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A “FAITH IN HUMANITY” STORY OF COMPASSION, HOPE, AND JOY

 

On September 10th, an unusual ad appeared in a Houston newspaper. The ad is actually a letter from the people of New Orleans to the people of Houston. The message, a moving and powerful one, demonstrates the best in humanity, including its beauty. Our beauty.

 

Please read the letter below. What thoughts, feelings, and ideas does it stir in you? Post your comments on the contact page here on my website or write to me at CharleneCostanzo@gmail.com.

 

“To our friends in Texas,

Twelve years ago, you took in hundreds of thousands of us. You opened your homes, closets, and kitchens. You found schools for our kids and jobs to tide us over. Some of us are still there. And when the rest of the world told us not to rebuild, you told us not to listen. Keep our city and traditions alive.

Now, no two storms are the same. Comparing rising waters is a waste of energy when you need it most. But know this — in our darkest hour, we found peace and a scorching, bright light of hope with our friends in Texas. And we hope you’ll find the same in us.

Our doors are open. Our clothes come in every size. There’s hot food on the stove, and our cabinets are well-stocked. We promise to always share what we have.

Soon, home will feel like home again, even if it seems like a lifetime away. We’ll be battling for football recruits under the Friday night lights. You’ll tell us to stop trying to barbeque. We’ll tell you to lay off your crawfish boil and come have the real thing. But for as long as you need, we’re here to help.

The way of life you love the most will carry on. You taught us that. Your courage and care continues to inspire our whole city. We couldn’t be more proud to call you our neighbors, our friends, and our family. Texas forever.

We’re with you,
New Orleans”

(from the Houston Chronicle)

As I read it again, I tear, again. But they are happy tears. My faith in humanity is strengthened. You and I can act with this level of compassion and reverence for others, day in and day out, in times of calamity and times of calm, always. We have the capacity for this. And the courage. We can respond with loving care and respect no matter how others behave. Does this seem wise or foolish to you? Realistic, idealistic, or unrealistic? I’d love to hear from you!

Charlene

IMPATIENT? FOR PEACE: ADOPT THE PACE OF NATURE

 

 

 

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

If you find yourself feeling impatient today, think of trees growing, rocks eroding, caves and canyons forming.

How do you typically react when you’re stuck behind a car traveling under the speed limit or in an already-long checkout line when the cashier calls for the manager? Instead of tensing your muscles – if that’s what you do – bring to mind a flower blooming. Make that century plant!

Perhaps you’re impatiently frustrated with yourself. If you feel behind in realizing your dreams, take a deep breath and remember: we are a part of Mother Nature too.

For greater peace, health and happiness, let’s gently and kindly get in her flow.

With compassion for ourselves and all,
Charlene

PS – I’m not saying we should literally move as slowly as these examples! Just let images from nature help you to shift into a peaceful, 
patient pace. Making a literal comparison of a checkout line moving at the rate of a century plant blooming might tickle your funny bone though. And laughter can move us to a healthier pace and “place” too! Wishing you peace, patience, and joy. Hope and faith too.

HELP CHILDREN FEEL VALUABLE: THREE LESSONS IN STONES

“Thank you for helping me feel like a shiny stone instead of a plain old worthless rock,” said a third-grade boy in Tucson, Arizona.

An effect and reaction like that is what I hope for when I offer a polished stone to children in classrooms – adults in audiences too – after we discuss the message of The Twelve Gifts of Birth. If you’re familiar with the book, you know that the story, illustrations, and photographs help children of all ages recognize their inner gifts and feel valuable.

To anchor the message and help make the intangible gifts of inner strength, beauty, courage, compassion, hope, joy, talent, imagination, reverence, wisdom, love and faith feel more touchable and real, I use a bowl of stones in a show and tell way. You can do this too in a one-on-one way or with any size group.

When speaking with groups, a clear fish bowl is an ideal container. Fill it at least halfway with medium-sized polished stones of all varieties. On top of all the shiny and colorful stones, place a regular, rough rock, the kind you might pick up from a street, sidewalk, or hiking trail. For a one-on-one talk, a handful of polished stones and one rough rock is sufficient.

The bowl of stones does a good job of grabbing attention and stirring curiosity in groups.  I present the bowl after the reading, discussion, and the question, “Who feels valuable in this moment?” All (or nearly all) hands shoot up.

That opens the door for THE THREE LESSONS IN POLISHED STONES.

The plain rough rock is used to acknowledge that we all sometimes feel like that: plain, ordinary, maybe even worthless. The truth is that we are all like the polished stones. Like them we’ve been tumbled. For them it was in a machine. For us it is in life.  The keepsake polished stone is meant to remind us that no matter what we look like on the surface or what we feel like, we have strength, beauty, and other valuable qualities within us always.

The second lesson the stones offer is the beauty of all their various colors, shapes, and sizes. We too come in various colors, shapes, and sizes. No matter. Like the stones, in that way too, we are all valuable.

