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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

APPROACH EACH DAY LIKE A TREASURE HUNT

“I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” – Agatha Christie


treasure trail start

 

When our grandchildren, Alexis and Anthony, come to visit, my husband and I often lay out though the house a paper strip trail for them to follow.

 

Around tables and over beds, the trail leads them in and out of rooms in search of “X marks the spot.” There, under the X, they will find some little treat or trinket.

 

While they delight in whatever they find under the X, and say “thank you” very nicely, it seems to me that the peak of their joy is at the start of the hunt, just seeing a portion of the trail X marks the spotahead, along with the process of discovering the course of the path.

 

This seems like a metaphor for living each day. We don’t know where the day will lead us, what obstacles we may face, what twists and turns there may be for us. Still, this day, every day, is an adventure in living. It holds a gift. It is a grand thing just to be alive!

 

Wishing you sweet discoveries every day, with love.

WHEN DESPAIR AND FEAR GROW: REST IN THE GRACE OF THE WORLD

three cranes at pond“When despair for the world grows in me…
I rest in the grace of the world, and I am free.”   

                 – Wendell Berry

 

In The Peace of Wild Things,
poet Wendell Berry shares the power
that nature holds for him. 

 

 

When he fears what the future might hold 
for him and his children,
he goes to “where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.”

In the midst of the world’s business and busyness,
whether we go in reality or in our imagination,
let’s often bring ourselves 
to a place where we can be soothed, healed, and uplifted     
by the grace of the natural world.
May we rest in beauty and peace, and faith too,
with reverence for life as a touchstone. 

GOOD NEWS? BAD NEWS? SEEING WITH HOPE AND FAITH

"Things are always changing. Hold hope."

“It is hard to tell our bad luck from our good luck sometimes.”

                                                         – Merle Shain

 

Situations that first seem “bad” can turn out to be “good” in some way. By the same token, sometimes situations that seem positive may turn out to give us challenges. 

 

One of my touchstones for hope and faith is a Chinese story that offers wisdom about this:

 

           

            Long ago there was a farmer who lost his favorite horse. Besides helping the farmer with his work, the mare was like a friend. One day she wandered away. The old man searched but couldn’t find her. His neighbors went out to look too. When the horse could not be found, the neighbors tried to console the farmer. “We are sorry that this bad fortune happened to you,” they said.

 

            The farmer smiled and replied, “Thank you for helping me search for my horse and for your condolences, but we shall see. Bad fortune? Who knows? Things are always changing.”

 

            A few weeks later the horse returned. With her walked a strong stallion. 

 

            “Good fortune!” said the neighbors.

 

            “The farmer again said, “We shall see.”

 

            In time the mare gave birth to a foal.  “Good fortune!” said the neighbors.

 

            The farmer simply smiled.

 

            A few months later, the man’s son broke his leg while trying to ride the untamed young horse.

 

            “Oh, bad fortune!” said the neighbors.

 

            “We shall see,” said the farmer.

 

            The son’s leg soon began to heal. 

 

            “Good fortune,” said the neighbors. 

 

            The farmer smiled. 

 

            In time the son walked again but with a slight limp.

            “Oh, too bad.  Bad fortune,” said the neighbors.

 

            “We shall see,” said the farmer, smiling, of course. 

 

            A year later a terrible war began. Most young men were called to serve. Many never returned. Because the farmer’s son walked with a limp, he was considered unfit to be a soldier.  He stayed on the farm and survived to live a long life.    

 

May we trust what is unfolding.      

FAITH IS TAKING THE FIRST STEP

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. 

 

Think of the dreams and courageous actions taken by Martin Luther King, Jr. Consider how he stepped forward with faith, toward advancing human dignity, toward building peace, toward cultivating reverence among us, believing in things unseen. 

 

Let an image of a staircase be a touchstone for you.
Make it a grand one, for your highest dreams…
for the world and your part in it.

  

May we each further peace.
May our steps be blessed.

FAITH IS LIKE A SAFETY NET

Purple stained cloth and glass

I had just written my “Today’s Touchstone” message for tomorrow about faith being like a safety net.

