as I was enveloped in the strong smell of incense and got lost in the readings, I felt at peace.  I glanced around and to the right of the altar, a family sat in a darkened corner.  I noticed they had arrived a bit late and did not receive a candle.  Instinctively and without hesitation, I walked over to the mother of the family and handed her my candle.  Our eyes met for a moment and I not only saw, but also felt the gratitude as she looked at me.  It was at that moment that I knew . . . a simple act of random kindness was all it took to bring happiness to another.  It didn't cost me a thing and I expended little effort, but with that single gesture, I knew I made a difference to someone.  My mind began to reel . . . was this what I was being called to do?  If I were to make just one such gesture a day, would it make a difference?  Could my kindness possibly encourage others to be kind? Just like the experiment in the movie "Pay it Forward," I wondered what it would be like if we all took just a moment a day to show unsolicited warmth and concern for another.  It sounds so simple, and yes--I am a dreamer, but on the other hand, is there a down-side? At the very least, it will make me a better person and at best . . . well, who knows?

And just like the candle in mass last night, I want to spread Christ's light to others as He calls us to do.  So starting tomorrow, I pledge to make one random gesture of kindness to another every day for the next year.  If you read this blog, try it yourself and share your random acts and the responses you get and maybe together we can start a ground-swelling of selflessness.

"In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love" ~ Mother Teresa