The third lesson comes from taking a very close look at one or any number of the stones. Upon close examination, we see little cracks, nicks, scratches. While they are indeed beautiful, strong, and valuable, they are not perfect. Neither are we.

And those are three lessons for all of us to remember for ourselves and to share with the children in our lives.

Parents, teachers, counselors, all readers who may use this activity in any way, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m guessing that a collection of colorful stones can carry other meaningful messages. What do you think of the three I described? What other life lessons do you see?

Toward dignity for all,
Charlene

 

 

 

 

THE POWER OF WONDER

“May you see the world with wonder.” 
– from The Twelve Gifts for Healing                             
                              

 

Like Charlotte Eriksson, “I want to remember to notice the wonders of each day, in each moment, no matter where I am, under any circumstance.”  And that includes the circumstances of sickness, sadness, and stress. How about you?

Did you know that wonder promotes healing?

​​​​​​​“The more I wonder, the more I love,” said Alice Walker. Love promotes healing too. As does beauty. And joy.

We were bursting with wonderment in early childhood. It wanes as we age. But we can re-invigorate our sense of wonder. Why would we?

Well, for one reason, as Einstein said, “Whoever…can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead.

 What stirred wonder in you when you were a                            child? What does now?

 Did you experience wonderment when you saw a wildflower growing through a sidewalk crack? The bare roots of a tree clinging to the side of a rocky mountain? Sun stars sparkling on water? Bright green insects? Baby ducklings? A newborn child? The Milky Way?

Do you still feel a little thrill of joyful awe
when you see “God rays” streaming from above
through a break in the clouds? For many people, that sight is a touchstone for faith and wonder.  

How about when you see a full rainbow or a double one?

Let’s intend to experience wonder somehow, somewhere today. At least once.

Along with setting the intention to experience wonder, expect to be delighted. Give thanks for the awesome beauty you trust you will see. Open your mind, your heart, and your eyes. Your ears too. Notice what happens for you.

With reverence,
Charlene

ANOTHER LESSON FROM TURTLE

“After a long, lonesome and scary time…
the people listened and began to hear…
And to see God in one another…
and in the beauty of all the Earth.
Old Turtle smiled.
And so did God.”

~ Douglas Wood

 

Are you familiar with the book, Old Turtle?

I thought of it when I saw sea turtles at Caneel Bay on the island of St. John and when I wrote the previous message.

Here’s the essence of that story.

There was time before humans when all creation could speak and understand one another.

One day the breezes, the stones, the mountains, the fish, the stars, the ants, the antelopes,the trees, the islands, the sun, the waters…everything….started describing God. And they began to argue.

“She is a hunter, roared the lion.
“God is gentle,” chirped the robin.
“He is powerful,” growled the bear.

The arguments grew louder and fiercer.

Finally, Old Turtle spoke.
She said that God is all that they described and more.

“God is indeed deep,
she said to the fish in the sea;          
and much higher than high,
she told the mountains.
He is swift and free as the wind,
and still and solid as a great rock,
she said to the breezes and stones…
God is all that we dream of,
and all that we seek,
all that we come from
and all that we find.
God IS.”

The message is already powerful.
But there’s more.
It’s about the coming of people.

“They will be strong yet tender,
a message of love from God to the Earth,
and a prayer from the earth back to God…

But the people forgot…
they were a message of love
and a prayer from the earth.
They began to argue…
and hurt one another…
And they hurt the earth…
…even the forests
began to die…”

At that crisis time,
all the creatures began to speak
to the people from their ancient wisdom.

“After a long, lonesome and scary time…
the people listened and began to hear…”

May we soon get better
at listening
and hearing
and honoring
how we all see differently.

May we revere the earth
and all creatures too.
And see God in one another
and in the beauty of the earth.

Imagine if we each did that.

Seeing it so,
Charlene

 

ANIMAL WISDOM: LESSON FROM TURTLE

Animals are not only beholders of great beauty, but they are also beholders of ancient wisdom.” 

             ~ Molly Friedenfeld

 
 
 
 
 
 
In Native American and other indigenous cultures, there is a reverent belief that animals perceive reality in ways we don’t yet understand and with a depth of wisdom we don’t yet appreciate.
 

We hear a lot these days about the intelligence and sensitivity of dolphins, whales, elephants, and other animals.  

Perhaps you have heard about animal totems too. The idea is that when an animal shows up in a significant way, perhaps repeatedly or in an unusual setting, either in dreams or waking life, there is guiding life lesson for us from that animal.
 

In the past, I’ve had bears and dogs appear in ways that called for my attention. Oh, a snake too.

At Caneel Bay on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, (where Frank I vacationed two weeks ago) while there were many donkeys, deer, and mongoose to see each day, it was the clearly the sea turtle that carried a message for me. See if that message resonates at all for you.

