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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

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

 

 

 

 

FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS – YES YOU CAN!

 

 

 

“Passion is holy…If we do not give outward expression to our passions, we will experience self-immolation – the spontaneous combustion of our souls.”                              ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Our creative expression does not have to succeed in the world. It does not have to make a fortune for us. We may not even break even. What matters is that we honor our inspirations and give expression to them in some way. 
Yesterday’s quote for Today’s Touchstone was “Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.”  (Maurice Setter)
There are many situations in which we may miss the joy because we did not strike gold, win the gold medal, or achieve the golden title.  

When I published The Twelve Gifts of Birth, I hoped it would at least break even. I just knew I had to bring it into the world as best I could. Reaching sweet success with it was like icing an already delicious lemon yellow cake with honeyed icing.

Some books have not done so well. For example, my children’s picture book, A Perfect Name, did not even go into a second printing. 

I have a close friend who has faithfully honored her creative passions with card-making and selling whimsical gifts for the home. You can hear the joy in her voice when she’s working with her artistic expressions. She hasn’t reached gold. Not yet, I should say. Who knows what’s ahead? 

Actually, she has achieved gold – gold for her soul. She may not yet have made a lot of money. But for sure her soul will not combust, burn a slow death, or die from neglect.

We are all talented in so many ways. Some we have not yet recognized. No matter how old or young or busy or poor we feel, whatever our present circumstances, let’s take a few deep breaths and bring freshness not only into our lungs but into our minds, hearts, and souls as well.

Be ready. Inspiration can come in any moment. Welcome it. Honor it.

Joyfully express yourself. Follow your dreams. With love and courage you can. You will!

Hope and faith too,
Charlene

PS – Another example is a tongue-in-cheek little booklet I produced titled, You’re Right. The inspiration for it came with fiery passion. I paid for a simple design, did the necessary filings, and had a couple hundred printed for family members and a few friends. I knew that product would not deliver financial rewards. But it brought joy to me and laughter to others. We all deserve to experience this kind of joy. I would love to hear your stories about this issue.

FINDING HUMOR WHEN FACING CANCER

“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.”

                             ~ Dr. Seuss

Everything has the potential to be funny. Even cancer. You may remember Gilda Radner and her book, It’s Always Something. Gilda was great at finding the funny.

When facing cancer – or any illness or life challenge – it helps a lot to tap into our inner strength, to hold hope, and to find the funny. Reba McEntire said it well:

“To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funny bone.”

When I shared the news of my breast cancer diagnosis with you last May, I wrote seriously, with backbone strength and wishbone hope about the healing power of love.

I’d like to give my funny bone a try today. With joy, here’s my story continued:

So, with relative grace and ease I had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

During the weeks leading up to surgery, I joked a bit about the silver lining. You know me, always looking for uplifts – uplifting thoughts, uplifting feelings. Without having to pay for elective surgery, I was going to end up with a body “uplift!”

Yes, focusing on the positive, I looked forward to having a younger-looking, more perky chest. And I got it. There were other benefits. I could wear tank tops and skinny-strap sundresses without a bra.

Well, one day about a month ago, I noticed that the left side was way perkier on the top than the right. A closer look showed that the “natural slope” of the implant on the left was upside down. Somehow, it had spun around.

When I learned that happens sometimes if the cavity is a bit large for the implant used, I figured, kind of like “what goes up must come down” that “what spun could spin again.” And maybe I could help it.

So that’s what I did. Or tried. And I did get it to turn. But it got stuck half way. So then I had a whole new look, with the “natural slope” going sideways!

The good news is that, somehow during sleep, the implant found its way into proper positioning.

The bad news is that, after swimming, it had spun again into the upside-down position.

But more good news! If I swam some more, it could spin some more.

So now, when I’m done swimming, I check to see…

Even perkiness? Yes? I grab my towel.
​​​​​​​No? Back in for another lap or two or whatever it takes.

Hey, I just might get in better shape!

