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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

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. 

A LESSON FROM WALT DISNEY: KEEP GOOD IDEAS ALIVE!

Dream Builders

During a reent visit to Disney World, I visited the “One Man’s Dream” exhibit and watched a film about the life of Walt Disney.

 

Despite many failures, Mr. Disney stayed faithful to his dreams and not only built an enormously successful business empire; he continues to bring joy into the world and to so many people, even after his death.

For me the main take-away message from that film was: Cherish imagination and inspiration. Nourish good ideas. Don’t let then die.

 

Coincidently, the day after that Disney World visit, I came across a feature about Disney World engineering feats on Modern Marvels on the History Channel.

 

Again the main take-away message for me was: Keep good ideas alive! The episode even referred to “Keep good ideas alive” being a kind of mantra at Disney.

 

When I heard that, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to work in an environment that fostered that philosophy!” And then I realized how each and every one of us can do that for ourselves. We can honor our good ideas, nourish them like little seedlings, and help them grow.

 

We can. And we must, I think.

 

It’s my belief that we are all meant to be “Imagineers,” whether or not we have any work affiliation with Disney. We all have the gift of imagination. We all get inspired with ideas. Not every thought is a good idea, of course. We do have to distinguish and discern.

 

But we all do get good ideas. The especially good ideas are the ones that can help make the world a better place, not necessarily in a big Disney-like way. Although, who knows where a seemingly-small good idea may lead? Consider how the Disney empire began with a drawing of one little mouse.

 

The best good ideas come through our hearts as well as our heads. What good ideas have been gifted to you? Is there something nudging at you now as you read this, asking for your attention?

 

Besides keeping alive the ideas that use our particular expression of talent, let’s keep alive good ideas for the world. For example, let’s keep alive the idea that every man, woman, and child on the planet can have their basic needs met. Imagine every person having shelter, food, water, clothing, an education and health care…basic well-being.

 

What a good idea! A GREAT idea! And it IS possible!

 

Let’s not let naysayers and “bad” news mongers lead us into thinking we are foolish to dream or that we are doomed.

 

Let’s keep good ideas alive! Let’s help make them grow. How? Begin by visualizing good ideas as real. Nourish them in your mind and heart. See good ideas for the world and your own personal good ideas coming into reality. And each time you see it, say “Thank you.”

 

 

ASK FOR A BIGGER PLATE

 

Have you ever said, “I’ve got too much on my plate?”

 

Several years ago, while I was promoting a new book and traveling around the Midwest, I voiced that to Rev. Ralph, a minister I met in Milwaukee.

 

“Well, just ask God for a bigger plate!” Rev. Ralph chortled. “That’s what I do.”

 

Although his response was offered humorously, and I laughed along with that vibrant man, I immediately sensed the power in his light-hearted suggestion. And, in that ah-ha moment, the image of a large plate popped into my mind.

 

For sure, it makes sense for us to regularly examine our lives with compassion and wisdom, prioritize, and postpone (or eliminate) some of our “to dos.” Sometimes we do need to remove stuff from our proverbial plates.

 

At the same time, it IS wise to ask for a bigger plate!

 

We are all capable of so much more than we are presently doing and being.

 

Asking for a bigger plate reminds me of the Prayer of Jabez. Perhaps you read the book by that name which was authored by Bruce Wilkinson, published in 2000. The bestseller is based on the 1 Chronicles 4:10 biblical quote in which Jabez asks God to enlarge his “territory.”

 

To me, the Prayer of Jabez is like asking God for bigger plate. That prayer is not about wanting more material power and prosperity, but about having limitations softened and capacities expanded. We can all benefit by expanding our consciousness, capacities, and confidence. Can’t we? And, we need guidance and grace to do that.

 

When, like Jabez and Rev. Ralph, I ask for a bigger plate, I feel less restricted by limiting thoughts, such as I don’t have enough time; and I experience a sense of more space, focus, order, peace, and hope.

 

Try it. Ask for a bigger plate. Picture one in your mind. And, see how it works for you.

 

WHAT IS IT ABOUT STONES?

Aunt Mary Lou's stones

What is it about stones?  So many of us are drawn to them.

The accompanying photo illustrates this phenomenon.  It shows a collection of pebbles picked up over a lifetime of travel around the world.  It belonged to my Aunt Mary Lou.   In one stone she etched “Greece, 1979.”  In another “Syracusa, Sicily.” Other stones are from Germany, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Spain, Russia, China, Egypt, Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, and places I don’t remember.

Why, like so many people around the world, did Mary Lou stoop to pick up stones when she walked on Earth?

An obscure Eastern European fable offers an explanation. In The Thirteenth Gift we

learn about a kingdom that was suffering as a result of growing fears. One night the inhabitants of that kingdom entered a deep sleep, visited the dream realm together, and shared a vision: Everyone saw how all creation breathes together in the heart of Love.  In the morning, rousing from sleep, everyone held a shimmering stone.  Like the details of the dream, each stone faded and disappeared within moments.  Yet each stone had remained in hand long enough to anchor the vision. According to the story, that is why people are drawn to stones. Stones urge us to hold on to the truth of who we are.  We pick them up because we yearn to remember who we are, to see the world with wonder, and to experience the truth of the dream that lives in the consciousness of all humanity.