 
First, about the turtle encounter…  
 
I saw several each day. Each time I did, I felt a sense of awe. But I actually cried out (without making a sound because my face was in the water) when I spotted a particular one while I snorkeled. I then hovered directly over her and watched while she nibbled on sea grasses. She seemed to be smiling. I got even nearer when she swam upward right beside me to surface for air.
 
So what might this mean?
 

In Spirit Animal, Elena Harris writes, “The turtle totem wisdom teaches us about walking our path in peace and sticking to it with determination and serenity. Slow moving on earth, yet also incredibly fast and agile in water, those who have the turtle as totem or spirit animal, may be encouraged to take a break in their busy lives and look around or within themselves for more grounded, long-lasting solutions. Traditionally, the turtle is symbolic of the way of peace, whether it’s inviting us to cultivate peace of mind or a peaceful relationship with our environment.”

All of this rings true for me. Might the last part be something we all need to heed?

With reverence,
​​​​​​​Charlene

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers. Praise and prayers for all who have birthed, raised, and guided children into and through adulthood, for all who are just beginning this vital vocation, for all in every stage of nurturing others toward vibrant living and loving.

 

 

 

“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

 

 

 

As I gratefully remember my own mother this Mother’s Day, I expand this tribute to all our mothers and on to all who “mother.”

I know some childless women, and some men too, who mentor, lead, feed, teach, train, heal, counsel…perform any and every kind of service in such a heart-centered and soulful way that it can be characterized as mothering. Most likely you do too. Mother Teresa is a paramount example.

Some may object to this far-reaching tribute, maintaining that this day is designated to honor mothers in a literal way. But I think, by expanding our recognition, we celebrate motherhood in a way that reveres mothers and elevates “mothering” itself. Imagine, if beyond both the surface and the sincerest expressions of venerating mothers, our culture encouraged girls and boys, men and women, children and adults – all of us – to respect, support, cultivate, and practice the ideals and characteristics of mothering. Imagine if we held in higher regard: unconditional love, forgiveness, listening, kindness, compassion, being of service, healing touch, tears, tenderness, and honest expressions of feelings. I think we would become more real, healthy, happy, peaceful and successful.

On this Mother’s Day, may we honor Mother Nature too and “Be kind to everything that lives,” as a matriarchal Native American proverb prescribes.

With love and reverence for all,

Charlene

(from TODAY’S TOUCHSTONE)


 

Small DeerMouse on Beach

ABOUT BEAUTY, FROM A RECOVERING PERFECTIONIST

Tree in a meadow

“If you look closely at a tree you’ll notice its knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully.”
~ Matthew Fox

 


I have often used polished stones as a way to demonstrate this message about beauty and imperfection.

When I give polished stones away at school presentations and workshops, I invite everyone to look closely and notice all the little nicks and scratches on the stones. Yes, they are strong and beautiful – the agates, the ambers, the amethysts, the apache tears, and the aquamarines, to name just a few. And, they are not perfect. Like us.

Another take-away from the stones is this: Colorful polished stones in circle
the stones come in all different colors,
shapes, and sizes. Like us.
And they are all beautiful. Like us.

Today and every day, let’s focus on the good and the beautiful in ourselves, others, and the world.

From a recovering perfectionist…

With love and compassion,
Charlene

WHAT’S BEAUTY, NANA?

WHAT'S BEAUTY?Both of my four-year old grandchildren, Alexis and Anthony, recently asked, “What’s beauty, Nana?” It was after hearing the chorus of the song, I See Beauty.

I see beauty, all around me
Inside you and be
I see beauty.

I found it tricky to answer. What would you say?

It’s interesting that they asked “What is beauty?” because they will often say “That is beautiful” about many things, such as the sky, trees, flowers, rainbows… the natural world. Already a girly girl, Alexis also comments on pink clothing, shoes, and princess items as “beautiful.”

But since we’ve been playing the song now and then, I think that are starting to understand the essence of beauty itself.
The rest of the lyrics are helping:

I see beauty all around
From the sky down to the ground
in the flowers in the trees
Inside you and me.

I see beauty every day
In hugs and smiles that come my way
In everything we say and do
It flows through me and you.

Yes, The Twelve Gifts of Birth Music is a help. So is the book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids. Check them both out for the children in your life.

We can also watch for opportunities to comment and say things like, “Ah-ha. I see beauty right now in the way you are… being kind, helping your sister, caring about your friend, sharing your toy, being truthful, apologizing, forgiving…

As the song goes, let’s aim to see beauty everywhere, especially inside you and me.

SEE WITH AWE

SEE WITH WONDERWhat a beautiful idea. Imagine if we could see at least one thing this way every day. What joy that would bring. Peace too.

How do we do this?  We don’t see as we did when we were children. With wonderment. Over time our senses have dulled. We’ve seen so much. Perhaps too much. There may be things we wish we have never seen. Continue reading