You know the song, “I Hope You Dance”?
I hope you do. And laugh, too!
Today and every day.

With hope, love, and laughter,
Charlene

PS – I’ve posted a picture of the younger me, when everything was perkier!

THE SOUL OF AMERICA

 

 

“In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way. But if we are to live together, and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance, which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet… Love is wise; hatred is foolish.”
                                                      ~  Bertrand Russell

 

Like millions of other people in America and around the world, I am deeply concerned not only about the direction, the health, and the safety of our country, I am concerned about its soul. Our soul.

How did meanness and bullying become acceptable? How did bravado come to be admired? How and why did fear, hate and disrespect erupt and spread like a disease among us?

I’ve heard the theories – perhaps you have too – that hidden dis-ease rising to the surface is a good thing.

Actually, it CAN be a good thing, but it IS NOT automatically a good thing. Continue reading

APPLYING THE HEALING POWER OF LOVE TO BREAST CANCER

Love And Tenderness Of Cats

 

“Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy.”
~
Sai Baba

 

 

Love and healing are primary themes in my life now. They have been for many months, actually years. Whenever I see messages of fear and hate in the news – when I see reports of violence – what comes to the forefront for me are thoughts and quotes like “Love heals” from The Buddha.  

I’m focused on the healing power of love in a very personal way now too. And I wish to share the reason.

A few weeks ago I was diagnosed with cancer in both breasts. Fortunately the tumors are small and treatable.

Along with embracing traditional medicine, I am using many complementary approaches to balance, heal, renew, and strengthen my whole body. In part, that means loving and caring for every little cell, every organ, and every body system as well as looking deeper for what else is calling for healing in me now.

Along with good nutrition (the photo here is of me about to drink a double shot of wheat grass), positive visualization, prayer, meditation, etc., wheatgrass shot
I am bringing the powers of courage, faith, hope, joy
– all of life’s gifts, God’s gifts – to this new adventure.

For it is that too. An adventure. A challenge, yes. But also an adventure. An opportunity to explore and to heal deeply on all levels – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. To learn and grow too.

While I won’t be focusing on this personal healing adventure in many blogs, I will share a bit from time to time here and in Today’s Touchstone reflections.  I’ll offer insights and discoveries that I think you may wish to consider…things that may apply to anyone and everyone’s life journey.

I hope you will enjoy such sharings and benefit from them in some way. I would appreciate hearing if you do or do not. I always welcome your feedback.

In the meantime, I appreciate your caring and pouring out love to yourselves, to me, to one another, to all your beloveds  and to your-not-so-beloveds too.  May we all aim to heal all our wounds.

Thank you.

Kindly,
Charlene

SOUL TO SOUL

                     “Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” ~ George Eliot

​Using our gifts, let’s be that: true, loving human souls, blessed influences in the lives of others.

How? First, we aim to be authentic, courageously ourselves, centered in our loving essence. That itself will be a blessing to many.

SOUL TO SOULNext, have a “soul to soul” with at least one person today and every day. What’s a “soul to soul”? It’s like a “heart to heart.” Except, instead of having an actual heartfelt conversation with someone, you communicate “soul to soul.”

Visualize, with a caring feeling, that you are connecting and communicating with a particular person. Set ego aside and allow a wise and loving exchange to happen, “soul to soul.” Even if you don’t “hear” anything back from the other soul, which is often the case, just send a message of respect, acceptance, and encouragement. Or, you can simply say, with reverence,  Namaste or The Light in me honors the Light in you.

You can choose someone you easily talk with or someone who avoids close sharing and intimacy. You can even do this with an estranged family member or friend. Healing miracles can come from this practice.

May wisdom guide the way for each of us to become true loving souls and blessed influences in the world.

Toward peace,
Charlene

BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD

“Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

                                                                                          ~ Courtroom Oath Question      

A few days ago I wrote a touchstone that invited us all to be courageous and hopeful about beginning something for the first time or “yet again.”    