 

I made a Berry Smoothie and then slipped on a drop of water on the kitchen floor.

 

The  amazing thing is: I felt cradled on the way down to the tile.  Time slowed.  I somehow landed gently.  So did the glass.  It fell on the tile but did not break!


I wish I had thought to get a photo of the mess before my husband kindly cleaned it up. The deep purple drink splattered everywhere. Here’s a photo of that glass next to a formerly-white washcloth after repeated rinsing.

One sip of the drink remained in the glass. It was delicious.

 

What was more delicious was experiencing a sense of safety and being cared for, even during and after the fall, especially in light of what I had just written to share with others:

 

“Parachutes weren’t proven trustworthy
by having people carry them around on their backs.
The device showed its reliability once someone jumped.”
– Mary Manin Morrissey

 

Are you facing anything now that calls for a leap of faith?
Continue reading

CONSIDER USING MUSTARD SEEDS IN THIS WAY

 

Mustard SeedsEven if you never make pickles or mustard or potato salad or any recipe that calls for mustard seeds, you might want to keep a jar of them in your pantry.

 

Why? Well, let me tell you why I do.

 

Despite many wondrous life experiences which have cemented my trust in God and in the goodness of life, there are times when something shakes me to my core, and I feel deeply confused, stressed and depressed. Even if I don’t question the presence and power of God and the goodness of life, I question me.  And I hurt.

 

First, I just let it be: the pain of this common human suffering.

 

Then, I consider my collection of inspirational touchstones. Some quote, affirmation, image, metaphor, or story is likely to emerge in front of all the others and call for my attention. No matter which touchstone that is, as I “hold” it in my mind and heart, I feel enriched and uplifted, at least a little.

 

Next, I go to my spice rack and find a particular jar. I open it. Onto my opened palm I drop one tiny seed… a mustard seed. I hold that seed and recognize that, however small it may seem at the time, I do have faith.

 

Sometimes I do this even when I’m feeling full of hope and joy. Many mornings, with a mustard seed in hand, I set an intention to act with faith during the day ahead. Sometimes I bite into the seed, intending to truly taste the power of faith. On one occasion I sprinkled some seeds onto a custard cup of soil, watered those seeds, and watched them grow.

I haven’t yet used mustard seeds in food preparation. One of these days I just might cook with them. In the meantime, I keep a fresh jar of mustard seeds just for this purpose… to remind me: “I do have this gift of faith in me. Always. No matter what. We all do.  And with it we can move mountains.”

 

ANGELS IN OUR LIVES

Young HawkHave you ever had one of those experiences when you feel that an angel is truly present in your life?

 

My daughter, Krista, had one recently.

 

After rushing around, getting her twin toddlers bathed, fed, and dressed and getting herself ready for an early morning meeting, she got the children in their car seats and prepared to drive off.

 

But, when she opened the garage door, she saw a hawk standing on the other side, right behind the rear bumper.

 

Needless to say, she was surprised and startled. One would think that the bird would be startled too–by the garage door opening, a human being approaching, or the car inching closer.

 

Not this bird. Despite all attempts to make the bird move, he (or she) maintained eye contact with my daughter while holding its wings outstretched.

 

According to Krista, the huge bird seemed to be saying, “Slow down” or Don’t go.”

 

For a full fifteen minutes, the bird blocked the way. When my daughter tried to maneuver the car around the right side of the bird, the bird walked to the right. When she tried to get around on the left, the bird walked left.

 

After just enough time for my daughter to say (to herself) “Okay. I give up. I’m not going downtown to that meeting,” the bird pulled in its wings and walked to the side out the driveway, out of the way.

 

Was it a message to slow down? Was it an intervention, protecting my daughter and grandchildren from an accident?

 

Sometimes we get to see the specifics of the Divine at work in our lives. But usually we don’t.  And that’s okay.  We don’t need to know, do we? It’s enough to have faith that Love knows us and is always near.

 

And, yet, isn’t it nice to share stories that remind us?

 

If you’d like to share such a story, please do!