When I wrote that touchstone, I thought of many possible “somethings” I might approach with this fresh start intention, such as eating more greens and organizing my office, to name two simple ones.

But when I read that touchstone in my own email in-box, something deeper came up from the guiding voice within. Be impeccable with your word, I heard, which, as you may know, is the first of the four principles written about in the bestselling book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.   Continue reading

AN EXAMPLE OF STRENGTH AND COURAGE

In my previous post I presented the entire speech made by Principal Donna Hayward to the 2014 graduating class of Suffield High School in Suffield, CT.  While the whole commencement address is powerful, I want to highlight this extraordinary example of strength and courage. May the actions of Iqbal Masih and a group of Canadian 12-year-old children move us to use the gifts of strength and courage however we can, in ways large and small, day by day. Thank you again, Donna, for permission to share your words. 

“…This year, I also learned the story of a young boy named Iqbal Masih and his story illustrates how each of us can fight injustice in our own way in our own world.  Iqbal was a young Pakistani boy, who was sold into bondage by his parents at the age of four in order to pay off a debt of what amounted to about $16.  He worked for years, chained to a weaving loom, fashioning the tiny knots in Pakistani rugs with his small fingers.  Although he worked alongside dozens of other children with the same fate, somehow Iqbal felt inside himself a flame of injustice and rebelled against it at the age of ten by running away from his master.  When he did, he happened upon an activist in the village square, making a speech about how child slavery had been outlawed – a surprise to Iqbal – and the young boy told a police officer standing nearby that he, in fact, was a child slave.  He led the officer back to his master, anticipating justice.  Instead, the officer was bribed by the slave owner and left Iqbal behind – the boy facing a cruel punishment instead of the justice he sought.  But Iqbal had courage and strength and soon ran away again, this time finding the man who had given the speech in the village square.  He brought the activist back to his master, and this man couldn’t be bought or silenced so all the children in Iqbal’s factory were freed.  Iqbal joined the Bonded Labour Liberation Front and became famous because he continued his crusade, actually sneaking into other child-slave-shops, gaining the trust of the children and then triggering a raid on the outfit by the liberation group, freeing over 3,000 children in all.  Eventually, he visited other countries, including the U.S., to tell his story and advocate for justice in ending childhood slavery.  Ultimately, however, Iqbal was murdered when he returned to Pakistan to visit his family.  He was only 12 years old. Continue reading

HOPE FOR ALL AGES AND STAGES OF LIFE

 A week ago, Suffield High School Principal Donna Hayward in Suffield, Connecticut delivered a commencement address that was inspired by The Twelve Gifts of Birth.  I’m sharing it here because I believe Ms. Hayward’s message of hope and courage is for all of us. Thank you, Donna, for permission to post your speech along with your photo. I hope to meet you someday, new friend!  And thank you, dear reader. As always, I would love to hear your comments.  

Donna HaywardClass of 2014, you are just minutes from receiving your high school diploma. Your parents are wondering how you got here so fast, as it seems such a short time ago that you were born. Just a few years ago, you took your first steps, spoke your first words, got on the school bus kindergarten bound, learned to ride a bike. This is a natural time for your parents to reflect on the last 18 or so years and for us, your teachers, to reflect on whatever role we have played in your upbringing. As it turns out, teaching and parenting are closely related.

When my daughter was born, we received the usual tidal wave of gifts – blankets, cute little outfits, and baby gear of all kinds. One gift, in particular, though stood out as it arrived without a note or tag from the sender to indicate who had given it. One day, it simply arrived in my mailbox – its message clear – but to this day I don’t know who sent it. It was a book entitled, The Twelve Gifts of Birth, by Charlene Costanzo and it details the gifts or qualities bestowed upon each of you upon your birth as a human. “Royal dignity was yours from the day you were born,” the book begins – and on that day and on a day such as this all parents and teachers hope their children know these gifts. My role today is to remind you that you do all have them and to implore you to use them consciously and with purpose from this day forward.

The first gift is Hope and each of you were born with it. Continue reading